General Studies – 1;
1) Sex ratio at birth (SRB) in the State of Haryana recently touched the 900-mark for the first time in almost two decades. Examine which factors have helped Haryana achieve this mark.
For the very first time the state known for its skewed sex ratio has touched the mark of 914-equal to the national average- in December 2016. Factors which led to this very victory are as follows:
1.Strict implementation of laws against female foeticide and sex determination. Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act played the most important role here.
2.The govt scheme of Beti Bacho,Beti Padhao was first launched in Haryana keeping in mind the SBR of the state. This helped the state improve its ratio to a great extent.Also Sukanya Samridhi, Aapki Beti Humari Beti schemes.
3.Diversified strategy: Cooperation from all the districts of the state, their respective departments along with strong political will helped achieve this goal. The entire process was constantly kept in check with CMO involved.
4.Social media played an important role in this process. Awareness through social media platform was being spreaded. Initiatives like ‘Selfie with my daughter’ added up to the mass awareness.
5.Women empowerment: Many women in the state have appeared as educated and well-paid members of the society which has started to change the unfairly biased minds of the patriarchal society who consider girl children as mere burdens
6.Presence of role models: In recent years, several girls from Haryana like Geeta Phogat, Babita Phogat, Sakshi Malik, Deepa Malik etc have bagged international acclaim and are acting as role models for girls and parents alike to think beyond the prevalent social traditions to make the parents understand that girls were no way lesser than boys..
7.Public awareness generation: Street plays, rallies in Urban and Rural areas are conducted. Female celebrities of Haryana like Sakshi Malik, Phogat sisters promoted.
8.Doctors in sake of illegal income doing ultrasonography found as offender were arrested.
With all these progressive steps, there lies some challenges which may act as an obstacle to this cause. Illegal ultrasound techniques are still on the high among the people. Social structure of patriarchal mindset and that of ‘Boy over a girl‘ sets back to feet of state in this regard. Doctors, quacks and paramedics are themselves involved in the act.
The time has come when women are no longer considered a weaker sex. People have to come out of their rigid mindset in order to achieve a greater cause. Educating girls and encouraging them to be at par with boys will help to achieve this goal.
Haryana cross 900 mark is a good indicator but conditions in punjab and rajasthan are not good, mean couple can go to these states for abortions, in uttar pradesh number is around 914 all these states also need coordination adopt similar approach .similar type of efforts needed to make in near by areas like UP, Rajasthan, Punjab because people generally come to nearest States for sex determination and abortion practices. without concerning nearby areas, it will be a short term gain and in long run same situation occur.
-incentivising girl child birth-with funds for her marriage alleviated perception of burden.
2) Currently, all opposition political parties have demanded that the Union budget, scheduled for February 1, 2017, should be postponed till polling ends on March 8. Do you think Union budget just before assembly polls, violates model code of conduct? What’s the view of Election Commission and Supreme Court on the issue of pre-poll promises by governments?
References:The Indian Express
Do you think Union budget just before assembly polls, violates model code of conduct?
1. Bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh: It failed to intervene in the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Andhra Pradesh (a first in independent India when the entire existing legislative assembly opposed the bifurcation)
2. Enactment of Lokpal Act in 2014: In the enactment of the Lokpal Act in early 2014, when both the then-mainstream contesting parties thought they would gain electorally from these steps
Arguments in favour of postponing the budget:-
1) Earlier,in 2012, when opposition parties raised their voice for the same reason, ruling party had postponed the budget.
2) Announcement of budget in february will disrupt,up to a certain extent , the concept of free and fair election and level playing field.
Arguments against postponing the budget:-
1) The Model Code of Conduct hinders the ruling party of state to announce new welfare schemes. Enforcement of code in one state can not prevent Union government to announce schemes for welfare of people. In May 2016, MCC was enforced in Tamil Nadu,but government introduced various schemes across-the-board.
2) It is the right and the preserve of power of the Union government to present the budget as it give an account of its expenditure and income.
3) As such Annual Financial Statement only present an account of revenue and expenditure along with proportion of fund allocation to various sectors without declaration of big schemes. It will not disrupt the level playing field.
