UPSC Current Affairs: MPLADS RESTORED PARTIALLY | Page – 01
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper II: polity and governance
Sub Theme: MPLADS | UPSC
Context: Citing economic recovery, the Union Cabinet has partially restored the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) that was suspended in April 2020 subsuming the funds for the scheme in the consolidated fund of India. The scheme was suspended for two financial years (2020-21 and 2021-22) but now the MPs will get Rs. 2 crore instead of the annual approved Rs. 5 crore under the scheme.
MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) Scheme
- The Members of Parliament Local Area Development Division under MOSPI is entrusted with the responsibility of implementation of Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS).
- MOSPI – The scheme is funded and administered through the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI). Projects are to be recommended to and implemented by the district-level administration.
- Amount allotted – MPLADS allot Rs. 5 crore per year to each Member of Parliament (MP) to be spent on projects of their choice in their constituency. Under the scheme, each MP can suggest to the District Collector for work to be done under the scheme.
- Role of District Authorities – Sanction of the eligible works and implementation of the sanctioned works in the field are undertaken by the District Authorities in accordance with State Government’s financial, technical and administrative rules.
- Nodal District – If a Lok Sabha Constituency is spread over more than one District, the Member of Parliament can choose any one of the Districts as Nodal District in his/her constituency. The Rajya Sabha MP can choose any District in his/her State of Election as Nodal District.
- SC/ST Areas –Ps are to recommend every year, works costing at least 15% of the MPLADS entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5% for areas inhabited by S.T. population.
- Creating Community Assets – In case there is insufficient tribal population in the area of Lok Sabha Member, they may recommend this amount for the creation of community assets in tribal areas outside of their constituency but within their State of election. In case a State does not have S.T. inhabited areas, this amount may be utilized in S.C. inhabited areas and vice-versa.
- Areas prone to calamities – MPLADS works can also be implemented in the areas prone to or affected by the calamities like floods, cyclone, Tsunami, earthquake, hailstorm, avalanche, cloud burst, pest attack, landslides, tornado, drought, fire, chemical, biological and radiological hazards.
- MGNREGA – Funds from Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) can be converged with MGNREGA with the objective of creating more durable assets.
- Khelo India – Funds from Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) can be converged with Khelo India: National Programme for Development of Sports with the objective of creating more durable assets.
- Amount released in two Installments – The annual entitlement of Rs 5 crore shall be released, in two equal installments of Rs 2.5 crore each directly to the District Authority of the Nodal District of the Member of Parliament concerned.
- Conditions for Second Installment – The second installment of the MPLADS funds will be released subject to the fulfillment of the following eligibility criteria –
- the unsanctioned balance amount available in the account of the District Authority after taking into account the cost of all the work sanctioned is less than Rs.1 crore;
- the unspent balance of fund of the MP Concerned is less than Rs. 2.5 crore; and
- Utilization Certificate and Audit Certificate of the immediately concluded financial year ending 31st March have been furnished by District Authority.
- MPLADS Fund Non-Lapsable – Funds released to the District Authority are non-lapsable in nature. It means that funds sanctioned under MPLADS can be carried forward for utilization for subsequent year. Further, the funds not released by the Government of India in a year will be carried forward for making releases in the subsequent years.
UPSC Current Affairs: NEED TO ERADICATE MANUAL SCAVENGING I Page – 07
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Prelims: Important elements of art and culture and international organisation
Sub Theme: creative cities | UPSC
Context: The Madras High Court has directed the State Government to come up with meaningful measures to completely eradicate the practice of manual scavenging by prescribing harsh penalty to perpetrators as a deterrent. The judges agreed with advocate Srinath Sridevan, representing Safai Karamchari Andolan, which had preferred a public interest litigation petition, on the need to increase substantially the compensation paid for deaths due to manual scavenging.
Directions issued by Madras High Court:
- It has called for a status report from the government in four weeks.
- It also impressed upon the need for a fresh enumeration of the people involved in manual scavenging in the State.
