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September 2020

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

Lessons from Bihar’s abolition of its APMC system for farmers


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 3- Agri marketing and related issue

The article analyses the results of complete abolition of APMC in Bihar in the context of current protest against the agri bills.


  • Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 has been a source of anger among farmers.
  • By allowing unregulated trading areas beyond APMC mandis, the law seeks to remove intermediaries from agricultural trade and raise price realization for farmers.

Excessive politicization of APMCs

  • APMC’s excessive politicization has resulted in cartelization and price-fixing.
  • For this reason, there have been several attempts at reforming their functioning.
  • Easier licensing norms, the removal of entry and exit barriers and computerization and transparency have been introduced in most APMC markets.
  • However, the Bihar government decided to abolish the APMC system altogether in 2006.

Analysing the impact of abolition of APMC in Bihar

  • It was hoped that abolition would ensure better prices for farmers of the state and attract large sums of private investment.
  • Before their abolition, Bihar had 95 market yards, of which 54 had infrastructure such as covered yards, godowns and administrative buildings, weighbridges, and processing as well as grading units.
  •  With no revenue to maintain it, that infrastructure is now in a dilapidated condition.
  •  A study by the National Council for Applied Economic Research reported increased volatility in grain prices after 2006.
  • Most of the farmers surveyed reported high storage costs at private warehouses.
  • Farmers this year in Bihar received lower price for maize compared to the farmers in states with APMC.

Lessons from Bihar

  • The Bihar experiment has important lessons for future marketing reforms in agriculture.
  • The benefits of these reforms will only accrue to farmers if they are accompanied by private investment in creating the physical infrastructure and institutional mechanisms needed to allow for greater participation of farmers.
  • The record of states on attracting private investment isn’t much better.


By only attempting to shift trade away from APMC to non-APMC areas, without a regulatory framework, the new law is unlikely to ensure better price realization for farmers.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

India needs a China plan


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-China relations

The article discusses the issue of dealing with China in the aftermath of clashes on the border.

Understanding the importance of Tibet

  • Tibet is the roof of the world, with vast mineral and natural resources.
  • The mighty rivers that emanate from its expansive glaciers — such as the Brahmaputra, the Yangtse, the Yellow river, the Mekong, the Salween and the Indus — together with thousands of their tributaries have nurtured civilisations in peripheral countries for centuries.
  • The Kailash Mansarovar is centered in this region.
  • In an act of naked aggression, China occupied Tibet in 1959.
  • A buffer was eliminated, and the de facto boundary of China became contiguous to that of India.
  • That boundary was deliberately left undemarcated to enable further expansion.

Understanding China’s stand

  • China has land borders with 14 neighbours covering an estimated 22,100 kilometres.
  • Post-independence, and as its economic status increased, so did its military muscle.
  • China embarked on claims based on perceived imbalances of treaties forced on countries when they were weak.
  • Some of these have since been resolved after bloody clashes such as with Russia and Vietnam, while others have been resolved using a combination of lucrative offers.
  • Russia accepted half of China’s claim, Kazakhstan was given lucrative economic deals, Kyrgyzstan retained 70% of the land, ceding just 30%, and so on.

Way forward

  • The road ahead will have to be evolved and based on a study of the manner in which China has negotiated its boundary disputes with 12 of its neighbours.
  • Under the prevailing circumstances, it has become imperative to form a group of experts.
  • This group will plan and prepare, short-, medium- and long-term goals to achieve them within a suggested time frame.


Let us play down the rhetoric and adopt a pragmatic approach. It can no longer be a part-time issue to be addressed only when a crisis occurs. The crisis is upon us now.

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

Environmentalism at the core


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Sustainable Development

Mains level : Paper 3- Sustainable development

The article explains the importance of focusing on the green supply chain for ensuring sustainability along with the progress of the organisations.

Sustainability as an essential issue

  • The U.N’s. Millennium Development Goals and the World Bank Group’s global practices have recognised sustainability as an essential issue of global importance.
  • Economic, social and other forms of sustainability have evolved over the years, but it is environmental sustainability that has gained significant popularity.

