IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains
Focus)- 21st August 2018
Community Radio Station: Sangham Radio
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Role of Technology; Self Help Groups; Innovation
- Sangham Radio, India’s first community radio station, is struggling to stay alive.
- It is owned and run by 5,000 poor, mostly Dalit women in one of India’s most underdeveloped areas.
- The radio station, an initiative of the Deccan Development Society (DDS), a local grassroots organisation, was started in 1998 in Machanoor village in Telangana’s Sangareddy district.
- It caters to the Sanghams (self-help groups) of underprivileged, rural women.
- It got its licence to broadcast in 2008, and has been in operation for 10 years. The programme content is generated entirely by the 5,000-odd women, largely agricultural workers.
- The radio station’s financial crisis stems in large part from the upaid dues from the government for advertisements aired on the station.
Kerala floods: Rescue and Relief operations
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains III – Disaster management
- National Crisis Management Committee (NCMC) chaired by Cabinet secretary P.K. Sinha is reviewing the rescue and relief operations in Kerala.
- Central assistance of ₹600 crore was released to the Kerala government.
- Centre has also approved 89, 540 tonnes of additional grains for Kerala (apart from 1.18 lakh tonnes of foodgrains what Kerala receives under the National Food Security Act)
Do you know?
- Under the National food security Act, 52.3% of the rural population and 39.5% of the urban population receive subsidised foodgrains — wheat is sold at ₹2 per kg and rice at ₹3 per kg.
- Centre has granted tax exemption on relief items from abroad.
- UAE has offered ₹700 crore to Kerala. It contrasted to the ₹600 crore given by the Indian government so far for relief and rehabilitation process.
- India had declined the aid offer of the U.S. after the tsunami hit the southern coasts in 2004. The then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said India was capable of managing the domestic crisis as well as help other tsunami-hit countries.
- Maldives and Saudi Arabia have also pledged to help. Ministry of External Affairs yet to respond whether India accepts the relief fund from other countries.
What are the classifications of disasters, and how does this affect funding?
- According to the National Disaster Management Policy, the State governments have to provide disaster relief from their respective State Disaster Response Funds (SDRFs), and only for a “calamity of severe nature”, will additional assistance be provided from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF).
- There is, however, no provision in the law or rules for the government to designate a disaster as a “national calamity”.
How are the NDRF and the SDRFs funded?
- The NDRF is funded through a National Calamity Contingent Duty levied on pan masala, chewing tobacco and cigarettes, and with budgetary provisions as and when needed.
- A provision exists to encourage any person or institution to make a contribution to the NDRF. However, this source of funding has not been tapped so far, according to the government.
- The 14th Finance Commission recommended changes to this structure once the cess was discontinued or subsumed within the Goods and Services Tax. However, the government, instead, decided to continue with the National Calamity Contingent Duty even in the GST regime.
- The SDRF corpus is contributed by the Union government and the respective State governments in a 75:25 ratio for general category States and 90:10 for Special Category States.
- The allocation of the SDRF for each State is done by the Finance Commission, and the Centre contributes its specified share each financial year. The Central share of SDRF is released in two equal instalments, in June and then in December.
What has been the trend in budgetary allocations to the NDRF and SDRFs?
- The Union government has maintained a steady flow of funds to the NDRF each year, ranging from ₹5,690 crore in 2015-16 to a budgeted amount of ₹2,500 crore for the current financial year.
- In addition, the Centre has also been contributing to the SDRFs every year, amounting to ₹8,374.95 crore in 2016-17 and ₹7,281.76 crore in 2017-18.
How have NDRF funds been allocated to States in the recent past?
- In 2017-18, up to December 27, 2017, the Union government released NDRF funds to nine States — Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana — over and above its contributions to their respective SDRFs. The recipient of the highest amount was Karnataka, which got ₹913 crore that year.
- Over the four years till December 27, 2017, the Centre has released the most cumulative funds to Maharashtra (₹5,244.69 crore), Karnataka (₹5,122.45 crore), Uttar Pradesh (₹4,949.04 crore), Tamil Nadu (₹3,115.31 crore), and Madhya Pradesh (₹1,958.93 crore).
