- Fourth Tranche of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat
- Domestic Defence Procurement: Separate Budgetary Provision
- Private sector in space: 2017 ISRO Bill
- India opposes rejoining RCEP over China concerns
- Navy element in Northern theatre command
- WHO: Aiming to achieve herd immunity naturally is ‘dangerous’
FOURTH TRANCHE OF THE AATMANIRBHAR BHARAT
Focus: GS-III Indian Economy
Why in news?
The government on 16th May 2020 announced a major opening up of defence production, power, space and coal and mining sectors for private participation as part of the Fourth tranche of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan package.
These measures were intended to signal India’s readiness to pro-actively seek investment and instill confidence in business circles.
Boost for growth
- This was less of a stimulus and more of industrial reforms. These sectors with these reforms are going to be the new horizon for growth. More production can be clearly marked, and certainly it will lead to a lot more employment possibilities.
- The sectors covered are of strategic importance but these policies will be rolled out over a 3-6 month period.
Changes that were promised
- A separate budget provision for domestic capital procurement would help reduce the defence import bill, she said, adding that indigenisation of imported spare parts would also be given priority.
- The FDI limit in defence manufacturing under automatic route will be raised from 49% to 74%.
- Ordnance Factory Boards would be corporatised and eventually listed on the stock market to improve autonomy, efficiency and accountability, however, that they would not be privatised.
- The government monopoly on coal would be removed with the introduction of commercial mining, allowing any private player to bid for a coal block and sell it in the open market.
- Power distribution companies in union territories will be privatised.
- Six more airports are up for auction on private public partnership mode, while additional private investment will be invited at 12 airports in a move expected to net ₹13,000 crore for the Airports Authority of India.
- Steps will be taken to ease restrictions on Indian airspace, of which only 60% is currently available. This will save flying time and aviation fuel, leading to a ₹1,000 crore per year benefit for the sector.
- A level playing field for private players in the space sector was promised, allowing them to use ISRO facilities and participate in future projects on space travel and planetary exploration.
-Source: The Hindu, Times of India
DOMESTIC DEFENCE PROCUREMENT: SEPARATE BUDGETARY PROVISION
Focus: GS-III Internal Security, Indian Economy
Why in news?
The government would make a separate budgetary provision for domestic defence procurements and bring out a negative import list for weapons and military platforms.
Changes in Defence Procurement
- The Government will notify a list of weapons and platforms not allowed for import. They will have to be bought in India. The negative list would be worked out in consultation with the Department of Military Affairs headed by the Chief of the Defence Staff.
- Indigenisation of some imported spares will also be given priority.
- The limit for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in defence through the automatic route had also been raised from 49% to 74%. Earlier, 100% FDI was allowed on a case by case basis.
- Corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for autonomy, efficiency and accountability was also announced.
- The ordnance factories would eventually be listed on the stock market to improve transparency.
- A time-bound defence procurement process and faster decision-making would be brought in by setting up a Project Management Unit (PMU) to support contract management, “realistic setting” of General Staff Qualitative Requirements (GSQRs) of weapons and platforms and overhauling the trial and testing procedures.
How will these changes help?
- The separate budget provision for domestic capital procurement would help reduce the defence import bill and encourage domestic manufacture.
- The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) called the measures a much-needed step for reducing imports and building self-reliance in defence.
- The stress laid on domestic manufacturing is very encouraging as India today is among the largest importers in the world of defence equipment.
- The list of non-importable items and corporatisation of OFB are some landmark steps and will boost the confidence of domestic manufacturers.
- The increase in FDI limit to 74% would attract foreign funds into this sector, along with technology infusion.
- Make in India is absolutely necessary for self-reliance, especially in critical sectors such as defence production.
-Source: The Hindu
PRIVATE SECTOR IN SPACE: 2017 ISRO BILL
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology, Indian Economy
Why in news?
The government’s intention to encourage greater participation of the private sector in a host of space activities (As announced in the fourth tranche of Aatmanirbhar Bharat package) already finds mention in a draft Bill by the Department of Space in 2017.
What are the changes that are being introduced?
- Govt. will provide predictable policy and regulatory environment and allow private sector to use ISRO facilities.
- Future projects for travel in outer space or exploration of new planets will be open to the private sector.
- Govt. will ease geo-spatial data policy to make such remote-sensing data more widely available to tech entrepreneurs, with safeguards put in place.
Draft Space Activities Bill 2017
- The Space Activities bill 2017 is a proposed Bill to promote and regulate the space activities of India which encourages the participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India under the guidance and authorisation of the government through the Department of Space.
- A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity.
- The Central Government will formulate the appropriate mechanism for licensing, eligibility criteria, and fees for licence.
- It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity.
- The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India.
- “There is a need for national space legislation for supporting the overall growth of the space activities in India. This would encourage enhanced participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India, in compliance with international treaty obligations, which is becoming very relevant.” – according to the bill.
- Critics of the Bill have pointed out that it doesn’t have provisions for the creation of an independent space regulator and doesn’t differentiate between various kinds of space activities.
