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Q1) Beside focusing on Research and Development (R&D) spending, what do you think are the other courses of action to be taken in order to forge a culture of innovation in India? (GS – 3)

Introduction:

  • India’s innovation policy has to shift beyond a mere focus on R&D spending to transforming the ecosystem.

Courses of action to be taken in order to forge a culture of innovation in India are:

  • A focus on building an innovation culture is necessary.
  • Our innovation policy has to shift beyond a focus on increasing R&D spending to inculcating a mindset of out-of-the-box thinking in our universities, start-ups and corporates.
  • India’s educational policies need to be redesigned, with a focus on building cognitive abilities, beyond rote learning and focus on quantitative subjects
  • Need to focus on taking advantage of the data analytics boom, improving educational qualities beyond our existing islands of excellence to the whole university system.
  • A supporting ecosystem for this will require providing greater access to public data, through the Right to Information Act.
  • Also a push in providing public data (for example, on train punctuality, water scarcity, air pollution metrics) for building innovative applications on a real-time basis is much needed.

Conclusion:

  • For a nation whose public debate is often given to recalling innovations in our historical and mythological past, the future state of India’s R&D activities demands significant attention.

Q.2) “By introducing a major shift in staple diets of many, India has the potential to reduce micronutrient deficiencies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Justify the statement. (GS – 3)

Introduction:

  • As suggested by a study, ‘Healthy, affordable and climate-friendly diets in India’, shift to wheat, millets and maize from polished rice, to chicken and legumes from beef and eggs, along with leafy vegetables and coconut could reduce India’s micronutrient deficiencies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Findings of the study are as follows:

  • Nearly three-quarters of Indians consume less than the ideal number of calories a day, and more than half have protein deficiency.
  • The deficiencies of micronutrients were more prevalent: nearly nine in 10 Indians are iron-deficient, 85% do not meet the required intake of vitamin A, and two-thirds have zinc deficiency.
  • Cost was clearly a concern as deficiencies were found to decrease as household incomes increased.
  • Surprisingly though, urban households had increased deficiencies compared to their rural counterparts (apart from vitamin A), which the researchers attribute to greater diversity of cereals in rural areas.
  • The rice-based diets of south and east India make the people in these areas more vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies than people elsewhere.
  • While those above the poverty line can make up for this nutritional inadequacy without their food budgets being affected much, nearly 160 million people below the poverty line cannot without exceeding their food budgets.

Solutions proposed in the study are as follows:

  • Researchers suggest that the required micronutrients can be met by reducing the intake of rice (from 61% to around 40% of calorie share) and meat (expensive and with high greenhouse gas emissions) and replacing them with coarse cereals such as bajra and ragi, along with legumes, dark, leafy vegetables, and coconut.
  • These dietary changes could also reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in India by up to 25%.

Q.3) Write short notes on:

a)  ‘Veblen good’ in economics (GS – 3)

Introduction:

  • Veblen goods is a good for which demand increases when its price increases, and vice versa.
  • Luxury goods like diamonds, whose appeal depends on their exorbitant price, are an example.
  • It is named after American economist Thorstein Veblen.

Significance:

  • Veblen goods are considered exceptions to the law of demand, which states that the demand for a good must decrease as its price increases, and vice versa.
  • Some economists disagree, saying that the law applies only to goods that are truly identical.
  • Cheap diamonds, for instance, may be an inferior good in the eyes of the consumer when compared to expensive diamonds; hence they are not truly comparable.

b)  ‘Paradox of aid’ in economics (GS – 3)

Introduction:

  • ‘Paradox of aid’  refers to the paradoxical situation wherein countries that are blessed with good institutions to achieve economic growth have no need for foreign aid.
  • While countries that possess poor institutions that inhibit their growth do not benefit from any amount of foreign aid.
  • It was proposed by British development economist Peter Thomas Bauer in his 1971 book, Dissent on Development.

Significance:

  • The paradox of aid emphasises the importance of good institutions to achieve better economic conditions in the developing world.
  • Also, the ineffectiveness of foreign aid to achieve a substantial improvement in living standards in the absence of the right institutions.
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