Nutritional politics

(The Hindu)

 

Getting e-NAM to work

(The Indian Express)

 

The formal sector has a gender bias problem

(Live Mint)

Nutritional politics

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue of lack of policy measures on what to feed the children in Anganwadis.

(GS paper III)

Overview

 

  • India is facing a serious burden of malnutrition as well as obesity, according to a global report which shows that while half the country’s women suffer from anaemia, at least 22% of adult women are overweight. The Global Nutrition Report 2017, which looked at 140 countries including India, found ‘significant burdens’ of three important forms of malnutrition used as an indicator of broader trends.

 

  • Many children have died of malnutrition in India and yet Women and Child Development Ministers over the years haven’t decided what food to give children in anganwadis.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • No solution is in sight after more than a decade of discussions over the topic. The Minister of Women and Child Development and her predecessor, have always exercised the easy option- dense, fortified food for malnourished children, courtesy the manufacturers.

 

 

 

  • But early this month, attempts have been made on arriving at a solution. The minister favours a quickly served, nutrients-fortified alternative. It is an old debate; one that involves big biscuit-makers and assorted corn puff manufacturers on the one hand and social activists on the other, with children caught in between.

 

 

  • Data on malnutrition should serve as a wake-up call for the government- 38% of children are stunted and 35.7% are underweight in India. About 21% of children under the age of five are wasted (low weight for height), according to the National Family Health Survey-4 data.

 

  • In some districts of Maharashtra, a simple solution involving a protein-rich diet called ‘Lapsi’- a green millet mixture combined with water and milk was given to malnourished babies. In Jharkhand, dry rations such as oil, dal, wheat or rice were given to mothers until the contractor lobby forced the government to shift in favour of processed food.

 

  • The point is to address malnourishment through locally produced diverse food options that the country offers.

 

Way ahead

 

  • India continues to consume non-nutritious, non-balanced food either in the form of under nutrition, over nutrition or micronutrient deficiencies, according to the report. According to the Economic Survey 2017-18, child and maternal malnutrition posed the most challenging health risk in India, followed by air pollution, dietary risks, high blood pressure and diabetes.

 

  • Government need to find the solution on what to feed children in anganwadis.

 

QuestionGlobal Nutrition Report said nation on course to meet only 2 of 8 targets for reducing malnutrition by 2030. Explain how in India, there is lack on policy measures to tackle malnutrition problem of children

Getting e-NAM to work

(The Indian Express)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of assessment of e-NAM platform for farmers.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • According to mandi officials, more farmers are turning to the e-NAM platform for online auction of agri-produce and reaping the benefits of better price discovery and timely payment. The e-NAM platform held out much promise.

 

  • However, an expert panel has pointed out that several measures need to be taken to scale up trading, among which is the need for electronic payments across the mandis or APMCs so that payments are prompt.

 

About e-NAM

 

  • National Agriculture Market (NAM) is a pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the existing APMC mandis to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities. The NAM Portal provides a single window service for all APMC related information and services.

 

  • This includes commodity arrivals & prices, buy & sell trade offers, provision to respond to trade offers, among other services. While material flow (agriculture produce) continues to happen through mandis, an online market reduces transaction costs and information asymmetry.

 

  • Agriculture marketing is administered by the States as per their agri-marketing regulations, under which, the State is divided into several market areas, each of which is administered by a separate Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) which imposes its own marketing regulation (including fees).

 

  • This fragmentation of markets, even within the State, hinders free flow of agri commodities from one market area to another and multiple handling of agri-produce and multiple levels of mandi charges ends up escalating the prices for the consumers without commensurate benefit to the farmer.

 

  • NAM addresses these challenges by creating a unified market through online trading platform, both, at State and National level and promotes uniformity, streamlining of procedures across the integrated markets, removes information asymmetry between buyers and sellers and promotes real time price discovery, based on actual demand and supply, promotes transparency in auction process, and access to a nationwide market for the farmer, with prices commensurate with quality of his produce and online payment and availability of better quality produce and at more reasonable prices to the consumer.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • The state governments should have the will to free farmers from today’s cartelised mandis. Such as storage to prevent distress sales and assaying facilities, are very basic. If state governments provide the land quickly and they haven’t so far, private sector players would be willing to set up mandis.

 

 

 

  • Better storage and transportation facilities would allow buyers to participate in electronic purchases irrespective of their location. This would boost volumes, making the exchange a liquid one, and facilitate transparent price discovery.

