1. Centre announces hike in MSP for paddy, pulses, oilseeds
Farmer groups unhappy with the increase in paddy price
The Central government has hiked the minimum support price (MSP) for common paddy to ₹1,940 a quintal for the coming kharif season, less than 4% higher than last year’s price of ₹1,868.
The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday.
In a bid to encourage crop diversification, there were slightly higher increases in the MSP for pulses, oilseeds and coarse cereals. Both tur and urad dal saw the MSP rise by ₹300, a 5% increase to ₹6,300 a quintal, while the highest absolute increase was for sesamum, whose MSP rose 6.6% to ₹7,307. Groundnut and nigerseed saw an increase of ₹275 and ₹235 respectively. However, maize saw a minimal hike of just ₹20 to ₹1,870 a quintal.
The MSP is the rate at which the government purchases crops from farmers, and is based on a calculation of at least one-and-a-half times the cost of production incurred by the farmers. This year, the MSP for bajra was set at 85% above the cost of production, while the MSP for urad and tur will ensure 60% returns. The MSPs for the remaining crops were mostly set around the stipulated 50% above the cost of production.
The announcement comes at a time when farm unions have been protesting for more than six months on Delhi’s outskirts, demanding legislation to guarantee MSP for all farmers for all crops, and a repeal of three contentious farm reform laws.
Terming the announcement a jumla (false promise) as it did not account for the full cost of production, farmers’ groups under the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) noted that some increases, especially for maize, did not even keep pace with inflation. “There is no mechanism that guarantees that every farmer can get at least the MSP as the floor price in the market. Therefore, this is a meaningless concept as far as farmers are concerned, and that is why this movement has been asking for a statutory entitlement for all farmers so that a remunerative MSP can be ensured for all farmers,” said the SKM.
Briefing the press after the meeting, Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar reiterated that the MSPs were here to stay.
The hike in rates was proof of the Centre’s commitment, the Agriculture Minister said.
On the protests, he said the Centre was always ready to hold talks, but the unions had not accepted the options presented to them for suspending the three laws.
“If they want to talk about any other option other than a repeal of these laws, we are ready to discuss and arrive at a solution,” he told journalists earlier.
‘Deliberate policy move’
The Centre said the higher rate of returns being promised for urad, tur and oilseeds was a deliberate policy move. “The differential remuneration is aimed at encouraging crop diversification,” an official statement said.
“Concerted efforts were made over the last few years to realign the MSPs in favour of oilseeds, pulses and coarse cereals to encourage farmers shift to larger area under these crops and adopt best technologies and farm practices, to correct demand – supply imbalance. The added focus on nutri-rich nutri-cereals is to incentivise its production in the areas where rice-wheat cannot be grown without long term adverse implications for groundwater table,” it added.
Minimum Support Price for Crops
- Minimum Support Price:
- MSP is a “minimum price” for any crop that the government considers as remunerative for farmers and hence deserving of “support”.
- It is also the price that government agencies pay whenever they procure the particular crop.
- The Union Budget for 2018-19 had announced that MSP would be kept at levels of 1.5 the cost of production.
- MSP is given for the following crops:
- The Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) recommends MSPs for 22 mandated crops and fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane.
- CACP is an attached office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
- It came into existence in January 1965.
- It is an advisory body whose recommendations are not binding on the Government.
- CACP is an attached office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India.
- The mandated crops include 14 crops of the kharif season, 6 rabi crops and 2 other commercial crops.
- In addition, the MSPs of toria and de-husked coconut are fixed on the basis of the MSPs of rapeseed/mustard and copra, respectively.
- The list of crops are as follows:
- Cereals (7): Paddy, wheat, barley, jowar, bajra, maize and ragi,
- Pulses (5): Gram, arhar/tur, moong, urad and lentil,
- Oilseeds (8): Groundnut, rapeseed/mustard, toria, soyabean, sunflower seed, sesamum, safflower seed and niger seed,
- Raw cotton, Raw jute, Copra, De-husked coconut, and
- Sugarcane (Fair and remunerative price).
- The CACP considered various factors while recommending the MSP for a commodity, including cost of cultivation.
- It also took into account the supply and demand situation for the commodity, market price trends (domestic and global) and parity vis-à-vis other crops, and implications for consumers (inflation), environment (soil and water use) and terms of trade between agriculture and non-agriculture sectors.
- The Commission for Agricultural Costs & Prices (CACP) recommends MSPs for 22 mandated crops and fair and remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane.
- Changes made by the 2018-19 budget:
- Budget for 2018-19 announced that MSPs would henceforth be fixed at 1.5 times of the production costs for crops as a “predetermined principle”.
