Government Schemes & Policies
- SC to examine validity of new triple talaq law, issues notice to Centre
- Govt unveils package to spur economic growth
- Govt to boost onion supply from buffer stock, asks police to take action against hoarders
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- NITI Aayog releases Report on the Composite Water Management Index 2.0
Bilateral & International Relations
- International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Abolition
- First-ever World Youth Conference for Kindness held
Science & Technology
- Government to prepare roadmap for distribution of fortified rice
Key Facts for Prelims
- MoS (PP) presents ANUBHAV awards, 2019
- Nigeria first to approve Bt cowpea, Ghana may follow
- Ministry of Textile launches project ‘SURE’
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Government Schemes & Policies
SC to examine validity of new triple talaq law, issues notice to Centre
The Supreme Court agreed to hear a plea challenging the newly-minted law which criminalizes the practice of instant triple talaq.
What are the allegations?
- The supreme court bench recently issued notice to the Centre on a set of PILs challenging the recent Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019 (triple talaq criminalisation).
The pleas have alleged that,
- the Act is unconstitutional, as it criminalises the mere pronouncement of triple talaq, which had already been declared unconstitutional and void by the Supreme Court.
- the law unjustly and unfairly criminalises the act of one community, even as desertion of the wife by other communities is not a crime.
- The Act violates the fundamental rights under Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
- Act may lead to polarization and disharmony in the society.
About the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Act 2019
- It replaces the 1986 Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act.
- It makes all declaration of talaq, including in written or electronic form, to be void (i.e. not enforceable in law) and illegal.
Offence and penalty
- It makes declaration of talaq a cognizable offence, attracting up to three years’ imprisonment with a fine. (A cognizable offence is one for which a police officer may arrest an accused person without warrant.)
- It provides that the Magistrate may grant bail to the accused. The offence may be compounded by the Magistrate upon the request of the woman. (Compounding refers to the procedure where the two sides agree to stop legal proceedings, and settle the dispute.)
- A Muslim woman against whom talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek subsistence allowance from her husbandfor herself and for her dependent children.
- The amount of the allowance will be determined by the Magistrate.
- A Muslim woman against whom such talaq has been declared, is entitled to seek custody of her minor children.
Significance of the Act
- It offers Muslim women recourse and access to protection of the law from the practice of arbitrary instant divorce.
- The act brings India at par with other Muslim majority states including Pakistan and Bangladesh.
- Personal laws of other religious communities addressed some concerns relating to gender equality in matters of inheritance and polygamy. However, gender equality does not spread in all aspects of civil law. This legislation presents an opportunity to put in place a civil code that steeped in equality across faiths and gender.
Govt unveils package to spur economic growth
Finance minister announced measures to revive growth and uplift investor and consumer sentiment, including rolling back the surcharge on tax on foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) announced in the budget, but stopped short of the full-blown fiscal stimulus many sections of industry have been seeking.
Highlights of finance minister’s recent announcement
- Enhanced surcharge on FPIs stands withdrawn. Surcharge on domestic investors in equity markets also withdrawn/
- Aadhaar-based KYC for opening demat accounts and investment in mutual funds
- Govt to consult with RBI to enhance Credit default swap options.
- Govt working to bring offshore rupee market to domestic market.
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR) violation would be treated as a civil offence, not a criminal offence.
- Bharat Stage (BS-IV) cars purchased till March 2020 to remain operational for the entire period of registration.
- Higher vehicle registration fee deferred to June next year.
- Scrappage policy to be announced soon.
- Withdraws angle tax provision for startups and their investors.
- One-time settlement policy for MSME loans.
- Laws to be amended to ensure one MSME definition.
Home, auto loans
- Banks to make home, auto loans cheaper. Banks have agreed to pass on the rate cut announced by RBI to customers. Banks to launch Repo Rate linked loans.
- Online tracking system for home, auto loans.
- PSBs to return loan documents to customers within 15 days of loan closure.
- FM vows steps to end tax harassment. Old tax notice to be decided by October 1.
