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25 Feb Current Affairs

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi

In News:

To provide an assured income support to the small and marginal farmers, the Government has unveiled the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).

About Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi:

Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land upto 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year.

This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal installments of Rs. 2,000 each.

The complete expenditure of Rs 75000 crore for the scheme will borne by the Union Government in 2019-20.

Significance:

Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit from this. It would not only provide assured supplemental income to the most vulnerable farmer families, but would also meet their emergent needs especially before the harvest season. It would pave the way for the farmers to earn and live a respectable living.

Similar programmes by states:

Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana in Madhya Pradesh was sought to provide relief to farmers by providing the differential between MSPs and market prices.

The Rythu Bandhu scheme of the Telangana government provides ₹4,000 per acre for every season to all the farmers of the state. Similar initiatives have also be framed in Jharkhand and Odisha.

In December 2018, Odisha launched the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income augmentation (KALIA). KALIA is more complicated in design and implementation. It commits to give Rs 5,000 per SMF, twice a year, that is Rs 10,000 a year.

Benefits of direct cash transfers:

It has immediate impact on reducing hunger and rural poverty.

They can help households to overcome credit constraints and manage risk. This can increase productive investment, increase access to markets and stimulate local economies.

Income support can be used to make a repayment or at least activate a bank account which can then receive a loan.

It can increase investment in agricultural inputs, including farm implements and livestock.

It can serve as an important complement to a broader rural development agenda, including a pro-poor growth strategy focusing on agriculture.

Challenges with cash transfers- criticisms:

Landless labourers are not being covered under PM-KISAN.

Cash transfers are not greatly superior in terms of leakages compared to other schemes of in-kind transfer such as the public distribution system (PDS).

A targeted cash transfer scheme envisions the role of the state to only providing cash income to the poor. This kind of approach seeks to absolve the state of its responsibility in providing basic services such as health, education, nutrition and livelihood.

Cash transfer scheme such as PM-KISAN cannot be substituted for subsidies and other institutional support systems such as the National Food Security Act-powered public distribution system. In fact, such cash transfer schemes could be counterproductive and may lead to more distress.

Cash transfers do not solve the following problems which are the reasons for the current agrarian crisis. The Agrarian crisis is not just of low incomes in agriculture. The genesis of the current crisis lies in the faulty and ad hoc export-import policy, lack of infrastructure and cartelisation and collusion in agricultural markets, which have prevented farmers from realizing the market prices for agricultural produce.

Cash transfer is neither a substitute for the structural reforms needed in agriculture, nor does it adequately compensate the farmer for the risks and uncertainty of crop cultivation.

In the absence of proper tenancy records, it will also benefit the absentee landlords.

It is no substitute for the lack of investment in agriculture, which has declined at 2.3% per annum in real terms.

Conclusion:

PM-KISAN is an ambitious scheme that has the potential to deliver significant welfare outcomes. However, the current top-down, rushed approach of the government ignores governance constraints and is therefore likely to result in failure. An alternative bottom-up strategy and well-planned implementation mechanism would allow weaknesses to be identified and rectified at the local level. The most effective modalities can then be scaled nationally and ensure success.

Draft e-commerce policy

In News:

The Department of Industry and Internal Trade has released the draft National ecommerce Policy that sends a clear message that India and its citizens have a sovereign right to their data.

KEY ISSUES ADDRESSED:

  • Data
  • Infrastructure development.
  • Ecommerce marketplaces.
  • Regulatory issues.
  • Stimulating domestic digital economy.
  • Export promotion.

Key features of the draft:

INDIAN CONTROL OVER DATA: Govt to be given access to source code, algorithms of AI systems Impose custom duties on electronic transmissions to reduce revenue loss. It bars sharing of sensitive data of Indian users with third party entities, even with consent.

A ‘data authority‘ to look at community data.

LOCAL PRESENCE FOR APPS & WEBSITES: All ecommerce websites, apps available for downloading in India to have a registered business entity here. Non-compliant ecommerce app/website to be denied access here.

INCENTIVES FOR DATA LOCALISATION: Location of the computing facilities like data centres, server farms within India. Firms to get 3 years to comply with local data storage requirements.

Data storage facilities to get ‘infrastructure status’.

FDI IN ECOMM: FDI only in marketplace model. No FDI in inventory model.

ECOMMERCE TRADE: Curbs on Chinese ecommerce exports. Gifting route, often used by Chinese apps, websites, banned for all parcels except life-saving drugs. Integrating Customs, RBI and India Post to improve tacking of imports through ecommerce.

Incentives & e-commerce export promotions.

Ecommerce startups may get ‘infant industry’ status raising limit for courier shipments from Rs 25,000 to boost ecommerce export.

REGUALTION: No separate regulator for ecommerce sector.

E-consumer courts to be developed.

Monkey Declared Vermin in Himachal Pradesh

In News:

Monkeys have again been declared vermin for the next one year in 11 districts’ 91 tehsils and sub-tehsils of Himachal Pradesh.

