New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha was adjourned for two days on Tuesday as a mark of respect to former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who died in Meghalaya on Monday.
“The country has lost a true son of India. His contributions to the nation in his capacity as a man of technology, a teacher and a leader will be deeply cherished by a grateful nation,” Rajya Sabha Chairman Mohammed Hamid Ansari said.
Kalam was a guide to India’s space and missile programmes and his efforts saw India become a front-ranking power in these spheres. His death is an irreparable loss to the country, Ansari said.
The data tells us that slope, soil texture, soil fertility (acidity) and soil drainage are the major limiting factors/problems, because of which maximum areas are found marginally and moderately suitable for boro rice expansion.
In Meghalayas tough hill terrains that limit field visits, space technology is aiding the selection of areas that are suited for growing and expanding cultivation of boro rice which is sown in winter and harvested in spring/summer, officials said.
Boro refers to a special type of rice cultivation on residual or stored water in low-lying areas after the harvest of kharif (winter) rice. Space technology has zoomed in on potential stretches in the state and offered a bird’s eye view of tracts that are best suited for growing boro season rice.
This will help bridge the demand-supply gap in Meghalaya, where 81 percent of the population is dependent on agriculture but the net cropped area is proportionately quite less: only about 10 percent of the total geographical area of the state.
So, to identify areas for expansion of boro rice in Meghalaya, the North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NESAC) at the request of the Meghalaya’s Directorate of Agriculture, tapped into a suite of geospatial technologies.
These technologies such as remote sensing and Geographic Information Systems are a range of modern tools contributing to the geographic mapping and analysis of a range of data about people, such as population, income, or education level and also about landscapes.
The move to expand area of rice grown in the boro season comes under the Meghalaya State Rice Mission (MSRM) aimed at narrowing the gap between rice production and consumption by doubling the production of rice – a major staple food of the northeastern state, accounting for over 80 percent of the foodgrain production.
In West Bengal and Bangladesh, expansion of irrigation, essential for supporting the boro rice production, led to a rapid increase in boro rice area and production during the past two decades and Meghalaya can benefit by deploying a similar strategy of expanding the boro season area, the state agriculture department opined.
Previous estimates from the rice mission document peg the consumption at approximately 400,000 tonnes annually during the years 2010-11. This estimate is double the rice produced during that period.
“Rice recorded an annual production of 3,01,076 metric tonnes during the year 2015-16 at an average productivity of 2.72 metric tonnes per hectare. Our spring rice/boro paddy produces an average yield of 4.28 metric tonnes per hectare under assured irrigation,” the agriculture department said.
In Meghalaya, the rice crop is distributed in three rice ecosystems. They are low- altitude rice that covers 70 percent of total rice growing areas, mid-altitude rice covers 25 percent and high altitude rice that covers five percent.
In a report submitted to NITI Aayog, the Meghalaya government has said that the under-utilisation of land during the winter season has resulted in shortage of rice for the ever-increasing population.
In addition, with assured irrigation, boro paddy yield is double the average yield per hectare compared to sali rice.
“Boro paddy gives an average yield of 4 MT per hectare compared to the average yield of 2 MT per hectare of sali paddy,” according to the report.
Further, winter planting is free from flash floods and is well-suited for SRI (System of Rice Intensification) technique with yields of 6-7 MT per hectare, the report said, justifying the augmentation of boro paddy cultivation in areas where this practice was not in vogue.
With the NESAC data at its disposal, the department of agriculture has initiated steps for application of the findings by taking a policy decision to link the activity for growing boro rice with the Indian government’s National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) program.
“This will achieve both the objective of providing assured employment under NREGA and also productive output and income for the NREGA wage earner cum farmer,” an agriculture department official said.
Space tech can reduce time lost on trial and error
“By using satellite images and data with ground information on parameters such as slope, soil and climate, we mapped potential areas for expansion of boro rice cultivation. This was one of the first of its kind project in the northeast,” Pratibha T. Das of NESAC told Mongabay-India.
Having space technology focus on potential areas saves time and money in implementation by skipping the field trial stage, explained Das.
In an email communique to Mongabay-India, officials at Meghalaya’s agriculture department also reiterated that this approach eliminates the trial and error method “saving time, effort and money and scale of implementation in a given (short) period of time.”
Das further said: “Even though the identified areas are small, the agriculture department need not conduct field trials; they can directly select the potential areas from the maps and start cultivation.”
The mapping exercise covered landscapes spread across nearly 5000 square km at elevation below 200 metres and excluding forest, built up and barren rocky areas. The findings published in Current Science show that out of 4903 sq. km study area only 807 sq. km (16.5 percent) is suitable for boro rice cultivation.
Though 16.5 percent area is suitable for boro rice, only 0.8 percent (6.35 sq. km) area is highly suitable, which is found in West Garo hills district. Around 581.74 sq. km is marginally suitable whereas 219.07 sq. km area is moderately suitable.
“The data tells us that slope, soil texture, soil fertility (acidity) and soil drainage are the major limiting factors/problems, because of which maximum areas are found marginally and moderately suitable for boro rice expansion,” said Das.
Thematic maps like soil drainage, soil texture, soil depth, flooding and gravel/stoniness and land use maps were dovetailed with soil sample analyses and digital elevation models to get a clear picture on ground.
Soil samples were collected from 121 locations and analysed, revealing that sandy clay soil texture, that was best fit for boro rice, was distributed in six percent of the area examined. (IANS)
(In arrangement with Mongabay.com, a source for environmental news reporting and analysis. The views expressed in the article are those of Mongabay.com. )
The Rajya Sabha was adjourned till afternoon following protests by opposition members amidst a demand that the Constitution bill providing for upper castes reservation be sent to a Select Committee for detailed consideration even as the government sought to push ahead with its passage on the last day of the winter session on Wednesday.
With Lok Sabha having passed the Constitution (124th Amendment) bill providing for 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections among the general category in government service and higher educational institutions, Social Justice Minister Thawarchand Gehlot moved it for consideration in the upper House.
CPI member D. Raja, who objected to the consideration of the bill, demanded that it be sent to a Select Committee and the House should first take a decision on it.
Madhusudhan Mistry of Congress said the Bill was not complete and told the government that it cannot have both introduction and voting on the same day. He asked what was the urgency in the passage of the Bill.
Members were also protesting against the “unilateral” extension of the session till Wednesday saying it was done without consulting the opposition. They said the Chair did not announce a day’s extension in the working days of the House nor did it seek the members’ consent.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Vijay Goel said the Congress was raising technical issues to stall the Bill. “If you openly oppose the Bill, it is different. Otherwise, let’s have a discussion on it as it has already been introduced,” he said.
Moving the Bill, Gehlot said the Constitution does not allow reservation on economic basis and due to that poor people in general category miss out on opportunities.
“There was a complaint by poor of the general category that they could not avail of government benefits. The decision has been taken after much consideration. This bill will uplift the poor,” he said.
He appealed to the members to pass the bill unanimously. This was followed by the start of the debate by BJP member Prabhat Jha. But as shouting and uproar continued, Deputy Chairman Harivansh adjourned the House till 2 p.m.
In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
This is expected to change soon
Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.
As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.
And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.
Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.
As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).
Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.
The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.
For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.
However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.
Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.
Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.
Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.
The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.
The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.
In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.
The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.
Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.
In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS