1) Offset dilution in defence:
Why in news:
- Recently, the government diluted the “offset” policy in defence procurement, reportedly in response to a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India’s report tabled in Parliament last month.
- Many contend that the move is a setback for augmenting domestic capabilities or for realising the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat.
- But why is it a setback for the goals under Atmanirbhar Bharat? The experience with the procedure in the aerospace industry since 2005 seems to offer useful lessons in redesigning defence offsets.
What is an offset policy?
- Initiated in 2005, the offset clause has a
- Requirement of sourcing 30% of the value of the contract domestically;
- Indigenization of production in a strict time frame, and training Indian professionals in high-tech skills, for promoting domestic R&D.
- However, the policy has been tweaked many times since.
- As of November 2019, as in a reply to a parliamentary question, the Defence Ministry had signed 52 offset contracts worth $12 billion via Indian offset partners, or domestic firms.
- The duration of these contracts extends up to 2022.
How is offset policy diluted over time?
- According to the recent CAG report mentioned above, between 2007 and 2018, the government reportedly signed 46 offset contracts worth ?66,427 crore of investments.
- However, the realised investments were merely 8%, or worth ?5,457 crore.
- Reportedly, technology transfer agreements in the offsets were not implemented, failing to accomplish the stated policy objective.
- We are unable to verify the claim as the government has not put in place an automatic monitoring system for offset contracts, as initially promised.
What are the Changes recently?
- On September 28, the government has diluted this policy further.
- Henceforth, the offset clause will not be applicable to bilateral deals and deals with a single (monopoly) seller, to begin with.
What are the negative implications of policy dilution for defence?
- Most defence deals are bilateral (as stated above), or a single supplier deal (given the monopoly over the technology).
- The dilution means practically giving up the offset clause, sounding the death knell of India’s prospects for boosting defence production and technological self-reliance.
- The government, however, has defended the decision by claiming a cost advantage.
- It is a lamentable excuse for the reported policy failure.
- Price is but one of many factors in such deals, as explained above.
- The higher (upfront) cost of the agreement due to the offset clause would pay for itself by: reducing costs in the long term by indigenisation of production and the potential technology spill-overs for domestic industry.
- Hence, giving up the offset clause is undoubtedly a severe setback.
What were the positive outcomes of the offset policy?
- The offset policy can, however, succeed, if it is designed and executed correctly, as a parallel episode in aerospace industry demonstrates.
- Despite the heft of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, India is a lightweight in global civilian aircraft manufacturing, as the public sector giant mostly devotes itself to defence production.
- The much-touted National Civil Aircraft Development (NCAD) project — to come up with an indigenously designed Regional Transport Aircraft (RTA) — has remained a non-starter from day one.
- However, with the introduction of the offset policy in 2005, things changed dramatically.
- For contracts valued at ?300 crore or more, 30% of it will result in offsets, implemented through Indian offset partners.
- As aerospace imports rose rapidly, so did the exports via the offsets, by a whopping 544% in 2007, compared to the previous year.
- By 2014, exports increased to $6.7 billion from a paltry $62.5 million in 2005, according to the United Nations Comtrade Database.
- The offset clause enabled India to join the league of the world’s top 10 aerospace exporters; the only country without a major domestic aerospace firm.
Why was the success short-lived?
- Exports plummeted after the offset clause was relaxed
- Primarily when the threshold for the policy was raised from the hitherto ?300 crore to ?2000 crore, in 2016.
- The offset exports fell to $1.5 billion by 2019.
- The 2005 policy helped promote a vibrant aerospace cluster, mostly micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) around Bengaluru.
- The policy dilution undid success.
2) Need of robust primary healthcare:
Why in news:
- Pointing out that the World Health Organisation expected several vaccines for Covid-19 early next year but was alarmed at the spike in the number of cases in several European countries, WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan Wednesday said that her primary learning from the pandemic was the need for countries to heavily invest in primary healthcare facilities, as countries with the strongest primary and public healthcare have fared the best during the past eight months.
- Delivering the 15th JRD Tata Memorial Oration from Geneva, hosted by the Population Foundation of India, Dr Swaminathan said that Covid-19 deaths had currently stabilised at 5,000 a day.
- India, Brazil and the US accounted for 75 per cent of all the Covid cases, followed closely by a number of South American countries.
