Current Affairs, 27 October 2018
Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Experiencing North East festival
What to study?
- For Prelims: NEC, its functions and composition, about Experiencing North East festival.
- For Mains: Significance of North Eastern region of the country and efforts by government for the development of the region.
Context: The ‘Experiencing North East’ festival is being held. It depicts the uniqueness of North Eastern culture.
‘Experiencing North East’ Festival:
The event which is a part of ‘Destination North East’ series aims at showcasing the diverse culture and heritage of North East all under one roof.
- The festival is being organised by North Eastern Council (NEC), Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) in collaboration with India International Centre.
- The festival will showcase the vibrant strengths of North East India and display its art, handicraft, handlooms, tourism, food, culture etc.
- There will be special performances daily by eminent cultural troupes, bands and artistes from North East, including Nise Meruno, classical pianist and vocalist.
NEC was established under the North Eastern Council Act, 1971 as an apex level body for securing balanced and coordinated development and facilitating coordination with the States.
- Subsequent to the Amendment of 2002, NEC has been mandated to function as a regional planning body for the North Eastern Area and while formulating a regional plan for this area, shall give priority to the schemes and projects benefiting two or more states provided that in the case of Sikkim, the Council shall formulate specific projects and schemes for that State.
The Union Cabinet, in June 2018, approved the proposal of Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) for the nomination of the Union Home Minister as ex-officio Chairman of North Eastern Council (NEC). The Cabinet has also approved that Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of DoNER would serve as Vice Chairman of the Council.
Under the new arrangement, Home Minister shall be the Chairman and Minister of DoNER as Vice Chairman, NEC and all the Governors and Chief Ministers of North Eastern States will be Members.
Destination North East event is one of the steps taken by Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region to bring North East closer and help assimilate the diverse cultural heritage of India while encouraging investment in priority sectors like Tourism, Handloom, Handicrafts, Food Processing etc. Other steps taken by Ministry of DoNER towards assimilation of North Eastern Region, are funding Business Summits, Seminars, Buyers & Sellers meets to attract investors in North Eastern Region and supporting participation of weavers/artisans of NER in Craft Bazaars and exhibitions all over India to promote their Handloom and Handicrafts and give them exposure to the National Market.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan
What to study?
- For Prelims: Key features of PM- AASA.
- For Mains: Significance and issues associated with PM- AASA.
Context: A recent analysis by agricultural experts has revealed that Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan will make no difference to the plight of farmers on the ground this season, and will not improve their chances of getting MSP for their crops.
- Only Madhya Pradesh has opted for the cash payment component. No other state has readied the IT infrastructure needed to implement it.
- With regard to the private stockists scheme, guidelines were issued to states last week. It will probably take states and private players about six months. And there may not be any takers in the current season.
Giving a major boost to the pro-farmer initiatives of the Government and in keeping with its commitment and dedication for the Annadata, the Union Cabinet approved, in September 2018, a new Umbrella Scheme “Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay SanraksHan Abhiyan’ (PM-AASHA). The Scheme is aimed at ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers for their produce as announced in the Union Budget for 2018.
The umbrella scheme ‘PM-AASHA’ comprises three sub-schemes:
- Price Support Scheme (PSS).
- Price Deficiency Payment Scheme (PDPS).
- Pilot of Private Procurement & Stockist Scheme (PPPS).
Price Support Scheme (PSS):
Under the scheme, the physical procurement of pulses, oilseeds and Copra will be done by Central Nodal Agencies with the proactive role of the state governments.
- Further, in addition to NAFED, the Food Cooperation of India (FCI) will take up PSS operations in states and districts.
- The procurement expenditure and losses due to procurement will be borne by the Union Government as per norms.
Price Deficiency Payment Scheme this scheme (PDPS):
- Under the scheme, it is proposed to cover all oilseeds for which minimum support price (MSP) is notified.
- In this, direct payment of the difference between the MSP and the selling/modal price will be made to pre-registered farmers selling his produce in the notified market yard through a transparent auction process. All payments will be done directly into the registered bank account of the farmer.
- This scheme does not involve any physical procurement of crops as farmers are paid the difference between the MSP price and sale or modal price on disposal in the notified market. The support of the central government for PDPS will be given as per norms.
Pilot of Private Procurement & Stockist Scheme (PPPS):
- For oilseeds, the states will have the option to roll out Private Procurement Stockist Scheme (PPSS) on pilot basis in selected districts and Agricultural Produce Market Committee’s (APMC) of district involving the participation of private stockiest.
- The pilot district and selected APMC(s) will cover one or more crop of oilseeds for which MSP is notified.
- Since this is similar to the PSS scheme, as it involves physical procurement of the notified commodity, the scheme shall substitute PSS/PDPS in the pilot districts.
