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[Mission 2024] Insights SECURE SYNOPSIS: 22 July 2023

 

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

Answer the following questions in 150 words:


General Studies – 1


 

1. Despite its shortcomings, the Ryotwari settlement remained one of the significant revenue systems employed by the British in India during their colonial rule. Examine.

Reference: A Brief History of Modern India by Rajiv Ahir (Spectrum Publishers)

Introduction

The Ryotwari system was introduced in Madras, Bombay & Assam by Thomas Munro in 1820. It was supposed to be boon for present and improve their condition. It was mainly introduced to overcome the lacunae of the Zamindari System and increase the revenue collection for the British.

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Features of Ryotwari system

  • The government could deal directly with the farmer (‘ryot’) for revenue collection, and the peasant may cede or purchase more land for agriculture.
  • peasant were made land owner and it can be taken away only for non-payment of revenue
  • Freedom was given to give up or acquire new land
  • Middlemen were eliminated who often oppressed peasant and provided false assessment of land being cultivated to the British

Optimistic official has imagined that new system would transform peasant into rich farmers but this did not happened. Ryotwari settlement seems fair and practical on paper but proved to be worse than zamindari system.

Impacts of Ryotwari System

  • High taxation rate – levy was not based on actual revenue from produce of land but instead on estimate of potential of the soil.
  • 50% for dryland and 60% for irrigated land
  • Payment of land tax in cash – cash payment ruined cultivators, exposing them to demands of money lenders as an alternate to the loss of land and starvation when crop failed
  • Revenue officials harassed villages – subordinate revenue officer forgiven much power who’s activities were in adequately supervised they were industries in Harsh measure for non-payment delayed payment
  • Misery of cash crops – in order to gain huge profit farmers fell into the trap of government’s proposal to grow cash crops like Indigo opium which lead to scarcity of food grains and in fertility of soil.
  • Land became commodity – excessive marketing of land for or payment of tax in cash has led to the loss of sentimental link that existed between land and the farmers.
  • Many owner-cultivators and occupancy tenants, having a permanent right to hold land, found it more convenient to lease out land to land-hungry tenants at exorbitant rent than to cultivate it themselves.
  • In time, landlordism became the main feature of agrarian relations not only in the zamindari areas but also in the Ryotwari ones
  • Growth of subinfeudation or intermediaries – Since the cultivating tenants were generally unprotected and the overcrowding of land led the tenants to compete with one another to acquire land, the rent of land went on increasing.

Conclusion

Therefore, even though in theory, the Ryotwari settlement was supposed to prove better than the permanent settlement, in practice its impact was far worse. It became more devilish version of Zamindari system.

 

2. The Five-Year Plans played a crucial role in promoting industrialization in India, contributing to economic development and employment generation. Discuss.

Reference: Insights on India

Introduction

The term economic planning is used to describe the long term plans of the government of India to develop and coordinate the economy with efficient utilization of resources. Economic planning in India started after independence in the year 1950 when it was deemed necessary for economic growth and development of the nation.

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About 5-year plans:

  • After independence, India launched a programme of Five Year Plans to make the optimum use of country’s available resources and to achieve rapid economic Development
  • In India, development plans were formulated and carried out within the framework of the mixed economy
  • In India, economic planning was adopted in the form of Five Year Plans and was seen as a development tool on account of various reasons.
  • The need for social justice as experience of the past five and-a- half decades suggests that in a free enterprise economy, economic gains do not necessarily trickle down and
  • Judicious mobilisation and allocation of resources in the context of overall development programme in the light of the resource constraint in India
  • So far, 12th Five Year Plans have been formulated since the year 12th Five-year Plan (2012- 2017), came into force once it was approved by the NDC on 27th December, 2012.

Achievements of 5 year plans:

  • Economic Growth:
  • Economic planning in India has been successful in increasing the national income and the per capita income of the country resulting in economic growth.
  • The net national income at factor cost increased from Rs. 4393.45 billion in 1966- 67 to Rs.45, 733 billion in 2011-12 (at 2004-05 prices). The per capita income increased from Rs.8876 to Rs.38, 048 during the same period (at 2004-05 prices).
  • The average growth rate has increased from 3.5 percent during 1950 to 1970 to about 5.5 percent after 1990’s. The economy recorded a growth rate of 7.8 percent during the eleventh five- year plan.
  • Progress in Agriculture:
  • The first five-year plan focused on agricultural development. However, agricultural sector did not receive priority in the subsequent plans. Yet, with various initiatives implemented in the agricultural sector such as the green revolution and agricultural pricing policies, there has been a considerable increase in the output of the agricultural sector.
  • The index of agricultural production increased from 85.9 in 1970-71 to 165.7 in 1999-2000 (Base year- 1981-82). The production of major food grains which includes rice, wheat, coarse cereals and pulses has increased from 77.14 million tons in 1958-59 to 252.22 tons in 2015-16. With the introduction of green revolution, the yield per hectare of food grains has increased from 662 kg in 1959-60 to 2056 kg in 2015-16.
  • Similarly, the production of commercial crops has also recorded an increasing trend. Various reforms in the agricultural sector such as the Rashtriya Krishi Bima Yojana and Kisan credit cards during the ninth plan and National Food Security Mission and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana during the eleventh plan have been quite successful in improving the performance of the agricultural sector.
  • Industrial Growth:
  • Economic planning has also contributed to the progress of the industrial sector. The index of industrial production increased from 54.8 in 1950-51 to 152.0 in 1965-66 (Base year- 1960-61) which is about 176 percent increase in production during the first three five-year plans.

 

