Current Affairs Mar 2

Formation & Promotion of 10,000 Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs)

Why in News?

  • Union Ministers of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare inaugurated professional training programmes designed and developed for CEOs, Board of Directors, Accountants of FPOs on the occasion of the anniversary of the Central Sector Scheme titled ‘Formation and Promotion of 10,000 Farmer Produce Organizations (FPOs)’.
  • The scheme was launched by Prime Minister on 29.02.2020 at Chitrakoot (Uttar Pradesh) with a budgetary provision of Rs 6865 crore.
  • More than 2200 FPOs produce clusters have been allocated for the formation of FPOs in the current year, of which 100 FPOs for specialized Organic produce, 100 FPOs from Oilseeds & 50 commodity-specific FPOs with value chain development will be formed.

Implementing Agencies

  • In addition to SFAC, NABARD & NCDC, 06 more implementing agencies have been approved for the formation and promotion of FPOs.
  • Implementing Agencies (IAs) are engaging Cluster-Based Business Organizations (CBBOs) to aggregate, register & provide professional handholding support to each FPO for a period of 5 years.
  • FPOs will be provided financial assistance up to Rs 18.00 lakh per FPO for a period of 03 years. In addition to this, provision has been made for matching equity grant up to Rs. 2,000 per farmer member of FPO with a limit of Rs. 15.00 lakh per FPO and a credit guarantee facility up to Rs. 2 crores of project loan per FPO from the eligible lending institution to ensure institutional credit accessibility to FPOs.
  • At the National level, National Project Management Agency (NPMA) as a professional organization has been engaged for providing overall project guidance, coordination, compilation of information relating to FPOs, maintenance of MIS and monitoring purpose.
  • FPOs are to be developed in produce clusters, wherein agricultural and horticultural produces are grown/cultivated for leveraging economies of scale and improving market access for members. “One District One Product” cluster will promote specialization and better processing, marketing, branding & export.
  • Further Agriculture value chain organizations are forming FPOs and are facilitating 60% of market linkages for members produce.


  • This formation of 10,000 FPOs scheme will promote the selling of farmers produce from the farm gate of farmers thereby enhanced farmers’ income.
  • This will shorten the supply chain and accordingly marketing cost will get reduced resulting in better income for farmers.
  • It will accelerate more investment in marketing and value addition infrastructure near to farm gate creating more employment opportunities for rural youth.





Rating mechanism for National Highways

Why in News?

  • The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has released the ratings for 18,668 km of completed 4/6 lane NH stretches covering 343 toll plazas.

By Whom?

  • This has been done by NHAI under MoRTH, which has taken initiative to improve its accountability towards road users, who pay user fee for use of developed National Highways.
  • This initiative has been taken as per vision of improving the quality of public services. The fundamental objective of highway rating is “Minimum time with maximum safety in stress free environment” from highway users’ perspective.
  • Each toll plaza of highway is judged based on three major criteria viz. Efficiency, Safety and and User Services.
  • These criteria are further divided into a total of 39 parameters which include average speed, road condition, facility for public like VUP/ PUP/ FOB, service road, delay at toll plaza, accidents, incident response time, wayside amenities, general cleanliness, etc.
  • No such criteria has been developed across the Globe in the past which evaluates the performance of highway from the users’ perspective.




Swachhta Saarthi Fellowships

Why in News?

  • The Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser under its “Waste to Wealth” Mission launched the “Swachhta Saarthi Fellowship” to recognize students, community workers/self-help groups, and municipal/sanitary workers who are engaged in tackling the enormous challenge of waste management, scientifically and sustainably.
  • The Waste to Wealth Mission is one of the nine national missions of the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC).

