INDIAN POLITY, GOVERNANCE AND SOCIAL JUSTICE
THE CONTEXT: The Union Cabinet approved the restoration and continuation of the Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) during the remaining part of Financial Year 2021-22 and up to Financial Year 2025-26 co-terminus with the period of 15th Finance Commission.
- The MPLADS is a Central Sector Scheme fully funded by the Government of India.
- The objective of the scheme is to enable MPs to recommend works of developmental nature with emphasis on the creation of durable community assets in the areas of drinking water, primary education, public health, sanitation and roads, etc. primarily in their Constituencies.
- The annual MPLADS fund entitlement per Member of Parliament (MP) constituency is Rs.5 crore, released in two instalments of Rs.2.5 crore each, subject to the fulfilment of conditions as per the MPLADS Guidelines.
- The MPLAD Scheme is governed by a set of guidelines, which are revised
from time to time.
- The process under MPLADS starts with the Members of Parliament recommending works to the Nodal District Authority.
- The Nodal District concerned is responsible for implementing the eligible works recommended by the Members of Parliament and maintaining the details of individual works executed and the amount spent under the Scheme.
- The Ministry conducted a Third Party Evaluation of the MPLADS works during 2021 in 216 districts across the country. The Evaluation Report is recommended for the continuation of MPLADS.
2. ETHANOL BLENDED PETROL PROGRAMME
THE CONTEXT: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has given its approval for fixing higher ethanol prices derived from different sugarcane-based raw materials under the EBP Programme for the forthcoming sugar season 2020-21.
- The approval will not only facilitate the continued policy of the Government in providing price stability and remunerative prices for ethanol suppliers but will also help in reducing the pending arrears of Cane farmers, dependency on crude oil imports and will also help in savings in foreign exchange and bring benefits to the environment.
- The decision to allow Oil PSEs to decide the price of 2G ethanol would facilitate setting up advanced biofuel refineries in the country.
- All distilleries will be able to take benefit from the scheme and a large number of them are expected to supply ethanol for the EBP Programme.
ABOUT EBP PROGRAMME
- The government has been implementing Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme wherein Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) sell petrol blended with ethanol up to 10%.
- This programme has been extended to the whole of India except the Union Territories of Andaman Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands with effect from 1st April 2019 to promote the use of alternative and environment-friendly fuels. This intervention also seeks to reduce import dependence for energy requirements and give a boost to the agriculture sector.
- The government has notified administered price of ethanol since 2014. For the first time during 2018, the differential price of ethanol based on raw material utilized for ethanol production was announced by the Government.
- These decisions have significantly improved the supply of ethanol thereby ethanol procurement by Public Sector OMCs has increased from 38 crore litre in Ethanol Supply Year (ESY) 2013-14 to contracted over 350 crore litre in ongoing ESY 2020-21.
- With a view to providing a long term perspective to the stakeholders, MoP&NG has published Ethanol Procurement Policy on a long-term basis under EBP Programme.
- To kick-start the Second Generation (2G) ethanol programme (which can be produced from agricultural and forestry residues, e.g. rice & wheat straw/corn cobs & Stover/bagasse, woody biomass), a few projects are being set up by Oil PSEs taking financial assistance from the Government’s “Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN Yojana” approved by the CCEA in the past.
3. 75 NUTRITION SMART VILLAGES
THE CONTEXT: As part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, to commemorate the 75th year of Independence of India a programme on “Nutrition Smart Village” will be initiated to strengthen the Poshan Abhiyan.
- This new initiative aims to reach out to 75 villages across India through the network of All India Coordinated Research Project on Women in Agriculture (AICRP-WIA) which is in operation at 13 centres in 12 States of India.
- The objectives of the initiative are promoting nutritional awareness, education and behavioural change in rural areas involving farm women and school children, harnessing traditional knowledge through the local recipe to overcome malnutrition and implementing nutrition-sensitive agriculture through homestead agriculture and Nutri-garden.