  • It went up from 109.3 in 1981-82 to 232.0 in 1993-94 (Base year- 1980-81). Taking 2004-05 as the base year, the index of industrial production recorded an increase from 108.6 in 2005-06 to 181.1 in 2015-16. The introduction of reforms in 1991 relieved the industrial sector from numerous bureaucratic restrictions that were prevalent earlier.
  • This has led to the rapid growth of the industrial sector in India. India has made remarkable progress in cotton textiles, paper, medicines, food processing, consumer goods, light engineering goods etc.
  • Public Sector:
  • The public sector played a predominant role in the economy immediately after the independence. While there were only 5 industrial public sector enterprises in 1951, the number increased to 244 in 1990 with an investment of Rs.99, 330 cores. However, the number of public sector enterprises fell to 217 in March 2010.
  • Very high profits were recorded by petroleum, telecommunication services, power generation, coal and lignite, financial services, transport services and minerals and metal industries. The government has eliminated a number of restrictions on the operational and financial powers of the Navaratnas, Miniratnas and several other profit making public sector enterprises.
  • Infrastructure:
  • Development of infrastructure such as transport and communication, power, irrigation etc., is a pre-requisite to rapid economic growth and development. Expansion of transport facilities enables easy movement of goods and services and also enlarges the market. Irrigation projects contribute significantly to rural development.
  • Power projects help in meeting the growing demand for power by both industrial and household sector. The total road length increased from about 400,000 km in 1951 to about 4.7 million km in 2011.
  • The route length of the Indian railway network has increased from about 53,596 km in 1951 to about 64,450 km in 2011. The investment in infrastructure as a percentage of GDP was about 5.9 percent during the tenth plan and increased to about 7.2 percent during the eleventh plan.
  • Education and Health Care:
  • Education and health care are considered as human capital as they contribute to increased productivity of human beings. Considerable progress was achieved in the education as well as health sector during the five-year plans. The number of universities increased from about 22 in 1950-51 to 254 in 2000-01.
  • The number of institutions in higher education has increased to over 100 percent since 2008. With the growth in the number of institutions, the literacy rate in India has increased from 16.7 percent in 1950-51 to 74.04 percent in 2011. With improvements in the health infrastructure, India has been able to successfully control a number of life threatening diseases such as small pox, cholera, polio, TB etc.
  • As a result, there has been a fall in the death rate from 27.4 per thousand persons in 1950-51 to 7.3 per thousand persons in 2016. The life expectancy has increased from about 32.1 years in 1951 to 68.01 years in 2014. The infant mortality rate has declined from 149 per thousand in 1966 to 37.42 per thousand in 2015.
  • Growth of Service Sector:
  • Service sector is the key contributor to the economic growth of India. The service sector contributed to about 53.2 percent of the gross value added growth in 2015-16. The contribution of the IT sector to India’s GDP increased from about 1.2 percent in 1998 to 9.5 percent in 2015. The service sector has recorded a growth rate of about 138.5 percent in the last decade.
  • Financial services, insurance, real estate and business services are some of the leading services that have been recording a robust growth in the past few years. The rapid growth of the service sector in India could be attributed to the inflow of huge amount of FDI in this sector. India’s share of service exports in the world service exports has increased from 0.6 percent in 1990 to 3.3 percent in 2011.
  • Savings and Investment:
  • Savings and Investments are major driving forces of economic growth. The gross domestic savings in India as a proportion of GDP has increased from 8.6 percent in 1950-51 to about 30 percent in 2012-13. The gross capital formation has increased from 8.4 percent in 1950-51 to 34.70 in 2012-13. Capital accumulation is the key to economic development. It helps in achieving rapid economic growth and has the ability to break the vicious circle of poverty.
  • Science and Technology:
  • India is the third most preferred destination for technology investments. It is among the top most countries in scientific research and space exploration. India is also making rapid progress in nuclear technology. ISRO has made a record of launching 104 satellites in one go on a single rocket. India today has the third largest scientific manpower after U.S.A and Russia.
  • The government has undertaken various measures such as setting up of new institutions for science education and research, launching the technology and innovation policy in 2013, strengthening the infrastructure for research and development in universities, and encouraging public- private partnership etc.
  • Foreign Trade:
  • On the eve of independence, India’s primary exports were agricultural commodities and UK and US were its major trading partners. India was largely dependent on other countries for various capital and consumer goods. However, with the development of heavy industries during the five-year plans, India has been able to reduce its dependence on other countries and was able to achieve self-reliance in a number of commodities.
  • With the liberalisation of trade, India now exports about 7500 commodities to about 190 countries and it imports about 6000 commodities from about 140 countries. The exports of the country increased from Rs. 54.08 billion in 1977- 78 to Rs. 17,144.24 billion in 2015-16. And imports have increased from Rs. 60.20 billion in 1977-78 to Rs. 24, 859.27 billion in 2015-16.

 Major Failures of Planning:

  • Slow Growth:
    • The planning process in India has been able to achieve considerable increase in the national income and per capita income. Yet, the rate of increase has been slow as compared to developing countries like China, which have been able to achieve more than 10 percent growth rate consistently. India was able to achieve a growth rate of only about 4 to 5 percent during the pre-reform period. It was only during the post reform period that is after 1991, that the country could experience a growth rate of over 7 percent.
  • Neglect of Agriculture:
    • The five year plans failed to pay attention to the agricultural sector except for the first five-year plan. As a result, the agricultural growth rate declined from 3.62 percent in 1991-92 to 0.81 percent during 2009-10. And the share of agriculture in GDP declined from about 50 percent during 1950-51 to about 16 percent of the GDP in 2015.
  • Unemployment:
    • The plans have failed to address the problem of unemployment which is a cause of many social evils. The unemployment rate has marginally reduced from 8.35 percent during 1972-73 to about 6.53 percent in 2009-10. It was about 4.19 percent in 2013. The growth rate of employment has recorded a decline from 2.61 percent in 1972-73 to 1.50 percent during 2009-10. The employment in primary sector recorded a negative growth rate of 0.13 percent in 2009-10.
  • Widespread Poverty:
    • Failure to address the problem of unemployment has resulted in widespread poverty in the country. The first four plans failed to address the problem of poverty. It was only during the fifth five-year plan that measures were taken to tackle poverty directly by introducing various poverty alleviation programmes. These programmes, however, have achieved only limited success. The poverty rate in India declined from about 26.1 percent in 2000 to 21.9 percent in 2011.
  • Inflation:
    • Poverty is aggravated under the situation of inflation. The five-year plans have not been able to stabilise the prices due to which there has been a steep rise in the general prices. The inflation rate was around 10 percent in 2012.
  • Rising Inequality:
    • With rapid economic growth, the country has been witnessing a rise in the level of inequality. It has been estimated that the richest 1 percent own about 58 percent of the country’s wealth. Poor performance of the agricultural sector and lack of investments in rural infrastructure are cited as the primary reason for such rising inequalities.
  • Political Instability:
    • Political instability and inefficient administration are the major hurdles in successful implementation of the plans. Though the plans are formulated after complete analysis of the economic situation, most of the plans fail to achieve the targets due to inefficient administration, corruption, vested interests and red tapism.

Conclusion:

The achievements and failures of the economic planning in India, thus, reveal the underlying gaps in the process of planning. It is an undeniable fact that the current level of growth and development that the country has achieved could not have been possible without planning. Yet, systematic and efficient implementation of the plans and strategic policies to tackle the problem of unemployment and poverty could take the country to greater heights. It is strongly believed that the NITI Aayog would address these gaps that existed in the planning process in India and would strive to build a vibrant economy over the years.

 


General Studies – 2


 

3. The first-past-the-post (FPTP) system can lead to disproportionate outcomes, lack of proportional representation, and limited political diversity. Critically examine.

