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Current Affairs 05 December 2023

  1. Staggering Hidden Costs of Global Agrifood Systems Exceed $10 Trillion
  2. Coal phase-out in COP28 pledge
  3. Supreme Court Clarifies BSF Jurisdiction in Punjab
  4. International Maritime Organisation
  5. Purchasing Managers Index
  6. White Lung Syndrome
  7. Mount Marapi


Context:

A recent report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reveals the astonishing hidden costs of global agrifood systems, surpassing $10 trillion. In countries like India, these costs account for nearly 11% of GDP, leading to increased poverty, environmental damage, and health-related issues, including undernourishment and unhealthy diets. The report attributes these rising costs to unsustainable practices and emphasizes the need for a transformation in agrifood systems, suggesting a shift to multi-cropping systems to protect farmers, improve nutrition, and enhance ecological health.

Relevance:

GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Impacts of Intensive Agriculture
  2. Policy Environment and Its Favors
  3. Crop Diversification’s Role
  4. Transitioning Farmers to Diversified Farming

Impacts of Intensive Agriculture:

  • Productivity Gains: India has seen significant improvements in agricultural productivity in the last five decades through the adoption of monocropping systems and chemical-intensive farming practices.
  • Green Revolution Focus: The Green Revolution emphasized the use of high-yielding varieties of paddy and wheat, which now make up over 70% of India’s agricultural production.
  • Undermining Seed Sovereignty: The introduction of seeds from multinational corporations and fertilizers has eroded seed sovereignty, disrupted Indigenous knowledge systems, and led to a shift away from diverse crop varieties like pulses and millets towards monoculture plantations.
  • Nutritional Compromises: This shift has compromised the nutritional requirements of households and had adverse ecological consequences, including soil fertility decline and excessive groundwater extraction.
  • Increased Indebtedness: Privatization and deregulation of agricultural inputs have contributed to higher levels of indebtedness among farming households. In 2013, the debt-to-asset ratio of farmer households in India was 630% higher than in 1992.
  • Unviable Agriculture: Agriculture in India is becoming increasingly unviable, with the average monthly household income of farming households at Rs 10,816.

Policy Environment and Its Favors:

Legal Right to Food:

  • The National Food Security Act 2013 ensures that 65% of households in India (around 800 million people) have a legal right to access subsidized food through programs like the Public Distribution System, Integrated Child Development Services, and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme.

Food Procurement by FCI:

  • Food procurement in India is coordinated by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), responsible for maintaining a central pool of buffer stock and acquiring, storing, transporting, and managing foodgrain stocks.
  • However, this procurement policy heavily favors rice and wheat.

Rice and Wheat Dominance:

  • In 2019-2020, FCI procured 341.32 lakh million tonnes of wheat and 514.27 lakh MT of rice, with both becoming export commodities.
  • This dominance contrasts with the meager procurement of coarse grains like jowar, bajra, ragi, maize, and barley, which account for less than 1% of total foodgrain procurement.

Impact on Crop Cultivation:

  • The bias in procurement policies has led to a decline in the cultivation of coarse grains by 20% between 1966-1967 and 2017-2018, while rice and wheat cultivation increased by nearly 20% and 56%, respectively.

Promotion of Water-Intensive Crops:

  • Policies favoring investments in dams and canal irrigation have promoted water-intensive cash crops like sugarcane and arecanut.
  • This expansion negatively impacts biodiversity, increases groundwater stress, and contributes to environmental pollution.

Food Security and Nutrition Threats:

  • This trend poses a threat to food security and the production of nutritionally valuable crops. Ironically, small and marginal farmers in India, who are the most food and nutrition insecure, are disproportionately affected.

Global Trade Influence:

  • The global food system structure affects farmers and soil directly.
  • Fluctuations in global soya prices and supply from Latin American countries impacted soy farmers and agro-companies in India.
  • Historically, global trade relations have also influenced food production systems in the Global South, with tax systems introduced for British-enforced exports of primary raw materials.

