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2nd March 2021 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. The vital but delicate task of reviving the Iran deal
  2. Revising Food Security Act: why, how, and implications for Centre, states

Editorial: The vital but delicate task of reviving the Iran deal


  • Of all the foreign policy challenges facing the Joe Biden administration, none is more critical than salvaging the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, or the Iran nuclear deal) that has been unravelling over the last three years when Donald Trump unilaterally discarded it.


  • GS Paper 2: Effect of Policies & Politics of Developed and Developing countries on India

Mains Questions:

  1. Time is running out for the Joe Biden administration, but there is an opportunity for Brussels to take a lead role. In this context discuss the significance of The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

U.S. policy reversal

  • The JCPOA was the result of prolonged negotiations from 2013 and 2015 between Iran and P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union, or the EU).
    • It happened, thanks to the back channel talks between the U.S. and Iran, quietly brokered by Oman, in an attempt to repair the accumulated mistrust since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
  • Former U.S. President Barack Obama described the JCPOA as his greatest diplomatic success. Iran was then estimated to be months away from accumulating enough highly enriched uranium to produce one nuclear device.
  • The JCPOA obliged Iran to accept constraints on its enrichment programme verified by an intrusive inspection regime in return for a partial lifting of economic sanctions.

USA-Iran tussle and India

USA had decided to withdraw from 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reinstated sanctions on Iran, citing following reasons:

  • It was alleged that Iran was placing restrictions on the work of the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • The deal did not target Iran’s ballistic missile programme, its nuclear activities beyond 2025.
  • Iran’s role in conflicts in Yemen and Syria.
  • Also, analysts point to Tehran’s banking on Paris and Berlin to come up with an alternative arrangement, one that allows Europe and Iran to conduct trade, business and diplomacy, a major cause of concern for US.

Implications of sanctions:

Implications for India

  • Impact on India Iran relations:
    • Energy trade: In 2017, Iran provided 11.2 percent of India’s crude oil imports, the third largest source after Iraq and Saudi Arabia.. India’s oil imports from Iran fell about 57 per cent year-on year since the sanctions came into effect. This shows impermanence in Oil import arrangement of India-Iran jeopardising the energy security of India.
    • Strategic initiatives with Iran- such as International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), Chabahar port development.
  • Negative impact on the economy-
    • Rising inflation- Iran is the third-largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Now Iran’s supplies may fall by between 200,000 bpd and 1 million bpd. The price of oil has already shot up above the $70 mark in April, 2019.
    • Widening Current Account Deficit- given that the value of imports goes up with crude oil. It will further have effect on the value of Rupee, which may fall further.
    • Impact on Capital Markets- Indian benchmark indices slid by around 1.3%, as investors rushed to sell shares on concerns that rising oil prices could stoke inflation and adversely affect already repressed consumption.
    • Loss of favorable oil import- the substitute crude suppliers — Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Nigeria and the US — do not offer the attractive options that Iran does, including 60-day credit, free insurance and buying oil using Indian Rupee rather than spending crucial FOREX reserves.
  • Strategic Autonomy- India envisages to assert it and balance the ties with both US and Iran. However, this seems to be eroding in favour of the US.

Impact on Iran:

  • Fossil fuels contributed more than 53 percent of Iran’s exports in 2017-18, and accounted for close to 15 percent of its Gross Domestic Product. The U.S. has managed to reduce Iran’s oil exports from 2.7 million to 1.6 million barrels a month, according to internal U.S. estimates. 

Bliss for China:

The one country that has decided to take the sanctions as an opportunity is China. It has already shown interest in developing transportation and communication infrastructure in Iran.

  • China’s share in the destination for 44 percent of Iranian crude exports, significantly rose from 26 percent in January-June.
  • This is crucial in Beijing’s aim to reshape the global oil market, specifically by greater use of its own currency in oil trade. It fits in conveniently with Iran’s proposed approach to circumventing the sanctions – conducting trade in currencies other than the US Dollar.

Way Forward

The IAEA and the E-3/EU should work on a parallel reversal of steps taken by Iran to ensure full compliance with the JCPOA. Brussels has long wanted to be taken seriously as an independent foreign policy actor; it now has the opportunity to take a lead role.

Editorial: Revising Food Security Act: why, how, and implications for Centre, states


  • The NITI Aayog recently circulated a discussion paper on a proposed revision in the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013. A look at the move and its implications.


