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Indian Express Explained and Editorials 21-22/06/2020

1)TEXTILE SEcTOR AND SELF – RELIANT INDIA

Amid economic crisis due to covid-19 pandemic, the government has embraced ‘self-reliance’ as a development strategy to reboot the Indian economy. It is about tapping India’s inherent strengths to emerge stronger as a nation, economically and in all other aspects.

However, the government should not lose sight of sectors which are already self-reliant and can, with a little help, play a larger role in the global market. The textile sector is one such sector.

Even though Indian textile industry is one of the oldest industries of the Indian economy, it is also a fact that the Indian textiles industry finds it difficult to compete with much smaller global players such as Bangladesh and Vietnam.

It can be corroborated that there are some deep-rooted problems with the sector, and these need to be addressed to see any long-term sustainable revival in the sector. In this context, there is an urgent need to identify some of the challenges and the way forward for the textile sector.

Significance of Textile Sector

  • The sector accounts for 7% of India’s manufacturing output, 2% of GDP, 12% of exports and employs directly and indirectly about 10 crore people.
  • Owing to the abundant supply of raw material and labour, India is-
    • The largest producer of cotton, accounting for 25% of the global output.
    • The world’s second-largest producer of textiles and garments after China.
    • The second-largest producer of man-made fibres — polyester and viscose.
  • Most importantly, in India a strong domestic market is available.

Challenges in Textile Sector

  • Highly fragmented: The Indian textile industry is highly fragmented and is being dominated by the unorganized sector and small and medium industries.
  • Outdated technology: The Indian textile industry has its limitations of access to the latest technology (especially in small-scale industries) and failures to meet global standards in the highly competitive market.
  • Inflexible labour laws: India’s system of labour regulations is rather complex. There are over 200 labour laws, including a quarter of Central Acts.
    • Several labour laws such as the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 put limitations on firm size and not allow manufacturing firms to grow.
  • Tax structure issues: The tax structure GST (Goods and Service Tax) makes the garments expensive and uncompetitive in domestic as well as international markets. Another threat is rising labour wages and workers’ salaries.
  • Stagnant exports: The export from the sector has been stagnating and remained at the $40-billion level for the last six years.
  • Lack of scale: The apparel units in India have an average size of 100 machines which is very less in comparison with Bangladesh, which has on an average of at least 500 machines per factory.
  • Lack of foreign investment: Due to challenges given above the foreign investors are not very enthusiastic about investing in the textile sector which is also one of the areas of concern.
    • Though the sector has witnessed a spurt in investment during the last five years, yet the industry attracted Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of only US$ 3.41 billion from April 2000 to December 2019.

Way Forward

  • Toward an organised sector: India can make the sector organised by setting up mega apparel parks and common infrastructure for the textile industry.
    • This will increase the scale of production and help Indian players to produce faster and at a lower cost with maximum efficiency in operation.
  • Facilitate modernisation of the industry: Focus should be on the modernisation of the obsolete machinery and technology. This can help increase the production and productivity of the textile industry and thereby increase the export also.
    • Programmes such as the National Technical Textiles Mission, Amended Technology Up-gradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS) and Integrated Wool Development Programme (IWDP) should be implemented in the most effective manner.

Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS)

  • The Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme was introduced by the Government in 1999 to facilitate new and appropriate technology for making the textile industry globally competitive and to reduce the capital cost for the textile industry.
  • In 2015, the government approved “Amended Technology Upgradation Fund Scheme (ATUFS)” for technology upgradation of the textiles industry.
  • Attracting Foreign Investments (FDI): The Indian government has come up with a number of export promotion policies for the textiles sector. For example, India has allowed 100% FDI in the Indian textiles sector under the automatic route.
    • To increase the ease of doing business for foreign investors, the single-window clearances and all kinds of resolution mechanisms should be provided.
  • Need for rational labour laws: Several high-level expert panels have recommended to remove limitations on firm size and allow flexibility in hiring and firing.
    • Thus, there is a need for early rationalisation of such labour laws.
  • Increasing export: India also needs to sign trade agreements with developed countries to enhance export opportunities.
    • Such Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) can help gain duty-free access to large textile markets such as the EU, Australia and the UK.

Conclusion

India needs a comprehensive blueprint for the textile sector. Once that is drawn up, the country needs to move into mission mode to achieve it. In this context, the new Textiles Policy 2020 being formulated by the Centre should aim at developing a competitive textile sector which is modern, sustainable and inclusive.

Mains Question:- “A competitive textile sector is modern, sustainable and inclusive.” Discuss the challenges and measures that should be taken to develop such a competitive textile sector in India.

2)Explained: Why International Yoga Day is observed on June 21

Coinciding with the summer solstice, June 21 is observed as International Yoga Day, recognising the many benefits of the ancient Indian practice of yoga. The year 2020 marks the 6th International Yoga Day.

The United Nations theme for this year is “Yoga for Health – Yoga at Home”, which takes into account the social distancing measures announced by most countries.

About YOGA:- The word ‘yoga’ is derived from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolising the union of a person’s body and consciousness.

“Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness,”

In its ‘Common Yoga Protocol’ from 2019, the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) lists Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, Bandhas and Mudras, Satkarmas, Yuktahara, Mantra-japa, Yukta-karma among popular yoga ‘sadhanas’.

3)Explained: The annular solar eclipse and summer solstice, witnessed on June 20, June 21:-

What is the Summer Solstice?:- During the solstice, the Earth’s axis – around which the planet spins, completing one turn each day – is tilted in a way that the North Pole is tipped towards the Sun and the South Pole is away from it.

Typically, this imaginary axis passes right through the middle of the Earth from top to bottom and is always tilted at 23.5 degrees with respect to the Sun. Therefore, the solstice, as NASA puts it, is that instant in time when the North Pole points more directly toward the Sun that at any other time during the year. Solstice means “sun stands still” in Latin.

What is an Annular Solar Eclipse?:- A solar eclipse is witnessed when the moon is aligned between the Sun and Earth, blocking the light received by the Earth from the Sun. An annular solar eclipse, on the other hand, happens when the Moon is the farthest from the Earth, because of which, it looks smaller and does not block the entire view of the Sun creating a “ring of fire” effect.

4) EXPLAINED : What changed in India-Nepal ties?

What has Happened:- Nepal’s Parliament cleared a Constitution Amendment Bill that endorses the country’s new map that includes territories with India — Limpiadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani. 

Nepal Had Great Ties Proof:- According to the accounts of Bishwabandhu Thapa, Home Minister in 1962, King Mahendra “gave the Kalapani location temporarily to India” on Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s request following India’s setback in the war with China. However, this is not in line with India’s official perception. Former Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran wrote in The Indian Express (June 13, 2020), that “both Monarchs Mahendra and Birendra thrived on a diet of anti-Indian nationalism”.

According to Punya Prasad Oli, a former Director General of Nepal’s survey department, King Birendra had asked him not to make an issue of the Kalapani dispute in the 1970s.

When Did the Things Took a U- TURN :-The suspension of the monarchy and its subsequent abolition in 2008, and declaration of Nepal as a secular country, was followed by Nepal’s journey towards federalism. None of these crucial issues was discussed at length in Parliament.

The European Union took a very open stance that secularism will have no meaning without the right to conversion being incorporated as a fundamental right in the new Constitution. This led to resentment among the majority population about this “imposed secularism”. Other radical agenda got overshadowed as the civil-society-new-power axis and international stakeholders simply dismissed these as regressive forces.

China Took Note of that : China, worried about the combined presence of India, US and EU in Nepal and their influence on internal politics, began increasing its presence and investment in Nepal, targeting tourism, post-earthquake reconstruction, trade and energy, with a message that its interest in Nepal is no less than India’s or its allies put together China, worried about the combined presence of India, US and EU in Nepal and their influence on internal politics, began increasing its presence and investment in Nepal, targeting tourism, post-earthquake reconstruction, trade and energy, with a message that its interest in Nepal is no less than India’s or its allies put together.

But again after a long gap, aggressive policies are being pursued in diverse sectors to distance Nepal from India’s sphere of influence.