- To achieve the goal of Malnutrition free villages, intensive awareness campaigns and field activities will be undertaken for focusing on the concept of Nutri-village / Nutri-food / Nutri-diet/ Nutri-thali etc. for strengthening the Poshan Abhiyan.
- Awareness among the women farmers will also be created about their legal rights in all walks of life. The products/tools/technologies developed by AICRP centres will be evaluated through multi-location trials.
THE CONTEXT: While the Food Ministry says the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana is no longer needed as the economy is reviving, Right to Food activists insist that vulnerable communities still need the support, arguing that the government has sufficient grain stocks to extend the scheme.
- The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana scheme was part of the centre’s initial COVID-19 relief package, back in March 2020 when the first lockdown was announced.
- It provides for 5 kg of rice or wheat per person per month to be distributed free of cost to the 80 crore beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act.
- This is over and above the 5 kg already provided to ration card holders at a subsidised rate, thus ensuring a doubling of foodgrain availability to poor people at a time when the pandemic and lockdown was decimating livelihoods.
- The scheme was initially meant to run from April to June 2020 but was then extended for another five months from July to November. After the onset of the second wave of the pandemic, PMGKAY was rolled out for two months again, in May-June 2021, and was then further extended for another five months, from July to November.
- The 80 crore cap on NFSA beneficiaries and state ration card quotas are based on 2011 census data. Given the projected increase in population since then, economists have estimated that 10 crore eligible people are being excluded from the NFSA’s safety net. In its June 2021 judgement in a suo moto case on the plight of migrant workers, the Supreme Court directed that the Centre and State should continue providing foodgrains to migrants whether or not they had ration cards.
- Food Secretary told journalists that there were no plans to extend the scheme beyond November 30.
- The Right to Food Campaign wrote to Food Minister pointing to the SC judgement and noting that the pandemic still exists, unemployment remains at record levels and there is widespread hunger among vulnerable communities.
- They argued that the government should not only extend PMGKAY for another six months but also universalise the public distribution system itself so that anyone in need would receive food support regardless of whether they possessed a ration card or not. They also suggested that pulses and cooking oils be added to the monthly entitlements, given the recent rise in prices of these commodities.
- In the last few years, food grains have been produced at record levels. Government procurement from farmers at minimum support prices has also been on the rise, especially in the aftermath of the farm protests against three agricultural reform laws, as the Centre has been keen to prove that the laws would not affect procurement.
- This means that food stocks with the Food Corporation of India are at an all-time high.
- The Right to Food Campaign claimed that the amount of grain in FCI godowns would be sufficient to universalise PDS and extend PMGKAY for another six months as well.
ENVIRONMENT, GEOGRAPHY AND AGRICULTURE
5. CHINA AND U.S. PLEDGE TO ENHANCE CLIMATE COOPERATION
THE CONTEXT: China and the United States pledged to increase their cooperation on climate action in a joint declaration issued at U.N. climate talks in Glasgow.
- Chinese climate envoy Xie Zhenhua and U.S. counterpart John Kerry said the two countries would work together to accelerate the emissions reductions required to meet the temperature goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change
- Both sides recognize that there is a gap between efforts taken globally to reduce emissions and the goals of the Paris deal.
- The joint declaration came as governments from around the world were negotiating in Glasgow about how to build on the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect vulnerable countries from the impacts of global warming.
6. OLIVE RIDLEY TURTLES
THE CONTEXT: Eight fishermen from Andhra Pradesh have been nabbed for fishing in a prohibited area near the Rushikulya river mouth in the Ganjam district of Odisha.
- To ensure the safety of Olive Ridley turtles during their breeding and mating season, the State government has clamped a seven-month fishing ban within 20 km from the coast at the river mouths of Rushikulya, Damara, and Devi from November 1.
ABOUT OLIVER RIDLEY SEA TURTLES
- Olive Ridley Turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea) are migratory species visiting Indian coasts for nesting.
- These turtles travel all the way from the South Pacific Ocean to breed on the coast of Gahirmatha.
- Their mass nesting phenomenon is called arribadas.
