Mains Question for UPSC Aspirants

Mains Question for UPSC Aspirants

05 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY     
Question : Q. How nutritional deficiency needs to be tackled? Discuss with ongoing initiatives and suggested improvements.

Decode the Question:
  • Start with presenting some data about the malnutrition status of India. 
  • Discuss some ongoing initiatives associated with Nutritional deficiency such as POSHAN Abhiyaan,  Mid-Day Meal Scheme etc.
  • Suggest some measures to improve Nutritional deficiency.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion.

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It is disconcerting that even after seven decades of Independence, India is afflicted by public health issues such as child malnutrition (35.5% stunted, 67.1% anaemic) attributing to 68.2% of under-five child mortality.
Poor nutrition not only adversely impacts health and survival but also leads to diminished learning capacity, and poor school performance. And in adulthood, it means reduced earnings and increased risks of chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Ongoing initiatives and Nutritional deficiency:
POSHAN Abhiyaan and Nutritional deficiencies:
  • The Prime Minister’s Overarching Scheme for Holistic Nutrition or POSHAN Abhiyaan or National Nutrition Mission (NNM) has the objective of reducing malnutrition in women, children and adolescent girls.
  • The Ministry of Women and Child (MWCD) is the nodal Ministry implementing the NNM. The programme through the targets will strive to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth weight babies.
  • It will create synergy, ensure better monitoring, issue alerts for timely action, and encourage States/UTs to perform, guide and supervise the line Ministries and States/UTs to achieve the targeted goals. POSHAN Abhiyaan (now referred as POSHAN 2.0) rightly places a special emphasis on selected high impact essential nutrition interventions, combined with nutrition-sensitive interventions, which indirectly impact mother, infant and young child nutrition, such as improving coverage of maternal-child health services, enhancing women empowerment, availability, and access to improved water, sanitation, and hygiene and enhancing homestead food production for a diversified diet.
Child undernutrition and practice of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF):
  • Data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 2019-21, as compared to NFHS-4 2015-16, reveals that the country has not progressed well in terms of direct nutrition interventions.
  • India has 20% to 30% undernutrition even in the first six months of life when exclusive breastfeeding is the only nourishment required. Despite a policy on infant and young child feeding, and a ban on sale of commercial milk for infant feeding, there has only been a marginal improvement in the practice of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF). Child undernutrition in the first three months remains high.
  • Creating awareness on EBF, promoting the technique of appropriate holding, latching and manually emptying the breast are crucial for the optimal transfer of breast milk to a baby.
  • Recent evidence from the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA), IIT Mumbai team indicates that well-planned breastfeeding counselling given to pregnant women during antenatal checkup prior to delivery and in follow up frequent home visits makes a significant difference. The daily weight gain of a baby was noted to average 30 to 35 grams per day and underweight prevalence rate reduced by almost two thirds.
Protein Deficiency and Mid-Day Meal Scheme:
  • Pulses are a major contributor to address protein hunger. The Mid-Day Meal Scheme aims to enhance the nutrition of school children by providing a balanced diet in schools.
Micronutrient Deficiency and Sub-Mission on Nutri-Cereals (Millets):
  • The Department of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare (DA&FW) is implementing a Sub-Mission on Nutri-Cereals (Millets) under National Food Security Mission (NFSM). The Millets are a rich source of Protein, Fibre, Minerals, Iron, Calcium and have a low glycemic index.
Suggested improvements:
Awareness at the right time with the right tools and techniques: Need to create an awareness at the right time with the right tools and techniques regarding special care in the first 1,000 days deserves very high priority. We must act now and invest finances and energy in a mission mode.
  • Overhauling POSHAN 2.0 flows: There is a pressing need to revisit the system spearheading POSHAN 2.0 and overhaul it to remove any flaws in its implementation.
  • Revisiting Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS): There is a need to revisit the nodal system for nutrition programme existing since 1975, the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) under the Ministry of Women and Child and examine whether it is the right system for reaching mother-child in the first 1000 days of life.
  • Nutrition orientation of Public Distribution (PDS): There is also a need to explore whether there is an alternative way to distribute the ICDS supplied supplementary nutrition as Take- Home Ration packets through the Public Distribution (PDS).
  • Empowering the anganwadi workers: free the anganwadi workers of the ICDS to undertake timely counselling on appropriate maternal and child feeding practices.
  • Develop integrated system: There is a need to systematically review the status and develop and test a new system that would combine the human resource of ICDS and health from village to the district and State levels. This would address the mismatch that exists on focussing on delivery of services in the first 1000 days of life for preventing child undernutrition by having an effective accountable system.
It is time to think out of the box and overcome systemic flaws and our dependence on the antiquated system of the 1970s that is slowing down the processes. Moreover, mass media or TV shows could organise discourses on care in the first 1,000 days to reach mothers outside the public health system.
Governance can be termed ‘good’ only when it banishes hunger and starvation.
The poor must also be valued like the rest of the population since attaching less value to their lives is one unstated reason why their nutritional needs are not taken care of as they should be.
The dream of a New India cannot be built on a large population of children and mothers deprived of nutritional sufficiency.