Crop Diversification’s Role:

  • Shift Towards Local Focus: To address complex systemic issues in the food system, transitioning from global to local value chains is crucial. Local efforts, like farm diversification, can serve as a starting point for addressing these challenges.
  • Agroecology-Based Solutions: Diversified multi-cropping systems rooted in agroecological principles can play a vital role in restoring degraded land and soil. These systems, known by various local names like ‘akkadi saalu’ in Karnataka, involve intercropping with a mix of legumes, pulses, oilseeds, trees, shrubs, and livestock.
  • Benefits of Diversification: Such diversified systems offer various advantages, including income generation from commercial crops, food and fodder production, and ecosystem services like nitrogen fixation and pest control. They also support local biodiversity and collectively contribute to improving soil health.
  • Hidden Costs of Current Systems: Critics have raised concerns about alternative farming systems potentially reducing farmer income, even if they benefit the environment. However, the FAO report highlights substantial “hidden costs” associated with current systems that should be considered in long-term income evaluations.
  • Benefits of Millets: Millets, with comparable yields per hectare to rice and wheat, offer enhanced nutrition, grow in semi-arid conditions without excessive groundwater use, require minimal inputs, and provide a diversified food supply.
  • Preserving Natural Capital: Crop diversification, while potentially reducing productivity by a narrow metric, helps preserve natural capital. Redirecting subsidies from corporations to incentivize farmers for sustaining natural capital, rather than depleting it, can be a beneficial strategy.

Transitioning Farmers to Diversified Farming:

Gradual Approach:

  • Farmers cannot be expected to shift from mono-cultivation of rice and wheat overnight.
  • The transition should be systematic and gradual, allowing farmers to adapt over time.
  • For instance, they can start by moving away from chemical-intensive practices toward non-pesticide management and natural farming, reducing input costs.

Diversification of Income:

  • Farmers can diversify their income sources by incorporating livestock and poultry into their farming practices.
  • This step can be experimented with on specific portions of their land.

Visual Representation of Diversified Farm:

  • An illustrative representation of a diversified farm involves allocating 70% of the land for commercial crops, 20% for food and fodder, and 10% for environmental services, like oilseeds acting as trap crops.
  • Over time, the proportion of commercial crops can be reduced to 50%, and border crops can be replaced with locally suitable tree species for fruits and fodder.
  • Integrating livestock rearing can further enhance incomes.

Economic Modeling:

  • Preliminary economic modeling of these pathways suggests the potential to improve ecological outcomes in the landscape while sustaining farm incomes in both the short run (up to three years) and the long run (up to 25 years).

Challenges to Address:

  • Several challenges need to be addressed during this transition, including ensuring access to local seeds, establishing institutional arrangements for market access, addressing labor requirements, and reducing drudgery.
  • Collaboration among institutions, policymakers, and social groups is essential to create economic incentives for farmers to shift from high-input monoculture to diversified cropping.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

India chose not to sign a global pledge to triple renewable energy capacity by 2030 due to concerns about the draft text’s mention of phasing out coal. Additionally, India is likely to abstain from endorsing a health declaration due to references to health sector emissions. These decisions reflect India’s reservations about commitments that could impact its energy choices, particularly coal, and raise concerns regarding health-related emissions.

Relevance:

GS III: Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights of COP28 Pledge on Coal Phase-Out
  2. Why India Continues to Rely on Coal for Its Energy Needs?

Key Highlights of COP28 Pledge on Coal Phase-Out

  • The COP28 pledge primarily focused on tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030, a commitment India had already supported within the G20.
  • However, the pledge also included references to phasing out coal and discontinuing fresh investments in the coal sector, which India was unwilling to endorse.
  • These pledges, part of the host country’s initiative to build alliances on specific climate topics to spur greater climate action, lack legal binding and have seen limited Indian participation.
First-Ever COP Health Day
  • COP featured a dedicated health day for the first time, highlighting the severe impact of climate change on human health and well-being and stressing the urgency of climate action to mitigate these effects.
  • Yet, the text mentioned measures to limit emissions from the health sector and assess greenhouse gas emissions from health systems, a position India opposes outside the UNFCCC framework.
  • India has traditionally avoided participating in such initiatives, especially those involving sensitive issues, as they could potentially prejudice its positions in climate change negotiations.

Why India Continues to Rely on Coal for Its Energy Needs?

Background:
  • India has recently stated its intention to continue relying on coal for electricity generation in the foreseeable future, despite significant expansion in renewable energy sources.
  • This stance appears contrary to India’s ambitious goals of achieving net-zero emissions. India has pledged to source 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030 and achieve 100% by 2070.
Rising Energy Demand:
  • India’s energy demand is rapidly increasing, with a 2022 surge of approximately 8%, driven by heightened economic activity.
  • Industrial and commercial sectors are major energy consumers, alongside residential and agricultural sectors.
  • India is projected to experience the most substantial energy demand growth globally over the next 30 years, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Coal Dependency:
  • India has significantly increased coal production, growing by 14% from 2021-22 to 2022-23, reaching 893 million tons.
  • The country has set ambitious targets of 1.31 billion tons of coal production by 2024-25 and aims for 1.5 billion tons by 2030.
  • Currently, renewables contribute only 22% of total energy production, with fossil fuels, particularly coal, still providing 75% of India’s power supply.
Reliability Challenges of Renewables:
  • Renewables face reliability challenges, necessitating substantial investments in battery storage for a stable power supply.
  • Grid-scale battery storage is expensive due to supply chain disruptions.
  • Hydropower, a significant renewable source, has faced ecological concerns and conflicts over water resources in the Himalayan region.
  • Nuclear power generation efforts have not gained momentum, contributing only 3.15% of total electricity in 2021-22.
Future Plans:
  • India aims to achieve 500 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2030, three times the current capacity of around 180 GW.
  • However, due to constraints in renewable energy sources, India will continue to rely on coal-generated electricity.
  • India is focusing on phasing down coal use rather than phasing it out entirely.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

In a recent development, the Supreme Court clarified that the Centre’s 2021 notification, which extended the Border Security Force’s (BSF) jurisdiction in Punjab from 15 to 50 km, allows the BSF to act concurrently to prevent specific offenses within these limits. However, it does not diminish the investigative authority of the state police. This clarification comes in response to a legal challenge by the Punjab government against the Centre’s decision to expand the BSF’s jurisdiction.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the BSF
  2. Centre’s Notification on BSF’s Jurisdiction Extension
  3. Different Issues in the Extension of Jurisdiction
  4. Constitutional Viewpoint on Deployment of Armed Forces in States

About the BSF

  • The Border Security Force (BSF) was established in 1965, following the India-Pakistan war.
  • It is one of the seven Central Armed Police Forces of India and operates under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
  • The other Central Armed Police Forces include the Assam Rifles (AR), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), National Security Guards (NSG), and Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
  • The BSF, with a strength of approximately 2.65 lakhs, is deployed along the borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • It is responsible for guarding the Indo-Pakistan International Border, Indo-Bangladesh International Border, and the Line of Control (LoC) in coordination with the Indian Army. The BSF also plays a role in anti-Naxal operations.
  • Additionally, the BSF is responsible for defending areas like Sir Creek in the Arabian Sea and the Sundarban delta in the Bay of Bengal, using a modern fleet of watercraft.
  • The BSF also contributes a substantial contingent of trained personnel to UN peacekeeping missions on an annual basis.

Centre’s Notification on BSF’s Jurisdiction Extension

Notification Replacing Previous Order:
  • The Centre has issued a new notification to extend the jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF), replacing a 2014 order under the BSF Act, 1968.
  • The previous order covered states like Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland, and Meghalaya.
  • The new notification also explicitly mentions the two newly created Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh, along with Assam, West Bengal, and Punjab.
Violations Under BSF’s Purview:

The BSF is empowered to carry out search and seizure operations for various violations, including:

  • Smuggling of narcotics and other prohibited items.
  • Illegal entry of foreigners.
  • Offenses punishable under other Central Acts, among others.
Handling of Suspects and Detained Individuals:
  • After the BSF detains a suspect or seizes a consignment within its specified area of jurisdiction, it is authorized to conduct “preliminary questioning.”
  • However, the BSF is required to hand over the suspect to the local police within 24 hours.
  • It’s important to note that the BSF does not possess the authority to prosecute crime suspects.
Special Powers of BSF:
  • The BSF Act, 1968, grants the BSF special powers in border states, allowing for the extension of its jurisdiction concerning offenses.
  • The extent of this jurisdiction has evolved over the years; for instance, Gujarat had an 80-kilometer jurisdiction since 1969.
  • Currently, this jurisdiction has been standardized to 50 kilometers.
  • This means that the BSF also has jurisdiction over certain offenses under laws like the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920, and Passport Act, 1967.
  • Local police authorities retain their jurisdiction alongside the concurrent jurisdiction granted to the BSF.

Different Issues in the Extension of Jurisdiction

Division of Responsibilities:

  • Public order and policing, which encompass maintaining public peace, safety, and tranquility, are primarily the responsibilities of State Governments, as indicated in Entry 1 and Entry 2 of the State list, respectively.

Concern for National Security:

  • However, when a situation of serious public disorder arises, threatening the security or defense of the State or the country itself (as per Entry 1 of the Union list), it becomes a matter of concern for the Union Government.

Encroachment on State Powers:

  • The extension of jurisdiction by the Union Government without obtaining the concurrence of the state government may be viewed as encroachment on the powers of the states.

Punjab’s Perspective:

  • In the case of Punjab, the state government has asserted that this notification represents the Centre’s encroachment under the guise of security or development.

Policing Roles:

  • Policing in the hinterland, which is not the primary role of a border guarding force like the BSF, could potentially weaken the capacity of the BSF in fulfilling its primary duty of guarding the international border.
Issues Specific to Punjab:
  • For a 50-kilometer jurisdiction, the BSF would have concurrent powers, along with the state police, to handle all cognizable offenses under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
  • In Punjab, extending the jurisdiction from 15 to 50 kilometers encompasses all major cities, raising concerns about the impact on policing and governance.
  • In contrast, states like Gujarat, with substantial marshland, and Rajasthan, with vast desert areas, may have different considerations due to the geographical layout.

Constitutional Viewpoint on Deployment of Armed Forces in States

  • Article 355 of the Indian Constitution empowers the Centre to deploy its armed forces to protect a state against “external aggression and internal disturbance,” even when the concerned state does not request the Centre’s assistance and is unwilling to receive central forces.
  • In situations where a state opposes the deployment of the Union’s armed forces, the appropriate course of action for the Centre is to issue directives to the concerned state under Article 355.
  • If the state fails to comply with the Central government’s directive, the Centre can take further action under Article 356, which deals with the imposition of President’s Rule in the state.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Recently, India has been re-elected to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Council, marking its continuous service at IMO.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. International Maritime Organization (IMO)
  2. India’s Engagement with IMO

International Maritime Organization (IMO):

  • The IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) responsible for regulating global shipping and preventing marine pollution caused by ships.
  • It was established in 1948 following a UN conference in Geneva and officially came into existence in 1958.
Membership:
  • The IMO has 175 Member States and three Associate Members, with its headquarters located in London, United Kingdom.
  • India became a member of the IMO in 1959.
Role:
  • The primary role of the IMO is to create a fair and effective regulatory framework for the global shipping industry, with the goal of universal adoption and implementation.
  • It addresses legal matters related to shipping, including issues of liability and compensation, and facilitates international maritime traffic.
  • The organization celebrates World Maritime Day on the last Thursday of every September to emphasize the importance of shipping and maritime activities.
Structure of IMO:
  • IMO is governed by an assembly of members, which convenes every two years, and a council comprising 40 members, elected by the assembly for two-year terms.
  • The Assembly serves as the highest governing body, while the IMO Council, acting as the executive organ, supervises the organization’s work, particularly in maritime safety and pollution prevention.
  • IMO’s activities are carried out through five committees and several subcommittees responsible for developing and adopting international conventions, codes, resolutions, and guidelines.

India’s Engagement with IMO:

  • India holds Category B status in the IMO Council, reflecting its ongoing commitment to maritime affairs.
  • India’s Vision 2030 aims to bolster its representation at the IMO by appointing permanent representatives at IMO London.
  • The Amrit Kaal Vision 2047 outlines goals to enhance India’s global maritime presence, including establishing a dedicated IMO cell, designating a permanent representative at IMO headquarters, and implementing the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Master Plan.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

India’s manufacturing sector continued to perform better with S&P Global Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rising to 56 in November against 55.5 in October.

