SECURE SYNOPSIS: 20 FEBRUARY 2018
NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.
General Studies – 1
Topic: Art and culture; Role of women
- India has always honoured the spiritual role of women and the feminine principle. Goddess worship is one of the longest standing religious traditions in Hinduism. Yet in India there are instances of rape, murder of women taking place everyday and the patriarchal mindset has not subsided.
- It is a major tradition of Hinduism, wherein the metaphysical reality is considered feminine and the Devi(goddess) is supreme.It includes a variety of goddesses, all considered aspects of the same supreme goddess
- Shakti refers not to the power of aggression that divides and causes conflict, but to the power of integration that unites and brings peace.
- Shaktiis the force of wisdom and enlightenment, not ignorance and inertia, a creative not a destructive energy.
- It gives refinement and sensitivity, not crudeness and intolerance.
It Can be used to empower women:-
- An awakening of Shakti can aid in developing a truly democratic society. Shakti works best with community as Sangha Shakti, encouraging like-minded individuals to work together for their mutual well-being.
- India needs to promote a new Shakti among its women, starting with young girls, empowering, enabling, educating and respecting them. This is a necessary initiative for members of all groups.
- Such education for girls should address the necessary fields of modern learning but must also honour feminine values, and the Shakti or spiritual power that women can manifest.
- In todays world with education economic empowerment is mostly happening giving the true essence of shakti.
- Shaktism is a type of women empowerment for women to adhere to the Sustainable development goals ,gender equality etc.It sees both women and men as equal partners.
- In Shaktism women are the defenders of society and vanquishers of evil.
- Women can be encouraged to pursue challenging careers like police, army. With Shaktism women will be the leaders. And take decisions on their own so the women oppression will rescuee as women will be aware of their rights.
- It fights the patriarchal division of labour and ensures women as independent entity.
But still concerns remain:-
- Many people still consider due to shakti notion there is liberty given to women which has caused divorces, rise in nuclear families etc
- Despite push for equality of gender as the notion of shaktism even now the gender equality and female labour participation is less. The country ranked a lowly 108 out of 144 in the global gender gapreport released by the World Economic Forum (WEF)
- Social empowerment has still not occurred as India still faces instances of domestic violence incidents, maternal mortality rates, lack of reproductive rights and women are still considered to be only second to men is accepted by majority in the society.
- Society is ever changing and social values also change .So the Shakti notion that women are the defenders of the society thwarts social progress and encourages conservatism
- Hindu tradition also considers women the vessels of shakti. This identification with shakti acknowledges women as the vessels of both creative and destructive power.
- Some feminists and scholars criticize this identification because they believe it has led society to label women either as saints or sinners, with little room in between.
- They argue that women, like benevolent goddesses, are expected to exhibit forgiveness, compassion, and tolerance of others’ transgressions. If they conform to this role, patriarchal society accepts them; if they do not, and attempt to exhibit independence and assertiveness, they are considered destructive, disrupting community and family social structures
- Therefore, the social narrative of girls and women in a resurgent India has to change from that of Abala to Sabala and from Shanti to Shakti and from survivor to strong security-provider.
- So there is need for attitudinal change in the society as a whole which can only be done by the involvement of parents ,teachers in imbibing the notions that men and women are equal
General Studies – 2
Topic: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
2) Through its oversight function, Parliament holds the government accountable and ensures that policies are efficient and in keeping with the needs of citizens. What mechanisms are available to the Parliament to conduct oversight of the executive? Also in the light of criticisms made against parliament’s this role, discuss major recommendations to strengthen this function of Parliament. (250 Words)
- Through its oversight function, Parliament holds the government accountable and ensures that policies are efficient and in keeping with the needs of citizens. In addition, parliamentary oversight is essential to prevent arbitrary and unconstitutional action by the government.
Mechanisms for Parliamentary oversight over executive :-
There are two key mechanisms of parliamentary oversight:
- Accountability on the floor of the House
- Question Hour
- Question Hour allows Members of Parliament (MPs)to pose questions to ministers relating to government policies, and hold the government accountable for its actions. Question Hour functioned for an average of 42% of its scheduled time, largely as a result of disruptions.
- When Question Hour is disrupted, it is not made up by extending the scheduled time for the sitting or through meeting on additional days. Recently, in order to reduce disruptions, Rajya Sabha moved Question Hour from the first hour of sitting to the second hour of sitting.
- Debates and motions
- Debates and motions play a central role in parliament’s oversight function by allowing MPs to initiate discussions and seek clarifications on government policies.
- In the past, MPs have raised issues such as price rise ,improvement of infrastructure in backward areas, to the provision of welfare schemes for vulnerable communities through debates.
