Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution 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.
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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
Key facts: The prestigious ‘National Tansen Samman’ is a musical award conferred to the exponents of Hindustani music. This award carries a cash prize of Rs. 2 Lakh along with a memento.
The Tansen Music Festival is organised every year by Madhya Pradesh culture department in the memory of Tansen, one of the greatest artists in Indian history. It is held annually in Gwalior.
About Tansen: He was a prominent figure of Hindustani classical music. He began his career and spent most of his adult life in the court and patronage of the Hindu king of Rewa, Raja Ramchandra Singh (1555–1592), where Tansen’s musical abilities and studies gained widespread fame. This reputation brought him to the attention of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, who sent messengers to Raja Ramchandra Singh, requesting Tansen to join the musicians at the Mughal court.
Akbar considered him as a Navaratnas (nine jewels), and gave him the title Mian, an honorific, meaning learned man. Tansen is remembered for his epic Dhrupad compositions, creating several new ragas, as well as for writing two classic books on music Sri Ganesh Stotra and Sangita Sara.
The expert panel on RBI’s economic capital framework has been formed to address the issue of RBI reserves—one of the sticking points between the central bank and the government.
What’s the isssue? The government has been insisting that the central bank hand over its surplus reserves amid a shortfall in revenue collections. Access to the funds will allow the government to meet deficit targets, infuse capital into weak banks to boost lending and fund welfare programmes.
Terms of reference: The panel will decide whether RBI is holding provisions, reserves and buffers in surplus of the required levels. It would propose a suitable profits distribution policy taking into account all the likely situations of the RBI, including the situations of holding more provisions than required and the RBI holding less provisions than required. The ECF committee will also suggest an adequate level of risk provisioning that the RBI needs to maintain. That apart, any other related matter, including treatment of surplus reserves created out of realized gains, will also come within the ambit of this committee.
What is economic capital framework? Economic capital framework refers to the risk capital required by the central bank while taking into account different risks. The economic capital framework reflects the capital that an institution requires or needs to hold as a counter against unforeseen risks or events or losses in the future.
Why it needs a fix? Existing economic capital framework which governs the RBI’s capital requirements and terms for the transfer of its surplus to the government is based on a conservative assessment of risk by the central bank and that a review of the framework would result in excess capital being freed, which the RBI can then share with the government.
The government believes that RBI is sitting on much higher reserves than it actually needs to tide over financial emergencies that India may face. Some central banks around the world (like US and UK) keep 13% to 14% of their assets as a reserve compared to RBI’s 27% and some (like Russia) more than that. Economists in the past have argued for RBI releasing ‘extra’ capital that can be put to productive use by the government. The Malegam Committee estimated the excess (in 2013) at Rs 1.49 lakh crore.
What is the nature of the arrangement between the government and RBI on the transfer of surplus or profits? Although RBI was promoted as a private shareholders’ bank in 1935 with a paid up capital of Rs 5 crore, the government nationalised it in January 1949, making the sovereign its “owner”. What the central bank does, therefore, is transfer the “surplus” — that is, the excess of income over expenditure — to the government, in accordance with Section 47 (Allocation of Surplus Profits) of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. Does the RBI pay tax on these earnings or profits? No. Its statute provides exemption from paying income-tax or any other tax, including wealth tax.
The new High Court for Andhra Pradesh will be the 25th High Court in the country. The new Andhra HC is expected to function from a temporary structure in Amaravati till a permanent building is set up at the ‘Justice City’ being planned in Amaravati.
Constitutional provisions related to High Court in India: Article 214 provides that every State shall have a High Court, however, Article 231 states that Article 214 shall not be a bar for constituting a common high court for two or more States.
Only Parliament may by law establish a Common High Court for two or more States. This means that, unless Parliament by law establishes a Common High Court for two or more States, every State has to have a High Court, i.e., upon formation of a new State a new High Court is also formed. Article 216 provides that every High Court shall consist of a Chief Justice and such other number of judges as the President may from time to time deem necessary to appoint. Article 217 relates to appointment of HC judges.
