1.Three-year action plan (Down to Earth)

2.Rajya Sabha panel on GM crops (The Financial Express)

 

1.Three-year action plan (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the government three year plan that focus on strengthening implementation and monitoring of existing schemes. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • NITI Aayog ‘s Three Year Action Agenda document is a comprehensive framework for proposed policy changes to be implemented in the short term in India. The Agenda is wide-ranging as it covers the different sectors of the economy-agriculture, industry and manufacturing. It discusses the policies necessary for urban and rural transformation and a range of growth-enabling ingredients such as transport, digital connectivity and entrepreneurship.
  • The three-year action plan of the Centre observed that low literacy levels, inadequate access to health and sanitation, and insufficient linkages with formal financial services are some of the challenges facing rural India. Besides digital connectivity and literacy, the government’s action plan emphasised the need to strengthen Panchayats so that they are able to respond to local needs effectively.

For rural transformation

  • According to the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC), 2011 around 70% population are living in rural areas. About 48.5 per cent of rural households (87.2 million) “reported one or more deprivations” and at least 92 million rural households are engaged in manual casual labour and agriculture. However, job creation has not kept pace with the transition from agriculture to non-farm sectors.
  • The action plan proposes to update the SECC data by including information on benefits availed by the households under several government schemes. It wants the Panchayats to analyse the data to understand the level of implementation.
  • The government also intends to use Geographical Information System (GIS) to track assets created under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY). With respect to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the government intends to make social audits by an independent unit compulsory.
  • Having identified human resource issue and lack of funds as key challenges in implementing National Rural Livelihood Mission, the government now plans to focus on retention of project staff at district and block level and filling up vacant posts.
  • A number of assets under MGNREGA fall into disrepair and become unusable over time due to lack of maintenance, the government proposes to create a separate maintenance fund for community funds and lay down operational guidelines. The government also observed that the “benefits of MGNREGA have been reaped disproportionately by some of the more prosperous states. Thus, it wants to target the scheme in favour of the poorest households.
  • Contrary to coercive ways it had adopted to stop open defecation in desperation to meet the target of making India open defecation-free (ODF), the government now wants to assess why community-led total sanitation approach has not scaled up in India. The emphasis, as the action plan suggests, will be on “igniting behaviour change from within the communities”
  • According to the action plan, 50 million BPL households should have access to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) by 2019. While tracking the progress of PMUY, it has been pointed out that there are few bottlenecks that remain to be addressed. Over the next three years, the government aims at brining electricity to every household in every village with a focus on “quality, reliability, affordability and legality of supply” to ensure that power actually reaches villages, but there are several challenges in the implementation of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana (DDUGJY).
  • When it comes to infrastructure, the government has set a target of connecting all villages in rural areas with all-weather roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana over the next three years. For this, a GIS database with information on rural roads will be created on priority.

Question– Explain the impact that three-year action plan can make on the outcome of development process. How it will be different from planning in India?

 

2.Rajya Sabha panel on GM crops (The Financial Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the recent report by Rajya Sabha panel on GM crops. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Many controversies surround the development and release of genetically modified foods, ranging from human safety and environmental impacts to ethical concerns such as corporate control of the food supply and intellectual property rights.

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

  • Established under MoEFCC is the apex body to accord notified under Rules 1989.
  • For approval of activities involving large scale use of hazardous microorganisms and recom­binants in research and industrial production from the environ­mental angle.
  • The GEAC is also responsible for ap­proval of proposals relating to release of genetically engineered organisms and products into the environment including experimen­tal field trials

Panel’s findings

  • Six institutes of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) told that their research showed that the sole GM crop approved for large-scale cultivation in India, that is, BT cotton which has the bollworm-killing Cry 1Ac gene and a variant, implanted in it from a soil bacterium, is safe on the basis of animals fed with its leaves and oilcake.
  • The Central Avian Research Institute mentioned that BT cotton, Bt brinjal, transgenic corn and Bt rice is safe to fed.  The response in terms of body-weight gain, feed intake, feed-conversion efficiency, immune response, carcass attributes and organ yield for both GM crops and non-GM crops was similar.
  • The Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute at Rajasthan conducted a study on lambs in collaboration with the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur and found that there was no difference in the growth performance of lambs that were given feed containing BT cottonseed and conventional cottonseed.
  • The Indian Veterinary Research Institute also studied goats fed with Bt cottonseed. On post-mortem examination, none of the goats whether fed on BT cottonseed or non-transgenic cottonseed showed lesions of toxicity.
  • The National Dairy Research Institute in Haryana conducted a study for four weeks on cows to see the side effects of the toxic transgenes in BT cotton and their absorption in milk. Cows in both the control and non-control groups improved their body weight during the study period and the weight gain was similar. Average milk yield during the 28-day experimental period did not vary significantly.
  • Hence feeding of BT cottonseed as a source of protein and energy was considered to be as safe and as nutritious as non-Bt cottonseed. ICAR told the committee it had drawn the following conclusions on the impact of GM crops on animal health-
  • More than two decades of proven history indicates safe use of GM crops as feed to animals.
  • Scientific methods used for the assessment of the safety of GM crops as food and feed are harmonized globally over the years.
  • BT cotton, Btbrinjal and GM mustard assessed by Indian regulators has proved to be safe as feed to animals.
  • No deleterious effect of GM plants approved for animal feed has been described.
  • Gene constructs used for creating insect-resistant and herbicide-tolerant plants tested by appropriate bio-molecular methods are safe for animal feeds.
  • Methods used for safety assessment and recommendations of new plants for use as animal feed are appropriate for detection of any ill-effect on animal health and performance.

Way forward-

  • But the parliamentary committee is not convinced with the feeding trials of BT cotton on some animals have been of very short duration. It “is not at all convinced” with the duration and the manner in which ICAR has conducted its trials to study the impact of GM crops on animal health.
  • The committee is also “wary of the methodology” opted by ICAR for conducting these trials. The committee, therefore, is of the “considered view” that the department of animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries should chalk out guidelines for the purpose and then conduct these trials under its supervision so that the veracity of these claims.
  • The committee recommends a thorough “consultation with the concerned government agencies, experts, environmentalists, civil society, and other stakeholders so that the nation is very clear about all its probable impacts before taking a call in the matter”.

Question– Explain why GM crops must be give a go-ahead in order to take India out of agriculture crisis.