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24 April, 2020

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II Corona virus pandemic becoming human right crises: Antonio Guterres
e- GramSwaraj portal and Swamitva Scheme on National Panchayats Day on 24th April
COVID-19: China announces additional USD 30 million grants for WHO International Relations
Dearness Allowance hike of 4% stalled during COVID19 Governance
Supreme court guidelines on prison reforms
GS-III Remittances likely to plunge 23%: World Bank Economic Issues
Alternative Academic Calendar for classes 6 to 8 Economic Issues
Biosafety Labs
Nano-Science & Technology Mission (NSTM)
Fitch ratings slashes India’s economic growth Economic Issues
Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) Economic Issues
Horticulture - Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) Economic Issues
National Policy on Marine Fisheries, 2017 Economic Issues
PT Pointer Inauguration of MVRDL to test COVID-19 samples
Pakistan receives USD 1.39 billion International Relations
Important GS Topics The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)
World bank and IMF
Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI)
GS-II :
Corona virus pandemic becoming human right crises: Antonio Guterres

Corona virus pandemic becoming human right crises: Antonio Guterres

Part of: GS-II- UN and COVID-19 (MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

“Human rights — civil, cultural, economic, political and social — are both the goal and the path,”
Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the Corona virus pandemic is a human crisis that is fast becoming a human rights crisis.   The U N Chief said, there is discrimination in the delivery of public services to tackle COVID-19 and there are structural inequalities that impede access to them.
Mr Guterres said

  1. the pandemic has also seen disproportionate effects on certain communities,
  2. the rise of hate speech,
  3. the targeting of vulnerable groups and
  4. the risks of heavy-handed security responses undermining the health response.
     

He warned that with rising ethno-nationalism, populism, authoritarianism and a push back against human rights in some countries, the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic.

Mr Guterres issued a call to action to countries, businesses and people to help renew and revive human rights across the globe, laying out a seven-point plan amid concerns about climate change, conflict and repression.He said, governments must be transparent, responsive and accountable and stressed that press freedom, civil society organizations, the private sector and civic space are essential.

 

Guterres said any emergency measures — including states of emergency — must be “legal, proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory, have a specific focus and duration, and take the least intrusive approach possible to protect public health.” The report said the best response is proportionate to the immediate threat and protects human rights.

“The message is clear: People — and their rights — must be front and center,” Guterres stressed.

About UNHRC:

Established in 2006 with the aim of promoting and protecting human rights around the globe, as well as investigating alleged human rights violations.

Made up of 47 member states, which are selected by the UN General Assembly on a staggered basis each year for three-year-long terms.

Members meet around three times a year to debate human rights issues and pass non-binding resolutions and recommendations by majority vote.

Members serve for a period of three years and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms.

The council also carries out the Universal Periodic Review of all UN member states, which allows civil society groups to bring accusations of human rights violations in member states to the attention of the UN.

 

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GS-II :
e- GramSwaraj portal and Swamitva Scheme on National Panchayats Day on 24th April

e- GramSwaraj portal and Swamitva Scheme on National Panchayats Day on 24th April

Part of: GS-II- Governance (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address village panchayats across the country  to mark the National Panchayati Raj Day. Mr Modi will also interact with various participants through video conferencing in view of lockdown.

Imp Points 

  1. The Prime Minister will launch a unified e-GramSwaraj Portal and Mobile App on the occasion.
  2. The Unified Portal is a new initiative of Panchayati Raj Ministry which will provide the Gram Panchayats with a single interface to prepare and implement their development plan
  3. Mr. Modi will also launch the Swamitva Scheme which provides for an integrated property validation solution for rural India
  4. Every year, on this occasion, Panchayati Raj  Ministry has been awarding the best performing Panchayats, States and UTs across the country  for their good work in  improving delivery of services and public goods.
    Through the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act- 1992 , the Panchayati Raj had come into force on 24th April, 1993 marking  a defining moment in the history of decentralization of power to the grassroots in the country.

Every year, on this occasion, Ministry of Panchayati Raj has been awarding the best performing Panchayats/States/UTs across the country under the Incentivization of Panchayats in recognition of their good work for improving delivery of services and public goods. This year three such awards viz. Nanaji Deshmukh Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar (NDRGGSP), Child-friendly Gram Panchayat Award (CFGPA) and Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) Award have been finalized which will be shared with the concerned States/ UT.

e-GramSwaraj Portal: E Gram Swaraj portal & app is simplified work-based accounting application for Panchayati Raj. The portal & App will strengthen e-Governance in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) across the country. Ministry of Panchayati Raj has launched e Gram Swaraj Portal, a user-friendly web-based portal. Gram swaraj aims to bring in better transparency in the decentralised planning, progress reporting and work-based accounting. The Unified Portal is a new initiative of Ministry of Panchayati Raj which will provide the Gram Panchayats with a single interface to prepare and implement their Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP).

 

Swamitva Scheme: The scheme provides for an integrated property validation solution for rural India;  the demarcation of inhabited land in rural areas would be done by the use of latest surveying methods – Drone’s technology with the collaborated efforts of the Ministry of Panchayati Raj, State Panchayati Raj Department, State Revenue Department and Survey of India.

 

National Panchayati Raj Day

The Constitution of India recognizes Panchayats as 'Institutions of self government'. There are 2.51 lakh Panchayats in our country, which include 2.39 lakh Gram Panchayats, 6904 Block Panchayats and 589 District Panchayats. There are more than 29 lakh Panchayat representatives. Under the 14th Finance Commission for the period 2015-20, more than 2 lakh crore Rupees is being allocated to Gram Panchayats for 5 years to undertake physical and social infrastructure projects in the villages.

Background

Though the Panchayati Raj Institutions have been in existence for a long time, it has been observed that these institutions have not been able to acquire the status and dignity of viable and responsive people's bodies due to a number of reasons including absence of regular elections, prolonged super sessions, insufficient representation of weaker sections like Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and women, inadequate devolution of powers and lack of financial resources.

The Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 that came into force with effect from 24th April, 1993 has vested constitutional status on Panchayati Raj institutions. This date thus marks a defining moment in the history of decentralization of political power to the grassroots level. The impact of the 73rd Amendment in rural India is very visible as it has changed power equations irreversibly. Accordingly, the Government of India decided in consultation with the States to celebrate 24th April as National Panchayati Raj Day. The commemoration is being anchored by the Ministry of Panchayati Raj. The National Panchayati Raj Day (NPRD) is being celebrated on 24 April since 2010.

National Panchayati Raj Day 2020

Ministry of Panchayati Raj commemorates the National Panchayati Raj Day on 24th April 2020. During the National Panchayat Raj Day event, the following awards were given to the best performing Panchayats.

  • Deen Dayal Upadhyay Panchayat Sashaktikaran Puraskar (DDUPSP) in General and Thematic categories for all three levels of Panchayats.
  • Nanaji Deshmukh Rashtriya Gaurav Gram Sabha Puraskar (NDRGGSP) to Gram Panchayats for outstanding performance of Gram Sabha.
  • Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) Award: To be conferred upon three best performing Gram Panchayats across the country.
  • e-Panchayat Puraskar
  • Child-friendly Gram Panchayat Award
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GS-II : International Relations
COVID-19: China announces additional USD 30 million grants for WHO

COVID-19: China announces additional USD 30 million grants for WHO

China announced an additional  30 million US Dollar grant to the World Health Organization, days after Beijing expressed serious concern over US President Donald Trump's decision to freeze the funding for the global health agency over its handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

The grant will be in addition to the  20 million US Dollars provided by China earlier to the WHO. He said, China will always support the Geneva-based WHO in playing an important role in international public health and global anti-epidemic response.

Both China and the WHO faced serious criticism over lack of transparency especially about the discovery of the Corona virus in December last year and its silent spread in Wuhan until Beijing imposed lockdown in the city on 23rd of January. However, China had denied the allegations of any cover-up, saying it was the first country to report the COVID-19 to the WHO.

 

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GS-II : Governance
Dearness Allowance hike of 4% stalled during COVID19

What is Dearness allowance?

  • DA is an allowance that every government employee gets and is calculated as a proportion of the basic salary. Increases in the allowance is usually announced every six months with effect from January 1 for the January-June period and from July 1 for the June-December period.
  • The announcement of the hike in DA and the payout is usually done in March (for January-June) and September (for July-December). The DA is calculated based on a percentage of the basic salary and is part of the other allowances that a government or a government-owned company’s employee gets. The DA is calculated based on the All-India Consumer Price Index (AICPI) for the past 12 months.
  • The DA portion of salary or pension is frequently merged with the basic amount when it crosses a threshold. This has the effect of the DA being calculated at a higher proportion of the basic salary or pension.
  • Dearness Allowance is paid by the government to its employees as well as a pensioner to offset the impact of inflation. The effective salary of government employees requires constant enhancement to help them cope up with the increasing prices.
  • Despite several measures by the government to control the rate of inflation, only partial success has been achieved because the prices move according to the market. It, therefore, becomes essential for the government to shield its employees from the adverse effects of inflation.
  • As the impact of inflation varies according to the location of the employee, dearness allowance is calculated accordingly. Thus, DA varies from employee to employee based on their presence in the urban, semi-urban or rural sector.

Types of Dearness Allowance

For calculation, DA is divided into two separate categories: Industrial Dearness Allowance and Variable Dearness Allowance.

  1. Industrial Dearness Allowance (IDA) applies to the Public sector employees of Central Government. The Industrial Dearness Allowance for public sector employees undergoes quarterly revision depending on the Consumer Price Index to help offset the impact of rising levels of inflation.
  2. Variable Dearness Allowance (VDA) applies to the employees of the Central Government. It is revised every six months according to the Consumer Price Index to help offset the impact of rising levels of inflation. VDA in itself is dependant on three different components as given below.
  • Base Index – remains fixed for a particular period.
  • Consumer Price Index – impacts VDA as it changes every month.

Variable DA amount that has been fixed by the Government remains fixed unless the government revises the basic minimum wages.

