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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 11 SEPTEMBER 2017


SECURE SYNOPSIS: 11 SEPTEMBER 2017


NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


Topic:  Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues;  Poverty and developmental issues 

1) What were the causes and consequences of the great Bengal Famine of 1942-43? Discuss. (200 Words)

Livemint

The British had a ruthless economic agenda when it came to operating in India and that did not include empathy for native citizens. Under the British Raj, India suffered countless famines. But the worst hit was Bengal. The first of these was in 1770, followed by severe ones in 1783, 1866, 1873, 1892, 1897 and lastly 1943-44. Previously, when famines had hit the country, indigenous rulers were quick with useful responses to avert major disasters. After the advent of British rule, most of the famines were a consequence of monsoonal delays along with the exploitation of the country’s natural resources by the British for their own financial gain. Yet they did little to acknowledge the havoc these actions wrought.

Reasons of famine:

  • Under the Mughal rule, peasants were required to pay a tribute of 10-15 percent of their cash harvest. This ensured a comfortable treasury for the rulers and a wide net of safety for the peasants in case the weather did not hold for future harvests. In 1765, the Treaty of Allahabad was signed and the East India Company took over the task of collecting the tributes from the then Mughal emperor Shah Alam II. Overnight the tributes, the British insisted on calling them tributes and not taxes for reasons of suppressing rebellion, increased to 50 percent. The peasants were not even aware that the money had changed hands. They paid, still believing that it went to the Emperor.
  • Partial failure of crops was quite a regular occurrence in the Indian peasant’s life. That is why the surplus stock, which remained after paying the tributes, was so important to their livelihood. But with the increased taxation, this surplus deteriorated rapidly.
  • Underlying causes of the famine included inefficient agricultural practices, dense population, and de-peasantisation through debt bondage and land grabbing.
  • The colonial rulers continued to ignore any warnings that came their way regarding the famine.
  • Proximate causes of famine comprise localised natural disasters (a cyclone, storm surges and flooding, and rice crop disease) combined with the consequences of war such as:
  • Initial, general war-time inflation of both demand-pull and monetary origin
  • Loss of rice imports due to the Japanese occupation of Burma (modern Myanmar)
  • Near-total disruption of Bengal’s market supplies and transport systems by the preemptive, defensive scorched earth tactics of the Raj (the “denial policies” for rice and boats);
  • Massive inflation brought on by repeated policy failures, war profiteering, speculation, and perhaps hoarding.
  • The government prioritised military and defense needs over those of the rural poor, allocating medical care and food immensely in the favour of the military, labourers in military industries, and civil servants.

Consequences of famine:

  • The two waves – starvation and disease – also interacted and amplified one another, increasing the excess mortality. Widespread starvation and malnutrition first compromised immune systems, and reduced resistance to disease led to death by opportunistic infections.
  • The social disruption and dismal conditions caused by a cascading breakdown of social systems brought mass migration, overcrowding, poor sanitation, poor water quality and waste disposal, increased vermin, and unburied dead. All of these factors are closely associated with the increased spread of infectious disease.
  • Men sold their small farms and left home to look for work or to join the army, and women and children became homeless migrants, often travelling to Calcutta or another large city in search of organised relief leading to huge migration.
  • One of the classic symptoms of famine is that it tends to intensify the exploitation of women; sales of women and girls, for example, tend to increase. Even before the famine, sexual exploitation of poor, rural, lower-caste and tribal women by the jotedars had at times been socially sanctioned, and during the crisis, women turned to prostitution in great numbers.
  • Another severe hardship of the crisis – the “cloth famine” – left nearly the entire population of the immiserated poor in Bengal naked or clothed in scraps through the winter. The British military consumed nearly all the textiles produced in India by purchasing Indian-made boots, parachutes, uniforms, blankets, and other goods at steep discount rates.
  • The famines lead to widespread unsanitary conditions, catastrophic hygiene standards, and the spread of disease. The “cloth famine” saw a scarcity of clean clothing, or any clothing at all. Disposal of corpses in rivers and other water supplies contaminated drinking water. Large scale migration led to the abandonment of the utensils and facilities necessary for washing clothes, preparing food, and taking care of other necessities of life.

