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Can Foreign Contribution Regulation Act curb corruption in NGOs ?

Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) allows the NGOs to receive donations, grants and assistance from overseas sources. Some of the NGOs have global networks to address global issues and they get funds for a variety of purposes. Total funds flowing in are approximately Rs. 500cr.

FCRA requires several permissions for accepting foreign contributions by the NGOs. They are from :-

  • RBI
  • Ministry Of Home Affairs

NGOs comply with these. So what’s the problem?

The problem is not with compliance of the this regulation but the use and forward channelizing of these resources. Whether these funds are used for their stated purposes- socio economic progress, poverty alleviation or anti national activities.

»»» Another issue us the credential of NGO directors who run a non profit organisation for the benefit of people and not for maintaining a luxurious life. Unfortunately this has been found in some cases.

»»» In recent times, concerns have been raised that NGOs do not spend adequate amount on their core objectives. There is not enough transparency in the administration of these trusts. This results in disproportionate high administrative expenses.

What are these expenses? Buying land , buildings, setting up offices, consultancy fees etc.

This goes against the grain of service motto where the ultimate recipient is supposed to get the maximum.

»»»There is a pressing need to combat corruption in NGOs in two respects :-

  • Whether funds are channelized for the stated objective.
  • Whether the funds are misappropriated and misused for making money, even black money through round tripping , money laundering.

Some features of FCRA

FCRA – prime objective of the Act is to regulate the acceptance and utilization of foreign contribution and foreign hospitality by persons and associations working in the important areas of national life. The focus of the Act is to ensure that the foreign contribution and foreign hospitality is not utilized to affect or influence electoral politics, public servants, judges and other people working the important areas of national life like journalists, printers and publishers of newspapers, etc. The Act also seeks to regulate flow of foreign funds to voluntary organizations with the objective of preventing any possible diversion of such funds towards activities detrimental to the national interest and to ensure that individuals and organizations may function in a manner consistent with the values of the sovereign democratic republic.

As per FCRA guidelines, Indian NGOs receiving foreign funds need to be independent from any foreign agency’s control, and should be registered as per the rules of the Indian Societies Act.

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Functions of NITI Aayog

I’ve prepared this article with excepts from the official press release of Niti Aayog. As a dedicated Think Tank of the Government, Niti Aayog will carry out the ‘directional’ role, strategically charting the future of the nation.

Functions of Niti Aayog as envisioned by the institution are : –

1. Cooperative and Competitive Federalism

  • Primary platform for operationalizing Cooperative Federalism by enabling States to have active participation in the formulation of national policy, as well as achieving time-bound implementation of quantitative and qualitative targets.
  • Replacement of the one-way flow of policy from centre-to-state. Systematic and structured interactions between the Union and State Governments, to better understand developmental issues and forge a consensus on strategies and implementation mechanisms.
  • Cooperation would be further enhanced by the vibrancy of Competitive Federalism with the Centre competing with the States and vice versa, and the States competing with each other, in the joint pursuit of national development.

2. Shared National Agenda

  • Evolve a shared vision of national development priorities and strategies, with the active involvement of States. This will provide the framework ‘national agenda’ for the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers to implement.

3. State’s Best Friend at the Centre

  • Support States in addressing their own challenges, building on strengths and comparative advantages. This will be through coordination with Ministries, championing their ideas at the centre, providing consultancy support and building capacity.

4. Decentralized Planning

  • Restructure the planning process into a bottom-up model.
  • Empower States, and guide them to further empower local governments
  • Develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level, which are progressively aggregated up the higher levels of government.

5. Vision & Scenario Planning

  • Design medium and long-term strategic frameworks across all sectors.
  • Identify critical gaps and harness untapped potentialities.
  • Constantly monitor for necessary mid-course recalibration and incorporate evolving trends and addressing emerging challenges.
  • Fundamental transition from merely planning for where the nation’s money goes, to planning where we want the Nation to go.

6. Domain Strategies

  • Build a repository of specialized domain expertise , imbibe good governance measures nationally and internationally  to assist Central and State governments.

