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GS-2


Government Policies

SC to hear plea against linking Aadhaar to bank accounts, phones: (The Hindu)

Context:

  • The Supreme Court will hear a petition challenging the government move to link bank accounts and mobile phones with Aadhaar numbers.
  • It is said to violate the fundamental right to privacy and equates citizens, including the elderly, women and students, with money launderers.

What is Aadhaar?

  • Aadhaar is a 12 digit unique-identity number issued to all Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data.
  • The data is collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory authority established in January 2009 by the Government of India, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

What is Unique Identification Authority of India?

  • Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI): The UIDAI is mandated to assign a 12-digit unique identification (UID) number to all the residents of India.
  • The number is linked to the resident’s basic demographic and biometric informations such as photograph, ten fingerprints and two iris scans, which are stored in a centralised database.
  • The implementation of UID scheme entails:
  • generation and assignment of UID to residents,
  • defining mechanisms and processes for interlinking UID with partner databases,
  • operation and management of all stages of UID life cycle and
  • framing policies and procedures for updation mechanism and defining usage and applicability of UID for delivery of various services among others.

What are the services linked to Aadhaar?

  • As over 50 services are linked to Aadhaar. Some of them are as follows:
  • As proof of identity: Aadhaar is accepted as a valid identity proof by the Central and all State governments for availing services, including application for passport, opening of bank or insurance accounts, getting telephone and mobile phone connections, and buying rail tickets and availing concessions.
  • To verify electoral roll: In order to keep a check on multiple entries in electoral rolls, the Election Commission has started a drive to include Aadhaar number along with Electors Photo Identity Card or voter Id card.
  • To open bank accounts and transact over 50,000: The Centre on June 16, 2017 made quoting of Aadhaar mandatory for opening of bank accounts as well as for any financial transaction of 50,000 and above.
  • In Provident fund: The Employees Provident Fund Organisation allots a Universal Account Number in order to facilitate smooth transfer of funds when an employee switches companies.
  • In Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: The scheme uses Aadhaar to verify the claim of the beneficiary and to transfer the subsidy amount.

What was the recent verdict on Right to Privacy? What are its conflicts with Aadhaar?

  • On the 24th of August, 2017, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court delivered its verdict affirming that the right to privacy is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution.
  • The Court held that privacy is intrinsic to life, liberty, freedom and dignity and therefore, is an inalienable natural right.

Right to privacy and Aadhaar:

  • Deeper questions of surveillance by the state, invasion of privacy at all levels, and the very fact of human beings being depicted to be mere numbers in the eyes of state leads to violation of dignity.
  • This could potentially lead to the denial of, and access to, many important social opportunities and other facilities for a particular section of people, who could be discriminated against by the state.
  • The mobile phone circular is violative of Article 300A of the Constitution which protects a person’s right to not be deprived of property.
  • The Articles says that a bank account and mobile phone connection is the personal property of an individual.
  • The second aspect of the Prevention of Money-laundering (Maintenance of Records) (Second Amendment) Rules, 2017 is the requirement for banks to block access to those bank accounts of those customers who do not link their Aadhaar numbers to their accounts.
  • This rule is without doubt unconstitutional because the parliament did not delegate to the central government the right to block bank accounts and deprive Indian citizens of their property.

What is the way forward?

  • In view of the increased security required specifically for territorial privacy and data privacy, there should be a provision added to the Constitution of India.
  • There is a dire need for a comprehensive privacy legislation which would ensure the protection of personal and sensitive data of people.
  • There is also the need for an established regulatory body.

Railway Board takes up safety measures: (The Hindu)

Context:

  • With consecutive rail accidents, the Indian Railways is planning a series of steps to improve the safety of rail tracks.
  • It includes automated inspections and frequent traffic blocks for maintenance.

What are the problems faced by Indian Railways?

  • Indian Railways is the fifth biggest rail network in the world with 1.3 million employees and it is a massive task to streamline its operations.
  • Different Union governments and railway ministers have commissioned multiple studies on what ails the Railways. Some of them are as below:
  • The discrepancy between cargo charges and passenger fares seem to distort the Railways’ performance.
  • The Indian railway has a centralised organisation with hierarchical decision-making. As a result, even simple decisions take years to resolve.
  • Indian Railways spends heavily on revenue expenditure and there is little left for capital expenditure.
  • In the previous year, the Indian Railways missed most of its targets, including of electrification, track renewals, bridge works, and doubling of tracks.

Railway Budget: An overview:

  • As part of the radical rethinking on improving the country’s transportation architecture, a combined budget has been presented on after the merger of the railway budget with the Union budget.
  • The merger of Railway Budget with General Budget is based on the recommendations of the Committee of the NITI Aayog and a separate paper on ‘Dispensing with the Railway Budget’.

Salient features of Merger are as follows:

  • Ministry of Railways will continue to function as a departmentally run commercial undertaking;
  • A separate Statement of Budget Estimates and Demand for Grant will be created for Railways;
  • A single Appropriation Bill, including the estimates of Railways, will be prepared and presented by Ministry of Finance to Parliament;
  • The presentation of a unified budget will help present a holistic picture of the financial position of the Government; and
  • Merger of Rail Budget with Union Budget would facilitate multimodal transport planning between highways, railways and inland waterways.

Key initiatives of the unified budget are as follows:

  • India will invest as much as Rs3, 96,135 crore in creating and upgrading infrastructure in the next financial year.
  • As part of the new integrated infrastructure planning paradigm comprising roads, railways, waterways and civil aviation, the National Democratic Alliance government unveiled the largest-ever rail budget
  • The set of initiatives announced seem to acknowledge the challenge that Railways is losing share in both freight and premium passenger service.
  • Integrated approach to improving safety, cleanliness and passenger comfort, and higher levels of service to freight customers through end to end services has also been introduced in this budget.
  • Indian Railways will also list its subsidiaries—Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, Indian Railway Finance Corporation and Ircon International Ltd.

What is the way ahead?

  • The recent decision of surge pricing of tickets in premium trains is a move in a correct direction to encounter the challenge of freight charges.
  • Indian Railways need to generate enough funds on its own for capital expenditure.
  • It also needs to find non-government sources of funding in order to witness a noticeable change.
  • Recently, privatisation is recommended as the panacea of Indian railways.  It can prove to be efficient through more profit making models.

The case for a public health cadre: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context

  • A dedicated personnel cadre for public health management shall improve India’s health-care delivery system

Why have a dedicated Cadre?

  • A dedicated, professionally trained personnel to address the specific and complex needs of the Indian health-care delivery system
  • The 12th Five Year Plan and the National Health Policy, 2017 have also strongly advocated establishing a public health management cadre to improve the quality of health services

National health policy,2017

Other objectives of the NHP,2017

  • It aims to raise public healthcare expenditure to 2.5% of GDP from current 1.4%, with more than two-thirds of those resources going towards primary healthcare.
  • It envisages providing a larger package of assured comprehensive primary healthcare through the ‘Health and Wellness Centers’.
  • It is a comprehensive package that will include care for major non-communicable diseases (NCDs), geriatric healthcare, mental health, palliative care and rehabilitative care services.
  • It proposes free diagnostics, free drugs and free emergency and essential healthcare services in all public hospitals in order to provide healthcare access and financial protection.
  • It seeks to establish regular tracking of disability adjusted life years (DALY) Index as a measure of burden of disease and its major categories trends by 2022.
  • It aims to improve and strengthen the regulatory environment by putting in place systems for setting standards and ensuring quality of healthcare.
  • It also looks at reforms in the existing regulatory systems both for easing drugs and devices manufacturing to promote Make in India and also reforming medical education.
  • It advocates development of mid-level service providers, public health cadre, nurse practitioners to improve availability of appropriate health human resource.
  • Targets: It aims to ensure availability of 2 beds per 1000 population to enable access within golden hour. It proposes to increase life expectancy from 67.5 to 70 years by 2025.
  • It aims to reduce total fertility rate (TFR) to 2.1 at sub-national and national level by 2025.
  • It also aims to reduce mortality rate (MR) of children under 5 years of age to 23 per 1000 by 2025 and maternal mortality rate (MMR) to 100 by 2020.
  • It also aims to reduce infant mortality rate to 28 by 2019 and reduce neo-natal mortality to 16 and still birth rate to ‘single digit’ by 2025.

What is the present state of the health care system in India?

