[10 May 2024] The Hindu Op-ed: The message from U.S. campuses, protesting students

Mains PYQ Relevance: 

Q)“The diverse nature of India as a multi-religious and multi-ethnic society is not immune to the impact of radicalism which is seen in her neighbourhood? Discuss along with strategies to be adopted to counter this environment. (UPSC IAS/2014)

Q) Critically examine the aims and objectives of SCO. What importance does it hold for India?. (UPSC IAS/2021)

Note4Students: 

Subject: GS II (IR)

Prelims: International issues in the news;

Mains: Islamophobia and Anti-Palestinian Racism;

Mentor comments: In 1985, when American campuses were roiling with protests against apartheid South Africa, the legendary African-American feminist poet and philosopher, Audre Lorde, reflected that America was “the most powerful country in the world” but also “a country which stands upon the wrong side of every liberation struggle on earth”. Lorde noted that this filled her with both a sense of dread and a sense of urgency. Dread and urgency, once again, have driven students across campuses in the United States to protest against the catastrophe in Gaza. During the anti-apartheid protests calling for divestment at campuses in the late 1980s — when we were students — university administrators were embarrassed about aligning with the White apartheid state of South Africa. 

Let’s learn

Why in the news? 

Today, with Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism so normalized in the U.S., university administrators are proudly aligning with this genocidal war. 

What is Islamophobia and Anti-Palestinian racism?

  • Islamophobia is a form of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness, rooted in racism and involving stereotypes, demonization, and dehumanization of Muslims
  • Anti-Palestinian racism, on the other hand, refers to prejudice, collective hatred, and discrimination directed at the Palestinian people, including silencing, exclusion, erasure, stereotypes, defamation, and dehumanization of Palestinians or their narratives

Student’s protest in the USA:

  • Unified Demands: Student protesters have a unified set of demands, including disclosure and divestment from corporations complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine, removal of police from campuses, and protection of pro-Palestinian speech and activism.
    • The call for divestment can be traced back to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement inspired by the anti-apartheid student movement. The demand for “cops off campus” reflects abolitionist critiques of police as a racist institution, amplified after the George Floyd protests.
  • Education and Activism: Students are educating each other on the history of the Levant, colonialism, racial violence, and the complexities of historic Palestine. They organize teach-ins, study apartheid, analyze the political economy of occupation, and explore Palestinian resistance.
  • University Clampdowns: Many university administrators have instituted disciplinary procedures against pro-Palestine solidarity and activism, banned student organizations, and intensified surveillance and crackdowns on protests.
    • Despite repression, student protests have proliferated, and peaceful encampments have spread to campuses across the country, challenging the complicity of universities in colonialism and imperialism.
  • Intersectional Solidarity: The movement is shaped by other social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock, highlighting connections between racialized police brutality, settler colonialism, and imperialism.
  • Resistance against Repression: Students risk suspensions and arrests to expose and disrupt the ideological and economic ties that bind universities to forces of genocide, inspired by struggles in historic Palestine.

Significance and Impact of the Student’s Protest::

  • Raising Awareness: By organizing teach-ins and spreading information about the history of the Levant, colonialism, and racial violence, these protests can educate people and raise awareness about the plight of Palestinians and the broader issues of imperialism and colonialism.
  • Challenging normalization of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian: By challenging the normalization of Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism, these protests can disrupt the status quo and push for a reevaluation of societal attitudes towards these issues.
  • Inspiring Solidarity: The intersectional nature of these protests, where movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock are involved, can foster solidarity among different marginalized communities and strengthen the broader social justice movement.
  • International Impact: These protests, especially if they gain widespread attention and support, could influence international perceptions and policies towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, potentially leading to increased pressure on governments to take action towards a just resolution.

Conclusion: University administrators should engage in open dialogue with protesting students to address their concerns and explore potential solutions. This could involve creating forums for discussion, establishing student-administrator committees, and actively listening to student perspectives.

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Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Data for better education, a brighter future for students

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2023

Mains level: Key findings of Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2023

PYQ Relevance:

Mains: 

Q National Education Policy 2020 isin conformity with the Sustainable Development Goal-4 (2030). It intends to restructure and reorient education system in India. Critically examine the statement.(UPSC IAS/2020)

Q The quality of higher education in India requires major improvement to make it internationally competitive. Do you think that the entry of foreign educational institutions would help improve the quality of technical and higher education in the country. Discuss.(UPSC IAS/2015)

Mentore comment: The release of the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2023 in mid-January has once again drawn significant attention, following a tradition dating back to 2005, with exceptions during the COVID-19 years. Among the multitude of insights provided by the report, particular focus has been placed on the foundational skills of 14-18 year olds, which has garnered headlines. While the learning outcomes data raises concerns, it is imperative for practitioners and policymakers to delve deeper into the data to extract actionable insights aimed at enhancing education and overall outcomes for India’s adolescents and youth.

Why in the news? 

 The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2023 was released in mid-January this year.

 Foundational learning trajectories as per ASER 2023 Beyond Basics survey  

  • District level Representation: The survey was conducted in 28 rural districts across 26 states, providing insights into the activities, abilities, and aspirations of 14-18 year olds at the district level, though not nationally representative.
  • Literacy : Overall, 26% of 14-18 year olds cannot read a standard two level text in their regional language, reflecting concerning literacy levels.  
  • Distribution of Children without Basic Reading Skills: Among 14-18 year olds without basic reading skills, 57% are enrolled in standard 10 or below, while 28% are not enrolled in any educational institution. This suggests a need for targeted interventions and efforts to encourage school attendance.

Challenges in Reading Improvement: 

  • Many children who struggle with reading may face ridicule and embarrassment, leading to disengagement with reading. The availability of reading materials, including beyond textbooks, is crucial for developing reading habits and abilities.

Children and careers

  • Educational Aspirations: More than 60% of surveyed adolescents aim to obtain a college education, with a higher percentage of girls aspiring for higher education compared to boys.
  • Work Aspirations: One in five respondents had not seriously considered their future careers. Among those who had, joining the police or defense forces was prominent for boys, while becoming a teacher or doctor was prominent for girls.
  • Perceptions of Vocational Education: Vocational education faced negative perceptions in some areas, seen as a fallback option for those unable to secure white-collar jobs. However, in Solan, Himachal Pradesh, context-driven vocational courses such as tourism and hotel management gained aspirational value, encouraging students to aspire for related professions with the support of on-the-job training and readily available career information.

Challenges related to careers 

  • Need for Support and Mentorship: Youth require support, mentorship, and inspiration to evaluate their aspirations, identify alternative prospects, and prepare for their chosen paths.
  • Lack of Familiarity with Professions: Nearly half of the surveyed adolescents with work aspirations do not personally know anyone working in their desired profession, indicating a need for greater exposure and guidance.

 Digita literacy as per ASER 2023 report

  • Smartphone Ownership: Boys in the 14-18 age group are more than twice as likely to own smartphones compared to girls, with 43.7% of males owning smartphones compared to 19.8% of females
  • Digital Literacy: Girls are less likely to know how to use smartphones or computers compared to boys, with males outperforming females in tasks like using email, Google Maps, and other digital functions
  • Educational Usage: While about two-thirds of youth use smartphones for educational purposes, there is a notable emphasis on entertainment and social media over educational activities, indicating a need to leverage digital technology for educational purposes
  • Gender Gaps: The gender gap extends to online safety awareness, with boys being more familiar with safety settings than girls, highlighting the need for comprehensive strategies to address the digital gender divide

Suggestive measures to address the identified issues:

  • Improving Foundational Learning: Encourage school attendance by addressing the needs of 14-18 year olds without basic reading skills, with a particular emphasis on those not enrolled in any educational institution.
  • Role of Community Libraries: Ensure effective management of community libraries and engage committed individuals to cultivate a culture of reading and support readers of all ages and abilities.
  • Educational and Career Aspirations: Address the lack of familiarity with professions by offering exposure opportunities and guidance to help youth make informed career choices.
  • Digital Literacy and Gender Gaps:  Promote educational usage of smartphones by leveraging digital technology for educational purposes and bridging the gender gap in online safety awareness.
  • Addressing Vocational Education Perceptions: Encourage context-driven vocational courses that align with local aspirations and provide on-the-job training and career information to support career choices.

Conclusion 

To address literacy and career challenges, prioritize targeted interventions to improve educational access and support, enhance digital literacy among girls, promote vocational education, and leverage digital technology for educational purposes, bridging gender gaps.

 

 

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Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

Free trade has two faces and the one offering harmony must prevail

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Free Trade Agreements

Mains level: Issues with FTAs

Why in the News?

  • Recently, the discussion acknowledged free trade’s nuanced and multifaceted nature, highlighting its potential benefits for peace and economic development while recognizing historical and contemporary challenges in promoting equitable outcomes.

Evolution of Free Trade ideology:

  • 19th Century Political Reformers and Free Trade:  Free trade was the rallying cry of 19th-century political reformers (Particularly Adam Smith who was inspired by Thomas Hobbes), who saw it as a vehicle for defeating despotism, ending wars, and reducing crushing inequalities in wealth.
  • The era’s economic cosmopolitanism encapsulated progressive causes such as anti-militarism, anti-slavery, and anti-imperialism.
  • US Populists and Opposition to Tariffs: US populists in the late 19th century staunchly opposed the gold standard but were also against import tariffs, which they thought benefited big business and harmed ordinary people.
  • They pushed to replace tariffs with a more equitable progressive income tax.
  • Socialists’ View on Free Trade in the Early 20th Century: Then, during the early part of the 20th century, many socialists viewed free trade, supported by supranational regulation, as the antidote to militarism, wealth gaps and monopolies.
  • Liberal Reformers’ Perspective on Protectionism: The 19th-century liberals and reformers were free traders because they thought protectionism served retrograde interests, including landed aristocrats, business monopolies and warmongers.
  • They believed economic nationalism went hand in hand with imperialism and aggression.
  • Historian Marc-William Palen cites a 1919 essay by the economist Joseph Schumpeter, who depicted imperialism as a “monopolistic symptom of atavistic militarism and protectionism—an ailment that only democratic free-trade forces could cure.”

Perception and misconceptions of Free trade:

  • Controversial Term-Free trade has been controversial in economics, with many people arguing that it contributes to rising inequality.
  • However, there is a grain of truth in the anti-trade stance, as growing trade did contribute to rising inequality and the erosion of the middle class in the US and other advanced economies in recent decades.
  • Blind Spot of Globalization – If free trade got a bad name,  globalisation’s boosters ignored its downsides or acted as if nothing could be done about them.
  • This blind spot empowered political leaders like Donald Trump to weaponize trade and demonize racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, and economic rivals.
  • Diverse Opposition: Antipathy to trade is not limited to right-wing populists but also includes radical leftists, climate activists, food safety advocates, human-rights campaigners, labor unions, consumer advocates, and anti-corporate groups.
  • US President Joe Biden has distanced himself from free trade, believing that building a secure, green, equitable, and resilient US economy must take precedence over hyper-globalization.
  • Obstacle to Social Justice:  All progressives believe that free trade stands in the way of social justice.

Instrumentalisation of Trade:

1) Instrumentalized for Authoritarian end:

  • Under American Revolution: A particularly egregious example is Antebellum America, where free trade entrenched slavery.
  • During the drafting of the US Constitution in 1787, America’s slave-owning southerners ensured that the text would prohibit the taxation of exports. They understood that free trade would ensure that plantation agriculture remained profitable and safeguard the slavery system on which it was based.
  • When the North defeated the South in the US Civil War, slavery was abolished, and free trade was replaced with protectionism, which suited Northern business interests better.
  • Under British imperialism: After the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, the British government nominally abandoned protectionism and led Europe to sign free-trade agreements.