Details:

The state government had urged the centre to declare Monkeys as vermin because the animals have been adversely affecting crops and causing harm to humans.

Declaring animals as vermin:

Wildlife laws divide species into ‘schedules’ ranked from I to V. Schedule I members are the best protected, in theory, with severe punishments meted out to those who hunt them. Wild boars, nilgai and rhesus monkeys are Schedule II and III members — also protected, but can be hunted under specific conditions. Crows and fruit bat fall in Schedule 5, the vermin category.

Section 11(1)a of the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA) authorizes chief wildlife warden to permit hunting of any problem wild animal only if it cannot be captured, tranquillized or translocated.

For wild animals in Schedule II, III or IV, chief wildlife warden or authorized officers can permit their hunting in a specified area if they have become dangerous to humans or property (including standing crops on any land).

Section 62 of Act empowers Centre to declare wild animals other than Schedule I & II to be vermin for specified area and period.

Concerns:

Not many are happy with these decisions. These decisions raise questions about whether it is right to kill wildlife that damage crops. More pertinent is whether the problem has been framed and assessed correctly, and culling the appropriate solution in the first place.

Why culling is not a good idea?

Removal through capture or killing may not prevent recurrence of conflicts and may even exacerbate them. Himachal Pradesh, for instance, killed hundreds of rhesus macaques in 2007 with conflicts recurring within two years, sterilised over 96,000 macaques since 2007 while conflicts continued to increase.

When animals are hunted, some will be shot several times causing tremendous pain, but many others escape with one gunshot or flesh wound, and die later slowly and in unimaginable agony from blood loss, gangrene, starvation or dehydration. When mother animals are killed, orphaned babies are left behind to starve.

Provisions to allow wild animals to be killed can also be easily misused and contribute to the illegal wildlife trade. There is already a huge black market for nilgai body parts such as skin, teeth, nails and meat in Uttar Pradesh and wild boar are often used for meat.

In parts of India, wildlife species such as wild pig, elephants, macaques, and nilgai occasionally damage crops or property. However, no reliable estimates of economic loss nationwide are available.

Following list of reasons that scientists’ show us why the animal isn’t the problem:

Habitat loss: Deforestation and lowered green cover in cities has been driving animals into crop fields and human dwellings in search of food.

Fall in predator population: Fall in population of predators such as tigers and leopards leads to a consequential rise in population of herbivores such as nilgai and deer.

Drought: If natural calamities such as drought affect human beings, so is the case with animals in the forest. Drought dries up availability of food for foraging driving wild animals into nearby crop fields and human dwellings in search of food.

Humans feeding animals: this is one of the major problems these days. Tourists often offer foods to animals roadside. This habit makes them chase tourists expecting the same from all tourists.

What are the alternatives available?

Crop damage by wildlife may occur when animals enter crop fields because of habitat alteration and fragmentation, because crops are edible, or because the fields lie along movement routes to forest patches or water sources. For this, site-specific scientific information is needed which helps design targeted mitigation with participation of affected people. This includes supporting local communities to install — and, more important, maintain on a sustained basis — bio-fencing and power fencing around vulnerable areas.

Crop insurance for wildlife damage, which the Environment Ministry recently recommended can be included in the National Crop/Agricultural Insurance Programme. An insurance approach recognises wildlife as a part of the shared countryside and as a risk to be offset rather than viewing wildlife as antagonists belonging to the State that one wishes away.

Solutions such as adequate fencing, noisemakers, and repelling animals naturally from farms through the use of chili plants or other such means can be tried. In Africa, for example, the planting of chili plants around crops was found to be successful in addressing conflict with elephants.

Source: The Hindu

Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan

In News:

The government of Gujarat has launched the second edition of the water conservation scheme Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan.

About Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan:

The scheme aims to deepen water bodies in the state before monsoon to increase storage of rainwater to be used during times of scarcity.

It involves cleaning and desilting of riverfronts, sprucing up of Irrigation canals.

Background:

During the first edition against its anticipated target of 16,616 works of deepening of ponds and lakes across the state, 18,220 works were accomplished. The first edition witnessed an increase in the water storage capacity of more than 11,000 lakh cubic feet rainwater through different sources like ponds, reservoirs, check dams, bori bandh and other.

The desilting had also generated a huge amount of loose/soil or clay which can be used by farmers to increase agricultural productivity.

Source: ToI

Cheetah reintroduction project

In News:

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) recently told a bench of the Supreme Court that African cheetahs would be translocated in India from Namibia and would be kept at Nauradehi wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

Details:

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has given a ‘no objection’ for the translocation.

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, an icon of nature. With great speed and dexterity, the cheetah is known for being an excellent hunter, its kills feeding many other animals in its ecosystem—ensuring that multiple species survive.

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.

Cheetah reintroduction programme in India:

The Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun had prepared a ₹260-crore cheetah re-introduction project six years ago. It was estimated that an amount of ₹25 crore to ₹30 crore would be needed to build an enclosure in an area of 150 sq km for the cheetahs in Nauradehi. The proposal was to put the felines in the enclosure with huge boundary walls before being released in the wild, he said.

