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Current Affairs 07 July 2022

CONTENTS

  1. Minimum Support Price
  2. EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy
  3. Nominated Members in Rajya Sabha
  4. Critical Minerals
  5. Environment Protection Act 1986
  6. Nairobi flies

 Minimum Support Price


Context:

Ahead of the nationwide protests demanding a law to ensure MSP, NITI Aayog has asserted that the MSP should continue till markets become competitive and efficient.

Relevance:

GS-III: Agriculture (Agriculture Pricing), GS-II: Social Justice (Welfare Schemes)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Minimum Support Price (MSP)?
  2. Why is there a need for MSP?
  3. What are the issues related to MSP?

What is Minimum Support Price (MSP)?

  • Minimum Support Price is the price at which government purchases crops from the farmers, whatever may be the price for the crops.
  • MSPs have no statutory backing — a farmer cannot demand MSP as a matter of right.
  • Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) in the Ministry of Agriculture recommends MSPs for 23 crops.
  • CACP consider various factors while recommending the MSP for a commodity like cost of cultivation, supply and demand situation for the commodity; market price trends (domestic and global) and parity vis-à-vis other crops etc.
  • MSP seeks to:
    • Assured Value: To give guaranteed prices and assured market to the farmers and save them from the price fluctuations (National or International).
    • Improving Productivity: By encouraging higher investment and adoption of modern technologies in agricultural activities.
    • Consumer Interest: To safeguard the interests of consumers by making available supplies at reasonable prices.

While recommending MSPs, the CACP looks at the following factors:

  •  the demand and supply of a commodity;
  •  its cost of production;
  •  the market price trends (both domestic and international);
  • inter-crop price parity;
  • the terms of trade between agriculture and non-agriculture (that is, the ratio of prices of farm inputs and farm outputs);
  • a minimum of 50 per cent as the margin over the cost of production; and
  • the likely implications of an MSP on consumers of that product.
Crops covered

Crops covered by MSPs include:

  • 7 types of cereals (paddy, wheat, maize, bajra, jowar, ragi and barley),
  •  5 types of pulses (chana, arhar/tur, urad, moong and masur),
  • 7 oilseeds (rapeseed-mustard, groundnut, soyabean, sunflower, sesamum, safflower, nigerseed),
  • 4 commercial crops (cotton, sugarcane, copra, raw jute)

Why is there a need for MSP?

  • The MSP is a minimum price guarantee that acts as a safety net or insurance for farmers when they sell particular crops.
  • The guaranteed price and assured market are expected to encourage higher investment and in adoption of modern technologies in agricultural activities.
  • With globalization resulting in freer trade in agricultural commodities, it is very important to protect farmers from the unwarranted fluctuation in prices.

What are the issues related to MSP?

  • Low accessibility and awareness of the MSP regime: A survey highlighted that, 81% of the cultivators were aware of MSP fixed by the Government for different crops and out of them only 10% knew about MSP before the sowing season.
  • Arrears in payments: More than 50% of the farmers receive their payments of MSP after one week.
  • Poor marketing arrangements: Almost 67% of the farmers sell their produce at MSP rate through their own arrangement and 21% through brokers.
  • According to NITI Aayog report on MSP, 21% of the farmers of the sample States expressed their satisfaction about MSP declared by the Government whereas 79% expressed their dissatisfaction due to various reasons. Although, majority of the farmers of the sample States were dissatisfied on MSP rates, still 94% of them desired that the MSP rates should be continued.

-Source: The Hindu


EU’s Sustainable Finance Taxonomy


Context:

Supporters say EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy is the world’s most ambitious green investment rulebook and could direct huge sums of money into fighting climate change. Critics say it’s a “greenwashing” exercise that puts the European Union’s climate change targets at risk.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is the EU taxonomy?
  2. What does it say about gas and nuclear energy?
  3. What’s the taxonomy for?
  4. What makes a “green” investment?

What is the EU taxonomy?

  • The EU taxonomy is a complex system to classify which parts of the economy may be marketed as sustainable investments.
    • It includes economic activities, as well as detailed environmental criteria that each economic activity must meet to earn a green label.
  • Rules for most sectors came into effect this year, covering investments including steel plants, electric cars and building renovations.
  • The rules for gas and nuclear energy, however, have been long delayed amid intense lobbying from governments who disagree on whether the fuels help fight climate change.

What does it say about gas and nuclear energy?

  • The European Commission made a proposal in February 2022 to add gas and nuclear power plants to the taxonomy if they meet certain criteria.
  • The European Parliament supported that proposal, paving the way for it to become law and apply from 2023.
  • Under the Commission proposal, for a gas-fuelled power plant to be deemed green, it must emit no more than 270 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour, or have average emissions of 550g CO2e/kW over 20 years.
  • It must also commit to switch to low-carbon gases by 2035.
  • The Commission’s original proposal for gas, published in late 2020, had included a lower 100g CO2 limit.
  • It was amended following backlash from countries including Poland and Bulgaria, who say gas investments are needed to quit more-polluting coal.
  • Others, such as Denmark and Luxembourg, say it is not credible to label gas, a fossil fuel, as green.

What’s the taxonomy for?

  • The taxonomy does not ban investments in activities not labelled “green”, but it limits which ones companies and investors can claim are climate-friendly.
  • The EU’s goal to eliminate its net emissions by 2050 will require huge investments, much of it private funding.
  • The taxonomy aims to make truly green activities more visible and attractive to investors.
  • The rules also aim to stamp out greenwashing, where organisations exaggerate their environmental credentials, among so-called eco-friendly investment products.

Who does it apply to?

  • Providers of financial products – including pension providers – in the EU must disclose which investments comply with the taxonomy’s climate criteria.
  • For each investment, fund or portfolio, they must disclose what share of underlying investments comply with the rules.
  • Large companies and listed firms must also disclose what share of their turnover and capital expenditure complies.
  • That means polluting companies can get recognition for making green investments.
    • For example, if an oil company invested in a wind farm, it could label that expenditure as green.

What makes a “green” investment?

  • The rules classify three types of green investments.
    • First, those that substantially contribute to green goals, for example, wind power farms.
    • Second, those that enable other green activities, for example, facilities that can store renewable electricity or hydrogen.
    • Third, transitional activities that cannot be made fully sustainable, but which have emissions below industry average and do not lock in polluting assets or crowd out greener alternatives.
  • Gas and nuclear power plants are classed as transitional activities.

-Source: Indian Express


Nominated Members in Rajya Sabha


Context:

Olympic sprinter PT Usha and music composer Ilaiyaraaja among others have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha in the category of eminent persons nominated by the President.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Nominated Members of Rajya Sabha:
  2. Article 80
  3. Difference between Nominated and Elected members

About Nominated Members of Rajya Sabha:

  • 12 people are nominated by the President for six year term in Rajya Sabha for their contribution and expertise in the fields of:
    • Art
    • Literature
    • Science
    • Social Service
Normal composition
  • The present strength is 245 members of whom 233 are representatives of the states and UTs and 12 are nominated by the President.
  • The Rajya Sabha is not subject to dissolution; one-third of its members retire every second year.

Article 80

  • As per Article 80 (Part V) of the Constitution, President can nominate 12 members in the Council of States (Rajya Sabha).
  • These persons should have special knowledge or practical experience in the field of Art, Science, Literature and Social Service.
  • The rationale behind principle of the nomination is to facilitate the representation of eminent professionals and experts who cannot face direct elections.

Difference between Nominated and Elected members:

  • Nominated members enjoy all powers, privileges and immunities available to an elected member of Parliament.
  • They, however, are not entitled to vote in the election of the President of India.  
  • But in the election of the Vice-President of India, they have a right to vote.
  • A nominated member is allowed six months, should he decide to join a political party after he has taken his seat in the House in terms of article 99 of the Constitution. 
  • A nominated member has also been exempted from filing his assets and liabilities under Section 75A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 which requires the elected member to do so within 90 days of his making or subscribing oath/affirmation.

-Source: The Hindu


Critical Minerals


Context:

India and Australia have decided to strengthen their partnership in the field of projects and supply chains for critical minerals.

Relevance:

GS III- Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Critical Minerals?
  2. Why is this resource critical?
  3. What is China ‘threat’?
  4. What are countries around the world doing about it?

What are Critical Minerals?

  • Critical minerals are elements that are the building blocks of essential modern-day technologies, and are at risk of supply chain disruptions.
  • These minerals are now used everywhere from making mobile phones, computers to batteries, electric vehicles and green technologies like solar panels and wind turbines.
  • Based on their individual needs and strategic considerations, different countries create their own lists.
  • However, such lists mostly include graphite, lithium and cobalt, which are used for making EV batteries; rare earths that are used for making magnets and silicon which is a key mineral for making computer chips and solar panels.
  • Aerospace, communications and defence industries also rely on several such minerals as they are used in manufacturing fighter jets, drones, radio sets and other critical equipment.

Why is this resource critical?

  • As countries around the world scale up their transition towards clean energy and digital economy, these critical resources are key to the ecosystem that fuels this change.
  • Any supply shock can severely imperil the economy and strategic autonomy of a country over-dependent on others to procure critical minerals.
  • But these supply risks exist due to rare availability, growing demand and complex processing value chain.
  • Many times the complex supply chain can be disrupted by hostile regimes, or due to politically unstable regions.
  • They are critical as the world is fast shifting from a fossil fuel-intensive to a mineral-intensive energy system.

What is China ‘threat’?

  • China is the world’s largest producer of 16 critical minerals.
  • China alone is responsible for some 70% and 60% of global production of cobalt and rare earth elements, respectively, in 2019.
  • The level of concentration is even higher for processing operations, where China has a strong presence across the board.
  • China’s share of refining is around 35% for nickel, 50-70% for lithium and cobalt, and nearly 90% for rare earth elements.
  • It also controls cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo, from where 70% of this mineral is sourced.
  • In 2010, China suspended rare earth exports to Japan for two months over a territorial dispute.

What are countries around the world doing about it?

  • US has shifted its focus on expanding domestic mining, production, processing, and recycling of critical minerals and materials.
  • India has set up KABIL or the Khanij Bidesh India Limited, a joint venture of three public sector companies, to “ensure a consistent supply of critical and strategic minerals to the Indian domestic market”.
  • Australia’s Critical Minerals Facilitation Office (CMFO) and KABIL had recently signed an MoU aimed at ensuring reliable supply of critical minerals to India.
  • The UK has unveiled its new Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre to study the future demand for and supply of these minerals.

-Source: Indian Express


Environment Protection Act 1986


Context:

The Union Environment Ministry proposes to soften the provisions of the EP Act (EPA) by replacing a clause that provides for imprisoning violators with one that only requires them to pay a fine.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Environment (Protection) Act 1986
  2. Objectives of the Environment Protection Act
  3. Main Provisions of the Environment Protection Act

About Environment (Protection) Act 1986

  • The original constitution of India did not have any provisions related to natural environment conservation. However, by the 42nd amendment to the constitution, fundamental duties were added describing the protection of the natural environment that includes lakes, forests, wildlife, and rivers as the fundamental duty of all citizens.
  • EP Act was passed under Article 253 of the Constitution, which empowers the Centre to enact laws to give effect to international agreements signed by the country.
  • After the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was held in Stockholm, in 1972, measures were taken for improving the environmental condition.
  • The Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 were enacted followed by the Environment Protection Act 1986, passed by the Indian government for safeguarding the environment after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy on 2 December 1984, which emphasized on the need and measures for the protection of the environment.

Objectives of the Environment Protection Act

  • To protect the environment from degradation and take actions to improve the current condition.
  • To implement the decisions made at the UN Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972.
  • To set up a government body to look after the industries and regulate the effect they have on the environment, and also issue direct orders such as for closure of industries.
  • To punish and penalize those posing a danger to the environment, health, and safety.
    • For each failure, a fine of up to 1 Lakh, a prison term of five years, or both can be included. In certain cases, the term can be extended up to seven years.
  • To coordinate the work of the agencies for the protection of the environment under existing laws.
  • To enforce this law in all regions, including the places earlier exempted under previous laws.
  • To encourage and work towards sustainable development of the environment.

Main Provisions of the Environment Protection Act

  • Under this act, protection of the environment against all forms of pollution is covered, including air, water, soil, and noise.
  • The Centre can carry out various activities and programmes to further environmental protection.
  • The discharge or emission of environmental pollutants by industries will be regulated by safe standards, set by the Centre.
  • Any citizen, except the authorized government officers, can file a complaint regarding a breach of any of the provisions of the EPA.
  • Restrictions on certain locations for the establishment of a business or personal property can be imposed under this act if they seem to endanger the environment.
  • Under this act, samples of air, water, or soil from any place can be tested and analyzed by the authorized party.
  • The discharge of hazardous pollutants beyond safety standards by any individual or organization makes them liable for punishment and even a complete ban on their activity.
  • Management of hazardous substances should be done as per the regulatory norms of the government.

-Source: The Hindu


Nairobi Flies


Context:

Around 100 students of an engineering college in East Sikkim have reported skin infections after coming in contact with Nairobi flies.

Relevance:

GS III- Environment and Ecology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Nairobi flies?
  2. How are humans affected by them?
  3. Have there been outbreaks of the disease?

What are Nairobi flies?

  • Nairobi flies, also called Kenyan flies or dragon bugs, are small, beetle-like insects that belong to two species, Paederus eximius and Paederus sabaeus.
  • They are orange and black in colour, and thrive in areas with high rainfall, as has been witnessed in Sikkim in the past few weeks.
  • Like most insects, the beetles are attracted by bright light.

How are humans affected by them?

  • Usually, the insects attack pests that consume crops and are beneficial for humans — but at times, they come in contact with humans directly are cause harm.
  • Health officials say these flies do not bite, but if disturbed while sitting on anyone’s skin, they release a potent acidic substance that causes burns.
    • This substance is called pederin, and can cause irritation if it comes in contact with the skin, leading to lesions or unusual marks or colouring on the skin.
  • The skin begins to heal in a week or two, but some secondary infections can occur, especially if the victim scratches the irritated skin.

Have there been outbreaks of the disease?

  • Major outbreaks have happened in Kenya and other parts of eastern Africa.
  • In 1998, unusually heavy rain caused a large number of insects to come into the region, reported the Associated Press.
  • Outside Africa, outbreaks have happened in India, Japan, Israel, and Paraguay in the past.

-Source: Indian Express


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