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Daily Current affairs 28 January 2019

UPSC - Daily Current Affair


Removing the roots of farmers’ distress Editorial 28th Jan’19 TheHindu

 Agrarian distress:

  • Agrarian distress, in the present context, is mainly in terms of low agricultural prices and, consequently, poor farm incomes.
  • Low productivity in agriculture and related supply side factors are equally important.
  • An issue that is connected is the declining average size of farm holdings and the viability of this size for raising farm incomes.


Problem of low prices:

  • Prices play a key role in affecting the incomes of farmers.
  • Even during the Green Revolution, along with technology and associated packages, price factor was considered important.
  • Low inflation in agriculture compared to overall:
    • In the last two years, inflation in agriculture was much lower than overall inflation.
    • The consumer price index (CPI) also shows that the rise in prices for agriculture was much lower than general inflation in recent years.
  • Output greater than market demand:
    • When output increases well beyond the market demand at a price remunerative to producers, market prices decline.
    • Market prices for several agricultural commodities have been lower than those of minimum support prices (MSP).
    • In the absence of an effective price support policy, farmers are faced with a loss in income, depending on how much the price decline is.

Creating farm distress:

  • All these trends show that the terms of trade to be moving against agriculture in the last two years.
  • The ‘farm distress’ in recent years has been partly on account of this situation, as the loss of income is too much, particularly of small farmers, to absorb.


Possible sustainable solutions

  1. Procurement:

Current schemes and issues with them:

  • Price Support Schemes:
    • A few schemes have been suggested to address the problem of managing declining output prices when output increases significantly.
      • Price deficiency compensation: The scheme of ‘price deficiency compensation’ is one such mechanism where farmer sells in the market but the government pays the difference between market price and the MSP (if market price is lower than MSP).
      • Open procurement system: At the other extreme is the ‘open procurement system’ that has been in vogue quite effectively in the case of rice and wheat, where procurement is open ended at the MSP (government procures directly from farmers).
    • Issues with them:
      • A ‘price deficiency’ scheme may compensate farmers when prices decrease below a certain specified level. However, market prices may continue to fall as supply exceeds ‘normal demand’.
      • Farmers have faced many problems in the open procurement system, including availability for limited crops, far-off procurement centers etc.
  • Farm support schemes:
    • Some States have introduced farm support schemes, like the Rythu Bandhu Scheme (Telangana) and the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme (Odisha).
    • Issues:
      • One problem with the Telangana model is that it does not cover tenants, who are the actual cultivators.
      • Also, these schemes are income support schemes which will need to be in operation year after year.

Solution - Limited procurement scheme:

  • An alternative is the limited procurement scheme.
  • Under this scheme, the government will procure the ‘excess’ (above normal production).
  • This leaves the normal production level to reach the market at a remunerative price (as excess produce is not entering the market, the prices will not be lowered).
  • Thus, procurement will continue until the market price rises to touch the MSP.
    • Caveat: This ‘limited procurement system’ will not work if the MSP is fixed at a level to which the market price will never rise.
  • The government can sell the procured grain in later years or use them in welfare programmes.


  1. Market reforms:


  • Agricultural markets not working well:
    • Agricultural markets are characterised by inefficient physical operations, excessive crowding of intermediaries, and fragmented market chains.
    • Due to this, farmers are deprived of a fair share of the price paid by final consumers.
    • States have also not shown any urgency in reforming agricultural markets.

Solution - Unified National Market:

  • Raising the MSP, price deficiency payments or income support schemes can only be a partial solution to the problem of providing remunerative returns to farmers.
  • A sustainable solution is market reforms to enable better price discovery combined with long-term trade policies favourable to exports.
  • The creation of a competitive, stable and unified national market is needed for farmers to get better prices (e-NAM is a step in this regard).
  • For better price for farmers, agriculture has to go beyond farming and develop a value chain comprising farming, wholesaling, warehousing, logistics, processing and retailing.