Source: The Hindu

05 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY      
Question : Q. What is the rationale behind recent wheat and food products export bans? How does it affect inflation globally and within the domestic economy?

Decode the Question:
  • Start with the recent developments world wide that have an impact on food supply. 
  • Discuss the rationale behind recent export bans by taking the case of India’s wheat ban.
  • Discuss the relationship of these export bans with inflation.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion by citing negative impacts of such bans.

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The double whammy of the Russian war on Ukraine and changing climate poses a serious threat of food insecurity to several countries in Asia and Africa. The UN’s World Food Programme estimates that about 44 million people in 38 countries are already at ‘emergency levels of hunger’. Amidst rising global food prices, a number of countries have banned export of agricultural commodities.
As of May 29, 2022, 18 countries (excluding Russia and Ukraine) have imposed bans on exports of various commodities like wheat, pasta, corn, chicken and vegetable oils.
India has banned the export of wheat to check the potential rise in prices in the face of low procurement and there are reports suggesting that the government is mulling a ban on rice exports to tame inflation.

Rationale behind recent export bans:
  • Food security: soaring global wheat prices have put pressure on food security, not only in India, but also in neighbouring and vulnerable nations.
  • Buffer stock: Because of the sharp rise in global prices, some farmers were selling to traders and not to the government. This got the government worried about its buffer stock of almost 20 million tonnes -- depleted by the pandemic -- needed for handouts to millions of poor families and to avert any possible famine.
  • Taming Inflation: The rising inflation also prompted this step. The WholeSale Price Index (WPI) in India has moved up from 2.26 per cent at the start of 2022 to 14.55 now. Retail inflation, too, hit an eight-year high of 7.79 per cent in April, driven by rising food and fuel prices.
  • Decrease in Production: India put this ban in the wake of an extraordinary heat wave that had severely damaged the domestic wheat harvest.
Export ban and Inflation:
By doing so, the government's idea is to tame inflation in India. This export ban is a pre-emptive step and may prevent local wheat prices from rising substantially. However, in May, the consumer price index (CPI) inflation was 7.04 per cent (YoY).
The cereals group as a whole contributed only 6.6 per cent to this inflation. Within that, wheat, other than through PDS, contributed just 3.11 per cent and non-PDS rice contributed 1.59 per cent. So, by imposing a ban on wheat and rice exports, India can’t tame its inflation as more than 95 percent of CPI inflation is due to other items.
The Ukraine-Russia war has led to a slump in wheat production from a region known as the world’s bread basket. Russia and Ukraine together account for 25% of the world’s wheat exports.
It has led to a hike in prices of wheat and supply side glitches.
India is the world’s second largest wheat producer and one of its biggest consumers.
When the government decided to ban wheat exports in the face of climbing prices, there were many protests from the international community. In Asia, except for Australia and India, most other economies depend on imported wheat for domestic consumption and are at risk from higher wheat prices globally, even if they do not directly import from India.
Same is the case of Sugar. Similarly, Indonesia’s palm oil export ban has a significant impact on India’s economy.  Prices of edible oil hiked in India. It poses challenges to curtail inflation.
The recently concluded WTO ministerial meeting as well as the G-7 meet expressed concerns about food security in vulnerable nations. Abrupt export bans inflict high costs on poorer nations, and many millions fall below the poverty line as a result of such actions by a few.
If India wants to be a globally responsible player, it should avoid sudden and abrupt bans and, if need be, filter them through transparent export taxes to recover its large subsidies on power and fertilisers.

04 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY      
Question : Q. In the context of decarbonizing the economy, discuss the importance of the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage.

Decode the Question:
  • In Introduction,  recent developments regarding decarbonizing the economy should be discussed. 
  • Discuss the importance of the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion. 

