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PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (PIB) IAS UPSC – 4th October to 11th October – 2020

  • IASbaba
  • October 14, 2020
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PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU (PIB) IAS UPSC – 4th October to 11th October – 2020

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GS-2

Three Farm Reform Laws Will Change the Fortune of Agriculture In the Country

(Topic: Government schemes and policies to ensure food security)

Context: Three Bills on agriculture reforms were introduced in the Parliament to replace the ordinances issued during the lockdown 

  • The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 
  • The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020

What do the ordinances entail? 

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance has following provisions 

  • Opens up agricultural sale and marketing outside the notified Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) mandis for farmers
  • Removes barriers to inter-State trade 
  • Provides a framework for electronic trading of agricultural produce. 
  • Prohibits State governments from collecting market fee, cess or levy for trade outside the APMC markets.

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance relates to contract farming. It has following provisions

  • Provides framework on trade agreements for the sale and purchase of farm produce. 
  • The mutually agreed remunerative price framework envisaged in the legislation is touted as one that would protect and empower farmers.
  • The written farming agreement, entered into prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce, lists the terms and conditions for supply, quality, grade, standards and price of farm produce and services.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 

  1. Removes cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. The amendment will deregulate the production, storage, movement and distribution of these food commodities. 
  2. The central government is allowed regulation of supply during war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamity, while providing exemptions for exporters and processors at such times as well.
  3. Imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce must be based on price rise. A stock limit may be imposed only if there is a 100% increase in retail price of horticultural produce; and a 50% increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items

Why are these bills being opposed?

  1. Against the Spirit of Cooperative federalism
    • Since agriculture and markets are State subjects – entry 14 and 28 respectively in List II – the ordinances are being seen as a direct encroachment upon the functions of the States 
    • The provisions are viewed as against the spirit of cooperative federalism enshrined in the Constitution.
    • Justification by Centre: The Centre, however, argues that trade and commerce in food items is part of the concurrent list, thus giving it constitutional propriety.
  2. End of MSP
    • Critics view the dismantling of the monopoly of the APMCs as a sign of ending the assured procurement of food grains at minimum support prices (MSP).
    • To the Centre’s ‘one nation, one market’ call, critics have sought ‘one nation, one MSP’.
    • Critics argue that ensuring a larger number of farmers get the MSP for their produce and addressing weakness in the APMCs, instead of making these State mechanisms redundant is the need of the hour.
    • Justification: 
      • This law nowhere states that the current system of minimum support price (MSP)-based procurement of foodgrains (essentially wheat and paddy) by government agencies would end. Such purchases in state-regulated APMC (agricultural produce market committee) mandis will continue as before. The APMCs wouldn’t stop functioning either; nothing prevents farmers from selling their produce or traders and processors from buying in these mandis.
      • All the law does is provide farmers an alternative platform to sell. This could be a factory premise/processing plant, produce collection centre, cold storage, warehouse, silo or even the farmgate. Transactions in such “trade areas” will not be charged APMC market fee or cess. These levies shall apply only in trades that take place within the boundaries of the regulated market yards or mandis set up under the respective state APMC acts.
  3. No mechanism for price fixation
    • The Price Assurance Bill, while offering protection to farmers against price exploitation, does not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation. 
    • There is apprehension that the free hand given to private corporate houses could lead to farmer exploitation.
    • Critics are apprehensive about formal contractual obligations owing to the unorganised nature of the farm sector and lack of resources for a legal battle with private corporate entities.
  4. Food security undermined
    • Easing of regulation of food items would lead to exporters, processors and traders hoarding farm produce during the harvest season, when prices are generally lower, and releasing it later when prices increase. 
    • This could undermine food security since the States would have no information about the availability of stocks within the State.
    • Critics anticipate irrational volatility in the prices of essentials and increased black marketing.
  5. No consultation = Mistrust
    • Several reforms at the level of the central government as well as at the State level have been introduced and welcomed by farmers. However, in this particular case, the issue is not about the Bills; it is also about the process of their introduction. 
    • The government has failed to have or hold any discussion with the various stakeholders including farmers and middlemen. 
    • This is also true when it comes to consultation with State governments even though the subject of trade and agriculture are part of subjects on the State list. The attempt to pass the Bills without proper consultation adds to the mistrust among various stakeholders including State governments.
  6. Entry of two of the biggest corporate groups (Adani and Reliance) in food and agricultural retail

What are the farmers’ concerns?

Farmers are apprehensive about getting Minimum Support Price for their produce. Other concerns include the upper hand of agri-businesses and big retailers in negotiations, thus putting farmers at a disadvantage. The benefits for small farmers from companies are likely to reduce the engagement of sponsors with them. The farmers also fear that the companies may dictate prices of the commodities. 

