Daily Current Affairs : 25th and 26th February 2024

Topics Covered

  1. Household consumption expenditure Survey
  2. Forest Conservation Act
  3. Facts for Prelims

1 . Household consumption expenditure Survey


Context: After a 11-year gap, Centre discloses key consumption expenditure survey data.  

About the Survey

  • The Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) is conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO) every five years. 
  •  However, findings of the last survey, conducted in 2017-18 soon after the demonetisation of high-value currency notes and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), were never released after the government cited “data quality” issues. 

Findings: 

  • The HCES data for 2022-23 indicates that the income levels of urban and rural households have risen since the last survey, with rural households showing a sharper growth in spending, but also indicates that the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. 
  • According to the data, the average monthly per capita consumption expenditure (MPCE) of both urban and rural households doubled in the 11-year period with both spending lesser on food items. 
  • The MPCE for rural households (without considering imputed values of items received free of cost through various social welfare programmes) rose to Rs 3,773 in HCES 2022-23 from Rs 1,430 in 2011-12. Similarly, the MPCE for urban households increased to Rs 6,459 in 2022-23 from Rs 2,630 in the previous round. 
  • Of this 46% of the expenditure was on food items in rural households and 39% in urban homes in 2022-23. Between 1999-2000 (National Sample Survey 55th round) and 2022-23, the share of expenditure on food has gradually declined for both urban and rural households. However, it is for the first time that expenditure on food has fallen to less than 50 per cent of the total consumption expenditure in rural India, and to less than 40 per cent in urban India.  
  • The share of food in consumption expenditure in rural India was as high as 59.4 per cent in 1999-2000, it hovered around 50 per cent levels through the first decade of the new millennium, and in 2022-23, it stood at 46.38 per cent. 
  • In urban India, the share of food in the average monthly per capita consumption expenditure (MPCE) has fallen to 39.17 per cent in 2022-23 from 48.06 per cent in 1999-2000. 
  • Expenditure on cereals was almost 22 per cent of the total consumption expenditure in rural households in 1999-2000; it is now down to 4.91 per cent. In urban households, it was 12 per cent; it is now down to 3.64 per cent. 
  • The spending on high-value/ nutritional items such as eggs, fish and meat, and fruits and vegetables has gone up more in rural households than in urban households over the last two decades. 
  • 1999-2000, rural households spent 11.21 per cent of the total consumption spending on these items, and urban households spent 10.68 per cent. In 2022-23, this was significantly higher for rural households at 14 per cent, and only marginal higher for urban households at 11.17 per cent. 
  • Widening gap between rich and poor: The bottom 5% of India’s rural population, ranked by MPCE, has an average MPCE of Rs 1,441, while it is Rs 2,087 in urban areas. This translates into a daily average consumption expenditure of Rs 48 in rural areas and Rs 69.5 in urban areas for the bottom 5%. The top 5% of India’s rural and urban population, ranked by MPCE, has an average MPCE of Rs 10,581 and Rs 20,846, respectively. This would mean a daily average spending of Rs 352.7 in rural households and Rs 694.8 in urban households. 
  • CPI revision: The government will also rejig and update the CPI baskets using this data. New CPI series is likely to have lower weight for food and beverage, higher for core goods and services. 
  • New items, methods: The questionnaire of HCES 2022-23 contains 405 items as against 347 items in 2011-12. Further, a single questionnaire was used in all NSS surveys on household consumption expenditure prior to HCES: 2022-23. However, in HCES: 2022-23, three separate questionnaires covering (i) food items, (iii) consumables and services items, and (iii) durable goods have been used. 
  • Further, another questionnaire has been canvassed for collecting information on household characteristics as well as demographic particulars of the members of the households. 
  • The HCES 2022-23 also includes a separate provision for collection of information on the quantity of consumption for a number of items, received and consumed by the households free of cost through various social welfare programmes. However, the value of education as well as health services received free of cost by the households has not been imputed. 

2 . Forest Conservation Act


Context: the Supreme Court ordered the government to continue following the all-encompassing “dictionary meaning” of forest as upheld in a 1996 Supreme Court decision in the T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad case till a final verdict is handed out on a petition challenging the amended Forest Conservation Act of 2023. The court has also asked the government to make public, by April, a consolidated record of land deemed as forest by States and Union Territories. 

What is the Forest Conservation Act? 

