Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- India – Bhutan MoU for Environment Cooperation
- Ancient Buddhist rock carvings in Gilgit-Baltistan
- Agri Marketing Reforms
- Visiting Forces Agreement
- Vizag Gas Leak
- Border Area Development Programme
- Facts for Prelims
1. India – Bhutan MoU for environment cooperation
Context : The Union Cabinet approved the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Bhutan for cooperation in the field of environment protection and management of natural resources.
Details of the MoU
- The Memorandum of Understanding will enable establishment and promotion of closer and long-term cooperation between the two countries in the field of environment protection and management of natural resources on the basis of equity, reciprocity and mutual benefits, taking into account the applicable laws and legal provisions in each country.
- Memorandum of Understanding covering the following areas of environment has been considered: Air, Waste, Chemical Management, Climate Change, Any other areas jointly decided upon.
- Memorandum of Understanding shall continue to remain in force for a period of ten years.
Major Impact including Employment Generation Potential
- The Memorandum of Understanding shall facilitate exchange of experiences, best practices and technical knowhow through both public and private sectors and shall contribute to sustainable development.
- The Memorandum of Understanding provides the possibility for joint projects in areas of mutual interest. However, no significant employment generation is envisaged.
2. Ancient Buddhist rock carvings in Gilgit-Baltistan
Context: India has reacted strongly to reports of vandalism and defacement of ancient Buddhist rock carvings in Gilgit-Baltistan under Pakistan’s control
About the site
- The rich Buddhist heritage of the region found in the rock carvings and engravings, especially in areas like Hunza, were part of the Buddhist circle covering Ladakh and Tibet.
- The engravings have been in news recently also because of the Diamar-Bhasha hydro power project that the Chinese and the Pakistani companies will construct nearby, as locals have opposed it, claiming it may endanger the heritage.
Rock carvings in Gilgit Baltistan Area
Sacred Rock of Hunza
- The Sacred Rock of Hunza is carved rock as well as a cultural heritage site in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. The carvings on the rock dates back to the 1st Millennium AD. The rock is on a top of a hill which lies in east to the Hunza River.
- The Sacred Rock is divided into two portions, an upper portion and a lower one. Both the portions carry carvings on them which are basically inscriptions and images from Pre-Historic era. There used to be many Buddhist shelter caves in ancient times which later collapsed or fell over the time
- Upper Portion – The upper portion of the rock consist of inscriptions which are carved in Sogdian, Kharosthi, Brahmi, Sarada and Proto Sarada languages. The names of the Emperors of the Kushana Empire appear in these inscriptions as well as the names of other Emperors from the Empires of Kanishka and Huvishka. The name of the Trukha King Ramadusa is also mentioned in inscriptions which are carved in Brahmi language
- Lower Portion – The lower portion is engraved by the images of Ibexes. These ibexes are shown in different situations, including being hunted. The carvings also contain Horned-Human deities playing with the ibexes. The carvings of the Ibexes are a proof of the ibex being an animal which holds cultural importance to Buddhists as well as to the region in ancient times. One of the carvings also shows the image of an ancient Chinese King. Some carvings show a Tibetan styled Stupa
Keno Daas (rock carvings) is an archaeological site in Gilgit, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. These are the important rock carvings, and are located just outside Gilgit, towards Hunza Valley
- Diamer-Bhasha Dam is located on the Indus River in northern Pakistan between Kohistan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Diamer district in Gilgit Baltistan.
- With the height of 272 meters, it will be the tallest Roller Compact Concrete (RCC) dam in the world.
- Roller-compacted concrete, or RCC, takes its name from the construction method used to build it. It’s placed with conventional or high-density asphalt paving equipment,then compacted with rollers. Roller-compacted concrete has the same basic ingredient as conventional concrete: cement, water, and aggregates, such as gravel or crushed stone. But unlike conventional concrete, it’s a drier mix—stiff enough to be compacted by vibratory rollers. Typically, RCC is constructed without joints. It needs neither forms nor finishing, nor does it contain dowels or steel reinforcing. These characteristics make roller-compacted concrete simple, fast, and economical
3. Agri marketing reforms
Cabinet approved amendments to Essential Commodities Act, The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020′, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020’.
Amendment to Essential Commodities Act
- While India has become surplus in most agri-commodities, farmers have been unable to get better prices due to lack of investment in cold storage, warehouses, processing and export as the entrepreneurial spirit gets dampened due to hanging sword of Essential Commodities Act.
- Farmers suffer huge losses when there are bumper harvests, especially of perishable commodities. With adequate processing facilities, much of this wastage can be reduced.
- With the amendment to Essential Commodities Act, commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes will be removed from list of essential commodities. This will remove fears of private investors of excessive regulatory interference in their business operations.