- From October 1, all Income Tax notices must be disposed off within 3 months.
- NBFC can now use Aadhaar-based KYC
- Prepayment notices issued to NBFCs will be monitored by banks.
- Additional liquidity to support Housing Finance Companies by National Housing Board increased to Rs 30,000 crore
- Government to release Rs 70,000 crore upfront for Public sector banks (PSBs) recapitalisation.
- Task Force to be formed to finalise ways to fund infra projects; projects to be monitored actively to accelerate capital expenditure and investment.
- Current global GDP growth is expected at 3.2% and probably going to be revised downwards.
Significance of these announcements
- They address growth slowdown concerns; free up funds for investment and spending by banks, housing finance companies and MSMEs.
- Some of the measures promote the ease of doing business and even the ease of living for ordinary citizens.
- The auto sector’s biggest demand, reduction in GST rate, may not have been conceded, but the accelerated depreciation of 15% (in addition to the existing 15%) for all vehicles acquired till March 31, 2020 and the deferment of the proposed increase in registration fee for new vehicles to June 2020 are positive measures.
- Banks will have more space to increase their lending after the upfront funding of ₹70,000 crore (announced in the budget) that they will get from the government towards recapitalisation.
- This, together with the strong push for repo rate linked loan products, is likely to benefit consumers borrowing to buy new homes, vehicles and durables.
Govt to boost onion supply from buffer stock, asks police to take action against hoarders
The government plans to sell onion, pulses and edible oil in the open market from its buffer stocks and take immediate action against hoarders creating artificial shortages.
What is the issue?
- Many hoarders are creating artificial shortages of pulses and edible oil.
- The price of onion was also rose after rains disrupted supplies as well as due to damaged crop in major-producing states of Maharashtra and Karnataka.
- Hence, government decided to form a committee chaired by Avinash K Srivastava to review reviewed the prices of Essential Commodities.
- Committee decided to increase the daily supply of onions from government buffer to Delhi and directed NAFED to release the stock from PSF (price stabilisation fund) buffer so as to ensure improved availability at reasonable rates.
- It took note of the fact that import of onion is free (under Open General License) and currently there is sufficient stock of onions available in the government buffer.
- National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd.(NAFED) was established on the Gandhi Jayanti on 2nd October 1958.
- It functions under Ministry of Agriculture and registered under the Multi State Co-operative Societies Act.
- It was setup with the object to promote Co-operative marketing of Agricultural Produce to benefit the farmers.
- Agricultural farmers are the main members of NAFED, who have the authority to say in the form of members of the General Body in the working of NAFED.
NAFED is now one of the largest procurement as well as marketing agencies for agricultural products in India.
- In 2008, it had established, National Spot Exchange, a Commodities exchange as a joint venture of Financial Technologies (India) Ltd. (FTIL).
Price Stabilization Fund
- The Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) was set up in 2014-15 under the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Famers Welfare (DAC&FW) to help regulate the price volatility of important agri-horticultural commodities like onion. Potatoes and pulses were also added subsequently.
- The PSF scheme was transferred from DAC&FW to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DOCA) from 2016.
- The scheme provides for maintaining a strategic buffer of some commodities to moderate price volatility and discourage hoarding and unscrupulous speculation.
- For building such stock, the scheme promotes direct purchase from farmers/farmers’ association at farm gate/Mandi.
- The PSF is utilized for granting interest free advance of working capital to Central Agencies, State/UT Governments/Agencies to undertake market intervention operations.
- In view of the fluctuating nature of international prices in plantation crops and the dependence of growers on the export markets, Government launched the Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) Scheme from 2003 to 2013 to provide financial relief to small growers of coffee, tea, rubber and tobacco having land holdings up to four hectares.
- This financial relief was provided when prices of these commodities fell below the price spectrum band.
- The Price Stabilization Fund Trust (PSFT) was set up by the Department of Commerce and NABARD to implement the PSF Scheme.
