May 2020
M T W T F S S
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Coronavirus – Economic Issues

RBI’s job involves trade-offs, not conflictsop-ed of the day

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Role of the RBI.

Mains level : Paper 3- Role of the RBI and trade-offs involved in its decisions.


The article discusses three things for the RBI to follow in fulfilling its role, these are- 1) Prudence 2) Flexibility 3) Acting within the mandate. Besides that, problems the RBI has been facing are also discussed. These things are discussed against the backdrop of Covid-19.

Role of the RBI

  • A central bank like the RBI must replace intellectual certainty with the continuous debate over their actions.
  • RBI’s job involves complex trade-offs — next quarter vs quarter century, growth vs stability, and mandates vs expectations.
  • A global anthropological shock-like COVID makes these trade-offs — they are not conflicts — even harder.
  • The RBI must remember three things — acting prudently to balance the next quarter and quarter century, acting flexibly to blunt this economic cataclysm, and acting within their mandate to ensure institutional legitimacy and immunity.

These three things are discussed below-

1. Acting prudently

  • If everybody believed that in the long run we are all dead, we would never sit under trees planted by people who had no chance of sitting under them.
  • The coronavirus is a human tragedy but a central bank must not act like a commercial bank because that would compromise the balance between today and tomorrow.
  • A narcissism — bordering on solipsism — already reflects in global debt levels that steal from our grandchildren.
  • More importantly, India doesn’t have the economic strength to copy the US Federal Reserve’s $2.3 trillion offer to lend to businesses of all sizes and sorts.
  • And run anything close to this year’s expected US fiscal deficit of 15 per cent of GDP, or sustain Japan’s public debt levels at 240 per cent of GDP.
  • We are all in the same storm but we are all not in the same boat.

2. Acting flexibly within the mandate

  • Renaissance physician Paracelsus had important advice for central banks; the dose makes the poison.
  • Anything powerful enough to help has the power to hurt; handling the inevitable tensions between the RBI’s dual mandate of growth and stability requires continuous work.
  • Our inflation targeting regime is a macroeconomic gift to India.
  • But recognising that is hardly inconsistent with acknowledging that inflation’s secular decline has many parents, some economic models are useful but all are incomplete, and the fog of war involves making second-best choices as long as they are reversible, proportional, and accountable.
  • Central banks often undertake liquidity management while leaving policy rates unchanged; current actions are not a conspiracy to undermine the MPC or its interest rate corridor (between reverse repo rate and MSF rate with repo rate midpoint targeting and call rate operating target).
  • They are a pragmatic encouragement for banks to lend to clients rather than lend Rs 7 lakh crore to the RBI.
  • Other virus flexibility includes repayment moratoriums (with 10 per cent provisions), bad loan accounting forbearance (despite past experience of breaking the thermometer doing little for the fever) and bank windows for NBFC/Mutual Fund liquidity.
  • Listening is hardly compromise.
  • Especially if accompanied by a will to unwind liquidity, asymmetry and forbearance when the planet’s gap year ends.

3. Follow the mandate

  • Central bank governance is a fine balance; they function best when they don’t declare separation from the government and they aren’t considered a part of the finance ministry.
  • The difficulty of balance isn’t uniquely Indian.
  • The RBI must build on its track record of wisely balancing the trade-offs between depositors vs borrowers, companies vs banks, and stability vs growth.
  • And it must continue to stay out of the government’s domain.
  • The central bank crisis role debate is skewed by the great book, Lords of Finance, by Liaquat Ahamed that shows how central bankers of the 1920s failed to fight the Great Depression.
  • History matters but nobody knows if this is the beginning or ending of the virus.
  • Yet the global central bank COVID toolbox has been substantial; buying corporate bonds, making corporate loans, cutting interest rates, conducting open market operations, and reducing reserve ratios.
  • Additionally, banks have been permitted to grant loan moratoriums, hold less capital, restructure loans, pay lower deposit insurance premiums and delay bad loan recognition.
  • The emergency authority under Section 13 of the US Federal Reserve Act being used — prematurely — also exists in Section 18 of the RBI Act.
  • But emergency powers are the last resort. We are not there yet.
  • The recovery being V-shaped, U-shaped, or Bathtub-shaped is only modellable after the lockdown.

