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Current Affairs 28 August 2023

CONTENTS

  1. Opinion Paper Raises Concerns about IFFCO’s Nano Liquid Urea’s Scientific Validity
  2. Rapid Aging of India’s Workforce: Concerns Amidst Youthful Population
  3. Naming of sites on the Moon
  4. Zonal Councils
  5. Parboiled rice

Opinion Paper Raises Concerns about IFFCO’s Nano Liquid Urea’s Scientific Validity


Context:

A recent opinion paper in “Plant and Soil” questions the scientific validity of IFFCO’s Nano Liquid Urea. It raises doubts about the product’s efficacy and benefits, emphasizing the necessity for rigorous scientific evaluation before introducing nano fertilizers to the market.

Relevance:

GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Liquid Nano Urea: Innovative Plant Nutrient
  2. Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (IFFCO)
  3. Background
  4. Concerns Raised by the Paper
  5. Study Recommendations

Liquid Nano Urea: Innovative Plant Nutrient

Nanoparticle Formulation

  • Liquid Nano Urea is a novel formulation of urea, designed as nanoparticles.
  • It serves as a liquid nutrient, supplying nitrogen to plants as an alternative to traditional urea.

Urea Overview

  • Urea is a chemical nitrogen fertilizer commonly used to provide plants with nitrogen, a crucial nutrient.

Reduced Dependency and Composition

  • Liquid Nano Urea aims to replace conventional urea and potentially decrease its usage by around 50%.
  • A 500 ml bottle of Liquid Nano Urea contains 40,000 mg/L of nitrogen, equivalent to the nitrogen impact of a bag of standard urea.

Indigenous Development and Atmanirbhar Bharat

  • The formulation has been developed domestically at the Nano Biotechnology Research Centre in Kalol, Gujarat, aligning with India’s self-reliance initiatives (Atmanirbhar Bharat and Atmanirbhar Krishi).

Challenges in Urea Supply

  • India currently relies on imports to fulfill its urea requirements.
Significance and Benefits
  • Enhanced Plant Nutrition: Liquid Nano Urea has demonstrated efficacy and efficiency in plant nutrition, contributing to increased production and improved nutritional quality.
  • Balanced Nutrition and Crop Health: By minimizing excess soil urea application, it supports a well-rounded nutrition plan, fostering stronger, healthier crops and reducing lodging.
  • Environmental Impact: This innovation positively affects groundwater quality and significantly reduces global warming, contributing to climate change mitigation and sustainable development.

Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Limited (IFFCO)

  • Size and Ownership: IFFCO is a prominent Indian cooperative society that is fully owned by Indian cooperatives themselves.
  • Establishment: Founded in 1967 with only 57 cooperatives, it has evolved into a conglomerate of more than 36,000 Indian cooperatives.
  • Diverse Business Interests: IFFCO’s scope extends beyond its initial focus. While its core business involves the production and distribution of fertilizers, it has diversified into various sectors, including General Insurance and Rural Telecom.
Objective
  • Enhancing Farmer Prosperity: The primary objective of IFFCO is to contribute to the well-being of Indian farmers. It aims to achieve this by ensuring the timely supply of dependable, high-quality agricultural inputs and services.
  • Environmental Sustainability: IFFCO’s operations are guided by the principle of environmental sustainability, striving to provide its services while minimizing adverse impacts on the environment.
  • Welfare Improvement: IFFCO also seeks to undertake additional initiatives that can enhance the welfare of farmers, potentially encompassing a range of activities beyond its core operations.

Background

  • IFFCO’s Claim: IFFCO proposed that a small amount of nano liquid urea could replace a significant quantity of conventional urea.
  • Expansion Plans: The Indian central government and IFFCO aimed to scale up nano urea production and exports.
  • Concerns by Researchers: Researchers expressed apprehensions about potential repercussions, as overstated assertions could lead to substantial yield losses, affecting food security and farmers’ livelihoods.

Concerns Raised by the Paper

  • Promising Introduction: Nano liquid urea was introduced as a promising substitute for traditional granular urea.
  • Lack of Field Results: Nano liquid urea has not demonstrated tangible results in real-world applications. Farmers using it faced higher input costs without corresponding crop yield improvements.
  • Discrepancy in Claims: The disparity between product claims and practical outcomes is evident.
  • Environmental Claims Unsubstantiated: Despite IFFCO’s portrayal of nano urea as eco-friendly, the paper finds no scientific basis for this assertion.
  • Nitrogen’s Environmental Impact: The paper highlights nitrogen’s connection to environmental problems like Climate Change, Ocean Acidification, and Ozone Depletion, underscoring its significance in crop growth.

Study Recommendations

  • Addressing Excess Nitrogen: The study emphasizes the need to tackle excess nitrogen due to its detrimental environmental effects.
  • Scientific Evaluation: Transparent and rigorous scientific assessment before introducing novel agricultural technologies is vital.
  • Importance of Responsible Innovation: Given the potential impacts on food security, farmers, and the environment, responsible innovation and evidence-based decisions are crucial in agriculture.

-Source: Down To Earth


Rapid Aging of India’s Workforce: Concerns Amidst Youthful Population


Context:

India, despite having the world’s largest youth population, is experiencing a rapid aging of its workforce, as indicated by CMIE’s  (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy) Economic Outlook data. This trend is concerning as it signifies a decline in the proportion of young workers and an increase in those nearing 60 years of age among the employed population.

Relevance:

GS I: Population related issues

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Insights from the Analysis
  2. Factors Influencing an Ageing Workforce
  3. Concerns and Implications of an Ageing Indian Workforce

Key Insights from the Analysis

Workforce Composition Across Age Groups
  • Categorized into Three Age Groups: The analysis segments the workforce into distinct age groups to analyze the trend of an aging workforce.
  • Aged 15-29 Years: The percentage of workers in this age bracket within the total workforce has dwindled from 25% in 2016-17 to 17% in the financial year 2022-23.
  • Aged 30-44 Years: Individuals falling within this age range also witnessed a decline in their share, decreasing from 38% to 33% over the same period.
  • Aged 45 Years and Older: Notably, this category’s share has observed a significant growth, escalating from 37% to 49%.
Declining Employment Rates Among Youth
  • Youth Population Growth: Despite an increase of 2.64 crore in the youth population (from 35.49 crore in 2016-17 to 38.13 crore in 2022-23), the number of employed individuals within this group has plummeted by a substantial 3.24 crore.
  • Plummeting Employment Rate: Consequently, the employment rate for this age group has experienced a sharp drop from 29% to 19% over a span of seven years.
Varied Impact on Different Age Categories
  • Across Age Groups: The reduction in employment rates is most pronounced among the youth, yet the trend is also noticeable in other age groups, albeit to a lesser degree.
  • Oldest Age Group: Intriguingly, the oldest age segment (45 years and above) has faced a comparatively minor decline in employment rates and has even seen an upturn in the absolute number of employed individuals.

Factors Influencing an Ageing Workforce

Limited Job Opportunities
  • Insufficient Job Openings: A major driver of diminishing youth employment is the scarcity of available job opportunities.
  • Population Growth vs Job Growth: The rapid expansion of the youth population hasn’t been met with a proportional increase in job openings, resulting in intense competition for limited positions.
Skill Mismatch
  • Skills Gap: Disparity between the skills possessed by youth and those demanded by the job market can lead to elevated unemployment rates.
  • Education’s Role: The education system might not adequately prepare young individuals for the evolving job landscape, causing underemployment or joblessness.
Informal Sector Predominance
  • Informal Employment: A significant portion of India’s workforce engages in the informal sector, where stable employment and social security benefits are often lacking.
  • Lack of Formal Opportunities: Entering the job market, youth might struggle to secure steady formal employment, resulting in instability and underutilization of skills.
Educational Mismatch
  • Educational Attainment Increase: Although youth are achieving higher education levels, a discrepancy could exist between acquired education-based skills and those demanded by employers.
  • Aspirations and Waiting: A desire for higher-level positions might lead youth to wait for suitable jobs, contributing to a decline in their employment rates.

Concerns and Implications of an Ageing Indian Workforce

Reduced Productivity and Economic Impact
  • Health-related Issues: Older employees might experience decreased productivity due to health concerns and declining physical capabilities, affecting overall economic output.
Healthcare Demand and Strain
  • Healthcare Demand Increase: An ageing workforce could lead to heightened demand for healthcare services, potentially straining both public and private healthcare systems.
Lack of Innovation and Dynamism
  • Fresh Perspectives and Innovation: Younger workers often bring novel viewpoints and technological expertise, fostering innovation in various industries.
  • Aging Workforce Limitation: An ageing workforce may lack the dynamic qualities and innovation potential that younger employees offer.
Impact on Economic Growth
  • Declining Workforce Contribution: A shrinking working-age population contributes less to both production and consumption, affecting economic growth potential.
Labor Shortages in Certain Sectors
  • Labor Shortages: Industries relying on manual labor, like construction and manufacturing, might face shortages if younger workers are unavailable to replace older ones.
Skill Shortages and Impeded Progress
  • Skill Deficits: An ageing workforce can result in skill scarcities, particularly in sectors requiring specialized knowledge, potentially hindering technological advancement.
Altered Consumer Patterns and Demand
  • Different Consumption Patterns: Older individuals often prioritize savings and essential goods, influencing consumer demand and affecting industries catering to luxury goods.