How are districts ranked? The districts have been ranked in a transparent basis on parameters across various performance indicators like Health and Nutrition, Education, Skill Development and Basic Infrastructure among others.
The rankings are based on the data that is publicly available through the Champions of Change Dashboard, which includes data entered on a real-time basis at the district level.
Performances of various districts: Top performers: Virudhunagar district in Tamil Nadu has shown the most improvement overall, followed by Nuapada district in Odisha, Siddarthnagar in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar’s Aurangabad and Koraput in Odisha. These districts have championed the development narrative in fundamental parameters of social progress. Least performers: Meanwhile, Nagaland’s Kiphire district, Jharkhand’s Giridih, Chatra in Jharkhand, Hailakandi in Assam, and Pakur in Jharkhand have shown least improvement.
About Aspirational Districts Programme: Launched in January this year, the ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ programme aims to quickly and effectively transform some of the most underdeveloped districts of the country. The broad contours of the programme are Convergence (of Central & State Schemes), Collaboration (of Central, State level ‘Prabhari’ Officers & District Collectors), and Competition among districts driven by a Mass Movement or a Jan Andolan. With States as the main drivers, this program will focus on the strength of each district, identify low-hanging fruits for immediate improvement, measure progress, and rank districts.
Focus of the programme: To enable optimum utilization of their potential, this program focuses closely on improving people’s ability to participate fully in the burgeoning economy. Health & Nutrition, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion & Skill Development, and Basic Infrastructure are this programme’s core areas of focus.
Significance of the scheme: If these districts are transformed, there would be tremendous improvement in the internal security environment of the country. If Prabhari officers can bring convergence in the development efforts of different Ministries and state Governments and the schemes specially launched by Home Ministry in these districts, it would serve as a great opportunity to ensure rapid development in the country.
DIPP Swachch Bharat Grand Challenge Awards Presented As part of the Swachhta Pakhwada held from 1st to 15th November, 2018, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) organized a Swachch Bharat Grand Challenge.
Four Areas selected for the grand challenge: Sanitation Waste Management Water and Wastewater management Air Management Objective of the award: This was organized to reward innovative solutions by DIPP recognized Start-ups in the country. Unique solutions were received from start-ups who had also filed for intellectual property rights.
Background: About Swachhata Pakhwada – It was started in April 2016 with the objective of bringing a fortnight of intense focus on the issues and practices of Swachhata by engaging GOI Ministries/Departments in their jurisdictions.
An annual calendar is pre-circulated among the Ministries to help them plan for the Pakhwada activities. They are monitored closely using online monitoring system of Swachhata Samiksha where action plans, images, videos related to Swachhata activities are uploaded and shared.
After the observation, Ministries/Departments announce their achievements through a press conference and other communication tools. For the Pakhwada fortnight, observing ministries are considered as Swachhata Ministries and are expected to bring qualitative Swachhata improvements in their jurisdictions.
Tourism Statistics: Foreign Tourist Arrivals (FTAs) during January – November 2018 were 93,67,424 as compared to 88,67,963 in January – November 2017 (5.6% growth). During January – November 2018, 20,61,511 tourists arrived on e-Tourist Visa as compared to 14,56,615 during January – November 2017 (41.5% growth).
Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEEs) during January – October 2018 were Rs. 1,58,846 Crore as compared to Rs. 1,41,965 Crore in January – October 2017 (11.9% growth). During 2017, the number of Domestic Tourist Visits to the States/UTs was 1652.5 million as compared as 1615.4 million in 2016, showing growth of 2.3% in 2017 over 2016.
Development of Tourism Infrastructure: Under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme, seven projects have been sanctioned during 2018-19. Integrated development of identified pilgrimage destinations is being undertaken under the ‘National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual, Heritage Augmentation Drive’ (PRASHAD) Scheme. Ministry of Tourism provided Central Financial Assistance for infrastructure development during 2018-19 to Cochin Port Trust and Mormugaon Port Trust.
