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

Agri exports in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Generalised System of Preference

Mains level : Paper 3- Agri-exports

Context

The Indian government has been encouraging agricultural exports to meet an ambitious target of $60bn by 2022.

India’s agri-exports

  • The Ministry of Food Processing Industries shows that the contribution of agricultural and processed food products in India’s total exports is 11%.
  • Primary processed agricultural commodities form the majority share.
  • India’s export earnings will increase by focusing more on value-added processed food products rather than primary processed agricultural commodities (Siraj Hussain, 2021).
  • From 2015-16 to 2019-20, the value of agricultural and processed food increased significantly from $17.8bn to $20.65bn.
  • The Indian agricultural economy is shifting from primary to secondary agriculture where the focus is more on developing various processed foods.

Changes in India’s agricultural export basket

  • Traditionally, Basmati rice is one of the top export commodities.
  • However, now there is an unusual spike in the export of non-basmati rice.
  • In 2020-21, India exported 13.09 million tonnes of non-basmati rice ($4.8bn), up from an average 6.9 million tonnes ($2.7bn) in the previous five years.
  • Indian buffalo meat is seeing a strong demand in international markets due to its lean character and near organic nature.
  • The export potential of buffalo meat is tremendous, especially in countries like Vietnam, Hong Kong and Indonesia.

Challenges in Increasing agri-export

  • Lack of comparative advantage: The export of processed food products has not been growing fast enough because India lacks comparative advantage in many items.
  •  Domestic prices of processed food products are much higher compared to the world reference prices.
  • Non-tariff measures: The exporters of processed food confront difficulties and non-tariff measures imposed by other countries on Indian exports (Siraj Hussain, 2021).
  • Some of these include mandatory pre-shipment examination by the Export Inspection Agency being lengthy and costly.
  • Compulsory spice board certification being needed even for ready-to-eat products.
  • Lack of strategic planning of exports by most State governments.
  • Lack of a predictable and consistent agricultural policy discouraging investments by the private sector.
  • Prohibition of import of meat- and dairy based-products in most of the developed countries.
  • Withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preference by the U.S. for import of processed food from India.

Consider the question “What are the challenges facing export of processed foods from India? Suggest the way forward.”

Way forward

  • The main objective of the Agriculture Export Policy is to diversify and expand the export basket so that the export of higher value items, including perishables and processed food, be increased
  • Support to industry: The policy needs to nurture food processing companies, ensuring low cost of production and global food quality standards, and creating a supportive environment to promote export of processed food.
  • Focus on reputed brands: Reputed Indian brands should be encouraged to export processed foods globally as they can comply with the global standard of codex.
  • Indian companies should focus on cost competitiveness, global food quality standards, technology, and tap the global processed food export market.

Conclusion

India has competitive advantages in various agricultural commodities which can be passed onto processed foods. It has the potential to become a global leader in the food processing sector.

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Contention over South China Sea

The big deal behind the ruckus over AUKUS

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : AUKUS, Quad

Mains level : Focus areas and challenges for AUKUS

The announcement of the new Australia-U.K.-U.S. (AUKUS) trilateral security pact has naturally generated animated debate in strategic circles, before the QUAD summit.

What is the AUKUS?

  • The first major initiative of AUKUS would be to deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia.
  • The nuclear-powered submarines will give Australia naval heft in the Pacific, where China has been particularly aggressive.
  • While the US and Britain have had the capability for decades, Australia has never had an n-sub.

Motive: To counter China

  • China has nuclear-powered submarines, as well as submarines that can launch nuclear missiles.
  • The three signatories to the AUKUS deal have made it clear though, that their aim is not to arm the new subs with nuclear weapons.
  • China has been one of Australia’s biggest trading partners, but the relationship has soured over the last few years.
  • It was in consideration of Chinese sensibilities that Australia had pulled out of the Malabar Naval Exercise with the US, India, and Japan after participating in the 2007 edition (of which Singapore too, was part).
  • Australia came back to Malabar in 2020, which marked the first time in 13 years that the navies of the four Quad nations war-gamed together.

Australia at the Centrestage

  • This is primarily because a nuclear-powered submarine gives a navy the capability to reach far out into the ocean and launch attacks.
  • A nuclear-powered submarine offers long distances dives, at a higher speed, without being detected gives a nation the ability to protect its interests far from its shores.
  • In the context of the AUKUS agreement, nuclear-powered submarines will give the Royal Australian Navy the capability to go into the South China Sea.
  • It conclusively puts to rest a long-standing domestic debate on whether it was time for Australia to assess China through the strategic lens, overcoming the purely mercantile considerations that tended to dominate its China policy.

What makes nuclear submarines so important?

  • A nuclear-powered submarine is classified as an “SSN” under the US Navy hull classification system, wherein ‘SS’ is the symbol for submarine, and ‘N’ stands for nuclear.
  • A nuclear-powered submarine that can launch ballistic missiles is called “SSBN”.
  • Conventional diesel-engine submarines have batteries that keep and propel — though not very fast — the vessel underwater. The life of these batteries can vary from a few hours to a few days.
  • The newer Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) submarines have additional fuel cells that allow them to stay underwater for longer and move faster than the conventional vessels.
  • However, the fuel cells are used only at strategic times, when the endurance to remain submerged is required.
  • Both conventional and AIP subs need to come to the surface to recharge their batteries using the diesel engine.
  • The diesel engine also propels the vessel on the surface. However, the fuel cells of AIP can only be charged at on-land stations, not while at sea.

Why is France unhappy about Australia getting these submarines?

  • The deal has complicated the relations between France and Australia, and also France and the US.
  • France is upset as it has been kept out of the loop. But, with the core objective of pushing back against China’s aggression, all five countries — US, UK, Australia, France and India — are on the same track.
  • The deal between France and Australia had been marked by delays and other issues.
  • The first submarine was expected to be operational around 2034.

Does India have nuclear-powered submarines?

  • Yes, India is among the six nations that have SSNs. The other five are the US, the UK, Russia, France and China.
  • India has had the capacity since it got the Soviet-built K-43 Charlie-class SSN in 1987.
  • Commissioned with the Red Fleet of the USSR in 1967, it was leased to the Indian Navy, and was rechristened INS Chakra. The submarine was decommissioned in 1991.

Indo-Pacific is the core issue

  • France, which like the UK has historically been an Indo-Pacific power with territories and bases across the region.
  • It has participated in a multi-nation naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal with the four Quad nations.
  • There is no gainsaying the fact that rapid accretion in China’s economic and military capacities, but more particularly its belligerence, has led to a tectonic shift in regional security paradigms.
  • Several countries have been obliged to review their defence preparedness in response to China’s rising military power and its adverse impact on regional stability.

A chance for the UK

  • The AUKUS pact is also an emphatic assertion of the relevance of the U.S.-Australia Security Treaty (ANZUS).
  • New Zealand, the outlier, walked away in 1984 from the treaty that ironically still bears its initials.
  • Its “nuclear-free” stance ran counter to the U.S. Navy’s non-disclosure policy in regard to nuclear weapons aboard visiting vessels.
  • Close ties notwithstanding, Australia’s future fleet of nuclear submarines will not be permitted access to New Zealand’s ports or waters, as averred by PM Jacinda Ardern.
  • AUKUS provides a fresh opportunity to the United Kingdom to reinsert itself more directly into the Indo-Pacific.
  • It is already a member of the Five Eyes (FVEY), an intelligence-sharing alliance built on Anglo-Saxon solidarity (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S.).

AUKUS is not a substitute for the Quad

  • It does not erode the Quad’s significance as a platform for consultations and coordination on broader themes of maritime security, free and open trade, health care, critical technologies, supply chains and capacity-building.
  • The AUKUS submarine deal, on the other hand, is an undiluted example of strategic defence collaboration, and a game-changer at that.

Chinese reception of AUKUS

  • China, expectedly, has strongly criticised AUKUS and the submarine deal as promoting instability and stoking an arms race.

The exposed double standards

  • China has the world’s fastest-growing fleet of sub-surface combatants.
  • This includes the Type 093 Shang-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) and the Type 094 nuclear-powered Jin-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN).
  • Its nuclear submarines are on the prowl in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Yet, China denies Australia and others the sovereign right to decide on their defence requirements.

What’s in the box of AUKUS?

Ans. Greater role for Australia

  • Australia’s proposed nuclear submarines will give quite a punch in terms of a stand-off capability.
  • The growing focus on anti-submarine warfare across a more expansive region is clearly altering calculations.
  • Australia’s nuclear submarines would help create a new balance of power in the Indo-Pacific, especially in tandem with the U.S. and the U.K.
  • It will now have a more meaningful naval deterrence of its own to protect its sovereign interests.
  • It is set to play a more robust role in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

Way forward

  • The setback ‘down under’ may spur France to focus afresh on partners such as India.
  • India must strike a balance between continuing imports and implementing the all-important Atmanirbhar Bharat in defence manufacturing.
  • France should take AUKUS as a business deal.
  • Its momentary reaction at the cancellation of the contract by Australia should soon subside.
  • As a major Indo-Pacific power, France is an important part of the regional security calculus.

