Current Affairs – 21 December 2021

3rd Meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue

The Hindu

GS 2: Groupings & Agreements Involving India and/or Affecting India’s Interests, Global Groupings, India and its Neighbourhood

Context:

  • Recently, the 3rd meeting of the India-Central Asia Dialogue was held in New Delhi under the chairmanship of the External Affairs Minister of India.
  • Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Republic of Uzbekistan took part in the meeting.

About:

  • The countries have agreed on a ​​broad ‘regional consensus’ on the issues related to Afghanistan which includes:
    1. formation of a truly representative and inclusive government
    2. combating terrorism and drug trafficking
    3. the central role of the UN
    4. providing immediate humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people and
    5. preserving the rights of women, children and other national ethnic groups.
  • All of them condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
  • They also called for the early adoption of the UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
  • The countries discussed how to increase links in what India’s Foreign Minister called the “4 C’s” of Commerce, Capacity enhancement, Connectivity and Contacts.
  • The countries have welcomed India’s proposal to include Chabahar Port within the framework of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) as well as Ashgabat Agreement on International Transport and Transit Corridor.
  • The countries confirmed the participation of the leaders of their respective countries at India’s Republic Day celebration, where they will hold a summit-level dialogue with the Prime Minister.
  • All the countries are currently discussing the use of a USD 1 billion line of credit announced by India last year for infrastructure projects in Central Asia.
  • The Central Asian Countries appreciated the important role of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme in capacity building and human resource development of their countries.
  • All the countries stressed the importance of extensive vaccination and called for cooperation through sharing of vaccine doses, transfer of technology, development of local production capacities, promotion of supply chains for medical products, and ensuring price transparency.
  • India highlighted the role of “International Solar Alliance (ISA)” initiative in collective, rapid and massive deployment of solar energy for effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.
  • India also underlined the role of “Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI)” in promoting disaster resilient infrastructure for reducing economic losses.

What is India-Central Asia Dialogue?

  • It is a ministerial-level dialogue between India and the Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
  • Except for Turkmenistan, all participating countries are also members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
  • The dialogue focuses on a number of issues, including ways to improve connectivity and stabilise Afghanistan.
  • India-Central Asia trade is quite small at present accounting for less than $2 billion most of which comes from Kazakh oil exports to India.

 

Amendment in Mineral Auction Rules

Business Standard

GS 2: Government Policies and Interventions

Context:

  • The Ministry of Mines has notified the Minerals (Evidence of Mineral Contents) Second Amendment Rules, 2021, and the Mineral (Auction) Fourth Amendment Rules, 2021 to amend the Minerals (Evidence of Mineral Contents) Rules, 2015 (MEMC Rules) and the Mineral (Auction) Rules, 2015 (Auction Rules), respectively.
  • The amendment rules have been framed after extensive consultations with the states, industry associations, miners, other stakeholders and general public.
  • The government said that amendment in mineral auction rules will encourage competition that will ensure more participation in sale of blocks.

About:

Minerals (Evidence of Mineral Contents) Second Amendment Rules, 2021:

  • Amendment in the MEMC Rules will enable any person, who is intending to participate in auction, to propose suitable blocks for auction for composite licence where mineral potentiality of the blocks has been identified based on the available geoscience data.
  • A committee constituted by any state will assess the mineral potentiality of the blocks so proposed and recommend the mine for auction.

Mineral (Auction) Fourth Amendment Rules, 2021:

  • Further, amendment in the ‘Auction Rules’ provide that in case the blocks proposed by any person are notified for auction, the said person would be provided incentive of depositing only half of the bid security amount in auction of the blocks proposed by him.
  • Part surrender of mining lease area has been allowedin all cases.
  • Provisions have also been added to allow disposal of overburden/ waste rock/ mineral below the threshold value,which is generated during the course of mining or beneficiation of the mineral.

Significance:

  • These amendments would encourage more participation in auction and promote competition.
  • This will facilitate state governments in identifying more blocks for auction of composite licence.
  • The present amendment in the rules will supplement the recent policy reforms taken in the mineral sector and facilitate auction of more blocks, thereby increasing production and mineral supply in the country.

