Current Affairs 21st April 2022

Prime Minister announces visas for AYUSH therapy #GS2 #IR

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday said that to promote the traditional medicine industry, India would soon launch ‘AYUSH mark’ which would give authenticity to quality AYUSH products made in the country. Speaking of ‘Heal in India’, he announced that a special visa category would be created soon for those who want to travel to the country to avail themselves of AYUSH therapies.

Mr. Modi inaugurated a Global AYUSH Investment and Innovation Summit in Gandhinagar in the presence of Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus and Prime Minister of Mauritius Pravind Kumar Jugnauth.

He held a bilateral meeting with Mr. Jugnauth on the sidelines of the summit at the Mahatma Mandir convention centre. Mr. Jugnauth and Dr. Ghebreyesus were present in Gandhinagar a day after laying the foundation stone for a WHO global centre of traditional medicines in Jamnagar.

Talking about the rising popularity of traditional medicines and wellness products, Mr. Modi said the possibilities of investment and innovation in the field of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) were unlimited. “We are already witnessing unprecedented growth in the production of AYUSH medicines, supplements and cosmetics,” he noted.

The AYUSH sector was less than $3 billion in 2014, which had now crossed $18 billion and growing rapidly. Traditional medicine helped in increasing the tourism of Kerala, and similarly, every State should promote it, he said.

‘Heal in India’ could become a big brand of this decade and wellness centres based on Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha etc. could be very popular and attract people from across the world, the Prime Minister pointed out.

Modi lauds WHO

Mr. Modi also mentioned about food products and herbal nutritional supplements that were becoming popular not only in India but in many other countries as well.He lauded the WHO for setting up its traditional medicine centre in Jamnagar.

The Prime Minister gave Gujarati name Tulsibhai to Dr. Ghebreyesus. The WHO chief talked about the huge potential of AYUSH and how India could help the world in providing those medicines and practices that could help in wellness and holistic health of people.

Coastline of Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram may be under water by 2050 #GS3 #Environment

As per a study by RMSI, a Noida-based IT consulting firm, on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports for key coastal cities, due to the rising sea levels by 2050, a significant number of population, property, and infrastructure in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram along four other cities — Mumbai, Chennai, Vizag, Mangaluru — will be under water.

The IPCC assessment report indicates that India’s sea level will rise significantly by 2050. Sea-level rise in the North Indian Ocean (NIO) occurred at a rate of 1.06–1.75 mm per year from 1874 to 2004 and has accelerated to 3.3 mm per year in the past two-and-a-half decades (1993–2017).

RMSI used its coastal flood modeling capabilities to map the cities’ inundation (submergence) levels based on various sea-level rise forecast studies. Based on inundation, it conducted an analysis to identify the number of buildings and key infrastructure that could be potentially submerged in each of these cities.

In Kochi

As per the analysis, around 464 buildings will be affected by the potential sea-level rise in Kochi. Taking into consideration sea-level rise and high tide, around 1,502 buildings are likely to be inundated. These buildings are mostly residential (91%), commercial (6%), and around 2% industrial and port and ferry terminal buildings.

As per the two scenarios of potentially new coastline and coastline along with the high tide, 10 km and 53 km of road length will be impacted respectively.

The road stretches include national and State highways as well as significant roads, namely ICT Road (NH 966 A), Indira Gandhi Road (NH 966 B), Aroor-Thoppumpady road (NH 66), Perumpadppe road (SH 66), Vellankanni Church Street (SH 66), Kumbalangi road, Saudi Manassery Road. It also includes Thoppumpady bridge, Paravoor-Cherai Road, Vypin-Pallipuram road, Goshree Road, Kelamangalam road, Ettupurackal road, Parayil Junction road, S Veluthully N road, Irappuzha road, Kunde Kadavu road, Monthachal Road, St Augustines Road and Poojapura road .

In State capital

In Thiruvananthapuram, due to the potential new coastline and coastline with high tide, 349 and 387 buildings respectively are likely to be impacted. These buildings comprise approximately 60% residential and 40% commercial buildings. Similarly, approximately three km of road length is identified to be affected.

The stretch along Star Road, airport–Valiyathura road, Lana Road, and Kovalam Beach road will be submerged by the potential sea-level rise.

“This is a scenario we have mapped during the normal and high tide times. If there is a storm surge induced by cyclones, the area of inundation will be much higher than we quantified and it will be in proportional to the strength of cyclones,”

Tie-ups between Indian and foreign universities simplified #GS2 #Governance

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has simplified the procedure for an Indian higher educational institution to offer programmes in collaboration with foreign universities by entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with each other directly if they meet certain eligibility criteria, said UGC Chairman M. Jagadesh Kumar.

