Monday, 4th September 2023
1 Editorial of the day
2 Daily Current Affairs
Use of Technology in Agriculture
Fali S Nariman on Basic Structure Doctrine
First UN guidance on Children’s Rights and Environment
Minority Scholarship Scheme Scam
Mysteries of the Y chromosome
Flora Fauna and ‘Funga’
“RAISE” for Business
Pragyan rover confirms sulphur
Context: Promoting PRANAM will help the government reduce subsidy bills and fiscal deficits if it picks up.
Decoding the editorial: PM-PRANAM
- Union Budget 2023–24 launched the PM-PRANAM (PM Programme for Restoration, Awareness, Nourishment and Amelioration of Mother Earth).
- Its objective is to promote the balanced use of chemical and alternative fertilizers, generating awareness of regenerative agriculture (RA).
- It has no separate budget. A 50 percent subsidy savings will be provided to States/UTs.
- Most of it will likely be used for infrastructure creation and (green) technology innovation.
- The rest will be paid as incentives to farmers, panchayats, FPOs, and SHGs who can help reduce input costs and generate awareness toward RA adoption.
It is an outcome-based food production system that
- Nurtures and restores soil health;
- Protects the climate;
- Restores the water resources and biodiversity; and
- Enhances farms’ productivity and profitability.
Plusses and minuses
- Minus: The subsidy burden on chemical fertilisers is high.
- It is at about ₹2.25-lakh crore for FY 2022-23, which is 39 percent higher than FY 2021-22’s figure (₹1.62-lakh crore).
- The subsidy bill has increased significantly even though fertiliser consumption shows that nitrogenous fertiliser consumption, especially urea, has not declined from 2012-13 until 2021-22 (P).
- Plus: Promoting PRANAM will help the government reduce subsidy bills and fiscal deficits if it picks up.
- Minus: The low efficacy of alternative fertilisers to enhance crop yield could slow its adoption.
- Plus: A gradual phase-out of subsidies on chemical fertilisers can stimulate alternative or bio-fertiliser adoption.
- The retention pricing scheme, which safeguards chemical fertiliser (urea) manufacturers, can be phased out to promote alternative fertiliser production.
- Minus: Knee-jerk reaction of chemical fertiliser firms.
- A 12 percent return on the fertiliser (chemical) firms fixed under the retention scheme will disappear, possibly resulting in a knee-jerk reaction of chemical fertiliser firms for their survival.
- Plus: Farmer fertiliser cooperatives can exploit this as an opportunity since they have been into biofertilizer production, although on a small scale, since 2009-10.
- PRANAM can increase its economies of scale and help the existing distribution network stock alternative fertilisers.
- However, the margin on bio-fertiliser sales should be worked out to incentivise sales and distribution networks.
- Minus: Awareness regarding alternative fertilisers is low. Demonstrating alternative fertilisers on farmer fields is critical, especially after the Sri Lankan food crisis, to showcase higher productivity, and certification of such products can help farmers or their organisations realise a remunerative price. Plus:
- Plus: To this end, 10,000 Bio-Input Resource Centres will be set up over the next three years, creating a national-level distributed micro-fertiliser and pesticide manufacturing network.
Use of Technology in Agriculture
In News: G20 to support digital agriculture ecosystem.
Digital Agriculture encompasses the utilization of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and data ecosystems to deliver timely and tailored information and services, aimed at improving the profitability, sustainability, and efficiency of agricultural practices.
Digital agriculture Include:
- Agricultural Biotechnology: Such as the creation of microorganisms for precise agricultural applications.
- Precision Agriculture (PA): Relies on ICT to optimize the allocation of resources.
- Digital and Wireless Technologies: Including systems for monitoring weather, robotics, drones, and various wireless devices.
Benefits of Digital Agriculture:
- Enhances agricultural productivity: Leveraging digital tools and data-driven insights can result in improved crop management, ultimately optimizing yields and overall production.
- Mitigates soil degradation: Precision farming techniques have the potential to reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss, safeguarding the health of the soil.
