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Q.1) The Indian Government aims at making 9 crore ‘deprived’ households the focus of its Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna. Discuss the purpose and success of the scheme. Further, discuss the schemes launched to promote LPG in India? (GS-3)

Ans:

Brief introduction of the scheme

  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is a welfare program of the government of India, launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016.
  • The stated objective of the program is providing 50,000,000 LPG connections to women from families below the poverty line.
  • Under the PM Ujjwala Yojana, the government aims to provide LPG connections to BPL households in the country.

What is the purpose and objective of this scheme?

  • Ujjwala Yojana is aimed at providing 5 Crore LPG connections in the name of women in BPL (Below Poverty Line) households across the country.
  • Empowering women and protecting women’s health.
  • Reducing the serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuel.
  • Reducing the number of deaths in India due to unclean cooking fuel.
  • Preventing young children from significant number of acute respiratory illnesses caused due to indoor air pollution by burning the fossil fuel.

What are the factors that made this scheme successful?

From undeserving to deserving

  • Ujjwala is the classic example of transferring subsidies from the undeserving to the truly deserving; over a period of time, especially as global crude prices start rising, the income criterion will have to be lowered further as it still covers large sections that are too rich to get the subsidy.
  • To begin with, LPG distributors were asked to eliminate duplicate accounts; after which, through a high-pitched #GiveItUp campaign led by the prime minister, over 1.5 crore families were encouraged to give up their subsidies.

Piped natural gas grids

  • Piped natural gas grids uses natural gas it is cheaper than LPG which is derived from crude oil.
  • This was then followed up with income ceilings, beyond which households were denied subsidies.
  • Just getting rid of 3.34 crore fake/duplicate customers allowed the government to save over `21,000 crore over FY15 and FY16.

Other schemes available to promote LPG

PAHAL DBTL Scheme

  • The DBTL scheme was first launched in June 2013 with a mandatory requirement of Aadhaar card to avail benefits. However, the scheme was later reviewed to take into account the difficulties borne by consumers and re-launched in 2014.
  • The modified PAHAL scheme has two options for consumers to receive subsidy. Once the consumer joins the scheme, he/she is referred to as the Cash Transfer Compliant (CTC).

Opt Out of Subsidy (Give It Up) Scheme

  • LPG is a highly subsidized commodity in India with subsidies being as high as Rs. 40,000 crore in FY 2014-15, contributing to a gigantic subsidy burden on the government. To this effect, the ‘Opt Out’ or ‘Give It Up’ Campaign has been launched to encourage LPG consumers who can afford to pay the market price of LPG to voluntarily surrender their subsidy.

Rajiv Gandhi Gramin LPG Vitaran Yojana(RGGVY)

  • Started in 2009 with a focus on rural households and areas with low LPG coverage, the aim of the scheme was to start small size LPG distributor agencies.
  • It provides one-time financial assistance to BPL households.
  • CSR Scheme for Release of Connection to BPL Families:
  • BPL families can avail new LPG connections without paying the security deposit of one cylinder and one pressure regulator through the CSR scheme under RGGVY.
  • With existing schemes focused on creation of more distributor agencies, the current focus of the Government has been to address the deficiency in the coverage of LPG for domestic use, especially in rural areas and poor households.

Suggestions/ way ahead

  • The Prime Minister Ujjwala Yojana was released on March 2016 and the specific details and its effects on existing schemes are not yet clear.
  • The implementation of the direct transfer of cash benefits in the last few years has already helped in the better targeting of subsidies to the poor, thus substantially reducing wasteful spending.
  • The foremost aim should be to sustainably lower the price of cooking gas once and for all, getting the government out of the business of managing subsidies.

Q.2) Article 35A was recently in news as refugees from West Pakistan have approached the Supreme Court of India. In the light of the above statement, discuss various provisions of Article 35A and its criticism?  (GS-2)

Ans:

Introduction

  • Refugees from West Pakistan, who had migrated to India during Partition, have moved to the Supreme Court challenging Article 35A of the Constitution.
  • The petitions filed by these refugees said nearly 3 lakh refugees had arrived from West Pakistan, but those settled in Jammu and Kashmir had been denied the rights guaranteed under Article 35A.
  • The petitioners argued that the they were assured by the government that they would be granted Permanent Resident Certificates(PRC), which would permit them to purchase properties, own a house, opportunity to get a government job and reservation benefits.

