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  • 17 Jul 2021
  • 37 min read
International Relations

G7’s Build Back Better World Initiative

Why in News

The G7 (Group of Seven) Countries proposed a ‘Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative’ at the recent 47th G7 summit to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Group of Seven

  • It is an intergovernmental organisation that was formed in 1975.
  • The bloc meets annually to discuss issues of common interest like global economic governance, international security and energy policy.
  • The G7 countries are the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.
    • All the G7 countries and India are a part of G20.
  • The G7 does not have a formal constitution or a fixed headquarters. The decisions taken by leaders during annual summits are non-binding.

Key Points

  • About:
    • It aims to address the infrastructure investment deficit in developing and lower income countries - the space which has been increasingly captured by China through 2,600 BRI projects with trillions of dollars of investment.
      • BRI projects are perceived as corrosive tactics or debt traps laid by China for its strategic dominance in trade, foreign policy and geopolitics in the world.
      • The overall focus is on developing transportation, logistics and communications, which would reduce trade and transaction cost for China’s trade, give more market access to Chinese markets and ensure stable supply of energy and other resources.
    • This infrastructure plan is being led by the United States.
      • B3W initiative will provide a transparent infrastructure partnership to help narrow about $40 trillion needed by developing nations by 2035.
    • It calls for spending hundreds of billions of dollars in collaboration with the private sector while adhering to climate standards and labour practices.
    • However, the announcement is yet to be made about how exactly the plan would work or how much capital it would ultimately allocate.
  • China’s BRI:
    • About:
      • It was launched in 2013. It involves development and investment initiatives that would stretch from Asia to Europe and beyond.
      • More than 100 countries have signed agreements with China to cooperate in BRI projects like railways, ports, highways and other infrastructure.
    • China’s Investment through BRI:
      • Since its inception, outward investment has been aggressive as China’s FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) outflow to inflow ratio increased to 1 from around 0.34 during 2001-10.
      • In volume terms, the FDI outflow increased to an average of $140 billion in 2016-19 from an annual average $25 billion during 2001-10.
      • China is investing in Africa to lay a comprehensive transportation network. China has also signed various contacts with the East Asian region, mostly focusing on transportation, railways, roadways and waterways, for better integration between China and ASEAN countries.
    • Important Projects:
      • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the Bangladesh-China, the Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM) and the Colombo Port City Project in Sri Lanka, amongst others, are important BRI projects.
      • China has a plan to complete 4,000 km of railways and 10,000 km of highways within the Central Asian region as part of BRI.
    • India's Concerns:
      • India has expressed concerns about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as it traverses through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
      • India refused to join the Chinese initiative in the past and raised its voice against the BRI.
      • India also sees an adverse trade impact on its products’ competitiveness, market access, resource extraction etc. due to Chinese competition.
  • Significance of B3W:
    • The re-emergence of China as a leading global power is considered to be one of the most significant geo-political events of recent times, alongside the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War.
    • China in 1979 had an economy that was smaller than Italy's, but after opening to foreign investment and introducing market reforms, it has become the world's second-largest economy and is a global leader in a range of new technologies.
    • However, the West had failed to offer a positive alternative to the "lack of transparency, poor environmental and labour standards, and coercive approach" of the Chinese government that had left many countries worse off.

Way Forward

  • The counter proposal of B3W is certainly a welcome step to contain the adverse implications of a Chinese mega plan. However, B3W lacks coherent thoughts and proper planning at this stage. Nevertheless, it is better late than never.
  • Moreover, it remains to be seen what role India will play in B3W since it has been a strong opponent of China’s BRI.
  • The counter-strategy is necessary to bring down Chinese leverage. A macro view of BRI projects across geography — quantum and pattern of investment — clearly reflects the motive of China-centric international economic integration, production networks, hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region and, eventually, the global economy.

Source: IE


Biodiversity & Environment

Fit for 55 Package: EU

Why in News

Recently, the European Union (EU) released a new climate proposal, the Fit for 55 package.

