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Coronavirus – Health and Governance Issues

Gearing up to fight the next big viral outbreak

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- Preparing healthcare system for viral outbreaks.

Context

India is ill-prepared to deal with the new strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that is causing worldwide panic. Policymakers must take forceful action to prevent the spread of the new virus and heed the urgent warnings of global public health professionals about new pathogens.

No country is adequately prepared

  • Finding of the Global Health Security Index: The World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Health Security Index finds that no country is adequately prepared.
  • It assesses 195 countries across six categories
    • Prevention
    • Early detection.
    • Rapid response.
    • Health system quality.
    • Standards.
    • Risk environment.
  • India’s dismal rank: India is ranked 57th.
    • That the country scores around the global average is no comfort, because the global average is a low 40.2 out of 100, and India’s score is 46.5. (For the record, the U.S. is ranked first and China 51st).

Four-point health agenda

  • The prospect of new outbreaks puts four items on the health agenda in the spotlight that require both immediate and longer-term action:
    • Early detection and prevention.
    • Better collaboration across health service providers.
    • More investment in health systems; outcomes, and education; and-
    • Better care of the environment and biodiversity, which directly affects people’s health safety.

Thailand’s outstanding example

  • Sixth rank on Health Security Index: That Thailand is ranked sixth in the Health Security Index- the highest ranking for an Asian country.
    • The rank says a great deal about the country’s track record in disease prevention, early detection, and rapid response linked to investments in its public health system.
    • When the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), also caused by a coronavirus, broke out in 2015, Thailand quickly notified the WHO of its first confirmed case and acted transparently to arrest the spread.
    • This is in stark contrast to delayed notification by China’s officials of the recent outbreak.

India’s record in past outbreaks

  • Underscoring inadequacies: The influenza A (H1N1) outbreaks since 2009 in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and other States have acutely underscored the need for better detection, awareness of symptoms and quarantining.
  • Protocols for surveillance: Clearer protocols for all three types of surveillance are needed in all States.
    • And these protocols need to be communicated to health professionals at all levels and the public in local languages.

Conducting stress tests on health system

  • Countries need to do the stress tests for their preparedness to deal with health emergencies.
  • Exposing the crucial gap: Each State in India should do this to expose crucial gaps in areas such as-
    • Adequacy and supply of diagnostic equipment.
    • Health facilities.
    • Hygienic practices, and-
    • Prevention and treatment protocols.
  • Ensuring strong supply chains: Queues of desperate shoppers trying to buy hand sanitizer, face masks and other protective products in Hong Kong and China highlight the need for strong supply chains for products that people need during health emergencies.

The partnership between countries and with the private sector

  • Partnership to ensure supply chains: Partnerships between private and public sectors, and between countries– that can sustain supply chains and bolster the medical capacity of countries struggling to cope.
    • Collaborative approach in Asia: In Asia, collaborative approaches exist, for example, for combating tuberculosis, AIDS and malaria.
  • Need to do more: More is needed to tackle health emergencies on the scale of recent outbreak, particularly on funding.
    • Emergency loan option: There could be an emergency loan facility, with a “deferred drawdown option” as the World Bank uses for disasters, natural or health.
    • The loan option can help augment own resources in times of a public health catastrophe.
  • Investment is the best defence: But the best defence of all is to invest more, and more efficiently, in health and education to prepare populations and strengthen health services.
    • Low health expenditure: Health expenditure by the government in India is less than 5% of Gross Domestic Product, which is low for a middle-income country.
    • Spending at that level limits, among other things, the availability of health professionals during crises.
    • According to WHO, India has only 80 doctors per 1,00,000 people.

Investment in health, education

  • Kerala’s experience: Kerala’s experience in 2018 with the deadly Nipah virus showed the value of investing in education and health over the long term.
  • What measures were taken in Kerala? The availability of equipment for-
    • Quick diagnosis.
    • Measures to prevent diseases from spreading and-
    • Public information campaigns- all helped to keep the mortality rate from the Nipah virus relatively low.
    • Having capable public health professionals helped in the information exchange with WHO and other international bodies.

The relation between environmental degradation and health

  • A new dimension of new pathogens: One of the many dimensions of new pathogens that is getting increased attention is the link with environmental degradation.
  • The relation between pollution and viral respiratory infection: The interaction between particulate matter from pollution and viral respiratory tract infections, especially in the young and the elderly, as well as the malnourished, has been increasingly noted in epidemiological studies.
    • Many of the highest air pollution readings are being recorded in Indian cities.
  • Most vulnerable country: An HSBC study of 67 countries ranks India as the most climate-vulnerable one because of the impact of severe temperature increases and declines in rainfalls.
    • Reasons for vulnerability: The effects of such occurrences are magnified by the high density of the country’s population, the sheer number of people in harm’s way, and the high incidence of poverty.
    • Research is increasingly connecting global warming to vector-borne viruses.

Conclusion

The dangerous trend for disease spillovers from animals to humans can be traced to increased human encroachment on wildlife territory; land-use changes that increase the rate of human-wildlife and wildlife-livestock interactions; and climate change. Protecting the precious biodiversity should be a priority.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Issues related to Economic growth

Conquering the green frontier

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Sustainable economic growth and focus areas to achieve it.

Context

India has to forge a different development model -one that will shift India’s workforce from agriculture to globally leading, resource-efficient businesses.

 How India can deliver sustainable prosperity?

  • The two intertwined forces: Just as liberalisation and globalisation transformed the economy in the past, two different yet intertwined forces will likely transform the economy in the future.
  • FirstHigh competitiveness: India must have globally leading companies across a range of key sectors such as financial services and manufacturing.
    • Global productivity frontier: These super competitive businesses should define the global productivity frontier so that they can surpass the production processes of the best companies in the world.
  • Second-Long term sustainability: India must also adopt a resource-efficient, low-carbon development pathway to utilise scarce natural resources effectively. There is no other way.
    • Apocalyptic air pollution.
    • Dire water shortages.
    • Rising temperatures and-
    • Extreme climate events- have already brought us to the brink of an environmental crisis.
    • The need for India’s leadership for achieving the target: Moreover, note that the world needs India’s leadership to achieve the 2 degree Celsius global warming target.
    • In short, India’s growth has to be green.
  • What is the problem in achieving these goals?
    • No nation has ever attempted these twin transformations — high competitiveness and long-term sustainability — simultaneously.
    • The traditional development model: The traditional development model has been a farm-to-factory development model with economies transitioning from traditional agriculture to resource-intensive, urban manufacturing.
    • India has to forge a different development model — one that will shift India’s workforce from agriculture to globally leading, resource-efficient businesses.
    • Also, these companies must use the most advanced green technologies and business models.
    • India’s development model will, therefore, need to take the Indian economy from “the farm-to-green frontier”.

Three focus area for green transformation

  • The productivity transformation driven by super competitive businesses is well underway.
    • We now need to consider a comprehensive policy package that will enable us to simultaneously undertake a green transformation.
    • Global best practices and India’s own experiences suggest three focus areas for such a transformation.
  • India has the third-largest start-up ecosystem in the world and our larger companies are also pursuing innovation-driven growth.
  • Specific and stable policy goals
    • Specific and stable policy goals need to be established to set detailed green targets for various sectors.
    • A macro-economic model that factors in-
    • Current skills.
    • Sectoral connections.
    • Relative emission and-
    • Financial constraints are necessary to inform such targets going forward.
    • Such a model can then be used to evaluate various green growth scenarios.
    • Decarbonisation approaches in the green frontier scenario will drive the growth of green industries, green jobs, green skills, green entrepreneurs and green finance.
  • Pursuing the policy goals: Global and Indian experience highlights that green targets will have to be pursued in a stable manner across decades.
    • Most large emitters and pollutants are associated with long-lived (20-30 plus years useful life) assets.
    • The basic requirement for investment in green assets: Investments in green assets will only be possible if there is the sanctity of contracts, pricing stability, and consistent policies that are backed up by the full force of law.
    • Implementation: Finally, these specific and stable policy goals need to be implemented urgently to avoid lock-in with high-carbon assets.
  • Revamp the institutional framework: India may need to revamp its existing institutional framework for environmental governance in order to align it with the country’s green transformation.
    • Four levels of institutional structure: As demonstrated by global best practices, a comprehensive institutional framework could include four levels — super sovereign, sovereign, state/province and city.
    • Council for monitoring: An independent council or board may also be required to monitor, report, and verify green targets.
  • Appropriate financing capacity: Indian policymakers and entrepreneurs will unleash market forces that will drive the growth of waste management, solar panels, electric vehicles, super-efficient appliances, recyclable food packaging, clean coal, etc.
    • These green industries will require massive investments and appropriate financing capacity will have to be created to support their growth.
    • Preliminary estimates suggest that India’s green transformation may require an average investment of $95 billion to $125 billion per year, aggregating over $1 trillion in the next decade.
    • A “green super fund” could be established to jumpstart green investments by pooling together international and domestic capital.
    • Dual roles of financial institution: Such a financial institution could play a dual role in mediating and mitigating risk for global capital, as well as identifying sectoral project pipelines.
    • The success of financial institution: Indian financial institutions have been very successful in building up new industries such as microfinance, EdTech, and affordable healthcare, which have delivered both financial and social returns; however, financial support for green industries will have to be orders of magnitude larger.
    • Moreover, the “green super fund” may have to be able to invest across the capital structure (debt plus equity) as well as across the company lifecycle (early stage, growth capital, infrastructure investments, and so on).

Conclusion

Our future depends on how we resolve our environmental challenges. Further, we are the world’s third-largest carbon emitter and will play a crucial role in getting the planet to a low-carbon trajectory. Simply put, we must urgently transform our economy to get to the green frontier.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-SAARC Nations

Putting neighbours first

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2- India's relation with its neighbours and progress on SAARC and BIMSTEC.

Context

India has promoted regional cooperation in South Asia in a spirit of generosity, without insisting on reciprocity.

Relations with Sri Lanka

  • Beginning of new chapter in ties: The visit of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to India in February marked the beginning of a new chapter in ties with a friendly neighbour.
    • The neighbour with which India has close historical bonds straddling culture, religion, spirituality, art and language.
  • Growing convergence against terrorism: More relevantly, there is a growing convergence against terrorism following the Easter attacks in Sri Lanka last April.
  • There is deep appreciation in Sri Lanka for the free emergency services provided through 280 ambulances gifted by India, now operational in eight of the country’s nine provinces.
  • Prospects for tri-lateral cooperation: There are much better prospects today for tri-lateral cooperation between India, Japan and Sri Lanka in the development of the East Container Terminal at Colombo port and the proposed joint development of the Trincomalee oil storage tanks.
  • Indicators of a new warmth in relations:
    • Several infrastructure projects.
    • Direct flights between Chennai and Jaffna.
    • Resumption of ferry services.
    • India’s new lines of credit and construction of houses for the internally displaced.
    • Homeless and landless people are indicative of a new warmth in relations.
  • First visit to India: That both Mahinda Rajapaksa and his brother President Gotabaya chose India as the destination for their first overseas visits after assuming office bodes well.

Relations with Maldives

  • First visit by PM Modi: After the general elections last year, PM Modi’s first foreign visit was to the Maldives in June 2019.
    • India first: The visit was to establish warm and friendly relations with President Ibrahim Solih, who has done much to promote closer relations with India through his “India First Policy”.
  • First visit to India: India was the first country that Solih had visited in December 2018, a far cry from his predecessor’s brazen anti-India slant.
    • Soon after assuming office, Solih’s government annulled a controversial 2015 law that was meant to allow foreigners, particularly from China, to arbitrarily own islands.
  • Projects worth 180 crores inaugurated: The inauguration during Modi’s visit of two projects worth Rs 180 crore-the Coastal Surveillance Radar System and the Composite Training Center of the Maldivian National Defence Forces-has deep significance for the success of India’s neighbourhood policy.
  • $800 million worth lines of credit: India’s offer of lines of credit worth about $800 million and other capacity-building projects for water supply and sewerage are strong planks in our economic ties.
  • Terrorism and radicalisation are subjects of common concern.
  • DOSTI exercise: The agreement to restart the tri-lateral DOSTI naval exercise as also the tri-lateral NSA-level dialogue between India, Maldives and Sri Lanka lay the ghost of the Yameen era to rest.

Relations with Nepal

  • Inauguration of first cross-border petroleum pipeline: In September last year, India and Nepal jointly inaugurated South Asia’s first cross-border petroleum products pipeline from Motihari in India to Amlekhgunj in Nepal.
  • Prioritising the rebuilding of houses: India is also prioritising the rebuilding of houses in Gorkha and Nuwakot districts, with “Build Back Better” as the guiding principle in keeping with Modi’s clarion call for a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).
  • Role played by geography: Geography plays a determining role in creating inter-dependence.
    • Even as Nepal, like other South Asian countries, seeks closer ties with China, there is a much better appreciation today that India’s role as a key economic and developmental partner is unique and indispensable.

Relations with Bangladesh

  • Model partnership: India’s relations with Bangladesh under Modi and Sheikh Hasina have evolved into a model partnership, consolidated by-
    • High-level exchanges.
    • Mutual trust and-
    • Enhanced cooperation on security matters.
  • Border firing incidents: Incidents of border firing, though rare, have an adverse fall-out on public perception and need to be handled with sensitivity.

Relations with Bhutan

  • The India-Bhutan friendship runs deep, with growing cooperation in the vital hydro-power sector providing it a fresh impetus.
    • Notably, the centrepiece Mangdechhu project (750 MW) was completed on schedule last year.
  • RuPay card in Bhutan: The introduction of the RuPay card in Bhutan and elsewhere in the neighbourhood will further cement economic and people-to-people ties.

Relations with Myanmar

  • Security cooperation: When India shortly hands over to Myanmar the INS Sindhuvir, a Kilo Class submarine, it will propel security cooperation to a higher pedestal.
    • Cross-border strike in Myanmar: Close coordination with Myanmar was evident earlier in the cross-border strike on insurgents by Indian forces in 2015.

Unrealised potential of South Asia

  • South Asiasome figures: has 1.8 billion people and a combined GDP of nearly $3.47 trillion, with India’s economy the largest by far.
  • South Asia has great potential but has been held back by Pakistan.
    • Hindrance for cooperation with Afghanistan: Pakistan has not only denied India and Afghanistan the overland transit route for trade, but has also thwarted Modi’s efforts to place at centre stage the common struggle against poverty, illiteracy and natural disasters.

Cooperation within SAARC: Pakistan has held to ransom cooperation within SAARC by raising extraneous matters, perpetuating terrorism and rejecting the ineluctable logic of intra-South Asian trade, which remains abysmally poor.

  • Pakistan opt-out of satellite project: Islamabad decided to opt-out of the SAARC satellite project proposed by India, and it was finally launched in 2017 without Pakistan’s participation.
  • Motor Vehicle Agreement: Pakistan also played the role of a spoiler at the 18th SAARC Summit in November 2014, preventing progress on the proposed Motor Vehicle Agreement for the regulation of passenger and cargo vehicular traffic amongst SAARC member states.
  • Implications for Afghanistan: Pakistan’s intransigence on connectivity impairs Afghanistan’s ability to link up with other countries in South Asia.
    • The air corridor between India and Afghanistan cannot cater to the full potential of trade ties.
    • Sustainability of Chabahar port: Recent tensions between the US and Iran have cast a shadow on the sustainability of Chabahar port as an alternative maritime supply route to Afghanistan at a crucial juncture in its history.
    • India’s role in Afghanistan: India’s proactive role in recent years in building much-needed infrastructure and capacities in Afghanistan is widely recognised.
    • Deepened defence cooperation: Defence cooperation too has deepened under Modi, with India dropping its traditional coyness in such matters.
    • Much more may have to be done, though, to help Afghanistan achieve stability through economic prosperity.
    • Afghanistan’s true destiny lies with South Asia.

Key aspects of Neighbourhood First Policy

  • Response to security challenges: Neighbourhood First involves India’s willingness to respond to security challenges with new grit.
  • Humanitarian assistance: It also involves for India to be an enthusiastic responder in providing humanitarian assistance and conducting disaster relief operations in Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and the extended neighbourhood.
  • Developmental assistance: Even more important is the steady progress made by India to expand developmental assistance and improve project execution based on collaborative partnerships.
    • India’s developmental assistance to six South Asian countries was over Rs 21,100 crore. 

Progress on BIMSTEC

  • BIMSTEC, the other regional grouping, has done well.
  • Participation in disaster Management Exercise: In February this year, delegates and rescue teams from India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar enthusiastically participated in disaster management exercises conducted at Ramachandi Beach at Puri in Odisha.
  • Cross-border electricity grid: The signing of the MoU on BIMSTEC Grid Interconnection at the fourth BIMSTEC Summit, attended by all seven nations in Kathmandu in August 2018, provides a fillip to cross-border electricity trade.
  • India’s focus on BIMSTEC and its Act East Policy have served to highlight India’s key role in promoting cooperative growth and development in several parts of South Asia.

Conclusion

In a world increasingly characterised by a “my country first” approach, India has endeavoured to harness the impulse for regional cooperation in a spirit of generosity, without insisting on reciprocity, to realise the motto of Security And Growth For All In The Region (SAGAR).

 

 

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

Explained: The EU data strategy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Read the attached story

The European Commission has recently released a “European strategy for data… to ensure the human-centric development of Artificial Intelligence” and a white paper on artificial intelligence.

EU data strategy

  • The new documents present a timeline for various projects, legislative frameworks, and initiatives by the European Union, and represent its recognition that it is slipping behind American and Chinese innovation.
  • The strategy lays out “why the EU should act now”.
  • The blueprint hopes to strengthen Europe’s local technology market by creating a “data single market” by 2030 to allow the free flow of data within the EU.
  • To aid a “data-agile economy”, the Commission hopes to implement an “enabling legislative framework for the governance of common European data spaces” by the latter half of the year.
  • By the beginning of 2021, the Commission will make high-value public sector data available free through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) — a pathway for two different applications to speak to each other.
  • Between 2021 and 2027, the Commission will invest in a High Impact Project to jump-start data infrastructure. Several other initiatives are laid out, including a cloud services marketplace.

Why such strategy?

  • The EU has the potential to be successful in the data-agile economy. It has the technology, the know-how and a highly skilled workforce.
  • However, competitors such as China and the US are already innovating quickly and projecting their concepts of data access and use across the globe, the strategy states.
  • With American and Chinese companies taking the lead on technological innovation, Europe is keen to up its own competitiveness.

What does the EU move mean for legislation?

  • Europe has been a frontrunner when it comes to technology regulation.
  • Its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) released in 2018 was a game-changer across the industry. In the recent strategy, the GDPR is seen as giving the “solid framework for digital trust.”
  • Parliamentarians are discussing India’s current Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill in a Joint Select Committee.
  • The recent draft of the PDP introduced a clause on non-personal data, mandating entities to hand over such data to the government on command.
  • This was not included in the draft proposed by the Justice B N Sri Krishna Committee in October 2018.
  • Some of the movement around the PDP Bill comes from a desire to strengthen India’s own data economy, similar to the EU’s desire.

Has India done anything similar?

  • The Union Cabinet approved the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) in 2012.
  • As part of the initiative, the government worked with the US government to release data.gov.in, a site of government data for public use.
  • The Economic Survey of 2018 envisioned a similar use of non-personal data.
  • Just as the EU’s strategy discusses “data for public good”, the chapter titled “Data ‘Of the People, By the People, For the People’” advocated that the government step in to sectors that private players ignore, marking the first time India’s Economic Survey has isolated “data” as a strategic focus.
  • Other data integration efforts have been announced or implemented by NITI Aayog (the National Data & Analytics Platform), the Smart Cities Mission (India Urban Data Exchange), and the Ministry of Rural Development (DISHA dashboard).
  • In 2018, the National Informatics Centre worked with PwC and other vendors to create a Centre of Excellence for Data Analytics aimed at providing data analysis help to government departments.

Crop Insurance – PMFBY, etc.

Changes in Crop Insurance Scheme

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Crop insurrance schemes in India

Mains level : Impacts of the said changes

The Centre has decided to restrict its premium subsidy in its flagship crop insurance schemes to 30% for unirrigated areas and 25% for irrigated areas (from the existing unlimited), and to make enrolment of farmers in the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (RWBCIS) voluntary from the 2020 Kharif season.

 Other changes in crop insurance schemes

  • The government has given flexibility to states/UTs to implement PMFBY and RWBCIS, and given them the option to select any number of additional risk covers/features like prevented sowing, localised calamity, mid-season adversity, and post-harvest losses.
  • Earlier, these risk covers were mandatory.

Why such a move?

By capping the subsidy for premium rates up to 30%, the Centre wants to dis-incentivize certain crops in such areas where growing these crops involve high risks in terms of crop insurance premiums.

What were the schemes?

  • At present, under PMFBY and RWBCIS, farmers pay a premium of 2% of the sum insured for all foodgrains and oilseeds crops of Kharif; 1.5% for all foodgrains and oilseeds crops of Rabi; and 5% for all horticultural crops.
  • The difference between actual premium rate and the rate of insurance premium payable by farmers, which is called the Rate of Normal Premium Subsidy, is shared equally between the Centre and the states.
  • However, states and UTs are free to extend additional subsidy over and above the normal subsidy from their budgets.
  • Until now, there was no upper limit for the central subsidy.
  • The Cabinet decided to cap the Centre’s premium subsidy under these schemes for premium rates up to 30% for unirrigated areas/crops and 25% for irrigated areas/crops.

How many farmers are covered under these two schemes?

  • During 2018-19, about 5.64 crore farmers are enrolled with PMFBY for an insured sum of Rs 2,35,277 crore, and 30% of the gross cropped is insured.
  • When the government approved PMFBY four years ago, it was described as a path-breaking scheme for farmers’ welfare” under which there was no upper limit on government subsidy.
  • Even if balance premium was 90%, it was to be borne by the Government
  • While PMFBY is based on yield, RWBCIS is based on proxies and farmers are provided insurance protection against adverse weather conditions such as excess rainfall, wind and temperature.
  • The number of insured farmers under RWBCIS is relatively low.

Impact of the move

This change will have two main implications.

  • First, it may bring down the rates of overall premium as the state governments now will not be required to invite bids factoring these risks.
  • Second, it will make these schemes less attractive for farmers.
  • However, states/UTs can offer specific single peril risk/insurance covers like hailstorm etc under PMFBY.

Burden of premium

  • One interpretation of this decision is that the burden of premium subsidy will go up for the states.
  • Example: In the old regime, if a farmer’s Kharif crop was insured for Rs 1,00,000 and the rate of actuarial premium was 40%, then the premium paid by the farmer was 2% (Rs 2,000), and the remaining premium was shared by the Centre and the state equally (19% or Rs 19,000).
  • In the new regime, for the same sum insured (Rs 1,00,000) and the same rate of premium (40%), the Centre will give subsidy for premium rates up to 30%.
  • This means that from the Kharif 2020 season , the Centre will have to pay premium at the rate of 14% (out of 30%, the farmer’s share is 2%, and the Centre’s and state’s 14% each).
  • The state has to bear the entire burden of the premium subsidy in cases where the rate of premium goes beyond the threshold of 30%.

No insurance of certain crops

  • Another interpretation is that the Centre may stop supporting insurance of certain crops in certain areas where the rate of premium is more than 30%.
  • The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare in consultation with other stakeholders/agencies will have to prepare State specific, alternative risk mitigation programme for crops/areas having high rate of premium.
  • While the average premium rate under PMFBY and RWBCIS at the national level was 12.32% for 2018-19, for some crops in certain districts, the rate of premium has been higher than 30% in recent years.
  • For instance, the rate of premium for Kharif groundnut has reached 49% in Rajkot of Gujarat, and the rate for Rabi paddy crop Ramnathapuram (Tamil Nadu) has reached 42%.

Impact on states

  • The states are already defaulting on their share, and the Centre’s new cap will put an additional financial burden on them.
  • Madhya Pradesh has not paid its share of premium even for Kharif 2018, which comes to Rs 1,500 crore. As a result, farmers have not got their claims.
  • In fact, most states have delayed the payment of their share of premium.
  • Sources said that in some states, the expenditure on premium of PMFBY is more than 50% of their budget for agriculture.

Immediate implications

  • That move will lead to a rise in the rates of premium, as the area covered under insurance and the number of enrolled farmers is expected to come down significantly.
  • As of now the schemes are compulsory for all loanee farmers and optional for other farmers.
  • Non-loanee farmers under the crop insurance schemes are much fewer than loanee farmers.
  • If the latter opt out of the schemes, the number of insured farmers will drastically come down.
  • In such a scenario the rate of premium of certain crops in some areas may go beyond 30%.

Back2Basics

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana – Min Premium, Max Insurance

Wildlife Conservation Efforts

[pib] International protection for Great Indian Bustard, Bengal Florican and Asian Elephant

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Various species mentioned

Mains level : Conservation of migratory species

India’s proposal to include Great Indian Bustard, Asian Elephant and Bengal Florican in Appendix I of UN Convention on migratory species was unanimously accepted at the undergoing CMS CoP in Gandhinagar.

Great Indian Bustard

  • The Great Indian Bustard, an iconic, critically endangered and conservation dependent species, exhibits transboundary movements, and its migration exposes it to threats such as hunting in the boundary area of Pakistan-India and power-line collisions in India.
  • Inclusion of the species in Appendix I of CMS will aide in transboundary conservation efforts facilitated by International conservation bodies and existing international laws and agreement.

Asian Elephant

  • The Government of India has declared Indian elephant as National Heritage Animal. It is also provided with the highest degree of legal protection by listing it in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
  • The Great Indian Bustard is a Critically Endangered species with a small population of about 100–150 individuals that is largely restricted to Thar desert in Rajasthan, India.
  • The species has disappeared from 90% of this range; their population has reduced by 90% within 50 years (six generations), and their threats are expected to increase in future.

Bengal Florican

  • The Bengal Florican an iconic, critically endangered species of topmost conservation priority, exhibits transboundary movements, and its migration exposes it to threats such as land-use changes, collision with power transmission line at the boundary area of India-Nepal and probable power-line collisions.
  • Inclusion of the species in Appendix I of CMS will aid in transboundary conservation efforts facilitated by International conservation bodies and existing international laws and agreement.
  • It populations has declined as a result of habitat loss, hunting and the species no longer breeds outside Protected Areas in the Indian subcontinent, except in a few areas of Assam.

Historical and Archaeological Findings in News

What did Harappan people eat?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Harappan food pattern

Mains level : Not Much

The National Museum in New Delhi has hosted “The Indus dining experience” a food event based on the food pattern of Indus valley civilization.

Food of Harappans

  • Archaeological evidence from Indus Valley sites (c. 3300 BC to 1300 BC) in present-day India and Pakistan suggests that a purely vegetarian meal will not provide a complete picture of what the Harappan people ate.
  • To judge from the quantity of bones left behind, animal foods were consumed in abundance: beef, buffalo, mutton, turtles, tortoises, gharials, and river and sea fish.
  • Apart from meat, the people of the Indus Valley Civilisation grew and ate a variety of cereals and pulses.
  • There is archaeological evidence for cultivation of pea (matar), chickpea (chana), pigeon pea (tur/arhar), horse gram (chana dal) and green gram (moong).
  • Several varieties of wheat have been found at Harappan sites, as well as barley of the two-rowed and six-rowed kinds.
  • There is evidence that the Harappans cultivated Italian millet, ragi and amaranth, as well as sorghum and rice.
  • Oilseeds such as sesame, linseed, and mustard were also grown.

Irrigation In India – PMKSY, AIBP, Watershed Management, Neeranchan, etc.

Buddah Nullah

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Buddah Nullah

Mains level : Canal irrigation system and its limitations

The Punjab govt. has approved ₹650 crore in the first phase for rejuvenation of the highly polluting Buddah Nullah — a seasonal tributary of Sutlej in Ludhiana.

Buddah Nullah

  • Buddah Nullah or Budha Nala is a seasonal water stream that runs through the Malwa region of Punjab.
  • It passes through highly populated Ludhiana and drains into Sutlej River, a tributary of the Indus river.
  • It has also become a major source of pollution in the region as well the main Sutlej river, as it gets polluted after entering the highly populated and industrialized Ludhiana city, turning it into an open drain.
  • Also, since a large area in south-western Punjab solely depend on the canal water for irrigation, and water from Buddha Nullah enters various canals after Harike waterworks.

Why such move?

  • The pollution in the Buddah Nullah is a major threat to public health and environment and the main sources of pollution in the nullah are direct flow of pollutants by industries and dairies.
  • Also, treated effluents from existing STPs, based on UASB technology, does not meet the required quality and overflow from sewer lines add to the problem.
  • The NGT has already directed the government to take proactive steps to immediately address the problem.

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Spontaneous Regression

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Spontaneous healing/regression

Mains level : Not Much

Patients sometimes make ‘miraculous’ recoveries from severe ailments. This is called spontaneous healing or spontaneous regression.

Spontaneous healing/regression

  • A patient improves unexpectedly from a disease that usually progresses, such as cancer, and at times is even cured.
  • Such cases notwithstanding, the medical fraternity is often sceptical and takes “miraculous” recoveries as flukes.
  • A research explores patterns behind healing illnesses such as the deadliest kinds of cancers, and lays out physical and mental principles associated with recovery.
  • These include physically healing diets and immune systems, and mentally healing stress responses and identities.

How does it occur?

  • The research states that much of our physical reality is created in our minds and perception changes our experiences, sometimes to the point of changing our bodies.
  • Therefore it argues that healing our identities may be a key tool to recovery.