Showing posts with label APPSC GROUP-1 GENERAL ESSAY. Show all posts
Showing posts with label APPSC GROUP-1 GENERAL ESSAY. Show all posts

Sunday, January 29, 2017

దేశంలో తీవ్రమవుతున్న వ్యవసాయ సంక్షోభం

రైతన్నల ఆత్మహత్యలు గత మూడు దశాబ్దాలుగా దేశంలో ఆందోళనకర స్థాయిలో కొనసాగుతున్నాయి. వ్యవసాయ సంక్షోభాన్ని అంతకుముందు పెద్దగా పట్టించుకోకపోయినా.. పుష్కర కాలంగా దీనిపై పలు కమిషన్లు ఏర్పాటయ్యాయి. అధ్యయనాలు, సిఫారసులు వచ్చాయి. కేంద్రం 2004లో స్వామినాథన్‌ కమిషన్‌ను, నాటి ఉమ్మడి ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్‌లో వైఎస్‌ రాజశేఖరరెడ్డి జయతీ ఘోష్‌ కమిషన్‌ను ఏర్పాటు చేశారు. ఈ కమిషన్‌లు ఎంతో శ్రమించి అనేక కీలక సిఫారసులతో నివేదికలు అందించాయి.

ఉమ్మడి ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్‌లో వైఎస్‌ సర్కారు రైతులను ఆదుకునేందుకు వ్యవసాయానికి ఉచిత విద్యుత్, పావలా వడ్డీ రుణాలు, జలయజ్ఞం తదితర చర్యలను చేపట్టారు. వైఎస్‌ చొరవతో కేంద్రంలో అప్పటి యూపీఏ ప్రభుత్వం 2008–09 బడ్జెట్‌లో దేశవ్యాప్తంగా వ్యవసాయ రుణాల మాఫీని ప్రకటించింది. గ్రామీణ ఉపాధి హామీ పథకం వంటి  పలు చర్యలూ చేపట్టింది. కానీ.. స్వామినాథన్‌ కమిటీ సిఫారసులు చాలా వరకు అమలుకు నోచుకోలేదు. 2007లో జాతీయ రైతు విధానాన్ని పార్లమెంటులో ప్రవేశపెట్టినా అమలులో మాత్రం శ్రద్ధ చూపలేదు. మరోవైపు రాష్ట్ర విభజన అనంతరం ఏర్పడిన రెండు తెలుగు రాష్ట్రాల్లోనూ రైతు సమస్యలు విస్మరణకు గురయ్యాయి. ముఖ్యంగా ఆంధ్రప్రదేశ్‌లో చంద్రబాబునాయుడు ప్రభుత్వం తీరుతో రైతుల పరిస్థితి మరింత దిగజారింది. ఏపీతో పాటు చాలా రాష్ట్రాల్లో రైతాంగం మళ్లీ సంక్షోభంలో చిక్కుకుపోతోంది. దిగుబడులు పడిపోతున్నాయి.

చేతికందిన పంటలకు గిట్టుబాట ధర లేదు. పోనీ ధర కోసం నిల్వ చేసుకుందామన్నా తగినన్ని సదుపాయాలు లేవు. బ్యాంకుల నుంచి రుణాలు తగ్గిపోయాయి. దీంతో రైతులు ప్రయివేటు రుణాలను ఆశ్రయిస్తూ అప్పుల ఊబిలో కూరుకుపోతున్నారు. రైతు ఆత్మహత్యలు మళ్లీ పెరిగిపోతున్నాయి. గ్రామీణ ప్రాంతాల నుంచి మళ్లీ పట్టణాలకు వలసలు పెరుగుతున్నాయి. సాగు సంక్షోభంలో చిక్కుకుని దేశవ్యాప్తంగా రైతుల ఆత్మహత్యలు పెరుగుతోంటే.. ప్రభుత్వాలు మాత్రం చనిపోతున్న వారందరూ రైతులు కాదంటూ సంఖ్యను తక్కువ చేసి చూపుతున్నాయి. జాతీయ రైతు విధానం–2007ను తాము ఇప్పటికే అమలు చేస్తున్నట్లు కేంద్ర ప్రభుత్వం 2015లో ప్రకటించింది. కానీ అది ప్రకటనలకే పరిమితమైంది. ఆత్మహత్యలు పెరుగుతున్న నేపథ్యంలో ఈ విధానాన్ని సమీక్షించడానికి ఒక నిపుణుల కమిటీని నియమించినట్లు కేంద్రం గత ఏడాది జనవరిలో సుప్రీంకోర్టుకు ఒక కేసు సందర్భంగా నివేదించింది.

స్వామినాథన్‌ సిఫారసులివీ...
2004 ఫిబ్రవరిలో అప్పటి వాజ్‌పేయి ప్రభుత్వం జాతీయ రైతు కమిషన్‌(ఎన్‌సీఎఫ్‌)ను ఏర్పాటు చేసింది. ఆ ఏడాది ఎన్నికల్లో ప్రభుత్వం మారి అధికారంలోకి వచ్చిన మన్మోహన్‌సింగ్‌ సర్కారు.. ఈ కమిషన్‌కు ప్రఖ్యాత వ్యవసాయ శాస్త్రవేత్త డాక్టర్‌ ఎం.ఎస్‌.స్వామినాథన్‌ను చైర్మన్‌గా నియమించింది. ఈ కమిషన్‌ 2006 అక్టోబర్‌ 4న తన నివేదికను ప్రభుత్వానికి సమర్పించింది. అందులోని సిఫారసుల ఆధారంగా రైతులపై ముసాయిదా జాతీయ విధానాన్ని కూడా రూపొందించి ప్రభుత్వానికి నివేదించింది. రైతాంగ సంక్షోభానికి.. భూసంస్కరణల అమలులో పూర్తి కాని అజెండా, నీటి పరిమాణం, నాణ్యత లోపాలు, సాంకేతికత నీరసించడం, సంస్థాగత రుణాల లభ్యత, సరిపోకపోవడం, వాటి సమయానుకూలత, భరోసాతో కూడిన, లాభదాయకమైన మార్కెటింగ్‌అవకాశాలు లోపిండం వంటివి ప్రధాన కారణాలైతే ప్రతికూల వాతావరణ అంశాలు కూడా ఈ సమస్యలకు తోడయ్యాయని పేర్కొంది. భూసంస్కరణలు తప్పనిసరి అని స్పష్టం చేసింది. వ్యవసాయాన్ని రాజ్యాంగంలోని ఉమ్మడి జాబితాలో చేర్చాలని సిఫారసు చేసింది. కేంద్ర ప్రభుత్వం స్వామినాథన్‌సమర్పించిన ముసాయిదా విధానం ప్రాతిపదికగా రాష్ట్ర ప్రభుత్వాలతో చర్చించి 2007 అక్టోబర్‌లో తుది విధానాన్ని పార్లమెంటుకు సమర్పించింది. దాదాపు పదేళ్లు కావొస్తున్నా.. ఈ జాతీయ రైతు విధానం పూర్తి స్థాయిలో అమలుకు నోచుకోలేదు.

భూసంస్కరణలపై కమిషన్‌ ఏం చెప్పిందంటే..

► సీలింగ్, మిగులు, బంజరు భూములు పంపిణీ చేయాలి
► నాణ్యమైన వ్యవసాయ భూమిని, అడవులను వ్యవసాయేతర అవసరాల కోసం కార్పొరేట్‌ రంగానికి మళ్లించడాన్ని నిరోధించాలి
► గిరిజనులు, పశువుల పెంపకందార్లకు అడవుల్లో పశువుల మేత హక్కులు, సీజనల్‌ ప్రవేశం, ఉమ్మడి వనరులు అందుబాటులో ఉండేలా చర్యలు చేపట్టాలి
► భూ వినియోగ నిర్ణయాలను ఆయా ప్రాంతాలు, కాలాలను బట్టి పర్యావరణ, వాతావరణ, మార్కెటింగ్‌ అంశాలకు అనుసంధానం చేసే సామర్థ్యంతో జాతీయ భూమి వినియోగ సలహా సేవ సంస్థను నెలకొల్పాలి.

