TOPC: General Studies 2
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections;
- Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States; Governance issues
Time for expansion of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT)
- India’s welfare state has always been on the side of committing significant resources to provide subsidies and services especially to certain identified segments of the population who could not afford the resources themselves.
- Over the years, as fiscal resources have grown rapidly the amount of money spent on welfare programs has also gone high but carrying with it the two major issues with subsidies in India:
- Targeting: Benefits higher income groups who do not deserve the subsidies and thus, increases the government’s expenditure
- Leakages: Subsidy does not reach the recipient due to corruption, pilferage or other causes
- Government’s DBT plan therefore, simply involves transferring the subsidy amount directly to the beneficiaries’ bank accounts instead of having to fiddle around with differential pricing for the underprivileged
Linkage with Aadhaar
Efficient targeting: Via Aadhaar-linked data ensures that:
- The intended beneficiary receives the money in his account
- Reduction in the government’s subsidy burden
- Effective solution to leakages and mis-targeting problems
Eg: Case of MGNREGA wages
- Beginning: Reports across the country of MGNREGA wages, at the time given in cash being misappropriated by middlemen
- 2013: Government initiated the DBT scheme in MGNREGA –eliminated these middlemen to a large extent
- Current financial year: Under this scheme, Rs.20,500 crore has been credited to the accounts of almost 5 crore people
Linking Postal Account with Aadhaar
- Post Banks should become a game-changer in Indian banking sector by becoming a local agency for the recently announced MUDRA Bank
- Also, the Post Bank accounts should be Aadhaar seeded so that various Government schemes for Direct Benefit Transfer could be rolled out through the Post Bank.
- Department should step up its efforts to ramp up its capabilities to book, process, transmit & deliver e-Commerce articles.
DBT-RuPay— Meaningful Financial Inclusion
- With the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) now accepting eKYC and making Aadhaar the centrepiece of strategy, an endemic issue of identity verification has been dealt with. As one of the biggest constraints to enhancing financial inclusion was addressed, it also lowered the costs of opening new bank accounts.
- The success would now depend upon employment of attention to detail, monitoring and mid-course correction to make inclusion more meaningful for beneficiaries, encouraging more transactions and ensuring that the DBT programme takes off.
Tried & Tested—
PAHAL (Pratyaksh Hanstantrit Labh)
- Launched in June 2013 for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) subsidies
- To make consumers link their Aadhaar number to a bank account and receive the subsidy amount for 12 cylinders in a year
- If without an Aadhaar number- could furnish any other bank account to receive the subsidy
- A large proportion of the subsidies were going to people who could afford LPG cylinders at the un-subsidised rate
- Solution: People earning more than Rs.10 lakh a year would not be eligible for the LPG subsidy
- Addressed the leakages issue
- Income cap addressed the mis-targeting problem
DBT in the Kerosene Scheme
States will be given a cash incentive of 75 per cent of subsidy savings during the first two years, 50 per cent in the third year and 25 per cent in the fourth year.
- Around half the kerosene sold in the country is being misused
- Not being used as lighting fuel, it is being used to adulterate diesel among other things
- Again: Subsidization going to unwanted beneficiaries, involved in illegal activities
- Corruption in the kerosene sector thus, deprives the needy families of a basic commodity while enriching corrupt kerosene dealers, fuel distributors and public officials
Workings of the scheme:
- Consumer buys kerosene at full price and then receives the subsidy amount in his bank account if eligible
- Therefore, mis-targeting and leakages are addressed
- But this could lead to unintended outcomes unless the scheme is managed carefully
What can happen: Overestimation of the actual household-level usage
If the subsidy amount each household is due is calculated on the basis of the total amount of kerosene sold divided by the number of eligible households, then this will result in each household receiving about double the subsidy amount it should be getting because total usage also takes into account pilferage
How: Taking of usage-by-theft into account
- DBT can help directly improve the efficiency of the delivery systems, as well as empower the beneficiaries to demand their rightful benefits under various schemes, and hold the managers accountable for the same but a thorough case needs to be built up to measure if benefits outweigh the costs or not (economic terms)
- There has to be a proper Centre-State coordination mechanism in place, efficient network of banking system as well as automation of schemes should be taken up immediately; backed up with careful consideration and coordination between policy and implementation.
- International obligations can also be cited to bring about an atmosphere of urgency, for quick mindful reforms to be executed.
- A strict monitoring system to identify the black market and a strict law against accumulation of black money should also be put in place to effectively curb the menace
Connecting the Dots:
- Discuss the types of reforms under ‘Direct Benefit Transfer’. Explain the most suitable amongst them keeping in view the working mechanism of India
- The scrapping of the supply of subsidized kerosene via Public Distribution system is long overdue. Do you support the statement? Substantiate.
- General Studies 1 : Social empowerment
- General studies 2: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Tribal Ministry relents over Forest Rights Act (FRA)
- Union tribal affairs ministry has revised its views to re-interpret the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and allow the Maharashtra forest department to get control back over forest management and a grip on the lucrative trade worth crores in Minor forest produce such as tendu leaves and bamboo.
- In contrast tribal ministry had previously concluded that only tribals and other forest dwellers had rights to manage their forests under FRA.
- Even in 2014 state government had passed regulations that ensured its forest department retained control over forest management, which includes the large-scale trade and sale of forest produce. The tribal affairs ministry found this in violation of FRA, which empowers tribals and other forest-dwellers to hold sole rights to manage the forests, including sale of forest produce in areas where they have traditional claims.
What is Forest Rights Act (FRA) all about?
- The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, is a key piece of forest legislation passed in India on December 2006.
- The law concerns the rights of forest-dwelling communities to land and other resources, denied to them over decades as a result of the continuance of colonial forest laws in India.
The Act basically does two things:
- Grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest laws.
- Makes a beginning towards giving communities and the public a voice in forest and wildlife conservation.
Why is it required?
- India’s forests are home to crores of people, including many Scheduled Tribes, who live in or near the forest areas of the country.
- Since times immemorial, the tribal communities of India have had an integral and close knit relationship with the forests and have been dependent on the forests for livelihoods and existence in the form of minor forest produce, water, grazing grounds and habitat for shifting cultivation.
- For the first time Forest Rights Act recognises and secures community Rights or rights over common property resources of the communities in addition to their individual rights.
- Supporters of the Act claim that it will redress the “historical injustice” committed against forest dwellers, while including provisions for making conservation more effective and more transparent.
What are the rights granted under the Act?
- Title rights – i.e. ownership – to land that is being fared by tribals or forest dwellers as on 13 December 2005, subject to a maximum of 4 hectares; ownership is only for land that is actually being cultivated by the concerned family as on that date, meaning that no new lands are granted.
- Use rights – to minor forest produce (also including ownership), to grazing areas, to pastoralist routes.
- Relief and development rights – to rehabilitation in case of illegal eviction or forced displacement and to basic amenities, subject to restrictions for forest protection
- Forest management rights – to protect forests and wildlife
- Right to intellectual property and traditional knowledge related to biodiversity and cultural diversity
- Rights of displaced communities
- Rights over developmental activities
What is Minor Forest Produce (MFP)?
- The forest products can be generally divided into two parts viz. Major Forest Produce and Minor Forest Products.
- The Major Forest Products comprise Pulpwood, Sandalwood, Social Forestry that includes Fuel and Timber.
- The Minor Forest Products include the items such as tamarind, curry leaf, Tendu Patta, gallnut, Cane, Soapnut, tree moss and now Bamboo also.
- MFP have significant social and economic value for tribal communities as they not only provide essential food, medicines and other consumption items but also cash income.
- Government of India has assigned the ownership of minor forest produce to the people living in and around forests for the purpose of collection, processing, trade and marketing through national level legislation named as the Scheduled tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest rights) Act, 2006.
Minor Forest Produce and PESA:
Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) authorizes the States give the Gram Sabah’s power to regulate and restrict
- sale/consumption of liquor
- ownership of minor forest produce
- power to prevent alienation of land and restore alienated land
- power to manage village markets, control money lending to STs
- power to manage village markets, control money lending to STs and Mandatory executive functions to approve plans of the Village Panchayats, identify beneficiaries for schemes, issue certificates of utilization of funds.
Bamboo as a Minor Forest Produce
- Bamboo was recognized as a Minor Forest Produce way back in 2006, now it’s selling rights have been given to villages Bamboo was given the status of a minor forest produce (MFP) in the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
- The Act, which seeks to redress a historical injustice to tribals, apart from entitling them to land ownership, also gives communities rights to collect, use and sell bamboo as an MFP.
A.K.Sharma Committee on ‘Minor Forest Produce’:
The committee was set up to look in to the issues related with the ownership of the Gram Sabha, fair prices, institutional mechanism, value addition, etc. and suggest remedial measures including Ownership, Price fixation, Value addition and Marketing of Minor Forest Produce (MFP)
T Haque Committee:
- The Ministry of Panchayati Raj had constituted a Committee under the chairmanship of Dr. T. Haque to look into different aspects of Minor Forest Produce (MFP) management in fifth schedule areas which has recommended for fixation of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for 14 MFPs in its final report.
- These are Tamarind, Mahuwa flower, Mahuwa seed, Tendu leaf, Bamboo, Sal Seed, Myrobalan, Chironji, Lac, Gum karaya, Honey, Seeds of Karanja, Neem and Puwad.
- To operationalizing the MSP for selected MFPs, the earlier Planning Commission had suggested for Central Price Fixation Commission for MFP as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
- All primary collectors including tribal and people living in and around the forests involved in the MFP collection will be benefitted.
Minor Forest Produce Commission:
- MFP Commission will be an autonomous body under the MoTA. Experts have said MSP plan for Minor Forest Produce as next MGNREGA as it has the potential to transform the lives of 100 million forest dwellers, a majority of them are tribals and whose livelihoods depend on the collection and marketing of MFPs.
- The proposal comes after recommendations of two committees, one headed by agricultural economist T. Haque and another by Planning Commission member secretary Sudha Pillai.
- The T Haque committee estimated that the value of the 13 major MFPs at the first purchase point is worth about Rs. 3,600 crore annually, of which tendu and bamboo alone account for Rs. 2000 crore.
- The MFPs that will be covered by the scheme will be tendu, bamboo, mahua flower, mahua seeds, sal leaves, sal seeds, lac, chironji, wild honey, myrobalan, tamarind, gums and karanj.
- The scheme will help provide better prices to the MFP gatherers, who now receive a pittance, exploited as they are by local traders and other vested interests; it will also ensure sustainable harvesting of MFPs.
- Recent move by Union tribal affairs ministry to re-interpret the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and allow the Maharashtra forest department to get control back over forest management and a grip on the lucrative trade worth crores in Minor forest produce such as tendu leaves and bamboo would affect the economy of the tribals and respective Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger may not be achieved. Such a move should accompany alternate source of income to tribals to secure their livelihood and to head towards realisation of sustainable development.
Connecting the dots:
- What are Minor Forest produce (MFP)? Who owns MFP? What are the committees set up to address the issues centring MFP?
- Can MFP secure livelihood of tribals and act as hand in the gloves to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. ?
- Recently Union tribal affairs ministry re-interpreted the Forest Rights Act (FRA) to allow Maharashtra forest department to get control back over forest management. How do tribals get affected by such move? Is it a move which is considered light at the end of the tunnel or is it just incoming train? 😉
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