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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Africa

Fortifying the African outreach: Contrast in the approach adopted by China and India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : e-ITEC COVID-19 Management Strategies Training Webinar

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Africa relation

As both India and China try and vie for increasing the influence in the African continent, the difference in the approach they adopted become evident. Both countries have been providing assistance in Africa amid the COVID pandemic. This article analyses the difference in the approach of the two countries.

Impact of covid pandemic in Africa

  • Although African countries moved quickly to curb the initial spread, they are still woefully ill-equipped to cope with a public health emergency.
  • They are facing shortages of masks, ventilators, and even basic necessities such as soap and water.
  • Such conditions have meant that Africa’s cycle of chronic external aid dependence continues.
  • Africa needs medical protective equipment and gear to support its front line public health workers.
  • India and China have increased their outreach to Africa through medical assistance.
  • Their efforts are directed to fill a part of the growing African need at a time when not many others have stepped in to help.

China’s donation diplomacy in Africa

  • China, being Africa’s largest trading partner, was quick to signal its intent to help Africa cope with the pandemic.
  • It despatched medical protective equipment, testing kits, ventilators, and medical masks to several African countries.
  • The primary motive of such donations has been to raise Beijing’s profile as a leading provider of humanitarian assistance and “public goods” in the global public health sector.
  • China’s billionaire philanthropy was also in full display when tech founder Jack Ma donated three rounds of anti-coronavirus supplies.
  • Chinese embassies across Africa have taken the lead by coordinating both public and private donations to local stakeholders.
  • However, the sub-optimal quality of China’s medical supplies and its deputing of medical experts have been a major cause for concern.

Let’s understand the objectives of China’s donation diplomacy

  • Beijing’s ‘donation diplomacy’ in Africa aims to achieve three immediate objectives:
  • 1) Shift the focus away from talking about the origins of the virus in Wuhan.
  • 2) Build goodwill overseas.
  • 3) Establish an image makeover.
  • For the most part, it succeeded in achieving these ends until China faced widespread backlash over the ill-treatment of African nationals in Guangzhou city.
  • The issue quickly grew into a full-blown political crisis for Beijing.

Let’s analyse the depth of China’s political influence in Africa

  • For the most part, China has been successful in controlling the Guangzhou narrative due to the depth of its political influence in Africa.
  • It is no secret that China relies heavily on diplomatic support and cooperation from African countries on key issues in multilateral fora.
  • For example, Beijing used African support for securing a win for Chinese candidates as the head of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and in the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • On Africa’s part, the problem lies in the deep disjuncture and credibility gap between Africa’s governing class, the people, the media and civil society.
  • Even when criticisms have been levelled against Chinese indiscretions, it has hardly ever surfaced at the elite level.
  • Overall, China’s donation diplomacy towards Africa during COVID-19 has received mixed reactions, but Beijing’s advantage lies in its economic heft and political influence in Africa.

Understanding India’s diplomacy in Africa: Responsible and reliable global stakeholder

  • For India, the pandemic presents an opportunity to demonstrate its willingness and capacity to shoulder more responsibility.
  • The fact that even with limited resources, India can fight the virus at home while reaching out to developing countries in need is testament to India’s status as a responsible and reliable global stakeholder.
  • Nowhere has India’s developmental outreach been more evident than in Africa with the continent occupying a central place in Indian government’s foreign and economic policy in the last six years.
  • Africa has been the focus of India’s development assistance and also diplomatic outreach, as evident in plans to open 18 new embassies.
  • These efforts have been supplemented by an improved record of Indian project implementation in Africa.