- For specific calamities, the Centre released ₹1,365.67 crore for the Chennai floods of 2015 and ₹218.76 crore after Cyclone Vardah in 2016. Andhra Pradesh received ₹400 crore and ₹230 crore after Hudud ravaged Visakhapatnam.
Part of: GS Prelims and Mains II – India and its neighbours; International Relations
- BIMSTEC – Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation
- PM Modi to join a summit of leaders from BIMSTEC countries in Kathmandu on August 30-31 and hold bilateral talks.
- Main focus – speedy conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement within the group
- BIMSTEC countries are yet to finalise and conclude the FTA which was negotiated in 2004.
- BIMSTEC FTA is expected to boost intra-regional trade.
- The visibility of BIMSTEC needs to be enhanced in a region where already a few other regional cooperation groups like ASEAN, SAARC, SASEC are in place.
- BIMSTEC is the sub-regional group of seven countries in South Asia and South East Asia lying in littoral and adjacent areas of Bay of Bengal constituting contiguous regional unity.
- BIMSTC group is comprising of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.
- It was established on 6 June 1997 through Bangkok Declaration. It is headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
- Objectives of BIMSTEC: Technological and economical cooperation among south Asian and south East Asian countries along the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
- It is sector-driven cooperative organization, starting with six sector including trade, technology, energy, transport, tourism and fisheries. In 2008 it was expanded to embrace eight more sectors including agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism, environment, culture, people to people contact and climate change.
India and BIMSTEC
- India is an active participant of BIMSTEC and is considered an extension of India’s Neighbourhood First Policy and Look-East Policy.
General Studies 3
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
Educating people about climate change
Climate change has the potential to disrupt and reshape lives. There are several alarming predictions about its impact. Vulnerable populations should be made aware of the potential risks and how to cope with them.
Global findings and India
- The UN Sustainable Goals Report, 2018 notes that climate change is among the key factors in rising hunger and human displacement.
- The World Health Organisation estimates that climate change will cause an additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030 and 2050, due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress.
- Much of this loss will be accounted for by low-income groups in developing nations, including India.
- The World Bank projects that climate change could cost India 2.8% of its GDP, and diminish living standards for nearly half the population, in the next 30-odd years.
Need of awareness
- Do vulnerable groups know the manifestations of climate change, and are they aware that it could potentially affect the health, livelihoods and lives of their families and communities, of present and future generations?
- Is there sufficient awareness about its causes, especially about anthropogenic contributions?
Various initiatives: to create awareness about climate change; how to mitigate and adapt
- In 1991, the Supreme Court directed the Central government and all State governments to provide compulsory environmental education to all students in schools and colleges.
- This directive was reiterated in 2003 (M.C Mehta v. Union of India).
- Corporate organisations, research and education institutes, NGOs and foundations have committed themselves to educating people about climate change and providing the know-how for mitigation, adaptation and resilience building.
- These initiatives target urban and rural populations including school going children.
- Their thrust ranges from inculcating the concept of environmental sustainability to driving home the impact of climate change on food, water, nutrition and health.
Effectiveness of initiatives
- Climate change seems to find low weight in everyday lives and conversations.
- Most of the country’s plans for vulnerable populations are directed towards poverty alleviation, improving living standards, enhancing access to education, sanitation, healthcare and ensuring human rights. Climate change finds little mention.
- It must receive greater prominence because the lives of a large number of the population are at risk. It is important that they know how to address and minimise the risks they face.
So, what more can be done? (The way forward)
- At present, climate change does not find specific mention in Schedule VII of the Companies Act, 2013.
- If it were to be articulated and specified as an activity for corporate social responsibility (CSR), schedule VII (of Companies Act 2013) would then need to be amended to include climate change as an area for investment.
- Rather than be implied in the umbrella term of environmental sustainability, organisations may be encouraged to view it with increased importance and clarity and lend more weight to creating awareness, mitigation and resilience-building.
- Scaling up current initiatives of the corporate and social sectors to regional or national levels would be an early, albeit challenging, solution.
- The National CSR Data Portal reports corporate spends on environment, animal welfare and conservation of resources to be Rs. 801 crore in 2014-15 and Rs. 912 crore in 2015-16. It shows that the business organisations are willing to invest in issues related to the environment.
- Similarly, the film industry could consider ways to incorporate key aspects of climate change in films, writers could introduce climate change in adult and children’s literature, and gaming companies could develop games on this theme.
Given the startling forecasts about the impact of climate change, it is the need of the hour to educate and equip both rural and urban communities to build resilience against natural disasters, adapt to environmental changes, and manage potential risk.
Connecting the dots:
- India’s efforts at addressing climate change and the wider issues of environmental governance, has been far from convincing. Critically examine.
General Studies 2
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and India
RCEP in the News
- Negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), among 16 Asian and Pacific Ocean countries, have entered a decisive phase. And it would like to see a “substantive agreement” on the trade deal by the end of this year.
- Most potential member-countries of the grouping comprises the 10 ASEAN members and their Free Trade Agreement partners, Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and Republic of Korea.
- At a meeting in Singapore, countries which still have issues with the outline of the agreements reached so far may be told politely to step aside and allow a smaller group to go ahead with finalising the RCEP, with the option to join it at a later date.
- India is among the countries that will have to take a call at this point considering the seriousness of the situation.
Concerns with respect to India and RCEP
- India is the one country that doesn’t have an FTA with China. The greater access Chinese goods will have to the Indian market, a problem given India’s massive trade deficit.
- To circumvent this, the government has proposed a “differential market access” strategy for China, which others are inclined to accept.
- After the Wuhan summit, India and China have made progress on addressing the trade deficit, with China increasing access for Indian goods such as pharma and agricultural products.
- There are demands by other RCEP countries for lower customs duties on a number of products and greater access to the market than India has been willing to provide.
- The more developed RCEP countries such as Australia and Singapore have been unwilling to accommodate India’s demands to liberalise their services regime and allow freer mobility of Indian workers.
- Some of the RCEP countries, including India, are headed for elections next year, a point where governments traditionally turn protectionist.
- Despite all the concerns, the government must take into account that either slowing down India’s RCEP engagement or walking out of the talks at this stage would cut India out of the rules-making process for the RCEP and give China further space in the regional trade and security architecture.
- At a time when the U.S. has broken from the global consensus on multilateral trade agreements, an Indian walkout would endanger the united message that RCEP countries, which represent 40% of the global GDP, would wish to send out.
- It would also be a sharp departure from India’s “Act East” slogan and its extended outreach to ASEAN.
- RCEP is an opportunity for India to play a greater role in Asia-Pacific, the fastest growing and developing region the globe.
- India must not take the easiest way out on the trade deal and walk out of talks, rather it should move forward and fill the vacuum being created by the protectionism of US.
Connecting the dots:
- India with RCEP, critically examine the challenges and opportunities ahead.
Note: To read more about RCEP, read on: http://asean.org/?static_post=rcep-regional-comprehensive-economic-partnership
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
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Q.1) Consider the following statements with regard to National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) and State Disaster Response Funds (SDRFs):
- NDRF is funded through a National Calamity Contingent Duty levied on all basic consumption goods and with budgetary provisions.
- National Calamity Contingent Duty is continued even in the GST regime.
- The allocation of the SDRF for each State is done by the Finance Commission
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3
Q.2) Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC) includes
- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand
- Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand
- Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Pakistanl, Sri Lanka and Thailand
- Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand
Q.3) Consider the following statements regarding National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013
- NFSA marks a shift from rights based approach to welfare based approach.
- The act legally entitles up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of urban population to receive subsidized food grain under TPDS.
- NFSA is established as per the explicit provision of right to food under the Constitution of India
Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?
- Only 2
- 1 and 2
- 2 and 3
- 1, 2 and 3
Q.4) Consider the following statements about Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
- It is associated with ASEAN
- All the members of RCEP are members of Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)
- Cambodia is the only land-locked country among RCEP members
Select the INCORRECT statements
- 1 and 2
- 2 and 3
- 1 and 3
- Only 2
Q.5) Which of the following countries is/are NOT a part of RCEP?
Select the appropriate option using the code below
- 2 only
- 1 and 4 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 2 and 4 only
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