Pre-existing problems facing the RBI

  • The RBI’s COVID balm is constrained by pre-existing conditions in Indian banking, which are given below-
  • Bad loans which peaked at Rs 14 lakh crore but still large.
  • Inadequate competition- scheduled commercial bank numbers have hovered between 90 and 100 since 1947.
  • Private bank governance- CEO so powerful that boards and shareholders are weak.
  • Public sector bank governance- shareholder so powerful that boards and CEOs are weak.
  • And the RBI’s own game (process, technology and human capital in regulation and supervision).
  • All these must be tackled with urgency when normalcy returns.

A question based on the role of the central bank can be asked by the UPSC. Consider the following question “Crises have always tested the utility of central banks, be it the Great Depression, 2008 financial crisis or Covid-19. In light of this statement, explains the trade-offs involved in the RBI’s decisions and how shocks like Covid-19 makes these trade-offs even harder.”

Way forward

  • Supplementing India’s fiscal and monetary policy interventions by announcing two bold reform plans — 90-day flick-of-pen and one-year structural — that tackle overdue reforms in labour, education, cities, finance, compliance, and civil services, will catalyse hope among employers, employees, banks, and overseas investors.

Conclusion

Creating a prosperous India needs many things. One of them is an independent, accountable, and boundaried central bank that listens.

 

Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

Three dimensions of food security amid Covid-19op-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Food Security Act.

Mains level : Paper 3-Ensuring food security with all its dimension amid corona pandemic.


The article discusses the three dimensions of food security-1)Availability 2)Acces 3) Absorption. The first two are also dependent on job security. All these are now being threatened by the pandemic. Ways to safeguard food security along with its 3 dimensions are suggested at the end of the article.

1. Availability of food in the market

  • The first is the availability of food in the market, and this is seen as a function of production.
  • Fortunately, thanks to the Green Revolution, today we have enough food in the market and in government godowns.
  • This is a great accomplishment by Indian farmers who converted a “ship to mouth” situation to a “right to food” commitment.
  • Yet we cannot take farmers’ contributions in terms of sustaining production for granted.
  • Some special exemptions have been given to the agricultural sector, farmers are confronted at the moment with labour shortages.
  • But many of the inputs, including seeds, are expensive or unavailable, marketing arrangements including supply chains are not fully functional, pricing is not remunerative, and public procurement is also not adequate.
  • There is no room for complacency, as in the absence of demand, the lack of storage or value addition facilities, especially for perishable commodities, we do not yet know exactly what the impact of the current pandemic will be on the kharif sowing and food availability in the future.

2. Access to food

  • The second dimension is the access to food, which is a function of purchasing power, as unless you are a farmer and grow your own food, others have to buy it.
  • Fortunately, the government, through the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and the PDS, has assured some additional food to every individual during this crisis.
  • Strengthening the food basket: This should be further strengthened and the food basket widened by including millets, pulses and oil.
  • Hidden hunger: Steps should also be taken to avoid hidden hunger caused by the deficiency of micronutrients in the diet.
  • In light of the closure of schools and anganwadi centres, and the consequent disruptions in the provision of midday meals or other nutritional inputs, it is important to pay attention to the life cycle approach advocated in the NFSA, particularly the first thousand days in a child’s life, when the cognitive abilities of the child are shaped.
  • We may otherwise see negative effects on nutritional security in the medium to longer term.

After reading the article you’ll be able to answer the question such as this one- “In the ongoing crisis, maintaining the level of food security has become one of the most essential need. In light of the above statement, critically examine the priority areas for maintaining food security in the country. Suggest measures to make accessibility and availability of food easier for all.”

Job security to ensure food security and access to food

  • Food security and access to nutritious, good quality food is also contingent on job security.
  • Today, a lot of people employed both on farms and in the non-farm sector are without jobs.
  • If job security is threatened, then so is food and nutrition security.
  • We have to ensure people do not lose their jobs, and one way of doing this will be to ensure value addition to primary products.
  • One example of such value addition is the Rice Biopark in Myanmar, wherein the straw, bran, and the entire biomass are utilised.
  • This would mean some attention to and investment in new technologies that can contribute to biomass utilisation.
  • The Amul model provides a good example from the dairy sector of improved incomes to milk producers through value addition.
  • Similar attention needs to be given to the horticulture sector on a priority basis.
  • Women farmers are at the forefront of horticulture and special attention needs to be given to both their technological and economic empowerment during this crisis.
  • A second pathway to livelihood security is strengthening the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
  • Need to cover skilled work: Given the lack of jobs and incomes during the COVID-19 crisis, it is imperative to expand the definition of work in MGNREGA to cover skilled work related to farmers and their farming activities.
  • This is particularly important for women farmers and workers, who should not just be given tasks of carrying stones or digging mud.
  • Apart from farming, they engage in a range of essential care tasks, including caring for children, the elderly and sick people.
  • These tasks, often invisible, need to be recognised as work and supported with appropriate education, including on nutrition.

