18th December 2020

Currency Manipulation

Recently, the United States has once again included India in its monitoring list of countries with potentially “questionable foreign exchange policies” and “currency manipulation”.

  • The monitoring list comprises China, Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and India.
  • It is a label given by the US government to countries it feels are engaging in “unfair currency practices” by deliberately devaluing their currency against the dollar.
  • The practice would mean that the country in question is artificially lowering the value of its currency to gain an unfair advantage over others.
  • The devaluation of currency would reduce the cost of exports from that country and artificially show a reduction in trade deficits as a result.

Parameters used to declare Currency Manipulator

  • An economy meeting two of the three criteria in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 is placed on the Monitoring List which includes:
    • A “significant” bilateral trade surplus with the US — one that is at least $20 billion over a 12-month period.
    • A material current account surplus equivalent to at least 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) over a 12-month period.
    • “Persistent”, one-sided intervention — when net purchases of foreign currency totalling at least 2 percent of the country’s GDP over a 12 month period are conducted repeatedly, in at least six out of 12 months.
  • Once on the Monitoring List, an economy will remain there for at least two consecutive reports “to help ensure that any improvement in performance versus the criteria is durable and is not due to temporary factors.
  • The administration will also add and retain on the Monitoring List any major US trading partner that accounts for a “large and disproportionate” share of the overall US trade deficit.

Why US put India on currency manipulators monitoring list?

  • India breached the first and the third benchmarks and on the second, on a four-quarter basis, the country’s current account surplus remained below the threshold level.
    • India, which has for several years maintained a “significant” bilateral goods trade surplus with the US, crossed the $20 billion mark.
    • The bilateral goods trade surplus totalled $22 billion in the first four quarters through June 2020.
  • According to the central bank’s intervention data, India’s net purchases of foreign exchange accelerated notably in the second half of 2019.
  • India sustained net purchases for much of the first half of 2020, which pushed net purchases of foreign exchange to $64 billion (or 2.4% of GDP) over the four quarters through June 2020.

 

Human Development Index

Recently, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has released the Human Development Index (HDI).

  • The UNDP introduced a new metric to reflect the impact caused by each country’s per-capita carbon emissions and its material footprint.
    • It measures the amount of fossil fuels, metals and other resources used to make the goods and services it consumes.
  • The indigenous children in Cambodia, India and Thailand show more malnutrition-related issues such as stunting and wasting.
  • The report highlighted that Norway topped the index, followed by Ireland, Switzerland, Hong Kong, and Iceland.
  • It stated that Pakistan (154), Nepal (142), Bangladesh (133), India and Bhutan (129) stand among countries with medium human development.
  • It also provided that Life expectancy of Indians at birth in 2019 was 69.7 years, while Bangladesh had a life expectancy of 72.6 years and Pakistan 67.3 years.
  • Singapore was ranked 11, Saudi Arabia 40, and Malaysia was at 62 in the global index, representing the top bracket among the Asian countries with “very high human development”.
  • In the BRICS grouping, Russia was 52 in the human development index, Brazil 84, and China 85.

Performance of India in HDI 2020

  • India has dropped two ranks in the United Nations’ Human Development Index 2020, standing at 131 out of 189 countries.
  • India’s gross national income per capita fell to $6,681 in 2019 from $6,829 in 2018 on purchasing power parity (PPP) basis.
    • The purchasing power parity or PPP is a measurement of prices in different countries that uses the prices of specific goods to compare the absolute purchasing power of the countries’ currencies.
  • The report said evidence from Colombia to India indicates that financial security and ownership of land improve women’s security and reduce the risk of gender-based violence, clearly indicating that owning land can empower women.
  • In India different responses in parent behaviour as well as some disinvestment in girls’ health and education have led to higher malnutrition among girls than among boys.
  • The report said that under the Paris Agreement, India pledged to reduce the emission intensity of its GDP from the 2005 level by 33-35% by 2030 and to obtain 40% of electric power capacity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.

Human Development Index (HDI)

  • The HDI is the measure of a country’s health, education, and standard of living and ascertains a nations’ average achievement in three basic scales of human development – education, life expectancy, and per capita income.
  • The index monitors nations’ long-term progress and considers factors such as their citizens’ ability to lead a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

 

India-Bangladesh Virtual Summit

Recently, the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh participated in a virtual summit which held comprehensive discussions on all aspects of bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and international issues.

India-Bangladesh partnership

  • The summit expressed satisfaction over the current state of bilateral relations based on shared bonds of history, culture, language, and other unique commonalities that characterize the partnership.
  • It emphasized that relations between Bangladesh and India are based on fraternal ties and reflective of an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership.

Cooperation in Health Sector

  • The summit reiterating the highest priority India attaches to Bangladesh under India’s Neighbourhood First Policy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured that vaccines would be made available to Bangladesh as and when produced in India.
  • India also offered collaboration in therapeutics and partnership in vaccine production.