- It agreed for increased compensation in case of deaths caused due to manual scavenging from present Rs. 10 lakhs which was fixed in 2014 to Rs. 50 Lakhs.
- The Court also asked the state to educate those involved in manual scavenging and erase the impression from their minds that they cannot take up any other vocation.
Legal Safeguards provided for Manual Scavengers and Safai Karamcharis in India
Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955
- Based on Article 17 to abolish the practice of untouchability against Scheduled Castes/Dalits, government enacted The Protection of Civil Rights (PCR) Act, 1955.
- It punishes the preaching and practice of Untouchability and enforcement of any disability against any member of the society.
The Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989
- Now, the PCR Act covered offences of untouchability, but not of atrocities against members of Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs).
- So, the government enacted Prevention of Atrocities Act to prevent commission of offences against members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and also to provide relief and rehabilitation of victims of such offences.
- The Act punishes anyone who compels or employs a member of Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe to carry human or animal carcasses or for manual scavenging. Further, the Act post amendment also established Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts for trial of offences punishable under the Act.
Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993
- The act prohibits the employment of manual scavengers, manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks without protective equipment, and the construction of insanitary latrines.
- It seeks to rehabilitate manual scavengers and provide for their alternative employment. Each local authority, cantonment board and railway authority is responsible for surveying insanitary latrines within its jurisdiction.
- They shall also construct a number of sanitary community latrines. It provided for imprisonment of up to a year and a fine. Though the construction of dry latrines has drastically reduced, the number of deaths in manholes, sewers and septic tanks continues to remain high.
National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993
- The Act established The National Commission for Safai Karamcharis which had powers to investigate specific grievances and take suo moto notice of matters relating to
- non-implementation of programmes or schemes in respect of any group of Safai Karamcharis,
- decisions, guidelines or instructions, aimed at mitigating the hardship of Safai Karamcharis,
- taking measures for the social and economic upliftment of Safai Karamcharis and
- recommending Central Government to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities for Safai Karamcharis under a time-bound action plan.
- However, the Act lapsed in 2004 and now the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis is functioning as a Non-Statutory body of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment whose tenure is extended from time to time through Government Resolutions.
Challenges which still remains
- Caste based Occupation – The practice of manual scavenging in India goes back by a few centuries and its roots lie deep within the caste-based occupation system in India. Dalits, the lowest in the caste hierarchy were and continue to be employed as scavengers. Even within the Dalit community, it is the lowest amongst the sub-castes who undertake scavenging work. Thus, there is a need to completely stop manual scavenging and provide alternative opportunities to people employed in such inhuman activity. Further, the government must create social awareness against caste discrimination specially for people engaged in such activities.
- Number of Deaths remains High – As per the Houselisting and Housing Census, 2011, there were 7.94 lakh latrines in the country from which night soil was removed by humans. Though the construction of dry latrines has drastically reduced, the number of deaths in manholes, sewers and septic tanks continues to remain high.
- Socio-Economic and Caste Census of 2011 – There were 1,80,657 manual scavengers in the rural areas of the country as per the data of manual scavengers released by the Ministry of Rural Development as on 3rd July, 2015.
- Present Data Still Unclear – However, the exact data on manual scavenging in India as of now in 2020 is still very much unclear and it is because of this, there are number of unidentified manual scavengers in India working under filthy and inhuman conditions. As per NCSK, total of 53,598 people, of which 29,923 were in Uttar Pradesh alone, had been identified as engaged in manual scavenging in 2018.
- Need to Mechanise Sewer Cleaning & take steps for Labour Safety – The present government had plans to amend the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 to completely mechanise the cleaning of sewers and manholes and build new sewers. But neither the past nor the present amendment addresses the issue of labour safety.
