- Rail Cargo movement between India and Nepal gets a big boost
- ‘Joint Communication’ signed to secure rights of forest dwellers
- Booster Shots for Covid 19 Vaccines
- GIS-based India Industrial Land Bank (IILB)
- Lymphatic Filariasis (LF)
- Retrospective tax dispute between India and Cairn Energy
- Rail Cargo movement between India and Nepal gets a big boost.
#GS2 #Bilateral Relations #GS3 #Infrastructure
Context: India and Nepal have signed a Letter of Exchange (LoE) to the India-Nepal Rail Services Agreement (RSA) 2004.
Highlights of LoE:
- It will allow all authorized cargo train operators including public and private container trains Operators, automobile freight train operators, special freight train operators or any other operator authorized by Indian Railways to utilize the Indian railway network to carry Nepal’s container and other freight – both bilateral between Indian and Nepal or third country from Indian ports to Nepal.
- Wagons owned by Nepal Railway Company will also be authorized to carry Nepal-bound freight over the Indian Railways network as per IR standards and procedures.
About Rail Services Agreement (RSA), 2004:
- The Rail Services Agreement was executed in 2004 between the Ministry of Railways, Government of India and the Ministry of Commerce, the Govt. of Nepal for introduction of freight train services between these two countries to and from Birgunj (Nepal) via Raxaul (India).
- The agreement guides movement between India and Nepal by rail.
- The Agreement shall be reviewed every five years and may be modified (through Letters of Exchange) by the Contracting Parties by mutual consent.
- In the past, there have been amendments to RSA through LoE on three occasions.
- First such amendment was in 2004.
- Second LoE was signed in 2008 at the time of introduction of bilateral cargo between the two countries which required introduction of new customs procedures.
- Third LoE was signed in 2016 enabling rail transit traffic to/from Visakhapatnam Port in addition to existing provision of rail transportation through Kolkata/Haldia Port.
Benefits of the Latest Agreement:
- This liberalization will allow market forces (such as consumers and buyers) to come up in the rail freight segment in Nepal, and is likely to increase efficiency and cost- competitiveness, eventually benefiting the Nepalese consumer.
- Transportation costs of automobiles, other products carried in special wagons will decline.
- It will boost rail cargo movement between the two countries.
- This LoE marks another milestone in India’s efforts to enhance regional connectivity under the “Neighbourhood First” policy.
Other Connectivity Projects:
- Connectivity projects come in various forms.
- Physical connectivity projects such as highways, rail and air links and inland waterways enhance movement of goods and people.
- Energy connectivity – whether power transmission lines or petroleum pipelines – contribute to the well-being of each other’s citizens, and build mutual trust and partnerships.
- Digital connectivity through optical fibre networks, will provide remote access to education, healthcare and other services through the digital medium.
- Nepal being a landlocked country has very limited vehicular access.
- MoUs have been signed between both the governments for laying an electric rail track linking Kathmandu with Raxaul in India.
- India is looking to develop the inland waterways for the movement of cargo, within the framework of trade and transit arrangements, providing additional access to sea for Nepal calling it linking Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) with Sagar (Indian Ocean).
- In 2019, India and Nepal have jointly inaugurated a cross-border petroleum products pipeline.
- Pipeline carries petroleum products from Motihari in India to Amlekhgunj in Nepal.
- This is South Asia’s first cross-border petroleum products pipeline.
- ‘Joint Communication’ signed to secure rights of forest dwellers
#GS1 # Poverty and Developmental issues #Schedule Tribes
Context: Recently, a “Joint Communication” was signed by Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) to secure the rights of traditional forest dwellers and proper implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
- The forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers inhabiting forests for generations were in occupation of the forest land for centuries.
- Forests are the source of their livelihood, identity, customs and traditions. However, their rights on their ancestral lands and their habitats had not been adequately recognized despite them being integral to the very survival and sustainability of the forest eco-system. The traditional rights and interests of forest dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers on forest lands were left unrecognized and unrecorded during consolidation of State forests in the past.
- The government had enacted the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, to recognize the right to livelihood and occupation within the forest of these communities.
