1)Agriculture led economic revival:
Context: Role of Agriculture in revival of Indian Economy in wake of Covid-19 is a misplaced conception.
In the midst of India’s COVID-19-induced economic slowdown, Agriculture will lead India’s economic revival.
Four major arguments are offered.
- First, India’s food grain production in 2019-20 was 3.7% higher than in 2018-19.
- Second, food inflation in the Q1 of 2020-21, at 9.2%, was higher than in the previous year due to increase in demand for food.
- Third, the area under kharif sowing in 2020-21 was 14% higher than in 2019-20.
- Fourth, the government’s economic package for agriculture — as part of the ?20-lakh crore Atmanirbhar Bharat package — will further position agriculture as the engine of revival.
The above claims are misplaced, why?
- Rabi procurement
During the lockdown, procurement of Rabi from farmer’s wheat was higher in 2020-21.
As per official data, only 13.5% of paddy farmers and 16.2% of wheat farmers in India sell their harvest to a procurement agency at an assured Minimum Support Price (MSP).
Thus, the most important problem faced by farmers during the lockdown was the loss of markets, stemming from the disruption in supply chains, closure of mandis and a fall in consumer food demand.
Farmers suffered major loss of incomes, and higher procurement was hardly alleviating.
2. Inflation and prices
- Inflation rates estimated using consumer price indices are not representative of farmer’s prices.
- Inflation was largely due to disruptions in supply chains and rise in trader margins.
- The dark side of higher rural inflation in India is that small and marginal farmers are not net sellers, but net buyers of food.
- Thus, the claims that higher rural inflation benefited farmers, and that it was due to higher food demand, are misplaced.
3. Higher kharif sowing
Many rural households may have returned to farming or intensified farming for food- and income-security.
Lakhs of migrant workers returned to their villages from urban areas. They may have taken up agriculture in previously fallow or uncultivated lands.
4. Trickle from package
- Total fresh spending for agriculture in the package is a trickle: less than ?5,000 crore.
- The rest are schemes already included in the past Budgets, announcements with no financial outgo or liquidity/loan measures routed through banks.
- The package also failed to provide financial support to farmers.
- PM-KISAN, or Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi, is hardly an ideal scheme.
- Instead of frontloading the instalments of PM-KISAN, the government should have doubled the payments to farmers from ?6,000 a year to ?12,000 a year.
The economic fallout of COVID-19
- Instead of a moratorium on loan repayments, the government should have waived the interest on loans taken by farmers in 2019 and 2020.
- In all, the government’s strategy appears to be to squeeze farmers without investing in agriculture or rural employment.
The government should discard its role as a passive observer, and decisively intervene in rural India with a substantial fiscal stimulus.
2) Climate change likely led to fall of Indus Valley Civilization:
- Shifting monsoon patterns link to climate change likely cause the Rise and fall of ancient valley civilization
- Based on the study of ancient climate pattern in Northern India
- The study where direct measurements are not taken, but it uses different methods from earth and life sciences to obtain data previously reserved within rocks, sediments, boreholes, ice sheets, tree rings, corals, shells and microfossils
- While there are several theories about how the Indus valley civilization declined, including invasion by Nomadic Indo-Aryans, earthquakes, climate change appears to be the most likely scenario
3) Five Star Villages Scheme:
India Post launches Five Star Villages Scheme to ensure 100% rural coverage of postal schemes
- The scheme seeks to bridge the gaps in public awareness and reach of postal products and services, especially in interior villages.
- All postal products and services will be made available and marketed and publicized at village level, under the Five Star Villages scheme.
Branch offices will function as one-stop shop to cater all post office – related needs of villagers.
The schemes covered under the Five Star scheme include:
- Savings Bank accounts, Recurrent Deposit Accounts, NSC / KVP certificates
- Sukanya Samridhi Accounts/ PPF Accounts,
- Funded Post Office Savings Account linked India Post Payments Bank Accounts,
- Postal Life Insurance Policy/Rural Postal Life Insurance Policy and
- Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana Account / Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana Account.
If a village attains universal coverage for four schemes from the above list, then that village gets four-star status; if a village completes three schemes, then that village get three-star status and so on.
- Scheme is being launched on pilot basis in Maharashtra.
- The Postal Department has been playing a major role in the implementation of Government schemes, leveraging the immense strength of its vast network.
