DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS UPSC | 19th October 2020 | RaghukulCS

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DAILY CURRENT AFFAIRS UPSC | 19th October 2020 | RaghukulCS

Editorial Analysis


Agricultural bills will provide legal framework for contract-farming – And it will benefit everyone — farmers, industry and consumers.

Mains (GS-III : Agriculture, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraint, supply chain management)

Introduction:

  • A farmer in Maharashtra lives in a coastal region, Yet he chooses to plant cheap rice rather than beneficial mangoes. The reason is, he could not afford the initial investment of an “elevated bund” for the mangoes, nor survive the five-year waiting period for the trees to yield fruit.
  • Many farmers in this region have complain of wasting almost half their mangoes since they are not able to reach the markets on time.

What are some issues?

  • The biggest problem the poor in India face is risk mitigation.
  • Since they do not have savings, they are reluctant to undertake even the minimally risky business that other people would do.
  • They remain stuck in a poverty trap, growing cheap rice instead of valuable mangoes.
  • Policymakers the world over have come up with a variety of capital investment and risk mitigation instruments — such as micro-credit loans but India’s farm laws have prevented these risk-mitigation instruments from reaching them.

What was the pre-Agri reform scenario?

  • Farmers could only sell to the local mandi or agricultural market.
  • The risk-mitigation methods that “contract farming” provide were illegal.
  • Old laws did not result in fruit being available at a low price for consumers.
  • Acute deficiency in fruits is much more pronounced among the poor. Fruits are the most nutritious food one can have.
  • We have a situation where horticulture is saddled with unviability for the farmer and unaffordability for the consumer.

Now what benefits contract farming can provide?

  • Horticulture will be viable for farmers and as a result fruits and other nutritious food will be available to consumers with low price.
  • It Makes small scale farming competitive – small farmers can access technology, credit, marketing channels and information while lowering transaction costs
  • It Assured market for their produce at their doorsteps, reducing marketing and transaction costs
  • It reduces the risk of production, price and marketing costs.
  • Contract farming can open up new markets which would otherwise be unavailable to small farmers.
  • It also ensures higher production of better quality, financial support in cash and /or kind and technical guidance to the farmers.
  • In case of agri-processing level, it ensures consistent supply of agricultural produce with quality, at right time and lesser cost.

What are probable challenges?

  • Contract farming arrangements are often criticized for being biased in favor of firms or large farmers, while exploiting the poor bargaining power of small farmers.
  • Problems faced by growers like undue quality cut on produce by firms, delayed deliveries at the factory, delayed payments, low price and pest attack on the contract crop which raised the cost of production.
  • Contracting agreements are often verbal or informal in nature, and even written contracts often do not provide the legal protection in India that may be observed in other countries . Lack of enforceability of contractual provisions can result in breach of contracts by either party.
  • In contract farming there are chances of monopoly.[Single Buyer – Multiple Sellers]
  • Adverse gender effects – Women have less access to contract farming than men.

How does contract farming works?

The hues in the green tribunal’s resilient journey – Over 10 years, the NGT has made a difference to environmental protection, helped by a new tribe of legal practitioners

Mains (GS-III : Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment)

What is National green tribunal?

  • The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010 is an Act of the Parliament of India which enables creation of a special tribunal to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues.
  • It draws inspiration from the India’s constitutional provision of (Constitution of India/Part III) Article 21 Protection of life and personal liberty, which assures the citizens of India the right to a healthy environment.

Background behind the formation:

  • The sheer number and complexity of cases related to environment, with several more being added every week, led the Supreme Court of India to designate a special Bench to handle these matters in 1996. it was named as ‘Forest Bench’.
  • Despite the efforts of the capable officers and experts assisting the Supreme Court, this was at best an ad hoc solution.
  • Parliament had passed laws related to the establishment of a National Environment Tribunal (1995) and a National Environment Appellate Authority (1997).
  • It was intended to act primarily as a forum for challenges to environmental clearances while the Tribunal could award limited amounts of compensation in cases of environmental damage to life or property.
  • It was clear that the enforcement, protection, and adjudication of environmental laws required a specialised and dedicated body.
  • In judgments such as M.C. Mehta & Anr. Etc vs Union Of India & Ors. Etc (1986), the then Chief Justice of India, Justice P.N. Bhagwati, had suggested – ‘It might be desirable to set up Environmental Courts on the regional basis with one professional Judge and two experts drawn from the Ecological Sciences Research Group’.
  • These observations were recalled in 1999 by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of A.P. Pollution Control Board vs Prof. M.V. Nayudu (Retd.) which added its own emphasis on the need for a court that was “a combination of a Judge and Technical Experts”.
  • Finally The National Green Tribunal, established in 2010, as per the National Green Tribunal Act 2010.

Initial arguments against NGT:

  • Some argued that it would contribute to the trend of ‘tribunalisation’.
  • An NGO argued that the word ‘Green’ could act as a green signal to potential polluters.
  • The Madras High Court even issued notice on a petition which had challenged the Act as unconstitutional and stayed appointments to the body (an order vacated by the Supreme Court on appeal).

Did the NGT do anything?

  • Since its inception, the NGT has, apart from creating a new breed of legal practitioners, protected vast acres of forest land.
  • It has halted polluting construction activities in metros and smaller towns.
  • It has penalised errant officials who have turned a blind eye towards enforcing the laws.
  • It has held large corporate entities to account.
  • It has protected the rights of tribal communities and ensured the enforcement of the “polluter pays” principle in letter and spirit.

