Does Indian cricket need quotas?

(The Hindu)


A perfect storm in the cotton field

(The Hindu)


How the state and the market failed farmers

(Live Mint)


Does Indian cricket need quotas?

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue of quota system in cricket.

(GS paper II)



  • Cricket is a numbers game, runs, wickets, averages and strike rates are the currency of the sport. But South Africa’s Racial Quotas for cricket team shows a mirror to India whose marquee sport, cricket, reflects severe social inequities. The virtual absence of Dalits and Adivasis from the Indian playing XIs is there for all to see, even though they constitute around 25% of India’s population.


Assessment of Indian system for sports


  • After years of Independence, the sporting culture has thoroughly failed in equalising opportunities for the most disadvantaged sections of the population in India. In a country where the government school system is in tatters, one can only imagine the quality of its sporting facilities. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the Dalits and Adivasis children cannot afford anything more than these government schools.



  • Thus, the invisibility of Dalits and Adivasis in Indian cricket is both a result of voluntary and involuntary layers of socio-economic discrimination culminating in almost immovable structures of caste and class exclusion. Cricket, compared to hockey, the official national sport, and football, has been more an elite sport. From the 1950s to the 1990s the game was mostly upper-caste and Brahmin-dominated.



  • Rajdeep Sardesai in his book, ‘Democracy’s XI’ mentioned that- in the first 50 years of Indian cricket, only seven cricketers hailed from rural areas. Therefore, it is not that Dalits and Adivasis cannot pick up cricketing skills. It is that they simply do not have the opportunities. Their better presence and glorious contributions in football, hockey and athletics show what is possible with sufficient support.



  • Here, the quota policy Cricket South Africa (CSA) has adopted is a model worth considering. Without the policy, the cricketing world would have lost, among other black cricketers, a Hashim Amla, a South African of Indian descent one of the greatest batsmen of all time. There is no other way to resolve the massive social inequities such as caste and race in sport other than by tackling them head-on.




  • The CSA’s policy lays out that of the 11 players fielded by the national team, a minimum of six players should be colour, and at least two players black African, has democratised the game unimaginably. (This proportion need not be kept in each match, but it must hold as the average for a season.)



Merit system


  • In India “Merit” has become a term which masks grievous historic exclusions and oppressions. What is merit when the Indian team, with the largest cricketing pool in the world, has consistently given disastrous foreign Test performances? Contrastingly, South Africa, even with its quota policy, has been one of the best Test performers in all conditions.
  • Of course, the quota policy which led some white cricketers such as Kevin Pietersen to leave South Africa, has given rise to unpleasant race equations in the team. But in post-Apartheid South Africa, the quota policy had a larger historic mission which can only be understood if cricket is seen as a part of a social structure rather than in a vacuum.


  • The unprecedented opportunity in the form of players who have not even played Ranji Trophy playing together with cricket legends has not only unearthed new talent but also spread the already-commercialised game further into rural and non-traditional areas for cricket. Yet, the social diversity deficit is huge.


Way ahead


  • The time to discuss reservation and other measures to broaden diversity in Indian cricket and to demolish the myth of merit is definitely here. The contours of these policies need careful deliberation, which in any case cannot be imposed at the Test cricket level as a sledgehammer. But they must begin at the lowest levels, school and the domestic game.


  • Quota in cricket is not the most ideal resolution of the inequity problem. It is the last resort in a system which has completely failed in providing equal educational and social opportunities to most marginalised communities.


Question- Do Indian cricket needs Quota system? Explain in the context of South Africa’s policy.

A perfect storm in the cotton field

(The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of pink bollworm infestation faced by India-Bt cotton.

(GS paper III)



  • India has cut royalties that local seed companies pay to Monsanto Co. for the second time in two years, potentially fuelling another row with the U.S. Company that threatened to leave the South Asian country in 2016. Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has decided to reduce royalties paid by Indian seed companies to Monsanto for its genetically modified (GM) cotton by 20.4 per cent.





  • In 2016 the Agriculture Ministry cut Monsanto’s royalties by more than 70 per cent, triggering a long-running feud that drew in the Indian and U.S. governments. The anti-trust regulator, the Competition Commission of India, decided to probe into anti-competitive practices by Monsanto. At the centre of all this is the pink bollworm infestation plaguing cotton farmers.




  • Even though Bollgard 2, or BG-2, Monsanto’s second generation insecticidal technology for cotton, was supposed to protect crops against the pink bollworm, the pest has grown resistant to the toxins produced by this trait. As a result, farmers now spend more on pesticides to control infestations. This, along with the high cost of BT seeds, is driving farmers to indigence.




  • The National Seed Association of India suggested solution for the government to encourage a move back to Bollgard, the first iteration of Bt cotton, as Monsanto hasn’t patented BG in India. Both BG, which has a single bacterial gene called CryA1C, and BG-2, which has CryA1C and Cry2AB2, are designed to protect against pink bollworm. BG began failing against the pest in 2009, while BG-2 began failing in 2014.




  • None of the other 14 Bt cotton-growing countries have seen this resistance. China still successfully controls pink bollworm with first-generation Bt cotton. The U.S. and Australia are moving on to third-generation BG-3 without having faced this problem.



The Indian situation


  • According to the Cotton researchers, the pink bollworm grew resistant because India restricted itself to cultivating long-duration hybrids since the introduction of BT cotton in 2002. Hybrids are crosses between two crops that often see higher yields than their parents, in a genetic phenomenon called heterosis. All other BT cotton-growing countries mainly grow open-pollinated cotton varieties rather than hybrids.


  • A couple of factors led to India’s unique trajectory are-First, when Monsanto licensed its BG and BG-2 traits to Indian seed companies, the agreement restricted the introduction of these traits to hybrids only.


  • Second, hybrids are financially more attractive to Indian seed companies because they offer a “value capture mechanism”. India is the only country whose intellectual property laws have never prevented its farmers from either saving or selling seeds, says the chairperson of the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority of India.


  • Other countries restrict saving and selling of seeds in various degrees. Over 70 countries that are members of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, for example, allow farmers to reuse seeds from a protected plant variety, but not to sell them.


  • In the U.S., where plant varieties are patented, the patented seeds cannot even be reused. Without such protections, several seed companies in India prefer hybrids because unlike open-pollinated varieties, hybrids lose their genetic stability when their seeds are replanted. This compels farmers to repurchase seeds each year, protecting corporate revenues.


  • During the time, Monsanto introduced Bt cotton in India, the technology was so popular that cotton farmers shifted to it en masse. But because there was no open-pollinated Bt option, they were also forced to shift en masse to hybrids. From 2002 to 2011, the area under cotton hybrids rose from 2% in north India and 40% elsewhere to 96% across the country.



  • According to the former director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research, the introduction of the BT gene into only one parent of Indian hybrids, as is the practice, is itself a problem. The resulting hybrids are hemizygous, which means that they express only one copy of the Bt gene. So, they produce cotton bolls that have some seeds toxic to the pink bollworm and some that are not.




  • This can be contrasted with the homozygous seeds of open-pollinated varieties in the U.S., China or Australia, which have 100% toxic seeds. The problem with hemizygous hybrids is that they allow pink bollworms to survive on toxin-free seeds when they are vulnerable newborns. This is only a hypothesis, but other pink bollworm experts say it’s reasonable.



  • All combing factors with the pink bollworm’s biology, creates a perfect storm of conditions for resistance. The pest does its most damage in the latter half of the cotton-growing season and does not consume any other crop that grows then. So, the long duration of Indian cotton crops, between 160 and 300 days, allows this pest to thrive and evolve resistance more quickly than it can for short-duration crops. Contrast this with other cotton-growing countries which strictly terminate the crop within 160 days.