  1. Raising productivity:


  • Yields of several crops are lower in India when compared to several other countries.
  • Inefficient infrastructure and water usage: Water is the leading input in agriculture. More than 60% of irrigation water is consumed by two crops: rice and sugar cane. India uses upto three times the water used to produce one tonne of grain in countries such as Brazil, China and the U.S.
  • Policies: Government policies have been biased towards cereals particularly rice and wheat. There is a need to make a shift from rice and wheat-centric policies to millets, pulses, fruits, vegetables, livestock and fish.


  • Another issue is the low productivity of Indian agriculture.
  • Basics such as seeds, fertilizers, credit, land and water management and technology are important and should continue to be focussed upon.
  • Technology can help to reduce ‘yield gaps’ and thus improve productivity.
  • Similarly, investment in infrastructure and research and development are needed.
  • Not only investment in irrigation but efficiency in water management (in both canal and groundwater) is important.
  • Water-use efficiency can be improved significantly with better use of technologies that include drip irrigation.



  1. Consolidation of land holdings:


  • Shrinking Farm Sizes:
    • Another major issue relates to the shrinking size of farms which is also responsible for low incomes and farmers’ distress.
    • The average size of farm holdings declined from 2.3 hectares in 1970-71 to 1.08 hectares in 2015-16.
    • The average size of marginal holdings is only 0.38 hectares (less than one acre) in 2015-16. But the share of small and marginal farmers increased from 70% in 1980-81 to 86% in 2015-16.
    • Affects viability of farming:
      • The monthly income of small and marginal farmers from all sources is only around Rs. 4,000 and Rs. 5,000 as compared to Rs. 41,000 for large farmers.
      • Thus, the viability of marginal and small farmers is a major challenge for Indian agriculture.
  • Lack of opportunities outside farms:
    • Many small farmers cannot leave agriculture because of a lack of opportunities in the non-farm sector.
    • They can get only partial income from the non-farm sector.


  • In this context, a consolidation of land holdings becomes important to raise farmer incomes.
  • Even in the 1970s, economists argued that compulsory consolidation of land holdings alongside land development activities could enhance the incomes/livelihoods of the poor in rural areas.
  • We need to have policies for land consolidation along with land development activities in order to tackle the challenge of the low average size of holdings.
  • Farmers can voluntarily come together and pool land to gain the benefits of size.
  • Through consolidation, farmers can reap the economies of scale both in input procurement and output marketing.



  • To conclude, farmers’ distress is due to low prices and low productivity.
  • Measures such as limited procurement, measures to improve low productivity, and consolidation of land holdings to gain the benefits of size, can help in reducing agrarian distress.
  • A long-term policy is needed to tackle the situation.



GS Paper III: Economy


Relevant question:

Farmers’ distress in India is due to factors like low prices and low productivity. Identify the factors causing the distress, and suggest long-term measures to alleviate it.

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Section : Editorial Analysis


Declining pepper price puts growers in south India in stress

Why in news?

  • Steep fall in the price of pepper and low production of pepper are the major concerns of the pepper growers in Kerala and Karnataka.


Reasons for the concerns:

  • Fall in Price:
    • Indian markets have been flooded with Vietnamese pepper, imported illegally as Sri Lankan produce, through the borders of Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
    • Imports from Sri Lanka are also being aided by a low-duty structure under the ASEAN (Association of South-East Nations) trade agreement, SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) and ISFTA (Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement).

Note: Vietnam is the world's largest producer and exporter of pepper in world.


  • Low Production:
    • High moisture content owing to the torrential rains has triggered fungal diseases like quick wilt and soft wilt, which has led to sharp decline in crop production.


About Quick wilt/ Foot rot disease

  • The disease is caused by a fungus called Phytophthora capsici.
  • The disease causes sudden wilting, drying and death of black pepper vines.
  • The infection initiates with the onset of south-west monsoon and affects all cultivable varieties and vines of all age groups.


About Slow wilt:

  • As the name suggests, it causes slow death of the pepper vines.
  • The affected vines show varying degrees of feeder root loss and the expression of symptoms on the aerial parts occur after a considerable portion of the feeder roots are lost.


Remedial actions

  • The Commerce Ministry had imposed a minimum import price (MIP) of Rs. 500 per kg on pepper last year to protect domestic pepper farmers. However, no positive impact has been seen yet.
  • The Indian Pepper and Spice traders, farmers, producer and planters consortium (IPSTPC) had also urged the Commerce Ministry to remove black pepper from the SAFTA and ISFTA import lists in order to aid domestic growers, which is yet to be considered.Pepper plantation in India

Popularly known as the king of spices, Pepper is mainly cultivated in the southern parts of India, comprising of states: Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh.


Favourable Conditions

  • Tropical hot and humid climate conditions
  • About 200 cm of annual rainfall
  • 10°C- 40°C of temperature
  • Cultivated at 1400 m above sea level
  • A dry spell of at least a month before flowering is needed for fruit set. 

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Section : Economics


Simply Put: Full Budget, interim Budget

Why is it important?

  • On February 1, the government will present a "vote on account" rather than a full Budget, ahead of the upcoming elections.

Union Budget/ Annual Financial Statement:

  • The Annual Financial Statement (also called the budget) is a document presented to the Parliament every year under Article 112 of the Constitution of India.
  • It shows the estimated receipts and expenditures of the Government of India for the coming year in relation to revised estimates for the previous year and also the actual amounts for the year prior to it.

Vote on account

  • Article 116 of the Indian Constitution deals with the Vote on Account.
  • Vote on Account is a special provision by which Government obtains the vote of Parliament for a sum sufficient to incur expenditure on various items for a part of the year.
  • It is a grant given in advance, which enables the government to carry on until the voting of demands for grants (for the next financial year beginning in April) and the passing of the Appropriation Bill and Finance Bill.
  • Two types:
    • Usually, vote on account is for two months.
    • However, in an election situation, the vote-on-account is usually for a four-month period (It is left to the new government to prepare the budget).


How does the interim budget differ from a regular budget?

  • Vote on account: a Vote on Account deals only with the expenditure side of the government's budget.
  • Interim Budget: An Interim Budget is a complete set of accounts, including both expenditure and receipts. It gives the complete financial statement, very similar to a full Budget.
  • Through the interim Budget, Parliament passes a vote-on-account that allows the government to meet the expenses (expenditure part) of the administration until the new Parliament considers and passes the Budget for the whole year. However, the estimates are presented for the entire year, as is the case with the regular Budget.


Points to be noted:

  • Constitutionally, the government can make tax changes in the interim budget.
  • However, no major announcements related to any new schemes or change in the taxation structure are made during a vote on account as the new government's stance could differ from that of the outgoing government.
  • Also, the incoming government has full freedom to change the estimates completely when the final Budget is presented.

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Section : Polity & Governance


New hope for sickle-cell patients

Why in News?

  • Genetic engineering could prove to be effective in curing sickle-cell disease, according to latest research. Though in early stages, it could prove to be the first ever genetic cure to this common genetic disorder.



About Sickle-Cell Disease

  • The Red Blood Cells in the blood contains a protein called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body.
  • Normally hemoglobin is smooth, round, disk-shaped and flexible, allowing the RBCs to flow smoothly through our bloodstreams.
  • In case of patients with sickle-cell disease, the gene that codes for hemoglobin is genetically mutated making the hemoglobin sickle shaped.
  • The abnormal hemoglobin forms rods that clump together distorting the shape of the RBCs.
  • The distorted RBCs become curved and rigid taking the shape of a C-shaped sickle and hence the name.
  • This results in deformation and break down of red blood cells in the blood.
  • Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that can be acquired from either or both the parents who carry the defective gene.



  • The sickle-shape and rigidity of the RBCs make it difficult to travel through the blood streams and hence the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. This oxygen deprivation to tissues and organs can lead to:
    • Severe pain called ‘crises’
    • Damage to organs
    • Repeated pneumonia
    • Swelling of hands and feet
    • Enlargement of the spleen
    • Stroke
  • If the RBCs are severely distorted and become rigid, it can lead to a low-blood condition called anemia, as the distorted RBCs survive only for 10-20 days compared to 120 days in normal condition.


  • Currently there is no cure to sickle-cell disease.
  • Low-hemoglobin conditions are usually treated with blood-transfusions.
  • The other remedy is bone marrow transplant but they carry the risk of rejection as the stem cells are taken from different individual.


Genetic Cure to SCD

  • The researchers are working on a genetic engineering solution to treat SCD.
  • The treatment involves removal of stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow.
  • The stem cells so removed are genetically modified.
  • The genetically modified cells are infused back in the bone marrow and helps form healthy RBCs.


Incidence of SCD

  • The disease is most common in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Other regions known for the incidence of SCD are Southern Europe, Middle East and Asia including India.
  • In India, prevalence of sickle cell trait is high in central India especially Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha.


Global Initiatives to fight SCD

  • In 2008, the UN General Assembly, recognizing sickle cell disease as a public health concern, established June 19 as World Sickle Cell Day.
  • The Global Sickle Cell Disease Network is periodically conducting the Global Congress on Sickle Cell Disease staring from 2012.
  • The 3rd and the latest Global Congress on Sickle Cell Disease and Bone Marrow Transplantation was held in Bhubaneswar in 2017.


For More Information:

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Section : Science & Tech


Citizenship Bill: the concerns behind Mizoram’s strong protests

The news

  • Recently, a massive protest has broken out in Mizoram, amidst the ongoing protest against Citizenship amendment bill, in the North Eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.



  • The citizenship (Amendment) bill, 2016, which amends the Citizenship Act, 1955, aims to relax the citizenship eligibility rules for immigrants belonging to six minority religions from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan.
  • Protesters in Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura, are concerned about Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh. They have protested against this citizenship Bill on grounds of its potential impact on the region’s demography.
  • Some activists have also questioned the constitutionality of the bill, as it grants citizenship on the basis of religion.
  • Now, another state Mizoram has started protest against the bill but their concerns are different from that of other Northeastern states.


Demographic structure of Mizoram and the Chakmas

  • The Chakmas are present in parts of the Northeast of India and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, with which Mizoram shares an international border.
  • In Mizoram, 87% population is Christians (11 lakh in 2011).
  • Number of Chakmasis about 1 lakh.
  • Chakmas are considered as illegal migrants from Bangladesh in Mizoram, and the state has seen ethnic violence against Chakmas.
  • Even the Chakmas don’t want to identify themselves as Mizo.


Highlights of the news

  • Mizoram recently started demonstrating against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
  • This protest was organised by the influential Mizo Zirlai Pawl (MZP).
  • In Mizoram, the concern with the bill is about Chakmas, a tribal and largely Buddhist group, unlike other states which have concerns about Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh.
  • In Mizoram, some people say that Chakmas are illegal migrants from Bangladesh, which the Chakma community denies.
  • Basis for considering the Chakmas as illegal migrants by the protestors-
    • The protestors are basing their agitation on the figures in the Census, where growth rate of Chakmas is very high.
    • They say that in 1901, there were less than 200 Chakmas in Mizoram and by 1991, it was over 80,000, which reflects influx of Chakmas from Bangladesh.
  • Looking at the population growth of Chakmas, the Mizo people fear if the citizenship amendment bill is passed, then the illegally migrated Chakmas will become legal Indian citizens.
  • They also fear Mizos becoming a minority in their own land in the long run.

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Section : Polity & Governance


Microplastic found in groundwater: Study

The News

  • Microplastics were detected by researchers for the first time in groundwater systems in the U.S. Till now, they were known to contaminate surface water.
  • A new study has reported microplastics in limestone aquifers, a groundwater source that accounts for 25 percent of the global drinking water supply.


What are Microplastics?

  • Plastic debris that is less than five millimeters in length is called “microplastics.”


Types and sources of Microplastics:

Primary Microplastics:

  • These are the microplastics which have been made as plastics less than 5mm in length.
  • Microbeads are the type of primary microplastics which are less than 1mm in length.
  • They are made from polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS), polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and polyesters. 
  • Common sources:
    • Microbeads are used as exfoliants in health and beauty products- in facewash, toothpaste etc.
    • From tyres: Most of car tyres contain synthetic rubber and it is rubbed off on the road and eventually washed to water sources.
    • Machine washing synthetic fabric


Secondary Microplastics

  • These are the plastics that result from fragmentation and weathering of plastic larger objects. It contributes to 75% of the total microplastics pollution.




