National Food Security Act (NFSA)
Context:The Union Cabinet recently resolved to distribute free foodgrains to all 81 million National Food Security Act (NFSA) beneficiaries till December 2023.
Changes to the NFSA:
- Beneficiaries will now get 35kg of foodgrainsfor free for the next year, while others will receive 5kg per month until December 2023.
- The Union government has budgeted an extra 2 lakh crore for the initiative. The Union Government will bear the whole cost of the initiative.
- Under the NFSA, the Union government gives food grains (rice at Rs 3 per kg, wheat at Rs 2 per kg, and coarse grains at Rs 1 per kg).
- The act’s goal is to secure people’s food and nutritional security by ensuring adequate access to high-quality food at reasonable rates.
- The NFSA protects 50% of the urban population and 75% of the rural population.
There are two categories of beneficiary households under the NFSA:
- Antyoday Anna Yojana (AAY): AAY households are entitled to 35 kg of foodgrains every month, regardless of family size.
- Priority Households: Priority households get food grains based on the number of family members (each member 5 kg per month).
The government has discontinued the Pradhan MantriGaribKalyan Anna Yojana:
- It was started in 2020 during Covid-19, which gave 5 kg of free food grains to every citizen in addition to the NFSA entitlement of 5 kg of foodgrains at subsidised rates.
- The system is currently integrated into the NFSA.
- In addition, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs authorised the copra Minimum Support Price (MSP) for the 2023 season.
- The Prime Minister presides over it.
- The approval is based on the Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices’ recommendations.
- The National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd. [NAFED] and the National Cooperative Consumers’ Federation [NCCF] will continue to serve as Central Nodal Agencies for the Price Support Scheme purchase of copra and de-husked coconut.
- Food security legislation: For the first time, India will have a Central food security legislation that guarantees the poor 5 kg of food grains at no cost.
- The decision minimises the shock caused by the discontinuation of the PM GaribKalyan Anna Yojana.
- Saving revenue: By discontinuing the PMGKAY, the government will save Rs 15,000 crore per month, or around Rs 1.8 lakh crore per year.
- The Prime Ministerhas made a historic decision to guarantee free food security to the underprivileged across the country.
- For a long period, the Prime Minister’s GaribKalyan Ann Yojna provided 5kg of foodgrainsfor free to the underprivileged.
- The government has maintained that the country has sufficient foodgrain stockpile to satisfy the welfare initiatives.
- The NITI Aayog has proposed that the current national rural-urban coverage ratio be decreased from 75-50 to 60-40. If this reduction occurs, the number of NFSA beneficiaries would fall to 71.62 crores based on the estimated population in 2020.
- To implement these changes, the government will need to alter sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the NFSA, which will require legislative approval.
Source: Indian Express
Uttarakhand Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act 2022
GS Paper -2
Context:The Governor of Uttarakhand has approved the state’s Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act.
Uttarakhand Religious Freedom Act:
- In 2018, Uttarakhand passed this law.
- Conversion by force or enticement was punishable by one to five years in prison.
Important Provisions of Amendment Act:
- It is a stricter anti-conversion Act that makes illegal religious conversion in the state a cognizable and non-bailable offence. Conversion by force, greed, or deception will be considered a felony in the state.
- For religious conversion, there is a provision for at least three years in prison and up to ten years in prison.
- A 50,000 fine is now mandatory under the new law. Anyone found guilty of conversion will have to reimburse the victim up to 5 lacs.
Need for the Amendment:
- In Uttarakhand, there has long been a call for stern action against forced conversions.
- Certain issues in the statute need amendment in the 2018 Act.
- Also, it is vital to “equally increase the importance of every faith” under Articles 25, 26, 27, and 28 of the Constitution.
Freedom of Religion:
- The framers of the Indian constitution debated the inclusion of the “right to propagate” as a fundamental right.
- Article 25(1) of the Constitution says “all persons” are equally entitled to the freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practise and propagate religion freely.
- Article 26: Freedom to manage religious affairs
- Article 27: Freedom to pay taxes for the promotion of any particular religion
- Article 28: Freedom to attend religious instruction or worship in certain educational institutions.
- Arunachal Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttarakhand are among the Indian states that have passed anti-conversion legislation.
