DAILY MAINS NEWSLETTER FOR UPSC | 11 MAR 2021 | RaghukulCS

Daily Mains Newsletter For UPSC
| RaghukulCS

11 MAR 2021

Index

Mains Value Addition

Mains Analysis

Topic No

Topic Name

Source

1

Regulation redux: On Supreme Court query on an environment watchdog:

 The Hindu

2

A case for a revamped, need-based PDS.

The Hindu

3

How FPOs can help small and marginal farmers

Indian Express

Mains Value Addition

Kerala HC restrains Centre on IT rules

Syllabus-

 GS2-Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Analysis:

  1. The Kerala High Court recently restrained the Centre from taking coercive action against Live Law Media Private Ltd., which owns a legal news portal, for not complying with Part III of the new IT (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021.
  2. The court issued notice to the Centre on a petition filed by the firm challenging the rules regulating digital news media, curated content (OTT platforms), and social media intermediaries.
  3. When the petition came up, counsel for the Centre submitted that there was time till March 24 for complying with the rules.
  4. The petition said Part III of the rules imposed an unconstitutional three-tier complaints and adjudication structure on publishers.
  5. This administrative regulation on digital news media would make it virtually impossible for small or medium-sized publishers, such as the petitioner, to function. It would have a chilling effect on such entities, the petition said.
  6. The creation of a grievance redressal mechanism, through a governmental oversight body (an inter-departmental committee constituted under Rule 14) amounted to excessive regulation, it contended.

Breakfast in schools plan faces delay

Syllabus- 

GS2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

Analysis:

  1. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education has recommended that all government schools start providing free breakfast in the coming academic year as part of an expansion of the mid-day meal scheme envisaged by the National Education Policy.
  2. Free breakfasts would involve an additional budget of ?4,000 crore, according to senior officials, but the School Education Department has seen a budget cut of almost ?5,000 crore this year.
  3. Officials say depending on the economic situation and the Centre’s revenue position, the proposal could be re-examined later in the year.
  4. The States’ finances may also come into play, as the Centre bears the entire cost of food grains, but shares the cost of food preparation and distribution with them.

Lok Sabha gives approval for National Capital Territory Bill

Syllabus- 

GS2- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Analysis:

  1. The Lok Sabha recently passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that seeks to regularise unauthorised colonies that existed in the National Capital Territory of Delhi as on June 1, 2014, and had seen development up to 50% as on January 1, 2015.
  2. Urban Development Minister said there “was a public perception that the issues with regard to unauthorised colonies were delayed by those who were in office earlier.”
  3. In 1947, 17% of the total population of the country lived in urban areas, Delhi’s population at that time was eight lakh.
  4. After partition and relocation, it went up to 22 lakhs, and it is estimated that during the Census of 2021, the population would be close to two crore people.

India not part of Russian meet on Afghanistan

Syllabus- 

GS2- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Analysis:

  • Close on the heels of U.S. plans for a United Nations regional conference on Afghanistan, Russia has announced it will hold a conference of special envoys from the U.S., China, and Pakistan, along with representatives of the Afghanistan government, Taliban and other senior Afghan leaders next week.
  • Unlike the UN-led formulation, however, India has not been invited to the Russian conference, adding that Moscow has kept New Delhi apprised of the two-year old “Troika” process involving consultations between U.S., Russia and China.
  • A regular meeting of the expanded ‘troika’ is scheduled for March 18 in Moscow at the level of special representatives of Russia, China, the United States and Pakistan, dedicated to the intra-Afghan settlement.

Indo-Pacific is key priority: White House

Syllabus- 

GS2- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

Analysis:

  1. The scheduling of the first-ever Quad leaders’ summit-level meeting within 50 days of the Biden administration signified the importance the administration places on the Indo-Pacific, the White House said recently.
  2. President Biden has made this one of his earliest multilateral engagements speaks to the importance we place on close cooperation with our allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific.
  3. A virtual meeting will take place between U.S. President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan.
  4. The White House is expecting a range of issues to be discussed, including COVID-19, economic cooperation and the climate crisis.
  5. President Biden had said China was “the only competitor potentially capable of combining its economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to mount a sustained challenge to a stable and open international system.”

