Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Honorary Consul General

Sarat Chandra IAS Academy -UPSC Civils Daily Current Affairs 14th July-2021

Topics

  • Honorary Consul General
  • Retail Direct Scheme by Reserve Bank of India
  • Standard Operating procedure for Environment Violations
  • Viper Mission by NASA
  • Information Technology Act
  • LOWER ARUN HYDRO ELECTRIC PROJECT

 

  1. Honorary Consul General

#GS2 #Foriegn policy #Look East to Act East Policy #Bilateral Relations

Context: Recently, Vietnam has appointed Honorary Consul General of Vietnam in Bangalore to promote trade, economics, investment, tourism, educational and cultural cooperation between Vietnam and the State of Karnataka.

Key Details:

  • Industrialist NS Srinivasa Murthy will be the first such appointment of honorary consul for Karnataka, and 19th globally by Vietnam.
  • Industrialist N.S. Srinivasa Murthy based in Bengaluru has been appointed as Honorary Consul General of Vietnam for Karnataka.
  • The appointment is for a period of three years.
  • He will be the Vietnam embassy’s direct contact point in the state working to increase direct connectivity between the state and the southeast Asian country.

Who are Honorary consul generals?

  • They are an important element for the global engagement.
  • They are not professional diplomats and are usually citizens of the host country.
  • They are designated by a foreign government to look after the affairs of its citizens.
  • They often get no renumeration from the sending state.
  • They have to maintain consulate offices.
  • There are 30000 honorary consuls across the world.
  • The functions, privileges and immunities of honorary consuls are set out in the Vienna Convention in Consular relations,1963.

India-Vietnam Relations:

  • Cultural and economic links between India and Vietnam date back to the 2nd century.
  • Even before official diplomatic ties were established in 1972, India supported Vietnam’s anti-colonial struggle during its independence movement.
  • India supported Hanoi’s “Four Points” for resolving the Vietnam conflict (American war in Vietnam).
  • India also supported Vietnam during the Kampuchea crisis (Cambodian–Vietnamese War) in the late 1970s.

Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP):

  • In December 2020, in the first ever Virtual Summit held, both countries and signed the historic “Indo-Vietnam Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People agreement” encompassing the future development of their strategic partnership, building upon the foundations of deep-rooted historical and cultural bonds, shared values, interests, mutual strategic trust.

Geostrategic Convergence:

  • Both have their shared apprehension of an aggressive China.
  • China’s virtual claiming of the South China Sea as its territory and its assertiveness in the Indian Ocean.
  • India and Vietnam have agreed to strengthen their strategic partnership “in line with India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and the ASEAN’s Outlook on Indo-Pacific to achieve shared security, prosperity and growth for all in the region.”
  • India and Vietnam closely cooperate in various regional forums such as ASEAN, East Asia Summit, Mekong Ganga Cooperation.
  • Vietnam has supported India’s bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
  • Military exchanges between India and Vietnam are quite robust. The two sides conducted their first-ever bilateral land warfare and naval exercises in early 2018.

Economic Cooperation:

  • Over the past two decades, bilateral trade between Vietnam and India has steadily grown from US$200 million in 2000 to US$12.3 billion in the financial year 2019-2020 mainly because of ASEAN-India Free Trade agreement.
  • Vietnam has emerged as the 18th largest trading partner of India, while the latter ranks seventh among Vietnam’s largest trading partners.
  • India is investing in development and capacity assistance for Vietnam through quick impact projects, proposals in the area of water resource management in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region and digital connectivity.
  • The Indian Business Chamber (INCHAM) is an organisation of Indians living in Vietnam, primarily to promote trade and business interactions.

Science and Technology Cooperation:

  • India and Vietnam have signed the Framework Agreement on cooperation in:
    • Exploration and uses of outer space for peaceful purposes, IT cooperation, Cyber Security.
    • Uses of Atomic Energy for Peaceful Purposes.
  • Vietnam has been a large recipient of training programs under Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programs.
  • A proposal to set up a Centre for Satellite Tracking and Data Reception and an Imaging facility in Vietnam under ASEAN-India Cooperation mechanism is under consideration.