- The members were required to deposit Rs. 500 towards entry fee, which would form part of the PSF Corpus. If the price falls within the band, the year would be declared as normal year and members as well as PSFT would deposit Rs. 500 each in the PSF.
- If the price goes above the upper band, the year would be declared as boom year and only the member would deposit Rs. 1000 in the account and if the price falls below lower band, the year would be declared as distress year and only PSFT would deposit Rs. 1000 in the growers’ accounts.
- However, PSF scheme was not successful and was reviewed in October, 2012. As a result, a draft modified PSF Scheme was prepared in 2014.
- It was decided that the available corpus with the Price Stabilization Fund Trust would be utilized by the Department of Commerce to implement a modified insurance premium subvention scheme for insuring the growers.
- Accordingly, the Department of Commerce approved a scheme in the name of Revenue Insurance Scheme for Plantation Crops (RISPC) to protect small growers of tea, coffee, rubber & cardamom from the risks of weather and prices, for implementing in nine districts of seven States. However, the scheme did not elicit desired response.
- The Indian Institute of Plantation Management Bengaluru evaluated the scheme and recommended crop specific insurance schemes for Coffee, Tea, Cardamom and Tobacco so that the needs of each crop could be met. These recommendations are currently in review.
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
NITI Aayog releases Report on the Composite Water Management Index 2.0
To supplement the efforts of Jal Shakti Ministry, NITI Aayog has prepared the second Round of Composite Water Management Index (CWMI 2.0).
Highlights of Composite Water Management Index (CWMI 2.0)
For Non-Himalayan states
- First rank: Gujarat
- Andhra Pradesh(2nd), Madhya Pradesh (3rd), Goa(4th), Karnataka(5th) and Tamil Nadu (6th)
For Himalayan states
- First rank: Himachal Pradesh
- Uttarakhand (2nd), Tripura (3rd) and Assam (4th).
- The Union Territories have first time submitted their data and Puducherry has been declared as the top ranker.
- In terms of incremental change in index (over 2016-17 level), Haryana holds number one position in general States and Uttarakhand ranks at first position amongst North Eastern and Himalayan States.
- On an average, 80% of the states assessed on the Index over the last three years have improved their water management scores.
- 16 out of the 27 states fall in the low-performing category. These states collectively account for 48% of the population, 40% of agricultural produce, and 35% of economic output of India.
About the Composite Water Management Index
- It is launched by NITI Agog.
- It first launched the Composite Water Management Index in 2018. This was a first ever attempt at creating a pan-India set of metrics that measured different dimensions of water management and use across the lifecycle of water
- This has been done through a first of its kind water data collection exercise in partnership with Ministry of Jal Shakti, Ministry of Rural Development and all the States/ Union Territories.
Theme of CWMI
The WMI has nine themes. The themes are further sub-divided into 28 indicators.
- Groundwater water restoration
- Surface water restoration
- Major and medium irrigation
- Watershed development
- Participatory irrigation management
- Sustainable on-farm water use
- Rural and urban water supply
- Policy and governance
About CWMI 2.0
- In the CWMI 2.0, two new key performance indicators (KPIs) have been added which assess the continuity of water supplied to rural households and coverage of water meters for pricing in such households.
- It does not include data from West Bengal, Mizoram, Manipur and Jammu & Kashmir.
India’s water supply
- About 82% of rural households in India do not have individual piped water supply.
- 70% of India’s surface water is contaminated.
- India is home to 17% of world’s population but has only 4% of the world’s freshwater resource.
- In spite of possessing surface water resources, India is highly dependent on groundwater resources for day to day survival. Contribution of groundwater is nearly 62% in irrigation, 85% in rural water supply and 45% in urban water supply.
- 30% of Indian land is degraded or faces desertification, and this outcome is strongly linked to poor water management.
- The per person disease burden due to unsafe water and sanitation was 40 times higher in India than in China and 12 times higher than in Sri Lanka in 2016.
