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Here are the topics covered for 14th November 2023:
GS-2: India and the Netherlands
GS-3:New Crustacean Parasites, Belar Machine, Border Roads Organization (BRO)
Facts for Prelims:Non-Banking Financial Companies, INS Sumedha
India and Netherlands
Recent diplomatic activities between India and the Netherlands have strengthened their collaborative efforts in various domains focusing on cooperation in Medical Product Regulation. This move aligns with the broader engagement between the two nations, reflecting a commitment to enhancing healthcare services and medical product quality
About the Netherlands:
- Geographical Context: The Netherlands shares borders with Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest.
- Political Structure: The country operates as a Constitutional Monarchy with a parliamentary system, with Amsterdam as the official capital and The Hague as the seat of government.
- Major Rivers: Rhine, Meuse, and Scheldt contribute to the geographical features of the Netherlands.
India-Netherlands Relations Overview:
- Diplomatic Ties: Established in 1947, diplomatic relations between India and the Netherlands celebrate 75 years in 2022. The partnership has evolved to encompass strong political, economic, and commercial dimensions.
- Trade and Investment: The Netherlands stands as India’s 4th largest trading partner in Europe and the 4th largest investor. Bilateral trade reached a record USD 27.58 billion in 2022-23, with cumulative FDI inflows amounting to USD 43.75 billion.
- Exports from India: Key items exported to the Netherlands include petroleum products, telecom instruments, aluminium products, electronic instruments, iron, and steel.
- Recent Developments: A Fast-Track Mechanism (FTM) was established to facilitate Dutch investments in India. This mechanism, formalized in a joint statement, reflects a commitment to expediting economic collaborations.
Science & Technology Collaboration:
- The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research collaborates with various Indian government departments, fostering projects like “Local Treatment of Urban Sewage Streams for Healthy Reuse (LOTUS-HR).”
Water Management and Agriculture Cooperation:
- Initiatives such as the Dutch Indo Water Alliance Leadership Initiative (DIWALI) and the Joint Agriculture Working Group (JAWG) underscore collaborative efforts in addressing water challenges and enhancing agricultural practices.
- Memorandum of Intent (MoI): The recent MoI on Medical Product Regulation indicates a shared commitment to elevating healthcare standards in both countries.
- Previous Cooperation: A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Cooperation in Healthcare and Public Health, signed in 2014, underlines joint efforts in addressing emerging health challenges.
- The longstanding relations between India and the Netherlands, rooted in shared values, pluralism, and the rule of law, have evolved into a multifaceted partnership.
- The recent initiatives in trade, science and technology, water management, agriculture, and healthcare exemplify the depth of collaboration between the two nations.
- As they work together to overcome global challenges, the bilateral ties continue to strengthen, reflecting a commitment to mutual growth and progress.
New Crustacean Parasites
- A recent biodiversity study conducted by the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, University of Kerala, in collaboration with the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, National University of Singapore, has revealed significant discoveries in the realm of deep-sea crustaceans off the Indian coast.
- The research, deemed groundbreaking, has led to the identification of a new family, two new genera, and four new species of millimetre-sized crustacean parasites.
About the Discoveries:
- New Family – Uranoscopicolaidae: This family, named Uranoscopicolaidae, represents a parasitic copepod found living off the Dollfus’ Stargazer, a fish residing at depths ranging from 300-550 meters off the southwest Indian coast. This marks the first discovery and description of a new crustacean family from India.
- Genus and Species – Hirodai Ohtsukai: The discovery of the Uranoscopicolaidae family has led to the creation of a new genus and species, Hirodai Ohtsukai, found off Colachel, Tamil Nadu. These parasitic copepods infest a variety of hosts, with a focus on fishes, and their discovery sheds light on the critical role of deep-sea crustaceans in marine biodiversity and ecological dynamics.
- Genus and Species – Glyptothoa Sagara: Another significant finding is the discovery of a new genus and isopod species, Glyptothoa Sagara, found in the deep-sea fish Glyptophidium Macropus. The name ‘Glypto’ refers to the fish parasite, and ‘sagara’ signifies ocean.
