Daily Current Affairs 20.11.2022 (‘67% drop in PM-Kisan payout in 3 years’, Hypertension: a ticking time bomb in Indian adolescents, Climate change drives dengue spread in France, What is India’s future strategy on emissions?, Centre scraps export tax on iron ore and steel)

Daily Current Affairs 20.11.2022 (‘67% drop in PM-Kisan payout in 3 years’, Hypertension: a ticking time bomb in Indian adolescents, Climate change drives dengue spread in France, What is India’s future strategy on emissions?, Centre scraps export tax on iron ore and steel)

1. ‘67% drop in PM-Kisan payout in 3 years’

The number of beneficiaries of the scheme came down from 11.84 crore to 3.87 crore since the first installment in February 2019 till the 11th installment in May-June 2022, show Agriculture Ministry data; Centre says families have so far received more than 2 lakh crore under the scheme

The number of farmers who received the 11th installment of funds from the Prime Minister’s Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) has fallen by 67%, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s response to a Right to Information query from activist Kanhaiya Kumar.

PM-KISAN is a flagship Central scheme launched in 2019 to pay eligible farmer families ₹6,000 a year in three installments of ₹2,000 each.

The Agriculture Ministry’s installment-wise payment success report showed that only 3.87 crore farmers received the 11th installment of ₹2,000 in their accounts in May-June 2022. This is a sharp drop from the 11.84 crore farmers who received the first installment back in February 2019, just before the Lok Sabha election.

The 12th installment was disbursed on October 17 this year.

Year-by-year drop

From 11.84 crore farmers in the first installment, the falling trend started from the sixth installment which was received by 9.87 crore farmers. The seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th installments were received by 9.30 crore, 8.59 crore, 7.66 crore and 6.34 crore people, respectively.

The Ministry did not respond to The Hindu’s queries on why the number of beneficiaries has declined so sharply.

The data revealed that in Andhra Pradesh, the number of beneficiaries came down from 55.68 lakh to 28.2 lakh. In Bihar, the number reached seven lakh from 83 lakh, while in Chhattisgarh; just two lakh farmers received the 11th installment, instead of 37 lakh people who got the amount in the first installment.

In poll-bound Gujarat, 63.13 lakh farmers got the amount in 2019, but in 2022, only 28.41 lakh farmers benefited from the scheme.

Similarly in Haryana, 19.73 lakh farmers received the first installment, but only 11.59 lakh farmers got the 11th installment. In Maharashtra, the number came down from 1.09 crore in 2019 to 37.51 lakh in 2022.

In Madhya Pradesh, while 88.63 lakh farmers received the aid in 2019, only 12,053 received the amount in 2022. In Meghalaya, 627 farmers got it in 2022 against 1.95 lakh farmers in 2019. In Punjab, too, the number decreased to 11.31 lakh from 23.34 lakh.

In Uttar Pradesh, 2.6 crore farmers availed the aid in 2019, and it decreased by half to 1.26 crore in 2022. In West Bengal, according to the data, 45.63 lakh farmers received the amount in 2019 and no farmers got the money since the sixth installment. The State government had raised this matter with Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar.

In Assam, the number of people who received the payment came down from 28.79 lakh to 2.54 lakh. In Chandigarh, just three people got the amount in May-June 2022. In Delhi, the number came down to 2,065 from 16,513.

In Himachal Pradesh too, the number came down by half from 9.86 lakh to 5.43 lakh. In Jammu and Kashmir, the beneficiaries who received the payment was 5.61 lakh from 12.07 lakh in 2019. In Jharkhand 4.17 lakh farmers got the money in May-June while in 2019, 27.07 lakh people had received the amount.

In BJP-ruled Karnataka, the number came down from 55.61 lakh to 2.58 lakh. In Kerala, 24.23 lakh beneficiaries received the payment in 2022 against 36.99 lakh in 2019.

Similarly in Odisha, 7.05 lakh farmers got the payment in 2022, while in 2019, the number was 39.2 lakh.

In Tamil Nadu, 23.04 farmers received the money in 2022 and 46.8 lakh got the amount in 2019. In Telangana, 24.32 lakh people received the payment in 2022; the first installment was received by 39.1 lakh farmers. In Tripura too, the number has come down by half.

A wind-up coming?

All India Kisan Sabha president Ashok Dhawale termed the data “very shocking”.