What farmers need and are asking for is legally guaranteed remunerative prices, that the government should commit within the same legislation to maximum procurement of various commodities tied with local food schemes, market intervention from the state, agri-credit reforms to benefit small and marginal holders and particular neglected regions, as well as reforms in crop insurance and disaster compensation. It is also important to empower FPOs as enabled players in the market and keep them out of the purview of overzealous regulation.

Cabinet Approves

A. Memorandum of Cooperation in the field of Cybersecurity between India and Japan

  • Enhance cooperation in areas of mutual interest, which in­clude inter-alia, capacity building in the area of cyberspace; protection of critical infrastructure; cooperation in emerging technologies; sharing information on cyber security threats/incidents and malicious cyber activities, as well as best prac­tices to counter them; Developing joint mechanisms for practical cooperation to mitigate cyber threats to the security of Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure etc.
  • India and Japan commit to an open, interoperable, free, fair, secure and reli­able cyberspace environment and to promote the Internet as an engine of innova­tion, economic growth, and trade and commerce that would be consistent with their respective domestic laws and international obligations, and with their wide-ranging strategic partnership.
  • Both sides, through the MoC, affirm cooperation in the international arena including in the United Nations; Discussing and sharing strategies and best prac­tices to promote the integrity of the supply chain of ICT products; Strengthening the security of ICT infrastructure through Government-to-Government and Business-to-Business cooperation; Continuing dialogue and engagement in Internet governance fora, and to support active participation by all the stakeholders of the two countries in these fora.

B. Ratification of seven Persistent Organic Pollutants listed under Stockholm Convention and delegate its powers for future ratifications for streamlining the procedure

The Stockholm Convention is a global treaty to protect human health and environment from POPs, which are identified chemical substances that persist in the environment, bio-accumulate in living organisms, adversely affect human health/ environment and have the property of long-range environmental transport (LRET). Exposure to POPs can lead to cancer, damage to central & peripheral nervous systems, diseases of immune system, reproductive disorders and interference with normal infant and child development. 

India had ratified the Stockholm Convention on January 13, 2006 as per Article 25(4), which enabled it to keep itself in a default “opt-out” position such that amendments in various Annexes of the convention cannot be enforced on it unless an instrument of ratification/ acceptance/ approval or accession is explicitly deposited with UN depositary.

Considering its commitment towards providing safe environment and addressing human health risks, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) had notified the ‘Regulation of Persistent Organic Pollutants Rules, on March 5, 2018 under the provisions of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The regulation inter alia prohibited the manufacture, trade, use, import and export seven chemicals namely (i) Chlordecone, (ii) Hexabromobiphenyl, (iii) Hexabromodiphenyl ether and Heptabromodiphenylether (Commercial octa-BDE), (iv) Tetrabromodiphenyl ether and Pentabromodiphenyl ether (Commercial penta-BDE), (v) Pentachlorobenzene, (vi) Hexabromocyclododecane, and (vii) Hexachlorobutadiene, which were already listed as POPs under Stockholm Convention.

The Cabinet’s approval for ratification of POPs demonstrates India’s commitment to meet its international obligations with regard to protection of environment and human health. It also indicates the resolve of the Government to take action on POPs by implementing control measures, develop and implement action plans for unintentionally produced chemicals, develop inventories of the chemicals’ stockpiles and review as well as update its National Implementation Plan (NIP). The ratification process would enable India to access Global Environment Facility (GEF) financial resources in updating the NIP.

C. Memorandum of Understanding between Zoological Survey of India and International Barcode of Life, a Canadian not-for-profit corporation

  • ZSI and iBOL have come together for further efforts in DNA barcoding, a methodology for rapidly and accurately identifying species by sequencing a short segment of standardized gene regions and comparing individual sequences to a reference database.   
  • iBOL is a research alliance involving nations that have committed both human and financial resources to enable expansion of the global reference database, the development of informatics platforms, and/or the analytical protocols needed to use the reference library to inventory, assess, and describe biodiversity.  
  • The MoU will enable ZSI to participate at the Global level programmes like Bioscan and Planetary Biodiversity Mission.

D. Natural Gas Marketing Reforms

Objective: to prescribe standard procedure to discover market price of gas to be sold in the market by gas producers, through a transparent and competitive process, permit Affiliates to participate in bidding process for sale of gas and allow marketing freedom to certain Field Development Plans (FDPs) where Production Sharing Contracts already provide pricing freedom.

