[op-ed of the day] Green shoots of economic growth

Mains Paper 3 : PDS, Buffer Stock & Food Security |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : Investment in primary sector will be main driver of growth


Note- Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. Aspirants should try to cover at least this editorial on a daily basis to have command over most important issues in news. It will help in enhancing and enriching the content in mains answers. Please do not miss at any cost.

CONTEXT

India’s dream of becoming a $5-trillion economy by 2024 is now in the open with a ‘blue sky’ vision envisaged in the Economic Survey this year. T. However, unless there are adequate investment reforms in primary sectors, steps taken to augment growth in other sectors would be futile.

Investment is the key

1.Insufficient investment in the agriculture sector –

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), insufficient investment in the agriculture sector in most developing countries over the past 30 years has resulted in low productivity and stagnant production.

2.India’s Situation – In India, with a steadily decreasing share of 14.4% in Gross Value Added since 2015-16, the sector’s contribution to a $5-trillion economy would be around $1 trillion — assuming a positive annual growth rate hereafter.

 

1.Agri-tourism

  • First, the wave of investment should touch segments such as agro-processing, and exports, agri-startups and agri-tourism, where the potential for job creation and capacity utilisation is far less.
  • Integrating the existing tourism circuit with a relatively new area of agri-tourism (as a hub-and-spoke model), where glimpses of farm staff and farm operations are displayed to attract tourists, would help in boosting the investment cycle and generate in-situ employment.

2. Education and research in agriculture

  • Second, investment needs to be driven to strengthen both public and private extension advisory systems and the quality of agri-education and research through collaboration and convergence.
  • It would also serve as a stage to demonstrate resource conservation and sustainable use through organic, natural and green methods, and also zero budget natural farming.

3. Investment in livestock

  • Third, given that India has the highest livestock population in the world, investment should be made to utilise this surplus by employing next-generation livestock technology with a strong emphasis not only on productivity enhancement but also on conservation of indigenous germplasm, disease surveillance, quality control, waste utilisation and value addition.
  • This would lead to a sustained increase in farm income and savings with an export-oriented growth model.

4. Renewable energy data

Fourth, investment in renewable energy generation (using small wind mill and solar pumps) on fallow farmland and in hilly terrain would help reduce the burden of debt-ridden electricity distribution companies and State governments, besides enabling energy security in rural areas.

5. Private entities

  • Fifth, a farm business organisation is another source of routing private investment to agriculture.
  • Linking these organisations with commodity exchanges would provide agriculture commodities more space on international trading platforms and reduce the burden of markets in a glut season, with certain policy/procedural modifications.

Pivotal role for data

  • Currently, there are issues of enumeration, maintenance and accessibility to help maintain agri-data on various fronts.
  • There also needs to be a centralised institutional mechanism to help maintain farm level-data available for real time (virtual) assessment, while also helping plug the loopholes in subsidy distribution, funding and unrealistic assumption in production estimation.
  • This will help in effectively implementing and monitoring various schemes for a pragmatic food system.

Trickle-down effect

Though economic transition has seen significant growth contribution from services and industry, agriculture remains the most trusted sector in helping alleviate poverty, hunger and malnutrition and ensuring better income distribution.

Effect of agricultural Growth on the economy –

  • An earlier experience of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations has shown that a 1% growth in agriculture is at least two to three times more effective in reducing poverty than similar growth in non-agricultural sectors.
  • Public investment in agriculture research and development in terms of percentage share in agri GVA stands at 0.37%, which is fairly low in comparison to between 3% and 5% in developed countries.

Conclusion

  • Agriculture and its allied sectors are believed to be one of the most fertile grounds to help achieve the ambitious Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs).
  • However, with the current pace of agriculture growth, India requires ‘patient capital’, as financial returns to investment are unlikely to materialise in the initial years.
  • An inclusive business model facilitating strong investor-farmer relations should be created, with a legal and institutional framework for governance.
  • Expanding institutions is essential to accommodate the developmental impacts of foreign agricultural investment.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[op-ed snap] How MGNREGA transformed into a monument of failure

Mains Paper 2 : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : MGNREGA failing due to inadequate policy measures


CONTEXT

  • There is now a plethora of evidence that the economy has been cooling down over the last three years.
  • Official data was slow to pick up the trend, but data from private sources on indicators such as sales of consumer durables and automobiles clearly show that it is largely a result of declining demand, particularly in rural areas.
  • The Union budget presented on 5 July was expected to address some of these concerns.
  • However, it was a missed opportunity, with no effort being made to increase spending in rural areas, except for the electoral promise of cash transfer to farmers.

Effect of decline in Allocation to MGNREGA

  • Also disappointing was the government’s approach in dealing with most rural development programmes.
  • These not only directly contribute to creating rural infrastructure and assets, but also indirectly help increase rural demand and employment. For most of these programmes, the budget expenditure was kept constant or lowered.
  • Of particular importance is the all-India scheme under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
  • Its budget allocation has fallen compared to the revised expenditure of last year, and is insufficient, given the wage-payment arrears.

Weakening of MGNREGA

  • The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) showed apathy towards the rural and agricultural sectors during its first term in government, and in many ways is continuing the flawed policies of the second term of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
  • The UPA, which enacted MGNREGA and reaped political dividends for its successful rollout during its first term, contributed to the weakening of the programme as well as the changing of its basic character.
  • The government kept the budget allocation low and created administrative bottlenecks that stifled the programme. This trend has continued under the NDA.
  • This alliance also altered the basic character of the scheme.

Original Vision for MGNREGA

  • MGNREGA was envisaged as a provider of rural employment to casual workers at government-mandated minimum wages set above market wages.
  • This was the case at its 2006 launch.
  • The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) has been tracking wages received by casual workers employed under MGNREGA and private markets since 2007-08, when it introduced a separate category for MGNREGA work.
  • This has been retained even in the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), the report of which was released recently.
  • In 2007-08, the second year of MGNREGA implementation, wages under the programme were 5% higher than market wages for rural male workers and 58% higher for rural female workers.
  • This was one of the reasons that the programme attracted almost 50% female workers, in contrast to the trend of declining female workforce participation since 2004-05.

Changes in structure

  • By 2009-10, MGNREGA wages were only 90% of market wages for males, but 26% higher than market wages for females.
  • By 2011-12, they were lower than market wages for both category of workers, but for females, they were close to market levels.
  • The 2017-18 PLFS estimates show that private market wages for males were higher than MGNREGA wages by 74%, and female market wages were higher than MGNREGA wages by 21%.
  • Clearly, no male worker is going to demand MGNREGA work when he can get a much higher daily wage with the same effort .
  • However, women continue to demand and work under MGNREGA, though market wages are higher, because of non-availability of work and discrimination as well as exclusion from the private labour market.

Women participation more

  • A peculiar result of this is the overwhelming participation of women in MGNREGA in southern states, where casual wages are higher in general, with Kerala reporting only female workers.
  • However, many states, including Gujarat, did not report any MGNREGA work in 2017-18. Keeping MGNREGA wages significantly lower than market wages is a deliberate attempt to finish the programme.

Half of the national minimum wage

  • MGNREGA wages are less than half of the national minimum wage of 375 per day (as on July 2018) proposed by an expert group.
  • Even the Economic Survey presented on 4 July has a chapter on minimum wages, which argues in favour of keeping minimum wages at a sufficiently high level to reduce poverty and inequality.
  • At a time when the government is pushing for a minimum wage code, the largest government-run programme has been violating state minimum wages for almost a decade.
  • MGNREGA could have been the lifeline to revive the rural economy, which is in distress.

Ineffective MGNREGA at present

  • However, the political slugfest and flawed policies of the government have led to a situation where MGNREGA, bereft of its original character, is unable to provide a stimulus to the rural economy, despite the strong evidence of it having pushed up rural wages and incomes during the first five years of its implementation.
  • It also created rural infrastructure and provided much-needed employment to the country’s rural population.

 

MGNREGA Scheme

[op-ed snap] Inclusion over exclusion: on Assam NRC

Mains Paper 2 : Indian Constitution - historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : NRC exercise is focusing on exclusion


CONTEXT

With the Supreme Court-led process of updating the National Register of Citizens in Assam nearing its deadline of July 31, the complexities involved in the gargantuan exercise have dawned upon the executive. Both the Central and State governments have sought an extension. But it remains to be seen whether the Court, which has insisted on sticking to the timelines, would relent when it hears the matter on July 23.

Background

  • The first draft NRC published on the intervening night of December 31 and January 1, 2018 had the names of 19 million people out of the total 32.9 million who had applied for inclusion as citizens.
  • The second draft NRC, published on July 30 last, upped it to 28.9 million but left out four million found ineligible.
  • Around 3.6 million of them subsequently filed citizenship claims. An “additional exclusion list” was issued last month containing 1,02,463 names included earlier in the draft list.
  • In anticipation of millions being ultimately left out, the Assam government is moving to set up 200 Foreigners’ Tribunals to handle cases of people to be excluded from the final NRC, as part of a larger plan to establish 1,000 such tribunals.
  • The State government is also preparing to construct 10 more detention centres; six are now running out of district jails.

Problems

  • A humanitarian crisis awaits Assam whether the final NRC is published on July 31 or after. In the run-up to the final publication, case after case has emerged of persons wrongfully left out of the list.
  • The process has left no group out of its sweep, be it Marwaris or Biharis from elsewhere in the country, people tracing their antecedents to other Northeastern states, people of Nepali origin, and caste Hindu Assamese.
  • The prime targets of this exercise, however, are Hindu Bengalis and Bengali-origin Muslims of Assam — more than 80% of the 4.1 million people named in the two lists belong to these two groups.
  • Yet, the rationale of the Centre and State in seeking a deadline extension, as found in their submissions in the Supreme Court, betrays an exclusionary bias.
  • The joint plea sought time to conduct a 20% sample re-verification process in districts bordering Bangladesh and 10% in the rest of the State to quell a “growing perception” that lakhs of illegal immigrants may have slipped into the list.
  • This, despite the State NRC Coordinator’s reports to the apex court suggesting that up to 27% of names have been reverified during the process of disposal of claims.

Conclusion

  • It hasn’t helped that the Central government keeps holding out the prospect of unleashing a nationwide NRC to detect and deport illegal aliens, when it has no index to base such an exercise on — the 1951 register was exclusive to Assam.
  • The accent should be on inclusion, not exclusion.
  • The wheels of justice cannot pander to the suspicions of a vocal majority without giving the excluded access to due process.
Minority Issues – Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Explained: Can India really deport illegal immigrants after the final NRC list?

Mains Paper 1 : Population & Associated Issues |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NRC, Assam Accord

Mains level : Read the attached story


News

Context

  • Recently Home Minister in Rajya Sabha informed that the government would deport illegal immigrants from “every inch of the country’s soil”.
  • This comes weeks ahead of the scheduled publication of the final National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

NRC Issue: Quick Recap

  • As per directions of the SC, the Registrar General of India (RGI) published the final draft list of NRC on July 30 last year.
  • It aimed to segregate Indian citizens living in Assam from those who had illegally entered the State from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971.
  • Nearly 40 lakh people were excluded from Assam’s final draft published last year.
  • The NRC is fallout of the Assam Accord, 1985. As many as 36 lakh of those excluded have filed claims against the exclusion, while four lakh residents haven’t applied.
  • There are around 4 lakh residents who haven’t filed claims against their exclusion from the final draft of the NRC.

How many face deportation?

  • The number of people being left out of the NRC is not yet final, and it is not clear if any of them can be deported at all.
  • The final draft NRC had left out 40 lakh applicants. Another 1 lakh, originally among the 2.89 crore included in that draft, were removed after subsequent verification.
  • There could be more deletions as objections have been filed. There are likely be some additions, too.
  • The final NRC is scheduled on July 31. Those left out will have a series of options for appeal, which is a long haul.
  • Only after that will the question of deportation come up, if at all.

What makes deportation so uncertain?

  • For a country to be able to deport a mass of individuals to another country, the second country has to accept that they were its citizens who entered the first country illegally.
  • According to government data until February 2019, Assam has since 2013 deported 166 persons (162 “convicted” and four “declared”) including 147 to Bangladesh.
  • The NRC context is vastly different: this is not about a few hundred but lakhs of individuals, many of whom have lived in Assam for decades and been identifying themselves as Indian citizens.

Bangladeshi un-acceptance

  • Over the years, Bangladeshi leaders have frequently been quoted in the media as denying the presence of its nationals in India.
  • Besides, there have been no visible recent efforts by India to push the matter with Bangladesh.
  • In fact, India is understood to have conveyed to Bangladesh, just before the final draft NRC was published, that there was no talk of deportation.
  • This was an effort directed at addressing a friendly neighbour’s concerns about the prospect, even if it was a theoretical one, of being flooded with a mass of deportees.

If not deportation, then what?

  • The various points of appeal imply that the process of establishing citizenship or illegal stay in Assam could take years, if not decades.
  • First, there are the quasi-judicial Foreigners Tribunals, which those left out of the final NRC will approach.
  • If their claim is rejected again, they have the option of approaching the High Court and the Supreme Court.
  • In between, there is the prospect of being sent to one of the six existing detention camps, or one of the 10 being planned.
  • These have often come into focus for lack of basic facilities, and the apex Court recently allowed conditional release of those who have completed three years in detention, against a bond.

Way Forward

  • For lakhs of people, what the future holds is uncertain as ever.
  • Only a long court battle is certain, while a stateless identity with curtailed rights is a possibility.
  • Deportation, if it ever happens, appears a long way away.
  • The deportation to detention camps is very inhumane. They should be given basic human rights.
  • Identity of such persons should be digitally recorded and they should not be allowed to claim Indian citizenship in other states.
Citizenship and Related Issues

CAMPA funds should be used to conserve nature

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : CAMPA

Mains level : State of afforestation in India


News

Decline of forest cover in India

  • At the beginning of the 20th century, 80 per cent of India was covered in thick forests.
  • Now the forest cover has dropped to a mere 17 per cent.
  • Recently, Forest Survey of India (FSI) released its biennial State of Forests Report 2017 that stated that forest cover in the country has increased by about one per cent.
  • However several other reports highlight that this increase is not due to increase in forest area but is the artefact of increase in agricultural green cover.

Is the target achievable?

  • According to National Forest Policy 1952, the mandate was set to preserve 33 per cent of forest cover in the total geographical area.
  • The FSI report clearly revealed that if India’s forest covers grows at the same pace as in the past decade then it would take more than 180 years to achieve the target of 33 per cent forest cover.
  • In the near future, we will be at the next stage of development and the intensity of industrial growth would definitely be more than the present and the past.
  • So achieving such target seems to be very difficult.

Government’s approach

  • Forests are an important natural resource and render a variety of ecological services, they must not be destroyed.
  • However, because of industrial requirements, forests are routinely cut or being diverted for non-forest purposes.
  • As much as 14,000 square kilometres of forests were cleared to accommodate 23,716 industrial projects across India over the last 30 years, according to a recent government data.
  • India cannot completely stop such developmental activities because this is the backbone of the Indian economy.

CAMPA at rescue

  • To compensate the loss of forest area and to maintain the sustainability, the govt. came up with a well-defined Act, known as CAMPA (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority).
  • According to the Act’s provision, a company diverting forest land must provide alternative land to take up compensatory afforestation.
  • For afforestation, the company should pay to plant new trees in the alternative land provided to the state.
  • The loss of forest ecosystem must also be compensated by paying for net present value (NPV).

CAMPA Funds are under-utilized

  • In 2002, the Supreme Court had observed that collected funds for afforestation were under-utilized by the states and it ordered for centrally pooling of funds under ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund.
  • The court had set up the ad hoc National Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) to manage the fund.
  • In 2009, states had also set up state CAMPAs that received 10 per cent of funds from the national CAMPA to use for afforestation and forest conservation.

Cost-benefit analysis of funds and forest cover

  • In the present scenario, both central and state governments got a huge amount of money for afforestation, but at the ground level, the situation is different.
  • FSI analysis showed that funding by the central government increased at a rate of 84.67 per cent in the period, but the forest cover increased by only 2.42 per cent.
  • So, increase in CAMPA funding by the central government has clearly not resulted in significant increase in forest cover.

Drawbacks of CAMPA

  • There are many reasons for forest growth not aligning with the increased fund.
  • The law says that land selected for afforestation should preferably be contiguous to the forest being diverted so that it is easier for forest officials to manage it.
  • But if no suitable non-forest land is found, degraded forests can be chosen for afforestation.
  • In several states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand where the intensity of mining is very high, to find the non-forest land for afforestation to compensate the loss of forest is a big task.
  • The other point of contention is the utilization of CAMPA fund. Several state governments are not utilising it properly.
  • An amount of Rs 86 lakh from CAMPA funds meant for afforestation was reportedly spent on litigation work in Punjab.
  • Moreover, at several places, the loss of natural species is compensated with plantation of non-native species in the name of the artificial plantation. It serves as a threat to even the existing ecosystem.

Way Forward

  • Centre framed CAMPA with an intention to conserve nature and its natural resources amidst the various development works.
  • The proposed objective of the Act must be fulfilled by utilising the CAMPA funds only for the purpose it is meant for.
  • It should efficiently be used only for afforestation and wildlife conservation activities.
  • Also, a closer look at the state government activities using CAMPA funding is needed.
  • The central government should adopt the concept of outcome budgeting for allocation of funds to the state government in which funding will be done on installment basis by checking the outcome of previous funds.
  • Then, state governments should restore the existing forests rather than creating new ones.
Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

Chandipura Virus

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chandipura Virus

Mains level : Not Much



News

  • Medical officers are on high alert after a 5 year old died of Chandipura Virus in Gujarat.

Chandipura virus

  • The Chandipura virus was discovered by 2 Pune-based virologists of the National Institute of Virology (NIV) in 1965.
  • The Chandipura Vesiculovirus (CHPV) predominantly affects children.
  • The virus spreads mainly through the bite of sand flies and sometimes through mosquitoes.
  • The symptoms include sudden high fever accompanied by headache, convulsions and vomiting, sometimes leading to unconsciousness.
  • Cases have mostly been reported during monsoon and pre-monsoon, when sand flies breed.
Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

[pib] Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Mains Paper 2 : Laws, Institutions & Bodies Constituted For The Vulnerable Sections |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NHRC, SHRC and their compositions

Mains level : Particulars of the Bill


News

  • Lok Sabha has passed The Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

Why such Amendment?

  • The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993 was enacted to provide for the constitution of a National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the State HRC and the Human Rights Courts for protection of human rights.
  • Certain State Governments have proposed for amendment as they have been facing difficulties in finding suitable candidates to the post of Chairperson of the respective SHRCs owing to the existing eligibility criteria.
  • The proposed amendments will enable both the NHRC and SHRCs to be more compliant with the Paris Principles.

Highlights of the Amendment

  • A person who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court is also made eligible to be appointed as Chairperson of the Commission in addition to the person who has been the CJI;
  • To increase the Members of the NHRC from two to three of which, one shall be a woman;
  • To include Chairperson of the National Commission for Backward Classes, Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as deemed Members of the Commission;
  • To reduce the term of the Chairperson and Members of the NHRC and the SHRCs from five to three years and shall be eligible for re-appointment;
  • To provide that a person who has been a Judge of a High Court is also made eligible to be appointed as Chairperson of the SHRC in addition to the person who has been the Chief Justice of the High Court; and,
  • To confer upon State Commissions, the functions relating to human rights being discharged by the UTs, other than the UT of Delhi which will be dealt with by the Commission.
Human Rights Issues