Trade ties and cooperation amid pandemic

  • India’s role as ‘the pharmacy of the world’, as the supplier of low-cost, generic medicines is widely acknowledged.
  • Pharmaceutical products along with refined petroleum products account for 40% of India’s total exports to African markets.
  • India is sending consignments of essential medicines, including hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and paracetamol, to 25 African countries in addition to doctors and paramedics at a total cost of around ₹600 million ($7.9 million) on a commercial and grant basis.
  • The initial beneficiaries were the African Indian Ocean island nations of Mauritius, the Seychelles, Comoros, and Madagascar under India’s ‘Mission Sagar’.
  • While transportation and logistics remain a concern, most of the consignments have already reached various African states.
  • A timely initiative has been the e-ITEC COVID-19 management strategies training webinars exclusively aimed at training health-care professionals from Africa and the SAARC nations and sharing of best practices by Indian health experts.
  • Nigeria, Kenya, Mauritius, and Namibia have been beneficiaries.
  • Across Africa, there is a keen interest to understand the developments and best practices in India because the two share similar socioeconomic and developmental challenges.
  • There is also growing interest in research and development in drugs and vaccines.
  • A few African countries such as Mauritius are pushing for health-care partnerships in traditional medicines and Ayurveda for boosting immunity.
  • The Indian community, especially in East African countries, has also been playing a crucial role in helping spread awareness.
  • Prominent Indian businessmen and companies in Nigeria and Kenya have donated money to the respective national emergency response funds.
  • Country-specific chapters of gurdwaras and temples have fed thousands of families by setting up community kitchens, helplines for seniors and distributing disinfectants and sanitisers.

The contrast between approaches adopted by India and China

  • Both India and China, through their respective health and donation diplomacy, are vying to carve a space and position for themselves as reliable partners of Africa in its time of need.
  • Burnishing their credentials as humanitarian champions is the name of the game.
  • But there are significant differences in the approaches.
  • For China, three aspects are critical:
  • 1) Money, political influence and elite level wealth creation.
  • 2) Strong state-to-state relations as opposed to people-to-people ties.
  • 3) Hard-infrastructure projects and resource extraction.
  • India’s approach, on the other hand, is one that focuses on building local capacities and an equal partnership with Africans and not merely with African elites concerned.

Consider the question “Both India and China have been playing an active role in the African continent and vying for the outreach there. But there is a fundamental difference in their approach. Comment.”

Conclusion

As these two powers rise in Africa, their two distinct models will come under even greater scrutiny. And both New Delhi and Beijing might find that they need to adapt to the rising aspirations of the African continent.

Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

Problem of interest rate differential in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Policy rates

Mains level : Paper 3- Why interest differential could be a problem?

Do you remember Operation Twist by the RBI? what was being twisted there? It was the yield curve that was sought to be twisted. It had been aimed at reducing the gap between long term interest rates and short term policy rates. This article explains the impact such gap could have on the economy.

Why long term loans come with a higher interest rate?

  • Long term loans equate to long repayment periods.
  • More uncertainty during these long periods can translate to higher risks.
  • And to compensate for the high risks involved, banks quote higher interest rates when corporates borrow from them to build and operate stuff.
  • However, when banks borrow from the RBI they are borrowing over short intervals.
  • And so they get charged lower interest rates.

So, why banks are keeping interest rates high despite borrowing at low rates from the RBI?

  • Ever so often, the RBI cuts rates in the hopes of making loans more accessible to banks.
  • They are hoping banks will also extend this benevolence to their customers by cutting long term interest rates.
  • But right now, banks are scared.
  • They don’t think the corporates can pay back.
  • So they are keeping long term rates at elevated levels despite borrowing at consistently low rates from the RBI.

What happens when gap between long-term and short term interest rates widen?

