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India has registered a significant decline of 9.89 percentage points in the number of multidimensionally poor, from 24.85% in 2015-16 to 14.96% in 2019-2021, says the “National multidimensional poverty index: a progress review, 2023”, released by NITI Aayog here on Monday.

The study says nearly 13.5 crore people came out of multidimensional poverty during the period, assessed by identifying “acute deprivations in health, education and standard of living” using United Nations-approved parameters.

The report said rural areas witnessed the fastest decline in poverty from 32.59% to 19.28%, mainly due to a decrease in number of multidimensionally poor in States such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Rajasthan. Delhi, Kerala, Goa, and Tamil Nadu have the least number of people facing multidimensional poverty, along with the Union Territories. Bihar, Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh top the chart where the percentage of population which is multidimensionally poor is high.

Multidimensional poverty in urban areas, during the same period, saw a decrease from 8.65% to 5.27%. “Uttar Pradesh registered the largest decline in number of poor with 3.43 crore people escaping multidimensional poverty,” the NITI Aayog said in a statement. The report was released by its Vice-Chairman, Suman Bery.

The report has been prepared based on the latest National Family Heath Survey of 2019-21 and is the second edition of the National Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI). “The broad methodology followed is in consonance with the global methodology,” the statement said.

It said 12 parameters of health, education, and standard of living are examined in the report.

“These include nutrition, child and adolescent mortality, maternal health, years of schooling, school attendance, cooking fuel, sanitation, drinking water, electricity, housing, assets, and bank accounts,” the release said.

According to the report, between 2015-16 and 2019-21, the MPI value has nearly halved from 0.117 to 0.066 and the intensity of poverty has reduced from 47% to 44%. “With our own national MPI, India is poised to gain a deeper understanding of poverty’s complexities and forge solutions that ensure inclusivity for all. The district-wise estimation of the national MPI will also prioritise reaching out to the furthest behind first through focused efforts on specific indicators and dimensions. The results and findings of the index provide valuable insights for both policymakers and the wider community,” Mr. Beri said adding that it will help the country to achieve the target of reducing multidimensional poverty as per UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The countries had agreed to work towards preventing illegal trafficking of cultural artefacts during Modi’s state visit to the U.S. last month

The United States on Monday handed over 105 trafficked antiquities to India.

The repatriation ceremony was held at the Indian Consulate in New York and the antiquities would soon be transported to India, a statement from the consulate said.

The restitution of the artefacts is a follow-up of an agreement to the effect during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the U.S. last month.

India and the U.S. have also agreed to work for a Cultural Property Agreement that would help prevent illegal trafficking of cultural artefacts in future during the visit, a statement from the Indian Consulate said.

Such an understanding would add further value to the dynamic bilateral collaboration between Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies of the two countries, Ambassador of India to the United States Taranjit Singh Sandhu said, adding “For the people of India, these were not just pieces of art but part of their living heritage and culture”.

From across India

The 105 artefacts represent a wide geographical spread in terms of their origin in India – with 47 from eastern India, 27 from southern India, 22 from central India, six from northernIndia and three from western India.

Spanning a period from 2nd-3rd century CE to 18th-19th century CE, the artefacts are made of terracotta, stone, metal and wood. Around 50 of them have religious significance.

During Mr. Modi’s 2016 visit to the U.S., 16 artefacts were handed over by the U.S. side while in 2021, the U.S. government handed over 157. In 2022, the U.S. authorities formally handed over 307 antiquities, estimated to be worth nearly $4 million to Indian officials.

Addressing the Indian diaspora in June during his visit to the U.S., the Prime Minister had said: “I am happy that the American government has decided to return more than 100 antiquities of India that were stolen from us.These antiquities of Indian origin had reached the international market through right or wrong paths, but America’s decision to return them to India shows the emotional bond between the two nations”.

After a statement by Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM, the apex body of Kuki tribes) specifically seeking a separate State under Article 3 of the Constitution in light of the ongoing conflict in Manipur, signs of fissures are starting to appear among Kuki-Zo civil society organisations (CSOs) and councils about the specifics of how they want to be separated from the State of Manipur.

The Indigenous Tribal Leaders’ Forum (ITLF), at a meeting on Monday, decided to specify that it too is seeking a separate State, or a Union Territory if a State is not agreeable, according to its spokesperson Ginza Vualzong, while the Zomi Council (apex body of Zo tribes) has taken the position that specifics of autonomy can only be discussed once dialogue begins with the Union government.

The 24 Suspension of Operations (SoO) groups (which includes Kuki and Zo groups) under the umbrella of Kuki National Organisation and the United People’s Front have taken a similar position as that of the Zomi Council and have chosen to distance themselves from the Kuki Inpi’s statement, just as the Zomi Council has.

Meanwhile, the 10 Kuki-Zomi MLAs of Manipur, who had initiated the fresh demand for a separate administration within weeks of the ongoing conflict beginning, have also said that discussing specifics of the separation is “best left for commencement of the negotiations”.

‘United in demand’

However, all of these groups reiterated that a consensus will soon be developed on how the separation should occur, and that they remained united in their demand for separating from the Manipur government.

Sources within Zomi groups, however, have said that keeping the demand for separation vague was necessary at this stage so that “negotiations with the Centre can have room to explore unique and localised political solutions for Manipur while remaining within the framework of the Constitution”.

“Specifying the nature of separation at this stage might also discourage the Union government from even coming to the table,” a representative of the Zomi Council told The Hindu.

UAE Ambassador to India Abdulnasser Alshaali says the agreement will significantly ease the path for trade by lowering transaction costs and

making it easier to convert currency, adding that the idea is to have the right mechanism and options in place for exporters and importers

The India-UAE rupee-dirham deal signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Abu Dhabi is bilateral, and does not carry any agenda to “de-dollarise” the global economy, the United Arab Emirate’s Ambassador to India says.

