Current Affairs Current Affairs - 13 August 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 13 August 2018

General Affairs 

PM Modi Confident Of Bigger, "Record-Breaking" Win In 2019 Elections
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he would be re-elected with an even bigger majority in parliament in 2019, dismissing opposition attempts to rouse opinion against his government by accusing it of failing to deliver on promises of swift economic development and more jobs for young people.
    PM Modi told the Times of India in an interview published on Sunday that his BJP led government is committed to improving the lives of all citizens regardless of faith.

    The opposition and critics of the government have raised concerns that his administration has been unable to rein in right-wing fringe groups that are trying to undermine India's secular constitution by targeting the nation's large Muslim minority.

    "We will definitely get more seats than we got the last time and I am confident that we will break all records of the seats won by NDA (National Democratic Alliance) in the past and achieve greater glory.

    "The people are with us and we have nothing to fear," PM Modi told the newspaper in an email interview.

    Opinion polls show he remains the front runner to win another five-year term, but the party has suffered reverses in some local elections in the past few months that have energised the opposition.

    The BJP failed to win power in southern Karnataka in May, the first big state to elect a new assembly this year in a contest widely seen as a test of its popularity after four years in office. It also lost a few races in the big heartland state of Uttar Pradesh in the north.

    But PM Modi said voters wanted a strong and decisive central government to deliver on India's promise as a big economy and one of the potential drivers of global growth.

    "My platform will be development, fast development and development for all...We have worked very hard in the last four years and we will go to the people with our track record of development," PM Modi said.

    The opposition, led by the Congress party, is trying to pull together a grand alliance of regional parties and even communist groups to mount a joint campaign against PM Modi.

    Attacks on Muslims who are engaged in the cattle trade by Hindu vigilante groups who are opposed to the slaughter of cows have fuelled fears that the government is either unable or unwilling to restrain them.

    PM Modi's party denies any bias against Muslims and he told the Times of India that his government believes in equality in the rule of law for all citizens.

    The BJP won 282 seats in the 2014 general election, giving it a simple majority in the lower house of parliament. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 336 seats out of 543.

    The opposition last month moved a no-confidence vote against the government but PM Modi easily survived thanks to his parliamentary majority.

Passports Damaged In Kerala Floods To Be Replaced For Free: Sushma Swaraj
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today announced that passports damaged in floods in Kerala will be replaced free of cost by the government.
    "There are unprecedented floods in Kerala causing huge damage. We have decided that as the situation becomes normal, passports damaged on account (of) floods shall be replaced free of charge. Please contact the concerned Passport Kendras," Ms Swaraj tweeted.

    Kerala has been reeling under massive floods in which over 35 people have lost their lives and thousands of people were rendered homeless. Around 10 of the 14 districts in state have been affected by the floods. 

Train Drivers Can Now Hit Top Permissible Speed To Reduce Delays
  • The Railway Ministry has asked drivers to hit the top permissible speed only if trains are running late to make up for lost time, instead of trying to speed throughout the journey, a top source in the ministry said.

    The new directive replaces an order issued in 2000 in which the ministry had said that trains are supposed to run at maximum permissible speed (MPS) even when they are on time, subject to speed restrictions, but they rarely do so.

    The decision was taken after it was found that punctuality of trains suffered because loco drivers were wary of driving at MPS due to the fear of being caught overspeeding, which is punishable, the source said.

    In the new time table to be released on August 15, trains having an MPS of 110 kmph will be showed having a normal prescribed speed (booked speed) of105 kmph and those with 120 kmph MPS will have 115 kmph.

    The MPS of mail and express trains is 110 kmph, but they maintain an average speed of 40 to 50 kmph. Elite class trains such as the Rajdhani and the Shatabdi, having an MPS of 130 kmph, run at an average speed of 80 to 90 kmph.

    The source said with 30 percent trains running late this year, the railways has now decided to ask drivers to run at the booked speed, but speed up to the MPS when they are running late.

    "While we want our trains to run at their maximum limit, drivers have the tendency to run them much slower so as to not get penalised for overspeeding, which is going over the MPS," a serving loco pilot said.

    "Now, with the limit set at a lower speed, drivers can normally drive at 105 kmph and also have the cushion to push the speed upwards to the MPS just enough to gain lost time. The order also means we do not have the pressure of running at MPS all the time," the driver explained.