- IUCN Status: Vulnerable
- They have the highest degree of protection as they are included in Schedule-I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
- The turtle eggs normally take 45 days to hatch. After this, tiny hatchlings come out and make their way to the sea.
- Threats: Heavy predation of eggs by dogs and wild animals, indiscriminate fishing with trawlers and gill nets, and beach soil erosion.
7. FISHING CAT COLLARING PROJECT
THE CONTEXT: Conservation biologists of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, will begin collaring 10 fishing cats (Prionailurus viverrinus) in the Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary (CWS) in Andhra Pradesh.
- The three-year project will also study its habitat, feeding habits, threats and movements. In Asia, a similar project had been done in Bangladesh.
- The project cost is entirely funded by the Vedanta group.
ABOUT FISHING CAT
- IUCN status- Vulnerable
- Habitat- Largely in the Eastern Ghats region, apart from Sundarbans in West Bengal and Bangladesh, fishing cats inhabit the Chilika lagoon and surrounding wetlands in Odisha, Coringa and Krishna mangroves in Andhra Pradesh.
- Threats- Habitat loss [wetland degradation and conversion for aquaculture and other commercial projects], sand mining along river banks, agricultural intensification resulting in loss of riverine buffer and conflict with humans in certain areas resulting in targeted hunting and retaliatory killings.
- In Cambodia, where images of fishing cats are found carved in the walls of ancient structures, they are known as Kla Trey, ‘Tiger fish’.
8. DIGITAL PAYMENT GATEWAY
THE CONTEXT: National Internet Exchange of India launched ‘Digital Payment Gateway’.
- National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) is a not-for-profit Company under the aegis of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) with the mission to make the internet accessible to everyone.
- NIXI has gone digital by enabling digital payments across its three business units by integrating payment gateways on all its customer-facing websites for ease of use.
- This integration will lead to increased ease of use for NIXI’s customers by offering real-time payments, providing uninterrupted services and ensuring a seamless experience for all stakeholders.
- NIXI has partnered with PayU and NSDL to offer the payment gateway services.
- National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) is a not-for-profit organization working since 2003 for spreading internet technology to the citizens of India
9. THE THIRD REGIONAL SECURITY DIALOGUE ON AFGHANISTAN
THE CONTEXT: The Third Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan held in Delhi called for urgent humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.
- A joint statement titled the ‘Delhi Declaration’ issued after the meeting called for “collective cooperation” against terrorism and drug trafficking in the region and expressed concern over the deteriorating socio-economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and underlined the need to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.
- The statement emphasised that the aid should be provided in an unimpeded, direct and assured manner and that the help should be distributed across the country in a “nondiscriminatory manner across all sections of the Afghan society.
- Pakistan and China too were invited to participate in the consultation but both stayed away.
PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
Q1. ‘Arribadas’ refers to which of the following?
a) Folk dance form of Assam
b) Mass nesting phenomenon of Olive Ridley Sea Turtles
c) Nesting of Migratory birds in Chillika lake
d) Seasonal migration of nomads in the Himalayan region
Q2. Consider the following statements about ‘Operation Olivia’:
- It is an initiative of the Indian Navy.
- It is for the repatriation of Indian citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Which of the above statements is/are correct?
a) 1 only c) 2 only
c) Both 1 and 2 d) Neither 1 nor 2
ANSWER FOR NOVEMBER 10th, 2021 PRELIMS PRACTICE QUESTIONS
Q1. Answer: C
- Srinagar, Ganderbal and Budgam are the main districts of Kashmir that have for ages been involved in making handicrafts products — such as textiles, carpets and rugs, crewel embroidery, silverware, woodwork and paper-mâché.
- Papier-mâché is said to have been brought to Kashmir by saint Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani from Persia in the 14th century. It is based primarily on creating colourful utility and decorative objects using paper pulp — vases, bowls, cups, boxes, trays and lamp bases. The art is concentrated mainly around downtown Srinagar and employs around 35,000 artisans — big and small, traders and kaarigars.