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India’s Silent Pivot: West Asia

The pandemic has caused a lot of distrust against our government in power at the centre. Especially due to the inefficiencies in the handling of the crisis which led to the loss of more than 50 thousand lives, over the past few weeks. 

Although India managed to get a lot of foreign aid and support, the issues of distribution to most needy places persist. The government has started to take steps to face-save itself after repeated rebukes by high courts and finally the supreme court. 

With this as a pretext, it’s easy to miss several desirable machinations being orchestrated by Indian diplomats abroad, especially in West Asia and Pakistan. Given its geographical location ( West Asia ) and plenty of oil, it’s hard to get ignored by world powers too. There are local and international fissure points as well. 

During the reign of Donald Trump, West Asia embraced the policy of Abraham accords. With the active participation of Israel, UAE, and Bahrein for acceptance of the statehood of Israel. This also has elements of nurturing inter-regional socio-economic and technological cooperation. The accords are named to emphasize the shared belief in the Prophet Abraham in Judaism and Islam yet the regional and ideological differences are far from over. 

Oftentimes countries like Turkey and Pakistan have played spoilsport to take a leadership role in the crisis-laden region. Challenges due to both these countries are now getting addressed one at a time. The region being close to India’s strategic interests in terms of security, energy supplies, and expatriates making a living in the region, India always remains invested. PM Modi in the first term has worked overtime to craft a predictable and stable foreign policy especially in Muslim majority West Asia, which seems to be paying off. 

Recently S Jaishankar was on a trip to West Asia and returned in late April. As we know Pakistan is in the middle of a terrible crisis both internally and externally. Pressure is on the Pak govt to sever ties with France by several internal Islamist sections, aggravating its economic isolation & decline. Pakistan is also cornered for its way of handling terrorist groups on its soil. Hence the double-edged sword of FATF is a constant threat. Further, the corona pandemic has led the establishment in Pakistan to take an ever pragmatic stand and come to terms. 

Recently in a statement by Pakistan foreign minister Qureshi, Art 370 is India’s internal matter ( unka andarooni masla ). This admission must not be seen in isolation. UAE had already extended a $ 2 Bn loan to Pakistan. After Qureshi made the statement on the 7th of May, MBS released $ 500 ml from Saudi Development Funds on 8th May. Further relaxations could be forthcoming if Pakistan softens its stance on the state recognition of Israel. Not to forget the oil loan from the Saudis which is due this year. 

It started with the West Asia Peace Plan at the behest of Palestine. It is for Israel to agree to a two-state solution. This as a bargaining chip and US-brokered Abraham accords for regional cooperation, pressure is on peripheral powers like Turkey and Pakistan to react in approval. With the intensifying pandemic all over the globe, crumbling state finances, and calls for support for medical supplies, Pakistan seems to be relenting. So do we see any contribution made by India in changing the geopolitical landscape? 

The reasons for India’s inevitable contributions could be many:-

  • India’s belief in being a development partner in the region. Against the Chinese chequebook and hegemonic designs. 
  • India has cultural and economic relations. With huge diaspora making a living and playing a vital role in regional development
  • India’s successful role in the peaceful & developmental contributions. In the form of Parliament, schools, libraries and cricket playgrounds in Afghanistan. 
  • With the withdrawal of American troops from Afgan, the anticipated surge insurgencies. Also, the active ISIS-Khorasan module places India on the diplomatic high table for security and peace dialogue. This is also a challenge with the Taliban on the table. 
  • Russian and US endorsement of India’s participation in several dialogues involving Afgan. It is a positive sign of status elevation. 
  • India being a pharmaceutical hub for the world and its proximity to Pakistan will only help.
  • Chinese development funds are infamous for their exploitative character even in Pak parliament. 
  • Last but not least, India’s immaculate balancing act with Russia – the US. Also Israel – Saudi – UAE and other middle eastern countries. 

India tried to fulfill its regional and global responsibilities by Mission Vaccine Maitri. But it seems to have lost the moral high ground to help others when we have graveyards in lakhs back home. Our star-studded foreign minister now has the challenge to see-through, all that is in planning over the years. Who knows POK is on the radar sooner than anticipated?

About the author: Sudhanshu Mishra

The Author presently works with Civilsdaily as a Faculty member and has keen interests on social reform & Geopolitics.

Ex- Defence Serviceman, has been part of India’s largest industrial defence complex, the Indian Ordnance Factories Organization.

He can be reached @SudhanshuM on Habitat & @sudhanshu_misR on Twitter.

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Recap: Farmer Agitation

The ongoing stand-off between the Union government and protesting farmers does not show any signs of a resolution at the moment. Farmers, especially in Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against the three agriculture laws enacted by the central government.

The situation is extremely volatile since the farmers are determined not to leave Delhi and camp therein for months for further protests.

The Three Contentious Laws: A quick recap

(1) Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020:

  • It expands the scope of trade areas of farmers produce from select areas to “any place of production, collection, and aggregation”. It allows electronic trading and e-commerce of scheduled farmers’ produce.
  • It prohibits state governments from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an ‘outside trade area’.

(2) Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020:

  • It creates a national framework for contract farming through an agreement between a farmer and a buyer before the production or rearing of any farm produce.
  • It provides farmers engaging with Agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce by a mutually agreed price framework.

(3) Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020:

  • It allows for the center to regulate food items through essential commodities.  
  • It also requires that imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce be based on price rise

Agitators at the forefront

Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are known for their adamant attitudes. They are heavily dependent on public procurement and assured price through MSP. Nearly 88% of the paddy production and 70% of the wheat production in Punjab and Haryana (in 2017-18 and 2018-19) has been absorbed through public procurement.

Why are farmers fuming over these laws?

Image source: TOI

These bills sought to bring much-needed reforms in the agricultural marketing system. However, farmers are apprehensive that the free market philosophy supported by these bills could undermine the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system and make farmers vulnerable to market forces.

Let us look at all their concerns one by one:

(1) Fear against the end of Mandi System

  • The APMC regulates the mandi (marketplace) where farmers bring their produce, and therefore, guarantees that they receive the MSP.
  • Since the state governments will not be able to regulate the trade outside the APMC markets, farmers believe the laws will gradually end the mandi system and leave farmers at the mercy of corporates.

(2) Fear over MSPs and procurement guarantee

  • Farmers believe that dismantling the mandi system will bring an end to the assured procurement of their crops at MSP.
  • Similarly, farmers believe the price assurance legislation may offer protection to farmers against price exploitation, but will not prescribe the mechanism for price fixation.
  • They are demanding the government guarantee MSP in writing, or else the free hand given to private corporate houses will lead to their exploitation.

(3) Fear of Arhatiyas

  • The arhatiyas (commission agents) and farmers enjoy a friendship and bonding that goes back decades.
  • On an average, at least 50-100 farmers are attached with each arhatiyas, who takes care of farmers’ financial loans and ensures timely procurement and adequate prices for their crop.
  • Farmers believe the new laws will end their relationship with these agents and corporates will not be as sympathetic towards them in times of need.

 (4) Fear over the end of subsidised electricity

  • Farmers concerns are also fuelled by the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020 which might end their access to subsidised electricity.
  • The bill seeks to create an Electricity Contract Enforcement Authority (ECEA), a move aimed to further centralization.
  • Another concern is the transfer of subsidies through DBT. Farmers will have to pay first from their own pocket, after which they will get subsidies.

(5) Fear over Contract Farming

  • The FAPA Act formalizes contract cultivation through a “national framework” and explicitly prohibits any sponsor firm from acquiring the land of farmers through purchase, lease or mortgage.
  • But farmers fear over the big corporate players’ monopoly over food processing industry and its supply chain dynamics.
  • They fear that their ownership rights would be at risk as the Act provides for debt instruments for the companies which have their own recovery mechanisms.

(6) Fear over dispute resolution

  • The FAPA Act provided for a three-level dispute settlement mechanism by the conciliation board, Sub-Divisional Magistrate and Appellate Authority.
  • Since the highest level of appeal for the farmer against any private entity was the Appellate Authority, the farmer is effectively prevented from moving the Court.
  • Thus, they claim that the Act was highly skewed in favor of private entity as the individual farmers did not have the resources that private companies had.

(7) Fear over EC Amendment Act

  • The original EC Act de-regulated food items including cereals, pulses, potato, onion, edible oilseeds, and oils, and could only be regulated in the extraordinary circumstances.
  • The new law states that government regulation of stocks will be based on rising prices.
  • This stock-limiting puts farmers at the peril of the government and thus prevent them from making from any profit during any extra-ordinary circumstances as most of the time they only have to bear losses. (Ex. Onion farmers in Maharashtra).

What are the broader concerns?

Agriculture per se deals with everything that a farmer does — right from field preparation and cultivation to also the sale of his/her own produce.

 (1) The centre has overreached

  • Article 246 of the Constitution places “agriculture” in entry 14 and “markets and fairs” in entry 28 of the State List.
  • But entry 42 of the Union List empowers the Centre to regulate “inter-State trade and commerce”.
  • While trade and commerce “within the State” are under entry 26 of the State List, it is subject to the provisions of entry 33 of the Concurrent List – under which the Centre can override.
  • The Centre, in other words, has passed a law that removes all impediments to both inter-and intra-state trade in farm produce, while also overriding the existing state APMC Acts. The FPTC Act does precisely that.