Reference: Indian Express

Introduction

The first-past-the-post (FPTP) system is also known as the simple majority system. In this voting method, the candidate with the highest number of votes in a constituency is declared the winner. This system is used in India in direct elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. Article 81 of the constitution stipulates for FPTP.

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FPTP is not truly democratic:

  • democratic decision in order to be considered legitimate must include all those affected by it in the decision-making process.
    • The FPTP system clearly violates this as minorities are not even accorded representation, forget about participation in the decision making process.
    • An electoral system skewed in favour of a majority is not conducive to a heterogeneous India, particularly when the Indian constitution also does not have political safeguards for religious minorities.
  • Results in Two Party system: Duverger, a French political scientist, argued that the FPTP system tends to bring about a two-party system at the constituency level.
    • In countries like India, this translated into the establishment of a two-party system at the State level which happened between 1967 and 1989.

FPTP is not truly representative:

  • FPTP has completely failed to ensure representation to the minorities commensurate with their demographic share. For instance, Muslims, the largest religious minority in India, have dismal representation in both the present Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.
    • It may exclude minority partiesfrom representation in Parliament or Councils if they don’t have concentration areas where their candidates can win. Lesser women MPs, MLAs as they don’t have area of concentration.
  • In the FPTP system, there is absolutely no link between the vote share obtained by the political parties and the concomitant number of seats secured.
    • For instance, in the 2014 general elections in India, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) had 31% of the vote share but this translated into almost 52% of the total seats in the Lok Sabha. A 19% vote share for the Congress, however, meant only 8% of the seats.
  • FPTP mostly manufactures majorities by exaggerating the share of seats of the leading party while it simultaneously penalises smaller parties, particularly those whose support is spatially dispersed.

Need to reexamine the FPTP system in India:

  • Democracy, in order to be legitimate, has to be inclusive and this cannot be sacrificed at the altar of stability and simplicity.
    • In India itself, there is a fast-growing recognition that the FPTP system may not completely fulfil the goal of representative democracy.
  • The Law Commission in its 170th report, submitted in 1999, recommended that India may combine the FPTP system with PR, modelled on the lines of the hybrid system followed in Germany.
    • To that end, the report suggested an increase in the Lok Sabha seats by an additional 25% which could be filled by PR while the FPTP system would continue to be used as earlier for the existing seats.
  • This proposal was reiterated by the Law Commission in its 255th report issued in 2015 though the government is yet to examine its proposals and take the next steps.
    • After the state assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh once again produced skewed results in favour of the leading party, an all-party parliamentary panel has started looking at alternatives to FPTP.
  • Even internationally, there is growing disenchantment with FPTP and many democracies including UK and Canada, are embracing PR.
    • In fact, one of India’s closest neighbours, Nepal, has chosen a hybrid electoral system combining FPTP with PR.
  • However, it would be wrong to assume that a PR system or a hybrid system for that matter would be a panacea for all problems facing Indian democracy.
    • After all, even the PR system would eventually lead to majoritarian decision-making, albeit all shades of opinion will at least be represented.
  • India must consider Ambedkar’s sagacious suggestion that minorities must have representation in the cabinet in proportion to their population.
    • This suggestion was put forward by Ambedkar in ‘States and Minorities’, a memorandum on the safeguards for minorities in general and the Scheduled Castes in particular drafted by Ambedkar and submitted to the constituent assembly in 1946.
    • It was in the form of draft articles of a constitution and had specific provisions on fundamental rights of citizens, safeguards of the rights of minorities and Scheduled Castes to representation in the legislatures, local bodies, executive and services.

Conclusion

Thus, the election process and system should safeguard the following principles: more representation, transparency, verifiability, fairness, eligibility to vote, free, secret and universal suffrage, and accessibility. There is no one objectively “best” system. The need of the hour is to debate, discuss, to evolve more suitable election system for India with changing times and demography.

Value addition:

Working of FPTP:

  • It is the simplest form of plurality/majority system, using single member districts and candidate-centred voting.
  • The voter is presented with the names of the nominated candidates and votes by choosing one, and only one, of them.
  • The winning candidate is simply the person who wins the most votes; in theory he or she could be elected with two votes, if every other candidate only secured a single vote.

Benefits of FPTP

  • The FPTP system issimple and easy to understand. There is no need for specialised knowledge of elections and politics required considering the political literacy rate of India.
  • During parliamentary debates members of constituency assembly representing Scheduled Caste and General Hindus rejected the system of proportional representation because of its complexity and difficult to understand  for illiterate population.
  • It retains link between the constituency, Member of Parliament (MP) and voter.
  • FPTP fosters representation and Geographical Accountability.
  • It allows voters to choose between persons rather than just between parties or balances both party and candidate. So voter asses performance of individualcandidate and party.
  • Gives chance to popular candidate to get elected even without party backing.
  • It is a Cost effective method of election.
  • Ensures stable governmentin a diverse country like India.

Limitations of FPTP:

  • The object of the system is just to decide which candidate races past others, almost akin to a horse race from where the term FPTP originated.
  • Also, the degree of win is irrelevant and the candidate may win by a landslide or a lucky draw. 
  • While a candidate representing only a part of the constituency is a dangerous problem on its own, it leads to more serious issues at the state and national level.
  • It will encourage development of ethnic partiese. political parties base their plans, policies in favour of particular clan, religion, region, etc.
  • Since there is delimitation of boundaries, cases of gerrymanderingcan occur.
  • It leaves a large number of wasted voteswhich do not go towards the election of any candidate.
  • The other issue with the FPTP is that the threshold is so high that newer parties cannot enter the fray.

 

 


General Studies – 3


 

4. What are the implications of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023 and the challenges in establishing a comprehensive research ecosystem in India? Discuss.

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

Recently, the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, has approved the introduction of the National Research Foundation (NRF) Bill, 2023 in Parliament. The bill will repeal the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), a statutory body that was established in 2008 to promote basic research in Science and Engineering and to provide financial assistance to persons engaged in R&D.

 

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Background

Objective of National Research Foundation

  • To ensure that scientific research was conducted and funded equitably and greater participation from the private sector was forthcoming.
  • It will focus on creating a policy framework and putting in place regulatory processes that can encourage collaboration and increased spending by the industry on R&D.
  • The NRF aims to involve colleges and universities in scientific research, as currently, less than 1% of the nearly 40,000 higher learning institutions in India are engaged in research.
  • The NRF plans to build research capacities in universities by encouraging active researchers to take up NRF professorships, regardless of age, and collaborate with existing faculty.

