01 December, 2020 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • Self-Assessment Test
  • State of Corruption (Polity & Governance/ Ethics)
  • The perils of deregulated imperfect Agri Markets (Indian Economy)
  • Is a person address public information? Article (Polity & Governance)
  • Recalibrating India-Nepal ties (International Relations)
  • Naga Issue - No separate flag, constitution for Nagaland (Internal Security)
  • Question for the Day

Prelims Quiz

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    UPSC Current Affairs: State of Corruption| Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper II - Polity & Governance; GS Paper IV - Ethics

    Sub Theme: Ethical, Legal, Institutional and Social Framework to Check Corruption in India | UPSC

    Ethical Framework

    The fundamental principle in a democracy is that all public functionaries are trustees of the people.

    The Nolan Committee in UK has outlined the following seven principles of public life

    • Objectivity
    • Honesty:
    • Integrity
    • Openness
    • Selfessness
    • Accountability
    • Leadership

    Ethics of Members of Houses: An Office of `Ethics Commissioner' may be constituted by each House of Parliament. All State legislatures may adopt a Code of Ethics and a Code of Conduct for their Members.

    Legal Framework

    • The following should be classified as offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act:
    • Gross perversion of the Constitution and democratic institutions amounting to wilful violation of oath of office.
    • Abuse of authority unduly favouring or harming someone.
    • Obstruction of justice.
    • Squandering public money
    • Collusive' corruption needs to be dealt with by eective legal measures so that both the bribegiver and the bribe-taker do not escape punishment
    • Strengthen Sanction for Prosecution: Transfer sanctioning power to empowered committee headed by CVC; Definite Timelines; No prior sanction if officials are caught red-handed.
    • Repeal Article 311 of Indian Constitution.
    • Adequate Protection to Whistleblowers.
    • Liablity to pay damages due to acts of Corruption by Civil Servants.
    • Include Private Sector which provide Public Utility Services.
    • NGOs which receive substantial funding from Govt. should be under the act

    Institutional Framework

    • Strengthen the Lokpal: Need to set up Inquiry Wing and Prosecution Wing at the earliest.
    • Address Problems with the CVC: Delay in Cases; Low Conviction rates.
    • Operational Autonomy to the CBI: New CBI Act; Dedicated Cadre; Parliamentary Accountability
    • Ombudsman at the Local Level: Enquire allegations of corruption at the local level 

    Social Framework

    • Case Studies: Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of Hong Kong and Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) in Rajasthan.
    • Report Card Surveys- Public Affairs Centre, Bengaluru.
    • Use of Public Interest Litigations to Expose cases of Corruption.
    • Strengthen implementation of Citizens' Charters.
    • Social Audit of all Government Schemes and Programmes.
    • Adopt USA's False Claims Act: Provide Incentives to people to expose instances of Corruption

    ABOUT LOKPAL & LOKAYUKTA ACT 2013

    The Lokpal & Lokayukta Act, 2013 provides for the establishment of a body of Lokpal for the Union and Lokayukta for States to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries. The Act provides for an Enquiry Wing and a Prosecution Wing headed by their respective Directors. The inquiry wing conducts preliminary inquiry into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

    The Prosecution Wing headed by the Director can file a case in accordance with the findings of investigation report, before the Special Court for prosecution of public servants in relation to any offence punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

    Jurisdiction of the Lokpal Act includes offices of Prime Minister, Ministers, members of Parliament, officers belonging to Group A, B, C and D and officials of Central Government

    JURISDICTION OF LOKPAL

    Lokpal can make enquiries into allegations of corruption against Prime Minister, Ministers, members of Parliament, Groups A, B, C and D officers, officials of Central Government, chairpersons, members, officers and directors of any board, corporation, society, trust or autonomous body either established by an Act of Parliament or wholly or partly funded by the Centre.

    It also covers any society or trust or body that receives foreign contribution above Rs.10 lakh.

