Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

UPSC Civils Current Affairs 29th May-2021

Topics

  • Kerala: Trawling
  • Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme
  • Assam: Bodoland
  • RBI: Annual Report
  • Dowry Deaths:
  • Mid-day meal(MDM) Scheme

 

  1. Kerala: Trawling

Context: Kerala government to impose 52 Day monsoon season trawling ban from June 9th.

Background:

  • Trawling during the monsoon was first banned in the state in 1988 based on the recommendations of the Balakrishnan Nair Committee appointed by the state government to look into the impacts of trawling.
  • Ban on trawling operations during the monsoon is a measure to conserve marine fish resources.
  • It has been scientifically proved that monsoon creates a conducive atmosphere for spawning (release or deposit eggs) of many fish species.
  • For traditional fisher folk, who catch fish within 50 nautical miles from the shore and are not under the ban.

What is trawling?

  • Trawling is one of the most common methods of fishing that involves pulling a fishing net tied to one or two boats, called trawlers, through the water.
  • Trawling can be divided into bottom trawling and midwinter trawling, depending on how high the trawl (net) is in the water column. Bottom trawling is towing the trawl along (benthic trawling) or close to (demersal trawling) the sea floor.

How is trawling destructive?

  • Bottom trawling involves towing heavy fishing gear over the seabed, it can cause large-scale destruction on the ocean bottom, including coral shattering, damage to habitats and removal of seaweed.
  • Bottom trawling on soft bottoms also stirs up bottom sediments and loading suspended solids into the water column. When the turbidity plumes from bottom trawlers are below a thermocline, the surface may not be impacted, but less visible impacts can still occur, such as persistent organic pollutant transfer into the pelagic food chain.
  • Trawling directly kills coral reefs by breaking them up and burying them in sediments. In addition, trawling can kill corals indirectly by wounding coral tissue, leaving the reefs vulnerable to infection.
  • Midwater (pelagic) trawling is a much “cleaner” method of fishing, in that the catch usually consists of just one species and does not physically damage the sea bottom. However, environmental groups have raised concerns that this fishing practice may be responsible for significant volumes of by-catch, particularly cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, and whales)

Other measures taken to wean away fishermen from deep-sea trawling:

  • Trawl-boat owners claim they get their best catch during monsoon and a ban would throw thousands of people working in trawlers and the fish processing centres out of job. There are around 5,000 trawling boats that fish in Kerala’s waters and each employs an average of four workers. So, Government have taken few other measures:
  • Schemes promoting seaweed farming and sea-cage farming.
  • Subsidy for conversion of trawler into resource specific deep-sea vessel.
  • Extension of Kisan Credit Card (KCC) facilities to fishers and fish farmers to help them in meeting their working capital needs.
  • In case of Illegal trawlingAnti-trawling devices have been invented, manufactured, and deployed to damage trawlers’ nets and thus slow them down, force them to stop operating, or force them elsewhere.
  • They are usually large concrete blocks with metal hooks or blades embedded in their tops. Anti-trawling devices are being used by environmental groups, fishermen, and sometimes even by governments.

Fisheries sector in India:

  • India is the second major producer of fish through aquaculture in the world.
  • India is the 4th largest exporter of fish in the world as it contributes 7.7% to the global fish production.
  • Fish constituted about 10% of total exports from India and almost 20% of agriculture exports in 2018-19.
  • The fisheries and aquaculture production contribute around 1% to India’s GDP and over 5% to the agricultural GDP.
  • Around 28 million people are employed in the fisheries sector in India.

(According to the Kerala Government Fisheries Department data, Kerala’s share in the national marine fish production is 13%. India is the 6th largest producer of marine products in the world, with an output of about 35,99,693 tonnes in 2019. The country exports fish and fish products worth around Rs 380 billion)

 

  1. Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme

Context: Many Parliament members have written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to restart the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS).

Background:

  • Local Area Development Scheme, also called ‘Sansad Nidhi Yojana’ was suspended for two years (2020-2022) in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The funds under MPLADs were directed to the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • Sum of Rs. 79000 crores are expected to be garnered by suspending the Local Area Development Scheme.

