1) Bridging the digital divide:
Context: The Delhi High Court on Friday directed both private and government schools in the capital to provide Gadgets and internet package free of cost for disadvantaged students attending online classes
- Non- availability of a gadget or device would generate a feeling of inferiority status in the class and that may affect their hearts and minds unlikely ever to be undone
- Erecting a financial barrier for economically weaker section or disadvantage group
- This is in violation of right to Education Act 2009
- It creates a virtual digital divide or Digital gap or Digital apartheid in addition to segregation in a classroom which is violative of RTE 2009 and articles 14, 20 and 21 of the constitution
- The bench also said private unaided schools will be entitled to claim reimbursement of reasonable cause for procurement of gadget and internet package from the government under section 12(2) of the RTE Act
- Right to education act RTE provided free and compulsory education to children 6 to 14 years in 2009 and enforced it as a fundamental right under article 21-A.
- Originally part 4 of Indian Constitution article 45 and article 39 f of DPSP had a provision for state funded as well as equitable and accessible education
- 86th amendment act of the Constitution of India in 2002 provided right to education as a fundamental right in part 3 of the constitution
- The same amendment inserted article 21-A which made right to education a fundamental right for children between 6 to 14 years
- The act mandates 25% reservation for disadvantaged sections of the society
2) e-way bill generation:
Context- e-way bill generation in August tops rupees 13.8 5 lakh crore
- Electronic way or e-way bills are required for interstate movement of goods worth over rupees 50,000
- For interstate movement this limits vary from state to state
- An e way bill is an electronic format for shipping goods similar to a way bill
- It was made compulsory for interstate transport of goods from 1st June 2018
- It is required to be generated for every inter-state movement of goods beyond 10 kilometers and the threshold limit of rupees 50,00
- Unique e-way bill number EBN is generated by either by the supplier, recipient or the Transporter
- The EBN can be Print out, SMS or written on invoice is valid
- GST or tax officers tally the e-way bill listed goods with goods carried with it
- The mechanism is aimed at plugging loopholes like overloading, understanding etc.
- Each e-way bill has to be matched with a GST invoice
3) Agricultural Reform Bills:
Context: passage of landmark agriculture reform Bills in the Lok Sabha is an unprecedented step in this direction”.
The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 seeks to provide for the creation of an ecosystem where the farmers and traders enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmers’ produce which facilitates remunerative prices through competitive alternative trading channels to promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free inter-State and intra-State trade.
The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 seeks to provide for a national framework on farming agreements that protects and empowers farmers to engage with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce at a mutually agreed remunerative price framework in a fair and transparent manner and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
- These path-breaking legislations of the will transform Agriculture sector and set farmers free from clutches of middlemen and help them overcome other obstacles
- These Bills will provide farmers with new avenues to sell their produce, which will increase their incomes”.
- These will bring a positive transformation in the lives of farmers and will make them self-reliant
4) Consumer Price Index:
All-India Consumer Price Index Numbers for Agricultural Labourers and Rural Labourers (Base: 1986-87=100) for the month of August, 2020 increased by 5 points each to stand at 1026 and 1033 points respectively
- Rise in general index of Agricultural Labourers and Rural Labourers was due to increase in the food group index (+) 5.05 points and (+) 4.51 points respectively owing to rise in prices of food items in general and vegetables and fruits in particular
- Point to point rate of inflation based on the CPI-AL and CPI-RL decreased to 6.32% and 6.28% in August, 2020 from 6.58% and 6.53% respectively in July, 2020.
- Inflation based on food index of CPI-AL and CPI-RL declined to 7.76% and 7.83% in August 2020 from 7.83% and 7.89% respectively in July 2020
- Maximum increase in the Consumer Price Index Numbers for Agricultural Labourers and Rural Labourers was experienced by West Bengal State (+ 27 points and +28 points respectively)
At the national level, here are four Consumer Price Index (CPI) numbers. These are:
- CPI for Industrial Workers (IW),
- CPI for Agricultural Labourers (AL), CPI for Rural Labourers (RL) and
- CPI for Urban Non-Manual Employees (UNME).
The base years of the current series of CPI (IW), CPI (AL) and CPI (RL), and CPI (UNME) are 1982, 1986-87 and 1984-85, respectively.
While CPI (IW), CPI (AL) and CPI (RL), are compiled and released by the Labour Bureau in the Ministry of Labour,
The CPI (UNME) is released by the Central Statistical Organization in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
CPI for Industrial Workers, CPI (IW).
