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General Studies – 2
The Indian Ocean matters today, arguably more than ever. It is a major conduit for international trade, especially energy. Its littoral is vast, densely populated, and comprised of some of the world’s fastest growing regions. The Ocean is also a valuable source of fishing and mineral resources. The Indian Ocean basin is of particular importance for India, as the region’s most populous country and geopolitical keystone.
Emerging trends in geopolitics of Indian Ocean
- Indo-Pacific narrative: The Indo-Pacific Region (IPR) is witnessing a major flux in the geo-political and geo-strategic spheres as there is a gradual shift in the maritime trade centre of gravity towards IPR from the Atlantic and the Pacific Regions. With the West and the USA perceived to be in a strategic retreat, it opens a window of opportunity in the region for a geo-strategic reconstruct.
- Major sea lines of communication: All the major sea lines of communication pass through Indian Ocean that account for majority of the world trade and crude oil trade important for energy security. China has already taken control of Hambantota port in Sri Lanka for 99 years.
- String of Pearls: There has been increasing movements of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean. China also has access to several islands in Maldives like Feydhoo Finolhu, which it may use as surveillance. Idea of China is to have a string of strategic ports in the Indian Ocean which India’s backyard and a point of vulnerability for China.
- Theatre of US-China rhetoric: The region is already a defining constituent of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy being pursued by the US — though not with a position of strength anymore. China, on the other hand, rejects the FOIP strategy, which it sees as an effort to contain its rise, even as it maintains its own strategic interests in the region.
- Chinese infrastructure: The Indian Ocean Rim’s (IOR’s) infrastructure and connectivity is a critical investment opportunity. Undoubtedly, China leads the show. From the ports of Mombasa in Kenya to Chittagong in Bangladesh, Chinese investments have engulfed the region.
- Belt and Road Initiative: The Gwadar port in Pakistan’s Balochistan province is a sensitive geo-strategic outpost. It is pivotal for at least two segments of the BRI, viz the Maritime Silk Road and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It is also among the most controversial ports from India’s perspective.
- Major islands: The western and eastern sides of the Indian Ocean are geo-strategically distinct. The western side comprises some strategic islands. Diego Garcia and Seychelles host the American military base, while China may soon establish one of its own in the Maldives. The eastern side largely hosts strategic ports controlled by China.
Opportunity for India
- India’s increasing participation entails a political commitment that necessitates heavy investments in naval infrastructure.
- Though India takes the lead in naval surveillance and counter-piracy measures, its naval modernisation programme still needs a boost.
- India ought to strive and formally reposition itself as a net security provider in the IOR.
- Adopting a differentiated foreign policy postured to engage all stakeholders — viz, the US, China, Russia and Japan — but not prioritise any of them, will help.
- India need only invest into its military-strategic assets in the IOR to the extent that it grows economically.
- India’s strategic vision for the IOR is based on the initiative named Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR). SAGAR has the potential to provide solutions to India’s maritime security challenges.
- It can forge a consultative mechanism aimed at strengthening India’s geo-strategic outreach. But doing so solicits a strategic depth.
In a world in which Asia plays an increasingly important economic and geopolitical role, the Indian Ocean provides the foundation for the trading systems that underpin Asia’s economic rise. It is also the lifeline on which several of the world’s major economies depend. India can become a net security provider in the region and play a greater role.
Reference: Indian Express
Of all kinds of migration, illegal migration has become the most volatile and contentious issue in Indian polity today because of the socio-political conflicts it has brought in its wake. Illegal migration comprises of people across national borders in a way that violates the immigration laws of the destination country.
From the eastern borders, Bangladeshi illegal immigration has changed the demography of north-east especially Assam. More recently, there has been an influx of Rohingyas who are prosecuted in the Myanmar. From the northern borders, mainly persecuted religious minorities from Pakistan and Afghanistan have come to India. Often it has posed a security threat for India, especially in Kashmir where militants infiltrate through Line of Control.
Issue of illegal immigration into India
- Increasing pressure on land and mounting unemployment in Bangladesh due to steep rise in population. Porous India-Bangladesh border of 4,096 kms is also another major factor.
- Stagnant Economic Growth and Lack of Employment: Industrialisation in India’s neighbouring countries has not been able to keep pace with the growing labour force and as a result, the unemployment rate is declining. The working-age people who are unable to find jobs in the country look outside for employment opportunities.
- Illegal voters: Most of the Bangladeshi immigrants have got their names enlisted in the voting list illegally, thereby claiming themselves as citizens of the state.
- Religious Discrimination: In Bangladesh, the already discriminatory land laws were further manipulated by vested interest groups and corrupt administrators to dispossess and alienate the Hindus from their own land and property. Religion has a particular effect in the case of the Rohingya Crisis.
- Pakistan’s state sponsored terrorism: Militants and people are infiltrating into Kashmir to create unrest and keep India embroiled in the decades long issue posing the biggest security threat.
- Issue of terrorism: Pakistan’s ISI has been active in Bangladesh supporting militant movements in Assam. It is alleged that among the illegal migrants there are also militants, who enter into Assam to carry out the terrorist activities.
- Diplomatic Effort: India has to make diplomatic effort to get Bangladesh to cooperate as illegal migration cannot be solved unless origin country cooperates. Sharing of digital database of its citizens will make it easier.
- Better Border Management: Fencing, construction of border roads and proper management of border will make a difference. Like engaging in proactive patrolling of the India-Bangladesh and India- Myanmar international borders.
- Unique Identification Number (UID) scheme: Compilation of data is likely to reduce the comfort level of fresh illegal migrants.
- Bar from Voting rights: Bangladeshi who are already in could be allowed to work but should not be allowed to vote and this will diminish their ability to influence government decisions by being a political force.
- Use of regional forums: Forums like BIMSTEC can be used to discuss issues like illegal migration from neighbouring countries and garnering support and coordination from the members.
- Dispute resolution: Government should resolve pending border disputes with the neighbouring countries, as they later become matters of national-security threat.
- No diversion of security forces: The border-guarding force should not be distracted from its principal task and deployed for other internal security duties. For eg-ITBP, a force specifically trained for India- China border should not be used in the naxalite-infested areas.
- Involvement of army:It is felt that the responsibility for unsettled and disputed borders, such as the LoC in J&K and the LAC on the Indo-Tibetan border, should be that of the Indian Army while the BSF should be responsible for all settled borders.
Illegal migration into India has continued unabated since independence. As lakhs of undocumented migrants fleeing either politico-religious persecution or economic deprivation crossed the border and settled in the border states of India, it created conflict between the host population and the immigrants. Thus, it is important to tackle the issue of illegal migration very carefully in order to safeguards India’s interests.
Reference: Hindustan Times
WHO defines rare disease as often debilitating lifelong disease or disorder with a prevalence of 1 or less, per 1000 population. As per an estimate, there are 7,000 known rare diseases with an estimated 300 million patients in the world; 70 million are in India. According to the Organization for Rare Diseases India, these include inherited cancers, autoimmune disorders, congenital malformations, Hirschsprung’s disease, Gaucher disease, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophies and Lysosomal Storage Disorders (LSDs).
Challenges in dealing with rare diseases
- The field of rare diseases is complex and heterogeneous. The landscape of rare diseases is constantly changing, as there are new rare diseases and conditions being identified and reported regularly in medical literature.
- Apart from a few rare diseases, where significant progress has been made, the field is still at a nascent stage.
- For a long time, doctors, researchers and policy makers were unaware of rare diseases and until very recently there was no real research or public health policy concerning issues related to the field.
- Moreover, families that have members with rare diseases are either unaware or found helpless in treating them either due to no home-grown expertise or lack of finances to bear the burden.
National Policy of Rare Diseases 2021
- The Rare Diseases Policy aims to lower the high cost of treatment for rare diseases with increased focus on indigenous research with the help of a National Consortium to be set up with Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare as convenor.
- Increased focus of research and development and local production of medicines will lower the cost of treatment for rare diseases.
- The policy also envisages creation of a national hospital-based registry of rare diseases so that adequate data is available for definition of rare diseases and for research and development related to rare diseases within the country.
- The Policy also focuses on early screening and prevention through primary and secondary health care infrastructure such as Health and Wellness Centres and District Early Intervention Centres (DEICs) and through counselling for the high-risk parents.
- Screening will also be supported by Nidan Kendras set up by Department of Biotechnology.
- Policy also aims to strengthen tertiary health care facilities for prevention and treatment of rare diseases through designating 8 health facilities as Centre of Excellence and these CoEs will also be provided one-time financial support of up to Rs 5 crores for upgradation of diagnostics facilities.
- A provision for financial support up to 20 lakhs under the Umbrella Scheme of Rastriya Arogya Nidhi is proposed for treatment, of those rare diseases that require a one-time treatment (diseases listed under Group 1 in the rare disease policy).
- Beneficiaries for such financial assistance would not be limited to BPL families, but the benefit will be extended to about 40% of the population, who are eligible under Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana.
- Besides, the Policy also envisages a crowd funding mechanism in which corporates and individuals will be encouraged to extend financial support through a robust IT platform for treatment of rare diseases.
- Funds so collected will be utilized by Centres of Excellence for treatment of all three categories of rare diseases as first charge and then the balance financial resources could also be used for research.
Issues persisting and way forward
- As per the National Policy on rare diseases, diseases such as LSD for which definitive treatment is available, but costs are prohibitive, have been categorised as Group 3.
- However, no funding has been allocated for the immediate and lifelong treatment needs, for therapies already approved by the Drugs Controller General of India.
- Experts point out that the costs to help already-diagnosed patients might be in the range of ₹80-₹100 crore annually.
- If the Centre can extend the cost-sharing agreements that it has worked out with Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, with other States too, its share of the annual costs will be halved.
- The Centre can, however, still set aside a substantial corpus to fund life-saving treatments, even as it rolls out the policy.
- Doing so will not only complete a job well begun — even if not yet half done — but also cement its commitment towards the welfare of every single citizen in India.
It is binding on a welfare state to take care of every single citizen. Securing the wellbeing of every one, particularly those unable to help themselves, irrespective of whether they constitute a critical mass or not, is important.
General Studies – 3
4. Climate crisis, human activities, and a poor response mechanism have deepened the crisis. Uttarakhand forest fires are a warning of the challenges that lie ahead in preserving India’s fragile natural ecosystems. Elucidate. (250 words)
Reference: Hindustan Times
For years geologists, glaciologists and climate experts have voiced their fears about an impending disaster due to climate change, rapid and indiscriminate construction activities, and the subsequent ecological destruction of planet earth. Currently in focus are the forest fires in Uttarakhand. Forest fires that began in Uttarakhand on October 15 last year are still burning due to less rainfall and rising temperatures
Climate crisis and anthropogenic factors deepening forest fire issue
- Some factors causing these fires do indicate that they may be the result of climate change to an extent. Eg: Extreme drought in Australia due to climate change caused the bushfires
- Forest fires essentially are ‘quasi-natural’, which means that they are not entirely caused by natural reasons (like volcanoes, earthquakes and tropical storms), but are caused by human activities as well.
- In India’s case, a combination of hot weather, oxygen and dry vegetation is a potent recipe for forest fires.
- Besides, factors like friction caused by dry timber rubbing against each other and sparks produced from stones falling also lead to forest fires.
- Tourists and trekkers add to the problem by smoking, recreational activities and littering the forest with glass objects which work as convex lenses capable of igniting fires.
- Timber mafia, who eye commercially viable trees, also cause such fires.
- The non-maintenance of fire lines—a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a forest fire—for the last 150 years is yet another reason
Impact of forest fires
- Forest fires do enormous damage by destroying the entire ecosystem of insects, butterflies and reptiles; they also lead to deaths of thousands of larger animals and create various health hazards like asthma and other respiratory diseases for human beings.
- Further, they have a devastating effect on the region’s glaciers. In fact, glaciers of Uttarakhand, which are the life line of major north Indian rivers, have been covered by ‘black carbon’ (due to incomplete combustion of fossil fuels/biofuels and fires), causing them to melt faster.
- According to researchers, this has already led to a rise in temperature by 0.2 degrees Celsius across northern India; this can have a detrimental effect on the monsoon rainfall.
- The heavy loss of valuable timber cannot be ignored.
- Both state and central governments have had a lackadaisical approach to this environmental catastrophe; the Uttarakhand fires were observed as early as in February, but no concrete steps were taken to mitigate the fires.
- While governments need to act fast and in time, we also need to get the local communities involved, as was the case during the British Raj.
- Earlier, the locals, in a spirit of collective responsibility, were at the forefront of managing forests because they had a stake by way of getting fodder for their cattle, firewood and other useful products.
- But after the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, forests come under the purview of the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, leading to restrictions for even the locals to enter forest areas.
Forests are the lungs of earth. We should protect and preserve them at all costs. Although the fires in Uttarakhand and neighbouring states have been doused by rains, that should not be a reason for complacency, especially keeping in view the imminent start of the Char Dham Yatra in a few days.
Reference: The Hindu
Due to a variety of limiting factors, from uncertainties of the weather to soil fertility and water availability, increasing returns to scale are very difficult to achieve in farming. This underscores the need for the right kind of public investment in agriculture.
Transforming the agriculture scenario in India
- We need to greatly expand the basket of public procurement to include more crops, more regions and more farmers.
- If done right, this single reform would secure multiple win-wins: higher and more sustainable farmer incomes, greater water security and better consumer health.
- Procurement must be local and follow the logic of regional agro-ecology.
- Huge volumes of water could be saved if cropping patterns are diversified to include a variety of millets (rightly called ‘nutri-cereals’ now), pulses and oilseeds.
- To incentivise farmers to make this change, governments must include them in procurement operations. The locally procured crops should then be incorporated into anganwadi supplementary nutrition and school mid-day meal programmes.
- This would mean a large and steady market for farmers, while also making a huge contribution to tackling India’s twin syndemic of malnutrition and diabetes, since these crops have a much lower glycemic index, while providing higher content of dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals, protein and antioxidants.
- Public investment in specific infrastructure required for millets and pulses, especially those grown through natural farming, would also help expand their cultivation.
- India has a network of 2,477 mandis and 4,843 sub-mandis to safeguard farmers from exploitation by large retailers.
- This network needs to be greatly expanded as today, only 17% of farm produce passes through mandis.
- To provide farmers access within a radius of five kilometres, India needs 42,000 mandis, which are also in need of urgent reform. Rather than moving in the direction of weakening or dismantling mandis, we need to make their functioning more transparent and farmer-friendly.
Need of the hour for agricultural transformation
- A three-pronged strategy is required and must be focused on:-
- Development initiatives
- Policy reforms in agriculture
- The rate of increase in income sources must be accelerated by 33 percent to meet the goal. This is possible for faster adoption of the above technology combined with efficient backward and forward linkages.
- The country also needs to increase the use of quality seed and fertilisers along with adequate power supply to agriculture by 12.8, 4.4, 7.6 percent respectively per year.
- Area under irrigation must be expanded by 1.78 million hectare and area under double cropping must be increased by 1.85 million hectare every year.
- Along with farming, mixed farming activities such as livestock improvement, better feed can augment farm incomes in a great way.
- Research institutes should come with technological breakthroughs for shifting production frontiers and raising efficiency in the use of inputs.
- About one third of farm income can be increased by better price realisation and efficient post-harvest management, competitive value chains and adoption of allied activities. The reforms in this front are a welcome step and all states must adopt it at faster pace.
With agriculture employing nearly half the Indian population even today, it is necessary to implement structural reforms to enhance Agri-value chain. To achieve the ambitious target of doubling farmers income by 2022, productivity and efficiency of value chain in agriculture is the key. It will also protect the farmers against shocks and provide food security.
Reference: Economic Times
Food processing generally includes the basic preparation of foods, the alteration of a food product (usually raw) into another form (as in making preserves from fruit), and preservation and packaging techniques. Food processing typically takes harvested crops or animal products and uses these to produce long shelf-life food products.
It includes the process of value addition to produce products through methods such as preservation, addition of food additives, drying etc. with a view to preserve food substances in an effective manner, enhance their shelf life and quality.
India’s food processing industry: Background
- India is the world’s second largest producer of fruits & vegetables after China but hardly 2% of the produce is processed.
- India is among the top 5 countries in the production of coffee, tobacco, spices, seeds etc. With such a huge raw material base, we can easily become the leading supplier of food items in the world.
- In spite of a large production base, the level of processing is low (less than 10%). Approximately 2% of fruits and vegetables, 8% marine, 35% milk, 6% poultry are processed. Lack of adequate processable varieties continues to pose a significant challenge to this sector.
- Economic Survey 2020: During the last 6 years ending 2017-18, Food Processing Industries sector has been growing at an average annual growth rate of around 5.06 per cent.
- Employment: According to the Annual Survey of Industries for 2016-17, the total number of persons engaged in registered food processing sector was 54 lakhs. (whereas unregistered FPOs supports 51.11 lakh workers)
- Farmer Beneficiaries: The SAMPADA scheme is estimated to benefit about 37 lakh farmers and generate about 5.6 lakh direct/ indirect employment (ES 2020 data).
- Curbing Distress Migration : Provides employment in rural areas, hence reduces migration from rural to urban. Resolves issues of urbanization.
Challenges facing food processing industry in India
- Demand of processed food is mainly restricted to urban areas of India.
- Major problems are listed below:
- Small and dispersed marketable surplus due to fragmented holdings
- Low farm productivity due to lack of mechanization,
- High seasonality of raw materials
- Perishability and lack of proper intermediation (supply chain) result in lack of availability of raw material.
- This in turn, impedes food processing and its exports.
- More than 30% of the produce from farm gate is lost due to inadequate cold chain infrastructure.
- The NITI Aayog cited a study that estimated annual post-harvest losses close to Rs 90,000 crore.
- Lack of all-weather roads and connectivity make supply erratic.
- The food processing industry has a high concentration of unorganised segments, representing almost 75% across all product categories. Thus, causes the inefficiencies in the existing production system.
- Further, most processing in India can be classified as primary processing, which has lower value-addition compared to secondary processing.
- Due to this, despite India being one of the largest producers of agricultural commodities in the world, agricultural exports as a share of GDP are fairly low in India relative to the rest of the world.
Solutions to address the challenges
- The Ministry of Food Processing Industries (MoFPI) is implementing PMKSY (Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAMPADA Yojana). The objective of PMKSY is to supplement agriculture, modernize processing and decrease agri-waste.
- Mega Food Parks.
- Integrated Cold Chain, Value Addition and Preservation Infrastructure.
- Creation/Expansion of Food Processing/Preservation Capacities.
- Infrastructure for Agro Processing Clusters.
- Scheme for Creation of Backward and Forward Linkages.
- Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) policy: FDI up to 100%, under the automatic route is allowed in food processing industries.
- Agri Export Zones: To give thrust to export of agro products, new concept of Agri Export Zones was brought in 2001. APEDA has been nominated as the Nodal Agency to coordinate the efforts
- cluster approach of identifying the potential products;
- the geographical region in which these products are grown;
- Adopting an end-to-end approach of integrating the entire process right from the stage of production till it reaches the market (farm to market).
Food processing has a promising future, provided adequate government support is there. Food is the biggest expense for an urban Indian household. About 35 % of the total consumption expenditure of households is generally spent on food. As mentioned, food processing has numerous advantages which are specific to Indian context. It has the capacity to lift millions out of undernutrition. Government has it’s work cut out to develop industry in a way which takes care of small scale industry along with attracting big ticket domestic and foreign investments.
General Studies – 4
Reference: Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by Lexicon Publications
Citizen attitudes toward government, including trust, are core concerns for democratic governance and public administration. The evidence from Pew Data research suggests that e-government can increase process-based trust by improving interactions with citizens and perceptions of responsiveness. The findings are theoretically important for reconciling the conflicting research on the effects of e-government and for understanding variations by level of government.
ICT and e-government are known to have a number of different effects on the service quality provided across the public sector, as well as on the perspectives and attitudes of citizens, although the effects have remained under much discussion by political observers when considering that citizens’ trust in the performance of the government has witnessed decline
E-governance increasing citizen trust in public administration
- Inclusive Governance: E-governance helps in building trust between governments and citizens, an essential factor in good governance by using internet-based strategies to involve citizens in the policy process, illustrating government transparency and accountability.
- High Operational Efficiency: What matters a lot to citizens is the efficiency of the services being provided. The effectiveness of government is measured by the quality of its interactions with citizens. It also reduces corruption and increases trust in governance.
- Bridges trust deficit: For any government to survive or maintain or keep control of power, such government must win the trust of the majority of the citizens. E-government can always afford that for any government that embraces it.
- Addresses needs of citizens: It improves services through better understanding of citizens’ requirements, thus aiming for seamless online services.
- Information transparency: That it achieves through improving transparency, accuracy and facilitating information transforming between government and citizens.
It is obvious that implementation of e-government not only saves resources, effort and money but it can also extensively increase service quality levels and reducing time spent in government departments