All this clearly indicate that we must not forget our past in this era of abundance of almost everything. There must be self-restrain at indivisual level to use food and other resources judiciously in order to make our own choice morally right as well.


Topic:  Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure. 

2) Discuss the special provisions for states other than Article 370 that are present in the constitution of India. (200 Words)

The Indian Express

 

The special provisions for states in India become important in light of recent visit of home minister to Jammu and Kashmir. However, Jammu & Kashmir is not the only state for which special provisions have been laid down in the Indian Constitution — a wide range of safeguards are available to as many as 11 other states, listed in Articles 371, 371A to 371H, and 371J.

The special provision for 11 states in India has following rational behind them:

  • The condition in which the Constitution of India was passed was very critical and different from today’s time. The issue of federalism was one of the areas of debate. In order to cater the special needs of states, the founders of the new India provides special provision.
  • The special development boards were specifically constituted to cater the developmental needs of the areas such as Kachha and Marathwada in Gujarat and Maharashtra respectively.
  • The required consideration was also given to the tribal culture by provision of autonomy through tribal councils and local governance models, Eg: Tuensang district of Nagaland.
  • The discretionary power was accorded with the governor of some states in order to manage the local level challenges in very efficient manner.
  • The constitution provided special protection to customary law in order to protect them from outside influence. The conceptualization of Justice for these communities was protected as per their laws.
  • Special provision also takes care of economic viability of local governance and thus provided scope for revenue collection and also grants for various welfare schemes from central government.
  • The Presidential authority in many areas provides the ultimate protection to these special provisions in order to keep them for welfare of groups with special needs.

Special Provisions for states (Article 371) : Listing

Article 371 → Special Provisions for Maharashtra & Gujarat

  • President is authorised to provide that Governor of Maharashtra & Gujarat would have special responsibilities for:
  • Establishment of separate development boards for Vidarbha, Marathwada & rest of Maharashtra + Kutchh & rest of Gujarat
  • A report on working of these boards will be placed each year before state legislative assembly
  • Equitable allocation of funds for developmental expenditure over the mentioned areas
  • Equitable arrangements providing adequate facilities for technical education, vocational training & adequate opportunities for employment in state services

Article 371 – A → Special Provisions for Nagaland

  • Act of parliament relating to following matters would not apply to Nagaland unless state assembly so decides:
  1. Religious & social practices of Nagas
  2. Nagas customary law & procedure
  3. Administration of civil or criminal justice involving decisions according to Naga customary law
  4. Ownership & transfer of land & its resources
  • Special responsibility of governor wrt law & order in the state (after consulting COMs, but his decision will be final) regarding internal disturbances occurring in Naga hills mainly in Tuesang area (Special responsibility ceases if President directs so)
  • Governor has to ensure that money provided by the GOI out of consolidated fund of India for any specific purpose, is included in the demand for grant relating to that specific purpose only, not any other
  • A regional council for Tuensang district, consisting of 35 members should be formed & governor in his discretion shall make all the rules & terms regarding this council
  • For a period of 10 years, from formation of state of Nagaland or for further period as specified by Governor, on recommendations of regional council, following provisions would be operative for Tuensang district:
  • Administration of Tuensang district shall be carried on by the governor
  • Governor in his discretion shall arrange for equitable distribution of money, b/w Tuensang district & Rest of Nagaland, provided by center
  1. There shall be a minister for Tuensang affairs in state COMs
  2. Final decision on all matters relating to Tuensang district shall be made by governor in his discretion
  3. Members in Nagaland assembly from the Tuensang district are not elected directly by the people but by regional council

 Article 371 – B → Special Provisions for Assam

  • President may provide for the constitution & functions, a committee of Legislative assembly of the state, consisting of members of that assembly elected from the tribal area of Assam
  • President can also direct that the governor shall have special responsibility to secure proper functioning of that committee

 Article 371 – C → Special Provisions for Manipur

  • President may provide for the constitution & functions, a committee of Legislative assembly of the state, consisting of members of that assembly elected from the hill areas of Manipur.
  • President can also direct that the governor shall have special responsibility to secure proper functioning of that committee
  • Governor should submit an annual report to the President regarding the administration of Hill areas

Article 371– D → Special Provisions for Andhra Pradesh

  • President is empowered to provide equitable opportunities & facilities for people belonging to different parts of the state in matter of public employment & education.
  • For above purpose, President may require the state government to organize civil posts in local cadre for different parts of the state & also provide for direct recruitment to posts in local cadre (or in any such educational institution)
  • President may provide for establishment of an administrative tribunal in state to deal with certain disputes, relating to appointment, allotment or promotion to civil posts in state.
  • Only SC is to exercise jurisdiction over such tribunal which means they are outside the purview of HC (President may abolish the tribunals if he thinks it is not necessary)

 Article 371 – E → Special Provisions for Sikkim

  • Legislative assembly shall not less than 30 members + 1 seat from the state in Lok Sabha & 1 in parliamentary constituency
  • For the purpose of protecting the rights & interest of different sections of Sikkim population, Parliament is empowered to provide number of seats in Sikkim administrative assembly for the people belonging to such sections
  • Governor in his discretion (On direction of President) have special responsibility for peace & equitable arrangement for socio- economic development of different sections of Sikkim

 Article 371 G → Special Provisions for Mizoram

  • Legislative assembly shall not be less than 40 members
  • Act of parliament relating to following matters would not apply to Mizoram unless state assembly so decides:
  1. Religious & social practices of Mizo
  2. Mizo customary law & procedure
  3. Administration of civil or criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary law
  4. Ownership & transfer of land & its resources

 Article 371 H → Special provisions for Arunachal Pradesh

  • Legislative assembly shall not be less than 30 members
  • Governor of Arunachal Pradesh , on directions of President, shall have special responsibility for law & order in state ( May consult with COMs but his decision will be final)

 Article 371 – I → Special provisions for Goa

Legislative assembly shall not be less than 30 members

Article 371-J

It’ll grant special status to six backward districts of Hyderabad-Karnataka region to

  1. Establish a separate Development Board
  2. This board will see that sufficient funds are allocated for Development of the region.
  3. Local reservation in education and Government-jobs (Domicile requirement.)

All these provision cater the needs of special circumstance that exist in those areas in order to provide the constitutional remedies for various socio economic challenges.


 

Topic: Issues relating to poverty and hunger

3) India’s record in addressing undernutrition is abysmal. With a stunting rate of 38.4%, India accounts for about a third of the world’s stunted children. Critically analyse the role of state governments in addressing the problem of undernutrition. (200 Words)

Livemint

Under nutrition in India is a pressing issue putting the health of our country in a state of emergency.  Almost half of all children under the age of three are underweight, 30% of newborns are born with low birth weight, and 52% of women and 74% of children are anemic.

Nature and Magnitude of the Problem:

Under nutrition in India is among the highest in the world, far exceeding that of sub-Saharan Africa. Nearly ¾ of Indian children are underweight, 19% are wasted (in fact, Indian children account for one-third of the world’s wasting), and 38% are stunted.3 While under nutrition has been steadily declining over the past few years, the rate of under nutrition remains unacceptable, accounting for 22% of the burden of disease.  Over half of child deaths are associated with under nutrition. 4

Micronutrient deficiency is the major cause of under nutrition. Vitamin A deficiency affects 57% of children ages 6 to 59 months, iodine deficiency effects 33% of the population, and iron deficiency ranges from 78.5% of children 6 to 35 months to 57.9% of pregnant women.5 Micronutrients are one of the most fundamental components of a healthy and a well-nourished society and must become a central pillar of our efforts.  