Key Details of Joint Communication:
- It is concerned with more effective implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and for utilising the potential for livelihood improvement of the Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) as well as community participation in forest conservation.
- State tribal welfare departments along with forest departments are also to work out strategies to extend MGNREGS and National Rural Livelihood Mission to forest dwellers as well as initiate skill development programs and give impetus to agro-forestry and horticulture projects.
- Forest Departments of state governments have been directed to carry out verification of claims for forest rights, mapping of forest lands involved and provision of necessary evidence as required, authentication of records, joint field inspections, awareness generation etc.
- State forest departments are to undertake projects for value chain addition including capacity building of primary collectors, new harvesting methods, storage, processing and marketing of Non?-Timber Forest Products (NTFP) under schemes implemented by Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
- A nodal agency to be designated for specific non-timber forest products as supply chain platforms in collaboration with TRIFED, Ministry of Ayush, MFP (Minor Forest Produce) Federations, Van Dhan Kendras etc.
Non-Timber Forest Products or Minor Forest Produce (MFP):
- Section 2(i) of the Forest Rights Act defines a Minor Forest Produce (MFP) as all non-timber forest produce of plant origin and includes bamboo, brushwood, stumps, canes, cocoon, honey, waxes, Lac, tendu/kendu leaves, medicinal plants etc.
- It provides both subsistence and cash income for people who live in or near forests.
- They also form a major portion of their food, fruits, medicines and other consumption items and also provide cash income through sales.
- The Central government had introduced a minimum support price for a selected list of minor produce items through mechanism for marketing of Minor Forest Produce through Minimum Support price and development of Value Chain of MFP Scheme in 2011.
- It aims to provide a social safety net to these underprivileged forest dwellers, and to aid in their empowerment.
Other Initiatives for Forest Dwellers:
- Ekalavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS)
- Pradhan Manti Van Dhan Yojana (PMVDY)
- Increasing the number of Minor Forest Products (MFP) in the bracket of Minimum Support Price (MSP) from 10 to 86 in the last few years has supported tribes immensely in improving their incomes and livelihood prospects.
- State tribal welfare departments along with forest departments are also to work out strategies to extend MGNREGA and National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) to forest dwellers as well as initiate skill development programs and give impetus to agro-forestry and horticulture projects.
- Programme for Capacity Building of Scheduled Tribe Representatives in Local Self Governments.
Forest Rights Act, 2006
- The act was passed in December 2006.
- It deals with the rights of forest-dwelling communities over land and other resources.
- The Act grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws.
- Eligibility to get rights under the Act is confined to those who “primarily reside in forests” and who depend on forests and forest land for a livelihood. Further, either the claimant must be a member of the Scheduled Tribes scheduled in that area or must have been residing in the forest for 75 years.
- The Gram Sabha is the authority to initiate the process for determining the nature and extent of Individual Forest Rights (IFR) or Community Forest Rights (CFR) or both that may be given to FDST and OTFD.
- The Act identifies four types of rights:
- Title rights: It gives FDST and OTFD the right to ownership to land farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares.
- Use rights: The rights of the dwellers extend to extracting Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas etc.
- Relief and development rights: To rehabilitate in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and to basic amenities.
- Forest management rights: It includes the right to protect, regenerate or conserve or manage any community forest resource which they have been traditionally protecting and conserving for sustainable use.
- This act in a way protects intellectual property rights and the traditional knowledge related to cultural diversity and biodiversity
- It expands the mandate of the 5th & 6th Schedules of the Constitution that protect the claims of indigenous communities over tracts of land or forests they inhabit.
- Booster Shots for Covid 19 Vaccines:
#GS1 #Health related issues #GS3 #Disaster management
Context: Recently, Many Vaccine Candidates have announced that they would seek regulatory authorization for a third booster dose of their Covid-19 vaccine (BNT162b2).
What are Booster Shots?
- A booster is a means of strengthening one’s immune system against a particular pathogen.
- It may be exactly the same original vaccine; in which case its goal is to increase the magnitude of protection by producing more antibodies.
