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- The PM has highlighted the success of one of his pet schemes, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which aims to provide free cooking gas connections to poor families
- The scheme has not only made women self-reliant, but has also triggered their social transformation and upliftment
- He also urged the people to avail the benefits of other flagship schemes such as Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana,
- and went on to explain how these schemes would benefit people from across India, without discriminating on the basis of caste, class, religion or region
High success rate in last four years
- Though LPG gas cylinders came to India soon after Independence (in 1955), only 130 million families had cooking gas connections in 2014
- In the last four years, government has given 100 million LPG connections
Why is this important?
- The dialogue is significant as last year India had refused to participate in the talks following the controversy over the arrest of former Indian Navy officer Kulbhushan Jadhav by Pakistani agencies
- Further, both sides also agreed on the need for expeditious exchange of the information about the apprehension of fishing boats and fishermen
- During the meeting, the Indian side reiterated the need for instituting Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for immediate release and repatriation of fishermen who cross the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) inadvertently
Agreement on working for maritime environment
- The two agencies also agreed to collaborate in preservation and protection ofmarine environment
- The Election Commission said national parties are public authorities under the RTI Act as declared by the Central Information Commission, a day after the poll panel’s appeal order on an RTI application saying political parties are out of the purview of RTI Act was reported.
- The Election Commission of India clarified that it goes by the CIC order of June 3, 2013 that declared national parties as public authorities for the purposes of RTI Act.
- The CIC order had said that all the information about the contributions received by these parties as well as their annual audited accounts, as and when submitted to the Commission, are put in public domain.
- The appeal order had come on an RTI applicant Vihar Dhurve who had sought details of donations, through electoral bonds, collected by the six national parties declared as public authorities under the RTI Act by the CIC — Congress, BJP, NCP, BSP, CPM and CPI.
- In its order deciding his first appeal, the Election Commission had said, “Requisite information is not available in the Commission. This is related to political parties and they are out of purview of the RTI.”
- The political parties were brought within the ambit of the RTI Act by the commission on June 3, 2013.
While there are several creditable achievements, it is the deeper structural reforms where expectations from a strong government have not been met.
Four years of Government: Performance in Agricultural sector
- Out of the government’s four years , FY15 and FY16 were affected by drought and it did well to manage the crisis
- A number of welcome initiatives have been launched in the last four years, including
(1) schemes for crop insurance, irrigation, soil testing, electronic national agricultural market (e-NAM), and (2) use of Aadhaar for the public distribution system (PDS) and purchase of fertilizer
- While there are several creditable achievements, it is the deeper structural reforms where expectations from a “strong” government have not been met
Controlling food inflation
- Helped by a downturn in the global prices of petroleum and commodities, the government took pro-active measures to rein in food inflation
(which was 6.64% during United Progressive Alliance (UPA) I and 12.2% in UPA II)
- These included
(1) release of wheat and rice from government stocks,
(2) restrictions on exports,
(3) small increases in MSP ,
(4) raids on traders under the Essential Commodities Act, and
(5) even income-tax investigations
- The states giving bonus on wheat and paddy were told to discontinue it
- In order to reduce excessive procurement of rice, the 50% levy on rice mills was also abolished
Some issues related to non-implementation of Schemes through the DBT
- There was no effort to deregulate urea prices and transfer subsidy to farmers directly
- Aadhaar-based sale of foodgrains and fertilizer is only a small step towards reform of the subsidy regime
- Similarly, free electricity continues to cause excessive drawal of underground water in several states
- No serious effort was made to persuade states to transfer electricity subsidy through DBT
Price stabilization fund
- To check food inflation, a price stabilization fund was set up with a corpus of Rs500 crore and onion
- And potato were bought by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation and Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium for release in the market when prices rose(which was a crucial issue in past)
Dependence on imported pulses has almost ended
- Another successful policy intervention was to offer a handsome increase in the MSP of pulses and create a buffer stock of two million tonnes
- Our dependence on imported pulses has almost ended and domestic production has increased from 17.20 million tonnes in FY15 to 24.51 million tonnes in FY18
e-NAM has a great potential
- e-NAM is another initiative by government, has the potential of freeing up the agricultural markets. It was expected to bring transparency to auctions in mandis
- However, we did not see the real intent of e-NAM being achieved and some states even showed procurement under MSP as e-NAM turnover
- The European Union proposed a bloc-wide ban on single-use plastics such as straws, cutlery and cotton buds while urging the collection of most plastic drinks bottles by 2025.
