South Asia Regional Centre ( ISARC ) | PIB Summary

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the establishment of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), South Asia Regional Centre (ISARC) at campus of National Seed Research and Training Centre (NSRTC) in Varanasi. 

ISARC | Details

  • Under the proposal, a Centre of Excellence in Rice Value Addition (CERVA) will be set up in Varanasi.
  • This will include a modern and sophisticated laboratory with capacity to determine quality and status of heavy metals in grain and straw.
  • The Centre will also undertake capacity building exercises for stakeholders across the rice value chain.
  • This Centre will be the first international Centre in the eastern India and it will play a major role in harnessing and sustaining rice production in the region. It is expected to be a boon for food production and skill development in the eastern India and similar ecologies in other South Asian and African countries.

Benefits from ISARC

  • The Centre will help in utilizing the rich biodiversity of India to develop special rice varieties.
  • This will help India to achieve higher per hectare yields and improved nutritional contents.
  • India’s food and nutritional security issues will also be addressed.
  • The Centre will support in adopting value chain based production system in the country. This will reduce wastage, add value and generate higher income for the farmers.
  • The farmers in Eastern India will benefit in particular, besides those in South Asian and African countries.

Management of ISARC

  • ISARC will operate under the governance of the IRRI Board of Trustees who will appoint an appropriate IRRI staff member as Director.
  • A Coordination Committee will be headed by Director General, IRRI as Chair and Secretary, Government of India, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DACFW) as Co-Chair.
  • The other members of Coordination Committee are Deputy Director General (Crop Sciences), ICAR; Director, NSRTC; IRRI representative in India, representative of Government of UP and representatives of Governments of Nepal & Bangladesh and Private Sector.

MoU between India and Israel

The Union Cabinet in its meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi today approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Israel on National Campaign for Water Conservation in India. 

Highlights

  • This will benefit the country in conserving water for future generations.
  • The two countries shall work to enhance cooperation at the national, regional and international level to design, implement and monitor a professionally-designed National Water Conservation Campaign in India.

Benefits

The proposed MoU will help India and Israel to cooperate in water conservation. It would –

  • Put water conservation on the national agenda in India.
  • Encourage every citizen to save water in everyday life.
  • Generating awareness about water.
  • Promoting Re-use, Recharge and Recycling of water.
  • Development of digital tools such as websites, mobile applications on the subject of water conservation.

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Fair and Remunerative Price for Farmers

Cabinet approves Fair and Remunerative Price payable by sugar mills for 2017-18 sugar season 

Introduction | Fair and Remunerative Price

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for fixing the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) of sugarcane at Rs. 255/- per quintal (qt) for sugar season 2017-18 linked to a basic recovery rate of 9.5% subject to a premium of Rs. 2.68 per qtl for every 0.1%-point increase in recovery above that level.
  • The approved FRP reflects an increase of 10.87% over the FRP of sugar season 2016-17. The FRP so approved shall be applicable for purchase of sugarcane from the farmers in the sugar season 2017-18 by the sugar mills. The move is a reflection of the Government’s pro-farmer initiatives, keeping in mind the interest of sugarcane farmers and importance of the sugar industry.

Details | Fair and Remunerative Price

  • The sugar industry is an important agro-based industry that impacts the livelihood of about 50 million sugarcane farmers and around 5 lakh workers directly employed in sugar mills, apart from those employed in various ancillary activities including farm labour and transporters. This decision has been taken to provide appropriate price to the farmers for their cane.
  • FRP of sugarcane has been determined on the basis of recommendations ofCommission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) and after consultation with State Governments and other stake-holders. Recommended FRP has been arrived at by taking into account various factors such as cost of production, overall demand-supply situation, domestic and international prices, inter-crop price parity, terms of trade prices of primary by-products, and likely impact of FRP on general price level and resource use efficiency.

Background | Fair and Remunerative Price

  • During the last 3 years, in order to support the sugarcane farmers and to ensure that their dues are paid by the sugar mills, the Government of India introduced schemes such as SEFASU; Soft Loan, Incentive for Raw Sugar Export and Production Subsidy. Through these interventions, the funds made available to the mills were utilized for payment of the cane price arrears of the farmers. Direct credit into the farmers’ bank accounts of their dues was also mandated.
  • As a consequence, clearance of cane price arrears of farmers reached 99.33% for 2014-15 sugar season and 98.5% for 2015-16 sugar season. Cane price arrears for the current sugar season 2016-17 is the lowest as compared to last five years of the corresponding period.
  • In order to address the current sugar season’s shortfall in production and any possible adverse price sentiment, the Government has allowed import of only 5 lakh MT of raw sugar at zero duty. However, to protect the Indian farmers, import quantity has been restricted along with zonal restrictions so as to make it available only in actually deficient areas and safeguard the interest of cane farmers.

