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Current Affair – June 30, 2021

Monsoon session

  • The monsoon session of Parliament is likely to begin on July 19 and go on till August 13.
  • This session will have 20 sittings. Ever since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, all the three sessions of Parliament had to be truncated due to the rising number of COVID19 positive cases.

Sessions of Parliament

  • The power to convene a session of Parliament rests with the government. The decision is taken by the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, which currently comprises nine ministers, including those for Defence, Home, Finance, and Law. The decision of the Committee is formalised by the President, in whose name MPs are summoned to meet for a session.
  • India does not have a fixed parliamentary calendar. By convention, Parliament meets for three sessions in a year.
  • The longest, the Budget Session, starts towards the end of January, and concludes by the end of April or first week of May. The session has a recess so that Parliamentary Committees can discuss the budgetary proposals.
  • The second session is the three-week Monsoon Session, which usually begins in July and finishes in August.
  • The parliamentary year ends with a three week-long Winter Session, which is held from November to December.

What the Constitution says

  • The summoning of Parliament is specified in Article 85 of the Constitution. It is based on a provision of The Government of India Act, 1935 which specified that the central legislature had to be summoned to meet at least once a year, and that not more than 12 months could elapse between two sessions.
    • Dr B R Ambedkar stated that the purpose of this provision was to summon the legislature only to collect revenue, and that the once-a-year meeting was designed to avoid scrutiny of the government by the legislature.
  • His drafting of the provision reduced the gap between sessions to six months, and specified that Parliament should meet at least twice a year. He argued that “The clause as it stands does not prevent the legislature from being summoned more often than what has been provided for in the clause itself. In fact, my fear is, if I may say so, that the sessions of Parliament would be so frequent and so lengthy that the members of the legislature would probably themselves get tired of the sessions.”
  • During the debate, members of the Constituent Assembly highlighted three issues: (i) the number of sessions in a year,

(ii) the number of days of sitting and, (iii) who should have the power to convene Parliament.

  • Prof K T Shah opined Parliament should sit throughout the year, with breaks in between. Others wanted Parliament to sit for longer durations, and gave examples of the British and American legislatures which during that time were meeting for more than a hundred days in a year. Prof Shah also wanted the presiding officers of the two Houses to be empowered to convene Parliament in certain circumstances. These suggestions were not accepted by Dr. Ambedkar.

Moved, delayed, stretched

  • Over the years, governments have shuffled around the dates of sessions to accommodate political and legislative exigencies. In 2017, the Winter Session was delayed on account of the Gujarat Assembly elections. In 2011, political parties agreed to cut short the Budget Session so they could campaign for Vidhan Sabha elections in five states.
  • Sessions have also been cut short or delayed to allow the government to issue Ordinances. For example, in 2016, the Budget Session was broken up into two separate sessions to enable the issuance of an Ordinance.
  • Sessions have been stretched — in 2008, the two-day Monsoon Session (in which a no-confidence motion was moved against the UPA-I government over the India-US nuclear deal) was extended until December. The ostensible reason was to prevent the moving of another no-confidence motion. It meant that there were only two sessions that year.
Source: Indian Express

Tomato Virus in Mahar ashtray region

  • In Ahmednagar, Satara, Nashik and Pune districts of Maharashtra; the tomato virus is back.
  • Farmers have alleged their otherwise red, juicy tomatoes have turned into yellow and spongy, plastic-textured fruits. This, despite their adopting the recommended guidelines of testing seeds and pest control provided by the public and private sectors.
  • Viral diseases are a serious threat to profitable tomato cultivation.

Earlier breakout

  • In June last year, multiple viruses had attacked tomato crops in this region.Samples examined from Satara and Ahmednagar were found to be infected with
    • Cucumber Mosaic Virus (CMV),
    • Groundnut Bud Necrosis Virus (GBNV)
    • Tomato Chlorosis Virus.
  • Change in climate and cultivation time could be One of the factors for the extensive spread
  • In the absence of any recognised or recommended antiviral products, management strategies chiefly rely on genetic resistance, hygienic practices or the eradication of diseased crops to prevent virus spread.


  • The ever-increasing international trade in seeds and fruits enhance the risks
  • · Changing climate
  • Spread of invasive viruses and their associated insect vectors
  • Change in cultivation time

People, profession and profit

  • Maharashtra farmers start growing the summer tomato crop in February and the first harvest commences from late April and continues to cater to the market demand till July. Last year, farmers in the Pune, Satara, and Ahmednagar and Nashik districts complained of early ripening and substantial yield loss.
  • This problem propped up again this year in the Rabi tomato crop. Rabi is the most preferred season in these irrigated areas, often dominated by tomato hybrids (more than 90 %). It meets export demand, which is essential for realising maximum profit and thus filling the pockets of peasants.
  • The past decade has witnessed spectacular hybrid seed-driven growth in vegetables, which has almost doubled within three-four years (from 2016 to 2019). In the past three years, tomato hybrids have come to account for almost a 10% share of total vegetable seed values.

Virulent viruses

  • Indian Agricultural Research Institute-Regional Station, Pune (IARI-RS, Pune) tested a few samples of virus-infested tomato from the Kolwadi and Alandi areas of Pune district last year. Viruses including CMV, GBNV, Tomato Mosaic Virus, Pepper Mottle Virus and Potato Virus Y were detected.
  • This year, virologists of the station tested samples from affected areas collected in the second fortnight of May. Five viruses were detected: CMV, Groundnut Necrosis Virus or GBNC, Capsicum Chlorosis Virus, PVX or Potato Virus Y and the Poty virus group.
  • In recent years, several viral diseases, including Tomato Leaf Curl Virus (ToLCV), Pepino Mosaic Virus and Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus have emerged in greenhouses and open cultivated tomato crops and are presently impacting fresh-market tomato production worldwide.
  • Two major strains (New Delhi and Bangalore) exist in case of ToLCV, causing leaf curling in tomato plants.

Looming danger of ToBRFV

  • Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (ToBRFV) is considered as “the pandemic of the tomato” globally. Till date, this virus has not been not reported / detected in India. But, it is high time to be alert and accelerate the efforts to detect it and take precautionary measures.
  • The Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) calls for declaration of India as free from specified pathogens for ToBRFV. The FSII asked for this as quarantine requirement for the export of capsicum and tomato seeds to the United States and European Union.
  • The reports of EPPO (European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization) recorded ToBRFV-contaminated seeds in tomato and chili from India being imported to Italy and the Czech Republic.
  • This virus was categorised as a quarantine pathogen by EPPO in November 2019. Many countries might have not done the same in their quarantine system.
  • The virus first emerged in Israel in 2014. It has spread subsequently to fields and greenhouses across West Asia, Europe, Mexico, North America, China and other parts of the world. ToBRFV transmits mostly by people and equipment coming in contact with plants and also by wind or insects and can survive for years together in soil.
  • The highly transmittable ToBRFV poses a serious threat to tomato in India.

Insect vectors

  • Sap-sucking insect aphids, whiteflies and thrips spread many virulent viruses to crops.
  • Intensified insecticidal treatments, often unilateral and injudicious pesticide utilisation as advised by pesticide dealers and agro-consultants is a problem.
  • International trade and travel has compounded the vector problem, with new species, strains / biotypes / genetic groups emerging.
  • Many of the viruses transmitted by aphids stay in stylets (mouthparts) of the insects for a short span and their short probe

/ feeding is sufficient to spread the disease. This makes most of the insecticidal treatments useless.

  • The reason behind the suggestion of planting tall barrier crops like maize around the tomato crop is based on some science. The aphid vectors landing on barrier plants lose their viral load from their stylets; before they move on to target the tomato crop.
  • Maharashtra is witnessing emerging threats in the form of the Solanum whitefly (Aleurothrixustrachoides) in tomatoes, potatoes and bell peppers and an exotic whitefly (Paraleyrodesminei) infestation in several fruit tree crops. Climate change is causing the shifting of the pest spectrum.