MPLAD Scheme:

  • The MPLAD scheme was launched on 23rd December, 1993 to enable Members of Parliament (MPs) to recommend development works in their constituencies with emphasis on the creation of basic facilities including durable community infrastructure based on the locally felt need.
  • Durable assets of national priorities and community needs viz. drinking water, primary education, public health, sanitation and roads, etc.
  • It is fully funded by Government of India.
  • The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per MP constituency is Rs. 5 crore.
  • This scheme is now administered by the Ministry of Statistics and Implementation but was earlier administered by the Ministry of Rural Development.
  • Similar to MPLADS, several states have enacted schemes called Member of Legislative Assembly Local Area Development Scheme (MLALADS) where funds are given to MLAs.

Key features:

  • Recommendation by the MPs should be done annually with works costing at least 15 percent of the MPLADS entitlement for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 percent for areas inhabited by the ST population.
  • In order to encourage trusts and societies for the betterment of tribal people, a ceiling of Rs. 75 lakh is stipulated for building assets by trusts and societies subject to conditions prescribed in the scheme guidelines.
  • Works, developmental in nature, based on locally felt needs and always available for the use of the public at large, are eligible under the scheme. Preference under the scheme is given to works relating to national priorities, such as provision of drinking water, public health, education, sanitation, roads, etc.
  • The MPLAD funds can also be used for implementation of the schemes such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan), conservation of water through rain water harvesting and Sansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana, etc.anywhere in the country.
  • MPLADS funds could be converged with MNREGS and Khelo India Schemes for the formation of durable assets.

Recommendations:

  • Lok Sabha Members can recommend works within their Constituencies.
  • Elected Members of Rajya Sabha can recommend works within the State of Election.
  • Nominated Members of both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the country.

Release of Funds:

  • Funds are released in the form of grants in-aid directly to the district authorities.
  • The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsable.
  • The liability of funds not released in a particular year is carried forward to the subsequent years, subject to eligibility.

Execution of works:

  • The MPs have a recommendatory role under the scheme. They recommend their choice of works to the concerned district authorities who implement these works by following the established procedures of the concerned state government.
  • The district authority is empowered to examine the eligibility of works sanction funds and select the implementing agencies, prioritise works, supervise overall execution, and monitor the scheme at the ground level.

Arguments in favour of MPLADs Suspension:

  • The scheme is contrary to the doctrine of separation of powers where the legislators become the executors. It takes away the decision-making power of the district authorities as it allows MP’s to recommend projects.
  • Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the expenditure made under the MPLADS underlines the facts that the amount booked for the scheme is underused.
  • Instead of asset-creation which is a prime goal of the scheme, 78 percent of the projects recommended under MPLADS were for improvement of the existing assets.
  • Between 4th May 2014 and 10th December 2018, 93.55 percent of the MPs couldn’t utilize the entire sum allocated under the scheme.
  • Nepotism in awarding contracts with funds under MPLADS used to oblige influential contractors or relatives.

Why MPLADS is needed?

  • MPLADS has enabled MPs to play a leadership role in the developmental process of his constituency and sort out its day-to-day problems. The suspension of the MPLADS has done away with this vital role of MPs.
  • Over the years, many development projects important to the local community were implemented using the MPLADS funds. MPLADS thus helps the local people in getting an immediate response to the development needs, which if passed through the traditional system of executing via Block Development Officers will take a long time.
  • Many MPs had utilized the funds purchasing of personal protective equipment, rapid-testing devices, infrared thermometers, and scanners. Instead, the government could have mandated that MPLADS funds should be spent entirely on COVID-19 related relief measures.
  • The decentralized nature of the scheme has helped many MPs to address gaps in governance initiatives and implement small scale and time-sensitive projects within their respective constituencies.
  • When the funds are centralized, there will be significant delays in its allocation and project implementation.
  • The government took the ordinance route to change Budget provisions for the ongoing fiscal year and also for the next year. This is an indication of the centralization of powers and is unhealthy in a Parliamentary democracy.

 

  1. Assam: Bodoland

Context: Assam Government sets up Bodoland Department for faster development of Bodoland Territorial Region(BTR).

Key Points:

  • New department will deal with the issues of four districts of BTR (Kokrajhar, Baksa, Chirang and Udalguri) as part of the 3rd Bodo Peace Accord.
  • The various aspects of the Bodoland, bordering Bhutan and West Bengal, were until now looked after by the Welfare of Plain Tribes and Backward Classes Department.
  • 3rd Bodo Peace Accord was a tripartite agreement signed in 2020 between the Centre, Assam Government and the banned Assam-based insurgent group National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB).