- Reduces chemical usage in crop production: By precisely applying inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, digital agriculture can minimize its environmental footprint.
- Optimizes water resource utilization: Digital sensors and data play a crucial role in precise irrigation, reducing water wastage and enhancing overall water efficiency.
- Promotes modern farming practices: The dissemination of information through digital platforms empowers farmers to adopt cutting-edge practices and innovations.
- Elevates the socio-economic status of farmers: Enhanced productivity and reduced costs can lead to improved income and livelihoods for farmers, positively impacting their socio-economic well-being.
- AgriStack: An assemblage of technology-driven interventions in agriculture designed to offer comprehensive services throughout the entire agricultural and food value chain.
- Support for Startups: India currently boasts a thriving ecosystem of more than 1,000 agri-tech startups that play a pivotal role in providing inventive solutions to address various challenges within the agricultural value chain.
- Digital Agriculture Mission: A government initiative focused on implementing projects utilizing cutting-edge technologies such as AI, blockchain, remote sensing, drones, and robots to propel advancements in the field of agriculture.
- Unified Farmer Service Platform (UFSP): A platform that facilitates seamless interoperability among information technology systems within the agriculture sector, thereby enhancing the delivery of services to farmers.
- National e-Governance Plan in Agriculture (NeGPA): A program leveraging information and communication technology to provide timely access to agriculture-related information, including platforms like Farmers Portal and mkisan, which offer valuable advisories and support.
- Strengthening/Promoting Agricultural Information System (AGRISNET): A scheme aimed at bolstering the IT infrastructure of the Agriculture Department and improving information dissemination through platforms such as mkisan.
Fali S Nariman on Basic Structure Doctrine
Why in News: It was only in Kesavananda Bharati case (April 1973), that by a narrow majority of 7:6, in a bench decision of 13 judges, the basic structure doctrine was propounded and since then the basic structure doctrine has not been debated.
Basic Structure Doctrine:
- The doctrine of basic structure is a judicial innovation that puts a limitation on the amending powers of the Parliament.
- The doctrine was propounded by the Supreme Court in Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala (1973) and its objective is to ensure that the basic features of the Constitution remain unaltered and to preserve the core identity of the Constitution.
- It was Influenced by German expert Dietrich Conrad’s 1965 speech, emphasizing that a constitution’s foundational pillars shouldn’t be modified by the governing entity.
Evolution of Basic Structure Doctrine:
Upholding the Basic Structure Doctrine over the time:
- 1973: Kesavananda Bharati case introduces basic structure doctrine in a bench decision of 13 judges.
- 1975: Union of India seeks reconsideration of the doctrine; a bench of 13 judges convened in November. The bench dissolved without decision, indicating continued adherence to the doctrine.
- 1975: Constitution 39th Amendment passed, including Article 329A (4) attempting to validate Indira Gandhi’s election.
- 1975: Supreme Court declares Article 329A (4) unconstitutional and void, reinforcing the doctrine’s principles.
- 1978: Constitution 44th Amendment Act abolishes remaining clauses of Article 329A, cementing the doctrine’s foundation.
- 1980: Minerva Mills vs. Union of India case reaffirms the basic structure doctrine in a Constitution Bench decision of five judges.
- 2007: IR Coelho vs. State of Tamil Nadu reaffirms the doctrine in a bench decision of nine judges.
Significance of Basic Structure Doctrine:
- The Chief Justice of India D. Y. Chandrachud called Basic Structure Doctrine a North Star. This is because it guides and gives directions to law-makers, implementers and interpreters.
- It prevents damage to the Constitution by ruling the majority’s brute majority.
- It limits constituent power to avoid totalitarian regimes.
- It maintains founders’ meticulously framed principles.
- It ensures independent Judiciary, and separation of powers.
- It allows adaptation over time, unlike rigid past judgments.
Criticism of Basic Structure Doctrine:
- It is not found in the text of the original Constitution itself and therefore by inventing this test the judiciary is encroaching on the Parliament’s powers.
