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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs [Prelims + Mains Focus] – 31st January 2018

  • IASbaba
  • January 31, 2018
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IASbaba's Daily Current Affairs Analysis
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IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 31st January 2018

Archives


(PRELIMS+MAINS FOCUS)


Simultaneous Elections: Pros & Cons 

Part of: Mains GS Paper II-

Key pointers:

The idea of simultaneous Lok Sabha, Assembly and local body:

  • The Justice B P Jeevan Reddy-headed Law Commission in 1997  recommended simultaneous elections.
  • The Parliamentary Standing Committee in 2016 suggested that “elections to all state Assemblies whose terms end prior to or after a time period of six months to one year from the appointed election date can be clubbed together”.

How exactly will holding Lok Sabha and Assembly polls together help?

  • It will cut costs.
  • Frequent elections and campaigns hurt the federal structure as leaders are “forced to talk politically”. This point was raised by PM Modi.
  • Many have argued that election campaigns end up sharpening faultlines of caste, religion and community across the country.
  • The Model Code of Conduct puts on hold all development programmes. Simultaneous elections would reduce disturbance from political rallies, etc.
    It would free up large numbers of security personnel and other staff.

Criticism:

  • Amending the Constitution to effect simultaneous elections would fundamentally alter its democratic and federal character.
  • India is a “Union of States”, states have their own directly elected governments, and fixing a term adversely affects this right.
  • Logistics issues. The deployment of security forces and officials in 700,000 polling stations located in widely varying geographic and climatic conditions all at the same time will be extremely difficult.
  • State and national elections are often fought on different sets of issues — and in simultaneous elections, voters may end up privileging one set over the other in ways they might not have done otherwise. This could lead to national issues being ignored, or, conversely, local issues being swept away by a national ‘wave’.

Article link: Click here


India steps to stub out tobacco industry rights

Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Government interventions in important sectors related to  health

Key pointers:

  • The Indian government has asked the Supreme Court to classify tobacco as “res extra commercium”, a Latin phrase meaning “outside commerce”.
  • This would strip the $11 billion tobacco industry’s legal right to trade. In denying an industry’s legal standing to trade, it gives authorities more leeway to impose restrictions.
  • The effort is aimed at deterring tobacco companies from challenging tough new regulations.

Main focus:

  • Tobacco consumption kills more than 9,00,000 people each year in India.
  • The government has in recent years raised tobacco taxes, started smoking cessation campaigns and introduced laws requiring covering most of the package in health warnings.
  • India’s tobacco labelling rules, which mandate 85 percent of a cigarette pack’s surface be covered in health warnings, have been a sticking point between the government and the tobacco industry since they were enforced in 2016.
  • The industry estimates 45.7 million people in India depend on tobacco for their living.

Article link: Click here


(MAINS FOCUS)


NATIONAL/ECONOMY

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.

General Studies 3:

  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it
  • Investment and Infrastructure
  • Agrarian/Rural distress and Rural Development

Improving rural income

Introduction:

Around two-thirds of India’s population is in rural areas and a large proportion of this population lives in abject poverty.

According to the ICE 360° Household Survey conducted in 2016, of the bottom 20% of India’s income quintile, 89% live in rural areas.

There is an urgent need to improve the economic scenario in rural India to have a sustainable and robust growth model for the country as a whole.

Issues:

  • National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data shows that more than one-fifth of rural households with self-employment in agriculture have income less than the poverty line.
  • Agriculture labour productivity in terms of gross value added (GVA) in India is less than a third of that in China and 1% of that in the US.

Improving  agriculture:

  • The productivity (ratio of agriculture output to agriculture inputs) of most crops in India is well below the global average. Farm productivity can be improved through better irrigation facilities, technology improvement, diversifying towards higher value added crops (like fruits, vegetables, spices, condiments), and increasing crop intensity.
  • ·Better price realization for farmers will help in improving income.
    There needs to be a mechanism in place to ensure that agriculture prices do not fall below the minimum support prices (MSP). For instance, last year we saw the prices of pulses fall below the MSP, causing distress to farmers.
    In 2016, the government had announced its intention of doubling farmer incomes by 2022. 

Focusing on agriculture-allied sectors:

  • The livestock sector, which contributes around 4% to India’s gross domestic product (GDP), is particularly critical.
  • India has a mixed crop livestock farming system, with livestock becoming an important secondary source of income.
  • Small and marginal farmers have high dependence on the livestock sector. Hence, measures to boost livestock sector growth and productivity will have a significant impact in alleviating rural distress.

Reducing the dependence on agriculture:

  • Rural India does not mean only agriculture and agriculture-allied sectors. Interestingly, the share of agriculture in rural output is 39%, whereas the rest is contributed by the manufacturing, construction and services sectors. However, a large 64% of rural employment is in the agriculture sector.
  • Reducing the dependence of rural masses on agriculture as a source of income will help improve the overall income of the rural population.
  • According to a NITI Aayog report, income per farmer is around one-third of the income per non-agriculture worker.

Improving rural employment in the manufacturing and services sectors:

The manufacturing sector in rural India contributes 18% to rural output, but employs only 8% of the rural workforce.

The rural workforce finds it difficult to get absorbed in the manufacturing sector.
Improving education facilities and skill development programmes in rural areas will play an important role.

Services sector growth:

The sector can play a critical role in improving rural income. Sectors like transport and storage have recorded reasonable growth in the rural area.

  • There is need to further increase the contribution of the services sector to rural output.
  • The services sector contributes around 27% to rural output, as against 55% to India’s GDP.
  • A strong push to sectors like food processing, warehousing and logistics will be very beneficial as it will help push up farmer incomes, reduce the wastage of perishable agriculture commodities and provide employment to rural workers.

Conclusion:

Villages are India’s backbone, contributing around 46% to the country’s net domestic product and employing 70% of the total workforce.

While it is very critical to increase farmer incomes, it is even more important to increase overall rural incomes. This could be achieved through reducing the over-dependence of the rural population on agriculture as a source of income.

A suitable push needs to be given to infrastructure development and industrial and services sector growth in rural areas.

Imparting skills to the rural workforce appropriately to enable them to get absorbed in the non-agriculture sector is equally important.

Connecting the dots:

  • Around two-thirds of India’s population is in rural areas and a large proportion of this population lives in abject poverty. Improving rural income thus must be a priority for the government. Suggest measures to do so.

NATIONAL/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.
  • Inclusive growth and issues arising from it
  • Investment and Infrastructure
  • Agrarian/Rural distress and Rural Development

Transforming Indian agriculture through Corporate farming ventures

Introduction:

Despite serious attempts, improving farm productivity on a large scale remains our most significant challenge. It is time to think of alternative models for the rapid development of agriculture.
Pooling resources and engaging in systematic, collaborative farming, with initial support from external agencies is the way.

Major reasons for low farm output are:

  • Low land unit sizes.
  • High dependence on rain.
  • Poverty which prevents the use of appropriate seeds, fertilisers, and insecticides.
  • The farm-to-market linkage is also weak.

How it works?

Land on lease is taken from a group of farmers.

Expert firms then use the best inputs and technology to grow and market produce that meets the highest quality standards.

This model may supplement the existing government schemes, and can be implemented in a two-step process.

  • In step one, the ministry of agriculture in consultation with State governments can identify 100 contiguous pieces of land, 500 sq km each. These will be called Agriculture Development Regions (ADRs).

State governments will need to persuade farmers within each such region to agree to lease their land to them for 10 years.. Ownership of the land will remain with the farmers.

  • State governments can then invite corporate farming ventures (CFVs) to work on each of the ADRs. In return, they will pay the money that State governments owe the farmers.
    This means zero financial burden on State governments. CFVs may employ local farmers by giving them wages.

CFVs will be applying modern techniques and will be investmenting to get high-quality products.

Significance of CFVs

  • Today, the Government does not have enough resources to reach the last farmer. CFVs by investing money can create islands of excellence. The best practices will then spread to adjoining areas.
  • CFVs have reported higher yields for most crops. These include wheat, rice, sugar, cotton, potato, gherkin, tomato, groundnut, safflower, marigold, safflower, poultry and milk. Much of India’s exports originate from the CFVs’ baskets. They have already proved that agriculture can be profitable. CFVs today engage with lakhs of farmers across the country.
  • CFVs also understand the importance of maintaining product quality and supply-chain integrity. They know that many countries do not accept India’s agriculture produce as they do not meet the prescribed quality or health and safety standards.
    Thus, they invest in good agricultural practices such as maintaining specified standards in pesticides residue levels, assaying, grading, packaging, and storage.
  • They understand the technology and investment needs of the sector. They can reduce the cost of cultivation by 25 to 30 per cent by using laser land levellers, and precision seeders in combination with the residue management.
  • CFVs know the importance of farm-to-fork supply chains. For perishables goods like fruits and vegetables, this means transportation in refrigerated vans after pre-cooling of produce. Most farmers cannot afford these. The Government may help CFVs with tax breaks on these investments.

Examples of CFVs:

PepsiCo in Punjab and eight other states, Hindustan Lever, Rallis, and ICICI jointly in Madhya Pradesh, Amul and NDDB in Gujrat, Sugarcane Cooperatives in Maharashtra, and Suguna in Tamil Nadu, are important CFVs.

Way ahead:

Hundreds of CFVs are already successful in India, but in isolated pockets.
We need to use their expertise on a large scale with the help of the Government.

Conclusion:

CFVS holds potential to improve farm productivity. High-profit margins and exports will follow. Within a few years. Farmers who participates with CFVs can form a group within the village. They will pool their land and start collaborative farming where external CFVs will not be needed.
As the movement will spread it will bring social, political and economic benefits to the 50 crore farmers spread across 5 lakh villages.

Connecting the dots:

  • What do you mean by Corporate Farming Ventures(CFVs)? How do these ventures work? CFVs hold potential to transform Indian agriculture. Discuss.

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