Key Points

  • Aim:
    • The new package attempts to deliver the NDC and carbon neutrality goal through proposed changes that would impact the economy, society and industry, as well as ensure a fair, competitive and green transition by 2030 and beyond.
      • Climate neutrality is achieved when a country’s emissions are balanced by absorptions and removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. It is also expressed as a state of net-zero emissions.
    • It claims to achieve a balance between “regulatory policies” and market-based carbon pricing to avoid the pitfalls of each.
  • Major Proposals:
    • Renewable Sources:
      • It proposes to increase the binding target of renewable sources in the EU’s energy mix to 40% (from 32% earlier) and improve energy efficiency by 36% (from 32.5% earlier) by 2030.
    • Vehicular Carbon Emissions:
      • It must be cut by 55% by 2030 and by 100% by 2035, which means a phaseout of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035.
      • It also includes some provisions that benefit the auto industry. Public funds will be used to help build charging stations every 60 kilometers, on major highways, a move that will encourage sales of electric cars.
      • It will also help finance a network of hydrogen fueling stations.
    • Emissions Trading System:
      • It calls for the creation of an Emissions Trading System (ETS) for buildings and road transport, separate from the EU’s current ETS, to become operational from 2026.
        • ETS are market-based instruments that create incentives to reduce emissions where these are most cost-effective.
    • Social Climate Fund:
      • To help low-income citizens and small businesses adjust to the new ETS, the EU proposes the creation of a Social Climate Fund, which will take various forms ranging from funding for renovation of buildings, and access to low carbon transport, to direct income support.
      • They expect to build up this fund using 25% of revenues from the new ETS. The current ETS is proposed to extend to the maritime sector between 2023 and 2025.
    • Carbon-Border Adjustment Mechanism:
      • Among other market-based mechanisms, the EU is proposing a carbon-border adjustment mechanism, which will put a price on imports from places that have carbon-intensive production processes.
      • This instrument has been deemed to have a small impact on global carbon dioxide emissions by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and could instead have negative impacts on developing countries.
    • Enhance Sink Capacity:
      • It has set a target to enhance the EU’s sink capacity to 310 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent, which it hopes will be achieved through specific national targets by member countries.
  • Analysis:
    • The EU's NDC target is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% below 1990 levels by 2030. It has also set a long-term goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
      • The EU’s target is more aggressive than that of the US, which committed to reduce emissions by 40% to 43% over the same period, but behind Britain, which pledged a 68% reduction.
      • China, the world’s largest emitter, has only said it aims for emissions to peak by 2030.
    • Fit for 55 Package could put Europe at the forefront of new technologies like electric car batteries, offshore wind generation or aircraft engines that run on hydrogen.
    • But the transition will also be painful for some consumers and companies, raising the cost of a wide variety of goods and services, like video monitors imported from China, for example, or a vacation flight to a Greek island or even a full tank of gasoline.
      • Companies that make products destined for obsolescence, like parts for internal combustion engines, must adapt or go out of business.
    • The proposals could reshape polluting industries like steelmaking, which directly employs 330,000 people in the EU.

India's INDC, to be achieved primarily, by 2030

  • To reduce the emissions intensity of the Gross Domestic Product by about a third.
  • A total of 40% of the installed capacity for electricity will be from non-fossil fuel sources.
  • India also promised an additional carbon sink (a means to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent through additional forest and tree cover by the year 2030.

Indian Initiatives to Fight Climate Change:

Way Forward

  • The principle of climate justice should guide the negotiations over the package.
  • Fit for 55 pushes EU decarbonization into higher gear, marking the visible entry of climate policy into the daily life of all European citizens and companies, and also starting to impact global trade partners.
  • Ensuring that the transition is socially fair, both domestically and internationally, is the most important element to make it successful in the long-run.

Source: DTE


Indian Economy

Foreign Card Payment Network Companies Barred: RBI

Why in News

Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has barred three foreign card payment network firms - Mastercard, American Express and Diners Club — from taking new customers on board over the issue of storing data in India.

  • As many as five private sector banks, including Axis Bank, Yes Bank, and IndusInd Bank, are to be impacted by the RBI’s decision.
  • The Personal Data Protection Bill also has provisions pertaining to ‘data localisation’.

