Insights Daily Current Affairs, 16 July 2018
Topic: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
President nominates four members to Rajya Sabha
Context: In exercise of the powers conferred by Article 80 of the Constitution of India, and on the advice of the Prime Minister, the President of India has made four nominations to the Rajya Sabha.
The nominated members are- Ram Shakal, Rakesh Sinha, Raghunath Mohapatra and Sonal Mansingh.
Nominated member of the Rajya Sabha:
Under article 80 of the Constitution, the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) is composed of not more than 250 members, of whom 12 are nominated by the President of India from amongst persons who have special knowledge or practical experience in respect of such matters as literature, science, art and social service.
Powers and privileges:
- Nominated members enjoy all powers, privileges and immunities available to an elected member of Parliament.
- They take part in the proceedings of the House as any other member.
- They, however, are not entitled to vote in the election of the President of India.
- But in the election of the Vice-President of India, they have a right to vote.
- A nominated member is allowed six months, should he decide to join a political party after he has taken his seat in the House in terms of article 99 of the Constitution.
- A nominated member has also been exempted from filing his assets and liabilities under Section 75A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 which requires the elected member to do so within 90 days of his making or subscribing oath/affirmation.
- Under MPLADS, the Nominated Members of the Rajya Sabha may select any Districts from any State in the Country for implementation of their choice of work under the scheme.
Rationale behind the principle of nomination:
- By adopting the principle of nomination in Rajya Sabha, the Constitution has ensured that the nation must also receive services of the most distinguished persons of the country who have earned distinction in their field of activity, many of whom may not like to face the rough and tumble of the election.
- By nominating them to Rajya Sabha, the State not only recognises their merit and confers honour on them, but also enables them to enrich the debates by their expertise and knowledge that they have in different areas.
- For Prelims: Article 80, the process of nomination of members to Rajya Sabha, powers and privileges of nominated members.
- For Mains: Rationale behind the principle of nomination.
Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Direct benefit transfer (DBT)
Context: Acknowledging that problems have been experienced by three Union Territories (UTs) in the implementation of direct benefit transfer (DBT) for food subsidy, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has advised States that are planning to shift to cash transfer to be cautious while effecting the migration.
Problems highlighted by the RBI:
- Inadequacy of transfers to maintain pre-DBT consumption levels.
- Insufficiency of last-mile delivery mechanisms.
- A weak grievance redressal system.
Why cash transfer is better than the public distribution system (PDS)?
- Cash transfer mode reduces the need for large physical movement of food grains.
- Given the wide inter-State and intra-State variations in food consumption habits, the DBT provides “greater autonomy” to beneficiaries to choose their consumption basket, apart from enhancing dietary diversity.
- It also reduces the leakage in the PDS, as the Central government has to absorb a huge food subsidy bill under the existing system of distribution of food grains in fulfilment of provisions of the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
Processes to be followed by States prior to DBT execution:
RBI has referred to certain pre-conditions mentioned in the Central government’s 2015 food subsidy rules. The pre-conditions include complete digitisation and de-duplication of the beneficiary database, and seeding of bank account details and Aadhaar numbers in the digitised database.
With the aim of reforming Government delivery system by re-engineering the existing process in welfare schemes for simpler and faster flow of information/funds and to ensure accurate targeting of the beneficiaries, de-duplication and reduction of fraud Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) was started on 1st January, 2013.
DBT by leveraging the JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobiles) trinity and the technological prowess offers to drastically improve the benefit delivery system in the country. The JAM Trinity will enable this novel system to transfer benefits in a leakage-proof, well targeted, cashless and timely manner.
The success of an ambitious and a highly desirable initiative like DBT depends on a set of a few critical factors. For a heterogeneous and a large country like India, it becomes imperative that these critical success factors are ensured to achieve smooth rollout of a programme like DBT. The key success factors or enablers for an efficacious Implementation of DBT would include: JAM Trinity, Business Correspondents (BC) Infrastructure, payment bank and mobile money.
- For Prelims: DBT- what is it and where is it being implemented.