Nauradehi was found to be the most suitable area for the cheetahs as its forests are not very dense to restrict the fast movement of the spotted cat. Besides, the prey base for cheetahs is also in abundance at the sanctuary.

According to the earlier action plan, around 20 cheetahs were to be translocated to Nauradehi from Namibia in Africa. The Namibia Cheetah Conservation Fund had then showed its willingness to donate the felines to India. However, the State was not ready to finance the plan contending that it was the Centre’s project.

Background:

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.

Source: Down to Earth

Permanent Residence Certificate

In News:

Violence erupted in Arunachal Pradesh over the issue of Permanent Residence Certificate to six non-Arunachal Pradesh Scheduled Tribes (APSTs) living in the Namsai and Changlang districts and to the Gorkhas living in Vijaynagar.

Details:

The protests spread despite a state government assurance that they had deferred the plan to give them PRC.

Background:

Deoris, Sonowal Kacharis, Morans, Adivasis and Mishings were demanding Permanent Residence Certificate. Most of these communities are recognised as Scheduled Tribes in neighbouring Assam. According to reports, the demand by these communities for PRC, recognising them as residents of the state, is long-standing, but is opposed by powerful groups.

What is Permanent Residence Certificate?

The State Government of Arunachal Pradesh issues the domicile certificate otherwise called as Permanent Residence Certificate (PRC) to the residents of the state who stayed therein over a period. Those citizens who are not currently residing in the state but are sure of permanently staying therein can also apply for it.

Besides the permanent residence certificate, the State also offers Temporary Residence Certificate (TRC) for those who reside in the State on a temporary basis.

Purpose of the Certificate:

Permanent Residence Certificate is a legal document that serves as an evidence of residence and thus must be submitted wherever a residence proof is required.

Permanent Residence Certificate should be produced in many situations such as admission in educational organisations, job reservation under specific quotas especially for government jobs, etc. to get local preferences.

To apply for ration card permanent residence certificate is a vital and mandate document.

To avail the provisions of various schemes of the state or to claim scholarships of the State, permanent residence certificate is essential.

Source: Indian Express

Islamic Cooperation countries (OIC)

In News:

In a 1st, India invited to OIC meet as ‘guest of honour’.

Background:

India has never been invited to the OIC before and the latest development, coming at a time when the India-Pakistan tension is running high, is being seen as a diplomatic success.

About the OIC:

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states.

It is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations.

The organisation states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony“.

The OIC has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union.

Source: ToI

Afghanistan opens new export route to India through Iran’s Chabahar port

In News:

Afghanistan recently began exports to India through Chabahar port in Iran. Afghanistan, a landlocked, war-torn nation is turning to overseas markets to improve its economy.

Details:

Chabahar port is the result of healthy cooperation between India, Iran and Afghanistan this will ensure economic growth. The Iranian port provides easy access to the sea to Afghanistan and India has helped developed this route to allow both countries to engage in trade bypassing Pakistan.

Where is Chabahar port?

Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast.

Why Chabahar port is crucial for India?

The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.

Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.

With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.

With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.

Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This will in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.

From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

Source: The Hindu

EVM is ‘information’ under Right to Information Act

In News:

An Electronic Voting Machine is “information” under the Right to Information Act and can be demanded by an applicant from the Election Commission of India on a payment of Rs 10, the Central Information Commission has ruled.

The ruling:

The machine is covered under the definition of “information” and can be demanded from the ECI.

As per Section 2(f) and 2(i) of the RTI Act, the definition of ‘information’ and ‘record’ also includes ‘any model or any sample’ held by a public authority.

Section 2(f) of the RTI Act defines ‘Information’ as any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.

Implications of this ruling:

This implies the Election Commission has to respond to an RTI application seeking the EVM either by providing it or refusing it under exemption clauses in the Act. But that also can be contested before the CIC, the highest adjudicating authority in RTI matters.

Background:

An information can be denied by a public authority if it attracts any exemption clauses listed in the RTI Act which also exempts information pertaining to commercial confidence or intellectual property from disclosure.

One of the clauses Section 8(1)(d) exempts information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.

Basics about CIC:

Section 12(3) of the RTI Act 2005 provides as follows:

The Prime Minister, who shall be the Chairperson of the committee;

The Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha; and

A Union Cabinet Minister to be nominated by the Prime Minister.

Eligibility:

Section 12(5) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.

Section 12(6) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that Chief Information Commissioner or an Information Commissioner shall not be a Member of Parliament or Member of the Legislature of any State or Union Territory as the case may be, or hold any other office of profit or connected with any political party or carrying on any business or pursuing any profession.

What is the term of office and other service conditions of CIC?

Section 13 of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the Chief Information Commissioner shall hold office for a term of five years from the date on which he enters upon his office and shall not be eligible for reappointment.

Section 13(5)(a) of the RTI Act 2005 provides that the salaries and allowances payable to and other terms and conditions of service of the Chief Information Commissioner shall be the same as that of the Chief Election Commissioner.

Source: The Hindu

 

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