    EXPENSES OF LOKPAL TO BE CHARGED ON CONSOLIDATED FUND OF INDIA

    The administrative expenses of the Lokpal, including all salaries, allowances and pensions payable to or in respect of the Chairperson, Members or Secretary or other officers or staff of the Lokpal, shall be charged upon the Consolidated Fund of India and any fees or other moneys taken by the Lokpal shall form part of that Fund.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:The perils of deregulated imperfect Agri Markets | Page 06

    UPSC Syllabus: Mains – GS Paper III – Indian Economy

    Sub Theme: Critical Analysis of 3 Farm Acts- Pros, Cons and Strategies Needed | UPSC

    Essentially, the Indian agriculture can be considered as an enterprise with two distinct components- Production and Post-Production activities. With respect to agricultural production, India has not only become self-sufficient in terms of food production, but it has also emerged as a net exporter of agricultural products. However, the post-production activities of Indian agriculture have not kept pace with the production related activities. The quantities of marketable surplus have multiplied by almost 10 times during the last 50 years. However, the agriculture marketing infrastructure continues to remain out-dated.  

    Government has converted the COVID-19 crisis into a reform opportunity by undertaking long pending reforms in agriculture marketing. Out of 11 measures, 3 measures seek to liberalize agricultural marketing and hence hailed as 1991 moment for agriculture. The 3 farms acts are - Act to promote Inter-state and Intra-State Trading, Act to promote Contract farming and Amendments to Essential Commodities Act. However, these 3 farm Acts have been opposed by various stakeholders- Farmers, Traders and State Governments on account of various reasons:

    • Discontinuation of MSP via open-ended procurement
    • Gradual dismantling of the Public Distribution System (PDS),
    • Loss of price discovery mechanism established by the APMC mandis
    • Exploitation by the corporates,
    • Fear of a reduction in the scope and size of PDS

    Let's understand as to what extent these fears are justified and whether the new marketing reforms would indeed benefit the Indian agriculture.

    Problems with Agricultural Marketing in India

    Most of the State governments enacted the Agricultural Produce Market Regulation Act (APMC Act) which authorizes the States to set up and regulate marketing. Apart from that, there are more than 22,000 Rural Markets or Grameen Haats under the control of local bodies, panchayats, APMCs, etc.

    Problems with the APMC Regime:

    Restrictive Regime: Under the present APMC Act, farm produce should be sold only at regulated markets through registered intermediaries. Further, the Essential Commodities Act allows central and state governments to place restrictions on the storage and movement of commodities deemed essential by governments.

    Fragmented Agricultural Marketing with about 2500 regulated APMCs, 5000 sub-market yards and thousands of Rural Markets or Grameen Haats. Hence, due to this fragmented marketing  the agricultural commodities pass through multiple middlemen and traders leading to escalation in  prices and also prevents the farmers from getting remunerative prices.

    Lack of Freedom to farmers to sell their produce to whomsoever and wherever they want.

    Lack of Access to APMCs:  An average APMC in India serves an area of around 450 sq.km as against the recommendation of 80 sq.km given by M.S. Swaminathan Committee. On account of this, the farmers are forced to sell their produce at lower prices outside the APMCs.

    Against Interests of Small and Marginal farmers who are forced to sell at lower prices due to their low marketable surplus and poor bargaining power.

    Poor Infrastructure of the APMCs leading to improper storage and consequently higher post-harvest losses; No electronic auction platform

    Imposition of Multiple Fees in APMCs which is estimated to be around 15% of the value of the agricultural produce; Increased prices and affect food processing Industries 

    Higher Post-harvest Losses in the range of 20-25% of produce accounting for Rs 92,000 crores loss.

    Critical Analysis of various Government Initiatives

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

    Mandate:

    Freedom to the farmers to sell their produce whomsoever and wherever they want; Options to sell produce outside APMCs.

    Critical Analysis:

    Around  17 State governments having amended the APMC Act to make it more liberal and bring it on line with Model Agriculture produce and livestock marketing act, 2017. For example,  Kerala does not have an APMC Act and Bihar repealed it in 2006. Other states  such as Karnataka, Maharashtra etc. deregulated fruits and vegetables trade, allowed private markets, introduced a unified trading licence and have introduced a single-point levy of market fee. So, have these Reforms benefitted the farmers??

    Expectation of Government

    Ground Realities

    Farmers allowed to Sell their produce anywhere within India

    Markets located away from the villages--> 90% of the Crops sold within the villages to the traders-->

    Compelled to sell at lower prices.

    Poor Participation of Government agencies in procurement--> farmers forced to sell to traders at lower prices-->Low price realization for farmers

    More Private Sector Investment in agriculture marketing.

    Lack of enthusiasm among the Private sector in setting up of Market yards.

    Collection of APMC levy done away with to deregulate Agriculture Marketing

    Loss of revenue which otherwise could have been used for improving the infrastructure of existing APMCs.

    Proliferation of small unregulated private market yards which charge fee from both farmers and traders but yet do not provide basic infrastructure.

    Increase in prices received by the Farmers leading to improvement in their income levels

    Study conducted by National Council for applied Economic Research (NCAER)--> No significant improvement in the last 13 years after the repeal of APMC Act.

    This clearly shows that reforming the APMC Acts alone would not benefit the farmer. What should be done then?

    • Insertion of a provision in Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 to state that the price paid to the farmer shall not be less than the MSP for such crops where MSP has been notified
    • Increase the Market Density in line with recommendations of M.S. Swaminathan Committee
    • Link all the markets with the E-NAM
    • Organize Small and Marginal Farmers into FPOs
    • Improve Infrastructure in existing APMCs such as Godowns, Cold chain infrastructure etc.

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

    Mandate:

    Promote Contract Farming and ensure fair and remunerative prices

    Benefits of Contract Farming:

    • Streamlines the supply chain by connecting the farmers directly with the buyers and reduce post-harvest losses.
    • Enhancement of Incomes by integrating farmers with bulk purchasers such as exporters and food processing industries
    • Access to Inputs such as Seeds, Capital, Fertilisers, technology etc.
    • Promote higher Investment by providing price certainty
    • Address Rural Indebtedness by reducing dependence of the farmers on moneylenders for meeting their credit needs
    • Boost to Food Processing by providing access to good quality raw materials and hence provide greater fillip to the sector.

    Potential Problems related to Contract Farming

    • Exclusionary in Nature due to fragmented land holdings and lower marketable surplus of small and marginal farmers; Exclude women farmers.
    • Exploitation of Farmers due to lower bargaining power; Could lead to development of Monopsony market (one buyer dealing with multiple sellers and thus benefitting buyer).
    • Adverse Impact on Environment: Promote Monoculture farming; Promote harmful agricultural practices such as excessive water usage, fertilizer consumption; Destruction of forests and wildlife etc.

    How to address this problem?

    • Insertion of a provision in Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 to state that the price paid to the farmer shall not be less than the MSP for such crops where MSP has been notified
    • Legalizing Tenancy; Organize farmers into FPOs;

    Amendments to Essential Commodities Act (ECA), 1955

    Essential Commodities Act and its rationale:

    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.

    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. 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 since Stock limits curtail their Operations.

    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.

    Outdated Act:  This act was enacted in 1955 when we used to frequently faced shortage of agricultural commodities and hence it required Government to crackdown on black marketing and hoarding and bring down the prices. 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:

    Agricultural commodities to be outside the purview of ECA; Stockholding restrictions to be imposed only under exceptional circumstances.

    Critical analysis of the Amendment to ECA

    • Government's prerogative to impose stockholding limits during exceptional circumstances may deter private sector investment in supply chain infrastructure
    • May give a free hand to the large traders to involve in black marketing; need to ensure this does not happen.

    Way forward

    Need to abolish ECA completely as recommended by Economic Survey 2019-20

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Is a person’s address public information? – Article | Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains – GS Paper II - Polity & Governance; GS Paper IV - Ethics

    Sub Theme: House Address whether Personal Information or nor under RTI | Section 8 (1)(j) of RTI Act| UPSC

    What does this Article highlight?  

    This Article raises some of the important aspects related to disclosure of personal information of an RTI Applicant like their home address. So, when an RTI Application is filed by an applicant, is it mandatory for their address to be displayed on government’s website as “personal information” is prohibited from being displayed as per Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act. So, the larger question which remains is whether a person’s home address is public or private information.                

    Public Documents where Home Address is displayed

    • Telephone Directories provided earlier by government telecom service providers
    • Aadhaar Card
    • Election Card – EPIC
    • Land records, containing details of ownership
    • All FIRs in cognisable cases are displayed on the website displaying the names and addresses of the complainants and the accused
    • Address of the litigants are displayed in Judgments which can be accessed online by everyone
    • New transparency initiative like Jan Soochna Portal on Rajasthan – allows citizens to access information on schemes carried out by different departments and conduct social audit

    Benefits of such Disclosures

    • Improves transparency
    • Weeds out ghost beneficiaries
    • Reduce Corruption & Leakage – public distribution of benefits
    • Helps in identifying targeted beneficiaries
    • Displaying address of beneficiaries boosts confidence in ensuring transparency & efficiency in implementing the schemes
    • Helps is Social Audit of government schemes at grass root level
    • Improves overall governance

    Recent Judgments – Bombay HC Judgment relying on Calcutta HC Judgment

    • In a case involving activist Saket Gokhale, the Bombay High Court ordered the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to remove Mr. Gokhale’s contact details from its website. 
    • According to Mr. Gokhale, once his phone number and address were displayed, he began receiving threats on the phone. A mob gathered outside his house chanting slogans against him because of his activism against the ruling party. 
    • In its order in Mr. Gokhale’s case, the Bombay High Court relies heavily on a brief order of the Calcutta High Court in the case of Avishek Goenka v. Asish Kumar Roy (2013).
    • In the Goenka case, an RTI activist wanted to provide a P.O. Box number as his address while filing a RTI application in order to not disclose his residential address and thereby protect himself from possible reprisals. However, the public authority insisted that he disclose his residential address.
    • The Calcutta High Court ruled in favour of the RTI applicant because the RTI Act does not require information seekers to disclose personal details except those which may be required for contacting him. 
    • At the same time, the Calcutta High Court also permitted authorities to disallow P.O. boxes and insist on personal details in cases where the Public Information Officers faced “difficulty”. 
    • This was followed with the caveat or condition that in all such cases, personal details should be hidden by the government from public disclosure in order to prevent harassment of the RTI activist. This part of the Calcutta High Court’s order formed the basis of the Bombay High Court’s order in Mr. Gokhale’s case.
    • Both the Calcutta High Court and the Bombay High Court followed a consequential line of reasoning i.e., the information in question should be treated as private because its disclosure may lead to threats against the RTI applicant. 

    Views Expressed in the Article - Privacy versus Disclosure

    • The author believes that this is a wrong approach adopted by the High Courts and goes against the very idea it wants to protect as the address of Mr. Gokhale is printed on the judgment delivered and can be accessed by all.
    • So, the question remains is there any law which prevents disclosure of personal information. The answer lies in Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act.
    • Section 8 of RTI provides exemption from disclosure of information. So, as per Section 8 - there shall be no obligation to give any citizen - (j) Information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which
    • has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or
    • would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual
    • unless the Central Public Information Officer or the State Public Information Officer or the appellate authority - is satisfied that the larger public interest - justifies the disclosure of such information.
    • Provided that the information which cannot be denied to the Parliament or a State Legislature shall not be denied to any person.

    Summary of Section 8(1)(j) – as expressed in the Article

    • The article highlights that Section 8(1)(j) of RTI Act protects the privacy of citizens, but it also requires disclosure of information bearing a nexus to public activity.
    • Generally, most of the information in public records arises from a public activity. Examples of public activity includes applications for a government job, ration card, caste certificates etc.
    • However, there may be some personal information which may be with public authorities which is not a consequence of a public activity, e.g. medical records, records of financial transactions etc.
    • Similarly, a public authority may come into possession of some information during a raid or seizure which may have no relationship to any public activity. These would be exempt from disclosure under Section 8(1)(j). Everything else should be published in the public domain.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Recalibrating India-Nepal ties - Article | Page 07