2) Instrumentalized for militaristic ends:

  • In Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, free trade was imposed through the barrel of a gun whenever the British encountered weak potentates ruling over valuable commodities and markets.
  • The British fought the infamous Opium Wars of the mid-19th century to force Chinese rulers to open their markets to British and other Western goods so that Western countries, in turn, could buy China’s tea, silk, and porcelain without draining their gold.
  • The opium was grown in India; a British monopoly forced farmers to work under horrendous conditions that left long-term scars.
  • Free trade served repression and war, and vice versa.

Post-World War II trade regime:

  • The American architects of the International Trade Organization followed in the footsteps of Cordell Hull—President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of state—believing they were pursuing world peace through free trade.
  • Hull was an economic cosmopolitan and a supporter of the 19th-century radical free-trade advocate Richard Cobden.
  • The post-war order was meant to be a system of global rules that eliminated bilateralism and imperial privileges.
  • While the US Congress ultimately failed to ratify the ITO, some of its key principles—including multilateralism and non-discrimination—survived in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the precursor to the World Trade Organization (WTO) of today.
  • Under GATT, commercial diplomacy replaced wars, and many non-Western countries—like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China—expanded their economies rapidly by leveraging global markets.

What are the present challenges to the Trade regime?

  • Rise of Corporate Influence: Big corporations and multinational companies gained substantial power during this period, influencing trade negotiations to serve their interests.
  • Neglect of Important Issues: Environmental concerns, public health, human rights, economic security, and domestic equity were overlooked as trade negotiations prioritized corporate interests.
  • Departure from Original Vision: Trade deviated from the original vision of figures like Cobden and Hull, who likely envisioned it as a force for peace and prosperity, instead becoming a source of conflict.
  • Shift in Trade Dynamics: The dominance of corporate influence shifted the focus of international trade away from broader societal welfare towards maximizing profits and corporate interests

Conclusion:

The lesson of history is that turning trade into a positive force requires democratizing it. This means that trade should work for the benefit of the broader public interest, not just for a select few. This is an important lesson to remember as the reconstruction of the world trade regime would occur in the years ahead.

 

Mains PYQ:

Q. What are the key areas of reform if the WTO has to survive in the present context of the ‘Trade War’, especially keeping in mind the interest of India? (UPSC 2018)

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

A vaccine that prevents six cancers

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Pap smears, Human Papillomavirus

Mains level: proactive measures to prevent cervical cancer

Pyq mains

UPSC IAS/2017

Stem cell therapy is gaining popularity in India to treat a wide variety of medical conditions including leukaemia, Thalassemia, damaged cornea and several burns. Describe briefly what stem cell therapy is and what advantages it has over other treatments? (10)
Pyq pre 

 

Cervical Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Why is it in the News?

  • Cervical cancer prevention, particularly through HPV vaccination, has gained attention recently due to several factors. January was observed as Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, drawing focus to the importance of combating this disease. Additionally, March 4 marked International HPV Awareness Day, further highlighting the significance of addressing HPV-related health issues.

What is Cervical Cancer?

  • Cervical cancer is a type of cancer that affects the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. It is primarily caused by certain types of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is transmitted through intimate contact.
  • If left untreated, cervical cancer can be life-threatening. It is a significant health concern worldwide, with a particularly high burden in lower- and middle-income countries. In India, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women, posing a substantial threat to public health.

What is Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of viruses that infect the skin and mucous membranes. It’s the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) worldwide. HPV can cause various health issues, including genital warts and certain types of cancers.

What Facts are explained in the article?

  • Prevalence and Impact: Cervical cancer claims the lives of over 300,000 women annually worldwide, with a disproportionate burden in lower-income countries.
  • Risk in India: With over 500 million women at risk, cervical cancer is a significant public health concern in India, second only to breast cancer.
  • Role of HPV Vaccination: HPV vaccination is identified as a crucial strategy for preventing cervical cancer. It targets the underlying cause of the disease by protecting against HPV infection.

Strategies for Prevention of Cervical cancer

  • HPV Vaccination: Implementing widespread HPV vaccination programs, particularly targeting adolescent girls, can significantly reduce the incidence of cervical cancer. Vaccination should ideally occur before the onset of sexual activity to maximize effectiveness.
  • Screening for Precancerous Lesions: Regular screening for precancerous lesions, such as Pap smears or HPV DNA tests, can detect abnormalities early and allow for timely intervention. This is crucial for reducing the incidence of advanced-stage cervical cancer.
  • Education and Awareness: Increasing education and awareness about cervical cancer, HPV infection, and the importance of vaccination and screening are essential. This includes targeting healthcare professionals, policymakers, parents, and adolescents to dispel myths and misconceptions and encourage uptake of preventive measures.

What are the Challenges?

  • Limited Access: HPV vaccination may not be widely accessible, particularly in lower-resourced communities, and is often available at a significant out-of-pocket cost.
  • Misconceptions Among Physicians: Some physicians underestimate the incidence and risk of cervical cancer, as well as the safety and effectiveness of HPV vaccines. This can lead to hesitancy in recommending vaccination to eligible individuals.
  • Parental Hesitancy: Misinformation and concerns about vaccine safety and efficacy among parents can contribute to hesitancy in vaccinating adolescents against HPV.
Pap Smears
Description: A screening procedure for cervical cancer involving collecting cells from the cervix to examine for abnormalities.
Purpose: To detect precancerous or cancerous changes in cervical cells early for timely intervention and prevention.
Procedure: Use of a speculum to visualize the cervix and collection of cells with a brush or spatula.
Timing: Typically performed during routine gynecological exams, starting at age 21 or within 3 years of becoming sexually active.

Facts about HPV Vaccination:

  • The HPV vaccine is safe and effective in preventing six HPV-related cancers, including cervical, vulvar, anal, vaginal, throat, and cervical cancers.
  • Vaccination is recommended for adolescents starting at age 9 years to maximize its effectiveness.
  • HPV vaccination is an essential component of the immunization schedule recommended by the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP).

Best Practices for HPV Vaccination and Cervical Cancer Prevention:

  • Effective Communication:
  • Provide clear and accurate information to parents about HPV vaccination.
  • Address concerns and misconceptions to ensure informed decision-making.
  • Timely Vaccination:
  • Recommend HPV vaccination for adolescents starting at age 9.
  • Encourage vaccination before sexual activity begins for maximum effectiveness.
  • Integration into Immunization Programs:
  • Advocate for inclusion in national immunization programs for widespread access.
  • Collaborate with policymakers to ensure equitable vaccine coverage.
  • Promotion of Regular Screening:
  • Emphasize the importance of cervical cancer screening for women over 30.
  • Encourage routine Pap smears or HPV DNA tests for early detection.
  • Physician Education:
  • Provide comprehensive training on HPV vaccination and cervical cancer prevention.
  • Equip healthcare professionals with updated guidelines and communication skills.

In conclusion, the article emphasizes the importance of proactive measures to prevent cervical cancer, particularly through HPV vaccination and screening. It underscores the role of healthcare professionals, policymakers, and community stakeholders in addressing the challenges and ensuring equitable access to preventive interventions.

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MGNREGA Scheme

A women’s urban employment guarantee act

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS)

Mains level: Women's Urban Employment Guarantee Act (WUEGA)

An urban employment scheme that is responsive to women's needs - The  Quantum Hub

Why is it in news?

  • Reducing gender gaps and increasing women’s empowerment are part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Notwithstanding ethical and constitutional imperatives, there is also evidence suggesting that increasing women’s employment rates can be an engine for economic growth.

What is the issue?

  • Despite functioning at a fraction of its intended capacity, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has been pivotal in providing financial autonomy to women in rural areas.
  • More than half the MGNREGA workforce are women. However, urban realities are different. Social norms, lack of safety, and hostile transportation options are some of the factors inhibiting urban women to enter the workforce.

What data is explaining?

  • The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) pegs women’s employment rate in urban areas at 22.9% in the last quarter of 2023. There are clear signs of high unmet demand for employment among urban women.
  • First, the unemployment rate in urban areas, which is a measure of how many would like employment (irrespective of whether they are actively seeking it or not), is 9% compared to 4% in rural areas.
  • Second, there are two types of unemployment individuals who would like to work and are actively seeking a job versus those who would like to work but may not be actively seeking a job.
  • A much larger share of unemployed women in urban areas are seeking employment compared to rural areas. Further, nearly 25% of urban women have completed higher secondary education compared to 5% in rural areas. The low urban employment rates among women also points to wastage of much potential.
  • The article presents statistics from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) indicating that approximately 10.18 crore women in urban areas aged 15-59 are out of the workforce. When including those who are self-employed or engaged in casual labor, this number rises to around 11.65 crore.

Introducing the Women’s Urban Employment Guarantee Act (WUEGA)

The proposal outlines a comprehensive plan to address urban unemployment through the implementation of a Women’s Urban Employment Guarantee Act (WUEGA). This act aims to provide employment opportunities specifically targeted towards women in urban areas.

  • Programme Management and Decentralization: The proposal suggests that women should form at least 50% (ideally 100%) of the programme management staff under WUEGA. This approach not only ensures women’s active participation but also strengthens the constitutional mandate of decentralization by involving local communities in decision-making processes.
  • Ensuring Accessibility and Supportive Infrastructure: The proposal emphasizes the importance of providing essential worksite facilities, including childcare facilities, to enable women’s participation in the program. It also advocates for the availability of work within a 5-km radius and proposes free public transportation for women to facilitate their commute to worksites.
  • Diversifying Employment Opportunities: The proposal highlights the need to diversify urban works to cater to local needs and wider consultation. It mentions existing examples such as plantation and harvesting reeds on floating wetlands and suggests supplementing the list based on local requirements.
  • Incentives and Welfare Measures: This section discusses the creation of incentives, such as automatic inclusion in welfare boards, to encourage women’s participation in the program. It proposes utilizing welfare boards to provide maternity entitlements, pensions, and emergency funds for program participants.
  • Skill Development and Apprenticeships: The proposal emphasizes the importance of addressing skill gaps among women to facilitate their transition from school to work. It suggests implementing apprenticeship programs for college students from various disciplines, providing them with opportunities to join as program functionaries and improve their job readiness.
  • Information Facilitation Centers and Capacity Building: Here, the proposal suggests establishing Information Facilitation Centers at each urban local body, run by women who have completed Class 10, to provide computer training facilities and bridge the gap in skills. It also advocates for regular capacity-building initiatives to empower these centers and enhance women’s job readiness.
  • Social Audit and Monitoring Mechanisms: The proposal recommends the establishment of a social audit unit within WUEGA, comprising at least 50% women staff, for independent monitoring of the program. It suggests that social audits could serve as opportunities for women who have completed Class 12 to join part-time or full-time roles and enhance their job readiness through acquiring various skill sets.

Successful Women-Led Initiatives in Waste Management

  • The article highlights successful women-led initiatives, such as the end-to-end waste management program in Karnataka’s gram panchayats. It emphasizes that women not only manage waste collection but also drive ‘Swacch’ vehicles, leading to the acquisition of driving licenses and contributing to the success of the initiative.

Wayforward

  • The article discusses the financial implications of the proposed program, estimating that the wage component funded by the Union government would cost around 1.5% of the GDP. When adding material and administrative costs, the total cost is expected to be around 2% of the GDP. It advocates for a phased rollout of the scheme with periodic assessments to smoothen costs.
  • Here, the article suggests that the proposed women’s employment program could serve as a foundation for a broader urban employment program encompassing both genders. It argues that the benefits of such a program outweigh fiscal concerns and calls for a shift towards ensuring income assurance, especially for women.

 

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Human Rights Issues

Understanding the world of the informal waste picker

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

Mains level: acknowledging waste pickers' crucial role in plastic recycling is imperative for sustainable waste management

 

High time to address occupational hazards of waste pickers

Why is it in news?  

  • On March 1, International Waste Pickers Day, waste pickers across the world will pay homage to fellow pickers who were murdered in Colombia in 1992.

Who are informal waste pickers?