Lack of infrastructure : Lack of continuous water supply in many PHC’S, some government building is being used as a primary health center at some places etc.

Inefficient workforce : we need to introduce an efficient check on working of medical officers and the auxillary staff.

Awareness of the people : A lot of primary health problems can be solved if we provide effective training and the knowledge to the local population.

There is only one doctor per 1,700 citizens in India.

  • If shortage of doctors is one problem, their unwillingness to work in the rural hinterland is another. Generic medicines are highly underrated in country where doctors sometime prescribe expensive medicine.

Creating artificial scarcity in the area and high concentration in another causing hardship for the rural poor people increasing the out of pocket expenditure.

we can put up a surveillance system to prevent the rampant absenteeism of the health care providers , also we should have an frictionless model that transfers enquiry and complaints of the population efficiently to the concerned authorities.

Corruption at high level institutions such as MCI,etc.

Apart from this there are many challenges that rural healthcare is facing. Among them the main challenge for rural healthcare in India is lack of knowledge and awareness.

Set precedents

  • Tamil Nadu took the lead in this and there has been a discernible difference in the way health delivery is done there vis-à-vis Uttar Pradesh.
  • Odisha, with the support of the Public Health Foundation of India, has notified the establishment of a public health cadre in the hope of ensuring vast improvement in the delivery of health care.

What is the significance of this proposal?

  • In the absence of a public health cadre in most States, even an anaesthetist or an ophthalmologist with hardly any public health knowledge and its principles is required to implement reproductive and child health or a malaria control programme.
  • At the Ministry level, the highest post may be held by a person with no formal training in the principles of public health to guide and advise the country on public health issues.
  • With the introduction of the public health cadre, personnel with principles of public health management shall only be eligible.
  • This will definitely improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Indian health system.
  • With quality and a scientific implementation of public health programmes, the poor will also stand to benefit as this will reduce their out-of-pocket expenditure and dependence on prohibitively expensive private health care.

What is the way forward?

  • Such an exclusive department of public health at both the levels of the Ministry and the States will help in developing the recruitment, training, implementation and monitoring of public health management cadre.
  • Doctors recruited under this cadre may be trained in public health management on the lines of the civil service with compulsory posting for two-three years at public health facilities.
  • Filling the post of director general in the Health Ministry from this cadre shall improve planning and providing much-needed public health leadership.
  • Financial support for establishing the cadre is also to be provisioned by the Central government under the Health Ministry’s budget.

GS-3


Security

ITBP raises maiden mechanised column: (The Hindu)

Context:

ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) is deploying a mechanised column of power vehicles and machines to speedily mobilise troops along the India-China border in case of Doklam-like standoffs

Introduction:

  • The defence ministry had recently decided to significantly enhance infrastructure along this border including around the areas of dispute with the Chinese forces.
  • The mechanised column of the force will comprise over 250 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs), all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), snow scooters, excavators and few other medium-lift four-wheeled vehicles.
  • The force has about 30 border posts above the height of 15,000 feet and some 50 posts above 12,000 feet.
  • The Home Ministry has accorded sanctions to the ITBP to have at least one snow scooter at each of these frontier bases.
  • The force has also been given sanctions to upgrade its firepower by modernizing the support weapons like 81mm mortars.
  • Through this move government has decided to strengthen the assets and strength of the both the army and the ITBP.

Why  was this decision taken?

  • It is essential to have a mechanized column in the ITBP as it secures the border in peacetime and will bear the first onslaught in case of a war or a conflict.
  • Presently, only the Border Security Force that guards the India-Pakistan border had an artillery unit and some mechanized components to aid it.
  • The Army has the mechanized infantry, it is essential to have a mechanized column in the ITBP.
  • Because the ITBP secures the border in peacetime and will bear the first onslaught in case of a war or a conflict.

What is Mechanized infantry?

  • Mechanized infantry are infantry equipped with armored personnel carriers (APCs) or infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) for transport and combat.
  • Mechanized infantry is distinguished from motorized infantry in that its vehicles provide a degree of protection from hostile fire, as opposed to “soft-skinned” wheeled vehicles (trucks or jeeps) for motorized infantry
  • Most APCs and IFVs are fully tracked or are all-wheel drive vehicles (6×6 or 8×8), for mobility across rough ground.
  • Some nations distinguish between mechanized and armored infantry, designating troops carried by APCs as mechanized and those in IFVs as armored

ITBP (The Indo Tibetan Border Police):

  • ITBP was conceived on Oct 24, 1962.
  • It is a multi-directional force.
  • Presently the battalion of ITBP deployed on border guarding duties from Karakoram Pass in Ladak to Jachep la in Arunachal Pradesh.