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During the Global Mobility Summit held in September 2018, Prime Minister had outlined a vision for the future of mobility in India based on the 7 C’s: Common, Connected, Convenient, Congestion-free, Charged, Clean and Cutting-edge mobility.
Mobility has the potential to drive our economy forward and positively impact the lives of citizens, both in urban and rural areas. With recent climate change, India has made various efforts to decarbonize its the economy. The country is strengthening its policies for climate action and emerging as a global leader, whether by keeping energy transition as one of the four high priority agendas in the Union Budget 2022 or setting ambitious targets at the 26th Conference of Parties to decarbonise the economy.
National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage is the framework for a Phased Manufacturing Program (PMP), aimed at localising the production of electric vehicles (EV) and its components within the country is an important mission.
Importance of the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage:
  • Promotion to Electric vehicles in India: The Mission will provide mobility solutions that will bring in significant benefits to the Electric vehicle industry, economy and country. The Mission will recommend and drive the strategies for transformative mobility and Phased Manufacturing Programmes for Electric Vehicles, EV Components and Batteries.
  • Solution to Air Pollution in Cities: This mission will help in improving air quality in cities.
  • Reducing oil import dependence: It will help in reducing India’s oil import dependence and enhance the uptake of renewable energy and storage solutions.
  • Development of domestic manufacturing ecosystem: The Mission will lay down the strategy and roadmap which will enable India to leverage upon its size and scale to develop a competitive domestic manufacturing ecosystem for electric mobility.
  • Improve quality of life: It will deliver societal and environmental benefits that will improve quality of life for citizens.
  • Employment generation: It will also provide employment opportunities through ‘Make-in-India’ across a range of skills.
The Indian off-grid energy storage market is expected to expand exponentially as the country aims to fulfil 50 per cent of its energy demands from renewable sources by 2030, resulting in high demand for storage batteries.
India wants to further increase the demand for storage batteries. Hence, it plans to have electric vehicle (EV) sales penetration of 30 per cent for private vehicles, 70 per cent for commercial vehicles, 40 per cent for buses and 80 per cent for two and three-wheelers by 2030.
In achieving such ambitious targets, the National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage can play a vital role.

04 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT     
Question :
Q. How does the renewable revolution help in mitigating the climate crisis and strengthening energy security?

Decode the Question:
  • Start the Introduction with the current situation of climate leading to the need for a renewable revolution . 
  • Discuss the role of renewable revolution in helping to mitigate the climate crisis and strengthening energy security.
  • Conclude with providing a way forward. 

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As the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine ripples across the globe, the response of some nations to the growing energy crisis has been to double down on fossil fuels, pouring billions more dollars into the coal, oil and gas that are deepening the climate emergency.
Meanwhile, all climate indicators continue to break records, forecasting a future of ferocious storms, floods, droughts, wildfires and unliveable temperatures in vast swathes of the planet.
Fossil fuels are not the answer, nor will they ever be. In such a scenario, renewable revolution can help in mitigating the climate crisis and strengthening energy security.

In mitigation of Climate crisis: 
Fossil fuels are the cause of the climate crisis. Renewable energy can limit climate disruption and boost energy security. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century. The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity and a liveable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition.
Renewables could supply four-fifths of the world’s electricity by 2050, massively cutting carbon emissions and helping to mitigate climate change.
Mitigating the effects of climate change will require us not only to reduce our future emissions of greenhouse gases but also capture some of the carbon already in the atmosphere.
Renewable energy development helps us achieve the first objective – reducing future emissions.  For example, hydropower instead of traditional fossil fuels has contributed to the avoidance of more than 100 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the past 50 years alone. That’s roughly equivalent to the total annual carbon footprint of the United States for 20 years.
With increasing amounts of renewable energy penetrating energy markets, the number of avoided emissions will only continue to grow.

Strengthening Energy Security: 
Global geopolitics may threaten energy security. In this vein, renewable energy is considered a potential game changer in energy security. Key geopolitical actors (the United States, Russia, China, Germany, and Denmark) have increased electricity production from renewable energy by a combination of different renewable sources.
Despite any social acceptability issues and negative environmental impacts, renewable energy will help countries become more energy secure. At the same time, they will make themselves more resistant to geopolitical strife and more independent of the vagaries of fossil fuel markets.
While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time. The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent. And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels.
As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate.
Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security. When energy prices rise, so do the costs of food and all the goods we rely on. So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns.

Way Forward:
Making renewable energy technology a global public good, including removing intellectual property barriers to technology transfer, improving global access to supply chains for renewable energy technologies, components and raw materials, cutting the red tape that holds up solar and wind projects by making fast-track approvals and more effort to modernise electricity grids are necessary steps.
The world must shift energy subsidies from fossil fuels to protect vulnerable people from energy shocks and invest in a just transition to a sustainable future.
Triple investments in renewables which includes multilateral development banks and development finance institutions, as well as commercial banks is a prerequisite for renewable revolution. For climate action, energy security, and providing clean electricity to the hundreds of millions of people who currently lack it, renewable revolution is a hope.

Source: Indian Express

03 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT      
Question : Q. Discuss the issues around ecological concerns of western ghats. Also analyse the Gadgil Committee recommendations.

Decode the Question:
  • Start the Introduction with western ghats and its biodiversity significance. 
  • Discuss the issues around ecological concerns of western ghats.
  • Highlight the Gadgil Committee recommendations and point out the criticism associated with this report.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion.

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Western Ghats lie parallel to the western coast. They are continuous and can be crossed through passes only. These are one of the top biodiversity hotspots in the world, housing a large number of indigenous species of plants and animals, and are a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Forming one of the four watersheds of India, the Ghats also attract large amount of rainfall and are at the heart of water conflicts in six states (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu). The Western Ghats contain more than 30% of all plant, fish, herpeto-fauna, bird, and mammal species found in India.
Many species are endemic. Fragmentation and deterioration of forests, biodiversity loss, pollution (air, water and soil), soil erosion and landslides, soil infertility and agrarian stress, depleting groundwater resources, climate change and introduction of alien species, to name just a few, caused by developmental and mining projects have raised the alarm in recent years.
Issues around ecological concerns of western ghats:
  • Illegal mining: illegal mining of iron ore in areas around Uttar Kannada. The result of this undocumented mining is iron ore so low in quality that India doesn’t even use it. Sand mining has emerged as a major threat in Kerala. Unsustainable mining has increased vulnerability to landslides, damaged water sources and agriculture, thus negatively affecting the livelihoods of the people living in those areas.
  • Pollution: the population here depends on agriculture in the area, fertilizer runoff is causing pollution in the rivers. 
  • Deforestation: Along with mining, large scale deforestation is further threatening the environment. Conversion of forest land into agricultural land or for commercial purposes like tourism, illegal logging for timber have had significant negative effects on biodiversity.
  • Power projects: In Southern Maharashtra, the districts of Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg have been severely impacted both environmentally and socially all due to rampant mining, power projects in the area and polluting industries.
  • Livestock grazing: The rise in human settlements has led to the over-exploitation of forest products through activities such as livestock grazing.
  • Fish industry: The fish industry also has its own set of problems. Traditional methods such as use of poison and electricity etc are used till date, to easily catch some exotic species. This has reduced the fish population and their availability.
  • Monoculture plantation practices: Large scale plantations of Eucalyptus & Acacia that were started in 1980’s have proved this and much more deterioration across the Ghats.
  • Hydropower projects: large dam projects in Western Ghats have resulted in environmental and social disruption despite cost benefit analyses and environmental impact assessments being done by the government and companies
  • Encroachment by human settlements: Human settlements where legal and/or traditional rights of land ownership occur both within and outside protected areas all across the Western Ghats and represent a significant landscape level threat.
Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), also known as Gadgil Committee and Kasturirangan Committee are associated with the protection of western ghats. The Ministry of Environment & Forests had constituted the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) under the Chairmanship of Prof Madhav Gadgil in 2010 to primarily demarcate ecologically sensitive areas in Western Ghats and recommend measures for management of these ecologically sensitive areas.
  • It designated the entire Western Ghats as an Ecologically Sensitive Area (ESA) and, had classified the Western Ghats into Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) 1, 2 and 3 of which ESZ-1 is high priority, almost all developmental activities (mining, thermal power plants etc) were restricted in it.
  • It recommended the establishment of Western Ghats Ecology Authority through a broad-based participatory process.
  • It specified that the system of governance of the environment should be a bottom to top approach (right from Gram sabhas) rather than a top to bottom approach.
  • It recommended that no new dams based on large scale storage be permitted in Ecologically Sensitive Zone 1 as defined by the Panel. It also called for Establishment of fully empowered Biodiversity Management Committees in all local bodies.
The report had also asserted that, "A policy shift is urgently warranted curtailing the environmentally disastrous practices and switching over to a more sustainable farming approach in the Western Ghats."
It was primarily criticised for being too environment friendly and impractical to implement. Gadgil faced heavy criticism for this report and was called an ‘eco terrorist with a hidden agenda’.
A complete eco-sensitive cover for the Western Ghats would hamper the states on energy and development requirements, therefore, no state is ready to accept such recommendations. It was also criticised for vehemently opposing construction of dams, ignoring the importance of dams for generating power.
The report put forward a democratic approach towards ecological governance. It suggested discussing ecological issues and development concerns and initiatives at the grassroots level of grama sabhas rather than adopting a top-down approach.
Even a decade after the report, the democratic spirit of ecological governance is yet to percolate down the system.

Source: The Hindu

02 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY     
Question : Q. What is mRNA vaccine? How far can it help in strengthening the fight against COVID 19?

Decode the Question:
  • Start with defining mRNA vaccine. 
  • Discuss the working mechanism of mRNA vaccine with a diagram.
  • Discuss the role played by mRNA vaccine in fight against COVID 19 by citing the development of the first mRNA vaccine in India.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion with future prospects of mRNA vaccine.

