9TH FEBRUARY CURRENT AFFAIRS

1. Scheme for Agricultural Mechanization

News: In pursuance to Budget 2018 announcement regarding a special Scheme to support the efforts of the governments of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and the NCT of Delhi to address air pollution and to subsidize machinery required for in-situ management of crop residue was announced.

Details:

  • Central Sector Scheme (100% funded by the Central Government) on ‘Promotion of Agricultural Mechanization for In-Situ Management of Crop Residue in the States of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and NCT of Delhi’ has been implemented during 2018-19 and 2019-20.

Objectives:

  • protecting environment from air pollution
  • preventing loss of nutrients and soil micro-organisms caused by burning of crop residue;
  • promoting in-situ management of crop residue by retention and incorporation into the soil through the use of appropriate mechanization inputs
  • creating awareness among stakeholders through demonstration,
  • capacity building activities and differentiated Information,
  • Education and Communication strategies for effective utilization and management of crop residue.

Performance:

  • This Scheme was further extended for the year 2020-21. During the years 2018-19 to 2020-21, Rs. 1726.67 crore have been provided to these States.
  • Out of these funds the States have supplied more than 1.58 lakh machines to the individual farmers and to 30,961 Custom Hiring Centres.
  • The residue burning events in 2020 in Punjab, Haryana and UP together have reduced by -30% as compared to 2016. In Punjab the reduction is -22.7%, Haryana – 63.8% and UP – 52.01%.

2. National Action Plan for Migrant Workers

News: NITI Aayog has constituted a sub-group to prepare a National Action Plan for Migrant Workers. The sub-group comprises the members from various Ministries of Govt. of India, subject experts, NGOs and civil society organisations, to prepare a tangible action plan to address issues related to migrant workers.

  • In order to safeguard the interest of the migrant workers, the Central Government had enacted the Inter-state Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979. This Act has now been subsumed in the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020.

Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020

  • Replaces 13 labour laws relating to safety, health and working conditions, including the Factories Act, 1948, the Mines Act, 1952, and the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970.
  • It is applicable to all the establishments employing at least 10 workers and all mines and docks,
  • Provides special provisions for certain types of establishments and classes of employees, such as factories and building and construction workers.
  • A National Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board in place of multiple committees at present. The Board will have tripartite representation from trade unions, employer associations and state governments.
  • The Board will advise the governmenton the standards, rules and regulations on workers’ safety, besides overseeing the implementation of the Code.
  • One registration, one licence and one tax return instead of multiple registrations, licenses and returns as required in the existing 13 labour laws.
  • The Code provides for a statutory provision to issue appointment letter to every employee of the establishment.
  • The employer is required to provide a hygienic work environment with ventilation, comfortable temperature and humidity, sufficient space, clean drinking water, and latrine and urinal accommodations.
  • The Code provides for uniform threshold for welfare provisions for all establishments. Welfare Provisions include crèche, canteen, first aid, welfare officer etc.
  • Duties of Employees include taking care of their own health and safety, complying with the specified safety and health standards, and reporting unsafe situations to the relevant authority.
  • Working Hours For Women: Women, after their consent, will be permitted to work beyond 7 pm and before 6 am subject to the safety, holidays, working hours or any other condition as prescribed by the state or the central government.
  • An offence that leads to the death of an employee will be punishable with imprisonment of up to two years, or a fine up to five lakh rupees, or both.
  • The courts may direct that at least 50% of such fine be given as compensation to the heirs of the victim.
  • If an employee violates provisions of the Code,s/he will be subject to a fine of up to Rs 10,000.

 

3. SVAMITVA Scheme

 

News: A provision of Rs.200 crores has been made for a new scheme-SVAMITVA to provide the ‘record of rights’ to village household owners possessing houses in inhabited rural areas in villages and issuance of property cards to the property owners through survey of village areas with help of drone technology by Survey of India.

Background:

  • A total of Rs.913.43 crore has been provided to Ministry of Panchayati Raj (MoPR) in budget 2021-22 which marks 32% increase over the revised estimate of 2020-21.
  • The major part of it of Rs.593 crores is provided under the Scheme Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA), a Centrally Sponsored Scheme that aims to strengthen Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with main focus on convergence with Mission Antyodaya through capacity building of the rural local governments.
  • The infrastructure facilities like Panchayat Bhawans, computer & broadband connectivity, trained manpower etc. and providing quality training to the elected representatives and other functionaries of the PRIs are the principal components of RGSA.

