Current Affairs (22nd February 2021)
- India joined Australia, Japan and the United States for a ministerial meeting under the quadrilateral grouping.
- Military takeover in Myanmar featured in the talks and participants reiterated democratic values for the region.
- India also emphasised in its statement that the meeting expressed commitment to “upholding rules based international order” and “peaceful resolution of disputes”.
- The meeting was held in the backdrop of the ongoing withdrawal of Chinese forces from positions along the Line of Actual Control but the months-long military tension did not find mention in the read outs.
- Japan and Australia focused on joint efforts to combat the pandemic. The meeting agreed to enhance access to “affordable vaccines, medicines and medical equipment”.
- The read-outs from the four ministers touched on all the familiar Quad themes — maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, counter-terrorism, cooperation on COVID-19 management, and building supply chain resilience.
- The only new element — support for rule of law and democratic restoration in Myanmar — was a response to the unfolding events in that country.
- It signalled the new USA administration’s commitment to the Quad as a key formation in the Indo-Pacific
- QUAD is the quadrilateral security framework involving Australia, India, Japan and the United States.
- This recent Quad meeting, so soon after the agreement with China on Ladakh disengagement, underlines that India’s interest in the Quad is not tactical but profoundly strategic.
- For India the Quad is really about addressing the growing power imbalance with China that has manifold consequences for India’s security and prosperity as well its regional and international standing.
- While Delhi’s foreign policy traditionalists remain rather defensive about the Quad, PM’s team evidently views it as an unprecedented strategic opportunity for India to shape the emerging regional and global order.
- Arunachal Pradesh (AP) and Mizoram were created on 20 February 1987.
- Till 1972, it was known as the North- East Frontier Agency (NEFA).
- It gained the Union Territory status on January 20, 1972 and renamed as Arunachal Pradesh.
- On August 15, 1975 an elected Legislative Assembly was constituted and the first council of Ministers assumed office.
- The first general election to the Assembly was held in February 1978.Administratively, the State is divided into sixteen districts.
- Capital of the State is Itanagar in Papumpare district. Itanagar is named after Ita fort meaning fort of bricks, build in the 14th century AD.
- Arunachal Pradesh find mentioned in the literature of KalikaPurana and Mahabharta. This place is the Prabhu Mountains of Puranas.
- It was here the sage Parashuram atoned of his sin, sage Vyasa meditated, King Bhismaka founded his kingdom and Lord Krishna married his Consort Rukmini.
- It is one of the states of Northeast India, with Aizawl as its capital city. The name is derived from Mi (people), Zo (lofty place, such as a hill) and Ram (land), and thus Mizoram implies “Land of the hill people”.
- Like several other northeastern states of India, Mizoram was previously part of Assam until 1972, when it was carved out as a Union Territory.
- It became the 23rd state of India, a step above Union Territory, on 20 February 1987.
- Mizoram’s population was 1,091,014, according to a 2011 census. It is the 2nd least populous state in the country.
- Mizoram covers an area of approximately 21,087 square kilometers. About 91% of the state is forested.
- About 95% of current Mizoram population is of diverse tribal origins who settled in the state, mostly from southeast Asia, over waves of migration starting about 16th century but mainly in 18th century.
- This is the highest concentration of tribal people among all states of India, and they are currently protected under Indian constitution as a Scheduled Tribe.
- The tribes converted from Animist religions to Christianity over the first half of 20th century. Mizoram is one of three states of India with a Christian majority (87%). Its people belong to various denominations, mostly Presbyterian in its North and Baptists in South.
- Mizoram is a highly literate agrarian economy, but suffers from slash-and-burn jhum or shifting cultivation, and poor crop yields. In recent years, the jhum farming practices are steadily being replaced with a significant horticulture and bamboo products industry.
- Biggest river: Chhimtuipui, or Kaladan, Kolodyne or Chimtuipui. It originates in Chin state in Burma and passes through Saiha and Lawngtlai districts in the southern tip of Mizoram, goes back to Burma’s Rakhine state.
- The Palaklake is the biggest in Mizoram.
ELECTRIFICATION OF RAILWAYS
- Railway Minister has said that railways will be fully electrified in three years in West Bengal and all ongoing projects in the state will be completed at the earliest.
