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GS: 1


Society related issues:

Was purandara Dasa born in a Malnad village? (The Hindu)

Context

There is much speculation about where Purandara Dasa, regarded as the pitamaha of Carnatic music, was born. Now, an expert committee constituted by Kannada University, Hampi, has come to the conclusion that it was most likely a small village called Kshemapura (now called Keshavapura) at Araga hobli in Tirthahalli taluk of Shivamogga district

Committee’s findings

  • Keshavapura was a major province of Vijayanagara empire
  • Purandara Dasa was born in Keshavapura. However, it has also recommended further research
    • Earlier belief: Till now, some have been arguing that the saint-poet was born in Purandaragadh, near Pune in Maharashtra, and finally settled in Hampi

Spot visits by committee members

  • The committee members visited various places in the Sahyadri range of the Western Ghats, besides Udupi, Hampi, Kaginele and Purandaragadh. The present-day Vartekeri of Keshavapura was the ‘Vartakara Keri’ (trade street) where Srinivasa Nayaka (later called Purandara) was engaged in trade. Nayakas still live in Araga hobli
  • The existence of Vithalana Gundi and Dasana Gadde here further indicate the fact that Keshavapura was the native place of Purandara Dasa. The language used by Purandara gives credence to this theory

Inam by Krishnadevaraya

One reference by scholar Sa .Kru. Ramachandraraya points to Krishnadevaraya, emperor of the Vijayanagar empire, awarding five villages of Araga Samsthana as ‘inam’ to Narayana Yati of Koodalipura near the present Shivamogga town. Vyasatirtha, who was the guru for Purandara Dasa, was also ‘rajaguru’ of Krishnadevaraya. Araga at that point of time was a centre of arts and music

Still a raw deal for many (The Hindu)

Context

World Social Protection Report 2017-19

Report is released by: International Labour Organization

Major findings of the report

  • No security: A vast majority of people (4 billion) live without any safeguard against the normal contingencies of life, according to the study
  • Access to only on social protection benefit: Less than half (45.2%) have guaranteed access to only one social protection benefit in the face of a whole gamut of risks such as ill health, unemployment, occupational injuries, disability, and old age
  • Universal health, a mere slogan: More than half the population in rural areas are not covered by universal health programmes, as compared to less than a quarter in urban locations. The goal of comprehensive coverage evidently remains a mere slogan in several parts of the world
  • Pension amount not enough: The expansion of old-age pensions to include 68% of people in the retirement age is a move in the right direction. However, the levels of support are not adequate enough even to lift people out of poverty. A trend away from the privatisation of pension protection in Poland, Argentina, Hungary, among others, is perhaps a moment for other countries to rethink

How much of the population enjoys comprehensive social protection?

  • About 29% of the population enjoy comprehensive social protection
  • Meagre increase: There has been a 2% increase in coverage in the last two years — a sign that the commitment is woefully inadequate given the magnitude of the challenge
    • Reason: fiscal austerity measures
    • Solution: While the Targets under the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals lay out the framework for concerted efforts in this respect, the report itself puts forward two solutions for this problem,
      • Economic stimulus
      • Productivity-enhancing growth

Why the target of eliminating child labor by 2025 seems to be elusive?

The latest report sheds some light on why the abovementioned task seems almost elusive

  • Nearly two-thirds of children are not covered by any form of social protection, meaning that their education is unlikely to rank as a priority among households
  • Furthermore, 41% of mothers of newborns receive no maternity benefits. Only 27.8% of persons with severe disabilities worldwide receive appropriate support. This precludes effective interventions to alleviate the impact of different impairments on daily living.

Operation Digital Board in the offing (The Hindu)

Context

The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) on Monday passed a resolution to take steps towards Operation Digital Board on the lines of Operation Blackboard of 1987, which was started with the purpose of providing minimum basic facilities to all primary schools

Operation Digital Board

  • Idea behind it: The idea of Operation Digital Board is aimed at providing better digital education in all schools. This will offer new opportunities and new ways of teaching and learning to schools
  • Collaborative effort: Centre, the states CSIR and community support will be involved in the launch of the operation digital board,

Operation Blackboard

Operation Blackboard is a centrally sponsored programme which was started in 1987 immediately after the Rajiv Gandhi NPE of 1986 was released to supply the bare minimum crucial facilities to all primary schools in the country

  • Objective: The objective of the scheme is providing students studying in primary settings with the necessary institutional equipment and instructional material to facilitate their education

No clarity on probe into clinical trial violations (The Hindu)

Context

Nearly seven years after the Indian drug regulator, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) began investigating nine Andhra-based clinical research organisations (CROs) over allegations of coercing people into joining clinical trials, it has refused to share its findings under the Right to Information (RTI) Act

Who filed the RTI?

Public-health activist and whistle-blower in the Ranbaxy cheating case, Dinesh S. Thakur, and Prashant Reddy Thikkavarapu, assistant professor at Hyderabad’s National Academy for Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR), asked the DCGI for the investigation’s finding

DCGI’s response

The regulator cited Sections 8(1)(e) and (h) of the RTI Act to deny the information

What do these two sections entail?

Exemptions: These two sections, respectively, exempt a public authority from disclosing information if such disclosure violates the authority’s “fiduciary relationship” with another body (the CRO in this case), and if it impedes an investigation

Section 8

Exemption from disclosure of information

  • Section 8(1)(e): Information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information;
  • Section 8(1)(h): Information which would impede the process of investigation or apprehension or prosecution of offenders;

Counterargument

The fiduciary relationship is one of trust, but a regulator’s relationship with a company it is regulating is not one of trust — it is merely enforcing the law.

Background

In 2011, the DCGI began looking into nine firms, including Visakapatnam’s Actimus Bio-Sciences and Hyderabad’s GVK Biosciences

Actimus case:

  • In Actimus’s case, several students had complained that the CRO had illegally detained them and tested drugs on them. In GVK’s case, a 24-year-old man had died while participating in a study on blood pressure drug Felodipine
  • Media reports also alleged that the man had been participating in several clinical-trials simultaneously, risking his own health and the quality of GVK’s data.

Other cases

Starting in 2014, the DCGI also began investigating GVK Biosciences, along with the Chennai-based Quest Life Sciences and Mumbai-based Alkem Laboratories, after European regulators found these firms to be manipulating trial data

Ban imposed by European regulators: The European Medicines Agency, among other regulators, banned drugs approved based on data from these companies

  • Around 700 drugs tested by GVK Biosciences, at least one tested by Quest, and at least one tested by Alkem were pulled out from European markets

Significance of the matter

The DCGI investigation into data fraud and ethical violations by CROs has a bearing on patient-safety in India, because these companies also test the quality of drugs in the Indian market. Fraudulent data could mean that dangerous and ineffective drugs become available to patients


GS: 2


International relations:

Israel seeks ‘big data’ from India (The Hindu)

Context

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India

Major agreements

  • Agriculture collaboration using Indian population’s big database: Boosting measures to counter cyberthreats and to “revolutionise” Indian farm production, Israel has proposed to access India’s Big data
    • The idea of big data was brought into the discussion by the Israeli side in the context of emphasising how technology can now be used to collect vast amounts of information and then bear on individual field and individual [Indian] farmer’s efforts, to improve the yield
    • The data under consideration would be of a magnitude to facilitate monitoring of “individual farmers’ and ‘water utilisation, cutting of crop, plantation, soil condition.”

FTA Talks

Israel’s focus, among others, was on exploring the possibility of restarting the proposed India-Israel FTA talks (on goods) and the operationalisation of the joint research and development fund created last year. The FTA talks had begun a decade ago and missed the 2014 deadline

Key term: Invest India

China slams Rawat’s statement (The Hindu)

Context

 China on Monday slammed comments by the Chief of Army Staff Bipin Rawat as “unconstructive,” and said his remarks did not conform to the spirit of September talks in Xiamen between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi

What did Gen Rawat say?

  • During last week’s press conference, Gen. Rawat had said that India needed to shift its military focus from its western border with Pakistan to its northern border with China. He had also observed that if China was strong, India was not weak either
  • Besides, he had highlighted the possibility of the return of Chinese troops to Doklam — an area that was the scene of a tense 73-day standoff between Indian and Chinese troops last year

Chinese reaction

China said that in September, the leaders of India and China reached some important consensus on properly handling the differences and promote China-India relations

  • Under such background, the unconstructive remarks by the Indian senior officials not only go against the consensus reached by the two heads of state, and do not conform to the efforts made by the two sides to improve and develop bilateral relations. It cannot help to preserve tranquility and peace in the border areas

Chinese Navy submarine in disputed isles (The Hindu)

Context

Japan said on Monday that a Chinese naval submarine spotted in waters off flashpoint islands in the East China Sea was one of its new type of nuclear-powered attack vessels

China’s reaction

China said that three of its “Coast Guard vessels conducted a patrol in waters off the Diaoyu Islands

Location: Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands

Indian Constitution and Polity:

Differences with Chief Justice not yet resolved (The Hindu)

Context

Suggestions that the differences between the four Supreme Court judges and Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra had been resolved at the daily tea meeting before the hearings in the court began on Monday, were scotched (Decisively put an end to) by sources close to the four judges

No resolution

  • They described the reports as deliberate misinformation. Reports of a resolution gained currency after Attorney General K.K. Venugopal was quoted in a section of the media saying that the issues had been ironed out at the informal tea meeting
  • While all four attended the morning tea session and spent a few minutes there before the day’s work began, the source claimed that talk of a resolution was a deliberate attempt to trivialise the issue raised by them. While everyone in a democracy has the right to say that the four judges were wrong in going public, what they are now facing is “mischief”, the source said

AIIMS doctors challenge Nadda to open debate

Context

Continuing its opposition to the  National Medical Commisssion (NMC) Bill,the Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS on Monday invited Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda for an open debate on the issue.

Call for discussion

Contending that the NMC bill is serious enough to distort the future of medical education in the country, the Association called for discussion on the bill before it is approved by parliament.

Resident Doctors Association of AIIMS

  • This bill is anti-people, anti-poor and puts medical education into the hands of the rich and powerful
  • Issues: Nomination of majority of members of NMC by bureaucrats and politicians, full control of corporate sector to decide fees of more than 60 per cent of seats, National Licentiate Exam (NLE), no provision of grievances redressal for students, fate of NBE, bridge course, registration, among others — the issues are serious enough to destroy the future of medical education in this country.’

The Events

  • Ever since the NMC bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha in late December, there have been protests in the medical fraternity, including the Indian Medical Association (IMA).
  • IMA had also called for a 12-hour shut down of private hospitals across the country to protest the NMC Bill.
  • Following the protest, the bill was referred to a Parliamentary committee.

Restoring order in the court (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

All the judges of the Supreme Court should sort out their differences internally and amicably

What

  • The darkest day in the history of the judiciary in independent India is January 12, 2018. On this day, in an unprecedented move, the four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court — Justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur, and Kurian Joseph — held a press conference and raised a banner of revolt against the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Dipak Misra
  • They alleged that the CJI has been assigning cases, which have far-reaching consequences to the nation, selectively to Benches of his preference, thus ignoring well established convention

Divided opinion

  • Few feel that the image and reputation of the judiciary has been tarnished, and the confidence of the people in the judiciary shaken.
  • However, a few former judges and lawyers have sought to justify the action by asserting that the judges had no other choice as their repeated pleas to the CJI, including the one on January 12 morning, did not bring about the desired result

Focus should be on raised issues

Disapproval of the form of protest must not cloud the substance of the grievances

Serious damage done

If the judges themselves could have sat together and sorted out their differences, why did they go to the press and damage the image of the judiciary?

Opportunity for the politicians

The judges have also given an opportunity to politicians to fish in troubled waters

The common man, who had absolute faith in the institution and in the impartiality of judges, is now let to suspect that court decisions may not be purely based on merit.

Advice to settle the issue amicably

  • The conduct of the CJI and the Prime Minister in maintaining silence on the developments is commendable.
  • The Central government has also rightly made its position clear that this being an internal matter of the judiciary, it will not intervene.
  • The stand taken by the Bar Council of India and the Supreme Court Bar Association is also praiseworthy. Both have urged the Supreme Court judges to discuss the issues and settle them amicably by themselves
  • The Attorney General of India has also expressed the same opinion and is optimistic that the problem will be solved by the judges themselves.

The captain’s responsibility

Of course, the CJI also cannot absolve himself of his responsibility for the present state of affairs

CJI can’t be arbitrary

  • No doubt, he is the master of the roster, but that does not mean that he can act arbitrarily in exercising his powers
  • He has to exercise his powers reasonably, without giving scope for any justifiable criticism.

Listen to suggestions

He is also not expected to brush aside any reasonable suggestions in this regard from his colleagues

Conclusion

Let us hope that all the judges of the Supreme Court, including the CJI, will sort out their differences amicably and find a satisfactory solution to the problem. This will not only restore the diminishing image of the judiciary to some extent, but also put an end to the public debate on these issues.

Tackling government litigation (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

It is trite (lacking originality or freshness) to say that the government is the biggest litigant in India. No less than the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India have acknowledged this in the recent past, goading (provoke or annoy (someone) so as to stimulate an action or reaction.) the other — the judiciary and the executive, respectively — to explore ways of addressing this issue

‘Government’ litigation

According to the Ministry of Law and Justice, government departments are a party to around “46 percent” of court cases

Issues

What is government?

For a start, it does not tell us what the term “government” means. To a layperson, everything from a local panchayat to the Prime Minister’s Office could be representative of the “government”

As a State

In addition, entities such as nationalised banks and universities, which most laypersons may not identify as “government’, are “State” for the purposes of Article 12 of the Constitution.

One size fits all approach doesn’t work

Thus, any attempt at resolving the issue of “government litigation” must be based on the premise that the government in India functions in so many myriad forms that a one-size-fits-all approach to deal with the issue is impossible.

A compulsive litigant

  • A misconception regarding government litigation is that the government itself is a source of all cases involving the government
  • This appears to be the reason why existing policies attempt to address the issue of “government being a compulsive litigant” and do not consider cases where the government is a respondent

The Writ petitions

The writ jurisdiction vested in High Courts under Article 226 of the Constitution enables an ordinary citizen to access the highest court in her State to address grievances against any authority, including any government, for violation of any of her fundamental or other rights.

These writ petitions indicate friction

As such, the number and nature of writ petitions filed before a High Court are indicative of the extent of friction between citizens and the government

Possible solutions

This analysis of petitions filed against the state at various levels of governance shows that a multi-pronged approach needs to be adopted to tackle the issue of “government litigation”, depending on the kind of litigation

Internal dispute resolution mechanisms needed

For example, to reduce writ petitions filed under service and labour classifications, the state must put in place robust internal dispute resolution mechanisms within each department which inspire confidence in its workers as a means of addressing their grievances against the management

Quasi judicial authorities need to be better trained

To reduce the incidence of such writ petitions, the state must either ensure that quasi-judicial authorities are judicially trained or create a separate class of judicial officers to discharge quasi-judicial functions

National Litigation Policy

A broadly worded policy such as the National Litigation Policy (2010) only provides a distant goalpost of transforming government into a “model litigant”.

Conclusion

However, what is needed is an implementable action plan to ensure that citizens are not forced to file cases against the government and its agencies in the first place. This will require a relook at the functioning of litigation-prone departments and formulating solutions unique to each department.


GS:3


Economy:

Face recognition for Aadhaar validation (The Hindu)

Context

The Unique Identification Authority of India has decided to enable Face Authentication by July 1 this year for validating Aadhaar cards

Why

This move comes on the back of reports that beneficiaries of government schemes were not able to avail themselves of their entitlements in the absence of Aadhaar authentication.

Available modes currently

Fingerprint authentication and iris authentication

With at least one other factor

But, face authentication will be allowed only in fusion mode along with one more authentication factor — either fingerprint or iris or a One Time Password so as to successfully authenticate an Aadhaar number holder

On need basis

Face authentication will only be allowed on a “need” basis

Beneficial for people with worn out fingerprints

This facility will help in inclusive authentication of those who are not able to biometrically authenticate their Aadhaar numbers because their fingerprints are worn out owing to old age or hard working conditions

Earlier: VIDs

  • Earlier this month, the UIDAI had attempted to strengthen its security protocols with the introduction of temporary virtual IDs against the Aadhaar numbers.
  • The Authority had said that it would not be possible to trace an Aadhaar number from the temporary number (virtual ID)
  • This VID can only be generated by the Aadhaar card holder and will be valid to make use of all services that require an Aadhaar number, for a limited amount of time.

Wholesale inflation eases to 3-month low of 3.58% (The Hindu)

Context

Wholesale price-based inflation (WPI) has cooled in December, 2017 to a three-month low of 3.58% thanks to the decline in prices of food items, according to data released on Monday by the Commerce and Industry Ministry.

India Inc demands rate cut; wants petrol, diesel under GST

  • In November, the annual rate of inflation based on monthly WPI, was 3.93% (provisional), while in December 2016 it was 2.1%
  • Inflation in food articles eased to 4.72% in December 2017 from 6.06% in November 2017.
  • Lowering of repo rate in the upcoming monetary policy is critical to boost investments and build growth momentum at this juncture
  • Measures in the Union Budget to strengthen the agriculture supply chain for effective management of food prices, as well as inclusion of petrol and diesel under the Goods and Services Tax regime to help lower the pressures of fuel inflation.

Consumer Price Index

Consumer price index -based inflation had surged to a 17-month high of 5.2% in December due to increased inflation in food, housing and personal care items.

Enabling a form of super surveillance (The Hindu)

Context

The Aadhaar project falls short in limiting biometrics collection to voluntary choice and in guaranteeing data protection

Questions asked

What really is Aadhaar all about? Is the machinery that supports it constitutionally sustainable? How does the creation of a central identity database affect the traditional relationship between the state and its citizens? What, in a democracy, ought to be the role of government?

What

On Wednesday, January 17, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court is scheduled to commence hearings on a slew of petitions that will bring these questions and more to the forefront of a constitutional battle for the ages.

From voluntary to coercion

Mountain of data collected without any safeguards in place

Citizens were coerced into parting with private information, compelled by threats from the government

SC intervention on Aadhaar

The court issued interim orders, on different occasions, clarifying that the programme had to be treated as voluntary, and that no person should be denied a service simply because he or she hadn’t enrolled themselves with the UIDAI.

Voluntary?

Ultimately, as expected, the Aadhaar Bill came to be passed, and the Aadhaar Act came into force

  • This law not only retroactively legitimises the actions of the UIDAI before its enactment but also puts in place the structure that underpins the Aadhaar programme
  • The law itself terms enrolment with the UIDAI as voluntary, but, as we’ve since seen, the government has expanded, and continues to expand, the use of the number for a wide array of purposes

Now, before the Supreme Court, the Aadhaar Act and its various provisions stand challenged, together with the host of notifications issued by the government, which link Aadhaar to different services.

Heart of the matter

Ultimately, in question are four core interests:

  • The first concerns whether the state can at all compel a person to part with his or her biometric information without securing the person’s informed consent
  • The second involves questions over the surveillance apparatus that the Aadhaar Act creates
  • The third raises questions over the level of exclusion caused by the use of Aadhaar, for example, concerns over the extent to which the programme meets its purported objectives
  • The fourth questions the degree of protection offered to the data that the UIDAI collects, stores and operates

The Aadhaar act is invasive

It has put in place flagrantly infracts fundamental rights, granting, in the process, enormously invasive powers to the state.

The Aadhaar database grants government access into people’s lives

When a government creates a central database such as this, when it links that database with every conceivable human activity, it naturally allows itself access to the most intimate details of a person’s life.

Article 21 infringed

The essence of individual freedom, of the right to life that Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees, is that every person has a basic entitlement to bodily integrity, to decide for themselves how they want to lead their lives.

The Question

But, how, we might wonder, can we truly be free, when the state is watching our every step?

Super surveillance: A seamless police state

The Aadhaar Act, in centrally maintaining all this data, enables a form of super surveillance, permits the creation of a perfect police state, allowing the government to track every one of our activities in real-time, to trace, at any given point of time, a person’s physical location

Presumption of guilt

It only emboldens the state to treat everyone one of us as criminals, to make a presumption of guilt at the grave cost of basic civil liberties.

UIDAI made supreme

  • This mechanism for surveillance is further facilitated by the Aadhaar Act’s central design, which vests in the UIDAI a conflicting dual responsibility:
  • To act both as the custodian of all the information that it collects and to act as a regulator of the Aadhaar database

Breaches will only be known to UIDAI

This means that any breach made to the data that is centrally amassed, unless exposed in the manner in which The Tribune recently did, will only be known to the UIDAI

Effect: It will then be for the UIDAI to decide how it wants to remedy such intrusions

As a result, when our Aadhaar data is leaked, we will be left with no recourse to an effective remedy.

Basic access to welfare

Given that Aadhaar is being seeded with public distribution schemes, the likelihood of people being denied basic welfare services, therefore, increases in manifold ways.

Labourers and elderly people

The elderly and people involved in manual labour are but two groups of people whose fingerprints are difficult to record accurately, imperilling, thereby, their access to state services.

Of Justice

The question here is ultimately one of proportionality, one of justice. In the case of the Aadhaar Act, the government’s intentions are patently clear. The aim is to create a seamless police state, which will chill our freedom and place the state in a position of rampant power. Will the Supreme Court dare to stop this

Problem of plenty (The Hindu Editorial)

Context

Agricultural policy should look to address the problem of severe price fluctuations

Cycle of boom and bust

There appears to be no end in sight to the cycle of boom and bust in the prices of agricultural goods

Example: Potato prices as low as under a rupee, farmers in distress

Last year: Red Chilli, tur dal and tomato

Cobweb phenomenon

The sharp swing in prices has been explained by the Cobweb phenomenon

  • Farmers tend to increase the production of certain crops in response to their high prices during the previous season, which in turn leads to a supply glut (excess) that causes prices to crash
  • The cycle repeats each passing year, with the lag between price and production causing a huge mismatch between supply and demand

Slowdown in economy

The present fall in potato prices comes against the backdrop of a slowdown in the rural economy.

Effects:

The Politics of populism

Given the humanitarian and political costs of agricultural distress, particularly in a year when many big States go to the polls, local governments could turn towards populism to satisfy their rural voter base

MSPs, loan waivers etc.

This could come in the form of fiscal measures such as farm loan waivers, a higher minimum support price for farm produce, or some combination of the two

Rural economy focused budget

  • The next Union budget may well be focussed on the rural economy through fiscal measures

But permanent solution needed

  • Such relief measures that temporarily ease the pain on farmers, however, will fail to make a significant difference to their lives in the long run
  • Any permanent solution to the problem of agricultural distress will have to deal with the challenge of price fluctuations

The Reason for boom and bust cycles

The boom-and-bust cycle is the result of a broken supply chain that is over-regulated

No safeguard against price fluctuations

In the absence of a robust market for buying and selling forward-looking contracts, farmers are left to fend for themselves against severe fluctuations

Cartels dominate

In addition, the domination of the wholesale market by cartels prevents farmers from receiving a fair price even when their produce is sold at much higher rates to consumers

Structural changes needed not adhoc

The government must resolve to address these structural issues, and not limit itself to ad hoc policy measures in fire fighting mode. There is a need to give farmers not just a better, but also more stable, return on their crops.

Environment:

A new weapon in the carbon fight (The Hindu Opinion)

Context

It is not usual to think of soils in the context of climate change. Policy is usually focussed on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the electricity sector, transport and industry

The Need

There has been a renewed interest in understanding how soils can serve as a sink for carbon dioxide since atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have crossed 410 parts per million and oceans are already turning acidic.

Help in transition

Besides, increasing soil carbon offers a range of co-benefits and this would buy us time before other technologies can help us transition to a zero-carbon lifestyle.

Carbon pools inside earth

Significant carbon pools on earth are found in the earth’s crust, oceans, atmosphere and land-based ecosystems

Soils, the largest pool

Soils contain roughly 2,344 Gt (1 gigatonne = 1 billion tonnes) of organic carbon, making this the largest terrestrial pool

Soil Organic Carbon

  • Soil organic carbon (SOC) comes from plants, animals, microbes, leaves and wood, mostly found in the first metre or so
  • There are many conditions and processes that determine changes to SOC content including temperature, rainfall, vegetation, soil management and land-use change.

Many benefits

Increasing SOC through various methods can improve soil health, agricultural yield, food security, water quality, and reduce the need for chemicals.

Methods to increase SOC

Approaches to increase SOC include reducing soil erosion, no-till-farming, use of cover crops, nutrient management, applying manure and sludge, water harvesting and conservation, and agroforestry practices

Huge Proportional increase in crop yield

Rattan Lal from Ohio State University estimates that an increase of just 1 tonne of soil carbon pool of degraded cropland soils can increase crop yield by several kilograms per hectare

Offsetting GHG emissions

Moreover, carbon sequestration in soils has the potential to offset GHG emissions from fossil fuels by up to 15% annually

Soil and agriculture

Agri yields have dropped due to degraded soils

Agricultural yields have begun to drop in many places for a variety of reasons primarily related to degraded soils

Industrial effects

Industrial changes to agriculture have led to a range of adverse effects: loss of biodiversity, elimination of beneficial microbes and insects, reduction in yield, contamination of water bodies and soils, and increasing toxicity and deaths from chemical use in farm households.

Indian eco-friendly farming methods must be considered

  • India has a large number of successful sustainable agricultural practices that are consistent with ecological principles.
  • These include natural farming (or as the Japanese farmer Masanobu Fukuoka calls it, ‘do-nothing farming’), permaculture and organic farming.
  • Personal and online reports indicate that the improvements to soil health and profits occur rapidly. But the knowledge and innovations of farmers who have successfully experimented with these methods must be considered in research and policy.

Lessons for India

Many of these practices have come into their own over several decades — through the efforts of farmers and sometimes with support from local groups — and the time is long past where these are regarded as outlandish alternative methods.

Policymakers should consider these practices

Given that these techniques can contribute to relieving a range of challenges, State-level policy makers need to understand better the successes on the ground in India’s different agro-climatic zones

Transitioning to be made smoother

They also need to identify what kinds of support are needed by farmers with small holdings to transition from existing practices.

Neglecting our own

Not paying attention to the successes of our own farmers has partly contributed to the agrarian crisis the country now faces.

Parliamentary Standing Committee Report

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its 2016 report in fact recommended “revision of the existing fertiliser subsidy policy and promotion of organic fertilizers”.

  • The government has been promoting a Soil Health Card scheme to measure the health of the soils in different parts of the country and in each farm.
  • There is little policy support for natural farming and the alternatives
  • The fertilizer lobby, extension services, and the many agricultural scientists — unschooled in agroforestry and ecological methods — would oppose changes but these practices that integrate good management of soil, water and land provide a host of benefits

Conclusion

The ability of soils to sequester carbon is a win-win strategy for farmers, people and for climate change and it is time we stopped ignoring these at the policy levels.

WORD POWER

  1. Glut: an excessively abundant supply of something.
  2. Goading: provoke or annoy (someone) so as to stimulate an action or reaction
  3. Trite: (of a remark or idea) lacking originality or freshness; dull on account of overuse
  4. Scotch: decisively put an end to

LOCATION

Senkaku/Diaoyu islands

 

 

NATIONAL PARKS

Jammu & Kashmir

Following are the 5 national parks of J&K,

  • Dachigam National Park: Dachigam National Park is located at a distance of 22 km from Srinagar and covers an area of 141 sq. kms
    • Famous for:
      • Hangul also called as Kashmiri Stag
  • Salim Ali National Park: Salim Ali National Park is located in Srinagar and covers an area of 9.07 sq. km
    • Famous for:
      • Hangul
      • Musk Deer
      • Himalayan Black Bear
      • Seventy (70) species of birds including Paradise flycathcher, Himlayan Snow Cock
  • Kazinag National Park: Kazinag National Park is situate in North bank of Jhelum close to Line of Control in Baramulla district about 70 kms away from capital city Srinagar
    • Famous for:
      • The National Park is famous for Markhor (Capra falconeri)
      • Himalayan Musk Deer (Maschus crysogater) besides home of 120 species of birds and 20 species of mammals
  • Kishtwar High Altitude National Park: Kishtwar High Altitude National Park is a National Park located in the Kishtawar district and covers the area of about 400 sq. kms
    • Famous for:
      • Himalayan Snow Cock
      • Brown bear
  • Hemis National Park: Hemis National Park or Hemis High Altitude National Park is high altitutde national park in the eastern Ladakh region
    • Famous for
      • Snow Leopard
      • Asiatic ibex
      • Argali (Great Tibetian Sheep)

 

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