Details:

  • The Pilot phase of SVAMITVA had been approved with Budget Outlay of Rs.79.65 crore.
  • During the Pilot Phase, the scheme is being implemented in 9 States viz. Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Till 31stJanuary, 2021 Drone Survey has been completed in about 23,300 villages.
  • Property Cards have been prepared and distributed/under distribution to about 2.30 lakh property holders of about 1,432 villages. Likewise, 210 CORS are being set up in the States of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.
  • These are likely to be completed and operationalized by March 2021. Survey of India has deployed about 130 Drone Teams in the States and these are being slowly augmented with supply of ‘Made in India’ drones by suppliers. It is expected that about 250 Drone Teams will be in place by March 2021. Steps are being taken to deploy about 500 Drone Teams in the States/UTs in 2021-22.
  • The Ministry has sent a proposal to Department of Expenditure with an outlay of Rs.566.23 crore for extending the scheme to rest of India to cover nearly 5.41 lakh villages. In 2021-22, with budget provision of Rs. 200 crores, 16 States will be covered targeting 2.30 lakh villages.
  • The scheme covers multifarious aspects viz. facilitating monetisation of properties and enabling bank loan; reducing property related disputes; comprehensive village level planning, would be the stepping-stone towards achieving Gram Swaraj in true sense and making rural India Atmanirbhar.

Significance:

  • The drone requirement for SVAMITVA scheme has boosted the Drone Manufacturing sector in India. The Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have now developed Survey Grade Drones and supply for 175 units had been given to “Make in India” product companies. Survey of India (SoI), being technology partner for the implementation of the scheme, has been working arduously to achieve Scheme targets.
  • By 2022, SVAMITVA Scheme would ensure CORS network coverage across the Country. The Continuous Operating Reference System (CORS) network, once established, are usable by any State agency/ Department viz. Revenue Department, Gram Panchayat (GP), Public Works Department, Rural Development Department, Agriculture, Drainage & Canal, Education, Electricity, Water, Health etc. for survey works and implementation of schemes using GIS based applications. The CORS overhauls the Jarib / or traditional survey system in the rural abadi area and provides accuracy upto 5 centimetre-level horizontal positioning in real-time. The future update of the records can be easily done with the use of the ROVERs.
  • Large Scale Mapping of rural abadi area survey under the Scheme generates high resolution and accurate maps of the scale 1:500 that would facilitate creation of the most durable records of property holdings in the rural abadi areas and support in comprehensive village level planning.
  • Further, this is the first time ever that such a large-scale exercise involving most modern technology is being carried out to benefit millions of rural property owners, covering all villages across the Country.
  • Also, the Scheme has uplifted generation of employment for skilled manpower. Due to the huge requirement for GIS manpower, more than 600 GIS Digitizers have been engaged at various Survey of India (SoI) offices and these numbers are increasing regularly based on their requirements. As a result, numerous START-UPs and MSME service companies have started augmenting their GIS manpower bench strength to cater to these requirements.

4. Infrastructure push now, fiscal consolidation later

Background:

  • The Budget, taken as a whole, has provided reasonable stimulus to growth through a change in the composition of expenditure and other measures to improve the climate for investment. But concerns remain about fiscal deficit.