- Swachh Bharat Abhiyan must raise awareness against manual scavenging – As of 2nd October 2019, under Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) SBM(G), all the 6,03,175 villages in the country have declared themselves Open Defecation Free (ODF). The Government has also advised all the States to identify the missed out rural households and provide support to construct toilets under Swachh Bharat Mission (Grameen) SBM(G). However, SBM(G) does not address the issue of labour rights and the stigma attached to sanitation especially for the Scheduled Castes. Thus, there is a need to create social awareness at gram panchayat level not only for ODF but also against the inhuman practice of manual scavenging.
Guidelines Issues by Supreme Court
- A Supreme Court order in March, 2014, makes it mandatory for the government to identify all those who died in sewerage work since 1993 and provide Rs.10 lakh each as compensation to their families.
- The Government of India has adopted a two-pronged strategy of eliminating insanitary latrines through demolition and conversion into sanitary latrines and developing a comprehensive rehabilitation package for manual scavengers through a survey.
Action Plan for 2020-21 – Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers
National Action Plan
- The existing measures have not succeeded in elimination of hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks and a more serious, stringent and focused strategy framework is required to be put in place.
- The cleaning of the sewers and septic tanks is linked with developing facilities for transportation, disposal, treatment and utilization of the sullage and is therefore closely linked with the Municipal administration and Gram Panchayat.
- Accordingly a “National Action Plan” is being formulated in consultation with Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs and Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation to eliminate manual cleaning of Sewer system & Septic tanks and rehabilitate workers engaged in manual cleaning.
- National Action Plan for Mechanized Eco System is a coordinated Action by the above mentioned ministries where in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment will act as the Nodal Ministry for implementing the same. It would ensure the role of a coordinating Ministry dealing primarily with monitoring, rehabilitation and skilling of sanitation worker engaged in hazardous cleaning.
- The intervention for promotion of mechanized cleaning would be through the ongoing Swachhata Udyami Yojana, under which Loan is provided at concessional rate of interest of 4% per annum.
Steps Planned for Manual Scavengers
- Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had prepared The Action Plan for the next financial year 2020-21 which includes –
- Onetime cash assistance to the manual scavengers expected to be identified
- Skill Development Training
- Capital Subsidy for Self-Employment Projects
- Health-cum-awareness camps
- Workshop on prevention of hazardous cleaning
- Behavioural Training (Upskilling programme)
- Subsidy component of Loans to manual scavengers, sanitation workers involved in hazardous cleaning and their dependents for purchase of small machines for mechanize cleaning of sewers and septic tanks
- IEC campaign to create awareness about MS Act, 2013 Self Employment Scheme for the Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) and mechanized cleaning.
Amendments Proposed in MS Act, 2013 under National Action Plan
- Including Septage Treatment plant and such other spaces emitting toxic gases or effluent in the definition of ‘hazardous cleaning’.
- Facilitate survey of septic tanks by the local authorities to facilitate effective supervision over the maintenance of septic tanks.
- Construction of Septic Tanks as per the prescribed specification for mechanized cleaning.
- Include sewage/septage system and any other system emitting toxic gases or effluents.
- Provide more stringent penalties for engaging persons for hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
- Compensating families of the persons who die while cleaning sewers and septic tanks.
- Appointment of Responsible Sanitation Authority and inspectors.
- Ensuring Responsibility of local authorities for providing service for mechanised cleaning of sewers/septic tanks.
- State Government to provide financial assistance to local authorities required for mechanised cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.
National Safai Karamcharis Finance & Development Corporation (NSKFDC)
- NSKFDC isa wholly owned Government of India Undertaking under the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
- It was set up in January 1997 as a Company “Not for Profit” under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956.
- NSKFDC functions as an Apex Corporation for all round socio-economic upliftment of the Safai Karamcharis, Scavengers and their dependants throughout India.
- NSKFDC provides different types of loan and non-loan based schemes and also plays vital role in elimination of manual scavenging.