 

Indian Desert Cat

The Hindu

Prelims Fact

Context:

  • An Indian Desert Cat has been spotted for the first time in Madhya Pradesh’s Panna Tiger Reserve (PTR).

About:

  • As the name suggests, this cat is found in deserts and can survive without water.
  • The toes of the species have cushion like hair which help it balance the fluctuating desert temperatures.
  • The Indian Desert Cat is also known as the Asiatic Wildcat or the Asian Steppe Wildcat.
  • It is usually a creature of the Thar desert in Rajasthan and inhabits scrub desert areas.
  • The cat occurs in arid and semi-arid zones of western India which includes Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra up to Pune and Nagpur.
  • It can be found mostly in scrub deserts, up to 2,000-3,000 m elevation, mountainous areas with sufficient vegetation, as well as temperate forests.
  • The Asiatic wildcat usually occurs close to water sources but can also live in low-water areas. It does not seem to avoid cultivated areas and human settlements.

Protection Status:

  • IUCN Red List: Least Concern
  • CITES: Appendix-II
  • Wildlife protection Act’s: Schedule-I.

 

Impartiality of the Election Commission

The Hindu

GS 2: Indian Polity

Context:

  • The informal meeting between Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioners with the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister have raised questions of propriety.

About:

  • The meeting has raised questions about the functioning of the Commission.
  • It has raised questions about the neutrality and independent functioning of the Commission.
  • The three ECs are expected to maintain distance from the executive as a constitutional safeguard to insulate the commission from external pressure and allow it to continue as an independent authority.
  • Over the last couple of years, several actions of the commission have come under criticism.
  • It is blamed of overlooking various instances of violations of the model code of conduct during the various Elections.
  • The Commission’s belated decision in banning election campaigns in the midst of the pandemic came under severe criticism.

 

Land Degradation

The Hindu

GS 3: Environment and Conservation

Context:

  • Recently, a study on desertification of Thar region is conducted by the Central University of Rajasthan.
  • The study was undertaken as part of an assessment of the environmentally sensitive areas within the framework of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
  • The scientists associated with the project studied the climate and vegetation in Thar, which is the word’s ninth largest hot subtropical desert, to understand the desertification process.

About:

  • It has predicted that the sandstorms from the desert will travel as far as the National Capital Region (NCR) in the years to come.
  • The sandstorms will become intense with the erosion of Aravali hills, which act as a ‘natural green wall’ between the desert and the plains.
  • Along with the gradual destruction of the Aravali ranges, the mighty Thar desert in western Rajasthan is expanding fast because of migration of people, changes in the rainfall pattern, spread of sand dunes and unscientific plantation drives.
  • The degradation of land is posing a threat to the desert ecology, while the climate change has contributed to the spread of arid region.
  • The over-exploitation of resources had led to reduction in vegetation cover in the areas adjacent to the Thar desert, contributing to its expansion beyond four districts in western Rajasthan.
  • The study, which focused on Barmer, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur districts covering more than 50% of Thar desert, found that Jodhpur, situated near the Aravali hills, had witnessed a slow speed of desertification.
  • It also found that the vegetation cover and waterbodies had increased in the area in the last 46 years and the complex sand region had decreased by 4.98%.

 

Parvovirus

Indian Express

Prelims Fact

Context:

  • Nearly 2,000 pet and stray dogs in Amravati city were affected by canine parvovirus virus.

About:

  • It is a highly contagious viral disease that can also be life-threatening in puppies and dogs.
  • Parvovirus affects the intestinal tract of canines with puppies being more susceptible.
  • Bloody diarrhoea, vomiting, drastic weight loss, dehydration and lethargy are some of the symptoms. The virus has reported a 90 per cent mortality rate.
  • The highly contagious virus spreads through direct contact with an infected dog or by indirect contact with a contaminated object, including the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs. The dogs can get exposed to the parvovirus every time it sniffs, licks, or consume infected faeces.
  • This virus was discovered in 1967and has rapidly become a serious threat to canine health. This is primarily due to the fact that the virus is hard to kill, can live for a long time in the environment, and is shed in large quantities by infected dogs.