(PRELIMS + MAINS FOCUS)
Part of: Prelims and GS III – Economy
Context The Union Cabinet has approved an incentive scheme worth ₹ 1,300 crore to promote RuPay Debit cards and low-value (upto Rs. 2,000) BHIM-UPI transactions (Person-to-Merchant (P2M)] in the country.
- Under the scheme, the acquiring banks will be incentivised by the Government, by paying percentage of value of transactions (P2M) done through RuPay Debit cards and low-value BHIM-UPI modes of payments, for a period of one year (w.e.f. April 01, 2021).
- Facilitate acquiring Banks in building a robust digital payment ecosystem
- Promote RuPay Debit card and BHIM-UPI digital transactions, across all sectors and segments of the population
- Deepen the digital payments in the country.
- Help in making accessible digital modes of payments to unbanked and marginalized populations, who are outside of the formal banking and financial system.
- Background: The scheme has been formulated in compliance with the Budget announcements (FY 2021-22) by the Government to give further boost to digital transactions in the country.
Part of: Prelims and GS-I -Culture
Context The 16th Committee of UNESCO for safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) has inscribed DURGA PUJA in KOLKATA on the representative list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- This is the 1st festival in Asia to achieve recognition as UNESCO ICH of Humanity.
About Durga Puja
- Durga Puja is an annual Hindu festival originating in the Indian subcontinent which reveres and pays homage to the Hindu goddess Durga.
- It is also celebrated because of Durga’s victory over Mahishasur.
- It is observed in the Indian calendar month of Ashwin, which corresponds to September–October
- It is a ten-day festival.
About UNESCO’s list of intangible culture
- It is an annual list which focuses on those forms of performing art which are of outstanding value but are vulnerable due to lack of support.
- Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted in 2003. India ratified it in 2007.
- In total, 14 Intangible Cultural Heritage elements from India have now been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List.
- This list is made up of those intangible heritage elements that help demonstrate diversity of cultural heritage and raise awareness about its importance.
- The Ministry of Culture has also launched the draft National List of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) of India
Part of: Prelims and GS-II – Polity and governance
Context A MP from Ladakh belonging to BJP party has demanded that the region be included in the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution to safeguard land, employment, and cultural identity of the local population.
What is Sixth Schedule?
- The Sixth Schedule under Article 244 provides for the formation of autonomous administrative divisions — Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) — that have some legislative, judicial, and administrative autonomy within a state.
- ADCs have up to 30 members with a term of five years, and can make laws, rules and regulations with regard to land, forest, water, agriculture, social customs and mining, etc.
- The Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam is an exception with more than 40 members and the right to make laws on 39 issues.
- The Sixth Schedule applies to the Northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram (three Councils each), and Tripura (one Council).
Why does Ladakh want to be part of the Sixth Schedule?
- The UT has two Hill councils in Leh and Kargil, but neither is under the Sixth Schedule.
- Their powers are limited to collection of some local taxes such as parking fees and allotment and use of land vested by the Centre.
Part of: Prelims and GS-III – Environment
Context Recently, a Royal Bengal Tiger has been spotted in Buxa tiger reserve in West Bengal after at least 23 years. It was in 1998 that images of a Royal Bengal tiger were last captured at the reserve.
About Buxa tiger reserve
- It is a tiger reserve in Alipurduar district, West Bengal.
- Created in 1983 as the 15th tiger reserve
- Its northern boundary runs along the international border with Bhutan.
- The Sinchula hill range lies all along the northern side of BTR and the eastern boundary touches that of the Assam state.
- It represents the highly endemic Indo-Malayan region.
- The fragile “Terai Ecosystem” constitutes a part of this reserve.
- The Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary of Bhutan is contiguous to the north of BTR. Manas National Park lies east of BTR.
- BTR, thus, serves as an international corridor for Asian elephant migration between India and Bhutan.
- Some of the rivers flowing through this reserve are Jayanti, Sankosh, Raidak, Churnia, Turturi, Dima, Nonani, Phashkhawa.
- The forest of the reserve is classified as the Moist Tropical forest.
- Rajabhatkhawa Vulture Breeding Center at Buxa Tiger Reserve for the breeding and conservation of endangered Indian vultures was established as the second such center with the help of Bombay Natural History Society and British charity Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Part of: Prelims
Context On December 17, 2021, President of India will inaugurate a famous Hindu shrine, Sri Ramna Kali Mandir, that was destroyed by the Pakistani forces during the war (Operation Searchlight) of 1971.
- The Ramna Kali Bari used to be a famous landmark of Dhaka where a Kali temple stood for centuries.
