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21st March Current Affairs

MGNREGA

(GS-III: Employment Related issues)

In News:

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Rural Development and Panchayati Raj has submitted its report on the functioning of the MGNREGA to the Lok Sabha.

Challenges/concerns highlighted:

There has always been a hike in the revised estimate over the budget estimate in the past.

Delay in the release of funds.

Wide disparity in the wage rate between one state to another.

Fake job cards, widespread corruption and late uploading of muster rolls.

Recommendations made:

Increasing the number of guaranteed working days from 100 to at least 150.

Increase the permissible work taking into account the local geographical terrain and local requirements.

The government should relook at its calculation and suitably approach the ministry of finance for higher allocation of funds in order to speed up the pace of rural development schemes for dearth of budget.

As per the latest economic survey:

Demand for work under MGNREGA scheme has dropped from the peak of the first lockdown, but is still higher than pre-COVID levels.

The highest demand for work under the scheme was seen in States which are usually the destination of migrant workers, rather than source States.

About MGNREGA:

The scheme was introduced in 2005 as a social measure that guarantees “the right to work”.

The key tenet of this social measure and labour law is that the local government will have to legally provide at least 100 days of wage employment in rural India to enhance their quality of life.

Key objectives:

Generation of paid rural employment of not less than 100 days for each worker who volunteers for unskilled labour.

Proactively ensuring social inclusion by strengthening the livelihood base of rural poor.

Creation of durable assets in rural areas such as wells, ponds, roads and canals.

Reduce urban migration from rural areas.

Create rural infrastructure by using untapped rural labour.

The following are the eligibility criteria for receiving the benefits under MGNREGA scheme:

Must be Citizen of India to seek MGNREGA benefits.

Job seeker has completed 18 years of age at the time of application.

The applicant must be part of a local household (i.e. application must be made with local Gram Panchayat).

Applicants must volunteer for unskilled labour.

Implementation of the scheme:

Within 15 days of submitting the application or from the day work is demanded, wage employment will be provided to the applicant.

Right to get unemployment allowance in case employment is not provided within fifteen days of submitting the application or from the date when work is sought.

Social Audit of MGNREGA works is mandatory, which lends to accountability and transparency.

The Gram Sabha is the principal forum for wage seekers to raise their voices and make demands.

It is the Gram Sabha and the Gram Panchayat which approves the shelf of works under MGNREGA and fix their priority.

India and the Arctic

(GS-III: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology)

In News:

The government has unveiled India’s Arctic Policy with an aim to combat climate change and protect the environment.

Details:

India holds one of the 13 positions as the Observer in the Arctic Council.

Policy:

The Indian Arctic policy is built on six central pillars:

  • Science and research.
  • Environmental protection.
  • Economic and human development.
  • Transportation and connectivity.
  • Governance and international cooperation.
  • National capacity building.

Highlights of the Policy:

The policy commits to expanding scientific research, “sustainable tourism” and mineral oil and gas exploration in the Arctic region.

It spells out goals in India’s Arctic Mission such as to better understand the scientific and climate-related linkages between the Arctic and the Indian monsoons.

It also seeks to harmonise polar research with the third pole (the Himalayas) and to advance the study and understanding of the Arctic within India.

The policy calls for exploration opportunities for responsible exploration of natural resources and minerals from the Arctic and identifying opportunities for investment in Arctic infrastructure in areas such as “offshore exploration/mining, ports, railways and airports.

Arctic region:

The Arctic region comprises the Arctic Ocean and parts of countries such as Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, USA (Alaska), Finland, Sweden and Iceland.

These countries together form the core of the Arctic Council, an intergovernmental forum. The region is home to almost four million inhabitants, of which, about one-tenth are indigenous people.

India’s engagement in the Arctic:

India’s engagement with the Arctic began when it signed the Svalbard Treaty in February 1920 in Paris between Norway, the US, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and Ireland, and the British overseas Dominions and Sweden concerning Spitsbergen. Ever since then, India has been closely monitoring all the developments in the Arctic region.

India initiated its Arctic research program in 2007 with a focus on climate change in the region. The objectives included studying teleconnections between Arctic climate and Indian monsoon, to characterize sea ice in the Arctic using satellite data, to estimate the effect on global warming.

India already has a research station in the Arctic, Himadri, for the research work.

Significance of arctic study for India:

Though none of India’s territory directly falls in the Arctic region, it is a crucial area as the Arctic influences atmospheric, oceanographic and biogeochemical cycles of the earth’s ecosystem.