7. Network of Expertise

  • Main-stream external ideas and expertise into government policies and programmes through a collaborative community of national and international experts, practitioners and other partners. This would entail being Government’s link to the outside world.

8. Knowledge and Innovation hub

  • Be an accumulator as well as disseminator of research and best practices on good governance, through a Resource Centre which identifies, analyses, shares and facilitates replication of the same.

9. Harmonization

  • Facilitate harmonization of actions across different layers of government through communication, coordination, collaboration and convergence amongst all stakeholders. The emphasis will be on bringing all together on an integrated and holistic approach to development.

10. Conflict Resolution

  • Provide a platform for mutual resolution of inter-sectoral, inter-departmental, inter-state as well as centre-state issues.
  • Facilitate consensus acceptable and beneficial to all, to bring about clarity and speed in execution.

11. Coordinating interface with the World

  • Be the nodal point for strategically harnessing global expertise and resources from multilateral platforms , nations etc.

12. Internal Consultancy

  • Offer an internal consultancy function to central and state governments on policy and program design , specialised skills such as structuring and executing Public Private Partnerships.

13. Capacity building

  • Enable capacity building and technology up-gradation across government, benchmarking with latest global trends and providing managerial and technical knowhow.

14. Monitoring and Evaluation

  • Monitor the implementation of policies and programmes, and evaluate their impact through tracking of performance and evaluations. This will help  to identify weaknesses and bottlenecks for necessary course correction. It will also enable data-driven policy making encouraging greater efficiency as well as effectiveness.
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Reforms required in higher education ; Choice based Credit System

Higher Education  paves the path for growth and is a generator of ultimate knowledge and innovation. India’s Higher education sector should come in pace with global standards benchmarks

Rising costs of higher education and the changing profile of education seekers, aided by technological innovation are leading to the creation of alternative models of knowledge dispensation. Central universities have the responsibility to lead the transformative processes of India’s higher education system.

Reforms that need to be brought in are : –

(1) Steps to create an eco-system for research and innovation : – The recently launched Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching will set performance standards and create world-class facilities for innovative teaching. There should be an increased stress on publication and research papers which will help in improving quality by leaps and bounds.

(2) Capacity development of faculty, alumni participation and use of technology.

(3) Deepen engagement of Central Universities with community and address the growing disparity between cities and villages. Increase capacity and intake in the higher educational institutions. In many fields we are stagnating like pure sciences. Increasing attention needs to be paid to that now.

(4) Creating international and national networks for quality education : – Under Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN), the HRD Ministry has asked Central Universities for a list of eminent scholars and researchers for inviting them as guest speakers or scholars. An e-platform needs to be developed to facilitate scholars from within and outside the country to log in their details. It shall, in due course, lead to creation of a robust database of global experts for the Indian higher education system. There will be constraint for resources. But a balance needs to achieved between international and domestic resources. Young academicians within the nation should be encouraged.

(5) A blended Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) strategy and SWAYAM (Study Web of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) could pave the way for speed, scale and efficiency for teaching in the higher education system.

(6) Central Universities must establish Innovation clubs , Inspired Teachers’ Network, and Industry-interface cells within the stipulated time.

(7) In addition to international rankings, the universities should attempt ratings on a National Ranking Framework which needs to be expeditiously developed

(7) Adoption of Choice Based Credit System.

CBCS provides choice for students to select from the prescribed courses.  The credit based semester system provides flexibility in designing curriculum and assigning credits based on the course content and hours of teaching. The choice based credit system provides a ‘cafeteria’ type approach in which the students can take courses of their choice, learn at their own pace, undergo additional courses and acquire more than the required credits, and adopt an interdisciplinary approach to learning. Mobility should be provided to students. If they want to transfer from Institute A to B, his credits should also be transferred.

Choice Based Credit System must be implemented from the academic year 2015-16 in all Central Universities. Each Central university will set up a Community Development Cell which will identify at least 5 villages in its vicinity for adoption as model villages by the university.

Prerequisites for CBCS : – Besides introduction of semester system, restructuring of syllabi in the form of modules, standardisation of examinations and switching over from numerical marking system from grading system are among the prerequisites for the introduction of the choice-based credit system.

