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UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS – 16 January 2024

InstaLinks :  help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions ina your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 3:

  1. Production of Pulses in India

 

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)

  1. Steel Slag Road

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. Shankaracharya 
  2. Vadnagar
  3. Right to reside
  4. Hydroxychloroquine
  5. Operation Amrith (AMRITH – Antimicrobial Resistance Intervention For Total Health)

 

Mapping:

  1. Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR)

 


 

Production of Pulses in India

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: Agriculture/ Cropping Pattern

 

Source: IE, BS   

 

Context: India is poised to become the world’s largest producer of lentils (masoor) in the 2023-24 crop year due to increased acreage.

 

Recent facts:

  1. India’s pulse imports have significantly decreased from about 6 million tonnes in 2016-17 to about 2 million tonnes in 2022-23. The decline is attributed to reduced imports of yellow peas and chickpeas over the past decade, primarily influenced by high import duties and procurement policies.
  2. The government’s incentives to boost pulse cultivation have led to a higher lentil crop area, reaching over 19 lakh hectares by January 2024.
  3. The government has increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to further support farmers
  4. The government recently stated its objective of achieving self-sufficiency in pulses by the end of 2027
  5. Despite the current increase in production, the past three decades have seen stagnation in acreage, production, and productivity of pulses across the country

 

Importance of pulse production for India:

  • Pulses are rich in proteins and found to be the main source of protein to vegetarian people of India so it is the second important constituent of the Indian diet after cereals.
  • Pulses being legumes fix atmospheric nitrogen into the soil. Being leguminous crops, all these crops except Arhar help in restoring soil fertility.
  • These are mostly grown in rotation with other crops
  • They add organic matter into the soil in the form of leaf mould.
  • They supply additional fodder for cattle. Some pulse crops like Gram, Lobia, Urad bean & Moong bean are fed to animals as green fodder.
  • They provide raw materials to various industries. Dal industry, Roasted grain industry, Papad industry, etc.

 

Fig: Shows the stagnation of Pulses in Area, Production, and Productivity

 

The major factors responsible for the stagnation in Pulses are: 

Policy factors:

  • Introduction of Green Revolution: A report “Pulses in India: Retrospect and Prospects” (2017) a report published by the Agriculture Ministry, says farmers in the Gangetic plains quit pulses for other crops around 1990 because of the improvement in irrigation facilities.  The breakthrough via HYVs in cereals has been accompanied by a loss of acreage under pulses to cereals, and consequently a sharp decline in the total production of pulses.
  • Skewed implementation of agriculture reforms: Due to a number of economic and political compulsions, the strategies for agricultural growth remained anxious with the aim of achieving rapid increases in food grain production by concentrating the resources and efforts on the relatively better-endowed areas and strata of cultivators.

 

Demand factor:

  • Cobweb phenomenon: Shrinking demand due to a surge in prices leads to farmers diverting to other crops in the next agriculture seasons (thereby reducing production further), which leads to a vicious cycle of high price, low demand, and low production.

Infrastructure factors:

  • Lack of Infrastructure: Inadequate Warehousing Facilities & Collateral Finance.
  • Uncertain monsoons and insufficient irrigation amenities

 

Other factors:

  • Pest attack: Pulses are highly prone to damage by insect pests, diseases, nematodes, and weeds.
    • Damage to pulses by nilgais and other stray animals is a big factor in Uttar Pradesh for farmers moving to other crops.
  • Low seed rate resulting in poor crop stands.
  • Imbalance of use of fertilizers: Unstable use of fertilizers is one of the important reasons for low productivity and depleting soil fertility. The average N: P: K ratio in the past two decades has been 7:3:1 against the recommended 4:2:1.
  • Inadequate MSP by the government for pulses (compared to cereals)

 

Government Initiatives:

  1. Providing Minimum Support Prices (MSP) to farmers through:
    1. National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED)
    2. Small Farmers Agri Consortium (SFAC)
  2. National Food Security Mission (NFSM)-Pulses.
  3. ICAR’s Role in Research and Variety Development.
  4. Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) Scheme.

 

Measures that can be taken to improve pulse production: 

Short-term Strategies

  • Strengthening seed delivery system: Availability of quality seeds of already-developed improved varieties would increase the pulse production by at least 15–20 per cent.
    • In addition to public seed corporations, seed societies and private companies should be involved in seed production.
  • Ensuring remunerative prices: The MSP for pulses should be fixed considering not only the cost of its cultivation and parity with the competing crops but also considering the yield variability in pulses and externalities it brings to the system in terms of nitrogen saving and subsidy saved on fertilizer and irrigation.
  • Effective procurement: Bring the procurement centres to the doorstep of the growers, particularly during harvest season.
  • Skilling of pulse growers: India’s 600+ Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) can be used for skilling pulse growers on modern production practices—from sowing to harvesting.
  • Efficient crop insurance mechanism: Only 20 per cent of farmers subscribe to crop insurance. Providing efficient crop insurance would give sufficient confidence to these farmers to combat the situation of crop failure.

 

Medium-term Strategies 

  • Expansion of area under pulses: Fallow lands or reclaimed wastelands can be identified and targeted in each state to bring it under pulse crops.
  • Farmers’ producer organization (FPO) on pulses: It will integrate the backward and forward linkages and will help the farmers in reducing the cost of production substantially.
  • Customization and development of farm equipment: Developing small-size multi-crop harvesting farm machines and other farm equipment for plant protection
    • New age app-based custom hiring services for farm equipment can be quite useful, particularly for smallholders in doing the basic farm operations timely and economically.
    • Case study: Private Tractor Company, like Mahindra and Mahindra, has started on a pilot basis ‘on-demand farm equipment rental start-up, Trringo in Karnataka state, through which farmers can book tractors by the hour via a phone call.
  • Setting up of storage and warehousing in rural areas
  • Foresight for international trade: Develop a predictive tool to determine the demand and supply of pulses in forthcoming seasons to plan in advance to import or export pulses in the international market.

 

Long-term Strategies 

  • Developing short-duration and pest- and disease-resistant cultivars: Infestation of pests and diseases such as pod borer, wilt, and so on and variation in rainfall and temperature bring huge risks to pulses cultivation.
    • The development of suitable cultivars specific to production regions will be very important to break the yield barrier, as has happened in the southern region, particularly in the case of chickpeas.
  • Integrating pulses into the public distribution system: Compulsory inclusion of pulses in the existing schemes such as the mid-day meal scheme or public distribution system (PDS) shall be ensured so that the minimum pulses consumption by poor households is maintained even during the scarcity in pulses production.

 

Conclusion:

Thus there is a need for a holistic approach to enhance the production and productivity of pulses crops.  Prominently good agronomic practices with their different components for excelling production under changing climatic scenarios are the need of the hour for the protein security of the nation esp. for the poor.

 

Insta Links:

 

Mains Link:

Q.Mention the advantages of the cultivation of pulses because of which the year 2016 was declared as the International Year of Pulses by United Nations. (UPSC 2017)

 

Prelims Links: 

With reference to pulse production in India, consider the following statements: (UPSC 2020)

  1. Black gram can be cultivated as both kharif and rabi crop.
  2. Green gram alone accounts for nearly half of pulse production.
  3. In the last three decades, while the production of kharif pulses has increased, the production of rabi pulses has decreased.

 

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only
(b) 2 and 3 only
(c) 2 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3

 

Ans: A

Steel Slag Road

Content for Mains Enrichment (CME)

 

Source: FE

 Context: India’s first National Highway Steel Slag Road section on NH-66, connecting Mumbai to Goa, has been inaugurated, showcasing a pioneering eco-friendly initiative.

The ground-breaking technology, developed by CSIR-CRRI, transforms waste from the steel industry into a valuable resource for constructing robust and environmentally friendly national highways. The bituminous steel slag road, constructed with 28% less thickness than conventional roads, demonstrates cost-efficiency and enhanced durability.

Usage: The example highlights the values of sustainability, innovation, and collaboration. Key values include efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and durability in road construction.

Shankaracharya

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE

 Context: The four Shankaracharyas, leaders of Hindu mathas (monasteries) in Dwarka, Joshimath, Puri, and Sringeri, have decided not to attend the inauguration of the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

  • The Shankaracharyas are heads of the mathas believed to be founded by the eighth-century scholar Adi Shankara.
  • The mathas, considered centres of knowledge, trace their lineage to Adi Shankara, fostering Hindu traditions and philosophy.

 

Vadnagar

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: A joint study led by the Indian Institute of Technology (Kharagpur) has uncovered evidence of a human settlement in Vadnagar, dating back to 800 BCE.

  • The study indicates cultural continuity in Vadnagar after the Harappan collapse.
  • The research spans 3,000 years, revealing the rise and fall of different kingdoms and recurrent invasions linked to changes in climate, such as rainfall or droughts.
  • The findings challenge the notion of a “Dark Age” and suggest a cultural continuity in India for the last 5,500 years.
  • The excavation at Vadnagar unveiled artefacts, potteries, copper, gold, silver, iron objects, intricately designed bangles, and a Buddhist monastery.

 

About Vadnagar:

Vadnagar is a town and municipality in the Mehsana district of Gujarat, India.  Vadnagar’s ancient names include Anartapura and Anandapura. 

Vadnagar is home to many popular places, including Hatkeshwar Temple, Kirti Toran, and Sharmishtha Talav. 

Vadnagar and Modhera’s Sun Temple were recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites tentative list. 

Right to reside

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: IE 

Context: The Delhi High Court has ruled that a foreigner cannot claim the right to reside in India under Article 19(1)(e) of the Constitution, which grants all citizens the right to reside and settle in any part of India.

  • The judgment came during the hearing of a habeas corpus petition filed by the uncle of Azal Chakma, a suspected Bangladeshi national, alleging Chakma’s illegal custody.
  • The court emphasized that a foreign national cannot assert the right to reside in India and referred to the Supreme Court’s decision, stating that the Indian government’s power to expel foreigners is absolute and unlimited.

 

 Article 19(1)(e) of the constitution grants the right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India as a fundamental right under the Right to Freedom.

However, Reasonable restrictions on this right can be imposed by law-

in the interest of the general public, or for the protection of interest of any Scheduled Tribe.

Hydroxychloroquine

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

Source: IE

 Context: A new study published in the journal Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy links hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug, to an increased mortality rate of up to 11%, suggesting a possible link to 17,000 deaths.

  • Hydroxychloroquine was briefly promoted by former US President Donald Trump and others as a treatment for COVID-19 during the early stages of the pandemic.

While hydroxychloroquine is generally safe, the study underscores the importance of evaluating risks differently when administering it preventively to a large number of healthy people.

 

 Hydroxychloroquine is in a class of drugs called antimalarials and is also an antirheumatic drug. It works by killing the organisms that cause malaria. Hydroxychloroquine may work to treat rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus by decreasing the activity of the immune system.

Operation Amrith (AMRITH – Antimicrobial Resistance Intervention For Total Health)

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: DTE

 Context: The Kerala Drug Control Department has initiated Operation Amrith (Antimicrobial Resistance Intervention For Total Health) to curb the overuse of antibiotics in the state.

  • Pharmacies are required to maintain accurate records of antibiotic sales, display posters stating ‘antibiotics not sold without doctor’s prescription,’ and comply with prescription regulations.
  • Operation Amrith aligns with Kerala’s Anti-Microbial Resistance Strategic Action Plan (KARSAP), reflecting a multi-sectoral approach to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
  • The state has implemented various initiatives, including the Antibiotic Literate Kerala Campaign, block-level AMR Committees, and the Kerala Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (KARS-NET) for surveillance.

The move aims to raise awareness about AMR, ensure responsible antibiotic use, and prevent the spread of drug-resistant infections.

Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR)

Mapping:

 

Source: LM

 Context: Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR) in Maharashtra has been designated as India’s first Dark Sky Park, the fifth in Asia, aimed at preserving the night sky and combating light pollution.

Recognized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), this status emphasizes the importance of natural darkness for ecological integrity and community well-being. The Dark Sky Place certification involves lighting policy, retrofits, education, and night sky monitoring.

 

About the Pench Tiger Reserve:

Key PointsDetails
AboutLocated in Nagpur District, Maharashtra, named after Pench River. The river divides the park into equal eastern and western parts.
Declared National Park in 1975, became a tiger reserve in 1998-1999. Major Protected Area in Satpura-Maikal ranges. Designated Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International.
The reserve, spanning Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, is known for its tiger conservation efforts and inspired Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
FloraDense green cover with Southern dry broadleaf teak forests and tropical mixed deciduous forests. Presence of shrubs, climbers, and unique medicinal plants. Bamboo plantations near water banks.
Fauna MammalsSloth bear, jackal, nilgai, wild dog, among others.
Fauna BirdsPeafowl, magpie robin, pintail, drongo, unia, myna, and various other bird species.

 

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