Concerns / Challenges:

  • Vietnam opposed the “Quad” or quadrilateral coalition among India, the US, Japan and Australia.
  • The proposed sale of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile has taken a back seat as there has been no response from Hanoi.
  • The line of credit offered has yet to be operationalised for facilitating deeper defence cooperation.

 Conclusion:

Both countries are looking each other very seriously to enhance their partnership. While the ties have progressed under the Look East and Act East Policies, going forward they need to factor in pragmatism, helping relations to move forward.

 

  1. Retail Direct Scheme by Reserve Bank of India

#GS3 #Growth and Development #Capital Market

Context: The Reserve Bank of India on Monday announced the ‘RBI Retail Direct’ scheme, a one-stop solution to facilitate investment in government securities (G-secs) by individual investors.

About the scheme:

  • Under the scheme, retail investors (individuals) will have the facility to open and maintain the ‘Retail Direct Gilt Account’ (RDG Account) with the RBI through an Online portal provided for the scheme.
  • A Gilt Account can be compared with a bank account, except that the account is debited or credited with treasury bills or government securities instead of money.
  • The online portal will give registered users access to primary issuance of G-secs and access to Negotiated Dealing System-Order Matching system (NDS-OM).
    • The RBI introduced the NDS-OM in August 2005. It is an electronic, screen based, anonymous, order driven trading system for dealing in G-secs.
    • It is a one-stop solution to facilitate investment in G-secs by individual investors.
  • RBI seeks to democratize the ownership of government debt securities beyond banks and managers of pooled resources such as mutual funds.

Previous attempts:

  • Regulators earlier tried to popularise G-secs among retail investors through the National Stock Exchange’s GoBid app or retail debt market (RDM) segment of the exchange.
  • But these did not have the desired result due to lack of liquidity.
  • As part of continuing efforts to raise retail participation in G-secs and to improve ease of access, the RBI decided to move beyond aggregator model and provide retail investors online access to the
  • G-sec market — both primary and secondary — along with the facility to open their gilt securities account (retail direct) with the RBI.

Current G-Sec Market:

  • The G-sec market is dominated by institutional investors which are large market actors such as banks, mutual funds and insurance companies.
  • These entities trade in lot sizes of Rs 5 crore or more.
  • So, there is no liquidity in the secondary market for small investors who would want to trade in smaller lot sizes.
  • The primary market is where securities are created, while the secondary market is where those securities are traded by investors.
  • There is no easy way for them to exit their investments. Thus, currently, direct G-secs trading is not popular among retail investors.

Significance:

  • It will make the process of G-sec trading smoother for small investors therefore it will raise retail participation in G-secs and will improve ease of access.
  • This measure together with relaxation in mandatory Hold To Maturity (securities that are purchased to be owned until maturity) provisions will facilitate smooth completion of the government borrowing programme in 2021-22.
  • Allowing direct retail participation in the G-Sec market will promote financialization of a vast pool of domestic savings and could be a game-changer in India’s investment market.

Other Measures Taken to Increase Retail Investment in Government Securities:

  • Introduction of non-competitive bidding in primary auctions.
  • Non-competitive bidding means the bidder would be able to participate in the auctions of dated government securities without having to quote the yield or price in the bid.
  • Allowing a specific retail segment in the secondary market

What is a Government Security (G-Sec)?

  • A Government Security (G-Sec) is a tradeable instrument issued by the Central Government or the State Governments.
  • It acknowledges the Government’s debt obligation. Such securities are short term (usually called treasury bills, with original maturities of less than one year) or long term (usually called Government bonds or dated securities with original maturity of one year or more).
  • In India, the Central Government issues both, treasury bills and bonds or dated securities while the State Governments issue only bonds or dated securities, which are called the State Development Loans (SDLs).
  • G-Secs carry practically no risk of default and, hence, are called risk-free gilt-edged instruments.

Who is a retail Investor?

  • Retail Investor is a non-professional investor who buys and sells securities or funds that contain a basket of securities such as mutual funds and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).
  1. Standard Operating procedure for Environment Violations

#GS3 #Conservation #Impact Assessment

Context: Recently, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) issued the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to deal with environmental violations.

Key Details:

  • The SOP is a result of orders from the National Green Tribunal, which earlier this year directed the ministry to put in place penalties and an SOP for green violations.
  • In 2017, the ministry had initiated a six-month amnesty scheme on penalising green violations, which was later extended.

