Daily Current Affairs for 11th July 2022

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Zonal Council

GS Paper 2: Centre-State Relation
Important for:
Prelims exam level: Zonal Councils, its structure and functions
Mains exam level: Cooperative Federalism, States Reorganisation Act of 1956 and North-Eastern Council Act of 1971

Why in news

Union Home and Cooperation Minister presided over the 30th meeting of Northern Zonal Council in Jaipur.
About Zonal Council
• Zonal Councils are the statutory bodies. They are established by an Act of the Parliament, that is, States Reorganisation Act of 1956.
• The act divided the country into five zones- Northern, Central, Eastern, Western and Southern and provided a zonal council for each zone.

Basis of division:

○ Natural divisions of the country.
○ River systems and means of communication.
○ Cultural affinity.
○ Linguistic affinity
○ Requirements of economic development, security and law and order.
○ The Northern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh,
○ The Central Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh,
○ The Eastern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim and West Bengal,
○ The Western Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli,
○ The Southern Zonal Council: It comprises the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

North-Eastern Council

• North-Eastern Council was created by the North-Eastern Council Act of 1971.
• Its members include Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim.
Organisational Structure:
• Chairman: The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
• Vice Chairman: The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice-Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
• Members: Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.

Objectives of the Councils

The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are as under:
• Bringing out national integration;
• Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies;
• Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences;
• Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.

Function of the Councils

Each Zonal Council is an advisory body and may discuss any matter in which some or all of the States represented in that Council, or the Union and one or more of the States represented in that Council, have a common interest and advise the Central Government and the Government of each State concerned as to the action to be taken on any such matter.
In particular, a Zonal Council may discuss, and make recommendations with regard to:
• Any matter of common interest in the field of economic and social planning;
• Any matter concerning border disputes, linguistic minorities or inter-State transport;
• Any matter connected with or arising out of, the reorganisation of the States under the States Reorganisation Act.

Natural Farming
GS Paper 2 & 3: Government Policies & Interventions, Subsidies, Poverty Alleviation and Agricultural Technology
Important for:
Prelims exam level: Natural farming, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Scheme
Mains exam level: Natural Farming, objective, benefits and issues

Why in news

The Prime Minister addressed a Natural Farming Conclave, organised in Surat, Gujarat via video conferencing.
What is Natural farming?
• Natural farming is related to soil microbiology. It involves chemical-free farming and livestock-based farming methods. It is a diversified farming system that integrates crops, trees and livestock, allowing the optimum use of functional biodiversity.
• Natural farming works on the principle that there is no shortage of nutrients in soil, air and water, and healthy soil biology can unlock these nutrients.
• In natural farming, neither chemical nor organic fertilizers are added to the soil. In fact, no external fertilizers are added to soil or given to plants whatsoever.
Components of Natural Farming
• Jivamrit: A cow dung-based biostimulant is prepared locally by fermenting dung with cow urine, jaggery and pulses flour. The requirement of dung is very low compared to organic farming, just about 400 kg for an acre of land. The fermented solution when applied to fields increases the microbial count in the soil, which supplies the plants with essential nutrients.
• Beejamrit: This farming method also uses a host of other interventions. Seeds are treated with cow dung-based stimulant which protects young roots from fungus and other soil and seed-borne diseases.
• Whapsa: The fields are managed to have some green cover around the year to aid carbon capture by plants from the air and nurture the soil-carbon-sponge. This also keeps the microbes and other organisms like earthworms alive which helps the soil become porous and retain more water.
• Acchadana or Mulching: During the cultivation of main crops, crop residues are used as mulch to retain soil moisture and prevent the growth of weeds.

