February 23, 2021

Budget 2020-21: Government increases allocation to fisheries sector by 34 percent

Livelihoods: The fisheries sector in India provides livelihood to more than 2.8 crore people in the country. However, according to the Economic Survey of India 2019-20, only 58 percent of the country’s inland potential has been tapped so far.

In 2019-20, with an overall production of 142 lakh tons, India produced eight percent of the global share. During the same time period, India’s fisheries exports stood at INR 46,662 crore, constituting about 18 percent of India’s agricultural exports. Despite challenges, the fisheries sector has continued to register an annual growth rate of more than 10 percent.

Signaling the importance of the sector to the country’s economy, the government increased the budget for fisheries by 34 percent in this year’s Union Budget. It also launched the Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) with an investment of over INR 20,000 crore for five years towards the sector’s development. It envisions leveraging an investment of more than INR 50,000 crore in the next five years for the sector, and expects these funds to come from states, beneficiaries, and financial institutions.

The government also made three key announcements:

  • The development of five major fishing harbours in Kochi, Chennai, Visakhapatnam, Paradip, and Petuaghat. This includes building world-class infrastructure and amenities that will also help reduce post-harvest losses. Modernised harbours are expected to increase the country’s export potential by 10-15 percent and help create around 50,000 direct and indirect jobs.
  • The development of inland fishing harbours and fish landing centres. The first-ever government support for such an activity, this is expected to benefit traditional inland fishermen dependent on fishing in the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers for their livelihood.
  • The establishment of a unique multipurpose seaweed park in Tamil Nadu, which will become a production centre for quality seaweed-based products, and provide scope for engaging women from villages.

Read this article to know more about how COVID-19 has affected the fisheries sector in India.

February 26, 2021

Centre withdraws widely-criticised order on international webinars and conferences

Advocacy & Government: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has withdrawn its order that required academic and scientific institutions to seek prior approval before organising any international online seminar or conference.

In a fresh order issued two days ago, the MEA said that the November 25th guidelines regarding political clearance for international conferences, seminars, and training would no longer be applicable in view of the easing of restrictions on travel and assembly of people. All such events would, however, continue to be governed by the same rules and regulations that were applicable to political clearances prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, going forward such webinars will fall under the purview of the home ministry. So far, this ministry has not issued any directives on webinars. There is also some confusion regarding this handover since home ministry guidelines restrict themselves to face-to-face conferences, not online events. They also deal with issuance of visas to international delegates, which is immaterial in case of webinars.

The fresh order comes in the wake of objections to the November 25th order by the scientific community. Two leading academies in the country—Indian Academy of Sciences and Indian National Academy of Sciences—had written to the government seeking withdrawal of the order, saying such restrictions could halt all topical scientific discussions.

Read this article to learn about how to put together a great webinar.

February 26, 2021

Centre opposes same-sex marriage, says it’s not the same as an ‘Indian family unit’

Rights: The central government opposed petitions seeking recognition and registration of same-sex marriages in the country and stated that same-sex marriage was not a fundamental right in the country. It also submitted that same-sex couples living together as partners and having a sexual relationship could not be compared to an ‘Indian family unit’ of a husband, wife, and children.

“In our country, despite statutory recognition of the relationship of marriage between a biological man and a biological woman, marriage necessarily depends upon age-old customs, rituals, practices, cultural ethos, and societal values,” the centre told the Delhi High Court in response to three petitions seeking recognition and registration of same-sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act, the Special Marriage Act, and the Foreign Marriage Act.

The affidavit submitted by the government in response to the petitions said that despite the Supreme Court decriminalising Section 377 under the Indian Penal Code, the petitioners cannot claim a fundamental right to same-sex marriage under the laws of the country. It said that such relationships can be governed, regulated, permitted, or proscribed only by a law made by the competent legislature.

The PIL seeking the recognition of same-sex marriages under the Hindu Marriage Act had been filed by Abhijit Iyer Mitra and three others. In October 2020, the Delhi High Court observed that the statute is gender-neutral and must be interpreted in favour of the citizens of India. Meanwhile, four more people from the LGBTQ community approached the Delhi High Court seeking similar provisions.

The matter will next be heard on April 20th, 2021.