On December 21, 2019, the EU President called on PM Modi to discuss regarding an early India-EU summit 2020.
It is expected that the leaders will discuss on making progress on the issues related to Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), Europol, counter-terrorism, Euroatom, climate change, etc.
The summit is to be held in Brussels.
What is BTIA?
The BTIA is a free trade agreement that was initiated between India and EU in the year 2007.
Even after years of negotiations the countries are yet to resolve the deadlock that prevails in and around the issues of fulfilling BTIA.
Obstacles of BTIA:
The countries have their own concerns in signing the agreement.
India is concerned that it has not been given “data secure” status by the EU. Also, the visa rules of UK have discriminated against Indian technical professionals.
In 2016, India cancelled several bilateral agreements signed earlier with the EU claiming that they were outdated.
EU wants India to reduce tax on liquor, automobiles.
However, in the interest of promoting domestic automobile industry, India is unable to fulfill the demand. EU also wants India to liberalize legal services and accountancy.
It also wants India to sign pacts that will allow investors to avail Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism at the WTO.
The World Health Organization on December 19, 2019, released its report on Global Tobacco use trends.
According to the report, number of males using tobacco has declined globally for the first time.
The report says that the anti-smoking campaigns all over the world is the main reason for the number of tobacco users to reduce.
Globally the number of tobacco users have declined by 60 million people. In 2000, the overall tobacco users were 1.397 billion and it has come down to 1.337 billion in 2018.
The report says despite the reduction in numbers, the global target set by governments to reduce the use of tobacco by 30% by 2025 remains off track. So far only 32 countries are on track to reach the target.
Around 43 million children (of age 13-15) are using tobacco in 2018.
The number of women using tobacco was 244 million. Of all the regions of the world, South East Asian region has the highest use of tobacco.
The only region on track to achieve the target is the Americas.
According to the report, India is off track to achieve the target of 30% reduction by 2025 as compared to 2010 level. Along with India 163 countries are off the track.
However, the consumption rate in India is going down by 21.6% as compared to 2010.
The current users of smokeless form of tobacco in India is estimated to be 257,020,000.
India Celebrates National Farmers Day
India celebrates National Farmers Day on 23rd December to commemorate the birth anniversary of the 5th Prime Minister of India, Choudhary Charan Singh.
He was a farmer’s leader and he had introduced many policies to improve the lives of the Indian farmers.
The day is being observed since 2001.
Kisan Diwas is being celebrated in several parts of the country in order to promote importance of farmers in the society.
It also aims at establishing the fact that overall social and economic development of the country depends on the farmers. The day is widely celebrated in states such as UP, Haryana, Punjab and MP.
Awareness programmes, seminars, lectures are conducted across the country to create awareness about farmers contribution to the society.
The traditional 40-day period of harshest winter in Kashmir known in the local parlance as ‘Chillai-Kalan’ began on 21 December 2019, with the upper reaches of valley receiving snowfall.
Chillai-Kalan period which is known for sub-zero temperatures, frozen lakes and river, will end on 31 January 2020.
These 40 days are when the chances of snowfall are highest and the maximum temperature drops considerably. During Chillai-Kalan, the weather in Kashmir valley continues to remain dry and cold with minimum temperatures hovering below freezing point and the snow during this 40-day period freezes and lasts longer.
Even after Chillai-Kalan ends, the cold wave, however, continues even after that. Therefore Chillai-Kalan is followed by a 20-day-long period called ‘Chillai-Khurd’ (small cold) that occurs between January 31 and February 19 and a 10-day-long period ‘Chillai-Bachha’ (baby cold) which is from February 20 to March 2.
Eight West African countries rename common currency to Eco
The eight West African nations have agreed to change the name of their common currency from ‘CFA franc’ to ‘Eco’, after they jointly severed the CFA franc’s links to former colonial ruler France.
The announcement was made during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to Ivory Coast, who hailed the decision as a historic reform.
Even though the deal took six months in making, common currency Eco will see the light of day in 2020.
The 8 West African countries namely- Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, Senegal, Togo and Guinea-Bissau currently use CFA France as their currency.
