TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related B. GS2 Related POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. 2,119 children rescued in Telangana C. GS3 Related ECONOMICS 1. Money laundering probe against Chanda Kochhar ENVIRONMENT 1. ‘Microplastics found in dolphins’ D. GS 4 Related E. Editorials INDIAN ECONOMY 1. Maharashtra struggles to amend APMC Act 2. The lowdown on MGNREGA funding POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Parties in Tamil Nadu are against 10% quota F. Tidbits 1. Kerala sets up drug price monitor 2. Rishi Shukla named to head CBI 3. A.P. can produce more salt: study G. Prelims Facts H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions i. UPSC Mains practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
- The Telangana police, along with other government departments, have rescued 2,119 children, including 1,653 boys and 466 girls, during the month-long drive to trace missing children. “Of the 2,119 rescued children, 1,303 were reunited with their families while 816 were sent to rescue homes.
- Operation Smile also called as Operation Muskaan is an initiative of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to rescue/rehabilitate missing children. It is a dedicated campaign for a month where several activities are taken up by the State Police personnel to trace and rescue the missing children and reunite them with their families.
- All children residing in shelter homes, platforms, bus stands, roads, religious places, etc. are to be screened by trained police personnel.
- Before the operation, the Police personnel from each State are properly trained in methodology to extract information from such children tactfully without they getting intimidated, as well as in various provisions of Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) JJ Act, Protection of Child Right Act, relevant sections of Cr.PC & IPC and Advisories issued by MHA etc.
- To know the magnitude of the problem, data with full details of number of cases of missing children will be maintained and shared at intra-State and Inter-state level. Information about Child Welfare Committees (CWCs) would be prepared and shared among all rescue teams and stakeholders.
- During the operation, the particulars of such identified children will be uploaded on the ‘Missing child’ portal of the Ministry of Women and Child Development by the respective State Police.
- Rehabilitation measures whenever needed are to be taken up in coordination with the other line Departments like Department of Women & Child Development, Police, Labour, etc so that scope of re-victimization is eliminated.
- Public awareness to be increased by way of national campaign, advertisement on national media, etc
- As part of the campaign, a large number of missing children have been reunited with their families which is a remarkable achievement made by the field offices. In order to motivate the policemen to take up such causes with sincerity and empathy, Police Officers from different States/UTs who had played a commendable role during the campaign are also recognized and rewarded by the Union Home Ministry.
C. GS3 Related
- The Enforcement Directorate has initiated a money laundering probe on the basis of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) case against Chanda Kochhar, then managing director and chief executive officer of ICICI Bank, her husband Deepak Kochhar, Videocon Group head Venugopal Dhoot and others for sanction of credit facilities allegedly in violation of rules.
Money Laundering and related terminologies
- Money laundering is the process of transforming the profits of crime and corruption into ostensibly “legitimate” assets
- Money laundering is the process by which large amounts of illegally received money is given the appearance of having originated from a legitimate source. It is the way to convert the black money into white money.
- Hawala: Hawala is an alternative or parallel remittance system. It exists and operates outside of, or parallel to ‘traditional’ banking or financial channels.
- Structuring deposits: Also known as smurfing, this method entails breaking up large amounts of money into smaller, less-suspicious amounts.
- Third party cheques: Utilizing counter cheques or banker’s drafts drawn on different institutions and clearing them via various third-party accounts. Third party cheques and traveler’s cheques are often purchased using proceeds of crime.
- Microplastics have been found in the guts of every marine mammal examined in a study of animals washed up on Britain’s shores, scientists say.
- Researchers from the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) in the U.K. examined 50 animals from 10 species of dolphins, seals and whales — and found microplastics in them all.
- Most of the particles (84%) were synthetic fibres — which can come from sources, including clothes, fishing nets and toothbrushes — while the rest were fragments, whose possible sources include food packaging and plastic bottles.
