IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


22nd June, 2020

DNA 22nd June


Public Distribution System and Agrarian Reforms

This editorial deals with recent reforms in areas related to agriculture marketing and ways to increase government resources.


Rs. 1, 50,000 crores: Value of excessive grain stock

-There is one area, which the government can tap to raise more than Rs 1, 00,000 crores.

-As on June 1, FCI had unprecedented grain stocks of 97 million metric tonnes (MMT) in the Central Pool (see Figure).

-Even on July 1, when the procurement of Rabi ends, FCI is likely to have grain stocks of about 91-92 MMT.

-This will be against a buffer stock norm of 41.12 MMT that are required for the Public Distribution system (PDS), and some strategic reserves.

-So, compared to this norm, on July 1, FCI will have “excess stocks” of at least 50 MMT.

-Even if one takes a conservative and lower ballpark figure of Rs 30,000/tonne  as the combined economic cost of rice and wheat, the value of this “excessive stock”, beyond the buffer norm, is Rs 1,50,000 crores.

-This is unproductive capital locked-up in the Central pool of FCI.

-Unlock this by liquidating “excess stocks” through open market operations.

-It will not recover its full economic cost, as they are much higher than the prevailing market prices, but by not liquidating it.

-But FCI will keep incurring unnecessary interest costs of about Rs 8,000-10,000 crores per annum.

-This is simply not a good food policy.

How will amendment to ECA 1955 help?

- Amendment of the Essential Commodities Act, via the ordinance route, can instil confidence in the private sector for building large scale storage.

-Now, stocking limits will not be imposed on the private sector, except under exceptional circumstances.

-The government, however, delete the clause of “extraordinary price rise”.

-Removing it will lead to private sector building large and modern storage facilities (silos).

-It will propel investments in building more efficient food supply lines.

-The only condition could be to register large storage facilities under the Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority (WDRA) to know how much stock is there with the private sector, and where.

Amendment to APMC Act:

-The ordinance on APMC creates multiple channels for farmers to sell their produce outside the APMC mandi system.

-It also helps towards an unrestricted all India market for agri-produce.

-Of course, it will be resisted by many states that are taking undue advantage of the APMC mandis’ virtual monopoly power.

-But if the central ordinance is implemented in its true spirit, it will be a game-changer.

Ordinance on contract farming:

-It aims to encourage contract farming.

-The basic idea behind this is that farmers’ sowing decisions should be made in view of the expected prices of those crops at the time of harvest.

-It is forward looking and more aligned to the likely demand and supply situation.

-The current practice, where farmers’ sowing decisions are more influenced by last year’s price, often leads to the problem of boom and bust.

-Although honouring an assured price remains a challenge when actual market conditions differ widely at the time of the harvest.

Relook at food subsidy is required:

- In the Union budget of 2020-21, a sum of Rs 1, 15,570 crore has been provisioned for food subsidy.

-This number is highly misleading as FCI has been asked to borrow from the National Small Savings Fund (NSSF).

-As on March 31, 2020, borrowings from the NSSF were Rs 2,54,600 crore, on which FCI pays an interest rate of 8.4 to 8.8 per cent per annum.

-So, the real food subsidy bill for 2020-21 amounts to Rs 3, 70,170 crore.

-The Economic Survey has suggested- 1) reducing the coverage under PDS; 2) linking issue price to at least half of the procurement price; 3) move gradually towards cash transfers.

-These steps will save a minimum of Rs 50,000 crores annually.

Liquidating the excess grain stock and rationalising the PDS could provide the government with much needed resources at a time when it needs it the most. Also, reforms in the related to agriculture could remove the stumbling blocks in the way towards the prosperity of farmers.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/india-lockdown-food-stock-food-corporation-of-india-ashok-gulati-6469970/


Secrecy of ballot

Context: Supreme Court has delivered its judgment on Secrecy of Ballot. 

The judgement:

-The judgment came on an appeal against the Allahabad High Court decision setting aside the voting of a no-confidence motion in a zila panchayat in Uttar Pradesh in 2018.

-The High Court had found that some of the panchayat members had violated the rule of secrecy of ballot. It relied on CCTV footage to conclude that they had either displayed the ballot papers or by their conduct revealed the manner in which they had voted.

-The apex court ordered a re-vote of the motion within the next two months. It ordered the Allahabad District Judge or his nominee to act as the presiding officer. The vote should be conducted by the secret ballot system.

Supreme Court on Secrecy of Ballot

-Secrecy of ballot is the cornerstone of free and fair elections. The choice of a voter should be free and the secret ballot system in a democracy ensures it.

-It is the policy of law to protect the right of voters to secrecy of the ballot.

-Even a remote or distinct possibility that a voter can be forced to disclose for whom she has voted would act as a positive constraint and a check on the freedom to exercise of franchise.

-The principle of secrecy of ballots is an important postulate of constitutional democracy.

-However, a voter can also voluntarily waive the privilege of non-disclosure. No one can prevent a voter from doing. Nor can a complaint be entertained from any, including the person who wants to keep the voter’s mouth sealed as to why she disclosed for whom she voted.

What the RPA says?

-Section 94 of the Representation of People Act upholds the privilege of the voter to maintain confidentiality about her choice of vote.

Source: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/secrecy-of-ballot-is-the-cornerstone-of-free-and-fair-elections-says-supreme-court/article31883015.ece


Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan

Context: Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the mega ‘Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan’ aimed to boost livelihood opportunities in rural India amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Features of the scheme:

-The first priority of the scheme is to meet the immediate requirement of workers who have gone back to their districts by providing them with livelihood opportunities.

-The focus is also on rural citizens.

-It is a focused campaign of 125 days across 116 districts in six states to work in mission mode.

-Public works worth 50,000 crores rupees to be carried out under the scheme.

-It includes focused implementation of 25 different types of work to provide employment and to create durable infrastructure.

-The villages will join this programme through the common service centres and Krishi Vigyan Kendras.


-The scheme will be a coordinated effort by 12 different ministries including rural development, Panchayati Raj, Road transport and highways, mines, drinking water and sanitation, environment, railways, petroleum and natural gas, new and renewable energy, border Roads, Telecom and agriculture.

Significance of the scheme:

-The jobs selected in the campaign will enable proper utilisation of the strength and skill of people. It will also enable the government to convert Covid crisis into an opportunity.

-The campaign will contribute towards provision of modern facilities, such as internet connectivity, laying of optic fibre cables, to increase internet speed in villages, so that children in villages are able to study and learn like those in cities.

Source: https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1632861



-It is an antiviral Remdesivir for treatment of COVID 19.

-Drug Controller General of India has recently given its nod to Drug maker Hetero to launch this new drug.

-It is the second such drug to enter the Indian market after Fabiflu by Glenmark, which came a day earlier.


International Yoga Day

-Observed on June 21st every year.

-Theme for 2020: “Yoga for Health – Yoga at Home”.

-The World Health Organization mentions yoga as a means to improve health in its Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018–2030: More active people for a healthier world.

-The UN proclaimed June 21 as International Day of Yoga by passing a resolution on December 11, 2014, during the 69th session of the General Assembly.


UNICEF Kid Power

Context: UNICEF Kid Power’ has listed 13 Yoga stretches and poses for children.

About the program:

-UNICEF Kid Power is a program of UNICEF USA that gives kids the power to save lives by connecting their everyday activity to real-world impact.

-Launched in 2015, the initiative, in collaboration with technology firms, develops activity tracker bands for kids.

-These bands act as a kids’ fitness tracker bracelet that connects to a smartphone app. The app lets users complete missions, which counts total steps and awards points.

-The points then unlock funding from partners, which is then used by UNICEF to deliver packets of therapeutic food (Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food (RUTF)) to severely malnourished children around the globe.


Golden Langurs

Context: Primatologists have observed that the Gee’s golden langur induce stillbirth of babies killed inside the womb of females, besides practising infanticide.

Forced abortion and infanticide happen when a new male takes over. He often kills the baby of a lactating female or hits the abdomen of a female impregnated by the deposed male till the point of abortion.


Obstructions such as wires, and gaps in the forest due to felling, have increased the threat of inbreeding among golden langurs.


-Habitat: Semi-evergreen and mixed deciduous forests.

-Found in Small regions of western Assam and in the neighbouring foothills of the black mountains of Bhutan.

Protection status:

-Schedule I species in the Wildlife Protection Act (1972).

-CITES Appendix I.

-Endangered in IUCN Red List.

Extreme Helium star

Context: A study by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), which detected the presence of singly ionised fluorine for the first time in the atmospheres of hot Extreme Helium Stars, makes a strong case that the main formation of these objects involves a merger of a carbon-oxygen (CO) and a Helium (He) white dwarf.

Some facts:

-An extreme helium star or EHe is a low-mass supergiant that is almost devoid of hydrogen, the most common chemical element of the universe.

-There are 21 of them detected so far in our galaxy.

-The origin and evolution of these Hydrogen deficient objects have been shrouded in mystery.

-Since there are no known conditions where stars devoid of hydrogen can be formed from molecular clouds, it is theorized that they are the product of the mergers of helium-core and carbon-oxygen core white dwarfs.