Polity & Governance
- Expedite implementation of Forest Rights Act
Government Schemes & Policies
- Parliamentary panel takes exception to Nirbhaya Fund being used for construction of buildings
- Himachal’s first mega food park in Una
- India offers 23 oil blocks in OALP-III bid round
- Special MSME package can help 7 cr accounts, Rs 1 L cr loans: Fin-secy
- Visakhapatnam SPR facility dedicated to the nation
Defence & Security Issues
- PM Modi lays foundation for Sela Tunnel
Key Facts for Prelims
- India to Train Civil Servants from Bangladesh
- ‘DD Arunprabha’
- Film and Television Institute of India (FTII)
- Helina-Anti Tank Missile
- Mobile-App e-Cocoon launched
- Voter Verification and Information Programme (VVIP)
For IASToppers Current Affairs Analysis Archive, Click Here
Polity & Governance
Expedite implementation of Forest Rights Act
The Odisha State Food Commission has again asked the State government to expedite implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 that would help ensure food and nutritional security to the vulnerable section of society.
- Demarcation of land regularised under Individual Forest Right and correction of preparation of record of rights have been completed only in case of Bhadrak district.
- While other districts such as Keonjhar (34.37%), Nabarangpur (34.4%) etc. has achieved very little progress.
What is the issue?
- The Odisha State Food Commission (OSFC) has challenged the Odisha government’s claim to be the best performing State in terms of implementation of Forest Rights Act.
- According to OSFC, not even a single individual forest rights (IFR) title (allotment of forest land pattas to landless SC/ST forest dwellers) has been distributed in Puri district.
- OSFC alleged on Odisha government that in seven important districts (where more than 5,000 titles have been distributed), the performance on demarcation of titles is significantly below the State average.
- Similarly, in case of correction of RoRs (Cast in North India), cumulative achievement of 41% of the title has been distributed.
Forest Rights Act, 2006:
The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is a result of the protracted struggle by the marginal and tribal communities of India to assert their rights over the forestland over which they were traditionally dependent.
- Forest Rights Act is also known as Community Forest Management (CFM) in Telangana.
- The Ministry of Tribal Affairs releases monthly reports on the status of implementation of the Act.
- The tribal communities of India have had close knit relationship with the forests and have been dependent on the forests for livelihoods and existence.
- However, in the absence of real ownership of the land, the already marginalized local dwellers suffered.
- The reason for this is India’s forest laws. India’s forests are governed by two main laws, the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
- Under the Indian Forest Act, areas were often declared to be “government forests” without noticing any relationship between tribal and land such as who lived in these areas, what land they were using etc.
- Under these laws, the rights of people living in the area to be declared as a forest area are to be “settled” by a “forest settlement officer.”
- This basically requires that officer to enquire into the claims of people to land, minor forest produce, etc., and, in the case of claims found to be valid, to allow them to continue or to extinguish them by paying compensation.
- It is found that in many areas this process either did not take place at all or took place in a highly faulty manner.
- Those whose rights are not recorded during the settlement process are susceptible to eviction at any time.
- The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Forest Rights Act describes it as a law intended to correct the historical injustice done to forest dwellers.
Types of rights under this act:
- Title rights – i.e. ownership to land that is being farmed by tribals or forest dwellers subject to a maximum of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family, meaning that no new lands are granted.
- Use rights – to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes, etc.
- Relief and development rights – to rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement; and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection.
- Forest management rights – to protect forests and wildlife.
Eligibility under this act:
There are two ways to be eligible under this act
- Primarily residing in forests or forest lands.
- Depends on forests and forest land for a livelihood.
- Above conditions should have to be true for 75 years.
- Should be a member of a Scheduled Tribe
- Resident of an area where they are Scheduled
Process of recognition of rights:
- The Act provides that the gram sabha, or village assembly, will initially pass a resolution recommending whose rights to which resources should be recognised.
- This resolution is then screened and approved at the level of the sub-division (or taluka) and subsequently at the district level.
- The screening committees consist of three government officials (Forest, Revenue and Tribal Welfare departments) and three elected members of the local body at that level. These committees also hear appeals.
- The Act has been met with much concern and opposition from environmentalists and wildlife conservationists. Some of this opposition are:
- It will lead to the handing over of forests to tribals and forest dwellers.
- It will make impossible to create areas free of human presence, for the purposes of wildlife conservation.
Government Schemes & Policies
Parliamentary panel takes exception to Nirbhaya Fund being used for construction of buildings
A parliamentary panel has taken strong exception to the utilisation of Nirbhaya Fund in construction of buildings, saying such allocations defeat the very purpose of the project — that of safety for women.
- The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs headed by P Chidambaram said that funds for construction of buildings should come from other sources and not from the Nirbhaya Fund.
- He added that such allocations virtually defeat the very purpose of the project that is the “women safety”.
About Nirbhaya fund:
- The Nirbhaya Fund was started in 2013 by Government of India made up of the Congress led United Progressive Alliance (UPA).
- The fund was to implement initiatives aimed at enhancing safety and security of women across the country.
- The structure, scope and the application of this fund comes under the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
- The Fund is administered by Department of Economic Affairs of the Finance Ministry.
- This fund is expected to support initiatives by the government and NGOs working towards protecting the dignity and ensuring safety of women in India.
- This fund was instituted following gang rape of a girl in Delhi in 2012 which triggered a nation-wide outrage and protests.
- Rs 200 crore has been sanctioned as one-time grant for Central Victim Compensation Fund (CVCF) Scheme for compensating women victims of acid attacks, rape, trafficking etc.
Himachal’s first mega food park in Una
The First mega food park of Himachal Pradesh – Cremica Food Park Pvt Ltd was inaugurated by Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
- It is the first mega food park of Himachal Pradesh.
- The Park is located at Village Singhain Una District of Himachal Pradesh.
Mega Food Park Scheme:
- Mega Food Park is a scheme of the Ministry of Food Processing of the Government of India, aimed at providing a mechanism to link agricultural production to the market so as to ensure maximizing value addition and minimizing wastage.
- The MFPS scheme envisages a one-time capital grant of 50% of the project cost subject to a maximum of Rs 50 crore in general areas and 75% of the project cost subject to a ceiling of Rs. 50 crore in difficult and hilly areas.
- This project is implemented by a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) which is a Body Corporate registered under the Companies Act.
- Its purpose is to increase processing of perishables from 6% to 20% and to increase India’s share in global food trade by at least 3% up to year 2015.
The scheme aims to facilitate the establishment of a strong food processing industry which includes Collection Centres, Primary Processing Centers (PPC), Central Processing Center (CPC) and Cold Chain infrastructure.
Collection Centres and Primary Processing Centres (PPC):
- The PPCs work has primary handling centres which use the raw materials to be processed further in CPC.
- These component have facility for cleaning, grading and sorting facilities, dry warehouses, specialized cold stores, ripening chambers, mobile collection vans etc.
Central Processing Centres(CPC):
- The Central Processing Centre is an industrial park in an area of around 50 acres and accommodates various processing units owned by different business.
- It Includes common facilities like Testing Laboratory, specialized storage facilities including Controlled Atmosphere Chambers, Cold Chain Infrastructure, Packaging Unit, Food Incubation cum Development Centres etc.
Pattern of Assistance:
- A Program Management Agency (PMA) is appointed by the Ministry to provide management, capacity building, and coordination.
- For meeting the cost of the above and also other promotional activities by the Ministry, a separate amount, to the extent of 5%of the overall grants available, is earmarked.
- When this scheme was launched, 42 Mega Food Parks were to be established by 2015.
- As of now not all of them have been launched. The government is now planning to launch a revamped version of the scheme under SAMPADA – Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters.
India offers 23 oil blocks in OALP-III bid round
The Ministry of Petroleum And Natural Gas has launched the third bidding round under the Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP), offering 23 hydrocarbon blocks covering over 31,000 sq km for exploration.
- With the launch of the third bidding round, more than 1,20,000 sq km has now been made available for exploration in last one year under the OALP.
- The 23 blocks offered now are spread across states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, West Bengal, Nagaland, Tripura, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Some blocks are also in eastern and western offshore.
About Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP):
- Open Acreage Licensing Policy (OALP), a part of the government’s Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP), gives an option to a company looking for exploring hydrocarbons to select the exploration blocks on its own, without waiting for the formal bid round from the Government.
- The objective of OLAP is to increase India’s indigenous oil and gas production by maximising the potential of already discovered hydrocarbon resources in the country.
- OALP offers single license to explore conventional and unconventional oil and gas resources to propel investment in and provide operational flexibility to the investors.
- It is departure from the current licensing policy of government identifying the oil and gas blocks and then putting them on auction.
- Under it, Government will conduct auction of oil and gas blocks twice a year, with the first round being held in July 2017.
- The selection of oil blocks will be based on seismic and well data provided by Directorate-General of Hydrocarbons in National Data Repository which offers total of 160TB data of India’s 26 sedimentary basins.
- The OALP auction will be held under the overhauled exploration licensing policy, allowing pricing and marketing freedom to operators and shifts to a revenue sharing model.
About Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP):
The Hydrocarbon Exploration & Licensing Policy (HELP) opens up India’ entire sedimentary basin for investment from domestic and foreign players under a simplified, transparent and investor -friendly fiscal and administrative regime.
Objectives of HELP:
- Enhance domestic oil and gas production
- Bring substantial investment
- Generate sizable employment
- Enhance transparency and
- Reduce administrative discretion
Four main elements of HELP:
- Uniform license for exploration and production of all forms of hydrocarbon.
- An open acreage policy.
- Easy to administer revenue sharing model.
- Marketing and pricing freedom for the crude oil and natural gas produced.
Key features of HELP:
- There will be a uniform licensing system which will cover all hydrocarbons, i.e. oil, gas, coal bed methane etc. under a single license and policy framework.
- Contracts will be based on “biddable revenue sharing”. Bidders will be required to quote revenue share in their bids and this will be a key parameter for selecting the winning bid. They will quote a different share at two levels of revenue called “lower revenue point” and “higher revenue point”. Revenue share for intermediate points will be calculated by linear interpolation. The bidder giving the highest net present value of revenue share to the Government, as per transparent methodology, will get the maximum marks under this parameter.
- An Open Acreage Licensing Policy will be implemented whereby a bidder may apply to the Government seeking exploration of any block not already covered by exploration. The Government will examine the Expression of Interest and justification. If it is suitable for award, Govt. will call for competitive bids after obtaining necessary environmental and other clearances. This will enable a faster coverage of the available geographical area.
- A concessional royalty regime will be implemented for deep water and ultra-deep water areas. These areas shall not have any royalty for the first seven years, and thereafter shall have a concessional royalty of 5% (in deep water areas) and 2% (in ultra-deep water areas). In shallow water areas, the royalty rates shall be reduced from 10% to 7.5%.
- The contractor will have freedom for pricing and marketing of gas produced in the domestic market on arms length basis. To safeguard the Government revenue, the Government’s share of profit will be calculated based on the higher of prevailing international crude price or actual price.
Significance of HELP:
- The new policy regime marks a generational shift and modernization of the oil and gas exploration policy.
- It is expected to stimulate new exploration activity for oil, gas and other hydrocarbons and eventually reduce import dependence.
- It is also expected to create substantial new job opportunities in the petroleum sector. The introduction of the concept of revenue sharing is a major step in the direction of “minimum government maximum governance”, as it will not be necessary for the Government to verify the costs incurred by the contractor.
- Marketing and pricing freedom will further simplify the process. These will remove the discretion in the hands of the Government, reduce disputes, avoid opportunities for corruption, reduce administrative delays and thus stimulate growth.
Special MSME package can help 7 cr accounts, Rs 1 L cr loans: Fin-secy
The Reserve Banks restructuring package for small businesses announced last month will help recast Rs 1 lakh crore of loans for 7 lakhs eligible micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
About the scheme:
- The scheme was announced by RBI after a recommendation to consider the same by its central board meeting.
- It is a one-time scheme wherein a loan tenor and interest rate can be revised without classifying the asset as an NPA.
- The scheme is available for standard advances of up to Rs 25 crore only.
- The scheme will help free up additional resources which will fuel demand and create further opportunities in the industry.
- The restructuring must be implemented by March 31, 2020. Banks will need to make a provision of 5% towards these restructured loans. Each bank/NBFC should formulate a policy for this scheme with board approval. Those MSMEs that are not exempt from GST will need to be registered on the GSTN on the date on restructuring.
Concerns for MSMEs:
- SMEs were the worst hit among various industry segments following demonetisation and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. Availability of credit to MSMEs declined further after the IL&FS default crisis which led to bank credit to non-banking finance companies drying up. This in turn reduced the ability of NBFCs to lend to MSMEs.
- The sector was facing a liquidity problem because of lack of confidence of banks who had turned risk-averse in the wake of rising bad loans.
Significance of MSME:
- MSME sector is backbone of the economy.
- It is one of the largest employer in the country and with the vast population where employment either in government or in the large industry itself has limited potential.
- This is one sector where people not only exhibit their entrepreneurial skills, become part of large value chains but also become job creators in the process. And that is the reason why a bulk of the jobs in manufacturing, trading have been created in this particular sector.
Visakhapatnam SPR facility dedicated to the nation
In a boost to energy security of India, three projects were inaugurated by Prime minister of India at Delhi in February 2019.
Visakhapatnam Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR):
- Visakhapatnam Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) facility of 1.33 MMT capacity which is part of Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve Limited (ISPRL).
- The Facility has the largest underground storage compartment in India.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) facility:
- The Strategic Petroleum Reserve is an emergency stockpile of oil. SPRs were introduced by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in the aftermath of the 1973 oil shock when Arab countries cut production by around five million barrels a day (mbd), and OPEC raised prices by some 400 per cent.
- Subsequently, to ensure that OECD countries, the largest oil consumers at that time, would not be spaced out, the IEA was formed in 1974 and tasked to coordinate policies and advise member countries on protecting their energy interests.
- Main condition for the 30 member countries is for each to maintain 90 days’ worth of net oil imports, which would be used collectively in the event of a supply disruption.
- Oil could also be released under exchange arrangements with private firms.
- Originally, the stocks were meant to correct a shortage in the market caused by a supply disruption. However, the US has released oil from its SPR for a variety of reasons, including to finance policy initiatives and keep running domestic refineries hit by natural disasters, leading some analysts to caution against using the SPR as a “piggy bank”.
About India’s SPR programme:
- To ensure energy security, the Government of India had decided to set up 5 million metric tons (MMT) of strategic crude oil storages at three locations namely, Visakhapatnam, Mangalore and Padur (near Udupi).
- These strategic storages would be in addition to the existing storages of crude oil and petroleum products with the oil companies and would serve as a cushion during any external supply disruptions.
- In the 2017-18 budget, it was announced that two more such caverns will be set up Chandikhole in Jajpur district of Odisha and Bikaner in Rajasthan as part of the second phase.
- The construction of the Strategic Crude Oil Storage facilities is being managed by Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited (ISPRL), a Special Purpose Vehicle, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) under the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
Need for Strategic Petroleum Reserve in India:
- During the intense period of Gulf war in West Asia in 1990, India had only 3 days of oil reserve threatening energy crisis in India.
- A vital strategic threat and economic drain can be account for majority of imported fuels which come from West Asia in the midst of ever increasing current account deficit of India.
- The roots of SPR were planted in 1998 to address energy crisis.
- This reserves will help India, world’s third-largest oil importer after the US and China, to mitigate supply risks.
- The development comes at a time of growing unpredictability in global oil markets, driven by tensions between the US and Venezuela, and US demands for a global end to imports of Iranian oil.
- Also, there’s always the risk of supply disruption from natural disasters, war or other calamities. Hence, SPRs lifted India’s energy security power.
Defence & Security Issues
PM Modi lays foundation for Sela Tunnel
Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the strategically important Sela Tunnel Project in Arunachal Pradesh
- The project, costing Rs 687 crore, is being constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and would be completed in the next three years.
- The project will cover a total distance of 12.04 Km.
- The proposal to build the Sela Pass comes amid concerns in the defence establishment over China’s growing assertiveness along the nearly 4,000 km-long Sino-India border.
- The Se-La Pass is a high-altitude mountain pass (situated at a height of 13,700 feet) located on the border between the Tawang and West Kameng Districts of Arunachal Pradesh state in India.
