(GS-II: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation)
Hundreds of kendu leaf pluckers, binders and workers recently staged a demonstration in Sambalpur, Odisha demanding the abolition of GST on kendu leaves.
What’s the issue?
A GST of 18 per cent is imposed on kendu leaves which is against the Forest Rights Act-2006 and the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) to celebrate 25th year of PESA Act. Besides, the government has imposed a GST of 28 per cent on bidi which is a finished product made of kendu leaf. This double taxation has hit the profits of kendu leaf organisation and affected the livelihood of around 12 lakh workers. While the profits have reduced drastically, they are now deprived of many social security benefits too.
About Kendu Leaves:
Kendu leaf is called the green gold of Odisha. It is a nationalised product like bamboo and sal seed. It is one of the most important non-wood forest products in Odisha.
The leaves are used to wrap bidis, a popular smoke among the locals.
The Uniqueness of Odisha’s Tendu (kendu) leaf is in processed form whereas the rest of the states in India produce in Phal Form.
Traditional medical practitioners use these tiny fruits of Kendu to treat malaria, diarrhoea and dysentery.
Kendu leaves are the major source for tribal villages, since it is the most prominent Minor Forest Produce of the state.
Odisha is the third-largest producer of kendu leaf, after Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
About the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) to celebrate 25th year of PESA Act:
The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 or PESA Act is a law enacted by the Government of India for ensuring self-governance through traditional Gram Sabhas for people living in the Scheduled Areas of India.
It was enacted by Parliament in 1996 and came into force on 24th December 1996.
The PESA is considered to be the backbone of tribal legislation in India.
PESA recognises the traditional system of the decision-making process and stands for the peoples’ self-governance.
To promote local self-governance in rural India, the 73rd constitutional amendment was made in 1992. Through this amendment, a three-tier Panchayati Raj Institution was made into a law.
However, its application to the scheduled and tribal areas under Article 243(M) was restricted.
After the Bhuria Committee recommendations in 1995, Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas (PESA) Act 1996 came into existence for ensuring tribal self-rule for people living in scheduled areas of India.
The PESA conferred the absolute powers to Gram Sabha, whereas state legislature has given an advisory role to ensure the proper functioning of Panchayats and Gram Sabhas.
The power delegated to Gram Sabha cannot be curtailed by a higher level, and there shall be independence throughout.
Powers and functions given to the Gram Sabhas:
Issues Related to PESA:
The state governments are supposed to enact state laws for their Scheduled Areas in consonance with this national law. This has resulted in the partially implemented PESA.
The partial implementation has worsened self-governance in Adivasi areas,l ike in Jharkhand.
Many experts have asserted that PESA did not deliver due to the lack of clarity, legal infirmity, bureaucratic apathy, absence of a political will, resistance to change in the hierarchy of power, and so on.
As per Social audits conducted across the state, In reality different developmental schemes were being approved on paper by Gram Sabha, without actually having any meeting for discussion and decision making.
FSSAI draft regulations for GM foods
Social activists working among farmers have come out against the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) draft regulations on genetically modified (GM) food, terming it “unacceptable”.
What’s their demand?
They want FSSAI to explicitly say that GM foods will not be allowed into India by way of production or imports. Because, according to them, any kind of GM food in India is a threat to the health of our people, to our environment, and to the diverse food cultures of India.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has released draft regulations for GM foods.
What’s the issue?
The Draft proposed that all food products having individual genetically engineered ingredients of 1% or more will be labeled as “Contains GMO/ingredients derived from GMO”. Activists claimed this as a tacit approval to import of GM food instead of prohibiting them.
Overview of the Draft:
No one can manufacture or sell any food products or food ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) without prior approval.
Specifies norms that labs will need to adhere for testing GM foods.
The proposed regulations will apply to “Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or Genetically Engineered Organisms (GEOs) or Living Modified Organism (LMOs) intended for direct use as food or for processing.”
The regulations’ ambit will include food products that may have been made using food ingredients or processing aid derived from GMOs, even if GM content is not present in the end-product.
Genetically Modified Organisms or Genetically Engineered Organisms “shall not be used as an ingredient” in infant food products.
The draft also proposes labeling norms for food products that contain one per cent or more than one percent of GMO content.