Way forward

  • Seed-borne viruses must be given due attention. Quality seeds from reputed sources must be procured. Resistant / tolerant varieties must be adopted if available.
  • Scientists and policy makers must make efforts to inform the public, in particular farmers, about tomato viruses. Suitable surveys and surveillance at regular intervals must be conducted.
  • Appropriate funding in multl-institutional project mode to multi-disciplinary scientists stationed in Maharashtra state to bridge the research gap. Local conventional varieties, botanicals and bio-pesticides and adjusting of planting time should be given due priority in insect vector management.
  • The relationship between viruses and temperature and rainfall (humidity) must be adequately understood by concerted researches.

Central government-monitored mapping of the affected area by agricultural experts, in collaboration with seed companies.

  • Areas where hybrid varieties are grown are to be recorded systematically. Growers must maintain the farm record of agro- chemical applications.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility funds from relevant seed

companies must be diverted,

  • Farmers must return to their local / conventional varieties, with good agricultural practices (GAP), for at least two-three seasons in endemic areas.
GAP essentially includes the records of crop practices, dates of plant protection applications undertaken with reliable and approved reasons.  
Source: Down-to-earth

Right to Food is intrinsic part of the right to live with dignity: SC

  • The court ordered the State governments to frame schemes to distribute dry rations to migrant workers by July 31.

What does the court order say?

  • Right to food, one of bare necessities of life, was an intrinsic part of the right to live with dignity.
  • It ordered all the States to fully implement the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) scheme by July 31.
  • Migrant labourers are particularly vulnerable to the economic regression.
  • Centre ought to “redetermine” the beneficiaries under the Food Security Act in both the urban and rural areas.
  • It directed the States/Union Territories to register establishments and license contractors under the Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 and ensure that they provided the authorities complete details of the workers employed with them.

The court set July 31 as the deadline for the Centre and the States to ensure their “bounden duty” that none among the estimated 38 crore migrant workers, who form one-fourth of the country’s population, goes hungry during the pandemic. These workers too have made “considerable contributions” to the country’s growth and economic development.

NDUW:   The court slammed the Labour Ministry for its “unpardonable apathy” in not completing the work of the ₹45.39 crore National Database for Unorganised Workers (NDUW) portal to register and identify migrant workers and unorganised labourers to ensure their rights, welfare and food security.The court had ordered the Ministry to finalise the NDUW module way back in 2018. The Centre has blamed the delay in implementation on “software” problems.  

What is One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC)?

  • It allows for inter- and intra-state portability.
  • The ONORC scheme is aimed at enabling migrant workers and their family members to buy subsidised ration from any fair price shop anywhere in the country under the National Food Security Act, 2013.
  • For instance, a migrant worker from, say, Basti district of Uttar Pradesh will be able to access PDS benefits in Mumbai, where he or she may have gone in search of work. While the person can buy food grains as per his or her entitlement

under the NFSA at the place where he or she is based, members of his or her family can still go to their ration dealer back home.

  • To promote this reform in the archaic Public Distribution System (PDS), the government has provided incentives to states. The Centre had even set the implementation of ONORC as a precondition for additional borrowing by states during the Covid-19 pandemic last year.

How does ONORC work?

  • ONORC is based on technology that involves details of beneficiaries’ ration card, Aadhaar number, and electronic Points of Sale (ePoS). The system identifies a beneficiary through biometric authentication on ePoS devices at fair price shops. The system runs with the support of two portals —Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM- PDS) (impds.nic.in) and Annavitran (annavitran.nic.in), which host all the relevant data.
  • When a ration card holder goes to a fair price shop, he or she identifies himself or herself through biometric authentication on ePoS, which is matched real time with details on the Annavitaran portal. Once the ration card details are verified, the dealer hands out the beneficiary’s entitlements. While the Annavitaran portal maintains a record of intra- state transactions — inter-district and intra-district — the IM-PDS portal records the inter-state transactions.

How many people will it benefit?

Under the National Food Security Act, 2013, about 81 crore people are entitled to buy subsidised food grains — rice at Rs 3/kg, wheat at Rs 2/kg, and coarse grains at Re 1/kg – from designated fair price shops. As on 28 June 2021, there are about 5.46 lakh fair price shops and 23.63 crore ration card holders across the country. Each NFSA ration card holder is assigned to a fair price shop near the place where his ration card is registered.

