As humans exit, wildlife has the Nrun of Debrigarh
Debrigarh, a wildlife sanctuary in Bargarh district of Odisha, has been made completely free of any human settlement following one of the country’s largest ‘peaceful’ relocations of forest-dwellers.
As many as 400 families have moved out of their villages after a series of consultations. In a State where permanent human settlements are common even within wildlife sanctuaries, Debrigarh now stands out as an exception alongside the Nalabana Bird Sanctuary in Chilika Lake.
The positive impact of this relocation was immediately evident in the tangible drop in incidence of man-wildlife conflict in Debrigarh, spread over 353.81 sq. km; this was witnessed recently when a tiger from the neighbouring Chhattisgarh crossed over into Debrigarh.
“The relocation of villagers assumed significance as inhabitants did not have access to basic facilities such as electricity, healthcare and education. It was also a mandate to make critical wildlife sanctuaries inviolable. This is a win-win situation for both,” said Anshu Pragyan Das, Divisional forest officer (DFO), Hirakud Wildlife Division (Debrigarh sanctuary’s administrative unit). No force was used for relocating villagers from the sanctuary.
Each eligible family was paid ₹15 lakh as compensation.
Facts about the News
- It is situated in the Bargarh district of Odisha near Hirakud dam (Mahanadi River) and covers an area of 346.91 square kilometers.
- It is bounded on the east and north by the huge Hirakud reservoir.
- It was declared as a wildlife sanctuary on 8th February 1985.
- It is an important site for in situ conservation of wildlife and its habitat in the state of Odisha
– Dry deciduous forests
- After Simlipal and Satkosia, Debrigarh will be the third tiger reserve of Odisha.
Spiralling food prices
Policymakers must guard against inflation to ensure sustainable growth
Indian households find themselves yet again struggling to cope with a sharp surge in the prices of essential kitchen staples — ranging from tomatoes, onions and potatoes to tur dal and rice. Tomato prices have more than doubled month-on-month with the all-India average retail price as on June 29 soaring to ₹53.59 a kilogram, from ₹24.37 on May 29, data from the Consumer Affairs Department’s Price Monitoring Division show. And while the rise in onion and potato prices over the same one-month period is a seemingly far more benign 7.5% and 4.5%, respectively, the overall trajectory in price gains across the wider food basket is symptomatic of the unsettling build-up of underlying inflation pressures in the economy. For instance, the price of tur dal, a key protein source in the diets of vegetarian households, continues to keep rising; it had climbed 7.8% month-on-month to ₹130.75 a kilogram on June 29, as per the government’s data. Official retail inflation data for May, released earlier this month, had shown that prices of pulses, which includes tur dal, had quickened by 128 basis points year-on-year to a 31-month high of 6.56%. The government’s imposition of stock limits on urad and tur on June 2 seems to have so far done little to cool price gains in lentils.
To be sure there is a seasonality component to the prices of farm produce and their supply is largely determined by factors including timing of the harvest and the prices prevailing at the mandis when the farmers transport their crop to the markets. Just last month, tomato growers in rural Maharashtra had dumped sizeable quantities of their produce on the roads after being offered unremunerative prices. However, prices of several of these food items, including tomatoes, are still substantially higher than even the same time last year with the modal daily weighted average arrival prices at the mandis as per the government’s agmarket website revealing tomato prices almost tripled year-on-year to ₹5,579 a quintal as on June 29. The same arrival price data show a 35% jump in tur dal and a 19% increase in common paddy (rice). With the monsoon rains 13% in deficit so far this year, and the outlook for spatial and temporal distribution in the coming months clouded with uncertainty by the El Niño, there is a real risk that food prices could cause retail inflation to accelerate again. Policymakers need to walk the talk and retain laser focus on taming inflation. After all, as the Reserve Bank of India’s economists noted in the latest bulletin, “the path to high but sustainable inclusive growth has to be paved by price stability”.