NITI Aayog – Vision for New India (RSTV debate)

Recently the 3rd meeting of the NITI Aayog’s Governing Council was held at Delhi. With an aim to transform India (as called by the Prime Minister), the NITI Aayog has envisioned an aspiring agenda for the country to be achieved by the year 2032.

NITI Aayog | Agenda for 2032

  • As we know that the five-year plans have now been replaced by a three-year action plan which will be sub-part of a 7-year strategy which itself would be a sub-part of realising a 15-year long term vision for the country.
  • The targets set by NITI Aayog for the next 15 years include a threefold rise in country’s GDP, Rupees 2 lakh increase in per capita GDP of the country and other necessary facilities for people such as electricity, housing with toilets and digital connectivity for all people in the country with a fully literate population having unhindered access to healthcare and most importantly, ‘a clean India with clean air and water’.

NITI Aayog | Analysis

  • The immediate requirement of NITI Aayog should have been to identify the immediate challenges that our country is facing to realize a developmental vision, rather than writing a manifesto-like document for coming years such as consistent poverty in the country and global environment that may affect regional inequalities among many others. Real challenges should be addressed after taking a 360-degree view of the issues around us.
  • It is not a herculean task for India to receive 8% GDP growth rate because in the last 25 years, the average growth rate was 6.7% of GDP. When our economy is consistently increasing at a sustainable pace, we need to bring few issues under our focus –
  • Inclusive growth can be achieved by providing education for all, skill development, healthcare facilities and raising expenditure on rural infrastructure to fill the concerned gaps.
  • Resilience in the path of realisation of development by strengthening our public institutions, regulatory environment, banking system and management of our natural resources.
  • Government has promised clean and quality air which is enshrined in the NITI Aayog’s agenda but this objective stands contradictory to the aspiration which envisions a private car or two-wheeler for every citizen in the country. At a time when the world is moving towards maximising environment friendly public transport and eco-friendly approach towards energy consumption, this step looks retrograde.

NITI Aayog | Primary sector development

Development of agriculture should be focused on –

  • Enhancing productivity
  • Land leasing reforms
  • Remunerative prices
  • Risk management
  • Second Green Revolution in eastern India

NITI Aayog |  | Fiscal situation

  • The combined expenditure of Centre and States would rise by almost 92 lakh crore rupees to reach 130 lakh crore rupees by the financial year 2031-32.
  • India’s urban population would rise by 22 crore and reach around 60 crores by that time.
  • NITI Aayog also projects per capita income in the country to rise by 2 lakh rupees up to 3,14,667 rupees approximately.
  • Hence, the economy is expected to grow three-fold in the next 15 years. If the economy grows at an 8% average rate of GDP for the next 15 years, our nominal GDP will reach almost 469 lakh crore rupees by the year 2030 (around USD 7.25 trillion).

NITI Aayog | Social situation

  • NITI Aayog has also come up with indices to measure states’ performance in the field of health, education and water management. This will help states to measure the results of various social programmes and compete with each other and simultaneously share best practices and innovations in line with cooperative yet competitive federalism.
  • It has also suggested to club various social programmes and various centrally-sponsored schemes under 28 umbrella projects. For example – The panel has suggested few changes in Swachh Bharat Mission and other flagship schemes like skill development, poverty measurement and Atal Innovation Mission (AIM).

NITI Aayog | Conclusion

Soviet form of central planning may have its limitations but yearly targets and monitoring mechanisms can help the Government to better streamline plan performance for the ambitious goals set out by NITI Aayog. Unwavering political will and public support from all quarters will be the prerequisites to realise the true potential of the aforementioned ambitious targets.

To See the Full Debate : Click Below 

 

Fertiliser Subsidy | Phase Out

Government of India’s Fertiliser Subsidy bill grosses more than Rs 72,000 crore annually. Despite that, few fertiliser producing units are suffering from losses. Few months back, the Government decided to encourage healthy PSUs to invest and revive three fertiliser units which are on the brink of bankruptcy.

Fertiliser Subsidy | Issues with the decision

  • One, without the deregulation of fertiliser prices, the latest step cannot address the longstanding crisis in the fertiliser industry.
  • Two, it does nothing to resolve the problem of grossly imbalanced use of fertilisers in Indian agriculture, which, in turn, is responsible for worsening soil health and stagnant yields.
  • Three, the decision undermines Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inspirational call for “minimum government, maximum governance”.