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Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Kasturirangan panel for National Curriculum Framework

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Curriculum Framework (NCF)

Mains level : Need for curriculum revamp in India

The Centre has started the process to revise school textbooks by appointing former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Kasturirangan as the head of a 12-member steering committee responsible for developing a new National Curriculum Framework (NCF).

National Curriculum Framework (NCF)

  • The new NCF is in line with the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.
  • The committee will be headed by K Kasturirangan, who had also led the NEP 2020 drafting committee.
  • The national curriculum framework serves as a guideline for syllabus, textbooks, teaching and learning practices in the country.
  • India is currently following its fourth national curriculum framework that was published by the NCERT in 2005.

What was the last NCF?

  • The last such framework was developed in 2005.
  • It is meant to be a guiding document for the development of textbooks, syllabi and teaching practices in schools across the country.

Why revamp NCF?

  • The subsequent revision of textbooks by the National Council of Educational Research and Training will draw from the new NCF.
  • In fact, the steering committee will develop four such frameworks, one each to guide the curriculum of school education, teacher education, early childhood education, and adult education.

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Solar Energy – JNNSM, Solar Cities, Solar Pumps, etc.

Rooftop Solar Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Solar Rooftop Scheme

Mains level : Renewable Energy in India

India has added 521 megawatts (MW) of rooftop solar capacity in the second quarter (Q2) of the calendar year (CY) 2021, a 53% increase than earlier quarter showing good signs of popularity.

What is Solar Rooftop?

  • A solar photovoltaic (PV) system mounted on a rooftop of a building is a mini-power requirement or feed into the grid.
  • The size of the installation varies significantly depending on the availability of space, amount of electricity consumed by the property and the ability or willingness of the owner to invest the capital required.

Why rooftop?

  • Rooftop solar with a storage system is a benefit for both, end consumers as well as discoms (power distribution companies).
  • A one-kilowatt (kW) rooftop system can produce three to five units of electricity a day.
  • The combination increasingly becomes cost-effective for electricity generation compared to the traditional grid supply and diesel generators.
  • In 2021, solar and storage will be cheaper than grid supply for most commercial and industrial (C&I) customers.
  • The increase in penetration of rooftop solar in the distribution grid will have a significant impact on the stability of the grid.

A viable alternative

  • Most housing societies in urban India rely on diesel generators for power backup. However, as power availability improves in the country, diesel generators will become redundant.
  • The operational cost of diesel generators is quite high— R16-18 per unit against Rs 5-6 a unit for solar rooftop systems. So rooftop solar power makes financial sense.Solar rooftop is also a perfect solution for commercial and institutional buildings that operate mostly during the day.
  • Their rooftops can be utilized to generate electricity, and they can, partially or completely, replace diesel generators. This would also help them reduce their electricity bills.

Question of energy storage

  • In order to integrate rooftop solar and electric vehicles, the grid needs to be flexible and smart.
  • Energy storage systems will play a key role in providing this flexibility by acting as a load when there is a surplus generation, as well as generating sources when there is a supply shortage.
  • There are two major methods of integrating battery storage into the electric grid:
  1. Front-of-the-meter (FTM): It is implemented at the utility scale, wherein the battery system is connected to the transmission or distribution network that ensures grid reliability. This happens on a considerably large scale (~MWh scale).
  2. Behind-the-meter (BTM): The other method is implemented at the residential and commercial/industrial level, mainly to provide backup during a power failure or to store excess locally generated energy from solar rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems.

India’s storage capacity

  • About 34 GW / 136 GWh of battery storage is expected to be installed by 2030, according to the Central Electricity Authority of India.
  • This capacity would be used for RE integration, demand-side and peak load management services.

Storage challenges

  • The solar segment offers a huge market opportunity for advanced battery technologies.
  • However, manufacturers have some ground to cover in addressing technical limitations of batteries, such as charging characteristics, thermal performance and requirement of boost current to charge deep cycle batteries.
  • Since solar companies may directly procure batteries from manufacturers and require after-sale services and technical support, battery companies should have wider a presence to address these expectations.