Economy and sustainability

  • Some firms have positioned environmental practices at the forefront due to legislation, and industry and government commitments.
  • Several firms have prioritised environmental practices due to compelling regulatory norms, and a potential to manage costs, risks and optimise eco-friendly practices.
  • However, organisations in the manufacturing sector focus on waste reduction and energy efficiency improvements excessively and fail to see the big picture of environmentalism.

Adopting green supply chains for long-lasting benefits

  • Only through organisational learning can people be urged to work towards long-lasting benefits.
  • In this context, green supply chain practices are useful.
  • These include green procurement, green manufacturing, green distribution, and reverse logistics.
  • With practices starting from acquisition of eco-friendly raw material to disposal/ reuse/ recycle of used products, employees, suppliers, distributors, retailers and customers will be able to integrate environmental concerns in the daily operations of a firm.
  • Thus, green supply chain practices enable organisational learning in environmental sustainability.
  •  Research shows that the positive impacts of environmentalism can only be felt in the long term when they get embedded into organisational learning systems through green supply chain practices.
  • The resultant learning system smoothens the knowledge flow in the organisation.

Focusing on linkages

  • Linkages between green supply chain practices, corporate environmental performance, corporate economic performance is necessary for an organisation’s progress and environmental protection.
  • When the different players of a manufacturing supply chain realise the inherent benefits associated with organisational learning dimensions, their drive towards environmentalism increases.


Policymakers should support this thinking by not merely imposing environmental practices as regulatory norms but by emphasising on the creation of green supply chain-based learning systems in manufacturing.

Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Produce

Explained: How is MSP fixed?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MSP

Mains level : Fixation of MSP and its legal backing

The recently enacted Farmers bill seeks to dismantle the monopoly of APMC mandis, thereby allowing sale and purchase of crops outside these state government-regulated market yards. This has prompted many fears regarding the continuance of the existing minimum support price (MSP)-based procurement regime.

Try this PYQ:

Q.There is also a point of view that agriculture produce market committees (APMCs) set up under the state acts have not only impeded the development of agriculture but also have been the cause of food inflation in India. Critically examine. (UPSC 2014)

What does the law say about MSP?

  • The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill does not give any statutory backing to MSP.
  • There is not even a single mention of either “MSP” or “procurement” in the Bill passed by both Houses of Parliament last week.

Is there any legal backing for MSP?

  • MSP, by contrast, is devoid of any legal backing. Access to it, unlike subsidised grains through the PDS, isn’t an entitlement for farmers.
  • They cannot demand it as a matter of right.

What is the basis of MSP then?

  • It is only a government policy that is part of administrative decision-making.
  • The government declares MSPs for crops, but there’s no law mandating their implementation.
  • The Centre currently fixes MSPs for 23 farm commodities based on the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) recommendations:
  1. 7 cereals (paddy, wheat, maize, bajra, jowar, ragi and barley)
  2. 5 pulses (chana, arhar/tur, urad, moong and masur)
  3. 7 oilseeds (rapeseed-mustard, groundnut, soyabean, sunflower, sesamum, safflower and nigerseed) and
  4. 4 commercial crops (cotton, sugarcane, copra and raw jute) —

What about CACP?

  • The CACP come to existence in 1965 and MSPs are being announced since the time of the Green Revolution, starting with wheat in 1966-67.
  • The CACP is simply an attached office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
  • It can recommend MSPs, but the decision on fixing (or even not fixing) and enforcement rest finally with the government.
  • The government can procure at the MSPs if it wants to. There is no legal compulsion. Nor can it force others (private traders, organised retailers, processors or exporters) to pay.

Exceptions to MSP: Fair and remunerative price (FRP)

  • The only crop where MSP payment has some statutory element is sugarcane.
  • This is due to its pricing being governed by the Sugarcane (Control) Order, 1966 issued under the Essential Commodities Act.
  • That order, in turn, provides for the fixation of an FRP for cane during every sugar year (October-September).
  • But even the FRP — which, incidentally, was until 2008-09 called the ‘statutory minimum price’ or SMP — is payable not by the government.
  • The responsibility to make FRP payment to farmers within 14 days of cane purchase lies solely with the sugar mills.

Has there been any move to give MSP legislative backing?

