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Zonal Council

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure,

Why in the news?

  • The 11th meeting of the Standing Committee of the Eastern Zonal Council was held at Patna.
  • The Committee reviewed the progress of implementation of the recommendations made at the last meeting of the Eastern Zonal Council relating to issues of water sharing at Phulbari dam under agreement signed by the States of Bihar and West Bengal on Upper Mahananda Water Scheme; new Railway line projects of Tarkeshwar-Bishnupur and Bhadutola Jhargram; and, land acquisition for development of Bagdogra airport. 
  • The issues related to setting up of electric locomotive periodic overhauling workshop at Kalahandi, train between Bhubaneswar and Nayagarh, implementation of prohibition policy in Bihar, determination of pension liability between Bihar and Jharkhand, issues related to coal blocks, royalty on washed coal,  MMDR Act regarding grant of mining lease, adoption of model laws relating to marketing and contract farming of agricultural produce and livestock, review of critical central sector health schemes, devolution of powers by the States to Panchayati Raj Institutions, speedy investigation of cases of sexual offence/rape against women and children, implementation of Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mission, impediments in development of coal mines, use of UIDAI database for verifying the antecedents of marine fishermen in high seas, land acquisition and forest clearance for doubling/extension/new line projects of railways in the States of Eastern Zone. Out of the 43 items discussed today, 36 items (81.39%) were resolved in the meeting itself or a mutually agreeable timeline was arrived at. 


What are zonal councils?

Zonal councils are consultative and advisory councils set up vide Part-III of the States Re- organisation Act, 1956.

The present composition of each of these Zonal Councils is as under:

  • The Northern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Territory of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh;
  • The Central Zonal Council, comprising the States of Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh;
  • The Eastern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal;
  • The Western Zonal Council, comprising the States of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and the Union Territories of Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli;
  • The Southern Zonal Council, comprising the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the Union Territory of Puducherry.

The North Eastern States i.e. (i) Assam (ii) Arunachal Pradesh (iii) Manipur (iv) Tripura (v) Mizoram (vi) Meghalaya and (vii) Nagaland are not included in the Zonal Councils and their special problems are looked after by the North Eastern Council, set up under the North Eastern Council Act, 1972. The State of Sikkim has also been included in the North Eastern Council vide North Eastern Council (Amendment) Act, 2002 notified on 23rd December 2002.


What are the objectives of Zonal Councils?

The Zonal Councils provide an excellent forum where irritants between Centre and States and amongst States can be resolved through free and frank discussions and consultations. Being advisory bodies, there is full scope for free and frank exchange of views in their meetings. Though there are a large number of other fora like the National Development Council, Inter State Council, Governor’s/Chief Minister’s Conferences and other periodical high level conferences held under the auspices of the Union Government, the Zonal Councils are different, both in content and character. They are regional fora of cooperative endeavour for States linked with each other economically, politically and culturally. Being compact high level bodies, specially meant for looking after the interests of respective zones, they are capable of focusing attention on specific issues taking into account regional factors, while keeping the national perspective in view.

The main objectives of setting up of Zonal Councils are as under :

  • Bringing out national integration;
  • Arresting the growth of acute State consciousness, regionalism, linguism and particularistic tendencies;
  • Enabling the Centre and the States to co-operate and exchange ideas and experiences;
  • Establishing a climate of co-operation amongst the States for successful and speedy execution of development projects.


What is the Organizational Structure of Zonal Councils?

  • Chairman – The Union Home Minister is the Chairman of each of these Councils.
  • Vice Chairman – The Chief Ministers of the States included in each zone act as Vice- Chairman of the Zonal Council for that zone by rotation, each holding office for a period of one year at a time.
  • Members- Chief Minister and two other Ministers as nominated by the Governor from each of the States and two members from Union Territories included in the zone.
  • Advisers- One person nominated for each of the Zonal Councils, Chief Secretaries and another officer/Development Commissioner nominated by each of the States included in the Zone
  • Union Ministers are also invited to participate in the meetings of Zonal Councils depending upon necessity.


Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme (PMNDP)

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Why in the news?

  • Aimed at achieving equity in patient access to home-based peritoneal dialysis; reducing the overall cost of care; and bringing in consistency of practice, pricing and a full range of product availability, the Health Ministry has released guidelines for establishing peritoneal dialysis services under the Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Program (PMNDP).
  • It has also requested all States to include proposals for establishing peritoneal dialysis under their respective programme implementation plans. According to a health official, the guidelines aim to serve as a comprehensive manual to States that intend to set up peritoneal dialysis.


About the Pradhan Mantri National Dialysis Programme (PMNDP)

  • Every year about 2.2 Lakh new patients of End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) get added in India resulting in additional demand for 3.4 Crore dialysis every year. With approximately 4950dialysis centres, largely in the private sector in India, the demand is less than half met with existing infrastructure. 
  • Since every Dialysis has an additional expenditure tag of about Rs.2000, it results in a monthly expenditure for patients to the tune of Rs.3-4 Lakhs annually. Besides, most families have to undertake frequent trips, and often over long distances to access dialysis services incurring heavy travel costs and loss of wages for the patient and family members accompanying the patient.
  • Keeping this in mind, strengthening of District Hospitals by providing affordable multispecialty care including dialysis services in district hospitals would be an important step in this direction. It is in this context that the PMNDP has been launched.
  • To gain from available capacity of private sector existing in dialysis care segment and their capability to install and operate dialysis care system in quick time, and compliment the emerging strengths of public sector such as availability of drugs and diagnostics, it has been proposed that Dialysis program be undertaken in Public Private Partnership.

Government e-Marketplace (GeM)

Paper: General Studies 2

Topic: e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential

Why in the news?

The Government e-Marketplace (GeM) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Federal Bank to offer a number of services including transfer of funds through GeM Pool Accounts (GPA), advising of Performance Bank Guarantees (e-PBG) and Earnest Money Deposit (EMD) to the registered users on the portal. The MoU will facilitate a cashless, paperless and transparent payment system on the portal and would create an efficient procurement system for government entities.


What is the Government e-Marketplace?

Government e-Marketplace (GeM) is a one stop portal to facilitate online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organizations / PSUs. GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement. It provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users achieve the best value for their money.


Minimum Support Price

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

Why in the news?

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the increase in the Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for all mandated Rabi Crops of 2019-20 to be marketed in Rabi Marketing Season (RMS) 2020-21.
  • The increase in MSP for Rabi Crops for RMS 2020-21 is in line with the principle of fixing the MSPs at a level of at least 1.5 times of the all India weighted average cost of production (CoP), which was announced in the Union Budget 2018-19.
  • This MSP policy whereby the farmers are assured of a minimum of 50 percent as margin of profit is one of the important and progressive steps towards doubling farmers’ income by 2022 and improving their welfare substantively.
  • For the Rabi crops of RMS 2020-21, the highest increase in MSP has been recommended for lentil (Rs. 325 per quintal) followed by safflower (Rs. 270 per quintal) and gram (Rs. 255 per quintal) which is a major step towards increasing the income of farmers.
  • The MSP of Rapeseed & Mustard has been increased by Rs. 225 per quintal. For both wheat and barley, the MSP has been increased by Rs. 85 per quintal. Wheat farmers will hence get a return over cost of 109 percent (refer table below).
  • Cost of production is one of the important factors in the determination of MSPs. This year’s increase in MSP of Rabi crops for RMS 2020-21 provides higher than 50 per cent return (except safflower) over all India weighted average cost of production. The return over all India weighted average cost of production is 109 per cent for wheat; 66 per cent for barley; 74 per cent for gram: 76 per cent for lentil; 90% for rapeseed & mustard and 50 per cent for safflower.


What is Minimum Support Price?

  • Minimum Support Price (MSP) is a form of market intervention by the Government of India to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices. The minimum support prices are announced by the (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs) Government of India at the beginning of the sowing season for certain crops on the basis of the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). 
  • MSP is price fixed by Government of India to protect the producer – farmers – against excessive fall in price during bumper production years. The minimum support prices are a guarantee price for their produce from the Government. The major objectives are to support the farmers from distress sales and to procure food grains for public distribution. In case the market price for the commodity falls below the announced minimum price due to bumper production and glut in the market, govt. agencies purchase the entire quantity offered by the farmers at the announced minimum price.
  • Minimum support prices are currently announced for 24 commodities including seven cereals (paddy, wheat, barley, jowar, bajra, maize and ragi); five pulses (gram, arhar/tur, moong, urad and lentil); eight oilseeds (groundnut, rapeseed/mustard, toria, soyabean, sunflower seed, sesamum, safflower seed and nigerseed); copra, raw cotton, raw jute and virginia flu cured (VFC) tobacco.
  • Such minimum support prices are fixed at incentive level, so as to induce the farmers to make capital investment for the improvement of their farm and to motivate them to adopt improved crop production technologies to step up their production and thereby their net income. In the absence of such a guaranteed price, there is a concern that farmers may shift to other crops causing shortage in these commodities.


What factors are considered in the calculation of MSP?

  • In formulating the recommendations in respect of the level of minimum support prices and other non-price measures, the CACP takes into account a comprehensive view of the entire structure of the economy of a particular commodity or group of commodities. Other Factors include cost of production, changes in input prices, input-output price parity, trends in market prices, demand and supply, inter-crop price parity, effect on industrial cost structure, effect on cost of living, effect on general price level, international price situation, parity between prices paid and prices received by the farmers and effect on issue prices and implications for subsidy. The Commission makes use of both micro-level data and aggregates at the level of district, state and the country.
  • Supply related information – area, yield and production, imports, exports and domestic availability and stocks with the Government/public agencies or industry, cost of processing of agricultural products, cost of marketing – storage, transportation, processing, marketing services, taxes/fees and margins retained by market functionaries; etc. are also factored in.


Snow Leopard

Paper: General Studies 3

Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment


Why in the news?

  • In a major boost towards protecting and conserving Snow Leopards, Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) launched the First National Protocol on Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India, on the occasion of International Snow Leopard Day.
  • Snow Leopard enumeration of the Nation, which is the first of its kind, has been developed by scientific experts in association with the Snow Leopard States/UTs namely, Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunanchal Pradesh.
  • A uniform protocol to assess its distribution and population was lacking. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC), has taken leadership and with the help of Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, and Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysuru, have now prepared a National level protocol called the Snow Leopard Population Assessment of India (SPAI) consultation with the five snow leopard range States in India Population.
  • Enumeration of snow leopard is a management tool for the conservation biologist and Protected Area Managers It also provides a platform for formulation of management strategies and is a unique feature of our snow leopard conservation efforts. 
  • This protocol is evolved from the international efforts to develop a global protocol for the Population Assessment of World’s Snow Leopards (PAWS) under the Global Snow Leopard Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) of the twelve countries. Based on the SPAI protocol, through Government of India’s existing initiatives, such as the Project Snow Leopard and Gol GEF-UNDP’s SECURE Himalaya, and international partnership on GSLEP the snow leopard range States will be able to estimate the distribution and population of snow leopards and prey in a uniform manner to arrive at a National estimate for the first time. 
  • Since the majority of snow leopard habitat in India lies along international boundary, partnership with other Ministries like the Ministry of Defence and local people of the bordering areas will be imperative. 


About Snow Leopards

  • Snow leopard is the icon of high mountains of Asia. In India, they inhabit the higher Himalayan and TransHimalayan landscape in an altitudinal range between approximately 3,000 m to 5,400 m above MSL, spanning c. 100,000 km2 in the five states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. This area contributes to about 5% of the global snow leopard range. 
  • Snow leopards are threatened with extinction. They are categorized as ‘Vulnerable’ by IUCN and in the Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, and the J&K Wildlife (Protection) Act 1978. They are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), affording the highest conservation status to the species, both globally and in India.


Prelims Specific

  • VT-NMD is India’s first six seater experimental aircraft created by an Indian named Amol Yadav that will be cleared for test flights from December.