Aim: The policy aims to provide standard procedure for sale of natural gas in a transparent and competitive manner to discover market price by issuing guidelines for sale by contractor through e-bidding. This will bring uniformity in the bidding process across the various contractual regimes and policies to avoid ambiguity and contribute towards ease of doing business.

  • The policy has also permitted Affiliate companies to participate in the bidding process in view of the open, transparent and electronic bidding. This will facilitate and promote more competition in marketing of gas. However, rebidding will have to be done in case only affiliates participate, and there are no other bidders.
  • The policy will also grant marketing freedom to the Field Development Plans (FDPs) of those Blocks in which Production Sharing Contracts already provide pricing freedom.

These reforms in gas sector will further deepen and spur the economic activities in the following areas:

  • The whole eco-system of policies relating to production, infrastructure and marketing of natural gas has been made more transparent with a focus on ease of doing business.
  • These reforms will prove very significant for Atmanirbhar Bharat by encouraging investments in the domestic production of natural gas and reducing import dependence.
  • These reforms will prove to be another milestone in moving towards a gas based economy by encouraging investments.
  • The increased gas production consumption will help in improvement of environment.
  • These reforms will also help in creating employment opportunities in the gas consuming sectors including MSMEs.
  • The domestic production will further help in increasing investment in the downstream industries such as City Gas Distribution and related industries.

GS-3

New Labour Codes

(Topic: Economy)

Context: The government has introduced new versions of three labour codes in Lok Sabha which are

  1. Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020
  2. Code on Social Security Bill, 2020 
  3. Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020

Do You Know?

  • These three bills have been re-introduced after incorporating 174 out of 233 recommendations given by Standing Committees
  • These three bills are part of four labour code envisaged incorporating 29 labour laws. First code on wages has already been enacted.

What are the key proposals?

In the Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020, the government has proposed to 

  • New conditions for legal strike – no person employed in an industrial establishment shall go on strike without a 60-day notice and during the pendency of proceedings before a Tribunal and sixty days after the conclusion of such proceedings. Earlier such restrictions applied only to public utility services.
  • Raised the threshold for requirement of a standing order — rules of conduct for workmen employed in industrial establishments — from the existing 100 to 300 workers
  • Reskilling Fund – To set up a re-skilling fund for training of retrenched workers with contribution of the employer of an amount equal to 15 days last drawn by the worker.

The Social Security Code has following provisions 

  • National Social Security Board which shall recommend to the central government for formulating suitable schemes for different sections of unorganised workers, gig workers and platform workers
  • No more ambiguities: The bill has defined various terms like “career centre”, “aggregator”, “gig worker”, “platform worker”, “wage ceiling” , etc.
  • Social security for gig workers: Also, aggregators employing gig workers will have to contribute 1-2 per cent of their annual turnover for social security of workers

The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code has the following objectives

  • To employ women in all establishments for all types of work. They can also work at night, that is, beyond 7 PM and before 6 AM subject to the conditions relating to safety, holiday, working hours and their consent
  • To Promote Formalisation: Issuing of appointment letter mandatorily by the employer of an establishment to promote formalisation in employment
  • Inclusion of inter-state migrant workers in the definition of worker: Inter-state migrant workers are defined as the worker who has come on his own from one state and obtained employment in another state, earning up to Rs 18,000 a month. 
  • The proposed definition makes a distinction from the present definition of only contractual employment.
  • Portability Benefits: An Inter-State Migrant Worker has been provided with the portability to avail benefits in the destination State in respect of ration and availing benefits of building and other construction worker cess
  • However, the Code has dropped the earlier provision for temporary accommodation for workers near worksites. 
  • It has though proposed a journey allowance — a lump sum amount of fare to be paid by the employer for to and fro journey of the worker to his/her native place from the place of his/her employment

What are the concerns raised over the new labour codes?

  • Dilutes rights of Workers: Workers in small establishments (with up to 300 workers) will have their rights watered down with no protection of trade unions, labour laws. 
  • Workers safety safeguards diluted: The new rules will enable companies to introduce arbitrary service conditions for workers.
  • Corporate Friendly: The new rules provides more flexibility to employers for hiring and firing workers without government permission
  • Restricts Freedom of Speech: Restrictions on strikes and demonstrations is akin to assault on the freedom of industrial actions. 
  • Ambiguity about reskilling Fund: The Code lacks clarity on the substantive and procedural aspects of reskilling Fund which will fizzle out like the National Renewal Fund in the 1990s
  • Women’s Safety: Allowing women to work during night time inspite of various safeguards imposed may increase their vulnerability to sexual abuse.

India and its Solar Capacity

(Topic: Infrastructure, Energy)

India has become the third-largest solar capacity country in the world and set an ambitious target of 450 GW of renewable capacity by 2030, comprising 300 GW of solar capacity.

The major factor behind the rise of solar deployment is –

  • Giga-scale solar manufacturing
  • Continuous adoption of innovations to reduce prices

Hence, solar PV manufacturing is one of the strategic sectors announced by the Indian government as part of the post-Covid Aatmanirbhar Bharat recovery initiative. 

  • Efforts are underway to make India a global hub for solar PV manufacturing, and significant giga-factory announcements are being made by local and global firms. 
  • The Indian government is also coming up with innovative initiatives to promote cutting-edge solar manufacturing in India.

Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Ltd (RUMSL) solar plant

  • The plant consists of three solar power generating units that are located on a 500-hectare plot of land inside a 1,500-hectare solar park 
  • The solar plant was set up by the Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited, a joint venture between Madhya Pradesh Urja Vikas Nigam Limited and the Centre’s Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI).  
  • This project will reduce carbon emission equivalent to approx. 15 lakh ton of CO2 per year, which is equivalent to planting 26 million trees.

World’s largest solar tree developed 

  • Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-CMERI) has developed the World’s Largest Solar Tree.
  • It is installed at CSIR-CMERI Residential Colony, Durgapur, West Bengal.

Key takeaways

  • The installed capacity of the Solar Tree is above 11.5 kilowatts peak (kWp). 
  • It has the annual capacity to generate 12,000-14,000 units of Clean and Green Power.
  • There are a total of 35 Solar PV Panels in each tree with a capacity of 330 wp each.
  • The inclination of the arms holding the Solar PV Panels are flexible and can be adjusted as per requirement.
  • This feature is not available in Roof-Mounted Solar facilities.
  • Each Solar Tree will cost Rs 7.5 lakhs.
  • The interested MSMEs can align their Business Model with the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evem Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM KUSUM) Scheme for farmers, for developing a Renewable Energy based Energy Grid.

PM-KUSUM Scheme

  • Ministry- Ministry of New & Renewable Energy (MNRE).
  • The scheme aims to add solar and other renewable capacity of 25,750 MW by 2022.
  • It provides for installation of solar pumps, grid connected renewable power plants and solarization of existing grid-connected agricultural pumps.
  • The Scheme is being implemented through State Government Agencies.
  • The PM KUSUM scheme has three components.
  • Component-A- 10,000 megawatts (MW) of decentralised ground mounted grid-connected renewable power plants.
  • Component-B- installation of 17.50 lakh standalone solar powered agriculture pumps and
  • Component-C- solarisation of 10 lakh grid-connected solar powered agriculture pumps.

India’s Solar Energy Push

  • Energy Security: India energy demands is largely fulfilled by non-renewable source of energy 
  • Environmental Sustainability: India’s large part of energy demand is fulfilled by thermal energy largely dependent on fossil fuels which causes pollution. Solar energy is clean form of energy resource, which can be a substitute. 
  • India being Tropical Country, there is abundance of free solar energy in almost all parts of country. 
  • Changed Developmental Strategy: Solar energy is being viewed as a path for self-reliant industrialisation 
  • Green energy in rural area -  This is crucial for agri – business in farms for running irrigation, greenhouses, and crop and hay dryers, making agriculture risk – free. 

Challenges w.r.t developing Solar Energy 

  • Low domestic cell manufacturing capacity at 3.1 GW last year 
  • Heavy reliance on China for importing of photovoltaic cells, modules and associated equipment 
  • Projected addition of capacity in a COVID-19 affected future could fall short of stated goals (100 GW by 2022) 
  • India’s domestic content requirement clause is facing legal challenge at WTO. 
  • Land availability in India for solar plant is less due to high population density. 
  • India’s solar waste is estimated to be around 1.8 million by 2050 also needs to be tackled. 
  • Challenges with respect to importing critical raw materials such as polysilicon 

Major Initiatives

A. ‘One Sun One World One Grid’ (OSOWOG) initiative proposed by India

OSOWOG initiative was recently proposed by India to set up a framework for facilitating global cooperation which aims at building a global ecosystem of interconnected renewable energy resources that can be easily shared. 

Key takeaways 

  • Parent Body: The Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) 
  • Objective: To build global consensus about sharing solar resources among more than 140 countries of West Asia and South-East Asia.
  • This grid shall be interconnected with the African power pools also at the later stage. 
  • Proposals are invited from consulting firms for making a long-term OSOWOG road map, and identify two or three cross-border projects that can be initiated within one or two years. 

Phase I: The first phase deals with the Middle East—South Asia—-South East Asia (MESASEA) interconnection for sharing green energy sources such as solar for meeting electricity needs including peak demand.