- We don’t yet know what effects the microplastics, or the chemicals on and in them, might have on marine mammals. More research is needed to better understand the potential impacts on animal health.
- Though the animals in the study died of a variety of causes, those that died due to infectious diseases had a slightly higher number of particles than those that died of injuries or other causes.
- Micro-plastics are particles that are smaller than 5 millimetres in size. They enter the environment as primary industrial products, such as those used in scrubbers and cosmetics.
- It could also enter via urban waste water and broken-down elements of articles discarded by consumers. Washing of clothes too releases synthetic microfibres into water bodies and the sea.
- Micro-plastics escape the filtration and treatment processes for waste water, and end up in sites of nature. The durable properties of plastics make them persistent and slow to degrade in the environment.
- Evidently, various studies have found micro-plastics in the oceans, soil, air, lakes, and rivers. It thus enters the food chains of even birds, animals and fishes.
- This results in significant global impacts on wildlife, from marine environment pollution.
- Micro-plastics hold the potential for both bioaccumulation and biomagnification. It may thus finally end up in the human body.
- But based on current limited knowledge on the effects, there is little human health concern. This is because the human body is well-adapted to dealing with non-digestible particles. As much as 90% of micro-plastic that is consumed might be excreted.
- Of the other 10%, some plastic under 150 microns (0.15 millimetres) could enter the gut’s lymphatic system. It may pass from the bloodstream to the kidneys or liver.
D. GS 4 Related
What’s in the news?
- Experts opine that the Maharashtra government’s attempt to amend the Maharashtra Agriculture Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) Act, 1963, has hit a roadblock again.
- It had to withdraw the Bill from the Legislative Council even after it was passed by the Assembly.
- The amendment Bill has been in the works for over 14 years and owing to its politically and economically important stakeholders, who are farmers, traders and ‘mathadi’ workers (head loaders), the government has struggled to push through the changes.
A Look at the problem:
- After it was passed in the Assembly in November 2018, the Mumbai and Pune APMCs called a strike, alleging that the proposed amendment severely limited their powers.
- One of the important amendments the Bill seeks to bring about is to free essential items from the purview of APMCs and allow them to be sold outside.
- It is important to note that farmer organisations such as the Shetkari Sanghatana, formerly led by Sharad Joshi, support this amendment.
- “Sharad Joshi always said that the APMC Act is one of the main reasons why farmers are prey to the monopoly of traders,” said Anil Ghanvat, president of Shetkari Sanghatana.
A Look at the changes:
- The Bill also has a provision that the APMCs can continue to levy cess/market fee on the produce brought and traded in their mandis, but cannot charge anything on goods traded outside.
- It is important to note that the traders’ lobby had said no levy should be charged if the produce was sold outside.
- Following the meeting between the stakeholders and the government, sources said a compromise was reached to abolish this levy altogether.
- One of the amendments that was opposed by traders and farmer organisations was the direct payment to farmers from traders for purchase of more than Rs. 2 lakh, bypassing the Adta (the middleman).
- According to both, the Adta plays an important part as an assurer to both parties, and eliminating his role would be harmful to traders as well as to farmers.
Maharashtra Vs. Bihar Narrative:
- It is important to note that Maharashtra is the second State after Bihar to attempt such amendments. While Bihar scrapped it altogether, Maharashtra is trying to do the same, by first allowing traders or processors to deal directly with farmers.
- Neither they nor the farmers will have to go to the APMC yards to buy and sell their produce. The buyers can directly buy from farmers based on the price quoted by them.
- As a matter of fact, unable to get the Bill cleared in both Houses of the Legislature, the government in August 2016 de-listed fruits and vegetables from the purview of the APMC through a resolution.
- Further, it was expanded to all farm products. Apart from the government claim that farmers will get a better price after the amendment, it believes that the competitive environment will help the APMCs improve their infrastructure as well as their quality of service to attract farmers.
- Anil Ghanvat, president of Shetkari Sanghatana takes the position that farmers will go to the market which gives them a better price, be it private buyers or the APMCs.
How many APMCs are there?
- Maharashtra has 306 APMCs.
- It is important to note that the APMC Act had made it mandatory for farmers to sell all their crops in the mandi within a geographically delineated market area under a particular committee’s jurisdiction.
- A few lakh traders and head loaders survive on these committees. It is alleged that local political interests drive all the decisions taken by the APMCs. The supporters of the Bill claim that political compulsions have forced successive governments not to push for the amendments.
- Shashikant Shinde, leader of the head loaders and one of the MLAs opposing the Bill, said it is being introduced to serve the interests of multinational companies. According to him, the APMCs provide a mechanism which ensures at least a minimum support price for the farmers’ produce, and outside the APMCs, farmers will be forced to sell at a price quoted by companies.
- The State government will continue to hold meetings with the stakeholders, and is likely to present the Bill, approved by all, in the budget session from February 24, 2019.
- The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme has been allocated Rs. 60,000 crore in the Budget for 2019-20.
- Some experts opine that this is less than what was spent on the scheme in the current year, that is, the revised estimate for 2018-19, which stands at Rs. 61,084 crore.
- In his Budget speech, Finance Minister Piyush Goyal noted: “Additional amount would be provided, if needed.”
- It is important to note that the original 2018-19 Budget allocation for the scheme, a lifeline for landless labourers and rural workers, was Rs. 55,000 crore.
- However, experts opine that by the end of 2018, 99% of the funds had been exhausted. A number of States already had a negative net balance.
- The activists protested that people were being denied work in several States.
- The Rural Development Ministry, which administers the scheme, asked for a supplementary allocation and was granted Rs. 6,084 crore in early January 2019, taking the revised estimate for the year to Rs. 61,084 crore.
A Look at the Funding Patterns:
- A look at the funding patterns over the last decade shows this is not the first time allocations for the scheme are lower than what was spent in the previous year.
- In most years, supplementary allocations later in the year have ensured that the final amount spent has risen at least incrementally each year.
- However, the revised estimates for 2012-13 were actually lower than the previous year, while the amount spent in 2014-15 was exactly the same as in the previous year.
- Experts point out that when MGNREGA funding is adjusted for inflation, a bleaker picture appears, making it clear that both the UPA and NDA governments have short-changed the scheme for several years now.
- In 2011-12, the revised estimate was Rs. 31,000 crore. For the next four years, the inflation-adjusted amount spent on the scheme was lower than Rs. 30,000 crore in 2011 terms. The current allocation of Rs. 61,084 crore drops to just Rs. 41,013 crore in 2011 terms, when adjusted for inflation using the Consumer Price Index for rural labourers.
A Look at Certain Specifics:
- Some experts point out that rural workers are being discouraged from registering with the scheme, being denied work even when they do register, and are facing long delays in payment of wages even when they do get work.
- Researchers, activists and elected representatives blame this on the lack of sufficient funding.
- It is important to note that the promise of the MGNREGA is to enhance livelihood security by providing at least 100 days of wage employment a year to households that want it.
- However, if work is not provided within 15 days, applicants are entitled to an employment allowance. Thus, work is a legal entitlement under the scheme and funding should be demand-driven.
- However, researchers have found a widening gap between demand and supply of work. A study of 3,500 panchayats in 2017-18 found that the employment provided was 32% lower than the work demand generated. Researchers calculated that in order to meet the registered work demand last year, the scheme should have had an allocation of Rs. 76,131 crore. Workers are also facing weeks- and months-long delays in payment of wages, often without compensation. Finance Ministry documents admit that one of the causes is the non-availability of funds.
- Some experts have opined that the future funding situation is bleak, given that the government’s “highest ever allocation” tag disguises the pending liabilities.
- If the total allocation of Rs. 61,084 crore had come through on the budget day, the scheme would still have a negative net balance of Rs. 3,270 crore, according to its financial statement on February 1, 2019.
- The next two months are the peak season, and workers have been promised an additional 50 days of work in drought-hit areas. Researchers predict that the deficit could grow as high as Rs. 12,000 crore by the end of this financial year.
- With Central money running out, States have also been asked to use their own funds to pay workers over the next two months, with the promise of an April 2019 refund.
- These deficits and liabilities will eat into the allocation for next year, slashing the amount available for new works in 2019-20.
Stand taken by parties in Tamil Nadu against the 10% quota decision:
- The 103rd Constitution Amendment, through which the Centre has introduced a 10% quota for the economically weaker sections among communities that do not enjoy any other form of reservation, has drawn near universal opposition from almost all major parties in Tamil Nadu.
- When it was introduced as the 124th Constitution (Amendment) Bill in Parliament, the AIADMK, the ruling party in the State, and considered to be friendly towards the BJP, spoke out against it in both Houses of Parliament.
- As a matter of fact, its MPs walked out during the vote.
- Further, Kanimozhi, DMK MP, moved a motion to refer the Bill to a select committee, but it was defeated.
- R.S. Bharathi, organising secretary of the DMK, has challenged the amendment in the Madras High Court. The Viduthulai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), an ally of the DMK, has moved the Supreme Court against it.
- D. Veerasekaran, an advocate who belongs to the Dravidar Kazhagam, has also approached the High Court.
Why are political parties in Tamil Nadu opposing the move?
- It is important to note that Tamil Nadu is a pioneer in providing reservation in employment and education as a social justice measure.
- As a matter of fact, its backward classes reservation history goes back to 1921.
- For historical and ideological reasons, therefore, the concept of social justice in the State is anchored firmly in the belief that reservation is a tool to ameliorate the conditions of sections of society that had been discriminated against in the past and that had suffered deprivation of employment and educational opportunities on account of their social backwardness.
- Here, reservation is seen not merely as an exception to the equality clause in the Constitution, but is considered an important and essential component of equality.
- In other words, equality acquires deeper meaning only if social injustices of the past are undone through preferential treatment for backward classes and other affirmative action programmes.
A brief look at the Principal Objections:
- The first and foremost objection to the 10% reservation for the economically poor in other classes is that it cannot be used as a poverty alleviation measure.
- The amendment to the Constitution to add an enabling provision for extending quotas on economic grounds is seen as a perversion of the idea of social justice.
- So far, only social and educational backwardness were valid grounds for reservation.
- As a matter of fact, many in Tamil Nadu believe economic disadvantage among sections of the advanced castes can be addressed through other measures such as job creation, provision of scholarships and financial concessions.
- However, carving out a quota among government jobs and educational opportunities cannot be a just solution. One principal reason is that a family’s economic condition is variable, whereas social status based on caste or community cannot change.
- Someone getting a new job, a promotion or an additional breadwinner in the family may result in a change in a person’s economic status. On the other hand, the social disability caused by being born in a particular caste cannot be easily undone.
Are there any other apprehensions?
- Yes, there are fears that this will lead to shrinking of opportunities for those already enjoying reservation.
- A significant section of the population is already covered by the State’s total reservation of 69% for the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, the backward classes, the most backward classes and denotified communities.
- The backward class quota has a sub-quota for backward class Muslims and the Scheduled Caste reservation has a sub-quota for Arundhatiyars, considered the worst-off among the Scheduled Caste.
- All of them are eligible to contest on merit under open competition too. The open quota may now come down by 10%.
- Further, there are fears the courts may insist on the 50% judicial cap on total reservation, and may order a cut in the caste-based quotas to accommodate the economic quota.
- Kerala has become the first State to set up a price monitoring and research unit (PMRU) to track violation of prices of essential drugs and medical devices under the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO).
- The move comes more than five years after the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) proposed such a system for the States and the Union Territories.
