The HINDU Notes – 22nd March 2020 - VISION

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 22nd March 2020

📰 India, France conduct joint patrols from Reunion Island

The Navy had so far carried out coordinated patrols only with maritime neighbours, and had rejected similar U.S. offer

•India and France have conducted joint patrols from the Reunion Island for the first time, signalling New Delhi’s intent to engage with friendly foreign partners in expanding its footprint on the Indian Ocean, focusing on the stretch between the East African coastline and the Malacca straits.

•India has so far carried out coordinated patrols only with maritime neighbours and had rejected a similar offer by the U.S.

•The Indian Navy conducted a joint patrol with with the French Navy from the Reunion Island in February. The patrol was conducted by a P-8I aircraft with French Navy personnel onboard, two defence sources independently confirmed to The Hindu .

Greater understanding

•“We have robust engagement with the French,” one of them said. The surveillance was done in the southern Indian Ocean off Mauritius. “The P-8I was there for a week,” he said.

•There was greater understanding between India and France on each other’s concerns, especially in the maritime domain, the source said. “They also have capacity constraints there, and we can share responsibilities. The patrols will be periodic. There is no set pattern,” the source added.

•As reported by The Hindu last November, visiting French Navy Chief Admiral Christophe Prazuck had stated that they were “looking forward to organising joint patrols with the Indian Navy” in 2020 and working on the precise objectives. Speaking at an event, he said the region of the patrols could be north-western Indian Ocean or southern Indian Ocean “around the islands that are part of France”.

•“France is a safe country for us, there will be no concerns in conducting joint patrols with them,” a third official said on why France was the first country selected to conduct joint patrols. France is also the first country to deploy a liaison officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre (IFC-IOR) as part of efforts to improve maritime domain awareness (MDA).

Major strategic partner

•France has steadily emerged as a major strategic partner for India with big-ticket defence deals and increased military-to-military engagement.

•The Indian Navy is currently inducting French Scorpene conventional submarines, being built in India under technology transfer, and the Indian Air Force will soon get the first batch of its 36 Rafale fighter jets.

📰 Cabinet okays ₹48,000-cr. plan for electronics manufacturing

Three schemes for manufacturing, supply chain, infra to help create over 20 lakh jobs

•In a bid to boost large-scale electronics manufacturing in India, the Union Cabinet approved three schemes, including a production-linked incentive scheme, with a total outlay of almost ₹48,000 crore.

•“The three schemes together will enable large-scale electronics manufacturing, a domestic supply chain ecosystem of components and a state-of-the-art infrastructure and common facilities for large anchor units and their supply chain partners,” Minister of Electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Saturday.

•The schemes are expected to attract new investments worth at least ₹50,000 crore in the sector, while generating more than five lakh direct and 15 lakh indirect jobs.

•The production-linked incentive scheme aims to attract large investments in mobile phone manufacturing and specified electronic components, including assembly, testing, marking and packaging (ATMP) units, at a budgetary outlay of ₹40,995 crore for five years.

•The scheme will offer an incentive of 4-6% on incremental sales of goods manufactured in India and is expected to create a total of 8 lakh jobs.

•“Domestic value addition for mobile phones is expected to rise to 35-40% by 2025 from the current 20—25% due to the impetus provided by the scheme,” an official statement said.

•For the ‘Scheme for Promotion of Manufacturing of Electronics Components and Semiconductors’ the outlay has been kept at ₹3,285 crore over eight years and is expected to create about 6 lakh jobs.

•The third scheme, Electronics Manufacturing Clusters (EMC) 2.0, aims at creating quality infrastructure with a minimum area of 200 acres along with industry-specific facilities such as common facility centres, ready-built factory sheds/ plug-and-play facilities at an outlay of ₹3,762.25 crore over eight years.

•The scheme is expected to create about 10 lakh jobs.

📰 Why has the rupee fallen against the dollar?

What lies ahead for the Indian currency?

•The story so far: The rupee slumped on Friday to a record closing low of 75.20 against the U.S. dollar as deepening concerns about the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic sent global investors scurrying to dump most assets, especially emerging market holdings, and opt for cash and the relative safety of the greenback. The rupee has now depreciated by more than 5.3% in 2020, with the bulk of its losses, a 4.1% slide, having occurred in March.

Why is the Indian currency weakening?

•Just as it happened in 2008 during the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), the widespread economic uncertainty triggered by the latest COVID-19 outbreak has forced most investors and businesses across the world to seek to conserve that most crucial asset during times of crisis: cash and more specifically the U.S. dollar. In 2008, the dollar strengthened about 22% against the Euro as enterprises, especially in the world’s largest economy, hoarded the U.S. currency.

•Since the start of the month, overseas investors have dumped Indian equities and debt on a scale not seen since the taper tantrum of 2013, when news that the U.S. was going to gradually wind down its GFC-triggered quantitative easing spurred an exodus out of emerging market assets. As on March 20, foreign institutional investors (FIIs) had sold a net ₹95,485 crore, or more than $12 billion, of shares and bonds. This outflow has coincided with the sharp fall in the equity market’s key gauge, the 30-stock S&P BSE Sensex, which has slumped 22% so far in March.

