Remittances to India are set to touch a record $100 billion in 2022, according to the World Bank’s latest Migration and Development Brief titled, ‘Remittances Brave Global Headwinds’. India received $89.4 billion in 2021 — this is the first time a country will reach the $100 billion mark.
GS III: Indian Economy
Dimensions of the Article:
- What are remittances?
- World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief
- What has been the general trend in remittances this year?
- Reasons behind the sustained growth in remittances
- What does the report say about future trends?
What are remittances?
- A remittance is a payment of money that is transferred to another party.
- Broadly speaking, any payment of an invoice or a bill can be called a remittance. However, the term is most often used nowadays to describe a sum of money sent by someone working abroad to his or her family back home.
- Remittances represent one of the largest sources of income for people in low-income and developing nations, often exceeding direct investment and international development assistance.
- In the case of India, the largest sources of remittances have been from Indians working in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait), and the U.S./U.K.
World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief
- The World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief is prepared by the Migration and Remittances Unit, Development Economics (DEC)- the premier research and data arm of the World Bank.
- The brief aims to provide an update on key developments in the area of migration and remittance flows and related policies over the past six months.
- It also provides medium-term projections of remittance flows to developing countries.
- The brief is produced twice a year.
What has been the general trend in remittances this year?
- World remittances are expected to touch $794 billion in 2022, up from $781 billion in 2021. This represents a growth of 4.9%, compared to 10.2% in 2021, which was the highest since 2010.
- Of the $794 billion, $626 billion went to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Remittances represent an even larger source of external finance for LMICs in 2022, compared to foreign direct investment (FDI), official development assistance (ODA), and portfolio investment flows.
- The top five recipient countries this year are expected to be India ($100 billion), followed by Mexico ($60 billion), China ($50 billion), the Philippines ($38 billion) and Egypt ($32 billion).
Reasons behind the sustained growth in remittances
- According to the World Bank, one of the main reasons is the gradual reopening of various sectors in host-country economies, following pandemic-induced closures and travel disruptions.
- This “improved migrant workers’ incomes and employment situations and thereby their ability to send money home.”
- An allied reason was the “migrants’ determination to help their families back home” during the tough post-pandemic recovery phase.
- The report notes that the 10.2% growth in remittances achieved in 2021, that too against the backdrop of the pandemic, owed a lot to the stimulus measures enacted “to underpin faltering high-income economies”, especially in the U.S. and Europe, which helped to support employment levels and maintain or increase incomes of migrant workers, enabling them to send money home.
What does the report say about future trends?
- The report predicts that growth in remittances will fall to 2% in 2023 as the GDP growth in high-income countries continues to slow, eroding migrants’ wage gains.
- For South Asia as a whole, the growth in remittances is expected to fall from 3.5% in 2022 to 0.7% in 2023.
- In the U.S., higher inflation combined with a slowdown will limit remittance flows, while the GCC countries will also see cooling of remittance outflows following a slowdown.
- The demand for labour is expected to soften as construction activities for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar have ended.
- Nonetheless, remittances to India are forecast to grow by 4% next year, “supported by the large share of Indian migrants earning relatively high salaries in the U.S., the U.K. and East Asia”.
- Their salaries, the report notes, “may be more resilient than those of lower-wage migrants, for example in the GCC”.
-Source: The Hindu
National Security Advisor (NSA) hosted a meeting of his counterparts from five Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan — in New Delhi on December 6. All countries except Turkmenistan sent their NSAs.
GS II: International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- Key Highlights about the Meetings of NSAs
- About Central Asia
- What is the genesis of India-Central Asia relations?
- About National Security Advisoris
Key Highlights about the Meetings of NSAs
- For a high-level security meeting, the NSAs of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan were in Delhi for the first time.
- The gathering takes place on the same day as the 30th anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic relations between India and the Central Asian nations.
- The security situation in Afghanistan and the threat of terrorism coming from the Taliban-run nation were the main topics of discussion.
- The NSAs agreed with India’s plan to incorporate Chabahar port into the INSTC (International North-South Transport Corridor), which would connect Iran with Russia via Central Asia.
- During the summit, the leaders agreed to institutionalise the Summit mechanism by deciding to hold it biannually.
- To assist the new structure, a secretariat for India and Central Asia would be established in New Delhi.
- Discussions of the requirement for concerted action against “the misuse of new and emerging technology, arms and drug trafficking, abuse of cyberspace to promote misinformation, and unmanned aerial systems.”
