IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 23rd January 2018
A mission-mode approach to promote millets
Part of: GS Paper II- Government interventions in various sectors
- In the National Year of Millets, the Centre proposes to adopt a mission-mode approach to promote the nutrient-rich cereals, including sorghum, ragi and foxtail millets.
- A Millet Mission is being proposed with an outlay of Rs. 800 crore for the next two years to boost production of these cereals.
- The proposed mission, apart from aiming to boost supplies of these nutri-cereals, is expected to help address the issue of nutrition security.
- Besides supporting farmers with technical inputs, including seeds, the mission will focus on farm-gate processing, aggregation, and provide linkages to the value addition industry and markets.
- Also, seed hubs are being planned in major millet growing States and a referral lab is being set up at the Hyderabad-based Indian Institute of Millets Research to give a fresh impetus to R&D activities. On the demand side, the proposed mission will focus on creating consumer awareness.
- India, which grows over half-a-dozen varieties of millets, produces around 20 million tonnes of these nutri-cereals, which make up about 7 per cent of the country’s overall foodgrain output of around 275 mt.
- It will be implemented in at least 16 of the 21 States that grow millets.
- Millets are naturally rich with protein and nutrients such as iron, calcium and zinc, and also consume less water and inputs, thus being ecologically sustainable.
- The NITI Aayog has recommended including millets in the public distribution system.
Akshaya Patra the mid-day meal implementing agency in Karnataka, has recently launched a pilot with a millet-based diet in Bengaluru and has started distributing a millet-based snack to schoolchildren in Telangana.
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India to be world’s fastest-growing economy in 2018 and 2019: IMF
Part of: GS Paper III- Indian Economy
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has retained India’s GDP forecast for the country at 6.7 per cent in 2017 and 7.4 per cent in 2018.
- In its World Economic Outlook Update, it also estimated that the Indian economy would grow by 7.8 per cent in 2019, which make the country the world’s fastest-growing economy in 2018 and 2019, the top ranking it briefly lost in 2017 to China.
- The projection is in line with official estimates from the Central Statistics Office, which pegged GDP growth at 6.5 per cent this fiscal.
- The IMF has scaled up its forecast for world output to 3.9 per cent each in 2018 and 2019.
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Inclusive Development Index: World Economic Forum
Part of: GS Paper III- Indian Growth & Economy
- Despite an improved performance, India continues to be ranked below neighbours Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal in the Inclusive Development Index released by the World Economic Forum.
- India has been ranked 62 out of 74 emerging economies on a metric focussed on the living standards of people and future-proofing of economies by the WEF.
- Pakistan has been ranked 47, Sri Lanka is at 40, and Nepal at 22; Uganda (59) and Mali (60) are also higher on the index than India.
- India, the WEF said, reflects an ‘improving trend’. There has been a 2.29 per cent improvement in the overall five-year trend of the IDI for India.
- Though the incidence of poverty has declined in India over the past five years, six out of 10 Indians still live on less than $3.20 per day.
- According to the study, Norway tops the chart followed by Iceland and Luxemburg in advanced economies. Lithuania, Hungary, and Azerbaijan are the toppers among the emerging economies.
- Designed as an alternative to GDP, the Inclusive Development Index (IDI) reflects more closely the criteria by which people evaluate their countries’ economic progress.
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TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
Choosing “Institutions of Eminence”
Last August, the Union government invited universities across India to apply to be chosen as “Institutions of Eminence”.
Successful applicants would be exempted from the oversight of the University Grants Commission; and provided a handsome subsidy of Rs 1,000 crore each.
The idea was to nurture Indian universities fit to be placed in the “top five hundred of any world renowned ranking frameworks (such as the Times Higher Education World University Rankings)”.
In the 21st century, more than ever, knowledge shall be the key to economic and social progress. That is why we should welcome the government’s “Institutions of Eminence” scheme.
Global universities vis-a-vis India universities:
In the 1970s, Chinese universities had been destroyed by the Cultural Revolution. The universities in South Korea and Singapore were utterly mediocre. Those in Japan were constrained by their lack of English proficiency.
Many Chinese and Korean universities today rank higher than Indian universities, which would not have been the case in the 1970s and 1980s.
In recent decades, while public universities in other Asian countries have perceptively improved, those in India have noticeably declined.
Reasons behind decline in quality of Indian universities:
- The elevation of quantity over quality
- The contempt for scholarship and research among our political and bureaucratic elite.
- The fact that the choice of vice-chancellors and IIT directors is not left to academics themselves but directed by political calculations.
- The autonomy of our leading educational institutions has been gravely corroded over the year with the HRD ministers of all parties seeking to place, at the head of universities and research institutes, their own people rather than those best qualified for the job.
- The catchment area of faculty and students is restricted to a single city or state.
- Professors impose their own intellectual frameworks on students rather than exposing them to competing theoretical approach.
- The pressures of identity politics exist.
- Universities have excessive dependence on state funding.
Thus, In India pluralism is undermined by narrow-mindedness:
The best universities practise five kinds of pluralism:
- They offer undergraduate and graduate courses in diverse disciplines.
- They expose students to different theoretical frameworks in each discipline.
- They recruit faculty from across the country and from all social groups.
- They attract students of diverse backgrounds.
- They attract private as well as public funding.
Selecting “Institutions of Eminence”:
As many as one hundred institutions have applied for the tag, including seven IITs, DU, IISc, as well as new private universities such as Ashoka.
Each applicant has submitted a 15-year “vision plan” explaining how it shall break into the list of the top 500 universities in the world.
From this large pool, 20 institutions — 10 public, 10 private — will be chosen by a so-called “Empowered Experts Committee”.
The committee’s members will be reputed and credible individuals who have contributed to education, other public issues, economic growth and social development for a minimum period of ten years.
They should have had an exceptional and untarnished record in their respective fields of excellence, and an incontrovertible and demonstrated commitment to public causes.
For this Expert Committee to indeed be credible it must have real, independent, experts in the field of education and research.
The idea of having Institutions of Excellence is excellent in itself; however, its credibility shall rest on the manner in which the “Empowered Experts Committee” is constituted and goes about its work.
Serious scholars who have themselves nurtured institutions of quality are far better qualified than party hacks or career bureaucrats to judge which Indian universities do (and do not) have the potential to become world-class.
Connecting the dots:
- The government has envisaged choosing few of the Indian universities as “institutions of eminence”. Discuss the idea behind the scheme. Also discuss the role of the empowered experts committee.
- Indian universities have been marred with narrow-mindedness while the best universities across the world practices pluralism in disciplines, faculty, students, funding etc. Critically analyze.
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- India and its neighbourhood- relations.
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
India-ASEAN: Economic engagement
This Republic Day, heads of the all the ten Asean economies — Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei — will meet in Delhi.
Asean is touted to become the fourth largest economic bloc in the world by 2030.
As the region increasingly witnesses Chinese interference in and around the Indian Ocean, it has become important for India to strengthen its relationship with other Asian economies.
The 3Cs: Commerce, Connectivity and Culture
It should ideally become the pivot of cooperation between Asean and India.
It is true that India’s mythology and culture find great resonance across the entire Asean region. But in order to add value to our relationships we need to have proactive and constructive commercial engagement with Asean economies.
Asean today is one of the most thriving business and commerce centres globally. The region constitutes around 8 per cent of the global exports, and receives 15 per cent of world investments, while having almost 26 per cent in outward investments.
It is also home to economies such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam, which are often touted as the last frontier economies in the world having exhibited more than 7 per cent growth consistently over the past few years.
Benefits for India:
- Indian businesses could benefit by setting up production units in Asean, which could then act as a platform for them to enter China with whom Asean has an FTA.
- India could also benefit from Asean’s trade agreements with other economies in the region.
- The ambition to have an Asean Economic Community would catapult the ten economies of $2.6 trillion into a single market and production base. This would provide Indian business unparalleled access to over 622 million people, almost double the population of the US.
Poor economic cooperation:
India’s commitment to trade and investment in Asean remains far from impressive.
While around 10 per cent of India’s exports goes to Asean, we contribute only 2 per cent to Asean’s total import from across the globe.
In fact, the balance of trade has always been in favour of Asean.
There exists the continuous dominance and interference by China in some of the economies in the region as it gets desperate to win control in and around the subcontinent.
The entire Asean region is flooded with Chinese products.
For example, in Cambodia, many government vehicles sport the tag, “Gifted by friends from China”. Coincidentally, India was instrumental in Cambodia securing freedom, but today finds it difficult to have a significant commercial presence in that country.
Meanwhile, China has gained significant prowess and is able to exploit differences within Asean. Investments, soft loans, grants and assistance have been offered to most of the new frontier economies, making it difficult for countries such as India to do genuine business there.
- India needs to be cautious while negotiating the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with China being the big elephant in the room.
- Trade facilitation is one of the key areas. It is important for Indian banks to set up operations in the region which would help Indian businesses.
- Aspects such as Mutual Recognition Agreement in the context of services should be ratified at the earliest keeping aside any apprehension.
- India may also explore opportunity to be a part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation or APEC, and to the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (CMIM) — a mechanism created in 2010 to help manage regional financial crisis.
- Both India and Asean would require to tweak their existing policies to facilitate trade and investment and, more importantly, maintain a sustainable environment for peace in the region.
- Asean’s strength today lies in plantations, electronics and heavy machinery, while for India it is largely in computer services, light engineering and pharmaceuticals.
Both sides needs to create appropriate frameworks to reduce both tariff and non-tariff barriers to widen the scope of trade, while looking at participation in the value chain.
- India in 2015 announced a Rs. 500-crore Project Development Fund, which was meant to encourage Indian businesses to set up ventures in CLMV countries (Cambodia, Laos Myanmar and Vietnam). The region offers a lot of opportunities for Indian entities in project exports, supply contracts, and creating utility infrastructure, apart from having manufacturing set-ups. It is important for India that such initiatives are realised soon, especially when it faces competition from an aggressive Chinese.
- India must strive to penetrate in Asean economies. The engagement should avoid any inordinate delay.
Given that the US is moving towards protectionism with the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, its influence over Asean is decreasing. Thus, despite a looming Chinese presence, the ten-country bloc can offer lucrative business and strategic opportunities. A benign and non-hegemonic engagement between India and Asean would yield sound economic results.
Connecting the dots:
- India- ASEAN relationship has huge potential. Discuss. Also highlight the challenges and way forward.
The perilous march of Hindistan
Getting back on the democratic path
The colour of inequity
Wealth of the nation
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