Topic 1: Punjab’s area under cotton cultivation is decreasing
Context: Despite the state government releasing water in the canals on time since the beginning of April this year and providing subsidised seeds, Punjab has recorded its lowest-ever area under cotton cultivation in over six decades.
- This year Punjab managed to bring 1.75 lakh hectares of land under cotton cultivation, falling short of the state government’s target of 3 lakh hectares by 42%, with the lowest-ever area recorded under cotton farming.
- The state’s cotton yield has decreased by 45% compared to the previous year.
- The decline began in 2015, when the cotton crop was severely attacked by whiteflies.
- These are tiny white insects that suck sap from the cotton plant’s phloem or living tissue, which transports food made in the leaves (through photosynthesis) to other parts.
- The insect is also a carrier for the leaf curl virus.
- The disease-affected plants get stunted and lead to reduced yields.
Reasons behind the decreasing area under cotton
- Farmers have lost confidence in the crop due to its lower yield of late.
- After the whitefly infestation which prevented farmers from expanding their cotton cultivation for the next 3-4 years.
- The Pink Bollworm insect also caused disease among the crop in 2021 and farmers were unaware of the means to deal with it.
- Consecutive disease attacks have burdened many farmers with substantial financial losses, forcing them to switch to paddy and Basmati crops.
- This year the area under rice cultivation would increase by approximately 30% in the district that previously had a significant cotton cultivation area.
- The Punjab government should establish a Cotton Research Centre in Bathinda, where farmers should have access to soil and seed testing facilities.
- It could provide farmers with technical knowledge about the crop and raise awareness about diseases.
- Neighbouring states such as Haryana and Rajasthan have been performing well in this regard due to the presence of such research centres.
Topic 2: Anjadip and Sanshodhak
Context: Anjadip and Sanshodak were launched recently.
- ‘Anjadip’ is the 3rd of eight ships of Shallow Water Craft (SWC) Project
- The ship has been named Anjadip to signify the strategic maritime importance accorded to the island of Anjadip, located off Karwar, Karnataka.
- The island is connected to the mainland by a breakwater and is part of INS Kadamba.
- The ‘Arnala’ class of ships would replace the current ‘Abhay’ class of Anti-Submarine Warfare Corvettes of the Navy.
- These are designed to undertake anti-submarine operations in coastal waters, low intensity maritime operations, subsurface surveillance among others.
- The ships would have 80 per cent indigenisation.
- A warship ‘Sanshodhak’, – the fourth Survey Vessel Large (SVL) – of Indian Navy, was launched recently.
- The ship named ‘Sanshodhak’, meaning ‘Researcher’, signifies the primary role of the ship as a Survey Vessel.
- SVL ships will replace the existing Sandhayak Class survey ships, with new generation hydrographic equipment, to collect oceanographic data.
- With a capability to carry four Survey Motor Boats and an integral helicopter, the primary role of the ships would be to undertake full scale coastal and deep-water hydrographic surveys of ports and navigational channels.
- The ships would also be deployed for collecting oceanographic and geophysical data for defence as well as civil applications.
- The SVL will have over 80 per cent indigenous content
Topic 3: SANKALP scheme
Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship certifies 98 Trainers trained in the cluster-based Training of Trainers project under the SANKALP programme
About the scheme:
- Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) programme was launched in 2018.
- It is a World Bank loan assisted project.
- The project focuses on transforming the overall skilling ecosystem of India, covering both central and state-level agencies for improved outcomes.
- SANKALP aims to improve short-term skill development planning and implementation by employing decentralisation as a strategy, monitoring skilling activities, and promoting convergence.
- SANKALP also encourages innovative best practices at the local level, resulting in:
- enhanced access,
- quality and capacity in the skilling ecosystem and
- improved access to and completion of skills training for female trainees and other disadvantaged groups.
- Key initiatives under SANKALP are:
- Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF) Programme
- As part of SANKALP, MGNF is a two-year academic programme that combines classroom sessions at IIMs with an intensive field immersion at the district level to strengthen the District Skill Committees (DSCs) for skill planning and management.
- Engagement with Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR)
- MSDE has partnered with MoPR to integrate skill development planning in the Gram Panchayats (GPs).
- An MoU between MSDE and Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) for ‘Skill Development Planning at Gram Panchayat’ signed in 2020.
- Awards for Excellence in District Skill Development Planning (DSDP Awards)
- These awards were instituted under SANKALP to recognise the efforts in creating functional and innovative DSDPs by District Administration.
- Capacity building initiatives at states and districts
- Theme-based workshops are being organised by MSDE to build the capacity of state and district levels.
- Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF) Programme
Topic 4: What is El Nino and how it impacts the monsoon
Context: This year’s monsoon is progressing under the cloud of an El Nino in the Pacific Ocean.
