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Current Affairs – 7 August 2021

Current Affairs (7th August 2021)

Pahchan initiative

Context:

  • A total of 26.79 lakh artisans have been registered so far under the Pahchan initiative. 

About:

  • The office of Development Commissioner (Handicrafts) implements various schemes for welfare development of artisans through “National Handicraft Development Programme (NHDP)” and Comprehensive Handicrafts Cluster Development Scheme (CHCDS) to emphasize integrated approach for development of handicraft in a holistic manner and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities to the artisans.
  • These two schemes have the following components:
    • Baseline Survey & Mobilization of Artisans under Ambedkar Hastshilp Vikas Yojana: The Scheme aims to promote Indian handicrafts by developing artisans’ clusters into professionally managed and self-reliant community enterprises on the principles of effective member participation and mutual cooperation.
    • Design & Technology upgradation (DTU): The Scheme aims to upgrade artisan’s skills through development of innovative designs and prototypes products for overseas market, revival of endangered crafts and preservation of heritage etc.
    • Human Resource Development (HRD): The Scheme has been formulated to provide qualified and trained workforce to the handicraft sector.
    • Direct Benefit to Artisans (DBA): The Scheme envisages welfare measures like Health and Life insurance, recognition, extending credit facilities, supply of modern tools and equipment to the artisans etc.
    • Infrastructure and Technology Support (ITS): The Scheme aims to develop world class infrastructure in the country to support handicraft production, and enhance the product quality and cost to enable it to compete in the global market.
    • Research and Development (R&D):  The Scheme was introduced to conduct surveys and studies of important crafts and make in-depth analysis of specific aspects and problems of Handicrafts in order to generate useful inputs to aid policy planning and fine tune the ongoing initiatives.
    • Marketing Support & Services (MSS):  The Scheme was introduced to promote and provide financial assistance to artisans to participate in domestic and international craft exhibitions/seminars in metropolitan cities/state capitals / places of tourist or commercial interest/other places.

 

VOC PORT TRUST

Context:

  • The VOC Port Trust has become the first major port in the country to deploy e-cars.

About:

  • It has inducted three Tata Xpres-T electric vehicles in the first phase.
  • These cars have been supplied by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), a Joint venture of Public Sector Undertaking (PSU), under Ministry of Power,on wet lease basis, for a period of 6 years.
  • As part of ‘Maritime India Vision 2030’, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways is committed to leading the world in safe, sustainable and green maritime sector.

 

India-Nepal flood management

Context:

  • Nitish Kumar should be credited for bringing ‘disaster management’ into the popular imagination in Bihar.
  • Despite the efforts made on the ground, people continue to suffer from perennial flooding in north Bihar (the Mithilanchal region).

 Background:

  • Unlike the indifference shown by Kathmandu on matters of floods and water management in recent years, the history of cooperation between India and Nepal for embankments starting in the 1950s is worth looking at.
  • When work on the Kosi embankments started in January 1955, a group of retired Nepali soldiers came over voluntarily to join hands with Indian volunteers and start the work.
    • Such a progressive government-citizen interface could not sustain itself and water cooperation between the two countries for a common cause waned.
    • Consequently, not much has happened barring the use of water resources for hydroelectric generation.

About:

  • In his early days as Bihar Chief Minister (2005-2010), he made a few noticeable structural changes, with renewed approaches in infrastructure augmentation for dams and reservoirs, detention basins, embankments, and channel improvement.
  • Non-structural measures were also adopted in later years such as floodplain management, flood forecasting and warning, flood insurance and financial compensation.
  • However, despite the efforts made on the ground, people continue to suffer from perennial flooding in north Bihar (the Mithilanchal region).
  • Already facing a humanitarian crisis of sorts following the novel coronavirus pandemic, this year’s extra rainfall and floods have been a moment of reckoning.
  • Unfortunately, this chronic issue which is making over five crore people of the north Bihar in India and Tarai in Nepal so vulnerable, does not seem to get the attention it deserves by policymakers on both sides of the border.
  • This year, in May, Bihar’s Disaster Management Department released two documents titled: “Pre-Flood Preparedness” and “Flood Control Order 2021”.
    • The aim was to help the local administration in terms of preparedness and having in place a relief support system.
    • However, a solution to the issue of chronic flooding lies in revisiting the old plans and arrangements between India and Nepal.
    • This is because flood control in Bihar is just not possible till a dedicated intergovernmental panel is formed through a bilateral mechanism between India and Nepal, that in turn can study, assess and offer solutions to this shared crisis.

