14, September 2017

1.Farm pollution: The last straw

Source: Indian Express

Super Straw Management System, Unlike normal combines that cut the paddy crop from above and leave behind 10-12 inch-long stubble, this attachment in the rear of the machine cuts the straw into 4-5 inch pieces and spreads these uniformly in the field.

  • The cut straw can be ploughed back — or even left as it is for sowing of wheat using a zero-till ‘Happy Seeder’ — rather than being burnt, a practice that has drawn the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) ire in view of causing environmental pollution.

Super Straw Management System:

  • The SMS system attached to combine harvesters enables the machine to shred the straw in small pieces and scatter it behind the tail of the machine. Agricultural experts stated that it would help in checking the burning of crop residue by farmers as they would be able to sow wheat using a happy seeder without having to bury the residue to clear the fields.
  • The government had earlier put on hold the registration of new combine harvesters which did not have the SMS attachment. The order disallowing old machines to operate without the SMS attachment has troubled combine harvester owners, as they stated that they would have to spend around Rs 1 lakh on getting the attachment fixed.
  • “There already are a number of farm implements such as mulchers and choppers used for mixing the crop residue in soil. The new attachment would not only slow down the speed of the harvesters, but also increase fuel consumption. This would directly have an effect on per acre charges for harvesting, which would be borne by the farmers,” said a local combine owner, Rawel Singh.
  • Following the National Green Tribunal dictates on crop-residue burning, the government has introduced many machines besides an awareness campaign along with a provision of punitive measures against the violators. However, due to lack of awareness on the part of farmers, and lack of will on the part of government officials, the tendency to burn the residue is still predominant.
  • The agricultural officials stated that the Super Straw Management System attached to the combines is the most suitable measure adopted so far, as it would help in saving time and diesel, used in baler, mulcher or chopper machines.

Tillage

Physical Manipulation of soil with tools and implements for obtaining conditions ideal for better seed germination, seedling establishment and growth of plants is called tillage.

Objectives of tillage for crop production

  • To facilitate adequate soil aeration for gaseous exchange in the seed and root zone
  • Adequate seed-soil contact to permit water flow to seed and seedling roots
  • A non-crusted soil to permit seedling emergence
  • A low density soil that permits root elongation and proliferation
  • To create an environment that provides adequate light to the seedling (weed free environment).
  • To create pest and pathogen free environment
  • To mix the applied manures and fertilizers with the soil
  • To remove the hardpan, if any to increase the soil depth for water absorption

Soil & Water Management: Tillage Concepts

  • Tillage of the soil has been used to prepare a seedbed, kill weeds, incorporate nutrients, and manage crop residues. The goal of the tillage system has been to provide a proper environment for seed germination and root growth for crop production.
  • Throughout the years, tillage systems have changed as new technologies have become available and the costs of fuel and labor increased. With adoption of reduced tillage systems, many producers are realizing the negative effects of tillage as they see the soil and water conservation benefits of leaving the residue on the soil surface. No-till crop production systems leave the most residue and often prove to be the most profitable methods of crop production.
  • With no-till, the improved soil structure and moisture conserving residue cover makes more water available for crop production by improving infiltration and decreasing evaporation from the soil surface.

Zero Tillage:

No-till farming (also called zero tillage or direct drilling) is a way of growing crops or pasture from year to year without disturbing the soil through tillage.

2.Govt sets up panel to receive complaints of GST profiteering

Source: Indian Express

A four-member standing committee has been set up to receive complaints of undue profiteering by any entity under the new GST regime.

The Standing Committee on Anti-profiteering will act as a complaint processing machinery and will refer any case.

Four member Standing Committee:

  • A four-member standing committee, comprising tax officials of the Centre and states, has been set up to receive complaints of undue profiteering by any entity under the new GST regime.
  • The Standing Committee on Anti-profiteering will act as a complaint processing machinery and will refer any case it finds fit for investigation to the Directorate General of Safeguards (DGS).
  • The setting up of the panel, with two officials of the Central Board of Excise and Customs and one each from Delhi and Haryana tax department, sets in motion the anti-profiteering clause under the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Proposal:

  • The anti-profiteering mechanism was proposed to enable the benefit of lower taxation in the GST with the subsuming of over a dozen central and state taxes like excise duty, service tax and VAT and end to tax-on-tax, is passed on to consumers.
  • Businesses or entities not passing on the benefit can be referred to the committee.