Problems : – normal tendency is to move from not so well known institution to better ones. Peripheral universities might be sidelined and it will also create institutional pressure and infrastructural bottlenecks to the target institute/university.

Hurried implementation of drastic restructuring without rigorous academic scrutiny will fail the responsibility that the university has towards students.

(8) Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) should be implemented properly. It addressed the overall quality of existing State higher educational institutions. Improve it by ensuring their conformity to prescribed norms and standards and adoption of accreditation as a mandatory quality assurance framework. Certain academic, administrative and governance reforms are a precondition for receiving funding under RUSA. Under RUSA, participating States are permitted to mobilize 50% of the State contribution of funding through Public-Private Partnerships, Corporate Social Responsibility funds, philanthropic contributions etc.

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Disaster Management – How to build Resilience ?

India’s disaster management system has seen a significant shift from a relief-driven response to being more proactive, with an emphasis on disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness. It has been a decade to Disaster Management Act, 2005. Considering the recent trend of increased natural disasters , what should India focus on now ?

India must focus on building resilience. Resilience according to IPCC is the ability to anticipate, absorb, accommodate, or recover from the effects of a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner, including through ensuring the preservation, restoration, and/or improvement of its essential basic structures and functions. For example, consider the case of Orissa. It has invested greatly in structures and their functions. There is a need to learn from past disasters and improve functional capabilities to cope with future disasters.

How to build resilience ?

• States should have a functional SDMA, a State Executive Committee (SEC) and District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA). They can enable states to focus on long-term disaster risk management and build capacities to deal with disaster, both within the government as well as among the citizens . The exercise of designing disaster management plans by districts will enable states to better understand and know in advance which districts or blocks are more prone to disasters, and which are better prepared to handle them. It will also assist the states in mapping processes and identifying deficiencies in infrastructure. Such information can be stored in databases that will help to prioritise mitigation activities. Thus improving the preparedness of high-risk zones to face disasters.

• There is a need to integrate  the Panchayati raj institutions and urban local bodies  in disaster risk planning and management. They could play a significant role not only in planning, but also help in tapping the traditional wisdom of local communities. For more proactive participation they should be adequately trained  to prepare for and respond to major threats from multiple disasters.

Involving the community in risk identification, risk planning and risk management will enable the joint development of adequate measures and plans. It will also provide a sense of collective responsibility for mitigating vulnerability and risk. In Odisha, the multipurpose cyclone shelters built along the coastlines are managed and maintained by the community.

Awareness building and communication in a pre-disaster phase must include the following :

  • Preparedness messages through newspaper, radio, television, mobile phones, and internet and conducting public information campaigns
  • training in disaster response for community groups and institutions
  • early warning systems
  • evacuation routes
  • demarcation of safety zones

Through a robust communication strategy, a safety culture within the community would be inbuilt enabling them to be aware of what to do at the onset of a disaster and also support efforts during and post disaster.

 

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Jan Aushadhi Initiative – What will be the effect on people and pharmaceutical companies ?

What is Jan Aushadhi Initiative ?

• Central government will procure medicines in bulk from public as well as private drug manufacturing firms . It will be sold under the brand  ‘Jan Aushadhi’. These will be sold in the retail market at a competitive price, allowing consumers to buy a cheaper yet quality product from the government. 

• Government has identified 504 essential medicines, which include antibiotics, painkillers, vitamins and medicines used in treatment of cardiovascular, respiratory, diabetes and gastroenterology diseases. Medicines have been identified from the top 100 drugs based on their sales.

Who will implement the project ?

• The Bureau of Pharma Public Sector Undertakings of India ( BPPI ), the nodal agency under the Department of pharmaceuticals (DoP) will implement this project.

Effect on People ?

• Consumers are often unable to make an informed choice for purchasing medicines. They rely on the doctor’s prescription or on chemists.  In a bid to provide relief to people who have to spent a huge amount on costly branded medicines available in the market the government is will launch its own Jan Aushadhi brand of medicines that will be comparatively cheaper than the medicines generally prescribed by the doctors. 