Categories of Green Violation as per the SOP:

  • The SOPs refer to two categories of green violations —
  • ‘Violations’ involving cases where construction work, including expansion of an existing project, has begun without the project proponent having acquired environmental clearance; and
    • projects that are not permissible for environmental clearance are to be demolished
  • ‘Non-Compliance’ in which prior environmental clearance has been accorded to the project, but it is in violation of norms prescribed in the approval.
    • Projects which are permissible according to environmental law but which have not acquired the requisite clearance are to be shut down.
    • In cases of expansion of a project, including increase in volume of production, if environmental clearance has not been received, then the government agency can force the project proponent to revert to the level of construction/manufacturing before the expansion.

Penalty:

  • The memorandum gives powers to government agencies such as the CPCB, state pollution control boards and state environment impact assessment authorities to identify such violations and take penal action against them.
  • In cases where operations have commenced without the required environmental clearance, 1% of the total project cost and in addition 0.25 % of the total turnover during the period of violation will be levied.
  • In violation cases, where operations have not commenced, 1% of the total project cost incurred up to the date of filing of the application (for instance a fine of Rs 1 lakh for a project worth Rs 1 crore) will be levied.

Concerns by Environmentalists:

  • The memorandum normalises post facto regularisation of violations in which violations are first committed and then the project proponent files for clearance by which they “are let off by paying a penalty”.
  • It is the institutionalising of violations on the basis of the polluter pays norm.

About Environmental Impact Assessment:

  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) defines EIA as a tool used to identify the environmental, social and economic impacts of a project prior to decision-making.
  • It aims to predict environmental impacts at an early stage in project planning and design, find ways and means to reduce adverse impacts, shape projects to suit the local environment and present the predictions and options to decision-makers.
  • The Environment Impact Assessment in India is statutorily backed by the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
  • It provides a cost-effective method to eliminate or minimize the adverse impact of developmental projects.
  • Enables the decision makers to analyse the effect of developmental activities on the environment well before the developmental project is implemented.
  • Encourages the adaptation of mitigation strategies in the developmental plan.
  • Makes sure that the developmental plan is environmentally sound and within the limits of the capacity of assimilation and regeneration of the ecosystem.

 

  1. Viper Mission by NASA
    #GS3 #Awareness in the field of Space

Context: NASA has announced that it will launch its Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover, or VIPER, in 2023.

About the Mission:

  • It is a mobile robot.
  • The size of the lunar rover is approximately the same as a golf cart, with dimensions 5 feet by 5 feet by 8 feet and a weight of 430 kilograms
  • It is NASA’s first mobile lunar rover which will explore water ice and other resources on the surface of the Moon
  • The rover shall comprise the following instruments:
    • A 3.28-foot drill to detect and analyze various lunar soil environments at a range of depths and temperatures
    • 3 Spectrometers
  • The rover will venture into permanently shadowed craters, some of the coldest spots in the solar system, where water ice reserves have endured for billions of years.
  • It will be the first resource mapping mission on any other celestial body.
  • The VIPER rover will be delivered to the Moon as part of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services, or CLPS initiative.

Objectives:

  • To get a closer view of the Moon’s South Pole
  • To determine the distribution, physical state and composition of ice deposits to apprehend the sources of lunar polar water.
  • Give insights into the distribution and origin of water and other volatiles across the solar system.
  • To understand if it is possible for human life to sustain there, by using locally available resources.

Significance:

  • VIPER will directly analyse water ice on the surface and subsurface of the Moon at varying depths and temperature conditions within four main soil environments.
  • The data VIPER transmits back to Earth will be used to create resource maps helping scientists determine the location and concentration of water ice on the Moon.
  • VIPER’s findings will inform “future landing sites under the Artemis program by helping to determine locations where water and other resources can be harvested” to sustain humans over extended stays.