Water schemes of various states
- Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlambhan Abhiyan (Mjsa), Rajasthan
- Neeru-Chettu Programme, Andhra Pradesh
- Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, Maharashtra
- Mission Kakatiya, Telangana
- Sujalam Sufalam Yojana, Gujarat
- Kapil Dhara Yojana, Madhya Pradesh
- Pani Bachao Paise Kamao, Punjab
Bilateral & International Relations
International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade and Abolition
Indentured servitude from India started in 1834 and lasted up till 1922, despite having been officially banned in 1917 by British India’s Imperial Legislative Council after pressure from freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi.
About the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade & Abolition
- In 1998, UNESCO designated August 23 as the International Day for Remembrance of the Slave Trade & Abolition to commemorate the tragedy of the slave trade in the memory of all peoples.
- UNESCO also established an international project called ‘The Slave Route’ to document and conduct an analysis of the interactions to which it has given rise between Africa, Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean.
Genesis of indentured migrant labour in India:
- Between 1830-1860, the British, French and the Portuguese during the colonisation of India, prohibited slavery that was implemented by several acts under their individual domains.
- In Europe in the 1820s, slavery was considered inhuman. It was following this ideology that the colonisers stopped slavery in India, only to replace it with another form of bonded servitude and termed it ‘indentured labour’.
- This practice of indentured labour resulted in the growth of a large diaspora with Indo-Carribean, Indo-African and Indo-Malaysian heritage that continue to live in the Carribean, Fiji, Réunion, Natal, Mauritius, Malaysia, Sri Lanka
- Indentured migration started post the abolition of slavery to run sugar and rubber plantations that the British had set up in the West Indies.
- The British Empire was expanding to South America, Africa and Asia and they needed new labour, but slavery was considered inhuman. So they developed the concept of contract labour.
- The British turned to India and China that had a large population and found the surplus labour they needed to run these plantations in the new colonies.
- The abolition of slavery failed to change the mindset of the planters which remained that of ‘slave owners. They were accustomed to a mentality of coerced labour and desired an alternative labour force which would give them same type of labour control that they were accustomed to under slavery.
- After ruining the agriculture business in India, they exploited the mass unemployment that had hit small farmers the hardest. The worst affected regions were the modern-day states of Jharkhand, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
- Initially, single men were selected for indenture but the British Parliament decided to encourage family migration to provide stability.
- Encouraging family migration hardly arose out of concern for the welfare of these bonded migrants. According to the terms of indentured labour, the migrants had the right to return after finishing their 10 year terms of indenture.
- The British were not interested in having them return to their homeland because it wouldn’t be a good return on their investment.
- For every 100 males who were put on board the ships that transported the migrants, 40 were women, in an attempt to maintain the sex ratio. Due to the skewed sex ratios, many men went on to settle permanently in these colonies and have families.
Why was indentured labour called slavery?
- The British attempted to disassociate indentured labour from slavery by calling it an agreement when recruiting Indians who would be willing to migrate, to try and hide the true nature of the practice.
- The British recruited young, single men from regions that had witnessed a collapse of the local agriculture business and were facing shortages and severe famine.
- Most aspiring migrants were misled about the work they would have to engage in, the wages they would receive, the living conditions and the places they were travelling to. The system subjected poor, vulnerable Indians to long-term abuse and exploitation.
- The British housed migrants in Calcutta harbour. Before the migrants left, they were offered incentives like food and shelter.
- About 35,000 of these migrants migrated to Suriname alone. The main ports of departure for these migrants were Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.
What happened once indentured migrants reached far-flung colonies?
- Once they reached these colonies, they created their unique socio-cultural ecosystems while they were limited to living in the confines of these large plantations.
- The migrants faced difficult conditions on the plantations because there was paucity of adequate food, clean water, sanitation and healthcare.
- 500,000 people migrated to Malaysia to work on plantations where many died of snake bites, hunger, diarrhea.
- After their terms of indenture were over, some migrants returned to India while many stayed back. Those who did stay back did so because they had rebuilt their lives and families in these colonies and were poor and had not been able to maintain contact or connections with their families and country.