What factors led to the launch of ONORC?

  • Earlier, NFSA beneficiaries were not able to access their PDS benefits outside the jurisdiction of the specific fair price shop to which they have been assigned. The government envisioned the ONORC to give them access to benefits from any fair price shop. Full coverage will be possible after 100% Aadhaar seeding of ration cards has been achieved, and all fair price shops are covered by ePoS devices (there are currently 4.74 lakh devices installed across the country).
  • ONORC was launched in August, 2019. Work on ration card portability, however, had begun in April 2018 itself, with the launch of the IM-PDS.
  • ONORC was initially launched as an inter-state pilot. However, when the Covid-19 pandemic forced thousands of migrant workers to return to their villages last year, a need was felt to expedite the rollout.
  • As part of its Covid economic relief package, the government announced the national rollout of ONORC in all states and Union Territories by March 2021.
Source: Indian Express

Pew Research on religious attitude

  • A nationwide survey on religious attitudes, behaviours and beliefs conducted by Pew Research Center. Pew is non-profit based in washing ton DC.

Findings of the research

  • Most Indians, cutting across religions, feel they enjoy religious freedom, value religious tolerance, and regard respect for all religions as central to what India is as a nation.
91% of Hindus felt they have religious freedom, while 85% of them believed that respecting all religions was very important ‘to being truly Indian’.  

Majority in each of the major religious groups show a marked preference for religious segregation and “want to live separately”.

  • For most Hindus, religious tolerance was not just a civic virtue but also a religious value, with 80% of them stating that respecting other religions was an integral aspect of ‘being Hindu’.
    • Other religions showed similar numbers for freedom of religion and religious tolerance.
    • While 89% of Muslims and Christians said they felt free to practice their religion, the comparative figures for Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains were 82%, 93%, and 85% respectively.
  • Paradoxically the majority in all the faiths scored poorly on the metrics for religious segregation:
    • Composition of friends circle
    • Views on stopping inter religious marriage
    • Willingness to accept people of other religions as neighbours.
  • Nationally, three in ten Hindus took both these positions:
    • Linking being Hindu and speaking Hindi to being Indian, and voting for BJP.
    • But there was a clear geographical skew in their distribution: while roughly half of the Hindu voters in northern and central India fell into this category, only 5% of Hindu voters in the South did so.
  • Also, Hindu nationalist sentiments were less prevalent in the South. Among Hindus, those in the South (42%) were far less likely to say that being Hindu was very important to being truly Indian.
Source: The Hindu

GSI Report on flash flood in Chamoli

  • Geological Survey of India (GSI) has released its report on flash floods in Chamoli.
  • The flash flood on February 7 in Chamoli district, Uttarakhand, claimed at least 72 lives with at least 200 missing.

Findings of the Report

  • The flash was due to a large mass of snow, ice and rock avalanche along with a hanging mass of rock crashing into the Raunthi Garh valley floor.
  • This impact pulverised the combination of rock, snow and ice causing a rapid flow downstream of Raunthi Garh and into the Rishiganga valley leading to the deluge.
  • There was no evidence of a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) having caused the event.
  • Unusually Warm weather in the regions was a contributory factor
  • Change in the hydrometeorpological conditions between 4th and 6th February, 2021 (heavy snowfall followed by sudden warmer climate) possibly triggered this huge snow and rock avalanche/ landslide causing sudden domino effect of flash flood in the downstream.”
  • Due to the large volume of debris and the deluge, an artificial dam had formed near the confluence of Raunthi Garh and Rishiganga River, by the flowing debris which blocked the flow of the Rishiganga River and formed a small lake temporarily.
  • A study by the National Remote Sensing Centre indicated that the time taken from the initiation of the avalanche and its disastrous impact up to Tapovan barrage site near Joshimath was “barely 50 minutes”, which indicates availability of a “very low lead time for raising any warning for the downstream areas.”

Way forward

  • Lessons have also been learnt from this event of 7th February 2021 which is an excellent example of multi-hazard phenomena that occurred during the winter time, when this type of phenomenon leading to such disastrous deluge is least expected in the Himalayas.
Source: The Hindu