Background:

Who are Bodos and What is Bodoland:

  • Bodos are the single largest tribal community in Assam, making up over 5-6 per cent of the state’s population.
  • The four districts in Assam — Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang — that constitute the Bodo Territorial Area District (BTAD), are home to several ethnic groups.

The Bodoland Dispute:

  • Bodos survived sanskritisation for Centuries without giving up their original ethnic identity. However, they were challenged with different set of issues in 20th century like illegal immigration, encroachment of their lands, forced assimilation, loss of language and culture.
  • They have been consistently deprived of the political and socio-economic rights by successive state and central governments. The Bodos have become an ethnic minority in their own ancestral land.

The 20th century  witnessed the emergence of Bodos as a leading tribe in Assam which pioneered the movements for safeguarding the rights of the tribal communities in the area.

  • So, In 1967, Bodos organised demand for a Bodo state under the banner of the political party Plains Tribals Council of Assam.
  • 1986: The armed group Bodo Security Force arose, which subsequently renamed itself ‘National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB)’, an organisation that is known to be involved in attacks, killings, and extortions. It later split into factions.
  • In 1987, the All Bodo Students Union (ABSU) renewed the demand. “Divide Assam fifty-fifty”, was a call given by the ABSU’s then leader, Upendra Nath Brahma.
  • A fallout of the Assam Movement (1979-85), whose culmination – the Assam Accord – addressed the demands of protection and safeguards for the “Assamese people”, leading the Bodos to launch a movement to protect their own identity.
  • Indian security forces in 1990s launched strong operations against the NDFB, causing NDFB to flee to Bhutan ,where they faced stiff counter-insurgency operations by the Indian Army and the Royal Bhutan Army in the early 2000s.

Government Interventions:

  • The 1987 ABSU-led movement culminated in a 1993 Bodo Accord, which paved the way for a Bodoland Autonomous Council (BAC). But ABSU withdrew its agreement and renewed its demand for a separate state.
  • In 2003, the second Bodo Accord was signed by the extremist group Bodo Liberation Tiger Force (BLTF), the Centre and the state. This led to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
  • The Central government in 2020 signed a tripartite agreement with the state government and different Bodo groups, including four factions of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), for a “permanent” solution to the Bodo issue.

Bodo Territorial Council:

  • The second Bodo accord, 2003 led to the formation of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) under the provisions of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution.
  • The area under the BTC jurisdiction is now officially called the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) comprising of 3,082 villages in four districts— Kokrajhar, Chirang, Udalguri and Baska.
  • Major communities residing in BTC include Bodos, Assamese , Bengalis, Koch-Rajbongshis, Rabhas, Garos , Adivasis, Muslims and Nepalies, etc.

Sixth schedule of the Constitution:

  • The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution of India (Articles 244(2) and 275(1)) provides for decentralized self-governance and dispute resolution through local customary laws in parts of the North East which are mainly tribal areas.
  • It contains provisions as to the Administration of Tribal Areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

3rd Bodo Peace Accord 2020: Key points

Primarily, this Accord ends a truce with four factions of the NDFB after decades of armed movement that claimed over 4,000 lives.

  • It provides for “alteration of area of BTAD” and “provisions for Bodos outside BTAD”
  • The BTAD was renamed Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR).
  • It provides for more legislative, executive, administrative and financial powers to BTC to streamline its functioning.
  • It provides for setting up a commission under Section 14 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution of India, to recommend the inclusion or exclusion of tribal population residing in villages adjoining Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) areas
  • The Government of Assam will establish a Bodo-Kachari Welfare Council.
  • The Assam government will also notify Bodo language as an associate official language in the state and will set up a separate directorate for Bodo medium schools
  • Promote and protect Bodo’s social, cultural, linguistic and ethnic identities.
  • Providing legislative protection for the land rights of tribals.
  • A Special Development Package Rs. 1500 crores over three years will be given by the Union Government to undertake specific projects for the development of Bodo areas.

 

  1. RBI: Annual Report

Context: Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) released its Annual Report for 2020-21. RBI act, 1934 mandates for release of an annual report.

