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  • 12-06-2021

Ram Prasad Bismil Birth Anniversary (GS Paper 1 History) 

Context

As part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the Ministry of Culture organised a special ceremony at Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh to mark the birth anniversary of renowned freedom fighter Shaheed Ram Prasad Bismil. 

On this occasion, Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism (Independent Charge) participated in the ceremony and paid floral tribute to Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil. 

About Pt. Ram Prasad Bismil

Pt. Ram Prasad Bismil, born on 11th June, 1897 in Shahjahanpur was amongst the most notable Indian revolutionaries who fought against British colonialism. 

He wrote powerful patriotic poems in Urdu and Hindi under the pen name of Bismil from age of 19. 

He formed the Hindustan Republican Association with leaders like Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad and participated in the Mainpuri conspiracy of 1918, and the Kakori conspiracy of 1925 with Ashfaq Ullah Khan and Roshan Singh to  protest against the British Rule. 

He was martyred at Gorakhpur Jail on 19th December, 1927 just aged 30, for his role in Kakori conspiracy. 

While in jail, he wrote ‘Mera Rang De Basanti Chola’ and ‘Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna’ which became the anthem for freedom fighters.

Source: PIB

Ram Prasad Bismil birth anniversary

 

Beed model of crop insurance (GS Paper 3 Indian Economy)

Context

Recently Maharashtra Chief Minister met Prime Minister and asked him for state-wide implementation of the ‘Beed model’ of the crop insurance scheme Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yogna (PMFBY).

How does the insurance scheme work?

Launched in 2016, the flagship PMFBY insures farm losses against inclement weather events. 

Farmers pay 1.5-2% of the premium with the rest borne by the state and central governments. 

It is a central scheme implemented by state agriculture departments as per central guidelines.

For farmers, the low rate of premium and relatively decent coverage make the scheme attractive. 

A premium of Rs 1,300 can insure an hectare of soyabean for Rs 45,000. 

Prior to 2020, the scheme was optional for farmers who did not have loans pending, but mandatory for loanee farmers. 

Since 2020, it has been optional for all farmers. 

In Maharashtra, over the years, more non-loanee farmers have enrolled, although it was optional for them.

A total of 422 lakh farmers in the country had enrolled for the scheme paying a combined premium of Rs 3,018 crore (farmers share only) and insuring 328 lakh hectares in 2019-20. 

Till date, 184.9 lakh farmers have receive claims worth Rs 20,090 crore (according to the Fasal Bhima Yogna website; some kharif claims are yet to be finalised).

Why does the state wants changes?

Delay in claim settlement, failure to recognise localised weather events, and stringent conditions for claims were among the concerns. 

Another complaint was about alleged profiteering by insurance companies.

For Maharashtra, where farmers predominantly depend of monsoon rains to water their crops, the scheme soon turned out to be non-profitable for insurance companies given the high payments they had to make. 

As the table shows, payouts were close to or exceeded the premium collected in some years, leading to losses to insurance companies.

What is Beed model the state government wants implemented?

Located in the drought-prone Marathwada region, the district of Beed presents a challenge for any insurance company. 

Farmers here have repeatedly lost crops either to failure of rains or to heavy rains. 

Given the high payouts, insurance companies have sustained losses. 

The state government had a difficult time getting bids for tenders to implement the scheme in Beed.

During the 2020 kharif season, tenders for implementation did not attract any bids. 

So, the state Agriculture Department decided to tweak the guidelines for the district. 

The state-run Indian Agricultural Insurance Company implemented the scheme. 

Under the new guidelines, the insurance company provided a cover of 110% of the premium collected, with caveats. 

If the compensation exceeded the cover provided, the state government would pay the bridge amount. 

If the compensation was less than the premium collected, the insurance company would keep 20% of the amount as handling charges and reimburse the rest to the state government.

