1. India to get semi-high speed freight train
The ‘Gati Shakti’ train will run from December
To tap the growing freight sector in the country, the Railways is aiming to introduce the country’s first semi-high speed freight train by December 2022.
Based on the Vande Bharat platform, the 16-coach ‘Gati Shakti’ train will be able to run at 160 km/hour, and will be manufactured at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai.
“The design work for these trains has already started. We have also given the order for material…By December this year, we will be able to manufacture two of these trains,” ICF General Manager A.K. Agarwal said.
Mr. Agarwal added that the overall target of 25 such trains had been set.
The final number of trains would depend on how the initial trains will be received by market, he said.
Focus on e-commerce
With these trains, the Railways plans to target the e-commerce and courier parcel segment.
Quoting data from IBEF, an ICF official added that with the turnover of $50 billion in 2020, India had become the 8th largest market for e-commerce.
“India’s e-commerce market is expected to reach $111 billion by 2024, $200 billion by 2026 and expected to reach $350 billion by 2030,” the official said.
The official added that the Railways has planned to capture the small size parcel shipments by running dedicated high speed freight trains.
Additionally, each train would have two refrigerated wagons — the first and last cars in the train, to ferry perishable items such as fruits and vegetables.
The Railways is aiming to increase its share in freight transportation from the present 27% to 45% by 2030 through better infrastructure and business development plans, according to the National Rail Plan.
PM Gati Shakti Scheme
The Gati Shakti is a national master plan aimed at the coordinated planning and execution of infrastructure projects in India to reduce logistics costs.
- Gati Shakti is a digital platform that will bring 16 ministries and departments of the Government of India together and that includes the Railways and the Roadways also.
- The idea is to have a coordinated execution of infrastructure connectivity projects across the country.
- It is a Rs.100 lakh-crore project for developing ‘holistic infrastructure’.
- The existing infrastructure schemes under various ministries will be incorporated into this plan, including Sagarmala, Bharatmala, UDAN scheme, inland waterways, etc.
- The master plan will also cover economic zones such as pharmaceutical clusters, textile clusters, defence corridors, industrial corridors, electronic parks, fishing clusters, and agri zones.
- It will also leverage technology extensively including spatial planning tools with ISRO imagery developed by BiSAG-N.
- The master plan will usher in the seamless movement of goods and people all across India.
- PM GatiShakti will provide the public and business community information regarding the upcoming connectivity projects, other business hubs, industrial areas and surrounding environment.
- Gati Shakti raises the possibility of future economic zones as well.
- The program has been launched as an umbrella integrator of ₹111-lakh crore worth of projects under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) for 2020-25.
Six Pillars of Gati Shakti
PM Gati Shakti Significance
The chief aim of the program is to enhance coordination among the various ministries and departments. India has been suffering from poor infrastructure for decades. The infrastructure creation domain had several inherent weaknesses.
- There was a lack of coordination between different departments, for example, once a road was constructed, other agencies dug up the constructed road again for activities like laying of underground cables, gas pipelines, etc.
- This not only caused great inconvenience but was also a wasteful expenditure.
- It will ensure last-mile connectivity by working with all stakeholders.
- Individual ministries and departments often worked in silos leading to poor planning and execution, which ultimately led to delays in the projects. This is where the Gati Shakti program hopes to bring a positive change.
- The digital plan will provide the entire data at one place with GIS-based spatial planning and analytical tools having 200+ layers, enabling better visibility to the executing agency.
- Gati Shakti will help ministries/departments plan cross-sectoral projects better, monitor the implementation, review the progress and make course corrections if necessary since all the information will now be available on the portal through satellite imagery.
- It is important to reduce logistics costs in India which is currently about 13% of GDP (which is quite high) causing decreased competitiveness of Indian exports in the global markets. By planning to close the gap between macro planning and micro implementation, Gati Shakti seeks to reduce the huge logistics costs.
2. AKRUTI to take roots in Kudankulam
Skill development initiative to help unemployed youth turn into entrepreneurs
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited, which is assisting unemployed youth living in 16 village panchayats near the Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS) through its Advanced Knowledge and Rural Technology Implementation (AKRUTI) programme, is all set to launch a similar initiative in the villages surrounding Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP).
The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, the country’s premier multidisciplinary research and development centre under the Department of Atomic Energy, besides identifying newer nuclear power generation techniques, is devising new, user-friendly and cost-effective technologies in the fields of nuclear science, radioisotopes, industry, health and agriculture. These technologies are being taught to the younger generation and the unemployed youth to make them entrepreneurs.
