15 September , 2020

  • Urban Unemployment (Economy)
  • Agri reform bills
  • Intra Afghan Talks - (International relations)
  • Subramanyam Bharathi - (Art & culture)
  • Mekedatu Project, Kondapochamma reservoir (Geography)
  • UAE , Israel , Palestine - reference (International relations)
  • Question Hour (Polity & Governance)
  • Question for the day (Economy)

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC Current Affairs:  Urban employment as the focal point Page 6

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy |Mains: GS Paper III

    Sub Theme: Nature of Employment situation in India | UPSC 

    Context:

    • The recent economic distress caused due to COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities faced by Urban Migrants, most of whom are employed in low-paying, low-productivity, informal jobs. These urban migrants have returned back to rural areas on account of hardships caused due to COVID-19. In order to ease the distress caused to these workers, the Government has provided for higher allocation for MGNREGA.
    • However, we must realise that it is only a temporary solution. The long-term solution would be to reduce the vulnerabilities faced by Informal workers in the urban areas and also focus on higher job creation to reap benefits of demographic dividend. In this regard, let us focus on the following dimensions:
      • Nature of Employment Situation in India
      • How Employment Situation has worsened post COVID-19
      • Steps to be boost Employment Creation in Urban Areas

    Nature of Employment Situation in India | UPSC

    Jobless Growth: The phenomenal GDP growth rate registered by the Indian Economy in the last 2 decades has not translated into higher employment creation leading to concerns over Jobless Growth. This could be attributed to number of reasons such as - Stagnation in share of Manufacturing Sector to India's GDP at 17% since 1991 reforms, Dominance of small-sized firms, Complexity in the labour laws and land acquisition, lack of skill sets etc. 

    Nature of Jobs: The Jobs created in the Indian Economy have been concentrated in low-paying, low-productivity informal sectors such as Construction, Small-sized enterprises. The Informal workers account for almost 90% of India's workforce. Hence, concerns have been raised over not just over the number of Jobs created, but also over the nature of Jobs.

    Working Poors: The informal workers face number of vulnerabilities such as Poor wages, lack of access to social security benefits, poor skill sets, lack effective representation through trade Unions, lack of access to basic facilities such as housing, sanitation etc. According to International Labour Organisation (ILO), these informal workers can be considered as "Working Poors" due to poor standard of living.

    How Employment Situation has worsened post COVID-19? |UPSC

    According to a recent report published by National Statistical Office (NSO), the GDP has contracted by 24% in the first quarter (April-June) of 2020-21 as compared to 5% growth registered in Q1 2019-20. India has seen contraction in GDP for the first time in the last 41 years since 1979.

    As can be seen in the figure below, the employment intensive sectors such as Construction, Trade, Hotels, Manufacturing and Mining have seen largest contraction. This could have adverse implications both in terms of- Increase in Unemployment and Decrease in Employment Creation within economy. First and foremost, people working in these sectors may find themselves to be unemployed and secondly, the ability of these sectors to create more jobs has reduced significantly due to slowdown.

    Steps to be taken to create more Jobs in Urban Areas

    India is presently staring at demographic dividend wherein the share of working-age population in the age-group (20-59 years) is set to increase from 50% (2011) to 59% (2041). Hence, India needs to put in right strategy to create more number of jobs and reduce the vulnerabilities faced by workforce.

    Urban Employment Programme: There is a need to launch urban employment generation programme on the lines similar to MGNREGA. This programme should fulfil two-fold-objectives of- Job Creation and Building durable assets such as Roads, Housing, Schools, Hospitals etc. in urban areas. Such a programme should be under the control of local governments and should be implemented in close coordination with all the Government departments.

    Employment-Intensive Policies:  Address various constraints which have hindered creation of employment such as Labour Reforms, Ease of Doing Business, Enhancing Skill Sets, Handholding support to MSMEs, attract Investments to boost Make in India etc. The creation of such Infrastructure would also reduce the vulnerabilities faced by Informal workers in Urban areas.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:  Three agri reform bills introduced Page 09

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy |Mains: GS Paper III

    Sub Theme: Agricultural reform in our country | UPSC

     Context:

    • Three Bills on agriculture reforms were introduced in Parliament on Tuesday to replace the ordinances issued during the lockdown. Opposition parties and farmers groups are opposing the move to enact amendments to the Essential Commodities Act, new laws to bypass the State APMC Acts and to facilitate contract farming. In this regard let us look at the key changes that have been proposed through these ordinances. 
    1. Amendments to Essential Commodities Act to enable better price realisation for farmers 