  • The CACP, in its price policy report for the 2018-19 Kharif marketing season, had suggested enactment of legislation conferring on farmers ‘The Right to Sell at MSP’.
  • This, it felt, was necessary “to instil confidence among farmers for procurement of their produce”. That advice, predictably, wasn’t accepted.

A cause for farmers fury

  • The ongoing farmer protests essentially reflect a loss of that very confidence.
  • Is the dismantling of the monopoly of APMC mandis in wholesale trading of farm produce the first step at ending even the present MSP-based procurement programme, largely limited to wheat and paddy?
  • If APMCs were to turn unviable due to the trades moving outside, how will government agencies undertake procurement that now takes place in mandis?
  • These questions are playing in the minds of farmers, particularly in states such as Punjab, Haryana and MP that have well-established systems of governmental MSP purchases.
  • For them, freedom to sell to anyone, anywhere and anytime has little value compared to the comfort of assured procurement at MSP.

Govt’s response

  • PM has tweeted that the “system of MSP will remain” and “government procurement will continue”.
  • The Agriculture Minister, too, has pointed out that past governments never thought it necessary to introduce a law for MSP.

International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

NASA’s Sonification Project


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Data Sonification

Mains level : Data Sonification and its applications

While telescopes offer glimpses of outer space by translating digital data into stunning images, NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Center (CXC) has gone a step further by unveiling a new ‘sonification’ project that transforms data from astronomical images into audio.

Don’t get confused with the ‘Chandra‘ considering it as an ISRO Project.

What is the project?

  • Users can now ‘listen’ to images of the Galactic Centre, the remains of a supernova called Cassiopeia A, as well as the Pillars of Creation Nebula, which are all located in a region around 26,000 light-years away from Earth.
  • The data has been collected by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory, Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope — each of which is represented by a different musical ‘instrument’.

What is data sonification?

  • Data sonification refers to the use of sound values to represent real data. Simply put, it is the auditory version of data visualization.
  • In NASA’s recent Chandra project, for instance, data is represented using a number of musical notes.
  • With this data sonification project, users can now experience different phenomena captured in astronomical images as an aural experience.
  • The birth of a star, a cloud of dust or even a black hole can now be ‘heard’ as a high or low pitched sound.

How did NASA translate astronomical images into sound?

  • NASA’s distant telescopes in space collect inherently digital data, in the form of ones and zeroes, before converting them into images.
  • The images are essentially visual representations of light and radiation of different wavelengths in space, that can’t be seen by the human eye.
  • The Chandra project has created a celestial concert of sorts by translating the same data into sound. Pitch and volume are used to denote the brightness and position of a celestial object or phenomenon.
  • So far, the astronomers behind Project Chandra have released three examples made using data collected from some of the most distinct features in the sky — the Galactic Centre, Cassiopeia A, and Pillars of Creation Nebula.

(1) The Galactic Centre

  • The first example is that of the Galactic Centre, which the rotational centre of the Milky Way galaxy is.
  • It comprises a collection of celestial objects — neutron and white dwarf stars, clouds of dust and gas, and most notably, a supermassive black hole called Sagittarius A*, that weighs four million times the mass of the sun.
  • Based on data gathered by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes, an image is rendered using X-ray, visible and infrared light before being translated into sound.
  • The translation begins on the left side of the image and then moves to the right.
  • Stars and other compact sources are represented using individual short notes, while a longer humming sound is used to denote clouds of gas and dust.

(2) Cassiopeia A

  • Located around 11,000 light-years away from Earth in the northern Cassiopeia constellation, Cassiopeia A is one of the most well-known remnants of a once-massive star that was destroyed by a supernova explosion around 325 years ago.
  • The image shows the supernova remnant as a ball of different coloured filaments.
  • Each colour represents a particular element — red is used for silicon, yellow for sulfur, purple denotes iron, while green is used for calcium. Each of these filaments is also assigned its own unique sound.
  • Unlike with the sonification of the Galactic Centre, where the translation plays from left to right, here the sounds move outwards from the centre of the circular structure.

