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Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 22 June 2021

 

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.


General Studies – 1


 

Topic: Russian Revolution

1. Deliberate upon the view that the Russian Revolution was brought about by a small group of revolutionaries without the support of the masses. (250 words)

Reference:  Old NCERT World History ch11: Russian Revolution: Causes, Consequences, Comintern

Why the question:

The question is from the static portions of GS paper I , part World Geography.

Key Demand of the question:

One is expected to discuss in what way the Russian Revolution was brought about by a small group of revolutionaries without the support of the masses.

Directive:

Deliberate – Weigh up to what extent something is true. Persuade the reader of your argument by citing relevant research but also remember to point out any flaws and counter- arguments as well. Conclude by stating clearly how far you agree with the original proposition.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly discuss the nuances of the Russian revolution first.

Body:

The answer body must have the following aspects covered:

Explain in short the conditions in Russia before the onset of the Revolution.

Then explain the growth of Revolutionary Movements in Russia.

Discuss the coming of small groups, and their revolutionary role. Suggest how it was brought about by a small group of revolutionaries without the support of the masses.

Conclusion:

Conclude with significance.

Introduction:

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a series of political events in Russia, involving first the overthrow of the system of autocracy, and then the overthrow of the liberal Provisional Government (Duma), resulting in the establishment of the Soviet power under the control of the Bolshevik party. This eventually led to the establishment of the Soviet Union, which lasted until its dissolution in 1991.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was one of the most significant events of the twentieth century that ended centuries of monarchy in Russia and brought forth the first constitutionally communist state in the world.

Body

Reasons behind the October Revolution:

  • Russia was one of the most impoverished countries in Europe.
  • Huge population landless agricultural labourers
  • Rise in the number of poor and exploited industrial workers.
  • Communists wanted to create an Industrialized Soviet Union and usher in economic and social development.

Russian revolution and revolutionaries:

  • There were many peasant rebellions in Russia before the nineteenth century but they were suppressed. Many Russian thinkers had been influenced by developments in Western Europe and wanted to see similar changes in Russia. Their efforts had helped to bring about the abolition of serfdom. This, however, turned out to be a hollow victory.
  • The hopes of gradual changes in the direction of constitutional democratic government were soon shattered and every attempt at gradual improvement seemed to end in failure.
  • In the conditions that existed in Russia, even a moderate democrat or reformer had to be a revolutionary. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, there was a movement known as ‘going to the people’ when intellectuals started preaching their ideas to the peasants.
  • When the workers’ organizations were set up after industrialization began, they were dominated by ideas of socialism.
  • In 1883, the Russian Social Democratic Party was formed by George Plekhanov, a follower of Marx. This party along with many other socialist groups was united into the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1898. However, the party was soon split over questions of organization and policy.
  • One group which was in a minority (hence known as the Mensheviks) favoured a party of the type that existed in countries like France and Germany and participated in elections to the parliaments of their countries.
  • The majority, known as the Bolsheviks, were convinced that in a country where no democratic rights existed and where there was no parliament, a party organized on parliamentary lines would not be effective. They favoured a party of those who would abide by the discipline of the party and work for revolution.
  • The leader of the Bolsheviks was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, popularly known as Lenin. He is regarded as one of the greatest leaders of the socialist movement after Marx and Engels. He devoted himself to the task of organizing the Bolshevik Party as an instrument for bringing about revolution. His name has become inseparable from the Revolution of 1917. The Russian socialists, including Plekhanov and Lenin, had played an important part in the Second International
  • Besides the Menshevik and the Bolshevik parties, which were the political parties of industrial workers, there was the Socialist Revolutionary Party which voiced the demands of the peasantry. Then there were parties of the non-Russian nationalities of the Russian empire which were working to free their lands from colonial oppression.

Course of action:

  • The revolutionary movement in Russia had been growing when the 1905 Revolution broke out.
  • In 1904, a war had broken out between Russia and Japan. The Russian armies had suffered reverses in the war. This had further strengthened the revolutionary movement in Russia.
  • On 9 January 1905, a mass of peaceful workers with their wives and children was fired at in St. Petersburg while on its way to the Winter Palace to present a petition to the Czar More than a thousand of them were killed and thousands of others were wounded. This day is known as Bloody Sunday.
  • The news of the killings provoked unprecedented disturbances throughout Russia. Even sections of the army and the navy revolted. The sailors of the battleship Potemkin joined the revolutionaries.
  • A new form of organization developed in this revolution which proved decisive in the upheaval of 1917. This was the ‘Soviet’, or the council of workers’ representatives. Beginning as committees to conduct strikes, they became the instruments of political power Soviets of peasants were also formed.
  • In October, the Czar yielded and announced his manifesto granting freedom of speech, press and association, and conferred the power to make laws upon an elected body called the ‘Duma’.
  • The Czar’s manifesto contained principles which would have made Russia a constitutional monarchy like England.
  • However, the Czar soon relapsed into his old ways. No longer could one hope for gradual reform.
  • The 1905 Revolution proved to be a dress rehearsal of the revolution that came in 1917.

Conclusion

The success of the October Revolution transformed the Russian state into a soviet republic. A coalition of anti-Bolshevik groups attempted to unseat the new government in the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1922.

 

 


General Studies – 2


 

Topic: India and its neighborhood- relations.

2. In the light of flared gap between India and China’s maritime capabilities, discuss the need for realistic goals and futuristic vision with its right implementation to realize the maritime goals in Asian strategic sphere. (250 words)

Reference:  Indian Express

Why the question:

The article explains that the Naval power will play a decisive role in India-China rivalry. But India needs greater vision, realistic targets and proper implementation to achieve its maritime goals.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss in detail the needs for greater vision, realistic targets and proper implementation to achieve maritime goals for India.

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:

Briefly start by explaining the importance of maritime goals for India in the Asian sphere.

Body:

The answer body must have the following aspects covered:

Explain first that the competition between China and India in the economic and military spheres, no matter how asymmetric, makes it inevitable that the two will remain rivals in the Asian strategic space.

Discuss how China has aggressively expanded in terms of maritime strength; China has not only overtaken the US Navy in numbers, it is also the world’s top ship-producing nation, with the largest merchant navy, coast-guard and fishing fleet/maritime militia in the world.

The competition between China and India in the economic and military spheres, no matter how asymmetric, makes it inevitable that the two will remain rivals in the Asian strategic space.

Brief upon the maritime capabilities of India and its present status, and suggest what needs to be done to ensure maritime confidence in the Asian sphere.

Conclusion:

Conclude that it is time India evolved a National Strategy for the maritime sector that charts a 50-year path and receives Parliament’s approval to ensure survival through changes of government.

Introduction

Naval power will play a decisive role in India-China rivalry. Today, China has not only overtaken the US Navy in numbers, it is also the world’s top ship-producing nation, with the largest merchant navy, coast-guard and fishing fleet/maritime militia in the world.

Body

Background

  • The competition between China and India in the economic and military spheres, no matter how asymmetric, makes it inevitable that the two will remain rivals in the Asian strategic space.
  • China’s string of pearls and island encirclement are greatest threats to India’s sovereignty.

Gap between maritime capabilities of India and China

  • China laid down its first indigenous aircraft-carrier in 2015 and commissioned it in 2018 — an astonishing industrial/technological feat. Work on India’s first indigenous aircraft-carrier commenced in 2009 and in 2021, the ship awaits completion.
  • India launched its first “maritime modernisation” plan, bearing the catchy title of “Sagarmala” in 2003, almost simultaneously with China. But its focus was limited to port development and road/rail connectivity.
  • The exclusive focus of successive governments on port development has led to gross neglect of other critical components of India’s maritime capability.
  • These include merchant shipping, shipbuilding, ship repair, seabed exploration and fisheries etc; all of which have implications for India’s maritime security as well as its “blue economy”.
  • Having weathered the Covid-19 pandemic with limited economic impact, China has reaffirmed its revanchist agenda via its refusal to resume the status quo ante in Eastern Ladakh.
  • An economically strong, expansionist, and militaristic China will use the Maritime Silk Route initiative to expand its sphere of influence and ensure dominance in the Indo-Pacific.
  • The PLA Navy’s crucial role in this endeavour, clearly spelt out in China’s 2019 DWP, relies on its formidable maritime/industrial capabilities.
  • For these reasons India must revamp its maritime capabilities to gain a strong hold in Indian Ocean region and become the net security provider in the region.

Conclusion

All eyes are focused seawards, and naval power is going to play a decisive role in the India-China rivalry. But navies remain hollow without the backing of a strong maritime sector. If “atmanirbharta” has relevance anywhere, it is here in the maritime sector.

 

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

3. How far do you agree with the view that access to healthcare needs to be recognized as an explicit fundamental right? Debate. (250 words)

Reference:  Indian Express

Why the question:

The editorial elaborates on why access to healthcare needs to be a fundamental right.

Key Demand of the question:

Present your viewpoint on the need to recognize access to healthcare as a fundamental right.

Directive:

Debate – Weigh up to what extent something is true. Persuade the reader of your argument by citing relevant research but also remember to point out any flaws and counter- arguments as well. Conclude by stating clearly how far you agree with the original proposition.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with importance access to healthcare in the current era across the world.

Body:

The answer body must have the following aspects covered:

Discuss first what you understand by access to healthcare and explain its significance in the Indian context.

The constitutional right to health is critical to breaking discriminatory structures that will otherwise continue to perpetuate inequality in all spheres of life.

Explain in detail that the right to equality guaranteed under Article 15 upholds non-discrimination on the basis religion, race, caste, gender, place of birth, etc. However, the dismal investment in public health for decades has made healthcare a privilege available to a few. The constitutional right to health is critical to breaking discriminatory structures that will otherwise continue to perpetuate inequality in all spheres of life, including education, opportunity, wealth, and social mobility.

Conclusion:

Conclude that we need a fundamental shift in our approach to healthcare. Instead of viewing it as spending, we have to see it as a high-yield investment that can considerably cut down future out-of-pocket costs and also increase output.

Introduction

Amidst the pandemic, the frantic cries for oxygen, hospital beds, medicine and even a place to cremate their own, laid bare our failure to extend dignity in both life and death. This was compounded with the loss of income, debt, food insecurity, and illiteracy. That is the situation of lakhs of families in India today. The most profound loss is of people’s faith in the ability of the country’s healthcare system to protect them. It is the primary responsibility of government to reinstate this faith.

Body

Background

  • India has never spent more than 2% of its GDP on healthcare. And healthcare facilities across the country straddle different levels of efficiency and sufficiency.
  • The impact of COVID-19 has shaken even States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu that traditionally did well in the area of healthcare.
  • There are other dimensions to making health a fundamental right. For example, Delhi is the world’s most polluted city. In winter especially, you can barely venture out in the morning smog without catching an infection.
  • If health was a fundamental right, then the government would be compelled to think seriously about the pollution aspect or the environmental impact when, say, granting permissions for new industries or framing development policies.

Need for making healthcare a fundamental right

  • The right to equality guaranteed under Article 15 upholds non-discrimination on the basis religion, race, caste, gender, place of birth, etc.
  • However, the dismal investment in public health for decades has made healthcare a privilege available to a few.
  • The constitutional right to health is critical to breaking discriminatory structures that will otherwise continue to perpetuate inequality in all spheres of life, including education, opportunity, wealth, and social mobility.
  • The judicial interpretation of the right to life and liberty under Article 21 in several judgments as inclusive of health was crucial, but has its limitations.
  • The universal access to healthcare is now as achievable as it is indispensable. The rights of people are not stagnant, and must evolve as the country evolves.
  • Ayushman Bharat is an ambitious scheme with great potential, but there is a difference between a rights and a service-delivery model of development.
  • If health is a fundamental right, it will give a spine to the entire health ecosystem, empower doctors and healthcare workers, and ensure transparency, inclusivity, and accountability.
  • Moreover, it will pave the way for special legislation, capable institutions, increased budgets, medical training and research, wellness and prevention, and outreach of services; thereby instilling immense confidence and positivity amongst the citizens.
  • In a country where 63 million people slip back into poverty due to catastrophic healthcare costs, it is hard not to see the logic of legally mandating health as a right, and thereby empowering the citizen to hold the state accountable for it.

Conclusion

As the legal guardian responsible for the safety and security of all its citizens, it is the state’s duty to protect its citizens from mortality and morbidity caused by disease and illness as well. Making health a fundamental right would thus give citizens the power to hold the state accountable for fulfilling its responsibility toward them.

 

Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

4. Russia’s gullible advocacy of China’s global visualization is what seems to be leaving India quite puzzled. Discuss from the viewpoint of India’s interests. (250 words)

Reference:  The Hindu

Why the question:

The article discusses the increasingly divergent perspectives of India and Russia in global geopolitics and analyzes its potential impact on bilateral relations.

Key Demand of the question:

Analyse in detail the widening gap in the opinions of Russia and India in global geopolitics and what impact could it leave on India.

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 current context; Russian President through his recent statement on the India-China border standoff and ongoing de-escalation talks had emphasized the need to debar any “extra-regional power” to interfere in the process.

Body:

Highlight first the Russia’s increasing inclinations towards China and its implications for India.

Then discuss the implications of such a remark for India-Russia ties.

Discuss in detail Russia’s perspectives; On India-China standoff, On Quad and the Indo-Pacific strategy, India’s deepening relationship with the West etc.

Explain in what way the current Russian foreign policy is being based on a flawed assessment of the current situation. Discuss how it warns against obsessive preoccupation with Russia’s ‘status’ rivalry with the U.S.

Conclusion:

Despite some great changes in the global and regional politico-security environment, India has been able to maintain amicable ties with Russia. However, the recent events seem to be straining this bilateral relation.

Introduction

Russian President Vladimir Putin has recently asserted that both the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, and the Chinese President, Xi Jinping, are “responsible” enough to solve issues between their countries, while underlining the need to debar any “extra-regional power” to interfere in the process. Russia’s uncritical advocacy of China’s global vision is what seems to be leaving India quite confounded.

Body

Russia’s gullible advocacy of China’s global visualization

  • Putin’s remarks can only be seen as reinforcing China’s claim that the Quadrilateral or Quad (comprising India, the United States, Japan and Australia) is aimed at containing Beijing’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • In fact, Mr. Putin’s assertion is the logical extension of views expressed by Russia’s Ambassador to India, Nikolay Kudashev who had advised New Delhi to take a “larger look at Chinese foreign policies”, while describing the Indo-Pacific strategy as an effort to revive the Cold War mentality. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, has frequently, and quite acerbically, lashed out at the Quad.
  • Notwithstanding the cataclysmic changes in the global and regional politico-security environment, India has been able to maintain amicable ties with Russia.
  • Yet, Russia’s continued criticism of the Indo-Pacific and the Quad give ample evidence of the divergent perspectives of New Delhi and Russia on how to deal with China’s rise to global prominence.
  • Russia has rejected the Indo-Pacific construct in favour of the Asia-Pacific on the ground that the first is primarily an American initiative designed to contain both China and Russia.
  • While the Sino-Indian relationship has experienced a sharp downward trend since the Galwan clashes in June 2020, New Delhi has become particularly concerned with Moscow downplaying China’s display of coercive military pressure against India.

However what Russia must also keep into consideration is that China’s aggression will not stop it short of undermining Russia in its effort to pursue middle kingdom complex

  • China has replaced Russia as the world’s number two power, encroached into Russia’s space in Central Asia as well as Europe, generated concerns in Russia about its ambitions in the Arctic.
  • China seeks revision of the terms of 2001 Treaty of Good Neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation that Russia is resisting, and so on.
  • The recent China-Iran agreement would not have pleased Russia either because of the feeling that it has done much of the heavy lifting for Iran on the nuclear issue and its regional interests but China is reaping most of the advantage from it.
  • Russia is also aware that notwithstanding the growing tensions in US-China relations, China has more options to deal with the US than Russia has.

For all these reasons, Russia needs India’s support and vice versa.

Way forward

  • India is pushing development cooperation in Russia’s Far East for which it has offered a $1 billion line of credit.
  • In the Arctic area, some new announcements of Indian investments are likely to be made.
  • Russia is keen to participate in railways and inland waterways projects in India for which India must fast-track approvals.
  • Approval for the Sputnik vaccine to be manufactured for use in India has been given.
  • President Putin’s visit to India for which preparatory work has begun should set at rest some misgivings and give a further boost to ties that are geopolitically vital for both countries.

 

Topic: Issues relating to poverty and hunger.

5. A below par poverty measurement instrument misrepresents the degree of poverty. Elucidate in Indian context and suggest ways to fight the never-ending battle against poverty in the country. (250 words)

Reference:  The Hindu

Why the question:

The article brings to us the state of India’s poor and need to address it.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss the need to correct the scale of poverty measurement in India and suggest ways to fight the never-ending battle against poverty in the country.

Directive:

Elucidate – Give a detailed account as to how and why it occurred, or what is the particular context. You must be defining key terms where ever appropriate, and substantiate with relevant associated facts.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Start with the conditions of poverty in the country. Poverty is a state or condition in which a person lacks the resources for a minimum standard of living.

Body:

The answer body must have the following aspects covered:

Discuss the challenges associated with the current measurement system of poverty in India.

Explain why poverty has become a never ending fight in the country.

Discuss policies and programs in this direction; highlight the challenges associated with them.

Suggest ways to fight the never-ending battle against poverty in the country.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction

Poverty can be defined as a condition in which an individual or household lacks the financial resources to afford a basic minimum standard of living. Economists and policymakers estimate “absolute” poverty as the shortfall in consumption expenditure from a threshold called the “poverty line”. Recently, US President praised India for having lifted “over 270 million people out of poverty” in “a single decade”. It also been highlighted that “12 Indian citizens are lifted out of extreme poverty every single minute of every single day”.

Body:

Measurement of Poverty:

  • The official poverty line is the expenditure incurred to obtain the goods in a “poverty line basket” (PLB).
  • Poverty can be measured in terms of the number of people living below this line (with the incidence of poverty expressed as the head count ratio).
  • The “depth” of poverty indicates how far the poor are below the poverty line.

Importance of poverty numbers:

  • Expenditure on health and education were not considered until the Tendulkar Committee — which was criticized for setting the poverty line at just Rs 32 per capita per day in urban India (and at Rs 27 in rural India).
  • And the Rangarajan Commission was criticized for selecting the food component arbitrarily — the emphasis on food as a source of nutrition overlooks the contribution of sanitation, healthcare, access to clean water, and prevalence of pollutants.
  • The policies & programmes can be honestly evaluated on the basis of whether they meet the needs of the majority. Poverty numbers matter because central schemes like Antyodaya Anna Yojana (which provides subsidised foodgrains to households living below the poverty line) and Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (health insurance for BPL households) use the definition of poverty given by the NITI Aayog or the erstwhile Planning Commission.
  • The Centre allocates funds for these schemes to states based on the numbers of their poor. Errors of exclusion can deprive eligible households of benefits.
  • Knowing the numbers and making them public makes it possible to get public opinion to support massive and urgent cash transfers.
  • If government data were to honestly account for the exact numbers of the poor, it may be more realistic to expect the public debate to be conducted on the concerns of the real majority and create a climate that demands accountability from public representatives.
  • India has clocked a massive rise in the market capitalisation and the fortunes of the richest Indian corporates, whose wealth has grown manifold in the past few years, even as millions of Indians have experienced a massive tumble into poverty.

Reasons for no existing concrete estimates of the number of poor and depth of poverty in India:

  • The “poverty line basket” (PLB) comprises goods and services considered essential to a basic minimum standard of living — food, clothing, rent, conveyance, and entertainment.
  • The price of the food component can be estimated using calorie norms or nutrition targets. Until the 1990s, the calorie norms method was used — it was based on the minimum number of calories recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for a household of five members.
  • However, this method does not consider the different food groups that are essential for health — this is why the Tendulkar Committee targeted nutritional outcomes.
  • The Lakdawala Committee assumed that health and education is provided by the state — therefore, expenditure on these items was excluded from the consumption basket it proposed.
  • Since expenditure on health and education rose significantly in the 1990s, the Tendulkar Committee included them in the basket.
  • As a result of revisions to the basket and other changes in the method of estimation, the percentage of people living below the poverty line in 1993-94 rose from 35.97% to 45.3%.
  • Further, to fight poverty, one needs to know where poor people live. They are not evenly spread across a country, not even within a household.

Conclusion:

The Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) is a more comprehensive measure of poverty because it includes components that capture the standard of living more effectively. However, it uses “outcomes” rather than expenditure, the presence of an undernourished person in the household will result in it being classified as “poor”, regardless of the expenditure on nutritious food.

 

 


General Studies – 3


 

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.

6. Commodities like rice and sugar form a major share of Agri-exports in India; however they need to be looked upon from a sustainability perspective owing to their water-intensive nature and production subsidies. Discuss the concerns and suggest measures.(250 words)

Reference:  Indian Express

Why the question:

The article highlights the unsustainability of agri-exports owing to their water-intensive nature and subsidies provided in their production. Thus the question.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss the concerns associated with agricultural exports in India with respect to their sustainability.

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 some key facts on Agri-exports; Agri-exports touched $41.8 billion in FY 2020-21, registering a growth of 18 per cent over the previous year.

Body:

In the answer body briefly explain the trends in agri-exports of India. During the last seven years, agri-exports have remained lower than the level reached in FY2013-14 ($43.3 billion). That was when the highest agri-trade surplus (exports minus imports) was generated ($27.8 billion).

Then move on to discuss why sustainability of agri-exports is a concern? – discuss the key concerns ranging from water intensive nature of crops like rice and sugar, issues related to subsidies etc.

Suggest what needs to be done, discuss the policy measures already in place for addressing these concerns.

Conclusion:

Conclude that to maintain the sustainability of the agri-exports, crops must be produced efficiently and with minimal subsidies. The government needs to take steps to ensure that with rice and sugar.

Introduction

Agri-exports touched $41.8 billion in FY 2020-21, registering a growth of 18 per cent over the previous year. This has brought some cheer and helped improve domestic farm prices somewhat. However, even these exports fall much short of the target of $60 billion that the current government set out to achieve by 2022. From a strategic point of view, therefore, it is necessary to evaluate whether the growth rate can be sustained over a longer period, and the implications it has for Indian agriculture.

Body

Composition of agri-exports:

  • Rice ranks first in agri-exports, with 17.7 million tonnes (mt) valued at $8.8 bn.
  • It is followed by marine products ($6 bn), spices ($4 bn), bovine (buffalo) meat ($3.2 bn), sugar ($2.8 bn), etc (see graphics).
  • Of these, rice and sugar raise concerns about competitiveness and environmental sustainability, as these are water guzzlers and heavily subsidised through cheap/free power for irrigation as well as fertilisers.
  • On top, sugar exports have been further subsidised to clear excessive domestic stocks.
  • This has led many sugar-exporting countries like Australia, Brazil, Thailand, etc, to register a case against India at WTO.

Concerns posed by water-intensive crops:

  • India faces an unprecedented water shortage. A prime reason for this is inapt incentive structure to use water in agriculture that already consumes 89 per cent of the available groundwater.
  • The cropping pattern in India is highly skewed towards crops that are water intensive such as paddy and sugarcane which consume more than 60% of irrigation water available in the country, reducing water availability for other crops
  • Our main concern with the surging rice and sugar exports is on the sustainability front.
  • India is a water-stressed country with per capita water availability of 1,544 cubic-metres in 2011, likely to go down further to 1,140 cubic-metres by 2050.
  • One kg of sugar invariably has virtual water intake of about 2,000 litres. Exporting 7.5 mt of sugar implies exporting at least 15 bn cubic-metres of water.
  • In case of rice, irrigation requirements for one kg vary from 3,000-5,000 litres, depending upon topography.
  • If we take an average of 4,000 litres, and assume that half of this gets recycled back to groundwater, exporting 17.7 mt of rice means virtual export of 35.4 bn cubic-meters of water.
  • Together rice and sugar exports imply India exported over 50 bnn cubic-metres of water.

Case study of Marathwada:

  • Maharashtra is the epicentre of India’s farm quagmire and its landlocked Marathwada belt is a miserable state.
  • It has been among the worst affected by water shortages, having faced three bad monsoons in a row, although this year’s rains have given some reprieve to the farmers.
  • Farmers drawn to the region by government incentives have begun cultivating sugarcane, a water-intensive crop that is ill-suited to Marathwada’s semi-arid climate.
  • Sugarcane consumes about 22.5 million litres of water per hectare during its 14-month long growing cycle compared to just four million litres over four months for chickpeas, commonly grown in India and called gram locally.
  • Growing sugarcane in drought-prone areas is a recipe for water famine. Yet, the land area under sugarcane cultivation in Maharashtra has gone up from 1,67,000 hectares in 1970-71 to 1,022,000 ha in 2011-12.
  • Maharashtra is India’s second-biggest producer of this water-intensive crop, despite being one of the country’s drier states.
  • Sugarcane now uses about 70 percent of Marathwada’s irrigation water despite accounting for four percent of cultivated land.
  • A similar story is playing out in Punjab and Haryana, but with rice taking the place of sugarcane. Rice covers 62 percent of Punjab’s area under cultivation, up from 10 percent in 1970.
  • The expansion of rice has been similar in neighboring Haryana.
  • Though the droughts have hit all crops, India still produces more rice, wheat, and sugar than it consumes. It is quite natural for farmers to plant rice and cane when both power and water are almost free.

Measures needed:

  • Policy changes:
    • A NITI Aayog report has recommended shifting of some areas under sugarcane cultivation to less water-intensive crops by providing a suitable incentive to farmers.
    • The task force, headed by the NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand, has recommended shifting sugarcane farmers to other crops on at least three lakh hectares by paying a remuneration of Rs 6,000 per hectare for alternative cultivation patterns.
    • The new scheme should be piloted for a three years’ implementation time, the task force recommended. The task force, which also consists of secretaries of a number of ministries, has recommended that only 85 per cent of the sale slip (purchase of sugarcane) to ensure that the farmers opt for alternative crops on at least 15 per cent of the land.
  • New methods of agriculture:
    • Alternate Wetting Drying (AWD):
      • Alternate Wetting and Drying (AWD) is a water-saving technology that farmers can apply to reduce their irrigation water consumption in rice fields without decreasing its yield.
      • In AWD, irrigation water is applied a few days after the disappearance of the ponded water.
      • Hence, the field gets alternately flooded and non-flooded. The number of days of non-flooded soil between irrigations can vary from 1 to more than 10 days depending on the number of factors such as soil type, weather, and crop growth stage.
    • Direct Seeding of Rice:
      • Direct seeded rice (DSR), probably the oldest method of crop establishment, is gaining popularity because of its low-input demand.
      • It offers certain advantages viz., it saves labour, requires less water, less drudgery, early crop maturity, low production cost, better soil physical conditions for following crops and less methane emission, provides better option to be the best fit in different cropping systems.
    • Re-designing the cropping pattern:
      • The cropping patterns in the states should be changed as per the agro-climatic zones. Improper cropping patterns affect both crop productivity and irrigation efficiency.
      • It is vital for the Centre to arrive at a policy that gives constructive advice to farmers on the ideal cropping mix and help them get the cost-plus-50% margin.
      • Growing less water-intensive crops in the dry season and transitioning away from irrigation-intensive systems where there is little water.
      • For instance, shifting rice cultivation in water-scarce areas like Punjab to Bihar, West Bengal, Assam, etc, and sugarcane cultivation to the traditional sub-tropical regions like UP and Bihar instead of Maharashtra.
      • Adopt drought-resistant crop varieties as has been done in some parts of Odisha for paddy/rice through the help of the International Rice Research Institute. This can maintain productivity and income of the farmers and also ensure price stability to the consumers.
    • Micro-irrigation:
      • Encouraging farmers to adopt micro-irrigation techniques such as drip irrigation and micro-sprinklers.
      • According to the CWMI report, adopting micro-irrigation techniques can save roughly 20% of the groundwater used annually on irrigation in India.
      • Water-deficient states should promptly move towards micro-irrigation systems. These techniques have significantly higher efficiency vis-à-vis flood irrigation techniques.
    • Reducing electricity subsidies:
      • An analysis of panel data across 370 districts in India found that a reduction in electricity subsidy was correlated with a decrease in groundwater extraction.
      • Most empirical studies are in favour of pricing electricity on the basis of actual consumption. They show that the energy prices at which the farmers start responding to tariff changes in terms of reducing the demand for water and electricity would be socio-economically viable.
    • Watershed Management:
      • Rainwater harvesting, an age-old technique for capturing monsoon run-off, can provide the country with reliable water supplies throughout the year. Building check dams on riverbeds will improve groundwater levels.
      • Farm ponds, percolation tanks, water reservoirs and small and medium-sized dams can help retain more surface water while increasing the groundwater recharge.
      • Crisis can be tackled by restoring and enhancing groundwater recharge areas, stopping polluted water from recharging groundwater, rainwater and roof top harvesting and the restoration of ponds, lakes and other river systems.
    • Creating awareness:
      • Creating sustainable change would require a bottom-up approach by empowering the local community to become active participants in managing groundwater.
      • Behavioural economics and other novel approaches can be brought to bear on maximizing agricultural production with minimal water use instead of focusing on marginal increases in yields with unbounded water use.

Conclusion:       

It is high time that policymakers revisit the entire gamut of rice and sugar systems, from their MSP/FRP to their production and procurement, ensuring ‘more crop per drop’. In case of rice, procurement will have to be limited to the needs of PDS, and within PDS it is high time to introduce the option of direct cash transfers. All these will go a long way to promote better diversification of our agri-systems, better use of our scarce water supplies, lesser GHG emissions, save on unproductive use of financial resources locked up in burgeoning grains stocks with the FCI. And all these savings can be used for doubling investments in agri-R&D to improve productivity on sustainable basis and improve farming practices for minimising carbon emissions. An export-led strategy also needs to minimise logistics costs by investing in better infrastructure and logistics. Only then one can ensure sharing the returns of these investments with farmers to give them better deal in terms of higher and more stable incomes.

 

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

7. In what way can India take a leadership position in driving the global hydrogen economy? Discuss the prospects and challenges. (250 words)

Reference:  Indian Express

Why the question:

The article explains that a robust policy framework akin to the one that guided the country’s solar revolution could lead to an increase in production and demand of this green fuel.

Key Demand of the question:

Discuss in what way India can take a leadership position in driving the global hydrogen economy.

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 what is a hydrogen economy.

Body:

Currently, India consumes about 6 million metric tonnes of grey hydrogen per annum, which is about 8.5 per cent of the global hydrogen demand. Increasing the share of hydrogen in the country’s energy mix would take it towards greater self-reliance in its energy needs.

Explain how an emphasis on green hydrogen would help reduce carbon emissions and take India closer to meeting its climate change commitments.

Discuss how India can leverage its potential and take a leadership position in driving the global hydrogen economy.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction

The hydrogen economy is an envisioned future where hydrogen is used as fuel for vehicles, energy storage and long-distance transport of energy. The different pathways to use hydrogen economy includes hydrogen production, storage, transport and utilization.

In this regard, A National Hydrogen Energy Mission (NHEM) to transform transportation in India was announced during Union Budget 2021-22.

Body

Prospects of Hydrogen Economy:

  • Hydrogen is the lightest and first element on the periodic table. Since the weight of hydrogen is less than air, it rises in the atmosphere and is therefore rarely found in its pure form, H2.
  • At standard temperature and pressure, hydrogen is a nontoxic, non-metallic, odourless, tasteless, colourless, and highly combustible diatomic gas.
  • Hydrogen fuel is a zero-emission fuel burned with oxygen. It can be used in fuel cells or internal combustion engines. It is also used as a fuel for spacecraft propulsion.
  • It can be produced from renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind. At present, there are a number of ways to produce hydrogen, but the most common method is natural gas reforming and electrolysis.
  • Its use can reduce CO2 related emissions significantly and decarbonise the entire value chain, enabling reduced emissions and climate change threats.
  • Hydrogen can also bridge the gap between supply and demand, in both a centralized or decentralized manner, thereby enhancing the overall energy system flexibility.
  • Hydrogen can be used to meet both seasonal and daily supply-demand mismatch in the case of renewables.
  • At present, the current global demand for hydrogen is 70 million metric tons, most of which is being produced from fossil fuels– 76% from natural gas and 23% from coal and remaining from the electrolysis of water– consumes 6% of the global natural gas and 2% of the global coal. This results in CO2 emissions of around 830Mt/year out of which only 130Mt/year is being captured and used in the fertilizer industry.
  • Much of the hydrogen produced is used for oil refining (33%), ammonia (27%), methanol production (11%), steel production via DRI (3%) and others.

India and hydrogen economy:

  • Currently, India consumes about 6 million metric tonnes of grey hydrogen per annum, which is about 8.5 per cent of the global hydrogen demand.
  • India has a huge edge in green hydrogen productionowing to its favourable geographic conditions and presence of abundant natural elements.
  • The government has given impetus in scaling up the gas pipeline infrastructureacross the length and breadth of the country, and has introduced reforms for the power grid, including the introduction of smart grids. Such steps are being taken to effectively integrate renewable energy in the present energy mix.
  • Capacity addition to renewable power generation, storage and transmission, producing green hydrogen in India can become cost effectivewhich will not only guarantee energy security, but also ensure self-sufficiency gradually.
  • In rural India, where there is no access to the grid, the use of hydrogen can provide energy services.
  • India’s goal of attaining 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 and to decarbonise by 2050 got an impetus in the Union Budget 2021-22.
  • In October 2020, Delhi became the first Indian city to operate Hydrogen-enrichedCNG (H-CNG) buses in a six-month pilot project.
  • The Government of India is planning to focus on five key areas: (a)Research and Development (b) Demand creation (c) how to use it in the industry (d) how to create an eco-system (e) how to bring it on board along with international partnerships.

Policy Challenges:

  • One of the biggest challenges faced by the industry for using hydrogen commercially is the economic sustainability of extracting green or blue hydrogen.
  • The technology used in production and use of hydrogen like Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)and hydrogen fuel cell technology are at nascent stage and are expensive which in turn increases the cost of production of hydrogen.
  • Maintenance costsfor fuel cells post-completion of a plant can be costly.
  • The commercial usage of hydrogen as a fuel and in industries requires mammoth investment in R&D of such technology and infrastructurefor production, storage, transportation and demand creation for hydrogen.

Measures needed to kick-start Hydrogen Economy in India:

  • At this juncture, with a calibrated approach, India can uniquely position itself to take advantage with increasing investment in R&D, capacity building, compatible legislation, and the opportunity for creation of demandamong its vast population. Such initiatives can propel India to become the most favoured nation by exporting hydrogen to its neighbors and beyond.
  • Proactive industry collaboration with the government is key to creating a hydrogen economy in India.
  • This will help bring best-in-class hydrogen technology, equipment, and know-how to create a hydrogen supply chain in India — in many cases, these could be “Made in India”.
  • By prioritising national hydrogen demonstration projects, innovations to further reduce the cost of hydrogen will become prominent locally.
  • A robust policy framework akin to the one that guided the country’s solar revolution could lead to an increase in production and demand of this green fuel.
  • The Government of India should consider setting up a multi-agency mission to bring multiple ministries, private industry and academia together in a partnership to scale up the deployment of hydrogen across sectors and industries.
  • Having a clear mid-term and long-term target inspires confidence in the private sector to make their investments in a new energy source.
  • Tax benefits that solar and wind receive should be extended to all players in the green hydrogen ecosystem.
  • In the short term, the price of hydrogen generated through steam methane reformation should be capped.
  • Generating hydrogen from biomass should also be incentivised as it also has the potential to increase farmer incomes.
  • India should ramp up international collaborations for more effortless transfer of technology and resources related to hydrogen.
  • Low solar prices coupled with pragmatic policies can help India take a leadership position in driving the global hydrogen economy.

Conclusion

Green hydrogen is one of the most promising fuels in the efforts to reduce carbon emissions. Green hydrogen energy is vital for India to meet its Nationally Determined Contributions and ensure regional and national energy security, access and availability. Hydrogen can act as an energy storage option, which would be essential to meet intermittencies (of renewable energy) in the future.


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