  •  Capital wasn’t cheap to begin with for corporate borrowers, and it’s getting more expensive.
  • This comes just as migrant rural workers have been driven out of urban production centers because of shuttered factories.
  • Even if this labor is safely put back on, say, road construction, concessionaires [think private road contractors] might still go bankrupt before completing any projects.
  • That’s because their annuity payments from the government are linked to falling short-term policy rates, whereas their long-term borrowing costs are both high and sticky

To understand the issue of annuity payment and its relation with interest rates, let’s dig deeper into 3 types of models-

1. Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Model

  • So, NHAI is the National Highways Authority of India and is largely responsible for building and maintaining roads.
  • Its preferred method to get the job done is to deploy what is called the BOT model.
  • The Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model, as the name suggests is a way for NHAI to offload its responsibilities of road building to private contractors.
  • Under BOT model, private contractors build the road, operate it, make money off of collecting toll, and after about 10–15 years, they hand over the road back to NHAI.
  • There aren’t enough private contractors willing to bid for such projects because — hey, maintaining and operating a road is a pain.
  • Why pain?  You have to wait 15 years to recoup all the money you had to pour in to build the damn thing. That’s the pain.

2. Engineering, procurement and Construction (EPC) model

  • Under the EPC (Engineering, Procurement & Construction) model, NHAI pays private contractors first, so that they can help NHAI build the road.
  • The contractor does not operate or collect tolls here.
  • Instead, it can walk away scot-free with money in its coffers once it’s done building the road.
  • But it’s hard for the government to shore up all the resources required upfront.

3. Hybrid Annuity Model (HAM)- The middle path

  •  It’s a nice little mix of both EPC and BOT.
  • Under it, NHAI pays some money upfront in fixed installments usually, 40% of the project cost.
  • And the private contractor does his bit by putting up the rest and finishing the project.
  • However, once the construction is complete, the contractor does not make money off of collecting toll.
  • Instead, he transfers the assets over to NHAI.
  • So its incumbent on the government to pay the rest of the money once the project takes off.
  • And the payments are dependent on the asset created, the performance of the developer, and a few other things.
  • However, since the payouts usually last 15–20 years we need to find a way to determine what kind of money the government pays the contractor every 6 months.
  • And here’s the best way to think about this — So when the government pays the 40% upfront, it’s promising to pay the 60% sometime in the future.
  • It’s money they owe the contractor.

And, here is the crux of the matter

  • So when the repayments, are made, they’ll have to pay the principal and the interest.
  • The interest involves a fixed component (3%) and a variable component.
  • What is varible component? The variable component is effectively the short term policy rates.
  • So if the RBI keeps cutting these short term rates, private contractors get less money per instalment even if their roads are all nice and shiny.
  • And this can’t bode well for them because they probably put up the 60% back in the day by borrowing from another bank.
  • A bank that’s charging them long term interest rates that refuse to come down.

Conclusion

The widening gap between the short term policy rates and long term interest could easily spell the disaster for the entrepreneurs and in turn for the economy as a whole. The government should consider a special package for such entities given the unprecedented situations we found ourselves in.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

Time to revisit the special relationship with Nepal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Treaty of Peace and Friendship between India and Nepal

Mains level : Paper 2-India-Nepal border issue

A new map released by Nepal delivered a blow to the India-Nepal relations. But this is hardly the first time this has happened. The article clears some cobwebs about Nepal’s foreign policy. First, it throws light on the past trend set by Nepal. And drawing on the past experience, it suggests the changes India should adopt in new framework to deal with Nepal.

Nepal’s new map: Yet another knock on India-Nepal relations

  • As the parliament in Nepal gets ready to approve a new map that will include parts of Indian territory in Uttarakhand, Delhi is bracing for yet another knock to a bilateral relationship.
  • Many in the Indian strategic community believe that the train wreck was avoidable.
  • But others view the collision between Delhi and Kathmandu as both inevitable and imminent.
  • Even if the territorial issue had been finessed, something else would have triggered the breakdown.

Bigger fissures in relation

  • A closer look suggests that the territorial dispute is merely a symptom of the structural changes.
  • These structural changes are unfolding in the external and internal context of the bilateral relationship.
  • The question, then, is not what Delhi could have done to prevent the current crisis.
  • It should be about looking ahead to build more sustainable ties with Kathmandu.

