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Current Affairs 04 September 2023

CONTENTS

  1. State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023
  2. Fiscal deficit
  3. Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Scheme
  4. Adopt a Heritage 2.0 Scheme

State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2023


Context:

‘State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World’ (SOFI) 2023, a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has shed light on a concerning issue in India. It highlights the growing disparity between the cost of a nutritious meal and the economic realities faced by a significant portion of the Indian population.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key Highlights from the Report
  2. Key Highlights from the Report on India
  3. Significance of Ensuring Food Security in India
  4. Challenges of Food Security in India

Key Highlights from the Report

Rising Global Hunger

  • Despite stable global hunger numbers between 2021 and 2022, the world has witnessed a surge of over 122 million people facing hunger since 2019.
  • This increase is attributed to the pandemic, recurring weather-related crises, and conflicts, including the Ukraine war.

Food Insecurity

  • In 2022, approximately 2.4 billion individuals, predominantly women and rural residents, lacked consistent access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food.

Child Malnutrition

  • Child malnutrition remains a pressing concern. In 2021, alarming figures revealed that 22.3% (148.1 million) of children were stunted, 6.8% (45 million) were wasted, and 5.6% (37 million) were overweight.

Urbanization and Obesity

  • Accelerated urbanization has led to increased consumption of processed and convenience foods, causing a surge in overweight and obesity rates across urban, peri-urban, and rural areas.

Changing Food Markets

  • Previously self-reliant rural regions, particularly in Africa and Asia, are now reliant on national and global food markets.

Diet Costs and Affordability

  • The report tracks changes in the cost and affordability of a healthy diet.
  • Asia saw the highest increase in diet costs (nearly 9%) between 2019 and 2021.
  • South Asia recorded the highest percentage (72%) of individuals unable to afford a nutritious diet.
  • Eastern and Western Africa were severely affected, with 85% of their population unable to afford a healthy diet. These continents accounted for 92% of the global increase in this statistic.

Urbanization’s Impact on Food Systems

  • By 2050, it is projected that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. This demographic shift necessitates a reorientation of food systems to address urban hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition.

Key Highlights from the Report on India

Low Cost of Healthy Diet

  • India boasts the lowest cost of a healthy diet among BRICS nations and neighboring countries. In 2021, it was estimated at approximately 3.066 Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) per person per day, appearing affordable on the surface.

Affordability Challenge

  • Despite the seemingly low diet cost, a significant challenge arises due to income disparities. A diet is considered unaffordable when it exceeds 52% of a nation’s average income.
  • India’s comparatively low average income makes it difficult for a substantial portion of the population to afford the recommended diet.

Rising Meal Costs in Mumbai

  • The report spotlights a specific case study in Mumbai, where meal costs surged by a substantial 65% within just five years.
  • In contrast, salaries and wages in Mumbai increased by only 28% to 37% during the same period.
  • Mumbai serves as a stark example of the challenges faced by urban populations in India.

Affordability Gap

  • A comparison with other countries in the report reveals that while the cost of a healthy diet in India remains relatively low, it remains unattainable for a significant proportion of the population due to income disparities.

High Percentage of Unaffordability

  • In 2021, a staggering 74% of Indians could not afford a healthy diet, ranking India fourth among the nations assessed.

Significance of Ensuring Food Security in India

  • Addressing Malnutrition: India has a substantial population facing malnutrition and undernutrition, impacting both physical and mental growth.
  • Global Food Security Index: According to the Global Food Security Index 2022, India has a prevalence of undernutrition at 16.3%, with alarming statistics: 30.9% of children are stunted, 33.4% underweight, and 3.8% obese.
  • Agricultural Contribution: Agriculture is a cornerstone of India’s economy. Ensuring food security supports farmers, increases their income, and drives economic growth.
  • Agricultural Backbone: Over 70% of India’s population is engaged in agriculture-related activities, making it the backbone of the nation’s economy.
  • Poverty Reduction: Food security plays a pivotal role in poverty reduction by providing access to affordable and nutritious food. This enables people to manage expenses, reduce healthcare costs, and enhance their overall quality of life.
  • Multidimensional Poverty: India still has over 230 million people living in poverty, according to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index MPI 2023.
  • National Security: Food security is crucial for national security, preventing social unrest and political instability, which can threaten the nation’s security.
  • Climate Change Resilience: Climate change poses a significant threat to India’s food security. Adopting sustainable farming practices and investing in climate-resilient crops can help India adapt to a changing climate.
  • Population Impact: India’s large population significantly influences food insecurity trends. It is projected that approximately 333.5 million people in India will be affected by food insecurity during 2022-23.

Challenges of Food Security in India

  • Inadequate Infrastructure: Limited infrastructure for transportation and storage poses challenges for farmers, resulting in high wastage and reduced profits.
  • Poor Agricultural Practices: Over-cultivation, excessive pesticide use, and improper irrigation have led to soil depletion and lower crop yields.
  • Climate Change Impact: Extreme weather conditions linked to climate change, such as floods, droughts, and heatwaves, have caused crop failures, food shortages, and increased prices.
  • Inefficient Supply Chains: Inefficient supply chain networks, including transportation, storage, and distribution, contribute to food insecurity, raising prices for consumers and reducing farmer profits.
  • Fragmented Landholdings: Small and scattered landholdings hinder the adoption of modern farming practices and technologies, affecting food production and availability.

-Source: The Hindu


Fiscal Deficit


Context:

The Centre’s fiscal deficit for the first four months of 2023-24 reached 33.9% of the full-year target. The government aimed to reduce the fiscal deficit to 5.9% of GDP in the current fiscal year, as per the Union Budget. In the previous fiscal year (2022-23), the fiscal deficit was 6.4% of GDP, lower than the earlier estimate of 6.71%.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Fiscal Deficit
  2. Positive Aspects
  3. Negative Aspects

Fiscal Deficit

Fiscal deficit represents the gap between a government’s total expenditure and its total revenue, excluding borrowings.

Expressed as a Percentage of GDP

  • Fiscal deficit is typically expressed as a percentage of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

High and Low Fiscal Deficit

  • High fiscal deficit can lead to inflation, currency devaluation, and increased debt burden.
  • Low fiscal deficit is viewed as a sign of fiscal discipline and a healthy economy.

Positive Aspects

  • Increased Government Spending
    • Fiscal deficit allows the government to boost spending on public services, infrastructure, and other areas, stimulating economic growth.
  • Financing Public Investments
    • It enables the government to finance long-term investments like infrastructure projects.
  • Job Creation
    • Increased government spending can lead to job creation, reducing unemployment and improving living standards.

Negative Aspects

  • Increased Debt Burden
    • Persistent high fiscal deficit leads to higher government debt, putting future generations under pressure to repay it.
  • Inflationary Pressure
    • Large fiscal deficits can increase money supply, leading to higher inflation and reduced purchasing power.
  • Crowding out of Private Investment
    • Heavy government borrowing to finance the deficit can raise interest rates, making it challenging for the private sector to access credit and crowding out private investment.
  • Balance of Payments Problems
    • Large fiscal deficits may require foreign borrowing, depleting foreign exchange reserves and impacting the balance of payments.

-Source: The Hindu


Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Scheme


Context

The government extended the subsidy of ₹200 per 14.2 kg LPG cylinder under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) for a year, in view of the high prices of petroleum products in the international market. The decision will benefit 9.6 crore women. 

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Welfare Schemes, Government Policies & Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Scheme
  2. Challenges in Implementing the PMUY Scheme
  3. Ujjwala 2.0 Scheme

Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Scheme

  • Launch Date and Slogan: Launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 1, 2016, with the slogan “Clean Fuel, Better Life.”
  • Objective: Aimed at safeguarding the health of women and children by providing them with clean cooking fuel, namely LPG, to eliminate the health risks associated with smoky kitchens and the collection of firewood.
  • Implementing Agency: Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
  • Budget: Initially allocated Rs 8,000 crore.
Key Features:
  • Initially targeted to provide 5 crore LPG connections to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families with Rs 1600 support per connection over three years (2016-19).
  • Subsequently, the target was increased to 8 crore LPG connections in April 2018.
  • Connections are registered in the names of women within households.
Eligibility & Identification:
  • Open to all BPL families.
  • Any adult woman from a BPL family can apply for a deposit-free LPG gas connection under the Ujjwala scheme.
  • Expanded in April 2018 to include women beneficiaries from seven additional categories (SC/ST, PMAY, AAY, most backward classes, tea garden, forest dwellers, river islands).
  • Identification of BPL families is based on the Socio Economic Caste Census Data from 2011.

Challenges in Implementing the PMUY Scheme

The implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Scheme (PMUY) faced several challenges:

Data Accuracy:

  • Identifying deserving households for free LPG connections was challenging due to a lack of accurate data. The SECC-2011 data, although used for identification, was not entirely reliable, resulting in some deserving households being excluded during fieldwork.

Inaccurate BPL Classification:

  • The SECC-2011 data also revealed cases where relatively affluent households were classified as Below Poverty Line (BPL) households. This posed difficulties in validating the authenticity of the SECC database.

Awareness and Documentation:

  • Many beneficiaries came from economically disadvantaged and less-educated backgrounds. They had limited awareness of the safety requirements for using an LPG stove. Additionally, some households lacked essential documents such as ration cards and Aadhaar cards, which were necessary for availing benefits under the scheme.

Challenges in Establishing Distributorships:

  • In certain regions, particularly areas affected by law and order issues or designated as forested areas, setting up LPG distributorships proved to be challenging. This hindered the scheme’s reach, leaving households in those areas without access to cleaner cooking fuel.
Performance of Ujjwala Scheme (Phase-I):
  • The release of 8 Crore LPG connections under the scheme significantly increased LPG coverage, rising from 62% on May 1, 2016, to an impressive 99.8% by April 1, 2021.
  • Several states have seen substantial benefits from the scheme, including Uttar Pradesh (benefiting over 1.46 crore BPL families), West Bengal (88 lakhs), Bihar (85 lakhs), Madhya Pradesh (71 lakhs), and Rajasthan (63 lakhs).

Ujjwala 2.0 Scheme:

  • In the Union budget for FY 21-22, provisions were made for an additional 1 crore LPG connections under Ujjwala 2.0.
  • Special facilities have been introduced for migrant families, simplifying the process by eliminating the need for ration cards or address proof. A self-declaration for both family details and proof of address is sufficient.
  • As of March 1, 2023, the total number of connections released under PMUY reached 9.59 crore.
  • Active domestic LPG consumers have also shown remarkable growth, increasing from 14.52 crore in April 2014 to 31.4 crore as of March 2023.

-Source: The Hindu


Adopt a Heritage 2.0 Scheme


Context:

The Archaeological Survey of India is set to launch its innovative Adopt a Heritage 2.0 programme.

Relevance:

GS I: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Adopt a Heritage 2.0 Scheme
  2. Indian Heritage App
  3. Key Facts about “Adopt a Heritage Scheme

About Adopt a Heritage 2.0 Scheme:

  • Objective: The scheme aims to encourage corporate stakeholders to use their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) funds to improve facilities at heritage monuments.
  • Revamped Version: This scheme is an updated version of the one launched in 2017. It clearly outlines the specific amenities required for different monuments, in accordance with the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (AMASR Act) 1958.
  • Adoption Process: Interested stakeholders can adopt a monument or specific amenities through a dedicated web portal at indianheritage.gov.in. This portal provides comprehensive information about available monuments, including gap analysis and estimated financial needs.
  • Selection Process: The selection process involves thorough due diligence, discussions with stakeholders, and assessments of economic and developmental opportunities at each monument.
  • Amenities Focus: Selected stakeholders will be responsible for developing, providing, and maintaining amenities related to hygiene, accessibility, safety, and knowledge. This engagement also offers recognition as a responsible and heritage-friendly entity.
  • Term: Initially, the term of adoption is set for five years, with the possibility of extension for an additional five years.

Indian Heritage App:

  • Mobile App: The Indian Heritage App is a user-friendly mobile application designed to showcase heritage monuments.
  • Features: The app provides state-wise details of monuments, including photographs, lists of available public amenities, geotagged locations, and a feedback mechanism for citizens.
  • Phased Launch: The app’s launch occurs in phases, starting with ticketed monuments in Phase I, followed by the remaining monuments.

Key Facts about “Adopt a Heritage Scheme”:

  • Collaboration: This initiative is a collaborative effort involving the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture, and the Archaeological Survey of India.
  • Launch Date: The scheme was officially launched on World Tourism Day in September 2017.
  • Participation: The government invites various entities, including public sector companies, private sector firms, and individuals, to participate in the development of selected monuments and heritage and tourist sites across India.
  • Monument Mitras: Participants are encouraged to become ‘Monument Mitras’ and take on the responsibility of enhancing both basic and advanced tourist amenities at these sites.
  • CSR Funds: Corporate entities are expected to utilize their corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds to support the upkeep and development of these heritage sites.
  • Visibility: In return for their contributions, Monument Mitras receive limited visibility on the site premises and the Incredible India website.

-Source: The Hindu


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