25 th July, 2018-IAS Current Affairs
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‘Small and Marginal Farmers’ (GS2: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the society)
Issue: Department is implementing various schemes for the welfare of farmers including small and marginal farmers. The strategy is to improve net returns to the farmers by enabling them to realize higher yields at lower cost and benefit from better market prices.
Some important schemes include Soil Health Card Scheme (SHC), Neem Coated Urea, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), National Agriculture Market scheme (e-NAM), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)
Some other schemes include:
- The Government provides total interest subvention up to 5% (inclusive of 3 % prompt repayment incentive) on short-term crop loans up to Rs.3.00 lakh. Thus, loan is available to farmers at a reduced rate of 4% per annum on prompt repayment.
- Under the Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) for holistic growth of the horticulture sector covering fruits, vegetables, root and tuber crops, mushrooms, spices, flowers, aromatic plants, coconut, cashew, cocoa and bamboo, subsidy is provided to the farm size limited to 4 hectare, in majority of its interventions.
- Small and marginal farmers are mobilized to form Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs)/ Farmer Interest Group (FIG) for aggregation and economies of scale. FPOs are eligible for financial assistance under MIDH.
- Under National Food Security Mission (NFSM), at least 33% of funds are earmarked for small and marginal farmers.
- Under the Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanization (SMAM) under the main Mission i.e. National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET), it is proving a suitable platform for converging all activities for inclusive growth of agricultural mechanization by providing a ‘single window’ approach for implementation with a special focus on small & marginal farmers.
- Under the Per Drop More Crop (micro irrigation) at least 50% of the allocation is to be utilized for small & marginal farmers.
- Under the Per Drop More Crop (micro irrigation) at least 50% of the allocation is to be utilized for small & marginal farmers.
- Under the Soil Health Card Scheme (SHC) assistance is provided to all State Governments to evaluate soil health in all farm holdings across the country and issue Soil Health Cards to farmers (including small and marginal farmers) regularly in a cycle of two years.
Who exactly is a Small and Marginal farmer in India?
‘Marginal Farmer’ means a farmer cultivating (as owner or tenant or share cropper) agricultural land up to 1 hectare (2.5 acres). ‘Small Farmer’ means a farmer cultivating (as owner or tenant or share cropper) agricultural land of more than 1 hectare and up to 2 hectares (5 acres).
‘Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)’ (GS2: Issues arising out of implementation of government policies)
Issue: Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) was introduced from Kharif 2016 season in the country. Gathering from the scheme implementation experience review of the scheme is an ongoing process. The scheme is optional for the States/ Union Territories (UTs) and so far, the scheme has been opted for implementation by 27 States/UTs
About the scheme
The scheme provides comprehensive risk coverage from pre-sowing to post harvest losses due to non-preventable natural risks and since sum insured has been equated with Scale of Finance, the farmers are provided with maximum risk coverage and at a minimum uniform fixed premium rate payable by them i.e. maximum 2% for Kharif crops, 1.5% for Rabi Crop and 5% for annual commercial/horticultural crops, with balance of actuarial/bidded premium to be shared by the Central and State Government on 50 : 50 basis. Moreover, under the scheme since unit area of insurance has been lowered to village/village panchayat level for assessment of losses of major crops and to individual farm level for assessment of losses due to localised calamities of hailstorm, landslide and inundation and post-harvest losses, the assessment of Losses are more realistic.
‘Model Act on Contract Farming’ (GS2: Government policies for development in various sectors)
Issue: The Government has formulated and released a progressive and facilitative Model Act. The aforesaid Model Contract Farming Act covers the entire value and supply chain from pre-production to post harvest marketing including services contract for the agricultural produce and livestock.
Significance of this model act
Model Act being a facilitative one with wider scope of contracts in the entire agri-value chain starting from pre-production, production to post-production, private players including Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) will be encouraged to engage themselves in the contract farming and services contracts under the Act. The contract farming under this model will help in mitigating the price risk and market uncertainties through advance agreements and would encourage entry of private players into the farm sector.
‘Intangible Cultural Heritage and Diverse Cultural Traditions of India’ (GS1: Indian Culture)
Issue: Scheme titled ‘Safeguarding the Intangible Cultural Heritage and Diverse Cultural Traditions of India’ is being implemented by the Ministry of Culture
Objective of this scheme
The objective of reinvigorating and revitalizing various institutions, groups, individuals, identified non-MoC institutions, non-government organisations, researchers and scholars so that they may engage in activities/ projects for strengthening, protecting, preserving and promoting the rich intangible cultural heritage of India. The scheme is being implemented through Sangeet Natak Akademi, an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Culture.
‘National AYUSH Mission (NAM)’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: The Government provides optimum services to elderly under AYUSH system of medicines.
