India – France Cooperation
India and France have increased their cooperation on a number of fronts with the visit of President Hollande.
Space – The Indian Space Research Organisation and its French counterpart CNES (National Centre for Space Studies) agreed to work together in the next Mars mission, as well as a satellite launch and a thermal infrared observation mission.
Manufacturing – Under the â€˜Make in Indiaâ€™ banner, India and France signed a deal that will allow French industrial major Alstom to make 800 high horse power locomotives in India. The locomotives are expected to be made in the electric locomotives factory in Madhepura, Bihar.
Both sides also signed an agreement on upgrading the Delhi-Chandigarh line to 200 kmph, in keeping with Franceâ€™s special focus on the Chandigarh â€˜Smart Cityâ€™ project.
Renewable Energy – The French Development Agency will allocate for the development of solar energy â‚¬300 million over the next five years. The International Solar Alliance, envisaged to bring together 122 countries that lie wholly or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, is an initiative announced by Mr. Modi at the COP 21 Summit in Paris in November. The member countries are to be those that enjoy 300 or more days in a year of bright sunlight.
UNSC Permanent Seat – In the joint statement, France also committed itself to supporting Indiaâ€™s bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council and Indiaâ€™s accession to the multilateral (nuclear) export control regimes in 2016 itself.
Since 1998, the Franco-Indian relationship has become increasingly strategic, even as one could argue that it has yet to realize its full economic potential. The Indo-French strategic dialogue is now broad and wide-ranging, and the annual joint military exercises have each year grown more elaborate.
It is easy, sometimes, for foreign observers to forget that France is an Indian Ocean power, with a medium-sized military presence but a vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ), as well as a longstanding sphere of influence in the southwestern quadrant of the Indian Ocean. La Reunion and Mayotte account for about one million French citizens, and when combined, Franceâ€™s EEZ in the Indian Ocean amounts to more than 2.6 million square km.
In terms of cultural influence, there is a certain overlap with regard to French and Indian soft power in the Southwestern Indian Ocean. For example, Madagascar, with its strategic location astride the Mozambique Channel, is a former French colony, where French is still widely spoken, but where for a long time ethnic Indians of Gujarati origin controlled a large chunk of the local economy. Similarly, 25 percent of the population of la Reunion is of Indian origin.
At a grand strategic level, France and Indiaâ€™s interests in the Indian Ocean are closely aligned. Both countries have historically played an active custodial and humanitarian role throughout the region. They share concerns over the risks of sea-borne nuclear proliferation, and with regard to malevolent non-state actors. The two republics uphold similar core values when it comes to freedom of navigation, and closely monitor the threats posed by certain revisionist actors to the security of sea lines of communication.
There is clearly scope for both France and Indiaâ€™s diplomatic and intelligence communities to better coordinate on the challenge posed by dual-use infrastructure(provided by powers like China and USA), particularly in Eastern Africa and the Southwestern Indian Ocean.
Source: TheHindu, Â TheDiplomat
Trade Unions vs Labor Reforms
The governmentâ€™s pursuit of contentious labour law reforms such as easier norms for hiring and firing employees has compelled all central trade unions, including the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), to join hands again to discuss a collective course of action.
Trade union leaders are planning to meet to take on the legislative changes proposed by the government and review the progress on their larger charter of demands presented to the government.
Ease of Doing Business – The parliament has approved amendments to the Payment of Bonus Act that seeks to make more workers eligible for bonus by raising the monthly pay eligibility limit of employees to Rs 21,000 from Rs 10,000. The bill also seeks to enhance monthly bonus calculation ceiling to Rs 7,000 per month from Rs 3,500, thus substantially increasing amount of bonus.
In todayâ€™s business environment, the ability to right-size the workforce in response to changing market conditions is crucial for success, and restrictions on employee adjustments are considered unnecessary impediments. This does not imply compromising with workersâ€™ protection and welfare for corporate greed. It has been aptly stated that â€œthose who have less in life should have more in lawâ€. The challenge is to strike the right balance between worker protection and investor confidence.
What the workers want? – The workers want Â the government to give more powers to labour commissioners, make it compulsory for employers to attend conciliation meetings and asked for harsher punishments to employers for violation of labour laws.