సాగునీటిని సంస్కరించాలి
► వ్యవసాయ భూముల విక్రయాన్ని భూమి విస్తీర్ణం, ప్రతిపాదిత వినియోగ స్వభావం, కొనుగోలుదారు తరగతి ఆధారంగా నియంత్రించేందుకు ఒక వ్యవస్థను నెలకొల్పాలి
► రైతులకు సాగునీరు నిరంతరంగా, నిష్పక్షపాతంగా అందేలా చూడటానికి సమగ్రమైన సంస్కరణలు అమలు చేయాలి
► వర్షపు నీటిని నేలలో ఇంకేలా చేయడం ద్వారా నీటి సరఫరా పెంపొందించడం, నీటి వనరులను రీచార్జ్‌ చేయాలి. ప్రయివేటు బావులు లక్ష్యంగా ‘పది లక్షల బావుల రీచార్జ్‌’ కార్యక్రమం ప్రారంభించాలి
► 11వ పంచవర్ష ప్రణాళిక కింద సాగునీటి రంగంలో పెట్టుబడులను గణనీయంగా పెంచాలి.

ఉత్పాదకతపై
► వ్యవసాయ సంబంధిత మౌలిక సదుపాయాలపై ప్రభుత్వ వ్యయాన్ని గణనీయంగా పెంచాలి
► పంట భూమిలో సూక్ష్మ పోషకాల లోపాలను గుర్తించేందుకు ఆధునిక భూసార పరీక్ష లాబొరేటరీల జాతీయ వ్యవస్థను నెలకొల్పాలి
► భూసార ఆరోగ్యం, నీటి నాణ్యత, పరిమాణం, పర్యావరణ భిన్నత్వాన్ని పరిరక్షించే వ్యవసాయాన్ని ప్రోత్సహించాలి


రుణాలు, బీమా విస్తరించాలి
► సంప్రదాయ రుణ వ్యవస్థను.. నిజంగా పేదలు, అవసరమైన వారికి చేరేలా విస్తరించాలి
► పంట రుణాలపై సాధారణ వడ్డీ రేటును ప్రభుత్వ మద్దతుతో 4 శాతానికి తగ్గించాలి
► రుణ చెల్లింపు సామర్థ్యం పునరుద్ధరణ జరిగేవరకూ ప్రయివేటు అప్పులతో సహా అన్ని రుణాల వసూళ్లపై మారటోరియం విధించాలి. కరవు, విపత్తుల సమయంలో రుణాలపై వడ్డీని రద్దు చేయాలి
► వరుస ప్రకృతి విపత్తుల తర్వాత రైతులకు సహాయం అందించేందుకు వ్యవసాయ విపత్తు నిధిని నెలకొల్పాలి
► మహిళా రైతులకు జాయింట్‌ పట్టాలు హామీగా తీసుకుని కిసాన్‌ క్రెడిట్‌ కార్డులు జారీ చేయాలి
► ఒక సమీకృత రుణపంట పశుసంపద మానవ ఆరోగ్య బీమా ప్యాకేజీని అభివృద్ధి చేయాలి
► పంట బీమా కవరేజీని దేశ వ్యాప్తంగా, అన్ని పంటలకూ వర్తించేలా విస్తరించాలి. ప్రీమియంలను తగ్గించాలి. గ్రామీణ బీమాను విస్తరించేందుకు గ్రామీణ బీమా అభివృద్ధి నిధిని ఏర్పాటు చేయాలి
► రైతు సంఘాలు, స్వయం సేవా సంఘాలు, జల సంఘాల సంస్థాగత అభివృద్ధి సేవలను మెరుగుపరచడం ద్వారా పేదల జీవనోపాధులను పెంపొందించాలి
► జాతీయ ఆహార హక్కు చట్టాన్ని చేయడంతో పాటు సార్వత్రిక ప్రజా పంపిణీ వ్యవస్థను అమలు చేయడం తదితర చర్యలు చేపట్టాలి.


ఆత్మహత్యల నివారణకు..
► అందుబాటు ధరలో ఆరోగ్య బీమాను అందించాలి. ప్రాథమిక ఆరోగ్య కేంద్రాలను పునరుత్తేజితం చేయాలి. ఆత్మహత్యలు అధికంగా ఉన్న ప్రాంతాలకు ప్రాధాన్యతా ప్రాతిపదికన జాతీయ గ్రామీణ ఆరోగ్య మిషన్‌ను విస్తరించాలి
► రైతుల సమస్యలపై ప్రభుత్వం క్రియాశీలకంగా స్పందించేలా చూడటానికి రైతుల ప్రాతినిధ్యంతో రాష్ట్ర స్థాయి రైతుల కమిషన్‌ను ఏర్పాటు చేయాలి
► సూక్ష్మరుణ విధానాలను జీవనోపాధి ఫైనాన్స్‌ లాగా సేవలందించడానికి.. అంటే సాంకేతికత, నిర్వహణ, మార్కెట్ల వంటి రంగాల్లో మద్దతు సేవలతో కూడిన రుణాలను అందించడం పునర్నిర్మించాలి
► మండలం యూనిట్‌గా కాకుండా.. గ్రామం యూనిట్‌గా అన్ని పంటలకూ పంట బీమా వర్తింపచేయాలి.
► వృద్ధాప్య మద్దతు, ఆరోగ్య బీమాతో కూడిన సామాజిక భద్రతా పరిధిని అందించాలి.
► నాణ్యమైన విత్తనాలు తదితర ఇన్‌పుట్‌ సాధనాలు అందుబాటు ధరల్లో సరైన సమయంలో సరైన ప్రదేశంలో లభ్యమయ్యేలా చూడాలి.
► రైతులకు గరిష్ట ఆదాయాలు అందించే.. తక్కువ ప్రమాదం గల, తక్కువ ధర గల సాంకేతికతలను సిఫారసు చేయాలి.
► మెట్ట ప్రాంతాల్లో జీలకర్ర వంటి జీవనాధార పంటల విషయంలో మార్కెట్‌లో జోక్యం చేసుకునే పథకాలపై దృష్టి కేంద్రీకరించాల్సిన అవసరముంది. ధరల అనిశ్చితి నుంచి రైతులకు రక్షణ కల్పించడానికి ధరల స్థిరీకరణ నిధిని ఏర్పాటు చేయాలి.
► అంతర్జాతీయ ధరల నుంచి రైతులకు రక్షణ కల్పించడానికి దిగుమతి సుంకాలపై వేగంగా చర్యలు చేపట్టాల్సిన అవసరముంది.
► రైతుల సంక్షోభం అధికంగా ఉన్న ప్రాంతాల్లో గ్రామ విజ్ఞాన కేంద్రాలు (కేవీసీలు) ఏర్పాటు చేయాలి. ఇవి.. వ్యవసాయం, అనుబంధ జీవనోపాధులకు సంబంధించిన అన్ని కోణాల్లోనూ క్రియాశీలమైన, డిమాండ్‌తో కూడిన సమాచారాన్ని రైతులకు ఎప్పటికప్పుడు అందిస్తూ మార్గదర్శక కేంద్రాలుగా పనిచేయాలి.
► ఆత్మహత్య ప్రవర్తన సంకేతాలను ముందుగా గుర్తించే విధంగా ప్రజలకు బహిరంగ అవగాహనా కార్యక్రమాలు నిర్వహించాలి.