3. Absorption of food in the body and its utilisation

  • The third dimension of food security is the absorption of food in the body or its utilisation.
  • Absorption and utilisation of food is dependent importantly on sanitation, drinking water and other non-food factors, including public health services.
  • Ensuring that these services are functional depends on the capacities of the local panchayats and their coordination with other local bodies.
  • The lack of adequate clean water, in particular, has come to the fore in both rural areas and urban slums in the context of COVID-19, where one of the key measures for stopping transmission relates to frequent hand-washing.

Food security threatened by pandemic

  • If we can ensure food availability, food access and food absorption, then we have a fairly robust system of food and nutrition security.
  • All the above dimensions are, however, now threatened by the novel coronavirus, as discussed earlier.
  • It is very critical to highlight the linkages between agriculture, nutrition and health.
  • The inability to harvest, transport and market perishable fruits and vegetables at remunerative prices during the current crisis has deprived farmers of incomes and livelihoods.
  • It has also deprived consumers of micronutrients in their diets.
  • Farmers making losses, and agriculture moving from being job-led to jobless, raise questions about the sustainability of the production cycle.
  • At the same time, this can have long-term consequences on nutrition and health security.

A question based on the dimension of the food security can be asked by the UPSC for ex- “Food security involved the security of food in all three dimensions, availability of food, access to food and absorption of food. How far the food security act is effective in ensuring security in all three dimensions?”

Conclusion

India avoided what could have been a big famine in the 1960s through the help of technology and public policy, which actively worked with and supported farmers to achieve significant increases in yield. Through a combination of farmers’ cooperation, technological upgrading and favourable public policies in procurement, pricing and distribution, we can deal with the fallouts of the pandemic.

Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

Strategy for calibrated opening of economyop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Opportunity cost.

Mains level : Paper 2- Easing the lockdown, strategy that could be adopted.


The article discusses the performance of India so far and the strategy for reopening of the economy. Dividing the districts based on the number of cases and adopting a suitable approach for opening the economy there while keeping the spread of the virus in control is suggested in the article.

India performing better

  • While the OECD countries are reeling under the COVID-19 impact, India is clearly ahead of the curve.
  • This is not merely in terms of the confirmed cases in the country but is also strongly reflected in very low mortality numbers (8.5 deaths per lakh population) compared to other nations (4,040 in the UK and 1,930 in the US).
  • While the first cases were reported in most hotspot countries and India around the same time (last week of January), today, the outbreak is far more manageable in India than in most other countries.
  • It was pragmatic for a resource-poor country to be pre-emptive and declare a national lockdown when the total number of cases were still low at 500.
  • The subsequent growth of the pandemic clearly shows a perceptible decline in the number of cases due to the lockdown.
  • Though stringent, this was much-needed and a timely policy intervention by the government.
  • It is important, however, to appreciate the high and growing opportunity costs that are involved during a lockdown.
  • We must brace ourselves for long-term pandemic management (18 to 24 months) with significant economic impact on our lives.

Policy interventions by government and two major concerns

  • The immediate costs of the lockdown are borne by the most economically vulnerable people in society.
  • This perhaps was the rationale behind the first round of economic policy interventions announced by the finance minister within a few days of the lockdown.
  • They targeted front-loading of cash transfers through PM-Kisan, support to construction workers, self-help groups, food distribution through the public distribution system, among others.
  • Two major concerns: Beyond welfare concerns, there are significant growth concerns that are mounting with every day of economic inactivity in the country.
  • Companies are struggling to honour payroll and maintain their workforce against cancelling orders and declining demand for their goods and services.
  • These in turn will lead to greater delays and defaults in loan repayments, thereby further weakening the fragile banking sector and struggling credit markets.

