IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 17th February, 2016

  • February 17, 2016
  • 9
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 17th February, 2016





General studies 1:

  • Effects of Globalization on Indian Society; Urbanization and related issues

General studies 2:

  • Important aspects of governance and e-governance
  • Issues regarding services relating to Health, Education, Human Resource.


Urbanization: Cities at crossroads- Why cities matter?


  • The first recognition of the importance of urbanisation, after years of neglect by both the Centre and the states, came in 2005 when the government of India launched the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) in December 2005.
  • Public service delivery improved only in cities where state governments provided an enabling environment for innovation and better governance.

What is urbanisation?

The process of society’s transformation from predominantly rural to predominantly urban population through migration from rural areas is known as urbanisation.

It mainly includes two things:

  • An increase in the number of people living in urban settlements
  • An increase in the Percentage of population engaged in non-agricultural activities.

What are the reasons behind migration?

  • Better infrastructure
  • Better employment opportunity
  • Education
  • Better Health care facilities etc…

What are the problems of Urbanisation?

  • Over crowding
  • Decrease in standard of living in urban areas
  • Housing Problem
  • Slums and squatter settlements
  • Sewage problems
  • Urban crimes
  • Problems of Urban pollution etc..

Why cities matter?

  • After having grown at close to 4 per cent per annum during the Eleventh Plan period (2007-08 to 2011-12), agricultural growth in India has slowed down to less than 2 per cent in more recent years.
  • Indian agriculture should grow at 4 to 4.5 per cent per annum and we need to make large investments in research and development, soil and water management and agricultural extension. But rapid growth of GDP will have to be driven by non-agricultural sectors.
  • As too many people dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, productivity of labour is low in Indian agriculture as farmers engage in labour-intensive farming. This limits their potential to earn a higher income
  • If we aspire for GDP growth of 8 to 10 per cent per annum, which is necessary to improve economic conditions in India and remove/ reduce poverty within a short period, this can only be driven by industry and services sectors, which can grow much faster than agriculture
  • Faster growth of industry and services leads to a decline in the share of agriculture in both GDP and employment. This is called structural transformation and should be welcomed.
  • Cities play an important role in developing industries and services. By generating economies of agglomeration and by acting as centres of knowledge and innovation, they make investments in industry and services more productive.
  • As it is difficult for the existing rural population to earn a decent living in rural areas, they migrate to the cities.
  • To absorb the exodus of people from rural to urban areas, we need to fix our cities. We need to provide employment, skills and opportunity for people to engage in industry and services sectors.


What are the recent initiatives launched to improvise cities?

A number of new initiatives have been launched by the government of India in the last two years, raising the level of ambition of Indian cities — smart cities, clean cities (Swachh Bharat), rejuvenated cities (Amrut), and housing for all.

Smart cities:

  • A smart city is defined as the ability to integrate multiple technological solutions in a secure fashion to manage the city’s assets – the city’s assets include, but not limited to, local departments information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, law enforcement, and other community services.
  • A smart city uses information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to improve contact between citizens and government.
  • Basic infrastructure: Assured water and electricity supply, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, robust IT connectivity, e-governance and citizen participation, safety and security of citizens
  • Smart solutions: Public information, grievance redressal, electronic service delivery, citizens’ engagement, waste to energy & fuel, waste to compost, 100% treatment of waste water, smart meters & management, monitoring water quality, renewable source of energy, efficient energy and green building, smart parking, intelligent traffic management system.
  • How it will work : After government announces the guidelines, states will be asked to nominate names of cities for a ‘City Challenge Competition’ and the chosen ones will get Central fund of Rs 100 crore each year for 5 years.

Amrut: Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation

  • Amrut with the focus of the urban renewal projects is to establish infrastructure that could ensure adequate robust sewerage networks and water supply for urban transformation
  • Rajasthan was the first state in the country to submit State Annual Action Plan under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT).
  • The scheme is dependent with public private partnership model(PPP) model.
  • If required, various other schemes like Swachh Bharat Mission, Housing for All 2022, along with the local state schemes like that related to water supply and sewerage and other infrastructure related schemes can be linked to AMRUT.


Swachh Bharat Abhiyan:

  • This campaign aims to accomplish the vision of a ‘Clean India’ by 2 October 2019, the 150th birthday of Mahatma Gandhi
  • Elimination of open defecation
  • Conversion of unsanitary toilets to pour flush toilets (a type of pit latrine, usually connected to two pits)
  • Eradication of manual scavenging and 100% collection and processing/disposal/reuse/recycling of municipal solid waste
  • A behavioural change in people regarding healthy sanitation practices
  • Generation of awareness among citizens about sanitation and its linkages with public health
  • Supporting urban local bodies in designing, executing and operating waste disposal systems
  • Facilitating private-sector participation in capital expenditure and operation and maintenance costs for sanitary facilities.


Way ahead:

  • Key issue is whether our cities will be empowered with finances and capacity by the state governments and helped by the government of India. Without this, private funds will not come forth to supplement the limited funds of the government and the hope of public-private partnership will not materialise.
  • There must, of course, be elected local governments as the Constitution mandates, but there must also be greater autonomy to the elected urban local governments in the running of city affairs. Unless this is done, our cities will not be able to improve the quality of life of their citizens and also play their role as engines of rapid growth.

Connecting the dots:

  • Can smart cities bridge digital divide and earn dividends to make India truly digital?
  • Do we need ‘Smart village project’ along with ‘Smart cities project’ for balanced growth of rural and urban areas and to reduce ill effects of urbanization? Comment.


