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14th December 2020 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. Hazardous ideas for the Himalayas
  2. WHO’S AFRAID OF WOMEN
  3. AGRI REFORMS 3: THE ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2020


Editorial: Hazardous ideas for the Himalayas

Context:

China and India have been competing with each other to build hydroelectric dams in an ecologically fragile and seismically vulnerable area.

Relevance:

GS Paper 3: Environmental conservation; Environmental pollution and degradation; Environmental Impact Assessment

Mains Questions:

  1. By planning hydropower projects, India and China are placing the Himalayan region at great risk. Discuss. 15 Marks
  2. Define the concept of carrying capacity of an ecosystem as relevant to an environment. Explain how understanding this concept is vital while planning for sustainable development of a region.

Dimensions of the Article:

  • About Himalayan Biodiversity
  • Significance of the Himalayan Ecosystem
  • Threats related to Himalayan Biodiversity
  • Steps taken to conserve the Himalayan Biodiversity
  • Way Forward

About Himalayan Biodiversity

  • Himalayas form about 12% of the country’s landmass and is home to about 30.16% of it fauna and 31.6% of its flora.
  • In, India, Himalayas is spread over six states – Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, West Bengal and Arunachal Pradesh. • It is divided into two bio-geographic zones namely – Trans-Himalayas and Himalayas based on the physiographic, climatic and eco-biological attributes.
  • Himalayas is endowed with a varied biodiversity from alluvial grasslands to subtropical broadleaf forest, mixed conifers and conifer forests in higher hills and alpine meadows above the tree line.
  • Himalayas has high species diversity and endemism and is one of the hotspots located in India.
  • Himalayas has over 131 protected areas which include 20 national parks, 71 wildlife sanctuaries, five tiger reserves, four biosphere reserves and 7 Ramsar Sites.
Himalayan Biodiversity: Trans-boundary Conservation Institution and  Governance | SpringerLink

Significance of the Himalayan Ecosystem

The Himalayas are the body and soul of India. In a very special measure, the Himalayas constitute India’s national mountain system. The following few points will bring out the significance of the Himalayan Mountains to India.

  • Climatic Influence: The Himalayas play a very significant role in influencing the climate of India. By virtue of their high altitude, length and direction, they effectively intercept the summer monsoons coming from the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea and cause precipitation in the form of rain or snow.
  • Defence: The Himalayas have been protecting India from outside invaders since the early times thus serving as a defence barrier. But the Chinese aggression on India in October, 1962 has reduced the defence significance of the Himalayas to a considerable extent.
  • Source of Rivers: Almost all the great rivers of India have their sources in the Himalayan ranges. Abundant rainfall and vast snow-fields as well as large glaciers are the feeding grounds of the mighty rivers of India.
  • Fertile Soil: The great rivers and their tributaries carry enormous quantities of alluvium while descending from the Himalayas. This is deposited in the Great Plain of North India in the form of fertile soil, making the plain one of the most fertile lands of the world.
  • Hydroelectricity: The Himalayan region offers several sites which can be used for producing hydroelectricity. There are natural waterfalls at certain places while dams can be constructed across rivers at some other places. The vast power potential of the Himalayan Rivers still awaits proper utilisation.
  • Forest Wealth: The Himalayan ranges are very rich in forest resources. In their altitude, the Himalayan ranges show a succession of vegetal cover from the tropical to the Alpine. The Himalayan forests provide fuel wood and a large variety of raw materials for forest based industries.
  • Agriculture: The Himalayas do not offer extensive flat lands for agriculture but some of the slopes are terraced for cultivation. Rice is the main crop on the terraced slopes. The other crops are wheat, maize, potatoes, tobacco and ginger. Tea is a unique crop which can be grown on the hill slopes only.
  • Tourism: By virtue of their scenic beauty and healthy environment, the Himalayan ranges have developed a large number of tourist spots. The hilly areas in the Himalayas offer cool and comfortable climate when the neighbouring plains are reeling under the scorching heat of the summer season.
  • Minerals: The Himalayan region contains many valuable minerals. There are vast potentialities of mineral oil in the tertiary rocks. Coal is found in Kashmir. Copper, lead, zinc, nickel, cobalt, antimony, tungsten, gold, silver, limestone, semi-precious and precious stones, gypsum and magnesite are known to occur at more than 100 localities in the Himalayas.

