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17 Feb Current Affairs

Apiary on Wheels

In News:

The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises has flagged off ‘Apiary on Wheels’.

Details:

‘Apiary on Wheels’ is a unique concept designed by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) for the easy upkeep and migration of Bee Boxes having live Bee colonies.

It is a holistic approach to address the challenges faced by the beekeepers. It is designed so as to reduce the labour and cost of maintaining and upkeeping Bee Boxes and live bee colonies across India.

Apiary on Wheels is a platform which can carry 20 Bee Boxes from one place to another without any difficulty. It is like an attachment which can be easily connected with a Tractor or a Trolley and may be pulled to any suitable destination.

The KVIC launched Honey Mission in 2017 and has been training beekeepers, distributing Bee Boxes and helping rural, educated but unemployed youth to earn extra income through beekeeping activities, at their doorstep.

Khadi and Village Industries Commission:

KVIC is a statutory body established under the Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act, 1956.

The KVIC is charged with the planning, promotion, organisation and implementation of programmes for the development of Khadi and other village industries in the rural areas in coordination with other agencies engaged in rural development wherever necessary.

It functions under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.

USTR takes India off Developing Country List

In News:

The office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has taken off India from the list of developing and least-developed countries that are eligible to claim benefits for preferential treatment with respect to Countervailing duties (CVDs) investigations.

Details:

The preferential treatment with respect to CVDs investigations falls under the US’ Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) scheme.

Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is an umbrella that comprises the bulk of preferential schemes granted by industrialized nations to developing countries.

Countervailing duty (CVD) is an import tax imposed on certain goods in order to prevent dumping or counter export subsidies.

Along with India, USTR has also eliminated other countries including Brazil, Indonesia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Argentina from getting preferential treatment.

The new lists consist of 36 developing countries and 44 least developed countries.

The move comes ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to India to talk and potentially sign a trade deal.

Background:

The USA had come up with lists of countries classified as per their level of development to harmonise the USA preferential treatment laws with the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Subsidies and Countervailing Measures (SCM) Agreement in 1998.

The WTO Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures disciplines the use of subsidies, and it regulates the actions countries can take to counter the effects of subsidies.

Under the agreement, a country can use the WTO’s dispute-settlement procedure to seek the withdrawal of the subsidy or the removal of its adverse effects. Or the country can launch its own investigation and ultimately charge extra duty (“countervailing duty”) on subsidized imports that are found to be hurting domestic producers.

The classification of the countries (developed, developing and least-developed) is done according to the following criteria:

1) Per capita Gross National Income or GNI.

2) Share of world trade.

3) Other factors such as Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) membership or application for membership, EU and G20 membership, etc.

Thus the country with per capita GNI above $12,375 or Rs 8.82 lakh, the share of more than 0.5% to the world trade and membership to the above-mentioned organisations is considered as a developed country by USTR.

India- As a USTR’s Developed Country:

According to USTR, India’s share in global trade was 2.1 % for exports and 2.6% for imports in 2017.

Also India, along with nations like Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa, is part of the G20 bloc and G20 membership indicates that a country is developed.

As the G20 members account for large shares of global economic output and trade.

Further, being a part of G20 India can be classified as a developed country despite having a per capita GNI below $12,375.

Impact on India:

India is the largest beneficiary nation under the GSP, with total benefits from tariff exemptions amounting to $260 million in 2018, according to the data from the USTR’s office.

In 2018, India exported goods worth $6.3 billion (as per USTR figures) to the US under the GSP, accounting for around 12.1% of India’s total export to that country.

The CVD laws allow the US to hold an investigation into the trade policies of other countries to determine whether they are harming the US trade.

If the investigation finds that India’s policies allow exporters to sell their products in the US at a lower rate the US can impose a countervailing duty, to make the Indian goods more expensive in the US markets.

Despite having a minimal impact on India’s overall outbound trade with the US, specific exports from India in a diverse set of sectors such as jewellery, leather, Pharmaceuticals, chemicals and agricultural products may face higher costs and competition.

Conservation Plan for Konark Temple

In News:

The Union Government has decided to restore and preserve the nearly 800-year-old Konark Sun Temple, Odisha.

Details:

Earlier, the monument had entered into controversy over allegations that the stone carvings on the outer surface were being replaced with plain blocks of stones causing irreplaceable loss to the uniqueness of the temple.

Key Points:

Konark was built by King Narasimhadeva I (1238-1264AD) in the 13th century and is located in Eastern Odisha near the sacred city of Puri.

