Daily Current Affairs | 14th May 2020

Z-Scan A novel tool to help gain deeper insight into Parkinson’s disease

Scientists from IIT (Indian School of Mines) Dhanbad and CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (Kolkata) have developed the Z-scan method to monitor the origin as well as the progression of Parkinson’s disease in human beings.

Parkinson’s Disease

  • Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder thataffects the central nervous system.
  • It damages nerve cellsin the brain dropping the levels of  Dopamine is a chemical that sends behavioural signals from the brain to the body.
  • The disease causes a variety of “motor” symptoms (symptoms related to movement of the muscles), including rigidity, delayed movement, poor balance, and tremors.
  • Medication can help control the symptoms of the disease butit can’t be cured.
  • It affects the age group from 6 to 60 years. Worldwide,about 10 million people have been affected by this disease.
  • Aggregation of ASyn:
    • An aggregation of a protein calledAlpha-synuclein (ASyn) plays a crucial role in the development of Parkinson’s disease.
      • Protein aggregation is a biological phenomenon in which destabilized proteins aggregate (i.e., accumulate and clump together) leading to many diseases.
    • Alpha-synuclein is a protein found in the human brain, while smaller amounts are found in the heart, muscle and other tissues.
      • In the brain, alpha-synuclein is found mainly at the tips of neurons in specialized structures called presynaptic terminals.
      • Presynaptic terminals release chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters.
      • The release of neurotransmitters relays signals between neurons and is critical for normal brain function.
    • Use of Z-scan Method:
      • The discovered Z-scan method is expected to help in monitoring both the early as well as late stages of the aggregation of ASyn and death of neuronal cells.
      • Until now, worldwide studies could not establish any strong relation between ASyn aggregations and subsequent death of neuronal cells observed in Parkinson’s disease.

CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology

  • Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (IICB) was established in 1935 as the first non official centre in Indiafor biomedical research and was included within the aegis of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 1956.
  • It is located in Kolkata (West Bengal).
  • CSIR-IICB is engaged in research on diseases of national importance and biological problems of global interest and also helps to maintain momentum in life science research.
  • It conducts research in a variety of areas including chemistry, biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, neurobiology and immunology which promotes productive interdisciplinary interaction.

U.S. holds talks with Israel about West Bank annexation plans 

Recently, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss Israel’s plans to annex parts of the West Bank.

  • Pompeo’s visit was exempted from Israel’s mandatory two-week quarantinefor arrivals and shut borders due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • For Israel, this visit was an indication of the strength of its alliance with the USAand the talks focused on discussions on annexation, shared concerns about Iran, the battle against the coronavirus, Israel’s incoming government and threats from Israel’s ties with China.
    • Israel-China Ties:The US has reportedly been pressuring Israel to rethink a bid by a Hong Kong company to build a massive desalination facility.
  • Plans for Annexation of West Bank

  • Israeli hard-linersare eager to unilaterally redraw the Mideast map before November’s US Presidential Election.
  • Thepresumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, is in the opposition of unilateral annexation plans by Israel.
  • Annexation would give Donald Trump an accomplishmentto shore up his pro-Israel base, particularly politically influential pro-Israel evangelical (of or according to the teaching of the gospel or the Christianity) Christian voters.
    • These voters believe in the notion that God promised the land to Jewsand it should be returned to them.
  • Genesis
    • The Israel-Palestine Conflictcan be traced back to
    • Mideast War, 1967:It is also known as the six-day war or Third Arab-Israeli war. Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the war. The Palestinians seek these territories for a future independent state. In the decades since, Israel has built settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem that now house nearly 700,000 Israelis. Most of the international communities consider these settlements a violation of international law and obstacles to peace.
    • Mideast Plan or Middle East Peace Plan:It was unveiled by Trump in January, 2020. Under it, the Palestinians would have a limited statehood contingent on a list of stringent requirements while Israel would annex some 30% of the West Bank.
    • The Palestinians rejected the plan and threatened to withdraw from key provisions of the Oslo Peace Accords, which are a series of agreements between Israel and the Palestinians signed in the
    • TheTrump administration believes that Israel’s West Bank settlements are consistent with international law and supports the annexation of West Bank territory, as long as Israel agrees to enter peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Criticism
    • The annexation will trigger widespread international condemnation because it will crush already faint Palestinian hopes of establishing a viable state on the lands captured by Israel in the Mideast war.
    • The Arab Leaguehas mentioned the annexation as a war crime.
    • The European Union(EU) and other individual member states, have warned of tough consequences if Israel moves forward in the annexation process.
  • India’s Stand
    • India was one of the few countries tooppose the United Nations’ partition plan in November 1947, echoing its own experience during independence a few months earlier.
    • India recognised Israel in 1950but it is also the first non-Arab country to recognise Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) as the sole representative of the Palestinians. India is also one of the first countries to recognise the statehood of Palestine in 1988.
    • In 2014,India favored the United Nations Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) resolution to probe Israel’s human rights violations in Gaza. Despite supporting the probe, India abstained from voting against Israel in UNHRC in
    • As a part of Link West Policy,India has de-hyphenated its relationship with Israel and Palestine in 2018 to treat both the countries mutually independent and exclusive.
    • In June 2019,India voted in favor of a decision introduced by Israel in the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) that objected to granting consultative status to a Palestinian non-governmental organization.

