Following are the major highlights of the activities of the Department of Food & Public Distribution during the year 2018:
Implementation of the National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA) Persistent efforts has resulted in universal implementation of the NFSA, 2013 in all 36 States & UTs, benefiting 80.72 crore persons in the country by providing them access to highly subsidized foodgrains at Rs.1/2/3 per kg. for coarse grains/wheat/rice respectively.
The prices of foodgrains specified under NFSA – Rs.3 per kg for rice, Rs.2 per kg for wheat and Re.1 per kg for coarse grains were initially valid for a period of three years from the coming into force of the NFSA.These rates were extended from time to time upto June, 2018. These have been further extended upto June, 2019.
During the Financial Year 2018-19 (upto 05.12.2018), Rs. 2575 crore has been released to State Governments as Central assistance to meet the expenditure incurred on intra-State movement & handling of foodgrains and fair price shop dealers’ margins. Such an arrangement has been made for the first time under NFSA. Under erstwhile TPDS, State Governments were required to either meet this expenditure on their own or pass it on to beneficiaries (other than AAY beneficiaries).
End-to-end Computerization of TPDS Operations As an outcome of digitization of Ration Card/beneficiary records, de-duplication due to Aadhaar seeding, transfer/migration/deaths, change in economic status of beneficiaries, and during the run-up to and implementation of NFSA, a total of 2.75 Crore ration cards have been deleted/cancelled by State/UT Governments during the years 2013 to 2017 (up to November 2017). Based on this the Government has been able to achieve an estimated ‘Rightful Targeting of Food Subsidies’ of about Rs. 17,500 Crore per annum.
To modernize and to bring about transparency in the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the Department is implementing scheme on End-to-end Computerization of TPDS Operations at a total cost of 884 Crore on cost-sharing basis with the States/UTs. The Scheme provides for digitization of ration cards & beneficiary records, computerization of supply chain management, setting up of transparency portals and grievance redressal mechanisms.
To identify and weed-out duplicate/ineligible beneficiaries, and to enable rightful targeting of food subsidies, seeding of Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries with their Ration Cards is being done by States and UTs. Presently, 85.61% of all ration cards have been seeded.
As part of the scheme, electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices are being installed at Fair Price Shops (FPSs) for distribution of foodgrains through authentication and electronic record-keeping of the sale transactions. As on date, 3.61 lakh FPSs out of total 5.34 lakh FPSs have ePoS devices in 29 States/UTs.
Intra state portability of ration cards: Facility enabling PDS beneficiaries to lift their entitled foodgrains from any fair price shop in the State has been started fully in Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Tripura,Kerala and partially in Madhya Pradesh.
‘Integrated Management of PDS’ (IM-PDS): A new Central Sector Scheme has been approved to be implemented during FY 2018-19 and FY 2019-20 for establishing Public Distribution System Network (PDSN) to implement national level portability, central data repository and central monitoring system of PDS operations.
Launch of ePoS transactions portal: Annavitran Portal (www.annavitran.nic.in) has been implemented to display electronic transactions made through ePoS devices for distribution of subsidized foodgrains to beneficiaries. This portal also shows all India picture of Aadhaar authentication of beneficiaries besides allocated and distributed quantity of foodgrains up to district level.
Supporting the Farmer During KMS 2017-18, a record quantity of 381.84 Lakh MT paddy (in terms of rice) was procured. In 2016-17 KMS it was 381.07 LMT. During RMS 2018-19, a quantity of 357.95 lakh MT of wheat was procured which is highest in last five years. In RMS 2017-18 this was 308.24 LMT.
Improving Foodgrain Management About 40 million tonnes of food grains are transported by FCI across the country in a year. Movement of food grain is undertaken by rail, road, sea, coastal and riverine systems. In2017-18, FCI has moved 134 container rakes against the target of 100 leading to approx. freight savings of Rs. 662 lakhs.During 2018-19, 77 rakes have been moved (as on 15.10.2018) which led to approx. freight savings of Rs. 352 lakhs.
Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority (WDRA) The process of registration of warehouses with WDRA has been simplified. The new rules will promote increase in the number of warehouses registered with WDRA. This would enhance facility of pledge finance for the farmers through Negotiable Warehouse Receipts (NWR) system. During the year Rs. 51.45 crore loans have been availed against NWRs upto 31.10.2018.
Electronic Negotiable Warehousing Receipt (eNWR) System and WDRA Portal has been launched to transform the process of registration of warehouses online and to issue e-NWR instead of paper-NWR which will be a more credible financing tool.
Due to surplus sugar production and depressed ex-mill prices of sugar the liquidity position of sugar mills was adversely affected leading to accumulation of cane price dues which reached to an alarming level of about Rs.23,232 crores in the last week of May, 2018. With a view to improve the liquidity position of sugar mills enabling them to clear cane price arrears of farmers, the Government has taken the following measures during last few months:-
In order to prevent cash loss and to facilitate sugar mills to clear cane dues of farmers in time, the Government has fixed a minimum selling price of sugar at Rs.29/kg for sale at factory gate in domestic market, below which no sugar mill can sell sugar.
Extending Assistance to sugar mills @Rs.5.50/quintal of cane crushed for sugar season 2017-18 to offset the cost of cane amounting to about Rs.1540 crore; Created buffer stock of 30 LMT in sugar season 2017-18 for which Government will reimburse carrying cost of Rs.1175 crore towards maintenance of buffer stock;
Extending soft loans of Rs. 6139 crore through banks to the mills for setting up new distilleries and installation of incineration boilers to augment ethanol production capacity for which Government will bear interest subvention of Rs. 1332 crore;
Extending Assistance to sugar mills @Rs.13.88/quintal of cane crushed for sugar season 2018-19 to offset the cost of cane amounting to about Rs.4163 crore; Extending Assistance to sugar mills for defraying expenditure towards internal transport, freight, handling and other charges to facilitate export of sugar from the country in sugar season 2018-19 amounting to about Rs. 1375 crore.
Government has also notified new National Policy on Bio-Fuels, 2018 under which sugarcane juice has been allowed for production of ethanol. Further, the Government has fixed remunerative price of ethanol produced from C-Heavy molasses and B-Heavy molasses/sugarcane juice separately for supply under EBP during ethanol season 2018-19.
As a result of above measures, all India cane price arrears of farmers have also came down to Rs. 5465 crore from the peak arrears of about Rs. 23232 crore on State Advised Price (SAP) basis for sugar season 2017-18. On FRP basis, all India cane price arrears of farmers have come down to Rs. 1924 crore from the peak arrears of about Rs. 14538 crore.
ISRO is working on reusable technology for reducing the cost of access to space including the development of a winged body unmanned reusable launch vehicle for launching payloads into low earth orbits.
ISRO has successfully developed a scaled down (1:5) technology demonstration version of Reusable Launch Vehicle – Technology Demonstrator (RLV-TD) vehicle and successfully carried out the first experimental mission on May 23, 2016 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. In this mission, critical technologies such as autonomous navigation, guidance & control and reusable thermal protection system have been successfully demonstrated.
Development of Reusable Launch Vehicles is a technical challenge and it involves the development of many cutting edge technologies. A series of technology demonstration missions would be required to validate these technologies. In the next phase, an autonomous runway landing experiment is planned releasing the RLV-TD vehicle from a helicopter to demonstrate the runway approach and landing capability. This will be followed by an end-to-end orbital re-entry mission demonstration using a Technology Demonstration Vehicle boosted by propulsion systems.
ISRO has undertaken the development & qualification of Semi-Cryogenic engine. Further development activities are planned to realise a Semi-cryogenic stage and uprated version of the high thrust GSLV Mk III cryogenic stage, in order to increase the payload capacity of GSLV Mk III from 4 tonnes to 6.5 tonnes.
An ‘e-Drishti’ interface has been unveiled for the Union Railway Minister, Minister of State and Board Members. This software includes an interface which provides summary information on punctuality of trains for the previous day. There is also an interface which provides information on current train running on the Indian Railway network. In addition, there are interfaces providing details of freight earning, freight loading and passenger earnings for the previous day & month and cumulative for the year, in comparison to the corresponding period of the previous year.
Punctuality of passenger carrying trains is being also monitored rigorously to improve punctuality performance on a daily basis at Divisional, Zonal and Railway Board levels by Divisional Railway Managers (DRMs), General Managers (GMs) and Railway Board Members and senior officers.
To ensure running of trains right time when pairing trains are running late, scratch rakes are inducted and rakes are standardized to the extent operationally feasible. Also various steps have been initiated to improve punctuality such as prioritization of preventive maintenance of assets to minimize asset failures, capacity enhancement projects by construction of additional loop lines at stations, doubling, construction of third line corridors, automatic signalling, construction of limited height subways to replace level crossings, Road Under Bridges (RUB) and Road Over Bridges (ROB) etc.
Besides, punctuality drives are launched from time to time and staff involved in train operations is sensitized. In addition, Zonal Railways have also been advised to have better coordination with Civil and Police authorities of states to deal with situations arising out of law and order problems.
About Global gender gap report: It is published annually by the world economic forum since 2006. Global gender gap index is a part of this which measures gender equality across four pillars– they are economic opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment and health and survival.
Performance of various countries: Iceland has been ranked as Number 1. It is followed by Norway, Sweden and Finland. Other countries in top 10 include Nicaragua, Rwanda, New Zealand, Philippines, Ireland and Namibia.
As per the report, at the current speed it will take about 108 years to close the overall gender gap in the world. And after 202 years there will be parity in the workplace in the world at the current rate of change. Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and finally Yemen showed the biggest overall gender gaps of the countries surveyed.
Performance of India: India has been ranked at 108. It has recorded improvement in wage equality for similar work and has fully closed its tertiary education gender gap for the first time. It ranks 142nd out of 149 countries in the economic opportunity and participation subindex. India continues to rank third-lowest in the world on health and survival, remaining the world’s least-improved country on this subindex over the past decade.
India has slightly improved in WEF’s wage equality for similar work indicator, where it stood at 72nd place. The country has also closed its tertiary education enrolment gap for the first time in 2018 and has managed to keep its primary and secondary gaps closed for the third year running. Interestingly, India has the second-largest artificial intelligence (AI) workforce but one of the largest AI gender gaps, with only 22% of roles filled by women.
Way ahead for India: India needs to get more women into senior and professional roles to make more improvement in the rankings.
Background: The Bill had gone to the standing committee, and as many as 27 amendments have been accepted by the government.
New definition: The amendments passed include a change in the previous definition of transgender persons as “neither wholly female or wholly male”, which was criticised as being insensitive.
According to the new definition, a transgender person is somebody “whose gender does not match the gender assigned to that person at birth and includes trans-men or trans-women, persons with intersex variations, gender-queers, and persons having socio-cultural identities such as kinnar, hijras, aravani, and jogta”.
Highlights of the Bill: The Bill aims to stop discrimination against a transgender person in various sectors such as education, employment, and healthcare. It also directs the central and state governments to provide welfare schemes for them. The Bill states that a person will be recognised as transgender on the basis of a certificate of identity issued through the district screening committee. This certificate will be a proof of identity as transgender and confer rights under this Bill.
Criticisms: Several civil society groups have been vocal about their opposition to the Bill The Bill disregards many of their suggestions as also some of the crucial points raised by the standing committee report of July 2017.
This includes the right of transgender persons to self-identification, instead of being certified by a district screening committee. The panel had also pointed out that the Bill is silent on granting reservations to transgender persons. The bill has prescribed punishments for organised begging. However, the Bill doesn’t provide anything to better to condition in those areas, it doesn’t provide for reservation. The Transgender Bill does not mention any punishments for rape or sexual assault of transgender persons as according to Sections 375 and 376 of the Indian Penal Code, rape is only when a man forcefully enters a woman.
Need of the hour: The Bill must recognise that gender identity must go beyond biological; gender identity is an individual’s deep and personal experience. It need not correspond to the sex assigned at birth. It includes the personal sense of the body and other expressions such as one’s own personal inducing proceeds.
Background: The Supreme Court had asked the centre to consider framing the national policy on protection of children.
Key provisions and highlights of the draft policy: Application of the policy: The policy will apply to all Institutions and organisations including corporate and media houses government or private sector. As per the policy all organisations must have a code of conduct based on zero tolerance of child abuse and exploitation.
The policy requires organisations to lay down that employees don’t use language or behaviour that is inappropriate, harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, demeaning or culturally inappropriate. Institutions should also designate a staff member to ensure that procedures are in place to ensure the protection of children as well as to report any abuse.
Any individual who suspects physical, sexual or emotional abuse must report it to the helpline number 1098 or police or a child welfare committee.
What is missing? Unlike the national child policy 2013, the latest draft doesn’t talk about children who may need additional Special Protection measures. Left out: It also doesn’t include provisions for protecting those affected by migration, communal or sectarian violence or children forced into begging or who are in conflict with the law and those infected with HIV/AIDS. The draft talks about organisations laying a code of conduct, but it doesn’t explain what is acceptable behavior such as conduct of teachers in schools.