ఖర్చుపై 50 శాతం ఎంఎస్‌పీ..
► వ్యవస్థీకృత మద్దతును ఉపయోగించుకోవడానికి, రైతు  వినియోగదారులను నేరుగా అనుసంధానించడానికి, వికేంద్రీకృత ఉత్పత్తిని కోత అనంతర నిర్వహణ, విలువ చేర్పు, మార్కెటింగ్‌వంటి కేంద్రీకృత సేవలతో కలపడానికి, చిన్న పత్తి రైతుల సంఘాల వంటి వస్తువు ప్రాతిపదికగా రైతుల సంఘాలను ప్రోత్సహించాలి.
► కనీస మద్దతు ధర (ఎంఎస్‌పీ) అమలును మెరుగుపరచాలి. వరి, గోధుమలే కాకుండా ఇతర పంటలకూ ఎంఎస్‌పీని అమలు చేయాల్సిన అవసరముంది. జొన్నలు వంటి చిరుధాన్యాలను కూడా ప్రజా పంపిణీలో శాశ్వతంగా చేర్చాలి.
► కనీస మద్దతు ధర అనేది సగటు ఉత్పత్తి వ్యయానికి కనీసం 50 శాతం అదనంగా ఉండాలి.
► మల్టీ కమోడిటీ ఎక్సేంజ్‌(ఎంసీడీ), ఎన్‌సీడీఈఎక్స్, ఏపీఎంసీ ఎలక్ట్రిక్‌నెట్‌వర్కుల ద్వారా.. 93 వస్తువులనూ చేర్చుతూ.. 6000 టెర్మినళ్లు, 430 పట్టణాలు, నగరాలలో అప్పటి మరియు భవిష్యత్తు ధరల సమాచారాన్ని అందుబాటులో ఉంచాలి.
► ఆర్థిక వ్యవస్థ వృద్ధి రేటును వేగవంతం చేయడం, వ్యవసాయేతర రంగాల్లో ఉపాధి అవకాశాలను పెంపొందించడానికి చర్యలు చేపట్టాలి.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

APPSC GROUP-I MAIN 2012 PAPER - I GENERAL ESSAY QUESTION PAPER

                                                           

Saturday, July 14, 2012

New plan for census towns: PURA 2.0


In the Census of India, the definition of urban area adopted was as follows:

• All statutory places with a municipality, corporation, cantonment board or notified town area committee, etc. 
• A place satisfying the following three criteria simultaneously:

a) A minimum population of 5,000;
b) At least 75 per cent of male working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and 
c) A density of population of at least 400 per sq. km. (1,000 per sq. mile).
But the definition is unclear: the census calls them towns, but since they have gram panchayats rather than municipal corporations, the government seems to consider them rural.

Thus Planning Commission has agreed to provide Rs-1500 Crore in the 12th Five year plan for developing infrastructure in rapidly urbanizing areas known as census towns in the new version of PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas) to bring basic infrastructure to these areas.

GOI have schemes for rural infrastructure, and schemes for urban infrastructure, but neither of them applies for these areas — caught in the middle of these two.

During the 12th Five Year Plan period public-private partnership scheme will be used to bring water supply, sewerage, drainage, solid waste management and street lighting to such unofficial urban clusters, mostly in the six States — Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala — which have seen the highest growth of census towns.

Each project is likely to cost about 150 crore rupees with Rural Development Ministry providing a grant of 40 to 50 crore rupees; 70 to 80 crore rupees will be mobilized by ongoing central schemes, while the private sector is expected to bring in about 20 crore rupees. The Private Company in consulation with the Gram Panchayat will get the lease of 10 years for the physical infrastructure to be developed in such towns to recover the investment.

Private sector entities having experience in development and management of community-oriented infrastructure projects shall be selected through an open competitive bidding process based on rigorous qualifications and evaluation criteria. The selected private partners would be required to provide amenities like water supply and sewerage, roads, drainage, solid waste management, street lighting and power distribution and undertake some economic and skill development activity as part of the PURA project. The private partners may also provide add-on revenue-earning facilities such as village linked tourism, integrated rural hub, rural market, agri-common services centre and warehousing etc. in addition to the above mentioned amenities. 

The scheme is a revamp of the former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam's brainchild, PURA, which was initially aimed at providing city amenities to villages. In its latest avatar, PURA 2.0 is focussing on the development of 50 to 60 potential growth centres such as census towns. Initial pilot projects have begun in Kerala, with eight other projects awaiting final approvals from State governments. 

BONN CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE 2012


The 36th sessions of the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), the fifteenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA), the seventeenth session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) and the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) takes place concurrently from 14 to 25 May.

The negotiations in Bonn were meant to build on a deal struck in December in Durban, South Africa, to create a new global climate pact by 2015 that would make both rich and poor nations rein in emissions caused by the burning of oil and other fossil fuels. More than 180 countries agreed on an agenda for work on a new climate treaty by 2015 at United Nations climate talks.

The European Union claims China and other developing countries are backsliding on commitments made in Durban to bring the discussion on emissions cuts from both rich and poor nations into one forum, instead of the current structure, which has two parallel negotiation tracks. Developing countries — backed by climate activists — accuse the U.S., EU and other industrialised nations of trying to evade commitments made in previous negotiations and shift responsibilities for tackling climate change to the developing world.

Environmentalist groups and countries that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change warn that time is running out to avert disastrous consequences like increased extreme weather, ocean acidification and glacier melts.

Countries have agreed that deep emissions cuts are needed to limit a rise in global average temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius this century above pre-industrial levels, a threshold that scientists say is the minimum required to avert catastrophic effects.

However, one of the main contributors to global warming, global carbon dioxide emissions, hit a record high last year, according to the International Energy Agency, which advises industrialised countries.

Some countries also look set to miss their emissions cut targets for 2020, putting the world on a dangerous trajectory towards a rise in global average temperature of 3.5 degree Celsius, research showed.

The only existing binding treaty, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, was shunned by the U.S. because it doesn't impose any emissions targets on China, thus leaving out the two biggest carbon emitters on the globe. It was set to expire this year but countries agreed in Durban to extend it, though they haven't agreed on how long. Canada, Japan and Russia have refused to make any new commitments under Kyoto, meaning it only covers about 15 per cent of global emissions.

Microfinance: Issues and future in India

Microfinance is one sector about which the perception of common man, policy makers and public media has witnessed peaks and valleys in short span of time. The sector was perceived as Messiah for unbankables due to its unprecedented success in South Asia. Many social scientists and various political and business leaders looked at it as a panacea for poverty stricken vulnerable and marginalized section of the society. There was a strong advocacy to replicate the model across the third world countries.
In India the Microfinance was extended to remote areas with high euphoria, and as a model which was perceived to reduce “poverty through profits”. It was seen as a win-win model for financial institutions as well as for the bulk of population which does not have access to financial institutions. However within a short span of time microfinance institutions were perceived to be blood sucker of the poor. They were soon looked upon not only as anti developmental but also as a neo avtar of moneylender of pre independent era who use to charge exorbitant rate of interests and adhered to coercive methods for the recovery.
If we critically examine this sector the reality of this sector lies some where in between “messiah of poor” and “neo avtar of coercive moneylenders”. To understand the realities of this sector we must understand the basic issues in the model which resulted in its disgrace. The following were the issues with model in India:
1.    In the absence of any regulation various Microfinance Institutions (MFI’s) started charging very high rate of interests from their clients. Although it’s a fact that disbursement of loans in the rural areas involves high administrative cost and greater risk in the absence of collaterals. Thus it is impossible to deliver the credits in rural population on an interest rate at par with their urban counterparts. However, the profit motives of many MFI’s eclipsed the developmental goal of the sector. As a result exorbitant interest rates and opaque policies were rampantly practiced.
2.    MFI’s deviated from the principle of disbursing the loans for the productive purpose leading to debt cycle. The success of Microfinance model rests on the fundamental principle of lending for the productive purposes. In order to expand the clientele base various MFI’s ignored this basic tenet and started lending for non productive purposes as well.
3.    Overleveraging was also one of the major error which MFI’s indulged into. Multiple borrowing   from various sources resulted into indebtedness much above the credit wroth of the clients and finally resulted into bad loans.  
4.    Leakage in the form of “ghost loans” and fraudulent loans by the staff of MFI’s was also one of the major flaws in the model.
5.    In order to collect the loans the MFI’s adhered to coercive practices which at times were extra legal and even illegal. Since this financial model is complexly interwoven into socio-cultural and psychological dimensions as well, the result of these methods was counterproductive. Large number of suicides in Andhara Pradesh was the manifestation of this fiasco.
In order to deal with these issues, on the recommendation of Malegaon committee, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has come up with the regulations. In order to regulate the interest rates by MFI’s, RBI has put a cap on the lending rate of MFI’s at 26% per annum and a margin cap of 12 percent over their cost of funds, whichever is lower.
In order to tackle the issue of overleveraging, RBI has now laid down a rule that only two MFI can lend to one borrower and both together cannot provide loans beyond Rs 50,000. The Information Technology is also being used to create an authentic data base of borrowers to prevent overleveraging.
The legislation and regulations by RBI have to a great extent addressed the flaws in the sector. Since the sector along with the financial inclusion is based on social capital as well, it can play a big role poverty elevation, empowerment and sustainable development.

Food Security and Public Distribution System

“Food security refers to a situation that exists when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life,” says an FAO report ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World, 2001’.
It is now well recognized that the availability of food grains is necessary but not a sufficient condition to ensure food security to the poor. It is also necessary that the poor have sufficient means to purchase food. The capacity of the poor to purchase food can be ensured in two ways – by raising the incomes or supplying food grains at subsidized prices. While employment generation programs attempt the first solution, the PDS is the mechanism for the second option.
There are several ways in which food security can be improved. The strategies constitute several policies. India's strategies in this regard comprise economic growth, direct anti-poverty programs, which include wage-employed and self-employed targeted programs, public distribution system (PDS) nutrition-based programs and provision of health facilities.
India has a large program of public food distribution, mainly food grains, through a network of Fair Price Shops (FPS), both in rural and urban areas. The program has evolved with the twin objective of providing incentive prices to the farmer for a sustained supply of food grain and subsidizing its consumption. Until the seventies the focus of food distribution program was urban and the food deficit areas. The welfare focus of the program assumed importance during the eighties and coverage extended in rural areas, first in the south Indian states and later all over India. However, due to the mounting costs of subsidy, targeting was more focused during the nineties, first, with the revamped public distribution system in 1997. The program covered poor households as the target group, generally, and tribal and drought prone areas, universally.  
 The Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) was introduced in June, 1997. It envisaged that the Below Poverty Line (BPL) population would be identified in every State and every BPL family would be entitled to a certain quantity of food grains at specially subsidized prices. While BPL population were offered food grains at half the economic cost, the APL, who were not to have a fixed entitlement to food grains, were supplied grains at their economic cost. Thus, TPDS intends to target the subsidized provision of food grains to ‘poor in all areas’ unlike RPDS, which laid stress on ‘all in poor areas’.

Issues with Public Distribution System

1.      The most important issue related to the TPDS is identification and definition of poor. The poverty estimates of various institutions and organization differ remarkably. A slight change in the identification criteria of the poverty line can have huge implication on a large number of families. According to the critics the definition of poor in India has severe limitations and the official numbers are abhorrently underestimated by the government agencies under the pressure of ballooning food subsidies.
2.      The second issue after identification and definition of poor is that of proper targeting. In many states the cases of fraudulent BPL ration cards are rampant. As a result the “genuine poor” are unable to get benefits of this system. Several empirical studies, based on PDS purchases, have shown that the poor were not benefiting much from the PDS. In a study on the effectiveness of the PDS in reaching the poor, Parikh (1994) says that 'the cost effectiveness of reaching the poorest 20 per cent households through PDS cereals is very small'. For every rupee spent, less than 22 paisa reach the poor in most states
3.      The large scale diversion and black marketing of PDS food grain is also a pertinent issue that this system is facing.
4.      The quality of the food grain supplied through the PDS is also inferior in quality and low in nutritional value. Thus even in a very few pockets where the leakages are absent the malnutrition among the vulnerable section of society is not arrested.
5.      In the PDS large quantities of grains are procured from one part of the country to the other, stored in warehouses and moved to other parts. There are high storage and transportation losses. Also the existing centralized system is a major hurdle in ensuring availability in various remote pockets.
6.      The availability of cheap rice and wheat at PDS outlets has dissuaded many a rural households from trying food that is grown locally out of the environmental and socio-economic condition in a given area.

Measures for strengthening the Public Distribution System

1.      The proportion of population with food insecurity should be identified with Planning Commission’s poverty ratio. The Planning Commission should make appropriate adjustments in the method of BPL identification that would enable the States to limit the size of the target group in the neighborhood of its own estimates of people with food insecurity
2.      Families, who do not have a secure source of regular income, should be included in the BPL list, irrespective of their income. This would benefit a large majority of the poor, particularly, those with economic insecurity. The Planning Commission in its study conducted between 2002 to 2005 found that many daily-wage earning families have been left out of BPL category because their current income levels were above the Planning Commission’s Poverty Line.
3.      Since the BPL identification survey is critical to the success of TPDS, it is appropriate that this be carried out with the assistance of reputed agencies such as the NSSO and State level research /survey institutions. The database should be then computerized for effective monitoring and regular updating.
4.      A major cause of diversion of food grain is non-availability of food grains, as per allocation, at FCI based depots or State Agency's distribution centers. Hence, in FCI based depot (which is generally present in each district) six months' stock, as per allotment, should remain. At present, it has been instructed that stocks for three months should be kept, but in many districts three months' stocks are not present. If there is sufficient availability of stocks, on one hand food grain will be made available, as per allotment, and on the other hand, diversion will be checked and food security will be strengthened.
5.      The involvement of local bodies in overseeing the functioning of PDS is, generally, nominal/non-existent in most states. A committee should be formed among members of each Municipality/Gram Panchayat, which should be responsible for effective functioning of Fair Price Shops.
6.      Composition of food grains offered, through PDS, in different States should give due weight ages to local preferences, in terms of cereals and their varieties, wherever feasible. Various studies have revealed that variations in such preferences, significantly, affected their decision to buy food grains from the PDS.
7.      A large majority of the BPL cardholders do not lift or lift only part of the ration quota during the harvest and sowing seasons in rural areas, as many of them receive wage payment in kind and also because market prices during harvest season are low. This seasonal pattern varies across states. Thus, it is necessary to accommodate such lifting pattern into the delivery schedule of PDS to minimize leakage and diversion.
Two major reasons for diversion of food grains are, (a) the PDS outlets are run by individuals and, (b) they are unviable. Regarding (a), it is proposed that the retail PDS outlets be handed over to cooperatives or institutions like Mahila Nagrik Banks, Regional Rural Banks, etc. These organizations will not be solely dependent on PDS for their existence, as is the case with individuals and even in many cases ‘Self Help Groups’ and ‘Consumer Federations’. Such organizations would be able to cross-subsidize the PDS operations through other profitable operations


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jan Lokpal Bill


The Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen's ombudsman Bill) is a draft anti-corruption bill drawn up by prominent civil society activists seeking the appointment of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body  that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year and envisages trial in the case getting over in the next one year. Drafted by Justice Santosh Hegde (former Supreme Court Judge and present Lokayukta of Karnataka), Prashant Bhushan (Supreme Court Lawyer) and Arvind Kejriwal (RTI activist), the draft Bill envisages a system where a corrupt person found guilty would go to jail within two years of the complaint being made and his ill-gotten wealth being confiscated. It also seeks power to the Jan Lokpal to prosecute politicians and bureaucrats without government permission. Retired IPS officer Kiran Bedi and other known people like Swami Agnivesh, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Anna Hazare and Mallika Sarabhai are also part of the movement, called India Against Corruption. Its website describes the movement as "an expression of collective anger of people of India against corruption. We have all come together to force/request/persuade/pressurize the Government to enact the Jan Lokpal Bill. We feel that if this Bill were enacted it would create an effective deterrence against corruption."Anna Hazare, anti-corruption crusader, began a fast-unto-death today, demanding that this bill, drafted by the civil society, be adopted. The website of the India Against Corruption movement calls the Lokpal Bill of the government an "eyewash" and has on it a critique of that government Bill. It also lists the difference between the Bills drafted by the government and civil society.

A look at the salient features of Jan Lokpal Bill:

1.     An institution called LOKPAL at the centre and LOKAYUKTA in each state will be set up
2.     Like Supreme Court and Election Commission, they will be completely independent of the governments. No minister or bureaucrat will be
able to influence their investigations.

3.     Cases against corrupt people will not linger on for years anymore: Investigations in any case will have to be completed in one year. Trial
should be completed in next one year so that the corrupt politician, officer or judge is sent to jail within two years.

4.     The loss that a corrupt person caused to the government will be recovered at the time of conviction.
5.     How will it help a common citizen: If any work of any citizen is not done in prescribed time in any government office, Lokpal will impose financial penalty on guilty officers, which will be given as compensation to the complainant.
6.     So, you could approach Lokpal if your ration card or passport or voter card is not being made or if police is not registering your case or any other work is not being done in prescribed time. Lokpal will have to get it done in a month's time. You could also report any case of corruption to Lokpal like ration being siphoned off, poor quality roads been constructed or panchayat funds being siphoned off. Lokpal will have to complete its investigations in a year, trial will be over in next one year and the guilty will go to jail within two years.
7.     But won't the government appoint corrupt and weak people as Lokpal members? That won't be possible because its members will be
selected by judges, citizens and constitutional authorities and not by politicians, through a completely transparent and participatory process.

