Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. EWS quota challenge referred to Constitution Bench
Why in news
The Supreme Court has referred to a five-judge Bench, the substantial question of law whether the grant of 10% reservation to economically weaker sections of the society is unconstitutional and violates the 50% ceiling cap on quota declared by the court itself.
• The economic reservation was introduced in the Constitution by amending Articles 15 and 16 and adding clauses empowering the state governments to provide reservation on the basis of economic backwardness.
• The validity of the Constitutional Amendment was challenged, saying the 50% quota limit was part of the Basic Structure of the Constitution.
• A three-judge bench had refused to stay the implementation of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, which provides the 10% quota.
• The Centre had argued that it was every State’s prerogative to provide 10% economic reservation in State government jobs and admissions in State-run education institutions.
• The primary question for the Constitution Bench to decide is whether “economic backwardness” can be the sole criterion for granting quota in government jobs and educational institutions for those who would otherwise have to compete in the general category.
CATEGORY: INDIAN DIASPORA
USA Bars Federal Agencies from Hiring H-1B Visa Holders
Why in News
Recently, the President of the USA has signed an executive order barring federal agencies from hiring H-1B visa holders and other foreign workers in place of USA citizens or green card holders.
• The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows USA companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.
• The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China to keep costs in check.
• Such jobs in developed countries pay minimum wages, which are not lucrative enough for employable individuals of these countries.
• Executive Order:
The executive order has asked the federal agencies to stop replacing USA workers and green card holders with H-1B visa holders or other foreign workers.
• A green card holder (permanent resident) is someone who has been granted authorization to live and work in the USA on a permanent basis.
• The order has also directed all agencies under the federal government to review the contracts they gave out in the two previous financial years and the performance of such contracts or subcontracts.
• The Department of Labour will also finalise guidelines to prevent H-1B employers from moving H-1B workers to other employers’ job sites to displace American workers.
• The order seems to be an extension of an earlier order in which the entry of non-immigrant visa workers had been banned until the end of 2020.
The USA government under Trump leadership is moving towards a more conservative work visa regime under the America First policy.
• It has alleged Indian and Chinese IT companies of sending workers at very low cost, which hurt the prospects of skilled workers in the USA.
• The immediate trigger was an announcement by the federally-owned Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) that it would outsource 20% of its technology jobs to foreign countries.
• This action could result in loss of jobs for up to 200 highly-skilled American tech workers in Tennessee and could also lead to possible leaking of sensitive user data and theft of intellectual property, detrimental to national security.
Impact on Indian Workers in the USA:
• The H-1B visa is the most sought-after among Indian IT professionals.
• Apart from workers hired by federal agencies, the order will also impact workers of Indian companies that are on contract with federal agencies.
• Bigger federal agencies such as state-run banks give the contract for supply and maintenance of their databases and other services to bigger Indian companies such as Infosys, TCS or Wipro.
Impact on the USA:
• The order comes at a time when there is a huge shortage of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills in the USA that workers on short-term non-immigrant visas like H-1B and L-1 help bridge.
• Such a measure could slow down the recovery phase of the USA as countries start unlocking.
• Suspending the visas and barring federal agencies from hiring H-1B visa holders will only weaken the USA’s economy in the long run.
• Politics should not be placed above smart policy and inclusivity and there is a need to strengthen both. The ingenuity of migrant workers should be harnessed to revive an economy in dire straits especially in pandemic struck times like this.
CATEGORY: GOVT. POLICIES
Sahakar Cooptube NCDC Channel
Why in News
Recently, the Union Minister of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare launched the two initiatives of the National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) – Sahakar Cooptube NCDC Channel and Guidance Videos on ‘Formation and Registration of A Cooperative’.
• Sahakar Cooptube NCDC Channel:
The Channel aims to facilitate involvement of the youth in the cooperative movement.
Cooperatives lend strength to farmers to minimize risks in agriculture and allied sectors and act as a shield against exploitation.
• The channel will give a boost to Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan under which the government has announced a series of transformative measures and sector specific financial packages to help agriculture.
• The initiatives are steps towards One Nation One Market with the objective for India to become a food factory of the world.
• Guidance Videos:
These have been produced by the NCDC on ‘Formation and Registration of A Cooperative’ for eighteen different states in Hindi and regional languages.
• These would help strengthen and deepen the major initiatives of the government to promote and form 10,000 Farmer-Producer Organisations (FPOs).
• One such initiative is the formation of FPOs under the “One-Product One-District” approach.
National Cooperative Development Corporation
• Formation: NCDC was established by an Act of Parliament in 1963 as a statutory Corporation under the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare.
• Office: NCDC functions through its Head Office at New Delhi and multiple Regional Offices.
The objectives of NCDC are planning and promoting programmes for agricultural produce, foodstuffs, industrial goods, livestock and certain other notified commodities and services on cooperative principles.
• The NCDC has the unique distinction of being the sole statutory organisation functioning as an apex financial and developmental institution exclusively devoted to the cooperative sector.
• Recent Initiatives:
Mission Sahakar 22, which aims to double farmers’ income by 2022.
• Scheme on Internship Programme (SIP) named Sahakar Mitra.
• According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise. E.g. FPOs as cooperatives.
• An FPO, formed by a group of farm producers, is a registered body with producers as shareholders in the organisation.
• It deals with business activities related to the farm produce and it works for the benefit of the member producers.
• Cooperatives in India (Agriculture):
They largely function as an association of small and marginal farmers and rural poor.
• They have a huge network of over 8.50 lakh organizations and 290 million members.
Provisions of Indian Constitution related to Cooperatives:
• The Constitution (97th Amendment) Act, 2011 added a new Part IXB right after Part IXA (Municipals) regarding the cooperatives working in India.
• The word “cooperatives” was added after “unions and associations” in Article 19(1)(c) under Part III of the Constitution. This enables all the citizens to form cooperatives by giving it the status of fundamental right of citizens.
• A new Article 43B was added in the Directive Principles of State Policy (Part IV) regarding the “promotion of cooperative societies
Category: ENVIRONMENT AND ECOLOGY
1. Pokkali rice seedlings travel from Kerala to the Sunderbans
Why in news
To tide over a crisis-like situation created by severe seawater incursion into paddy fields in vast areas of the Sundarbans after cyclone Amphan hit West Bengal, farmers are experimenting on the pokkali variety of rice from Kerala.
• The pokkali variety is known for its saltwater tolerance.
• It is endemic to central Kerala.
• It is grown in coastal Alappuzha, Ernakulam and Thrissur districts.
• It has been granted the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
• Pokkali is an ancient farming practice. One season of rice farming is alternated with another season of prawn culture. o When the salinity is high, prawn farming takes over.
• The rice crop doesn’t require other fertilizer or manure as the tidal flows make the fields highly fertile and it draws nutrients from the prawns’ excrement and other remnants.
• The rice variety’s remarkable tolerance to salinity and floods makes it unique.
• About 80% of the rice paddies in the Sundarbans face the problem of saltwater incursion.
• If the pokkali experiment succeeds, it would be a good step to turn around the fortunes of the farmers.
1. ‘M.P. should not get GI tag for basmati rice’
Why in news
Madhya Pradesh has sought inclusion of its 13 districts for GI tagging for basmati.
• In response, the Punjab Chief Minister has written to the Prime Minister seeking his personal intervention against allowing this, quoting the larger interest of Punjab and other states which are already basmati GI tagged.
Which states have GI Tag for Basmati Rice?
• Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Western Uttar Pradesh and select districts of Jammu and Kashmir have GI tagging for basmati rice.
What are Punjab’s concerns?
• According to Punjab CM, India exports basmati to the tune of 33,000 crore every year and any dilution in registration could give advantage to Pakistan in the international market in terms of basmati characteristics, quality parameters.
• Pakistan also produces basmati as per GI tagging.
• The CM has pointed out that GI tag for basmati has been given on the basis of the traditionally grown areas of basmati due to special aroma, quality and taste of the grain, which is indigenous to the region below the foothills of the Himalayas in the Indo-Gangetic Plains and the basmati of this area has distinct recognition across the world.
• It has been asserted that Madhya Pradesh does not fall under the specialised zone for basmati cultivation.
• As per the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999, a geographical indication tag can be issued for agricultural goods that are originating in the territory of a country, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristics of such goods is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.