Still NGT faces some challenges, Let’s see the way forward:

  • NGT must focus less on governance issues and more on adjudication.
  • Benches have to expand manifold.
  • Vacancies have to be filled quickly.
  • The NGT must continue to remain a proactive ‘inconvenience’ to all those who, while pontificating grandiloquently on the need for environmental protection, take actions that make economic growth ecologically unsustainable.

No great escape – India’s low global rank in tackling nutritional deficits calls for a revamped PDS

Mains (GS-II : Issues relating to poverty and hunger)

Data from recently released Global hunger index:

  • India fares worst in child wasting and child stunting
  • India has improved in both child mortality rates, which are now at 3.7%
  • 14% of the total population which gets an insufficient caloric intake.
  • At the current pace, approximately 37 countries will fail even to reach low hunger, as defined by the Global Hunger Index Severity Scale, by 2030.

Why India should focus on hunger?

  • This year’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) places India in the company of Sudan — rank 94 among 107 countries — with the unedifying assessment of the national situation as “serious”.
  • The country’s score of 27.2 is the worst among BRICS countries, and inferior to Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.

What does “The National Family Health Survey – 4” says?

  • The evidence from the NFHS-4 of 2015-16 is not very different.
  • The NFHS-4 found that under-five stunting from chronic undernourishment stood at 38%, and wasting, a result of acute lack of nutrition, at 21%.
  • These data represent some progress, at a drop of about 10 percentage points in both categories compared to a decade earlier, although steady economic prosperity should have yielded a far bigger social dividend.

What are some issues in policy?

  • The reality is that national policy has no appetite for a radical transformation in the delivery of adequate nutrition especially to women and children, and has paid inadequate attention to achieving diet diversity through the PDS.
  • On the other hand, the country is widely seen as falsely equating energy calories with a diverse diet
  • In its pursuit of fraud within the PDS, it is inclined to take hard measures that would deprive the disabled and the elderly of even cereals, by insisting on biometric verification to get supplies.

The way forward:

  • The latest GHI measure is a reminder that much work is necessary to bring the true benefits of the National Food Security Act to the unreached, not merely as hunger mitigation through cereals, but as nourishment through a diverse diet that includes fat, protein and micronutrients.
  • Strengthening the PDS, with a focus on women’s health, would lead to healthier pregnancies, and stronger supplemental nutrition under the ICDS scheme  would give children a better chance at all-round development.
  • The right to food would be meaningless if it leaves a large section of Indians hungry, stunted and wasted. (use this sentence as a conclusion in your answers)

The Raj Bhavan’s new role — taking centre stage – The political design behind increasing gubernatorial over-reach is simple — to crowd in on certain State governments

Mains (GS-II : Issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies)

Context:

  • Hon’ble Jagdeep Dhankhar at the Kolkata Raj Bhavan, so far, had the distinction of being the most active governor.
  • Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s by-now famous letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, demanding re-opening of the places of worship to the devotees across Maharashtra, is a brilliant but thoroughly unnerving innovation in a Governor’s bag of tricks of over-reach.

What does experts say about the institution of governor?

  • The framers of the Constitution had definitely disfavoured the idea of an elected Governor because they were unambiguously clear that political power would only be vested with the Council of Ministers, headed by a Chief Minister; yet, they were not inclined to put in a formal Instrument of Instructions for the Governors and were content to believe that political decencies and correctness would be observed both by the Governor and the Chief Minister.
  • As the distinguished constitutional expert, Nani A. Palkhivala, saw it, “the Constitution intended that the Governor should be the instrument to maintain the fundamental equilibrium of the people of the State and to ensure that the mandates of the Constitution are respected in the State”.
  • Author Harish khare says that Those appointed to a Raj Bhavan would be endowed with “a buddhi [wisdom] which sets apart a statesman from a politician”.

A twist to discretion:

  • As an appointee of the Union Government, the Governors have, predictably enough, been all too prone to do the bidding of the ruling party at the Centre.
  • Inevitably the “discretion” — be it choosing a Chief Minister, or requiring a Chief Minister to prove his/her majority, or dismissing a Chief Minister, dissolving the legislature, recommending President’s Rule — came to be tainted with partisan political considerations.
  • The Supreme Court did try, through its judgment in the S.R. Bommai case, to restore some kind of order on the rampant proclivities of Raj Bhavans.

The issue of Secularism:

  • Recently Maharashtra governor asked CM that ‘did you became secular?’ , as if it is a dirty word.
  • Article 167 of the Constitution does allow a Governor to call for any information “relating to the administration of the affairs of the State”; but, with a wink from the bosses in the Union Home Ministry, a Governor can become a total partisan. But, it was a new low when the Maharashtra Governor mockingly asked the Chief Minister if he had suddenly turned ‘secular’.
  • secularism is very much a part of the basic structure of the Constitution, the very sacred book that a Governor takes oath to “preserve, protect and defend”.
  • it has been pointed out by jurists and constitutional scholars that in the Kesavananda Bharati case, the Supreme Court had declared secularism as a basic feature of the Constitution, even before the Forty-Second Amendment had introduced the word ‘secular’ in the Preamble to the Constitution.

Conclusion:

  • Governors are to be appointed on the basis of wisdom and competency instead of favoritism.
  • This itch for political intolerance is a recurring nightmare for the Indian Union.
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