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2 May 2024 : Daily Current Affairs

1. ISRO finds proof of enhanced possibility of water ice in polar craters of the moon

(Source – The Hindu, Section – States, Page – 3

Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology – Achievements of Indians in S&T

Understanding lunar water ice distribution aids in selecting landing sites and planning missions, crucial for India’s space exploration endeavours.

Context:
●  Indian space scientists, in collaboration with international researchers, discovered significant amounts of sub-surface water ice in lunar polar craters, crucial for future lunar exploration missions.

 Analysis of the news:

  • A study by Indian space scientists, including ISRO’s Space Applications Centre (SAC) and collaborators from IIT Kanpur, USC, JPL, and IIT (ISM) Dhanbad, reveals enhanced water ice occurrence in lunar polar craters.
  • Sub-surface ice is estimated to be five to eight times larger than surface ice in both poles, suggesting drilling for sampling is crucial for future missions.
  • The northern polar region shows double the extent of water ice compared to the southern pole.
  • Sub-surface water ice in lunar poles is attributed to out-gassing during Imbrian period volcanism, with mare volcanism and preferential impact cratering influencing its distribution.
  • Accurate knowledge of water ice distribution and depth is vital for selecting future landing and sampling sites for exploring lunar volatiles.
  • This study supports ISRO’s future in-situ volatile exploration plans on the moon, shaping future lunar missions and long-term human presence.
Imbrian Period Volcanism
●  The Imbrian period started from 3.85 billion years ago to 3.16 billion years ago, during which the Early Imbrian epoch last from 3.85 to 3.80 billion years ago and the Late Imbrian epoch last from 3.80 to 3.16 billion years ago.

●  Imbrian period volcanism occurred approximately 3.8 to 3.2 billion years ago during the Moon’s Imbrian epoch.

●  It was marked by intense volcanic activity, shaping much of the lunar surface.

●  Imbrian volcanism likely resulted from impacts that ruptured the lunar crust, allowing magma to reach the surface.

●  The volcanic activity declined as the Moon cooled, leaving behind the volcanic features we observe today.

●  Understanding Imbrian volcanism sheds light on the Moon’s geological history and early solar system dynamics.

PYQ: India has achieved remarkable successes in unmanned space missions including the Chandrayaan and Mars Orbiter Mission, but has not ventured into manned space missions, both in terms of technology and logistics? Explain critically. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of the recent discovery of sub-surface water ice in lunar polar craters for India’s space exploration missions and future lunar exploration endeavours. (150 Words /10 marks)

2. Particles called quarks hold the key to the final fate of some stars

(Source – The Hindu, Section – Science, Page – 7)Topic: GS3 – Science and Technology

Understanding quark behaviour is crucial for comprehending particle physics, nuclear fusion, stellar evolution, and astrophysical phenomena, vital for UPSC aspirants.

Context:
●  The news highlights recent discoveries in particle physics, particularly regarding quark behaviour and clumping, shedding light on fundamental aspects of matter composition, nuclear fusion, stellar evolution, and the potential existence of quark stars.

 Analysis of the news:

 Understanding Quarks and Hadrons

  • All matter is composed of atoms, with protons and neutrons in the nucleus and electrons outside.
  • Unlike electrons, protons and neutrons are composite particles made up of quarks.
  • Quarks cannot exist in isolation and form clumps called hadrons, such as protons and neutrons.

Nature of Quarks

  • Quarks come in six flavours and have properties like colour charge.
  • They are held together by gluons and form hadrons such as mesons and baryons.
  • The existence of quarks was confirmed in the 1970s, explaining phenomena like proton and neutron magnetic moments.

Recent Insights on Quark Clumping

  • Recent studies reveal new insights into quark clumping behaviour.
  • One study suggests that three-quark clumps are more likely to form than two-quark clumps under certain conditions.
  • Another study observes clumps composed entirely of heavier quarks, providing valuable information for understanding all types of quarks.

