News Probe [12-Feb-2019]

Daily Important News for UPSC Civil Services Examination
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Bird Watching

  • Big Bird Day is the annual day long event of Delhi bird watching, held every year since 2004.
  • It entails the dedication of an entire day to bird watching and recording the number of species sighted in a region.
  • The Campus Bird Count is a sub-event of the larger Great Backyard Bird Count. It is a coordinated effort to document the birdlife in multiple campuses across India.
  • The “campus” includes campuses of educational and training institutions, government institutions, research stations, corporate campuses, etc. 
  • It will take place from 15-18 February 2019.
  • GBBC India is the Indian implementation of the global Great Backyard Bird Count, which runs for 4 days every February (15-18 Feb,2019). Indian birders have participated in the GBBC since the event went worldwide in 2013.
  • These annual snapshots of bird populations help answer a variety of important questions, including how birds are distributed across the country, how they are affected by changes in habitat and weather, and whether populations and distributions might be changing from year to year.
  • GBBC India is coordinated by the Bird Count India collective.

India-Russia Relations

  • Initially, Indo-Soviet relations were cold. After the death of Stalin in 1953, the Soviet Union started showing interest in India and voiced its optimism for “friendly cooperation”.
  • This was driven by the Soviet desire to expand contacts in international arena. USSR wanted to promote better relations with the “non-aligned” and newly emerged countries of Afro- Asian region.
  • In June 1955, Nehru visited the Soviet Union, and this was the first visit of Russia by the Indian Prime-minister.
  • The Soviet Union helped India in construction of plants to manufacture heavy equipment & machinery, steel plants, Power plants, plants to produce precision instruments & machine tools, Petroleum extraction and refining facilities.
  • As India had a scarcity of convertible foreign exchange, Indo-Soviet trade was made in “non-convertible national currencies”. Indian acquisition of Soviet military equipment was made under Rupee-Rouble system.
  • The “Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation” signed in August 1971 was a defining moment in India Russia relation. It marked a high point of our bilateral cooperation. The treaty safeguarded India’s “security, sovereignty and territorial integrity”, and made China to refrain from getting involved in 1971 Indo-Pak war in favour of Pakistan.
  • The Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. With the emergence of independent Central Asian Republics, Russia’s borders fell further apart. The stand taken by India during the August 1991 coup did not go down well for India-Russia relations.
  • Thereafter, India and Russia decided to redefine their relations define based on the ground realities created by post cold war situation. . In 1993 the 1971 treaty was further extended after deleting security clauses.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin visited India in October 2000, and this visit gave a boost to our bilateral relations.

Political Relations

  • Russia has been a longstanding and time-tested partner for India. The development of India-Russia relations has been a key pillar of India’s foreign policy.
  • The signing of the “Declaration on the India-Russia Strategic Partnership” in October 2000, provided additional impetus to bilateral ties and contributed towards the enhancement of cooperation in almost all areas of the bilateral relationship.
  • This relationship is predominantly based on “extensive military cooperation”, enhanced by a collective vision of India & Russia, regarding “desirable international order” and similarity of their opinion on “important issues related to regional and international security”.
  • During the visit of the Russian President to India in December 2010, the Strategic Partnership was elevated to the level of a “Special and Privileged Strategic Partnership.”
  • Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation meet annually for the Annual Bilateral Summit which is the highest institutionalized dialogue mechanism in the strategic partnership between the two countries.
  • The 19th bilateral summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir was held in 2018.
  • The two countries also held their first informal Summit in the city of Sochi in the Russian Federation on May 21, 2018. The Summit provided an occasion for both leaders to deepen their friendship and to exchange views on international and regional issues, in keeping with the tradition of high level political exchanges between India and Russia.
  • There is regular high-level interaction between the two countries. Two Inter- Governmental Commissions – one on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technological and Cultural Cooperation (IRIGC-TEC), and another on Military Technical Cooperation (IRIGC- MTC), meet annually.