- For Mains: DBT implementation- issues, challenges and solutions.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
World Customs Organisation (WCO)
Context: India has become the Vice-Chair (Regional Head) of the Asia Pacific Region of World Customs Organisation (WCO) for a period of two years, from July, 2018 to June, 2020. Being the Vice Chair of AP Region of WCO will enable India to take on leadership role.
The World Customs Organization (WCO), established in 1952 as the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC) is an independent intergovernmental body whose mission is to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of Customs administrations.
- Today, the WCO represents 182 Customs administrations across the globe that collectively process approximately 98% of world trade.
- As the global centre of Customs expertise, the WCO is the only international organization with competence in Customs matters and can rightly call itself the voice of the international Customs community.
- The WCO has divided its Membership into six Regions. Each of the six Regions is represented by a regionally elected Vice-Chairperson to the WCO Council.
Roles and functions:
- As a forum for dialogue and exchange of experiences between national Customs delegates, the WCO offers its Members a range of Conventions and other international instruments, as well as technical assistance and training services provided either directly by the Secretariat, or with its participation.
- Besides the vital role played by the WCO in stimulating the growth of legitimate international trade, its efforts to combat fraudulent activities are also recognized internationally.
- WCO has also been responsible for administering the World Trade Organization’s Agreements on Customs Valuation, which provide a system for placing values on imported goods, and the Rules of Origin, which are used to determine the origin of a given commodity.
- For Prelims: WCO- objectives and functions, India as Asia Pacific head.
- For Mains: WCO and its role in international trade.
Topic: e-technology in the aid of farmers.
What is it? It is an e-commerce platform launched by IFFCO to address all needs of the farming community associated with it. For this initiative, IFFCO has partnered with Singapore-based technology firm iMandi.
Target: Through this e-commerce platform, IFFCO is targeting to reach GMV (gross merchandise value) of $5 billion in the next two years by catering needs of 5.5 crore farmers already associated with it.
Features of IFFCO iMandi:
- The e-commerce platform is one stop shop for agri inputs and produce, FMCG, electronics, loans, insurance etc.
- It has features like buy-sell, communication, entertainment and information/advisory content to keep farmers engaged.
- Using it, farmers buy all agri inputs of IFFCO, including fertilisers, agro chemicals and seeds at discounted price and get free delivery at their doorstep.
About Indian Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO):
IFFCO is large scale fertiliser cooperative federation in India which is registered as Multistate Cooperative Society. It is one of India’s biggest cooperative society which is wholly owned by Indian Cooperatives.
- For Prelims: IFFCO, IFFCO iMANDI.
- For Mains: Significance and features of iMANDI.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints.
Context: The outcry and ban against plastic bags and single-use plastic packaging holds potential for the jute sector.
- More than 100-year-old Jute sector, supporting five million families at the farm and the industry-level, may not be in a position to benefit from this opportunity, right away.
- The availability of quality raw jute and shrinking acreage on the one-hand and the failure of most jute mills to modernise has left the sector dependent on government-support like packaging reservations.
- The sector is still primitive, involves labour-intensive cultivation methods and retting (drenching raw jute in water to extract the fibre) — a crucial determinant in raw jute quality — creates problems.
- With raw jute prices remaining below the support price in 2017-18, area-under-cultivation may stagnate in 2018-19.
Efforts to support the sector:
A recent initiative called ‘The Jute Foundation’ (TJF) is trying to address many issues pertaining to the environment-friendly product. It is trying to engage all stakeholders –farmers, workers, mills, research organisations and consumers.
The I-CARE programme unveiled by the National Jute Board and the Jute Corporation of India is planning to introduce a pilot project on retting technologies aimed at increasing farmers’ returns.
Jute Technology Mission (JTM):
Jute Technology Mission (JTM) was approved by the government of India in 2006 and it has 4 mini Missions. The Objectives of the JTM are as follows:
- To strengthen agricultural research and technology achievements.
- Development/extension of raw jute Ministry of and transfer of improved technology.
- To develop efficient market linkages Ministry of for raw jute.