Implications for Nuclear Fusion and Stellar Evolution

  • Understanding quark clumping is crucial for comprehending nuclear fusion and the fate of stars.
  • Stars achieve equilibrium between gravitational collapse and nuclear fusion, but eventually collapse post-fusion.
  • The fate of a star depends on its mass, potentially forming a white dwarf, neutron star, or black hole.

Quark Stars and Quark Matter

  • Quark stars are theorised to form from stars too heavy to become neutron stars but not massive enough to form black holes.
  • Neutron stars contain extremely dense matter, potentially transitioning into a new state called quark matter.
  • Research suggests that most massive neutron stars may contain quark matter in their cores.

Challenges in Studying Quarks

  • Astrophysical observations combined with theoretical calculations indicate the presence of quark matter in neutron stars.
  • However, the reliability of these observations is limited by the small sample size, requiring more data for comprehensive understanding.

Quark Deconfinement and Experimental Evidence

  • Quarks are tightly bound by nuclear forces but can become deconfined at extreme energies, forming a quark-gluon plasma.
  • Evidence of deconfinement was obtained through experiments like smashing lead ions in the Large Hadron Collider.
  • The clumping process of quarks may lead to the discovery of quark stars, posing an open problem in physics.

Conclusion

  • Understanding quark behaviour and clumping is essential for unravelling fundamental aspects of particle physics, nuclear fusion, and stellar evolution.
  • Recent studies provide valuable insights into the behaviour of quarks and their role in astrophysical phenomena, paving the way for further exploration and discovery in the field of particle physics and astrophysics.
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of recent discoveries in quark behaviour and clumping for our understanding of particle physics and their implications for astrophysical phenomena. (150 Words /10 marks)

 

3. Plastic treaty talks conclude in Ottawa with little progress

(Source – The Hindu, Section – Science, Page – 7)

Topic: GS2 – International relations – Agreements involving India or affecting India’s interests.

Understanding global efforts to address plastic pollution is crucial for environmental conservation and sustainable development, vital for UPSC aspirants.

Context:
●  The news discusses the outcome of Global Plastics Treaty negotiations in Ottawa, Canada, termed “disappointing” by activist groups.

●  The news highlights challenges in addressing unsustainable plastic production and lack of viable alternatives.

 Analysis of the news:

 Global Plastics Treaty Negotiations

  • Global Plastics Treaty negotiations concluded in Ottawa, Canada, are being termed as “disappointing” by activist groups.
  • Nearly 192 member countries deliberated for a week to establish a legally binding agreement to end plastic pollution.

Challenges to Eliminating Plastics

  • The close ties between plastics and oil economies, vast manufacturing businesses, and lack of affordable alternatives hinder elimination efforts.
  • Plastics’ resistance to organic degradation leads to pollution in marine and terrestrial ecosystems, posing significant environmental challenges.

Criticism of Negotiations

  • Environmental groups criticise the failure to address unsustainable plastic production, a fundamental issue for the treaty’s success.
  • Jacob Kean-Hammerson from the Environmental Investigation Agency highlights the need to tackle unsustainable plastic production.

Outcomes of Fourth Round of Talks

  • The talks aimed to establish a timeline for halting primary plastic production, which did not materialise.
  • Instead, countries agreed to focus on detailed assessments of emissions, production, waste management, and financing, among other aspects.

UN Environment Programme’s Perspective

  • Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, emphasises the need for further progress and a clear path to achieving an ambitious deal.
  • Inter-sessional work, including expert meetings, is expected to facilitate agreement on key issues before the next meeting in Busan, South Korea.

India’s Position

  • India opposes restrictions on primary plastic polymers, arguing that production reductions exceed UNEA resolutions’ scope.
  • While acknowledging chemical concerns, India notes existing regulations and prohibitions on some plastic manufacturing chemicals.