State governments in addressing the problem of undernutrition: Critical analysis

  • Dramatic changes in the fiscal architecture based on the recommendations of the Fourteenth Finance Commission have raised serious concerns with regard to public spending on nutrition. In this scenario the role of state government becomes important in addressing the issue of undernutrition.
  • There has been substantial decline in the budget allocation of centrally sponsored schemes such as Mid-day meal scheme and Integrated Child Development Services Scheme (ICDS). This shifts the prime onus on state government to come ahead in this sector.
  • The very purpose of fiscal restructuring was that with more resources at their disposal, states would step up their expenditure; data on state budget allocation for nutrition schemes is not encouraging.
  • Health being the State subject, preventive public health care can be successfully achieved by investing rationally in nutrition related schemes.
  • There are varied socio-economic and demographic conditions in different states. The autonomy provided for state can result into suitable schemes to tackle the malnutrition in respective states.

Some steps to strengthen state capabilities:

  • The Centre and state should work together to set nutrition targets for every state and district.
  • The Centre should play a more proactive role in monitoring the nutrition programmes of every state.
  • Effective steps need to be undertaken to upgrade capacity at the state level.
  • Food fortification is one of the most cost-effective ways of addressing micronutrient deficiencies and should be a top priority. Double fortifying salt, a common staple in the Indian diet, with iron and iodine would double the intake of these micronutrients and consequently reduce levels of anemia.
  • States must provide more immediate nutritional assistance and shift our focus to correcting feeding practices, micronutrient intake, and assistance for the poorest and most marginalized populations.
  • The issue of malnutrition in urban areas is relatively different from rural India that needs a special, set of action plan to target the problem.
  • State government needs to harness the help and expertise rendered by private sector, non-government organisations and civil society.

The federal structure is not just about the rights of the states. It equally holds the importance of various responsibilities of the state. Long gone the old days when center was far stronger than the states in all aspects and the state were mere beneficiaries. In contemporary context states must be encouraged and empower to play their role in areas were public intervention is very crucial.


 

Topic:  Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies 

4) In recent days, the Securities and Exchange Board of India has taken stringent measures against credit rating agencies. Examine the reasons for taking such measures and their implications. (200 Words)

The Hindu

 

A credit rating agency is a company that assigns credit ratings, which rate a debtor’s ability to pay back debt by making timely interest payments and the likelihood of default. An agency may rate the creditworthiness of issuers of debt obligations, of debt instruments.

Credit rating agencies thus perform task of:-

Selection of the good performing companies

Highlights the market risk, financial risk, structural risk companies are facing,

Serves a warning for non-competent companies to restructure their management practices

There is a need to regulate CRA in India for the following reasons:

  1. CRAs charge companies for rating their securities. Thus there is a conflict of interest as better ratings will be profitable for companies.
  2. Non rating revenues for services like consultancy and advisory is also stemmed from the same clients. Thus CRAs have an incentive to give better ratings in lieu of more business.
  3. Portfolio investments form an important part of Balance of Payments accounts for India. Ratings influence these FPIs and thus can cause instability in the market.
  4. Since all the major CRAs are not based in India, ratings can be used as geopolitical tool to influence economy.
  5. India’s ratings determine the cost of credit to India in international market.

The new set of rule includes:

  1. Provisions to restrict cross-shareholding between rating agencies without regulatory approval to 10%.
  2. There has been Increase in the minimum net worth requirement for existing and new agencies from Rs. 5 crore to Rs. 50 crore.
  3. Mandates of least five years’ experience for promoters of rating agencies.

Reasons for new norms:

  • SEBI has proposed disclosure norms to improve investor awareness about the operations of rating agencies.
  • The spin-off of non-core operations of rating agencies will allow SEBI to focus on regulating just their credit rating operations.
  • SEBI has released a new set of rules drafted to improve market efficiency and enhance the governance, accountability and functioning of credit rating agencies.
  • There are some concerns with respect the new norms as doubt has been raised over utility of these new rules to enhance the efficiency of credit rating agencies. The new rules may increase the competition between credit rating agencies further making it tougher for new players to come into credit rating sector.
  • Credit rating sector has already been dominated by few players and thus there is need of competition to make it more efficient. The new rules needs to be analysed in light of competency and competition among credit rating agencies.

 


Topic: Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life

5) Why hospital-acquired infections are becoming greater threats? How the world is coping with such infections? Analyse. (200 Words)

The Indian Express

Introduction :- A hospital-acquired infection (HAI), also known as a nosocomial infection, is an infection that is acquired in a hospital or other health care facility. To emphasize both hospital and nonhospital settings, it is sometimes instead called a health care–associated infection (HAI or HCAI). Such an infection can be acquired in hospital, nursing home, rehabilitation facility, outpatient clinic, or other clinical settings. Infection is spread to the susceptible patient in the clinical setting by various means.

 

The risk factors that may increase your likelihood of acquiring HAI. These include:

  • length of stay– a long hospital stay can increase the risk, for example, admission for complex or multiple illnesses
  • operations and surgical procedures– the length and type of surgery can also have an impact
  • hand hygiene techniques– inadequate hand hygiene practices by hospital staff and patients may increase your risk
  • antibiotics– overuse of antibiotics can lead to resistant bacteria, which means that antibiotics become less effective
  • equipment– invasive procedures can introduce infection into the body, for example, procedures that require the use of equipment such as urinary catheters, IV drips and infusions, respiratory equipment and drain tubes
  • wounds– wounds, incisions (surgical cuts), burns and ulcers are all prone to infection
  • high-risk areas– some areas of the hospital are more likely to have infection, such as intensive care units (ICU) and high dependency units (HDU).

We’ve come a long way in reducing the cases of hospital-acquired infections (HAI) but they haven’t quite become a thing of the past yet. Over the course of the last few years countries in Western Europe, such as the UK and Germany, have noted some significant declines of various hospital-acquired infections…

Yet, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), 4+ million patients are estimated to contract an HAI in Europe each year. Of these, more than 35,000 die as a direct result. Numbers in the U.S. are similarly high, not to speak of the developing world.

1. Education and Good Hospital Culture Save Lives

Ø  Educating staff and patients :- A central aspect to reducing HAIs is to educate staff and patients and do so consistently. Patients should be provided with guidelines on how to take care of their own hygiene and encouraged to prompt staff do the same. After all, a safe culture is an informed culture.

Ø  Promoting changes to behaviour and habits :- As for staff, proper sterilization and disinfection techniques and basic good hygiene are crucial, along with an awareness of how and when infections are most likely to occur. 

Ø  Introducing new procedures through specialized workgroups :- Beyond national initiatives, hospitals themselves can set up programs to monitor, assess and prevent causes of infections, taking local context into account. So-called infection control committees that draw on the knowledge of a wide range of professionals can devise systematic plans and follow their implementation.

2. Healthcare Technology Solutions That Help Prevent HAIs

Ø  Tech to reduce surgical-site infections (SSI) :-Nowadays, instead of leaving the sterile field of the operating room, a surgeon can view a patient’s medical images by interacting with an operating room assistant application. Through gestures and voice commands, surgeons have direct access to all the information they need.

Ø  Predictive analytics to speed up test results :- Beyond the operation room, predictive analytics have also shown potential in preventing HAIs, though most such solutions are still in their development phase. These technologies are meant to help doctors obtain quicker results about bacterial antibiotic resistance in patients.

Ø  Robots that kill bacteria :- Finally – robots. Hospitals in Europe and the U.S. have been equipping themselves with robots that clean rooms and destroy harmful bacteria. Unlike robots that clean your house, those that clean hospitals actually get the job done. The two main competing solutions are those that use hydrogen peroxide vapor and those using ultraviolet-C light. 

3. Changes to Hospital Environment and Organization Can Work Wonders

In a report by WHO on the prevention of HAIs, a whole chapter is dedicated to the proper use and organization of hospital environment. Similarly, in a review of studies, ECDC also identifies hospital organization, management and structure as essential. The review lists ten components which are key to positive changes and reduction of HAIs.

These include:

  • proper organization of infection control
  • bed occupancy, staffing and workload
  • availability of materials and equipment
  • guidelines, education and training
  • surveillance, prevention programs and more

Conclusion :- There probably isn’t a hospital manager in the world who doesn’t realize how important it is to reduce hospital-acquired infections. Not only does this result in better patient care, but hospitals effectively become more profitable and successful. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), financial losses related to HAIs in Europe are as high as €7 billion per year.


 

Topic: Storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints

6) India ranks first not only in the production and consumption of pulses, but also their import. Also the price and production of pulses keeps crashing affecting farmers. Why does this happen? What are the solutions? Examine. (200 Words)

The Indian Express

Introduction :- Pulses are annual leguminous crops yielding between one and 12 grains or seeds of variable size, shape and colour within a pod, used for both food and feed. The term “pulses” is limited to crops harvested solely for dry grain, thereby excluding crops harvested green for food, which are classified as vegetable crops, as well as those crops used mainly for oil extraction and leguminous crops that are used exclusively for sowing purposes.

 

Besides serving as an important source of protein for a large portion of the global population, pulses contribute to healthy soils and climate change mitigation through their nitrogen-fixing properties. Bengal Gram (Desi Chick Pea / Desi Chana), Pigeon Peas (Arhar / Toor / Red Gram), Green Beans (Moong Beans), Chick Peas (Kabuli Chana), Black Matpe (Urad / Mah / Black Gram), Red Kidney Beans (Rajma), Black Eyed Peas (Lobiya), Lentils (Masoor), White Peas (Matar) are major pulses grown and consumed in India.

 

India is the largest producer (25% of global production), consumer (27% of world consumption) and importer (14%) of pulses in the world. Pulses account for around 20 per cent of the area under foodgrains and contribute around 7-10 per cent of the total foodgrains production in the country. Though pulses are grown in both Kharif and Rabi seasons, Rabi pulses contribute more than 60 per cent of the total production.

REASONS FOR PULSES PRICE  CRASH:-

  • A vicious circle is responsible for the problems of price stability and low production of pulses. India is a large importer of pulses. In case of an abnormal shortage in production, both domestic and international prices are bound to go up.
  • There is zero import duty on pulses. Cheaper imports leading to price crash might spell doomsday for the domestic farmer. Volatility of pulse prices—both domestic and international move in tandem—is an important reason for the crop receiving a step-motherly treatment from farmers. 
  • A large majority of them have to sell their crops immediately—when prices are lowest due to abundant supply—after harvest to pay off loans incurred during cultivation.
  • The major problems related to productivity of pulses and cereals are technological setbacks as well as the lack of a managerial set-up to supervise the landscape. Low genetic yield of Indian pulses and their vulnerability to pests and diseases is a major hindrance to adoption of pulses by farmers. 
  • The nation needs quality extension personnel who must be trained and equipped with exceptional knowledge and latest practices. Poor availability of critical inputs including seeds, bio-pesticides and micronutrients such as zinc is another barrier.

 

SOLUTIONS :-

Steps taken to increase Pulses Production 

  • Central Government is taking several measures to control the price rise of pulses. On one hand Government is trying to give relief to citizens by importing pulses from foreign countries or taking action against hoarders, on the other hand Govt has taken several steps to increase pulses production and to incentivise pulses growing farmers.
  • Recently, Govt has given a step hike in MSP for pulse crops to encourage farmers Central govt has decided to form a committee under the Chief economic advisor, Govt of India to make a long term plan to encourage pulse growing among farmers and to review MSP and bonus for farmers. 
  • Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Ministry has taken several steps to increase pulse production. In the year 2013-14 under the National Food security mission only 482 districts of 16 states were included. Now all 638 districts of 29 states have been included in this plan. Goa, Kerala and 8 north eastern states and 3 hilly states have now been included in this mission. 
  • Government is working for new variety of pulses crops. To increase the availability of new types of breeder seeds of pulses, ICAR Institute and State Agriculture Universities have been provided Rs. 20.39 crore during 2016-17. Govt is also concentrating towards the procurement of pulse crops. Inter Cropping of pulses with oil seeds, cotton and other crops, summer moong and cultivation of tur dal on paddy fields is being encouraged. 
  • Government is encouraging Farmer producer organisations (FPO) to grow seeds, to buy, and to use efficient technology and to ensure adequate prices to small and marginal farmers for their produce. 

OTHER STEPS REQUIRED :-

  • Identifying land for growing pulses must go hand in hand with promoting yield-augmenting and resource-saving technologies along with providing farmers better access to remunerative markets.
  • Diversification of the rice-wheat system in the Indo-Gangetic plain through popularisation of short-duration varieties of pigeon pea, Kabuli chickpea, field pea and summer moong-bean will be key to sustainability.
  • Punjab can induce summer moong in late May before sowing rice. This will greatly benefit farmers facing delayed monsoons as summer moong is harvested in July when the rains pick up. Promulgation of land diversion towards pigeon pea and moong in districts such as Sangrur, Ferozpur, Ludhiana, Bhatinda and Moga, which are also prominent procurement centres, will improve production.
  • The active participation of the government can be substantiated through a designated central or State nodal agency, similar to the FCI or NAFED, for assured procurement of pulses at the State level. Thus, at the very least, assured procurement operations can be strengthened in focus districts.
  • Remuneration and gross return over cost of production must incentivise the adoption of pulses over paddy and wheat, else the subsidy cycle via MSPs and non-price mechanisms will be endless and untenable. The MSP of pulses and wheat-paddy can be aligned while States such as Punjab offer bonuses for pulses depending on their requirements and targets.
  • Given the high mechanisation in Punjab and increasing labour costs, suitable sturdier strains need to be developed for mechanical harvesting with pods above the canopy. The use of drip irrigation in pigeon pea and agronomic practices such as transplantation and nipping of branches are showing encouraging results. Drip irrigation will be easily affordable in Punjab and can be additionally subsidised for pulse-growing farmers.

Farmer awareness

  • Targeting large farmers of the State will bring higher returns. Given the high price risk of growing pulses, propagation with large farmers who possess more than five acres of land would be most prudent.
  • They may divert an acre toward pulses and have greater risk-absorbing capacity in case of inadvertent loss. Large-scale and progressive farmers can be monitored and trained easily.
  • To promote pulses with small farmers, a pulses insurance scheme may be devised to cover losses due to unseasonal rains or natural calamities. Promoting the quality of rhizobium through manufacturers in the pulse-growing regions of Punjab by offering capital subsidy, stamp duty exemption or viability gap funding, will be another effective step.
  • Dal mills and processing facilities should be encouraged within the vicinity of production areas, which will promote off-farm employment. A detailed study and pilot project may be warranted in initiating nitrogen credit for farmers. PPP in seed production, inputs, promotion and extension must be mapped out.

 


Topic: Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

7) What are the salient features and goals of the National Forest Policy, 1988? Also examine its shortcomings. (200 Words)

The Hindu

Introduction :- The Indian National Forest Policy of 1988 emphasised the protective role of forests in maintaining ecological balance and environmental stability. The basic objectives that should govern the National Forest Policy were enlisted as follows:-

 

(i) Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and, where necessary, restoration of the ecological balance that has been adversely disturbed by serious depletion of the forests of the country.

(ii) Conserving the natural heritage of the country by preserving the remaining natural forests with the vast variety of flora and fauna, which represent the remarkable biological diversity and genetic resources of the country.

(iii) Checking soil erosion and denudation in the catchment areas of rivers, lakes and reservoirs in the interest of soil and water conservation, for mitigating floods and droughts

(iv) Checking the extension of sand dunes in the desert areas of Rajasthan and along the coastal tracts.

(v) Increasing substantially the forest/tree cover in the country through massive afforestation and social forestry programmes, especially on all denuded, degraded and unproductive lands.

(vi) Meeting the requirements for fuelwood, fodder, minor forest produce and small timber of the rural and tribal populations.

(vii) Increasing the productivity of forests to meet essential national needs.

(viii) Encouraging efficient utilisation of forest produce and maximising substitution of wood.

(ix) Creating a massive people’s movement with the involvement of women, for achieving these objectives and to minimise pressure on existing forests. 