The case of Africa:
- Most of Africa has experienced a low toll from the pandemic which has been an enigma that is being discussed widely.
- This could be for a number of reasons including their demographic with a relatively young population
- Their experience in handling outbursts of infectious diseases.
Important Lessons to learn:
Need for robust primary health care:
- The most important of which is the need to heavily invest in primary healthcare services.
- Even high income countries, which don’t have a robust primary healthcare system, have been overwhelmed
Need for Gender equality:
- Dr Swaminathan, added that globally, the pandemic had thrown light on inequities across the world, whether it was the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States or the heavy toll on ethnic minorities from the pandemic in the UK
- Pointing out the huge gender impact of the disease globally, Dr Swaminathan said that there are 740 million women working in the informal sector across the world whose income fell by 60 per cent.
- The WHO has emphasised a need for gender analysis of the pandemic.
- There is a great lack of gender and age disaggregated data and this is a gap that needs to be filled.
Women- Informal sector and poverty:
- Dr Swaminathan said there are more women that work in the informal sector than men and it is the women that are likely to get pushed into poverty more than men. “
- There are 87 million women and girls who live in extreme poverty, and we expect these numbers to rise to 100 million by 2021.
Women and Contraception in India:
- In India only one fifth of all women actually have access to contraception, 40 per cent of women in the lower income groups and 31 per cent of women between the ages of 15-24 years have access to family planning.
- We believe that abortions could go up by 10-15 per cent and maternal deaths by 60 per cent due to the pandemic.
It is an opportunity to learn important lessons and for government, private and voluntary sectors to come together as one and battle our way out of the woods.
Value added Information-
SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being:
SDG5: Achieving Gender Equality and Empower all women and Girls
3) J&K district council polls:
Why in News:
- Clearing the decks for introduction of a three-tier system of local body governance in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, the Union Cabinet Wednesday approved an amendment to the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989.
- The amendment to the law, effected by the Ministry of Home Affairs on October 16, will lead to the establishment of District Development Councils (DDC), members of which will be directly elected by voters of the Union Territory.
District Development Council
- The DDCs will be the third-tier — at the district level, over the block and village levels.
- Now, we have a three-tier system in Jammu and Kashmir also, naming the Gram Panchayat, Block Development Council and District
Development Council as the three tiers.
- Each district of J&K will be divided into 14 constituencies, electing a member each to the DDC.
- The DDC members will then elect a chairperson and vice-chairperson.
- These DDCs will replace the District Development Boards which were headed by a state cabinet minister and had MLCs, MLAs, MPs as members when J&K was a State.
- The erstwhile District Development Boards were at the centre of planning and development as they were responsible for approving development plans for the districts, through which all funding was routed.
- The term of DDCs – 5 years
- Reservation for SCs, STs and Women is provided.
- The councils will oversee the functions of the Halqa Panchayats and the Block Development Councils in tandem with the line departments of Union Territory.
Advantage of the move:
- The move to have an elected third tier of Panchayati Raj Institution marks the implementation of the entire 73rd Amendment act in entire state
- The idea the system has made defunct by earlier J&K governments such as Panchayati Raj Systems are being revived under the center’s rule, in the state through the Lieutenant Governor’s administrations.
- DDCs promotes grass roots democracy
- The PDP has said that the centre wants panchayat and block development, but does not want to give the people of J&K the right to frame their own laws.
4) INS Kavaratti:
Why in news:
- The last of four indigenously built Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) stealth corvettes, INS Kavaratti under Project 28 is scheduled to be commissioned into the Indian Navy by Gen Naravane at Naval Dockyard in Visakhapatnam, the Indian Navy said in a statement.
- The ship has up to 90 per cent indigenous content and the use of carbon composites for the superstructure is a commendable feat achieved in Indian shipbuilding
- The Navy said the ship’s weapons and sensors suite is predominantly indigenous and showcases the nation’s growing capability in this niche area.
- The ship will be commissioned into the Navy as a combat-ready platform as the ship has completed sea trials of all the systems fitted onboard.
- With the induction of Kavaratti into its fold, the Indian Navy’s preparedness will be enhanced,
- They are a class of anti-submarine warfare corvettes currently in service with the Indian Navy.
- Built at Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE), Kolkata, they are the first anti-submarine warfare stealth corvettes to be built in India.
- Project 28 was approved in 2003, with construction of the lead ship, INS Kamorta commencing on 12 August 2005.