  • The International Labour Organization defines the informal sector in waste management as ‘individuals or small and micro-enterprises that intervene in waste management without being registered and without being formally charged with providing waste management services’

Background:

  • Informal waste pickers, often overlooked and marginalized, play a crucial but unseen role in India’s waste management systems. They are vital yet often forgotten members of the waste value chain ecosystem, deserving recognition and understanding.
  • These workers are the primary collectors of recyclable waste, playing a critical role in waste management and resource efficiency by collecting, sorting, trading and sometimes even reinserting discarded waste back into the economy.
  • Yet, they face systemic marginalisation due to non-recognition, non-representation, and exclusion from social security schemes and legal protection frameworks.

What data shows?

  • While reliable estimates of informal waste pickers are difficult to come by, the Centre for Science and Environment reported that the informal waste economy employs about 5%–2% of the urban population globally.
  • Many are women, children and the elderly, who are often disabled, are the poorest of the urban poor, and face violence and sexual harassment often. The Periodic Labour Force Survey 2017-18 indicates that there are nearly 1.5 million waste pickers within India’s urban workforce, with half a million being women.

Challenges Faced by Waste Pickers

  • Work Conditions: Waste pickers labor for 8 to 10 hours daily, collecting 60 kg to 90 kg of waste, often without safety equipment, exposing themselves to hazards.
  • Health Issues: They suffer from dermatological and respiratory problems, alongside regular injuries, due to their hazardous work conditions.
  • Socioeconomic Factors: Low income, irregular work, and harassment exacerbate their precarious livelihoods, compounded by their subordinate position in the caste hierarchy.

Impact of Private Sector Participation in waste collection

  • Exclusion: Private sector involvement in waste management alienates waste pickers, depriving them of their rights and exacerbating their vulnerability.
  • Marginalization: As noted by the Alliance of Indian Waste Pickers (AIW) 2023 report, Private actors employ expensive machinery, marginalizing informal waste pickers by offering competitive rates to waste generators, forcing them into hazardous scavenging activities.
  • Loss of Rights: Private players and municipal authorities often cordon off dump sites, further limiting waste pickers’ access and exacerbating their vulnerability.

Importance of Waste Pickers in Plastic Management

  • Global Contribution: Waste pickers globally collect and recover up to 60% of all plastic waste, contributing significantly to its recycling efforts, as highlighted in the 2022 World Economic Forum report.
  • Underappreciated Role: Despite their crucial contribution to sustainable recycling, waste pickers’ work is undervalued, and they struggle to earn a decent livelihood.
  • Quantitative Impact: Reports by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Pew state that informal waste pickers collected 27 million metric tonnes of plastic waste in 2016 alone, representing 59% of all plastic material collected for recycling, thereby preventing it from ending up in landfills or oceans.
  • Relevance in India’s Context: In India, where per capita plastic waste generation is rising, waste pickers’ role becomes even more critical, especially considering that the country is among the top 12 responsible for 52% of the world’s mismanaged waste, as per a recent CPCB report.
  • Harnessing Traditional Knowledge: Waste pickers possess traditional knowledge about waste handling, which could significantly enhance the effectiveness of the EPR system if integrated properly.
  • Rethinking EPR Norms: In light of this, there is a need to reconsider the formulation of EPR norms to ensure the inclusion and empowerment of millions of informal waste pickers within the new legal framework.

Understanding Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)

  • Objective: EPR aims to enhance plastic waste management by transferring the responsibility of waste management from municipal authorities to commercial waste producers.
  • Promises of EPR: EPR holds the potential for social inclusion for waste pickers and other informal grassroots actors by promoting accountability among commercial waste producers.

Analysis of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Guidelines

  • Stakeholder Identification: The EPR guidelines in India recognize various stakeholders, including the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), producers, brand owners, industry, industry associations, civil society organizations, and citizens.
  • Uncertainty Regarding Inclusion: It remains unclear whether these stakeholders include informal waste pickers or their representing organizations, raising questions about the extent of their involvement in the EPR framework.
  • Discrepancies with Solid Waste Management Rules 2016: While the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 mandate the inclusion of waste pickers in municipal solid waste management systems, informal waste pickers are evidently missing in the prioritization within the EPR guidelines.
  • Omission in EPR Guidelines 2022: The EPR Guidelines 2022, published by the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, have blatantly ignored the role of informal waste pickers in waste management and recycling, further exacerbating their exclusion from the formal waste management framework.

Challenges in Implementation

  • Redirection of Waste: Despite its promises, EPR often redirects waste away from the informal sector, posing a threat of large-scale displacement for informal waste pickers.
  • Concerns Raised by WIEGO: Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) have noted the potential negative impacts of EPR on informal waste pickers, highlighting the need for careful consideration and mitigation of such effects.

In conclusion, acknowledging waste pickers’ crucial role in plastic recycling is imperative for sustainable waste management. Efforts should focus on integrating them into formal systems like the Extended Producer Responsibility mechanism while addressing their socio-economic vulnerabilities for a more equitable and environmentally sound future.

 

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Middle East

Rediscovering Palestinian statehood

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: West Asia and arising conflict;

Mains level: Recent Geopolitical issues in news;

Israel-Palestine: No Simple Answers

Why in the News?

Recently, there are evolving dynamics surrounding Palestinian statehood, including global perspectives, Israeli leadership positions, and the potential implications for the region w.r.t two-state solution.

What are the Global Dynamics and Israeli Opposition towards Palestinian Statehood?

  • Global Expectations: Western nations and Arab States are hopeful for Israel to act sensibly amidst the challenging situation in Gaza. The UK and France express readiness to recognize a Palestinian state independently of an agreement with Israel, prompting speculation about US involvement.
  • Israeli stance: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu openly opposes a two-state solution and advocates for Israeli control over the entire area west of the Jordan River.
    • Netanyahu rejects international pressure and warns against unilateral recognition, citing concerns about terrorism and his political standing.
    • Netanyahu’s opposition to a Palestinian state without negotiations reflects his political strategy and the challenges within his ruling coalition.
    • Netanyahu’s plan echoes sentiments previously condemned when expressed by Hamas, raising concerns about Israel’s intentions.

Global Response to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

  • UN Secretary-General’s Call: UN emphasizes the importance of acknowledging Palestinian statehood and condemns the loss of life in Gaza.
  • Hearings at ICJ: The International Court of Justice began hearing arguments concerning the legal status of a Palestinian state.
  • Mixed Signals: The U.S.’s support for Israel’s security contradicts its calls for a two-state solution, as demonstrated by voting against a UN resolution regarding Israeli settlements. World leaders previously have largely neglected the Palestinian cause during the tenure of former Israeli PM Netanyahu and post-Abraham Accords era.
  • Sudden Interest from various Nations: Recently, there has been renewed interest in a two-state solution following Israel’s military actions in Gaza and increasing pressure from international bodies. The U.S. too have imposed sanctions on individual settlers rather than addressing broader issues related to settlements and violence.
  • Domestic Pressures: King Abdullah II of Jordan, along with Egypt, France, and Germany, issued a joint statement opposing Israel’s annexation plans. The U.S., EU, and Arab States face mounting pressure to address the crisis, hoping for positive changes within Israel’s leadership.
    • Saudi Demand: Saudi Arabia demands an immediate peace process for a Palestinian state before resuming normalization talks with Israel.
    • Threatening Proposal: Israel’s latest plan suggests dissolving the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which would compromise the two-state solution
BEYOND EDITORIAL: 

What are Abraham Accords?

  • The Abraham Accords, established in September 2020, represent a series of bilateral agreements aimed at normalizing relations between Israel and several Arab nations: the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco
  • These agreements marked a departure from traditional Arab League policies, which historically required resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before establishing formal ties with Israel.

How Abraham Accords have influenced the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Despite not directly involving parties in active conflict, the Abraham Accords have influenced the broader context in several ways:

  • Normalization without Resolution: The Accords sidestepped the Palestinian issue, allowing Arab states to establish normalized relationships with Israel without addressing core issues like Palestinian self-determination and statehood
  • Domestic Repercussions: The Accords led to internal conflicts within Arab societies, as some citizens felt betrayed by their leadership’s decision to prioritize normalization over Palestinian rights
  • Regional Stability: While the Accords were promoted as increasing stability, critics argue that they have done little to address underlying causes of instability, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself

Critical Analysis of Accords towards the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

  • Critics argue that the Accords have failed to bring lasting peace or stability, instead serving as a means of authoritarian conflict management that ignores the root causes of the conflict
  • Supporters contend that the Accords offer opportunities for cooperation and economic growth, although these benefits may come at the expense of Palestinian rights.
  • The Abraham Accords have altered the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by shifting focus away from the centrality of Palestinian rights and towards normalization between Israel and select Arab states. Despite initial optimism, the Accords have faced challenges in achieving sustainable peace and stability, and their success remains a subject of debate.

What is the feasibility of a Single-State Solution?

If the two-state solution fails given recent developments and Israeli leadership positions, then:

  • Equal Rights: In a single-state scenario, Israel must provide equal rights to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to remain a democracy. Providing equal rights would reduce the percentage of Jews below 50%, challenging Israel’s identity as a Jewish state.
  • Apartheid or Ethnic Cleansing: Without equal rights, Palestinians risk becoming second-class citizens, resulting in either apartheid or ethnic cleansing.
  • Preservation of Status Quo: Continuing the present conditions would perpetuate the occupation and deny Palestinians self-determination.
  • Driving Out Palestinians: An alternative to providing equal rights might involve expelling Palestinians from the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
  • Decline of Support: Increasingly, Israelis have distanced themselves from developments in the Occupied Territories, reducing support for a two-state solution.
  • Rise of Right Wing: The growth of right-wing parties in Israel has led to the demise of groups supporting the Oslo Accords.
  • Shifting Attitudes: Following attacks by Hamas, support for a two-state solution has dwindled, leaving Israelis questioning whether Palestinians truly desire peace.
  • Recognition of Two-State Solution: Even Hamas once acknowledged a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, although this position has weakened over time.

How can be the ‘Afghan Model’ solution towards this issue?

The Afghan model refers to the acceptance of the Taliban’s return to power despite reservations. As the world grapples with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, comparisons have emerged between the Taliban’s ascension in Afghanistan and potential shifts in Hamas’ role in Palestine. 

  • Similarity between both cases: Both sides require transformative leadership changes. Israel needs to embrace a two-state solution, and Palestine requires an inclusive and representative leadership encompassing Gaza and the West Bank. 

What are the Challenges and Implications if Afghan model is applied?

  • Political stance: Centrist Israeli politicians have lost popularity due to their perceived inaction on the Palestinian issue. In short, replacing them as champions of a two-state solution is challenging.
  • Hamas’ inclusion in Palestinian governance structures would necessitate significant ideological shifts and concessions, which may prove difficult.
  • The international community’s reluctant approach to the two-state solution raises questions about their commitment to promoting meaningful change in the Middle East.

Conclusion: 

The ‘Afghan model,’ while imperfect, offers insights into the possibilities and limitations of accommodating hard-line forces within mainstream political processes. Ultimately, the success of such efforts depends upon the ability of all stakeholders—including Israel, Palestine, and the international community to overcome deeply ingrained mistrust and pursue genuine reconciliation.

Prelims PYQs:

  1. The term “two-state solution” is sometimes mentioned in the news in the context of the affairs of (UPSC CSE 2018)
  1. China
  2. Israel
  3. Iraq
  4. Yemen

Mains PYQs:

Too little cash, too much politics, leaves UNESCO fighting for life.’ Discuss the statement in the light of US’ withdrawal and its accusation of the cultural body as being ‘anti-Israel bias’ (UPSC CSE 2019)

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Electoral Reforms In India

Stop the dithering and encourage green elections in India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Na

Mains level: need for eco-friendly elections

Mains Pyq: ‘Simultaneous election to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies will limit the amount of time and money spent in electioneering but it will reduce the government’s accountability to the people’ Discuss.

Prelims Pyq: 

Consider the following statements :​
1. In India, there is no law restricting the candidates from contesting in one Lok Sabha election from three constituencies.​

2. In 1991 Lok Sabha Election, Shri Devi Lal contested from three Lok Sabha constituencies.​

3. As per the existing rules, if a candidate contests in one Lok Sabha election from many constituencies, his/her party should bear the cost of bye-elections to the constituencies vacated by him/her in the event of him/her winning in all the constituencies.​

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?​

a.1 only
b.2 only​
c.1 and 3
d. 2 and 3

 

Some states have embraced online voting. It's a huge risk. - POLITICO

Why is it in news?

  • Amidst the climate crisis, shifting to sustainable practices across every sphere of human activity has become inevitable and urgent. In August 2023, ahead of the Assembly elections in five States, the Election Commission of India (ECI) voiced its concern over the environmental risks associated with the use of non-biodegradable materials in elections.

What is the Concept of Green Elections?

  • Green elections involve adopting eco-friendly practices throughout the electoral process, including campaign materials, rallies, and polling booths.
  • Transitioning to sustainable alternatives can mitigate the environmental impact and promote citizens’ health.

Why there is need of Green Elections?

  • Given that the conduct of every election results in an avoidable carbon footprint, there is a need for eco-friendly elections, which would be a boost to environmental stewardship alongside civic participation.
  • Sri Lanka and Estonia, for instance, have conducted environmentally-conscious elections. As India, the world’s most populous democracy, gears up for the next general election, environmental considerations must be prioritised, paving the way for ‘green elections’.

Environmental Impact of Elections:

  • In the 2016 US presidential elections, emissions from campaign flights of just one candidate equaled the annual carbon footprint of 500 Americans.
  • Traditional election methods involve energy-intensive activities like rallies, use of loudspeakers, PVC flex banners, hoardings, and disposable items, contributing to environmental degradation.
  • India’s massive elections involving crores of voters and large political rallies exacerbate the environmental impact.
  • Paper-based materials and energy-intensive campaign practices further escalate the environmental footprint.

Challenges in India for green elections:

  • Technological Challenges: Implementing electronic and digital voting systems requires robust infrastructure, especially in rural areas, to ensure reliable access to technology. Measures to prevent hacking and fraud must be put in place to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.
  • Access and Training: Ensuring fair access to new voting technologies for all voters, including marginalized communities, poses a significant challenge. Training election officials and voters alike on the use of new technologies is essential to facilitate smooth adoption.
  • Financial Constraints: Governments may face substantial upfront costs for acquiring eco-friendly materials and implementing new technology, which could deter financially constrained administrations from pursuing such initiatives.
  • Cultural and Behavioural Hurdles: Overcoming cultural inertia and the perception of physical presence at polling booths as sacrosanct poses a behavioural challenge. Public scepticism towards new approaches and concerns about compromises to vote security must be addressed to gain widespread acceptance.
  • Transparency and Auditing: Ensuring transparency in the adoption of new technologies and implementing effective auditing mechanisms are crucial to building trust in environmentally-friendly election practices.
Research Findings for mains answer value addition:
  • Research by Willemson and Krips from Estonia (2023) identified transportation of voters and logistics to and from polling booths as the primary source of carbon emissions during elections.
  • The running of polling booths constitutes the secondary source of emissions.
  • Transitioning to digital voting systems could potentially reduce the carbon footprint by up to 40%.

 

Successful examples of green elections

Kerala:

  • Campaigning Restrictions: During the 2019 general election, the Kerala State Election Commission urged political parties to avoid single-use plastic materials.
  • Ban on Non-Biodegradable Materials: The Kerala High Court imposed a ban on flex and non-biodegradable materials in electioneering, promoting the use of alternatives like wall graffiti and paper posters.
  • Collaboration for Green Elections: Government bodies collaborated with the district administration in Thiruvananthapuram to ensure eco-friendly elections, including conducting training sessions for election workers in villages.

Goa:

  • Eco-Friendly Election Booths: In 2022, the Goa State Biodiversity Board introduced eco-friendly election booths for the Assembly elections, utilizing biodegradable materials crafted by local traditional artisans.

Sri Lanka:

  • Carbon-Sensitive Campaign: The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) party launched the world’s first carbon-sensitive environmentally friendly election campaign in 2019.
  • Carbon Emission Measurement: SLPP measured carbon emissions from vehicles and electricity used during political campaigns and compensated for them by planting trees in each district through public participation.

Estonia:

  • Digital Voting Initiative: Estonia pioneered digital voting as an online alternative, promoting voter participation while reducing the environmental footprint of traditional paper-based elections.
  • Robust Security Measures: The success of Estonia’s digital voting system demonstrates that accompanying robust security measures can ensure both eco- and electorate-friendly elections.

Suggested blueprint and Way-forward for Green elections

  • Involving All Stakeholders: The green transition must involve all stakeholders, including political parties, Election Commissions, governments, voters, the media, and civil society.
  • Integration of Directives: Success lies in integrating top-level directives with grassroots initiatives to foster a green transition effectively.
  • Leadership Role: Political parties should take the lead in enacting legislation mandating eco-friendly electoral practices.
  • Legislative Initiatives: This involves campaigning through digital platforms or door-to-door campaigning, reducing energy-intensive public rallies, and encouraging the use of public transportation for election work.
  • Supporting Local Alternatives: Incentivizing the replacement of plastic and paper-based materials with sustainable local alternatives for polling booths, such as natural fabrics, recycled paper, and compostable plastics, aids waste management and supports local artisans.
  • Advocacy for Digital Voting: The ECI can push for digital voting, despite the need for training and capacity building of officials.
  • Ensuring Equal Participation: To ensure equal participation of all voters in the digital electoral process, the government must educate and support voters and ensure equitable access to digital technology.
  • Catalyst Role: Civil society should act as a catalyst in promoting eco-conscious electoral practices.
  • Media’s Crucial Role: The media can emphasize the environmental impact of conventional election methods and shed light on innovative eco-friendly alternatives.
  • Setting an Example: Embracing eco-conscious electoral practices can help India set an example for other democracies around the world.

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The current global order — a fraying around many edges

 

PYQ Relevance

Mains PYQs

1. “There arose a serious challenge to the Democratic State System between the two World Wars.” Evaluate the statement. (2021)

2. The World Bank and the IMF, collectively known as the Bretton Woods Institutions, are the two inter-governmental pillars supporting the structure of the world’s economic and financial order. Superficially, the World Bank and the IMF exhibit many common characteristics, yet their role, functions and mandate are distinctly different. Elucidate. (2015)

Prelims PYQs

‘Global Financial Stability Report’ is released by which organization? (2016)

a)      Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)

b)      World Economic Forum

c)       World Bank

d)      World Trade Organization (WTO)

Note4Students:

Relevance: GS II(International Relation)

  • Prelims: United Nations and Security Council;
  • Mains: Global Order and Challenges; Major International Organizations; United Nations;

Mentor Comments: UPSC has been known to ask questions about ‘how things are at present vs. how things should be ideally’ across subjects like IR, Science and Technology, governance, or Economy. This op-ed is useful for analyzing the recent ongoing dynamics at the geopolitical level which is affecting the power play among the significant multilateral organizations.

So, Let’s Learn.

Why in the News?

Recently, at the 55th regular session of the Human Rights Council, Antonio Guterres (UN Secretary-General), has expressed growing pessimism about the organization’s future due to the “lack of unity” among members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

Context:

  • During the 2020s, the United Nations-led system, although traditionally the default option, is presently facing significant challenges.
  • There is an urgent need for reform within the UN due to existing divisions, as superficial changes may not be sufficient to address the underlying issues to revitalize its effectiveness.

 Is this the end of the road for the current global order?

1) The Evolution and the shift in Global world order w.r.t United Nations System:

  • The UN’s foundation dates back to January 1942 when 26 Allied nations signed the Declaration of the United Nations, endorsing the Atlantic Charter of 1941 that outlined the war aims of the US and UK.
  • Evolution of the UN and Power Dynamics:
    • The UN was created to uphold sovereignty and equality among nations through collective security principles but faced challenges within the Security Council due to the dominance of its five Permanent Members.
    • Post-1942 negotiations led to a structure where major Allied powers were granted permanent veto power, resembling early 19th-century European power dynamics.
    • The Bretton Woods Conference in July 1944 established key financial institutions like the IMF, World Bank, and GATT (later WTO) to create an international economic order focused on post-war reconstruction and global trade liberalization.
  • Shifts in Power and Economic Order:
    • The creation of the IMF marked a shift in power dynamics as imperial Britain’s debt burden led to the US emerging as a dominant force in global finance.
    • Britain had to relinquish its imperial trade preferences, symbolizing a transition from sterling to dollar dominance in international financial systems

2) Controlling Power Structures:

  • Influence of old power structures: The governance of the World Bank and IMF reflects old power structures, with an American heading the World Bank and Europe nominating the IMF head.
  • Voting rights: Voting rights in the IMF remain stagnant, favoring major economies like the US, UK, and G-7 nations, giving them significant influence.
    • For Example, currently the percentage voting rights for, say, the original BRICS members (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are 2.22, 2.59, 2.63, 6.08, and 0.63. The U.S. alone commands 16.5; add to it the votes of the U.K.
  • Special Drawing Rights (SDR): Special Drawing Rights allocation and major reforms require an 85% majority vote, effectively granting the US a powerful veto within the IMF.
    • The IMF maintains global stability by promoting financial stability, offering advice, and providing funds to countries in financial difficulty, as long as they accept conditions set by the leadership of the Fund.

What are the significant challenges in maintaining UN’s role in global governance and international peace and security?

  • Global Events and Geopolitical Constraints: The geopolitical constraints on the UN are intensifying, with deep rifts among major powers affecting the organization’s effectiveness in addressing global crises.
    • The 2020s have exposed vulnerabilities within the global system, with events like COVID-19 border closures disrupting cooperation and shared prosperity ideals. Secondly, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlighted the disregard for rules by powerful nations, undermining the system’s integrity.
  • New Fault Lines and Declining Political Influence: The UN’s political influence is decreasing due to political divisions and resource gaps, requiring new strategies to mobilize its strengths for peace.
    • For Example, presently, the conflict in Gaza revealed divisions between developed and developing nations, questioning support for the UN and exposing underlying tensions over human rights and historical injustices. Further, the crisis in West Asia is pushing the UN to the sidelines as key players challenge its authority, testing their commitment to fundamental UN principles.
  • Major-Power Divisions: Divisions among major powers are shrinking the space for multilateral cooperation, impacting the UN’s ability to manage international peace and security.
    • For Example, the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) aimed to challenge the World Bank but faces resistance, highlighting ongoing power struggles in global governance.
  • Security Council Paralysis: The Security Council has been slow and indecisive in reacting to crises, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine posing a serious challenge to international security and highlighting the need for more effective collective solutions.
    • Moreover, developing countries struggled to overcome Security Council vetoes and Bretton Woods Institutions’ voting structures.
Silver Lining:

  • Existing organizations outside the UN, like ASEAN, EU, G-7, G-20, and NATO, serve specific interests rather than universal values, lacking the binding legal framework of the UN. These organizations operate as clubs or regional security alliances, and can be more effective considering global governance structure.

 Way Forward:

  • Need for an Inclusive Global Cooperation: There is a growing need for more effective and inclusive global cooperation, emphasizing the importance of reforming international financial institutions and strengthening the role of the General Assembly within the UN system.
  • Need for Pragmatic Approach: In light of these challenges, there is a consensus on the necessity for flexibility, and adaptability within the UN to navigate complex geopolitical dynamics and effectively address global issues while restoring trust and reigniting global solidarity.

 

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Land Reforms

An expansive land management policy is overdue

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: UN Convention to Combat Desertification

Mains level: Land management practices

 

Mains Pyq:  Discuss the role of land reforms in agricultural development. Identify the factors that were responsible for the success of land reforms in India. (UPSC CSE 2016)

 

Prelims Pyq: With reference to land reforms in independent India, which one of the following statements is correct?  (UPSC CSE 2019)

  1. The ceiling laws were aimed at family holdings and not individual holdings.
  2. The major aim of land reforms was providing agricultural land to all the landless.
  3. It resulted in cultivation of cash crops as a predominant form of cultivation.
  4. Land reforms permitted no exemptions to the ceiling limits. 

India lost 2.5 per cent of GDP to land degradation

Context:

Land is central to all human activities. It provides ecological, economic, social, and cultural services. But this multi-dimensional character of land is often overlooked in land management practices, resulting in excessive stress, land degradation, and environmental draw down.

What do various reports highlight about land degradation and management?

  • Global Losses Due to Land Degradation: The annual losses of ecosystem services due to land degradation have been estimated at a staggering $6 trillion globally. This highlights the significant economic impact of neglecting land management.
  • UN Convention to Combat Desertification (COP14): The COP14 held in New Delhi in 2019 focused on discussing the problem of land degradation experienced by different countries. It emphasized the need to achieve land degradation neutrality, indicating the urgency of addressing this issue on a global scale.
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report: The IPCC’s special report on ‘Climate Change and Land’ in 2019 underscored the importance of country-level stocktaking of land management practices. It recommended near- and long-term actions aimed at reducing competition for land while maximizing co-benefits and minimizing negative impacts on key ecosystem services.
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Report: The FAO’s report titled ‘State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture: The System at Breaking Point’ in 2021 emphasized the urgent need to prioritize land, soil, and water management. It highlighted the neglected area of public policy and human welfare, stressing the importance of caring for the long-term future of land resources.

What are the challenges in land management in India?

  • Limited Geographical Area, High Population Density: Despite having only 2.4% of the world’s geographical area, India accommodates more than 17% of the world population. This high population density exacerbates land management issues, increasing pressure on available land resources.
  • Degraded Land: Approximately 30% of India’s total geographical area is degraded land. This degradation reduces agricultural productivity, diminishes ecosystem services, and contributes to environmental issues such as soil erosion and desertification.
  • Competition for Arable Land: With around 55% of India’s total geographical area classified as arable land, there is intense competition among farmers and various sectors for access to agricultural land. This competition is further fueled by the demand for land due to rapid urbanization, infrastructure development, and industrial expansion.
  • Urbanization and Infrastructure Development: Rapid urbanization and infrastructure development are leading to the conversion of agricultural land into urban areas, resulting in the loss of fertile land and natural habitats. This trend contributes to land use conflicts, escalating land prices, and changing land rights.
  • Environmental Degradation and Loss of Ecological Functions: The encroachment on natural areas and degradation of land lead to the loss of ecological functions and biodiversity. This not only affects the livelihood opportunities of people dependent on environmental resources but also undermines the buffering capacity of natural ecosystems against disasters such as floods, droughts, and pollution.
  • Climate Change Impacts: Climate change exacerbates land management challenges by altering precipitation patterns, increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, and contributing to temperature rise. These changes further stress land resources, exacerbating land degradation and impacting agricultural productivity.

What is the current status of land management in India?

  • Sectoral Approach and Administrative Complexity: Land management practices in India are predominantly sectoral, with different government departments implementing their own approaches. This fragmented governance structure leads to administrative complexity and coordination challenges among various stakeholders involved in land management.
  • State Government Jurisdiction: Land management falls under the purview of state governments in India. While this decentralization allows for localized decision-making, it can also lead to inconsistencies in policies and regulations across different regions.
  • Privately Owned Cultural Land: A significant portion of land in India, particularly cultural land, is privately owned. Land-use decisions are constitutionally vested with the owner, which further complicates the regulatory framework and implementation of land management practices.

Status of Adoption and Implementation Land management practices:

  • Knowledge Gaps: Limited understanding of sustainable land management practices and their implications.
  • Short-Term Planning Bias: Emphasis on short-term gains over long-term sustainability in land-use planning.
  • Fragmented Approach: Lack of coordination among government agencies and stakeholders, leading to disjointed efforts in land management.
  • Lack of Action for Unforeseen Events: Inadequate preparedness and response mechanisms for unforeseen events such as natural disasters or climate change impacts.
  • Regulatory Barriers: Complex regulatory frameworks and bureaucratic hurdles that impede effective land management initiatives.

What suggestions does this article give for addressing land management challenges in India?

  • Establishment of Multi-Stakeholder Platforms: Setting up multi-stakeholder platforms at the district and sub-district levels to bring together farmers, land managers, policymakers, civil society organizations, business leaders, and investors. This collaborative approach aims to facilitate sectoral integration and collective decision-making in land management.
  • Activation of District Planning Committees: Utilizing Article 243ZD (1) of the Constitution, which provides for district planning committees, to consolidate plans from panchayats and municipalities. These committees can be activated to prepare comprehensive land management plans covering both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors.
  • Adoption of a Landscape Approach: Embracing a landscape approach to land management, which considers the interconnectedness of various land uses and ecosystems. This approach provides deep insights into the potential of land and facilitates the allocation and reallocation of land for appropriate uses. It also enables evaluation, negotiation, trade-offs, and decision-making processes.
  • Integration of Climate-Smart Strategies: Incorporating climate-smart strategies into land management practices to address climate objectives, enhance agricultural production, improve local livelihoods, and promote the conservation of biodiversity. This entails implementing measures that mitigate climate change impacts and enhance resilience in land use planning and management.

 

Case study of netherland for value addition 

  • Room for the River Program initiated by the Dutch government in 2006 to address flood risks.
  • Program adopts an integrated approach to water and land management, recognizing interconnectedness of river systems, floodplains, and landscapes.
  • Emphasizes nature-based solutions like creating floodplains, restoring wetlands, and constructing bypass channels.
  • Stakeholder engagement crucial for success, involving local communities, landowners, and stakeholders.
  • Aims for resilient landscapes, employing adaptive management for flexible responses to changing environmental conditions.

In conclusion, effective land management is paramount for sustainable development, global stability, and environmental resilience. By embracing integrated approaches, nature-based solutions, and community engagement, India can address its land management challenges and pave the way for a more sustainable future. It is imperative for policymakers to prioritize these strategies, fostering collaboration and adaptability to safeguard India’s landscapes for generations to come.

 

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Innovation Ecosystem in India

Drop the ‘garland model’ to let science in India blossom

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Neuroscience

Mains level: Policies related to Science in India; ‘No Garland Neuroscience’ (NGN) model

 

Mains PYQs

  1. “Effectiveness of the government system at various levels and people’s participation in the governance system are interdependent.” Discuss their relationship with each other in the context of India. (2016)
  2. Scientific research in Indian universities is declining, because a career in science is not as attractive as business professions, engineering, or administration, and the universities are becoming consumer-oriented. Critically comment. (2014)

 

A Beginner's Guide to Neuroscience - iMotions

Why in the News?

The persistence of outdated frameworks in the conduct of scientific meetings in India is affecting its scientific practice.

Context:

  • There is a need to revamp the traditional mode of scientific conferences in India to align with contemporary values of egalitarianism, diversity, inclusivity, accessibility, and sustainability
  • By modernizing these conferences, India can enhance its position in the global science and technology research ecosystem. 
  • The article emphasizes ‘‘No Garland Neuroscience’ that science in India should reflect and promote these values in its practice and dissemination to support broader societal conversations.

How are the present scientific meetings held in India?

  • The Core groups of organizers are responsible for planning, inviting experts, disseminating info, and fundraising. It includes invited speakers and paid attendees sharing the latest research discoveries.
  • Scientific meetings, or conferences, are where researchers with similar or aligned areas of interest gather and serve as important avenues for the discussion and dissemination of science.
  • These meetings often include presentations or talks on contemporary research findings, along with expert interactions on topics of science and professional development. 

Challenges associated with the Traditional ‘bouquet giving’ model:

  • Persistent outdated practices:
      • Persistent outdated practices perpetuate long-standing academic challenges and career-stage inequities.
      • For example, continued reliance on bureaucratic, hierarchical frameworks, prolonged opening speeches by science administrators, delayed commencement due to dignitary arrivals, and hierarchical seating arrangements.
  • Ignoring gender and diversity issues:
    • Inclusivity: Lack of gender and diversity awareness evidence lines up for the limited acknowledgment of wider diversity issues.
    • For example, all-male speakers or panelists and sessions such as ‘Women in Science’ completely fail to account for larger diversity issues in science, such as historically marginalized groups and LGBTQIA+ scientists.
    • Scientific ecosystem:  In light of demands for secular scientific practice, gender, and social inclusivity, it is essential to reassess the practices like – religiously symbolic conference materials (like lamp lightening) or devotional songs during inaugurations, and gifting rituals in the Indian context.
What is the ‘No Garland Neuroscience’ (NGN) model?

  • The annual meeting series of NGN, uses a simple, sustainable, and low-in-cost approach, while keeping the focus on the scientific content and discussions.
  • Initiated in 2009, the Young Investigators’ Meeting (YIM) series from India Bioscience has focused on scientific networking and mentorship among life scientists in India. 
    • They have continued with ‘no-garland’ features’, for example, speaker lists in alphabetical order, round table seating, equal gender representation, open interactions among scientists who are in every stage of their careers.
    • Hence there is absence of religious symbolism, formal inaugural ceremonies, and salutations for speakers, and souvenir and bouquet distributions.

 

How ‘No Garland Neuroscience’ (NGN) model can be significant for Indian scientists? 

    • Can counter the Traditional Framework: The contemporary implementation of NGN can counterbalance the long-standing issue of outdated frameworks in the conduct of the majority of scientific meetings in India. 
      • The conduct of scientific meetings can make planning and budgetary room for improved practices such as hybrid and multi-hub conference formats.
  • Can Revamp the Ecosystem: Outdated practices fuel inequities and overlook diversity challenges. Hybrid conference formats, code of ethics, diversity inclusion, care caregiver support can propose towards new scientific ecosystem in India.
  • To enhance India’s position in the global science ecosystem a more equitable and progressive scientific community can be built using the capability of NGN model.

 

Conclusion: Revamping scientific conferences in India to align with modern values of inclusivity, diversity, and sustainability is crucial for fostering a more equitable and progressive scientific community. Embracing these changes can not only address current challenges but also position India as a leading player in the international science and technology research landscape.

 

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Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Produce

The cost of legal MSP is greatly exaggerated

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Food Security Act (NFSA)

Mains level: demands of farmers for a legal guarantee of Minimum Support Prices (MSP) in India

 

Demystifying Minimum Support Price (MSP) | Legacy IAS Academy

Central Idea:

The article discusses the ongoing demands of farmers for a legal guarantee of Minimum Support Prices (MSP) in India, highlighting the necessity of such a mechanism to stabilize agricultural commodity prices and support farmers’ incomes. It addresses misconceptions surrounding MSP, emphasizing its importance in insulating farmers from market price volatility and rectifying imbalances in agricultural productivity and regional procurement.

Key Highlights:

  • Farmers are demanding a legal guarantee for MSP to ensure price stability and protect their incomes.
  • MSP has been a longstanding mechanism in India to stabilize agricultural commodity prices, but its implementation has been limited.
  • Misconceptions about the fiscal costs and operational aspects of MSP have led to hesitancy in legalizing it, despite political consensus.
  • Government procurement under MSP primarily benefits consumers, not farmers, as it fulfills obligations under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
  • Expansion of MSP to cover a wider range of crops and regions is necessary to address regional imbalances in agricultural productivity and support crop diversification.

Key Challenges:

  • Misunderstanding of MSP’s fiscal implications and operational requirements.
  • Limited government intervention beyond rice and wheat procurement, leading to neglect of other crops and regions.
  • Concerns over excessive government expenditure and market distortions.
  • Ensuring effective implementation and monitoring of MSP across diverse agricultural sectors and regions.

Main Terms or keywords for answer writing:

  • Minimum Support Price (MSP)
  • National Food Security Act (NFSA)
  • Market Price Volatility
  • Agricultural Commodity Procurement
  • Price Stability
  • Geographical Imbalances
  • Crop Diversification

Important Phrases for answer quality enrichment:

  • Legal Guarantee for MSP
  • Price Stability Mechanism
  • Market Price Volatility
  • Government Intervention in Agricultural Markets
  • Regional Imbalances in Agricultural Productivity
  • Income Protection for Farmers

Cabinet announces hike in MSP for kharif crops in 5% to 10% range |  Business News - The Indian Express

Quotes:

  • “A guaranteed MSP may not solve the farmers’ problems. But it offers a good opportunity to rectify the imbalances in the MSP and procurement system.”
  • “Price stability will protect the average consumer from the vagaries of inflation.”
  • “Protecting the income of farmers will help revive the rural economy.”

Anecdotes:

  • Instances of government procurement primarily benefiting consumers rather than farmers, highlighting the need for MSP reform.
  • Farmers’ struggles with declining real incomes and wages, reflecting long-standing neglect of the agrarian economy.

Useful Statements:

  • “Misconceptions surrounding the fiscal costs of MSP overlook its role in stabilizing prices and supporting farmers’ incomes.”
  • “Expansion of MSP to cover a wider range of crops and regions is necessary to address regional imbalances in agricultural productivity.”

Examples and References:

  • Government procurement data for rice and wheat compared to other crops, illustrating limited intervention beyond major staples.
  • Comparative analysis of MSP implementation in India and other countries with similar price stabilization mechanisms.

Facts and Data:

  • Government procurement figures for rice and wheat in recent years.
  • Estimates of the potential fiscal costs of implementing a legal guarantee for MSP.
  • Statistics on declining real incomes and wages in the agrarian sector.

Critical Analysis:

  • Emphasizes the importance of MSP in stabilizing agricultural prices and supporting farmer livelihoods.
  • Addresses misconceptions and challenges surrounding MSP implementation.
  • Advocates for reforms to expand MSP coverage and address regional imbalances in agricultural productivity.

Way Forward:

  • Implement legal guarantee for MSP to ensure price stability and support farmer incomes.
  • Expand MSP coverage to include a wider range of crops and regions.
  • Enhance monitoring and evaluation mechanisms to ensure effective implementation of MSP.
  • Address misconceptions and concerns regarding fiscal costs and market distortions associated with MSP.

Overall, the article underscores the necessity of legalizing MSP to support farmers’ incomes, stabilize agricultural prices, and address long-standing neglect in the agrarian sector. It advocates for comprehensive reforms to expand MSP coverage and ensure its effective implementation across diverse agricultural sectors and regions.

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Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

How LPG subsidy can be redesigned to privilege low-income households

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)

Mains level: challenges faced by low-income households in India in accessing LPG

54% Indian households still using firewood, cow dung as cooking fuel: Study  - Gaonconnection | Your Connection with Rural India

Central Idea:

The article highlights the challenges faced by low-income households in India in accessing LPG refills despite government subsidies under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY). It suggests reforms to the existing subsidy program to make it more effective, including on-time subsidy transfers and the use of digital payment solutions.

Key Highlights:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) aims to provide LPG access to low-income households in India.
  • Despite subsidies, many households still rely on biomass for cooking due to liquidity constraints.
  • Existing subsidy policies have evolved rapidly, but they may not adequately address the needs of PMUY households.
  • Data analysis reveals that PMUY consumers are sensitive to the amount and timing of refill subsidies.
  • Upfront subsidies, like those provided during the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY), can significantly increase LPG usage.
  • Fin-tech solutions, such as electronic subsidy transfers and digital vouchers, can alleviate the financial burden of refill purchases.

Key Challenges:

  • Ensuring subsidy benefits reach the intended beneficiaries without leakage.
  • Addressing liquidity constraints faced by low-income households.
  • Educating households about subsidy timing and logistics.
  • Overcoming credit constraints, especially for daily wage earners.
  • Implementing digital payment solutions effectively in rural areas.

Main Terms or keywords for answer writing:

  • LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas)
  • PMUY (Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana)
  • PAHAL (Pratyaksh Hanstantrit Labh)
  • PMGKY (Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana)
  • Fin-tech (Financial Technology)
  • e-RUPI (Electronic Rupee)

Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana (PMUY) - Apply Online Now

Important Phrases for quality enrichment of mains answer:

  • Liquidity constraint
  • Direct benefit transfer
  • Upfront subsidy
  • Digital voucher
  • Electronic payment
  • Delayed subsidy transfer

Manmeet Singh Bhatti on LinkedIn: LPG is the immediate Fuel to reduce  Pollution Agree? Indian Oil Corp…

Quotes for value addition:

  • “Low-income households are sensitive to the amount and timing of refill subsidy.”
  • “An upfront subsidy transfer can increase the demand for LPG refills significantly.”
  • “Digital payment solutions hold promise in alleviating the financial burden of refill purchases.”

Anecdotes:

  • The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) saw a spike in LPG consumption among low-income households during the period of upfront subsidy provision.

Useful Statements:

  • “Ensuring subsidy benefits reach the intended beneficiaries without leakage is crucial for the success of LPG subsidy programs.”
  • “Digital payment solutions can address liquidity constraints and improve access to LPG refills for low-income households.”

Examples and References:

  • Data from Indore district reveals the sensitivity of PMUY consumers to refill market prices and subsidy amounts.
  • The success of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) in increasing LPG usage among low-income households serves as a relevant example.

Facts and Data:

  • Before PMUY, a high percentage of rural households in India used biomass for cooking.
  • PMUY households have lower LPG refill consumption compared to non-PMUY households.
  • A significant increase in refill subsidy decreases monthly consumption by about 25% for PMUY consumers.

Critical Analysis:

  • The article effectively identifies the challenges hindering the effectiveness of LPG subsidy programs for low-income households.
  • It provides data-driven insights into consumer behavior and the impact of subsidy policies.
  • The proposed fin-tech solutions offer practical approaches to address liquidity constraints and improve subsidy delivery.

Way Forward:

  • Implement electronic payment solutions and digital vouchers to facilitate on-time subsidy transfers.
  • Educate households about subsidy timing and logistics to improve awareness.
  • Continuously monitor and evaluate subsidy programs to ensure effectiveness and address any emerging challenges.
  • Collaborate between government ministries, fin-tech companies, and local stakeholders to implement reforms successfully.

By addressing these challenges and implementing innovative solutions, India can enhance LPG access for low-income households and accelerate its energy transition goals.

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Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

With Open Book Exams, India goes back to its traditional roots — and closer to being a vishwaguru

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: National Education Policy (NEP)

Mains level: benefits and challenges of open-book exams

 

As CBSE Proposes Open Book Exams For Classes 9-12, Parents Express Concern

Central Idea:

The article discusses the recent reforms in India’s education system, particularly the introduction of open-book exams by the CBSE and the shift towards a more holistic approach to learning as outlined in the National Education Policy (NEP) of 2022. It reflects on the historical origins of education in India, the impact of the pandemic on traditional learning methods, and the need for a more dynamic and flexible educational framework.

 

Key Highlights:

  • Historical perspective on education in India, tracing back to ancient gurukuls and traditional learning methodologies.
  • The influence of colonial education policies and the subsequent need for modernization.
  • Challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the limitations of traditional classroom-based learning and the disparities in access to education.
  • The National Education Policy of 2022 and its emphasis on holistic development and a more flexible curriculum.
  • Introduction of open-book exams and biannual examinations by the CBSE as part of efforts to reform the examination-oriented approach and promote continuous assessment.

 

Key Challenges:

  • Mindset shift required among educators, students, and parents to adapt to new learning methodologies and assessment formats.
  • Ensuring equitable access to education and technology, especially for students from marginalized communities.
  • Overcoming resistance to change and traditional beliefs about the value of memorization-based exams.
  • Implementation challenges, including training of teachers, development of appropriate study materials, and assessment methods for open-book exams.
  • Balancing the need for continuous assessment with the demands of a standardized examination system.

Pradhan Mantri Ujjawala Yojana (PMUY) - Apply Online Now

 

Main Terms:

  • Open-book exams
  • Holistic development
  • National Education Policy (NEP)
  • Gurukuls
  • Continuous assessment
  • Colonial education
  • Biannual examinations

 

Important Phrases:

  • “Paradigm shift in education”
  • “Dynamic and flexible educational framework”
  • “Holistic learning approach”
  • “Continuous assessment over memorization”
  • “Equitable access to education”
  • “Adapting to new learning methodologies”
  • “Overcoming resistance to change”

 

Quotes:

  • “The journey of education is an ever-evolving one.”
  • “Change while staying true to the essence of holistic learning.”
  • “Reclaiming the honour of being a ‘vishwaguru.'”

 

Anecdotes:

  • The contrast between traditional gurukuls and modern-day classrooms.
  • Personal experiences of students navigating the challenges of the pandemic and adapting to online learning.

 

Useful Statements:

  • “The pandemic revealed the limitations of traditional classroom-based learning.”
  • “The NEP emphasizes a shift towards holistic development and flexible learning methodologies.”
  • “Open-book exams offer students a chance for continuous assessment and learning from mistakes.”

 

Examples and References:

  • Examples of successful implementation of open-book exams in other educational systems.
  • Reference to the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) report on learning outcomes during the pandemic.

 

Facts and Data:

  • Introduction of open-book exams and biannual examinations by the CBSE.
  • Statistics on learning outcomes and access to education during the pandemic from the UDISE report.

 

Critical Analysis:

  • Evaluation of the benefits and challenges of open-book exams in promoting critical thinking and reducing exam-related stress.
  • Discussion on the need for ongoing teacher training and infrastructure development to support the implementation of new educational policies.

 

Way Forward:

  • Emphasize the importance of adapting to changing educational paradigms while preserving the essence of traditional learning.
  • Invest in teacher training, technology infrastructure, and curriculum development to support holistic education.
  • Foster collaboration between educators, policymakers, and communities to ensure equitable access to quality education for all students.

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

Changing the growth paradigm

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Gross Domestic Product

Mains level: critique of the prevailing GDP-centric approach to economic development

The Global Sustainable Development Report 2023 | United Nations in Ghana

Central Idea:

The central idea of the article is that traditional measures of economic growth, like GDP, are inadequate indicators of a nation’s well-being and development. Instead, the focus should shift towards inclusive and sustainable growth that prioritizes the welfare of citizens, particularly in countries like India where economic progress has not translated into improved living standards for all.

Key Highlights:

  • Critique of GDP-centric approach: The article highlights the limitations of relying solely on GDP growth as a measure of economic health, pointing out that it doesn’t necessarily lead to increased income or well-being for citizens.
  • Inequality and inequitable growth: Despite impressive GDP growth, India remains one of the most unequal countries in the world, indicating that the benefits of growth are not evenly distributed among its citizens.
  • Need for a new paradigm: The article argues for a shift towards inclusive and environmentally sustainable development models, especially in the face of global challenges like climate change.
  • Dependency on fossil fuels: The reliance on fossil fuels for essential materials like steel, concrete, plastics, and food production is highlighted, along with the challenges of transitioning away from them.
  • Importance of local solutions: Emphasizing the significance of community-driven, local solutions, the article suggests that India should leverage its unique strengths rather than blindly following Western development models.

Key Challenges:

  • Overcoming entrenched economic paradigms: Shifting away from GDP-centric models towards more inclusive and sustainable development approaches requires challenging existing economic frameworks and ideologies.
  • Addressing inequality: Tackling the deep-rooted inequalities in India’s economy presents a significant challenge, especially given the historical focus on GDP growth.
  • Transitioning from fossil fuels: Moving away from fossil fuel dependency poses technological, economic, and social challenges, particularly in sectors like agriculture and transportation.
  • Balancing urbanization and rural development: Reconciling the push for urbanization with the need for rural development and sustainable agriculture presents complex policy dilemmas.
  • Overcoming resistance to change: Convincing policymakers and society at large to embrace alternative development paradigms may face resistance from entrenched interests and ideologies.

Main Terms:

  • GDP: Gross Domestic Product, a measure of the total value of goods and services produced within a country’s borders.
  • Inclusive growth: Economic growth that benefits all segments of society, particularly the marginalized and vulnerable.
  • Sustainable development: Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
  • Fossil fuels: Non-renewable energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas, formed from the remains of prehistoric plants and animals.
  • Urbanization: The process of population concentration in urban areas, often accompanied by industrialization and economic development.

Important Phrases:

  • “Increase the size of the pie before its redistribution”: Reflects the emphasis on GDP growth over equitable distribution of wealth.
  • “One path for all”: Criticizes the uniform approach to development that privileges industrialization and urbanization over other forms of progress.
  • “Gandhian solution”: Refers to community-driven, localized approaches to development advocated by Mahatma Gandhi.
  • “Rural Bharat”: Signifies the rural heartland of India, highlighting the importance of rural communities in the country’s development.

Quotes:

  • “More GDP does not improve the well-being of citizens if it does not put more income in their pockets.”
  • “India must find a new paradigm of progress, for itself and for the world, for more inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth.”
  • “The time has come to go back to old solutions to go to the future.”

Useful Statements:

  • “Critics argue that GDP growth alone does not necessarily lead to improved living standards for citizens, particularly in countries like India where inequality persists.”
  • “Transitioning away from fossil fuels presents significant challenges, but it is essential for addressing climate change and ensuring long-term sustainability.”
  • “Local, community-driven solutions have the potential to address global challenges like climate change and inequitable economic growth.”

Examples and References:

  • The article cites India’s experience of impressive GDP growth alongside persistent inequality as evidence of the limitations of traditional development models.
  • Reference is made to the work of Vaclav Smil on the role of fossil fuels in modern economies, providing a scientific basis for understanding the challenges of transitioning to renewable energy sources.

Facts and Data:

  • India’s GDP grew at 7.2% per year during both the United Progressive Alliance and National Democratic Alliance governments, yet structural conditions leading to inequitable growth remained unchanged.
  • Sixty-four per cent of Indian citizens live in rural areas, highlighting the importance of rural development in India’s economic and social progress.

Critical Analysis:

The article provides a compelling critique of the prevailing GDP-centric approach to economic development, highlighting its failure to address inequality and environmental concerns. By advocating for inclusive and sustainable growth models, the article offers a nuanced perspective on the challenges facing countries like India in the 21st century. However, it could benefit from further exploration of specific policy recommendations and case studies demonstrating successful alternative development strategies.

Way Forward:

  • Embrace inclusive and sustainable development models that prioritize the well-being of all citizens.
  • Invest in renewable energy sources and sustainable agriculture to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and mitigate climate change.
  • Empower local communities to drive development initiatives tailored to their unique needs and challenges.
  • Reform economic policies to prioritize equitable distribution of wealth and opportunities.
  • Foster international cooperation to address global challenges like climate change and inequality.

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Defence Sector – DPP, Missions, Schemes, Security Forces, etc.

It is the conditioning of the Agniveer that merits attention

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: importance of the human element in military operations

Understanding the Operational Environment: the Human Dimension | Global Strategy

Why in the News?

While initial feedback on the scheme is positive, there are challenges in integrating these recruits into military units, particularly regarding unit cohesion and psychological assimilation.

About Agniveer Scheme:

Aim: As a reform in Indian defense policy, it aims to recruit and retain young men and women in the armed forces through a short-service manpower model.

Key Highlights of the Scheme:

  • Introduction of the Agnipath scheme to reform defense recruitment.
  • Focus on a short-service manpower model with the potential for retention.
  • Significant unit cohesion and psychological assimilation for effective combat readiness.
  • Emphasizes on the enduring significance of the human element in warfare despite technological advancements.

Key Challenges:

  • Ensuring seamless integration of Agniveers into military units.
  • Nurturing unit cohesion and camaraderie among recruits.
  • Addressing potential issues of competition and one-upmanship among Agniveers.
  • Managing the psychological well-being and personality traits of recruits.
  • Lack of a formal psychology test in the recruitment process.

Main Terms:

  • Agnipath scheme: Indian defense policy reform for recruitment and retention.
  • Agniveers: Young men and women recruited under the Agnipath scheme.
  • Unit cohesion: The bond and teamwork within military units.
  • Combat readiness: Preparedness of military units for combat situations.
  • Human element: Importance of individual soldiers’ character and relationships in warfare.

Important Phrases:

  • “Agniveers into the milieu of military units”
  • “unit pride flows out of unit cohesion”
  • “technology-based counter-measures”
  • “focus on the human element”
  • “psychological assimilation”

Quotes:

  • “I hold it to be one of the simplest truths of war that the thing which enables a soldier to keep going with his weapon is the near presence or the presumed presence of a comrade.” – S.L.A. Marshall

Anecdotes:

  • Reference to Russia-Ukraine conflict and Israel-Hamas conflict to highlight the enduring significance of the human element in warfare.

Useful Statements:

  • “Irrespective of technological advancements in the realm of warfare, the character of a soldier to stand by his flanking mate can never be undermined.”
  • “The onerous challenge would be to arrest any germination of an undesired personality trait among the lot given that 25% of the Agniveers will stay back.”
  • “The government should consider introducing a test of ‘psychology’ as part of the recruitment process.”

Examples and References:

  • Mention of Agniveers’ positive feedback from units.
  • Reference to S.L.A. Marshall’s observations on the importance of comradeship in war.

Critical Analysis:

  • The article emphasizes the importance of the human element in military operations despite technological advancements.
  • It highlights challenges in integrating new recruits into military units and maintaining unit cohesion.

Way Forward:

  • Address challenges in integrating Agniveers into military units.
  • Prioritize psychological assimilation and character development alongside technical training.
  • Consider implementing a psychology test in the recruitment process for better assessment and management of recruits.

Overall, the article underscores the importance of balancing technological advancements with the enduring significance of individual character and unit cohesion in military operations. It calls for a strategic approach in integrating and nurturing new recruits to ensure effective combat readiness.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

In a tough world, the beacon of U.K.-India strategic ties

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: na

Mains level: Strengthening defense ties and collaborative efforts in maritime security

 

India to England Distance | Medium

Central Idea:

The article emphasizes the deepening partnership between the United Kingdom and India, highlighting their shared interests in maritime security, global trade, and defense cooperation. It underscores the importance of strategic relationships, particularly in the face of global challenges such as maritime threats and conflicts like the Ukraine crisis. The piece celebrates the growing ties between the two nations and their collaborative efforts towards peace, prosperity, and upholding the rules-based International Order.

Key Highlights:

  • Mutual reliance on maritime trade and the significance of securing global sea routes.
  • Collaboration in Operation Prosperity Guardian to protect commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
  • Support for Ukraine against Russian aggression, including substantial military aid and ongoing assistance.
  • Recognition of the Indo-Asia-Pacific region’s growing economic importance and the establishment of the U.K. tilt towards it.
  • Strengthening defense ties between the UK and India, with increased military interactions, joint exercises, and defense industrial partnerships.

Key Challenges:

  • Threats to maritime security, including aggression from groups like the Houthis and conflicts like the Ukraine crisis.
  • Balancing national interests with international cooperation in addressing global challenges.
  • Navigating geopolitical complexities and maintaining alliances amidst shifting power dynamics.
  • Ensuring sustainable economic growth and prosperity in the face of global uncertainties.

Main Terms:

  • Maritime security
  • Global trade
  • Defense partnership
  • Operation Prosperity Guardian
  • Indo-Asia-Pacific region
  • Rules-based International Order

India-UK - INSIGHTSIAS

Important Phrases for mains answer writing:

  • “The global lifelines of goods and resource”
  • “Wanton violence and disregard for international law”
  • “Strategies of isolationism or coercion”
  • “Rules-based International Order”
  • “Shared operational capabilities”

Quotes that can add value to to your arguments in mains answers:

  • “Our nations need to secure, and make free from aggression and exploitation, the global lifelines of goods and resource that flow across the seas.”
  • “The U.K., India, and the world have a common interest in ensuring this wanton violence and disregard for international law are not allowed to become normalised.”
  • “The possibilities for global prosperity cannot be understated, and the importance of the Indo-Asia Pacific, not just to the United Kingdom, but to the world, has never been clearer.”

Anecdotes:

  • Highlighting the successful efforts of Ukraine’s armed forces in resisting Russian aggression and reopening maritime corridors for grain exports.
  • The positive reception of the UK Carrier Strike Group during its visit to India and the hospitality extended by Indian authorities.

Useful Statements for mains answer writing:

  • “In this ever more unstable world, the U.K. is fortunate to have India as a good friend.”
  • “History teaches us that strategies of isolationism or coercion have rarely produced strong coalitions.”

Examples and References:

  • Mention of Operation Prosperity Guardian and the joint efforts to protect maritime trade routes.
  • Ukraine’s resilience against Russian aggression and the support provided by the UK.
  • Increased military interactions and defense collaborations between the UK and India.

Facts and Data for credibility in your answer:

  • £2.5 billion in military aid provided by the UK to Ukraine in 2024-25, totaling almost £12 billion since 2022.
  • Record numbers of UK ship visits to India and the deepening defense partnership between the two nations.
  • The shift of the global economic center of gravity towards the Indo-Asia-Pacific region by 2050.

Critical Analysis:

The article provides a comprehensive overview of the strategic partnership between the UK and India, emphasizing shared interests in maritime security, global trade, and defense cooperation. It effectively highlights the challenges posed by maritime threats and conflicts like the Ukraine crisis while advocating for continued international cooperation and upholding the rules-based International Order. The piece demonstrates the importance of strategic alliances in navigating global uncertainties and promoting peace and prosperity.

Way Forward:

  • Strengthening defense ties and collaborative efforts in maritime security.
  • Continued support for Ukraine and other nations facing security threats.
  • Enhancing economic cooperation and leveraging the opportunities in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
  • Advocating for the rules-based International Order and promoting stability through diplomatic engagement and multilateral cooperation.

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Housing for all – PMAY, etc.

Beyond shelter, dweller needs within the four walls

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Mains level: government's efforts in addressing housing challenges

PM lays foundation stone of Light House projects (LHPs) across six states

Central Idea:

The article discusses the commendable steps taken by the government in the interim Budget 2024 towards achieving the ‘Housing for All’ initiative, particularly focusing on the construction of affordable houses and addressing environmental concerns. It emphasizes the need for integrating modern technologies and passive design strategies to ensure both affordability and sustainability in housing projects.

Key Highlights:

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the construction of two crore additional houses over the next five years under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Gramin (PMAY-G) and introduced a new housing scheme for the middle class.
  • The success of the PMAY scheme is acknowledged, with nearly three crore rural and 80 lakh urban affordable houses constructed since 2015.
  • The adoption of modern technologies, such as Light House Projects (LHPs) and alternative construction methods like Mivan, is emphasized to reduce construction time, costs, and environmental impact.
  • However, there’s a need to address the trade-offs between mass production and quality of life, particularly regarding thermal comfort and environmental sustainability.
  • Passive design strategies are suggested as a solution to ensure thermal comfort and reduce greenhouse gas emissions during the operational stage of buildings.
  • Initiatives like Eco Niwas Samhita and Smart Ghar III project in Rajkot are cited as examples of integrating passive design elements into affordable housing projects.
  • Challenges include multi-stakeholder involvement, lack of awareness among end-users about the benefits of passive designs, and the need for systemic changes to incentivize sustainable practices across the building value chain.