What problems ITBP is facing?

  • In areas like Arunachal Pradesh where there poor road connectivity, it can take several days of walking to reach the outposts and weeks to comprehensively patrol borders.
  • ITBP works under harsh conditions, working conditions of force personnel is biting cold of the Himalayas and relentless forests of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • ITBP does not have its own intelligence setup so essential in operation situations.

Indian Economy. Planning, Growth and Employment

Information utility under the IBC: (The Hindu)

Context

  • Recently National e-Governance Services Ltd (NeSL) became India’s first information utility (IU) for bankruptcy cases under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016.
  • This registration is valid for five years from the date of registration.

About NeSL

  • NESL is incorporated as a Union Government company and owned by leading public financial institutions. NESL is an information infrastructure institution dealing with critical financial information projects that aim at better serving the financial sector and its stakeholders, besides citizen-centric projects
  • NeSL is owned by State Bank of India and Life Insurance Corporation Ltd., among others

OBJECTIVES of NeSL

National e-Governance Services Limited (NeSL) was incorporated to augment the Information Infrastructure of India with a focus on delivering services for the public, government and public financial institutions.

  • Offer Digital Services — To collaborate with banks and financial institutions to offer digital services to customers that cut across different institutions and create a win-win situation for both.
  • Optimizing Governance Services — To undertake Projects at a national level for optimizing governance services to residents of India through digital modes, including in financial services.
  • Changes In Rural Economy — To support India’s Financial Inclusion Strategy to make significant changes in rural economy

What is an information utility?

  • It is an information network which would store financial data like borrowings, default and security interests among others of firms.
  • The utility would specialise in procuring, maintaining and providing/supplying financial information to businesses, financial institutions, adjudicating authority, insolvency professionals and other relevant stakeholders.

Why is it important?

  • Information utilities is to provide high-quality, authenticated information about debts and defaults.
  • Information utilities are expected to play a key role as they allow storage of financial information of registered users and expeditiously process and verify information received.
  • The database and records maintained by them would help lenders in taking informed decisions about credit transactions.
  • It would also make debtors cautious as credit information is available with the utility.
  • Information available with the utility can be used as evidence in bankruptcy cases before the National Company Law Tribunal.

What are the rules governing these utilities?

  • Information utilities are governed by the Insolvency and Bankruptcy code 2016 and IBBI (Information Utilities) Regulations 2017.
  • The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) overseas aspects such as registration and cancellation of these entities, their shareholding and governance among others.
  • Recently, IBBI eased norms for information utilities, allowing Indian firms listed on stock exchanges to hold 100% in such firms. It also allowed individuals to hold 51% in the utility for a period of three years.

How will the utilities help stakeholders in the insolvency process?

  • Financial creditors (banks which provide loans to the company): It is mandatory for financial creditors to provide financial information to the information utility.
    • When they initiate insolvency proceedings against the defaulting firm (known as corporate debtor), the utilities may help as they would act as a centralised platform for accessing data.
  • Operational Creditor (Suppliers of goods and services to the firm in question): Unlike financial creditors, it is optional for the operational creditor to provide financial information to the utility.

What are the key challenges for these utilities?

  • While the onus is on financial creditors, operational creditors and corporate debtors to provide the required information, procuring authentic information might be a challenge due to the sensitivity involved.
  • There may also, be resistance in sharing information as it is optional for the operational creditor to provide financial information to the utility.
  • There is also risk of exposure to data piracy and data theft

What rising imports at a time of declining manufacturing indicate: (Indian Express, Explained)

Context:

Demonetisation broke domestic supply chain, and disruption caused by GST compounded problems, meanwhile, with remonetisation, demand rose, and was met by imports.

