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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 15 September 2023

CONTENTS:

1. Changing the Way the Postman Knocks

2. Why Millets Matter


Changing the Way the Postman Knocks


Context:

 The recently proposed Post Office Bill of 2023, which was presented during the second-to-last day of the monsoon session in Parliament, aims to replace the Indian Post Office Act of 1898. This update is prompted by the evolving functions of post offices, which now serve as a means for delivering a wide range of citizen-focused services through their extensive network.

Relevance:

 GS-2 Government Policies and Interventions

Mains Question:

Highlight the changes that the Post Office Bill of 2023 aims to bring about. How can Postal Services in India be made more effective? (10 marks, 150 words).

Changes brought by the new act:

  • While the 1898 Act solely focused on mail services, the new Bill grants the Director General of Postal Services the authority to create regulations pertaining to activities necessary for providing various additional services, as prescribed by the central government.
  • It also empowers them to set charges for these services. This provision is significant because it eliminates the need for parliamentary approval when revising charges for any service offered by post offices, including traditional mail services. This flexibility is crucial in a highly competitive industry, allowing the postal department to quickly adjust service prices to meet market demands.
  • Moreover, the new Bill provides a solid legal foundation for India Post’s initiatives in delivering citizen-centered services.
  • The new Bill also empowers the central government to authorize officers to intercept, open, or detain items in transit through the Post Office in the interest of state security, friendly foreign relations, public order, emergencies, or public safety, or in the event of a violation of any provisions of the Act.
  • This provision is broader in scope compared to the existing Act of 1898, which allowed the Postal Department to open and dispose of postal articles containing explosive, dangerous, filthy, noxious, or deleterious substances. The new provision is more generic and aims to prevent smuggling and the unlawful transportation of drugs and other prohibited goods through postal parcels.

Future Prospects:

  • The new Bill offers guidelines to the central government concerning item addressing, address identifiers, and the utilization of postal codes. This particular provision is poised to have a significant influence since it opens the door for potentially replacing physical addresses with digital codes that utilize geospatial coordinates to pinpoint specific locations. This development could potentially streamline the delivery of packages through the use of drones.
  • A significant ambiguity has always existed where the definitions of ‘letter’ and ‘document’ overlap. Legally speaking, what couriers had previously transported were considered ‘documents’ and ‘parcels,’ not ‘letters.’ Once the new Bill is enacted into law, all these legal disputes regarding the classification of items as letters or otherwise will naturally subside.

Drawbacks of the Bill:

  • There is no equivalent legislation in place for courier companies. India Post’s market share in the courier, express, and parcel (CEP) industry is less than 15%. Consequently, the effectiveness of the provision to intercept, open, or detain items during postal transmission on grounds of national security and public service has its limitations.
  • A significant portion of the domestic courier industry is comprised of medium and small-scale operators. If the Bill included a provision for such operators to register with a designated authority and if the central government retained the authority to intercept and open parcels during transmission by these couriers, it would have strengthened the Bill’s ability to regulate the movement of prohibited goods within parcels.

Conclusion:

Regardless of the legal stipulations, the average person views a letter as a written and individualized mode of communication between two people, typically delivered through postal services. With the advent of the mobile revolution, the significance of such personal written communication has significantly diminished. Consequently, eliminating the provision of the “exclusive privilege” held by the central government in the new Post Office Bill is a positive step and an acknowledgment of the prevailing reality.


Why Millets Matter


During the eighteenth G20 summit, which India hosted under the theme “One earth – One family – One future,” there was an emphasis on promoting millets as a sustainable and nutritious choice. Around 2,300 years ago, Megasthenes explored India and documented his observations in the book “Indika.” According to his records, even at that time millets were a prominent crop cultivated in ancient India and enjoyed widespread popularity among the population.

Relevance:

  • GS2- Health
  • GS3- Cropping Patterns

Mains Question:

Despite being the champions of food security, millets have been highly ignored in India’s food spectrum. Comment Critically. (15 marks, 250 words).

About Millets:

  • Millets are highly nutritious superfoods encompassing various small-seeded crops such as sorghum (jowar), pearl millet (bajra), and finger millet (ragi). They possess the capacity to provide sustenance to the growing population without causing substantial environmental damage.
  • Millets have been a staple in our diets since ancient times and have recently earned the designation of “Shree Anna,” signifying them as the finest among all grains.

Recent Developments in Millet Cultivation:

  • In 2018, India designated it as the national year of millets, and in response to India’s request, the United Nations declared 2023 as the international year of millets.
  •  In February 2023, during the G20 Agriculture Deputies’ meeting, India urged G20 nations to embrace the 3S strategy, emphasizing smart and sustainable agriculture accessible to all.
  • A month later, the Indian government organized a global millets (Shree Anna) conference, which acted as a platform for sharing agricultural best practices concerning millets.
  •  In April 2023, the G20 Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists convened in Varanasi and wholeheartedly endorsed India’s MAHARISHI initiative, focused on millets and other ancient grains’ international research.
  • India, being the world’s largest millet producer, accounting for almost 20 percent of global production, has a significant stake in promoting millets.

Benefits of Millets:

  • Millets are resilient to climate changes, offering better resistance to rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
  • These sturdy, drought-resistant crops have the potential to enhance food security throughout India.
  • Millets are a nutritious dietary choice and can combat many lifestyle-related diseases common in urban areas.
  • Compared to rice and wheat, millets are richer in protein, iron, and calcium.
  • They are packed with polyphenols, aiding in fat absorption reduction, and have a low glycemic index, which helps regulate blood sugar levels.

When Millets Were Overlooked:

  • Despite their numerous advantages, millets were largely neglected during the post-independence period in India. The early years after independence were marked by famine, reduced agricultural productivity, and widespread hunger, necessitating increased food production as a top priority.
  • At this critical juncture, high-yield varieties of wheat and rice were developed, followed by agricultural mechanization, chemical plant establishments, and expanded irrigation facilities. This led to India’s transition to a food-surplus nation under the Green Revolution.
  • However, challenges arose as the years passed. In 1962, Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” drew attention to the adverse environmental effects of chemical-based agriculture. The Green Revolution’s success depended on favorable agro-climatic conditions, leading to economic disparities in different regions of India, primarily an agrarian-based economy.
  • Intensified chemical and mechanical use in Green Revolution states like Haryana and Punjab resulted in soil degradation, water pollution, and a public health crisis. Groundwater levels have significantly declined in many parts of these states.

Conclusion:

 Climate change exacerbates these issues, prompting state governments to discourage water-intensive crops like rice. Millets were the primary food crops in India before the Green Revolution, and their reintroduction is now seen as a climate adaptation strategy. Incorporating millets into our food supply system is essential for improving the overall health of the Indian population. Including millets in the daily diet can effectively combat issues like iron deficiency, a major public health concern in India. The numerous benefits associated with millets position them as champions in the food system. Their global reintroduction into the food supply can contribute to achieving multiple UN Sustainable Development Goals simultaneously.


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