The three phases of ENSO:
- El Nino:
- El Nino refers to an abnormal warming of surface waters in equatorial Pacific Ocean.
- It is known to suppress monsoon rainfall.
- La Nin:
- The opposite phase, La Nina, which is the abnormal cooling of sea surface waters in the same region, is known to aid rainfall over India.
- Neutral Phase:
- In the third, neutral phase, the sea surface temperatures remain roughly in line with long-term averages.
- Together, these three phases in the Pacific Ocean are referred to as El Nino Southern Oscillation, or ENSO.
- Though ENSO is mostly discussed in terms of temperature abnormalities of sea surface waters, it is important to understand that it is not just an ocean system.
- ENSO actually is an interaction of ocean and atmospheric conditions.
- The ‘southern oscillation’ part in the term ENSO refers to a specific atmospheric condition that is a measure of the difference in sea-level air pressure over western and eastern side of the Pacific Ocean.
- Another atmospheric condition that plays a key role in ENSO is the strength and direction of winds.
- Just the abnormal warming or cooling of surface waters in Pacific Ocean does not result in an El Nino or La Nina event.
- The associated atmospheric conditions also have to be sync.
- The ocean part of the ENSO is measured by what is known as the Oceanic Nino Index or ONI.
- The atmospheric part is monitored through Southern Oscillation Index, or SOI.
- The ocean and atmospheric conditions in El Nino or La Nina tend to reinforce each other, producing a cyclic process.
- That means that the warming of the sea surface waters during an El Nino event influences atmospheric conditions in a way that these, in turn, result in further warming of the waters.
- Similar processes happen during La Nina event as well.
- The playground of this entire system is the equatorial region in the Pacific Ocean.
- On the east are Ecuador and Peru in northwestern South America and
- On the west are the islands of Philippines and Indonesia.
- Between them is nearly 17,000 km of uninterrupted ocean.
- This region receives the most sunlight anywhere on earth, a lot of which is stored as heat in the ocean.
ENSO Neutral condition
- During a normal year, when ENSO neutral conditions prevail, the tropical regions are home to a permanent wind system called trade winds that move from east to west at quite low altitudes.
- Because of the exposure to sunlight, the sea surface in the Pacific Ocean is warm.
- When the trade winds move over the Pacific Ocean, they push these relatively warm waters, which also become lighter, in the westward direction.
- So, the surface waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, that is near the South American coast, get pushed towards the west.
- It is replaced by the relatively cooler waters from below.
- The warmer surface waters continue to get pushed till they encounter a landmass in the islands at Philippines and Indonesia.
- The result of this process is the accumulation of relatively warm waters near Indonesia, called the Western Pacific Warm Pool, and relatively cold waters near Ecuador and Peru.
- This sweeping of surface waters and its accumulation also results in a relative rise in sea levels near Indonesia.
- The warmer surface waters near Indonesia creates a region of low-pressure area, causing the air to rise upwards.
- This also results in formation of clouds and heavy rainfall.
- The air flow also helps in building up the monsoon system which brings rainfall over India.
- At higher altitudes, this air starts to move towards eastern Pacific Ocean, that is, in direction opposite to the trade winds that flow at lower altitudes.
- This wind system, east to west near the surface, and west to east at higher altitudes, creates a loop, and reinforces the temperature gradient between the east and west Pacific Ocean.
The Abnormal behaviour
- El Nino Event:
- In some years the trade winds get weakened.
- It affects the ability of the trade winds to push warmer surface waters towards the Indonesian coast.
- Not enough warmer water is swept towards western Pacific Ocean.
- That means the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, off the coasts of Ecuador and Peru, becoming warmer than normal.
- This is the El Nino phase.
- Because the sea-level at the Indonesian coast is higher, and the trade winds are not very strong to resist the motion, some accumulated warm water begins to flow backwards towards the South American coast under the influence of gravity.
- This further adds to the warming in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
- The air circulation loop also gets affected, as a result.
- That, in turn, reduces the amount of precipitation over Indonesia and neighbouring regions, and impacts the Indian monsoon as well.
- La Nina Event:
- The trade winds become stronger than usual, pushing more warmer waters towards the Indonesian coast, and making the eastern Pacific Ocean colder than normal.
- The amount of energy transferred during the movement of waters and winds in the different phases of ENSO system is massive.
- Though the most profound impacts of ENSO events are seen in the tropical regions, weather patterns across the world get affected.
- Both El Nino and La Nina usually begin to develop in the March to June season, reach their peak strength in the winters and then begin to dissipate in the post winter season.
- Both these phases typically last for a year, though La Nina, on an average, lasts longer than El Nino.
