News 1: PM Modi unveils policy for logistics

Background:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday unveiled the National Logistics Policy that seeks to address challenges facing the transport sector and bring down the logistics cost for businesses from 13-14% to a single digit.

National Logistics Policy:

  • It is a transformative approach for improving logistics efficiency and reducing logistics cost, with focus on integrating existing and proposed infrastructure development initiatives of different agencies, to ensure last mile connectivity, for seamless movement of people and goods.
  • The policy aims to expedite last-mile delivery, helping businesses save time and money. 
  • To ensure quick last mile delivery, end transport-related challenges, save time and money of the manufacturers, prevent wastage of the agro-products, concerted efforts were made and one of the manifestations of those efforts is National Logistics Policy.
  • Implementation of the National Logistics Policy would bring down logistics costs, give a fillip to international trade, help in making India ‘atmanirbhar’ or self-reliant, usher in prosperity in the nation and present new opportunities to our startups.
  • The policy would be highly beneficial to the farmers of the country, helping them to take their produce to the markets at a faster pace and reduce wastage and delay.  This would bring down prices in the economy.

New Logistics policy has four critical features:

  • Integration of digital system
  • Unifies logistics Interface Platform
  • Ease of logistics
  • System Improvement Group

Logistics efficiency:

  • Logistics efficiency is a function of infrastructure, services (digital systems / processes / regulatory framework) and human resource.
  • PM GatiShakti National Master Plan (NMP) for multimodal connectivity infrastructure to various economic zones, has been launched.
  • The government has worked towards initiatives like paperless EXIM trade process through e-sanchit, faceless assessment for customs, provisions for e-way bills, FASTag etc. that have greatly increased the efficiency of the logistics sector. 

Need for logistics policy:

  • The need for a national logistics policy was felt since the logistics cost in India is high as compared to other developed economies.
  • It is imperative to reduce the logistics cost in India for improving the competitiveness of Indian goods both in domestic as well as export markets.
  • Reduced logistics cost improves efficiency cutting across various sectors of the economy, encouraging value addition and enterprise.
  • The policy is an endeavour to improve the competitiveness of Indian goods, enhance economic growth and increase employment opportunities.

News 2: How climate change is altering Indian monsoon

Background:

  • Monsoon in India has undergone several changes over the years, especially on account of climate change.
  • A shift in the track of monsoon systems, like low pressure and depression travelling south of their position and flash floods are a result of this change.
  • And these changes spell intense and frequent extreme unprecedented weather events over the places which once struggled to record even normal monsoon rains. 

Factors affecting rainfall variability and monsoon pattern:

  • Persistence of intense La Nina conditions
  • The abnormal warming of East Indian Ocean,
  • Negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)
  • Southward movement of most of the monsoon depressions and lows
  • Pre-monsoon heating over the Himalayan region are melting glaciers and affecting rainfall
  • Global warming

Excess and deficit of rainfall:

  • States such as Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan and parts of Maharashtra have been recording excess rainfall this season.
  • Monsoon systems move across Northwest India giving rains over the region there and this might lead to extreme weather conditions over the entire South Asian region.

Issues with this variability:

  • Slow onsets can still be taken care of through adaptation and resilience ideas but these kinds of big events are very difficult to cope with. That is where the main issue lies as the country would then have to divert development money to climate finance to combat climate change.
  • After a weak onset, monsoon went into a lull and so no thumping activity was seen in Kerala and adjoining parts of Karnataka. By June, monsoon had reached the plains but the onset was not a strong one.
  • This resulted in West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar not receiving normal rains. Back-to-back active monsoon systems in the Bay of Bengal in July led to excess rainfall.

Impact of this change in rainfall:

  • Due to southward movement of majors, all main monsoon low pressure areas and depressions, rice producing States such as West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and east Uttar Pradesh have been deficit by large margins.
  • These uneven distribution rains along with increasing temperatures and humidity give rise to pest attacks and diseases. This will, in turn, impact the quality of the grain as well as the nutrition value may vary.
  • According to a study, ‘Climate change, the monsoon, and rice yield in India’, very high temperatures (> 35°C) induce heat stress and affect plant physiological processes, leading to spikelet sterility, non-viable pollen and reduced grain quality.
  • Drought, on the other hand, reduces plant transpiration rates and may result in leaf rolling and drying, reduction in leaf expansion rates and plant biomass, immobilisation of solutes and increased heat stress of leaves.