The Open Market Sale Scheme for wheat and rice
What is the Open Market Sale Scheme and how does it work? Why has the government made changes to the OMSS? Why has the FCI discontinued the sale of grains under OMSS to States? How have the states reacted?
The story so far:
States have been looking at alternative ways of procuring wheat and rice in the after the Food Corporation of India’s (FCI) imposed quantity restrictions followed by the refusal to allow States to procure the two food grains through its Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS). The Centre has made it clear that the reason for restricting supplies per bidder and eventually excluding states from procuring through auctions was to curb inflation and regulate supply, States such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have criticised the government for engaging in “politics” at the expense of marginalised beneficiaries of State welfare schemes.
What is the Open Market Sale Scheme?
Under the Open Market Sale Scheme, the FCI from time to time sells surplus food grains from the central pool especially wheat and rice in the open market to traders, bulk consumers, retail chains and so on at pre-determined prices. The FCI does this through e-auctions where open market bidders can buy specified quantities.States are also allowed to procure food grains through the OMSS without participating in the auctions, for their needs beyond what they get from the central pool to distribute to NFSA (National Food Security Act) beneficiaries.
This year’s OMMS was operationalised by the FCI in January. According to the latest press release of the Food Ministry, six weekly e-auctions of wheat had been conducted by FCI till March 15, 2023. “The total quantity of 33.7 LMT wheat was offloaded and the prices of wheat came down by 19% due to this massive intervention in a span of 45 days,” noted the release.
The next e-auction for wheat under OMSS will start on June 28 and the bidding for rice will commence on July 5.
How has the Centre revised the OMSS?
The Centre decided to restrict the quantity that a single bidder can purchase in a single bid under the OMSS. While the maximum quantity allowed earlier was 3,000 metric tonnes (MT) per bid for a buyer, it will now range from 10-100 metric tonnes.
The FCI claims that the quantities have been reduced this time “to accommodate more small and marginal buyers and to ensure wider reach of the scheme”. The objective behind the move is also to curb retail prices as allowing smaller bids should ideally break monopolies of bulk buyers, allowing more competitive bids by small buyers.
First, the Centre had decided earlier this month to reduce the quantity a particular bidder can purchase under the OMSS, but on June 13 in a notification sent to the States, it stopped the sale of rice and wheat from the Central pool under the OMSS to State governments, also disallowing private bidders to sell their OMSS supplies. to state governments.
Chairman and Managing Director of the FCI Ashok K.K. Meena, said the Centre was already meeting its obligations to distribute grains to 80 crore marginalised beneficiaries under the NFSA, and also had an obligation to the 60 crore common consumers who are affected by retail prices.
How have States reacted?
In Karnataka, the Anna Bhagya scheme to give rice to marginalised families was a part of the Congress government’s poll promise.
The leaders of Congress accused Centre of conspiring to “fail” the State government’s poll guarantee by ensuring the State did not receive the required amount of rice to implement the scheme.
Tamil Nadu is trying to purchase 50,000 tonnes of rice from government agencies other than FCI. “We give rice to all ration card holders. To manage the supplies, we were buying from OMSS at a rate of about ₹35 for a kilo of rice and then subsidising it. Now, the Union government has stopped the supply under OMSS. We have to find an alternative now,” a senior government functionary of Tamil Nadu told The Hindu.
The Food Corporation of India’s imposed quantity restrictions followed by the refusal to allow States to procure the two food grains through its Open Market Sale Scheme.
The Centre said that the reason for such restriction was to curb inflation and regulate supply.
States such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have criticised the government for engaging in “politics” at the expense of marginalised beneficiaries of State welfare schemes.
Facts about the News
About Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS):
- Under OMSS, the Food Corporation of India (FCI) sells surplus stocks of wheat and rice at pre-determined prices through e-auction in the open market.
- Objective: To enhance the supply of food grains, especially wheat, during the lean season and thereby moderate the open market prices, specially in the deficit regions.
- The FCI conducts a weekly auction to conduct this scheme in the open market using the platform of commodity exchange NCDEX (National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange Limited).
