Current Affairs August 27

Troika Plus


  • China, Russia, Pakistan and the US are the four most direct foreign stakeholders in Afghanistan situation.
  • These countries have long been active participants in the Afghan peace talks.
  • They have established a mechanism among themselves – the Troika Plus, a balanced combination of countries with different interests in various directions in the Afghan issue.


India’s option in Afghanistan


What India can do?

  • At the UNSC, India must be more vocal about its abhorrence of a Taliban-run Afghanistan that seeks to reverse the gains of the past two decade.
  • India must take a leading role in the debate over who will be nominated to the Afghan seat at the UN.
  • As Chairman of the Taliban Sanctions Committee (or the 1988 Sanctions Committee), India must use its muscle to ensure terrorists such as Sirajuddin Haqqani and other members of the Haqqani group responsible for brutal suicide bombings on Indian embassies and consulates must not be given any exemptions: on travel, recourse to funds or arms.
  • India now faces a “threat umbrella” to its north, including Pakistan’s cross-border terrorism, Afghanistan’s new regime and China’s aggression at the Line of Actual Control
  • India must ensure stronger communication with those who are dealing directly, including leaders such as former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and former High Council for National Reconciliation chief Abdullah Abdullah


Data based governance


  • Data-based policymaking or budgeting is meant to facilitate the use of evidence to inform programmatic funding decisions.
  • The goal is to further invest in what works to improve outcomes for citizens.
  • Data-based decisions can redress inter and intra-district inequalities through targeted resource allocations.
  • However, databased governance pre-supposes the existence of reliable, rigorous and validated data with or without demonstrated impact or outcomes.
  • If governance decisions are to be data centric, there is a need to ensure a good, robust and reliable database.
  • States collect enormous amounts of administrative data. However, these administrative data are often not validated.
  • Accurate collection, measurement and interpretation of data are critical for data-based decision making to be successful
  • Absence of data in certain domains does not necessarily indicate better governance.
  • During the novel coronavirus pandemic, some States were not testing enough.
  • Consequently, the data on COVID-19 positive cases were interpreted to seem that some States, especially in South India, were unable to control COVID-19 cases compared to their North Indian counterparts
  • A low score in a poor, backward State does not necessarily indicate that police behaviour is exemplary;
  • it could indicate that people are scared to complain against police behaviour for fear of reprisals.
  • A high score in a State with high literacy and human development index (HDI) can mean that people have enough confidence in the judiciary and the State to complain against police behaviour, thus becoming an indicator of a better quality of governance


Asset Monetisation


Why in news?

  • Budget’s plan to monetise public assets in order to fund fresh capital expenditure on infrastructure, the Government has released an exhaustive list of projects and facilities to be offered to private investors over the next four years.
  • The Government estimates these assets — airports, coal mines, highway stretches, even urban tracts, stadia and hotels — to fetch around ₹5.96-lakh crore through structured leasing and securitisation transactions.
  • This, in turn, could help fund the National Infrastructure Pipeline with new projects worth ₹100- lakh crore
  • These assets or the land therein will not be sold but private players will be asked to pay for operation and management rights and expected to modernise assets that are either languishing or are simply under-utilised.
  • An infrastructure investment trust (InvIT) structure has already been used this year by the PowerGrid Corporation to raise funds against its transmission lines network and could be used for highways, gas pipelines and railway tracks, including the Dedicated Freight Corridor.
  • For ports, mining, railway stations, concession agreements laying out the contours for a PPP are proposed.
  • About ₹88,000 crore is expected from the National Monetisation Pipeline (NMP) in this year itself, in addition to the ₹1.75-lakh crore already estimated in the Budget from the sale of public firms such as Air India and BPCL
  • With proposed concession periods running up to 60 years for some assets, NMP deals, by contrast, could pose a long-term headache if they are not structured with end-user interests in mind, balancing the profit and utility motives.
  • The sharing of risk and rewards between the public and private partners needs to be weighed carefully for each sector.
  • Checks and balances are needed for actual infrastructure usage versus projections at the time of bidding.



  • InvITs are collective investment vehicles similar to a mutual fund, which enables direct investment of money from individual and institutional investors in infrastructure projects to earn a small portion of the income as return.
  • InvITs enable developers of infrastructure assets to monetise their assets by pooling multiple assets under a single entity (trust structure). In India,
  • InvITs are governed by SEBI (Infrastructure Investment Trusts) (Amendment) Regulations, 2016


Concession agreement

  • A concession agreement is a contract that gives a company the right to operate a specific business within a government’s jurisdiction or on another firm’s property, subject to particular terms First past the post system


What is FPTP?

