20 November, 2021 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • Repeal of Farm Laws - Centre (Economy)
  • Concerns on APMCs
  • Model Act on Agricultural Marketing
  • The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020
  • Error Corrected - Section 7 of POCSO (Social Justice)
  • Bihar, U.P. police seen as less sensitive: survey (Governance)
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    UPSC Current Affairs: Repeal of Farm Laws | Page – 1/6

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

    Sub Theme: Concerns - APMCs | Model APMCs | Farm Laws | UPSC

    Context: PM announces the repeal of the three Acts in address to the nation. PM said that the process to repeal the farm laws will be completed in the winter session of Parliament. PM also announced the formation of a committee with representatives from the Central and State Governments to look into issues related to agriculture, such as zero-budget farming, fertilizers, change in crop patterns, transparency in establishing minimum support prices and so on.

    The President gave his assent on September 27, 2020 to three reforms related to agriculture sector:

    1. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 - It seeks to create an ecosystem where the farmers and traders enjoy the freedom of choice relating to sale and purchase of farmers’ produce. The reform grants freedom to farmers and buyers to transact in agricultural commodities even outside notified APMC mandis ensuring competitive alternative trading channels to promote efficient, transparent and barrier-free interstate and intra-state trade.
    2. The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020 - It seeks to provide for a national framework on contract farming that protects and empowers farmers in their engagement with agri-business firms, processors, wholesalers, exporters or large retailers for farm services and sale of future farming produce at a mutually agreed remunerative price in a fair and transparent manner.
    3. The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 - It seeks to remove commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes from the list of essential commodities. The reform ends the era of frequent imposition of stock-holding limits except under extraordinary circumstances.

     

    Need to Reform APMC

    • In agricultural marketing, the focus of attack was the mandis governed by the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Acts passed by State Assemblies.
    • It was argued that if India needs to diversify its cropping pattern into export-oriented and high-value crops, mandis need to give way to private markets, futures markets and contract farming.
    • The APMC Acts discriminated against farmers by not allowing them to interact directly with the big corporate buyers and exporters.
    • So, the APMC Acts must be amended so that any private market or rural collection centre can freely emerge anywhere without approval of the local mandi or the payment of a mandi tax, and so that contract farming can be popularised.
    • Similarly, the advocacy for the amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 rested on the view that private corporate investment can be incentivised into storage and warehousing if stock limits are relaxed for traders.

     

    APMCS levy multiple fees, of substantial magnitude, that are non-transparent, and hence a source of political power

    • APMC charge a market fee of buyers, and they charge a licensing fee from the commissioning agents who mediate between buyers and farmers. They also charge small licensing fees from a whole range of functionaries (warehousing agents, loading agents etc.).
    • In addition, commissioning agents charge commission fees on transactions between buyers and farmers. The levies and other market charges imposed by states vary widely. Statutory levies/mandi tax, VAT etc. are a major source of market distortion.
    • Such high level of taxes at the first level of trading have significant cascading effects on the prices as the commodity passes through the supply-chain.
    • Moreover, though the market fee is collected just like a tax, the revenue earned by the APMCs does not go to the State exchequer and hence does not require the approval of State legislature to utilize the funds so collected.
    • Thus APMC operations are hidden from scrutiny. Positions in the market committee (at the state level) and the market board – which supervises the market committee - are occupied by the politically influential.
    • They enjoy a cosy relationship with the licensed commission agents who wield power by exercising monopoly power within the notified area, at times by forming cartels.

     

    Model Act on Agricultural Marketing

    • It was a long-held constitutional consensus in India that agricultural marketing was the legislative arena of State governments. Thus, in 2003, the Union government prepared a Model Act on agricultural marketing and sent it to States for passage in State Assemblies.
    • This was followed by the preparation and circulation of two other Model Acts, in 2017 and 2018. Many States selected a few clauses, which they found attractive and suitable to their contexts, and accordingly amended their APMC Acts between 2003 and 2020.
    • Only one State — Bihar — used the occasion to completely annul its APMC Act in 2006.

     

    The Model APMC Act

    1. Provides for direct sale of farm produce to contract farming sponsors;
    2. Provides for setting up “Special markets” for “specified agricultural commodities” – mostly perishables;
    3. Permits private persons, farmers and consumers to establish new markets for agricultural produce in any area.
    4. Requires a single levy of market fee on the sale of notified agricultural commodities in any market area.
    5. Replaces licensing with registrations of market functionaries which would allow them to operate in one or more different market areas.
    6. Provides for the establishment of consumers’ and farmers’ markets to facilitate direct sale of agricultural produce to consumers.
    7. Provides for the creation of marketing infrastructure from the revenue earned by the APMC.

     

    Thus, the model APMC Act provides some freedom to the farmers to sell their produce directly to the contract-sponsors or in the market set up by private individuals, consumers or producers. The model APMC Act also increases the competitiveness of the market of agricultural produce by allowing common registration of market intermediaries.

     

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

     

    Problems Highlighted in the Article

    • Lack of Inflow from Private Sector in Agriculture Market - Bihar’s example showed that private investment was unlikely to flow into agricultural markets even if APMC Acts were annulled. In fact, the exploitation of farmers by unscrupulous traders intensified in Bihar after 2006. Even the private sector did not invest in warehousing or on logistics for farm produce. So, overall there was little presence of private investment in its agricultural markets. Maharashtra delisted fruits and vegetables from the ambit of APMCs in 2016. Still, the inflow of private investment into agricultural markets was only marginal. 
    • There were no substitute for Mandi Tax which were used to invest in rural infrastructure in States such as Punjab.
    • Grievance Redressal Mechanism - The obliteration of the power of civil courts and their substitution with a weak mechanism led by the sub-divisional magistrate threatened to be a serious impediment to a just redress of complaints. It was feared that this may benefit corporate sponsors more than the contracting farmers.
    • Benefit to large corporate houses rather than farmers’ cooperatives or Farmer Producer Companies – It was a concern that the overall thrust of the farm laws appeared to encourage the participation of larger corporate players in agricultural markets rather than farmer-friendly organisations, such as cooperatives or Farmer Producer Companies (FPC). Especially in the case of the amendment of the Essential Commodities Act, there was reasonable suspicion that a handful of corporate players were to substantially benefit from investments in logistics, storage and warehousing.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Section 7 of POCSO (Editorial)| Page 6

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Social Justice | Mains – GS Paper II – Social Justice

    Sub Theme: Sexual Assault |POCSO Act |  UPSC

    Context: Supreme Court has corrected a wrong interpretation of Section 7 of POCSO Act which defines sexual assault on child below 18 years of age.    

    Decision of Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court

    The Court held that sexual assault on a child victim would require “skin-to-skin” contact. The High Court had construed Section 7 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, pertaining to sexual assault on children, in such a way that it concluded that the acts for which the accused were charged did not amount to sexual assault. The absence of physical contact with the girl’s body part was used to absolve the accused of the charge of sexual assault. In the second case, the Court took a lenient view that the act of “holding the hands of the prosecutrix” and “opening the zip of the pant” did not fit into the definition of sexual assault.  

    Questions raised by Attorney General & National Commission of Women

    The Attorney General of India took the initiative to challenge these two verdicts.  The NCW also questioned the Court’s understanding of a POCSO provision, arguing that the law does not brook the sort of dilution that led to the Court ignoring the basic fact that the entire Act is aimed at penalising actions rooted in sexual intent. 

    Decision of Supreme Court

    Based on the above incidents and view of High Court, Supreme Court held that restricting the interpretation of the words ‘touch’ or ‘physical contact’ to ‘skin to skin contact’ would be a narrow and pedantic interpretation of Section 7, and if such a narrow interpretation is accepted it would frustrate the very object of the Act. The judgment sets right not only a misinterpretation of the statute but also underscores that the core ingredient of a sexual offence is the “sexual intent” behind it. The Court also said that an interpretation should not be destructive of the law’s intention. 

    THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN FROM SEXUAL OFFENCES ACT, 2012       

    • The Government of India is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations. The Convention prescribes a set of standards to be followed by all State parties in securing the best interests of the child.
    • The parties to the Convention are required to take measures to prevent children from being coerced into any unlawful sexual activity. On the basis of the Convention, India has legislated POCSO Act, 2012.
    • It protects a child against different forms of sexual abuse including trafficking, pornographic materials and avoids re-victimization of a child.
    • Under the Act, a person is guilty of using a child for pornographic purposes if he uses a child in any form of media for the purpose of sexual gratification. The Act also penalises persons who use children for pornographic purposes resulting in sexual assault. 
    • The Act penalises storage of pornographic material for commercial purposes with a punishment between three to five years, or a fine, or both.  In addition, the amendment adds two other offences for storage of pornographic material involving children.  These include: (i) failing to destroy, or delete, or report pornographic material involving a child, and (ii) transmitting, propagating, or administering such material except for the purpose of reporting it.
    • As per the Act, any person below the age of 18 years is defined as a “child”. The Bill seeks to penalise any person who commits offences such as “sexual harassment”, “sexual assault”, “penetrative sexual assault”, and “aggravated penetrative sexual assault”.
    • POCSO aims to protect children from offences of sexual assault, sexual harassment and pornography and provide for establishment of Special Courts for trial of such offences.
    • Each district shall designate a Sessions Court to be a Special Court. It shall be established by the state government in consultation with the Chief Justice of the High Court.
    • The state government shall appoint a Special Public Prosecutor for every Special Court.
    • The Court shall, as far as possible, complete the trial within one year. The trial shall be held in camera and in the presence of the child’s parents or any person trusted by the child.
    • If an offence has been committed by a child, it shall be dealt with under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs:Bihar, U.P. police seen as less sensitive: survey | Page 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Polity & Governance; Rights Issues | Mains: GS Paper-II - Polity & Governance

    Sub Theme: Indian Police Foundation Survey | UPSC 

    Prepared by - Indian Police Foundation (Non-governmental organisation)

    Parameters:

    • Competence-Based Indicators Perception index of police sensitivity 2. Perception index of strict and good behaviour 3. Perception index of accessibility 4. Perception index of police responsiveness 5. Perception index of helpful and friendly policing 6. Perception index of technology adoption.
    • Values Based Indicators Perception index of integrity and corruption-free services 2. Perception index of fair, unbiased and lawful policing 3. Perception index of police accountability
    • Trust:As the Overarching Element
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