Key Challenges:

  • Balancing mass production with quality and sustainability.
  • Addressing thermal comfort and environmental concerns in affordable housing projects.
  • Overcoming multi-stakeholder involvement and lack of awareness about passive design benefits.
  • Incentivizing developers to prioritize sustainability in housing projects.

Main Terms:

  • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)
  • Affordable housing
  • Thermal comfort
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Passive design strategies
  • Light House Projects (LHPs)
  • Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC)
  • Eco Niwas Samhita

Important Phrases:

  • “Housing for All” initiative
  • “Low-carbon infrastructure”
  • “Modern technologies in affordable housing”
  • “Trade-offs with quality of life”
  • “Passive design implementation”
  • “Embodied and operational emissions”
  • “Environmental consciousness”
  • “Sustainable and inclusive future”

Useful quotes:

  • “The announcement also prompts us to critically think about the potential trade-offs with quality of life and environmental concerns as a result of the rapid expansion of the housing sector.”
  • “This underscores a critical paradox, wherein a technology deemed to offer a low-carbon alternative inadvertently contributes to elevated emissions during the operational stage.”
  • “The escalating heat stress worldwide is anticipated to affect various population segments, leading to a substantial increase in the demand for cooling.”
  • “However, the challenge lies in their implementation because of the multi-stakeholder nature of the building value chain.”
  • “By weaving environmental consciousness into the fabric of housing initiatives, we can ensure that the homes we build not only shelter individuals but are also robust structures that make residents resilient to a warming climate.”

Anecdotes/Useful Statements:

  • Example: The Smart Ghar III project in Rajkot demonstrates the integration of passive design strategies into affordable housing, ensuring indoor thermal comfort.
  • Fact: Nearly three crore rural and 80 lakh urban affordable houses have been constructed under the PMAY scheme since 2015.
  • Data: Construction technologies like Mivan offer higher efficiency and reduce the overall duration and cost of projects.
  • Example: The Global Housing Technology Challenge (GHTC) includes Light House Projects (LHPs) across six sites in six states, leveraging modern technology for affordable housing.
  • Fact: The lack of tangible benefits perceived by end-users hinders the adoption of passive designs in housing projects.

Critical Analysis:

The article effectively highlights the government’s efforts in addressing housing challenges while also acknowledging the environmental concerns associated with rapid construction. It emphasizes the need for a balanced approach that integrates modern technologies with passive design strategies to ensure both affordability and sustainability in housing projects. However, it also identifies key challenges such as multi-stakeholder involvement and lack of awareness among end-users, indicating the complexity of implementing sustainable practices across the building value chain.

Way Forward:

  • Implementing passive design strategies in affordable housing projects.
  • Raising awareness among stakeholders about the benefits of sustainable practices.
  • Incentivizing developers to prioritize sustainability through policy interventions.
  • Strengthening building codes to incorporate environmental considerations.
  • Fostering collaboration among stakeholders to drive systemic changes in the building sector.

Overall, the article calls for a holistic approach towards housing development that not only meets the immediate needs of the population but also ensures long-term environmental sustainability.

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

Electoral season and restructuring the health system

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Na

Mains level: importance of prioritizing primary healthcare

 

Healthcare Reforms in India: A Compelling Need Today - India CSR

Central Idea:

The article discusses the importance of health reform in India, highlighting the necessity for political parties to prioritize it in their manifestos. It emphasizes the need to strengthen primary healthcare systems, citing successful examples from other countries like Thailand, and proposes comprehensive reforms to address India’s healthcare challenges.

Key Highlights:

  • Manifestos serve as important documents reflecting political parties’ priorities and commitments.
  • Both BJP and Congress manifestos in 2014 and 2019 highlighted the importance of revamping the primary healthcare system, but with differing perspectives on healthcare delivery.
  • Past initiatives like the National Rural Health Mission under the UPA and policy continuity under the NDA have made incremental progress but haven’t addressed fundamental healthcare system flaws.
  • Comparison with countries like Thailand and Turkey underscores India’s need for more ambitious and effective healthcare reforms.
  • The focus should shift towards strengthening primary and secondary healthcare infrastructure to address the majority of health needs effectively.
  • Successful reform examples emphasize deliberate planning, strong local capacity building, and a focus on community outcomes.
  • Challenges include political will, overcoming preoccupation with high-end hospitals, and implementing synchronized reforms at the grassroots level.

Key Challenges:

  • Political reluctance to prioritize primary healthcare over high-end hospital infrastructure.
  • Resistance to reforming entrenched healthcare delivery models and governance structures.
  • Capacity building and resource allocation at the district level to implement reforms effectively.
  • Varying levels of capability across states necessitate tailored approaches to reform implementation.
  • Addressing lifestyle factors contributing to disease incidence and out-of-pocket healthcare expenses.
  • Overcoming market failures and governance challenges in healthcare service provision.

Main Terms or key terms for answer writing:

  • Primary healthcare
  • Universal Health Coverage (UHC)
  • Health reform
  • Public-private partnerships (PPP)
  • Human resources for health
  • Social health insurance
  • Medical curriculum reform
  • Decentralization
  • Operational flexibilities
  • Accountability framework

Important Phrases for quality answers:

  • “Reforming the very architecture of the health system”
  • “Building a system ‘fit for purpose'”
  • “Operational flexibilities within a proactive, accountability framework”
  • “Imagination to design the process of reform”
  • “Infusion of new institutional and organizational capacities”
  • “Reducing demand for hospitalization”
  • “Out-of-pocket expenditures”

Quotes that you can use for essay writing:

  • “Manifestos are useful documents… enabling people to hold the elected party accountable.”
  • “India’s strategy for UHC has hinged on purchasing services from a private sector operating on the inflationary a fee for service model…”
  • “Can our political parties commit themselves to such a process in their manifestos? Or, is that a big ask?”

Useful Statements:

  • “Twenty years is a long time… Thailand… achieved significant outcomes within half the time span.”
  • “India has a long way to go… States such as Bihar still have one doctor serving per 20,000 population.”
  • “Successful examples of such reform processes show deliberate intent executed to a plan.”

Examples and References for value addition in your mains answer:

  • Thailand’s Universal Health Coverage implementation in 2000.
  • Turkey’s Health Transformation Program in 2003.
  • India’s National Rural Health Mission and National Medical Commission establishment.

Facts and Data:

  • India’s maternal mortality is three times more than the global average.
  • 95% of ailments and disease reduction can be handled at the primary and secondary level.
  • India’s public spending on healthcare has hovered around an average of 1.2% of GDP.

Critical Analysis:

The article provides a critical analysis of past healthcare initiatives in India, highlighting their incremental nature and failure to address fundamental system flaws. It underscores the importance of prioritizing primary healthcare and comprehensive reform to achieve equitable, effective healthcare delivery.

Way Forward:

  • Prioritize strengthening primary healthcare infrastructure.
  • Implement comprehensive healthcare reforms addressing governance, human resources, and service delivery.
  • Tailor reform strategies to suit varying state capabilities.
  • Shift focus towards community outcomes and accountability.
  • Address lifestyle factors contributing to healthcare burden.
  • Overcome political reluctance and vested interests to achieve meaningful reform.

Answer the following question and write your answer in comment box 

How can India learn from successful healthcare reform initiatives in other countries like Thailand and Turkey to address its own healthcare challenges effectively?

 

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Forest Conservation Efforts – NFP, Western Ghats, etc.

An undeclared war with nature

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: The Wildlife Trust of India

Mains level: human fatalities due to wildlife attacks

Wayanad: Eight killed in human-wildlife conflict in past 12 months, wayanad elephant attack, human wildlife conflict, kerala, wayanad, tuskers

Central Idea:

The article discusses the escalating human-wildlife conflict in Wayanad, Kerala, attributing it to the loss of ecological connectivity and habitat fragmentation caused by human activities such as deforestation, monoculture plantations, and unchecked tourism. It emphasizes the urgent need for coordinated efforts from government departments and stakeholders to address the crisis and restore ecological balance in the region.

Key Highlights:

  • Recent tragic incidents involving human fatalities due to wildlife attacks, highlighting the severity of the conflict.
  • Decline in elephant corridors over the past two decades, leading to increased wildlife incursions into human settlements.
  • Impact of wildlife attacks on human lives, agriculture sector, and domestic animals.
  • Destructive effects of deforestation, monoculture plantations, and tourism on the ecosystem.
  • Failure of authorities to address concerns raised by scientists and activists regarding habitat management and conservation strategies.
  • Inadequate response from the government, including the lack of proper surveillance and monitoring in wildlife management operations.

Key Challenges:

  • Loss of ecological connectivity and habitat fragmentation due to human activities.
  • Escalating human-wildlife conflict resulting in fatalities and economic losses.
  • Lack of effective coordination among government departments and stakeholders.
  • Failure to enforce environmental laws and conservation measures.
  • Insufficient surveillance and monitoring in wildlife management operations.

Main Terms:

  • Human-wildlife conflict: Conflict arising from interactions between humans and wild animals, often due to habitat loss and encroachment.
  • Ecological connectivity: The uninterrupted movement of species between habitats, essential for maintaining biodiversity.
  • Habitat fragmentation: Division of natural habitats into smaller, isolated patches, disrupting wildlife movement and ecological processes.
  • Monoculture plantations: Agricultural or forestry practices where only one species is cultivated, leading to loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
  • Ecotourism: Tourism focused on visiting natural areas while conserving the environment and improving the well-being of local people.
  • Wildlife corridors: Strips of habitat connecting fragmented patches, facilitating the movement of wildlife.

Important Phrases:

  • “Loss of ecological connectivity and habitat fragmentation”
  • “Escalating human-wildlife conflict”
  • “Destructive effects of deforestation and monoculture plantations”
  • “Failure of authorities to address concerns”
  • “Inadequate response from the government”

Quotes:

  • “In a war with nature, no human would survive.”
  • “The continuous struggle of scientists and activists demanding the revival of habitat management has fallen on deaf ears.”
  • “The recent Operation Jumbo parade captured nine elephants but lacked adequate surveillance and monitoring.”

Useful Statements:

  • “Loss of ecological connectivity due to habitat fragmentation exacerbates the human-wildlife conflict.”
  • “Government efforts must focus on coordinated strategies to address the crisis and restore ecological balance.”
  • “Failure to enforce environmental laws and conservation measures further aggravates the situation.”

Examples and References:

  • Recent incidents involving human fatalities due to wildlife attacks in Wayanad.
  • The Wildlife Trust of India’s report on elephant corridors.
  • Official data documenting human deaths and crop losses due to wildlife attacks.

Facts and Data:

  • Documented human deaths due to wildlife attacks in Wayanad in the last 10 years.
  • Cases of crop loss and domestic animal deaths due to wildlife incursions from 2017 to 2023.
  • Hectares of monoculture plantations out of total forest area in Wayanad.

Critical Analysis:

The article effectively highlights the interconnected factors contributing to the human-wildlife conflict in Wayanad, emphasizing the role of human activities such as deforestation and unchecked tourism. However, it lacks detailed analysis of specific policy failures and potential solutions to address the crisis.

Way Forward:

  • Implement coordinated strategies involving government departments and stakeholders to restore ecological balance.
  • Enforce environmental laws and conservation measures to mitigate habitat loss and fragmentation.
  • Enhance surveillance and monitoring in wildlife management operations to prevent human-wildlife conflicts.
  • Promote sustainable land use practices and eco-friendly tourism initiatives to preserve natural habitats and biodiversity.

Answer the following question in comment box 

“How can governments, stakeholders, and communities combat escalating human-wildlife conflict in Wayanad, Kerala, addressing habitat loss, deforestation, and tourism? Additionally, how can they restore ecological balance, mitigate economic losses, and ensure safety for both humans and wildlife?”

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