Bills/Act/LawsDOMRExplainedGovt. SchemesHistorical Sites in NewsIOCRMains Onlyop-ed of the dayop-ed snapPIBPrelims OnlyPriority 1SC JudgementsSpecies in NewsStates in News
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Food Processing Industry: Issues and Developments

[op-ed of the day] The food industry’s role in sustainable development

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Agro-industries and SDGs

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.


Context

Food crisis

  • Feeding a planet of 7.7 billion people is no easy matter. Every person on the planet needs, expects, and has the right to a healthy diet.
  • Over 820 million people are chronically hungry. Another two billion or so suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, such as a lack of vitamins or proteins.
  • Around 650 million adults are obese, an epidemic caused in part by ultra-processed foods that are stuffed with sugar, saturated fats and other chemical additives.
  • But the problems go far beyond hunger and diet.

Beyond hunger and diet

  • A growing number of food companies understand the challenge and want to forge a new direction that is consistent with human health and planetary survival.
  • The food industry is a powerhouse of the global economy and includes some of the best-known brand names, because we connect with them every day.
  • Solving the many intersecting food crises will be impossible unless the industry changes its ways.

Agro-industries are no less responsible

  • Today’s agro-industrial practices are the main cause of deforestation, freshwater depletion and pollution, soil erosion, and the collapse of biodiversity.
  • To top it off, human-induced climate change, partly caused by the food sector, is wreaking havoc on crop production.
  • With more warming and population growth ahead, the crisis will worsen unless decisive changes are made.

Need for a worldwide policy revamp

Both the SDGs and the Paris agreement require decisive changes in practices by the food industry.Each company must address four critical questions.

First, do products and strategies contribute to healthy and sustainable diets?

  • We know that the fast-food culture is literally killing us.
  • The industry has to change to promote healthy diets.

Second, are the company’s production practices sustainable?

  • Too many companies are engaged in chemical pollution, massive waste from packaging, deforestation, excessive and poorly targeted fertilizer use, and other environmental ills.

Third, are the company’s upstream suppliers sustainable?

  • No consumer food company should use products from farms that contribute to deforestation.
  • The destruction of forests in the Amazon and Indonesia—literally a scorched-earth process—underscore the need to barcode all food products to ensure that they are sourced from sustainable farms.

Lastly, is the company a good corporate citizen?

  • For example, aggressive tax practices that exploit legal loopholes should be avoided, as they deprive governments of the revenues needed to promote public services and thereby achieve the SDGs.

Failing on many fronts

  • While many companies purport to pursue sustainable development, too few report on the healthfulness of their product.
  • Too few recognize that they are part of the environmental crisis, either directly in their own production, or as buyers of products produced in environmental hotspots such as the Amazon or Indonesia.
  • In short, the food industry’s commitment to sustainability is still too often more high-minded sentiment than actual reporting and monitoring to ensure alignment with the global goals.

Conclusion

  • The food sector is a key part of a larger picture. World leaders gathered at the UN this week to review progress on the SDGs and the Paris agreement.
  • They must keep in mind one crucial fact: the world’s people are demanding change.
  • Most countries have the know-how and wealth to achieve a prosperous, inclusive and sustainable world.
  • The business sector must urgently recognize, acknowledge and act upon its global responsibilities.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

[op-ed snap] Two Asian powers and an island

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Need for reviving Inda-Sri Lanka ties

Context

  • The imposing Lotus Tower in Colombo, which was opened to the public recently, is considered to be the latest symbol of Sri Lanka-China ties.
  • An agreement to build this structure, which is to serve as a multi-functional telecommunication tower, was signed by the two countries in 2012.

Anti-China mood is no more

  • It may look ironical that much of the project’s execution took place under a regime which came into office at a time when there was a “strong anti-China mood”.
  • In the run-up to the 2015 presidential election, Ranil Wickremesinghe, who was backing Sirisena, had assured people that another Chinese project, the $1.4 billion Colombo Port City, would be scrapped.
  • Then, there was also uncertainty over the fate of the Hambantota port, the development of which was originally offered to India by Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2005.
  • India was said to have examined Hambantota purely from the point of view of economics, overlooking the strategic angle.
  • All of this is now history, as Colombo-Beijing ties have stood the test of time.

