Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 30th October 2021

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1.  No money left in MGNREGA coffers – 21 states in Red

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | Mains – GS Paper III– Indian Economy | GS Paper II – Governance
Sub Theme: MGNREGA | Use of technology to implement MGNREGA | Challenges – MGNREGA | UPSC

Context: The Centre’s flagship rural employment scheme has run out of funds halfway through the financial year, and supplementary budgetary allocations will not come to the rescue for at least another month when the next Parliamentary session begins.

Work Under MGNREGA

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.

The Finance of MGNREGA

  • According to its own financial statement, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme shows a negative net balance of ₹8,686 crore.
  • The Centre had allocated ₹73,000 crore at the Budget Estimate stage for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
  • The allocated budget is 34% less than the revised estimate of ₹1,11,500 crore 2020-21 financial year. As on October 29, the total expenditure, including payments due had already reached ₹79,810 crore, pushing the scheme into the red.
  • Already, 21 States show a negative net balance, with Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal faring the worst.

What does it mean and the what will be the impacts?

  • This means that payments for MGNREGA workers as well as material costs will be delayed, unless the States dip into their own funds.
  • There are possibilities that work pertaining to MGNREGA may be closed in such states which has used its MGNREGA funds entirely and is not willing to pay further from its state’s fund.
  • Lack of fund will further delay wage payment process for number of MGNREGA workers.

Following are the major reasons which cause delay in generation of pay orders:

  1. Delay in filling of attendance sheet on account of delayed submission of filled in Muster Roll (MR) by the Gram Rozgar Sahayak (GRS) or non-entry of attendance by Data entry operator (DEO) within 2 days of closure of Muster Roll (MR).
  2. Delay in measurement of work due to inadequate number of Technical Assistants/barefoot technicians.
  3. Delay on check measurement by Junior engineer/Assistant Engineer on the Measurement submitted by Technical Assistant (TA).
  4. Delay in generation of wage list by Data entry operator (DEO) and authorisation by Additional Programme Officer (APO).
  5. Delay in actual wage disbursal by Banks/ Post offices.
  6. Lack of IT infrastructure at Gram Panchayat level
  7. Inadequate Core Banking Solution (CBS) based banking facility.
  8. Mismatch of wage seekers account information due to wrong entry of account particulars in NREGASoft.

Other challenges – Delay in Wage Disbursal

  1. Management of large number of Bank & Post Office accounts.
  2. Parking of fund at various levels (GP, Block, Line departments, District, State).
  3. Manual transfer of Payment Orders to Banks / Post Offices thus leading to delay in payment of wages.
  4. Delays in transfer of records from Field to the Data Entry location
  5. Sometime leads to delay in release of funds from MoRD to States / Districts (f) Wrong / erroneous entries in to the MIS without any checks and responsibilities.
  6. NREGASoft’s existing transactional capabilities being used in a limited way.
  7. Inadequate manpower and skills at Field level.

To address these, it is proposed to capture data at the grassroots in real-time using latest ICT technology. This would significantly contribute towards achieving the objective of real time flow of information, report generation and inhibiting delays in payments etc. Also, this system will provide a greater degree of control over the funds parked at various levels. It is also proposed to incorporate electronic fund transfer for faster and efficient payments to workers.

Use of Information Technology to Strengthen MGNREGA

  • NREGASoft – National Informatics Centre (NIC), along with Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and other stakeholders, conceptualized web enabled Management Information System (MIS), NREGASoft, to address the planning & monitoring needs of the scheme. NREGASoft is a local language enabled, workflow based transaction level system designed for all activities of all stakeholders across the country. It is hosted on the MGNREGA portal and provides detailed information regarding implementation of the scheme. The portal provides public access to workers of MGNREGA giving details of daily attendance of workers working on MGNREGA work site along with the amount paid to them. The Ministry relies on the fund utilization information generated through NREGASoft for release of funds to States / Districts. NREGASoft provides transactional capabilities such as demand for work, work allocation, attendance on muster rolls, measurement book, generation of wage list, material procured, administrative expenses, and pay order etc.
  • NeFMS for Direct Benefit Transfer under MGNREGS – To streamline the fund flow mechanism and bring down delay in payment of wages, the Ministry of Rural Development has implemented National Electronic Fund Management System (NeFMS) in States and Union Territory. This process reduces the delay in allocation of funds for payment of wages to the States and removes parking of funds at various levels.