Conclusion

  • Despite efforts to address plastic pollution through global negotiations, challenges such as unsustainable production and lack of alternatives persist.
  • Inter-sessional work and future meetings aim to overcome hurdles and achieve an ambitious deal to combat plastic pollution globally.
Global Plastics Treaty
Need of the Time for a Global Plastics Treaty:

Environmental Impact: Plastic pollution poses a significant threat to ecosystems, marine life, and human health, necessitating coordinated global action to address the crisis.

Cross-Border Nature: Plastic waste travels across borders through rivers and oceans, requiring international cooperation to effectively manage and reduce pollution.

Inadequate Regulation: Current regulatory frameworks for plastics management are fragmented and insufficient to tackle the scale of the problem, highlighting the need for a comprehensive global treaty.

Resource Depletion: Plastics production relies heavily on finite fossil fuel resources, contributing to resource depletion and climate change, necessitating a shift towards sustainable alternatives.

Challenges in Establishing a Global Plastics Treaty:

Diverse Stakeholder Interests: Balancing the interests of various stakeholders, including governments, industry, environmental groups, and consumers, poses a challenge in treaty negotiations.

●  Enforcement and Compliance: Ensuring compliance and enforcement mechanisms at the global level presents challenges due to varying capacities and priorities among nations.

●  Technological Barriers: Developing and implementing technologies for plastic recycling, waste management, and alternative materials requires investment and innovation.

Economic Considerations: Economic dependencies on the plastics industry and concerns about potential job losses may hinder support for stringent regulations.

Way Forward for a Global Plastics Treaty:

Multilateral Negotiations: Facilitate multilateral negotiations involving governments, industry, and civil society to develop a comprehensive treaty framework.

●  International collaboration: Encourage international collaboration and cooperation to address plastic pollution comprehensively. Establish a legally binding Global Plastics Treaty to regulate plastic production, usage, and disposal. Ensure equitable participation of all countries, considering their socio-economic circumstances, in treaty negotiations.

●  Standardised Regulations: Establish standardised regulations for plastics production, use, recycling, and disposal to ensure consistency and effectiveness.

●  Capacity Building: Provide technical and financial assistance to developing countries to strengthen their capacities for plastic waste management and regulation enforcement.

●  Innovation and Research: Promote research and innovation in plastic alternatives, recycling technologies, and waste reduction strategies.

●  Public Awareness: Raise public awareness about the environmental impacts of plastic pollution and the importance of individual and collective action in addressing the issue.

PYQ: (UPSC civil services prelims 2019)

Q.1 In India, ‘extend producer responsibility’ was introduced as an important feature in which of the following?

(a) The Bio-medical Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 1998
(b) The Recycled Plastic (Manufacturing and Usage) Rules, 1999
(c) The e-Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011
(d) The Food Safety and Standard Regulations, 2011

Ans: Option C

Practice Question:  Discuss the challenges faced in achieving a global consensus on the elimination of plastic pollution and the implications for sustainable development. (250 Words /15 marks)

 

4. Analysing labour on a warming planet

( Source – The Hindu, Section – Text&Context, Page – 10)

Topic: GS3 – Indian economy – Issues relating to development and employment

GS1 – Geography – Effects of Climate change

Crucial for UPSC: Understanding climate-induced hazards on labour, regulatory gaps, and implications for policy and governance.

Context:
● The news discusses the International Labour Organization’s report on climate change’s impact on workers’ health and safety, emphasizing vulnerable sectors and regulatory shortcomings.

 Analysis of the news:

 Emerging Hazards of Climate Change:

  • The International Labour Organization (ILO) identifies six key impacts of climate change: excessive heat, solar ultraviolet radiation, extreme weather events, workplace air pollution, vector-borne diseases, and agrochemicals.
  • These hazards can result in various health issues like stress, stroke, and exhaustion, affecting workers across different sectors.
  • Specifically, agriculture workers, construction sector employees, conservancy workers, and those in transport and tourism are most vulnerable.
  • Gig employment, a growing sector in India, is highly susceptible to heat-related hazards, with about 80% of the workforce potentially affected.

