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News Analysis

  • 22 May 2020
  • 38 min read
Agriculture

Odisha Promotes Contract Farming

Why in News

Recently, the Odisha government has promulgated an ordinance allowing investors and farmers to enter into an agreement for contract farming.

  • The contract farming has been allowed in view of the continuing uncertainties due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Key Points

  • Aim:
    • The ordinance aims to facilitate both farmers and sponsors to develop mutually beneficial and efficient contract farming systems.
    • It is also expected to improve the production and marketing of agricultural produce and livestock while promoting farmers’ interest.
  • Participants in the Contract Farming Agreement:
    • The agreement will be entered into between the contract farming sponsor (the one who offers to participate in any component) or entire value chain including pre production, and the contract farming producer (i.e. farmers who agree to produce the crop or rear the livestock).
  • Involved Loans and Advances:
    • The loans and advances given by the sponsor to the producer can be recovered from the sale proceeds of the produce.
    • It cannot be realised by way of sale or mortgage or lease of the land in respect of which the agreement has been entered into.
  • No transfer of Land Rights:
    • It also states that notwithstanding anything contained in the agreement, no title, rights, ownership or possession of land or premises or other such property will be transferred or alienated or vest in the sponsor or its successor or its agent.
  • Contract Farming and Services Committee:
    • It also mentions the constitution of a “Contract Farming and Services (Promotion and Facilitation) Committee” to review the performance of the contract farming and to make suggestions to the government for its promotion and efficient performance.

Contract Farming

  • Description:
    • Contract farming signifies an agricultural production (including livestock and poultry) based on a pre-harvest agreement between buyers (such as food processing units and exporters), and producers (farmers or farmer organisations).
    • The producer can sell the agricultural produce at a specific price in the future to the buyer as per the agreement.
    • Under contract farming, the producer can reduce the risk of fluctuating market price and demand. The buyer can reduce the risk of non-availability of quality produce.
  • Regulations:
    • In India, contract farming is regulated under the Indian Contract Act, 1872.
    • In addition, the Model APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) Act, 2003 provides specific provisions for contract farming, like compulsory registration of contract farming sponsors and dispute settlement.
    • Since agriculture is a state list subject, therefore contract farming is not uniform.
      • The NITI Aayog observed that market fees and other levies are paid to the APMC for contract framing when no services such as market facilities and infrastructure are rendered by them.
      • Thus, it has been recommended that contract farming should be out of the ambit of APMCs. Instead, an independent regulatory authority must be brought in to disengage contract farming stakeholders from the existing APMCs.
    • Therefore, the Ministry of Agriculture came out with a draft Model Contract Farming Act, 2018.
      • The draft Model Act seeks to create a regulatory and policy framework for contract farming. Based on this draft Model Act, legislatures of states can enact a law on contract farming.
  • Advantages:
    • Contract farming addresses the problem of low investment in agriculture and ensures a supply of quality inputs, technical guidance and management support for farmers.
    • It provides an assured market and a pre-agreed sale price for produce, makes it easier for farmers to access cheaper institutional credit.

Way Forward

  • The contract farming seeks to provide alternative marketing channels and better price realisation to farmers. It has been observed that if the market price rises higher than the contracted price, the farmers are tempted to sell the produce to someone else for a higher price. On the other hand, if market prices were to fall below the contracted rate, the buyer often fails to honour the commitment.
  • It is also necessary to remember that for growers agriculture is a livelihood issue and for processors and aggregators it is business. Hence the Government should play the role of a facilitator to promote as well as to develop a healthy system of farmer-corporate relationship for mutual benefit and development of the agriculture sector in India.

Source:TH


Biodiversity & Environment

Ecologically Sensitive Areas in Western Ghats

Why in News

Recently, the Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change interacted with Chief Ministers of six states through a video conference to discuss issues relating to notification of Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) pertaining to Western Ghats.

  • These six states include Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu.