- It connects Tawang to the rest of Arunachal Pradesh and the Indian mainland.
- The road connecting Tenga to Tawang is a perpetual struggle for military convoys as well as the local public because it frequently remains blocked due to landslides and other factors. The pass remains covered in snow in the winters making the movement of vehicles difficult.
Benefits by the Sela Tunnel:
- It will give a fillip to the overall development of the area as it will provide all-weather connectivity to Tawang and other areas.
- It will also reduce the travelling time from Tezpur to Tawang by more than an hour and boost tourism and related economic activities in the region.
- It will give a much needed strategic edge to our security forces and the local population ahead of Sela.
- PM also laid the foundation stone for construction of greenfield Airport at Hollongi (Arunachal Pradesh) and inaugurated an upgraded airport at Tezu in Lohit (Arunachal Pradesh).
- The Tezu airport will connect Guwahati, Jorhat and Hollongi.
Key Facts for Prelims
India to Train Civil Servants from Bangladesh
- India and Bangladesh signed a MoU for training 1800 Bangladesh Civil Servants.
- The MoU was signed between India’s National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG) and the Ministry of Public Administration of Bangladesh.
- The NCGG would be training the Bangladesh civil servants for the second time. 1500 Bangladesh Civil Servants have already been trained in NCGG under the first MOU signed 5 years ago.
- DD Arunprabha is the Doordarshan’s second channel for the northeastern region; DD Northeast was the first one.
- It is a dedicated 24×7 Satellite channel for Arunachal Pradesh launched recently.
- It is the 24th satellite channel operated by Doordarshan.
- The channel will familiarise people across India with the beauty and the culture of the State.
Film and Television Institute of India (FTII)
The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) is an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting of the Government of India and aided by the Central Government of India.
- It is situated on the premises of the erstwhile Prabhat Film Company in Pune.
- Since its inception in 1960, FTII has become India’s premier film and television institute, with its alumni becoming technicians, actors and directors in the film and television industry.
- FTII is a member of the International Liaison Centre of Schools of Cinema and Television (CILECT), an organisation of the world’s leading schools of film and television.
- The FTII is registered under Societies’ Registration Act of 1860.
- The Society is headed by a President, who also functions as the Chairman of the Governing Council, the Academic Council and the Standing Finance Committee.
- The Governing Council is constituted by election from among the members of the Society. The Governing Council is the apex body of the FTII and is responsible for making all major policy decisions of the Institute.
Helina-Anti Tank Missile
- The Helicopter-launched anti-tank missile Helina was successfully test fired from the Integrated Test Range in Chandipur in Balasore district of Odisha.
- Helina is the indigenously designed and built missile system.
- Helina is the air-launched variant of the Nag, a fire-and-forget ATGM with an estimated range of 4 kilometers.
- Helina’s range is estimated at between 7 to 8 kilometres.
- It is guided by an infrared imaging seeker (IIR) operating in the lock-on before-launch mode and helps in further strengthening the defence capabilities of the country.
- The infrared imaging seeker (IIR) technology is also indigenously developed and has been demonstrated in the NAG anti-tank guided missile system.
Mobile-App e-Cocoon launched
- It is a mobile application launched by the Ministry of Textiles for quality certification in silkworm seed sector.
- The app will help quality certification in silk worm sector. It will be used by the Seed Analysts and Seed Officers nominated under Central Seed Act for system and product certification through real time reporting.
- India is the second largest producer of silk after China and the largest consumer of silk.
- India’s silk production capacity is expected to reach about 38,500 tonnes by 2020 from the current level of 32,000 tonnes.
Voter Verification and Information Programme
- It was launched by the Election Commission.
- It aims to help citizens verify their names in the electoral rolls, register as new voters, update voter details and make corrections in their voter identity cards ahead of the general election due in April-May.
- The VVIP service can be availed by the voters through various channels including voter helpline application, voter helpline number 1950 and contact centres in all districts across India.
- The c-VIGIL app provides time-stamped, evidence-based proof of complaints relating to violation of model code of conduct or expenditure limit, complete with live photo/video with auto location data.