Goaltide Daily Current Affairs 2020

Sep 21, 2020

Current Affair 1:
The 3 Farmers Bills and the controversies surrounding them

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Farmers in many states are protesting against three recent bills passed by the Parliament.

The controversy pertains to:

  1. Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020
  2. Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020' and
  3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020.

Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020

Before reading: Read below paragraph.

Many states have passed laws to mandate agricultural trade only through APMCs with the aim of protecting farmers from exploitation and to ensure fair prices for the produces. The Bill seeks to eliminate such restrictions.

As per its Statement of Objects and Reasons, the regulatory framework of APMC laws "hindered the freedom of choice-based marketing and also the inflow of investment in the development of alternative markets and marketing infrastructure".

In simple terms, this Bill seeks to permit the sale of agricultural produces outside the markets(mandis) regulated by the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) constituted by different state legislations.

Three important Points:

  1. Trade of farmers’ produce: The Ordinance allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce outside: (i) the physical premises of market yards run by market committees formed under the state APMC Acts and (ii) other markets notified under the state APMC Acts.  Such trade can be conducted in an ‘outside trade area’, i.e., any place of production, collection, and aggregation of farmers’ produce including: (i) farm gates, (ii) factory premises, (iii) warehouses, (iv) silos, and (v) cold storages.

  1. Electronic trading: It permits the electronic trading of scheduled farmers’ produce (agricultural produce regulated under any state APMC Act) in the specified trade area.  

An electronic trading and transaction platform may be set up to facilitate the direct and online buying and selling of such produce through electronic devices and internet.  To give effect to the same, following entities may establish and operate an electronic trading and transaction platform:

  • Companies
  • partnership firms
  • registered societies (having PAN)
  • farmer producer organisation
  • agricultural cooperative society
  1. Market fee abolished: 

It prohibits state governments from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an ‘outside trade area’.

A key provision of the Bill is Clause 14, which gives it an overriding effect over the inconsistent provisions of the State APMC Acts. Also, the Central Government has been given powers to frame rules and regulations under the Act. Thus, an intention to centralize and homogenize the regulations relating to agricultural trade is evident. This is the reason of protest.

Do currently all states have APMCs?

In this regard, it may be noted that all states do not have the APMC system. Bihar had abolished it in 2006. Kerala, Manipur, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep Islands, Dadar & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu do not have Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act. While Sikkim does have APMC Act but is not implemented.

Also, many states such as Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Mizoram ,Nagaland, Odisha, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Punjab, UT of Chandigarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh etc., have brought in various amendments to APMC laws at different stages to allow private markets, e-trading, contract-farming etc.

One important features of this Bill:

The Central Government may develop a Price Information and Market Intelligence System for farmers’ produce and a framework for dissemination of information.

What are things are not included in the definition of “Trade Area”?

The definition of 'trade area' as per Clause 2(m) of the Bill specifically excludes "market yards, sub-market yards and market sub-yards managed and run by the market committees formed under each state APMC (Agricultural Produce Market Committee) Act" and "private market yards, private market sub-yards, direct marketing collection centres, and private farmer-consumer market yards managed by persons holding licenses or any warehouses, silos, cold storages or other structures notified as markets or deemed markets under each State APMC Act in force in India".

Now, we will jump to second Bill:

Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020

  1. This Bill intends to provide for contract-farming.
  2. As per its preamble, it seeks to provide for a "national framework on farming agreements that empowers farmers to engage with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce at a mutually agreed 'remunerative price'".
  3. Clause 3 of the Bill states that a farmer may enter into a written farming agreement in respect of any farming produce. The bill seeks to fix some terms of such an agreement as follows:
  1. Minimum period of agreement: one crop season/ one production cycle of livestock
  2. Maximum period of agreement: five years (unless the production cycle is more than five years))
  3. No farming agreement shall be entered into by a farmer in derogation of any rights of a sharecropper.
  4. Pricing of farming produce: The price of farming produce and process of price determination should be mentioned in the agreement.
  5. For prices subjected to variation, a guaranteed price for the produce and a clear reference for any additional amount above the guaranteed price, including bonus or premium, must be specified in the agreement.
  1. The Bill establishes a Registration Authority to provide for e-registry and for registration of farming agreements.
  2. It also provides for conciliation and dispute settlement mechanism for settlement of disputes under the farming agreement.
  3. The jurisdiction of civil courts over such disputes have been barred, and they are to be resolved through the resolution mechanism provided by the Bill.
  4. At first, all disputes shall be referred to a Conciliation Board for resolution. If the dispute remains unresolved by the Board after thirty days, parties may approach the Sub-divisional Magistrate for resolution.
  5. Parties will have a right to appeal to an Appellate Authority against decisions of the Magistrate. Both the Magistrate and Appellate Authority will be required to dispose of a dispute within thirty days from the receipt of the application.
  6. The Bill provides that a farming agreement may be linked with insurance or credit instrument under any scheme of the Central Government or the State Government or any financial service provider to ensure 'risk mitigation' and 'flow of credit' to farmer or Sponsor or both.
  7. The Bill further prohibits sponsors from acquiring ownership rights or making permanent modifications on farmer's land or premises.
  8. Clause 8 states that no farming agreement shall be entered into for the purpose of any transfer, including sale, lease and mortgage of the land or premises of the farmer.