  • Fostering cross-border energy trade is an important part of Modi’s South Asia-focused neighbourhood-first policy. 
  • India has been supplying power to Bangladesh and Nepal and has been championing a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) electricity grid minus Pakistan to meet electricity demand in the region.
  • The initial plans also involve setting up an under-sea link to connect with Oman in the West.

Phase II: MESASEA grid getting interconnected with the African power pools

Phase III: Global interconnection

Benefits

  • Creation of regional and international interconnected green grids can enable sharing of renewable energy across international borders and also balancing. Such grids should work in tandem with the existing grids and will not require parallel grid infrastructure, thus requiring only incremental investment.
  • An interconnected grid would help all the participating entities in attracting investments in renewable energy sources as well as utilizing skills, technology and finances. 
  • Resulting economic benefits would positively impact poverty alleviation and support in mitigating water, sanitation, food and other socioeconomic challenges.
  • The proposed integration would lead to reduced project costs, higher efficiencies and increased asset utilization for all the participating entities

B. International Solar Alliance (ISA) 

  • It is a treaty-based inter-governmental Organisation. 
  • It aims to deploy over 1,000 GW of solar generation capacity globally.
  • It aims to mobilise investment of over $1 trillion by 2030. 
  • Headquartered: Gurgaon. 
  • It was established following the Paris Declaration as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.

Attempt the Essay: The Sun Never Sets


What does the Sun, the primary source of energy that sustains life on earth, hold for our future?

(Topic: Space, Science and Technology)

Scientists may soon be able to study the future magnetic activity of the sun with the understanding of its behaviour in the past. A magnetic field map corresponding to the first half of the last century has been developed recently that can immensely improve that understanding.

Just like in case of climate studies, astronomers need information of the behaviour of the Sun in the past to predict how it will behave in the future. A critical parameter of the behaviour is the magnetic field which keeps varying and governs the long-time changes in the Sun.

Technology today has enabled direct observations of magnetic field, but there are no direct observations of magnetic field recorded before 1960s.

  • Recently, Indian researchers have digitised the films and photographs of the sun taken at multiple wavelengths and corresponding to the past century
  • Scientists from the Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) used this digitised data which they called the proxy data to develop the first magnetic field map of the Sun for the period 1915-1965.
  • The map of this period corresponding to the solar cycles 15 -19 will help us understand the magnetic variability and predict changes in the Sun in the future.

Why is it important?

  • The digital data from KoSO is unique because this is the only observatory in the globe which provides the long-term uniform observations of the Sun in terms of the location and strength of its magnetic field as well as polarity through Ca II K and H alpha lines for more than a century.  More than 15,000 digitised images of the Sun has helped develop the magnetic field map of the period.
  • The map will also help study with precision polar reversal, a unique feature of the Sun, which occurs every 11 years and shows distinct pattern that repeats over time.

Prelims oriented News

International Day of the Girl: 11th October, 2020; Theme: My voice, our equal future

2nd World Cotton Day: 7th October, 2020

  • Now India’s premium Cotton would be known as ‘Kasturi Cotton’ in the world cotton Trade. The Kasturi Cotton brand will represent Whiteness, Brightness, Softness, Purity, Luster, Uniqueness and Indianness.
  • Cotton is one of the principal commercial crops of India and it provides livelihood to about 6.00 million cotton farmers. India is the 2nd largest cotton producer and the largest consumer of cotton in the world. India produces about 6.00 Million tons of cotton every year which is about 23% of the world cotton.  India produces about 51% of the total organic cotton production of the world, which demonstrates India’s effort towards sustainability.
  • To ensure sustainability, integrity and end-to-end traceability of the organic products, a certification system based on comparable international standards verified through internationally acceptable institutional system is required to be put in place. Accordingly, Ministry of Textiles through APEDA under Ministry of Commerce and Industry has prescribed a certification system for organic Cotton which will be introduced in phases in the entire textile value chain. Similarly, prescribing a certification system for non-organic Cotton has also been taken up with APEDA so that usages of cotton can be suitably augmented.

SVAMITVA Scheme: Launch of physical distribution of Property Cards; the beneficiaries will have a right, a legal document of owning their houses. The scheme is going to bring historical changes to the villages in the country.

    • It is a collaborative effort of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, State Panchayati Raj Departments, State Revenue Departments and Survey of India.
    • It is currently being implemented in six states – 
      • Haryana
      • Karnataka
      • Madhya Pradesh 
      • Maharashtra
      • Uttar Pradesh 
      • Uttarakhand.
    • It aims to provide an integrated property validation solution for rural India for setting the boundaries of the rural lands. 
    • Latest drone survey technology shall be used for mapping of rural housing land. 
    • This scheme will help in streamlining planning and revenue collection in rural areas. 
    • This will also help in resolving property related disputes. 
    • The scheme will enable creation of better-quality Gram Panchayat Development Plans (GPDPs). 

Nana ji Deshmukh – “when the people of the village remain trapped in disputes, neither they will be able to develop themselves nor the society”.

Prime Minister of Israel: H.E. Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu

  • PM Modi and PM Benjamin assessed the progress in bilateral cooperation in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in the fields of research, field trials of diagnostic tools and vaccine development. 
  • They agreed on the importance of close cooperation in these important areas not only for the benefit of the people of the two countries but also for the greater good of humanity.
  • They also reviewed ongoing cooperation in the areas of water and agriculture, health, trade, and start-up and innovation, and discussed further deepening of these ties.

Must Read: Relations Between UAE and Israel

India Wildlife Week

  • Wildlife Week is annually celebrated across India between 2nd to 8th October with an aim to protect and preserve the flora and fauna of India.
  • The first Wildlife Week was observed in 1957.
  • Theme of 2020: RoaR (Roar and Revive) – Exploring Human-Animal Relationships

Successful Flight Test of SMART

  • Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) has been successfully flight tested.
  • A missile assisted release of lightweight Anti-Submarine Torpedo System for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) operations far beyond Torpedo range.This launch and demonstration is significant in establishing Anti-Submarine warfare capabilities.
  • The tracking stations (Radars, Electro Optical Systems) along the coast and the telemetry stations including down range ships monitored all the events. All the mission objectives including missile flight upto the range and altitude, separation of the nose cone, release of Torpedo and deployment of Velocity Reduction Mechanism (VRM) have been met perfectly.

Street Vendor’s AtmaNirbhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) Scheme

  • API integration between PM SVANidhi and SBI portal launched – to ease process of receiving and processing loan applications
  • More than 20.50 Lakh Loan Applications received so far under PM SVANidhi Scheme –  Over 7.85 Lakh Loans Sanctioned

About:

  • Launched for providing affordable working capital loan to street vendors to resume their livelihoods that have been adversely affected due to Covid-19 lockdown. This scheme targets to benefit over 50 lakh Street Vendors who had been vending on or before 24 March, 2020, in urban areas including those from surrounding peri-urban/rural areas. 
  • Under the Scheme, the vendors can avail a working capital loan of up to Rs. 10,000, which is repayable in monthly instalments in the tenure of one year. 
  • On timely/ early repayment of the loan, an interest subsidy @ 7% per annum will be credited to the bank accounts of beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer on quarterly basis. 
  • There will be no penalty on early repayment of loan. 
  • The scheme promotes digital transactions through cash-back incentives up to an amount of Rs. 100 per month. The vendors can achieve their ambition of going up the economic ladder by availing the facility of enhancement of the credit limit on timely/ early repayment of loan.

International Blue Flag Certification

  • 8 beaches of India, spread across five states and two union territories, have been awarded the “BLUE FLAG” by an International Jury comprising of eminent members viz UNEP, UNWTO, FEE, IUCN.
  • The beaches that have been awarded the ‘BLUE FLAG” are Shivrajpur (Dwarka-Gujarat), Ghoghla (Diu), Kasarkod and Padubidri (Karnataka), Kappad (Kerala), Rushikonda (AP), Golden (Puri-Odisha) and Radhanagar (A&N Islands).
  • India has also been awarded a 3rd Prize by the International Jury under the “International Best Practices” for pollution control in coastal regions.

Launch of Report by CZA-TERI: Economic valuation of ecosystem services

  • The report highlights the importance of habitats such as zoos to human wellbeing and the need of replication across India.
  • The study first of its kind in India and perhaps the entire World, pegs the total annual economic value of the ecosystem services (biodiversity conservation, employment generation, carbon sequestration, education and research, recreational and cultural) at around 423 crore (2019-20) whereas, the total value of the one-time cost of services such as carbon storage and land value provided by the zoo is estimated to be around 55,000 crore.

Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM)

  • In August, 2019, Government of India launched Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM).
  • JJM aims at providing potable water at service level of 55 litre per capita per day (lpcd) to every rural household through Functional Household Tap Connection (FHTC) by 2024.
  • The fund sharing pattern between the Centre and states is 90:10 for Himalayan and North-Eastern States, 50:50 for other states, and 100% for Union Territories.
  • Jal Jeevan Mission adopts a bottom to top approach, where the users and Paani Samitis (Water Committees) in the villages envision the whole project from its implementation to maintenance and operation.
  • The mission has also ensured that at least 50% of the members of the water committee would be women.

