Daily Current affairs 03 February 2019UPSC - Daily Current Affair
- The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme has been allocated lesser resources for the next financial year (in the interim budget) than last financial year.
NREGA allotment in the last two budgets:
- In the interim budget, MNREGA has been allocated 60,000 crore for 2019-20 which is about a Rs. 1,000 crore less than revised estimates of the previous year.
- Note: The original 2018-19 Budget allocation for NREGA scheme was Rs. 55,000 crore. However, by the end of 2018, 99% of the funds had been exhausted. A number of States already had a negative net balance. As a result, the Rural Development Ministry, which administers the scheme, asked for a supplementary allocation and was granted 6,084 crore taking the revised estimate for the year to Rs. 61,084 crore.
Issues with MGNREGA
- In the recent years, MGNREGA, the flagship programme of Ministry of Rural Development, has been ailing with number of issues as a result of resource deficiency.
- Lower budgetary allocation
- According to estimates, the allocation to MGNREGA as a percentage of GDP has declined from 0.51 per cent in 2010-11 to 0.38 per cent in 2017-18.
- Administrative Delay in release of funds
- In order to streamline the flow of funds to states, the government in 2016 introduced The National Electronic Fund Management System (NeFMS).
- However, the NeFMS has not worked well with incomplete Fund Transfer Orders processed.
- Pending liabilities
- Due to inadequate allocation, about 20% of the allocated funds is used for clearing pending liabilities in the each of the last 5 years.
- Late payment of wages
- According to some activists, payments are not being made within 15 days, as mandated by the Supreme Court. However, government insists that most of the payments are made within 15 days.
- Demand-Supply mismatch in job allocation
- MGNREGA is a demand driven wage employment scheme.
- According to a study, the supply of jobs under the scheme was 32% lower than the work demand generated in 2017-18.
- Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act was enacted in the year 2005 with the aim to enhance the livelihood security of people in rural areas.
- It guarantees demand-driven wage employment up to 100 days in a year to all rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
- It seeks to address chronic poverty like drought, deforestation and soil erosion, so that the employment generation is sustainable.
- Rights-based framework
- Time bound guarantee: 15 days for provision of employment, else unemployment allowance to be paid.
- Up to 100 days in a financial year per household, depending on the actual demand.
- Labour Intensive works: 60:40 wage and material ratio for permissible works at the Gram Panchayat; no contractors/machinery.
- Gram Sabhas to recommend 50% of works for execution
- Women empowerment: At least one-third of beneficiaries should be women.
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Section : Economics
- In a significant development, researchers have found that Nilavembu kudineer, a drug in the Siddha medicine,can prove to be effective in treating Dengue and Chikungunya.
- Nilavembu Kudineer is a herbal drug prescribed for fever, body aches, and to treat respiratory infections associated with the common cold under Siddha medicine.
- It is a concoction prepared primarily using nilavembu plant (andrographis paniculata).
Medicinal Properties of Nilavembu kudineer
- Nilavembu plant is well known for its antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-analgesic
- Further, niluvembu is also known for having antioxidant, anticancer, and immune-stimulating properties.
Nilavembu kudineer fights Dengue and Chikungunya
- The nilavembu kudineer concoction helps in modulating the host response when affected by both chikungunya and dengue virus.
- While in case of dengue the drug acted as antiviral killing the virus, in the case of chikungunya it modulated the immune system to protect itself from chikungunya virus.
- Its usage was approved by Tamil Nadu government during 2013 for treating dengue and chikungunya and was used during the 2017 outbreak.
- Now, researchers have confirmed the effectiveness of Nilavembu kudineer in treating Dengue and Chikugunya.
- Studies have identified common side-effects of niluvembu as headache, fatigue, allergic reactions, lymph node pain, nausea, diarrhea, altered taste, infertility.
- Nilavembu or andrographis, when used alone, can be extremely toxic to body cells.
- Besides, some studies have shown that nilavembu or Andrographis can interact with other drugs like chemotherapy drugs, anticoagulents, blood pressure drugs etc. and have adverse effects.
About Siddha Medicine
- The Siddha system is an ancient system of medicine practiced mainly in the Southern part of India.
- The word Siddha has its origin in the Tamil word Siddhi which means "an object to be attained" or "perfection" or "heavenly bliss".
- It is a holistic medicinal system which treats body, mind and the soul.
Framework of Siddha medicine
- Siddha medicine recognizes predominance of vatham, pitham and kapam in childhood, adulthood and old age respectively.
- Note: In contrast, in Ayurveda, kapam is dominant in childhood, vatham in old age and pitham in adults.
- Vatha is associated with elements of 'space' and 'air', which governs sensory and motor activities and movements in the body and mind.