  • The Forest Conservation Act, which came into force in 1980, was conceived to stop the razing of forests. An estimated four million hectares of forest land had been diverted from 1951-75 and once the Act came into force, the average annual rate of diversion dropped to about 22,000 hectares — or about a tenth — going by figures cited by the Centre to a parliamentary panel to demonstrate the effectiveness of the legislation. 
  • However, the provisions of this legislation predominantly applied to tracts of forest land recognised as such by the Indian Forest Act, or by States in their records since 1980. Illegal timber-felling at Gudalur in Tamil Nadu led the Supreme Court to deliver the landmark Godavarman Thirumulpad judgment in 1996. 
  • It decreed that forests had to be protected irrespective of how they were classified and who owned them. This brought in the concept of ‘deemed forests,’ or forest-like tracts that weren’t officially classified as such in government or revenue records but looked like them. 
  • In the 28 years that have passed since the judgment, States ,based on surveys and reports by expert committees , have interpreted ‘forests’ differently. This is natural, given the wide variety of forests and constituent plants in India. Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, for instance, define a forest as a tract that spans a minimum of 10 hectares, is covered with naturally growing timber, fuel wood and yielding trees and, has a density of 200 trees or more per hectare. Goa defines a forest as a patch of land having at least 75% covered with forest species. Some States have no parameters at all. Because of varying definitions of deemed forest, estimates of their territorial spread in India range from 1% – 28% of India’s official forest area of 80 million ha. 
  • The Centre’s recent attempt to amend the Forest Conservation Act was ostensibly to bring “clarity” as there were large tracts of recorded-forest land that had already been legally put to non-forestry uses, but conformed to a State’s criteria of a ‘deemed forest.’ This posed challenges to the use and ownership of such land. 
  • Such ambiguity also bred a reluctance among private citizens to cultivate private plantations and orchards, despite their significant ecological benefits, for fear that they would be classified as ‘forest’ (and thus render their ownership void). 
  • India’s ambitions to create a carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes, to meet its net-zero goals required forest laws to be “dynamic”, and the rules sought to remove ‘deemed forest,’ not already recorded as such, from the ambit of protection. 

What did the amendments deal with? 

  • The amendments also put beyond the pale of protection forest land situated alongside a rail line or a road, necessary to provide access to a habitation, up to a maximum size of 0.10 hectare. 
  • Forest land situated within a distance of 100 kilometres along international borders or the Line of Control or Line of Actual Control, and which needed to be cleared to construct strategic linear projects of national importance would also be exempt from the Act. 
  • Any ten hectares in a forest, regarded necessary for use in constructing security related infrastructure or five hectares in forest land affected by ‘left wing extremism’ too would be bereft of protection. 
  • The government rationale is that these exemptions are necessary to facilitate basic infrastructure in tribal areas. Moreover, the proper protection and conservation of forests by local communities, the Centre argued, requires creating livelihood opportunities through the promotion of ecotourism, zoos and safaris. But critics have pointed out that such enabling provisions already exist in another Act, the Forest Rights Act, 2006. 

What is the importance of the SC order? 

  • The Supreme Court’s interim order implies that forests will continue to be governed as if the recent amendments of the Centre didn’t exist. 
  • it said that States should provide and the Centre publish, reports by State-constituted expert committees on the extent of deemed forests within their territories. 
  • It also struck down schemes to constitute zoos and safari parks on forest land. 

3 . Facts for Prelims  


Tulips

  • tulip, genus of about 100 species of bulbous herbs in the lily family native to Central Asia and Turkey. 
  • Tulips are among the most popular of all garden flowers, and numerous cultivars and varieties have been developed. 
  • Tulip cultivation likely began in Persia (Iran) in the 10th century, and it eventually became a symbol of the Ottoman Empire. 
  • Tulips flourish in any good soil but do best in well-drained loam. 
  •  The bulbs are usually planted in autumn at a depth of 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 inches) below the surface in a soil enriched with compost. 

Edwards Syndrome

  • Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18) is a genetic condition that causes physical growth delays during fetal development. 
  • Life expectancy for children diagnosed with Edwards syndrome is short due to several life-threatening complications of the condition. 
  • Children who survive past their first year may face severe intellectual challenges. 
  • It can affect anyone. 
  • The condition occurs when a person has an extra copy of chromosome 18, which is random and unpredictable. 

CE 20  

  • the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) reported it had successfully completed human-rating the CE-20 rocket engine ahead of its use in an important test flight later this year of the country’s mission to launch an Indian astronaut to space onboard an Indian rocket. 
  • The CE-20 is an indigenous cryogenic engine ISRO developed to use with the GSLV Mk III, now called the LVM-3, launch vehicle. 
  • It represents an improvement on the CE-7.5 cryogenic engine and is instrumental to ISRO successfully realising its human spaceflight, the Gaganyaan, mission. 
  • It uses the gas-generator cycle, which discards the exhaust from the pre-burner instead of sending it to the combustion chamber. 
  • This reduces fuel efficiency but, importantly for ISRO, makes the CE-20 engine easier to build and test. 
  • It achieves a higher maximum thrust (~200 kilonewton v. 73.5 kilonewton) with a shorter burn duration. 

Blanets

  • blanet is a member of a hypothetical class of exoplanets that directly orbit black holes.  
  • Blanets are fundamentally similar to other planets, they have enough mass to be rounded by their own gravity, but are not massive enough to start thermonuclear fusion and become stars. 
  • In 2019, a team of astronomers and exoplanetologists showed that there is a safe zone around a supermassive black hole that could harbor thousands of blanets in orbit around it. 

IGNCA

  • It was established in 1987 as an autonomous institution under the Ministry of Culture, as a centre for research, academic pursuit and dissemination in the field of the arts. 
  • The IGNCA has a trust (Board of Trustees), which meets regularly to give general direction about the Centre’s work. The Executive Committee, drawn from among the Trustees, functions under a Chairman. 
  • The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts  is visualised as a centre encompassing the study and experience of all the arts – each form with its own integrity, yet within a dimension of mutual interdependence, interrelated with nature, social structure and cosmology. 
  • Aims and objectives: to serve as a major resource centre for the arts, especially written, oral and visual source materials, to undertake research and publication programmes of reference works, glossaries, dictionaries and encyclopaedia concerning the arts and the humanities, to establish a tribal and folk arts division with a core collection for conducting systematic scientific studies and for live presentations. 

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