One of the AKRUTI’s interesting technology transfers is the cost-effective foldable dryer, which can be used for drying fruits, vegetables and fish.
The rectangular or triangle-shaped dryer having steel mesh trays is covered with poly sheets to amplify the atmospheric heat to 200%. “If the temperature outside is 30°C, the heat inside the dryer would be 60°C, which dries fruits and vegetables easily to ensure longer shelf-life,” says Ranjit Singh, coordinator, AKRUTI, Boisor.
These foldable solar dryers can also be used for drying fish in a clean and hygienic environment as it has hanging steel wires. Since the KKNPP is surrounded by 13 coastal hamlets, this type of dryer will be a boon to the fishermen.
Site Director, TAPS, Vineet Kumar Sharma, who is also the chairman of AKRUTI, Boisar, says the skill development efforts would benefit the youth.
Advanced Knowledge and Rural Technology Implementation (AKRUTI) Scheme
- The main objective of the scheme is rural development across the nation
- Areas of water, food processing, agriculture and waste management in rural areas are covered under AKRUTI programme
- The scheme aims at empowering villages through implementing different technologies for usage
- This scheme will lead to sustainable growth of the rural sector across the country.
- It aims at encouraging entrepreneurship in rural sector
- Application process is very simple, two separate forms are available for the classification of individuals, woman entrepreneurs, MSMEs, companies, etc
- This Scheme under Department of Atomic Energy, Government of India and implemented by BARC.
Who can join in:
- NGOs which are technically sound and are functioning in rural areas for science and technology-based activities
- Financial institutions, banks, social organisations for providing finance to the NGOs
- State and Central government departments having schemes for rural development.
Scheme Details, AKRUTI Tech Plus and AKRUTI-KRUTIK-FORCE:
- Advanced Knowledge and Rural Technology Implementation (AKRUTI) Scheme is mainly launched for providing information and implementation of technologies in rural areas
- It aims at overall rural development across the nation
- Under this programme, a technology centre called AKRUTI node is set up in every village
- This mechanism will be set up under the guidance of BARC and is implemented through NGOs in every particular village.
- AKRUTI node will park number of BARC developed technologies for use of villagers
- AKRUTI Tech Plus provides more technologies in the fields of water, food processing, agriculture and waste management in rural areas
- Incentives are provided for women entrepreneurs under the plus version
- AKRUTI KRUTIK FORCE has been formulated for BARC, Mumbai
- Working centres are established around AKRUTI node in the villages known as KRUTIK centres
- KRUTIK stands for Knowledge and Rural Technology Implementation Kendra.
- These centres will provide information to the villagers of different villages,
- This mechanism is set up by BARC in discussion with NGOs, National R&D labs, SHGs and Farmers Producer Organizations
- Under new provisions, now technology will be provided to small and medium entrepreneurs (MSMES)
- BARC is licensing the technologies at a fee of Rs. 1250 to 25,000/- with an additional discount of 10% to the women entrepreneurs
- Thus, the scheme helps in implementing several BARC based technologies in rural sector thereby aiming at overall growth and development of the rural sector.
3. New Arunachal monkey named after mountain pass
Sela macaque was identified and analysed by a team from the ZSI and the University of Calcutta
A new species of old world monkey recorded from Arunachal Pradesh has been named after a strategic mountain pass at 13,700 ft above sea level.
Sela macaque (Macaca selai), the new-to-science primate was identified and analysed by a team of experts from the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) and the University of Calcutta. Their study has been published in the latest edition of Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.
Phylogenetics relate to the evolutionary development and diversification of a species or group of organisms.
The phylogenetic analysis revealed that the Sela macaque was geographically separated from the Arunachal macaque (Macaca munzala) of Tawang district by Sela. This mountain pass acted as a barrier by restricting the migration of individuals of these two species for approximately two million years, the study said.
Sela is situated between Dirang and Tawang towns in western Arunachal Pradesh.
“We found the new macaque species in western and central Arunachal Pradesh while exploring the Arunachal macaque’s wild population for genetic insights. It was found to be genetically different from the other species of monkeys reported from this region,” ZSI’s Mukesh Thakur, one of the authors of the study said.
Major cause for crop loss
The study describes the Sela macaque as genetically closer to the Arunachal macaque. The two have some similar physical characteristics such as heavy-build shape and long dorsal body hair.
The zoologists identified some distinct morphological traits to differentiate the two species. While the Sela macaque has a pale face and brown coat, the Arunachal macaque has a dark face and dark brown coat.
“According to the villagers, the Sela macaque is a major cause of crop loss in the West Kameng district of the State,” Mr. Thakur said.
