Government Schemes & Policies
- Kashmir apples to escape lockdown
Issues related to Health & Education
- Maize crops falling victim to fall armyworm in Bihar
- PM to inaugurate India’s second Multi-Modal Terminal in Jharkhand
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- Snow leopards, cultural codes can help prevent land degradation in Himalayas
- UNCCD COP14: Experts stress the need to assess long-term drought impacts
- Basel Ban Amendment becomes law
- Narmada dam oustees not satisfied with MP govt assurances
Bilateral & International Relations
- India, ASEAN agree to review goods FTA pact, make it simpler
- ‘Despite delay, monsoon picked up due to positive EQUINOO’
Science & Technology
- In a week, spike in demand for rare Bombay blood group
- What is Cryodrakon Boreas?
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Government Schemes & Policies
Kashmir apples to escape lockdown
The central government has decided to buy apples, through Special Market Intervention Price Scheme (MISP), directly from apple growers in Jammu and Kashmir under government-run NAFED.
Why government is buying apple under DBT scheme?
- The announcement came in the wake of prolonged lockdown in Kashmir, due to abrogation of Article 370 that has led to the closing down of markets.
- The government-imposed restrictions and the shutdown have crippled the markets, raising concerns among fruit growers and farmers.
- Established in 1958, National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. (NAFED) was functions under Ministry of Agricultureand registered under the Multi State Co-operative Societies Act.
- It was setup with the object to promote Co-operative marketing of Agricultural Produce to benefit the farmers.
- Agricultural farmers are the main members of NAFED, who have the authority to say in the form of members of the General Body in the working of NAFED.
- NAFED is now one of the largest procurement as well as marketing agencies for agricultural products in India.
- In 2008, it had established, National Spot Exchange, a Commodities exchange as a joint venture of Financial Technologies (India) Ltd. (FTIL).
About Market Intervention Scheme
- Market Intervention Scheme (MIS) is a price support mechanism implemented on the request of State Governments for procurement of perishable and horticultural commodities in the event of a fall in market prices.
- The Scheme is implemented when there is at least 10% increase in production or 10% decrease in the rates over the previous normal year.
- Market Intervention Scheme works in a similar fashion to Minimum Support Pricebased procurement mechanism for food grains, but is an adhoc mechanism.
- Its objective is to protect the growers of these horticultural/agricultural commodities from making distress sale in the event of bumper crop during the peak arrival period when prices fall to very low level.
Implementation of MIS
- The area of operation is restricted to the concerned state only.
- The Department of Agriculture & Cooperationis implementing the scheme.
- The MIS has been implemented in case of commodities like apples, kinnoo/malta, garlic, oranges, galgal, grapes, mushrooms, clove, black pepper, pineapple, ginger, red-chillies, coriander seed etc.
- Under MIP, funds are not allocated to the States. Instead, central share of losses as per the guidelines of MIP is released to the State Governments/UTs, for which MIP has been approved, based on specific proposals received from them.
- Under the Scheme, in accordance with MIS guidelines, a pre-determined quantity at a fixed Market Intervention Price (MIP) is procured by NAFED as the Central agency and the agencies designated by the state government for a fixed period or till the prices are stabilized above the MIP whichever is earlier.
Issues related to Health & Education
Maize crops falling victim to fall armyworm in Bihar
Maize crops are falling prey to the deadly Fall Armyworm (FAW) in Bihar, India’s third-largest corn producer.
About Fall Army Worm (FAW)
- Fall Armyworm is a species in the order of Lepidoptera and is the larval life stage of a fall armyworm moth.
- The term “armyworm” can refer to several species. The Fall Armyworm is more dangerous than the True Armyworm.
- It is regarded as a pest and can damage and destroy a wide variety of crops, which causes large economic damage.
- It is a native of the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the Americas and was first detected in the African continent in 2016.
- It was reported in India for the first time in 2018 when it affected crops in Karnataka. Within a span of only six months, almost 50 per cent of the country, including Mizoram, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and West Bengal, has reported FAW infestations.
- This was due to its polyphagous (ability to feed on different kinds of food) nature and strong flying ability. Moreover, it has high reproductive capacity as a single female can lay 600 to 700 eggs.
- In its 45-day-long lifecycle, the female moth of this pest lays around 1,500-2,000 eggs on the top of leaves. This is the most dangerous part of the lifecycle as the caterpillar feeds on crop plants.
- FAW larvae are seen in groups. The larva of FAW can be identified by four characteristic spots on the last second segment forming a square. The head has an inverted “Y” mark.
- The lifecycle of the worm can range from 30 to 45 days. In winter, the cycle can extend up to even 90 days.
- The larva is the damaging stage of the insect. It generally causes damage to corn (maize), and can attack millet, vegetables, rice, sugarcane and sorghum.
- Till date, India has reported FAW infestation on maize, sorghum (jowar) and sugarcane crops.
Steps taken to control FAW:
- The Indian Council of Agriculture Research has prepared a detailed Package of Practices (POP) against FAW in Maize crop which contains mechanical, cultural, biological and chemical measures to control FAW.
- Based on the recommendations of the High Power Committee (HPC), various Sub-Committees have been constituted in the various states which are headed by the Director / Commissioner of Agriculture / Principal Secretary of the respective State.
- Regular surveys, surveillance and monitoring were conducted by the Central Integrated Pest Management Centres (CIPMCs) in collaboration with the State Department of Agriculture, SAUs and ICAR etc.
- Certain Bio-control Agents, which have found effective against FAW, have been mass produced.
PM to inaugurate India’s second Multi-Modal Terminal in Jharkhand
Prime Minister of India inaugurate India’s second riverine Multi-Modal terminal (MMT) built at Sahibganj in Jharkhand.
About the Multi-Modal terminal (MMT) at Sahibganj
- The terminal at Sahibganj will open up industries of Jharkhand and Bihar to the global market and provide Indo-Nepal cargo connectivity through waterways route.
- This is the second of the three Multi-Modal Terminals being constructed on river Ganga under Jal Marg Vikas Project.
What is Jal Marg Vikas Project?
- Jal Marg Vikas Project is a project on the river Ganga that envisages the development of waterway between Allahabad and Haldia that will cover a distance of 1620 km by March, 2023.
- The JMVP is being implemented by IWAI with the financial and technical support of World Bank.
- It will enable commercial navigation of vessels with capacity of 1500-2,000 tons on NW-I.
- The project covers Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
- It aims to develop fairway with three metres depth to enable commercial navigation of at least 1500 tonne vessels on river.
- It also includes development of fairway, multi-modal terminals, strengthening of open river navigation technique, conservancy works, modern River Information System (RIS) etc.
Significance of Jal Marg Vikas Project
- Alternative mode of transport that will be environment friendly and cost effective. The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country.
- Mammoth Infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on – Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids. Socio-economic impetus; huge employment generation.
- It is component of Eastern Transport Corridor (ETC) of India along with proposed Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (EDFC) and National Highway-2 (NH2).
- ETC will connect NCR with eastern and north-eastern states and function as link to neighbouring countries viz. Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand and other east and south-east Asian countries.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
Snow leopards, cultural codes can help prevent land degradation in Himalayas
Conservation of snow leopards and preservation of people’s cultural values can prevent land degradation of the Himalayan ecosystem, said experts at the ongoing 14th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
About Snow Leopard
- Snow leopards live in the mountainous regions of central and southern Asia.
- In India, their geographical range encompasses a large part of the western Himalayas including the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh in the eastern Himalayas.
- Snow leopards inhabit alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m or higher in the Himalayas.
- Snow leopards are currently found in only 12 countries in the world, including India.
- They prefer steep, rugged terrains with rocky outcrops and ravines. This type of habitat provides good cover and clear view to help them sneak up on their prey.
- Their spotted coats change with the seasons – from a thick, white fur to keep them warm and camouflaged in winter, to a fine yellow-grey coat in summer.
- Previously, the snow leopard is listed as Endangered on the IUCN-World Conservation Union’s Red List of the Threatened Species. Now, it is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It was first placed on the endangered list in 1972.
- In addition, the snow leopard, like all big cats, is listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which makes trading of animal body parts (i.e., fur, bones and meat) illegal in signatory countries.
- The snow leopard is the National Heritage Animal of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Habitat and prey loss
- Overgrazing has damaged the fragile high altitude grasslands, leaving less food for the wild sheep and goats that are the snow leopard’s main prey.
- Such increasing loss of its natural prey is a major threat for the long-term survival of snow leopards.
- With less natural prey to feed on and growing numbers of domestic animals being grazed in their hunting territories, snow leopards have increasingly adapted to prey on livestock. This brings them into conflict with local people.
- Herders in these areas live a precarious economic life and loss of even a single sheep causes great economic hardship. This has led to several instances of retaliatory killing of snow leopards.
- Another major challenge for the protection of snow leopards is poaching for their pelts. Their bones and other body parts are also in demand for use in traditional Asian medicines.
- Much of its habitat is extremely difficult to access. Found at very high altitudes, studying the species and its current status and distribution is an arduous task.
UNCCD COP14: Experts stress the need to assess long-term drought impacts
The way to combat frequent droughts, like the ones India faces, lies in evaluating their impacts, a host of experts said at the ongoing 14th Conference of Parties (COP14) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
10 point Framework
- The Framework for the Assessment of Benefits of Action/Cost of Inaction for Drought Preparednessreport was launched during COP 14 of UNCCD.
The Framework suggests measure to counter draught.
- Appoint a national drought management policy commission
- State or define the goals and objectives of risk-based national drought management policy
- Seek stakeholder participation, define and resolve conflicts between key water use sectors
- Inventory data and financial resources available and broadly identify groups at risk
- Prepare the key tenets of the national drought management policy and preparedness plans
- Identify research needs and fill institutional gaps
- Integrate science and policy aspects of drought management
- Publicise the policy and preparedness plans, build public awareness
- Develop education programs for all age and stakeholder groups
- Evaluate and revise policy and supporting plans
Basel Ban Amendment becomes law
The 1995 Basel Ban Amendment, a global waste dumping prohibition, has become an international law after Croatia ratified it on September 6, 2019.
What is Basel Convention?
- The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (Basel Convention) is an international treaty that was designed to reduce the movements of hazardous waste between nations, and specifically to prevent transfer of hazardous waste from developed to less developed countries (LDCs).
- It does not address the movement of radioactive waste.
- It was opened for signature on 22 March 1989 and entered into force on 5 May 1992
- It has 187 members including India.
Why there was a need to amend Basel Convention?
- After the initial adoption of the Convention, many nations and NGOs argued for a total ban on shipment of all hazardous waste to LDCs.
- In particular, the original Convention did not prohibit waste exports to any location except Antarctica but merely required a notification and consent system known as ‘Prior Informed Consent’ (PIC).
- Further, many waste traders sought to exploit the good name of recycling and begin to justify all exports as moving to recycling destinations.
- Many believed a full ban was needed including exports for recycling. These concerns led to several regional waste trade bans, including the Bamako Convention.
About Basel Ban Amendment
- Basel Action Network (BAN) is a Unites States-based charity organisation and is one among the organisations and countries, which created the Basel Ban Amendment.
- The Basel Ban amendment banned all forms of hazardous waste exports from the 29 wealthiest most industrialized countries of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to all non-OECD countries.
- With the ratification of Croatia, the Basel Ban Amendment will enter into force on December 5, 2019.
Narmada dam oustees not satisfied with MP govt assurances
Oustees displaced in Madhya Pradesh due to the backwaters of the Sardar Sarovar Dam in Gujarat are not convinced by the government of Madhya Pradesh’s promises to help them even as they stare at continual displacement.
What is the issue?
- Some people in Madhya Pradesh are not satisfied with the state government’s rehabilitation efforts on their displacement due to backwaters of the Sardar Sarovar Dam rushing into their farms.
- They said that the government has yet to complete rehabilitation according to the rehabilitation policy.
About Sardar Sarover Dam?
- The Sardar Sarovar Project is one of the largest water resources project of India covering four major states – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
- The foundation stone the dam was laid by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961 and the construction of which began in 1987.
It is the,
- Biggest dam in terms of volume of concrete used.
- Second biggest dam in the world after the Grand Coulee Dam in the United States.
- Third highest (162 m) concrete dam in India (first two being Bhakra (226 m) in Himachal Pradesh and Lakhwar (192 m) in Uttar Pradesh)
Benefits of Project
- About 75% of the command area in Gujarat is drought prone while entire command in Rajasthan is drought prone.
- Hence, the project will provide irrigation facilities in 15 districts of Gujara, irrigate land in the strategic desert districts of Barmer and Jallore in Rajasthan and in the tribal hilly tract of Maharashtra.
Drinking Water Supply
- A special allocation of water has been made to provide drinking water for arid region of Saurashtra and Kachchh and all “no source” villages and the villages affected by salinity and fluoride in North.
- There are two power houses viz. River Bed Power House and Canal Head Power House.
- The power would be shared by three states – Madhya Pradesh – 57%, Maharashtra – 27% and Gujarat 16%.
- This will provide a useful peaking power to western grid of the country which has very limited hydel power production at present.
- It will also provide flood protection to riverine villages and Bharuch city of Gujarat.
- Wild life sanctuaries viz. “Shoolpaneshewar wild life sanctuary” on left Bank, Wild Ass Sanctuary in little Rann of Kachchh, Black Buck National Park at Velavadar, Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Kachchh, Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary and Alia Bet at the mouth of River will be benefited.
- In addition, there will be benefits of fisheries development, recreational facilities, water supply for industries, agro industrial development, protection of conserved forest from grazers and secondary benefits viz employment generation, increase in vegetal cover, gains due to compensatory forest, tree plantation 100 times and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) fixation to large extent by 70 times.
Issues on Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP)
- The basic justification offered for the SSP by the Gujarat government from the time of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal in the 1970s was that there is no alternative to SSP waters for the drought-prone areas of Kutch, Saurashtra and north Gujarat.
- However, all the incomplete canal network of the project is in these very regions, while in the water-rich central Gujarat region, the canal network was completed long ago and the people have been enjoying full use of the water, way beyond their share in the original SSP plans. So, the SSP’s basic objective is far from achieved.
- Social and environmental impacts have gone far beyond what was estimated at the outset when the project was cleared in the late 1980s. Rehabilitation of even the submergence-affected population is about 80% incomplete.
- There are many other dimensions of the impacts of the project. For example, the 150-km stretch of the Narmada downstream from the dam is now dry most of the year. However, government is claiming of releasing of 600 cusecs (cubic feet per second) immediately for several kilometres from the dam without any evidence.
- The livelihood of at least 10,000 families depending on the Narmada estuary stands destroyed, without any one talking about any rehabilitation or compensation. Similarly, there is no rehabilitation for all the other categories of people displaced by the dam.
- Gujarat’s major attraction from the SSP was 11 billion cubic meters (BCM) of water to irrigate 1.8 million hectares of its parched land. However, the SSP irrigates less than a quarter of this area.
Bilateral & International Relations
India, ASEAN agree to review goods FTA pact, make it simpler
India and the 10-member ASEAN have agreed to initiate a review of the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) in goods to make it “more user-friendly, simple and trade facilitative”.
What is the issue?
- India’s trade deficit with ASEAN has widened significantly (doubled to $10 billion in 2017 from $5 billion in 2011) since the pact was implemented in January 2010.
- One of the reasons for the growing deficit is the low utilisation of the FTA route by Indian exporters to ASEAN countries because of difficulties faced in negotiating the rules.
- Hence, a review of the India-ASEAN FTA could help improve utilisation in India by making the pact simpler and more user-friendly.
What is ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA)?
- The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) is a trade bloc agreement by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations supporting local trade and manufacturing in all ASEAN countries, and facilitating economic integration with regional and international allies.
- The AFTA agreement was signed in 1992 in Singapore.
- Itlowered the intra-regional tariffs through the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) Scheme.
- The United States, the European Union and Japan are the ASEAN’s largest export markets. Japan, followed by the U.S. and EU is the largest sources of ASEAN imports.
About ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (AIFTA)
- The Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation between ASEAN and India was signed in 2003 which served as legal basis to conclude further agreements, including Investment Agreement form the ASEAN-Indian Free Trade Area (AIFTA).
- The ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement was entered into force in 2010. Under the Agreement, ASEAN Member States and India have agreed to open their respective markets by progressively reducing and eliminating duties on good.
- While there are many benefits to the ASEAN-India FTA, there is concern in India that the agreement will have several negative impacts on the economy.
- The ASEAN and India aim to reduce their tariffs on a majority of their traded goods. This will allow them to increase the market access of their products. It is criticised, however, that India will not experience as great an increase in market access to ASEAN countries as ASEAN will in India.
- Since the early 2000s, India has had an increasing trade deficit with ASEAN. It is feared that a gradual liberalisation of tariffs and a rise in imported goods into India will threaten several sectors of the economy, specifically the plantation sector, some manufacturing industries, and the marine products industry.
‘Despite delay, monsoon picked up due to positive EQUINOO’
The Indian summer monsoon picked up steam despite a delayed start due to a positive phase of Equatorial Indian Ocean Oscillation (EQUINOO).
What is Equatorial Indian Ocean Oscillation (EQUINOO)?
- EQUINOO is an oscillation between enhanced cloud formation and rainfall over the western equatorial Indian Ocean (WEIO) and suppressed clouding over the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean (EEIO) west of Sumatra.
- A positive EQUINOO phase is when the surface sea temperature in WEIO is above 27.5 degree Celsius leading to enhanced clouding, which is then suppressed in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean.
- The positive phase is proven to be favourable to Indian summer monsoon rainfall.
- The warmer-than-normal sea surface temperature in the western Indian Ocean also means a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). And, therefore, EQUINOO is considered as an atmospheric component of the coupled Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) mode.
Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)
- The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD), also known as the Indian Nino, is an irregular oscillation of sea-surface temperatures in which the western Indian Ocean becomes alternately warmer and then colder than the eastern part of the ocean.
- The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is defined by the difference in sea surface temperature between two areas (or poles, hence a dipole) – a western pole in the Arabian Sea (western Indian Ocean) and an eastern pole in the eastern Indian Ocean south of Indonesia.
- The IOD affects the climate of Australia and other countries that surround the Indian Ocean Basin, and is a significant contributor to rainfall variability in this region.
- The IOD is a coupled ocean and atmosphere phenomenon, similar to ENSO but in the equatorial Indian Ocean.
- When the IOD and ENSO are in phase, the impacts of El Nino and La Nina events are often most extreme over Australia, while when they are out of phase the impacts of El Nino and La Nina events can be diminished.
- The IOD involves a periodic oscillation of sea-surface temperatures (SST), between “positive”, “neutral” and “negative” phases. A positive phase sees greater-than-average sea-surface temperatures and greater precipitation in the western Indian Ocean region.
- A positive phase sees greater-than-average sea-surface temperatures and greater precipitation in the western Indian Ocean region, with a corresponding cooling of waters in the eastern Indian Ocean—which tends to cause droughts in adjacent land areas of Indonesia and Australia.
- The negative phase of the IOD brings about the opposite conditions, with warmer water and greater precipitation in the eastern Indian Ocean, and cooler and drier conditions in the west.
- The IOD also affects the strength of monsoons over the Indian subcontinent.
- An average of four each positive-negative IOD events occur during each 30-year period with each event lasting around six months.
Science & Technology
In a week, spike in demand for rare Bombay blood group
For a week now, multiple patients in several Mumbai hospitals have needed units of a rare blood type known as the Bombay blood group, forcing transport of the blood from other parts of Maharashtra to Mumbai.
What is Bombay blood group?
- The Bombay blood group, also known as Bombay hh, is a rare blood group known to be found in one in over 7,600 people. The Bombay blood group negative is even rarer.
- It is named after it was discovered in Mumbai by Dr Y M Bhende in 1952.
- The individuals with Bombay blood group can only take blood from individuals having Bombay hh phenotype only. However, hh blood group can donate their blood to ABO blood types (Type A, B, AB and O).
How is the testing for the Bombay blood group done?
- An Antigen H blood test is required to test for hh blood. Generally, the ‘hh’ blood group is mistaken as the O group. The difference between them is that the O group has Antigen H, while the hh group does not.
- The lack of Antigen H has nothing to do with the normal parameters of complete blood count (CBC). However, due to the rarity of the blood type, people face problems during a blood transfusion.
- Globally, the hh blood type has an incidence of one in four million. In India, one in 7,600 to 10,000 are born with this type.
- This blood type is more common in South Asia than anywhere else because of inbreeding and close community marriages. Shared common ancestry among Indians, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis has led to more cases of hh blood phenotype in this region.
How it is unique from other blood group types?
- The four most common blood groups are A, B, AB and O. Each Red Blood Cell (RBC) has antigen over its surface, which helps determine which group it belongs to.
- The Bombay blood group is deficient in expressing antigen H, meaning the RBC has no antigen H.
- For instance, in the AB blood group, both antigens A and B are found. A will have A antigens; B will have B antigens. In hh, there are no A or B antigens.
What are the Blood types?
What are Blood Antigens?
- Blood has four main components: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
- Blood is classified into different groups according to the presence or absence of molecules called antigens on the surface of every red blood cell in a person’s body.
- The genes in the antigen provide instructions for making antigen proteins.
- Antigens determine blood type and can either be proteins or complexes of sugar molecules (polysaccharides).
- Blood group antigens play a role in recognizing foreign cells in the bloodstream. For example, if a person with blood type A receives a blood transfusion with blood type B, the recipient’s immune system will recognize the type B cells as foreign and mount an immune response. Antibodies against type B blood cells (anti-B antibodies) are made, which attack and destroy the type B blood cells. This sort of blood type mismatch can lead to illness.
What is Cryodrakon Boreas?
Paleontologists have identified a new species, named it Cryodrakon boreas, and declared that it could be one of the largest flying animals.
What is Cryodrakon boreas?
- It is a dinosaur of genus pterosaur.
- It lived in western Canada about 76 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period.
Geological time scale
[Ref: Indian Express]