Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Current Affairs of 27th August-2020

 

1. Agriculture marketing reforms:

Context: Recent reforms have brought change in agriculture policy through 3 ordinances:
The ordinances are

  1. Removal of restrictions under the essential commodities act, 1955
  2. Farmers can now go out of APMC mandis and sell their produce
  3. Promote contract farming

The removal of restrictions under the essential commodities act,1955, ECA a will help attract private investment in agriculture and help farmers of cereals pulses oil seeds onions and potato who have been adversely affected by policy regime that discouraged private investment

The two new ordinances are expected to enable inter-state trade and promote contract farming thus providing options to farmers.

Difficulties in implementation:

Time inconsistency problem or policy credibility problem- the situation arises when a decision makers preferences change over time in such a way that the preferences are inconsistent at different points in time

Example in 2016 the electronic National agriculture market (e-NAM) was launched which was intended to be a market-based mechanism for efficient price discovery by the farmers, in the first phase 585 markets across 16 states and two union territories were covered
States needed to amend their respective APMC acts to put in place three prerequisites for the success of this program –

  1. A single licence across the state
  2. Single point levy of market fee and
  3. Electronic auctioning in all the markets

Several States could not or did not carry out these amendments and the E-NAM provided to be far less effective than desired.

As a result the government reverted back to public price support by launching an ambitious program PM-AASHA in September 2018, the main objective of this program was to provide an assured price to the farmers that a return of at least 50% more than the cost of cultivation. The program was confined to pulses and oil seeds to limit the fiscal costs although many other crops which did not receive the benefits of MSP procurement system also needed this coverage.
Public procurement, Deficiency payments and Private procurement where the main components of this program, only public procurement was carried out in a meaningful way, deficiency payments were only implemented on a pilot basis in Madhya Pradesh and Private procurement was not initiated even on pilot basis in any state.

In addition to PM-AASHA program, two model acts were formulated by the central government in 2017 and 2018 to promote agriculture marketing and contract farming in States, states were required to legislate these model acts however progress has been tardy and many states have not adopted the model acts.
The performance of PM-AASHA necessitated a more radical and direct approach. Thus evolved the PM-KISAN a direct cash transfer program in the interim budget 2019-2020, this program Involved a fixed payment of Rupees 6000 per annum to each farm household. This program has worked reasonably well so far with many states.

e-NAM has been scaled up to cover 415 markets to allow farmers to sell and transport directly from registered warehouses and app based transport services have been devised, this has allowed the government to introduce for the more reforms in agriculture markets

The frequent flip flop in the farm policy from a Market based e-NAM to a public funded PM- AASHA and now back to market-based measures may not inspire much confidence in the minds of private investors about the continuance of the present policies this may result in investors adopting a wait- and -watch approach.

Although the ordinance were passed by the central government the implementation of the same vests with the states, also interstate trade-in was movement of goods across the state boundaries does coordination between Central and state governments and also among various States becomes crucial.

Also the states must have faced several problems in legislating and implementing the earlier model acts. Thus the centre must engage with the state in implementation of the ordinances. Thus a consultative and conciliatory approach will minimise friction between centre and States

Third important issue is multiple market failures and the resultant inter linkage of rural markets due to absence of failure of credit and insurance markets may lead to the farmer dependent on local dealer or middleman does may get trapped with the intermediaries, restrictions on land leasing in many states lead to in efficient scale of production.

Thus, reforms in output market alone is not sufficient and these must be supplemented and complimented with liberalization of the lease market and better access to credit and insurance markets .

 

2. Export Preparedness Index (EPI) 2020:

Context: NITI Aayog in partnership with the Institute of Competitiveness released the Export Preparedness Index (EPI) 2020 today.

What is EPI? “The Export Preparedness Index is a data-driven effort to identify the core areas crucial for export promotion at the sub-national level. All the states and union territories have been assessed on crucial parameters that are critical for any typical economic unit to achieve sustainable export growth. The Index would be a helpful guide for the state governments to benchmark regional performance with respect to export promotion and thus deliver key policy insights on how to improve and enhance the same.”

EPI intends to identify challenges and opportunities; enhance the effectiveness of government policies; and encourage a facilitative regulatory framework.
The structure of the EPI includes 4 pillars –Policy; Business Ecosystem; Export Ecosystem; Export Performance – and 11 sub-pillars –Export Promotion Policy; Institutional Framework; Business Environment; Infrastructure; Transport Connectivity; Access to Finance; Export Infrastructure; Trade Support; R&D Infrastructure; Export Diversification; and Growth Orientation.