All these countries, except Guinea-Bissau, are former French colonies.
The CFA franc was initially pegged to French franc and has been linked to euro for about two decades.
The common currency Eco will see the light of day in 2020.
However, the Ivory Coast President announced the three major changes, which included-
(1) a change of name of the currency;
(2) stopping holding 50% of reserves in French Treasury;
(3) withdrawal of French governance in any aspect related to the currency.
Wipro has partnered with NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies) to launch a skilling platform called ‘Future Skills’ for 10,000 students from over 20 engineering colleges in India.
This is a part of Wipro’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme, TalentNext.
TalentNext aims to enhance the quality of engineering education by preparing faculty and academic leaders to train students.
The programme has now been extended to students directly through Future Skills.
What is Future Skills?
It is a new age platform built to bridge the industry-academia skill gap and help students keep pace with the emerging technologies — artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing, cybersecurity and internet of things (IoT) – to make them future-ready.
The platform enables learning the skills required in emerging technologies. More importantly, it helps individuals develop an aptitude for learning.
As a host of emerging technologies change the future of work, a massive disruption is facing the IT-ITES industry today. Of the 4.5 m people employed in the industry today, 1.5 -2 m are expected to require reskilling in the next 4-5 years. A decoupling of revenue and headcount growth is visible even today and employers and employees need to adapt themselves to the changing job environment of technological shifts and changing stakeholder expectations. The problem is too large to be handled alone. It needs a collaborative industry level response. With NASSCOM as the enabler, IT-ITeS Industry has stepped up to the challenge with the FutureSkills Initiative – a truly industry driven learning ecosystem.
India, Afghanistan and Iran recently met to discuss the issues in the implementation of Chabahar port in Iran.
This was the second meeting of the Follow-up Committee for implementation of the trilateral Chabahar Agreement between India, Afghanistan and Iran at the level of Joint Secretary/ Director General.
Outcomes of the meet:
The three countries have decided to open Mormugoa and New Mangalore Port in addition to JNPT, Mundra, Kandla and Cochin as part of designated route under the Chabahar Agreement.
It was agreed to finalise the protocol to harmonise transit, roads, customs and consular matters. Till that time, the TIR Convention will continue to be used for cargo movement.
The work of the Chabahar port is being conducted by the Port Global Ltd Company.
Where is Chabahar Port?
Located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country.
Why Chabahar port is important for India?
With this, India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan.
It will also boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
It also helps India counter Chinese presence in the Arabian Seawhich China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
Trade benefits: With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.
‘Nagpur Resolution: A holistic approach for empowering citizens’
The ‘Nagpur Resolution – A holistic approach for empowering citizens’ has been adopted at the end of the Regional Conference on ‘Improving Public Service Delivery – Role of Governments’, held recently in Nagpur, Maharashtra.
The conference was organised by the Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG), Government of India, in collaboration with the Government of Maharashtra and the Maharashtra State Commission for Right to Public Services.
Previously, the Shillong Declaration and the Jammu Resolution have been adopted for good governance.
Overview of the resolution:
As per the resolution, the GOI, the Government of Maharashtra and other participating States shall collaborate to:
To empower the citizens by policy interventions for better service delivery through timely updation of citizens charters, implementation of enactments and benchmarking standards for continuous improvement;
To empower citizens by adopting a bottom-up approach to bring massive improvements in quality of grievance redressal and reduction in timelines of grievance redressal;
To adopt a holistic approach of systemic public grievance reforms through improved mapping, formulation of monitoring matrix, data collection and evaluation in quality of grievance redressal;
To provide an enabling environment for States and Ministries/Departments of the Government of India for creating web portals and to adopt a holistic approach for improved service delivery through digital platforms;
To focus on dynamic policy-making and strategic decisions, monitoring of implementation, appointment of key personnel, coordination and evaluation;
To achieve a sense of common identity by exchange of technical expertise in the areas of Improved Service Delivery between the paired States under the Ek Bharat – Shreshth Bharat Program;
To ensure timely publication of Good Governance Index to identify the quality of governance in 10 sectors especially those pertaining to welfare and infrastructure at the Union, State and District levels.