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14th November Current Affairs

Importance of Agri exports

(GS-III: Indian economy and related issues)

In News:

India’s agricultural exports this year are on track to surpass the $50 billion mark achieved in 2021-22. However, rising imports have reduced the agricultural trade surplus.

Details:

Reason for this increase: This is mainly due to an increase in shipments of commodities whose exports have been restricted – wheat, rice and sugar.

Signs of concern:

Growth in exports is offset by imports: The agricultural trade surplus fell from $7.86 billion to $7.46 billion between April-September 2021 and April-September this year.

Main agri-commodities imported by India:

Vegetable oils:

After petroleum, electronics, gold and coal, vegetable oils are now the country’s fifth largest import item.

In 2021-22, their imports were valued at $19 billion, which is expected to be increased fiscal year.

Cotton: India has turned into a net cotton importer primarily due to lower domestic production (in 2021-22, only 307.05 lakh bales (1 bale = 170 kg) are predicted, compared to 353 and 365 lakh bales in the preceding years).

Spices: Exports have been driven mostly by chilli, cumin, turmeric, ginger, etc. In pepper and cardamom, the country’s imports and exports are equal.

In pepper, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Brazil have outcompeted India, while Guatemala has gained market share in cardamom.

Cashew: In 2021-22, the country’s cashew exports were valued at $453.08 million, compared to imports of $1.26 billion.

Why is a surplus in agricultural trade matter?

Because, apart from software services, this is one sector in which India has a comparative advantage (at a lower opportunity cost than its trading partners).

Steps taken by the government:

Raising the minimum support price of mustard

Granting environmental clearance for commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) hybrid mustard (DMH-11).

Way ahead:

The “barnase-barstar” GM technology, which gives higher yields, better disease-resistance or oil quality traits than DMH-11, can be used to develop new mustard hybrids

Cotton may require a similar approach to enhance domestic output and yields. For example, the GM Bt technology helped nearly treble India’s cotton production to 398 lakh bales in 2013-14.

It demonstrates the necessity of focusing on domestic output and productivity while not restricting the development of technology that enables these.

Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS)

In News:

The Tribal Affairs Ministry intends to go ahead with its plan to build a new EMRS, despite concerns raised by a Parliamentary panel.

Background:

EMRS will be constructed on 15 acres of land in all sub-districts with Scheduled Tribe (ST) populations of more than 20,000 people, accounting for at least 50% of the total

Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment suggested that this criterion be reviewed

This is due to severe challenges in acquiring properties in several districts, particularly in forested or hilly places.

This criterion would also deny scattered ST populations access to Eklavya schools.

About EMRS:

The Tribal Affairs Ministry started the EMRS in the year 1997-98 to impart quality education to ST children in remote areas.

The schools focus not only on academic education but on the all-round development of the students from Class VI to XII.

Previously, funds were given to state governments for school construction and recurring expenses under Article 275 (1).

To provide EMRS with even greater momentum, it has been agreed that by 2022, every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal people will have an EMRS.

Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at UNHRC

In News:

At the UPR of UNHRC, many countries have raised concerns over the FCRA 2010 and its use against NGOs, members of civil society, and journalists.

Details:

Government’s response: Action was taken against only those individuals/organizations who were involved in illegal practices.

The UNHRC passes non-binding resolutions on human rights issues through a periodic review of all 193 UN member states called the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). UNHRC was reconstituted from its predecessor organisation, the UN Commission on Human Rights to help overcome the “credibility deficit” of the previous organisation.

Headquarteredin Geneva, Switzerland.

FCRA 2010 regulates financial acceptance and the utilization of foreign contributions. Recently it was amended to ensure NGOs regularly report their foreign contributions.

Ninth Schedule of the Indian Constitution

In News:

Jharkhand government has passed a bill increasing the reservation in vacant government posts and services to 77%, thus violating the 50% mandate of the Supreme Court (Indra Sawhney Case). The government has further called for putting the bill in the 9th Schedule to avoid Judicial Review.

A Tamil Nadu law that provides 69 per cent reservation in the state is part of the Schedule.

What is the Ninth Schedule?

The Ninth Schedule (inserted by the 1st Constitutional Amendment) contains a list of central and state laws which cannot be challenged in courts. Currently, 284 such laws are shielded from judicial review.

1st CAA also created Article 31A (extends protection to ‘classes’ of laws) and Article 31B (it shields specific laws or enactments).

Article 31B can be applied retrospectively: If laws are inserted in the Ninth Schedule after they are declared unconstitutional, they are considered to have been in the Schedule since their commencement, and thus valid.

Although Article 31B excludes judicial review, laws under the Ninth Schedule are open to scrutiny if they are violative of the basic structure of the Constitution (I R Coelho case (2007)). So any law that was added to the Ninth Schedule after April 24, 1973, can be contested.

GOWA

In News:

Nine new countries have joined the Global Offshore Wind Alliance (GOWA), pledging to a rapid ramp-up of offshore wind in order to tackle the climate and energy security crises.

Details:

The alliance, initiated by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), Denmark and the Global Wind Energy Council, will bring together governments, the private sector, international organisations and other stakeholders to accelerate the deployment of offshore wind power.

Offshore wind energy is the generation of electricity through wind farms in bodies of water, usually at sea. There are higher wind speeds offshore than on land, so offshore farms generate more electricity per amount of capacity installed.