Key Points

  • RBI’s Circular on Data Storage-April 2018:
    • All system providers were directed to ensure that within six months the entire data (full end-to-end transaction details, information collected or carried or processed as part of the message or payment instruction) relating to payment systems operated by them is stored in a system only in India.
    • They were also required to report compliance to the RBI and submit a board-approved system audit report conducted by a Computer Emergency Response Team - India (CERT-IN) empanelled auditor within the timelines specified.
  • Reason of Non- Compliance given by Payment Firms:
    • High Cost:
      • Payment firms like Visa and Mastercard, which currently store and process Indian transactions outside the country, have said their systems are centralised and expressed the fear that transferring the data storage to India will cost them millions of dollars.
    • Localization Demands from Other Countries:
      • Once it happens in India, there could be similar demands from other countries, upsetting their plans.
    • Lack of Clarity:
      • While the Finance Ministry had suggested some easing of norms in transferring the data, the RBI has refused to change, stating that the payment systems need closer monitoring in the wake of the rising use of digital transactions.
  • Significance of RBI’s Move:
    • The RBI’s decision to restrict entities from onboarding new customers is a crucial development in their endeavour to ensure that all payment system operators store or localise their end-to-end transaction data only in India.
    • The motivation behind such a move is to carry out effective law enforcement requirements as data access for law enforcement purposes has been a challenge.
  • Regulation of Payment Firms:
    • Firms such as Mastercard, Visa and National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) are Payment System Operators authorised to operate a card network in India under the Payment and Settlement Systems (PSS) Act, 2007.
    • Under the Act, the RBI is the authority for the regulation and supervision of payment systems in India. The RBI’s payment system enables payments to be effected between a payer and a beneficiary and involves the process of clearing, payment or settlement, or all of them.
    • The RBI has decided to allow non-bank entities — Prepaid Payment Instrument (PPI) issuers, card networks, White Label ATM operators, Trade Receivables Discounting System (TReDS) platforms – to become members of the centralised payment system and effect fund transfer through Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) and NEFT.

Way Forward

  • It is necessary for all entities to comply with the RBI’s localisation mandate. At the same time, however, it’s true that hard localisation may impact India’s payments ecosystem.
  • To have a more effective mechanism for law enforcement, India needs to move beyond MLAT (Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty), which is slow and ineffective, to a system based on bilateral treaties on data transfers with the European Union, UK and the US.
  • The idea must be to ensure that Indian law enforcement requirements of access to data are met in a timely manner while at the same time allowing data flows to foster innovation and trade in the tech ecosystem.

Source: TH


Governance

Women’s Reservation Bill

Why in News

Recently, a political party has raised the demand of bringing the long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill to Parliament, ahead of the monsoon session.

  • The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in May 2008 and was referred to a standing committee. In 2010, it was passed in the House and transmitted finally to the Lok Sabha. However, the Bill lapsed with the 15th Lok Sabha.

Key Points

  • Origin:
    • The original idea for this bill originated from a constitutional amendment which was passed back in 1993.
    • The constitutional amendment stated that a random one third of village council leader, or Sarpanch, positions in the gram panchayat should be reserved for women.
    • The Women's Reservation Bill was launched as a long term plan to extend this reservation to Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.
  • About the Bill:
    • The bill seeks to reserve 33% seats in Lok Sabha and all state legislative assemblies for women.
    • Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory.
    • Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of this Amendment Act.
  • Need:
    • According to Global Gender Gap Report 2021, India has declined on the political empowerment index by 13.5 percentage points, and a decline in the number of women ministers, from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021.
    • It is acknowledged even by the government's Economic Surveys that women's representatives in Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies are abysmally low.
    • The various surveys do indicate that women representatives from Panchayati Raj have worked commendably in the development and overall well-being of society in villages and many of them would definitely want to work on the larger scale, however, they face various challenges in the political structure prevalent in India.
      • Challenges include lack of proper political education, low financial power of women in society, sexual violence, manifestations of insecure patriarchy, uneven distribution of household work between men and women, etc.
      • The phenomenon of Panchayat Patis – husbands (or other male relatives) using women as proxies in PRIs and wielding the real power – is prevalent.
  • Significance:
    • Women’s political empowerment is premised on three fundamental and non-negotiable principles:
      • The equality between women and men.
      • Women’s right to a full development of their potential.
      • Women’s right to self representation and self-determination.
    • There is a gender gap in political decision-making, and women leaders need to come out more in numbers to impact position decisions and inspire teenage girls to contribute to nation-building.
  • Issues:
    • It has been argued that it would perpetuate the unequal status of women since they would not be perceived to be competing on merit.
    • It is also contended that this policy diverts attention from the larger issues of electoral reform such as criminalisation of politics and inner party democracy.
    • It restricts the choice of voters to women candidates.
    • Rotation of reserved constituencies in every election may reduce the incentive for an MP to work for his constituency as he may be ineligible to seek re-election from that constituency.
      • Some experts have suggested the adoption/promotion of alternative methods, such as reservation in political parties and dual member constituencies.