High expenditure growth

  • Proposed growth in central expenditure, both in 2020-21 Revised Estimates (RE) and in 2021-22 Budget Estimates (BE), indicates the extent of contemplated fiscal stimulus.
  • For reaching the projected 2020-21 RE levels, the growth required in the last quarter of the current fiscal year over the corresponding period of the previous year appear extraordinary.
  • This involves transferring on to the Budget, the accumulated food subsidies amounting to ₹2,54,600 crore given to the Food Corporation of India through National Small Savings Fund (NSSF) loans.
  • The balance of subsidies amounting to ₹1,68,018 crore would be the food subsidy pertaining to 2020-21 (RE). This is a desirable change towards transparency.
  • Taking revenue expenditure figures as budgeted and adjusting for the NSSF-accumulated food subsidy amount, the growth is 7% in revenue expenditure in 2021-22 (BE) over 2020-21(RE).
  • A good part of expenditure for the last quarter of 2020-21 may also pertain to clearing unpaid dues of various stakeholders including the private sector, autonomous bodies and government-aided institutions.
  • Clearing these payments is desirable and would add to demand.
  • The main expenditure push comes through a budgeted growth of 26.2% in capital expenditure in 2021-22.
  • Relative to GDP, capital expenditure is expected to increase from 1.6% in 2019-20 to 2.3% in 2020-21 RE and 2.5% in 2021-22 BE, signalling a significant change in priority.

Increase in receipt

  • Significant increases are planned in non-tax revenues and non-debt capital receipts. This increase is mainly predicated on higher dividends from non-departmental undertakings and spectrum sales. From a contraction of 35.6% in 2020-21 (RE), non-tax revenues are budgeted to grow by 15.4% in 2021-22.
  • In the case of non-debt capital receipts, mainly covering disinvestment, a budgeted growth of 304.3% in 2021-22 stands in contrast with the contraction of 32.2% in 2020-21 (RE).
  • Disinvestment initiatives have so far yielded minimal results.
  • Budgeted increase in the Centre’s gross tax revenues is dependent on nominal GDP growth of 14.4%, with a buoyancy of 1.6 for direct taxes and 0.8 for indirect taxes. 

Steps towards asset monetisation

  • An important initiative pertains to the launching of a National Monetisation Pipeline.
  • The time lags involved in starting yielding revenue remain unpredictable because of various potential disputes and claims involving government-owned land.
  • A transparent auction process needs to be set up to facilitate suitable price discovery.

Other institutional initiatives

  • The Budget includes central government’s share to the National Infrastructure Pipeline. However, success of the infrastructure expansion plan would depend on other stakeholders of the pipeline playing their due role. The Budget also proposes setting up of a Development Finance Institution (DFI), to serve as a catalyst for facilitating infrastructure investment. The DFI would have an initial capital of ₹20,000 crore.
  • In order to manage non-performing assets of public sector banks, there is a proposal to set up an Asset Reconstruction Company (ARC) and an Asset Management Company (AMC).
  • Much depends upon the fine-tuning the operations of these institutions.

Finance Commission’s recommendations

  • In the action taken report, the Union government has accepted the recommended vertical share of 41% for the States in the shareable pool of central taxes. The government has accepted the Fifteenth Finance Commission’s recommendation for revenue deficit grants, local body grants and disaster-related grants.
  • The scope of revenue deficit grants has been extended to cover 17 States in the initial years.
  • The determination of these grants is not based on equalisation principle although some norms have been used in the assessment exercise. However, the government has put on hold the consideration of State-specific and sector-specific grants including performance-based incentives.
  • The substantive issue pertains to the mode of transfers in terms of general-purpose unconditional transfers against specific purpose and conditional transfers.
  • States had shown a preference for the former mode and it is for this reason that the 14th Finance Commission had raised the States’ share from 32% to 42%. The reduction from 42% to 41% is only on account of the consideration of 28 States excluding Jammu and Kashmir because of its new status.
  • The imposition of cesses which are almost permanent has reduced the shareable pool.
  • In fact, the States’ share in the Centre’s gross tax revenues is only 30% in 2021-22 (BE).

Way forward

  • The Fifteenth Finance Commission has also proposed a revised fiscal consolidation road map for the Centre and States. The Fifteenth Finance Commission has recommended the setting up of a High-Powered Intergovernmental Group to re-examine the fiscal responsibility legislations of the Centre and States.
  • Giving up the prudential norms will be a wrong lesson to learn from the crisis.
  • The issue of debt sustainability can be certainly re-examined by taking into account the evolving profiles of debt, interest payments, and primary deficits relative to GDP.
  • Fiscal deficit must be related to household savings in financial assets and the interest payments to revenue receipts. It should not be forgotten that in fiscal 2021-22, interest payments to total revenue receipts will be 45.3%, pre-empting a significant proportion of revenue receipts. We must be conscious of the burden of the rising stock of debt.