Two different records

  • China has been able to resolve all the controversies over these projects.
  • The Port City’s execution is underway without any major hitch. When it becomes a reality, it will stand beside the Colombo port, which serves as a major transshipment hub for India.
  • A Chinese company has got Hambantota on lease for 99 years along with associated land of 15,000 acres.
  • More importantly, Sri Lanka is a member-country of the Belt and Road Initiative.

Debt trap or a tailored bluff

  • Notwithstanding an argument that economic ties with China are driving Sri Lanka into a “debt trap”, the bilateral relationship on the economic front is only becoming stronger.
  • According to the 2018 annual report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, imports from China accounted for 18.5%, just a little less than the 19% from India.

Indian failure

  • India couldn’t claim to have accomplished much in the Sirisena years, despite its “neighbourhood first” policy since May 2014.
  • Apart from a joint venture with Japan and Sri Lanka to develop the East Container Terminal at the Colombo Port, India cannot boast of having taken up any major infrastructure project in Sri Lanka.
  • There seems to be little progress in India’s proposals to develop the Palaly airport in the North and acquire a controlling stake in the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.
  • And for all practical purposes, the Economic and Technical Cooperation Agreement, an improved version of the existing bilateral FTA, has been shelved.

Success: Very few to count

  • In recent years, only a couple of social sector projects of India— building 60,000 homes for Tamils of the civil war-torn regions and the provision of ambulance services all over the island — gathered momentum.
  • Both these are being carried out using grants of the Indian government.
  • In July, an agreement was signed to upgrade a key railway segment, connecting the north and the south, at $91 million.

The resentful phase is over

  • Despite these deep ties, it is true that India and Sri Lanka have seen some unpleasantness in bilateral relations in contemporary times.
  • The anti-Tamil pogrom of 1983 dragged India into the Sri Lankan Tamil question.
  • India sustained its interest on developmental issues concerning the country Tamils, and now regarded as the most backward in Sri Lanka.
  • It will also be worth making one more attempt to encourage the voluntary repatriation of nearly 95,000 refugees who live in Tamil Nadu back to Sri Lanka.

India still holds deeper ties

  • China-funded infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka may look great, but India-Sri Lanka ties are deeper and more complex.
  • In good times and bad, India has been and will always be the first responder for Sri Lanka.
  • India’s assistance during the 2004 tsunami and PM Modi’s visit to Colombo in June (the first foreign dignitary to do so) in the aftermath of the Easter Sunday attacks show India’s sincerity of approach.

Way ahead

  • Given its potential and willingness to do more in development cooperation, India cannot remain satisfied with such a modest track record.
  • A benign and comprehensive approach, backed by the sincerity of purpose, will not only earn India greater respect of Sri Lankans, but also send a message to other international players about the strength of its ties with Sri Lanka.

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[op-ed snap] A bad policy choice

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Storage facilities for farm produce

Context

  • Ever since the Delhi government was ousted in 1998 by popular outrage over a spurt in onion prices, politicians have been wary of this vegetable.
  • The political response should solve, not structurally worsen, the problem that lies at the root of the occasional shortage of the vegetable.

Ban on onions export

  • The ban on export of onions that the central government has imposed follows in a traditional route and ignores the need for the farmer to get better terms of trade, paving the way for future shortage.
  • Onion is a relatively small crop, a little over 15 million tonnes in India.
  • China cultivates a lower area, but is the world’s largest producer, because its yield is about half as much higher than in India.

Hurting many

  • Bangladesh is very unhappy with India’s export ban,because that has worsened the shortage there.
  • Sudden export bans shut off the possibility of the farmer getting a bumper price for his crop, something that he feels he is entitled to, as the obverse of the distress sale he often has to undertake.
  • The sensible course is proper storage at times of harvest and steady decumulation of stocks over the year.
  • This will not help, however, in case of a sudden shortfall in output, thanks to flooding or unseasonal rains, as has happened this year.

Conclusion

  • Instead of banning exports, the government should encourage export of onion in its raw and processed forms.
  • The govt. must invest in food technology that would permit farmers to increase output without fear of distress sales, onion offtake assured because of its storage in a processed state.