- The freedom to produce, hold, move, distribute and supply will lead to harnessing of economies of scale and attract private sector/foreign direct investment into agriculture sector. It will help drive up investment in cold storages and modernization of food supply chain.
- Adequate processing and storage facilities will reduce wastage and increase income for farmers of perishable commodities.
Safeguarding interest of consumers
- The Government, while liberalizing the regulatory environment, has also ensured that interests of consumers are safeguarded. It has been provided in the Amendment, that in situations such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise and natural calamity, such agricultural foodstuff can be regulated. However, the installed capacity of a value chain participant and the export demand of an exporter will remain exempted from such stock limit imposition so as to ensure that investments in agriculture are not discouraged.
- The amendment announced will help both farmers and consumers while bringing in price stability. It will create competitive market environment and also prevent wastage of agri-produce that happens due to lack of storage facilities.
The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020′
- Farmers in India today suffer from various restrictions in marketing their produce. There are restrictions for farmers in selling agri-produce outside the notified APMC market yards.
- The farmers are also restricted to sell the produce only to registered licensees of the State Governments.Further, Barriers exist in free flow of agriculture produce between various States owing to the prevalence of various APMC legislations enacted by the State Governments.
About the ordinance
- The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 aims to open up agricultural marketing outside notified mandis for farmers, and also remove barriers to inter-State trade.
- According to the industry sources 60% of agricultural trade already takes place outside the mandis through unregulated sales.
- By legalising and facilitating such sales, the farmers will benefit, rather than middlemen.
- Not all States have been on board with these reforms, especially as State governments will not be allowed to levy fees on these sales.
- The Ordinance will create an ecosystem where the farmers and traders will enjoy freedom of choice of sale and purchase of agri-produce. It will also promote barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade and commerce outside the physical premises of markets notified under State Agricultural Produce Marketing legislations. This is a historic-step in unlocking the vastly regulated agriculture markets in the country.
- It will open more choices for the farmer, reduce marketing costs for the farmers and help them in getting better prices. It will also help farmers of regions with surplus produce to get better prices and consumers of regions with shortages, lower prices. The ordinance also proposes an electronic trading in transaction platform for ensuring a seamless trade electronically.
- The farmers will not be charged any cess or levy for sale of their produce under this Act. Further there will be a separate dispute resolution mechanism for the farmers.
Significance : One India, One Agriculture Market
- The ordinance basically aims at creating additional trading opportunities outside the APMC market yards to help farmers get remunerative prices due to additional competition. This will supplement the existing MSP procurement system which is providing stable income to farmers.
- It will certainly pave the way for creating One India, One Agriculture Market and will lay the foundation for ensuring golden harvests for our hard working farmers.
Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020
- Indian Agriculture is characterized by fragmentation due to small holding sizes and has certain weaknesses such as weather dependence, production uncertainties and market unpredictability. This makes agriculture risky and inefficient in respect of both input & output management.
About the Ordinance
- It is aimed at facilitating contract farming, where a private buyer contracts to purchase a crop at a certain price at the beginning of a season, transferring the risk of market unpredictability from the farmer to the corporate sponsor.
- The ordinance will empower farmers for engaging with processors, wholesalers, aggregators,wholesalers, large retailers, exporters etc., on a level playing field without any fear of exploitation. It will transfer the risk of market unpredictability from the farmer to the sponsor and also enable the farmer to access modern technology and better inputs. It will reduce cost of marketing and improve income of farmers.
- This Ordinance will act as a catalyst to attract private sector investment for building supply chains for supply of Indian farm produce to global markets. Farmers will get access to technology and advice for high value agriculture and get ready market for such produce.
- Farmers will engage in direct marketing thereby eliminating intermediaries resulting in full realization of price. Farmers have been provided adequate protection. Sale, lease or mortgage of farmers’ land is totally prohibited and farmers’ land is also protected against any recovery. Effective dispute resolution mechanism has been provided for with clear time lines for redressal.
- Both agriculture and markets are State subjects
- Trade and commerce in foodstuffs is part of the concurrent list.
4. Visiting Forces Agreement
Context : Philippines’ has also taken a U-turn from the Visiting Forces Agreement
About Visitng Forces Agreement
- A visiting forces agreement (VFA) is an agreement between a country and a foreign nation having military forces visiting in that country. Visiting forces agreements are similar in intent to status of forces agreements (SOFAs).
- A VFA typically covers forces visiting temporarily, while a SOFA typically covers forces based in the host nation as well as visiting forces.
5 . Vizag Gas Leak
Context : The National Green Tribunal (NGT) held that LG Polymers India has absolute liability for the loss of life caused by a gas leak at its factory in Andhra Pradesh’s Visakhapatnam.
