1.From plate to plough (The Indian Express)
2.Pakistan political crisis (The Hindu)
3.At The Half-way Mark (The Indian Express)
1.From plate to plough (The Indian Express)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue how to ensure success of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. (GS paper III)
- Agriculture plays a vital role in India’s economy. Over 58 per cent of the rural households depend on agriculture as their principal means of livelihood. Agriculture, along with fisheries and forestry, is one of the largest contributors to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Farmers have always been the back-bone of our country
- Recent floods in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Assam show that even in an otherwise normal monsoon year, farmers in certain pockets could still suffer due to natural calamities. The droughts of 2014-15 and 2015-16 exposed that the existing crop insurance schemes were not enough to alleviate farmers’ woes.
Success of Government’s initiatives
- Under the National Agriculture Insurance Scheme (NAIS), modified NAIS, and Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme (WBCIS) sum insured were too low, as premiums were kept low. Further, the compensation was too meagre, and the long wait which the farmers had to go through meant that the relief wasn’t meaningful.
- A revamped crop insurance scheme Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) was launched by the government in 2016 has brought more crop area under insurance. PMFBY raised the sums insured to realistic levels, basically to cover the cost of cultivation of farmers.
- The premiums were heavily subsidised by the Centre and the states in equal proportions, with farmers paying only 2 per cent of the premium for Kharif and 1.5 percent for Rabi (for horticulture crops it was 5 per cent).
- The sum insured on per hectare basis under the PMFBY increased by 51 per cent over kharif 2015. The number of non-loanee farmers opting PMFBY, as per the ministry’s communication, also increased by about 23 per cent, driven primarily by Maharashtra. All these indicators show that the PMFBY is moving at a good pace and in the right direction.
- But faltered in its promise of faster settlement of claims and providing relief to farmers in states hit by severe drought in an otherwise normal monsoon year. Despite the increasing coverage, the premiums, as percentage of sums insured, increased, the litmus test of any crop insurance scheme is how fast it can settle the claims of farmers.
- There is procedure to be followed for example firstly the state has to notify the crops, make clusters of districts, determine the sums to be insured based on district level committees, and invite tenders from insurance companies.
- Secondly the State and the Centre have to pay premium to the companies providing insurance; and thirdly, in case of crop damages, quickly assess the damages and ask companies to pay the claims of farmers. Unfortunately, in this entire process, farmers have almost no role. That’s the reason why its implementation and effectiveness has fallen between the cracks.
- The slow pace and casual attitude of several state agencies has delayed compensations to farmers for losses in kharif 2016, and it may happen again in kharif 2017. There is also failure in using modern technologies in assessing crop damages.
- The PMFBY has moved in the right direction and made substantial progress in terms of coverage, but failed in quick dispensation of claims to farmers. The primary reason behind this failure is the lethargy and casual attitude of state agencies.
- The agriculture sector in India is expected to generate better momentum in the next few years due to increased investments in agricultural infrastructure such as irrigation facilities, warehousing and cold storage. However farmers are in need of more attention, currently several loanee farmers may not even be aware that they are insured, so there is urgent need of awareness generation. Program need to be farmer-centric with effective implementation.
- There is need to link the insurance database with Core Banking Solution (CBS) so that when premium is deducted from a farmer’s bank account, the bank sends him a message informing about the premium, sum insured and name of insurance company.
Question– How PM Fasal Bima yojana is an improvement over earlier crop insurance programmes ?
2.Pakistan political crisis (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on recent disqualification of Pakistan’s Prime Minister and how it will impact upon India. (GS paper II)
- Recently the Supreme Court of Pakistan disqualified its Prime Minister from holding public office and barring him from electoral politics for five years. The investigation into the Panama Papers concluded that his assets exceeded his known sources of income. It leaves a huge political vacuum in the country.
- Pakistan has had a spell of relative economic stability, an easing of the electricity crisis and a drop in terror attacks. Political instability will further embolden the Pakistan army. Now that PM is gone, it is not clear how the military will deal with any resultant political instability or executive frailty. Now there is greater risk in relations between India and Pakistan.