“Two-thirds of the farmers have not received the payment according to this data in 2022. There is no logical reason for such a decrease in the number of beneficiaries. It shows that the Centre is trying to slowly wind up this scheme. This scheme is not at all a substitute for the legally guaranteed MSP. This scheme was another jumla to skirt the real issues the farmers are facing,” Dr. Dhawale said.

‘No fraud beneficiaries’

The Ministry said no money was transferred to any fraud beneficiary under the PM-KISAN scheme, adding that the benefits had been transferred directly into bank accounts only after the receipt of 100% error-free data of farmers from States, which is validated through Aadhaar or the Public Financial Management System (PFMS) database.

The government had earlier said that so far, eligible farmer families had received benefit of more than ₹2 lakh crore under the scheme through 11 installments.

“Of this, ₹1.6 lakh crore has been transferred during the COVID-19 pandemic period. With the 12th installment to be released by the Prime Minister on October 17, the total amount transferred to the beneficiaries so far is expected to cross well over ₹2.16 lakh crore,” a recent press release said.

PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi is a central sector scheme under the government of India which provides income support to the farmers and their families. PM-KISAN scheme was first implemented as the Rythu Bandhu scheme by the Government of Telangana where a certain amount was handed directly to the eligible farmers. Later, on 1 February 2019, during the 2019 Interim Union Budget of India, Piyush Goyal announced the implementation of this scheme as a nationwide project.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the PM-KISAN scheme on 24 February 2019 in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh. Under this scheme, all small and marginal farmers will be provided with income support of Rs.6,000 per year in three installments which will be deposited directly to their bank accounts. The total annual expenditure for this scheme is expected to be Rs.75,000 crore which will be financed by the Union Government

Key Features of Scheme

The highlights of the PM-KISAN scheme are given in the table below:

Name of the schemePM-KISAN Yojana
Full-FormPradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana
Date of launch24th February 2019
Government MinistryMinistry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare
Official Website

Objectives of PM-KISAN scheme

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana is implemented as a central sector scheme by the Government of India. This scheme was introduced to augment the source of income of many small and marginal farmers. The main objectives of the PM-KISAN scheme are mentioned below:

  • To provide income support to all eligible land-holding farmers and their families.
  • PM-KISAN scheme also aims to supplement the financial needs of the farmers in procuring various inputs to ensure proper crop health and appropriate yields, commensurate with the anticipated farm income.
  • The scheme is expected to increase the coverage of PM-KISAN to around 14.5 crore beneficiaries. It aims to cover around 2 crores more farmers with an estimated expenditure of Rs. 87,217.50 crores that will be funded by the Central Government.

Eligibility to avail benefits under PM-KISAN scheme

Any small or marginal farmer should not fall under the following criteria to be eligible under the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana. Below are some of the categories of beneficiaries who are not eligible for benefit under this scheme:

  1. Any institutional land-holders.
  2. The farmer as well as any member of the family belonging to the following categories:
  3. Former and present holders of constitutional posts
  4. Former and present Ministers/ State Ministers
  5. Former or present members of LokSabha/ RajyaSabha/ State Legislative Assemblies/ State Legislative Councils
  6. Former and present Mayors of Municipal Corporations
  7. Former and present Chairpersons of District Panchayats.
  8. Any serving or retired officers as well as employees under the Central/ State Government Ministries /Offices/Departments.
  9. All retired pensioners who get a monthly pension of Rs.10,000/-or more and belonging to the above category.
  10. Any individual who paid their income tax in the last assessment year is not eligible under this scheme.
  11. Professionals like Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Chartered Accountants, and Architects registered with Professional bodies and carrying out profession by undertaking practices.

The farmers eligible under the scheme are required to produce the below-mentioned documents for their verification:

  • Citizenship certificate
  • Landholding papers
  • Aadhaar card
  • Bank account details

Advantages of PM-KISAN Scheme

Given below are the advantages and the impact of the PM-KISAN schemes:

  • The direct transfer of funds is one of the biggest advantages of this scheme. On December 25, 2020, in the presence of PM Narendra Modi, Rs.18,000 crores were directly transferred to the bank accounts of 9 crore farmers
  • All the records related to farmers is registered officially on a digital platform which has made the registration and fund transfer easy. The digitalised records have brought about a new start to this welfare scheme
  • This scheme eases liquidity constraints of farmers
  • PM-KISAN yojana is a big step towards the Government’s initiatives of modernisation of agriculture
  • There is no discrimination in choosing the PM-KISAN beneficiaries

2. Hypertension: a ticking time bomb in Indian adolescents

High blood pressure is occurring in one in three or four children, and this is much higher than earlier estimates of about 7%; elevated blood pressure is more prevalent in poorer than the richest category

High blood pressure is already a problem of great magnitude in India. The Indian National Health Portal reports that 30% of adult Indians have elevated blood pressure — a little higher in urban (34%) compared with rural (28%) areas. High blood pressure is relatively silent, with grave consequences, as it is a major cause of cardiovascular diseases, including stroke. The best way forward is prevention, especially starting in childhood.