(2) States authority grossly surpassed

  • The act of primary sale at a mandi by the farmer is as much “agriculture” as production in the field.
  • “Trade” begins only after the product has been “marketed” by the farmer.
  • Going by this interpretation, the Centre is within its rights to frame laws that promote barrier-free trade of farm produce (inter-as well as intra-state) and do not allow stockholding or export restrictions.
  • But these can be only after the farmer has sold. Regulation of the first sale of agricultural produce is a “marketing” responsibility of the states, not the Centre.

(3) A totalitarian move

  • There is a debate around the constitutional provisions with regard to the respective domains of the State and the Union with regard to agricultural marketing,
  • However, issues affecting the farming community have a far greater bearing on the States relative to the Centre.
  • While enacting the Bills, the Centre extended little consideration to the sensitivity or consultations of the States who are busy fighting the pandemic this hour.

(4) Media insensitivity

  • Punjab and Haryana farmers have been at the forefront of this struggle and the other regions were slow to catch up.
  • The media terming it as a movement of ‘middlemen’ carried out by opposition parties and covertly supported by the ‘Khalistanis’ is the most distressing aspect.
  • This claim, for which no evidence has been offered, has been amplified by many news channels.

Wait! Before you make up your mind ….. Ever wonder, why did the govt intervene through these legislations?

(1) Flawed argument over MSP

  • These bills do not mention to do away with MSPs. Moreover APMCs have never assured that farmers get MSPs (which itself has no legal backings).
  • Over 80% of all land holdings were small and marginal with less than 2 hectares of farm land and hence, most of them, far from selling, end up buying food for even their own consumption.
  • In such cases, the rise in MSP actually hurts these farmers instead of helping them. The government assured price only helps a few large farmers.

(2) Food security is no more an issue

  • The roots of state intervention in agriculture, from government procurement to rationing and restrictions on private traders are to found in recurring food shortages in the period after Independence.  
  • Many experts believe that these incentives are not needed today because India is a food-surplus country now.
  • This is what the current reforms seek to abolish. The sharp rise in India’s agriculture exports is often cited as evidence of this fact.

(3) An equalizing move for all

  • The average nutritional intakes in India are much lower than just developed countries and, the purported food surplus seems to be the result of inadequate food consumption due to affordability issues.
  • There still exists malnutrition as most of the public cannot afford good diets.
  • According to research by the International Food Policy Research Institute, 63.3% of people in rural India could not afford the Cost of a Recommended Diet (CoRD).

(4) Protesting farmers are better off than the rest

Data from a 2013 survey carried out by the National Statistical Office (NSO) shows that farmers from Punjab and Haryana had the highest incomes in the country.

  • The farmers who are protesting outside Delhi’s borders are among the richest among their peers in India.
  • A disproportional share in government procurement at MSP plays an important role in this.
  • States where there are no large-scale MSP operations tend to have lower prices in private markets as well. That incentivizes the richer farmers to lobby for the continuation of the status quo.

(5) Contract farming was a long pending issue

  • Contract farming in India has shown that marginal and small farmers are generally excluded.
  • The problems they face include the following- highly one-sided i.e. pro-contracting agency contracts, delayed payments, undue rejections and outright cheating among others.
  • Hence it was necessary for the govt. to bring legislation.

Much of government procurement at MSPs — of paddy, wheat and increasingly pulses, cotton, groundnut and mustard — happens in APMC mandis. In a scenario where more and more trading moves out of the APMCs, these regulated market yards will lose revenues. “They may not formally shut, but it would become like BSNL versus Jio. And if the government stops buying, we will be left with only the big corporates to sell to….

Govt and farmers at crossroads: A timeline

In its first term, the government was forced to retract its proposal to ease the 2014-15 land acquisition norms fearing a political backlash, following massive protests across the country.  But the peace it bought with the farmers was short-lived.

Farmers’ angst in nooks and corners of rural India had been simmering, bursting out in spurts of violence like the one witnessed in Madhya Pradesh’s Mandsaur in 2017 where farmers were protesting, demanding loan waiver and higher crop prices.

This was followed by the 2018 farmers’ agitation in Maharashtra. Moved by the poor implementation of the loan waivers, thousands of farmers undertook a march from Nashik to Mumbai demanding redressal. Though then the government decided to fulfil the demands, it, however, retreated.

Why do farmers get on the streets?

  • It’s not that farmers’ agitation has picked pace only since 2014. But agriculture sector experts say farmers’ grievances have mostly remained unaddressed.
  • Rural distress has been on the rise, stoking farmers’ anger. Politics has added fuel, making a lethal cocktail.
  • Even though Punjab and Haryana are not as critical to the country’s food security as they were a few decades ago, they are extremely important in India’s farm economy.
  • Decades of high farm earnings also mean that the peasantry in these two states has much more in terms of material wherewithal to fight for its interests.
  • Therefore, the fact that the government’s attempts to undermine their interests by enacting the recent farm laws have triggered a sharp political backlash is hardly surprising.

What do they want?

  • Farmers would want no restrictions on the movement, stocking and export of their produce.
  • For example, Maharashtra’s onion growers have vehemently opposed the Centre’s resort to banning on exports and imposition of stock limits whenever retail prices have tended to go up.
  • But these restrictions relate to “trade”.
  • When it comes to “marketing” — especially dismantling of the monopoly of APMCs — farmers, especially in Punjab and Haryana, aren’t very convinced about the “freedom of choice to sell to anyone and anywhere” argument.

From the government’s standpoint, the elephant in the room would be if the farmers insist on an additional demand: Making MSP a legal right. That would be impossible to meet, even if the three farm laws get repealed.

What options does the government have?

While the farmers want the three farm laws to be repealed and a new law with a provision that ensures the MSP is not tinkered with, the government has maintained that MSP is not being done away with.

These may be just fears, but they aren’t small.

(1) Repealing the laws

  • Punjab farmer leaders, including two major political parties, demand repeal of these laws.
  • Overall, almost 90 per cent of the agri-produce is sold to the private sector. However, repealing would mean bringing back controls, licence raj and the resultant rent-seeking.
  • Milk, poultry, fishery, etc. don’t go through the mandi system and their growth rates are 3 to 5 times higher than that of wheat and rice.

(2) Legally enforcing the MSPs

  • Another demand is making the MSP statutory and legally binding even on the private sector.
  • This is impractical as there are 23 commodities for which MSPs are announced, but in actual practice only wheat and rice enjoy MSPs in any meaningful manner and that too only in 6-7 states.
  • The FCI is overloaded with grain stocks that are more than 2.5 times the buffer stock norms.
  • If the government cannot cope up with excess production of just wheat and rice in any meaningful way, think of how it will handle 23 commodities under MSP.

(3) Implementing Price Stabilization Scheme

  • The third policy option is to use the Price Stabilization Scheme to give a lift to market prices by pro-actively buying a part of the surplus whenever market prices crash.
  • Farmers can use Commodity Derivatives Exchanges where farmers can buy “put options” at MSP before they even sow their crops.
  • If the market prices at the time of harvest turn out to be below MSP, government can compensate them partly for lower market prices (which again aren’t feasible for the govt.)

(4) Decentralizing MSPs and other subsidies

  • Another option is to totally decentralize the MSP, procurement, stocking, and public distribution system (PDS).
  • The Centre can get off from MSP, PDS, fertilizer subsidy, and MGNREGA and let the states decide it.
  • So, the whole money on food subsidy can be allocated to states on the basis of their share in all-India poverty/proportion of vulnerable population.

A bigger challenge at the moment

  • Several farmers said that they had come prepared to dig in for a prolonged struggle.
  • Farmers are carrying ration that can last months and are in no mood to turn back. Any use of force by the state may lead to a major law and order disruption.
  • In the current situation, the police have already used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the agitated farmers — but both methods have failed.
  • This could lead to a severe law and order crisis.
  • Moreover, international voices are also rising on the credibility of the government to address the farmers concerns, which is not a healthy sign.

Way forward: Give reforms a chance

Reforms in agriculture have been overdue.  There has been rhetoric in last 10 years in favour of agricultural but very few concrete steps have been taken.

One rhetoric is very clear now. The APMC mandis were never filled with good samaritans and neither is the MSP religiously enforced everywhere.

  • Just passing these laws won’t be enough. The success of liberalizing the farm market will hinge on effective implementation, constant monitoring and timely action.
  • Accelerating research and academic excellence could bring in the ‘best in class’ technologies and can multiply farmers’ incomes.
  • As far as the APMCs and commission agents are concerned, the governments should work on a clear roadmap to modernize them by facilitating them in providing value-added services.
  • They could be leveraged to set-up grading and sorting, warehousing, cold chains and food processing infrastructure. This way, it is a win-win-win for the state government, farmers and the commission agents.
  • While taking the control away from these agents, the government must also ensure that the gap is filled with foolproof mechanisms to ensure timely payments to farmers to avoid any cash crunch.