- CACP’s job is now only to estimate production costs for a season and recommend the MSPs by applying the 1.5-times formula.
- Mechanism of arriving at Production Cost:
- The CACP does not do any field-based cost estimates itself.
- It makes projections using state-wise, crop-specific production cost estimates provided by the Directorate of Economics & Statistics in the Agriculture Ministry.
- The latter are, however, generally available with a three-year lag.
- The CACP projects three kinds of production cost for every crop, both at state and all-India average levels.
- Covers all paid-out costs directly incurred by the farmer in cash and kind on seeds, fertilisers, pesticides, hired labour, leased-in land, fuel, irrigation, etc.
- Includes A2 plus an imputed value of unpaid family labour.
- It is a more comprehensive cost that factors in rentals and interest forgone on owned land and fixed capital assets, on top of A2+FL.
- Issues with the Pricing:
- In the 2018-19 Budget Speech, the government did not specify the cost on which the 1.5-times formula was to be computed.
- The CACP’s ‘Price Policy for Kharif Crops: The Marketing Season 2018-19’ report stated that its MSP recommendation was based on 1.5 times the A2+FL costs.
- Farm activists demand that the 1.5-times MSP formula originally recommended by the National Commission for Farmers headed by agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan should be applied on the C2 costs.
- Government’s Stand:
- CACP considers all costs in a comprehensive manner which is based on the methodology recommended by Expert Committees from time to time.
- CACP considers both A2+FL and C2 costs while recommending MSP.
- CACP reckons only A2+FL cost for return. However, C2 costs are used by CACP primarily as benchmark reference costs.
2. Anup Chandra Pandey is Election Commissioner
He has served as U.P. Chief Secretary
Retired IAS officer Anup Chandra Pandey on Wednesday took charge as Election Commissioner, the Election Commission of India (ECI) said in a statement.
Mr. Pandey, a 1984 batch IAS officer of the Uttar Pradesh cadre, joins Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra and Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar to complete the three-member commission. He retired as Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh in 2019.
“Under his administrative leadership as Chief Secretary, the State successfully organised the Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj and Paravasi Bhartiya at Varnasi Diwas in 2019,” the statement read.
Interest in writing
Mr. Pandey had served in the Defence and Labour and Employment Ministries. “Mr. Pandey has a keen interest in writing and has authored a book titled Governance in Ancient India, which explores the evolution, nature, scope, functions and all related aspects of ancient Indian Civil Service from the Rig Veda period to 650 AD,” the ECI said.
Mr. Pandey was appointed by the President on Tuesday, filling the vacancy that was created after Mr. Chandra was elevated to the post of CEC upon the completion of then CEC Sunil Arora’s term in April.
3. ‘Human rights should be the central theme when it comes to people’
The newly elected president of the UN General Assembly says the world body and community should come together against any form of intolerance
Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid was elected president of the 76th United Nations General Assembly for 2021-22 with a striking majority of votes cast by members (143 out of 191). Mr. Shahid spoke from New York in a virtual interview, a day after his historic win that marked the Maldives’ first time at the helm of the world body, putting the Indian Ocean archipelago at the global centre stage.
What are your plans for what you called a “Presidency of Hope” at the General Assembly, and ensuring vaccine equity in particular?
On vaccine equity, it is the first ray of hope that I want to build my presidency of hope on. It is clear that no one is safe until everyone is safe. We should avoid vaccine nationalism at all costs, because that is going to be so destructive to our efforts of making sure that we do away with this pandemic that has devastated our countries, both socially and economically. When we look at the developed countries, one in every five persons has been vaccinated, and when we look at the rest of the world, it is one in every 500 people. This is unacceptable.
India has had to stop all vaccine export since April. Do you still hope that it will be able to give more vaccines in the future?
The situation in India, I understand, is very difficult now. But it is our hope that as soon as things get better, that we will be able to benefit from Indian vaccine. I am constantly in touch with the Indian leadership on this, our conversations are ongoing.
How much was India a part of your victory at the UNGA?
India was one of the first countries that came out supporting me. I thank Prime Minister Modi and External Affairs Minister Dr. Jaishankar for their outstanding support for the Maldives’s candidature. India has always been one of our closest friends, the best friend, that has always come to the assistance of the Maldives. In addition to India, many other countries also came out.
The previous General Assembly President focused quite a lot on human rights and in particular had made comments on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine. Will human rights issues be a big part of your agenda?
Human rights issues should be the central theme when it comes to people, and the United Nations is about people. So we should, and we must have, human rights issues at the centre of our debate.
In particular, will an issue like J&K, which caused tensions between the outgoing President and India, be on your agenda?
It will be not in line with the code of conduct of the President of the General Assembly to take sides on contentious issues, because the post, like Parliament Speaker, has to be impartial.
Where are investigations into the recent attack on Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, and the renewed focus within the Maldives on tackling Islamist radicalism?
The attack is being investigated by the police, it is an ongoing investigation. We have received assistance from international partners, including Australia, the United Kingdom, the U.S., and they are all involved in it. Extremism in whatever form is an issue that the government will address very seriously.
You spoke about religious extremism, but globally there is also the rise of Islamophobia. In your new role, how do you plan to tackle both?
Any form of intolerance is not to be tolerated. And I think the United Nations and the world community should come together against such intolerance. Extremism, in whatever form, should not be condoned. And I think that is the clear message that the United Nations continues to send.
You plan to wear both hats, as Maldivian Foreign Minister and as the UNGA President. Is this unprecedented?
There have been many precedents, the most recent being, three years ago, the Slovenian Foreign Minister was elected. When we look at the 75 years of the United Nations, a large number of PGAs have been sitting Foreign Ministers.
Were you surprised by Afghanistan’s candidature and disappointed that it did not allow this to be a unanimous win for the Maldives, even in South Asia?
Afghanistan had been the President of the General Assembly in 1966. And this is the first time that the Maldives has contested this election. When you look at the history of the United Nations in the last 75 years, there is a generally accepted principle of rotation, when it comes to the PGA, with only three exceptions. When I spoke to my brother [Afghanistan Foreign Minister] Mohammed Atmar, I tried to convey to him the Maldives’ desire to have a clean slate. But on hindsight, I must thank Dr. [Zalmai] Rassoul, for being there, and having conducted a very dignified, disciplined campaign. Having a contender gave me an opportunity to put in a lot more effort.
4. U.S. Senate passes huge innovation Bill
It seeks to pump more than $170 bn into tech research to counter growing economic threat from China
The U.S. Senate passed a sweeping industrial policy Bill on Tuesday aimed at countering the surging economic threat from rival China, overcoming partisan divisions to support pumping more than $170 billion into research and development.
With both American political parties increasingly worried about competition from Asia’s largest power, the measure cleared the chamber on a 68-32 vote, one of the most significant bipartisan achievements in Congress since Joe Biden’s presidency began in January.
It also represents the largest investment in scientific research and technological innovation “in generations”, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The Bill now heads to the House of Representatives, which earlier passed a different version. The two will have to be reconciled into a single Bill before it is sent to the White House for the President’s signature.
Mr. Biden said he was “encouraged” by the Senate’s passage of the United States Innovation and Competition Act. “We are in a competition to win the 21st century, and the starting gun has gone off,” Mr. Biden said.
“As other countries continue to invest in their own research and development, we cannot risk falling behind. America must maintain its position as the most innovative and productive nation on Earth.”
The package, a key provision of which addresses a shortage of semiconductors that has slowed U.S. auto production this year, will help U.S. industry bolster its capacity and improve technology. It is seen as crucial for U.S. efforts to avoid being out-manoeuvred by Beijing as the adversaries compete in the race to technological innovation.
“Today, the Senate took a critical bipartisan step forward to make the investments we need to continue America’s legacy as a global leader in innovation,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement praising the passage of the Bill. “This funding isn’t just about addressing the current semiconductor chip shortage, it is about long-term investments,” she said.
Mr. Schumer called the measure “one of the most important things this chamber has done in a very long time, a statement of faith in America’s ability to seize the opportunities of the 21st century”.
The proposal aims to address a number of technological areas in which the U.S. has fallen behind China. The Bill allocates $52 billion in funding for a previously approved plan to increase domestic manufacturing of semiconductors. It also authorises $120 billion over five years for activities at the National Science Foundation to advance priorities, including research and development in key areas such as artificial intelligence and quantum science. And it facilitates tie-ups between private firms and research universities.
“This is an opportunity for the United States to strike a blow on behalf of answering the unfair competition that we are seeing from communist China,” said Republican Senator Roger Wicker, one of the main co-sponsors.
5. Quad vaccine partnership goal still on track: U.S. official
U.S. intends to hold a ‘very ambitious’ Quad meeting
A top Biden administration official has said the Quad group of countries — India, Australia, the U.S. and Japan — are on track to meet their goal of producing at least 1 billion vaccines for the Asia region by the end of 2022, despite the massive COVID-19 wave that has hit India in recent weeks. The Quad vaccine partnership was announced at a summit level meeting in March, before the pandemic situation in India deteriorated significantly.
“Our discussions with both our partners in the private sector and also in government suggest that we are, knock-on-wood, still on track for 2022, but… the most intense efforts right now really are in the short term,” Kurt Campbell, the Biden administration’s top official for Indo-Pacific policy, said on Tuesday. He was speaking at an event organised by the Center for New American Security, a think tank in Washington DC.
Mr. Campbell said the U.S. had been in close consultations with its partners and with India. He acknowledged that this has been an “extremely difficult period” for India and that the U.S. has tried to “stand with Delhi” and has tried to bring private and public sector support for India.
“I think we’re feeling relatively confident as we head into 2022, but we recognise that what we are facing right now across Asia, in fact, across the world, are new strains that spread more rapidly. So even countries that did extremely well through social distancing and masking… are now facing outbreaks,” he said, adding the only way to counter this situation was through “vaccine diplomacy” and that the U.S. was trying to step that up.
The second wave of the pandemic in India revealed the country’s COVID-109 vaccine shortages. The U.S. has initiated a programme to give 80 million of its excess vaccines to countries in need of them, by the end of June.
Mr. Campbell said the U.S. intends to hold a “very ambitious” Quad leaders meeting in Washington.
“But our goal is to hold an in-person Quad meeting… very ambitious meeting here in Washington in the fall with all leaders in attendance. We will ensure that we’ve taken the necessary steps on the vaccine deliverable — we intend to build on that,” he said.
He also suggested there would be some infrastructure related outcomes from this Quad meeting. Mr. Campbell had suggested this at the end of May as well, at an event in Stanford.
A White House official declined to confirm that Washington would be the location of the autumn Quad meeting, when approached by The Hindu on Tuesday following Mr. Campbell’s comments. “We want to do something constructive with respect to infrastructure and I think we’re going to take some other steps to build out the Quad to ensure that as an unofficial gathering, it still is the defining feature of modern diplomacy linking these key maritime democracies in a way that is deeply consequential for the 21st century,” Mr. Campbell said on Tuesday.
In response to a question on whether the Quad would expand at some point or focus on deepening cooperation between the existing four members, Mr. Campbell suggested the current focus was for now to “deepen” and “broaden” familiarity within existing partners but did not rule out other countries eventually participating in Quad initiatives.
- Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) is the informal strategic dialogue between India, USA, Japan and Australia with a shared objective to ensure and support a “free, open and prosperous” Indo-Pacific region.
- The idea of Quad was first mooted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2007. However, the idea couldn’t move ahead with Australia pulling out of it, apparently due to Chinese pressure.
- In December 2012, Shinzo Abe again floated the concept of Asia’s “Democratic Security Diamond” involving Australia, India, Japan and the US to safeguard the maritime commons from the Indian Ocean to the western Pacific.
- In November 2017, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending “Quad” Coalition to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of any influence (especially China).
Quad Nations and China
- USA: USA had followed a policy to contain China’s increasing influence in East Asia. Therefore, USA sees the coalition as an opportunity to regain its influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
- The US has described China, along with Russia, as a strategic rival in its National Security Strategy, National Defence Strategy and the Pentagon’s report on Indo-Pacific Strategy.
- Australia: Australia is concerned about China’s growing interest in its land, infrastructure and politics, and influence on its universities.
- Taking into account its overwhelming economic dependence on China for prosperity, Australia has continued its commitment to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with China.
- Japan: In the last decade, Japan has expressed concerns related to China’s territorial transgression in the region.
- Trade volume with China remains the key lifeline to the Japanese economy, where net exports contributed exactly one-third of Japan’s economic growth since the beginning of 2017.
- Therefore, considering its importance, Japan is balancing its economic needs and territorial concerns with China
- Japan has also agreed to involve in the Belt and Road Initiative by participating in infrastructure programs in third country. In this way, Japan can mitigate Chinese influence in those countries while improving relations with China.
- Trade volume with China remains the key lifeline to the Japanese economy, where net exports contributed exactly one-third of Japan’s economic growth since the beginning of 2017.
- India: In recent years, China’s violation of international norms, particularly its construction of military facilities on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea, and its growing military and economic power, pose a strategic challenge to India.
- Considering China’s strategic importance, India is carefully balancing China on one hand and the US on the other, by remaining committed to strategic autonomy to China, which has generally proved reassuring to China.
- India has also not permitted Australia to participate in Malabar Trilateral Maritime exercises between India, US and Japan, concerned about what message it would send to China, which is wary of the exercise.
- The recent Mamallapuram summit between President Xi Jinping and PM Modi is a positive development, valued by both sides as key to giving strategic guidance to stakeholders on both sides.
- China’s Territorial Claims: China claims that it has historical ownership over nearly the entire region of South China Sea, which gives it the right to manufacture islands. However, the International Court of Arbitration rejected the claim in 2016.
- China’s Closeness to ASEAN: The ASEAN countries also have a well-knit relationship with China. The Regional Cooperation Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a recent example of China’s increasing influence over ASEAN nations.
- Economic Power of China: Considering the economic might of China and the dependence of Quad nations like Japan and Australia on China, the Quad nations cannot afford to have strained relations with it.
- Convergence among Quad Nations: The nations in the Quad grouping have different aspirations, aims at balancing their own interest. Therefore, coherence in the vision of Quad nation as a grouping is absent.
6. No decision yet on Indian consulate in Addu Atoll: Solih
Sections in Maldives oppose Indian ‘heavy-handedness’
The Maldives has made no decision on opening an Indian consulate in its southern Addu Atoll, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said on Tuesday, a fortnight after the Indian Cabinet cleared a proposal for it.
The President remarked on the proposed Indian consulate, during a press conference on the COVID-19 situation in the country, spokesman Mabrook Azeez told The Hindu from capital Male. “He [Mr. Solih] pointed out that having multiple sites offering consular services in one country is quite common,” Mr. Azeez said.
President Solih’s comments appeared to keep the option open, amid an ongoing “#SaveAddu” social media campaign by a section of Maldivians sceptical of another Indian mission presence, in addition to the Embassy in Male.
Legislators from Addu and local body representatives — from the ruling coalition widely perceived as India-friendly — have pledged support to the initiative. Speaker Mohamed Nasheed, who is currently in Berlin, recovering from injuries sustained in an assassination attempt last month, said in a recent tweet thatAddu’s thinking has always been one that is open to the world. “Both Addu and Maldives will benefit from the creation of an Indian consulate in Addu,” he said in a Dhivehi language tweet on June 5. Opposition voices, which earlier led an ‘#Indiaout’ campaign against enhanced military cooperation between the neighbours, have opposed the proposed consulate.
Apart from its strategic location in the Indian Ocean, Addu is the second largest city in the archipelago, home to over 30,000 people. Indian government sources familiar with the proposal said the rationale for the consulate was to help Addu residents with speedy visa services.
All the same, the frequent visa requirements of locals is yet to convince Maldivians who see a new consulate with suspicion, especially on the heels of a $33-million Maldivian police training facility that India is helping build in Addu. On June 3, local publication Times of Addu ran an editorial titled ‘Indian consulate in Addu City; A possible ‘safe house’ for Indian spies?’
Further, the fact that the announcement appeared in the Indian media last month, before either government made an announcement, has prompted criticism of Indian “heavy handedness”. According to the Maldives’s former Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed, who served former President Abdulla Yameen’s administration, New Delhi must be more aware of the “sensitivities” within the Maldives.
“We saw similar apprehensions among our people when India [in 2018] was reluctant to take back the helicopters sent here, even after our [former President Yameen] government requested them. It was seen as boots on the ground, a challenge on our independence and a violation of our sovereignty,” he told The Hindu. The decision to open a consulate in Addu invokes similar suspicion, in his view. “The fact that the decision was first reported in the Indian media also shows that sort of heavy handedness.”
U.K.-based Maldivian academic Hassan Ugail, who hails from Addu, underscored the need for a data-driven approach to establish a consulate. “In principle, I am supportive of consulates of countries, including India, to be established in Addu. However, I am not supportive of the present set-up being proposed,” he said. Pointing to the “economic growth prospects” argument made by some in favour of opening a consulate, he said there are no signs yet of “such economic growth, investments or mass tourism from India to Addu city”.
“We must first demonstrate the case with facts, figures and numbers, and demonstrate signs that such activities are actually taking place. The argument of ‘let us establish a consulate and let us wait for economic growth to take place’ makes little sense,” Prof. Ugail said.
Coral reefs are the colonies of tiny living creatures that are found in oceans. They are the underwater structures that are formed of coral polyps that are held together by calcium carbonate. Coral reefs are also regarded as the tropical rainforest of the sea and occupy just 0.1% of the ocean’s surface but are home to 25% of marine species. They are usually found in shallow areas at a depth less than 150 feet. However, some coral reefs extend even deeper, up to about 450 feet.
