Current Affairs (21st May 2021)
Increased subsidy on DAP
- The government announced a 140% increase in the subsidy on di-ammonium phosphate (DAP),from Rs 511 to Rs 1,200 per 50-kg bag.
- It is estimated that it will cost the exchequer an additional Rs 14,775 crore in the coming kharif season alone.
DAP and its importance:
- DAP is the second most usedfertiliser in India after urea. Farmers normally apply this fertiliser just before or at the beginning of sowing, as it is high in phosphorus that stimulates root development.
- Without well-developed roots, plants will not grow to their normal size, or will take too long to mature.
- While there are other phosphatic fertilisers as well — for instance, single super phosphate that contains 16% P and 11% sulphur (S) — DAP is the preferred source of P for farmers. This is like urea, which is their preferred nitrogenous fertiliser containing 46% N.
Subsidy scheme in DAP, and how is it different from other fertilisers?
- The maximum retail price (MRP) of urea is currently fixed at Rs 5,378 per tonne or Rs 242 for a 45-kg bag.
- Since companies are required to sell at this rate, the subsidy (the difference between the cost of manufacturing or import and the fixed MRP) is variable.
- The MRPs of all other fertilisers, by contrast, are decontrolled. Technically, companies can sell these at the rates that they — and not the government — decide.
- The government only gives a fixed per-tonne subsidy. In other words, the subsidy is fixed, but MRP is variable.
Non-urea fertilisers attract the same subsidy:
- They are governed by what is called nutrient-based subsidy or NBS. For 2020-21, the Centre fixed the NBS rates at Rs 18.789/kg for N, Rs 14.888/kg for P, Rs 10.116/kg for potassium (K) and Rs 2.374/kg for S.
- Therefore, depending on the nutrient content for different fertilisers, the per-tonne subsidy also varies.
- The subsidy on DAP for 2020-21 was Rs 10,231 per tonne, or Rs 511.50 for a 50-kg bag. Most companies, till recently, were selling DAP to farmers at around Rs 24,000 per tonne or Rs 1,200/bag.
- They could do this when international prices — both final product as well as the imported raw materials/ingredients such as rock phosphate, sulphur, phosphoric acid, and ammonia — were at reasonable levels.
- Landed prices of DAP in India were below $400 per tonne or Rs 29,000 till October. Adding 5% customs duty and another Rs 3,000 towards port handling, bagging, warehousing, interest, trade margins, and other costs took it to around Rs 33,500 per tonne. Netting out the subsidy of Rs 10,231 per tonne, companies could manage to sell at the MRP of Rs 24,000/tonne or Rs 1,200/bag.
- But global prices of fertilisers and inputs have surged over the past 6-7 months, tracking a general bull run in commodities. That has made it unviable for companies to continue selling at the old rates.
So, what did they do?
- All of them raised MRPs. That included the country’s biggest seller. These hikes were effective from April 1.
- Since non-urea fertilisers are technically decontrolled, there was nothing stopping them from undertaking such steep price hikes. But with West Bengal Assembly elections still on, the companies were told to keep these on hold.
What has the government now done?
- The Department of Fertilisers had notified the NBS rates for 2021-22 on April 9. These were kept unchanged from last year’s levels, leaving companies little choice but to go ahead with the MRP hikes.
- Recently, a “historic decision” was taken to increase the subsidy on DAP from the existing Rs 10,231 per tonne (Rs 511.55/bag) to Rs 24,231 per tonne (1,211.55/bag).
- The Department of Fertilisers too has notified a higher NBS rate for P (from Rs 14.888 to Rs 45.323/kg), while keeping those for the other three nutrients (N, K and S) unchanged. This will enable companies to sell DAP at the earlier MRP, though not MOP and other complex fertilisers.
- But the timing of keeping at least DAP prices in check is good, as farmers will start sowing operations from next month with the arrival of the southwest monsoon rains.
- Politically, too, a revival of farmer protests, more so during the time of the Covid’s second wave, is the last thing the government would want.
Advisory on airborne transmission
- In a new advisory, the government has warned that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be transported through air as well in the form of aerosols and infect people up to 10 metres away.
- Droplets coming out from an infected person fall within a two-metre distance, while aerosols can be carried be carried in air up to ten metres, it has said.