Benefits of eFMS

  • e-FMS solution will automate all processes involved in crediting the accounts of the beneficiaries
  • Automation of processes will eventually lead to real-time availability of data at all levels of governance for strategic decision making.
  • e-FMS will act as seamless payment mechanism which will automatically ensure fund transfer and crediting of beneficiaries accounts leveraging the Core Banking infrastructure (NEFT/RTGS) of banks
  • Successful implementation of the project across the country would do away with large number of bank accounts that are currently being operated by the Gram Panchayats and other Implementing Agencies all over the country as payments would be credited to the accounts of beneficiaries from an e-FMS Account.
  • This would also take care of the problem of large unspent opening balances.
  • This would help streamline the fund flow process
  • Reduction of workload at Block Program Office (BPO) / Gram Panchayat (GP)
  • Geo tagging of assets and strengthening of Social Audit System – brings more transparency and accountability in the programme implementation.
  • Implementation of Software for Estimate Calculation Using Rural rates for Employment (SECURE) – SECURE is a workflow based system. In SECURE, the work name & work codes are received from Mahatma Gandhi NREGA MIS to the concerned Block/GP after the approval of Labour budget. Detailed estimate for the block or gram panchayat is created including drawings, location map and photograph of the works site before starting the work. SECURE soft generates Detailed Project Report (DPR) which includes total estimate amount, total material Cost & list of materials used in the estimate with quantity, total semiskilled, Skilled manpower cost, total unskilled wages, activity carried out in each work, No of man days( Unskilled manpower). This has helped in making the process easier as no files on estimates & sanctions are required to be sent from the districts manually.
  • Other Measures – Geographical Information System (GIS) based planning, Time and Motion Study (TMS) to increase efficiency of estimation of work, JanMANREGA- a mobile application system, eSaksham- a digital learning platform, Cluster Facilitation Project (CFP) to position thematic experts at all levels in selected blocks with poor implementation capacity and Project Unnati to upgrade the skill base of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA workers.

 

Despite the well laid out decentralised structure to implement MGNREGA, following challenges still remains in implementing the programme:     

  1. Identifying Priority Areas for employment – In order to provide employment in a timely and adequate manner, the local government institutions at all levels must identify priority areas of employment-generating activities and propose, scrutinize, and approve the scheme. However, priority areas of work varies across districts based on geography, topography or other environmental conditions of the district.
  2. Need to expand work covered under MGNREGA – Central government should expand the list of permissible works under MGNREGA providing location-specific flexibility reflecting diversity in a) natural resource endowments, b) agro-ecological conditions, c) livelihood patterns and d) capacity of institutions responsible for planning and execution.
  3. Lack of Adequate Manpower at Local Level –Local government institutions at all levels must identify priority areas of employment-generating activities and propose, scrutinize, and approve the respective projects. Gram panchayats are also responsible for verifying the households’ registration for NREGA employment, issuing and distributing job cards, allocating employment, measuring and evaluating the completed work, and remunerating the NREGA wage workers.
  4. Low Wage Rate –MGNREGA wage rates of some states are less than the corresponding state minimum wages, also highlighted in judgments by Courts. The low wage rates have resulted in lack of interest among workers in working for MGNREGA schemes.
  5. Lack of Awareness among locals –Despite the long years of MGNREGA Scheme in existence, there is lack of basic and informative understanding about the programme including knowledge about entitlements associated with work.
  6. Three major sources of delay in wage payments in MGNREGA –the flow of funds, the restricted capacity of banks and post offices and the lack of accountability in the wage payment process. All states must adopt uniform software for release of funds.
  7. Poor Banking & Postal Infrastructure in Rural Areas –This results in non-payment of wages to some workers for work done under the scheme. Since Post offices are key partners in wage payments they should be computerised on a priority basis. Post offices should create postal extension counters to expand their reach in making wage payments under MGNREGA.
  8. Faulty Management Information System (MIS) Data – Evidence on ground suggests that real-time MIS has made MGNREGA less transparent for workers, reduced accountability of frontline functionaries and aided in centralisation of the programme. Thus, MIS must track the entire process of fund flow below the State level including requests for funds and responses and must be accessible to all. Further, Ministry of Rural Development should develop a standard chart of accounts for MGNREGA (with a provision for customization by states) and integrate the same into MGNREGA application for effective accounting, online banking , reconciliation and updation of MGNREGA MIS.

 

UPSC Current Affairs:UIDAI seeks indemnity from Data Bill | Page 1/8

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains – GS Paper II – Polity & Governance

Sub Theme: UIDAI | Personal Data Protection Bill | Privacy | UPSC

Context: The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asked for exemption from the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Law. In an interaction with the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Data Protection Bill 2019, UIDAI functionaries said the authority is already being governed by the Aadhaar Act and there cannot be duplicity of laws.  The Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill 2019 has a contentious section 35, which invokes “sovereignty and integrity of India,” “public order”, “friendly relations with foreign states” and “security of the state” to give powers to the Central government to suspend all or any of the provisions of this Act for government agencies. The UIDAI during the interaction with the Joint Parliamentary Committee demanded that it should get a blanket exemption from the act under this section. It further argued that it already is being governed by the Aadhaar Act and the PDP bill could be counterproductive.

THE AADHAAR (TARGETED DELIVERY OF FINANCIAL AND OTHER SUBSIDIES, BENEFITS AND SERVICES) ACT, 2016 – An Act to provide for, as a good governance, efficient, transparent, and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India, to individuals residing in India through assigning of unique identity numbers to such individuals and for matters connected therewith.

Powers of UIDAI

(a) specifying, by regulations, demographic information and biometric information required for enrolment and the processes for collection and verification thereof;

(b) collecting demographic information and biometric information from any individual seeking an Aadhaar number in such manner as may be specified by regulations;

(c) appointing of one or more entities to operate the Central Identities Data Repository;

(d) generating and assigning Aadhaar numbers to individuals;

(e) performing authentication of Aadhaar numbers;

(f) maintaining and updating the information of individuals in the Central Identities Data Repository in such manner as may be specified by regulations;

(g) omitting and deactivating of an Aadhaar number and information relating thereto in such manner as may be specified by regulations;

(h) specifying the manner of use of Aadhaar numbers for the purposes of providing or availing of various subsidies, benefits, services and other purposes for which Aadhaar numbers may be used;

(i) specifying, by regulations, the terms and conditions for appointment of Registrars, enrolling agencies and service providers and revocation of appointments thereof;

(j) establishing, operating and maintaining of the Central Identities Data Repository;

(k) sharing, in such manner as may be specified by regulations, the information of Aadhaar number holders, subject to the provisions of this Act;

(l) calling for information and records, conducting inspections, inquiries and audit of the operations for the purposes of this Act of the Central Identities Data Repository, Registrars, enrolling agencies and other agencies appointed under this Act;

(m) specifying, by regulations, various processes relating to data management, security protocols and other technology safeguards under this Act;

(n) specifying, by regulations, the conditions and procedures for issuance of new Aadhaar number to existing Aadhaar number holder;

(o) levying and collecting the fees or authorising the Registrars, enrolling agencies or other service providers to collect such fees for the services provided by them under this Act in such manner as may be specified by regulations;

(p) appointing such committees as may be necessary to assist the Authority in discharge of its functions for the purposes of this Act;

(q) promoting research and development for advancement in biometrics and related areas, including usage of Aadhaar numbers through appropriate mechanisms;

(r) evolving of, and specifying, by regulations, policies and practices for Registrars, enrolling agencies and other service providers;

(s) setting up facilitation centres and grievance redressal mechanism for redressal of grievances of individuals, Registrars, enrolling agencies and other service providers;

(t) such other powers and functions as may be prescribed.