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Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines teach our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response inside our bodies. mRNA vaccines contain messenger RNA (mRNA), a single-stranded RNA molecule that complements DNA.
It is created in the nucleus, when DNA is transcribed by RNA polymerase to create pre-mRNA. Pre-mRNA is then spliced into mRNA, which is exported from the nucleus to the cytoplasm and “read” by ribosomes (the translation machinery of cells). Ribosomes then make proteins.  mRNA vaccines use lab-created mRNA encapsulated within nanoparticles.
Translation of the mRNA results in the development of a protein antigen that triggers an immune response. mRNA vaccines are required to be kept at sub-zero temperatures. mRNA vaccines combine desirable immunological properties with an outstanding safety profile and the unmet flexibility of genetic vaccines.
Based on in situ protein expression, mRNA vaccines are capable of inducing a balanced immune response comprising both cellular and humoral immunity while not subject to MHC haplotype restriction. In addition, mRNA is an intrinsically safe vector as it is a minimal and only transient carrier of information that does not interact with the genome.
Because any protein can be expressed from mRNA without the need to adjust the production process, mRNA vaccines also offer maximum flexibility with respect to development.
 mRNA vaccines and Covid 19:
As the Covid-19 pandemic spread, an mRNA vaccine candidate was the first to enter human trials globally.
The first two vaccines that were made available for use in the US were based on mRNA technology. Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna used messenger RNA or mRNA to deliver a message to your immune system. Basically, the technology uses genetically engineered mRNA to instruct cells to make the S-protein found on the surface of the Covid-19 virus.
According to reports from US-based Mayo Clinic, after vaccination, the muscle cells begin making S-protein pieces and displaying them on cell surfaces. This causes the body to create antibodies. mRNA vaccines cannot cause infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 or other viruses.
Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against both symptomatic and severe COVID-19 across age groups and in diverse populations. India’s first home-grown mRNA Covid-19 vaccine — GEMCOVAC-19 — developed at Pune’s Gennova Biopharmaceuticals has got a ‘restricted emergency use’ nod for the 18-and-above age group.
The new vaccine can now be stored at the temperature of a standard medical refrigerator. The approval of the nation’s first mRNA vaccine will pave the way for the development of new-variant specific mRNA vaccines that can be used as future booster doses. 
Until the COVID-19 crisis, oncology had been the major area where nanotechnology based drug carriers had been widely explored. These two mRNA-based vaccine formulations will serve as a stepping stone for future applications of nanomedicine.
These nanocarrier based vaccines highlight the importance of the nanoscale and the ability of nanoscale delivery systems to protect payloads from degradation, provide tailored biodistribution and cellular delivery.

Source: Indian Express

02 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY      
Question : Q. Problem in poverty reduction is also due to the lack of its measurement data. Discuss some approaches to measure poverty in India.

Decode the Question:
  • Start with defining poverty and parameters used to measure poverty. 
  • Discuss the lack of measurement data and poverty reduction relation.
  • Discuss  various committees and approaches for poverty measurement in India.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion.

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Poverty entails more than the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.
Since poverty has many facets, social scientists look at it through a variety of indicators. Usually, the indicators used relate to the levels of income and consumption. But now poverty is looked at through other social indicators like illiteracy level, lack of general resistance due to malnutrition, lack of access to healthcare, lack of job opportunities, lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation etc.
Analysis of poverty based on social exclusion and vulnerability is now becoming very common.
Lower-income countries are too often disadvantaged due to a lack of institutions, decision-making autonomy, and financial resources, all of which hold back their effective implementation and effectiveness of data systems and governance frameworks.
These are no proxies for poverty since their linkages with nutritional indicators are considered tenuous and these can be explained in terms of intra-household distribution, poor dietary habits, improper water/sanitation facilities, etc.
The computation becomes far more challenging in the absence of data on consumption expenditure as is the case in India and several developing countries. Intending to provide inputs for policy making, researchers have evolved ingenious methods of estimating the data, using past datasets and those that have not been designed to get robust expenditure estimates.
So, the problem in poverty reduction is also due to the lack of its measurement data.

Some approaches to measure poverty in India:
India has a long history of studies on measurement of poverty. Dadabhai Naoroji’ in his book ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India,’ made the earliest estimate of poverty line at 1867-68 prices (Rs.16 to Rs.35 per capita per year) based on the cost of a subsistence diet for the emigrant coolies during their voyage living in a state of quietude.
The erstwhile Planning Commission was the nodal agency in India for estimation of poverty. Based on the methodology suggested by the Expert Groups/Committees set up by the Planning Commission from time to time, India has undertaken periodic assessments of the incidence of poverty since the 1960s.