Last kharif season, Beed reported premium collection of Rs 803.65 crore (farmers’ share was Rs 60.82 crore while the rest was borne by the state and central governments). 

Kharif claims stood at Rs 8.61 crore, and thus insurance companies reimbursed the state with Rs 6341.41 crore of premium after deducting Rs 160.63 crore as handling charges.

Why is the government pushing for it for the entire state?

The reason why Maharashtra is pushing for this scheme is that in most years, the claims-to-premium ratio is low with the premium being paid to the company. 

In the Beed model, the profit of the company is expected to reduce and the state government would access another source of funds. 

The reimbursed amount can lead to lower provisioning by the state for the following year, or help in financing the paying the bridge amount in case of a year of crop loss. 

For farmers, however, this model does not have any direct benefit.

Chances of the model being implemented for the present kharif season appear slim. 

Questions remain on how the state government is going to raise the excess amount, and how the reimbursed amount would be administered.

Source: Indian Express

Beed model of crop insurance

 

Maldives UNGA presidency (GS Paper 2 International Relations)

Context

The election of Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid as the President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, that begins in September for 2021-22. 

Key Points

Maldives also sees it as a win for the 52-member Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which are battling climate change vulnerability and other developmental challenges. 

In addition, in a year when events in Afghanistan will draw attention as U.S. forces begin to pullout.

For India too, that helped Maldives canvass support, the outcome is welcome, not only because of its close ties with Male but also the high regard for Mr. Shahid, a key member of the Solih government. 

New Delhi should now ensure that the Afghan government carries no hard feelings, as some in Kabul had even hinted that India might wish to support Afghanistan as it had sacrificed its turn at the UNSC for India’s current term there. 

It would also be important to analyse why Kabul decided to field a candidate late in the race, and not withdraw despite it being clear that its South Asian neighbour was ahead, and did not consult India closely on the process.

The focus now shifts to his tenure and South Asian issues such as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and equitable access to vaccines. 

Given that the previous President of the General Assembly, from Turkey, had ruffled feathers with his remarks in Islamabad that Pakistan was “duty” bound to raise the Jammu and Kashmir dispute “more strongly” at the UN, Mr. Shahid’s tenure is expected to see a far smoother term for India, especially as the Modi government focuses on showcasing the country at the UN during India’s 75th Independence anniversary next year. 

Above all, it is hoped that India in the UNSC and the Maldivian President of the General Assembly will work in tandem as New Delhi pursues its goals for multilateral reform, and re-energise the dormant process of effecting change in the old power structures in the global body.

Source: The Hindu

Maldives UNGA presidency

 

European Space Agency’s EnVision mission to Venus (GS Paper 3 Science & Technology)

Context

Recently the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that it has selected EnVision as its next orbiter that will visit Venus sometime in the 2030s. 

Recently NASA selected two missions to the planet Venus, Earth’s nearest neighbour. 

The missions called DAVINCI+ and VERITAS have been selected based on their potential for scientific value and the feasibility of their development plans. 

NASA is expected to allot $500 million to each of these missions that will launch between 2028-2030.

What is EnVision?

EnVision is an ESA led mission with contributions from NASA. It is likely to be launched sometime in the 2030s. 

The earliest launch opportunity for EnVision is 2031, followed by 2032 and 2033. 

Once launched on an Ariane 6 rocket, the spacecraft will take about 15 months to reach Venus and will take 16 more months to achieve orbit circularisation.

The spacecraft will carry a range of instruments to study the planet’s atmosphere and surface, monitor trace gases in the atmosphere and analyse its surface composition. A radar provided by NASA will help to image and map the surface.

EnVision will follow another ESA-led mission to Venus called ‘Venus Express’ (2005-2014) that focussed on atmospheric research and pointed to volcanic hotspots on the planet’s surface. 

Other than this, Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft has also been studying the planet’s atmosphere since 2015.

Why are scientists interested in studying Venus?