News 3: Cochin Shipyard set to install missile systems on INS Vikrant

Background:

  • With the indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant now joining the Navy, its builder, Cochin Shipyard Ltd. (CSL), has to complete the installation of the LR-SAM (long-range surface-to-air missile system) and the MF-STAR (multi-functional digital active electronically scanned array) radar, according to senior shipyard officials. 

LR-SAM (Long Range surface to air missile):

  • LR-SAM is a joint development by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) of Israel.
  • LRSAM has long-range engagement capability to penetrate deep water and land to intercept all types of aerial targets like subsonic and supersonic missiles, fighter aircraft, maritime patrolling aircraft (MPA), helicopter and sea skimming missiles.
  • It is capable of countering newest generation anti-ship missiles
  • Both maritime and land-based versions of the system are available

MF-STAR:

  • Manufactured by the IAI and is also in service on other frontline warships of the Indian Navy.
  • It is a multifunction active electronically scanned array naval radar system developed by IAI Elta for maritime installation on warships

News 4: Clash along Tajik-Kyrgyz border

Background:

  • At least 94 people were killed in clashes between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan this week, in the worst violence the countries have seen in years, while the international community called for calm. Clashes regularly erupt between the two former Soviet republics, as around half their 970-km border is still to be demarcated.

Tajikistan – Kyrgyzstan conflict:

  • The boundary of one –third of a length of 1000 Km is disputed and restriction to land and water access has caused these disputes.
  • Both nations have claimed the area around the water supply facility in Kok-Tash, a dispute dating back decades.

India – Tajikistan:

  • India and Tajikistan shared bilateral relations at the level of a Strategic Partnership in 2012. Tajikistan supports permanent membership of an expanded UNSC.
  • India supported Tajikistan’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2013.
  • Trade ties haven’t developed so far due to higher transit time and readily accessible routes, but agreements on certain areas such as food processing, mining, pharmaceuticals, textiles, skill development, science & technology, Information Technology, culture and tourism continue with both countries.

India – Kyrgyzstan:

  • India shares a strong bilateral tie with Kyrgyzstan and had established its diplomatic mission in 2012.
  • Kyrgyzstan’s leader supports India’s bid for UNSC membership and is supportive of India’s stand on Kashmir.
  • Active partnership with Kyrgyzstan in the field of education and high-altitude research

News 5: Punjab farmers demand aid to stop stubble burning

Background:

  • As the harvesting of paddy has started in parts of Punjab, the six-month-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government is all set to face the stiff challenge of dealing with the perennial issue of stubble burning, with farmers indicating that they will continue to burn paddy stubble unless government suitably compensates them for the expenses incurred on alternative methods of disposing of crop residue.

Stubble burning issue:

  • Stubble burning also known as Parali in local language is a practice of intentionally setting fire to the crop residue that includes stems (stubble), leaves, stalks, and seed pods of the yielded crops such as paddy. It is usually being done in the areas where combined harvesting methods are used.

Threats posed by stubble burning:

  • Severe deterioration of the air quality Index along with vehicular emissions. 
  • The smoke coming from these regions contains toxic contaminants such as Carbon Monoxide (CO), Methane(CH4), Nitrogen oxides, Sulphur dioxide(SO2), but the most harmful substances it contains are particulate matter (pm) and ground-level ozone (O3).
  • This smog smothers the air quality of Delhi.
  • It causes soil erosion, death of useful microbes and loss of moisture.
  • Soil becomes less fertile and its nutrients are destroyed when the husk is burned on the ground.
  • Soil becomes less fertile and its nutrients are destroyed when the husk is burned on the ground
  • According to the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, the average contribution of stubble burning to PM2.5 grew from 10% in 2019 to 15% in 2020.

Reason behind stubble burning:

  • The major reason behind the stubble burning is the short time available between rice harvesting and sowing of wheat as delay in sowing wheat affects the wheat crop. 
  • Between the harvesting of the paddy crop and the sowing of the next crop, there is only a two to three weeks’ time window left. 
  •  Stubble burning is considered one of the cheapest methods to clean the field after the harvesting season.
  • Unlike other crop residues, paddy residues are on average harder to chew, have low calorific value and high silica content, all of which make them unsuitable for use as animal fodder. 
  • The thrust on mechanized farming also compounded the existing problem, since harvesters leave out 1-2 ft tall stubbles compared to less than six inches in manual harvesting.