The RBI’s intervention and increasing damage to the economy

  • The Reserve Bank of India stepped in for some timely monetary interventions.
  • However, the longstanding climate of risk aversion within the banking sector will mean that transmission of these monetary interventions is unlikely to be timely or adequate.
  • All eyes are set expectantly in one direction.
  • Historically, when economies are faced with major calamities, governments step in to stabilise the environment and boost confidence within the business community.
  • We have seen this response from all major economies disrupted by COVID-19 over the last several weeks.
  • India will not be an exception to this as the government fine-tunes its strategy to support and kickstart our immobilised economy.
  • The opportunity cost of time, however, is ballooning with each passing day.
  • Just like the spread of the virus, we are up against the full force and power of compounding.
  • Mindful policy interventions, when timed well, can cut growing losses and the misfortune of many.

How the states are performing against Covid-19?

  • While we have succeeded in slowing the growth of the virus at the national level, the true gains and pains are at the state and local level.
  • As the data reveals, currently we have three states that have made remarkable gains and “flattened the curve” of COVID cases.
  • These are Kerala, Haryana and Tamil Nadu where recoveries are growing and active cases are rapidly declining.
  • States like Karnataka and Telangana are improving their recovery rates consistently, despite fluctuations.
  • Every state and local administration has to keep eternal vigil and double down on containment and testing.
  • They have to aggressively improve their contact tracing efforts with the help of their police who are trained in debriefing, call record mapping and have more manpower than public health departments of local administrations.

The article contains the policy and governance aspects which are important from Mains Paper-2, and economic issues such as the size of the package and opportunity cost of time involved are important from the Mains Paper-3 perspective. Take note of these issues.

What should be the strategy?

  • Given the scale and variation in infection control across the country, our national strategy needs to be informed and calibrated.
  • Currently, there are more than 300 districts in the country which have reported zero COVID-19 cases.
  • This can be confirmed quickly with some random testing and the lockdown can be lifted effective immediately.
  • Then there are about 225 districts which have reported less than 10 cases each.
  • With adequate ring-fencing at the level of the block where these cases are reported, these districts too can afford to lift their lockdowns.
  • There are, however, approximately 30 districts across the country which have reported large numbers of confirmed cases and are identified as “hotspots”.
  • The lockdown in these places needs to continue with some relaxations for basic trade and essential services.
  • Not surprisingly, these “hotspots” are also important economic centres of the country.
  • The capacity of the local administration to develop and enforce appropriate strategies of containment, contact tracing and testing, should determine their decisions to ring-fence and isolate blocks while allowing other parts of the district/city to resume economic activity.

Way forward

  • Given the uncertainty of the virus, we seem prepared for large hospitalisation and care if the need arises.
  • The efforts now must be to further contain the growth of the infection.
  • Acting against the power of compounding: If the current rate persists, we will reach over lakh cases within three weeks. That is the power of compounding we are against.
  • Public health support team: Beyond knowledge sharing across states and adopting successful containment strategies from each other, there is a role for the central government in providing “NSG-like” public health support teams to states that need them.
  • Economic package: On the economy front similarly, the central government’s timely economic package should flatten the curve of exponentially rising opportunity costs across the sectors.

Conclusion

Given the relative scale and virulence of the COVID-19 virus in India, the odds seem stacked in favour of a calibrated opening of the economy.

 

J&K – The issues around the state

ECI vague on whether J&K is part of Electoral College of President’s electionPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Electoral College of President

Mains level : President’s election and impeachment process


The Election Commission of India (ECI) has replied ambiguously to an RTI query if the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir will be part of the Electoral College for the election of the President of India.

This newscard invokes our basic GYAN acquired from the holy ‘Indian Polity’ by M. Laxmikanth. After reading this, ask yourself questions about the following :

1) What comprises the electoral college of the President of India?

2) Cases where the Constitutional Amendment Acts are required and wherever not

What did ECI say?

  • The RTI request sought a list of the State and UTs Legislative Assemblies which were part of the Electoral College for the election of the President.
  • The query also asked the EC to clarify whether the newly-formed UT of Jammu and Kashmir was part of the Electoral College.
  • The EC sent a single-line response, merely saying- for the information, the applicant may be informed to refer Article 54 of the Constitution of India.

What is Article 54 of the Constitution?