-Source: Indian Express


Naming of Sites on the Moon


Context:

While speaking at the ISRO headquarters in Bengaluru, PM Modi announced that the point where the Chandrayaan-3 lander touched down on the lunar surface would be named Shiv Shakti.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indian Lunar Names: A Tribute to Pioneers
  2. Lunar Landing Site Naming: The Role of International Astronomical Union (IAU) and Beyond
  3. IAU’s Process and Norms for Naming Planetary Objects

Indian Lunar Names: A Tribute to Pioneers

Notable Lunar Features
  • Beyond Landing Sites: The naming of lunar landing sites is just one instance of Indian recognition on the Moon.
  • Sarabhai Crater: A crater on the Moon honors Vikram Sarabhai, a visionary in India’s space endeavors.
Jawahar Sthal: A Legacy of Chandrayaan-1
  • Chandrayaan-1 Impact: Post Chandrayaan-1’s mission in 2008, the probe was intentionally crashed, and the impact site was named “Jawahar Sthal” in tribute to Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • Nehru’s Legacy: ISRO proposed the name in honor of Nehru, recognizing his advocacy for scientific advancements and research in India.
  • Timing and Acceptance: The landing coincided with Nehru’s birthday, adding significance, and later the International Astronomical Union (IAU) officially embraced the name.

Lunar Landing Site Naming: The Role of International Astronomical Union (IAU) and Beyond

IAU’s Authority in Celestial Naming
  • IAU Primacy: The International Astronomical Union (IAU) is the key authority for officially naming celestial bodies and their surface features, including lunar sites.
  • Founded in 1919: Established in 1919, the IAU holds responsibility for guiding space activities, including naming, with membership from 92 countries, including India.
  • Comprehensive Mission: Its mission encompasses the promotion and safeguarding of astronomy in various facets through global cooperation.
Guidelines for Lunar Names
  • Naming Framework: IAU formulates regulations and processes for naming lunar craters, mountains, valleys, and other topographical features.
  • Informal to Official: Initially, names are often informally assigned to mission sites. This practice has historical precedent, notably during the Apollo missions.
  • Apollo Missions: During Apollo, small craters and mountains near landing sites received informal designations (e.g., Shorty, St. George). Official names (e.g., Hadley Rille) were also utilized. Many informal names gained “official” status from IAU.
Historical and Cultural Influences
  • Names with Significance: Lunar features bear names of historical figures, scientists, astronauts, and cultural allusions.
  • Exemplary Naming: Renowned scientists and explorers frequently lend their names to lunar craters, honoring their contributions.
Involvement of Space Agencies
  • Collaborative Naming: National and international space agencies, like NASA and ESA, might propose names for significant lunar sites with historical or scientific value.
  • Suggesting Significance: Agencies play a role in suggesting names for areas with noteworthy relevance in space exploration.

IAU’s Process and Norms for Naming Planetary Objects

IAU’s Working Groups: Decision Makers
  • Expert-Led Process: IAU’s Working Groups play a central role in naming planetary objects.
  • Specialized Members: These groups comprise experts in planetary science, lunar geology, and related fields.
  • Proposing and Reviewing: They propose and review names for lunar features, handling the nomenclature process.
Approval and Implementation
  • Review and Approval: Working Group members vote to approve proposed names.
  • Official Nomenclature: Successful names become official IAU nomenclature, eligible for usage on maps and publications.
  • Objections Process: A three-month window allows for objections. Any objections are submitted to the IAU General-Secretary.
Norms for Naming Space Objects
  • Clarity and Uniqueness: IAU suggests names for planetary objects to be simple, clear, and unambiguous. Avoidance of duplication is important.
  • Exclusion of Certain Attributes: Political, military, or religious names are discouraged, except for pre-19th-century political figures.
  • Limited Commemoration: Honoring individuals on planetary bodies isn’t the primary aim. Exceptions can occur in specific cases.
  • Deceased Honorees: Persons being commemorated must have been deceased for a minimum of three years before a proposal can be submitted.

