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October 19, 2023 @ 7:30 am - 11:30 pm



The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) marked its 10th anniversary at the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation held in Beijing. This global initiative, championed by Chinese President Xi Jinping, has seen both successes and challenges.

What is BRI?

  • The Belt and Road Initiative, reminiscent of the Silk Road, is a massive infrastructure project that would stretch from East Asia to Europe.
  • It was launched in 2013.
  • The plan is two-pronged: the overland Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road- The two were collectively referred to first as the One Belt, One Road initiative but eventually became the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • The project involves creating a vast network of railways, energy pipelines, highways, and streamlined border crossings.

BRI’s Origins and Goals

  • Early discussions about the BRI in China compared it to the U.S. Marshall Plan, signifying China’s ambition to evolve from a regional power to a global one.
  • The initiative aimed to bolster globalization and establish alternative transport and trade routes, reducing dependence on the vulnerable Strait of Malacca.

Economic and Political Significance

  • China substantiated its commitment to the BRI by founding the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) with substantial funding.
  • The AIIB served as a tool for China to reap early benefits from the BRI. The initiative also aimed to promote the use of local currencies in trade to diminish the dominance of the U.S. dollar.

BRI’s Impact and Investment

  • The BRI forged over 200 cooperation agreements with more than 150 nations, and two-way investments between China and partner countries amounted to $380 billion.
  • The BRI addressed global infrastructure deficits, providing essential public goods to regions in need.

Infrastructure Gap

  • The World Bank identified significant global infrastructure deficiencies, including lack of electricity, potable water, and broadband coverage.
  • Bridging this gap necessitated annual investments of $1.5 trillion through 2030. China’s BRI invested in motorways, power plants, ports, railways, and digital infrastructure.

Challenges and Criticisms

  • Despite its economic aid, the BRI faces criticism over ecological damage, forced displacement, disputes over compensation, and labor issues.
  • Instances in Indonesia and Laos illustrate some of these challenges. Debt concerns and disparities in revenue sharing, as seen in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), have dented the BRI’s reputation.

Global Alternatives

  • In response to the BRI, the United States and Japan initiated the “United States-Japan infrastructure investment alternatives in the Indo-Pacific region.”
  • The USA administration introduced the ‘Build Back Better World’ (B3W) initiative, which aims to mobilize private capital for global infrastructure investment, climate change, and health security.

India’s Opposition and Alternative

  • India has consistently opposed CPEC on sovereignty grounds and has raised concerns about unsustainable debt.
  • The G-20 Delhi summit introduced the India-Middle East-Europe Corridor (IMEC), connecting India, West Asia, and Europe through various infrastructure projects.



The role of women in the workforce, both paid and unpaid, is crucial for India’s economic growth. To achieve its goal of becoming a $5 trillion economy, India must address two key aspects: valuing women’s work, particularly in care roles, and providing support for women to participate in economic activities outside the home.

Unpaid Domestic Services

  • Significant portion of women’s work remains unpaid, primarily related to domestic and caregiving responsibilities.
  • In India, 81.2% of women are engaged in unpaid domestic services, compared to 26.1% of men.
  • Women spend more time on household maintenance and care, highlighting the existing gender disparities.

The Double Burden

  • Working women often face the “double burden,” where their contributions to family income do not lead to a proportional reduction in household responsibilities. Women are not only engaged in unpaid work but also contribute significantly to the GDP. Women’s unpaid work is responsible for 7.5% of India’s GDP, according to an SBI report.

Valuing Women’s Labor

  • To address this issue, there is a need to change the way women’s labor is valued. India can lead international efforts to redefine the System of National Accounts, which would have implications for GDP calculations and labor policies. Recognizing and valuing women’s work is crucial for ensuring their rights and protection.

Supporting Women Working Outside the Home

  • Low-income families often require both parents to work, challenging the traditional breadwinner-caregiver model.
  • However, many low-income women work without adequate support. Their work patterns are often sporadic, seasonal, and irregular. The irregularity of women’s employment, combined with domestic obligations, poses challenges.