Affected Sectors

  • Agriculture is the most heat-susceptible sector globally, especially in the developing world, where informal labourers lack weather protection.
  • India’s Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector, employing over 123 million workers, faces similar vulnerability due to informalisation and lack of oversight.
  • The building and construction segment, constituting about 12% of India’s workforce, also faces challenges, exacerbated by urban heat island effects and air pollution.

Laws Addressing Workplace Safety

  • India has over 13 central laws regulating working conditions across various sectors, including the Factories Act, Workmen Compensation Act, and Building and Other Construction Workers Act.
  • The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 (OSH Code, 2020) consolidates these laws, but its enforcement remains pending.
  • However, the majority of India’s MSMEs are not registered under these laws, indicating a gap in governmental inspections.

Heat Hazards and Regulations

  • Regulations under the Factories Act lack specificity regarding thermal comfort based on activity levels and cooling alternatives.
  • Amendments are necessary to incorporate technological changes and update standards to ensure worker safety, similar to regulations in Brazil.
  • Instances of friction between workers and management highlight the need for improved measures to address heat-related concerns.

Other Climate Hazards

  • Efficient handling and disposal regulations require amendments to address health impacts based on temperature changes.
  • Silicosis cases are expected to rise due to increased mining activity, necessitating stricter regulations and enforcement to protect workers.
  • Vacancies and competency issues within government inspection departments pose challenges in ensuring worker safety amidst climate change.

Conclusion

  • The link between labour productivity, human health, and climate change necessitates a universally accepted regulatory framework to protect workers and ensure climate-resilient workplaces.
  • Addressing emerging hazards and updating regulations are crucial steps in safeguarding the future of labour amidst a changing climate.

 

Potential impact of climate change on labour sector
Heat Stress: Rising temperatures due to climate change increase the risk of heat-related illnesses and fatalities among outdoor workers, affecting productivity and worker health.

Disruption of Outdoor Industries: Extreme weather events such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires disrupt outdoor industries such as agriculture, construction, and tourism, leading to job losses and income insecurity.

Changes in Agricultural Patterns: Shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns alter agricultural productivity, crop yields, and harvest seasons, impacting employment opportunities and livelihoods in rural areas.

Health Impacts: Climate change exacerbates vector-borne diseases, respiratory illnesses, and waterborne diseases, affecting worker health and absenteeism.

Migration and Displacement: Climate-induced disasters and environmental degradation force communities to migrate in search of livelihoods, resulting in increased competition for jobs and social tensions.

Infrastructure Vulnerability: Infrastructure damage from climate-related disasters disrupts transportation networks, utilities, and communication systems, affecting labour mobility and access to employment opportunities.

Sectoral Shifts: Climate change may necessitate shifts in industries and sectors, leading to job reallocations and retraining needs for workers in affected areas.

Economic Impacts: Overall economic slowdown and loss of livelihoods in climate-sensitive sectors contribute to unemployment, poverty, and social inequality, exacerbating existing labour market challenges.

 

PYQ:

Q.1 Discuss the consequences of climate change on the food security in tropical countries. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2023)

Q.2 ‘Climate Change’ is a global problem. How will India be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India be affected by climate change? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2017)

Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of climate change-induced hazards on labour safety and health, highlighting regulatory challenges and the role of governance. (150 Words /10 marks)

5. Record High: GST Collections Surge to Rs 2.10 Lakh Crore in April, Marking Historic Milestone

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Cover page; Page: 1)

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors

GS3 – Indian Economy

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the dynamics of GST collections which provides insights into the government’s economic policies, taxation system, and revenue generation strategies.

 

Context:
  • The Gross Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections surged by 12.4% to reach a record high of Rs 2.10 lakh crore in April, driven mainly by a 13.4% increase in domestic transactions and higher compliance due to anti-evasion measures and audits by authorities.
Analysis of the News:

What is GST?

  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a value-added taxlevied on most goods and services sold for domestic consumption. The GST is paid by consumers, but it is remitted to the government by the businesses selling the goods and services.