Threats faced by Himalayan Biodiversity

  • Climate Change and Global Warming – It is one of the biggest threat faced by many threatened species of vertebrates and mammals and is evident from the shifting distribution of certain species such as Asiatic Black Bear, Snow Leopard etc.
  • Poaching – Illegal trade in some of the flagship species such as snow leopard, tigers etc. Has led to uncontrollable poaching and killing of wild animals for trade.
  • Human – Animal Conflict – The retaliatory killing by the farmers and villagers is also a major threat.
  • Habitat loss and Receding glaciers due to climate change – Climate change has many associated impact on an ecosystem which leads to changed precipitation pattern and change in mean temperature. This results in loss of endemic plants species and loss of glaciers in the Himalayas.
  • Unregulated harvesting of Himalayan Herbs – Some of the Himalayan herbs have medicinal qualities such as Himalayan trillium, due to which they are extensively harvested combined with grazing of cattle leads to their vulnerability and possible extinction.
  • Alien Species – Alien species are a threat to endemic species because they grow unchecked and do not have natural predators such as lantana camara.
  • Natural threats – Threats such as landslides and shifting river course also impact the natural vegetation and faunal diversity.
  • Encroachment: There is increasing population pressure seen in terms of extension of agricultural land, exploitation of forests for timber, fodder and fuel wood, intensive grazing. These are the major factors contributing to the habitat loss of various flora and fauna.
  • Infrastructure Development: The competition to develop economy, increasing urbanisation, attaining energy security, connecting remote areas intrudes massively in the natural ecosystem of the Himalayan region.
  • Waste Disposal: Human populations, their habitat, discharge from the industries in Himalayan regions give rise to unimaginable non-biodegradable wastes and toxics. These foreign substances enter in the local food chain and through bioaccumulation and biomagnifications completely alter the natural ecosystems.
  • Political reasons: Insurgencies, wars, military operations and presence of war zone along India’s Pakistan and China Border cause destruction of forests and the biodiversity.
  • Ceasing the conservation effort: Down listing the species from ‘endangered’ to only ‘vulnerable’ signals that the species does not require the same amount of attention and resources as before

Steps taken to conserve the Himalayan Biodiversity

  • Secure Himalaya Program – The project aims to:
    • Sustain critical ecosystem services (such as fresh water, erosion reduction, mineral resources, land for food crops, medicinal plants, etc.)
    • conserve vulnerable snow leopards and other endangered species by securing community livelihoods, enhancing enforcement, strengthening community institutions,
    • Improving knowledge, advocacy and information systems for promoting landscape-based conservation approaches.
  • The National Mission for Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem (NMSHE)- is one of the eight missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). It is a multi-pronged, cross-cutting mission across various sectors. It contributes to the sustainable development of the country by enhancing the understanding of climate change, its likely impacts and adaptation actions required for the Himalayas- a region on which a significant proportion of India’s population depends for sustenance.

Way Forward:

In a recent article in Nature, Maharaj K. Pandit, a Himalayan ecologist, says in recent years, the Himalayas have seen the highest rate of deforestation and land use changes. He suggests that the upper Himalayas should be converted into a nature reserve by an international agreement. He also says the possibility of a Himalayan River Commission involving all the headwater and downstream countries needs to be explored.


WHO’S AFRAID OF WOMEN

Context:

Patriarchal societies seem to perpetually find themselves in a precarious position, where the line between order and disorder is dangerously blurred.

Relevance:

GS Paper 1: Role of women and women’s organisation;

Mains Questions:

  1. Campaigns against inter-community relationships are a way to redirect anxieties over large-scale structural disruptions. Discuss. 15 Marks
  2. How does patriarchy impact the position of a middle class working woman in India? 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is Patriarchy?
  • Impact of patriarchy upon women
  • Measures taken by the Government
  • Way Forward

What id Patriarchy?

Patriarchy represents a natural order for a society defined by it. A social system that places men, women and other genders in hierarchies learns to perceive the plurality of genders as unnatural and views women with suspicion. Since people have only been socialised to see this hierarchy as natural, they remain attuned to the possibility of it crumbling any moment and fear any potential sign of anarchy. Lack of control over women’s sexuality is an example of such anarchy that concerns not only the women’s so-called guardians but the society at large

The concept of patriarchy is important for an analysis of gender inequality in society. Patriarchy is composed of six structures:

  • The patriarchal mode of production: This exist in households where housewives are the producing class and husbands are the expropriating class
  • Patriarchal relations in paid work: It exclude women from better types of work, assigning them those considered as requiring less skill.
  • Patriarchal relations in state: The state also is patriarchal in nature which shows in its actions and policies.
  • Male violence:  Male violence is often legitimized by the state which refuses to intervene against it or does little to end it.
  • Patriarchal relations in sexuality:
  • Patriarchal relations in cultural institutions.

Wably defines patriarchy as “a system of social structures, and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women”.

Towards a feminist understanding of intersecting violence against women and  children in the family - ScienceDirect

Impact of patriarchy upon women

  • Dual burden of work: With the rise of economic wellbeing in the post 1990s India, women have found themselves increasingly getting employed outside home. However there liberty has come in a form where they have to do household work combined with office work, due to nuclearization of family and high labour cost.
  • Corporate Glass ceiling: Owing to patriarchal expectation of looking after children and doing household chores lead to affecting the mobility of women in corporate ladder.
  • Limited job venues: The freedom to choose one’s occupation is severely eclipsed for women, where in recent times they are largely confined to service sector, more commonly known as pink sector which includes Sales jobs, Information and technology, customer care, and others.
  • Wage gap: Despite equivalent qualification for a job like man, women often bear the brunt of patriarchy in the form of low pay.
  • Safety issue: Work often requires constant spatial mobility, which in the wake of increased cases of violence against women, discourages them to take employment in the first place, and further dampening India’s low women’s labour-force participation rates
  • Cost involved: To make work environment conducive for women, government has passed legislations for increased maternity leaves, provisions for crèche facility, committee to protect women from sexual offences among others. All these legislation though try to insulate the harmful effect of patriarchy has in turn increased the cost of employing women compared to men.