    So, in the new timetable, perennially late running trains such as the Raigarh-Gondia Jan Shatabdi Express, the Durg - Ambikapur Express will have a new booked speed, lower than the MPS, but will gain punctuality.

Army Finalises Made-In-India Extreme-Weather Gear For Doklam, Siachen
  • The Army is giving final touches to a long-pending project to manufacture specialised clothing, sleeping kits and key equipment for its soldiers deployed in the Siachen glacier - the world's most dangerous battlefield.
    India spends around Rs. 800 crore annually in import of Extreme Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) and mountaineering kits for soldiers guarding the glacier at the heights ranging from 16,000 feet to 20,000 feet, according to official data.

    Military sources said the Army is aiming at saving nearly Rs. 300 crore annually by indigenous production of these items which are, at present, sourced from countries like the US, Australia, Canada and Switzerland.

    "We have almost finalised the project under which a large number of items required for troops deployed in Siachen Glacier will be manufactured in India through involvement of the private sector," said a source.

    The items which will be produced in India include thermal insoles, snow goggles, ice axe, boots, avalanche victim detector, rock pitons, karabiner-related mountaineering equipment and sleeping bags, the sources said.

    Some of the clothing gear, to be manufactured in India, will also be supplied to army personnel deployed in high-altitude locations like Doklam along the treacherous Sino-India border, it said.

    The Siachen Glacier in the Karakorum range is known as the highest militarised zone in the world where the soldiers have to battle frostbite and high winds. Avalanches and landslides are common at the glacier during the winter and temperatures can drop to as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius.

    According to official figure, the Army lost 163 personnel deployed at the glacier, the world's highest battlefield, during the last 10 years.

    India and Pakistan started deploying troops at the strategically key glacier in 1984.

    The sources said the high-altitude equipment are being divided into two categories. The first lot will be for those deployed in the range of 9,000 feet to 12,000 feet and second category will be for those guarding the border beyond the heights of 12,000 feet.

    The NDA government has been extensively focusing on ensuring indigenous production of military equipment and platforms under its Make in India initiative.

    The sources said a number of foreign companies have also shown interest in co-production of ECWCS and high-altitude equipment along with Indian firms.

    The Army first mooted the idea of indigenous production of the high-altitude clothing and equipment around 10 years ago.

Spacecraft To "Touch Sun" Blasts Off On Mission To Solve Solar Mysteries
  • NASA on Sunday blasted off a $1.5 billion spacecraft toward the Sun on a historic mission to protect the Earth by unveiling the mysteries of dangerous solar storms.

    "Three, two, one, and liftoff!" said a NASA commentator as the Parker Solar Probe lit up the dark night sky aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:31 am (0731 GMT).

    The unmanned spacecraft aims to get closer than any human-made object in history to the center of our solar system.

    The probe is designed to plunge into the Sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, during a seven-year mission.

    Strange Veil

    NASA has billed the mission as the first spacecraft to "touch the Sun."

    In reality, it should come within 3.83 million miles (6.16 million kilometers) of the Sun's surface, close enough to study the curious phenomenon of the solar wind and the Sun's atmosphere, known as the corona, which is 300 times hotter than its surface.

    The car-sized probe is designed to give scientists a better understanding of solar wind and geomagnetic storms that risk wreaking chaos on Earth by knocking out the power grid.

    A worst-case scenario could cost up to two trillion dollars in the first year alone and take a decade to fully recover from, experts have warned.

    "The Parker Solar Probe will help us do a much better job of predicting when a disturbance in the solar wind could hit Earth," said Justin Kasper, a project scientist and professor at the University of Michigan.

    Knowing more about the solar wind and space storms will also help protect future deep space explorers as they journey toward the Moon or Mars.

    The probe is guarded by an ultra-powerful heat shield that is just 4.5 inches (11.43 centimeters) thick, enabling the spacecraft to survive its close shave with the fiery star.

    Even in a region where temperatures can reach more than a million degrees Fahrenheit, the sunlight is expected to heat the shield to just around 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 degrees Celsius).

    If all works as planned, the inside of the spacecraft should stay at just 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The goal for the Parker Solar Probe is to make 24 passes through the corona during its seven-year mission.

    "The sun is full of mysteries," said Nicky Fox, project scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab.

    "We are ready. We have the perfect payload. We know the questions we want to answer."

    91-Year-Old Namesake

    The spacecraft is the only NASA probe in history to be named after a living person -- in this case, 91-year-old solar physicist Eugene Parker, who first described the solar wind in 1958.