In essence, the government’s decision points to an attempt to paper over its apparent inability to push for structural reforms in the fertilizer sector.

Fertiliser Subsidy | Issues with the fertilizer sector in India

  • The problem with India’s fertiliser sector is made up of the imbalanced use of fertilisers by farmers and the unviability of fertiliser production. As against an ideal ratio — 4:2:1 — for the use of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) fertilisers, Indian farmers use twice the amount of nitrogen in the form of urea.
  • The only reason for improper use of fertilisers in India is that, traditionally, governments have subsidized urea prices by about 70 per cent as against 30-35 per cent for other nutrients like phosphorus, potassium and Sulphur. From the producer’s perspective, as a result, there is no incentive to improve efficiency or increase production.
  • No government has been able to change a subsidy regime wherein government fixes both the market and producer prices and pays the difference as the subsidy to the producers.
  • Each year, anywhere between Rs 30,000-45,000 crore is stuck in subsidy payments and they are forced to take loans even for working capital.

That is the reason, too, why no private firm has showed interest in reviving the above mentioned fertilizer plants.

Fertiliser Subsidy | Solutions

  • The government should free fertiliser pricing and let private players produce a variety of customized products with differentiated prices and serve the vast market that exists in India.
  • Deregulation of fertiliser prices will also allow farmers to choose the right fertilizer, improve soil health and productivity.
  • The increased input costs of fertilizers of the farmers can simply be passed on the extra charge to consumers while government incorporates this increase in its calculation of minimum support prices.

Fertiliser Subsidy | Conclusion

People ask questions regarding the increased price for consumers and the general public. Forcing publicly held entities into bad investments and assuredly worsening the soil further is likely to be far costlier. For now, faced with the choice between appearing pro-farmer and being pro-farming, yet another government has chosen poorly.

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Award Scheme For Dairy Cooperatives | PIB Summary

As part of the innovative initiatives under the “White Revolution” umbrella Schemes, the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries has supported the National Dairy Development Board(NDDB) developed initiative of “Quality Mark” Award Scheme for dairy Cooperatives to promote and encourage enhancement of safety, quality and hygiene of milk and milk products manufactured by dairy cooperatives.

  • National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) is in the process of registering the quality mark logo under Trademarks Act, 1998 

Award Scheme For Dairy Cooperatives | Objectives

  • It is aimed at bringing about process improvement in the entire value chain from producer to the consumer to ensure availability of safe and quality of milk and products both for the domestic and foreign market.
  • The Quality Mark” Award Scheme for dairy Cooperatives in the country has been initiated to instil confidence in the consumers for the quality of milk being marketed by them by ensuring availability of safe and good quality milk and milk products.

Award Scheme For Dairy Cooperatives | About the scheme

  • The initiative does not propose any new/ additional system for Food Safety and Quality Management but lays down minimum standards against each link of the processes required for ensuring quality and safety.
  • The NDDB is in the process of registering the quality mark logo under Trademarks Act, 1998. The Dairy units which meet the criteria for award of quality mark will be allowed to use the logo on the package containing milk and milk products and the award of the quality mark shall be specific for location of the dairy unit as well as for the process for a particular product. The mark may be applied to the packaging or printed on a label affixed to the package. The logo/symbol of quality mark on milk and milk product packages indicates that the dairy unit has adopted and implemented all the processes required as per the food safety and quality management system for manufacture of milk and milk products as per the set quality parameters.

Central Order For Sugar | PIB Summary

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for extending the validity of the existing Central Order For Sugar for a further period of six months from.

Central Order For Sugar | Objective

  • The main objective of the decision is to enable the State Governments to issue control order with the prior concurrence of Central Government, for fixing stock limits/licensing requirements in respect of sugar, whenever need is felt by them. This is expected to help in the efforts being taken to improve the availability of these commodities to general public at reasonable rates, and control the tendencies of hoarding and profiteering.
  • The current decision will be notified by the Government and communicated to all the States/UTs for further action at their end.

Central Order For Sugar | Background

  • The Cabinet in its meeting earlier decided to enable the States to regulate supply, distribution, sale, production, stock, storage, purchase and movement etc, in respect of sugar for a period up to six months.
  • The prices of sugar are being monitored by the Department of Food & Public Distribution regularly at factory gate as well as in the domestic market. In September, 2016 it was noticed that the retail prices had shown a sudden spurt. The price rise appeared to be more on sentiment than actual shortage. In order to regulate supply of sugar and address issue of speculative prices, fixing of appropriate stock limit on need basis was essential. In addition, despite adequate availability of stocks for consumption in the current season, hoarding and consequent profiteering is anticipated due to drop in production over previous year and hence further extension of stock limit would be needed.