The study says the Sela macaque has a tail longer than the Tibetan macaque, Assamese macaque, Arunachal macaque and the white-cheeked macaque but shorter than the bonnet macaque and toque macaque. Sela macaque belongs to the sinica species-group of Macaca, but it differs from all other members of thisgroup through attributes such as brown collar hair and muzzle, and the absence of chin whiskers, the study says.
Zoological Survey of India (ZSI)
The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) was launched in 1916 to promote survey, exploration, and research to enhance the knowledge regarding the flora and fauna of the British Indian Empire. It is India’s apex organization on animal taxonomy.
- It originated as a Zoological Section of the Indian Museum in Kolkata.
- Initially, the ZSI had eight regional centers across India. Currently, there are 16 regional centers spread across the country.
- The headquarters is in Kolkata.
- It has been declared as a designated repository for the National Zoological Collection as per Section 39 of the National Biodiversity Act, 2002.
The ZSI has contributed significantly to knowledge and research on the fauna of the country. The primary objectives of the ZSI are:
- To promote the survey, exploration, research, and documentation on various aspects of animal taxonomy in the Indian subcontinent. It also seeks the advancement of knowledge on animal taxonomy.
- Make a status survey of the threatened and endemic species.
- Preparation of Red Data Book, Fauna of India, and Fauna of States.
- Bio-ecological studies on important communities/species.
- Preparation of database for the recorded species of the country.
- Maintenance and Development of National Zoological Collections.
The activities of the ZSI are coordinated by the Conservation and Survey Division under the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change. Its functions are as follows:
- ZSI publishes the Red Data Book on Indian Animals. It was first published in 1983 and is similar to the Red Data Book published by IUCN.
- Publication of results including Fauna of India, Fauna of States, and Fauna of Conservation Areas.
- Training, Capacity Building, and Human Resource Development of the people involved.
- Geographic Information System (GIS) and Remote Sensing studies on recorded animal diversity as well as on threatened species.
- It works for the development of Environmental Information System (ENVIS) and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Centers.
- CITES is a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals.
- Conducts collaborative research programs on “Biodiversity” with other organizations in India and abroad.
4. BRICS group may soon begin expansion process, says China
Foreign Ministers have reached consensus on the process
The Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping may for the first time begin an expansion process to include new developing country members, the Chinese government said on Friday.
China, which is the BRICS chair for this year, said the recently held meeting of BRICS Foreign Ministers “reached consensus on the BRICS expansion process”.
“China will work on BRICS-related parties to continue to have in-depth discussions on BRICS expansion and determine the standards and procedures for that on the basis of consensus. We look forward to more like-minded partners joining the big family of BRICS,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said. The May 19 BRICS Foreign Ministers’ virtual meeting this year also invited Foreign Ministers of Argentina, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Nigeria, Senegal and Thailand to attend.
Both China and Russia have backed BRICS expansion, seeing the grouping as a useful platform to broaden their voice amid their tensions with the West.
“Facing the once-in-a-century changes and pandemic which are compounded by international hotspot issues,” Mr. Wang said, “BRICS countries agree that it is important to enhance cooperation with other emerging markets and developing countries, further improve the representation of BRICS, make BRICS’ voice in major international and regional issues more widely heard, join hands to meet challenges, and uphold the common interests and development space of emerging markets and developing countries.”
Argentina, Indonesia and Egypt are among countries that have previously indicated their interest in joining the grouping. The “BRICS Plus” format was launched as a way for the five countries to broaden their outreach with other developing countries. The BRICS-backed New Development Bank (NDB), based in Shanghai, has already inducted new members, with Bangladesh and the UAE joining last year, and Egypt and Uruguay approved to join the financial institution.
- BRICS is an acronym for the grouping of the world’s leading emerging economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
- The BRICS Leaders’ Summit is convened annually.
- BRICS does not exist in form of organization, but it is an annual summit between the supreme leaders of five nations.
- The Chairmanship of the forum is rotated annually among the members, in accordance with the acronym B-R-I-C-S.
- BRICS cooperation in the past decade has expanded to include an annual programme of over 100 sectoral meetings.
- Together, BRICS accounts for about 40% of the world’s population and about 30% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), making it a critical economic engine.
- It’s an emerging investment market and global power bloc.
- The acronym “BRICS” was initially formulated in 2001 by economist Jim O’Neill, of Goldman Sachs, in a report on growth prospects for the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China – which together represented a significant share of the world’s production and population.