- Pitta is associated with the element of 'fire' and is responsible for maintaining body heat.
- Kapha is associated with the elements of 'earth' and 'water' which is responsible for strength and endurance.
- Siddha also believes in prevention than cure, known as Pini Anuaaa Vidhi.
Dengue and Chikungunya
- Being a tropical country India is prone to disease carrying mosquitoes and thus vulnerable to both Dengue and CHikungunya outbreaks.
- Chikungunya is a viral disease caused by flavivirus transmitted to humans by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.
- Incubation period of the virus is around 3–7 days.
- Symptoms include high fever, joint pain, swelling, rashes, nausea etc.
- Mortality is rare and occurs mostly in older adults
- Dengue is also cause by flavi virus commonly transmitted by Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes.
- Symptoms include fever, headache, retro-orbital pain, joint pain, muscle and/or bone pain, rash, mild bleeding of nose or gums, easy bruising.
Note: Detailed notes on Dengue and Chikungunya have been provided earlier.
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Section : Social Issues
- Almost all major parties in Tamil Nadu are opposing the 103rd Constitution Amendment act, which provided a 10% quota for the economically weaker sections.
Background - Reservations for economically weaker sections:
- The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019 was passed in the Parliament and got assent of the president in January, 2019.
- The 103rd Constitution Amendment act, 2019 provides for the advancement of “economically weaker sections” of citizens.
- It amended Article 15 to additionally permit the government to provide for the advancement of “economically weaker sections”. Up to 10% of seats may be reserved for such sections for admission in educational institutions.
- The act also amended Article 16 to permit the government to reserve up to 10% of all posts for the “economically weaker sections” of citizens.
- This reservation of up to 10% for “economically weaker sections” in educational institutions and public employment will be in addition to the existing reservation.
Highlights of the news
Tamil Nadu parties opposing the Act
- Tamil Nadu is considered as a pioneer in providing reservation in employment and education as a social justice measure.
- Despite being a pioneer in providing reservation, political parties and activists there are opposing the 10% reservation for the economically poor in other classes.
- Parties from Tamil Nadu opposed the Bill in the parliament and, after the enactment, challenged the amendment in the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court.
Reasons for their opposition:
- Perversion of idea of social Justice: In their concept of social justice, reservation is a tool to ameliorate the conditions of those discriminated and deprived in the past on account of their social backwardness. Hence, only social and educational backwardness are the only valid grounds for reservation to bring in social justice. They say extending quotas on economic grounds a perversion of the idea of social justice.
- Not a poverty alleviation measure: It is argued that reservation is an affirmative action for bringing social equality and it cannot be used as a poverty alleviation measure.
- Alternative measures available to address economic disadvantages: They believe that economic disadvantages can be addressed through other measures such as job creation, provision of scholarships and financial concessions and carving out a quota cannot be a just solution.
- Economic disability not permanent like social disability: A family’s economic condition is variable with new jobs, promotion or an additional bread earner but social disability caused by being born in a particular castecommunity is difficult to undo.
Impact on Tamil Nadu:
- Will leave little for open category: Tamil Nadu already has its significant portion of jobs covered with total 69% of reservation for SC/STs and the backward classes. An additional reservation of 10% will leave only a little space for the open category.
- Few sections are already covered in Tamil Nadu: Tamil Nadu already has the backward class sub-quota for Muslims under the quota for backward classes.
- Judicial review of reservations there: As Tamil Nadu already has 69% quota, the parties there fear that the Courts may order the state to cut in the caste-based quotas to accommodate the economic quota or review the existing quotas in the state.
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Section : Polity & Governance
- The Maharashtra government withdrew the amendment bill to the Maharashtra Agriculture Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) Act, 1963, from the Legislative Council.
- Looking at the problems in the existing APMC acts of the states, the Ministry of Agriculture in 2003 formulated a model APMC law on agricultural marketing and requested the state governments to suitably amend their respective APMC Acts.
- In this context, Maharashtra government has trying amend the Maharashtra Agriculture Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) Act, 1963, since 14 years.
- However, it is struggling to push through the changes due to its politically and economically important stakeholders, who are farmers, traders and ‘mathadi’ workers (head loaders).
- The amendment bill was passed in the Assembly in late 2018 but the bill has now been withdrawn from the legislative council due to protests.
Highlights of the news
The Maharshtra Bill
- The amendment bill to the Maharashtra Agriculture Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) Act, 1963 has following features-
- The Bill seeks to free essential items from the purview of APMCs and allow them to be sold outside.
- The Bill also has a provision that the APMCs can continue to levy cess/market fee on the traded inside their mandis, but cannot charge anything on goods traded outside.
- Direct payment to farmers from traders for purchase of more than Rs. 2 lakh, bypassing the Adta(the middleman).
The government claims following benefits after the amendment:
- Farmers will get a better price for their produce.
- It will create a competitive environment, which will help the APMCs improve their infrastructure as well as their quality of service to attract farmers.
The opponents of bill have following concerns:
- The Bill is being introduced to serve the interests of multinational companies.
- APMCs provide a mechanism which ensures at least a minimum support price for the farmers’ produce, and outside the APMCs, farmers will be forced to sell at a price quoted by companies.
- Eliminating the role of the Adta would be harmful to traders as well as to farmers, as they play an important role as an assurer to both buyers and sellers.
Agricultural Produce Marketing
- To regulate the trade practices and to establish market yards in the countryside, Government of India prepared a Model Bill in 1938 and circulated to all the States.
- After independence, on the lines of it, most of the States enacted Agricultural Produce Markets Regulation (APMR) Acts during sixties and seventies and put these in operation.
- At the same time, the Maharashtra Agriculture Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) Act, 1963, was enacted by the Maharashtra government.
- The APMC Acts have made it mandatory for farmers to sell all their crops in the mandi within a geographically delineated market area under a particular committee’s jurisdiction.
- An Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) was constituted to frame the rules and enforce them.
Problems with the APMC Acts of the States
- However, the existing agriculture marketing system has various constraints as follows-
- Highly fragmented markets: APMC Act of the State divides the entire area of the State into various notified Market Committee, which has become highly fragmented.
- Insufficient Number of Markets: There is a huge variation in the density of regulated markets in different parts of the country.
- Market Fee/ Charges: Market Committee is authorized to collect market fees ranging 0.30% to 2.0%, from the buyers/traders on the sale of notified agricultural produce. In addition, high commission charges are to be paid to commission agents.
- Post—Harvest Wastages: The total post-harvest losses of agriculture commodities have been estimated at about Rs 92,651 crores at average prices value of 2014.
- Monopoly of APMCs: The restriction to sell at mandis has created monopoly of APMCs.
- Restrictions in Licensing: The licensing of commission agents in the regulated markets has led to the monopoly of these licensed traders acting as a major entry barrier in for new entrepreneurs, preventing competition.
- Less Remuneration to the Farmers and High Intermediation Cost: A study indicates that the share of producers varies from just 32 to 89 per cent for different produces.
Model APMC Act, 2003
- Looking at the inefficient practices of various state APMCs, the Ministry of Agriculture in 2003 formulated a model APMC law on agricultural marketing - State Agricultural Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) Act, 2003.
- It requested the state governments to suitably amend their respective APMC Acts aiming at:
- Deregulation of the marketing system in India.
- To promote investment in marketing infrastructure.
- Motivating the corporate sector to undertake direct marketing and to facilitate a national market.
- Freedom of farmers to sell their produce.
- Increasing the competitiveness of the market of agricultural produce by allowing common registration of market intermediaries.
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Section : Economics
- Russia has suspended its involvement in the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) following a similar decision by the US.
- The pact between US and Russia has been a centerpiece of European security since the Cold War.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
- Signed in 1987 by the US and USSR, the arms control deal banned all nuclear and non-nuclear missiles with short and medium ranges, except sea-launched weapons.
- The INF treaty "bans ground-launched missiles with a range between 500 and 5,500 kilometers."
- According to the US, the range of Russia’s 9M729 missile system is over 500 km which is prohibited under INF treaty. So, US is demanding the destruction of the missile system.
- Russia had clarified that the maximum range of the ground-based 9M729 is 480 km.
- Russia has now announced that it is suspending participation in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, after the US declared it would pull out of the agreement.
Impact of the moves
- The moves appear to signal the end of more than a half-century of traditional nuclear arms control, in which the key agreements were negotiated in Washington and Moscow.
- Russia is already looking forward to build new missiles.
- Putin has agreed with the proposals of the Ministry of Defense to start grounding the "Kalibr" missiles and for the creation of a medium-range hypersonic ground-based rocket.
- Russian Kalibr missiles are a type of cruise missile that Russian forces launch from ships and submarines. Now Putin is agreeing to allow the development of a land-launched variant.
- The decision also has the potential to incite a new arms race between US and Russia and also with other countries.
- It also comes as the United States has begun building its first long-range nuclear weapons since 1991, a move that other nations are citing to justify their own nuclear modernization efforts.
- The collapse of the INF Treaty has also raised concern in Europe, where many feared it would set the stage for a repeat of a Cold War showdown in the 1980s, when the U.S. and the Soviet Union both deployed intermediate-range missiles on the continent.
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Section : International Relation