- Many migrants also believed that they had nothing to return to. In Mauritius, many migrants who had saved their monthly wages purchased small plots of land after their terms ended and became landowners themselves.
- In Mauritius, the Immigration Depot or the Aapravasi Ghat in Port Louis was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006 to mark its importance in world history.
- Mauritius was the first British colony to receive indentured migrants and records indicate that approximately half a million indentured Indians arrived at the Immigration Depot between 1849 to 1923.
- In 2011, a plaque was unveiled at the Kidderpore docks in Kolkata in memory of indentured labourers who passed through the city’s port.
- On the banks of the Hooghly near the Port of Kolkata, the Suriname Ghat is named after one of the colonies to where ships would depart from Kolkata. At the Suriname Ghat, the Mai-Baap Memorial is a replica of the Baba and Mai monument in Paramaribo, Suriname, that marks the first Indian migrants in Suriname.
First-ever World Youth Conference for Kindness held
President of India inaugurated the first-ever World Youth Conference for Kindness.
About the World Youth Conference for Kindness
- It was organised by the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP).
- The theme of the conference was ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: Gandhi for the Contemporary World: Celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.’
- It aimed at providing youth with effective methods of realising the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and sought inspiration from Gandhi’s non-violence.
Science & Technology
Government to prepare roadmap for distribution of fortified rice
The government will prepare a detailed roadmap for the nationwide distribution of fortified rice through ration shops.
About scheme of ‘Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under Public Distribution System’
- The government, in February 2019, approved centre-sponsored pilot scheme on ‘Fortification of Rice and its Distribution under Public Distribution System (PDS)’.
- Under this scheme, rice is fortified with Iron, Folic Acid and Vitamin B-12.
- The Pilot Scheme has been approved for a period of three year beginning 2019-20.
- Currently, the scheme focuses on 15 districts, preferably 1 district per State, during the initial phase of implementation.
About Food fortification
- Fortification is the addition of micronutrientssuch as Iron, Iodine, Zinc, and Vitamins to staple foods such as rice, wheat, oil, milk and salt to improve their nutritional content. These nutrients may or may not have been originally present in the food before processing or may have been lost during processing.
- It is an effective strategy to meet the nutritional needs of a large number of people across various sections of the society.
- Food fortification is a complementary strategy, and not a replacement of balanced, diversified diets to address malnutrition.
Need for Food fortification
- As per National Family Health Survey-4 (2015-16), public health concerns like Iron deficiency Anaemia is still prevalent in over 50 per cent of women (15- 45 years) and children under 5 years of age.
- Almost 62% of Indian population has low serum blood levels of vitamin A and 50%-94% of people in different states across India, suffer from vitamin D deficiency.
- Adverse functional outcomes like stunting, increased susceptibility to infectious diseases, physical impairments, cognitive losses, blindness and premature mortality are caused because of micronutrient deficiency.
Benefits of Food fortification
- This is an excellent method to improve the health of a large section of the population, all at once.
- The addition of micronutrients to food does not pose a health risk to people. The quantity added is so small and so well regulated as per prescribed standards that likelihood of an overdose of nutrients is unlikely.
- It does not require any changes in food habits and patterns of people.
- It can be implemented quickly as well as show results in improvement of health in a relatively short period of time.
- This method is cost-effective especially if advantage is taken of the existing technology and delivery platforms.
- ‘Food Fortification: Global Mapping Study 2016’ by WHO, has showcased positive consequences of fortification in many countries.
Is fortification New to India?
- Food fortification is not a new idea in India. Fortification of Vanaspati, was mandated in 1953 and iodization of salt was mandated in 1962.
- India’s 10th(National Nutrition Policy), 11th and 12th Plan documents recommend fortification of staples with micronutrients.
- In order to achieve targeted outcomes over the next five years (2022), envisioned by the National Nutrition Strategy on “Kuposhan Mukt Bharat”, food fortification has been identified as one of the key strategies for implementation.
Regulation on fortification of foods in India:
- Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has formulated a comprehensive regulation on fortification of foods namely ‘Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016’.