- For instance, different types of commercial space activity — whether remote sensing or deep-space exploration — need specific regulatory clarity.
- The Bill also posits ISRO as the key licensing authority when it itself has monopoly power over space-technology and development.
-Source: The Hindu
INDIA OPPOSES REJOINING RCEP OVER CHINA CONCERNS
Focus: GS-II International Relations
Why in news?
- The deadline for a response to a fresh proposal of India rejoining negotiations on the ASEAN-led trade Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ran out on 15th May 2020.
- The letter sent by the RCEP’s Trade Negotiating Committee (TNC) Chairperson last month, had an offer to reconsider India’s objections to giving market access for a “limited number of products”, if India would rejoin the talks.
- Australia and Japan have been at the forefront of efforts to convince India to rejoin the RCEP as a possible counterweight to China in the grouping that would represent a third of global trade.
Staying Away from RCEP: ‘Make in India’ policy
Not joining the RCEP sends the signal that potential of being a global manufacturing hub as envisaged by the government’s ‘Make in India’ policy was realizable.
Indications remain that the government is not keen to revisit the RCEP grouping at present.
Positive effects in Joining RCEP
A major free trade area like the RCEP would be a good lodestar for them to revive optimism.
Given the backlash against the U.S., China will also look much more to the Asian region for trade, and there will be opportunities for India as well.
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership RCEP
- The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a mega-regional economic agreement being negotiated since 2012, between ASEAN and Free Trade Agreement (FTA) member partners.
- RCEP is a proposed Free Trade Agreement between the ten member states of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) – namely Cambodia, Indonesia, Brunei, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and the FTA’s six partners – China, South Korea, Australia, Japan, India, and New Zealand.
- The objective of launching RCEP negotiations is to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement that will cover trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, electronic commerce, dispute settlement and other issues.
- RCEP has the potential to deliver significant opportunities for businesses in the East Asia region, given the fact that the 16 RCEP participating countries account for almost half of the world’s population; contribute about 30 per cent of global GDP and over a quarter of world exports.
- RCEP will provide a framework aimed at lowering trade barriers and securing improved market access for goods and services for businesses in the region.
- It aims to cover the trade in goods and services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property and dispute resolution.
-Source: The Hindu
NAVY ELEMENT IN NORTHERN THEATRE COMMAND
Focus: GS-III Internal Security Challenges
Why in news?
The proposed Northern Theatre Command along the border with China should also have a small Navy element in it as some of the naval systems are useful there, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Bipin Rawat said.
CDS also said the naval fighter aircraft can be deployed in the Western sector in the desert areas when not required at sea to effectively utilise existing resources.
View of CDS
- Theatre commands (Land) will mainly be between the Army and the IAF, while it is the northern border there should also be a small Navy element.
- Gen. Rawat had in the past said the capabilities of the Navy’s P-8I long range maritime surveillance aircraft were used for observing the Chinese movements during the Doklam standoff in 2017.
- The first of the integrated commands in the works is the integrated Air Defence (AD) command headed by the IAF followed by a maritime command and then the land-based theatre commands.
National Security Strategy (NSS)
- National Security Strategy (NSS) that is being formulated by the Defence Planning Committee headed by the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen. Rawat said the draft is being finalised but did not give a timeframe for its completion.
- The National Security Strategy (NSS) is a document prepared periodically by the executive branch of the Government of India which outlines the major national security concerns of the India and how the administration plans to deal with them.
Northern Theater Command
- The Northern Theater Command is one of the five war zones of the People’s Liberation Army.
- It was founded on February 1, 2016; its predecessor is the Shenyang Military Region. Its headquarters is in the Heping District of Shenyang, Liaoning Province.
- The Northern Theater Command shares borders with North Korea, Russia and Mongolia.
-Source: The Hindu
WHO: “AIMING TO ACHIEVE HERD IMMUNITY NATURALLY IS DANGEROUS”
Focus: GS-III Science and Technology
Why in news?
The World Health Organization has condemned the “dangerous” concept of herd immunity for managing the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Details of what WHO said about Herd Immunity
- The concept of herd immunity is generally used for calculating how many people will need to be vaccinated in a population in order to protect those who are not vaccinated.
- Using terms like herd immunity loosely can lead to a very brutal arithmetic which does not put people, life and suffering at the centre of that equation.
- It was mistakenly assumed that as this disease spreads across the world, only the severe cases become apparent while most people would indeed be infected as reflected in sero epidemiology results.
- Greater proportion of people getting infected would mean that the pandemic will be over soon and people can go back to normal business.
- Achieving herd immunity through natural infections has other challenges.
- While antibodies (IgG and IgM) against novel coronavirus generally develop in one–three weeks after infection, some people do not seem to develop a humoral immune response, as reflected by detectable antibodies.
- Reinfection is mightily possible with at least three of the four coronaviruses which cause common cold.
- Finally, they caution about reading too much from antibody testing of the general population to know the extent of virus spread in the community.
-Source: The Hindu