Key Findings:

  • Foreign Exchange:
  • Gain from foreign exchange transactions rose from Rs 29,993 crore to Rs 50,629 crore in 2020-21.
  • Foreign exchange reserves:
  • Contraction in imports relative to exports, led to a current account surplus.
  • This along with robust net capital inflows, led to a large build-up of foreign exchange reserves.
  • Banking frauds:
  • In value terms, private banks have reported a rise of 35% in frauds during FY21, and Public Sector Banks have reported a decline of 45% in the similar period.
  • Improvement in banks’ asset quality:
  • Gross Non Performing Assets ratio of banks decreased to 6.8% by December 2020 from 8.2% in March 2020.
  • Provision coverage ratio (a portion of banks’profits set aside as a provision against bad loans) has improved.
  • Surplus Transfer to the Government:
  • RBI has been able to transfer a higher amount to the government as surplus this year following a sharp fall in provisions and gains from foreign exchange transactions during the year ended March 2021.
  • It transferred Rs. 99,122 crore to the government.
  • Rupee Against Dollar:
  • The rupee strengthened by 3.5% against the US dollar (at end-March 2021 over end-March 2020) but underperformed vis-a-vis other Asian countries during 2020-21.
  • Digital Payments:
  • The Covid-19 pandemic increased the proliferation of digital modes of payments.
  • Total digital transaction volume in 2020-21 stood at 4,371 crore, as against 3,412 crore in 2019-20.
  • Ensuring Liquidity:
  • Recognising the risks to the recovery from a premature fiscal tightening, the central government has opted for a gradual fiscal consolidation by budgeting the gross fiscal deficit (GFD) at 6.8 per cent of GDP in 2021-22 – down from 9.4 per cent in the preceding year – and bringing it down gradually to below 4.5 per cent of GDP by 2025.
  • This is exemplified by the introduction of the secondary market G-sec acquisition programme (G-SAP).
  • Monetary transmission will continue unimpeded while maintaining financial stability.
  • Monetary transmission refers to the process by which a central bank’s monetary policy signals (like repo rate) are passed on, through the financial system to influence the businesses and households.
  • Economic Growth:
  • As the vaccination drive picks up and cases of infections fall, a sharp turnaround in growth is likely, supported by strong favourable base effects.
  • The base effect refers to the effect that the choice of a basis of comparison or reference can have on the result of the comparison between data points.
  • RBI predicted 10.5% GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth for the year 2021-22.

 

  1. Dowry Deaths

Context: Scope of Section 304­B in dowry deaths widened by Supreme Court

Background:

  • Dowry deaths accounted for 40% to 50% homicides in the country for almost a decade from 1999 to 2018.
  • In 2019 alone, 7,115 cases of dowry death were registered under Section 304­B of the Indian Penal Code.
  • Section 304B of the Indian Penal Code states that if a woman dies within seven years of marriage by any burns or bodily injury or it was revealed that before her marriage she was exposed to cruelty or harassment by her husband or any other relative of the husband in connection to demand dowry then the death of the woman will be considered as a dowry death.
  • Punishment for dowry death is a minimum sentence of imprisonment for seven years or a maximum sentence of imprisonment for life.
  • Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana, who authored the judgment recently, said courts should instead interpret Section 304¬B liberally while keeping in mind the law’s intention to punish dowry and bride burning.
  • He called dowry harassment a “pestiferous” crime where women are subjected to cruelty by “covetous” husbands and in­laws.
  • He opined that court should go beyond literal interpretation of penal provision.

Dowry:

  • Dowry is the money, goods or estate that a woman brings to a marriage. Dowry is illegal in India under the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, under which both giving and accepting dowry is offence.
  • The punishment for violating the law is 5 years imprisonment + Rs.15000/- fine or the value of the dowry given, whichever is more.

Dowry Laws in India:

  1. The Dowry Prohibition (DP) Act 1961

This legislation prohibits the request, payment or acceptance of a dowry, “as consideration for the marriage”.

  1. Apart from the Dowry Prohibition (DP) Act 1961, the menace of dowry has been covered in three sections of Indian Penal Code viz.
  • Section 406 {recovery of the Streedhan}
  • Section 304-B {Dowry deaths} and
  • Section 498-A {cruelty on the basis of demand of dowry}.

However, there are some major issues with these laws, for example: The issue with section 406 of IPC is that it hardly demarcates the boundary between the Dowry and Streedhan. Streedhan belongs to the woman while dowry is something which is given by either party to another.