Mains Analysis

Regulation redux: On Supreme Court query on an environment watchdog:

Why in News: – 

The Supreme Court’s notice to the Centre government on a public interest litigation (PIL) plea to set up a national environmental regulator under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

Syllabus: – 

GS-2: Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.
GS-3: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

The national environmental regulator: (NER)

  1. The NER an environmental agency of the central Government of India that was established Under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to “ensure a cleaner and healthier environment for India “.
  2. The agency functions as a parastatal of the Ministry of Environment and is headed by a Director General who is also the chief executive officer.
  3. NER has recorded several achievements in the area of environmental compliance monitoring and enforcement since its establishment, including the enactment of several regulations pertaining to environmental protection, monitoring environmental compliance and enforcement actions.
  4. The NER, Also Oversee and Give Directions Related Environmental Clearances for Projects and revives an issue of environment under Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) 2006.

The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020: ISSUES

  1. The Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 2020 is going to replace the EIA notification 2006.
  2. EIA 2006 regulates the environment clearance given by the national government for projects such as dams, mining, thermal power plants, infrastructure projects like highways, ports, airport and big construction projects.
  3. EIA 2020seeks to legitimize projects that have violated environment clearance norms by giving them a chance for post-facto approvals as long as that project is permissible in the area.
  4. The violation of the norms would include those where projects either start the construction or excavation or undertake expansion without prior environment clearance.
  5. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020, which seeks to advance that goal, makes no effort to disguise the desire to virtually eliminate civil society’s role.
  6. It does not encourage the public to voice its views and report violations, while independent scrutiny of proposals is weakened.

The violation of the Environment Protection Act 1986:

  1. The Environment(ProtectionAct1986 authorizes the central government to protect and improve environmental quality, control and reduce pollution from all sources, and prohibit or restrict the setting and /or operation of any industrial facility on environmental
  2. But EIA 2020,to allow projects violating the law is against the ‘polluter pays principle’.
  3. Instead, it is propagating a polluteand pay principle that you come, damage and then get away by paying fine.
  4. It was quashed by the National Green Tribunal. The ministry has failed to have a clear stand on for post-facto approvals issue. and also, violation of the Environment Protection Act 1986.

A key issue raised by the PIL:

  1. A key issue raised by the PIL is the lack of credibility of the EIA process, leading to reports that are often produced with the help of dubious expertise and manipulated data.
  2. The Supreme Court of India has disapproved the concept of post facto environmental clearances to industrial projects that initiate without a clearance.
  3. The environment ministry’s latest Environment Impact Assessment draft proposes a permanent mechanism for industries violating the 2006 norms by creating an opportunity for post-facto approvals.
  4. In most cases, the proponents also ignore the views of communities that would be displaced, and are ill-equipped to assess the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services such as clean air, water and farm productivity.
  5. The Centre and States must acknowledge the conflict arising from pressure on scarce land and ecosystems from polluting projects, which has already created clusters of industrial locations that, are doing badly on the CPCB’s Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index.
  6. The Centre is the laggardly pace at which multiple department’s process project proposals, raising transaction costs and resulting in the clamour to dispense with regulation.

Environmental Approvals in India:

  1. Data for March 2018 showed that 23 percent of projects in India, across all sectors, were stalled, due to the failure to obtain environmental approvals.
  2. Since 2015, the NDA government has given away 409 sq km forest area–twice the size of Kolkata city–to construct projects of all kinds from schools to irrigation and mining, according to the e-green watch dataset maintained by the MoEFCC and the National Informatics Centre (NIC).
  3. Three states–Maharashtra (380), Gujarat(316) and Uttar Pradesh (153) –received highest number of project (849) of the 2,053 ECs between July 2014 and March 2020, MoEFCC analysis revealed.

Way forward: –

  • There is no consensus on what a new regulator can achieve, since official policy privileges ease of doing business.
  • For a national regulator to work, the government must recognise the limits to extractive growth respect a neutral body and preserve the integrity of the environment.
  • EIA process, especially after the notification in 2020,has been heavily critiqued for conflicts of interest – the proponent of a project is responsible for producing the EIA report while clearances under forest, wildlife, air and water quality laws are heavily weighted in favour of promoters.
  • The remedies lie in administrative reform. It is eminently feasible, for instance, to produce a whitelist of lands for industry, reclaiming polluted areas. What India cannot afford to do is further degrade its forests, rivers, wetlands and air, whose health is vital for its large population.

Question: –

Define the concept of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Critically evaluate the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2020.Explain how understanding this concept is vital while planning for sustainable development of a region.

A case for a revamped, need-based PDS.

Why in News: 

The Economic Survey, tabled in Parliament in January, rightly flagged the issue of a growing food subsidy bill, which, in the words of the government, “is becoming unmanageably large.”

Syllabus: – 

GS-3: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices Public Distribution System-objectives, functioning, limitations.

Food subsidy:

  1. During 2016-17 to 2019-20, the subsidy amount, clubbed with loans taken by the Food Corporation of India (FCI)under the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF) towards food subsidy, was in the range of ?1.65-lakh crore to ?2.2-lakh crore. In future, the annual subsidy bill of the Centre is expected to be about ?2.5-lakh crore.
  2. For the 2021/22 fiscal year, India’s total outlay toward the food subsidy is expected to cross Rs 2.1 lakh crore ($28.7 billion), but the budgeted allocation is likely to go up by only 4 per cent-6 per cent from Rs 1.16 lakh crore earmarked in the previous year.
  3. The government’s allocations would fall short of the required funds to finance its mammoth food welfare programme, government-backed Food Corporation of India (FCI) will likely have to borrow more than 800 billion rupees ($11 billion) in 2021/22.

The Sources of Rising Food Subsidy

  1. Rising Economic Costs, The economic cost of food grains to Food Corporation of India (FCI) is of strategic importance as it has direct impact on food subsidy. Minimum support price is one of the major components of economic costs and accounts for about 70 per cent of FCI’s economic cost of food grains and share of procurement incidentals and distribution costs is about 30 per cent.
  2. Rising Minimum Support Prices One of the important factors behind rising subsidy is high food prices in domestic and world markets. Although some of the factors are structural and cyclical but in the short term, a continuing trend of high and volatile food prices is likely in developing Asia (ADB, 2011). The minimum support price of paddy (common) increased marginally from Rs. 530 per quintal in 2001-02 to Rs. 570 per quintal in 2005-06, an increase of about 7.54 per cent.
  3. Procurement Incidentals The procurement incidentals include statutory charges such as market fee, rural development/infrastructure development cess and VAT and non-statutory charges like dami/arhatia commission, mandi labour charges, cost of gunny bags, handling charges, internal transport and interest charges.

 High drawal rate:

  1. During the Last three years, the quantity of food grains drawn by States (annually) hovered around 60 million tonnes to 66 million tonnes. Compared to the allocation, the rate of drawal was 91% to 95%.
  2. For this financial year (2020-21) which is an extraordinary year on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, the revised estimate of the subsidy has been put at about ?4.23-lakh crore, excluding the extra budgetary resource allocation of ?84,636 crore.
  3. Till December 2020, the Centre set apart 94.35 million tonnes to the States under different schemes including the NFSA and additional allocation, meant for distribution among the poor free of cost.

Challenges of prices and politics:

  1. As the National Food Security Act (NFSA),which came into force in July 2013, enhanced entitlements (covering two-thirds of the country’s population), this naturally pushed up the States’ drawal.
  2. Based on an improved version of the targeted Public Distribution System (PDS), the law requires the authorities to provide to each beneficiary 5 kg of rice or wheat per month.
  3. It is against this backdrop that the Survey has hinted at an increase in the Central Issue Price (CIP),which has remained at Rs2 per kg for wheat and Rs3 per kg for rice for years, though the NFSA, even in 2013, envisaged a price revision after three years.
  4. The FCI’s economic cost of rice is Rs 37/kg and of wheat about Rs 27/kg. This economic cost is roughly 40 per cent higher than the procurement price.

The Past Politics and Poverty:

  1. The politics of rice has been an integral feature of the political discourse. Promises by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in the 1967 Assembly election in Tamil Nadu — three measures (approximately 4.5 kg) at ?1.
  2. The Telugu Desam Party during the 1983 poll in Andhra Pradesh 2 per kg — captured the imagination of the voter.
  3. Even after the passage of nearly 50 years and achieving substantial poverty reduction in the country, As per the Rangarajan group’s estimate in 2014, the share of people living below the poverty line (BPL)in the 2011 population was 29.5% (about 36 crore).

 The Estimates

  1. An official committee in January 2015called for decreasing the quantum of coverage under the law, from the present 67% to around 40%.
  2. For all ration cardholders drawing food grains, a “give-up” option, as done in the case of cooking gas cylinders, can be made available.
  3. Even though States have been allowed to frame criteria for the identification of PHH cardholders, the Centre can nudge them into pruning the number of such beneficiaries.
  4. The existing arrangement of flat rates should be replaced with a slab system. Barring the needy, other beneficiaries can be made to pay a little more for a higher quantum of food grains.
  5. The rates at which these beneficiaries have to be charged can be arrived at by the Centre and the States through consultations. These measures, if properly implemented, can have a salutary effect on retail prices in the open market.
  6. There are no two opinions about reforms implemented in the PDS through various steps, including end-to-end computerisation of operations, digitisation of data of ration cardholders, seeding of Aadhaar, and automation of fair price shops.

 Way Forward: –

  1. The 15th Finance Commission in its report said though targeting of food subsidy is expected to have improved with electronic point of sale (e-PoS) devices at fair price shops authenticating beneficiaries at the time of distribution of foodgrain.
  • It is time to revisethe issue prices for beneficiaries, “Antyodaya” category can keep receiving grains at Rs 2 or Rs 3/kg, and all others should pay at least half of the procurement price if food subsidy has to be brought to manageable levels.The government has decided to abandon the practice of extra budgetary resource allocation and include in the food subsidy amount itself, arrears in loans outstanding of the FCI drawn through the NSSF, must be taken away in step by step manner.

Question: –

The Direct Benefit Transfer is an attempt to change the mechanism of transferring subsidies and need-based PDS. Discuss.

How FPOs can help small and marginal farmers

Why in News: – 

Small farmers face several challenges in getting access to inputs and marketing facilities. A number of innovative institutional models are emerging and there are many opportunities for small and marginal farmers in India.

Syllabus: – 

GS 3: Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers
  • One of the reasons for agrarian distress is the declining average size of farm holdings. The average farm size declined from 2.3 hectares (ha) in 1970-71 to 1.08 ha in 2015-16.
  • The share of small and marginal farmers increased from 70 percent in 1980-81 to 86 percent in 2015-16.
  • At the state level, the average size of farm holdings in 2015-16 ranged from 3.62 ha in Punjab, 2.73 in Rajasthan and 2.22 in Haryana to 0.75 in Tamil Nadu, 0.73 in Uttar Pradesh, 0.39 in Bihar and 0.18 in Kerala.