- The Current series of CPI (IW) on base 1982=100 replacing the old series of 1960 base with effect from October, 1988,
- Covers industrial workers employed in any one of the seven sectors namely factories, mines, plantation, railways, public motor transport undertakings, electricity generation and distribution establishments as well as ports and docks.
- The index covers only manual workers irrespective of their income.
CPI for Agricultural Labourers and Rural Labourers, CPI (AL/RL)
- A person is treated as an agricultural labourer if he or she follows one or more of the agricultural occupations in the capacity of a labourer on hire, whether paid in cash or kind or partly in cash and partly in kind.
- A rural labourer is defined as one who does manual work in rural areas in agricultural and non-agricultural occupations in return for wages in cash or kind, or partly in cash and partly in kind.
- The source of weights for the current series of CPI (AL) and CPI (RL), with base 1986-87, released since November 1995, is consumption expenditure data collected during the NSS 38th Round of Consumer Expenditure Survey, 1983.
- For the purpose of collection of consumer expenditure data for deriving weighting diagrams for CPI(AL/RL) as a part of general consumer expenditure survey of NSSO, the rural labour household is defined as one which derives its major income during the last 365 days from wage paid manual employment (rural labour), vis-à-vis wage paid non-manual employment as also self-employment.
- From amongst the rural labour households, those households which earn 50% or more of their total income (from gainful occupation) during the last 365 days from wage paid manual labour in agriculture are categorized as Agricultural Labour Households.
CPI for Urban Non-manual Employees, CPI (UNME)
- An urban non-manual employee is defined as one who derives 50 per cent or more of his or her income from gainful employment on non-manual work in the urban non-agricultural sector. The current CPI (UNME) series with base 1984-85, introduced in November 1987.
5) Setting Up of Solar Panel in the Vacant Land of Railways:
- Indian Railways (IR) has planned to set up solar plants on its vacant land and along the tracks.
- As a part of this initiative, 4.7 Mega Watt (MW) land based solar plants have already been commissioned.
- Action has been taken for installation of solar power projects on unused Railway land at following locations:
- 50 Mega Watt (MW) at Bhilai (Chhattisgarh).
- 2 MW at Diwana (Haryana).
- Solar plants, IR has planned to install solar plants of 20 Giga Watt (GW) capacity by the year 2030 by utilizing its vacant land and to begin with, bids for 3 GW solar plants on vacant railway land parcels and land parcels along the railway track have already been invited
6) Steps for Doubling Farmers’ Income:
The Government constituted an Inter-ministerial Committee in April, 2016 to examine issues relating to “Doubling of Farmers Income” (DFI) and recommend strategies to achieve the same.
The Committee submitted its Report to the Government in September, 2018 containing the strategy for doubling of farmers’ income by the year 2022.
The DFI strategy as recommended by the Committee include seven sources of income growth viz.,
- Improvement in crop productivity;
- Improvement in livestock productivity;
- Resource use efficiency or savings in the cost of production;
- Increase in the cropping intensity;
- Diversification towards high value crops;
- Improvement in real prices received by farmers; and
- Shift from farm to non-farm occupations.
After acceptance of the DFI Committee recommendations, the Government has constituted an ‘Empowered Body’ to review and monitor the progress.
Agriculture being a State subject, the State Governments undertake implementation of programs/schemes for the development of the sector.
7) Organic Farming in the Country:
Assistance is provided under different schemes by the Government for promoting organic farming in the country –
1. Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY): The scheme promotes cluster based organic farming with PGS certification. Cluster formation, training, certification and marketing are supported under the scheme. Assistance of Rs.50,000 per ha /3 years is provided out of which 62% i.e., Rs. 31,000 is given as incentive to a farmer towards organic inputs.
2. Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Region (MOVCDNER): The scheme promotes 3rd party certified organic farming of niche crops of north east region through Farmers Producer organizations (fpos) with focus on exports. Farmers are given assistance of Rs 25000/ha/3 years for organic inputs including organic manure and bio-fertilisers etc. Support for formation of fpos, capacity building, post-harvest infrastructure up to Rs 2 crores are also provided in the scheme.
3. Capital investment Subsidy Scheme (CISS) under Soil Health Management Scheme: 100% assistance is provided to State Government / Government agencies for setting up of mechanized fruit/vegetable market waste/ Agro waste compost production unit up to a maximum limit of Rs.190.00 Lakh /unit (3000 Total Per Annum TPA capacity). Similarly, for individuals/ private agencies assistance up to 33% of cost limit to Rs 63 lakh/unit as capital investment is provided.