 

Shortcomings :-

  • The National Forest Policy must be refreshed as it contains concepts that have been long discarded. The terms like ecological balance, environmental stability which are mentioned in it are not defined. It is interesting that there is no official definition for the term ‘forest’ yet, despite ministries and government departments being named after it.
  • The conservation of other natural systems like  grasslands, wetlands, and other ecosystems is not mentioned along with forest. This would suggest that degraded lands be protected so that original ecosystems can re-establish themselves on those lands. 
  • It states like Checking soil erosion and denudation in the catchment areas of rivers but It does not suggest how this is to be done and why this point fits in, in the policy.
  • One of the objective of policy that “The principal aim of Forest Policy must be to ensure environmental stability and maintenance of ecological balance including atmospheric equilibrium which are vital for sustenance of all lifeforms, human, animal and plant. The derivation of direct economic benefit must be subordinated to this principal aim.” is a laudable point, but the terms of reference are not valid. Therefore, it might be better to state this in the following terms, so that the spirit of what is being stated is not lost.

What is worrisome, however, is that in the 30 years since it was formulated, no officer of the Indian Forest Service has pointed out these shortcomings. There is clearly an urgent need to review the curriculum of the Indian Forest Service since it seems to rely on concepts that have been discarded more than a century ago.

 


Topic:  Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information,

8) Examine the role of RTI in ensuring good governance. (150 Words)

Reference

 

Introduction :- Much before the legislative enactment our Judiciary, in a progressive interpretation of the Constitutional provisions, had paved the way towards delineating the Right to Information. In 1975, in State of UP vs. Raj Narain case, Justice Mathew had ruled; 

“In a government of responsibility like ours, where all the agents of the public must be responsible for their conduct, there can be but few secrets. The people of this country have a right to know every public act, everything that is done in a public way by their public functionaries.” 

In subsequent judicial pronouncements, the ‘Right to Know’ was further elaborated as being inherent in the Fundamental Rights. The judicial interpretation found reflection in a wide-spread public movement demanding statutory provisions for such a right. The spirit behind the movement for Right to Information was summed up in pithy slogans like; 

“hamara paisa, hamara hisaab hum janenge, hum jiyenge .” 

The process, conceptually, was initiated when Parliament enacted the Freedom of Information Act, 2002. This was followed by the present Act that came into force on 12 October 2005. Its legislative intent was to empower the citizen to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every Public Authority, reduce the gap between the information provider and the information seeker, enhance efficiency in administration of public authorities, mitigate corruption and promote good governance. 

There can be little doubt that this is one of the most empowering and progressive legislations passed in the post Independent India. It is often said that India’s RTI Act is one of the world’s best law with an excellent implementation track record. It has salient features such as clear, time-bound implementation schedules with penal provisions for non-compliance, a minimal exceptions clause, and a well structured appeals system. These provide for better governance, and impact on the very nature of governance itself. Three aspects can be highlighted in this regard: 

• Until the passage of this Act, the disclosure of information held by public authorities in India was governed, exclusively, by the Official Secrets Act, 1923. It was a legacy of the British colonial rule, encouraged secrecy and opaqueness in administration and was designed to deny information about government activities to the people. 

• The RTI Act is different from other enactments in its operation. For most other laws, the executor of the law is government; and the citizen is normally required to comply by these laws. The RTI Act is the very opposite. Here, the citizen is the executor and the government has to act in response to a directive from the citizen. It thus reverses the roles of the public and the government. This is a new situation and requires getting used to by the administrators. 

• A third radical provision of the Act is that the information seekers need not give a reason for demanding the information held by public authority or prove his/her locus standi for it. This allows activists and civil society organizations to take up issues on behalf of the marginalized and the un-empowered. 

Conclusion :-  The preamble of the Act itself provides that “Democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information which are vital to its functioning and also to contain corruption and to hold governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed”. The transformation from mere governance to good governance is possible only if the citizens of the country have right and access to information of and participation in the governance. The good governance is the governance in which people are served by their representatives not ruled by their representatives.