(3) The Pillars of Creation

  • The iconic Pillars of Creation is located in the centre of the Eagle Nebula, which is also known as Messier 16.
  • The Hubble Star Telescope was used for images of the celestial structure, which comprises wispy towers of cosmic dust and gas.
  • Here too, different colours are used to represent elements — blue for oxygen, red for sulphur and green for both nitrogen and hydrogen.
  • Like with the Galactic Centre, this sound translation also plays from left to right. However, the sound has an eerie effect, with sharp whistles representing stars and low howls indicating the presence of gas clouds.

Significance of the project

  • The sonification project aims to “incorporate NASA science content into the learning environment effectively and efficiently for learners of all ages”.
  • Over the years, NASA has been working towards making data about space accessible for a larger audience.
  • The projects like this allow audiences — including visually-impaired communities — to experience space through data.

Back2Basics: Chandra X-Ray Observatory

  • The Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO) is a Flagship-class space telescope launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-93 by NASA on July 23, 1999.
  • Chandra is sensitive to X-ray sources 100 times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope, enabled by the high angular resolution of its mirrors.
  • Since the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs the vast majority of X-rays, they are not detectable from Earth-based telescopes; therefore space-based telescopes are required to make these observations.
  • Chandra is an Earth satellite in a 64-hour orbit, and its mission is ongoing as of 2020.
  • The telescope is named after the Nobel Prize-winning Indian astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.

Judicial Pendency

What are Lok Adalats?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Lok Adalat

Mains level : Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms in India

A daily wager in Odisha has moved the Lok Adalat against PM after he allegedly failed to get an Aadhaar card registered in his name despite 21 attempts.

Try this PYQ:

Q. With reference to National Legal Services Authority, consider the following statements:

  1. Its objective is to provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections of the society on the basis of equal opportunity.
  2. It issues guidelines for the State Legal Services Authorities to implement the legal programmes and schemes throughout the country.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) Both 1 and 2

(d) Neither 1 nor 2

What are Lok Adalats?

  • Lok Adalat (People’s Court) is an alternative dispute resolution mechanism.
  • The forum can settle cases pending on panchayat or at a pre-litigation stage in a court of law.
  • The decisions have statutory status under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.
  • Under this Act, the award (decision) made by the Lok Adalats is deemed to be a case of a civil court, final and binding for all parties, and not subject to appeal.
  • It has broad powers to devise its procedures, compared to national courts.
  • If the parties do not recognise the Lok Adalat (though there is no provision for an appeal against such a prize), they may initiate litigation by approaching the court of appropriate jurisdiction.

What is a Yo-Yo Test?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Yo-Yo Test

Mains level : NA

In his interaction with fitness experts and influencers the PM asked about the yo-yo test, that is a vital part of the Indian cricket team’s fitness routine.

Try this MCQ:

Q.The Yo-Yo test sometimes seen in news is related to:

Sports/ Healthcare/ Robotics/ Automation

What is the Yo-Yo test?

  • The test was developed by Danish football physiologist Jens Bangsbo.
  • Two cones are placed 20 metres apart, and the athlete has to run between them when the beep goes off.
  • The beeps become more frequent after one minute, and if the athlete fails to reach the line within that time, he is expected to catch up within two more beeps.
  • The test is stopped if the player fails to catch up before the beeps run out.
  • The test has a beginner and an advanced level, and players are given scores. The minimum score set by the Board of Control for Cricket in India to pass the test is 16.1.

Location in news: English Channel


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : English Channel

Mains level : NA

Hundreds of migrants have taken advantage of the warm weather and calm seas in the English Channel to reach the UK in a flurry of small boat crossings.

Try this PYQ:

Q.Which one of the following pairs of islands is separated from each other by the ‘Ten Degree Channel’?

(a) Andaman and Nicobar

(b) Nicobar and Sumatra

(c) Maldives and Lakshadweep

(d) Sumatra and Java

English Channel

  • The English Channel is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France.
  • It links to the southern part of the North Sea by the Strait of Dover at its northeastern end.
  • It is the busiest shipping area in the world.
  • It is about 560 km long and varies in width from 240 km at its widest to 34 km in the Strait of Dover.
  • It is the smallest of the shallow seas around the continental shelf of Europe.