- The State Governments/ Union Territory Administrations are also allowed to participate in the e-auction, if they require wheat and rice outside the Targeted Public Distribution Scheme (TPDS) and Other Welfare Schemes (OWS).
- The reserve price is fixed by the government. In the tenders floated by the FCI, the bidders cannot quote less than the reserve price.
– The present form of OMSS comprises 3 schemes as under:
- Sale of wheat to bulk consumers/private traders through e-auction.
- Sale of wheat to bulk consumers/private traders through e-auction by dedicated movement.
- Sale of Raw Rice Grade ‘A’ to bulk consumers/private traders through e-auction.
National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) – Introduction
- NCDEX (National Commodities and Derivatives Exchange) is an Indian online commodities exchange that specialises in agricultural commodities.
- It is a public limited company that was incorporated under the Companies Act of 1956 on April 23, 2003.
- Some of India’s most prominent financial organisations, including ICICI Bank Limited, the National Stock Exchange of India, and the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development, among others, launched the exchange.
- NCDEX is headquartered in Mumbai, although it maintains offices all around the country to help with trade. As of March 2018, there are 27 commodity contracts that are traded.
- There are 25 contracts for agricultural products included in the list. NCDEX is governed by an independent board of directors with no ties to the agricultural industry.
- The NCDEX is governed by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Securities and Exchange Board of India) (SEBI). Various laws under the Indian Penal Code regulate the exchange, including the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956, the Companies Act, the Contract Act, and other regulations.
- NCDEX’s headquarters are in Mumbai, and it provides services to its members from centres all around India.
NCDEX – Trading Commodities
- The National Commodity & Derivatives Exchange Limited provides a huge range of agricultural commodities for trading, totalling 23.
- These commodities include pulses, spices, and guar, which are not traded on any global platforms yet are economically essential to India, making up a significant portion of India’s global trade.
- NCDEX AGRIDEX is India’s first return-based agricultural futures index, tracking the performance of ten liquid commodities traded on the NCDEX exchange.
- The index is made up of a ten-commodity basket that is chosen based on liquidity on the trading platform.
- The NCDEX AGRIDEX acts as a benchmark, and the performance of the underlying commodities can be replicated.
Food Corporation of India (FCI):
- It is a statutory body set up in 1965 (under the Food Corporation Act, 1964) against the backdrop of major shortage of grains, especially wheat, in the country.
- It comes under the ownership of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Government of India.
- Headquarters: New Delhi
– FCI was mandated with three basic objectives:
- to provide effective price support to farmers;
- to procure and supply grains to PDS for distributing subsidized staples to economically vulnerable sections of society;
- keep a strategic reserve to stabilize markets for basic food grains;
IIT-Kharagpur to develop tamper-proof signalling system for Indian Railways
S. VIJAY KUMAR
The Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, is developing a tamper-proof signalling system based on blockchain technology for the Indian Railways. Embedded with enhanced safety measures, the new system would complement the existing Data Logger, which is considered the ‘Black Box’ of rolling stock.
Acting on a request made by the Union Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw, researchers in the Electrical and Electronics Engineering stream are working on a robust system that would facilitate a mechanism to ensure safety, communication and control of train operations.
According to Professor Aurobinda Routray of IIT-Kharagpur, blockchain is a system of recording information which cannot be tampered, hacked or manipulated. The technology was being widely used in cryptocurrency and banking transactions.
Prof. Routray said the focus was to make the live movement of trains available for Station Masters, Section Controllers, Signal Engineers and others with all logs. On how different the initiative would be from the existing Data Logger, he said the new system would provide enhanced data integrity, transparency and security. It would enable secure data sharing among stakeholders, automate processes with smart contracts and create tamper-evident audit trails.
The system would complement the Data Logger which was limited by its centralised storage facility, lack of tamper-evident data, and limited access control.
The new blockchain system would address these limitations by storing data in a distributed ledger, using cryptography.
