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(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Socio Cultural Impacts of Rural Tourism [MARCH-2019]


(The Gist of Kurukshetra) Socio Cultural Impacts of Rural Tourism

[MARCH-2019]


Socio Cultural Impacts of Rural Tourism

Introduction

  •  Tourism as an activity undertaken by individuals provides diversification from routine functions of one’s day to day life. Today tourism is recognised as one of the largest industries of the world.
  •  It contributes to employment generation, enhances income and enables fair distribution of wealth from an economic perspective. Simultaneously it provides a ground for cultural exchange, enhances tolerance and mutual respect amongst different cultures and promotes international friendship. It is also one of the surest and economical means of gaining exchange income.

Introducing Rural Tourism

Rural tourism can be defined as the country experience encompasses which a wide range of attractions and activities that take place in agricultural or non-urban areas. The essential characteristics of this form of tourism include wide-open spaces, low levels of tourism development, and opportunities for visitors to directly experience agricultural and/or natural environments. Rural tourism can be defined according to its relationship with its environment Prerequisites of rural tourism that lend a unique experience to tourists are that the destination should be:

  •  Located in a rural area
  •  Functionally rural. It should revolve on small settlements, open space and in contact with nature and the natural world, traditional societies their heritage and traditional practices.
  •  Traditional in character, growing organically and connected with local families. It will often be very largely controlled locally and developed for the long term good of the area.

Positive Impact in Building Rural Societies

  •  Rural tourism, though just a minority tourism market, is making a valuable contribution to rural economies. Its contribution can be expressed not only in financial terms, but also in terms of jobs, contributions towards funding conservation and encouragement to the adoption of new working practices.
  •  In terms of the social fabric of the rural community, definitely an additional source of income that comes from tourism contributes positively to this community. The rural society through tourism can overcome their complete dependence on agriculture for revenue.
  •  Tourism can also build a sense of pride amongst the rural community in their heritage and traditions. The rural community is also exposed to the urban world directly and interactions between the two can lead to encouraging mutual respect.
  •  One of the major positive impacts on the rural society is the resurgence of cultural, traditional and historical traditions. This caters to a conducive environment for conservation and sustainable management of local and indigenous culture, arts and crafts.
  •  The presence of tourists who are in awe and praise local talent and art can make the rural society realize the importance of their culture and thus tourism can play an important role in conserving and developing art. Due to this awareness amongst the local rural population, tourism has the strength to stimulate pride in local heritage.

Cultural commodification

  •  Cultural commodification results in the transformation of value-from sacred to profane and from real to the unauthentic.
  •  Cole summarises that tourism collects various cultural components and then sometimes adds something artificial to make it eye catching.
  •  This is then packaged and sold to tourists. Tourism can turn local cultures into sellable items or commodities.
  •  Religious rituals, traditions and festivals are reduced to commodities that conform to tourist expectations. This results in what is now termed as reconstructed ethnicity.
  •  The actual and sacred significance of a ritual or tradition loses meaning even to those who had been following them religiously. This endangers the social customs of the community.

Standardization

  •  Landscape, accommodation, food and drinks must meet the requirements of the tourists in spite of the fact that tourists actually move to exotic rural destinations for experiencing change.
  •  The tourists most often look for familial features at such destinations. Standardization of cultural tourist areas means bringing recognizable features such as food, hotels, and movies to exotic destinations to make the tourist feel more comfortable in their surroundings. Standardization also means taking a culture and changing it to appeal to the tourists.
  •  Standardization means offering a common product on a national, regional or worldwide basis". According to Clow Standardization means presenting a unified theme across nations and cultures". This can severely damage the appeal of the rural area in the long run.
  •  At the same time, it also further damages the local produce as the host community is forced to adapt to the tastes of the tourists.

Cultural Erosion

  •  Tourists on their visits to rural destinations seek to purchase the local arts, crafts and cultural manifestations as a souvenir. The local craftsmen then respond to these demands but keeping up with the tastes and requirements of the tourists make changes in design of their products to bring them more in line with the demands.
  •  This leads to cultural erosion and eventually the original version of the artefact becomes just a museum piece. This once again severely damages the rural structure as authenticity is lost due to modern demands and interventions.

Cultural Clashes

  •  As the local rural population feels threatened by the constant flow of tourists due to the changing patterns of their world, anti-tourist attitudes may begin to manifest amongst the rural population.
  •  As a result of different cultural background, values, lifestyles, languages and levels of prosperity cultural clashes may occur eventually destroying the tourist- host bond.
  •  Apart from this, job level frictions may occur. This happens mainly as stakeholders are usually the beneficiaries of tourism economically as compared to the local community. This may further antagonize the local population towards tourists.

Ethical Issues

  •  Other negative social influences of tourism of rural societies can be felt in rise in prices of basic commodities which are hiked due to the tourists but impacts the local community. Crime rates may typically increase with growth of tourism activities in the rural area affecting the local population.
  •  Another concern due to growing tourism in rural areas is the employment of children as they work for low pay. The ill of child labour is another issue that needs to be addressed by the tourism industry. Rural areas may also experience a surge in flesh trade as these bring easy money.

Conclusion

  •  Since the positive and negative outcomes of tourism depend on human factors, including the attitude and behaviour of tourists and hosts during the interactions, so tourists, tourism and hosts are jointly responsible not solely.
  •  Strengthening local cultural value is a vital point. In Indonesia, local people agreed to stage dance and music, but disagreed to stage rituals because they didn't want to commodify their core value.
  •  The success of rural tourism lies in creating a balance between the positive and negative impacts of tourism and maintaining a healthy rural environment.
  •  Rural tourism has an immense possibility for exotic destination seekers and has been recognized as a key business opportunity by the stake holders mainly due to the growing demand for domestic weekend holidays.
  •  It is therefore paramount that the third party involved that is the rural community should be an equal beneficiary through tourism with minimal, damages to its socio-cultural structure.
     

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(The Gist of Kurukshetra) RURAL TOURISM- SHOWCASING INDIA’S RURAL HERITAGE [MARCH-2019]


(The Gist of Kurukshetra) RURAL TOURISM- SHOWCASING INDIA’S RURAL HERITAGE

[MARCH-2019]


RURAL TOURISM- SHOWCASING INDIA’S RURAL HERITAGE

Introduction

  •  The tourism industry the world over is going through a great shift in ideas and beliefs. Today, fuelled by a massive increase in purchasing power and development of faster and cheaper modes of travel, more and more people are travelling across the world. The purpose of travels now tends to be more of leisure and increasingly so for getting to know new things and experiencing cultures, cuisine, traditions, etc. This kind of travel is y called 'experiential travel'.
  •  Today, the discerning traveler is prepared to go greater distances and to previously unknown places to get the unique experience and to also cater to her own special interest. The tourist is also looking at being a responsible traveler, about giving back to the community and interacting with the host community so that they have a visible stake in the whole development of the region. India's tourism attractions, as we know, are large and varied.
  •  Our culture, which is both syncretic and dates back to ancient times, is our most visible attraction. The great monuments ranging from that symbol of eternal love, Taj Mahal to the great temples of South India, the majestic forts of Rajasthan as well as the wide and varied landscape of snowcapped mountains, golden beaches, rich forests and verdant deserts all make India an 'Incredible' destination.
  •  India also has many products to offer to the tourists who travel keeping a special interest in mind be it Medical and Wellness Tourism, be it Golf courses and be it Adventure Sports, India has it all. India is well known for its unique cultural heritage, in which lies its competitive strength. India clearly recognizes the inherent relationship between tourism and its cultural assets.
  •  India has a vast array of arts and craft spread through the length and breadth of the state.
  •  The conservation, preservation and integrated development of the areas around these art and crafts not only provides an additional opportunity for growth and expansion of rural and heritage tourism in India but also enhances the experience of the tourist - domestic and foreign visiting such sites.

Tangible heritage

  •  While tangible heritage has been in the mainstream of tourism development in India, the intangible or living tourism has tremendous scope for increasing India's tourism offering not only to the world, but also to its own citizens.
  •  The intangible heritage includes folklore, cuisine, customary practices, etc.
  •  Almost all districts of India are endowed with these intangible heritages which can be identified and developed for providing new cultural experiences to tourists opportunity for growth and expansion of rural and heritage tourism in India but also enhances the experience of the tourist - domestic and foreign visiting such sites.
  •  While tangible heritage has been in the mainstream of tourism development in India, the intangible or living tourism has tremendous scope for increasing India's tourism offering not only to the world, but also to its own citizens.
  •  The intangible heritage includes folklore, cuisine, customary practices, etc. Almost all districts of India are endowed with these intangible heritages which can be identified and developed for providing new cultural experiences to tourists.

The National Tourism Policy

  •  The National Tourism Policy of India recognizes that special thrust should be imparted to rural tourism and tourism in small settlements, where sizeable assets of our cultural and natural wealth exist.
  •  Rural tourism is defined as, 'any form of tourism that showcases the rural life, art, culture and heritage at rural locations, thereby benefiting the local community economically and socially as well as enabling interaction between the tourists and the locals for a more enriching tourism experience'.
  •  This concept of Rural Tourism is definitely useful and holds significance for a country like India, where almost 69 per cent of the population resides in about 7 million villages.
  •  The concept has now been taken forward by many states as well. Kerala has been at the forefront of developing the Rural Tourism model and evolving it under the greater ambit of

Responsible Tourism.

  •  The award winning Kerala Responsible Tourism projects in Kumarakom, Wyanad and other locations combine a unique model of involving the local community and getting the visitor experience the village life with the local stakeholders as the story tellers.
  •  This instills a great pride in the villagers who would otherwise have abandoned their traditional way of life for the city.

Flowed example

  •  Another success story is in Sikkim which has empowered many village communities to develop tourism experiences including homestays thus spreading the tourism product evenly and away from the traditional destinations.
  •  This also helps in increasing the carrying capacity of the tourism product. Sikkim is also leveraging its rural tourism product with its distinction of being India's first organic state.
  •  Such a development model has the communities' involvement at the grass roots level and everyone gets a equal stake in the whole process.
  •  Following the success of such public sector initiatives, there have been some notable initiatives
    coming up from the private sector. The projects in Rajasthan including in Samode and Mandawa have come up on a public-private model.
  •  A noteworthy mention is of the Govardhan Eco-Village in Maharashtra which won the UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation.
  •  The institution has developed the village into a community that has a symbiotic relationship with the visitors and has increased both community participation as well as helped in raising income levels and education in this once backward area.