Role of Pay Commissions in the calculation of Dearness Allowance

  • The pay commission must evaluate and change the salaries of public sector employees based on the various components that make up the final salary of an employee. Therefore, DA is also considered by the Pay Commissions while preparing the subsequent pay commission report.
  • It is the responsibility of the pay commissions to take into account every factor that helps with the calculation of the salaries. This also includes the periodic reviewing and updating the multiplication factor for calculation of DA.

Dearness Allowance for Pensioners

  • Pensioners, in this case, are those retired employees of the central government who are eligible for either the individual or family pension from the government. Every time the Pay Commission rolls out a new salary structure, the change is also reflected in the pension of the retired employee. Likewise, if the Dearness Allowance is changed by a particular percentage, the pension of the retired personnel is revised accordingly.

Changes in DA during COVID-19

  • The Union government announced a hike of four per cent in dearness allowance (DA). The DA has been hiked from 17 per cent to 21 per cent on March 13, 2020 . The decision will be effective from January 1, 2020.
  • In view of the crisis arising out of Covid-19, it has been decided that the additional installment of dearness allowance (DA) payable to central government employees and dearness relief (DR) to central government pensioners, due from 1st January, 2020 shall not be paid. Additional installments of DA & DR from 1 July 2020 & 1 Jan 2021 shall also not be paid.
  • However, dearness allowance and dearness relief at current rates will continue to be paid.
  • As and when the decision to release the future installment of DA and DR due from July 2021 is taken by the government, the rates will be restored prospectively and will be subsumed in the cumulative revised rate effective 1st July 2021. The government will not pay any arrears for the period in between 1st January 2020 and 30th June 2021.

 

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GS-II :
Supreme court guidelines on prison reforms

PRISON REFORMS

  • 'Prisons'/'persons detained therein' is a State subject under Entry 4 of List II of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India. Administration and management of prisons is the responsibility of respective State Governments. However, the Ministry of Home Affairs provides regular guidance and advice to States and UTs on various issues concerning prisons and prison inmates.

Supreme Court guidelines for prison reforms:

The National Crime Records Bureau’s numbers till 31 December 2014, quoted in the order, show that central jails housed 184,386 prisoners as opposed to their capacity of 152,312 and district jails held 179,695 against a capacity of 135,439.

The Supreme Court on Friday kicked off prison reforms with an order directing authorities to ensure quarterly reviews of undertrials, computerization of prisons and providing facilities to ensure prisoners are treated with dignity.

  • The court asked Undertrial Review Committees in all districts to meet every quarter.
  • Treat prisoners with dignity. The Supreme Court has been saying this since (the case of) Sunil Batra (1980).
  • In 2014, a Supreme Court bench ordered strict implementation of the provision of the Criminal Procedure Code which prescribes release of undertrials who have served half their sentence.
  • For the release of undertrials, the court asked Undertrial Review Committees in all districts to meet every quarter.
  • The court went on to state that no undertrial should languish in jail for want of bail money. According to the order, 3,470 prisoners had not been released because they failed to furnish bail bonds.
  • In a step to extend reforms to juvenile homes, the court advised that a document similar to the Model Prison Manual be prepared for juvenile observation homes and safety homes.
  • It called for an annual review of the implementation of the Model Prison Manual and said that it should not be reduced to just another document.

 

Note:

The Model Prison Manual is a document prepared by the home ministry dealing with various incidental issues including custodial management, medical care, education of prisoners, vocational training and skill development programmes, legal aid, welfare of prisoners, after-care and rehabilitation, and prison computerization.

 

 

  • The court, in its directions, also touched upon the need to provide quality legal aid to prisoners by empanelling “competent lawyers".  The court said that it should be ensured that “legal aid for the poor does not become poor legal aid".
  • It also said that police personnel in charge of prisons should ensure effective utilisation of funds allocated to them for improving living conditions of prisoners.
  • Pushing for computerization, the court directed that a management information system be set in place in all central and district jails so that there is better handling of prisons and prisoners.

 

 

 

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Remittances likely to plunge 23%: World Bank

Remittances likely to plunge 23%: World Bank

Part of: GS-III- Economy (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The World Bank has said that remittances to India are likely to drop by 23 per cent from 83 billion US Dollars last year to 64 billion US Dollars this year due to the Corona virus pandemic, which has resulted in a global recession.

According to a World Bank report on the impact of the COVID-19 on migration and remittances, the remittances are projected to decline sharply by about 20 per cent this year due to the economic crisis induced by the pandemic and shutdowns due to out break of Novel Corona virus.

The projected fall, which would be the sharpest decline in recent history, is largely due to a fall in the wages and employment of migrant workers, who tend to be more vulnerable to loss of employment and wages during an economic crisis in a host country.

World Bank Group President David Malpass (PT) said, remittances are a vital source of income for developing countries and they help families afford food, health care and basic needs.

 

Data:

  • In 2019, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), commonly known as developing countries, received around $554 billion in remittance flows, a larger amount than all the foreign direct investment (FDI) flowing into those countries that year (excluding China).
  • World Bank predicts remittances will decline 19.7% in 2020, to $445 billion.
  • Families in developing countries are often reliant on the income generated by remittances, with some 800 million people living in households that receive them
  • In India, remittances for 2020 are projected to fall by 23% to $64 billion.
  • Remittances to low- and middle-income countries reached a record high in 2018.
  • Among countries, the top remittance recipients were India with $79 billion, followed by China ($67 billion), Mexico ($36 billion), the Philippines ($34 billion), and Egypt ($29 billion).

 

Importance of remittances for India:

  • It is a vital source of income for financing household and family expenses.
  • Higher remittances improve nutritional outcomes by increasing investments in higher education.
  • It is important to address poverty and hunger in the country.
  • To achieve its SDGs particularly SDG-1,2,5,6,10.
  • RBI forex reserve
  • Current account deficit and strengthening of rupee
  • Tax and revenue of the government

 

Remittances

  • Remittances are usually understood as financial or in-kind transfers made by migrants to friends and relatives back in communities of origin.
  • These are basically sum of two main components - Personal Transfers in cash or in kind between resident and non-resident households and Compensation of Employees, which refers to the income of workers who work in another country for a limited period of time.
  • Remittances help in stimulating economic development in recipient countries, but this can also make such countries over-reliant on them.

World Bank’s Migration and Development Brief

  • This is prepared by the Migration and Remittances Unit, Development Economics (DEC)- the premier research and data arm of the World Bank. .
  • The brief aims to provide an update on key developments in the area of migration and remittance flows and related policies over the past six months.
  • It also provides medium-term projections of remittance flows to developing countries..
  • The brief is produced twice a year

 

About World bank

With 189 member countries, the World Bank Group is a unique global partnership: five institutions working for sustainable solutions that reduce poverty and build shared prosperity in developing countries.

The Bank Group works with country governments, the private sector, civil society organizations, regional development banks, think tanks, and other international institutions on issues ranging from climate change, conflict, and food security to education, agriculture, finance, and trade.

A Group of Institutions

Together, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and International Development Association (IDA) form the World Bank, which provides financing, policy advice, and technical assistance to governments of developing countries. While the World Bank Group consists of five development institutions.

  • International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) provides loans, credits, and grants.
  • International Development Association (IDA) provides low- or no-interest loans to low-income countries.
  • The International Finance Corporation (IFC) provides investment, advice, and asset management to companies and governments.
  • The Multilateral Guarantee Agency (MIGA) insures lenders and investors against political risk such as war.
  • The International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) settles investment-disputes between investors and countries.

All of these efforts support the Bank Group’s twin goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity of the poorest 40% of the population in all countries.

 

  • The Bretton Woods Conference, officially known as the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, was a gathering of delegates from 44 nations that met from July 1 to 22, 1944 in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire (USA), to agree upon a series of new rules for international financial and monetary order after the conclusion of World War II.
  • The two major accomplishments of the conference were the creation of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • Founded in 1944, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) — soon called the World Bank — has expanded to a closely associated group of five development institutions.
  • Originally, its loans helped rebuild countries devastated by World War II. In time, the focus shifted from reconstruction to development, with a heavy emphasis on infrastructure such as dams, electrical grids, irrigation systems, and roads.
  • With the founding of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in 1956, the institution became able to lend to private companies and financial institutions in developing countries.
  • Founding of the International Development Association (IDA) in 1960 put greater emphasis on the poorest countries, part of a steady shift toward the eradication of poverty becoming the Bank Group’s primary goal.
  • International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) founded in 1966 settles investment disputes between investors and countries.
  • Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) founded in 1988 insures lenders and investors against political risk such as war.
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GS-III : Economic Issues
Alternative Academic Calendar for classes 6 to 8

Alternative Academic Calendar for classes 6 to 8

Part of: GS-II- Education (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Human Resource Development Minister released Alternative Academic Calendar for the upper primary stage, Classes 6 to 8 in New Delhi. The alternative academic calendars at primary and upper primary stage have been developed by the NCERT under the guidance of the MHRD to engage students meaningfully during their stay at home due to COVID-19.

Imp Points

  1. This Calendar provides guidelines to teachers on the use of various technological tools and social media tools available for imparting education in fun-filled, interesting ways.
  2. Very soon all the remaining classes 9 to 12 and subject areas will be covered under this calendar.
  3. This Calendar will empower the students, teachers and parents to find out positive ways to deal with COVID-19 using on-line teaching-learning resources.
  4. The calendar contains week-wise plan consisting of interesting and challenging activities, with reference to theme and chapter taken from the textbook.
  5. Most importantly, it maps the themes with the learning outcomes.
  6. The purpose of mapping is to facilitate teachers and parents to assess the progress in the learning of children and also to go beyond textbooks.
  7. It also covers experiential learning activities such as Arts education, physical exercises and yoga.
  8. This Calendar contains class-wise and subject-wise activities in tabular forms.
  9. It includes activities related to four languages - Hindi English, Urdu and Sanskrit.
  10. This calendar also gives space to the strategies of reducing stress and anxiety among teachers, students and parents.