What are the Fundamentals of Flooding?

  • Historically, Bihar has been known to be India’s most flood-prone State. The Flood Management Improvement Support Centre (FMISC), Department of Water Resources, Government of Bihar estimates that 76% of the population in north Bihar faces the recurring threat of flood devastation.
  • A large part of north Bihar, adjoining Nepal, is drained by a number of rivers that have their catchments in the steep and geologically nascent Himalayas.
  • Originating in Nepal, the high discharge and sediment load in the Kosi, Gandak, BurhiGandak, Bagmati, Kamla Balan, Mahananda and Adhwara Group wreak havoc in the plains of Nepal’s Tarai and Bihar. As per FMISC, “About 65% of the catchment area of these rivers falls in Nepal/Tibet and only 35% of the catchment area lies in Bihar”.
  • Earlier, without so many artificial barriers, the flow of water used to aid farming in the region.
  • The Kosi Treaty of 1954, under which the embankments in Nepal were established and maintained, was not futuristic and did not make enough provisions for the maintenance of embankments and the rivers changing their course. The deposition of stones, sand, silt and sediment has led to river beds rising, changing course and causing unimaginable losses. Between the mid-18th and mid-20th centuries, the Kosi is said to have shifted over 100 kilometres westward, resulting in large-scale human displacements

Way Forward

  • As early as in 1937, the transition from the traditional method of flood control to the embankment-based British system was thought out. To control the floodwater at Barahakshetra in Nepal, a high dam was thus planned and finally built after the devastating Kosi flood in 1953.
  • Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited the flood-affected areas in 1953 and announced a visionary Kosi scheme for the safe resettlement of the affected people.
  • In the mainstream political and policy establishments, greater attention needs to be given to this annual calamity and its devastating effects on lives and livelihoods.
  • India and Nepal need to be in dialogue to end the crisis of flooding every year. With a long-term strategy of water management cooperation between India and Nepal, the matter should be looked into.

 

Jaishankar’s Tehran trip

Context:

  • The visit of the Indian External Affairs Minister to Tehran to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the newly elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds great significance.

Strain in India-Iran ties:

  • India had cancelled oil imports from Iran due to U.S. sanctions.
  • There has been very slow progress in the Chabahar port project and Iran has also dropped India from the Port rain link project (Chabahar-Zahedan line).
  • Breaking from its traditional stance, Iran has made comments on Kashmir which has not gone down well with India which treats it as an internal issue.

Significance of the visit:

  • The visit signals the easing of bilateral tensions between India and Iran. It could as well mark a milestone in recent attempts by both sides to reset the ties that have been under strain.
  • It is also indicative of India’s traditional approach to relations with Iran, wherein India has sought to maintain ties with Iran even in the face of opposition from Iran’s adversaries, namely the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel. It will seek to balance its ties with Iran with that with the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel.
  • India will continue to walk its tightrope between its traditional ties with Iran and the growing strategic partnership with Washington.
  • The visits come amidst rapid developments in Afghanistan, with the U.S. completing the pull-out of troops and the Taliban increasing its attacks on Afghan cities.
  • The developments concern both India and Iran as a Taliban controlled Afghanistan could pose serious security threats for Iran and India.
  • Also notably India and Iran are the two regional powers that have been left out of the “Troika plus” meeting of U.S.-Russia-China and Pakistan scheduled in Doha to discuss Afghanistan’s future.
  • India and Iran will have to cooperate more closely on Afghanistan to secure their interests.

 

Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021

Context:

  • Parliament recently passed Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 to bury retrospective taxation.

Retrospective Taxation:

  • “Retrospective” means ‘taking effect from a date in the past’ and “tax” refers to ‘a new or additional levy of tax on a specified transaction’.
  • Therefore, retrospective tax means creating an additional charge or levy of tax by way of an amendment from a specified date in the past.

Benefits of New Law:

  • This may translate into more FDI.
  • India is improving its ranking by leaps and bounds in World banks Ease of Doing Business.
    • It will further help us on that front.
  • Till now maximum benefit of anti-chinese sentiments were taken by South-East Asian Nations.
    • This decision mixed with other reforms could alter the hotspots.
  • This will also create a positive sentiment in share market, leading to rise in share prices of few companies.
  • Vodafone-Idea which is facing a major loss due to this taxation may again get a fresh breath of life.
    • It may reduce pressure on banks who have lent nearly Rs. 25000 crore to Vodafone- Idea.