Current Affairs Nov 23rd , 2021

About Mullaperiyar dam

  • The Mullaperiyar dam is located on the confluence of the Mullayar and Periyar rivers in Kerala’s Idukki district.
  • It is operated and maintained by the Tamil Nadu for meeting the drinking water and irrigation requirements of five of its southern districts.
  • According to a 999-year lease agreement made during the British rule the operational rights were handed over to Tamil Nadu.
  • The tension between the two states over the issue has persisted since the 1960s, with Kerala citing concerns regarding the dam’s safety and arguing for the reduction of the dam’s water levels.
  • But with the water from the dam being diverted to five districts in Tamil Nadu and its importance in the state’s irrigation and power production practices, Tamil Nadu has consistently opposed this.

 Data protection bill

  • It has been more than three years since a draft Bill on personal data protection was crafted by the Justice Srikrishna Committee of experts and submitted to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in 2018.
  • Two years since a Joint Parliamentary Committee was set up to scrutinize another version the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDPB), 2019 it was finally adopted by it
  • But as dissent notes submitted by some panel members from the Opposition point out, the draft falls short of the standards set by the Justice Srikrishna Committee to build a legal framework based on the landmark judgment, Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India, on privacy.
  • While the 2018 draft Bill allowed for judicial oversight, the 2019 Bill relies entirely on members of the executive government in the selection process for the DPA.
  • The 2019 Bill adds “public order” as a reason to exempt an agency of the Government from the Act, besides only providing for those reasons to be recorded in writing.
  • In October 2021, the Global Privacy Assembly, featuring Privacy Commissioners from over 19 countries including those from the European Union, Japan and the U.K., came up with a clear resolution on principles for government access to personal data.
  • In its resolution, the Assembly asked for a set of principles on legal basis, the need for clear and precise rules, proportionality and transparency, data subject rights, independent oversight, and effective remedies and redress to the individuals affected.
  • A secure nation alone provides the atmosphere which ensures personal liberty and privacy of an individual, the Joint Parliamentary Committee ( JPC) on the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, 2019, has argued in its report defending the controversial exemption clause that allows the Government to keep any of its agencies outside the purview of the law.
  • Among its key recommendations, the committee pitched for stricter regulations for social media platforms.
  • It recommended that all social media platforms, which did not act as intermediaries, should be treated as publishers and be held accountable for the content they host, and should be held responsible for the content from unverified accounts on their platforms.
  • It said no social media platform should be allowed to operate unless the parent company handling the technology sets up an office in India and that a statutory media regulatory authority, on the lines of the Press Council of India, may be set up for the regulation of the contents on all such platforms irrespective of the platform where their content is published.
  • Some of the other recommendations of the committee included development of an alternative indigenous financial system for cross-border payments on the lines of Ripple (U.S.) and INSTEX (European Union).


Reform in fertilizer sector

  • The Union Budget of July 1991 raised the issue prices of fertilizers by 40% on average.
  • But from August that year, this was reduced to 30%, and small and marginal farmers were exempted from the price increase.
  • The Economic Survey further noted that even with this 30% increase, fertilizer subsidy remained substantial and needed to be reduced further.
  • This change disturbed the relative prices of various fertilizers and resulted in a big shift in the composition of fertilizers used in the country in favour of urea.
  • Concerned with the adverse environmental impact of certain chemical fertilizers, some sections of society suggest the use of organic fertilizers and bio fertilizers instead.
  • Concerned with the adverse environmental impact of certain chemical fertilizers, some sections of society suggest the use of organic fertilizers and bio fertilizers instead.
  • Fertilizer subsidy has doubled in a short period of three years. For 2021- 22, the Union Budget has estimated fertilizer subsidy at ₹79,530 crore (from ₹66,468 crore in 2017-18) but it is likely to reach a much higher level due to the recent upsurge in the prices of energy, the international prices of urea and other fertilizers, and India’s dependence on imports.
  • The government introduced the Nutrient Based Subsidy (NBS) in 2010 to address the growing imbalance in fertilizer use in many States, which is skewed towards urea (N).
  • However, only non-nitrogenous fertilizers (P and K) moved to NBS; urea was left out.
  • The total demand for urea in the country is about 34-35 million tonnes (mln t) whereas the domestic production is about 25 mln t.
  • The requirement of Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) is about 12 mln t and domestic production is just 5 mln t.
  • This leaves the gap of nearly 9-10 mln t for urea and 7 mln t for DAP, which is met through imports.
  • The use of Muriate of Potash is about 3 mln t.
  • This is entirely imported. In addition, consumption of complex fertilizers (NPK) is about 12-13 mln t, which is largely produced within the country and so the import requirement is only 1 mln t
  • The international prices of fertilizers are volatile and almost directly proportional to energy prices.
  • Extraordinary price rises are on account of a sharp upsurge in international energy prices and supply constraints in major producing countries due to robust domestic demand, production cuts and export restrictions.
  • This also coincides with the peak demand for the Rabi season. In order to minimise the impact of rise in prices on farmers, the bulk of the price rise is absorbed by the government through enhanced fertilizer subsidy.
  • This is likely to create serious fiscal challenges.
  • In the last 20 years, the price of urea has increased to ₹5.36 per kg in 2021 from ₹60 in 2001.
  • In the same period, the Minimum Support Price of paddy increased by 280% and that of wheat by 230%.

Way forward

  • One, we need to be self-reliant and not depend on import of fertilizers.
  • We need to extend the NBS model to urea and allow for price rationalization of urea compared to non-nitrogenous fertilizers and prices of crops.
  • We need to develop alternative sources of nutrition for plants
  • India should pay attention to improving fertilizer efficiency through need-based use rather than broadcasting fertilizer in the field.