Solutions:

  • Extra labour can be employed for the timely removal of residue from the farms by institutionalizing the process through the MGNREGA. 
  • This would provide adequate incentives for farmers to not burn the residue since no extra cost will be incurred to the farmer.
  • Need to focus on genetically modified varieties of paddy that offer coveted outcomes such as reduced maturity period (so that harvesting can be completed well in advance, allowing stubble, if any, to assimilate with and enrich the soil), shorter crop height (so that bulk of the stubble currently generated gets reduced), lower cellulose content in the stalk (allowing stubble to be acceptable as fodder), etc.
  • Need a shift of focus towards solution-approaches that emphasise farmers to re-use stubble productively and commercially (making paper and packing materials, generating energy or using in cement plants).
  • In the long-term, petroleum companies can be incentivised to initiate investment plans for churning out 2G ethanol out of crop stubble.

News 6: Ban on export of broken rice

Background:

  • On September 9, the Centre instituted a ban on the export of broken rice. Additionally, it mandated an export duty of 20% on rice in husk (paddy or rough), husked (brown rice) and semi-milled or wholly-milled rice. 
  • With trade disrupted in the Black Sea region, prices of rice are surging because traders are betting it will be an alternative for wheat which is becoming prohibitively expensive. India accounted for 41% of the total rice exports in the world in 2021.

Ban on export of rice and inflation:

  • The lower the supply of a commodity, the higher would be the price of a product, which results in inflationary pressures.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic also had an impact on India’s previously held surplus.
  • As a reaction to the distresses caused by the pandemic to the vulnerable sections the Union Cabinet had introduced a food security program, called the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY) in March 2020. 
  • The scheme provisions an additional 5kg ration per person each month in addition to their normal quota of foodgrains under the National Food Security Act. In March, the scheme was extended for another six months until September 2022.
  • It has been reported this week that foodgrain stocks (including rice, wheat and unmilled paddy) in the Food Corporation of India (FCI)’s central pool had dropped 33.5% on a year-over-year basis to 60.11 million tonnes as of September 1.

Rice production in India:

  • The major rice cultivation season in India is the Kharif season that entails sowing the crop during June-July and harvesting them in November-December.
  • As rice is a water-intensive crop and requires a hot and humid climate, it is best suited to regions which have high humidity, prolonged sunshine and an assured supply of water. It is for this reason that the eastern and southern regions of the country, with sustainable humidity and suitable mean temperatures are deemed favourable for the crop.
  • While the two regions are able to grow paddy crops throughout the year, higher rainfall and temperature prompt the northern regions to grow only one crop of rice from May to November.
  • Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are among the rice producing States in India.

What are the concerns on ethanol blending?

  • Ethanol is an agro-based product, mainly produced from molasses, which is a by-product of the sugar industry. The EBP endeavours to blend ethanol with vehicular fuels as a means to combat the use of fossil fuels and in turn, rising pollution.
  • As per the government, sugar-based feed stocks alone would not be able to meet its stipulated target of 20% ethanol blending by 2025.
  • In the 2018-19 Ethanol Supply Year (ESY), the government had allowed the FCI to sell surplus rice to ethanol plants for fuel production. The idea was to have in place an insurance scheme and an emergency provision for distillers.
  • However, in the ongoing ESY, because of supply constraints there has been an uptick in the procurement of rice from the FCI.
  • The total ethanol produced from rice lifted from the FCI stood at 26.64 crore litres whereas that from damaged food grains outside the FCI purview stood at 16.36 crore litres.
  • This means that the production accruing from FCI rice has increased 10-fold from the 2.2 crore litres used in a full ESY.
  • At the same time, production from damaged foodgrains stands at half.
  • Thus, the export ban would endeavour to catch-up with this supply and additionally, unburden the FCI from provisioning to distillers.

What are the likely after-effects of the ban?

  • Geopolitical tensions between Russia and Ukraine have unsettled global food supply chains. With trade disrupted in the Black Sea region, the prices of rice are surging because traders are betting it will be an alternative for wheat which is becoming prohibitively expensive.
  • India accounted for 41% of the total rice exports in the world in 2021, larger than the next four exporters (Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and United States) combined.
  • As for broken rice, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that India accounted for more than half of the commodity’s global exports in the first half of 2022.
  • In descending order, China, Senegal, Vietnam, Djibouti and Indonesia are the biggest importers of India’s broken rice.

