Daily Current Affairs 22

15th January 2021 : Daily Current Affairs

Daily Current Affairs   Date : 15th January,2021

(30+ Questions hit in Prelims 2021 from this series)

Covers 4 Most relevant Sources

  • The Hindu
  • Indian Express
  • PIB
  • Mint

Index

  • A) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations
  • National Education Alliance for Technology (NEAT) (IE)
  • Food Corporation of India (FCI)(PIB)
  • B) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity
  • Methods of Irrigation – Suitability, Advantages and Limitations (DTE)
  • Red Sanders Falls Back in IUCN’s ‘Endangered’ Category (DTE)
  • C) Economic Developments: India and World
  • Whole-Sale Price Index (WPI) Vs Consumer Price Index (CPI)
  • D) Clever Picks (Miscellaneous)
  • Registration of Political Parties (PIB)

 

A) Indices, Reports, Surveys, Committees and Organisations

  1. National Education Alliance for Technology (NEAT) (IE)
  • Context: Central government plans to distribute free coupons for an array of courses offered by ed-tech companies to students from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds under the National Education Alliance for Technology (NEAT) initiative.
  • Through this route, the government created a bank of 12.15 lakh free coupons over the last two years. And it has now started distributing those coupons among students belonging to SC/ST/OBC and EWS categories with the annual family income cap fixed at Rs 8 lakh.

Analysis

  • NEAT is public-private partnership model between the Government and the Education Technology (edtech) companies of India and hasbeen launched by the Ministry of Education.
  • The initiative was taken after a Ministry of Education review noted that learning tools developed by edtech platforms that can supplement classroom teaching need to be made more accessible.
  • The aim of NEAT is to bring the best technological products in education pedagogy on a single platform for the convenience of learners.
  • Technology Products using Artificial Intelligence for customized learning or e-content in niche areas having highly employable skills would be identified for showcasing on the portal.
  • It is being implemented by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
  • NEAT aims to act as a bridge between edtech companies, academic institutions and students.
  • The scheme also includes free seats for existing students of higher education from weaker sections of society.
  • The distribution of free seats would be done through the NEAT portal, based on student information shared by Educational Institutions.
  • During the first phase, the portal would be launched as a pilot phase in AICTE approved Government Colleges of India only.

What are the products on display in the portal?

  • The portal — neat.aicte-india.org– has separate sections listing products for students and educational institutes respectively.
  • Under the B2B (business to business) segment of the portal, courses are on offer for higher education institutes to purchase in bulk for their students.
  • And the B2C (business to customer) section lists courses that eligible students can browse through and choose from.
  • The courses range from accounting and finance to coding, including advanced programming languages like python.
  • The basic objective of the scheme is to make students from disadvantaged backgrounds aware of the availability of such opportunities that can help them learn new skills or polish existing ones.
  • The edtech platforms have been allowed to charge fees as per their policies.
  • In order to do benefit students from backward communities the government has mandated that every shortlisted company for NEAT will have to offer free coupons to the extent of 25 per cent of the total registrations for their solution through NEAT portal.

 

  1. Food Corporation of India (FCI)(PIB)
  • Context:58thfoundation day of FCI.

Analysis

  • The Food Corporation of India (FCI)was setup under the Food Corporation’s Act 1964, in order to fulfill following objectives of the Food Policy:
  • Effective price support operations for safeguarding the interests of the farmers.
  • Distribution of foodgrains throughout the country for public distribution system.
  • Maintaining satisfactory level of operational and buffer stocks of foodgrains to ensure National Food Security.
  • FCI’s Objectives are:
  • To provide farmers remunerative prices;
  • To make food grains available at reasonable prices, particularly to vulnerable section of the society;
  • To maintain buffer stocks as measure of Food Security;
  • To intervene in market for price stabilization.

Welfare Schemes

  • Besides, Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS)&National Food Security Act (NFSA) (Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution), Food Corporation of India is also issuing food-grains under various welfare schemes.

Mid-Day Meal Scheme (Ministry of Education)

Wheat Based Nutrition Programme (WBNP)

  • This Scheme is implemented by the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
  • The foodgrains allotted under this Scheme are utilized by the States/UTs under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) for providing nutritious/ energy food to children below 6 years of age and expectant/lactating women.

Scheme for Supply of Foodgrains for SC/ST/OBC Hostels

  • The residents of the hostels having 2/3rd students belonging to SC/ST/OBC are eligible to get 15 kg foodgrains per resident per month.
  • Allocations of foodgrains under the scheme are made by the Department of Food and Public Distribution, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution,based on the requests received from the State/UT Governments.

Scheme for Supply of Foodgrains to Welfare Institutions

  • With a view to meet the requirement of Welfare Institutions viz. Charitable Institutions such as beggar homes, nariniketans and other similar welfare institutions not covered under TPDS or under any other Welfare Schemes, an additional allocation of foodgrains (rice and wheat) not exceeding 5% of the BPL allocation is made to States/UTs at BPL prices by the Department of Food and Public Distribution, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution

Annapurna Scheme

  • The Ministry of Rural Developmentlaunched the scheme in 2000-01.
  • Indigent senior citizens of 65 years of age or above who are not getting pension under the National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS) are provided 10 kgs. of foodgrains per person per month free of cost under the scheme.

Rajiv Gandhi Scheme for Empowerment of Adolescent Girls (RGSEAG) – ‘SABLA’

  • The Ministry of Women & Child Developmentlaunched the SABLA Scheme on 19.11.2010 by merging two schemes namely Nutrition Programme for Adolescent Girls (NPAG) and Kishori Shakti Yojana (KSY) in to a single scheme to be implemented in 200 selected districts across the country aims at empowering adolescent girls of 11-18 years by improvement of their nutritional and health status and upgrading various skills like home skills, life skills and vocational skills.
  • The requirement of food grains under the scheme for nutrition is @ 100 grams of grains per beneficiary per day for 300 days in a year.

Supply of foodgrains to Defence and Para-Military forces

  • FCI also supply foodgrains to the defence personnels and para-military forces on quarterly basis.
  • The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distributionon receipt of requirement of foodgrains from Ministry of Defence makes the allotment of foodgrains.

 

B) Agriculture, Geography, Environment and Biodiversity

  1. Methods of Irrigation – Suitability, Advantages and Limitations (DTE)
  • Context: An article in down to earth.

Analysis

  • Microirrigation is the slow application of continuous drips, tiny streams or miniature sprays of water above or below the soil surface.
  • Microirrigation system can be broadly classified into two categories:
  • (1) Drip irrigation system
  • (2) Sprinkler irrigation system

Drip Irrigation System

  • In this system, water is applied drop-by-drop or by a micro jet on the soil surface or sub-surface directly to the root zones of plants at a rate lower than the infiltration rate of the soil.
  • Drip irrigation can be used on windy days and during various land operations.
  • It is suitable for water scarcity and salt affected soils.
  • Drip irrigation is suitable for irrigating individual plants, trees or row crops, such as vegetables and sugarcane. It is considered to be less suitable and economical for close growing crops like rice.
  • Evaporation losses occurring in sprinkler irrigation do not occur in dripirrigation.
  • High initial cost is one of the major disadvantages of drip and sprinkler irrigation.
  • Trees grown may develop shallow confined root zones resulting in pooranchorage.

Sprinkler Irrigation System

  • Sprinkler irrigation is a method of applying water in a manner similar to rain.
  • Water is applied at a rate less than the infiltration rate of the soil hence the runofffrom irrigation is avoided.
  • Frost control – protect crops against frost and high temperature.
  • If a site is known to be windy most of the time, sprinkler irrigation will not be suitable.
  • Although sprinklers are adaptable to most soils, they are best suited for sandy soil.
  • Higher evaporation losses in spraying water.
  • It is not suitable for tall crops like sugarcane.
  • Sprinkler and drip irrigation are mostly used for high-value cash crops as they involve high investment for installation and operation of equipment.

Advantages of Microirrigation System

  • Microirrigation system has a number of advantages over surface irrigation system.

Helps in saving water

  • Water requirement in drip or sprinkler irrigation is much less as compared to any other conventional method of irrigation.
  • This is because of irrigation of a smaller portion of land, decreased evaporation from the soil surface and reduction or elimination of run-offs.
  • Waterlogging, which occurs under flat surface flood irrigation, is rare in case of microirrigation.
  • Since microirrigation system allows high level of water control application, water can be applied only when needed and losses due to deep percolation can be minimised or avoided.

Uniform Water Application

  • Consistent water application results in better and uniform crop yields as each plant is given the required amount of water and nutrients for optimum growth.

Helps in Saving Electricity

  • Microirrigation systems require less electricity as compared to other systems.

Improves Chemical Application

  • Since the fertilisers are applied directly to the root zones of the plants, a reduction in the total amount of fertiliser applied is possible.
  • Herbicides, insecticides and fungicides can also be applied through microirrigation systems, and thereby, help improve the crop yield.

Reduces Weeds and Diseases

  • Weeds are the unwanted plants that compete with the crops for nutrients, moisture and sunlight, which can reduce the crop quality and the yield.
  • These also serve as a habitat for diseases and insect-pests, which attack the main crop.
  • Weed growth is inhibited in areas irrigated by drip irrigation as only a limited area gets irrigated. Hence, the threat of weeds and diseases is reduced.

Improves Tolerance of Crops to Soil Salinity

  • Microirrigation reduces the sensitivity of most crops to saline water or soil–water conditions due to high moisture content in the root zones of plants.
  • Microirrigation (especially, drip irrigation) keeps the soil moisture continuously at a high level near the root zone, and thus, maintains a low level of salt concentration. Therefore, crops under microirrigation system are more tolerant to saline water.

Suitable to Various Topography and Soil Type

  • Microirrigation systems can function efficiently on any topography, if appropriately designed and managed.
  • Low water application rate with microirrigation systems is ideal for clayey soil as water can be applied slowly enough for the soil to absorb without any surface run-off.

Reduces Labour Costs

  • Labour requirement is reduced as it is an automated system and does not require labourers to irrigate an area.

Improves Quality and Yield

  • Crop quality and yield is improved under microirrigation system because of slow, regular and uniform application of water and nutrients.

More on Irrigation

  • The method of irrigation to be adopted is, generally, determined by the type of soil, topography of land, water source (surface or underground) and the crop to be irrigated.
  • ‘Topography’ is the slope of the ground and how much uneven or levelled it is.
  • Sandy soil have a low water storage capacity and a high infiltration rate. They, therefore, need frequent but small irrigation application, particularly, when the soil is shallow. Under these circumstances, sprinkler or drip irrigation is more suitable than surface irrigation.
  • Sprinkler or drip irrigation is preferred to surface irrigation on steeper or uneven sloping lands as they require little or no levelling.
  • The major climatic factors, which influence crop water needs are sunlight, temperature, humidity and wind speed. For example, strong winds can disturb the spraying of water by sprinklers. Therefore, drip or surface irrigation methods are preferred in windy conditions.
  • Surface irrigation is preferred if the irrigation water contains sediments. Sediments may clog the drip or sprinkler irrigation system.
  • If the irrigation water contains dissolved salts, then drip irrigation is suitable as less water is applied to the soil as compared to surface irrigation.
  • Sprinkler irrigation system is more efficient than surface irrigation, where leaching out of nutrients is likely a problem.

Growth Stage of Crops

  • There are, generally, four growth stages of crops, during which the water requirement varies.

Initial Stage

  • The period from sowing or transplanting, until the crop covers about 10 per cent of the ground. During this stage, the crop uses little water.

Crop Development Stage

  • This stage starts at the end of the initial stage and lasts until the full vegetative stage has reached (70–80 per cent). At this stage, water consumption increases.

Mid-Season Stage

  • It starts at the end of the crop development stage and lasts until maturity, which includes flowering and grain-setting. During this stage, water consumption reaches its peak.

Late-Season Stage

  • This stage starts at the end of the mid-season stage and lasts until the last day of the harvest, which includes ripening. During this stage, the maturing crop requires less water.

Surface Irrigation

  • Surface is grouped as Border, Check basin and Furrow irrigations.
  • Surface irrigation can be used for all type of crops. Furrow irrigation is best used for irrigating row crops, such as maize, vegetables and trees.
  • Border irrigation is, particularly, suitable for close growing crops but can also be used for row crops and trees.
  • In India, perhaps more than 80 per cent of the available water is used for irrigation.

Border Irrigation

  • The land is divided into number of long parallel strips called borders.
  • These borders are separated by low ridges.
  • The border strip has a uniform gentle slope in the direction of irrigation.
  • Each strip is irrigated independently by turning the water in the upper end.
  • The water spreads and flows down the strip in a sheet confined by the border ridges.
  • Suitable to irrigate all close growing crops like wheat,barley, fodder crops and legumes and not suitable for rice.

Check basin irrigation

  • Here the field is divided into smaller unit areas so that each has a nearly level surface.
  • Bunds or ridges are constructed around the area forming basins within which theirrigation water can be controlled.
  • Check basins are useful when leaching is required to remove salts from the soil profile.
  • Rainfall can be conserved and soil erosion is reduced by retaining large part of rain.
  • Not suitable for crops which are sensitive to wet soil conditions around the stem.

Furrow Irrigation

  • Used in the irrigation of row crops.
  • The furrows are formed betweencrop rows.