- This is the third time Pakistan Prime minister’s premiership has been cut short. First two terms were ended by the country’s powerful military, first forcing him to resign and then overthrowing his government in a coup, this time it was through a formal legal process.
- The Supreme Court of Pakistan has invoked a controversial Article of the Constitution that requires politicians to be “honest” and “righteous”. The court ruled that current Prime minister was dishonest in failing to disclose in his 2013 election nomination papers his association with a UAE-based company and therefore was unfit to continue in office.
- The court also referred money-laundering allegations against the PM and his children to the National Accountability Bureau, the anti-corruption regulator.
Impact on India
- Ever since the attack on the Indian Army base in Uri last year, India-Pakistan relations have been strained. The Kulbhushan Jadhav case worsened the ties. There was little chance of PM making any move to improve the ties with India independent of the military.
- Also Pakistan was coming under increased pressure from the United States to act against militants, and while border tensions with India and Afghanistan continue to remain high. India’s best bet is a demilitarised Pakistan which desists from sending terrorists into the Indian Territory.
- In the longer term, military dominance in Pakistan is not positive for India. There was hope that over time Pakistan would elect a government which could stand up to military. With PM’s exit, there is little chance of any strong leader emerging in foreseeable future.
- Though a change of government in Pakistan hardly impacts its India policy which is always dictated by the military, a free hand for military due to the political instability will increase tensions with India.
- PM’s early departure before the full term has stamps out the hope that Pakistan could be called as mature democracy. The India-Pakistan relationship has been at an impasse for a number of years. The trajectory has been largely downward, as clear from the renewed skirmishing along the Line of Control and the present problems in Kashmir. His departure from the political scene is almost certain to herald a period of volatility within Pakistan and, therefore, greater risk in relations between India and Pakistan.
Question– What are the implications of the issues unfolding in Pakistan over India?
At The Half-way Mark (The Indian Express)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the midway progress of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). (GS paper III)
- India is midway into the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) since its inception on October 2, 2014. Government launched the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a mission to clean India’s cities and villages. The campaign, inaugurated to coincide with Gandhi Jayanti, aims to realise its vision of ‘Clean India’ by October 2, 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
- In the months after it was launched, the campaign gained momentum with many celebrities, politicians and academic institutions organising cleanliness drives across the country. The last three years have seen an increase from 42 per cent to 65.02 per cent in national sanitation coverage.
Progress of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM)
- The ministries of Urban Development and Drinking Water and Sanitation have been spearheading the programme, with implementation happening at the state level. The key differentiator with the SBM is the ongoing focus which has percolated to district and block officials.
- Due to the focus on behaviour change, SBM has witnessed several notable achievements in reducing open defecation, need-based capacity building and constant measuring of outcomes.
- Nearly 22 per cent of the cities and towns have been declared ODF; 50 per cent of the urban wards have achieved 100 per cent door-to-door solid waste collection; and over 20,000 Swachhagrahi volunteers are working across urban local bodies, and over a lakh are working in rural India. The number of schools with separate toilet facilities for girls has increased from 0.4 million (37 per cent) to almost one million (91 per cent).
- Several sectoral experts are members of the Empowered Working Group (EWG), which is responsible for examining the survey methodology and setting protocols for the government’s upcoming national survey through the Independent Verification Agent (IVA) under the World Bank project.
- There have been so many challenges such as India has a large number of disabled people whose needs require customised solutions. Despite these challenges, we have seen a marked improvement in sanitation coverage since the launch of SBM.
- Sanitation, in a diverse country like India, encompasses a number of factors which are important determinants for the success of the mission. It has a direct relationship to caste, creed, religion and gender. A successful sanitation programme needs to address such factors, which makes achievement of safe sanitation a very complex exercise.
- However achieving ODF status alone is not sufficient for the success of SBM. Attention to the complete sanitation cycle is required, where toilets not only need to be built and used but the waste generated also needs to be collected and treated properly.
- Turning a large and populous country like India around is not an easy task. However, in less than three years we see that India is already course correcting and with the
momentum building, the pace of change going forward will be much faster.
Question– Throw a light on the critical appraisal of Swachh Bharat abhiyaan. What more needs to be done in this regard?