 

Features of

  • Establishment of NRF: The bill, after approval in the Parliament, will establish NRF, an apex body to provide high-level strategic direction of scientific research in India as per recommendations of the National Education Policy (NEP), at a total estimated cost of Rs. 50,000 crores during five years (2023-28).
  • Subsumption of SERB: The bill will repeal the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) established by an act of Parliament in 2008 and subsume it into NRF which has an expanded mandate and covers activities over and above the activities of SERB.
  • Administration and Governance: The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be the administrative Department of NRF which will be governed by a Governing Board consisting of eminent researchers and professionals across disciplines.
    • The Prime Minister will be the ex-officio President of the Board and the Union Minister of Science & Technology & Union Minister of Education will be the ex-officio Vice-Presidents.
    • NRF’s functioning will be governed by an Executive Council chaired by the Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India.

Implications of the bill

  • Promoting Research other than Natural Science: The NRF will fund and promote research not only in natural sciences but also in humanities, social sciences, and art.
    • This integration is crucial for fostering creativity, critical thinking, and communication skills.
    • Currently, research in these areas has limited funding sources. Establishing directorates for social sciences, Indian languages and knowledge systems, arts, and humanities is among the NRF’s goals.
  • National Priorities: It seeks to identify priority areas where science and technology interventions can contribute to national objectives such as clean energy, climate change, sustainable infrastructure, improved transportation, and accessible and affordable healthcare.
  • Enhanced Funding: It seeks to increase funding for scientific research in India, both from government and private sources.
    • Currently, India’s spending on research and development is below7 % of its GDP, when even countries like Egypt or Brazil spend more.
    • US, China, Israel, Japan, and South Korea spend anywhere between 2 to 5% of their respective GDPs on scientific research.
    • Insufficient funding has directly affected the quality and quantity of research output in India. The initial allocation of Rs 50,000 crore over five years for the NRF does not represent a substantial increase but is expected to grow as the NRF gains recognition and demonstrates progress.

Challenges with NRF

  • Financial crunch: 50% of the funding mechanism is dependent on private sector.
  • While the participation of the private industry in the NRF is an important and welcome step, it is unclear how the government will raise Rs 36,000 crore from the industry.
  • Autonomy: The top positions in the NRF board are reserved for members of the government, including the PM and the Ministers of Science, Technology and Education.
  • Time period: Although the NRF draft mentions that the peer-review process will be completed within 6 months, releasing funds may take time, pending financial clearance

Conclusion

The establishment of the NRF in India holds immense potential to revolutionize the scientific research landscape. By broadening research participation, including social sciences, focusing on national priorities, and increasing funding, the NRF can address critical challenges, enhance research output, and foster innovation.

With the NRF’s effective implementation, India’s scientific research ecosystem is poised for significant improvement, leading to transformative outcomes for the nation.

 

 

5. Do you think that Urban flooding which is being witnessed in metropolitan cities across the nation is a man-made disaster? Critically analyse.

Reference: The Quint

Introduction

As the incidence of climate variability and extreme weather events increases, urban flooding becomes more and more common. While the untimely heavy rains can be attributed to climate variability, the urban flooding is largely due to an unplanned urbanisation.

In many Indian cities, the urban floods have become a frequent phenomenon in recent years. Overburdened drainage, unregulated construction, no regard to the natural topography and hydro-geomorphology all make urban floods a man-made disaster.

In the aftermath of the devastating flood situation in Delhi, Prime Minister Modi expressed his concern and assured support to the affected people. The floods caused widespread damage and loss of lives in the region, and the government is mobilizing resources to provide relief and assistance to those affected.

Body:

Yes, urban floods is a man-made disaster

  • Inadequate Drainage Infrastructure: Cities like Hyderabad, Mumbai rely on a century-old drainage system, covering only a small part of the core city.
    • In the last 20 years, the Indian cities have grown manifold with its original built-up area.
    • As the city grew beyond its original limits, not much was done to address the absence of adequate drainage systems.
    • CAG report (last year) pulled up Bengaluru municipality for this poor civic management of storm water drainage.
  • Terrain Alteration: Lasting irreversible damage has been done to the city by property builders, property owners, and public agencies by flattening terrain and altering natural drainage routes.
  • Reducing Seepage: Indian cities are becoming increasingly impervious to water, not just because of increasing built up but also because of the nature of materials used (hard, non-porous construction material that makes the soil impervious).
  • Lax Implementation: Even with provisions of rainwater harvesting, sustainable urban drainage systems, etc, in regulatory mechanisms like the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), adoption at user end as well as enforcement agencies remains weak.
  • Encroaching Natural Spaces: The number of wetlands has reduced to 123 in 2018 from 644 in 1956.
    • Green cover is only 9 per cent, which ideally should have been at least 33 per cent.
  • Destruction of mangroves: Mumbai lost about 40% of its mangroves between 1995 and 2005.
  • Lack of data: CAG also found that the Bengaluru municipality did not maintain proper records of the stormwater management funds allotted to it under the JNNURM.
  • Lack of coordination: CAG report also noted the lack of coordination between the municipality and the Bangalore Development Authority on drainage-related matters.

However, there are natural causes too which lead to urban floods

  • Higher rainfall: As per the IMD, monsoon has become frequent and unpredictable
  • Storm surges (for coastal cities): E.g. Cyclone Amphan in 2020 flooded the streets of Kolkata. Within eastern India, the storm killed 98 people and caused $13.8 billion(2020 USD).
  • Groundwater levels:In Chennai, the replenished groundwater table across the city after rains becomes a challenge for several buildings with basements.

Measures needed

Protecting the greens, curbing new unauthorised concretisation, separating the stormwater drains from the sewer network, and ensuring waste segregation and treatment are keys to addressing this problem.

Way forward

  • Need for Holistic Engagement: Urban floods of this scale cannot be contained by the municipal authorities alone. Floods cannot be managed without concerted and focused investments of energy and resources.
    • The Metropolitan Development Authorities, National Disaster Management Authority, State revenue and irrigation departments along with municipal corporations should be involved in such work together.
    • Such investments can only be done in a mission mode organisation with active participation of civil society organisations at the metropolitan scale.
  • Developing Sponge Cities: The idea of a sponge city is to make cities more permeable so as to hold and use the water which falls upon it.
    • Sponge cities absorb the rain water, which is then naturally filtered by the soil and allowed to reach urban aquifers.
    • This allows for the extraction of water from the ground through urban or peri-urban wells.
    • This water can be treated easily and used for city water supply.
  • Wetland Policy:There is a need to start paying attention to the management of wetlands by involving local communities.
    • Without doubt, terrain alteration needs to be strictly regulated and a ban on any further alteration of terrain needs to be introduced.
    • To improve the city’s capacity to absorb water, new porous materials and technologies must be encouraged or mandated across scales.
    • Examples of these technologies are bioswales and retention systems, permeable material for roads and pavement, drainage systems which allow storm water to trickle into the ground, green roofs and harvesting systems in buildings.
  • Drainage Planning:Watershed management and emergency drainage plan should be clearly enunciated in policy and law.
    • Urban watersheds are micro ecological drainage systems, shaped by contours of terrain.
    • Detailed documentation of these must be held by agencies which are not bound by municipal jurisdictions; instead, there is a need to consider natural boundaries such as watersheds instead of governance boundaries like electoral wards for shaping a drainage plan.
  • Water Sensitive Urban Design:These methods take into consideration the topography, types of surfaces (permeable or impervious), natural drainage and leave very less impact on the environment.
    • Vulnerability analyses and risk assessments should form part and parcel of city master plans.
    • In a changing climate, the drainage infrastructure (especially storm water drainage) has to be built considering the new ‘normal’.
    • Tools such as predictive precipitation modelling can help do that and are also able to link it with the adaptive capacity of urban land use.

Conclusion

These can all be delivered effectively through an urban mission along the lines of the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT)National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) and Smart Cities MissionUrban Flood management will not just help control recurring floods but also respond to other fault lines, provide for water security, more green spaces, and will make the city resilient and sustainable.

 

Answer the following questions in 250 words(15 marks each):


General Studies – 1


 

6. India played a significant role in the Non-Aligned Movement and worked towards maintaining a policy of non-alignment during the Cold War. However, the complex geopolitical realities of the era made complete neutrality difficult to achieve, and India occasionally took actions that raised doubts about its adherence to strict non-alignment principles. Analyse.

Reference: Insights on India

Introduction

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was created and founded during the collapse of the colonial system and the independence struggles of the peoples of Africa, Asia, Latin America and other regions of the world and at the height of the Cold War. Throughout its history, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries has played a fundamental role in the preservation of world peace and security.

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Role of NAM countries in reducing cold war conflicts

  • In middle of the cold war, NAM ensured that peoples being oppressed by foreign occupation and domination can exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.
  • South-South Cooperation: NAM acted as a protector for the small countries against the western hegemony. The third world nations and newly independent countries supported each other in their quest for development.
  • NIEO: During the 1970s and 1980s, the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries played a key role in the struggle for the establishment of a new international economic order(NIEO) that allowed all the peoples of the world to make use of their wealth and natural resources and provided a wide platform for a fundamental change in international economic relations and the economic emancipation of the countries of the South.
  • Disarmament: The Non-aligned Movement repeatedly comes out for maintenance of peace, ‘the cessation of arms race and the peaceful coexistence of all States.

India’s contribution to NAM

  • As a leader of NAM, India’s response to the cold war power politics was two-fold:
    • India steered itself away from the great power politics, positioning itself as an ‘interested observer’.
    • It raised its voice against the newly decolonized nations from joining the either bloc.
  • During the cold war, India made a, concerted effort to activate those regional & international organizations, which were not a part of the alliances led by US & USSR, thus maintaining the spirit of NAM.
  • In the General Assembly, India submitted a draft resolution declaring that the use of nuclear weapons would be against the charter of the United Nations and crime against humanity and should therefore be prohibited.
  • Non-alignment has been an influential tenet of India’s foreign policy since its emergence from decolonization.
  • It was based on a realistic assessment of India’s geopolitical situation.
  • Nehru, one of the chief architects of NAM intended to give India room to manoeuvre according to its own interests rather than allowing it to become confined within the limitations of the cold-war alliance.

Critical analysis

  • India’s inclination towards erstwhile USSR created confusions in smaller members. It led to the weakening of NAM and small nations drifted towards either US or USSR.
  • The signing of Friendship Treaty with Soviet Union was a major Faultline and India was considered anti-west for a long time.
  • However, with the end of cold war power politics and emergence of Unipolar World, non-alignment, both as an international movement as well as the core of India’s foreign policy, has lost some of its relevance & importance.
  • The NAM countries did not have any concrete initiative in the context of crisis in Syria & Libya.
  • Many ‘non-aligned’ countries, including India are continuing NAM as a historical legacy and have re-oriented their foreign policy towards strengthening engagements with major powers, such as USA, Russia & China, for their domestic development agenda.
  • The sparse attendance by heads of government/State at 17th NAM Summit (Venezuela) is the key evidence of the crisis of relevance of NAM.
  • According to C. Raja Mohan NAM is in the state of ‘COMA’. It is passing through the crisis of identity and relevance.

Conclusion

Non alignment as a foreign policy is very much alive even today in India’s foreign policy. The strategic autonomy approach is a manifestation of the same. The NAM platform is still the biggest arena of developing nations. Hence it becomes relevant to mobilize international public opinion against terrorism, weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), nuclear proliferation, ecological imbalance, safeguarding interests of developing countries in WTO (World Trade Organization) etc.

Value Addition

  • The basic concept for the group originated in 1955 during discussions that took place at the Asia-Africa Bandung Conference held in Indonesia.
  • The Non-Aligned Movement was founded and held its first conference (the Belgrade Conference) in 1961 under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and Sukarno of Indonesia.
  • NAM does not have a formal constitution or permanent secretariat, and its administration is non-hierarchical and rotational. Decisions are made by consensus, which requires substantial agreement, but not unanimity.
  • It has 120 members as of April 2018 comprising 53 countries from Africa, 39 from Asia, 26 from Latin America and the Caribbean and 2 from Europe (Belarus, Azerbaijan). There are 17 countries and 10 international organizations that are Observers at NAM.


General Studies – 2


 


7. The Parliamentary Standing Committees are essential institutions in the Indian parliamentary system, tasked with examining and scrutinizing bills, policies, and matters related to governance. However, over time, their role as a deliberative and consensus-building body has faced certain challenges, leading to a diminishing impact. Critically analyse.

Reference: The Hindu

Introduction

In the Indian Parliament, a Standing committee is a committee consisting of Members of Parliament. It is a permanent and regular committee which is constituted from time to time according to the provisions of an Act of Parliament or Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business. Both houses of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, and Lok Sabha have similar Committee structures with a few exceptions. Parliamentary committees draw their authority from Article 105 (on privileges of Parliament members) and Article 118 (on Parliament’s authority to make rules for regulating its procedure and conduct of business).

The government has constituted a new internal oversight mechanism for official data, revamping a Standing Committee on Economic Statistics (SCES) set up in late 2019, soon after the findings from the last round of household surveys on consumption expenditure and employment were junked, citing ‘data quality issues’.