2 factors India must consider and depart from

  • Any new framework for engaging Kathmandu must involve two important departures from the past in Delhi.
  • 1) First is coming to terms with Nepal’s natural politics of balance.
  • 2) The other is the recognition that Delhi’s much-vaunted “special relationship” with Kathmandu is part of the problem.

Let’s look at the history of Nepal’s geopolitics

  • The founder of the modern Nepali state, Prithvi Narayan Shah, described Nepal as a “yam between two rocks”.
  • He was pointing to the essence of Nepal’s geographic condition between the dominant power in the Gangetic plains on the one hand and Tibet and the Qing empire on the other.
  • Contrary to the conventional wisdom in India, China has long been part of Kathmandu’s international relations.
  • As the East India Company gained ground at the turn of the 19th century, Nepal’s rulers made continuous offers to Beijing to act as China’s frontline against Calcutta’s expansion into the Himalayas.
  • Kathmandu also sought to build a coalition of Indian princes to counter the Company.
  • Even after it lost the first Anglo-Nepal war in 1816, Kathmandu kept up a continuous play between Calcutta and Beijing.
  • As the scales tilted in the Company’s favour after the First Opium War (1839-42), Nepal’s rulers warmed up to Calcutta.
  • When the 1857 Mutiny shook the Company, Kathmandu backed it and regained some of the territories it lost when the Raj replaced the Company.
  • As the fortunes of the Raj rose, Kathmandu rulers enjoyed the benefits of being Calcutta’s protectorate.
  • India inherited this framework but has found it impossible to sustain.

Why the Treaty of Peace and Friendship (1950) lost its appeal?

  • The 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship gave the illusion of continuity in Nepal’s protectorate relationship with the Raj and its successor, independent India.
  • That illusion was continuously chipped away amid the rise of mass politics in Nepal, growing Nepali nationalism, and Kathmandu’s acquisition of an international personality.
  • The 1950 Treaty, which proclaims an “everlasting friendship” between the two nations, has become the symbol of Indian hegemony in Nepal.
  • In a paradox, its security value for India has long been hollowed out.
  • It is a political millstone around India’s neck that Delhi is unwilling to shed for the fear of losing the “special relationship”.
  • Delhi has been trapped into a perennial political play among Kathmandu’s different factions and responding to Nepal’s China card.

Weakening of “special relationship”: Essence of Nepal’s foreign policy

  • Once the Chinese Communist Party consolidated its power in Tibet and offered assurances to Nepal, Kathmandu’s balancing impulses were back in play.
  • At the risk of oversimplification, Nepal’s foreign policy since the 1950s has, in essence, been about weakening the “special relationship” with India and building more cooperation with China.
  • Kathmandu has used different labels to package its desire for greater room for manoeuvre between its two giant neighbours — non-alignment, diversification, “zone of peace”, equidistance, and a Himalayan bridge between India and China.
  • The stronger China has become, the wider have Kathmandu’s options with India become.

Way forward

  • It makes no sense for Delhi to hanker after a “special relationship” that a large section of Kathmandu does not want.
  • If Delhi wants a normal and good neighbourly relationship with Kathmandu, it should put all major bilateral issues on the table for renegotiation.
  • Such issues should include the 1950 treaty, national treatment to Nepali citizens in India, trade and transit arrangements, the open border and visa-free travel.
  • Delhi should make it a priority to begin talks with Nepal on revising, replacing, or simply discarding the 1950 treaty.
  • It should negotiate a new set of mutually satisfactory arrangements.
  • India had conducted a similar exercise with Bhutan to replace the 1949 treaty during 2006-07.
  • The issues and political context are certainly more complicated in the case of Nepal.
  • It is better that Delhi bites the bullet and makes a fresh beginning with Kathmandu rather than let the relationship deteriorate.
  • No bilateral relationship between nations can be built on sentiment — whether it is based on faith, ideology or inheritance.
  • Only those rooted in shared interests will endure.
  • Rather than object to Kathmandu’s China ties, Delhi must focus on how to advance India’s relations with Nepal.
  • It should bet that the logic of Nepal’s economic geography, its pursuit of enlightened self-interest, and Kathmandu’s natural balancing politics, will continue to provide a strong framework for India’s future engagement with Nepal.

