Current Affairs Analysis

23rd May 2020 Current Affairs Analysis – IASToppers

Govt allocates Rs 500 crore towards Beekeeping; World Turtle Day; UMANG Mobile Application; National Bee Board; Odisha promotes contract farming system; contract farming system; RBI slashes key Policy Rates; Climate change is turning Antarctica green; US warns to exit Open Skies Treaty; China seeks more control over Hong Kong; Electrochemical sensing platform; Govt amends General Financial Rules; International Day for Biological Diversity 2020; Textiles Committee etc.
By IASToppers
May 23, 2020

Contents

Government Schemes and Policies

  • UMANG Mobile Application
  • Govt allocates Rs 500 crore towards Beekeeping
  • Odisha promotes contract farming system

Economy

  • RBI slashes key Policy Rates

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

  • Climate change is turning Antarctica green

Bilateral & International Relations

  • US warns to exit Open Skies Treaty
  • China seeks more control over Hong Kong

Science and Technology

  • Electrochemical sensing platform

Key Facts for Prelims

  • Govt amends General Financial Rules
  • International Day for Biological Diversity 2020
  • Textiles Committee
  • World Turtle Day

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Government Schemes and Policies

UMANG Mobile Application

The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has brought the India Meteorological Department services on the UMANG App.

Objective:

  • To enhance the initiatives of Digital India Programme.
  • To ease of lives of citizens by facilitating online delivery of Government services

Major Highlights:

  • UMANG stands for Unified Mobile Application for New-age Governance.
  • It is a Government of India all-in-one single, unified, secure, multi-channel, multi-platform, multi-lingual, multi-service mobile app, powered by a robust back-end platform providing access to high impact services of Central and State organizations.
  • The UMANG App was launched in 2017 to bring major government services on a single mobile app, with a larger goal to make the government accessible on the mobile phone of our citizens.

Services provided in UMANG by IMD:

  • Current Weather– Current temperature, humidity, wind speed, direction for 150 cities updated 8 times a day.
  • Nowcast- Three hourly warnings of localized weather phenomena and their intensity issued for about 800 stations, and districts of India by State Meteorological Centers of IMD.
  • City Forecast – Past 24 hours and 7 day forecast of weather conditions around 450 cities in India are given.
  • Rainfall Information– All India district Rainfall information daily, weekly, monthly and cumulative series are available.
  • Tourism Forecast– Past 24 hours and 7 day forecast of weather conditions of around 100 Tourist cities in India are provided.
  • Warnings- The alert issued to warn citizens of approaching dangerous weather. It is colour coded in Red, Orange and Yellow are the alert levels with Red as the most severe category.
  • Cyclone- Cyclone warnings and alerts provide the track of cyclonic storms along with likely time and point of crossing of coast.
[Ref: PIB]

Govt allocates Rs 500 crore towards Beekeeping

As per the Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare the government is promoting Beekeeping as part of its aim to double farmers’ income by 2024.

Major Highlights:

  • Government has allocated Rs. 500 crore towards Beekeeping under the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
  • India is among the world’s top five honey producers.
  • Compared to 2005-06 honey production has risen by 242% and exports shot by 265%.
  • The National Bee Board has created four modules to impart training as part of the National Beekeeping and Honey Mission (NBHM) and 30 lakh farmers have been trained in beekeeping.

National Bee Board:

  • The National Bee Board was registered as a society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 in 2000 by Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC).
  • Its main objective is the overall development of Beekeeping by promoting Scientific Beekeeping in India to increase the productivity of crops through pollination and increase the Honey production for increasing the income of the Beekeepers/ Farmers.
[Ref: AIR]

Odisha promotes contract farming system

The Odisha government has promulgated an ordinance allowing investors and farmers to enter into an agreement for contract farming.

Vision:

  • It is envisaged that the new system will lead to improved production and marketing of agricultural produce and livestock while promoting farmers’ interest.

Major Highlights:

  • According to the State government, the ordinance is aimed at facilitating both farmers and sponsors to develop mutually beneficial and efficient contract farming systems in view of the continuing uncertainties due to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The agreement will be entered into between the contract farming sponsor, who offers to participate in any component or entire value chain including pre production, and the contract farming producer (farmers), who agree to produce the crop or rear the livestock.
  • No title, rights, ownership or possession of land or premises or other such property will be transferred or alienated or vest in the sponsor or its successor or its agent.
  • Moreover, both the loans and advances given by the sponsor to the producer can be recovered from the sale proceeds of the produce.
  • In no case be realised by way of sale or mortgage or lease of the land in respect of which the agreement has been entered into.

Contract Farming:

  • Under contract farming, agricultural production (including livestock and poultry) can be carried out based on a pre-harvest agreement between buyers (such as food processing units and exporters), and producers (farmers or farmer organisations).
  • The producer can sell the agricultural produce at a specific price in the future to the buyer as per the agreement.
  • Under contract farming, the producer can reduce the risk of fluctuating market price and demand.
  • The buyer can reduce the risk of non-availability of quality produce.

Advantages of contract farming:

For Producer/farmer:

  • It makes small scale farming competitive – small farmers can access technology, credit, marketing channels and information while lowering transaction costs.
  • It assured the market for their produce at their doorsteps, reducing marketing and transaction costs.
  • It reduces the risk of production, price and marketing costs.
  • It can open up new markets which would otherwise be unavailable to small farmers.
  • It also ensures higher production of better quality, financial support in cash and /or kind and technical guidance to the farmers.
  • In case of agro-processing level, it ensures consistent supply of agricultural produce with quality, at the right time and at a lesser cost.

For Agri-based firms:

  • They can utilize their installed capacity, infrastructure and manpower, and respond to food safety and quality concerns of the consumers.
  • Contract farming makes direct private investment in agricultural activities.
  • The price fixation is done by the negotiation between the producers and firms because of contract farming.
[Ref: The Hindu]

Economy

RBI slashes key Policy Rates

The Monetary Policy Committee of the Reserve Bank of India has slashed its key policy rates to stabilize the financial system & contain the economic fallout.

What are the new rates?

  • The RBI panel unexpectedly cut the repo rate by 40 basis points to 4 percent.
  • The reverse repo rate was slashed by 40 basis points to 3.35 percent.
  • The RBI also announced extension of moratorium on loan repayments by another three months to August 31.

What will be the impact of rate cut?

  • The 40 bps cut in the repo rate will make funds cheaper for banks thus aiding them to bring down lending rates.
  • EMIs on home, auto, personal and term loan rates are expected to come down in the coming days.
  • However, banks will also slash deposit rates on various tenures to manage its asset-liability position.
  • Savers and pensioners will see their returns coming down.
  • Further, the 40 bps cut in reverse repo rate will prompt banks to make available funds for the productive sectors of the economy.

Significance of extension of moratorium:

  • The RBI has now extended the moratorium on term loan repayment by another three months to August 31, 2020.
  • This will help borrowers, especially corporates which have halted production and are facing cash flow problems, to get more time to stabilize their operations and restart their units.
  • All borrowers, including home loan, term loans and credit card outstandings, will get the benefit of the moratorium.
  • The RBI has allowed borrowers and banks to convert the interest charges during the moratorium period (from March 1 to August 31) into a term loan which can be repaid by March 2021.
  • This is expected to reduce the burden on borrowers who have gone for moratorium.

Governor’s comment on growth:

  • RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das said the growth is likely to be in the negative territory in 2020-21.
  • MPC said economic activity other than agriculture is likely to remain depressed in Q1 of 2020-21 in view of the extended lockdown.
  • Economic activity even in Q2 may remain subdued due to social distancing measures and the temporary shortage of labour.
  • Recovery in economic activity is expected to begin in Q3 and gain momentum in Q4 as supply lines are gradually restored to normalcy and demand gradually revives.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management

Climate change is turning Antarctica green

A research team from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey have created the first map of the algae blooms on the Antarctic Peninsula coast.

Major Highlights:

  • Warming temperatures due to climate change are helping the formation and spread of “green snow” and it is becoming so prolific in places that it is even visible from space.
  • While the presence of algae in Antarctica has been noted earlier, its actual extent is unknown.
  • Now, using data collected over two years by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel 2 satellite, together with on-the-ground observations, a research team from the University of Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey have created the first map of the algae blooms on the Antarctic Peninsula coast.
  • Mosses and lichens are considered the dominant photosynthetic organisms in Antarctica – but the new mapping found 1,679 separate algal blooms that are a key component in the continent’s ability to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Significance:

  • The map gives a baseline of where the algal blooms are and we can see whether the blooms will start increasing as the models suggest in the future.
  • The algal blooms in Antarctica take up carbon from the atmosphere equivalent to about the amount of carbon that’s being omitted by 875,000 average UK petrol car journeys.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Bilateral & International Relations

US warns to exit Open Skies Treaty

The US President Donald Trump has recently announced to exit from the Open Skies Treaty.

Open Skies Treaty:

  • The Open Skies Treaty was signed in 1992 and went into effect in 2002.
  • The treaty allows the member countries to conduct unarmed surveillance flights over one another’s territories — including the US and Russia.
  • It is an agreement that permits countries to monitor signatories’ arms development by conducting surveillance flights over each others’ territories and collecting data on troop deployment, military facilities etc.
  • It is designed to enhance mutual understanding and confidence by giving all participants, regardless of size, a direct role in gathering information through aerial imaging on military forces and activities of concern to them.
  • Currently 34 members are party to the treaty including the US and Russia.
  • India is not a party to the Open Skies Treaty.

Reason for withdrawal:

  • Although the reason for the departure of the US is still unclear but US has accused Russia of continuously and flagrantly violating the treaty.
[Ref: The Hindu, CNN]

China seeks more control over Hong Kong

China has started pushing for an improvement in the Basic Law — the mini-constitution that defines ties between Hong Kong and Beijing.

What is the issue?

  • A controversial national security law for Hong Kong is being mooted in the Chinese parliament which is being described as the most sweeping step at curbing dissent in Hong Kong.
  • It seeks to ban treason, secession, sedition and subversion and could be passed without consulting the Hong Kong legislature.
  • Towards the end of May, the Chinese parliament is expected to vote on a resolution that will make way for the new law, which could be promulgated in Hong Kong by June end.

Hong Kong’s ‘Basic Law’:

  • Hong Kong was earlier a British colony which was handed over to mainland China in 1997, becoming one of its Special Administrative Regions.
  • It is governed by a mini-constitution called the Basic Law — which affirms the principle of “one country, two systems”.
  • The constitutional document is a product of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration– under which China promised to honour Hong Kong’s liberal policies, system of governance, independent judiciary, and individual freedoms for a period of 50 years from 1997.
  • Since the handover, Hong Kong residents have time and again taken to the streets to protect their Basic Law freedoms.
  • The first major pro-democracy protest took place in 2003.
  • In 2014, over one lakh city residents took part in the ‘Umbrella Revolution’ to protest against China’s denial of democratic reforms.

Impact of the 2019 protests:

  • The largest protests since 1997 took place in 2019 when for months tens of thousands of Hong Kongers agitated against a proposed extradition law, and continued with pro-democracy marches even after the legislation was withdrawn.
  • The large scale protests were seen as an affront by mainland China.
  • The Hong Kong unrest is also believed to have left its mark on Taiwan, another heated issue for Beijing which considers the island state as its own.
  • Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers have sharply criticized China’s move to take over long-stalled efforts to enact national security legislation in the semi-autonomous territory.

What could happen if such a law takes effect?

  • The new law would ban seditious activities that target mainland Chinese rule, as well as punish external interference in Hong Kong affairs.
  • A major blow to Hong Kong’s freedoms, the law could effectively bring the city under full control of mainland China.
  • The move could also undermine Hong Kong’s position as an East Asian trading hub, and invite global disapproval for Beijing.
[Ref: Indian Express]

Science and Technology

Electrochemical sensing platform

IASST Guwahati has developed an electrochemical sensing platform for detecting carcinogenic or mutagenic compounds in food items.

Major Highlights:

  • Institute of Advanced Study in Science and Technology has developed an electrochemical sensing platform for detecting carcinogenic or mutagenic compounds.
  • The compounds N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) and N-nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA) are sometimes found in food items like cured meat, bacon, some cheese, and low-fat milk.
  • It was achieved by developing a modified electrode by immobilizing carbon nanomaterials (carbon dots) in DNA.
  • The electrochemical biosensor platform was developed using the ability of NDMA and NDEA, to alter the DNA.

Significance:

  • With changing food habits, urban Indians are exposed to harmful chemicals belonging to the Nitrosamine family in cured meats, bacon, some cheese, low-fat dry milk, and fish.
  • Such carcinogenic compounds like NDMA and NDEA may alter the chemical composition of our DNA.
  • Hence it is important to develop detection techniques to detect them.
[Ref: PIB]

Key Facts for Prelims

Govt amends General Financial Rules

  • Government has notified amendments to General Financial Rules (GFR) to ensure that goods and services valued less than 200 crore rupees are being procured from domestic firms.
  • The Center has notified the amendments to the GFR 2017 to ensure that henceforth global tenders will be disallowed in government procurement up to 200 crore rupees.
  • This is in line with what was announced in the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Package.
  • It is a big boost to domestic suppliers especially Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs).

International Day for Biological Diversity 2020

  • The United Nations dedicated May 22 of every year as International Day for Biological Diversity.
  • The day is celebrated every year since 2001 to develop awareness about biodiversity issues.
  • This year’s celebration is special as it will be the first ever online-only campaign increasing awareness during a pandemic.
  • The theme for this year is “Our solutions are in nature” — which shows people are a part of nature.
  • Despite all our technological advances we are completely dependent on healthy and vibrant ecosystems for our water, food, medicines, clothes, fuel, shelter and energy.

Textiles Committee

  • The Textiles Committee is a statutory body established in 1963 through an Act of Parliament.
  • It is under the administrative control of the Ministry of Textiles.
  • It has been formed to ensure the quality of textiles products and textile machinery both for internal consumption and export purpose.
  • The Committee is tasked with the functions of establishing laboratories for the testing of textiles and textile machinery and providing for their inspection and examination.

World Turtle Day

  • World Turtle Day is observed on May 23 annually.
  • The day is celebrated to make people aware of turtles and tortoises and their habitats.
  • This year is the 20th anniversary of World Turtle Day.
  • Every year since 2000, American Tortoise Rescue (ATR), a nonprofit organization sponsors the celebrations for World Turtle Day.
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