Central Order For Sugar | Other initiatives to control price rise of sugar

  • To support the sugar sector, the Government had recently extended soft loan assistance of Rs.4305 crores to the industry which has been directly credited to farmers account on behalf of sugar mills through banks benefitting about 32 lakh farmers.
  • Also a performance based production subsidy has been extended @Rs.4.50 per quintal of cane crushed which was directly credited to the farmers account on behalf of sugar mills.
  • In order to maintain domestic prices at reasonable levels, the Government has allowed import of a restricted quantity of 5 lakh MT of raw sugar at zero duty by millers/refiners having their own refining capacity. This restricted quantity will help the sugar industry to augment their liquidity and enable them to pay cane dues of farmers.

Report On Draft Ganga Act | PIB Summary

The committee constituted to prepare draft Ganga Act submitted its report to the Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.

Draft Ganga Act | About the Committee

  • The Chairman of the committee Justice Shri Girdhar Malviya (Retd.) said that it was a big challenge for them but they could meet it successfully. He thanked the officials of Union Water Resources Ministry and National Mission for Clean Ganga for their cooperation to the committee.
  • The Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation constituted this committee in July last year to prepare draft Ganga Act. Justice Shri Girdhar Malviya (Retd.) was the Chairman of the committee. Other members were: Shri V.K.Bhasin, Ex-Secretary, Legislative Department, Govt. of India, Prof. A.K. Gosain, IIT Delhi and Prof. Nayan Sharma, IIT Roorkee. Shri Sundeep, Director, National Mission for Clean Ganga was the Member Secretary.
  • 79-year-old Justice Malviya who is Chairman of Ganga Mahasabha is associated with Ganga conservation movement. The Mahasabha was founded by his grandfather and founder of BHU Mahamana Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya.

Draft Ganga Act | Highlights of the report

  • The committee recognized the enormous challenges being faced to maintain the wholesomeness (Nirmalta and Aviralta) of National River Ganga perpetuated due to over stressed water demand from agricultural, domestic and industrial sectors, on one hand and realized pressure on account of sustaining the religious faith, historical and social belief on other hand.
  • The challenges become more complex with no possible increase in availability of water in river course in comparison to the increasing demands but on the contrary apprehension of decreasing flow owing to climate change affects.

Draft Ganga Act | Details about the report

  • The draft Act addresses the critical issues pertaining to National River Gaga on its Cleanliness (Nirmalta) and uninterrupted e-flow (Aviralta) and provides corresponding provisions thereof.
  • The committee has adopted certain stricter provision to increase accountability and responsibility for use of resources made available by National River Ganga. The option and provision made in suggestive bills available with National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) were also considered and discussed by the committee.

Oil Palm Area And Production In India | PIB Summary

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved measures to increase oil palm area and production in India.  These include –

  1. Relaxation of land ceiling limit for oil palm cultivation under NMOOP (National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm).
  2. The Cabinet approved relaxation in restrictions for providing assistance to more than 25-hectare area also under NMOOP to attract corporate bodies towards oil palm and derive maximum benefit of 100% FDI.
  3. Revision of norms of assistance under Mini Mission-II of NMOOP.
  1. The Cabinet further gave its approval to revise the norms of assistance mainly for planting materials, maintenance cost, inter-cropping cost and bore-well to make oil palm plantations attractive.

Oil Palm Area | Impact

  • To encourage oil palm plantation on large scale by corporate bodies and to utilize wastelands. By relaxing restrictions under NMOOP, private entrepreneurs/cooperative bodies/joint ventures will show their interest in investment in oil palm plantation and availing the NMOOP support.
  • To encourage farmers for oil palm cultivation in a bigger way. The revision of cost norms will motivate fanners for oil palm plantation.
  • Annual Action Plan (AAP) of the State / Agencies will be approved by Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare on revised cost norms. The private entrepreneurs/ cooperative bodies/ joint ventures will be invited by the respective state Governments for oil palm plantation in their state.
  • At present, the programme is being implemented in 12 States, namely, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu. Mizoram, Odisha, Kerala, Telangana. Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland & Assam. Nearly 133 districts are under oil palm cultivation in these 12 states, However, all the potential states of Oil palm are covered under NMOOP.
  • There will be some financial implication in relaxing restrictions of area and up-scaling the norms of subsidies but the same would be accommodated within NMOOP fund. Therefore, no additional funds would be required.