What else is needed? The Policy should address four aspects- creating awareness, prevention, reporting and responding. The draft needs to go into all these aspects, especially reporting structure involving various nodal bodies and monitoring mechanism for implementation of the guidelines.
The policy makers should take the opportunity to go beyond the role of Institutions and look at the role of individuals. The norms should be designed in such a way that organisations can customise the policies according to the nature of their work.
As of now, researchers have achieved 88% yield of graphene from a single graphite rod. It can be scaled up to the industrial level.
Significance: Since graphene is made out of graphite, its production is both expensive and has significant environmental impact. The new technique helps both reduce the cost and preserve environment.
About Graphene: Graphene has been touted in the global electronics industry as a “miracle material” given its strength, electrical conductivity and elasticity, and has been seen as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries since its discovery in 2004. It is a form of carbon that can be used to develop smaller, slimmer batteries but with higher capacity.
Graphene is a carbon material that is one atom thick. Its thin composition and high conductivity means it is used in applications ranging from miniaturised electronics to biomedical devices. These properties also enable thinner wire connections; providing extensive benefits for computers, solar panels, batteries, sensors and other devices.
Applications: Graphene is widely used in making solar cells, light-emitting diodes, touch panels and smart windows. Graphene supercapacitors serve as energy storage devices with a capacity for faster charging and longer life span than traditional electrolytic batteries.
Other potential applications of graphene include water filtration and purification, renewable energy, sensors, personalised healthcare and medicine, to name a few.
Expected outcomes: The process would involve the examination of all the sections of the Act. The obsolete provisions will be weeded out and provisions fit for the present will be introduced.
Currently there is no definition of forest in any Indian law pertaining to forest or its governance. Therefore, the amendments will also include definitions of terms like forests, pollution, ecological services etc.
The legal definition of forests will have huge ramifications on the conservation of forests as well as the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. The amendments will include changes to punishments and fines prescribed in the IFA, incorporate provisions related to carbon sequestering, ecological services etc.
The current practice: According to the 1996 Supreme Court order, the dictionary definition of the word forest is taken to be the legal definition too. It covers all statutorily recognised forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise for the purpose of Section 2(i) of the Forest Conservation Act (1980). As per the Court order, the term forest land, occurring in Section 2, will not only include forest as understood in the dictionary sense, but also any area recorded as forest in the government record irrespective of the ownership.
Indian Forest Act, 1927: The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British. The most famous one was the Indian Forest Act of 1878.
Both the 1878 act and the 1927 one sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.
It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest. It defines what a forest offence is, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.
The need for review: Many reports like the MB Shah report of 2010 and the TSR Subramanian report of 2015, have talked about amending the IFA.
Significance: These gadgets will help the Tamilnadu fishermen know about cyclones and provide weather updates on a real- time basis. These gadgets are basically receivers which will produce a beep when alerts are received by the device. They are Bluetooth enabled and the alerts received can be read on the Navic app.
What is NAVIC? NAVIC is an independent regional navigation satellite system designed to provide position information in the Indian region and 1500 km around the Indian mainland.
Services provided: IRNSS would provide two types of services, namely Standard Positioning Services available to all users and Restricted Services provided to authorised users.
Its applications include: Terrestrial, Aerial and Marine Navigation. Disaster Management. Vehicle tracking and fleet management. Integration with mobile phones. Precise Timing. Mapping and Geodetic data capture. Terrestrial navigation aid for hikers and travelers. Visual and voice navigation for drivers.
How many satellites does NAVIC consist of? It is a regional system and so its constellation will consist of seven satellites. Three of these will be geostationary over the Indian Ocean, i.e., they will appear to be stationary in the sky over the region, and four will be geosynchronous – appearing at the same point in the sky at the same time every day. This configuration ensures each satellite is being tracked by at least one of fourteen ground stations at any given point of time, with a high chance of most of them being visible from any point in India.
Why it is necessary to have indigenous global navigation system? Having a global navigation system bolsters the ability of a nation to serve as a net security provider, especially through the guarantee of such assurance policies. It can also play a significant role in relief efforts post disasters such as the tsunami in the Indian Ocean region in 2004 and the Pakistan-India earthquake in 2005.