- While these phases alternate over a period of two to seven years, with the neutral phase thrown in between, it is possible for two consecutive episodes of El Nino or La Nina to occur.
ENSO and Climate Change
- In general, El Nino has a warming effect on the planet, while La Nina tends to cool it down.
- La Nina:
- On the other side of the Pacific Ocean, relatively colder water from the deep emerges on the top.
- A large area over the eastern Pacific Ocean thus contains colder water.
- This has the ability to absorb some of the heat from the atmosphere, making the atmosphere slightly cooler.
- This is how La Nina produces a cooling effect.
- El Nino:
- The warmest years in a decade are usually the El Nino years.
- The warmest-ever year on record, 2016, was part of one of the longest and strongest El Nino episodes ever, dubbed the Godzilla El Nino.
- The warming over the planet accounts only for the near-surface temperatures.
- It does not account for the massive amount of heat trapped in the oceans.
- El Nino works in exactly the opposite direction, and produces a heating effect.
- El Nino thus accentuates the global warming phenomenon, and contributes to climate change.
- El Nino or La Nina years do not alter the overall heat in the system, but these do influence how much of it gets sunk in the ocean.
Topic 5: Hiroshima AI Process
Context: The annual Group of Seven (G-7) Summit, hosted by Japan, took place in Hiroshima and the G-7 Hiroshima Leaders’ Communiqué initiated the Hiroshima AI Process (HAP).
What is the Hiroshima AI process?
- It is an effort by this bloc to determine a way forward to regulate Artificial Intelligence (AI).
- The communiqué accorded more importance to AI than the technology has ever received in such a forum.
- The communiqué as well as the ministerial declaration also say more than once that AI development and implementation must be aligned with values such as freedom, democracy, and human rights.
- Values need to be linked to principles that drive regulation.
- To this end, the communiqué also stresses fairness, accountability, transparency, and safety.
- It can help these countries develop a common understanding on some key regulatory issues while ensuring that any disagreement doesn’t result in complete discord.
- For now, there are three ways in which the HAP can move forward:
- it can enable the G-7 countries to move towards a divergent regulation based on shared norms, principles and guiding values;
- it can become overwhelmed by the divergent views among the G-7 countries and fail to deliver any meaningful solution; or
- it can deliver a mixed outcome with some convergence on certain issues and at the same time a lack of common ground on many others.
- The process can bring greater clarity to the role and scope of the ‘fair use’doctrine in the use of AI for various purposes.
- Generally, the ‘fair use’ exception is invoked to allow activities like teaching, research, and criticism to continue without seeking the copyright-owner’s permission to use their material.
- As an example, the HAP can develop a common guideline for G-7 countries that permits the use of copyrighted materials in datasets for machine-learning as ‘fair use’, subject to some conditions.
- It can also differentiate use for machine-learning per se from other AI-related uses of copyrighted materials.
- This in turn could affect the global discourse and practice on this issue.
- While the HAP is a process established by the G-7, it still has to respond to the concerns of other country-groups as well as the people and bodies involved in developing international technical standards in AI.
- It is also possible that countries that aren’t part of the G-7 would want to influence the global governance of AI, and may launch a process of their own like the HAP.
- Overall, the establishment of the HAP makes one thing clear that AI governance has become a truly global issue that is likely to only become more contested in the future.
Topic 6: Gender Social Norms Index
Context: Gender Social Norms Index released recently.
Key findings of the report:
- Released by:
- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
- The past decade didn’t see any improvement in the level of prejudice shown against women.
- Nearly 90% of people still hold at least one bias against women.
- UNDP tracked people’s attitudes towards women in four dimensions:
- economic and
- physical integrity.
- The latest GSNI report capturing data up to 2022 showed little overall progress, despite global and local campaigns for women’s rights in recent years such as Me Too, Ni Una Menos, Time’s Up and Un Violador en Tu Camino.
- Repercussions of such bias:
- Persistent biased gender social norms violate human rights and limit the enlargement of well-being by impeding women from acting on behalf of their own values and interests.
- By excluding women from decision-making, the world will lose out on perspectives, experiences, abilities, voices and ideas.
- Biased gender social norms can contribute to lack of equality in political participation.
- In some cases, biases might even intensify in the form of backlash when women attain leadership positions.
- Political bias:
- Countries with greater bias in gender social norms also show a lower presence of women in parliament.
- Indigenous women, migrant women and women with disabilities have meagre political representation, demonstrating how overlapping biases can further reduce opportunities for women.
- On average, the share of heads of state or government who are women has remained around 10 per cent worldwide since 1995, and women hold just over a quarter of parliament seats globally.