- To modernize, technologically upgrade, improve productivity, Textiles diversify and develop human resource for the jute industry.
Facts for Prelims:
West Bengal is India’s single largest raw jute cultivator producing almost 75 % of the crop in Nadia, Dinajpur, Murshidabad and North 24 Parganas districts.
- For Prelims: Largest raw jute cultivator.
- For Mains: Jute sector- potential, challenges and support by the government.
Sources: the hindu.
Topic: types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage.
Bansagar canal project
Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated the Bansagar canal project in Mirzapur in Uttar Pradesh.
Bansagar canal project:
- Bansagar Dam project is a joint venture between Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
- Bansagar Dam is a multipurpose river Valley Project on Sone River situated in the Ganges Basin in Madhya Pradesh.
- The total canal network under it is 171 kms long.
- Canals under this project will bring waters from Shahdol district in Madhya Pradesh for Adwa Barrage, Meza Dam and Jirgo reservoir.
- The project aims to provide a big boost to irrigation in the region. It promises to be greatly beneficial for the farmers of Mirzapur and Allahabad districts of Uttar Pradesh.
- As per the projections, the project will benefit 1 lakh 70 thousand farmers of Mirzapur and Allahabad districts.
About Son River:
- Son River of central India is the second largest of the Ganges’s southern tributaries after Yamuna River.
- The Son originates near Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh just east of the headwater of the Narmada River, and flows north-northwest through Madhya Pradesh state before turning sharply eastward where it encounters the southwest-northeast-Kaimur Range.
- Son is an extension of the Narmada Valley, and the Kaimur Range an extension of the Vindhya Range.
For Prelims and Mains: Bansagar Canal Project and its significance, Son river.
Topic: Infrastructure- waterways.
Right of First Refusal (ROFR)
What is it? Right of first refusal is a contractual right, but not obligation, to enter into a business transaction with a person or company before anyone else can. If the entity with the right of first refusal declines to enter into a transaction, the owner of the asset who offered the right is free to open the bidding up to other interested parties.
Why in news?
A proposed move by the Centre to abolish the ROFR clause for transportation of Indian cargo by Indian-flagged vessels, the only benefit available to Indian shipping companies is threatening the existence of the domestic shipping industry.
- If the clause is scrapped, it could hurt the Indian shipping industry. Indian shipping companies have a combined fleet of 1,372 ships with a total capacity of 12.35 million Gross Tonnage (GT).
- The move may also prompt Indian Shipping firms to de- register their vessels from India and flag them in tax havens of Panama and Bahama to survive and compete with foreign lines.
- Currently, 92% of India’s export import trade is carried by foreign flag ships. And the 8% that is assured to Indian ships is likely to go if the ROFR is scrapped.
Why maintain ROFR clause?
- The right of first refusal is the only incentive to the Indian flag, which suffers from many disadvantages versus foreign flags.
- De-registering of vessels from the Indian flag will be a strategic blow to Indian security as merchant naval fleet always acts as a second line of defence for coastal security.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
Sangita Kalanidhi award:
Context: Renowned Carnatic vocalist Aruna Sairam has been selected for 2018 Sangita Kalanidhi award of Music Academy for her contribution to Carnatic music.
About the award:
- Sangita Kalanidhi Award was instituted by the Music Academy, Chennai.
- It is the title awarded yearly to a Carnatic Musician.
Context: ISRO has successfully conducted ground test of its high thrust version of Vikas Engine.
Vikas Engine is the workhorse liquid rocket engine powering the second stage of India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV), second stage and the four strap on stages of Geosynchronous Launch Vehicle (GSLV) and the twin engine core liquid stage (L110) of GSLV Mk-III.
Context: Destruction of mangrove cover in the Bandar Reserve Forest is forcing the golden jackal (Canis aureus) out of its habitat, triggering a conflict with the local communities.
- The Golden Jackal is a wolf-like canid that is native to Southeast Europe, Southwest Asia, South Asia, and regions of Southeast Asia.
- The conservation status of the animal is the ‘least concern’ and it preys on wild crab and fish.