- Question Hour
- Motions: motions allow for voting at the end of the discussion. There are three types of motions which assist in the oversight function of the Parliament: No Confidence Motions, Adjournment Motions, and Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha (corresponding to Rule 167 in the Rajya Sabha). The first two can only be moved in the Lok Sabha.
- Zero Hour
- The hour following Question Hour is popularly called Zero Hour and is used by MPs to raise urgent matters.
- Typically, MPs use this time to make statements on urgent issues using Rule 377/Special Mention. This time is also used for laying papers such as annual reports of government institutions, CAG reports, etc.
- Recently, Rajya Sabha has decided to start the day with Zero Hour, followed by Question Hour.
- Parliamentary committees which scrutinize government policies :-
- Given the large number of issues which Parliament must address, parliamentary committees, comprising MPs, examine Bills, budgets of ministries, and policies of the government. Committees allow for more informed debate in Parliament, and they also provide an avenue for citizens to engage with Parliament. Committees can either be permanent or appointed temporarily.
- Ordinances, proclamation of emergency etc can be done only when parliament ratifies showing the parliamentary oversight on the executive.
- Ordinances have become the preferred means of introducing legislative enactments that successive governments from every shade of political opinion have made liberal use of this mechanism. So this needs to be under check unless absolutely necessary
- The passing of bill as a money bill is the one of the executive’s action to bypass rajya sabha effectively making the bicameral legislature as unicameral. The recent case of introduction of bill related to Aadhar Card is a proof of it. Appointing parliamentary secretaries to assist council of ministers is another case. Thus, the parliamentary secretaries being legislators may not finely balance the role of a legislator and assisting the executive. These need to be avoided.
- Limits on the number of parliamentary sittings has allowed the executive to avoid demonetisation-related queries, undermining the legislature’s power.Last year’s winter session is for 22 days.
How to strengthen the oversight?
- Allowing Parliament to convene itself
- Currently, Parliament does not have the power to convene itself. The Constitution mandates that Parliament be convened by the President at least once every six months. In this context, granting Parliament the power to convene at the request of a required number of MPs may allow Parliament to address issues more promptly, even during inter session period. However, this requires a constitutional amendment.
- Strengthening the role of the opposition
- Within the institution of Parliament, the opposition can play a central role in monitoring the government and holding it accountable. Opposition parties could play a greater role in deciding the daily agenda of Parliament, or alternatively, time could be set aside each week for opposition parties to set the agenda.
- Internationally, the UK allows the opposition party to determine the agenda for 20 days of each session of Parliament, and Canada for 22 days.This practice could strengthen the ability of the opposition to hold the government accountable, through allowing for greater specialisation in tracking the government.
- Revising certain rules of procedure of Parliament related to debates
- Increasing accountability in Question Hour:
- At present, the Prime Minister is only required to answer questions that pertain to ministries allocated to him. The UK has a Prime Minister’s Question Time during which the Prime Minister answers question on the government’s policies, across sectors. India can look into this suggestion
- Strengthening discussions:
- Currently, the Speaker/Chairman can determine whether to admit a discussion as a debate or a motion. In practice, there is often disagreement between the government and the opposition on the rule under which a discussion is conducted, as motions are put to vote. An alternative practice could be to allow a sufficiently large group of MPs to decide whether an issue should be introduced as a voting motion, or alternatively a debate.
- Examination of reports:
- Given that a range of parliamentary committee reports are presented in Parliament, institutional mechanisms may be developed to highlight issues raised in these reports
- Increasing accountability in Question Hour:
- Major recommendations to strengthen the committee system are detailed below:-
- Requirement of attendance of ministers before committees:
- In current practice, government officials depose before committees, and ministers are exempt from appearing before committees. This implies that the political executive, which is accountable to Parliament for the decision taken by it, does not clarify and defend its position before the committee. In other countries, such as the UK, ministers are required to depose before committees.
- Increasing transparency:
- While some committees invite suggestions from the public on these issues, there is no consistency in the manner of public participation across these committees and on issues. Public participation should be invited more systematically and be institutionalised in the procedures of each committee to strengthen the oversight function of committees.
- Oversight committee:
- According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Parliaments may establish a general oversight committee to oversee the work of other permanent and ad-hoc committees
- For example, the US has established a Committee on Oversight and Government Reform specifically to perform oversight functions over the federal government, even though individual committees also perform oversight functions over their sectors.
- Requirement of attendance of ministers before committees:
- Oversight of regulators
- Parliament must develop formal oversight mechanisms for regulators, such as the Reserve Bank of India, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), etc. There is no mechanism for Parliament to directly hold regulator accountable for its actions.
- The Second Administrative Reforms Commission made the following recommendations on strengthening Parliament’s oversight of regulators:
- Regulators must appear before sector specific parliamentary committees and explain their policies, and
- An expert group should establish guidelines, once every five years, upon which regulators may be evaluated
- Ensuring the accountability of intelligence agencies.
- At present, intelligence agencies are exempt from parliamentary oversight. This implies that there is limited operational or financial oversight of these agencies. There is a need to establish a permanent parliamentary committee on intelligence agencies to perform oversight over these agencies.
- The Anti-Defection Act needs to be recast, and used only in the most exceptional circumstances, while allowing MPs free rein on their self-expression. The U.K., for example, has the concept of a free vote allowing MPs to vote as they wish on particular legislative items.
- Parliament should be a space for policy and not for politics. India needs to undertake reforms to ensure that it is recast as such by ensuring a more robust public representatives
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate; Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora
3) Addressing the plight of refugees is one of the greatest challenges currently facing the international community. Examine the notable multilateral agreements and unilateral policies previously made in this regard and comment on the need for a global refugee policy. (250 Words)
- With some 65.6 million people forcibly uprooted by violence, natural disasters, and economic hardship, there are more displaced people today than immediately after World War II.
- But, because no country is immune to the consequences associated with large movements of refugees, only a coordinated response can ameliorate the suffering.
Multilateral agreements and unilateral policies on refugees:-
- United nations conventions and refugees:
- 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee
- The 1951 Refugee Convention is the key legal document that forms the basis of UN work regarding refugees.The core principle is non-refoulement, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or freedom. This is now considered a rule of customary international law.
- The Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (1967 Protocol):
- The 1967 Protocol removed both the temporal and geographic restrictions. This was needed in the historical context of refugee flows resulting from decolonization.
- United Nations convention against torture:
- The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is an international human rights treaty, under the review of the United Nations, that aims to prevent torture and other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment around the world.
- The New York Declaration called for states to ease pressure on less-developed countries like Lebanon, Jordan, and Ethiopia that host the most refugees, to increase efforts to boost refugees self-dependence to expand resettlement; and to foster ways for refugees to return home.
- India had a refugee population of just over 2 lakh by end of 2015.India, meanwhile, deals with refugees and asylum seekers and refugees on an ad hoc basis, consulting a basic refugee policy and administrative laws like The Passport (Entry of India) Act, 1920, The Passport Act 1967, The Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939, The Foreigners Act, 1946, and the Foreigners Order, 1948.The legal status of refugees in India is governed mainly by the Foreigners Act 1946 and the Citizenship Act 1955.
- Latin America:
- According to the N.refugee agency, over 100,000 Venezuelans have claimed asylum since 2014 while 190,000 others have found alternative legal pathways.
- Peru’s asylum law, passed in 2003, applies to those who have fled Venezuela as a result of persecution or violence.
- Brazil does have a refugee law, which grants asylum seekers the right to stay in Brazil until their claim is judged by the National Committee for Refugees (CONARE).In 2017, after pressure from civil society and public bodies, Brazil agreed to grant temporary residence to Venezuelans through Resolution No. 126 of 2017
- Latin America is thus leading the world in acknowledging that criminal violence can, in some circumstances, qualify the victims as refugees under the 1951 Refugee Convention or the Latin American expanded refugee definition in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration.
- Germany decided to suspend the Dublin Procedure for Syrians, which meant that refugees from that country no longer had to be sent back to the first EU country that they entered. The country famously adopted an “open border” policy.
- 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee
Why a global refugee policy is needed ?
- Movements of people are a quintessentially global phenomenon that demands a global sharing of responsibility
- Refugees and migrants contribute to the growth and development of host countries as well as their countries of origin. So there is a need for more measures to promote the social and economic inclusion of refugees and migrants..
- There is a need to give greater attention to addressing the drivers of forced displacement.
- There is a need to strengthen the international systems that manage large movements of people so that they uphold human rights norms and provide the necessary protections. States must honour their international legal obligations, including the 1951 Refugee Convention.
- More orderly and legal pathways for migrants and refugees will be crucial, so that desperate people are not forced to turn to criminal networks in their search for safety.
- Refugee and migrant crises are far from insurmountable, but they cannot be addressed by states acting alone. Today, millions of refugees and migrants are being deprived of their basic rights, and the world is depriving itself of the full benefits of what refugees and migrants have to offer.
- Refugees can face adversities of trafficking, threat to life, even radicalisation so global efforts need to be made to provide them a decent life.
- Global policy efforts, therefore, must focus on better cooperation and dialogue among the affected countries. This includes promoting a safe and secure working environment for refugees.