Deforestation rate globally declined between 2015 and 2020: FAO report

According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 (FRA 2020) report, the rate of forest loss has declined in the period of 1990-2020.

  • The FRA is released by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
  • The FRA 2020 is based on the assessment of more than 60 forest-related variables in 236 countries and territories in the period of 1990–2020.
  • Total forest area:The world’s total forest area is 4.06 billion hectares (bha), which is 31% of the total land area. This area is equivalent to 0.52 hectares per person.
  • Top countries in forest cover —the Russian Federation, Brazil, Canada, the United States of America and China constituted more than 54% of the world’s forests.
  • Forest loss:According to the report, the world has lost 178 million hectares (mha) of forest since 1990, an area the size of Libya.
  • Decline in rate of forest loss:The rate of net forest loss decreased substantially during the period of 1990–2020.
    • It was 7.8 mha per year in the decade 1990–2000, 5.2 mha per year in 2000–2010 and 4.7 mha per year in 2010–2020.
    • This is due to a reduction in deforestation in some countries,plus increases in forest area in others through afforestation and the natural expansion of forests.
  • Areas that witnessed forest loss: Africa had the largest annual rate of net forest loss in 2010–2020, at 3.9 mha, followed by South America, at 2.6 mha.
  • Areas that witnessed forest gain: Asia had the highest net gain of forest area in 2010–2020, followed by Oceania and Europe.
    • However, Oceania experienced net losses of forest area in the decades 1990–2000 and 2000–2010.
  • Types of forest loss:The largest proportion of the world’s forests are tropical (45%), followed by boreal, temperate and subtropical.
    • Naturally regenerating forest areas world-wide decreased since 1990, but the area of planted forests has
  • Plantation forest cover is 131 mha, about 3% of the global forest area.
    • The highest percent of plantation forests are in South America while the lowest are in Europe.
  • Protected forest areas worldwide estimate around 726 mha.
    • South America has the highest share of forests in protected areas, at 31%.
    • The protected forest areas increased by 191 mha since 1990.

Global Forest Resources Assessment

  • The FRA presents a comprehensive view of the world’s forests and the ways in which the resource is changing.
  • It supports the development of sound policies, practices and investments affecting forests and forestry.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization is an agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
  • FAO is also a source of knowledge and information and helps developing countries and countries in transition to modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices and ensure good nutrition and food security for all.
  • Formation:16th October 1945
  • Headquarters:Rome, Italy

NIT Kurukshetra Implements Enterprises Resource Planning (ERP), SAMARTH 

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has developed an e-governance platform ‘SAMARTH Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)’ under the National Mission of Education in Information and Communication Technology Scheme (NMEICT).

  • SAMARTH ERP is anopen source, open standard enabled robust, secure, scalable, and evolutionary process automation engine for Universities and Higher Educational Institutions.
    • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)refers to a type of software used to manage day-to-day business activities such as accounting, procurement, project management, risk management and compliance, and supply chain operations.
    • ERP in a University can improve management and administration.
  • The platform has been implemented at theNational Institute of Technology (NIT), Kurukshetra, a participating unit under the World Bank-supported Technical Education Quality Improvement Program (TEQIP).
  • It would automate the processes of the enhancement of productivity through better information managementin the institute by seamless access to information and proper utilization of information.
  • It caters to faculty, students and staff at a University/Higher Educational Institutions.

National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology

  • The Mission, launched in 2009,is a landmark initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), with the objective of seamlessly providing quality educational content to all the eligible and willing learners in India.
  • It has been envisaged to leverage the potential of ICT, in the teaching and learning process for the benefit of all the learners in Higher Education Institutions.
  • Initiatives under the Program
    • SWAYAM:The Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds’ (SWAYAM) is an integrated platform for offering online courses, covering school (9th to 12th) to Postgraduate Level. The online courses are being used not only by the students but also by the teachers and non-student learners, in the form of lifelong learning.
    • SWAYAM Prabha:It is an initiative to provide 32 High Quality Educational Channels through DTH (Direct to Home) across the length and breadth of the country on a 24X7 basis.
    • National Digital Library of India (NDL):It is a project to develop a framework of virtual repository of learning resources with a single-window search facility. Presently, there are more than 3 crore digital resources available through the NDL.
    • Spoken Tutorial:They are 10-minute long, audio-video tutorials, on open source software, to improve employment potential of students. It is created for self learning, audio dubbed into 22 languages and with the availability of an online version.
    • Free and Open Source Software for Education (FOSSEE):It is a project promoting the use of open source software in educational institutions. It does that through instructional material, such as spoken tutorials, documentation, such as textbook companions, awareness programmes, such as conferences, training workshops, and internships.
    • Virtual Lab:This is a project to develop a fully interactive simulation environment to perform experiments, collect data, and answer questions to assess the understanding of the knowledge acquired.
    • E-Yantra:It is a project for enabling effective education across engineering colleges in India on embedded systems and robotics.

Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme

  • It was started in 2002 by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development with the assistance of the World Bankand is being implemented in a phased manner .
  • It aims to upscale the quality of technical education and enhance capacities of institutions.
  • The Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme III (TEQIP-III)was started in 2017 and will be completed by 2021.
    • It aims to develop technical education as a key component for improving the quality of Engineering Education.
    • The Objective is to improve quality and equity in engineering institutions in focus states such as in low income states.

Five Lessons From Y2K That Resonate Today 

Recently, the Prime Minister mentioned the Y2K bug while addressing the nation on Covid-19 related issues.

    • The Y2K bug was a computer flaw or bug that people during the late 1900s thought would prove to be a massive problem when dealing with dates beyond December 31, 1999.
    • The letter K, which stands for kilo (a unit of 1000), is commonly used to represent the number 1,000. So, Y2K stands for Year 2000. It is also called the ‘Year 2000 bug or Millennium Bug’.
    • Y2K wasboth a software and hardware problem.
      • While writing computer programs during the 1960s to 1980s, computer engineers used only the last two digits of a year.
      • For example, “19” was left out from “1999” and only “99” was used. This was done becausestoring data in computers was a costly process that also took up a lot of space.
      • As the new century approached, programmers began to worry that computers might not interpret ”00” as 2000, but instead as 1900.
      • This led to the idea that all activities that were programmed would be damaged as a computer would interpret January 1, 1900 instead of January 1, 2000.
  • Implications:
    • The sectors such as Information Technology (IT), banking, transportation, power plants, medical equipment, etc. which used to work on correct date and time synchronisation were threatened by the Y2K problem.
  • Solution:
    • Software and hardware companies raced to fix the bug and provided “Y2K compliant” programs to help.
    • The simplest provided solution was that thedate was expanded to a four-digit number.
  • Impact:
    • Countries such as Italy, Russia, and South Korea had done little to prepare for Y2K. They had no more technological problems than those countries, like the U.S., that spent millions of dollars to combat the problem. Due to the lack of results, many peopledismissed the Y2K bug as a hoax.

Read more – https://www.bloombergquint.com/gadfly/y2k-lessons-in-crisis-management-for-the-coronavirus-era

India up at 74th place on WEF’s global energy transition index 

Recently, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has released the annual rankings of the global Energy Transition Index.

  • The indexbenchmarks 115 economies on the current performance of their energy systems across economic development and growth, environmental sustainability and energy security and access indicators and their readiness for transition to secure, sustainable, affordable and inclusive energy systems.
  • Data Analysis:
    • Swedenhas topped the Index for the third consecutive year and is followed by Switzerland and Finland in the top three.
    • France(8th) and the UK (7th) are the only G20 countries in the top ten.
    • Only 11 out of 115 countries have made steady improvements in ETI scores since 2015. Argentina, China, India and Italy are among the major countries with consistent annual improvements.
      • InChina (78th), problems of air pollution have resulted in policies to control emissions, electrify vehicles and develop the world’s largest capacity for solar photovoltaic (SPV) and onshore wind power
    • Scores for theUS, Canada, Brazil and Australia were either stagnant or declining.
      • The US ranks outside the top 25% for the first time, primarily due to the uncertain regulatory outlook for energy transition.
    • Performance Analysis:
      • The results for 2020show that 75% of countries have improved their environmental sustainability.
        • It is a result of multifaceted, incremental approaches, including pricing carbon, retiring coal plants ahead of schedule and redesigning electricity markets to integrate renewable energy sources.
      • Its study measuring readiness for clean energy transition in 115 economies showed that 94 have made progress since 2015.
      • The greatest overall progress is observed among emerging economies.
    • India’s Ranking and Reasons:
      • India has moved up two positions to rank 74th with improvements in all three dimensions of the energy triangle namely:
        • Economic development and growth.
        • Energy access and security.
        • Environmental sustainability.
      • For India, gains have come from a government-mandated renewable energy expansion programme to add 275 GW by 2027.
      • India has also made significant strides in energy efficiency through bulk procurement of LED bulbs, smart meters and programs for labelling of appliances. Similar measures are being experimented to drive down the costs of electric vehicles (EVs).
      • It indicates a strong positive trajectory,driven by strong political commitment and an enabling policy environment.
    • Impact of Covid-19
      • Covid-19 risks cancelling out recent progress in transitioning to clean energy, with unprecedented falls in demand, price volatility and pressure to quickly mitigate socioeconomic costs placing the near-term trajectory of the transition in doubt.
    • Suggestions
      • Policies, roadmaps and governance frameworks for energy transition at national, regional and global levels need to be more robust and resilient against external shocks.
      • The pandemic offers an opportunity to consider unorthodox intervention in the energy marketsand global collaboration to support a recovery that accelerates the energy transition once the crisis subsides.
      • The economic recovery packages(like the announcement of the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana by India), introduced by the governments can accelerate the transition to clean energy, by helping countries scale their efforts towards sustainable and inclusive energy systems, if implemented with long-term strategies.

World Economic Forum

  • It is a Swiss nonprofit foundation established in 1971, based in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Recognized by the Swiss authorities as the international institution for public-private cooperation,its mission is cited as, “committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas”.
  • Major reports published by WEF:
    • Global Competitiveness Report
    • Global IT Report
    • Global Gender Gap Report
    • Global Risk Report
    • Global Travel and Tourism Report

Labour short, can direct seeding be alternative to paddy transplanting?.

Due to labour shortage in two granary states of Punjab and Haryana, farmers are now being encouraged to adopt ‘Direct Seeding of Rice’ (DSR) in place of conventional transplanting. Covid-19pandemic has led the labourers to reverse migrate to their villages, which has created a shortage of labourers.

  • Normal Transplanting of Paddy vs Direct Seeding of Rice
    • Transplanting Paddy:
      • In transplanting paddy, farmers prepare nurserieswhere the paddy seeds are first sown and raised into young plants.
      • The nursery seed bed is 5-10% of the area to be transplanted.
      • These seedlings are then uprooted and replanted25-35 days later in the puddled field.
    • Direct Seeding of Rice (DSR):
      • In DSR, the pre-germinated seeds are directly drilled into the field by a tractor-powered machine.
      • There is no nursery preparation or transplantation involved in this method.
      • Farmers have to only level their land and give one pre-sowing irrigation.
    • Protection against the weeds
      • Transplanting Method:In transplanting for the first three weeks or so, the plants have to be irrigated almost daily to maintain a water depth of 4-5 cm.
        • Water prevents growth of weeds by denying them oxygen in the submerged stage, whereas the soft ‘aerenchyma tissues’in paddy plants allow air to penetrate through their roots. Water, thus, acts as a herbicide for paddy.
        • DSR Method:In DSR as flooding of fields is not done during sowing, chemical herbicides are used to kill weeds.
      • Advantage with Direct Seeding of Rice
        • Water savings.
        • Less numbers of labourers
        • Saves labour cost.
        • Reduce methane emissions due to a shorter flooding period and decreased soil disturbance compared to transplanting rice seedlings.
      • Drawbacks of Direct Seeding of Rice
        • Non-availability of herbicides.
        • The seed requirement for DSR is also high,8-10 kg/acre, compared to 4-5 kg/acre in transplanting.
        • Further, laser land levelling iscompulsory in DSR. This is not so in transplanting.
        • The sowing needs to be done timelyso that the plants have come out properly before the monsoon rains arrive.

Rice

  • Rice is a staple food for the overwhelming majority of the population in India.
  • It is a kharif crop which requires high temperature, (above 25°C) and high humidity with annual rainfall above 100 cm.
    • In the areas of less rainfall, it is grown with the help of irrigation.
  • In southern states and West Bengal the climatic conditions allow the cultivation of two or three cropsof rice in an agricultural year.
    • In West Bengal farmers grow three crops of rice called ‘aus’, ‘aman’ and ‘boro’.
  • About one-fourth of the total cropped area in India is under rice cultivation.
    • Leading producer states:West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab.
    • High Yielding States:Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal and Kerala.
  • Punjab and Haryana are not traditional rice growing areas.
    • Rice Cultivation in the irrigated areas of Punjab and Haryana was introduced in the 1970s following the Green Revolution.
    • Almost the entire land under rice cultivation in Punjab and Haryana is irrigated.
  • India contributes 21.6% of rice production in the world and ranked second after China in 2016.

Economic Stimulus – I & II

Economic Stimulus-I

Union Finance Minister announced liquidity measures for businesses, especially Micro, Small and Medium enterprises (MSMEs), as part of the first tranche of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

  • The announced measures also form a part of the Rs. 20-lakh-crore economic stimulus packageto deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • This economic stimulus includes both liquidity financing measures and credit guarantees.
  • Salaried Workers and Taxpayers:
    • The deadline for income tax returns for the financial year 2019-20 has been extended, with the due date now pushed to November 30, 2020.
    • The rates of Tax Deduction at Source (TDS) and Tax Collection at Source (TCS) have been cut by 25%for the FY 2020-21.
    • The statutory Provident Fund (PF) payments have been reduced from 12% to 10% for both employers and employeesfor the next three months.
  • NBFCs, Housing Finance Companies and Microfinance Institutions:
    • Many of these institutions serve the MSME sector financially and will be supported through a Rs.30,000 crore investment scheme fully guaranteed by the Centre.
    • Further, an expanded partial credit guarantee scheme worth Rs.45,000 croresalso has been offered, of which the first 20% of losses will be borne by the Centre.
      • For instance, if the government provides a 100% credit guarantee up to an amount of Rs 1 crore to a firm, it means that a bank can lend Rs 1 crore to that firm; in case the firm fails to pay back, the government will repay all of Rs 1 crore. If this guarantee was for the first 20% of the loan, then the government would guarantee to pay back only Rs 20 lakh.
    • Power Distribution Companies:
      • As these companies are facing an unprecedented cash flow crisis and thus will receive Rs. 90,000 crore liquidity injection.
    • Real Estate and Contractors:
      • Contractors (those dealing with the construction/ works and goods and services contracts) will get a six month extension for completion of work from all Central agencies, and also get partial bank guarantees to ease their cash flows.
      • Registered real estate projects will get a six-month extension for registration and completion of Real Estate Projects under Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA)with Covid-19 to be treated as a “force majeure” event.
        • A Force Majeure (FM) means extraordinary events or circumstances beyond human control such as an event described as an Act of God (like a natural calamity).
      • Global Tenders to be Disallowed:
        • Indian MSMEs and other companies have often faced unfair competition from foreign companies and would be difficult to compete in the future due to Covid-19 pandemic.
        • Therefore, global tenders will be disallowed in government procurement tenders upto Rs 200 crores.

