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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 11 June 2020


NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


 

Topic : Salient features of world’s physical geography.

1. What is permafrost, and why does its thawing pose risk to the world? Examine. (250 words)

Reference: Indian Express 

Why the question:

The question is based on the article that explains the recent incident of Russian Arctic oil leak and its association with permafrost.

Key Demand of the question:

Explain the concept of permafrost; discuss in detail why the thawing of this region is posing greater risks to the world.

Directive:

Examine – When asked to ‘Examine’, we must look into the topic (content words) in detail, inspect it, investigate it and establish the key facts and issues related to the topic in question. While doing so we should explain why these facts and issues are important and their implications.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly explain the concept of Permafrost – Permafrost is ground that remains completely frozen at 0 degrees Celsius or below for at least two years. It is defined solely based on temperature and duration. The permanently frozen ground, consisting of soil, sand, and rock held together by ice, is believed to have formed during glacial periods dating several millennia.

Body:

Discuss the importance of Permafrost first in detail. Explain the incident that occurred recently posing threats to the permafrost region and pushing world to greater risks. Take hints from the article and substantiate your answer with suitable reasons that have led to thawing of the region.

Conclusion:

Conclude by what needs to be done to arrest and mitigate the ill-effect of thawing in the region and also highlight the importance of the region to the world.

Introduction

Permafrost is any type of ground, from soil to sediment to rock—that has been frozen continuously for a minimum of two years and as many as hundreds of thousands of years. It can extend down beneath the earth’s surface from a few feet to more than a mile—covering entire regions, such as the Arctic tundra, or a single, isolated spot, such as a mountaintop of alpine permafrost.

Body

Formation of permafrost

  • The water that is trapped in sediment, soil, and the cracks, crevices, and pores of rocks turns to ice when ground temperatures drop below 32°F (0°C).
  • When the earth remains frozen for at least two consecutive years, it’s called permafrost. If the ground freezes and thaws every year, it’s considered “seasonally frozen.”
  • About a quarter of the entire northern hemisphere is permafrost, where the ground is frozen year-round.
  • It’s widespread in the Arctic regions of Siberia, Canada, Greenland, and Alaska—where nearly 85 percent of the state sits atop a layer of permafrost.
    • It’s also found on the Tibetan plateau, in high-altitude regions like the Rocky Mountains, and on the floor of the Arctic Ocean as undersea permafrost.
    • In the southern hemisphere, where there’s far less ground to freeze, permafrost is found in mountainous regions such as the South American Andes and New Zealand’s Southern Alps, as well as below Antarctica.

Thawing of Permafrost

  • While global warming is upping temperatures around the world, the Arctic is warming twice as fast as anywhere else and faster than it has in the past 3 million years.
  • And when surface air temperatures rise, below-ground temperatures do, too, thawing permafrost along the way.
  • Scientists estimate there is now 10 percent less frozen ground in the northern hemisphere than there was in the early 1900s.
  • One recent study suggests that with every additional8°F (1°C) of warming, an additional 1.5 million square miles of permafrost could eventually disappear.
  • Even if we meet the climate targets laid out during the 2015 Paris climate talks, the world may still lose more than 2.5 million square miles of frozen turf.

Impact of permafrost thawing

  • Huge Carbon Sink: An estimated 1,400 gigatons of carbon are frozen in Arctic permafrost, making it one of the world’s largest carbon sinks.
    • That’s about four times more than humans have emitted since the Industrial Revolution, and nearly twice as much as is currently contained in the atmosphere.
    • According to a recent report,2 degrees Celsius increase in temperature, expected by the end of the century will result in a loss of about 40 percent of the world’s permafrost by 2100.
  • Loss of trapped Green house gases: Packed with many thousands of years of life, from human bodies to the bodies of woolly mammoths, permafrost is one of earth’s great stores of global warming gases.
    • Indeed, permafrost in the Arctic alone is estimated to hold nearly twice as much carbon as exists in the atmosphere now, as well as a sizable amount of methane—a powerful greenhouse gas that traps more than 80 times more heat on the planet than carbon does.
  • Toxins: A recent study found that Arctic permafrost is a massive repository of natural mercury, a potent neurotoxin. Indeed, it’s estimated that some 15 million gallons of mercury—or nearly twice the amount of mercury found in the ocean, atmosphere, and all other soils combined—are locked in permafrost soils.
    • Once released, however, that mercury can spread through water or air into ecosystems and potentially even food supplies.
  • Crumbling Infrastructure: About 35 million people live in a permafrost zone, in towns and cities built on top of what was once considered permanently frozen ground.
    • But as that solid ground softens, the infrastructure these communities rely on grows increasingly unstable.
    • Eg: Recent Russian Norilsk diesel oil spill is an ongoing industrial disaster, which occurred at a thermal power plant that was supported on permafrost, crumbled.
  • Altered Landscape: Thawing permafrost alters natural ecosystems in many ways as well. It can create thermokarsts, areas of sagging ground and shallow ponds that are often characterized by “drunken forests” of askew trees.
    • It can make soil—once frozen solid—more vulnerable to landslides and erosion, particularly along coasts.
    • As this softened soil erodes, it can introduce new sediment to waterways, which may alter the flow of rivers and streams, degrade water quality (including by the introduction of carbon), and impact aquatic wildlife.
  • Diseases and viruses: it can also trap and preserve ancient microbes.
    • It’s believed that some bacteria and viruses can lie dormant for thousands of years in permafrost’s cold, dark confines before waking up when the ground warms.
    • A 2016 anthrax outbreak in Siberia, linked to a decades-old reindeer carcass infected with the bacteria and exposed by thawed permafrost, demonstrated the potential threat.
    • In 2015, researchers in Siberia uncovered the Mollivirus sibericum, a 30,000-year-old behemoth of a virus that succeeded in infecting a rather defenseless amoeba in a lab experiment.
    • About a decade earlier, scientists discovered the first Mimivirus, a 1,200-gene specimen measuring twice the width of traditional viruses, buried beneath layers of melting frost in the Russian tundra. (For comparison, HIV has just nine genes.)
    • This can be the case with other diseases, such as smallpox and the 1918 Spanish flu—known to exist in the frozen tundra, in the mass graves of those killed by the disease.
    • Human contact with zombie pathogens may risk new pandemics, if there is unabated mining of metals from permafrost.

Conclusion

By reducing our carbon footprint, investing in energy-efficient products, and supporting climate-friendly businesses, legislation, and policies, we can help preserve the world’s permafrost and avert a vicious cycle of an ever-warming planet.

 

Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

2. The problems in India’s health sector ranges from deteriorating quality to unaffordable service delivery. Comment (250 words)

Reference: Indian Express 

Why the question:

The question is in the contextual relevance of the current conditions of the healthcare system and in what way it is in a dismal picture.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss the problems in India’s health sector, comment on the aspects of affordability and its deteriorating quality.

Directive:

Comment– here we have to express our knowledge and understanding of the issue and form an overall opinion thereupon.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly comment on the current issues and challenges the health sector is facing in the country.

Body:

The health sector in India faces numerous problems. With the new national health policy, Ayushman Bharat the government aims to achieve better and inclusive health standards for all. But problems in India’s health sector ranges from deteriorating quality to unaffordable service delivery making it difficult for the government in achieving its intended outcomes. Discuss the reasons for the deteriorating quality and unaffordability. Present the case study of current pandemic and in what way it’s the poor and vulnerable who have been badly exposed to the lack of above two factors. Suggest efforts of the government in this direction.

Conclusion:

Conclude by giving a way forward.

Introduction

In terms of access and quality of health services, India was ranked 145 out of 195 countries in a Lancet study published in 2018, below countries like China (48), Sri Lanka (71) Bhutan (134) and Bangladesh (132).

Body

Problems in India’s health sector

  • There is a massive shortage of medical staff, infrastructure and last mile connectivity in rural areas. Eg: Doctor : Population 1:1800 and 78% doctors cater to urban India (population of 30%).
  • Massive shortages in the supply of services (human resources, hospitals and diagnostic centres in the private/public sector) which are made worse by grossly inequitable availability between and within States.
    • Data from the National Health Profile-2019, the total number of hospital beds in the country was 7,13,986 which translates to 0.55 beds per 1000 population.
    • Furthermore, the study also highlighted that 12 states that account for 70 per cent of India’s 1.3 billion population were found to have hospital beds per 1000 population below the national average of 0.55 beds.
    • For example, even a well-placed State such as Tamil Nadu has an over 30% shortage of medical and non-medical professionals in government facilities.
  • Health budget: The health budget has neither increased nor is there any policy to strengthen the public/private sector in deficit areas. While the Ayushmaan Bharat provides portability, one must not forget that it will take time for hospitals to be established in deficit areas.
    • This in turn could cause patients to gravitate toward the southern States that have a comparatively better health infrastructure than the rest of India.
  • Infrastructure constraints: There are doubts on the capacity of India’s infrastructure to take on the additional load of patients during pandemics like Covid-19 as seen recently.
    • There is a growing medical tourism (foreign tourists/patients) as a policy being promoted by the government, and also domestic patients, both insured and uninsured.
  • Absence of primary care: In the northern States there are hardly any sub-centres and primary health centres are practically non-existent. First mile connectivity to a primary healthcare centre is broken. For eg, in Uttar Pradesh there is one PHC for every 28 villages.
  • Out of pocket expenditure high: Even the poor are forced to opt for private healthcare, and, hence, pay from their own pockets. As a result, an estimated 63 million people fall into poverty due to health expenditure, annually.
    • Inequities in the health sector exist due to many factors like geography, socio-economic status and income groups among others. Compared with countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand and China, which started at almost similar levels, India lags behind peers on healthcare outcomes.
  • Rural medical practitioners (RMPs), who provide 80% of outpatient care, have no formal qualifications for it. People fall prey for quacks, often leading to grave disabilities and loss of life.
  • Dependency on import: Compounding the problem of poor health infrastructure and low spending, especially in the current COVID-19 environment that has caused significant disruptions to the global supply chains, is India’s dependence on medical devices imports.
    • As per IMA data, India’s medical devices imports were around Rs 39,000 crore in FY2019, having seen a growth of 24 per cent from the previous year.
  • Numerous Schemes: The Government has launched many policies and health programmes but success has been partial at best. The National Health Policy(NHP) 2002 proposed to increase Government spending on health by two to three per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2010 which has not happened yet. Now, the NHP 2017, has proposed to take it to 2.5 per cent of the GDP by 2025.
  • Healthcare without holistic approach: There are a lot of determinants for better health like improved drinking water supply and sanitation; better nutritional outcomes, health and education for women and girls; improved air quality and safer roads which are outside the purview of the Health Ministry.

Steps needed

  • Prioritize primary health care: The current approach requires re-emphasizing the missing priority on PHCs and CHCs for developing comprehensive primary care.
    • Achieving comprehensive primary care requires a paradigm shift from disease-control vertical programmes to community-led, people-oriented primary care.
  • Strengthen State’s capacity: Sharper focus in the resource-starved states should be on improving efficiency in spending without compromising equity, and this can be attained by designing programmes that would cover a large number of people and a wide range of diseases.
    • For example, POSHAN Abhiyan to be strictly rolled out in BIMARU
    • Since the states have higher responsibility than the Centre in matters related to health, the blueprints of primary care can further be redefined in view of the local needs.
    • This should be the policy agenda for the low-performing and resource-constrained states.
  • Low cost healthcare: It is relevant to develop low-cost primary care service delivery models involving nurses and allied health professionals which can lower the burden on the public health system marked by the stress of a low doctor-strength.
  • Task force and collaboration : The triple helix model of innovation,e., bringing together the government, academia and industry, now more than ever. To this end, the Government of India has established a ‘COVID-19 Taskforce’ with the objective of mapping together various technological advancements related to COVID-19 in public R&D labs, academia, start-ups, and industries.
    • The task force has already identified over 500 entities in the fields of medicines, ventilators, protective gear, among others.
    • India has seen the benefits of such collaborations in the past – in 2014, the Rotavac vaccine was developed under the leadership of Dr M K Bhan, as part of an international consortium that included India’s Department of Biotechnology and other partners from academia and industry.
  • Locally aligned: India needs to design health services to meet local needs with the opposite referral mechanism to secondary- and tertiary-care, and this can produce better health outcomes with a considerable cost-advantage.
    • In this context, the role of public health professionals, those who can help design outreach and preventive programmes and implement the continuing health programme effectively, assumes paramount importance. Eg: Telemedicine
  • India lacks the required number of public health professionals. The shortage is severe in many parts of the country, especially poorer states like Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.
    • The focus should be to train a pool of social workers, psychiatrists, counsellors with public health orientation who could then transform the primary healthcare delivery system in the country.
    • Ayush doctors can prescribe Allopathy medicines after a bridge course.
  • Along with Ayushmaan Bharat (PMJAY), focus must be laid on strengthening the primary health centres with basic diagnostics and services, with district hospitals equipped with multi-specialty capabilities and services to people. Especially for the poor who cannot afford quality health care in private hospitals.
  • Generic medicines: Access to medicines through Jan Aushadhi Kendra Scheme. It is mandated to offer 2000 medicines and 300 surgicals in all districts by 2024.

Conclusion

Especially in times of Pandemics like Covid-19, the significance and loopholes of Indian public health sector are led bare. It gives an opportunity to reform and rehaul the healthcare sector to be better equipped for future emergencies. It calls for a people-centred, decentralized public health system that socializes the cost of healthcare.

 

Topic : Parliament and State legislatures—structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

3. “The Constitution avoids the tight mold of federalism and could be both unitary as well as federal according to the requirements of time and circumstances.” Discuss in the current context. (250 words)

Reference: Indian polity by Lakshmikant

Why the question:

The question is based on the concept of federalism as enshrined in the Indian constitution and its uniqueness.

Key Demand of the question:

Explain the statement in question with its contextual understanding applied to the current pandemic conditions.

Directive:

Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with a brief introduction about the meaning of Federalism.

Body:

The body of the answer must capture the following dimensions – Explain that Federalism is a system of government in which sovereignty is divided between a central authority and constituent political units, such as states or provinces. A discussion on Indian Federalism and how its avoids the tight mold of Federalism having both Federal and Unitary features  Examining the flexibility of Indian Federalism according to change in circumstances and time. Explain the case of federalism applied to current conditions in the country discuss various issues. And suggest measures.

Conclusion:

Conclude with significance of such a model unique to India.

Introduction

India is a federal state where the Centre and the State are the Cooperating units of the polity. Yet India is an asymmetrical federalism, with the balance of power tilting in the favour of the Centre. Article 256 deals with Union-state relation and State’s obligation while Article 365 mandates the state governments to follow and implement the directions of the Central government.

Body

Unitary features of Indian federalism

  • Article 355 enjoins the Union to “… ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”.
  • Example: When State governments raised concerns about the NPR, the Union insisted that States are under a constitutional duty to implement laws passed by Parliament.
  • Article 356 not a dead letter: Centre has the power to impose President’s rule under Article 356 if it’s laws are not complied by states.
  • Centrally sponsored Schemes: CSS is the biggest component of Central Assistance to state plans (CA), where states don’t have much flexibility.
  • Enforcement of International Treaties and Agreements. This provision enables the central government to fulfil its international obligations (Art. 253).
    • The Lokpal and the Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Parliament through the provisions of this particular article.
  • Article 200: Reservation of state Bills by Governor for President’s assent.
  • Article 256 mentions that the executive power of every state shall be so exercised as to ensure compliance with laws made by Parliament and any existing laws, which apply in that state, and the executive power of the Union shall extend to the giving of such directions to a state as may appear to the Government of India to be necessary for that purpose.

However, States are NOT mere administrative agencies

In the landmark S.R. Bommai judgment, Supreme Court said that States are not mere “appendages” of the Centre.

  • Legislative/Administrative
    • Separation of Power: Schedule 7 of Constitution provides strict delineation of powers between center and state. (Except during emergencies which comes under judicial review)
    • Article 131 of the Constitution, which gives the Supreme Court exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases between states and the Centre.
    • Eg: Chhattisgarh moved SC against NIA Act in Jan 2020.
    • Coalition governments: It has increased states’ bargaining power.
  • Financial
    • GST Council: Majority decisions have been based on consensus till now, while states gave 2/3rd of votes.
    • Since 10th FC, state’s share has been continuously increasing till 14th FC by devolving 42%.
  • Other Areas
    • NITI Aayog: Replacing the erstwhile Planning Commission, the Aayog is promoting bottom-up approach to development planning.
    • Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas involves State’s as equal partners of development. There is a move towards competitive and cooperative federalism.

Federalism in the times of pandemic

Issues

  • State’s dwindling resources: The findings suggest that recent changes in India’s fiscal architecture, including the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, and increase in state shares for the Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSSs) had placed state finances in a precarious position, even prior to the crisis.
  • Lockdown without prior notice: There was no prior consultation with states before the lockdown was imposed on 25th It caused serious supply chains breakdown and importantly migrant workers chaos.
  • Struggling for fiscal space: The announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the Rs 20-lakh crore Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (Self-reliant India Campaign) package left many scrambling with the fiscal maths
  • Increasing dependency on Centre: The dependency of states on the Centre for revenues has increased, with the share of the revenue from own sources declining from 55% in 2014-15 to 50.5% in 2020-21.

Yet despite the sticking issues, there is a federal spirit that is being displayed in the interest of the people in the country.

  • Unique brand of federalism: India’s flexible federal structure which has come handy in an emergency situation.
    • Unlike the United States, another large federal country where the Washington and states are engaged in a vicious battle to keep their controls, India’s unique band federalism has allowed for a swift and coordinated response to tackle the pandemic.
  • States are autonomous: While the Centre and its key ministries such as Home and Health have taken the lead in developing protocols and advisories, states are autonomous enough to act in their own ways.
    • For instance, Kerala has developed its own model, so also Odisha and Rajasthan.
    • Even district administration in Agra and Bhilwara have done well to contain the infection within the broad federal framework.
  • Empowering the states: The NDMA is placed in the Entry 23 of the Concurrent List thereby all tiers of government including the third tier institutions such as municipal and rural local bodies are empowered to contribute in disaster management and mitigation activities.
    • Once full lockdown was announced by the Centre, it directed all the states to invoke Section 2 of the EDA, 1897.

Way-Forward

To sum up, for a large federal country of a mind-boggling diversity, India’s ability to fight Covid-19 pandemic largely rests on how well it manages its Centre-state relation.

  • When compared with other large federal countries such as the US, the country has done very well to minimize the frictions and provide a sense of direction to the states.
  • However, tackling Covid-19 as seen from the experience of other countries would require a differential and agile response across states and the Centre has at best to play the role of a mentor in providing leadership and resource support.
  • The rigid approach as evident in lockdown phase would prove a major hurdle. States must be cleared their dues and be given ample fiscal space to ensure economy is revived.
  • States must be allowed to lead in terms of reviving economy, generating income support, jobs while contain the virus at the same time.
  • The next big change will come when the current Centre-state relationship gets redefined in a way that enables the 28 states to become federal in the true sense – as self-sustaining economic territories in matters of energy, water, food production and waste recycling.
  • Our economic geography of production, transport and communication has to change – it has to become distributive rather than being focused towards the Centre.
  • Centrally distributed funds will need to be directed specifically to build the capacities of each state.
    • The instruments will enable them to embark on a sustainable economic recovery whose base is widely distributed across the various panchayats and districts of each state.
    • Driving distributive recovery will be energy, transport, supply chains, public administration, rule of law, agriculture and rural development.
  • In short, the real cooperative federalism which the Centre has been espousing for many years is now put on test and the Centre must ensure states are given full cooperation to battle the challenge.

 

Topic: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

4. Tribal people in India are largely excluded by Governments at the Centre and States. In this context throw light upon the significance of the Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana. (250 words)

Reference: pib.gov.in 

Why the question:

The article talks about the context of Money in hands of Tribal people during COVID-19

Pandemic. Thus the context is Tribal recovery in times of COVID pandemic

Key Demand of the question:

One has to explain the challenges in addressing the concerns of the tribal pockets in the country and in what way often the policy measures taken by both centre and state ignore them.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Explain the statement – Tribal people in India are largely excluded by Governments at the Centre and States by substantiating it with necessary facts.

Body:

The Van Dhan Scheme is an initiative of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and TRIFED. The question is amidst the welfare schemes and policies that the government is focusing at with tribal people of India as the target group. Discuss the mandate and key features of Pradhan Mantri Van Dhan Yojana. Explain how the scheme is specifically aimed at the tribal population of the country.

Conclusion:

Conclude with what needs to be done to address the situation and ensure welfare of the tribals.

Introduction

The tribal population in India is nearly 104 million (8.6%), is a small minority numerically but represents an enormous diversity of groups. They vary in respect of language and linguistic traits, ecological settings in which they live, physical features, size of the population, dominant modes of making a livelihood, level of development and social stratification.

Body

Problems faced by Tribal population due to non-inclusion in welfare process

  • Varied Problems across communities :
    • Health : For instance, recently Seven adults of the KhariaSavar community died within a span of just two weeks. Their lifespan is approximately 26 years less than the average Indian’s life expectancy.
      • Nearly 10% in West Godavari District are affected by Sickle Cell Anaemia.
    • Alienation : The problems in Red Corridor areas (especially Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh) is governance deficit and unfinished land reforms that has deprived the well being of tribes.
    • There is widespread infighting amongst tribes of North-East for natural resources and also of territorial supremacy.
  • Isolated Tribes such as Sentinelese as still hostile to outsiders. The government must enforce “eyes on hands off ” policy in these cases.
    • The Jarawa community is facing acute population decline due to entry of outsiders into the area(The Andaman Trunk Road, among other projects, has cut into the heart of the Jarawa reserve).
  • Denotified, semi-nomadic and nomadic tribes are yet to be included as Scheduled Tribes.
    • Their traditional occupations (snake charming, street acrobatics with animals) are now illegal and alternative livelihood options are not provided.
  • Certain tribes have been characterised as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) (earlier known as Primitive Tribal Groups) on the basis of their greater ’vulnerability’ even among the tribal groups. There are 75 such tribes in India.
  • There is a large number of anemic women amongst the tribes. There is a shortfall of 6,796 sub-centres, 1,267 primary health centres (PHCs) and 309 community health centres (CHCs) in the tribal areas at an all-India level as on March 31, 2015.
  • Gaps in rehabilitation: There are gaps in the rehabilitation of the tribal community members displaced by development projects.
    • Only 21 lakh tribal community members have been rehabilitated so far of the estimated 85 lakh persons displaced due to development projects and natural calamities.

Significance of PM Van-Dhan Yojana

Pradhan Mantri Van DhanYojana (PMVDY) is a Market Linked Tribal Entrepreneurship Development Program for forming clusters of tribal SHGs and strengthening them into Tribal Producer Companies has been launched with participation from all the 27 States from the Country.

  • It seeks to improve tribal incomes through value addition of tribal products.
  • Increasing Income of Tribal Population : Minor Forest Produce (MFP) is a major source of livelihood for tribals living in forest areas.
    • The importance of MFPs for this section of the society can be gauged from the fact that around 100 million forest dwellers depend on MFPs for food, shelter, medicines and cash income.
    • It provides them critical subsistence during the lean seasons, particularly for primitive tribal groups such as hunter gatherers, and the landless.
    • Tribals derive 20-40% of their annual income from MFP on which they spend major portion of their time.
  • Women Empowerment: This activity has strong linkage to women’s financial empowerment as most of the MFPs are collected and used/sold by women.
  • Employment: MFP sector has the potential to create about 10 million workdays annually in the country.
  • Three stage value addition would be the corner stone for enhancing incomes of the tribals under the scheme.
    • The grass root level procurement is proposed to be undertaken through Self Help Groups associated with implementing agencies.
    • Convergence and Networking with other Govt. departments/scheme shall be undertaken to utilise the services of existing SHGs like Ajeevika, etc.
    • These SHGs shall be appropriately trained on sustainable harvesting/collection, primary processing & value addition and be formed into clusters so as to aggregate their stock in tradable quantity and linking them with facility of primary processing in a Van Dhan Vikas Kendra.
  • Capacity Building: Under Van Dhan, 10 Self Help Groups of 30 Tribal gatherers is constituted. The establishment of “Van Dhan Vikas Kendra” is for providing skill upgradation and capacity building training and setting up of primary processing and value addition facility.
    • Working under the leadership of Collector these groups can then market their products not only within the States but also outside the States. Training and technical support is provided by TRIFED.
    • It is proposed to develop 3,000 such centres in the country.
  • The Van Dhan Vikas Kendras will be important milestone in economic development of tribals involved in collection of MFPs by helping them in optimum utilization of natural resources and provide sustainable MFP-based livelihood in MFP-rich districts.

Conclusion

The scheme can go a long way in augmenting the lives of tribal population with better resources, income and skills. It strives to create better redistribution of resources and welfare of tribal community.

 

Topic : Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System- objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.

5. “India needs a ‘next generation’ right to food legislation to address failings in food security.” Examine the statement in the context of nutritional security in India. Also enumerate the measures taken by the government in this regard. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu 

Why the question:

The question talks about the significance and need of the right to food legislation to address failings in food security in the country.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss in detail the reasons for failing food security in the country and in what way recognising the right food legislations can ensure greater food security in the country.

Directive:

Examine – When asked to ‘Examine’, we must look into the topic (content words) in detail, inspect it, investigate it and establish the key facts and issues related to the topic in question. While doing so we should explain why these facts and issues are important and their implications.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly explain what you understand by nutritional security of the country.

Body:

First quote relevant facts about India’s current nutritional security aspects. Discuss the policies of the government in this direction, highlight why the policies don’t suffice the food security aspects of the country. Explain the importance and need for ‘next generation’ right to food legislation. List the existing policies in this direction and state what needs to be done.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction

The right to food is a well-established principle of international human rights law. It has evolved to include an obligation for state parties to respect, protect, and fulfil their citizens’ right to food security. Our current understanding of food security includes the four dimensions of access, availability, utilisation and stability.

As a state party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, India has the obligation to ensure the right to be free from hunger and the right to adequate food.

Body

Food and nutrition security in India

  • India became a food grain surplus nation due to Green Revolution and increase in food production.
  • This focus on access culminated in India in a 2001 case brought by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, in which the Supreme Court evolved a right to food and read it into the right to life provisions of the Constitution.
  • It, ultimately resulted in the 2013 National Food Security Act (NFSA), which has been lauded for guaranteeing a quantitative “right to food” to all Indians.
    • However, the NFSA suffers from serious lacunae in its drafting, which severely undermine its stated objective of giving legal form to the right to food in India
  • India, currently has the largest number of undernourished people in the worlde. around 195 million.
  • Nearly 47 million or 4 out of 10 children in India do not meet their full human potential because of chronic undernutrition or stunting.
  • Agricultural productivity in India is extremely low.
    • According to World Bank figures, cereal yield in India is estimated to be 2,992 kg per hectare as against 7,318.4 kg per hectare in North America.
  • The composition of the food basket is increasingly shifting away from cereals to high⎯value agricultural commodities like fish, eggs, milk and meat. As incomes continue to rise, this trend will continue and the indirect demand for food from feed will grow rapidly in India.

India needs a next generation legislation entailing ‘Right to food’

The existing law does not comprehensively cover all aspects of food security. Experts have highlighted the gaps in the existing system.

  • The NFSA surprisingly does not guarantee a universal right to food. Instead, it limits the right to food to those identified on the basis of certain criteria.
  • It then goes on to further restrict the right to 75% of the Indian population.
  • It also specifies that a claim under the Act would not be available in times of “war, flood, drought, fire, cyclone or earthquake” (notably, it is within the Central government’s remit to declare whether such an occassion has arisen).
  • Given that a right to food becomes most valuable in exactly these circumstances, it is questionable whether the Act is effective in guaranteeing the right that it is meant to.
  • Another problematic aspect of the NFSA is its embrace of certain objectives that are to be “progressively realised”.
    • These provisions include agrarian reforms, public health and sanitation, and decentralised procurement, but they make no mention of the need to reconsider fundamental assumptions about our agricultural systems and look at food security in a more comprehensive manner.
  • Finally, while the NFSA addresses issues of access, availability and, even tangentially, utilisation, it is largely silent on the issue of stability of food supplies — a startling omission given India’s vulnerability to climate change impacts, to name one impending threat to food security. Eg: Prices of food spike in November, as noted by Economic Survey 2019.

Measures taken by Government for nutrition and food security

  • National Food Security Mission: It aims to increase production of rice, wheat, pulses, coarse cereals and commercial crops, through area expansion and productivity enhancement.
    • It works toward restoring soil fertility and productivity at the individual farm level and enhancing farm level economy.
    • It further aims to augment the availability of vegetable oils and to reduce the import of edible oils.
  • POSHAN Abhiyaan: The Abhiyaan aims to reduce malnutrition in the country in a phased manner, through a life cycle approach, by adopting a synergised and result oriented approach.
    • Target is to bring down stunting of the children in the age group of 0-6 years from 38.4% to 25% by the year 2022.
    • The goals of POSHAN Abhiyaan are to achieve improvement in nutritional status of children from 0-6 years, adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers in a time bound manner during the three years with fixed targets as under:
  • Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY): It was initiated in 2007, and allowed states to choose their own agriculture and allied sector development activities as per the district/state agriculture plan.
    • It was converted into a Centrally Sponsored Scheme in 2014-15 also with 100% central assistance.
    • Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) has been named as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana- Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied Sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR) for three years i.e. from 2017-18 to 2019-20.
    • Objectives: Making farming a remunerative economic activity through strengthening the farmer’s effort, risk mitigation and promoting agri-business entrepreneurship. Major focus is on pre & post-harvest infrastructure, besides promoting agri-entrepreneurship and innovations.
  • Integrated Schemes on Oilseeds, Pulses, Palm oil and Maize (ISOPOM)
  • E-marketplace: The government has created an electronic national agriculture market (eNAM) to connect all regulated wholesale produce markets through a pan-India trading portal.
  • Massive irrigation and soil and water harvesting programme to increase the country’s gross irrigated area from 90 million hectares to 103 million hectares by 2017.
  • The government has also taken significant steps to combat under- and malnutrition over the past two decades, through
    • The introduction of mid-day meals at schools. It is a Centrally-Sponsored Scheme which covers all school children studying in Classes I-VIII of Government, Government-Aided Schools.
    • Anganwadi systems to provide rations to pregnant and lactating mothers,
    • Subsidised grain for those living below the poverty line through a public distribution system.
    • Food fortification in salt. The same is to be made mandatory in rice flour, sugar among others.

 Way Forward

  • Thus, there is a need to frame a “third generation” food security law and recognise and mainstream issues including increasing natural disasters and climate adaptation.
  • Such a framework would robustly address the challenges facing the country’s food security across all four dimensions and make a coordinated effort to resolve them instead of the piecemeal efforts that have characterised such attempts so far.
  • Food security brings together diverse issues such as inequality, food diversity, indigenous rights and environmental justice.
  • Given the current crises in India, it is time we prepare a third generation right to food legislation that recognises that a climate-as-usual scenario no longer exists.
  • Such a legislation would ideally be rooted in the principle of a right to food security in its true spirit and not merely as a sound bite.
  • Amidst the pandemic ravaging the nations supplies, it is even more imperative to ensure Right to Food.

 

Topic : Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment. Inclusive growth and issues arising from it. Important aspects of governance

6. Do you think MGNREGA has become more relevant than ever in its utility in the current times?  Analyse. (250 words)

Reference: Indian Express 

Why the question:

The question is amidst the current ongoing pandemic situation.  The article throws light upon the utility of MGNREGA.

Key Demand of the question:

One has to discuss the relevance of MGNREGA in the current times of the pandemic and how it is more relevant than ever before.

Directive:

AnalyzeWhen asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly explain the coming of MGNREGA scheme into action.

Body:

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), is Indian legislation enacted on August 25, 2005. The MGNREGA provides a legal guarantee for one hundred days of employment in every financial year to adult members of any rural household willing to do public work-related unskilled manual work at the statutory minimum wage. Discuss the key facts of MGNREGA. Explain why the scheme is more relevant than ever in the current conditions. Present case study if required.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction

MGNREGA is, perhaps, the world’s largest social welfare programme, with about 120 million beneficiaries. With unemployment figures at a 45-year high, and with the added economic destruction caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic, MGNREGA will have more importance in providing livelihood to migrant workers in coming times.

Body

Utility of MGNREGA in current context

  • A record 4.89 crore persons belonging to 3.44 crore households sought work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in May.
    • This is against 3.18 crore persons from 2.26 crore households for the same month last year, when large parts of India were experiencing drought-like conditions.
    • The current surge in MGNREGA work demand reflects a drought, not of water, but of jobs and incomes.
  • Reverse Migration: The demand for work is mainly from migrant workers returning to their villages from cities and industrial centres post the COVID lockdown.
    • Proof of it is the states where the number of households registering demand has shown the highest increase: Uttar Pradesh (299.3 per cent in May 2020 over May 2019), West Bengal (214.5 per cent), Odisha (113.5 per cent), Chhattisgarh (68.9 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (65.1 per cent) and Bihar (62.1 per cent).
    • These are all labour exporting states.
  • Need to widen the scope: The objective of MGNREGA was to provide jobs to landless agriculturists and farmers in the lean period.
    • However, with the shattered economy not everyone can be engaged gainfully in agriculture.
    • The scheme’s scope will have to be widened. To start with, the number of days of guaranteed employment to adult members of any rural household needs to be expanded beyond the existing 100 days.
    • MGNREGA labour can be used even to undertake railway or national highway work
  • Stimulus: The government made an allocation of an additional Rs 40,000 crore as part of the stimulus package.
    • An allocation of Rs 1 lakh crore for FY 2020-21 would mean that approximately Rs 84,000 crore is available for employment generation this year. This will still be the highest allocation for MGNREGA in any year since the passage of the law.

Issues with MGNREGA

  • Over the last few years, MGNREGA had begun to face an existential crisis.
  • Successive governments capped its financial resources, and turning it into a supply-based programme.
  • Workers had begun to lose interest in working under it because of the inordinate delays in wage payments.
  • With very little autonomy, gram panchayats had begun to find implementation
  • Barring a few exceptions, state governments were only interested in running the programme to the extent funds were made available from the Centre.
  • Allocating work on demand, and not having enough funds to pay wages on time was bound to cause great distress amongst the workers and eventually for the state too.
  • As a result, state governments had begun to implement MGNREGA like a supply-driven scheme, instead of running it like a demand-based guarantee backed by law.

Need of the hour

  • The state governments must ensure that public works are opened in every village.
  • Workers turning up at the worksite should be provided work immediately, without imposing on them the requirement of demanding work in advance.
  • The local bodies must proactively reach out to returned and quarantined migrant workers and help those in need to get job cards.
  • Most importantly, at the worksite, adequate facilities such as soap, water, and masks for workers must be provided free of cost. For reasons of health safety, MGNREGA tools should not be shared between workers.
  • The government should provide a tool allowance to all workers — some states are already providing such an allowance.
  • The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of decentralised governance.
    • Gram panchayats and elected representatives need to be provided with adequate resources, powers, and responsibilities to sanction works, provide work on demand, and authorise wage payments to ensure there are no delays in payments.
  • Finally, there needs to be flexibility in the kinds of work to be undertaken, while ensuring that the community and the workers are the primary beneficiaries.

Conclusion

With nearly eight crore migrant workers returning to their villages, and with an additional allocation for the year, this could be a moment for the true revival of MGNREGA. A revival led by workers themselves.

 

Topic : Public/Civil service values and Ethics in Public administration: Status and problems; ethical concerns and dilemmas in government and private institutions; laws, rules, regulations and conscience as sources of ethical guidance; accountability and ethical governance; strengthening of ethical and moral values in governance; ethical issues in international relations and funding; corporate governance.

7. State the principles of morality of international politics according to John Rawls. (250 words)

Reference: Ethics, Integrity and aptitude by G Subba Rao and P N Chowdhary

Why the question:

The question is based on the theme of principles of morality of international politics.

Key Demand of the question:

Explain the principles of morality of international politics according to John Rawls

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly talk about what are the principles of morality in international politics.

Body:

Rawls orders the principles of justice lexically, as follows: 1, 2(b), 2(a). The greatest equal liberty principle takes priority, followed by the equal opportunity principle and finally the difference principle. The first principle must be satisfied before 2(b), and 2(b) must be satisfied before 2(a). Give a detailed account of John Rawls and his ideas on the principles of political morality.

Conclusion:

Conclude with importance.

Introduction

John Rawls is celebrated for his universal conception of “Justice as fairness”. He has placed highest significance to dignity of human life over Bentham’s “greatest happiness of greatest number”. For Rawls, “Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.” This principle can be seen in his principles of morality in international politics as well.

Body

Rawls recognizes that any principle of international morality and justice,  must accommodate the fact that there is much more pluralism and diversity in worldviews – or reasonable pluralism, among societies than there is within a single liberal society.

Rawls’ concept of original position is relevant in justice and morality. Original position is a hypothetical scenario while distributing resources among people in the society. People enter into social contract, without knowing their abilities or position in the society (eg: how well off or worse they are in reality). In such situation, people will arrive at principles that are fair to even the one who is most worse off. Because, they imagine themselves to be in the disadvantaged position.

In international relations, he proposes a second original position.

  • It is employed to derive the foreign policy that liberal peoples would choose.
  • The representatives of peoples are subject to an appropriate veil of ignorance for the situation.
  • As Rawls argues, “they do not know, for example, the size of the territory, or the population or the relative strength of the people whose fundamental interests they represent.
  • While they know that reasonably favourable conditions obtain that make democracy possible, they do not know the extent of their natural resources, of the level of their economic development, or any such related information.
  • In this scenario, people arrive at the eight principles that are outlined by Rawls, for international politics.

Rawls’ eight principles that people must adhere in International relations

  • People are free and independent, and their freedom and independence are to be respected by other peoples.
  • People are to observe treaties and undertakings.
  • People are equal and are parties to the agreements that bind them.
  • People are to observe a duty of non-intervention.
  • Peoples have the right of self-defence but not right to instigate war for reasons other than self-defence.
  • People are to honour human rights.
  • People are to observe certain specified restrictions in the conduct of war.
  • People have a duty to assist other people living under unfavourable conditions that prevent their having a just or decent political and social regime.
  • In addition, Rawls believes three organizations would be chosen:
    • one aimed at securing fair trade among peoples;
    • one which enables people to borrow from a cooperative banking institution, and
    • one which plays a similar role of the United Nations, which he refers to as “a Confederation of People (not states)”

He maintains that better-off societies have a duty of assistance towards burdened societies in order to help them achieve the requisite level of economic and social development to become well-ordered  Eg: Developed nations funding $100 billion every year to combat climate change and help developing nations with technology and capacity.

The humanitarian assistance for hunger and poverty taken up by World Food Programme, nations aiding each other during calamities and disasters are examples of morality in international politics.

Eg: India was the first responder for Cyclone Idai in Mozambique in 2019, providing disaster relief and rescue operations in the African nation.

Conclusion

Rawlsian principles are society and people centric rather than state centric, which ensures long lasting peace and justice in international politics.


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