Xi unlimited (The Hindu)

Stemming the tide of agrarian distress  (The Hindu)

Don’t discount WaSH (The Hindu)

 

Xi unlimited (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of China’s proposal to abolish term limits on the presidency.

(GS paper II)

Overview

 

  • In a major development that could pave the way for a record third term for President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party of China Central Committee proposed to remove from the Constitution a law that forbids the country’s president and vice-president from serving more than two consecutive terms in office.

 

  • The Chinese Communist Party’s proposal to abolish term limits on the presidency, and thereby allow Xi Jinping to stay on in power beyond 2023 when his second term ends, is not completely unexpected.

 

Assessment

 

 

  • Re-election of President for a second term was a break with tradition and triggered speculation about him remaining President beyond the second term. Mr. Xi is arguably the most powerful leader of China since Mao Zedong. At the 19th Party Congress in October, “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” was written into the party charter, setting him apart from his recent predecessors.

 

 

 

  • He does not just control the main pillars of the Chinese state — the party, the government and the military. In 2016, the party accorded him special stature by making him the “Core Leader”. Just as Deng Xiaoping oversaw China’s economic rise, Mr. Xi has raised its profile in global geopolitics.

 

 

 

  • He has pursued a more assertive foreign policy in China’s neighbourhood and launched massive infrastructure programmes across the world as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. But despite the power amassed, long-term projects launched and his own apparent ambitions, the constitution was seen as a limit to his stint in power.

 

 

 

  • With the latest proposal on removing the term limit, which is certain to be endorsed by parliament, Mr. Xi may find greater room for manoeuvre in speeding up the next generation of economic reforms.

 

 

  • At present there is no rival power centre within the Communist Party to challenge Mr. Xi. But the centralisation of so much power in one individual, which is the antithesis of China’s professed commitment to ‘collective leadership’, may well impact the power dynamics, given the succession battles of the past.

 

  • The party introduced the term limit in the post-Deng era principally to bring in order and stability at a time when China was becoming an economic powerhouse. Two of Mr. Xi’s immediate predecessors stepped down after their second term, having groomed the next generation of leaders, including Mr. Xi. By breaking with this pattern, Mr. Xi risks taking China back to the days of personality cults, internal power struggles and possibly chaotic successions.

Implications for India

 

  • During 2014 to 2017, Sino-Indian relations hit a low during the Doklam crisis of 2017 and to its credit; the Indian government kept a low profile but held its own in relation to Chinese intimidation routed via Bhutan. With President Xi now firmly set for a third and perhaps fourth term, India will have to prepare for a Beijing that will be more assertive – whether it is the South China Sea dispute or Doklam standoff.

 

Question- With the presidential term limit set to go, Xi Jinping’s rise takes China into a new era, discuss what implication it will have for India?

 

Stemming the tide of agrarian distress

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of ongoing agrarian distress and solutions.

(GS paper III)

Overview

 

  • Agriculture distress is not new phenomenon for India; the last decade was characterized by nearly stagnant growth and falling farmer’s income.

 

  • Similar to the last two Budgets for India, this year’s pro-agriculture intentions are palpable through increased outlays to the agricultural sector and initiation of various programmes. Though it seems impressive, but on closer scrutiny it shows that the measures may be of little help to stem the tide of agrarian distress. There are some real challenges confronting three laudable Budget announcements.

 

Major challenges

 

 

  • Minimum Support Price (MSP)-

 

 

 

  • The first and foremost challenge is to raise the minimum support price (MSP) by at least 50% above the cost of production. The MSP will also be extended to all crops for which estimates on cost of cultivation and a remunerative price are to be ascertained. There are two pertinent issues here. One is to estimate the cost of production of commodities not covered under the scheme and their procurement procedures, if undertaken.

 

 

 

  • The Production Cost

 

 

 

  • Second challenge is the production cost, as calculated by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, is based on three different methods, termed as A2, A2+FL, and C2.
  • A2 covers all paid-out expenses, including in cash and in kind, namely, cost on account of seeds, chemicals, hired labour, irrigation, fertilizers and fuel. A2+FL cover actual paid cost and unpaid family labour.
  • C2 includes all actual expenses in cash and kind incurred in production and rent paid for leased land, imputed value of family labour plus interest paid. In the last few years, the government has been giving MSP above 50% based on cost A2+FL, which is to be continued as per this Budget.
  • But farmers, for many years, have been demanding that the raise in MSP be based on C2 instead.

 

 

 

  • Also, little attention has been paid towards altering the ongoing ‘high input cost and low output price’ regime. While a workable formula for fixing MSP in consonance with the States will take time, the government must extend immediate help to farmers from rampant price volatility.

 

 

Measures

 

    • The States can implement the ‘price deficiency payment scheme’ (difference between MSP and price received) as has been started in Haryana for some vegetables, and the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana in Madhya Pradesh for select oilseeds. These schemes can also encourage small holders, including tenants, who constitute at least 86% of farmers, to sell in the regulated markets.

 

 

  • The second measure is to develop and upgrade the existing 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets. A corpus of ₹2,000 crore has been allocated in the name of the Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund for developing and upgrading marketing infrastructure. 

 

 

    • Under market reforms, it will also be important to link production centres with marketing through agri-value chains, which would require farmers to aggregate, form self-help groups, or farmer producer organisations.

 

    • A hike in MSP should be supplemented with irrigation, and reduction in fertilizer cost. Another interrelated initiative is the launching of ‘Operation Green’ with an outlay of ₹500 crore to address the challenge of price volatility of perishable commodities. This again makes it necessary for State governments to bring various programmes under one roof, perhaps within the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Market Committee 2017, to help farmers.

 

    • The third important step is to increase institutional credit from ₹10 lakh crore in 2017-18 to ₹11 lakh crore in 2018-19. The share of agricultural credit in gross domestic product in agriculture and allied activities has increased from 10% in 1999-2000 to 41% in 2015-16. The actual flow has considerably exceeded the target.

 

    • Therefore, targeting of the announced allocation to the poorer farmers and tenants in each State will go a long way in improving their purchasing power and augmenting investment, which is currently low.

 

Other issues

 

  • There are other important challenges, which need closer attention. As close to 52% of net sown area of India is still unirrigated and rainfed, in addition to the recurrence of floods and droughts due to climate change. Despite its presence in the Economic Survey 2017-18, the subject has not received due attention in this Budget. The plan is to take up 96 districts deprived of irrigation with an allocation of ₹2,600 crore under the Prime Minister Krishi Sinchayee Yojana -Har Khet ko Pani

 

 

  • The Centre will work with the State governments to enable farmers to install solar water pumps to irrigate fields. At the same time, the Minor Irrigation Census 2013-14, published in 2017, warns of a tremendous increase in deep tube wells to more than 2.6 million in 2013-14, from 1.45 million in 2006-07, and the resultant decline in the ground water table.

 

 

 

  • It is ironic that the government aims to install more tube wells while being worried about depleting groundwater. A location-specific policy for irrigation with the identification of suitability of medium-major irrigation projects and/or minor or micro irrigation facilities is required to protect farmers from the adverse impacts of climate change.

 

 

 

  • It must be supplemented with timely completion of pending canal irrigation projects, and strengthening of the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme by an increase in compensation and timely advice on weather. Technological interventions that update farmers about sowing and harvesting time and extension services can help prevent misfortunes.

 

 

  • Another key component missing in the Budget is investment in agricultural research and development. This is a serious concern in view of the low annual rate of growth in agriculture in the last four years. More drought and pest-resistant crops are needed, along with better irrigation technology.

 

Way ahead

 

  • Rather than compensation and increased budgetary outlays, the government should assure farmers doable action plans that quickly rescue them from price or crop failure. The long-term measures to increase their income and trigger agricultural growth, as reflected in the Budget, remain to accelerate investments in irrigation, infrastructure, improved extension services and institutions fully backed by a competitive marketing system.

 

Question Rather than just increased budgetary outlays, farmers need plans that will rescue them from crop failure. Analyse the measures taken by government.

 

Don’t discount WaSH

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that time is to rethink about the link between sanitation and stunting.

(GS paper III)

Overview

 

 

  • There has been an important and interesting debate on sanitation that has been attracting considerable traction among health, nutrition and social researchers and policymakers around the world, more so in the lower and middle income (LAMI) countries.

 

 

 

  • The debate touched upon many dimensions and possible reasons to explain why Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) trials in countries like Kenya and Bangladesh ended, disappointingly, with no palpable reduction in stunting among children, these countries are dramatically different from India.

 

 

About the WaSH

 

  • The WASH is an acronym that stands for “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene”.  

 

  • The concept of WASH, groups together water, sanitation, and hygiene because the impact of deficiencies in each area overlap strongly. Addressing these deficiencies together can achieve a strong positive impact on public health.

 

  • The UN’s Millennium Development Goals included improvement of WASH services in Target 7.C: “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation”. Universal, affordable and sustainable access to WASH is a key public health issue within international development and is the focus of Sustainable Development Goal 6.

 

 

  • Several international development agencies assert that attention to WASH can also improve health, life expectancy, student learning, gender equality, and other important issues of international development. Access to WASH includes safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene education. This can reduce illness and death, and also reduce poverty and improve socio-economic development.

 

 

Problems in India

 

  • The major issue is open defecation, which remains a persistent problem despite sustained and concerted efforts under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) campaign over the last few years, the very fact that over half (about 52%) of rural India still defecates in the open is still a reason why it may be too early to quash or discount SBA.

 

  • The campaign is beyond mere construction of toilets. The importance it accords to cleanliness, hygiene and sanitation can go a long way in India’s fight against not only stunting (low height for age) but also many other forms of malnutrition.

 

  • Stunting is driven by multiple factors, one of which is inflammation. Inflammation is normal biological responses of body tissues to stimuli such as disease-causing bacteria (pathogens), but ironically repeated exposure to high doses of bacteria that are not linked with diseases or diarrhoea also cause inflammation.

 

 

  • Children living in environments where hygiene is poor and open defecation is common are regularly exposed to high doses of bacteria that will not cause diarrhoea or frank gastrointestinal infections, but certainly stimulate low-grade chronic inflammation, as observed in one of our studies wherein 2- to 5-year-old children had higher total bacterial count and inflammatory markers compared to those reported from other countries. Inflammation down regulates growth factors, and thus impairs normal growth in children. Mothers with inflammation in the gestation tissues had smaller babies.

 

 

 

  • As the effect of poor sanitation is obviously passing on from one generation to the other, it might take at least a generation to adopt WaSH interventions before their outcomes can be seen. But in India, where the baseline, unlike in other countries, is so large (over 50% of open defecation against 1% in Bangladesh) even small improvements can demonstrate significant and palpable changes.

 

 

Way ahead

 

 

  • It is indeed true that mere building of toilets cannot prompt people to use them as there are a lot of social, cultural and behavioural aspects attached to it.

 

 

 

  • This is the time that India can learn from Bangladesh is how they have managed to bring down open defecation to less than 1% by 2016, from a whopping 42%, in a little over a decade. Bangladesh’s sanitation victory definitely did not come easy. A huge chunk of public and charity money was spent on building toilets, and campaign volunteers slogged to change public attitudes and habits.

 

 

  • Children were used literally as whistle-blowers and agents of change while door-to-door campaigns were carried out. Due to its vastness, diversity and varied views, India may take time to change, but our focus should be on sanitation and stunning.

 

Question Stunting among children is common in developing countries with poor sanitation, but the studies from Bangladesh and Kenya show that this hypothesis may need a rethink. Explain in the context of India whether it should focus on the role of WASH in stunting or not?