June 2018
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Dairy in Doldrums: Turning milk crisis into an international ‘gift’ opportunity


Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Transport & marketing of agricultural produce & issues & related constraints

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: White Revolution, National Dairy Development Board

Mains level: Declining prices og milk and other agri commodities and measures required to arrest the slide in prices


Recent incidents of milk spilling

  1. Early this month, the media was awash with images of farmers throwing vegetables and pouring milk on the roads
  2. The primary motivation behind them was falling producer realizations

White Revolution

  1. The White Revolution in India happened thanks to a fundamental technological innovation in 1956
  2. That was when Amul, for the first time in the world, manufactured powder from buffalo milk
  3. The breakthrough enabled the dairy cooperative in Gujarat’s Kaira district to accept all the milk that its farmer-members poured, especially during the ‘flush’ winter months when production by buffaloes rose one-and-a-half times or more
  4. The powder plant guaranteed that all the milk poured by farmers got procured, making dairying a sustainable income-generating activity

Effect on industry

  1. Technological and processing innovations such as the above, along with organized procurement and marketing of milk, gave an impetus to India’s dairy industry
  2. Milk production rose from 20 million tonnes (mt) in 1960-61 to 53.9 mt by 1990-91
  3. It has grown even more after liberalization, reaching 165.4 mt in 2016-17
  4. Milk is today the country’s biggest agricultural ‘crop’, with its output value in 2014-15 even exceeding that of all cereals and pulses put together

Why a slowdown in recent years?

  1. The last 3-4 years have seen India reel under a skimmed milk powder (SMP) glut
  2. In the pre-powder days, the problem was of a seasonal surplus of milk with farmers
  3. Now, it is of a structural surplus of the powder itself with the dairies
  4. The collapse of exports has to do with global prices
  5. After peaking at $ 5,000-$ 5,200 per tonne in April 2013, international SMP prices have fallen to $ 1,800-$ 2,000 levels (Almost one third)

Factors responsible for the global crash

  1. A bursting of the Chinese import bubble in 2013, after whey protein concentrate consignments from the New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra tested positive for Clostridium botulinum bacteria
  2. The Russian embargo on western food imports as a retaliation to sanctions that followed tensions in Ukraine in 2014
  3. The European Union dismantling a three-decade-old milk production quota regime in 2015

Risks this year and beyond

  1. Every year of not exporting one lakh tonnes of SMP has  meant the accumulation of stocks with dairies, forcing them, in turn, to slash both milk procurement and prices paid to farmers
  2. The situation will be more serious after October when the next flush season starts
  3. The very innovation that triggered the White Revolution — milk powder production — is ironically threatening to burn the barn down

Possible solutions

  1. A subsidy of up to 20 percent on SMP exports can be given
  2. The government can also procure SMP stocks from our dairies at a subsidized  price and “gift” these to low-income, milk-deficit nations, thereby spreading goodwill and cementing India’s international relations
  3. This job can be entrusted to the National Dairy Development Board, which can also provide the technical assistance to establish dairy plants and procurement infrastructure in these countries

Impact of these measures

  1. A programme on the above lines will cost Rs 2,000 crore-2,500 crore annually, which is a pittance compared to the Centre’s budgeted food subsidy of Rs 169,323 crore for 2018-19
  2. By providing an external market for our surplus powder, it will help arrest the current slide in prices and incomes of dairy farmers here
Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

U.S. pulls out of United Nations Human Rights Council


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: United Nations Human Rights Council

Mains level: Impact of ‘America First’ policy on various international institutions and their members


Another US withdrawal

  1. The United States has announced that it was leaving the United Nations Human Rights Council
  2. It was the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution
  3. The move extends a broader Trump administration pattern of stepping back from international agreements and forums under the president’s “America First” policy

Reason given for withdrawal

  1. There has been longstanding U.S. complaint that the 47-member council is biased against Israel
  2. The U.S. is Israel’s biggest defender at other U.N. organizations

Special mention of Israel at UNHRC

  1. Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every council session, under “Item 7” on the agenda
  2. Item 7 on “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories” has been part of the council’s regular business almost as long as it has existed

Other major withdrawals

  1. Since January 2017, U.S. has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, left the U.N. educational and cultural organization and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal

Ripple effects on China

  1. At the rights council, the United States has recently been the most unabashed critic of rights abuses in China


United Nations Human Rights Council

  1. UNHRC is a United Nations body whose mission is to promote and protect human rights around the world
  2. The UNHRC has 47 members elected for staggered three-year terms on a regional group basis
  3. The UNHRC was established by the UN General Assembly on March 15, 2006
  4. The headquarters of UNHRC is in Geneva, Switzerland
  5. The members of the General Assembly elect the members who occupy the UNHRC’s 47 seats. The term of each seat is three years, and no member may occupy a seat for more than two consecutive terms
  6. The General Assembly can suspend the rights and privileges of any Council member that it decides has persistently committed gross and systematic violations of human rights during its term of membership
  7. The UNHRC investigates allegations of breaches of human rights in UN member states, and addresses important thematic human rights issues such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of belief and religion, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and the rights of racial and ethnic minorities
Human Rights Issues

US Senate passes defence bill without CAATSA waiver

Image result for us senate house of representatives difference


Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies & politics of developed & developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CAATSA, NDAA

Mains level: Impact of US domestic policies on India


National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) for 2019

  1. The U.S Senate has ignored the Donald Trump administration’s request for powers to waiver provisions of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA)
  2. The act requires it to impose sanctions on countries that have “significant” defense relations with Russia
  3. The Senate version of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) for 2019 has no waiver provisions
  4. The version of the NDAA 2019 passed earlier by the House of Representatives has a provision for waiver in rules attached to it

Impact on India

  1. India is caught in the crossfire of the bipartisan law against Russia
  2. The House version allows for waivers for 180 days, provided the administration certifies that the country in question is scaling back its ties with Russia
  3. This formulation is inadequate to resolve the Indian situation, as it links waiver to India rolling back ties with Russia
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

Mammals go nocturnal to avoid humans, says study


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The newscard exemplifies the impact of man-animal conflict on the patterns of wildlife


Man-Animal Conflict on a rise

  1. Human activity is causing the planet’s mammals to flee daylight for the protection of night, a study has found.
  2. The study, published in the journal Science, represents the first effort to quantify the global effects of human activity on the daily activity patterns of wildlife.
  3. Its results highlight the powerful and widespread process by which animals alter their behavior alongside people: human disturbance is creating a more nocturnal natural world.

Is the increasing animal nocturnality good?

  1. Wildlife adapting to avoid humans temporally could be viewed as a path for the coexistence of humans and wild animals on an increasingly crowded planet
  2. However, there are a range of potential negative consequences of the shifts they report in wildlife which include
  • mismatches between the environment and an animal’s traits
  • disruption of normal foraging behaviour
  • increased vulnerability to non-human predators
  • heightened competition
Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[op-ed snap] The imperative to offer refuge


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various declarations for protecting refugees mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: The newscard emphasizes the need to codify a bill for Asylum Seekers in the ambit of global Compact on Refugees.


India over the ‘Refuge culture’

  1. India is host to over 200,000 refugees like her who have been forced to flee conflict and persecution in their home countries.
  2. On World Refugee Day (June 20), there is a need to reassess India’s approach to refugee protection, particularly in light of the regional refugee crisis after the mass exodus of the Rohingya from Myanmar.
  3. Traditionally, India has hosted several persecuted groups such as Tibetans and Sri Lankans.
  4. While it is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and has no domestic asylum law, it has reiterated its commitment towards the protection of refugees at various international fora, including the UN General Assembly.
  5. One of the most significant affirmations of this commitment was demonstrated by India becoming a signatory to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was adopted by 193 countries in September 2016.

Indian context

  1. India iterates that protecting refugees and supporting the countries that shelter them are shared international responsibilities that must be borne more equitably.
  2. Although India has hosted refugees of varying nationalities for decades, the country has done little beyond providing asylum. There have been some attempts to introduce a refugee law in the country, the latest being the Asylum Bill 2015, introduced as a private member’s bill by Shashi Tharoor.
  3. Given that most refugees have been unable to return to their countries, leading to protracted refugee situations, there is an urgent need for the government to develop a uniform framework for their management during their stay in India.

The global move to handle Refugees – the GCR

  1. The NY Declaration sets the stage for a new framework for refugee protection — the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR).
  2. The Compact is a coordinated effort to strengthen international response to protracted refugee situations and comprehensively addresses all stages of refugee protection, from reception to long-term solutions.
  3. Two of its key objectives are to ease pressures on host countries and enhance refugee self-reliance.
  4. The GCR recognises that certain refugee situations can last for decades and acknowledges that the burden is borne largely by developing countries, that now host over 80% of the refugee population in the world.
  5. It also seeks to establish forums to enable expertise-sharing to promote economic opportunities, decent work and job creation not just for refugees but also for the host community.

UNHCR to intervene

  1. Since the Declaration was adopted, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has been engaging with member states, UN bodies, and non-governmental organizations to develop a plan for its practical implementation.
  2. This will be finalized by the end of 2018.

Problems faced by Refugees

  1. Due to their unclear legal status and lack of uniform documentation, refugees have limited access to essential services and almost no avenues for livelihood.
  2. While some refugees have been able to generate income by working in the informal sector, many of them are at the mercy of touts and traffickers even within their own community.
  3. At best, they are forced to rely on income from odd jobs which is an unsustainable livelihood option that often leaves them exposed to exploitation.

Solutions for Refugees Problem

  1. The solution to this may lie within the GCR, which calls for States to identify gaps and opportunities for employment and income generation for refugees in a bid to enhance their self-reliance.
  2. Moreover, it specifies the need to include the host community in enabling mapping skills, vocational training and capacity-building among refugee populations, thereby fostering understanding and cooperation among the communities and paving the way for a socially cohesive approach.

Way Forward

  1. India’s commitment to refugee protection under the GCR is evident in its active participation in ongoing GCR consultations, where it has emphasized the need for a clear mechanism for the refugee response regime.
  2. Therefore this is an opportune time for India to reassess the need for a national asylum policy which is compliant with the principles laid down in the GCR.
  3. This will not only re-establish India’s place as a democratic regional power committed to core humanitarian principles but will also provide refugees such as Nargis a chance to give back to the country that has adopted her.
Rohingya Conflict

[op-ed snap] Growth in the machine


Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology and issues relating to intellectual property rights.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Applications of AI

Mains level: This editorial talks about the “still emerging” AI technology which has so unique advantages for India compared to other countries. This raises attention for India to harness AI for boosting growth.


Getting the ‘Developed’ tag

  1. India has perhaps now only a limited window of a decade to get into the developed country tag or stay perpetually in the emerging group of economies.
  2. To get to the developed country status, this is one factor that has to change dramatically.
  3. This begs the question: How do we get India’s productivity to spike in 10 years?

India is trailing behind US and China in AI

  1. AI — the simulation of human intelligence and learning by machines — has been talked about by many as the productivity booster we have all been waiting for.
  2. While India is expected to be a player, it is far from being among the leading actors in AI.
  3. According to PwC, of the $15.7 trillion increase in global GDP in 2030 attributable to AI, $7 trillion will be in China, $3.7 trillion will be in the US and Canada.
  4. Accenture pegs the number for India to be below 1 trillion in 2035.Without question, the race for AI dominance is between the US and China.

AI-relevant advantages unique to India.

Three are particularly worth noting and give me reason for hope. It is hard to find another country ready with these many deep value-creating AI applications.

(A) Versatile platform:

  • With a billion-plus people populating the unique-ID system, Aadhaar, and the India Stack of digitally enabled offerings built on top of Aadhaar, the country has a platform for growth unlike any other in the world.
  • It can, in principle, catalyse innovative applications, nurture an entrepreneurial ecosystem and generate a massive amount of data that can train algorithms and help develop more intelligence — the “I” in AI.
  • To be sure, there are plenty of challenges to overcome: Getting the right participants, stakeholders and talent base to come together, providing capital and ensuring privacy, security and usability of the data.

(B) Key actors:

  • The good news is that India has an early start here.
  • The global AI majors are active in India and view it as one of the world’s most promising digital growth markets. This puts India in a clear third place behind the US and China and ahead of Europe.
  • Europe’s more stringent data protection rules and regulations and slowing digital momentum will further constrain the interests of innovative companies.
  • With economies of scale working in India’s favour, this could create a virtuous cycle of private sector AI investment and innovation activity.

(C) Abundant applications:

  • The technology can address long-standing societal and human development problems of the kind that abound in India.
  • Think of tackling dengue and Chikungunya, two of the more formidable mosquito-borne public health crises. It is essential to get data on its incidence early and predict its path.
  • Project Premonition, for example, an AI project of Microsoft, uses mosquitoes themselves as data collection devices.
  • AI can be used for myriad other purposes stretching across farming, transport, infrastructure, education and crime prevention — all productivity-boosting and job-creating applications ready and waiting across India.

India moving Forward on AI

  1. The budget for Digital India was doubled; the IT ministry has formed four AI committees; the government’s think tank, the Niti Aayog, is tasked with coordination across AI initiatives.
  2. The Niti Aayog, for its part, has just announced an AI partnership with Google and has released a white paper, National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence.
  3. If done right, it can spike productivity, save lives and produce new livelihoods — jobs that the country’s youth desperately need.
Innovations in Sciences, IT, Computers, Robotics and Nanotechnology