A. Poverty Line Estimation
  • Working Group (1962):  A nine-member working group set up by the Planning Commission proposed the poverty line at Rs 20 per capita per month in the early Sixties, loosely ensuring the adequacy of minimum requirements.
  • Study by VM Dandekar and N Rath (1971): They went into detail about minimum calorie needs, based on the average consumption pattern. They made the first systematic assessment of poverty in India, based on National Sample Survey (NSS) data.
  • Alagh Committee (1979): It determined a poverty line based on a minimum daily requirement of 2400 and 2100 calories for an adult in Rural and Urban areas respectively.
  • Lakdawala Expert Group (1993): It did not redefine the poverty line and retained the separate rural and urban poverty lines recommended by the Alagh Committee at the national level based on minimum nutritional requirements. However, it disaggregated them into state-specific poverty lines in order to reflect the inter-state price differentials.
  • Tendulkar Expert Group (2009): The Tendulkar Committee formally announced delinking of nutritional norms from poverty in 2010.
  • Rangrajan Committee (2014): It recommended separate consumption baskets for rural and urban areas which include food items that ensure recommended calorie, protein & fat intake and non-food items like clothing, education, health, housing and transport. This committee raised the daily per capita expenditure to Rs 47 for urban and Rs 32 for rural from Rs 32 and Rs 26 respectively at 2011-12 prices.
B. Use of Consumption Expenditure Surveys
  • Incidence of poverty is estimated by the Planning Commission on the basis of the large sample surveys on household consumer expenditure conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) on a quinquennial basis.
  • The NSSO regularly conducts surveys on household consumer expenditure, in which households are asked about their consumption of the last 30 days and is taken as the representative of general consumption. This was considered a much better data to estimate the incidence of poverty at national and sub-national levels by adjusting for inter-state and inter-region differences in price changes over time.
There are two critical issues in the discourse on poverty in India. One relates to poverty measurement. Second relates to effective poverty elimination.
  • Poverty measures compare people in a society, in order to assess the extent of unacceptable disadvantages that exist. Yet any poverty measure is itself imperfect. Imperfections stem primarily from two factors: data limitations and the diversity of human lives being assessed more so in a vast country like India.
  • Poverty lines have to be recalibrated depending on changes in income, consumption patterns and prices. In India, poverty measurement has repeatedly led to contentious debates on the poverty line.
  • Despite these shortcomings, conceptually having a poverty line and related poverty estimates help to concentrate the public policy discourse around an agreed set of numbers as well as to track the progress in combating poverty.

02 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY     
Question :
Q. Discuss the significance of defence reforms in the context of the recently rolled out Agnipath initiative and defence modernization.

Decode the Question:
  • Start with the need for defence reforms by citing current developments and controversies.
  • Discuss the recent major defence reforms .
  • Discuss the significance of defence reforms in the context of the recently rolled out Agnipath initiative and defence modernization.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion by mentioning the recommendations/suggestions of previous defence committees/task forces.

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Given the key geostrategic challenges, emanating from the threat of two-front war (against China and Pakistan combinedly), India faces the complex threats and challenges spanning the full spectrum of conflict from nuclear to sub-conventional.
In such a scenario, India needs to carry out much-needed defence reforms. Defence reforms are tricky.
With entrenched interests and bureaucratic rivalries, most nations struggle to bring in fundamental changes to their national security apparatus. India is no exception.
The recent debate on the “Agnipath” scheme which aimed at strengthening national security and also for providing an opportunity to the youth to serve in the armed forces, underscores the challenge that India faces as it seeks to rationalise its military assets to emerge as a more efficient fighting machine.

Major Defence Reforms:
The Indian Government ushered in a range of reforms, including by appointing India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and creating the department of military affairs (DMA).
It gave a major push for indigenisation with a list of 101 defence items for which there is to be an import embargo. Encouraging greater private sector participation has resulted in a visible shift in India’s profile as a defence exporter.
The government also undertook corporatisation of the Ordnance Factory Board. Other reforms have ranged from energising defence research and development to the speedier enhancement of border infrastructure and opening up the gates of the Indian armed forces for women more substantively. Recently, Agnipath Scheme has sought to rationalise its military assets to emerge as a more efficient fighting machine.