- Women are grossly underrepresented in leadership in conflict-affected countries, mainly at the negotiation tables in the recent conflicts in Ukraine (0 per cent), Yemen (4 per cent) and Afghanistan (10 per cent).
- Globally, about seven of 10 peace processes did not include any women mediators or women signatories.
- Economic Bias:
- The recent increase in education achievements has not translated into better economic outcomes and opportunities for women.
- Even in the 59 countries where adult women are more educated than men, the average income gap is 39 per cent.
- This lack of progress in closing the gender gap in income is seen worldwide.
- In countries with higher bias in gender social norms, women spend more time than men — nearly six times — on domestic chores and care work.
- Gender-based inequalities in empowerment are partly because of biased gender social norms or the undervaluation of women’s capabilities and rights.
- Even though the GSNI value changed little over the past decade, data has shown an increase in the share of people with no bias in any indicator, and this was evident in 27 of the 38 countries surveyed.
- The past few decades have seen major breakthroughs in gender social norms influenced by policies, regulations and scientific breakthroughs.
- One of the major examples is the birth control pill.
- The birth control pill followed a volatile process until its eventual social acceptance, and this had a tremendous impact on women’s control over their bodies and ability to plan their families and professional lives.
- Gender biases hold across regions, income levels and cultures.
- Without tackling biased gender social norms, the world will not be able to achieve gender equality, as reflected in the UN-mandated Sustainable Development Goals.
Topic 7: Himsagar and Langra mangoes
Context: The Himsagar and Langra mangoes were sent to former Congress president Sonia Gandhi by Ms Hasina of Bangladesh.
- The Himsagar mango is a popular mango originated in Bangladesh and West
- It is also known as Khirsapati.
- It is protected in India under the Geographical Indication tag.
- The ‘Langra’ mango, also known as Benarasi Langra was first cultivated in Banaras/Varanasi 250 to 300 years ago.
- Apart from Uttar Pradesh, it is also grown in the states of Bihar and West Bengal as well in Bangladesh.
- In some part of northern India and in Bihar ‘Langra’ mango is also known as ‘Malda Mango’, referring to the town of Malda in West Bengal.
- Dudhiya malda of Digha in Patna district is considered internationally and also called ‘king of the mangoes’.
Topic 8: Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana
Context: Stating that the per drop more crop – micro irrigation is a “priority scheme” of the Agriculture Department, the Union government has sought a report from the Jharkhand government for implementation of the scheme.
Key details about the scheme:
- It was launched in 2015 with the motto of “Har Khet Ko Paani“
- The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) is being implemented to expand cultivated area with assured irrigation, reduce wastage of water and improve water use efficiency.
- PMKSY not only focuses on creating sources for assured irrigation, but also creating protective irrigation by harnessing rain water at micro level through “Jal Sanchay” and “Jal Sinchan“.
- Micro irrigation is also incentivized through subsidy to ensure “Per drop-More crop”.
- Water Resource:
- Source augmentation, distribution, ground water development, lift irrigation, diversion of water from water plenty to water scarce areas, supplementing rain water harvesting beyond IWMP, MGNREGA, repair, restoration, renovation of traditional water bodies.
- Per Drop More Crop (Micro Irrigation):
- Installation of Micro Irrigation Systems (Drip & Sprinkler) in fields, extension activities, coordination & management.
- Ridge area treatment, drainage line treatment, soil and moisture conservation, water harvesting structure, livelihood support activities and other watershed works.
- Water Resource:
- Monitoring authority:
- PMKSY will be supervised and monitored by an Inter-Ministerial National Steering Committee (NSC) that will be constituted under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister with Union Ministers from concerned Ministries.
- A National Executive Committee (NEC) will be constituted under the Chairmanship of Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog to oversee programme implementation, allocation of resources, inter ministerial coordination, monitoring & performance assessment, addressing administrative issues etc.
- The broad objectives of PMKSY include:
- Achieve convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level (preparation of district level and, if required, sub district level water use plans).
- Enhance the physical access of water on the farm and expand cultivable area under assured irrigation (Har Khet Ko Pani).
- Integration of water source, distribution and its efficient use, to make best use of water through appropriate technologies and practices.
- Improve on – farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage and increase availability both in duration and extent.
- Enhance the adoption of precision – irrigation and other water saving technologies (More Crop Per Drop).
- Enhance recharge of aquifers and introduce sustainable water conservation practices.
- Ensure the integrated development of rainfed areas using the watershed approach towards soil and water conservation, regeneration of ground water, arresting runoff, providing livelihood options.
- Promote extension activities relating to water harvesting, water management and crop alignment for farmers and grass root level field functionaries.
- Explore the feasibility of reusing treated municipal waste water for peri-urban agriculture.