- The State Health Secretary would be the Chairman of the society and the Drugs Controller would be its member secretary. Its members include a State government representative, representatives of private pharmaceutical companies, and those from consumer rights protection fora.
- The society would also have an executive committee headed by the Drugs Controller.
- The new watchdog will offer technical help to the State Drug Controllers and the NPPA to monitor notified prices of medicines, detect violation of the provisions of the DPCO, look at price compliance, collect test samples of medicines, and collect and compile market-based data of scheduled as well as non-scheduled formulations.
- Pharma companies have been accused of overcharging prices of drugs in the scheduled category fixed by the DPCO and those outside its ambit too.
- The suggestion to set up PMRUs was made against the backdrop of the lack of a field-level link between the NPPA and the State Drugs Controllers and State Drug Inspectors to monitor drug prices.
- Former Director-General of Police of Madhya Pradesh Rishi Kumar Shukla, a 1983 batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of the M.P. cadre, was appointed as the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the country’s premier investigation agency, for two years.
- Shukla was picked from a panel of several names cleared by the high-power committee, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and comprising the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
- However, the Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge submitted a dissent note on Mr. Shukla’s appointment, saying he did not meet the required criteria as he had not worked in any anti-corruption agency.
- In his dissent letter, Mr. Kharge contended that three aspects — seniority, integrity and experience in the investigation of anti-corruption cases — should be given equal weightage to get officers best suited in the short-list.
- Mr. Shukla’s appointment comes at a time when the agency is mired in a series of controversies related to a bitter fight between two top officials, former Director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana, both of whom were shunted out following serious corruption allegations against them.
- Andhra Pradesh with the second longest coastline of 974 km after Gujarat, has the potential to produce 50 lakh tonnes of salt a year as against the present 50,000 tonnes if the government formulates an exclusive salt industry policy, according to a detailed study conducted by Uttarandhra Adhyana Vedika and PULSUS Group.
- Both organisations feel that if the resources are fully exploited to produce salt to the maximum level, the industry would turn into a goldmine for the State and create job opportunities for lakhs of people.
- Immediately, 50,000 persons can be provided livelihood besides spurring economic activity along the coastal areas, particularly in the North Andhra region which comprises Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam.
- Currently, the value of salt per kilo is 50 paise at farmer’s site but it is sold at ₹25 in the market after processing and branding. The rate will come down drastically if more salt processing units are established.
- Each processing unit needs an initial investment of only ₹25 lakh. The government can help the unemployed youth establish the units by providing subsidy and other incentives. The units will generate jobs and prevent migration of youngsters to cities
G. Prelims Facts
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
Question 1.The Kibble balance was recently in the news, is associated with the accurate measurement of which one of the following International System of Units?
Question 2. What is Oumuamua?
- The Hawaiian name given to folds on land surface created due to lava flowing underneath the surface.
- Name of the birth place of former US President Barack Obama.
- A geographical phenomenon encompassing nitrogen cycle, water cycle and phosphorus cycle in one go.
- Name of the first interstellar object discovered in our solar system
Question 3. Consider the following statements regarding Svalbard Global Seed Vault:
- Svalbard Global Seed Vault houses the world’s largest collection of seeds.
- The facility is located in Finland and the permafrost surrounding the facility helps maintain the low temperature of the seeds when the electricity supply fails.
- A temperature of -18 degree Celsius is required for optimal storage of the seeds in customised three-ply foil packages.
Which of the above statement(s) is/are correct?
- Only 1 and 2
- Only 2 and 3
- Only 1 and 3
- All of the above
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
- Recently researchers from the University of Exeter and Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the U.K. examined 50 animals from 10 species of dolphins, seals and whales — and found microplastics in all of them. In this context write a note on microplastics with special emphasis on its possible impact on the human health and environment (12.5 Marks; 200 words)
- What do you understand by Money Laundering? Discuss the need to revisit the prevention of money laundering act. (12.5 Marks; 200 words)
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