Defence Relations

  • India-Russia military technical cooperation has evolved from a buyer – seller framework to joint research, development and production of advanced defense technologies and systems.
  • BrahMos Missile System as well as the licensed production in India of SU-30 aircraft and T-90 tanks, are examples of such flagship cooperation.
  • The two countries also hold exchanges and training exercises between their armed forces. The first-ever TriServices exercise –‘INDRA 2017’ took place in Vladivostok in 2017. The Exercise focused on Counter-terror operations. Joint India-Russia Air Force exercise ‘Avia Indra’ took place in Lipetsk from September 2018.
  • During the 19th Annual Summit, the two sides signed agreement on supply of S-400 air defense systems. Earlier during the 17th annual summit, the sides had concluded agreement on construction of frigates under Project 1135.6 and shareholders agreement on the formation of joint venture to manufacture Ka-226T helicopters in India.
  • A road-map for the development of bilateral defence cooperation was signed during the 17th Meeting of the IRIGC-MTC. The 3rd round of India-Russia Military Industrial Conference was held in 2018 in Chennai where 7 MOUs were signed between the Industries for production in India.
  • India also participated in the International military-Technical Forum ‘Army – 2017’ held in Moscow in August 2017. Secretary (Defence Production visited Moscow for the International Military-Technical Forum Army 2018 and 4th Military Industrial Conference from Aug 21-25th 2018.

Trade and Bilateral Relations

  • To prepare a road map for raising bilateral trade, a Joint Study Group was set up. Based on its report submitted in 2007, “a Joint Task Force comprising the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Russian Ministry of Economic Development was set up in February 2008 to monitor progress on CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement).
  • In December 2014, the leaders of the two countries set a target of US$30 billion bilateral trade by 2025. Russian investments in India in 2017 have reached USD 18bn and India’s total investment in Russia so far is USD 13bn. The overall investment target of USD 30 bn that was set for 2025 has already been reached. The investment target has been raised from USD 30bn to USD 50bn by 2025 during the 19th Annual Bilateral Summit in October 2018.
  • The Russian Ministry has launched ‘Single window Service’ in October 2018 to facilitate hassle-free investment by Indian companies which will help achieve mutual trade and investment target.
  • In 2017-18, bilateral trade between the two countries was USD 10.69 billion. It includes Russian exports to India amounting to USD 8.6 billion and Indian exports to Russia amounting USD 2.1 billion.
  • Major import items in India from Russia during 2017-18 were mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation, bituminous substances; Natural or cultured pearls, precious or semiprecious stones, precious metals; Fertilizers; Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; Electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof; sound recorders and reproducers, television image and sound recorders and reproducers, and parts.
  • Top export items from India to Russia during 2017-18 were Pharmaceutical products; Nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances: parts thereof; Organic chemicals; Coffee, tea, mate and spices; Vehicles other than railway or tramway rolling stock, and parts and accessories thereof.

Nuclear Relations

  • Russia is an important partner for India in the area of peaceful use of nuclear energy. It recognizes India as a country with advanced nuclear technology with an impeccable non-proliferation record.

  • In December 2014, Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Russia’s Rosatom signed the Strategic Vision for strengthening cooperation in peaceful uses of atomic energy between India and Russia.

  • Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KKNPP) is being built in India with Russian cooperation. KKNPP Units 1 and 2 have already become operational.

  • An agreement on localization of manufacturing of nuclear equipment in India was also concluded during the Annual Summit in 2015.

  • Both sides finalized and signed the General Framework Agreement and Credit Protocol for Unit 5&6 in 2017 in St. Petersburg.

  • A trilateral MoU on cooperation in the implementation of the Rooppur NPP construction project in Bangladesh was signed in March 2018 between DAE, Ministry of Science and Technology of Bangladesh and State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom.

  • MoU on Action Plan for Prioritization and Implementation of Cooperation Areas in the Nuclear Field was signed during the 19th Annual Summit in October in New Delhi.

Space Cooperation

  • India-Russia cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of outer space dates back to about four decades.
  • 2015 marked the 40th anniversary of the launch of India’s first satellite “Aryabhatt” on a Russian (then USSR) launch vehicle ‘C-1 Interkosmos.’
  • In 2007, India and Russia signed a framework agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, including satellite launches, GLONASS navigation system, remote sensing and other societal applications of outer space.
  • In June 2015, the space agencies signed an MoU on expansion of cooperation in the field of the exploration and use of outer space for peaceful purposes.
  • An agreement was signed between C-DAC and GLONASS for cooperation in technologies based on satellite navigation.
  • In 2016, ISRO and Roscosmos signed a MoU to establish ground measurement gathering stations for GLONASS and NAVIC in India and Russia.
  • Both sides are exploring the possibility of cooperation in manned space flight and a MoU between Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the Federal Space Agency of Russia ‘ROSCOSMOS’ on Joint Activities in the field of Human Spaceflight Programme was signed during the 19th Bilateral Summit.