    Essential Commodities Act and its rationale

    • The Essential Commodities Act was enacted in 1955 to make available certain commodities to the consumers at fair prices. It is used by the Government to regulate the production, supply and distribution of commodities which are declared as essential under the act.
    • The list of items under the Act includes drugs, fertilizers, pulses and edible oils, and petroleum and petroleum products. The Central Government may add or remove a commodity from the schedule in consultation with the State Governments.
    • For instance, in march 2020, the Union Government declared masks and hand-sanitisers as essential commodities under the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 . This was done in order to ensure that they are available to people at the right price and in the right quality.

    How does it work?

     If the Centre finds that a certain commodity is in short supply and its price is increasing, it can notify stock-holding limits on it for a specified period. Anybody trading or dealing in a such a commodity, be it wholesalers, retailers or even importers are prevented from stockpiling it beyond a certain quantity. This improves supplies and brings down prices. 

    How Essential Commodities Act hinders the agricultural marketing? 

    Fails to realize stocking is essential: The fear of bringing the agricultural commodities under the act has prevented the traders and processors from undertaking bulk procurement of agricultural commodities during bumper harvest season. Hence, the increase in the agricultural production has not translated into higher income levels. Further, since almost all crops are seasonal, ensuring round-the-clock supply requires adequate build-up of stocks during the season. 

    Poor investment in Storage infrastructure: With frequent stock limits, traders have not invested in better storage infrastructure.

    Adverse impact on Food Processing Industry: Food processing industries need to maintain large stocks to run their operations smoothly. Stock limits curtail their Operations. In such a situation, large scale private investments are unlikely to flow into food processing and cold storage facilities.

    Impact on agriculture exports: Whenever the Government declares an agricultural commodity as essential, it imposes a number of restrictions on it including ban of export of such commodities. This prevents the Indian farmers to get the best prices on their agriculture produce from the international markets. 

    Outdated Act: The Act is not in tune with present times. This act was enacted in 1955 when we used to frequently face shortage of agricultural commodities. Hence, it needed government intervention to clamp down on black marketing and hoarding.

    However, now situation has changed completely. Now, we have surplus production of agricultural production. Hence, accordingly, we must give the necessary freedom to the traders, aggregators and food processing industries to undertake bulk procurement of the agricultural commodities.

    New Announcement:

    The Government will amend Essential Commodities Act. Agriculture food stuffs including cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potato shall be deregulated. Stock limit will be imposed under very exceptional circumstances like national calamities, famine with surge in prices. Further, no such stock limit shall apply to processors or value chain participant, subject to their installed capacity or to any exporter subject to the export demand.

    1. Agriculture Marketing Reforms to provide marketing choices to farmer 

    Background:  

    Agriculture is a subject which is placed under the State List. Accordingly, the state governments have enacted their respective APMC Acts to regulate the marketing of agriculture commodities. However, the APMCs are considered to be highly restrictive and prohibitive and hence go against the interest of farmers. For example, the farmers are required to compulsorily sell their produce only to the registered traders in the APMCs. They cannot sell their produce directly to the end consumers, processors or exporters.

    Similarly, some of the states have restricted the farmers from selling their produce outside their APMC Zones. However, such kind of restrictions are not applicable to sale of industrial goods. Considering the fact that there are around 22,000 such APMCs, the APMC act has led to fragmented marketing infrastructure.

    Accordingly, in order to bring about agriculture marketing reforms, the Central Government has come out with Model Agriculture produce and livestock marketing act, 2017. It has been persuading the state government to adopt the features of this model legislation.

    New Announcement:

    The Inter-state trade and commerce is placed under the concurrent list. So, accordingly, the Centre can formulate a law to promote, regulate and restrict the inter-state trading of various goods.

    As discussed before, presently, the APMC Acts are highly restrictive and prohibit the farmers from selling their produce to whomsoever they want to. We need to give adequate freedom to the farmers to sell their produce anywhere within India where they are likely to get higher prices. We need to dismantle fragmented agriculture marketing infrastructure and move towards integrated domestic market or agriculture goods.