 

 

  • The e-NAM automatically addresses the problem of asymmetry in information flows, which is a problem currently because there is no data on secondary transactions between traders. A well-functioning spot exchange will pave the way for a thriving derivatives platform, given the larger objective is to have a seamless and integrated market for agri- commodities.

 

  • But unless the produce can be moved quickly from one location to another, volumes will remain small; large retailers would refrain from buying perishables if they can’t be transported fast. Currently, the platform suffers from basic flaws such as data being fed into the system post the auction. 

 

  • There is need for a dispute resolution mechanism. If regulated electronic platforms are deemed market yards by the states whether under the present system or even after the model APLM, 2017, is adopted, it would enable producers or farmers to sell directly through multiple modes or at spot exchanges without having to pay the APMCs a fee.

 

  • In fact, the expert panel believes farmers should not be restricted to selling their produce only at recognised APMCs; they should be allowed to sell even outside the APMC premises, such as an electronic platform or in regulated private markets, without a fee being charged.

 

Way forward

 

  • The state governments need to do the heavy lifting, a common regulator for the spot and futures markets might help.

 

Question Explain the provisions of e-NAM, how it has benefitted the farmers. Also discuss some of the measures which need to be taken to scale up trading.

 

The formal sector has a gender bias problem

(Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of low participation rate of women in Indian job market.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • A striking feature of the Indian labour force and job market is the low participation rate of women. With only 27 percent in the labour force, India is among the lowest in the world. The global average is 52 percent and in South Asia it is 29 percent.

 

  • Indian women face immense obstacles when they try to join the labour force. It is generally assumed that the problem is restricted to the traditional rather than the modern segments of the economy. It follows that a shockingly low female labour force participation rate will rise as formal enterprises grow.

 

Analysis

 

  • A recent paper by the World Bank, Reflections of Employers’ Gender Preferences in Job Ads in India: an analysis of online job portal data undermines this optimistic assumption. An analysis of more than 800,000 online job recruitment advertisements in the formal and informal sectors shows explicit gender targeting as well as a salary gap in the Indian job market.

 

 

  • The study finds rampant gender targeting for elementary jobs, with men preferred for intensive outdoor work and women preferred for care-giving jobs. Although professional occupations exhibit less gender bias, they can’t be termed gender neutral either.

 

 

 

  • Interestingly, the jobs that prefer women business process outsourcing centres, teaching and service industries pay male employees better. This inconsistent relationship between demand for female employees and salary offered indicates that men are valued more by employers.

 

 

  • The existence of lopsided gender preference in the Indian labour market can be explained, in part, by statistical discrimination theory. Economists Edmund Phelps and Kenneth J. Arrow have argued that inequality may persist due to lack of information about the ability of workers in the demographic group that is being discriminated against. This leads to selection bias even if the employer is unprejudiced. The rest can be explained by deep-rooted cultural perceptions regarding gender-specific roles.

 

  • The occupational segregation based on gender and concentration of women in relatively low-paying jobs reduces their bargaining power to negotiate the terms of employment. 

 

Government steps

 

  • The governments at the Centre and in the states have been making consistent efforts to facilitate the empowerment of women in the context of employment. For instance, the government of Telangana has recently launched WE-Hub incubators for women entrepreneurs, not only in tech but in all kinds of industries.

 

  • The Central government, with the help of public-private partnerships, has announced POWERED, an entrepreneurship programme globally the first of its kind to nurture and support women entrepreneurs building ventures in energy value chains.

 

  • To enable women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, a number of women-only schemes, such as the SIDBI Mahila Udyam Nidhi and Stree Shakti Package entrepreneur loan schemes-have also been designed. However, the lessons from failures in this effort, such as Bharatiya Mahila Bank, a bank run by women for women should not be forgotten.

 

Way forward

  • Higher female participation in the labour market, which leads to gender-diverse teams, is a crucial factor for less biased policy and decision making in the workplace. It also helps improve the extent, coverage, conditions of, and remuneration for women’s work. And the likelihood of recognition of the unpaid work performed by women increases when more women are employed in formal activities

 

  • The fixing cultural prejudices takes time, but the problems of statistical discrimination and women’s lack of negotiating power in the formal workplace have an immediate and effective solution. The answer lays in strengthening agglomeration mechanisms for women, women creating jobs and opportunities for themselves and bringing other women on board.

 

Question Indian labour force and job market have the low participation rate of women. Explain what are the best ways to tackle cultural prejudices against women in the workforce in India?