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Current Affairs – 24 March 2021

Current Affairs (24th March 2021)

Doorstep Delivery of Seeds

 CONTEXT:

  • The States are primarily responsible to ensure production, availability and distribution / supply of quality seeds to the farmers through its Department of Agriculture, state  farms, State Seeds Corporation, State Agricultural Universities (SAUs), Cooperatives and Private Seed Companies

ABOUT:

  • The Government of India supplements the efforts of the State Governments by providing breeder seeds for seed chain and coordinating seeds requirement and availability through the mechanism of Zonal Seeds Review Meetings prior to each sowing season and weekly video conferences.
  • As reported by States, 483.66 lakh qtls. of certified / quality seed is available against the requirement 443.16 lakh qtls. during current year 2020-21.

Steps taken/being taken for making available quality seeds to the farmers:

  1. The Government of India is providing financial assistance for production and distribution of seeds of High Yielding Varieties (HYVs) of different crops to the States and implementing agencies through various ongoing crop development programmes / schemes viz. National Food Security Mission (NFSM), Bringing Green Revolution in Eastern India (BGREI), Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), Sub-Mission on Seeds & Planting Material (SMSP) etc.
  2. The states are encouraged by the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers’ Welfare (DAC&FW) to develop a Seed Rolling Plan in advance as per the estimated requirement of seeds in their state, so that the seeds of required variety could be made available at right time to the farmers. DAC&FW also ensures fixation of uniform breeder seeds price in consultation with Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for minimization of foundation and certified seed costs.
  3. Indian Institute of Seed Science, ICAR is also coordinating the production of quality seed in the country through the network of 63 cooperating centres under National Seed Project of ICAR. Single window system for effective planning and implementation of seed production programme and computerized seed sale outlets has been established to guarantee ease in accessibility of quality seeds to farmers at all centres.
  4. In some states quality seed is being made available at every village within the reach of farmers and farmer is facilitated to purchase seed of choice from the desired outlets. Similarly, procurements centres at villages have been established to facilitate procurement by the marketing department. Moreover, some states have well established mandis and generally the seed dealers and other agri-input dealers also have shops in these mandis avoiding involvement of middlemen.

 

Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India

CONTEXT:

  • Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India (BGREI), a sub scheme of Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY), launched in 2010-11, is being implemented in seven eastern states namely Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Eastern Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

ABOUT:

  • Under the programme, assistance is being provided to the farmers for organizing cluster demonstrations on rice and wheat, seed production and distribution, nutrient  management and soil ameliorants, integrated pest management, cropping system-based training, asset-building such as farm machineries & implements, irrigation devices, site specific activities and post harvest& marketing support, etc.
  • Under the programme, Government of India allocates fund to the State and further allocation to district is made by the respective State Government.
  • BGREI programme is intended to address the constraints limiting the productivity of “rice based cropping systems” in eastern India.
  • Under these systems, the other crops like wheat, coarse-cum-nutri cereals, pulses & oilseeds are already covered.

 

Finance Bill 2021

CONTEXT:

  • Lok Sabha has passed the Finance Bill 2021 which give effect to the financial proposals of the Central Government for the year 2021-22.

ABOUT:

  • The government is committed to simplify the taxation compliance procedures.
  • Government is taking all measures to widen the tax base in the country.
  • Rationalization in the taxation system would encourage Ease of Doing Business in the country.

What is Finance Bill?

  • The Finance Bill is a part of the Union Budget, stipulating all the legal amendments required for the changes in taxation proposed by the Finance Minister.
  • As per Article 110 of the Constitution of India, the Finance Bill is a Money Bill. 
  • This Bill is an umbrella legislation as it encompasses all amendments required in various laws pertaining to tax, in accordance with the tax proposals made in the Union Budget.
  • The Finance Bill, as a Money Bill, needs to be passed by the Lok Sabha — the lower house of the Parliament. Post the Lok Sabha’s approval, the Finance Bill becomes Finance Act.

Difference between a Money Bill and the Finance Bill

  • A Money Bill has to be introduced in the Lok Sabha as per Section 110 of the Constitution. Then, it is transmitted to the Rajya Sabha for its recommendations.
  • The Rajya Sabha has to return the Bill with recommendations in 14 days. However, the Lok Sabha can reject all or some of the recommendations.
  • In the case of a Finance Bill, Article 117 of the Constitution categorically lays down that a Bill pertaining to sub-clauses (a) to (f) of clause (1) shall not be introduced or moved except with the President’s recommendation. Also, a Bill that makes such provisions shall not be introduced in the Rajya Sabha.

