Weekly Current Affairs Prelims (23rd to 29th Sep, 2019)

Weekly Current Affairs Prelims (23rd to 29th Sep, 2019)

(Info-graphic Summary at the end)

 

Topic: Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS)

Topic in Syllabus: Indian Economy

Context:

The head of India’s food safety regulator has said that she expects the Union Agriculture Ministry’s Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS) to incentivise more farmers to grow organic food.

About PGS:

  • PGS is a process of certifying organic products, which ensures that their production takes place in accordance with laid-down quality standards.
  • The certification is in the form of a documented logo or a statement.
  • PGS is a “quality assurance initiative that is locally relevant, emphasize the participation of stakeholders, including producers and consumers, and (which) operate outside the framework of third-party certification”.

Four Pillars of PGS:

  • PARTICIPATION: Stakeholders such as producers, consumers, retailers, traders, NGOs, Gram Panchayats, and government organisations and agencies are collectively responsible for designing, operating, and decision-making.
  • Direct communication among the stakeholders helps create an integrity- and trust-based approach with transparency in decision-making, easy access to databases
  • SHARED VISION:Collective responsibility for implementation and decision making is driven by a common shared vision.
  • TRANSPARENCY:transparency is maintained through the active participation of producers in the organic guarantee process, which can include information-sharing at meetings and workshops, peer reviews, and involvement in decision-making.
  • TRUST: A fundamental premise of PGS is the idea that producers can be trusted, and that the organic guarantee system can be an expression and verification of this trust.

Advantage of PGS:

  • Procedures are simple, documents are basic, and farmers understand the local language used.
  • All members live close to each other and are known to each other. As practising organic farmers themselves, they understand the processes well.
  • Because peer appraisers live in the same village, they have better access to surveillance.
  • Peer appraisal instead of third-party inspections also reduces costs
  • Mutual recognition and support between regional PGS groups ensures better networking for processing and marketing.
  • Unlike the grower group certification system, PGS offers every farmer individual certificates, and the farmer is free to market his own produce independent of the group.

Disadvantages:

  • PGS certification is only for farmers or communities that can organise and perform as a group within a village or a cluster of continguous villages, and is applicable only to farm activities such as crop production, processing, and livestock rearing, and off-farm processing “by PGS farmers of their direct products”.
  • Individual farmers or group of farmers smaller than five members are not covered under PGS.

About Organic Certification in India:

There are two prevalent certification systems which are voluntarily followed by those who want to sell food under this category.

  • The first system, which is governed by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, is mandatory for exports. It is called the National Programme for Organic Production and is also referred to as “Third Party Certification”.
  • Third party certification of organic farming is promoted by Agriculture Processed Food and Export Development Authority (APEDA), Ministry of Commerce.
  • The second system, governed by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, is called the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) and is meant only for the domestic market.
  • The Third Party Certification system is applicable to individual farmers or farmer groups, while the PGS is applicable only to farmer groups and works around the collective responsibility of the group.

About Organic Farming in India:

  • Organic farming is an agricultural system that works in harmony with nature. It largely excludes the use of synthetic inputs (such as fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, feed additives etc.) and rely upon crop rotation, crop residues, animal manures, off-farm organic waste, mineral grade rock additives and biological system of nutrient mobilization and plant protection.
  • Government of India under the schemes- PKVY & MOVCDNER is supporting the production and marketing of organic produce in the country to reduce their costs and prices.
  • Under PKVY and MOVCDNER schemes enough assistance is provided to Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs)/ entrepreneurs for development of value chains/ marketing of organic produce.
  • Use of organic inputs like PROM, vermicompost, organic/bio-fertilizers, city compost, waste decomposer have been promoted under these schemes which will further reduce the costs of production in organic farming.