Conclusion

Discarding the appearances of the “special relationship” might, in fact, make it easier for Delhi to construct a more durable and interest-based partnership with Kathmandu that is rooted in realism and has strong popular support on both sides.

Capital Markets: Challenges and Developments

What are Social Stock Exchanges?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Social Stock Exchanges (SSEs)

Mains level : NGOs and their funding issues

A working group constituted by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) on Social Stock Exchanges (SSEs) has recommended allowing non-profit organisations to directly list on such platforms.

Practice questions for mains:

Q. What are Social Stock Exchanges? Discuss how it will help finance social enterprises in India.

What are Social Stock Exchanges (SSEs)?

  • An SSE is a platform which allows investors to buy shares in social enterprises vetted by an official exchange.
  • The Union Budget 2019 proposed setting up of first of its kind SSE in India.
  • The SSE will function as a common platform where social enterprises can raise funds from the public.
  • It will function on the lines of major stock exchanges like BSE and NSE. However, the purpose of the Social Stock Exchange will be different – not profit, but social welfare.
  • Under the regulatory ambit of SEBI, a listing of social enterprises and voluntary organizations will be undertaken so that they can raise capital as equity, debt or as units like a mutual fund.

Why SSEs?

  • India needs massive investments in the coming years to be able to meet the human development goals identified by global bodies like the UN.
  • This can’t be done through government expenditure alone. Private enterprises working in the social sector also need to step up their activities.
  • Currently, social enterprises are very active in India. However, they face challenges in raising funds.
  • One of the biggest hurdles they face is, apparently, the lack of trust from common investors.

Benefits

  • There is a great opportunity to unlock funds from donors, philanthropic foundations and CSR spenders, in the form of zero-coupon zero principal bonds. These bonds will be listed on the SSE.
  • At first, the SSE could become a repository of social enterprises and impact investors.
  • The registration could be done through a standard process.
  • The SEs could be categorized into different stages such as- Idea, growth stage and likewise, investors can also be grouped based on the type of investment.

Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

PM Swanidhi Scheme for street vendors

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM Swanidhi Scheme

Mains level : Atmanirbhar Package

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched a micro-credit facility for street vendors under the Swanidhi Scheme.

Try this question from CSP 2016:

Q.Rashtriya Garima Abhiyaan’ is a national campaign to

(a) rehabilitate the homeless and destitute persons and provide then with suitable sources of livelihood

(b) release the sex workers from the practice and provide them with alternative sources of livelihood

(c) eradicate the practice of manual scavenging and rehabilitate the manual scavenger

(d) release the bonded labourers free their bondage and rehabilitate them

PM Swanidhi Scheme

  • The Pradhan Mantri Street Vendor’s Atmanirbhar Nidhi Scheme is aimed at benefiting over 50 lakh vendors who had their businesses operational on or before March 24.
  • The scheme was announced by Finance Minister as a part of the economic package for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.
  • The loans are meant to help kick-start activity for vendors who have been left without any income since the lockdown was implemented on March 25.
  • The scheme is valid until March 2022.

Expected beneficiaries

  • This loan will be given to those who run shops on the roadside, handcart or streetcar.
  • Fruit-vegetable, laundry, saloon and paan shops are also included in this category.

Facilities provided under the scheme

  • The vendors will be able to apply for a working capital loan of up to ₹10,000, which is repayable in monthly instalments within a year.
  • On timely/early repayment of the loan, an interest subsidy of 7% per annum will be credited to the bank accounts of beneficiaries through direct benefit transfer on a six-monthly basis.
  • The loans would be without collateral. There will be no penalty on early repayment of the loan.

RTI – CIC, RTI Backlog, etc.

PM-CARES is not a public authority under RTI Act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM-CARES, Public Authority under RTI

Mains level : RTI issues

The PMO has refused to disclose details on the creation and operation of the PM-CARES Fund, telling a Right to Information applicant that the fund is “not a public authority” under the ambit of the RTI Act, 2005.

Practice question for mains:

Q. The PM-CARES fund is an old wine in a new bottle. Discuss its feasibility and how it is different in context to the PMNRF.

About PM-CARES Fund

  • The fund will be a public charitable trust under the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’.
  • The PM is Chairman of this trust and members include the Defence Minister, Home Minister and Finance Minister.
  • Contributions to the fund will qualify as corporate social responsibility (CSR) spending that companies are mandated to make.
  • The Fund accepts micro-donations as well.

Not a public authority

  • The PMO cited a Supreme Court observation that indiscriminate and impractical demands under RTI Act for disclosure of all and sundry information would be counterproductive.
  • PM-CARES Fund is not a Public Authority under the ambit of Section 2(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
  • However, relevant information in respect of PM-CARES Fund may be seen on its website.

Then, what makes an authority, Public?

The relevant section of the RTI Act defines a “public authority” as “any authority or body or institution of self-government established or constituted —

  • by or under the Constitution;
  • by any other law made by Parliament;
  • by any other law made by State Legislature;
  • by the notification issued or order made by the appropriate Government — and includes any (i) body owned, controlled or substantially financed; (ii) NGO substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds provided by the appropriate govt.

Arguments against PM-CARES

  • The fund carries a public name, the composition of the trust, control, usage of an emblem, government domain name etc. that signifies it as a public authority.
  • PM is the ex-officio chairman of the Trust, while three cabinet ministers are ex-officio trustees.
  • The composition of the trust is enough to show that Government exercises substantive control over the trust, making it a public authority.

Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

Kisan Credit Cards (KCC) for 1.5 crore dairy farmers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : KCC scheme

Mains level : KCC and its outreach

The Union Govt. is set to provide Kisan Credit Card (KCC) to 1.5 crore dairy farmers belonging to Milk Unions and Milk producing Companies within the next two months under a special drive.

We can expect multiple statements based prelim question here. Note the following features of the KCC from the newscard:

1. Year of its introduction (in rarest case)

2. Types of banks issuing KCC

3. Credit types extended under KCC

4. Sectors covered under KCC

What is Kisan Credit Card (KCC)?

  • KCC is a credit scheme introduced in August 1998 by banks to extend credit facilities to farmers.
  • This model scheme was prepared by the NABARD on the recommendations of R.V. GUPTA committee to provide term loans for agricultural needs
  • Participating institutions include all commercial banks, Regional Rural Banks, and state co-operative banks. The scheme has short term credit limits for crops and term loans.
  • KCC offering credit to the farmers is of two types: 1. Cash Credit 2. Term Credit (for allied activities such as pump sets, land development, plantation, drip irrigations).

Facilities under KCC

  • Credit card and passbook or credit card cum passbook provided to eligible farmers facilitate revolving cash credit facility.
  • Any number of withdrawals and repayments within a limit, which is fixed on the basis of operational land holding, cropping pattern and scale of finance can be made.
  • Each withdrawal has to be repaid within a maximum period of 12 months and the Card is valid for 3 to 5 years subject to annual review.
  • Conversion/reschedulement of loans is permissible in case of damage to crops due to natural calamities.
  • Crop loans disbursed under KCC Scheme for notified crops are covered under Rashtriya Krishi Bima Yojana, to protect farmers against loss of crop yield caused by natural calamities, pest attacks etc.

What’s’ in the bucket for Dairy Farmers?

