₹1364 crore given to wrong beneficiaries of PM-KISAN

Paper:

Mains: G.S. II & III Polity and Governance, Social Justice & Agriculture

Why in news?

PM-KISAN payments worth ₹1364 crore have been wrongly made to more than 20 lakh ineligible beneficiaries and income tax payer farmers.

Key details

  • The Union Agriculture Ministry, in response to the RTI application, identified two categories of undeserving beneficiaries who received PM-KISAN payouts as ‘ineligible farmers’ and ‘income tax payee farmers.
  • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sammann Nidhi (PM-KISAN) was launched by the Centre in 2019 and under the scheme, an income support of ₹6,000 per year in three equal installments is paid to small and marginal farmer families having combined land holding or ownership of up to 2 hectares.
  • “More than half (55.58%) of these undeserving persons belong to the ‘income tax payee category’.”
  • The remaining 44.41% belong to the ‘ineligible farmers’ category.
  • Data obtained under RTI Act, 2005, indicated that since the commencement of the PM-KISAN Yojana in 2019, ₹1,364.13 crore (USD 186.59 million) has been paid to ‘ineligible persons’ and ‘income tax payee farmers’ till July 31, 2020. Government’s own data indicates money went into the wrong hands.
  • A major chunk of these ineligible beneficiaries belongs to five states — Punjab, Assam, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, as per the data.
  • Punjab tops the list accounting for 23.16 per cent (4.74 lakh) of the total number of undeserving persons across the country who received payouts, followed by Assam with 16.87% (3.45 lakh beneficiaries) and Maharashtra with 13.99% (2.86 lakh beneficiaries).
  • Several categories of farmers are excluded from the scheme like institutional landholders; farmer families in which one or more members is among beneficiaries — former and present holders of constitutional posts; former and present ministers, MPs, MLAs, MLCs, mayors and chairmen of district panchayat; serving and retired government employees; pensioners receiving over ₹10,000 monthly pension; income tax payees and professionals such as doctors, engineers, chartered accountants and architects etc.

Dzukou Valley wildfire doused

Paper:

Mains: G.S. I & III Geography of India & Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

The two-week long wildfire in Dzukou Valley on Nagaland-Manipur borders has been doused, and no fresh fire or smoke was visible further.

Key details

  • The wildfire broke out in the Dzukou Valley under Kohima district in southern Nagaland on December 29 and crossed over to the northern Manipur side, forcing both the state governments to request the NDRF and the army to help contain the wildfire.
  • According to the officials, the inferno has destroyed much of the forest areas, seasonal flowers, flora and fauna and harmed the rich biodiversity of the valley, which is also a famous trekking site.
  • One of the 10 most beautiful places in the mountainous northeast India, the Dzukou valley, 30 km from Kohima, is also a sanctuary for the endangered Blyth’s tragopan – Nagaland’s state bird – and other species of birds and animals.
  • The iconic valley, situated at an altitude of 2,452 metres above the sea level, is a popular tourist spot and also famous for its seasonal flowers and biodiversity.
  • Often caught in a boundary dispute between Manipur and Nagaland, it has been prone to wildfires.

Stretched valuations threaten stability

Paper:

Mains: G.S. III Indian Economy

Why in news?

Reserve Bank Governor Shaktikanta Das said the Covid-19 pandemic “threatens” to result in balance sheet impairments and capital shortfalls at banks, especially once regulatory reliefs are rolled back.

Key details

  • RBI has released it’s Financial Stability Report.
  • Easy liquidity and financing conditions have shored up the financial parameters of banks, but made it clear that the “available accounting numbers make it difficult to understand true recognition of stress”.
  • The non-performing asset ratio is forecast to rise to 13.5% by the end of September from 7.5% a year ago, the Reserve Bank of India said in its semiannual Financial Stability Report published Monday. If the number holds through the fiscal year ending March 2022, it would be the worst since 1999.
  • The RBI had declared a six-month moratorium which ended in August and later announced a one-time loan recast package to help borrowers. Many banks, especially the private sector ones, have already raised safety capital in the early days of the pandemic.
  • Fiscal authorities are witnessing revenue shortfalls and the resultant expansion in the market borrowing programme of the government has “imposed additional pressures on banks.
  • The disconnect between certain segments of financial markets and the real economy has been accentuating in recent times.
  • The Governor warned that the stretched valuations of financial assets pose risks to financial stability.

Das asked banks and financial intermediaries to be cognisant of these risks and spillovers in an interconnected financial system. Financial stability is a precondition for  supporting the mission of restoring economic growth and livelihoods, Das said, conceding that “we have been scarred by the Covid-19 pandemic”.


Coal sector will be major contributor to $5-tn economy goal: Shah

Paper:

Mains: G.S. III Indian Economy

Why in news?

Launching a single-window clearance system for the coal sector, Shah also said that the move was an initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in bringing transparency and transformation in India’s coal sector.

Key details

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday said coal plays a key role in the country’s economy and a boost in the sector will give a fillip to the Indian economy.
  • Coal sector plays a key role in our economy, a boost in the coal sector will directly boost India’s economy.
  • This platform will further the efforts by bringing huge investment and creating employment.
  • The home minister said the single-window clearance system will ensure the process of obtaining clearances smooth for operationalisation of coal mines.
  • Despite having the world’s fourth-largest coal reserves, India is importing coal and this is not right for the country.
  • Presently, about 19 major approval or clearances are required before starting a coal mine in the country.
  • In the absence of a unified platform for grant of clearances, the companies were required to approach different departments leading to delay in operationalisation of coal mines.
  • A single window clearance portal is aimed at allowing successful bidders for coal blocks to be able to obtain all required clearances, including environmental and forest clearances, from a single portal with progress monitoring, instead of having to go to multiple authorities.

Bird Flu triggers fresh fears, prices of chicken, eggs crash

Paper:

Mains: G.S. III Science and Technology, Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

Outbreak of avian influenza is now confirmed in 10 states.

Key details

  • Winter for the poultry industry is like summer for ice-cream makers. The winter months are when consumption of chicken and eggs peaks, with those rearing broiler and layer birds also realising better rates.
  • An estimated 1.3 crore live broiler birds and 20 crore eggs on average are sold daily in India, and these numbers can rise to 1.5 crore and 28-29 crore during winter. The bird flu scare, however, has led to consumption dropping by 30-40 per cent in the last 4-5 days.
  • Bird flu, also known as Avian influenza (AI), is a highly contagious viral disease affecting several species of food-producing birds (chickens, turkeys, quails, guinea fowl, etc.) as well as pet birds and wild birds.
  • Influenza viruses are grouped into three types; A, B, and C. Only type A is known to infect animals and is zoonotic,meaning it can infect animals and also humans. Type B and C mostly infect humans and typically cause mild disease.
  • Avian influenza virus subtypes include A(H5N1), A(H7N9), and A(H9N2).
  • Previously in 2019, India was declared free from Avian Influenza (H5N1), which had also been notified to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

National Youth Day

Miscellaneous

Why in news?

Today Jan 12 is National Youth Day, birthday of Swami Vivekananda.

Key details

  • The Theme of 2021 is “YUVAAH – Utsah Naye Bharat Ka”.
  • Swami Vivekananda’s pre-monastic name was Narendra Nath Dutta. He was born on 12 January, 1863 in Kolkata (previously Calcutta) and died on 4 July, 1902.
  • Despite being a good student, he failed to get a job for a very long time. He used to ask for a job from door to door but he didn’t get a job and so he became an atheist.
  • One of his English professors introduced him with the name of ‘Shri Ramkrishna Paramhamsa’ and in 1881, he met with Shri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa at Dakshineshwar’s Kali temple and became a disciple of Saint Ramakrishna Paramhamsa.
  • He introduced Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western World.
  • He is best known for his speech at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893 when he began his speech while saying “Sisters and brothers of America…..” and he introduced India’s culture, its importance, Hinduism, etc.
  • Therefore, Swami Vivekananda is the man of wisdom, faith, a true philosopher whose teachings not only motivated youth but also paved the way for the development of the country. So, that is why 12 January is celebrated as a National Youth Day every year in India with joy and enthusiasm.