Relevance:

GS-III: Indian Economy (Growth and Development of Indian Economy, Mobilization of Resources)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)?
  2. Understanding PMI

What is Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)?

  • The Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is an index of the prevailing direction of economic trends in the manufacturing and service sectors.
  • It consists of a diffusion index that summarizes whether market conditions, as viewed by purchasing managers, are expanding, staying the same, or contracting.
  • The purpose of the PMI is to provide information about current and future business conditions to company decision makers, analysts, and investors.
  • In simple words, Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) is a measure of the prevailing direction of economic trends in manufacturing.
  • PMI is a survey-based measure that asks the respondents about changes in their perception about key business variables as compared with the previous month.
  • The purpose of the PMI is to provide information about current and future business conditions to company decision makers, analysts, and investors.
  • It is calculated separately for the manufacturing and services sectors and then a composite index is also constructed.
  • PMI is compiled by IHS Markit for more than 40 economies worldwide – IHS Markit is a global leader in information, analytics and solutions for the major industries and markets that drive economies worldwide.

Understanding PMI

  • The PMI is a number from 0 to 100.
  • A print above 50 means expansion, while a score below that denotes contraction.
  • A reading at 50 indicates no change.
  • If PMI of the previous month is higher than the PMI of the current month, it represents that the economy is contracting.
  • It is usually released at the start of every month. It is, therefore, considered a good leading indicator of economic activity.
  • It is different from the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), which also gauges the level of activity in the economy.
  • IIP covers the broader industrial sector compared to PMI.
  • However, PMI is more dynamic compared to a standard industrial production index.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

An outbreak of a respiratory illness in northern China and Ohio in the US — the White Lung Syndrome as people are calling it — has sparked speculation online of a new pandemic threat after COVID-19.

Relevance:

GS II: Health

White Lung Syndrome:

  • Origin: White Lung Syndrome is characterized by distinctive white patches on chest X-rays observed in affected children.
  • Inclusive of Various Respiratory Illnesses: This term encompasses various respiratory illnesses, including acute respiratory distress syndrome, pulmonary alveolar microlithiasis, and silica-related conditions.
  • Causes: The syndrome is believed to result from a combination of factors, including bacterial and viral infections, as well as environmental factors.
  • Signs and Symptoms: Patients with White Lung Syndrome typically experience symptoms such as cough, fever, runny nose, accumulation of phlegm in sinuses, difficulty breathing, and fatigue.
  • Treatment: Treatment primarily focuses on addressing the symptoms of pneumonia and ensuring the respiratory health of patients. This may involve administering medicines to alleviate symptoms like cough and fever, as well as continuous monitoring and the provision of oxygen therapy if necessary.

-Source: Hindustan Times



Context:

Recently, Indonesia’s Mount Marapi in West Sumatra province erupted, spewing white-and-grey ash plumes for more than 3,000 metres (about 9,800 feet) into the air.

Relevance:

GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Mount Marapi
  2. Pacific Ring of Fire

Mount Marapi:

  • Location: Mount Marapi is situated in West Sumatra and should not be confused with Mount Merapi in Java.
  • Meaning of Name: Its name, “Marapi,” translates to “Mountain of Fire.”
  • Activity: Mount Marapi is renowned for its high level of activity, having recorded over 60 eruptions since the late 18th century. It holds the distinction of being the most active volcano in Sumatra.

Pacific Ring of Fire:

  • Definition: The Pacific Ring of Fire, also known as the Circum-Pacific Belt, is a geographical region surrounding the Pacific Ocean characterized by the presence of active volcanoes and frequent seismic activity, including earthquakes.
  • Length: This geological belt spans approximately 40,000 kilometers (24,900 miles).
  • Tectonic Plates: The Ring of Fire is associated with the boundaries of several tectonic plates, including the Pacific Plate, Juan de Fuca Plate, Cocos Plate, Indian-Australian Plate, Nazca Plate, North American Plate, and Philippine Plate. These interactions between tectonic plates contribute to the region’s geological activity.

-Source: The Hindu


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