Way Forward

  • Panchayati Raj institutions (PRIs) have played a significant role in bringing women representatives at grass-root level. Many States have granted 50% reservation for women candidates in elections.
  • Fundamental reforms at the party level will serve as a necessary and strategic compliment to the Women’s Reservation Bill. Even if the bill is derailed further, it should not stop political parties from making internal structures more conducive to women entering politics.
  • Here, it is important to underline and differentiate the Indian perspective on quotas from that of the West. Unlike the West, where quotas are almost a bad word, the Indian paradigm has seen such quotas emerge as invaluable tools for social leverage.
    • They are redistributive tools meant to ameliorate centuries of continued oppression.
  • Even once women are on the same table as men in politics, they may continue to face the challenges mentioned. There is a need to bring about institutional, social and behavioral change among India’s populace. Gender equality is a part of Sustainable Development Goals as well.

Source: TH


Governance

School Innovation Ambassador Training Program

Why in News

Recently, the Union Education Minister and Union Tribal Affairs Minister jointly launched the School Innovation Ambassador Training Program (SIATP).

  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs has launched an Adi-Prashikshan portal which is also a repository of training inputs.

Key Points

  • About:
    • The innovative and one-of-its-kind training program for school teachers aims at training 50,000 school teachers in innovation, entrepreneurship, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), design thinking, product development, idea generation, among others.
    • It will make Indian teachers, change-agents and ambassadors of innovation to make our students future-ready.
  • Design & Collaboration:
    • It has been designed by the Innovation Cell of the Ministry of Education and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for school teachers based on its Innovation Ambassador Training Program for Higher Educational Institution's faculty members.
      • The training will be delivered in online mode only.
    • It is a collaborative effort by the Ministry of Education's Innovation Cell, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the AICTE.
  • Benefits:
    • It will benefit a large number of schools for tribal children across the country by giving wings to the creativity of the children.
    • It will nurture lakhs of students with innovation capabilities, develop a culture of innovation and lay the foundation of a new and vibrant India.
    • The students of Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) will greatly benefit from SIATP since it is also the endeavour of the Tribal Affairs Ministry to give the best possible education to the tribal children.
      • EMRS for tribal children is another ambitious programme under which 740 EMRS will be established in tribal dominated areas over the next three years.
      • It was started in the year 1997-98 to impart quality education to Scheduled Tribe children in remote areas.
  • Other Important Related Initiatives:

All India Council for Technical Education

  • It was set up in November 1945 as a national-level apex advisory body.
  • Its purpose was to conduct a survey on the facilities available for technical education and to promote development in the country in a coordinated and integrated manner.
  • According to the National Policy of Education (1986), AICTE is vested with:
    • Statutory authority for planning, formulation, and maintenance of norms & standards,
    • Quality assurance through accreditation,
    • Funding in priority areas, monitoring, and evaluation,
    • Maintaining parity of certification & awards.
    • The management of technical education in the country.

Innovation Cell

  • It is an initiative of the Ministry of Education to foster the culture of Innovation in all Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) across the country.
    • It was established at AICTE premises in 2018.
  • Its mandate is to encourage and nurture young students by exposing them to new ideas resulting in innovative activities in their formative years, fostered through Network of Innovation Clubs (NIC) in HEIs.

Source: PIB


Agriculture

Kisan Sarathi

Why in News

Recently, the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) celebrated its 93rd foundation day and on the occasion, the Kisan Sarthi platform was launched.

Indian Council of Agriculture Research

  • It is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  • It was established in July 1929 and was formerly known as the Imperial Council of Agricultural Research.
  • It is headquartered at New Delhi.
  • It is the apex body for coordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country.

Key Points

  • About:
    • It was jointly launched by the Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare and the Union Minister of Electronics & Information Technology.
    • It is a digital platform to facilitate farmers to get ‘right information at right time’ in their desired language.
    • It will help farmers to interact and avail personalised advisories on agriculture and allied areas directly from the respective scientists of Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs).
      • Farmers can also learn new farming methods using it.
  • Krishi Vigyan Kendra:
    • It is an agricultural extension center in India. Usually associated with a local agricultural university, these centers serve as the ultimate link between the ICAR and farmers, and aim to apply agricultural research in a practical, localized setting.
    • It is an integral part of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS).
      • The first KVK was established in 1974 at Puducherry.
    • The mandate of KVK is technology assessment and demonstration for its application and capacity development.
    • KVKs also produce quality technological products (seed, planting material, bio-agents, livestock) and make it available to farmers.
    • The KVK scheme is 100% financed by the Government of India and the KVKs are sanctioned to Agricultural Universities, ICAR institutes, related Government Departments and Non Government Organizations (NGOs) working in Agriculture.
    • KVKs act as a bridge between the laboratories and farmland. According to the Government, these are crucial to fulfilling the target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.