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Current events of International Importance | Mains – GS Paper II – International Relations

    Sub Theme: | Eminent Persons Group for Nepal-India Relations (EPG) | India-Nepal Ties | UPSC

    Context: The author points out that the recent visit of India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Kathmandu did not touch upon the issue of the Eminent Persons Group in his latest address. Eminent Persons Group for Nepal-India Relations (EPG), formed in January 2016, was tasked to review the agreements and treaties, including the Nepal-India Friendship Treaty of 1950. The author eventually argues that Nepal-India relationship has never been free of controversy as the perspectives of both sides are yet to change.           

    Problems with India’s Aid

    The article highlights that India despite pouring billions of Rupees for decades in aid, has not able to win hearts in Nepal. So, India needs to reflect on what it is not doing right. Here two points have been highlighted:

    The problem is that in Nepal, Indian aid is viewed best as a contribution or rather as a favour bestowed on a constituency which India wants to garner support from rather than a contribution to Nepal’s planned development. 

    India competes with China in providing aid outside government budgets. And China picks up projects of visibility and strategic location. Chinese involvement in Nepal has increased since the April 2015 earthquake and Nepal is surely an area of strategic influence in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

    Future Realities - People to People Exchanges

    • On the idea of people to people exchanges between India and Nepal, the author has highlighted global aspirations of citizens of Nepal and has mentioned that they are no longer dependent only on India in terms of work.
    • There is a large section of Indian workers in Nepal who sends remittances (about 3 billion dollars) back to India which ultimately help their families in India. So, in terms of remittances to India, Nepal ranks eighth. 
    • Nearly three-fourths of the population of Nepal is under 35 years of age having global aspirations.

    What needs to be done?

    • There are some fundamentals that we simply cannot forget: geography will not change, the border will remain open as millions of livelihoods on both sides depend on it, and China is going to be a big global player with varied interests in the neighbourhood.
    • Therefore, the India-Nepal relationship has to be recalibrated. The hope is that the Nepali-speaking Foreign Secretary who has Sikkimese ancestry will be able to rethink the dynamics of the relationship as he reflects on his visit to Nepal.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Naga Issue - No separate flag, constitution for Nagaland | Page - 04

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance | Mains – GS Paper II - Polity & Governance; GS Paper III - Security

    Sub Theme: Hurdles to Naga Peace Framework Agreement 2015 | UPSC

    Context: Nagaland Governor R.N. Ravi on Monday made it clear that there would be no separate flag and constitution, amid persistent demand for these by the NSCN(I-M) to achieve a solution to the Naga political issue.    

    The Framework Agreement signed in August 2015 between Government of India and National Socialist Council of Nagalim, or the NSCN (I-M) promised roads to peace in Nagaland. The contents of the Agreement were kept confidential by mutual consent between the government and NSCN (I-M) “for security reasons”. Recently, on the eve of independence-day, the contents of the agreement were made public by NSCN (I-M) signaling the growing tension with the Union Government.

    Challenges still remain:  

    • Difference in understanding of Greater Nagalim – according to NSCN (IM) this also includes parts of Arunachal, Assam and Manipur beyond Naga inhabited areas.
    • Problem in Accepting the Demand of Greater Nagalim by Govt. of India – as it would require Re-organisation of states of North-East. No states presently would agree to such a proposal which carves away their settled territory.
    • NSCN (IM) wants Peaceful Settlement outside the purview of Indian Constitution as two separate sovereign entities.
    • Demand of separate Naga Flag and Constitution for Greater Nagalim.
    • Specific Problem of NSCN (IM) with Nagaland Governor.
    • Difference between Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) - a conglomerate of seven rival groups with NSCN (I-M) on several issues leading to a stalemate in the agreement.
    • NSCN (IM) made public the official Framework Agreement against the wishes of government.

    These challenges to execute Framework Agreement of 2015 needs to be addressed within the confines of Indian Constitution for the overall socio-economic and cultural development of Nagaland.  

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