Our paper (with Anil Vasudevan as the first author) published recently inJAMA Network Openreports thatIndian adolescents aged between 10-12 years have hypertension prevalence of 35%, while in those above 13 years, the prevalence is 25%. This is roughly the same in urban and rural areas; for younger children, the prevalence is even higher than in adults.

More prevalent

Effectively, high blood pressure is occurring in one in three or four children, and this is much higher than earlier estimates of about 7%. Even factoring for the somewhat higher estimates derived from a single survey, there is enough signal that hypertension in adolescents is much more widely prevalent than previously thought andbodes ill for the next generation of adults.

The figures are robust and believable, coming as they do from a national survey called the Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey (CNNS), which used a statistically appropriate method to sample adolescents without illnesses, aged 10-19 years, across all States and Union Territories.

Blood pressure was measured rigorously, and high blood pressure was defined based on the mean of second and third readings as per the 2017 American Academy of Pediatrics cut-offs, as height-adjusted blood pressure above the 95th percentile below 13 years and greater than 130/80 mm Hg in older adolescents.

Hypertension is often clustered with other cardio-metabolic risk factors including overweight and obesity. Adolescents with high fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, serum triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels also have a greater risk of high blood pressure.

But there is also a deeply unsettling and counter-intuitive pattern of the occurrence of hypertension in Indian children.The notion that this is associated with affluence, which will not occur in undernourished children stands firmly dispelled.In fact, elevated blood pressure is more prevalent in poorer than the richest category and occurs with similar frequency in rural and urban areas. Itsprevalence in younger stunted adolescents is as high as 40% compared with 34% in those not stunted.

Theprevalence in thin/underweight adolescents is also high (32% in younger and 22% in older adolescents). We now need to come to terms with the combined presence of diseases of overnutrition in undernourished adolescents, or the intra-individual of double burden of malnutrition.

Rapid urbanisation

So, why is this happening in Indian children, and why is this happening across the board, even in undernourished adolescents, in rural areas, and among the poor?Higher prevalence of high blood pressure in rural areas may be attributable to rapid urbanisation, resulting in altered dietary habits, more screen time and a lower level of habitual physical activity. One causative factor that is relevant in India today is the explosion of ready-to-eat (ultra) processed foods and snacks, which depend on a high salt and sugar content.

These have penetrated rural areas and schools deeply.Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, and Nagaland have higher hypertension prevalence (over 35%) compared with the rest of India. Data from the NSSO survey of 2011-12 show that the highest salt-consuming regions are these States, with a per-capita intake of over 9 grams/day, while the median intake for India is about 8 grams/day.

There is a need now to think ahead: a need to screen and identify adolescents with hypertension; preventive interventions tocontrol the burden of hypertension and its consequences in India; and a need to assess high blood pressure at even younger ages. This is important as many people with hypertension, particularly in India, are not aware of their disease and the detection, treatment, and control of it should be an urgent health priority.

3. Climate change drives dengue spread in France

Each year, nearly 100 million dengue cases and about 10,000 deaths are reported from over 125 countries, and about half the global population are in countries that provide suitable environmental conditions for dengue spread. With climate change, dengue-endemic countries will see increased dengue cases through “faster viral amplification, and increased vector survival, reproduction and biting rates”.

This will lead to longer periods of spread and hence, more cases of dengue, as per a 2019 paper inNature Microbiology. Increased temperature due to climate change will also allow the vector and virus to spread to countries that are currently free of dengue.

By October 21, France had already recorded 65 dengue cases of local origin from nine transmission events, the highest since 2006 when surveillance for dengue began. And for the first time in Europe, one event causing 34 cases on a single day was recorded in France on October 21, 2022. In comparison, in 2020, France witnessed 14 cases from six transmission events followed by nine cases from two events in 2019 and eight cases from three transmission events in 2018.