Scope of rural tourism

  •  There is, therefore, immense scope for development of the concept of Rural tourism and Village Life Experiences across the country. However, some challenges still remain. Chief amongst the challenges are that of marketing.
  •  The communities by their very nature have very little avenues for marketing of the products both nationally and internationally. Therefore, with the lack of sufficient marketing infrastructure, those projects which are not very well linked with the traditional tourism circuits have not been able to do well.
  •  The Rural Tourism Kerala Mission is an example of a successful marketing effort by the State Government of Kerala. More such efforts are required both at the international level and at the domestic levels.
  •  Awareness is being created about the various products and destinations including Rural Tourism amongst the trade and consumers by participating in exhibitions and by organizing road shows etc. as part of ongoing promotional activities.

Conclusion

  •  India's rich cultural, historical, religious and natural heritage provides a huge potential for development of tourism and job creation in the country and it would be fit to quote Mahatma Gandhi again, "India perishes if her villages perish".
  •  Therefore, it is imperative on our part to nurture the villages and preserve that simple way of life for future generations. Rural Tourism therefore, goes a long way in keeping that tradition alive.

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(GIST OF YOJANA) Sustaining Artisans Economically [APRIL-2019]


(GIST OF YOJANA) Sustaining Artisans Economically

[APRIL-2019]


Sustaining Artisans Economically

Introduction

  • A wide range of beautiful handicrafts form one of the most significant traits of the rich cultural heritage of our country. Be it Kutch embroidery of Gujarat or Zari-Zardozi and Chikankari of Uttar Pradesh, wooden toys of Karnataka or bamboo craft of Assam, puppets of Rajasthan or Sikki, Tikuli and Madhubani arts of Bihar; all these are not only the traditional arts of the respective provinces but also form an important source of alternative income for the artisans. This is one of those market segments that have led India to establish its distinct identity in the international market.

About handicrafts product

  •  Handicrafts include the products produced by hands /and or a combination of hands and simple technology. Like the unique diversity of our country, our handicrafts are also very diverse and can be placed in innumerable categories. Some of these may be decorative, religious, historical, artistic, ornamental, daily utilities, symbolic and so on.
  •  The sector also includes village-cottage industries, handloom and carpet sectors. Handicrafts are known for their use of locally available raw materials. This is again a huge range consisting of natural and artificial inputs like bamboo, clay, stones, threads, canes, fabrics, beads, glasses, natural and artificial dyes, motifs, metals, ceramics, and glasses, to name a few.



 

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Significance on economic growth

  • Almost 70 per cent of our country’s population residing in rural areas is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture as the primary source of livelihood. In non-agricultural or lean seasons, handicrafts become an alternative means of subsistence for this population and safeguards them from food insecurity.
    In this way, handicrafts become an important source of livelihood for a large chunk of the Indian population. There were 68.86 lakh artisans as per the census of handicrafts conducted during 11th Five Year Plan. The magnitude and strength of this sector can be very well understood from this fact. The sector provides employment in various forms to the artisans. This can be production of raw materials like motifs, production of finished goods and their marketing. There is another sub-segment of this sector employing another set of people. They are the people engaged directly or indirectly in export of handicrafts. The export segment of handicrafts is emerging as a potential source of foreign exchange earnings. taken by the government
  •  According to government source it was estimated in the year 2015-16 that total production of handicraft including handmade carpets was to tune of Rs.41,418 crores and export handicrafts was Rs.30,939 crores.
  •  Market Development Assistance (M.D.A) and Market Access Initiative (M.A.I.) envision better marketing of these products through fairs, exhibitions and producers-buyers meets. ‘India HandloomBazaar’, an online-marketing portal is based on marketing of the handicrafts through facilitating direct interaction between buyers and sellers.
  •  Around four hundred Hastkala Sahyog Shivirs were organised in two hundred districts in October 2017 that supported a large number of weavers and artisans in strengthening their micro enterprises through various measures.
  •  The focus is now on the artisans and their enterprises to utilise the facilities enabling them to contribute towards our economy as well as socio-economic upliftment of the community. The artisans and their associations should move forward to get Geographical Indication (GI) tag to enhance the credibility of their products. GI tag is the sign on the product showing its region of origin. Some of the handicrafts which have received GI tag are-Kangra paintings, Varanasi brocades and saris, Bustar wooden craft, Villianur terracotta works etc.

Conclusion

  •  On a macro level, initiatives to strengthen the sector will support in preserving this cultural heritage and transferring it to the next generation as a potential source of livelihood.
  •  While on the micro level, various socio- economic issues like unemployment, poverty, migration and indebtedness will be addressed.
  •  In turn, these will add to strengthening of the Indian economy and thereby ameliorating the conditions of Indian society.

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(GIST OF YOJANA) (GIST OF YOJANA) Magic of Gifted Hands: Empowering Handicraft Artisans [APRIL-2019] [APRIL-2019]


(GIST OF YOJANA) Magic of Gifted Hands: Empowering Handicraft Artisans

[APRIL-2019]


Magic of Gifted Hands: Empowering Handicraft Artisans

Introduction

  •  The origin of Indian handicrafts goes back to the early man living in caves and giving creative expression to his/her emotions through various carvings made on rocks. It travelled through the ages through various forms of skill, techniques, art forms preserved in various folk traditions and aesthetic expressions.
  •  The artisans of India have always been recognized for their craftsmanship, sense of design and color. The excavations of Mohenja daro and Harappa show that even during the second millennium before Christ the excellence of Indian artisans was established and was recognized world over.
  •  The cottage industry provided not only employment to the rural artisans but also played an important role in building a parallel rural economy.
  •  Even now the small scale and cottage sector helps to solve social and economic problems of the artisans, by providing employment which also includes a large number of women and people belonging to weaker sections of the society.

Defining Handicraft

  •  Handicraft is rightly described as craft of the people and in India it is not just an industry as the word is commonly understood but is the aesthetic expression of the artisans which not only fulfills the daily needs of the people but also satisfies their aesthetic desire.
  •  The definition of handicrafts as per Honorable Supreme Court in Louis Shoppe judgment decided on 12.03.1995 says “it must be predominantly made by hand. It does not matter if some machinery is also used in the process.
  •  It must be graced with visual appeal in the matter of ornamentation or inlay work or similar work lending it an element of artistic improvement. Such orientation must be of a substantial nature and not a mere pretence”.

Significance

  •  The handicrafts sector plays a significant and important role in the country’s economy. It provides employment to a vast segment of crafts persons in rural and semi urban areas and generates substantial foreign exchange for the country, while preserving its cultural heritage.
  •  Handicrafts have great potential, as they hold the key for sustaining not only the existing set of millions of artisans spread over the length and handicraft artisans in the country, which includes 20 lakh artisans related to the carpet sector, practicing more than 500 types of crafts such as Metal Engraving, breadth of the country, but also for the increasingly large number of new entrants in the crafts activity.
  •  There are approximately 70 lakh Zari Zardosi, Teracotta, Stone Carving, Phulkari, Wood Inlay, Chikankari, Cane and Bamboo, Wooden Toys, Blue Pottery and Kutch Embroidery.
  •  Out of these, 35 crafts have been recognized as “Endangered Crafts” such as Assamese Jewellery, Rogan Painting, Sanjhi Crafts, Ganjeefa Cards and Chamba Rumal and 92 crafts have been registered under “Geographical Indication Act” like Ganjifa cards of Mysore, Kashmir Paper Machie, Madhubani paintings, Kathputlis of Rajasthan, Odisha pattachitra, Varanasi Glass beads and Warli painting of Maharashtra. 56 per cent of the artisans are female.

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Benefits

  •  The handicraft artisans are mostly working in an un-organized set up which makes them prone to exploitation by middlemen.
  •  The handicraft sector has challenges of working capital, poor exposure to new technologies, absence of full market intelligence and institutional framework. Series of efforts have been taken to redress these problems and the sector is now witnessing good growth in terms of product development, domestic sales and exports during the 12th Plan.
  •  Market Linkages are provided through various domestic and international marketing events organized throughout the year in various parts of the country. Domestic marketing platform is provided by organizing Gandhi Shilp Bazaar, Crafts Bazaar, etc and organizing handicraft exhibitions in prominent shopping malls of the country. International Marketing platform is being provided to awardee artisans through participation in international marketing events.

India’s scenario

  •  India is one of the important suppliers of handicrafts to the world market. In the changing world scenario, craft products exported to various countries form a part of lifestyle products in the international market.
  •  The impact is due to the changing consumer taste and trends for the 7 million craft persons who are the backbone of the Indian handicraft industry possessing inherent skills, technique and traditional craftsmanship quite sufficient for the primary platform.
  •  However, in the changing world market, these crafts persons need an institutional support at their places of work i.e. craft pockets for value addition and for the edge with of her competitors like China, Korea, Thailand etc.
  •  There is a high demand for Indian utilitarian and traditional crafts in the domestic and international markets.

Conclusion

  •  Access to economic independence through the handicraft sector can address the livelihood issues and would lead to income generation in rural areas.
  •  Also, skill upgradation and development in handicraft sector is an excellent approach for development of artisans, poverty reduction and providing income generation which would also help in achievement of sustainable development goals.
  •  The other competitors like China, Korea, Thailand etc. There is a high demand for Indian utilitarian and traditional crafts in the domestic and international.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 28 MARCH 2019 (Police reform is possible, but the political executive has failed to make it happen)

Police reform is possible, but the political executive has failed to make it happen

Mains Paper 3: Defence and security
Prelims level: Model Police Act in 2006
Mains level: Police reforms and consequences

Context

  •  “Namumkin Ab Mumkin Hai, Swachch Bharat, Ayushman Bharat, Electricity – Ujjwala and Sukanya Yojana and so on.
  •  An area where even what was mumkin (possible) has not been achieved — it is about reformative changes in the police with a view to transforming it into an instrument of service to the people.
    Background
  •  The Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment in 2006, clearly said that “the commitment, devotion and accountability of the police has to be only to the rule of law” and that “the supervision and control has to be such that it ensures that the police serves the people without any regard, whatsoever, to the status and position of any person while investigating a crime or taking preventive measures”.
  •  It is a great pity that even after 12 years, there has been only partial and, in some states, farcical compliance of the directions.
  •  The Police Act Drafting Committee headed by Soli Sorabjee had prepared a Model Police Act in 2006.
  •  Besides, Article 252 of the Constitution gives Parliament the power to legislate for two or more states by consent and lays down that such an Act shall apply to the consenting states “and to any other by which it is adopted through a resolution passed in that behalf by the House or, where there are two Houses, by each of the Houses of the legislature of that State”.
  •  It is ironical that while the British India had one police Act for the entire country, we are confronted with a situation where every state has a different Act with sharp differences in
    essential features.
  •  The prime minister SMART police a police, which would be sensitive, mobile, accountable, responsive and techno-savvy.

Way forward

  •  There has hardly been any follow up action and only some cosmetic steps were taken to augment the manpower and infrastructure of the forces.
  •  New India its policing remains mired in a colonial structure.
  •  The total strength of state police forces is 2.46 million and there are about 25,000 police stations and outposts across the country.
  •  We need to understand that stable law and order provides the foundation for sustained economic development.
  •  A healthy democracy also needs a healthy police.
  •  In fact, if police is not able to enforce the rule of law and is constrained to take directions from persons of questionable antecedents at the helm, it will be the beginning of the end of
    democracy.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 28 MARCH 2019 (Passing ASAT)

Passing ASAT

Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology
Prelims level: ASAT Test
Mains level: Space technology and mission

Context

  •  The anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test conducted by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Wednesday is more about Delhi’s changing approach to space weapons than a great technological breakthrough.
  •  The significance of this long overdue change in India’s space mindset was masked by the political pieties of the Foreign Office in explaining the ASAT test. Delhi’s urge to package consequential strategic actions in meaningless mantras goes back to May 1974 when India called its first nuclear test a “peaceful nuclear explosion”.
  •  The government described its attack on a terror training camp at Balakot in Pakistan as a “non-military pre-emptive action”.
  •  That verbal dissimulation did not impress Pakistan, which reacted shortly with an airstrike of its own on Indian military bases.
  •  India’s self-righteous rhetoric leads to self-deception and an underestimation of how the rest of the world especially China and Pakistan might respond to India’s strategic moves.

Significance of the ASAT Test

  •  The ASAT test. India may only be the fourth country testing an ASAT weapon. But it is a distant fourth to the US, Russia and China.
  •  The first ASAT tests by Washington and Moscow go back to the 1960s. President Reagan’s “Star Wars” programme announced in 1983 triggered a second wind to ASAT development.
  •  China tested its first ASAT weapon in 2007. All three have stepped up their work on space weapons since. Beijing and Moscow are said to be close to deploying space weapons.
  •  In the US, President Donald Trump has announced the intent to create a space force that can fight wars in the dark yonder.
  •  India has a long way to catch up. India’s ASAT test which targeted a satellite in a low earth orbit of 300 km builds on its already demonstrated missile defence systems.
  •  Finance Minister Arun Jaitley conceded that India has had ASAT capabilities for long and claimed that the UPA government had denied permission to develop and test them.
  •  One ASAT test based on modest technologies, however, is no substitute to the long overdue policy debate on India’s security challenges in the outer space environment.
  •  Although space has become an arena for great power jousting and the technology to build space weapons has advanced rapidly, Delhi seemed happy arguing in international forums against the weaponisation of outer space.

Conclusion

  •  Despite the growing dependence of India’s armed forces on communication and reconnaissance satellites, the civilian leadership has resisted the development of effective higher defence structures to manage the emerging space threats.
  •  Delhi’s explicit demonstration of space weapon capabilities is welcome, but it must be part of a clearly articulated military space doctrine that identifies India’s political objectives and technological goals in outer space and the strategy to realise them.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 28 MARCH 2019 (Slow on sanitation)

Slow on sanitation

Mains Paper 2: Social Justice
Prelims level: Faecal Sludge Treatment Plants
Mains level: Welfare schemes to the vulnerable sections of the society

Context

  •  The tragic death of six people who entered a septic tank in Tamil Nadu’s Sriperumbudur town is a grim reminder that sanitation remains a low-priority area despite the high political profile of Swachh Bharat.
  •  Public understanding of the science of managing septic tanks continues to be poor, and the availability of cheap labour to clean these structures has slowed efforts to develop technologies that can safely remove and transport the waste.
  •  Sanitation thus remains a challenge in thousands of unsewered towns.
  •  What sets the incident apart from the several instances of people dying of asphyxiation in the tanks is that some of the victims were the owners of the property and not workers.
  •  Three people collapsed while inspecting their residential septic tank, and others who tried to save them also perished.
  •  Although workers were not affected in this case, it confirms Tamil Nadu’s abysmal overall record at raising sanitation standards.

Analysing the data

  •  Since 1993, when the first law was passed against manual cleaning, there were at least 144 worker deaths in Tamil Nadu as of November 2018.
  •  According to official data reported to the Centre for grant of compensation. Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab also fared badly with a cumulative toll of 146 lives lost during that period.
  •  This is obviously a gross underestimate, since the Safai Karmachari Andolan, which has litigated in the Supreme Court seeking to aggressively prosecute offenders, contends that septic tank cleaning claimed nearly 1,500 lives between 2014 and 2016.
  •  More reports of deaths continue to come in.

Constitutional Provision

  •  Every death of a manual worker represents a crime, since the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 makes the use of such labour to clean septic tanks an offence punishable with imprisonment of two years or with a fine of Rs. 2 lakh or both even in the first instance.
  •  If State governments are reluctant to prosecute offenders, they are also slow to adopt newer technologies such as Faecal Sludge Treatment Plants (FSTP), which can be combined with omniprocessors for safe treatment of waste. For the task of cleaning the tanks, indigenous innovation in robotics looks promising.

Way forward

  •  A prototype is planned to be tested by the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and such devices can potentially transform sanitation in India and other developing countries.
  •  But the pace of adoption will depend on the priority that governments accord to the long-neglected problem.
  •  Last year, Tamil Nadu, and some other States, notably Andhra Pradesh and Odisha, announced plans to scale up FSTP infrastructure.
  •  This is a task that deserves the highest importance, and needs to be completed on deadline.
  •  What happened in Sriperumbudur highlights the heavy price that communities pay for the lack of scientific sanitation.
  •  If governments remain apathetic, citizens would expect the courts to step in to uphold the law against manual scavenging and make individual departments accountable.
  •  The science on sanitation has advanced, and policy must urgently catch up.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 28 MARCH 2019 (What we need is a commons manifesto)

What we need is a commons manifesto

Mains Paper 3: Environment
Prelims level: Climate Change
Mains level: Environment Impact assessment

Context

  •  Another election is upon us, and we are preoccupied with some matters that are grave and many that are not. But noticeable by its absence in any of the manifestos and declarations by political parties is a debate about the future of human civilisation.
  •  In October 2018, UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that without radical course correction, the world will exhaust its carbon budget to keep global temperature increase below 1.5°C by 2030, just two general elections away.
  •  Any increase above that will trigger runaway changes to global climate that could leave large portions of the planet uninhabitable.
  •  That is not all. In March, UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services warned that human societies are using up nature faster than it can renew itself and compromising its ability to sustain life on the planet.

A myopic preoccupation

  •  Scientists reassure us, though, that it is still not too late to avert the worst-case scenarios of ecosystem collapse and a climate-run riot.
  •  But for that, the world would need to reframe its engagement with climate change and abandon its myopic preoccupation with greenhouse gas emissions and carbon budgets.
  •  India’s obsession with 100 GW solar electricity targets may fetch high ratings from the international green energy cheerleaders.
  •  But that alone will do nothing to fortify ordinary Indians from the impending disasters. Real resilience will result only from improving the health of the lands they live in and depend on.
  •  Around the world, governments, multinational charities and technology companies are peddling a simplistic story of false solutions that crisis can be averted by changing the fuel that powers our economy. By themselves, renewable energy systems will not make an inherently unsustainable economy sustainable or correct an unjust social system. They may even make it worse.
  •  During the climate summit in Katowice, Poland, the Environment Minister declared that India was on track to meet its climate goals ahead of the deadline.
  •  The same government is also changing laws to dilute environmental protection, facilitate corporate land grabs, disempower local communities and criminalise any dissent against its grand schemes.

About the Coastal Regulation Zone Notification

  •  The Coastal Regulation Zone Notification, which regulates “development” along India’s 7,500-km shoreline, was diluted to allow denser construction closer to the sea.
  •  The notification cites tourism jobs to justify the construction of temporary facilities within 10 m of the waterline. Mega infrastructure, such as ports and roads, will be permitted anywhere inside the sea, over dunes, through mangroves and tidal marshes if they are declared to be “strategic” projects.
  •  These are hare-brained policies.
  •  Even the government acknowledges that sea levels can rise by 3.5 to 34.6 inches by 2100 and inundate India’s coastline. How India handles land use change, not climate change, will decide whether it can improve the lot of millions without warming the world.

Grassroots campaigns

  •  Across the country, people are rising up to protest against certain kinds of ‘development’.
  •  Farmers are mobilising against the bullet train, and indigenous people are fighting against the opening up of forests for mines and dams.
  •  Although these fights may have positive consequences for the climate, they have never been explicitly about reducing the kinds of greenhouse gas emissions associated with ‘development’.
  •  Rather, they are about how we relate to the lands that sustain us and who gets to define ‘development’.

Conclusion

  •  Paved surfaces, the hallmark of built-earth economies, disrupt water flows, reduce groundwater recharge and obliterate biodiversity.
  •  Such economies impoverish local communities and increase their vulnerability to natural shocks.
  •  For all the rivalry between the political parties contesting the elections, there is a remarkable homogeneity of thought on matters relating to ecology and economy, and lack of thinking about India’s future.
  •  What is desperately needed at this moment is a manifesto for the protection of the commons and open lands, and for the re-creation of economies that derive value out of healing wounded landscapes and covering open lands with diverse vegetation, water and life.
  •  For this, we need to defer to the Constitution and ensure that those who are challenging ‘development’ projects like the bullet train can speak without fear.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 28 MARCH 2019 (A blow against Article 370)

A blow against Article 370

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Article 370
Mains level: Basic structure of the Indian Constitution and other significant provisions

Context

  •  The 77th and 103rd constitutional amendments were extended to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) by a presidential order, with the concurrence of the J&K Governor.
  •  These relate to reservations in promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the State services and special provisions for the advancement of economically weaker sections, respectively.
  •  However, on March 18, this was challenged before the J&K High Court.

Background and status quo

  •  The constitutional relationship between J&K and the Indian Union has been the subject of numerous discussions in recent times.
  •  This has rekindled the long-standing debate on the continued relevance of Article 370.
  •  In Article 370, the provisions of the Indian Constitution do not automatically apply to J&K. To extend constitutional provisions and amendments to the State, a presidential order to that effect has to be passed.
  •  This order requires the concurrence of the State government, where the subject matter does not relate to the subjects specified in the Instrument of Accession (defence, external affairs, and communications).
  •  Accordingly, a 1954 presidential order extended various provisions of the Indian Constitution to J&K. This order was made with the concurrence of the State government and also ratified by the State Constituent Assembly.
  •  After the J&K Constitution came into effect in 1957, the State Constituent Assembly was dissolved. Since then, more than 40 such orders have been made, through which most constitutional provisions have been extended to the State.
  •  The sheer number of such orders, as well as the circumstances under which they were made, have considerably eroded J&K’s special status under Article 370.

A slow death

  •  The 1950s there has been a gradual dilution of the procedural norms followed by these presidential orders.
  •  In passing the 1954 order, procedural propriety was followed in the fullest possible sense as the requisite concurrence was obtained not only from an elected State government but also the State Constituent Assembly.
  •  The presidential orders made after the dissolution of the State Constituent Assembly except a 1986 order extending Article 249.
  •  The present 2019 order can be seen as the first level of dilution.
  •  This is so because for all these orders, while the concurrence of an elected State government was obtained, the State Constituent Assembly did not exist and, therefore, could not give its ratification.
  •  Although the Supreme Court upheld this practice in the Sampat Prakash case (1968), it has been criticised as being beyond the scope of Article 370.
  •  The 1986 order represents a second level of dilution.
  •  This is because it was made when J&K was under Governor’s rule as per Section 92 of the J&K Constitution. In the absence of an elected council of ministers.
  •  The Governor could not have validly given the requisite concurrence to the presidential order.
  •  Even if the Governor acting without a popularly elected government can be considered as a “state government” for the purposes of concurrence, the Governor must at least have had some nexus with the State and some independence from the Centre.
  •  However, this is not the case in practice, since the Governor is not only an unelected nominee of the Central Government but also holds office during the latter’s pleasure.

Post 1986 order consequences

  •  The 1986 order was challenged in the J&K High Court; it is still pending.
  •  If the 1986 order was problematic, the third level of dilution brought about by the 2019 order is almost the final blow.
  •  The President assumed all the functions of the State government and the Governor through a proclamation under Article 356.
  •  In an order passed on the same day, the President directed that all powers assumed by him would be exercisable by the Governor as well, “subject to the superintendence, direction, and control of the President”.
  •  This is the main point of distinction between the 1986 and 2019 orders.
  •  During Governor’s rule, as was the case in 1986, the Governor is at least on paper expected to act independently.
  •  However, in the present case involving President’s rule, the Governor is reduced to a mere delegate of the Centre and is expected to act as per the aid and advice of the Central Government.
  •  A presidential order made through obtaining such a Governor’s concurrence is tantamount to the Centre talking into a mirror and makes a mockery of Article 370.

Against federalism

  •  The manner in which the 2019 order was made also goes against the spirit of federalism, which is a salient constitutional principle.
  •  President’s rule is an exception to the general constitutional scheme that envisages representative government at the State level to accommodate regional aspirations.
  •  Extending constitutional provisions to the State during this exceptional state of affairs is suspicious. If the Centre had legitimate intentions, it should have waited until the formation of an elected government in J&K. In the absence of popular will backing it, the 2019 order clearly falls foul of the principles of constitutional and political morality.
  •  The 1986 order, the Sarkaria Commission had observed that “every action which is legally permissible may not be necessarily prudent or proper from the political stand-point”.
  •  ot only is the recent presidential order against federalism generally and the spirit of Article 370 in particular but it also violates the letter of the Constitution.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 27 MARCH 2019 (Manufacturing drugs on demand(Live Mint))

Manufacturing drugs on demand(Live Mint)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: 3D printing technology
Mains level: Infrastructure

Context

  •  In 1958, Leonard Reed published a simple first-person essay entitled I, Pencil to describe the complexity of modern economics.
  •  By tracing the lineage of a simple wooden lead pencil from the cedar tree that is cut down and shaped into the pencil length slats that are smoothed, waxed and lacquered to the form we can identify.
  •  It has to the graphite that is mined in Sri Lanka, mixed with clay, tallow and ammonium hydroxide before being extruded and baked into the thin black “lead” that we recognize.
  •  Reed vividly describes the number of steps that go into the production of an object as commonplace as a pencil.
  •  He ends the essay by remarking that even though the skill and labour of millions of people have had a hand in the manufacture of each pencil, no one person on the planet has the complete knowledge that is required to make it.

Planning an approach

  •  The approach has given us the ability to manufacture products at a scale that was completely inconceivable before the invention of these industrial machines.
  •  It has left us at the mercy of the vast intercontinental supply chains that feed into these production facilities so that minor variations in quality and unpredictable disruptions in production anywhere in the chain of suppliers can have a devastating effect up the line.
  •  This is of particular concern in the context of the pharmaceutical industry where non-continuous, “batch” processes are the heart and soul of the drug manufacturing process.
  •  Most manufacturers produce the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) using molecular fragments obtained from different sources.
  •  The API is then mixed with excipients in a separate facility and the final drug product is formulated at yet another plant.

Important findings observed by MIT

  •  A team of scientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were able to demonstrate how a manufacturing platform that combined the synthesis and final-product formulation of a drug into one continuous process would work.
  •  They built a single refrigerator-sized unit that was capable of synthesizing four commonly used drug molecules Benadryl (used in the treatment of the common cold), Lidocaine (a local anaesthetic and antiarrhythmic drug), Diazepam (a central nervous system depressant better known as Valium) and fluoxetine hydrochloride, an antidepressant that is widely prescribed under the name Prozac.
  •  In time, it is likely that machines like this will be able to synthesize many more drugs eventually, in time, all the drugs on the World Health Organization’s essential list.
  •  Since the machine is completely reconfigurable, it will be possible for trained operators to synthesize drugs on demand with basic materials and reagents that are easily available.

Way forward

  •  The advantages of a desktop manufacturing system like this are self- evident.
  •  It allows medical staff in small patient populations to only produce those pharmaceuticals that are necessary to meet patient needs.
  •  For drugs with a short shelf life, the ability to manufacture the active ingredient on demand removes the requirement to include complex formulations that are included to improve their long-term stability.
  •  In India, where healthcare benefits need to reach the far corners of this vast country, machines that can manufacture essential drugs on demand in rural medical facilities will be invaluable.
  •  The producing drugs this way runs contrary to everything our existing regulatory framework says we should do.
  •  Our laws, like those of countries around the world, are designed to monitor large centralized pharmaceutical facilities through tests and periodic inspections.
  •  Our regulators simply do not have the tools to deal with distributed manufacturing of small-dose pharmaceuticals.
  •  The apparent benefits of this new technology, the government would do well to figure out how to redesign regulations to facilitate its adoption.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 27 MARCH 2019 (A new acronym for the Indian IT enterprise: RIDE (Live Mint))

A new acronym for the Indian IT enterprise: RIDE (Live Mint)

Mains Paper 3: Science and Technology
Prelims level: LTQ, RPA
Mains level: Robotics, Nanotechnology

Context

  •  The business world are stuck in the rut of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly deadlines and planning cycles.
  •  For the privileged few who are freed of these short cycles and are responsible for an organization’s strategy, it is the future that beckons.
  •  Those who act as consultants to these responsible few paint a future of fear, uncertainty and doubt to maximize their consulting pickings.
  •  However, that almost everything we seek to do in the digital world has been done before, all we need to know is where to look.

Background

  •  In the 1980s, Xerox Corp. was fast losing market share to Japanese rivals such as Ricoh.
  •  Xerox’s patent protection, and its brilliant pricing methodology that prised out more money from heavier users of its machines by using meter-based billing, had run out as competitive advantages.
  •  The Japanese attacked relentlessly with more reliable machines. Xerox, which in its hubris had by then diversified, of all things, into financial services like insurance, investment banking and insurance, had to fight back hard.
  •  It focused itself on bringing process quality to everything it did. Under David Kearns, who was still the chief executive officer when I joined this first-class company in the US, it focused on “Leadership Through Quality” (LTQ).
  •  In 1989, Xerox won the Malcolm Baldrige award, and LTQ birthed an entire sub-industry of consultants focused on efforts such as “Six Sigma” and “Benchmarking”. In a few years, LTQ wasn’t enough.
  •  Michael Hammer and James Champy wrote a book about “Business Process Re-engineering” (BPR), which again got companies worldwide into a tizzy again about examining each one of their business processes and changing them from the inside-out.
  •  BPR kicked off another consulting boom and caused the enormous success of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) firms such as Oracle and SAP, which as a part of their software, mapped and mandated new business processes for almost every part of a company’s operations.
  •  Ironically, the article that spawned the book and the BPR revolution was published in 1990 in the Harvard Business Review by Hammer and was titled “Re-engineering Work: Don’t Automate, Obliterate”.
  •  The major challenge for managers is to obliterate forms of work that do not add value, rather than using information technology (IT) for automating it.
  •  The ERP software revolution came about despite this admonition!

Evolving the RPA

  •  The continuing success today of robotic process automation (RPA) software and RPA integration firms perpetuates the misunderstanding of Hammer’s original thesis.
  •  So, I was pleasantly surprised to learn recently that there are thinkers among India’s IT community who are following Hammer’s credo by helping their clients obliterate work rather than just automate it.
  •  One such is Satya Ramaswamy, until recently with Tata Consultancy Services Ltd and now an executive vice-president with Mindtree.
  •  Ramaswamy says he gets his teams focused on fundamentally reimagining an enterprise by focusing on six different dimensions: business models, business processes, (customer) offerings, market segmentation, sales channels, and the expertise of the enterprise.
  •  He says that this is still germane since up to 75% of the world’s organizations remain untouched by “digital”, which he defines as artificial intelligence (AI), the internet of things, blockchain, RPA and augmented/virtual reality.
  •  He also says, the most difficult is to truly reimagine the use of AI to benefit the enterprise in non-traditional areas. He gave several examples.

Way forward

  •  The world’s largest grocery retailers needed to reduce point-of-sale related fraud. This fraud represents a complex behavioural challenge.
  •  The internal pilferage represents one-third of all the retail shrinkage at the point-of-sale, especially for liquor.
  •  There is No practical solutions are available other than manual security.
  •  Ramaswamy and team are using computer vision techniques imbued with machine learning to micro-classify events at the point-of-sale and have already delivered a $25 million shrinkage in fraud.
  •  The micro-classification allows for a manual checker to only inspect a smart representative sample of events rather than everything.
  •  This obliterates work, it doesn’t just automate it.
  •  If India’s IT outsourcing industry can pivot to produce more of the types of solutions that Ramaswamy has managed to pull off, we may just find ourselves at the spear-tip of the next revolution: Re-Imagining a Digital Enterprise or “RIDE”.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 27 MARCH 2019 (Putting the public back in public health (Indian Express))

Putting the public back in public health (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: Governance
Prelims level: NHS
Mains level: Healthcare Schemes and planning

Context

  •  The United Kingdom’s National Health Service marked its 70th birthday this year, so this is a good time to reflect on the NHS’s past and consider its future.
  •  The NHS has long been a source of inspiration in healthcare debates around the world.
  •  If it is not put on a more sustainable footing, it could become a cautionary tale.

About NHS

  •  The NHS was founded in 1948, its mission is to provide universal high-quality healthcare, was daringly radical.
  •  It came to represent a fundamental pillar of the modern welfare state.
  •  The NHS faces mounting challenges, owing to the years of “austerity” after the 2008 financial crisis, as well as to larger changes in the pharmaceutical industry’s business model.
  •  The corporate governance increasingly oriented around narrow financial indicators such as quarterly earnings, drug companies have hiked drug prices, and the NHS is bearing the costs.
  •  Worse, many drugs would not even exist if not for public investment.
  •  The NHS spent £1 billion purchasing medicines that have received investments from the UK Medical Research Council and other public bodies.
  •  In the US, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) spends more than $37 billion on biomedical research every year. And, worldwide.
  •  The public pays for an estimated two-thirds of all upfront costs for pharmaceutical research and development.

What are the problems?

  •  High drug prices can have ripple effects beyond public health around the whole world.
  •  It creates a huge barrier to access to medicines for two billion people and pushes 100 million people into extreme poverty every year.
  •  The human suffering, this imposes high economic costs.
  •  The lost human capital includes not only those who are forced out of the taxable workforce by personal illness, but also those who must drop out to care for them.
  •  It is increasingly difficult to balance the goals of ensuring patient access to effective medicines, managing rising healthcare expenditure, and incentivizing innovation.
  •  Even if access to healthcare were assured, and pricing well-managed, there would still be a problem with the current direction of health innovation.
  •  Diseases that do not create potential growth markets are largely ignored. Between 2000 and 2011, only 4% of newly approved drugs were for neglected diseases that affect predominantly lower- and middle-income countries.
  •  Meanwhile, in the US, 78% of new medicine patents between 2005 and 2015 were related to drugs that are already on the market.
  •  In Europe between 2000 and 2014, 51% of newly approved drugs were modified versions of existing medicines, and thus offered no additional health benefits.

Steps need to be taken by the government

  •  The first step is to acknowledge governments’ vital role in the development of new treatments and drugs.
  •  The governments need to start directing it with the same level of involvement that they bring to defence spending.
  •  The pharmaceutical industry will no doubt argue that government engagement stifles innovation.
  •  It was a state-led, mission-oriented approach that put a man on the moon, created the internet and paved the way for self-driving cars.
  •  Governments and the societies they serve should be ambitious, while always asking themselves a practical question: What are we trying to achieve?
  •  The legislation and regulatory measures can be brought to bear to advance our collective goals, and to encourage bottom-up experimentation.
  •  The policymakers need to address the financialization of the pharma industry, which is focused solely on shareholder value rather than on all stakeholders.
  •  Between 2007 and 2016, the 19 pharmaceutical companies in the S&P 500 as of January 2017 spent $297 billion repurchasing their own shares to boost their stock price and thus the value of their executives’ stock options.
  •  That is 61% of their combined R&D expenditures over the same period.

Way forward

  •  As long as this business model prevails, price gouging will continue. As happened recently with one antibiotic,
  •  CEOs will say that they are serving shareholders by letting prices rise to whatever the market will bear and abusing intellectual-property rights to extract monopoly rents.
  •  Patents have become too difficult to licence, and they are too often acquired for strategic reasons than for novelty, as was originally intended.
  •  To bring healthcare back into line with public interest, we can still find inspiration in the NHS.
  •  Its founders’ mission was to create a system that serves everyone, is free at the point of delivery, and caters to patients’ needs, not their ability to pay. Today’s policymakers should reaffirm that basic mission.
  •  Only by aligning innovation with the priorities of a civilized society can we finally take healthcare to the next frontier.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 27 MARCH 2019 (A bridge to nowhere (The Hindu))

A bridge to nowhere (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Aadhaar Payment Bridge System
Mains level: Aadhaar Payment Bridge System and its limitations

Context

  •  The mass diversion of LPG subsidies to Airtel wallets that came to light in 2017. Many of the wallets were unwanted, or even unknown to the recipients.
  •  Those affected, fortunately, included millions of middle-class Airtel customers who protested when the goof-up emerged.
  •  The subsidy money was returned, Airtel was fined by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), and the world moved on.
  •  This is an instance of what might be called “diverted payments” bank payments being redirected to a wrong account, without the recipient’s consent or knowledge.
  •  What has escaped attention is that diverted payments have become a widespread problem in recent years, not so much for the middle class as for powerless people such as old-age pensioners and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) workers.
  •  The main culprit is the Aadhaar Payment Bridge System (APBS).

Shaky foundations

  •  The basic idea of the APBS, an offspring of the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), is that a person’s Aadhaar number becomes her financial address.
  •  Instead of having to provide multiple account details (say, her name, bank account number and IFSC code) to receive a bank transfer, she only has to provide her Aadhaar number.
    APBS
  •  Induction of a bank account into APBS involves two distinct steps, both of which are meant to be based on informed consent.
  •  The account must be “seeded” with the customer’s Aadhaar number.
  •  It must be connected to the NPCI mapper — a step known as “mapping”. In cases of multiple accounts for the same person, the APBS automatically sends money to the latest-mapped account.
  •  To understand the dangers of this “bridge”, we must rewind to 2014, when the Jan Dhan Yojana (JDY) was launched.
  •  In the frantic drive that followed, millions of bank accounts were opened and seeded with Aadhaar in a haphazard manner, under relentless pressure from the Central government.
  •  Some JDY accounts certainly served a purpose, but many others were superfluous and created a confusing multiplicity of accounts.
  •  More importantly for our purpose, Aadhaar numbers were seeded into these accounts without proper verification.
    Given short shrift
  •  Haphazard seeding continued well beyond 2014 because the government wanted to bring all direct benefit transfer (DBT) payments pensions, scholarships, subsidies, MGNREGA wages, and so on under the Aadhaar payments umbrella.
  •  Government departments started sending bulk lists of bank accounts and Aadhaar numbers to the banks for accelerated Aadhaar seeding.
  •  Meeting the seeding targets was the top priority and due verification, once again, took the back seat.

The groundwork required for APBS to work

  •  To reliable seeding of bank accounts with Aadhaar had simply not been done when the APBS was rolled out.
  •  The seeding mess, it seems, was sought to be cleaned up by making “e-KYC” compulsory.
  •  This essentially means that account holders were required to go through biometric authentication to verify their Aadhaar number and identity information.
  •  To enforce e-KYC, many banks used the “ultimatum method”: a deadline was set, and people’s accounts were blocked when they missed the deadline.
  •  Compulsory e-KYC became a nightmare for poor people, for a number of reasons:
  •  Some did not know what they were supposed to do, others had problems of biometric authentication, others still struggled with inconsistencies between the Aadhaar database and the bank database.
  •  Among the worst victims were old-age pensioners.
  •  In Jharkhand, many pensioners are struggling to understand why their pension was discontinued after e-KYC was made compulsory.

A risky bridge

  •  Mapping (the induction of an Aadhaar-seeded account into the APBS), according to NCPI and UIDAI guidelines, should be based on an explicit request from the customer. This gives a measure of protection to educated middle-class customers.
  •  It ensures, for instance, that they know which account their money is being directed to by the APBS.
  •  For poor people, however, consent is a fiction. In Jharkhand at least, bank accounts have been mass-mapped onto the APBS without any semblance of consent, with or without e-KYC being completed in other words, without necessarily verifying that an account has been correctly seeded with Aadhaar.

Lack of accountability

  •  The diverted payments are not the only problem associated with the APBS.
  •  There are others, discussed elsewhere, such as rejected payments another nightmare for powerless DBT recipients.
  •  These problems are magnified by a pervasive lack of accountability. The ABPS is a very opaque payment system and few people have a clear understanding of it.
  •  When people have problems of diverted or rejected payments, they have no recourse. More often than not, they are sent from one office to another.
  •  Even with the best of intentions, a bank manager may be unable to help them. Guidelines for resolving payment problems are conspicuous by their absence. Some cases of diverted payments we have personally dealt with took days to understand and weeks to resolve.
  •  None of this seems to perturb the agencies that are promoting the APBS and related financial technologies.

Way forward

  •  They gave us a patient hearing but their response was far from reassuring.
  •  Nobody seems to be responsible for monitoring the sort of problems we have discussed, let alone resolve them.
  •  Similarly, nobody appears to be in charge of enforcing the consent norms and other “guidelines” issued by the NPCI.
  •  The RBI may be the nominal regulator, but the real action is at the NPCI, the UIDAI and other strongholds of the Aadhaar lobby.
  •  The UIDAI did take cosmetic damage control measures from time to time in the last two years.
  •  Judging from Jharkhand’s experience, however, the pathologies of the APBS continue to cause havoc on the ground. An independent and participatory review of the system is long overdue.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 27 MARCH 2019 (Maximum gambit (The Hindu))

Maximum gambit (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Nyuntam Aay Yojana
Mains level: Income transfer scheme

Context

  •  The Congress party’s promise of transferring Rs. 6,000 a month to poor households as just a pre-poll gimmick by an Opposition party seeking to be one up on the ruling regime’s minimal cash transfer scheme in the form of PM-KISAN.
  •  The party has not fully spelt out the details of its minimum income guarantee scheme, Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY), and has limited itself to saying this would be a flat transfer of Rs. 6,000 a month to identified poor households.

  •  There has been little word on how the Congress expects to finance NYAY.

  •  A ballpark estimate of the fiscal expenditure, to transfer Rs. 72,000 every year to the poorest 20% of the approximately 25 crore Indian households, would be Rs. 3.6 lakh crore.

NYAY impacts on Union Budget

  •  This is twice the estimated amount set aside for food subsidy and five times that for fertilizer subsidy in the 2019-20 Union Budget.
  •  It is not clear whether the Congress, should it come to power, will cut back on other subsidies and programmes in order to finance NYAY.
  •  There is also the additional problem of the identification of the poor the Socio-Economic and Caste Census of 2011 is the most comprehensive exercise for this, but it has been riven by reliability and authenticity issues and has only been partially released to the public as yet.
  •  By having an inbuilt provision of targeting the beneficiaries, NYAY can fall short as other programmes have, such as the targeted public distribution system.

More clarification needed

  •  The devil in the detail and the financing of the scheme apart, the idea behind NYAY is not entirely unsound.
  •  An unconditional transfer of a specified minimum income support to the poor will go a long way in helping address immediate needs related to health, education and indebtedness.
  •  A large section of the targeted poor would include landless workers and marginal farmers in rural areas, and unemployed youth in families engaged in menial labour in urban areas.
  •  Besides shoring up income to meet such basic needs and pushing wages upwards, the transfer scheme can help spur demand and consumption in rural areas in particular.

Way forward

  •  There are disincentives inherent in the scheme as well.
  •  A section of the beneficiaries could withdraw themselves from employment but this could be mitigated by the expected overall spur in demand in the economy through consumption, and by the rise in real wages consequent to the shrinking of the labour market.
  •  Limited cash transfers in the form of direct farm income support in States such as Telangana and Odisha have helped ameliorate agrarian crises.
  •  However, has no precedent, it might give a fillip to the Congress election campaign, but much more homework is required for its implementation.
  •  A dole is not a magic bullet; it can only be one among a clutch of robust and prudent welfare policies.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 26 MARCH 2019 (How India’s war on undernutrition fails to address the root causes (Indian Express))

How India’s war on under nutrition fails to address the root causes (Indian Express)

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: Malnutrition Problem
Mains level: Welfare scheme to the vulnerable section

Context

  •  There is decline in infant and under-five mortality rates in India along with a simultaneous increase in undernutrition.
  •  This calls for adopting a holistic approach in child healthcare and addressing the root causes for undernutrition.

The under nutrition scenario

  •  Through the interaction of the indices of height, weight and age, undernutrition takes the form of - stunting (low height-for-age), wasting (low weight-for-height), underweight (low weight-for-age).
  •  As opposed to macroeconomic indicators, social development indicators change gradually over a longer period of time.
  •  Accordingly, the results of these interventions are reflected with a lag.
  •  Despite an understanding on this fact, the incidence of undernutrition in children in India is high.
  •  The proportion of children under 5 years of age in the stunted and underweight category has witnessed only a marginal decline in the previous decade.
  •  On the other hand, wasting and severe wasting have increased significantly.

The infant mortality scenario

  •  Historically, childbirth has been dangerous for both women and infants, despite largely preventable causal factors.
  •  But, the government interventions in recent years in healthcare in terms of budget allocation, healthcare schemes and health outcomes have helped significantly.
  •  Sustained efforts at addressing the causal factors of high infant mortality rate (IMR) have resulted in its consistent decline from 55.7 (2005) to 32 (2017).
  •  The percentage of institutional deliveries has nearly doubled from around 38% (2005-06) to 78% (2015-16) through initiatives such as Janani Suraksha Yojana.
  •  Interventions in neonatal (first 28 days of birth) and post-neonatal healthcare (first 28 days of birth to 1 year) have played a pivotal role in bringing down child mortality.
  •  Furthermore, schemes such as the National Rural Health Mission and the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCH+A) strategy have helped much.
  •  India is thus moving closer to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of ending preventable deaths of infants and mothers by 2030.
  •  Meanwhile, the commensurate decline in under-five mortality rate (U5MR) has taken place at a visibly faster pace than IMR.
  •  U5MR for India is now almost at par with the global average of 39.
  •  This is a result of measures and efforts in immunisation coverage and other factors.

To Imply

  •  Clearly, on one hand, IMR and U5MR are declining, and on the other, the burden of undernutrition in children in absolute numbers is on the rise.
  •  Undernutrition certainly indicates the much-to-be-desired nutritional status of the country.
  •  The nascent stages of policy intervention towards addressing moratlity rates have prioritised the survival of children.
  •  It reflects the principle of "first ‘survive’ and then ‘thrive’", as advocated by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The policy Shortcomings

  •  The government policy has focused on significant causal factors of IMR and U5MR, like postnatal healthcare.
  •  However, other important factors like nutritional status of adolescent girls (future mothers) and prenatal nutrition have received scant attention.
  •  But notably, nutritional status runs in a viscous intergenerational cycle.
  •  The adolescent girls with poor nutritional status later become undernourished pregnant women.
  •  They, in turn, are likely to give birth to children who are stunted, wasted or underweight.

Way forward

  •  A lower IMR and U5MR means that the total population of surviving children has increased in absolute numbers.
  •  As a consequence, the total proportion of undernourished children has also increased in absolute numbers.
  •  The next logical step would thus involve shifting focus of government policy towards tackling the incidence of undernutrition.
  •  Any attempt to reduce undernutrition in India should address the root causes.
  •  Policy intervention should now focus on bringing down the incidence of undernutrition in adolescent girls, pregnant women and young children.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 26 MARCH 2019 (When free speech is truly free (The Hindu))

When free speech is truly free (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Free speech
Mains level: Basic structure of the Indian Constitution

Context

  •  Freedom is a theme which is going to come up again and again through this election. It is a term, like truth, that has globally become extremely important today.
  •  But it is not an easy concept to understand, especially in a public political discourse.
  •  First of all, there are many kinds of freedom: freedom to speak, to write, to think, to imagine, to live our lives, to eat what we want, and so on.
  •  Since this term is invoked so quickly and so easily witness little children saying they want their freedom to have ice cream! it is important that we understand its diverse meanings in our everyday use of this term.
  •  Here I want to understand what one of the most important expressions of freedom, free speech, could mean.

Freedom to hold forth?

  •  We often tend to think that among the main elements of democracy are the holding of elections and a free media.
  •  Both elections and free media are important because they stand, among other things, for the notions of free speech and free expression.
  •  Casting a vote anonymously, of one’s own free will, is an example of free expression and is broader than just ‘free speech’.
  •  Similarly, when the media has the freedom to air all kinds of views, it is seen to be an example of free speech.
  •  But is free speech really the essence of democracy?

Is it really so important for an effective democracy?

  •  There is an inherent tension between free speech and democracy.
  •  If free speech is understood merely as the freedom to say what one wants, then that is obviously not conducive to meaningful social behaviour.
  •  For example, one can spread falsehood about another in the name of free speech.
  •  One can insult, lie, create harm and hatred through free speech.
  •  In these cases, free speech should rightfully be called rumour and gossip. Rumour, gossip, fake news and deliberate lying can be hidden under the guise of free speech.
  •  It is speech with an ulterior motive. To call these as free speech is a mistake.

Defining the problem

  •  The answer to the problem of defining what really constitutes free speech lies in understanding the meaning of ‘free’ in free speech.
  •  We can’t really say what we want all the time since all speech is constrained.
  •  We are constrained by language, words, concepts and grammar, and even by the physical contours of our mouth.
  •  We are constrained by the biological and cognitive structures related to thought and its expression through language.
  •  Socially, we are not fully free to say what we want.
  •  We cannot make certain utterances in certain places. A commentator, commenting on a game of cricket, cannot suddenly give a lecture on philosophy saying that he is protected by free speech!

Essence of free speech

  •  The essence of free speech is not really about the freedom to say what we want.
  •  It is more about speech which is free, which comes with no cost. Free speech is actually speech for which you don’t pay a price.
  •  But paying a price is not in the hands of the speaker.
  •  When I say or write something, I do not know who will take offence at it.
  •  People get upset and take offence very easily these days! Free speech is nothing but the conditions under which the hearer is not allowed to take offence and intimidate the speaker.
  •  The real freedom in ‘free speech’ lies not in the freedom of the speaker to say what she wants but in the constraint on hearers to allow the speaker to say what she wants.
  •  Thus, when we demand the right to free speech, we are essentially demanding the right to stop others from not letting us speak.
  •  The most important consequence of the idea of free speech is that it shifts the responsibility of free speech from the speaker to the hearer.
  •  But does this mean that anybody can say what they want?
  •  Can they slander a person through falsehood in the name of free speech? Is slandering a person the same as criticising the government or the nation?
  •  After all, our governments, independent of which party is in power, have effectively used the charge of sedition to stop certain utterances in public.

Criticism as a duty

  •  It is not free speech to purposefully slander a person.
  •  But criticising the government or nation is not the same as slandering an individual. Such criticism is not just a right, it is more a duty of democratic societies.
  •  In a true democracy, there is nothing that can be considered as slandering the government, even if a criticism may be wrong and unjustified.
  •  That is because free speech is a tool to make democracy workable and it is not really about the individual freedom to say what one wants.
  •  Democracy is about governance for others and on behalf of others. It is a social and public system of responsibility of governance.
  •  The very foundation of democracy is collective action and the real freedom in a democracy is the freedom of choosing who will govern on our behalf.
  •  The ideal of democracy is that we are all potential rulers any one of us can be the Prime Minister of our country. When we elect somebody, we are only putting a group of people to govern on behalf of us. Free speech is the mechanism to make sure that they govern correctly and on our behalf. It is only free speech, defined in this manner, that makes democracy workable.

Way forward

  •  Thus, true free speech covers only those acts of speech which speak against power, and keep those in power accountable. It thus safeguards the most cherished democratic principle.
  •  Free speech by itself is not the essence of democracy but is the means by which any democracy can be sustained.
  •  Anybody who doesn’t like to hear criticism of government or government representatives is being undemocratic.
  •  We dilute the importance of free speech when we use it to derive personal benefit or cause harm or do so in situations which are not about power.
  •  Speech, in the task of keeping check on power, has to be subsidised and made free by those in power.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 26 MARCH 2019 (The point of having democracy (The Hindu))

The point of having democracy (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 1: Society
Prelims level: Not Much
Mains level: Secularism and Nationalism impact on Indian Society

Context

  •  In the run-up to the present, indeed through the greater part of the past five years, two constructs have repeatedly been projected by the main political formations in the country.
  •  These are nationalism and secularism, associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, respectively.
  •  As are raisins to the cake, so we might say these two ideals are to Indian democracy.
  •  But unlike the fruit which, given to us in a natural state, is not malleable, the concepts of nationalism and secularism have proved to be quite that in the use to which they are put by India’s political parties.
  •  This by itself may have proved to be less disappointing if they had not in addition privileged these constructs over everything else.

Background

  •  Actually, it is possible for nationalism and secularism to be part of state policy even in the absence of democracy.
  •  Thus both Iran under the last Shah and Iraq under Saddam Hussein ran a secular state, though they were both dictators.
  •  The People’s Republic of China is so nationalist that even its socialism is said to be imbued with ‘Chinese characteristics’.
  •  Its state is not just secular but avowedly atheist. However, it is not a democracy.
  •  What is at stake here is that democracy is meant to be something more than just nationalism and secularism.
  •  None of this suggests that these two concepts are unrelated to democracy. Indeed they are of it.

Nationalism

  •  Take nationalism first, once we have imagined ourselves as a democratic community we must defend our national interest.
  •  Threats to India come from two sources. There are authoritarian regimes in the region that are hostile to India.
  •  Second, the western powers have captured global bodies to promote their economic and political interests, for which think of the multilateral agencies that attempt to prise open India’s market without yielding the West’s to migration.

Secularism

  •  Based on first principles, we would say that a democracy cannot allow any religious influence on the state’s actions.
  •  However, there is a reality in India today that requires a contextual understanding, and this would require the secular state to go beyond this limited brief to protect religious minorities.
  •  It should leave every thinking Hindu raging with anger that terror is directed at innocent Indians in his or her name.

Political responses

  •  To accept the relevance of both nationalism and secularism to Indian society does not, however, entail agreement with the use made of these constructs by India’s political parties.
  •  We have just completed five years during which a toxic nationalism has been unleashed.
  •  The nationalism or national pride has shown itself to be a means to establish Hindu majoritarian rule, a project with potentially destructive consequences for the country.
  •  A substantial part of India views this with trepidation.
  •  For its part, over the past 30-plus years the Congress party has often resorted to a sham secularism, the high mark of which came in the form of its response to the Supreme Court ruling on the Shah Bano case.
  •  Many citizens, including Muslim Indians, were deeply demoralised.
  •  In the State of Kerala, the Congress routinely shares power with sectarian parties while proclaiming its secular credentials. Nobody is fooled.

Just society by just means

  •  In the close to three quarters of a century since, the goal of Indian democracy had been articulated prosperity is not in sight for the vast majority.
  •  On the other hand, a section of Indians has surged ahead economically.
  •  Not just the very rich but the middle classes too are now much richer than they were. For the rest of the country, however, it is an ongoing struggle to earn a living.
  •  A just society must seem far away to these Indians.
  •  But a just society by just means is no longer a pipe dream, it is entirely feasible, and in our times at that.
  •  The pathway to it lies in adopting the right public policies, and it is in the hands of India’s political parties to do so.
  •  To address the economic hardship of the majority of Indians, public policy should now shift gear to launch an assault on the capability deprivation which underlies India’s low human development indicators.
  •  The poorly educated millions are helplessly caught in the eddies of a market economy.
  •  Their skills do not match what is required for them to earn a decent living.

Way forward

  •  Overcoming this requires two actions to be undertaken.
  •  It would require committing resources to education and training and then governing their use.
  •  In fact, we elect and then maintain a political class to govern the system.
  •  Instead, it acts as if its sole task is to lecture the public on either nationalism or secularism, as the case may be, leaving the task of governance entirely to the bureaucracy.
  •  This empowers the bureaucracy in an undesirable way, amounting to its not having to be accountable.
  •  The task of public policy in India at this moment is to raise the tempo of economic activity.
  •  Jobs are an issue.
  •  The government cannot create jobs directly but it can create the preconditions. It does so through public investment and macroeconomic policy.
  •  For about a decade now, the latter has been conducted unimaginatively.
  •  Amateurish economic management is responsible for rising unemployment.
  •  India’s political parties cannot say that the pathway to the ends of democracy has not been shown to them.
  •  If they fail to take the country there, they must assume responsibility.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 26 MARCH 2019 (Paradigm shift for TB control (The Hindu))

Paradigm shift for TB control (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 2: Health
Prelims level: TB
Mains level: Tackling TB diseases in India

Context

  •  Tuberculosis (TB) remains the biggest killer disease in India, outnumbering all other infectious diseases put together this despite our battle against it from 1962, when the National TB Programme (NTP) was launched.
  •  In 1978, the Expanded Programme on Immunisation (EPI) began, giving BCG to all babies soon after birth and achieving more than 90% coverage.
  •  Yet, when evaluated in 1990, the NTP and the EPI had not reduced India’s TB burden.
  •  In 1993, the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) was launched, offering free diagnosis and treatment for patients, rescuing them from otherwise sure death. However, treatment is not prevention. Prevention is essential for control.

Short on control

  •  Visionary leaders had initiated a BCG vaccine clinical trial in 1964 in Chingelpet district, Tamil Nadu.
  •  Its final report (published in the Indian Journal of Medical Research in 1999) was: BCG did not protect against TB infection or adult pulmonary TB, the ‘infectious’ form.
  •  By then, the RNTCP was in expansion mode; experts hoped that curing pulmonary TB might control TB by preventing new infections.
  •  That assumption was without validation in high prevalence countries.
  •  BCG immunisation does prevent severe multi-organ TB disease in young children, and must be continued but will not control TB.

Situation in India

  •  In countries with 5-10 cases in a lakh people annually, curing TB sustains the low disease burden.
  •  In India, with 200-300 cases in a lakh in a year, curing TB is essential to reduce mortality, but is not sufficient to prevent transmission.
  •  By 2014-15, the RNTCP was found to be very successful in reducing mortality, but failing to control TB.
  •  Delays in care seeking and diagnosis are the result of lack of universal primary health care.

Tamil Nadu pilot model

  •  Tamil Nadu is planning to implement this new strategy in one revenue district, Tiruvannamalai. If successful, it will be replicated in all other districts.
  •  To ensure public participation a missing element in the RNTCP the new model will be in public-private participation mode.
  •  The Rotary movement, having demonstrated its social mobilisation strengths in polio eradication, will partner with the State government in the TB control demonstration project.
  •  Tiruvannamalai, a pioneer district in health management, was the first in India (1988-90) to eliminate polio using the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV), under a Health Ministry-Indian Council of Medical Research-Christian Medical College project.
  •  The Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and the National Health Mission will lead all national, State and district health agencies, district and local administration, departments of education, social welfare and public relations and government medical college.

Suggestive measures to control

  •  The Rotary will ensure the participation of all players (health and non-health) in the private sector.
  •  Pulmonary TB causes transmission, resulting in infection which leads to progression as TB disease.
  •  To transform this vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle of TB control, spiralling down TB prevalence continuously, transmission, infection and progression must be addressed simultaneously this is the Tiruvannamalai TB mantra.

Health etiquette

  •  TB bacteria float in the air, people inhale that air and get infected.
  •  The closer one is to a pulmonary TB person, the greater the probability of catching infection.
  •  We must reduce chances of transmission by insisting that the TB affected should cover their mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing and not to spit in open spaces.
  •  Only when the public at large practise cough and sneeze etiquette and refrain from spitting in the open, can we ensure that the TB affected also will follow suit.
  •  The Rotary will spearhead public education for behaviour modification, starting in all schools and continuing through to adults.
  •  Progression to TB disease from infection can be prevented by giving World Health Organisation-recommended short-term ‘preventive treatment’. Infection is silent, but diagnosable with the tuberculin skin test (TST).
  •  Testing all people periodically is not possible. Cohorts of schoolchildren (5, 10 and 15 years) can be tested and those TST positive given preventive treatment.
  •  This tactic achieves three results at one go an infected child gets preventive treatment and points to adults with undiagnosed TB in the household.
  •  The annual TST positive rate provides an objective measure of annual infection frequency for plotting the control trajectory.

Way forward

  •  On March 13, 2018, the Prime Minister, who was inaugurating the End TB Summit, declared that India would end TB by 2025.
  •  On September 26, 2018, the first ever United Nations High Level Meeting on TB declared the urgent agenda “United to end TB an urgent global response to a global epidemic”. Rhetoric and declarations cannot control TB; a strategy of simultaneously using all biomedical and socio-behavioural interventions can.
  •  Ending TB by 2025 is impossible but pulling the TB curve down by 2025 and sustaining the decline ever after is in the realm of reality.
  •  True to the spirit of World TB Day theme, we laud Tamil Nadu for deciding ‘It’s time — to take bold and imaginative initiatives to create a TB control model’.
  •  Tamil Nadu, an erstwhile global leader in TB research during the 1960s through the 1990s, will now become the global leader in TB control.