J&K – The issues around the state

Explained: VP Menon’s role in accession of J&K and other states

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Instrument of accession

Mains level : Read the attached story


Context

  • Today marks the 126th birth anniversary of V P Menon.
  • The nation remembers Sardar Patel’s herculean efforts in ensuring that over 500 princely states seamlessly joined the Union of India.
  • However it was Menon working in the background, travelling across the country and persuading different Maharajas and Nawabs to accede.

V.P. Menon

  • Born on September 30, 1893, Menon was the Secretary in the Ministry of States which was established by the Government of India in 1947 to deal with the accession of princely states.

His contributions

  • Menon’s greatest contribution was coming up with the original policy on accession that required the princely states to accede only in the three matters of defence, external affairs and communications.
  • Since these matters were fairly non-controversial, Menon believed they would be readily accepted by the rulers.
  • With these the basic unity of India would be achieved and, when the new constitution was framed, we could thrash out the necessary details.
  • It was Menon’s policy piloted by Sardar Patel that was finally reflected in the Instrument of Accession (IoA) executed by the states becoming a part of the Union of India in 1947 and their seamless integration thereafter.

Role in J&K’s accession

  • One of the states to which Menon travelled to secure its accession was Jammu and Kashmir.
  • By October 25, 1947, an attack by Afridi tribesmen had reached the outskirts of Srinagar, forcing the Maharaja of J&K to escape the city and relocate to Jammu.
  • On October 26, the Defence Committee of the Indian Government held a meeting to discuss the viability of a military intervention in J&K.
  • Lord Mountbatten, who was part of this meeting observed that since J&K had not acceded to either India or Pakistan, it was an independent country.
  • According to Mountbatten, if the Maharaja acceded to India, troops could be sent to rescue the state.
  • Subsequently, it was Menon who immediately flew to Jammu and secured the Maharaja’s signature on the IoA.

The integration

  • With accession secured, the next challenge for Menon and his team in the Ministry of States was to ensure complete integration.
  • This was a legally complex but politically straightforward matter in respect of most princely states.
  • The negotiations between representatives of the Government of India and Sheikh Abdullah, then PM of J&K, in relation to J&K’s status in India failed to produce a mutually acceptable result.
  • It was thus decided that the Constitution of India would reflect the position under the 1947 IoA.

Birth of Article 370

  • The final text of Article 370 introduced in the Constitution of India is based on this understanding.
  • Sheikh Abdullah proposed an alternative formulation which simply stated that the Indian Parliament would be entitled to legislate only on defence, external affairs and communications.
  • Seemingly making light of Abdullah’s objection, Menon asked that the following be conveyed to Patel:
  1. Parts II (citizenship), III (fundamental rights) and IV (directive principles) of the Constitution would apply automatically to Kashmir unless the position is expressly saved
  2. What worried Sheikh Abdullah and the National Conference was that if these general provisions become applicable to Kashmir also, their legislation against other citizens of India in respect of acquisition etc. of property will become invalid.

The final move

  • Thus overriding the Sheikh’s objections, but in deference to his principled disagreement, the Ministry of States sent a draft proclamation to the Yuvraj of Kashmir, Karan Singh, for signing.
  • This was the final step towards complete integration in the Union of India by which all princely states that had acceded to India were required to accept the Constitution of India as their own through a public proclamation.

Conclusion that spark debates

  • It is significant to note that J&K’s proclamation was worded differently from the others.
  • This proclamation, issued on November 25, 1949, did not accept the Constitution of India as J&K’s own.
  • Instead, it stated that the Constitution of India, “in so far as it is applicable to [J&K]” would “govern the constitutional relationship between [J&K and the] Union of India”.
  • This was a reference to Article 370 of the Constitution of India.

Judicial Pendency

The idea of Regional Supreme Court Benches

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Debate over additional SC benches

Demand for regional benches

  • Recently, Vice-President in his speech has suggested that the Supreme Court institute four regional Benches to tackle the enormous backlog of cases, and to ensure their speedy disposal.
  • He also endorsed the recommendation of the Law Commission of India that the top court should be split into two divisions.
  • These ideas are not new; apart from the LC, they were mooted also in the Congress manifesto for this year’s Lok Sabha elections.
  • But they have not developed into a serious debate, and the Supreme Court itself has been opposed to these ideas.

