SRILANKA'S NATIONAL FOOD EMERGENCY
- Sri Lanka's Parliament recently approved a national emergency declared by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to address soaring food prices and hoarding by a "food mafia."
- However, the Opposition views the emergency as a pretext to curtail fundamental rights and move towards authoritarianism.
- This emergency comes amid a severe food crisis, exacerbated by debt, forex shortages, and inflation.
- The combination of economic challenges has put immense pressure on the country's foreign exchange reserves and severely impacted imports, including essential food items.
2. The Forex and Debt Crisis
- Sri Lanka faces a substantial foreign debt burden, struggling to repay loans due to critically low foreign exchange reserves.
- The loss of revenue from the tourism industry, exacerbated by the 2019 Easter attacks and the pandemic, has further strained the country's forex situation.
- The tea and garment industries have also been adversely affected, impacting exports and adding to the forex crisis.
3. Inadequate Forex Reserves and Import Limitations
- Despite an increase in remittances in 2020, Sri Lanka's forex reserves remain insufficient to meet foreign debt obligations.
- The delay in receiving a currency swap from India, the previous swap with China, and a loan swap agreement with Bangladesh have further compounded the issue.
- Low forex reserves have forced the country to restrict imports, affecting essential food items such as pulses, sugar, wheat flour, vegetables, and cooking oil.
4. Demand-Side Inflation
- The Central Bank of Sri Lanka's printing of Rs 800 billion to alleviate the economic crisis has led to increased liquidity.
- However, the surge in demand without corresponding supply has resulted in sharp inflation, devaluation of the currency, and higher import costs.
- Inflationary pressures have exacerbated the country's debt burden and strained forex reserves.
5. Emergency Measures and Supply Constraints
- Under the declared emergency, the government imposed price controls on essential items.
- However, this has deterred traders from importing goods at high international prices without assurance of profitability in domestic markets.
- Moreover, a restrictive import licensing regime has further hampered the supply of essential commodities.
6. Emergency Declaration and Concerns
- The emergency was declared under the Public Security Ordinance (PSO), granting the President wide-ranging powers.
- While the emergency must be renewed every three months in Parliament, the President can implement regulations without parliamentary oversight.
- Concerns have been raised about the potential abuse of emergency powers, given Sri Lanka's history with emergency laws and security-related measures.
7. Impact on Democracy and Civil Liberties
- Civil society organizations have urged citizens to challenge any measures that stifle dissent and curtail civil liberties, protecting Sri Lanka's constitutional democracy.
- The appointment of a serving major general as the Commissioner General of Essential Services has raised concerns about civilian administration bypass.
8. Memories of Past Food Crisis
- Sri Lanka's current food crisis evokes memories of the 1970s when the country experimented with socialism.
- Long queues outside government-owned Sathosa grocery shops remind people of the "ship-to-mouth economy," ration cards, foreign exchange controls, and scarcity of essential items.
- The recent ban on chemical fertilizers may further exacerbate the situation, affecting agricultural yields and food production.
9. The Way Forward
- Sri Lanka's food crisis is a complex interplay of economic challenges, forex shortages, inflation, and supply constraints.
- The emergency declaration has raised concerns about the potential erosion of democratic principles and civil liberties.
- Addressing the crisis requires a comprehensive approach, including sustainable economic policies, targeted measures to boost forex reserves, and strategic support for agriculture and food production.
- As the country navigates these difficult times, ensuring transparency, accountability, and democratic governance remains crucial to overcoming the challenges and achieving food security for its citizens.
For Prelims: National emergency, Food Crisis, forex reserves, Sri Lanka
1. Discuss the factors contributing to Sri Lanka's severe food crisis, including the impact of debt, forex shortages, and inflation. How are these challenges straining the country's foreign exchange reserves and affecting imports of essential food items? (250 Words)
MINIMUM INCOME BILL
2. Rajasthan Minimum Income Bill
- Guaranteed Employment: All families in the state are to receive guaranteed employment of 125 days annually.
- Minimum Pension: Aged, disabled, widows, and single women are entitled to a minimum pension of Rs 1,000 per month.
- Pension Increase: Pension to be increased annually at a rate of 15 percent.
- Right to Minimum Guaranteed Income.
- Right to Guaranteed Employment.
- Right to Guaranteed Social Security Pension.
- Additional Expenditure: The anticipated additional expense of Rs 2,500 crore per year for the scheme, subject to potential increases over time.
3. Key Provisions of the Bill
- 125 days of guaranteed employment for each adult citizen annually.
- Urban areas covered by Indira Gandhi Shahri Rozgar Guarantee Yojana.
- Rural areas covered by Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
- State supplementing MGNREGA's 100 days with an additional 25 days in rural areas.
- Eligible categories (old age/specially abled/widow/single woman) entitled to a minimum pension of Rs 1,000 per month.
- Pension increases by 5% in July and 10% in January each financial year, starting from 2024-2025.
- Minimum wages paid "weekly or in any case not later than a fortnight" after work in urban or rural employment schemes.
- Program Officer (Block Development Officer in rural areas, Executive Officer of the local body in urban areas) responsible for implementation.
- Work site to be within a 5-kilometer radius of the registered job card in both rural and urban areas.
- If employment is not provided within 15 days of application, entitled to unemployment allowance on a weekly basis.
- Pension increases over the base rate by 5% in July and 10% in January each financial year, starting from 2024-2025 for eligible categories (old age/specially abled/widow/single woman).
4. Significance of the Bill
- The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members. (Mahatma Gandhi)
- It is the moral responsibility of every government to ensure that everyone gets justice.
- Therefore, the Bill is part of a bouquet of schemes and measures undertaken by the Rajasthan government to provide relief from inflation with an eye on the polls later this year.
5. Social Activist's Perspective
- MKSS shared a draft of the Bill with the state government.
- The Bill is praised for being the first of its kind in the country and is considered a welcome step by activists.
- The Bill is appreciated for including all essential elements necessary for its effectiveness.
- The Bill distinguishes itself from cash transfer schemes in other states by legally guaranteeing minimum employment and pensions.
- While a more detailed draft was submitted by the civil society network Soochna Evum Rozgaar Adhikar Abhiyan, parts that were skipped in the current version can potentially be included in the rules under the Act.
For Prelims: Minimum Income Bill, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), and Indira Gandhi Shahri Rozgar Guarantee Yojana.
For Mains: 1. Critically evaluate the provisions and potential impact of the Minimum Income Bill recently introduced in Rajasthan. Discuss how the bill aims to address poverty and socioeconomic disparities in the state through guaranteed employment, minimum pensions, and social security measures. (250 words).
- In the world of nutrition, fatty acids play a significant role, impacting our health in various ways.
- Drawing inspiration from the iconic film "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," we can categorize fatty acids into three groups: unsaturated (good), saturated (bad), and trans-fatty acids (ugly).
- While this classification may seem simplistic, it serves as a starting point to understand their effects on our arteries and overall health.
- However, we must recognize that the story is more complex, with nuances within each group.
2. The Good: Unsaturated Fatty Acids
- Unsaturated fats encompass both mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, each with unique roles in promoting cardiovascular health.
- The ratio of n-3 (omega-3) to n-6 (omega-6) fatty acids is essential for maintaining a healthy balance.
- These fats provide arterial protection, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and blood clotting.
3. The Bad: Saturated Fatty Acids
- Within the group of saturated fats, differences between short-chain and long-chain fatty acids impact their effects on the body.
- Overconsumption of saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels and contribute to atherosclerosis, increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke.
4. The Ugly: Trans-Fatty Acids
- Trans-fatty acids emerge as the most dangerous of all fatty acids concerning adverse health effects.
- Numerous studies confirm their detrimental impact on blood vessels.
- They significantly raise levels of atherogenic LDL cholesterol, decrease protective HDL cholesterol, and trigger platelet activation and aggregation.
- Moreover, they inflame the inner lining of blood vessels and increase the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- The industrial production of trans fats, derived from partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, poses a greater threat to our health than natural sources found in ruminant animals.
5. Sources and Impact of Trans-Fatty Acids
- Trans fats are commonly found in baked goods, fried foods, and spreads, providing taste and texture while extending shelf life.
- However, their frequent consumption leads to shortened human life due to the harm they inflict on our cardiovascular system.
- Industrial trans fats have been assaulting our bodies for the past half-century, and our physiology has not adapted to cope with these harmful substances.
6. Global Health Implications
- Cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease and stroke, remains the leading cause of death worldwide.
- While high-income countries have been affected, middle and low-income countries are experiencing a rising burden.
- Diet plays a crucial role in preventing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
- To promote healthier diets, we must eliminate the source of harm related to the industrial processing of trans fats.
7. The Urgency to Act
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that millions of lives are lost due to premature deaths caused by trans fats.
- Despite this alarming figure, five billion people globally remain vulnerable due to the absence of national policies aimed at eliminating trans fats from industrially processed foods.
- While some countries, such as India, have taken steps to reduce trans fats in food products, others have been slow to follow suit.
- The WHO's call to eliminate trans fats by 2023 has not received the necessary political and policy commitment.
- This lack of urgency poses a global danger, especially in a rapidly interconnected world.
- It is time for countries to prioritize the elimination of trans fats from their diets, ensuring a healthier future for all.
8. The Way Forward
- Understanding the impact of different fatty acids on our health is essential for promoting well-being and preventing cardiovascular disease.
- The urgent need to eliminate trans-fatty acids from industrially processed foods requires global cooperation and commitment from policymakers and the food industry.
- By taking decisive action, we can protect millions of lives and create a healthier world for generations to come.
For Prelims: Trans facts, World Health Organisation, cardiovascular health, Type 2 diabetes,
1. Analyze the differences between mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids, emphasizing their roles in arterial protection and their effects on atherosclerosis and blood clotting. (250 Words)
2. Section 69A
- Section 69A is a provision in the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) of India, which empowers the government to issue directions for blocking public access to certain online content.
- This section deals with blocking information by intermediaries to maintain public order, prevent incitement to the commission of an offense, and protect the sovereignty and integrity of India, among other reasons.
- The primary objective of Section 69A is to grant the Indian government the authority to take measures in situations where it believes it is necessary to block access to specific online content that is considered harmful or potentially detrimental to national interests.
- The term "intermediaries" referred to in the section includes internet service providers, social media platforms, search engines, and other entities providing online services.
3. Key features of Section 69A:
- Grounds for Blocking: The government can issue directions to block any online information if it deems it necessary or expedient in the interest of the sovereignty, security, defense of India, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognizable offense.
- Designated Officer and Committee: Section 69A provides for the appointment of a Designated Officer by the government, who holds the authority to receive and examine requests for blocking content from various agencies. Additionally, a Review Committee, consisting of government officials, is established to oversee the decisions made by the Designated Officer.
- Procedure for Blocking: When a request is received by the Designated Officer to block specific online content, the officer must assess the request and the grounds provided. The officer issues the blocking order to the intermediary responsible for hosting the content if found valid. The intermediary must comply with the order and disable access to the content within a specified time frame.
- Safeguards and Appeal Mechanism: To prevent misuse of this power, Section 69A provides some safeguards. The affected parties or intermediaries have the right to seek redressal by filing an appeal before the Review Committee against the blocking order. If dissatisfied with the Review Committee's decision, further appeals can be made to the High Court.
- Secrecy and Immunity: The section mandates that the Designated Officer and the Review Committee must keep the requests and decisions confidential. Moreover, these officers and the intermediaries complying with the blocking orders are granted immunity from legal suits and actions.
4. Criticism of the Act
- Section 69A has been the subject of considerable debate and criticism regarding its potential impact on freedom of speech and expression.
- Critics argue that it grants the government extensive powers to censor online content without sufficient oversight and transparency, which could be misused to suppress dissent and stifle legitimate voices.
- Proponents, on the other hand, believe that it is necessary to counter potential threats to national security and public order.