Liquidity Measures for Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs)

  • New Definition of MSMEs:
    • The definition of an MSMEshas been expanded to allow for higher investment limits and the introduction of turnover-based criteria.
      • Earlier MSMEs were defined on the basis of the limit of investment in machinery or equipment.
      • The ‘turnover’ is the more efficient way to identify an MSME as it allows a lot of firms, especially in the services sector like mid-sized hospitals, hotels and diagnostic centres to be eligible for benefits as an MSME.
    • There will beno difference between a manufacturing MSME and a services MSMEs.
  • Infusion of Liquidity:
    • Instead of directly infusing money into the economy or giving it directly to MSMEs,the government will offer credit guarantees for MSMEs.
    • Emergency Credit Line:The collateral free loans of worth  3 lakh crores will be available for MSMEs. It will ensure access to working capital to resume business activity and safeguard jobs for 45 lakh MSMEs.
      • The above measure is available for MSMEs that have an already outstanding loan of Rs. 25 crore or those with a turnover less than Rs 100 crore.
      • The loans will have a tenure of 4 years and they will have a moratorium of 12 months(that is, the payback starts only after 12 months).
    • Subordinate Debt Scheme :The loans of amount Rs 20,000 crore will be provided to MSMEs that were already categorised as “stressed”, or struggling to pay back.
      • In this case, thegovernment provides partial guarantee.
    • Equity Infusion:Fund of Funds with corpus of Rs 10,000 crores will be set up which will provide equity funding for MSMEs with growth potential and viability.

Credit Guarantees to MSMEs

  • Description:
    • A Credit Guarantee Schemes (CGS) by the government assures the bank that its loan will be repaid by the government in case the MSME falters.
  • Reasons for Introduction of CGS:
    • Though, there was an option to pump liquidity via the banks but banks suspect any new loans due to rising Non-Performing Assets (NPAs).
    • Thus, the government faced a dual problem where banks had the money but were not willing to lend to the credit-starved sections of the economy, while the government itself did not have enough money to directly help the economy.
    • The credit guarantees solve dual issues faced by the government.
  • Implications:
    • Such CGS creates moral hazards as borrowers remain assured of paying back and the lender remains assured of receiving credit amounts. Subsequently, the government is forced to pay the amount.

Overall Implications of Economic Stimulus

  • The measures announced during the first tranche of the economic stimulus focuses majorly on supply side measures,aimed at activating businesses in the MSME, real estate, NBFC sectors.
  • In general, stimulus measures are aimed at boosting demandeither by government spending on its own account or increasing disposable incomes of households through cash transfers or tax concessions.
  • Indian economy needs both supply and demand side measures for the revival.

 

Economic Stimulus-II

Union Finance Minister announced the short term and long-term measures for supporting the poor, including migrants, farmers, tiny businesses and street vendors as part of the second tranche of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

