7th January Current Affairs

1.Management of Human-Wildlife Conflict

News: The Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife (SC-NBWL) in its 60th meeting has approved the advisory for management of Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) in the country.

Background: The advisory makes important prescriptions for the States/ Union Territories for dealing with Human-Wildlife conflict situations and seeks expedited inter-departmental coordinated and effective actions.

Details:

  • The advisory envisages empowering gram panchayats in dealing with the problematic wild animals as per the section 11 (1) (b) of Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • Utilising add-on coverage under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna for crop compensation against crop damage due to HWC and augmenting fodder and water sources within the forest areas are some key steps envisaged to reduce HWC.
  • Payment of a portion of ex-gratia as interim relief within 24 hours of the incident to the victim/family.

The advisory also envisages

  • prescribing inter-departmental committees at local/state level,
  • adoption of early warning systems,
  • creation of barriers,
  • dedicated circle wise Control Rooms with toll free hotline numbers which could be operated on 24X7 basis,
  • Identification of hotspots and formulation and implementation of special plans for improved stall-fed farm animal etc.

Some of the other important approvals took place during the meeting are,

  • inclusion of Caracal, a medium size wild cat found in some parts of Rajasthan and Gujarat, into the list of critically endangered species for taking up conservation efforts with financial support under Centrally sponsored Scheme-Development of Wildlife Habitat.
  • Now, there are 22 wildlife species under recovery programme for critically endangered species.

About National Board for Wildlife:

  • It is a “Statutory Organization” constituted under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • Its role is “advisory” in natureand advises the Central Government on framing policies and measures for conservation of wildlife in the country.
  • Primary function of the Board is to promote the conservation and development of wildlife and forests.
  • It has power to review all wildlife-related matters and approve projects in and around national parks and sanctuaries. No alternation of boundaries in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries can be done without approval of the NBWL.
  • The NBWL is chaired by the Prime Minister. It has 47 members including the Prime Minister. Among these, 19 members are ex-officio members. Other members include three Members of Parliament (two from Lok Sabha and one from Rajya Sabha), five NGOs and 10 eminent ecologists, conservationists and environmentalists.

2.Special Assistance to States for Capital Expenditure

News: Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh have become the first group of States to complete three out of the four citizen centric reforms stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance. The two States have completed the One Nation, One Ration Card Reforms, Ease of Doing Business Reforms, and Urban Local Bodies Reforms.

Special Assistance to States for Capital Expenditure

  • The Scheme of “Special Assistance to States for Capital Expenditure”is aimed at boosting capital expenditure by the State Governments who are facing difficult financial environment this year due to the shortfall in tax revenue arising from the COVID 19 pandemic.
  • Capital Expenditure has a higher multiplier effect, enhancing the future productive capacity of the economy, and results in a higher rate of economy growth.
  • Therefore, despite the adverse financial position of the Central Government, it was decided to extend a special assistance to the State Governments in respect of capital expenditure, in financial year 2020-21.
  • The Scheme has got very warm response from the State Governments. So far capital expenditure proposals of Rs.9880 crore of 27 States have been approved by the Ministry of Finance.  An amount of Rs.4940 crore has already been released to the States as the first instalment under the Scheme.
  • State-wise allocation, approval granted and funds released is attached.  Tamil Nadu has not availed the benefit of the Scheme.
  • The capital expenditure projects have been approved in diverse sectors of economy like, Health, Rural Development, Water Supply, Irrigation, Power, Transport, Education, Urban Development.

The Scheme has three parts.

  • Part–Iof the scheme covers the north-eastern and hill States.  Under this part, Rs.200 crore is allocated to each of the 7 north-eastern States (Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura) and Rs.450 crore is allocated to  each of the hill  States (Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand).  In view of higher population and geographical area, the State of Assam has been provided enhanced allocation of Rs.450 crore under the Scheme.
  • Part-II of the Scheme is, for all other States not included in Part-I. An amount of Rs.7,500 crore is earmarked for this part.  This amount has been allocated amongst these States in proportion to their share of central tax as per the interim award of the 15thFinance Commission for the year 2020-21.
  • Part-III of the Schemeis aimed at pushing various citizen-centric reforms in the States.  Under this Part, an amount of Rs.2000 crore is earmarked.  This amount will be available only to those States who carry out by 31st December, 2020, at least 3 out of the 4 reforms specified by the Ministry of Finance in its letter dated 17th May, 2020 regarding reform linked additional borrowing permissions. The 4 reforms are – One Nation One Ration Card, Ease of doing Business Reform, Urban Local Body/ Utility Reform and Power Sector Reform.

3.Longitudinal Ageing Study of India

News: Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare released INDIA REPORT on Longitudinal Ageing Study of India (LASI) Wave-1.

About LASI:

  • LASI is a full–scale national survey of scientific investigation of the health, economic, and social determinants and consequences of population ageing in India.
  • The National Programme for Health Care of Elderly, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has undertaken the Longitudinal Ageing Study of India, through International Institute for Population Sciences, (IIPS), Mumbai in collaboration with Harvard School of Public Health, University of Southern California,USA, Dte.GHS, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and National Institute on Ageing.
  • The LASI, Wave 1 covered a baseline sample of 72,250 individuals aged 45 and above and their spouses including 31,464 elderly persons aged 60 and above and 6,749 oldest-old persons aged 75 and above from all States and Union Territories (UTs) of India (excluding Sikkim).
  • It is India’s first and the world’s largest ever survey that provides a longitudinal database for designing policies and programmes for the older population in the broad domains of social, health, and economic well-being.
  • The evidence from LASI will be used to further strengthen and broaden the scope of National Programme for Health Care of the Elderly and also help in establishing a range of preventive and health care programmes for older population and most vulnerable among them.”