Don’t fear the competition

  • When we create competition for their produce, the price improves. There are more buyers, more choices. Farmers can reap the benefits of that.
  • The COVID-19 crisis opened a window of opportunity to reform the agri-marketing system.  Patience and professionalism will bring rich rewards in due course, not noisy politics.

Conclusion

  • The governments must try to allay the fears of farmers over the Farm Bills and it is never too late to rethink. Unconditional talks with farmers would be an appropriate starting point.
  • There is genuine uncertainty over what private procurement will mean. Will it mean greater corporate power over farmers, possibly unhealthy monopolies or duopolies?
  • Leveraging the reforms and moving forward rather is the most feasible solution than to protest amid the pandemic.
  • What farmers need and are asking for is legally guaranteed remunerative prices. If the Bills are perceived of good intent, then the government should not shy away from proper parliamentary scrutiny of all its details.
  • Political parties that are opposing these Bills should coordinate better keeping farmers’ interests in the forefront, and not their party politics.

References

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/four-key-aspects-of-the-farmers-protest/story-UKuhPOVY7N3nAs1OZXBU0L.html

https://www.businessinsider.in/india/news/apmc-and-msp-will-continue-under-new-farm-bills-2020/slidelist/78230172.cms

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Recap: Minimum Support Price

Minimum Support Price (MSP) is the assured price at which foodgrains are procured from farmers by the central and state governments and their agencies, for central pool of foodgrains. The central pool is used for providing foodgrains under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and other welfare schemes, and also kept as reserve in the form of buffer stock.  However, in the past few months, there have been demands to extend MSP to private trade as well and guarantee MSP to farmers on all kinds of trade.

Is MSP applicable for all crops?

The central government notifies MSP for 23 crops every year before the Kharif and Rabi seasons based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, an attached office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. These crops include foodgrains such as cereals, coarse grains, and pulses.  However, public procurement is largely limited to a few foodgrains such as paddy (rice), wheat, and, to a limited extent, pulses.

Since rice and wheat are the primary foodgrains distributed under PDS and stored for food security, their procurement level is considerably high. 

How does procurement vary across states?

The procurement of foodgrains is largely concentrated in a few states.  Three states (Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana) producing 46% of the wheat in the country account for 85% of its procurement.   For rice, six states (Punjab, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Haryana) with 40% of the production have 74% share in procurement. 

The rice and wheat focus

  • Procurement of marketed surplus of paddy (rice) and wheat at Minimum Support Price (MSP) completely insulated farmers against any price or market risks. It also ensured a reasonably stable flow of income from these two crops.
  • Over time, the technological advantage of rice and wheat over other competing crops further increased as public sector agriculture research and development allocated their best resources and scientific manpower to these two crops.
  • Other public and private investments in water and land and input subsidies were the other favourable factors.
  • Thus, wheat in rabi and paddy in Kharif turned out to be the best in terms of productivity, income, price and yield risk and ease of cultivation among all the field crops (cereals, pulses, oilseeds).

85% wheat procurement is from three states (2019-20)

76% of the rice procured comes from six states (2019-20)

Punjab, Haryana vs. States

The region comprising Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, was an early adopter of Green Revolution technology. It was also a major beneficiary of various policies adopted to spread modern agriculture technology in the country.

  • High productivity, assured MSP which is often above open market price, free power, and fertilizer subsidy underlie the higher income per unit area from wheat and paddy cultivation.
  • Land-labour ratio is also very favourable in Punjab when compared to other States; on an average, a farmer owns and cultivates 2.14 hectares net sown area as against 1.42 hectares in Haryana and 1.17 hectares at the national level.
  • An estimate of income (derived from National Accounts Statistics) shows that all agriculture activities taken together to generate an annual net income of ₹5.31 lakh per cultivator in Punjab; it is ₹3.44 lakh in Haryana while the all-India average is ₹1.7 lakh (reference year, 2017-18).

How has MSP affected the cropping pattern?

According to the central government’s procurement policy, the objective of public procurement is to ensure that farmers get remunerative prices for their produce and do not have to resort to distress sale.  If farmers get a better price in comparison to MSP, they are free to sell their produce in the open market.  The Economic Survey 2019-20 observed that the regular increase in MSP is seen by farmers as a signal to opt for crops which have an assured procurement system (for example, rice and wheat).  

Declining Incomes

  • Loss of growth momentum in the income from the agriculture sector, which has fallen to 1% in Haryana and 0.6% in Punjab after 2011-12.
  • With the productivity of rice and wheat reaching a plateau, there is pressure to seek an increase in MSP to increase income. However, demand and supply do not favour an increase in MSP in real terms.
  • In India, the per capita intake of rice and wheat is declining and consumers’ preference is shifting towards other foods.
  • The average spending by urban consumers is more on beverage and spices than on all cereals. On the supply side, rice production is rising at the rate of 14% per year in Madhya Pradesh, 10% in Jharkhand and 7% in Bihar.

Issues related to procurement

  • Limited procurement in different regions.
  • MSP leading to farmer preference for the production of few crops like wheat and rice.
  • The growing rice production will further increase pressure on the procurement and buffer stock of rice. Rice and wheat procurement in the country has more than doubled after 2006-07 and buffer stocks have swelled to an all-time high.
  • The country does not find an easy way to dispose of such large stocks and they are creating stress on the fiscal resources of the government.
  • Procurement of almost the entire market arrivals of rice and wheat at MSP for more than 50 years has affected the entrepreneurial skills of farmers to sell their produce in a competitive market where prices are determined by demand and supply and competition.

Environmental issues, unemployment

  • The biggest casualty of paddy cultivation and the policy of free power for pumping out groundwater for irrigation is the depletion of groundwater resources.
  • In the last decade, the water table has shown a decline in 84% observation wells in Punjab and 75% in Haryana.
  • In the last couple of years, the burning of paddy stubble and straw has become another serious environmental and health hazard in the whole region.
  • Another rather more serious challenge for the two States is to provide attractive employment to rural youths. Most of the farm work in these two States is undertaken by migrant labour.

Is MSP mandatory for private trade as well in some states?

MSP is not mandatory for purchase of foodgrains by private traders or companies.  It acts as a reference price at which the government and its agencies procure certain foodgrains from farmers.

In September 2020, the central government enacted a new farm law which allows anyone with a PAN card to buy farmers’ produce in the ‘trade area’ outside the markets notified or run by the state Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs).  Buyers do not need to get a license from the state government or APMC, or pay any tax to them for such purchase in the ‘trade area’.  These changes in regulations raised concerns regarding the kind of protections available to farmers in the ‘trade area’ outside APMC markets, particularly in terms of the price discovery and payment.  

In October 2020, Punjab passed a Bill in response to the central farm law to prohibit purchase of paddy and wheat below MSP. Any person or company compelling or pressurising farmers to sell below MSP will be punished with a minimum of three-year imprisonment and a fine. 

Similarly, in November 2020, Rajasthan passed a Bill to declare those contract farming agreements as invalid where the purchase is done below MSP.   Any person or company compelling or pressurising farmers to enter into such an invalid contract will be punished with 3 to 7 years of imprisonment, or a fine of minimum five lakh rupees, or both.   Both these Bills have not been enacted yet as they are awaiting the Governors’ assent.

Way forward

  • The solution to the ecological, environmental and economic challenges facing agriculture in the traditional Green Revolution States is not in legalizing MSP but to shift from MSP crops to high-value crops and in the promotion of non-farm activities.
  • Rather than focusing on a few enterprises, Punjab and Haryana should look at a large number of area-specific enterprises to avoid gluts.
  • This will require a mechanism to cover price and market risks. Farmers’ groups and farmer producer organizations can play a significant role in the direct marketing of their produce.

To encourage crop diversification and thereby reduce the consumption of water, some state governments are taking measures to incentivise farmers to shift away from paddy and wheat.  For example, Haryana has launched a scheme in 2020 to provide Rs 7,000 per acre to those farmers who will use more than 50% of their paddy area (as per the area sown in 2019-20) for other crops.  The farmers can grow maize, bajra, pulses, or cotton in such diversified area.  Further, the crop produce grown in such diversified area under the scheme will be procured by the state government at MSP.

  • Both Punjab and Haryana need to promote economic activities with strong links with agriculture tailored to State specificities.
  • Some options for this are: promotion of food processing in formal and informal sectors; a big push to post-harvest value addition and modern value chains; a network of agro- and agri-input industries; high-tech agriculture; and a direct link of production and producers to consumers and consumers without involving intermediaries.
  • The traditional Green Revolution States of Punjab and Haryana would need to shed “business as usual” approach and embrace an innovative development strategy in agriculture and non-agriculture to secure and improve the future of farming and rural youth.

References:-

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/punjab-haryana-need-to-look-beyond-msp-crops/article33339838.ece
https://www.prsindia.org/theprsblog/examining-urban-local-governance-india-through-case-bengaluru
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Recap: New Labour laws

Another important topic for mains is the reforms in the labour laws. Revise this topic again with this piece of article.

  • The Parliament has passed new versions of three labour codes — Industrial Relations Code Bill, 2020, Code on Social Security Bill, 2020 and Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020.
  • The Code on Social Security 2020, which received the Presidential Assent on 28 September 2020, subsumes major regulations relating to social security, retirement and employee benefits.