- These regulations set the standards for food fortification and encourage the production, manufacture, distribution, sale and consumption of fortified foods.
- The regulations also provide for specific role of FSSAI in promotion for food fortification and to make fortification mandatory. This sets the premise for the national summit on fortification of food.
- Rice can be fortified by adding a micronutrient powder to the rice that adheres to the grains or spraying of the surface of ordinary rice grains in several layers with a vitamin and mineral mix to form a protective coating.
- As per Department of Biotechnology, India, rice fortification is the most efficient way of mass fortification and distribution.
- Rice kernels can be fortified with several micronutrients, such as iron, folic acid and other B-complex vitamins, vitamin A and zinc.
As per World Health Organization (WHO), Fortification of rice,
- with iron is recommended as a public health strategy to improve the iron status of populations, in sttings where rice is a staple food.
- with vitamin A may be used as a public health strategy to improve the iron status and vitamin A nutrition of populations.
- with folic acid may be used as a public health strategy to improve the folate nutritional status of populations.
Key Facts for Prelims
MoS (PP) presents ANUBHAV awards, 2019
ANUBHAV Awards, 2019 as well as inauguration of the All India Pension Adalat were made at the ANUBHAV Awards, 2019 function organized by the Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare.
About Anubhav Scheme
- The Anubhav scheme was conceptualized in 2015 to encourage retiring and retired employees to submit their experiences while working in the government and thereby create a memory that help in future governance as well as to motivate future generations of government officials.
- As part of this scheme, Anubhav award was introduced in 2016 to incentivize more retiring employees to submit their write-ups.
- It is an annual award given by the Department of Pension and Pensioners’ Welfare, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
- The Anubhav portal was created on the call of Prime Minister in 2015 with a vision to preserve rich experience of retired government official in digital form.
- It is envisaged that their rich experience will be preserved for future generation to learn and explore knowledge on various aspects of governance, culture & development history of a particular region.
All India Pension Adalat
- It is an initiative of Department of Pension & Pensioners’ Welfare.
- It is one of the largest exercises for pensioners’ welfare ever undertaken by the Government as part of good governance dedicated to central government pensioners.
- Department of Pensions and Pensioners’ Welfare had started the unique experiment of holding Pension Adalat of those cases in Centralized Pensioners Grievance Redress And Monitoring System (CPENGRAMS) which were either routinely closed by various Ministries or not disposed of within the time-line of 60 days.
- The methodology adopted was to invite all the stake-holders of a particular grievance on a single table viz. the concerned Department, the concerned Bank and representative of the Pensioner and resolve the case across the table.
Nigeria first to approve Bt cowpea, Ghana may follow
Nigeria has become the first country to approve open cultivation of genetically modified (GM) Bt cowpea.
- Cowpea is the most important legume in the west African country.
- Pests, particularly pod borer (Maruca vitrata), have hampered production of cowpea. As a result, it has to import about 500,000 tonnes annually to meet demand.
About Bt cowpea
- Bt cowpea is pest-resistant and needed just two sprays while current varieties need eight.
- It could potentially increase yield by 20 per cent.
- Bt cowpea was faced opposition for years in Nigeria due to fears of an adverse impact on health. It contains the transgene Cry1Ab, which can be toxic for human liver cells and also alter immune systems of lab animals.
- It was banned in South Africa where the cultivation of modified maize led to enormous pest resistance and infestation. Moreover, it hasn’t been approved for commercial use elsewhere in the world.
Ministry of Textile launches project ‘SURE’
The Union Minister for Textiles, launched Project SURE, a move towards sustainable fashion at Mumbai.
About the Project SURE
- The project has been launched by the Textile Minister, along with Clothing Manufacturers Association of India (CMAI), United Nations in India and IMG Reliance.
- It will be the first holistic effort by the apparel industry towards gradually introducing a broader framework for establishing sustainability goals for the industry.
- This framework would help the industry reduce its carbon emissions, increase resource efficiency, tackle waste and water management etc.