 

About NCERT

The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is an autonomous organisation of the Government of India which was established in 1961 as a literary, scientific and charitable Society under the Societies' Registration Act (Act XXI of 1860). Its headquarters are located at New Delhi. Dr. Hrushikesh Senapaty is director of the council since September 2015.

The Government of India's Ministry of Education resolved on 27 July 1961 to establish the National Council of Educational Research and Training, which formally began operation on 1 September 1961. The Council was formed by merging seven existing national government institutions, namely the Central Institute of Education, the Central Bureau of Textbook Research, the Central Bureau of Educational and Vocational Guidance, the Directorate of Extension Programmes for Secondary Education, the National Institute of Basic Education, the National Fundamental Education Centre, and the National Institute of Audio-Visual Education. It is separate from the National Council for Teacher Education.

The NCERT was established with the agenda to design and support a common system of education which is national in character and also enables and encourages the diverse culture across the country. Based on the recommendations of the Education Commission(1964-66), the first national policy statement on education was issued in 1968. The policy endorsed the adoption of a uniform pattern of school education across country consisting of 10 years of general education program followed by 2 years of diversified schooling.

The Curriculum for the Ten-year school

This framework came in 1975. It emphasised that a curriculum based on the principles laid out in the framework has to be developed on the basis of research. Thus for NCERT, the 1970s was a decade flushed with curriculum research and development activities to relate the content and process of education to Indian realities.

National Curriculum for Elementary and Secondary Education

This revised curriculum framework came in 1988 after the National Policy on Education (1986).It encompassed 12 years of school education and suggested a reorientation of curricular and instructional materials to make them more child-centred. It advocated bringing out examination reforms and the implementation of Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation at all stages of education.

National Curriculum Framework for School Education

This framework came in 2000. It stressed the need for a healthy, enjoyable and stress-free childhood and reduction of the curricular load. Thus an integrated and thematic approach was suggested, environmental education was emphasized upon and language and mathematics got integrated in the first two years of schooling.

National Curriculum Framework: The council came up with a new National Curriculum Framework in 2005, drafted by a National Steering Committee. This exercise was based on 5 guiding principles:

  1. Connecting knowledge to life outside school
  2. Shift from the rote method of learning
  3. Enriching the curriculum for overall development of children so that it goes beyond textbooks
  4. Making examinations flexible and integrating them with classroom life and
  5. Nurturing an identity informed by caring concerns.

Objectives

The council's objectives are:

  • To promote and conduct educational research, experimentation of innovative ideas and practice.
  • To develop National Curriculum Framework (NCF 2005), syllabi, and textbooks; teaching-learning materials and kits; training models and strategies; audio, video, and ICT materials.
  • Training of Pre-service and in-service teacher education and national and state level functionaries.
  • To collaborate with State, national and international organizations.
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GS-III :
Biosafety Labs

Mobile BSL-3 VRDL Lab

  • The Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) in collaboration with labour ministry governed ESIC medical college & hospital, Sanathnagar (Hyderabad) has developed India's first COVID-19 sample collection mobile lab named “Mobile BSL-3 VRDL Lab”
  • Approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the lab was launched on Thursday by defence minister Rajnath Singh.
  • The efforts of DRDO and ESIC in setting up of this bio-safety Level 2 and Level 3 lab in a record time of 15 days which usually takes about six months time.
  • The first of such Mobile Viral Research Lab (MVRL) that will speed up COVID-19 screening and related R&D activities was developed by Research Centre Imarat (RCI), the Hyderabad based laboratory of DRDO in consultation with ESIC Hospital, Hyderabad.
  • The Mobile Viral Research Lab is the combination of a BSL 3 lab and a BSL 2 lab essential to carry out the activities. The labs are built as per WHO and ICMR Bio-safety standards to meet international guidelines. The system has built in electrical controls, LAN, Telephone cabling, and CCTV.
  • The Mobile Lab will be helpful to carry out diagnosis of COVID-19 and also virus culturing for drug screening, Convalescent plasma derived therapy, comprehensive immune profiling of COVID-19 patients towards vaccine development early clinical trials specific to Indian population.
  • The lab screens 1000-2000 samples per day.
  • This lab can be positioned anywhere in the country, as per requirement.

What are Biosafety Labs 1,2,3,4  (BSL 1,2,3,4) ?

Biological Safety Levels (BSL) are a series of protections relegated to autoclave-related activities that take place in particular biological labs. They are individual safeguards designed to protect laboratory personnel, as well as the surrounding environment and community.

These levels, which are ranked from one to four, are selected based on the agents or organisms that are being researched or worked on in any given laboratory setting. For example, a basic lab setting specializing in the research of nonlethal agents that pose a minimal potential threat to lab workers and the environment are generally considered BSL-1—the lowest biosafety lab level. A specialized research laboratory that deals with potentially deadly infectious agents like Ebola would be designated as BSL-4—the highest and most stringent level.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sets BSL lab levels as a way of exhibiting specific controls for the containment of microbes and biological agents. Each BSL lab level builds upon on the previous level—thereby creating layer upon layer of constraints and barriers. These lab levels are determined by the following

  • Risks related to containment
  • Severity of infection
  • Transmissibility
  • Nature of the work conducted
  • Origin of the microbe
  • Agent in question
  • Route of exposure

 

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GS-III :
Nano-Science & Technology Mission (NSTM)

Context:

  • As part of Nano Mission programme, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has approved support for upscaling an antiviral nano-coatings developed by Professor Ashwini Kumar Agrawal of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi for use as appropriate material for producing anti-COVID-19 Triple Layer Medical masks and N-95 respirator in large quantities.
  • Silver is known to have strong antimicrobial activity against bacteria, viruses, fungus, and so on.

 

Nano-Science & Technology Mission (NSTM)

The Government of India launched the Nano Mission in 2007 under the Department of Science and Technology. The Ministry of Science and Technology allocated upto 1000 crores to this mission in order to fulfil its following objectives:

  • Basic Promotion of Nanotechnology
  • Infrastructure Development
  • Establishment of R&D in Nanoscience Applications
  • Establishment of Development Centre for Nanosciences
  • Human Development in Nanotechnology
  • International Collaborations

India has been able to rank amongst the top 5 countries in the world for Scientific Publications in Nanoscience & Technology due to the efforts led by the Nano Mission.

The Nano Mission has established national dialogues to promote R&D in the development of standards for nanotechnology and for laying down a National Regulatory Framework Road-Map for Nanotechnology (NRFR-Nanotech).

Nanotechnology

  • Nanotechnology (also called nanotech) is the technology that involves the manipulation of matter on atomic, molecular and supramolecular scales. This includes particles of a scale 1 to 100 nanometers.  
  • The invention of the Atomic Force Microscope (AFM) made it possible for nanotechnology to become reality. Nanotechnology has come a long way since then and now affects many industries. It is an interdisciplinary field converging many streams of engineering and science.
  • This technology grew beyond boundaries in this century, because of its quantum size and variety of applications in medical science, space, telecommunications, food processing and environmental protection fields.
  • Nanotechnology promotional activities are carried out as a part of the Nano Science and Technology Initiative (NSTI).

 

Nano-Science & Technology Initiative (NSTI)

  • To create the background and infrastructure for R&D in nano-science & technology, Nano-Science & Technology Initiative (NSTI) have been rolled out in the time period of 2001 to 2006 by Department of Science and Technology (DST). Across India, 19 Centres of Excellence have been established for research, development and applications of nanotechnology.

 

Approval for the Second Phase of NSTM

  • The Union Cabinet gave its clearance for the continuation of the NSTM in its second phase in the 12th plan period at a cost of Rs. 650 crores. Announcing the Cabinet decision, an official statement noted that as a result of the efforts led by the mission, India has moved from the fourth to the third position in the world in terms of scientific publications in nano-science and technology.
  • The Nano mission, in this new phase, will make greater effort to promote application-oriented R&D so that some useful products, processes and technologies also emerge. It will be steered by a ‘Nano Mission Council’ chaired by an eminent scientist.

COVID-19 Nano Coating

The Department of Science and Technology and the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) called for a Short-term Research Grant for Nano Coating COVID-19 in April 2020.

This rapid project was necessary for the emerging health care requirements in order to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic. The goals of the project are to focus on the following areas:

  1. Antiviral Nano-coatings
  • It will be coated/used on the appropriate material for producing anti-COVID-19 Triple Layer Medical masks and N-95 respirator or better masks in large quantities.

 

  1. All components of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • PPEs are used for safeguarding the health of all health care workers against COVID-19.
  • The department will deal with industrial partners for scaling up production.

Project duration should be for a maximum of up to 1 year with a maximum budget limit of Rs. 25-30 lakhs (including overheads) for developing the Nano-coating and new nano-based material for the components of PPE, which can be transferred to the partnering Industry or a Start-up.

 

ICONSAT 2020

The International Conference on NanoScience and NanoTechnology (ICONSAT) is a series of biennial international conferences held in India under the aegis of the Nano Mission, Department of Science and Technology (DST).

Objectives of ICONSAT

  • Bringing out Cutting-Edge Nano Technology for the development of Physics, Chemistry and Material domains.
  • Integration of 5Ms – Mechanical, Material, Machines, Manufacturing and Manpower with the help of NanoScience and NT.
  • Integration of NT with Sustainable Development.
  • Emphasizing the need to create a network of experts in nano-science and to collaborate the knowledge across sectors like energy, agriculture, transport, health and so on.
  • Providing a potential platform for young researchers and students from within the country and abroad to keep pace with the latest development in the emerging areas of Nano Science and Technology.

The International Conference on NanoScience and NanoTechnology (ICONSAT) 2020 was organized during 5th-7th March at Kolkata (West Bengal)

 

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Fitch ratings slashes India’s economic growth

Fitch ratings slashes India’s economic growth projection to 0.8% in current fiscal

The leading credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings has slashed India's economic growth projections to 0.8 per cent in the current fiscal saying an unparalleled global recession was underway due to disruptions caused by the outbreak of Corona virus pandemic and resultant lockdowns.  