Introduction:

  • It  tells about the state and level of expectations about the economy that even a 4.3% year-on-year increase in the index of industrial production (IIP) for August is hailed as a “nine-month high”.
  • Prior to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) , distributors and retailers resorted to “destocking”-selling from   their inventories rather than purchasing new goods attracting the existing state value added taxes, on which claiming credit under the new regime would be easy.
  • The overall industrial output fell by 0.2% in June and went up marginally by 0.9% in the following months, before recovering to 4.3% in August, seemingly confirms this hypothesis.
  • The manufacturing sector, which has a 77.6% weight within the IIP, registered a mere 3.1% annual growth in August.
  • Out of its 23 subsectors, around 13 posted negative growth including textiles, wearing apparel, leather goods, rubber and plastic products, chemicals, paper, furniture, beverages and tobacco-most of which are highly employment-intensive industries.

What do these trends indicate?

  • Manufacturing has clearly taken a hit from the twin blows of demonetisation and GST, one following the other.
  • The liquidity crunch resulting from demonetisation basically ended up disrupting domestic production supply chains.
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in manufacturing clusters, paying workers mostly in cash, were the worst affected
  • Many domestic manufacturing units, especially SMEs, had shut shop or significantly cut back on production.

What is Demonetization?

  • Demonetization is the act of stripping a currency unit of its status as legal tender.
  • It occurs whenever there is a change of national currency.
  • Demonetization is necessary whenever there is a change of national currency. The old unit of currency must be retired and replaced with a new currency unit.
  • The opposite of demonetization is remonetization where a form of payment is restored as legal tender.
  • Demonetization can also be referred to as the process of moving people from a cash-based system to a cashless system

Background:

  • On November 8, 2016 Prime Minister announced that Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination notes will become invalid.
  • The government introduced new notes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500
  • There was also no change effected in any other form of currency exchange like cheque, Demand draft (DD), payments made through credit cards and debit card.
  • The move was taken to curb the menace of black money, fake notes and corruption by reducing the amount of cash available in the system.

Was this the first time the government  introduced demonetization?

  • This is not the first time the government is following the policy of demonetisation of high-value currency.
  • The first instance of demonetisation by the government was implemented in 1946 when the RBI demonetised Rs 1,000 and Rs 10,000 notes.
  • Later, higher denomination bank notes (Rs 1000, Rs 5000 and Rs 10000) were re-introduced in 1954.
  • However, Morarji Desai government demonetised these notes in 1978
  • According to data provided by RBI Rs 10,000 note was printed in 1938 and 1954 and was subsequently demonetised in 1946 and 1978 respectively.

What are the consequences of demonetization?

Positive consequences:

  • The growth in the direct tax base.
  • The switch in the financial holdings of households from cash to bank deposits
  • he increased use of digital payment

Negative consequences:

  • The main negative economic consequence of demonetisation has been the disruption of unorganized supply chains that are dependent on cash transactions.
  • Demonetisation lead to decline in economic growth to a three year low of 5.7 per cent.
  • RBI report had revealed that nearly 99 per cent of the scrapped currency notes had come back to the banks, and it would become 100 per cent if cash in the pipeline is accounted for.

How the government has planned to track evaders?

Although it is not completely clear how the government is planning to check and track tax evaders, the following steps have been taken to achieve the same:

  • Basic identification is made mandatory for any exchange or deposit of cash. Moreover, all the deposits made over Rs. 2.5 lakh will be directly reported to the IT department by the bank concerned.
  • In order to check the conversion of black money into gold or jewellery, government has asked all the jewellers to verify the permanent account number (PAN) of their customers.

What are the pros of this move?

The system is expected to prove positive for the economy in the long run:

  • It will boost the formal economy in the long run as black money hoarders will not able to make their money white.
  • Middle class citizens may get benefitted from the short term fall in real estate prices.
  • This move along with the implementation of GST is likely to make the system more efficient, accountable and transparent.

Conclusion:

For an economy on the path of reform, with many more reforms still to come,  long-term sustainable impact can be achieved only when we strengthen the policy-making process .

