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12 January 2021: Daily Current Affairs for UPSC Exam

1) SC ‘intends’ to stay farm laws

GS 2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

CONTEXT:

  1. The Supreme Court on Monday said it intended to stay the implementation of the controversial agricultural laws.
  2. It also proposed to form an independent committee chaired by a former Chief Justice of India to “amicably resolve” the stand-off between the protesting farmers and the Union government.
  3. A three-judge Bench led by CJI underlined its “disappointment” at the Centre’s handling of the farmers’ protest, including the string of failed talks, States “up in rebellion”, suicides among protestors and the sight of aged farmers, women and children suffering.

 

WHY ARE FARMERS UPSET WITH THE FARM BILLS?

  1. Farmers, from Punjab and Haryana, are protesting heavily against the Farm Bills 2020.
  2. The Farm Bill allows farmers to directly sell to private companies without relying on the APMC Mondays. Farmers fear this could lead to scrapping of MSP.
  3. The government has removed most agricultural products from the Essential Commodities List. Farmers expect this to lead to price volatility and hoarding.
  4. Effectively, the bills permit private sector investment into farm infrastructure. Farmers are skeptical that large corporates may squeeze out the traditional farmer.

 

WHAT APMC MEANS FOR FARMERS?

  1. The APMC Act of the 1950s freed the Indian farmer from the monopoly of the local trader, undoubtedly with substantial benefits. Equally truly, what got created were oligopolies.
  2. In practice, each trader in the media has built relationships with a set of farmers: The traders provide credit, the farmer then sells his produce only through that trader, to have the credit advance against such sales adjusted.
  3. More often than not, the Mandi trader is also a conduit for the sale of foodgrain at MSP (direct sale by farmers to MSP centers is virtually impossible), reducing the net received by the farmer to below MSP.
  4. The symbiotic relationship between particular traders and farmers, which have been created within these oligopolies, is possibly less exploitative.

     

WHY OPPOSITION TO REFORMING OF APMC LAWS?

  1. The much-advocated reform of the APMC laws has not happened so far due to the opposition from Mandi traders, by now an influential lobby.
  2. In Rajasthan, for example, in 2004, a similar Cabinet-approved amendment to the APMC Act had to be withdrawn because traders went on strike.
  3. What changes have the three farm laws wrought? The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 gives farmers the freedom to sell outside the mandi; and to the buyer to buy at farm gate, without the necessity of a mandi licence.
  4. The farmer's choice to sell within the media, if she so wishes, is not taken away. Reportedly, farmers believe that this reform is a precursor to the abolition of mandis and MSP.
  5. It is hard to imagine what might have made them jump to this conclusion: Any political party would have to have an extreme and unprecedented case of myopia to do away with either Mondays or MSP, as it would be politically suicidal.
  6. Besides, it seems the government is prepared to give whatever assurance the farmers want on their continuation, and also to make changes in the law such as Mandi fee applying to private Mandi as well.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

2) ?1,364 crores given to wrong beneficiaries of PM­Kisan

GS 2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

CONTEXT:

  1. PM-KISAN payments worth ?1,364 crore have been wrongly made to more than 20 lakh ineligible beneficiaries and income tax payer farmers, according to information provided by the Agriculture Ministry in response to an RTI request from activist Venkatesh Nayak.
  2. There are 11 crore beneficiaries registered under the scheme.
  3. Punjab tops the list of States, accounting for 23% of those who wrongly received the money.
  4. Maharashtra and Assam also saw large numbers of such payments.
  5. A number of State Agriculture Departments have now been tasked with recovering the money wrongly paid.

 

PM-KISAN:

  1. PM-KISAN is the Centre’s flagship scheme to provide income support worth ?6000 a year to farming families.
  2. When it was launched just before the general election in 2019, it was meant to cover only small and marginal farmers who owned less than two hectares.
  3. Later that year, large farmers were included in the scheme as the government removed land size criteria.

