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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

Monthly DNA

10 May, 2021

22 Min Read

FCRA amendments- Foreign contribution and COVID-19

GS-II : Government policies and interventions Government policies and interventions

FCRA amendments- Foreign contribution and COVID-19

Details of the amendments

  • The amendments to the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) enacted last year that among others made it compulsory for NGOs to open a bank account in Delhi and crippled the work of many organisations that are unable to receive foreign funds.
  • Registered NGOs can receive the foreign contributions for five purposes
    • social,
    • educational,
    • religious,
    • economic and
    • cultural.
  • An FCRA registration is mandatory for NGOs to receive foreign funds.
    • There are 22,591 FCRA registered NGOs.

Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2020

  • The Bill amends the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010.

Provisions of the Bill:

  • The Bill bars public servants from receiving foreign contributions. Public servant includes any person who is in service or pay of the government or remunerated by the government for the performance of any public duty.
  • The FCRA 2010 also bars certain persons to accept any foreign contribution. These include election candidates, editors or publishers of a newspaper, judges, government servants, members of any legislature, and political parties, among others.
  • The Bill prohibits the transfer of foreign contributions to any other person.
  • The term ‘person’ under the Bill includes an individual, an association, or a registered company.
  • The FCRA 2010 allows the transfer of foreign contributions to persons registered to accept foreign contributions.
  • The Bill makes Aadhaar number mandatory for all office bearers, directors or key functionaries of a person receiving the foreign contribution, as an identification document.
  • In the case of a foreigner, a copy of the passport or the Overseas Citizen of India card for identification is required.
  • The Bill states that foreign contributions must be received only in an account designated by the bank as an FCRA account in such branches of the State Bank of India, New Delhi. No funds other than the foreign contribution should be received or deposited in this account.
  • The person may open another FCRA account in any scheduled bank of their choice for keeping or utilising the received contribution.
  • The Bill allows the government to restrict the usage of unutilised foreign contributions. This may be done if, based on an inquiry the government believes that such a person has contravened provisions of the FCRA.
  • The Bill proposes that not more than 20% of the total foreign funds received could be defrayed for administrative expenses. In FCRA 2010 the limit was 50%.
  • The Bill allows the central government to permit a person to surrender their registration certificate.
    • The government may do so if, post an inquiry, it is satisfied that such person has not violated any provisions of the FCRA 2010, and the management of its foreign contribution has been vested in an authority prescribed by the government.

Importance of Amendment:

  • The annual inflow of foreign contributions has almost doubled between the years 2010 and 2019, but many recipients of foreign contributions have not utilised the same for the purpose for which they were registered or granted prior permission under the FCRA 2010.
  • Many persons were not adhering to statutory compliances such as submission of annual returns and maintenance of proper accounts.
  • Such a situation could have adversely affected the internal security of the country.
  • The new Bill aims to enhance transparency and accountability in the receipt and utilisation of foreign contributions and facilitate genuine non-governmental organisations or associations that are working for the welfare of society.

Issues

  • The Bill would impact the livelihoods of workers associated with the small Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and lead to the killing of the entire social sector as caps on administrative expenses would make it impossible for even the bigger NGOs to perform.
  • It will severely impact collaborative research in critical fields in India as organisations receiving foreign funds will no longer be able to transfer them to small NGOs working at the grassroots level.
  • The government aims to control the NGOs which engage in dubious activities. However, failing to recognise the diversity of NGOs, which include world-class organisations that are recognised globally, will crush their competitiveness and creativity.
  • It is also incompatible with international law.
    • The United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on protecting human rights defenders says that no law should criminalize or delegitimize activities in defence of human rights on account of the origin of funding.
  • The Bill also fails to comply with India’s international legal obligations and constitutional provisions to respect and protect the rights to freedom of association, expression, and freedom of assembly.
  • The amendments also assume that NGOs that are receiving foreign funds are guilty unless proven otherwise.

Issue during COVID-19

  • An NGO has now moved the Delhi High Court seeking exemption from the Union Home Ministry’s March 31 deadline to open an FCRA account with the SBI branch at Parliament Street here.
  • The petitioner argued that it applied to open the account before the March 31 deadline but the administrative delays on the part of the bank and the Ministry severely restricted its activities including providing COVID-19 relief and paying of urgent salaries of staff and also affected its charitable and educational activities.
  • There is also severe inconvenience involved in submitting copies of all the necessary papers and personal documents, such as Aadhaar card copies and the KYCs of trustees and other members of the NGO.
  • The trustees and members live in different parts of the country, and getting documents together poses immense challenges due to COVID-19 restrictions.
  • The NGOs continue to face problems even as the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on May 6 wrote to all States to involve NGOs, faith-based organisations, and religious and social trusts at the local level to handle the “unprecedented COVID-19 crisis”.

