June 2018
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[op-ed snap] For nutrition security: On undernourishment

 Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Poverty & development issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, National Food Security Act

Mains level: State of undernourishment in India & Government interventions for same


News

Report on food security

  1. The UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report for 2017 has important pointers to achieve nutrition policy reform
  2. India remains lacking in the commitment to tackle undernourishment
  3. At the global level, the five agencies that together produced the assessment found that the gains achieved on food security and better nutrition since the turn of the century may be at risk

Deprivation on the rise

  1. The estimate of 815 million people enduring chronic food deprivation in 2016, compared to 775 million in 2014, is depressing in itself
  2. The deprivation is even greater among people who live in regions affected by conflict and the extreme effects of climate change
  3. The report says that child under-nutrition rates continue to drop, although one in four children is still affected by stunting

Reasons for food scarcity

  1. The impact of the economic downturn
  2. Many violent conflicts
  3. Fall in commodity export revenues
  4. Failure of agriculture owing to drought and floods

India’s efforts

  1. India’s efforts at improving access to food and good nutrition are led by the National Food Security Act
  2. There are special nutritional schemes for women and children operated through the States
  3. In spite of such interventions, 14.5% of the population suffers from undernourishment, going by the UN’s assessment for 2014-16. At the national level, 53% of women are anemic.

Way Forward

  1. The report on nutritional deficiency should serve as an opportunity to evaluate the role played by the PDS in bringing about dietary diversity for those relying on subsidized food
  2. The NITI Aayog found that families below the poverty line consumed more cereals and less milk compared to the affluent
  3. Complementing rice and wheat with more nutritious food items should be the goal
Food Procurement and Distribution – PDS & NFSA, Shanta Kumar Committee, FCI restructuring, Buffer stock, etc.

[op-ed snap] The tools for counting

 Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social Issues | Salient features of Indian Society

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC),  Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR)

Mains level: Lacunae in current data available for population and how the inclusion of caste in census data collection can help in better planning


Context

Census & SECC 2011

  1. As the 2011 Census approached, demands for inclusion of data on caste in Census reached a crescendo
  2. The government at that time was opposed to collecting caste data and blocked it by claiming that it was logistically impossible for the Census
  3. It said that caste information could be collected via the planned Below Poverty Line (BPL) Census, later renamed the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC)
  4. The hasty inclusion of the caste question in the SECC has resulted in largely unusable data

Caste data collection: Differing views

  1. The simple act of asking about caste creates a chasm within society
  2. Colonial Censuses, beginning with the first Census in 1871, included questions about caste and used these data to divide and conquer India by first privileging Brahmins as interpreters of Indian culture and then targeting them as the roots of caste-based oppression and inequality
  3. This passion for classification has also been termed as the source of anti-Brahmin movements
  4. The colonial Censuses via the process of recording caste generated a conception of community as a homogeneous and classifiable community and thereby influenced the processes of political representation

Change that has happened

  1. Indian society has undergone a tremendous transformation since 1931
  2. Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and upper castes are still being defined largely using data from 1931 Census
  3. Land ownership that bolstered the power of upper castes has lost its hold
  4. Land fragmentation and decades of agricultural stagnation have turned many upper caste landowners into marginal farmers barely eking out a subsistence

Effects of landlessness

  1. Landlessness, once the bane of Dalit existence, has left the landless better poised to take advantage of rising rural wages, particularly construction wages
  2. According to NSS data, the bottom fourth of forward castes are poorer than the top half of Dalits
  3. India Human Development Survey shows that 56% of Dalit children ages 8-11 cannot read but neither can 32% of forward caste and 47% of OBC children
  4. Economic growth of the past century, combined with strong affirmation action undertaken by successive governments of the independent nation, may have changed relative fortunes of various groups

Caste data collection

  1. Collection of caste data is not easy
  2. The SECC asked interviewers to write down the name of the caste exactly as articulated by the respondent
  3. By some reports, it has revealed as many as 46 lakh castes
  4. This is because sometimes the same caste is spelt in different ways, at other times some individuals report their jati and others upjati making it difficult to create mutually exclusive categories

Preparing for 2021

  1. We have nearly three years before the Census of 2021 and are fortunate to have data from the SECC and technologies rooted in machine learning at our disposal
  2. It would be possible to set up an expert group that uses the SECC data in conjunction with other data sources such as matrimonial advertisements and State-specific Scheduled Castes/OBC lists to make a comprehensive list of castes and condense them into meaningful categories via machine learning tools
  3. These categories could then be validated by domain experts from the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR) institutions in various States to come up with a district-specific list of castes that would cover more than 90% of individuals in any given district
  4. Interviewers could use this precoded list to allow respondents to self-classify with a small residual group’s responses being recorded verbatim and categorized later
  5. This is very similar to the technique through which occupational and industrial classification systems are created

Way forward

  1. Collection of data on castes is inherently risky
  2. A caste Census could easily roil the waters in ways that are hard to predict
  3. Without better and more current data, our discourse on caste and affirmative action remains dominated by decisions made by the colonial administration
  4. If we really want to collect data on caste in India and not let the discourse about Indian society be shaped by the political exigencies of colonial India, the time to plan is now
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Power Ministry may make 24°C as default setting air conditioners

Note4students

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: Various initiatives by the government to tackle increasing energy demand and to counter climate change


News

Promoting energy efficiency

  1. The government will consider making 24°C as a mandatory default setting for air conditioners (ACs)
  2. The temperatures settings in ACs will be in the range of 24°C to 26°C
  3. AC makers have also been advised to have labelling indicating the optimum temperature setting for the benefit of consumers both from financial and health points of view

Why such move?

  1. Every 1°C increase in the air conditioner temperature setting results in saving of 6% of electricity consumed
  2. Normal human body temperature is approximately 36-37°C, but large number of commercial establishments, hotels and offices maintain temperature around 18-21°C
  3. This is not only uncomfortable but is actually unhealthy
  4. Some countries like Japan have put in place regulation to keep the temperature at 28°C

Impact of the campaign

  1. Total connected load in India due to air conditioning will be 200 GW by 2030 and this may further increase as today only about 6% of households use ACs
  2. Considering this huge demand, India can save about 40 million units of electricity usage every day
  3. The new campaign will result in substantial energy savings and also reduce greenhouse gas emission
  4. Power Ministry estimates indicate that if all the consumers adopt the norm, this will result in savings of 20 billion units of electricity in one year alone
Policy Wise: India’s Power Sector

India, Bangladesh Navies to join hands

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: CORPAT

Mains level: India’s defense cooperation with Bangladesh


 News

Annual CORPAT with Bangladesh

  1. India and Bangladesh have agreed to institute a Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) as an annual feature between the two Navies.
  2. It is aimed to consolidate bilateral defense relations between India and Bangladesh and to explore new avenues for naval cooperation.

India-Bangladesh Naval Cooperation

  1. The commencement of CORPAT is a major step towards the enhanced operational interaction between both Navies.
  2. Naval cooperation between India and Bangladesh has been traditionally strong, encompassing a wide span which includes operational interactions through port calls, passage exercises along with capacity building, capability enhancement and training initiatives.

Widening cooperation through CORPAT

  1. Over the last few years, the Indian Navy has expanded its assistance to countries in the region through material support, training, EEZ surveillance, provisioning of platforms, hydrographic assistance, joint exercises and offering slots in professional training courses.
  2. The Navy regularly conducts CORPATs with Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand. It also conducts EEZ surveillance of Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles on their request.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

GSP: win-win for Indo-U.S. trade

Note4students

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: GSP

Mains level: Read the attached story


News

Big impact for Exporters to US

  1. For over 40 years, GSP has fulfilled its purpose of promoting economic growth in a large number of developing countries by allowing increased exports of eligible products.
  2. This tremendous benefit to the global economy is a small aspect of the U.S. trade balance; for example, of the total $2.4 trillion U.S. imports in 2017, only amounting to less than 1% of total U.S. imports.
  3. Despite GSP’s low significance in the U.S. trade balance, its benefits ultimately help U.S. consumers and exporters by contributing to lower pricing of final products.
  4. It is important to note that Indian exports to the U.S. under the GSP programme are mostly intermediaries, and are not in direct competition with U.S. producers — ultimately, these goods benefit the U.S. economy.

