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Coronavirus – Economic Issues

What self-reliant economy means?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Making the economy self reliant.

‘Atma-nirbhar’ has become a buzzword after PM Modi mentioned it in his speech. This article analyses the policy statement announced by the PM that focuses on self-reliance of the country in the future.  So, what exactly the term self-reliance could include? what are the areas in which India is dependent on other economies? Read the article to know more about these issues.

Policy statement of 1991

  • In 1991, only four policy statements were made —the end of licence-permit Raj, steep cuts in fiscal deficit and tariffs,  and devaluation of the Rupee.
  • With four policy measures, the economy was pulled out of a crisis and placed on a new growth path.
  • The key to 1991 was the political articulation of a vision that went beyond platitudes.

What is there in the PM’s vision statement?

  • The PM’s vision statement had four elements.
  • First, a step up in public spending and investment, aimed at promoting the welfare and raising the investment rate.
  • Second, policy reforms aimed at making the domestic economy more globally competitive.
  • Third, a long-term structural shift making the economy more “self-reliant” and less dependent on the world economy.
  • The fourth wheel of this new growth engine will be Lockdown Model 4 that is to be announced in a few days.

 Commitment of political leadership: key to spending and investment

  • Increased public spending will certainly boost demand and generate employment in the short term and add to infrastructure capacity in the medium term.
  • Policy reform, including changes in land, labour and other policies, could yield results in the medium term.
  • But for now, investors will wait and watch to test the sincerity and efficiency of governments at the Centre and in the states.
  • They will wait to see how the various policy steps being announced by the FM get implemented — how quickly and how efficiently.
  • The government can meet with success if investors, consumers and other economic agents believe in the commitment of the political leadership and the capability of the administration to deliver.

Focus on the self-reliance

  • PM has said that his version of self-reliance does not imply isolationism and inward-orientation.
  • His version of self-reliance will inject greater self-confidence in the people by reducing the country’s dependence on other nations.
  • Theotonio Dos Santos, defined dependence as a situation in which a country’s economy is “conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy”. 
  • He said that to be self-reliant the growth process of an economy “should not become dominated or dependent on another economy”.

So, on which economies is India excessively dependent?

  • 1. The oil-exporting economies.
  • Oil and gas account for a bulk of India’s imports.
  • Whatever new sources of energy India may tap in the foreseeable future, it will remain import-dependent for energy.
  • Fortunately, for India, the global crude oil and gas markets are likely to remain buyers’ markets for some time to come.
  • 2. Dependence on foreign exchange.
  • Second is the dependence on foreign exchange inflows both in the form of remittances, mainly from the Gulf and the US, and financial flows into capital markets.
  • It is not clear how the new Modi strategy of self-reliance proposes to deal with this dependence.
  • If anything, India is seeking more FDI and external debt.
  • 3. Defence equipment.
  • The third dependence is on imported defence equipment, mainly from Russia, the US, Israel and France.
  • 4. Electronic and pharmaceuticals.
  • Fourth, import dependence in electronic goods and pharmaceuticals, mainly from China.
  • Thus far, government policy does not address these dependencies.
  • The immediate focus of PM’s self-reliance seems to be China.

How to turn import dependence into import power?

  • Post-Deng Xiaoping China established long ago that for a large economy, it is possible to be both self-reliant and globalised at the same time.
  • Trade in itself does not create dependence if a country is able to grow both exports and imports.
  • China has demonstrated the geo-economic power of both exports and imports by making trade partners dependent on it on both counts.
  • When China refuses to buy wine and beef from Australia, it is using its import power, not demonstrating its import dependence.
  • If an economy is willing to live without those imports or can substitute them with domestic production, then it is not badly hurt.

So, what are the lessons for India?

  • It is export dependence that can make even a large economy vulnerable.
  • It is China’s dependence on US markets that President Donald Trump has aimed to reduce by waging a trade war.
  • India has never had such export dependence on any one country.
  • Indian government’s hope that multinational companies exiting China will relocate to India can only make India more export-dependent since these MNCs aim to sell globally.
  • Making India less dependent on China cannot be the only measure of self-reliance.

Consider the question “For India, it is not trading dependence that makes India vulnerable but the inadequacy of its human capital. Comment”

Conclusion

For India to be truly self-reliant and self-confident, public investment in education, human capability and research and development has to increase.

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Changing labour laws not a solution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 3- Changes in labour laws and growth in the economy.

Recently several State governments made changes in their labour laws and removed or expanded limits on working hours and changed several other provisions. The article argues that the move may not be as beneficial as it is thought to be. So, how come the changes turned out to be detrimental to the interests of the workers? and what are the other issues involved? Read to know more…

What changed laws mean?

  •  Uttar Pradesh introduced an ordinance that has scrapped most labour law for three years.
  • This was done ostensibly for two reasons- 1) creating jobs and 2)for attracting factories exiting China.
  • These laws deal with -the occupational safety, health and working conditions of workers, regulation of hours of work, wages and settlement of industrial disputes.
  • They apply mostly to the economy’s organised (formal) sector, that is, registered factories and companies, and large establishments in general.
  • Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have quickly followed suit.
  • Reportedly, Punjab has already allowed 12-hour shifts per day.

Why it is not a good move?

  •  Significantly, migrant labour will be critical to restoring production once the lockdown is lifted.
  • In fact, factories and shops are already staring at worker shortages.
  • Instead of encouraging workers to stay back or return to cities by ensuring livelihood support and safety nets, State governments have sought to strip workers of their fundamental rights.
  • The abrogation of labour laws raises many constitutional and political questions.
  • Scrapping labour laws to save on labour costs will not help start the economy but will do exactly the opposite.
  • It will reduce wages, lower earnings (particularly of low wage workers) and reduce consumer demand.
  • Further, it will lead to an increase of low paid work that offers no security of tenure or income stability.
  • It will increase informal employment in the formal sector instead of encouraging the growth of formal work.

Demand is a reason for the slowdown

  •  There are no inherent shortages at the moment as the inflation rate remains moderate.
  • Before the lockdown, the annual GDP growth rate had plummeted to 4.7% during October-December quarter of 2019-20, from 8.3% in the full year of 2016-17.
  • The slowdown is due to lack of demand, not of supply, as widely suggested.
  • With massive job and income losses after the lockdown, aggregate demand has totally slumped, with practically no growth.
  • Therefore, the way to restart the economy is to provide income support and restore jobs.
  • This will not only address the humanitarian crisis but also help revive consumer demand by augmenting incomes.

2 concerns over the rationale of scrapping laws

  • The rationale for scrapping labour laws to attract investment and boost manufacturing growth poses two additional questions.
  • One, if the laws were in fact so strongly pro-worker, they would have raised wages and reduced business profitability.
  • But the real wage growth (net of inflation) of directly employed workers in the factory sector has been flat (2000-01 to 2015-16).
  • This is because firms have increasingly resorted to casualisation and informalisation of the workforce to suppress workers’ bargaining power.
  • Two, it is not right to blame the disappointing industrial performance mainly on labour market regulations.
  • Industrial performance is not just a function of the labour laws.
  • The industrial performance also depend on the size of the market, fixed investment growth, credit availability, infrastructure, and government policies.
  • In fact, there is little evidence to suggest that amendment of key labour laws by Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh in 2014 took them any closer to their goal of creating more jobs or industrial growth.
  • The role of labour market regulations may be more modest than the strong views expressed against them in the popular debates.

Time to rationalise the labour laws

  • India’s complex web of labour laws, with around 47 central laws and 200 State laws, need rationalisation.
  • However, now more than ever before, reforms need to maintain a delicate balance between the need for firms to adapt to ever-changing market conditions and workers’ employment security.
  • Depriving workers of fundamental rights such as freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, and a set of primary working conditions such as adequate living wages, limits on hours of work and safe and healthy workplaces, will create a fertile ground for the exploitation of the working class.
  • Presently, over 90% of India’s workforce is in informal jobs.
  • These informal jobs have no regulations for decent conditions of work, no provision for social security and no protection against any contingencies and arbitrary actions of employers.

Consider the question “There is a rising demand for reforms in the labours laws in India. Examine the issues with the current labour laws in India. Suggest the areas which require improvements “

Conclusion

The changes made by the State governments should not end up doing more harm than good. To ensure that there must be a careful calibration of the move and its consequences.

Coronavirus – Economic Issues

A plan to revive the broken economy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : MGNREGA

Mains level : Paper 3- Employment issues caused due to economic disruption of the pandemic.

The article suggests ways to revive the economy while keeping in mind the livelihood issues of the vulnerable section of society. Urgent concern should be addressed by the food and cash transfer, after that for livelihood in the rural area MGNREGA can be of great help. In the urban area, a  scheme based on the lines of MGNREGA is suggested. In the end, some ways to increase revenue are suggested.

Food and cash transfers

  • Providing every household with ₹7,000 per month for a period of three months and every individual with 10 kg of free foodgrains per month for a period of six months is likely to cost around 3% of our GDP (assuming 20% voluntary dropout).
  • This could be financed immediately through larger borrowing by the Centre from the Reserve Bank of India.
  • The Centre should also clear outstanding Goods and Services Tax compensation.
  • Food and cash transfer are doable for the following reasons.
  • First, foodgrains are plentiful, as the Food Corporation of India had 77 million tonnes, and rabi procurement could add 40 million tonnes.
  • Second, because of the lockdown restrictions multiplier effect would be less. (so, fewer concerns about inflation)
  • Third, cash transfers in many spheres will only enable current demand to continue (such as payment of house rent to continue occupancy) and not create any fresh demand.
  • Fourth, when greater normalcy finally allows demand held back during lockdown to the surface, output could also expand because of resumed economic activity.
  • Finally, putting money in the hands of the poor is the best stimulus to an economic revival, as it creates effective demand and in local markets.
  • Hence, an immediate programme of food and cash transfers must command the highest priority.

Need for changes in MGNREGA

  • Millions of migrant workers have gone back home, and are unlikely to return to towns in the foreseeable future.
  • Employment has to be provided to them where they are, for which the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) must be expanded greatly and revamped with wage arrears paid immediately.
  • The 100-day limit per household has to go.
  • Work has to be provided on demand without any limit to all adults.
  • And permissible work must include not just agricultural and construction work, but work in rural enterprises and in care activities too.
  • The revamped MGNREGS could cover wage bills of rural enterprises started by panchayats, along with those of existing rural enterprises, until they can stand on their own feet.
  • This can be an alternative strategy of development, recalling the successful experience of China’s Township and Village Enterprises (TVEs).
  • Public banks could provide credit to such panchayat-owned enterprises and also assume a nurturing role vis-à-vis them.
  • Pandemic highlighted unsustainability of the earlier globalisation.
  • Which means that growth in India in the coming days will have to be sustained by the home market.
  • Since the most important determinant of growth of the home market is agricultural growth, this must be urgently boosted.
  • The MGNREGS can be used for this, paying wages for land development and farm work for small and medium farmers.
  • Also the government support through remunerative procurement prices, subsidised institutional credit, other input subsidies, and redistribution of unused land with plantations is possible.
  • Agricultural growth in turn can promote rural enterprises, both by creating a demand for their products and by providing inputs for them to process.
  • Both these activities would generate substantial rural employment.

Focus on urban area

  • In urban areas, it is absolutely essential to revive the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
  • Simultaneously, the vast numbers of workers who have stayed on in towns have to be provided with employment and income after our proposed cash transfers run out.
  • The best way to overcome both problems would be to introduce an Urban Employment Guarantee Programme, to serve diverse groups of the urban unemployed, including the educated unemployed.
  • Urban local bodies must take charge of this programme and would need to be revamped for this purpose.
  • “Permissible” work under this programme should include, for the present, work in the MSMEs.
  • This would ensure labour supply for the MSMEs and also cover their wage bills at the central government’s expense until they re-acquire robustness.
  • It should imaginatively also include care work, including of old, disabled and ailing persons, educational activities, and ensuring public services in slums.

The CARE economy: Public health, education, employment

  • The pandemic has underscored the extreme importance of a public health-care system, and the folly of privatisation of essential services.
  • The post-pandemic period must see significant increases in public expenditure on education and health, especially primary and secondary health including for the urban and rural poor.
  • The “care economy” provides immense scope for increasing employment.
  • Vacancies in public employment, especially in such activities, must be immediately filled.
  • Anganwadi and Accredited Social Health Activists/workers who provide essential services to the population, including during this pandemic, are paid a pittance and treated with extreme unfairness.
  • We must improve their status, treat them as regular government employees and give them proper remuneration and associated benefits, and greatly expand their coverage in settlements of the urban poor.
  • These could easily come within the total package announced by the Prime Minister, which could be financed by printing money.
  • But in the medium term, public revenues must be increased.
  • This is not because there is a shortage of real resources which, therefore, has to be taken from other existing uses through taxation.
  • Rather, since much-unutilised capacity exists in the economy, the shortage is not of real resources; the government has to just get command over them.

Suggestions to increase public revenue

  • A combination of wealth and inheritance taxation and getting multinational companies to pay the same effective rate as local companies through a system of unitary taxation will garner substantial public revenue.
  • They will also reduce wealth and income inequalities which have become horrendous.
  • A 2% wealth tax on the top 1% of the population, together with a 33% inheritance tax on the wealth they bequeath every year to their progeny, could finance an increase in government expenditure to the tune of 10% of GDP.
  • It would be argued that this might cause large financial outflows, which the country can ill-afford.
  • Contrarily, even foreign capital is more likely to be attracted to a growing economy than one in sharp decline because of a lack of stimulus.
  • Also, a fresh issue of special drawing rights by the International Monetary Fund which India has surprisingly opposed along with the United States would provide additional external resources.
  • These additional resources, would suffice to finance the institution of five universal, justiciable, fundamental economic rights:1) the right to food, 2)the right to employment, 3)the right to free public health care, 4)the right to free public education and 5)the right to a living old-age pension and disability benefits.

Consider the question, “The economic disruption caused by the pandemic threatens the progress made on the front of inclusive growth. Suggest the measures to ensure the livelihood of the economically vulnerable section of the society in the aftermath of the pandemic in rural and urban areas.”

Conclusion

The broken economy must be rebuilt in ways to ensure a life of dignity to the most disadvantaged citizen. The ways suggested here shows how to achieve that.

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

Credit guarantees to MSMEs: What are they and how will they help?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Credit Guarantee Scheme

Mains level : Reviving MSME Sector of India

Finance Minister has announced some details of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan economic package. The main thrust of the announcements was a relief to Medium, Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs) in the form of a massive increase in credit guarantees to them.

Practice questions:

Q. Discuss the efficacy of various tranches of credit facilities to MSMSEs provided under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

Q. Discuss how the nationwide lockdown to control the coronavirus outbreak has led to the resurfacing of inherent bottlenecks in India’s MSME Sector.

What is the package about?

  • Instead of directly infusing money into the economy or giving it directly to MSMEs in terms of a bailout package, the government has resorted to taking over the credit risk of MSMEs.
  • These credit guarantees should help the formal banking system meet the credit demand of the MSME sector (see Chart 2).

What is the credit guarantee scheme for MSMEs?

  • Loans to MSMEs are mostly given against property (as collateral) because often there isn’t a robust cash flow analysis available.
  • But in times of crisis, like the one currently playing out, property prices fall and this inhibits the ability of MSMEs to seek loans. It also means that banks are less willing to extend loans.
  • A credit guarantee by the government helps as it assures the bank that its loan will be repaid by the government in case the MSME falters.

How does it work?

  • For instance, if the government provides say a 100% credit guarantee up to an amount of Rs 1 crore to a firm, it means that a bank can lend Rs 1 crore to that firm; in case the firm fails to pay back, the government will make good all of Rs 1 crore.
  • If this guarantee was for the first 20% of the loan, then the government would guarantee to pay back only Rs 20 lakh.

Why need credit guarantees?

  • Even before the Covid-19 crisis, Indian government finances were in poor health. This pandemic has meant that government revenues will come under further pressure.
  • For instance, experts are already talking about a GDP contraction of 5% to 10% in the current financial year. It will result in a revenue loss of anywhere between Rs 5 to 7 lakh crore.
  • And yet, this is also the year when employees and firms want the government to help them out financially.
  • Banks, quite justifiably, suspect that any new loans will only add to their growing mountain of non-performing assets (NPAs).
  • So the government was facing an odd problem: Banks had the money but were not willing to lend to the credit-starved sections of the economy, while the government itself did not have enough money to directly help the economy.

  • The solution — credit guarantees — finally chosen by the government is not a new one, because this fiscal conundrum is not a new one either (Chart 3).

Quantum of credit guarantee facilitated by FM

  • There are three proposals but the main one is for standard MSMEs — that is, those MSMEs which were running fine until the COVID-19-induced lockdown disrupted their work.
  • For these, the government has provided a credit guarantee of Rs 3 lakh crore.
  • This is like an emergency credit line, said the Finance Minister, and it is for MSMEs that have an already outstanding loan of Rs 25 crore or those with a turnover less than Rs 100 crore.
  • The loans will have a tenure of 4 years and they will have a moratorium of 12 months (that is, the payback starts only after 12 months).

Why Rs 3 lakh crore?

  • The total outstanding loan to MSMEs by the banking and NBFC sector is around Rs 16 to 18 lakh crore.
  • Assuming that 80% of these loans are working capital loans where there would be a 20% incremental funding needs, that gives an amount of approximately Rs 3 lakh crore.
  • So the government is hoping that this credit guarantee will help those MSMEs take out another loan and recover.
  • The hope is that since these MSMEs were able to pay back before the crisis, there is no reason why they cannot after the crisis, provided they are given some extra money to survive this period.

What were the other measures?

  • There is a subordinate debt scheme, worth Rs 20,000 crore, which will allow loans to MSMEs that were already categorised as “stressed”, or struggling to pay back.
  • In this case, the government’s guarantee is not full, but partial.
  • The third measure is the creation of a fund with a corpus of Rs 50,000 crore to infuse equity into “viable” MSMEs, thus helping them to expand and grow.
  • The government intends to put in Rs 10,000 crore and get others, possibly institutions like LIC and SBI, to fund the remaining amount.
  • Then there is a change in the definition of an MSME that was pending for long. Now MSMEs are judged on turnover and there will be no difference between a manufacturing MSME and services MSME.

How far will these measures help?

  • The Rs 3 lakh crore credit guarantees are the most substantive announcement as it will most likely have a significant impact.
  • It will help MSMEs pay salaries and keep their heads above the water even as the economy slows down.
  • This measure is expected to help as many as 45 lakh MSMEs.

Communicable and Non-communicable diseases – HIV, Malaria, Cancer, Mental Health, etc.

What is Palliative Care?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Palliative Care

Mains level : Psychosocial impacts of the covid-19 pandemic

The newscard talks about palliative healthcare which may help when the world is reeling under this most unexpected and unprecedented pandemic, COVID-19.

Palliative Care is a promising approach to counter the psychosocial impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. We can use this as an example to quantify the measures required to improve mental healthcare infrastructure in India.

Social sufferings caused by the pandemic

  • COVID-19, because of its unique nature and magnitude has brought in its wake, not only physical illness but more of emotional and social suffering.
  • These include- fear, anxiety, uncertainty, loss of loved ones and social distress such as losing jobs and income, inability to move freely to work and other places, frustrations, staying long hours at home and other hardships, all leading to psychological disturbances for many.

What is Palliative Care?

  • The literal meaning of the word ‘palliate’ is ‘to alleviate pain — physical and emotional’, meaning, relief of suffering. ‘Suffering’ literally means ‘the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship’.
  • It is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with a life-threatening illness.
  • It involves prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.
  • It is part and parcel of treatment for any patient for any disease at any stage, for any age. It is simply a ‘whole person’ approach to improving health in any patient.

A promising remedy

  • ‘Palliative Medicine’ is a medical speciality, which involves the treatment of pain, breathing difficulty and other distressing physical symptoms caused by chronic and life-limiting diseases.
  • It also addresses the psychological issues of both patient and family, with the sole aim of improving the quality of life. It is most beneficial when started early in the disease trajectory.
  • It is also a form of supportive care, giving that extra layer of support a patient needs, to alleviate suffering, alongside disease treatment even in acute illness.
  • In the present scenario, in addition to what physicians are toiling with to cure patients, and the government and health care policies and strategies, palliative care can play a supportive role.

Supportive role

  • Distressing physical symptoms like pain, breathing difficulty, restlessness (delirium) and others can be well relieved or palliated with medicines in consultation with the specialists.
  • Similarly, skilled counselling is an integral part of the palliative approach.
  • It helps address the psychological, social and spiritual issues, which both patient and family are experiencing in the present scenario.
  • There is a way of responding to their fears, anxieties and to questions. They rarely need antidepressants when we acknowledge their emotions as normal.

Conclusion

  • Active listening is by far the most important part of counselling.
  • This care can be availed of from psychologists, specialists in palliative medicine, as well as those from medical organisations who have the expertise and willingness to render their services.
  • Hence, Palliative care is the reinstatement of the humane aspects of medical care and is complementary to all medical specialities, a common thread running through the total care of all patients.

Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

Global Nutrition Report, 2020

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Global Nutrition Report, 2020

Mains level : State of Mother-Child health in India

The Global Nutrition Report 2020 has stated that India is among 88 countries that are likely to miss global nutrition targets by 2025.

UPSC may puzzle you by asking a prelim question like-

With reference to the Global Nutrition Report, which of the following is/are a Global Nutrition Targets?

Visit this link for more graphics related to India: https://globalnutritionreport.org/resources/nutrition-profiles/asia/southern-asia/india/

About the Global Nutrition Report

  • The GNR is a report card on the world’s nutrition—globally, regionally, and country by country—and on efforts to improve it.
  • It is an independently produced annual stock-take of the state of the world’s nutrition. It is a multi-stakeholder initiative, consisting of a Stakeholder Group, Independent Expert Group and Report Secretariat.
  • It was conceived following the first Nutrition for Growth Initiative Summit (N4G) in 2013 and was first published in 2014.
  • The report tracks global nutrition targets on maternal, infant and young child nutrition and on diet-related Non-Communicable Diseases adopted by member states of the WHO as well as governments’ delivery against their commitments.

India would miss the targets

  • According to the Global Nutrition Report 2020, India will miss targets for all four nutritional indicators for which there is data available, i.e.

1) Stunting among under-5 children,

2) Anaemia among women of reproductive age,

3) Childhood overweight and

4) Exclusive breastfeeding

What are Global nutrition targets?