- Rather than closing borders, as some governments have done, the international community must work together to address the issue of global displacement
General Studies – 3
Topic: Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security
4) Critically comment on the functioning of the existing TPDS mechanism and the role played by the centre and states. Also discuss challenges in the effective implementation of TPDS and alternatives to reform the existing machinery. (250 Words)
- India is the fastest growing large economy in the world today. Despite this, one in every five Indians is poor. The “Global Nutrition Report 2016” once again demonstrates India’s slow overall progress in addressing chronic malnutrition. So TPDS can be one of the avenues to ensure food and nutrition to the poor.
- Identification of eligible households under existing TPDS
- The government launched TPDS in order to target food grains entitlements to poor households. Therefore, identification and classification of beneficiaries is crucial to fulfil the goals of the scheme.
- Role of Aadhaar
- Aadhaar number is being used to accurately identify and authenticate beneficiaries entitled to receive subsidies under TPDS and other government schemes.
- Using Aadhaar would help eliminate duplicate and fake beneficiaries, and make identification for entitlements more effective.
- Diversification of commodities under PDS:
- The list of items which are distributed under PDS system have been extended to meet the day-to-day requirements of the ordinary man.
- Increased transparency:
- Records are now available on the web portal of this scheme and hence, the transparency involved in this system has increased.
- Technology based reforms to TPDS like digitisation of ration cards ,Use of GPS technology , Issue of smart cards in place of ration cards ,SMS based monitoring Use of web-based citizens portal have already been undertaken by some states.
Role of centre and states:
- Entitlements under TPDS
- Eligible beneficiaries are entitled to subsidised food grains such as wheat and rice. States have the discretion to provide other commodities such as sugar, kerosene, and fortified atta under TPDS.
- The government does not identify APL households therefore, any household above the poverty line is eligible to apply for a ration card.
- The centre allocates food grains to states for APL families in addition to BPL families; however, this allocation is based on availability of food grains in the central stocks and the average quantity of food grains bought by states from the centre over the last three years.
- Management of food grains for TPDS
- The central and state governments share responsibilities in order to provide food grains to the identified beneficiaries.
- The centre procures food grains from farmers at a minimum support price (MSP) and sells it to states at central issue prices. It is responsible for transporting the grains to godowns in each state. It also allocates the grains to each state on the basis of a formula.
- States bear the responsibility of transporting food grains from these godowns to each fair price shop (ration shop), where the beneficiary buys the food grains at the lower central issue price. Many states further subsidise the price of food grains before selling it to beneficiaries.
- The Food Corporation of India (FCI) is the nodal agency at the centre that is responsible for transporting food grains to the state godowns.
- Procurement of food grains from farmers
- The food grains provided to beneficiaries under TPDS are procured from farmers at MSP. The MSP is the price at which the FCI purchases the crop directly from farmers; typically the MSP is higher than the market price. This is intended to provide price support to farmers and incentivise production.
- Decentralised procurement:
- Decentralised procurement is a central scheme under which states/Union Territories (UTs) procure food grains for the central pool at MSP on behalf of FCI.
- The scheme was launched to encourage local procurement of food grains and minimise expenditure incurred when transporting grains from surplus to deficit states over long distances. These states directly store and distribute the grains to beneficiaries in the state.
- The centre procures and stores food grains to:
- Meet the prescribed minimum buffer stock norms for food security
- Release food grains under TPDS on a monthly basis
- Meet emergency situations arising out of unexpected crop failures, natural disasters, etc.,
- Sell through the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS)
- The central government introduced the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) in 1993, to sell food grains in the open market; this was intended to augment the supply of grains to moderate or stabilise open market prices.
- Storage of food grains
- Apart from the food grains requirement for immediate distribution under TPDS, the central government maintains minimum buffer reserves of food stocks for emergencies.
- Distribution of food grains to beneficiaries
- The responsibility of distributing food grains is shared between the centre and states.
- The centre, specifically FCI, is responsible for the inter-state transport of food grains from procuring to consuming states, as well as delivering grains to the state godowns.
- Once FCI transports grains to the state depots, distribution of food grains to end consumers is the responsibility of state governments.
- On receipt of food grains, states allocate the grains to each district and further to each Fair Price Shop (FPS; ration shop) within the first week of the month.
- State governments are responsible for transporting food grains from the state godowns to the doorstep of each FPS in the state.
Challenges and issues:
There are several issues to consider while analysing the implementation of TPDS, which relate to the (i) identification of eligible households, (ii) trends in procurement vis-à-vis production of food grains, (iii) storage space for food grains, (iv) food subsidy, and (v) leakage of food grains.
- Identification of beneficiaries
- Like any system of targeting, TPDS also suffers from inclusion and exclusion errors.
- This implies that entitled beneficiaries are not getting food grains while those that are ineligible are getting undue benefits
- Trends in procurement vis-à-vis production
- In years of drought and domestic shortfall, India will have to resort to large scale imports of rice and wheat, exerting significant upward pressure on prices. This raises questions regarding the government’s ability to procure grains without affecting open market prices and adversely impacting the food subsidy bill.
