Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
- China lines up rail to Arunachal border
The issue in news:
China has begun work on a strategically significant railway line (its second major rail link to Tibet) that will link Sichuan province with Nyingchi, which lies near the border with India’s Arunachal Pradesh.
- According to Chinese experts, the project is significant because: o Like the Qinghai-Tibet railway line (in 2006 connected Lhasa to the hinterland), this will be the second such route linking the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to the hinterland.
- It will run up to Nyingchi near the border with India, which it will link to both Lhasa and Chengdu – the provincial capital of Sichuan.
- The entire line will run from Chengdu to Lhasa, connecting the two capitals of TAR and Sichuan.
- This includes a 525 metre-long bridge across the Yarlung Zangbo river, as the Brahmaputra is called in Tibet, which has been built at a height of 3,350 metres.
- It would cut the journey from 48 hours to 13 hours.
- It is believed that the railway can act as a fast track for the delivery of strategic materials if a scenario of a crisis happens at the border.
- The President of China has called it a major step in safeguarding national unity and a significant move in promoting the economic and social development of the western region.
- India, ASEAN to expand trade despite RCEP walkout
The issue in news
The 17thASEAN-India Summit was held in a virtual format.
- India and ASEAN countries said they would explore ways to increase trade between them despite India’s exit from the 15-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement.
- The RCEP is expected to be signed between China, Australia, South Korea, Japan, and 10 Association of South East Asian (ASEAN) nations.
- It is expected that they would leave in a clause allowing India to rejoin at a later date.
- The discussions covered regional and international issues of common interest and concern, including the South China Sea and terrorism.
- All the countries stressed the importance of a rules-based order in the region including through upholding adherence to international law, especially the UNCLOS.
- The leaders affirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, safety and security in the South China Sea and ensuring freedom of navigation and over-flight.
- The Prime Minister of India highlighted India’s “Indo-Pacific policy” as an area of convergence for ASEAN and India.
- He noted that a cohesive, responsive and prosperous ASEAN is central to India’s Indo-Pacific vision and contributes to Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR).
- He underscored the importance of strengthening convergence between India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific, to ensure a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region.
- He also invited the ASEAN countries to cooperate on various pillars of India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI).
- He announced a $1 million contribution to the ASEAN COVID-19 recovery fund.
- ‘India makes progress in vaccination coverage’
The issue in news
According to the latest annual Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report released by the International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC), India has made significant progress in its vaccination coverage to prevent child pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths.
The report suggests that India has achieved the global target of 90% coverage for three of the five vaccines whose coverage is monitored in the report.
These vaccines are:
- Diphtheria, Pertussis and Tetanus (DPT) vaccine
- Measles-containing-vaccine first dose
- Haemophilus influenzae type B
- Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV)
- Rotavirus vaccine
- While India’s coverage of rotavirus vaccine increased by 18 percentage points (35% rotavirus coverage in 2018 expanded to 53% in 2019), coverage against pneumococcal pneumonia increased by 9 percentage points (6% PCV coverage in 2018 expanded to 15% in 2019).
- In 2019, India completed the “100-day agenda” (an unprecedented national scale-up of rotavirus vaccine). This landmark vaccine expansion will help protect 26 million children born each year against life-threatening cases of rotavirus diarrhoea.
- Of the 15 focus countries included in the report, India is one of just four countries that exceeded targets for exclusive breastfeeding.
- The report tracked progress by analysing 10 indicators from the latest available data on how countries are delivering key interventions — including breastfeeding, immunisation, care-seeking and antibiotics, oral rehydration solution (ORS), and zinc supplementation — shown to prevent pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths.
- Nearly every country included in the report lagged in access to treatments against pneumonia and diarrhoea.
- India failed to reach all four targets for treatment and the treatment for diarrhoea has the lowest coverage, with only 51% of children receiving ORS and 20% getting zinc.
- Although there has been progress in India in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the hard-won gains because of disruptions caused in routine health services like immunisation and access to medical oxygen.
- Govt. rolls out 1.19 lakh crore stimulus
Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a fresh set of relief and stimulus measures for the economy – worth 1.19 lakh crore.
Key features of the stimulus:
- A new Atmanirbhar Rozgar Yojana has been announced to spur job creation.
- The entire Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) contributions for two years of all new employees (hired between October 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021) in firms with fewer than 1,000 employees will be borne by the government.
- The definition of ‘new employee’ will include all those who were a part of the EPF net earlier, but had lost their job between March 1 and September 30, 2020.
- The benefit will apply to all those new employees whose monthly wage is less than 15,000.
- For firms with more than 1,000 employees, the Centre will bear half of the EPF contributions (24% of wages), while for smaller firms, it will bear the entire EPF contribution.
- To be eligible for the scheme, firms registered with EPFO having more than 50 employees must hire at least five new workers, while those with less than 50 employees must hire a minimum of two workers.
- Some income tax relief for the purchase of residential units of value up to 2 crore.
- Production-linked incentive scheme for 10 sectors with a proposed expenditure of 1.46 lakh crore over five years.
- 900 crore has been allocated for research and development towards the COVID-19 vaccine.
- To spur rural employment, an additional 10,000 crore has been provided for spending through the MGNREGS and PM’s rural roads scheme.
- Effectively, this takes the total allocations for MGNREGA in the year close to 1.1 lakh crore.
- The government would provide 65,000 crore as fertilizer subsidy to ensure adequate availability in view of the expected rise in the sown area.
- To boost urban housing, an additional allocation of 18,000 crore has been made for the PM Awas Yojana over and above the 8,000 crore allotted in the Budget.
- The 3 lakh-crore emergency credit line guarantee scheme announced earlier for micro, small and medium enterprises has been extended till March 31, 2021.
- A credit guarantee plan has been announced for stressed sectors as well as healthcare.
- Entities in stressed sectors identified by the K.V. Kamath Committee plus healthcare sector with credit outstanding of above 50 crore and up to 500 crore (as on February 29, 2020) would be able to avail 20% additional credit for a period of five years, with a moratorium of one year on principal repayment.
- As per the Kamath committee, the stressed sectors include auto components, construction, gems and jewellery, hotel and restaurants, iron and steel, real estate and textiles.
- To free up working capital for contractors bidding for public projects, the Centre has decided to reduce the performance security payable on individual contracts to 3% from the prevailing 5% to 10% of the project value.
- The earnest money deposit requirement to bid for tenders is being replaced by a bid security declaration for a period of one year.
- Experts have pegged the fiscal cost of the announcement at about 1.2% of the GDP, including the PLI scheme.
- It aims to boost re-employment chances of formal sector employees who lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
- 78 lakh additional jobs are expected to be generated from the boost given to urban housing, apart from boosting steel and cement demand significantly.