- Species – Elthusa Aquabio: A new isopod crustacean parasite species, named Elthusa Aquabio, was discovered, and its nomenclature honours the contributions of the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, Kerala University, in taxonomic research, particularly on parasitic crustaceans.
- Species – Cardiodectes Vampire: The fourth discovery is a flesh-penetrating parasitic copepod, Cardiodectes Vampire, found infesting the deep-sea fish Chlorophthalmus Corniger. Its unique features include a translucent red colour, and the name pays homage to its blood-feeding behaviour.
Importance and way forward:
- Ecological Understanding: These discoveries emphasize the importance of studying deep-sea crustaceans in shaping marine biodiversity and ecological dynamics. Further research in this area will contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of the marine ecosystem.
- Conservation Implications: The newfound species and their host relationships highlight the delicate balance within marine ecosystems. Conservation efforts should consider the impact of human activities on these habitats to preserve the newly discovered species and their environments.
- International Collaboration: Collaborative efforts with international institutions, such as the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum and Hiroshima University, showcase the global significance of India’s marine biodiversity research. Continued collaboration can lead to more discoveries and a deeper understanding of our oceans.
- The issue of farm fires has reached the forefront, drawing attention from the Supreme Court. In response, the demand for the Belar machine, designed for ex-situ (off-site) stubble management, has surged in Punjab and neighbouring regions.
Crop Residue Management (CRM) Scheme:
- Overview: Launched under the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, the CRM Scheme is a Central Sector Scheme aimed at mitigating stubble burning by providing assistance to farmers and related organisations.
- Financial Assistance: Farmers receive 50% financial assistance for the purchase of crop residue management machinery. Cooperative Societies, Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs), and Panchayats receive 80% assistance for establishing Custom Hiring Centres (CHCs).
- Supported Machines: The scheme covers various machines, including balers, designed to manage crop residues effectively.
- Definition: Balers play a crucial role in stubble compression, acting as hydraulic presses to compact crop residues into dense, manageable packages. These compressed stubbles are securely bound using twine, wire, or strapping.
- Process: Before using a baler machine, farmers cut the crop residue with a tractor-mounted cutter. Subsequently, a tractor-mounted baler machine compresses the stubble into compact bales using netting.
- Significance: Balers contribute to environmental preservation by eliminating the need for crop stubble burning, thereby reducing air pollution and soil degradation. They also enhance resource efficiency, and economic gain, and provide an eco-friendly alternative to burning stubble.
Issues with Balers:
- High Input Cost: The affordability of baler machines is a significant challenge, with a single unit costing around Rs 14.5 lakh without subsidies.
- Affordability Concerns: Despite inclusion in the Crop Residue Management scheme, no baler units were sold in the first two years, highlighting affordability issues.
- Insufficient Availability: Punjab faces a shortage of baler machines, with only 15-18% of the rice field area covered. One baler can cover a limited acreage in a day, creating challenges in achieving comprehensive stubble management.
- Stubble burning is a method of removing paddy crop residues from fields to sow wheat, typically occurring from the last week of September to November.
- It involves setting fire to the straw stubble left after harvesting grains like paddy and wheat, especially in areas using the combined harvesting method.
Alternative Stubble Management Methods:
- In-situ Treatment: Utilizing zero-tiller machines and bio-decomposers for on-site stubble management.
- Technological Solutions: Turbo Happy Seeder (THS) machines, capable of uprooting stubble and sowing seeds, provide an innovative approach. The stubble can then be used as mulch for the field.
- While baler machines, especially those like Belar, offer a promising solution to stubble management, challenges such as high costs and limited availability need addressing.
- The integration of technological alternatives and sustained government support through schemes like CRM can pave the way for more effective and widespread stubble management, contributing to environmental sustainability in agriculture.
Border Roads Organization (BRO)
- The Border Roads Organization (BRO) stands as a crucial entity in India, functioning as a specialized force dedicated to road construction. Primarily aligned with supporting the Indian Armed Forces, the BRO plays a pivotal role in developing and maintaining road networks in strategically vital border regions.
Scope of Operations:
- Geographical Coverage: The BRO’s operational footprint extends across 19 states, and three union territories (including Andaman and Nicobar Islands), and reaches into neighbouring countries such as Afghanistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, Tajikistan, and Sri Lanka.