- The power of “unelected judges” to strike down amendments to the Constitution on the basis of this doctrine is “anti-democratic and counter-majoritarian.
First UN guidance on Children’s Rights and Environment
Why in News: In a recent directive called General Comment No. 26, the United Nations officially acknowledged and reinforced the rights of children to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.
Key Highlights of UN Guidelines on Children’s Rights and the Environment:
- Protection against environmental damages: The UN member states have to take measures to protect children harms caused by environmental degradation and climate change.
- Energy transition: Nations have been urged to equitably phase out the use of coal, oil and natural gas. Ensure a fair and just transition of energy sources and invest in renewable energy, energy storage and energy efficiency to address the climate crisis.
- Inclusive early warning systems: Priority of all nations to establish them to protect children from impacts of the extreme weather events.
- Grants for children rights: Developed countries have been urged to offer grants instead of loans to address issues affecting children’s rights.
- Effective Emissions reductions: The nations have been asked to prioritize emissions reductions to support children’s full enjoyment of their rights in the shortest possible period of time and to avoid irreversible damage to nature. According to UNICEF estimates, reducing carbon emissions can prevent 4,000 to 6,000 child deaths due to heat in Africa every year.
- Mitigating climate change-induced migration: Adaptation frameworks should address climate change-induced displacement and include provisions for ensuring a child rights-based approach to these issues. In 2022, extreme weather events around the world displaced at least 12 million children.
Need for the UN Guidelines on Children’s Rights and the Environment:
- As per WHO-UNICEF-Lancet 2020 report, the future of children around the world, including India, is being threatened by environmental degradation and climate change.
- Water crisis: Approximately 415 million children are living in areas of high or extremely high-water vulnerability. In these regions, risks of drought, groundwater table decline, water stress, annual and inter-annual seasonal variability intersect with low levels of access to water services.
- Health crisis: Children are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat waves, as they have a reduced capacity to regulate their body temperature and protect themselves. Nearly 90 per cent of the global burden of disease associated with climate change is borne by children under five.
- Nutrition crisis: With increasing frequency and severity of droughts, floods and severe weather, food security gets compromised threatening the nutrition of children. According to UN estimates, by 2030, climate change is expected to generate 95,000 more deaths of children under five years of age each year due to malnutrition.
- Education crisis: Climate change and environmental degradation affects children’s ability to go to school, through its impact on health and well-being of both students as well as teachers.
- Social protection crisis: Climate change strains the systems to accommodate the needs of the most vulnerable.
- Climate-related migration: The 2020 Global Trends report by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) revealed that out of the 79.5 million people displaced by the end of 2019, around 30-34 million were children.
Minority Scholarship Scheme Scam
In News: Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Registers FIR: Minority Scholarship 'Scam' Causing Rs 144 Crore Loss
About Minority scholarship scheme scam:
- The CBI on findings of National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) has recently registered an FIR related to a minority scholarship 'scam’ involving 830 "fake" institutions.
- These institutions were benefiting from the Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme, resulting in a loss of over Rs 144 crore to the Ministry of Minority Affairs between 2017-18 and 2021-22.
- Key findings:
- The scholarship focuses on the Pre-Matric Scholarship Scheme for minority students with annual family income below Rs 1 lakh.
- Scholarships are awarded in two tiers, Class 1 to 5 students receiving Rs 1,000 per year, while Class 6 to 10 students receiving Rs 10,700 (hostellers) or Rs 5,700 (day scholars).
- Investigation has exposed collusion involving brokers, bank correspondents, school staff, and state government employees.
- The losses have been calculated for the period with "clean digitized data on NSP," but applicants from these institutions may have availed scholarships in earlier years.
- The findings highlight the misuse of the National Scholarship Portal (NSP) and the Public Finance Management System (PFMS) leading to fraud and corruption in scholarship distribution.
- Common irregularities included non-operational institutions benefiting from the scheme, fake beneficiaries, and manipulation of UDISE details.