India’s largest radio telescope plays vital role in detecting universe’s vibrations
India’s Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) was among the world’s six large telescopes that played a vital role in providing evidence confirming the presence of gravitational waves using pulsar observations, said scientists on Thursday.
An international team of astronomers from India, Japan and Europe has published the results from monitoring pulsars, called ‘nature’s best clocks’, by using six of the world’s most sensitive radio telescopes, including India’s largest telescope, the Pune-based uGMRT.
“These results provide a hint of evidence for the relentless vibrations of the fabric of the universe, caused by ultra-low frequency gravitational waves. Such waves are expected to originate from a large number of dancing monster black hole pairs, crores of times heavier than our sun,” said a statement issued by the city-based National Centre for Radio Astrophysics-Tata institute of Fundamental Research (NCRA-TIFR).
The team, consisting of members of European Pulsar Timing Array (EPTA) and Indian Pulsar Timing Array (InPTA) consortia, published their results in two papers in the Astronomy and Astrophysics journal on Thursday and shared that their results hint at the presence of such gravitational waves in their data set. A time aberration was observed in the signals emerging from these pulsars, their studies suggest. Pulsars are a type of rapidly rotating neutron stars that are essentially embers of dead stars which are present in our galaxy. A pulsar is like a cosmic lighthouse as it emits radio beams that flashes by the Earth regularly akin to a harbour lighthouse.
As these signals are accurately timed, there is a great interest in studying these pulsars and to unravel the mysteries of the Universe. In order to detect gravitational wave signals, scientists explore several ultra-stable pulsar clocks randomly distributed across our Milky Way galaxy and create an ‘imaginary’ galactic-scale gravitational wave detector.
Facts about the News
- About: The Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), is an array of thirty fully steerable parabolic radio telescopes of 45 metre diameter, observing at metre wavelengths.
- It is operated by the National Center for Radio Astrophysics of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (NCRA-TIFR).
- GMRT is an indigenous project. Its design is based on the `SMART’ concept – for Stretch Mesh Attached to Rope Trusses.
- Location: It is located about 80 km north of Pune at Khodad.
- Aim: is a low-frequency radio telescope that helps investigate various radio astrophysical problems ranging from nearby solar systems to the edge of the observable universe. To determine the epoch of galaxy formation in the universe.
- Usage: Astronomers from all over the world regularly use this telescope to observe many different astronomical objects such as HII regions, galaxies, pulsars, supernovae, and Sun and solar winds.
- Recent finding: In February 2020, it helped in the observation of the biggest explosion in the history of the universe, the Ophiuchus Supercluster explosion.
From Aug. 15, only digital payments in panchayats
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
All panchayats across the country will mandatorily use digital payments for development work and revenue collection from this Independence Day and they will be declared UPI-enabled, a letter issued by the Union Panchayati Raj Ministry has said.
The States should “announce and inaugurate” the UPI-compliant panchayats in the presence of dignitaries such as Chief Ministers, MPs and MLAs, the Ministry said in the letter to the States and Union Territories.
Sunil Kumar, Secretary, Panchayati Raj Ministry, said almost 98% of the panchayats had already started UPI-based payments.
“Payments worth ₹1.5 lakh crore have been made through the Public Financial Management System (PMFS). Payments to panchayats will now be made digitally. Payments in cheques and cash have almost been stopped,” Mr. Kumar said.
“It has almost universal coverage now. We have already covered almost 98% of panchayats,” he said.
Panchayats have been asked to hold meetings with service providers and vendors on Friday. A list with details of contact persons from UPI platforms GPay, PhonePe, PayTm, BHIM, Mobikwik, WhatsApp Pay, Amazon Pay and Bharat Pe has been shared by the Ministry. By July 15, panchayats have to choose appropriate service providers, and finalise vendors by July 30, as per guidelines by the Ministry. Panchayats have also been asked to choose a single vendor which covers the whole area.
The government asked panchayats to choose the vendors by July 15 and finalise it by July 30