Main Features of GST

  • Applicable On supply side: GST is applicable on ‘supply’ of goods or services as against the old concept on the manufacture of goods or on sale of goods or on provision of services.
  • Destination based Taxation: GST is based on the principle of destination-based consumption taxation as against the present principle of origin-based taxation.
  • Dual GST: It is a dual GST with the Centre and the States simultaneously levying tax on a common base. GST to be levied by the Centre is called Central GST (CGST) and that to be levied by the States is called State GST (SGST).
    • Import of goods or services would be treated as inter-state supplies and would be subject to Integrated Goods & Services Tax (IGST) in addition to the applicable customs duties.
  • GST rates to be mutually decided: CGST, SGST & IGST are levied at rates to be mutually agreed upon by the Centre and the States. The rates are notified on the recommendation of the GST Council.
  • Multiple Rates: Initially GST was levied at four rates viz. 5%, 12%, 16% and 28%. The schedule or list of items that would fall under these multiple slabs are worked out by the GST council.

Factors Driving Growth:

  • The primary factors contributing to this surge include increased domestic transactions and higher compliance.
  • Domestic transactions witnessed a notable 13.4% increase, indicating a strong momentum in economic activities within the country.
  • Moreover, the government’s stringent anti-evasion measures and rigorous audits have led to improved compliance among taxpayers, resulting in higher GST collections.

Historic Milestone:

  • This marks the highest level of GST collections recorded since the implementation of the indirect tax reform almost seven years ago in July 2017.
  • It also surpasses the previous highest level registered in April 2023 at Rs 1.87 lakh crore.

Government’s Response:

  • Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attributed this achievement to the strong momentum in the economy and efficient tax collections.
  • She highlighted that there are no pending dues to states on account of settlement of Integrated GST (IGST).

State-wise Analysis:

  • State-wise data reveals varying growth rates in GST collections. Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Haryana recorded significant growth in collections, while northeastern states and some Union territories experienced contractions.

Contributing Factors:

  • Tax experts attribute the record-high collections to increased economic activity, GST compliance by businesses, and audits conducted by both central and state GST authorities.
  • The deadline for GST audits and rigorous measures to combat evasion have also played a role.

Outlook and Expectations:

  • Moving forward, GST collections are anticipated to range between Rs 1.7-2 lakh crore, with expectations of a pickup during the festive season after the rainy season.
  • Factors such as the current heat wave, monsoon impact on agriculture, evolving consumption patterns, and global economic dynamics will influence future collections.

Implications for the Economy:

  • The surge in GST collections reflects a robust economic environment and improved tax compliance, which could contribute to fiscal stability and government revenue.
  • This increased revenue can be channeled towards funding developmental initiatives and infrastructure projects, thereby fostering economic growth and development.

Conclusion:

  • While celebrating this significant milestone, experts urge cautious optimism about the sustainability of this growth trajectory.
  • Factors like evolving consumption patterns, regulatory changes, and global economic dynamics will influence the trajectory of GST collections in the coming months.
Reforms Brought About by GST
  • Creation of common national market: By amalgamating a large number of Central and State taxes into a single tax.
  • Mitigation of cascading effect: GST mitigated ill effects of cascading or double taxation in a major way and paved the way for a common national market.
  • Reduction in Tax burden: From the consumers’ point of view, the biggest advantage would be in terms of reduction in the overall tax burden on goods.
  • Making Indian products more competitive: Introduction of GST is making Indian products more competitive in the domestic and international markets owing to the full neutralization of input taxes across the value chain of production.
  • Easier to administer: Because of the transparent and self-policing character of GST, it would be easier to administer.

 

PYQ: Discussion the rationale for introducing Good and services tax (GST) in India. Bring out critically the reasons for delay in roll out for its regime. (200 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2013)
Practice Question:  What were the key factors behind the record-high Gross Goods and Services Tax (GST) collections in India in April, reaching Rs 2.10 lakh crore? Discuss the significance of this milestone for the Indian economy and the challenges in maintaining this growth momentum. (250 words/15 m)

6. DRDO Conducts Successful Test of SMART System, Bolstering India’s Anti-Submarine Warfare Capabilities

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Express network; Page: 11)

Topic: GS3 – Internal Security

GS3 – Science & Technology – Achievements of Indian S&T; Indigenization of technology

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as the development and testing of advanced defence technologies, such as the SMART system, are crucial topics especially in the context of India’s defence modernization efforts.

 

Context:
  • The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted a test of the Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) system, which is aimed at enhancing the Navy’s anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
  • This test signifies a significant advancement in India’s defence technology and its efforts to bolster maritime security.
Analysis of the News:

What is a Torpedo?

  • A torpedo is a self-propelled underwater weapondesigned to target and destroy enemy vessels or submarines.
  • It is typically cylindrical in shape and equipped with explosives, propulsion systems, and guidance mechanisms.

Everything You Need To Know About

Description of SMART System:

  • The SMART system, developed by DRDO, is a missile-based mechanism designed to launch lightweight torpedoes.
  • It can effectively target submarines located several hundred kilometers away, surpassing the conventional range of lightweight torpedoes.
  • This system fills a critical gap in the Navy’s arsenal by providing a means for immediate action upon detecting enemy submarines, especially in situations where other assets are unavailable.

Successful Test Launch:

  • The test launch of the SMART system was conducted successfully at around 8.30 am from a ground mobile launcher situated at the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island off the coast of Odisha.
  • This milestone achievement highlights the efficacy and readiness of the SMART system for deployment in real-world scenarios.

Components of SMART System:

  • The SMART system features a canister-based missile system equipped with advanced subsystems, including two-stage solid propulsion and precision inertial navigation.
  • It carries a lightweight torpedo missile as its payload and utilizes a parachute-based release mechanism.
  • The validation of various state-of-the-art mechanisms during the test, such as symmetric separation, ejection, and velocity control, demonstrates the system’s robustness and reliability.

Implications for Maritime Security:

  • The successful development and testing of the SMART system represent a significant milestone in India’s efforts to modernize its defence infrastructure and combat capabilities.
  • By enabling long-range targeting of submarines and providing a swift response mechanism, the SMART system enhances the Navy’s ability to deter and neutralize potential threats in the maritime domain.

Future Deployment and Utilization:

  • The deployment of the SMART system on both coasts and warships underscores its versatility and adaptability to various operational scenarios.
  • Its ability to fill critical gaps in anti-submarine warfare capabilities positions it as a valuable asset for ensuring maritime security and safeguarding India’s maritime interests in the Indo-Pacific region.

Conclusion:

  • The successful test of the SMART system by DRDO marks a significant advancement in India’s defence technology and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
  • This next-generation torpedo release system not only enhances the Navy’s operational effectiveness but also reinforces India’s commitment to strengthening its maritime security infrastructure in line with its strategic objectives.
Issues with the Submarine Capability of India
While India has made remarkable progress in submarine technologies, several challenges remain for smooth induction as well as operations:

Lack of strength:

  • India lacks the total number of submarines, needed for its presence in the large Indian Ocean and two adversaries across the border.
  • Currently, India only has 16 SSKs (Diesel-Electric Attack Submarine), 1 SSBN(Sub-Surface Ballistic Nuclear) and 0 SSN(Submersible Ship Nuclear).
  • Even with SSKs, India only has 6 AIP-SSKs (the last one is to be commissioned soon).
  • The INS Arihant is armed with 12 indigenously developed K-15 SLBMs, with a range of just 750 km. These SLBMs are ineffective against China.
  • The K-4 missiles, with a 3500 km range, have been trialled but are yet to be commissioned in service.
  • This implies the asymmetry of naval power vis-a-vis China.

Modernisation constraints:

  • Budgetary limitations and project delays have impacted submarine force levels and technological currency.
  • The challenges lie in maintaining indigenous submarine development while keeping pace with rapid technological advancements in undersea warfare and stealth technologies.
  • India’s submarines must adapt to changing undersea dynamics, including advanced anti-submarine warfare capabilities and evolving threats.