  • The first-past-the-post (FPTP) system is also known as the simple majority system.
  • In this voting method, the candidate with the highest number of votes in a constituency is declared the winner.
  • This system is used in India in direct elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies
  • The FPTP system tends to magnify the seat share of the party with the largest vote share, while parties receiving a lower vote share tend to get a much lower seat share.
  • There are exceptions such as the Karnataka Assembly elections of 2008 and the Madhya Pradesh elections of 2018 where the party which got a slightly higher vote share got a lower seat share
  • FPTP system tends to bring about a two-party system at the constituency level.
  • In countries like India, this translated into the establishment of a two-party system at the State level which happened between 1967 and 1989.
  • Post-1990, this produced three kinds of bipolarity: Congress versus BJP in a number of States, Congress versus the Left in three States, and Congress versus regional parties in other States.
  • At the national level, 2014 marked the end of a 25-year period of a coalition/minority government.
  • And post-2014, there was the emergence of a second dominant party system.
  • the proportional representation (PR) system in Europe and elsewhere, where seats are allocated roughly in accordance with the vote share, that also produces distinct polarisations
  • The FPTP system can’t be blamed for polarisation.
  • Polarisation is linked to the politicisation of certain social cleavages.
  • These cleavages are sometimes dormant in society and can become active or can be activated through mobilisation



Vulture conservation


  • Vultures are very important scavengers in our ecosystem, yet India lost more than 95% of its vulture population through the 1990s and by the mid-2000s.
  • Today, the country requires urgent conservation efforts to save vultures from becoming extinct.
  • Vultures belong to the Accipitridae family whose members include eagles, hawks and kites.
  • They are relatively social birds with an average lifespan of 10-30 years in the wild.
  • Being bulky, they nest on tall trees or rocky cliffs.
  • Vultures are slow breeders and so the survival of every individual is very crucial.
  • With their excellent eyesight and strong sense of smell, vultures can detect the presence of dead animals from great distances.
  • Vultures don’t have a voice box and so they cannot sing.
  • They communicate via grunts and hisses.
  • Generally, vultures rely on other carnivores to open carcasses.
  • Their powerful bills and long slender necks are designed to help them tear off the meat chunks from inside the carcass
  • Vultures have a highly acidic stomach that helps them digest rotting carcass and kill disease-causing bacteria. India has nine species of vultures.
  • Many are critically endangered.


Why vultures are in danger?

  • The main reason for the decline in the vulture population is the use of the drug, diclofenac.
  • Diclofenac, which relieves cattle of pain, is toxic to vultures even in small doses and causes kidney failure and death
  • Myths about the medicinal healing powers of vultures’ body parts has led to the hunting of vultures.
  • Quarrying and blasting of stones where vultures nest have also caused their decline.


Without Vultures

  • Removing vultures from the ecosystem leads to inefficient clearing of carcasses and contaminates water systems.
  • If dead animals are left to rot for long durations, it may give rise to disease-causing pathogens.
  • The animals that consume such flesh become further carriers of disease.
  • Very few animals/birds can ingest rotting carcasses



  • To tackle this problem, India banned diclofenac for veterinary use in 2006.
  • Five States are to get vulture breeding centres under the Action Plan for Vulture Conservation for 2020-2025, approved in October 2020
  • Vulture ‘restaurants’, which exist in some countries, are also a way of preserving the population. In these ‘restaurants’, diclofenac-free carcasses of cattle are dumped in designated areas where vultures gather to feed
  • With International Vulture Awareness Day coming up on September 4, it is important for us to spread awareness about the importance of vultures in our ecosystem.
  • Male to Thilafushi Link Project
  • The contract for the largestever infrastructure project in the Maldives was signed
  • The Greater Male Connectivity Project ( GMCP) will consist of a 6.74-km-long bridge and causeway link between Male and the nearby islands of Villingli, Gulhifalhu and Thilafushi.
  • Indian construction giant AFCONS has been tasked with completing the project.
  • Greater Male Connectivity – Male to Thilafushi Link Project has been signed between the Ministry of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure and AFCONS Infrastructure Ltd.