    NASA chief of the science mission directorate, Thomas Zurbuchen, said Saturday that Parker is an "incredible hero of our scientific community," and called the probe one of NASA most "strategically important" missions.

    Scientists have wanted to build a spacecraft like this for more than 60 years, but only in recent years did the heat shield technology advance enough to be capable of protecting sensitive instruments.

    Tools on board will measure high-energy particles associated with flares and coronal mass ejections, as well as the changing magnetic field around the Sun.

    A white light imager will take images of the atmosphere right in front of the Sun.

    When it nears the Sun, the probe will travel rapidly enough to go from New York to Tokyo in one minute -- some 430,000 miles per hour, making it the fastest human-made object.

Business Affairs

PM Modi hits out at opposition, says campaign of lack of jobs needs to stop now
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that more than one crore jobs have been created in the last one year. In an interview to ANI, he argued that when economy is growing at a faster pace, in fact fastest among the major economies, how will the jobs market not expand? Hence, the campaign of lack of jobs needs to stop now, he said while referring to opposition's constant attack.

    PM Modi argued that when investment in infrastructure projects like, making roads, laying down rail lines, setting up power generation is at all-time high, how come the jobs will not be created. "Similarly, if there is significant growth in sales of commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles, does it not mean that jobs are being created? When FDI inflows are at an all-time high, will it not translate into manufacturing and job creation?" the Prime Minister said.

    He also said that in last four years, mobile manufacturing units have grown from just 2 to 120. "When such development in electronic manufacturing is taking place, will it not create jobs? Today, India has emerged as one of the top hubs for start-ups. Are they not creating jobs? App-based aggregators are flourishing in India across food, logistics, e-commerce, mobility solutions and many more such sectors. Are they not creating jobs? We all know the potential tourism has in creating jobs. Foreign tourist arrivals in India grew by 14% last year. Will this not result in job creation? Modi asked.

    The Prime Minister further stated that India is seeing a historic boom in the aviation sector. "Last year, over 10 crore people took a flight. Through UDAN scheme, we have put many places, particularly Tier-II and III cities on the aviation map. Will this not create jobs and opportunities across the board?'' he said.

    PM Modi also said that more than 13 crore MUDRA loans have been given to the hardworking entrepreneurs. "I have been told that over 3.5 crore of these loans have been given to first time entrepreneurs. Does every loan not create additional employment opportunities?,'' he asked. "These are only a few examples. Employment generation is also evident from 45 lakh new Subscribers in the Employee Provident Fund and 5.68 lakh people joining the New Pension Scheme in the last nine months. All this has led to creation of more than one crore jobs only in the last year. Thus, the campaign that jobs have not been created must come to a halt now. People are not going to buy it anymore," he further said.

    The Prime Minister refuted the charge that the GST has not been accepted by the business community. Defending the GST, he said: "The number of enterprises registered from Independence until now was 66 lakh. In just one year after the introduction of GST, the number of new enterprises registered is 48 lakh. Around 350 crore invoices were processed and 11 crore returns were filed in 1 year. Doesn't this show wide-spread public acceptance?''

    In an another interview with The Times of India, the Prime Minister said that the government was fully committed to promoting ease of doing business while bringing to book unscrupulous elements. He also said that the emphasis was on simplifying processes, be it incorporation of a company, induction of a director, or payment of income tax or GST. He said this in a response to a question about the heightened pressure on corporate sector by way of scrutiny and compliance under various laws - from bankruptcy and income tax to the Companies Act and GST.

    On black money and corruption, PM Modi said that the government "has struck off the names of around 2.6 lakh shell companies and 3.09 lakh directors. Names of 55,000 companies more will be struck off this month".  The Prime Minister also said that the income tax return forms have been rationalised to make them taxpayer-friendly and I-T department has eased norms for scrutiny assessments. "Earlier, 1 per cent of income tax returns were picked for scrutiny, which has been brought down to 0.35 per cent. Of the cases, only about 0.2 per cent are taken up for full scrutiny. This reaffirms our faith in the taxpayers and the taxation system," he added.

    The Prime Minister refuted the charge of delay in recognising the bad loans problem and said that the previous dispensation understated the whole NPAs issue. "I had the option of bringing out a white paper as soon as our government was in place. I did not do so as it would have caused an alarm in the economy. Instead, we quietly worked on bringing the banking system back to health while ensuring banks comply with regulations," the Prime Minister said.

