Daily Current Affairs for 23rd January 2020

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Agriculture reforms: a mantra for equitable growth

Paper: III

For Prelims: zero Budget Natural Farming.

For Mains: Major Crops – Cropping Patterns in various parts of the country, – Different Types of Irrigation and Irrigation Systems; Storage, Transport and Marketing of Agricultural Produce and Issues and Related Constraints; E-technology in the aid of farmers.


Context of News:

  • The budget season is upon us, with a flurry of submissions being made to the finance minister from all quarters. The budget itself could result in a fine-tuning of tax rates and allocation adjustments against various expenditure heads/ministries.
  • Policy reforms in the farm sector have not yielded the anticipated outcomes.

What is zero Budget Natural Farming?

  • Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a set of farming methods, and also a grassroots peasant movement, which has spread to various states in India. The word ‘budget’ refers to credit and expenses, thus the phrase ‘Zero Budget’ means without using any credit, and without spending any money on purchased inputs.Sikkim became India’s first fully organic state after it successfully implemented organic farming practices on around 75,000 hectares of agricultural land.

Challenges for Farming in India:

  • Agriculture in India is extraordinarily heterogeneous on account of climatic conditions, landholding sizes, soil types, access to water, nature and variety of crops grown, etc. On top of these, we have the farmer, who faces the twin challenges of climate change and crop price fluctuations.
  • Dealing with fragmented land-holdings:
  • The problem of small and fragmented holdings that make individual farms unviable, especially in densely populated states, is well recognized.
  • The answer to this problem lies in consolidation based on leasing. Many small farmers now leave their lands fallow, as they are uncomfortable leasing these out for fear of losing control and ownership. The need of the hour is to have a watertight land leasing law, along with the use of remote sensing technology, to ensure proper safeguarding of ownership rights.
  • The benefits from this are many. Consolidated holdings — creation of new farms comprising fewer parcels, in place of a multitude of patches will encourage capital investments in long-term land productivity improvement and adoption of precision agriculture.
  • Encouraging food processing:
  • The agro processing industry can play a pivotal role in bringing stability to farmers’ incomes as well as facilitating transfer of technology. We have several successful examples sugar mills, dairy plants and seed companies.
  • Procurement of produce helps in elimination of intermediaries and better price realizations for the farmer. Most of these concerns also engage extension teams that work directly with farmers to raise crop yields and reduce cost of production. Proactive government support to set up food processing facilities, including interest subvention, could give this a further push.
  • Restructuring fertilizer subsidy:
  • The existing model, of under-pricing fertilizers and compensating companies for selling at below production/import cost, was relevant when there was an urgent need to promote nutrient consumption by farmers to produce more food. However, that model is today outdated, as it is resulting in over-consumption of urea and depriving the soil of other nutrients, apart from being fiscally and environmentally unsustainable.
  • The farmer is quite aware of these imbalances and should be incentivised to apply nutrients judiciously, based on his soil- and crop-specific requirements. Why not transfer the subsidy directly to the farmer on a per-ton or even per-acre basis?
  • Easing business:
  • Finally, two mantras applied to the rest of the economy should be espoused for agriculture, too — ‘ease of doing agriculture’ and ‘access to advanced technology’.
  • The Indian farmer is, moreover, deprived of new technologies — genetically modified Bt brinjal, herbicide-tolerant cotton and hybrid mustard being prominent examples. This same technology enabled India to become the world’s largest producer and second largest exporter of cotton, but we have lost those positions, even as new genetically modified products are being denied approvals.

Way Forward:

  • Organic Farming must be started form marginalized farmers by providing them all basic necessary facilities required by them. What can policymakers do to making organic agriculture viable, especially for 85% of India’s farmers who have less than one-hectare holding is.
  • National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) NASDA should work towards forming partnerships and creating a consensus among state departments of agriculture, the federal government and other stakeholders to achieve sound policy outcomes.
  • Indian agriculture has already achieved food self-sufficiency, and now it needs to leapfrog from the food security syndrome to market-oriented agriculture. This will require a stable and proactive trade policy. Exports of many agricultural commodities are increasing, but imports are rising faster than exports. India has a huge potential to export several of its agricultural commodities to Africa, Central Asia, South East Asia and West Asia, besides to its neighbouring countries in South Asia.

Meet Vyonmitra, first Indian ‘woman’ to ride to space

GS Paper III

Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

Prelims: Vyom Mitra

What’s the News?

  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is sending Vyomamitra, a talking lady robot, in unmanned Gaganyaan spacecraft.


  • It is a half-humanoid robot (it doesn’t have legs), named ‘Vyom Mitra’ or a friend in the sky, is capable of conversing with astronauts, recognising them, and responding to their queries.
  • In zero-gravity conditions, legs are not relevant.
  • Mobility is not envisaged. But launch posture it can have, and after that it can come to a normal posture.


  • Vyommitra can recognise astronauts, converse with them and answer their queries.
  • The female half-human humanoid can speak two languages, operate switches, receive voice commands and can respond via speech.
  • Vyommitra has been configured to attain launch and orbital postures, respond to the environment in the crew module, and generate warnings for CO2 and canister replacements.


  • Gaganyaan aims to send a three-member crew to space for a period of five to seven days. The spacecraft will be placed in a low earth orbit of 300-400km.
  • Four men — all pilots from the Indian Air Force — have already been shortlisted for the Gaganyaan mission.

Space robot:

  • It is programmed to simulate the environment, how a human will feel (in outer space) so it will react to the situation. For example, if there is increase of carbon dioxide or depletion of oxygen (in the crew capsule), the sensor should be able to sense it and report back.
  • It should respond to people’s commands, and recognise people and respond in an intelligent way. Scientists are trying to build some artificial intelligence in it too.

Space humanoid and terrestrial humanoid:

  • Space humanoids are designed to withstand the vibration and extreme environment.
  • Medical technology, then, is being used to send up these specimens to space and experiemnt on whether they can withdraw a harsh or adverse environment that human organs are not used to.

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