Economics of Organic Farming:

  • Cost of organic agriculture largely depends on on-farm generation of inputs. When on-farm organic inputs are used, cost of production per unit area is less by 13 % under organic agriculture than inorganic management.
  • if organic inputs from outside the farm are purchased and utilized, the cost of production increases by about 15-20 % depending on the nature of inputs used.
  • Integrated Organic Farming System (IOFS) models being developed under NPOF promises to meet 70-80 % of organic inputs within the farm thus reducing the market input cost considerably.
  • During the conversion period of initial two to three years, yield levels are expected to be low till soil system regains to respond to organic production system especially in the intensive agriculture areas.
  • –       As per the ASSOCHAM and E&Y report published in 2018, the domestic organic   market   was   valued at Rs. 2500   crores including Rs. 1500 crores in organised retail and Rs. 1000 crores by farmers’ direct market.

About Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) :

  • It is the first comprehensive scheme launched as a Centrally Sponsored Programme (CSP) since 2015-16, which now has been revised for next 3 years.
  • The scheme PKVY is implemented by the State Government on per hectare basis for 500-1000 hectare area in each cluster.
  • The farmer within a group can avail benefit to a maximum of 2 ha., and the limit of assistance is Rs.50, 000 per ha., out of which 62% i.e., Rs. 31,000 is given as incentives to a farmer for organic conversion, organic inputs, on farm inputs, production infrastructure, etc., shall be provided directly through DBT during the conversion period of 3 years.
  • Clusters can develop their own post-harvest, value addition and processing facilities, preferably under their institutions such as Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs)/ Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs) for creation, collection and aggregation of post harvest process centre.

Success of Schemes:

  • Export has been initiated from Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram to Africa, UK & US, Australia and Italy respectively.
  • Market linkage of producer clusters with some major agri-business, phytochemical and online grocery stores have also been established.

Challenges in Scheme:

  • The 2015 PKVY guidelines say RCs will help organise trainings for cluster members and assist in the overall PGS certification, but it has no provision of training the RCs.
  • Individual farmers and non-profits working at the grassroots level have for decades led the Indian organic movement.
  • Even though PKVY guidelines say RCs can either be a government body or a non-profit, over 90 per cent RCs are government departments with little experience in organic farming.
  • Members of the RCs also complain that funding is grossly insufficient.
  • The scheme provides no financial support for maintaining livestock, which plays an important role in organic farming.
  • Farmers also say the scheme does not fund the construction of storage structures.
  • There is overall dip in the funding of scheme.
  • Farmers are too poor to make the initial investment and the money is transferred to the bank accounts only after the structure is made. It creates disincentives among farmers.
  • Under the scheme, a certification of PGS-India Organic can be granted after two to three years of organic practice. It has been issued without adequate sampling.
  • Government has failed to create a market for organic produce.

Way Forward:

  • The Indian organic movement can only flourish if it involves small farmers and domestic consumers.
  • PKVY must aim to make organic food a “norm” and not remain an “exception” in India.
  • PKVY, which is currently a component of the Soil Health Management under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture, should be an independent mission with necessary administrative and accountability mechanisms.
  • It should also have a long-term vision and plan with aggressive targets and adequate funding.
  • The current target of about 200,000 ha is too small for a country like India which has over 140 million ha of net sowing land.
  • PKVY should adequately focus on training with respect to budgets, specific skills and demonstrations and involve expert farmers for large-scale structured interventions.
  • The Union agriculture ministry must also work towards providing assured markets for PGS produce. This will involve more physical stores, electronic platforms, but, most importantly, it should enable procurement for mid-day meals, public distribution schemes, railways, airlines and other government institutes.
  • FSSAI should set the standards for pesticide residues in organic foods and ensure surveillance.

 

Sample Question:

Consider the following statements:

  1. Union Agriculture Ministry’s Participatory Guarantee Scheme (PGS) is a process of certifying organic products
  2. It will be applicable for individual farmers

Choose the correct answer

(A) Only 1
(B) Only 2
(C) Both
(D) None

Answer: a


Topic: Climate Action Summit

Topic in Syllabus: Ecology and Environment

Context:

At the 74th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, the Prime Minister of India addressed the United Nations (UN) Climate Action Summit as well as the Universal Health Coverage meeting, held in New York on 23rd September, 2019.

