Contents

  1. SC on food for migrant labourers without ration cards
  2. India’s ethanol roadmap: The targets and challenges
  3. World First: El Salvador makes bitcoin legal tender

SC on food for migrant labourers without ration cards

Context:

The Supreme Court asked the Centre how it intended to take food to crores of migrant labourers who have no ration cards.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Welfare Schemes, Government Policies and Initiatives)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Ration Cards in India
  2. Advent of Aadhaar
  3. National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013
  4. What is the one ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ system?
  5. Since when has the One Nation, One Ration Card System been in the works?
  6. How will the system of ration card portability work?

About Ration Cards in India

  • Ration cards are an official document ISSUED BY STATE GOVERNMENTS in India to households that are eligible to purchase subsidised food grain from the Public Distribution System under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) while also serving as a common form of identification for many Indians.
  • Under the NFSA, all state governments in India have to identify households that are eligible for purchasing subsidised food grain from the Public Distribution System and provide them with ration cards.
  • There are two types of ration cards under NFSA:
    • Priority Household (PHH) ration cards are issued to households that meet the eligibility criteria set by their state government. Each priority household is entitled to 5 kilograms of food grain per member per month.
    • Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) ration cards are issued to “poorest of poor” households. Each AAY household is entitled to 35 kilograms of food grain per month.

Issues with PDS through Ration card

Many problems with the PDS ration system exist.

  • There are millions of ineligible and fraudulent ration cards
  • Millions of poor families have no ration card
  • PDS shop owners in collusion with government officials divert the subsidized food supply and petroleum to the black market
  • Card numbers are inflated by those held under false or duplicate names, in the names of dead or fake people.

Advent of Aadhaar

Aadhaar-enabled beneficiary

  • The bank accounts and ration cards of eligible beneficiaries are linked to their Aadhaar numbers.
  • A bank account can be enabled as AeBA by seeding (linking) it with an Aadhaar number.
  • Seeding makes mapping information stored on the NPCI payment gateway that facilitates the subsidy payment.
  • Seeding helps identify genuine and eligible beneficiaries and prevents duplicate and non-existent persons from registering.

Aadhaar-enabled DBT

  • Aadhaar-enabled service delivery (AeSD) prevents corruption in retail by directly crediting benefit money into the beneficiary’s bank account; this is called Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT).
  • It eliminates middlemen and fraudulent, ineligible beneficiaries. In this way, Aadhaar saves billions of rupees of public money annually and enables poor people access to social security benefits.

Aadhaar-enabled eligibility check

  • Applicant eligibility is checked by comparing the service delivery database with other databases.
  • For example, PDS kerosene eligibility is checked by comparing the PDS database with the LPG database.
  • The subsidy on kerosene allocation is reduced if the LPG subsidy is detected for that household.

National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013

  • The objective of the National Food Security Act, 2013 is to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity.
  • The Act provides for coverage of upto 75% of the rural population and upto 50% of the urban population for receiving subsidized foodgrains under Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), thus covering about two-thirds of the population.
  • The eligible persons will be entitled to receive 5 Kgs of foodgrains per person per month at subsidised prices of Rs. 3/2/1 per Kg for rice/wheat/coarse grains.
  • The existing Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households, which constitute the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35 Kgs of foodgrains per household per month.
  • The Act also has a special focus on the nutritional support to women and children. Besides meal to pregnant women and lactating mothers during pregnancy and six months after the child birth, such women will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000.
  • Children upto 14 years of age will be entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional standards.
  • In case of non-supply of entitled foodgrains or meals, the beneficiaries will receive food security allowance.
  • The Act also contains provisions for setting up of grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels.
  • Separate provisions have also been made in the Act for ensuring transparency and accountability.

What is the one ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ system?

  • Under the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ system, the beneficiary will be able to buy subsidised foodgrains from any FPS across the country.
  • The new system, based on a technological solution, will identify a beneficiary through biometric authentication on electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) devices installed at the FPSs, and enable that person to purchase the quantity of foodgrains to which she is entitled under the NFSA.

Why do we need a ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ system?

  • In the present system, a ration cardholder can buy foodgrains only from an FPS that has been assigned to her in the locality in which she lives.
  • Suppose a beneficiary lives in the district of Basti in Uttar Pradesh and migrates to Mumbai for work. Currently, she is no longer able to purchase subsidised foodgrains from a PDS shop in her new locality in Mumbai.
  • The Public Distribution System (PDS) system is marred with inefficiency leading to leakages in the system. To plug the leakages and make the system better, the government has started the reform process.