Oil Palm Area

The norms of assistance for various interventions were decided on the basis of prevailing prices at the time of formulation of the NMOOP programme. In view of large investment towards the cost of planting material, digging of pits, planting, manuring, irrigation and maintenance of plantation for four years without any income, farmers particularly small and marginal have shown reluctance in taking up oil palm plantation. Besides, in North Eastern States, which have good potential for oil palm needs additional investment in land preparation being hilly terrain.

Oil Palm Area | Background

  • Edible Oil is an important component of household food basket. The total production of edible oil in the country is about 9 million MT. while the domestic requirement is around 25 million MT. The gap between demand and supply is being met through imports, which amounted to Rs. 68,000 crores in 2015-16.
  • Palm oil contributes 70% of vegetable oil import and is one of the cheapest oil due to high productivity per hectare.
  • Oil Palm is one of the world’s most efficient crop in terms of yield of vegetable oil per ha and today it is largest source of vegetable oil in the world. Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Thailand and Columbia are the major oil palm producing countries.

Fertiliser Subsidy Reforms | RSTV

Government of India has decided to fast track the implementation of the Direct Benefit Transfer system for payment of fertiliser subsidy to farmers. From the upcoming Kharif season beginning from June, Rs 70,000 crore fertiliser subsidy (budgeted for 2017-18) will be distributed to companies based on the actual sales to farmers taken on point of sale machines installed at nearly 2 lakh retail points throughout India. This would be a substantial change from the present system in which the firms are paid subsidy on the fertiliser receipt at the terminus point or any approved godown of the district. Until October 2012, the companies were getting the subsidy on the dispatch of material from their respective factories. 

Fertiliser Subsidy | Why reform?

  • Currently, it has not been calculated that how much fertiliser subsidy each farmer will actually require due to which the it cannot be directly allocated to the farmers. Government is trying to control the leakage of the subsidy which occurs because the sale does not always happen to the farmer as it is done to washing powder, plywood manufacturers or other manufacturing units who use urea as a by-product.
  • During demonetisation, the government specifically asked the fertilizer companies to create ‘Point of Sales’ because they were arguing that fertilizers had to be disbursed which was a challenge at that point of time. Thus, the aim is to take the digital route to transactions between the farmer and the fertilizer company.
  • It will also allow them to possibly track where the consumption is happening. There were reports ofleakage to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh and Nepal as the sale happens in India but the product is transferred to these countries. If few farmers are buying the fertilizers in surplus, that can also be checked. It should be noted that the largest consumers of fertilizers in India are Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Fertiliser Subsidy | Issues

  • Government is not promoting ecological farming in a right manner as it is concerned with only three chemicals- NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), despite the fact that plants require at least 17 elements for their growth.
  • Although Government proclaims to promote organic farming, subsidy is being given to chemical fertilizers where there is huge discrepancy in the usage. We all know that the ratio of NPK usage should be 4:2:1, but in Punjab, this ratio is 61:19:1. Urea is cheap (in terms of price) in market so the farmers use it more often which creates imbalance and affects the yield which either goes down or becomesTherefore, the whole system of subsidy should look into overall benefits to agriculture.
  • Over-usage of fertilizer is a bigger issue than the fertiliser subsidy itself. It should be noted that in 1950, with the use of less NPK, the yield was more as compared to today’s productivity. Today, with the use of more NPK, lesser yield is being produced. Hence, there is a need to improve the organic content of the soil through organic farming or compost techniques.
  • A serious issue at hand is that the Government is selling compost at the same rate as of urea which would not push the farmers towards organic farming. It is essential that farmers should produce fertilizers in their fields through organic techniques. A cropping pattern should be followed to promote organic farming.
  • Even by efficiently subsidising fertiliser usage, we are not handling the issue at hand which is a fact that these subsidies will only help fertilizer companies to sustain their business. In the long run, farmer’s business will be affected badly because the input costs will continuously increase with outputs inversely proportional to it. Moreover, the end product is also unsafe for consumption. We should remember that instead of giving subsidies on chemicals, it is essential to incentivise those farmers who are practicing organic farming. If the subsidy is linked to productivity, it will remove fertilizer companies from the game. It is doubtful, if the corporates who rely on agri-business would welcome it if the Government tries to make such a move.

Fertiliser Subsidy | Way forward

  • State Governments and Central Government should work in tandem to encourage farmers to adopt ecological farming techniques, the momentum of which should be created through robust policies.
  • In western UP and Punjab, the farmers should be moved away from wheat and rice because the ground water has depleted to an alarming level.
  • Farmers need to be educated and taught to alter their cropping pattern and move to multiple cropping methods so as to reduce both their input costs and optimum utilisation of resources.