One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC)
Why in news
Assam has become the 36th State/UT to implement One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC). With this, the ONORC plan is successfully implemented in all the 36 states/UTs, making food security portable throughout the country.
• The Union Government launched the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ scheme on a pilot basis in four states in 2019.
• This scheme aims to ensure all beneficiaries, especially migrants get ration (wheat, rice and other food grains) across the nation from any Public Distribution System (PDS) shop of their own choice.
• One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) is a scheme that will nationalise a beneficiary’s ration card by a process called Aadhaar Seeding.
• Under the existing system, a ration cardholder can buy food grains only from the PDS in the locality where he or she lives. This will change once the ‘One Nation, One Ration Card’ system becomes operational nationally.
• The objective of this beneficiary centric high-impact program is to empower all NFSA beneficiaries to become AtmaNirbhar for their food security anywhere in the country, through portability of their existing ration cards enabling them to seamlessly lift their entitled subsidized foodgrains (in part or full) from any Fair Price Shop of their choice.
• This also enables their family members to lift the balance/required amount of foodgrains on the same ration card at their native/ any place from the FPS of their choice.
Who is eligible for One Nation One Ration Card
• Any citizen, who is declared under Below Poverty Line (BPL) category, will be eligible to get the benefit of this scheme across the country.
• The beneficiaries will be identified on the basis of their Aadhaar based identification through the electronic point of sale (PoS) device.
• All the PDS shops will have the facility of electronic PoS devices.
Benefits of ONORC
• The ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme is aimed at reducing the incidents of hunger deaths in the country, to further improve rankings in the Global Hunger Index.
• This is one-of-its-kind Citizen Centric initiative in the country, which is swiftly implemented in a short-span of time covering about 80 Crore beneficiaries, after being initiated in August 2019.
• During the last two years of COVID-19 pandemic, ONORC plan has significantly contributed in ensuring subsidised foodgrains to NFSA (National Food Security Act) beneficiaries, especially migrant beneficiaries.
• It was also launched with the purpose that no poor person should be deprived of getting subsidised food grains under the food security scheme when they shift from one place to another.
• It aims to reduce instances of corruption by middlemen and fraudulence in ration cards to avail benefits from different states.
Performance of ONORC
• Since its inception in August 2019, about 71 Crore portable transactions (43.6 crore NFSA and 27.8 crore PM-GKAY transactions) have taken place under ONORC, delivering food grains equivalent to about Rs. 40,000 Crore in food subsidy through portability.
• About 64 Crore portable transactions have been recorded during COVID-19 period itself (from April 2020 till June 2022) delivering food grains equivalent to about Rs. 36,000 Crore in food subsidy through portability.
• Out of these 64 crore portable transactions, 27.8 crore portability transactions were recorded under PMGKAY (Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana), which was announced in March 2020 for distribution of additional free-of-cost foodgrains (Rice/Wheat) to NFSA beneficiaries to mitigate the Covid induced hardships.
• Additionally, as a key indicator, presently a monthly average of about 3 Crore portable transactions are being recorded, delivering the subsidised NFSA and free PMGKAY food grains with anywhere flexibility to the beneficiaries.
About ‘MERA RATION’ Mobile Application
It has been rolled out to take maximum advantage of the ONORC plan. The mobile app is providing a host of useful real time information to the beneficiaries and is available in 13 languages.
• The digitisation of this PDS process, through Aadhaar-linked ration cards and smart cards, has been pushed in an effort to reduce leakages. However, there has been a rise of exclusion errors in post-Aadhaar seeding.
• Due to historical, political and varying consumption habits, PDS across the country varies with respect to the items supplied through fair price shops to the below-poverty-line (BPL) card-holders. Even the quantity and the price of items supplied varies from state to state.
• Elaborate logistics will have to be worked out if the migrant population is assured it will be provided with the items supplied in his native state.
Why in news
The United Nations Biodiversity on June 21, announced the new dates for the second part of the Fifteenth Meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 15), the UN Biodiversity Conference. The Meeting will take place between December 5 to 17, 2022 in Montreal, Canada under the Presidency of China.
About COP15 of UNCBD
• China, as COP President, has decided to relocate the meetings from Kunming to a venue outside of China keeping in view the continued uncertainties related to the ongoing Covid19 pandemic. However, it will continue to preside over the Meeting as COP 15 President, with the logo and the theme of COP 15 maintained.
• The first part of the UN Biodiversity Conference took place in a virtual format, from October 11 to 15, 2021, and the second part was scheduled to take place in a face-to-face meeting in Kunming, China, from April 25 to May 8, 2022.
About The UN Biodiversity Conference
• The UN Biodiversity Conference focuses on the state of biodiversity, which is suffering at the hands of climate change.
• The Conference will convene governments from around the world to agree to a new set of goals for nature over the next decade through the Convention on Biological Diversity post-2020 framework process.
• The framework plans to implement broad-based actions concerning biodiversity to ensure that, by 2050, the shared vision of living in harmony with nature is fulfilled.
• Further, the representatives from about 200 member countries of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity are expected to establish a post-2020 global biodiversity framework to conserve species at risk of extinction.
India at COP15
• The first part of COP 15 took place in Kunming and reinforced the commitment to address the biodiversity crisis. The highlights of the Meeting include the adoption of the Kunming Declaration by Ministers at the High-Level Segment and the announcement of the establishment of the Kunming Biodiversity Fund.
• During COP15 UN Biodiversity Conference, Round Table on ‘Putting biodiversity on a Path of Recovery’, Union Environment Minister, Bhupender Yadav had said that the Indian Government has mainstreamed biodiversity consideration in all key sectors of development and promoting human well-being and inclusive growth.
• The Union Minister had reiterated India’s commitment to ensure implementation of the objectives of conservation, sustainable use and fair and equitable benefit sharing through a tiered and federal network of sub-national formal and non-governmental agencies.
• Further, at the first phase of the Meeting, India had committed to restoring 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, more than its earlier target of 21 million hectares.
• Additionally, India’s intended Nationally Determined Contributions as part of Paris Agreement is to create an additional carbon sink of 2.5-3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent through additional forest and tree cover, which will also enhance biodiversity in India.
India’s emerging twin deficit problem
Why in News
In its latest ‘Monthly Economic Review’, the Ministry of Finance has painted an overall optimistic picture of the state of the domestic economy. “The World is looking at a distinct possibility of widespread stagflation.
Key areas of concern
The report highlights two key areas of concern for the Indian economy: the fiscal deficit and the current account deficit (or CAD).
• The fiscal deficit is essentially the amount of money that the government has to borrow in any year to fill the gap between its expenditures and revenues.
• Why is it a cause of concern?
o Higher levels of fiscal deficit typically imply the government eats into the pool of investible funds in the market which could have been used by the private sector for its own investment needs.
o At a time when the government is trying its best to kick-start and sustain a private sector investment cycle, borrowing more than what it budgeted will be counter-productive.
What does the report say?
• The report states that “as government revenues take a hit following cuts in excise duties on diesel and petrol, an upside risk to the budgeted level of gross fiscal deficit has emerged”.
• The report underscores the need to trim revenue expenditure (or the money government spends just to meet its daily needs).
• “Rationalizing non-capex expenditure has thus become critical, not only for protecting growth supportive capex but also for avoiding fiscal slippages,” it states.
Capex” or capital expenditure essentially refers to money spent towards creating productive assets such as roads, buildings, ports etc.
• Capex has a much bigger multiplier effect on the overall GDP growth than revenue expenditure.
Money multiplier money shows the mechanism by which reserve money creates supply in the economy.
Current account deficit
• The current account essentially refers to two specific sub-parts:
o Import and Export of goods — this is the “trade account”.
o Import and export of services — this is called the “invisibles account”.
• If the net effect of a trade account and the invisibles account is a deficit, then it is called a current account deficit or CAD.
• Why is it a cause of concern?
o If a country imports more goods (everything from cars to phones to machinery to food grains etc) than it exports, it is said to have a trade account deficit.
o A deficit implies that more money is going out of the country than coming in via the trade of physical goods.
o A widening CAD tends to weaken the domestic currency because a CAD implies more dollars (or foreign currencies) are being demanded than rupees.
Why in News
The Prime Minister is going to attend the 14th BRICS summit hosted by China in a virtual mode.
BRICS is a multilateral forum consisting of five major emerging economies of the world, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Evolution of BRICS
• The leaders of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) countries met for the first time in St. Petersburg, Russia, on the margins of G8 Outreach Summit in July 2006.
• Shortly afterwards, in September 2006, the group was formalised as BRIC during the 1st BRIC Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, which met on the sidelines of the General Debate of the UN Assembly in New York City.
• After a series of high level meetings, the 1st BRIC summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia on 16 June 2009.
• BRIC group was renamed as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) after South Africa was accepted as a full member at the BRIC Foreign Ministers’ meeting in New York in September 2010.
Importance of BRICS
• BRICS is an important grouping bringing together the major emerging economies from the world, comprising:
o 41% of the world population
o 24% of the world GDP
o Over 16% share in the world trade.
• BRICS countries have been the main engines of global economic growth over the years.
• Over a period of time, BRICS countries have come together to deliberate on important issues under the three pillars of political and security, economic and financial and cultural and people to people exchanges.
Why does this happen?
• This is because the mere presence of the bacteria may not itself trigger active TB disease. But other ‘risk factors’ and ‘comorbidities’, among which feature undernutrition, can increase the probability of the latent bacteria manifesting themselves as TB disease.
• In India, both TB and under nutrition exist on a massive scale. So when they work together, the results are devastating.
• COVID-19 brought India and the rest of the world to a standstill, dominating the headlines.
• In the mayhem, we forgot that India has a long-standing under nutrition problem that could be made worse by the pandemic.
Severity of disease
• How do TB and under nutrition work together?
o Poverty and the resulting under nutrition increase the chances of active TB in someone who carries the bacteria, and also the
severity of disease.
o It reduces patients’ speed of recovery, exacerbates side-effects from the medicine, and increases the likelihood of fatality.
• Despite India’s economic progress, even today, an increasing number of people remain undernourished and without food security, particularly children, women, tribal populations, and other economically marginalised populations. By some estimates, undernutrition accounts for almost 55% of India’s yearly tuberculosis cases.
Combining other factors
• When undernutrition is combined with other causes, the total incidence of diseases like TB can rise.
• As employment opportunities remain limited in India, and people migrate to other States for jobs, these challenges are bound to grow.
Role of governments
• A few years ago, India launched the Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY), a nutritional support programme for TB patients who cannot afford sufficient nutritious food. This well-intentioned scheme is a case study in why good intentions are insufficient.
o The scheme’s design and conceptualisation were finalised without consulting survivors. Also, its implementation is fraught with challenges, including delays in or non-receipt of payments, and demand for excessive documentation.
o There is little doubt that the amount under NPY, Rs. 500, is insufficient and must be raised for all patients to at least Rs. 2,000. There is also a case for State-specific ration assistance schemes for patients whenever possible.
Why is this urgently needed?
• Even with government assistance, 50% of TB patients’ families suffer financially devastating expenditures as they struggle to satisfy their nutritional and other medical demands, driving them deeper into poverty and the disease trap.
• We must also recognise the rural, local and regional shortcomings of this scheme. In the end, if the objective of the NPY is that the most vulnerable benefit from it, we are failing. We need to guarantee that those affected by TB eat a well-balanced, tailored diet.
• While treatment of TB in India may have increased substantially, it is unlikely we will be able to control the TB epidemic if we disregard the causal relation between undernutrition and TB.
• India has made bold claims about eliminating TB by 2025. While the COVID-19 pandemic has clearly dislodged this target, it is unlikely that we can control TB if we do not address undernutrition both as a preventative and as a curative tool.
It is critical to ensure that the nutritional needs of India’s populations are met, and the road to that is food security.
We need to focus on making our populations food secure and healthier, not just provide them with diagnosis and treatment. If we continue to neglect the nutritional needs of our populations, we may be creating a longer-term disaster than we can manage in the future.
Place in News
Strait of Hormuz
• The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow channel, approximately 30 miles wide at the narrowest point, between the Omani Musandam Peninsula and Iran.
• It connects the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman.
• The Strait is deep and relatively free of maritime hazards.
• Its depth is greatest near the Musandam Peninsula and tapers as you move north toward the Iranian shore.