Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE
- Committee to Review the implementation of MGNREGA
- Special Marriages Act
- Lachit Borphukan
- Draft Aircraft Security Rules
- Periodic Labour Force Survey
- Facts for Prelims
1 . Committee to Review the Implementation of MGNREGA
Context: The Central government has constituted a committee to review the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme, especially to assess the programme’s efficacy as a poverty alleviation tool.
About the Committee
- The committee, headed by former Rural Development secretary Amarjeet Sinha, had its first meeting on November 21, 2022, and has been given three months to submit its suggestions.
- The Sinha committee has been tasked to study the various factors behind demand for MGNREGA work, expenditure trends and inter-State variations, and the composition of work.
- It will suggest what changes in focus and governance structures are required to make MGNREGA more effective.
- The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), also known as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) is Indian legislation enacted on August 25, 2005.
- The MGNREGA provides a legal guarantee for 100 days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage.
- The Ministry of Rural Development (MRD) monitors the implementation of this scheme in association with state governments.
- It is the largest social security scheme in the world.
- The MGNREG Act actually gives rural households the right to work — making it obligatory for the State to give them work on demand.
- The work is usually on projects to build durable assets like roads, canals, ponds and wells.
- The Act stipulates a minimum wage-material ratio of 60:40.
- There are currently 15.51 crore active workers enrolled under the scheme.
Need for the review of MGNREGA
- MGNREGA was launched as a poverty alleviation instrument for the rural region, providing them with a safety net in the form of guaranteed work and wages.
- It was felt that states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar where there is higher level of poverty, they haven’t been able to utilise the scheme optimally.
- The scheme has also been criticised by economists like Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya as an “inefficient instrument of shifting income to the poor”.
- The present committee will also look at the argument that the cost of providing work has also shot up since the scheme first started.
- The committee has to review the reasons and recommend ways to bring in a greater focus on poorer areas.
- Bihar, for example, despite its levels of poverty, does not generate enough work to make a concrete difference, and on the other end, Kerala which is economically better but has been utilising it for asset creation. While Bihar needs MGNREGA more, Kerala cannot be denied the money because of the current structure of the programme.
- The committee will also study if the composition of work taken up presently under the scheme should be changed. It will review whether it should focus more on community-based assets or individual works.
Significance of MGNREGA despite criticism
- One in four persons lives below the poverty line in rural India. Ever since the launch of this scheme in 2006, it has changed the nature of the rural labour market.
- It gave an opportunity to rural households to earn minimum income by getting job cards under this scheme.
- While the poor have used it to climb out of poverty, the not-so-poor used it as a measure to supplement their income by working during lean agriculture periods.
- Moreover, the scheme is inclusive — with higher participation of women and SC and ST individuals.
- Today, about one in two jobs created under the scheme is for women and about 40 per cent for SC/ST.
- For many women, it is a first-time earning opportunity as well as a chance at empowerment.
- The scheme has also indirectly enabled households to get freed from the clutches of local money lenders too.
- Payments under the scheme today are mostly by way of direct transfer into beneficiary accounts — which in turn forced people to open 10 crore new bank or post office accounts.
- The newly opened accounts have aided access to bank credit.
- Some studies even point to improved education for children in MGNREGA households.
- MGNREGA also acted as a crucial safety net during the COVID pandemic.
- In the financial year 2020-21, the number of person days of work provided under the scheme rose drastically to 389 crores, in comparison to the previous year’s figure of just 265 crore.
- In 2021-22 too, the demand for MGNREGA work remained high, and 363 crore person days of work were generated.
2 . Special Marriage Act
Context: The Supreme Court recently sought the government’s response to pleas to allow solemnisation of same-sex marriage under the Special Marriage Act.
About Special Marriage Act (SMA)
- The Special Marriage Act of 1954 provides a civil form of marriage for couples who cannot marry under their personal law.
- It is for people of India and all Indian nationals in foreign countries, irrelevant of the religion or faith followed by either party
- It allows people from two different religious backgrounds to come together in the bond of marriage.
- It lays down the procedure for both solemnization and registration of marriage, where either of the husband or wife or both are not Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, or Sikhs.
- Being a secular Act, it plays a key role in liberating individuals from traditional requirements of marriage.
Why the demand of same-sex marriage under SMA?
