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Current Affairs 03 May 2024

  1. Balanced Fertilisation
  2. Interest in Inheritance Tax Legislation Grows Among Indian Opposition Leader
  3. Tenth Anniversary of the Street Vendors Act, 2014
  4. Significance of Carrier Aviation
  5. Shompen Tribe
  6. Patachitra Painting
  7. Goldman Environmental Prize


Context:

In a significant development, urea consumption reached a historic high of 35.8 million tonnes (mt) by the conclusion of the fiscal year ending in March 2024. This figure represents a notable 16.9% increase compared to the 30.6 mt recorded in 2013-14. Consequently, it is anticipated that achieving balanced fertilization will emerge as a pivotal policy objective for the incoming government post the Lok Sabha elections.

Relevance:

GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Balanced Fertilisation Policy
  2. Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) System

Balanced Fertilisation Policy:

  • Encourages farmers to avoid excessive application of urea, di-ammonium phosphate (DAP), or muriate of potash (MOP), which contain primary nutrients in high concentrations.
  • Likely to be a key policy goal for the government post Lok Sabha elections.

Urea Consumption Trends:

  • Fiscal year ending March 2024 witnessed record urea consumption of 35.8 million tonnes (mt), a 16.9% increase from 2013-14’s 30.6 mt.
  • Consumption of urea, containing 46% nitrogen (N), initially declined during 2016-17 and 2017-18.
  • Decline attributed to mandatory neem oil coating of all urea since May 2015.

Neem Coating Rationale:

  • Aimed to curb illegal diversion of highly-subsidised urea for non-agricultural purposes.
  • Non-agricultural uses include plywood, dye, cattle feed, and synthetic milk production.
  • Neem oil acts as a mild nitrification inhibitor, facilitating gradual nitrogen release.
  • Improved nitrogen use efficiency reduces urea bags required per acre.
  • Despite compulsory neem-coating, and the government reducing the bag size from 50 to 45 kg in March 2018, the consumption of urea has only gone up during the last six years (see table).
All-India Consumption of Fertiliser Products (in lakh tonnes)     
 UreaDAPMOP*NPKSSSP
2003-04197.6756.2518.4147.5725.44
2009-10266.73104.9246.3480.2526.51
2011-12295.65101.9130.29103.9547.46
2013-14306.0073.5722.8072.6438.79
2014-15306.1076.2628.5382.7839.89
2015-16306.3591.0724.6788.2142.53
2016-17296.1489.6428.6384.1437.57
2017-18298.9492.9431.5885.9634.39
2018-19314.1892.1129.5790.2835.79
2019-20336.95101.0027.8798.5744.03
2020-21350.43119.1134.25118.1144.89
2021-22341.8092.7224.56114.7956.81
2022-23357.25104.1816.32100.7450.17
2023-24357.80108.1216.45110.7345.44
*For direct application, excluding supply to complex fertiliser units.
Source: Fertiliser Association of India.
     

Nutrient-Based Subsidy (NBS) System:

  • Instituted in April 2010 by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
  • Aims to promote balanced fertilisation by fixing a per-kg subsidy for nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), and sulphur (S) in fertilisers.
  • Links the subsidy on fertilisers to their nutrient content, encouraging the use of complex fertilisers with balanced proportions of nutrients.
Challenges Associated with NBS:
  • Excludes urea from subsidy, leading to increased consumption due to controlled maximum retail price (MRP).
  • Restoration of price controls on non-urea fertilisers has worsened nutrient imbalances.
  • Discrepancies in MRP among fertilisers incentivize over-application of urea and underutilization of other nutrients.
  • Lack of proper pricing hierarchy among non-urea fertilisers exacerbates nutrient imbalances.
Opportunities for Improvement:
  • India’s heavy dependence on imported fertilisers necessitates measures to rationalize costs and reduce subsidy burdens.
  • Recent drops in global prices of urea, DAP, and MOP provide an opportunity for the government to rationalize MRPs of fertilisers.
  • Potential to mitigate the impact of urea price hikes by increasing subsidy rates on other nutrients and promoting balanced plant nutrition.
  • Introduction of sulphur-coated urea presents an opportunity to address nutrient imbalances and promote balanced fertilisation.
  • Expectation of further initiatives to promote balanced fertilisation in the coming months.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

A prominent political leader from India’s opposition party has recently expressed interest in proposed legislation regarding Inheritance Tax. This move comes amidst ongoing discussions about utilizing inheritance tax as a means to address income inequality and facilitate wealth redistribution in the country.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Inheritance Tax: Overview
  2. Advantages of Implementing Inheritance Tax in India
  3. Challenges in Implementing Inheritance Tax in India

Inheritance Tax: Overview

  • A tax paid on inheriting property or assets from a deceased person, levied on the value received by the beneficiary.
  • Paid by the beneficiary, with rates varying by country, sometimes as high as 55%.
  • Inheritance can be received under a Will or personal law of the deceased.
  • In India, the concept of inheritance tax currently does not exist.

Determination of Total Asset Value

  • First step involves assessing the deceased’s assets: real estate, investments, bank accounts, vehicles, and personal belongings.
  • Consideration of outstanding debts or liabilities.
  • Applicability of inheritance tax depends on estate value and jurisdictional laws.
  • Some beneficiaries may be exempt or receive reduced rates, such as spouses or children.

Reasons for Abolishing Inheritance Tax

  • Taxpayer harassment due to pre-death wealth tax and post-death estate duty.
  • Inadequate impact on wealth distribution or state financing.
  • Estate duty yielded low revenue compared to administration costs.
  • High tax rates can lead to capital flight to tax havens or jurisdictions with favorable rates.

Examples of Inheritance Tax Worldwide

  • Widely levied in Europe, America, and Africa.
  • Top nations with inheritance tax include France (60%), Germany (50%), UK (40%), Spain (33%), and Hungary (18%).
  • Other countries with notable rates include Japan (55%), South Korea (50%), Ecuador (37%), Chile (25%), South Africa (25%), and Taiwan (20%).

Advantages of Implementing Inheritance Tax in India

  • Addresses staggering wealth inequality in India, where the top percentile holds a disproportionate share of national wealth.
  • Promotes social mobility by redistributing excessive wealth and preventing its concentration within a few families.
  • Generates additional revenue for the government to fund social sector programs and welfare schemes, aiding in public welfare initiatives.
  • Acts as a progressive tax, placing a higher burden on wealthy individuals, contributing to a fairer tax system.
  • Potential to reduce basic income tax liability for economically weaker sections, fostering entrepreneurship and economic participation.

Challenges in Implementing Inheritance Tax in India

  • India’s already complex tax system may face further complications with the introduction of inheritance tax, leading to compliance and enforcement challenges.
  • Requires a robust administrative infrastructure for effective enforcement and administration, which may be lacking.
  • Resistance from wealthy families who stand to lose a portion of their inherited wealth, posing political and social challenges for implementation.
  • Implications for family-owned businesses, particularly in sectors reliant on succession planning.
  • Collection of accurate wealth and asset data poses challenges, especially in rural areas with prevalent informal economies.
  • Potential for tax avoidance or evasion by high net worth individuals through trusts, offshore accounts, or asset gifting.
  • Agricultural land, culturally and economically significant, presents challenges in imposing inheritance tax due to resistance from agricultural communities and concerns about land fragmentation.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, recently marked its tenth anniversary. This milestone represents the culmination of four decades of legal evolution and advocacy by street vendor movements in India

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Street Vendors Act
  2. Challenges Faced by Street Vendors in India

Street Vendors Act

The Street Vendors Act is a significant legislation aimed at protecting and regulating street vending in Indian cities. Here are some key aspects of the Street Vendors Act and associated challenges:

Street Vendors Act:

  • Scope and Purpose: The Act is designed to protect and regulate street vending across Indian cities by involving local authorities in establishing designated vending zones. It recognizes the importance of street vendors in urban life, contributing to food distribution and cultural identity, and aims to secure their livelihoods and integrate their activities into formal urban planning.
  • Town Vending Committees (TVCs): The Act establishes Town Vending Committees (TVCs), which include street vendor representatives, with women vendors constituting 33% of this group. These committees are responsible for the inclusion of vendors in designated zones and handling grievances through mechanisms like the Grievance Redressal Committee.
  • Roles and Responsibilities: The Act clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of vendors and government at different levels. It requires States/Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to conduct a survey to identify street vendors at least once every five years.
Implementation Challenges:
  • Despite the protections outlined in the Act, street vendors frequently face harassment and eviction, partly due to persistent bureaucratic views of vending as an illegal activity.
  • TVCs often remain under the control of city authorities rather than representing the vendors themselves, with women’s representation often being tokenistic.
  • The Act struggles to integrate with broader urban governance frameworks, such as those established by the 74th Constitutional Amendment. ULBs often lack the power and resources to effectively implement the Act.
  • The prevailing vision of a ‘world-class city’ frequently excludes street vendors, affecting urban planning and policy, and leading to designs and regulations that marginalize vendors.
Ways to Strengthen the Law:
  • Effective implementation is crucial and may require initial top-down guidance from higher government levels, such as the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.
  • Over time, a shift towards more decentralized governance is essential to tailor strategies to the diverse local contexts of vendors across the nation.
  • Policies and urban planning guidelines must be revised to better incorporate street vending, enhancing the capacities of ULBs to include vendors in city planning.
  • Creative use of the Act’s provisions is needed to address emerging issues such as climate change impacts, increased competition from e-commerce, and the proliferation of vendors.
  • Leveraging components of national missions like the National Urban Livelihood Mission can help innovate and adapt to these changing realities.

Challenges Faced by Street Vendors in India

Street vendors in India face a myriad of challenges despite the existence of the Street Vendors Act. Here are some of the prominent challenges:

  • Uneven Enforcement of Regulations: Many street vendors operate without licenses due to uneven enforcement of regulations. This makes them vulnerable to eviction and harassment by authorities and local intermediaries.
  • Bribery and Corruption: Reports indicate that street vendors are often forced to pay bribes to police and local authorities, further impacting their already meagre earnings and perpetuating a cycle of corruption.
  • Economic Insecurity: Saturation in certain areas and competition from established businesses lead to unpredictable income and economic insecurity among street vendors. Limited access to formal credit exacerbates this issue.
  • Limited Licenses: The number of licenses issued for street vending is often insufficient to accommodate the actual number of vendors. For example, Mumbai has a ceiling of around 15,000 licenses, whereas there are an estimated 2.5 lakh vendors in the city.
  • Lack of Infrastructure: Street vendors often lack access to basic infrastructure such as clean water, sanitation facilities, and waste disposal. This not only poses health hazards for vendors but also for customers.
  • Livelihood Disruption: Urban development projects and road widening initiatives frequently lead to the displacement of street vendors, causing disruption to their livelihoods without providing adequate alternative arrangements.
  • Occupational Hazards: Street vendors work in environments that are often hazardous to their health, such as exposure to vehicular pollution, extreme weather conditions, and physical strain from carrying heavy loads.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

In a remarkable display of naval capability, the Indian Navy’s two aircraft carriers, INS Vikramaditya and INS Vikrant, recently conducted “twin carrier operations.” This involved simultaneous take-offs of MiG-29K fighter jets from both carriers, followed by cross-deck landings. Such operations highlight a unique capability possessed by only a select few nations and underscore India’s naval prowess.

Relevance:

GS III: Indigenization of Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Features of Indian Aircraft Carriers
  2. Challenges Associated with Indigenisation of Aircraft Carriers
  3. Significance of Carrier Aviation for India in Modern Strategic Terms

Key Features of Indian Aircraft Carriers

INS Vikrant:

  • First domestically built aircraft carrier with 76% indigenous content.
  • Constructed at Cochin Shipyard Limited, showcasing India’s shipbuilding capabilities.
  • Weighs around 43,000 tonnes, 262 meters long.
  • Prioritizes manoeuvrability, with a top speed of 28 knots.
  • Utilizes STOBAR method for precision operations in adverse conditions.
  • Incorporates latest advancements in design, sensors, and electronics.

INS Vikramaditya:

  • Modified Kiev-class carrier, originally built for the Soviet Navy.
  • Inducted into Indian Navy in 2013 after extensive refitting and modernization.
  • Weighs around 44,500 tonnes, 284 meters long.
  • Can reach speeds of up to 30 knots.
  • Carries similar arsenal of aircraft as INS Vikrant.
  • Still uses older technology compared to INS Vikrant.

Future Plans and Expansion

  • India plans to have four aircraft carrier battle groups (CBGs) to strengthen naval presence.
  • Indian Navy’s 15-year plan includes four fleet carriers and two light fleet carriers.
  • Indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vishal (IAC-3) to be built at Cochin Shipyard, similar to INS Vikrant.
Debate on Aircraft Carriers vs Submarines
  • Emerging debate among navies regarding focus on submarines or aircraft carriers due to technological developments.
  • Concerns raised about vulnerability of aircraft carriers due to advancements in anti-ship and anti-aircraft systems.
  • Economic costs of aircraft carriers are significant, limiting ability of countries to operate both submarines and carriers.
  • Submarines seen as better alternative due to stealth advantage and relatively lower cost compared to aircraft carriers.

Challenges Associated with Indigenisation of Aircraft Carriers:

Integration of Advanced Technologies:

  • Aircraft carrier construction involves integrating numerous advanced technologies across propulsion, combat management, and aviation systems.

Switching Launch Systems:

  • Initial plans for a catapult launch system (CATOBAR) were replaced with a ski-jump launch with arrested recovery (STOBAR) due to technological limitations.
  • While STOBAR is proven, it limits operational capabilities of heavier, advanced aircraft.

Time-Consuming Process:

  • Designing, procuring materials, and constructing a complex warship like an aircraft carrier is time-consuming.
  • Delays impact overall costs and strategic planning, as evidenced by the over two-decade delay in commissioning INS Vikrant (begun design work in 1999, commissioned in 2023).

Technological Advancements and Obsolescence:

  • Extended timelines may render some carrier aspects obsolete before completion due to rapid technological advancements.

Financial Investment:

  • Building an aircraft carrier is an expensive undertaking, requiring significant investment in materials, labor, and specialized technologies.

Skilled Workforce:

  • Construction necessitates a large pool of skilled workers proficient in various disciplines.

Reliance on Foreign Expertise:

  • India had to rely on foreign expertise and technology transfer for certain aspects of INS Vikrant’s construction, indicating the need for further development of the domestic shipbuilding industry.

Reliance on Foreign Suppliers:

  • Despite indigenous design, critical materials and components may still need to be imported, creating reliance on foreign suppliers.

Vulnerabilities in Geopolitical Tensions:

  • Dependence on imported materials like high-tensile steel and specialized electronics creates vulnerabilities in times of geopolitical tensions.

Significance of Carrier Aviation for India in Modern Strategic Terms:

Border Conflict Potential:

  • Provides strategic advantage in potential border conflicts, emphasizing the importance of robust aircraft carriers.

Historical Significance:

  • Highlighted during the 1971 operations for the liberation of Bangladesh, showcasing the crucial role of INS Vikrant’s aircraft in supporting land battles.

Protection of Merchant Shipping Routes:

  • Acts as primary naval asset for protecting merchant shipping routes vital for carrying strategic commodities to India during military conflicts.

Safeguarding Sea-Lines of Communication:

  • Crucial for safeguarding sea-lines of communication, particularly in light of concerns about energy imports through the Strait of Hormuz and China’s strategic presence in Gwadar port.

Asserting Influence in Indian Ocean Region (IOR):

  • Enables India to assert its influence and deter potential threats from extra-regional powers in the Indian Ocean and surrounding littoral region.

Protecting Overseas Interests:

  • Provides capability to safeguard India’s strategic interests overseas, particularly in Afro-Asian states facing political, socio-economic, and ethnic instabilities.

Defending Remote Island Territories:

  • Essential for defending remote island territories like Andaman and Nicobar Islands against potential foreign military occupation or claims due to vulnerability.

Enhanced Disaster Response:

  • Expands operational capabilities to respond to natural disasters in regional seas or littoral areas, providing essential services and logistical support akin to a floating city.

Versatility for Non-Military Missions:

  • Incorporation of modular concepts enhances versatility for non-military missions, enabling rapid deployment of specialized resources for specific humanitarian missions.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Shompen tribe, one of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), recently participated in the democratic process by casting their votes in the Andaman and Nicobar Lok Sabha constituency.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Shompen Tribe
  2. Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG): Characteristics and Government Initiatives

About Shompen Tribe

  • Isolated Semi-Nomadic Lifestyle: The Shompen tribe is known for their highly isolated, semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They reside in the Great Nicobar Island, where they have limited contact with the outside world.
  • Population Size: According to the 2011 Census data, the estimated population of the Shompen tribe was 229 individuals. Their population size is relatively small compared to other tribal groups.
  • Unique Language and Dialects: The Shompen tribe has a distinctive language consisting of various dialects. These dialects are understood only within specific bands or groups of the tribe.
  • Patriarchal Social Structure: The social structure of the Shompen tribe is patriarchal, with the eldest male member typically overseeing family affairs. While monogamy is common within the tribe, polygamy is also permissible in certain cases.
  • Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) in Andamans: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are home to several Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs), including the Great Andamanese, Jarwas, Onges, Shompens, and North Sentinelese.
  • Origins of PVTGs: Originally labelled as Primitive Tribal Groups (PTGs) by the Dhebar Commission in 1973, these tribal groups were later renamed as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) by the Government of India in 2006. This designation highlights their unique cultural and socio-economic vulnerabilities, requiring special attention and protection from the government.

Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG): Characteristics and Government Initiatives

Vulnerability Within Tribal Groups:

  • PVTGs are identified as the more vulnerable segments among tribal communities, facing distinct challenges that require special attention.

Resource Allocation Disparities:

  • As more developed and assertive tribal groups often receive a significant share of tribal development funds, PVTGs face the need for dedicated resources to address their unique developmental requirements.

Declaration and Recommendation:

  • In 1975, the Government of India, based on the recommendation of the Dhebar Commission, declared 52 tribal groups as PVTGs.

Current Status:

  • Presently, there are 75 PVTGs out of the total 705 Scheduled Tribes in India, spread across 18 states and one Union Territory according to the 2011 census.

Characteristics of PVTGs:

  • Population: Stagnant or declining
  • Technology: Predominantly pre-agricultural
  • Literacy Level: Extremely low
  • Economy: Operates at a subsistence level

Government Scheme for PVTGs:

  • The Ministry of Tribal Affairs oversees the ‘Development of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs)’ scheme.
  • This Centrally Sponsored Scheme provides 100% Central assistance to 18 states and the Union Territory of Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

Objective of the Scheme:

  • The scheme aims at comprehensive socio-economic development for PVTGs while preserving their distinct culture and heritage.

Implementation and Projects:

  • State Governments, as part of the scheme, undertake projects tailored to sectors such as education, health, and livelihoods specifically designed for the holistic development of PVTGs.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The first-generation women patachitra artists of West Bengal’s village of Naya sell their work online and are recognised the world over, encouraging future generations to stay in the profession.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

About Patachitra

Patachitra, also known as Pattachitra, is a traditional form of scroll painting originating from the eastern Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal. Here are some key points about Patachitra painting:

  • Origin: Patachitra is believed to have originated as early as the 12th century. The term “Patta” means cloth, and “Chitra” means picture in Sanskrit, reflecting the medium and art form.
  • Subject Matter: Patachitra paintings are known for their intricate details and typically depict mythological narratives, folktales, and stories of Hindu deities. They often serve as visual storytelling devices, conveying cultural and religious themes.
  • Purpose: Originally, Patachitra paintings were created for ritual use and as souvenirs for pilgrims visiting temples in Odisha, particularly in Puri. In Bengal, they were used as visual aids during the performance of songs and stories.
  • Materials and Technique:
    • Patachitra paintings are made on a special canvas prepared by layering cotton sarees with tamarind paste and coating them with clay powder.
    • Traditionally, cotton canvas was used, but now both cotton and silk canvas are employed.
    • The artists fill colors directly onto the canvas without any initial sketches, following a tradition of completing the borders of the painting first.
    • Natural materials such as lamp soot and powdered conch shells are used to obtain colors.
    • Each painting can take weeks or even months to complete due to the meticulous detailing and intricate work involved.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Alok Shukla, convenor of the Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan and founding member of the Hasdeo Aranya Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, has been awarded the 2024 Goldman Prize from Asia.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

About Goldman Environmental Prize

The Goldman Environmental Prize, often referred to as the “Green Nobel,” is a prestigious award that recognizes individuals for their sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Here are some key points about the Goldman Environmental Prize:

  • Recognition of Environmental Heroes: The Prize acknowledges grassroots environmental heroes from around the world who have made significant contributions to environmental conservation and activism.
  • Scope: The Prize recognizes individuals from roughly the world’s six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, and South & Central America.
  • Grassroots Leadership: The Goldman Prize places a strong emphasis on grassroots leadership, defining “grassroots” leaders as those involved in local efforts where positive change is brought about through community or citizen participation.
  • Inception: The first Goldman Environmental Prize ceremony took place on April 16, 1990, timed to coincide with Earth Day. Since then, it has become an annual event celebrating environmental activism and conservation.

Hasdeo Aranya region:

  • Location and Characteristics: The Hasdeo Aranya region is a sprawling forest located in the northern part of Chhattisgarh, India. It is renowned for its rich biodiversity and also contains significant coal deposits.
  • Geographical Coverage: The forest spans across Korba, Surajpur, and Sarguja districts of Chhattisgarh and is home to a sizable tribal population.
  • River: The Hasdeo River, a tributary of the Mahanadi River, flows through the forest, contributing to its ecological significance.
  • Forest Composition: The Hasdeo Aranya region is notable for being one of the largest unfragmented forests in Central India, consisting of pristine Sal (Shorea robusta) and teak forests. This makes it an important habitat for a diverse range of flora and fauna.

-Source: The Hindu


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