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Significance of Parliamentary Standing Committees:

  • Parliament is the embodiment of the people’s will. Committees are an instrument of Parliament for its own effective functioning.
  • Committees are platforms for threadbare discussion on a proposed law.
  • The smaller cohort of lawmakers, assembled on the basis of the proportional strength of individual parties and interests and expertise of individual lawmakers, could have more open, intensive and better-informed discussions.
  • Committee meetings are ‘closed door’ and members are not bound by party whips, which allows them the latitude for a more meaningful exchange of views as against discussions in full and open Houses where grandstanding and party positions invariably take precedence.
  • Members of Parliament may have great acumen but they would require the assistance of experts in dealing with such situations. It is through committees that such expertise is drawn into law-making.
  • Executive accountability to the legislature is enforced through questions in Parliament also, which are answered by ministers. However, department standing committees go one step further and hear from senior officials of the government in a closed setting, allowing for more detailed discussions.
  • This mechanism also enables parliamentarians to understand the executive processes closely.

Role of committees:

  • Support Parliament’s work.
  • Examine ministerial budgets, consider Demands for Grants, analyse legislation and scrutinise the government’s working.
  • Examine Bills referred to by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha.
  • Consideration of Annual Reports.
  • Consideration of national basic long term policy documents presented to the House and referred to the Committee by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha or the Speaker, Lok Sabha.

Challenges faced:

  • Persistent absenteeism from meetings of department-related standing committees should cost MPs their spot on these parliamentary panels was a strong view that emerged during a meeting of chairpersons of the committees with Rajya Sabha chairman M Venkaiah Naidu recently.
  • Eleven of the 22 Bills introduced in the ongoing session of Parliament have been passed, which makes it a highly productive session after many years.
  • But these Bills have been passed without scrutiny by parliamentary standing committees, their purpose being to enable detailed consideration of a piece of legislation.
  • After the formation of the 17th Lok Sabha, parliamentary standing committees have not been constituted as consultations among parties are still under way.
  • Partly as a result of this, the Bills were passed without committee scrutiny. They were discussed in Parliament over durations ranging between two and five hours.

Way forward:

  • Parliamentary committees don’t have dedicated subject-wise research support available. The knowledge gap is partially bridged by expert testimony from government and other stakeholders.
  • Their work could be made more effective if the committees had full-time, sector-specific research staff.
  • The national commission to review the working of the Constitution has recommended that in order to strengthen the committee system, research support should be made available to them.
  • Currently, the rules of Parliament don’t require every bill to be referred to a parliamentary committee for scrutiny. While this allows the government greater flexibility and the ability to speed up legislative business, it comes at the cost of ineffective scrutiny by the highest law-making body.
  • Mandatory scrutiny of all bills by parliamentary committees would ensure better planning of legislative business.

 

8. As per international water law, what are the principles of ‘equitable and reasonable utilization’ and the ‘no harm rule’? Examine the challenges and opportunities in incorporating the aforementioned principles in the Indus Waters Treaty to address the water-sharing disputes between India and Pakistan.

Reference: The Hindu

 

Introduction

International water law principles of ‘equitable and reasonable utilization’ and the ‘no harm rule’ are crucial elements in managing shared water resources between countries. These principles are enshrined in various international water agreements, conventions, and customary international law.

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Principles of ‘equitable and reasonable utilization’ and the ‘no harm rule’

  • Principle of Equitable and Reasonable Utilization: This principle emphasizes that water resources should be shared in a manner that is fair and reasonable among all riparian states. It acknowledges that each state has a right to access and utilize the waters of an international watercourse, but this right should be exercised in a way that takes into account the needs and interests of all parties involved. It encourages cooperation and negotiation among riparian states to ensure the best possible utilization of the shared water resources.
  • No Harm Rule: The no harm rule stipulates that a state should not cause significant harm to other riparian states through its water use activities. This means that any use of water resources should be carried out in a way that avoids causing substantial negative impacts on neighbouring states. The no harm rule aims to prevent any activities that might lead to unreasonable harm or damage to the environment or other users of the shared watercourse.

Major provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan

  • The Treaty gives India control of 3 Eastern Rivers (Beas, Ravi and Sutlej) with a mean annual flow of 33 million acre-feet (MAF). Pakistan gets control of 3 Western Rivers (Chenab, Indus and Jhelum) with a mean annual flow of 80 MAF. The treaty gives India 20% of the water from the Indus River System and the rest 80% to Pakistan.
  • The treaty allows India to utilize the waters of Western Rivers for for limited irrigation use and non-consumptive use for such applications as power generationnavigation Thus, India can generate hydroelectricity through a run-of-the-river projects (without the storage of waters) on the western rivers, subject to specific criteria for design and operation. Further, Pakistan also has the right to raise concerns on the design of Indian hydroelectric projects on western rivers.
  • The treaty allowed India to have a minimum storage level on the western rivers – meaning it can store up to 3.75 MAF of water for conservation and flood storage purposes.
  • Permanent Indus Commission was set up by the United Nations for resolving any disputes that may arise in water sharing.
  • The functions of the commission include serving as a forum for exchange of information on the rivers, for continued cooperation and as a first stop for resolution of conflicts.

 

Challenges in incorporating the aforementioned principles

  • Historical Context and Political Tensions: The Indus Waters Treaty was signed in 1960 between India and Pakistan, facilitated by the World Bank, to govern the sharing of the Indus River and its tributaries. Over the years, political tensions between the two countries have affected the implementation of the treaty. Incorporating the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization and the no harm rule requires a strong commitment from both nations to set aside political disputes and prioritize cooperative water management.
  • Changing Climate and Water Availability: Climate change can significantly impact water availability in the Indus Basin. Glacier melt in the Himalayas, which feeds the Indus River, may lead to alterations in water flow patterns and availability. Addressing these changes while upholding the principles of equitable sharing and avoiding harm will require adaptive management strategies and close cooperation between India and Pakistan.
  • Infrastructure Development and Water Use Efficiency: Both India and Pakistan have increased their water use for agricultural, industrial, and domestic purposes since the treaty’s inception. However, the treaty does not explicitly address issues related to water use efficiency, modernization of irrigation practices, or the construction of new infrastructure. Balancing equitable use with increasing water demands and infrastructure development poses a challenge.

Way forward and Opportunities for Enhancing the Treaty:

  • Modernization and Technological Advancements: Updating the Indus Waters Treaty to incorporate modern technology and advanced data collection methods can help in better monitoring and sharing of water data. This transparency can build trust between India and Pakistan and facilitate informed decision-making based on real-time information.
  • Basin-Wide Approach and Regional Cooperation: Expanding the scope of the treaty to involve all riparian states within the Indus Basin could lead to a more comprehensive and inclusive water management framework. A basin-wide approach would acknowledge the interconnectedness of water resources and encourage regional cooperation for equitable and sustainable utilization.
  • Dispute Resolution Mechanism: Strengthening the dispute resolution mechanism in the treaty to include arbitration or mediation processes can help resolve disagreements more effectively. Establishing a neutral body to oversee dispute resolution can ensure that the principles of equitable sharing and no harm are upheld.

 

Conclusion

Incorporating the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization and the no harm rule into the Indus Waters Treaty requires a concerted effort from both India and Pakistan. With the current state of relations this seems next to impossible.

Addressing the challenges posed by political tensions, climate change, and infrastructure development while seizing opportunities for modernization and regional cooperation can pave the way for sustainable water-sharing arrangements and enhance water security in the region.


General Studies – 3


 


9. Weakening coral reefs reduce their ability to protect coastal communities from storms and sea-level rise, making these areas more vulnerable to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change. Efforts to protect and restore coral reefs are essential to safeguarding the well-being of both marine wildlife and human communities. Examine.

Reference: Down to Earth

Introduction

Coral Bleaching occurs when the corals expel a certain algae known as zooxanthellae, which lives in the tissues of the coral in a symbiotic relationship. About 90% of the energy of the coral is provided by the zooxanthellae which are endowed with chlorophyll and other pigments. They are responsible for the yellow or reddish brown colours of the host coral. In addition the zooxanthellae can live as endosymbionts with jellyfish also.

The water off South Florida is over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) in mid-July, and scientists are already seeing signs of coral bleaching off Central and South America. An alarming milestone for the coral wonder that points to the continued threat of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

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Causes of Coral Bleaching

Natural Causes

  • Climate Change
    • Rising Sea surface temperature: The main cause of coral bleaching is heat stress resulting from high sea temperatures. Temperature increases of only one degree Celsius for only four weeks can trigger bleaching events.
      • If these temperatures persist for longer periods (eight weeks or more) corals begin to die.
    • El-Nino: Frequency of storms such as those associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation events has resulted in the devastation of very large areas of coral. In fact, 16% of the world’s corals were affected by the 1997-1998 El-Nino event.
  • Increased solar irradiance: Bleaching during the summer months, during seasonal temperature and irradiance maxima often occurs disproportionately in shallow-living corals and on the exposed summits of colonies. Solar radiation has been suspected to play a role in coral bleaching. Both photosynthetically active radiation (PAR, 400-700nm) and ultraviolet radiation (UVR, 280-400nm) have been implicated in bleaching.
  • Freshwater inundation: Strong cyclones and storms causes heavy precipitation and strongly dilutes the ocean water near the shore. This can disrupt Saline content (ppm) of the shallow water coral and induces bleaching.
  • Subaerial exposure: Sudden exposure of reef flat corals to the atmosphere during events such as extreme low tides, ENSO-related sea level drops or tectonic uplift can potentially induce bleaching. The consequent exposure to high or low temperatures, increased solar radiation, desiccation, and sea water dilution by heavy rains could all play a role in zooxanthellae loss, but could also very well lead to coral death.
  • Cold-Stress Event: In January 2010, cold water temperatures in the Florida Keys caused a coral bleaching event that resulted in some coral death.
  • Epizootics: Pathogen induced bleaching is different from other sorts of bleaching. Most coral diseases cause patchy or whole colony death and sloughing of soft tissues, resulting in a white skeleton (not to be confused with bleached corals). A few pathogens have been identified the cause translucent white tissues, a protozoan.

Anthropogenic activities

  • Increasing Green House Gas Emissions
  • CO2 Emissions: Rising Emission intensity from fossil fuels, coal and factories are heating up the planet and increasing carbon fertilization in oceans. Harmful Algal Blooms leads to turbity of water, thereby causing bleaching.
  • Pollutant Runoff: Pollutants from river water and industrial affluent leads to bleaching.
  • Poor Quality water: This can occur due to toxic sediment that comes along with the water that joins the sea. Corals cannot withstand toxicity and thus expel the algae.

Impact of Coral Bleaching on Coral Reefs

Corals begin to starve once they bleach. While some corals are able to feed themselves, most corals struggle to survive without their zooxanthellae. If conditions return to normal, corals can regain their zooxanthellae, return to their normal colour and survive. However, this stress is likely to cause decreased coral growth and reproduction, and increased susceptibility to disease.

  • Great Barrier Reef: Over 2016 and 2017, Great Barrier Reef suffered back-to-back bleaching, leaving half of the shallow water corals dead. One-third of the 3,863 reefs that make up the Great Barrier Reef went through a catastrophic die-off.
  • Biodiversity of Ocean Ecosystem These sessile organisms also provide refuge and shelter for many mobile animals. The entire biodiversity sustaining on the coral reef will be affected.
  • Fish Species: 25% of fish species spend some part of their life cycle in reefs, despite the fact that they cover less than 1% of ocean floor.
  • Carbon sink: In addition, sessile algae and the coral–algal symbiosis determine carbon fixation and its pathways into organic and inorganic forms. These are the basis for the energy that supports the ecosystem and deposits the calcium carbonate skeletons that create the reef.
  • Loss of livelihoods: Countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines would bear the brunt of the damage, as it will reduce the fish stock rapidly.
  • Economic Impact: Both fishing and tourism will be hit hard. Many communities in Queensland had to look for alternate livelihoods due to coral bleaching and loss of ocean ecosystem.
  • Barrier to storm: Coral reefs act as key barrier to guard against incoming storms and mitigate the damage done by surging seas.

Way forward

  • Limiting global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C, in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, provides the only chance for the survival of coral reefs globally.
  • Other measures alone, such as addressing local pollution and destructive fishing practices, cannot save coral reefs without stabilised greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reinforcing commitments to the Paris Agreement must be mirrored in all other global agreements such as the Sustainable Development Goals. l.
  • Economic systems need to rapidly move to the low greenhouse gas emission scenario to enable global temperature decrease.
  • A move away from current economic thinking should include the benefits provided by coral reefs, which are currently not taken into account in mainstream business and finance.
  • Therefore, sustaining and restoring coral reefs should be treated as an asset, and long-term investments should be made for their preservation.
  • Investments should also include support for research at the frontiers of biology, such as genetic selection of heat-resistant corals that can withstand rising global temperatures.

Conclusion:

There also needs to be a transformation of mainstream economic systems and a move towards circular economic practices. These are highlighted in SDG 8 (inclusive and sustainable economic growth) and SDG 12 (sustainable consumption and production patterns).

 

10. It is essential to strike a balance by ensuring rigorous scientific evaluations, transparent regulatory processes, and addressing concerns about environmental and food safety to responsibly harness the benefits of GM technology for India’s agricultural sector. Critically analyse the above statement in the context of Indian government’s approach to approving GM mustard.

Reference: The HinduInsights on India

Introduction

Genetic engineering aims to transcend the genus barrier by introducing an alien gene in the seeds to get the desired effects. The alien gene could be from a plant, an animal or even a soil bacterium. In most cases, the aim is to introduce a new trait to the plant which does not occur naturally in the species.

