Forest Fires

Uttarakhand Forest Fires

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Forest Fires as per FSI report

Mains level: NA

Why in the News?

Last week, three instances of forest fire were reported from the major forest belts in Uttarakhand.

  • The severity of the situation has prompted the deployment of Indian Air Force personnel and Mi-17 choppers, engaged in the critical operation of dousing the flames using the Bambi Bucket Method.

Causes of Wildfire:

  • Firstly, the general major causes of forest fires in Uttarakhand are continued dry weather and lack of moisture in the forests.
  • Secondly, according to the Forest Research Institute (FRI, 2019), 95% of forest fires are attributed to human activities.
  • The common human-induced causes includeGrazers setting fire to dry grass, Slash-and-burn agriculture, Unattended campfires, and Intentional arson.

Uttarakhand’s Forest Vulnerability:

  • As per the latest report from the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the Recorded Forest Area (RFA) in the State is 38,000 sq km of which 26,547 sq km is Reserved Forest, 9,885 sq km is Protected Forest, and 1,568 sq km is Unclassed Forests.
  • Highly flammable Chir Pine trees, covering extensive areas, increase the fire risk.
  • This risk is compounded by prolonged dry spells and excess biomass accumulation.
  • Additionally, the proximity of villages facilitates anthropogenic activities such as forest clearance and grazing.

Forest Fires in India: Recent Statistics

  • Odisha recorded 4,237 forest fires as compared to 1,499 between April 20 and 27 in 2023. Similarly, Chhattisgarh recorded 757 fires last year as compared to 2,116 this year, Jharkhand 633 as against 1,926 and Andhra Pradesh 527 as compared to 1,126 in 2023.
  • However, Uttarakhand has recorded the highest number of large forest fires in the country in the last seven days since April 28, according to the Forest Survey of India (FSI) data.

 

Mitigation Strategies

  1. Localized Initiatives: 
  • Effective measures to mitigate forest fire risks include controlled burning, biomass removal, prescribed burns, and enhanced surveillance using drones.
  • Community engagement and proactive involvement, as demonstrated in Kerala, provide valuable insights for forest fire management.
  1. Government Initiatives:
  • The government has introduced measures such as a satellite-based fire alert system by the Forest Survey of India, aiding in early detection and response efforts.
  • Forest staff utilize various techniques, including counter-fires and fire beaters, to contain and manage forest fires effectively.

Wildfires Mitigating Strategies:

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) outlines four strategies to prevent and manage forest fires:
  1. Erecting watch towers for early detection,
  2. Deploying fire watchers,
  3. Engaging local communities, and
  4. Establishing and maintaining fire lines.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) website distinguishes between two types of fire lines:

  1. Kachha fire lines involve clearing undergrowth and shrubs while preserving trees to decrease the amount of available fuel.
  2. Pucca fire lines are clear-cut areas that create a barrier between forest compartments or blocks to contain potential fire spread.

 

PYQ:

[2020] Examine the status of forest resources of India and its resultant impact on climate change.

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RBI Notifications

Towards a Green Growth: On the RBI and a Green Taxonomy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Monetary Policy

Mains level: The impact of climate shock and extreme weather events

Why in the news?

Extreme weather conditions may pose a risk to inflation, along with prolonged geopolitical tensions that could keep crude oil prices volatile, the Reserve Bank’s April Bulletin said on April 23.

RBI’s Monetary Policy Report on the impact of climate shock and extreme weather events on food inflation:

  • Effects of Food Inflation: The report highlights the significance of extreme weather events and climate shocks in affecting not only food inflation but also the broader impact on the natural Rate of Interest and Financial Stability.
  • Broader Economic Impact: Climate shocks and extreme weather events are mentioned to have a broader impact on the economy’s financial stability, indicating that disruptions in food production and supply chains due to these events can lead to inflationary pressures beyond just the food sector.
  • Use of Economic Modeling: The report mentions the utilization of a New-Keynesian model incorporating a physical climate risk damage function to estimate the macroeconomic impact of climate change. This likely includes projections on how climate shocks affect food production and subsequently food inflation.
  • Warning on Long-Term Output Reduction: The report warns that without climate mitigation policies, the long-term economic output could be lower by around 9% by 2050. This suggests that climate shocks and extreme weather events could have lasting effects on food production and inflation.
  • Potential for Inflation Hysteresis: There’s a warning about the potential for inflation hysteresis to become entrenched, which could lead to a de-anchoring of inflation expectations. This implies that persistent disruptions caused by climate shocks could lead to sustained increases in food inflation.

Way Forward:

  • Need Investment in Climate Resilience: Governments and businesses can invest in climate-resilient agriculture practices and infrastructure to mitigate the adverse effects of extreme weather events on food production.
  • Need Diversification of Food Sources: Diversifying food sources can help reduce reliance on regions prone to climate-related disruptions. This could involve promoting local food production, supporting small-scale farmers, and investing in alternative food production methods such as vertical farming or hydroponics.

Mains PYQ 

Q What policy instruments were deployed to contain the great economic depression?

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Animal Husbandry, Dairy & Fisheries Sector – Pashudhan Sanjivani, E- Pashudhan Haat, etc

FAO publishes first national report on AMR Surveillance in India’s fisheries, livestock sectors

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Antimicrobial resistance

Mains level: Read the attached story

In the news

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) jointly published the surveillance data of the Indian Network for Fishery and Animal Antimicrobial Resistance (INFAAR) for 2019-22.
  • This report marks the first comprehensive analysis of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) trends in India’s fisheries and livestock sectors.

About INFAAR

  • Network Formation: INFAAR, established under ICAR, comprises 20 laboratories, including 17 ICAR Research Institute Laboratories, one Central Agriculture University Laboratory, one State Agriculture University Laboratory, and one State Veterinary University.
  • Collaborative Support: Technical assistance from FAO and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) enhances INFAAR’s capabilities for data collection and analysis.
  • Expansion Goals: INFAAR aims for further expansion to encompass more laboratories and enhance surveillance coverage.

Antibiotic Use and AMR Trends

  • Impact of Antibiotics: Antibiotic usage in food animal production contributes to AMR development, necessitating surveillance to inform policy decisions.
  • Production Systems: Three key aquaculture systems—freshwater, brackish-water, and marine—were surveyed, covering diverse environments.
  • Panel of Antibiotics: Antibiotics tested included amikacin, ampicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, aztreonam, cefotaxime, cefepime, cefoxitin, ceftazidime, chloramphenicol, co-trimoxazole, enrofloxacin, gentamicin, imipenem, meropenem, and tetracycline.

Surveillance Methodology

  • Sample Collection: Samples collected from 3,087 farms spanning 42 districts in 12 states of India, including fish or shrimp tissues and pond or seawater samples.
  • Bacterial Isolates: A total of 6,789 bacterial isolates were analyzed, including 4,523 freshwater, 1,809 shrimp, and 457 mariculture isolates.
  • Resistance Profiles: Resistance profiles were analyzed for Staphylococcus aureus, coagulase-negative Staphylococcus species (CONS), Escherichia coli, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, Vibrio sp., and Aeromonas species.

Key Findings:

(1) Resistance Patterns in Fisheries Sector

  • Species Specific Resistance: Isolates of Staphylococcus aureus and coagulase-negative Staphylococcus species exhibited high resistance against penicillin across all systems.
  • Variation across Environments: Freshwater fish showed notable resistance to ciprofloxacin, while marine samples demonstrated higher resistance to cefotaxime.
  • Shrimp Aquaculture: Notable resistance against ampicillin and cefotaxime was observed in shrimp samples, indicating a concerning trend.

(2) Resistance Patterns in Livestock Sector

  • Animal Origins: E. coli and Staphylococcus isolates from cattle, buffalo, goat, sheep, pig, and poultry were characterized for AMR profiles.
  • Poultry Resistance: Poultry-origin isolates exhibited higher resistance rates across various antibiotics compared to other food animals.

(3) Multidrug Resistance Analysis

  • Emergence of MDR: Approximately 39% of aquaculture-origin E. coli isolates and 15.8% of poultry isolates exhibited multidrug resistance (MDR).
  • ESBL and AmpC Producers: Detection of extended spectrum β-lactamase (ESBL) and AmpC type β-lactamase producers underscores the complexity of AMR challenges.

Key Recommendations by the Study

  • Baseline Data: The report provides foundational data for understanding AMR trends and evaluating intervention effectiveness.
  • Judicious Use: High resistance to critical antibiotics underscores the importance of prudent antibiotic use in food animal production.
  • Policy Implications: The findings will inform policy and decision-making for AMR containment in India’s fisheries and livestock sectors.

Conclusion

  • The INFAAR surveillance report sheds light on the evolving landscape of antimicrobial resistance in India’s fisheries and livestock sectors.
  • By highlighting resistance patterns and advocating for responsible antibiotic usage, this initiative paves the way for effective AMR containment strategies and sustainable agricultural practices.

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Air Pollution

Meghalaya’s Byrnihat Most Polluted ‘City’ in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: CREA

Mains level: Air pollution woes

meghalaya

In the news

  • The Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA) recently released data shedding light on air pollution levels across urban centers in India during February 2024.
  • Surprisingly, Meghalaya’s Byrnihat emerged as the most polluted ‘city’ in the nation, sparking concerns about air quality in the otherwise cleaner Northeast region.

About Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA)

  • CREA is a non-profit think tank researching energy and air pollution based in Helsinki (Finland).
  • It was established in 2019 with the goal of tracking the impacts of air pollution by providing data-backed research products.

Key Insights

(1) Alarming Pollution Levels in NE

  • Pollution Pinnacle: Byrnihat, an industrial town near the Assam border, recorded the highest levels of PM2.5 pollution in India, with a monthly average concentration of 183 µg/m3.
  • Byrnihat vs. National Averages: Byrnihat’s PM2.5 levels were significantly higher than those in Bihar’s Araria, the second-most polluted city, highlighting the severity of pollution in the former.
  • Northeastern Representation: Other northeastern cities such as Nalbari, Agartala, Guwahati, and Nagaon also featured among the 30 most polluted cities in India, indicating a broader regional trend of worsening pollution levels.

(2) Cleanest Cities and Regional Disparities

  • Positive Performers: Sivasagar, Silchar, Aizawl, and Imphal emerged as the cleanest cities in the region, with PM2.5 concentrations below the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS).
  • National Rankings: Sivasagar secured the second position nationally, underscoring its exemplary air quality standards.

(3) Silver Lining: Improvements and Opportunities

  • Positive Trends: February witnessed a notable improvement in air quality, with 36 cities classified under the ‘good’ category, reflecting positive strides in pollution mitigation efforts.
  • Opportunities for Progress: The data signals opportunities for collaborative action and policy interventions to address environmental challenges and safeguard public health.

Implications and Recommendations

  • Monitoring Imperative: The data underscores the urgent need to enhance air quality monitoring infrastructure in the northeastern states to effectively track pollution levels.
  • Environmental Concerns: Unregulated industrial operations, inadequate public transportation, rampant construction, and other factors contribute to the deteriorating air quality in the region, necessitating stringent regulatory measures.

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

India ranks 113 out of 190 countries in Women, Business and Law Index by World Bank

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Women, Business and Law Index

Mains level: NA

In the news

  • India’s ranking in the World Bank’s Women, Business and Law index saw a significant improvement, climbing to 113 out of 190 countries in the latest edition of the report.
  • It is intriguing to know that none of the countries globally achieved a full score in the new index, indicating pervasive gender disparities in legal rights worldwide.

About Women, Business and Law Index

  • The Women, Business and Law Index is a World Bank initiative aimed at measuring how laws and regulations impact women’s economic opportunity.
  •  The index provides objective and measurable benchmarks for evaluating global progress towards legal gender equality.
  •  Range from 0 to 100, where 100 denotes equal legal rights for men and women.
  •  The report assesses eight critical areas: mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pension.
  • The 2024 edition marks the 10th iteration of the report.

India’s Performance

  • Legal Rights Gap: Indian women now enjoy 60% of the legal rights granted to men, slightly below the global average of 64.2%.
  • Regional Comparison: India outperformed its South Asian counterparts, where women typically have access to only 45.9% of the legal protections compared to men.
  • Supportive Frameworks: India’s performance in establishing supportive frameworks fell short, with only 54.2% of the necessary frameworks in place.
  • Policy Efforts: India aims to increase female labour force participation, which stood at 37% in 2022-23, significantly lower than many advanced economies.
  • OECD Comparison: The female labour force participation rate in OECD countries exceeded 50% in 2022, highlighting the gap India seeks to bridge.

Try this PYQ from CSE Prelims 2015:

‘Global Financial Stability Report’ is released by which organisation?

(a) Organization for Economic Cooperation and development (OECD)

(b) World Economic Forum

(c) World Bank

(d) World trade Organization (WTO)

 

Post your answers here.

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Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

Ex-SC Judge Justice A M Khanwilkar appointed Lokpal Chairperson

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Lokpal: Powers, Functions, Exceptions

Mains level: NA

In the news

  • Former Supreme Court judge Justice Ajay Manikrao Khanwilkar has been appointed as the chairperson of Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman of India.
  • Justice Khanwilkar retired from the Supreme Court in July 2022, bringing a wealth of judicial experience to his new role.

About Lokpal

  • Establishment: Lokpal is a statutory body established under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013.
  • Mandate: It is tasked with investigating allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and related matters.
  • Organisational Structure:
  1. The Lokpal comprises a chairperson and a maximum of 8 members.
  2. The chairperson must be a former Chief Justice of India, a former Supreme Court judge, or an eminent person meeting eligibility criteria.
  3. Half of the members must be judicial members, either former Supreme Court judges or former Chief Justices of High Courts.
  4. At least 50% members must be from SC / ST / OBC / Minorities and women.
  5. Members serve a term of 5 years or until they turn 70, whichever is earlier.
  • Perks and Benefits: The salary, allowances, and other conditions of service for the chairperson are equivalent to those of the CJI, while members receive benefits similar to Supreme Court judges.

Appointment Process:

  • The President of India appoints the chairperson and members based on the recommendation of a selection committee.
  • The selection committee includes the PM as Chairperson, the Speaker of Lok Sabha, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India or a nominated judge, and one eminent jurist.

Jurisdiction:

  • Lokpal has jurisdiction to investigate allegations of corruption against Prime Ministers, Union Ministers, Members of Parliament, and officials of the Union Government.
  • It extends to individuals associated with government-funded entities and those receiving substantial foreign contributions.

Exceptions for Prime Minister:

  • Lokpal cannot probe allegations against the PM related to certain sensitive areas like international relations, security, public order, atomic energy, and space without the approval of at least 2/3rds of its members.
  • A full Lokpal bench must consider initiating inquiries into complaints against the PM.

Powers of Lokpal:

  • Lokpal exercises superintendence over and provides directions to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in corruption cases.
  • It can authorize the CBI for search and seizure operations linked to such cases.
  • The Lokpal’s Inquiry Wing possesses powers akin to a civil court.
  • It can recommend the transfer or suspension of public servants implicated in corruption allegations.
  • Lokpal is empowered to prevent the destruction of records during preliminary inquiries and confiscate assets obtained through corruption.

Reporting and Accountability

  • Annually, Lokpal submits a report on its activities to the President, which is then presented to both Houses of Parliament for scrutiny.

Try this PYQ from CS Mains 2013

Q.‘A national Lokpal, however strong it may be, cannot resolve the problems of immorality in public affairs’. Discuss.

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Electoral Reforms In India

Criminals of Politics: Analysis of Rajya Sabha Candidates by ADR

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Criminality of Politicians, Vote Bank Dynamics

In the news

  • The Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and the National Election Watch has found that 36% of the newly elected Rajya Sabha candidates have declared criminal cases against themselves.

Context:

  • Increase in Serious Crimes: 17% of total candidates face serious criminal charges, including with cases related to attempted murder, underscoring the gravity of the situation.
  • Biased Representation: Approximately 21% of the candidates are billionaires, with assets exceeding Rs 100 crore, reflecting the significant wealth amassed by certain individuals in the political arena.
  • Prevailing disparities: The majority (76%) of candidates belong to the 51-70 age group, with only 19% being women, reflecting gender disparities in political representation.

Why does Criminality persist in Indian politics?

  • Political Patronage: Criminals seek political backing to sustain their illicit activities, while politicians rely on criminals for funding, muscle power, and electoral support.
  • Protracted Legal Processes: Lengthy court proceedings, averaging around 15 years, coupled with declining conviction rates, allow criminals to evade justice and continue their political careers.
  • Legal Ambiguity: Pending cases become a shield for tainted candidates, who exploit the “law will take its own course” narrative to deflect scrutiny.
  • Electoral Advantage: Candidates with criminal records may have higher chances of winning elections, incentivizing parties to field them despite ethical concerns.
  • Limited Scrutiny: Despite legal mandates for candidates to disclose criminal cases, voters often lack the awareness or resources to scrutinize this information effectively.
  • Vote Bank Dynamics: Parties exploit caste, religious, or regional loyalties, prioritizing short-term gains over candidate integrity.

Impacts of Criminality in Indian politics:

  • Corrosive Effects: The fusion of crime and politics has corrosive effects on the governance. The nexus between crime and politics can exacerbate corruption and weaken governance structures. When politicians with criminal backgrounds hold office, there is a higher likelihood of corruption, misuse of power, and a lack of transparency in decision-making processes, all of which can have detrimental effects on the economy.
  • Undermining Democracy: Allowing criminals in politics undermines the development of a healthy democracy that India’s freedom fighters fought for. The impact extends to the provision of public goods. Research findings suggest that the effects are concentrated in less developed and more corrupt Indian states, indicating that the presence of criminal politicians hinders the effective delivery of public goods and services to constituents.
  • Economic Growth: While criminal candidates may win elections in the short term, their presence can hinder the long-term development of a robust democracy. The election of criminally accused politicians leads to lower economic growth in their constituencies. Studies show a 22% point lower yearly growth in the intensity of night-time lights, which serves as a proxy for economic activity, following the election of such politicians.

Measures Taken to Address Criminalization in Politics

[A] Legislative Interventions

  • Representation of the People Act, 1951: Sections 8(1), 8(2), and 8(3) establish grounds for disqualification of individuals convicted of certain offenses, barring them from contesting elections.
  • Conduct of Election Rules, 1961: Mandates candidates to file affidavits disclosing pending criminal cases and convictions, enhancing transparency in electoral processes.
  • Chapter IX A of Indian Penal Code: Defines and penalizes electoral offenses such as bribery and undue influence, deterring criminal activities in elections.

[B] Establishment of Special Courts

  • Judicial Mechanisms: Special courts dedicated to expediting criminal cases against legislators and parliamentarians help ensure timely justice and accountability.
  • Tackling Impunity: Targeted prosecution of political figures accused of criminal activities reduces impunity and strengthens the rule of law.

[C] Vohra Committee Report (1993)

  • Comprehensive Analysis: The Vohra Committee investigated the political-criminal nexus, highlighting its extent and proposing strategies to combat this menace.
  • Policy Recommendations: Recommendations from the report informed policy decisions aimed at disrupting criminal networks operating within political structures.

[D] Election Commission Initiatives

  • Affidavit Reforms: Election Commission directives mandate candidates to declare criminal records, financial assets, and educational qualifications, empowering voters with crucial information.
  • Moral Code of Conduct: Effective enforcement of ethical standards during elections minimizes the influence of criminal elements and promotes fair electoral practices.

Major Judicial Interventions

Background Key Outcome Significance
Union of India vs. Association for Democratic Reforms (2002) Challenged lack of transparency in electoral processes regarding candidates’ records. Supreme Court mandated Election Commission to compel candidates to disclose criminal, financial, and educational details. Empowered voters with vital information for informed choices, fostering accountability in elections.
Ramesh Dalal vs. Union of India (2005) Imposed disqualification criteria for convicted candidates. Supreme Court ruled sitting MPs/MLAs would be disqualified if convicted and sentenced to imprisonment for two years or more. Established stringent disqualification criteria to deter candidates with criminal backgrounds, enhancing integrity of elected representatives.
Lily Thomas vs. Union of India (2013) Addressed interpretation of Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951. Supreme Court declared Section 8(4) unconstitutional, disqualifying legislators convicted and sentenced to two years or more. Closed loopholes allowing convicted legislators to retain seats, reinforcing accountability and integrity in the political system.
People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union of India (2013) Addressed voters’ rights to reject candidates with criminal backgrounds through NOTA. Supreme Court ruled voters could reject all candidates using NOTA in electronic voting machines (EVMs). Introduced NOTA as a voting option, empowering voters to express dissatisfaction with criminalized politics, and promoting cleaner elections.

Way Forward

  • Decriminalization Legislation: Enact laws to prevent individuals facing serious criminal charges from contesting elections, ensuring that those with criminal backgrounds are barred from political office.
  • State Funding of Elections: Introduce state funding of elections to reduce the influence of money and muscle power, thereby minimizing the role of criminals in financing political campaigns.
  • Enhanced Voter Awareness: Educate voters about the detrimental effects of criminalization in politics and provide easily accessible information about candidates’ backgrounds to enable informed decision-making.
  • Empowering Election Commission: Grant Election Commission broader regulatory powers to enforce inner-party democracy, regulate party finances, and curb the influence of criminals in political parties.
  • Continued Judicial Oversight: Uphold the judiciary’s role in safeguarding electoral integrity by delivering landmark judgments that reinforce accountability, transparency, and ethical conduct among elected representatives.
  • Strict Enforcement of Disqualification Criteria: Ensure strict implementation of disqualification criteria for convicted politicians, irrespective of their appeals or legal maneuvers.

Try this question from CS Mains 2017:

Q. Young people with ethical conduct are not willing to come forward to join active politics. Suggest steps to motivate them to come forward. (150 Words, 10)

 

Post your responses here.

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Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

Key Insights: All India Household Consumption Expenditure Survey

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: All India Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (CES)

Mains level: Read the attached story

Why in the News?

  • Recently, the government has disclosed the broad findings of the All India Household Consumption Expenditure Survey conducted between August 2022 and July 2023.

About All India Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (CES):

  • The CES is a quinquennial (recurring every five years) survey conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO).
  • It is designed to collect information on the consumption spending patterns of households across the country, both urban and rural.
  • The data gathered in this exercise reveals the average expenditure on goods (food and non-food) and services.
  • It helps generate estimates of household Monthly Per Capita Consumer Expenditure (MPCE) as well as the distribution of households and persons over the MPCE classes.

Key Findings of the recent Survey:

  • Rise in Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure:
    • Urban: Witnessed a 33.5% increase to ₹3,510.
    • Rural: Marked a 40.42% surge to ₹2,008 since 2011-12.
  • Shift in Spending Pattern:
    • Food Expenditure: Decreased from 52.9% to 46.4% in rural households and from 42.6% to 39.2% in urban households since 2011-12.
    • Implications: Potential impact on retail inflation calculations due to reduced weightage of food prices.
  • Inclusion of Social Welfare Benefits:
    • Separate calculation for items received through schemes like PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana.
    • Items Included: Computers, mobile phones, bicycles, and clothing.
  • Adjusted Monthly Per Capita Expenditure:
    • Rural: ₹2,054;
    • Urban: ₹3,544 (excluding free education and healthcare sops).
  • Socio-Economic Disparities:
    • Bottom 5%: Rural – ₹1,373; Urban – ₹2,001.
    • Top 5%: Rural – ₹10,501; Urban – ₹20,824.
  • State-wise analysis:
    • Sikkim: Highest MPCE – Rural: ₹7,731; Urban: ₹12,105.
    • Chhattisgarh: Lowest MPCE – Rural: ₹2,466; Urban: ₹4,483.

Major Shifts Includes:

  • Broad-based Growth:
    • Rural-Urban Dynamics: B.V.R. Subrahmanyam, CEO of Niti Aayog, highlights that India’s growth story is “broad-based,” with rural incomes and expenditures outpacing those in urban areas.
    • Narrowing Divide: The urban-rural consumption gap has decreased from 91% in 2004-05 to 71% in 2022-23, indicating diminishing inequality.
  • Shifts in Consumption Patterns:
    • Food Expenditure: Rural households’ spending on food has fallen below 50% of their total expenditure for the first time. Lower spending on staples like pulses and cereals is accompanied by increased expenditure on consumer durables and services.
    • Income Growth: Rising expenditures on items such as TVs, fridges, and mobile phones suggest improved incomes and evolving lifestyles.
  • Changing Poverty Metrics:
    • Poverty Estimates: Based on MPCE averages, poverty levels are projected to be below 5%, according to Mr. Subrahmanyam. Informal estimates indicate a decline in poverty, with destitution nearly eradicated due to various welfare schemes.
    • Inclusive Growth: Government initiatives such as Ayushman Bharat and free education have contributed to lifting millions out of poverty, reflecting a multi-dimensional approach to poverty alleviation.

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

Some Basic Facts about Indian Farmers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Economics behind Indian Agriculture

Introduction

  • Amidst the ongoing farmer protests, the demand for a legal assurance backing Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) has taken center stage, sparking debates and polarizing opinions.
  • Delving into the intricacies of MSPs is crucial to grasp the gravity of this contentious issue.

Deciphering MSPs: A Primer

  • Fundamental Concept: MSPs, or Minimum Support Prices, signify the price floor set by the government for various crops, serving as a safety net to safeguard farmers’ incomes.
  • Ramifications: The significance of MSPs transcends mere agricultural economics, influencing farmers’ livelihoods, consumer prices, and even governmental budgetary allocations.

Backdrop of Farmer Protests

  • Escalating Tensions: The introduction and subsequent repeal of three farm laws by the current Union government in 2020 have catalysed widespread farmer protests, drawing attention to the MSP debate.
  • Polarized Discourse: The discourse surrounding farmer protests has veered into a realm of political polarization, overshadowing the substantive issues at hand.

Key Insights into India’s Agricultural Landscape

[1] Shift in Economic Dynamics

  • Historical Perspective: Post-Independence, agriculture commanded a significant share of India’s workforce and economic output, with around 70% of the workforce engaged in the sector.
  • Contemporary Scenario: Despite a decline in agriculture’s contribution to GDP, the proportion of the agricultural workforce remains relatively high, signaling a skewed economic paradigm. In 2011, approximately 6% of the workforce was engaged in agriculture.

[2] Transition in Farming Patterns

  • Rising Labour Dependency: The shift from cultivators to agricultural laborers underscores the evolving nature of farming practices, reflecting growing challenges in sustaining agricultural livelihoods. In 1951, 72% of all farm workers were cultivators, whereas by 2011, this proportion decreased to 45%.
  • Small Holdings and Indebtedness: Small and marginal landholdings coupled with high levels of indebtedness paint a grim picture of the financial vulnerability faced by Indian farmers. According to a 2019 survey, around 70% of all agricultural households have a land holding size of less than 1 hectare, and almost 50% are indebted.

[3] Income Disparities and Debt Burdens

  • Regional Disparities: Regional variations in farm incomes and indebtedness highlight the multifaceted nature of agrarian distress. In 2019, the average monthly income per household was Rs 10,218, while 50% of all farm households were indebted.
  • Terms of Trade Dynamics: Fluctuating terms of trade between farmers and non-farmers further exacerbate farmers’ financial woes, reflecting structural imbalances in the agricultural sector. The Terms of Trade (ToT) between farmers and non-farmers have remained stagnant or negative since 2010-11.

[4] Global Perspectives on Agricultural Support

  • Comparative Analysis: India’s standing in terms of producer protection and agricultural support reveals stark disparities, challenging misconceptions about excessive financial assistance to Indian farmers.
  • India is Lagging: India ranks last among the countries compared by the OECD on producer protection and lags in terms of the “total support estimate” (TSE) relative to other countries and regions.

Navigating the Complexities

  • Beyond MSPs: While MSPs occupy a prominent position in the discourse, addressing India’s agricultural woes requires a holistic approach encompassing structural reforms, income augmentation, and infrastructural development.
  • Long-standing Challenges: Structural deficiencies within the agricultural sector necessitate comprehensive interventions, transcending short-term fixes and political rhetoric.

Conclusion

  • As India grapples with the intricacies of farmer protests and MSP demands, a nuanced understanding of agricultural dynamics is imperative to devise sustainable solutions.
  • Addressing the root causes of agrarian distress demands concerted efforts aimed at bolstering farmers’ resilience, fostering equitable economic growth, and ushering in transformative reforms to ensure the viability of India’s agricultural ecosystem.

Try this question from CS Mains (2018)

What do you mean by Minimum Support Price (MSP)? How will MSP rescue the farmers from the low-income trap? [150 Words, 10 Marks]

Post your answers here.

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

Gender Disparities: Big Blindspot in India’s Health Policy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Gender Gaps in Healthcare

Introduction

  • Despite comprising nearly half of India’s health workforce, women face significant barriers in reaching leadership positions within the healthcare sector, highlighting deep-rooted gender disparities in health policy and decision-making.

Understanding the Gender Gap

  • Data revelations: Official data reveals that while women make up almost 50% of health workers in India, only 18% occupy leadership roles across various health panels, committees, hospitals, and ministries.
  • Impact of Gender Disparity: The over-representation of men at the top of the health pyramid perpetuates inequalities in decision-making and policymaking, leading to skewed health systems that fail to address the diverse needs of the population.

Insights from Research

  • Diversity Gaps: Recent research highlights the prevalence of diversity gaps in India’s National Health Committees, with an “over-concentration” of men, doctors, individuals from urban areas, and bureaucrats. This centralization of power risks excluding diverse perspectives and experiences, hindering the development of inclusive health policies.
  • Impact on Policy Formulation: The lack of gender diversity in health committees affects policy outcomes, as decisions are often made from a narrow lens, overlooking the nuanced needs of marginalized groups. For instance, the absence of women in decision-making bodies may lead to inadequate consideration of gender-specific health issues such as access to nutritious food for women.

Challenges Faced by Women

  • Professional Barriers: Women encounter various obstacles in advancing their careers in the health sector, including limited opportunities for promotion, unequal pay, and cultural expectations regarding gender roles.
  • Underrepresentation in Leadership: Women are significantly underrepresented in medical leadership positions, both within health committees and healthcare institutions, further perpetuating gender disparities in decision-making and policy formulation.

Recommendations for Change

  • Policy Interventions: Affirmative policies, such as reserving seats for women and marginalized groups in health committees, can help address gender disparities and promote inclusive decision-making.
  • Structural Reforms: Structural changes within healthcare institutions, such as promoting flexible working arrangements and providing dedicated resources for women leaders, are essential to breaking down barriers to gender equality in leadership.
  • Community Engagement: Involving directly affected communities in policy-making processes can ensure that health policies are responsive to the needs and priorities of the population, fostering greater inclusivity and accountability.

Conclusion

  • Achieving gender equality in health leadership requires concerted efforts to address systemic barriers and promote inclusive decision-making.
  • By prioritizing diversity and inclusivity in health policy, India can build more responsive and equitable health systems that serve the needs of all its citizens.

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

Issues in Self-Reporting of Mental Illness

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Mental Healthcare in India

Introduction

  • Recent studies, including one by researchers from IIT Jodhpur, indicate alarmingly low rates of self-reporting for mental health problems in India.

Mental Health Under-Reporting in India

  • NSS 2017-2018 Findings: The NSS data, based on self-reporting by over 550000 individuals, revealed mental illness self-reporting rates of less than 1%.
  • Scale of Mental Illness: The 2017 NMHS conducted by NIMHANS estimated around 150 million individuals requiring treatment for mental illness in India.
  • WHO Estimates: India bears a heavy burden with 2443 DALYs per 10,000 population and an age-adjusted suicide rate of 21.1 per 100,000.
  • Suicide Trends: India’s contribution to global suicide deaths surged to 36% in 2016, with a concerning rise reported in 2021, especially among youth and middle-aged adults.
  • National Mental Health Survey: Alarming rates of depression among teenagers and Substance Use Disorders (SUDs) prevalence of 22.4% among adults highlight the gravity of the situation.

Key Challenges

  • Stigma and Awareness: Social stigma and poor awareness impede access to mental healthcare, leading to delayed treatment-seeking and social isolation.
  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses: The IIT Jodhpur study highlighted significant out-of-pocket expenses, particularly in the private sector, for mental health services.
  • Vulnerability Factors: Individuals with lower income and education levels are more vulnerable to mental disorders, exacerbating their socioeconomic challenges.
  • Socioeconomic Divide: Individuals with higher incomes were more likely to report health problems, indicating a socioeconomic disparity.
  • Budget and Infrastructure: Inadequate budget allocation, lack of insurance coverage, and insufficient infrastructure pose hurdles to mental healthcare delivery.
  • Shortage of Professionals: India grapples with a severe shortage of mental health professionals, with only 3 psychiatrists per million people.

Government Initiatives

  • Mental Healthcare Act, 2016: Aims to safeguard the rights of individuals with mental illnesses, enhance access to mental healthcare, and decriminalize suicide attempts.
  • National Mental Health Policy, 2014: Prioritizes universal access to mental healthcare and endeavors to mitigate risk factors linked to mental health issues.

Way Forward

  • Combat Stigma: Launch nationwide campaigns to shift societal attitudes towards mental illness.
  • Enhance Awareness: Integrate mental health education into curricula and disseminate resources in local languages.
  • Improve Coordination: Strengthen collaboration between central and state governments for effective policy implementation.
  • Innovative Solutions: Explore tele-mental health services, bolster support for NGOs, and foster community engagement to address resource shortages.
  • Multisectoral Approach: Embrace a life-course perspective on mental health promotion and enforce legal frameworks.
  • Enhance Mental Health Ecosystem: Define quality metrics, recognize mental health advocates, and ensure affordability and accessibility of care.
  • Embrace Traditional Healing: Explore complementary medicines like Yoga and Ayurveda for mental health treatment.

Conclusion

  • By prioritizing mental healthcare and fostering collaboration across sectors, India can build a resilient mental health ecosystem that promotes well-being and supports individuals in need.
  • Embracing traditional healing practices alongside modern interventions can offer holistic solutions, paving the way for a mentally healthier nation.

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Government Budgets

White Paper on Economy: A Political Instrument

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Key essence of the White Paper, Broader relfection at micro-economic level

white paper

Introduction

  • The recent presentation of a “white paper” on the Indian economy by Finance Minister in Parliament has sparked debates regarding the country’s economic performance over the past two decades.
  • This document, prepared by the Ministry of Finance, offers a comparative analysis of the economic governance under the Congress-led UPA governments and the BJP-led NDA governments.

Objectives of the White Paper

The white paper on the Indian economy outlines four key objectives:

[A] Informing Governance Challenges

  • It aims to elucidate the economic and fiscal crises inherited by the NDA government from the preceding UPA administration.
  • For instance, data reveals that the fiscal deficit during the UPA era surged from 2.5% in 2004-05 to 6.5% in 2013-14.

[B] Highlighting Policy Interventions

  • It seeks to elucidate the policies and measures implemented by the NDA government to address economic challenges and restore fiscal health.
  • Notably, the white paper cites the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) as significant reforms contributing to economic stability.

[C] Fostering Informed Debate

  • By presenting a comprehensive analysis, the white paper aims to stimulate a wider and more informed discussion on matters of national interest and fiscal responsibility.
  • For instance, it provides detailed insights into the impact of corruption scandals during the UPA regime on economic governance and public trust.

[D] Emphasizing National Development

  • It echoes PM Narendra Modi’s call to commit to national development, urging a renewed focus on growth, innovation, and inclusive development.
  • The document emphasizes the importance of fiscal prudence and efficient governance in achieving sustainable economic growth.

Contents and Claims

[A] Pre-2014 Economic Condition

  • Fragile Economy: Upon taking office in 2014, the government encountered a fragile economic situation marked by mismanagement, financial indiscipline, and widespread corruption. The economy was in crisis, necessitating substantial reforms and governance overhaul to restore its fundamentals to sound health.
  • Twin Balance Sheet Problem: The economy faced significant challenges, including a ‘twin balance sheet problem’, which hindered the capacity of companies and the banking sector to invest, extend credit, and generate employment.
  • High Inflation and Fiscal Deficits: The period witnessed double-digit inflation, with fiscal and revenue deficits spiralling out of control, exacerbating the economic woes of ordinary and poorer households.
  • Policy Paralysis and Infrastructure Neglect: A lack of decisive policy-making and investment in infrastructure further dented India’s business climate and global image.
  • Scams and Corruption: Numerous scams brought colossal revenue losses to the exchequer, with mismanagement leading to a loss of investor confidence and a slowdown in economic growth.

[B] Post-2014 Economic Reforms and Achievements

  • Economic Stability and Growth: The government implemented various reforms aimed at stabilizing the economy and promoting growth. This includes transitioning from a ‘twin balance sheet problem’ to a ‘twin balance sheet advantage’, significantly reducing inflation, and building record foreign exchange reserves.
  • Infrastructure and Digital Revolution: There was a focused effort on infrastructure development and digitalization, leading to the world’s fastest rollout of 5G in 2023 and extensive 4G coverage.
  • Transparent Governance: Measures were taken to ensure transparent and objective auctions for natural resources, establishing systems that boost the economy and public finances.
  • Global Recognition and Investment Climate: The reformative measures and stable policy environment have restored confidence among investors, both domestic and foreign. India’s transition from being among the ‘fragile five’ to among the ‘top five’ global economies underscores its significant contribution to global growth.

Major Interventions: NDA’s Gamechanger

[A] Transformative Governance Reforms

  • Digital Revolution: Spearheading a digital revolution to streamline governance processes, ensuring transparency, and enabling ease of access to government services.
  • Participatory Governance: Engaging citizens directly in the policymaking process and implementation of policies to foster a more inclusive governance model.

[B] Social Welfare Schemes

  • Jan Dhan Yojana: A financial inclusion initiative that aims to provide affordable access to financial services such as bank accounts, credit, insurance, and pensions.
  • Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: A nationwide campaign to clean up the streets, roads, and infrastructure of India’s cities, towns, and rural areas.
  • Ujjwala Scheme: A scheme to distribute LPG connections to women from Below Poverty Line (BPL) households to reduce health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuels.
  • Digital India: A campaign launched to ensure government services are made available to citizens electronically by improving online infrastructure and by increasing Internet connectivity.
  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY): Aimed at providing affordable housing to the urban poor by the year 2022.
  • Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY): An insurance service for farmers for their yields. It aims to reduce the premium burden on farmers and ensure early settlement of crop assurance claim.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana: A project to provide LPG connections to women from BPL households to encourage the use of clean fuel.
  • Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY): The world’s largest health insurance/assurance scheme fully financed by the government, providing a health cover of ₹5 lakhs per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
  • Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN): Providing income support to all landholding farmers’ families in the country to supplement their financial needs.
  • National Education Policy (NEP) 2020: Aims to make “India a global knowledge superpower”. The NEP 2020 emphasizes making education more holistic, flexible, multidisciplinary, aligned to the needs of the 21st century and aims for a significant overhaul of the existing education system.
  • Mudra Yojana: A scheme to provide easy access to credit for MSMEs and entrepreneurs.

Critical Analysis

While the white paper offers valuable insights into India’s economic trajectory, some critics point out its limitations and omissions:

[A] Selective Emphasis:

  • The document primarily focuses on successes under the NDA regime, overlooking persistent challenges such as unemployment and poverty.
  • Data from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) reveals that unemployment rates remained elevated during the NDA era, averaging around 6% compared to 3.8% during the UPA period.

[B] Lack of Comprehensive Analysis:

  • Critics argue that a holistic assessment of the economy requires a nuanced understanding of diverse factors, including social indicators and long-term structural reforms.
  • For instance, the white paper does not adequately address the challenges of agrarian distress and rural unemployment, which continue to affect large segments of the population.

[C] Omissions:

  • Key issues such as unemployment and poverty alleviation are conspicuously absent from the analysis, raising questions about the document’s comprehensiveness.
  • Moreover, the white paper does not provide a detailed assessment of the impact of recent policy initiatives such as demonetization and the implementation of the GST on economic growth and employment generation.

Conclusion

  • The presentation of the white paper on the Indian economy underscores the government’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
  • However, its selective focus and limited scope warrant cautious interpretation.
  • Moving forward, a more inclusive and evidence-based approach to economic analysis is essential to inform policy decisions and foster sustainable development in India.

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Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

Tax-to-GDP ratio to hit all-time high of 11.7% of GDP in FY25

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Tax-to-GDP Ratio

Mains level: NA

tax

Introduction

  • India’s tax landscape is anticipated to witness significant growth in the coming fiscal year, with the tax-to-GDP ratio expected to reach a historic high of 11.7%.
  • Revenue Secretary Sanjay Malhotra highlights the role of direct taxes in driving this uptick and emphasizes the government’s commitment to streamlining the tax regime for enhanced efficiency and reduced disputes.

Why ‘Tax-to-GDP’ Ratio matters?

  • The tax-to-GDP ratio measures a nation’s tax revenue relative to the size of its economy.
  • This ratio is used with other metrics to determine how well a nation’s government directs its economic resources via taxation.
  • Developed nations typically have higher tax-to-GDP ratios than developing nations.
  • Higher tax revenues mean a country can spend more on improving infrastructure, health, and education—keys to the long-term prospects for a country’s economy and people.
  • According to the World Bank, tax revenues above 15% of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) are a key ingredient for economic growth and poverty reduction.

Forecasted Rise in Tax-to-GDP Ratio

  • Expected Surge: India’s tax-to-GDP ratio is projected to hit 11.7% in 2024-25, showcasing a steady increase from 11.6% in the preceding year and 11.2% in 2022-23.
  • Dominance of Direct Taxes: The surge in the tax ratio is primarily attributed to the growth of direct taxes, which are deemed more equitable.

What led to this growth?

[A] Direct Tax Collection

  • Optimistic Outlook: Revenue Secretary anticipates a rise in the adoption of the new tax regime, characterized by simplified tax structures and a higher tax-free income threshold.
  • Growth in Personal Income Tax: Personal income tax collections have witnessed a substantial 28% growth, with a projected moderation to 20%-22% by the fiscal year-end.

[B] Rationalizing GST Rates

  • Ongoing Review: A Group of Ministers (GoM) appointed by the GST Council is reviewing the rate structure, aiming to rationalize GST rates on various items.
  • Quarterly Meetings: The GST Council is expected to convene regularly to address rate rationalization, although no fixed date has been announced yet.

[C] Projected Revenue Growth

  • Modest Projections: Despite a buoyant revenue growth of 1.4% this year, projections for the following fiscal year aim for a 1.1% buoyancy, aligning with an anticipated nominal GDP growth of 10.5%.
  • Corporate Tax Dynamics: The deadline for availing the reduced corporate tax rate ends in March 2023, with a significant proportion of companies already benefitting from it.
  • Enforcement Measures: While the Department of Revenue focuses on tax administration, the Enforcement Directorate intervenes in cases related to money laundering, ensuring comprehensive enforcement mechanisms.

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Goods and Services Tax (GST)

GST Appellate Tribunals to be set around July or August

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: GST Appellate Tribunal

Mains level: Not Much

Introduction

  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Appellate Tribunals, eagerly anticipated to address taxpayer disputes within the six-and-a-half-year-old indirect tax regime, are set to commence operations around July or August.

What is GST Appellate Tribunal?

  • The GST Appellate Tribunal is a quasi-judicial body proposed to be established to resolve disputes related to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in India.
  • It will function as an independent body to hear appeals against orders passed by the GST authorities or the Appellate Authority.
  • The tribunal will be composed of a national bench and various regional benches, headed by a chairperson appointed by the central government.
  • The proposed tribunal is expected to help expedite the resolution of disputes related to GST and reduce the burden on the judiciary.

Under GST, if a person is not satisfied with the decision passed by any lower court, an appeal can be raised to a higher court, the hierarchy for the same is as follows (from low to high):

  1. Adjudicating Authority
  2. Appellate Authority
  3. Appellate Tribunal
  4. High Court
  5. Supreme Court

Need for such Tribunal

  • Unburden judiciary: GST Appellate Tribunal will help resolve the rising number of disputes under the 68-month-old indirect tax regime that are now clogging High Courts and other judicial fora.
  • Improve efficiency of GST System: Overall, the establishment of the GST Appellate Tribunal is expected to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the GST system in India.
  • Independent mechanism: The proposed Tribunal will provide an independent and efficient mechanism for resolving disputes related to GST.
  • Avoid tax evasion: It will help to expedite the resolution of disputes, reduce the burden on the judiciary, and promote greater certainty and predictability in the GST system.

Issues with present litigation

  • Compliance issues: The GST system is relatively new in India, having been implemented in 2017, and there have been several issues with compliance and interpretation of rules and regulations.
  • Complex adjudication hierarchy: The current dispute resolution mechanism involves multiple layers of adjudication, starting with the GST officer and as mentioned above.
  • Time-consuming process: This process can be time-consuming, costly, and burdensome for taxpayers, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.

Significance

  • The creation of these tribunals had been in the pipeline since the implementation of the GST regime on July 1, 2017.
  • The number of pending appeals by taxpayers related to central GST levies had surged to over 14,000 (June 2023).

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Poverty Eradication – Definition, Debates, etc.

Multidimensional Poverty in India: A Decade of Progress

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Multidimensional Poverty

Mains level: Read the attached story

Multidimensional Poverty

Introduction

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced in her Interim Budget speech that 25 crore Indians were lifted out of poverty over the past decade.
  • This remarkable achievement reflects the government’s commitment to inclusivity.

Data from NITI Aayog’s Discussion Paper

  • NITI Aayog’s Insight: The data comes from a discussion paper titled “Multidimensional Poverty in India Since 2005-06,” authored by Ramesh Chand and Yogesh Suri from NITI Aayog, with inputs from the UNDP and OPHI.
  • Decline in Multidimensional Poverty: The paper reveals that multidimensional poverty in India reduced from 29.17% in 2013-14 to 11.28% in 2022-23, with around 24.82 crore individuals escaping poverty during this period.
  • State-Level Impact: Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 5.94 crore individuals escaping poverty, followed by Bihar at 3.77 crore and Madhya Pradesh at 2.30 crore.

Understanding the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI)

  • A Novel Approach: MPI differs from traditional poverty measures, incorporating health, education, and living standards. These three dimensions each hold one-third weight in the index.
  • Indicators: MPI uses 10 indicators, including nutrition, child mortality, education, housing, and access to basic amenities, offering a comprehensive view of poverty.
  • India’s Unique MPI: India’s MPI includes additional indicators focusing on maternal health and access to bank accounts, aligning it with national priorities.

Calculating MPI

  • Identifying “MPI Poor”: If an individual is deprived in at least one-third of the 10 weighted indicators, they are considered “MPI poor.”
  • Three Key Calculations: MPI requires three calculations:
    1. Incidence of Multidimensional Poverty (H): The proportion of MPI poor individuals in the population.
    2. Intensity of Poverty (A): The average proportion of deprivation experienced by MPI poor individuals.
    3. MPI Value: Obtained by multiplying H and A, revealing the share of weighted deprivations faced by MPI poor individuals.

Data Sources and Estimations

  • Health Metrics: Data for health indicators relies on the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), conducted every five years. The last round covered the 2019-21 period.
  • Calculating MPI for 2012-13 and 2022-23: The paper used interpolation for 2013-14 estimates and extrapolation for 2022-23, enabling a comparison of poverty and deprivation trends.

Conclusion

  • The reduction in multidimensional poverty over the last decade signifies the government’s dedication to inclusive development, improving the lives of millions of Indians.

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Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

22nd Law Commission recommends retaining Criminal Defamation

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Criminal Defamation, Law Commission

Mains level: Read the attached story

defamation

Introduction

  • The 22nd Law Commission has recommended retaining criminal defamation as an offence in the new legal framework of Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita.
  • The Law Commission’s report highlights the importance of protecting an individual’s reputation, grounded in Article 21 of the Constitution, which safeguards the right to life and personal liberty.

Key Recommendations: Upholding Reputation

  • Invisible Asset: Reputation, a valuable asset, cannot be seen but is diligently built over a lifetime and can be tarnished in an instant.
  • Essence of Protection: The jurisprudence around criminal defamation laws is rooted in the essence of safeguarding one’s reputation.
  • Balancing Act: While acknowledging that criminal defamation might seem contradictory to freedom of speech and expression, the Law Commission suggests treading carefully.
  • Harmful Speech: The Commission advises that speech should only be deemed illegal when it intends substantial harm, and when such harm becomes a reality.

What is Criminal Defamation?

  • Defamation: Defamation entails the act of publishing damaging content that diminishes an individual’s or entity’s reputation, from the viewpoint of an ordinary person. In India, defamation is both a civil and criminal offense.
  • Sections 499 and 500: These sections in the Indian Penal Code address criminal defamation. Section 499 defines the offense, while Section 500 outlines the associated punishment.

Arguments in Favor of Retaining Criminal Defamation

  • Protection of Reputation: An individual’s reputation, an integral part of Article 21, is as vital as free speech.
  • Balancing Act: The right to free speech (Article 19(1)(a)) must be balanced against the right to reputation (Article 21).
  • Inadequate Compensation: Monetary compensation in civil defamation may not proportionately compensate for reputation harm.
  • Editorial Responsibility: Editors bear the responsibility for published content, with significant consequences for individuals and the nation.
  • Counteracting Online Defamation: In the absence of an effective internet censorship mechanism, criminalizing defamation is a necessary safeguard.
  • State’s Interest: Criminalizing defamation is part of the state’s compelling interest to protect citizens’ dignity and reputation.

Arguments against Retaining  

  • Chilling Effect: Criminal defamation may have a chilling effect on free speech, with a lower threshold for prosecution than civil damages.
  • Media Freedom: Freedom of speech and media expression is crucial for vibrant democracies, and the threat of prosecution can stifle truth.
  • Misinterpretation of Dissent: Dissent may be misconstrued as unpalatable criticism, leading to imprisonment under Sections 499 and 500 of IPC.
  • Collective Reputation: The right to reputation cannot extend to collectives like the government, which can rectify reputational damage.
  • Redundancy: Since civil defamation remedies exist, retaining criminal defamation may serve little purpose except coercion and harassment.
  • Global Trend: Many nations, including neighbouring Sri Lanka and the UK, have decriminalized defamation.
  • International Perspective: The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights urges states to abolish criminal defamation as it intimidates citizens and deters exposing wrongdoing.

Conclusion

  • Criminal defamation cases have been used to suppress investigative journalism, hindering democratic accountability.
  • Criminal defamation should not be misused by the state, especially as the Code of Criminal Procedure gives public servants an advantage.
  • Interim measures can ensure fair proceedings and prevent excessive penalties.

Back2Basics: Law Commission of India

Details
Establishment An executive body established by the Government of India, with the first commission established in 1955.
Tenure Each Law Commission serves a term of three years.
Function Acts as an advisory body to the Ministry of Law and Justice for legal reforms in India.
Recommendations The recommendations made by the Law Commission are not binding.
Historical Background The first Law Commission was established during the British Raj in 1834 by the Charter Act of 1833.
First Chairman The first Chairman of the Law Commission was Macaulay, who recommended the codification of laws.
Composition Typically consists of a full-time Chairperson, full-time Members, ex-officio Members, and part-time Members.
Terms of Reference Undertakes research and reviews of existing laws, recommends reforms, and studies justice delivery systems.
Major Reforms The Law Commission played a pivotal role in suggesting key enactments like the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code.
Role in Legal Reforms Serves as both an advisory and critical body, with its recommendations often influencing legal reforms in India.
Supreme Court References The Supreme Court has referred to the work of the Law Commission and followed its recommendations in various cases.
Promotion of Accountability Aims to promote an accountable and citizen-friendly government, transparency, and the right to information.

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Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

Key takeaways from All India Survey of Higher Education (AISHE), 2021-22

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: AISHE Survey

Mains level: Read the attached story

Introduction

  • The All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) captures student enrollment across eight levels, including undergraduate, postgraduate, PhD, MPhil, diploma, PG diploma, certificate, and integrated programs.
  • The survey received responses from 10,576 standalone institutions, 42,825 colleges, and 1,162 universities/university-level institutions.

About AISHE

  • AISHE is a report published by the Ministry of Education since 2011.
  • Aim: Portray the status of higher education in the country.
  • Survey covers all institutions in India providing higher education.
  • Data collected on parameters like teachers, student enrollment, programs, exam results, education finance, and infrastructure.
  • Indicators calculated: Institution Density, Gross Enrolment Ratio, Pupil-teacher ratio, Gender Parity Index, Per Student Expenditure.
  • Higher Education defined as education obtained after completing 12 years of schooling or equivalent.

Key Takeaways:

[1] Enrollment Trends: Female Dominance

  • Rising Female Enrollment: The AISHE report reveals a consistent increase in female enrollment in higher education institutions.
  • 2014-15 to 2021-22: Female enrollment grew by 32%, from 1.5 crore in 2014-15 to 2.07 crores in 2021-22. In the last five years, it increased by 18.7% from 1.74 crore in 2017-18.
  • PhD Enrollment Surge: The most significant growth was observed at the PhD level, with 98,636 women enrolled in 2021-22, compared to only 47,717 eight years ago.
  • Proportion of Women: Among the additional 91 lakh students joining higher education in 2021-22 compared to 2014-15, 55% were women. The postgraduate level saw the highest proportion of female students, with 55.4%.

[2] Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) and Gender Parity

  • GER Insights: The estimated GER for the age group 18-23 years in India is 28.4, based on 2011 census data.
  • State-wise GER: States with the highest GER include Chandigarh (64.8%), Puducherry (61.5%), Delhi (49%), and Tamil Nadu (47%).
  • Gender Parity Index (GPI): GPI measures the ratio of female GER to male GER. In 26 states and Union Territories, GER favors women. At the national level, the GPI is 1.01, and for SC and ST categories, it is 1.01 and 0.98, respectively.

[3] Academic Discipline Enrollment

  • UG Enrollment by Discipline: The Bachelor of Arts (BA) program holds the highest enrollment with 1.13 crore students, constituting 34.2% of total undergraduate enrollment. Overall, 3.41 crore students are enrolled in UG programs.
  • UG Discipline Preferences: UG enrollment distribution in 2021-22 is led by Arts (34.2%), followed by Science (14.8%), Commerce (13.3%), and Engineering & Technology (11.8%). BA(Hons) accounts for 6.2%.
  • PG Enrollment: Social science has the highest number of postgraduate students with 10.8 lakh. The Master of Arts (MA) program leads with 20.9 lakh students, constituting 40.7% of total postgraduate enrollment.
  • PhD Discipline: In the PhD category, social sciences rank third after engineering and science. While 52,748 students pursue a PhD in engineering and 45,324 in science, 26,057 opt for PhD in social sciences.

[4] Preference for Government Institutions

  • Government vs. Private: Surprisingly, 73.7% of all students attend government universities, which constitute only 58.6% of all universities.
  • Government Sector Enrollment: State public universities hold the largest share of enrolment, accounting for around 31% of total university enrolment.
  • Private Universities: In terms of numbers, government-owned universities enroll 71.06 lakh students, while privately managed universities enroll 25.32 lakh students. Students show a preference for government educational institutions.

[5] Demographics of Graduates

  • Graduation Statistics: In the 2021-22 academic year, an estimated 1.07 crore students graduated from various programs, with 50.8% being women.
  • Category-wise Graduates: Approximately 35% of graduates belong to Other Backward Classes (OBC), 13% are from Scheduled Caste (SC), and 5.7% are from Scheduled Tribe (ST) communities.
  • Stream-wise Graduation: Arts and social sciences streams exhibit higher graduation rates. At the undergraduate level, BA degrees top the list with 24.16 lakh graduates. MA degrees dominate at the postgraduate level with 7.02 lakh graduates. In PhD programs, science leads with 7,408 graduates, followed by engineering and technology with 6,270 graduates.

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Financial Inclusion in India and Its Challenges

Surge in Farm Loan Disbursals  

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Kisan Credit Card (KCC) Scheme

Mains level: Farm Loan

Introduction

  • In the first nine months of the current fiscal year, farm loan disbursals have exceeded 90 percent of the Budget estimate, prompting expectations of a significant hike in the Interim Budget for the next fiscal year (2024-25).
  • Finance Minister had set a target of ₹20 lakh crore for agriculture credit during the previous fiscal year (2023-24).

Budget Promises and Performance

  • Credit Target Increase: Finance Minister Sitharaman had announced an agriculture credit target of ₹20 lakh crore for FY 2023-24. The current disbursement data indicates that this target is likely to be exceeded.
  • Sectoral Focus: The Ministry reported that credit disbursed to the Animal Husbandry and Fisheries sector in FY 2023-24 reached ₹1,91,412 crore, constituting 65 percent of the ₹2.93 lakh crore target.
  • Working Capital and Term Loans: Disbursements included over ₹77,000 crore as working capital and over ₹1.13 lakh crore as term loans.

Kisan Credit Card (KCC) Scheme Impact

  • Significant Growth: Agricultural credit has witnessed substantial growth from ₹7.3 lakh crore in FY 2013-14 to ₹21.55 lakh crore in FY 2022-23, driven by the success of the KCC scheme.
  • Operative KCC Accounts: The KCC scheme, facilitating timely and hassle-free credit, boasts over 7.36 crore operative accounts as of the end of 2023.
  • Interest Subvention: Concessional interest rates, with a 7 percent lending rate and a 1.5 percent per annum interest subvention, were offered for short-term crop and allied activity loans up to ₹3 lakh through KCC.

About Kisan Credit Card (KCC) Scheme

Details
Objective To provide timely and flexible credit support to farmers for various agricultural and related needs.
Launch Introduced in 1998 to issue KCC to farmers, facilitating the purchase of agricultural inputs and cash withdrawals for production needs.
Credit Support
  • Short-term credit for crop cultivation.
  • Post-harvest expenses and produce marketing loans.
  • Household consumption needs.
  • Working capital for farm assets maintenance and allied activities.
  • Investment credit for agriculture and allied activities.
Implementing Agencies Commercial Banks, Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), Small Finance Banks, and Cooperatives.
Eligible Farmers
  • Individual and joint borrowers who are owner cultivators.
  • Tenant farmers, oral lessees, and sharecroppers.
  • Self Help Groups (SHGs) or Joint Liability Groups (JLGs) of farmers, including tenant farmers and sharecroppers.
Maximum Permissible Limit (MPL) The short-term loan limit for the 5th year, plus the estimated long-term loan requirement, determines the KCC limit.

Regulatory Framework and Initiatives

  • RBI Mandate: RBI mandates a priority sector lending target for banks, with a specific allocation of 18 percent for agriculture and a 10 percent sub-target for Small and Marginal Farmers (SMFs) for FY 2023-24.
  • Prompt Repayment Incentive (PRI): An additional 3 percent PRI is provided for prompt and timely repayment, effectively reducing the interest rate to 4 percent per annum.
  • Collateral-Free Agriculture Loans: RBI is set to raise the limit for collateral-free agriculture loans to ₹1.6 lakh from ₹1 lakh, aiming to enhance the coverage of small and marginal farmers.
  • Streamlined Lending Practices: Banks have streamlined lending by eliminating ‘no dues’ certificates for small loans up to ₹50,000 and accepting alternative documentation or affidavits for loans to specific categories of farmers.

Financial Inclusion and NABARD Initiatives

  • Joint Liability Groups (JLGs): NABARD’s creation of ‘Joint Liability Groups’ has facilitated lending without collateral to tenant/landless farmers and non-farm workers, fostering trust between banks and JLG members.
  • JLGs Performance: By March 31, 2023, a total of 257.9 lakh JLGs had been formed and linked to credit, contributing to the broader financial inclusion agenda.

Conclusion

  • The surge in farm loan disbursals indicates the success of various government initiatives, particularly the KCC scheme, in promoting financial inclusion and supporting the agricultural sector.
  • The likely increase in the agriculture credit target in the upcoming Interim Budget underscores the continued commitment to rural financing and development.

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Economic Indicators and Various Reports On It- GDP, FD, EODB, WIR etc

K-Shaped Recovery Debate: A Closer Look at the SBI Research

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: K-Shaped Recovery

Mains level: Read the attached story

K-Shaped Recovery

Introduction

  • The Economic Research Department of the State Bank of India (SBI) recently released a study titled “Debunking K-shaped recovery,” addressing the ongoing debate about the post-pandemic recovery in India and its alleged K-shaped nature.
  • This debate has significant implications for the country’s widening inequality.

What is K-Shaped Recovery?

  • A K-shaped recovery occurs when, following a recession, different parts of the economy recover at different rates, times, or magnitudes.
  • This is in contrast to an even, uniform recovery across sectors, industries, or groups of people.
  • A K-shaped recovery leads to changes in the structure of the economy or the broader society as economic outcomes and relations are fundamentally changed before and after the recession.
  • This type of recovery is called K-shaped because the path of different parts of the economy when charted together may diverge, resembling the two arms of the Roman letter “K.”

SBI Challenging Conventional Wisdom

  • Controversial Message: The report’s key message suggests a potential “conspiracy” against India’s growth, raising eyebrows about the credibility and intent of the economic evaluation.
  • Message Summary: It questions the validity of the K-shaped recovery concept, calling it “flawed” and driven by certain vested interests who are uncomfortable with India’s ascendancy on the global stage.

Re-evaluating Economic Well-Being

  • Parameters under Scrutiny: The report challenges traditional parameters used to assess economic well-being.
  • New Considerations: It highlights patterns in income, savings, consumption, expenditure, and policy measures designed to empower the masses through technology-driven solutions, questioning the reliance on outdated indicators like 2-wheeler sales or land holdings.

Shaping a Narrative

  • Polarized Environment: In a time of heightened polarization and India’s emergence as a major economy, the report’s language, including phrases like “fanning interests” and “renaissance of the new global south,” appears to align with current political narratives.
  • Narrative Shift: The report introduces a new narrative, emphasizing the reduction of inequality in India.

Claims on Inequality

  • Inequality Reduction: The report asserts that income inequality has decreased, citing the Gini coefficient of taxable income, which fell from 0.472 to 0.402 between FY14 and FY22.
  • Limited Sample: However, the research relies on “taxable income” from a small fraction (around 5%) of the population, primarily those paying income tax, making it less representative of the informal workforce and the broader economy.
  • Food Orders as Proxy: The study also uses Zomato food orders, primarily from semi-urban areas, to challenge claims of economic distress.

Representativeness Concerns

  • Focus on Formal Sector: The SBI research primarily centers on the formal sector, which represents a privileged minority within the Indian economy.
  • Inequality Debate: This focus mirrors the crux of the inequality debate, where those excluded from economic growth continue to lag behind, while those already well-off experience significant growth.

A Different Perspective

  • Contrasting Reports: In 2022, another report, “The State of Inequality in India,” commissioned by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister, highlighted rising inequality in the country.
  • Unimaginable Disparities: It noted that an individual earning a monthly wage of Rs 25,000 was among the top 10% of earners, underscoring the stark income disparities.

Conclusion

  • While the SBI research provides a unique perspective on India’s economic recovery and inequality, its focus on a limited sample from the formal sector raises concerns about its representativeness.
  • The broader discourse on inequality remains critical, emphasizing the need for a more comprehensive understanding of the diverse economic landscape in India.

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Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Gender Equity in Education: A Focus on Early Childhood

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ASER 2023 Key Findings

Mains level: Gender Equity in Education

Gender Equity

Introduction

  • Education is a cornerstone of societal development, and addressing gender-related issues within it is crucial for progress
  • While ASER 2023 data on learning outcomes may suggest gender equity, a closer look reveals persistent gender discrimination.

Gender Equity: Learning Outcomes Parity

  • Gender Equity in Learning: Analysis of learning outcomes, such as test scores, shows parity between boys and girls in elementary and secondary classes across India.
  • Example: In Classes 3 and 5, girls and boys score equally in mathematics, both at 63 and 53, respectively.
  • Subject Scores: Gender differences in subject scores rarely exceed one percentage point.

Widening Gender Gap

  • Increased Education: Girls in India are receiving more education than ever before, with the mean years of schooling nearly tripling from 1.7 years in 1990 to 4.7 years in 2018.
  • Boys’ Progress: Boys have also seen educational improvements, with the average attainment increasing from 4.1 to 8.2 years.
  • Growing Gender Gap: Despite girls making significant strides in education, the gender gap, measured as the difference in attainment between males and females, has grown over time, from 2.4 years to 3.5 years.
  • Global Trends: India’s divergence from global trends is notable, as many countries have seen equal improvements in education for both genders.

Barriers to Education

  • Progressive Gender Gap: As education levels rise, barriers for girls become more significant, influenced by social norms, stereotypes, and adolescent-related factors.
  • Class 1 to Class 8: Dropout rates shift dramatically, with nearly twice as many girls dropping out by Class 8 compared to boys.

Early Childhood Education (ECE)

  • Gender Bias in ECE: Gender discrimination begins at the earliest stages of education, as revealed by the Annual Status of Education Report “Early Years.”
  • Private vs. Government Schools: More boys are enrolled in private institutions, while girls are often sent to free government schools, reflecting societal biases.
  • Age Correlation: A five percentage point gender difference in enrollment exists at the age of four, growing to eight percentage points by age eight.
  • Impact of Gender Norms: Societies valuing male children’s education tend to withdraw more girls from school.

Focus on ECE

  • Policy Shift Needed: Addressing the gender gap in education requires a shift towards Early Childhood Education (ECE) to tackle the roots of gender norms.
  • Age of Influence: Children between three and seven are highly impressionable, forming biases about gender roles during this period.
  • Challenges: Insufficient funding, poor quality, and the absence of legislation for universal ECE access pose challenges in India.
  • Investment Returns: Longitudinal studies indicate that every dollar invested in ECE yields substantial returns, proving its cost-effectiveness.
  • Government Initiatives: Programs like “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” and the Draft National Education Policy emphasize the importance of ECE.

Conclusion

  • The gender gap in education, particularly in the early years, requires immediate attention and intervention. Establishing a regulatory framework, adequate funding, and quality standards for ECE is essential.
  • By eliminating gender stereotypes in preschools, we can work towards erasing the gender gap in education.
  • The benefits of investing in girls’ education are vast, ranging from reduced poverty and crime to improved economic development.
  • It is time to prioritize early childhood education to create a brighter and more equal future for all.

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