Harmful effects of Microplastics

  • Microplastics are non- biodegrade i.e. they are not broken down into simpler substances by the microorganisms. So, the microplastics never dissolve and stay in water or soil.
  • Microplastics enter marine fauna (fishes, zooplanktons, oyster, shrimps etc.) by ingestion of marine debris containing the pollutant.
    • From there, they may bioaccumulate up the food chain and enter the human diet. 
    • These particles can produce toxins which can affect various organs of the body. (Exact mechanisms are not known yet)
    • These microparticles can act as vectors of contaminants.


Steps that can be taken

  • Data on freshwater microplastics are lacking in India, whereas research on this pollutant is drawing attention globally. The magnitude of the problem should be assessed.
  • As 75% of the pollution is from secondary source, controlling plastics at the source is the option to be explored because once microplastics are released into the environment there is little can be done to limit their distribution and impacts.
  • Concerted efforts in improving and monitoring waste management programs.
  • Emphasis should be given on ‘three R principle’: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, for the plastic management. This will reduce the influx of plastics.
  • Strict legislations on plastic ban and their regulations should be enacted.


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Section : Environment & Ecology


Prelims Program: National Ayush Mission (NAM)

About the Mission

  • With an intention to promote the indigenous medical practices of India, the Central Government constituted a separate Ministry of AYUSH which was set up in 2014 to ensure the optimal development and propagation of AYUSH systems of health care.
  • Implementing Ministry: Ministry of AYUSH



  • The Government of India has approved and notified National AYUSH Mission (NAM) as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in 2014.
  • The aim of NAM is to promote AYUSH medical systems through cost effective AYUSH services, strengthening of educational systems, facilitate the enforcement of quality control of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani & Homoeopathy (ASU &H) drugs and sustainable availability of ASU & H raw-materials. 
  • It envisages flexibility of implementation of the programmes which will lead to substantial participation of the State Governments/UT.



  • To provide cost effective and equitable AYUSH health care throughout the country by improving access to the services.
  • To revitalize and strengthen the AYUSH systems making them as prominent medical streams in addressing the health care of the society.
  • To improve educational institutions capable of imparting quality AYUSH AYUSH education
  • To promote the adoption of Quality standards of AYUSH drugs and making available the sustained supply of AYUSH raw-materials. 



  • To provide cost effective AYUSH Services, with a universal access through upgrading AYUSH Hospitals and Dispensaries, co-location of AYUSH facilities at Primary Health Centres (PHCs), Community Health Centres (CHCs) and District Hospitals (DHs).
  • To strengthen institutional capacity at the state level through upgrading AYUSH educational institutions, State Govt. ASU&H Pharmacies, Drug Testing Laboratories and ASU & H enforcement mechanism.
  • Support cultivation of medicinal plants by adopting Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) so as to provide sustained supply of quality raw-materials and support certification mechanism for quality standards, Good Agricultural/Collection/Storage Practices.
  • Support setting up of clusters through convergence of cultivation, warehousing, value addition and marketing and development of infrastructure for entrepreneurs.


Components of the Mission

  • Mandatory Components
    • AYUSH Services
    • AYUSH Educational Institutions
    • Quality Control of ASU &H Drugs
    • Medicinal Plants


  • Flexible Components: Out of the total State funds available, 20% funds will be earmarked for flexible components which can be spent on any of the items given below with the stipulation that not more than 5% of the envelop is spent on any one of the components:
    • AYUSH Wellness Centres including Yoga & Naturopathy
    • Tele-medicine
    • Sports Medicine through AYUSH
    • Innovations in AYUSH including Public Private Partnership
    • Interest subsidy component for Private AYUSH educational Institutions
    • Reimbursement of Testing charges
    • IEC activities
    • Research & Development in areas related to Medicinal Plants
    • Voluntary certification scheme: Project based.
    • Market Promotion, Market intelligence & buy back interventions
    • Crop Insurance for Medicinal Plants



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Section : Miscellaneous