Childcare and Support

  • The lack of suitable childcare facilities is a significant barrier for women seeking employment. Creches and childcare services can offer a solution, allowing mothers to have stable careers while ensuring their children’s well-being.
  • While private-sector childcare services are available for high-income families, there’s a need for the public sector to expand its efforts to provide accessible and high-quality childcare services to all.

Workforce Participation Rate

  • India’s women’s labor force participation rate (FLFPR) is significantly lower than countries like China and Bangladesh.
  • To empower women and increase FLFPR, there is a need to debunk myths surrounding women’s work, ensure proper recognition of their contributions, and provide fair support.
  • Empowering women and recognizing their contributions in both paid and unpaid work is essential for India’s inclusive and sustainable economic growth.



The Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoPNG) has announced the offering of 8 blocks, covering 0.42 lakh sq km, for exploration and production (E&P) of hydrocarbons under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP) bid round IX. This move aims to encourage hydrocarbon exploration and development.

Block Locations:

  • Of the 8 blocks, three are located in the Cauvery basin. Two blocks are in the Saurashtra region. Another two blocks are situated on the Assam Shelf. One block falls in the Cambay basin.
  • Six of these blocks are classified under Category-I basins. The remaining two are categorized under Category-II.

Block Types:

  • In the ninth OLAP round, three blocks are in ultra deep-water covering an area of 27,154 sq km.
  • There are three onland blocks covering 3,666 sq km.
  • Two blocks are in shallow water spanning an area of 11,039 sq km.

International Competitive Bidding:

The notice inviting offer (NIO) for these blocks will be floated shortly to invite international competitive bidding.

Additional Expressions of Interest:

  • The DGH (Directorate General of Hydrocarbons) reported that around 20 additional Expressions of Interest (EoIs) have been received covering about 95,000 sq km.
  • These additional EoIs are for areas in east coast basins such as Krishna-Godavari and Mahanadi, and West Coast Basins like Saurashtra, Kutch, and Mumbai.
  • These EoIs are currently under finalization.

Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP):

  • The OALP was introduced as part of the Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) in March 2016.
  • It facilitates investors in proposing blocks of their choice for contracting based on available data in the National Data Repository (NDR).
  • Companies selected through competitive bidding will enter into a contract with the government as per the Model Revenue Sharing Contract (MRSC) based on the principles of HELP.
  • The government’s initiative to open these blocks for hydrocarbon exploration aims to boost investment and production in the sector. This can contribute significantly to India’s energy security and economic growth.

What is Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP)?

  • The Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) was implemented in 2016.
  • It succeeded the New Exploration Licensing Policy (NELP).
  • The policy’s primary objective is to boost domestic oil and gas production by promoting increased exploration activities and investments.

Key components of the policy include:

  • Implementation of a unified license for the exploration and production of all types of hydrocarbons.
  • Introduction of an open acreage policy.
  • Adoption of a revenue-sharing model: This model encourages cost efficiency in mining operations by replacing the profit-sharing contracts previously established under NELP. Under this model, the contractor pays the government a share of its revenue (net of royalty) as per the contract terms.
  • Granting marketing and pricing freedom: This allows the contractor the freedom to sell crude oil in the domestic market through a transparent bidding process.



The Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act, 2022 has raised concerns among ecologists due to its inclusion of numerous species in the protected schedules without a clear and logical process.

Conservation Challenges:

Lack of Prioritization:

  • The new Act includes hundreds of species in Schedule 1, providing them with the highest protection level.
  • However, it doesn’t prioritize species for conservation, making resource allocation unclear.
  • Tigers receive the same level of protection as jackals, creating challenges in efficient resource utilization.