- Rising food subsidy
- The food subsidy has increased over the years.The cost of handling food grains (MSP and other costs) has increased due to rising costs of production such as labour and energy costs, including fertilisers and increasing costs for handling and distributing food grains.
- Shortfall in storage capacity with FCI against the central pool stock
- FCI’s storage capacity (both owned and hired) has not increased commensurate to the growth in procurement. This implies that a certain amount of grains is being stored in unscientific storage, leading to the rotting of food grains.
- The holding of stocks above the minimum buffer norms also adversely impacts prices of grains in the open market. This affects poor households, which buy the remaining requirement of food grains from the open market.
- Food grain supplied by ration shops are either not enough to meet demand or are of inferior quality
- Aadhar enabled PDS issues:
- Even in state capitals ,network failures and other glitches routinely disable this sort of technology.
- Internet dependence is needed but still internet services are not available in rural areas.
- Many people had been deprived of rations because they don’t have an Aadhar number.
- Leakage of food grains
- TPDS suffers from large leakages of food grains during transportation to and from ration shops into the open market.
- PDS is not cost effective, its operations are too costly and the ratio between procurement and transportation is too high pointing to ‘wasteful’ movements.
- Lack of effective contribution towards household food security. In fact, it remains one of the weaker components of the food policy trioka of procurement, distribution and stocking.
Reforms needed :-
- Reforms to TPDS:
- Includes doorstep delivery of grains to ration shops, leveraging Aadhaar for targeting of beneficiaries, and maintenance of adequate buffer stocks of food items
- Universal PDS
- Unlike most states in the country, Tamil Nadu retained the Universal PDS, providing subsidised food grains to the entire population. Universal PDS helps the state avoid errors in targeting beneficiaries.
- Cash Transfers :-
- Beneficiaries would be given either cash or coupons by the state government, which they can exchange for food grains.Some potential advantages of these programmes include:
- Reduced administrative costs
- Expanded choices for beneficiaries
- Competitive pricing among grocery stores.
- It helps reduce fiscal deficit by curbing expenditures earmarked for the pDS as well as avoiding sustainability higher costs of transferring food rather than cash.
- Food coupons:-
- Beneficiaries would directly be given either cash or coupons which can be exchanged for food grains. Efforts have been made to introduce cash transfers for various schemes with the Unique Identification Number as a way to improve identification and prevent leakage of subsidy.
- EPOS (electronic point of sale) devices:-
- Automation of fair price shops, through handheld devices or computers
- Retail price at FPS should be uniform throughout the state/area after weight averaging the transport cost for the FPS.
- Streamlining of the supply chain by construction of small intermediary godowns between FCI’s base godown and FPS in the interior
- Setup vigilance committees of local people with substantial representation of women for each FPS at the village level and also at higher levels
- Reduction in PDS prices
- Community management of FPS
- Setting up proper channels for grievance redressal
- Raising FPS commissions.
- Entitlement card’s easy availability and improvement in its design and durability
- Doorstep delivery of PDS commodities
- Beneficiaries would be given either cash or coupons by the state government, which they can exchange for food grains.Some potential advantages of these programmes include:
Over the years, PDS has become an important part of Government’s policy for management of food economy in the country. The Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) is an important instrument of policy aimed at reducing poverty through the mechanism of delivering minimum requirements of food grains at highly subsidised prices to the population below the poverty line.
Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways
5) It is argued that more than a manufacturing-centric EV policy, India needs a set of ecosystem-level EV policies. What do you understand by this? In the light of present EV policy that’s being mooted by the government, discuss the statement. (250 Words)
- Electric vehicles (EVs) are growing in popularity and certainly in mind space. They are cleaner and more efficient, easy to maintain and there is an advantage of regenerative braking. On the whole it is a package to fight against climate change and global warming as green house gas emissions are reduced .
Problems with current model/why India needs to focus on ecosystem EV :-
- Most worries hinge on battery costs and manufacturer readiness. Also at current the electric vehicles take longer time to charge than conventional vehicles.
- A more India-specific concern will be that of the electricity grid as there are doubts when it can successfully handle the demand.
- India needs to focus on ecosystem EV because the present system does not help environment as most power comes from coal-fired power
- Will use solar photovoltaics (PV) to charge EVs. This means that Renewable energy may at best contribute some fraction of energy at different times but with personal vehicles and public transport mostly charged at night solar energy advantage as an alternative is constrained.
What more needs to be done ?
- EVs and the grid can have enormous synergy.
- Not only can EVs charge whenever there is “surplus” power, they have a battery useful for absorbing variable renewable energy. They can even offer backup power for the grid.