 

  1. Red Sanders Falls Back in IUCN’s ‘Endangered’ Category (DTE)
  • Context: Red Sanders (Red Sandalwood) has fallen back into the ‘endangered’ category in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.

Analysis

  • It was classified as ‘near threatened’ in 2018 and has now joined the ‘endangered’ list once again in 2021.
  • The latest IUCN assessment stated: “Over the last three generations, the species has experienced a population decline of 50-80 per cent. It is assessed as Endangered”.
  • The slow growth of the species and continued harvesting leaves no time for the species to recover naturally.
  • The species is also scheduled in appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of Wild Fauna and Flora(which says “trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival”) and Wildlife Protection Act and is banned from international trade.
  • However, in 2019, the Directorate General of Foreign Trade, an agency of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, revised its export policy to permit the export of red sander timber, if it is obtained from cultivated land.
  • Red Sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus) known for their rich hue and therapeutic properties, are high in demand across Asia, particularly in China and Japan, for use in cosmetics and medicinal products as well as for making furniture, woodcraft and musical instruments.

Red Sanders

  • Red Sanders is a non-fragrantvariety of sandalwood.
  • It is found in Southern Tropical Dry Deciduous Forests at altitudes of 150 – 900 m.
  • It grows on dry, hilly, often rocky ground, and occasionally found on precipitous hill sides also.
  • It prefers lateritic and gravelly soil and cannot tolerate water logging.
  • It takes at least 20-25 years for the tree’s beautiful, deep red wood to be of use.

Distribution

  • The species, Pterocarpus santalinus, is an Indian endemic tree species, with a restricted geographical range in the Eastern Ghatsin Andhra Pradesh.
  • It is mainly found in the Palakonda and Seshachalam hill ranges of Andhra Pradesh.
  • Sporadic wild populations occur in the adjoining districts of the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu & Karnataka.

 

C) Economic Developments: India and World

  1. Whole-Sale Price Index (WPI) Vs Consumer Price Index (CPI)
  • Context:The Office of the Economic Adviser, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade has released index numbers of wholesale price in India (Base Year: 2011-12) for the month of December, 2021 (Provisional) and for the month of October, 2021 (Final) in this press release.

Analysis

Whole-sale Price Index

  • WPI index reflects average price changes of goods that are bought and sold in the wholesale market.
  • WPI in India is published by the Office of Economic Adviser, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • Further, the data for WPI is monitored and updated on a monthly basis taking into account all the items that form the index.
  • The various commodities taken into consideration for computing the WPI can be categorized into primary article, fuel and power, and manufactured goods with corresponding weightages as 22.62%, 13.15% and 64.23% respectively.
  • Primary articles included for the computation of WPI include food articles, non-food articles and minerals.
  • An important point to take note of is, the whole sale price index (WPI) does not include the cost of services (CPI includes certain services too); we cannot buy services on a wholesale basis.
  • Further, as WPI accounts for changes in general price level of goods at wholesale level, it fails to communicate actual burden borne by the end consumer.
  • The pricing norms of wholesale and retail are also different.
  • Certain items on WPI, such as fuel, are also closely linked to international prices, creating a gap between the figures on this index and the CPI.
  • The base year for the WPI index has been revised for the seventh time from the earlier 2004-2005 to 2011-12 to better capture changes in the economy.
  • The measure of wholesale price gains is the key deflator in computing the Index of Industrial Production and is also used to deflate Gross Domestic Product at current prices.
  • The index basket of the present 2011-12 series has a total of 697 items including 117 items for Primary Articles, 16 items for Fuel & Power and 564 items for Manufactured Products.
  • The prices tracked are ex- factory price for manufactured products, mandi price for agricultural commodities and ex-mines prices for minerals.
  • Weights given to each commodity covered in the WPI basket is based on the value of production adjusted for net imports.
  • WPI basket does not cover services.

The main uses of WPI are the following:

  • It provides estimates of inflation at the wholesale transaction level for the economy as a whole. This helps in timely intervention by the Government to check inflation in particular, in essential commodities, before the price increase spill over to retail prices.
  • WPI is used as deflator for many sectors of the economy including for estimating GDP by Central Statistical Organisation (CSO).
  • WPI is also used for indexation by users in business contracts.
  • Global investors also track WPI as one of the key macro indicators for their investment decisions.

 

D) Miscellaneous

  1. Registration of Political Parties (PIB)
  • Registration of Political parties is governed by the provisions of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • A party seeking registration under the said Section with the Commission has to submit an application to the Commission within a period of 30 days following the date of its formation as per guidelines prescribed by the Commission in exercise of the powers conferred by Article 324 of the Constitution of India and Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. +