In its Global Economic Outlook, Fitch Ratings said India's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth will slip to 0.8 per cent for the year April 2020 to March 2021 as compared to an estimated 4.9 per cent growth in the previous fiscal. Growth is, however, expected to rebound to 6.7 per cent in 2021-22.

Fitch said, the slump in growth was mainly due to a projected fall in consumer spending and contraction in fixed investment. The agency has further made large cuts to global GDP forecasts in its latest Global Economic Outlook (GEO) in response to Corona virus-related lockdown extensions and incoming data flows.

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC)

Context:

  • When the country was struggling hard with deadly Corona virus, Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), an autonomous body under Ministry of MSME, in collaboration with its Khadi Institutions (KIs) in Tamil Nadu has discharged its responsibility once again by purchasing cocoons from cocoon farmers.
  • The main objectives of KVIC was to help the cocoon farmers struggling to sell their crop due to lock down pandemic outbreak and secondly to ensure continuous supply of Cocoons to the khadi institutions involved in Silk production.

Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC)

  • The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC) is a statutory body formed in April 1957 by the Government of India, under the Act of Parliament, 'Khadi and Village Industries Commission Act of 1956'.
  • It is an apex organisation under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, with regard to khadi and village industries within India, which seeks to - "plan, promote, facilitate, organise and assist in the establishment and development of khadi and village industries in the rural areas in coordination with other agencies engaged in rural development wherever necessary.
  • In April 1957, it took over the work of former All India Khadi and Village Industries Board.
  • Its head office is in Mumbai , whereas its six zonal offices in Delhi, Bhopal, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai and Guwahati. Other than its zonal offices, it has offices in 28 states for the implementation of its various programmes

The main objectives of KVIC include:

(i) The social objectives or providing employment in rural areas;

(ii) The economic objectives of producing saleable articles, and

(iii) The wider objective of creating self-reliance amongst people and building up a strong rural community spirit.

In order to attract younger generation, the KVIC is holding exhibitions, seminars, lectures in over 120 universities and colleges throughout the country so as to disseminate knowledge of KVI products.

Moreover, to create a market-niche for eco-friendly pure and bio-degradable natural products, the KVIC has introduced two new brands viz., “Sarvodaya” and “Khadi”.

The KVIC has worked out a plan to supply KVI products in a big way to Central and State Government organisations. Plans are afoot to set up show windows in Indian Missions abroad as well as to open Khadi Gramodyog Bhawans in Australia, Germany, U.K., U.S.A., Canada, Dubai and Singapore.

 

Prime Minister's Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP)

  • Government of India has approved the introduction of a new credit linked subsidy programme called Prime Minister's Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP) by merging the two schemes that were in operation till 31.03.2008, namely Prime Minister's Rojgar Yojana (PMRY) and Rural Employment Generation Programme (REGP) for generation of employment opportunities through establishment of micro enterprises in rural as well as urban areas.
  • PMEGP is a central sector scheme administered by the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MoMSME).
  • At the national level, the Scheme is being implemented by Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), a statutory organization under the administrative control of the Ministry of MSME as the single nodal agency.
  • At the State level, the Scheme will be implemented through State KVIC Directorates, State Khadi and Village Ind ustries Boards (KVIBs) and District Industries Centres (DICs) and banks.
  • The Government subsidy under the Scheme will be routed by KVIC through the identified Banks for eventual distribution to the beneficiaries / entrepreneurs in their Bank accounts.
  • The Implementing Agencies, namely KVIC, KVIBs and DICs will associate reputed Non Government Organization (NGOs)/reputed autonomous institutions/Self Help Groups (SHGs) / National Small Industries Corporation (NSIC) / Udyami Mitras empanelled under Rajiv Gandhi Udyami Mitra Yojana (RGUMY), Panchayati Raj institutions and other relevant bodies in the implementation of the Scheme, especially in the area of identification of beneficiaries, of area specific viable projects, and providing training in entrepreneurship development.

Objectives

  • To generate continuous and sustainable employment opportunities in Rural and Urban areas of the country
  • To provide continuous and sustainable employment to a large segment of traditional and prospective artisans, rural and urban unemployed youth in the country through setting up of micro enterprises.
  • To facilitate participation of financial institutions for higher credit flow to micro sector.

Eligibility

  • Individuals above 18 years of age
  • VIII Std. pass required for project above Rs.10.00 lakhs in manufacturing and above Rs. 5.00 lakhs for Service Sector
  • Self Help Groups and Charitable Trusts
  • Institutions Registered under Societies Registration Act- 1860
  • Production based Co-operative Societies

Salient features of the scheme

  • The Scheme is implemented through KVIC and State/UT Khadi & V.I. Boards in Rural areas and through District Industries Centres in Urban and Rural areas in ratio of 30:30:40 between KVIC / KVIB / DIC respectively.
  • No income ceiling for setting up of projects.
  • Assistance under the Scheme is available only to new units to be established.
  • Existing units or units already availed any Govt. Subsidy either under State/Central Govt. Schemes are not eligible.
  • Any industry including Coir Based projects excluding those mentioned in the negative list.
  • Per capita investment should not exceed Rs. 1.00 lakhs in plain areas and Rs. 1.50 lakhs in Hilly areas.
  • Maximum project cost of Rs. 25.00 lakhs in manufacturing sector and Rs. 10.00 lakhs in Service Sector.
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GS-III : Economic Issues
Horticulture - Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH)

Horticulture - Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH)

Part of: GS-III- Economy (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

Recently, Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare released the Third Advanced Estimate (2018-19) of Area and Production of various Horticulture Crops. As per the report, the total horticulture production in the country is estimated to be 313.85 million tonnes which is 0.69% higher than the horticulture production of 311.71 million tonnes in 2017-18. The area under horticulture crops has increased to 25.49 million hectares in 2018-19 from 25.43 million hectares in 2017-18.

 

What is Horticulture?

  • Horticulture is the branch of agriculture concerned with intensively cultured plants directly used by man for food, medicinal purposes and aesthetic gratification.
  • In simpler words, it is cultivation, production and sale of vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs, ornamental or exotic plants.
  • The term Horticulture is derived from the Latin words hortus (garden) and cult?ra (cultivation).
  • L.H. Bailey is considered the Father of American Horticulture and M.H. Marigowda is considered the Father of Indian Horticulture.

Classification

  • Pomology: Planting, harvesting, storing, processing, and marketing of fruit and nut crops.
  • Olericulture: Producing and marketing vegetables.
  • Arboriculture: Study, selection and care of individual trees, shrubs or other perennial woody plants.
  • Ornamental Horticulture: It has two subparts-
    • Floriculture: Production, use and marketing of floral crops.
    • Landscape Horticulture: Production and marketing of plants used to beautify the outdoor environment.

Features of Horticulture in India

  • Horticulture sector has become one of the major drivers of growth as it is more remunerative than the agricultural sector (food grains mainly).
  • This sector provides employment possibilities across primary, secondary and tertiary sectors.
  • Horticulture crops, fruits are more resilient to change in weather conditions and the vegetables augment the income of small and marginal farmers.
  • Water utilisation is very low, minimising the risk of crop failure and it can be done on smaller farms.
  • Multiple crops are planted simultaneously to get more yield and to use the maximum of the fertilisers.
  • This sector enables the population to eat a diverse and balanced diet for a healthy lifestyle.
  • It became a key driver for economic development in many of the states in the country where Division of Horticulture of Indian Council of Agricultural Research is playing a pivotal role.

Indian Council of Agricultural Resource (ICAR)

  • An autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE).
  • Formerly known as Imperial Council of Agricultural Research, it was established on 16 July 1929.
  • Headquartered at New Delhi.
  • It is the apex body for coordinating, guiding and managing research and education in agriculture including horticulture, fisheries and animal sciences in the entire country.

 

Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture

Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme for the holistic growth of the horticulture sector covering fruits, vegetables, root & tuber crops, mushrooms, spices, flowers, aromatic plants, coconut, cashew, cocoa and bamboo.

While Government of India (GOI) contributes 85% of total outlay for developmental programmes in all the states except the states in North East and Himalayas, 15% share is contributed by State Governments. In the case of North Eastern States and Himalayan States, GOI contribution is 100%. Similarly, for development of bamboo and programmes of National Horticulture Board (NHB), Coconut Development Board (CDB), Central Institute for Horticulture (CIH), Nagaland and the National Level Agencies (NLA), GOI contribution will be 100%.

Main objectives of Mission

  1. Promote holistic growth of horticulture sector, including bamboo and coconut through area based regionally differentiated strategies, which includes research, technology promotion, extension, post harvest management, processing and marketing, in consonance with comparative advantage of each State/region and its diverse agro-climatic features;
  2. Encourage aggregation of farmers into farmer groups like FIGs/FPOs and FPCs to bring economy of scale and scope.
  3. Enhance horticulture production, augment farmers, income and strengthen nutritional security;
  4. Improve productivity by way of quality germplasm, planting material and water use efficiency through Micro Irrigation.
  5. Support skill development and create employment generation opportunities for rural youth in horticulture and post harvest management, especially in the cold chain sector

Sub-schemes and area of operation

Sl. No.

Sub Scheme

Target group / area of operation

1

National Horticulture Mission (NHM)

All states & UTs except states in NE and Himalayan Region.

2

Horticulture Mission for North East & Himalayan States (HMNEH)

All states in NE and Himalayan Region - Arunachal Pradesh,

Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Tripura,

Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu & Kashmir

3

National Bamboo Mission (NBM)

All states & UTs

4

National Horticulture Board (NHB)

All states & UTs focusing on commercial horticulture

5

Coconut Development Board (CDB)

All States and UTs where coconut is grown

6

Central Institute for Horticulture (CIH)

NE states, focusing on HRD and capacity building.