About this Initiative

  • The fellowship is an initiative to empower young innovators who are engaged in community work of waste management/awareness campaigns/waste surveys/studies, etc. as Swachhta Saarthis and implement actions to reduce waste for a greener planet.
  • This fellowship is aimed to empower interested students and citizens to continuously engage in their attempts to reduce waste in cities and rural areas.
  • The Swachhta Saarthi Fellowships will recognize exemplary people from any walk of life who go beyond the call of duty in tackling waste and manage it scientifically and sustainably.
  • The fellowships will target the very grassroots of Indian community participation and recognise efforts made by citizens to make India a zero-waste nation.

 The three categories of awards under the fellowships are as below:

  • Category-A Open to School students from 9th to 12th standards engaged in waste management community work
  • Category-B Open to College students (UG, PG, Research students) engaged in waste management community work
  • Category-C Open to Citizens working in the community and through SHGs, municipal or sanitary workers working beyond specifications of their job requirement/descriptions




U.S. trade report flags challenges from ‘Make in India’ policy

Why in News?

  • The U.S. tried to resolve “long-standing market access impediments affecting U.S. exporters” with India during 2020, says the 2021 President’s Trade Agenda and 2020 Annual Report.
  • An annual report submitted by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) to Congress.
  • The report terms India’s policies “trade-restrictive” and saying the “Make in India” campaign epitomises the challenges to the trade relationship.
  • While India’s large market, economic growth, and progress towards development make it an essential market for many U.S. exporters, a general and consistent trend of trade-restrictive policies have inhibited the potential of the bilateral trade relationship.
  • Recent Indian emphasis on import substitution through a “Make in India” campaign has epitomized the challenges facing the bilateral trade relationship.
  • The Make in India campaign was launched by Prime Minister Modi in 2014 to incentivise production in India.
  • S. objectives in this negotiation included resolution of various non-tariff barriers, targeted reduction of certain Indian tariffs, and other market access improvements.




India’s percentage CO2 emissions rose faster than the world average

  • India’s percentage carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose slower in 2016-19 than in 2011-15 but was much above the world average of 0.7%.
  • By comparison, China posted a 0.4% increase in 2016-19 and the United States registered a decline in emissions of 0.7%, though in absolute numbers they dwarf India’s emissions.
  • In 2020, when the pandemic dented economic growth, India’s emissions fell 9.7% to a little more than the world average of 9.6%.
  • It comes ahead of a “global stock take” that shows how much reduction countries have achieved since signing the Paris Agreement in 2015, which commits the world to reducing emissions enough to keep the earth from warming below 0.5-1 degree Celsius by the end of the century.
  • Countries are expected to convene at the United Nations Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland later this year to report on their progress and the ways ahead.
  • While emissions decreased in 64 countries, they increased in 150 countries. Globally, emissions grew by 0.21 billion tonnes of CO2 per year during 2016-2019 compared to 2011-2015.
  • Annual cuts of 1-2 billion tonnes of CO2 are needed throughout the 2020s and beyond to avoid exceeding global warming within the range 1.5°C to well below 2°C, the ambition of the UN Paris Agreement.
  • The world has warmed by over 1°C since the Industrial Revolution because of emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities.
  • Of the 36 high-income countries, 25 saw their emissions decrease during 2016-2019, compared with 2011-2015.
  • Apart from the U.S., this included the European Union (-0.9%), and the U.K. (-3.6%). Thirty of 99 upper-middle income countries also saw their emissions decrease during 2016–2019 compared with 2011–2015.




Most Women Miss Pay Raise Due To Gender

  • About 85%, or four in five working women in India believe they have missed out on a raise, promotion, or work offer because of their gender, according to a new report by LinkedIn.
  • As per the ‘The Opportunity Index 2021’ report, this average stands at 60% for the Asia Pacific (APAC) region.
  • “A deeper analysis shows that more women in India have experienced the impact of gender on career development when compared to the APAC region”.
  • “While 66% of the people in India feel that gender equality has improved compared to their parents’ age, India’s working women still contend the strongest gender bias across Asia Pacific countries”.




Saplings plantation has improved soil quality

Why in News?