About Central Asia
- Central Asia is the central region of Asia, extending from the Caspian Sea in the west to the border of western China in the east.
- It is bounded on the north by Russia and on the south by Iran, Afghanistan, and China.
- The region consists of the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan.
- All of these nations became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the USSR.
- On the east and south Central Asia is bounded by the western Altai and other high mountain ranges extending into Iran, Afghanistan, and western China.
- Central Asia’s landscape can be divided into the vast grassy steppes of Kazakhstan in the north and the Aral Sea drainage basin in the south. About 60 percent of the region consists of desert land, the principal deserts being the Karakum, occupying most of Turkmenistan, and the Kyzylkum, covering much of western Uzbekistan.
- The scarcity of water has led to a very uneven population distribution, with most people living along the fertile banks of the rivers or in fertile mountain foothills in the southeast; comparatively few live in the vast arid expanses of central and western Kazakhstan and western Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
- The five largest ethnic groups in Central Asia are, in descending order of size, the Uzbek, Kazakh, Tajik, Turkmen, and Kyrgyz.
What is the genesis of India-Central Asia relations?
- India’s relations with the Central Asian countries can be traced back to the ancient Silk Road, along which people, goods and ideas flowed.
- During the period of the Kushan Empire, which spanned across the territories of modern Central Asia and India, the people-to-people contact, cultural and economic ties were flourishing.
- The dissolution of the ancient Silk Road, the invasion of Central Asia by Russia and China and the Anglo-Russian rivalry has limited the exchanges between India and Central Asia.
- Immediately after independence, India maintained limited ties with Central Asian countries because of the former’s excessive focus on the immediate neighbourhood, major powers in the international arena and other Afro-Asian countries.
- This may be because of the lack of shared boundaries.
- Following the USSR dissolution, the five Central Asian countries gained independence and India started to improve ties with them.
- India was the only non-communist country with a diplomatic presence in the region.
- It was also one of the first to accord diplomatic recognition to the newly independent countries.
- Immediately after the formation of the Central Asian states, New Delhi signed agreements focusing on expanding Indian trade, investment and developmental assistance.
- At present, Central Asia is considered to be a part of India’s extended neighbourhood.
What are India’s strategic interests in Central Asia?
- Central Asia sits at the heart of Eurasia, making it strategically vital for countries like the US, China, Russia, Europe and India.
- This is because it serves as a pivot for geopolitical transformations within the international arena.
- Many countries are currently competing to increase influence and power over the region.
- Through this region, countries like India and China can expand their markets throughout Eurasia.
- Apart from its geostrategic position, Central Asia has been rich with natural resources – Turkmenistan with gas, Kazakhstan with gas and uranium, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with hydropower.
- With a population of 33 million in the 1990s, this region is potentially a large market.
About National Security Advisoris
- The National Security Advisoris the senior official on the National Security Council of India, and the chief adviser to the Prime Minister of India on national security policy and international affairs.
- Ajit Doval is the current NSA, and has the same rank as a Union Cabinet Minister.
- The post has high vested powers, so the NSA is a highly prominent and powerful office in the Government of India.
- All NSAs appointed since the inception of the post in 1998 belong to the either Indian Foreign Service or to the Indian Police Service, and serve at the discretion of the Prime Minister of India.
-Source: Indian Express
Recently, The Rajya Sabha passed the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022.
GS III- Environment and Ecology
Dimensions of the Article:
- About Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
- Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill: Key Features
About Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972
- WPA provides for the protection of the country’s wild animals, birds and plant species, in order to ensure environmental and ecological security.
- It provides for state wildlife advisory boards, regulations for hunting wild animals and birds,
- establishment of sanctuaries and national parks, regulations for trade in wild animals, animal products and trophies, and judicially imposed penalties for violating the Act.
- The act provides for the protection of wild animals, birds and plants.
- It provides for protection of hunting rights of the Scheduled Tribes in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
- It has provisions for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- It regulates the trade of wild animals, birds and plants.
- It has six schedules which give varying degrees of protection.
- Species listed in Schedule I and part II of Schedule II get absolute protection — offences under these are prescribed the highest penalties.
- Species listed in Schedule III and Schedule IV are also protected, but the penalties are much lower.
- Schedule V includes the animals which may be hunted.