• The middle class people and poor people certainly will get the benefit of it by getting cheaper medicines. It will reduce the out of pocket expenditure they have to incur on health services. 

Effect on Pharmaceutical Companies ?

• It is aimed at encouraging bulk drug manufacturing and thus reduce dependence on imports. For this, setting up of clusters for small and medium-sized pharma companies has been suggested. 

• Participation will mainly come from small-scale enterprises. Keeping a strict check on quality will be a major challenge to the government.  Maintaining a transparent and efficient supply chain to distribute the products at such a large-scale seamlessly will also pose a challenge.

• Large pharma companies might not be keen to participate in this as it would disturb their existing cost structure and also directly cannibalise their products in the retail market. ja

Precautions that need to be taken

•  Enforcement of procurement norms and sampling to ensure quality control.

• Medicines need to be properly standardised and there should be no impurity . Effort should be to keep the quality at par with the international standard. Recall the Bilaspur  sterilization incident. The owner of that particular Pharmaceutical factory was an MLA, and because of some impurity in the medicines, 13 lives were lost. And therefore the quality control is the need of the hour.

What are Jan Aushadhi stores ?

• Jan Aushadhi is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals in 2008,  in association with Central Pharma Public Sector Undertakings, to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses. Jan Aushadhi stores have been set up to provide generic drugs, which are available at lesser prices but are equivalent in quality and efficacy as expensive branded drugs.

•  State Government has to provide space in Government Hospital premises for the running of the outlets- Jan aushadhi stores. The State Government has to ensure prescription of unbranded generic medicines by the Government doctors. The Jan Aushadhi Programme is accordingly a self sustaining business model not dependent on government subsidies or assistance.  It is run on the principle of “Not for Profits but with Minimal Profits”.

•  Under the present initiative, government plans to launch “Jan Aushadhi Brand” of drugs, that will be available at all stores.

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Supreme court Order to Search Engines to Block Sex Determination Ads and How are Search Engines regulated under IT Act, 2000

What has the SC ordered to the Search Engines ?

Supreme Court directed search engines Google, Microsoft , Yahoo not to advertise, or sponsor any advertisement relating to  pre-natal sex selection. The court order came after the central government said the search engines have relevant technology and deep-domain knowledge and expertise to block/filter the words/phrases/expressions and sponsored links.

SC told the search engines to immediately withdraw online advertisements, currently being hosted or published, on pre-natal sex determination facilities, clinics or centres. They are in violation of Section 22 of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) or PC-PNDT Act, 1994. The court has also directed the search engines to upload on their policy page and the terms of service page its order that they would not advertise or sponsor any advertisement which violated Section 22 of PC-PNDT Act. Terms and conditions should specify that information will not be disseminated which is in violation of PC-PNDT Act.

What is Section 22 of PC-PNDT,1994 Act ?

Section 22 of the PC-PNDT Act 1994, prohibits advertisements related to pre-natal determination of sex and provides for punishment for violation.

What is the defense put up by the Search Engines ?

• Internet is an uncensored medium and ordering the blocking of the information is dangerous as it amounts to pre-censorship.

• Blocking keywords on their search engine would amount to a gag on free speech and expression on the Internet. Blocking of certain generic words could prove counter-productive. Block on keywords on their search engine would even result in Modi’s speech on female sex ratio getting blocked.

Analysis : Earlier also, pre-censorship issue has been raked. Freedom of speech and expression can be affected but under reasonable restrictions. If any existing law is prohibiting some sort of content, electronic records can be barred from transmission of that content. Search Engines lie outside the territorial boundary and invariably cite the US const. But content has been published within India. If Section 69 of IT Act, 2000 and Article 19 of the Constitution is read together – it would amount to a reasonable restriction.

What is the SC’s view ?

Censorship and legal provisions were two different things, the court said “anything can take the colour and flavour of advertisement.” Human mind is ingenious and there is a scope for mischief.

How to block content in contravention with Indian laws ?

