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30th October Current Affairs

No money left in MGNREGA coffers

(GS-II: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes)

In News:

According to its own financial statement, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme has run out of funds halfway through the financial year, and supplementary budgetary allocations will not come to the rescue for at least another month when the next Parliamentary session begins.

Implications:

This means that payments for MGNREGA workers as well as material costs will be delayed, unless the States dip into their own funds.

Activists say the Centre is condemning workers to “forced labour” by delaying wage payments at a time of economic distress.

Centre’s response:

However, the Centre is now accusing many States of “artificially creating demand” for work on the ground.

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.

Suicides among farm workers rose 18% in 2020

(GS-III: Agriculture related issues)

In News:

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has released a report on Suicides among farm workers.

Highlights:

The number of agricultural labourers who died by suicide in 2020 was 18% higher than the previous year.

Overall, 10,677 people engaged in the farm sector died by suicide in 2020.

However, suicides among landowning farmers dropped slightly during the pandemic year.

Landless agricultural labourers, who did not benefit from income support schemes such as PM Kisan, may have faced higher levels of distress during the pandemic.

The worst among the States continues to be Maharashtra, with 4,006 suicides in the farm sector, including a 15% increase in farm worker suicides.

Other States with a poor record include Karnataka (2016), Andhra Pradesh (889) and Madhya Pradesh (735). Karnataka saw a dismal 43% increase in the number of farm worker suicides in 2020.

Issues faced by agriculture sector:

Despite record production of certain major agricultural produce and rise in exports, India’s farm sector faces some underlying challenges such as low crop yield, monsoon dependency, low share of exports in global markets, lag in farm mechanisation, burden of loans and farmer suicides. All this puts a load on the already struggling industry, limiting its growth.

Causes of Farmers Suicides:

There is no consensus on what the main causes might be but studies show suicide victims are motivated by more than one cause however the primer reasons being the inability to repay loans.

Major causes reportedly are bankruptcy/indebtedness, problems in the families, crop failure, illness and alcohol/substance abuse.

Disguised unemployment on farms remains high. Fragmentation of land holdings has left far too many farmers with farms that are too small to be remunerative.

Low access to credit, irrigation and technology worsens their ability to make a comfortable living. A tenth of our farmers are landless.

They use rented land, but the inadequacies of land-leasing mechanisms make it difficult for them to raise production.

Most of the suicides have occurred in areas of cash crops like cotton and sugarcane, which is high input, high output gambling, not based on the principle of sustained and resilient high yield.

Challenges ahead:

Irrigation reaches less than half of India’s overall farmland, a picture that has not changed much over the past decade, and more than 60% of our farmers are susceptible to rainfall anomalies.

Rain-fed farming yields are typically less than half those of irrigated farmland.

Though India has caught up with global levels of fertilizer use, this is neither efficient nor environmentally sustainable. Both add to the cost of cultivation.

Research on high-yielding crops has plateaued after an initial burst during the Green Revolution and farmers have to resort to patented seeds to draw more out of their scanty acres.

Initiatives like the eNAM are helping integrate the farmers’ produce directly with the market, however, cutting the role of intermediaries is still lagging behind.

Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG)

(GS-II: Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies)

In News:

Comptroller and Auditor General of India and Auditor General of Maldives have signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen the audit process of public finance.

The MoU also aims at exchanging information in the field of public sector audit between the two countries.

About CAG:

The Constitution of India provides for an independent office of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in chapter V under Part V.

The CAG is mentioned in the Constitution of India under Article 148 – 151.

He is the head of the Indian Audit and Accounts Department.

He is the guardian of the public purse and controls the entire financial system of the country at both the levels- the centre and state.

His duty is to uphold the Constitution of India and the laws of Parliament in the field of financial administration.

Appointment and Term to Constitutionals Posts:

The CAG is appointed by the President of India by a warrant under his hand and seal.

He holds office for a period of six years or upto the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

Duties:

CAG audits the accounts related to all expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India, Consolidated Fund of each state and UT having a legislative assembly.

CAG audits all expenditure from the Contingency Fund of India and the Public Account of India as well as the Contingency Fund and Public Account of each state.

CAG audits all trading, manufacturing, profit and loss accounts, balance sheets and other subsidiary accounts kept by any department of the Central Government and the state governments.

CAG audits the receipts and expenditure of all bodies and authorities substantially financed from the Central or State revenues; government companies; other corporations and bodies, when so required by related laws.

He ascertains and certifies the net proceeds of any tax or duty and his certificate is final on the matter.

He acts as a guide, friend and philosopher of the Public Accounts Committee of the Parliament.

Reports:

He submits his audit reports relating to the accounts of the Centre and State to the President and Governor, who shall, in turn, place them before both the houses of Parliament and the state legislature respectively.

He submits 3 audit reports to the President: audit report on appropriation accounts, audit report on finance accounts and audit report on public undertakings.

Pneumococcal 13-valent Conjugate Vaccine (PCV)

(GS-II: Issues related to Health)

In News:

The government has launched a nationwide expansion of Pneumococcal 13-valent Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) under the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) as a part of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’.

Details:

It was for the first time in the country that PCV would be available for universal use.

PCV13 protects against 13 types of bacteria that cause pneumococcal disease.

What is Pneumonia?

Pneumonia caused by pneumococcus is the most common cause of severe pneumonia in children.

Pneumonia was a leading cause of death among children under five, globally and in India. Around 16% of deaths in children occur due to pneumonia in India.

What is Pneumococcal disease?

Pneumococcal disease refers to any illness caused by pneumococcal bacteria. These bacteria can cause many types of illnesses, including pneumonia, which is an infection of the lungs. Pneumococcal bacteria are one of the most common causes of pneumonia.

Universal Immunization Programme:

It was launched in 1985 to prevent mortality and morbidity in children and pregnant women against 12 vaccine-preventable diseases.

Under UIP, free of cost vaccination is provided against twelve vaccine-preventable diseases i.e. Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio, Hepatitis B, Pneumonia and Meningitis due to Haemophilus Influenzae type b (Hib), Measles, Rubella, Japanese Encephalitis (JE) and Rotavirus diarrhoea.

The programme is one of the largest health programmes in the world. Despite being operational for many years, UIP has been able to fully immunize only 65% of children under 1 year of age.