Other key challenges

  • Rooftop solar source doesn’t match the rise in renewable energy in India.
  • While industrial and commercial consumers account for 70% of total installed capacity residential consumers remain a big untapped potential to give the boost
  • Solar rooftops also face several challenges such as little consumer awareness, lack of innovative government policies or attention, bureaucratic hassles, and limited support from discoms.

Way forward

  • Supportive policies and innovative technological approaches are needed for the sector to achieve its potential.
  • Indian policymakers need to plan for rooftop solar plus storage, rather than rooftop solar alone with the grid as storage (net / gross metering).
  • The declining cost of storage solutions, along with that of rooftop solar solutions, is likely to change the future of the Indian power sector.
  • Several countries such as Australia, the United States, Germany, among others have already endorsed solar power with battery storage.
  • Energy storage, therefore, represents a huge economic opportunity for India.
  • The creation of a conducive battery manufacturing ecosystem on a fast track could cement India’s opportunity for radical economic and industrial transformation in a critical and fast-growing global market.

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Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Key Findings about the Religious Composition of India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Demographic transition of India

Mains level : Minority population issues

The religious composition of India’s population since Partition has remained largely stable according to a new study published by the Pew Research Centre, a non-profit based in Washington DC.

About the report

  • The study, based on data sourced from India’s decennial census and the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), looked at the three main factors that are known to cause changes in the religious composition of populations — fertility rate, migration, and conversions.
  • Both Hindus and Muslims, the two largest religious groups, shown not only a marked decline but also a convergence in fertility rates.
  • In terms of absolute numbers, every major religion in India saw its numbers rise.

Significance of the report

  • These findings, which come as a complement on religious tolerance and segregation in India.
  • It is significant in the context of two major issues that have occupied centre stage in recent times — the controversy over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).
  • This report also gives a strong message to those fundamentalists who perceive India as a living hell for minorities.

Key findings

(a) Fertility Rates are declining

  • With regard to fertility rates, the study found that Muslims, who had the highest fertility rate, also had the sharpest decline in fertility rates.
  • From 1992 to 2015, the total fertility rates of Muslims declined from 4.4 to 2.6, while that of Hindus declined from 3.3 to 2.1.
  • This indicates that the gaps in childbearing between India’s religious groups are much smaller than they used to be.
  • The average fertility rate in India today is 2.2, which is higher than the rates in economically advanced countries such as the U.S. (1.6), but much lower than what it was in 1992 (3.4) or 1951 (5.9).

(b) Marked slowdown

  • Although growth rates have declined for all of India’s major religious groups, the slowdown has been more pronounced among religious minorities, who outpaced Hindus in earlier decades.
  • From 2001 to 2011, the difference in growth between Muslims (24.7%) and Indians overall (17.7%) was 7 percentage points.
  • India’s Christian population grew at the slowest pace of the three largest groups in the most recent census decade — gaining 15.7% between 2001 and 2011, a far lower growth rate than the one recorded in the decade following Partition (29.0%).

(c) ‘No’ Religions group

  • Interestingly, out of India’s total population of 1,200 million, about 8 million did not belong to any of the six major religious groups.
  • Within this category, mostly comprising adivasi people, the largest grouping was of Sarnas (nearly 5 million adherents), followed by Gond (1 million) and Sari Dharma (5,10,000).

(d) Migration

  • The study says that since the 1950s, migration has had only a modest impact on India’s religious composition.
  • More than 99% of people who live in India were also born in India, and migrants leaving India outnumber immigrants three-to-one, with “Muslims more likely than Hindus to leave India”, while “immigrants into India from Muslim-majority counties are disproportionately Hindu.”

(e) Religious conversions

  • Religious conversion has also had a negligible impact on India’s overall composition, with 98% of Indian adults still identifying with the religion in which they were raised.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

What is Havana Syndrome?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Havana Syndrome

Mains level : Sonic Warfare tactics

A US intelligence officer traveling with CIA director William Burns has reported symptoms of Havana Syndrome.

What is Havana Syndrome?

  • Havana Syndrome refers to a set of mental health symptoms that are said to be experienced by US intelligence and embassy officials in various countries.
  • It typically involves symptoms such as hearing certain sounds without any outside noise being present, nausea, vertigo and headaches, memory loss and issues with balance.
  • As the name suggests, it traces its roots to Cuba.
  • In late 2016, US officials in embassy began experiencing sudden bursts of pressure in their brain followed by persistent headaches, feeling of disorientation and insomnia.

How severe is it?