“The Indian economy holds immense potential to become a strong exporter on the world stage. To realize this potential, it is crucial that India turns to its states and union territories and makes them active participants in the country’s export efforts. In an attempt to realize this vision, the Export Preparedness Index 2020 evaluates states’ potentials and capacities.

Findings of the index: EPI has shown that most Indian states performed well on average across the sub-pillars of Exports Diversification, Transport Connectivity, and Infrastructure. The average score of Indian states in these three sub-pillars was above 50%.

Also, given the low standard deviation in Export Diversification and Transport Connectivity, the averages are not skewed to the higher side by a few over-achievers. However, Indian states should also focus on other key components in order to improve export competitiveness.

Overall, most of the Coastal States are the best performers. Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu occupy the top three ranks, respectively. Six of eight coastal states feature in the top ten rankings, indicating the presence of strong enabling and facilitating factors to promote exports. In the landlocked states, Rajasthan has performed the best, followed by Telangana and Haryana. Among the Himalayan states, Uttarakhand is the highest, followed by Tripura and Himachal Pradesh. Across the Union Territories, Delhi has performed the best, followed by Goa and Chandigarh.

The report also highlights that export orientation and preparedness are not just restricted to prosperous states. Even emerging states can undertake dynamic export policy measures, have functioning promotional councils, and synchronize with national logistical plans to grow their exports. Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are two landlocked states that had initiated several measures to promote exports. Other states facing similar socio-economic challenges can look at the measures taken by Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and try to implement them to grow their exports.

Many Northeastern states under the Growth Orientation sub-pillar were able to export more by focusing on their indigenous product baskets. This shows that a focused development of such baskets (like spices) can drive exports on one hand and also improve farmer incomes on the other in these states.

Challenges: export promotion in India faces three fundamental challenges: intra- and inter-regional disparities in export infrastructure; poor trade support and growth orientation among states; and poor R&D infrastructure to promote complex and unique exports.

How to address these challenges: a joint development of export infrastructure; strengthening industry-academia linkages; and creating state-level engagements for economic diplomacy. These strategies could be supported by revamped designs and standards for local products and by harnessing the innovating tendencies to provide new use cases for such products, with adequate support from the Centre.

To achieve the target of making India a developed economy by focusing on ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’, there is a need to increase exports from all the states and union territories. The EPI provides invaluable insights on how states can attain this goal.

 

3. Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)–Transport Initiative for Asia (TIA):

Context: NITI Aayog will virtually launch the India Component of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC)–Transport Initiative for Asia (TIA). NDC-TIA India Component to focus on establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform for decarbonizing transport in India

The event will inform the transport, energy, and climate stakeholders in India about planned project activities for the upcoming year. It will also offer the opportunity to provide input about India’s transport challenges and how they relate to CO2 reduction ambitions.

With the aim to promote a comprehensive approach to decarbonize transport in India, Vietnam, and China, NDC–TIA is a joint programme, supported by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and implemented by a consortium of seven organisations.

The India Component is implemented by six consortium organisations, On behalf of the Government of India, NITI Aayog, the country’s premier policy think tank, will be the implementing partner.

The NDC-TIA programme has duration of 4 years and will allow India and other partner countries to achieve accountable long-term targets by making a sectoral contribution through various interventions, coordinated with a large number of stakeholders in the domain. This will contribute towards achieving their NDCs and increasing their ambition in the transport sector of 2025 NDCs.

India has a massive and diverse transport sector that caters to the needs of billion people. It has the world’s second-largest road network, which contributes to maximum greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through all means of transportation. With increasing urbanisation, the fleet size i.e. the number of sales of vehicles is increasing rapidly. It is projected that the total number of vehicles will be doubled by 2030.

The NDC–TIA India Component will focus on establishing a multi-stakeholder dialogue platform for decarbonizing transport in India, strengthening GHG and transport modelling capacities, providing technical support on GHG emission reduction measures, financing climate actions in transport, offering policy recommendations on electric vehicle (EV) demand and supply policies, evaluating business models through cost-benefit analyses and so forth.

The NDC–TIA programme team will work in close cooperation and coordination with India’s government agencies, local decision-makers, researchers, industry experts, think tanks, and civil society organisations. The programme aims at high ambition in the transport sector directly supporting the country’s NDC targets. Successful implementation of these activities requires the political will and interest of political partners and relevant stakeholders in the target countries.

 

4. Competition Commission of India (CCI):

Context: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) approves the proposal of Tau Investment to acquire shares in J B Chemicals.