King Narasimhadeva I was a famous ruler of the Ganga Dynasty and with his accession to the throne, the Ganga Dynasty reached its zenith.

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (1984).

Dedicated to the Sun God, Konark is the culmination of Odisha temple architecture, and one of the most outstanding monuments of religious architecture in the world.

Its scale, refinement and conception represent the strength and stability of the Ganga Dynasty as well as the value systems of the historic milieu.

The entire temple was designed in the shape of a colossal chariot with 7 horses and 24 wheels, carrying the sun god, Surya, across the heavens.

‘Konarka’, the place bears a name composed of two world elements : KONA meaning corner and ARKA meaning the Sun.

The Sun god worshipped in Ark Kshetra is also called Konark.

In ‘Brahma Purana’ the Sun God in Ark-kshetra has been described as Konaditya.

Surya has been a popular deity in India since the Vedic period.

11th Expedition of an Indian Mission to the Southern Ocean

In News:

The South African oceanographic research vessel SA Agulhas has started its journey for the 11th expedition of an Indian mission to the Southern Ocean, or Antarctic Ocean from Port Louis (Mauritius).

Currently, the research vessel was located at Prydz Bay, in the coastal waters of “Bharati”, India’s third station in Antarctica.

Key Points:

Objectives:

The National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCOPR) stated that the mission intends to quantify changes in the oceanic remote area and the impact of these changes on large-scale weather phenomenon, like the Indian monsoon.

It also aims to understand the influence of the Southern Ocean across ecosystem and atmospheric changes and how it affects the tropical climate and weather conditions.

The Expedition consists of six core projects:

1) Hydrodynamics and biogeochemistry of the Indian Ocean sector of the Southern Ocean at different depths. It will help to understand the formation of Antarctic bottom water.

2) Observations of movement of trace gases (halogens and dimethyl sulphur) from the ocean to the atmosphere which will help to improve parameterisations that are used in global models.

3) Study of organisms namely, coccolithophores (existed in the oceans for several million years).The study of their concentrations in sediments will create a picture of past climate.

4) Investigate atmospheric aerosols and their optical and radiative properties. Its continuous measurements will quantify the impact on Earth’s climate.

5) Study the Southern Ocean’s impact on Indian monsoons.

6) Dynamics of the food web in the Southern Ocean which will help to implement sustainable fishing.

NOTE: The research vessel SA Agulhas is named after Agulhas warm ocean current that runs south along the east coast of southern Africa.

India’s Antarctic Missions:

India officially acceded to the Antarctic Treaty System on 1st August 1983. On 12 September 1983, India became the fifteenth Consultative Member of the Antarctic Treaty.

India is expanding its infrastructure development in Antarctica. The newest base commissioned in 2015 is Bharati.

India is rebuilding its station, Maitri, to make it bigger and last for at least 30 more years.

Dakshin Gangotri, the first Indian base established in 1984, has weakened and become just a supply base.

National Organic Food Festival

In News:

The Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) with the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) will host the first National Organic Food Festival in New Delhi between February 21 to February 23, 2020.

Aim:

It aims to strengthen the organic market and empower women entrepreneurs in the area of production and processing of organic products.

Theme: Unleashing India’s Organic Market Potential.

Key Points:

Women Entrepreneurs and Self Help groups (SHG’s) from all over the country will be exhibiting their organic products in various segments such as fruit & vegetables, ready to eat products, spices and condiments, honey, cereals, dry fruits etc..

It will also focus on facilitating business linkages  and empowering women entrepreneurs through pre-arranged B2B and B2G meetings.

Government is already making efforts to connect women entrepreneurs with financial schemes like MUDRA (Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency) and Startup India.

India’s Organic Market Potential:

India has the 9th largest World’s Organic Agricultural Land and the largest number of producers.

Sikkim is the first organic state in the world. All of its farmland is certified organic.

Organic Food Segment of India grew at rate of 10% during 2016-20.

As per the Indian Organic Sector – Vision 2025 report, India’s organic business is expected to reach Rs.75,000 Crores by 2025.

Factors for growth of organic food in India: Increasing disposable incomes, increasing awareness around health and wellness and increasing acceptability.

At the global level, demand for Indian organic food products is on constant increase.

The major demands under the organic product category are for oil seeds, cereals & millets, sugar, fruit juice concentrates, tea, spices, pulses, dry fruits, medicinal plant products etc.

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