The newly electrified section from New Jalpaiguri to New Coochbehar is part of the ongoing electrification work of 126 kilometers. This section is vital for train movement towards northeastern states.
- The Haldibari station bordering Bangladesh has been constructed considering the need of future economic development of this area.
Why it is needed?
- For plugging missing links and last mile connectivity.
- For managing seamless operation of rail traffic across the network,
- To remove bottlenecks created by the need to change traction.
- To enhance the line capacity
- To improve the average speed of trains
- To improve operational efficiency
- To improve Railway Finances.
- To reduce environmental impact of Railways
Benefits of Electrification:
- Electric traction is much cheaper and efficient compared with diesel traction as running trains on electric traction is 50% cheaper than diesel.
- Enhancing line capacity due to higher speed and higher haulage capacity of electric locomotives.
- Reduce fossil fuel consumption and also give a subsequent reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions.
- Improved signaling system will lead to enhanced safety in train operations.
- Electric Multiple Units (EMUs) are ideal for suburban services, which require higher acceleration and braking features for frequent starts and stops.
- Savings in fuel bill as maintenance of electric locomotive is low as compared to diesel locomotive.
- Direct employment during the construction phase for electrification will significantly boost the employment.
- Reduced carbon footprint as environmental cost per tonne Km for electric traction is less as compared to diesel traction.
- Provide seamless train operation by eliminating detention of trains due to change in traction (action of drawing or pulling something over a surface) from diesel to electric and vice versa.
- India and Maldives signed agreements on wide range of domains including fish processing, public broadcasting, sustainable urban development, road infrastructure and housing.
- The agreement in the field of broadcasting is for cooperation between Prasar Bharati and PSM.
- The MoU intends to facilitate collaboration and capacity building in the field of public broadcasting.
Both reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral ties as well as progress of ongoing bilateral projects and held discussions on the ongoing COVID situation, including India’s continued assistance to the Maldives for its post-COVID economic recovery.
WHY MALDIVES IS IMPORTANT FOR INDIA?
- A favourable and positive maritime environment in the Indian Ocean is essential for the fulfilment of India’s Strategic priority.
- Despite being the smallest Asian country with a land area, Maldives is one of the world’s most geographically dispersed countries straddling a 960-km-long submarine ridge running north to south and which forms a wall in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
- Through the decades, India has rushed emergency assistance to the Maldives, whenever sought.
- Maldivian students attend educational institutions in India and patients fly here for superspeciality healthcare, aided by a liberal visa-free regime extended by India.
- Given the geographical limitations imposed on the Maldives, India has exempted the nation from export curbs on essential commodities.
- The other important aspect to point out is India bringing the Maldives into its Coastal Security Grid.
- China’s strategic footprint in India’s neighbourhood has increased. The Maldives has emerged as an important ‘pearl’ in China’s “String of Pearls” construct in South Asia.
- In the past decade or so, the number of Maldivians drawn towards terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS) and Pakistan-based madrassas and jihadist groups has been increasing.
- Maldives should be brought into India’s collective security framework in the region through capacity building in a big way. Maldives is capable of looking after her own interests.
- The Asia-Africa growth corridor, which involves linking South East Asia, North East Aisia, etc needs to be looked into. The Africa-Asia growth corridor can be a game changer as far as India-Maldives relations are concerned.
NITI Aayog meeting
- Sixth meeting of NITI Aayog Governing Council was held and was attended by 26 Chief Ministers, three Lieutenant Governors and two administrators, besides Union Ministers, special invitees and NITI Aayog officials.
- Chief Ministers of Punjab, Gujarat, West Bengal and Telangana, however, did not attend the meeting.
- States need to work towards reducing compliance burden for citizens to ensure ease of living and promote ease of doing business, Prime Minister highlighted, while stressing on the importance of better coordination between the Centre and the States for the country’s development.
Agenda for the Sixth Council Meeting:
- Making India a Manufacturing Powerhouse
- Reimagining Agriculture
- Improving Physical Infrastructure
- Accelerating Human Resources Development
- Improving Service Delivery at Grassroots Level
- Health and Nutrition