• Growing multiple crops in the same patch of land also raises soil fertility.
• Universal principles of Natural farming: The generic principles that govern Natural farming are mentioned below:
 A healthy soil microbiome is critical for optimal soil health and plant health, and thereby animal health and human health.
 Soil may be covered with crops for the maximum period of the year.
 The soil across a farm or larger field/collection of fields should have diverse crops, a minimum of 8 crops over the year. The greater the diversity, the better.
 Minimal disturbance of soils is critical, hence no till farming or shallow tillage is recommended.
 Animals should be incorporated into farming. Integrated farming systems are critical for promoting Natural farming.
 Healthy soil microbiome is the key to retaining and enhancing soil organic matter. Bio stimulants are necessary to catalyze this process. There are different ways of making bio stimulants. In India, the most popular bio-stimulants are based on fermentation of animal dung and urine, and uncontaminated soil.
 Increasing the amount and diversity of organic residues returned to the soil is very important. These include crop residues, cow-dung, compost, etc.
 Pest management should be done through better agronomic practices (as enshrined in Integrated Pest management) and through botanical pesticides (only when necessary).
 Use of synthetic fertilizers and other biocides is harmful to this process of regeneration and is not allowed.

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana

• The Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), launched in 2015, is an extended component of Soil Health Management (SHM) under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS), National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA)1 . PKVY aims at supporting and promoting organic farming, in turn resulting in improvement of soil health.
• The Scheme envisages:
○ Promotion of commercial organic production through certified organic farming.
○ The produce will be pesticide residue free and will contribute to improve the health of consumers.
○ It will raise farmer’s income and create a potential market for traders.
○ It will motivate the farmers for natural resource mobilization for input production.

What are the advantages of shifting to Natural farming?

• Improving farmers’ income
• Reduce the dependence on credit
• Reduce India’s fertilizer subsidy bill
• More flexible than organic farming
• Benefits to end consumers
• Helps in combating climate change
• Reduce Ocean acidification

‘Uni-verse’ and “Open Banking Sandbox environment”

GS Paper 3: Science and Technology
Important for:
Prelims exam level: Metaverse
Mains exam level: Developments in Science and Technology, Effects of scientific developments in everyday life
Why in news
Union Bank of India, a government owned public sector bank, has partnered with Tech Mahindra to open a virtual lounge called ‘Uni-verse’ and open a banking sandbox environment in the metaverse world.

What is ‘Uni-Verse’?

• Banking is already on our fingertips via mobile phones. The next leap of technology promises to bring a human touch to the digital experience with virtual interactions in the metaverse.
• Uni-verse is a Metaverse Virtual Lounge.
• With the help of this, customers can visit a bank without actually visiting the bank.
• It will keep the information and videos related to the bank’s product, in the initial phase.
• This platform will help the customers to move around the lounge and collect information regarding bank’s deposits, government welfare schemes, loans and digital initiatives.
• It will work like a real world scenario.
• With this, the bank has joined international and foreign banks such as JP Morgan Chase, HSBC and South Korea’s Kookmin Bank, which have already made strides into the metaverse.

Open Banking Sandbox Environment

• This platform will help in collaborating with the Fin-Techs and Start-Up partners to develop and launch innovative banking products.
• It will also empower fintechs and developers by giving a platform to realise their ideas.
• This sandbox will help the Union Bank in guiding the Open Banking environment.
• It will turn the innovative ideas of third-party developers into reality as well as make a path for new avenues.

• The Metaverse is a futuristic concept which will be mimicking the physical world using technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), social media, crypto technology, blockchain, among others.
• Metaverse is a vast array of physical aspects of life restored and curated to form an augmented-virtual reality with the help of data science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.
• Metaverse is the dawn of the 5G era.
• With the advancement in technology, it cruised its way from an imagination to an accessible feature, used for the betterment of gaming and movie experience.
• The Metaverse will be capturing a mass amount of data, which it will mine and act almost immediately.
• While the Metaverse is based on distributed technology like blockchain, the ability to ensure the data captured at one part of the Metaverse is reflected in the user’s experience in another.

Khejri trees

GS Paper 3: Conservation, Environmental pollution and degradation
Important for:
Prelims exam level: Khejri tree and historical relevance
Mains exam level: Not much

Why in news

The proposed installation of eight solar power plants in Jodhpur district’s Phalodi tehsil has led to a major confrontation with the Bishnoi activists, who have strongly protested against the felling of khejri trees.
The solar energy companies, which have acquired 25,000 bigha land on lease in the region, have cut down a large number of khejri trees, which is the State tree of Rajasthan.

