January 19, 2014
NATIONAL & SOCIAL ISSUES
Seven States/UTs Get Allocations Under National Food Security Act
• With the implementation of National Food Security Act in Karnataka and Chhattisgarh also, the National Food Security Act has taken off now in seven states/ UTs- Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh .
• The Government of India has made foodgrain allocations to these States/UTs as per requirements projected by them for the implementation of the Act. Uttrakhand and Chandigarh are also expected to join this group soon.
• The people as identified beneficiaries by the State Governments will now get foodgrains at highly subsidized prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains. Each beneficiary will get five Kg. foodgrain per month.
• However, existing entitlement of Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households’ which is 35 kg. of per household per month will be protected, since AAY constitute poorest of the poor.
• With the implementation of the Act now pregnant women and lactating mothers and children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years will be entitled to meals as per prescribed nutritional norms under Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Mid-Day Meal (MDM) schemes.
• Higher nutritional norms have been prescribed for malnourished children upto 6 years of age.
• Beside this pregnant women and lactating mothers will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000.
• The Act will also give significant contribution in the women empowerment in the country with its provision of declaring eldest woman of the household of age 18 years or above as the head of the household for the purpose of issuing of ration cards.
• The Government has notified the National Food Security Act, 2013 on September10, 2013 to further strengthen the efforts to address the food security of the people.
• The Act provides for coverage of upto 75% of the rural population and upto 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), thus covering about two-thirds of the population.
• The Act also has a special focus on the nutritional support to women and children.
Karnataka first State to provide Universal Health Coverage
- Karnataka became the first State in India to provide Universal Health Coverage to its population.
- It achieved the distinction with the launch of Rajiv ArogyaYojana. The Scheme entails the beneficiary to pay only 10 percent of the cost of treatment or procedures. It aims at providing subsidized healthcare to virtually every citizen in the State with Above Poverty Line (APL) card.
- The BPL families are already covered under health scheme through Vajpayee ArogyaSree programme.
- Under the scheme, APL family members are entitled for health check up to 1.5 lakh rupees per annum.
- In special cases, if the expenditure exceeds 1.5 lakh rupees, the government grants another 50000 rupees.
- The scheme covers 447 procedures and 50 follow-up packages.
- The beneficiaries can avail treatment in 160 hospitals, including 14 hospitals outside the State.
- The scheme will cover cardiovascular diseases, cancer treatment (surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy), neurological diseases, renal diseases, burns, poly-trauma cases not covered by motor vehicle insurance and neo-natal cases.
- The cost of Universal Health Coverage is estimated to be 120 crore rupees annually.
INDIA-NEPAL BORDER SECURITY ISSUES
Why do we need to concentrate on India-Nepal border security issue?
The arrests of two high profile terrorists, Adul Karim Tunda and Mohammed Ahmed Sidibappa alias Yasin Bhatkal have brought the India-Nepal border into sharp focus. Differences of opinion, however, exist as to the exact location from where these two terrorists were arrested. While India maintains that Tunda was arrested at the Banbasa-Mahendernagar border point and Bhatkal in Raxual, some media reports indicate that Tunda was arrested from Kathmandu Airport and Bhatkal was picked up from a hideout in Pokhara during a joint operation with Nepalese law enforcement authorities. Whatever maybe the case, these arrests highlight the fact that terrorist and criminal groups are increasingly using Nepal as a base because the open border with India allows them to enter and exit India with ease.
The seeds for an ‘open’ border between India and Nepal can be found in the Treaty of Peace and Friendship which the two countries signed in 1950. Articles VI and VII of the treaty specify that citizens of both countries have equal rights in matters of residence, acquisition of property, employment and movement in each other’s territory, thus providing for an open border between the two countries. These provisions allowed the citizens of India and Nepal to cross their shared borders without passport and visa restrictions. During the colonial times, the British required Gorkhas for the Indian army and the Nepalese market for their finished goods. These requirements necessitated unrestricted cross-border movement of both goods and people. After independence, India continued with the practice of an open border with Nepal.
The open border has been misused by terrorists and criminals. Likewise, human trafficking and smuggling of Ganja from Nepal and pharmaceutical preparations from India is also quite rampant. More recently, the Indo-Nepal border has also become a route for smuggling of gold from Tibet into India. The problem is further aggravated by intelligence inputs that Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has been using Nepalese territory to carry out anti-India activities since the 1990s. Encroachments in the no-man’s land by removing or damaging border pillars have added another dimension to the problem. Security agencies believe that the buildings which have come up in the no man’s land could be used as a hideout as well as for storing arms and explosives.
Steps taken by both the countries related to this security issue.
Transforming the border from an ‘open border’ to a ‘closed border’ would severely damage these ties with disastrous consequences for the citizens and economies of both countries. It would therefore be prudent to keep the border open but manage it more effectively by strengthening security through effective law enforcement, installing screening and detection devices at the check points, and enhancing intelligence networks.
Policymakers in India have taken note of the deteriorating security situation along the India-Nepal border and have undertaken a number of measures in response. For instance, the presence of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) along the Indo-Nepal border has been further augmented with the construction of five additional Border Out Posts (BOPs). The SSB has been granted the powers to search, arrest and seizure under the Criminal Procedure Code as well as powers to arrest under the Passport Act. In addition, 1,377 km. of strategic roads are also being built along the border to facilitate the easy movement of the border guarding personnel. The SSB is also installing surveillance cameras along the border. For addressing the twin objectives of security and trade facilitation, two integrated check posts with state of the art detection and screening devices as well as support facilities are being constructed at Raxual and Jogbani.
The Nepalese security agencies had conducted a study and identified 18 types of crimes that are widespread along the India-Nepal border including human, arms and drugs trafficking, unauthorised trade, smuggling of counterfeit currency, kidnapping, robbery, and extortion. They have also prepared and enforced a Cross-Border Crime Control Action Plan 2013 to curb trans-border crimes. But more needs to be done. India and Nepal have to collaborate and coordinate their efforts to improve the situation along their border by setting up joint task forces to investigate cross-border crimes, sharing real time intelligence, conducting coordinated or joint patrolling, re-installing missing border pillars and repairing the damaged ones and jointly developing infrastructure along the border.