What is Social Security?

  • Social security is “any government system that provides monetary assistance to people with an inadequate or no income”.
  • It refers to the action programs of an organization intended:
  • to promote the welfare of the population through assistance measures guaranteeing access to sufficient resources for food and shelter and
  • to promote health and well-being for the population at large and potentially vulnerable segments such as children, the elderly, the sick and the unemployed

Why need Social Security?

  • India has a very basic social security system catering to a fairly small percentage of the country’s workforce.
  • Traditionally, Indians relied on their extended families for support in the event of illness or other misfortunes.
  • However, due to migration, urbanization, and higher social mobility, family bonds are less tight and family units much smaller than they used to be.

Social Security System in India

  • India’s social security system is composed of a number of schemes and programs spread throughout a variety of laws and regulations.
  • Keeping in mind, however, that the government-controlled social security system in India applies to only a small portion of the population.
  • Furthermore, the social security system in India includes not just an insurance payment of premiums into government funds (like in China), but also lump sum employer obligations.

Generally, India’s social security schemes cover the following types of social insurances:

  • Pension
  • Health Insurance and Medical Benefit
  • Disability Benefit
  • Maternity Benefit
  • Gratuity

While a great deal of the Indian population is in the unorganized sector and may not have an opportunity to participate in each of these schemes, Indian citizens in the organized sector (which include those employed by foreign investors) and their employers are entitled to coverage under the above schemes.

Code on Social Security 2020

The 3 bills which were passed are

  1. Industrial Relations Code, 2020
  2. Code on Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020 &
  3. Social Security Code, 2020

All the labour laws (29 in number) being amalgamated into 4 labour codes are :

Name of the Code Amalgamated laws
Wage Code  4 laws – The Payment of Wages Act, 1936 The Minimum Wages Act, 1948 The Payment of Bonus Act, 1965 The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
IR Code  3 laws – The Trade Unions Act, 1926 The Industrial Employment (Standing orders) Act, 1946 The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
OS Code  13 laws – The Factories Act, 1948 The Plantations Labour Act, 1951 The Mines Act, 1952 The Working Journalists and other Newspaper Employees (Conditions of Service) and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1955 The Working Journalists (Fixation of Rates of Wages) Act, 1958 The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961 The Beedi and Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966 The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 The Sales Promotion Employees (Conditions of Service) Act, 1976 The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 The Cine-Workers and Cinema Theatre Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act, 1981 The Dock Workers (Safety, Health and Welfare) Act, 1986 The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996
Social Security Code  9 laws – The Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923 The Employees’ State Insurance Act, 1948 The Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 The Employment Exchanges (Compulsory Notification of Vacancies) Act, 1959 The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 The Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972 The Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981 The Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996 The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008

Here are the key features of these bills:

 (A) Social Security Code, 2020

  • The facility of ESIC would now be provided in all 740 districts. At present, this facility is being given in 566 districts only.
  • EPFO’s coverage would be applicable to all establishments having 20 workers. At present, it was applicable only on establishments included in the Schedule.
  • Provision has been made to formulate various schemes for providing comprehensive social security to workers in the unorganised sector.
  • A “Social Security Fund” will be created on the financial side in order to implement these schemes.
  • Work to bring newer forms of employment created with the changing technology like “platform worker or gig worker” into the ambit of social security has been done in the Social Security Code.
  • Provision for Gratuity has been made for Fixed Term Employee and there would not be any condition for minimum service period for this.
  • With the aim of making a national database for unorganised sector workers, registration of all these workers would be done on an online portal and this registration would be done on the basis of Self Certification through a simple procedure.

 (B) Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020

  • Free health checkup once a year by the employer for workers which are more than a certain age.
  • A legal right for getting Appointment Letter given to workers for the first time.
  • Cine Workers have been designated as Audio Visual Worker so that more and more workers get covered under the OSH code. Earlier, this security was being given to artists working in films only.

(C)  Industrial Relations Code, 2020

Efforts made by the Government for quickly resolving disputes of the workers include:

  • Compulsory facility for Helpline for redressal of problems of migrant workers.
  • Making a national database of migrant workers.
  • Provision for the accumulation of one day leave for every 20 days worked when work has been done for 180 days instead of 240 days.
  • Equality for women in every sphere: Women have to be permitted to work in every sector at night, but it has to be ensured that provision for their security is made by the employer and consent of women is taken before they work at night.
  • In the event of the death of a worker or injury to a worker due to an accident at his workplace, atleast 50 % share of the penalty would be given. This amount would be in addition to Employees Compensation.
  • Provision of “Social Security Fund” for 40 Crore unorganized workers alongwith GIG and platform workers and will help Universal Social Security coverage
  • Occupational Safety & Health Code to also can now over cover workers from IT and Service Sector.
  • 14 days notice for Strike so that in this period amicable solution comes out.

Now let’s look up at the various loopholes of these Bills one by one:

A. The Code on Social Security, 2020

  1. No robust entitlements:
  • To begin, the Code does not emphasise social security as a right, nor does it make reference to its provision as stipulated by the Constitution.
  • In addition, it does not stipulate a clear date for enforcement, which will leave millions of workers vulnerable without clear social protections.

2. No universalization

  • A model scheme covering the issues such as education, health, social security, pensions and other benefits which can assure a dignified life for workers.
  • It is essential that social security protections be made universal for the entire Indian workforce, i.e. that such protections be universal.
  • Instead of this, the Code makes arbitrary categorizations that will leave millions of working poor out of its protections. While the Code defines multiple categories, most definitions are ambiguous.

3. Migrant workers find NO special mention

  • Interstate migrant workers should have been mentioned as a separate category with the establishment of a sizable Welfare Fund with contributions by sending and receiving states and employers.
  • Given the particular distress faced by such workers in the last few months, there are no provisions established for migrant workers who face very specific vulnerabilities.
  • There is not even a provision for the portability of social security which takes into account their continuous movement within the country.
  • There is no consideration for unemployment protection for unorganised workers, which is particularly important at times of great recession and crisis.

4. Pro-employer

  • Finally, the Code makes it easier for employers to flout legally required social protection for workers.
  • For instance, there is no stringent penalty for non-contribution of Provident Fund dues by employer/contractor.
  • As an effective deterrent and policy tool to ensure timely payment of dues, penal provisions should be incorporated for large employers who have the capacity to pay regular Provident Fund contributions.

B. The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020

  1. Ignores key economic activities
  • The Code excludes many branches of economic activities, most notably, the agriculture sector which employs more than 50% of total working population of India.
  • Further, the employees in other unorganised sectors such as small mines, hotels & eating places, machinery repairs, construction, brick kilns, etc find no mention.
  • Also those employed as informal workers in organized sectors, including new and emerging sectors such as IT and IT enabled services, digital platforms, e-commerce, have also not found coverage under the Code.

2. Ambiguous occupational safety

  • It is appalling that the Code has got away by not fixing any responsibility on employers with respect to safety and health.
  • It does not specify even minimum standards for Occupation Safety and Health, or daily and weekly working hours and everything has been delegated to the Central government to be stipulated through notification.
  • A minimum Occupation Safety and Health standard should have been specified in the Code itself.

3. Issue of fair treatment

  • The Code does not contain any provisions for equal treatment for contract labour that perform work of a similar nature as that of permanent workers in the same establishment.
  • Contract labour that is engaged in similar work in the same establishment should have been treated on par with permanent workers in the matter of wages and other conditions of employment.

C. The Industrial Relations Code, 2020

  1. Restrictions on ‘Freedom of Association’
  • The definition of strike has been broadened to include “the concerted casual leave on a given day by fifty percent or more workers employed in an industry”.
  • This constrains workers’ ability to participate in collective bargaining processes and demonstrations.
  • Beside this, there are several restrictions made on right to strike – workers will be subject to penal sanctions for the mere fact of organizing or participating in a peaceful strike.
  • Imposing such sanctions on strikes that are justified amounts to a grave violation of the principles of freedom of association.

2. Definitional issues

  • The definition of “industry” includes terms like “charitable”, “philanthropic”, “social”, etc. which are undefined and can be misused.
  • A manufacturer of sanitary pads or toilet paper, for instance, may claim to be a social activity and therefore not an industry.
  • The change in the definition of “wage” is either the result of muddled thinking or made with malicious intent.
  • It will have the effect of reducing retrenchment compensation, subsistence allowance etc., which is deplorable.

3. Fixed-term contracts

  • There is an institutionalization of “fixed term contracts” as tenure of employment.
  • Workers employed on a fixed term basis may be terminated on the completion of their contract, even while there is an actual need for their services.
  • In other words, they may be terminated from service without any just and reasonable cause. This will further create instability and massive labour market unrest.
  • The fixed term employment does not guarantee the right to receive notice or wages in lieu of notice prior to the termination of services.

Conclusion

  • The government needs to work more to recognise that focusing on economic growth without redistribution of wealth leads to jobless growth and socially unaccountable prosperity.
  • Every law has to aim to maintain the best possible balance between competing interests and should try to give as much comfort to the weaker of the two sides, as much possible in the larger interest of our nation.
  • Ultimately these laws will be as good as their implementation, mere letters of law have no meaning.
  • The government has to ensure that they are implemented with honesty and integrity, then only the country will be able to achieve the desired goal of speeding up economic growth and unleashing the untapped potential of thousands and thousands of our industries, businesses and entrepreneurs to take the nation to new heights.

References

https://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/code-social-security-2020

https://www.financialexpress.com/money/the-code-on-social-security-2020-how-will-this-new-labour-code-benefit-employees-workers/2098269/

https://scroll.in/article/973877/why-the-new-labour-codes-leave-workers-even-more-precariously-poised-than-before

Categories
H/L Relevance News

Recap: Agricultural Reform Bills 2020

As the farmers of Punjab and Haryana are protesting on the Delhi border against 3 farmer bills by the Centre, the topic becomes important for upcoming mains. So, let us recap the burning issues article related to these 3 bills.

What are these ordinances?

  1. The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020;
  2. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and
  3. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 (It is the Bill replacing the third that has been passed in Lok Sabha)

Let us study their key features:

(1) The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020

  • Trade of farmers’ produce: The Ordinance allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce outside: (i) the physical premises of market yards run by market committees formed under the state APMC Acts and (ii) other markets notified under the state APMC Acts.  Such trade can be conducted in an ‘outside trade area’, i.e., any place of production, collection, and aggregation of farmers’ produce including (i) farm gates, (ii) factory premises, (iii) warehouses, (iv) silos, and (v) cold storages.
  • Electronic trading: The Ordinance permits the electronic trading of scheduled farmers’ produce (agricultural produce regulated under any state APMC Act) in the specified trade area. The following entities may establish and operate such platforms: (i) companies, partnership firms, or registered societies, having permanent account number under the Income Tax Act, 1961 or any other document notified by the central government, and (ii) a farmer producer organisation or agricultural cooperative society.
  • Market fee abolished: The Ordinance prohibits state governments from levying any market fee, cess or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for the trade of farmers’ produce conducted in an ‘outside trade area’.

(2) The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020

  • Farming agreement: The Ordinance provides for a farming agreement between a farmer and a buyer prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce.  The minimum period of an agreement will be one crop season, or one production cycle of livestock.  The maximum period is five years, unless the production cycle is more than five years.
  • Pricing of farming produce: The price of farming produce should be mentioned in the agreement.  For prices subjected to variation, a guaranteed price for the produce and a clear reference for any additional amount above the guaranteed price must be specified in the agreement.  Further, the process of price determination must be mentioned in the agreement.
  • Dispute Settlement: A farming agreement must provide for a conciliation Board as well as a conciliation process for settlement of disputes.   If the dispute remains unresolved by the Board after thirty days, parties may approach the Sub-divisional Magistrate for resolution.  Parties will have a right to appeal to an Appellate Authority (presided by collector or additional collector) against decisions of the Magistrate.  Both the Magistrate and Appellate Authority will be required to dispose of a dispute within thirty days from the receipt of application.  They may impose certain penalties on the party contravening the agreement.

(3) The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

  • Regulation of food items: The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 empowers the central government to designate certain commodities (such as food items, fertilizers, and petroleum products) as essential commodities.  The Ordinance provides that the central government may regulate the supply of certain food items including cereals, pulses, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds, and oils, only under extraordinary circumstances. These include (i) war, (ii) famine, (iii) extraordinary price rise and (iv) natural calamity of grave nature.
  • Stock limit: The Ordinance requires that the imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce must be based on price rise.  A stock limit may be imposed only if there is: (i) a 100% increase in the retail price of horticultural produce; and (ii) a 50% increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items.

A Backgrounder: Long awaited APMC reforms

  • Agricultural markets in India are mainly regulated by state Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) laws.  APMCs were set up with the objective of ensuring fair trade between buyers and sellers for effective price discovery of farmers’ produce.
  • APMCs can:
  • regulate the trade of farmers’ produce by providing licenses to buyers, commission agents, and private markets,
  • levy market fees or any other charges on such trade, and
  • provide necessary infrastructure within their markets to facilitate the trade

Issues with the APMCs

  • The Standing Committee on Agriculture (2018-19) identified some issues includes: (i) most APMCs have a limited number of traders operating, which leads to cartelization and reduces competition, and (ii) undue deductions in the form of commission charges and market fees.
  • Traders, commission agents, and other functionaries organise themselves into associations, which do not allow easy entry of new persons into market yards, stifling competition.
  • The Acts are highly restrictive in promotion of multiple channels of marketing (such as more buyers, private markets, direct sale to businesses and retail consumers, and online transactions) and competition in the system.
  • During 2017-18, the central government released the model APMC and contract farming Acts to allow restriction-free trade of farmers’ produce, promote competition through multiple marketing channels, and promote farming under pre-agreed contracts.

Why were the ordinances promulgated?

  • The Ordinances collectively seek to-
  • facilitate barrier-free trade of farmers’ produce outside the markets notified under the various state APMC laws
  • define a framework for contract farming and
  • impose stock limits on agricultural produce only if there is a sharp increase in retail prices
  • The three Ordinances together aim to increase opportunities for farmers to enter long term sale contracts, increase the availability of buyers, and permits buyers to purchase farm produce in bulk.

Causes of nationwide dissent

(1) No consultation with stakeholders

  • The attempt to pass the Bills without proper consultation adds to the mistrust among various stakeholders including State governments.
  • The ruling government could have waited for the Parliament session, held discussions with all political parties before arriving at a decision.
  • Farmer organisations see these Bills as an attempt to weaken the APMCs and eventual withdrawal of the Minimum Support Prices (MSP).

(2) Issue over trade and MSP guarantee

  • While farmers are protesting against all three ordinances, their objections are mostly against the provisions of the first.
  • Their concerns are mainly about sections relating to “trade area”, “trader”, “dispute resolution” and “market fee” in the first ordinance.
  • In effect, existing mandis established under APMC Acts have been excluded from the definition of trade area under the new legislation.
  • According to the ordinance, any trader with a PAN card can buy the farmers’ produce in the trade area.
  • In the present mandi system, arhatiyas (commission agents) have to get a licence to trade in a mandi.
  • Critics view the dismantling of the monopoly of the APMCs as a sign of ending the assured procurement of food grains at minimum support prices (MSP). To the Centre’s ‘one nation, one market’ call, critics have sought ‘one nation, one MSP’.

(3) Legacy concerns

  • The Bills gives no assurance to the poor, small and marginal farmers of India (constituting over 85 per cent of India’s farmers) of protection of their interests, their livelihoods, and their future.
  • Critics argue that such legislation will let the farmers falling into the clutches of the monopolistic big corporates.
  • Lofty recommendations have been made several times in the past, including by the Swaminathan Committee, which suggested the removal of the mandi tax, creation of a single market and facilitating contract farming
  • However, no efforts have taken place for implementing these basic reforms over the years.

(4) Fear of food insecurity

  • Punjab CM, on the easing of regulation of food items, said, it would lead to exporters, processors and traders hoarding farm produce during the harvest season, when prices are generally lower, and releasing it later when prices increase.
  • This could undermine food security since the States would have no information about the availability of stocks within the State.

(5) Constitutional issues raised

  • Since agriculture and markets are State subjects – entry 14 and 28 respectively in List II – the ordinances are being seen as a direct encroachment upon the functions of the States and against the spirit of cooperative federalism enshrined in the Constitution.
  • The Centre, however, argued that trade and commerce in food items is part of the concurrent list, thus giving it constitutional propriety.
  • The bills invite valid opposition: one, infraction of the states’ right to decide on intra-state commerce in agriculture, and two, officer-led dispute settlement outside the ambit of judicial review.

What are the promising features of these bills?

  • The new legislations would create an ecosystem where farmers and traders would enjoy the freedom of choice in the sale and purchase of agri-produce.
  • It would also promote barrier-free interstate or intrastate trade and commerce outside the physical premises of markets notified under the state agricultural produce marketing legislations.
  • The bills would also open up more choices for farmers, reduce marketing costs and help them in getting better prices.
  • At the same time, it would also help farmers of regions with surplus produce to get better prices and consumers of regions with shortages, lower prices.
  • The bill has also proposed an Electronic Trading Transaction Platform to ensure seamless electronic trade and the farmers will not be charged any cess or levy for sale of their products under this Act.
  • Interestingly, the bill aims for ‘One India, One Agriculture Market’ and also creates additional trading opportunities outside the APMC market yards to help farmers get remunerative prices due to the additional competition.
  • The new laws are not shutting down APMC mandis, nor are they implying that MSPs will not be functional.
  • This would supplement the existing Minimum Support Price (MSP) procurement system, which also provides a stable income to farmers.

Still, why are the farmers fuming?

There has been bipartisan consensus over the last two decades or so—both the UPA and the NDA governments have tried and failed to convince state governments to reform APMC Acts, notwithstanding periodic manifesto promises and model APMC Acts.

They failed with all approaches, trying to link financial support to agriculture based on reforms. The present crisis created the perfect window to usher in these transformative reforms.