Background

  • The government had constituted a High Level Working Group under the Chairmanship of Dr. Kasturirangan to conserve and protect the biodiversity of Western Ghats while allowing for sustainable and inclusive development of the region.
  • The Committee had recommended that identified geographical areas falling in the six States of Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu may be declared as Ecologically Sensitive Areas.
  • A draft notification related to the same was issued in 2018 mentioning the areas to be notified in the ESA.

Key Points

  • All the involved States recognised a need to protect the Western Ghats. However, the states expressed their concerns related to the allowed activities and extent of area mentioned in the draft notification.
  • Further, it has been also decided that state specific issues will be discussed and resolved through the consensus.

Eco-Sensitive Areas

  • Eco-Sensitive Areas (ESAs)are located within 10 kms around Protected Areas, National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries.
  • ESAs are notified by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) under Environment Protection Act 1986.
  • The basic aim is to regulate certain activities around National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries so as to minimise the negative impacts of such activities on the fragile ecosystem encompassing the protected areas.

Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel

  • A committee headed by ecologist Madhav Gadgil also known as the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) in 2011 recommended that all of the Western Ghats be declared as the Ecological Sensitive Areas (ESA) with only limited development allowed in graded zones.
  • The panel had classified the Western Ghats into Ecologically Sensitive Areas (ESA) 1, 2 and 3 of which ESA-1 is high priority, almost all developmental activities (mining, thermal power plants etc) were restricted in it.
  • It specified that the system of governance of the environment should be a bottom to top approach (right from Gram sabhas) rather than a top to bottom approach.
  • It also recommended the constitution of a Western Ghats Ecology Authority (WGEA), as a statutory authority under the Ministry of Environment and Forests, with the powers under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
  • The report was criticized for being more environment-friendly and not in tune with the ground realities.

Kasturirangan Committee

  • The Kasturirangan Commission sought to balance the development and environment protection in contrast to the system proposed by the Gadgil report.The committees major recommendations were:
    • Instead of the total area of Western Ghats, only 37% of the total area to be brought under ESA.
    • Complete ban on mining, quarrying and sand mining in ESA.
    • No thermal power projects to be allowed and hydropower projects be allowed only after detailed study.
    • Red industries i.e. which are highly polluting to be strictly banned.
    • The report recommended exclusion of inhabited regions and plantations from the purview of ESAs making it a pro farmer approach.

Way Forward

  • It is a Development vs Conservation debate. Hence, a proper analysis based on scientific study followed by consensus among various stakeholders by addressing respective concerns is required urgently.
  • Holistic view of threats and demands on the forest land, products and services, devising strategies to address these with clearly stated objectives for the authorities involved must be taken.
  • Any further delay in the implementation will only accentuate degrading of the most prized natural resource of the country.

Source:PIB


International Relations

G-7 Summit

Why in News

Recently, the President of the USA made an announcement to host the 46th G7 summit in-person instead of remotely by videoconference.

  • Originally, the annual G7 summit was scheduled to be held on June 10 to June 12, 2020 in Camp David, United States.

Group of Seven (G-7)

  • Description:
    • G-7 is a bloc of industrialized democracies i.e. France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, and Canada.
      • The world's biggest population and second-biggest economy, China has relatively low levels of wealth per head of population. Thus it is not considered as an advanced economy like other G7 members. Hence China is not a member of G7.
    • It is an intergovernmental organisation that was formed in 1975.
    • The bloc meets annually to discuss issues of common interest like global economic governance, international security and energy policy.
    • The G7 was known as the ‘G8’ for several years after the original seven were joined by Russia in 1997.
      • The Group returned to being called G7 after Russia was expelled as a member in 2014 following the latter’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine..
  • Summit Participation:
    • Summits are held annually and hosted on a rotation basis by the group's members.
    • The host country not only holds the G7 presidency but also sets the agenda for the year.
    • The groundwork for the Summit, including matters to be discussed and follow-up meetings, is done by the sherpas, who are generally personal representatives or members of diplomatic staff such as ambassadors.
    • The leaders of important international organizations like European Union, IMF, World Bank and the United Nations are also invited.
  • Challenges and Concerns:
    • Internally the G7 has a number of disagreements, e.g. clash of the USA with other members over taxes on imports and action on climate change.
    • The organisation has also been criticised for not reflecting the current state of global politics or economics.
    • There are no G7 members from Africa, Latin America or the southern hemisphere.
    • It is also facing a challenge from fast-growing emerging economies, like India and Brazil are not members of the G7.