Who decides the Bill is a Finance Bill?

  • The Speaker of the Lok Sabha is authorised to decide whether the Bill is a Money Bill or not. Also, the Speaker’s decision shall be deemed to be final.

Why Finance Bill is needed?

  • The Union Budget proposes many tax changes for the upcoming financial year, even if not all of those proposed changes find a mention in the Finance Minister’s Budget speech.
  • These proposed changes pertain to several existing laws dealing with various taxes in the country.
  • The Finance Bill seeks to insert amendments into all those laws concerned, without having to bring out a separate amendment law for each of those Acts.
  • For instance, a Union Budget’s proposed tax changes may require amending the various sections of the Income Tax law, Stamp Act, Money Laundering law, etc. The Finance Bill overrides and makes changes in the existing laws wherever required.

 

Half a million more TB deaths in 2020

CONTEXT:

  • Fewer cases of tuberculosis (TB) were notified in 2020 because of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and this led to half a million excess deaths from the disease globally, according to data released by World Health Organisation.

FINDINGS:

  • There was a 21 per cent decrease in TB notification owing to lockdowns and other disruptions caused by the pandemic. While 6.3 million TB infections were notified in 2019, the figure fell to 4.9 million last year.
  • This means, 4 million people did not receive treatment for TB in 2020. This led to half a million additional deaths caused by the disease.
  • The UN health agency warned in its analysis that this could set the world back a decade, to the TB mortality level of 2010.
  • The biggest shortfall in average monthly notification compared to 2019 was in Indonesia (42 per cent). This was followed by South Africa (41 per cent), Philippines (37 per cent) and India (25 per cent). India has the highest TB burden in the world.

WAY AHEAD:

  • WHO has asked the countries to scale up testing for TB, along with COVID-19. This is of particular concern that that as countries invest more and more molecular tests for investigating COVID-19 cases, the supply of such tests for detecting TB cases has to be maintained.
  • The WHO recommended home-based and community-based prevention and care over hospital treatment for TB patients as much as possible to reduce scope for transmission.
World Tuberculosis Day is celebrated every year on March 24th to raise public awareness of the devastating health, social, and economic consequences of this disease and to intensify efforts to end a global epidemic. The date marks the day in 1882, when Robert Koch announced the discovery of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, which paved the way for the diagnosis and cure of the disease.

 

Structural pitfalls of MGNREGA

CONTEXT:

  • COVID-19 pandemic has established the potential of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), 2005, as an instrument of public policy that can reduce the impact of calamities on rural livelihoods.
  • Since the pandemic gripped the country, how the programme has provided, among other things, employment to the highest number of households, surpassing the previous record in 2011-12.

BENEFITS:

  • MGNREGA has provided social protection to the poor households in rural India, particularly to those who substantially depend on unskilled manual labour for sustenance.
  • It has offered a safety net to tens of thousands of migrant labourers, who were forced to return to their native villages after the nationwide lockdown was abruptly imposed in the last week of March to curb the spread of covid-19.
  • The Union government has also acknowledged the role MGNREGA plays in mitigating rural distress by allowing its implementation, right from the second fortnight of April and subsequently, by allocating an additional sum of Rs 40,000 crore over and above the budget estimate of Rs 63,000 crore.

LOOPHOLES:

  • Critics of the programme argue that there are some inherent flaws in the design of schemes under MGNREGA, which limit its effectiveness as a tool of poverty alleviation.
  • One, the programme is primarily targeted at the states with high incidence of poverty. But because of its “open-endedness” better-governed states manage to capture a much higher share of the spending under MGNREGA despite their relatively lower levels of poverty.
  • The second design flaw relates to the quality of assets created under the programme. Though the statute mandates the creation of “productive assets with prescribed quality and durability” as one of the core objectives of MGNREGA, a structured quality monitoring mechanism has not been embedded in the programme.
  • As a result, it is contended that the programme is overwhelmingly focused on short-term unproductive employment generation, with a marginal contribution to the long-term objectives of soil and water conservation, strengthening the livelihood resource base of the rural poor and drought-proofing.

IMPACT:

  • Some operational issues also continue to affect implementation of the programme.
  • The most serious implementation problem pertains to the inordinate delays in payment of wages to the workers despite the legal requirement of ensuring it within 15 days of closure of the muster roll.