Article 35A

  • Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is an article that empowers the J&K state’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents.
  • It also empowers the state’s legislature to frame any law without attracting a challenge on grounds of violating the Right to Equality of people from other states or any other right under the Indian Constitution.
  • Article 35A permits the legislature of Jammu and Kashmir to define a list of “permanent residents” of the state, who are eligible to vote, work for the state government, own land and property within the state as well as secure public employments and college admissions.
  • Article 35A, which was added to the Constitution by a Presidential Order in 1954, accords special rights and privileges to citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • It was added by then President Rajendra Prasad on the advice of the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet.
  • The controversial Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order of 1954 followed the 1952 Delhi Agreement entered into between Nehru and then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdullah.
  • The Presidential Order was issued under Article 370 (1) (d) of the Constitution.

Various provisions of this Article

Some of the provisions of Article 35A are as follows:

  • The Article provides that the consent of the state assembly is necessary for the implementation of the laws passed by the parliament except in finance, foreign and defense sector.
  • It empowers Jammu and Kashmir to enlist the permanent residents of the state.
  • No other Indian except the permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir can buy property in the state.
  • The women of J&K marrying outside lose their right to inheritance.

Criticisms of this Article

  • It has been criticized of being unfair to the women.
  • It challenges the gender equality
  • Along with the validity of article 370, this article is being challenged for its existence and longevity in the Indian constitution.
  • Article 35A was not added by parliamentary procedure under article 368. It has been enacted by executive order by president and it has to procedure by legislature procedure.
  • Article 35A suffers from the violation of Article 14, equality before the law.
  • It prohibits a non-resident from owning property in the State of J&K, is discriminatory and violates Art 19(d) and Article 19(e)

Ways to amend the Constitution

  • Article 368 is the only way to amend the Constitution, not the President.
  • The Article 368 state’s “Power of the Parliament to amend the Constitution
  • An amendment of this Constitution may be initiated only by the introduction of a Bill for the purpose in either House of Parliament, and when the Bill is passed in each House by majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-third of the members of that House present and voting.

Q.3) What are the major challenges encountered while protecting forests in India? Discuss the new draft National Forest Policy in context of measures taken to protect forests in India. (GS- 3)

Major challenges to protect forests in India:

  • Due to the rising population there is enormous pressure on forest land, there is rising encroachment for extension of agriculture.
  • Increasing demand for forest resources for forest based resources has become a major issue.
  • There have rising conflicts between conserving forests for generating ecosystem services and diversion for developmental project. This has emerged as a major the biggest challenges in managing the forest resources.
  • Diversion of forest lands to non-forest uses without ensuring compensatory afforestation and essential environmental safeguards

Forest Policy in India:

  • India inherited the colonial forest policy (1894) and the Indian Forest Act (1927).
  • On the basis of the recommendations of the Central Board of Forestry, National Forest Policy was drawn in 1952.
  • The inadequacies and shortcomings of the 1952 Forest policy was realized and it was reviewed and revised to formulate the National Forest Policy, 1988

New Draft National Forest Policy

On June 15, India’s environment ministry placed the draft national forest policy in public domain for comments and suggestions.

Major highlights of the New Draft:

  • Proposes the levy of a green tax for facilitating ecologically responsible behaviour and supplementing financial resources essential to address forestry issues
  • Undermines Forests Rights Act, 2006, which empowers local gram panchayats, especially in tribal areas close to India’s forests, and proposes a joint forest management-like mechanism to enhance agro-forestry
  • Proposes to launch a new Community Forest Management Mission, bringing government, community and private land under the new proposed management system
  • The policy states that forest land diversion projects related to mining, quarrying, construction of dams, roads and other linear infrastructure need to adopt special caution.
  • It states that a National Board of Forestry and State Boards of Forestry are to be established to ensure monitoring of the spread of the forest areas and management of forest cover
  • It calls for developing “sound ecotourism models” with the focus on conservation while supplementing the livelihood needs of local communities.
  • The draft policy indicates that CAMPA funds from diversion of forest land by industry are to be used for purchasing wildlife corridors from people.
  • The policy also asks for management plans for city forests, parks, garden and woodlands to nurture and sustain urban health, clean air and related benefits.
  • Climate change has also emerged as a major factor in the policy
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