  • A short-term study made on the sapling plantation initiative has shown that the plantation of over 10 lakh saplings in the past six years across Tiruppur district has positively contributed to the environment such as improvement in soil quality and biodiversity.
  • The report estimated that 7,377 tonnes of carbon were sequestered through the saplings planted in the initiative.
  • Carbon sequestration is the removal, capture or sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere which could help in mitigating global warming.





What is it & Why in News?

  • Russia launched its space satellite Arktika-M on a mission to monitor the climate and environment in the Arctic amid a push by the Kremlin to expand the country’s activities in the region.

About Arctic

  • The Arctic has warmed more than twice as fast as the global average over the last three decades and Moscow is seeking to develop the energy-rich region, investing in the Northern Sea Route for shipping across its long northern flank as ice melts.

Launched From

  • The satellite successfully reached its intended orbit after being launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur cosmodrome by a Soyuz rocket.
  • Russia plans to send up a second satellite in 2023 and, combined, the two will offer round-the-clock, all-weather monitoring of the Arctic Ocean and the surface of the Earth.
  • The Arktika-M will have a highly elliptical orbit that passes high over northern latitudes allowing it to monitor northern regions for lengthy periods before it loops back down under Earth.
  • At the right orbit, the satellite will be able to monitor and take images every 15-30 minutes of the Arctic, which can’t be continuously observed by satellites that orbit above the Earth’s equator.
  • The satellite will also be able to retransmit distress signals from ships, aircraft or people in remote areas as part of the international Cospas-Sarsat satellite-based search and rescue programme.




Argentine Titanosaur

Why in News?

  • A colossal dinosaur dug up in Argentina could be the oldest titanosaur ever found, having roamed what is now Patagonia some 140 million years ago at the beginning of the Cretaceous period.
  • The 65-foot lizard, Ninjatitan zapatai, was discovered in 2014 in the Neuquen province of southwest Argentina.

About Titanosaurs

  • Titanosaurs were members of the sauropod group — gigantic plant-eating lizards with long necks and tails that may have been the largest animals ever to walk the Earth.
  • The new discovery, meant titanosaurs lived longer ago than previously thought — at the beginning of the Cretaceous era that ended with the demise of the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago.
  • The creature was named after Argentinian paleontologist Sebastian Apesteguia, nicknamed “El Ninja,” and technician Rogelio Zapata.



Revising Food Security Act

Why in News?

  • The NITI Aayog recently circulated a discussion paper on a proposed revision in the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013.

Why a discussion on a revision?

  • The NFSA provides a legal right to persons belonging to “eligible households” to receive foodgrains at subsidised price– rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg and coarse grain at Rs 1/kg — under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • These are called central issue prices (CIPs).
  • A revision of CIPs is one of the issues that have been discussed. The other issues are updating of the population coverage under the NFSA, and beneficiary identification criteria.
  • Under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act, the term “eligible households” comprises two categories — “priority households”, and families covered by the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY).
  • Priority households are entitled to receive 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month, whereas AAY households are entitled to 35 kg per month at the same prices.

For how long are these prices valid, and how are they to be revised?

  • Under Schedule-I of the Act, these subsidised prices were fixed for “a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act”. While different states began implementing the Act at different dates, the deemed date of its coming into effect is July 5, 2013, and the three-year period was therefore completed on July 5, 2016.
  • However, the government has yet not revised the subsidised prices. The government can do so under Schedule-I of the Act, after completion of the three-year period.
  • To revise the prices, the government can amend Schedule-I through a notification, a copy of which has to be laid before each House of Parliament as soon as possible after it is issued.
  • Even the Economic Survey of 2020-21 had recommended a revision in the CIPs.
  • The revised prices cannot exceed the minimum support price for wheat and coarse grains, and the derived minimum support price for rice.

What is the extent of coverage, and how is it to be updated?

