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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs [Prelims + Mains Focus] – 24th January 2018

  • IASbaba
  • January 24, 2018
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IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 24th January 2018

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(PRELIMS+MAINS FOCUS)


PM Modi in Davos 

Part of: GS Mains Paper II- International relations

Key pointers:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his keynote speech at the Plenary Session of the World Economic Forum in Davos to showcase the role that India is set to play in the global economy.
  • Speaking in Hindi, Modi made a forceful impact on the global power elite as he addressed three major challenges that mankind faces: Climate Change, Terrorism and Protectionism.
  • Highlighting India’s growing influence in the global economy, Modi recalled that in 1997, when an Indian Prime Minister last attended the WEF, the country’s GDP was a bit over $400 billion. “Two decades later, the country’s GDP has multiplied over six times,” he said.
  • He raised the issue of the protectionist approach of major economies, which, he said, hurts the essence of globalisation.
  • On climate change, Modi said there is a dearth of countries willing to assist in helping fellow nations tackle climate change.
    Everyone wants to cut carbon emissions, but very few countries are coming forward to share technologies with developing countries.
  • PM Modi also expressed concern over the changing nature of terrorism.
    More than terrorism, the bigger concern is the artificial divide created between good and bad terrorism.
    The more pressing and immediate issue that calls for our attention is the radicalisation of well-to-do and educated youth.

About WEF:

  • The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss nonprofit foundation, based in Switzerland. Its mission is cited as “committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas”.
  • The Forum holds its annual meeting at the end of January in Davos, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland.
  • The meeting brings together some 2,500 top business leaders, international political leaders, economists, and journalists for up to four days to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world.

Article link: Click here


Jobless in India, to rise: ILO

Part of: GS Mains Paper III- Inclusive growth

Key pointers:

  • The number of jobless persons in India is likely to increase over the next two years with no change in the unemployment rate, the ILO has estimated.
  • The Asia-Pacific region will add 23 million jobs from 2017 to 2019, with employment generation taking place in many South Asian nations including India.
  • The jobless in the entire region will continue to increase, the ILO’s World Employment Outlook report pointed out.
  • High incidence of informality continues to undermine the prospects of further reducing working poverty in South Asia.“Informality affects around 90 per cent of all workers in India, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Nepal,” the report said.
  • Globally, however, unemployment is likely to go down slightly to 192.3 million jobless people in 2018 compared to 192.7 million in 2017.

High ‘informality’:

  • Partially driven by the high shares of employment in agriculture
  • Informality also remains pervasive in the non-agriculture sectors such as construction, wholesale and retail trade, and accommodation and food service industries.

Vulnerable employment:

  • Vulnerable employment, as per the ILO, is a measure of persons who are employed under relatively precarious circumstances and are less likely to have formal work arrangements, access to benefits or social protection programmes and are more “at risk” to economic cycles.
  • The report also pointed out that a lot of jobs being created are of poor quality despite strong economic growth and some 72 per cent of workers in South Asia will have vulnerable employment by 2019.

Article link: Click here


TAPI pipeline 

Part of: GS Mains Paper II- International relations

Key pointers:

  • $15-billion TAPI (Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India) Pipeline is also called Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline.
  • The pipeline originates from Turkmenistan’s Galkynysh field having gas reserves of 16 trillion cubic feet.
  • The project is being funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
  • It is slated to connect central Asia with south Asia covering 1,814 km.
  • Out of the total 1,814 km., the pipeline will run for 214 km in Turkmenistan, 774 km in Afghanistan along the Kandahar-Herat highway, 826 km in Pakistan through Quetta and Multan and finally reaching the settlement of Fazilka, in India located near the India-Pakistan border.

Renewed interest:

  • India will be participating at a ground-breaking ceremony on 23rd Feb for TAPI at Afghanistan that will mark the beginning of formal round of talks amongst the participating countries on the pipeline
  • The Turkmen President has also urged the business community of Uzbekistan to participate in the project.
  • The Saudis are also now taking keen interest in TAPI. The Saudi government is investing heavily in the project from the Saudi Development Fund.

Article link: Click here


(MAINS FOCUS) 


NATIONAL

TOPIC:

General Studies 2:

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

General Studies 3:

  • Infrastructure – Roads

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017: Rectifying systemic issues

Introduction:

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2017. The bill if made a law would be first of its kind to extensively reform existing legislation on road safety, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
The Amendment Bill is robust and rectifies several systemic issues by providing for a uniform driver licensing system, protection of children and vulnerable road users, rationalising penalties, and much more.

Going digital:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) points out that for effective road safety management, it is imperative to have an institutionalised and sustainable data system.
This includes information pertaining to drivers, such as types of licences held and a record of violation of traffic laws.