The Centre said there were three ways to block objectionable content:

  • Blocking the URL at the Internet gateways in the country by the government- The information promoting sex selection can be blocked if the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and IP (Internet Protocol) address is known. The exact URLs could be provided by the three search engines to block them at internet gateway for India.
  • By the website service providers who host the information.
  • By the search engine providers – Search engines can regulate key words and advertisement links as they have the relevant technology and deep-domain knowledge to do it. A blocking of search words, in effect, could lead to good searches being wiped out. The concept of search is very different from blocking offending advertisements. The blocking must be reasonable.
What are the practical difficulties ?

• Enforcing the ban would be very difficult, if not impossible.

• There are many ways to get around filters and it will block the genuine stuff. For instance, filters normally would scan the text, but they don’t stop graphics and many of the ads would have only graphics.

• One way to find out which ad is about sex determination would be at the stage when they are accepted, but most of the advertisements are automated so they will have to be looked at manually which will mean additional manpower will have to be deployed to do it.

Analysis : – Not all advertisements take place on involuntary basis. It takes place by conscious human efforts. Search Engines should be careful while booking advertisements which promote people to engage in unlawful activities. If still it persists, Government of India has the powers to t block such content under IT act. Once it so directs, All Internet Service Providers have to ensure compliance.

• A further problem is that these ads could be uploaded from anywhere in the world, targeting a specific geographical location. But, Search Engines need to ensure compliance with national requirements, domestic laws and regulations inspite of being located out of one jurisdiction.

 How do search engines work ?

A search engine is a software program that searches for sites based on the words that you designate as search terms. Search engines look through their own databases of information in order to find what it is that you are looking for.

When a person performs an online search, the search engine finds in its billions of documents and does two things:

  • It returns those results that are relevant to your query. See the issue here. PM talked of female foeticide and sex determination. Now, when you make a query in the search engine, the web page containing PM’s speech on female foeticide and sex determination will also be listed. This is exactly the point being made by Google. Search engines are not intelligent. They only “search” for the words you have typed, and display pages which contain content matching with your query. Thus blocking keywords like “sex – determination” would block all the content that contains the word ” sex- determination “.
  • It ranks those results according to the popularity of the websites serving the information.

What the IT act says on the issue of Search engines ?

• Digital regime of India is  governed by Information Technology Act,2000. If you consider the law from a holistic perspective, the issue of electronic records regarding pre-natal tests has not been touched. The reason being  IT act is an e- commerce enabling legislation. While IT act does not directly talk about electronic records for pre-natal tests, it talks about intermediary.

•  What is this intermediary ? Intermediary is defined under Sec 2 (1) (w) which says – Intermediary is with respect to any particular electronic message – it means any person who on behalf of another person receives, stores or transmits that message or provides any service with respect to that message.  It specifically includes Network service providers, search engine providers, online portals etc. As you see, it is a very vast definition and anybody can be covered. All search engines are intermediaries. Sec 79 of the IT Act mandates them to exercise due diligence.

•  2008 amendment of the IT Act gave government huge powers to make rules and regulations to regulate and conduct activities. IT rules, 2011 mandate intermediaries to be regulated by terms and conditions in terms of uploading, hosting, forwarding, publishing etc which violates nay other law in force. PC-PNDT Act, 1994 is in force right now. So search engines are bound to remove advertisements that contravenes the provisions of this law. SC directive only reiterates this rule.

• Despite that if people misuse, it is the responsibility of the intermediary to remove or disable access of such content according to Rule 3 of IT Act – Intermediary guidelines rules. And, GoI has the power to block content.

This brings us to a fundamental question.

Can internet be controlled?

Endeavour of governments since the time of evolution of Internet is not to regulate it. Post Snowden, an atmosphere of distrust has evolved. Different approaches are followed by countries. China has a firewall that filters content. India too has been toying with the idea of web filters. If region specific internets are formed, then intrinsic danger lurks to the growth of internet as a network. It cannot be completely controlled. But domestic laws have to be complied. 

 

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Analysis of Sri Lanka Presidential Elections 2015 and Implications for India

Maithripala Sirisena defeated the incumbent President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The election was significant for many reasons : –

• Rajapaksa sought a third term by amending the Constitution of Sri Lanka – that incumbent president could contest any number of times. And he lost.