At the core of the ESA’s mission is the question of how Earth and Venus evolved so differently from each other considering that they are roughly of the same size and composition. 

Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system because of the heat that is trapped by its thick cloud cover.

On the other hand, the results from DAVINCI+ are expected to reshape the understanding of terrestrial planet formation in the solar system and beyond. 

Both missions are expected to tell scientists more about the planet’s thick cloud cover and the volcanoes on its surface.

Further, scientists speculate about the existence of life on Venus in its distant past and the possibility that life may exist in the top layers of its clouds where temperatures are less extreme.

Last year, a team of scientists reported that they had found phosphine gas (a chemical produced only through biological processes) in the atmosphere of Venus that triggered excitement in the scientific community that some life forms might be supported by the planet. 

But the existence of life on the planet is nearly impossible given the high temperatures of Venus and its acidic atmosphere. 

Even so, this discovery could mean that life forms could have existed on Venus before when it was habitable. 

As per this theory, the discovery of phosphine could simply be remnants from the past.

About Venus

For those on Earth, Venus is the second-brightest object in the sky after the moon. 

It appears bright because of its thick cloud cover that reflects and scatters light. 

But while Venus, which is the second closest planet to the Sun, is called the Earth’s twin because of their similar sizes, the two planets have significant differences between them.

For one, the planet’s thick atmosphere traps heat and is the reason that it is the hottest planet in the solar system, despite coming after Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. 

Surface temperatures on Venus can go up to 471 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to melt lead, NASA notes.

Further, Venus moves forward on its orbit around the Sun but spins backwards around its axis slowly. 

This means on Venus the Sun rises in the west and sets in the East. One day on Venus is equivalent to 243 Earth days because of its backward spinning, opposite to that of the Earth’s and most other planets. 

Venus also does not have a moon and no rings.

Have humans visited Venus?

Because of the planet’s harsh environment, no humans have visited it and even the spacecraft that have been sent to the planet have not survived for a very long time. 

Venus high surface temperatures overheat electronics in spacecraft in a short time, so it seems unlikely that a person could survive for long on the Venusian surface.

So far, spacecraft from several nations have visited the planet. The first such spacecraft was the Soviet Union’s Venera series (the spacecraft, however, could not survive for long because of the planet’s harsh conditions), followed by NASA’s Magellan Mission that studied Venus from 1990-1994. 

As of now, Japan’s Akatsuki mission is studying the planet from Orbit.

Which missions did NASA announce?

Both missions called DAVINCI+ and VERITAS are part of the space agency’s Discovery Program, which began in 1992 to give scientists the chance to launch some missions that use fewer resources and have shorter developmental times. 

The two selections are a part of the ninth Discovery Program and were made from proposals submitted in 2019.

What do these missions plan to achieve?

DAVINCI+ is short for ‘Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging’ and is the first US-led mission to the planet’s atmosphere since 1978. 

It will try to understand Venus’ composition to see how the planet formed and evolved. 

This mission also consists of a descent sphere that will pass through the planet’s thick atmosphere and make observations and take measurements of noble gases and other elements.

Significantly, this mission will also try to return the first high resolution photographs of a geological feature that is unique to Venus. 

This feature, which is called “tesserae” may be comparable to Earth’s continents. 

The presence of tesseraes may suggest that Venus has tectonic plates like Earth.

The second mission called VERITAS is short for ‘Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy’ and will map the planet’s surface to determine its geologic history and understand the reasons why it developed so differently from Earth.

VERITAS will orbit Venus with a radar that will help to create a three dimensional reconstruction of its topography which might be able to tell scientists if processes such as plate tectonics and volcanism are still active there. 

This mission will also map the emissions from Venus’s surface that may help in determining the type of rocks that exist on Venus–a piece of information that is not exactly known yet. 

It will also determine if active volcanoes are releasing water vapour into the atmosphere.

Source: Indian Express

European Space Agency’s EnVision mission to Venus