- In Bihar cybercafé owners listed as INOs have likely submitted fake applications for coaching center
- Some schools in Madhya Pradesh reported registrations for students beyond Class 7, even though they were not recognized after that grade.
- Overall, the scholarship scam serves as a stark reminder of the challenges and the need for safeguarding public resources beside continuous vigilance to prevent such incidents in the future.
In News: Overview of the Supreme Court's order on the validity of 'Self-Respect' Marriages
About 'Self-Respect' Marriages:
- Supreme Court has recently clarified that there is no blanket ban on advocates solemnizing 'self-respect' marriages under Section 7(A) of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
- The aim was to simplify weddings, allowing declarations in the presence of friends or family, and eliminating traditional ceremonial requirements.
- Key features:
- 'Self-respect' marriages, also known as "suyamariyathai" or "seerthiruththa marriage," are solemnized between two Hindus.
- Amendment to Hindu Marriage Act in Tamil Nadu in 1968 introduced Section 7-A, recognizing "self-respect and secular marriages."
- Section 7-A allows marriages in the presence of relatives or friends, with a simple ceremony like exchanging garlands or rings.
- Under these marriages, the willing parties declare each other as husband and wife using a language understood by them.
- It legally acknowledges marriages between Hindus conducted without the need for priests, holy fire, or rituals and requires registration as per the law.
- Previously, in 2014 Madras High Court deemed such marriages invalid and stated that they couldn't be conducted in secrecy and declared such marriages conducted by advocates as invalid.
- Overall, the recent Supreme Court clarification affirms the legality of 'self-respect' marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act and upholds the principles of personal choice in marriage ceremonies.
Mysteries of the Y chromosome
In News: Scientists have finally decoded one of the smallest chromosomes in humans, the male sex chromosome (Y- Chromosome), 20 years after the first draft of its DNA code was published. The work reveals a complete catalogue of the genes in the male sex chromosome and how they're organised.
About the Chromosomes:
- In the nucleus of each cell, the DNA molecule is packaged into thread-like structures called chromosomes. Each chromosome is made up of DNA tightly coiled many times around proteins called histones that support its structure.
- DNA is a long molecule that contains our unique genetic code. DNA is composed of two strands that wrap around each other to form a double helix shape.
- Humans have 22 pairs of numbered chromosomes (autosomes) and 1 pair of sex chromosomes (XX or XY). Each pair contains two chromosomes, one coming from each parent, i.e. half of the children’ chromosomes are from their mother and a half from their father.
Major findings about the Y-Chromosomes:
- The findings show that the Y chromosome evolved to have extensive variation in its size and structure among individuals.
- The Y chromosome is important for the development of male sex characteristics. It carries the sex-determining region Y (SRY) gene, which codes for a protein that promotes the development of the testicles and blocks the development of female organs such as uterus and fallopian tubes.
- Y-Chromosome contains 62,460,029 base pairs of DNA. It is 30 million more than the most current reference genome.
- They also identified 41 new protein-coding genes and provided insight into noncoding regions known as satellite DNA, which don't carry blueprints for proteins.
- The team explained that the Y chromosome contains the largest block of condensed, noncoding DNA known as heterochromatin. This region is made up mainly of two repetitive DNA sequences, appearing in the same 1-to-1 ratio throughout the terms of the number of times they were found in the chromosome.
- Assembling complete sequences of 43 Y chromosomes across space and time not only helps in investigating sex chromosome’s evolution but also human evolution more generally.
Flora Fauna and ‘Funga’
In News: United Nations Biodiversity has urged people globally to use the word ‘funga’ whenever they say ‘flora and fauna’, in order to highlight the importance of fungi.
- Fungi, along with Animalia (animals), Plantae (plants), Protista, Archaea/Archaebacteria, and Bacteria or Eubacteria form the six ‘kingdoms’ of biology.
- They are a very diverse group of eukaryotic organisms encompassing a wide range of life forms, from single celled to very complex multicellular organisms. They can be microscopic or macroscopic.
