Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Current Affairs of 21st September-2020

 

1)India covid-19 emergency response and health system strengthening project:

The project is a joint initiative of the Government of India and the World Bank

  • The project has $ 1 billion loan disbursed by the International Bank for reconstruction and development IBRD
  • The World Bank loan of $ 1 billion comes with a condition of Universal eligibility in procurements
  • This would mean that all preferential market access policies including public procurement (preference to make in India) order, Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSME) policy, certain benefits to start-ups, shall not be applicable on purchases made while implementing the national project.
  • The entire World Bank condition of Universal eligibility is a blow to make in India
  • Besides paving the way for Universal eligibility in the supply system, the World Bank could have the right to review the procurement documents, inspect or audit all accounts, records and other files relating to the project.
  • Compliance to these conditions has been made mandatory for the funding
  • The first component of the project deals with emergency response to the pandemic and would be implemented till April 2022.

Changes that has to be made in the Railways for the project implementation

The Railway Ministry is one of the implementing agencies of the project

  • The railway ministry in a note to all zonal Railways, production units and other major establishments said the tender document should be amended to remove such references and ensure that contractors explicitly agreed to comply with the relevant provisions of the World Banks Anti-corruption guidelines and prohibited policies of Asian infrastructure investment bank
  • The Northern Railways a given highest allocation followed by Eastern Railways
  • The Integral Coach Factory the largest coach maker in the world has also been allotted funds
  • The funds would be utilized for establishing isolation wards by purchasing ventilators, oxygen cylinders, laboratory machines, personal protection equipment kits etc.

 

2) Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020 –FCRA:

Context: the foreign contribution regulation Amendment Bill 2020 was introduced in Lok Sabha

  • Number of individuals receiving foreign funding are seen by India Central Government as involved in anti-development activism and hence posing a negative impact on the economic growth by two to three percent
  • And intelligence bureau report titled impact of NGOs on development claims the NGOs and their International donors are also planning to target many fresh economic development projects

The proposed amendments are:

  • To make Aadhaar mandatory identification document for all the office bearers, directors and other key functionaries of an NGO
  • To enhance transparency and accountability and facilitate genuine non-governmental organizations or associations who are working for the Welfare of the society
  • To include public servant and Corporation owned are controlled by the government among the list of entities who are not eligible to receive foreign donations
  • The bill also proposes not more than 20% of the total foreign funds received could be defrayed for administrative expenses at present the limit is 50%

Criticism:

  • Why did the governments a public servants and corporations owned and controlled by government included in the list,
  • A prominent lawyer from 2009 to 2014 received 96 crores to foreign donation in an NGO run by them
  • Administrative expenses at the limit of 50% were being misused

What is FCRA?

  • The foreign contribution (Regulation) Act 2010, is to regulate the acceptance and utilization of foreign contribution or foreign hospitality by certain individuals or associations or companies and to provide acceptance and utilization of foreign contribution for foreign hospitality of any activities detrimental the national interest it is designed to correct shortfalls in the predecessor act of 1976
  • The registration and prior permission under FCRA Regulation Act 2010 is granted to associations or NGOs for 5 types of programs that is religious, social, economic, educational and cultural without this no NGO can receive cash or anything of value higher than rupees 25000
  • FCRA act and is implemented by Ministry of Home Affairs
  • Monitoring unit of FCRA Wing monitors the receipt and utilization of foreign contribution
  • Further a new system of FCRA monitoring all annual returns are to be filed electronically
  • The bank account of the FCRA registered associations have also been linked to the public financial management system PFMS for better monitoring of flow of funds

 

3) Ethics in journalism:

Context: News Broadcasting Association asks Supreme Court to make ethics code must for all news channels

  • The NBA affidavit is in response to an order by the Supreme Court on September 18, to suggest steps to strengthen the self-regulatory mechanism to prevent or penalize telecasting of communal or derogatory content on electronic media
  • The News Broadcasters Services Authority-NBSA should be granted recognition as an independent Self-regulatory mechanism to receive and deal with complaints
  • The orders passed by NBSA should be made binding, Penalty should be made stringent
  • Submission to the NBSA regulatory mechanism should be made mandatory for granting or renewal of up linking or downlinking permissions by the government
  • The NBA suggested that the court direct the government to include its ethical code in the program code of the cable television networks rules, 1994
  • All the news channels whether they are NBA members or not will then have to follow the program code containing the proposed amendments

 

4) The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020:

Context: Parliament today passed two bills aimed at transforming agriculture in the country and raising farmers’ incomes.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020

Main provisions –

  • Legislation will create an ecosystem where the farmers and traders will enjoy freedom of choice of sale and purchase of agri-produce.
  • It will also promote barrier-free inter-state and intra-state trade and commerce outside the physical premises of markets notified under State Agricultural Produce Marketing legislations.
  • The farmers will not be charged any cess or levy for sale of their produce and will not have to bear transport costs.
  • The Bill also proposes an electronic trading in transaction platform for ensuring a seamless trade electronically.
  • In addition to mandis, freedom to do trading at farm gate, cold storage, warehouse, processing units etc.
  • Farmers will be able to engage in direct marketing thereby eliminating intermediaries resulting in full realization of price.

Doubts in the bill –

  • Procurement at Minimum Support Price will stop
  • If farm produce is sold outside APMC mandis, these will stop functioning
  • What will be the future of government electronic trading portal like e-NAM?

Clarification –

  • Procurement at Minimum Support Price will continue, farmers can sell their produce at MSP rates, the MSP for Rabi season will be announced next week
  • Mandis will not stop functioning, trading will continue here as before. Under the new system, farmers will have the option to sell their produce at other places in addition to the mandis
  • The e-NAM trading system will also continue in the mandis
  • Trading in farm produce will increase on electronic platforms. It will result in greater transparency and time saving

 

5) The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020:

Main provisions –

  • The new legislation will empower farmers for engaging with processors, wholesalers, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers, exporters etc., on a level playing field.
  • Price assurance to farmers even before sowing of crops.
  • In case of higher market price, farmers will be entitled to this price over and above the minimum price.
  • It will transfer the risk of market unpredictability from the farmer to the sponsor.
  • Due to prior price determination, farmers will be shielded from the rise and fall of market prices.
  • It will also enable the farmer to access modern technology, better seed and other inputs.
  • It will reduce cost of marketing and improve income of farmers.
  • Effective dispute resolution mechanism has been provided for with clear time lines for redressal.
  • Impetus to research and new technology in agriculture sector.

Doubts in the bill–

  • Under contract farming, farmers will be under pressure and they will not be able to determine prices
  • How will small farmers be able to practice contract farming, sponsors will shy away from them
  • The new system will be a problem for farmers
  • In case of dispute, big companies will be at an advantage

Clarification –

  • The farmer will have full power in the contract to fix a sale price of his choice for the produce. They will receive payment within maximum 3 days.
  • 10000 Farmer Producer organizations are being formed throughout the country. These FPOs will bring together small farmers and work to ensure remunerative pricing for farm produce
  • After signing contract, farmer will not have seek out traders. The purchasing consumer will pick up the produce directly from the farm
  • In case of dispute, there will be no need to go to court repeatedly. There will be local dispute redressal mechanism.

 

6) Protection against unfair contracts:

The Indian Contract Act, 1872 determines obligations of the parties to perform or offer to perform respective promises unless such performance is dispensed with or excused under the provisions of the Act, or of any other law.

  • To protect the consumers, the Law Commission in its Report No.199 titled ‘Unfair (Procedural and Substantive) Terms in Contracts’ recommended that the provisions of the Indian Contract Act, 1872 and of the Specific Relief Act, 1963 need not be disturbed.
  • The Consumer Protection Act, 2019 has come into force w.e.f. 20th July, 2020 and has replaced the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

As provided in the new Act unfair contract means a contract between a manufacturer or trader or service provider on one hand and a consumer on the other, having such terms which cause significant change in the rights of such consumer, including the following, namely:—

  • Requiring manifestly excessive security deposits to be given by a consumer for the performance of contractual obligations; or
  • Imposing any penalty on the consumer, for the breach of contract thereof which is wholly disproportionate to the loss occurred due to such breach to the other party to the contract; or
  • Refusing to accept early repayment of debts on payment of applicable penalty; or
  • Entitling a party to the contract to terminate such contract unilaterally, without reasonable cause; or
  • Permitting or has the effect of permitting one party to assign the contract to the detriment of the other party who is a consumer, without his consent; or
  • Imposing on the consumer or any unreasonable charge, obligation or condition which puts such consumer to disadvantage

 

7) Grant-In-Aid to Rural Local Bodies:

The Fifteenth Finance Commission (XV FC) in its report for 2020-21 has recommended grants for Rural Local Bodies (RLBs) in 28 States.

  • The grants have been recommended for all tiers of the Panchayati Raj and also to the Fifth and sixth schedule areas.
  • The grants are provided in two parts, namely, (i) Basic (Untied) Grants and (ii) Tied Grants in the ratio of 50:50.

The basic grants are untied and can be used by RLBs

  • For location-specific felt needs, except for salary or other establishment expenditure.

The tied grants can be used for the basic services

  • Sanitation and maintenance of Open-Defecation Free (ODF) status
  • Supply of drinking water, rain water harvesting and water recycling.

The RLBs shall, as far as possible, earmark one half of these Tied Grants each to these two critical services.

However, if any RLB has fully saturated the needs of one category, it can utilize the funds for the other category.