GST risks losing its idea of oneness: (Live Mint, Editorial)

Context

  • GST risks losing its idea of oneness

Challenges faces by GST

  • GST: ‘One Nation, One Tax’— GST now as multiple tax slabs. And unless the GST Council addresses this, any such expansion of the scope of GST to bring in more sectors will be risking this marque piece of tax reform.
  • The back-end of the GST manned by the GST Network (GSTN) is not operating optimally
  • GST council suspended the nation-wide rollout of the e-way bill system till 1 April next year.
    • The e-way bill, an electronic receipt that businesses and traders have to secure to transport goods beyond 10km, was to be operational by 1 October. This was supposed to replace the check-posts (notorious for delaying consignments and exchange of bribes and allow for seamless movements of goods, consistent with the notion of one nation and creating competitive efficiency.
    • Most states had formally withdrawn the check-posts, but with the ensuing confusion there is word that they are making a slow comeback. This would be disastrous and strike at the roots of the principle of a unified market.
  • The GST Council has put on hold for six months the reverse charge mechanism (RCM)
    • Under RCM which large entities were required to pay taxes on purchase from unregistered small and medium enterprises (SME) operating in the informal economy. This SME space doesn’t have the wherewithal to comply with the GST rigour, the new tax regime had placed this liability on the large enterprises buying from them—in return they got tax credit for this sum.
    • Lobbying may further delay RCM; if this does happen once again the GST architecture designed to widen the tax base may be compromised.
  • Active lobbying to tinker with the existing ‘composition scheme’ for taxpayers with up to Rs75 lakh annual sales.
    • Under the scheme they were to be charged a levy instead of GST and hence not eligible for input tax credit and selling inter-state.
    • Recently the GST Council it was decided to raise the threshold to Rs1 crore and now lobbying is on to allow these taxpayers to also claim input tax credit and sell inter-state. If it goes through, it open up an opportunity for misuse as taxpayers will prefer paying a levy instead of GST, and it will also encourage cash transactions and hurt the original plan of extending the tax base to unregistered units

Conclusion:

  • There are some glitches in GST which need to be fixed. But there is no need to panic, because although it opens the doors for opportunists to restore the status quo made up of large cash-based trade transactions outside the purview of the indirect tax system.
  • The onus is on the GST Council to fix the glitches in the tax reform as it threatens the fundamental principle of GST: ‘One Nation, One Tax

Cropping pattern, Agriculture, e-technology

Toxic farming: (The Hindu, Editorial)

Context:

  • After an array of farmer deaths  because of pesticides, it is high time that the government had taken some concrete steps to regulate toxic chemicals used in agriculture.

Usage of pesticides in India: an overview:

  • Pesticides are substances that are meant to control pests or weeds.
  • The term pesticide covers a wide range of compounds including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, molluscicides, nematicides, plant growth regulators and others.
  • The production of pesticides started in India in 1952. The pattern of pesticide usage in India is different from that for the world in general. For example,
  • In India, 76% of the pesticide used is insecticide, as against 44% globally.
  • The main use of pesticides in India is for cotton crops, followed by paddy and wheat.

What are the harmful effects of pesticides?

  • Accidents in pesticide manufacturing units cause  great loss of human life.
  • The high risk groups exposed to pesticides include production workers, formulators, sprayers, mixers, loaders and agricultural farm workers.
  • Harmful chemicals may seep into and contaminate ground water. ( which can further lead to Bio-accumulation and bio-magnification)
  • Repeated use of pesticides on cotton, fruits, vegetables, tobacco and other crops causes harm to beneficial organisms like biocontrol agents, soil, wild and aquatic life.
  • Pesticides may kill grain- and plant-feeding birds.

What are measures taken to regulate the use of pesticides in India?

  • Pesticide Management Bill – 2008:  Proposed as a step towards promoting safe use of pesticides, this Bill seeks to regulate the manufacture, inspection, testing and distribution of pesticides.
  • The Bill establishes a procedure to licence manufacturers, distributors and retailers of pesticides, to be administered by state governments.
  • A Central Pesticides Board to be formed to advice on use and disposal of pesticides on sound lines, as envisaged under the law.
  • A stronger law will eliminate the weaknesses in the current rules that govern enforcement and introduce penalties where there are none.
  • Aligning the new pesticides regulatory framework with food safety laws and products used in health care will make it more worthwhile.

What are the alternatives to pesticides?