- Time-of-day pricing(cheap charging when power is surplus) is missing today. Without this, India cannot have signalling to purposely make demand vary to match supply conditions. Such responsiveness is a hallmark of the “future grid”
- EVs can and should use Renewable energy as much as possible as it helps in cleaning the environment.
- India could compensate cleaner vehicles through reduced registration charges, or even aim for mandating EVs for taxis and selected (urban) public transport vehicles.
- There are other ways to spur EVs, including dedicated charging spots, and discounted or free parking.
- The long-run goal isn’t just to make vehicles electric but to reduce personal driving. This means urban redesign for walking/biking, more shared services, and more and better public transport
- The government mainly needs to create the right frameworks and help overcome “network effect” problems, covering both the grid and charging infrastructure.
- To meet India’s demands for batteries amid a global surge in electric vehicle demand, the entire mineral supply chain needs to be overhauled and expanded
- In order to avoid a scenario like the one that played during the oil crises of the 1970s it is imperative that India secure mineral supplies for its domestic industry by acquisition of overseas assets such as mineral reserves and the associated production.
- India has long-term trade relations with lithium-producing countries in Latin America through preferential trade agreements (PTAs).
- India needs to formulate policies incentivising domestic public and private mining companies to invest in overseas lithium mining assets.
- Reducing the battery size and adopting “swappable” battery technology are other alternatives
- India does need to have a low-emission vehicle policy, one that surrounds alternative energy sources such as bio-gas and bio-diesel.
- Because hybrids are a mesh of existing and future technologies and do not require the establishment of charging infrastructure, although popularising plug-in hybrids that can be charged both from their own engines and the grid, will actually help in the gradual seeding of such infrastructure before a shift to electric vehicles.
- Focus on wireless ranging as it allows for significantly smaller batteries or the ability to travel longer distances with a larger battery.
- When India is focusing on reaching the targets on the Paris agreement and striving for cleaner environment the focus on electrical vehicles is the right direction.
Topic: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies
6) Discuss the merits, challenges and future prospects of direct benefit transfer (DBT) in fertilizers. Should fertilisers subsidy be directly transferred to the farmer’s bank account? Examine why. (250 Words)
- India has successfully conducted direct benefit transfer in case of LPG and now it wants to expand to fertilizer as well. So far DBT in fertilizers has been rolled out in 19 States and Union Territories and 12 States are expected to come on board this month.DBT in fertilizers is expected to expand its footprint in the entire country.
- DBT in fertilizer envisages transfer of subsidy to manufacturers upon authentication of purchase by farmers. This restricts diversion and brings about greater transparency, accountability and efficiency.
- Given the complex nature of fertilizer subsidies, with multiple producers and varying cost structures, this was perhaps the best option to begin with.
- Quick subsidy payments on a daily basis is expected to end delays in companies receiving their dues from the government, besides leaving an electronic trail of every transaction with all relevant details.
- It will plug leakages and save huge amount of money to the exchequer.
- Sales of neem-coated Urea have already stopped illegal diversion of fertilizer for non-agriculture applications like in plywood and textile sectors or for milk adulteration.
- New system will completely put this practice to an end when companies will have to provide details of end users.
- Once the system functions fully, it will lead to better soil health management, balanced fertilization, and better productivity.
- Based on NITI Aayog findings:-
- 85% of farmers received transaction receipts and the grievance redress mechanism has improved and 79% retailers are satisfied. A majority of farmers (and retailers) prefer the DBT system
- Introduction in the fertilizer sector seems a gigantic task as the beneficiaries and their entitlements are not clearly defined at this present.
- Different inputs – urea, phosphatic and potassic fertilizers – have different rates of subsidies. Besides, it would be premature to accept that all the farmers would be able to buy their requirements of fertilizers at market rate and wait for 15 days or a month to get the subsidies.
- For farmers, there is no change in the system when DBT is rolled out except that the purchase will be recorded in a Point of sale machine. For retailers too, there is not much change, except that they have to upload data.
- An important issue has been connectivity, like other IT-based initiatives, especially in rural areas. Developing the systems and sensitising all stakeholders to migrate to the new system was an arduous task .
- A major concern is of some dealer attrition, which is probably on account of declining margins and reduced possibility of diversion or sale at a higher price.
- Under DBT, manufacturers will not get subsidy. They will have to sell fertilisers at cost-based or market determined price, whichever is lower. While low-cost units will benefit, high-cost units may lose.
- Under DBT, importers will have to sell at market price and will be under pressure to source imported urea at competitive price. Assured margins will be a thing of past.
- Under DBT scheme, dealers will have to pay at least two to three times more. This will require greater deployment of working capital. If banks do not lend more, many of them will be forced to leave this business, This will in turn affect sales.