The model code of conduct(MCC)-
(a) prohibits announcement of SCHEMES simply because a budget provision has been made for any particular scheme / sanctioned earlier or a reference to the scheme was made in the address of the Governor or the budget speech of the Minister .
(b) says NO FRESH SANCTION for govt schemes should be made.
The MCC clearly has NO MENTION OF UNION BUDGET which is meant for the entire country though it may have some sops for poll bound states( especially in railway budget) and may violate the model code of conduct and has the potential of misuse by the incumbent party in power.
The Union budget violates MCC ONLY if it has state specific schemes which might influence poll results. But state elections will be scheduled in some or the other state every year and until it is Lok sabha elections, Budget postponement is not justified.
The pre-poll schemes announced when the polls were imminent were subject to Election Comission(EC) interference till 2001 when SC judgement led to its non interference thereafter. The SC in 2013 hoped the EC will get some powers wrt to the same via some law though status quo prevails as of now.
(A) EC has to come up with SPECIFIC GUIDELINES on what can/cannot be not announced in the Union Budget especially if its before polls.
(B) SIMULTANEOUS ELECTIONS can be a solution to address the uncertainty linked with elections and budget announcements.
(C ) The union budget-2017-18 may defer announcement of state specific schemes after elections to prevent violation of MCC.
Election Commission has assured the opposition to look into the matter. Consensus amongst government,opposition,judiciary and election commission will certainly come out with a right decision which will pave the way for free and fair elections.
3) Examine the significance of the landmark judgment of NALSA v. Union of India delivered by the Supreme Court. Also critically examine whether a recent legislation related to this landmark case does justice to the judgement delivered in this case.
The National Legal Service Authority( NALSA) judgement of supreme court is a historic judgement which declared :- It directed the Central and state govt to:-
1. Legal Recognition for Third Gender: Fundamental rights and recognition of third gender in both criminal and civil statutes.
2.Legal Recognition for Persons transitioning within male/female binary : To follow the psyche of the person and use the “Psychological Test” as opposed to the “Biological Test”.
3.Public Health and Sanitation : To provide medical care to Transgender people in the hospitals and also provide them separate public toilets and other facilities.
4.Socio-Economic Rights : To provide the community various social welfare schemes and to treat the community as socially and economically backward classes.
5.Stigma and Public Awareness : To take steps to create public awareness among public so that they should not be treated as untouchables.
6.affirmed that the fundamental rights granted under the constitution will be equally applicable to transgender people.
7.Prohibits discrimination against a transgender person in areas such as education, employment, and healthcare and provide welfare schemes in these areas.
8.Offences like compelling a transgender person to beg, denial of access to a public place, physical and sexual abuse, etc. would attract imprisonment and a fine.
However there are a few caveats:-
1.The definition of ‘transgender persons’ in the Bill is at variance with the definitions recognised by international bodies and experts in India.
2.Absence of a provision on reservation, contrary to the NALSA judgment and the 2014 and 2015 Bills
3. It does not match the rights provided to other marginalised sections with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, sexual harassment at workplace act,2013 and the Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016
4. Contrary to SC’s judgement legal recognition of trangender in criminal and civil statutes is missing
5. It doesn’t address the issue of Section 377 frequently used to harass transgender persons, specifically transgender women.
6. The bill makes it mandatory for the transgender to get certificate from the district magistrate to certify the identity of transgender person.This is a gross violation of human rights.
7. The bill attempts to to dismantle the age old tradition of begging the eunuchs engage in, without determining other feasible options
Thus there are various lacuna’s in the present bill which need to addressed by engaging all stakeholders, to ensure that the transgender community is well integrated into the society.The bills needs to be revisited in order to accommodate various constitutional provisions such as Article 14, Article 21 along with DPSP Article 46.
4) Critically comment on the role of the Western powers and United Nations in managing the conflict in Syria.
Syrian conflict:- the wave of arab spring touched the almost majority nations of arab leaque, including Syria. This war the progenitor for the dismantling of the soc-eco-political set up of the country.Currently there are three major faction:- assad supportor; anti-assad/free Syrian army/rebels and terrorist group ISIL/Al nusra. Due to the lack of conformity between weatern powers and UNSCs’ permanent member, the situation getting weird with time.
Role of western powers:-
-It favoured “assad must go” temperament, and thus supporting opposition group containing rebels, supplying them military and weaponary power to fight against it.
-Via USAID provide monetory assistance.
– It believes in the peace by including Syrian government that is assad regime [china supporting fully].
– Moscow backs an international “contact group” to handle Syria – bringing in Iran and Saudi Arabia but excluding the UK and France. The UN also likes this idea.
– Want to go with US, but during Camron era house of commons rejected the support for warstrike at Syrian regime. Though against ISIL but favoured “moderate” rebel groups.
– It conatianed mix perception:- where FRANCE totally against the regime, Angela Markel of germany supported assad’s inclusion before deciding upon future of Syria.
– It favoured assad regime+ supporting local hizaboollah group[pro-assad], supplying full military and arm support [even during sanction era].
– Confused party, policy wise with RUSSIA, but internally backed rebels.
-Discreetly backed anti-Assad rebel groups operating close to the occupied Golan Heights and perhaps in the southern Druze region.
Main point is that, every power either weatern or regional all are against ISIL.
Role of UN:-
-Annan 6 point peace plan [ United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria]:- to allow freedom of press/freedom of movement/ceasefire of armed violation/release of arbitrary detained persons/allowed humanitarian assistence etc, but it lived for very shord period, though first assad accepted it earlier.
– UNHRC:- after 2013 chemical weapon strike on Syria, it condemened such inherently indiscriminate, inhuman and immoral strike [also against hague convention’1899/ geneva protocl’25], bring out dubious state of syria in front of world.
-UNICEF:- vaccination/clothing/care products to conflicted region.
-Responsibility to Protect (R2P), the global commitment adopted at the 2005 United Nations (UN) World Summit, central to respond to mass atrocity crimes [of international level], seemed failed here in Syria to due its void attempts to bring ceasefire.
Western powers and UN have failed to prevent the war and human rights violations and mass exodus of refugees. However, recent ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia, Iran and Turkey is expected to last long to bring peace in Syria and the region so that efforts can be concentrated against terrorists.
5) In the light of latest data on farmer suicides compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB),analyse causes of farmer suicides in India.
The Indian Express
The latest data by NCRB reveals that more than 72% of farmers who committed suicide have less than two hectares of land. Small farmers comprised majority of the victims followed by marginal farmers. The report also revels the regional disparities in suicide trend with highest number of suicides in Maharashtra.
1. Natural Reasons : Monsoon failures over the past 2 years and consequent droughts have caused extreme hardships for the farmers.
2. Economic : In light of absence of formal credit penetration into the rural areas, many farmers are still dependent on zamindars and the local money lenders for credit to buy seeds, fertilisers and other inputs, who charge exorbitant interest rates, perpetuating debt traps.Moneylenders are main source of loans and they charges exorbitant interest rates which the farmers are unable to pay.
3. Social : Many farmers are dependent on small agricultural holdings which are insufficient to sustain large families and increased pressure during marriage expenses and due to social evils like dowry further push them into debt traps.
4. Absence of alternate means of livelihood : Many farmers are completely dependent on their farms and are unable to diversify due to lack of funds and other factors like poor implementation of MNREGA.
5. Lack of awareness regarding the various govt schemes like the Kisan Credit card, agricultural debt waiver schemes, etc also inhibit their scope for relief.
6. They are also not able to get fair prices for their crops due to exploitation by various middlemen and APMCs.
7. Many farmers follow non-scientific traditional methods of agriculture which leads to decreasing soil health and consequent productivity.
8.Weather Fluctuations: Irregular monsoon pattern and agricultural dependence on it add to the woes. Areas of Maharashtra & Telangana are quite prone to droughts.
9.Poor crop selection: E.g Sugarcane grown heavily in drought prone region of Vidarbha. Also failure of GM crops.
