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Daily Current Affairs – 2020

Topic: For Prelims and Mains

Agriculture Bills 2020

18th Sep 2020

Why in News?

The government has introduced three Bills related to agriculture to replace these ordinances.  The Lok Sabha has passed these bills this week. The various political parties & farmer unions have protested  over these bills.

What are these ordinances, and why are farmers protesting?

They are called –

  1. The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020
  2. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020
  3. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

While farmers are protesting against all three ordinances, their objections are mostly against the provisions of the first. And while there is no uniform demand among the protesters or a unified leadership, it emerges that their concerns are mainly about sections relating to “trade area”, “trader”, “dispute resolution” and “market fee” in the first ordinance.

A look at these sections, one by one:

What is a ‘trade area’?

Section 2(m) of The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 defines “trade area” as any area or location, place of production, collection and aggregation including –

(a) farm gates;

(b) factory premises;

(c) warehouses;

(d) silos;

(e) cold storages; or

(f) any other structures or places, from where trade of farmers’ produce may be undertaken in the territory of India.

The definition does not, however, include “the premises, enclosures and structures constituting (i) physical boundaries of principal market yards, sub-market yards and market sub-yards managed and run by the market committees formed under each state APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) Act”.

It also excludes “private market yards, private market sub-yards, direct marketing collection centres, and private farmer-consumer market yards managed by persons holding licences or any warehouses, silos, cold storages or other structures notified as markets or deemed markets under each State APMC Act in force in India”.

About the Ordinances

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020:

Trade of farmers’ produce: The Ordinance allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce outside:

(i) The physical premises of market yards run by market committees formed under the state APMC Acts and

(ii) other markets notified under the state APMC Acts.  Such trade can be conducted in an ‘outside trade area’, i.e., any place of production, collection, and aggregation of farmers’ produce including: (i) farm gates, (ii) factory premises, (iii) warehouses, (iv) silos, and (v) cold storages.

Electronic trading: The Ordinance permits the electronic trading of scheduled farmers’ produce (agricultural produce regulated under any state APMC Act) in the specified trade area.  An electronic trading and transaction platform may be set up to facilitate the direct and online buying and selling of such produce through electronic devices and internet.

The following entities may establish and operate such platforms: (i) companies, partnership firms, or registered societies, having permanent account number under the Income Tax Act, 1961 or any other document notified by the central government, and (ii) a farmer producer organisation or agricultural cooperative society.

Market fee abolished: The Ordinance prohibits state governments from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an ‘outside trade area’.

The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020

  • Farming agreement: The Ordinance provides for a farming agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce.  The minimum period of an agreement will be one crop season, or one production cycle of livestock.  The maximum period is five years, unless the production cycle is more than five years.
  • Pricing of farming produce: The price of farming produce should be mentioned in the agreement.  For prices subjected to variation, a guaranteed price for the produce and a clear reference for any additional amount above the guaranteed price must be specified in the agreement.  Further, the process of price determination must be mentioned in the agreement.

Dispute Settlement: A farming agreement must provide for a conciliation board as well as a conciliation process for settlement of disputes.  The Board should have a fair and balanced representation of parties to the agreement.  At first, all disputes must be referred to the board for resolution.

  • If the dispute remains unresolved by the Board after thirty days, parties may approach the Sub-divisional Magistrate for resolution.
  • Parties will have a right to appeal to an Appellate Authority (presided by collector or additional collector) against decisions of the Magistrate.
  • Both the Magistrate and Appellate Authority will be required to dispose of a dispute within thirty days from the receipt of application.
  • The Magistrate or the Appellate Authority may impose certain penalties on the party contravening the agreement.  However, no action can be taken against the agricultural land of farmer for recovery of any dues.

The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020:

Regulation of food items: The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 empowers the central government to designate certain commodities (such as food items, fertilizers, and petroleum products) as essential commodities.  The central government may regulate or prohibit the production, supply, distribution, trade, and commerce of such essential commodities.

The Ordinance provides that the central government may regulate the supply of certain food items including cereals, pulses, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds, and oils, only under extraordinary circumstances.

These include: (i) war, (ii) famine, (iii) extraordinary price rise and (iv) natural calamity of grave nature.

World Bank’s Human Capital Index -2020

Topic: For Prelims and Mains

Why in News?

Recently, the World Bank released the Human Capital Index (HCI) report for 2020. The index benchmarks key components of human capital across countries.

  • India has been ranked at the 116thposition in the HCI 2020.

Important Facts

Human Capital: It consists of the knowledge, skills, and health that people accumulate over their lives, enabling them to realize their potential as productive members of society.

Parameters Used in HCI:  The HCI 2020 includes health and education data of children for 174 countries up to March 2020. Thus providing a pre-pandemic baseline.

It covers 98% of the world’s population.

Outcome: The HCI 2020 shows that pre-pandemic, most countries had made steady progress in building human capital of children, with the biggest strides made in low-income countries.

However, despite this progress, a child born in a typical country could expect to achieve just 56% of their potential human capital, relative to a benchmark of complete education and full health.

Pandemic Effect: The pandemic puts at risk the decade’s progress in building human capital, including the improvements in health, survival rates, school enrollment, and reduced stunting.

  • More than1 billion children have been out of schooland could lose out, on average, half a year of schooling.
  • It has created significant disruptions to essential health services for women and children,with many children missing out on crucial vaccinations.
  • It has increased income inequality,its economic impact has been particularly deep for women and for the most disadvantaged families, leaving many vulnerable to food insecurity and poverty.

Facts related to India

India was ranked 115 out of 157 countries in 2019.

This year India finds itself at 116th from among 174 countries. However, India’s score increased to 0.49 in 2020 from 0.44 in 2018.

Recent Initiatives by India to Strengthen Human Capital:

  • Ayushman Bharat Yojana
  • National Education Policy
  • Atmanirbhar Bharat Yojana
  • TULIP: The Urban Learning Internship Program
  • Samagra Shiksha

Other Reports Published by World Bank:

  • Global Economic Prospects
  • Ease of Doing Business
  • World Development Report

Way Forward:

  • The HCI provides a basis on which the government of India can prioritize and a dimension to support human capital.
  • The World Bank is working with India on supporting livelihood for the poor. Given the progress that has been made in recent times, it seems more significant for now due to Covid-19.
  • Protecting and investing in people is vital as countries work to lay the foundation for sustainable, inclusive recoveries and future growth.

Living Planet Report 2020:

Why in News?

Wildlife populations have fallen by more than two-thirds over the last 50 years, according to a Living Planet Report 2020 of the World Wildlife Fund.

Some facts related to Biodiversity:

There has been a reduction of 68% in the global wildlife population between 1970 and 2016.

The highest biodiversity loss due to land use change:

(1) Europe and Central Asia at 57.9 %;

(2) North America at 52.5 %;

(3) Latin America and Caribbean at 51.2 %;

(4) Africa at 45.9 %;

(5) Asia at 43%.

The sharpest declines have occurred throughout the world’s rivers and lakes, where freshwater wildlife has plummeted by 84% since 1970 — about 4% per year.

Related to Land and Oceans:

75% of the Earth’s ice-free land surface has already been significantly altered.

Most of the oceans are polluted.

More than 85% of the area of wetlands has been lost during 1970-2016.

India’s scenario:

India has 2.4% global land share, about 8% global biodiversity and around 16% global population

However, it has lost 12% of its wild mammals, 19% amphibians and 3% birds over the last five decades.

India’s ecological footprint per person is less than 1.6 global hectares (gha)/person (smaller than that of many large countries). But, its high population size has made the gross footprint significantly high.

Ecological Footprint: It is the amount of the environment necessary to produce the goods and services necessary to support a particular lifestyle.

Factors responsible for this decline:

Changes in how land is used – from pristine forest to cropland or pasture – rank among the greatest threats to biodiversity on land worldwide.

Biodiversity:

It refers to all the varieties of life that can be found on Earth (plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms) as well as to the communities that they form and the habitats in which they live.

As per the Convention on Biological Diversity (Article 2): Biological Diversity means the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems.

It can be understood at three levels:

Species diversity refers to the variety of different species (plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms) such as palm trees, elephants or bacteria.

Genetic diversity corresponds to the variety of genes contained in plants, animals, fungi and microorganisms. It occurs within a species as well as between species.

Ecosystem diversity refers to all the different habitats – or places – that exist, like tropical or temperate forests, hot and cold deserts, wetlands, rivers, mountains, coral reefs, etc.

Facts for Prelims:

Dark Fiber: Dark Fiber also known as unlit Fiber is an unused optical fiber that has been laid but is not currently being used in fiber-optic communications.

  • Since fibre-optic cable transmits information in the form of light pulses, a “dark” cable refers to one through which light pulses are not being transmitted.
  • Companies lay extra optical fibres in order to avoid cost repetition when more bandwidth is needed.
  • Recently major telecom service providers in India, have approached the state-run Bharat Broadband Network Limited (BBNL) to use its dark fiber.
  • It will help the telecom service providers to cut down on their capital expenditure.

 

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