    In pursuance of such an objective, the Government had declared that it would come up with a new central law. Such a central law would incorporate the following:

    • Adequate choices to farmer to sell produce at attractive price;
    • Barrier free Inter-State Trade;
    • Framework for e-trading of agriculture produce.
    1. Facilitative Legal Framework for Contract Farming

    What is Contract farming? 

    Under contract farming, agricultural production (including livestock and poultry) can be carried out based on a pre-harvest agreement between buyers (such as food processing units and exporters) and producers (farmers or farmer organizations). The producer can sell the agricultural produce at a specific price in the future to the buyer as per the agreement. This benefits both the producers as well as the buyers. The producer can get support from the buyer for improving production through inputs (such as technology, pre-harvest and post-harvest infrastructure) as per the agreement. The producer can

    also reduce the risk of fluctuating market price and demand. On the other hand, the buyer can reduce the risk of non-availability of quality produce. 

    Current Legal Framework 

    Currently, contract farming requires registration with the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) in few states. This means that contractual agreements are recorded with the APMCs which can also resolve disputes arising out of these contracts. F

    Further, market fees and levies are paid to the APMC to undertake contract farming. The central government has formulated Model Agriculture Produce and Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion & Facilitation) Act, 2018 which provides for contract farming. Accordingly, the central Government has asked the states to use this as reference while enacting their respective laws.

    New Announcement: 

    The Government will finalize a facilitative legal framework to enable farmers to engage with processors, aggregators, large retailers, exporters etc. in a fair and transparent manner.

    Risk mitigation for farmers, assured returns and quality standardization shall form integral part of the framework.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:  The cost of peace - Page 6

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: International Relations |Mains: GS Paper II

    Sub Theme:  USA-Taliban Peace talks | UPSC

    Context :

    Intra-Afghan talks bringing the Taliban face-to-face with representatives of the Ashraf Ghani government and Afghan civil society finally got underway 

    The talks, which were a key outcome of the U.S.-Taliban and U.S.-Afghanistan agreements signed in February this year, have been delayed for many reasons

    India’s changed stand  

    • India has modified its stand, and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar attended the inaugural ceremony in Doha via videoconferencing; it was the first ever address by an Indian official at a gathering that includes the Taliban (that India still maintains is a terror group).
    • While stating that peace in Afghanistan as a result of an “Afghan-led, Afghan owned” process is a desirable outcome, he made it clear that India hopes it will not come at the cost of gains made by Afghanistan in the post-Taliban era, including democracy, institutions of governance, and the rights of minorities and women.

    US - Taliban peace deal

    Through this the US agreed to:

    • Within the first 135 days of the deal the US will reduce its forces in Afghanistan to 8,600, with allies also drawing down their forces proportionately.
    • The deal also provides for a prisoner swap arrangement. Some 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 Afghan security force prisoners were to be exchanged in March when talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government were due to start.
    • The US will also lift sanctions against the Taliban and work with the UN to lift its separate sanctions against the group.

     Issues with the peace deal -

    • In the peace deal US did not insist on a ceasefire.
    • USA kept the Afghanistan government out of the peace process.
    • Due to this Afghanistan has witnessed continuous violence led by the Taliban.
    • The recently held presidential elections witnessed a very low voter turnout.
    • As a result the main opposition candidate Abdullah Abdullah did not recognise the elected government.
    • He backed off, but only after being appointed the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation that will lead talks with the Taliban
    • Due to this the Taliban has an upper hand in the prevailing situation in Afghanistan.

     UN secretariat - 6+2+1 meeting

    • UN Secretariat held a “6+2+1” meeting on regional efforts to support peace in Afghanistan.
    • 6 neighbors of Afghanistan (China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan), 2 global players (the USA and Russia) and 1 (Afghanistan) attended the meeting.
    • India was not invited to this meeting 

    Why India was not invited in the meeting?

    • It was sighted that India shares no physical boundary with Afghanistan.
    • India never announced its support to the US Taliban peace process
    • India’s resistance to publicly talking to Taliban has also contributed to absence

    of invitation.

    India's concerns about the Peace deal 

    • India has thus far not recognized the Taliban, which has had links with terror groups like the Lashkar – e - Toiba and Jaish - e - Mohammad, who have targeted Indians in Afghanistan. India was also not invited to a UN-led regional conference on the peace process last week.
    • India wants the democratically elected government of Ashraf Ghani government to continue in office as it is more friendly towards India.
    • Taliban as an organization gets a lot of support from Pakistan and ISI and hence, Taliban, victory in the peace deal would be a blow to India’s effort to reach to Central Asia and positively engage Afghan government.
    • If Taliban comes to power then there is a high chance that China will get free access to Afghanistan and this will be another blow to India’s strategic interests.
    • Above all if Taliban comes to power then India’s effort to fight terrorism in Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir may also suffer a blow. 