‘ADOPT A HERITAGE’ Project: Ministry of Tourism in close collaboration with Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) launched a “Adopt a Heritage Project”. Objective – To provide world class facilities at the various natural/cultural heritage sites, monuments and other tourist sites. The project plans to entrust to private sector companies, public sector companies and individuals for the development of various tourist amenities.
MoUs have been signed at the following sites: Area surrounding Gangotri Temple & Trail to Gaumukh, Uttarakhand Stok Kangri Trek, Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir Red Fort, New Delhi Gandikota Fort, Andhra Pradesh Surajkund, Haryana Jantar Mantar, Delhi Qutub Minar, Delhi Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra Let Palace, Jammu & Kashmir Hampi (Hazara Rama Temple), Karnataka
Online Learning Management System: Ministry of Tourism launched an Online Learning Management System for creating skilled manpower to work as tourist facilitators. Objective – to enable the youth living in remotest part to skill themselves and facilitate tourists on Pan India basis.
Incredible India Mobile App: Ministry of Tourism launched Incredible India Mobile App on 27th September, 2018 to showcase India as a holistic destination, revolving around major experiences, like spirituality, heritage, adventure, culture, yoga, wellness and more. The app has been equipped with features to assist the traveler in each phase of their journey to India.
Legacy Vintage Hotel: Ministry of Tourism has introduced the concept of Legacy Vintage Hotels to cover hotels constructed/built with materials from heritage properties/buildings (i.e. properties or buildings which were built/constructed/erected prior to the year 1950). Such hotels will help recreate the ambience and atmosphere of the bygone era.
Indian Culinary Institute (ICI), Noida Campus: The Indian Culinary Institute (ICI), Noida campus was inaugurated on 27th April, 2018 for starting culinary courses. The campus also has an “Indian Culinary Museum” where the rich historical and diversified culinary objects and other literature will be displayed.
Objective – The main objective of ICI is to institutionalize a mechanism to support efforts intended to preserve, document, promote and disseminate information about Indian Cuisine, meet the sectoral requirement of specialists specific to Indian Cuisine, as also to promote ‘Cuisine’ as a Niche Tourism product.
Avangard system: Context: Starting from next year, in 2019, a new intercontinental strategic system Avangard will enter service in the Russian army and the first regiment in the Strategic Missile Troops will be deployed.
About Avangard system: Avangard, also known as “Objekt 4202,” is a hypersonic boost-glide missile system that is supposed to combine a high-performance ballistic missile with an unmanned glider vehicle for significant improvements in maneuverability and sustained top speed.
Bahuda rookery: Context: The Odisha forest department is all set to add another olive ridley mass nesting site to its wildlife map- at Bahuda rookery. Around 3-km stretch of the beach from Sunapur to Anantpur at Bahuda rookery is being developed as a possible olive ridley mass nesting site. Location: The Bahuda rookery is located around 20 km to the south of Rushikulya rookery coast, a major mass nesting site of olive ridleys on the Indian coastline.
Key facts: Also known as the Pacific ridley sea turtle, Olive turtles are a medium-sized species of sea turtle found in warm and tropical waters, primarily in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are best known for their behavior of synchronized nesting in mass numbers. The Convention on Migratory Species and the Inter-American Convention for the Protection and Conservation of Sea Turtles have also provided olive ridleys with protection, leading to increased conservation and management for this marine turtle. It is included in Vulnerable category by the IUCN Red list.
Mount Etna: Context: Italy’s Mount Etna volcano has erupted again resulting in more than 130 earthquakes of up to 4.3 in magnitude.
About Mt. Etna: Mount Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe and one of the world’s most frequently erupting volcanoes. It is also the volcano with the longest record of continuous eruption. Located near the east coast of the island of Sicily in Italy, Mount Etna is 10,900 feet tall.
The mountain’s largest feature is the Valle del Bove (Valley of the Ox), a large horseshoe-shaped caldera on the eastern slope. Etna sits on the active fault between the African plate and the Ionian microplate, which are both being subducted together beneath the Eurasian plate.
In June 2013, it was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Due to its history of recent activity and nearby population, Mount Etna has been designated a Decade Volcano by the United Nations.