Topic 1: Centralized Public Grievance Redressal and Monitoring System
Context: 13th Report on Central Ministries/Departments performance on CPGRAMS released by DARPG.
- The Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) released the Centralized Public Grievance Redressal and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) monthly report.
- It provides a detailed analysis of types and categories of public grievances and the nature of disposal.
- This is the 13th report on Central Ministries published by DARPG.
- Centralized Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) is an online platform available to the citizens 24×7 to lodge their grievances to the public authorities on any subject related to service delivery.
- It is a single portal connected to all the Ministries/Departments of Government of India and States.
- Every Ministry and States have role-based access to this system.
- CPGRAMS is also accessible to the citizens through standalone mobile application downloadable through Google Play store and mobile application integrated with UMANG.
- CPGRAMS also provides appeal facility to the citizens if they are not satisfied with the resolution by the Grievance Officer.
- The Allocation of Business Rules, 1961, allocates to DARPG inter alia, the responsibility for Policy, Coordination and Monitoring of issues relating to:
- Redress of Public Grievances in general and
- Grievances pertaining to Central Government Agencies.
- The Public Grievance Division is responsible for this activity since 1987.
- From 1997, the Division has also been made responsible for Citizen Centric Initiatives, namely, Citizens Charter.
Topic 2: Sections 298, 295A, 505 (2), and 153A of the Indian Penal Code
Context: In the past 12 weeks, at least five men have been arrested in Maharashtra for allegedly putting up posts glorifying Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.
- The men have been booked under Sections 298, 295A, 505 (2), and 153A of the Indian Penal Code.
- The arrests were under:
- Sections 298 (uttering words, etc., intending to wound religious feelings),
- 295A (punishment for deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs),
- 505 (2) (punishes statements conducing to public mischief), and
- 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) of the IPC.
- These sections have a common requirement of “intention” or mens rea to wound religious feelings or carry out malicious acts, among others.
- Thus, intention is an essential ingredient of the hate speech laws.
- Section 153A of the IPC penalises promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
- This is punishable with imprisonment of up to three years, a fine, or both.
- Enacted in 1898, Section 153A was not part of the original penal code.
- Along with Section 153A, Section 505 was also introduced in the IPC.
- Section 505 of the IPC penalises statements conducing to public mischief.
- It is punishable with imprisonment up to three years, or fine, or both.
- In 1969, the offence was widely amended to enlarge its scope and prevent communal tensions.
- In the same amendment, the offence was also made cognizable, which means a police officer can arrest someone without a warrant.
- Section 295A defines and prescribes punishment for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
- Section 298 of the IPC awards a maximum of one-year imprisonment or a fine or both.
- It is charged on those who, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utter “any word” or sound or make gestures in front of a person.
Safeguards against misuse
- Sections 153A and 153B require prior sanction from the government for initiating prosecution.
- But this is required before the trial begins, not at the stage of the preliminary investigation.
- To curb indiscriminate arrests, the top court laid down a set of guidelines in its 2014ruling in “Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar”.
- As per the guidelines, for offences that carry a sentence of fewer than seven years, the police cannot automatically arrest an accused before an investigation.
- In its 2021 ruling, “Patricia Mukhim v. The State Of Meghalaya”, the SC said that the state will have to prove intent for securing a conviction under Section 153A.
Topic 3: World’s largest grain storage plan
Context: The Union Cabinet recently approved the constitution of an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) to facilitate the “world’s largest grain storage plan in the cooperative sector”.
Need for grain storage plan
- Huge population:
- India, the most populous country in the world, accounts for 18 per cent (1.4 billion) of the global population (7.9 billion).
- It accounts for only 11 per cent (160 million hectare) of the arable land (1,380 million hectare) in the world.
- India runs the world’s largest food programme under the National Food Security Act, 2013, that covers about 81 crore people.
- Therefore, to ensure food security of a billion plus population, a robust network of foodgrain storage facilities becomes essential.
- Storage capacity:
- At present, India has a foodgrain storage capacity of 145 million metric tonnes (MMT) against the total food production of 311 MMT—leaving a gap of 166 MMT.
- In the absence of sufficient storage facilities, foodgrains are sometimes stored in the open, which results in damage.
- India has a storage capacity of 47 per cent of its total foodgrains production.
- At the regional level, only a few southern states have the storage capacity of 90 per cent and above.
- In northern states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, it is below 50 per cent.