 

EXCLUSIONS UNDER THE SCHEME:

  1. If any member of a farming family paid income tax, received a monthly pension above ?10,000, held a constitutional position, or was a serving or retired government employee, they were not eligible for the scheme.
  2. Professionals and institutional landholders were also excluded.

 

MORE DETAILS:

  1. Until July 2020, 20.5 lakh people who should have been excluded had wrongly received PM-Kisan payouts.
  2. According to the Agriculture Ministry data, 56% of these undeserving persons belonged to the “income tax payee” category, while the remainder belongs to the “ineligible farmers” category.
  3. However, 72% of the payout amount was paid to the income tax payees, indicating that this category continued to receive money for multiple installments before their ineligible status was discovered and they were weeded out of the scheme’s beneficiary database.
  4. Punjab (23%), Maharashtra (17%) and Assam (14%) account for more than half of the beneficiaries of wrong payments, followed by Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh with 8% each.
  5. Almost all the wrong payments in Punjab and Assam went to those in the “ineligible farmers” category, while Maharashtra had the highest number of payouts to “income tax payee” farmers.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

3) ‘Education reforms have impacted learning outcomes’

GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education

CONTEXT:

  1. The seven-day Delhi Education Conference began on Monday with an independent report on the Delhi government’s education reforms since 2015 being released by the Boston Consulting Group.
  2. Over the week, the conference will see 22 education experts from India and seven other countries, who will discuss the public education systems around the world.
  3. These include experts from India, the U.S., Finland, England, Germany, Singapore, Netherlands and Canada.
  4. In its report, the American management consulting committee said that the education reforms have definitely had an impact on learning outcomes.
  5. CBSE Board results have shown a steady increase and that there is improvement in Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) outcomes in Classes 6 to 8 as well, although much remains to be done.

 

OUTCOMES:

  1. “New curricular elements such as Happiness Curriculum (HC) and Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum (EMC) have been received positively.
  2. Student attendance is improving and students also attested to increased teacher attendance and engagement during focus group discussions (FGDs),” the report said.
  3. It pointed out that the true impact of Delhi’s reforms has been vitalizing the entire system and infusing a sense of renewed aspiration, belief, and deep motivation into every stakeholder.

 

TRANSFORMING SOCIETY:

  1. Deputy Chief Minister and Education Minister Manish Sisodia said that although a lot has been done to strengthen the infrastructure of schools in Delhi and improve quality of education via teacher training and better school management, the real result still remains to be achieved.
  2. The real success will be when every child leaves the school with a passion to do something for their country and commit to driving a change. They should be conscientious human beings entering the workforce.
  3. The ultimate goal, he added was to to transform the society and have citizens who’re true committed patriots with an entrepreneurial mindset and will contribute to the country.
  4. The panel discussion was followed by a keynote lecture by educationist and author Lucy Crehan who said that no education system becomes top-performing, let alone equitable, by focusing on educating just a minority of students to high levels.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

4) Govt. defends rules for animal seizure

GS 2- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

CONTEXT:

  1. The Central government on Monday defended law to deprive owners possession of their animals, including cattle, on the suspicion that they are being subject to cruelty or illegally transported for slaughter.
  2. The Centre dismissed the argument that taking the animals from their owners divested them of their livelihood even before they were found guilty of cruelty by a court of law.

 

DEPRIVING LIVELIHOOD:

  1. The argument that owners are deprived of their right to livelihood is not sustainable. They have no right to do their business illegally.
  2. They have to transport the animals as per the requirements of the Transport of Animals Rules of 1978.
  3. A Bench led by Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde was hearing a petition filed by the Buffalo Traders Welfare Association challenging the validity of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Care and maintenance of case property animals) Rules 2017.

 

COURT’S EARLIER DIRECTIVE:

  1. In the previous hearing, the court had asked the government to delete the Rules, saying the law stripped people of their means to live.
  2. But the government said the Rules were in consonance with the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.