Unintended Consequences:

  • Some conservation laws, like the Tree Preservation Acts in Kerala and Karnataka, have perverse outcomes.
  • Incentives for plantation owners to cultivate native trees are reduced, promoting the growth of non-native species.
  • For example, the inclusion of the spotted deer in Schedule 1 prevents their removal in regions where they harm local ecosystems.

Impact on People:

  1. Risk to Human Lives and Livelihoods: Species such as crocodiles, leopards, and elephants often pose physical, mental, and economic threats to people. While coexistence is promoted by conservationists, Schedule 1 now includes wild pigs and nilgai, limiting the ability of some states to control problematic animals, affecting farmers and marginal cultivators.
  2. Traditional Use Restrictions: The Act imposes restrictions on hunting and the use of animals, even when such practices have been traditional for centuries. While use was previously regulated due to population declines, it’s now deemed unacceptable by authorities and some conservationists, irrespective of local needs or scientific considerations.

Impact on Research:

  • Tedious Permitting Process: Obtaining permits for research on a vast number of species is time-consuming and cumbersome. Environmental NGOs and researchers may struggle to access permits for their work.
  • Citizen Science Concerns: Researchers and citizens may face challenges in conducting research and sharing data, even on common species like barn owls. Complex permitting processes could hinder citizen science initiatives and data sharing on international platforms.


Prioritizing human welfare, tailoring management actions based on ecological context, and ensuring the right to observe nature and collect data, with ethical treatment of animals, are essential considerations in addressing these concerns. Ecologists need to be sensitive to the broader implications of their work, especially when it impacts local communities.



  • India is set to sign a deal for the acquisition of 31 MQ-9B Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from the United States. The contract is expected to be concluded by February 2024.
  • Deliveries of the MQ-9B drones are scheduled to commence from February 2027, three years after the signing of the contract.
  • General Atomics (GA), the UAV maker, will establish a global maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility in India.
  • The location for this facility is yet to be finalized but is likely to be in

Procurement Details:

  • The Defence Ministry in India approved the procurement of these drones.
  • The deal includes 15 Sea Guardians for the Navy and eight Sky Guardians each for the Army and the Air Force.
  • The estimated cost of this procurement is $3,072 million, and it is being carried out through the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) route.



  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) raises Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for Rabi crops for FY 2024-25.
  • Wheat, a major Rabi crop, sees a ₹150 per quintal increase, setting the new MSP at ₹2,275 per quintal.

What is Minimum Support Price (MSP)

Minimum Support Price (MSP) is the minimum price set by the government for certain agricultural products, at which the products would directly be bought from the farmers if the open market prices are less than the cost incurred

Farmer Dissatisfaction:

  • Farmers’ organizations criticize the MSP increase as ‘meagre’ and unsuitable given rising input costs.
  • Input costs, particularly fertilizers and diesel, have surged, making the MSP seem inadequate.

Focus on Wheat Procurement:

  • Center’s procurement centers primarily focus on wheat from around twelve wheat-growing districts in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
  • Both states are gearing up for upcoming Assembly elections.

Varying MSP Increases:

  • The highest MSP increase compared to the previous year is witnessed for lentils (masur), surging by ₹425 per quintal, reaching ₹6,425 per quintal.
  • Rapeseed and mustard crops also see a significant increase, rising by ₹200 per quintal to reach ₹5,650 per quintal.

Procurement Concerns:

  • Farmer groups raise concerns about MSP effectiveness without robust procurement mechanisms in place.
  • There is an overarching call for meaningful MSP, particularly in the face of escalating input costs.



The third edition of Global Maritime India Summit 2023 organised by the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways

The summit provides platform for attracting investment in the country’s maritime sector.

Key highlights

  • ‘Amrit Kaal Vision 2047’, a blueprint for the Indian maritime blue economy was unveiled.
  • PM laid foundation stone of Tuna Tekra Deep Draft Terminal at Deendayal Port Authority, Gujarat.
  • It will act as a gateway for Indian trade via the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC)


October 19, 2023
7:30 am - 11:30 pm
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