- NSKFDC has been designated as the Nodal Agency for implementation of the Central Sector Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
- NSFDC has recently issued advisory to municipalities, panchayats urging them to ensure that all sanitation workers are provided Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to remain safe during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Subsequent to coming into force of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, Self-Employment Scheme for the Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) was revised in November, 2013
The objective of SRMS is to provide the following benefits to the identified Manual Scavengers:
- Onetime cash assistance of Rs.40000/- to identified manual scavenger.
- Loans for project cost upto Rs. 15.00 lacs on concessional rates of interest to the manual scavenger/dependent.
- Credit linked back-end capital subsidy upto Rs. 3,25,000/-
- Skill Development Training upto two years with stipend of Rs.3000/- per month to the manual scavenger/dependent who opts for such training.
The scheme was further revised with the approval SFC from the year 2017-18 by adding the following components:
- Health Camps.
- Training and Awareness Camps for Sewage/Septic. Workers and distribution of common safety aids.
- Behavioral Skill Development Training.
UPSC Current Affairs: Defence Technology and Trade Initiative I Page – 12
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper I, II : national security
Sub Theme: defence projects | UPSC
The 11th Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) Group meeting between India and the United States (US) was held virtually on November 09, 2021.
The DTTI Group meetings are normally held twice a year, alternating between India and the US. However, this DTTI meeting was held via Video Teleconferencing consecutively for a second time on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The aim of the DTTI Group is to bring sustained leadership focus to the bilateral defence trade relationship and create opportunities for co-production and co-development of defence equipment. Four Joint Working Groups focused on land, naval, air and aircraft carrier technologies have been established under DTTI to promote mutually agreed projects within their domains.
As part of efforts for co-production and co-development of defence equipment under the Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), India and the U.S. agreed on a revised Statement of Intent (SOI) to strengthen the dialogue by “pursuing detailed planning and making measurable progress” on several specific projects.
UPSC Current Affairs: Minimum support price I Page – 11
UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 3: Indian economy and Agriculture
Sub Theme: MSP | UPSC
The concept of MSP becomes quite important in the context of recent controversy over the passage of the Farm acts. The farmers believe that the farm acts would ultimately lead to dismantling of the MSP regime and hence they would be exploited by the corporate entities. Thus, the farmers want the Government to amend the farm acts and provide that the private sector should not procure the agricultural commodities below the MSP declared by the Government.
On the other hand, several economists have highlighted various flaws associated with the MSP regime and accordingly are in favor of doing away with the MSP regime completely.
Details about Minimum Support Price (MSP) regime
Declaration of MSP: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) notifies MSP based on the recommendations of the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
Coverage of Commodities: As of now, CACP recommends MSPs of 22 commodities, which comprise 7 cereals (paddy, wheat, maize, sorghum, pearl millet, barley and ragi), 5 pulses (gram, tur, moong, urad, lentil), 7 oilseeds (groundnut, rapeseed-mustard, soyabean, sesamum, sunflower, safflower, Niger seed), and 3 commercial crops (copra, cotton and raw jute).
NOTE: The CCEA declares the Fair and Remunerative Prices (FRP) for the sugarcane. MSP does not enjoy statutory backing. However, FRP enjoys statutory backing under Sugarcane (Control) Order, 1966, which is issued under the Essential Commodities Act (ECA), 1955. Hence, there is statutory binding on sugar factories to pay the minimum announced price and all those transactions or purchase at prices lower than this are considered illegal.
How are the MSPs fixed?
The CACP considers various factors such as the cost of cultivation and production, productivity of crops, and market prices for the determination of MSPs. Different methodologies may be used to calculate the MSPs. These are
- A2 Approach, which includes cost of inputs such as seeds, fertilizer, labour;
- A2+FL Approach, which includes A2 and the implied cost of family labour (FL); and
- C2 Approach, which includes the implied rent on land and interest on capital assets and A2+FL. Hence, C2 approach is considered to be the most comprehensive approach which can be used to calculate the MSP.
Note: The National Commission on Farmers led by M.S. Swaminathan had recommended for the adoption of C2 Approach for fixing the MSP. However, presently, the MSPs are fixed at least 50% more than cost of production as calculated according to A2+FL approach.
Limitations in the MSP Regime
The MSP Policy of the Government has come under immense criticism on account of number of reasons. These flaws with the MSP regime have been highlighted by number of committees such
as the Committee on Doubling Farmers’ income which was headed by Ashok Dalwai and Shanta Kumar Committee on FCI reforms. Some of these fundamental flaws include:
Promoted Cultivation of Water Intensive Crops: Even though, the Government declares MSP for 22 crops, the procurement is quite strong only for Rice and Wheat. The procurement of other
commodities, particularly Pulses and Oilseeds is quite lower. Hence, it has incentivized the cultivation of more water intensive crops such as Rice and Wheat leading to an adverse impact on the Indian Agriculture.
Lack of Safeguards: The present MSP regime is not geared to pay compensation to the farmers when they are forced to sell the agricultural commodities in the open market below the MSP. Ideally, the MSP regime should be able to compensate such farmers for the losses incurred.
Flawed Approach: It has been stated that the fixing of MSP based on A2+FL approach would lead to declaration of lower MSP and hence does not adequately compensate the farmers. Accordingly, some of the economists have pointed out that the MSP should be declared based on the C2 Approach as recommended by Swaminathan Committee.
Benefitted only Large Farmers: The Shanta Kumar Committee on FCI reforms has highlighted that the MSP procurement has benefitted only 6% of farmers in India. Hence, only the large farmers which higher surplus of agricultural commodities have got benefitted from MSP. The Small and marginal farmers who comprise of almost 83% of the farming community have failed to get benefitted from the MSP regime.
Undue delay: In some of the cases, the Government has not been able to declare the MSPs as per the schedule. These delays in the announcement of the MSPs have not able to able to send the price signals to the farmers on time.
UPSC Current Affairs: Coringa and Wild cat I Page – 07
UPSC Syllabus: Prelims and Mains: GS Paper 3: Ecology and environment
Sub Theme: Wildlife | UPSC
Coringa Set for Fishing cat collaring project
- Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, India.
- Characterised by tidal/Mangrove Forests of the Godavari estuary, having specific biological and geological characteristics, it is the second largest Mangrove formation in India.
- The rivers Coringa and Gaderu and their deltaic branches intersect the region, along with other water channels.
- It has got a unique ecosystem, characteristic of Tidal Forests that exist at the estuarine area.
- About 40% area of this sanctuary is only sea back-waters. Rest of the area is riddled with creeks and gets inundated with tidal waters.
- The area was declared as Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary under section 26A of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
The Coringa WLS is rich in bio-diversity
- There are 35 species of mangroves in this wildlife sanctuary.
- Important fauna includes Fishing Cat, Indian Smooth-coated Otter, Jackal, Olive Ridley Turtle, Saltwater crocodile etc.
- Coringa mangroves provide an ideal habitat for a thriving population of the fishing cat, listed as schedule I species under Wildlife (protection) Act, 1972.
- It is home to the critically endangered white-backed vulture and the long billed vulture.
- The estimated number of fishing cats in Coringa WLS and adjoining mangroves is around 100 as per the latest census carried out by Andhra Pradesh Forest Department in 2018.
WHY ARE MANGROOVES SO IMPORTANT.
- Protect shorelines from damaging cyclones, waves and floods.
- Help in the prevention of soil erosion by stabilising sediments with their tangled root systems.
- Serve as a buffer between marine and terrestrial communities.
- Maintain water quality, filtering pollutants and trapping sediments originating from land.
- Nutrients and Carbon from Mangrove forest provide essential support to other near shore marine ecosystems such as sea grasses, enrich coastal food web and increase fishery Production.
- Many fish species and other fauna breed exclusively here.
- They are important source of livelihood for communities found in and around mangrove forests as these forests provide honey, tannins, Wax etc.
- Provides habitat for various species such as bats, lobsters, manatees and birds.