Climate Action Summit

  • It was hosted by the UN Secretary.
  • It had the key focus on raising ambition and accelerate action to implement the Paris Agreement.

Highlights:

  • Renewable Energy:India will increase renewable energy capacity to beyond 175 GW (capacity as committed under the Paris Climate Agreement) by 2022.
  • Water Conservation:Spend approximately $50 billion in the next few years on the Jal Jeevan Mission to conserve water, harvest rainwater and develop water resources.
  • International Solar Alliance:Almost 80 countries have joined this India led initiative.

Two International Initiatives:

  1. Leadership Group:India and Sweden together with other countries have announced a new ‘Leadership Group for Industry Transition’ that will drive transformation in hard-to-decarbonize and energy-intensive sectors.
  2. Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI):An international partnership that will support countries- developed and developing- to build climate and disaster resilient infrastructure.

The Coalition’s secretariat, based in Delhi, will facilitate knowledge exchange, provide technical support and support capacity building.

Conclusion:

The Government of India, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) and partners have together worked on the CDRI initiative in response to the Prime Minister of India’s call for action to reduce damage to critical infrastructure at the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in 2016.

 

Sample Question:

Which statement/s is/are true about National Solar Mission?

  1. A goal of increasing production of Photovoltaics to 1000 MW/year.
  2. Increase the use of solar thermal technologies in urban areas, industry, and commercial establishments.
  3. A goal of deploying at least 1500 MW of solar thermal power generation.

Choose the Correct Answer:

A. Only 1,2

B. Only 2,3

C. All

D. None of these

Ans: A


Topic: Maradu Case

Topic in Syllabus: Ecology and Environment

Context:

SC order demolition of Maradu blocks violating CRZ regulations

Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ):

The coastal land up to 500m from the High Tide Line (HTL) and a stage of 100m along banks of creeks, estuaries, backwater and rivers subject to tidal fluctuations, is called the Coastal Regulation Zone(CRZ).

CRZ Notification 2018 is based on the recommendations of Shailesh Nayak committee and have been issued under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

 

CRZ along the country has been placed in four categories, which are as follows

  1. CRZ I – Ecologically Sensitive Areas.

They lie between low and high tide line.

Exploration of natural gas and extraction of salt are permitted no construction is allowed except activities for atomic power plants, defense.

  1. CRZ II – Shore Line Areas

The areas that have been developed up to or close to the shoreline.

Unauthorized structures are not allowed to construct in this zone.

  1. CRZ III – Undisturbed Area

Rural (CRZ IIIA and CRZ IIIB) and Urban localities which fall outside I and II.

Only certain activities related to agriculture even some public facilities are allowed in this zone.

  1. CRZ IV – Territorial Area

An area covered between Low Tide Line and 12 Nautical Miles seaward.

Fishing and allied activities are permitted in this zone.

Solid waste should be let off in this zone.

 

Sample Question:

Coastal Zones in India are the direct responsibility of

a)      Ministry of Environment and Forests

b)      National Coastal Zone Management Authority

c)       State Governments concerned.

d)      None

Answer: a


Topic: Coal Gasification

Topic in Syllabus: Science and Technology

Context:

  • Odisha’s Talcher fertiliser plant awarded a contract for starting a coal gasification unit for the production of urea and Ammonia.
  • It was part of the government’s initiative to revive closed fertiliser plants belonging to the Fertiliser Corporation of India Limited (FCIL) and the Hindustan Fertilisers Corporation Ltd (HFCL).

About Coal Gasification:

  • Coal gasification is the process of converting coal into synthesis gas (also called syngas), which is a mixture of hydrogen (H2), carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2).
  • The syngas have variety of applications such as in the production of electricity and making chemical products, such as fertilisers.
  • The coal gasification process holds good potential in the future, with coal being the most abundantly available fossil fuel across the world, and that even low-grade coal can be used in the process.

Why Fertiliser plant at Odisha was shut down:

  • Frequent power restrictions.
  • Technology mismatch.
  • Precarious steam balance.

Benefits of Coal Gasification:

  • Reduce the import of LNG.
  • India currently imports 50 to 70 lakh tonnes of urea every year, and that the revival of the units would help increase the availability of domestically produced fertilisers.
  • Project would generate direct and indirect employment of around 4,500 people.
  • Project’s environment-friendliness would help India in meeting its commitments under the CoP-21 Paris Agreement.

 

Sample Question:

Which of the following statements are true?

a)      Anthracite has a carbon content of 60-75%.

b)      Acid rain is caused by burning coals with a high sulphur content.

c)       Coal originated from the decay of micro-organisms in the sea.

d)      None

Answer: b


Topic:  UMMID initiative

Topic in Syllabus: Indian Society

Context:

The Union Minister for Science & Technology launched UMMID (Unique Methods of Management and treatment of Inherited Disorders) initiative and inaugurated NIDAN (National Inherited Diseases Administration) Kendras.

Background:

Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomal structure, location and function in cells. It includes the study of chromosome number and its appearance, the physical location of genes on chromosomes, and chromosomal behaviour in processes such as cell division.

ABOUT UMMID INITIATIVE:

  • UMMID (Unique Methods of Management and treatment of Inherited Disorders) is an initiative of Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology.
  • Under this initiative, training centres have been establish to provide training in Biochemical Genetics, Cytogenetics, Molecular Genetics, and Clinical Genetics.

OBJECTIVE:

  • To establish NIDAN (National Inherited Diseases Administration) Kendras to provide counselling, prenatal testing and multidisciplinary care in Government Hospitals wherein the influx of patients is more
  • To produce skilled clinicians in Human Genetics
  • To undertake screening of pregnant women (10,000) and new born babies (5000) for inherited genetic diseases in hospitals at seven aspirational districts

NEED

  • In India’s urban areas, congenital malformations and genetic disorders are the third most common cause of mortality in newborns.
  • With a very large population and high birth rate, and consanguineous marriage favored in many communities, prevalence of genetic disorders is high in India.
  • According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the following groups of women are at the risk of delivering babies with inherited genetic disorders:
  • Pregnant women above the age of 35 years
  • Expectant mothers with gestational diabetes
  • Women who have consumed medication for epilepsy during pregnancy
  • Women who have a family history of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, Thallasemia or Haemophilia

 

Sample Question:

The Union Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan launched UMMID initiative and inaugurated NIDAN Kendras, they are related to

a)      Better nutrition in kids

b)      Enhancing child birth possibilities to childless parents

c)       NCDs management

d)      None

Answer: d


Topic: Right to Internet

Topic in Syllabus:Indian Polity

Context:

  • Recently, the Kerala High Court, in Faheema Shirin v. the State of Kerala case, declared the right to Internet access as a fundamental right forming a part of the right to privacy and the right to education under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • The court held that, in an information society,unequal access to the Internet creates and reproduces socio-economic exclusions.

Benefits:

  • Offering services online has cost and efficiency benefits for the government and also allows citizens to bypass lower-level government bureaucracy.
    • It increases the accountability and transparency of the government.
    • It leads to better public service delivery.
    • It increases participation of citizenry into politics. etc.
  • In a global economy, knowledge of digital processes transforms the way in which people work, collaborate, consume information, and entertain themselves.
  • It will also augment the government’s efforts to provide better education, health and employment opportunities.
  • It also helps in socio-cultural mobilisation in Indian society.

Challenges:

  • Recently, due to the information revolution, many businesses and services have become digital and only some of them are available online.
  • The digital divide emanating from information poverty, lack of infrastructure, and lack of digital literacy leads to social and economic backwardness.
    • The digital divide can be seen throughout the socio-economic spectrum of India i.e. between rural and urban India, rich and poor, India’s demographic profile (old and young, male and female).
    • According to the Deloitte report,‘Digital India: Unlocking the Trillion Dollar Opportunity’ in mid-2016, digital literacy in India was less than 10%.
  • Also, in the absence of Internet access and digital literacy enabling that access, there will be the further exclusion of large parts of the population, exacerbating the already existing digital divide.
  • Even though the government has provided various e-services at grassroots through common service centres, without internet access and digital literacy, these are of no use.