Core of the problem: Pendency of cases

  • In the early decades, the Supreme Court of India, too, functioned largely as a constitutional court, with some 70-80 judgments being delivered every year by Constitution Benches of five or more judges.
  • They ruled, as per Article 145(3) of the Constitution, on matters “involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of [the] Constitution”.
  • This number has now come down to 10-12.

Why so much pendency in the apex court?

  • Due to their heavy workload, judges mostly sit in two- or three-judge Benches to dispose of all kinds of cases; these include several non-Constitutional and relatively petty matters.
  • On some occasions, even PILs on demands such as Sardar jokes should be banned, or that Muslims should be sent out of the country, come before the Supreme Court.
  • This heavy workload is due to the fact that India’s Supreme Court is perhaps the world’s most powerful court, with a very wide jurisdiction.
  • It hears matters between the Centre and states, and between two or more states; rules on civil and criminal appeals; and advises the President on questions of law and fact.
  • On the question of violation of FRs, anyone can approach the Supreme Court directly.
  • The result: more than 65,000 cases are pending in the Supreme Court, and disposal of appeals takes many years.

What the Law Commission said

  • Back in March 1984, the 10th Law Commission of India (95th Report) under Justice K K Mathew recommended that “the SC should consist of two Divisions, namely (a) Constitutional Division, and (b) Legal Division”.
  • Only matters of Constitutional law may be assigned to the proposed Constitutional Division.
  • The 11th LC under the chairmanship of Justice D A Desai (125th Report, 1988) “reiterate(d) that the recommendation for splitting the SC into two halves deserves to be implemented”.

Demand for 4 benches

  • The 18th LC under Justice A R Lakshmanan (229th Report, 2009) recommended that “a Constitution Bench be set up at Delhi to deal with constitutional and other allied issues”.
  • It recommended for four Cassation Benches be set up all four zones to deal with all appellate work arising out of the orders/judgments of the High Courts of the particular region.
  • Indeed, many countries around the world have Courts of Cassation that decide cases involving non-Constitutional disputes and appeals from the lower level of courts.
  • Standing Committees of Parliament recommended in 2004, 2005, and 2006 that Benches of the court be set up elsewhere.
  • In 2008, the Committee suggested that at least one Bench be set up on a trial basis in Chennai.
  • These are courts of last resort that have the power to reverse decisions of lower courts. (Cassation: annulment, cancellation, reversal).

Who can constitute additional benches?

  • Supreme Court Rules give the Chief Justice of India the power to constitute Benches — he can, for instance, have a Constitution Bench of seven judges in New Delhi, and set up smaller Benches in, say, four or six places across the country.

Argument for

  • It has been pointed out that Article 39A says that the state shall secure that the operation of the legal system promotes justice, on a basis of equal opportunity.
  • It shall ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reason of economic or other disabilities.
  • It is obvious that travelling to New Delhi or engaging expensive Supreme Court counsel to pursue a case is beyond the means of most litigants.

Arguments against

  • The Supreme Court has not agreed with the proposal, which in its opinion will dilute the prestige of the court.
  • Article 130 says that the Supreme Court shall sit in Delhi or in such other place or places, as the CJI may, with the approval of the President, from time to time, appoint.

Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.

Climate Vulnerability Map of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Climate Vulnerability Map of India

Mains level : Need and significance of such maps

  • For preparing communities and people to meet the challenge arising out of climate, information specific to a state or even district is needed.
  • In order to meet this need, a pan India climate vulnerability assessment map is being developed.

Climate Vulnerability map of India

  • The map is being developed under a joint project of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the Union Ministry of Science and Technology and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
  • This research programme of DST is being implemented as part of the National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE) and National Mission on Strategic Knowledge for Climate Change (NMSKCC).
  • Such climate vulnerability atlas has already been developed for 12 states in the Indian Himalayan Region, using a common framework.
  • Now this methodology will be extended to non-Himalayan states so that we can have a national level climate vulnerability profile for India.
  • The atlas is expected to be ready by the middle of 2020.

Why such move?

  • Climate risk is interplay of hazard, exposure and vulnerability. There is a rise in climate-sensitive livelihood of people.
  • While the occurrence of natural hazards such as landslides, droughts and floods is projected to go up, their impact depends on the level of exposure such as presence of people and infrastructure in areas.
  • Hence a common methodology for assessing vulnerability was critical for comparison and for planning adaptation strategies.
  • Vulnerability is the propensity to be adversely affected and can be measured in terms of both biophysical as well as socio-economic factors.
  • Addressing vulnerability can help reduce risk to climate change. It also helps in identifying what makes a state or district vulnerable to climate change.

Mapping strategy

  • The map for the Himalayan region, developed in consultation with states, has details up to the district level.
  • The national map will also do the same, as vulnerability within a state may differ from one region or district to another.
  • A common set of indicators will be used vulnerability profile and ranking of 650 districts all over the country.
  • Among the priority areas identified for research are glaciology, climate modeling, urban climate, extreme events and Himalayan ecosystem studies.
  • In all, climate change cells have been in 25 states in the country and centres of excellence are also being established in states for capacity building.
  • Sensitivity of agricultural production is captured by indicators like percentage area under irrigation; yield variability; and percentage area under horticulture crops.

Take a look at following infographs:

History- Important places, persons in news

Pre historic site: Sittannavasal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the site

Mains level : Cave architecture in India


  • Sittannavasal, a small hamlet in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukottai district, is a muse for historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and art lovers alike.

About the site

  • Located 50 km from Tiruchi, the Sittannavasal rock-cut cave temple, with its beautiful frescoes, sculptures of Jain Theerthangaras and stone beds atop of a hillock.
  • It is believed to be an ancient abode for Jains when Jainism flourished in the region till the 10th century A.D.
  • While the numerous dolmens, stone circles and other forms of megalithic relics in its vicinity indicate the prehistoric and proto-historic antiquity of the region.
  • The village itself dates back to the 1st century B.C.
  • The temple is now a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India.

Tribes in News

Galo community in Arunachal Pradesh

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the tribe

Mains level : Various tribes in India


  • Members of the Galo community in Arunachal Pradesh can recall the name of their ancestor from 20 generations, and this is made possible by their system of naming.

Galo community

  • At about 1.5 lakh people, the Galos are one of the 26 major communities of Arunachal Pradesh, and dominate West Siang, Lepa Rada and Lower Siang districts.
  • They have a big population in East Siang, Upper Subansiri and Namsai districts too.
  • The Galos belong to the Tani group inhabiting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, besides Tibet.
  • They trace their common origin to a primeval ancestor, Abotani.

Uniqueness

  • But unlike the Mising (Assam), Adi, Apatani, Nyishi and Tagin, the other communities, only the Galos maintain genealogy through given names.
  • They have a system of prefixing the second syllable of a father’s name to that of a son, who passes on the suffix in his name to his son.
  • Hence they can trace the names of ancestors from the first syllable or prefix of our names,.
  • They have nine sub-clans: Angu, Bagra, Doji, Kamnyi, Karso, Naho, Ngomdir, Rasa or Rame, and Yorsi or Kamsi. The numbers of sub-clans of the other clans vary.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Asteroid named after Pandit Jasraj

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IAU

Mains level : India's vocal art


  • The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has named an asteroid, discovered in 2006, after Indian classical singer Pandit Jasraj.

About the asteroid

  • The asteroid, or more formally known as a minor planet, is located between Mars and Jupiter, and was discovered on November 11, 2006, by the Catalina Sky Survey in the United States.
  • The privilege of naming a planet is first given to discoverers, who have 10 years to propose a name.
  • All names proposed are judged by the Working Group for Small Body Nomenclature (CSBN) of the IAU, comprising professional astronomers with research interests in minor planets and/or comets from around the world.

International Astronomical Union (IAU)

  • The IAU is an international association of professional astronomers, at the PhD level and beyond, active in professional research and education in astronomy.
  • Among other activities, it acts as the internationally recognized authority for assigning designations and names to celestial bodies (stars, planets, asteroids, etc.) and any surface features on them.
  • To standardize planetary nomenclature, the IAU was assigned in 1919 the task of selecting official names for features on Solar System bodies.
  • Planetary nomenclature, like terrestrial nomenclature, is a system of uniquely identifying features on the surface of a planet or natural satellite so that the features can be easily located, described, and discussed.

About Pandit Jasraj

  • Pandit Jasraj (b. 1930) is an exponent of Indian classical vocal music.
  • Jasraj is the recipient of numerous awards, honours, and titles, including the prestigious Padma Vibhushan and the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award.
  • His distinctive voice traverses a remarkable four-and-a-half octaves.