- The plants in Schedule VI are prohibited from cultivation and planting
|Schedule I: Species: Endangered species. Penalty: Harsh with imprisonment Hunting: Not allowed. Trade: Prohibited Examples: Tiger, Blackbuck, Himalayan Brown Bear, Brow-Antlered Deer, Blue whale, Common Dolphin, Cheetah, Clouded Leopard, Hornbills, Indian Gazelle, and many others.||Schedule II Penalty: Harsh Hunting: Not allowed. Trade: Prohibited Examples: Kohinoor (insect), Assamese Macaque, Bengal Hanuman langur, Large Indian Civet, Indian Fox, Larger Kashmir Flying Squirrel, Kashmir Fox and many others.|
|Schedule III & IV Species: Not Endangered. Penalty: Less compare to I & II Hunting: Not allowed. Examples: Hyena, Himalayan rat, porcupine, flying fox, Malabar tree toad, etc.||Schedule V Hunting: Allowed. Examples: Mice, Rat, common crow, fruit bats, etc.|
|Schedule VI Species: Include plants that are forbidden from cultivation Examples: Pitcher plant, Blue Vanda, Red vanda, Kuth, etc.|
Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill: Key Features
- CITES is an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.
- Under CITES, plant and animal specimens are classified into three categories (Appendices) based on the threat to their extinction.
- The Convention requires countries to regulate the trade of all listed specimens through permits.
- It also seeks to regulate the possession of live animal specimens.
- The Bill seeks to implement these provisions of CITES.
- Currently, the Act has six schedules for specially protected plants (one), specially protected animals (four), and vermin species (one).
- Vermin refers to small animals that carry disease and destroy food.
- The Bill reduces the total number of schedules to four by:
- Reducing the number of schedules for specially protected animals to two (one for greater protection level),
- Removes the schedule for vermin species, and
- Inserts a new schedule for specimens listed in the Appendices under CITES (scheduled specimens).
Obligations under CITES:
- The Bill provides for the central government to designate a:
- Management Authority, which grants export or import permits for trade of specimens,
- Scientific Authority, which gives advice on aspects related to impact on the survival of the specimens being traded.
- Every person engaging in trade of a scheduled specimen must report the details of the transaction to the Management Authority.
- As per CITES, the Management Authority may use an identification mark for a specimen.
- The Bill prohibits any person from modifying or removing the identification mark of the specimen.
- Additionally, every person possessing live specimens of scheduled animals must obtain a registration certificate from the Management Authority.
Invasive alien species:
- The Bills empowers the central government to regulate or prohibit the import, trade, possession or proliferation of invasive alien species.
- Invasive alien species refers to plant or animal species which are not native to India and whose introduction may adversely impact wild life or its habitat.
- The central government may authorise an officer to seize and dispose the invasive species.
Control of sanctuaries:
- The Act entrusts the Chief Wild Life Warden to control, manage and maintain all sanctuaries in a state.
- The Chief Wild Life Warden is appointed by the state government.
- The Bill specifies that actions of the Chief Warden must be in accordance with the management plans for the sanctuary.
- These plans will be prepared as per guidelines of the central government, and as approved by the Chief Warden.
- For sanctuaries falling under special areas, the management plan must be prepared after due consultation with the concerned Gram Sabha. Special areas include a Scheduled Area or areas where the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is applicable.
- Scheduled Areas are economically backward areas with a predominantly tribal population, notified under the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution.
- Under the Act, state governments may declare areas adjacent to national parks and sanctuaries as a conservation reserve, for protecting flora and fauna, and their habitat.
- The Bill empowers the central government to also notify a conservation reserve.
Surrender of captive animals:
- The Bill provides for any person to voluntarily surrender any captive animals or animal products to the Chief Wild Life Warden.
- No compensation will be paid to the person for surrendering such items.
- The surrendered items become property of the state government.
-Source: Indian Express
Recently, Union Science Minister said in the Rajya Sabha that Field trials of the transgenic mustard variety, Dhara Mustard Hybrid-11 (DMH-11), revealed them to be higher yielding and they did not deter the pollination habits of honeybees,
GS II: Environment and Ecology
Dimensions of the Article:
- What exactly is hybrid mustard?
- What are GM Crops?
- Regulating Bodies concerned with GM Crops
What exactly is hybrid mustard?
- Hybridisation involves crossing two genetically dissimilar plant varieties that can even be from the same species.
- The first-generation (F1) offspring from such crosses tend to have higher yields than what either parent can individually give.
- Such hybridisation isn’t easy in mustard, as its flowers have both female (pistil) and male (stamen) reproductive organs, making the plants largely self-pollinating.