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THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 26 MARCH 2019 (Delaying bad news: on proposed banking reforms (The Hindu))

Delaying bad news: on proposed banking reforms (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level: Ind AS
Mains level: Indian Accounting standards impacts on Banking system

Context

  •  Indian banks burdened by sour loans will not have to admit the true size of their likely losses.
  •  The Reserve Bank of India postponed the implementation of the Indian Accounting Standards (Ind AS) norms for banks indefinitely, citing the need for amendments to be made by the government to the relevant banking laws.

RBI proposed plan

  •  The RBI had initially planned to implement the norms starting April 1, 2018 in order to bring Indian accounting standards in line with international standards, but the Centre’s delay in enacting the necessary amendments had given breathing space for banks for another year.
  •  It is believed that the adoption of the accounting standard could cause significant credit losses to banks, which will be forced to prematurely recognise losses on their loans and build up the necessary underlying capital required to overcome the impact of such losses.
  •  Under the proposed norms, financial institutions like banks will have to calculate expected credit losses (ECL) on their loans during each reporting period and make necessary adjustments to their profit-and-loss account even before a borrower may default on a certain loan.
  •  This is in contrast to the present accounting norms wherein banks incur credit losses in their books only after outstanding loans have been in a state of default over a certain number of days as stated in the rules laid down by the RBI.
  •  It given the losses they would likely have to incur, it is understandable why banks would try to avoid adopting the accounting norms for as long as possible.
  •  So the delay in the implementation of the Ind AS norms is not surprising at all.
  •  Further, to adjust to the new norms, banks will have to improve their ability to forecast future credit losses with precision.
  •  Until this happens, bank earnings could experience volatility.

Way forward

  •  The Central government, which has been trying to bail out public sector banks without carrying out the structural reforms required to clean up balance sheets, might also prefer to delay the enactment of the legislation.
  •  For the new norms will cause more outstanding loans to be added to the huge existing pile of bad loans and cause further headaches to the government.
  •  According to estimates made by India Ratings and Research, public sector banks would have to make additional provision of over a trillion rupees if the norms are adopted right away.
  •  The Centre may not be able to foot the bill, and may instead prefer to help public sector banks to hide the true size of their bad loans.
  •  This does not bode well for the health of the banking system as banks that do not recognise their problems might not resolve them.

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(The Gist of Kurukshetra) FARM TECHNOLOGIES TO COUNTER CLIMATE CHANGE [MARCH-2019]


(The Gist of Kurukshetra) FARM TECHNOLOGIES TO COUNTER CLIMATE CHANGE

[MARCH-2019]


FARM TECHNOLOGIES TO COUNTER CLIMATE CHANGE

Introduction

  •  India is experiencing and far unprecedented more frequently climate spells change and of covering hot in terms weather much of larger areas. Global mean temperatures have risen by 0.6°C in the last century, with the last decade being the warmest on record. Global environmental issues such as land degradation, loss of biodiversity, stratospheric ozone depletion along with human induced climate change, have exacerbated the complicated situation.
  •  Climate change is expected to adversely impact socio-economic sectors, including water resources, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and human settlements, ecological systems and human and animal health in many parts of the world.
  •  Under the scenario of 4°C warming, the west coast and southern India are projected to shift to new high-temperature climatic regimes with significant impacts on agriculture. Climate change will have an economic impact on agriculture, including changes in farm profitability, prices, supply, demand and trade.
  •  Magnitude and geographical distribution of such climate-induced changes may affect our ability to expand the food production globally by 70 per cent to feed around 9 billion mouths in 2050. Climate change could have far reaching effects on the patterns of trade among nations, development and food security.
  •  To keep global warming possibly below 1.5°C and mitigate adverse effects of climate change, agriculture like all other sectors will have to contribute to manage greenhouse gas emissions as mandated under Kyoto protocol. This article highlights the issues and strategies related to the effect of climate change on agriculture.

Greenhouse Gases Emissions

  •  The active gases including water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), ozone (O3), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O), collectively termed as the greenhouse gases (GHGs), warm the Earth by absorbing energy and slowing the rate of energy trade. Magnitude and geographical distribution of such climate-induced changes may affect our ability to expand the food production globally by 70 per cent to feed around 9 billion mouths in 2050.
  •  Climate change could have far reaching effects on the patterns of trade among nations, development and food security. To keep global warming possibly below 1.5°C and mitigate adverse effects of climate change, agriculture like all other sectors will have to contribute to manage greenhouse gas emissions as mandated under Kyoto protocol. This article highlights the issues and strategies related to the effect of climate change on agriculture.

Mitigation and Adaptation Technologies

  •  As for climate, it is clear that rain and sun are essential for growth of plant biomass, but, of course, too much of either or both is harmful. Following mitigation and adaptation measures should be put into place to mitigate adverse effect of hanging climate.

Soil Management

  •  Soil Conservation: With the rise of the environmentalist movement in the 1960s and afterwards, it has become common to speak of conserving natural resources such as trees or fossil fuels. Yet, long before humans recognized the need to  make responsible use of things taken from the ground, they learned to conserve the ground itself—that is, the soil. This was a hard-won lesson: failure to conserve soil has turned many a fertile farmland into temporary dust bowl or even permanent desert. Techniques such as crop rotation aid in conservation efforts, but communities continue to face hazards associated with the soil. There is, for instance, the matter of leaching, the movement of dissolved substances through the soil, which, on the one hand, can benefit it but, on the other hand, can rob it of valuable nutrients, issues of soil contamination also raise concerns that affect not just farmers but the population as a whole.
  •  Soil erosion is a major problem in hilly areas and in areas with undulated topography. Erosion transports not only rock sediment but organic material as well. Together, these two ingredients are as essential to making soil, as tea bags and water are to making tea. Soil conservation measures are important to control soil erosion. Farmers should use contour ridges as a strategy to minimize soil
    erosion to encourage better root penetration and enhance moisture conservation. Local farmers should improve their adaptive capacity by using traditional pruning and fertilizing techniques to double the tree densities in semi-arid areas.
  •  These help in holding soils together and arresting desertification natural mulches moderate the soil temperatures and extremes, suppress diseases and harmful pests, and conserve the soil moisture. Carbon Sequestration: Carbon sequestration is the process involved in carbon capture and the long-term storage ofatmospheric carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to mitigate or defer global warming. It has been proposed as a way to slow the atmospheric and marine accumulation of greenhouse gases, which are released by burning fossil fuels. Carbon sequestration describes long-term storage of carbon dioxide or other forms of carbon to either mitigate or defer global warming and avoid dangerous climate change. It has been proposed as a way to slow the atmospheric and marine accumulation of greenhouse gases, which are released by burning fossil fuels.

Crop Residue Management:

  •  A considerable area under rice and wheat is now harvested by combine. Rice and wheat straws left in the field after combine harvesting are generally burnt by the farmers to facilitate seed bed preparation and seeding. These crop residues contain large quantities of nutrients accumulated by rice and wheat crops.
  •  Burning of crop residues in the states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan has significantly contributed to deterioration of air quality. The Government is encouraging the farmers to go in for mechanized options of residue management by way of providing subsidies on purchase of machines and equipments such as happy seeder, straw baler, rotavator, paddy straw chopper/mulcher, gyro rake, straw reaper, shredder, etc. as custom hiring centers or village level farm machinery banks.
  •  The State Governments have also been directed to provide Rs. 4,000 per ha from the funds available for demonstration of machines under Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanization for demonstration of straw management machinery at farmers' fields. For crop residue management, under Sub-Mission on Agriculture Mechanization, the Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers Welfare, Government of India has allocated funds to Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.

Conservation Agriculture (CA):

  •  Conservation agriculture is a green solution to achieve food and nutritional security. The CA-based system substantially reduces the production cost (up to 23 per cent) but produces equal or even higher than conventional system; thereby increasing economic profitability of production system. CA-based production systems also moderates the effect of high temperature (reduced canopy temperature by 1-4°C) and increases irrigation water productivity by 66-100 per cent compared to traditional production systems.

Minimum Tillage:

  •  While intensive soil tillage reduces soil organic matter through aerobic mineralization, low tillage and the maintenance of a permanent soil cover {through crops, crop residues or cover crops and the introduction of diversified crop rotations} increase the soil organic matter.
  •  A no-or low-tilled soil conserves the structure of soil for fauna and related macrospores (earthworms, termites arid root channels) to serve as drainage channels for excess water. Surface mulch
    cover protects soil from excess temperatures and evaporation losses and  can reduce crop water requirements by about 30 per cent.

Nutrient Management

  •  Balanced and efficient use of fertilizers practiced on each and every holding based on 4R principle i.e., right nutrient, right quantity, right time and right method of application is an attractive proposition. Besides enhancing nutrient use efficiency, it helps in reducing the N2O emissions. To achieve the goal of higher nutrient use efficiency, site-specific demand driven balanced use of nutrients based on soil tests would be essential and inevitable.

  •  Use of fertilizers in conjunction with organic manures, biofertilizers, etc. on the principle of integrated nutrient supply system is a right prescription to increase nutrient use efficiency, minimize use of mineral fertilizers, and reduce GHG emissions. Use of nitrification inhibitors will regulate nitrification and leaf color chart will ensure judicious use of N-fertilizers, increase N use efficiency and reduce N2O emission and also cut on the fertilizer costs, Promotion of organic farming will arrest fertilizer use and minimize GHGs emissions.

Integrated Nutrient Management:

  •  Use of fertilizers along with organic manures, green manures, vermicompost, biofertilizers, neem, karanj, pongamia cakes etc. Neem coated urea has an edge over uncoated urea. To reduce the dependence of nitrogen fertilizers, use of Rhizobium cultures in pulses and Azotobacter in rice, wheat, coarse cereals, millet, smaller millets, cotton, sugarcane, potato etc. help cutting cost on fertilizers through benefits of symbiotic and asymbiotic nitrogen fixation.
  •  Many nutrient solubilizing bacteria, for example, K and Zn solubilizers are of great help. Use of phosphate solubilizing bacteria (PSB) is well known tool to solubilize native soil P. Seaweeds like Sagarika may play a great role to boost crop growth and also mitigate weather adversities. Biogas slurry can be used successfully to enhance NUE and minimize environmental problems.


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