Way forward


  • According to the Govind Gujar of the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, moving back to BG is a bad idea because the problem was not with the BG trait but with long-duration cotton. And even if BG-2 doesn’t fend off the pink bollworm, it still protects against other pests like the tobacco cutworm and the American bollworm. The presence of two Bt genes in BG-2 means it will be more effective than BG in delaying resistance against these pests.


  •  If India cultivates both BG and BG-2, simultaneously, that can accelerate resistance among pests, studies predict. This could trigger the emergence of new cotton pests.  India should base its policy on sound science and implement it stringently.


QuestionDiscuss the issue of Pink bollworm in Indian cotton industry. Also explain when the whole world is moving to BG-3, why India wants to go back in time?


How the state and the market failed farmers

(Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of how the state and the markets failed farmers.

(GS paper III)



  • The recent dramatic long march to Mumbai involving thousands of distressed farmers is a remarkable feat of peaceful protest against the state, given its apathy towards farmers’ distress as well as its failures in safeguarding tribal land rights.


  • However, there is surprisingly missing of the culpability of the market in the mess that the agricultural profession is in today, as well as evidence on whether, and how, the state and market have responded to the agrarian crisis that germinated over a decade ago.


Assessment of research



  • According to the study of 120 farmer households over three years, 2009-12 in the context of a protracted agrarian crisis, shows that growing commercial crops, such as cotton and soybean along with pigeon-pea, under rain-fed conditions was risky. Owing to their exclusion from institutional credit sources, the dependence on informal sources of credit, such as agricultural input dealers and kinship networks, was high.




  • The levels as well as specificities of indebtedness were also alarming. It has been found significant evidence on the vulnerability of households to income shocks from weather, and health shocks, among other factors. With limited insurance against unforeseen events, small and marginal farmers were at greater risk.




  • Although farmers reported a general reduction in bollworm insect infestation, and, hence, the use of insecticides, there was a proliferation of newer varieties of cotton hybrids and use of chemical pesticides was widespread. At a crucial time in the past decade, when a farmer could not learn by doing or observing due to rapid market changes, the agricultural extension system was near dysfunctional.



  • Although several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were involved in popularizing sustainability practices, the inertia in overcoming the default high-cost external input-oriented system of farming was formidable.


  • However, over the decade, the average size of land holdings has fallen. The riskiness of agricultural production continues to be high and market-based insurance coverage remains low. There has been an observable decline in groundwater levels and not much has improved in storage and post-harvest risk management.


  • Farmers have adapted to yield and price volatility through adjustments in crop and acreage choices. Unfortunately, neither agricultural credit nor agricultural insurance markets have evolved to cater to their liquidity and investment requirements. While microfinance showed some promise over the period, it lost its sheen following incidents of high default rates following demonetisation in 2016. Dependence on informal credit continues unfettered.


  • Also the practice of using “cocktails” of chemical pesticides for application on plants without adequate safety measures is rampant. The spate of pesticide-related poisoning cases in Yavatmal last year is a ghastly reminder of the potential hazards of current practices. Over the decade, despite the implementation of a plethora of well-intentioned schemes, agricultural extension services have not improved.


  • Incidents of supplier-induced demand and aggressive sales of products that farmers do not need are common. Anecdotal evidence as well as a survey of input dealers indicates that herbicide and micronutrient use have gone up following the advisories from input dealers.


  • Despite the limited non-farm opportunities, farmers continue to spend considerably on the education of their children as well as on health, notwithstanding the risky and uncertain incomes. The set of results after over a decade of research in a region where severe agrarian distress is endemic suggests that farmers continue to be vulnerable to frequent episodes of losses in their economic activity that neither the state nor the markets have been able to mitigate.


Question The recent demonstration by farmers shows that they continue to be vulnerable to frequent episodes of losses that neither the state nor the markets have been able to mitigate. Analyse and suggest measures to address the deprivation faced by farmers.