Measures taken by the Government:

  • Setting up Nodal Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD), to give the much-needed impetus to the holistic development of women and children. Two Statutory Commissions have been established to safeguard the constitutional and legal rights of women and Children, namely: 1. National Commission for Women (NCW) 2. National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR).
  • Programme and Schematic Intervention: The Government has been implementing number of schemes and programmes for creating an enabling environment for women and also children. Such as,
    • Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS),
    • Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) for pregnant and lactating women to improve their health and nutrition status,
    • Support to Training & Employment programme for Women (STEP) scheme to ensure sustainable employment and income generation.
    • Ujjwala scheme is implemented for prevention of Trafficking and Commercial Sexual Exploitation.
  • Mechanisms for Convergence: Convergence is the key to effective implementation of Ministry’s programmes. For example: To improve Child Sex Ratio and empowering the Girl Child (Beti Bachao Beti Padhao) a joint schematic initiative of Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Human Resource Development with MoWCD.
  • Gender Budgeting Initiatives: GoI introduced a Gender Budget Statement as part of the Union Budget, as an important tool for reporting allocations for women and provides an indication of the funds flowing to them. To institutionalise this Gender Budgeting Cells (GBCs) in all Ministries / Departments was set up.
  • National Policy for the Empowerment of Women 2001: Aimed at bringing about advancement, development and empowerment of women in all spheres of life through creation of a more responsive judicial and legal system sensitive to women and mainstreaming a gender perspective in the development process.

Way Forward

Though the values of patriarchy still looms on India’s landscape, however owing to increased education and economic prosperity among women in particular and in society in general, the condition of women is rapidly improving. All this is making India an inclusive society in true sense


AGRI REFORMS 3: THE ESSENTIAL COMMODITIES (AMENDMENT) ACT, 2020

Context:

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020 allows intra-state and inter-state trade of farmers’ produce beyond the physical premises of APMC markets.  State governments are prohibited from levying any market fee, cess

Relevance:

GS Paper 3: storage, transport & marketing of agro-produce and related issues & constraints; Economics of animal-rearing

Mains Questions

  1. What are the impediments in marketing and supply chain management in industry in India? Can e-commerce help in overcoming these bottlenecks? 15 marks

Important Provisions of the Act

  • Regulation of food items: The Act provides that the central government may regulate the supply of certain food items including cereals, pulses, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds, and oils, only under extraordinary circumstances. These include: (I) war, (ii) famine, (iii) extraordinary price rise and (iv) natural calamity of grave nature.
  • The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 empowered the central government to designate certain commodities (such as food items, fertilizers, and petroleum products) as essential commodities. The central government may regulate or prohibit the production, supply, distribution, trade, and commerce of such essential commodities.
  • Stock limit: The Act requires that imposition of any stock limit on agricultural produce must be based on price rise. A stock limit may be imposed only if there is:
    • a 100% increase in retail price of horticultural produce;
    • a 50% increase in the retail price of non-perishable agricultural food items.
  • The increase in price will be calculated over the price prevailing immediately preceding 12 months, or the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower.

Advantages of the Act

  • Ends harassment of Businessmen and traders: Governments had restrictions on hoarding on food commodities and could seize any excess stocks maintained by the traders. This resulted in widespread harassment of traders and rent-seeking behavior. Now with the new Act, inventories can be managed without such interference.
  • Helps reduce wastage as storage facilities improve: Despite India losing a third of the agri. produce postharvest, businesses found it difficult to devise solutions to decrease that loss, mainly due to the regulation.
  • Likely to attract private investment in Cold Storage, warehouses and processing: These reforms may accelerate growth in the sector through private sector investment in building infrastructure and supply chains for farm produce.
  • Will bring price stability and raise farm incomes: Exempting selected commodities from ECA will improve the marketability of the crop for growers. Processors, exporters and traders will now be able to build inventory without fear of penal action.

Issues related to the Act

  • Some experts fear that the Act would effectively legalize hoarding, as licenses will no longer be required to trade in these commodities.
  • Such a situation can lead to anti-competitive behavior by particular buyers in the food chains.
  • Complete deregulation of these commodities could lead to dangerous situation of food supply problems during extraordinary circumstances as the Government will have no information on who the players are, and the levels of stocks are not clear.

Way Forward:

  • The existing policy framework with excessive focus on inflation management and obsession with fiscal deficit will likely lead to lower support from the government either in price stabilisation or reduction in cost of cultivation through fiscal spending.
  • The agricultural sector needs comprehensive policy overhaul to recognise the new challenges of agriculture which is diversifying and getting integrated with the non-agricultural sector.
  •  Above all, it requires fiscal support and institutional structures to support the agricultural sector and protect it. In the absence of these, any rhetoric of doubling farmers’ income is only wishful thinking.
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