Activities for which financial assistance is provided

Under MIDH, financial assistance is provided for following major interventions/activities:

  • Setting up of nurseries, tissue culture units for production of quality seed and planting material.
  • Area expansion i.e. Establishment of new orchards and gardens for fruits, vegetables, and flowers. · Rejuvenation of unproductive, old, and senile orchards.
  • Protected cultivation, i.e. poly-house, green-house, etc, to improve the productivity & grow off season high value vegetables and flowers.
  • Organic farming and certification.
  • Creation of water resources structures and watershed management.
  • Bee-keeping for pollination.
  • Horticulture Mechanization.
  • Creation of Post Harvest Management and Marketing infrastructure.

Key elements of the mission

  1. Base line survey
  2. Involvement of Panchayati Raj institutions
  3. Area based Annual and Perspective Plans based on end to end approach with backward and forward linkages
  4. Applied Research with focus on Region
  5. Demand driven production based on cluster approach
  6. Availability of quality seeds and planting material
  7. Technology driven programmes to improve productivity and quality, e.g.
    • Introduction of improved varieties.
    • Rejuvenation with improved cultivars.
    • High Density Plantations.
    • Use of Plastics.
    • Beekeeping for cross pollination
    • Capacity building of farmers and personnel
    • Mechanization
    • Demonstration of latest technologies
  8. Post Harvest Management and cold chain
  9. Marketing infrastructure development
  10. Meticulous reporting and monitoring
  11. Data base generation, compilation and analysis
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GS-III : Economic Issues
National Policy on Marine Fisheries, 2017

National Policy on Marine Fisheries, 2017

  • In April 2017, Government of India has notified the 'National Policy on Marine Fisheries, 2017' (NPMF), which provides guidance for promoting 'Blue Growth Initiative' which focus on ushering 'Blue Revolution' (NeeliKranti) by sustainable utilization of fisheries wealth from the marine and other aquatic resources of the country for improving the lives and livelihoods of fishermen and their families.
  • Government of India envisages bringing out a National Fisheries Policy for holistic development of the fisheries sector.
  • The proposed policy would incorporate the provisions of the existing National Policy on Marine Fisheries, 2017 and will provide for policy provisions for the sub-sectors of inland fisheries, aquaculture, mariculture including elements of postharvest.
  • Given the cross-cutting nature of various fisheries sub-sectors, it is considered that an integrated National Fisheries Policy would better serve the public interest rather than individual sub-sector wise policies. Allocation of funds is usually made under the schemes and programmes implemented by the Government in line with the Policy directives.
  • The Government has allocated Rs.560 crore for continuation of ‘Blue Revolution Scheme’ during financial year 2020-21 for undertaking various ongoing fisheries development programmes including marine fishery, aquaculture and mariculture.
  • Besides, the Government has created the Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF) during 2018-19 with a fund size of Rs. 7,522.48 crores spreading over a period of five years.
  • Further the Government, in its Union Budget 2019-20 has announced a new scheme the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) which envisages a total investment of about Rs 20,050 crores which includes central, state and beneficiary shares over a period of five years w.e.f. 2020-21

Marine wealth of India

  • India has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 2.02 million sq.km, a long coastline of 8,118 km and two major groups of Islands, with rich and diverse marine living resources.
  • Marine fisheries wealth is estimated at an annual harvestable potential of 4.412 million metric tonnes.
  • An estimated 4.0 million people depend for their livelihoods on the marine fisheries resources.
  • The marine fisheries contribute to an economic wealth valued at about Rs. 65,000 crores.
  • Marine fisheries of the country are highly diverse but predominantly comprising small - scale and artisanal fishers.

Mission

  • While keeping sustainability of the resources at the core of all actions, the policy framework will meet the national, social and economic goals, livelihood sustainability and socio-economic upliftment of the fisher community and is intended to guide the coordination and management of marine fisheries in the country during the next ten years.

Strategy

  • The overall strategy of the NPMF, 2017 is based on seven pillars, namely sustainable development, socio - economic upliftment of fishers, principle of subsidiarity, partnership, inter-generational equity, gender justice and precautionary approach. These seven pillars will guide the actions of various stakeholders in meeting the vision and mission set for the marine fisheries sector of the country.

 

SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters)

  • The Central Sector Scheme - SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters) was approved by the cabinet in May 2017 for the period of 2016-20 coterminous with the 14th Finance Commission cycle. The scheme has now been renamed as the "Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY)".
  • It is an umbrella scheme incorporating ongoing schemes of the Ministry like Mega Food Parks, Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure, Food Safety and Quality Assurance Infrastructure, etc. and also new schemes like Infrastructure for Agro-processing Clusters, Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages, Creation / Expansion of Food Processing & Preservation Capacities.

Objective

The objective of PMKSY is to supplement agriculture, modernize processing and decrease Agri-Waste.

Schemes to be implemented

  • Mega Food Parks
  • Integrated Cold Chain, Value Addition and Preservation Infrastructure
  • Creation/Expansion of Food Processing/Preservation Capacities
  • Infrastructure for Agro Processing Clusters
  • Scheme for Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages
  • Food Safety & Quality Assurance Infrastructure
  • Human Resources and Institutions
  • Financial Allocation

PMKSY with an allocation of Rs. 6,000 crore is expected to leverage investment of Rs. 31,400 crore, handling of 334 lakh MT agro-produce valuing Rs. 1,04,125 crore, benefit 20 lakh farmers and generate 5,30,500 direct/ indirect employment in the country by the year 2019-20.

Impact

  • The implementation of PMKSY will result in creation of modern infrastructure with efficient supply chain management from farm gate to retail outlet.
  • It will provide a big boost to the growth of food processing sector in the country.
  • It will help in providing better prices to farmers and is a big step towards doubling of farmers’ income.
  • It will create huge employment opportunities especially in the rural areas.
  • It will also help in reducing wastage of agricultural produce, increasing the processing level, availability of safe and convenient processed foods at affordable price to consumers and enhancing the export of the processed foods.

Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana:

  • PM Matsya Sampada Yojana 2019 is to promote aquaculture. The govt. has already constituted a separate department for integrated development of fisheries. The central govt. has also created a special fund to develop infrastructure related to fishing industry. This fund would be used for creation of fisheries infrastructure facilities both in marine and inland fisheries sectors.
  • The central govt. has targeted to augment fish production to achieve its target of 15 million tonne by FY 2020 would be done under Blue Revolution.
  • The govt. would further raise the target to 20 million tonnes by FY 2022-23. FIDF fund would be used to attract private investment in creation and management of infrastructure facilities. Moreover, govt. will also focus on acquisition of the state-of-the-art technologies.
  • FIDF is going to provide concessional finance to state govt, cooperatives, individuals and entrepreneurs. This finance would be used to take up identified investment activities of fisheries development. Under FIDF, loan lending would be over a period of five years from 2018-19 to 2022-23. The maximum repayment will be over a period of 12 years inclusive of moratorium of 2 years on repayment of principal.
  • Through the Scheme the Department of Fisheries will establish a robust fisheries management framework.
  • This will address critical gaps in strengthening the value chain, including infrastructure, modernization, traceability, production, productivity, post-harvest management, and quality control
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GS-III :
Inauguration of MVRDL to test COVID-19 samples

Inauguration of MVRDL to test COVID-19 samples

Defence Minister inaugurated a Mobile Virology Research and Diagnostics Laboratory (MVRDL) through video conference to test COVID-19 samples. It has been developed by Defence Research and Development Organization- DRDO in association with ESIC Hospital, Hyderabad and Private industry.
The Mobile Viral Research Lab is the combination of a BSL 3 lab and a BSL 2 lab essential to carry out the activities. The labs are built as per WHO and ICMR Bio-safety standards to meet international guidelines. The Mobile Lab will be helpful to carry out diagnosis of COVID-19 and also virus culturing for drug screening, and comprehensive immune profiling of COVID-19 patients towards vaccine development. This lab can be positioned anywhere in the country, as per requirement.

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GS-II : International Relations
Pakistan receives USD 1.39 billion

Pakistan receives USD 1.39 billion emergency loan from IMF to deal with Corona virus crisis

Pakistan has received an emergency loan of 1.39 billion US Dollars from the International Monetary Fund to boost its foreign exchange reserves in the wake of the further economic downturn due to the Corona virus crisis.
Earlier, Pakistan requested the global money lender for a low-cost, fast-disbursing loan under its Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to deal with the adverse economic impact of COVID-19.The RFI is used to provide financial assistance to IMF member countries facing an urgent balance of payments need without requiring them to put a full-fledged programme in place. The  1.39 billion US Dollar loan is in addition to the six billion US Dollar bailout package that Pakistan has signed with the IMF in July last year to stave off a balance of payment crisis.

Pakistan has also approached other multilateral donors for additional funds to fight the pandemic and its economic implications. The World Bank has earlier approved one billion US Dollars and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) 1.5 billion US Dollars for Pakistan to keep its economy afloat.

 

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GS-II :
The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC)

UNHRC

Part of: GS-II- International Organisation (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) was founded in 2006 as a substitute to UN Commission on Human Rights which was being continuously abashed for having states with notorious records of human right violation as its members. 12 years later, the UNHRC is seemingly meeting with the same fate as it has members like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Philippines on its board and is accused of keeping mum on grave issues like Russian occupation of Ukraine, human rights violation in Cuba among others. Recently, one of the founding members of the commission, US withdrew from UNHRC citing its ineffectiveness and bias.
In this context, it is important that we take a look at the viability of this body in the upkeep of human rights in the world.

The Mandate and Functioning

  • The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world.
  • The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis from 5 groups.
  • To become a member, a country must receive the votes of at least 96 of the 191 states of the UN General Assembly (an absolute majority).
  • The members are elected for a period of three years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms.
  • In electing Council members, the resolution provides that General Assembly members “shall take into account the candidates’ contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights and their voluntary pledges and commitments made thereto.”
  • The UNHRC holds regular sessions three times a year, in March, June, and September.