Coral polyps are the individual corals that are found on the calcium carbonate exoskeletons of their ancestors. Corals can be found in all the oceans but the biggest coral reefs are mostly found in the clear, shallow waters of the tropics and subtropics. The largest of these coral reef systems, The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the largest coral reef is more than 1,500 miles long.
Factors affecting Coral Reefs
- Extreme climate conditions: High temperature of water leads to the declination of these corals as they cannot survive in high temperature. As estimated by scientists, most of the coral reefs of the world will soon decline with the increasing rates of ocean warming.
- Overfishing: It is another major concern as it is leading to an ecological imbalance of the coral reefs.
- Coastal development: Development of coastal infrastructure and tourist resorts on or close by these coral reefs causes significant damages.
- Pollution: The toxic pollutants which are dumped directly into the ocean can lead to the poisoning of the coral reefs as it increases the nitrogen level of the seawater leading to an overgrowth of algae.
- Sedimentation: Construction along the coasts and islands lead to soil erosion increasing the sediments in the river. As a result, it can smother corals by depriving them of the light needed to survive.
Growth conditions for Coral Reefs
- The temperature of the water should not be below 20°C. The most favourable temperature for the growth of the coral reefs is between 23°C to 25°C. The temperature should not exceed 35°C.
- Corals can survive only under saline conditions with an average salinity between 27% to 40%.
- Coral reefs grow better in shallow water having a depth less than 50 m. The depth of the water should not exceed 200m.
Types of Coral Reefs
Coral Reefs are differentiated into three categories based on their shape, nature and mode of occurrence.
- Fringing Reef: The coral reefs that are found very close to the land and forms a shallow lagoon known as Boat Channel are called Fringing Coral Reefs. The Fringing Reefs develop along the islands and the continental margins. They grow from the deep bottom of the sea and have their seaward side sloping steeply into the deep sea. Fringing Reefs are the most commonly found coral reefs among the three. For example Sakau Island in New Hebrides, South Florida Reef.
- Barrier Reef: Barrier Reefs are considered as the largest, highest and widest reefs among the three coral reefs. They develop off the coast and parallel to the shore as a broken and irregular ring. Being the largest reef among the all, they run for 100kms and is several kilometres wide. One example of Barrier Reef is the Great Barrier Reef of Australia which is 1200 mile long.
- Atolls: An atoll can be defined as a reef that is roughly circular and surrounds a large central lagoon. This lagoon is mostly deep having a depth of 80-150 metres. The atolls are situated away from the deep sea platforms and are found around an island or on a submarine platform in an elliptical form. For example Fiji Atolls, Suvadivo in Maldives and Funafoothis Atoll of Ellice.
Coral Reefs in India
India has its coastline extending over 7500 kilometres. It is due to the subtropical climatic conditions, there are a very few coral reefs in India. The major coral reefs in India includes the Palk Bay, the Gulf of Mannar, the Gulf of Kutch, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands. Among all these coral reefs, the Lakshadweep reef is an example of atoll while the rest are all fringing reefs.
Situated in the south-east coast of India, Palk Bay is separated from the Gulf of Mannar by the Mandapam Peninsula and the Rameshwaram Island and is centred on 9 °17’N and 79° 15′. The one fringing reef in the Palk Bay is 25-30km long, and less than 200m wide lies in the east-west direction of the Pamban channel. This reef has a maximum depth of around 3 m.
The Gulf of Mannar
Situated around a chain of 21 islands, the Gulf of Mannar lies between Tuticorin and Rameswaram at a stretch of 140 km. These 21 islands fall between latitude 8°47′ N and 9° 15′ N and longitude 78° 12′ E and 79° 14’E and form a part of the Mannar Barrier Reef which is 140 km long and 25 km wide.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands fall between 6°-14° N lat and 91 °-94° E longitude. They are situated at the south-eastern part of the Bay of Bengal and consist of 350 islands, of which only 38 are inhabited. These islands extend southward from the Irrawaddy Delta of Burma to the Arakan Yoma Range. All the islands of the Andaman and Nicobar groups are almost fringing reefs.
The Gulf of Kutch
The Gulf of Kutch is situated in the northern part of Saurashtra Peninsula and is located between 22°15′-23°40′ N Latitude and 68°20′-70°40′ East Longitude having an area of about 7350 sq km. These reefs are of a fringing type and are about 170 km long and 75 km wide at the mouth which narrows down at a longitude of 72° 20′. Due to the mud deposits on various coral reefs, these coral reefs are in a highly degraded condition.
Located between 8°N – 12°3’N latitude and 71 °E- 74°E longitude, the Lakshadweep Islands which lies scattered in the Arabian Sea are situated at about 225 km to 450 km from the Kerala Coast. The islands covering an area of 32 km2 consist of 36 tiny islands, 12 atolls, 3 reefs and 5 submerged banks, with lagoons occupying about 4200 km2.
Due to the warm humid climate of these islands, the temperature of the water varies between 28-31 °C with salinity ranging from 34% – 37%.
The coral and the zooxanthellae share a symbiotic relationship and 90% of the nutrients that are produced by the algae are transferred to the coral hosts. But this relationship gets affected under severe environmental stress which causes the loss of symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae). As a result, the white calcium-carbonate exoskeleton is visible through its transparent tissue leading to a condition known as Coral Bleaching. The corals become vulnerable in the absence of the algae and begin to die if the temperature of the sea remains high for weeks.
According to the records of 2016 and 2017, half of the Great Barrier Reef died due to Coral Bleaching.
Snowflake Coral – A Threat to Biodiversity
Carijoa Riisei also known as snowflake coral is an invasive species discovered recently by the scientists off the coast of Thiruvananthapuram and Kanyakumari. These fast-growing species were found at a depth of 10m off Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram and at a depth of 18m off Enayam in Kanyakumari.
The snowflake coral is known to cause a serious threat to the marine ecosystem due to the following reasons:
- According to a survey conducted on Maui Black Coral Bed in 2001, it was found that the snowflake corals killed 60% of the black coral trees which was found between 80 metres to 150 metres depth.
- They consume large quantities of the zooplanktons which can have a high ecological impact.
- They threaten the biodiversity by displacing the native species and by monopolizing food resources.
- It has the capacity to invade space and as a result, it can crowd out marine species like corals, algae and sponges that play a major role in maintaining the marine biodiversity.
7. Cabinet approves 5 MHz spectrum for Railways
Tech to help avoid accidents, delays
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the allotment of 5 Mhz spectrum in the premium 700 MHz band to the Railways for captive use in areas of public safety and security services.
With this spectrum, the Railways will introduce Long-Term Evolution (LTE)-based Mobile Train Radio Communication (MTRC) on its routes. This will help prevent train accidents and reduce delays by enabling real-time interaction between the Loco Pilot, Station Master and the Control Centre. The project, targeted to be completed in five years, is estimated to cost over ₹ 25,000 crore.
“LTE… will be used for modern signalling and train protection systems and ensure seamless communication between loco pilots and guards,” an official statement said. This will also enable the Railways to take up Internet of Things (IoT)-based remote monitoring, particularly of coaches, wagons and locos, and monitor live feeds of CCTV cameras in the coaches.
LTE stands for ‘Long Term Evolution’. Generally, LTE is also called 4G. During this service, the internet runs at 4G speed on your smartphone. In this network, you can enjoy the internet with high-speed bandwidth.
However, the drawback of this network is that if you are using it in your smartphone and someone calls your number, then the internet connectivity stops. But this problem was solved by the VoLTE connectivity. Airtel launched the first LTE network service in India in 2012.
VoLTE stands for ‘Voice over Long Term Evolution’. It also supports 4G networks. Like LTE, you can also enjoy high-speed internet in it.
This network has solved the problem of LTE. In this network, you can enjoy high-speed internet service even if you got a call during internet use. Reliance Jio had launched the full-fledged VoLTE service in India in 2016.
So VoLTE is specifically capable of managing and improving high-speed voice and data services over 4G LTE networks.
Difference between LTE and VoLTE
|1. Its full form is ‘Long Term Evolution’.||1. Its full form is ‘VoLTE stands for Voice over Long Term Evolution’.|
|2. The users need to have External software to make video calls on LTE networks such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Skype.||2. The users need not have an external software to make video calls but just phone number is required to video call anybody.|
|3. It May or may not support voice calls and data services together.||3. It supports voice calls and data services together.|
|4. It targets increasing data rates on the 4G bandwidth only.||4. It targets both internet data and voice calling without affecting each other.|
|5. It takes around 7 seconds to connect a call on 3G networks.||5. It connects the users only in a second if both users are on the VoLTE network.|
|6. It was launched by Airtel in India.||6. It was launched by the Jio in India.|
|7. It was launched in 2012.||7. It was launched in 2016.|
LTE is the next generation of mobile technology that provides high-speed data transfer. The terms 4G is synonymous with LTE which supports download speed up to 100 Mbps and upload speed up to 50 Mbps.
8. Editorial-1: The promise and perils of digital justice delivery
Phase 3 of the e-Courts project can harness technology for service delivery without increasing surveillance risks
In popular perception, Indian courts are not associated first with the delivery of justice, but with long delays and difficulties for ordinary litigants. According to data released by the Supreme Court in the June 2020 newsletter of the e-Committee, 3.27 crore cases are pending before Indian courts, of which 85,000 have been pending for over 30 years. Can technology be used to revolutionise India’s courts? Yes, but only when it operates within the constitutional framework of the fundamental rights of citizens. If not, technology will only further exclusion, inequity and surveillance.
The e-Courts project
The e-Committee of the Supreme Court of India recently released its draft vision document for Phase III of the e-Courts project. Phases I and II had dealt with digitisation of the judiciary, i.e., e-filing, tracking cases online, uploading judgments online, etc. Even though the job is not complete, particularly at the lower levels of the judiciary, the project can so far be termed a success. This has been particularly so during the COVID-19 pandemic, when physical courts were forced to shut down. Despite some hiccups, the Supreme Court and High Courts have been able to function online. This was made possible by the e-Courts project, monitored by the e-Committee.
Phase III of the e-Courts project, however, has reached the stage in a trilogy where the franchise starts trying to do too much and goes off the tram line. On the surface, the objectives remain noble. There is commitment to the digitisation of court processes, and plans to upgrade the electronic infrastructure of the judiciary and enable access to lawyers and litigants.
However, the document goes on to propose an “ecosystem approach” to justice delivery. It suggests a “seamless exchange of information” between various branches of the State, such as between the judiciary, the police and the prison systems through the Interoperable Criminal Justice System (ICJS). It has been pointed out by organisations such as the Criminal Justice and Police Accountability Project that the ICJS will likely exacerbate existing class and caste inequalities that characterise the police and prison system. This is because the exercise of data creation happens at local police stations, which have historically contributed to the criminalisation of entire communities through colonial-era laws such as the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871, by labelling such communities as “habitual offenders”.This is of particular concern since the data collected, shared and collated through the e-Courts project will be housed within the Home Ministry under the ICJS.
A cause for concern
Several individuals and organisations have warned against the zeal of the data collection exercises contemplated by the draft proposal. The “seamless exchange of information” relies on large-scale gathering and sharing of data. Data collection is by itself not an evil process. In fact, data can be a useful tool for solving complex problems. For example, to address the problem of cases pending simply for service of summons, Phase II of the e-Courts project saw the development of the National Service and Tracking of Electronic Processes, a software that enabled e-service of summons. It is only when data collection is combined with extensive data sharing and data storage that it becomes a cause for concern. The Supreme Court must take care not to violate the privacy standards that it set in Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017), especially since India does not yet have a data protection regime.
Data can be useful when it provides anonymous, aggregated, and statistical information about issues without identifying the individuals. This could be made possible in Phase III by encouraging uniformity and standardisation of entry fields. Unfortunately, there has been a dangerous trend towards creating a 360-degree profile of each person by integrating all of their interactions with government agencies into a unified database. This approach has been perfected by social media platforms and technology companies, and the government is now trying to do the same. The difference is that when technology companies do this, we get targeted advertising, but if the government does it, we get targeted surveillance.
This 360-degree approach is the main objective of Phase III. Once any government department moves online, their pen-and-paper registers will become excel sheets, shareable with a single click. Localised data will become centralised. Holdovers from the analog age ought not to have an issue with this process, since it can lead to great advancements in problem-solving. However, it is the next stage which is a cause for concern even for the most vocal proponents of the digital age, which is integration with other agencies.
When integrating data from all the lower courts, the intersection lies at the higher judiciary, because those are the appellate authorities connecting all the lower courts. When integrating data of the courts and police stations, the intersection lies with the individual citizen, since it is the citizen’s interaction with these branches of the state that is being monitored. While it is understandable why the courts could reasonably benefit from access to police and prison records, courts deal with a variety of matters, some of which may be purely civil, commercial or personal in nature. No clear explanation has been offered for why the Home Ministry needs access to court data that may have absolutely no relation to criminal law. This process serves no purpose other than profiling and surveillance.
Role of technology
Since the Phase III vision document is a draft, there is still an opportunity to abandon the ecosystem approach. The objectives were to streamline judicial processes, reduce pendency, and help the litigants. To continue to do that within the framework of our fundamental rights, the e-Courts must move towards localisation of data, instead of centralisation. The e-Committee must prevent the “seamless exchange” of data between the branches of the state that ought to remain separate. Technology plays an important role in the project, but it cannot be an end in itself.