Cultural Cooperation-Joint Celebration of Historical Links

  • The two Prime Ministers jointly unveiled a commemorative postal stamp issued by the Government of India on the occasion of birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
  • Bangladesh Prime Minister requested the Indian side to consider Bangladesh’s proposal to name the historic road from Mujib Nagar to Nodia on Bangladesh-India border as “Shadhinota Shorok”.
  • Both sides reiterated to continue regular exchanges of groups to promote culture, education, science and technology, youth and sports and mass media.

Border Management and Security Cooperation

  • Both sides agreed to hold an early meeting of the Joint Boundary Conference to prepare a new set of strip maps along the stretch of Icchamati, Kalindi, Raimongol and the Hariabhanga Rivers from Main Pillar 1 to Land Boundary terminus.
  • Bangladesh side reiterated the request for 1.3 km Innocent Passage through river route along River Padma near Rajshahi District.

Trade Partnership for Growth

  • The Prime Minister of Bangladesh appreciated the Duty Free and Quota Free access given to Bangladeshi exports to India under SAFTA since 2011.

Connectivity for Prosperity

  • The two Prime Ministers noted with satisfaction the continued progress made towards the restoration of pre-1965 railway linkages between both nations.
    • They jointly inaugurated the newly restored railway link between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh) and noted that this rail link will further strengthen trade and people to people ties between the two sides.
  • The summit welcomed the recent initiatives including the signing of the second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), trial run of trans-shipment of Indian goods from Kolkata to Agartala via Chattogram and operationalization of Sonamura-Daudkandi Protocol route under the PIWTT.

Cooperation in Water Resources, Power and Energy

  • The two leaders underscored the need for early conclusion of Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six joint rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
  • Bangladesh side requested the Indian side to inform its concerned border authorities to allow excavation work of the remaining portion of the Rahimpur Khal for utilization of Kushiyara River waters for irrigation purposes.

Forcibly Displaced Persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar

  • The Indian Prime Minister appreciated the generosity of Bangladesh in sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to the 1.1 million forcibly displaced persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar.

Partners in the Region and the World

  • India thanked Bangladesh for supporting India in its election to the United Nations Security Council.
  • Both countries agreed to continue working together towards achieving early reforms of the UN Security Council, combating climate change, attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and protection of the rights of migrants.

Signing of Bilateral Documents and Inauguration of Projects

  • Framework of Understanding (FOU) on Cooperation in Hydrocarbon Sector;
  • Protocol on Trans-boundary Elephant Conservation;
  • MOU regarding Indian Grant Assistance for Implementation of High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) through Local Bodies and other Public Sector Institutions;
  • MOU on Supply of Equipment and Improvement of Garbage / Solid Waste Disposal Ground at Lamchori Area for Barishal City Corporation;
  • Terms of Reference of India-Bangladesh CEOs Forum;
  • MoU between Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Memorial Museum, Dhaka, Bangladesh and the National Museum, New Delhi, India; and
  • MoU on Cooperation in the field of Agriculture.

Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT)

  • It was first signed in 1972 and renewed periodically.
  • Indo-Bangladesh Protocol on Inland Water Transit & Trade exists between India and Bangladesh under which inland vessels of one country can transit through the specified routes of the other country.
  • The existing protocol routes are: 
    • Kolkata-Pandu-Kolkata
    • Kolkata-Karimganj – Kolkata
    • Rajshahi-Dhulian-Rajshahi
    • Pandu-Karimganj-Pandu

 

Prithvi-2 Missile

Recently, India has successfully tested two Prithvi-2 ballistic missiles off the eastern coast of Odisha in Balasore.

  • It is a short-range ballistic missile developed by the Defence Research & Development Organization (DRDO).
  • The liquid-propelled Prithvi-2 has a range of 250 km and can carry a 1 tonne warhead.
  • The 9-metre tall missile is the first to have been developed by DRDO under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.
  • It is India’s first indigenous surface-to-surface strategic missile.
  • The trajectory of the missiles was tracked by a battery of long-range, multi-function radars and electro-optic telemetry stations at different locations.
  • The state-of-the-art missile uses an advanced inertial guidance system with manoeuvring trajectory to hit its target.
  • The Prithvi-2 missile is capable of carrying 500-1,000 kg of warheads and is powered by liquid propulsion twin engines.

 

National Hydrology Project

Recently, the Union Minister of Jal Shakti reviews progress made under National Hydrology Project.

  • It was started in the year 2016 as a Central Sector Scheme with 100% grant to Implementing agencies on pan India basis.
  • It is a World Bank supported initiative of Ministry of Jal Shakti.
  • The project aims at improving the extent, reliability and accessibility of water resources information and to strengthen the capacity of targeted water resource management institutions in India.
  • NHP is facilitating acquisition of reliable information efficiently which would pave the way for an effective water resource development and management.