Structure of the anti-profiteering mechanism:

  • As per the structure of the anti-profiteering mechanism in the GST regime, complaints which are of local nature would be first sent to the state-level ‘screening committee’, while those of national level would be sent to the ‘standing committee’.
  • If the complaints have merit, then the respective committees would refer the cases for further investigation to the Directorate General of Safeguards (DGS). The DG Safeguards would generally take about three months to complete the investigation and send the report to the anti-profiteering authority.

The anti-profiteering authority:

  • The members of the anti-profiteering authority, to be headed by a secretary-level officer with four joint secretary-rank officers as members, are yet to be finalised, Adhia had said adding that the authority would be in place by the time the DGS investigation on the complaints is complete.
  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) was rolled out from July 1 and the government has advised businesses to pass on the benefit of any cost reduction to buyers.
  • The anti profiteering authority, if it finds that a company has not passed on GST benefits, will either direct the firm to pass on benefits to consumers or if the beneficiary cannot be identified will ask the firm to transfer the amount to a ‘consumer welfare fund’ within a specified timeline.
  • The authority will have the power to cancel registration of any entity or business if it fails to pass on to consumers the benefit of lower taxes under the GST regime, but it would probably be the last step against any violator.
  • The authority can suggest return of the undue profit earned from not passing on the reduction in incidence of tax to consumers along with 18 per cent interest, as also impose a penalty.

3.India-EU Bilateral summit likely next month: EU readies action plan for key deliverables

Source: Indian Express

Notwithstanding the failure to kick-start free trade agreement discussions with India, the European Union has firmed up plans to widen its strategic and business arrangements. For this, it has prepared an action plan of key deliverables it expects to achieve at the India-EU bilateral summit expected to be held early next month, senior officials at the European Council and the European External Action Service.

  • The plans for the 14th bilateral summit were discussed at a meeting between EU’s high representative and vice president Federica Mogherini and Indian external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj at New Delhi in April.
  • Both parties had discussed common concerns like trade, counter-terror cooperation, maritime security and defence cooperation.

Background:

  • A European Council official also expressed “optimism” about the trade pact discussions and said that the upcoming bilateral summit is expected to prepare the grounds for kicking off the FTA talks between India and the EU, which started in 2007.
  • The 13th India-EU Summit, which happened at Brussels last year, had concluded without a consensus on the free trade deal known as the Broadbased Trade and Investment Agreement, even as progress was made in bilateral cooperation in other fields — ranging from foreign policy and counterterrorism to collaboration in outer space.

Key facts:

  • The summit is also likely to witness the European Investment Bank (EIB) announcing a loan for the Bengaluru Metro project, the official said, without divulging the loan amount. This would be the second major loan by the EIB for an urban mass transportation project after the €400-million loan it extended earlier for the recently-launched Lucknow Metro project.
  • Brussels, however, was concerned with the stagnation in the FTA discussions and pointed out the “protectionist approach” of Indian negotiators in the talks, especially in the context of the ‘Make in India’ project.

India – EU:

India-European Union Broad-based Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (India-EU BTIA) (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom)

EU-India Strategic Partnership

  • As global partners and the world’s largest democracies, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the EU-India Strategic Partnership based on shared values and principles.
  • They confirmed their strong interest in building global peace, security and prosperity, fostering non-proliferation and disarmament, creating jobs and inclusive economic growth, promoting sustainable development, and tackling global challenges such as terrorism and climate change in addition to other challenges such as migration and refugee crisis
  • To guide common work towards a stronger, result-oriented and mutually beneficial Strategic Partnership, the leaders endorsed the “EU-India Agenda for Action-2020” setting out a concrete road-map for the EU-India Strategic Partnership for the next five years.
  • They expressed their commitment to further strengthen the EU-India economic partnership. The EU’s Agenda for Jobs, Growth, Fairness and Democratic Change and India’s “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” – (“Collective Efforts, Inclusive Growth”) initiatives create new opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation between people and businesses on both sides.
  • The leaders welcomed that both sides have re-engaged in discussions with a view to considering how to further the EU-India Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) negotiations.
  • The leaders welcomed the European Investment Bank’s (EIB) commitment to supporting long-term investment in infrastructure crucial for environmentally sustainable social and economic development in India. They welcomed a total loan of € 450 Million as a participation in the construction of the first metro line in the city of Lucknow, with the signature by the EIB and the Government of India of a first tranche of € 200 Million. The leaders welcomed the announcement by the EIB of the upcoming establishment, in New Delhi, of the Bank’s regional representation for South Asia.

4.Who are Chakmas?

Source: The Hindu

The Union government is considering granting citizenship to over a lakh Chakma and Hajong refugees, who have been living in India for over 50 years. This has brought the spotlight back on the refugees. Here is a lowdown on the issue.

Who are Chakmas and Hajongs?

The Chakmas and Hajongs are ethnic people who lived in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, most of which are located in Bangladesh.

Chakmas are predominantly Buddhists, while Hajongs are Hindus. They are found in northeast India, West Bengal, Bangladesh, and Myanmar.

If they are indigenous people, why are they called refugees?

  • The Chakmas and Hajongs living in India are Indian citizens. Some of them, mostly from Mizoram, live in relief camps in southern Tripura due to tribal conflict with Mizos.
  • These Indian Chakmas living in Tripura take part in Mizoram elections too. The Election Commission sets up polling booths in relief camps.
  • The Chakmas and Hajongs living in the Chittagong Hill Tracts fled erstwhile East Pakistan in 1964-65, since they lost their land to the development of the Kaptai Dam on the Karnaphuli River.
  • In addition, they also faced religious persecution as they were non-Muslims and did not speak Bengali. They eventually sought asylum in India. The Indian government set up relief camps in Arunachal Pradesh and a majority of them continue to live there even after five decades. According to the 2011 census, 47,471 Chakmas live in Arunachal Pradesh alone.

Why does Arunachal Pradeshhave a problem with Chakmas?

  • In the 1960s, the Chakma refugees were accommodated in the relief camps constructed in the “vacant lands” of Tirap, Lohit and Subansiri districts of the erstwhile North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA), a political division governed by the Union government.
  • In 1972, NEFA was renamed Arunachal Pradesh and made a Union Territory, and subsequently, it attained statehood.
  • The locals and regional political parties opposed re-settling refugees in their land fearing that it may change the demography of the State and that they may have to share the limited resources available for them.

What about Bangladesh?

  • The Chakmas and Hijongs opposed their inclusion in undivided Pakistan during Partition. They later opposed their inclusion in Bangladesh when East Pakistan was fighting the Liberation War with West Pakistan, on grounds that they are an ethnic and religious minority group.
  • A group of Chakmas resorted to armed conflict with Bangladeshi forces under the name ‘Shanti Bahini’. The conflict increased the inflow of refugees to India.
  • In 1997, the Bangladeshi government headed by Sheik Hasina signed a peace accord with the Shanti Bahini, which resulted in the end of the insurgency.
  • According to the accord, the Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Murang and Tanchangya were acknowledged as tribes of Bangladesh entitled for benefits and a Regional Council was set up to govern the Hill Tracts. The agreement also laid out plans for the return of land to displaced natives and an elaborate land survey to be held in the Hill Tracts.

Why grant citizenship now?

  • In 2015, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to grant citizenship to Chakma and Hajongs who had migrated from Bangladesh in 1964-69.
  • The order was passed while hearing a plea by the Committee for Citizenship Rights of the Chakmas.
  • Following this, the Centre introduced amendments to the Citizenship Act, 1955. The Bill is yet to be passed, as the opposition says the Bill makes illegal migrants eligible for citizenship on the basis of religion, which is a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution.
  • The Union Home Ministry cleared the citizenship for over one lakh Chakma-Hajongs. However, they will not have any land ownership rights in Arunachal Pradesh and will have to apply for Inner Line Permits to reside in the State.

Karnaphuli River:

  • Karnaphuli, the largest and most important river in Chittagong and the Chittagong Hill Tracts, is a 667-metre wide river in the south-eastern part of Bangladesh.
  • Originating from the Lushai hills in Mizoram, India, it flows 270 kilometres (170 mi) southwest through Chittagong Hill Tracts and Chittagong into the Bay of Bengal.
  • A large hydroelectric power plant using Karnaphuli river was built in the Kaptai dam region during the 1960s. The mouth of the river hosts Chittagong’s sea port, the main port of Bangladesh.

Liberation war: http://www.gounesco.com/the-1971-liberation-war-of-bangladesh/

5.Japan, India to deal with North Korea jointly

Source: The Hindu

North Korea will have to roll back its missile and nuclear programmes, visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in Gandhinagar at the end of his bilateral discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

  • Abe said that India-Japan ties will have an impact at the global level and both sides will deal with bilateral, regional and global challenges together, even as Mr. Modi welcomed greater Japanese investments into India.
  • The two leaders addressed the media after a busy morning schedule when they jointly inaugurated High Speed Train Project that will connect Ahmedabad with Mumbai.
  • Elaborating the ‘new era in India-Japan ties,’ that both countries will jointly develop greater connectivity inside India and also contribute to greater regional connectivity all the way till Africa.

India- Japan Ties:

  • In a significant move, Japan made public the strategically important Northeastern region of India. A Joint Statement issued after the media event said, “The two Prime Ministers welcomed the Japan-India cooperation on development of India’s Northeastern Region (NER) as a concerete symbol of developing synergies between India’s Act East policy and Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.”
  • Both the points about North Korea and the reference to Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy –developed to deal with the Chinese influence – is significant in view of the now resolved Doklam crisis that had erupted between India and China. Visiting India last week, a key advisor of Prime Minister Abe had revealed Japan’s concerns about ‘expansionist’ China and the North Korean threat.
  • The two leaders also highlighted that maritime cooperation between the Japanese Self Defence Force and the Indian Navy had expanded to include ‘anti-submarine aspects’ and acknowledged the need for greater need of maritime domain awareness (MDA) in the Indo-Pacific Region.
  • Interestingly, both sides also agreed to support small islands in the Pacific region as part of their common strategy.
  • The Joint Statement emphasised expansion of joint exercises in the area of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR), peacekeeping operations (PKO), and counter-terrorism which will also include joint field exercise between the Japanese and Indian land forces in 2018.
  • The Joint Statement further stated, “Both sides noted recent progress in bilateral cooperation on defence equipment and technology, including the commencement of the technical discussion for the future research collaboration in the area of Unmanned Ground Vehicles and Robotics.”

6.Indo-Russian war games in Oct.

Source: The Hindu

India and Russia have begun discussions to work out the modalities for their first tri-service military exercise to be held in October.

  • It will also be India’s first bilateral military exercise with any country involving all three services.
  • The Indra exercise is scheduled from October 19 to 29. The Final Planning Conference (FPC) will be held from September 12 to 15 in Russia.

Key facts:

  • The two countries decided to upgrade Indra from an individual service exercise into an integrated tri-service.
  • “The aim of the exercise is to carry out joint exercises for suppression of international terrorist activities under the United Nations mandate,” the source added.
  • The Army will send about 350 soldiers from the infantry, artillery and armoured streams.

Heavy equipment

  • While the soldiers will take with them infantry weapons, ammunition, radio sets and related equipment, the issue of taking T-72 tanks and other heavy equipment will be decided in the FPC.
  • The Navy is fielding two ships, a stealth frigate, INS Satpura, and an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) corvette, INS Kadmatt, along with two on-board helicopters. The naval component is likely to include an ASW component, the details of which are awaited.
  • The Air Force, which flies a large number of Russian aircraft, is likely to share fighter jets of the host. Details of contingent and other support elements would be decided in the planning conference.
  • This will be an opportunity for India to synergise jointness between its services and see how other countries function jointly,” one defence official said referring to India’s efforts for tri-service integration.

The headquarters of the Integrated Defence Staff under the Defence Ministry is leading the exercises from the Indian side.



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