- Two years ago, the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of IUCN announced that it would use “mycologically inclusive” language in its internal and public-facing communications e. “fauna, flora and funga” to incorporate fungi in conservation strategies with rare and endangered plants and animals.
- UN Biodiversity urged that fungi needs to be protected on an equal footing with animals and plants in legal conservation frameworks
Significance of Fungi:
- Nutrient Cycling: Fungi have the ability to transform nutrients in a way that makes them available for plants. They can also propel nitrogen fixation and phosphorus mobilisation.
- Carbon Cycling: Fungi are important contributors to the soil carbon stock. They play a major part in the carbon cycle through the soil food web.
- Soil Carbon sequestration: Together, plants and fungi capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it into the soil for decades. This process not only improves soil fertility but also reduces the excess carbon released by humans into the atmosphere.
- Nutrition and food security: Edible mushrooms are fungi, which are rich in nutrients such as vitamin B, C and D, fibre, minerals including potassium, phosphorus, calcium and they are also a good source of protein.
- Human Health: Fungi also provide health benefits for humans. 6% of edible mushrooms possess medicinal properties, which can help prevent diseases and boost our immune system.
- Environmental protection: Fungi also helps to degrade various pollutants from the environment, such as plastic and other petroleum-based products, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, and oil.
“RAISE” for Business
Why in news? Recently, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi addressed the B20 Summit India 2023 in New Delhi.
- The Business 20 (B20) is the official G20 dialogue forum with the global business community.
- Established in 2010, B20 is among the most prominent Engagement Groups in G20, with companies and business organizations as participants.
- The B20 works to deliver concrete actionable policy recommendations to spur economic growth and development.
B20 Summit India 2023:
- The B20 Summit India is a platform for policymakers, business leaders, and experts to discuss policy recommendations for G20.
- Its theme is R.A.I.S.E – Responsible, Accelerated, Innovative, Sustainable and Equitable Businesses.
- R- Emphasizes the need for businesses to act responsibly and consider their impact on society and the environment.
- A- Refers to the need for businesses to drive economic growth and development through rapid progress and innovation.
- I- Highlights the importance of innovation in business strategies to adapt to changing global dynamics.
- S- Advocates for businesses to adopt practices that ensure long-term sustainability for both the economy and the planet.
- E- Focuses on promoting fairness and inclusiveness in business practices, ensuring benefits are shared widely.
- PM said it is about humanity, and about ‘One Earth, One Family and One Future’.
- The PM also proposed the idea of an “International Consumer Care Day” to strengthen trust between businesses and consumers.
- The Prime Minister emphasized India’s role in creating a trusted global supply chain and promoting sustainability.
- He called for businesses to go beyond profit and focus on supply chain resilience and sustainability.
Why in news? According to a new study, up to 10,000 emperor penguin chicks across four colonies in Antarctica’s Bellingshausen Sea may have died as the sea ice underneath their breeding grounds melted and broke apart in late 2022.
- The emperor penguin is the tallest and heaviest of all living penguin species and is endemic to Antarctica.
- Scientific Name: Aptenodytes forsteri.
- Like all penguins, it is flightless.
- Its diet consists primarily of fish but also includes crustaceans.
- While hunting, the species can remain submerged for around 20 minutes.
- It is the only penguin species that breeds during the Antarctic winter.
- The lifespan is typically 20 years in the wild, although observations suggest that some individuals may live to 50 years of age.
- It is the largest member of the penguin order (Sphenisciformes).
- They spend their entire lives on Antarctic ice and in its waters.
- They have a gray back, white belly, and orange markings behind their eyes and at the top of their chest.
- IUCN status: Near threatened.
- Emperor penguins’ breeding cycle heavily relies on stable sea ice, where they spend their entire breeding cycle.
- The sea ice, present from April to December, provides the necessary platform for their breeding and fledging activities (the stage in the development of young birds when they acquire the feathers and abilities necessary for flight).
- As a result of the loss of sea ice, the penguin chicks were unable to develop their waterproof adult wings and regulate their body temperature.
- This led to their vulnerability to drowning or freezing to death.