10.Govt. policy: Policy of liberalisation since 1991 has resulted in opening of markets which led to agrarian crisis. Small Farmers grow cash crops such as cotton on small land which is highly susceptible to global price fluctuations. Also MSP is not provided to many crop.
The dilapidated conditions of farmers need to be addressed as soon as possible. Increasing awareness regarding various govt schemes like Kisan Credit Card, Soil Health Cards, Rupay Kisan Cards, E-NAM, PM Fasal Beema Yojna,etc is needed so that farmers have alternate resolution mechanisms. Land consolidation and access to formal credit would go a long way in improving their conditions.
Steps taken by govt.
- Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojna to provide insurance on crop failure.
2. MSP to protect farmers from exploitation.
3. E-NAM initiative to widen the market base for farmers.
- Relief to Farmers in Input Subsidy
- Soil Helath card-> crop wise recommendations based on local factors.
– Bringing drought prone region under irrigation facilities Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana.
– Easy access to bank credits facility at cheaper rates and for long term.
-The rising prices of seeds,fertilizers is accompanied by fall in prices agriculture.Thus farmers cant repay loans.
-Creating an alternative Seeds research program.
-Land consolidation and pooling of resources.
– Mixed cropping can be adopted.
– animal husbandry, poultry and less water intensive crops can be planted.
– Collective farming can be encouraged where land holdings are small.
There is a urgent need for a comprehensive study on exactly what contributes to farmers suicide in India so that proper policies and counselling can be made available to the farmer to stop them from taking such extreme steps.Farmers are most vulnerable section. Government need to take step in every possible direction to protect them.
General Studies – 3
6) How effective has demonetisation, as a policy, been in achieving its stated goals? How efficiently has it been implemented?
References: The Indian Express & The New York Times.
The recent decision to scrap the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes which amounted to 86% of total money in circulation had broad objectives which modified with passage of time. The efficacy of the policy in achieving those objectives can be viewed as follows:
(a) Counter black money: The unaccounted money stored with people would cease to be legal tender but unfortunately, most part of this money was in circulation or was laundered through various methods as proved by recovery of new Rs 2000 bills in surplus amount from various locations
(b) Counter corruption: Presence of unaccounted cash leads to illegitimate practices like use of money for contesting elections. The effectiveness of the policy in this regard still has to face the test of time
(c) Counter terror funding and counterfeit currency notes: The Naxal attacks in Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh and the protest of stone-pelters in J&K has certainly reduced but it still has to be established that demonetization is the reason behind these
(d) Increase the volume of digital transactions: Before demonetization, 98% of the transactions happened in cash including payment to unorganized sector, small traders etc. Instead of forcing digital payments on citizens through demonetization, we should have made a gradual shift towards it like Singapore, after establishing robust digital infrastructure and spreading digital literacy
The effectiveness of the demonetization move of the government which took out 86% of the high denomination currency from the economy is a measure which has intended long term targets. Thus two months is too short a time to pronounce a judgement on it. Still, the interim effects of it are stated below:-
1. Encouraged cashless economy as seen through the spike in cashless transactions across the country.
2. An awareness in the informal sector to move to digital economy, as evidenced with a huge spurt in mobile wallet transactions.
3. Helps scrapping the counterfeit money in circulation.
4. Increased the Govt revenue, for the account of the money which did not return to the system.
5. The credit growth shall be boosted with the infusion of currency to the banking system
6. No major riots or stone throwing incidents in Kashmir, which shows that anti-state elements were rendered cashless.
7. The large amount of currency found dumped at several places will ensure black money to become useless for any transaction.
8. Cautioned the hoarders against following the same methods, as the present govt is not shy of taking any drastic economical measures.
1. Many hospitals refused to accept the demonetised currency due to no strict instructions or grievance redressal mechanism.
2. Dearth of issuable cash in banks lead to only a small fraction of population getting cash each day and repeated visits to banks by numerous people to get a menial amount of cash.
3. Several bank employees misusing their power to regulate cash flow and favouring their peers.
4. Several IT raids found cash in new currency notes, stashed in houses, which shows lax regulation of cash flow and continued practice of hoarding.