India and G-7

  • The participation of India at the 45th summit in Biarritz, France, is a reflection of deepening strategic partnership and recognition of India as a major economic power.
  • While India has found the European Union a difficult jurisdiction to navigate diplomatically, a better relationship between India and European Union is emerging as a policy priority under G-7.
  • India’s ability to safeguard its core sovereign concerns such as trade, Kashmir issue and India’s relations with Russia and Iran can be discussed with G7 members.
  • India raised issues on climate change and at meetings which signaled India’s growing willingness to lead on issues that are points of contention for countries like China and the USA.

Way Forward

  • G-7 must focus on the key international issues like terrorism, climate change, trade and internal conflicts between the countries.
  • As a platform it must reflect the solutions for the pressing issues and global concerns like elimination of poverty and diseases.
  • It should support the economies at the global level and help to establish the equal levels for each country.

Source: TH


Agriculture

Alternative Dwarfing Genes in Wheat

Why in News

Recently, scientists at Pune based Agharkar Research Institute (ARI), have mapped two alternative dwarfing genes Rht14 and Rht18 in wheat that can help in reducing rice crop residue burning i.e. stubble burning.

  • ARI is an autonomous institute of the Department of Science and Technology.

Background

  • In India, close to twenty-three million tonnes of leftover rice residues are annually burnt by farmers to get rid of the straw and prepare their fields for sowing wheat, which is the next crop, resulting in air pollution.
  • Also, dry environments pose a challenge for the germination of wheat varieties with short coleoptile.
    • Coleoptile is a sheath which protects the young shoot tip in a grass or cereal.
    • Short coleoptiles are generally less adapted for the deeper sowing conditions.
  • The presently available semi-dwarf wheat varieties, which were explored during the Green Revolution, carry conventional Rht1 dwarfing alleles.
    • Alleles are the variant form of a given gene.
    • The Reduced Height (Rht) genes decreased plant height and increased productive tillers (sprouts).
  • The present variety produces optimum yields under high-fertility irrigated conditions.
  • However, they are not well adapted for deeper sowing conditions in dry environments due to shorter coleoptiles, and low early vigor (measure of increase in plant growth) often results in reduced seedling emergence.

Key Points

  • Alternative Dwarfing Genes:
    • ARI mapped the dwarfing genes Rht14 and Rht18 on chromosome 6A in a durum variety of wheat, and DNA-based markers were developed for a better selection of these genes in wheat breeding lines.
      • Genetic/DNA marker is any alteration in a sequence of nucleic acids or other genetic traits that can be readily detected and used to identify individuals, populations, or species or to identify genes involved in inherited disease.
    • The DNA-based markers will help wheat breeders to precisely select wheat lines carrying these alternative dwarfing genes from a massive pool of wheat breeding lines. These genes are associated with better seedling vigour and longer coleoptiles.
      • Breeding line is a group of genetically identical homozygous individuals that, when intercrossed, produce only offspring that are identical to their parents.
    • It has been found that dwarfing genes Rht14 and Rht18 in wheat conferred a plant height reduction comparable to the Rht1 alleles while retaining early vigour in wheat seedlings, but do not affect coleoptile length and seedling shoot length.
    • Therefore, these can be utilized as an alternative dwarfing genes to Rht1 for deep sowing conditions or in fields with retained stubble.
    • The DNA based markers are being used at the Institute for marker-assisted transfer of these genes in Indian wheat varieties, so as to make them suitable for sowing under rice stubble-retained conditions and dry environments.
      • Marker-assisted transfer: It is an indirect selection process where a trait of interest is selected based on a marker (morphological, biochemical or DNA/RNA variation) linked to a trait of interest, e.g. productivity, disease resistance, abiotic stress tolerance, and quality.
  • Advantages:
    • The wheat lines with these alternative dwarfing genes will help in reducing stubble burning incidences under the rice-wheat cropping system.
    • The improved lines will make it possible for farmers to sow wheat under rice stubble-retained conditions.
      • It means farmers won't have to resort to stubble burning for preparing their ground for the sowing of the next crop.
    • These lines will also allow deeper sowing of wheat seeds to avail advantage of residual moisture in the soil, therefore, saving valuable water resources and reducing the cost of cultivation to farmers.

