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9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – March 11, 2021

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

About 9 PM Brief- With the 9 PM Daily Current affairs for UPSC brief we intend to simplify the newspaper reading experience. In 9PM briefs, we provide our reader with a summary of all the important articles and editorials from three important newspapers namely The Hindu, Indian Express, and Livemint. This will provide you with analysis, broad coverage, and factual information from a Mains examination point of view.

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Growing Food Subsidy Bill: Reasons and Suggestions

Source: The Hindu

Gs3: Public Distribution System – Objectives, Functioning, Limitations, Revamping; Issues of Buffer Stocks and Food Security;

Synopsis: The centre needs to find pragmatic solutions to limit the growing food subsidy bill.

Background

  • The Economic Survey2020-21, has pointed out the issue of a growing food subsidy bill.
  • During 2016-17 to 2019-20, the total food subsidy bill was in the range of ₹1.65-lakh crore to ₹2.2-lakh crore. (Food subsidy + loans are taken by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) under the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF)
  • Whereas, the food subsidy bill for the financial year (2020-21) according to the revised estimate is ₹4.23-lakh crore. It excludes the extra-budgetary resource allocation. (Centre distributed extra food grains to the poor at free of cost during the Pandemic).
  • Also, the survey has stated that it is difficult to reduce the economic cost of food management in view of rising commitment towards food security.

What are the Reasons for Increasing Food subsidy bill?

  1. One, The National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, increased the entitlements. It covers two-thirds of the country’s population.
    • The law requires the authorities to provide to each beneficiary 5 kg of rice or wheat per month. This resulted in an increased States’demand for food grains in the States.
  2. Two, recently the government has discontinued the National Small Savings Fund Loan to FCI for Food Subsidy. (i.e., extra-budgetary allocation has been discontinued) The Budget Provisions are provided accordingly. Consequently, budgetary allocation increased.

What was the suggestion given by the survey to address the growing food subsidy bill of the center?

  • The survey suggested increasing the Central Issue Price (CIP). It remains at ₹2 per kg for wheat and ₹3 per kg for rice for years.
  • However, a mere increase in the CIPs of rice and wheat without a corresponding rise in the issue prices will not work. It would only increase the burden of States.
  • Also, the State governments don’t want to increase the state issue price. It is because food subsidies are internal to their political discourse. For example,
      • In States such as Karnataka and West Bengal the retail issue prices of rice and wheat Priority Households (PHH) and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) ration card holders are nil.
      • In Tamil Nadu, rice is given free of cost for all categories including non-PHH.
  • This is the reason why retail prices of food grains at fair price shops are so low even after achieving substantial poverty reduction in the country.

What can be done?

  1. First, the centre should find solutions to decrease the quantum of coverage under the NFSA law from the present 67% to around 40%. It can be done by
      • One, allowing a “give-up” option, as done in the case of cooking gas cylinders.
      • Two, the centre should nudge the state governments to objectively identify PHH cardholders, thereby reducing the number of ghost beneficiaries.
  2. Second, the prices of the existing arrangement of flat rates should be replaced with a slab system.
      • Excluding the needy, other beneficiaries can be made to pay a little more for a higher quantum of food grains.
  3. Third, other reforms to strengthen the PDS system includes,
      • End-to-end computerisation of operations,
      • Digitisation of data of ration cardholders,
      • Seeding of Aadhaar, and automation of fair price shops.

In India, the PDS system has shown to be more effective over Direct benefit transfer especially during time of emergencies. So, it is important to revamp the PDS based on the needs.


Importance of FPOs | Farmer Producer’s Organisations)

Source: Indian Express

GS3: Transport and Marketing of Agricultural Produce and Issues and Related Constraints

Synopsis: FPOs (Farmer Producers’ Organisations) could be a solution to the agrarian distress if they are helped to access credit and markets

What are the main reasons for farmer’s distress?

  • First, the declining average size of farm holdings is one of the reasons for agrarian distress.
      • The average farm size declined from 2.3 hectares (ha) in 1970-71 to 1.08 ha in 2015-16.
      • This resulted in a further increase in small and marginal farmers from 70 percent in 1980-81 to 86 percent in 2015-16.
  • Second, getting access to inputs and marketing facilities is another main challenge faced by Small Farmers.

How FPOs can help small and marginal farmers?

Institutionalizing FPOs can help marginal and small farmers to overcome their challenges. FPOs will allow members to gain greater bargaining power in the purchase of inputs, obtaining credit, and selling the produce. For example,

  1. One, FPOs in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan have shown positive outcomes. Farmers through FPOs were able to realize higher returns for their produce.
      • For example, tribal women in the Pali district of Rajasthan formed a producer company, and they are getting higher prices for custard apples.
  2. Two, The International Food Policy Research Institutes comparative study of FPOs in Maharashtra and Bihar has revealed the following benefits of FPO’s.
      • FPO’s are doing better than non-FPO farmers. Also, within FPOs, organically evolved FPOs (OFPOs) are more beneficial than pushed or promoted FPOs (PFPOs). For example,
        • According to the survey, OFPOs resulted in an increase in gross income. While only 2 percent indicate a decline in the same.
        • For PFPOs, 64 percent report an increase in gross income while 27 percent report no change in income.
        • Whereas, only 32 percent of the non-members indicate an increase in gross income.

Steps taken by the government in this regard?

  • Since 2011, the center has intensively promoted FPOs under the Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC), NABARD, state governments, and NGOs.
  • The FPO is supported through,
    • Capital infusion: up to Rs 10 lakh to registered FPOs
    • Credit guarantee cover to lending institutions: maximum guarantee covers 85 per cent of loans not exceeding Rs 100 lakh.
    • Budgetary support: Budget 2018-19 gave a five-year tax exemption for FPO’s. Budget 2019-20 targetted to set up 10,000 more FPOs in the next five years.
    • State support: In Tamil Nadu, under collective farming, six lakh small and marginal farmers have been integrated into 6,000 farmer producer groups.

What are the Challenges for building sustainable FPO’s?

Studies of NABARD shown the following challenges for building sustainable FPOs:

  1. Lack of technical skills,
  2. Inadequate professional management,
  3. Weak financials, inadequate access to credit,
  4. Lack of risk mitigation mechanism and
  5. inadequate access to market and infrastructure

How to address the challenges faced by FPO’s?

  1. First, for a large country like India, more than one lakh FPOs are required. (currently 10,000 FPO’s).
  2. Second, to address issues such as working capital, marketing, infrastructure. For that
    • Banks must be facilitated to come with structured products for lending to FPO’s.
    • Also, banks need to focus on capacity building to improve their professional management.
  3. Third, FPO’s have to be linked with input companies, technical service providers, marketing/processing companies, retailers etc. This will enable them to access data on markets and prices and other information and competency in information technology.
  4. Fourth, FPOs need to look for land consolidation of their members where contiguous tracts of land are available. To some extent, Aggregation can overcome the constraint of small farm size. Women farmers also can be encouraged to group cultivate for getting better returns.

Flaws in New IT rules 2021

Source: Indian Express 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Synopsis: The new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 suffers from numerous flaws. Due to this, experts have questioned their efficacy and legality. 

Background:

  • The online streaming industry has grown multifold in recent years and has made a unique space of itself vis-a-vis cinema and television.
  • However, the intended government regulation under new rules deters the creative freedom of industry. It is a grave concern at a time when the industry is already facing multiple challenges.

Challenges prior to new regulation:

  • Multiple court petitions have been filed against online streaming platforms due to inappropriate content. The concern generally pertains to religious sentiments or display of obscene sexual content. The result is restrictions on artistic expression and viewer choice.
  • In some cases, FIRs lodged directly against the artists or company employees of platforms like Netflix and Amazon. This causes substantial harassment and undermines personal liberty of content creators.

Flaws in new IT rules:

  • Inconsistency with Parent Act (Section 69A of IT Act): Powers under Section 69A can be exercised in the interest of “sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of the State etc. grounds. 
    • However, a ground of decency and morality is not mentioned under the section. But rules allow the government to regulate platforms on such ground.
    • Similarly, Section empowers the central government to direct “any agency of the Government or intermediary” to block access to online content. However, online video streaming platforms do not fall into either of these two categories but still are covered under the new rules.
    • The Section allows the government to block access of any information to the public generated or transmitted on a computer. Nonetheless, rules give greater power of demanding an apology or re-classifying the content that breeds subtle censorship.
  • Lack of Independent Regulation: The proposed three-tier regulatory framework falls short of independent functioning. 
    • For instance, the Inter -Departmental committee which makes the 3rd tier will be mainly formed by bureaucracy. Further there is no compulsory judicial/civil society representation at this level.
    • Similarly, the review committee constituted under Rule 419A of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951 for examining the government order, comprises only government officials. 

Way Forward:

  • Government should release a white paper stating the intended objectives to be achieved by regulating online streaming platforms. Prior to this, a meaningful public consultation involving all the concerned stakeholders should be done.
  • Further if stringent regulation is desired, then it must be done through the legislative branch. As executive rule making power under Section 69A never contemplated the creation of such an elaborate regulatory framework.

Increasing Cases of Gestational Diabetes in India

Source: The Hindu 

Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

Synopsis: India registers a high number of gestational diabetes cases, which are bound to increase in the future. This coupled with low awareness and poor testing potential calls for immediate action.

Background:

  • Diabetes is a metabolic disease that causes high blood sugar. The hormone insulin moves sugar from the blood into your cells to be stored or used for energy. 
  • If a person is having diabetes, the body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t effectively use the insulin it makes.
  • India has 7 crore cases of diabetes and almost 3.5 crore prediabetes cases. 
  • Further, Type 2 diabetes is most common, it is preventable with some lifestyle changes. However, very less focus is placed on Gestational diabetes.

About Gestational Diabetes:

  • It is a transitory form of diabetes occurring in pregnant women.
  • South Asian women are at higher risk of development as shown by data from the International Diabetes Federation. It estimates that 25% of south Asian women would develop it.
  • In India, it is assumed to be more prevalent in urban areas (30%) than rural areas (10%). Further, assuming a 10% rate of development, the figure for gestational diabetes comes around 27-30 lakh women every year.

Impact of Gestational Diabetes:

  1. First, it enhances complications during pregnancy. This includes preeclampsia (fits during pregnancy), prolonged and obstructed labor, need for assisted delivery, postpartum hemorrhage, etc.
  2. Second, the above complications can cause a spike in maternal and neonatal mortality rates.
  3. Third, if not death, then the probability of developing other problems is quite high.
    • Type 2 diabetes gets developed in almost 50% of women.
    • Children also are at high risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.   

Challenges in Managing Gestational Diabetes:

  1. First, there is a lack of awareness regarding gestational diabetes due to which, it gets noticed after the complication has occurred.
  2. Second, our health system also lacks the capacity for providing robust and timely testing.

Way Forward:

  • There should be a prompt and adequate implementation of national guidelines on the diagnosis and management of gestational diabetes.
  • The single test procedure suggested by Dr. V. Seshiah (a pioneer in the field of diabetes and pregnancy) and subsequently approved by the World Health Organisation should be adopted for better diagnosis.
  • In order to spread awareness, the 10th march can be celebrated as National Gestational Diabetes Awareness Day. 
    • The Diabetes Study Group of India recommended this step as it would be an act to recognize Dr. V. Seshiah’s contribution towards the field of diabetes and pregnancy for more than 40 years.

Lack of Gender sensitivity in the Court Judgments

Source: The Hindu

Gs2: Structure, Organization, and Functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary

Synopsis:   Lack of gender sensitivity by the judiciary is one of the fundamental reasons for the worsening security of Women in India. The judiciary in many cases enforced societal attitudes towards women.

Worsening state of Security of women in India:

  • India rated as the most dangerous country for women, as per Thomson Reuters Foundation survey 2018.
  • According to a National Crime Records Bureau report (2019) as many as 32,032 rapes were reported in 2019 (88 incidents of rape a day).
  • Every hour, 39 instances of crime against women including four instances of rape are committed in India.

Judgments lacking gender sensitivity:

    1. First, instances where marital rape was not acknowledged as a crime.
      • One, SC recently granted bail to a government servant who is accused of repeated rape and torture of a 16-year-old child.
        • During this hearing, CJI questioned that “When two people are living as husband and wife, however brutal the husband is, can the act of intercourse between them be called rape?”
      • Two, a few years ago, the supreme court orally asked a convict who had molested a girl 10 years ago to fall at her feet and that if she forgave him, the Court would limit his sentence of imprisonment to the period already undergone.
      • Three, the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court also issued a similar order. It ordered that the sentence of the ‘rape convict can be cut if he agrees to pay ₹1 lakh to the victim.
      • Four, In Bhanwari Devi case (1995), the Rajasthan court acquitted the accused. The reasons given were not gender sensitive at all such as
        • Higher caste man cannot rape a lower caste woman for reasons of purity
        • Men who are 60-70 years old cannot commit rape
        • One relative cannot commit rape in front of another relative
    2. Second, instances when the court has upheld the superiority of society’s attitude toward women against the rights of Women.
      • One, in 2020 the Guwahati High Court said that refusal of applying sindoor (vermilion) and wearing conch shell bangles (shaka) as sufficient basis to grant a divorce to the husband.
      • Two, the Madras High Court had earlier stated that divorcees too should maintain sexual purity to claim alimony.
      • Three, In Narendra vs K. Meena (2016), the SC said that under Hindu traditions, a wife after marriage is supposed to fully integrate herself with her husband’s family.
        • Refusal of women to live with in-laws amounts to cruelty. Therefore, the husband would be entitled to divorce her under the Hindu Marriage Act.
    3. Third, instances when women protection laws are diluted without considering the sensitivity of the issue. For example,
        • In Rajesh Sharma vs The State of Uttar Pradesh (2017), the complainant accused that her husband had harassed her for Dowry. And, the trauma faced by the victim has resulted in the termination of her pregnancy
        • It has to be noted that an offense under Section 498A is non-bailable and non-compoundable. Also, a police officer is legally allowed to make an arrest without a warrant from the court.
        • However, the court issued a number of directions in favor of the accused, Such as
          • there should be no automatic arrests on charges of cruelty.
          • Also, no arrest should be done till the newly constituted Family Welfare Committee submit its report.
    4. Fourth, instances when the court has intervened against the right of a woman to marry according to her will. For example, the infamous Hadiya (2017) case.
        • The woman’s father accused that she was forcefully converted to Islam. Though, Hadia had denied it repeatedly.
        • The court ordered an investigation by the National Investigation Agency for looking into the matter of marriage of two adults.

Why India Needs a Strong Regulatory Framework for Agriculture?

Source: click here

Syllabus: GS 3

Synopsis: There is a need of developing a strong regulatory framework to promote India’s agricultural growth.

Introduction 

The farmers in the country face various constraints such as accessing agricultural inputs, markets, finance, human resources, and information. All these factors are critical for increasing farmers’ competitiveness.

The existing institutional structure controlling farm production fails to handle these issues. Thus, there is a need to develop a suitable regulatory system.

How did India perform in the World Bank publication, “enabling the business of agriculture”?

The World Bank recently published a report ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture (EBA) 2019’. It measures the extent to which government regulatory systems make it easier for their farmers to operate agricultural activities. It covers 101 countries worldwide.

  • The 8 indicators of evaluation are supplying seed, registering fertilizer, securing water, registering machinery, sustaining livestock, protecting plant health, trading food, and accessing finance.
  • India ranked 49 out of 101 on the EBA aggregate score. Out of 20 emerging countries, India has the second least favorable regulatory environment for farming activities. 
  • India has the weakest performance on five out of eight indicators compared to China, Brazil, and Russia. Indicators are; registering fertilizer and machinery, securing water, sustaining livestock, and protecting plant health indicators. 
  • The comparative score of India on supplying seed, trading food, and accessing finance indicators is high. 

Why India needs a strong regulatory framework for agriculture?

Governments need to develop a regulatory framework that enables farmers’ access to agricultural inputs, reduces the cost of production, improves farmers’ participation in agricultural markets and value chains. It is important due to the following reasons: 

  1. Firstly, The regulatory system that runs irrigation management is important for reducing the inconsistency of farm output, prices, and incomes, reducing vulnerability to natural shocks, and incentivizing the production of riskier and high returns crops.
  2. Secondly, India requires a sound regulatory framework on SPS. For instance, with the active involvement of the SPS authority called as National Agrarian Health Service (SENASAPeru), Peru had become one of the world’s leading exporters of asparagus.
  3. Thirdly, a healthy seed supply system is required for improving yield and adopting new crop varieties. 
  4. Fourthly, a warehouse receipts system helps the farmers to obtain the credit needed to invest in agriculture. Warehouse receipt operators accept deposits of crops and provide warehouse receipts to farmers as evidence of deposited crops. By using warehouse receipts as security, farmers can receive credit.
  5. Lastly, Insufficient access to quality agricultural inputs such as fertilizers, water, and mechanical power can cause:
    • Productivity loss.
    • Higher cost of food production and uncertainty.
    • Lower capacity of farmers to produce surpluses.

Suggestions

The future of world agriculture and food production is expected to increasingly depend on middle-income countries such as China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia. India needs to put in place an agricultural regulatory system that would make it easier for its farmers to conduct agricultural activities. Thereby improving their productivity, competitiveness, and income.

Factly :-News Articles For UPSC Prelims | Mar 11, 2021

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