Source: TH

Great Nicobar development plan and its environmental concerns- NITI Aayog

GS-III : Biodiversity & Environment Environmental Impact Assessment

Great Nicobar development plan and its environmental concerns- NITI Aayog

Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) on the plan

  • The Environment Appraisal Committee (EAC) - of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has flagged serious concerns about NITI Aayog’s ambitious project for Great Nicobar Island
  • The committee has, however, removed the first hurdle faced by the project.
  • The EAC was responding to the 126-page ‘pre-feasibility’ report, ‘Holistic Development of Great Nicobar Island at Andaman and Nicobar Islands, prepared for the NITI Aayog by the Gurugram-based consulting agency Aecom India Private Limited.

Proposals for the Great Nicobar plan

  • The proposal includes an:
    • International container transhipment terminal,
    • A greenfield international airport,
    • A power plant and
    • A township complex spread over 166 sq. km. (mainly pristine coastal systems and tropical forests) and is estimated to cost 75,000 crores.

Concerns on-site- missing information in EIA

  • A discussion on the proposal in the March meeting was deferred because of delayed and incomplete submission of documents.
  • The missing information included the minutes of the meeting note, details of the township to be developed over 149 sq. km., a note on seismic and tsunami hazards, freshwater requirement details (6.5 lakh people are envisaged to finally inhabit the island when the present population is only 8,500; the current total population of the entire island chain is less than 4.5 lakh), and details of the impact on the Giant Leatherback turtle.
  • The committee also noted that there were no details of the trees to be felled — a number that could run into millions since 130 sq. km. of the project area has some of the finest tropical forests in India.
  • A point-wise response to concerns was submitted by the project proponent, the Andaman and Nicobar Island Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO), on April 5, the very day the committee convened for its next meeting.

Environmental concerns in Galathea Bay

  • Galathea Bay is an iconic nesting site in India of the enigmatic Giant Leatherback, the world’s largest marine turtle (IUCN status- Vulnerable).
    • Other species at Galathea Bay- Nicobar Magapod and Dugong.
  • The committee noted that the site selection for the port had been done mainly on technical and financial criteria, ignoring the environmental aspects.
  • Ecological surveys in the last few years have reported a number of new species, many restricted to just the Galathea region.
  • These include:
    • Critically endangered Nicobar shrew,
    • The Great Nicobar crake,
    • The Nicobar frog,
    • The Nicobar cat snake,
    • A new skink (Lipinia sp),
    • A new lizard (Dibamus sp,) and
    • A snake of the Lycodon sp that is yet to be described.
  • “None of these are even mentioned in AECOM’s pre-feasibility report or the EAC’s observations,” he notes. “We don’t even fully know what exists here, leave alone understanding the many fragile inter-linkages of the Great Nicobar’s complex systems.”

Other recommendations of the Committee- Important points to note for EIA in Ecologically Sensitive areas

  • The need for an independent assessment of terrestrial and marine biodiversity
  • A study on the impact of dredging, reclamation and port operations, including oil spills
  • The need for studies of alternative sites for the port with a focus on environmental and ecological impact, especially on turtles
  • Analysis of risk-handling capabilities, a seismic and tsunami hazard map, a disaster management plan, details of labour, labour camps and their requirements, an assessment of the cumulative impact
  • A hydro-geological study to assess the impact on ground and surface water regimes.
  • The committee has also asked for details of the corporate environment policy of the implementing agency — whether the company has an environmental policy, a prescribed standard operating procedure to deal with environmental and forest violations, and a compliance management system.

Andaman and Nicobar Island Integrated Development Corporation (ANIIDCO)

  • ANIIDCO, the Port Blair project proponent, is a government undertaking involved in activities such as tourism, trading (iron and steel, milk, petroleum products, and liquor) and infrastructure development for tourism and fisheries.

Read more about Little Andaman Island Development Plan- https://www.aspireias.com/daily-news-analysis-current-affairs/Megacity-plan-for-Little-Andaman

Source: TH

Horticulture sector: Critical Analysis

GS-III : Economic Issues Allied agriculture activities

Horticulture sector: Critical Analysis

The mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH)

  • L.H. Bailey is considered the Father of American Horticulture and M.H. Marigowda is considered the Father of Indian Horticulture.
  • It is a part of Green Revolution – Krishonnati Yojana which is Umbrella Scheme in agriculture sector since 2016-17 by clubbing 11 schemes.
  • Centrally Sponsored Scheme. 85:15 in all States except Northeast and Himalayan States where it is 100% by States.
  • For holistic growth of the Horticulture sector; enhance Horticulture production, improve nutritional security and income support.
  • MIDH adopts an end-to-end holistic approach i.e. Pre-production, Production, Post-harvest management and Processing and marketing. Promote R&D in the above fields (especially cold chain infrastructure)
  • Promote FPOs and tie up with market aggregators and financial institutions; skill development and rural employment opportunities especially in cold chain sector; Improve productivity by way of quality germplasm and water use efficiency through Micro Irrigation.
  • MIDH will work closely with NMSA toward the development of Micro-Irrigation for all horticulture crops.