‘Margadarshika for Gram Panchayats and Paani Samitis under Jal Jeevan Mission’ (Guidelines for the Village Panchayats and Water Committees) 

  • Referring to the Margadarshika, it was highlighted that they are equally important for the Gram Panchayats, people living in rural areas and for the Government machinery.
  • The Mardarshika Guidelines will guide the members of the Water Committee and Gram Panchayats in taking the right decisions.
  • A special 100-day campaign is being launched on 2nd Oct this year under Jal Jeevan Mission to ensure drinking water connection to every school and Anganwadi in the country.

Do you know?

A.BIS Draft Standard for Drinking Water: ‘Drinking water supply quality management system — requirements for piped drinking water supply service’.

  • It outlines the process of water supply, from raw water sources to household taps.
  • The draft standard is expected to make the process of piped water supply more uniform. 
  • It has been developed keeping in view the Centre’s Jal Jeevan Mission.
  • The Bureau of Indian Standards 
    • It is the national Standards Body of India. 
    • Ministry: Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution
    • Act: Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986

B.Every village will prepare a Village Action Plan (VAP) which will have three components:

  • Water source and its maintenance
  • Water supply and
  • Grey-water (domestic wastewater) management

RAISE 2020 

A global meeting of minds to exchange ideas and chart a course for using AI for social transformation, inclusion and empowerment in areas like Healthcare, Agriculture, Education and Smart Mobility, among other sectors.

  • AI will dominate the core of the next exponential enterprises, rewriting the fundamentals of the establishment and this is the opportunity to capture. We are seeing that AI-first businesses are becoming monopolies
  • Financial services have been rule-based till date. However, financial institutions are using AI based technologies as ‘Decision Making Support’, which is helping us to really fast-pace the whole process.
  • UIDAI is developing a face authentication system which will be available to all the Aadhaar holders. The goal is to make it extremely secure and make it available for all smartphone users in the country.  The system can then be used by other financial service providers to strengthen their own AI ecosystem.
  • From a data standpoint, the key aspects for developing a robust AI framework are: Legality, efficiency and transparency of data sourcing, ensuring integrity, privacy and confidentiality of the data collected, responsible and accountable data access, and putting in place an organized data monetization framework.
  • AI research is dominated almost entirely by men. Globally, only 22% of AI professionals are women. Now, after COVID 19 has led to rapid digitization, the need to focus on digital inclusion has never been clearer
  • Disabilities can be permanent, temporary or situational.  By innovating for people with disabilities, we are innovating for us all. By ensuring that technology fulfils its promise to address the broadest societal needs, we can empower everyone – not just individuals with disabilities – to achieve more.
  • We need to focus our efforts on developing AI that makes this world more inclusive, accessible and affordable for the especially-abled
  • The combination of AI and Data can deliver 10% of our USD 10 trillion economy aspiration, or USD 500 billion in value over the next 4-5 years. India is perhaps the only country in the world where the opportunity for AI in agriculture is as large as it is in banking

According to independent studies, AI has the potential to raise India’s annual growth rate by 1.3% and add USD 957 billion to the country’s economy by 2035.At a global level, AI is expected to unlock USD 15.7 trillion in productivity by 2030.

  • National Artificial Intelligence Portal
    • It has been jointly developed by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM).
    • It will work as a one stop digital platform for sharing of resources such as articles, startups, investment funds in AI etc. 
  • Responsible Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Youth:
    • By the Ministry of Electronics and IT
    • It is designed to reach out to students from Government schools pan India and provide them with an opportunity to become part of the skilled workforce in an inclusive manner.
    • It aims to help reduce the skill gap, while enabling youth to create meaningful social impact solutions.
    • It also intends to provide a platform for relevant AI skill-sets and access to required AI tool-sets to make youth digitally ready for the future.
    • It is open to students of class 8th to class 12th from Central and State government-run schools (including KVS, NVS, JNV) from across the country.
    • It will be implemented in a phase-wise manner. 
    • In its first phase, each State will nominate 10 teachers as per the eligibility criteria.

India joins Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI)

  • India joined the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI or Gee-Pay) as a founding member to support the responsible and human-centric development and use of Artificial 
  • It is an international and multi-stakeholder initiative to guide the responsible development and use of AI taking into account human rights, inclusion, diversity, innovation, and economic growth.
  • This is also a first initiative of its type which involves better understanding of the challenges and opportunities around AI using the experience and diversity of participating countries.
  • It will be supported by a Secretariat. 
  • It will be hosted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, as well as by two Centers of Expertise- one each in Montreal and Paris.

Must Read:

Regulating Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence: The Way Ahead

SOLVE:

  1. How can artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques help in improving e-governance? Illustrate with the help of suitable examples.
  2. What is Artificial Intelligence (AI)? What are its applications? Is it a potential threat to humanity? Examine.

