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Prelims Booster

22nd October – Prelims Booster

Punjab’s Farm Bills

After the recent protests by farmers against the three farm laws enacted by the central government, a special session of the Punjab Assembly has not only rejected the laws by a unanimous resolution but also passed three farm amendment Bills removing Punjab from the ambit of the central laws.

Need of state bills –

  • In each of the three Bills, the Punjab government has claimed that the application of central laws to the state is being changed to “restore the agricultural safeguards for the farmers through the regulatory framework of Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961 to secure and protect the interests and livelihoods of farmers and farm labourers as also all others engaged in agriculture and related activities”.
  • The three Bills mention the agriculture census 2015-16 to underline that 86.2 per cent of farmers in the state are small and marginal, with the majority owning less than two acres of land. Consequently, they have limited access to multiple markets, and lack the negotiation power needed to operate in a private market.
  • Apart from the Governor, the Punjab government’s new farm Bills need the assent of the President since they seek to amend laws passed by the central government. If not, they can at best serve as a symbolic political statement against the Centre’s farm laws.
  • All the three Bills underscore the importance of farmers getting a level playing field in the form of a fair price guarantee.
  • The Bills also point out that agriculture, agricultural markets, and land is the primary legislative domain of the state.

Key features –

  • The Bill seeks to address the fears of state farmers about being forced to sell their produce at less than the minimum support price (MSP) with an amendment whereby sale of wheat and paddy shall be valid only if the seller pays a price equal to or greater than the MSP announced by the central government.
  • It states that any person or company or corporate house will be punished with imprisonment of not less than three years and a fine if he signs a contract wherein the farmer is compelled to sell his produce at less than the MSP.
  • This Bill also allows the farmer to approach a civil court, besides seeking remedies available under the central act in case of any differences with the buyer of his produce.
  • The thrust on only wheat and paddy can be explained by the dominance of these two crops in the state. According to Punjab Mandi Board, Punjab contributes 32 per cent of these two foodgrains to the central pool despite its relatively small land area.
  • While the central law abolished any market fees or licences for private players outside the APMCs, the Punjab bills have reintroduced it. The Bills say the state government can notify a fee to be levied on private traders or electronic trading platforms for trade and commerce outside the mandis established under the Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1961. These fees will go towards a fund for the welfare of small and marginal farmers.
  • By bringing the entire state under its ambit, the Bill ensures that the private players will also be regulated by the rules of government mandis. They will have to procure licences and pay the market fees to buy produce from the state.
  • The Essential Commodities Bill, 2020 says the state, aims to protect consumers from hoarding and black marketing of agri produce. Underlining that production, supply, and distribution of goods is also a state subject, the Bill claims the central Act seeks to give unlimited power of stocking essential commodities to traders. Under this Bill, the state of Punjab will have the power to order, provide for regulating or prohibiting the production, supply, distribution, and imposing stock limits under extraordinary circumstances, which may include famine, price rise, natural calamity or any other situation.

Criticism –

  • There are questions as to why have these bills covered only two crops? Experts argue that they should cover the whole gamut of crops; such as marketable surplus of cotton, maize, some pulses and even milk, for which the state decides the MSP.
  • Dr S S Johl, a former Vice Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University and national professor of agricultural economics at Indian Council of Agricultural Research, however, called the Bill a part of “vote-bank politics”, and said the amendments will all but block private players from the state.

Kaleshwaram Project

The Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation System is considered to be one of the world’s largest multi-purpose projects. It is designed to provide water for irrigation and drinking purposes to about 45 lakh acres in 20 of the 31 districts in Telangana, apart from Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The cost of the project is Rs 80,000 crore, but is expected to rise to Rs 1 lakh crore by the time it is completely constructed by the end of 2020.

Significance of the project –

  • This project is unique because Telangana will harness water at the confluence of two rivers Pranhita with Godavari by constructing a barrage at Medigadda in Jayashankar Bhupalpally district and reverse pump the water into the main Godavari River and divert it through lifts and pumps into a huge and complex system of reservoirs, water tunnels, pipelines and canals.
  • The project has set many records with the world’s longest water tunnels, aqueducts, underground surge pools, and biggest pumps. By the time the water reaches Kondapochamma Sagar, the last reservoir in the system, about 227 kms away in Gajwel district, the Godavari water would have been lifted to a height of 618 metres from its source at Medigadda.
  • The total length of the entire Kaleshwaram project is approximately 1,832 km of which 1,531 km is gravity canals and 203 km comprise water tunnels. There are 20 water lifts and 19 pump houses in the project.
  • The massive project is divided into seven links and 28 packages and involved digging of 20 reservoirs in 13 districts with a total capacity to store 145 TMC. The reservoirs are interconnected through a network of tunnels running about 330 km, the longest being 21 km long connecting Yellampalli reservoir with Medaram reservoir in Peddapalli district.
  • While the intricate canal network covers approximately 1,832 km, the farthest point is Narketpally in Nalgonda district which is 500 km away from the source. Except for a few stretches involving pipelines and canals, much of the project is complete. The project was inaugurated by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao on June 21 last year.

How important is KLIS to Telangana?

  • Kaleshwaram will transform Telangana into an agricultural powerhouse. The project will enable farmers in Telangana to reap multiple crops with a year-round supply of water wherein earlier they were dependent on rains resulting in frequent crop failures.
  • KLIS covers several districts which used to face rainfall deficit and the groundwater is fluoride-contaminated. Apart from providing water for irrigation to 45 lakh acres, a main component of the project is supply of drinking water to several towns and villages and also to twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad.
  • Mission Bhagiratha, the Rs 43,000-crore project to supply drinking water to every household in villages, draws a large quantity of water from the KLIS and some quantity from projects on River Krishna. There is a burgeoning fresh water fishing industry in the state as the numerous water bodies created under the project are also being used to grow fish and locals are given rights to fish and sell.

Why NGT wants a relook at the project?

  • Recently, the Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal, New Delhi, ruled that the Environmental Clearance given to the project in December 2017 was void as the Telangana government subsequently changed the design of the project to increase its capacity. The NGT observed that by increasing its capacity to pump 3 TMC water from 2 TMC, which was originally planned, major changes were made in the project due to which large tracts of forest land and other land was taken over and massive infrastructure was built causing adverse impact on the environment.
  • The Telangana Government’s argument that the expansion of the project to extract 3 TMC instead of 2 TMC did not involve any infrastructural changes and therefore a fresh EC was not required, was not accepted by the NGT. “Extraction of more water certainly requires more storage capacity and also affects hydrology and riverine ecology of Godavari River. Such issues may have to be examined by the statutory authorities concerned. Prima facie, it is difficult to accept the plea that enhancement of capacity by one third will not require any infrastructural changes. In any case, this aspect needs to be evaluated by the statutory expert Committees before the expansion is undertaken,’’ the NGT observed in its order.
  • The NGT also directed the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change to constitute a seven-member Expert Committee within a month to assess the extent of damage caused in going ahead with the project’s expansion and identify the restoration measures necessary. The Expert Committee will complete its exercise within six months. The NGT directed the Telangana Government to stop all work except the drinking water component and obtain a Forest Clearance from the Centre before going ahead with the project.

Wildlife Institute of India

A recommendation by the Finance Ministry to divest the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) of its status as an autonomous body of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF) has triggered anxiety among scientists at the organisation.

What is the concern?

  • A letter by the WII Director to the Environment Ministry says that the directive was “unviable” and would affect the institution’s ability to be seen as an “unbiased opinion generator” that both government and public sector units consulted for assessing the impact of development projects on wildlife.
  • The institute has an annual expenditure of ₹34 crore that was sourced from the Environment Ministry. It generated only ₹3.5 crore from consultancy and advisory services, which went towards paying pensions to employees appointed before 2004.

Why Finance Ministry wants to do away with its autonomous status?

The Finance Ministry moves follows a review by its Expenditure Department of 194 autonomous bodies across 18 Ministries. Of them, 109 bodies must be merged into 26, and government must “disengage” from 23, one which is the WII.

What is proposed?

  • In the case of WII, the government will cut funding to the institute by 25% every year, and it could become a ‘Deemed University’ engaged in teaching and research. The Central government could continue to access WII advisory and training services as a “client.”
  • Along with the WII, other autonomous bodies that have been recommended to be disengaged are the Indian Institute of Forest Management, and the Indian Plywood Industries Research and Training Institute.
  • Other Environment Ministry organisations, such as the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History will be subsumed within the activities of the Environment Ministry. Some organisations, such as the Society of Integrated Coastal Management and the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, will be merged.