- The non-recognition of same sex marriage amounted to discrimination that struck at the root of dignity and self-fulfilment of LGBTQ+ couples.
- It is a natural sequel to the 2018 Constitution Bench judgment in the Navtej Johar case in which homosexuality was de-criminalised.
- One argument is that The Special Marriage Act of 1954 ought to apply to a marriage between any two persons, regardless of their gender identity and sexual orientation.
- If not, the Act, in its present form, it said, should be declared violative of the fundamental rights to a dignified life and equality as “it does not provide for solemnisation of marriage between same sex couple”.
- Enough has not been done by just decriminalising homosexuality, equality must extend to all spheres of life, including the home, the workplace and public places, for LGBTQ+ citizens who form 7% to 8% of the population of the country.
- Marriage brings with it a host of rights, privileges and obligations bestowed and protected by the law.
- They can adopt children or have children by surrogacy or ART.
- They have automatic rights to consortium, inheritance, maintenance and tax benefits.
- They are beneficiaries under a host of employment statutes.
- The state’s protection to a spouse continues even after death in the form of pension or compassionate appointments
- Marriage was key to social acceptance and respect.
3 . Lachit Borphukan
Context: Prime Minister Modi released a book titled Lachit Borphukan – Assam’s Hero who Halted the Mughals on the occasion of closing ceremony of the year-long celebrations commemorating the 400th birth anniversary of Lachit Borphukan.
Who was Lachit Borphukon?
- Lachit was a commander in the Ahom kingdom.
- The Ahoms engaged in a series of conflicts with the Mughals from 1615-1682, starting from the reign of Jahangir till the reign of Aurangzeb.
- One of the major early military conflicts was in January 1662, where the Mughals won a partial victory, conquering parts of Assam and briefly occupying Garhgaon, the Ahom capital.
- The counter-offensive to reclaim lost Ahom territories started under Ahom King Swargadeo Chakradhwaja Singha.
- After the Ahoms enjoyed some initial victories, Aurangzeb dispatched Raja Ram Singh I of Jaipur in 1669 to recapture the lost territory — eventually resulting in the Battle of Saraighat in 1671.
- Lachit was chosen as one of the five Borphukans of the Ahom kingdom by king Charadhwaj Singha, and given administrative, judicial, and military responsibilities.
- Unlike the Mughals who preferred battles in the open with their massive armies, Borphukan preferred guerrilla tactics.
- Much like Shivaji’s encounters with the Mughals in Marathwada, Lachit inflicted damage on the large Mughal camps and static positions.
- His leadership in the 1671 Battle of Saraighat thwarted a drawn-out attempt by Mughal forces under the command of Ramsingh I to take over Ahom kingdom.
- The battle of Saraighat was fought on the banks of the Brahmaputra in Guwahati.
- Lachit was a great naval warrior.
- He was the inspiration behind strengthening India’s naval force and revitalising inland water transport and creating infrastructure associated with it due to his great naval strategies.
- Lachit Borphukan died a year after the Battle of Saraighat from a long festering illness.
- The National Defence Academy (NDA), ever since 1999 has been conferring the best passing out cadet with the Lachit Borphukan gold medal.
4 . Draft Aircraft Security Rules
Context: The Ministry of Civil Aviation has notified the draft Aircraft Security Rules, 2022 which enable the aviation security regulator, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) to impose penalties upto ₹1 crore on airports and airlines for violation of security measures.
Need for the rules
- The rules will supersede Aircraft Security Rules, 2011 and were necessary after Parliament passed Aircraft Amendment Act, 2020 in September 2020, giving statutory powers to BCAS, along with the Director General of Civil Aviation and Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau.
- The amendment in Parliament was required after the United Nation’s aviation watchdog, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), raised questions about the three regulators functioning without statutory powers.
- shall be applicable to person whose aircraft is registered in India and to person on, an aircraft operated by an operator who has his principal place of business or permanent residence in India.
- In order to deal with cyber security threats, the rules require each entity to protect its information and communication technology systems against unauthorised use and prohibit disclosure of sensitive aviation security information.
- The draft rules now authorise airports to engage private security agents instead of CISF personnel at “non-core areas” and assign security duties as per the recommendation of the National Civil Aviation Policy, 2016.
- Once the draft Rules are finalised, the BCAS can impose a fine of ₹50 lakh to ₹1 crore (depending on the size of the company) on airports and airlines if they fail to prepare and implement a security programme, or if they commence operations without seeking a security clearance.