Person in News

Jayaprakash Narayan

Part of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS)

Jayaprakash Narayan (JP), whose 117th birth anniversary falls on October 11, was among the twelve apostles of the Mahatma and had been a front-soldier during the Indian freedom struggle. In this fight, JP imbibed a combination of ahimsa and aggression.

His call for ‘sampoorna kranti’ or total revolution to fight against rampant corruption, unemployment and systematic weakening of democratic institutions back in 1974, and the subsequent events, led to the imposition of the infamous Emergency. It eventually paved the way for a realignment of political forces in the country and gave a new direction to the politics of the country, with far-reaching ramifications.

He firmly believed that youngsters should be in the forefront of changing the system. Those entrenched in power, the status quoists, would naturally resist any change, but only the energy and force of youth can bring about revolutionary transformation – this was his firm belief.

And that’s precisely what happened in the seventies. After blessing the Nav Nirman Andolan in Gujarat, where people had risen against the corrupt state government, JP mobilised students in Bihar to fight against authoritarianism and corruption. He had such a mesmerising influence on the political scene that under his mentorship a host of splinter parties of the Congress, like Congress (O), Jana Sangh and Swatantra Party, and other socialists came together to form the Janata Party. He could have easily occupied the top post during the Janata regime. Although people clamoured for his leadership, he said that power was not his aim. 

He participated in the freedom struggle and led the Quit India movement in 1942 in the absence of senior leaders. He remained detached from electoral politics after Independence, but as such was not indifferent to politics. He also took active part in Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan movement.

The legacy of JP is akin to that of the Mahatma and echoes him on issues that have cropped up in the post-Gandhi era. All of them are topical and in JP’s own words:

Freedom

“Freedom became one of the beacon lights of my life and it has remained so ever since… Above all it meant freedom of the human personality, freedom of the mind, freedom of the spirit. This freedom has become a passion of my life and I shall not see it compromised for food, for security, for prosperity, for the glory of the state or for anything else.”

Democracy

“India’s democracy is to rise storey by storey from the foundation, consisting of self-governing, self-sufficient, agro-industrial, urbo-rural local communities — gram sabha, panchayat samiti and zilla parishad—that would form the base of Vidhan Sabhas and the Lok Sabha. These politico-economic institutions will regulate the use of natural resources for the good of the community and the nation.

Development

“Idea of development envisages independent India as sui generis, a society unlike any other, in a class of its own that would not follow the western pattern of mega industrialisation, urbanisation and individuation. India’s would be agro-based people’s economy that would chart out a distinct course in economic growth, which would be need-based, human-scale and balanced while conserving nature and livelihoods.

Such a ‘development’ process would be democratic and decentralised.  The best development model for India is diversified, democratic decentralised and value-added agriculture as the root, manufacturing small/medium industries as trunk and branches and widespread service sector as a canopy. The almost universal tendency for a centralised political, economic model, and social system that is associated with both of them should be abandoned.”

Communalism

“Although almost every religious community had its own brand of communalism, Hindu communalism was more pernicious than the others because Hindu communalism can easily masquerade as Indian nationalism and denounce all opposition to it as being anti-national.”

Hindutva

“Those who attempt to equate India with Hindus and Indian history with Hindu history are only detracting from the greatness of India and the glory of Indian history and civilisation. Such person, paradoxical though this may seem, are in reality the enemies of Hinduism itself and the Hindus. Not only do they degrade the noble religion and destroy its catholicity and spirit of tolerance and harmony, but they also weaken and sunder the fabric of the nation, of which Hindus form such a vast majority.”

Hindu Rashtra

“In ‘the long struggle for national freedom there emerged a clear enough concept of a single, composite, non-sectarian Indian nationhood’. All those who spoke about divisive and sectarian nationalism were therefore outside the pale of this nationalism, evolved during the freedom struggle. The hostile and alienating nationalism we hear about today is antithetical to the ethos of freedom struggle and against the belief of all those who helped it evolve.”

Questions

  1. “JP was an embodiment of freedom, quest for human dignity and the expression of true democracy.” Explain the role of JP in the nation building.
  2. What are the events/causes that led to the JP Movement? Highlight the role played by JP during the movement.
  3. “Despite being a huge mass movement that virtually shook the roots of the constitutional principles, JP movement is considered as a flawed movement.” Critically examine the JP movement and its flaws.
  4. “Emergency imposed during the 1975 is seen as a dark period in the history of post-independent India.” Give a critical account on the outcomes of emergency and what are the lessons that we have learnt from the 40 years of emergency.

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