- The vaccine contains weakened forms of the disease-causing virus or bacteria, or it may be made of an altered genetic “blueprint” for the germ that can make one sick.
- The shot triggers one’s immune system to attack the foreign organism, like it would if you actually got the disease. This helps your immune system remember the disease-causing germ.
- Scientists can tweak what goes into the booster if they are aiming to protect people from a new variant — a version of the virus that’s mutated significantly from the original version people were vaccinated against.
- Booster shot gives the memory cells the crucial signal to re-engage when the virus attacks. This can be useful whether the booster contains the original vaccine or something different.
- If it contains the original one, it’ll amplify the signal, increasing the number of antibodies produced and
- If it contains a tweaked recipe, it will train the cells to recognise new features of the virus and produce antibodies, should one be exposed to a newer variant.
- These shots are only for the fully-vaccinated.
- This development comes amid the global spread of highly transmissible Delta strain of Covid-19 and emergence of new variants like Lambda.
- Research shows that the Delta mutation is powerful enough to make even mRNA shots from BioNTech SE and Moderna less effective, bringing down protection to below 90%. The effectiveness of AstraZeneca’s viral vector vaccine against symptomatic infections caused by the variant was lower at 60%.
- These boosters will be particularly helpful for the elderly and immunocompromised people whose bodies were unable to mount a robust protection against the virus following the first two shots.
- Secondly, if there are studies showing that a new variant can sneak past the antibodies created by a specific vaccine, the need of a tweaked booster shot arises then.
- Initial data from Pfizer’s booster study demonstrates that the added dose was eliciting 5-10-fold higher antibody response.
- However, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention hasn’t offered any recommendations on this and has issued a statement saying Americans don’t need a booster shot yet.
- Booster shots are yet to get a nod from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
- In fact, the WHO has expressed caution in encouraging third doses.
- Such a recommendation is unnecessary and premature given the paucity of data on booster shots and the fact that high-risk individuals in much of the world still haven’t been fully vaccinated.
- GIS-based India Industrial Land Bank (IILB)
#GS3 #Infrastructure and Connectivity
Context: According to Ministry of Commerce & Industry, India Industrial Land Bank will achieve pan-India integration by December 2021 as it is gaining popularity quickly.
What is the India Industrial Land Bank (IILB)?
- The India Industrial Land Bank is a GIS-based portal with all industrial infrastructure-related information such as connectivity, infra, natural resources and terrain, plot-level information on vacant plots, line of activity, and contact details.
- It acts as a one-stop repository of all industrial infrastructure-related information.
- It serves as a decision support system for investors scouting for land remotely.
- Currently, it has been integrated with industry-based GIS systems of 17 states to have details on the portal updated on a real-time basis.
- IILB has around 4,000 industrial parks mapped across an area of 5.5 lakh hectare of land and is expected to achieve pan-India integration by December 2021.
- It is under the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
- Lymphatic Filariasis (LF)
#GS2 #Health related issues #Government Policies
Context: Recently, the Maharashtra government has started a drug administration drive for the elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis (LF) and become the first State in the country to resume giving rounds of the drug after the second wave of Covid-19.
- Also called as elephantiasis, it is Caused by infection with parasitic worms classified as nematodes (roundworms) of the family Filarioidea living in the lymphatic system.
- The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and specialized tissues that are essential to maintaining the overall fluid balance and health of organs and limbs and, importantly, are a major component of the body’s immune defence system.
- The larval stages of the parasite (microfilaria) circulate in the blood and are transmitted from person to person by mosquitoes.
- May Cause abnormal enlargement of body parts, and leading to severe disability and social stigmatization of those affected.
- The parasites are transmitted by four main types of mosquitoes:
- Culex, Mansonia, Anopheles and Aedes.
- It is considered as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD). It is the second most disabling disease after mental health.
- It impairs the lymphatic system and can lead to the abnormal enlargement of body parts, causing pain, severe disability and social stigma.
- There are 3 types of thread-like filarial worms which causes lymphatic filariasis:
- Wuchereria Bancrofti is responsible for 90% of the cases.
- Brugia Malayi causes most of the remainder of the cases.
- Brugia Timori also causes the disease.
- In communities where filariasis is transmitted, all ages are affected.
- While the infection may be acquired during childhood its visible manifestations such as limbs oedema may occur later in life, causing temporary or permanent disability.
- Lymphatic filariasis affects over 120 million people in 72 countries throughout the tropics and sub-tropics of Asia, Africa, the Western Pacific, and parts of the Caribbean and South America.
Triple drug therapy:
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends three drug treatments to accelerate the global elimination of lymphatic filariasis.
- The treatment, known as IDA, involves a combination of ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine citrate and albendazole.
- The plan is to administer these drugs for two consecutive years. The life of the adult worm is hardly four years, so it would die a natural death without causing any harm to the person.
Scenario in India:
- Lymphatic filariasis poses a grave threat to India. An estimated 650 million Indians across 21 states and union territories are at risk of lymphatic filariasis.
- In endemic countries, lymphatic filariasis has a major social and economic impact.
- Over 40% of worldwide cases are found in India.
- The government launched the Accelerated Plan for Elimination of Lymphatic Filariasis (APELF) in 2018, and as part of intensifying efforts towards elimination, later rolled out IDA treatment (triple drug therapy) in a phased manner.
- Since 2004, two drug therapy for lymphatic filariasis has been in place but the addition of the third drug now will give a boost to the overall campaign.
- India has missed earlier deadlines to eradicate the disease by 2015 and 2017.
Global Initiatives towards eliminating Lymphatic Filariasis:
- WHO’s New Roadmap for 2021–2030: To prevent, control, eliminate and eradicate a set of 20 diseases, termed neglected tropical diseases, by 2030.
- Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF):
- Retrospective tax dispute between India and Cairn Energy
#GS3 #Taxation #Important International Institutions
Context: Britain’s Cairn Energy Plc has secured an order from a French court authorising the freezing of 20 Indian government properties in Paris valued at over 20 million euros.
- This is the first court order secured against India to enforce a $1.2-billion arbitration award that Cairn Energy had won against the Indian government in the retrospective tax dispute.
- The arbitration between India and Cairn challenged the India retrospective taxation policy.
- In 2012, India brought in legislation mandating retrospective tax demands over deals going back to 1962 in which shares in non-Indian companies were transferred to an Indian holding company.
- In 2006, Cairn made a bid to consolidate its Indian assets under a holding company — Cairn India Limited.
- Indian tax officials claimed capital gains tax of over Rs 6,000 crore by Cairn UK for the transactions in 2006, even though the transactions had previously been cleared by them.
- Even the Supreme Court had ruled against the retrospective reading of the law by tax officials in the case of Vodafone. However, Parliament passed a law mandating retrospective taxation over “transfer of Indian assets.”
- This retrospective taxation, Cairn argued, was in breach of the UK-India Bilateral Investment Treaty which had a standard clause that obligated India to treat investment from UK in a “fair and equitable manner”.
- In 2014, the Indian tax department had demanded Rs 10,247 crore in taxes.
- In 2015, Cairn Energy Plc commenced international arbitration proceedings against the Indian government.
Why is Cairn going after Indian assets?
- In December 2020, a three-member international arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands ruled unanimously that the Indian government was “in breach of the guarantee of fair and equitable treatment”, and against the India-UK Bilateral Investment Treaty, and that the breach caused a loss to the British energy company and ordered compensation of $1.2 billion.
- The Indian government is yet to accept the arbitration award.
What are the assets Cairn is going after?
- Cairn Energy has so far registered the arbitration award in several countries, where it has identified Indian assets worth over $70 billion.
- This includes jurisdictions in the US, UK, Canada, Singapore, Mauritius, France and the Netherlands.
What are India’s options going forward?
- While it is the first one to succeed for Cairn, the French court order boosts its chances in other jurisdictions.
- The assets will be tangled in legal dispute and India will join a list of countries that includes Pakistan, Afghanistan whose assets were seized abroad.
- Unless it can be proved that the arbitration awards against India are mala fide in the appeals, the award can be enforced in foreign jurisdictions. However, a settlement between the two parties cannot be ruled out.