  Farmer Producer Organisations (Fpos)

  • In the last decade, the Centre has encouraged farmer producer organisations (FPOs) to help farmers. Since 2011, it has intensively promoted FPOs under the Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC), NABARD, state governments and NGOs.
  • The membership of an FPO ranges from 100 to over 1,000 farmers. Most of these farmers have small holdings.
  • The ongoing support for FPOs is mainly in the form of, one, a grant of matching equity (cash infusion of up to Rs 10 lakh) to registered FPOs, and two, a credit guarantee covers to lending institutions (maximum guarantee cover 85 per cent of loans not exceeding Rs 100 lakh).
  • India has 5,000 to 7,500 such entities as per different estimates and a majority of them are farmer producer companies.
  • The budget for 2018-19 announced supporting measures for FPOs including a five-year tax exemption while the budget for 2019-20 talked of setting up 10,000 more FPOs in the next five years.
  • Experience shows a mixed performance of FPOs in the last decade. Some estimates show that 30 per cent of these are operating viably while 20 per cent are struggling to survive.
  • The remaining 50 per cent are still in the initial phase of mobilisation and business planning. FPOs in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and some other states have shown encouraging results and have been able to realise higher returns for their produce. 

 Benefits Of Fpo:

  • NABARD has undertaken a field study on the benefits of FPOs in Punjab and Madhya Pradesh.
  • The study shows that in nascent FPOs, the proportion of farmer members contributing to FPOs activities is 20-30 per cent while for the emerging and mature FPOs it is higher at about 40-50 per cent.
  • In Maharashtra, some of the FPOs have organically evolved (OFPOs) when farmers have taken the lead to adopt market-oriented practices, develop cost-effective solutions in production and marketing.
  • In the case of Bihar, almost all FPOs have been promoted (PFPOs).
  • The survey reveals that 98 percent of the respondents for OFPOs report an increase in gross income while only 2 percent indicate decline in the same.
  • For PFPOs, 64 percent report an increase in gross income while 27 percent report no change in income.
  • In contrast to these two groups, only 32 percent of the non-members indicate an increase in gross income.
  • Similar numbers can be seen for productivity.
  • These results show that FPOs are doing better than non-FPO farmers and within FPOs, organically evolved FPOs are more beneficial than pushed or promoted FPOs.

Challenges

  • Studies of NABARD show that there are some important challenges for building sustainable FPOs.
  • Some of these are lack of technical skills,
    • inadequate professional management,
    • weak financials,
    • inadequate access to credit,
    • lack of risk mitigation mechanism
    • inadequate access to market and infrastructure.

Specific issues associated with FPO’s: –

  • First, the above issues such as working capital, marketing, infrastructure have to be addressed while scaling up FPOs. Getting credit is the biggest problem.
  • Banks must have structured products for lending to FPOs. These organisations lack professional management and, therefore, need capacity building.
  • Second, they have to be linked with input companies, technical service providers, marketing/processing companies, retailers etc. They need a lot of data on markets and prices and other information and competency in information technology.
  • Third, FPOs can be used to augment the size of the land by focusing on grouping contiguous tracts of land as far as possible — they should not be a mere grouping of individuals.
  • Women farmers also can be encouraged to group cultivate for getting better returns. FPOs can also encourage consolidation of holdings.
  • The FPOs have to be encouraged by policy makers and other stakeholders apart from scaling up throughout the country to benefit particularly the small holders.

Way Forward: –

  • FPO seems to be an important institutional mechanism to organise small and marginal farmers. Aggregation can overcome the constraint of small size. They can’t compete with large corporate enterprises in bargaining.
  • The real hope is in farmer producer organisations (FPOs) that allow members to negotiate as a group and can help small farmers in both input and output markets.
  • While small farmers gain greater bargaining power through FPOs in relation to the purchase of inputs, obtaining credit and selling the produce, the fundamental problem of the small size of holdings giving only a limited income is not resolved.
  • While incomes will rise because of the benefits flowing from FPOs, they may not still be adequate to give a reasonable income to small and marginal farmers. That issue has to be handled separately.

Question: –

Examine the role of FPO’s in supply chain management of fruits, vegetables and food items. How it contributes in minimizing agricultural distress?

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