•  The election took place two years earlier than the actual schedule.

•  2015 election was the second presidential election after the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).  The military defeat of the LTTE did not work in Rajapaksa’s favour in this election. The minority community – Muslims, Tamil votes played a decisive role in defeating Rajapaksa.

• The reasons of Rajapaksa’s defeat were growing inflation, lack of economic opportunities , corruption and resentment of rural population against foreign companies involved in the agricultural sector. China’s increased involvement was also an issue brought in front by Sirisena. Increasing militarisation in Northern Province and slow progress in rebuilding war torn areas and failure in offering a concrete political solution worked against Rajapaksa.

How will India- Sri Lanka relations shape up now ?

• Sirisena has promised to evolve a more balanced approach in SL’s relations with both China and India. India should note that SL will not discard its relation with China. However the excessive tilt towards China by Rajapaksa will be addressed by the new President and he has suggested India should take advantage of the new position. The new Foreign minister of SL’s first visit being India and the first foreign visit of Sirisena is also going to be that to India. This gesture itself speaks volumes. An early visit to Colombo by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as part of India’s “neighbourhood first” diplomacy could indeed be the first step towards that exploration. 

• Cooperation is likely to continue in areas of development assistance, economic and security cooperation. India is hopeful that SL will consider having a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement ( CEPA ). India has a Free Trade Agreement ( FTA ) with SL right now. Given the potential of maritime security in Indina Ocean region, India – SL should revisit the defence cooperation pact of 2003. 

•  India and Sri Lanka bilateral relations will depend on whether the new government will consider India’s concerns about the reconciliation process with Tamil minorities. The implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka is an option that can devolve powers to the provinces.

•  There is also the question of fishermen issue and both the countries need to find a permanent solution involving the fishermen on both sides.

The new government in Colombo and a stronger political dispensation in India have the opportunity to restart the relation with a renewed vigour.

 

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Cultural Pageant at 66th Republic Day – What did the states showcase ?

Cultural Pageant at the 66th Republic Day had many interesting tableaux. We all know about Wajid Ali Shah. Exam point of view – it does not seem to be important. Some cultural traditions which are not that famous and you might not be knowing , UPSC might just ask one of these !

Channapatna Toys of Karnataka

  • Form of wooden toys made in Channapatna , near Bengaluru Karnataka.
  • Traditionally made using Ivorywood, rosewood, sandalwood.
  • Traditional craft protected under Geographical indication Tag.
  • Tipu Sultan provided the support by bringing Persian men to train local craftsmen.

Kud Dance of Jammu and Kashmir

  • Kud is basically a ritual dance performed in honor of Lok Devatas. This is a kind of thanks-giving ritual based dance performed mostly during nights. It is accompanied by musical instruments used during the dance like Narshingha, chhaina, flute and drums.
  • It is a typical community dance, performed in the middle mountain ranges of the Jammu region. During the rainy seasons the dance is performed. When the maize is harvested, the villagers gather & come down from the nearby hills.

Igu Dance of Arunachal Pradesh

  • Igu Dance or priest dance is a traditional dance of the Idu Mishmi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh that is performed to appease the spirits.The Igus perform these ritualistic pujas on several occasions for the well being of the family and the community.
  • Among the tribe, the dance is called as Reh Naya. The dance is mainly performed by the priest known as Igu and his assistants. The priest is the most important man and the religious rituals are centred around him. It is believed that Igu can arouse both good and evil spirits and cure various types of illness.

Bhagoria Festival of Madhya Pradesh

  • Bhagoriya festival of Jhabua, Madhya Pradesh  marks the onset of the spring season and falls a few days before Holi.  Bhagoria Festival is celebrated in the month Phalguna.
  • It is a trademark celebration of the Bhils and Bhilalas tribes
  • As the name suggets, Bhag means Run. Thus, during the festival of Bhagoria, young people choose their partners and elope with them.
  • The festival is also associated with agricultural harvest and fertility.