    He said that the government has taken many steps to fight NPAs menace. The PM said that the government enacted the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).  "The government also amended the Banking Regulation Act, 1949, to authorise RBI to direct banks to take recourse to IBC route. Cases of 39 large defaulters, with NPAs amounting to about Rs. 2.69 lakh crore exposure, have been filed before the NCLT. As another stringent action against defaulters, we have brought in the Fugitive Economic Offenders Law," he stated in the interview.

Anil Ambani's Reliance says Rafale contract received from Dassault, not Defence Ministry
  • Caught in a political storm over the Rafale fighter aircraft deal, billionaire Anil Ambani's Reliance Group today denied receiving any contract from the Defence Ministry and said "unfounded and incorrect" allegations are being deliberately made to "mislead people and cloud the issue".

    Answering questions ranging from lack of experience to state-owned HAL being overlooked for the deal, the group said Dassault, the French firm that is to supply 36 Rafale fighter jets, choose Reliance Defence Ltd to meet its 'offset' or export obligation in the contract and the Ministry of Defence has no role in the selection of Indian partners by the foreign vendors.

    Reliance Defence Ltd CEO Rajesh Dhingra said the government-to-government deal requires all 36 aircraft to be delivered in a 'fly-away' condition which means "they are to be exported from France by Dassault" and "HAL or anyone else cannot be the production agency for the simple reason that no aircraft are to be produced in India".

    He said HAL was a nominated production agency for the 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) program, which never reached the contract stage. "Reliance Defence or any other Reliance group company has not received any contract from the MoD till date, related to 36 Rafale aircraft. This is absolutely unfounded and incorrect," he told PTI over phone.

    Opposition Congress party last week demanded a JPC in the deal and its President Rahul Gandhi has been attacking the government for inking the deal at a much higher price than the one the previous UPA regime had negotiated. He has accused the government of changing the deal to benefit "one businessman".

    On allegations of the firm getting the contract because of Ambani's reported proximity with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said: "As per Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP), the Ministry of Defence has no role in the selection of Indian partners by the foreign vendors. This has been the position right from 2005 when offsets were first introduced in the country."

    In the more than 50 offset (export obligations) contracts signed in the country till date, the same process has been followed, he said. "Therefore, this is a deliberate attempt to mislead people and cloud the issue."

    On the issue of lack of experience in making fighter aircraft, Dhingra said no company in India, except HAL, has the experience of making fighter planes. "This would mean that we will never create any new capability beyond what exists and will continue to import more than 70 per cent of our defence hardware," he said.

    Dhingra added that Reliance will be participating in the offset program through Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL) in which Dassault holds a 49 per cent stake bringing in its 90 years of aerospace manufacturing experience, making it the "most qualified vendor".

    He termed the allegation of Reliance benefiting with a Rs 30,000 crore contract as "absolutely wrong" and said: "Dassault's share of offsets is about 25 per cent, with the remaining offset obligations being shared by Thales, Safran, MBDA and others."

    "Therefore, the basic premise of Dassault giving Rs 30,000 crore worth of offset contracts to Reliance is totally unfounded," he said, adding Dassault and its other Tier-I suppliers have already indicated more than 100 Indian companies which will participate in the offset contracts. This includes joint ventures with PSUs like HAL and BEL.

    "We can also not lose sight of the fact that up to 30 per cent of total offsets can be discharged through transfer of technology to DRDO, as per DPP," he said.

    Asked about Reliance Defence being incorporated days before announcement of the Rafale deal, he said three companies were incorporated in December 2014 and Reliance Group's entry into defence sector was announced at Aero India in February 2015.

    "Also there are reports in the media of as late as end-March 2015 where Dassault officials were on record to say that the MMRCA deal is 95 per cent done. If this is correct, what is the linkage with the date of incorporation of Reliance Defence?" he asked.

    The deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets was signed when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited France in April 2015.

    On the question of presence of Ambani at the time of announcement of the deal by the Prime Minister, Dhingra said Anil Ambani is part of the CEOs' Forum for France and also many other countries.

    "He was in Paris because there was a meeting of the CEOs' Forum on the sidelines of the Prime Minister's visit. More than 25 other CEOs from the Indian companies were also present, including the Chairman of HAL," he said.

    Offset obligations are to be discharged during September 2019 to September 2023, as per the contract.