Universal Periodic Review:

The Universal periodic review (UPR) mechanism reviews all 192 UN member states every four years to "ensure universality of coverage and equal treatment of all Member States."
Special Procedure :

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council are independent human rights experts with mandates to report and advise on human rights from a thematic or country-specific perspective. The system of Special Procedures is a central element of the United Nations human rights machinery and covers all human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political, and social.
Special Rapporteur:

The titles Special Rapporteur, Independent Expert, and Working Group Member are given to individuals working on behalf of the United Nations (UN) within the scope of "special procedure" mechanisms.

The Challenges

  • Many members of the UN are themselves systematic human right offenders. They’re in leading roles and are on paper — charged with “upholding the highest standards” of human rights.
  • The council ignores the worst cases of human rights abuses in favour of “softer” topics like the elderly, children and the disabled. The detention of political opposition in Cuba, destruction of civil society in Venezuela have not been questioned in UNHRC. The stand taken by HRC on Libya and Syria is also insufficient.
  • Bias against Israel- Among its ten standing agenda items, the Council has continued a permanent item on Israel’s human rights behaviour in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), which is considered to be unfair to Israel.
  • Effectiveness- It occasionally prioritises pet projects over common concerns and fails to follow through on the implementation of its own decisions and recommendations. Much of what is debated in the council hardly takes any enforceable form.
  • Confusion between OHCHR and HRC and their mandates- The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is often confused with the HRC. It is a separate institution which presents reports independent of the HRC, the recent report on Kashmir being an example. The conflation of the HRC and the OHCHR is incorrect and confuses their separate mandate and functions.
  • Intrusion into the sovereignty of the states- It has been a challenge for UNHCR to advocate for human rights and not interfere with the sovereignty of the states. Many recommendations of the Special rapporteur of UNHCR are discarded on this basis, solely.

The Role

UNHRC has played the role of a political platform which aims to ensure that the human rights remain a top priority within the UN.

  • Global reach- UNHRC has a wide mandate which facilitates it to respond to human rights cases across the globe. In doing so, it also brings the members of civil society together for voicing concerns related to human rights in their respective local regions.
  • Special Procedures- Special Procedures of UNHRC are a universal source of knowledge on human rights themes and country-specific conditions which helps to improve the understanding of human rights law.
  • Universal Periodic Review- The Universal Periodic Review motivates nation-level dialogues on human rights, and also mandates that every UN member state examines human rights on a regular basis. It ensures transparency and accountability in the functioning of UNHCR.
  • Condemning the violations- In the recent past, the resolutions adopted by the UNHRC have highlighted and condemned distinctive violations despite the efforts to the contrary by some members of the HRC. For example, in the midst of the Arab Spring, the Human Rights Council voted unanimously to suspend Libya’s membership. More recently, the Council did not permit Syria to bid for a seat on grounds of human rights violations and appointed an investigation there.
  • Issue-based coalitions- There is an increasing number of countries from all parts of the world which have started working together to further the human rights, irrespective of their shared history and regional politics. The regional bloc voting practices have become the matter of the past and considered discussion along with collective action is becoming possible.
  • Controversial subject areas- Controversial subject areas have also been addressed at the HRC, including LGBTIQ rights and religious discrimination. South Africa’s efforts to acknowledge the rights of LGBTIQ faced strong opposition from neighbouring countries but it was supported by far-away countries like Brazil, Colombia, the United States, and many others.
  • Role of special rapporteurs- The experts’ mandates (Special Rapporteurs) recommended by UNHRC have resulted into manifested actions on problems ranging from combating torture in Jordan to protecting journalists in Cambodia, decriminalizing blasphemy in the United Kingdom and reducing prison sentences in China.

The Background of US Withdrawal

  • The US witnessing a decline in human rights record: The UNHCR reports have highlighted various issues regarding the current policies like separation of families at Mexican border or various violations of human rights committed in the course of the War on Terror.
  • Israel bias: The US has accused UNHRC of imposing a disproportionate number of resolutions against Israel as compared to other human rights violators.
  • Protectionism: The US government, in recent times, is seen to be bent more towards moving away from many platforms of international cooperation like Trans-Pacific Partnership or Global Compact on Migration.

Impact on India

  • A recent report by UNHCR on Kashmir, although talking of both sides of the LoC, focuses mainly on serious violations in Jammu and Kashmir. India has rejected the report terming it "fallacious, tendentious and motivated", questioning its intent in bringing out a selective compilation of largely unverified information to build a false narrative.
  • It is being speculated that in the wake of this report and the US withdrawal from UNHCR, it may set a precedent for India to pull itself out of UNHCR.

Way Forward

  • More emphasis on general issues needed- The effort that goes into some country-specific resolutions might be better invested in other ways. More attention should be given to addressing visibly deteriorating human rights situations before they become chronic or crises.
  • Focus on thematic issues- It is important that HRC formulates necessary regulation on themes such as biotechnology, administration of justice, healthcare, and artificial intelligence, which have significant human rights implications.
  • Ensuring effectiveness- More needs to be done to ensure that the processes at UNHRC produce more substantial outcomes. For this, it is important that the members and observers invest greater effort in connecting HRC work with that in other parts of the UN system and implementing it at the national level. The periods between Council sessions could be used for sustained efforts to achieve more durable outcomes on challenging issue
  • Less politicised and more practical exchanges- The HRC’s momentous resolution on combating intolerance on the basis of religion gave rise to the Istanbul Process, which embodies such an approach and can serve as a model for addressing other similarly challenging issues.

In this scenario, it is important that states make an effort to robust the UNHRC and come together for deliberations regarding the scope for reform of this institution of global importance. The idea of forsaking it or democratic states walking away from it would be a betrayal of those who are or might one day be, the target of oppression and violence. These people rely on the protection the UN might offer, however imperfect, and rely even more on those committed to human rights to work within the UN to strengthen that protection and make it truly universal.

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GS-II :
World bank and IMF

World Bank and IMF

Part of: GS-II- International organisation (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)

The World Bank (WB) is an international organization which provides facilities related to “finance, advice and research to developing nations” in order to bolster their economic development. It plays a stellar role in providing financial and technical assistance to developing countries across the globe. It is a unique financial institution that provides partnerships to reduce poverty and support economic development. It is actually composed of two institutions namely the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). However, there are five institutions within the larger World Bank group. They are following:

The World Bank Group consists of five organizations:

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) lends to governments of middle-income and creditworthy low-income countries.

2. The International Development Association

The International Development Association (IDA) provides interest-free loans — called credits — and grants to governments of the poorest countries. It is called the soft loan window of the World Bank. Together, IBRD and IDA make up the World Bank.

3. The International Finance Corporation

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector. It helps developing countries achieve sustainable growth by financing investment, mobilizing capital in international financial markets, and providing advisory services to businesses and governments.

4. The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) was created in 1988 to promote foreign direct investment into developing countries to support economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve people’s lives. MIGA fulfils this mandate by offering political risk insurance (guarantees) to investors and lenders.

5. The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes

The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) provides international facilities for conciliation and arbitration of investment disputes.

Purpose and Function of the World Bank

The World Bank provides low-interest loans, interest-free credit and grants. It focuses on improving education, health, and infrastructure. It also uses funds to modernize a country’s financial sector, agriculture, and natural resources management. The Bank’s stated purpose is to “bridge the economic divide between poor and rich countries”.  It does this by turning “rich country resources into poor country growth”. It has a long-term vision to “achieve sustainable poverty reduction”.

To achieve this goal, the World Bank focuses on six areas:

  • Overcome poverty by spurring growth;
  • Help reconstruct countries emerging from war;
  • Provide a customized solution to help middle-income countries remain out of poverty;
  • Spur governments to prevent climate change;
  • It helps them control communicable diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, and malaria;
  • It also manages international financial crises and promotes free trade.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organization that aims to promote global economic growth and financial stability meant to encourage international trade and reduce poverty. It is working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, and promote high employment and sustainable economic growth. The primary purpose of the IMF is to ensure the stability of the international system- the system of exchange rates and international payments. Although the IMF is an agency of the United Nations, it has its own charter, structure and financing arrangements. The IMF not only works with its 187 members, it also collaborates with the World Bank, World Trade Organization and agencies of the United Nations. To become a member of the IMF, countries must apply and be accepted by the other members. Because membership of the World Bank is conditional on being a member of the IMF, the World Bank also has 187 members. These members govern the World Bank through a Board of Governors. Apart from working with developing countries on individual projects, the World Bank also works with various international institutions, along with professional and academic bodies.

Similarities between the WB and IMF

  • Both the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were formed together at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in July 1944. They are called Brettonwoods twins.
  • Both were created to support the world economy in their own unique ways.
  • Both are headquartered in Washington D.C, the U.S.A.
  • They have the same membership as no admission to the World Bank is possible without the IMF membership.
  • The management structure of the World Bank is largely similar to that of the IMF. Voting rights in these institutions depend primarily on capital contribution of the member countries.

Differences between the WB and the IMF

Despite similarities, however, the Bank and the IMF remain distinct. Following differences exist between them:

  • The World Bank is primarily a development institution but the IMF is a cooperative institution that seeks to maintain an orderly system of payments and receipts between nations.
  • The IMF exists to preserve an orderly monetary system whereas the World Bank performs an economic development role.
  • Both have different purposes. The IMF supervises the economic policies of its members and expects them to allow free exchange of national currencies. To keep this financial order, the IMF also acts as a provider of emergency loans to members who run into difficulties, in exchange for a promise from the member to reform its economic policies.
  • The World Bank finances economic development among poorer nations by funding specific and targeted projects, aimed at helping to raise productivity. The World Bank consists of two organizations: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). The IBRD lends to developing nations at preferential interest rates, while the IDA only lends to the poorest nations, on an interest-free basis.
  • They have different funding sources. The IMF raises its money through membership fees, known as quotas. Each member country pays a quota based on its relative economic size so that the larger economies pay more. The World Bank raises most of its money through borrowing by issuing bonds to investors. It also receives grants from donors.
  • The IMF exists primarily to stabilize exchange rates, while the World Bank’s primary goal is to reduce poverty.

