Editorial Simplified: Cutting through the Smog | GS – III

Relevance: GS Paper III (Ecology and Environment)


Theme of the article

Practical interventions exist to tackle the issue of stubble burning.


Introduction

Air pollution is a worry especially in north India. Stubble burning is said to be a key factor behind the formation of a dense cover of smog in this part of India though its contribution is less than 20%.


Are only farmers to blame?

Farmers are held responsible for the crisis but what is at fault are the flawed and short-sighted policies of the Central and State governments.


Has the policy of wheat-paddy crop rotation been beneficial?

  • In the 1960s, wheat-paddy crop rotation was encouraged in Punjab and Haryana to make India self-sufficient in foodgrain production.
  • Large public investments in irrigation and adoption of high yielding varieties under the Green Revolution helped achieve the goal and make the nation food secure.
  • However, the negative externalities in terms of land degradation, adverse soil health due to overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, and plummeting water tables have surfaced.
  • The share of paddy (rice) in the gross cropped area in Punjab and Haryana has considerably increased. However, the increase has undisputedly been at the cost of the area under maize, cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane.
  • The policy of minimum support price for crops, in tandem with their assured procurement and input subsidy, have left farmers with no option but to follow this rotation.
  • Besides, Punjab enacted a water conservation law in 2009 which mandates paddy sowing within a notified period . As a result, farmers who are pressed for time to sow wheat and maintain crop yield find stubble burning to be an easy and low-cost solution.

How to tackle stubble burning?

  • One possibility to curtail the practice is to ensure that the government encourages crop diversification towards less water-intensive crops by extending price incentives and better marketing facilities.
  • The policy of a ‘price deficiency system’ — as initiated in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh — should be adopted to strengthen the production and marketing of alternative crops.
  • Another option is to replicate the Telangana model of providing farmers an investment support of ₹8,000 per acre each year and withdraw price-based support.
  • Increasing pressure by the government on farmers to purchase the ‘happy seeder’ to abate stubble burning adds to the cost incurred by farmers. Even if the machine is available at a subsidised rate of nearly ₹1 lakh, it would remain idle the whole year and become a liability in terms of maintenance. It is not a viable option for small and marginal farmers.
  • If the state provides an app-based support system, to rent out tractors and farm implements and earn additional income — there are examples of this in Nigeria and also in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — it would be akin to the ‘Uberisation of agriculture’. It would avoid stubble burning and at the same time make farming more mechanised, cost effective and a source of employment.
  • Another far-sighted approach could be in effective use of paddy straw. Unlike wheat residue, which is used as fodder, paddy straw is non-palatable to animals as it has high silica content.
  • Farmers, who have already been sensitised to refrain from burning residue, should be given options such as biomass generation.
  • The government should use geospatial techniques to identify areas where stubble burning is severe and encourage installation of biomass plants at such locations. This will not only reduce transportation costs for the firm or village entrepreneurs but also help the government achieve its target of generating 227GW based on renewable energy sources by 2022.
  • Farmers can also be incentivised to sell the residual for additional income. The residual has uses, such as in paper, cardboard and packing material making and also hydroseeding (defiberised rice straw can be used in hydroseeding for erosion control).

Conclusion

Incidents of stubble burning cannot be averted by imposing fines, or giving notice or giving farmers capital subsidy. Instead, the issue requires long-term vision and strategic policy interventions.


 

Gist of Editorials: Rethinking the Gulf (Indian Express) | GS – II

Relevance : GS Paper II (International Relations)

[900 words reduced to 200]


  • India’s relations with Gulf countries have considerably improved:
    • growing volumes of energy imports
    • substantive investments from the Gulf
    • there are 7 million Indian migrant workers in the region
    • Gulf is among India’s top trading partners.
    • high-level engagement between has blossomed
    • growing security cooperation, especially on counter-terrorism
    • Increasing defence cooperation.
  • The roadblocks:
    • India’s too strong focus on the bilateral relations
    • Delhi is paying too little attention to the growing weight of the Gulf in regional affairs
  • Significance of Gulf nations
    • Saudi Arabia has played a critical role in shaping the world energy markets
    • The UAE has become a small but important cosmopolitan centre.
    • construction of a moderate Arab centre envisaged by UAE is very much in India’s interest
    • growing impact of the Gulf countries in the Indian Ocean region.
    • recent success of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in brokering peace between Ethiopia and
    • Eritrea
    • shaping the geopolitics of their neighbouring regions.
    • eager to collaborate with India on development and strategic infrastructure
    • taking greater responsibility for managing the regional order
  • India needs an integrated regional strategy to secure its ever-rising stakes in the Middle East and the Western Indian Ocean.

 

Editorial Simplified: Rethinking the Gulf | GS – II

Relevance: GS Paper II (International Relations)


Improvements in India-Gulf relations

  • India’s relations with the key Gulf countries have never been as good as they are today.
  • The deepening energy interdependence is marked by growing volumes of energy imports into India and the prospect of substantive investments from the Gulf into the Indian hydrocarbon sector.
  • The number of Indian migrant workers in the region stands at more than 7 million.
  • The Gulf is among India’s top trading partners.
  • A high-level engagement between India and the Gulf has blossomed in recent years.
  • The expansion of the political engagement has been matched by the growing security cooperation, especially on counter-terrorism.
  • India and its Gulf partners are also taking tentative steps towards defence cooperation.

The roadblocks in India-Gulf relations

  • India’s relations with the Gulf have been constrained by too strong a focus on the bilateral.
  • Delhi is paying too little attention to the growing weight of the Gulf in regional affairs and the strategic possibilities that it opens up for India.

Significance of Gulf nations

  • As the nation with one of the world’s largest petroleum reserves, Riyadh has played a critical role in shaping the world energy markets since the 1970s.As the home to Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia has a unique place in the Islamic world.
  • The UAE has turned into a strategic actor of consequence in the Middle East and beyond. It is also a major player in the global logistics market. It is now striving to emerge as a centre of art, higher education and technological innovation. As the home to multiple nationalities from around the world, the UAE has become a small but important cosmopolitan centre.
  • If Delhi looks beyond the bilateral, it will find two very important axes of potential partnerships in the Middle East. One is the idea of a “moderate Arab centre”. The idea of a moderate Arab centre resonates deeply with India’s natural ethos and its traditional empathy for modernising forces in the Arab world. Helping the construction of a moderate Arab centre envisaged by Abu Dhabi is very much in India’s interest.
  • There has been growing impact of the Gulf countries in the Indian Ocean region. Nowhere is this more evident than the Horn of Africa.
  • The recent success of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in brokering peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea who had been locked in a prolonged conflict underlines the positive role of the Gulf in Africa..
  • The Gulf countries today are bringing a combination of financial resources and political will to shape the geopolitics of their neighbouring regions.
  • Some of the Gulf countries like the UAE are eager to collaborate with India on development assistance and the construction of strategic infrastructure in the Indian Ocean littoral.
  • The Gulf states have relied in the past on the Anglo-Americans for their security. As America and Britain gaze at their own navel, the Gulf states are taking greater responsibility for managing the regional order.

Way forward for India

If India continues to be disinterested, they are bound to look for other partners. The conditions under which India could afford to take a purely bilateral approach to the Gulf nations are beginning to disappear. India needs an integrated regional strategy to secure its ever-rising stakes in the Middle East and the Western Indian Ocean.


 

Essential Facts (Prelims): 5 December, 2018


Swachhta Doots

  • About 3 lakh postmen and GraminDakSevaks of the Department have been declared as “Ambassadors of cleanliness”.
  • As “SwachhtaDoots” they have spread the message of cleanliness, zero tolerance to open defecation and use of plastic among the masses.

Climate change

  • At Katowice, Poland, countries have gathered to agree upon a ‘Rule Book’ to implement the Paris Agreement of 2015.
  • The Paris Agreement commits countries to ensure the earth doesn’t warm 2C beyond pre-industrial levels.
  • In 2019, developed countries are expected to make available $100 billion annually to developing countries, according to a 2010 agreement in Cancun.
  • Most of the total climate finance has flowed into mitigation (a reference to preventing carbon dioxide from being emitted).

Mangdechhu

  • India is expected to commission a major hydropower project in Bhutan in the coming weeks.
  • The project is 750 megawatt Mangdechhu hydropower project.
  • The Mangdechhu project was bagged by the Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. (BHEL).

SEBI

  • SEBI has recommended allowing unlisted Indian companies to directly list their shares on overseas exchanges in at least 10 countries.
  • It also suggested allowing unlisted companies from such countries to list their shares on Indian bourses.
  • This is a major shift from the current regulatory regime that does not allow unlisted Indian companies to have a direct overseas equity listing.
  • Such listing would only be possible after changes in two key laws — FEMA and Companies Act.
  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) can amend FEMA while and the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) can amend the Companies Act.

Exoplanet

  • Scientists have discovered a cache over 100 new exoplanets using data from NASA’s Kepler Space telescope as well as ground-based observatories.
  • Exoplanets revolve around stars other than the sun.
  • If a planet crosses in front of its parent star, then the observed brightness of the star drops by a small amount. The Kepler Space Telescope detected many exoplanets using this method

Extreme weather

  • Extreme weather events killed over 70,000 people in India, 5.2 lakh across world in 20 years.
  • Just in 2017 alone, 2,736 people in India died in extreme weather events like floods, excessive rain or cyclones, the report by Germanwatch, an independent development organisation, said.
  • In the last twenty years, India accounted for the second highest number of these casualties after Myanmar, topped only by Puerto Rico.
  • Deaths caused by natural calamities like earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanoes are not included in the data because these are not caused by climate change.
  • The report put India 14th on the list of countries at maximum risk to climate change.

OPEC

  • OPEC, a cartel of 15 countries that produce about 45% of the world’s oil and contain over 80% of its “proven” reserves.
  • OPEC was founded in 1960 by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, and Venezuela. Qatar joined in 1961.

Why has Qatar left OPEC?

  • Qatar wanted to focus on its gas industry rather than on oil, in which it was in any case a small player.
  • Qatar’s riches are due to its natural gas reserves, and it is the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
  • Qatar is one of India’s oldest LNG suppliers. But LNG pricing is not in OPEC’s domain, so Qatar’s decision is unlikely to impact India.

Cataract

  • Cataract surgery has emerged the procedure for which the highest number of claims have been made under Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY).
  • Cataract refers to a clouding of the lens of the eye causing gradual loss of vision. It is common in old age but can also be triggered by injuries to the eye.
  • Diabetes, of which India has a very high burden (approximately 6.92 crore) is also known to hasten cataract formation.

 

CSE-2019 | Prelims Daily Quiz 55

Question:

With reference to agreements on climate, consider the following statements:

1. If a country withdraws from an agreement, it can still participate in it as long as it wants.

2. The Paris agreement wants countries to avoid temperature rise beyond 1.5 C of pre-industrial levels.

 

Choose the correct statement/s from the codes given below:

1. 1 only

2. 2 only

3. Both 1 and 2

4. Neither 1 nor 2

2. 2 only

  • A country which withdraws can participate only till the process of withdrawal is not complete. For example, US opted out of the Paris deal last year but continues to be part of discussions as a complete withdrawal takes up to four years.
  • The Paris agreement exhorts countries to take steps to avoid temperatures from rising beyond 2 C of pre-industrial levels, and even 1.5 C as far as possible, by the end of the century.