- India supported the renovation and conservation of the historic temple with the help of the Government of Bangladesh. The inauguration comes 50 years after Pakistan was defeated in 1971.
(News from PIB)
Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-III: Energy
- To be set up at Simhadri
- It would be a precursor to large scale hydrogen energy storage projects and would be useful for studying and deploying multiple microgrids in various off grid and strategic locations of the country.
- Would open doors for decarbonising the far-off regions of the country like Ladakh, J&K etc., hitherto dependent on diesel generators.
- The project is in-line for India to become carbon neutral by 2070 and making Ladakh a carbon neutral territory.
News Source: PIB
Part of: Prelims
Context: Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP), Har Khet ko Paani (HKKP) and Watershed Development components have been approved for continuation during 2021-26.
- Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme – Aims for financial support to irrigation projects. Apart from focused completion of 60 ongoing projects including their 30.23 lakh hectare command area development, additional projects can also be taken up.
- Har Khet Ko Pani (HKKP) aims for enhancement of physical access on the farm and expansion of cultivable area under assured irrigation. Under HKKP, surface minor irrigation and repair-renovation-restoration of water bodies component of PMKSY is targeted to provide additional 4.5 lakh hectare irrigation. In view of importance of rejuvenation of water bodies, the Cabinet has approved a paradigm shift in funding of their rejuvenation in both urban and rural areas, with significant expansion of their inclusion criteria, and enhancement of central assistance from 25% to 60% in general area.
- Watershed Development component focuses on development of rainfed areas towards soil and water conservation, regeneration of ground water, arresting runoff and promoting extension activities related to water harvesting and management. The approved Watershed Development component of Department of Land Resources envisages completion of sanctioned projects covering 49.5 lakh hectare rainfed/ degraded lands to bring additional 2.5 lakh hectare under protective irrigation, during 2021-26. A specific provision for development of spring sheds has been included in the program.
- Launched in 2015, PMKSY is an umbrella scheme, providing central grants to the State Governments for specific activities detailed below.
- It consists of two major components by Department of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, namely, Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP), and Har Khet Ko Pani (HKKP). HKKP, in turn, consists of four sub – components, being Command Area Development (CAD), Surface Minor Irrigation (SMI), Repair, Renovation and Restoration (RRR) of Water Bodies, and Ground Water Development. In addition, Watershed Development part is being implemented by Department of Land Resources.
News Source: PIB
Part of: Prelims and Mains –II: Government schemes and policies
In News: In furtherance of the vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat and positioning India as the global hub for Electronic System Design and Manufacturing, the Union Cabinet has approved the comprehensive program for the development of sustainable semiconductor and display ecosystem in the country.
- The program will usher in a new era in electronics manufacturing by providing a globally competitive incentive package to companies in semiconductors and display manufacturing as well as design.
- This shall pave the way for India’s technological leadership in these areas of strategic importance and economic self-reliance.
- Semiconductors and displays are the foundation of modern electronics driving the next phase of digital transformation under Industry 4.0.
- Semiconductors and display manufacturing is very complex and technology-intensive sector involving huge capital investments, high risk, long gestation and payback periods, and rapid changes in technology, which require significant and sustained investments.
- The program will give an impetus to semiconductor and display manufacturing by facilitating capital support and technological collaborations.
News Source: PIB
Part of: Prelims and Mains GS-II: India and Poland
In News: Cabinet has approved the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between the Government of the Republic of India and the Republic of Poland with a view to
- Enhance capability and effectiveness of both countries in investigation and prosecution of crimes, including crimes related to terrorism through mutual legal assistance.
- In the context of transnational crime and its linkages to terrorism, the proposed Treaty will provide a broad legal framework for bilateral cooperation with Poland in investigation and prosecution of crime as well as in tracing, restrain and confiscation of proceeds and instruments of crime as well as the funds meant to finance terrorist acts.
- Will be instrumental in gaining better inputs and insights in the modus operandi of organized criminals and terrorists. These in turn can be used to fine tune policy decisions in the field of internal security.
News Source: PIB
- GS-1: Modern History
- GS-4: Human Values – lessons from the lives and teachings of great leaders
Context: Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s death anniversary on 15th December 2021.
“By common endeavour we can raise the country to a new greatness, while a lack of unity will expose us to fresh calamities.”
These pragmatic but profound remarks defined the vision and the sterling character of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the principal unifier of modern India.
- First Deputy Prime Minister of India
- Provided good governance as an able administrator in diverse fields like modern farming and empowerment of tribal communities
Force behind unification
- Patel was a statesman with a strong sense of realpolitik, a realist to the core and an earthy politician whose sole aim was to build a strong and united India.
- The princely rulers had the option at that time to either accede to India or Pakistan or remain independent.
- Widely considered to be the architect of modern India, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played an important role in the integration of all the princely states (especially Hyderabad, Junagadh and Kashmir) into the Indian Union after the British left India in 1947.
- Hailing Patel’s feat, Lord Mountbatten declared the unification of India as the first great success of the new independent government.
- Patel’s wisdom, foresight, patriotism, tact, persuasive powers and abiding commitment to fair play enabled him to untangle a highly complex political and social problem without triggering any kind of revolt or civil unrest.
Operation Polo (Hyderabad) and case of Junagarh
- Patel was also compelled to use coercion by launching ‘Operation Polo’ to liberate and integrate Hyderabad after the Nizam of Hyderabad entertained false hopes of either joining Pakistan or remaining independent.
- In a swift operation lasting five days, Hyderabad State was liberated in September 1948.
- It was the most critical time when the country’s political unity was in jeopardy, India found the man of the moment in Sardar Patel.
- Displaying statesmanship of the highest order, Sardar Patel prevented the attempts to not only Balkanise India but internationalise the issue as well.
- The complicated case of Junagarh, Gujarat, was also handled with dexterity by Patel.
Leader of Gujarat
- Organised peasants from Kheda, Borsad, and Bardoli in Gujarat in non-violent civil disobedience against the British Raj, becoming one of the most influential leaders in Gujarat.
- He earned the title of “Sardar” after spearheading a no-tax campaign by peasants at Bardoli in Gujarat. The manner in which he marshalled the peasants and the unflinching stand taken by him eventually forced the authorities to roll back the taxes.
- He also led the relief and rehabilitation operations when Gujarat was ravaged by floods and worked tirelessly during a plague outbreak in Ahmedabad.
A builder of India
- Patel himself termed the entire exercise as a “bloodless revolution” when he wanted the Constituent Assembly to consider privy purse settlements for the surrender by the rulers of all their ruling powers and the dissolution of the States as separate units.
- Patel was an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi and never swerved in his loyalty to his mentor, although there were occasions when he differed with him.
- Similarly, he did not see eye-to-eye with Jawaharlal Nehru on certain issues, including the handling of Jammu and Kashmir.
- But he did not allow these differences or personal ego to come in the way of protecting the larger interests of the country. He worked shoulder-to-shoulder with Nehru in building a modern India.
Architect of the steel frame
- The Iron Man of India was the chief architect of India’s steel frame — the civil services.
- Thus, the All India Services were seen as an important cementing force in promoting the unity and integrity of the nation.
- It will be relevant to recall his famous address to the civil service probationers in 1947, when Patel told them that the service will have to adopt its true role of national service without being trammelled upon by traditions and habits of the past.
- He is also remembered as the “patron saint of India’s civil servants” for having established the modern all-India services system. “A civil servant cannot afford to, and must not, take part in politics. Nor must he involve himself in communal wrangles. To depart from the path of rectitude in either of these respects is to debase public service and to lower its dignity,” he had cautioned them on April 21, 1947.
The man of integrity and intentions of “nation first”
- He readily accepted the Mahatma Gandhi’s advice to withdraw his candidacy for the post of Congress President in favour of Pandit Nehru in 1946, although a majority of State Congress committees supported his candidature.
- It was apparent that the Congress President would become the first Prime Minister of India. It once again proved his noble intention of placing the country’s interests above self.
- His love for the motherland was best described by Maulana Azad when he said: “He made his choice out of two courses that come before a man, namely would he live for his country or for himself? Sardar chose his country.”
- Patel’s idea of unity was incomplete.
- He may have created a united India, but this India remains full of contradictions and inequalities, both social and economic.
- Politically, we may be equal and united, but socially and economically we are not.
Acknowledging the monumental contribution of Patel in nation building, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “History will call him the builder and consolidator of new India.”
The remarks Patel made during the Quit India Movement are also relevant today. He said: “We have to shed mutual bickering, shed the difference of being high or low and develop the sense of equality and banish untouchability. We have to live like the children of the same father”.
Connecting the dots:
Statue of Unity
- On Sadhu Hill
- Standing at 182 meters in the middle of river Narmada at Kevadia in Gujarat’s Narmada district, the Statue of Unity is the tallest statue in the world– much taller than the 153 metre Spring Temple Buddha in China and almost twice the size of the Statue of Liberty in New York. (remember the places for Prelims)
- One can have a view of the Satpura and Vindhyachal mountain ranges, which also form the point where Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra meet. (Prelims centric fact)
- Visitors can also get a distant view of the 12-km-long Garudeshwar Reservoir (which will help ensure there is always water around the statue), which is located downstream from the Narmada dam. (Prelims centric – location of the reservoir)
- Man Behind the Statue: Shri Ram Vanji Sutar, the 93-year-old sculptor.
ENVIRONMENT/ ECONOMY/ GOVERNANCE
- GS-3: Indian Economy and challenges
- GS-3: Major crops-cropping patterns in various parts of the country, – different types of irrigation and irrigation systems
- GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Context: Zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) is back on top of the Government’s agricultural agenda, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to highlight it at a national conclave in Gujarat.
- The Centre has sanctioned support for converting four lakh additional hectares of crop land in eight States to using ZBNF techniques this year. This is meant to provide a showcase for their benefits although scientific studies on the method have not yet been completed.
What is it and how did it come about?
- Zero budget natural farming is a method of chemical-free agriculture drawing from traditional Indian practices.
- It was originally promoted by agriculturist and Padma Shri recipient Subhash Palekar, who developed it in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the Green Revolution’s methods driven by chemical fertilizers, pesticides and intensive irrigation.
- He argued that the rising cost of these external inputs was a leading cause of indebtedness and suicide among farmers, while the impact of chemicals on the environment and on long-term fertility was devastating.
- Without the need to spend money on these inputs — or take loans to buy them — the cost of production could be reduced and farming made into a “zero budget” exercise, breaking the debt cycle for many small farmers.
- The “four wheels” of ZBNF are ‘Jiwamrita’, ‘Bijamrita’, ‘Mulching’ and ‘Waaphasa’, says Palekar
What are the advantages of Zero Budget Natural Farming?
- Promotes Better agronomic practices: The ZBNF method promotes soil aeration, minimal watering, intercropping, bunds and topsoil mulching and discourages intensive irrigation and deep ploughing.
- Small Farmer Friendly: As both a social and environmental programme, it aims to ensure that farming – particularly smallholder farming – is economically viable by enhancing farm biodiversity and ecosystem services.
- Reduces Cost to Farmers: Through eliminating external inputs and using in-situ resources to rejuvenate soils, the farmers cost is reduced whilst simultaneously increasing incomes, and restoring ecosystem health through diverse, multi-layered cropping systems.
- Efficient use of Cow dung: Cow dung from local cows has proven to be a miraculous cure to revive the fertility and nutrient value of soil. One gram of cow dung is believed to have anywhere between 300 to 500 crore beneficial micro-organisms. These micro-organisms decompose the dried biomass on the soil and convert it into ready-to-use nutrients for plants.
- Environment Friendly: Zero budget natural farming requires only 10 per cent water and 10 per cent electricity than what is required under chemical and organic farming. ZBNF may improve the potential of crops to adapt to and be produced for evolving climatic conditions.
Is it effective?
- A limited 2017 study in Andhra Pradesh claimed a sharp decline in input costs and improvement in yields.
- However, reports also suggest that many farmers, including from Mr. Palekar’s native Maharashtra, have reverted to conventional farming after seeing their ZBNF returns drop after a few years, in turn raising doubts about the method’s efficacy in increasing farmers’ incomes.
- ZBNF critics, including some experts within the central policy and planning think tank NITI Aayog, note that India needed the Green Revolution in order to become self-sufficient and ensure food security.
- Critics warn against a wholesale move away from that model without sufficient proof that yields will not be affected.
- Sikkim, which has seen some decline in yields following a conversion to organic farming, is used as a cautionary tale regarding the pitfalls of abandoning chemical fertilizers.
- In 2019, soon after Prime Minister praised ZBNF while addressing a United Nations conference on desertification, the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences wrote to Mr. Modi warning against promoting the method without sufficient research to assess its long-term impact.
Which are the States with big plans?
- The Centre has sanctioned the proposals of eight States for support under the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana scheme this year.
- Andhra Pradesh has the biggest ambition to bring one lakh additional hectares of land under ZBNF under the scheme, followed by Chhattisgarh, with 85,000 additional hectares and Gujarat, with 71,000 additional hectares.
- Government has said the proposals being implemented under the scheme would be used to showcase the benefits of the method.
What lies ahead?
- The Prime Minister is set to promote ZBNF’s benefits and provide more details on the strategies to implement it at valedictory session of a three-day national summit on agro and food processing, with a focus on natural farming, which is being held in Anand, Gujarat. Over 5,000 farmers are expected to be present in person.