-Source: Indian Express


Zonal Councils


Context:

Union Home Minister will chair the 26th meeting of the Western Zonal Council at Gandhinagar.

Relevance:

GS II- Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What are Zonal Councils?
  2. Composition
  3. Objectives of the zonal councils

What are Zonal Councils?

  • Zonal Councils are advisory councils and are made up of the states of India that have been grouped into five zones to foster cooperation among them. These were set up vide Part-III of the States Reorganization Act, 1956.
  • The Zonal Councils are the statutory (and not the constitutional) bodies.
    • They are established by an Act of the Parliament, that is, States Reorganization Act of 1956.
  • The act divided the country into five zones (Northern, Central, Eastern, Western and Southern) and provided a zonal council for each zone.
  • The Union Home Minister is the common chairman of the five Zonal Councils.
  • Each chief minister acts as a vice-chairman of the council by rotation, holding office for a period of one year at a time.
  • While forming these zones, several factors have been taken into account which include  the natural divisions of the country, the river systems and means of communication, the cultural and linguistic affinity and the requirements of economic development, security and law and order.
  • In addition to the above Zonal Councils, a North-Eastern Council was created by a separate Act of Parliament i.e. the North-Eastern Council Act of 1971.
  • These are advisory bodies that will discuss and make recommendations with regard to any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning between the Centre and States.
Each zonal council consists of the following members
  • Home minister of Central government.
  • Chief ministers of all the States in the zone.
  • Two other ministers from each state in the zone.
  • Administrator of each union territory in the zone.

Composition:

  • The Northern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh,
  • The Central Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh,
  • The Eastern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and West Bengal,
  • The Western Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli,
  • The Southern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

Objectives of the zonal councils:

  • To achieve an emotional integration of the country.
  • To help in arresting the growth of acute state-consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic trends.
  • To help in removing the after-effects of separation in some cases so that the process of re- organisation, integration and economic advancement may synchronise.
  • To enable the Centre and states to cooperate with each other in social and economic matters and exchange ideas and experience in order to evolve uniform policies.
  • To cooperate with each other in the successful and speedy execution of major development projects.
  • To secure some kind of political equilibrium between different regions of the country.

-Source: Indian Express


Parboiled Rice


Context:

The Central Government recently imposed a 20% export duty on parboiled rice.

Relevance:

GS II- Health

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is parboiled rice?
  2. Are all rice varieties suitable for parboiling?
  3. Advantages
  4. Disadvantages

What is parboiled rice?

  • The dictionary meaning of ‘parboil’ is ‘partly cooked by boiling’.
  • Thus, the expression parboiled rice refers to rice that has been partially boiled at the paddy stage, before milling.
  • Parboiling of rice is not a new practice, and has been followed in India since ancient times.
  • However, there is no specific definition of parboiled rice of the Food Corporation of India or the Food Ministry.

There are several processes for parboiling rice:

  • The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysuru, uses a method in which the paddy is soaked in hot water for three hours, in contrast to the more common method in which paddy is soaked for 8 hours.
    • The water is then drained and the paddy steamed for 20 minutes. Also, the paddy is dried in the shade in the method used by the CFTRI, but is sun-dried in the common method.
  • The Paddy Processing Research Centre (PPRC), Thanjavur follows a method known as the chromate soaking process.
    • It uses chromate, a family of salt in which the anion contains both chromium and oxygen, which removes the odour from the wet rice.
  • All processes generally involve three stages—soaking, steaming and drying. After passing through these stages, the paddy goes for milling.

Are all rice varieties suitable for parboiling?

  • Generally, all varieties can be processed into parboiled rice, but it is ideal to use long slender varieties to prevent breakage during milling.
  • However, aromatic varieties should not be parboiled because the process can make it can lose its aroma.

Advantages:

  • Parboiling makes rice tougher.
  • This reduces the chances of the rice kernel breaking during milling.
  • Parboiling also increases the nutrient value of the rice.
  • Parboiled rice has a higher resistance to insects and fungi.

Disadvantages:

  • The rice becomes darker and may smell unpleasant due to prolonged soaking.
  • Besides, setting up a parboiling rice milling unit requires a higher investment than a raw rice milling unit.

-Source: Indian Express


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