Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently laid the foundation stone for the strategically important Sela Tunnel Project in Arunachal Pradesh.
The project, costing Rs 687 crore, is being constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and would be completed in the next three years.
Significance of the project:
Once the 12.04-km tunnel is complete it will give a fillip to the overall development of the area as it will provide all-weather connectivity to Tawang and other areas.
It will also reduce the travelling time from Tezpur to Tawang by more than an hour and boost tourism and related economic activities in the region.
Need: Till now, the entry to the area was only through the 13,700-feet Sela Pass, which is covered in snow in the winters making the movement of vehicles difficult.
The development is a part of the Union Government’s effort to develop connectivity infrastructure in border areas to secure India’s defence. The proposal to build the Sela Pass comes amid concerns in the defence establishment over China’s growing assertiveness along the nearly 4,000 km-long Sino-India border.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) facility
In a boost to energy security of the country, PM recently dedicated to the nation, 1.33 MMT Visakhapatnam Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) facility of Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve Limited (ISPRL). The cost of the Project is Rs. 1125 crore. The Facility has the largest underground storage compartment in the country.
About SPR programme:
To ensure energy security, the Government of India had decided to set up 5 million metric tons (MMT) of strategic crude oil storages at three locations namely, Visakhapatnam, Mangalore and Padur (near Udupi). These strategic storages would be in addition to the existing storages of crude oil and petroleum products with the oil companies and would serve as a cushion during any external supply disruptions.
In the 2017-18 budget, it was announced that two more such caverns will be set up Chandikhole in Jajpur district of Odisha and Bikaner in Rajasthan as part of the second phase.
The construction of the Strategic Crude Oil Storage facilities is being managed by Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL), a Special Purpose Vehicle, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) under the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
Need for strategic oil reserves:
In 1990, as the Gulf war engulfed West Asia, India was in the throes of a major energy crisis. By all accounts India’s oil reserves at the time were adequate for only three days. While India managed to avert the crisis then, the threat of energy disruption continues to present a real danger even today.
It is unlikely that India’s energy needs will dramatically move away from fossil fuels in the near future. Over 80% of these fuels come from imports, a majority of which is sourced from West Asia. This is a major strategic risk and poses a massive financial drain for an embattled economy and its growing current account deficit.
To address energy insecurity, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government mooted the concept of strategic petroleum reserves in 1998. Today, with India consuming upwards of four million barrels of crude every day (January 2015 figures), the case for creating such reserves grows stronger.
Source: The Hindu
Himachal’s first mega food park in Una
Cremica Food Park is the first mega food park of Himachal Pradesh. The Park is located at Village Singhain Una District of Himachal Pradesh. It is set up at a cost of Rs 107.34 crore.
Mega Food Park Scheme:
To give a major boost to the food processing sector by adding value and reducing food wastage at each stage of the supply chain with particular focus on perishables, the Ministry of Food Processing Industries is implementing Mega Food Park Scheme in the country.
The Mega Food Park Scheme is based on “Cluster” approach and envisages creation of state of art support infrastructure in a well-defined agri/ horticultural zone for setting up of modern food processing units along with well-established supply chain.
Common facilities and enabling infrastructure is created at Central Processing Centre and facilities for primary processing and storage is created near the farm in the form of Primary Processing Centers (PPCs) and Collection Centers (CCs). Under the Scheme, the Centre provides financial assistance up to Rs 50 crore per mega food park project.
Problems with Indian food parks:
Promoters have faced difficulties in selling the new concept to banks and, as a result, have failed to secure loans to build the parks.
Acquiring the 50 acres of land, which is mandatory under MFPS, has been another challenge that most developers have failed to address.
Convincing small enterprises to set up shop at these facilities has not been easy.
Facts for Prelims:
India’s first mega food park ‘Srini Mega Food Park’, sprawling 147-acre space, was opened in Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh in 2012.
Source: The Hindu
A parliamentary panel has taken strong exception to the utilisation of the Nirbhaya Fund in the construction of buildings, saying such allocations defeat the very purpose of the project — that of safety for women.
The committee also observed that funds for the construction of buildings should come from other sources and not from the Nirbhaya Fund.