8.     What if some officer in Lokpal becomes corrupt? The entire functioning of Lokpal/ Lokayukta will be completely transparent. Any complaint against any officer of Lokpal shall be investigated and the officer dismissed within two months.
9.     What will happen to existing anti-corruption agencies? CVC, departmental vigilance and anti-corruption branch of CBI will be merged into Lokpal. Lokpal will have complete powers and machinery to independently investigate and prosecute any officer, judge or politician.
10.    It will be the duty of the Lokpal to provide protection to those who are being victimized for raising their voice against corruption.

United Nations Convention against Corruption

Corruption is a complex social, political and economic phenomenon that affects all countries. Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability. Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existing is the soliciting of bribes. Economic development is stunted because foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the "start-up costs" required because of corruption.

In its resolution 55/61 of December 4, 2000, the UN General Assembly recognized that an effective international legal instrument against corruption, independent of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (resolution 55/25, annex I), was desirable and decided to establish an
ad hoc committee for the negotiation of such an instrument in Vienna at the headquarters of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly by resolution 58/4 of October 31, 2003. In accordance with article 68 (1) of resolution 58/4, the United Nations Convention against Corruption entered into force on December 14, 2005. For each new State or regional economic integration organization becoming a party to the Convention, the Convention enters into force on the thirtieth day after the date of deposit by such State or organization of the relevant instrument.


This convention, which came into force in 2005, has 140 countries on its list. India, ratified the convention on May 13, 2011.


India had signed the convention in 2005 but the UPA government, particularly the department of personnel and training (DoPT), had steadfastly refused to ratify it. Over the years, MEA (which is the nodal ministry for international treaties), had been pushing the government to ratify the convention. The official reason was that India has not yet brought its domestic laws in line with the international convention.


Acceding to the convention will make it easier for India to repatriate the billions of dollars in ill-gotten wealth that have been stashed overseas. Under the convention, asset recovery is a fundamental principle, Article 51 provides for the return of assets to countries of origin as a fundamental principle of this convention.


The convention requires signatories to put in place certain preventive measures—like enhanced transparency in funding election campaigns and political parties—which certainly in India is at the root of a lot of government corruption.


The convention criminalises not only basic corruption such as bribery and the embezzlement of public funds but also trading in influence and the concealment and laundering of the proceeds of corruption. According to UN literature, "offences committed in support of corruption, including money-laundering and obstructing justice, are also dealt with. Convention offences also deal with the problematic areas of private sector corruption."


The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. The Convention's far-reaching approach and the mandatory character of many of its provisions make it a unique tool for developing a comprehensive response to a global problem.


The UNCAC covers five main areas: prevention, criminalization and law enforcement measures, international cooperation, asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange.


The UNCAC also covers many different forms of corruption, such as trading in influence, abuse of power, and various acts of corruption in the private sector. A further significant development was the inclusion of a specific chapter of the Convention dealing with the recovery of assets, a major concern for countries that pursue the assets of former leaders and other officials accused or found to have engaged in corruption. The rapidly growing number of States that have become parties to the Convention is further proof of its universal nature and reach.


Prevention

Corruption can be prosecuted after the fact, but first and foremost, it requires prevention. An entire chapter of the Convention is dedicated to prevention, with measures directed at both the public and private sectors. These include model preventive policies, such as the establishment of anti-corruption bodies and enhanced transparency in the financing of election campaigns and political parties. States must endeavour to ensure that their public services are subject to safeguards that promote efficiency, transparency and recruitment based on merit. Once recruited, public servants should be subject to codes of conduct, requirements for financial and other disclosures, and appropriate disciplinary measures. Transparency and accountability in matters of public finance must also be promoted, and specific requirements are established for the prevention of corruption, in the particularly critical areas of the public sector, such as the judiciary and public procurement.

Preventing public corruption also requires an effort from all members of society at large. For these reasons, the Convention calls on countries to promote actively the involvement of non-governmental and community-based organizations, as well as other elements of civil society, and to raise public awareness of corruption and what can be done about it. Article 5 of the Convention enjoins each State Party to establish and promote effective practices aimed at the prevention of corruption.


Criminalization

The Convention requires countries to establish criminal and other offences to cover a wide range of acts of corruption, if these are not already crimes under domestic law. In some cases, States are legally obliged to establish offences; in other cases, in order to take into account differences in domestic law, they are required to consider doing so. The Convention goes beyond previous instruments of this kind, criminalizing not only basic forms of corruption such as bribery and the embezzlement of public funds, but also trading in influence and the concealment and laundering of the proceeds of corruption. Offences committed in support of corruption, including money-laundering and obstructing justice, are also dealt with. Convention offences also deal with the problematic areas of private-sector corruption.

International Cooperation

Countries agreed to cooperate with one another in every aspect of the fight against corruption, including prevention, investigation, and the prosecution of offenders. Countries are bound by the Convention to render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court, to extradite offenders. Countries are also required to undertake measures that will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption.

Asset Recovery

In a major breakthrough, countries agreed on asset-recovery, which is stated explicitly as a fundamental principle of the Convention. This is a particularly important issue for many developing countries where high-level corruption has plundered the national wealth, and where resources are badly needed for reconstruction and the rehabilitation of societies under new governments. Reaching agreement on this chapter has involved intensive negotiations, as the needs of countries seeking the illicit assets had to be reconciled with the legal and procedural safeguards of the countries whose assistance is sought.

Article 51 provides for the return of assets to countries of origin as a fundamental principle of this Convention. Article 43 obliges State parties to extend the widest possible cooperation to each other in the investigation and prosecution of offences defined in the Convention. With regard to asset recovery in particular, the article provides inter alia that "In matters of international cooperation, whenever dual criminality is considered a requirement, it shall be deemed fulfilled irrespective of whether the laws of the requested State Party place the offence within the same category of offence or denominate the offence by the same terminology as the requesting State Party, if the conduct underlying the offence for which assistance is sought is a criminal offence under the laws of both States Parties".


Criminalization and law enforcement

As per the convention, each State Party shall adopt such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as a criminal offence, when committed intentionally, the promise, offering or giving to a foreign public official or an official of a public international organization, directly or indirectly, of an undue advantage, for the official himself or herself or another person or entity, in order that the official act or refrain from acting in the exercise of his or her official duties, in order to obtain or retain business or other undue advantage in relation to the conduct of international business.

Bribery in the private sector:
Each State Party shall consider adopting such legislative and other measures as may be necessary to establish as criminal offences, when committed intentionally in the course of economic, financial or commercial activities: (a) The promise, offering or giving, directly or indirectly, of an undue advantage to any person who directs or works, in any capacity, for a private sector entity, for the person himself or herself or for another person, in order that he or she, in breach of his or her duties, act or refrain from acting; (b) The solicitation or acceptance, directly or indirectly, of an undue advantage by any person who directs or works, in any capacity, for a private sector entity, for the person himself or herself or for another person, in order that he or she, in breach of his or her duties, act or refrain from acting.

Protection of witnesses, experts and victims:
The Convention also provides for appropriate measures in accordance with a State’s domestic legal system and within its means to provide effective protection from potential retaliation or intimidation for witnesses and experts who give testimony concerning offences established in accordance with this Convention and, as appropriate, for their relatives and other persons close to them.

Each State Party also has to take appropriate measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports in good faith and on reasonable grounds to the competent authorities any facts concerning offences established in accordance with this Convention.

The Significance of Cooperatives for Social Justice

Throughout the world today, societies are being torn apart due to the fact that various social groups and classes are not getting their due respect from other forces in society. Many societies are lacking social justice which could be seen as equal opportunity treatment of all persons in society. Various institutions have the responsibility to ensure this happens. Yet social justice is absent in many instances.

Cooperatives are based on principles and values that speak directly to the issue of social justice. Most traditional cooperatives follow the seven principles of cooperative identity, promoted by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), an Apex organization for cooperatives around the world. These principles call for the practice of democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. Cooperatives also embrace the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

With these principles and values at the core of cooperative operations, the poor, excluded and marginalized sectors of society are usually served well by cooperatives. The financial sector is one area where this has shown well. Financial cooperatives are some of the largest providers of micro-finance services to the poor. It is estimated that globally, financial cooperatives reach 78 million clients living below a poverty line of $2 per day. Financial cooperatives thus play a central role in the achievement of an inclusive financial sector that encompasses the poor.

Through their commitment to servicing the poor and under-served, financial cooperatives are helping to lessen the burden of poverty. Financial cooperatives, by providing savings products, help to reduce members’ vulnerabilities to shocks such as medical emergencies.

Cooperatives have also been instrumental in promoting inclusive development in rural areas, helping to both strengthen and diversify rural economies. Financial cooperatives provide access to credit for members who might not typically have access to the larger savings and commercial banks. This is significant in markets where financial providers are absent owing to poor revenue prospects, high risks, or high transaction costs. This access to financial services often supports the formation of small and micro businesses.

Cooperatives have also been able to strengthen agricultural production and improve access of poor farmers, especially through engaging in fair trade arrangements. Small farmers who struggle to create and sustain businesses of their own are able to increase farm revenues, lower marketing and information-gathering costs, as well as enter into high-value supply chains that they would not be able to do on their own.

While the need for more research cannot be denied, that which exists supports the idea that, if given the right supportive environment, cooperatives could help in profound ways to achieve social justice, where it is lacking. Empowering cooperatives to leverage their capacity to contribute to social justice requires a sound policy and legislative framework.

The International Year of Cooperatives 2012, declared by the United Nations General Assembly, is one means to raising awareness. By raising awareness of cooperatives – what they are and what they do – the IYC will empower cooperatives to promote their social justice values and encourage governments to create supportive policy and legislative frameworks, where needed.

Even with this support, the challenge of effective implementation of the cooperative principles and values cannot be ignored. The sound governance of cooperatives depends upon a well-informed and active membership base, dedicated to cooperative values and principles. To sustain the drive of cooperatives for social justice, a strong membership base, bound by the democratic one-member-one-vote principle, is essential to addressing weak or unethical management, capture by local politicians, or other conflicts of interests which could divert cooperatives from addressing social justice issues.

Democratisation for Human Development

It has been seen that a lasting solution for eradicating poverty and shaping human progress can be found as much through politics as through economics. Politics matters in a large way, because it is through this mechanism that the rights of the citizenry in any country are determined. It decides whether the people should be allowed to participate in the decision-making process that impacts their lives.

In the last few decades, the polity has witnessed a sea change. There are innumerable instances across the world, of the opening up of political systems and increased rights and power to the people. The world can be labelled as much more democratic, but there are several underlying problems to be dealt with. A report outlines that 140 countries hold multi-party elections, out of which only 81 have taken significant steps towards democracy.

The democratic system of voting in the elections has added crucial element of governance from the human development standpoint, because elections symbolize enforceable accountability. When a government fails to live up to the needs and desires of the people, they can simply vote it out of the office the next time.

There can be no stricter form of accountability, no more egalitarian form of participation. The right to vote itself gives every individual a choice. However, it would be a grim mistake if one equated democracy with the ritual of regular elections. A vibrant democracy requires functioning institutions-for instance a legislature that does not do a specific individuals bidding, a judiciary that is independent and understands the importance of equal treatment of all through the eyes of the law; a free, independent and unbiased media and security forces that carry out their duties without specific political allegiances. It also requires an active and alert civil society that can ensure that the government works in the general public interest, and also keeps giving its inputs wherever required. An independent judiciary provides the necessary checks and balances between the democratic institutions of governance. Accountability is central to democratic governance. It ensures that holders of public trust are acting effectively and fairly.

In the presence of a free press and an active civil society, people can have several ways of participating in the policy decisions and debates. There is the example of participatory budgeting and gender-responsive budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Here, the citizen participation in preparing the municipal budgets has helped in economizing in several areas, to divert funds to human development activities. During the first seven years of this activity, the houses having access to water services increased from 80 per cent to 98 per cent. Also, those with access to sanitation increased dramatically from 46 per cent to 85 per cent.

Democracy is not only instrumental in expanding political freedom, but also goes a long way in fostering growth. Democracies are better at managing conflicts than the authoritarian regimes because of the political space and the institutions that create the opportunity for open contests, vindicating the fact that change is possible without tearing down the system. Socio-political unrest and handover of the reins of power occurs more often in democracies than in authoritarian regimes and, most remarkably, without coming in the way of development.

Democracies also are better at avoiding catastrophes and at managing sudden downturns that threaten human survival itself. Free speech makes more effective the efforts at spreading the word about critical health issues, about the benefits of family planning and containing the population, simple ways for reduction in infant mortality, and spread of the HIV/AIDS. Promoting democratic politics also means giving the much-required thrust to education. It is important for nations to realise that their biggest asset is the human capital. It would be wrong to regard the populace as merely the beneficiaries of economic and social progress, who, in fact, are the facilitators of the same. It is for this very reason that health and education (the two factors boosting the productivity of an individual) are the major focus areas.

Human development carries much more import than just growth in the national incomes. Political freedom and people's participation are vital, as they are means of advancing human development. In the recent years, people around the world have fought for, and paved way for a democratic set-up, in the hope of getting political freedom and, consequently, better socio-economic conditions, as well as opportunities. However, it is increasingly being felt that this form of government has also not delivered. Even the longer established democracies have not been able to stay uncorrupted.

Altering the constitutions, making the ministers and the judiciary mere puppets, openly defying the norms of clean and fair elections are some practices hindering the progress of the societies, as well as individuals. It is only when democracy does not respond to the needs of the people that they get drawn towards the authoritarianism. Building democratic institutions, along with achieving equitable socio-economic development, poses a lot of problems. If a system confers political equality on all people, it does not imply that the individuals would have similar desire to participate in the processes, or that they would be in equal control of the results that follow. It has been seen very often that inequity of resources and political clout undermine the very purpose of the institution of democracy.

One factor that more often than not plays foul is money. It subverts the democracies with its influence on determining who gets elected. A rise in the campaign cost does not augur well, for it indicates only to the degree of the politicians' expected inclination towards business interests.

A successful and efficient democracy requires an independent and fair media. In order to be plural and independent, the media must be free, not just from the State control, but also be immune from corporate and political pressures. The State ownership of media has gone down tremendously owing to the market reforms and the economic integration. However, the trend visible currently is not too encouraging as the ownership rests increasingly with private concerns. The report outlines a range of mechanisms that can promote the non-partisan media without having to take recourse to government controls. These include self-regulation through independent bodies, professional code of ethics and using official ombudsmen, coupled with training the journalists and media persons and increasing their awareness levels.

Whenever there is a discussion about human development, democracy must come into picture. Though the awareness about how to promote equitable development that benefits poor people, including measures like widening access to credit, reforming land ownership, investing in basic social services for all, following the macroeconomic policies, promoting the informal sector etc., remain relegated to the theory books only, for they do not in any way help the interests of the elite.

The need for making people participate in the decisions affecting their lives, and to hold the authorities accountable, no longer remains a problem at the national level. In the breeze of globalisation, there are bigger decisions being taken at the international level that are likely to have a greater affect. No wonder, it creates a feeling of optimism about the future in some, while others see globalisation as a threat. This fact is evident from the anti-globalisation protests in the industrialized as well as the developing countries. The reasons for protests and the agendas of the protesters may differ, but their angst is indicative of one demand-the people acting at the global level should be more responsive and inclusive of the poorer people.

Though the emergence of a global integration movement has created vistas for widening the scope of democracy at the international, level the institutions working at that level require certain reforms. They seem to be toeing the line of the rich and the powerful countries, as reflected in their decisions. For instance, each member in the World Trade Organization has a seat and a vote-a practice that appears very democratic in itself, but the decisions are arrived at by consensus, which is influenced more than a little by the richer countries.

There have been a large number of studies conducted, which suggest that a poor system of governance is responsible for a long-standing poverty problem and lagging development. The crisis of governance is evident through a widespread corruption pervading through the important offices, inefficient public services and a number of other snags in the system. But, it is true that democracy requires a long process of political evolution and development. It needs the setting up of the basic institutions, formal and informal, within the State and outside it.

The spread of democracy is a tough job, unless it is backed by a strong influx of the democratic culture-of values and principles that determine the conduct of individuals and groups. The challenges to democracy may not only spring from political parties, incited by their interests, but from the other factors like extremism, intolerance and discrimination finding its roots in lack for respect for human rights and human dignity.