Reasons:

  • Curbing Inequality is the basis of social justice and development.
  • Also, reducing inequality also finds mention in Articles 39 of the directive principle of state policy,in the Indian Constitution.
  • It has now become a settled judicial practice to read fundamental rights along with directive principles with a view to defining the scope and ambit of the former.
  • Right to Internet access and digital literacy is important to get rid of the digital divide and allow citizens increased access to information, services, and the creation of better livelihood opportunities.

 

Government Initiatives:

  • The government has acknowledged the digital revolution and is in pursuit of digital inclusion.
  • Government has launched, the Bharat Net programme, which aims to have an optical fibre network in all gram panchayats.
  • Bharat Net will act as the infrastructural backbone for having Internet access all across the country.
  • However, the project has consistently missed all its deadlines while the costs involved have doubled.
  • Also, the National Digital Literacy Mission has barely touched 1.67% of the population.
  • This has been acknowledged in the Sustainable Development Goals as well as by the Indian government and has led to the Digital India mission.

 

National Digital Literacy Mission:

  • National Digital Literacy Mission(NDLM) has been initiated with the vision to empower at least one person per household with crucial digital literacy skills by 2020.
  • NDLM is an effort to complement the government’s vision to transform one from each household as digitally literate.
  • The project aims at helping adults with low technological literacy develop the skills they need to interact in an increasingly digital world.

 

Way Forward:

In this framework, the state would have:

  • A positive obligation to create infrastructure for a minimum standard and quality of Internet access as well as capacity-building measures which would allow all citizens to be digitally literate.
  • A negative obligation to protect citizen’s right to privacy (declared a fundamental right by the Supreme court in Puttaswamy judgement).
  • The government should invest the resources saved by moving services online, to create Digital infrastructure.
  • The definition of digital literacy today must include the ability to access and act upon resources and information found online.
  • Internet access and digital literacy are dependent on each other, and creation of digital infrastructure must go hand in hand with the creation of digital skills.
  • Apart from it, there is a need to strengthen telecom regulations,so as to ensure market competition and make the internet affordable to all.
  • Zero-rated services for mobile data access,could be an intermediate step to fully open and affordable Internet access for the poorest, provided that the choice of selecting services is transparent and inclusive.

Conclusion:

While the Kerala High Court judgment acknowledges the role of the right to access the Internet in accessing other fundamental rights, it is imperative that the right to Internet access and digital literacy be recognised as a right in itself.

 

Sample Question:

The internal network of a company is very large and would like to subnet into smaller parts. From the options given below, the device that will not be used to separate LAN and still protect critical resources is

a)  The modem between computers
b)  A router between subnet
c)  An internal firewall
d)  A switch between departments

 

Answer: a


Topic: ‘TB Harega Desh Jeetega’

Topic in Syllabus: Indian Society

Context:

The Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare has launched the ‘TB Harega Desh Jeetega Campaign’, along with the National TB Prevalence Survey.

TB India Report (2019):

  • As per the TB India report 2019, 21.5 lakh cases of tuberculosis were notified to the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme (RNTCP) in 2018 — a 16% increase from 2017.
  • He also launched an all-oral regimen kit for multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis (TB) patients which does not include injections which are painful and can have side effects.
  • He also announced a partnership with the World Bank which is providing a $400 million credit for accelerating TB response in 9 states through private sector engagement and other critical interventions.

Awards:

  • Among states with a large population (>50 lakhs), Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat were awarded as best performers.
  • Tripura and Sikkim were recognized for their efforts among medium population (less than 50 lakhs) states.
  • Puducherry, and Daman and Diu were judged as the best performers among Union Territories.