 

PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS ACT OF 1960:

  1. “The Rules prevent owners and transporters from causing animals unnecessary pain and suffering... Animals are sentient beings.
  2. They are capable of experiencing pain, sorrow, suffering and discomfort.
  3. Article 51A (g) of the Constitution enjoins upon every citizen to have compassion for living animals.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

5) ‘Stretched valuations threaten stability’

GS 3- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment

CONTEXT:

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Shaktikanta Das has flagged the growing disconnect between exuberant equity markets and real economic activity and warned that the ‘stretched valuations of financial assets’ threaten overall financial stability.

 

DETAILS:

  1. The disconnect between certain segments of financial markets and the real economy has been accentuating in recent times, both globally and in India.
  2. Stretched valuations of financial assets pose risks to financial stability.
  3. Pointing to the interconnected nature of the financial system, the RBI Governor urged banks and financial intermediaries to be cognisant of the risk.
  4. India’s stock markets have been on a tear since plunging to their lowest levels in more than three years in March in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic’s outbreak and ensuing lockdowns.
  5. As of Monday’s close, the benchmark S&P BSE Sensex had appreciated almost 90% from its March 23, 2020, low.
  6. The pandemic could also trigger balance sheet impairments and capital shortfalls, especially as regulatory reliefs are rolled back, Mr. Das cautioned.

 

‘OBSCURE TRUE PICTURE’:

  1. Congenial liquidity and financing conditions have shored up the financial parameters of banks, but it is recognized that the available accounting numbers obscure a true recognition of stress.
  2. As per the FSR, the gross non-performing assets (GNPA) and net NPA (NNPA) ratios of banks fell to 7.5% and 2.1%, respectively, by September 2020.
  3. But the RBI warned that the withdrawal of pandemic-triggered reliefs could see a jump in bad loans at lenders.
  4. The improvements were aided significantly by regulatory dispensations extended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Source: The Hindu

 

6) Manipur becomes the 4th State to complete urban local bodies reforms Additional borrowing permission of Rs.75 crore issued.

GS-2 Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions.

CONTEXT:

1. Manipur has become the 4th State in the country to successfully undertake “Urban Local Bodies (ULB)” reforms stipulated by the Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Finance, becoming eligible to mobilize additional financial resources of Rs 2,508 crore through open market borrowings.

2. The State has become eligible to mobilize additional financial resources of Rs.75 crore through Open Market Borrowings.

 

ABOUT:

1. The reforms stipulated by the Department of Expenditure to achieve these objectives are:

(i)      The State will notify (a) floor rates of property tax in ULBs which are in consonance with the prevailing circle rates (i.e. guideline rates for property transactions) and (b) floor rates of user charges in respect of the provision of water-supply, drainage and sewerage which reflect current costs/ past inflation.

(ii)     The State will put in place a system of periodic increase in floor rates of property tax/ user charges in line with price increases.

 

The four citizen-centric areas identified for reforms:

(a) Implementation of One Nation One Ration Card System,

(b) Ease of doing business reform,

(c) Urban Local body/ utility reforms and

(d) Power Sector reforms.

Andhra Pradesh become the first state completion of Urban Local Bodies reform, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Manipur and Telangana.

 

Urban local bodies: The Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 is a landmark initiative of the Government of India to strengthen local self-government in cities and towns. The Act stipulates that if the state government dissolves a Municipality, election to the same must be held within a period of six months. Moreover, the conduct of municipal elections is entrusted to statutory State Election Commission, rather than being left to executive authorities. The mandate of the Municipalities is to undertake the tasks of planning for ‘economic development and social justice’ and implement city/town development plans. The main features of the 74th Constitutional Amendment are as under

1. So far 10 States have implemented the One Nation One Ration Card System, 7 States have done ease of doing business reforms, and 4 States have done local body reforms.

2. Total additional borrowing permission issued so far to the States who have done the refoms stands at Rs.­­­54,265 crore.

 

Source: PIB