- Postal schemes are known for providing highly secured deposits, they provide higher return of interest with low risk.
- The Minister said that the way to realize the goal of Aatma Nirbhar Bharat is through collaborative efforts such as this, wherein various schemes have been brought together under one umbrella, with the goal of providing financial inclusion.
Scheme Implementation Team
- The scheme will be implemented by a team of five Gramin Dak Sevaks who will be assigned a village for marketing of all products, savings and insurance schemes of the Department of Posts.
- This team will be headed by the Branch Post Master of the concerned Branch Office.
- Mail overseer will keep personal watch on progress of team on daily basis.
- The teams will be led and monitored by concerned Divisional Head, Assistant Superintendents Posts and Inspector Posts.
- The team of Gramin Dak Sevaks will conduct door-to-door awareness campaign on all schemes, covering all eligible villagers.
- Wide publicity will be given by displaying the information on notice board of Branch Office.
- Prominent places of targeted villages like Panchayat Offices, schools, village dispensaries, bus depots, and markets will also be used for advertising and pamphlets will be distributed.
Training and Monitoring
- The scheme progress and target achievement will be closely monitored at Circle, Regional and Divisional levels.
- Monthly progress will be reviewed by the Chief Post Master General.
4) India and Japan agreement on Reciprocal Provision of Supplies:
Context: India and Japan signed an Agreement between the two countries concerning Reciprocal Provision of Supplies and Services between the Armed Forces of India and The Self-Defense Forces of Japan.
- This agreement establishes the enabling framework for closer cooperation between the Armed Forces of India and Japan in reciprocal provision of supplies and services while engaged in bilateral training activities, United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Humanitarian International Relief and other mutually agreed activities.
- The agreement will also enhance the interoperability between the Armed Force of India and Japan thereby further increasing the bilateral defence engagements under the Special Strategic & Global Partnership between the two countries.
Context: Different courts recently gave conflicting rulings involving the broadcast of two shows- a programme on Sudarshan TV and the Netflix documentary Bad Boy Billionaires
What are the cases about?
- Sudarshan TV’s Bindas Bol was scheduled, trailer posted on Twitter claimed the show would contain a “big expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service
- Supreme Court refused to stay the broadcast, while the Delhi High Court Bench ordered stay of the show.
- In the Netflix case, following a plea by Sahara Chief Subrata Roy, a court in Bihar’s Araria passed an interim order staying the release of Bad Boy Billionaires.
- That is two courts decided differently on the issue.
How did the courts decide the same issue differently?
- The Delhi High Court says, the show violated the code prescribed in the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995.
- Section 5 prescribes that no person shall transmit or re-transmit through a cable service any programme unless such programme is in conformity with the prescribed programme code.
- Section 19 gives the power to prohibit a broadcast in the public interest if the programme is “likely to promote, on grounds of religion, race, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, linguistic or regional groups or castes or communities or which is likely to disturb the public Peace.
- Supreme Court said, we cannot impose ban depending on a 49 second clip, without verifying original content.
- We note that under statutory provisions, competent authorities are vested with powers to ensure compliance with the law.
What is prior restraint?
- Prior restraint is prohibiting the exercise of free speech before it can take place.
- Imposition of pre-censorship or prior restraint on speech is a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression enshrined in Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution.
- Any restrictions imposed on this right have to be found under Article 19(2) of the Constitution, which lists out “reasonable restrictions” that include interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, public order, and incitement to an offence.
- Any legislation that imposes a prior restraint on speech usually has the burden to show that the reason for such restraint can be found under Article 19(2). It is generally allowed only in exceptional circumstances.
- The idea is that speech can be restricted only when judged on its actual content and not pre-emptively based on perceptions of what it could be.
Two rulings by the Supreme Court in 1950, which held that legislation imposing prior restraint on the press were unconstitutional citing that the restricts were too broad, led to the First Amendment of the Constitution that tinkered with the scope of restrictions on free speech under Article 19(2), adding the word “reasonable” before the restrictions.
6) Kavi Samrat, Shri Viswanatha Satyanarayana:
Context: Virtually inaugurating the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of the Kavi Samrat, Shri Viswanatha Satyanarayana organized by Viswanatha Sahitya Peetham, the literary genius as an embodiment of Indian culture and traditions.
- Viswanatha Satyanarayana remains the first writer to impart a true Teluguness to the Ramayana, that Ramayana Kalpavruksham, the seminal work of Shri Viswanatha had fetched him the prestigious Jnanpith Award.
Context: Union Minister of State for Shipping ,Shri Mansukh Mandaviya today launched ‘SAROD-Ports’ (Society for Affordable Redressal of Disputes – Ports) through virtual ceremony today in New Delhi.
- SAROD-Ports is Affordable Dispute Redressal Mechanism for all kind of disputes of maritime sector
- It will become the pivotal mechanism of ummeed (hope), vishwas (trust) and nyaya (justice) in the Port sector of India
- SAROD-Ports will resolve the disputes in fair and just manner while saving huge amount of legal expenditure and time Ministry of Shipping said that all major Ports are shifting towards ‘Landlord Model’ in the days to come.
- It will promote ease of doing business in the maritime sector because of the fast, timely, cost effective and robust dispute resolution mechanism.
- SAROD-Ports is established under Societies Registration Act, 1860
- Affordable and timely resolution of disputes in fair manner
- Enrichment of Dispute Resolution Mechanism with the panel of technical experts as arbitrators.
- SAROD-Ports consists members from Indian Ports Association (IPA) and Indian Private Ports and Terminals Association (IPTTA).
- SAROD-Ports will advise and assist in settlement of disputes through arbitrations in the maritime sector, including ports and shipping sector in Major Port Trusts, Non-major Ports, including private ports, jetties, terminals and harbours.
- ‘SAROD-Ports’ is similar to provision available in Highway Sector in the form of SAROD-Roads constituted by NHAI.
Backgrounder: The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved amendments in the Model Concession Agreement (MCA) .In January,2018.The amendments in the MCA, envisaged constitution SAROD-PORTS as dispute resolution mechanism for PPP Projects in the Major Ports.
Context: Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi will participate in ‘Grih Pravesham’ and inaugurate 1.75 lakh houses built under Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana – Gramin (PMAY-G) in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
All of these houses have been built/completed during the current challenging COVID-19 pandemic period.
- Housing for all by 2022, is a flagship programme launched on 20th November, 2016
- Under PMAY-G, each beneficiary is given 100% grant of Rs. 1.20 lakh with a sharing ratio of 60:40 between Centre and State.
- Funds for all these houses constructed under PMAY-G are given by way of 4 instalments directly into the bank account of the beneficiary after verification of various stages of construction through Geotagged photographs.
- The scheme envisages to construct 2.95 crore houses by the year 2022.
- In addition to the unit assistance, the beneficiaries are provided support of unskilled labour wages for 90/95 person days under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and assistance of Rs. 12,000 for construction of toilets through Swachh Bharat Mission- Gramin, MGNREGS or any other dedicated source of funding.
9) Project 17A
- Project 17A frigates is a design derivative of the Shivalik class stealth frigates with much more advanced stealth features and indigenous weapons and sensors.
- The P17A frigates incorporate new design concepts for improved survivability, sea keeping, and stealth and ship manoeuvrability.
- These frigates are being built using integrated construction methodology.
- INS Nilgiri is the first ship of the Project-17A.
10) Expert committee to assist Government for assessment of relief to bank borrowers
Context: Various concerns have been raised during the proceedings of the ongoing hearing in Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in the matter of Gajendra Sharma vs. UoI and Others Matter regarding the relief sought in terms of waiver of interest and waiver of interest on interest and other related issues.
Government has accordingly constituted an Expert Committee for making an overall assessment so that its decisions in this regard are better informed.
The Expert Committee shall be as under:
- Shri Rajiv Mehrishi, former CAG of India – Chairperson
- Dr. Ravindra H. Dholakia, former Professor, IIM Ahmedabad & ex- Member, Monetary Policy Committee of Reserve Bank of India
- Shri B. Sriram, Former Managing Director, State Bank of India & IDBI Bank
The terms of reference of the committee shall be as under:
- Measuring the impact on the national economy and financial stability of waiving of interest and waiving of interest on interest on the COVID-19 related moratorium
- Suggestions to mitigate financial constraints of various sections of society in this respect and measures to be adopted in this regard
- Any other suggestions/observations that may be necessary given the current situation.
The committee will submit its report within one week. State Bank of India will provide secretarial support to the committee. The Committee may consult banks or other stakeholders, as deemed necessary, for the purpose.