About the scheme
Under Centrally Sponsored Scheme of National AYUSH Mission (NAM), there is a provision of financial assistance to the States/UTs for setting up of up to 50-bedded integrated AYUSH Hospitals and for establishment of AYUSH facility in Primary Health Centres (PHCs). Accordingly, State/UT Government may avail assistance through posing their requirement in their State Annual Action Plan (SAAP) as per NAM guidelines. Further, under NAM there is provision of supply of essential drugs to the AYUSH hospitals and dispensaries through which the public including elderly persons can avail free services.
‘Resolution of Stressed Assets’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: As per bank inputs, banks had set-up a Committee on Resolution of Stressed Assets, which has given its Report suggesting a five-pronged approach for stressed assets resolution by the banking industry
Some of the steps taken in this regard include:
- A number of measures have been taken to streamline recovery and introduce innovative methods for recovery of NPAs. The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) has been enacted to create a unified framework for resolving insolvency and bankruptcy matters.
- The Securitization and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002 has been amended for faster recovery, with provision for three months imprisonment in case the borrower does not provide asset details and for the lender to get possession of mortgaged property within 30 days.
- Under the PSB Reforms Agenda announced by the Government, PSBs have committed to clean and commercially prudent business through Stressed Asset Management Verticals for focused recovery, rigorous due diligence and appraisal for sanction by scrutinizing group balance sheets, at least 10% share in consortium lending, ring-fencing of cash flows, initiating use of technology and analytics for comprehensive due diligence across data sources, building capacity for techno-economic valuation, clean and effective post-sanction follow-up on large-value accounts by tying up with Agencies for Specialized Monitoring, and strict segregation of pre and post-sanction roles for enhanced accountability.
‘Consolidation of Regional Rural Banks (RRB)’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The roadmap has been prepared in consultation with NABARD and proposes to bring down the number of RRBs to 38 from the present 56. It is expected that the proposed amalgamation of RRBs will bring about better scale-efficiency, higher productivity, robust financial health of RRBs, improved financial inclusion and greater credit flow to rural areas.
What is a RRB?
Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) are scheduled commercial banks (Government banks) operating at regional level in different States of India. They have been created with a view to serve primarily the rural areas of India with basic banking and financial services. However, RRBs may have branches set up for urban operations and their area of operation may include urban areas too.
The area of operation of RRBs is limited to the area as notified by Government of India covering one or more districts in the State. RRBs also perform a variety of different functions. RRBs perform various functions in following heads:
- Providing banking facilities to rural and semi-urban areas.
- Carrying out government operations like disbursement of wages of MGNREGA workers, distribution of pensions etc.
- Providing Para-Banking facilities like locker facilities, debit and credit cards.
- Small financial banks.
The Regional Rural Banks were owned by the Central Government, the State Government and the Sponsor Bank (Any commercial bank can sponsor the regional rural banks) who held shares in the ratios as follows Central Government – 50%, State Government – 15% and Sponsor Banks – 35%
‘Black Money’ (GS3: Indian Economy)
Issue: The Government of India has taken various steps for curbing the black money stashed abroad, which have led to positive results. These steps include
- India has been a leading force in the efforts to forge a multi-lateral regime for proactive sharing of Financial Information known as Automatic Exchange of Information (AEOI) which will greatly assist the global efforts to combat tax evasion
- Indian Government has been proactively engaging with foreign governments, for exchange of information under Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements (DTAAs)/Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs)/Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters/South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) Multilateral Agreement.
- India and Switzerland have in place a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), which entered into force on 29th December, 1994. Protocol amending the Agreement came into force on 07th October, 2011. Based on the provisions of DTAA, the two countries exchange information on a request basis, which is foreseeably relevant to the administration or enforcement of the domestic laws concerning taxes covered by the Agreement.
- A Special Investigation Team (SIT) on Black Money has been constituted in May 2014 under the Chairmanship and Vice-Chairmanship of two former Judges of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Investigation into cases involving substantial black money/undisclosed income, particularly black money stashed abroad, is being extensively and intensively monitored by the SIT.
- The Government enacted a comprehensive and a more stringent new law, namely, the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015 that has come into force. Apart from prescribing more stringent penal consequences, this law has included the offence of willful attempt to evade tax etc. in relation to undisclosed foreign income/assets as a Scheduled Offence under the Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA).
- The Government gave a one-time compliance window of 3 months for providing an opportunity to taxpayers to make declarations of their undisclosed foreign assets before they were subjected to more stringent provisions of the new law i.e. the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015.
- The Government has taken pro-active and effective steps whenever any credible information has been received with regard to black money stashed abroad. These steps include constitution of Multi Agency Group in relevant cases, calling for definitive information from foreign jurisdictions, bringing the black money to tax under relevant law launching prosecutions against the offenders etc.
‘Cancer and other ailments’ (GS2: Issues related to Health)
Issue: A population level initiative of prevention, control and screening for common Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) (diabetes, hypertension and cancer viz. oral, breast and cervical cancer) has been rolled out in 2017-18 under National Health Mission (NHM), as a part of comprehensive primary healthcare.
