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3rd February – Prelims Booster

Essential Commodities Act is outdated, must go

The Centre’s imposition of stock limits in a bid to control the soaring prices of onions over the last few months actually increased price volatility, according to the Economic Survey 2019-20.

About Essential Commodities Act –

  • The Essential Commodities Act (1955) was enacted to ensure the easy availability of essential commodities to consumers and to protect them from exploitation by unscrupulous traders.
  • The Act provides for the regulation and control of production, distribution and pricing of commodities which are declared as essential.
  • The Act aims at maintaining/increasing supplies/securing equitable distribution and availability of these commodities at fair prices.
  • The State Governments are fully empowered under the Act to regulate production, distribution, supply and prices of the food items which are declared as essential commodities in the respective States. Thus the States are the implementing agencies to implement the EC Act, 1955 and the Prevention of Black marketing & Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980, to ensure adequate availability of essential commodities at reasonable prices, by exercising powers delegated to them. This is reviewed periodically at the National level.
  • The list of essential commodities is reviewed from time to time with reference to their production and supply and in the light of economic liberalisation in consultation with the concerned Ministries/Departments administering these commodities.
  • Currently, the restrictions like licensing requirement, stock limits and movement restrictions have been removed from almost all agricultural commodities.
  • Wheat, pulses and edible oils, edible oilseeds and rice are the exceptions, where States have been permitted to impose some temporary restrictions in order to contain price increase of these commodities.

Yellow Rust

Earlier this month, the Punjab Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Department issued an advisory about Yellow Rust disease in wheat crops.

What is ‘Yellow Rust’?

  • Yellow Rust disease appears as yellow stripes of powder or dust on leaves and leaf sheaths of the wheat crop. This yellow powder comes out on clothing or fingers when touched. The disease can spread rapidly under congenial conditions and affects crop development, and eventually the yield.
  • The rust colonies in the leaves drain the carbohydrates from the plant and reduce the green leaf area.
  • In India, it is a major disease in the Northern Hill Zone and the North-Western Plain Zone and spreads easily during the onset of cool weather and when wind conditions are favourable. Rain, dew and fog favour the disease’s development.

Changes in Abortion Law

The Union Cabinet cleared a long-pending change to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 that raises the legally permissible limit for an abortion to 24 weeks from the current 20 weeks.

Following the efforts of the Health Ministry, the change also accepts failure of contraception as a valid reason for abortion not just in married but also in unmarried women.

Amendments –

  • It increases the maximum permissible gestation age for abortion to 24 weeks, with the proviso that for pregnancies that are between 20-24 weeks opinions will be required from two doctors rather than one. This has been specially done keeping in mind “vulnerable women including survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, Minors) etc”.
  • The upper gestation limit will not apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by a Medical Board.
  • The composition, functions and other details of the Medical Board are to be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act. This clause has been put to keep such cases out of courts; the government deemed a Medical Board should examine the various aspects of the case and take a call.

Facts on Abortion –

  • According to a 2016 study published in The Lancet by the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organisation, an estimated 56 million abortions took place globally each year between 2010 and 2014.
  • In 2015, a study in The Lancet Global Health, also by Guttmacher Institute and IIPS, estimated that 15.6 million abortions were performed in India in 2015. This translates to an abortion rate of 47 per 1,000 women aged 15-49, which is similar to the abortion rate in neighbouring countries.

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