Speaking to The Hindu after Mr. Modi returned from his meeting with the UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan on Saturday, Ambassador Abdulnasser Alshaali said that the deal would significantly ease the path for trade between India and the UAE by lowering transaction costs and making it easier to convert the currency.

Asked about whether India would use the agreement to resolve its problems in payments to Russia in dirhams, he said the agreement was not “multilateral” or about “third countries”.

“This is a purely bilateral matter between the UAE and India. We have decided that we want to make sure that there are more options for traders, exporters, importers to set up their trade. And it’s basically up to them on how they want it to work,” Mr. Alshaali said in the interview.

The UAE-India trade has increased approximately 15% since the implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between them in May 2022. Bilateral trade including oil purchases have reached about $85 billion, of which UAE exports to India make up about $50 billion.

The UAE Ambassador said that technical teams had discussed how to ensure that the bilateral deficit against India and a surfeit of Indian rupees did not become an issue, as it had become for India’s trade with Russia for oil payments and defence purchases, as well as for Iran.

“The idea is not to per se increase trade right away, but to actually have the option to set it up in local currencies, to have the right mechanism in place to be able to do that,” said Mr. Alshaali, who holds a Ph.D. in economics and was previously the Assistant Minister for Economic and Trade Affairs within the UAE Foreign Ministry.

He added, however, that the conversation about what would be the “currency of the future” was changing, referring to the discussions at both the recent SCO summit this month and upcoming BRICS summit next month about promoting “national currency” payments instead of dollars within the groupings.

The UAE has become a dialogue partner of the SCO, and has applied to be a member of the BRICS group of emerging economies.The UAE President is expected to visit Delhi in September to attend the G-20 summit where the country is a special invitee.

In addition, Mr. Modi has been invited to attend the CoP28 climate change conference in Dubai in November, and the Ambassador said the number of visits between the two leaders had helped “speed up the momentum” of bilateral ties, especially in trade.

Air Service Agreement

However, he pointed out that unless India agreed to revise the Air Service Agreement (ASA) between the two countries, for which negotiations had reached an impasse at present, it would be difficult to accommodate the new demands for travel between the two countries.

“The UAE wants to be as flexible as possible in our visa regime for Indians, for tourists, traders and businessmen especially after the new trade agreements. But if we issue so many visas, we need more flights to carry passengers, or prices will skyrocket further,” Mr. Alshaali said.

The talks between the UAE and India over revising the ASA signed in 2014 have hit an impasse over the past few years, as the Civil Aviation Ministry is reluctant to increase the number of seats between UAE cities, including Dubai, and some 15 Indian cities, as it could take away business from Indian airlines. As a result, data from travel portals show an increase in airfares of 45-50% to Dubai from New Delhi, Bengaluru and Kochi as compared with pre-COVID fares.

“We want to have this conversation [on the ASA], we want to make travel easier for Indians. But we are waiting to see if someone [Indian government] wants to have this conversation with us,” he added, stressing that it was the Indian traveller who suffered the most with the rise in ticket prices.

On regional issues, Mr. Alshaali said the UAE had good relations with India as a strategic partner and Pakistan as a bilateral partner, but did not know of any current efforts by the UAE government to mediate between the two.

Asked about the UAE’s decision to attend the Srinagar G-20 meeting in May, while other members of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt did not, the Ambassador said the UAE was committed to supporting the Indian G-20 presidency.

“What matters to us is we want to make sure that India as a host of the G-20 can see and count on the UAE as a true strategic partner, which is why it’s not just about us being present [at the G-20 meeting] in Jammu and Kashmir, but as also taking part in the other meetings, not only at the official level, but at the ministerial level,” Mr. Alshaali said, adding that he was confident that India would find a way to forge a joint communique at the end of the G-20 summit, despite current differences over the Ukraine war.

 

(With inputs from

 

Jagriti Chandra)

As India begins negotiations with France for three more Scorpenes, the Naval Group, the French co-developer of these submarines, has already invested over ₹100 crore in three workshops with tools and infrastructure for important tasks and spares for maintenance of critical systems of these submarines. The group is also working on qualifying the air independent propulsion (AIP) system developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) for installation on the Scorpenes.

Naval Group and Mazagon Dock Ltd. (MDL), Mumbai, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation on three additional Scorpenes on July 6.

“The details of technical features and other parameters, including delivery lead time, will be complied with by the MDL as per the requirements of the Indian Navy. Industrial partners, both French and Indian, will provide all necessary support,” Pierre Éric Pommellet, Naval Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, told The Hindu.

The three additional Scorpene submarines will also come fitted with the DRDO-developed AIP system to enhance their endurance.

“Further, the indigenous content will be higher as several efforts are in place in areas of DRDO AIP, combat system among others. We are assisting the DRDO to integrate their AIP and other indigenous technologies onboard Scorpene-designed submarines,” Mr. Pommellet said.

The Navy has drawn up plans to install AIP modules on all Scorpene submarines as they go for their refit beginning with INS Kalvari likely by 2024-end to enhance their endurance.

The indigenous AIP module has been tested on shore and recently DRDO and Naval Group signed an agreement to integrate the AIP module on the Scorpene.

In addition to submarines, the Naval Group has signed MoUs with Hindustan Shipyard Limited, Visakhapatnam to support its bid for the Navy’s Landing Platform Dock ships and with Larsen and Toubro to support their midget submarine development.

The Indo-French joint statement issued on July 14 hailed the success of the first Scorpene submarine construction programme and the sharing of naval expertise between companies in the two countries.

“India and France are ready to explore more projects to develop the Indian submarine fleet and its performance,” it said.

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