Unified Portal of Central Bureau of Narcotics

The Unified Portal of Central Bureau of Narcotics was recently launched to facilitate the ease of doing business of Narcotic Drugs and Controlled Substances in India. The launch of this portal is expected to be a significant stepping stone towards achieving better compliance and transparency.

  • The Unified portal is calibrated to have database integration and ingestion with other government services, including Bharat Kosh, GST, PAN-NSDL validation, e-Sanchit, and UIDAI. It will provide a single point service for obtaining licenses from CBN and facilitate secure, user-friendly, and transparent operations. 
  • Exporters, importers, and manufacturers of Narcotic Drugs and Controlled Substances are expected to be the primary beneficiaries of the Unified portal. 
  • The Unified portal eliminates the need for physical interaction, reducing the processing time drastically. This will leverage a significant reduction in the processing time and conserve the resources of the trade for other fruitful business activities.
  • CBN conceptualized the use of a Digital platform as an effective tool to synergize and sustain a balance between facilitation and compliance management. The Unified portal is a significant milestone towards achieving this objective.
  • The Unified portal’s mode of interaction is faceless and contactless. Applicants can file applications and raise queries from anywhere and at any time, and the department will respond through the portal.

Vibrant Villages Programme

On April 7 this year, Home Minister Amit Shah unveiled the Vibrant Village program at Kibithu, a remote village located at an altitude of 9,000 feet above sea level, near the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh. This program aims to transform rural areas into self-sufficient and prosperous communities.

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  • Kibithu is the easternmost village of India and is considered the gateway to the Land of the Rising Sun, Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Despite its strategic location, the village lacks basic amenities such as electricity, healthcare facilities, and proper roads. These factors make it difficult for the residents to access necessary services.
  • The Vibrant Village program aligns with the government’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat, which aims to make India self-reliant and self-sufficient. The program will help enhance rural population’s quality of life and promote the overall economic growth and development of these regions. The government has allocated funds for the successful implementation of this initiative in a phased manner.
  • The program aims to revolutionize rural India by providing access to basic amenities and promoting economic growth and development. The construction of roads, bridges, and other infrastructure will enhance connectivity, making it easier for people to access essential services.
  • Provision of electricity and access to clean drinking water will improve the quality of life of people living in rural areas. Skill development programs will create employment opportunities for local residents, promoting economic growth and development.

India’s Tiger Census – 2022

India is home to the largest population of tigers in the world, and their protection and conservation is of utmost importance. The country conducts a scientific estimation of its tiger population once every four years, and the latest report was released by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently.

  • The report revealed that as of 2022, India’s tiger population stands at 3,167, which is a significant increase from the 2006 figure of 1,411.
  • However, the report also shows a decrease in tiger population in the Western Ghats landscape. The Western Ghats have seen a significant decline in the tiger population due to the overlap between “wildlife and humans” caused by developmental activities. This area covers about 1,40,000 square km and is a cause of concern for conservationists.
  • The report further highlights that the Nilgiri cluster that is Nagarahole to BRT Hills in Karnataka has the largest tiger population in the world. However, the tiger populations in areas outside of the reserves such as Wayanad landscape, BRT Hills, and the tiger areas on Goa-Karnataka border have decreased significantly.
  • The report has shown a decline in tiger populations in the Indian states of Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. This data highlights the need for increased protection and conservation measures in these areas.
  • The report indicates that several landscapes have shown a substantial increase in tiger population, such as Shivalik and Gangetic floodplain, central India, northeastern hills, Brahmaputra flood plains, and Sundarbans. This growth is promising and a testament to the conservation efforts that have been implemented in these areas.
  • In a bid to protect and conserve seven major big cats of the world – tigers, lions, leopards, snow leopards, pumas, jaguars, and cheetahs, the International Big Cat Alliance was inaugurated in Mysuru. The alliance aims to work towards the protection and conservation of these big cats.

Balikatan Drills between the US and the Philippines

The Balikatan drills are annual military exercises conducted between the United States and the Philippines. The name “Balikatan” is derived from the Tagalog word “shoulder-to-shoulder,” reflecting the strong partnership between the two countries.

  • More than 17,600 military personnel are involved in the Balikatan drills, with about 12,200 from the US and 5,400 from the Philippines. The drills involve various exercises, including live-fire exercises and a boat-sinking rocket assault. The drills are aimed at enhancing the interoperability and readiness of the US and Philippine armed forces.
  • The Balikatan drills showcase a range of advanced weapon systems, including Patriot missiles, Himars rocket launchers, and anti-tank Javelins. The live-fire drills during the exercises are aimed at bolstering the Philippines’ coastal defenses against external threats.
  • The Spratlys archipelago is a hotly contested area in the South China Sea. It is claimed by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan. The Balikatan drills have been conducted in this region to promote regional stability and deter aggression.
  • China has expressed its concerns over the Balikatan drills, as it considers the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait as its own territory. The drills have the potential to inflame tensions in the region, which China claims as part of its sovereign territory.
  • The US 7th Fleet’s deployment of guided-missile destroyer USS Milius within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef was aimed at challenging China’s expansive territorial claims in the South China Sea. This deployment was part of the US’ efforts to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific and uphold international law in the region.
  • The 2014 defense pact between the US and the Philippines allows for rotating batches of American forces to stay in more Philippine military camps. This pact has been critical in enhancing the US-Philippine defense cooperation and maintaining peace and stability in the region.

Orion Wargame

France is hosting the multinational wargame codenamed Orion, which is expected to be held from the third week of April to May 5. This exercise will involve various countries, including India, and will test their combat capabilities in a simulated war scenario.

  • The backdrop of this wargame is the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, where NATO led by the US is opposing Russian moves against Ukraine. The aim of the exercise is to test the preparedness of the participating countries’ air forces and their ability to operate in a multi-national environment.
  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) will participate in Orion with its Rafale fighter jets from the Western Air Command’s Golden Arrows squadron. The IAF has already inducted 36 Rafales, and these fighter planes have participated in wargames with foreign countries earlier, including Desert Knight with the French Air Force in Jodhpur.
  • Apart from India, several other countries are taking part in the wargames with their fighter planes. These include France, NATO, and other allies. The exercise is significant for the French defence forces as it is reportedly the largest ever multinational exercise they have carried out. This wargame involves not only their Air Force but also their Army and Navy along with their allies, the US and the UK.
  • Some 7,000 NATO troops have reportedly participated in the drill involving the land forces of their NATO allies. The exercise will take place in France and will involve a range of combat capabilities from air-to-air combat to ground attacks.
  • Another exercise involving India is Exercise Copeindia, which is going to take place in West Bengal. The American F-15 fighter planes are also expected to participate in this drill. However, there may be some changes in their availability of schedule due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

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