 Bonalu of Telangana

  • Bonalu is a folk festival, which is very famous in the Telangana region. The word Bonalu is derived from Bhojanalu meaning food, which is offered to the Goddess.
  • A typical feature of the Bonalu festival are the Ghatams or decorated pots filled with flowers, which are carried on the heads by the women folk in a procession.  Cooked rice is carried by women on their heads to the local goddess while the men accompany by playing drums.
  • Male dancers called the Potharajus follow the female dancers, who are believed to be the protector of the village.

 

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Shanta Kumar Committee Recommendations on Reforming Food Corporation of India ( FCI )

GoI had constituted a committee under  Shanta Kumar  to suggest reforms for Food Corporation of India. The report has been submitted. And some major reforms have been suggested. The various domains under which suggestions have been given are discussed below.

Recommendations

Cash transfer: It has been recommended for cities having 1 million or more population. The government should give deficit states the option of either supplying grain or cash transfer. The panel also suggested the government to gradually move to cash transfer to end the pilferage and black marketing of grains. The panel estimates if food subsidy is transferred in cash, it will save the exchequer around Rs 30,000 crore per annum in subsidies, while giving a better deal to consumers. The benefit of procurement at MSP only reaches to 6% of the 90 million farmers.  If farmers are given cash transfers, all of them can get it. The amount could be invested in irrigation , technological enhancement, market development etc. Giving such subsidies will also allow government to decontrol urea which, in turn, will increase its production and also get farmers to use it more judiciously. The committee has also suggested that the fertilizer industry should be deregulated and fertilizer subsidy should be passed on directly to farmers.

Procurement Operations : FCI should hand over procurement of wheat and rice to state governments in Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. They have gained sufficient experience and have created reasonable infrastructure for procurement. FCI should concentrate on procurement in the eastern belt ie Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Assam, where farmers resort to distress sales due to poor state procurement. This is the region dominated by small holdings. This is the belt from where second green revolution is expected, and where FCI needs to be pro-active. If this recommendation is accepted states like Punjab will lose a lot of revenue as they levy mandi taxes on FCI purchases.

Minimum Support Price : MSP is announced for 23 commodities. In reality, price support operates primarily for wheat and rice and that too in some states. This creates a highly skewed incentive structure in favour of wheat and rice. As a result of high MSPs in wheat and rice, farmers have got incentivised to grow just these crops, and this causes shortages and inflation in other crops like pulses, fruits and vegetables. While the country is short of pulses and oilseeds , their prices often go below MSP without any effective price support. Pulses and oilseeds deserve priority. Also, FCI procures most of the marketable surplus in key states which drives out private trade. Consumer costs are driven up by high inefficiency costs – wheat MSP is Rs 1,400 per quintal but FCI’s economic cost is Rs 2,200 per quintal.

National Food Security Act : Legal entitlement under the National Food Security Act  should be limited to 40 % of the population, as against the current norm of 67% coverage, which is excessive. This 40 per cent will include those covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana. Those outside this classification but priority households should get grain at a price which is half the government’s minimum support price. The committee however wants more to be given to households classified as below poverty line (BPL), 7 kg per head instead of 5 kg in a month. Many who should not get cheap food will get it when the Act is fully implemented. It has also been found that foodgrain allocation for the APL category does not get lifted and is sold in the black market.  The government should defer implementation of NFSA in states that have not done end-to-end computerisation, have not put the list of beneficiaries online for anyone to verify and have not set up vigilance committees to check pilferage from the Public Distribution System.

Private Sector Engagement : Grain storage needs to be outsourced to private and government agencies like state-owned Central Warehousing Corporation and State Warehousing Corporations and private organisations. There is a need to encourage competition in this sector, so that the quality of storage improves.  FCI must focus on creating bulk grain handling godowns and upgrade the grain supply chain. Storage should be modernized – silos in place of stacking sacks in godowns, elimination of storage in the open . Transport and handling also should be modernized- containers and machinery, instead of gunny bags and loaders.  Private investment through PPP mode should be encouraged in logistics and bulk handling of foodgrains could be done through grain trains.

There is criticism that this will encourage backdoor entry of big private logistics companies, at the expense of FCI. But it has been clarified that FCI’s operations are not being privatized under the guise of this report, nor is it being divided.