In its 557th meeting recently, the UGC decided that an Indian higher education institution that has a National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) grading of 3.01 or above, or is among the top 1,000 QS World University or Times Higher Education rankings, or is among the top 100 universities under National Institution Ranking Framework, will be able to tie-up with a foreign education institution which too features among the top 1,000 QS or Times Higher Education rankings.

The previous regulations, known as the University Grants Commission (Promotion and Maintenance of Standards of Academic Collaboration between Indian and Foreign Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2016, which will now stand repealed, required two institutions to tie-up with each other after obtaining the UGC’s approval. The UGC Chairman said that under the new regulations to be made public soon, universities and colleges will no longer be required to seek its permission to do so, if they met the ranking criteria.

“The earlier regulations were too strict and there were too many bottlenecks. Our simplified regulations will increase the scale at which students could benefit from such collaborations between Indian and foreign higher education institutions,” Professor Kumar said at a press conference.

Under the 2016 regulations, a foreign and Indian college or university could partner with each other to offer only “twinning” and “joint degree” programmes where Indian students received a degree only from an Indian institute along with a certificate from the foreign institute. But now, they can offer a third type of programme, that is, a “dual degree” programme, where both the institutes will issue a degree.

Under a twinning programme, a student can get up to 30% credit utilisation of the total course from a foreign university, whereas under a joint and dual degree programme, he or she can get more than than 30% of the total credits.

These collaborations will be permitted only for the conventional mode of learning and not for distance or online learning.

“We have four crore students in Indian higher education institutes but over a period of time, this will increase to 10 crore. While we continue to build new institutes, it is also important to provide high quality education through collaborations with foreign institutes. This will also enhance the employability of our students,” Prof. Kumar said.

He said the move will also help attract foreign students to India, which will lead to internationalisation, which is an important parameter for improving global rankings of higher education institutions.

Nirmala Sitharaman has urged IMF to assist Sri Lanka: Centre #GS2 #IR

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide Sri Lanka with assistance, according to the Union government. Colombo, which is in the throes of an unprecedented economic crisis, and announced that it would default on foreign debt repayments, totalling $51 billion, is seeking a $4-billion bailout package for this year from the IMF.

Ms. Sitharaman “indicated that [the] IMF should support and urgently provide financial assistance to Sri Lanka,” said a Finance Ministry readout of the meeting between the Minister and IMF Managing Director Krisalina Georgieva .

“The Managing Director assured the Finance Minister that the IMF would continue to actively engage with Sri Lanka,” the readout said. The Hindu has reached out to the IMF for a readout of the meeting.

During the meeting, the sides discussed India’s economic performance and prospects as well as issues of importance to India, the readout said. Ms. Sitharaman’s delegation included Chief Economic Adviser Anantha Nageswaran.

On Monday, the Minister held a bilateral meeting with her Sri Lankan counterpart Ali Sabry, to discuss the economic situation in Sri Lanka, the Finance Ministry said on Twitter. Ms. Sitharaman “assured Sri Lanka that as a close friend and good neighbour, India will try to extend all possible cooperation and assistance” to the country, the Ministry said.

Plea on non-payment of MGNREGS wages in SC #GS3 #Economy

The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to list an application mentioned urgently by advocate Prashant Bhushan flagging a “grave crisis” concerning crores of rural poor who were not getting their wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) even as the COVID-19 pandemic had driven them to the brink of desperation.

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana agreed to list the case after Mr. Bhushan and advocate Cheryl D’Souza, appearing for Swaraj Abhiyan, urged the court for an early hearing.

Mr. Bhushan said the State governments were facing a shortage of Rs. 9,682 crore as on November 26, 2021.

He said 100% of the funds allocated under the scheme for 2021-22 had already been exhausted. MGNREGS wages due to the poor were piling up with negative balances in most States.

“The COVID pandemic has caused acute rural distress shooting up demand for MGNREGA work across the country,” the application said. The plea said the “real demand for work from registered job card holders is not being accurately registered in the system, denying them their statutory right to employment or, failing which, unemployment allowance”.

Additional days

Taking into account the current distress, the plea urged the court to urgently direct the government to provide 50 additional days of employment under the MGNREGS to each household. It further sought the accurate registration of demand for work on the MGNREGA website and the automatic calculation and payment of unemployment allowance at one-fourth the wage rate. The plea also sought a direction to the government to calculate and pay for the delay in payment of wages to workers.

The Supreme Court is hearing a case related to suboptimum and irregular implementation of the MGNREGS and the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA), especially during drought and natural calamities.

The Supreme Court had earlier directed the government, through judgments, to immediately ensure payment of wages under the MGNREGS within 15 days as stipulated under the law as well as to ensure that no one deserving of accessing foodgrains under the NFSA was prevented from doing so.

