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Current Affairs – 27 August 2021

India-Maldives mega-infra project 

Indian Express

GS 2: International Relations

Context:

  • Recently, India’s External Affairs Minister visited the Maldives and met with his counterpart Maldives Foreign Minister.
  • They announced the signing of a $500-million infrastructure project, the Maldives government officially signed an agreement with Mumbai-based company AFCONS, for the construction of the Greater Malé Connectivity Project (GMCP).

About:

  • This infrastructure project, the largest-ever by India in the Maldives, involves the construction of a 6.74-km-long bridge and causeway link that will connect the Maldives capital Malé with the neighbouring islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi.
  • According to India’s High Commission in the country, this project was funded by India in a grant of $100 million, with a line of credit of $400 million.
  • The seeds of the project were planted during the External Affairs Minister’s visit to Malé in September 2019.
  • The GMCP is concrete proof that India is a robust development partner of the Maldives in addition to being the First Responder in times of any emergency in the Maldives.

Significance:

  • The GMCP is not only the biggest project India is doing in the Maldives but also the biggest infrastructure project in the Maldives overall. This iconic project will give a major boost to the Maldivian economy.
  • It facilitates inter-island connectivity in the country.
  • Transport is a major challenge for residents who have to take boats or seaplanes to distant islands. Locals take ferries or boats. It becomes even more difficult during the monsoons when the seas are rough. This bridge that would connect Malé with the three neighbouring islands that would ease the process.

Why is it needed?

  • Close to 40% of the entire population of the Maldives lives in Malé, that has an area of approximately 8.30 square kilometres, making it one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
  • This prompted the current government in the Maldives to consider decentralisation and the development of other inhabited islands by equipping them with civic facilities like hospitals and other institutions, that would incentivise people to relocate to other islands, reducing the burden on Malé.
  • With this bridge, transportation and connectivity to the capital city would also improve, opening up an alternative route for transport, that has been a persistent issue for the country’s people.

Why these islands?

  • In the island of Gulhifalhu, a port, is at present being built under the Indian line of credit. Located some 6 kilometers from Malé, since 2016, the island has been promoted by the Maldives government as a strategic location for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution facilities due to its proximity to the capital city.
  • Back then, the government had also worked on installation of basic infrastructure, high-load capacity roads, water and sewage systems, telecommunications networks and electricity grids.
  • Located 7 km from the capital, the artificial island of Thilafushi was created and designated as a landfill in the early 1990s, to receive garbage created mostly in Malé.
  • Over the past five to six years, the government began management of waste more effectively by using modern waste disposal methods instead of the original landfills.
  • That coincided with the establishment of industrial manufacturing and warehousing facilities on this island, that transformed it into a major industrial zone. The Maldives has plans of expanding industrial work on Thilafushi, making this bridge’s connectivity to the capital indispensable for the transport of employees and other services.

 

Malabar Exercise of Quad nations

Indian Express

GS 2: International Relations

Context:

  • Navies of the four member nations of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or the Quad — India, the United States, Japan, and Australia — are participating in the 25th edition of the Malabar Exercise, which began off the coast of Guam in the Pacific Ocean on 26 August 2021.
  • Malabar, which began as a bilateral exercise, is now one of the cornerstones of military interoperability of the Quad forces.

What is the Malabar Exercise?

  • Malabar is a multilateral war-gaming naval exercise that was started in 1992. It began as a bilateral exercise between the navies of India and the United States.
  • Two more editions of the exercise were carried out in 1995 and 1996, after which there was a break until 2002 in the aftermath of India’s nuclear tests.
  • From 2002 onward, the exercise has been conducted every year. Japan and Australia first participated in 2007, and since 2014, India, the US and Japan have participated in the exercise every year.

How did it the exercise expand from a bilateral exercise?

  • Japan joined the naval exercise in 2015 as a permanent member, and Malabar became a trilateral exercise.
  • But last year was an important milestone. For the first time in over a decade, the exercise saw the participation of all four Quad members. It was the second time that Australia participated in the Malabar series of Naval exercises.

Why did Australia return?

  • The main reason is China. As a grouping of four powerful navies in the Indo-Pacific region, the Quad has irked China, which is flexing its military power globally.
  • Earlier, it was due to the possibility of riling China that India had not expanded Malabar and, to an extent, why Australia had pulled out after 2007.
  • But with China’s relations vexed with all four participating nations — and with an ongoing military standoff in eastern Ladakh for more than 15 months — the Malabar sends a strong message.

 

Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine

The Hindu

GS 2: Health

Context:

  • Recently, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh has launched Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) immunisation drive for infants.

About:

  • The vaccine is a mix of several bacteria of the pneumococci family, which are known to cause pneumonia — hence ‘conjugate’ is included in the name of the vaccine.
  • Conjugate vaccines are made using a combination of two different components.
  • PCV was introduced in India’s Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) in a phased manner from June 2017 onwards.
  • Earlier in December 2020, India’s first fully indigenously developed pneumococcal conjugate vaccine “Pneumosil” was launched.

Advantages:

    • The conjugate vaccines have several advantages and their use could be promoted as they result into:
    • Improved immune and memory response,
    • Longer lasting protection,
    • The protection of infants and toddlers,
    • Their effect on the bacterial carriage,
    • The creation of herd immunity.

 

Kalaignar Urban Development Scheme

The Hindu

GS 2: Government Policies and Interventions

Context:

  • The Tamil Nadu government would implement the Kalaignar Urban Development Scheme at a cost of Rs. 1,000 crores.

About: 

  • Under this scheme, Infrastructure including a community hall, markets, modern libraries will be created in municipalities and town panchayats
  • The urban employment scheme will be on the lines of the MGNREGS, to improve the livelihood of the urban poor.

Objectives and Need: 

  • Growing urbanisation: The urban population in Tamil Nadu was growing fast and it would reach 60% of the total population by 2036.
    • A total of four crore people are now living in urban areas, accounting for 53% of the total population.
  • Impact of COVID-19 pandemic: It aims to provide employment to the urban poor, who had lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Thousands of jobs were lost and the government discussed ways to create jobs for them.
    • Under the scheme, workers will be used for activities such as desilting of water bodies and maintenance of public parks and other places.

 

Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP)

The Hindu

GS 3: Economy

Context:

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of sugarcane for sugar season 2021-22 (October – September) at Rs. 290/- per quintal for a basic recovery rate of 10%.

About:

  • The cost of production of sugarcane for the sugar season 2021-22 is Rs. 155 per quintal. This FRP of Rs. 290 per quintal at a recovery rate of 10% is higher by 87.1% over production cost, thereby giving the farmers a return of much more than 50% over their cost.
  • The FRP approved shall be applicable for purchase of sugarcane from the farmers in the sugar season 2021-22 (starting w.e.f. 1st October, 2021) by sugar mills.
  • The FRP has been determined on the basis of recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) and after consultation with State Governments and other stake-holders.

 

Missile Silos in China

Indian Express

GS 2: Defence and Security

Context:

  • Satellite images have revealed that China is building at least three missile silo fields in Yumen in Gansu province, near Hami in Xinjiang province, and at Hanggin Banner, Ordos City, in Inner Mongolia.

About:

  • It appears that China is constructing around 120 missile silos at Yumen, around 110 silos in Hami, and 29 in the Hanggin Banner field. Earlier this year, 16 missile silos were detected in the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force’s (PLARF) Jilantai training area, also in Inner Mongolia.
  • For several decades before these discoveries in 2021, China operated only 20 missile silos for its DF-5 liquid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
  • On completion of the ongoing work, China could have 250-270 new missile silos, more than 10 times the number it had maintained for several decades.

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