- Droplets and aerosol remain the main modes of transmission of the disease, although it has also warned of the possibility “surface transmission” — droplets falling on different surfaces and getting picked up by people who touch these surfaces.
- The risk from surface transmission, considered very high in the initial months of the pandemic, is now believed to be greatly reduced.
- The CDC has said current evidence “strongly” suggested transmission from contaminated surfaces “does not contribute substantially to new infections”.
What you should do?
- The advisory asks people to keep their indoor spaces well-ventilated, by keeping doors and windows open, and using exhaust systems.
- In closed, unventilated indoor spaces, droplets and aerosols become quickly concentrated and greatly increase the risk of transmission to the people in the area.
- It stresses that the infection transmission risk was much lower in outdoor areas since the virus particles get easily dispersed.
- It advises introducing outdoor air in offices, homes and larger public spaces, and measures to improve ventilation in these spaces in urban and rural areas alike.
- Simple strategic placement of fans, open windows and doors, even slightly open windows can introduce outdoor air and improve the air quality inside.
- Introduction of cross ventilation and exhaust fans will be beneficial in curtailing the spread of the disease.
Droplet vs aerosol
- It was initially suggested that the virus spreads predominantly through large droplets that come out when a person is talking, sneezing, or coughing.
- These droplets, because of their large size, were supposed to travel only short distances before falling on the ground. A person 6 feet (2 metres) away was considered safe from infection.
- Over the months, however, scientists have been finding increasing evidence of the virus travelling through aerosols as well.
- Aerosols are small solid particles suspended in the air. Relatively light, aerosols can carry the virus to much larger distances. Also, they can remain suspended in the air for several minutes, or even hours, thereby greatly increasing the chance of the infecting a nearby person.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Six sites have been added to India’s tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
- A World Heritage site is classified as a natural or man-made area or a structure that is of international importance, and space that requires special protection.
- These sites are officially recognised by the UN and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, also known as UNESCO.
- Six of the nine sites submitted by the Archaeological Survey of India had been accepted by UNESCO for inclusion in the tentative list, which is a requirement before the final nomination of any site.
- UNESCO has already added 30 of India’s cultural sites, 7 natural, and 1 mixed site in its World Heritage List.
- Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is the nodal department for forwarding the proposals to UNESCO.
- The recently included proposals are the:
- Maratha military architecture in Maharashtra,
- Hire Bengal megalithic site in Karnataka,
- Bhedaghat-Lametaghat of Narmada Valley in Madhya Pradesh.
- Ganga ghats in Varanasi,
- temples of Kancheepuram and
- Satpura Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh
- These proposals will remain in tentative list for a year after which the government will decide which one of them to push for in their final dossier to UNESCO.
- With the addition of these six sites, the UNESCO has 48 proposals in tentative list of India.
- As per Operational Guidelines, 2019, it is mandatory to put any monument/site on the Tentative List (TL) before it is considered for the final nomination dossier.
- India has 48 sites in the TL as of now.
- As per rules, any country can submit the nomination dossier after one year of it being on the TL.
Storm likely in Bay of Bengal
- The India Meteorological Department said that a low-pressure area (a precursor to cyclonic storm) is likely to form in the eastern Bay of Bengal and the Northern Andaman Sea.
- Surface temperature of the Bay of Bengal is on the higher side which would likely provide the ammunition the weather system needs to turn into a cyclone.
- If the cyclone takes shape, it will be called Yaas, a name given by Oman.
- The formation of the depression comes close on the heels of Cyclone Tauktae, which left a trail of destruction along the western coast.
- Storms are common in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea in May, ahead of the monsoon onset.
- A weather system draws on the heat and moisture to gain strength in the sea.
- The low-pressure system of cyclone needs a continuous supply of heat energy. The Bay of Bengal is warmer than the Arabian Sea, and hence can provide the heat energy needed to sustain the low-pressure system.
- Sea surface temperatures and humidity directly correlate with the chances of cyclone formation.
- The Bay of Bengal receives higher rainfall and constant inflow of fresh water from the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers and the surface water keeps getting refreshed, making it impossible for the warm water to mix with the cooler water below. This condition is ideal for depression.
- The absence of a large landmass between the Pacific and the Bay allows cyclonic winds to easily move into the Bay of Bengal.
- Low-pressure system originating from the Pacific Ocean also travel towards the left to the Bay of Bengal.