- Some members of the Constituent Assembly want to change the phrase “promote” with “practise quietly,” believing that the right would allow for coerced conversions.
- The right to disseminate was eventually preserved in the Constitution, although states and civil society have repeatedly approached the judiciary to interpret this freedom.
- The Anti-Conversion Act imposed restrictions on conversion to one’s preferred religion, practise, and propagation, infringing on individuals’ right to private.
- Religious leaders in minority communities were concerned about being detained and punished under anti-conversion legislation.
Religious Liberty Decisions:
Arun Ghosh vs. West Bengal State, 1950:
- The Supreme Court (SC) ruled that attempts to incite communal feelings through compulsory conversions would be regarded a violation of public order, impacting the whole community.
- It found that states have the authority to adopt local Freedom of Religion regulations under Entry 1 of the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
Rev. Stainislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh 1960s:
- A five-judge Supreme Court bench analysed Article 25 and concluded that “the Article does not offer the freedom to convert other individuals to one’s own faith, but rather the right to transmit or disseminate one’s religion by an exposition of its ideas.”
- The court confirmed the constitutionality of two provincial anti-conversion laws enacted in the 1960s: the Madhya Pradesh Dharma SwatantrayaAdhiniyam (1968) and the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (1968). (1967).
- It was understood as “what is freedom for one is freedom for the other in equal proportion, and hence there can be no such thing as a basic right to convert anybody to one’s own faith.”
Justice Rohinton F. Nariman Bench 2021:
- The petitioner contacted the Supreme Court in 2021, citing “mass” conversions across the country “by trick or by crook.”
- The Court stated that persons were free to practise their own faith.
- The Court stated that each individual was the last judge of their own personal choice, and used the Puttaswamy decision (2018) to conclude that religious faith was a component of the basic right to privacy.
- Everyone has the right to choose their religion, but not by coercion or seduction.
- The statute will be remembered as a historical judgement against the conspiracy of religious conversion using terror, seduction, and other deceptive tactics.
Source: Indian Express
Uncontrolled Re-Entries of Satellites
GS Paper -3
Context:The Outer Space Institute (OSI) has issued an open letter calling for both national and global measures to limit uncontrolled re-entries of rockets and satellites.
- The Outer Space Institute (OSI) is a network of world-class space professionals dedicated to addressing issues related to space utilisation and exploration. It is headquartered in Canada.
- Uncontrolled re-entries are the unguided returns of rocket pieces to Earth after their missions are completed.
- The rocket stage crashes in an uncontrolled re-entry.
- The form, angle of descent, air currents, and other variables govern its downward route.
- As it falls, it will likewise dissolve. The possible radius of impact on the ground increases as the smaller fragments fan out.
- Some portions completely burn, while others do not.
Concerns about the re-entries:
- The speed at which space debris travels, rather than its size, is what makes it hazardous.
- With the introduction of reusable rocket stages, the frequency of rocket launches has increased dramatically. Today, there are over 6,000 satellites in orbit, the majority of which are in low-Earth (100-2,000 km) and geostationary (35,786 km) orbits and were launched in over 5,000 missions.
- The majority of rocket components have fallen in seas, owing to the fact that the earth’s surface contains more water than land. However, several have also landed on land.
- As the world’s population rises, so do the hazards of uncontrolled re-entry. Many areas have grown denserly inhabited. Conservative estimates indicate the fatality risk from uncontrolled rocket body re-entries in the next decade at 10%.
- Countries in the ‘Global South’ have a “disproportionately higher” risk of fatalities than countries in the ‘Global North.
- An hit anywhere on an aeroplane with debris weighing more than 300 grammes would result in a catastrophic failure, killing everyone on board.
- If re-entering stages still contain fuel, another concern is chemical pollution in the atmosphere and on the ground.
- Two “refrigerator-sized fuel tanks” were among the components of a SpaceX Falcon 9 that crashed in Indonesia in 2016.
- Parts of a Russian rocket launched in 2018 and China’s Long March 5B rocket launched in 2020 and 2022 landed in Indonesia, Peru, India, and the Ivory Coast, among other places.
Is there any international agreement to tackle it?
- There is no worldwide enforceable agreement to assure rocket stages always make controlled re-entries, nor is there one on the technology to do so.
