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Daily Current Affairs – 2020

Topic: For Prelims and Mains

Agro-Biodiversity

Why in news?

Recently, the Ministry of Human Resources Development brought out school ‘Nutrition Garden’ guidelines, encouraging students to identify fruits and vegetables best suited to topography, soil and climate.

Nutrition Garden envisages providing students lifelong social, numerical and presentation skills, care for living organisms and teamwork, besides being used in the Mid-Day meal scheme.

Based on Nutrition Garden, agrobiodiversity can be contemplated all across India, to address India’s hunger issues.

What is Agrobiodiversity?

Agrobiodiversity is the result of the interaction between the environment, genetic resources and management systems and practices used by culturally diverse people.

  • It comprises the diversity of genetic resources (varieties, breeds) and species used for food, fodder, fibre, fuel and pharmaceuticals.
  • It also includes the diversity of non-harvested species that support production (soil microorganisms, predators, pollinators), and those in the wider environment that support agro-ecosystems (agricultural, pastoral, forest and aquatic) as well as the diversity of the agro-ecosystems.

Benefits of Agrobiodiversity:

  • Increases productivity, food security, and economic returns.
  • Reduces the pressure of agriculture on fragile areas, forests and endangered species.
  • Makes farming systems more stable, robust, and sustainable.
  • Contributes to sound pest and disease management
  • Conserves soil and increase natural soil fertility and health.
  • Reduces dependency on external inputs.
  • Improves human nutrition and provides sources of medicines and vitamins.
  • Conserve ecosystem structure and stability of species diversity.

Significance of Agrobiodiversity for India:

India’s promising genetic resources include rice from Tamil Nadu (Konamani), Assam (Agni bora) and Kerala (Pokkali), Bhalia Wheat and mushroom (Guchhi) from Himachal Pradesh and rich farm animal native breeds — cattle (42), buffaloes (15), goat (34), sheep (43) and chicken (19). Since, genetic diversity of crops, livestock and their wild relatives, are fundamental to improve crop varieties and livestock breeds, this can help in the following ways:

  • In combating hunger:India is ranked 102 in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) out of 117 qualified countries.
  • Hunger is defined by caloric deprivation; protein hunger; hidden hunger by the deficiency of micronutrients.
  • Malnutrition:Nearly 47 million or four out of 10 children in India do not meet their potential because of chronic undernutrition or stunting.
  • This leads to diminished learning capacity, increased chronic diseases, low birth-weight infants from malnourished parents.
  • The global nutrition report pegs 614 million women and more than half the women in India aged 15-49 as being anaemic.
  • Agrobiodiversity can help innutrition-sensitive farming and bio-fortified foods.
  • For instance, moringa (drumstick) has micronutrients and sweet potato is rich in Vitamin A. There are varieties of pearl millet and sorghum rich in iron and zinc.
  • This will help India achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 2(Zero Hunger) and the Aichi Biodiversity Target (focuses on countries conserving the genetic diversity of plants, farm livestock and wild relatives).

Agrobiodiversity In India:

  • Across the world, 37 sites are designated as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS),of which three are Indian — Kashmir (saffron), Koraput (traditional agriculture) and Kuttanad (below sea-level farming).
  • In India, over 811 cultivated plants and 902 of their wild relatives have been documented.

Challenges to Agrobiodiversity:

  • Loss of crop genetic resources due to adopting new crop varieties without conserving traditional varieties.For example, Bt cotton.
  • Similarly, there are concerns onhigh output breeds for production of meat, milk and eggs. Crossbreeding of foreign breeds with indigenous breeds leads to erosion of genetically diverse pool.
  • Out of 2,50,000 globally identified plant species, about 7,000 have historically been used in human diets.
    • Today, only 30 crops form the basis of the world’s agricultureand just three species of maize, rice and wheat supply more than half the world’s daily calories.

Way Forward:

  • There is a need for a comprehensive policy on ‘ecological agriculture’to enhance native pest and pollinator population providing ecosystem services for the agricultural landscape.
  • Bio-village concept:Ecologically sensitive farming can be done by conserving crop wild relatives of cereals, millets, oilseeds, fibres, forages, fruits and nuts, vegetables, spices etc. for crop genetic diversity healthier food.
  • Providing incentives for farmerscultivating native varieties and those conserving indigenous breeds of livestock and poultry varieties.
  • Community seed banksshould be encouraged in each agro-climatic zone.
  • Developing a national level invasive alien species policyis required to identify pathways, mapping, monitoring, managing, controlling and eradicating invasive species.
  • The consumption pattern and culinary diversitymust be enlarged to increase India’s food basket.

Parliamentry Privileges

Why in news?

A Rajya Sabha member has filed a petition with the Chairman of the House seeking to initiate breach of privileges and contempt proceedings against the Chief Minister of Kerala after the Kerala Assembly passed a resolution against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

What are they?

  • Parliamentary privileges are certain rights and immunities enjoyed by members of Parliament, individually and collectively, so that they can “effectively discharge their functions”.
  • Parliamentary privileges are defined in Article 105 of the Indian Constitution and those of State legislatures in Article 194.
  • When any of these rights and immunities are disregarded, the offence is called a breach of privilege and is punishable under law of Parliament.
  • Besides, Rule No 222 in Chapter 20 of the Lok Sabha Rule Book and correspondingly Rule 187 in Chapter 16 of the Rajya Sabha rulebook govern privilege.

 Privileges of Parliamentarians:

  1. Freedom of Speech: According to the Indian Constitution, the members of Parliament enjoy freedom of speech and expression. No member can be taken to task anywhere outside the four walls of the House (e.g. court of law) or cannot be discriminated against for expressing his/her views in the House and its Committees.
  2. Freedom from Arrest:It is understood that no member shall be arrested in a civil case 40 days before and after the adjournment of the House (Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha) and also when the House is in session. It also means that no member can be arrested within the precincts of the Parliament without the permission of the House to which he/she belongs.
  3. Exemption from attendance as witnesses:The members of Parliament also enjoy freedom from attendance as witnesses.

Privileges of Parliament:

Right to publish debates and proceedings:

  • Though by convention, the Parliament does not prohibit the press to publish its proceedings, yet technically the House has every such right to forbid such publication.
  • Again, while a member has the privilege of freedom of speech in Parliament, he has no right to publish it outside Parliament.
  • Anyone violating this rule can be held responsible for any libellous matter it may contain under the common law rules.

Right to exclude strangers:

Each house of Parliament enjoys the right to exclude strangers (no-members or visitors) from the galleries at any time and to resolve to debate with closed doors.

Right to punish members and outsiders for breach of its privileges:

  • In India, the Parliament has been given punitive powers to punish those who are adjudged guilty of contempt of the House.
  • Such contempt can be committed by the members of any House or any outsider. When a member of the House is involved for parliamentary misbehaviour or commits contempt he can be expelled from the House.

Right to regulate the internal affairs of the House:

The House has the right to regulate its internal affairs. A member of the House is free to say whatever he likes subject only to the internal discipline of the House or the Committee concerned.

What is the privileges committee?

  • In the Lok Sabha, the Speaker nominates a committee of privileges consisting of 15 members as per respective party strengths. A report is then presented to the House for its consideration.
  • The Speaker may permit a half-hour debate while considering the report. The Speaker may then pass final orders or direct that the report be tabled before the House.
  • A resolution may then be moved relating to the breach of privilege that has to be unanimously passed. In the Rajya Sabha, the deputy chairperson heads the committee of privileges, that consists of 10 members.

 

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