  • The announced measures also form a part of the ₹20 lakh crore economic stimulus package to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Earlier, theEconomic Stimulus-I was announced which includes both liquidity financing measures and credit guarantees.
  • Free Food Grains Supply
    • Allocation of additional food grainto all the States/UTs (5 kg per migrant labourer and 1 kg chana per family per month) for two months (May and June, 2020) free of cost.
      • This move is an extension of the Pradhan Mantri Gharib Kalyan Yojana.
    • Eligibility:Migrant labourers not covered under National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 or without a ration card in the State/UT in which they are stranded at present.
      • There are an estimated 8 crore migrant workers, housed in government and privately run relief camps across the country since the lockdown.
    • The entireoutlay of 3500 crore will be borne by the Government of India.
  • One Nation One Ration Card
    • 67 crore beneficiaries covering 83% of Public Distribution System(PDS) population will be covered by National portability of Ration cards by August, 2020 and 100% National portability will be achieved by March, 2021.
    • One Nation One Ration Cardis part of Technology Driven System Reforms and will enable migrant workers and their family members to access PDS benefits from any Fair Price Shop in the country.
      • This will ensure that the people in transit, especially migrant workers can also get the PDS benefit across the country.
    • Scheme for Affordable Rental Housing Complexes for Migrant Workers and Urban Poor
      • This scheme will be launched soon and under this, the Central Government will provide ease of livingat affordable rent.
      • Under this:
        • Government funded houses in the cities will be converted intoAffordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) under PPP mode (Public Private Partnerships) through concessionaires.
      • Interest Subvention for Shishu MUDRA loanees
        • Government of India will provide Interest subvention of 2% for prompt payees for a period of 12 months to MUDRA Shishu loanees, who have loans below 50,000.
        • The current portfolio of MUDRA Shishu loans is around ₹62 Lakh crore. This will provide relief of about 1,500 crore to Shishu MUDRA loanees.
      • Credit Facility for Street Vendors
        • A scheme will be launched to facilitate easy access to credit to Street vendors and enable them to restart their businesses.
        • It is expected that 50 lakh street vendors will be benefited under this scheme and credit of 5,000 crore would be provided.
        • Bank credit facilities for initial working capital up to ₹10,000 for each enterprise will be extended.
      • Extension of Credit Linked Subsidy Scheme
        • The Credit Linked Subsidy Schemefor Middle Income Group (MIG, annual income between 6 and 18 lakhs) will be extended up to March 2021.
          • This subsidy scheme comes under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban).
        • This will benefit 2.5 lakhs middle income familiesduring 2020-21 and will lead to investment of over 70,000 crore in housing sector.
        • This will create a significant number of jobs by giving a boost to the Housing sector and will stimulate demand for steel, cement, transport and other construction materials.
      • Creating Employment using CAMPA Funds
        • Approximately 6,000 crore of fundsunder Compensatory Afforestation Management & Planning Authority (CAMPA) will be used.
        • The funds will be utilised inafforestation and plantation works, artificial regeneration, forest management, soil & moisture conservation works, forest protection, forest and wildlife related infrastructure development, wildlife protection and management etc.
        • Government will grant immediate approvalto these plans which will create job opportunities in urban, semi-urban and rural areas and also for Tribals.
      • Additional Emergency Working Capital through NABARD
        • National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development(NABARD) will extend additional re-finance support of 30,000 crore for meeting crop loan requirements of Rural Cooperative Banks (RCBs) and Regional Rural Banks (RRBs).
          • Thisrefinance will be front-loaded (uneven distribution with a greater proportion at one time and smaller ones at other time) and available immediately.
        • This isover and above 90,000 crore that will be provided by NABARD to this sector in the normal course.
        • This will benefit around 3 crore farmers,mostly small and marginal and will meet their post-harvest Rabi and current Kharif requirements.
      • Credit Boost to Kisan Credit Card Scheme
        • It is a special drive to provide concessional credit to Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi(PM-KISAN) beneficiaries through Kisan Credit Cards.
        • It will inject additional liquidity of 2 lakh crorein the farm sector.
        • 5 crore farmers will be coveredand fisherman and animal husbandry farmers will also be included in this drive.

Critiques

  • Economists say that this intervention was too little, too late,and that the free food grain provision should have been universalised to deal with widespread distress.
  • There are 50 crore people in the country without ration cards, of which 10 crore are legally entitled to PDS grain under NFSA. Of the rest, there are many people who were managing in normal times, vegetable vendors, gig economy workers, autorickshaw drivers, who are in dire straits now. PDS needed to be extended to all these people at this time.
  • Economists have asked the government for a one-time cash transfer to vulnerable sections like migrant labourers.
  • There were no steps taken to extend Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) employment guarantee to at least 200 days.
    • Currently,MGNREGA aims to provide at least 100 days of wage employment.
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