About Nirbhaya fund:
The Rs 1,000 crore Nirbhaya Fund was announced in Union Budget 2013 by the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
The corpus was to be utilised for upholding safety and dignity of women.
Ministry of Women and Child Development apart from several other concerned ministries were authorised to work out details of structure, scope and application of this fund.
The Fund is administered by Department of Economic Affairs of the finance ministry.
Issues with Nirbhaya Fund:
The government has been accused of keeping Nirbhaya Fund unutilised. With rise in cases of sexual harassment and crimes against women there is a crying need for implementation of such funds.
Government should improve coordination between the ministries for speedier implementation of projects under the schemes of this nature. Delay caused by lengthy inert-ministerial coordination must not be allowed to compromise women’s safety. The Government and legislators must act proactively on delivering equality and security to women.
Source: The Hindu
Open Acreage Licensing Policy
The ministry of petroleum and natural gas has launched the third bidding round under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP), offering 23 hydrocarbon blocks covering over 31,000 sq km for exploration.
With the launch of the third bidding round, more than 1,20,000 sq km has now been made available for exploration in last one year under the OALP.
The 23 blocks offered now are spread across states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, Nagaland, Tripura, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Some blocks are also in eastern and western offshore.
What is Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP)?
The OALP, a critical part of the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy, provides uniform licences for exploration and production of all forms of hydrocarbons, enabling contractors to explore conventional as well as unconventional oil and gas resources.
Fields are offered under a revenue-sharing model and throw up marketing and pricing freedom for crude oil and natural gas produced.
Under the OALP, once an explorer selects areas after evaluating the National Data Repository (NDR) and submits the EoI, it is to be put up for competitive bidding and the entity offering the maximum share of oil and gas to the government is awarded the block.
NDR has been created to provide explorers’ data on the country’s repositories, allowing them to choose fields according to their capabilities. Data received through the National Seismic Programme, an in-depth study of 26 sedimentary basins, are continuously being added to the NDR.
The Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) replacing the erstwhile New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) was approved in March 2016 and the Open Acreage Licensing Programme (OALP) along with the National Data Repository (NDR) were launched in June 2017 as the key drivers to accelerate the Exploration and Production (E&P) activities in India.
The main features of HELP are Revenue Sharing Contract, single Licence for exploration and production of conventional as well as unconventional Hydrocarbon resources, marketing & pricing freedom, etc.
What was the need for the new Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP)?
India is the 3rd largest consumer of crude oil and petroleum products with oil and gas contributing 34.4% to primary energy consumption. In 2015-2016, India’s crude oil import dependence rose to 81% from 78.5%. In last five years, India has seen overall decline in exploration and production of conventional resources.
New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP) created in 1997 ended the state dominance and created a competitive environment leading to liberalization of oil and gas exploration and production industry. However, it failed to keep the momentum of production growth and attracting the foreign investment.
Bureaucratic hurdles like multiple approvals and sanctions, cost overruns, and disputes led to some oil majors leaving their awarded blocks and exit from the space.
Source: The Hindu
RBI restructuring package for small businesses
The Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI’s) restructuring package for small businesses announced last month will help recast Rs 1 lakh crore of loans for 7 lakh eligible micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
The scheme announced by RBI is a one-time scheme wherein a loan tenor and interest rate can be revised without classifying the asset as a NPA.
The facility is available for standard advances of up to Rs 25 crore only.
The scheme will help free up additional resources which will fuel demand and create further opportunities in the industry.
The restructuring must be implemented by March 31, 2020. Banks will need to make a provision of 5% towards these restructured loans. Each bank/NBFC should formulate a policy for this scheme with board approval. Those MSMEs that are not exempt from GST will need to be registered on the GSTN on the date on restructuring.
What was the issue with MSMEs?
SMEs were the worst hit among various industry segments following demonetisation and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. Availability of credit to MSMEs declined further after the IL&FS default crisis which led to bank credit to non-banking finance companies drying up. This in turn reduced the ability of NBFCs to lend to MSMEs.
The sector was facing a liquidity problem because of lack of confidence of banks who had turned risk-averse in the wake of rising bad loans.
Significance of MSMEs and the need for creating an enabling environment:
MSMEs form an important component of the Indian economy and contribute significantly to the country’s gross domestic product, exports, industrial output and employment generation. Considering the importance of MSMEs in the Indian economy, it is considered necessary at this juncture to take certain measures for creating an enabling environment for the sector.
Source: The Hindu
Forest Rights Act
The Odisha State Food Commission has again asked the State government to expedite implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, that would help ensure food and nutritional security to the vulnerable section of society.
About Forest Rights Act (FRA):
The act was passed in December 2006. It deals with the rights of forest-dwelling communities over land and other resources. The Act grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws.
Rights under the Act:
Title rights – Ownership to land that is being farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family, meaning that no new lands are granted.
Use rights – to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.
Relief and development rights – to rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement; and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection.
Forest management rights – to protect forests and wildlife.
Eligibility to get rights under the Act is confined to those who “primarily reside in forests” and who depend on forests and forest land for a livelihood. Further, either the claimant must be a member of the Scheduled Tribes scheduled in that area or must have been residing in the forest for 75 years.
Process of recognition of rights:
The Act provides that the gram sabha, or village assembly, will initially pass a resolution recommending whose rights to which resources should be recognised.
This resolution is then screened and approved at the level of the sub-division (or taluka) and subsequently at the district level.
The screening committees consist of three government officials (Forest, Revenue and Tribal Welfare departments) and three elected members of the local body at that level. These committees also hear appeals.
Source: The Hindu
Vat Cau festival
Vat Cau is a centuries-old sport which began as a training exercise for soldiers in Vietnam and contains elements of wrestling and rugby.
Vat Cau is the main draw of a three-day annual festival held during Vietnam’s much celebrated Tet Lunar New Year. Dating back to the 11th century, the game was invented by a revered general to teach his recruits about the importance of teamwork, intelligence and strength when fighting against foreign invaders.
A single match has four separate teams of eight men wearing waist straps of different colours. They tussle over a 17kg (37-pound) ball made from the wood of a jackfruit tree, laboriously inching it towards one of the holes dug in each team’s corner.
Abu Dhabi includes Hindi as third official court language
Abu Dhabi has included Hindi as the third official language used in its courts, alongside Arabic and English, as part of a move designed to improve access to justice.
This is aimed at helping Hindi speakers to learn about litigation procedures, their rights and duties without a language barrier.
The Indian community in the UAE, numbering 2.6 million, constitutes 30% of the total population and is the largest expatriate community.
It is a dedicated 24×7 Satellite channel for Arunachal Pradesh launched recently. It is the 24th satellite channel operated by Doordarshan.
DD Arunprabha is the Doordarshan’s second channel for the northeastern region; DD Northeast was the first one. The channel will familiarise people across India with the beauty and the culture of the State.
Film and Television Institute (FTI):
The permanent campus of Film and Television Institute will come up at Jollang-Rakap (Jote), Papum Pare, Arunachal Pradesh. It will be the first Film and Television Institute of entire North-East.
This will the third Film and Television Institute of Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the first two being FTII Pune and SRFTI Kolkata.
It will provide a boost to the talented youngsters of the North-East in film and television sector.
It is a mobile application launched by the Ministry of Textiles for quality certification in silkworm seed sector.
E app will help quality certification in silk worm sector. It will be used by the Seed Analysts and Seed Officers nominated under Central Seed Act for system and product certification through real time reporting.
Background: India is the second largest producer of silk after China and the largest consumer of silk. India’s silk production capacity is expected to reach about 38,500 tonnes by 2020 from the current level of 32,000 tonnes.
Helina-Anti Tank Missile
The Helicopter-launched anti-tank missile Helina was successfully test fired from the Integrated Test Range in Chandipur in Balasore district of Odisha.
Indigenously designed and built, Helina is the air-launched variant of the Nag, a fire-and-forget ATGM with an estimated range of 4 kilometers.
Range is estimated at between 7 to 8 kilometres.
It is guided by an infrared imaging seeker (IIR) operating in the lock-on before-launch mode and helps in further strengthening the defence capabilities of the country.