- Large airports can also face a penalty of ₹1 crore if they fail to plan the design and layout of the airport in accordance with the National Civil Aviation Security Programme.
- Individuals will also face penalties ranging from ₹1 lakh to ₹25 lakh depending on the nature of offence.
- According to the proposed rules, the BCAS will also be able to suspend or cancel an entity’s airport security clearance and security programme.
- Once the Aircraft Security Rules 2022 are finalised, they will go a long way in ensuring an effective aviation security apparatus in the country.
- These are also as per ICAO norms.
5 . Periodic Labour Force Survey
Context: The unemployment rate in urban areas for persons aged above 15 eased to 7.2% in July-September 2022 from 9.8% a year ago and 7.6% in the previous quarter, according to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) recently.
More about the news
- The unemployment rate was 6.6% for men and 9.4% for women.
- It was 9.3% and 11.6%, respectively, in July-September 2021.
- The unemployment ratio is defined as the percentage of persons unemployed among the persons in the labour force.
- The worker-population ratio (WPR) also witnessed a marginal increase compared with last year’s.
- The WPR is defined as the percentage of employed persons in the population.
- The LFPR among men was 73.4% and 21.7% among women. In 2021, it was 73.5% and 19.9%.
About Labour Force Participation Rate
- The labour force participation rate (LFPR), defined as the percentage of persons in the labour force who are working or seeking or available for work in the population.
- In urban areas for persons aged 15 and above, it increased to 47.9% in July-September 2022, from 46.9% in the corresponding period in 2021. It was 47.5% in April-June 2022.
- Considering the importance of the availability of labour force data at more frequent time intervals, the NSO launched the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) in April 2017.
- The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) was designed with two major objectives for measurement of employment and unemployment.
- The first was to measure the dynamics in labour force participation and employment status in the short time interval of three months for only the urban areas in the Current Weekly Status (CWS).
- Second one was, for both rural and urban areas, to measure the labour force estimates on key parameters in both usual status (ps+ss) and Current Weekly Status.
6 . Facts for Prelims
Cess and Surcharges-
- Cess is a form of tax charged/levied over and above the base tax liability of a taxpayer.
- A cess is usually imposed additionally when the state or the central government looks to raise funds for specific purposes.
- For example, the government levies an education cess to generate additional revenue for funding primary, secondary, and higher education.
- Cess is not a permanent source of revenue for the government, and it is discontinued when the purpose levying it is fulfilled.
- It can be levied on both indirect and direct taxes.
- The government can impose cess for purposes such as disaster relief, generating funds for cleaning rivers, etc.
- For example, after Kerala floods in the year 2018, the state government imposed a 1% calamity cess on GST and became the first state to do it.
- In other instances, the central government may levy an education cess, or a health cess, or a sanitation cess.
- All these levies are usually imposed as a percentage of the taxpayer’s basic tax liability. Under the GST (Goods and Services Tax) regime, certain sin goods and luxury items also attract a cess.
- Cess is different from taxes such as income tax, GST, and excise duty etc as it is charged over and above the existing taxes.
- While all taxes go to the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI), cess may initially go to the CFI but has to be used for the purpose for which it was collected. If the cess collected in a particular year goes unspent, the amount gets carried over to the next year and can only be used for the cause it was meant for.
- The central government does not need to share the cess with the state government either partially or in full, unlike some other taxes.
- A cess is usually imposed additionally when the state or the central government looks to raise funds for specific purposes.
- A surcharge — or additional charge — is essentially a tax levied on a tax.
- It is calculated on payable tax, not on income generated.
- So a surcharge of, say, 10 per cent on an existing tax rate of 30 per cent effectively raises the total tax rate to 33%.
- For example, if a tax is imposed at 30 per cent on an income of Rs 100, the total payable tax would be Rs 30. Then, a surcharge of 10 per cent calculated on Rs 30 would amount to Rs 3. So, the effective payability would be Rs 30 + Rs 3 = Rs 33.
- Surcharge at the rate of 5% is levied on domestic corporations if net income is in the range of Rs 1 cr to Rs 10 cr. If the net income exceeds Rs 10 cr, surcharge at the rate of 10% is levied.