National Bamboo Mission is a subscheme of MIDH

  • India has the highest area (14 million ha) under bamboo and is the 2nd richest country in diversity, after China, with 136 species (125 indigenous). Still, India is a net importer of bamboo.
  • Till recently, it has remained confined to the forests (12.8% of forest cover); 2/3rd is located in the North-Eastern States.
  • The restructured National Bamboo Mission (NBM) was launched in 2018-19 for holistic development of the bamboo sector through a cluster-based approach in a hub (industry) and spoke model to harness the opportunities by providing backwards and forward linkages among the stakeholders – linking farmers to markets.
  • Direct subsidy of 50% is given to farmers at Rs 1.00 lakh per ha, 100% to Government agencies and also to entrepreneurs for setting up various product development units, etc.
  • The Mission is presently being executed by 21 States, including all the 9 States of NER through the respective State Bamboo Missions.
  • NBM is also advising States to make available quality planting material to the farmers out to carry out plantations of commercially required species, set up common facility centres and other post-harvest units in complete sync with the requirement of existing and sunrise industries for a win-win situation for farmers and Indian bamboo industry.
  • Ministry: Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare
  • Funding: Centrally Sponsored with 60:40 for all States; 90:10 for NE and Hilly States and 100% for us.
  • Components:
    1. Adopting area-based, regionally differentiated strategy.
    2. To increase the area under bamboo cultivation. It proposes to bring about 1 lakh hectares under plantation.
    3. For marketing of bamboo and bamboo products especially of handicraft items.
    4. Setting up of new nurseries and strengthening of existing ones.
    5. Pest management and disease management will be a major part.
    6. The scheme would help in cutting down on the import of bamboo products.
  • It will focus on limited States where it has social, commercial and economical advantage.

National Horticulture Mission (NHM) is a subscheme

  • Horticultural products include fruits, vegetables, flowers, coco, cashew nut, plantation crops, spices, and medicinal aromatic plants. It is an employment-intensive sector and an export-oriented sector.
  • Ministry: Department of Agriculture and Co-operation, MoAFW.
  • Funding: Centrally Sponsored with 60:40 for all States in NHM and for HMNEH it is 90:10.
  • Objectives and Components: Same as MIDH.

Critical Analysis of MIDH Scheme

  • To further promote and for holistic growth of the horticulture sector in the country, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has provided an enhanced allocation of Rs. 2250 Crore for the year 2021-22 for ‘Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), a centrally sponsored scheme.
  • The Ministry is implementing MIDH with effect from 2014-15, for realizing the potential of the horticulture sector covering fruits, vegetables, root and tuber crops, mushrooms, spices, flowers, aromatic plants, coconut, cashew and cocoa.
  • Government intervention in the horticulture sector has led to the situation wherein horticulture production has surpassed the agriculture production in the country.
  • During the year 2019-20, the country recorded its highest ever horticulture production of 320.77 million tonnes from an area of 25.66 million hectares. As per the 1st Advance Estimates for 2020-21 the total horticulture production in the country is 326.58 lakh MT from an area of 27.17 lakh ha.
  • MIDH has played a significant role in increasing the area under horticulture crops. Area and production during the years 2014 – 15 to 2019 – 20 has increased by 9% and 14% respectively.
  • Moreover, the mission has boosted best practices to be followed in farms which have significantly improved the quality of produce and productivity of farmland.
  • The initiative of MIDH has not only resulted in India’s self-sufficiency in the horticulture sector but also contributed towards achieving sustainable development goals of zero hunger, good health and wellbeing, no poverty, gender equality etc.
  • However, the sector is still facing a lot of challenges in terms of high post-harvest loss and gaps in post-harvest management and supply chain infrastructure.
  • There is tremendous scope for enhancing the productivity of Indian horticulture which is imperative to cater to the country’s estimated demand of 650 Million MT of fruits and vegetables by the year 2050. Some of the new initiatives like focus on planting material production, cluster development programme, credit push through Agri Infra Fund, formation and promotion of FPOs are the right steps in this direction.

National Horticulture Board (NHB)

  • National Horticulture Board (NHB) is an autonomous organization under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare has cleared a record 1278 subsidy applications for integrated development of hi-tech commercial horticulture in the country including promotion of post-harvest and cold chain infrastructure during the last one year which were pending since long.
  • NHB has also taken a lot of steps for ease of doing business by simplification of scheme guideline, documentation and processing process of new applications.
  • NHB has also facilitated the convergence of its back-ended capital investment subsidy schemes with the Agri Infrastructure Fund Scheme of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare to encourage farmers and entrepreneurs to take advantage of subvention of 3% interest on the loan with credit guarantee coverage for a loan up to Rs 2.00 crores for setting up post-harvest and cold chain infrastructure in the horticulture sector.
  • With the financial support of NHB, an additional area of 2210 acres under hi-tech commercial horticulture, both in open and protected cultivation has been brought under horticulture. Also additional cold storage capacity of 1.15 lakh MT has been created under the Cold Storage Scheme of NHB.

Source: PIB

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