- Styrene gas was leaked from a chemical factory on the outskirts of Visakhapatnam
What is styrene?
- Styrene is an organic compound with the formula C8H8, its molecular structure as pictured. It is a derivative of benzene (C6H6). It is stored in factories as a liquid, but evaporates easily, and has to be kept at temperatures under 20°C.
What is styrene used for?
- Styrene is the main raw material for synthesis of polystyrene, or (C8H8)n.
- Polystyrene, in turn, is a versatile plastic that is used to make parts of various appliances such as refrigerators or micro-ovens; automotive parts; and parts of electronics such as computers; and also to manufacture disposable cups and in food packaging. Styrene is also used as an intermediate to produce copolymers — which are polymers derived from one or more species of monomers such as styrene.
What happens if someone is exposed to styrene gas?
- Exposure to styrene gas affects the central nervous system
- Breathlessness, respiratory problems, irritation in eyes, indigestion, nausea, transient loss of consciousness, unsteady gait, giddiness are caused by exposure to it.
- It is the mucous membrane that is mainly affected by exposure to styrene gas.
Long Term Effects
- Experts say that if people are exposed to the gas for a long period, there is a chance of their developing leukaemia and headaches. Studies on the effects on health due to occupational exposure to styrene have, however, been inconclusive.
- In 1986, the Supreme Court in MC Mehta vs Union (known as the Oleum gas leak case) evolved its own rule of ‘absolute liability’
- Absolute liability is a standard of tort liability that stipulates: where an enterprise is engaged in a hazardous or inherently dangerous activity and harm results to anyone on account of an accident in the operation of such hazardous or inherently dangerous activity resulting, for example, in escape of toxic gas the enterprise is strictly and absolutely liable to compensate all those who are affected by the accident and such liability is not subject to any of the exceptions which is available in case of Strict Liability
- This legal doctrine was much more powerful than the legal Doctrine of Strict Liability developed in the case of English tort law Rylands v Fletcher. This meant that the defaulter could be held liable for even third party errors when the public was at a realistic risk. This could ensure stricter compliance to standards that were meant to safeguard the public.
Difference Between Strict Liability and Absolute Liability
- Firstly, In Absolute Liability only those enterprises shall be held liable which are involved in hazardous or inherently dangerous activities, this implies that other industries not falling in the above ambit shall be covered under the rule of Strict liability.
- Secondly, the escape of a dangerous thing from one’s own land is not necessary; it means that the rule of absolute liability shall be applicable to those injured within the premise and person outside the premise.
- Thirdly, the rule of Absolute liability does not have an exception, whereas as some exception were provided in rule of Strict Liability. Also in the case of Union of India V. Prabhakaran Vijay Kumar the view of constitutional bench was that the rule of MC Mehta is not subject to any type of exception.
- Fourthly, the Rule of Ryland V Fletcher apply only to the non natural use of land but the new rule of absolute liability apply to even the natural use of land. If a person uses a dangerous substance which may be natural use of land & if such substance escapes, he shall be held liable even though he have taken proper care.
6 . Border Area Development Programme
Context : To ramp up infrastructure along the China border, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has decided to spend 10% funds of a Centrally sponsored scheme only on border projects in Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarkhand and Sikkim.
- The Department of Border Management, Ministry of Home Affairs has been implementing the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) through the State Governments as part of a comprehensive approach to Border Management.
- The programme aims to meet the special development needs of the people living in remote and inaccessible areas situated near the international border and to saturate the border areas with the essential infrastructure through convergence of Central/State/BADP/Local schemes and participatory approach.
- BADP was initiated in the border areas of the western region during that Seventh Five Year Plan period for ensuring balanced development of border areas through development of infrastructure and promotion of a sense of security among the border population.
- The programme now covers 394 border blocks of 111 border districts in 17 States, which includes 167 border blocks in 55 districts of 8 North East, States (including Sikkim), located along the international land border. The State covered are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal. Under this programme priority is given to the areas closer to the border.
- BADP is an important intervention of the Central Government to bring about development of border areas by supplementing the State Plan Funds to bridge the gaps in socio- economic infrastructure on one hand and improving the security environment in border areas on the other.
- The creation of infrastructure “would help integrate these areas with the hinterland, create a positive perception of care by the country and encourage people to stay on in the border areas leading to safe and secure borders
7 . Facts for Prelims
World Economic Forum 2021
- World Economic Forum (WEF) will have a unique twin summit in January 2021 with the theme ‘The Great Reset’ to bring together global leaders from the government, business and civil society from around the world to discuss how to evolve an economic model with climate change at the heart of it.