Now, the final THIRD Bill:

Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill 2020

  1. Apart from the above two Bills, the Parliament passed a Bill to amend the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) with the objective of restricting the conditions on which the Government can impose stock limit on agricultural produces.
  2. The Bill requires that the imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce must be based on price rise alone.
  3. A stock limit may be imposed only if there is:
  • 100% increase in retail price of horticultural produce
  • 50% increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items.
  1. Also, the Bill states that the powers of ECA to regulate the supply of food items like cereals, pulses, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds, and oils can be exercised only under "extraordinary circumstances" like (i) war, (ii) famine, (iii) extraordinary price rise and (iv) natural calamity of grave nature.

Otherwise, the government has the power to regulate the production, supply, distribution etc. of such food items even "for securing their equitable distribution and availability at fair prices".

Now why comprehensions and protest around the Bills? The major points of criticism raised by protesting groups are:

  1. Apprehensions about the dismantling of state based APMC systems which are intended to protect farmers from exploitation.
  2. Lack of assurance about Minimum Support Price (MSP) in the contract-farming bills.
  3. Apprehensions that the dilution of APMC systems and the deregulation of food items will lead to large corporate entities exploiting small and marginal farmers.

On the other hand, the government points out that there is no clause to abolish the APMC system and that the laws are instead expanding the choices of farmers to trade outside APMC. But the protesters say that the bill, with its overriding powers over state legislation, will eventually create an atmosphere to weaken the APMC system.

Now more than this is not required. Let political fight continue. You move ahead... to next topic.

Current Affair 2:
Jammu & Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020

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Very small concept under this. Do learn

Parliament has passed the Jammu & Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020, to declare certain languages as official languages of the UT.

The Bill declares the following languages as the official languages to be used for the official purposes of the union territory, from such date as the Administrator of the union territory may notify:

  1. Kashmiri
  2. Dogri
  3. Urdu
  4. Hindi
  5. English

Prior to this, Urdu has been the sole official language in J&K, for over 130 years. A small history:

It may be noted that the J&K Re-Organisation Act empowers the J&K legislative assembly to decide on the adoption of official languages. Thus, some MPs opposed Bill. However, the Government clarified thus: Read section 47 below.

So, why Parliament has passed this?

Have other UTs have adopted any official language?

The Pondicherry Official Language Act, enacted in 1965, adopted Tamil as the official language, and Malayalam and Telugu as official languages in Mahé and Yanam regions of the UT, respectively.

The assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi also enacted a law to adopt Urdu and Punjabi as second official languages of the UT.

Current Affair 3:
EU adopts new rules for state aid to reduce CO2 emissions

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The adoption was in line with the European Green Deal, which was presented by the Commission in December 2019 as a roadmap for making the EU's economy sustainable and achieving climate neutrality by 2050. The EU's revised Emission Trading System (ETS) State aid Guidelines, which will enter into force on January 1, 2021, will replace the previous guidelines adopted in 2012.

  1. The new guidelines are aiming at reducing carbon leakage, which happens when companies move their operations to countries outside the EU, which have less ambitious climate policies.
  2. This leads to less economic activity in the EU and no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions globally.
  3. Under the new guidelines, the aid will be targeted at sectors at risk of carbon leakage due to high indirect emission costs and their strong exposure to international trade.
  4. Based on an objective methodology, 10 sectors and 20 sub-sectors are eligible for the aid.
  5. The compensation will cover 75 percent of costs, rather the previous 85 per cent and will not cover non-efficient technologies, to maintain the companies' incentives for energy efficiency.

Current Affair 4:
Improving Potassium deficiency in Rice

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Potassium is one of the most important macronutrients for plants. Plants require, among other things, a high and relatively stable concentration of potassium ion to activate many enzymes that are involved in respiration and photosynthesis. Potassium is also involved in key cellular processes such as energy production, and cell expansion.

Availability of Potassium to plants is limited:

However, despite being among the most abundant minerals in the soil, its availability to plants is limited. This is because most of the soil potassium (about 98 per cent) is in bound forms and its release into the soil solution is far slower than the rate of its acquisition by the roots.

  1. The availability of potassium in the soil solution or exchangeable form depends on multiple factors like soil acidity, presence of other monovalent cations like sodium and ammonium ions and the type of soil particles.
  2. Deficiency in potassium affects plants by inhibiting the growth of the roots and the shoots. Studies have shown that plants that are deficient in potassium are more susceptible to salt, drought, chilling and other abiotic and biotic stresses.

Now news:

According to study, targeting a specific plant hormone would help rice plants have greater tolerance to potassium deficiency, in turn, improving rice productivity. The plant hormone called Jasmonate (JA) is often associated with the plant’s defence against biotic factors like insects, pests and other pathogens.

  1. The overexpression of a gene called OsJAZ9 helped make rice plants more tolerant of potassium deficiency, the study noted.
  2. It was conducted by a team of scientists at the Department of Biotechnology’s New Delhi-based National Institute of Plant Genome Research (DBT-NIPGR).
  3. There was an enhanced accumulation of JA-Ile — a bioactive form of the hormone, in rice on potassium deficiency, the scientist found. The JA-Ile then activates potassium transporters for its uptake from the media.
  4. The Green Revolution of the 1960s was driven by another plant hormone called Gibberellins (GA). The new study suggests that future research could be targeted towards JA that could help achieve both, nutrient- efficient crops and protection against pests.

Current Affair 5:
Forward-looking declaration adopted

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The UN General Assembly adopted by consensus on 21 September 2020 a forward-looking declaration on the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the world body that calls for strengthening mechanism to combat terrorism, reformed multilateralism, inclusive development and better preparedness to deal with challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic.

The landmark 'Declaration on the Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations' was adopted at the high-level meeting of the 193-member Assembly to commemorate the milestone anniversary of the world body.

It contains:

  1. In the declaration, the Heads of State and Government vow to leave no one behind, protect the planet, promote peace and prevent conflicts, abide by international law and ensure justice, place women and girls at the centre, build trust, improve digital cooperation, upgrade the United Nations, ensure sustainable financing, boost partnerships, listen to and work with youth.
  2. It is notable that India's priorities for its tenure as non-permanent member of the Security Council find resonance in the declaration that echoes New Delhi's call for strong mandate against terrorism, reformed multilateralism and inclusive development.
  3. The declaration, negotiated through an intergovernmental process, says that the next 10 years, which have been designated as the Decade of Action, will be the most critical of our generation. It is even more important as nations build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. It calls for a strong UN development system and effective collaboration between the United Nations and the international financial institutions, with particular attention to people in vulnerable situations.
  5. It calls for immediately curbing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving sustainable consumption and production patterns in line with the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.
  6. Terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism are serious threats to international peace and security, the declaration said, voicing full support to Secretary-General's initiative for a global ceasefire.
  7. The member states agreed that conflicts will not be resolved, and sustainable development will not occur, without the equal and active participation of women at all levels.
  8. Condemning acts of xenophobia, racism, intolerance, hate speech and disinformation, world leaders vowed in the declaration that they will address the root causes of inequalities, including violence, human rights abuses, corruption, marginalization, discrimination in all its forms, poverty and exclusion, as well as lack of education and employment.
  9. They further said that shaping a shared vision on digital cooperation and a digital future that show the full potential for beneficial technology usage, and addressing digital trust and security, must continue to be a priority "as our world is now more than ever relying on digital tools for connectivity and social-economic prosperity.
  10. It outlines the priorities of the world body and calls for greater action and international cooperation to meet varied global challenges in the years ahead.

It notes that the world of today is not yet the world our founders envisaged 75 years ago. It is plagued by growing inequality, poverty, hunger, armed conflicts, terrorism, insecurity, climate change, and pandemics. We need to work together.

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