Democratic governance means that:

  • People's human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected, allowing them to live with dignity.
  • People have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.
  • People can hold decision-makers accountable. Inclusive and fair rules, institutions and practices govern social interactions.
  • Women are equal partners with men in private and public spheres of life and decision-making.
  • People are free from discrimination based on race, ethnicity, class, gender or any other attribute.
  • The needs of future generations are reflected in current policies.
  • Economic and social policies are responsive to peoples needs and aspirations.
  • Economic and social policies aim at eradicating poverty and expanding the choices that all people have in their lives.

Mid-day Meal: A Social Equity Program


All social equity programs are started with a view to make an impact on the social problems at grassroots levels. However their effectiveness depends on the program structure and strategies adopted to address the issue. In a country like India with wide cultural diversity, no single program can make a substantial dent at grassroots level without the dedication of the implementing agencies. One such project that is being undertaken by the government to address the social issues related to education in India is Mid-day Meal Scheme.

The Mid-day meal scheme can be traced for its origin way back to pre-independent India in 1925 when some school authorities in Madras district implemented the noon meal program to take care of the students need. Similar program was started in Kolkata in 1927 and Kerala in 1941. This scheme was formally adopted by the government in 1958 in independent India. However it was only in 1982 that the government undertook serious step to promote the scheme. It was then implemented with the objective to universalize the scheme in all the states with decentralized features. It was implemented in all government run primary school with the help of local authorities playing the role of implementing agencies. This was further expanded from primary age group to cover the students between the 6-14 years. By 1995, most of the South Indian states had implemented the scheme.

In 1995, the government reoriented its strategy when the stress was paid on the spread of literacy drive making it apt time to reorient the strategy. The scheme provided the government with the best alternative method to not only increase the enrolment of school going children but also addressing the other social problems such as eradication of poverty, eradication of malnourishment and undernourishment among the children. It also provided the government with the opportunity to increase the coverage of the social program with minimal cost incurred which the other poverty schemes failed to do as it was implemented through the primary school. Another benefit it entailed was giving the opportunity to address the issues at the grass root level.

The objectives and strategies of the program have been changed to suit and adjust to the national policy objectives. Initially the scheme sought to integrate the noon meals schemes that were being already implemented by some States and to cover all the States. Under the scheme, the children were given free supply of 100 grams of food grain per child per day. The State governments were required to meet the costs of infrastructure and the cooking cost. Initially, the scheme was introduced in the 2,368 blocks where the RPDS or Employment Guarantee Schemes (EGS) were being implemented and in forty low female literacy (LFL) blocks all over India. Local bodies were declared to be the implementing agencies, with supervision from the district and State levels of the government’s administrative machinery. However with the initial success of the program, the government was encouraged to implement it in all the states.

In 2000, the government’s national policies were focused on making the education and access to education a basic right of its citizen. Thus, literacy drive was launched and the government increased spending on educational infrastructure substantially. A number of primary schools were opened especially in rural areas. The existing one got the fund for improving the infrastructure by setting up buildings. The middle schools and high schools were also covered under the national literacy mission. Despite much spending, the government could not increase the literacy rate as it only helped in increasing the enrollment without substantial decrease in dropout rates.

Thus the re-strategizing of Mid-day meal scheme was done. The authorities combined it with the National Literacy Mission. Also the form was changed as now the school authorities were given the responsibility of providing the cooked food based on nutritional norms prescribed by the UN. This strategy was implemented with the twin objective. First it helped increase in enrolment and retention at the same time it also addressed the issue related to reduce the chronic hunger and malnourishment among the school going age group of children. The Mid-day meal scheme helped in increasing the learning capabilities of the children. Also the parents did not have to bear the additional cost of food.

Initially, the State governments were advised to derive finance from poverty alleviation schemes such as JRY for providing necessary infrastructure and meeting the costs. But, from April 1999 onwards, responsibility for raising their share of funding was transferred to States and Union Territories. In December 2003, Planning Commission of India asked the States to earmark a minimum of 15 per cent of additional Central assistance under the Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana (PMGY) for the financial requirements of converting grains into cooked meals.

The scheme also helped in impacting the social problem associated with the rural infrastructure. Thus the gender equity issue and social equity was also addressed as the scheme helped in making the children learn the sharing basis by sitting together and eating from the common kitchen. The school enrolment improved substantially as both the genders entering the literacy drive. This also increased the school enrolment for irrespective of the caste and cultural groups. At the level of India as a whole, the number of children covered under the MDMS rose gradually from 10.36 crore in 2001 – 02 to10.87 crore in 2004 – 05, and then registered a sharp increase to 11.94 crore in 2005 – 06.

MDMS also has the potential for creating awareness among the children about hygiene and clean environment. The Mid-day meal scheme in school provided an opportunity to educate students about the importance of washing hands and plates, of hygienic toilets and of maintaining a clean environment in and around the school. Similarly, a participatory MDMS, where parents will be involved in monitoring the programme, can play an indirect role in improving basic knowledge about nutrition and elementary education among the parents of school-going children.

Despite massive achievement, the scheme is marked with a number of weaknesses and limitations. The scheme lacks the onus to cover the children out of school and drop outs. This is major issue in making the right to education and right to food a fundamental right of the citizen. Another problem associated is resource to fund the scheme is limited. Most of the states failed to meet the cost incurred to provide the cooked food. Also in absence of adequate infrastructure, the scheme could not be provided to many schools. The infrastructural problems associated with the scheme were in terms of not only physical infrastructure as most schools did not even have the proper building and shades to carry out the project. Moreover the human laborer required for cooking the food also lacked, for which the government paid a meager amount.

Thus some of these limitations and weaknesses are being looked into and adequate measures are being taken to step up efforts to make the scheme a big success.

Urbanization in India and issues involved

It is more than half of a century that India became independent. The country has evolved and emerged a lot from pre independence to post independence era. At the time of independence, the country was poverty stricken, impoverished and a rural agrarian society. In 1947, only 15 per cent of the population in cities and towns were classified under urban areas. The rapid development and economic growth helped the country achieve the status of emerged nations.

The country is now one of the leading nations among the developing countries and the progress has made the country leave behind many developed nations as well. As per recent United Nations development reports on urbanization, India has achieved 30 per cent urbanization in 2010. The urbanization in India increased from meager 10 per cent in 1901 to more than 30 per cent. However it was much lesser in terms of rank when compared to other nations that have achieved a higher rate of urbanization and much less below the world urbanization population of 50 per cent  (UNPD World Urbanization Prospects: The2009 Revision).

Urbanization implicates increase in population living in urban areas. An urban area, according to the Census definition, is one that has (i) a minimum population of 5,000; (ii) at least 75 per cent of the male working population engaged in non-agricultural pursuits; and (iii) a density of population of at least 400 per square kilometre (1,000 per square mile).  With increase in population, the country’s urban population also increased. The Census 2001 reports that almost 29 percent of Indians in urban India.

Apart from increase in population the other factors that have contributed to rapid urbanization are migration from rural sector to urban. This happened mainly on account of the increasing infrastructural development to facilitate growth for corporate sector. While the major factor in initiating migration from rural areas to urban sector was increased landlessness in agricultural sector, reduced livelihood potentials in rural sector and increasing employment opportunities in the urban sector with the growth of industries. The high level of income in urban areas, education, availabilities of basic amenities, improved infrastructural facilities and increase in medical facilities were some other factors that helped increase rapid urbanization.

Among the states, Tamil Nadu is the most urbanized in large states with almost half of its population living in more than 600 towns. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab, Karnataka and Haryana are the other states where the urban population exceeds 30 per cent of the total. In terms of absolute number of people living in urban areas, Maharashtra led with 41 million in 2001, followed by Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Orissa, Assam and Bihar are very low in terms of urbanization and remained largely agricultural states, where less than 20 per cent of the population lives in urban areas. These are also the states with low per capita incomes since their residents have little recourse to the opportunities in cities.

The basic features of urban development is increasing infrastructural facilities, access to improved communication and information technologies, qualitative living standard, high income spending, consumerism and improvement in other socio economic parameters. These areas are also distinguished from the rural counterpart in terms of demographic indicators like low birth rate, low mortality, increased longevity, etc. the issues of migration, unemployment are linked to increasing the urbanization in the country. The seasonal unemployment, disguised unemployment and other factors that reduce the rural livelihood potential leads to increased migration towards urban sector. Improvements in connectivity through better communication and transport facilities have also made the migration, which was transitory in nature to permanent migration.

Besides, the increase in population the other factors that increased the urbanization in India are the development of the sub urban areas that got upgraded to the urban sector. Thus the peripheral areas got the status of urban sector. Some other semi urban areas also got upgraded to urban sector with increased amenities and setting up of institutions. Increase in village population with improved civic amenities also made these villages get the status.

Along with increased urbanization some issues emerged with the urbanization in India. The increase in slums in urban sector became a major problem. Unplanned growth of residential and commercial structures, inadequate supply of drinking water facility and increase in traffic were some other adverse effects that emerged with increase in urbanization. Also increasing urban population in absence of proportionate increase in employment opportunities also increased urban rate of unemployment.

The civic amenities were also curtailed with more persons to benefit from the existing ones. Some of the cities across India are failing to provide essential resources to the residents. Some states have managed their cities better than others. Karnataka is now reportedly the first state to plan for night shelters for the urban homeless. To address some of the issues, Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission and multiple government schemes were initiated by the central and state governments. Still the urban infrastructure is inadequate to cope even with the present rate of urbanization, with many cities turning into haphazard concrete jungles, grappling with growing problems of traffic, garbage, water and power supply.

The increase in property and assets prices is some other repercussions of the urban development. Increase in essential commodity price and non essential commodities price resulted as the demands from urban sector grew. However issues on inflation and increasing prices pertained to whole of India which has failed to increase the supply in tandem with growing population.

Conclusion:
Urbanization in India increased rapidly in post independence era. Despite the rapid growth rate the country was ranked much lower as compared to other developing nations of South East Asia. The major factors that affected urbanization were increase in population, migration from rural areas and peripheral suburban and semi-urban areas getting the urban status. However with the urban growth issues related to development also emerged. There has been increase in slums, reduction in civic amenities, increase in property prices, increase in prices of other essentials and non essential commodities.

TRIBAL PROBLEMS

The tribals are a special concern of the nation in view of their low technological development, general economic backwardness, and complex problems of socio-cultural adjustment to distinctive cultural identity. Development of tribals and tribal areas is a challenging task for the government, as they are spread over a wide spectrum of diversities of geographical location, socio-economic and politico-cultural conditions.

Despite its popular as well as academic usage, tribe is a contentious concept. In popular imagination, tribe is associated with “primitivism” and “backwardness,” clearly referring to non-Western or indigenous groups inhabiting the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America or to American Indian reservations.

Approximately 8.2 percent of the total Indian population has been designated as “Scheduled Tribes” (STs), according to the Indian census of 2001. The official Web site of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India, states that “the Scheduled Tribes are the tribes or tribal communities or part of or groups within these tribes and tribal communities which have been declared as such by the President through a public notification.” The Indian government regards retention of “primitive” traits, geographical isolation, possessing distinct culture, shyness of contact with the community at large, and economic backwardness as the essential characteristics of Scheduled Tribes.

Many tribes have come to symbolize the most victimized segments of societies. It is a strange paradox that although they inhabit the most resource-rich regions of the world, many of them are in a state of impoverishment. They are the most severely affected victims of induced development, such as the establishment of mega-hydroelectric projects, conservation through parks, sanctuaries and bioreserves, mining and allied activities, urbanization and industrialization, ecotourism projects, and so on.

The tribal people are concentrated in four regions. They form a majority in the north-eastern states such as Arunachal Pradesh, Naga­land, Manipur, Mizoram, and Meghalaya. However, the majority of the tribals live in the belt of middle India from Gujarat to Bengal. In states like Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Odisha the tribals account for more than 20 per cent of the population. In Jhakhand, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan, the percentage of tribals ranges between 4 to 15 per cent of the total population. However, in the entire middle Indian zone, the tribals are in a majority only in 13 districts. The third zone of tribal concentration is the ‘Himalayan region’ extending from Kashmir to Sikkim. In the far South, we have the fourth area of concentration, but the population is rather small. There are nearly 450 distinctive tribal groups in the country varying in size from around four millions to a bare two dozen. Their styles of living are largely determined by their means of subsistence which includes a wide spectrum of activities such as hunting and food gathering. Artisan groups are engaged in different types of arts and crafts and some are employed as industrial labour. Although the bulk of the tribals are reported to be Hindu in the census, substantial numbers have been converted to Christianity and some to Islam and Buddhism. Some others still follow their traditional faiths.

The history of the tribes has been a history of becoming peasants. It is the policy of the government to minimise the extent of shifting cultivation, promote terrace cultivation and apply the new agricultural strategy to the tribal region and to accelerate the flow of capital for agriculture there in. There has been a diffusion of improved agricultural technology by governmental agencies. Efforts are being made to develop innovative technologies which would yield results in drought-prone areas and highlands. At present much of the settled cultivation is at subsistence level and the majority of the tribal produce is not marketed. They sometimes make distress sales in order to buy some necessities.

In the central zone of tribal concentration agrarian issue stand at the centre of development. In the western zone we find land scarcity and land hunger. This is due to the expulsion of the tribes in those regions by the more vigorous Rajput, Maratha, and other Hindu peasantry. Other contributory factors to land hunger are low productivity  of land, the primitive mode of agriculture and the continued exploitation of tribals by others against whom protective legislation do not afford sufficient safeguards and the non-diversification for tribal economy.

Integration in which attempts will be made to bring the tribals in the mainstream of national life without destroying their distinctive identity. Indian culture is like a mosaic in which its separate elements add to its beauty. Anthropologists regard the integration of the tribes into the mainstream of Indian life as a natural and desirable goal. They only insist on care and caution on planning for the tribes and emphasize restraints in certain areas against innovations of doubtful value. The essential elements of anthropological thinking on the problem have been largely incorporated in national policies. They have emphasi­sed the importance of understanding tribal culture, identifying not only their different problems but the integrative forces in their life bringing out the vital linkages in their cultural fabric. They have pleaded for cautious formulation of development plans with a view to harmonise tribal needs with regional and national interests. They recommend a careful watch on the trends set in motion by these measures with a view to eliminating elements that destroy their social solidarity and kill their zest for living.

The Constitution of India provides specific measures for the protection and promotion of the social and economic interests of the Scheduled Tribes (STs). These include: reservation of seats in the legislature, educational institutions, services and posts, a tribal development program and provisions for autonomy.

The Constitution of India ensures the political representation of Scheduled Tribes in the Lower House (Lok Sabha) of the Parliament and in the State Legislative Assemblies through reserved seats.

Reservation in Educational Institutions and Services: Article 15(4) of the Indian Constitution provides for the reservation of seats for Scheduled Tribes in educational institutions. In order to improve the social situation of the tribal people, the government has, in addition to quotas in education, also designed a reservation policy for employment in government services. Depending on the respective positions, posts reserved for members of "Scheduled Tribes" are either in proportion to the tribal population of the state in question, or – in most cases – comprise 7.5% of the total number of government jobs.

Geographical areas designated as Fifth and Sixth Scheduled areas by independent India are identical to those already delineated by the British as Scheduled Areas.

Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996: This act is aimed primarily at promoting village-level democracy through the Panchayat Raj institutions. It includes changes aimed at adapting the generally established system for use in the Scheduled Areas, which have a different socio-economic and politico-administrative setting.


The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Tribes: Article 338 of the Constitution provides for the appointment of a Special Officer for Scheduled Tribes and Castes by the President, who is commissioned to investigate and report to the President on all matters relating to the constitutional safeguards on Scheduled Tribes and Castes. A National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was subsequently created to take over these responsibilities.

Promotion of the economic and educational interests of the Scheduled Tribes and their protection from social injustice and exploitation are enshrined as a national goal in article 46 of the Constitution. Realizing that earlier programs under the central government's Five-Year Plans had failed to address the development needs, marginalization and exploitation of tribal communities, the Tribal Sub-Plan (TSP) was devised as a new strategy in the Fifth Five-Year Plan in 1973. It is still the approach that guides development programs in tribal areas. Its main objectives are to eliminate exploitation, to speed up social and economic development, and to promote and improve the organisational capacity of tribal people.