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Q.1) What do you understand by term ‘net neutrality’? What are the significance of TRAI’s recommendations in this regard? (GS-3)

Meaning of net neutrality:

  • The term “net neutrality” was coined to represent the idea that a maximally useful public information network aspires to treat all content, sites and platforms equally.
  • This term has acquired a central place in many global debates on Internet policy and governance.
  • The term net neutrality coined by an American professor Tim Wu. According to him the term net neutrality signifying an internet that does not support an application over other. It means ISPs doesn’t discriminate on content, traffic and speed when it provides services to users.
  • In India there is a debate to whether to favour, net neutrality or let the ISPs manipulate the network. Telecom Regulatory TRAI has come with the following recommendations.

Key highlights of the TRAI recommendations:

  • Discriminatory treatment of content is prohibited like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting preferential speeds or treatment to any contact.
  • Content delivery network (CND) is kept out of regulation.
  • Internet of things is not kept out of regulation but critical services like Telemedicine and B2B is kept out.
  • It recommended watch for enforcing net neutrality and measure of traffic management.
  • International treaties, courts orders and government orders are exempt from this regulation.
  • Internet access services should be governed by a principle of non-discrimination.

Significance:

  • It will provide level field to Startups who are mostly depended on internet.
  • Customers will get freedom to use internet.
  • It will promote innovation.
  • It will help prevent unfair pricing practices.
  • It will drive entrepreneurship.
  • IT will stimulate ISP competition.
  • It will uphold right to free speech and right to communicate freely without any restrictions.

Q.2) More than a year after Parliament passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016 (CAF), the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) is yet to roll out the mandatory rules to implement it.  In this context discuss the implications of delaying the implementation? (GS-3)

More than a year after Parliament passed the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act 2016 (CAF), the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) is yet to roll out the mandatory rules to implement it.

What is happening in the absence of rules?

In the absence of the rules, forest departments in at least 15 states are undertaking afforestation as per the state CAF guidelines released by MoEF&CC in 2009, which are silent on the fundamental question of what kind of land—forest or revenue—can be used for carrying out the drives.

As a result they are using the funds under CAF to take charge of forestlands that are being considered for community ownership and management, under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA).

At present, the fund under the Act, which makes afforestation compulsory to compensate for the forestland diverted for non-forest purposes, has Rs 42,000 crore of which 10 per cent should be with the National CAMPA and the remaining with the state CAMPAs.

For instance, Odisha forest department is using CAF to fence land over which local communities have claimed rights. Then they are using the land for plantations.

Several hectares were compensated there, but only with patchy outcomes: healthy monoculture plantations having low biodiversity value came up in some places, while others resulted in unhealthy plantations with few trees.

The exploitation by the state forest departments could have been avoided if the ministry had released the rules in time.

Q.3) What is Contract Farming?  What are the issues of contract farming in India? How can small farmers benefit from Contract Farming? (GS-3)

Contract farming:

  • Contract farming involves agricultural production being carried out on the basis of an agreement between the buyer and farm producers.    
  • It involves the buyer specifying the quality required and the price, with the farmer agreeing to deliver at a future date. The farmer undertakes to supply agreed quantities of a crop or livestock product, based on the quality standard and delivery requirements of the purchaser.
  • Farmers agree to provide agreed quantities of a specific agricultural product.

Issues involved:

  • Contract farming might not be suitable for agriculture in India where the majority of farmers depend on small or marginal landholdings.
  • It can also be detrimental by encouraging large monoculture farming.
  • Contract farming arrangements are criticized for being biased in favor of firms or large farmers, while exploiting the poor bargaining power of small farmers.
  • Problems faced by growers like undue quality cut on produce by firms, delayed deliveries at the factory, delayed payments, low price and pest attack on the contract crop which raised the cost of production.
  • Contracting agreements are often verbal or informal in nature, and even written contracts often do not provide the legal protection in India that may be observed in other countries.
  • Lack of enforceability of contractual provisions can result in breach of contracts by either party.

Contract farming has significant benefits for the farmers which are discussed below.

Advantages for farmers

  • Inputs and production services are often supplied by the sponsor
  • This is usually done on credit through advances from the sponsor
  • Contract farming often introduces new technology and also enables farmers to learn new skills
  • Farmers’ price risk is often reduced as many contracts specify prices in advance
  • Contract farming can open up new markets which would otherwise be unavailable to small farmers.
  • The prime advantage of a contractual agreement for farmers is that the sponsor will normally undertake to purchase all produce grown, within specified quality and quantity parameters.
  • Contract farming can also provide farmers with access to a wide range of managerial, technical, and extension services that otherwise may be unobtainable.
  • Farmers can use the contract agreement as collateral to arrange credit with a commercial bank in order to fund inputs.
  • provision of inputs and production services;
  • access to credit;
  • introduction of appropriate technology;
  • skill transfer;
  • guaranteed and fixed pricing structures; and
  • access to reliable markets.

 

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