Besides the locally transmitted cases, there have been 217 imported cases during the period between May 1 and October 21 this year.

The U.S. too reported one locally transmitted case of dengue this year in Arizona. Meanwhile, Vietnam and the Philippines reported over 3,00,000 cases (as on November 15) and over 1,70,000 cases (as on October 1), respectively.Unlike in the case of the tropical countries whereAedes aegyptiis the vector,Aedes albopictusis the vector responsible for virus spread in France. UnlikeAedes albopictus, the reason whyAedes aegyptimosquito is not the vector that spreads the virus in Europe is due to its eggs’ inability to survive the cold winter of Europe.

Aedes-borne virus transmission locally is expected in southern France due to colonisation ofA. albopictus. Yet, the epidemiological situation of dengue this year is considered “exceptional” as the number of events and the total number of locally transmitted cases far exceed those seen in the period 2010 to 2021,as per a reportinEurosurveillance.Especially sinceAedes albopictusis considered to be a less efficient transmitter of dengue virus. The serotype 3 (DENV-3) has been identified for the first time this year in France.

“The drivers of arbovirus transmission are mainly influenced by the interactions between vector populations, virus strains and the global environment. Environmental conditions thus have a major impact on the efficiency of the vector system as well as on vector density and host-vector contacts,” notes the report inEurosurveillance.

“Southern France and Mediterranean have been at risk of dengue since the early 2000s when the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) arrived, then spread through Europe. The dengue season in Europe is only increasing each year with climate change,” Dr.Oliver Brady, Associate Professor, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicinewrites in the institute’s report.

“The experience of Southern France shows that European countries are not immune from dengue and, like all other countries, may struggle to contain dengue,” Dr. Brady added.

In a tweet, virologist Dr. Angela Rasmussen from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada said: “We’ve been watching the slow creep northward of dengue around the world. Just another example of how the geography of infectious disease is not fixed. As climate change and land use disrupts ecology and viruses get more opportunity to spread… they will spread.”

4. What is India’s future strategy on emissions?

Is the use of nuclear power and hydrogen critical for India to transition to a carbon neutral economy? Besides the use of electric vehicles, what are some of the other plans on the anvil to help the country achieve net zero by 2070?

The Climate Change Conference (COP-27) at Sharm el-Sheikh was to end on Friday but the deadline was extended to the weekend because there were divisions among member countries on the final text of the agreement. While India unveiled its much-awaited Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy during COP-27, several outstanding issues remain.

What has India committed on carbon neutrality?

The Paris Agreement of 2015 required countries to submit a plan demonstrating how they would switch their economies from being reliant on fossil fuel to clean energy sources. This was to include measures to be taken to keep temperatures from rising beyond 2°C, and preferably keep it at 1.5°C by the end of the century and becoming carbon neutral or achieving net zero. India has committed to being net zero by 2070. The deadline to make a commitment was 2020 but the pandemic meant deadlines were extended. India is now in a group of about 60 countries — the Paris Agreement has over 190 signatories — to have submitted a strategy document to the UN.

What are the elements of India’s low emissions strategy?

The 100-page document that lays out India’s strategy underlines the use of nuclear power and hydrogen as critical to transition India into a carbon-neutral economy.

Environment minister Bhupender Yadav said the Long-Term Low-Carbon Development Strategy, as India refers to it, underlines India’s right to an equitable and fair share of the global carbon budget. The remaining budget for a 50% likelihood to limit global warming to 1.5°C, 1.7°C and 2°C is 380 GtCO2 (nine years at 2022 emissions levels), 730 GtCO2 (18 years) and 1,230 GtCO2 (30 years), according to an analysis by the Global Carbon Project. One gigatonne (Gt) CO2 is a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. “The journey to net zero is a five decade long one and India’s vision is therefore evolutionary and flexible, accommodating new technological developments and developments in the global economy and international cooperation.”

India’s plan is to maximise the use of electric vehicles; ensure that by 2025 the percentage of ethanol blended with petrol increases to 20% from the existing 10% and making a ‘strong shift’ of passenger and freight vehicles to public transport. India will also focus on improving energy efficiency by the Perform, Achieve and Trade (PAT) scheme, expand the National Hydrogen Mission, increase electrification, and enhance material efficiency and recycling. The PAT scheme refers to an emissions trading scheme where industries such as aluminium, fertilizer, iron and steel, that are extremely carbon intensive, have to reduce their emissions by a fixed amount or buy energy saving certificates from firms that have exceeded reduction targets. This scheme has been on since 2012 and, according to the Ministry of Power, has so far prevented 60 million tonnesof CO2 from being emitted.

Is the strategy different from Nationally Determined Contributions?

The NDCs, which India must periodically update, are voluntary commitments by countries to reduce emissions by a fixed number relative to a date in the past to achieve the long-term goal of climate agreements of preventing global temperature rising beyond 1.5°C or 2°C by the end of the century. Thus, India’s most updated NDC commits to ensuring that half its electricity is derived from non-fossil fuel sources by 2030 and reducing the emissions intensity by 45% below 2005 levels by 2030. They are concrete targets unlike the low-carbon strategy which is qualitative and describes a pathway.

What are the sticking points?

During COP-26 in Glasgow last year, India and several other countries announced a net zero timeline. COP-27 was labelled as an “implementation” conference, in the sense that countries were determined to solve outstanding questions on climate finance. This refers to money that developed countries had committed to developing countries to help them turn their economies away from fossil fuels, build infrastructure resilient to climate shocks and access technologies to enable widespread use of renewable energy. Of nearly $100 billion annually committed in 2009, which was to have been arranged for by 2020, less than a third has come in. Much of this, and this has been pointed out by several countries including India, is in the form of loans or come with conditions that increase the economic burden on developing countries. Now there is a demand that developed countries must come up with a new target, described in negotiations as a New Collective Quantified Goal, with a clear path of delivery and a higher amount, to the tune of “trillions of dollars” to account for increased costs of energy transition. Another major issue is on the question of Loss and Damage (L&D). This is a proposal to compensate the most vulnerable countries and developing countries who are facing the brunt of climate change for the damage that has already incurred. Again a topic that has been discussed for years, this year triggered hope that a dedicated fund for L&D would come into being. The European Union was resistant to announcing a fund this year, on the grounds that it would take years to materialise and there were other options to get money flowing where it was most needed. However, there were indications that they were amenable provided that contributors to the fund include large developing economies which are significant emitters — a pointer to China.

5. Centre scraps export tax on iron ore, steel

Duty had been aimed at helping curb inflation but ended up denting exports of the ore, metal products; the decision comes even as international demand, including in China, has been weakening; industry officials welcome move, some express doubts about prospects of a revival in exports

India scrapped export taxes on low-grade iron ore and on some intermediate steel products beginning Saturday, after months of complaints from miners and steel makers about loss of foreign sales opportunities.

A notification, issued late on Friday, reverses the imposition in May of a 50% tax on exports of iron-ore lumps and fines with less than 58% iron content.

The government also reversed a May increase in export tax on iron ore concentrates other than roasted iron pyrites. That tax returns to 30% from 50%.

The additional tax imposed in May was intended to boost domestic supply of iron ore, a raw ingredient for making steel, and thereby hold down inflation. India exported less than half as much steel in the seven months to October as it did a year earlier, according to government data seen by Reuters.

Major steel makers have urged the government to unwind the additional export taxation, saying it added to their problem of weakening global demand.

Despite the latest tax reductions, a top miners’ organisation remained doubtful about the prospect of exports reviving.

The “Chinese market is not very buoyant now. Let us see how much we are able to export,” R.K. Sharma, secretary-general of the Federation of Indian Mineral Industries, told Reuters. “Once you disturb the trade, to recover is very difficult.”

Earlier this month, Mr. Sharma said India’s iron ore exports had dropped to “nearly zero” in October due to the higher export taxes and was further expected to languish due to lower demand from China’s weak economy.

Indian producers of low-grade ore depend largely on foreign markets, because most major domestic steel producers use high-grade iron ore.

On Friday, the government also removed a 15% export tax on some intermediate steel products, such as bars and rods, that it had also imposed in May.

Last week, JSW Steel Ltd., the country’s largest steelmaker by capacity, told Reuters it expected its exports in the financial year to March 2023 to fall to their lowest level in more than five years because of reduced global demand and the added duty.

‘Boost sentiment’

Joint managing ndirector Seshagiri Rao M.V.S said on Saturday removal of the extra levies would boost sentiment in the industry.

“We welcome the government’s decision to roll back the export duty on steel products and iron ore,” said Tata Steel MD T.V. Narendran.

“India, being richly endowed with iron ore, has a great opportunity to make steel in India, for India, and for the world,” he added.

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