Current Affairs – February 2017

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Pests eat away India’s 35% of total crop yield: ICAR scientist

According to Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) scientist, pests eat away about 30-35% of the annual crop yield in India.

Such large-scale crop-loss is having an adverse effect on the agricultural biosafety which is paramount to food security of the country. 

Key Facts
  • Among such pests, nematodes (microscopic worms many of which are parasites) have emerged as a major threat to crops in the country. They have caused loss of 60 million tonnes of crops annually.
  • They are causing loss of crops to the tune of almost 60 million tonnes or 10-12 % of crop production every year. Indian farmers are still not fully aware about these potential crop-destroyers.
  • In the past particular kind of nematode had affected plants such as potatoes and tomatoes in India. The Potato Cyst Nematode was first discovered in Nilgiris and now has spread to various parts of the country.
What are Nematodes?
  • Nematodes are microscopic worms many of which are parasites consisting of roundworms, threadworms and eelworms.
  • They have successfully adapted to nearly every ecosystem from marine (salt or brackish water) to fresh water, to soils, and from the tropics to the harsh polar regions, as well as the highest to the lowest of elevations.
  • Depending on the species, a nematode may be beneficial or detrimental to plant health. The predatory nematodes breed by soaking a specific recipe of leaves and other detritus in water.
  • Crop rotation of agricultural plants with nematode-resistant species or varieties is one of the simplest way of managing parasitic infestations of nematodes.

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India, ADB ink $375 million loan pact for East Coast Economic Corridor

India and Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed $375 million pact for loans and grants to develop 800 km Visakhapatnam-Chennai Industrial Corridor.

It is the first phase of a planned 2,500-km East Coast Economic Corridor. Earlier in September 2016, ADB had approved $631 million in loans and grants for the industrial corridor.

Key Facts
  • The loans comprises $500 million multitranche facility to build key infrastructure in the four main centres along the corridor — Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Amaravati, and Srikalahasti (Yerpedu) in Andhra Pradesh.
  • The first tranche of $245 million will finance subprojects to develop high-quality internal infrastructure in 2 of the 4 nodes of the corridor — Visakhapatnam and Yerpedu—Srikalahasti.
  • It also has $125 million policy-based loan that will be used for capacity development of institutions engaged in corridor management.
  • It will also provide support to enhance ease of doing business and for supporting industrial and sector policies to stimulate industrial development. 

About East Coast Economic Corridor (ECEC)

  • ECEC is India’s first coastal economic corridor along eastern coast. It stretches about 2,500 kms from Kolkata (West Bengal) in the north to Kanyakumari (Tamil Nadu) in the south.
  • It will connect long eastern coastline and strategically located ports with the multiple international gateways to connect India with global value chains (GVCs) in East and Southeast Asia.
  • It supports Union Government’s flagship Make in India campaign, which aims to boost manufacturing by attracting foreign investment and facilitating the establishment of manufacturing hubs.
  • ECEC also aligns with port-led industrialisation under Sagarmala initiative and Act East Policy by linking domestic companies with vibrant global production networks of East and Southeast Asia.

ADB: It is Manila based regional development bank. It was established in 1966 and is owned by 67 members of which 48 are from the Asian region.

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India, Germany ratify 2011 Pact on Social Security Investment

India and Germany have ratified a comprehensive Social Security Agreement (SSA) to improve investment flows between the two countries.

The agreement was signed in October 2011 and its instruments of ratification were exchanged in February 2017. It will come into force from May 1, 2017.

Key Facts
  • The SSA establishes the rights and obligations of nationals of both countries and provides for equal treatment and unrestricted payment of pensions even in case of residence in the other contracting state.
  • It also integrate the provisions of the 2008 social insurance pact and is expected to reduce the operational costs of companies on both countries active in either of the countries.
  • Under it, requirements to be entitled to pension can be met by aggregating periods of insurance completed in India and Germany, whereby each country only pays pension for insurance periods covered by its laws.
  • This comprehensive SSA will favorably impact the profitability and competitive position of Indian and German companies with foreign by reducing their cost of doing business abroad. It will also help promote more investment flows between the two countries.
Background

India and Germany had earlier signed an Agreement on Social Insurance in October 2008. It exempted detached workers of the two countries from making social security contributions in either countries as long as they were making such contributions in their respective countries. Later, both countries, negotiated for a wider encompassing SSA including totalisation of benefits and was signed in October 2011. So far, India has signed and operationalised similar agreements with 18 countries, including Australia, Canada, France, South Korea, Belgium and Japan

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