About the Competition Commission: Established by the Central Government by the Competition Act, 2002 came to effect from 14th October 2003. CCI consists of a Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government.
It is the duty of the Commission to eliminate practices having adverse effect on competition, promote and sustain competition, protect the interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade in the markets of India.

The Commission is also required to give opinion on competition issues on a reference received from a statutory authority established under any law and to undertake competition advocacy, create public awareness and impart training on competition issues. It is a statutory body.

 

5. Common Services Centres:

Context: MOU signed between NeGD and CSC E-Governance Services India Limited making services on UMANG app available to citizens through the network of 3.75 lakh CSCs.

With an objective to realise Digital India’s vision of “Power to Empower” and to enable Digital Inclusion across the length and breadth of India, the National e-Governance Division (NeGD), Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY) has signed an MOU with CSC (Common Service Center) e Governance Services India Limited to facilitate delivery of UMANG services at CSCs,. The CSC operators Village Level Entrepreneurs (VLEs) will enable citizens to avail e-Governance services of 140 Departments through the UMANG App.

This will benefit those citizens who either do not have access to smartphones or are not comfortable accessing App based e services on their own. For the masses, this will not only enhance access to government services significantly. All these UMANG services are being enabled on CSCs without any additional cost and NeGD is making all services available to CSCs at zero cost.

Common Services Centres or CSCs, set up under the CSC Scheme of MeitY, are a strategic cornerstone of the Digital India programme and key access points for delivery of various electronic services to villages in India.

UMANG (Unified Mobile Application for New-Age Governance) is the common unified platform for delivery of services of various Government Departments through the mobile platform.

UMANG was developed by National e-Governance Division (NeGD), Ministry of Electronics & IT in 2017. Within a short period of its successful implementation, the mobile app attained four illustrious awards including ‘Best m-Government service’ award at the 6th World Government Summit held at Dubai, UAE in Feb 2018.

The UMANG Mobile app is available on Android, iOS, all web browsers platforms and select 57 services on KaiOS (available on Jio feature phones).
This significant alliance of UMANG and CSCs will empower lakhs of citizens in our country, especially during these unprecedented times, ensuring ease, convenience, and security.

 

6. Digi locker:

Context: The Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare (DoPPW) has decided to integrate the electronic Pension Payment Order (e-PPO) generated through PFMS application of CGA (Controller General of Accounts), with Digi Locker, in order to enhance Ease of Living of Central Government Civil Pensioners, in case of misplace the original copies of their Pension Payment Order (PPO). This system will enable any Pensioner to obtain an instant print-out of the latest copy of their PPO, from their Digi Locker account.

This facility has been created with ‘Bhavishya’ software, which is a single window platform for Pensioners, right from the start of their Pension processing, till the end of the process. “Bhavishya” shall now provide an option to retiring employee, to link their Digi-locker account with their “Bhavishya” account and obtain their e-PPO in a seamless manner.

Digi-locker: Is a digital locker, initiative under the Digital india. Released by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Govt. of India. Digital Locker is aimed at minimizing the usage of physical documents and enable sharing of e-documents across agencies.
With the help of this Portal, the sharing of the e-documents will be done through registered repositories thereby ensuring the authenticity of the documents online. Residents can also upload their own electronic documents and digitally sign them using the e-sign facility. These digitally signed documents can be shared with Government organizations or other entities

COMPONENTS OF DIGITAL LOCKER SYSTEM

Repository is a Collection of e-Documents which are uploaded by issuers in a standard format and exposing a set of standard APIs for secure real-time search and access.

Access Gateway provides a secure online mechanism for requesters to access e-documents from various repositories in real-time using e-Document URI (Uniform Resource Indicator). The URI is a link to the e-Document uploaded by an issuer in a repository. The gateway will identify the address of the repository where the e-Document is stored based on the URI and will fetch the e-Document from that repository.

 

7. ‘Vendor Performance Evaluation System’:

By NHAI, to establish a transparent and comprehensive performance rating system for its consultants, contractors and concessionaires

Under this portal, the vendors are required to conduct a self-assessment and upload the documents related to the project activities being executed by them, on the portal. The submissions are reviewed at multiple levels by NHAI, based on which a vendor’s rating is generated.

The portal contains provision for rating the projects according to the mode of implementation and status of completion under BOT (Toll), BOT (Annuity), HAM, EPC works and for Authority’s Engineer, Independent Engineer and DPR Consultants. To ensure that the evaluation is done in the most objective and balanced way, the vendor rating generated post multi-level reviews, shall be shared with the vendor. The vendor will also be given an opportunity to appeal against the generated rating.