Source: PIB


Important Facts For Prelims

New Gecko Species: Odisha

Why in News

Recently, Odisha's forest officials have announced measures to preserve the newly discovered tiny gecko species of the genus Hemiphyllodactylus.

Key Points

  • About:
    • This was first spotted in Ganjam district, Odisha in 2014. The new species of Hemiphyllodactylus minimus is the smallest member of the genus with a maximum body size of little over six cm.
    • It is called Ganjam Slender Gecko.
    • The new species is the seventh Indian species of the genus, the second from the northern Eastern Ghats and 41st globally. It is the first non-island species of the genus which is distributed in lowland habitats.
  • Geckos:
    • Geckos are reptiles and are found on all the continents except Antarctica. These colorful lizards have adapted to habitats from rainforests, to deserts, to cold mountain slopes.
    • Most geckos are nocturnal, which means they are active at night, but day geckos are active during the day and depend on insects, fruits, and flower nectar.
    • Geckos are spread across six families: Carphodactylidae, Diplodactylidae, Eublepharidae, Gekkonidae, Phyllodactylidae, and Sphaerodactylidae.
  • Other Species of Gecko in India:
    • Indian Golden Gecko (family Gekkonidae) is native to India (Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh). It is listed in Schedule 1 of WPA (Wildlife Protection Act).
    • Tokay Gecko (family Gekkonidae) is widespread in the Indo-Malayan region Protection Status:
      • Schedule 4 of WPA.
      • IUCN Red List: Least Concern (LC).

Source: DTE


Important Facts For Prelims

AI Powered Grievance Management Application

Why in News

Recently, the Defence Minister launched an Artificial Intelligence (AI)- powered grievance management application.

Key Points

  • About:
    • This project is the first of its kind initiative of the Government for using AI, data science and Machine Learning techniques in grievance redressal. It is a citizen centric reform.
    • It has been developed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) with the help of IIT-Kanpur.
    • It will automatically handle and analyse the complaints of the people and thus reduce human intervention, save time and bring more transparency in their disposal.
  • Significance:
    • This application will have great use in understanding the nature of complaints, geographies from where they registered and policy changes which can be introduced to create systemic improvements to address these grievances.
    • It marks the introduction of AI-based innovations in governance and administration. The success of this project in MoD will pave the way for extension of this application across other Ministries.
    • A large number of complaints are received on the CPGRAMS (Centralized Public Grievances Redress and Monitoring System) portal of DARPG (Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances).
      • CPGRAMS enables the citizen to track online the grievance being followed up with the Department concerned and also enables DARPG to monitor the grievance.

Source: PIB


Important Facts For Prelims

UMANG App

Why in News

Recently, the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeitY) has enabled map services in UMANG (Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance) App.

  • Citizens will be able to find government facilities nearest to their location, such as mandis, blood banks and also be able to see these on the most detailed and interactive street and village level maps of India (built by MapmyIndia company).

Key Points

  • The UMANG mobile app is a Government of India all-in-one single, unified, secure, multi-channel, multi-lingual, multi-service mobile app.
  • It provides access to high impact services of various organizations of Centre and States. Presently it has 2000+ services.
    • The aim of UMANG is to fast-track mobile governance in India.
  • UMANG enables ‘Ease of Living’ for Citizens by providing easy access to a plethora of Indian government services ranging from – Healthcare, Finance, Education, Housing, Energy, Agriculture, Transport to even Utility and Employment and Skills.
  • The key partners of UMANG are Employee Provident Fund Organization, Direct Benefit Transfer scheme departments, Employee State Insurance Corporation, Ministries of Health, Education, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Staff Selection Commission (SSC).
  • UMANG was developed by the National e-Governance Division (NeGD), Ministry of Electronics & IT.
  • The international version called ‘UMANG International’ was launched in 2020 to mark three years of UMANG.
    • The international version is for select countries that include USA, UK, Canada, Australia, UAE, Netherlands, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
    • It will help Indian international students, NRIs and Indian tourists abroad, to avail Government of India services, anytime.
    • It will also help in taking India to the world through ‘Indian Culture’ services available on UMANG and create interest amongst foreign tourists to visit India.
  • UMANG attained ‘Best m-Government service’ award at the 6th World Government Summit held at Dubai, UAE in February 2018.

Source: PIB


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