Export : The committee has suggested that the food ministry should be quick to export grains or sell them in the local market as soon as FCI procures more than the requirement.

Taxation : The committee has proposed uniform tax of minimum 3 % and maximum 4 % on wheat and rice and the same to be included in the MSP. In Punjab, this tax rate on wheat and rice as of now is 14.5 percent.

 

However, it skips the issue of autonomy for FCI,  even though it acknowledges that FCI does not operate on business principles. The report is also silent on the role of the artiya (the middlemen) in the whole procurement process.

Barring some minor shortcomings, the report suggests a comprehensive overhaul of FCI . With these major changes in the procurement, stocking, movement and distribution of grains, the FCI will transform itself into an agency for innovations in food management.

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All that you need to know about Central Board of Film Certification ( CBFC ) and the Leela Samson resignation issue

What is the Censor Board ?

•The Central Board of Film Certification ( CBFC ) known as Censor Board is a statutory body under the Ministry of I&B.

• It regulates the public exhibition of films under the provisions of the Cinematograph Act 1952.

• Films can be publicly exhibited in India only after they have been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification.
• The CBFC’s vision is to ensure good and healthy entertainment in accordance with the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952, and Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 1983. Its mission is to ensure healthy entertainment, recreation and education to the public.

What are the categories under which films are certified?

 

  Unrestricted Public Exhibition  Unrestricted Public Exhibition – but with a word of caution that Parental discretion required for children below 12 years
Restricted to
adults 
Restricted to any special class of persons

 

Composition of CBFC

• The Board is headed by a chairperson . It also has some non-official members. All are appointed by the central government for a tenure of 3 years. Members of the Board are eminent persons in different walks of life.

• It has Regional offices which are assisted in the examination of  films by Advisory Panels. Regional Offices jurisdictions are decided by the language and origin of the film.  It is the regional offices which certify or censor films.

How does certification and censorship happen?

• Once a film is submitted to the regional office , an examining committee is formed to view the film. Many films are cleared — with or without deletions or modifications — at this stage itself. In case an applicant is not satisfied with the panel’s decision, the film goes to a revising committee. This is where the Board members intervene. All members record their verdict, and the committee decides by majority vote. If the chairperson does not agree with the majority view,  another revising committee can see the film.

If the final decision includes making cuts to the film, the applicant must do so and re-submit the film. The applicant gets the opportunity to present his views before the examining committee or the revising committee. If the applicant is not satisfied with the CBFC’s order, an appeal can be made to the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) in Delhi, which is headed by a retired judge. Film Certification Appellate Tribunal (FCAT) is a statutory body, constituted under Cinematograph Act, 1952.

En Masse resignation at CBFC , Why ?

• Leela Samson resigned after FCAT cleared the controversial film MSG. The board had earlier denied the clearance certificate to the film. Other members too resigned voicing similar concerns. Solidarity.

• Leela Samson alleged that there was political interference in the Board’s functioning. Adequate funds were not given to the Board. Advisory panels are filled with people with questionable credentials. The Board is not consulted. Direct appointments are made by the Ministry without consultation, rewarding their favorites.

Analysis

• With regards to censorship , Supreme Court has observed – Film censorship becomes necessary because a film motivates thought and action and assures a high degree of attention and retention as compared to the printed word. It can have a strong impact on the minds of the viewers and can affect emotions. Therefore, it has as much potential for evil as it has for good and has an equal potential to instill or cultivate violent or bad behaviour. It cannot be equated with other modes of communication. Censorship by prior restraint is, therefore, not only desirable but also necessary. 

• On the contrary it has also been observed that there could not be any kind of restriction on the freedom of speech and expression other than those mentioned in Article 19 (2). Unreasonable and unsubstantiated censorship affects not only the right to free speech but also the right to practice a trade and craft.

• The situation presents an opportunity to reform the CBFC’s functioning, liberalize its approach and end the perception that it is packed with regime favourites who may not necessarily be the best suited for the job. Functional autonomy should be granted. Although as far as certification is concerned, more substantive arguments should be put forth.