  • Under Article 54, the President is elected by an Electoral College, which consists of the elected members of both Houses of Parliament and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of all the States and also of NCT of Delhi and the UT of Puducherry.
  • The art. 54, thus, only specifically mentions NCT of Delhi and Puducherry as eligible to be part of the Electoral College.
  • There is no word about the newly-formed UTs of J&K and Ladakh.

Ambiguity over J&K

  • The J&K Reorganization Act, which came into existence from August 2019, does not specify anything about whether the legislature of J&K would be able to vote in the election for a President.
  • A passing mention is made in Section 13 of the 2019 Act, which claims that J&K Legislature would have the same powers as its Puducherry counterpart.
  • The astonishing thing to note is that not a single MP in the parliamentary debate has pointed out this fact yet.

A constitutional amendment is required

  • Inclusion of new members in the Electoral College in Article 54 would require a Constitutional Amendment to be carried out through two-thirds majority in Parliament and ratification by over 50% of the States.
  • This matter involves principles of federalism, hence constitutional amendment is a must.
  • Delhi and Puducherry were included as Electoral College members under Article 54 through the Constitution (Seventieth) Amendment Act of 1992.
  • Before that, Article 54 consisted of only the elected Members of Parliament as well as the Legislative Assemblies of the States.

Back2Basics: Presidential Election in India

  • The President is elected by an Electoral College, which consists of the elected members of both Houses of Parliament and the elected members of the Legislative Assemblies of all the States and also of NCT of Delhi and the UT of Puducherry.
  • The authority to conduct elections to the Office of President is vested in the Election Commission of India.
  • The election of the President is held in accordance with the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote and the voting at such election shall be by secret ballot.

  • The notification calling the election to the office of the President can be issued by the Election Commission on any day within the period of sixty days before the expiry of the term of office.
  • The election schedule shall be so fixed, that the President-elect is able to enter upon his office on the day following the expiry of the term of the outgoing President.

With inputs from: TOI

Posted on | The Hindu
Roads, Highways, Cargo, Air-Cargo and Logistics infrastructure – Bharatmala, LEEP, SetuBharatam, etc.

National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP)Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP)

Mains level : Read the attached story


  • To augment infrastructure and create jobs in the country, the government task force on National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), which in its report projected total investment of Rs 111 lakh crore in infra projects over five years.
  • It said that 18 per cent of the targeted investment is expected to be made in the road sector.

It is estimated that India would need to spend $4.5 trillion on infrastructure by 2030 to sustain its growth rate. The endeavour of the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), is to make this happen in an efficient manner.

What is the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP)?

  • NIP includes economic and social infrastructure projects.
  • During the fiscals 2020 to 2025, sectors such as Energy (24%), Roads (19%), Urban (16%), and Railways (13%) amount to around 70% of the projected capital expenditure in infrastructure in India.
  • It has outlined plans to invest more than ₹102 lakh crore on infrastructure projects by 2024-25, with the Centre, States and the private sector to share the capital expenditure in a 39:39:22 formula.

Key benefits of NIP

  • Economic: Well-planned NIP will enable more infra projects, grow businesses, create jobs, improve ease of living, and provide equitable access to infrastructure for all, making growth more inclusive.
  • Government: Well-developed infrastructure enhances the level of economic activity, creates additional fiscal space by improving the revenue base of the government, and ensures the quality of expenditure focused in productive areas.
  • Developers: Provides a better view of project supply, provides time to be better prepared for project bidding, reduces aggressive bids/ failure in project delivery, ensures enhanced access to sources of finance as a result of increased investor confidence.
  • Banks/financial institutions (F1s)/investors: Builds investor confidence as identified projects are likely to be better prepared, exposures less likely to suffer stress given active project monitoring, thereby less likelihood of NPAs.

Projects include

  • The report contains recommendations on general and sector reforms relating to key infrastructure sectors for implementation by the Centre and states.
  • These projects will be implemented under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP), a first of its kind exercise, by consulting states, relevant ministries and departments.
  • Three committees will be set up to monitor project progress, eliminate delays, and find ways to raise resources, along with a steering committee in each of the infrastructure ministries.
  • Sectors such as energy (24%), roads (18%), urban (17%) and railways (12%) amount to around 71% of the projected investments.
  • The projects will also be spread across sectors such as irrigation, mobility, education, health, water and the digital sector.
Posted on | Live Mint
Textile Sector – Cotton, Jute, Wool, Silk, Handloom, etc.