The storage plan:
- At present, multiple government agencies, like the Food Corporation of India (FCI), Central Warehouse Corporation, etc. are involved in grain management.
- However, that has not yielded the desired results.
- Under the new plan, the Ministry of Cooperation aims to set up a network of integrated grain storage facilities through Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) across the country.
- According to the ministry, there are more than 1,00,000 PACS spread across the country with a huge member base of more than 13 crore farmers.
- This is one of the reasons why the PACS network was chosen for the new plan.
|What are PACS?Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (PACS) are village level cooperative credit societies that serve as the last link in a three-tier cooperative credit structure headed by the State Cooperative Banks (SCB) at the state level.Credit from the SCBs is transferred to the district central cooperative banks, or DCCBs, that operate at the district level.The DCCBs work with PACS, which deal directly with farmers.These are cooperative bodies.Individual farmers are members of the PACS, and office-bearers are elected from within them.A village can have multiple PACS.PACS are involved in short term lending or what is known as crop loan.|
The Inter-Ministerial Committee:
- The Union Cabinet has approved an IMC for the scheme, to be constituted under the Chairmanship of Minister of Cooperation.
- Three other ministers will be members of the committee:
- Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare;
- Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution; and
- Minister of Food Processing Industries and Secretaries.
- The IMC will modify guidelines/ implementation methodologies of the schemes of the respective Ministries as and when need arises, within the approved outlays and prescribed goals for facilitation of the scheme.
- Though the plan does not have a separate allocation, it will be implemented by the convergence of 8 schemes.
- These schemes are:
- Agriculture Infrastructure Fund (AIF)
- Agricultural Marketing Infrastructure Scheme (AMI)
- Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH)
- Sub Mission on Agricultural Mechanisation (SMAM)
- Pradhan Mantri Formalisation of Micro Food Processing Enterprises Scheme (PMFME)
- Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY)
- Allocation of food grains under the National Food Security Act
- Procurement operations at Minimum Support Price.
Benefits of the plan
- It will address the shortage of agricultural storage infrastructure in the country by facilitating establishment of godowns at the level of PACS.
- It would also enablePACS to undertake various other activities, viz:
- Functioning as Procurement centres for State Agencies/ Food Corporation of India (FCI);
- Serving as Fair Price Shops (FPS);
- Setting up custom hiring centers;
- Setting up common processing units, including assaying, sorting, grading units for agricultural produce, etc.
- It would reduce post-harvesting losses.
- It would bring down the foodgrain handling and transportation cost.
- Farmers would have a choice to sell their produce depending on the market conditions, and not be forced into distress sale.
Topic 4: New chikungunya vaccine
Context: A new clinical study shows promising results of a Phase III chikungunya vaccine trial, the first time the shot has been tested in humans.
What is Chikungunya?
- Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral disease caused by the chikungunya virus (CHIKV) that causes fever and severe joint pain.
- The disease was first recognized in 1952 during an outbreak in southern Tanzania.
- It is a ribonucleic acid (RNA) virus that belongs to the alphavirus genus of the family Togaviridae.
- The name “chikungunya” derives from a word in the Kimakonde language of southern Tanzania, meaning “to become contorted”, and describes the stooped appearance of sufferers with joint pain (arthralgia).
- Chikungunya is transmitted to humans by the bites of infected female mosquitoes – Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.
Treatment and vaccines
- The clinical management includes addressing fever and joint pain.
- There is no specific antiviral drug treatment for CHIKV infections.
- There is no commercial vaccine available to protect against chikungunya virus infection.
- Tropical regions currently see the highest rates of the virus, with Paraguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Thailand most affected.
- Outbreaks have been ongoing in Congo, Sudan and Kenya since 2018, but cases have been relatively low.
- However, a major 2013 outbreak of chikungunya in South America led to over 1 million infections in just a few months.
- While death rates were low, around 52% of infected people experienced severe joint pain lasting months.
- Studies suggest the disease caused the loss of 150,000 disability-adjusted life-years in 2014 alone.
- The measurement represents the loss of the equivalent of one year of full health.
The new vaccine:
- The vaccine contains a modified, live version of the chikungunya virus that can replicate in the body without causing severe illness.
- Live vaccines closely mimic natural infections, triggering a robust immune response that provides long-lasting and broad protection.
- Other live vaccines:
- measles, mumps and rubella (MMR combined vaccine), smallpox and yellow fever are all live vaccines.
