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9th October Current Affairs

Palk Bay scheme

(GS-III: Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism)

In News:

The Union Government is considering increasing the unit cost of deep-sea fishing vessels under the Palk Bay scheme to make it more attractive to fisherfolk.

About the Palk Bay scheme:

Launched in July 2017 under the Blue Revolution programme.

The scheme is financed by the Union and the State Governments with beneficiary participation.

It had envisaged the provision of 2,000 vessels in three years to the fishermen of the State and motivate them to abandon bottom trawling.

Implementation of the scheme:

It was planned to have 500 boats built in the first year (2017-18). Of the unit cost of each vessel (₹80 lakh), 50% would be borne by the Centre, 20% by the State government and 10% by the beneficiary, and the remaining 20% would be met through institutional financing.

What are the obligations to beneficiaries under the Deep Sea fishing plan?

The Deep Sea fishing plan is to remove as many trawl vessels from the Palk Bay as possible.

Potential beneficiaries of the deep see fishing project should possess a registered, seaworthy trawl vessel of over 12m in length that must be scrapped or disposed of outside the Palk Bay.

The disposed vessel should also have been physically verified.

Equally important, new replacement tuna long liner boats cannot trawl or operate in the Palk Bay.

Beneficiaries are not allowed to sell their boats within five years of obtaining them.

Significance of the scheme:

The scheme was envisioned as the remedy to the Palk Bay fishing conflict.

The Centre feels that deep sea fishing is the “only solution” to promote ecologically sustainable fishing and reduce “fishing pressure” around the close proximity of the the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and the incidents of cross-border fishing.

What is the issue with Bottom trawling?

Bottom trawling, an ecologically destructive practice, involves trawlers dragging weighted nets along the sea-floor, causing great depletion of aquatic resources.

Bottom trawling captures juvenile fish, thus exhausting the ocean’s resources and affecting marine conservation efforts. This practice was started by Tamil Nadu fishermen in Palk Bay and actively pursued at the peak of the civil war in Sri Lanka.

What is deep-sea fishing plan?

The solution to the bottom trawling issue lies in transition from trawling to deep-sea fishing.

The activity of catching fish that live in the deep parts of the sea/ocean is called deep-sea fishing.

The boats are designed in such a way that fishermen get access to the deeper parts of the ocean and fish species.

It is practiced worldwide, especially in the coastal areas with no ecological damage.

The depth of water should be at least 30 meters to be considered a deep sea fishing zone.

Rohingya Crisis

In News:

Bangladesh is planning to send more than 80,000 Rohingya refugees to a remote island- Bhasan Char- in the Bay of Bengal after sealing an agreement for the United Nations to provide help.

Details:

Some 19,000 of the Muslim refugees from Myanmar have already relocated from crowded camps on the mainland to Bhashan Char island, despite doubts raised by aid groups.

Background:

Bhasan Char is an island specifically developed to accommodate 1,00,000 of the 1 million Rohingya who have fled from neighbouring Myanmar.

While human rights groups have criticised the move and some are being forced to go against their will, the government has insisted that refugees moving to the island have done so voluntarily.

Who are Rohingyas?

They are an Ethnic group, mostly Muslims. They were not granted full citizenship by Myanmar.

They were classified as “resident foreigners or associate citizens”.

Ethnically they are much closer to Indo-Aryan people of India and Bangladesh than to the Sino-Tibetans of the Country.

Described by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as “one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world”.

G-SAP: Securities acquisition plan for market boost

(GS-III: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment)

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is halting its bond buying under the G-Sec Acquisition Programme (GSAP) for now.

Details:

It said that the measure had succeeded in ensuring adequate liquidity and stabilising financial markets.

Impacts and outcomes:

Coupled with other liquidity measures, it facilitated congenial and orderly financing conditions and a conducive environment for the recovery.

About the Government Security Acquisition Programme (G-SAP):

The G-Sec Acquisition Programme (G-SAP) is basically an unconditional and a structured Open Market Operation (OMO), of a much larger scale and size.

RBI has called the G-SAP as an OMO with a ‘distinct character’.

The word ‘unconditional’ here connotes that RBI has committed upfront that it will buy G-Secs irrespective of the market sentiment.

Objective:

To achieve a stable and orderly evolution of the yield curve along with management of liquidity in the economy.

Significance:

The GSAP would provide more comfort to the bond market. As the borrowing of the Government increased this year, RBI has to ensure there is no disruption in the Indian market.

The programme will help to reduce the spread between repo rate and the ten-year government bond yield.

The G-SAP will almost serve the purpose of an OMO calendar, which had been on the bond market’s wish list for a long time.

What is OMO?

Open market operations is the sale and purchase of government securities and treasury bills by RBI or the central bank of the country.

The objective of OMO is to regulate the money supply in the economy.

It is one of the quantitative monetary policy tools.

How is it done?

RBI carries out the OMO through commercial banks and does not directly deal with the public.

OMOs vs liquidity:

When the central bank wants to infuse liquidity into the monetary system, it will buy government securities in the open market. This way it provides commercial banks with liquidity.

In contrast, when it sells securities, it curbs liquidity. Thus, the central bank indirectly controls the money supply and influences short-term interest rates.

RBI employs two kinds of OMOs:

Outright Purchase (PEMO) – this is permanent and involves the outright selling or buying of government securities.

Repurchase Agreement (REPO) – this is short-term and are subject to repurchase.

Stubble Burning

(GS-III: Conservation and pollution related issues)

In News:

The Commission for Air Quality Management has said that a reduction in the area under paddy cultivation in Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, as well as a shift away from paddy varieties that take long to mature, could see a reduction in stubble burning this year.

Reasons for this:

The total paddy area in Haryana, Punjab and the eight NCR (National Capital Region) districts of Uttar Pradesh has reduced by 7.72% during the current year as compared to last year.

Total paddy straw generation from the non-basmati variety of rice is likely to be reduced by 12.42% during the current year as compared to the previous year.

Both Central and State Governments of Haryana, Punjab and U.P. have been taking measures to diversify crops as well as to reduce the use of PUSA-44 variety of paddy.

Crop diversification and moving away from PUSA-44 variety with short duration High Yielding Varieties are part of the framework and action plan for control of stubble burning.

What is stubble burning?

It is a common practice followed by farmers to prepare fields for sowing of wheat in November as there is little time left between the harvesting of paddy and sowing of wheat.

Impact: Stubble burning results in emission of harmful gases such carbon diaoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide along with particulate matter.

Why farmers opt for stubble burning?

They do not have alternatives for utilising them effectively.

The farmers are ill-equipped to deal with waste because they cannot afford the new technology that is available to handle the waste material.

With less income due to crop damage, farmers are likely to be inclined to light up their fields to cut costs and not spend on scientific ways of stubble management.

Advantages of stubble burning:

  • It quickly clears the field and is the cheapest alternative.
  • Kills weeds, including those resistant to herbicide.
  • Kills slugs and other pests.
  • Can reduce nitrogen tie-up.

Effects of Stubble Burning:

Pollution: Open stubble burning emits large amounts of toxic pollutants in the atmosphere which contain harmful gases like methane (CH4), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Volatile organic compound (VOC) and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. They may eventually cause smog.

Soil Fertility: Burning husk on ground destroys the nutrients in the soil, making it less fertile.

Heat Penetration: Heat generated by stubble burning penetrates into the soil, leading to the loss of moisture and useful microbes.

Alternative solutions that can avoid Stubble Burning:

Promote paddy straw-based power plants. It will also create employment opportunities.

Incorporation of crop residues in the soil can improve soil moisture and help activate the growth of soil microorganisms for better plant growth.

Convert the removed residues into enriched organic manure through composting.

New opportunities for industrial use such as extraction of yeast protein can be explored through scientific research.

What needs to be done- Supreme Court’s observations?

Incentives could be provided to those who are not burning the stubble and disincentives for those who continue the practice.

The existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) Scheme must be so interpreted as to enable the States concerned to wholly or partly deny the benefit of MSP to those who continue to burn the crop residue.

Chhattisgarh Model:

An innovative experiment has been undertaken by the Chhattisgarh government by setting up gauthans.

A gauthan is a dedicated five-acre plot, held in common by each village, where all the unused stubble is collected through parali daan (people’s donations) and is converted into organic fertiliser by mixing with cow dung and few natural enzymes.

The scheme also generates employment among rural youth.

The government supports the transportation of parali from the farm to the nearest gauthan.

The state has successfully developed 2,000 gauthans.