Current Affairs Analysis

14th May 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets (Amendment) Ordinance; Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC); Web course on India’s traditions; Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR); Credit guarantees to MSMEs; Credit guarantee; Status of industrial sectors in India; Direct seeding of rice; Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020; Lipulekh Border Dispute; Lipulekh Pass; Kalapani; Three-year short service for civilians; Collective Conscience; Rarest of rare doctrine; Sohrai Khovar Painting; Telia Rumal; FIR Aapke Dwar etc.
By IASToppers
May 14, 2020

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets (Amendment) Ordinance

Issues related to Health and Education

  • Web course on India’s traditions

Economy

  • Credit guarantees to MSMEs
  • Status of industrial sectors in India

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Direct seeding of rice
  • Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020

Bilateral & International Relations

  • Lipulekh Border Dispute

Defence & Security Issues

  • Three-year short service for civilians

Also in News

  • Collective Conscience

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Sohrai Khovar Painting
  • Telia Rumal
  • FIR Aapke Dwar

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Polity & Governance

Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets (Amendment) Ordinance

The Gujarat’s state government brings in the Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 to amend the existing APMC Act.

What is the issue?

  • The Gujarat government has promulgated an Ordinance expanding the purview of the Act to include livestock under agricultural produce and to provide better market access to farmers.
  • As per the amendment, the new Act is termed Gujarat Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 1963.

Rationale:

  • To ensure that the spirit of competition is encouraged and the principle of ‘farmer first’ is kept in mind.

Key Features:

  • The Act paves the way for establishment of a livestock market.
  • It seeks to have involvement of local authorities, including panchayati raj institutions who own and operate rural periodical markets such as haats within their area.
  • The ordinance restricts the jurisdiction of APMCs to the physical boundaries of their respective marketing yards and they can levy cess only on those transactions, happening within their marketing yard.
  • For the traders operating within the jurisdiction of an APMC the act now opens up doors to access any APMC across the state with the Unified Single License.
  • A single licence will be applicable to the whole of the State for the traders to be granted or renewed by the Director.
  • Earlier APMCs used to form a cartel and decide the prices to offer to farmers.
  • Now, the farmers will not be bound to sell only to one particular APMC and can choose the one with the best deal in their favour.

Agricultural Produce Market Committee:

  • Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) is a statutory market committee constituted by a State Government in respect of trade in certain notified agricultural or horticultural or livestock products, under the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act issued by that state government.
  • The APMC system was introduced to prevent distress sale by farmers to their creditors, to protect farmers from the exploitation of intermediaries and traders and to ensure better prices and timely payment for their produce through the auctions in the APMC.

Functions:

  • Ensuring transparency in pricing systems and transactions taking place in the market area.
  • Providing market-led extension services to farmers.
  • Ensuring payment for agricultural produce sold by farmers on the same day.
  • Promoting agricultural processing including activities for value addition in agricultural produce.
  • Publicizing data on arrivals and rates of agricultural produce brought into the market area for sale.
  • Setup and promote public private partnership in the management of agricultural markets.

Key Facts:

  • Under the Constitution of India, agricultural marketing is a state subject.
  • Thus, agricultural markets are established and regulated mostly under the various State APMC Acts.
[Ref: The Hindu Business Line]

Issues related to Health and Education

Web course on India’s traditions

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations plans to launch an online platform for short but specialised courses on traditional Indian knowledge.

Rationale:

  • The traditional Indian knowledge system can serve as a strong bridge between India and those who want to study its culture, and enhance India’s soft power.

Major Highlights:

  • The Universalisation of Traditional Indian Knowledge Systems (UTIKS) Platform will serve as a bridge between Indian culture and the global population.
  • It will help India as an easy to understand civilization and culture, doing away with the enigma that surrounds the idea of India in a more learner-friendly manner.
  • Through the UTIKS Platform, for the first time, a structured attempt is being made to generate academic interest in various nuances of Indian culture.
  • The courses will include subjects like Ramayana and Mahabharata epics, traditional Indian dances, Panchtantra tales, arts like making sky lanterns, freedom struggle, Indian wildlife, temple architecture, folk arts, yoga etc.
  • The course will not only help foreigners but even those in India, who are ignorant about culture and diverse manifestations of the country’s unity.

Indian Council for Cultural Relations:

  • ICCR was founded in 1950 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, independent India’s first Education Minister and is headquartered at Delhi.
  • ICCR is an autonomous organisation which functions under the Ministry of External Affairs.

Objectives

  • To actively participate in the implementation of policies pertaining to India’s external cultural relations.
  • To strengthen cultural relations between India and other countries.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]

Economy

Credit guarantees to MSMEs

The Finance Minister has announced some details of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan economic package to Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises in the form of a massive increase in credit guarantees to them.

What are credit guarantees?

  • Loans to MSMEs are mostly given against property (as collateral) because often there isn’t a robust cash flow analysis available.
  • But in times of crisis property prices fall and this inhibits the ability of MSMEs to seek loans as banks are less willing to extend loans.
  • A credit guarantee by the government helps as it assures the bank that its loan will be repaid by the government in case the MSME falters.
  • Example: If the government provides a 100% credit guarantee up to an amount of Rs 1 crore to a firm, it means that a bank can lend Rs 1 crore to that firm; in case the firm fails to pay back, the government will make good all of Rs 1 crore.

Why credit guarantees?

  • Even before the Covid-19 crisis, Indian government finances were in poor health.
  • This pandemic has meant that government revenues will come under further pressure. For instance, experts are already talking of a GDP contraction of 5% to 10% in the current financial year.
  • That will result in a revenue loss of anywhere between Rs 5 to 7 lakh crore.
  • Efforts to pump liquidity via the banks have been a non-starter because banks simply do not want to lend any new money.
  • Banks suspect that any new loans will only add to their growing mountain of non-performing assets (NPAs).
  • So the government was facing an odd problem: Banks had the money but were not willing to lend to the credit-starved sections of the economy, while the government itself did not have enough money to directly help the economy.

Quantum of credit guarantee provided to MSMEs:

  • There are three proposals but the main one is for standard MSMEs — that is, those MSMEs which were running fine until the Covid-19-induced lockdown disrupted their work.
  • For these, the government has provided a credit guarantee of Rs 3 lakh crore.
  • This is like an emergency credit line and it is for MSMEs that have an already outstanding loan of Rs 25 crore or those with a turnover less than Rs 100 crore.
  • The loans will have a tenure of 4 years and they will have a moratorium of 12 months (that is, the payback starts only after 12 months).
  • The loan should be taken before October 31, 2020.
  • This means if there is an MSME which had a loan (up to Rs 25 crore) with any bank or NBFC and as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, this MSME needs more funds than it can take more loans, without the need for any collateral, because the government will guarantee such loans fully.

What are the other measures?

  • There is a subordinate debt scheme worth Rs 20,000 crore, which will allow loans to MSMEs that were already categorised as “stressed”, or struggling to pay back. In this case, the government’s guarantee is not full, but partial.
  • The third measure is the creation of a fund with a corpus of Rs 50,000 crore to infuse equity into “viable” MSMEs, thus helping them to expand and grow.
  • The government intends to put in Rs 10,000 crore and get others, possibly institutions like LIC and SBI, to fund the remaining amount.
  • Then there is a change in the definition of an MSME that was pending for long.
  • Now MSMEs will be judged on turnover and there will be no difference between a manufacturing MSME and a services MSME.
  • The change in definition of MSMEs will also help because “turnover” is the more efficient way to identify an MSME and it also allows a lot of firms, especially in the services sector like mid-sized hospitals, hotels and diagnostic centres to be eligible for benefits as an MSME.

Are there any downsides to resorting to credit guarantees?

  • There are downsides especially if it is a 100% credit guarantee.
  • That’s because such a guarantee leaves no incentive for either borrower to pay back — he has nothing to lose — or for the lender — the banker is assured of payback from the government so why should he bother to check if the borrower is deserving or not.
  • A more prudent option would have been a split (say an 80%-20%) wherein the government assures to pay back only 80% of the new loan.
  • This circumvents the problem of a moral hazard.
[Ref: Indian Express, the Hindu]

Status of industrial sectors in India

Prime Minister through Atma-Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan gave the clarion call for self-sufficiency stating that Indians needed to become “vocal for local”.

Sectors heavily depend on imports:

  • Electrical equipment such as smartphones and computers.
  • The country depends on imports to access most of the primary and critical components used to make them, including printed circuit boards (PCBs).
  • Around 88 per cent of the components used by the mobile handsets industry are imported from countries like China, according to the Confederation of Indian Industry.
  • Over 60 per cent of the country’s medical devices are imported as well.
  • Other products heavily imported into the country are cells and modules used by the country’s solar power industry.

Sectors partially depend on imports:

  • India’s pharmaceutical industry is capable of making finished formulations, and also has domestic manufacturers of several key ingredients used to make them.
  • However, the industry also imports some key ingredients for antibiotics and vitamins currently not manufactured in India.
  • India imported around Rs 249 billion worth of key ingredients, including fermentation-based ingredients, in FY19, and this accounted for approximately 40 percent of the overall domestic consumption.
  • Medical devices like ventilators also rely on imports of several crucial components like solenoid valves and pressure sensors.
  • The country’s electric vehicles industry is dependent to a large extent on Chinese imports for chemicals used to make cathodes and battery cells, it said.
  • Local dyestuff units in India are also heavily dependent on imports of several raw materials.

Minimal dependence on imports:

  • While technology transfer is required for more advanced and critical medical devices, the country does have the capacity to domestically make products like hot water bottles, mercury thermometers, hypodermic needles, wheelchairs and patient monitoring display units, according to some industry executives among others.

Issues with scaling up production:

  • The manufacture of some of the key products that India imports such as semiconductors, displays and other very capital intensive electrical equipment may not be possible soon.
  • This is because the manufacturing of these requires large, stable sources of clean water and electricity.
  • They also need a high degree of policy certainty as these require high upfront investments.
  • Indian firms can however begin producing less sophisticated components if certain policy measures are taken.
  • The Indian industry faces much higher costs in inputs such as electricity and much higher logistics costs than Chinese firms.
  • India needs to address lack of flexibility in labour laws, high costs and low availability of land and high cost of electricity.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Direct seeding of rice

The states of Punjab and Haryana facing the shortage of labourers are adopting ‘direct seeding of rice’ (DSR) in place of conventional transplanting.

What is the issue?

  • The two granary states of Punjab and Haryana could face a shortage of an estimated 10 lakh labourers, due to lockdown.
  • The labourers are mainly seasonal migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who undertake transplantation of paddy in the kharif season.
  • The farmers are now being encouraged to adopt ‘direct seeding of rice’ (DSR) in place of conventional transplanting.

Traditional transplanting:

  • In transplanting, farmers prepare nurseries where the paddy seeds are first sown and raised into young plants.
  • These seedlings are then uprooted and replanted 25-35 days later in the main field.
  • The nursery seed bed is 5-10% of the area to be transplanted.
  • Paddy seedlings are transplanted on fields that are tilled in standing water using tractor-drawn disc harrows.
  • For the first three weeks or so after transplanting, the plants have to be irrigated almost daily (if there are no rains) to maintain a water depth of 4-5 cm.
  • Farmers continue irrigating every 2-3 days even for the next 4-5 weeks, when the crop is in the tillering (stem development) stage.

Underlying principle:

  • Paddy growth is compromised by weeds that compete for nutrition, sunlight and water.
  • Water prevents growth of weeds by denying them oxygen in the submerged stage, whereas the soft ‘aerenchyma tissues’ in paddy plants allow air to penetrate through their roots.
  • Water, thus, acts as a herbicide for paddy.
  • The threat from weeds recedes once tillering is over; so does the need to flood the fields.

Direct seeding of rice:

  • In DSR, there is no nursery preparation or transplantation.
  • The seeds are instead directly drilled into the field by a tractor-powered machine.
  • The Punjab Agricultural University has developed a ‘Lucky Seed Drill’ that can both sow seeds and simultaneously spray herbicides to control weeds.
  • In DSR, water is replaced by real chemical herbicides.
  • Farmers have to only level their land and give one pre-sowing irrigation or rauni.
  • Once the field has good soil moisture, they need to do two rounds of ploughing and planking, which is followed by sowing of the seeds and spraying of herbicides.

Pros and Cons:

  • DSR is a water efficient method as the first irrigation under DSR is necessary only 21 days after sowing.
  • This is unlike in transplanted paddy, where watering has to be done practically daily to ensure submerged/flooded conditions in the first three weeks.
  • The second is savings as DSR eliminates the transplantation costs of the labour.
  • The main issue in DSR is the availability of herbicides.
  • The seed requirement for DSR is also higher, at 8-10 kg/acre, compared to 4-5 kg in transplanting.
  • Further, laser land levelling is compulsory in DSR which is not so required  in transplanting.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020

The Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 was  recently released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Major Highlights:

  • The FRA 2020 has examined the status of more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries and territories in the period 1990–2020.
  • According to the report the world lost 178 million hectares (mha) of forest since 1990, an area the size of Libya.
  • While forest area has declined all across the world in the past three decades, the rate of forest loss has declined due to the growth of sustainable management
  • The rate of net forest loss declined from 7.8 mha per year in the decade 1990–2000 to 5.2 mha per year in 2000–2010 and 4.7 mha per year in 2010–2020.
  • The rate of forest loss in 2015-2020 declined to an estimated 10 million hectares (mha), down from 12 million hectares (mha) in 2010-2015.
  • The rate of net forest loss decreased substantially during 1990–2020 due to a reduction in deforestation in some countries, plus increases in forest area in others through afforestation and the natural expansion of forests.
  • The world’s total forest area was 4.06 billion hectares (bha), which was 31 per cent of the total land area.
  • The largest proportion of the world’s forests were tropical (45 per cent), followed by boreal, temperate and subtropical.

Continental Highlights:

  • Among the world’s regions, Africa had the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010–2020, at 3.9 mha, followed by South America, at 2.6 mha.
  • On the other hand, Asia had the highest net gain of forest area in 2010–2020, followed by Oceania and Europe.
  • Both Europe and Asia recorded substantially lower rates of net gain in 2010–2020 than in 2000–2010.
  • Oceania experienced net losses of forest area in the decades 1990–2000 and 2000–2010.
  • More than 54 per cent of the world’s forests were in only five countries — the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China.

Plantation and Protected forests:

  • Plantation forests cover about 131 mha — three per cent of the global forest area and 45 per cent of the total area of planted forests.
  • The area of naturally regenerating forests worldwide decreased since 1990, but the area of planted forests increased by 123 mha.
  • The rate of increase in the area of planted forest slowed in the last ten years.
  • The highest percent of plantation forests were in South America while the lowest were in Europe.
  • There are an estimated 726 mha of forests in protected areas worldwide.
  • South America had the highest share of forests in protected areas, at 31 per cent.
  • The area of forest in protected areas globally increased by 191 mha since 1990, but the rate of annual increase slowed in 2010–2020.

About Global Forest Resources Assessment report:

  • The Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) reports on the status and trends of the world’s forest resources.
  • It is led by the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
  • The FRA reports the extent of the world’s forest area as well as other variables, including land tenure and access rights, sustainable forest management (SFM), legal and institutional frameworks for forest conservation, and sustainable use.
[Ref: Down To Earth]

Bilateral & International Relations

Lipulekh Border Dispute

Nepal has expressed dissatisfaction after the Defence Minister of India recently inaugurated the link road through Lipulekh facilitating Kailash Mansarovar yatra.

What is the issue?

  • Border Road Organisation has recently completed the construction of a link road passing through Lipulekh pass, Dharchula, Uttarakhand that will significantly reduce time involved in Kailash Mansarovar yatra.
  • The main issue is that Lipulekh Pass is considered a disputed border region by Nepal and both the countries claim it to be a part of their territory.
  • India has always been clear on this and considers Lipulekh within the country borders.
  • As per Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, Nepal can allow India to use the link road to the Lipulekh Pass as part of an agreement, but will not surrender the Kalapani territory on which India has been carrying out construction.

Lipulekh Pass:

  • Lipulekh pass at an elevation of 5,200 m is a Himalayan pass on the border between India’s Uttarakhand state and the Tibet region of China near their trijunction with Nepal.
  • This pass links the Byans valley of Uttarakhand with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, and forms the last territorial point in Indian territory.
  • Nepal has ongoing claims to the southern side of the pass, called Kalapani territory, which is controlled by India.
  • The pass is near the Chinese trading town of Taklakot (Purang) in Tibet and used since ancient times by traders, mendicants and pilgrims transiting between India and Tibet.
  • It is also used by pilgrims to Kailash-Mansarovar yatra.

Kalapani:

  • Kalapani is a tri-junction meeting point of India, Tibet and Nepal borders in Central Himalayas.
  • The region has been manned by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police since 1962 which has also led to fear of Chinese involvement.
  • It is marked by the Kalapani river, one of the headwaters of the Kali River in the Himalayas.
  • The valley of Kalapani, with the Lipulekh pass atop, forms the Indian route to Kailash- Mansarovar pilgrimage site.
  • It is also the traditional trading route to Tibet for the Bhotiyas of Uttarakhand.
  • It is said that the Great Sage Vyasa meditated in the Kalapani area giving the region its name – Byas Valley.

India and Nepal stand over the disputed region:

  • In 1816, the East India Company and Nepal signed the Treaty of Sugauli (or Sagauli) to mark out Nepal’s western border. The defeat of Gurkhas in Anglo-Gurkha War (1814-16) led to the Treaty of Sugauli.
  • The treaty defined river Mahakali as the western border of Nepal.
  • River Mahakali has several tributaries, all of which merge at Kalapani.
  • India claims that the river begins in Kalapani as this is where all its tributaries merge.
  • But Nepal claims that it begins from Lipulekh Pass, the origin of most of its tributaries.
  • Lipulekh Pass has been made a trading tri-junction route between Nepal, India and China since 2015.
  • The Indian side claims that Lipulekh pass has been referred to as a border trading point since 1954.
  • According to Nepal, the Kalapani area was included in the Census of Nepal until 58 years ago. However, a map of 1879 shows ‘Kalapani’ as part of British India.
  • After the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to China in 2015, India and China agreed to open a trading post in Lipulekh, raising objections from Nepal.
[Ref: TOI, The Hindu]

Defence & Security Issues

Three-year short service for civilians

The Indian Army has floated a proposal for ‘Tour of Duty’ or ‘three-year short service’ for civilians.

What is the issue?

  • In a first of its kind proposal the Army plans to take civilians on a three- year ‘Tour of Duty’ (ToD) or ‘three-year short service’.
  • This is to be first done on a trial basis to serve in the force as both officers and other ranks initially for a limited number of vacancies and then expanded later.
  • The proposal is under consideration. If approved, it will be voluntary and there will be no dilution of criteria in selection.

Key Features:

  • This scheme was for those who did not want a full career in the Army but still wanted to put on the uniform.
  • Individuals who opted for ToD would get a much higher salary than their peers on an average who started a career in the corporate sector and would also have an edge after leaving the Service and going to the corporate sector.
  • The Army hoped that this would attract individuals from the best colleges, including the Indian Institute of Technology.
  • The proposal adds that the nation and the corporates are likely to benefit from a trained, disciplined, confident, diligent and committed men and women who have completed the ToD.

Advantages:

  • This is expected to result in significant reduction in pay and pensions and free up funds for the Army’s modernisation.
  • The overall purpose of the ToD concept is ‘internship/temporary experience’ and so there will be no requirement of attractive severance packages, resettlement courses, professional encashment training leave, ex-Servicemen status, ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) for the ToD officers and other ranks.
  • Analysing the cost of training incurred on each personnel compared to the limited employment of the manpower for three years, the proposal calculates that it will indeed have a positive benefit.
  • The savings for only 1000 jawans could be ₹11,000 crore, which could be used for the much needed modernisation of the Army.

Concern:

  • The Army’s pay and pension bill has been increasing steeply over the years, accounting for 60% of its budget allocation.
  • In the last five years, though the growth in the defence budget has been 68%, and for defence salaries 75%, defence pensions have increased by a staggering 146%.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Also in News

Collective Conscience

As per the study of Project 39A, a criminal reforms advocacy group 72% of all cases in which Delhi trial courts awarded the death penalty from 2000 to 2015 cited “collective conscience of the society”.

Concept of collective conscience:

  • The Supreme Court’s 1983 ruling in Machhi Singh And Others vs State of Punjab which introduced ‘collective conscience’ into the capital sentencing framework.
  • It laid down five categories, where the community would expect the holders of judicial power to impose the death sentence, because collective conscience was sufficiently outraged.
  • In such cases, the trial courts opined that the crime was heinous enough to shake the collective conscience of the society and, therefore, the harshest punishment available under the law had to be meted out to the offenders.

Rarest of rare doctrine:

  • In 1980, in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab, the Supreme Court developed a framework for sentences in cases that involved the death sentence while evolving the ‘rarest of rare’, a doctrine that advocated a restrictive approach to the award of capital punishment.
  • The Bachan Singh case required trial courts to weigh the circumstances of the offence and the offender, while also considering the probability of reformation, and the suitability of the alternative option of life imprisonment.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Key Facts for Prelims

Sohrai Khovar Painting

  • Jharkhand’s Sohrai Khovar painting was given the GI tag by the Geographical Indications Registry headquartered in Chennai.
  • The Sohrai Khovar painting is a traditional and ritualistic mural art being practised by local tribal women during harvest and marriage seasons using naturally available soils of different colours in Jharkhand.
  • The painting is primarily being practised only in the district of Hazaribagh. However, in recent years, it has been seen in other parts of Jharkhand.
  • Traditionally painted on the walls of mud houses, they are now seen on other surfaces, too.
  • The style features a profusion of lines, dots, animal figures and plants, often representing religious iconography.

 Telia Rumal

  • Telangana’s Telia Rumal was given the GI tag by the Geographical Indications Registry headquartered in Chennai.
  • Telia Rumal cloth involves intricate handmade work with cotton loom displaying a variety of designs and motifs in three particular colours — red, black and white.
  • Telia Rumal can only be created using the traditional handloom process and not by any other mechanical means as otherwise, the very quality of the Rumal would be lost.
  • Historically, the officers working in the court of the Nizam, Andhra Pradesh would wear the Chituki Telia Rumal as a symbolic representation of status.
  • Telia Rumals are offered at the dargah of Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan.
  • Telia Rumals were worn as a veil by princesses at the erstwhile court of the Nizam of Hyderabad; and as a turban cloth by Arabs in the Middle East.

FIR Aapke Dwar

  • It is a pilot project launched by the Madhya Pradesh government.
  • It proposes police officials going to homes of victims to register a First Information Report (FIR) rather than the other way round.

Trained head constables in a First Response Vehicle, a GPS fitted fleet that attends to emergency calls, will file the FIR on the spot for non-serious offence.

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