The 7th round of India – South Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) negotiations were held in South Korea from 11th to 13th December, 2018.
Highlights of the Meeting: The discussions were positive, and subject to Indian sugar industry meeting the quality standards and specifications prescribed by the South Korean Government.
Background: South Korea imports around 15 lac tones of raw sugar annually and the Indian sugar industry is making efforts to export raw sugar from India during 2018-19 sugar seasons. India and South Korea will reduce duties on 11 tariff lines in a bid to expand bilateral trade by updating their existing free-trade agreement, called the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
In 2017-18, India exported goods worth $4.4 billion to South Korea while imports from the latter were worth $16.3 billion.
Difference between CECA and CEPA – CECA – Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement CEPA – Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement The major “technical” difference between a CECA and CEPA is that CECA involve only “tariff reduction/elimination in a phased manner on listed/all items except the negative list and tariff rate quota (TRQ) items. CEPA also covers the trade in services and investment and other areas of economic partnership”.
So CEPA is a wider term that CECA and has the widest coverage. Usually CECA is signed first with a country and after that negotiations may start for a CEPA.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, gave details on the status of implementation of National e-Vidhan Application (NeVA) Project.
e-Vidhan: It is a Mission Mode Project (MMP) comes under the Digital India Programme. Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MoPA) is the ‘Nodal Ministry’ for its implementation in all the 31 States/UTs with Legislatures. The funding for e-Vidhan is provided by the MoPA and technical support by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MietY). The funding of NeVA is through Central Sponsored Scheme i.e. 60:40; and 90:10 for North East & hilly States and 100% for UTs.
Aim of NeVA: It aims to bring all the legislatures of the country together, in one platform thereby creating a massive data depository without having the complexity of multiple applications.
Highlights of NeVA: Paperless Assembly or e-Assembly is a concept involving of electronic means to facilitate the work of Assembly. It enables automation of entire law making process, tracking of decisions and documents, sharing of information. Through the cloud technology (Meghraj), data deployed can be accessed anywhere at any time.
The live webcasting of Lok Sabha TV and Rajya Sabha TV is also available on this application. Doordarshan has already been enabled with provision to incorporate similar facility in respect of State Legislatures. Himachal Pradesh is already the first Digital Legislature of the country.
Central Project Monitoring Unit (CPMU) and Detailed Project Report (DPR): The CPMU under MoPA, is responsible for reviewing the financial and technical progress of the project. The State will prepare detailed project report (DPR) and gap analysis report.
State level project monitoring committee will carry out the technical scrutiny and financial scrutiny of the DPR and after final approval of the same will be send to the MoPA for approval. After the technical and financial scrutiny, funds will be released for project implementation.
State Government’s Role in the implementation of e-Vidhan: The State Government will appoint a Secretary level officer to be designated as the nodal officer/representative for e-Vidhan implementation in the State Legislature(s).
State Government will bear the funds required for running of e-Vidhan MMP after 3 years. The State Government will ensure capacity building for the effective implementation of e-Vidhan MMP module. State Government/Legislature will undertake maintenance and replacement of ICT equipment after 3 years.
Release of next instalment would not be made in case the utilization certificate and confirmation of release of funds by the state government of their share is not received by the CPMU.
What is it? It is the most-distant body ever observed in our solar system discovered recently. It is located over 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.
It has been given the provisional designation 2018 VG18. It is at about 120 astronomical units (AU), where 1 AU is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun.
The discovery images of 2018 VG18 were taken at the Japanese Subaru 8-metre telescope located atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii on November 10, 2018. 2018 VG18 was seen for the second time in early December at the Magellan telescope at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.
The second-most-distant observed solar system object is Eris, at about 96 AU. Pluto is currently at about 34 AU, making 2018 VG18 more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the solar system’s most-famous dwarf planet.
What is it? Shiksha Setu is a mobile application launched by Haryana Government. Aim: To bring in Transparency in the education department and in the administration of colleges and to increase the connectivity between students, parents, teachers and administration.
Key features of the app: The app contains all the information related to attendance, fee online admission and scholarships in all the Haryana Government colleges. The details of lecturers of Government colleges and offices of the directorate can be accessed through the mobile app.
App will provide the students with instant information about assignments and updates of important notices circulars and other programs. The app also provides facility of online fee payment.
Context: National Cancer institute has been opened at Jhajjar in Haryana. The institute has been established under a project of Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).