4. National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP): Financial assistance@ 50% subsidy to the tune of Rs. 300/- per ha is being provided for different components including bio-fertilizers, supply of Rhizobium culture/Phosphate Solubilising Bacteria (PSB)/Zinc Solubilising Bacteria (ZSB)/ Azatobacter/ Mycorrhiza and vermi compost.
5. National Food Security Mission (NFSM): Financial assistance is provided for promotion of Bio-Fertilizer (Rhizobium/PSB) @50% of the cost limited to Rs.300 per ha.
Cultivable land area under organic farming has more than doubled from 11.83 lakh ha in 2014 to 29.17 lakh ha in 2020 due to the focused efforts of the Government
Taking cue from the success of the organic initiatives, a target of 20 lakh ha additional area coverage by 2024 is envisaged in the vision document.
As per International resource data from Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (fibl) and the International Federation of Organic
Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) Statistics 2020, India stands at 9th position in terms of certified agricultural land with 1.94 million ha (2018-19).
Promotion of natural farming under Bharatiya Prakritik Krishi Padhati (BPKP) of PKVY has been initiated to encourage use of natural on-farm inputs for chemical free farming. Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have taken up 1 lakh ha and 0.8 lakh ha area respectively for promotion of natural farming under BPKP. Similarly, continuous area certification and support for individual farmers for certification have also been initiated during 2020-21 to bring in default organic areas and willing individual farmers under the fold of organic farming
State agencies, Primary Agricultural Credit Societies, Farmer Producer Organisations, entrepreneurs etc., can avail loans for setting up of Post-harvest infrastructure for value addition to organic produce under 1.00 lakh cr Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF) of Aatmanirbhar Bharat.
8) Use of Chemicals and Pesticides for Ripening of Fruits:
As per the information provided by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare;
- Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulations, 2011 is related to “Prohibition of use of Calcium Carbide in ripening of fruits”.
- According to this regulation, “No person shall sell or offer or expose for sale or have in his premises for the purpose of sale under any description, fruits which have been artificially ripened by use of acetylene gas, commonly known as carbide gas.
However, ripening of fruits by using ethylene gas at a concentration up to 100 ppm (100µ/L) depending upon the crop, variety and maturity has been permitted.
- Ethylene is a safer alternative. It is also produced in the fruits naturally to stimulate their ripening in a natural way.
- Implementation and enforcement of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and Rules and Regulations made thereunder primarily lies with State/UT Governments.
- Regular surveillance, monitoring, inspection and sampling of food products, including fruits and vegetables, are being carried out by the Food Safety Officers of States/uts and appropriate penal action is initiated as per the provisions of FSS Act, 2006 against the defaulters.
9) Agriculture Infrastructure Fund:
Rs 1 lakh crore Agri Infrastructure Fund for farm-gate infrastructure for farmers.
- Accordingly, Central Sector Scheme of Financing Facility under Agriculture Infrastructure Fund was approved by Cabinet on 08.07.2020.
- The scheme shall provide a medium – long term debt financing facility for investment in viable projects for post-harvest management Infrastructure and community farming assets through interest subvention and financial support.
- The duration of the Scheme shall be from FY2020 to FY2029 (10 years).
- Under the scheme, Rs. 1 Lakh Crore will be provided by banks and financial institutions as loans to Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS), Marketing Cooperative Societies, Farmer Producers Organizations (fpos), Self Help Group (SHG), Farmers, Joint Liability Groups (JLG), Multipurpose Cooperative Societies, Agri-entrepreneurs, Startups and Central/State agency or Local Body sponsored Public Private Partnership Project.
- All loans under this financing facility will have interest subvention of 3% per annum up to a limit of Rs. 2 crore.
- This subvention will be available for a maximum period of 7 years.
- Further, credit guarantee coverage will be available for eligible borrowers from this financing facility under Credit Guarantee Fund Trust for Micro and Small Enterprises (CGTMSE) scheme for a loan up to Rs. 2 crore.
- The fee for this coverage will be paid by the Government. In case of fpos the credit guarantee may be availed from the facility created under FPO promotion scheme of Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers Welfare (DACFW).
- Moratorium for repayment under this financing facility may vary subject to minimum of 6 months and maximum of 2 years.