Science & Technology

  • The Working Group on Science and Technology functioning under IRIGC-TEC, the Integrated Long Term Programme (ILTP) and the Basic Science Cooperation Programme are the three main institutional mechanisms for bilateral Science and Technology cooperation,
  • India-Russia Science and Technology Centre promote two-way transfer of technologies and their commercialization.
  • A new mechanism of cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technological cooperation came into effect from 21st June 2017 after the setting-up of India-Russia High Level Committee on Scientific & Technological Cooperation (S&T Commission) in Novosibirsk, Russia. The Second Executive council meeting of the Commission was held in New Delhi in Nov 2017 and the third meeting is to be held in Russia.
  • Two new Programmes of Cooperation in the field of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Biotechnology concluded in October 2013 have become active mechanisms for cooperation as they support joint R&D projects.
  • In December 2014, Indian Council of Medical Research and Russian Foundation of Basic Research entered into an MoU for cooperation in health research.
  • In May 2015, Department of Science & Technology (DST) and Russian Science Foundation signed an agreement to support basic and exploratory research.
  • During the 16th Annual Summit, C-DAC, IISc (Bangalore) and Moscow State University signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of high performance computing.
  • During the 17th Summit, DST and FASO (Federal Agency for Scientific Organization) signed an agreement for cooperation in the field of science and technology. A Basic Science Cooperation Programme between DST and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research has been working quite successfully from 2016-17.
  • A number of new initiatives such as the India-Russia Bridge to Innovation, cooperation in telemedicine, creation of a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), GIAN, and the Russia-India Network (RIN) of Universities are being promoted to encourage the growth of bilateral interaction in the field of S&T.

Education

  • Education is a strong pillar of bilateral cooperation between India and the Russian Federation.
  • India-Russia Network of Universities (RIN) was established in 2015 to consolidate the efforts of universities in the supply of their countries’ knowledge-based economies with human, scientific and technological resources. The Association enhances the experience exchange and cooperation in higher education, science and innovations issues. The National coordinators of RIN are the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and the Tomsk State University.
  • The 2nd India-Russia education conference was organized in February, 2018 to comprehensively examine various issues relating to educational cooperation between India and the Russian Federation with a view to strengthening it further.
  • An outcome document was adopted laying down a number of concrete measures in order to improve the educational experience of the students studying in Russia and make the admission process and post-admission management more student-friendly and transparent.
  • During the 19th Annual Bilateral Summit in New Delhi, expansion of linkages between higher education institutions of two countries was noted.
  • The sides also noted the great interest in academic exchanges of teachers and students, as well as in working on joint scientific and educational projects.

Cultural Cooperation

  • There is a strong tradition of Indian studies in Russia. Jawaharlal Nehru Cultural Centre at the Embassy of India, Moscow (JNCC) maintains close cooperation with leading Russian institutions.
  • About 20 Russian Institutions, including leading universities and schools, regularly teach Hindi to about 1500 Russian students. Apart from Hindi, languages such as Tamil, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Sanskrit and Pali are taught in Russian Institutions. There is strong interest among Russian people in Indian dance, music, yoga and Ayurveda. JNCC conducts classes in yoga, dance, music and Hindi for approximately 500 students every month.
  • There are regular cultural initiatives to promote people-to-people contacts between India and Russia, including reciprocal Years of Culture. The President of India inaugurated the “Year of Indian Culture” (YID) ‘Namaste Russia’ in Moscow on 10 May 2015.
  • The 4th IDY in June 2018 was celebrated all over Russia. A ‘Road map of Events’ to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between India and Russia was implemented successfully.
  • Nearly 400 people from India took part in the 19th World Festival of Youth and Students which was held in Sochi in October 2017. Indian film ‘Newton’ won the ‘Transform Nation’ film award during this festival.
  • A Cultural Exchange Programme for 2017-19 was signed between the two countries in June 2017 on the sidelines of the 18th Annual Summit.
  • Festival of India was organized after a gap of 30 years, in the Russian Federation on 6th September 2018 at the Kremlin Palace and will continue till 31st March 2019 in 22 cities at 34 locations with 10 troupes representing the different facets of Indian culture.
  • Russia has been an active partner country for ITEC scholarship with around 76 Russians taking the benefit of this program for the 2017-18 period. The number of ICCR scholarships has also been steadily growing every year.

Indian Community in Russia

  • Indian Community in the Russian Federation is estimated at about 30,710.
  • In addition, about 1,500 Afghan nationals of Indian origin live in Russia. About 500 Indian businessmen reside in Russia out of which around 200 work in Moscow.
  • Majority of Indian businessmen/companies in Russia are involved in trading. Some entities also represent Indian banks, pharmaceuticals, hydrocarbon and engineering companies. Tea, coffee, tobacco, pharmaceuticals, rice, spices, leather footwear, granite, I.T. and garments are amongst the products being imported by these companies from India.
  • There are approximately 11000 Indian students enrolled in medical and technical institutions in the Russian Federation. About 90% of them pursue medical studies in about 20 universities/institutions across Russia.
  • Hindustani Samaj is the oldest Indian organization in Russia functioning since 1957.
  • Other Indian organizations in Moscow include the Indian Business Alliance, Overseas Bihar Association, AMMA (All Moscow Malayalee Association), DISHA (Indian-Russian Friendship Society), Textile Business Alliance, Bhartiya Sanskritik Samaj, and Ramakrishna Society Vedanta Centre.