Sixth Scorpene takes to water #GS3 #Defence

The sixth and last of the French Scorpene-class submarines, INS Vagsheer , was launched into water at the Mazagon Docks in Mumbai.

“The sixth submarine will now commence setting to work of various equipment and their harbour trials. The crew will thereafter sail the submarine for the rigorous sea acceptance trials after which the submarine would be delivered to the Navy by late next year,” the Navy said. Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar was the chief guest at the ceremony.

INSVagsheer was launched by Ms. Veena Ajay Kumar, in keeping with the naval tradition of launch and naming by a woman. The six submarines were being built under Project-75 by the Mazagon Docks under technology transfer from the Naval Group as part of a $3.75-billion deal signed in October 2005. INSKalvari was commissioned in December 2017; INSKhanderi in September 2019; INS Vagir in November 2020; INSKaranj in March 2021; and INS Vela in November 2021.

INS Vagir is undergoing sea trials now. The Navy has drawn up plans to install an air independent propulsion (AIP) module on all the Scorpènes as they go for refit, beginning with INSKalvari, in the next couple of years to enhance their endurance.

Development of an indigenous AIP module by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is in advanced stages. The tender to build six more advanced conventional submarines under Project-75I is in the Request For Proposal stage. The Navy has a 30-year submarine-building programme and after the P-75I, it intends to design and build conventional submarines indigenously.

Navy chief unveils joint navigation chart in Maldives #GS3 #Defence

In his first overseas trip since taking over as the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral R. Hari Kumar, during a three-day visit to the Maldives, unveiled the first navigation chart jointly produced by the two countries and handed over hydrography equipment to consolidate the capabilities of the Maldivian National Defence Forces (MNDF).

“The CNS also visited MNDF maritime assets and complimented the joint efforts of MNDF personnel and the Indian Navy for maintaining the role worthiness of these assets. He presented a consignment of engineering equipment for further sustenance of MNDF ships, thereby reaffirming India’s commitment to the capacity-building efforts of the MNDF,” the Navy said.

INS Sutlej is deployed to the Maldives for undertaking joint hydrographic survey under the MoU on hydrographic cooperation.

Adm. Kumar hosted a reception onboard INS Sutlej on April 18 in honour of Defence Minister of the Maldives Mariya Ahmed Didi and the leadership of the MNDF. “Minister Mariya noted the promptness with which India has submitted the Detailed Project Report of the Coast Guard Harbour and Dockyard to the Maldives, the review of which will be completed soon,” the Maldivian Defence Ministry said.

She thanked the Indian Navy for facilitating the transport of medicines to the Maldives during the pandemic and expressed appreciation for the continuous support rendered by the Indian Navy in maintenance and repair of the MNDF Coast Guard Fleet.

The Navy chief also called on President of the Maldives Ibrahim Mohamad Solih, Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid and Defence Minister and Chief of Defence Force (CDF) Major General Abdulla Shamaal.

Govt. to tweak e-commerce portal rules #GS3 #Economy

The Department of Consumer Affairs is set to unveil revised e-commerce rules including amendments that would press operators of online marketplaces to ensure “algorithmic fairness” by removing the advantage that many of these entities give to sellers wholly or partially owned by them, and thus provide a level playing field for small businesses.

The e-commerce rules were first notified in July 2020, and amended last May. A fresh revision is expected soon.

‘Consumer’s rights’

Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh told The Hindu “transparency” and “fairness” were key to protecting onsumer rights in a digital economy. “Nothing should be concealed from the end-user, and to begin with the algorithm that dictates the search-result choice should also be explained to them. The consumer has the right to know why a product of a certain firm always comes at the very top of the tally during a search and why a product is pushed down,” he explained.

Last month, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), which represents about 8 crore small and medium traders, wrote to the department seeking its “urgent investigation”. Citing the case of ‘Amazon’, the CAIT asserted that instead of acting as a mere bridge between the buyer and the seller, the e-commerce firm was indulging in practices that were a gross conflict of interest. “It destroys and wipes out small and independent third party sellers in e-commerce,” the traders’ group contended.

“It has been reported that Amazon has been copying third-party user data and misusing it for its own selfish motives…[Amazon] first copies this data and then creates its private labels on the basis of such data,” CAIT alleged. “This data is an indication of consumer buying — tastes and trends — and is of immense value to third party sellers who are being devoid of it by Amazon,” it added.

‘Complex web’

The revised rules are also slated to have a “disclosure clause”. The portals often announce flash sales accompanied by claims of “lowest-ever prices”. Before making such claims, they would need to reveal the lowest price at which they had sold the product.

Product reviews would also come under this clause given their influence on customer choice. Portals would have to disclose the rationale for the ratings featured and reviews would have to be screened to ensure that they were not ‘bot-generated’ so as to promote certain products over the others.