4th January Current Affairs

1.Kochi – Mangaluru Natural Gas Pipeline

News: Prime Minister will dedicate the Kochi – Mangaluru Natural Gas Pipeline to the nation. The event marks an important milestone towards the creation of ‘One Nation One Gas Grid’.

About the Pipeline

  • The 450 km long pipeline has been built by GAIL (India) Ltd. It has transportation capacity of 12 Million Metric Standard Cubic Metres per day, and will carry natural gas from the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Regasification Terminal at Kochi (Kerala) to Mangaluru (Dakshina Kannada district, Karnataka), while passing through Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasaragod districts.
  • The total cost of the project was about Rs. 3000 crore and its construction created over 12 lakh man-days of employment.  Laying of the pipeline was an engineering challenge as the route of the pipeline necessitated it to cross water bodies at more than 100 locations. This was done through a special technique called Horizontal Directional Drilling method.
  • The pipeline will supply environment friendly and affordable fuel in the form of Piped Natural Gas (PNG) to households and Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to the transportation sector.
  • It will also supply Natural Gas to commercial and industrial units across the districts along the pipeline. Consumption of cleaner fuel will help in improving air quality by curbing air pollution.

2.Year End Review of Ministry of Tourism

News: The major highlights of the Ministry of Tourism during the year 2020 are as follows:

Bharat Parv: 

  • Ministry of Tourism organized the “Bharat Parv”at the Gyan Path and Red Fort Ground, Delhi from 26th to 31st January 2020, as a part of the Republic Day Celebrations. The theme of the Bharat Parv was ‘150 Years of Mahatma’ and ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’. The main attractions during Bharat Parv 2020 included display of Republic Day tableaux, performance by Armed Forces Band, pavilion by State Governments/UTs and the line Ministries, food stalls, cultural performances, handicraft and handloom stalls, etc.

Incredible India Tourist Facilitator (IITF) Certification Programme: 

  • Ministry of Tourism has launched the Incredible India Tourist Facilitator (IITF) Certification Programme, a Pan-India online learning program accessible from different digital devices. The programme aims at enhancing the overall experience of tourists by creating a pool of local, trained professionals. It will help in creating employment opportunities at the local level even in remote areas with tourism potential. As on December 21st2020, 6402 persons have registered under the IITFC Programme.

Conference on Destination Management and Community Participation:

  • Ministry of Tourism organized a Conference on Destination Management and Community Participation on 13th–14thFebruary, 2020 at Rann of Kutch, Gujarat. It was inaugurated by the Union Minister of Culture & Tourism and Chief Minister of Gujara. The meeting was convened to discuss the importance of Destination Management and Community Participation in the tourism sector.

Incredible India Website launched:

  • The Minister of State for Tourism & Culture (IC) launched the Incredible India Websitein Chinese, Arabic and Spanish languages to attract tourists from these regions.

‘Dekho Apna Desh’: 

  • The Ministry of Tourism launched the ‘Dekho Apna Desh’initiative in January 2020 with the objective of creating awareness among the citizens about the rich heritage and culture of the country and encourage citizens to travel within the country. This initiative is in line with the 15th August 2019 address of the Prime Minister asking every citizen to visit at least 15 destinations by the year 2022.
  • Under this initiative, the Ministry is organizing a series of Webinars under the overall theme of Dekho Apna Desh, showcasing the diverse culture, heritage, destinations and tourism products of the country. To create mass awareness, the Ministry has also launched an online Dekho Apna Desh pledge and Quiz on the MyGov.in platform. As on date 68 webinars have been organised with a viewership of almost 3.00 lakh.

Stranded in India’ portal: 

  • The Ministry of Tourism set up a portal ‘Stranded in India’with a view to facilitate and extend support to foreign tourists who were stranded in the country on account of cancellation of flights/lockdown. The portal helped tourists get information/details of State /UT Tourism Departments and Regional Offices of Ministry of Tourism.
  • Ministry of Tourism has initiated photography/videography of important tourism and cultural sites using Drone cameras during the lockdown to get the best footage, and at a time when the pollution level is at its lowest.

‘International Day of Yoga’ (IDY):

  • Ministry of Tourism carried out several activities on the central theme “Yoga @ home & Yoga with family” to mark the ‘International Day of Yoga’(IDY). The highlight of the celebrations was the ‘Dekho Apna Desh’ Webinar on 20th June 2020 which featured a conversation with Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev Ji. This session titled ‘Bharat: A Cultural Treasure’ was led by the Minister of State (I/C) for Tourism and Culture and had renowned personalities from diverse fields including tourism & hospitality as panellists. A number of activities were also carried out by the Domestic and Overseas Indiatourism Offices to mark the celebration of IDY 2020.

NIDHI:

  • Ministry of Tourism has created the National Integrated Database of Hospitality Industry (NIDHI) to get a clear picture of the geographical spread of the Hospitality Sector, its size, structure and existing capacity. It will serve as a common repository of data from Ministry of Tourism, State Departments of Tourism and Industry and enable the Central and State Governments to deliver better support and services including policies and strategies. As on date, 34399 accommodation units have been registered on the portal since the time it got functional i.e.  08.06.2020.