People on both sides of the divide are saturated with such reformative measures and have arrived at the commonsensical benefits that would be ushered in as well as the risks.

What lies ahead

  • Accelerating research and academic excellence can bring in the ‘best in class’ technologies and can multiply farmers’ incomes.
  • As far as the commission agents are concerned, the governments should work on a clear roadmap to modernize them by facilitating them in providing value-added services. They could be leveraged to set-up grading and sorting, warehousing, cold chains and food processing infrastructure. This way, it is a win-win-win for the state government, farmers and the commission agents.
  • Soil health improvement and water conservation measures should be the top priority for the governments to enhance farm productivity.
  • Similarly, by diversifying into high-value crops such as vegetables and fruit, India could become the food- processing hub for the world. Farmers have to be made part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem (FaME—Farmers as Micro-Entrepreneurs).

Conclusion

  • A lot of the success of these bills depends on trust and consensus. In the end, what will determine the results of this latest set of reforms will be their implementation.
  • There is genuine uncertainty over what private procurement will mean. Will it mean greater corporate power over farmers, possibly unhealthy monopolies or duopolies? Will they be harder to negotiate with than a state monopoly?
  • Leveraging the reforms and moving forward rather is the most feasible solution than to protest amid the pandemic.
  • What farmers need and are asking for is legally guaranteed remunerative prices. If the Bills are perceived of good intent, then the government should not shy away from a proper parliamentary scrutiny of all its details.
  • Political parties that are opposing these Bills should coordinate better keeping farmers’ interests in the forefront, and not their party politics.

References

https://www.prsindia.org/billtrack/farmers-produce-trade-and-commerce-promotion-and-facilitation-bill-2020

https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/india-news-the-farm-bills-and-quandary/360640

https://frontline.thehindu.com/cover-story/article31951413.ece

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/explainer-why-are-the-agriculture-bills-being-opposed/article32618641.ece

Categories
H/L Relevance News

Recap of Best Practices

In the cut-throat competition of civil services, each mark counts. “How can I make my answers different from the lot?”  is every aspirant’s constant worry. One way to do so is by quoting EXAMPLES in your answer. So, scroll down and find a list of contemporary best practices in various social sectors. Use these practices as examples in your mains papers to get that extra edge

[I] HEALTH AND NUTRITION

1) Arogya Kunji (Chatra Dist. Jharkhand)

Arogya Kunji initiative is an endeavor to ensure accessibility and availability of healthcare facilities in the district. It aims to extend the outreach and efficacy of timely medical aid and healthcare services in rural areas of this district through medical kits.

2) Centralised Kitchens for Better Nutrition (Nandurbar Dist. Maharashtra) 

In order to tackle deep-rooted problems of Malnourishment and Anaemia in the tribal-dominated district, the District Administration has established a Centralised Kitchen to provide hot and nutritious meals to children in residential schools, also known as Ashram Shalas.

3) Model Anganwadi Centres (Ramgarh Dist. Jharkhand)

The District Administration has established Model Anganwadi Centres across blocks to encourage best practices in management and improve learning outcomes.

These Anganwadis host regular outreach and awareness campaigns in the community to promote better health and hygiene, such as VHSNDs (Village, Health, Sanitation & Nutrition Days) that have been benefiting families across blocks. The Model Anganwadis include an upgraded in-house kitchen where nutritious meals are prepared for children to ensure a balanced diet.

4) ‘Hamar Swasthya’ App (Rajnandangaon in Chhattisgarh)

It helps for early detection of Non-Communicable diseases (NCDs) and registers the medical record of patients so that doctors and health workers have access to the medical history of patients and initiate timely treatment and subsequent follow-ups.

5) Hostels for pregnant tribal women (Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh)

The District Administration has constructed Hostels for pregnant women of these villages. Pregnant women are brought to the Hostel one month prior to the Expected Delivery Date (EDD). There, they are provided with home-like care and support along with nutritional food and intensive medical care, under the close observation of gynaecologists.

6) Kanya Taru Yojana (Hailakandi in Assam)

For encouraging Hospital Delivery parents of girl children born in any of the Government Hospitals are gifted with 5 saplings (Coconut, Litchi, Assam Lemon, Guava & Amla).

Parents are asked to take care of the saplings like their daughters. The fruits of the trees can be used to feed the child to develop her immunity through Vitamin C in Amla, fight malnutrition by Coconut and the profits earned from the sales could be redirected to investing in the girl’s education and improving green cover of the district.

[II] EDUCATION

1) Aakar Residential School for differently-abled (Sukma in Chhattisgarh)

To ensure inclusion of differently-abled students and to reduce their dropout rates, the District has started Aakar Residential School. The School undertakes other special activities catering to the overall need of these children including therapies for their cognitive development.

2) BALA- Building as Learning Aid (Shrawasti in Uttar Pradesh)

It is an innovative concept for teaching through child-friendly, learning and fun-based physical environment by building new infrastructure or refurbishing the existing School and Anganwadi buildings. The concept was originally developed by Vinyas, Centre for Agricultural Research and Design with the support of UNICEF. BALA includes the development of the entire physical environment of the School – indoor, outdoor and semi-open spaces.

3) Shiksha Saarthi Yojna (Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh)

Shortage of teachers in schools of rural areas is a major reason for poor learning outcomes. The main reason for the shortage is that teachers from urban areas are unwilling to move to rural areas due to lack of infrastructural facilities. To address this issue and ensure the availability of teachers in primary schools, Shiksha Saarthi Yojna was launched.

After the appointment of Shiksha Saarthis, student enrolments, attendance and proficiency level in all subjects have risen.

[III] AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES

1) Agriculture Entrepreneur Scheme (Ramgarh in Jharkhand)

It is a promising example of coordination between District Administration, CSOs and local citizens to develop a sustainable and scalable model of Agricultural development. The scheme involves imparting training to selected ‘Agri-Entrepreneurs’ for the incorporation of best practices in farming for a cost-effective and profitable model of Agricultural development.

2) Horticulture Price Agreement Initiative (Chhatarpur in Madhya Pradesh)

To make farming a profitable venture, this initiative was launched. The initiative has forward and backward linkages and guarantees procurement at maximum price & partnership in local microprocessing units for farmers, while generating employment for the local youth. The target groups in this Scheme are small and marginal farmers, families with female heads, families with specially challenged people as head of the family and farmers of deprived castes.

3) Sarvajal Project (Udham Singh Nagar in Uttarakhand)

The project involves the installation of customised and decentralized drinking water solutions.

It leverages technology to bring community-level safe drinking water to the underserved. The solar-powered, cloud-connected water dispensing kiosks installed under the project have enabled citizens residing in remote areas, accessibility to clean palatable water.

4) ‘Taanka’ technique for rainwater harvesting and water conservation (Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh)

Taankas are underground rainwater storage tanks up to the capacity of 25,000 litres. This initiative follows the standard rainwater harvesting technique wherein rainwater from rooftops is collected through gutters and then made to pass through a sieve before being stored. Use of taankas has helped the district save enough water for lean summer months when the water demand is at its peak and supply invariably falls short.

[IV] FINANCIAL INCLUSION AND SKILL DEVELOPMENT

1) Solar MAMAs (Gumla in Jharkhand)

In the remote district, few hamlets have not yet been electrified due to scattered settlements, difficult topography and challenges of inaccessibility. To mitigate this challenge, the District Administration had organised local women in SHGs and trained them with skills needed for fabrication of solar panels, lights and photovoltaic circuits. These women are fondly addressed as Solar Mamas.

2) Khawa cluster concept (Osmanabad in Maharashtra)

In order to keep themselves afloat during severe droughts, farmers, within a Khawa cluster have come together, as an alternative to selling only milk. Khoya or Khawa (reduced dry milk) as a product has more demand and shelf life than milk and every farmer makes a profit for every litre. Farmers have organised themselves in cooperatives and are pooling their cattle for making Khawa (milk solids) from their daily milk production.

[V] BASIC INFRASTRUCTURE

1) Green technologies in Road Construction (Goalpara in Assam)

Depleting natural resources and closure of stone quarries had gravely hampered the progress of all-weather road construction. Despite this challenge, in order to provide all-weather connectivity to citizens, the district adopted various Green technologies for the construction of roads. Through this measure, apart from reducing dependence on natural resources and recycling waste plastic, the district has also been able to bring down the cost of construction and maintenance.

The technologies deployed by the district for construction of roads are-  Waste Plastic Technology, Cell Filled Concrete Technology, Geogrid Technology (Tenax 3D Grids), Cold Mix Technology and Interlocking Concrete Pavement Block (ICBP).

2) ‘Liter of Light’ Portable Lights (Ranchi in Jharkhand)

Here, women of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are being trained to lighten the lives of villagers in the district by producing portable room lights, designed and developed by the students of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai.

Recycled plastic bottles filled with water and a bit of bleach are fitted into the roof to provide lighting during the day, while at night, the same is upgraded with an LED bulb, micro-solar panels and a battery to provide a low-cost night lighting system.