- The set of proposals are part of a growing EU drive to rid the environment of plastic waste which has begun showing up in the food chain.
No deadline set
- These proposals will reduce single-use plastics through a range of measures. The proposals call for banning plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks, but it did not set a deadline.
- These items must all be made from sustainable materials instead, according to the plan which must be approved by the 28 EU member countries and the European Parliament.
- Member states must reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups, by promoting alternatives for sale or ensuring they are not offered free.
- Producers must contribute to the costs of waste management and will be offered incentives to develop less polluting alternatives. For example, it calls for producers of plastic fishing gear to cover the cost of waste collection from port reception facilities.
- Member countries must collect 90% of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, through deposit refund schemes, for example. The plan calls for producers to clearly label products and inform consumers how the waste should be disposed of.
- The proposals, plus one in January for all plastic packaging in Europe to be recyclable by 2030, follows China’s decision to ban imports of foreign waste products for recycling.
None of the States, including the 21 ruled by the BJP and its allies, has responded to the Centre’s letter seeking their opinion on playing of the national anthem in cinema halls and public places.
- The Union Home Ministry had written to the States seeking their opinion on the issue. It sent a reminder to all the States again this month.
- On December 5 last year, the Home Ministry notified the appointment of a 12-member inter-ministerial committee which would take a final call on the playing of the national anthem in cinemas and public places.
- The panel, led by Special Secretary B.R. Sharma, is expected to give its report on the existing laws.
B.R. Sharma Committee
- The committee would make recommendations on the regulations for playing/singing of the national anthem and suggest changes in the Acts and orders relating to the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971
- The committee will have representations from the Ministries of Home Affairs, Defence, External Affairs, Women and Child Development, Human Resource Development, Culture, Parliamentary Affairs, Law, Minority Affairs and Information and Broadcasting, and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.
- The Central government’s decision to set up the expert committee came after the Supreme Court in October last year observed that people “cannot be forced to carry patriotism on their sleeves” and it cannot be assumed that if a person does not stand up for the national anthem, he or she was “less patriotic.”
- The committee is expected to give recommendations regarding regulations on playing/singing of the national anthem and suggest changes in the acts and orders relating to the Insult of National Honour Act, 1971.
- An earlier advisory of the Home Ministry said that audiences were not expected to stand if the national anthem was played as part of the film.
Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971
- As provided in Section 3 of the Act, whoever intentionally prevents the singing of the Jana Gana Mana or causes disturbances to any assembly engaged in such singing shall be punished with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
- This act is applicable in whole of India (including Jammu & Kashmir) and it prohibits the desecration of or insult to the National Flag, Constitution, National Anthem, India’s Map etc.
- Article 51A of the Indian Constitution states that it is the duty of every Citizen of India to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flags and the National Anthem
- The law is silent on ‘sitting’ or ‘standing’ while the Anthem is playing.
- Kerala slapped IPC Section 124A (sedition) on seven people, including two women, after they failed to stand when the National Anthem was being played in a Thiruvananthapuram theatre.
Bijoe Emmanuel vs. State of Kerala
- The 1986 Supreme Court judgment in Bijoe Emmanuel vs. State of Kerala dealing with the expulsion of three children who belonged to the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect, for refusing to sing the national anthem in school, said this was contrary to fundamental rights of free speech and freedom to practise their religion.
- Proper respect is shown to the National Anthem by standing up when the National Anthem is sung. It will not be right to say that disrespect is shown by not joining in the singing.
Shyam Narayan Chouksey case (National Anthem Order)
- In Shyam Narayan Chouksey case (National Anthem Order), the Supreme Court directed all cinema halls to play national anthem at the start of movies.
Why such move?
- According to the court, the practice would “instill a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.” Also, the protocol of showing respect and honour to the anthem and flag is rooted in “our national identity, integrity and constitutional patriotism.”
- The court observed that it is the duty of every person to show respect when the national anthem is played or recited or sung under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act of 1951.
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