About Khejri trees

• The scientific name of the Khejri tree is Prosopis Cineraria.
• The tree is found in extremely arid conditions, with rainfall as low as 15 cm (5.9 in) annually; but is indicative of the presence of a deep water table.
• In India, it is also known by many other names such as Shami, Khijro, Jhand, Jat, Khar, Kanda, and Jammi depending on the region.
• Prosopis Cineraria has demonstrated a tolerance of highly alkaline and saline environments.
• In Rajasthan, it is called Khejri or Khejro. It is called Ghaf in the Middle East region.
• Khejri tree plays an important role in maintaining the ecosystem of the Thar region because of its ability to survive in dry weather.
• The tree is used in different ways, such as a source of fodder and firewood, and it helps in sustaining the soil’s nutrient value and ensuring a good yield of desert crops and food plants.
• Its fruit is used to make the popular dish ‘Sangri’.
• Khejri is the most dominant tree of the western Rajasthan; and for this exact reason, Khejri is called the state tree of Rajasthan.
• It was declared a state tree in the year 1982-83. The tree is also present in the Middle East region.
• One can also find Khejri Tree in some parts of Haryana bordering Rajasthan having similar ecological conditions.

Historical relevance

• In 1730 AD, the village of Khejarli near Jodhpur in Rajasthan was the scene of a violent environmental confrontation.
• Amrita Devi and her three young daughters gave their lives in an attempt to protect some Khejri trees which Maharaja Abhay Singh had ordered cut to make way for his new palace.
• This led to widespread defiance in which 363 people were killed trying to save the trees. In the 1970s, the memory of this sacrifice led to the start of the Chipko movement.
Religious significance
• This tree is highly revered among Hindus and worshipped as part of Dussehra festival.
• This tree takes importance during the tenth day of the Dasara Festival, when it is celebrated in various parts of India.
• Historically, among the Rajputs, the ranas – who were the high priest and the king – used to conduct the worship and then to liberate a jay which was the sacred bird of Lord Rama.
• In the Deccan, as part of the tenth day ritual of Dussehra, the marathas used to shoot arrows onto the crown of the tree and gather the falling leaves into their turbans.

Digital Nomad Visas

Important For:
Prelims exam level: Digital Nomad
Mains exam level: Impact of covid-19 on work and tourism
Why in news
Indonesia has announced “Digital Nomad Visas” for travellers, to attract more foreign tourists. To deal with the economic impacts of Covid-19 on the country.

Who are digital nomads?

• Digital Nomads are people who work remotely while travelling to different places and spending their earned income in the country they are travelling to.
• According to the 2020 State of Independence in America Report by MBO Partners, “Digital nomads are defined as people who choose to embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely, anywhere in the Internet-connected world. Unlike regular remote workers, who tend to stay in one geographic area, digital nomads travel and explore while working.”
• The study also found that 10.9 million American workers described themselves as digital nomads in 2020, which was an increase of 49 per cent from 2019.

What is the “Digital Nomad Visa” Indonesia has proposed?

• The Digital Nomad Visa would allow remote workers to stay in Indonesia, including Bali, tax-free as long as the remote workers earn from companies outside Indonesia.
• The visa will be applicable for five years. This would make Indonesia’s visa one of the longest digital nomad visas compared to other countries.
• Through the visa, Indonesia aims to bring in over 3.6 million overseas travellers into the country over the next year to explore spiritual retreats as well as the ecotourism of Indonesia.
• Through easy processing of visas and frequent flights, Indonesia aims to attract employees of organisations like Airbnb, Twitter and others who have allowed remote working for all.
What are some other countries that provide nomad visas?
• Italy in March, released a new permit for non-EU nationals, or digital nomads, who can stay in the country for up to 90 days without a visa.
• Antigua and Barbuda offer a digital nomad visa for two years where the travellers will be required to maintain their own health insurance.
• Barbados offers a year-long remote working visa which can be extended further.
• Other countries offering nomad visas are Croatia, Costa Rica, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Mauritius, Norway, and Spain among many others.

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