    Asked about allegations that Reliance actually got contracts worth Rs 1.3 lakh crore and not Rs 30,000 crore, he said the amount may be coming from projections of Rs 30,000 crore for offsets and another Rs 100,000 crore towards the lifecycle cost over 50 years.

    "There cannot be anything further from truth... To the best of my knowledge, the government has not signed any lifecycle contract for 50 years with Dassault. Therefore, the very question of Reliance getting a contract does not arise," he said.

    On the issue of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman denying knowledge of the contract, he said as per DPP 2016, the foreign vendor has a choice to submit the details of its offset partners at the time of claiming offset credits.

    "In this case, offset obligations are due only after September 2019. It is, therefore, possible that the Ministry of Defence has no formal communication from Dassault Aviation about the choice of its partners for the offsets," he said.

    Asked if it was correct that under DPP a joint secretary-level official is required to countersign the contract, he said: "The offset contract is signed between the MoD and the foreign vendor. MoD does not sign any contract with the Indian offset partners."

Jet Airways on DGCA's radar: Aviation regulator to conduct financial audit of troubled airline
  • Aviation regulator DGCA is set to conduct a financial audit of the Naresh Goyal-promoted Jet Airways, amid its fiscal conditions under pressure due to the surging jet fuel prices and low fares, a source said.

    The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has already evaluated the financial health of the national carrier Air India recently, besides conducting a special audit of Air Deccan, the source close to the development said.

    The financial audit of airlines, which has been conducted in the past too, is done to assess their fiscal health and also ensure that they are not compromising on safety due to financial stress.

    "We will conduct the financial audit of Jet Airways from August 27. A similar audit of Air India has been completed," the source said.

    The financial audit of Air India was necessitated as the airline has been defaulting on salary payments to its employees, besides grounding a number of aircraft due to payment issues with vendors.

    The DGCA has also carried out a special audit of Air Deccan and will soon be conducting a similar exercise on Air Odisha, following orders from the aviation ministry, the source said.

    The two carriers, which together have been mandated to fly on 84 routes under the government's regional connectivity scheme, had recently cancelled a number of flights, citing shortage of pilots and technical glitch in their aircraft, the source said.

    Air Deccan had started operations in December last year while Air Odisha took to the skies in February this year.

    The Ahmedabad-based GSEC Aviation and Monarch Networth Capital had last year acquired 100 per cent stake in Air Deccan and 60 per cent in Air Odisha.

    The Naresh Goyal-promoted Jet Airways, in which Gulf carrier Etihad holds 24 per cent stake, is grappling with financial woes and its share price has also taken a beating in recent weeks.

    On August 9, the board of directors of Jet Airways deferred the matter of consideration of the unaudited financial results for the June quarter.

    Regulator Sebi is looking into Jet Airways' deferring the announcement of the June quarter results following reservations expressed by the airline's audit committee.

    The loss making Air India, which failed to attract any buyer earlier this year, is also facing a cash crunch and is awaiting Rs 980 crore additional funding from the government.

    It delayed the payment of salaries to its employees for the fifth consecutive month in July.

IOC Q1 net profit up 50 per cent to over Rs 7000 crore
  • Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) on Saturday reported 50.27 per cent jump in consolidated net profit at Rs 7,092.42 crore for the first quarter of the current fiscal.

    The country's largest fuel retailer had posted net profit of Rs 4,719.71 crore in the same quarter of last fiscal.

    Indian Oil in a regulatory filing said that its net income increased to Rs 1,52,377 crore during April-June quarter of the 2018-19, from Rs 1,32,234 crore in the year-ago period.
    Expenses remained higher at Rs 1,42,866 crore as against Rs 1,25,447 crore in the said period.

Adani wins gas licences for 21 cities; BPCL bags 11 cities
  • Billionaire Gautam Adani's group has bagged licences to retail gas in 21 cities in the latest city gas distribution bid round that saw state-owned Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd's unit and Torrent Gas emerging as the other big winners.

    Adani Gas won rights to retail CNG to automobiles and piped cooking gas to households and industries in 13 cities on its own and another nine, including Allahabad, in joint venture with state-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC), according to results of 78 out of the 86 cities that were bid out in the country's biggest city gas distribution (CGD) bid round.

    According to the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB), IOC on its own won rights to seven cities, including Coimbatore and Salem in Tamil Nadu and Guna in Madhya Pradesh.