  • The Act has prescribed the coverage under “eligible households” — 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population.
  • On the basis of Census 2011 figures and the national rural and urban coverage ratios, 81.35 crore persons are covered under NFSA currently.
  • This overall figure has been divided among the states and Union Territories, based on the NSSO Household Consumer Expenditure Survey 2011-12.
  • The number of NFSA beneficiaries was frozen in 2013. However, given the population increase since then, there have been demands from the states and union territories to update the list by ensuring an annual updating system under NFSA.

What has the NITI Aayog proposed?

  • In its discussion paper, the NITI Aayog has suggested that the national rural and urban coverage ratio be reduced from the existing 75-50 to 60-40. if this reduction happens, the number of beneficiaries under the NFSA will drop to 71.62 crore (on the basis of the projected population in 2020).
  • To make these changes in the law, the government will have to amend sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the NFSA. For this, it will require parliamentary approval.




Sharp Decline in India’s Donkey Population

  • The sharp decline in donkey population in India over the last decade might be linked to emerging demand of donkey hide in the Chinese market, said Brooke Hospital for Animals (India), an international animal welfare organisation based out of London.
  • The country’s donkey population shrunk to 0.12 million in 2019 from 0.32 million in 2012, according to the Livestock Census released in 2019. In 2007, there were 0.44 million donkeys in India.
  • The total population of horses, ponies, mules and donkeys decreased by 51.9 per cent since 2012. The decline (61 per cent) in the donkey population was the sharpest.
  • It can be linked with the emerging demand of donkey hide in Chinese markets for making ‘Ejiao’, a gelatin used in traditional medicine of the country.
  • These animals are employed in a wide range of sectors such as brick kilns, construction, tourism, agriculture and transportation of goods and people.
  • The consumption of donkey meat is also reported to have gone up in Andhra Pradesh, where it is being consumed because people believe it increases virility.
  • Since donkeys have mostly disappeared from Andhra Pradesh, donkeys are being brought in from Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
  • Donkey meat is not categorised as an “animal food” under the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s Food Safety and Standards, 2011, making its slaughter and consumption illegal.




Antidiarrhea Drug

  • New research into one of the most common and difficult cancers to treat has revealed an effective route to mitigating chemotherapy resistance through the use of a drug already approved by the FDA to treat diarrhea.
  • Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the most common cancers in the U.S. The disease causes approximately 23,000 deaths per year.
  • In order to develop effective treatments, researchers in oncology and pharmaceutical targeting need to know why AML is so resistant to treatment, and identify a route to circumvent that resistance.
  • DNA mutations are the drivers for cancer development. “However, these mutations have to take place in the right cells to become cancerous. Identifying the cells of origin are important to understand cancer biology and develop better therapeutic strategy.
  • Discovered that these treatment-resistant leukemia cells expressed a special protein to pump out chemo-drugs.
  • Using an antibiotic available in the clinic for diarrheal treatment to suppress the activity of this pump, they were able to re-sensitize the cells to chemotherapy, and significantly extend the survival of mice transplanted with human leukemia cells.



On calm days, sunlight warms the ocean surface and drives turbulence

  • In tropical oceans, a combination of sunlight and weak winds drives up surface temperatures in the afternoon, increasing atmospheric turbulence.
  • The ocean warms in the afternoon by just a degree or two, but it is an effect that has largely been ignored.
  • Over land, afternoon warming can lead to atmospheric convection and turbulence and often produces thunderstorms.
  • Over the ocean, the afternoon convection also draws water vapor from the ocean surface to moisten the atmosphere and form clouds.
  • The warming over the ocean is more subtle and gets stronger when the wind is weak.
  • The calm wind and warming air conditions occur in different parts of the ocean in response to weather conditions, including monsoons and Madden-Julian Oscillation, or MJO, events, which are ocean-scale atmospheric disturbances that occur regularly in the tropics.
  • To determine the role these changing temperatures play in weather conditions in the tropics, weather models need to include the effects of surface warming.