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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs 4th Aug, 2017

  • August 4, 2017
  • 1
IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis, IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Aug 2017, IASbaba's Daily News Analysis, National, UPSC
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 4th Aug 2017

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NATIONAL

TOPIC:

General Studies 2

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections
  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

General Studies 3

  • Government Budgeting.
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

Doing away with LPG subsidy

In news:

The government has informed Parliament about its decision to completely do away with the subsidy offered to cooking gas used for household purposes.
In an order issued in May this year, public sector oil companies were authorised to incrementally hike the “effective price” of LPG cylinders until the entire subsidy is wiped off by March next year. Previously, in July last year, the oil companies were given the green signal to increase the effective price of subsidised cylinders by Rs. 2 a month. So the latest order to increase the effective price by Rs. 4 a month, but with the clearly stated aim of eventually doing away with subsidies completely, signifies a more aggressive pursuit of the policy of cutting the fuel subsidy.

 

What prompted this step?

The move to “rationalise” the subsidy could have been prompted by the fall in global oil prices. With global oil prices falling appreciably after January 2014, a non-subsidised LPG cylinder today costs two-thirds of what it used to four years ago.

In the latest Union budget, the government allocated about Rs. 25,000 crores towards oil subsidy, which is a fourth of the total oil subsidy bill (of almost Rs. 1 lakh crore) incurred in fiscal year 2013.

Pros:

  • The cut in subsidy would further strengthen fiscal discipline. The implementation of the direct transfer of cash benefits in the last few years has already helped in the better targeting of subsidies to the poor, thus substantially reducing wasteful spending.
  • The fall in oil prices over the same period may have led the government to believe that this may be the right time to withdraw the cooking gas subsidy without causing too much pain to consumers.

Cons:

  • It is estimated that about 18 crore people, many of them below the poverty line, depend on subsidised gas cylinders. It would therefore be difficult to argue that a complete abolition of subsidy will not adversely affect them.
  • An LPG subsidy assists the poor in ensuring that this clean cooking fuel remains within the budget of many poor households, thereby keeping them healthy and saving on time spent on collecting wood.
  • The subsidy was in many ways an investment into public health. The concern is that this will impact marginal households and keep many households trapped in biomass use for daily cooking – which has no place in a modern economy.
  • While this move will have a positive impact on the government budget, it is likely to have a detrimental impact on the transition to modern fuels in rural India, and on the health of the citizens. After all, what has not changed is rural India’s reliance on biomass for cooking. The poor continue to use it – and suffer from the air pollution caused by it.
  • In India, 4 to 5 lakh people die of household air pollution every year – largely due to improper ventilation combined with the use of biomass fuels for cooking and lighting. Even today, a majority of rural households continue to use biomass (such as wood and cow dung) as the primary cooking fuel. The burning of these fuels emits pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, particulate matter, benzene, and metals including lead and copper. The use of dirty biomass fuels for cooking has several detrimental impacts on human health by either directly causing or aggravating acute and chronic diseases. For instance, pollution from such fuels contribute to 12% of still births in the country. The National Family Health Survey (2005-06) also revealed significant increases in child morbidity due to poor household air quality.
  • The objective of LPG subsidy is that if provided across the country at lower rates, households will increasingly prefer this clean fuel to the more polluting alternatives.

Way ahead:

  • An obvious solution to health problems and equality issues is the use of cleaner fuels to cook, and the provision of electricity for lighting. The latter is taking place at a steady pace. To tackle the former, the government introduced the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in 2016 to promote the use of LPG for cooking. LPG is a fossil fuel, but it burns significantly cleanly with no production of soot. LPG connections to households have steadily and significantly increased over the past few years. However, having an LPG connection is one thing, while actual continued usage for cooking is quite another.
  • The foremost aim should be to sustainably lower the price of cooking gas once and for all, getting the government out of the business of managing subsidies. In the long run, this is the only way to ease the burden on consumers and also free the budget from the pressure of international oil prices.
  • Deregulating the market for cooking gas, thus opening it up to more widespread market competition, would also help.
  • But in the long run, the government should continue to shield cooking gas customers, especially the poor, from the volatility of international oil prices.
  • There is a gender angle too, as household air pollution leads to a range of diseases among women, who are the primary cooks in most Indian households. Over 2.4 million cases of chronic bronchitis, 0.3 million cases of TB, 5 million cases of cataract and various adverse pregnancy outcomes among Indian women are attributable to household air pollution due to the use of biomass as a cooking fuel.

Conclusion:

While framing policy, therefore, the government would do well to balance the demands of reducing the burden on the exchequer with the imperatives of environment protection and equity. For women in poor households, LPG means freedom from the drudgery of smoke and biomass. Its environmentally benign nature makes LPG a worthy candidate for subsidies, which the government must treat differently from other fossil fuels.

Connecting the dots:

  • The government has recently decided to do away with LPG subsidy. DIscuss the implications of this decision. Also analyze why a cautious approach should be adopted rather than right away removing the subsidy on LPG cylinders.

NATIONAL

TOPIC:

General Studies 1:

  • Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues
  • Social empowerment

General studies 3:

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
  • Major crops cropping patterns in various parts of the country, irrigation, agricultural produce and issues and related constraints; e-technology in the aid of farmers.

Advancing right of women farmers

Background:

The stereotypical image of an Indian farmer is a mustachioed man, clad in a white dhoti with farming tools in hand. The reality is the Indian agricultural landscape is fast being feminised. Already, women constitute close to 65 per cent of all agricultural workers. An even greater share, 74 per cent of the rural workforce, is female.

Issues:

  • Despite their hard labour in the field, women are not officially counted as farmers, and are either labelled “agricultural labourers” or “cultivators”. This is because the government does not recognise as farmers those who do not have a claim to land under their name in official records.
  • As many as 87 per cent of women do not own their land; only 12.7 per cent of them do.
  • There are two primary reasons for the alarmingly low number:
    One, land being a state subject is not governed by the constitution under a uniform law that applies equally to all citizens but rather is governed by personal religious laws, which tend to discriminate against women when it comes to land inheritance.
    Second, the cultural aspect of the deep-rooted biases that hinder women’s ownership of land in patriarchal societies cannot be discounted.

Solution:

  • Providing women with access to secure land is key to incentivising the majority of India’s women farmers.
  • This, coupled with the need to make investments to improve harvests, will result in increased productivity and improve household food security and nutrition.

Present situation:

Indian farmers, both men and women, face an uphill battle even leasing land. After abolishing the zamindari system, states moved to restrict tenancy as a protective measure guarding against tenant exploitation. However, since the 1950s, the tenancy situation has varied across the nation as land laws are enacted by the states. And yet, nearly 35 per cent of India’s agricultural land is cultivated by tenant farmers, who tend to be landless, poor and marginal.

Ascertaining security of tenure for tenants: A necessary first step

  • With security of tenure, female farmers should be provided with the three critical driving factors — the incentive, the security, as well as the opportunity — to invest in the land they harvest.
  • Security of land tenure also presents advantages for landlords by removing the fear of losing their land ownership.

The Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act:

  • In March 2016, the NITI Aayog released the Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, which seeks to legalise and liberalise land leasing with the interests of both the landlord and the tenant in mind.
  • The Model Act could enable the real cultivators of land to be recognised as farmers and thus be entitled to obtain important inputs provided to farmers by the state.
  • This has the potential to improve the productivity of farmer harvests, replacing unwilling cultivators with willing cultivators.
  • Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have expressed interest in the Model Act, while some others like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are at an advanced stage of enacting their own land leasing laws based on the Model Act.

Macro-Impacts:

  • Numerous studies conducted worldwide have determined that women have a greater propensity to use their income for the needs of their households.
  • Land-owning women’s offspring thus receive better nourishment and have better health indicators.
  • Land-owning mothers also tend to invest in their children’s education.
  • Ultimately, this is a win-win situation all around — for the farmer, her family and the larger ecosystem.

The micro-level impacts:

  • It will help wipe away debilitating feelings of insecurity and vulnerability for rural women. The chance of propertied women being physically abused is reduced from 49 per cent to 7 per cent due to an increase in the wife’s bargaining power.
  • If female farmers are provided security of land tenure, they will be officially recognised as farmers and hence, will see their household bargaining power increase.
  • Women farmers’ self-confidence and agency will slowly grow and expand outside just their household.

Conclusion:

Ensuring food security for its citizens and boosting women’s rights constitute goals two and five of the Sustainable Development Goals that our country committed to in 2015. Giving agency to women farmers is critical in realising these outcomes. Ultimately, women farmers are unstoppable if they can be helped to realise that they deserve better. And it all begins with creating a new image for the “Indian farmer”.

Connecting the dots:

  • India needs to provide adequate rights to women farmers and the starting has to be ensuring land rights to them. Discuss the need and multiple effects such a step would ensue in not only revolutionizing agricultural sector but also for the larger ecosystem.

Also read: Women farmers in India needs attention

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