  • GS Paper 3: PDS (objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping, issues of buffer stocks & food security)

Mains Questions:

  1. What are the reformative steps taken by the government to make food grain distribution system more effective? 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article

  • Salient Features of the NFSA
  • Challenges to Food Security
  • NFSA Criticisms
  • Way Forward

Salient Features of the NFSA

The major features of the Act are described below:

  • Coverage: The state-wise coverage was determined by the NITI Aayog based on the 2011-12 Household Consumption Expenditure survey of NSSO. 
  • The Act legally entitled up to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population to receive subsidized foodgrain under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).
  • About two-thirds of the population, therefore, is covered under the Act to receive highly subsidized foodgrains.
  • Entitlements: 
    • The food grains would be provided at highly subsidized prices under the Public Distribution System.
    • The Act ensures nutritional support to women and children. Pregnant and lactating women would be entitled to nutritious meals, free of charge under the MDM and ICDS schemes.
    • Children in the age group of 6-14 years would also be entitled to free nutritious meals under the MDM and ICDS schemes.
    • Maternity benefit of not less than Rs.6000 is also provided to pregnant women and lactating mothers.
    • The Act also empowers women by identifying the eldest woman of the household as the head of the household to issue ration cards.
  • The Central Government aids the States to meet the expenditure incurred by them on transportation of foodgrains within the State and also handles the Fair Price Shop (FPS) dealers’ margins according to the norms.
  • There is a provision of a food security allowance to the beneficiaries in the event of non-supply of food grains.
  • Transparency: Provisions have been made to disclose the records related to the PDS to ensure transparency.

Challenges to Food Security

There are a plethora of challenges to battle food security, a few of them are:

  • Climate Change: the increase in the global temperatures and the capricious rainfall makes farming difficult. A change in the temperatures not only impacts the crops but the other species which are reared for food such as fisheries, livestock, etc.
  • Lack of Access: there is a lack of access to remote areas. The tribals and other communities living in remote areas do not get the opportunity to avail of the benefits of the schemes implemented for food security due to lack of access.
  • Over-population: A substantial increase in the population when not accompanied by an increase in agricultural production results in a shortage of food.
  • Non-food crops: crops grown for commercial purposes such as biofuels and dyes have reduced the area under cultivation for crops.
  • Migration from Rural-Urban cities: This causes a problem as it leads to a lot of confusion as to which PDS shop to buy the subsidies from.

NFSA Criticisms

The effective implementation of the NFSA remains with the states/UTs and as governance differs from state to state, the effectiveness of the implementation would also differ in each state.

  • Lack of Transparency: According to a Comptroller and Auditor General conducted in 2016, the wrong people were benefiting from the NFSA.
  • It accuses many states of implementing the NFSA despite owning the information that their beneficiaries list is spurious. 
  • Leakages in PDS: a leakage indicates that the food grains do not reach the intended beneficiaries. The leakages may be of three types:
    • pilferage during transportation of food grains
    • diversion at fair price shops to non-beneficiaries and,
    • exclusion of entitled beneficiaries from the list.
  • Storage: According to the CAG audit, the available storage space was inadequate for the allocated quantity of food grains.
  • Quality of food grains: people often complain that the quality of the food grains is not up to the mark and that the grains sometimes have to be mixed with other grains to be edible. Complaints stating that the grains also consist of non-food particles such as pebbles have also been registered.

A critical point in debate over NFSA is that it doesn’t guarantee a universal right to food.

Way Forward

The Government should provide strategies for better food storage, and adopt an integrated policy framework to facilitate agriculture productivity.

  1. The usage of Information Technology throughout the process from acquisition of the food grains till distribution will aid in enhancing the effectiveness of the process.
    • For example, in January 2021, DigiLocker facility has been advocated for adoption in the PDS. This is to help making e-ration cards accessible for the beneficiaries anytime from anywhere under One Nation One Ration Card Scheme.
    • Information regarding the entire process from the quality of food grains to the storage facilities where the grains were stored, should be available to the beneficiaries.
  2. one ration card system would be effective in eliminating the confusion, especially for the migrants, as this would provide the beneficiaries the freedom to choose from the PDS shop of their choice.
  3. Expand the coverage of Integrated Management of PDS (IMPDS) to all the states.
December 2023