About Wildlife Institute of India –

  • Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is an internationally acclaimed Institution, which offers training program, academic courses and advisory in wildlife research and management.
  • WII carries out wildlife research in areas of study like Biodiversity, Endangered Species, Wildlife Policy, Wildlife Management, Wildlife Forensics, Spatial Modelling, Eco development, Habitat Ecology and Climate Change.
  • It was established in 1982.
  • It is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change, Government of India.
  • The institute is based in Dehradun.

Police Commemoration Day

Union Home Minister Shri Amit Shah laid a wreath and paid tributes to martyred policemen on Police Commemoration Day at the National Police Memorial in New Delhi.

Background –

Police Commemoration Day is observed on 21 October in memory of the ten police personnel who were martyred in an ambush by heavily armed Chinese troops in Hot Springs in Ladakh on this date in 1959.

MCQs

1. Kaleshwaram Project is located in –

  1. Andhra Pradesh
  2. Telangana
  3. Kerala
  4. Tamil Nadu

Answer – B

Explanation – The Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation System is considered to be one of the world’s largest multi-purpose projects. It is designed to provide water for irrigation and drinking purposes to about 45 lakh acres in 20 of the 31 districts in Telangana, apart from Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The cost of the project is Rs 80,000 crore, but is expected to rise to Rs 1 lakh crore by the time it is completely constructed by the end of 2020.

2. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about the ‘Kaleshwaram Multi-purpose Irrigation Project’?

  1. It will harness water at the confluence of two rivers Pranhita with Godavari.
  2. It will reverse pump the water into the main Godavari River and divert it through lifts and pumps into a huge and complex system of reservoirs, water tunnels, pipelines and canals.
  3. The total length of the Kaleshwaram Project is approximately 1,832 kilometres.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. All of the above

Answer – D

Explanation – The Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation System is considered to be one of the world’s largest multi-purpose projects. It is designed to provide water for irrigation and drinking purposes to about 45 lakh acres in 20 of the 31 districts in Telangana, apart from Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The cost of the project is Rs 80,000 crore, but is expected to rise to Rs 1 lakh crore by the time it is completely constructed by the end of 2020. This project is unique because Telangana will harness water at the confluence of two rivers Pranhita with Godavari by constructing a barrage at Medigadda in Jayashankar Bhupalpally district and reverse pump the water into the main Godavari River and divert it through lifts and pumps into a huge and complex system of reservoirs, water tunnels, pipelines and canals. The project has set many records with the world’s longest water tunnels, aqueducts, underground surge pools, and biggest pumps. By the time the water reaches Kondapochamma Sagar, the last reservoir in the system, about 227 kms away in Gajwel district, the Godavari water would have been lifted to a height of 618 metres from its source at Medigadda. The total length of the entire Kaleshwaram project is approximately 1,832 km of which 1,531 km is gravity canals and 203 km comprise water tunnels. There are 20 water lifts and 19 pump houses in the project.

3. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about the ‘Wildlife Institute of India’?

  1. It is a non-governmental organisation working in the field of wildlife conservation and research.
  2. It is a joint programme of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer – D

Explanation – Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is an internationally acclaimed Institution, which offers training program, academic courses and advisory in wildlife research and management. WII carries out wildlife research in areas of study like Biodiversity, Endangered Species, Wildlife Policy, Wildlife Management, Wildlife Forensics, Spatial Modelling, Eco development, Habitat Ecology and Climate Change. It was established in 1982. It is an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate change, Government of India. The institute is based in Dehradun.

4. Which of the following state assemblies have recently passed overriding legislations against the central farm bills?

  1. Haryana
  2. Punjab
  3. Maharashtra
  4. None of the above

Answer – B

Explanation – After the recent protests by farmers against the three farm laws enacted by the central government, a special session of the Punjab Assembly has not only rejected the laws by a unanimous resolution but also passed three farm amendment Bills removing Punjab from the ambit of the central laws.

5. Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct?

  1. Police Commemoration Day is observed on the birth anniversary of the first Union Home Minister of India Shri Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
  2. It has started to be celebrated in India since the year 2015 only.

Select the correct codes from below –

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Answer – D

Explanation – Police Commemoration Day is observed on 21 October in memory of the ten police personnel who were martyred in an ambush by heavily armed Chinese troops in Hot Springs in Ladakh on this date in 1959.

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