Progress under National Hydrology Project

  • It has made significant progress in the fields of Water resource monitoring system, water resource information system (WRIS), water resource operation and planning systems and institutional capacity enhancement.
  • Under the NHP, a nationwide repository of water resources data i.e. National Water informatics Centre (NWIC) has been established.
  • The NHP is focusing on establishment of real time data acquisition system (RTDAS) on pan India basis.
  • The major success has been bringing all the states on board for sharing of water resources data on a centralized platform.

 

Red Sea Bream Iridovirous (RSIV)

Recently, the outbreak of Red Sea Bream Iridovirous (RSIV) disease in cage farming resulting in the death of fish has been reported again from Kundapur in Udupi district.

  • The first outbreak of red sea bream iridoviral disease caused by red sea bream iridovirus (RSIV) was recorded in cultured red sea bream Pagrus major in Shikoku Island, Japan in 1990.
    • The affected fish were lethargic and exhibited severe anemia, petechiae of the gills, and enlargement of the spleen.
  • The causative agent was a large, icosahedral, cytoplasmic DNA virus classified as a member of the family Iridoviridae and was designated as red sea bream iridovirus (RSIV).
    • The genome of RSIV is liner dsDNA and considered to be circularly permitted and terminally redundant like other iridoviruses.
  • The principal mode of transmission of RSIVD is by horizontal means via the water.
  • There is no cure for RSIV, diseased and dead fish should be immediately cleared and buried or burnt in a safe location.
  • The spread of the virus in the waters is difficult to control as the water is free flowing.

 

Temple Turtle

Recently, twenty-two hatchlings of temple-reared black softshell turtles were released in a major wetland within the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.

  • The Yellow-headed Temple Turtle only occurs in Southeast Asia, where it inhabits slow-flowing rivers, canals, freshwater ponds and flooded fields.
  • It feeds almost exclusively on aquatic vegetation, supplemented by fallen fruits when available.
  • It has a fragmented distribution in parts of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and parts of northern Peninsular Malaysia.
  • It is a large species of turtle in the family Geoemydidae.
  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) suspended trade of yellow-headed temple turtles in July 2012.
  • It is classified as ‘extinct in the wild’ under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
    • According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the freshwater black softshell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans) is extinct in the wild.

Kaziranga National Park

  • Kaziranga National Park represents one of the last unmodified natural areas in the north-eastern region of India.
  • It is located in the State of Assam as the single largest undisturbed and representative area in the Brahmaputra Valley floodplain.
  • It is regarded as one of the finest wildlife refuges in the world and the park’s contribution in saving the Indian one-horned rhinoceros from the brink of extinction.
  • The property receives the highest legal protection and strong legislative framework under the provisions of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and Indian Forest Act, 1927/Assam Forest Regulation 1891.
  • In 1985, the park was declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

 

Monarch Butterflies

Recently, the U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has said that Monarch butterflies deserve federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

  • Monarch butterflies are native to North and South America, but they’ve spread to other warm places where milkweed grows.
    • There are also populations in Hawaii, Portugal, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere in Oceania.
  • In the east, only monarchs that emerge in late summer or early fall make the annual migration south for the winter.
  • Monarch butterflies, known for migrating thousands of miles across North America, have experienced a decades-long U.S. population decline due to habitat loss caused by human activities.
  • It is listed as ‘Not Evaluated’ under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
  • The monarch butterfly is known by scientists as Danaus plexippus, which in Greek literally means “sleepy transformation”.

 

No-Confidence Motion

Recently, the matter of the ruling government’s initiative to move a no-confidence motion against the Chairman of the Legislative Council and the unruly episode that unfolded in the Upper House is now in the court of Governor.

  • The government can function only when it has majority support in the Lok Sabha.
  • The party can remain in power when it shows its strength through a floor test which is primarily taken to know whether the executive enjoys the confidence of the legislature.
    • If any member of the House feels that the government in power does not have a majority then he/she can move a no-confidence motion.
  • If the motion is accepted, then the party in power has to prove its majority in the House.
  • The member need not give a reason for moving the no-confidence motion.
  • If the government is not able to prove its majority in the House, then the government of the day has to resign.
  • Neither a confidence motion nor a no-confidence motion is mentioned in the Constitution.

How does No-Confidence Motion work?.

  • The no-confidence motion can be moved by any member of the House.
    • It can be moved only in the Lok Sabha and not Rajya Sabha.
  • The Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedure and conduct of Lok Sabha specifies the procedure for moving a no-confidence motion.
  • A minimum of 50 members have to accept the motion and accordingly, the Speaker will announce the date for discussion for the motion.
  • Article 75 spells it out that the council of ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People which implies that the majority of Lok Sabha members must support the prime minister and his cabinet.
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