TB Harega Desh Jeetega Campaign:

  • It has three strong pillars which include clinical approach, public health component and active community participation.
  • It aims to improve and expand the reach of TB care services across the country by 2022.
  • This includes preventive and promotive approaches and proposes potentially transformative interventions such as engagement with the private sector health care providers, inter-ministerial partnerships, corporate sector engagement, latent TB infection management, and community engagement.
  • The interventions will be accompanied by a comprehensive, mass media and communications campaign to generate awareness about the disease and the free treatment services available under the government program.

The National TB Prevalence Survey

  • The Union Health Minister flagged off a van for the National TB Prevalence Survey.
  • In all, 25 such vans will be part of the prevalence survey, which shall take 6 months and be carried out across the country.
  • This shall present national and state-level data, which will be used as a policy tool for further interventions.

 

Sample Question:

Health and Family Welfare Minister has launched ‘TB HAREGA DESH JEETEGA’ campaign . Consider the following statements regarding the same:

1) One-third of the people in the world have TB bacteria, and 10 per cent of them can become a victim of TB at any time.
2) Recently Malawi became the first African country to develop vaccine against Tb.
3) India’s new TB campaign aims to improve and expand the reach of TB care services across the country, by 2022.
Which of the above statements are true ?

a) 1 & 2 only
b) 2 & 3 only
c) 1 & 3 only
d) all of the above

Answer: c


Topic: Darknet

Topic in Syllabus: Science and Technology

Context:

The Kerala Police has set up a ‘state-of-the-art lab’ to intervene and crack down on the rising criminal activities over the Darknet, also known as the underworld of the Internet.

Spearheading the programme is Cyberdome, the State police department’s premier facility dedicated to prevent cybercrime and mitigate security threats to the State’s critical information infrastructure.

Darknet:

Internet consists of three layers:

  • The first layer is public,consisting of sites that one uses frequently such as Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and LinkedIn. This layer makes up only 4% of the entire internet.
  • The second layer, the deep web,is a network where data is stored in inaccessible databases (i.e. cannot be accessed through traditional search engines like Google). It is used to provide access to a specific group of people.
  • The data is generally sensitive and private (government private data, bank data, cloud data etc), so kept out of reach.
  • The third layer is the darknet which is also known as a part of the ‘Deep Web’. It is a network built over the internet which is encrypted.
    • It is basically a layer of the Internet accessible only by using special software like Tor (The Onion Router),or I2P, which stands for Invisible Internet Project.
    • Anything present on the dark web will not be pulled up in internet searches, thereby offering a high degree of anonymity.

Concerns over Darknet:

In February 2016, in a study titled ‘Cryptopolitik and the Darknet’, researchers analysed content over the TOR network.

  • Of the 2,723 websites they could classify by content, 1,547 – 57 % – hosted illicit material ranging from drugs(423 sites), illegitimate pornography (122) and hacking (96), among others.
  • There were also reports of log-in details of streaming sites like Netflix being sold on the dark web marketplaces for cheap rates.
  • The network is also used by several activists especially those living under oppressive regimes to communicate without any government censorship.
  • The TOR network was used by activists during the Arab Spring.

Darknet and India:

  • The Information Technology Act deals with cybercrime and comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. There are only six sections in the law that deal with cybercrime.
  • With the changing times, India needs a code of criminal procedures dealing with cybercrime that would come under the Ministry of Home Affairs, which deals with policing issues.
  • Also, there is a need for police, trained in changing cyber trends who are dedicated only to cybercrime and not transferred to other police units.

 

Sample Question:

 Which among the following is also a part of darknet that is employed for transferring files anonymously.
a) Freenet
b) Darknet
c) ARPANET
d) Stuxnet

Answer: a
Explanation: A network construct over the internet that is encrypted and not always accessible is the darknet. It offers anonymity to its users. Freenet is also a part of darknet that is employed for transferring files anonymously.


Info-graphic Summary