  • In 2018, at least three CIA officers working under diplomatic cover in Cuba had reported troubling sensations that seemed to leave serious injuries.
  • Some officers are being compulsorily retired for their inability to coherently discharge his duty and another needing a hearing aid.

Has Havana Syndrome been reported anywhere else?

  • Since the Cuban incident, American intelligence and foreign affairs officials posted in various countries have reported symptoms of the syndrome.
  • In early 2018, similar accusations began to be made by US diplomats in China.
  • The US media has reported around 130 such attacks across the world including at Moscow in Russia, Poland, Georgia, Taiwan, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Austria, among others.

What are the causes of Havana Syndrome?

  • No one is entirely sure. But it is speculated to be a “sonic attack”.
  • Medical examination of the victims began to suggest that the victims may have been subjected to high-powered microwaves that either damaged or interfered with the nervous system.
  • It was said to have built a pressure inside the brain that generated the feeling of a sound being heard.
  • Greater exposure to high-powered microwaves is said not only to interfere with the body’s sense of balance but also impact memory and cause permanent brain damage.
  • It is suspected that beams of high-powered microwaves are sent through a special gadget that Americans have begun calling “microwave weapon”.

Who is doing this in India?

  • Sources in the Indian security establishment say they are not aware of any such weapon being in the possession of an Indian agency.
  • Even if there was one, it is unlikely the government would admit to having acquired such counter-espionage technology given the sensitive nature of intelligence work.

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Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Rhino Horn Reverification Exercises

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian Rhino

Mains level : NA

Assam will mark World Rhino Day — September 22 — with a special ceremony by burning a stockpile of nearly 2,500 horns of the one-horned rhinoceros.

Rhino Horn Reverification

  • The public ceremony — scheduled at Bokakhat in Kaziranga National Park (KNP) has been publicized as a “milestone towards rhino conservation” aimed at “busting myths about rhino horns”.
  • It’s a loud and clear message to the poachers and smugglers that such items have no value.
  • Thus the case for the destruction of horns — a process that is in compliance with Section 39(3)(c) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972.

Why are Rhinos poached for horns?

  • Ground rhino horn is used in traditional Chinese medicine to cure a range of ailments, from cancer to hangovers, and also as an aphrodisiac.
  • In Vietnam, possessing a rhino horn is considered a status symbol.
  • Due to demand in these countries, poaching pressure on rhinos is ever persistent against which one cannot let the guard down.

Try this PYQ:

Consider the following statements:

  1. Asiatic lion is naturally found in India only.
  2. Double-humped camel is naturally found in India only.
  3. One-horned rhinoceros is naturally found in India only.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Post your answers here.

(Note: Comment feature is not available on the app.)


Back2Basics: Indian Rhino

  • The Indian rhinoceros also called the greater one-horned rhinoceros and great Indian rhinoceros is a rhinoceros native to the Indian subcontinent.
  • It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and Schedule I animal in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
  • It once ranged across the entire northern part of the Indian Subcontinent, along the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra River basins, from Pakistan to the Indian-Myanmar border.
  • Poaching for rhinoceros horn became the single most important reason for the decline of the Indian rhino.

Coastal Zones Management and Regulations

[pib] Kovalam & Eden Beaches gets Blue Fag Certification

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Blue Flag Certification

Mains level : NA

 

The international eco-label “Blue Flag”, has accorded the Blue Flag Certification for 2 new beaches this year –Kovalam in Tamil Nadu and Eden in Puducherry beaches.

With this India now has 10 International Blue Flag beaches.

Which are the other 8 beaches?

  1. Shivrajpur (Dwarka-Gujarat)
  2. Ghoghla (Diu)
  3. Kasarkod (Karnataka) [NOT Kasargod which is in Kerala] and
  4. Padubidri (Karnataka)
  5. Kappad (Kerala)
  6. Rushikonda (AP)
  7. Golden Beach (Odisha) and
  8. Radhanagar (A&N Islands)

Blue Flag Beaches

  • The ‘Blue Flag’ beach is an ‘eco-tourism model’ and marks out beaches as providing tourists and beachgoers clean and hygienic bathing water, facilities/amenities, a safe and healthy environment, and sustainable development of the area.
  • The certification is accorded by the Denmark-based Foundation for Environment Education.
  • It started in France in 1985 and has been implemented in Europe since 1987, and in areas outside Europe since 2001 when South Africa joined.
  • It has 33 stringent criteria under four major heads for the beaches, that is, (i) Environmental Education and Information (ii) Bathing Water Quality (iii) Environment Management and Conservation and (iv) Safety and Services.

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