    Bharat Gas Resources Ltd, a unit of state-owned BPCL, won licence for 11 cities like Amethi and Rai Bareli in Uttar Pradesh and Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, while Torrent Gas Pvt Ltd made nine winning bids that included ones for Alwar in Rajasthan, Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh and Karaikal in Puducherry.

    State gas utility GAIL's retailing arm, GAIL Gas, managed rights for four cities, including Dehradun.

    Indraprastha Gas Ltd, the firm that retails CNG in the national capital, won city gas rights for Meerut and Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh.

    "As per the commitment made by the various entities in the 78 Geographical Areas (GAs) approved for issuance of Letter of Intent (LoI) in 9th CGD Bidding Round, 1.53 crore domestic piped natural gas connections and 3,627 CNG (compressed natural gas) stations for transport sector would be installed largely during a period of 8 years up to September 30, 2026," PNGRB said.

    When the bid round closed last month, IOC, BPCL and Adani Gas Ltd were the top bidders.

    Of the 86 cities offered for retailing of CNG to automobiles and piped cooking gas to households in the 9th CGD bid round, IOC bid for 34 cities on its own and another 20 in partnership with Adani Gas Ltd.

    Adani Gas on its own bid for 32 cities.

    Bharat Gas Resources Ltd bid for as many as 53 cities while GAIL Gas Ltd put in offers for 34 cities.

    Gujarat-based Torrent Gas Pvt Ltd bid for 31 cities while Gujarat Gas Ltd put in offers for 21 areas.

    Petronet LNG Ltd, India's largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) importer, sought to foray into CGD business by bidding for licence in seven cities.

    Indraprastha Gas Ltd had put in bids for 11 cities.

    In a statement, PNGRB said the 9th CGD Bidding Round was launched on April 12 for development of city gas networks for the 86 Geographical Areas (GAs) which includes 174 districts (156 complete and 18 part), spread over 22 states and Union Territories (UTs) in India.

    "Based upon the bids evaluations PNGRB approved issue of Letters of Intent (LoI) to the successful bidders for 78 GAs," it said.

    The regulator said bids for remaining GAs are being evaluated and outcome of the same will be announced shortly.

    "At present, CGD authorisation has been given by PNGRB for 92 GAs covering 124 districts spread over 23 States and UTs. These cover 20 per cent of India's population and 11 per cent of its geographical area. In addition, CGD operations are being carried out in 5 districts, authorisation for which is either under consideration of PNGRB or is sub-judice.

    "With the completion of 9th CGD Bidding Round, CGD would be available in 178 GAs comprising 280 districts spread over 26 States and UTs covering more than 50 per cent of India's population and 35 per cent of its geographical area," PNGRB added.

General Awareness

    Zero Budget Natural Farming
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: Features of ZBNF.
      For Mains: Significance of ZBNF, advantages of ZBNF.

      Context: Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) under Network Project on Organic Farming (NPOF) and All India Coordinated Research Projects (AICRP) on Integrated Farming Systems, has initiated an experiment on “Evaluation of zero budget farming practices in basmati rice-wheat system” at Modipuram (Uttar Pradesh), Ludhiana (Punjab), Pantnagar (Uttarakhand) and Kurukshetra (Haryana) from rabi 2017 to study the zero budget farming practices on productivity, economics and soil health including soil organic carbon and soil fertility.

      What is Zero Budget Natural Farming?

      Zero Budget Natural Farming, as the name implies, is a method of farming where the cost of growing and harvesting plants is zero. This means that farmers need not purchase fertilizers and pesticides in order to ensure the healthy growth of crops. It is, basically, a natural farming technique that uses biological pesticides instead of chemical-based fertilizers. Farmers use earthworms, cow dung, urine, plants, human excreta and such biological fertilizers for crop protection. It reduces farmers’ investment. It also protects the soil from degradation.

      Government initiatives to support ZBNF:

      Government of India has been promoting organic farming in the country through the dedicated schemes of Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) since 2015-16 and also through Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).
      In the revised guidelines of PKVY scheme during the year 2018, various organic farming models like Natural Farming, Rishi Farming, Vedic Farming, Cow Farming, Homa Farming, Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) etc. have been included wherein flexibility is given to states to adopt any model of Organic Farming including ZBNF depending on farmer’s choice.
      Under the RKVY scheme, organic farming/ natural farming project components are considered by the respective State Level Sanctioning Committee (SLSC) according to their priority/ choice.

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