- Surcharge at the rate of 2% is levied on foreign corporations if the net income is in the range of Rs 1 cr to Rs 10 cr.
- If the net income exceeds Rs 10 cr, the surcharge is increased to 5%.
- Marginal relief is given to both domestic and foreign companies in case the net income exceeds Rs 1 cr and Rs 10 cr.
- The recent trend has seen the share of cesses and surcharges grow from 10.4% of gross tax revenue in 2011-12 to 26.7% in 2021-22. This has deprived the States of their legitimate share of revenue collected by the Union Government.
- Several states have thus urged the Central Government to curb its reliance on raising revenues through cesses and surcharges and merge the cesses and surcharges into the basic rates of tax so that the States receive their legitimate share in devolution.
APAC Outlook- A Coming Downshift
- In its analysis titled ‘APAC Outlook: A Coming Downshift’, Moody’s said India is headed for slower growth next year more in line with its long-term potential.
- On the upside, inward investment and productivity gains in technology as well as in agriculture could accelerate growth.
- But, if high inflation persists, the Reserve Bank of India would likely take its repo rate well above 6%, causing GDP growth to falter.
- On the regional outlook, Moody’s said even though India, as well as other major economies of APAC region are expanding due to their own delayed reopening from pandemic-related shutdowns, the expected slowdowns in Europe and North America, along with China’s sluggish economy, will cause 2023 to be a slower year than 2022 for economic growth.
- But a recession is not expected in the APAC region in the coming year, although the area will face headwinds from higher interest rates and slower global trade growth
Kutia Kondh Tribe-
- The Kutia Kondhs are a particularly vulnerable tribal groups in Kalahandi district, Odisha.
- Kutia Kondha is one of the primitive sections of Kondha tribe. The Kondha’s who live in hill top and valleys are known as Kutia Kondha.
- Kutia kondh are mostly dependent on shifting cultivation and cultivation of minor agriculture products.
- They are mostly nature worshipper. Members of the community take turns to protect forests and wildlife that surround their houses.
- Despite living in abject poverty and depending on natural resources for survival, the Kondhs do not use wood from the forests for fuel and also prevent illegal tree.
- The major crops cultivated by them in the shifting cultivation system are minor millets like ragi (finger millet), kosala, kangu with arhar as an intercrop.
- Millets slowly were disappearing from the tribe due to paddy and other foods reaching their doorstep through the public distribution system and the expanding consumer market. There were other reasons also for disappearance like-
- Tribals, especially from the younger generation, felt that they were looked down upon for consuming millets, which is perceived as the poor man’s food.
- Moreover, it was not easy to harvest the crop. The de-husking of millet involved strenuous labour.
- Also since there was no market available for the crop, people did not produce more than what they required for their own consumption.
- But because of the focus of Odisha government and Central government and volunteers’ efforts, millets have again gained popularity.
- Volunteers identified the Burlang Yatra as the occasion around which they could strategise the revival of millets.
- The Burlang Yatra is a traditional annual festival of the Kutia Kondh tribe where the community, especially the women, worship and exchange seeds through a celebratory mode of songs and dances at the village level.
- n 2017, the Odisha government realised the importance of highly nutritious and climate resilient millets in tribal society.
- The government launched Millet Mission in 2017 and the programme was expanded with additional investment of over ₹2,800 crore in 2022.
- This year, almost two lakh farmers in 19 districts are involved in millet cultivation.
- It is a seaport in Chabahar located in southeastern Iran, on the Gulf of Oman.
- It serves as Iran’s only oceanic port, and consists of two separate ports named Shahid Kalantari and Shahid Beheshti, each of which has five berths.
- It’s located in the Sistan-Balochistan province on the energy-rich Iran’s southern coast.
- It is only about 170 kilometres west of the Pakistani port of Gwadar.
- Chabahar is made of Persian words Chahar meaning four; and bahar meaning spring.
- Chabahar is important for its fishery sector and will act as an important trade center connecting South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.
- India and Iran first agreed to plans to further develop Shahid Beheshti port in 2003.
- In May 2016, India and Iran signed a bilateral agreement in which India would refurbish one of the berths at Shahid Beheshti port, and reconstruct a 600 meter long container handling facility at the port.
- The port is partly intended to provide an alternative for trade between India and Afghanistan as it is 800 kilometers closer to the border of Afghanistan than Pakistan’s Karachi port.