Due to climate change, the region faces the loss of sea ice, ice caps, and warming of the ocean which in turn impacts the global climate.

The frigid Arctic, which keeps losing ice due to global warming, is one of the batteries feeding the variations in Indian monsoons.

Cheetah reintroduction project

(GS-III: Environment and conservation related issues)

In News:

The cheetah, which became extinct in India after Independence, is all set to return with the Union Government launching an action plan.

Details:

Under the ‘Action Plan for Introduction of Cheetah in India’, 50 of these big cats will be introduced in the next five years.

The action plan was launched at the 19th meeting of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

What is reintroduction and why reintroduce Cheetah now?

‘Reintroduction’ of a species means releasing it in an area where it is capable of surviving.

Reintroductions of large carnivores have increasingly been recognised as a strategy to conserve threatened species and restore ecosystem functions.

The cheetah is the only large carnivore that has been extirpated, mainly by over-hunting in India in historical times.

India now has the economic ability to consider restoring its lost natural heritage for ethical as well as ecological reasons.

Facts:

The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is one of the oldest of the big cat species, with ancestors that can be traced back more than five million years to the Miocene era.

The cheetah is also the world’s fastest land mammal.

African Cheetah is listed as vulnerable in IUCN red listed species.

The country’s last spotted feline died in Chhattisgarh in 1947. Later, the cheetah — which is the fastest land animal — was declared extinct in India in 1952.

The Asiatic cheetah is classified as a “critically endangered” species by the IUCN Red List, and is believed to survive only in Iran.

Cheetah reintroduction programme in India:

The Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun had prepared a ₹260-crore cheetah re-introduction project seven years ago.

India has plans to reintroduce cheetahs at the Kuno National Park in Sheopur and Morena districts of Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior-Chambal region.

This could be the world’s first inter-continental cheetah translocation project.

Reasons for extinction:

The reasons for extinction can all be traced to man’s interference. Problems like human-wildlife conflict, loss of habitat and loss of prey, and illegal trafficking, have decimated their numbers.

The advent of climate change and growing human populations have only made these problems worse.

With less available land for wildlife, species that require vast home range like the cheetah are placed in competition with other animals and humans, all fighting over less space.

What has the Supreme Court said?

The 2013 order of the Supreme Court quashed plans to introduce African cheetahs in India and more specifically at Kuno national park in Madhya Pradesh.

African cheetahs are not required to perform the role of the top predator in these habitats when the site (Kuno) that they have identified already has a resident population of leopards, transient tigers and is also the site for the translocation of Asiatic lions as ordered by the Supreme Court.

Last year (2021), the Supreme Court lifted its seven-year-long stay on a proposal to introduce African Cheetahs from Namibia into the Indian habitat.

Scheme for Women Farmers

(GS-III: Agriculture and related issues)

In News:

In order to familiarize women with the latest techniques in agriculture and allied sectors, trainings are being imparted to women farmers under schemes of Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare and Ministry of Rural Development.

Details:

The guidelines of the various beneficiary-oriented schemes of the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation and Farmers Welfare (DAC&FW), provide that States and other Implementing Agencies to incur atleast 30% expenditure on women farmers.

Following schemes have specific components for the welfare of women farmres:

  • National Food Security Mission,
  • National Mission on Oilseed & Oil Palm,
  • National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture,
  • Sub-Mission for Seed and Planting Material,
  • Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization and
  • Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture.

Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP):

The Department of Rural Development, launched a specific scheme namely ‘Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP)’.

It is a subcomponent of DAY-NRLM (Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana — National Rural Livelihoods Mission).

This scheme is being implemented since 2011.

Objectives: To empower women by making systematic investments to enhance their participation and productivity, as also create sustainable livelihoods of rural women.

Implementation: The program is implemented in project mode through State Rural Livelihoods Mission (SRLM) as Project Implementing Agencies.

Need for promotion of women farmer:

Agriculture support system in India strengthens the exclusion of women from their entitlements as agriculture workers and cultivators.

Rural women form the most productive work force in the economy of majority of the developing nations including India. More than 80% of rural women are engaged in agriculture activities for their livelihoods.

About 20 per cent of farm livelihoods are female headed due to widowhood, desertion, or male emigration.

Most of the women-headed households are not able to access extension services, farmers support institutions and production assets like seed, water, credit, subsidy etc. As agricultural workers, women are paid lower wage than men.