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October 2019

Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[oped of the day] Sustainable Solution For Price Stabilisation of Tomatoes-Onions-Potatoes


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TOP scheme

Mains level : Food processing; TOP; rise in prices

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.


Last month, onion retail prices crossed Rs 40/kg in Delhi. 

Government response

    • The government imposed a minimum export price (MEP) of $850/tonne. 
    • Later on, as prices went further up to Rs 50-60/kg, stocking limits were imposed on traders and exports of onions were banned. 
    • It created problems in neighboring countries, especially Bangladesh.
    • These knee jerk reactions like export bans or stocking limits on traders only show the hollowness of our policies. 
    • A lot can be improved in addressing large price volatility of basic vegetables.


    • Tomatoes-onions-potatoes (TOP) are the three basic vegetables that face extreme price volatility.
    • The government is often on the edge in fulfilling dual objectives of ensuring remunerative prices for farmers and affordable prices for consumers
    • Onion is the most volatile, followed by tomatoes and potatoes. 
    • Potato is the least volatile because of higher processing-to-production share than onions and tomatoes. Also, there are large storage facilities for potatoes.
    • Of the total 8,000 plus cold storages in India, 90% are used for storing potatoes. Tomatoes can’t be stored for long. 
    • The current spike in tomato prices is due to lower supply from major tomato producing states like Maharashtra and Karnataka owing to heavy rains.

Operation Green-TOP 

    • It was started with an allocation of Rs 500 crore in the budget of 2018. 
    • The idea was to build value chains of TOP on the lines of “Operation Flood” (AMUL model) for milk.
    • The aim is to ensure a higher share of consumer’s rupee goes to farmers and stabilises their prices

AMUL model

    • The AMUL model is based on large procurement of milk from farmers’ cooperatives, processing, storing of excess milk in skimmed milk powder form during the flush season and using it during the lean season, and distributing milk through an organised retail network. 
    • Milk does not pass through any APMC, involves no commissions, and farmers normally get 75-80% of the consumer’s rupee, as per AMUL’s claims.

TOP – success

    • TOP is mostly traded in APMC markets, with layers of mandi fees and commissions, and farmers get less than one-third of the consumer’s rupee. 
    • An ICRIER-NABARD study on “Deconstructing Value Chains of Tomatoes, Onions, and Potatoes”, the farmer’s share is found to be 32.1%, 29.1% and 26.6% of a consumer’s rupee for TOP respectively. 

Way ahead

    • Massive reforms in APMC.
    • Ample storage for buffer stocks has to be created. Potatoes and onions can be stored. But, repeated stocking limits on onion traders discourages private investments in modern cold storages. 
    • For inviting large private investment in storages, the Essential Commodities Act has to go. If the traders are colluding to rig the market, then the Competition Commission of India should look into it. 
    • The government banning exports or imposing stocking limits is not a solution.
    • Increase processing capacities for TOP. Buffer stocking for tomatoes is not possible. Processing remains the only solution. 
    • GST for tomato puree and juice should be reduced from 12% to 5%. Milk and most milk products attract 0 to 5% GST.
    • To propagate the use of processed products (tomato puree, onion flakes, powder) among urban and bulk consumers (hospitals, schools, armed forces), the government should run campaigns in association with industry organisations, as was done for eggs. 
    • India needs to have time bound targets to process and export at least 10-15% of TOP production. India exports 10-12% of onion production in fresh and dehydrated form, it exports less than 1% of tomatoes and potatoes production.
    • Direct buying by organised retailers from farmer producer organisations (FPOs) through contract farming, bypassing the mandi system, should be encouraged. 
    • TOP cooperatives and retail outlets like Safal across the country should be opened. With over 400 Safal outlets across Delhi-NCR, onions are being sold at Rs 25/Kg when retail prices are hovering between Rs 50-60/Kg. 
    • Need for value chain development starting with market reforms along with overhauling the infrastructure of existing APMC mandis in the country. 
    • Kolar mandi, one of the largest tomato mandi in the country, revealed that the operations of the mandi have spread to adjoining areas. It requires at least two to three times more land and much better infrastructure. 
    • These reforms and investments can be undertaken on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis, commissions can be reduced, contract farming can be encouraged, along with setting up of private mandis for better efficiency.


The government needs to find a sustainable solution for price stabilisation of TOP, rather than taking temporary ad hoc measures. It is time to TOP up.

Nobel and other Prizes

[op-ed snap] Prize for peace


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Nobel Peace Prize


The Norwegian Nobel Committee’ awarded this year’s Peace Prize to Abiy Ahmed, the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.

Reasons for the prize

  • It is a recognition of his efforts for peace in East Africa.
  • Mr. Abiy, became Prime Minister in April 2018 after his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn resigned amid a political crisis and social unrest.
  • He has taken steps to politically stabilise the country and establish peace on its borders
  • The committee recognised his “decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea”. 

Conflict with Eritrea

  • Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991 and has fought a disastrous border war during 1998-2000 with its big neighbour. 
  • It split thousands of families and killed about 80,000 people. 
  • In Eritrea, the dictatorship used the prolonged border conflict as a convenient excuse for conscription and repression of its critics leading to a mass refugee outflow. 
  • Mr. Abiy took steps to resume the stalled peace process. He led Ethiopia’s first state visit to Eritrea and met its President, Isaias Afwerki. Within days both countries declared the end of the border war.

Reforms at home

  • He also initiated reforms at home, such as lifting the ban on opposition political parties, releasing political prisoners and jailed journalists and removing media curbs. 
  • Half of his Cabinet members are women and his government has welcomed the dissidents who were living in exile to return. 
  • Mr. Abiy, himself hailing from the Oromo ethnic group, persuaded the Oromo Liberation Front to join a wide-ranging peace process with the government. 

Challenges ahead

  • His biggest challenge is to calm ethnic tensions in his conflict-ridden country. 
  • Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic federation ruled by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front with a tight grip. 
  • Mr. Abiy has loosened this grip and called for a pan-Ethiopian identity and a freer economy and polity
  • His reform agenda was challenged by ethno-nationalists both within and outside his party. 
  • His government remained a spectator when ethnic violence was unleashed in several parts of the country over the past year, and sub-nationalisms emerged stronger. 
  • The Oromia and Amhara regions remain tense. Ethnic Gedeos and Gujis are in conflict in the south. Earlier this year, at least 5,22,000 Ethiopians were displaced by ethnic conflicts. 
  • The country is set to go to elections next year. Many fear that violence could escalate. 


Being a Nobel peace prize winner, he should come up with a national action plan to end violence, ease ethnic tensions and resettle the thousands displaced by the violence. 

Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[op-ed snap] In his company


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Women and the glass ceiling


If national societies were brands, “diversity” would certainly be the buzzword for India. So would hierarchy and inequality. 


  • The CS Gender 3000 report, released by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, points to the lack of equal or even adequate representation of women in the upper echelons of corporate India. 
  • According to the report, India’s female representation on corporate boards has increased by 4.3% over the past five years to 15.2%. 
  • This growth is well below the global average of over 20%
  • India also has the third-lowest rank in the Asia Pacific region with regard to female CEO representation – at 2%.
  • It also has the second-lowest rank for female CFO representation at just 1%.

Mere confirmation

  • The report merely confirms what has long been known anecdotally.
  • Apart from a few high-profile corporate leaders, by and large, the upper echelons and even senior management positions in the private sector continue to be dominated by men. 
  • At the time of intake, there is far greater gender parity, but the number of women reduces exponentially as we move higher on the pyramid of the corporate hierarchy. 
  • The report surveyed 3,000 companies across 56 countries and found that, globally, the number of women in leadership has doubled. 
  • The countries that lead — Norway, France, Sweden, and Italy — either have formal quotas or informal targets for gender parity in place. 
  • India’s private sector has long resisted government-imposed quotas for affirmative action.

Attempts to resolve the inequalities

  • Since Independence, various attempts have been made to resolve the contradiction between diversity and inequality.
  • Reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, 25% quota for students from economically weaker sections in private schools are such attempts.
  • Though the private sector resists legislation that circumscribes it in matters of hiring and promotion, there can be no case for the continuing glass ceiling that women and marginalised social groups face.
  • The private sector accounts for over 95% of the labour force. Corporate leaders and boards must seriously consider institutionalised mechanisms to ensure diversity and equality. 
  • Government regulation is best stymied by proactive action from companies themselves


Keeping half the population from roles that could allow them to change the nature of India Inc can only be counterproductive in the long run.

Panchayati Raj Institutions: Issues and Challenges

Explained: Why Lok Sabha strength is still 543


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Strength of Lok Sabha, Delimitation

Mains level : Strength of Lok Sabha

  • Last week, former Union Minister has said that the number of Lok Sabha seats should be rationalized on the basis of population.
  • The composition of the Lower House has remained more or less the same for four decades.

Strength of Lok Sabha

  • Article 81 of the Constitution defines the composition of the House of the People or Lok Sabha.
  • It states that the House shall not consist of more than 550 elected members of whom not more than 20 will represent UTs.
  • Under Article 331, the President can nominate up to two Anglo-Indians if he/she feels the community is inadequately represented in the House.
  • At present, the strength of the Lok Sabha is 543, of which 530 have been allocated to the states and the rest to the UTs.

In proportion to population

  • Article 81 also mandates that the number of Lok Sabha seats allotted to a state would be such that the ratio between that number and the population of the state is, as far as possible, the same for all states.
  • This is to ensure that every state is equally represented. However, this logic does not apply to small states whose population is not more than 60 lakh.
  • So, at least one seat is allocated to every state even if it means that its population-to-seat-ratio is not enough to qualify it for that seat.
  • As per Clause 3 of Article 81, population, for the purpose of allocation of seats, means “population as ascertained at the last preceding census of which the relevant figures have been published”.
  • In other words, the last published Census.
  • But, by an amendment to this Clause in 2003, the population now means population as per the 1971 Census, until the first Census taken after 2026.

543 wasn’t there from beginning

  • Originally Article 81 provided that the Lok Sabha shall not have more than 500 members. The first House constituted in 1952 had 497.
  • Since the Constitution provides for population as the basis of determining allocation of seats, the lower House’s composition has also changed with each Census up to 1971.
  • A temporary freeze was imposed in 1976 on ‘Delimitation’ until 2001.
  • Delimitation is the process of redrawing boundaries of Lok Sabha and state Assembly seats to represent changes in the population.
  • However, the composition of the House did not change only with delimitation exercises in 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002.
  • There were other circumstances as well. For instance, the first change in the composition of Lok Sabha happened in 1953 after the reorganization of the state of Madras.

When it was changed

  • With a new state of Andhra Pradesh carved out, 28 of Madras’s 75 seats went to Andhra Pradesh. The total strength of the House (497) did not change.
  • The first major change took place after the overall reorganization of states in 1956, which divided the country into 14 states and six UTs.
  • This meant subsequent changes in the boundaries of existing states and hence, a change in the allocation of seats to the states and UTs.
  • So with reorganization the government also amended the Constitution by which the maximum number of seats allocated to the states remained 500, but an additional 20 seats (also maximum limit) were added to represent the six UTs.
  • So the second Lok Sabha elected in 1957 had 503 members.
  • Further down the years, the lower House’s composition also changed when the state of Haryana was carved out of Punjab in 1966 and when Goa and Daman and Diu were liberated.

When it was frozen, and why

  • As per Article 81, the composition of the Lok Sabha should represent changes in population. But it has remained more or less the same since the delimitation carried out based on the 1971 Census.
  • The population-to-seat ratio, as mandated under Article 81, should be the same for all states.
  • Although unintended, this implied that states that took little interest in population control could end up with a greater number of seats in Parliament.
  • The southern states that promoted family planning faced the possibility of having their seats reduced.
  • To allay these fears, the Constitution was amended during Indira Gandhi’s Emergency rule in 1976 to suspend delimitation until 2001.

Postponed till 2026

  • Although the freeze on the number of seats in Lok Sabha and Assemblies should have been lifted after the Census of 2001, another amendment postponed this until 2026.
  • This was justified on the ground that a uniform population growth rate would be achieved throughout the country by 2026.
  • So, the last delimitation exercise – started in July 2002 and finished on May 31, 2008 was conducted on the basis of the 2001 Census and only readjusted boundaries of existing LS and Assembly seats and reworked the number of seats reserved for SCs and STs.

What next?

  • With the total seats remaining the same since the 1970s, it is felt that states in north India, whose population has increased faster than the rest of the country, are now underrepresented in the Parliament.
  • It is frequently argued that had the original provision of Article 81 been implemented today, then states like UP, Bihar and MP would have gained seats and those in the south would have lost some.

Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

Index of Industrial Production (IIP)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : IIP

Mains level : Significance of IIP as a measure of economic growth

  • The data for the “Quick Estimates of Index of Industrial Production” was recently released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).
  • It stated that India’s industrial sector production contracted by 1.1 per cent in August when compared to the production in the same month in 2018.
  • As far as such year-on-year comparisons go, the last time a reduction in the IIP happened was in June 2017. But this time, the fall was sharper — the index has fallen to an 81-month low.

What is the IIP?

  • As the name suggests, the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) maps the change in the volume of production in Indian industries.
  • More formally, it chooses a basket of industrial products — ranging from the manufacturing sector to mining to energy, creates an index by giving different weight to each sector and then tracks the production every month.
  • Finally, the index value is compared to the value it had in the same month last year to figure out the economy’s industrial health.

Which sectors are lagging in production?

  • There are two ways in which IIP data can be viewed.
  • The first is to look at sectoral performance.
  • In this the whole industrial economy is divided into three sectors; the first is manufacturing with a weight of 77.6 per cent in the index, the second is mining with a weight of 14.4 per cent and third is electricity with a weight of 8 per cent.
  • The second way to look at the same production is to look at the way such industrial products are used; this is called the use-based classification.

Low in trends

  • From a sectoral point of view, it can be seen how the growth rate in the manufacturing production, which has the biggest weight in the index, has been negative.
  • In fact, 15 out of the 23 sub-groups in the manufacturing sector showed negative growth in August 2019.
  • The worst were motor vehicles, trailers and semi-trailers, where production declined by over 23 per cent, and machinery and equipment, where production fell by close to 22 per cent.
  • Electricity production, too, shrank while mining production barely managed to be what it was in August 2018.
  • If one looks at the use-based classification in the same table, one can see the sustained shrinkage in two key groups — capital goods and consumer durables.

What is indicates?

  • This contraction is at the heart of what is wrong with the Indian economy at present.
  • The decline in the production of capital goods, which is the machinery used to produce other goods, shows that there is little desire/demand in the market to invest in existing or new capacity.
  • The decline in consumer durables such a refrigerator or a car shows that existing inventories are not yet being cleared because consumers continue to avoid buying these products.

How useful are monthly IIP figures to draw a conclusion about India’s growth?

  • IIP figures are monthly data and as such it keeps going up and down.
  • In fact, the release calls them “quick estimates” because they tend to get revised after a month or two.
  • As such, it is true that one should not take just one month’s IIP data and project it for the whole year or indeed use it to conclude that the full year’s economic growth will be low.
  • However, a dip in IIP, especially the sustained weakness in manufacturing industries, does not bode well for India’s economic growth in the near term.

Sainthood granted to Keralan nun Mariam Thresia


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Mariam Thresia

Mains level : Significance of the said sainthood

  • Kerala-born Catholic nun Mariam Thresia was recently declared a saint by Pope Francis in Rome.
  • She is the third nun and fourth clergy member from Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church, one of the prominent eastern churches under the Vatican, to be canonized into the league of saints.
  • Here is a look at Mariam Thresia, sainthood and its long-winded process, and those waiting to be elevated as saints in India.

Mariam Thresia

  • Mariam Thresia was born in the Chiramel Mankidiyan family in Puthenchira village of Thrissur district in 1876. She died in 1926 at the age of 50.
  • She began a life of prayer at an early age, and longed for a life of seclusion.
  • As she led the life of mystic, Thresia worked to provide solace to the sick, and offered charity to the poor in the village.
  • She wanted to become a nun, and joined the Order of Franciscan Poor Clares.
  • Later, upon realizing that she wanted to lead a life dedicated to prayers, Thresia, in 1913, formed a community “House of Solitude” along with a few others.
  • That was the beginning of the Congregation of Holy Family, which later grew into a prominent religious congregation of nuns.
  • In 1975, the Church began the process of her canonisation. She was declared venerable in 1999 and was beatified in 2000.

What sainthood means

  • It is titled that is conferred posthumously. Once a person is canonized as a saint, he or she is venerated in the Church.
  • Then, churches and church-run institutions can be named after such persons, and Christian children can adopt the names of these saints at the time of baptism.
  • The relics of the person declared as saint are venerated, and festivals are held in their names. Their places of birth, death, and burial become centres of pilgrimage.
  • The Catholic Church has a very long list of saints that has been under preparation from the beginning of the Church.
  • Saints in the early centuries after Christ had been martyrs who died after persecution by the Roman Empire.
  • Later, those who lived pious lives and stood for the Christian faith were also made saints.
  • There are Popes, cardinals, bishops, priests, nuns, ordinary men and women among the long list of saints.

Making of a saint

  • The making of a Catholic saint is a long process.
  • The early saints did not go through any formal procedures, but in the 17th century, the Church introduced guidelines for declaring a person as saint.
  • The guidelines were subsequently revised.

Saints in India

  • With the elevation of Mariam Thresia as saint, there are now 11 saints connected with the country, according to the official data of the Church.
  • Of the eleven, Gonsalo Garcia, born in India to Portuguese parents in Mumbai in 1557, is considered to have been the first India-born saint.
  • In 2008, Kerala-born Sister Alphonsa was declared as the first woman Catholic saint from India. Mother Teresa had a fast-track to sainthood when she was canonized in 2016.

Waiting in a long queue

  • In the category of the Blessed, a step before that of sainthood, there are six individuals at the moment.
  • They include Devasahayam Pillai, a Hindu layman who converted to Christianity, hailing from Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu. He died in 1752.
  • In the category of Venerable, there are 11 persons from across the country.
  • And there are 42 persons from the Catholic Church in the country in the list of Servants of God.

Waste Management – SWM Rules, EWM Rules, etc

Plastic Pollution in A&N Islands


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Plastic pollution in A&N Islands

  • The pristine beaches of the Great Nicobar Island, India’s southernmost territory are under threat from plastic.

Foreign litter in India

  • A survey of five beaches in the islands recorded the presence of plastic bottles.Sixty of these were analysed and found to be of ‘non-Indian origin.’
  • About 10 countries including India contributed to the plastic litter in the island. They were Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, India, Myanmar, China and Japan.
  • Major portion of the litter (40.5%) was of Malaysian origin.
  • It was followed by Indonesia (23.9%) and Thailand (16.3%). Other countries contributed a minor portion.
  • The litter of Indian origin only amounted to 2.2%.

Proximity to island

  • The overwhelming contribution from Indonesia and Thailand was likely due to its proximity to the island.
  • The plastic is likely to have made its way to the island because of water currents via the Malacca Strait, which is a major shipping route.
  • The huge quantities of marine debris observed on this island might be due to improper handling of the solid waste from fishing/mariculture activity and ship traffic.

Strain of  domestic tourism

  • However, the researchers also point out that litter of Indian origin on beaches and mangroves of the Andaman Islands is continuously increasing.
  • This is probably due to lack of proper guidelines and inadequate staff to monitor these islands.

About Great Nicobar Island

  • The Great Nicobar Island of Andaman has an area of about 1044 sq. km. According to the 2011 census, has a population of about 8,069.
  • The island is home to one of the most primitive tribes of India — the Shompens.
  • The island includes the Great Nicobar Biosphere Reserve (GNBR) comprising of the Galathea National Park and the Campbell Bay National Park.
  • The island harbours a wide spectrum of ecosystems from tropical wet evergreen forests, mountain ranges and coastal plains.
  • The island is also home to giant robber crabs, crab-eating macaques, the rare megapode as well as leatherback turtles.

Golden Ratio


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Golden Ratio

Mains level : NA


Golden Ratio

  • The golden ratio can be defined in terms of a line, divided into two unequal segments in a way that their lengths meet a simple condition.
  • If we draw an arc across the top of the skull and divide it at a key junction over the brain, the two arc-segments are approximately in the golden ratio.
  • The golden ratio is alternatively called the golden mean and the divine ratio. Its frequent appearances in nature have driven claims that it is the work of a divine design.
  • This feature was studied recently by researchers of Johns Hopkins University, US, who have reported their findings in The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery.

How it makes the ratio Golden?

  • When the ratio between these two lengths (the longer segment divided by the shorter one) happens to be the same as the ratio between the entire line and the longer segment, then the line is said to be divided in the golden ratio (see illustration).
  • For this condition to hold good, the ratio needs to be 1.61803… with the digits after the decimal going on forever; the golden ratio is what we call an “irrational number”.
  • It is represented by the Greek letter phi.

Why such a ratio is considered special?

  • Aesthetic appeal is among the first of many reasons.
  • Architects such as Le Corbusier have consciously proportioned their works to the golden ratio, or close.
  • So have artists such as Salvador Dalí and Leonardo da Vinci, whose fascination with the golden ratio features in the novel The Da Vinci Code and the film based on it.
  • Interpretations of the golden ratio have not always been objective.

Other examples

  • The fact remains, however, that the golden ratio frequently shows itself in nature, whether directly or indirectly (through its cousins called the Fibonacci numbers).
  • To cite a few examples, the golden ratio appears in the seeds of sunflowers, the scales of pineapples, the arrangement of petals on a rose, DNA structures, the anatomy of the heart — and has now turned up in the human skull.