Challenge with VIPER Mission:

  • The mission to the Moon comes with its share of challenges and is more complex in comparison to the missions launched for Mars.
  • The rover will have to experience rough conditions with the surface temperatures varying by 500 degrees Fahrenheit between sunlight and shade. Thus, the hardware, radiators and heat pipe will help the rover sustain between extreme cold and overheating
  • There is no evidence of the surface of the moon towards its south pole. It may be rigid or may be fluffy, thus, the rover has been designed in a manner that it can easily move on the lunar surface
  • The rapid change between light and darkness on the surface is another challenge that the rover and its handlers will have to deal with. The movement of the rover and its parking on the lunar surface will have to be well planned

 

  1. Information Technology Act

#GS2 #Government policies #Judiciary #Fundamental rights

Context: The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Centre on the use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 that was scrapped several years ago.

Background:

  • In 2015, in a landmark judgment in Shreya Singhal case, the Supreme Court struck down Section 66A, calling it “open-ended and unconstitutionally vague”
  • The IT Act, 2000 provides for legal recognition for transactions through electronic communication, also known as e-commerce. The Act also penalizes various forms of cybercrime.
  • The Supreme Court recently took note of continued use of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, by law enforcement agencies of various states despite the provision being struck down by the court in 2015.
  • It termed the usage as “a shocking state of affairs” and sought a response from the Centre.
  • As many as a total of 745 cases are still pending and active before the Districts Courts in 11 States — Maharashtra leading the tally with 381 cases under 66A after it was struck down followed by UP with 245 such cases after the cut-off date — wherein accused persons are being prosecuted for offences under Section 66A of the IT Act.

About Section 66A:

  • It empowered police to make arrests over what policemen, in terms of their subjective discretion, could construe as “offensive” or “menacing” or for the purposes of causing annoyance, inconvenience, etc.
  • It prescribed the punishment for sending messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet, and a conviction could fetch a maximum of three years in jail.

Issues with Section 66A:

  • It was subjective in Nature
  • It did not have any Procedural Safeguards
    • Local authorities could proceed autonomously, literally on the whim of their political masters.
  • It was against the Fundamental Rights
    • Section 66A was contrary to both Articles 19 (free speech) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.

Way Forward:

  • There is a pressing need to move from a system where communication about judicial decisions is at the mercy of initiatives by scrupulous officers, to a method not contingent on human error to the greatest possible extent. The urgency cannot be overstated.
  • Enforcing unconstitutional laws is sheer wastage of public money.
  • But more importantly, until this basic flaw is addressed, certain persons will remain exposed to denial of their right to life and personal liberty in the worst possible way imaginable.
  • They will suffer the indignity of lawless arrest and detention, for no reason other than their poverty and ignorance, and inability to demand their rights.

 

  1. LOWER ARUN HYDRO ELECTRIC PROJECT

#GS2 #bilateral relations #Soft diplomacy #GS3 #Infrastructure.

Context: A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed for execution of 679 MW Lower Arun Hydro Electric Project in Nepal between Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) Central Public Sector Enterprise under Ministry of Power, Government of India & Investment Board of Nepal (IBN) in Kathmandu Nepal.

About the project:

  • Located on Arun River between Sankhuwasabha and Bhojpur districts in eastern Nepal.
  • The Lower Arun HEP (679 MW) is a downstream development of Arun-3 HEP.
  • The Lower Arun Hydro Electric Project is located in Sankhuwasabha and Bhojpur Districts of Nepal.
  • The project will not have any reservoir or dam and will be a tail race development of 900 MW Arun3 HEP.
  • The project will have four Francis type turbines.
  • On completion the Project will generate 2970 million units of electricity per annum.
  • It is scheduled to be completed in four years after commencement of construction activities and has been allocated to SJVN for 25 years on Build Own Operate Transfer basis.
  • The project will be developed under the build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) model.
  • It is the single largest foreign investment project, based on the 2017 cost estimates.

Arun 3 Hydro Electric Project:

  • This is the second project awarded to SJVN in Nepal, the first one being the 900 MW Arun 3 Hydro Electric Project in Sankhuwasabha District.
  • Arun-3 Project is being implemented through wholly owned subsidiary company of SJVN i.e. SJVN Arun-3 Power Development Company Limited (SAPDC) incorporated in Nepal.
  • The Arun-3 Hydro Electric project (900 MW) is a run-of-river located on Arun River in Eastern Nepal.
  • The surplus power from the project will be exported to India from Dhalkebar in Nepal to Muzaffarpur in Bihar. It will strengthen power availability in India and also economic linkages with Nepal

 

 

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