The charter of demands of the unions includes strict enforcement of labour laws, universal social security cover for workers, firm action against price rise, employment generation and a halt to disinvestment. They have also sought minimum wages of Rs. 15,000 for all workers and an embargo on foreign direct investment in the railways, insurance and defence sectors.
Source: TheHindu, TheIindianExpress
Endosulfan victims protest
Victims of Endosulfan pesticide and their family members staged a protest in front of the State secretariat of Kerala demanding immediate disbursal of compensation to them.
The organisers said the Kerala Human Rights Commission had five years ago ordered the State government to disburse the compensation.
Endosulfan has been used in agriculture around the world to control insect pests. Endosulfan became a highly controversial agrichemical due to its acute toxicity, potential for bioaccumulation, and role as an endocrine disruptor. Because of its threats to human health and the environment, a global ban on the manufacture and use of endosulfan was negotiated under the Stockholm Convention in April 2011.
The demand to ban Endosulfan in India had gathered strength after cases of health problems related to its use were reported in Kasargod district in Kerala where it was aerially sprayed on Cashew plantations. The state later disallowed the use of the pesticide.
In May 14, 2011, The Supreme Court of India ordered a countrywide ban on manufacture, sale and use of the pesticide endosulfan by considering its toxic effects on humans and environment. At the Stockholm Convention, India had agreed to phase out the use of Endosulfan by 2017.
But just banning endosulfan would not solve the problems of Indian farmers as pesticides are a basic need for them to improve crop productivity. We have to look for an alternative pesticide which is as cheap as endosulfan and with lesser bad environmental and health impacts. Previously producing endosulfan came under the patent rules but it is now off patent and thatâ€™s the reason many people feel that rich industrialized countries mostly EU have been supporting this ban in India so that they can sell their even costlier alternatives in Indian market.
Organic Sikkim Cardamom
Sikkim has been declared as an organic farming state by Spice Board of India. Sikkim is one of the biggest producer of organically grown cardamom. India exported 665 tonnes of large cardamom in 2014-15. In the first half of the current fiscal cardamom worth Rs 20.12 crore was exported from India. Sikkim, which grows large cardamom in 17,000 hectares, produces 4,000 metric tonnes (90 per cent of the countryâ€™s production) of the spice annually. The Spices Board has released the â€˜Organic Sikkimâ€™ logo on January 18.
Organically-grown large cardamom may be priced higher than its fertiliser-fed counterpart, but the former has burgeoning premium-class consumers abroad whose number is increasing off late.
Large-cardamom cultivation will get further boost in the six months from now as Spices Board is set to launch an e-platform for its famed fortnightly auction in Sikkimâ€™s traditional spice market of Singtam. This is in accordance to the Digital India campaign.
According to a recently published TechSci Research report, “Global Organic Food Market Forecast & Opportunities, 2020″, global organic food market is projected to register a CAGR of over 16% during 2015 – 2020. Growth in the market can be attributed to growing health concerns among consumers and increasing awareness with regard to health benefits of organic food. Other factors driving organic food sales across the globe include increasing income levels, improving standard of living, and government initiatives aimed at encouraging widespread adoption of organic products.
India can capitalise on this trend by promoting organic farming amongst small farmers who cannot afford expensive fertiliser and genetically modified seeds. It would help in improving farm incomes, while at the same time increase Indiaâ€™s Â agricultural exports.
Source: TheHindu, PRNewswire
Q1) What are the health benefits of cardamom?
- It helps in lowering blood pressure
- It relieves acidity
- It improves indigestion
- It works as an anti-oxidant
- It is an anti-depressant
Q2) Which of the following Conference of Parties has recommended a ban on Endosulfan?
A) Rotterdam Convention
B) Stockholm Convention
C) Basel Convention
Ans) B. Stockholm convention is on persistent organic pollutants(POP) and has recommended ban on Endosulfan.
Q3) Which of the following is located closest to India?
Ans) A. Closest to Farthest Maldives, Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion.
Q4) Which of the following is an existing Geographical IndicationÂ tag?
A) Sharbati wheat
B) Kadaknath Chicken
C) Kolhapur Jaggery
Q5) Which of the following is correct regarding insurance sector in India?
- The FDI limit is 24% in the sector
- It is regulated by the IRDA
A) 1 only
B) 2 only
Ans) B. The FDI limit was recently increased from 24% to 49%.