Issue:

The driver licensing system in India controls and filters the number and quality of drivers on the road.
Currently, the procedure is largely manual, while the number of licences issued per year is over a crore.

  • The inefficiencies of a predominantly manual system, given the scale of licences issued every year, results in lakhs of licences being issued without the prescribed checks and balances.
  • In the absence of a central registry, often multiple licences are held by one person for different States.
  • Low penalties for licensing offences allow erring drivers to be behind the wheel and get away with life-threatening violations. 

Provision in the bill:

The Bill addresses each of the above challenges by introducing technology in the licensing procedure.

  • A digitised, uniform and centralised driver licensing system will go a long way in ensuring ease of access, efficiency and transparency in the filtering process.
  • The Bill also proposes to introduce digitisation in the monitoring and enforcement of traffic laws.

Example: Kerala

  • Electronic monitoring and enforcement can already be seen in practice in Kerala.
    The State has a ‘city surveillance and traffic monitoring system’, and automated traffic enforcement systems to detect traffic light violations as well as speeding.
    The enactment of the Bill will facilitate the replication and creation of such digitised systems for all other States.

Children in focus:

Issue:

  • Since 2008, in India, over 55,000 children have lost their lives in road accidents. In 2016 alone, 7% of road crash deaths were attributed to children below 18 years.
    The WHO asserts that using child-restraint systems in vehicles decreases the risk of death in a crash by about 70% for infants and 54-80% for small children.
  • In the current piece of legislation, there is no provision for protection of children, and this lacuna has been addressed for the first time.

Provision in the bill:

The Bill proposes to mandate the use of protective headgear by every person above the age of four driving, riding or being carried on a two-wheeler. It provides for measures to be laid down for the safety of children below the age of four. Similarly, the Bill mandates the use of safety belts and child restraints for those under 14 years and introduces a fine of Rs. 1,000 for the driver or guardian for the violation of the same.

Increased penalties:

Issue:
For decades, penalties for behaviour that results in fatalities and grievous injuries have remained minimal, largely unrevised, and, consequently, have failed to deter violators.

Provision in the bill:

This Bill promises to rationalise these fines. For instance-

  • The penalty for drunk driving has been increased to Rs. 10,000 for the first offence and Rs. 15,000 for the subsequent one.
  • For exceeding lawful speeds, the penalty has been increased to Rs. 1,000 for light motor vehicles and Rs. 2,000-4,000 for medium and heavy motor vehicles.
  • For the non-use of helmets and seat belts, the fines have been increased from Rs. 100 to Rs. 1,000.

Conclusion:

As a signatory to the Brasilia Declaration on Road Safety, India has committed to reducing, by 2020, the number of road crash fatalities and serious injuries by 50%.
This will be impossible to achieve if the sole statute governing road safety in India, the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988, is not overhauled.
The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017, will serve as the first and most essential step towards fulfilling this vision.

Connecting the dots:

  • The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 needs overhauling. Discuss.

AGRICULTURE/ECONOMY

TOPIC:

General Studies 2:

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

General Studies 3:

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment
  • Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies

Ashok Dalwai committee: Doubling farmer incomes by 2022

Introduction:

Agriculture has become the new industry and next frontier. The US and EU are currently supporting agriculture the way they promoted industry in the 1930s.

To put it in a nutshell: they are using the latest technology to maximize output, high tariffs to discourage imports and massive subsidies to push exports.

Outsmarting everyone, China has acquired large tracts of land along the proposed “New Silk Road” to grow food and avoid food imports from the US and Oceania.

UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation highlighted that by 2030, most developing countries will be dependent on imports from developed countries for their food requirements.

India must also act with utmost urgency to transform the sector.

Where does India stand?

There is an urgent need to transform India’s agriculture. Doubling farmers’ income in next five years can be an apt metaphor and goal for this transformation.

Past strategy for development of the agriculture sector in India has focused primarily on raising agricultural output and improving food security. The net result has been a 45 per cent increase in per person food production, which has made India not only food self-sufficient at aggregate level, but also a net food exporting country.

The strategy did not explicitly recognise the need to raise farmers’ income and did not mention any direct measure to promote farmers welfare. The net result has been that farmers income remained low, which is evident from the incidence of poverty among farm households.

Indian agriculture suffers from low productivity, low quality awareness and rising imports.

Reasons/Factors:

  • Droughts in 2014-15 reduced agricultural income substantially as over 60% of farming is rain dependent.
  • Mechanised farming is not possible in over 65% of land holdings as they are less than one acre in size.
  • Most farmers cannot buy quality seeds or expertise as they have little money.

Together these factors resulted in low crop yields or productivity for most farmers.

The collapse of food prices has hurt farmer incomes. Real incomes of farmers have come down by 1.36% a year over the past five years.

A recent report by the Ashok Dalwai committee on doubling farmers’ incomes thus deserves attention.

Ashok Dalwai committee on doubling farmers’ incomes

According to Dalwai committee, solutions can be categorized into four broad areas:

  1. Land
  2. Access to markets
  3. Increase in productivity and
  4. Diversification towards high-yield crops and non-farm activities
  1. Land:
  • Land holdings in India are small and fragmented, 86% of them being smaller than 2 hectares.
  • Holdings are too small for the use of modern implements.
  • Farmers have to rely on informal sources of lending and are subject to the vagaries of the weather and volatile prices for their produce.
  • Small farmers, who are already very poor, are forced to bear more risk than they would like.

Suggestions and recent actions:

  • Encourage contract farming. Much of India’s exports and supermarket supplies originate from Contract/Corporate Farming Ventures (CFVs).
  • A CFV takes land on lease from a group of farmers and pays an agreed amount and a share of profits to them. Or it may supply inputs and expertise to farmers, supervise production and buy the products.
  • The Union government has framed the model agricultural land lease law, 2016 and the draft model contract farming law, 2018 to mitigate these problems.
  1. Access to markets:
  • Agricultural produce market committees (APMCs) have perpetuated (cause to continue) monopolistic intermediaries.
  • In other words, existing agricultural marketing – under the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) – has led to policy distortions and fragmentation, largely as a result of a huge number of intermediaries and poor infrastructure.
  • The Ashok Dalwai committee highlighted that – because of the APMC acts, farmers are required to sell a large number of commodities in local mandis where different layers of intermediaries often manipulate the price, thus depriving them of their fair share.

Suggestions and recent actions:

  • Union government has introduced a model agricultural produce and livestock marketing (APLM) law, 2017 that is intended to replace the existing APMC Act, and allow a single market within a state, freeing farmers to trade at private wholesale markets, allowing them to sell directly to bulk buyers, and promoting trading on the electronic national agriculture market (eNAM).
  • Farmer centres would integrate with the electronic National Agriculture Markets (e-NAM) to help farmers sell direct to the consumer.

III. Increase in productivity

  • As per the Agriculture Census 2010-11, 67.10% of India’s total farmers are marginal farmers (below 1 h.a.) followed by small farmers (1-2 h.a.) at 17.91%.
  • Since Indian agriculture is dominated by marginal farmers who have small holdings, raising productivity is likely the single most important factor if incomes of this group are to be doubled.
  • Productivity of crops in India is low compared to global standards and there is large variation across states, primarily explained by access to irrigation facilities and adoption of improved technology.

Suggestions and recent actions:

  • This requires public investment in irrigation, seeds, fertilizers and other technology. However, successive governments have preferred to give subsidies rather than invest in rural infrastructure.
  • Niti Aayog has called for substantive investment in irrigation, seeds & fertilisers and new technology coupled with a shift into high-value commodities such as horticulture, poultry and dairying to double incomes.
  • Massive investment is needed in irrigation if productivity of India’s farms are to be increased.
  1. Diversification towards high-yield crops and non-farm activities
  • Finally, diversification is crucial if farmers’ incomes have to increase.
  • This is because the average productivity of high-value crops, like vegetables and fruits, is more than Rs1.4 lakh per hectare, compared to Rs40,000 for staple crops.

Suggestions and recent actions:

  • Most of the above reforms are the domain of state governments which often protect the interests of large farmers. NITI Aayog has argued for bringing agriculture into the concurrent list so that the Union government can ensure a national market for agricultural products—that may not be a bad idea.

Conclusion:

Doubling agricultural income by 2022 is a mammoth task. It is also one that is the need of the hour. With majority of the country’s population dependant on agricultural activities, no true development can be said to be meaningful unless it incorporates the needs of this sector.

Increasing farmer suicide rates and increasingly erratic weather patterns further add to the problem.

The walk to doubling income is a long, tedious one. But a welcome one.

Respectable income in farm sector will also attract youth towards farming profession and ease the pressure on non-farm jobs, which are not growing as per the expectations.

Connecting the dots:

  • Doubling Farmer’s Income Mindmap: https://iasbaba.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Doubling-Farmers-Income-IASbaba.jpg
  • Critically analyze the strategies outlined by the Indian government to achieve the target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
  • Instead of relying on subsidies and loan waivers, greater focus on increasing farmers’ income would go a long way in addressing agrarian distress in India. Comment.

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A path to productivity and safety

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