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18th Feb Current Affairs

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)

In News:

To ensure timely settlements of claims under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has approved the proposal of the department of agriculture for flying drones over 100 districts growing rice and wheat.

This is the first remote sensing technology based largest pilot study in the country so far, conducted for crop yield estimation.

About PMFBY:

Launched in 2016.

Merged schemes include National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (NAIS) and Modified National Agricultural Insurance Scheme (MNAIS).

It aims to reduce the premium burden on farmers and ensure early settlement of crop assurance claim for the full insured sum.

Coverage:

The Scheme covers all Food & Oilseeds crops and Annual Commercial/Horticultural Crops for which past yield data is available and for which requisite number of Crop Cutting Experiments (CCEs) are being conducted under General Crop Estimation Survey (GCES).

PMFBY to PMFBY 2.0:

Completely Voluntary: It has been decided to make enrolment 100% voluntary for all farmers from 2020 Kharif.

Limit to Central Subsidy: The Cabinet has decided to cap the Centre’s premium subsidy under these schemes for premium rates up to 30% for unirrigated areas/crops and 25% for irrigated areas/crops.

More Flexibility to States: The government has given the flexibility to states/UTs to implement PMFBY and given them the option to select any number of additional risk covers/features like prevented sowing, localised calamity, mid-season adversity, and post-harvest losses.

Penalising the Pendency: In the revamped PMFBY, a provision has been incorporated wherein if states don’t release their share before March 31 for the Kharif season and September 30 for rabi, they would not be allowed to participate in the scheme in subsequent seasons.

Investing in ICE Activities: Insurance companies have to now spend 0.5% of the total premium collected on information, education and communication (IEC) activities.

What are govt securities?

In News:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has given small investors direct access to its government securities trading platform.

Now, Retail investors can directly open their gilt accounts with RBI, and trade in government securities.

What is the need for the current proposal, then?

  • The g-sec market is dominated by institutional investors such as banks, mutual funds, and insurance companies. These entities trade in lot sizes of Rs 5 crore or more.
  • So, there is no liquidity in the secondary market for small investors who would want to trade in smaller lot sizes. In other words, there is no easy way for them to exit their investments.
  • Thus, currently, direct g-secs trading is not popular among retail investors.

What are G- Secs?

A government security (G-Sec) is a tradeable instrument issued by the central government or state governments.

Key features:

  • It acknowledges the government’s debt obligations.
  • Such securities can be both short term (treasury bills — with original maturities of less than one year) or long term (government bonds or dated securities — with original maturity of one year or more).
  • The central government issues both: treasury bills and bonds or dated securities.
  • State governments issue only bonds or dated securities, which are called the state development loans.
  • Since they are issued by the government, they carry no risk of default, and hence, are called risk-free gilt-edged instruments.
  • FPIs are allowed to participate in the G-Secs market within the quantitative limits prescribed from time to time.

G- Sec prices fluctuate sharply in the secondary markets. Factors affecting their prices:

  • Demand and supply of the securities.
  • Changes in interest rates in the economy and other macro-economic factors, such as, liquidity and inflation.
  • Developments in other markets like money, foreign exchange, credit and capital markets.
  • Developments in international bond markets, specifically the US Treasuries.
  • Policy actions by RBI like change in repo rates, cash-reserve ratio and open-market operations.

No blanket nod given for surveillance

In News:

The Central government has told the Delhi High Court that no blanket permission has been granted to any agency for interception or monitoring or decryption of any messages or information under the surveillance programmes like the Centralised Monitoring System (CMS), Network Traffic Analysis (NETRA) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID).

Background:

The affidavit came in response to a petition seeking to constitute a permanent, independent oversight body for reviewing lawful interception and monitoring orders or warrants under the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act and the Information Technology Act.

Need for surveillance:

The government defended the need for the CMS, NETRA and NATGRID surveillance systems saying that ”grave threats to the country from terrorism, radicalisation, cybercrime, drug cartels, etc, cannot be understated or ignored” and it was imperative, therefore, to have a robust mechanism ”for speedy collection of actionable intelligence.”

What’s the issue?

The Delhi High Court had sought response of the Centre on a PIL claiming that citizens’ right to privacy was being “endangered” by the execution and operation of surveillance systems.

The plea by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) has claimed that these surveillance systems allow central and state law enforcement agencies to intercept and monitor all telecommunications in bulk which is an infringement of the fundamental right to privacy of individuals.

What were the demands by the petitioner?

The petitioner sought constitution of a permanent independent oversight body, judicial or parliamentary, for issuing and reviewing lawful interception and monitoring orders/warrants under the enabling provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Breach of Privilege

In News:

BJP MP P.P. Chaudhary has issued a breach of privilege notice against Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra in the Lok Sabha for her remarks against a former Chief Justice of India.

What’s the issue?

While speaking on the Motion of Thanks on the President’s address, she has cast some aspersions with respect to the conduct of a judge. So the question is whether the conduct of a judge can be discussed on the floor of the House or not.

(Article 121 of the Constitution does not allow allegations to be levelled against a sitting or former judge).

What are privileges?

Parliamentary privilege refers to the right and immunity enjoyed by legislatures, in which legislators are granted protection against civil or criminal liability for actions done or statements made in the course of their legislative duties.

Which provisions of the Constitution protect the privileges of the legislature?

The powers, privileges and immunities of either House of the Indian Parliament and of its Members and committees are laid down in Article 105 of the Constitution.

Similarly, Article 194 deals with the powers, privileges and immunities of the State Legislatures, their Members and their committees.

What constitutes a breach of this privilege?

There are no clear, notified rules to decide what constitutes a breach of privilege, and the punishment it attracts.

Generally, any act that obstructs or impedes either House of the state legislature in performing its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any Member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results is treated as breach of privilege.

It is also a breach of privilege and contempt of the House to make speeches or to print or publish libel reflecting on the character or proceedings of the House, or its Committees, or on any member of the House for or relating to his character or conduct as a legislator.

What is the procedure to be followed in cases of alleged breach of the legislature’s privilege?

  • The Legislative Assembly Speaker or Legislative Council Chairman constitutes a Privileges Committee.
  • The members to the committee are nominated based on the party strength in the Houses.
  • Speaker or Chairman first decides on the motions.
  • If the privilege and contempt are found prima facie, then the Speaker or Chairman will forward it to the Privileges Committee by following the due procedure.
  • The Committee will examine whether statements made by him had insulted the state legislature and its Members, and whether their image was maligned before the public.
  • The Committee, which has quasi-judicial powers, will seek an explanation from all the concerned, will conduct an inquiry and will make a recommendation based on the findings to the state legislature for its consideration.