3) Patsendri: A model colony under PMAY (Mahasamund in Chhattisgarh)

A Model Colony has been developed under the PM Awas Yojana (PMAY), with convergence between various physical work-related schemes and social sector schemes. Further expanding on this initiative, the District Administration has initiated convergence of various social sector schemes in Patsendri, and created a self-sustainable model for capacity building, employment generation, development & positive use of social capital, with a focus on the Patsendri Community.

Firstly, the convergence of schemes has led to the development of a Model Colony, wherein the houses, community hall, drainage, CC road have been built under PMAY, toilets are built under NREGA, electricity connection is provided under the Saubhagya Yojana, transformers, poles, etc. are provided under the Mukhya Mantri Majra-Tola Vidyutikaran Yojana, & water supply is provided under the Nal-Jal Yojana by the Public Health Department.

4) Swajal Water Testing (Barpeta, Assam)

The greatest threat to public health from Arsenic originates from contaminated groundwater. High levels of inorganic Arsenic is naturally present in the groundwater of the Aspirational District of Barpeta in Assam. Contaminated water used for the purpose of food preparation and drinking poses a great threat to the public. With community ownership and through participative planning, villagers, especially women in Barpeta, were sensitized about safe water practices and trained to use Field Testing Kits to ascertain the quality of drinking water.

[VI] GOVERNANCE

1) BDO Scorecards (Hazaribagh in Jharkhand)

To motivate the Block Development Officers (BDOs) who are the true foot soldiers of rural development in our country, here the District Administration has taken a first-of-its-kind initiative by devising a ‘BDO Scorecard’ to assess the performance of the BDOs in a transparent manner while taking into account the officers’ self-assessment.

Civil Servants are the first point of contact for citizens with the Government, and a motivated civil service is the best instrument to achieve outcomes desired by the State and society.

2) Lok Sewak App (Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh)

This district has established a new dimension in the direction of good governance by using the Lok Sewak App; an e-attendance and field monitoring tool that uses Geo-tagging technology. Through this App, the district has ensured the presence of Government officials at workplace thereby leading to significant improvement in the quantum and quality of work and facilitating their accessibility to the public.

The App has also ensured the availability of ASHA, Anganwadi workers, teachers and other key frontline workers involved in the implementation of various programmes.

3) Infrastructure Snapshot App (Goalpara in Assam)

Infrastructure Snapshot App, an innovative Android-based mobile application is a one-of-its-kind application developed specifically for the monitoring of Public Institutions like Government Offices, Schools, Health Centres and effective implementation of Government Schemes.

The App has smart features like GPS location-based service to capture current location in both online and offline modes with data sync facility, filing grievances for issues pertaining to infrastructure, recording absence of Government personnel like doctors, teachers, Anganwadi workers, etc. along with pictorial evidence.

The objective of the App is to reduce the gap between the public and the Administration and provide stepping stones for good governance through harnessing ICT.

The App has led to an increment in the resolution of public grievances and fast service delivery to the public. The App has also multiplied the community’s involvement in uplifting and ameliorating the District Infrastructure.

4) Maha Land Bank System (Washim in Maharashtra)

This district has created a unique repository of Government Land on a Portal, as a part of a State-wide programme in Maharashtra. The Land Bank serves as a repository of information for taking policy decisions on the allocation of Government Land such as the provision of Affordable Housing, Irrigation, Public Supply, Self-supplied Industries, Aquaculture, Mining, Tree Plantation, etc.

5) Meekosam Meal Scheme (Vizianagaram in Andhra Pradesh)

Labourers and daily wage workers coming to file their grievances and attend proceedings of the grievance cell, from places as far as 100 km will henceforth not have to return empty stomach.

For a meal worth ` 28/-, ` 10/- is collected from the petitioner and balance ` 18 is directly paid to the owner of the canteen. This initiative has resulted in a sharp rise in the number of petitioners attending grievance cell meetings.

For more insights into other best practices, you can refer to the document below. But the list above is also comprehensive and sufficient for mains exams.

With inputs from:

NITI Aayog Report on Best Practices in Aspirational Districts

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10 November 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

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High Relevance News

NASA’s Ralph and Lucy set to visit Jupiter’s Trojan asteroids in 2021

China unveils new ‘Heavenly Palace’ space station as ISS days numbered

Space-related missions are important for Pre as well as Mains. Must read.

[pib] India joining as member of Advanced Motor Fuels Technology Collaboration Programme

Read and make notes about AMFTCP. Such projects are usually asked in Prelims.

Low Relevance News

India appreciates U.S. waiver on New Delhi-Tehran energy trade

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has expressed appreciation for the United States’ waiver on India-Iran energy trade and the Chabahar Port project.

The spokesperson of the Ministry said the port will be of importance in helping the situation in Afghanistan, but reiterated that India will continue to import Iranian energy

No important points in the news from the exam perspective

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8 & 9 November 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

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US exempts India from certain sanctions for development of Chabahar port in Iran

Read about South Asia strategy. Terms like these usually appear in Prelims.

RBI relaxes ECB norms for infra companies

Read and make notes about ECB norms and hedging. Important for Prelims. How such measures affect India’s BoP can be asked in Mains.

[op-ed snap] The significance of Arihant

Very important editorial highlighting strengths as well as weaknesses after induction of INS Arihant. Important for Pre as well as Mains.

National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Conservation and Management) Bill, 2018

Read and make notes about important provisions of the bill. Can be asked in Mains.

Earth has two extra, hidden ‘moons’

Read about Kordylewski clouds. Such science related terms have high chances of appearing in Prelims.

Low Relevance News

Demonetisation essential step to wean people off cash: Jaitley

On the second anniversary of demonetisation, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley defended the move, saying that it was an essential step to induce people to move away from anonymous and receipt-less cash payments to digital transactions. Though, the latest RBI data shows that currency in circulation had risen to ₹19.6 lakh crore as of October 26, 2018, a 9.5% increase from two years ago

No important points in the news from the exam point of view

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5 & 6 November 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

Important news would have been covered in our daily news coverage in form of newscards.

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High Relevance News

[op-ed snap] The forgotten million: on Indian soldiers in World War I

Important editorial highlighting Indian troops role in world wars. Must read for Mains Paper 1 India & World History portion.

[pib] Ministry of Food Processing Industries issues guidelines for OPERATION GREENS

Read about Operation Greens and its objectives. Important for Prelims.

Global Drug Survey set to cover Indians

Note about Global drug survey, its procedure and areas covered. Important for Prelims as well as Mains.

India’s nuclear triad is complete with INS Arihant ending its first deterrence patrol

Make notes about India’s nuclear triad. Very important for Pre as well as Mains.

The legacy of Kepler, retired planet-hunter

Indian, US satellites find black hole that spins near maximum possible rates

‘NASA’s historic Dawn mission to asteroid belt comes to end’

Space missions by Indian as well as international space agencies are important for both Pre & Mains.

Low Relevance News

New rules for foreigners in detention centres

The government has informed the Supreme Court that new guidelines are being framed for keeping foreign nationals in detention centres across the country

No important points in the news from the exam perspective

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3 November 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

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[op-ed snap] Accident of birth

Read about Jus soli principle and its usage in citizenship matters. Due to the global debate on immigration, becomes important for Prelims as well as Mains.

[pib] PM launches historic Support and Outreach Initiative for MSME Sector

Note about various initiatives for the MSME sector. Can be asked in Prelims. Role of MSME sector in industrial as well as economic growth can be a topic for Mains.

[pib] Promulgation of the Companies Amendment (Ordinance), 2018

Read about the provisions of the ordinance. Mains surprise questions generally appear from these type of news.

Low Relevance News

Navy considering inducting women in sailor rank

In a first, the Indian Navy is looking at enrolment of women in sailors rank and the issue was discussed at the recently held Naval Commanders Conference

Sailors are equivalent to jawans in the Army.

No important points in the news from the UPSC perspective

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31 October 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

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[op-ed snap] Assault on Aravallis

[op-ed snap] Assault on Aravallis

There has been illegal mining and construction across all states in India. The latest victim of it is the Aravali mountain ranges. Read the editorial to know details of the issue. Important for Mains.

India among nations that face grave danger to soil biodiversity: WWF

India among nations that face grave danger to soil biodiversity: WWF

Read about findings of Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas. important for prelims. Points from the report can also be quoted in Mains.

India, Japan sign $75 billion currency swap agreement

India, Japan sign $75 billion currency swap agreement

Note details of currency swap agreement and its benefits. Can be asked in Prelims.

Low Relevance News

States other than Delhi-NCR can use existing stocks of firecrackers for Diwali this year: SC

The Supreme Court has allowed States other than Delhi to use their existing stocks of crackers for Diwali next month.

SC has also directed that only green crackers can be manufactured henceforth across the country. That means once the existing stocks are used up, no new polluting crackers can be made in the cracker factories

No important points in the news from the exam perspective

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29 October 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

Important news would have been covered in our daily news coverage in form of newscards.

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High Relevance News

[op-ed snap] The importance of Asia-Europe cooperation

[op-ed snap] The importance of Asia-Europe cooperation

An important op-ed highlighting the importance of engagement with ASEM & EU with India. Must read for Mains. ASEM can be asked in Prelims.

Siberian visitors freeze Assam-Meghalaya border dispute

Siberian visitors freeze Assam-Meghalaya border dispute

Read about Amur falcon & unique features related to them. Important for Prelims.