- So far as scientific validation is concerned, all eyes are focussed on the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, which is conducting studies on the ZBNF methods practised by basmati and wheat farmers in Modipuram (Uttar Pradesh), Ludhiana (Punjab), Pantnagar (Uttarakhand) and Kurukshetra (Haryana), evaluating the impact on productivity, economics and soil health including soil organic carbon and soil fertility.
- The Agriculture Secretary said such studies needed at least three years to arrive at a conclusion.
Connecting the dots:
- Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana scheme
- Srilankan Economic Crisis due to forced Organic Farming
(Sansad TV: Perspective)
Dec 13: Electronic Waste Management – https://youtu.be/wsNtsH7jHz0
- GS-2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- GS 3 – Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation
Context: Electrical and electronic equipments have become an essential part of everyday life. Its availability and widespread use have enabled much of the global population to benefit from higher standards of living. However, the way in which we produce, consume, and dispose of e-waste is unsustainable.
According to Global E-waste Monitor 2020, the world generated a striking 53.6 Mt of e-waste in 2019 which is an average of 7.3 kg per capita.
- The growing amount of e-waste is mainly fueled by higher consumption rates of Electronic equipments, short life cycles, and few repair options.
- Since 2014, the number of countries that have adopted a national e-waste policy, legislation or regulation has increased from 61 to 78.
- Around 12.9 million women are working in informal waste sector expose themselves to toxic e-waste (like Nickel, lead and Mercury) and put them and their unborn children at risk.
- Children exposed to e waste are particularly vulnerable to the toxic chemicals they contain due to their smaller size, less developed organs and rapid rate of growth and Development.
- India is the third largest electronic waste generator after China and USA.
- In 2016 India enacted E waste (Management) Rules under which e Waste is categorised under two broad categories: Information technology and Telecommunications equipment and consumer electrical and electronic.
- E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances such as mercury, brominated flame retardants (BFR), CFCs and HCFCs.
- The increasing levels of e-waste, low collection rates, and non-environmentally sound disposal and treatment of this waste stream pose significant risks to the environment and to human health.
- Improper management of e-waste also contributes to global warming.
The Way Forward
- Governments should set up regulatory agencies in each district, which are vested with the responsibility of co-ordinating and consolidating the regulatory functions of the various government authorities regarding hazardous substances
- Governments must encourage research into the development and standard of hazardous waste management, environmental monitoring and the regulation of hazardous waste-disposal.
- Governments should enforce strict regulations and heavy fines levied on industries, which do not practice waste prevention and recovery in the production facilities.
- Polluter pays principle and extended producer responsibility should be adopted.
- Governments should encourage and support NGOs and other organizations to involve actively in solving the nation’s e-waste problems.
- Generators of wastes should take responsibility to determine the output characteristics of wastes and if hazardous, should provide management options.
- All personnel involved in handling e-waste in industries including those at the policy, management, control and operational levels, should be properly qualified and trained.
- Companies can and should adopt waste minimization techniques (“reverse production” system) that designs infrastructure to recover and reuse every material contained within e-wastes metals
Citizens: While buying electronic products opt for those that:
- are made with fewer toxic constituents
- use recycled content and are energy efficient
- are designed for easy upgrading or disassembly
- utilize minimal packaging and offer leasing or take back options
- have been certified by regulatory authorities
Can you answer the following question?
- What are the sustainable strategies to address the problem of e-waste? Discuss.
- Is India a signatory to the Basel Convention? What are the fundamental aims of the Basel Convention and in light of the recent spell of ‘climate change’, how can developed countries be torchbearers of good e-waste management skills?
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1 Which of the following is the 1st festival in Asia to achieve recognition as UNESCO ICH of Humanity?
- Taiwan Lantern Festival
- Phi Ta Khon
- Ice And Snow Festival
- Durga Puja
Q.2 Consider the following statements:
- Its northern boundary runs along the international border with Bhutan.
- It represents the highly endemic Indo-Malayan region.
- The forest of the reserve is classified as the Moist Tropical forest.
- Rajabhatkhawa Vulture Breeding Center for the breeding and conservation of endangered Indian vultures was established as the second such center in India.
Which of the following tiger reserve is being described above?
- Namdapha Tiger reserve
- Manas Tiger reserve
- Buxa Tiger reserve
- Valmiki Tiger reserve
Q.3 Sixth schedule deals with which of the following?
- List of states and union territories and their territories
- Provisions as to the allocation of seats in the Council of States.
- Provisions as to the Administration and Control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes.
- Provisions as to the Administration of Tribal Areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
ANSWERS FOR 16th Dec 2021 TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE (TYK)
On Pakistan-Bangladesh relations:
On Pandemic & Protectionism:
On Boosting agrifood life sciences: