IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


27th April, 2020



1. Punjab could see more areas under cotton cultivation


  • Punjab can see around three lakh acres more under the cotton crop this kharif (summer) season against the previous year as farmers could shift from paddy (rice) on account of possible labour shortage in the State.
  • State government’s push for crop diversification would be another factor that could aid the acreage under cotton.
  • Farmers may sow less guar crop as its prices have remained subdued and shift to cotton, especially in Abohar, Mansa and other surrounding areas.
  • In Punjab and Haryana, Bt cotton is sown in over 95% of the total area, the rest 5% cotton is usually the indigenous (desi) cotton varieties. Cotton is usually planted from mid April to till late May in most parts of the two States. .
  • The Punjab government has set a target of enhancing the area under cotton cultivation from 9.7 lakh acres last year to 12.5 lakh acres in 2020, in a bid to promote crop-diversification.
  • Government data shows that in year 2018 cotton was sown in 6.62 lakh acres and in 9.7 lakh acres in 2019.
  • Amid the ongoing curfew, following the COVID-19 outbreak, the agriculture department has coordinated with the Cotton Corporation of India to buy last season’s remaining cotton produce from farmers at the MSP and for this — 19 markets in the cotton belt have already been made operational.


About Kharif crops

—The Kharif season varies by crop and region, starting at the earliest in May and ending at the latest in January. In India, the season is popularly considered to start in June and to end in October.

— Kharif crops are usually sown with the beginning of the first rains during the advent of the south-west monsoon season, and they are harvested at the end of monsoon season (October-November).


About Bt Cotton

— Bt cotton is a genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically modified pest resistant plant cotton variety, which produces an insecticide to combat bollworm.

— Strains of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis produce over 200 different Bt toxins, each harmful to different insects. Most notably, Bt toxins are insecticidal to the larvae of moths and butterflies, beetles, cotton bollworms and ghtu flies but are harmless to other forms of life.

—The gene coding for Bt toxin has been inserted into cotton as a transgene, causing it to produce this natural insecticide in its tissues. In many regions, the main pests in commercial cotton are lepidopteran larvae, which are killed by the Bt protein in the genetically modified cotton they eat.

—This eliminates the need to use large amounts of broad-spectrum insecticides to kill lepidopteran pests (some of which have developed pyrethroid resistance).

—This spares natural insect predators in the farm ecology and further contributes to noninsecticide pest management.

—Bt cotton is ineffective against many cotton pests such as plant bugs, stink bugs, and aphids; depending on circumstances, it may be desirable to use insecticides in prevention.


About Guar

—The guar or Lond bean, with the botanical name Cyamopsis tetragonoloba, is an annual legume and the source of guar gum. It is also known as gavar, gawar, or guvar bean.

— This legume is a valuable plant in a crop rotation cycle, as it lives in symbiosis with nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

—Agriculturists in semi-arid regions of Rajasthan follow crop-rotation and use guar to replenish the soil with essential fertilizers and nitrogen fixation, before the next crop.

—Guar has many functions for human and animal nutrition, but the gelling agent in its seeds (guar gum) are the most important use.

—Demand is rising due to the use of guar gum in hydraulic fracturing (oil shale gas).

—About 80% of world production occurs in India, but due to strong demand, the plant is being introduced elsewhere.


About Cotton Corporation of India Limited

—CCI is a Government of India agency, engaged in diverse activities related to trade, procurement, and export of cotton.

—CCI is a public sector agency responsible for equitable distribution of cotton among the different constituents of the industry and aid imports of cotton.

— It was incorporated on 31 July 1970 under the Companies Act 1956.

— CCI is governed by Textile Policy 1985 issued by the Ministry of Textiles, Government of India.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/punjab-could-see-more-areas-under-cotton-cultivation/article31440214.ece


2. Here come the ‘Doodh Duronto’, the milk train


—Logistical hurdles haunt the entire nation due to the lockdown. Mismatch between excess availability and short supply of perishable products is feared to compound food security woes in the long run.

­—South Central Railway came up with a major intervention: taking milk from the dairy-rich Chittoor district to the national capital.


Bridging the demand-supply gap

—Scheduled to run between Renigunta and Hazrat Nizamuddin to meet the milk requirements of Delhi, the first of the proposed two ‘Doodh Duronto Special’ trains (railway milk tankers) started.

—After unloading the stock, the same train will depart H. Nizamuddin as Train No.00762. En route, the train will halt at Dhone, Kacheguda, Balharshah, Nagpur, Jujharpur, Bhopal, Bina, Jhansi and Palwal for operational reasons.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/andhra-pradesh/hee-cometh-doodh-duronto-the-milk-train/article31437233.ece




1. CERT-In to conduct security audit of COVID-19 data


—In the wake of the controversy surrounding the Sprinklr deal, the State government has decided to carry out a security audit by CERT-In of the various data collected by the government departments and agencies related to COVID-19.

—The Kerala State IT Mission (KSITM) Director has been authorised to entrust the agency empanelled under CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) under the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to carry out the audit work.



—The government felt it necessary to analyse the data collected using data analytics techniques and tools and to ensure the security of the data collected and captured in the Cloud system.



—The Kerala government has roped in the U.S.-based company to collate the personal health data collected by field-level workers from nearly 1.75 lakh people categorised as “vulnerable and potentially exposed” to the pandemic.

—The Opposition was critical of the government for procuring a healthcare worker mobile application from the firm using disaster management funds to input the details of persons under surveillance without inviting tenders, seeking legal opinion and approval of the Cabinet.


About CERT In

— The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) is an office within the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

—It is the nodal agency to deal with cyber security threats like hacking and phishing. It strengthens security-related defence of the Indian Internet domain.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/cert-in-to-conduct-security-audit-of-covid-19-data/article31437888.ece


2. Karnataka plasma donor wants to inspire others


—Karnataka’s first plasma donor, whose plasma will be administered to a COVID-19 patient, hopes to inspire others to come forward and help in the fight against the pandemic.


Antibodies to fight against COVID

—The recovered patient’s blood develops antibodies to fight against COVID-19 and the plasma of this cured patient has medicinal properties that when infused to the infected serious patient, will assist in elimination of coronavirus in infected patients who are in a serious condition.

—The Central Drugs Control Organisation under the Director General of Health Services has approved a research proposal to study the use of convalescent plasma therapy in treating COVID-19.

—The therapy that holds promise in treatment of COVID-19 cases will be tested on at least 12 critically ill patients in the State in the initial phase.


About Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO)

—It is the national regulatory body for Indian pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

— Within the CDSCO, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) regulates pharmaceutical and medical devices, under the gamut of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

—The DCGI is advised by the Drug Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) and the Drug Consultative Committee (DCC).

— It is divided into zonal offices, which do pre-licensing and post-licensing inspections, post-market surveillance, and recalls when needed.

—Manufacturers who deal with the authority are required to name an Authorized Indian Representative (AIR) to represent them in all dealings with the CDSCO in India.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/karnataka-plasma-donor-wants-to-inspire-others/article31439035.ece




1. At the edge of a new nuclear arms race




—In mid-April, a report issued by the United States raised concerns that China might be conducting nuclear tests with low yields at its Lop Nur test site, in violation of its Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) undertakings.

—The U.S. report also claims that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons experiments that produced a nuclear yield and were inconsistent with ‘zero yield’ understanding underlying the CTBT, though it was uncertain about how many such experiments had been conducted.

—Russia and China have rejected the U.S.’s claims, but with growing rivalry among major powers, the report is a likely harbinger of a new nuclear arms race, which would also mark the demise of the CTBT that came into being in 1996 but has failed to enter into force even after a quarter century.


Evolution of CTBT:

—For decades, a ban on nuclear testing was seen as the necessary first step towards curbing the nuclear arms race but Cold War politics made it impossible.

— A Partial Test Ban Treaty was concluded in 1963 banning underwater and atmospheric tests but this only drove testing underground.

— By the time the CTBT negotiations began in Geneva in 1994, global politics had changed. The Cold War had ended and the nuclear arms race was over. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR, had broken up and its principal testing site, Semipalatinsk, was in Kazakhstan (Russia still had access to Novaya Zemlya near the Arctic circle).

—In 1991, Russia declared a unilateral moratorium on testing, followed by the U.S. in 1992. By this time, the U.S. had conducted 1,054 tests and Russia, 715.

—France and China continued testing, claiming that they had conducted far fewer tests and needed to validate new designs since the CTBT did not imply an end to nuclear deterrence.

—France and the U.S. even toyed with the idea of a CTBT that would permit testing at a low threshold, below 500 tonnes of TNT equivalent.

—Civil society and the non-nuclear weapon states reacted negatively to such an idea and it was dropped.

—Eventually, the U.S. came up with the idea of defining the “comprehensive test ban” as a “zero yield” test ban that would prohibit supercritical hydro-nuclear tests but not sub-critical hydrodynamic nuclear tests.

—Accordingly, the CTBT prohibits all parties from carrying out “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion”; these terms are neither defined nor elaborated.


Reason for lack of authority:

—After India’s proposals for anchoring the CTBT in a disarmament framework did not find acceptance, in June 1996, India announced its decision to withdraw from the negotiations.

— Unhappy at this turn, the U.K., China and Pakistan took the lead in revising the entry-into-force provisions.

—The new provisions listed 44 countries by name whose ratification was necessary for the treaty to enter into force and included India.

—India protested that this attempt at arm-twisting violated a country’s sovereign right to decide if it wanted to join a treaty but was ignored.

—The CTBT was adopted by a majority vote and opened for signature.

—Of the 44 listed countries, to date only 36 have ratified the treaty.

—China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the U.S. have signed but not ratified.

—China maintains that it will only ratify it after the U.S. does so but the Republican dominated Senate had rejected it in 1999.

—In addition, North Korea, India and Pakistan are the three who have not signed. All three have also undertaken tests after 1996; India and Pakistan in May 1998 and North Korea six times between 2006 and 2017.

—The CTBT has therefore not entered into force and lacks legal authority.

—The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) runs an elaborate verification system built around a network of over 325 seismic, radionuclide, infrasound and hydroacoustic (underwater) monitoring stations.


Competition is back

—The key change from the 1990s is that the U.S.’s unipolar moment is over and strategic competition among major powers is back.

—The U.S. now identifies Russia and China as ‘rivals’. Its Nuclear Posture Review asserts that the U.S. faces new nuclear threats because both Russia and China are increasing their reliance on nuclear weapons.

—The U.S., therefore, has to expand the role of its nuclear weapons and have a more usable and diversified nuclear arsenal.

—Russia and China have been concerned about the U.S.’s growing technological lead particularly in missile defence and conventional global precision-strike capabilities.

—Russia has responded by exploring hypersonic delivery systems and theatre systems while China has embarked on a modernisation programme to enhance the survivability of its arsenal, which is considerably smaller.

—The new U.S. report stops short of accusing China for a violation but refers to “a high level of activity at the Lop Nur test site throughout 2019” and concludes that together with its lack of transparency, China provokes concerns about its intent to observe the zero-yield moratorium on testing.

—The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) limits U.S. and Russian arsenals but will expire in 2021 and U.S. President Donald Trump has already indicated that he does not plan to extend it.

—Instead, the Trump administration would like to bring China into some kind of nuclear arms control talks, something China has avoided by pointing to the fact that the U.S. and Russia still account for over 90% of global nuclear arsenals.


Current context

—Both China and Russia have dismissed the U.S.’s allegations, pointing to the Trump administration is backtracking from other negotiated agreements such as the Iran nuclear deal or the U.S.-Russia Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

—Tensions with China are already high with trade and technology disputes, militarisation in the South China Sea and most recently, with the novel coronavirus pandemic.

—The Cold War rivalry was already visible when the nuclear arms race began in the 1950s. New rivalries have already emerged. Resumption of nuclear testing may signal the demise of the ill-fated CTBT, marking the beginnings of a new nuclear arms race.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/at-the-edge-of-a-new-nuclear-arms-race/article31439692.ece


2.COVID-19: Australia cancels premier multilateral air combat training exercise


—Australia has informed India that their premier multilateral air combat training exercise Pitch Black 2020 scheduled from July 27 to August 14 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation, defence sources said.

—Ex Pitch Black 2020 would have provided an opportunity for engagement between army personnel.

—The exercise is also an opportunity to interact with forces from across the globe.

—The next edition of Pitch Black is scheduled in 2022.

—In the last edition of Pitch Black in 2018, the IAF for the first time deployed fighter aircraft, which it had said would “provide a unique opportunity for exchange of knowledge and experience with these nations in a dynamic warfare environment”.


India-Aus Defence Relations:

—The bilateral naval exercise AUSINDEX early last year saw participation of the largest Australian contingent ever to India with over 1,000 personnel.

—The Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) has been long pending and is expected to be concluded soon as well as a broader maritime cooperation agreement including the Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) to elevate the existing strategic partnership.

—The defence cooperation between India and Australia is underpinned on the Memorandum on Defence Cooperation 2006, the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation 2009 and the bilateral Framework for Security Cooperation 2014.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/covid-19-australia-cancels-premier-multilateral-air-combat-training-exercise/article31437582.ece





1.Coronavirus | Pandemic may earn Governor’s rule for Assam’s BTAD


—The COVID-19 pandemic may earn Governor’s rule for the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) in Assam.

—The State’s Governor is the constitutional head of the BTAD that falls under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution and is administered by the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).


Sixth Schedule:

—The Sixth Schedule consists of provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram, according to Article 244 of the Indian Constitution.

—It seeks to safeguard the rights of tribal population through the formation of Autonomous District Councils (ADC).

—ADCs are bodies representing a district to which the Constitution has given varying degrees of autonomy within the state legislature.  

—The governors of these states are empowered to reorganise boundaries of the tribal areas.

—In simpler terms, she or he can choose to include or exclude any area, increase or decrease the boundaries and unite two or more autonomous districts into one. They can also alter or change the names of autonomous regions without a separate legislation. 


Autonomous districts and regional councils

—Along with ADCs, the Sixth Schedule also provides for separate Regional Councils for each area constituted as an autonomous region. In all, there are 10 areas in the Northeast that are registered as autonomous districts – three in Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram and one in Tripura.

—These regions are named as district council of (name of district) and regional council of (name of region).

—Each autonomous district and regional council consists of not more than 30 members, of which four are nominated by the governor and the rest via elections. All of them remain in power for a term of five years.

—The Bodoland Territorial Council, however, is an exception as it can constitute up to 46 members out of which 40 are elected. Of these 40 seats, 35 are reserved for the Scheduled Tribes and non-tribal communities, five are unreserved and the rest six are nominated by the governor from unrepresented communities of the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD).


ADCs empowered with civil and judicial powers

—The ADCs are empowered with civil and judicial powers, can constitute village courts within their jurisdiction to hear trial of cases involving the tribes.

—Governors of states that fall under the Sixth Schedule specifies the jurisdiction of high courts for each of these cases.

—The councils are also empowered to make legislative laws on matters like land, forests, fisheries, social security, entertainment, public health, etc. with due approval from the governor.

—The roles of the central and state governments are restricted from the territorial jurisdiction of these autonomous regions.

—Also, Acts passed by Parliament and state legislatures may or may not be levied in these regions unless the President and the governor gives her or his approval, with or without modifications in the laws for the autonomous regions.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/coronavirus-pandemic-may-earn-governors-rule-for-assams-btad/article31438544.ece


2.Coronavirus | Food controller in Madhya Pradesh answers RTI queries in 12 hours


—Information sought under the Right to Information Act usually takes days, even months, to reach applicants.

—And when the entire Madhya Pradesh government machinery is combating the COVID-19 outbreak and offices are shuttered amid the lockdown, the right appears to have been temporarily suspended too, but not in Rewa district.

—Queries were regarding how many beneficiaries in Kot village of the district were given free ration under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, to help them tide over the lockdown, and how much the district administration had procured for distribution.


About RTI

— Right to Information (RTI) is an act of the Parliament of India, which sets out the rules and procedures regarding citizens' right to information. It replaced the former Freedom of Information Act, 2002.

—Under the provisions of RTI Act, any citizen of India may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. In case of matter involving a petitioner's life and liberty, the information has to be provided within 48 hours.

—The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally.

— The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019, seeks to amend Sections 13, 16, and 27 of the RTI Act. Section 13 of the original Act: It sets the term of the central Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners at five years (or until the age of 65, whichever is earlier)


About Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana

—During the 2020 coronavirus pandemic in India, Finance Minister announced a ₹1.70 Lakh Crores($24 billion) relief package under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana for the poor.

--₹500 each to 19.86 crores women Jan Dhan account holders

--LPG cylinders to be provided to 8 crores poor families for the next three months free of cost.

--₹1,000 for senior citizens to tide over difficulties during next three months.


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/food-controller-in-madhya-pradesh-answers-rti-queries-in-12-hours/article31439560.ece