Significance of Defence reforms:
  • Streamlining of structures and processes: The silo-driven approach to defence planning has resulted in the lack of an integrated view. The three services, as well as the civilian and defence agencies, are often seen to be working at cross purposes. The CDS and Agnipath Schemes seems streamlining of structures and processes of defence forces.
  • Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs):  A key step that the CDS has to undertake is encouraging the establishment of Integrated Theatre Commands (ITCs), which are essentially joint combatant commands. Commanders of ITCs can bring about efficiency if they have operational and some budgetary control over the forces under their command. One of the most vital changes that may come about, though, would be how the three arms of the Indian military operate with one another, not as individual services, but as the armed forces of the Union.
  • Decrease the average age profile of armed forces personnel: the “Agnipath” scheme is expected to decrease the average age profile of armed forces personnel from the current 32 years to 24-26 years over a period of time.
  • Help in modernising the mass versus machine ratios: All major world militaries — the U.S., France, China, Russia and others — have undertaken reforms to modernise the mass versus machine ratios, which is a key pillar of modern warfare. The “Agnipath” scheme will be a step in this direction.
  • “Future-ready” Force: A youthful armed forces will allow them to be easily trained for new technologies. The “Agnipath” scheme will be a step in this direction.
  • Reduce the defence budget: The armed forces’ growing pension bill has been a major concern for the Defence Ministry. Total budget allocation for defence for 2022-23 is ₹5.25 lakh crore, of which revenue allocation is ₹2.33 lakh crore, capital allocation is ₹1.52 lakh crore, and defence pensions add up to ₹1.19 lakh crore. Agnipath scheme is a way out to reduce the defence budget.
  • Higher skilled workforce: the skills and experience acquired during the four-year service,  Agniveers will get employment in various fields.
  • Employment Opportunities: opportunities for youth to serve in the armed forces will increase after the “Agnipath'' scheme. In the coming years, recruitment of Agniveers will be around triple of the current recruitment in the armed forces.
  • Excellence in Mobilisation:  The undertaking of mobilisation cannot be considered as a peaceful act. On the contrary, it represents the most decisive act of war. Recent Indo-China conflict arose the question of early mobilisation and younger armed forces can be the solution for this. Agnipath scheme seems a good step.
Coupled with the rise of transnational non-state actors, the nature of conflict and warfare was also evolving rapidly.
  • Kargil Review Committee (KRC) recommended, stating, “the Army must be young and fit at all times. In 2000, a Group of Ministers (GOM) endorsed the KRC’s recommendation stating that, “in order to ensure that the armed forces are at their fighting best at all times, there is a need to ensure a younger profile of the services.”. 
  • The Naresh Chandra Task Force on National Security set up by the UPA government in 2011 also addressed this issue.  Thus, the Agniveer recruitment reform must be contextualised in the backdrop of the larger canvas of defence reforms that include the appointment of a CDS, a reorganisation of the armed forces into theatre commands to promote jointness and synergy.
  • The future of warfare entails a lighter human footprint, but soldiers equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry, supported by cutting-edge technology to fight a war in a highly informationised environment.
  • This recruitment reform would help in right sizing the armed forces provided it gets dovetailed into the imperatives of fifth generation warfare. “All India, all class” recruitment to the services may lead to the erosion of the loyalty that a soldier has for his regiment. Doubts about training and permanent job status questions should be dealt with greater caution for better implementation of Agnipath scheme.
Source: Indian Express    ORF    The Hindu

01 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY      
Question : Q. Digitisation and outsourcing in higher education have its own set of challenges. Examine if the pre-pandemic approach needs full replacement in higher education.

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  • Start with explaining ‘hire education’ trends in higher education.
  • Discuss the challenges associated with digitisation and outsourcing in higher education.
  • Provide a suitable conclusion.

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Higher education policy planners and regulators are busy giving shape to the digital university, which was announced in the 2022-23 Union Budget.
Though still on the drawing board, the digital university is expected to offer any number, kind, and type of course without limits on intake, in a hybrid or ‘physical plus digital’ mode. It proclaims to provide equitable access to quality higher education and employability-enhancing skill development programmes to all. Technology-enabled and mediated digital learning is projected as the future of higher education. Such learning is supposed to end face-to-face formal education.
Two years of COVID-19-compelled online education seems to have convinced them that in future, education, particularly higher education, will transform into a virtual space. Higher education in India is getting metamorphosed into ‘hire education’. In the process, higher education is now getting delivered by for-profit entities, in contravention of the long-held belief that education at all levels must be provided on a not-for-profit basis.
  • Employment challenges: Going by the evidence, employers across the world are generally negatively disposed towards online education. Most recruiters prefer to hire those who have graduated in face-to-face mode.
  • Quality Education:  The quality of higher education is inversely proportional to the intensity of regulation, designing and developing an efficient and effective regulatory mechanism often proves more challenging than imagined.
  • Economical and cost-effective paradox: The open and distance mode of learning is often considered as economical and cost-effective, but it is not completely true. To be effective, they not only require massive capital investment in infrastructure, but also demand significantly higher recurring expenses on content development and their continuous updating and upgradation.
  • No substitute for teachers: It would be a blunder to regard technology-mediated teaching-learning as an alternative to face-to-face education. Technology can supplement and not substitute teachers. No world-class universities, including those with a high degree of technology integration in their teaching and learning processes, are planning to cut down their faculty cost or their number any time soon. On the contrary, they envision hiring more of them to attain greater excellence.
  • Complacent Nature: This can also allow for all parties involved to become complacent if the online course is not fully structured or interactive.
  • No way of gauging body language with students: When teaching in an online environment another potential weakness is there is no way of gauging body language with students.
  • Lack of Practical exposure: Teaching of subjects like chemistry where practical knowledge is important and laboratory work is essential can not be taught effectively on digital devices.
Digital delivery and technology integration in education may undoubtedly serve a useful purpose. Higher education must indeed embrace and keep pace with the advancements in technology. Technology can be effectively leveraged as a quality-enhancement tool.
Higher education is a lot more than borrowing content and delivering them online or outsourcing content. This would render India a consumer of knowledge. India must be focussed on exploiting our full potential to emerge as a producer of knowledge and providers of the global workforce.
Source: The Hindu

01 Jul 2022 gs-mains-paper-3 INDIAN ECONOMY      
Question : Q. Low female labour force participation is the result of structural factors. Discuss. How can this be tackled with careful drafting policies for the gig economy and start-up ecosystem in India?

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  • Start with explaining India’s demographic dividend position.
  • Discuss the structural issues responsible for low female labour force participation.
  • Discuss the ingredients required for better policy development for the gig economy and start-up ecosystem in India to deal with low female labour force participation .
  • Conclude it by the recent NITI Aayog report on the gig economy.

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By 2025, it is estimated that 70 per cent of Indians will be of working age. This ‘demographic dividend’ could give India an edge over the developed countries where a larger segment of the population would by then be past retirement.
However, this demographic dividend can easily turn into a demographic disaster if a majority of the working age population remains unemployable due to a lack of skills. India has one of the youngest populations globally, and women comprise a significant number of them.
Youth participation in the workforce is vital for economic growth and development as they are equipped with new-age skills, adapt to new changes and present a new perspective. However, if nearly half the youth population is excluded from the workforce, then economic growth is compromised, trapping women at the bottom of the economy.
Female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) in India has been one of the lowest among the emerging economies and has been falling over time. This has resulted in a decrease in the ratio of working females to the population of females in the working age group.
NITI Aayog said in a report titled ‘India’s Booming Gig and Platform Economy’ female labour force participation in India has remained low, oscillating between 16 per cent to 23 per cent in the last few years. Structural barriers like access to education and lack of skilling have hindered participation of the female workforce in the country’s labour force.
Low participation of women in the labour force in India is attributed to the lack of employment opportunities, rising education levels and household incomes, and problems in measurement, such as under-reporting of women’s work.
Religion and social perceptions of women and the presence of young children in the household all influence the likelihood of India’s women to participate in the labour market. Structural characteristics in the labour market have played a more important role than changes in the underlying characteristics of the female working-age population in influencing participation rates.
These structural barriers, such as norms that inhibit women’s labour market options, in conjunction with a consistent decline in agricultural employment, are likely to be key factors in explaining the long-term stagnation in female participation rates.  Therefore, it is right to say that low female labour force participation is the result of structural factors.

‘India’s Booming Gig and Platform Economy’ report of NITI Aayog
According to the report, the expected expansion of India’s gig workforce by 2029-30 from 77 lakh in 2020–21 is to 2.35 crore. India requires a framework that balances the flexibility offered by platforms while also ensuring social security of workers.
The consequent platformisation of work has given rise to a new classification of labour — platform labour — falling outside of the purview of the traditional dichotomy of formal and informal labour. In an attempt to increase participation of women in the gig economy, the NITI Aayog has proposed fiscal incentives like tax breaks or startup grants for companies with about one-third of their workforce as women.

Ingredients of Better Policy:
  • Fiscal incentives:  such as tax-breaks or startup grants may be provided for businesses that provide livelihood opportunities where women constitute a substantial portion (say, 30%) of their workers. 
  • Platformisation of work and incentivising platforms: platform companies offer flexibility and choice of labour to all workers in general, and women in particular, empowering them to monetise their idle assets when and where they want — a benefit missing in traditional employment sectors — making them an attractive opportunity for women.
  • Higher share of women managers and supervisors: businesses have a higher share of women managers and supervisors in the organisation to ensure that communication to workers does not perpetuate gender stereotypes.
  • Better infrastructure and work design: To encourage more women, platforms may develop better infrastructure and work design.
  • Enhance skill development: Empowerment of women, which can to an extent be addressed by integrating life skills coaching into skilling programs, and interfacing with their families and communities to change backward mindsets - are critical aspects of helping women reach their potential.
  • Asset ownership: Ownership of assets have huge implications on the lives of women.
  • Access to digital skills and technology: The gender skill gap is vast, especially for digital skills as women continue to work in more stereotypically ‘feminised’ sectors such as beauty, retail etc. and men continue to work in mechanised, technologically advanced sectors. The lack of digital skills prevents women from entering the rapidly advancing workforce.
  • Gender sensitisation and accessibility awareness programmes: undertaking gender sensitisation and accessibility awareness programmes for workers and their families can improve female labour participation.
  • Formal credit for women: Niti Aayog added that access to institutional credit could be enhanced through financial products specifically designed for platform workers and those interested to set-up their own platforms. Special emphasis may be placed on access to formal credit for women.
The participation of women in the country’s workforce has been woefully inadequate, and this needs to change for India to reap its demographic dividend. Capacitating our women is also the key to generational social transformation.
Empowerment of women is a critical part of a nation’s development and it is a balanced equation of her education, health, employability and decision-making power. Availability of agency and removal of constraints faced by women is imperative for sustainable and equitable development of both the community as well as the nation.
India needs to adopt a gendered lens in education and skilling programs to overcome the challenges of an underrepresented section of youth in the workforce, as well as support women in securing and retaining jobs. Introducing a ‘Platform India initiative’ on the lines of the ‘Startup India initiative’ can help in improving the female workforce.