Rebate of State Levies (ROSL) SchemePriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rebate of State Levies (ROSL) Scheme

Mains level : Textile sector of India and its global competitiveness


The Department of Revenue has allowed the release of pending Rebate of State Levies (RoSL) worth Rs 464.13 crore to garment exporters.

We may expect a prelim question like- “The Rebate of State Levies (ROSL) Scheme is related to which of the following industrial sector? ” with some unrelatedly looking options.

Rebate of State Levies (ROSL) Scheme

  • Last year, the Union Cabinet has approved the Scheme to Rebate State and Central Embedded Taxes to Support the Textile Sector.
  • The scheme aimed to reimburse the State levies that garment and made-up exports incurred.
  • But it was discontinued on and replaced with the Rebate of State and Central Taxes and Levies scheme.

Why was such a scheme needed?

  • ROSL plays a vital role for the exporters by providing zero-rated taxation on apparel and made-up products.
  • This scheme enabled the exporters to increase traffic, enhance competitiveness among the global market, and compete against countries such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam, who enjoy zero taxation.
  • This also benefits the traders who export to the European Union (EU), India’s largest export market for the apparel sector, facing a tariff variation of 9.6 per cent.
GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

Kashmir saffron gets GI tagPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kashmir Saffron

Mains level : GI tags and their significance


Kashmir saffron has been given the Geographical Indication (GI) tag by the Geographical Indications Registry.

Must read:

GI Tags in news for 2020 Prelims

All time GI tags in news

Kashmir saffron

  • It is cultivated and harvested in the Karewa (highlands) in some regions of Kashmir, including Pulwama, Budgam, Kishtwar and Srinagar.
  • It is a very precious and costly product. Iran is the largest producer of saffron and India is a close competitor.
  • It rejuvenates health and is used in cosmetics and for medicinal purposes.
  • It has been associated with traditional Kashmiri cuisine and represents the rich cultural heritage of the region.
  • Saffron cultivation is believed to have been introduced in Kashmir by Central Asian immigrants around 1st Century BCE. In ancient Sanskrit literature, saffron is referred to as ‘bahukam’.

3 Types

The saffron available in Kashmir is of three types —

  • ‘Lachha Saffron’, with stigmas just separated from the flowers and dried without further processing;
  • ‘Mongra Saffron’, in which stigmas are detached from the flower, dried in the sun and processed traditionally; and
  • ‘Guchhi Saffron’, which is the same as Lachha, except that the latter’s dried stigmas are packed loosely in air-tight containers while the former has stigmas joined together in a bundle tied with a cloth thread

Whats’ so special about Kashmir Saffron?

  • The unique characteristics of Kashmir saffron are its longer and thicker stigmas, natural deep-red colour, high aroma, bitter flavour, chemical-free processing, and high quantity of crocin (colouring strength), safranal (flavour) and picrocrocin (bitterness).
  • It is the only saffron in the world grown at an altitude of 1,600 m to 1,800 m AMSL (above mean sea level), which adds to its uniqueness and differentiates it from other saffron varieties available the world over.
Posted on | The Hindu
Global Geological And Climatic Events

[pib] River erosion in Ladakh HimalayasMains OnlyPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Himalayan rivers, Zanskar Padam

Mains level : Read the attached story


Indian researchers have studied rivers in Ladakh Himalaya, bringing out 35 thousand-year histories of river erosion and identified hotspots of erosion and wide valleys that act buffer zones.

Click here to read more about the Himalayan river systems and its orogeny

Erosion hotspot: Ladakh region

  • The Ladakh Himalaya forms a high altitude desert between Greater Himalayan ranges and Karakoram Ranges.
  • The Indus and its tributaries are major rivers flowing through the terrain.
  • The Zanskar River is one of the largest tributaries of the upper Indus catchment, draining orthogonally through highly deformed Zanskar ranges.

Zanskar: A major river in Ladakh

  • Two prominent tributaries of Zanskar River are the Doda and Tsrap Lingti Chu, which confluence at Padam village in the upper valley to form the Zanskar River.
  • Zanskar catchment was explored to understand the landform evolution in the transitional climatic zone, using morpho-stratigraphy and study of landforms like valley fill terraces, alluvial fans (triangle-shaped deposit of gravel, sand, and even smaller pieces of sediment, such as silt).