Significance:

  • In 2011 census, the 60+ population accounted for 8.6% of India’s population, accounting for 103 million elderly people. Growing at around 3% annually, the number of elderly age population will rise to 319 million in 2050.
  • 75% of the elderly people suffer from one or the other chronic disease. 40% of the elderly people have one or the other disability and 20% have issues related to mental health. This report will provide base for national and state level programmes and policies for elderly population.
  • The LASI has embraced state-of-the-art large-scale survey protocols and field implementation strategies including representative sample of India and its States, socioeconomic spectrum, an expansive topical focus, a longitudinal design, and the use of Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) technology for data collection, quality control, and Geographic Information System (GIS).
  • A unique feature of LASI is the coverage of comprehensive biomarkers. No other survey in India collects detailed data on health and biomarkers together with information on family and social network, income, assets, and consumption.

Way forward:

  • We should ensure that the elderly are provided with the best medical care.  India has one of the ambitious programme of the world, Ayushman Bharat Yojana which focuses on expansion of the healthcare facilities.
  • LASI data shall assist in addressing the broad aims of the Decade of Healthy Ageing and will lead to convergence within various national health programs and also promote inter-sectoral coordination with other line Departments/Ministries

4.Need for Research in Agriculture

Context: The article highlight the need for more emphasis on agricultural R&D as a solution to the woes of the farmers.

Low-input high-output:

  • Amid farmers protest against farm acts, the current debates focus mainly on MSP, reducing farmers’ debt liabilities, reducing post-harvest losses, cash transfers and marketing reforms.
  • India with entrenched poverty requires low-input, high-output agriculture; low input in terms of both natural resources and monetary inputs.
  • Very little attention is being given to reducing the natural resource inputs — most critical being water —and agricultural R&D. This cannot be achieved without science and technology.
  • Following are the areas in which Indian agriculture needs R&D to reduce agriculture inputs

Scarcity of water:

  • India receives around 4,000 billion cubic meters (bcm) of rainfall, but alarge part of it falls in the east.
  • Moreover, most of the rain is receivedwithin 100 hours of torrential downpour, making water storage and irrigation critical for agriculture.
  • India has one of the highest water usages for agriculture in the world — of the total 761 bcm withdrawals of water, 90.5 per cent goes into agriculture. In comparison, China uses 385.2 bcm(64.4 per cent) out of the total withdrawals of 598.1 bcm for agriculture.
  • China’s per-unit land productivity in terms of crop production is almost two to three times more.
  • The total estimated groundwater depletion in India is in the range of 122-199 bcm .
  • The depletion is highest in Punjab, Haryana, and western UP.

Yields of coarse-grain crops and oilseed crops

  • Years of intense research on yield increase and yield protection by breeding varieties and hybrids resistant to pests and pathogens have made wheat, rice and maize stable high yielders.
  • Environmentalists suggest replacing rice with coarse grain crops — millets, sorghum etc.
  • However, the yields of these crops are not comparable to those of wheat and rice even when protective irrigation is available. These crops have a serious R&D deficitleading to low yield potential as well as losses to pests and pathogens. This leaves us with pulses and oilseeds.
  • In the 2017-18 fiscal year, India imported around Rs 76,000 crore worth of edible oils.
  • Three oilseed crops (mustard, soybean, and groundnut) are already grown very extensively.
  • Soybean and groundnut are legume crops and fix their nitrogen. All three crops not only provide edible oils but are also an excellent source of protein-rich seed or seed meal for livestock and poultry.
  • Unfortunately, yields of the three crops are stagnating in India at around 1.1 tons per hectare, significantly lower than the global averages.

Scope of Genetic Improvements

  • Pests and pathogens can be best tackled by agrochemicals or by genetic interventions.
  • A recent global level study on crop losses in the main food security hotspots for five major cropsshowed significant losses to pests — on average for wheat 21.5 per cent, rice 20 per cent, maize 22.5 per cent, potato 17.2 per cent, and soybean 21.4 per cent. India is one of the lowest users of pesticides.
  • In 2014, comparative use of pesticides in kilograms per hectare in some select countries/regions is as following: Africa 0.30, India 0.36,EU countries 3.09, China 14.82, and Japan 15.93.
  • A more benign method for dealing with pests is through breeding.
  • The Green Revolution technologies were based on the effective use ofgermplasm and strong phenotypic selections. Recombinant DNA technologies since the 1970s have brought forth unprecedented opportunities for genetic improvement of crops. Since 2000, genomes of all the major crops have been sequenced. The big challenge is in the effective utilisation of the enormous sequence data that is available.
  • India’s efforts in all three areas are half-hearted.

Way forward

  • Over the last 20 years, India has been spending between 0.7 to 0.8 per cent of its GDP on R&D. This is way below the percentage of GDP spent by the developing countries and Asia’s rapidly growing economies.
  • There are structural issues like lack of competent human resources and lack of policy clarity. However, the biggest impediment to agricultural R&D has been overzealous opposition to the new technologies.
  • Maybe the present crisis in agriculture would lead to a greater appreciation of the need for strong public supported R&D in agriculture.