- Since the eggs of one plant cannot be fertilised by the pollen grains from another, it limits the scope for developing hybrids — unlike in cotton, maize or tomato, where this can be done through simple emasculation or physical removal of anthers.
Genetic modification (GM) of Mustard:
- Scientists at Delhi University’s Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants (CGMCP) have developed the hybrid mustard DMH-11 containing two alien genes isolated from a soil bacterium called Bacillus amyloliquefaciens.
- The first gene (‘barnase’) codes for a protein that impairs pollen production and renders the plant into which it is incorporated male-sterile.
- This plant is then crossed with a fertile parental line containing, in turn, the second ‘barstar’ gene that blocks the action of the barnase gene.
- The resultant F1 progeny is both high-yielding and also capable of producing seed/ grain, thanks to the barstar gene in the second fertile line.
- The CGMCP scientists have deployed the barnase-barstar GM technology to create what they say is a robust and viable hybridisation system in mustard.
- This system was used to develop DMH-11 by crossing a popular Indian mustard variety ‘Varuna’ (the barnase line) with an East European ‘Early Heera-2’ mutant (barstar).
- DMH-11 is claimed to have shown an average 28% yield increase over Varuna in contained field trials carried out by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
What are GM Crops?
- Genetically modified crops (GM crops) are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. More than 10% of the world’s crop lands are planted with GM crops.
- In most cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species like resistance to certain pests, diseases, environmental conditions, herbicides etc.
- Genetic Modification is also done to increase nutritional value, bioremediation and for other purposes like production of pharmaceutical agents, biofuels etc.
Regulating Bodies concerned with GM Crops
- The top biotech regulator in India is Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
- The committee functions as a statutory body under the Environment Protection Act 1986 of the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF).
- GEAC is responsible for granting permits to conduct experimental and large-scale open field trials and also grant approval for commercial release of biotech crops.
- The Rules of 1989 also define five competent authorities for handling of various aspects of the rules:
- The Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBSC),
- Review Committee of Genetic Manipulation (RCGM),
- Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC),
- State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC) and
- District Level Committee (DLC)
- The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international agreement on biosafety as a supplement to the Convention on Biological Diversity effective since 2003.
- The Biosafety Protocol seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by genetically modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.
-Source: The Hindu
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has signed a MoU with Social Alpha, a multistage innovation curation and venture development platform, to launch SpaceTech Innovation Network (SpIN).
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- SpaceTech Innovation Network (SpIN)
- Innovation Challenge:
SpaceTech Innovation Network (SpIN)
- SpIN is India’s first dedicated platform for innovation, curation, and venture development for the burgeoning space entrepreneurial ecosystem.
- SpIN will primarily focus on facilitating space tech entrepreneurs in three distinct innovation categories:
- Geospatial Technologies and Downstream Applications;
- Enabling Technologies for Space & Mobility; and
- Aerospace Materials, Sensors, and Avionics.
- SpIN has launched its first innovation challenge for developing solutions in areas of maritime and land transportation, urbanization, mapping, and surveying.
- The selected start-ups and innovators will be able to access both Social Alpha’s and ISRO’s infrastructure and resources as per the prevailing guidelines.
- They will be provided active hand-holding in critical areas, including access to product design, testing and validation infrastructure, and intellectual property management.
Officials of the Animal Husbandry department continued the culling of pigs in Kerala’s Idukki district after African Swine Fever (ASF) was reported in more panchayats.
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology
Dimensions of this Article:
- What is African Swine Fever?
- What are the symptoms of African swine fever?
What is African Swine Fever?
- African Swine Fever (ASF) does not affect humans but can be catastrophic for pigs.
- In 2019, the outbreak of the disease swept through pig populations in China — which is the largest exporter and consumer of pork — leading to large-scale cullings.
- ASF is a severe viral disease that affects wild and domestic pigs typically resulting in an acute haemorrhagic fever.
- The disease has a case fatality rate (CFR) of almost 100 per cent.
- Its routes of transmission include direct contact with an infected or wild pig (alive or dead), indirect contact through ingestion of contaminated material such as food waste, feed or garbage, or through biological vectors such as ticks.
- Any country with a pig sector is at risk of the spread of the disease and its spread is most likely via meat arriving aboard ships and planes, which is incorrectly disposed of and by meat carried by individual travellers.
What are the symptoms of African swine fever?
- High Fever
- Weakness and Difficulty Standing
- Red or blue blotches on the skin (Particularly around ears and snout)
- Coughing or labored breathing