    India’s stand on Afghan peace process

    • The peace process has to be Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
    • Afghanistan should build national consensus for talks with the Taliban.
    • India was among the countries that had refused to recognise the Taliban regime of 1996-2001, as Taliban’s growth in Afghanistan was being driven by deep state in Pakistan
    • India’s stand has been that the peace process has to ‘Afghan-led, Afghan-controlled and Afghan-owned’.
    • All initiatives and processes must include all sections of the Afghan society, including the legitimately elected government.
    • Any process should respect the constitutional legacy and political mandate.
    • Establishment of democratic process with respect for human rights, including women’s rights.
    • The peace process should not leave any ungoverned spaces where terrorists and their proxies can relocate.

    Why Afghanistan is important to India?

    Regional Balance of Power: Afghanistan is tied to India’s vision of being a regional leader and a great power, coupled with its competition with China over resources and its need to counter Pakistani influence.

    • India’s ability to mentor a nascent democracy will go a long way to demonstrate to the world that India is indeed a major power, especially a responsible one.
    • India’s interest in Afghanistan relates to its need to reduce Pakistani influence in the region.

    Energy Security : The pipeline project TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India), which seeks to connect an energy-rich Central to South Asia, will only see the light of the day if stability is established in Afghanistan

    Strategic Location: For access to the landlocked Central Asian countries that border

    Afghanistan.

    Natural Resources: The country is home to resource deposits worth one trillion dollars, according to the US Geological Survey.

    Regional Security: A stable Afghanistan is important for regional security in South Asia

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:  Bharatiyar, the charioteer of wisdom Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Art and Culture |Mains: GS Paper I

    Sub Theme:  Bharataiyar| UPSC 

    Subramanian Bharathi

    • Also known as Bharathiyar was a Tamil writer, poet, journalist, Indian independence activist, social reformer and polyglot.
    • Popularly known as "Mahakavi Bharathi" ("Great Poet Bharathi"), he was a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry and is considered one of the greatest Tamil literary figures of all time.
    • His numerous works included fiery songs kindling patriotism during the Indian Independence movement. 

    Publications

    • As a working journalist, Bharati necessarily employed prose to communicate, and his writings in Swadesamitran (you can ask started by?? G. Subramania Iyer) and India made an important contribution to Tamil political vocabulary.
    • He wrote stories, commentaries, and was also the pioneer of column writing in Tamil.

    Gnanaratham

    • Bharati had an idea about the future, the dream of how a free India should look like.
    • Aspects of this dream form part of his fantasy story, Gnanaratham (The Chariot of Wisdom), written when he was still in his late 20s. 

    Struggles against Caste system

    • Bharati also fought against the caste system in Hindu society. Bharathi was born in an orthodox Brahmin family, but he considered all living beings as equal and to illustrate this he performed the upanayanam for a young Dalit man and made him a Brahmin.
    • He also scorned the divisive tendencies being imparted into the younger generations by their elderly tutors during his time.
    • He openly criticised the preachers for mixing their individual thoughts while teaching the Vedas, Upanishads and the Gita. He strongly advocated bringing the Dalits to the Hindu mainstream. 

      

    UPSC Current Affairs:  Concern as water leaks from Kondapochamma reservoir + Karnataka to seek nod for Mekedatu project Pg. 8

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Prelims: Maps |Mains: GS Paper II

    Sub Theme:  Mekedatu project | UPSC 

    Mekedatu Project

    • Karnataka intends to build a reservoir across river Cauvery near Mekedatu.
    • It was first proposed along with Shivanasamudra hydro power project at Shimsa in 2003 with an intention to use the water for a hydro power station and supply drinking water to Bengaluru city.
    • However, Tamil Nadu objected saying Karnataka had not sought prior permission for the project. Its argument was that the project would affect the flow of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. 

    Kondapochamma reservoir

    • Water is leaking from Kondapochammasagar reservoir located at Markook Mandal headquarters in Telangana.
    • It is part of Kaleswaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIS)
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