- The selected private agency shall procure the commodity at MSP in the notified markets during the notified period from the registered farmers in accordance with the PPSS Guidelines, whenever the prices in the market fall below the notified MSP and whenever authorised by the state or UT government to enter the market. The maximum service charges up to 15% of the notified MSP will be payable.
Increasing MSP is not adequate and it is more important that farmers should get the full benefit of the announced MSP. For the same, it is essential that if the price of the agriculture produce market is less than MSP, then in that case state governments and the central government should purchase either at MSP or work in a manner to provide MSP for the farmers through some other mechanism.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.
Currency manipulator tag
What to study?
- For Prelims: Meaning of Currency manipulator.
- For Mains: Concerns, implications, challenges and issues associated with currency manipulation.
What is currency manipulation and who determines it?
The US Department of the Treasury publishes a semi-annual report in which the developments in global economic and exchange rate policies are reviewed. If a US trade partner meets three assessment criteria, the US labels it a currency manipulator. The US then tries to solve it via bilateral talks.
The October report of the Treasury says that it continues to press major trading partners that have maintained large, persistent external surpluses to support stronger and more balanced global growth by facilitating domestic demand growth as the primary engine for economic expansion.
How are countries identified for the currency manipulation list?
The US Treasury has established thresholds for the three criteria. First, a significant bilateral trade surplus with the US is one that is at least $20 billion; second, a material current account surplus is one that is at least 3% of GDP; and third, persistent, one-sided intervention reflected in repeated net purchases of foreign currency and total at least 2% of an economy’s GDP over a year. The Treasury’s goal is to focus attention on those nations whose bilateral trade is most significant to the US economy and whose policies are the most material for the global economy.
How are currencies on the watch list faring in 2018?
Such currencies have been falling against the dollar. Japan’s yen fell 0.13%, South Korea’s won slipped 5.13%, Switzerland’s Swiss Franc fell 2.3% and China’s yuan dropped 6.3%.
Does India feature on the currency manipulation list?
The US Treasury, in its report, said no major trading partner met the criteria to be designated as manipulating its currency. It has kept India, China, Japan, South Korea, Germany and Switzerland on the monitoring list. It said that India’s circumstances have shifted markedly, as the central bank’s net sales of forex over the first six months of 2018 led net purchases over the four quarters through June 2018 to fall to $4 billion, or 0.2% of GDP. The rupee has depreciated by 13.05% this fiscal.
Do policymakers in India need to worry?
Economists say India doesn’t need to worry as it only meets one of the three criteria. If this remains the case at the time of its next report, Treasury would remove India from the Monitoring List. India being on the watch list was not important. If we were to be labelled as manipulators, there would have been pressure on India to reduce tariffs.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: e-technology in the aid of farmers.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Features and significance of Krishi Kumbh.
Context: The government of Uttar Pradesh in association with the Government of India is organizing a mega Agriculture Expo called “Krishi Kumbh-2018”.
About Krishi Kumbh- 2018:
- Krishi Kumbh-2018 would comprise of the National level exhibition, technical sessions around the theme of doubling farmers income, Business Meet, and host of other engaging activities.
- The primary objective of Krishi Kumbh 2018 is to provide a common platform to farmers, farmers group, technical experts and entrepreneurs for seamless exchange of knowledge regarding agriculture production food processing and marketing, agriculture mechanization, agro-food processing, high value crops, input and technology management in agriculture etc.
As Uttar Pradesh is the state with the largest number of farm holdings and largest numbers of farmers, this event offers a great opportunity for showcasing their work to the stakeholders in this field.
- The event is planned to project the state’s agriculture potential on one hand and provide a platform for interaction among stakeholders on the other hand.
- Participation of over one lakh farmers is expected in this mega event besides several ministers, senior Government officials and other Policy makers, international organizations, heads of banks and development institutions and captains of industries working in this vast area.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.
India’s first engine-less train set to hit tracks
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Key features and technological implications of the feat.
Context: Train 18, India’s first engine-less train for inter-city travel is set to hit the tracks very soon.
About Train 18:
- Train 18 is a flagship train set; the first prototype has been built by the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai, in a record time of 20 months.
- The train is a 100% ‘Make in India’ project and is claimed to be built at half the cost of a similar train set that is imported.
- T-18 is a self-propelled engine-less train (similar to the Metro trains) and is energy-efficient as its coaches will be fitted with LED lights. Coaches will have automatic doors and retractable footsteps,
- It will be inter-connected with fully sealed gangways along with a GPS-based Passenger Information System. It is provided with of Bio toilets.
- The full AC train is equipped to run at a speed of up to 160 kmph as against Shatabdi’s 130 kmph which will cut down travel time by 15%.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
India Building World’s Highest Railway Line:
Context: India railways is planning to link New Delhi and Ladakh by means of a railway line that will run along the India-China Border.
Significance: The proposed Bilaspur-Manali-Leh Line will be the world’s highest at 5,360 metres above mean sea level which is comparable to China’s Quinghai-Tibet Railway Line at 2,000 metres.
UN Human Rights Prize:
Context: UN names Human Rights Prize winners for 2018. Asma Jahangir, Rebeca Gyumi, Joenia Wapichana and Front Line Defenders are honoured by the UN for promoting human rights.
About UN Human Rights Prize:
- The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights is an honorary award given for outstanding achievement in human rights.
- Prize was established by the UN General Assembly in 1966 and was awarded for the first time on December 10, 1968, on the twentieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- The Prize is an opportunity not only to give public recognition to the achievements of the recipients themselves, but also to send a clear message to human rights defenders the world over that the international community is grateful for, and supports, their tireless efforts to promote all human rights for all.
- The 2018 award ceremony will take place on December 10 on World Human Rights Day in New York.
Editorial: Think small: Decentralised sludge management systems
The nationwide sanitation movement of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has been successful in not just eradicating open defecation from numerous towns and villages across India, but is also creating a national consciousnessin terms of sanitation and cleanliness.
But the mere task of building toilets will do India no good, unless a National policy for treating sanitation waste is adopted at the earliest.
Untreated sanitary waste has been dumped recklessly in our rivers and lakes for years, resulting in rivers like Ganga and Yamuna facing severe pollution crisis.
Existing Situation in India:
Treatment capacity is available for only 37 per cent of the 62,000 million litres of sewage generated in urban India daily, thus creating a wide gap between sewage generated and treated.
Untreated sewage is dumped into rivers or lakes, thus polluting the environment even more.
The urban metros in India have a planned sewerage network with underground pipelines, pumping stations and treatment plants.
India’s 7,000 smaller urban towns do not have any existing sewerage system since the amount of financial expenditure, skilled operators and electro-mechanical maintenance required is unlikely to be implemented anytime soon. Nearly 62.5 per cent of wastewater in urban India receives partial or no treatment.
Recent studies shows the Broken Links:
Bad sanitation is India’s worst-kept secret, but recent data from Uttar Pradesh show that in spite of working in mission mode to expand sanitation, 87% of faecal sludge expelled from toilets in urban areas is untreated.
The study in U.P. conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment has now exposed broken links, of faecal sludge and septage being collected from household tanks and simply discharged into drains, open land and wetlands.
State support for improved housing and planned development has never been strong, and the National Urban Sanitation Policy of 2008 has not changed that significantly.
At the national scale, a United Nations report of 2015 estimates that 65,000 tonnes of untreated faeces is introduced into the environment in India annually.
The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan promised a major shift, but it has focussed more on the basic requirement of household and community toilets in rural and urban areas.
What Will be the Way the State and Central Governments must follow?
The problem of the waste not being contained, collected without manual labour, transported and treated safely is becoming graver.
It is now time for a new approach. This has to be decentralised and different from the strategy being used to clean the Ganga, for which the government announced an outlay of ₹20,000 crore in 2015.
That strategy relies on large sewage treatment plants for riverside cities and towns.
It is welcome that the CSE study is being followed up with a mapping exercise on the flow of faecal waste streams in individual cities.
The results for Varanasi, Allahabad and Aligarh in particular should be revealing, since the collection efficiency for sludge in these cities ranges from just 10% to 30%.
One immediate intervention needed is the creation of an inter-departmental task force to identify land to build small treatment systems for sludge, and to provide easily accessible solutions to houses that are currently discharging waste into open drains.
A large State such as Uttar Pradesh provides the opportunity to demonstrate commitment to policy.
Given the pace at which toilets are being constructed in urban India under the Swachh Bharat Mission, the introduction of policies and programmes in sludge management in timely and will help in the management of faecal sludge in urban India.
Viewed against the 2030 goal to achieve clean water and sanitation for all under the UN Sustainable Development Agenda, this depressing statistic shows how much work remains to be done.
The National Urban Faecal Sludge and Septage Management (FSSM) Policy is a welcome move on behalf of the Ministry of Urban Development. The policy will lay stress on the setting up of faecal sewage treatment plants in cities and urban local bodies, as well as address the restructuring of sewerage systems in urban India.
FSSM also takes care of a policy lacuna at the national level to address gaps in urban sanitation and lays down a clear vision and objectives to deal with faecal sludge and septage.
All aspects of the business of sanitation need reform if India is to meet Goal Number 6 of the Sustainable Development Goals with egalitarian policies. Decentralised sludge management systems would bring improvement in the environment and reduces the disease burden because of insanitary conditions.
Mapping of the flow of faecal waste streams in individual cities is required. Inter-departmental task forces are needed to identify land for building small treatment systems for sludge.
Manual scavengers continue to be employed in violation of the law to clean septic tanks in some places and urgent mechanisation is to be done.
The business of emptying faecal material using tanker trucks needs to be professionalised and de-stigmatised without the use of manual labour.
By implementing the above lines in Letter and Spirit, Success here can transform lives.