(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – International Relations
- Recently, Defence Ministers of India and Vietnam discussed collaboration in defence industry capability building, training and cooperation in United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations, etc.
- Both countries reaffirmed the strong India-Vietnam Defence cooperation which is a key pillar of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (2016).
- India emphasised on closer defence industry cooperation by concluding an institutionalised framework agreement in the near future.
- Vietnam thanked India for the assistance by Indian Armed Forces in capacity building of Vietnamese Defence Forces especially in the field of Human Resource development.
- India is also willing to enhance the scope and level of training for all three services of Vietnam Defence forces in Indian Defence Institutes.
- The two nations Discussed cooperation in UN peacekeeping operations.
- They discussed cooperation in the field of Hydrography which will enable sharing of Hydrographic data and assist in production of navigational charts.
Do you know?
- Vietnam has also invited India for ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM Plus) being hosted by Vietnam in December 2020.
- The ADMM-Plus is a platform for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its eight Dialogue Partners – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the USA – to strengthen security and defence cooperation for peace, stability, and development in the region.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Tiger Reserves; Wildlife Conservation
- The Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR – Uttar Pradesh) recently bagged international award TX2 for doubling the number of tigers in the past four years.
- TX2 Award goes to one site that has achieved remarkable and measurable increase in its tiger population since 2010.
Important value addition
Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR)
- PTR is located in Uttar Pradesh.
- The northern edge of the reserve lies along the Indo-Nepal border while the southern boundary is marked by the river Sharada and Khakra.
- PTR is one of the finest examples of the exceedingly diverse and productive Terai ecosystems.
- It is home to a habitat for over 127 animals, 326 bird species and 2,100 flowering plants.
- Wild animals include tiger, swamp deer, Bengal florican, hog deer, leopard, etc.
- It has high sal forests, plantation and grasslands with several water bodies.
- The TX2 goal is a global commitment to double the world’s wild tigers by 2022.
- The goal has been set by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) through the Global Tiger Initiative, Global Tiger Forum and other critical platforms.
- Tiger Range Countries: India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.
- IUCN Red List Status of Tiger (Panthera Tigris): Endangered
- It is listed under Appendix I of CITES.
- It has been listed under ‘Schedule I’ of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Tiger Reserves; Wildlife Conservation
- Recently, The Transboundary Manas Conservation Area receives the Conservation Excellence Award, 2020.
- Conservation Excellence Award recognises one site that has achieved excellence in two or more of these five themes: (1) Tiger and prey population monitoring and research; (2) Effective site management; (3) Enhanced law enforcement & protection & ranger welfare improvement; (4) Community based conservation, benefits and human-wildlife conflict mitigation; (5) Habitat and prey management.
Important value addition
Transboundary Manas Conservation Area (TraMCA)
- It was established in 2011.
- Vision: To jointly develop and manage a transboundary conservation area between Bhutan and India, for the benefit of people and wildlife.
- The TraMCA landscape forms a vital mosaic of conservation spaces across the Eastern Himalayas.
- It covers the entire Manas Tiger Reserve in India, four protected areas in Bhutan and also two biological corridors.
- The Manas Tiger Reserve in India and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan form the core of this biologically outstanding trans-boundary region.
- It is home to tigers, elephants, rhinos and more than 1,500 species of mammals, birds and vascular plants.
- The Manas River also flows through them.
- The number of Tigers in the Indian Manas increased from 9 in 2010 to 25 in 2018
- In the Bhutan Manas, the number more than doubled from 12 in 2008 to 26 in 2018.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-III – Agriculture
- Recently, the Honey Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) Programme of the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (NAFED) was virtually inaugurated.
- Inauguarted by: Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.
- The programme has been launched under the Formation and Promotion of FPOs.
- It is a new Central Sector Scheme for the promotion of 10,000 new FPOs.
- Under it, the National Level Project Management Advisory and Fund Sanctioning Committee (N-PMAFSC) had allocated FPO clusters for 2020-21 to all implementing agencies.
- FPOs will be developed by specialist Cluster Based Business Organizations (CBBOs) engaged by implementing agencies.
- NAFED has initiated the formation and promotion of FPOs of beekeepers and honey collectors in 5 states of India.
- 5 locations: East Champaran (Bihar), Morena (Madhya Pradesh), Bharatpur (Rajasthan), Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) and Sunderbans (West Bengal).
- The first Honey FPO has been registered in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
- Benefits: (1) Skill Upgradation in scientific beekeeping; (2) State of the art infrastructural facilities for processing honey and allied beekeeping products; (3) Quality upgradation by quality control laboratories; (4) Better supply chain management
Important value addition
National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd (NAFED)
- It is an apex organization of marketing cooperatives for agricultural produce in India.
- It was founded on 2nd October 1958.
- It is registered under the Multi-State Co-operative Societies Act, 2002.
- NAFED is now one of the largest procurement as well as marketing agencies for agricultural products in India.
- Objectives: (1) To organize, promote and develop marketing, processing and storage of agricultural, horticultural and forest produce; (2) To distribute agricultural machinery, implements and other inputs; (3) To act and assist for technical advice in agricultural production
Do you know?
- Apiculture or beekeeping is the care and management of honey bees for the production of honey and wax.
- In this method, bees are bred commercially in apiaries, an area where a lot of beehives can be placed.
Part of: GS Prelims and GS-II – Health & GS-III – Sci & Tech
- Recently, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CSIR-CCMB) has got the permission of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to commercially use the dry swab RNA-extraction free testing method for the Covid-19.
- Dry swab method has a consistency of 96.9%.
- Dry swabs eluted directly into a simple buffered solution can support molecular detection of SARS-CoV-2 via endpoint RT-PCR without substantially compromising sensitivity.
- Dry swab technique does not require VTM and RNA extraction process.
- It can be directly used for RT-PCR testing.
- It has the potential of bringing down the costs and time of testing by 40-50%.
- The screening can also be enhanced several-fold with immediate effect
- The whole process is safer as well.
- It is easy to implement with no requirement of new kits.
- Existing manpower can perform this with no additional training.
Important value addition
- Kary Mullis, the American biochemist invented the PCR technique.
- He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1993.
- Under the test, copies of a segment of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) are created using an enzyme called Polymerase.
- The ‘chain reaction’ signifies how the DNA fragments are copied exponentially, where one is copied into two, the two are copied into four, and so on.
- A fluorescent DNA binding dye called the “probe” is added to DNA, which shows the presence of the virus on a fluorometer.
- Covid-19 is made of RNA (ribonucleic acid).
- In order to detect it, RNA is converted into DNA using a technique called reverse transcription.
- The copies of the DNA are then made and amplified.
AGRICULTURE / GOVERNANCE/ FEDERALISM
Topic: General Studies 2,3:
- Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: Farmers from Punjab, Haryana and other states are protesting at the gates of Delhi seeking repeal of the new farm laws.
Brief Background of the protests
- The new farm bills will enable, according to the government, many private markets to be established and middlemen to disappear. Thus, farmers would be free to sell to any buyer and farmgate prices would rise.
- But the protesting farmers do not accept these claims.
- They believe that farmgate prices would fall with the intensification of a corporate presence in agricultural markets. They also believe that the government, ultimately, wants to phase out the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system
Let us look at the major claims and their merits with focus on Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 (FPTC Act).
- Monopoly of Mandis over farmer produce
- An important assumption behind the FPTC Act is that mandis controlled by Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) are monopsonies in rural areas
- This assumption itself is specious.
- First, official data show that even for paddy and wheat, respectively, only 29% and 44% of the harvest is sold in a mandi, while 49% and 36% is sold to either a local private trader or an input dealer.
- There are only 6,630 mandis in 2019 with an average area served of 463 km2. The National Commission on Agriculture (NCA) had recommended 41,000 mandis serving 80 km2 so that every Indian farmer should be able to reach a mandi in one hour by a cart. Thus, India needs not less but more mandis.
- Additionally, most small and marginal farmers, given their small marketable surplus, do not find it economical to bear the transport costs to take their harvests to mandis. Thus, they end up selling their harvest to a village trader even if at a lower price.
- In other words, de facto, a large proportion of Indian harvest is not directly sold in a mandi due to structural reasons – less mandis & high cost- and not due to exploitation by APMC Mandis
- Therefore, the argument that APMC mandis have monopoly over farmer’s produce is wrong one.
- Presence of Private Players will improve market efficiency
- De jure, the freedom to sell outside mandis already exists in many States.
- Already, 18 States have allowed the establishment of private markets outside the APMC; 19 States have allowed the direct purchase of agricultural produce from farmers; and 13 States have allowed the establishment of farmer’s markets outside the APMC.
- Despite such legislative changes, no significant private investment has flowed in to establish private markets in these States.
- Private markets have emerged in some pockets for some crops, but these are by no means widespread.
- The reason for poor private investment in markets is the presence of high transaction costs in produce collection and aggregation (cost incurred in opening centres of collection, salaries, grading, storage etc)
- The more the number of small and marginal farmers are, the higher will these costs be. This is why many retail chains prefer purchasing bulk quantities of fruits and vegetables from mandis rather than directly from farmers.
- Taxes in mandis are wasteful
- It is being argued by many that taxes in mandis as wasteful and thus the elimination of mandi tax (by new FPTC Act) will help farmers get better price.
- Even if private markets emerge, the size of transaction costs are likely to offset any decline in mandi taxes. As a result, there is no assurance that farmers would receive a higher price in private markets
- Mandi taxes are wasteful is not fully true. Much of the mandi taxes are reinvested by APMCs to improve market infrastructure and rural infrastructure.
- Such rural investments will also be adversely affected if mandis are weakened.
What is the farmer’s fear with regard to MSP?
- The core demand of farmer groups protesting is to safeguard the mechanism of MSP which they fear will be weakened by new farm bills. They are demanding for a legal right to MSP
- Without doubt, MSPs would continue to survive on paper as the government will have to procure to maintain a minimum buffer stock. However, many policy signals point to a strategic design to weaken the MSPs
- MSPs are rising at a far slower rate over the past five to six years than in the past
- The government has not yet agreed to fix MSPs at 50% above the C2 cost of production leading to price loss of ₹200 to ₹500 per quintal in many crops
- Recommendation of CACP to stop open-ended procurement of food grains
- In Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, most crop sales are at the MSP through procurement centres including the mandis.
- If mandis weaken and private markets do not sufficiently replace them, they fear that the void would be filled by unscrupulous and unregulated traders.
What Steps needs to be taken?
Discussions between the government and the farmers can be structured using a broad framework based on two focus points.
- First, India needs an increase in the density of mandis, expansion of investment in mandi infrastructure and a spread of the MSP system to more regions and crops.
- Second, we need not just more mandis, but also better mandis. APMCs need internal reform to ease the entry of new players, reduce trader collusion and link them up with national e-trading platforms
- The introduction of unified national licences for traders and a single point levy of market fees are also steps in the right direction.
The Farm Acts were legislative measures that were passed without elaborate discussion with stakeholders. Thus, government has to take steps to address the genuine fears of farmers.
Topic: General Studies 2:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.
Context: Provisional estimates of GDP for the second quarter of the 2020-21 show economic output shrank by 7.5%, following the 23.9% contraction in the first quarter.
The economy shrunk for a second successive quarter, marking a recession for the first time in independent India’s history.
- The overall GDP figure of ₹33,14,167 crore (at 2011-12 prices) reveals output has slid back to the lowest level in 12 quarters.
- Private consumption expenditure — the single biggest component propelling GDP with a share exceeding 50% at constant prices and edging toward 60% in current prices — continued to shrink (-11.3%), reflecting both consumer wariness to spend amid the pandemic and the impact of lost jobs and reduced incomes.
- Government consumption spending that was hitherto a bulwark contracted by 22% revealing the precarious state of public finances.
- In the real economy, electricity and other utility services joined agriculture in posting growth, expanding 4.4%, as the post-lockdown resumption of industrial activity lifted power and water consumption.
- Financial, real estate and professional services, which contribute about a fourth of the GVA, widened contraction from the first quarter, shrinking 8.3%
Figure 2: Source: Indian Express
However, the 7.5% decline data has been met with all-round cheers. That is counter-intuitive but not without justification.
- Better than expected results: The -7.5% figure is decidedly lower than most street estimates. The sharper-than-expected economic “recovery” —Q1 was 23.9% decline— has substantially changed how the Indian economy is being viewed.
- Better recovery than Global average: According to an analysis by the State Bank of India’s research team, 49 countries have declared GDP data for the July-Sept quarter. The average decline of these 49 countries is 12.4%. In comparison, India’s 7.5% looks much better.
- Economic recovery is fairly broad-based: Looking at the Gross Value Addition of each sector, as show in the figure 2, we see that as compared to just one sector adding positive value in Q1, three sectors added positive value in Q2 (green circles). Moreover, in three of the remaining five sectors, the rate of decline decelerated — highlighted in green boxes.
- Positive growth registered by India’s manufacturing industry: Part of this can be explained by a weak base — check out the minus 0.6% in Q2 of 2019-20. IIP manufacturing declined by 6.7% (average of Jul/Aug/Sep) while manufacturing GVA grew by 0.6%. This incongruence can be explained by companies increasing their incomes not by selling more but by ruthlessly getting rid of employees, which is not healthy sign and could undermine future demand.
- Hope of Positive growth rate by Q4: Most experts now expect that by Q4, the nominal GDP growth rate will recover so far that even after subtracting inflation rate, India would register positive real growth in at least the fourth quarter.
Government has to revive demand by enabling more money into the hands of consumers (cutting taxes, increasing subsidies) so as to bring back growth in the economy.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
- Correct answers of today’s questions will be provided in next day’s DNA section. Kindly refer to it and update your answers.
- Comments Up-voted by IASbaba are also the “correct answers”.
Q.1 Which of the following countries are dialogue partners of ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting – Plus?
- South Africa
Select the correct code:
- 1, 2, 3 and 4 only
- 2, 3 and 5 only
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 and 4 only
Q.2 Pilibhit tiger reserve is situated in which of the following state of India?
- Madhya Pradesh
- Uttar Pradesh
Q.3 Which of the following is not a tiger range country?
Q.4 The first Honey Farmers Producer Organisation has been registered in which of the following state of India?
- Madhya Pradesh
- West Bengal
ANSWERS FOR 30th November 2020 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
About recalibrating India-Nepal ties:
About allowing Ayurveda doctors to perform surgery:
About murder of a top Iranian nuclear scientist outside Tehran: