Insights Daily Current Events January 07, 2014

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January 07, 2014

 

NATIONAL & SOCIAL ISSUES

The Food Security Act- an initiative to avert malnutrition

Food security refers to household’s physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that fulfills the dietary needs and food preferences of that household for living an active and healthy life. It includes at a minimum

  • Ready availability of nutritious and safe foods.
  • An assured ability to aquire food in socially acceptable ways.

Definition of food security by WHO.

It defines food security with three ingredients:-

  • Food availability-: it is, having available sufficient quantities of food in homogenous  way.
  • Food access-:it is, having sufficient resources both economic and physical to obtain nutritious diet.
  • Food use-: It is the appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition, care, water and sanitation.

The fourth ingredient of stability of these three ingredient has been added up by FAO.

Ensuring the food security continues to be a challenging issue of vital importance in countries like India

The National Food Security Act 2013

One of the major initiatives towards providing the food security to the people of the country, government’s most ambitious bill recently passed in Parliament on 10th sep, 2013.

Objective:

“To provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach by ensuring adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life of dignity and for matters connected therewith.”

The act enshrines freedom of right to food and nutrition.

Salient features of the Act-:

  • The act promises to cover 67% of population which covers 75% rural populations and 50% urban population
  • The benefeciaries are to be able to purchase 5 kg of food grains per person per month through Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) at the following prices

Rice at Rs 3/kg, Wheat at Rs 2/kg, Coarse grains(millets) at Rs 1/kg

  • In case of any unavailability of entitled quantities of food grains, the eligible beneficiaries to receive Food Security Allowances from respective state government.
  • Special focus on nutritional support to Women and Children,Pregnant women and Lactating mothers by ensuring nutritious meals as per requirement along with maternity benefit of not less than Rs 6000.
  • Eldest women not less than 18 yrs of age shall be the head of the household for the purpose of issue of ration cards thus promotes women empowerment.
  • Special focus on women, children and other destitutes living in starvation.

Challenges on food security implementation:

  • Reforms in Targeted Public Distribution System: TPDS in our country needs reform such as improvement in application of information and communication technology, Unique identification “AADHAAR” should be used properly to identify targeted beneficiaries to ensure transparency.
  • The working network of PDS in states like kerela, Tamil Nadu and Chattisgarh is of great example to learn from as PDS working in these states are most effective. In states of Kerela and Tamil Nadu 95% of the population is presently covered  by the PDS whereas in Chattisgarh, certain and simple exclusion from the population has made the proper identification of targeted beneficiaries possible with minimum errors of inclusion or exclusion. Same approach should be adopted by the other states too.
  • Availability of Resources: The implementation of Food Security Act will require resources in cash and kind. It follows then that fiscal allocations will have to rise if the Act to be implemented properly.
  • The Economic Survey of India 2013 states that the food subsidy bill is”putting huge stress on fiscal side” which has rarely exceeded 1% of the GDP over three decades as defined by GOI’s budget. Therefore 1 or 2% of GDP is not a high cost to incur to end malnutrition.
  • Promotion of sustainable agriculture: Provisions have to be made in terms of production of rice, wheat and other cereals. Adequate investment will have to be made in enhancing agricultural production including in research and extension with special attention on coarse cereals like Sorghum and millets which have been termed as nutri-cereals by M.S. swaminathan.
  • Strengthening the local Authorities : It is necessary to meet the obligation of the Food Security Act and the role of gram sabha is very crucial in this regard.
  • The 12th five year Plan has also taken steps to identify beneficiaries of various schemes specific to each scheme. The Social And Economic Caste Census (SECC) is an integral part of this objective. It has also built provisions of authentication and validation by the participation of Gram Sabha which is likely to reduce errors of inclusion and exclusion.
  • In addition nutritional poverty can be identified from the results of National Family Health Survey (NFHS). But unless there is political commitment backed by financial resources, the Food Security will not lead to major changes in existing Food Insecurity in the country.
  • Since the proposed legislation ensures paradigm shift from the welfare approach to rights based aporoach , the definition of priority or targeted population needs to be kept flexible. All these can make this program a flagship programme in the country and can help to avert hunger and malnutrition.

Report on the Functioning of TPDS

  • much of the opposition to the recently passed Food Security Act has been in the background of inefficient  Public Delivery System- as it is, no one can in principle oppose food security to the poor
  • in this context, it is important to analyse the entire PDS system- its processes, challenges, issues and most importantly the need to reform

  Analysis of issues surrounding  the TPDS :

1.Procurement of food grains–  It is necessary to have enough grains available for the purpose of distribution to the entitled

To induce farmers to produce more grains, government provides for MSP(minimum support price)

MSPs, though is a great assurance of fair returns to farmers has its own problems

  • it has been criticized for having kept prices of the grains artificially high despite huge production levels- logically increased production and availability should lead to decrease in prices
  • MSP has been blamed to be the cause of preventing the farmers to respond to the market demand- we know that the diet pattern of Indians is changing and shifting towards fruits, vegetables, pulses and other protein based food products- MSP prevent farmers from diversifying to these items-thereby leading to shortage of these items and a spiralling high prices- as we know, fruits and vegetables substantially contributes towards inflation
  • also, food grains are water intensive crops and MSP has induced farmers to go grow water intensive crops like rice in regions which naturally and traditionally has not been suited for it

E.g. rice cultivation by farmers is Punjab and Haryana- is said to be the main culprit behind ground water depletion; additionally, this practice also leads to soil degradation and poses a risk on the future of agriculture

the present act requires procurement of around 61 million of food grains- the availability of such huge quantity is easier in years of increased production but is  under question but in years of domestic shortage, for varied reasons , the government will have to rely on  large scale imports of grains thereby leading to significant increase in prices

the recent act thereby raises question on government ability to procure food grains without affecting the open market prices and subsidy bill (a very pertinent point in the context of high fiscal deficit and recessionary growth of Indian economy)

2.Storage of food grains– FCI(food corporation of India)is the main agency responsible for storage of food grains

  • food grains normally stored in godowns, silos on in the open- storage capacity has been insufficient and FCI hires storage space from centre and sate warehousing corporations  as  well as private parties
  • inadequate and inefficient storage severely compromises the quality of food grains
  • besides, there is imbalance in availability of storage capacity across states and whatever space is available that is not optimally utilised (as reported by CAG)

3 .Distribution of food grains– responsibility for distribution is shared by both centre and the state. Transportation of food grains to state godowns is carried out by the centre while its distribution to end consumers is taken care by the states

here,   the problem relate to those of

  • leakages to open markets
  • errors of inclusion exclusion
  • adulteration of grains etc.

MECAHNISM TO STRENTHEN TPDS

  •  Role of AADHAR- may help in eliminating duplication or ghost beneficiaries; make identification more accurate
  • However,  100% enrolment and subsequent renewal, admission of newborns etc. will depend on the efficiency of this system
  • TECHNOLOGY based reforms- this becomes important in light of the fact that manual recording of eligibility of beneficiaries is prone to errors and tampering

Some examples:

  1. Digitalisation of ration cards

this allows for online entry and verification of data regarding storing of monthly instalments, no. of dependents, off take of grains from fair price shops etc.

  1. computerised allocation to fair price shops(FPS), declaration of stock balance, web based truck challans etc.- this allows for quick and efficient tracking of transactions
  2. use of GPS technology to track movement of trucks from state depots
  3. SMS based monitoring-citizens to receive sms alerts during dispatch and arrival of TPDS commodities
  4. web based citizens portal to publicise the grievance Redressal mechanism

the above mentioned mechanisms are already in operation in different states and hence can easily be emulated across the country to  make PDS  efficient

Alternatives to PDS-

  • Universal PDS-  here errors of identification and inclusion exclusion can be eliminated completely

Tamil Nadu has an efficient universal PDS

  • cash transfers

this helps in reducing administrative costs and allows for efficient, quick and leak proof mechanism- however has been strongly opposed by food rights activists on certain grounds such as-

– The fact that cash can be used for other things;

-women and children are disadvantaged as the head of the family is usually the men who get to decide on the area where cash is to be spent;

-100% financial inclusion is yet to be achieved

– cash transfers do not guard against price fluctuations

  • Food coupons-food coupons could be bought in lieu of money which could be used to buy food grains from any grocery store… this has certain advantages such as

– Freedom of citizens to choose where it wants to buy grains from

-increases incentive for competitive pricing and

-assures the quality of food grains

the disadvantage is that it is gain not indexed to inflation.

EDITORIAL & IMPORTANT ARTICLES

Power Grid in India:

Electric Power is the biggest power in the world, without it no power like political power, economic power or technological power, could not work. Electric Power acts as blood of economy, with the growing size of economy, power consumption is also increased and same situation is with India at present.

India is one the power hunger country, so to deal with it, India has started power reform. So in this article we will discussing various issues regarding the power in India under various headings.

Power Grid and its failure reason:

The power grid refers to generating stations which are connected through an interconnected network of transmission lines and substations. These generating stations supply power through these transmission lines. The companies responsible for distribution take the power coming through these lines and forward it to the consumers.

The stability of the grids depends on a delicate equilibrium of demand-supply chain. The amount of load is directly proportional to the amount of power generated. When the equilibrium between power generated and consumed gets disturbed and the load becomes more, it leads to tripping of the line. It is duty of the power distributors to maintain the equilibrium intact so that not trigger a grid failure.

A power grid consists of three sections –

1. stations which produce electricity from fuel (fossil or non-combustible),

2. the transmission lines which carry the power to the substations from the plants and

3.  lastly the transformers which keep a check on the voltage.

A schedule is declared by the generating plants for injection of power to the grid operators. Similarly a schedule is also drawn by the distribution stations according to which they are supposed to draw power and distribute it further.

The stability of a grid is determined by keeping a check on the demand and supply, as per the drawn schedule. According to the Indian Electricity Code, 49.5 Hz to 50.2 Hz is the permissible band for grid operations in India. It is supposed that a bigger grid is more stable than smaller ones.

Grids collapse due to two basic reasons. One is the failure of the equipment, like it happened a decade ago in 2002 when the northern grid collapsed, due to fog/pollution. The second trigger is power suppliers drawing excessive power from the grid. Which results in the balance of power generation and supply goes haywire with a cascading effect. This is probably the reason why the grid failed this time.

There are various reasons why an excessive withdrawal of power happens. Weather phenomenon and change in sudden climate is one reason. Most of them cannot be controlled physically but can be minimized by keeping a close check.

There is a penalty clause: ‘Unscheduled Interchange’ rate – whenever the discoms draws more than necessary power, the UI rate goes up as a penalty.
Northern states of India, like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Jammu Kashmir, have been found to be habitual violators. The UI penalty has – as is evident – not been able to deter the violators. Presence of heavy industries and fast growing cities has necessitated the need for more power. But the production has not been able to cope up with the required distribution.

Power Grids Status in India:

So to avoid such grid failures and in case of grid failure, for recovering the situation single national grid would be helping India. India has five electricity regional grids – Northern, Eastern, North Eastern, Southern and Western. All of them are now got inter- connected.

Advantages with the National Grid (One nation-one grid)—

1. It will be a synchronous grid so it will augment inter-regional power transfer capacity of the states in the south.

2. It will also relieve the congestion in some transmission corridors.

3. It will solve frequency problems of Tamil Nadu and also would help in getting sufficient power in shortage case.

Besides these advantages, now complexity of the grid management has been increased. So there is high need to use efficient tools to manage it so that total blackout like in 2012 in northern India could be avoided. This need to enforce discipline amount the states in drawing power from the grid.

One nation one grid is a step toward reforming power sector in India. Presently power sector is having huge problem in the distribution side. So there is need of reducing of distribution leakages in the power sector in India. This could be solved by SMART GRID.

A smart grid is modernized electrical grid which with the help of ICT technology keeps track of power consumption and distribution in automated fashion. This will help in increasing the efficiency and reliability.

Besides this major success in integrating the grids, India still need reforms in generation, transmission and distribution. This could be achieved by increasing competition and having a political will.

Courtesy – http://zeenews.india.com/exclusive/power-grid-failure-how-does-it-happen_3584.html

http://www.powergridindia.com/_layouts/PowerGrid/User/ContentPage.aspx?PId=78&LangID=english

INTERNATIONAL

India’s Foreign Policy

India’s foreign policy is often criticized for lacking pragmatism and realism. From the days of Gujral doctrine, Indian foreign policy have never been defined except the much touted Look east policy. Recently Dr. Manmohan singh provided an insight into the depths of Indian foreign policy by highlighting the following principles as its foundation:-

1) India’s relation with the world are increasingly being shaped with both the developed and developing world by its development priorities. The single most important objective of Indian foreign policy is to pursue the interests of Indian development by making the geo-political & economic environment conducive.

2) India would benefit from better integration with world economy and thus opening up Indian economy and investing in other countries is a natural choice which Indian foreign policy should work on. Reforms are not an event but a process and Indian foreign policy should create friendly relation with foreign countries keeping this aspect in India. Greater economic integration would provide Indian diplomats with better leverage.

3) India seek stable, long-term and mutually beneficial relationship with all major powers including China. This would help India in realizing its potential and would better the prospects of millions of its destitute citizens.

4) Indian subcontinent’s shared destiny requires greater regional cooperation and integration. Many projects like East Asian expressway, Kaladan Multi Modal transport link etc are being chalked out under this principle. Better connectivity & cooperation among sub-regional people & government would help Indian diplomacy to sort out decade old contentious issues.

5) India’s foreign policy is based on the values cherished by its people namely democracy, secularism and liberalism. We shall thus continue to support these events in other countries like we are doing it in Afghanistan, Sri-Lanka, Nepal etc. This would prosper the entire Asian region to achieve its fullest potential.

India is far away from becoming a world super power and probably would have to satisfy itself by remaining only a regional super power. Thus, instead of competing against china it should develop friendly/neutral relationship with it. China’s growing heft in International arena would help India to realize its greater potential in the same way as Japan alliance with USA helped the former. This is an option worth looking into.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

TELE-MEDICINE

What is Telemedicine and its scope& initiatives in India?

Telemedicine is medical information exchange between one site to another using  the high end and sophisticated  communication networks.Telemedicine facilitates the provision of medical aid from a distance. It is an effective solution for providing specialty healthcare in the form of improved access and reduced cost to the rural patients and the reduced professional isolation of the rural doctors.Telemedicine can enable ordinary doctors to perform extra-ordinary tasks.

In india, TELEMEDICINE :Healing Touch Through Space is an initiative by ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) enabling specialty healthcare to the  rural and remote population of India.

India is a vast country having an area of 3.2 million square km. To provide the basic medical facilities to all including privileged ,rural and residents spread along various geographical locations had been a major concern for the administration.Having a scoop of policies on health,still quality healthcare is limited to the Urban areas. It is known that 75% of the qualified doctors practice in urban centres, whereas the vast majority of India’s population lives in the rural areas.With the advent of Communication Technology, especially the Satellite Communications (SatCom) combined with Information Technology, we have means to extend the benefits from the advanced medical sciences even to the remote and inaccessible areas.

Through its Telemedicine projects, ISRO has successfully linked hospitals and healthcare centers in remote ruralareas with specialty hospitals in cities through INSAT satellites.  Thus, connectivity between patients at remote end and the specialist doctors at urban centershas been effectively established.With a large and skilled medical community receptive tonew ideas, a modest beginning in Telemedicine was made by ISRO in the form of a Telemedicine Pilot Project in the year 2001, linking Apollo Hospital at Chennai with the Apollo Rural Hospital at Aragonda village in the Chittor district of Andhra Pradesh.  Later in March 2002,the Karnataka Telemedicine project linked the NarayanaHrudayalaya, a super specialty hospital for cardiac care at Bangalore with the district hospital, Chamarajanagar and the Vivekananda Memorial Trust Hospital at Saragurin south interior Karnataka.The valuable experience gained during these Pilot Projects encouraged ISRO to further endeavour for enabling specialty healthcare delivery to the rural population.

Explain the working of TELEMEDICINE

Telemedicine is confluenced by Communication Technology, Information Technology, Bio-medical sciences and Medical Sciences. The network is having Hardware and software at both ends with some of the diagnostic equipments like ECG,X-RAY,PATHOLOGY CAMERA/MICROSCOPE provided at the patient end. They are connected through a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) system and controlled by the Network Hub Station of ISRO.Through the telecommunication using small computerat patiendend,Data consisting of Images,Reports can be sent to specialist doctors in form of  Digital Data Packets.These packets are received at the specialist centre, the imagesMedical datapacketssentVideo

Conferencing signals sent & receivedand other information is reconstructed so that the specialist doctor can study the data, perform diagnosis, interact with the patient and suggest the appropriate treatment during a Video Conference with the patient end.

Telemedicine facility thus enables the specialist doctor and the patient separated by thousands of kilometers to see visually and talk to each other. This enables the specialist doctor to assess the physical and psychological state of the patient and suggest treatment.

This remote tele-consultation and treatment is much more valuable in case of post operation (Post Surgery) follow up since the patient is not required to travel unnecessarily and hence saving money and time. In this way, the systematic application of Information and Communication Technologies to the practice of healthcare rapidly expands the outreach of the healthcare system.

What are the Future Prospects of TELEMEDICINE in india ?

ISRO’s Telemedicine endeavour is expanding its outreachand has the potential to open up new frontiers forfacilitating rural healthcare in India.Encouraged by the steady growth of its Telemedicine programme, ISRO has also envisioned thedevelopment of “HEALTHSAT”, an exclusive satellite formeeting the healthcare and medical education needs of the country at large.  This satellite, when deployed alongwith wireless and terrestrial communication links,can bring a large change in augmenting the presenthealthcare delivery system in the country.Specialty Tele-Consultationaccess to largePopulation

Due to the untiring efforts of various departments like the Department of Space and the Department of Information Technology, State Governments, NGOs and

Private and Corporate Hospitals/Agencies, the majorityof the rural population all over the country will stand tobenefit from Telemedicine Technology that can usher in a revolution for transforming  the face of Healthcare in India.

Thus, Telemedicine can enlarge the gap between life and death and can extend quality Healthcare to the needy and the under privileged rural, semi rural and urban population at large.

 MISCELLANEOUS

Jeevan Raksha Padak Awards-2013

  • The president of India has approved the conferment of JeevanRakshaPadak awards-2013.
  • These awards are given to a person for meritorious act of human nature in saving the life of a person.
  • The award is given in 3 categories namely 1.Sarvottam JeevanRakshaPadak 2.uttam JeevanRakshaPadak 3.jeevan RakshaPadak.
  • Persons of either sex in all walks of life are eligible for these awards.
  • The award can also be conferred posthumously.
  • The decoration of the award (medal, certificates signed by home minister & demand draft for lump sum monetary allowance) is presented to the awardee in due course by the respective state government to which the awardee belong.
  • The lump sum monetary is given at the rate of 1 lakh, 60k and 40k to the 3 categories.

  Source:http://www.pib.nic.in/newsite/mainpage.aspx