5. People were not accepting 2000 rupee note as they did not have change in the few weeks after demonetisation.
6.The corrupt are finding newer ways to convert black money to white by using Jan-Dhan accounts.
Failed to achieve:-
• The policy doesn’t take steps to check the practices which lead to corruption.
• It has negatively impacted the informal sector, which accounts for 80% of the employment in the country and more than 40% of the GDP and depends heavily on cash, with a huge loss of output and employment
•Doesn’t prevent counterfeiting of the new currency
•Also doesnt provide for the measures to improve factors responsible for a cashless economy, like a reliable digital infrastructure, quality and penetration of Internet and banking systems, literacy etc.
Navigating the arc from vision to action requires all stakeholders to be on the same pace.The present move got the vision part correctly but lagged in the action part.
• Shortage of new currency has impacted badly, when 98% of transaction volumes happen in cash in India (PWC report, 2015)
• Caused huge inconvenience , specially to the old and the rural households where there is no infrastructure to exchange notes
• A frequent change of rules of deposition and withdrawal lead to chaos and confusion
• A flawed planning demonstrated by the resetting of all the ATM machines and a skewed shortage of the new 500 notes.
The multiple hours spent in front of banks and ATMs, loss of jobs to thousands of workers, slow in every sector of economy can be seen as the bitter medicine to cure an infectious disease and we need some more time to observe the effectiveness but certainly it would be a herculean task to bring the economy back on track.The move perhaps is the first push for the people of India to adopt a digital economy and would definitely assist in achieving the goals of Digital India Programme.
7) What is merchant discount rate (MDR)? Recently petroleum retailers to threatened to stop accepting credit and debit card payments as a protest against the decision by certain banks to levy the merchant discount rate (MDR) of up to one per cent on card payments. Examine why petroleum retailers are worried. Also comment what this issue means to India’s push towards cashless economy.
References: The Hindu & Livemint
Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) is the rate charged by banks to merchants selling products through payment by debit/credit cards or Point of Sale (PoS) machines. The more the number of sales, less is MDR. After demonetization, many people are using cards at petrol pumps.Initially government offer 0.75 %discount on card payment on fuel It also waived MDR on fuel purchases for initial 50 days.
Now, banks have raise the rate upto 1% on each card transaction. So increase card transaction at petrol pump also deducting high charges ( MDR). It reduces profit margins and add economic burden on petroleum retailers.This cause protest among petroleum retailers & they threatened to stop accepting card payment.
Why Petroleum dealers are worried ?
– It decreases their profit margin as some amount of charges have to be paid to bank.
– Even though 1 % may seem a small amount, but since transactions involved are large, it comes out to be substantial.
– This problem is graver in India, where government controls most part of fuel pricing, so oil marketing companies can’t increase the prices to increase their profits.
Why retailers are worried?
• Profit margin erosion: Charges related to usage of credit and debit cards at petrol stations that come out of the dealer’s profit margins. Card based transactions have increased post demonetisation period.
• Unclearity: Government announced a 0.75% discount on card purchases of fuel. There is some confusion on who will bear this discount.
• MDR burden only on dealers: In earlier cases MDR for petrol pumps was nil but now banks have decided to charge 1% MDR on card payments whose burden is to be shared only by the dealers.
Impact on cashless economy
• As Petroleum outlets witnesses large volume of cash transactions such spats will make the push towards cashless economy meaningless.
• It may create spats with other entities like Railways, public sector insurers.
• Such spats will wither customer confidence in cashless transactions.
• Transparency and clarity in fees for digital payments.
• Rationalising MDR charges.
• Reaching at an amicable solution through facilitating discussion with all the stake holders.
Central Government along with state governments can create a Digital Transaction Fund which can pay banks costs of using cashless methods for short period. This will relieve merchants from losses they are bearing. GOI efforts such as Lucky Grahak Yojana, Digital India, BHIM App etc is a step in right direction.Such efforts should be implemented in letter and spirit for the success of demonetisation move by the government for sustainable and inclusive growth.
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