1.Targeting trawling (The Hindu)
2.Ripe for reform (Indian Express)
1.Targeting trawling (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the decision of Sri Lanka to ban the practice bottom trawling for fishing and its implications on India. (GS paper II)
- Sri Lanka banned the destructive fishing practice of bottom-trawling in their waters, making violators liable for a fine of LKR 50,000 (approximately ₹20,000) and face two years imprisonment.
- The development could directly impact a section of fishermen from Tamil Nadu, who engage in bottom-trawling and have often been found trespassing into Sri Lanka’s territorial waters.
- Bottom trawling is an industrial fishing method where a large net with heavy weights is dragged across the seafloor, scooping up everything in its path from the targeted fish to the incidentally caught centuries-old corals.
- Bottom trawls are used in catching marine life that live on the seafloor, such as shrimp, cod, sole and flounder.
- Bottom trawling is unselective and severely damaging to seafloor ecosystems. The net indiscriminately catches every life and object it encounters. Thus, many creatures end up mistakenly caught and thrown overboard dead or dying, including endangered fish and even vulnerable deep-sea corals which can live for several hundred years.
- This collateral damage, called bycatch, can amount to 90% of a trawl’s total catch. In addition, the weight and width of a bottom trawl can destroy large areas of seafloor habitats that give marine species food and shelter. Such habitat destructions can leave the marine ecosystem permanently damaged.
A brief background
- Ever since Sri Lanka’s civil war ended in 2009, fishermen of Sri Lanka’s Tamil-majority north have been trying to return to the sea. For decades, they had been denied access to it by the armed forces and the LTTE.
- However, just as they began rebuilding their lives with very limited resources and huge loans, they confronted the challenge of bottom-trawlers, originating from Tamil Nadu and trespassing into their waters.
- After several rounds of failed negotiations between fishermen of both countries, the governments on their part made a shift — the Indian side began advocating alternatives such as deep sea fishing, while Sri Lanka adopted stringent measures, including retaining the seized trawlers for longer times.
- The Amendment comes as a huge relief to the northern fishing community, who are among the key drivers of the war-battered economy.
- However, Political parties in Tamil Nadu claim the amendment is draconian, and that it is targeted at the State’s fishermen who regularly use hundreds of trawlers in Sri Lankan territorial waters.
- In recent years, some fishermen in northern Sri Lanka have also adopted bottom trawling. If this practice continues to gain ground even among local fishermen, the long-term consequences on fishing resources in the contested Palk Bay region will be irremediable. The amendment is aimed at curbing local trawlers as well as deterring trawlers from Tamil Nadu.
- Fishermen from both countries have been in talks for a long time to resolve the conflict. Sri Lankan fishermen want an immediate end to incursions by Indian trawlers, and those from Tamil Nadu insist on a three-year phase-out period.
- The proposal to ban bottom trawling is two years old, but the amendment has come at a time when a Joint Working Group set up by both countries last year is in place.
- Tamil Nadu fishermen are arrested from time to time by the Sri Lankan Navy, and their vessels seized. If more are arrested and slapped with two-year jail terms after a summary trial, as the law now envisages, it may create new flashpoints.
- The solution lies in the transition from trawling to deep sea fishing, for which a beginning has been made. The Central and State governments plan to provide 500 deep sea fishing boats with long lines and gill nets this year, as part of a plan to replace 2,000 trawlers in three years.
- However, the question is whether Sri Lanka can be expected to wait for this plan to be fully implemented before enforcing its bottom trawling ban. Even while bracing for an escalation as a result of protests from Tamil Nadu, both countries should ensure that the situation does not disrupt regular meetings of the JWG.
- Besides the fisheries conflict, they need to discuss marine conservation, thus giving equal importance to protecting livelihoods and sustainable fishing.
Question– Differentiate between bottom trawling and deep sea fishing. What are the ecological and political implications of Sri Lanka’s decision to ban bottom trawling?
2.Ripe for reform (Indian Express)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue to defer the reform in fertiliser subsidy to next sowing season. (GS paper III)
- Government has deferred the implementation of a new system of disbursal of fertiliser subsidy based on actual sales to farmers captured on point-of-sale (PoS) machines installed at retail outlets to the next rabi season.
Present fertiliser policy
- For sustained agricultural growth and to promote balanced nutrient application, it is imperative that fertilizers are made available to farmers at affordable prices.
- With this objective, urea being the only controlled fertilizer, is sold at statutory notified uniform sale price, and decontrolled Phosphatic and Potassic fertilizes are sold at indicative maximum retail prices (MRPs).
- The problems faced by the manufactures in earning a reasonable return on their investment with reference to controlled prices, are mitigated by providing support under the New Pricing Scheme for Urea units and the concession Scheme for decontrolled Phosphatic and Potassic fertilizers.
- The statutorily notified sale price and indicative MRP is generally less than the cost of production of the irrespective manufacturing unit.
- The difference between the cost of production and the selling price/MRP is paid as subsidy/concession to manufacturers.
- As the consumer prices of both indigenous and imported fertilizers are fixed uniformly, financial support is also given on imported urea and decontrolled Phosphatic and Potassic fertilizers.
Decision to delay subsidy
- The official reason for not going ahead in the current kharif season, as earlier planned, has been the lack of availability of the PoS devices they have been installed in only half of the country’s nearly 2 lakh fertiliser retail points and technical glitches in their integration with the central server that may have to track over 50 crore transactions, assuming 10 crore farmers making an average five purchases a year.
- The fact that these transactions largely happen over a few months June-August in kharif and October-December in rabi and there are issues of network connectivity in remote rural areas, no doubt, poses significant challenges.
- Given the potential disruptions to sales from an imperfect roll-out and government clearly did not want to take any chances.
- But that said, the move to the post-sale fertiliser subsidy payment system cannot brook further delay. Currently, firms are paid subsidy when the fertiliser is received at a railhead point or any approved godown of a district. It always leaves the scope for diversion of a highly-subsidised material.
Implications of new system
- With the new system, the PoS machine would capture the buyer’s identity based on Aadhaar biometric authentication along with the quantities purchased against every transaction. Somebody buying 200 bags of urea, for instance, is more likely to be a plywood maker using it as a cheap binder. A one-acre farmer wouldn’t require more than 5-6 bags of urea per year.
- The data generated from PoS machine sales would make it possible to both weed out non-farmers and also restrict the subsidy to a maximum of 30-35 bags of all fertilisers per farmer. This will automatically cover all small and marginal farmers.
- The subsidy itself should be credited directly into their Aadhaar-seeded bank accounts, rather than paid to companies making or importing the fertilisers.
- This is the right time for the government to lift all stockholding limits, along with export and domestic movement restrictions on farm produce. The positive price signals from it, on top of a bumper harvest, will provide a much-needed boost to rural incomes. It will also create the right political environment to reform the current regime of farm input subsidies.
Question Fertilizer subsidy foots a huge dent on government finances. How the fertilizer subsidy regime should be reformed to make it more inclusive yet affordable?