  • There are alternatives to using pesticides. These are generally known as sustainable agriculture or alternative agriculture. Some of the alternative methods are as follows:
  • Organic farming:  It relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting.
  • Crop rotation: Crop rotation is the practice of growing a series of dissimilar or different types of crops in the same area in sequenced seasons.
  • It helps in reducing soil erosion and increases soil fertility and crop yield.
  • Polyculture: Polyculture is agriculture using multiple crops in the same space, providing crop diversity in imitation of the diversity of natural ecosystems, and avoiding large stands of single crops, or monoculture.
  • Trap crops: A trap crop is a plant that attracts agricultural pests, usually insects, away from nearby crops.
  • This form of companion planting can save the main crop from decimation by pests without the use of pesticides.

Organic farming is an alternative agricultural system which originated early in the 20th century in reaction to rapidly changing farming practices. Organic farming continues to be developed by various organic agriculture organizations today. It relies on fertilizers of organic origin such as compost manure, green manure, and bone meal and places emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are encouraged. In general, organic standards are designed to allow the use of naturally occurring substances while prohibiting or strictly limiting synthetic substances.

Conservation and Pollution

NGT seeks report on Ganga clean-up: (The Hindu)

Context

  • The National Green Tribunal has directed the Centre and the Uttar Pradesh and the Uttarakhand governments to file affidavits stating instructions to clean the Ganga in the stretch between Gomukh and Unnao.

What are the instructions directed by the NGT?

  • The green panel had passed a slew of directions to rejuvenate the Ganga, declaring as ‘No Development Zone’ an area of 100 metres from the edge of the river between Haridwar and Unnao
  • It has further strictly prohibited the dumping of waste within 500 meters from the river.
  • A bench headed by NGT Chairperson has asked all the stakeholders to state the course of action between Phase-2 from Kanpur to the U.P. border.

What will happen if the implementation is not done?

  • NGT has sent a copy of the order to be provided to the chief secretaries of U.P. and Uttarakhand
  • Another copy of this order shall sent to DG of National Mission for Clean Ganga; Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources and Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for compliance

How severe is the issue of pollution of Ganga?

  • Pollution of the Ganga poses significant threats to human health and the larger environment
  • Ganges is considered to be the fifth most polluted river in the world
  • A 2006 measurement of pollution in the Ganga revealed that river water monitoring had demonstrated fecal coliform counts up to 100,000,000 MPN

What are the major causes of pollution in Ganga?

  • The main causes of water pollution in the Ganga river are:

Industrial waste

  • Dumping of various harmful industrial waste into the river.

Human waste

  • A large proportion of the sewage water with higher organic load in the Ganges is from this population through domestic water usage.

Industrial waste

  • Industrial effluents are about 12% of the total volume of effluent reaching the Ganga. Although a relatively low proportion, they are a cause for major concern because they are often toxic and non-biodegradable.

The increase in the population density

  • Various human activities (such as bathing, washing clothes, and the bathing of animals)

Religious traditions

  • During festival seasons, over 70 million people bathe in the Ganga to clean themselves from their past sins.
  • Some materials like food, waste or leaves are left in the Ganga which are responsible for its pollution.

About NGT

  • National Green Tribunal was set up under National Green Tribunal Act,2010 with an aim to provide protection to environment,conservation of forests and other natural resources along with enforcement of legal rights for environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property.
  • NGT since its inception have taken various steps in order to reduce the menace of pollution and other activities adversely impacting the environment.

Some of the recent steps by the tribunal include order of

  • banning diesel vehicles older than 10 years in the national capital along with
  • ban on burning of solid waste.These steps have been taken owing to the rising pollution levels which is evident from the the list of most polluted cities where the national capital stands on the top.
  • cancellation of coal block clearance in Hasdee-Arand forests overriding central government’s decision,
  • Sterlite case and Meghalaya  mining.
  • Yamuna Conservation ZoneOn 25 April 2014, the NGT said that the health of Yamuna will be affected by the proposed recreational facilities on the river. The NGT also recommended the Government to declare a 52 km stretch of the Yamuna in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh as a conservation zone.[11]

Coal Blocks in Chhattisgarh ForestsThe National Green Tribunal has cancelled the clearance given by the then Union Environment and Forests Minister, Jairam Ramesh, to the Parsa East and Kante-Basan captive coal blocks in the Hasdeo-Arand forests of Chhattisgarh, overruling the statutory Forest Advisory Committee.

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