Causes of dowry in India:

  • In the name of tradition: In the name of tradition which has to be followed by the bride’s family give valuables to the groom’s family.
  • Greed: Owing to expectations of material benefits from the bride’s family, dowry is demanded for, and at times, when the demands are not met, either the marriage is called off, or the bride is exploited leading to domestic violence.
  • Illiteracy: In underdeveloped areas, the literacy rate is very less and people are unaware of the laws relating to dowry, which led to the increased demand for dowry by the others. Though dowry is also practised by the literates in an underdeveloped area, it becomes a bit more difficult to make them understand the laws.
  • Lack of Willingness to adhere to laws: The primary reason behind the failure is lack of mass participation.

Solutions:

  • Education: Lack of education leads to irresponsible decisions leading to financial exploitation from a marriage relation. We have to reach out across the nation and make sure the mainstream community is at par with the nation’s prospects, education is a necessity.
  • Government initiative: To ensure that people follow the laws, proper implementation should be carried out. Both the Center and State governments should monitor the sentiments of the community and ensure that no dowry exchange exercises are carried out.
  • Initiating Mass Media Campaign: Media holds the potential to remove dowry system from the mainstream Indian society. By publishing related news and making the authorities aware of any reported case of dowry related crime, they can keep an effective check upon the prospects.

 

  1. Mid-day meal (MDM) Scheme:

Context: The Union Minister for Education has approved the proposal to provide monetary assistance to 11.8 Crore students through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of the cooking cost component of the Mid-Day-Meal Scheme, to all eligible children, as a special welfare measure.

About:

  • This will give a boost to the Midday Meal programme.
  • This is in addition to the Government of India’s announcement of distribution of free-of-cost food grains @ 5 Kg per person per month to nearly 80 Crore beneficiaries under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PM-GKAY).
  • The decision will help safeguard the nutritional levels of children and aid in protecting their immunity during the pandemic times.
  • This is a one-time special welfare measure of the union government.

Mid-Day Meal Scheme:

  • With a view to enhancing enrolment, retention and attendance and simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children, the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) was launched as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in 1995. In 2001 MDMS became a cooked Mid Day Meal Scheme.
  • The Mid-Day Meal Scheme covers children of classes I-VIII studying in government, government-aided schools, special training centres (STC) and madarsas/ maqtabs supported under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). It is the largest school feeding programme in the world.
  • The Midday Meal Scheme is covered by the National Food Security Act, 2013.
  • It is the world’s largest school meal programme aimed to attain the goal of universalization of primary education.
  • The Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) is the authorized body to implement the scheme.
  • Cost is shared between the centre and the states (60:40)
  • Tamil Nadu is the first state to implement the midday meal scheme.

The rules provide that:

  • The place of serving meals to the children shall be school only.
  • The meal shall be prepared in accordance with the Mid Day Meal guidelines issued by the Central Government from time to time.
  • The latest guidelines provide instructions on procuring AGMARK quality items for preparation of midday meals, tasting of meals by two or three adult members of the school management committee, including at least one teacher, before serving to children.
  • If the Mid-Day Meal is not provided in school on any school day due to non-availability of food grains or any other reason, the State Government shall pay food security allowance by 15th of the succeeding month.
  • The School Management Committee mandated under Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 shall also monitor implementation of the Mid-day meal Scheme.
  • The State Steering-cum Monitoring Committee (SSMC) shall oversee the implementation of the scheme including establishment of a mechanism for maintenance of nutritional standards and quality of meals.
  • The government provides financial support to the eligible schools/implementing agencies in the form of free food grains and by bearing cooking related costs.        

Criticism of the Midday Meal Scheme:

  • India faces severe issues like child stunting, child mortality, child wasting and undernourishment. The same is reflected with India’s rank of 94 in Global Hunger Index 2020. This reflects the failure of schemes like MDM to have far reaching effect on nutrition.
  • Caste-based discrimination mars the objective of MDMS -The 2008 Report by the National Campaign on Dalit Rights to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights also highlights that midday meals are usually served in upper-caste localities and that during times of caste tensions, Dalit children are denied the meal to assert the dominance of these upper caste communities.
  • The National Family Health Survey 2015-16 reported 39 percent of children to be chronically undernourished.
  • Quality of food is often debated where various media reports mention the health of children deteriorating with the food provided under the midday meals.
  • Linking Aadhar to midday meal scheme has its own demerits of limiting the children’s access to the MDMS due to many not having aadhar cards.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *