IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 26th March 2018
MSP of notified crops to be more than 1.5 times their cost
Part of: Mains GS Paper II, III- Government interventions in important sectors, Inclusive growth
- Addressing the nation in his 42nd ‘Mann Ki Baat’ on the radio, the PM said: “It has been decided that the MSP of notified crops will be fixed at least one and a half times of their cost.”
- The MSP will include labour cost of other workers employed, expenses incurred on own animals and on animals and machinery taken on rent, cost of seeds, cost of each type of fertiliser used, irrigation cost, land revenue paid to the State government, interest paid on working capital, and ground rent in case of leased land.
- The cost of labour of the farmer himself or any other person of his family who contributes in agricultural work will also be added to the cost of production.
- A system is being set up wherein farms in any part of the country will have a market-connect.
- Twenty-two thousand rural haats in the country will be upgraded by creating the necessary infrastructure and these will be integrated with the APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) and e-NAM (National Agriculture Market) platforms so that the farmers do not have to go to distant places to sell their produce.
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GSAT-6A: A satellite designated to be used by the Armed Forces
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Science & Technology, Indigenous developments
- GSAT-6A, the second predominantly S-band communications satellite, is set to be launched soon.
- It will complement GSAT-6, which has been orbiting since August 2015 at 83 degrees East longitude.
- The 2,000-kg-class 6A is more than a routine communications satellite. It is designated for the use of the Armed Forces and will not add any transponder capacity for general uses.
- The 6-metre-wide umbrella-like antenna GSAT-6A will enable mobile communication from anywhere via hand-held ground terminals.
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General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General Studies 3:
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
Tackling forest fires
The recent wildfire tragedy in Theni in Tamil Nadu, in which 20 trekkers lost their lives, once again brings into focus forest fires in India.
How is the information about fire relayed?
A fire anywhere in the world is detected by NASA’s MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) and VIIRS (Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite) satellites.
The Forest Survey of India (FSI) analyses the data by overlaying the digitised boundaries of forest areas to pinpoint the location to the exact forest compartment.
The FSI relays news of the fire to the concerned State, so that the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) in charge of the forest where the fire is raging is informed.
A few years ago, the time lapse between spotting the fire and the news reaching the DFO was five to six hours, but this has been reduced to about two hours recently.
Usually, there is a master fire control room which is informed and which sends firefighters from local fire crew stations to fight the blaze.
Approaches to fighting forest fires:
Helicopters or ground-based personnel spray fire retardant chemicals, or pump water to fight the blaze.
These are expensive methods and make sense when one is protecting a human community, but are usually not practised in India.
- Containing the fire in compartments bordered by natural barriers such as streams, roads, ridges, and fire lines along hillsides or across plains.
A fire line is a line through a forest which has been cleared of all vegetation.
- Setting a counter fire, so that when a fire is unapproachable for humans, a line is cleared of combustibles and manned.
The counter fire rushes towards the wildfire, leaving a stretch of burnt ground. As soon as the two fires meet, the blaze is extinguished.
How to mitigate damage?
Following can be done to mitigate the damage caused by forest fires-
- Communication and response time should be cut down.
- The actual numbers of Forest Department personnel that are sent to put out fires are inadequate. A fire often has a front of several kilometres and a few jeeps full of men are entirely inadequate to fight such a blaze.
We need to vastly increase the number of firefighters as well as equip them properly with drinking water bottles, back-up supplies of food and water, proper shoes or boots, rakes, spades and other implements, light, rechargeable torches, and so on.
- Seasonal labour could be contracted during the fire season.
With adequate training, they would serve to fill gaps along the line. Local villagers would be the best resource.
- The constraint is funds.
Vast amounts of funds are used for frivolous purposes like ‘planting forests’. In practice, they are mostly diverted to corrupt officials and political parties.
Better utilization of funds to cover the cost of a well-equipped and well-paid forest protection force is required.
Increasing the field staff of Forest Departments by discontinuing the claimed ‘forest plantations’ would help control forest fires, which in turn would help rejuvenation of fire-stressed forest ecosystems. This would help indigenous forests grow back.
Connecting the dots:
- Forest fires is a global challenge. However, in India we have failed to both control and handle forest fires efficiently. Suggest measures to refrom this.
General Studies 3:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
- Inclusive growth and issues arising from it; Effects of liberalization on the economy
General Studies 2:
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
India’s export subsidies: Issue at WTO
US recently took action against India’s export subsidies at the World Trade Organisation.
This can be seen as another example of the superpower’s growing economic aggression against trade partners.
What is the issue?
Last year the WTO had officially notified that India’s per capita Gross National Income (GNI) had crossed $1,000 three years in a row.
According to WTO rules, countries can give export subsidies only as long as their per capita GNI is below $1,000.
Once it is established that the higher income is there to stay (with three consecutive years of GNI breaching the $1,000 threshold), countries can no longer enjoy the special dispensation of export subsidies which is otherwise banned under WTO rules.
India continues using export subsidies.
Expecting India to change a plethora of export subsidy schemes like the Merchandise Export from India Scheme (MEIS) used across sectors all of a sudden could be considered harsh.
But, breaching the $1,000 mark was something India could see coming.
The Foreign Trade Policy, which was announced in 2015, as well as the review of the policy announced last year, talked about the need to re-calibrate existing export promotion schemes. However, nothing was done on the ground.
India’s stand at WTO:
In its defence, India has said that it believes that it is entitled to an eight-year phase-out period
The contention is based on the argument that when the Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures was implemented in 1994-95, the countries with GNI higher than $1,000 got eight years to get rid of their export subsidies and, therefore, it should get the same.
But the two situations are not comparable as initially the phase-out period was extended to give comfort to members when the pact kicked in and more than two decades have passed since then.
The government should hold wide-ranging discussions with industry and related ministries to look at the best possible alternatives to the export subsidy schemes which could include technology upgrading funds, capital expenditure subsidies and funds for research and development.
The government needs to draw up alternative schemes.
All the ministries need to take the matter seriously and cooperate with the commerce ministry to decide on ways to continue extending support to exporters without violating WTO rules.
Connecting the dots:
- US recently took action against India’s export subsidies at the World Trade Organisation. What is the issue about? Discuss how India should move further on the issue.
Controlling the machine
The need for special attention
After the emergency
Exception makes the rule
Why New Delhi welcomes a can-do Canberra?