- Risks associated with live vaccines:
- Rare possibility of the weakened virus reverting to a more virulent form.
Topic 5: Dheeram scheme
Context: The Ernakulam District Kudumbashree Mission is set to roll out ‘Dheeram’, a project aimed at imparting martial arts-based self-defence training to women, at two gender resource centres shortly.
About the scheme:
- Dheeram is a joint project by Kudumbashree and Sports Kerala Foundation.
- It is part of the state government’s 100-day programme, aimed at empowering women through self-defence and self-confidence building.
- The project aims to create a livelihood for women and empower them for self-defence by forming karate training groups on an entrepreneurial model.
About Kudumbashree scheme:
- Kudumbashree is the poverty eradication and women empowerment programme implemented by the State Poverty Eradication Mission (SPEM) of the Government of Kerala.
- Kudumbashree has a three-tier structure for its women community network:
- Neighbourhood Groups (NHGs) at the lowest level,
- Area Development Societies (ADS) at the middle level, and
- Community Development Societies (CDS) at the local government level.
- Kudumbashree is essentially a community network that covers the entire State of Kerala.
- It is arguably one of the largest women’s networks in the world.
Topic 6: The status of transgenic crops in India
Context: Three States, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Telangana, have deferred a proposal, approved by the Centre’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), to test a new kind of transgenic cotton seed that contains a gene, Cry2Ai, that purportedly makes cotton resistant to pink bollworm, a major pest.
What is the status of transgenic crops in India?
- There are an array of crops — brinjal, tomato, maize, chickpea — in various stages of trials that employ transgenic technology.
- However, cotton remains the only transgenic crop that is being commercially cultivated in India.
- Recently, the GEAC approved the environmental release of Mustard hybrid DMH-11 and its parental lines.
- In 2017, the GEAC had accorded a clearance for GM mustard, but went back on its decision and imposed additional tests.
- In 2010, the GEAC had approved GM brinjal, but this was put on an indefinite moratorium by the government.
Process of regulating transgenic crops in India
- There are multiple safety assessments done by committees before they are cleared for further tests in open plots of lands, which are located at either agricultural universities or are plots controlled by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR).
- A transgenic plant can apply for commercial clearance, only after it has proven to be demonstrably better than comparable non-GM variants on claimed parameters (for instance, drought tolerance or insect resistance) without posing ecological harm to other species that may be being cultivated in the vicinity.
- Open field trials often take place over multiple crop seasons, and types of geographical conditions, to assess its suitability across different States.
- A genetically modified organism (GMO) or living modified organism (LMO) is any organism whose genetic material has been modified using laboratory-based transfer of genetic material from another organism.
- Mass production of GM technology based human insulin, vaccines, growth hormones and other drugs has greatly facilitated the availability and access to life saving pharmaceuticals.
- World over, the use of animal based rennet for cheese production has been replaced to the extent of 80-90% by the enzyme chymosin produced by genetically modified microorganisms.
The science behind crop Genetic modification
- GM technology involves direct manipulation of DNA instead of using controlled pollination to alter the desired characteristics.
- Genetic modification is one the approaches to crop improvement, all of which aim at adding desirable genes and removing undesirable ones to produce better varieties.
- Conventional crop improvement involves selection and cross breeding using control pollination of better types available naturally or produced through breeding.
Developing GM crops
- Development of GM crops starts with the identification of gene of interest and isolating it from the host organism.
- The gene is incorporated into the DNA of crop plant using laboratory based gene gun or agrobacterium approaches.
- The performance of the GM crop is tested under strict laboratory and field conditions.
Global GM crop cultivation
- Major GM crop growing countries:
- USA, Brazil, Argentina, India and Canada are five top GM growing countries, together accounting for approx. 90% area of the GM cultivation.
- Major GM crops grown:
- Soybean, maize, cotton and canola with herbicide tolerance and insect resistance are the major GM crops grown around the world.
Regulating GM crops
- Development, cultivation and transboundary movement of GM crops is regulated so as to ensure the safety of animal health, human health and biodiversity.
- In India, such regulations are provided in the Rules for Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms (HM) Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells, 1989 under the Environment Protection Act (1986).
- The rules cover:
- All activities involving research and development of products containing GMOs including transgenic crops, pharma products, industrial products, food and foodstuffs.
- Field and clinical trials
- Deliberate or unintentional release
- Import, export and manufacture
Statutory bodies on GM crop regulation in India
- Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee (RDAC):
- Monitors the developments in biotechnology at national and international levels.
- Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBSC):
- Approves low-risk experiments and ensures adherence to prescribed safety guidelines.
- Recommends high-risk experiments to Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM) for approval.
- Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM):
- Reviews all ongoing projects involving high-risk and controlled field experiments.
- Approves applications for generating research information on GM plants.
- Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC):
- Approves activities involving large- scale use of GMOs in research and production.
- State Biotechnology Coordination Committee (SBCC):
- Reviews the safety and control measures in various institutions handling GMOs.
- Acts as State level nodal agency to assess the damage, if any, due to release of GMOs and to take on-site control measures.
- District Level Committee (DLC):
- Inspects, investigates and reports to the SBCC or the GEAC about compliance or non-compliance of regulatory guidelines.
- Acts as nodal agency at District level to assess the damage, if any, due to release of GMOs and to take on site control measures.
Advantages of GM crops
- Genetic engineering can improve crop protection.
- Crops with better resistance to pest and diseases can be created.
- The use of herbicides and pesticides can be reduced or even eliminated.
- Farmers can achieve high yield, and thereby get more income.
- Nutritional content can be improved.
- Shelf life of foods can be extended.
- Food with better taste and texture can be achieved.
- Crops can be engineered to withstand extreme weather
- Some crops have been engineered to create their own toxins against pests.
- This may harm non-targets such as farm animals that ingest them.
- The toxins can also cause allergy and affect digestion in humans.
- Antibiotic resistance:
- GM crops are modified to include antibiotics to kill germs and pests.
- And when we eat them, these antibiotic markers will persist in our body and will render actual antibiotic medications less effective over a period of time, leading to superbug threats.
- This means illnesses will become more difficult to cure.
- Social and economic issues:
- Experts have voiced serious concern about multinational agribusiness companies taking over farming from the hands of small farmers.
- Dependence on GM seed companies could prove to be a financial burden for farmers.
- Concerns of farmers:
- Farmers are reluctant because they will have limited rights to retain and reuse seeds.
- Their concern also includes finding a market that would accept GM food.
- Not natural:
- People in general are wary of GM crops as they are engineered in a lab and do not occur in Nature
- Focussed GM research agenda vis-a-vis agriculture development priorities
- Capacity building on GM research, development and regulation
- Increasing public awareness with reliable evidence based information on GM crops and products
- Science based and consistent regulatory policy
- Simplified modules for risk assessment and management
Topic 7: Compromise settlement for wilful defaulters
Context: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has allowed wilful defaulters and loans accounts involved in frauds to go in for a compromise settlement with banks to settle their dues.
What is a compromise settlement?
- A compromise settlement refers to a negotiated settlement where a borrower offers to pay and the bank agrees to accept in full and final, settlement of its dues an amount less than the total amount due to them under the relative loan contract.
- This settlement involves a certain write off and/or waiver of a portion of its dues on a one-time basis.
The recent move by RBI:
- Banks can undertake compromise settlements or technical write-offs in respect of accounts categorised as wilful defaulters or fraud without prejudice to the criminal proceeding underway against such debtors.
- The central bank has also directed banks to fix a minimum cooling period of at least 12 months before making fresh exposures to borrowers who had undergone compromise settlements.
- This means a wilful defaulter or a company involved in fraud can get fresh loans after 12 months of executing a compromise settlement.
- It may compromise the integrity of the banking system and undermine the efforts to combat wilful defaulters effectively.
- It not only rewards unscrupulous borrowers but also sends a distressing message to honest borrowers who strive to meet their financial obligations.
- Wilful defaults have a significant impact on the financial stability of banks and the overall economy.
- By allowing them to settle their loans under compromise, the RBI is essentially condoning their wrongful actions and placing the burden of their misdeeds on the shoulders of ordinary citizens and hardworking bank employees.
Who are wilful defaulters?
- As per the Reserve Bank of India’s classification, a ‘wilful default’ would be deemed to have occurred if the borrower has defaulted in meeting their repayment obligations to the lender even when they have the capacity to honour the said obligations.
- A wilful default happens when:
- the borrower has not utilised the finance from the lender for the specific purpose for which finance was availed,
- has diverted the funds for other purposes,
- siphoned off funds,
- disposed of or removed the movable fixed assets or immovable property given for the purpose of securing a term loan without the knowledge of the bank.