  • In 2012, the World Health Assembly identified six nutrition targets for maternal, infant and young child nutrition to be met by 2025. They are:

1) Reducing stunting by 40% in children under 5 years age

2) Reducing anaemia by 50% among women in the age group of 19-49 years

3) Ensuring a 30% reduction in low-birth-weight

4) Ensuring no increase in childhood overweight,

5) Increasing the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months up to at least 50% and

6) Reducing and maintaining childhood wasting to less than 5%.

Data on Underweight children

  • Between 2000 and 2016, rates of underweight have decreased from 66.0% to 58.1% for boys and 54.2% to 50.1% in girls.
  • However, this is still high compared to the average of 35.6% for boys and 31.8% for girls in Asia.
  • In addition, 37.9% of children fewer than 5 years are stunted and 20.8% are wasted, compared to the Asia average of 22.7% and 9.4% respectively.
  • One in two women of reproductive age is anaemic, while at the same time the rate of overweight and obesity continues to rise, affecting almost a fifth of the adults, at 21.6% of women and 17.8% of men.

Data about India

  • Stunting and wasting among children

    • Data: 37.9% of children under 5 years are stunted and 20.8% are wasted, compared to the Asia average of 22.7% and 9.4% respectively. 
  •  Inequity:
      • India is identified as among the three worst countries, along with Nigeria and Indonesia, for steep within-country disparities in stunting, where the levels varied four-fold across communities.
      • For example, Stunting level in Uttar Pradesh is over 40% and their rate among individuals in the lowest income group is more than double those in the highest income group at 22.0% and 50.7%, respectively.
      • In addition, stunting prevalence is 10.1% higher in rural areas compared to urban areas.
  • Overweight and Obesity
    • Data: Rate of overweight and obesity continues to rise, affecting almost a fifth of the adults, at 21.6% of women and 17.8% of men.
    • Inequity: There are nearly double as many obese adult females than there are males (5.1% compared to 2.7%).
  • Anaemia
    • One in two women of reproductive age is anaemic.

Inequities in Malnutrition

  • The report emphasises on the link between malnutrition and different forms of inequity, such as those based on geographic location, age, gender, ethnicity, education and wealth malnutrition in all its forms.
  • Inequity is a cause of malnutrition — both under-nutrition and overweight, obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases.
  • Inequities in food and health systems exacerbate inequalities in nutrition outcomes that in turn can lead to more inequity, perpetuating a vicious cycle, says the report.

Seeds, Pesticides and Mechanization – HYV, Indian Seed Congress, etc.

What is ‘Direct Seeding of Rice’ (DSR)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Paddy cultivation in India

Farmers are now being encouraged to adopt ‘direct seeding of rice’ (DSR) in place of conventional transplanting due to lack of labourers, who are stranded due to lockdown.

Recall the classification of cropping seasons on India based on onset and retreat of Monsoon.

The kharif crops include rice, maize, sorghum, pearl millet/bajra, finger millet/ragi (cereals), arhar (pulses), soyabean, groundnut (oilseeds), cotton etc. The rabi crops include wheat, barley, oats (cereals), chickpea/gram (pulses), linseed, mustard (oilseeds) etc.  Kindly make a note of this.

What is ‘Direct Seeding of Rice’ (DSR)?

  • In transplanting, farmers prepare nurseries where the paddy seeds are first sown and raised into young plants.
  • These seedlings are then uprooted and replanted 25-35 days later in the main field.
  • Paddy seedlings are transplanted on fields that are “puddled” or tilled in standing water using tractor-drawn disc harrows.
  • In DSR, there is no nursery preparation or transplantation. The seeds are instead directly drilled into the field by a tractor-powered machine.

How is the question of herbicides addressed in DSR?

  • Paddy being very much water-intensive is compromised by weeds that compete for nutrition, sunlight and water.
  • Water prevents the growth of weeds by denying them oxygen in the submerged stage, whereas the soft ‘aerenchyma tissues’ in paddy plants allow air to penetrate through their roots.
  • Water, thus, acts as a herbicide for paddy. The threat from weeds recedes once tillering is over; so does the need to flood the fields.
  • In DSR, water is replaced by real chemical herbicides. Farmers have to only level their land and give one pre-sowing irrigation or rauni.
  • Once the field has good soil moisture, they need to do two rounds of ploughing and planking (smoothening of soil surface), which is followed by the sowing of the seeds and spraying of herbicides.

What are these herbicides?

  • There are two kinds. The first is called pre-emergent, i.e. applied before germination. In this case, the pre-emergent herbicide used is Pendimethalin.
  • The second set of herbicides is post-emergent, sprayed 20-25 days after sowing, depending upon the type of weeds appearing.
  • They include Bispyribac-sodium (Rs 600-700 at 100 ml/acre) and Fenoxaprop-p-ethyl (Rs 700-800 at 400 ml/acre).

What is the main advantage of DSR?

  • The most obvious one is water savings. The first irrigation (apart from the pre-sowing rauni) under DSR is necessary only 21 days after sowing.
  • This is unlike in transplanted paddy, where watering has to be done practically daily to ensure submerged/flooded conditions in the first three weeks.
  • The second savings, relevant in the present context, is that of labour. About three labourers are required to transplant one acre of paddy at almost Rs 2,400 per acre.
  • As against this, the cost of herbicides under DSR will not exceed Rs 2,000 per acre.

Limitations of DSR

  • The main issue is the availability of herbicides.
  • The seed requirement for DSR is also higher, at 8-10 kg/acre, compared to 4-5 kg in transplanting.
  • Further, laser land levelling, which costs Rs 1,000/acre, is compulsory in DSR. This is not so in transplanting.
  • The yields are as good as from normal transplanting, but one need to sow by the first fortnight of June. The plants have to come out properly before the monsoon rains arrive.
  • There is no such problem in transplanting, where the saplings have already been raised in the nursery.

Indian Army Updates

What are Integrated Battle Groups (IBG)?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Integrated Battle Groups (IBG)

Mains level : Need for IBG

The Army’s new concept of agile Integrated Battle Groups (IBG) as part of the overall force transformation will be operationalised very soon, confirmed Army Chief.

Practice question for mains:

The deployment of Integrated Battle Groups (IBG) is necessary for counter-insurgency operations across the terror hit borders of India. Discuss.

What are IBGs?

  • IBGs are brigade-sized, agile, self-sufficient combat formations, which can swiftly launch strikes against an adversary in case of hostilities.
  • Each IBG would be tailor-made based on Threat, Terrain and Task and resources will be allotted based on the three Ts.
  • They need to be light so they will be low on logistics and they will be able to mobilise within 12-48 hrs based on the location.
  • An IBG operating in a desert needs to be constituted differently from an IBG operating in the mountains.
  • The key corps of the Army is likely to be reorganized into 1-3 IBGs.

Objective of IBG

  • Holistic integration to enhance the operational and functional efficiency, optimize budget expenditure, facilitate force modernization and address aspirations

Structure

  • While a command is the largest static formation of the Army spread across defined geography, a corps is the largest mobile formation.
  • Typically each corps has about three brigades.
  • The idea is to reorganise them into IBGs which are brigade-sized units but have all the essential elements like infantry, armoured, artillery and air defence embedded together based on the three Ts.
  • The IBGs will also be defensive and offensive. While the offensive IBGs would quickly mobilise and make a thrust into enemy territory for strikes, defensive IBGs would hold ground at vulnerable points or where enemy action is expected.

Why need IBGs?

  • After the terrorist attack on the Parliament, the Indian military undertook massive mobilization but the Army’s formations which deep inside took weeks to mobilise losing the element of surprise.
  • Following this, the Army formulated a proactive doctrine known as ‘Cold Start’ to launch swift offensive but its existence was consistently denied in the past.
  • Its existence was acknowledged for the first time by Gen Rawat in January 2017.