 

Practice Question:  What is the significance of the Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) system recently tested by DRDO for India’s defence capabilities? How does it enhance the Navy’s strength? (250 words/15 m)

 

7. Government Eyes Balanced Fertilisation Policy to Tackle Rising Urea Consumption

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Explained; Page:14)

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors

GS3 – Agriculture

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of understanding the concept of balanced fertilisation, the impact of fertiliser consumption patterns on soil health and crop productivity, and the government’s role in promoting sustainable agricultural practices.

 

Context:
  • Balanced fertilisation, a practice aimed at discouraging the excessive application of urea, di-ammonium phosphate (DAP), or muriate of potash (MOP), is expected to become a key policy goal for the new government post the Lok Sabha election.
Analysis of the News:

Rising Urea Consumption:

  • Urea consumption has surged to a record 35.8 million tonnes in the fiscal year ended March 2024, marking a 9% increase compared to the levels in 2013-14, just before the Narendra Modi government came into power.
  • Despite fluctuations, urea consumption has consistently risen over the past six years.

Nutrient-Based Subsidy:

  • The introduction of the Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) system in April 2010 aimed to incentivize the use of balanced fertilisers containing primary, secondary, and micro-nutrients.
  • However, urea was excluded from this scheme, leading to continued high consumption.

Challenges with Price Hierarchy:

  • Recent years have witnessed the informal and formal restoration of price controls on non-urea fertilisers, exacerbating nutrient imbalances.
  • The current pricing structure incentivizes the over-application of DAP, leading to imbalances in nutrient uptake.

Importance of Proper Pricing:

  • Ensuring a proper price hierarchy among non-urea fertilisers is crucial to promote balanced fertilisation.
  • DAP usage should be limited to specific crops like rice and wheat, with other crops fulfilling their phosphorus requirements through complex fertilisers and single super phosphate (SSP).

Opportunity for India:

  • India’s heavy dependence on imported fertilisers, coupled with fluctuating global prices, presents an opportunity for the government to rationalize pricing and promote balanced plant nutrition.
  • Lower international prices offer flexibility to adjust domestic prices and subsidy rates, thereby encouraging the adoption of balanced fertilisation practices.

Conclusion:

  • Promoting balanced fertilisation through policy interventions is crucial for sustainable agriculture in India, necessitating a reevaluation of subsidy mechanisms and price hierarchies to discourage excessive urea consumption and encourage the use of nutrient-balanced fertilisers.
Why does Urea Continue to be the Dominant Fertiliser?
Favourable Characteristics:

  • Urea is the most widely used fertilizer because it is a rich source of nitrogen, an essential nutrient for plant growth.
  • Urea is a readily available and affordable nitrogen source for farmers, making it a popular choice.
  • It can also be easily stored and transported, making it a convenient choice for both farmers and manufacturers.
  • Urea is also a versatile fertilizer that can be applied to a wide range of crops and soil types.

Heavy Subsidy:

  • In India, urea is the most produced, imported, consumed and physically regulated fertiliser of all.
  • Urea consumption rose by over a third since 2009-10; this has been largely courtesy of its MRP going up by a mere 16.5% – from Rs 4,830 to Rs 5,628 per tonne.
  • This current per-tonne MRP for urea against DAP (Rs 27,000) and MOP (Rs 34,000) is nowhere compatible with a 4:2:1 NPK use ratio generally considered ideal for Indian soils.

 

PYQ: With reference to chemical fertilizers in India, consider the following statements: (2020)

1) At present, the retail price of chemical fertilizers is market-driven and not administered by the Government.

2) Ammonia, which is an input of urea, is produced from natural gas.

3) Sulphur, which is a raw material for phosphoric acid fertilizer, is a by-product of oil refineries.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 2 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Ans: (b)

Practice Question:  How can policy interventions encourage balanced fertilisation in Indian agriculture? (150 words/10 m)

 

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