Way Forward

  • Burning of leftover rice crop residue (stubble burning) has serious implications for the environment, soil, and human health. Therefore, there is a need to include alternative dwarfing genes in wheat improvement programs.
  • Also, only two dwarfing alleles of Rht1 are predominant in Indian wheat varieties; therefore, it is required to diversify the genetic base of dwarfing genes considering diverse wheat growing zones in India.
  • Also there is a need for rigorous Research and Development related to the gene varieties of crops so that productivity of the crops can be enhanced.

Source: PIB


Governance

Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana Extended

Why in News

The Union Cabinet has extended Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana (PMVVY) for a period of three years. This social security scheme for senior citizens will now be valid till March 2023.

  • Earlier, the scheme was open till 31st March, 2020.
  • Initially an assured rate of return of 7.40% per annum for the year 2020-21 per annum will be provided and thereafter to be reset every year in line with the Senior Citizen Savings Scheme (SCSS).
  • The Finance Minister will approve an annual reset rate of return at the beginning of every financial year.

Key Points

  • The Pradhan Mantri Vaya Vandana Yojana was launched in 2017 by the Ministry of Finance to offer a guaranteed payout of pension to senior citizens every month.
  • The Scheme can be purchased offline as well as online through the Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) which has been given the sole privilege to operate this Scheme.
  • Eligibility:
    • Minimum Entry Age: 60 years (completed)
    • Maximum Entry Age: No limit
  • Components:
    • One can invest a maximum amount of Rs. 15 lakh under PMVVY scheme. The tenure of policy is set at 10 years.
    • Senior citizens can draw a minimum pension of Rs. 1,000 per month depending on the amount invested in the scheme. The maximum pension amount is limited at Rs. 10,000 per month.
    • Pension will be payable as per the frequency of monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, yearly as chosen by the pensioner at the time of purchase.
    • Aadhar has been made mandatory to avail the benefit of the scheme.
  • Role of the Government:
    • The Government’s financial liability is limited to the extent of the difference between the market return generated by LIC and the assured rate of return (7.4% for 2020-21).
    • The pension is based on the assured rate of return.
    • This protects elderly persons aged 60 years and above against a future fall in their interest income due to uncertain market conditions.
  • Other Benefits:

Source: Mint


Governance

Textile Committee

Why in News

Textiles Committee, Mumbai will now test and certify the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) body coveralls required for healthcare workers and other Covid-19 warriors.

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to protective clothing, helmets, gloves, face shields, goggles, facemasks and/or respirators or other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury or the spread of infection or illness.

Key Points

  • Textiles Committee is the ninth approved laboratory to test and certify body coveralls.
  • The national accreditation body, National Accreditation Board for Testing & Calibration Laboratories (NABL) has approved the lab facility under the textile committee.
  • The Textiles Committee has come up with fully indigenously designed (Make in India) PPE Testing Equipment, i.e. Synthetic Blood Penetration Testing equipment, required for determination of the resistance of protective clothing materials to penetration by blood and body fluids.
  • Benefits:
    • This will help in overcoming the challenges of non-availability of reputed domestic manufacturers of PPE testing equipment. Further, there is a delay/long gestation period to import machines from China.
    • This would also help in making India the world’s second largest manufacturer of body coveralls, next only to China.
  • Textiles Committee:
    • The Textiles Committee is a statutory body established in 1963 through an Act of Parliament and is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Textiles.
    • It has been formed to ensure the quality of textiles and textile machinery both for internal consumption and export purpose.
    • It is tasked with the functions of establishing laboratories for the testing of textiles and textile machinery. It provides for their inspection and examination.
    • The Chairman of the Committee is nominated by the Government.