SAATHI:

  • In order to ensure adherence with the COVID-19 safety and hygiene protocol, MoT has undertaken an initiative called SAATHI(System for Assessment, Awareness & Training for Hospitality Industry) in association with the Quality Council of India (QCI) for effective implementation of Guidelines/ SOPs issued with reference to COVID-19 and beyond for safe operations of Hotels, Restaurants, B&Bs and other units.  As on date, 6810 accommodation units have been self-certified on the SAATHI portal.
  • Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism (IC) Shri Prahlad Singh Patel held a virtual meeting with 34 State Tourism Ministers/Officialsin New Delhi on 15th& 16th October 2020. The Minister said that earlier we only had 1400 registrations of hotels with us but because of NIDHI (National Integrated Database of Hospitality Industry) initiative, now number is growing regularly. It gives us more reliable data of the tourists and hospitality industry.

“Development of Pilgrimage Amenities at Somnath, Gujarat” project

  • Union Minister of State (IC) for Tourism Sh. Prahlad Singh Patel virtually joined Chief Minister of Gujarat Sh. Vijaybhai Rupani on the inauguration of project “Development of Pilgrimage Amenities at Somnath, Gujarat” on 16thJuly 2020.  The project “Development of Pilgrimage Amenities at Somnath, Gujarat” sanctioned under the PRASHAD scheme in March 2017 has been successfully completed with the cost of Rs. 45.36 crore.

“Tourist Facilitation Centre”:

  • Union Minister of State (IC) for Tourism & Culture Shri Prahlad Singh Patelinaugurated the “Tourist Facilitation Centre” facility constructed under the project “Development of Guruvayur, Kerala” under PRASHAD Scheme of the Ministry of Tourism through Virtual Platform on 4th November 2020.

Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat:

  • Ministry of Tourism has been regularly working to promote the spirit of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharatthrough various activities. Even during the COVID-19 Pandemic Bharat Central Institutes of Hotel Management affiliated to NCHMCT & Indian Institute of Tourism and Travel Management organized various Activities on Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat since 8th May 2020 to 24th August 2020. The activities witnessed an enthusiastic participation in the true spirit of Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat.

3.Scheme for Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products

News: The Union govt. has decided to extend the benefit of the Scheme for Remission of Duties and Taxes on Exported Products (RoDTEP) to all export goods with effect from 1st January 2021.

Background:

  • The scheme was announced last year as a replacement for the Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS), which was not found not to be compliant with the rules of the World Trade Organisation.
  • Following a complaint by the US, a dispute settlement panel had ruled against India’s use of MEIS as it had found the duty credit scrips awarded under the scheme to be inconsistent with WTO norms.

RoDTEP Scheme

  • RoDTEP is a scheme for the Exporters to make Indian products cost-competitive and create a level playing field for them in the Global Market. It has replaced the current Merchandise Exports from India Scheme, which is not in compliance with WTO norms and rules. The new RoDTEP Scheme is fully WTO compliant scheme.
  • It will reimburse all the taxes/duties/levies being charged at the Central/State/Local level which are not currently refunded under any of the existing schemes but are incurred at the manufacturing and distribution process.

Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS)

  • MEIS was launched with an objective to enhance the export of notified goods manufactured in a country.
  • This scheme came into effect on 1 April 2015 through the Foreign Trade Policy and will be in existence till 2020. MEIS intended to incentivise exports of goods manufactured in India or produced in India.
  • The incentives were for goods widely exported from India, industries producing or manufacturing such goods with a view to making Indian exports competitive.
  • The MEIS covered almost 5000 goods notified for the purpose of the scheme.

4.Battle of Bhima-Koregaon

News: The history of the Bhima-Koregaon battle should be taught in schools, said the Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment.

Battle of Bhima-Koregaon

  • The 1818 battle of Bhima-Koregaon, one of the last battles of the Third Anglo-Maratha War culminated in the Peshwa’s defeat. It was fought on 1 January 1818 between the British East India Company (BEIC) and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy, at Koregaon at the banks of River Bhima.
  • A 28,000-strong force led by Peshwa Baji Rao II while on their way to attack the company-held Pune were unexpectedly met by an 800-strong Company force of which 500 belonged to the Dalit community.
  • The battle was part of the Third Anglo Maratha war, a series of battles that culminated in the defeat of the Peshwa rule and subsequent rule of the BEIC in nearly all of Western, Central and Southern India.

Mahars Community:

  • Back in the seventeenth century, the community was particularly valued by the ruler Shivaji, under whom Maratha caste identities were far more fluid. The value of the Mahars for military recruitment under Shivaji was noted by the social reformer Jyotirao Phule. The Mahars were not only beneficiaries of the attempt at caste unity under Shivaji but were in fact valued for their martial skills, bravery, and loyalty.
  • The position occupied by the Mahars under Shivaji, however, was short-lived and under later Peshwa rulers, their status deteriorated. The Peshwas were infamous for their Brahmin orthodoxy and their persecution of the untouchables. The Mahars were forbidden to move about in public spaces and punished atrociously for disrespecting caste regulations.
  • Stories of Peshwa atrocities against the Mahars suggest that they were made to tie brooms behind their backs to wipe out their footprints and pots on their necks to collect their spit.

Significance of this battle:

  • The battle resulted in losses to the Maratha Empire, then under Peshwa rule, and control over most of western, central and southern India by the British East India Company.
  • The battle has been seen as a symbol of Dalit pride because a large number of soldiers in the Company forces were the Mahar Dalits, the same oppressed community to which Babasaheb Ambedkar belonged.
  • After centuries of inhumane treatment, this battle was the first time that Mahars had been included in a battle in which they won.