The Organic RouteOrganic Route

  • The tea is considered one of the most widely consumed, but cheapest beverage accepted by almost all age groups in the society. Globally, more than three billion cups of tea are drunk daily.
  • The tea crop has particular agro-climatic requirements found in tropical and subtropical climates. Tea is a natural beverage obtained from upper two younger leaves and a leaf bud of an evergreen plant Camellia sinensis.
  • Tea is commercially cultivated in more than 65 countries. Globally, total tea production is over 5 billion kg per year, where, India, one of the leaders in world tea production, contributes about 1.2 billion kg of tea.
  • Commercial cultivation of tea in India was started in Assam from the year 1835. In India tea cultivation is spread in more than 15 states, of which, Assam (52.0%), West Bengal (25.8%), Tamil Nadu (14.5 %) and Kerala (5.3%) are producing more than 97% of total tea production. Other states where the tea is produced in small extents are Tripura, Karnataka, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Orissa and Bihar.
  • India produces world’s finest tea due to certain geographic uniqueness. For instance, Assam tea is famous for their strong and brisk liquor; Nilgiri tea is well known for their delicate flavour and brightness; and the Darjeeling tea is famous for its unique colour and aroma.

Organic Tea Cultivation

  • Tea is best known as a plantation crop, and that has been its basis in India since it was introduced there in the 19th century. Tea plantations are often called ‘estates’ or ‘tea gardens.
  • The model was introduced into India in colonial times by ‘planters’, mostly from the UK, and until the 1950s it was thought to be the only way to produce tea to commercial standards.
  • When during the 1950s, Kenya decided to produce tea for export it based its plan on smallholders. The experiment succeeded, marking the start of the modern trend for smallholders in developing countries to produce cash crops to export standards as ‘outgrowers’ for an external agency.
  • In India, there was a large increase in smallholder production in the Nilgiris area of Tamil Nadu in the 1980s, and since then it has been on the rise in Assam, North Bengal and Bihar in the North.
  • Small-scale tea farmers are those cultivating the crop on 50 cents to five acres of land.
  • A downturn in the tea industry, which began in 1999, has hit this class of tea producers the hardest.
  • This has been caused by various factors, chiefly international competition, aggressive marketing by soft drinks companies and high cost of production.
  • European buyers have gone for Kenyan teas since their cost of production is much lower and Kenyan growers have also shifted to organic production much sooner than Indian growers.

Advantages

  • The term organic describes both how an agricultural product is grown and processed. An organic product is free of chemicals, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic modifications and field use of sewage sludge as fertiliser.
  • One of the primary reasons for a shift to the organic sector is the premium market that commands high prices.
  • Organic tea cultivation could also be a solution to restore/increase the continuous depleting crop productivity under the present chemical farming practice, to restore soil/ecosystem, depleted under years of synthetic fertilisers and agro-chemical application and to redress the problem of climate change and to generate employment and reduce health hazards for the workers.
  • Organic is viable because it reduces input costs, and improves the quality of green leaf and makes it more acceptable in foreign markets.

Challenges

  • External organic inputs like purchased cowdung manure, neem oil, neem cake and branded biopesticides are very expensive and their availability in remote areas is poor.
  • Marketing their teas is another major challenge before the small growers who are processing their own leaf, especially those who are going organic. The rest of the green leaf is sold to a tea factory.
  • Until self-sufficiency is achieved, growers are at a major disadvantage while dealing with the factories they sell their produce to.
  •  Because of the absence of adequate processing facility close by, the small growers have to send leaf to far-off factories. Such long transportation of green leaf impacts quality of the leaf as well as price realization by the growers. Moreover, in an excess supply situation, small growers have to accept the price dictated by the bought leaf-factories (BLFs) and estate factories.
  • One big hurdle is that organic certification by a recognized agency costs money and requires a mandatory waiting period of three years before the certificate is given. While the big growers and gardens engage the services of consultants and experts to guide them in the process of organic conversion, for the small grower it is groping in the dark.
  • The lack of adequate resources, training and manpower has kept the majority of small growers bound to chemical agriculture.
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