Role of Indian Exports

  1. Most of the 3,500 Indian products imported by the U.S. under the GSP are raw materials or important intermediaries of value chains.
  2. In many cases, Indian exports are less-expensive, high-quality alternatives that reduce the costs of final products, thereby creating value that is subsequently exported the world over by U.S. companies or directly conveyed to the U.S. consumer.
  3. Most of these products are intermediate goods, many of which are not competitively produced in the U.S. given their lower role in manufacturing value chains.
  4. Indeed, this enables the U.S. economy to be more globally competitive.

GSP should be continued

  1. Despite continued economic growth over the last two decades or so, India is a lower middle-income country.
  2. GSP allows Indian exporters a certain competitive edge and furthers the development of the country’s export base.
  3. It also allows India to integrate with global value chains (GVC) and hence, with global markets.
  4. These advantages provide opportunities for small enterprises and help in the overall livelihood creation endeavor in India.
  5. In addition to the economic perspective, the U.S. should consider continuing India’s GSP eligibility as a gesture of goodwill that reaffirms its commitment to the mutually beneficial relationship between our two countries.
  6. The India-U.S. relationship has continued to grow stronger as India liberalizes along a positive and steady trajectory.

Way Forward: Balancing Trade with the US

  1. India has made systematic efforts to reduce trade imbalance with the U.S. and has enhanced purchases of shale gas and civilian aircraft.
  2. Adhering to the rules-based international trading system, India is in the process of examining its export subsidies.
  3. As per a CII survey, the U.S. remains a favored destination for Indian companies which have invested $18 billion in the U.S. and support as many as 1.13 lakh jobs.
  4. Today, our two countries engage in countless areas of mutual cooperation, and a supportive stance in recognition of our greater goals and shared values would promise significant progress in the future.
  5. The GSP remains a central aspect of the overall trade engagement and must remain available for Indian exporters keen to address the U.S. markets.

Back2Basics

Generalised System of Preferences

  1. The GSP is one of the oldest trade preference programmes in the world and was designed to provide zero duties or preferential access for developing countries to advanced markets.
  2. The U.S. GSP programme was established by the U.S. Trade Act of 1974 and promotes economic development by eliminating duties on thousands of products when imported from one of the 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.
  3. In April 2018, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced that it would review the GSP eligibility of India, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan.
  4. The proposed review for India was initiated in response to market access petitions filed by the U.S. dairy and medical device industries due to recent policy decisions in India, which were perceived as trade barriers.
US policy wise : Visa, Free Trade and WTO

Century not out, Jamiat still bats for an India with a composite culture

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Indian Society | Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Khilafat Movement, Deoband Movement

Mains level: The newscard highlights the contribution of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind’s in maintaining the composite culture of India


News

Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind marks 100 years since inception

  1. A century ago, a Muslim organization was set up to pursue two broad goals: freedom for India and the restoration of the Muslim Caliphate after Turkey’s defeat in the First World War.
  2. Cut to the present, when the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind is observing its 100th anniversary, and the organisation has emerged as a voice for Muslim causes in independent India.

Messenger of Composite Nationalism

  1. It famously espoused a composite nationalism for India, opposed the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan and took part in the freedom struggle.
  2. The Jamiat’s most notable contributions included a critique of the two-nation theory in the 1930s and 1940s.
  3. In 1938, when the idea of a separate homeland for Muslims had already been conceived, came a landmark book by Deobandi Muslim scholar Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani, who was a leading light of the Jamiat.
  4. It argued that the Indian nation could not be based on religion, and that India was a single nation with a composite culture.
  5. It stringently criticised the demand for Pakistan from Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League as “dangerous”.
  6. As late as 1945-46, when the Congress, too, had reconciled to Pakistan, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind never accepted the idea. This is the most notable aspect of its history.

Sustained a deep divide

  1. During the split among Indian Muslims in the 1936-1947 period, two views emerged:
  2. One, that freedom should not be linked to special rights for educated and propertied Muslims and that the community should join the anti-colonial struggle;
  3. And the other that independence and transfer of power would be dangerous unless the question of special rights of Muslims was settled.
  4. While the Muslim League veered around to the second position and drifted away from the Congress by the 1940s, the Jamiat stood with the freedom struggle.
  5. Post-independence, the Jamiat worked to inject confidence among Indian Muslims.
  6. They took up the cause of Urdu, the need to protect Muslim personal laws as “integral” to Muslim religio-cultural identity and worked to spread education among Muslims, running schools, colleges and madrasas.

But Not a Monolith

  1. The differences between the Muslim League and the Jamiat were more of a strategic character, as none of them truly transcended religion but accepted its deeper centrality to life.
  2. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind did stand with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s position on the question of instant triple talaq, contending that Islamic law is necessary for Muslims.
History- Important places, persons in news

Celebrating the goddess who bleeds

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Arts and Culture | Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Ambubachi Mela and some terminologies used in the newscard

Mains level: Popular culture symbolizing awareness about menstrual health


News

Four-day Ambubachi Mela begins in Guwahati

  1. Ambubachi Mela, a four-day fair to mark the annual menstruation of the goddess at Kamakhya temple in Guwahati has begun.
  2. Ambubachi Mela is also an occasion to promote awareness on menstrual hygiene.
  3. Priests at the temple said doors of the temple were shut for visitors at 4 p.m. to let the goddess go through her period.

About Kamakhya Temple

  1. Kamakhya, atop Nilachal Hills in Guwahati, is one of 51 shaktipeeths or seat of Shakti followers, each representing a body part of the Sati, Lord Shiva’s companion.
  2. The temple’s sanctum sanctorum (garbhgriha) houses the yoni — female genital — symbolized by a rock.

Menstruation – a celebration in Assam 

  1. The ritualistic fair celebrating the goddess’ period is one of the reasons why the taboo associated with menstruation is less in Assam compared with other parts of India.
  2. The attainment of womanhood of girls in Assam is celebrated with a ritual called ‘Tuloni Biya’, meaning small wedding.

Popular Culture

  1. The only ones that avoid the temple are the descendants of the medieval Koch royalty, who had reconstructed the Kamakhya temple in 1565.
  2. This is because the goddess is believed to have cursed the royalty after the king and his brother Chilarai — one of Assam’s revered generals — had secretly watched her dance.
  3. Researchers said there are legends about the goddess dancing when Kendukoli, a priest during Naranarayan’s reign, performed puja with his eyes shut.
Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

Smart Cities Mission is too project-based and lacks integrated vision: Report

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Urbanization, their problems & remedies

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Smart Cities Mission

Mains level: The newscard critically evaluates Smart Cities Mission on its very goal of area-based development thereby neglecting community development due to institutional bottlenecks.


News              

Lack of holistic approach

  1. The government’s flagship Smart Cities Mission has been too “project-focused” instead of evolving an integrated urban development paradigm
  2. New Delhi-based Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) highlights following aspects seeking more attention:
  • Gender
  1. It also lacks a strong gender equality or non-discrimination approach to city development
  2. The report also highlights the lack of any specific directions with the mission to make Indian cities more gender friendly or non-discriminatory.
  3. The ministry of housing and urban affairs had earlier proposed to set up several smart city sub-committees, including one on gender, but these are yet to take off.
  • Area
  1. The report also critiques the model for creating small area-based ‘smart enclaves’ resulting in an undue focus on a part of the cities.
  2. These area-based development zones cover less than 5% of the geographic domain of many of the proposed smart cities, says the report prepared by the HLRN.
  • Urban Amenities
  1. The lack of a city development model, for example, and adequate standards to guide project implementation, including for housing, water, sanitation, health, and environmental sustainability.
  2. This raises questions about whether the mission will really be able to deliver on its aims and ensure the fulfillment of rights and entitlements of all city residents, the report says.
  • No HR based approach
  1. The SCM guidelines do not include any human rights-based indicators to monitor implementation of the Mission or to ensure that projects will also benefit low-income and other disadvantaged groups.
  • Least Spending made so far
  1. In its March 2018 report, the standing committee had noted that of all urban schemes, spending on Smart Cities Mission had been the lowest.
  2. Only 8% of the total identified projects under the mission have been completed in three years.

Way Forward

  1. The Smart Cities Mission should reinvent itself as the Sustainable Cities Mission.
  2. A shift is required to bring about substantial and sustained improvement in the lives and livelihoods of not only the 8% of India’s population covered by the mission’s proposed ‘area-based development’
  3. It should define its goal as development for every inhabitant of this country.
Urban Transformation – Smart Cities, AMRUT, etc.

[op-ed snap] Countering India’s labour market imbalances

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & Employment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: NITI Aayog Action Agenda

Mains level: The newscard highlights dangers of low job growth and job displacement on the onset of new technologies like AI.


Context

Demographic Dividend – a benefit or bane?

  1. The issue of jobs has come into focus with forthcoming general elections.
  2. While economic growth has been impressive over the last couple of decades, job creation has been relatively slow.
  3. The increase in the share of young adults in the total population often called India’s “demographic dividend”, has turned out to be a problem rather than an asset.
  4. Whether or not job creation has slowed down in recent years has been debated vigorously, primarily owing to the poor quality of jobs data.

Jobs scenario in India

  1. Multiple data sources clearly show that job opportunities in India are, at present, limited, with the average annual addition to regular jobs during 2012-16 falling to 1.5 million from 2.5 million in 2004-12.
  2. Besides, job creation in India’s organized manufacturing sector experienced a sharp fall in 2012, later recovering only to a level considerably below any prior year during 2006-12.
  3. Furthermore, the share of regular workers with any form of social security has declined from 45% in 2011-12 to 38% in 2016.

Where the real problem lies- finds NITI Aayog

  1. NITI Aayog’s Action Agenda (AA), published over a year ago, attempted to find the issue.
  2. According to the AA, underemployment and poor job quality have been the real problems.
  3. No formula for the unemployment rate differs in India’s low labour force participation rate—the proportion of working-age people looking for jobs or working.
  4. It stands at its lowest in two decades, at 54%, compared to 62% in the late 1990s (it is currently around 70% in Brazil, China and Indonesia).

Find outs of NITI Aayog’s AA

  1. The AA has provided several good ideas for job creation, including labour law reforms at the state level, recognizing the difficult national political landscape as well as the wide cross-state variation in the nature of political constraints.
  2. Recent progress in this regard includes raising the minimum firm-level employment threshold for the application of the Industrial Disputes Act (that puts severe constraints on the hiring and firing of workers) from 100 to 300 workers.
  3. The AA has also identified labour-intensive sectors, such as apparel, electronics, food processing, gems and jewellery, financial services, and tourism, where employment needs to be encouraged.
  4. Furthermore, the report emphasizes the role of exports in job creation and recommends establishing coastal employment zones (CEZs), similar to China’s special economic zones (SEZs)

Health and Education- facing the real shortage

  1. There are some real imbalances across the economy, with some key sectors facing a shortage of skills and personnel. Such shortages are primarily in social services like health and education.
  2. The quality of these services, especially those available to low-income, remote and rural households, is shockingly low owing to the scarcity of quality doctors, nurses and teachers.

Automation and AI – filling the gap

  1. Another recently released NITI Aayog document, titled “National Strategy For Artificial Intelligence #AIforall”, proposes a strategy based exactly on such a principle of filling up the skill gap.
  2. For example, specialized software can be used to diagnose diseases (and prescribing appropriate medications) or grading students’ written work and providing feedback, thereby enabling large-scale online education.
  3. India’s information technology (IT) sector, until recently, had been able to create a number of high-skilled jobs due to a significant amount of offshore outsourcing by developed countries.
  4. In future, the support and maintenance services for AI, rather than IT, may be in demand, given that IT support itself is being robotized.

Way Forward: Countering Jobs- Skills Mismatch

  1. The new NITI document provides some specifics in this regard. However this document does not take seriously any job displacement threats from AI.
  2. For its future growth, India’s IT (and AI) sector needs to reinvent and position itself in a more innovative role, which will require considerable capacity building.
  3. Thus, there are serious imbalances, varying across sectors, between the availability of jobs and the supply of skills and workers.
  4. While good ideas to deal with them exist both within and outside the government, implementation is key. This is where the government often does not perform well.

Back2Basics

NITI Aayog Action Agenda

  1. The draft “Three Year Action Agenda” of the NITI Aayog been released in 2017  for 2017-18 to 2019-20.
  2. It focuses on seven key areas that include revenue and expenditure, economic transformation in major sectors, regional development, growth enablers, and reforms in governance, social sectors and sustainability.
  3. It is said to be a phasing out of Five Year Plan as a concept.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.