- Infrastructure Responsibilities: Apart from road construction, the BRO is tasked with the maintenance of the infrastructure it develops. This includes crucial operations like snow clearance, vital for keeping these strategic routes accessible.
Key Functions of the BRO:
- Road Development: One of the primary functions of the BRO is the construction and enhancement of road networks in border areas. This not only facilitates military mobility but also contributes to the socio-economic development of these regions.
- Strategic Importance: The BRO holds strategic significance in the context of national security, with a focus on ensuring connectivity in remote and challenging terrains, crucial for military logistics.
India-China Border Roads:
- The BRO plays a pivotal role in upgrading and constructing key roads along the India-China border. These roads are of paramount importance in maintaining India’s territorial integrity and responding effectively to any strategic challenges in the region.
General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF):
- The officers and personnel forming the backbone of the BRO come from the General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF). GREF serves as the parent cadre, providing skilled manpower for the specialized tasks undertaken by the BRO.
Recent Developments and Accessibility to Amarnath:
- The BRO has made significant strides in improving connectivity, making it possible to travel to Amarnath by car. This development not only showcases the engineering prowess of the BRO but also enhances pilgrimage and tourism to significant religious sites.
- The Border Roads Organization, through its dedicated efforts in road construction and maintenance, emerges as a critical force ensuring strategic and socio-economic connectivity in challenging terrains.
- As seen in the recent announcement regarding access to Amarnath by car, the BRO continues to play a vital role in enhancing accessibility and infrastructure development, contributing to national security and regional development alike.
Fact for Prelims :
Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs)
- Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) are entities registered under the Companies Act, of 1956, engaging in a variety of financial activities, including loans, securities investments, leasing, and insurance. NBFCs differ from institutions primarily involved in agriculture, industry, goods trading, services, or immovable property trading. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) regulates and supervises NBFCs, as granted by the RBI Act, 1934.
Criteria for NBFC Registration:
- Financial Asset Focus: Companies with over 50% of assets as financial assets.
- Income Source: Entities with over 50% of income derived from financial assets.
Exemptions from RBI Registration:
- Under Section 45-IA of the RBI Act, 1934, an NBFC must obtain an RBI registration certificate and maintain Net Owned Funds of ₹25 lakhs (raised to ₹Two crore since April 1999). However, certain NBFC categories, regulated by other authorities like SEBI-registered Venture Capital Funds, Merchant Banking, and Stockbroking companies, are exempt from RBI registration.
Difference from Banks:
- Deposit Acceptance: Unlike banks, NBFCs cannot accept demand deposits from the public.
- Payment and Settlement System: NBFCs are not part of the payment and settlement system, and they cannot issue cheques drawn on themselves, a feature common in banks.
- Deposit Insurance Facility: Unlike banks, the deposit insurance facility provided by institutions like the Deposit Insurance and Credit Guarantee Corporation is not available to NBFC depositors. This facility protects bank depositors in case of bank failures, but NBFC depositors do not enjoy the same protection.
- Funding: NBFCs primarily fund their operations through a combination of market borrowing and bank loans. This diverse funding approach enables NBFCs to support their financial activities and contribute to the broader financial landscape.
- INS Sumedha (P58) is the third Saryu-class patrol vessel of the Indian Navy, designed and constructed indigenously by the Goa Shipyard Limited. It is designed to undertake fleet support operations, coastal and offshore patrolling, ocean surveillance and monitoring of sea lines of communications and offshore assets and escort duties.
- Length: 105 m, Breadth: 12.5 m
- Displacement: 2,140 t
- Speed: 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph)
- Range: 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km; 9,300 mi)
- 76-mm SRGM (Super Rapid Gun Mount)
- Close-in weapon system (CIWS)
- CHAFF launchers
- It is capable of Fleet support operations, Coastal and offshore patrolling, Ocean surveillance, Monitoring of sea lines of communications and offshore assets, Escort duties, Search and rescue operations, Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), and Anti-piracy operations.
- INS Sumedha has been deployed to various parts of the Indian Ocean, including the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Persian Gulf. It has also participated in various exercises, including the Malabar exercise with the US Navy.