IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 28th May 2018
Impact of women’s health on stunting of children
Part of: Mains GS Paper I, III- Social issues, Inclusive growth
- A first of-its-kind study across all 640 districts of the country, highlights the impact of women’s health on stunting of children.
- The study was carried out by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). It analysed data from the National Family Health Survey (NHFS)- IV.
- As per the study, parameters related to women account for 50% of the difference between districts with high and low levels of stunting among children below the age of five.
The four crucial parameters in women that together contribute to a 44% reduction in stunting among children are-
- Levels of body mass index accounting for 19% of the difference between districts.
- Education accounting for 12% of the difference.
- Age at marriage contributing a 7% reduction.
- Ante-natal care adding 6%.
Regional variation: Southern states does better
- India accounts for approximately a third of the world’s stunted children at 63 million.
- Across the country, in 239 districts more than 40% of the children are stunted, while 441 districts record between 30% and 40 % of stunting.
- While levels have improved in the country from 48% in 2006 to 38.4% in 2016, there are wide variations among different districts ranging between 12.4% and 65.1%.
- The populous northern States account for more than 80% of stunted children at 52.6 million.
- In comparison, all of the southern States together have 8.1 million stunted children and the north-eastern and island States account for nearly 2.4 million.
- There is a need for targeted policy intervention to combat stunting, with a focus on addressing critical determinants in individual districts.
- Women related parameters are great drivers and these have to be focussed upon. This will involve interventions through the course of a girl’s life such as her education, nutrition, marriage as well as when she is a mother.
- Better nutrition, education of mother can reduce growth impairment in children.
The Charkha is getting a new spin
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Indian Economy, Inclusive growth
- The charkha , a tool and symbol of India’s freedom struggle, is getting a new spin — with a bit of help from the corporate sector and various trusts.
- At about Rs. 15,000 apiece, the charkha is a rather expensive tool. The Khadi and Village Industries Commission (KVIC), therefore, is on an aggressive mission to tap funding so that the spinning wheel can be donated to rural artisans.
- The charkhas had attracted very little attention earlier. However, over the past three years, the Commission has taken to approaching trusts and large corporates for their CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds.
- KVIC obtains the funds under various schemes and uses them to donate charkhas.
- At times, companies (such as ONGC) are required to rehabilitate people at project sites. One option is to donate funds to buy spinning wheels, which offer an alternative source of livelihood to the displaced people.
- Today’s charkha is an evolved version of what Mahatma Gandhi used: It is made of steel. While the early versions had a single spindle, the modern ones come with eight spindles, and can provide employment to an entire family.
Today’s version, produced by KVIC, is referred to as the ‘New Model Charkha’, but it continues to be driven by hand.
The Singchung Bugun Community Reserve: India Biodiversity Award 2018
Part of: Mains GS Paper III- Environment, Conservation
- The Singchung Bugun Community Reserve, Arunachal Pradesh won the India Biodiversity Award 2018.
- The Singchung Bugun Community Reserve (SBVCR) — a 17 square kilometre hotspot for biodiversity- was launched in January 2017, after the tribal members of the Bugun community of Singchung Village joined hands with the Forest Department.
- The NGO won the India Biodiversity Award 2018 in the “Conservation of wildlife species” category conferred by the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA) and presented by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change in association with the United Nations Development Programme.
- The Reserve was instituted under a clause of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 that enables any state government to declare a community-owned forest area as a “community reserve” if the locals are willing to participate in conservation efforts for the same.
- The Reserve lies right next to the Eaglesnest Wildlife sanctuary, a biodiversity hotspot, which is also home to the Bugun Liocichla — a new bird species that has no reported sighting anywhere else in the world.
- The NBA award especially recognises the community efforts to conserve the Liocichla.
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- Parliament and State Legislatures- structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.
Strengthening Rajya Sabha: Reviewing the rules of procedure
A two-member committee has been appointed to make recommendations for revising the rules of the Upper House.
V K Agnihotri, former secretary general of the House, is heading the committee. Media reports suggest that the committee is mandated to submit its report in three months. The reports also indicate that the committee may give some of its recommendations before the monsoon session of Parliament.
The Rajya Sabha has been functioning for 67 years. During this time, governance has become complicated and the subjects of laws more technical.
But the rules governing the functioning of the Rajya Sabha have not kept pace with the times.
Rules of procedure:
The Constitution, through Article 118(1), gives the two Houses of Parliament the power to make rules to regulate their functioning.
Both Houses of Parliament have their own rules of procedure. These rules govern every detail of how the Houses function on a daily basis. They determine MPs’ participation in parliamentary proceedings while making laws, passing budgets, questioning the government and representing us.
These rules are the bulwark of our parliamentary democracy. For Parliament to be effective in its role, these rules require regular updating and strengthening.
Rules governing the Rajya Sabha:
- When the Rajya Sabha met for the first time in 1952, it did not have any rules of its own.
- Article 118(2) of the Constitution provided an interim mechanism for rules.
Under this article, the chairman of Rajya Sabha had the power to modify and adopt rules that were in place before the commencement of the Constitution.
- In 1952, these were the rules of the Constituent Assembly, the body which had framed the Constitution. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the first chairman of Rajya Sabha, amended these to be used as the rules of procedure.
- The initial version of rules among other things, provided for Question Hour in the style of the House of Lords. Ministers had to answer questions two days a week and three oral questions a day.
- The rules also created a committee of 15 MPs to suggest any change. Based on this committee’s recommendation, the initial rules were amended four more times until the end of 1952.
- In 1964 the Rajya Sabha made its own rules under Article 118(1). And it is the 1964 rules that have been amended over the years and currently govern the functioning of the Upper House.
Issues regarding rules of procedure:
The Agnihotri committee has been set up at a time when the two Houses of Parliament are facing similar structural challenges. So its recommendations, while meant for the Rajya Sabha, will also influence rule-making for the Lok Sabha.
Four fundamental issues would require the committee’s attention.
- First, it seems that the two Houses of Parliament meet mostly for transacting government business.
There is a need to balance completion of government business with discussions raised by other political parties.
- Second, the existing mechanisms (like Question Hour) for securing the government’s accountability to Parliament have lost their edge.
The committee will have to suggest measures for completely overhauling these mechanisms.
- Third, issues facing Parliament are now more complex and technical than ever.
In such an environment, the committee’s suggestions for strengthening deliberations in the House will be crucial.
- Finally, the disruption of parliamentary proceedings has become a routine affair.
The committee will have the difficult task of suggesting solutions for protecting the sanctity of parliamentary proceedings.
There should be a periodic review of the rules of procedure of both Houses. The last such review for the Rajya Sabha happened in 2009. The committee has the critical task of going beyond the symptoms of dysfunction and recommending changes to strengthen Rajya Sabha.
Connecting the dots:
- V K Agnihotri committee has been appointed to make recommendations for revising the rules of the Upper House. These rules are the bulwark of our parliamentary democracy. For Parliament to be effective in its role, these rules require regular updating and strengthening. Discuss.
General Studies 3:
- Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices
- Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
An analysis of initiatives taken to reform Indian agriculture
When the present government came into power, it was believed that the Gujarat model of agricultural development, which delivered 8% growth in agriculture during fiscal years 2003-14, would be replicated in the country.
- Out of the government’s four years , FY15 and FY16 were affected by drought and it did well to manage the crisis.
- A number of welcome initiatives have been launched in the last four years, including schemes for crop insurance, irrigation, soil testing, electronic national agricultural market (e-NAM), and use of Aadhaar for the public distribution system (PDS) and purchase of fertilizer.
While there are several creditable achievements, it is the deeper structural reforms where expectations have not been met.
Reigning in inflation: Success
The government took pro-active measures to rein in food inflation. These included-
- Release of wheat and rice from government stocks. Restrictions on exports. Small increases in minimum support prices (MSP) (except pulses).
- Raids on traders under the Essential Commodities Act, and even income-tax investigations.
- The states giving bonus on wheat and paddy were told to discontinue it. In order to reduce excessive procurement of rice, the 50% levy on rice mills was also abolished.
- To check food inflation, a price stabilization fund was set up with a corpus of Rs 500 crore and onion and potato were bought by the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation and Small Farmers’ Agribusiness Consortium for release in the market when prices rose.
- Another successful policy intervention was to offer a handsome increase in the MSP of pulses and create a buffer stock of two million tonnes.
Restructuring of FCI: Criticism
In August 2014, a committee under Shanta Kumar to recommend restructuring of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) was set up.
It made far-reaching recommendations about agriculture policy, subsidies on food and fertilizers, and the role of FCI.
- It recommended that coverage of beneficiaries under PDS be reduced from 67% to 40% and cash transfers introduced instead of foodgrains in cities with a population of more than one million.
- In the case of fertilizers, the committee recommended deregulation and payment of subsidy to farmers through direct benefit transfers (DBT).
- Opposition-ruled states didn’t agree to the suggested reforms.
- The government did not make any serious effort to persuade even the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-ruled states to go for DBTs for PDS, even in food-surplus regions.
- There was no effort to deregulate urea prices and transfer subsidy to farmers directly.
Aadhaar-based sale of foodgrains and fertilizer is only a small step towards reform of the subsidy regime.
- Free electricity continues to cause excessive drawal of underground water in several states. No serious effort was made to persuade states to transfer electricity subsidy through DBT.
The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna: Criticism
It was introduced from kharif 2016. It reduced the farmers’ premium to 1.5% and 2% for rabi and kharif crops, respectively, and removed the ceiling on claims to be paid to farmers.
- Several states have refused to follow the discipline of the scheme and timelines are violated with impunity.
- Farmers in several states have not been paid their claims long after suffering losses.
- Many states have not even paid their share of premium subsidy for kharif 2017.
e-NAM initiative: Criticism
It has the potential of freeing up the agricultural markets. It was expected to bring transparency to auctions in mandis.
However, the real intent of e-NAM has not been achieved and some states even showed procurement under MSP as e-NAM turnover.
Since 2016, the buzzwords have been doubling farmers’ income. The prices of most crops in mandis have crashed after demonetization and restrictions on trading and transportation of livestock have sharply depressed the prices of livestock, directly hitting farmers’ income.
Deep agricultural reforms are yet awaited.
Connecting the dots:
- Several initiatives have been taken by the present to reform Indian agriculture. How far it has been successful? Analyze.
(TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE)
Model questions: (You can now post your answers in comment section)
Q.1) The Singchung Bugun Community Reserve has won the India Biodiversity Award 2018. Which of the following statements are true regarding the reserve?
- It is located in Arunachal Pradesh.
- The NGO won the India Biodiversity Award 2018 in the “Conservation of domesticated species” category.
- The NBA award recognises the Bungun community efforts to conserve the Liocichla bird found in the region.
Select the correct option
- 1 and 2 only
- 1 and 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3
- None of the above
Q.2) The V K Agnihotri committee is related to which of the following:
Select the correct option
- Data protection law in India
- To study Artificial intelligence in military
- Rules of procedure of the Upper House
- Model law on contract farming
A blow to civil services ideals
A health scheme that should not fail
Vote for choice
India’s employment crisis
Innovation in the age of data protection