- In 2006, the four countries initiated a regular informal diplomatic coordination, with annual meetings of Foreign Ministers at the margins of the General Debate of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
- This successful interaction led to the decision that the dialogue was to be carried out at the level of Heads of State and Government in annual Summits.
- The first BRIC Summit took place in 2009 in the Russian Federation and focused on issues such as reform of the global financial architecture.
- South Africa was invited to join BRIC in December 2010, after which the group adopted the acronym BRICS. South Africa subsequently attended the Third BRICS Summit in Sanya, China, in March 2011.
- The BRICS seeks to deepen, broaden and intensify cooperation within the grouping and among the individual countries for more sustainable, equitable and mutually beneficial development.
- BRICS takes into consideration each member’s growth, development and poverty objectives to ensure relations are built on the respective country’s economic strengths and to avoid competition where possible.
- BRICS is emerging as a new and promising political-diplomatic entity with diverse objectives, far beyond the original objective of reforming global financial institutions.
Areas of Cooperation
I. Economic Cooperation
- There are rapidly growing trade and investment flows between BRICS countries as well as economic cooperation activities across a range of sectors.
- Agreements have been concluded in the areas of Economic and Trade Cooperation; Innovation Cooperation, Customs Cooperation; strategic cooperation between the BRICS Business Council , Contingent Reserve Agreement and the New Development Bank.
- These agreements contribute to realisation of the shared objectives of deepening economic cooperation and fostering integrated trade and investment markets.
II. People-to-People exchange
- BRICS members have recognised the need for strengthening People-to-People exchanges and to foster closer cooperation in the areas of culture, sport, education, film and youth.
- People-to-People exchanges seek to forge new friendships; deepen relations and mutual understanding between BRICS peoples in the spirit of openness, inclusiveness, diversity and mutual learning.
- Such People to people exchanges include the Young Diplomats Forum, Parliamentarian Forum, Trade Union Forum, Civil BRICS as well as the Media Forum.
III. Political and Security Cooperation
- BRICS member political and security cooperation is aimed at achieving peace, security, development and cooperation for a more equitable and fair world.
- BRICS provides opportunities for sharing policy advice and exchanges of best practices in terms of domestic and regional challenges as well as advancing the restructuring of the global political architecture so that it is more balanced, resting on the pillar of multilateralism.
- BRICS is utilised as a driver for South Africa’s foreign policy priorities including the pursuit of the African Agenda and South-South Cooperation.
IV. Cooperation Mechanism
Cooperation among members is achieved through:
- Track I: Formal diplomatic engagement between the national governments.
- Track II: Engagement through government-affiliated institutions, e.g. state-owned enterprises and business councils.
- Track III: Civil society and People-to-People engagement.
Impacts of BRICS on global institutional reforms
- The main reason for co-operation to start among the BRICs nation was the financial crises of 2008. The crises raised doubts over sustainability of the dollar-dominated monetary system.
- The BRICs called for the “the reform of multilateral institutions in order that they reflect the structural changes in the world economy and the increasingly central role that emerging markets now play”.
- BRICs managed to push for institutional reform which led to International Monetary Fund (IMF) quota reform in 2010. Thus the financial crises had momentarily reduced western legitimacy and briefly let the BRICs countries become “agenda setters” in multilateral institutions.
New Development Bank
- NDB is headquartered in Shanghai.
- At the Fourth BRICS Summit in New Delhi (2012) the possibility of setting up a new Development Bank was considered to mobilize resources for infrastructure and sustainable development projects in BRICS and other emerging economies, as well as in developing countries.
- During the Sixth BRICS Summit in Fortaleza (2014) the leaders signed the Agreement establishing the New Development Bank (NDB).
- Fortaleza Declaration stressed that the NDB will strengthen cooperation among BRICS and will supplement the efforts of multilateral and regional financial institutions for global development thus contributing to sustainable and balanced growth.
- NDB’s key areas of operation are clean energy, transport infrastructure, irrigation, sustainable urban development and economic cooperation among the member countries.
- The NDB functions on a consultative mechanism among the BRICS members with all the member countries possessing equal rights.
Contingent Reserve Arrangement
- Considering the increasing instances of global financial crisis, BRICS nations signed BRICS Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) in 2014 as part of Fortaleza Declaration at Sixth BRICS summit.
- The BRICS CRA aims to provide short-term liquidity support to the members through currency swaps to help mitigating BOP crisis situation and further strengthen financial stability.
- The initial total committed resources of the CRA shall be one hundred billion dollars of the United States of America (USD 100 billion).
- It would also contribute to strengthening the global financial safety net and complement existing international arrangements (IMF).