Criticism of the WB and the IMF

  • The International Monetary Fund promotes monetary cooperation internationally and offers advice and assistance to facilitate building and maintaining a country’s economy. The IMF also provides loans and helps countries develop policy programs that solve balance of payment problems. However, the loans offered by the IMF are loaded with conditions.
  • Critics are concerned about the ‘conditionalities’ imposed on borrower countries. The World Bank and the IMF often attach loan conditionalities based on what is termed the ‘Washington Consensus’, focusing on liberalisation—of trade, investment and the financial sector—, deregulation and privatisation of nationalised industries. Often the conditionalities are attached without due regard for the borrower countries’ individual circumstances. Additionally, the prescriptive recommendations by the World Bank and IMF fail to resolve the economic problems within the countries.
  • Both the WB and the IMF have been accused of coercing poor countries to undertake structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) under the aegis of economic globalization. Sometimes, this has led to under-development of these economies bringing severe domestic crisis in multiple dimensions. This contributes to a yawning economic gap between different countries across the globe.
  • The World Bank’s role in the global climate change finance architecture has also caused much controversy. Civil society groups see the Bank as unfit for a role in climate finance because of the conditionalities and advisory services usually attached to its loans.
  • The WB has been accused of financing unsustainable carbon-intensive developmental projects. Hence, there is an increasing call from environmental activists that the WB and IMF should finance only carbon-neutral sustainable development projects.
  • There are also concerns related with the accountability of the projects run by them especially in the Third World countries.
  • The WB and the IMF have also been criticised for being western-dominated undemocratic bodies. Decisions are made and policies implemented by leading industrialised countries because they represent the largest donors without much consultation with poor and developing countries.
  • The IMF has quota system which is yet to give adequate weightage to the emerging economies like India, China and Brazil despite their increased economic importance in contemporary times. The global economic centre of gravity has shifted from the “global North” to the “global south”. But these Brettonwoods institutions are yet to realise that even though there has been the formation the BRICS bank and the AIIB.
  • There are also ethical issues related to the funding of types of projects by the World Bank. For example, the funding of hydroelectric dams in some countries by the WB has resulted in massive displacement of the indigenous peoples.
  • The WB’s propensity to privilege the private sector and market forces has brought about justifiable concerns regarding the sovereign decision-making capabilities of states getting tied funds from the World Bank.
  • The Bank’s private sector lending arm – the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – has also been criticised for its business model, the increasing use of financial intermediaries such as private equity funds and funding of companies associated with tax havens.
  • Critics of the World Bank and the IMF are also apprehensive about the role of the Bretton Woods institutions in shaping the development discourse through their research, training and publishing activities. Their views and prescriptions may undermine or eliminate alternative perspectives on development.

Critical Role of the Bretton Woods Project

It was established in 1995 by the UK-based Bond Development and Environment Group (DEG) to support civil society to monitor the negative developmental impacts of World Bank and IMF policies and activities. The Bretton Woods Project (BWP) envisions a global economic system that operates on the basis of “primary principles of justice, equity, gender equality, human rights and environmental sustainability”. It is supposed to work with “international institutions that are democratic, inclusive, transparent, accountable, and responsive to citizens, especially the poorest and most vulnerable”. The Bretton Woods Project focuses on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to challenge their power. It is meant to “open space for civil society and social movements to contribute to the development of policies that are gender transformative, equitable, environmentally sustainable and consistent with international human rights norms”.

Conclusion

Many of the criticisms aimed against the WB and IMF are historical and may not hold true in contemporary times. The two institutions are trying to reorient themselves as per the changed geo-economic realities and changing developmental requirements. The internal assessment has also been catalysed by the geopolitical and geo-economic impact of the BRICS bank and the AIIB as a challenge to the Bretton Woods institutions. Hence, the national governments should undertake a calibrated economic liberalization maintaining the due autonomy of their decision-making to have a win-win situation in tune with the sustainable development ethics.

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GS-II :
Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI)

Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI)

Part of: GS-II- Governance (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)



If we would see our dream of Panchayat Raj, i.e., true democracy realized, we would regard the humblest and lowest Indian as being equally the ruler of India with the tallest in the land.

— Mahatma Gandhi



Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) is a system of rural local self-government in India. Local Self Government is the management of local affairs by such local bodies who have been elected by the local people.

PRI was constitutionalized through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 to build democracy at the grass roots level and was entrusted with the task of rural development in the country. In its present form and structure PRI has completed 28 years of existence. However, a lot remains to be done in order to further decentralization and strengthen democracy at the grass root level.

Evolution of Panchayati Raj in India

The history of Panchayat Raj in India can be divided into the following periods from the analytical point of view:

  • Vedic Era: In the old Sanskrit scriptures, word ‘Panchayatan’ has been mentioned which means a group of five persons, including a spiritual man.
  • Gradually the concept of the inclusion of a spiritual man in such groups vanished.
  • In the Rigveda, there is a mention of Sabha, Samiti and Vidatha as local self-units.
    • These were the democratic bodies at the local level. The king used to get the approval of these bodies regarding certain functions and decisions.
  • Epic Era indicates the two great epic periods of India, that is, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.
  • The study of Ramayana indicates that the administration was divided into two parts - Pur and Janpad or city and village.
    • In the whole of the state, there was also a Caste Panchayat and one person elected by the Caste Panchayat was a member of the king's Council of Ministers.
  • Self-government of a village finds ample expression in the ‘Shanti Parva’ of the Mahabharata; in the Manu Smriti as well as in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.
  • As per the Mahabharata, over and above the village, there were units of 10, 20, 100, and 1,000 village groups.
    • ‘Gramik’ was the chief official of the village, ‘Dashap’ was the chief of ten villages, Vinshya Adhipati, Shat Gram Adhyaksha and Shat Gram Pati were the chiefs of 20, 100, and 1,000 villages, respectively.
    • They collected the local taxes and were responsible for the defense of their villages.
  • Ancient Period: There is a mention of village panchayats in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.
    • The town was referred to as Pur and its chief was the Nagarik.
    • Local bodies were free from any royal interference.
    • During the Mauryan and Post-Mauryan periods too, the headman, assisted by a council of elders, continued to play a prominent role in the village life.
    • The system continued through the Gupta period, though there were certain changes in the nomenclature, as the district official was known as the vishya pati and the village headman was referred to as the grampati.
    • Thus, in ancient India, there existed a well established system of local government which was run on a set pattern of traditions and customs.
    • However, it is significant to note that there is no reference of women heading the panchayat or even participating as a member in the panchayat.
  • Medieval Period: During the Sultanate period, the Sultans of Delhi divided their kingdom into provinces called ‘Vilayat’.
    • For the governance of a village, there were three important officials - Mukkaddam for administration, Patwari for collection of revenues, and Choudhrie for settling disputes with the help of the Panch.
    • The villages had sufficient powers as regards self governance in their territory.
    • Casteism and feudalistic system of governance under the Mughal rule in the medieval period slowly eroded the self-government in villages.
    • It is again noteworthy to note that even in the medieval period there is no mention of women participation in the local village administration.
  • British Period: Under the British regime, village panchayats lost their autonomy and became weak.
  • It is only from the year 1870 that India saw the dawn of representative local institutions.
  • The famous Mayo’s resolution of 1870 gave impetus to the development of local institutions by enlarging their powers and responsibilities.
  • The year 1870, introduced the concept of elected representatives, in urban municipalities.
  • The revolt of 1857 had put the imperial finances under considerable strain and it was found necessary to finance local service out of local taxation. Therefore it was out of fiscal compulsion that Lord Mayo’s resolution on decentralization came to be adopted.
  • Following the footsteps of Mayo, Lord Rippon in 1882 provided the much needed democratic framework to these institutions.
    • All boards (then existing) were mandated to have a two-thirds majority of non-officials who had to be elected and the chairman of these bodies had to be from among the elected non-officials.
    • This is considered to be the Magna Carta of local democracy in India.
  • Local self-government institutions received a boost with the appointment of the Royal Commission on centralisation in 1907 under the Chairmanship of C.E.H. Hobhouse.
    • The commission recognized the importance of panchayats at the village level.
  • It is in this backdrop that the Montagu Chelmsford reforms of 1919 transferred the subject of local government to the domain of the provinces.
    • The reform also recommended that as far as possible there should be a complete control in local bodies and complete possible independence for them from external control.
    • These panchayats covered only a limited number of villages with limited functions and due to organisational and fiscal constraints they did not become democratic and vibrant institutions of local self government at the village level.
  • However, by 1925, eight provinces had passed the Panchayat Acts and by 1926, six native States had also passed panchayat laws. Local bodies were given more powers and functions to impose taxes were reduced. But, the position of the local self-government institutions remained unaffected.
  • Post–Independence Period: After the Constitution came into force, Article 40 made a mention of panchayats and Article 246 empowers the state legislature to legislate with respect to any subject relating to local self-government.
  • However, this inclusion of panchayats into the Constitution was not unanimously agreed upon by the then decision-makers, with the major opposition having come from the framer of the Constitution himself i.e. B.R.Ambedkar.
    • It was after much discussion among the supporters and opponents of the village panchayat that the panchayats finally got a place for themselves in the Constitution as Article 40 of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
  • Since the Directive Principles are not binding principles, the result was the absence of a uniform structure of these bodies throughout the country.
  • After independence, as a development initiative, India had implemented the Community Development Programmes (CDP) on the eve of Gandhi Jayanti, the 2nd October, 1952 under the major influence of the Etawah Project undertaken by the American expert, Albert Mayer.
    • It encompassed almost all activities of rural development which were to be implemented with the help of village panchayats along with the participation of people.
    • In 1953, the National Extension Service was also introduced as a prologue to CDP. But the programme did not yield much result.
  • There were various reasons for the failure of CDP like bureaucracy and excessive politics, lack of people participation, lack of trained and qualified staff, and lack of local bodies interest in implementing the CDP especially the village panchayats.
  • In 1957, the National Development Council constituted a committee headed by Balwant Rai Mehta to look into the working of community development programme.
    • The team observed that the major reason for the failure of the CDP was the lack of people’s participation.
    • The committee suggested a three-tier PRIs, namely, Grama Panchayats (GPs) at the village level, Panchayat Samiti (PSs) at the block level, and Zilla Parishad (ZPs) at the district level.
  • As a result of this scheme of democratic decentralization was launched in Rajasthan on October 2, 1959.
  • In Andhra Pradesh, the scheme was introduced on 1st November, 1959. The necessary legislation had also been passed and implemented in Assam, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, and Punjab etc.
  • The appointment of the Ashok Mehta Committee in 1977 did bring new thinking in the concepts and practice of the Panchayat Raj.
    • The committee recommended a two-tier Panchayat Raj institutional structure consisting of Zilla Parishad and Mandal Panchayat.
  • In order to use planning expertise and to secure administrative support, the district was suggested as the first point of decentralization below the state level.
  • Based on its recommendation, some of the states like Karnataka incorporated them effectively.
  • In subsequent years in order to revive and give a new lease of life to the panchayats, the Government of India had appointed various committees.
  • The most important among them are the Hanumantha Rao Committee (1983), G.V.K. Rao Committee (1985), L.M.Singhvi Committee (1986) and the Sarkaria Commission on Centre-State relations (1988), P.K. Thungan Committee (1989) and Harlal Singh Kharra Committee (1990).
  • The G.V.K. Rao Committee (1985) recommended making the “district” as the basic unit of planning and also holding regular elections while the L.M.Singhvi committee recommended providing more financial resources and constitutional status to the panchayats to strengthen them.
  • The Amendment phase began with the 64th Amendment Bill (1989) which was introduced by Rajiv Gandhi seeking to strengthen the PRIs but the Bill was not passed in the Rajya Sabha.
  • The Constitution (74th Amendment) Bill (a combined bill for the PRIs and municipalities) was introduced in 1990, but was never taken up for discussion.
  • It was during the Prime Ministership of P.V.Narasimha Rao that a comprehensive amendment was introduced in the form of the Constitution 72nd Amendment Bill in September 1991.
  • 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments were passed by Parliament in December, 1992. Through these amendments local self-governance was introduced in rural and urban India.
  • The Acts came into force as the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 on April 24, 1993 and the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 on June 1, 1993.