News 7: WTO dispute settlement reforms: USTR calls for meet

Background:

  • The US trade representative has convened a meeting of G20 countries in Bali on September 21, to discuss World Trade Organizations’ dispute settlement reforms.

WTO:

  • Purpose: Reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade
  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations. The goal is to help producers of goods and services, exporters, and importers conduct their business.
  • Established: 1995 after the Uruguay round and replaced General Agreement on Trade and Tariff
  • Members: 164 members
  • Headquarter: Geneva, Switzerland

News 8: Ambedkar circuit

Background:

  • Union Tourism and Culture Minister announced a special tourist train to cover the Ambedkar circuit.
  • Proposed in 2016, the Ambedkar Circuit covers Madhya Pradesh’s Mhow, Ambedkar’s birthplace; Nagpur, where he converted to Buddhism; the residence in Delhi where he lived during his last years; and Dadar in Maharashtra, where his body was cremated.

Swadesh Darshan scheme:

    • Launched: 2015
    • Ministry: Ministry of Tourism
    • Type: Central Sector scheme

Objective:

  • Integrated development of theme-based tourist circuits.
  • Thematic circuits: Buddhist Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Desert Circuit, Eco Circuit, Heritage Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Krishna Circuit, North East Circuit, Ramayana Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Sufi Circuit, Tirthankar Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Wildlife Circuit.

Other important news

PM PRANAM:

  • The Union government intends to launch a scheme — named PM PRANAM — to reduce the use of chemical fertilisers by incentivising states.
  • The proposed scheme, short for PM Promotion of Alternate Nutrients for Agriculture Management Yojana, also aims to bring down the subsidy burden on chemical fertilisers, which is estimated to reach Rs 2.25 lakh crore in 2022-23 — 39 per cent higher than last year’s figure of Rs 1.62 lakh crore.

North pacific garbage patch:

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific trash vortex, spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan. 
  • These areas of spinning debris are linked together by the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, located a few hundred kilometers north of Hawaii.
  • This convergence zone is where warm water from the South Pacific meets up with cooler water from the Arctic.

Monkeypox:

  • Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, although it is clinically less severe.
  • Monkeypox primarily occurs in central and west Africa, often in proximity to tropical rainforests, and has been increasingly appearing in urban areas.
  • Monkeypox virus is an enveloped double-stranded DNA virus that belongs to the Orthopoxvirus genus of the Poxviridae family. 
  • Human monkeypox was first identified in humans in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Transmission:

  • Animal-to-human (zoonotic) transmission can occur from direct contact with the blood, bodily fluids, or cutaneous or mucosal lesions of infected animals. Human-to-human transmission can result from close contact with respiratory secretions, skin lesions of an infected person or recently contaminated objects. Transmission via droplet respiratory particles usually requires prolonged face-to-face contact.

L.69 Group:

  • The group consists of developing countries from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Small Island Developing States that are focused on the reform of the UNSC.

UNSC:

  • United Nations Security Council is one of the main six organ of the United Nations.
  • Headquarter: NewYork
  • The primary responsibility is to maintain international peace and security.
  • Council: 15 members (5 permanent + 10 non-permanent)
  • Permanent members: US, Russia, UK, France, China
  • Non-permanent members: 
    • Members are elected for two years time  and seats distribute on a regional basis ( five for African and Asian States; one for Eastern European States; two for the Latin American and Caribbean States; and two for Western European and other States)
  • Voting:
    •  Each member of the Security Council has one vote. Decisions of the Security Council on matters are made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members. 
  • Admission of members: 
    • The Security Council’s role in admission of new members to the United Nations is laid out in Article 4 of the Charter of the Organization, which states that the admission is done by a decision of the General Assembly following the recommendation of the Security Council. 
  • Functions and powers:
    • to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
    • to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction;
    • to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;
    • to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments;
    • to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
    • to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;
    • to take military action against an aggressor;
    • to recommend the admission of new Members;
    • to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in “strategic areas”;
    • to recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and, together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.

Competition Commission of India:

  • Established: 2003
  • Headquarter: New Delhi
  • Role: CCI prohibits anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position by enterprises and regulates combinations (acquisition, acquiring of control and M&A), eliminate practices which have adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India
  • Composition: Chairperson and 6 members appointed by the Central Government
  • Type: Statutory body under Ministry of Corporate Affairs

 

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