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Insights Current Events: 04 November 2014

Air pollution lowers crop yield: study

According to a recent study, India’s food grain production is facing a double whammy, with heightened air pollution adding to the impact of climate change on crop yields.

Statistical model suggests that yields in 2010 were up to 36% lower for wheat than they otherwise would have been, absent climate and pollutant emissions trends, with some densely populated States experiencing 50% relative yield losses.

The report also says that:

  • Much of the drop in yield came from air pollution caused by fine particles like soot as well as ozone generated by sunlight acting on emissions of precursor molecules.
  • There was substantial variation across States in the relative impacts produced by climatic factors and air pollution on crop yields.
  • In Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, wheat yields were about half of what they otherwise could have been, with air pollution responsible over two-thirds of the drop. Wheat yields in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand too had been greatly reduced by air pollutants.
  • There was little or no impact from either a changing climate or pollution on wheat yields in Punjab or Haryana, although their rice yields had been affected. Rice yields have been lowered in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal by 15 per cent or more.


Cleaning up the air could have very positive benefits for agriculture and food security in India (along with all the other benefits of better air quality).
Improved cook stoves along with better control over emissions from the transportation sector and in electricity generation would reduce levels of soot in the air as well as of ozone’s precursor compounds.

Sources: The Hindu.

Soon, regulator for health outreach

Union Health Minister said the government would institutionalise a regulatory authority with full powers to oversee enforcement of all-round quality standards and consumer protection under the National Health Assurance Mission (NHAM).

National Health Assurance Mission:

National Health Assurance Mission is aimed at reducing the out of pocket spending on health care by the common man and building a robust healthcare support system for the poor.

Public Health being a State subject, the Central Government has been supplementing the efforts of the States/UTs under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) to provide accessible, affordable and quality healthcare to the rural population. In 2013, the National Health Mission (NHM) was approved subsuming NRHM and the National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) as its Sub-Missions with the vision of attainment of universal access to equitable, affordable and quality health care services to all the population. Under NHM, financial support is being provided to States/UTs for strengthening their health care systems including support for provision of the following services free of cost to all those who access these services in public health facilities:

  • Universal Immunization of children against 7 diseases
  • Pulse Polio Immunization
  • Family Planning services
  • Maternal and Reproductive Health Services
  • Child Health services that include both Home Based and facility based New born Care,
  • Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health (ARSH) services,
  • Investigation and treatment for Malaria, Kalaazar, Filaria, Dengue, JE and Chikungunya,
  • Detection and treatment for Tuberculosis including MDR-TB,
  • Detection and treatment for Leprosy,
  • Detection, treatment and counseling for HIV/AIDs.
  • Non-Communicable diseases services
  • Cataract surgery for Blindness control- over 6 million free cataract surgeries done every year, Cornea transplant, Glaucoma/ Diabetic Retinopathy, Spectacles to poor children.

Sources: The Hindu, PIB.


Mauritius offers help on black money probe

Mauritius, often accused of being a route for round-tripping of funds by Indians, recently conveyed to India that it was ready to support its Special Investigation Team (SIT) to unearth black money.

Mauritius used to be the biggest gateway for flow of funds into India through FDI as well as FII routes, but its position has come down.

It recently slipped to the second place after the U.S. in terms of quantum of money being brought in by overseas investors into Indian markets. Fund flows from Mauritius have fallen amid concerns about suspected money laundering, even though the Indian Ocean island nation has been consistently denying such allegations.

Round-tripping is usually referred to routing of domestic investments through Mauritius to take advantage of the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) between the two countries.

The island nation received requests for information in 97 cases from India during the one-year period ended August 2014.

India-Mauritius Relations:

Diplomatic relations between India and Mauritius were established in 1948. Mauritius maintained contacts with India through successive Dutch, French and British occupation. From 1820s, Indian workers started going to Mauritius to work on sugar plantations. From 1834, when slavery was abolished by the British Parliament, a large numbers of Indian workers began to be brought to Mauritius as indentured labourers. November 2, 1834 marks the day when the ship ‘Atlas’ docked in Mauritius carrying the first batch of Indian indentured labourers. This day is now observed in Mauritius as ‘Aapravasi Day’. In all, about half a million Indian indentured labourers are estimated to have been brought into Mauritius between 1834 and the early decades of the 20th century, out of whom about two-thirds settled permanently in Mauritius.
As a tribute to Gandhiji and the Indian freedom struggle, the National Day of Mauritius is yearly celebrated on March 12 (the date of launch of Dandi Salt March).

Political Relations:

Following Mauritius’ independence on March 12, 1968, the first Prime Minister and the Father of the Mauritian Nation Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam accorded centrality to India in Mauritius’ foreign policy. Subsequently, successive Mauritian leaders ensured that India occupies a position of significance and importance in the foreign policy orientation and activities of Mauritius.
Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam was the only non-SAARC leader to be invited to witness the swearing in ceremony of the new Government in New Delhi in May 2014.

India and Mauritius have signed a wide range of bilateral agreements and MoUs. Some of them are the Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC-1982), Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPA-1998), MoU on Air Services (2005), Agreement on Cooperation in Information Technology (2000), MoU on Cooperation in Biotechnology (2002), Extradition Treaty (2003), MoU on Cooperation against Terrorism (2005), MoU on Cooperation in the field of Environment (2005), Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Criminal Matters (2005) and many more.

Commercial Relations:

India is Mauritius’ largest trading partner and has been the largest exporter of goods to Mauritius since 2007. A three-year Agreement between the Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) and the State Trading Corporation of Mauritius for supply of all petroleum requirements of Mauritius was renewed in July 2013.

Mauritius has been one of the largest sources of FDI equity flow to India.

Some high-visibility Indian-assisted projects in Mauritius include the Mahatma Gandhi Institute, the Upadhyay Training Centre, the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital, the Subramania Bharati Eye Centre, etc. Projects enjoying a high degree of visibility are the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre and the Rabindranath Tagore Institute. The most prestigious symbols of recent Indian assistance are the Cyber Tower at Ebene and the Swami Vivekananda International Conference Centre (SVICC).

Cultural Relations:

The Indira Gandhi Centre for Indian Culture (IGCIC) at Phoenix is one of the largest centres of ICCR, which from March 2000, has emerged as an important venue for promotion of Indian cultural activities in Mauritius. The IGCIC holds classes in disciplines of Hindustani music, Kathak, Tabla and Yoga for Mauritian students. A Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) (2010-2013) was signed in July 2010.The Mahatma Gandhi Institute (MGI) was established in 1970 as a joint venture between the Government of India and the Government of Mauritius for the promotion of Indian culture and education. The Rabindranath Tagore Institute was established with the assistance of the Government of India in 2000 as a Centre of Studies on Indian culture and traditions.
Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) has been India’s flagship capacity building programme since its inception in 1964 and has acquired a strong brand name in India’s development partnership with Mauritius. Mauritius is one of the largest beneficiary countries of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme.

For further reference:

Sources: The Hindu,