Related Articles:

Disaster Management, Urbanization Issues and Governance – The Chennai Disaster

Solid Waste Management: Waste not, want not

City infrastructure: With a multifaceted approach we can afford the ‘Housing for All’ dream




General studies 2:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 

General studies 3:

  • Agriculture & related issues; Subsidies
  • Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.


Neem-coated truth: Urea policy isn’t a game-changer

January, 2015: The government made it mandatory for urea manufacturers to produce neem-coated urea up to a minimum of 75 per cent of their total production of subsidised urea, from 35 per cent earlier, and allowed them to go up to 100 per cent


Intended Benefits—

  • Increases crop yields (Better yield)
  • Lowers input cost to farmers
  • Reduces imports of precious fertilisers as well as reduce ground and soil pollution
  • Neem coated urea is costly by 5% compared to plain prilled urea but it reduces nitrogen loss by more than 10%, thereby incurring a net savings of Rs 13.5 per bag for farmers
  • Due to higher nitrogen use efficiency, the use of nitrogen coated urea can also eliminate import of urea resulting in huge foreign exchange savings
  • Less pest attack due to less use of urea which will also ensure better NPK use ratio and balanced use of fertilisers
  • Farmer’s income would increase with the help of neem-coated urea as productivity would increase with less usage of urea
  • Higher usage of neem-coated urea would check diversion of urea for industrial use


Properties to check Nitrogen-Loss—

  • When ordinary urea is applied, it gets converted to ammonium carbamate
  • Some of this gets converted to ammonia gas in what is called ammonia volatilisation and about 8-10 per cent nitrogen is lost during volatilisation, which is more pronounced in alkaline soils like that of India
  • The rest of the ammonium carbamate undergoes chemical transformation and nitrates are formed.
  • Some of these are absorbed by the plants and the rest are either leached into the underground water or are denitrified to gaseous nitrogen and nitrous oxide under anaerobic conditions (absence of oxygen).

Neem has properties that check nitrogen loss at each stage— it slows down the process of nitrate formation and hence excess nitrate is not available for denitrification


Let us consider the additional concerns—

  • When farmers use conventional urea, about half the applied nitrogen are not assimilated by the plant and leaches into the soil, causing extensive groundwater contamination
  • Spraying urea with neem oil slows the release of nitrogen, by about 10 to 15 per cent, concomitantly reducing consumption of the fertiliser
  • A research finding suggests that the “sustained release” nature of neem-coated urea has seen rice yields jump 9.6 per cent and wheat by 6.9 per cent
  • The neem-coating also precludes an age-old malpractice of this cheap fertiliser being diverted for use in the chemical industry and, most harmfully in states like Punjab and Haryana, as an additive in milk to whiten it.
  • More Premiums: The government has also allowed manufacturers to charge a small 5 per cent premium on neem-coated urea, which works out to roughly Rs 14 more on a Rs 50 kg bag.

Is it too early to judge?

The answer maybe yes if we are to assess the agronomic efficiency accurately as it is set against the enormous challenges confronting the fertiliser industry and constraints on the government’s budget

Subsidies—Paid on the three major fertilisers, N, phosphatic (P) and potassic (K); Plus the heaviest subsidy paid on urea, on account of political pressures

Assured benefits, Doubtful Impact

Government is finding increasingly difficult to sustain the fertiliser subsidy—The Budget Estimate for the subsidy for the current financial year (that is, 2015-16), for instance, is Rs 71,969 crore. But this amount is misleading because it masks the fact that the year started with aRs 40,000 crore arrears from the previous year

Fertiliser Association of India (FAI)—

  • Budget allocations get exhausted in [the] first five months of the financial year due to gross under-budgeting for [the] fertiliser subsidy in the successive Union Budgets.
  • The year ends with carry forward of huge amount of unpaid subsidy bills which has been of the order of Rs 30-40,000 crores for the past three years
  • Break-up-

Rs 7,000 crore— Towards repaying bank loans for the previous year

The Irony of the Subsidy Policy

Administered pricing policy and the government’s increasing inability to afford the Subsidy

  1. The government is unable to reimburse manufacturers on time and that leads to a situation of borrowing


  • Their average outstanding on a regular basis has resulted in additional annual interest burden of about Rs 3,500 crore for the industry
  • Plus no margins are available under the subsidy pricing regime and most of the companies are incurring losses on account of this additional cost of borrowing

Effects: Discouraged Investment in new Urea Plants; government is thus forced to import to make up the shortfall, which is about a quarter of its total urea requirement – even in a drought year like the 2015-16 kharif season (the government imported about 7.5 million tonnes between April and January)

  1. The average landed price of imported urea is $300 a tonne, which, at the exchange rate of $1 = Rs 69.14, is sold to farmers at $77.52 a tonne (all ports have facilities to spray this imported urea with neem oil). Thus, a large differential in retail prices has encouraged illegal and unaccounted for cross-border sales to Nepal and Bangladesh
  1. The wide price differential between urea and P and K fertiliser- the complex fertiliser Di-ammonium Phosphate, has discouraged the use of the latter, resulting in a serious nutrient imbalance in the soil
    • N:P:K ratio:
      • 2011-2012: 10:4:1 against an ideal 4:2:1
      • Since then— Grown worse (principle agriculturist States)


  • Allowing the industry to charge market prices and paying farmers a direct subsidy
  • The opening and efficient operation of Jan Dhan bank accounts

Connecting the Dots:

  • Discuss the challenges faced by India in becoming a “urea exporting country”.
  • Is the Fertilizer Policy in a mess? Critically evaluate.



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