- The 1972 Liability Convention compels governments to pay for damages rather than avoid them.
- Some jurisdictions have chosen a safety threshold of one projected casualty per 10,000 launches (0.01%), above which controlled re-entry is expected.
- This means that launches should limit the likelihood of a re-entering body casualty below 0.01%.
Criticism of 1-in-10,000 threshold:
- However, this level is arbitrary and is not commonly recognised on a global scale.
- Even those states that employ it have frequently lifted the requirement when compliance is judged too expensive.
- Most crucially, the 1-in-10,000 risk threshold does not take into account cumulative hazards from all launches over time.
- In a day when new technology and mission profiles permit controlled re-entry, this barrier makes little sense.
Recommendations by OSI to minimize damage:
- While the OSI letter acknowledges that any type of re-entry would undoubtedly harm certain ecosystems, it suggests that corpses aim for the ocean to prevent human fatalities.
- Future options should include re-entry satellites as well.
- Smaller satellites should be developed and used since they are less likely to burn up on re-entry.
Source: The Hindu
Divyang Friendly Physical and Digital Interface of Buildings
GS Paper -2
Context:Among the many drawbacks, we are ill-equipped to assist persons with disabilities in gaining access to the legislature. It is past time to make the physical and digital interfaces of parliament and other buildings more accessible to people with disabilities.
What are the most prevalent proposals for a disabled-friendly legislature?
- Committee on Accessibility: To cater to the disabled’s access requirements.
- Providing sign language interpreting for legislative proceedings.
- Website audit: Ordering an audit of Parliament’s websites for accessibility.
What is the accessible India campaign?
- The Government of India started the Accessible India Campaign (AIC) in December 2015 to make the built environment, ICT ecosystem, and transportation amenities more accessible to the disabled.
- Unfortunately, the AIC lacks a robust enforcement mechanism headed by persons with disabilities and accessibility specialists to guarantee that ambitious objectives are set and pursued to their meaningful completion.
Recommendations of report by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy:
- A research titled “Beyond Reasonable Accommodation” from the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy highlights the necessity to make every new building accessible before it is awarded an Occupancy Certificate.
- Local bylaws and state planning legislation shall incorporate the necessary sections of the Harmonised Guidelines and Standards for Universal Accessibility in India, 2021.
- Municipal authorities must have the knowledge and sensitivity to assess compliance with the standards for making the built environment accessible, as well as access to qualified accessibility specialists who can give relevant feedback at each level.
- Municipal authorities’ lists of empanelled professionals must include accessibility specialists, and this need must be incorporated in model building bylaws and the National Building Code.
What parliament can do?
- Parliament must immediately establish an accessibility committee tasked with providing time-bound recommendations on making every area of the Parliamentary process more accessible to handicapped people.
- The Supreme Court’s recent creation of an Accessibility Committee may serve as a suitable model for Parliament.
What can centre and states do?
- Accessibility criteria must be included in public procurement of physical, digital, and transportation infrastructure at the federal and state levels.
- These should be mirrored in contracts between procurement agencies and bidders/contractors. Furthermore, tender papers must include appropriate accessibility criteria.
Disabled persons face systemic disadvantage at every step of government, including infrastructure construction. Parliament should begin by sending a broader message about the importance of accessible buildings.
Source: The Hindu
Reviewing the Age of Consent Under POCSO Act
GS Paper -2
Context:The Chief Justice of India has expressed worry over the POCSO Act’s age of consent. The CJI asked lawmakers to reconsider the age under the POCSO statute.
What are the concerns with the age of consent?
Under POCSO, the Madras, Delhi, and Meghalaya High Courts have raised concerns about the criminalization of romantic interactions between or with adolescents.
The Delhi High Court said on November 12 in AK v. State Govt of NCT of Delhi (order by Justice Jasmeet Singh) that the purpose of POCSO was to protect minors under the age of 18 from sexual exploitation, not to criminalise love relationships between consenting young adults.
The government informed Parliament that it had no plans to change the age of consent.
The recent criminal code reform in UP that established a blanket prohibition on granting anticipatory bail to rape suspects adds salt to the wound.
Concerns about the POCSO Act and the age of consent:
- POCSO criminalises both exploitative sexual behaviour and general sexual expression by an adolescent.
- Criminal law has been used to suppress or limit a voluntary non-exploitative consensual sexual connection with an underage girl.
- Other courts have agreed with the court’s obiter that POCSO has become a weapon in the hands of some elements of society to misuse the legal system.
- The accumulated victimisation of the “consenting” girl is likewise worthy of legislators’ attention.
Today’s reality of adolescent sexual life and legal mismatch:
- The age of consent was raised from 10 to 12 to 14 to 16 to 18 years by the 2013 modification, in order to comply with the then-newly adopted POCSO Act.
- Because the law disregards the possibility of a juvenile girl participating in sexual behaviour freely, she is desexualized.
- The law that criminalises adolescent sexuality either ignores or appears to disregard social realities.
- According to the NFHS-5, 39% of women had their first sexual experience before the age of 18. The same poll gives additional evidence of sexual activity among unmarried adolescent females by revealing contraceptive use by 45% of unmarried girls aged 15 to 19.
What should be the next step?
- When dealing with POCSO situations, it is necessary to develop a separate method for minors.
- Romantic lovers in a fully consenting relationship should not be victims of criminal justice system abuse.
The age of consent is a contentious issue that cannot be determined solely by judges and the courts. Sexual education for children and adolescents is urgently needed. We must combat the taboo against sex and engage in sex conversation.
Source: The Hindu
Facts For Prelims
- JoynagarMoa’s GI tag has been renewed for another ten years.
- The moais are said to date back to 1904 and are composed of fragrant khoi (popped rice) blended with jaggery, sugar, cashew nuts, and raisins.
- It has a short shelf life of no more than five days if not refrigerated.
- Because of its great perishability, it has been unable to be exported overseas for decades, and export began on a very modest scale only in 2020.
- Facial recognition is a technology-based method of recognising a human face.
- It maps face characteristics from an image or video using biometrics.
- To identify a match, it compares the information to a database of known faces.
How it works?
- A facial image is acquired from a photograph or video.
- The shape of the face is read by facial recognition software (Ex- the distance between eyes and the distance from forehead to chin).
- A mathematical formula called a facial signature is compared to a database of known faces.
- A decision has been made. The faceprint may match an image in a database of facial recognition systems.
- BijliUtsav by REC
- REC Ltd in Gujarat organised the ‘BijliUtsav’ as part of the AzadikaAmritMahotsav.
- Speaker sessions by utility executives stressing electrical customer rights, advantages of electricity, obstacles encountered during electrification in distant locations, and how access to power enhances quality of life. Villagers and children were involved in quiz tournaments, and ukkadNataks were performed. LED lights were distributed as prizes to the winners.
- It is an NBFC with a concentration on Power Sector Financing and Development in India.
- It is a Maharatna enterprise that reports to the Ministry of Power.
- It was established in 1969 to help state electricity boards, state governments, central/state power utilities, independent power producers, rural electric cooperatives, and private sector utilities with financial aid.
- It serves as the Nodal Agency for the Government of India’s main initiatives, including the Pradhan MantriSahajBijliHarGharYojana (SAUBHAGAYA), the DeenDayalUpadhaya Gram JyotiYojana (DDUGJY), and the National Electricity Fund (NEF).
- The cash provided by REC shines every fourth bulb in India.
- Mars May have been less oxygen- rich than assumed
- According to a research published in Nature Geoscience, ancient Mars was probably wetter and warmer, but not as oxygen-rich as previously thought.
What does the latest research conclude?
- Extremophiles are organisms that can thrive in severe environments and may have lived on Mars in the past.
- Manganese Oxide crystals were discovered in 2016, leading scientists to conclude that the Red Planet once had more oxygen than it does now. Manganese oxide is formed when manganese, water, and high oxygen levels combine.
- A new research indicates that on Mars, chlorine and bromine transformed manganese into manganese oxide quicker than oxygen.
- As a result, the assumption that Mars was once oxygen-rich and supported life forms is called into doubt.
- Furthermore, ancient Mars is predicted to have 9% CO2 (before, CO2 was supposed to be 96%), making water acidic.
- Salt-loving creatures would most likely thrive on Mars.