- Innovative solutions such as retailers can use desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc. to run the application are expected to help.
- The revamped toll-free number will soon allow conversations in regional languages.
- Reducing the waiting time for farmers purchasing fertilizers is important. While Aadhaar is the preferred form of identification of buyers, other forms of identification may also be used.
- As the pilot expands to more States, the efficiencies of the new system would be increasingly visible. The broad and overriding goal is to ensure that under no circumstances should any farmer be denied or refused the opportunity to purchase fertilizers.
Subsidy directly to the bank account:-
- The Standing Committee on Chemicals and Fertilizers (2016-17) has recently emphasised that while implementing DBTs, subsidy should be disbursed directly to the farmer’s bank account.
- Centre would launch the DBT in real sense when subsidies will pass directly to the farmers. This is the first step towards direct benefit transfer but unless the money is given to the farmers accounts it cannot succeed.
- The current method may result in Rs 5000 to Rs 7,000 crore in savings by plugging leakages but for more savings they have to be linked to bank accounts.
No,subsidy should not be transferred to the bank account due to the following reasons:-
- There are difficulties at directly transferring subsidies to farmers’ bank accounts .
- Also the banking system is not very spread out in rural areas
- Still many people do not have banking account
- Also when cash is transferred in the bank account it can be used for other purposes.
- The massive amount of data being generated is expected to provide a clear picture of farming activity in the country and help make future planning for the sector more effective.
7) The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act (CAF Act), 2016 has raised serious concerns about the human and environmental costs of compensatory afforestation (CA). In the light of these concerns, discuss the role of local communities and gram sabhas in ecological restoration. (250 Words)
- Local communities in the forests have a holistic traditional scientific knowledge of their lands, natural resources and environment .
- In view of the interrelationship between the natural environment and its sustainable development and the cultural, social, economic and physical well-being of these people national and international efforts to implement environmentally sound and sustainable development should recognise, accommodate, promote and strengthen the role of local communities.
What are concerns raised by the act about compensatory afforestation:-
- Evidence establishes that CA plantations destroy natural forests, harm biodiversity, undermine the rights and nutrition of local communities, and disguise rampant misuse of public funds.
- Subverts forest rights act and PESA:-
- By allocating more than Rs50,000 crore, the Act enables the forest bureaucracy to entrench its control over forests and subvert democratic forest governance established by the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 and Panchayats (Extension to Schedule Areas) Act (Pesa), 1996.
- Case studies on plantation sites from states like Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh reveals that
- 60% of these are monocultural commercial plantations, sometimes set up in the name of “forests”.
- These plantations have been carried out over forest lands both claimed and titled under the FRA, and even over dense natural forests.
- The consent of these communities has not been sought, violating their legal rights and leading to livelihood distress..
- The draft rules recently released are criticized as they
- Add a stamp of approval to existing land and forest rights violations.
- Will enable forest officials to set up plantations on traditional forests without even this consultation in many of the 1.77 lakh villages across India that have forests.
- The working plans have nothing to do with obtaining the consent of gram sabhas, but lay down the forest department’s proposals for forest management.
- The Act lacks a mechanism to monitor expenditure of funds, despite the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report, 2013 finding massive misutilization by the forest department
- International study:-
- So far communities have got titles to govern only about 3% of the 34.6 million hectares of land traditionally used by them. The study estimates that the rights of around 190 million Adivasis and other forest dwellers remain unrecognised.
- How the role of gram sabha is subverted by the latest act:-
- The draft rules have restricted the definition of the gram sabha in a manner that the Forest Rights Act does not permit. This one rule [requiring minimum 1,500 members] is sufficient to render any role for gram sabhas meaningless.
- Another route to bypass the need for consent or consultations with the gram sabhas has also been created in the draft rules. Instead of consulting gram sabhas, the rules say that state Forest Departments can instead consult village-level Forest Protection Committees that are constituted under the Joint Forest Management Scheme of the government through which the department claims to involve local communities in forest management
- However, unlike the gram sabhas, these committees are controlled by the Forest Department and do not come under the Forest Rights Act.
- The latest draft rules fails to address the concerns and demands raised by tribal organizations and forest rights groups.
Role of gram sabha in ecological restoration :-
- It promotes
- of micro watersheds and/or identifiable natural units
- Community-based management of sacred groves
- Planting of natural vegetation in high-slope areas, barren lands and other common lands
- Green belt development and catchment conservation
- Conservation of wetlands
- Nursery raising of local species of flora through MGNREGS
- It initiates
- Afforestation drives
- Steps to make wetland cultivation chemical-free and sustainable
- Develops Bio-diversity register and Community monitoring system on poaching.