- It is important to note that the Indian government has been actively using Section 69A to block access to various websites and content that it deems problematic or against the interests of the country.
- As with any legislation that involves restrictions on fundamental rights, finding the right balance between security concerns and individual freedoms remains a complex and ongoing challenge.
5. What has Supreme Court said on Section 69A
- Case: Shreya Singhal vs Union of India, 2015 ruling.
- Section 66A: Struck down by the Supreme Court. It punished sending offensive messages through communication services.
- Section 69A: Held "constitutionally valid" by the Supreme Court.
Section 69A Safeguards: Narrowly drawn provision with safeguards:
- Blocking can only happen if the Central Government deems it necessary.
- Necessity must relate to some subjects listed in Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
- Reasons for blocking must be recorded in writing, and they can be challenged through a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution.
6. Legal Scrutiny of Section 69A: Twitter vs. MeitY
- July (last year, 2022): Twitter approached Karnataka HC against MeitY's content-blocking orders under Section 69A.
- Allegation: Twitter claimed disproportionate use of power by officials.
- MeitY's Action: IT Ministry wrote to Twitter, asking for compliance or risk losing safe harbour protection.
- Karnataka HC's Ruling: In July (this year), a single-judge bench dismissed Twitter's plea.
- Power to Block: Justice Krishna D Dixit ruled that the Centre can block not just single tweets but entire user accounts under Section 69A(1) and Website Blocking Rules.
For Prelims: Section 69 (A), Information Technology Act, 2000, cognizable offense, Section 66A, Section 69A(1), and MeitY.
For Mains: 1. Analyze the provisions and implications of Section 69A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, in the context of online content regulation and freedom of speech in India. (250 words).
RAISING AND ACCELERATING MSME PERFORMANCE (RAMP)
- The full form of RAMP is Raising and Accelerating MSME Performance. It is a World Bank-assisted central sector program to strengthen India's Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) sector.
- The program aims to improve access to market and credit, strengthen institutions and governance at the Centre and State, improve Centre-State linkages and partnerships, addressing issues of delayed payments and greening of MSMEs
- The initiative aims to improve market and credit access, develop institutions and governance at the centre and state levels, strengthen centre-state linkages and collaborations, manage late payments, and green MSMEs
- The funds would flow through RAMP into the Ministry’s budget against Disbursement Linked Indicators (DLIs) to support ongoing MoMSME programmes, focusing on improving market access and competitiveness
- Strengthening coordination and institutions at the National and State level.
- Enhancing guarantee products towards increased greening and gender participation.
- Strengthening the receivables financing markets.
- Building and integrating technology platforms.
- Expanding access to Online Dispute Resolution Mechanism (ODR).
- Enhancing firm capabilities and access to markets
- The RAMP program was launched in 2020 and is expected to run for five years.
- The total cost of the program is estimated at Rs. 8,080 crore, with the World Bank providing a loan of Rs. 3,750 crore.
- The remaining amount will be funded by the Government of India
- The RAMP program is being implemented in 27 states and union territories of India. The program is expected to benefit around 10 million MSMEs.
- The RAMP program is a comprehensive program that aims to address the key challenges faced by MSMEs in India. The program is expected to play a significant role in the growth and development of the MSME sector in India.
Here are some of the key features of the RAMP program:
- Improving access to market and credit: The RAMP program will provide financial assistance to MSMEs to help them access markets and credit. This will help MSMEs to expand their businesses and create more jobs.
- Strengthening institutions and governance: The RAMP program will strengthen institutions and governance at the Centre and State level. This will help to create a more conducive environment for MSMEs to operate in.
- Improving Centre-State linkages and partnerships: The RAMP program will improve Centre-State linkages and partnerships. This will help to ensure that MSMEs have access to the resources and support they need to grow their businesses.
- Addressing issues of delayed payments: The RAMP program will address the issue of delayed payments to MSMEs. This will help to improve the cash flow of MSMEs and make it easier for them to operate their businesses.
- Greening of MSMEs: The RAMP program will promote the greening of MSMEs. This will help MSMEs to reduce their environmental impact and become more sustainable.