Since when has the One Nation, One Ration Card System been in the works?

  • The one card scheme work started about two years back when the government launched a scheme called Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) in April 2018.
  • It used a technological solution involving the use of Aadhaar to identify beneficiaries.
  • Under the scheme, the seeding of ration cards with Aadhaar is being done.
  • Simultaneously, PoS machines are being installed at all FPSs across the country.
  • Once 100 per cent of Aadhaar seeding and 100 per cent installation of PoS devices is achieved, the national portability of ration cards will become a reality.
  • It will enable migrant workers to buy foodgrains from any FPS by using their existing/same ration card.

How will the system of ration card portability work?

  • Ration card portability is aimed at providing intra-state as well as inter-state portability of ration cards.
  • While the Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) portal provides the technological platform for the inter-state portability of ration cards, enabling a migrant worker to buy foodgrains from any FPS across the country, the other portal (annavitran.nic.in) hosts the data of distribution of foodgrains through E-PoS devices within a state.
  • The Annavitran portal enables a migrant worker or his family to avail the benefits of PDS outside their district but within their state.

-Source: The Hindu


India’s ethanol roadmap: The targets and challenges

Context:

The government of India has advanced the target for 20 per cent ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030. E20 will be rolled out from April 2023.

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Environment, Environmental Pollution & Degradation)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Ethanol fuel?
  2. Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP)
  3. Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025
  4. Advantages of Ethanol Blending
  5. National Policy on Biofuels 2018
  6. Way Forward: Recommendations on Ethanol blending

What is Ethanol fuel?

  • Ethanol fuel is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, used as fuel.
  • It is most often used as a motor fuel, mainly as a biofuel additive for gasoline.
  • Ethanol is commonly made from biomass such as corn or sugarcane.
  • Bioethanol is a form of renewable energy that can be produced from agricultural feedstocks.
  • It can be made from very common crops such as hemp, sugarcane, potato, cassava and corn.
  • There has been considerable debate about how useful bioethanol is in replacing gasoline.
  • Concerns about its production and use relate to increased food prices due to the large amount of arable land required for crops, as well as the energy and pollution balance of the whole cycle of ethanol production, especially from corn.

Ethanol Blended Petrol Programme (EBP)

  • Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) programme was launched in 2003- and this initiative is pursued aggressively in the last 4 to 5 years to reduce import dependence of crude oil as well as mitigate environmental pollution.
  • The Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP) seeks to achieve blending of Ethanol with motor sprit with a view to reducing pollution, conserve foreign exchange and increase value addition in the sugar industry enabling them to clear cane price arrears of farmers.
  • Although the Government of India decided to launch EBP programme in 2003 for supply of 5% ethanol blended Petrol, it later scaled up blending targets from 5% to 10% under the Ethanol Blending Programme (EBP).
  • The Government of India has also advanced the target for 20% ethanol blending in petrol (also called E20) to 2025 from 2030.
  • Currently, 8.5% of ethanol is blended with petrol in India.

Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025

  • The central government has released an expert committee report on the Roadmap for Ethanol Blending in India by 2025 that proposes a gradual rollout of ethanol-blended fuel to achieve E10 fuel supply by April 2022 and phased rollout of E20 from April 2023 to April 2025.
  • The Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas (MoP&NG) had instituted an Expert Group to study the issues such as pricing of ethanol, matching pace of the automobile industry to manufacture vehicles with new engines with the supply of ethanol, pricing of such vehicles, fuel efficiency of different engines etc.

Advantages of Ethanol Blending

  • Use of ethanol-blended petrol decreases emissions such as carbon monoxide (CO), hydrocarbons (HC) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).
  • The unregulated carbonyl emissions, such as acetaldehyde emission were, however, higher with E10 and E20 compared to normal petrol. However, these emissions were relatively lower.
  • Increased use of ethanol can help reduce the oil import bill. India’s net import cost stands at USD 551 billion in 2020-21. The E20 program can save the country USD 4 billion (Rs 30,000 crore) per annum.
  • The oil companies procure ethanol from farmers that benefits the sugarcane farmers.
  • Further, the government plans to encourage use of water-saving crops, such as maize, to produce ethanol, and production of ethanol from non-food feedstock.

National Policy on Biofuels 2018

  • The National Policy on Biofuels expands the scope of raw material for ethanol production by allowing use of Sugarcane Juice, Sugar containing materials like Sugar Beet, Sweet Sorghum, Starch containing materials like Corn, Cassava, Damaged food grains like wheat, broken rice, Rotten Potatoes, unfit for human consumption for ethanol production.
  • The Policy allows use of surplus food grains for production of ethanol for blending with petrol with the approval of National Biofuel Coordination Committee.
  • The Policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from non-edible oilseeds, Used Cooking Oil, short gestation crops.
  • Among other things, the policy expands the scope of feedstock for ethanol production and has provided for incentives for production of advanced biofuels.
  • The policy has the objective of reaching 20% ethanol-blending and 5% biodiesel-blending by the year 2030.

Way Forward: Recommendations on Ethanol blending

  1. Notifying Ethanol Blending Roadmap: MoP&NG should immediately notify the plan for pan-India availability of E10 fuel by April, 2022 and its continued availability thereafter until 2025 for older vehicles, and launch of E20 in the country in phases from April, 2023 onwards so as to make E20 available by April, 2025.
  2. Augmenting Infrastructure for Oil Marketing Companies: OMCs will need to prepare for the projected requirement of ethanol storage, handling, blending and dispensing infrastructure.
  3. Expediting Regulatory Clearances: Currently, ethanol production plants/distilleries fall under the “Red category” and require environmental clearance under the Air and Water Acts for new and expansion projects. This often takes a long time leading to delays. While several steps have been taken to expedite Environment Clearances (EC) under the Environment Protection Act there are few areas of concern which if addressed, will facilitate early setting up of ethanol distillation capacities in the country.
  4. Incentivising Ethanol Blended Vehicle: Globally, vehicles compliant with higher ethanol blends are provided with tax benefits. A similar approach may be followed so that the cost increase due to E20 compatible design may be absorbed to a certain extent, as is being done in some states for promoting Electric Vehicles.
  5. Pricing of Ethanol Blended Gasoline: For better acceptability of higher ethanol blends in the country, retail price of such fuels should be lower than normal petrol to compensate for the reduction in calorific value and incentivize switching to the blended fuel. Tax breaks on ethanol as a fuel may be considered by the government.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


World First: El Salvador makes bitcoin legal tender

Context:

El Salvador became the first country in the world to adopt bitcoin as legal tender after the country’s Congress, approved President Nayib Bukele’s proposal to embrace the cryptocurrency, a move that delighted the currency’s supporters.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Science and Technology (Blockchain technology), GS-I: Geography (Maps)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About El Salvador
  2. About Bitcoin
  3. Why did El Salvador approve use of Bitcoin?

About El Salvador

  • El Salvador is a country in Central America bordered on the northeast by Honduras, on the northwest by Guatemala, and on the south by the Pacific Ocean.
  • For millennia, the region was controlled by several Mesoamerican nations, especially Lenca, Mayans, then later the Cuzcatlecs.
  • In the beginning of the 16th century, the Spanish Empire conquered the Central American territory, incorporating it into the Viceroyalty of New Spain ruled from Mexico City.
  • From the late 19th to the mid-20th century, El Salvador endured chronic political and economic instability characterized by coups, revolts, and a succession of authoritarian rulers.
  • El Salvador’s economy has historically been dominated by agriculture, beginning with the Spanish taking control of the indigenous cacao crop in the 16th century, with production centered in Izalco, and the use of balsam from the ranges of La Libertad and Ahuachapan.

Click Here to read more about Cryptocurrencies

About Bitcoin

  • Introduced in 2009, it is a type of cryptocurrency that enables instant payments to anyone.
  • Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple are a few notable examples of cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin is based on an open-source protocol and is not issued by any central authority.
  • Originally, Bitcoin was intended to provide an alternative to fiat money and become a universally accepted medium of exchange directly between two involved parties.

Why did El Salvador approve use of Bitcoin?

El Salvador relies heavily on money sent back from workers abroad.

  • Bitcoin adoption may make these remittances quicker and cheaper.
  • It is also expected to boost financial inclusion in their country as the majority of the population does not have access to formal banking channels.

Impact of El Salvador’s approval of Bitcoin

  • In the absence of a central regulating authority, legalizing bitcoin will have potential for fraud and money laundering, high energy costs and extreme volatility.
  • This could potentially encourage other smaller countries with weaker economies to open up to crypto as an alternative to fiat currencies, paving the way for mainstream future adoption worldwide.
  • Already, Venezuela and many African countries have started using cryptocurrencies as a long-term store of value, as their currencies are deflating quickly.

-Source: The Hindu

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