GMO regulation in India:
The task of regulating GMO levels in imported consumables was initially with the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Union environment ministry.
Its role in this was diluted with the enactment of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and FSSAI was asked to take over approvals of imported goods.
What are Genetically Modified Organism (Transgenic Organism)?
In GMO, genetic material (DNA) is altered or artificially introduced using genetic engineering techniques.
Genetic modification involves the mutation, insertion, or deletion of genes.
Inserted genes usually come from a different organism (e.g. In Bt cotton, Bt genes from bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis are induced).
Genetic modification is done to induce a desirable new trait which does not occur naturally in the species.
GM techniques are used in:
(GS-I: Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues)
The Jhansi Railway Station in Uttar Pradesh will be known as Veerangana Lakshmibai Railway Station.
Procedure to change the name of a railway station:
The Uttar Pradesh government had earlier sent a proposal about renaming the station to the Union Home Ministry.
The ministry consents to a name change of any station or place after obtaining no-objections from the Union Ministry of Railways, Survey of India, and the Department of Posts.
These organisations confirm that there is no town or village in their records with a name that is similar to the proposed name.
Once the name change is approved following an executive order, the Ministry of Railways will change the station code accordingly.
About Rani Lakshmibai:
Born on November 19, 1828, as Manikarnika Tambe in Varanasi, UP.
Rani was married to the King of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Newalkar in 1842.
The war between the British and Rani Lakshmibai:
She had a son Damodar Rao, who died within four months of his birth. Following the death of the infant, her husband adopted a cousin’s child Anand Rao, who was renamed Damodar Rao a day prior to the death of the Maharaja.
Lord Dalhousie refused to acknowledge the child and applied the Doctrine of Lapse, and annexed the state. However, the Rani refused to accept Lord Dalhousie’s decision.
This led to a fight between the two. The Rani of Jhansi gave a tough fight to the British during the two weeks siege of the city.
She fought bravely against the British and gave a tough fight to Sir Hugh Rose so as to save her empire from annexation. She died fighting on the battlefield on June 17, 1858.
What was the Doctrine of Lapse?
The Doctrine of Lapse was an annexation policy followed widely by Lord Dalhousie when he was India’s Governor-General from 1848 to 1856.
According to this, any princely state under the direct or indirect (as a vassal) control of the East India Company where the ruler did not have a legal male heir would be annexed by the company.
As per this, any adopted son of the Indian ruler could not be proclaimed as heir to the kingdom. This challenged the Indian ruler’s long-held authority to appoint an heir of their choice.
Ken-Betwa link project
(GS-II: Government policies and issues related)
The Ken-Betwa river interlinking project will lead to the submergence of a major portion of the core area of the Panna Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, triggering a major loss of the tiger and its major prey species such as chital and sambar, according to a new study.
What’s the concern?
The project may incur an estimated loss of 58.03 square kilometres (10.07 per cent) of critical tiger habitat (CTH) in the reserve.
There will be an indirect loss of 105.23 sq km of CTH because of habitat fragmentation and loss of connectivity due to submergence, the study.
The total area submerged would be 86.50 sq km, of which 57.21 sq km lies within Panna Tiger Reserve. This will account for 65.50 per cent of total submergence.
The area that will be submerged due to the KBRIL Project has a rich floral density and diversity. Ungulates such as sambar, chital, blue bull and wild boar are found here.
The Union Cabinet has approved the funding and implementation of the Ken-Betwa river interlinking project at a cost of ₹44,605 crore at the 2020-21 price level.
The Centre would fund ₹39,317 crore for the project, with ₹36,290 crore as a grant and ₹3,027 crore as a loan.
About the Project:
The project involves transferring of water from the Ken river to the Betwa river through the construction of Daudhan dam and a canal linking the two rivers, the Lower Orr Project, Kotha Barrage and the Bina Complex Multipurpose Project.
Significance of the Project:
The project is slated to irrigate 10.62 lakh hectares annually, provide drinking water supply to 62 lakh people and generate 103 MW of hydropower and 27 MW of solar power.
The project will be of immense benefit to the water-starved Bundelkhand region, spread across Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
The project is expected to boost socio-economic prosperity in the backward Bundelkhand region on account of increased agricultural activities and employment generation.
It would also help in arresting distress migration from this region.