 

THE PERSONAL DATA PROTECTION BILL, 2019

An Act to provide for protection of the privacy of individuals relating to their personal data, specify the flow and usage of personal data, create a relationship of trust between persons and entities processing the personal data, protect the rights of individuals whose personal data are processed, to create a framework for organisational and technical measures in processing of data, laying down norms for social media intermediary, cross-border transfer, accountability of entities processing personal data, remedies for unauthorised and harmful processing, and to establish a Data Protection Authority of India for the said purposes and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Section 35 – Power of Central Government to exempt any agency of Government from application of Act

Where the Central Government is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient

  1. in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order; or
  2. for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offence relating to sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order,

it may, by order, for reasons to be recorded in writing, direct that all or any of the provisions of this Act shall not apply to any agency of the Government in respect of processing of such personal data, as may be specified in the order subject to such procedure, safeguards and oversight mechanism to be followed by the agency, as may be prescribed.

 

UPSC Current Affairs:India, Israel to boost military cooperation | Page 9

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Current events of International Importance | GS Paper II – Bilateral Relations

Sub Theme: India-Israel | Strengthening Defence Cooperation | UPSC

Context: India-Israel Joint Working Group (JWG) on Bilateral Defence Cooperation has agreed to form a Task Force to formulate a comprehensive Ten-Year Roadmap to identify new areas of cooperation. This was decided at the 15th JWG meeting held on October 27, 2021 in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Important Highlights

  • The JWG is the apex body between the Ministry of Defence of India and Israel’s Ministry of Defence to comprehensively review and guide all aspects of Bilateral Defence Cooperation.
  • The two sides reviewed the progress made in Military to Military engagements including exercises and industry cooperation.
  • The Co-chairs were also appraised on the progress made by the Sub Working Groups (SWG) on Defence Procurement & Production and Research & Development.
  • It was also decided to form a SWG on Defence Industry Cooperation and in this regard a Terms of Reference was signed between the two sides.  The formation of this SWG would enable efficient utilisation of bilateral resources, effective flow of technologies and sharing industrial capabilities. It was also decided to schedule the Service level Staff talks in a specific time frame.
  • It was agreed to hold the next JWG in India on mutually convenient dates.

 

UPSC Current Affairs:Nationwide PCV drive launched | Page 10

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Social Issue | GS Paper II – Health

Sub Theme: PCV Drive | UIP | UPSC

  • Central government has launched nationwide expansion of Pneumococcal 13-valent Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) under the Universal Immunisation Programme (UIP) as a part of ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’,.
  • This would be the first time such PCV vaccination would be available at universal scale.
  • Pneumonia caused by pneumococcus is the most common cause of severe pneumonia in children. It can also be caused by Virus, fungus or bacteria. Around 16% of deaths in children occur due to pneumonia in India. The nationwide roll-out of PCV will reduce child mortality by around 60%.

 

Other Diseases Covered under Universal Immunisation Programme – UIP

  • Under UIP, Government of India is providing vaccination free of cost against ten vaccine preventable diseasese. Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio, Measles, severe form of Childhood Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and Meningitis & Pneumonia caused by Hemophilus Influenza type B across the country; Japanese Encephalitis in JE endemic districts and Rotavirus diarrhea in selected states.
  • However, Vaccination against Japanese Encephalitis and Haemophilus influenzae type B is being provided in selected districts of the country.

 

UPSC Current Affairs:Core sector growth decelerated to 7-month low of 4.4% in September | Page 12

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Economy

Sub Theme: Index of Eight Core Industries | UPSC

Context: Output from India’s eight core sectors grew 4.4% in September, the slowest pace of year-on-year growth in seven months. That reversed two months of accelerating production, with August logging an expansion of 11.5%.

Release of Output of Eight Core Industries

  • The Office of Economic Adviser, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade is releasing Index of Eight Core Industries (ICI) for the Month of September, 2021.
  • ICI measures combined and individual performance of production in selected eight core industries viz. Coal, Crude Oil, Natural Gas, Refinery Products, Fertilizers, Steel, Cement and Electricity.
  • The Eight Core Industries comprise 40.27 percent of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP).
  • Index of Eight Core Industries (ICI) is prepared by Office of the Economic Advisor, Ministry of commerce and Industry and is published monthly with the base year as 2011-12.
  • Weightage of different sectors in the Index
  • Highest Weightage: Petroleum Refinery production.
  • Lowest Weightage: Fertilizers production.
  • Note: It is noted that Index of Industrial production (IIP) is published by CSO, Ministry of Statistics and Programme implementation while Index of Eight core Industries is published by Office of Economic Advisor, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
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