What else is contributing to the fall?

•The rupee’s decline in March has been part of a broad trend as most currencies across the globe have weakened against their U.S. counterpart. The dollar index, which gauges the greenback’s strength against a basket of six currencies, has gained almost 4% so far this month. The risk aversion as a result of the pandemic triggered by the global outbreak of COVID-19 has been so intense that it has not spared most perceived safe havens including U.S. Treasuries (government bonds) and significantly even gold. The yellow metal too has been sold by investors looking to hold the most liquid and most fungible of all assets — the U.S. dollar.

Where does the rupee go from here?

•Given that the increasing possibility of the global economy heading into a recession has been a key driver of the dollar’s appreciation against other currencies, including the rupee, there is clearly more pain ahead for the Indian currency. Add to it the fact that India’s own domestic economy has been struggling to reverse an extended slowdown — with both private consumption and investment by businesses substantially becalmed — and it is hard to see sentiment on the rupee improving appreciably in the short-term.

•However, a few offsetting factors offer just a little comfort. For one, India’s foreign exchange reserves are still at a fairly robust level and as on March 13 amounted to a total of almost $482 billion. Armed with this war chest, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has stepped in every now and then, both to smooth volatility in the foreign exchange market and to ensure that a sudden shortage of dollar supply does not exacerbate the weakening trend in the rupee. The central bank, in fact, last week provided $2-billion of dollar liquidity through a forex swap on Monday, and is set to provide a similar line on March 23 as well.

•Also, the price of oil, which is one the largest contributors to India’s import bill, has dramatically declined this month with Brent crude oil futures having slumped more than 46% to $26.98 as on March 20. With neither Saudi Arabia nor Russia appearing to be in any hurry to de-escalate their price war, and energy demand likely to remain depressed in the foreseeable future on account of the global economic downturn, oil may remain one source of respite for the rupee.

•And were the U.S. economy itself to go beyond a recession and possibly head for a massive unemployment featuring depression — if more States join California in enforcing severe movement curbs such as the large coastal State’s statewide “stay-in-place” order to contain the spread of the viral pandemic —the dollar too could become a risky holding.

•Still, to complicate matters on the outlook, the RBI is most likely to cut interest rates in the very near future to support the sagging economy at this juncture, a move that could potentially again add to the downward pressure on the rupee.

📰 Long-tailed macaques show rich tool-use behaviour

Tool use and object manipulation were observed in six behavioural contexts involving eight different types of objects

•In recent times, there has been a lot of interest among primatologists in studying object handling and tool-use in non-human primates such as apes and chimpanzees. A study from IISER Mohali has looked into how long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis umbrosus) in Greater Nicobar Island handle objects and use tools to simplify their efforts.

•The researchers observed interesting behaviour related to object manipulation and tool use in six behavioural contexts involving eight different types of objects. They also saw that males were more frequently involved in tool use than females. The results of the study are published in the International Journal of Primatology.

•There is a crucial difference between tool use and object use. A tool helps the user get better outcomes. Jayashree Mazumder, first author of the paper explains in an email to The Hindu: “When we change either the function or structure... of an object, we make it a tool. But when we use an item in the manner it is supposed to be used, we are not making it a tool… it is an object use.”

Identifying individuals

•Observing the long-tailed macaques from a distance of about 10 metres for close to four months, Ms Mazumder, who is working for her PhD at IISER Mohali, has developed a catalogue of the individuals studied. Each individual was identified based on marks on the face or body. “Identifying adults is easy. They are like humans with distinct features, for example, presence of black or white spots in different locations of the face, scar marks, body size, sex and behaviour. The juveniles and sub-adults were slightly difficult but they too can be identified in a similar fashion,” says Ms Mazumder.

•Stefano S.K. Kaburu, professor at the University of Wolverhampton, U.K., a co-author of the paper introduced her to the behavioural data collecting software and guided her in designing the study methods.

Prevalent in males

•As per their observations, 14 individuals used tools, and tool-use was more common among males. “The biased nature of tool-use could be due to many reasons. It has been hypothesised that the weight of the individual has something to do with the tool-culture. Again, the tool activity itself also defines who uses them more often, says Ms Mazumder.

•She gives the example of how among chimpanzees, females excel in fishing, which they learn from their mothers. Males, on the other hand, become adept in hunting, which they pick up from their peers. “Thus there could be social, ecological as well as demographic factors that could decide how tool-culture is divided among the animals. But we need more studies to come to any conclusion,” she says.

•According to her, the most exciting part was how the macaques decide what tool and technology to use. “Some of the macaques had few trials and errors, but it did not take them long to understand that the technique or tool was not providing the best outcome, and therefore, they were very quick in switching,” she says.

•Though the long-tailed macaques are further from humans in relatedness than chimpanzees or apes, this study could offer a perspective on evolutionary origins of tool use behaviour.

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