- Three of the four corvettes, INS Kamorta and INS Kadmatt, INS Kiltan were commissioned in 2014, 2016 and 2017 respectively.
- The Kamorta class corvettes are intended to succeed the Kora-class corvette by precedence and Abhay-class corvette by role.
- The corvettes are named after the islands in the Lakshadweep archipelago.
- It is the first of four anti-submarine Kamorta-class stealth corvettes
- It is the “first Indian Naval warship ever built in the country with almost 90 per cent of indigenous content.”
INS Kadmatt (P29)
- It is the second of four anti-submarine warfare corvettes
- INS Kadmatt has been named after the Kadmat Island of India’s Lakshadweep Islands and carries on the legacy of her predecessor INS Kadmatt (P 78), which served the Navy for 24 years
- The ship with a high level of indigenisation showcases the Make in India policy of the Government of India and helps strengthen the image of Indian Navy’s transition from ‘buyer navy’ to ‘builder navy’.
- The ship’s main role is to protect the nation’s maritime interests against possible submarine attacks and the ship is a potent platform for neutralising enemy submarines with an array of weapons like torpedoes, rocket launchers and helicopter.
- The ship is also equipped with total atmospheric control ventilation system making it fully capable to fight in nuclear, biological and chemical warfare environments.
- INS Kiltan is an indigenously-built anti-submarine warfare stealth corvette
- INS Kiltan is India’s first major warship to have a superstructure of carbon fibre composite material resulting in improved stealth features, lower top weight and maintenance costs.
- The ship derives its name from one of the islands in Aminidivi group of the strategically located Lakshadweep and Minicoy group of islands.
5) COVIRAP – Low cost Covid-19 testing device:
Why in news:
- A new covid-19 Diagnostic method using a low-cost portable unit developed by the researchers at IIT Kharagpur and has been approved by ICMR
- After testing it with patient, it showed an accuracy level slightly lower than gold standard RT-PCR method
- The machine cost less than rupees 5000
- COVIRAP machine resembles a box and comes with the kit
- Kit has three master mixes which are markers of different genes to confirm the virus
- RNA samples are extracted from Nasal swaps and mixed with the master mix in tubes
- Tubes are put in machine which is set at a specific temperature and programmed to run for a fixed period
- Once the heating is over its mixed with other solution and reheated
- A paper strip is dipped into reaction product
- Colored lines develop, like in a pregnancy kit, to indicate presence or absence of virus
- A smartphone app can grab image of the strip and convey results
- COVIRAP can deliver results in an hour
- The machine cost less than rupees 5000
Key differences with RT-PCR:
- While RT-PCR machines can cost up to rupees 25 lakhs, the COVIRAP machine cost the IIT researchers only rupees 5,000
- COVIRAP test kits cost about 5000
- RT-PCR needs to be operated by a molecular biologist
- COVIRAP can be operated with minimal training
6) India-Nigeria on Space Cooperation:
Why in news:
- The Union Cabinet have approved the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the National Space Research and Development
- The MoU were signed in order to enable cooperation between the countries in the areas including satellite communication, satellite based navigation, Remote Sensing of the earth, space systems and ground systems, practical applications of space Technology.
- The agreements also included sharing the techniques and geospatial tools.
- The MoU would provide opportunities to explore new research activities.
- It would also help to explore various applications in the field of remote sensing of the earth satellite, Communication satellites, Navigation satellite, Space science and Exploration of outer space.
India Nigeria Relation
- The bilateral relation between India and Nigeria have strengthen in recent years.
- Nigeria have rich resources of oil and India has recently replaced the United States as its largest crude oil Importer.
- In the line, 20- 25 % of India’s domestic oil demand is fulfilled by Nigeria.
- Many Indian Oil Companies have been involved in oil drilling operations in Nigeria and they are planning to setup refineries in Nigeria.
- Nigeria has become the largest Oil exporter to India in Africa.
- Further, the bilateral trade between India and Nigeria stands at 10 billion USD per annum.
- India provided a donation of 50 million USD of essential medicines to Nigeria in order to fight covid-19 in July 2020.
- India and Nigeria, In September 2020, also agreed to deepen the cooperation tackle the issue of piracy, terrorism and insurgency. They also agreed to strengthen cooperation in mutual legal assistance, extradition Treaty and transfer of war prisoners.