10) Blue Flag – International eco-label:
Context: India recommended for the coveted “Blue Flag” International eco-label.
- On the eve of International Coastal Clean-Up Day which is celebrated across 100 countries since 1986, Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (moefcc) announced at a virtual event that for the first time eight beaches of India are recommended for the coveted International eco-label, the Blue flag certification.
- The recommendations are done by an independent National Jury composed of eminent environmentalists & scientists.
- Blue Flag beaches are considered the cleanest beaches of the world.
The eight beaches are
- Shivrajpur in Gujarat,
- Ghoghla in Daman&Diu,
- Kasarkod and Padubidri beach in Karnataka,
- Kappad in Kerala,
- Rushikonda in Andhra Pradesh,
- Golden beach of Odisha
- And Radhanagar beach in Andaman and Nicobar.
- The event also saw the launch India’s own eco-label BEAMS by e-hoisting the flag -#IAMSAVINGMYBEACH simultaneously at these eight beaches.
- SICOM, moefcc in pursuit of promoting its policies for sustainable development in coastal regions have embarked upon a highly acclaimed program “BEAMS” (Beach Environment & Aesthetics Management Services) under its ICZM (Integrated Coastal Zone Management) project.
- The objective of BEAMS program is to abate pollution in coastal waters, promote sustainable development of beach facilities, protect & conserve coastal ecosystems & natural resources, and seriously challenge local authorities & stakeholders to strive and maintain high standards of cleanliness, hygiene & safety for beachgoers in accordance with coastal environment & regulations.
- This program promotes beach recreation in absolute harmony with nature.
- This is one of the several other projects of ICZM that Govt of India is undertaking for the sustainable development of coastal regions, striving for globally recognized and the coveted eco-label ‘Blue flag”.
- The flag hoisting program was conducted simultaneously at these 08 beaches virtually from MOEFCC and physically at the beaches by respective States/uts through its mlas and/or Chairman of Beach Management Committees (bmcs).
- Speaking on the occasion, Union Environment Secretary, Shri R.P. Gupta said that high standards are being maintained to clean the beaches to keep environment safe and in the next four to five years 100 more beaches will be cleaned.
With a view to protect and conserve the coastal and marine ecosystems and environment through a holistic coastal management, the Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change launched the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) activities in India for a holistic approach with an interactive, dynamic, multidisciplinary, and iterative planning process to promote sustainable development & management of coastal zones through its own wing SICOM.
The concept of ICZM was introduced in 1992 during the Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro and most of the coastal countries in the World have been adopting ICZM principles for managing their coastal zones.
Thus, adoption of ICZM principles for managing and sustainably developing our coastal regions is helping India in keeping with its commitments to international agreements on ICZM
11) Customs (Administration of Rules of Origin under Trade Agreements) Rules, 2020- CAROTAR 2020:
- The Customs (Administration of Rules of Origin under Trade Agreements) Rules, 2020 (CAROTAR, 2020), notified on 21st August, 2020, shall come into force from 21st September, 2020 upon completion of the 30 day period that was given to importers and other stakeholders to familiarize themselves with new provisions.
- CAROTAR, 2020 implements the commitment of Finance Minister in her Budget Speech 2020 to protect the domestic industry from misuse of ftas.
- Undue claims of FTA benefits have posed threat to domestic industry.
- Such imports require stringent checks. In this context, suitable provisions are being incorporated in the Customs Act, 1962.”
- CAROTAR, 2020 will supplement the existing operational certification procedures prescribed under different trade agreements (FTA/ PTA/ CECA/ CEPA).
- An importer is now required to do due diligence before importing the goods to ensure that they meet the prescribed originating criteria.
- A list of minimum information which the importer is required to possess has also been provided in the rules along with general guidance.
- Also, an importer would now have to enter certain origin related information in the Bill of Entry, as available in the Certificate of Origin.
- The new Rules will support the importer to correctly ascertain the country of origin, properly claim the concessional duty and assist Customs authorities in smooth clearance of legitimate imports under ftas.
- The new Rules would strengthen the hands of the Customs in checking any attempted misuse of the duty concessions under ftas.
12) China blocks patrolling points in Eastern Ladakh:
- Patrolling points are the points along the undefined line of actual control up to which Indian troops patrol after starting from their base camps
- The blocked patrol points span from the Depsang plains in North to Pangong Tso Lake in the south
- Since the line of actual control is undefined the patrol points are the best way to assert territorial claims