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PSC seeks public views on Agriculture Biosecurity Bill, 2013

The Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Agriculture which is headed by Basudeb Acharia has sought public opinion on Agriculture Biosecurity Bill, 2013 that envisages for the setting up of an Integrated National Biosecurity System which will cover plant, animal, marine and farm microorganisms to fight threats of bioterrorism from pests and weeds.

It has also sought suggestions from experts, stakeholders, individuals and institutions on pricing of agricultural produce, particularly on the methodology of fixing the minimum support price, need to broad-base the crops covered, market intervention to protect farmers from distress sale and need for an integrated price structure.

What are the key proposals in Agriculture Biosecurity Bill, 2013?

The Agriculture Biosecurity Bill, 2013, introduced in Lok Sabha in March 2013, will repeal the Destructive Insects and Pests Act and the Livestock Importation Act of 1898. It proposes to set up an Agriculture Biosecurity Authority (ABA) for prevention, control, eradication and management of pests and diseases of plants and animals and unwanted organisms. The Bill is also meant to fulfill India’s international obligations to facilitate import and export of plants, plant products, animals, animal products, aquatic organisms and regulation of agriculturally important microorganisms. The ABA will regulate the export and import of plants, animals and related products, prevent entry of quarantine pests from outside India and take steps for post-entry quarantine measures.

What is need for Agriculture Biosecurity Bill, 2013?

With increasing liberalization of international trade in agriculture there is an elevated risk of introduction of exotic pests and weeds in the country that can cause serious economic damage. It is also imperative to properly assess the risk Genetically Modified Organisms for their proper management. Climate change too has the potential to alter the habitat of known pests and even introduce new pests. The emergence and spread of trans-boundary diseases such as avian influenza, the Ug-99 wheat stem rust fungus pose new dangers to human, animal and plant safety. To combat these issues effectively, the Agriculture Biosecurity Bill, 2013  has been proposed which seeks to set up ABA to improve safety, efficiency, transparency and compliance of quarantine and pest management regulations and respond swiftly to contain biosecurity problems. It will also ensure the conduct of bio-secure international trade in agriculture.


‘Project Ananta’: Planning Commission approves the project

The Planning Commission has given its ‘in principle’ approval to the “Project Ananta” which is a pilot project aimed at development of the drought-prone Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. The Rs 8,000-crore project will take a holistic approach to achieve the target.

The project has been approved after a high-level committee headed by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) had visited the drought-hit Anantapur district last year and submitted a report. It suggested that the district needed a five-year plan to take stock of the situation and prepare a plan to address issues such as natural resource management, crops and livestock. The report envisages a shift in agricultural topography of the district suggesting the farmers to go for cluster bean, pulses and horticulture while also taking up dairy and allied activities in a big way for employment generation.

The government currently spends over Rs.1,000 crore as input subsidy, crop insurances, beside other compensatory measures, to ease the financial stress of the farmers.

The new project would be the biggest ever targeted at handling the problems of the district after the Desert Development Programme a decade ago.


Madhya Pradesh govt to listen to oustees of the Omkareshwar dam project

The MP government has decided to hear out the issues of the oustees of the Omkareshwar dam project who have been protesting standing in waist to neck-deep water, for the last two weeks as part of their jal satyagraha.

Why this protest?

The  jal satyagraha was started by the oustees in May 2013 to at Ghogalgaon village in M.P.’s East Nimaar region to protest against the state government’s decision to raise the water level in the dam to 193 metres from 189 without ensuring prior relief and rehabilitation, including land for land, to the oustees.

As per State’s official release, some affected families, having already received monetary compensation in lieu of land, have been misled into demanding land for land and have not moved from the dam site. But as per court orders, only those displaced families who have not received any compensation money from the banks are eligible for land in lieu of land and those protesting should keep that in mind before assessing the validity of their movement.

The Omkareshwar Project:

The 520 MW Omkareshwar project is one of the several big dams in the Narmada Valley, built by the Narmada Hydroelectric Development Corporation, a joint venture between NHPC Ltd and the government of Madhya Pradesh.