 

8) E-Gram Swaraj Portal:

With a vision to strengthen digitalization in Panchayats for the purpose of empowering rural India, a unified tool e-Gram SWARAJ portal has been developed

  • For effective monitoring and evaluation of works taken up in the Gram Panchayats.
  • E-Gram SWARAJ unifies the planning, accounting and monitoring functions of Gram Panchayats.
  • Its combination with the Area Profiler application, Local Government Directory (LGD) and the Public Financial Management System (PFMS) renders easier reporting and tracking of Gram Panchayat’s activities.
  • It provides a single window for capturing Panchayat information with the complete Profile of the Panchayat, details of Panchayat finances, asset details, activities taken up through Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP), Panchayat information from other Ministries/ Departments such as Census 2011, SECC data, Mission Antyodaya survey report etc.

 

9) Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan:

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has formulated and is implementing a National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (NAPDDR) for 2018-2025.

Aim- Reduction of adverse consequences of drug abuse through a multi-pronged strategy.

  • The activities under the NAPDDR, inter-alia, include awareness generation programmes in schools/colleges/Universities, workshops/seminars/ with parents, community based peer led interactions intervention programmes for vulnerable adolescent and youth in the community, provisioning of treatment facilities and capacity building of service providers.
  • The Ministry has also initiated focused intervention programmes in vulnerable districts across the country with an aim to increase community participation and public cooperation in the reduction of demand for dependence-producing substances and promote collective initiatives and self-help endeavor among individuals and groups vulnerable to addiction or found at risk
  • Launched in 272 most affected districts with focus on institutional support, community outreach and awareness generation.
  • These districts are identified based on inputs from Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and findings of Comprehensive National Survey done by Ministry.
  • Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan in 272 districts is from 15th August 2020 to 31st March 2021.

Abhiyaan Action Plan has the following components:-

  • Awareness generation programmes in the community and Youth in particular
  • Focus on Higher Educational institutions, University Campuses and Schools
  • Community outreach and identification of dependent population
  • Focus on Treatment facilities in Hospital settings
  • Capacity Building Programmes for Service Providers

 

10) New Financial Model for Interest Subvention for Individual Beneficiaries as well as SHGs Comprising SC and OBC Categories

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment is going to implement a new Financial Model for Interest Subvention for individual beneficiaries as well as the Self-Help Groups (SHGs) comprising exclusively of SC and OBC categories.

National Scheduled Castes Finance &Development Corporation (NSCFDC) will be the implementing agency for SC SHGs/beneficiaries and the National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC) will be implementing agency for OBC SHGs/beneficiaries.

The objective of the model is to provide direct benefit of lower rate of interest to the eligible SHGs formed under National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) or National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) or NABARD/individual beneficiaries who have availed loans through Public Sector Banks (PSBs), Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) and similar financial institutions or can be referred as Lending Institutions.

Further, the Ministry is already implementing following two schemes vide which assistance is provided to underprivileged sections of the Society:

Dr. Ambedkar Interest Subsidy on Education Loan for Overseas Studies for Other Backward Classes and Economically Backward Classes:

  • Under the Scheme, interest subsidy accrued on loan up to Rs.20.00 lakh is disbursed to beneficiaries by the Nodal bank.
  • The candidates having parental income up to Rs. 8.00 lakh per annum from all sources are eligible for loan under the Scheme.

NBCFDC provides loan at concessional rate of interest to underprivileged sections of Backward Classes having annual family income less than Rs. 3.00 lakh primarily for income generating activities to promote self-employment opportunities through State Channelizing Agencies (SCA) the maximum loan limit for income generating activities is up to Rs. 15.00 lakh

 

11) Bill passed in Rajya Sabha to offer IBC relief:

Context: Rajya Sabha on Saturday passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code second amendment bill, 2020 to ensure that insolvency proceedings will not be initiated for at least 6 months starting March Amid covid-19 pandemic

  • This replaces an ordinance passed in June
  • The government said IBC is not a recovery law and saving the lives of the companies is more important than recovery of loans which may be utilized through other options.
  •  There is a distinction between small and large borrowers and the amount varies from Rupee 1 lakh to rupee 1 crore
  • IBC cannot be initiated for companies below Rupees 1 crore so micro, small and medium enterprises will not be affected
  • Non-performing Assets of Scheduled commercial banks in the year 2018-19, The IBC ensured 42.5% where as such recoveries made through Lok Adalats stood at 5.3 % and those made at debt recovery Tribunal at 3.5%

 

12) 13 century Kakatiya dynasty Temple:

  • Temple constructed by Emperor Ganpati Deva ruler of Kakatiya dynasty is located near Andhra Pradesh capital Amaravati
  • The presiding deity at this 13th century temple was kakati Devi
  • Ganpati Deva is the first king who introduced the worship of kakati Devi in the coastal region of Andhra

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