On 5 August, for example, India abrogated Article 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution whereby Kashmir ceased its special status; it was given the same status on par with other states of India. Most of the countries of the world, except Pakistan and China, supported India’s move on the ground that it was its internal affair. In South Asia itself, countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh and Bhutan immediately supported this move. But Nepal is yet to support this move.

It was not long ago that certain Nepalese leaders advocated for China’s membership in SAARC, though it was not a South Asian country. Nepal government also signed China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2016 to construct railway lines and other roads to ensure further connectivity with China and also to reduce the country’s dependence on India.

Recently, a prominent leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party disapproved of Indo-Pacific Strategy during his meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Kathmandu, though this strategy has India’s backing, apart from Japan, Australia and the USA. And, more than that 200 political leaders of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) were given training by the Chinese on Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping’s Thoughts, which sends several important messages.

A fresh bid is being made under the Citizenship Bill to discourage foreign girls from marrying Nepalese men. Though this rule applies to other foreign girls as well, it is targeted mainly against Indian girls in view of the fact that marriage relations are most common among the border inhabitants of the two countries. Such a step is taken at a time when the cases of marriage relations among the people of the two countries are already on the decline.

It is unfortunate that certain leaders, especially from among the ruling communist party, have also been advocating against citizenship of hundreds and thousands of people in Nepal who have Nepalese citizenship. An impression is wrongly being created that many of such people are Indian. As if this did not suffice, the issue of closing the age-old open border system between Nepal and India is also being raised. Sometime back, an attempt was made by certain quarters to restrict the movement of the people of the two countries at the Birgunj-Raxaul point of the Indo-Nepal border, a move which the border inhabitants had vehemently opposed.

In 2019, the government also made it mandatory for all workers, including the Indians, to have a Permanent Account Number (PAN), which is likely to affect Indian workers and also those Indian business persons in Nepal who are engaged in small businesses in Nepal. Importantly, the Camp Office of Indian Embassy in Biratnagar in eastern Nepal was also closed in 2018. It was in 2008 that this office was opened following the devastating floods that had taken a toll on thousands of people in the Terai region of Nepal and the state of Bihar in India.

The contract of 1200 MW Budhi Gandaki hydro-electric project was re-awarded to Gezhouba Group Company of China in 2018 when it was likely to be awarded to India’s NHPC. Before that the Sher Bahadur Deuba-led government in November 2017 had scrapped the agreement with Gezhouba Group on the ground that its bidding process was not competitive and also that there was no transparency in it.

In July this year, a fresh initiative was made to curb the import of Indian vegetables and fruits on the pretext of conducting pesticide tests. A provision was made for not allowing Indian registered vehicles to stay in Nepal for more than 30 days in a calendar year even on payment of charges. As vehicles in Nepal are very costly, such a provision has badly affected the movement of people from one country to the other.

Early this year in January 2019, the Indian notes above the denomination of Rs.100 were declared illegal in Nepal. Prior to the demonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 banknotes in November 2016 in India, the Nepalese were allowed to hold with them demonetised Indian notes up to Rs.25,000. As a result, the border inhabitants between Nepal and India in particular and the tourists from these countries, in general, are finding it increasingly difficult to travel in each other countries.

Over and above everything, a number of schools in Kathmandu Valley and other parts of the country, have made the teaching of Mandarin language as mandatory, for which financial and technical support is being given by the host country. On the contrary, the teaching of Hindi is opposed, though it is spoken by a substantial section of the Nepalese population both in the hills as well as in the Terai region bordering India.

Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s declaration of ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy in 2014, relations between Nepal and India don’t seem to have improved. This is quite perceptible from the different measures taken by Nepal to erase India’s influence in Nepal. A major rupture in relations between the two countries occurred in 2015 at the time of the making of the constitution, when India unsuccessfully tried to pursue Nepal to amicably address the grievances of Madheshi, Janajati and other disadvantaged groups who constitute a bulk of the Nepalese population. Later on, India tried to fence its differences with the ruling communist party, but that did not prove as effective. Misunderstanding, real or imaginary, persists between the two counties to the advantage of some third party players in Nepal. Therefore, the time has come for both Nepal and India to think seriously about the ways and means of reducing their differences, if any. Otherwise, the growing distance in relations could prove counterproductive to the interests of both the countries.

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