- Under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA), the Gram Sabha has been assigned a substantial role for the implementation of the provisions of the Act.
- The Gram Sabha plays a central role in safeguarding the customary and religious rights of Scheduled Tribes (ST) and Tribal Forest Dwellers (TFD).
- It is also important in its role in acknowledging and deciding upon community forest rights claims.
- It also safeguards rights, preserves customs, cultural identity and community resources.
- The Union Environment Ministry’s clearance for a project that affects communities is dependent on the votes in a Gram Sabha reflecting the opinion that the people want the project to go ahead.
- It helps protect the rights of people who have lived on and off the land for generations and check if they are in favour of the project.
- It is also a platform where people can make an informed decision after considering the resettlement or alternative packages prepared for the affected individual forest rights holders and communities whose forest rights are recognize.
Role of communities in ecological restoration:-
- By working together as a community, efforts to reduce impact on the environment are multiplied.
- It is well-established that communities are the best stewards for the governance and conservation of forests.
- Forest Survey of India reports show that forest cover in tribal districts, constituting 60% of the country’s total forest cover, increased by 3,211 sq. km over 2001-03.
- In Odisha alone, more than 12,000 self-initiated forest protection groups (known as CFM groups) cover more than 2 million hectares of forest.
- These community-led initiatives have successfully regenerated forests by adopting sustainable- use practices, regeneration through traditional knowledge of forests and species, guarding and penalizing poachers, among others.
- Carbon offset projects can be fantastic community building events and help communities go green. Community gardens can allow residents to grow some of their own food. Tree planting and green-scaping will make a community more appealing, too.
- Preserving open space in building and zoning plans, especially preserving mature trees and planting new ones helps keep communities healthy.
- The CAF Act needs to be integrated with the FRA and PESA by centering the role of gram sabhasand incorporating land and forest rights guarantees. Only then India’s target of 33% forest cover would be achieved.
General Studies – 4
Topic: Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption
‘If you owe the bank a hundred thousand dollars, the bank owns you. If you owe the bank a hundred million dollars, you own the bank.’ This American proverb alludes to the dangers of corruption, nepotism and cronyism in the banking sector. Often ignored, corruption in the financial services sector can have deep and far-reaching consequences for an economy, and in an increasingly interconnected world, the entire globe.
According to the RBI, PSU banks along with the latest PNB scam reported loan frauds of Rs 73000 crore These are reported frauds. Probity in the conduct of business by banks is crucial given that they deal with public money. Corruption by banks in the manner of giving loans for extraneous considerations and possibly evergreening or restructuring bad loans could lead to the build up of non-performing assets in banks, tie up capital and prevent fresh credit offtake.
Solutions needed are:-
- Banking sector:-
- Adequate auditing and internal control
- Strengthening internal processes to monitor and mitigate risks
- An emphasis on ethics should also be placed on the recruitment process and career promotion mechanisms, as prescribed by the Financial stability board.
- Assessing whether a bank has a sound risk culture and proper internal controls
- Supervisors should check that mechanisms are in place and ensure that the necessary checks and balances are in place throughout the organisation, as well as proper accountability and transparency provisions.
- A process of virtual de-nationalisation of PSU banks, at least at the operating level, has to be the first step.
- Empowering bank managements and securing their independence from political interference while enforcing strict accountability for lapses.
- RBI formed a committee that made a host of recommendations to improve governance, including competitive recruitment and remuneration, fixed tenures for bank chiefs, clawback of bonuses when dubious evergreening is detected, etc
- Include embedding within performance metrics the performance of loans disbursed under the management’s watch and making their remuneration contingent on this by penalising management for non performance of loans
- Holding up promotions for deterioration in quality of loans and linking promotions to recoveries. This will bring accountability and disincentivise collusive behavior
- Further, despite fixed tenures, management should be made responsible for loans disbursed in their time if they become non-performing even after they are transferred .
- In addition, there must be tighter rules governing the conduct of bank personnel in both private and public sector banks.
- Also a group ethical officer post is necessary in all banks to ensure integrity in the employees.
- Boards also tend to have ex officio nominees to the government rather than independent experts that can provide ‘tone from the top. This needs change.
- Also strengthen the corporate governance framework by requiring that the governance arrangements include an organisational structure with clear reporting lines, control mechanisms and remuneration policies that promote sound and effective risk management.
- Private ownership effectively gives the RBI powers to punish managements and boards of banks when they fail to perform their key role of managing risk.
- Any instance of crony capitalism and influential business man involved need to be punished severely to gain public trust.
It is time the Centre, the major shareholder in these institutions, takes serious steps to translate this intent into action. To restore the depositor’s faith in the banking system, the government, the RBI and the judiciary must ensure that prompt and salutary action is taken.