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16th December 2020 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Content

  1. Punjab, Haryana need to look beyond MSP crops
  2. From a digital India to a digital Bharat
  3. Defending the last bastion

Editorial: Punjab, Haryana need to look beyond MSP crops

Context:

In tackling agri-crises, these core Green Revolution States must shift to high value crops and promote non-farm activities.

Relevance:

GS Paper 3: Farm subsidies and MSP and issues therein (direct and indirect); PDS (objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping, issues of buffer stocks & food security)

Mains Questions:

  1. The traditional Green Revolution States of Punjab and Haryana would need to shed “business as usual” approach and embrace an innovative development strategy in agriculture and non-agriculture to secure and improve the future of farming and rural youth. Elaborate. 15 Marks
  2. The solution to the ecological, environmental and economic challenges facing agriculture in the traditional Green Revolution States is not in legalising MSP but to shift from MSP crops to high value crops and in the promotion of non-farm activities. Discuss 15 Marks

Dimensions:

  • What is Green Revolution?
  • What is the significance of Green Revolution?
  • Challenges related to Green Revolution
  • Measures to address agri crisis
  • Way Forward

What is Green Revolution?

The Green Revolution was a period when the productivity of global agriculture increased drastically as a result of new advances. During this time period, new chemical fertilizers and synthetic herbicides and pesticides were created.

  • The chemical fertilizers made it possible to supply crops with extra nutrients and, therefore, increase yield.
  • The newly developed synthetic herbicides and pesticides controlled weeds, deterred or kill insects, and prevented diseases, which also resulted in higher productivity.

What are the significance of Green Revolution?

  • Increased Agriculture Production: The production of wheat increased from around 24 Million tonnes in 1970-71 to around 96 Million tonnes in 2013-14, and the production of rice increased from around 31 Million tonnes in 1965-66 to around 106 Million tonnes in 2013-14.
  • The prosperity of Farmers: Earning of farmer increased with the increase in production which also helped to reduce the productivity.
  • Releasing stress on CAD: Current Account Deficit has reduced due to lower import of food grains.
  • Dispersal of Rice and Wheat cultivation to non-traditional areas: Green Revolution spread the Rice cultivation to the semi-arid areas of Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh, and the wheat cultivation has spread to the areas of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and some parts of Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Bengal.
  • Industrial Growth: Due to the large-scale mechanisation which was brought by Green Revolution, demand for different types of machines like tractors, harvesters, combines etc increased and along with increased demand in fertilizers, insecticide, pesticide etc, the growth spurt in the industries producing these items.
  • Rural Employment: Large no. of farm labourer migrated from the areas like Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar to Punjab, where they got better employment opportunities.

Challenges related to Green Revolution:

  • Demand-Supply Mismatch: In India, the per capita intake of rice and wheat is declining and consumers’ preference is shifting towards other foods. It may look strange that the average spending by urban consumers is more on beverage and spices than on all cereals. On the supply side, rice production is rising at the rate of 14% per year in Madhya Pradesh, 10% in Jharkhand and 7% in Bihar.
  • Lack of competitive Market: Procurement of almost the entire market arrivals of rice and wheat at MSP for more than 50 years has affected the entrepreneurial skills of farmers to sell their produce in a competitive market where prices are determined by demand and supply and competition.
  • Promoting Monocrops: Procurement of marketed surplus of paddy (rice) and wheat at Minimum Support Price (MSP) completely insulated farmers against any price or market risks. Over time, the technological advantage of rice and wheat over other competing crops further increased as public sector agriculture research and development allocated their best resources and scientific manpower to these two crops.
    • Green Revolution has snatched areas from crops like coarse cereals, pulses and oilseeds and at the same time, major commercial crops like Cotton, Jute, Sugarcane, Tea are also almost untouched by it.
  • Regional Disparities: According to some estimates Green Revolution benefitted only 40% of the total crop area and 60% is still untouched by it, this has given rise to regional disparities. The benefitted areas include Punjab, Haryana, Western UP in Northern India and Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu in South India.
  • Rise in interpersonal disparities: Big farmers who own 10 hectares or more land, are benefitted most from the Green Revolution, as they have more financial resources to buy better seeds, fertilizers and other required inputs. Thus, the green revolution made rich richer and left the poor poorer, which resulted in widespread social and economic tensions.
  • Unemployment: Except in Punjab, and to some extent in Haryana, Green Revolution induced Farm Mechanisation has created widespread unemployment among the rural labourers.
  • Ecological issues: Ecological problems like Soli Salinity, Alkalinity, Waterlogging, Desertification, Soil Erosion.
  • Depletion of Underground Water: The biggest casualty of paddy cultivation and the policy of free power for pumping out groundwater for irrigation is this: the depletion of groundwater resources. In the last decade, the water table has shown a decline in 84% observation wells in Punjab and 75% in Haryana. It is feared that Punjab and Haryana will run out of groundwater after some years if the current rate of overexploitation of water is not reversed.
  • Deforestation: Green Revolution heartland like Punjab and Haryana are almost devoid of the forest with around 3% of forest area in both while UP is having slightly more than 5% area under the forest.
  • Environmental Pollution: Indiscriminate use of chemicals has led to environmental pollution as some of the chemicals enter the water by getting dissolved in it and pollute both surface and groundwater. Moreover, the chemicals enter into the soil and destroy useful microorganisms.

Measures:

The government should give impetus to 2nd green revolution, which will help to address the issues from 1st green revolution:

  • Micro-irrigation System: It enables optimal synergies of 3 components of Green Revolution-improved seed, water and fertilizer.
  • Organic Farming
  • Precision Farming: It is concerned with using fewer resources and reducing the production cost, by analysing the variation in various aspects of field and environment like- weather, Soil, vegetation, water etc.
  • Green Agriculture: A system of agriculture based upon, integrated pest management, integrated nutrient management and it does not eliminate the use of minimum quantities of fertilizer and chemical pesticides.

Way Forward:

  • The solution to the ecological, environmental and economic challenges facing agriculture in the traditional Green Revolution States is not in legalising MSP but to shift from MSP crops to high value crops and in the promotion of non-farm activities.
  • Rather than focusing on a few enterprises, Punjab and Haryana should look at a large number of area-specific enterprises to avoid gluts. This will require a mechanism to cover price and market risks. Farmers’ groups and farmer producer organisations can play a significant role in the direct marketing of their produce.

Editorial: From a digital India to a digital Bharat

Context:

he government on Sunday approved a framework for the proliferation of public Wi-Fi networks through PM Wi-Fi Access Network Interface or PM WANI scheme. The initiative aims to elevate wireless internet connectivity in the country.

Relevance:

GS Paper 2: E-Governance (applications, models, successes, limitations, potential)

GS Paper 3: Digital Infrastructure

Mains Questions:

  1. The PM-WANI project seems to fit within the framework of an evolving decentralised concept to bridge the e-divide. Discuss. 15 Marks
  2. The true measure of digital nations is the readiness of governments to use technology to create open, participatory public systems that citizens consider trustworthy. 15 marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • What is the PM-WANI?
  • Structure of PM-WANI
  • Importance of PM-WANI
  • Challenges
  • Way Forward

What is the PM-WANI?

PM Wi-Fi Access Network Interface or PM WANI scheme aims to elevate wireless internet connectivity in the country. This would entail a complete framework involving multiple elements — Public Data Office (PDO), Public Data Office Aggregators and app providers.

  • No licence, no registration, and no fee would be applicable for the PDOs, which could be small shops or even Common Service Centres.
  • The government will also develop an app to register users and discover the WANI-compliant Wi-Fi hotspots in the nearby area and display them for accessing internet service.

Structure of PM-WANI:

There are three important actors here:

  • First is the Public Data Office (PDO): The PDO can be anyone, and it is clear that along with Internet infrastructure, the government also sees this as a way to generate revenue for individuals and small shopkeepers. It is important to note that PDOs will not require registration of any kind, thus easing the regulatory burden on them.
  • Second is the PDOA: who is basically the aggregator who will buy bandwidth from Internet service provider (ISPs) and telecom companies and sell it to PDOs, while also accounting for data used by all PDOs.
  • Finally, the app provider: who will create an app through which users can access and discover the Wi-Fi access points.

Importance of PM-WANI

  • Reducing Digital Divide: This can help to bridge the increasing digital divide in India. Recently, the NITI Aayog chief executive officer had said that India can create $1 trillion of economic value using digital technology by 2025.
  • Improving Accessibility: Through PM-WANI, anyone living in their house, a paan shop owner or a tea seller can all provide public Wi-Fi hot posts, and where anyone within range can access it.
  • Making Internet as affordable to People: anyone living in their house, a paan shop owner or a tea seller can all provide public Wi-Fi hot posts, and where anyone within range can access it.
  • Making Internet Available: PM-WANI allows anyone — a kirana shop owner, a tea-stall vendor, or a Common Service Centre — to resell internet to its customers without a licence and without fees! By installing a wireless router, they can get on the PM-WANI network and start selling connectivity.
  • Reduce the pressure on mobile Internet: Going back to the India Internet report, it shows that 99% of all users in India access the Internet on mobile, and about 88% are connected on the 4G network. This leads to a situation where everyone is connected to a limited network, which is getting overloaded and resulting in bad speed and quality of Internet access.
  • Change the fortunes of Bharat Net: Bharat Net envisions broadband connectivity in all villages in India. The project has missed multiple deadlines, and even where the infrastructure has been created, usage data is not enough to incentivise ISPs to use Bharat Net infra to provide services. One of the reasons for the lack of demand is the deficit in digital literacy in India.
  • Fast, Convenient and Cost-Effective Service Delivery: With the advent of e-Service delivery, the government can provide information and services at lesser costs, in reduced time and with greater convenience.
  • Transparency, Accountability and Reduced Corruption: Dissemination of information through PM-WANI increases transparency, ensures accountability and prevents corruption.
  • Expanded Reach of Governance: Expansion of telephone network, rapid strides in mobile telephony, spread of internet and strengthening of other communications infrastructure would facilitate delivery of number of public services.
  • Addressing issue of Digital Literacy: The PM-WANI seems to fit within this framework, simply because it seeks to make accessing the Internet as easy as having tea at a chai shop. This is not a substitute for the abysmal digital literacy efforts of the government, but will definitely help.

Challenges related to PM-WANI:

  • Privacy:  A large-scale study conducted at public Wi-Fi spots in 15 airports across the United States, Germany, Australia, and India discovered that two thirds of users leak private information whilst accessing the Internet.
  • Data Protection: The TRAI report recommends that ‘community interest’ data be stored locally, raising questions about data protection in a scenario where the country currently does not have a data protection law in place.

Way Forward:

With the PM-WANI, the state is expanding the reach of digital transformation to those who have been excluded till now. It is a game-changer because it has the potential to move Digital India to Digital Bharat.


Editorial: Defending the last bastion

Context:

Recently, Ministry of Defence (MoD) created the post of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) to provide “effective leadership at the top level” to the three wings of the armed forces.

Relevance:

GS Paper 3: Security Forces

Mains Questions:

  1. Indian armed forces must prepare personnel to shoulder responsibilities at all levels of new unified commands. Discuss. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • About Chief of Defence Staff
  • The functions of the Chief of Defence Staff.
  • The significance of Chief of Defence.
  • Conclusion

About Chief of Defence Staff

In 2011, the Naresh Chandra Committee on defence and security suggested a watered-down version of the CDS proposal. Shekatkar Committee which submitted its report in 2016 also opined for CDS, having recommendations pertaining to tri-service integration.

  • The post of Chief of Defence Staff created in the rank of a four-star General with salary and perquisites equivalent to a Service Chief.
  • CDS will act as the principal military adviser to the defence minister on all tri-services matters. The three Chiefs will continue to advise Defence Minister on matters exclusively concerning their respective Services.
  • CDS will not exercise any military command, including over the three Service Chiefs, so as to be able to provide impartial advice to the political leadership.
  • He will serve as the permanent chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC) which comprises the three service chiefs.

As the Permanent Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee, CDS will perform the following functions:

  • CDS will administer tri-services organisations including those related to Cyber and Space.
  • Be a member of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by the Defence Minister and the Defence Planning Committee headed by National Security Advisor
  • Function as the Military Adviser to the Nuclear Command Authority.
  • Implement the five-year Defence Capital Acquisition Plan (DCAP) and the two-year roll on Annual Acquisition Plans as a follow up of the Integrated Capability Development Plan.

The significance of the Chief of Defence Staff

  • Improving existing commend structure: India has had a feeble equivalent to CDS, known as the Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee (CoSC), where the senior most among the three Service Chiefs is appointed as head. However, the CoSC arrangement has been often cited “unsatisfactory”, and its Chairman as a “figurehead”, therefore could not further tri-service integration, resulting in inefficiency and an expensive duplication of assets.
  • To weed out the policy paralysis: Major deficiency of the planning process led to lack of inter- and intra-service prioritization, duplication of efforts, and sub-optimal utilization of resources. The CDS could be entrusted with the task of defense planning, subject to overall guidance and directions from the Defense Planning Committee.
  • Improving co-ordination between the Government and Armed forces: The KRC Report pointed out that in India, the armed forces headquarters is outside the apex governmental structure, therefore, the top executives do not have the benefit of the views and expertise of military commanders, which hurts India’s position in critical war like situations.
  • To further defense diplomacy: Presently, the crucial aspect of defense diplomacy is being conducted in an ad-hoc manner without an overarching policy direction from the Ministry of Defense. It would be ideal if the CDS is made responsible for all aspects of defense diplomacy, subject to clear policy guidelines from the government.
  • Speed up capital procurement: The armed forces play a vital role in arms procurement. The CDS would be ideally suited to have larger delegated financial powers, over and above those exercised at the lower level, to expedite the procurement process.

Conclusion

In the fast-changing security and defence environment, the country expects a payoff in the form of leaner and meaner forces, who will obtain synergy through planning, training and executing joint operations. Thus appointment of CDS is undoubtedly a bold and decisive step in reforming India’s higher defence management.

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