“Suitable amendments in bidding documents are being incorporated to make rating of vendors as one of the qualification criteria for awarding new projects,” NHAI statement said. This rating system will increase the accountability of vendors thereby improving the quality of highways.

 

8. FASTag:

Context: FASTag made mandatory for availing all discounts on the National Highways Fee Plazas.

Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has made the use of FASTag mandatory for availing return journey discount or any other exemptions on Toll Fee Plazas. Users who wish to claim a discount for making return journey within 24 hours or any other local exemptions, shall be required to have a valid functional FASTag on the vehicle this was done through the amendment in the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules, 2008 has been notified in this respect.

This is another step towards promoting the use of digital payments on Fee Plazas of NHs. The fee payable towards such discounts shall be paid through pre-paid instruments, smart card or through FASTag or on board unit (transponder) or any other such device only.

The amendments to the Rules would enable-
i. For discount on return journey within 24 hours, it would be through FASTag or such other device and automatic and no requirement for a pass.
ii. For discounts on all other cases, having a valid FASTag is made necessary.

What is Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) / FASTag?

NHAI has rolled out program for Electronic Toll Collection on Toll Plazas on National Highways to be called FASTag.

FASTag is a device that employs Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology for making toll payments directly from the prepaid account linked to it. It is affixed on the windscreen of your vehicle and enables you to drive through toll plazas. FASTag has a validity of 5 years and after purchasing it, you only need to recharge/ top up the FASTag as per your requirement.

FASTag offers near non-stop movement of vehicles through toll plazas and the convenience of cashless payment of toll fee with nation-wide interoperable Electronic Toll Collection Services.

Who is implementing this program?
Indian Highways Management Company Limited (IHMCL) (a company incorporated by National Highways Authority of India) and National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) are implementing this program with help from Toll Plaza Concessionaires, FASTag Issuer Agencies and Toll Transaction Acquirer (select banks).

 

9. Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar-2021:

Context: Ministry of Women and Child Development has invited nominations for the Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskar-2021from children, individuals and institutions.

The Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Puraskarwas instituted to felicitate meritorious children, individuals and institutions of the country. These awards are given under two categories –

  1. Bal Shakti Puraskar.
  2. Bal Kalyan Puraskar.

While the Bal Shakti Puraskar aims to give recognition to children who have achieved extraordinarily in various fields including innovation, scholastic, sports, art & culture, social service and bravery.

The Bal Kalyan Puraskar is given as recognition to Individuals and Institutions, who have made an outstanding contribution towards service for children in the field of child development, child protection and child welfare.

 

10. South China Sea

  • Claimed by 6 countries China, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.
  • It is connected by Taiwan Strait with East China Sea and bye Luzon strait with the Philippine Sea.
  • It contains numerous shoals, reefs, atolls and Islands.
  • The Parcel islands, the Spartly islands and the Scarborough shoal are most important.

What makes it so important?

This sea holds tremendous strategic importance for its location as it is the connecting link between Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean Strait of Malacca
According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), one-third of the Global shipping passes through it, carrying trillions of trade which makes it a significant geo-political water body

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippines: the sea has one-third of the entire world Marine biodiversity and contains lucrative fisheries providing food security to the South Asian countries

SCS is believed to have huge oil and gas Reserves

 

11. The army 2020:

  • International military technical forum organised in Moscow Russia
  • The Indian Pavilion was inaugurated by secretary defence production
  • Delegation from 70 Nations participated
  • Russian weapons and equipment, as well as exhibit through Industrial Enterprises will be show cost for a free inspection.

 

12. Jeevan Shakti Yojana in Madhya Pradesh:

Female candidates can make and sell 10 lakh masks under Jeevan Shakti Yojana in Madhya Pradesh.

The scheme has been started with the aim to provide low cost masks to the Citizens and Employment of women entrepreneurs

The Jeevan Shakti Yojana has facilitated women of Urban and rural areas to become self reliant in Corona Virus

 

13. Shagun- gift an insurance policy:

Launched by SBI General Insurance. It is a unique gift of personal accident policy.

This policy can be gifted to anyone, which means it is not necessary for the policy buyer to be related to the insured, gift receiver should be in the age group of 18 to 65 years.

Shagun covers personal accident insurance which provides complete financial protection to the insured person against uncertainty such as accidental death and partial or total disabilities and permanent as well as temporary disabilities resulting from an accident.

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