About this initiative
Under the initiative, frontline health workers such as Accredited Social Health Activists and Auxiliary Nurse Midwives are leveraged to carry out screening and generate awareness about the risk factors of NCDs among the masses. This initiative will not only help in early diagnosis but will also generate awareness on risk factors of the diseases. The initiative has been rolled out in over 150 Districts across the country and as informed by the State Governments, about 72 lakh people have been screened for common NCDs under Population Level Screening.
‘National Policy on Women’s safety’ (GS2: Issues related to Human resources)
Issue: An Action Plan has been furnished by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, which covers legal and schematic interventions to enhance safety of Women
About the action plan
- To strengthen implementation of legislations including those on prohibition of child marriage, indecent representation of women, protect women against domestic violence, POCSO, trafficking, and prevention and prohibition of sexual harassment.
- (ii) implement schematic interventions including those for women to prevent violence and improve status of girl child, involving community for safe neighborhood, setting up One-Stop Centres in each district for counseling and providing first-aid to women victims of violence, setting up universal Helpline 181, increase working women hostels, strengthen child care institutions for rehabilitation of victims of violence, and strengthen grievance redressal.
- (iii) Convergence of various projects under implementation for women safety and rehabilitation under Nirbhaya scheme including, inter-alia, setting up Emergency Response Support system, Mahila Police Volunteers, Cyber-crime portal, strengthening forensic facilities, and other women safety projects for increasing public safety. Implementation of Action Plan is a continuous process.
‘Andromeda galaxy (GS3: Science)
Issue: The long-lost sibling of the Milky Way was shredded and devoured by our closest large galactic neighbor – the Andromeda galaxy – about two billion years ago, scientists have found
The massive galaxy, although mostly shredded, left behind a rich trail of evidence – an almost invisible halo of stars larger than the Andromeda galaxy itself, and a separate compact galaxy M32
About Andromeda galaxy
The Andromeda Galaxy also known as Messier 31, M31, or NGC 224, is a spiral galaxy approximately 780 kilo-parsecs (2.5 million light-years) from Earth, and the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way. Its name stems from the area of the sky in which it appears, the constellation of Andromeda
The 2006 observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope revealed that the Andromeda Galaxy contains approximately one trillion stars more than twice the number of the Milky Way’s estimated 200-400 billion stars. The Andromeda Galaxy, spanning approximately 220,000 light years, is the largest galaxy in our Local Group
The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are expected to collide in ~4.5 billion years, merging to form a giant elliptical galaxy or a large disc galaxy
‘Lokpal’ (GS2: Governance)
Issue: The Supreme Court said the government’s stand on completing the appointment of a Lokpal, an ombudsman to protect the common man from corruption in public service and power centres, was “wholly unsatisfactory.”
Though passed in 2014, the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act of 2013 had not been implemented all these years because there was no Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the 16th Lok Sabha. The 2013 statute includes the LoP as a member of the selection committee. The Act intends the LoP to be the part of the selection committee of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of India and the Speaker, which has to first appoint an eminent jurist among their ranks.
About the Lokpal bill
The Act allows setting up of anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level. The Lokpal will consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members. The Lokpal will cover all categories of public servants, including the Prime Minister. But the armed forces do not come under the ambit of Lokpal. The Act also incorporates provisions for attachment and confiscation of property acquired by corrupt means, even while the prosecution is pending.
The Lokpal will have the power of superintendence and direction over any investigation agency including CBI for cases referred to them by the ombudsman.
An investigation must be completed within six months. However, the Lokpal or Lokayukta may allow extensions of six months at a time provided the reasons for the need of such extensions are given in writing.
A five-member panel comprising the Prime Minister, the Lok Sabha Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India and an eminent jurist nominated by the President, selects the Lokpal.
‘Renewable Energy’ (GS3: Infrastructure)
Issue: With 27% of its power generation coming from renewable energy, Karnataka has emerged the leading State for renewable energy in India this year, pipping Tamil Nadu. According to a new report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA), the State reached 12.3 Giga watts (GW) of total installed capacity as of March 2018, having added 5 GW in 2017-18 alone.
However, the report mentions certain “threats” to solar energy in the State, including lack of transmission network infrastructure
‘Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018’ (GS2: Transparency, Accountability)
Issue: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2018 that seeks to punish bribe-givers and bribe-takers. The Bill, cleared by the Rajya Sabha last week, was passed unanimously by the Lower House after debating for nearly four hours.
About the bill
- The Bill provides for jail terms of three to seven years, besides fine, to those convicted of taking or giving bribes to public officials.
- In a departure from the earlier anti-corruption law, the current law makes a distinction between “collusive bribe givers” and those who are “coerced.” In such cases, the Bill seeks to protect those who report the matter within seven days.
- The Bill also extends the ambit of public servants who will be protected by the provision of a prior government sanction for prosecution. There is also a provision now to get prior permission for starting an investigation and that has prompted many to say that the law has been “diluted” from its original draft.