Source: PIB


Important Facts For Prelims

Quantum Entanglement

Why in News

Recently, the scientists from S.N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences (SNBNCBS), Kolkata have developed a novel protocol to find out whether a pair of electrons is in an entangled state.

  • This novel protocol to measure the status of entanglement is known as Device Independent Self Testing (DIST) method.

Key Points

  • Device Independent Self Testing (DIST) Method:
    • This method can be used to overcome safety concerns in quantum entanglement as it enables the verification of entanglement in an unknown quantum state of two photons without having direct access to the state, or complete trust in the measurement devices.
    • In several practical situations, one of the parties may be fully trusted, whereas, the other may not be trusted like in the case of server-client relationship in banking transactions.
  • Quantum Entanglement:
    • It is the physical phenomenon that occurs when a pair or group of particles is generated and they interact in such a way that the quantum state of each particle of the pair or group cannot be described independently of the state of the others.
    • In this quantum mechanical phenomenon, the quantum states of two or more objects have to be described with reference to each other, even though the individual objects may be spatially separated.
    • This leads to correlations between observable physical properties of the systems.
    • Albert Einstein dismissed this idea as a 'spooky action'.
  • Importance:
    • Entangled states are key resources to facilitate many quantum information processing tasks and quantum cryptographic protocols.
    • The entangled pairs of electrons can be safely used as resources for facilitating quantum information processing tasks.
  • Challenges:
    • Fragility: Entanglement is fragile and is easily lost during the transit of photons through the environment. Hence, it is extremely important to know whether a pair of photons is entangled, in order to use them as resources.
    • Safety: Verification of entanglement requires the use of measurement devices, but such devices may be hacked and cannot be trusted fully.

Source: PIB


Important Facts For Prelims

Sonic Boom

Why in News

Recently, sonic boom (a loud sound) was heard in Bengaluru which emanated from an Indian Air Force (IAF) test flight involving a supersonic profile.

Key Points

  • Sonic Booms are shockwaves produced by planes or other objects that are flying at a speed equal to or greater than the speed of sound (supersonic, >1225 kmph at sea level)
  • When an airplane travels through the air, it produces sound waves. If the plane is traveling slower than the speed of sound, then sound waves can propagate ahead of the plane. If the plane breaks the sound barrier and flies faster than the speed of sound, it produces a sonic boom when it flies past. The boom is the plane’s sound waves combined together propagated at once.
  • Air reacts like fluid to supersonic objects. As those objects travel through the air, molecules are pushed aside with great force and this forms a shock wave. The bigger and heavier the aircraft, the more air it displaces.
  • Cause:
    • The shock wave forms a cone of pressurized or built-up air molecules, which move outward and rearward in all directions and extend all the way to the ground.
    • As the pressure cone spreads across the landscape along the flight path, it creates a continu­ous sonic boom along the full width of the cone's base.
    • The sharp release of pressure, after the buildup by the shock wave, is heard as the sonic boom.
    • The change in air pressure associated with a sonic boom is only a few pounds per square foot, about the same pressure change experienced riding an elevator down two or three floors.
    • It is the rate of change, the sudden changing of the pressure, which makes the sonic boom audible.
  • General Factors Associated With Sonic Booms:
    • There are several factors that can influence sonic booms like weight, size, and shape of the aircraft or vehicle, plus its altitude, attitude, and flight path, and weather or atmospheric conditions.
    • The direction of travel and the strength of shock waves are influenced by wind, speed, and direction, as well as by air temperature and pressure.

Source: IE


Important Facts For Prelims

International Day for Biological Diversity

Why in News

The International Day for Biological Diversity is observed on 22nd May every year to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

Key Points

  • The theme for the year 2020 is “Our solutions are in nature”.
    • The theme highlights that Biodiversity remains the answer to a number of sustainable development challenges. From nature-based solutions to climate, to food and water security, and sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity remains the basis for a sustainable future.
  • The year 2020 is a reflection, opportunity and solutions for biodiversity issues. The year will witness:
    • The final period for the 2011-2020 Strategic Plan on Biodiversity and its 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
    • The end of the 2011-2020 United Nations Decade on Biodiversity, and start of other new pivotal biodiversity related decades for the period 2021-2030: the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
    • The UN Biodiversity Summit (15th Conference of the Parties: COP-15) which will highlight the urgency of actions in support of a post-2020 global biodiversity framework that contributes to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and places the global community on a path towards realizing the 2050 Vision for Biodiversity.
      • Sustainable Goal 15 aims to “Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss”.

Note

  • 22nd March: World Water Day
  • 22nd April: Earth Day
  • 22nd May : World Biodiversity Day
  • Recently the Earth Hour was observed on 28th March, 2020. It encourages people to switch off the lights from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm as per their local time.

Important Facts For Prelims

International Tea Day

Why in News

Recently, the first International Tea Day was observed on 21st May after it was designated by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2019.

  • The UN General Assembly called on the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO is an agency of the United Nations) to lead the observance of the day.
  • May 21 was chosen because the season of tea production begins in May in most of the tea producing countries.

Key Points

  • Tea is a beverage made from the Camellia sinesis plant. It is the world’s most consumed drink, after water.
  • Origin: It is believed that tea originated in northeast India, north Myanmar and southwest China, but the exact place where the plant first grew is not known. There is evidence that tea was consumed in China 5,000 years ago.
  • Economy:
    • Tea production and processing constitutes a main source of livelihoods and subsistence for millions in developing and least developed countries.
    • It is a labour-intensive sector, providing jobs, especially in remote and economically disadvantaged areas.
    • Tea can play a significant role in rural development, poverty reduction and food security in developing countries, being one of the most important cash crops.
  • Sustainable Development: Tea production and processing contributes towards various sustainable development goals:
    • Reduction of extreme poverty (Goal 1).
    • Fight against hunger (Goal 2).
    • Empowerment of women (Goal 5).
    • Sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems (Goal 15).
  • Plantation condition:
    • Tea is a tropical and sub-tropical plant and grows well in moderately hot and humid climates.
    • The ideal temperature for its growth is 20°-30°C and temperatures above 35°C and below 10°C are harmful for the bush.
    • It requires 150-300 cm annual rainfall which should be well distributed throughout the year.
    • The most suitable soil for tea cultivation is slightly acidic soil (without calcium) with porous sub-soil which permits a free percolation of water.
  • Climate Change:
    • Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns, with more floods and droughts, are already affecting yields, tea product quality and prices, lowering incomes and threatening rural livelihoods.
    • In parallel, there is a growing recognition of the need to contribute to climate change mitigation, by reducing carbon emissions from tea production and processing.
  • FAO has designated 4 tea cultivation sites in China, Korea and Japan as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems.
    • Pu’er Traditional Tea Agrosystem (China)
    • Fuzhou Jasmine and Tea Culture System (China)
    • Traditional Tea-grass Integrated System (Japan)
    • Traditional Hadong Tea Agrosystem, Hwagae-myeon (Republic of Korea)

Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems

  • Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) was started by the FAO to safeguard and support the world's agricultural heritage systems.
  • GIAHS are outstanding landscapes of aesthetic beauty that combine agricultural biodiversity, resilient ecosystems and a valuable cultural heritage.
  • Three recognised GIAHS sites in India:
    • Kuttanad Below Sea Level Farming System of Kerala.
    • Koraput Traditional Agriculture of Odisha.
    • Pampore Saffron Heritage of Kashmir.

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