Zanskar Padam

  • Zanskar river makes a deep gorge in its lower reaches with the headwaters in upper Zanskar makes wide basin called as Padam.
  • The basin stores large amount of sediments in form of fans and river terrace deposits
  • The research suggested that the wide valley of Padam, with an area of 48 square km, in the upper Zanskar, has stored a vast amount of sediments in these landforms.
  • Thus Padam valley is a hotspot of sediment buffering in the Zanskar.

Sediment study reveals the erosion

  • The study suggested that most sediments were derived from Higher Himalayan crystalline that lies in the headwater region of Zanskar.
  • It was found out that dominant factors responsible for sediment erosion were deglaciation and Indian Summer Monsoon derived precipitation in the headwaters despite the presence of a geomorphic barrier (the deep, narrow gorge).

Significance of the study

  • The scientists have traced where the rivers draining Himalaya and its foreland erode the most and identify the zones that receive these eroded sediments and fill up.
  • The study will help understand river-borne erosion and sedimentation, which are the main drivers that make large riverine plains, terraces, and deltas that eventually become the cradle to evolving civilizations.
  • It will also help study the dynamics of devastating floods created by these Himalayan rivers in recent times.
  • Thus, the understanding of water and sediment routing becomes crucial while developing infrastructure and for other development works in the river catchment area.
Posted on | Custom
Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

[pib] Year of Awareness on Science & Health (YASH) ProgramPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : YASH Program

Mains level : NA


National Council for Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC) has launched a programme on health and risk communication ‘Year of Awareness on Science & Health (YASH)’ with focus on COVID-19.

There are various initiatives named with Hindi acronyms. YASH is newer among them. It is very unlikely to frame a prelim question on it. Still, we should know it for the sake of general awareness.

YASH Program

  • YASH is a comprehensive and effective science and health communication effort for promoting grass-root level appreciation and response to health.
  • The current pandemic scenario has posed concerns and challenges all around, where scientific awareness and health preparedness play a significant role to help combat the situation.
  • This requires translation and usage of authentic scientific information to convey the risks involved and facilitates communities to overcome the situation.
  • The programme will encompass the development of science, health, and risk communication software, publications, audio-visual, digital platforms, folk performances, trained communicators, especially in regional languages to cater to various cross-sections of the society in the country.
  • It would help to save and shaping the lives of people at large, as well as build confidence, inculcate a scientific temper and promote health consciousness among them.

Activities under YASH

  • The programme is aimed at minimizing risks at all levels with the help of public communication and outreach activities.
  • It would promote public understanding of common minimum science for community care and health safety measures like personal sanitation and hygiene, physical distancing, maintaining desired collective behaviour and so on.
  • It also includes information dissemination mechanisms to reduce the fear of risks and build confidence with necessary understanding for adopting sustainable healthy lifestyles and nurturing scientific culture among masses and societies.
Posted on | Custom
Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[pib] Kisan Sabha App to Connect Farmers to Supply Chain and Freight TransportationPIB

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kisan Sabha App and its purpose

Mains level : Technology intervention for supply-chain dynamics of farm produces in India


Kisan Sabha App developed by CSIR to connect farmers to supply chain and freight transportation management system was recently launched.

Initiatives as such are less likely to be asked in the prelims as the name and purpose create no different analogy. But for the sake of information and mains perspective, it is vital to remember such technology interventions while emphasizing on Agricultural marketing reforms.

Kisan Sabha App

  • Kisan Sabha aims to provide the most economical and timely logistics support to the farmers and increase their profit margins by minimizing the interference of middlemen and directly connecting with the institutional buyers.
  • It will also help in providing the best market rates of crops by comparing nearest mandis, booking of freight vehicle at the cheapest cost thereby giving maximum benefit to the farmers.
  • The portal connects the farmers, transporters, Service providers (like pesticides/ fertilizer/ dealers, cold store and warehouse owner), mandi dealers, customers and other related entities for a timely and effective solution.
  • The app has 6 major modules taking care of Farmers/Mandi Dealers/Transporters/Mandi Board Members/ Service Providers/Consumers.

Facilities provided by the app

  • The portal acts as a single stop for every entity related to agriculture, be they a farmer who needs better price for the crops or mandi dealer who wants to connect to more farmers or truckers who invariably go empty from the mandis.
  • It provides a platform for people who want to buy directly from the farmers.
  • It would also prove to be useful for those associated with cold store(s) or godown(s).
Posted on | Custom