The recent clearance by the government for the release of GM Mustard Hybrid DMH 11 — based on the recommendations of GEAC under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change — is a bold decision in the best interest of our farmers and the nation.

A determined battle by environmentalists in the Supreme Court of India against Delhi University’s genetically modified (GM) herbicide-tolerant (HT) mustard is all that stands between GM food and Indian farmers and consumers.

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Need for the GM Crops other than pest resistance:

  • Food Security: Given the increased growth of global population and increased urbanisation, GM crops offer one of the promising solutions to meet the world’s food security needs.
  • Improved Stress Tolerance: Genes that give greater tolerance of stress, such as drought, low temperatures or salt in the soil, can also be inserted into crops. This can extend their range and open up new areas for food production.
  • Faster Growth: Crops can be altered to make them grow faster, so that they can be cultivated and harvested in areas with shorter growing seasons. This again can extend the range of a food crop into new areas or perhaps allow two harvests in areas where only one is currently practical.
  • More Nutritious Crops: Plants and animals can be engineered to produce larger amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, helping to solve nutrition problems in some parts of the world. They can also be altered to change the amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and saturated and unsaturated fats that they contain. This could lead to the production of foods designed specifically for a healthy diet for all consumers.
  • Production of Medicines and Vaccines by Crops: It may be possible to have plants and animals produce useful medicines and even vaccines, so that prevention and treatment of human diseases in some places can be achieved cheaply and efficiently through the diet.
  • Resistance to Herbicides: Crops can be modified to be resistant to specific herbicides, making it much easier to control troublesome weeds. Farmers can simply apply the weed killer to a crop field, killing the unwanted plants and leaving the food crop unaffected. For example, GM oilseed rapeseed – the source of canola oil – is resistant to one chemical that’s widely used to control weeds.
  • Better Tasting Foods: Foods can be engineered to taste better, which could encourage people to eat healthier foods that are currently not popular because of their taste, such as broccoli and spinach. It may be possible to insert genes that produce more or different flavours as well.
  • Economic benefits: GM crops can increase yield and thus income. Genetically modified foods have a longer shelf life. This improves how long they last and stay fresh during transportation and storage.

Positive aspect of the lifting the ban on G-Mustard and its impact on the farmers as well as scientific community in the country

  • It helps to meet our current challenges — over-exploitation of natural resources (soil, water, biodiversity), declining factor productivity, urgency to achieve sustainable development goals, especially ending poverty and hunger, and addressing timely the adverse effects of climate change
  • A major concern of our farmers is that yields of mustard are low and have stagnated for a long time at around 1,260 kg/ha, much lower than the global average of 2,000 kg/ha.
  • Mustard is a very important oilseed crop, grown in 6.0 -7.0 million hectares, mostly in Rajasthan, Haryana, Punjab and Madhya Pradesh. Thus, the government’s decision to allow the production of GM Mustard hybrids will go a long way in increasing our yields, while reducing the use of pesticides.
  • Allowing the production of GM Soybean and GM Maize going forward will also be a positive step, increasing both the productivity and profitability of these crops and doubling farmers’ income — a goal envisioned by the Prime Minister.

Concerns/Challenges associated with GM Crops:

  • Human Health Risks:
    • Potential impact on human health including allergens and transfer of antibiotic resistance markers.
    • The impact of growing GM crops poses risks to human health as their resistance to antibiotics can turn medicines ineffective and may result in the formation of new toxins and allergens.
    • Toxins produced by GM crops can not only affect non-target organisms but also pose the danger of unintentionally introducing allergens and other anti-nutrition factors in foods.
  • Bio safety concerns:
    • They can reduce species diversity.
    • For example, Insect-resistant plants might harm insects that are not their intended target and thus result in destruction of that particular species.
    • Cross-pollination in GM crops paves the way for herbicide-resistant super weeds that can further threaten the sustenance of other crops and pests because of its uncontrolled growth
    • GM technology could also allow the transfer of genes from one crop to another, creating “super weeds”, which will be immune to common control methods.
    • Viral genes added to crops to confer resistance might be transferred to other viral pathogens, which can lead to new and more virulent virus strains.
  • Implications on Farmers and Consumers:
    • Critics claim that patent laws give developersof the GM crops a dangerous degree of control over the food supply. The concern is over domination of world food production by a few companies
    • National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research’santicipation that Bt brinjal’s high yield and increased shelf life will benefit consumers and farmers owing to cut in retail price of brinjals ignores the scenario that companies might charge premium prices for Bt brinjal seeds, in which case farmers may not benefit at all.
  • Economic Concerns:
    • Introduction of a GM crop to market is a lengthy and costly process. It has not resulted in high yields as promised.
    • For instance, the highest yields in mustard are from the five countries which do not grow GM mustard — U.K., France, Poland, Germany and Czech Republic — and not from the GM-growing U.S. or Canada.
  • Inefficient Regulatory system:
    • Seeing the lapses in the regulatory system and irregularities in the assessment of Bt brinjal (in terms of labelling and unapproved and illegal sowing of GM crops) Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Science & Technology, Environment and Forests recommended:
    • A thorough probe by a team of eminent independent scientists and environmentalists for commercialization of GM crops.
    • Endorsed labelling GM foods to protect a consumer’s right to know.
  • Ethical Concerns:
    • Violation of natural organisms’ intrinsic values by mixing among species.
    • There have also been objections to consuming animal genes in plants

Way Forward:

  • The government must take decisions on GM technologies on the basis of scientific evidence.
  • Need to start cultivating an environment of openness and transparency to allay genuine fears
  • The government should adopt a participatory approach to bring together all stakeholders to develop regulatory protocols that restore trust in the process.
  • There is a significant uncertainty over their safety, so precautionary principle is that country shall wait till a broader scientific consensus is achieved.
  • Need for better policy, pricing and to rationalize the input costs
  • GEAC needs to be a transparent body. it should put it in the public domain that on what grounds it has approved GM mustard
  • There has to be strong liability laws if there are any environmental hazards or if something goes wrong in future
  • Agriculture is a state subject; therefore, it is important for the Centre to take into consideration the views of State Governments as well.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has rightly pointed out in 2004, “Science cannot declare any technology completely risk free. Genetically engineered crops can reduce some environmental risks associated with conventional agriculture, but will also introduce new challenges that must be addressed”.

Conclusion:

Clearly, there can be no credible argument against scientific experiments in agriculture that advance the goal of developing plant varieties that can withstand drought, resist pests and raise yields to feed the growing world population. But this should be done through a transparent regulatory process that is free of ethical conflicts. All this underscores the need for a cautious approach — one that fosters scientific inquiry, allows for scrutiny and is underpinned by regulation. Enacting a comprehensive law that covers all aspects of GM crops should be a priority.


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