  • Under the dairy cooperative movement, approximately 1.7 crore farmers are associated with 230 Milk Unions in the country.
  • In the first phase of this campaign, the target is to cover all farmers who are members of dairy cooperative societies and associated with different Milk Unions and who do not have KCC.
  • Although the general limit for KCC credit without collateral is Rs. 1.6 lakh, but for dairy farmers, it can be upto Rs.3 lakh.
  • This will ensure more credit availability for dairy farmers associated with Milk Unions as well as assuring repayment of loans to banks.

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

CHAMPIONS Platform to empower MSMEs

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CHAMPIONS Portal

Mains level : Various moves to boost MSME sector

Recently PM has launched the technology platform CHAMPIONS as a one-stop-shop solution of MSME Ministry.

At the very first sight, the name CHAMPIONS creates a delusion. It looks more of an HRD initiative. Here lies the risk! Please cautiously make a personal note here. Demarcate all such initiatives on an A4 page.

CHAMPIONS Platform

  • CHAMPIONS stand for Creation and Harmonious Application of Modern Processes for Increasing the Output and National Strength.
  • The portal is basically for making the smaller units big by solving their grievances, encouraging, supporting, helping and handholding.
  • It is a technology-packed control room-cum-management information system.
  • It is also fully integrated on a real-time basis with GOI’s main grievances portal CPGRAMS and MSME Ministry’s own other web-based mechanisms.
  • This ICT based system is set up to help the MSMEs in a present difficult situation and also to handhold them to become national and international champions.

Detailed objectives

  • Grievance Redressal: To resolve the problems of MSMEs including those of finance, raw materials, labour, regulatory permissions etc particularly in the COVID created a difficult situation;
  • To help them capture new opportunities: including manufacturing of medical equipment and accessories like PPEs, masks, etc and supply them in National and International markets;
  • To identify and encourage the sparks:e. the potential MSMEs who are able to withstand the current situation and can become national and international champions.

Terrorism and Challenges Related To It

What is Antifa Movement?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Antifa

Mains level : Racial antagonism across the world

As massive protests following the death of a person in racial discrimination continued to rock the US, President Donald Trump has announced that the alleged far-left group Antifa would be designated as a terrorist organisation by his government.

One can expect a similar prelims question:

Q. The Antifa movement recently seen in news is an: Free trade movement/Anti-terror movement etc.

Why the US seeks to ban Antifa?

  • Trump has blamed for the protests that have convulsed cities across the US,
  • Antifa is considered the loosely affiliated group of far-left anti-fascist activists.

Antifa: The group

  • Antifa is an acronym for ‘Anti-Fascist’. It is not an organisation with a leader nor does it have a defined structure or membership roles.
  • Antifa has been around for several decades, though accounts vary on its exact beginnings.
  • The term dates the term as far back as Nazi Germany, describing the etymology of ‘Antifa’ as “borrowed from German Antifa, short for antifaschistische ‘anti-fascist’.
  • Rather, Antifa is more of a movement of activists whose followers share a philosophy and tactics.
  • They have made their presence known at protests, including the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

Its members

  • It is impossible to know how many people count themselves as members.
  • Its followers acknowledge that the movement is secretive, has no official leaders and is organised into autonomous local cells.
  • It is also only one in a constellation of activist movements that have come together in the past few years to oppose the far right.
  • Antifa members campaign against actions they view as authoritarian, homophobic, racist or xenophobic.

Activism over years

  • Antifa members typically dress in black and often wear a mask at their demonstrations, and follow far-left ideologies such as anti-capitalism.
  • The movement has been known to have a presence in the US in the 1980s.
  • It shot into prominence following the election of President Trump in 2016, with violence marking some of its protests and demonstrations.
  • Criticizing mainstream liberal politicians for not doing enough, Antifa members have often physically confronted their conservative opponents on the streets.
  • The group also participates in non-violent protests. Apart from public counter-protests, Antifa members run websites that track white extremist and ultra-right groups.

Criticisms

  • The movement has been widely criticised among the mainstream left and right.
  • Conservative publications and politicians routinely rail against supporters of Antifa, who they say are seeking to shut down peaceful expression of conservative views.