- This incident marked the first recorded instance of widespread breeding failure of emperor penguins across multiple colonies due to sea ice loss.
Why in news? An Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent is participating in Exercise BRIGHT STAR-23, a multilateral, tri-service exercise hosted biennially at Cairo (West) Air Base, Egypt.
- Exercise BRIGHT STAR is a biennial multilateral tri-service exercise.
- This multinational exercise was launched in 1980 as part of the US-brokered peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
- This marks the first time that the IAF is participating in Ex BRIGHT STAR-23, joining contingents from the United States of America, Saudi Arabia, Greece, and Qatar.
- The Indian Air Force contingent will consist of five MiG-29, two IL-78, two C-130 and two C-17
- Personnel from the IAF's Garud Special Forces, as well as those from the Numbers 28, 77, 78 and 81 Squadrons, will be participating in the exercise.
- To practice planning and execution of joint operations.
- Besides leading to the formation of bonding across borders, such interactions also provide a means to further strategic relations between participating nations.
Other exercises between India and Egypt:
- Exercise Cyclone-I:
- It Is a bilateral exercise between the special forces of the Indian Army and the Egyptian Army.
- The first edition of the exercise was held in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan in January 2023.
Also in the News:
- AUSINDEX-23 is a biennial maritime exercise between the Indian Navy and Royal Australian Navy.
Why in news? Recently, Chokuwa rice, also known as Magic rice, is a distinctive part of Assam’s culinary heritage and has recently been granted a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for its uniqueness.
- It has a significant role in Assam’s culinary history and was a staple food for the Ahom dynasty.
- This healthy rice is mainly cultivated along the Brahmaputra River in places like Tinsukia, Dhemaji, and Dibrugarh.
- Chokuwa rice is a semi-glutinous winter rice, categorized as Sali rice. The sticky and glutinous variety is categorized as Bora and Chokuwa based on their amylose concentration.
- The low amylose Chokuwa rice variants are used to make soft rice, which is known as Komal Chaul or soft rice.
- This whole grain can be consumed after soaking the rice in cold or lukewarm water.
- The rice is pre-boiled, dried, stored, and then soaked before eating, making it convenient and nutritious.
- Chokuwa rice is enjoyed with various accompaniments like curd, sugar, jaggery, and bananas, and is also used in traditional Assamese dishes like Pithe.
Why in news? Recently, ISRO-Space Applications Centre (Ahmedabad) has successfully tested a device called ‘Nabhmitra’.
- This device uses satellite communication to allow two-way messaging between boats at sea and authorities on land.
- This device is aimed at enhancing the safety of fishermen.
- The system can convey weather alerts, cyclone warnings, and other information in the local language.
- In cases of emergencies like boat accidents or fires, fishermen can activate the device to alert the control centre. The control centre receives the boat’s location, and the crew onboard gets a response from the control centre.
- Apart from providing information about shipping channels and maritime boundaries, the device will also help to identify fishing fields.
Pragyan rover confirms sulphur
Why in news? Recently, Chandrayaan-3’s Pragyan rover has confirmed the presence of sulphur on the moon’s surface, near its south pole.
- The Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) instrument onboard the Chandrayaan-3’s rover has made the first-ever in-situ measurements on the elemental composition of the lunar surface near the south pole.
- The analysis has also revealed the presence of elements like aluminium, calcium, iron, chromium, titanium, manganese, silicon, and oxygen on the lunar surface.
- The Pragyan rover is still actively searching for the presence of hydrogen.
Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS)
- LIBS is a rapid chemical analysis technology that employs short laser pulses to create micro-plasma on a sample’s surface.
- The LIBS technique involves using intense laser pulses to analyse materials, creating hot and localized plasma whose emitted light is then studied to determine the material’s elemental
- Advantages of LIBS:
- Requires no sample preparation.
- Offers rapid measurements, often within a few seconds.
- Covers a wide range of elements, including lighter ones.
- Supports versatile sampling protocols, including surface rastering and depth profiling.
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