Salient Features of the Constitution 73rd and 74th Amendments

  • These amendments added two new parts to the Constitution, namely, added Part IX titled “The Panchayats” (added by 73rd Amendment) and Part IXA titled “The Municipalities” (added by 74th Amendment).
  • Basic units of democratic system-Gram Sabhas (villages) and Ward Committees (Municipalities) comprising all the adult members registered as voters.
  • Three-tier system of panchayats at village, intermediate block/taluk/mandal and district levels except in States with population is below 20 lakhs (Article 243B).
  • Seats at all levels to be filled by direct elections Article 243C (2).
  • Seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and the chairpersons of the Panchayats at all levels also shall be reserved for SCs and STs in proportion to their population.
  • One-third of the total number of seats to be reserved for women.
  • One third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs also reserved for women.
  • One-third offices of chairpersons at all levels reserved for women (Article 243D).
  • Uniform five year term and elections to constitute new bodies to be completed before the expiry of the term.
  • In the event of dissolution, elections compulsorily within six months (Article 243E).
  • Independent Election Commission in each State for superintendence, direction and control of the electoral rolls (Article 243K).
  • Panchayats to prepare plans for economic development and social justice in respect of subjects as devolved by law to the various levels of Panchayats including the subjects as illustrated in Eleventh Schedule (Article 243G).
  • 74th Amendment provides for a District Planning Committee to consolidate the plans prepared by Panchayats and Municipalities (Article 243ZD).
  • Budgetary allocation from State Governments, share of revenue of certain taxes, collection and retention of the revenue it raises, Central Government programmes and grants, Union Finance Commission grants (Article 243H).
  • Establish a Finance Commission in each State to determine the principles on the basis of which adequate financial resources would be ensured for panchayats and municipalities (Article 243I).
  • The Eleventh Scheduled of the Constitution places as many as 29 functions within the purview of the Panchayati Raj bodies.
  • The following areas have been exempted from the operation of the Act because of the socio-cultural and administrative considerations:
    • Scheduled areas listed under the V Schedule in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa and Rajasthan.
    • The states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram.
    • The hill areas of district of Darjeeling in the state of West Bengal for which Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council exists.
  • In conformity with provisions in the Constitution Amendment Act, an Act called the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 passed by the Government of India.

Evaluating the Panchayati Raj Institutions

PRIs has witnessed simultaneously a remarkable success and a staggering failure in the journey of 26 years depending on the goalposts against which they are evaluated.

  • While the PRI has succeeded in creating another layer of government and political representation at the grass-roots level, it has failed to provide better governance.
  • There are about 250,000 PRIs and urban local bodies, and over three million elected local government representatives.
  • The 73rd and 74th Amendments required that no less than one-third of the total seats in local bodies should be reserved for women. At 1.4 million, India has the most women in elected positions. Seats and sarpanch/pradhan positions were also reserved for SC/ST candidates.
  • Research using PRIs has shown that having female political representation in local governments makes women more likely to come forward and report crimes.
    • In districts with female sarpanchs, significantly greater investments are made in drinking water, public goods.
  • Moreover, the states have also provided the statutory safeguards for many devolution provisions, which have considerably empowered local governments.
  • Successive (central) Finance Commissions have, so substantially, increased fund allocations for local bodies and also the grants have been increased.
  • 15th Finance Commission is also considering to further increase the allocations for local governments to match the international standards.

Issues

  • The grey area is the lack of adequate funds. There is a need to enlarge the domain of panchayats to be able to raise their own funds.
  • The interference of area MPs and MLAs in the functioning of panchayats also adversely affected their performance.
  • The 73rd amendment only mandated the creation of local self-governing bodies, and left the decision to delegate powers, functions, and finances to the state legislatures, therein lies the failure of PRIs.
  • The transfer of various governance functions—like the provision of education, health, sanitation, and water was not mandated. Instead the amendment listed the functions that could be transferred, and left it to the state legislature to actually devolve functions.
    • There has been very little devolution of authority and functions in the last 26 years.
  • Because these functions were never devolved, state executive authorities have proliferated to carry out these functions. The most common example is the terrible state water boards.
  • The major failure of the Amendment is the lack of finances for PRIs. Local governments can either raise their own revenue through local taxes or receive intergovernmental transfers.
  • The power to tax, even for subjects falling within the purview of PRIs, has to be specifically authorized by the state legislature. The 73rd Amendment let this be a choice open to the state legislatures—a choice that most states have not exercised.
  • A second avenue of revenue generation is intergovernmental transfers, where state governments devolve a certain percentage of their revenue to PRIs. The constitutional amendment created provisions for State Finance Commissions to recommend the revenue share between state and local governments. However, these are merely recommendations and the state governments are not bound by them.
  • Though finance commissions, at every level, have advocated for greater devolution of funds, there has been little action by states to devolve funds.
  • PRIs are reluctant to take on projects that require any meaningful financial outlay, and are often unable to solve even the most basic local governance needs.
  • PRIs also suffer from structural deficiencies i.e. no secretarial support and lower levels of technical knowledge which restricted the aggregation of bottom up planning .
  • There is a presence of adhocism i.e. lack of clear setting of agenda in gram sabha, gram samiti meetings and no proper structure.
  • Though women and SC/STs has got representation in PRIs through reservation mandated by 73rd amendment but there is a presence of Panch-Pati and Proxy representation in case of women and SC/STs representatives respectively.
  • Accountability arrangements remain very weak even after 26 years of PRIs constitutional arrangement.
  • The issue of ambiguity in the division of functions and funds has allowed concentration of powers with the states and thereby restraining the elective representatives who are more aware and sensitive to the ground level issues to take control.

Suggestions

  • Genuine fiscal federalism i.e. fiscal autonomy accompanied by fiscal responsibility can provide a long term solution without this PRIs will only be an expensive failure.
  • 6th report of 2nd ARC, ‘Local Governance- An inspiring journey into the future’’, had recommended that there should be a clear-cut demarcation of functions of each tier of the government.
  • States should adopt the concept of ‘activity mapping’, wherein each state clearly delineates the responsibilities and roles for the different tiers of the government in respect to the subjects listed in the Schedule XI.
  • The subjects should divided and assigned to the different tiers on the basis of accountability to the public.
  • States like Karnataka and Kerala have taken some steps in this direction but overall progress has been highly uneven.
  • There is need for bottom up planning especially at the district level, based on grassroots inputs received from Gram Sabha.
  • Karnataka has created a separate bureaucratic cadre for Panchayats to get away from the practice of deputation of officials who often overpowered the elected representatives.
    • Such practices needs to be replicated in other states for strengthening the true character of local self governance.
  • The center also needs to financially incentivize states to encourage effective devolution to the panchayats in functions, finances, and functionaries.
  • Training should be provided to local representatives to develop expertise so that they contribute more in planning and implementation of policies and programmes.
  • To solve the problem of proxy representation social empowerment must precede the political empowerment.
  • Recently states like Rajasthan and Haryana have set certain minimum qualification standards for Panchayat elections. Such necessary eligibility can help in improving effectiveness of governance mechanism.
  • These standards should apply for MLAs and MPs also and in this direction government should speeden up efforts for universal education.
  • There should be clear mechanisms to ensure that States comply with the constitutional provisions, particularly in the appointment and implementation of the recommendations of the State Finance Commissions (SFCs).

Way Forward

  • The need of the hour is to bring about a holistic change in the lives of beneficiaries among the villagers by uplifting their socioeconomic and health status through effective linkages through community, governmental and other developmental agencies.
  • Government should take remedial action in the interest of democracy, social inclusion and cooperative federalism.
  • People’s demands for the sustainable decentralisation and advocacy should focus on a decentralisation agenda. The framework needs to be evolved to accommodate the demand for decentralisation.
  • It is important to have clarity in the assignment of functions and the local governments should have clear and independent sources of finance.
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