IMPRESS, SPARC schemes research work to begin in January 2019

IMPRESS, SPARC schemes research work to begin in January 2019

Make notes about the mentioned schemes. Can be asked in Prelims.

Low Relevance News

Elite China security team arriving in India

A delegation of a Chinese group that takes care of the security of the top seven members of the nation’s leadership will visit New Delhi in November, as security ties between India and China begin to expand

No important points in the news from the exam point of view

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27 October 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

Important news would have been covered in our daily news coverage in form of newscards.

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High Relevance News

Explained: How a country gets a currency manipulator tag

Explained: How a country gets a currency manipulator tag

Read about currency manipulation. Has been in news frequently and hence important for Prelims.

Govt. procurement scheme fails to ensure MSP for farmers

Govt. procurement scheme fails to ensure MSP for farmers

Read about PM AASHA Scheme. Can be asked in Prelims.

India’s first engine-less train set to hit tracks

India’s first engine-less train set to hit tracks

Note details about Train 18. Such innovations are usually asked in Prelims. Railway modernisation can be a topic for Mains.

Low Relevance News

PM Modi leaves for Japan for annual summit

Prime Minister Narendra Modi left for Japan to attend the annual summit to be held on October 28 and 29with his counterpart Shinzo Abe

No important points in the news from the exam point of view

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26 October 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

Important news would have been covered in our daily news coverage in form of newscards.

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High Relevance News

[op-ed snap] Retrieving the spoils of colonialism

[op-ed snap] Retrieving the spoils of colonialism

Demand for bringing back historical artefacts has been gaining momentum in recent times. Read the oped to know weight behind it and what can be done to achieve this. Important for Mains.

Govt. notifies rules on granting citizenship

Govt. notifies rules on granting citizenship

Note important features of Citizenship act, 1955. Has become more important in light of NRC in Assam.

Citizen-Science Repository of Indian mammals

Citizen-Science Repository of Indian mammals

Read about MAOI. Important for Prelims.

[pib] Creation of Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF)

[pib] Creation of Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FIDF)

Note details about FIDF. Can be asked in Prelims.

Low Relevance News

Army set to create new positions as part of overhaul

The Army’s biggest reform exercise since independence to rightsize the force and reduce mounting revenue expenditure is likely to see creation of new positions of a third Deputy Chief of Army Staff and a Director General of Strategic Communications, among other measures

No important points in the news from the exam perspective

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25 October 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

Important news would have been covered in our daily news coverage in form of newscards.

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High Relevance News

Indian monsoons influence Atlantic hurricanes: study

Indian monsoons influence Atlantic hurricanes: study

A very important newscard for Prelims. Statements can be directly picked up as well as twisted to frame a question. Read and make notes.

[pib] Cabinet nod for Indian Institute of Skills

[pib] Cabinet nod for Indian Institute of Skills

Read about IIS. Can be asked in Prelims. Skill India mission and other programs for skill development & their impact can be asked in Mains.

Low Relevance News

Govt. reviews measures taken to curb fake news

Home Secretary held a meeting with representatives of various social media platforms to review the steps taken by them to prevent misuse of their sites and asked them to check the spread of rumours and messages inciting unrest, cybercrimes and other activities that could be detrimental to national security

No important points in the news from the exam point of view.

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23 October 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

Important news would have been covered in our daily news coverage in form of newscards.

Unimportant ones will be mentioned here and a short description regarding why it is not relevant for the exam

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High Relevance News

China’s melting glacier draws tourists amid climate worries

China’s melting glacier draws tourists amid climate worries

Read about the third pole and connected rivers. Very important for Prelims.

Experts’ group to cut schoolbag weight formed, court told

Experts’ group to cut schoolbag weight formed, court told

make notes about increasing weight of schoolbags and Children’s School Bags (Limitation on Weight), Bill of 2006. An important issue for Mains.

Centre notifies special courts for benami transaction cases

Centre notifies special courts for benami transaction cases

Note about the current & previous provisions for curbing black money menace. Important for Pre as well as Mains.

Panel for adopting UN model on cross-border insolvency

Panel for adopting UN model on cross-border insolvency

Read about UNCITRAL. Important for prelims.

Low Relevance News

Why are media regulators soft with scribes, asks SC

The Supreme Court said media regulators tend to wear a “velvet fist inside a velvet glove” when it comes to dealing with journalists and media organisations whose actions, like revealing the identity of a rape survivor, make them criminally liable

It is a crime under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and the Indian Penal Code to disclose the identity of victims of sexual abuse, especially if they are children

Not very important news from the exam perspective

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22 October 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

Important news would have been covered in our daily news coverage in form of newscards.

Unimportant ones will be mentioned here and a short description regarding why it is not relevant for the exam

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High Relevance News

[op-ed snap] We have failed our children

[op-ed snap] We have failed our children

Read about the World Development Report & Human Capital Index for Prelims. India’s consistent failure to increase its ranking across these indexes can be asked in Mains.

Bacteria to degrade toluene

Bacteria to degrade toluene

Read & note about Acinetobacter Junii. Such terms are frequently asked in Prelims.

Mission Mercury: How will twin probes reach there, and why?

Mission Mercury: How will twin probes reach there, and why?

Space missions of Indian, as well as foreign space agencies, are important for Pre as well as Mains.

Low Relevance News

PMO told to disclose corruption complaints

The Central Information Commission has directed the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to disclose complaints of corruption received against Union Ministers between 2014 and 2017 and the action taken on them

No important points in the news from the exam perspective

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20 October 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

Important news would have been covered in our daily news coverage in form of newscards.

Unimportant ones will be mentioned here and a short description regarding why it is not relevant for the exam

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High Relevance News

ICFRE signs two MoUs for Prakriti Programme

ICFRE signs two MoUs for Prakriti Programme

Read about ICFRE & Prakriti Program. Can be asked in Prelims.

[pib] India to receive University of Pennsylvania’s Top Energy Policy Prize

[pib] India to receive University of Pennsylvania’s Top Energy Policy Prize

Note details about Carnot prize. Important for Prelims.

[op-ed snap] Myanmar and the limits of pan-Islamism

[op-ed snap] Myanmar and the limits of pan-Islamism

Rohingya crisis has various other geopolitical aspects related to it. Read the editorial to know western influence in the Muslim solidarity movements. Important for Mains.

Low Relevance News

Three-fourths of H-1B visa holders in 2018 are Indians: U.S. report

Indians account for 73.9% of the total H-1B visa holders in the U.S.

The H-1B gender report was released days after the Trump administration came out with its unified fall agenda, in which it said that it plans to make changes in the definition of specialty occupation for the definition of H-1B visas and re-redefining the relationship between employees and employers

No important points in the news from the exam perspective

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19 October 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

Important news would have been covered in our daily news coverage in form of newscards.

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High Relevance News

Should India have two time zones? National timekeeper adds new arguments

Should India have two time zones? National timekeeper adds new arguments

A very important article detailing the need for two time zones in India and various reasons for it. Read and make notes for Pre as well as Mains.

Data localisation: why, why not

Data localisation: why, why not

Read about Data mirroring and localisation for Prelims. Data privacy concerns related question can be asked in Mains.

Ancient rocks in India give clues to early life

Ancient rocks in India give clues to early life

Read about geological time scales of the earth. Important for Prelims.

Low Relevance News

Southwest monsoon to completely withdraw from country by October 20

The southwest monsoon will most likely withdraw completely from the country on October 20, the India Meteorological Department said

The southwest monsoon officially starts on June 1 and ends on September 30. Its withdrawal starts from western Rajasthan from September 1

No important points in the news from the exam point of view

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17 October 2018 | High Relevance vs Low Relevance News

Reading News for UPSC is utmost important and rising number of questions year on year in UPSC Prelims is a testimony of this

We are starting a daily series where we will analyze news covered in The Hindu, Indian Express and other newspapers which are important from exam perspective and which are not

Important news would have been covered in our daily news coverage in form of newscards.

Unimportant ones will be mentioned here and a short description regarding why it is not relevant for the exam

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High Relevance News

How Satyagraha still drives change globally

How Satyagraha still drives change globally

Read about Mahatma Gandhi’s role in various revolutionary movements. Very important for GS Paper 1 of Mains.

UPI to facilitate interoperability among prepaid payment instruments

UPI to facilitate interoperability among prepaid payment instruments

Read about interoperability feature of UPI. Questions on UPI and NPCI were prominent in Prelims 2018.

Indian Navy acquires deep submarine rescue capabilities

Indian Navy acquires deep submarine rescue capabilities

Read about DSRV & Indian Navy modernisation program. Important for Prelims.

Low Relevance News

MHA order on merging police forces in 6 UTs kept in abeyance

The Union Home Ministry has put in abeyance a notification issued last month to amalgamate senior ranks of police from Chandigarh and five other Union Territories including Delhi

MHA had last month notified the National Capital Territory of Delhi, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Chandigarh (Police Service) Rules, 2018 and the postings, which were till now decided by the respective UT administrators were put at the disposal of the Centre

Since the decision has been kept on hold, it becomes less important for the exam.