Current Affairs (31st May 2021)
Children under mid-day meal scheme to get aid
- The Centre has decided to give about ₹100 each to children studying in Class 1 to Class 8 in government schools, who are beneficiaries of the Mid-Day Meal scheme.
- It is aimed at safeguarding the nutritional levels of children and ensuring their immunity is protected.
- ₹1200 crore in total would be given to 11.8 crore children through direct benefit transfer (DBT) as a one-time payment.
- The Central Government will provide additional funds of about ₹1200 crore to States and Union Territories.
- The money comes from the cooking cost component of the scheme.
- The Central allocation for the Mid-Day Meal scheme in 2021-22 is ₹11,500 crore.
- Its largest component is cooking costs, which cover the prices of ingredients such as pulses, vegetables, cooking oil, salt, and condiments.
- In 2020, the minimum allocation for cooking cost per child per day was set at ₹4.97 for Classes 1 to 5, and ₹7.45 for Classes 6 to 8, with the Centre paying 60% of the cost.
- Children are being given cash in lieu of the mid-day meal in some places and dry rations in others. However, the quantities/amounts are too low to be even adequate for one nutritious meal a day.
- ₹100 per child amounts to less than ₹4 a day, even if it was a monthly payment, this is insufficient to provide the nutrition security that is envisaged.
- With approximately 200 school days, each child should be getting something like ₹900-₹1300 annually [as cooking cost component].
- Also, while the schools can purchase ingredients at wholesale prices, with the same amount, parents will be able to purchase much less.
- In 2020, hardly any State provided free grain or transferred these cooking costs. The children must be transferred the arrears from the previous year as well.
- Enhanced take-home rations, including eggs, vegetables, fruits, dal/chana, oil must be given to ensure nutrition security.
France and the Rwandan genocide
- French President Emmanuel Macron asked for forgiveness for his country’s role in the 1994 Rwandan massacre in which about 8,00,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were killed.
- France, which enjoyed close ties with Rwanda’s Hutu-led government of President Juvénal Habyarimana, has long been criticised for its role in the killings of the Tutsi minorities in 1994.
- In 2019, a 15-member expert committee was set up to investigate France’s role in the genocide. This promised a new beginning with Rwanda.
- The committee report blamed the then-President François Mitterrand for a failure of policy towards Rwanda in 1994.
- Rwanda had commissioned a separate inquiry that concluded that France enabled the genocide.
Hutu Tutsi relations:
- The majority Hutus and minority Tutsis have had a troubled relationship in Rwanda that goes back to the German and Belgian colonial period.
- Colonialists ruled Rwanda through the Tutsi monarchy. They were the local administrative chiefs and enjoyed relatively better educational and employment opportunities. This led to widespread resentment among the majority Hutus.
- In 1959, Rwanda saw violent riots led by Hutus in which some 20,000 Tutsis were killed and many more were displaced.
- Amid growing violence, the Belgian authorities handed over power to the Hutu elite. King Kigeli V fled the country. In the 1960 elections, organised by the Belgians, Hutu parties gained control of nearly all local communes.
- In 1961, Hutu leader Grégoire Kayibanda declared Rwanda an autonomous republic and later the country became independent.
- Kayibanda became Rwanda’s first elected President, while the Tutsis who fled the country formed armed insurgencies.
- Since then, Rwanda had been controlled by Hutus, until their genocidal regime was toppled by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in 1994.
What led to the killings?
- The crisis escalated in the 1990s when the RPF, led by Paul Kagame, the current President, grew in strength and posed a serious challenge to the regime of President Habyarimana, who was backed by France and had defence ties with Israel.
- In 1993, Habyarimana, who rose to power in 1973, was forced to sign a peace agreement (Arusha Accords) with the RPF.
- This led to resentment among Hutu militias (backed by the government) towards the local Tutsi population (accused of collaborating with the RPF).
- The killings were a pre-planned extermination campaign. The militias, with support from the government, launched a violent campaign aimed at eliminating the entire Tutsi community.
- The killings came to an end after the RPF, under Mr. Kagame’s command, captured Kigali and toppled the Hutu regime.
- The RPF initially went about establishing a multi-ethnic government with Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, being the President. Mr. Kagame, a Tutsi, was his deputy.
- In 2000, Mr. Kagame assumed the Presidency and continues to be in power till today.
Fund for every child orphaned by COVID-19
- The Union government has announced a special “PM-CARES for Children” scheme for all those orphaned due to COVID-19.
- Moreover, the government has also announced measures to help the families who have lost the sole earning member due to COVID-19.
- Pension scheme of the Employees State Insurance Corporation is being extended.
- Children who have lost both parents or the lone surviving parent or their legal guardian or adoptive parent due to COVID-19 will be supported under the scheme.
- It will include a corpus of ₹10 lakh for each child till he or she reaches the age of 18.
- When a child turns 18, he/she will draw a monthly stipend from the corpus of ₹10 lakh to meet expenses for personal needs and higher education.
- On reaching the age of 23, the child will get the entire ₹10 lakh.
- The government will also assist such children with school education.
- They will be given admission in the nearest Kendriya Vidyalaya or in a private school as a day scholar.
- If the child is admitted in a private school, the fees will be paid from the PM CARES Fund as per norms under the Right to Education Act, 2009.
- PM CARES will also meet the expenses on uniform, textbooks and notebooks.
- Children in the age group of 11-18 will have the option to study in a residential school under the Central government such as Sainik School and Navodaya Vidyalaya.
- All children will be enrolled as a beneficiary under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme with a health insurance cover of ₹5 lakh, where the premium amount will be paid by PM CARES till a child turns 18.
Goods and Services Tax
- The 43rd GST Council met under the Chairmanship of Union Finance Minister.
The GST Council has made the following recommendations:
- As a COVID-19 relief measure, several specified COVID-19 related goods such as medical oxygen, oxygen concentrators and other oxygen storage and transportation equipment, certain diagnostic markers test kits and COVID-19 vaccines, etc., have been recommended for full exemption from IGST.
- In view of rising Black Fungus cases, the above exemption from IGST has been extended to Amphotericin B.
- To support the LympahticFilarisis (an endemic), elimination programme being conducted in collaboration with WHO, the GST rate on Diethylcarbamazine (DEC) tablets has been recommended for reduction to 5% (from 12%).
- GST on MRO services in respect of ships/vessels shall be reduced to 5% (from 18%).
- The Finance Minister also announced an amnesty scheme for small GST taxpayers, allowing filing of returns with reduced late fees.
- the GST Council will hold a special session to discuss extending paying compensation to states beyond 2022.
- Annual return filing has also been simplified. The Council has recommended amending the CGST Act to allow for self-certification of reconciliation statements, instead of getting it certified by Chartered Accountants.
Yaas devastate the Sunderbans
- Every cyclone poses new challenges to the Sunderbans and its inhabitants.
- Over just the past three years, the Sunderbans has been damaged by four tropical cyclones — Fani (May 2019), Bulbul (November 2019), Amphan (May 2020) and Yaas (May 2021).
- With every cyclone, the region has suffered damage because of gale winds and breached embankments, leading to ingress of sea water.
- The intensity of the gale winds has ranged from 100 kmph to 150 kmph during each of the cyclones.
Effects of Cyclone Yaas:
- Cyclone Yaas made landfall about 200 km south of the Sunderbans in Odisha. But it inundated large areas of the estuary.
- There is a scarcity of drinking water because of inundation.
- The combined effect of the full moon tide and the cyclone led to the overflowing and breach of embankments in large areas of the Sunderbans.
- Not only the western part of Sunderbans that faces Bay of Bengal but large parts in the eastern part of the delta remain under water days after the cyclone and the high tide.
- Once the sea water enters the islands, the crops are inundated and land cannot be cultivated because of the salinity, even the fish in the ponds die.
- Ghoramara is one of the islands that has been sinking due to rising sea levels, where a few dozen houses and acres of land go under water every year.
- Sagar Island, the biggest island of the Sundarbans chain and site of the famous Gangasagar Mela during Makar Sankranti, has also suffered damage.
- Solution to this perennial problem lies in long-term planning.
- Strategies that will minimise the impact of climate change must be adopted.
- Policy makers must prepare disaster management plans suited to the region.