9 PM Daily Current Affairs Brief – December 17, 2020

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Here is our 9pm current affairs brief for you today

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GS 2

Child nutrition

Uttar Pradesh’s strategies to contain the pandemic

State of the Education Report for India: Vocational Education First

GS 3

Why green revolution states should shift from MSP crops to high value crops and Non-farm activities?

What are the negative impacts of farm laws on landless labourers and small tenant farmers?

India drops two ranks in Human Development Index

9 PM for Preliminary examination


Child nutrition

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2- Development issues

Context: New evidence on child nutrition calls for radical expansion of child development services.

What are the various issues found by several survey reports on child nutrition?

  • NFHS-4: Leaving aside two or three countries like Niger and Yemen, India has the highest proportion of underweight children in the world: a full 36 per cent according to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4).
    • The corresponding proportion is much lower in other South Asian countries, including Bangladesh (22 per cent) and Nepal (27 per cent).
  • NFHS-5: Early data from the National Family Health Survey 2019-20 reveals another alarming fact: Child nutrition indicators have not improved between 2015-16 and 2019-20.
    • In fact, in seven out of 10 major states for which data has been released, the proportion of underweight children increased in that period. In six of these 10 states, stunting increased.
  • Hunger watch: In the latest survey, Hunger Watch, two-thirds of the respondents (adults from India’s poorest households) said that they were eating less nutritious food today than before the lockdown.
  • Lockdown impact: Mid-day meals in schools and anganwadis were discontinued from the lockdown onwards, to this day. Many states did try to make some arrangement for distribution of cash or “take-home rations” in lieu of cooked meals, but these measures were mostly haphazard and inadequate.
  • Disruption of routine health services: Children have also suffered from the massive disruption of routine health services including immunisation during the lockdown, evident from the official Health Management Information System.
  • Closure of anganwadis: The prolonged closure of anganwadis and schools possibly had other, less well-documented consequences, such as an increase in child labour and child abuse.
  • Budget allocation: In annual Budget for 2015-16, there were staggering cuts in financial allocations for mid-day meals and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). The central budget for mid-day meals (Rs 11,000 crore) is lower than what it was in 2014-15 (Rs 13,000 crore).
    • The central allocation for ICDS is also lower today than it was six years ago. Poshan Abhiyaan, government’s flagship programme for child nutrition, has a minuscule budget of Rs 3,700 crore.

What are the steps to be taken?

  • Pregnant women’s right to maternity benefits: Rs 6,000 per child under the National Food Security Act 2013. The benefits were illegally restricted to one child per family and Rs 5,000 per child under Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana.
    • Extending maternity entitlements to all births, not just the first living child, is a legal obligation under NFSA, and the spirit of the Act also calls for raising their amount well above the outdated norm of Rs 6,000 per child.
  • Reviving and revamping mid-day meals: In schools and anganwadis would be a good start.
    • For example, inclusion of eggs (not only in mid-day meals but also in take-home rations for young children and pregnant women), with a fruit option or such for vegetarians.
  • The ICDS programme also needs a shot in the arm: India has an invaluable network of 14 lakh anganwadis managed by local women. Most of these anganwadi workers and helpers are capable women who can work wonders with a supportive environment.

Way forward

  • The southern states, and some other states like Himachal Pradesh and even Odisha, have amply demonstrated the possibility of turning anganwadis into vibrant child development centres at the village level.

Uttar Pradesh’s strategies to contain the pandemic

Source- The Indian Express

Syllabus- GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

Context- Early and systematic tracking of high-risk contacts helped Uttar Pradesh step up the fight against COVID-19.

What were the measures taken by UP government to control the outbreak?

Uttar Pradesh is the largest state in the country in terms of population and hence, the battle against COVID-19 becomes more challenging. Several factors distinguish the handling of the pandemic in the state such as –

  1. Setting up of ‘Team 11’ – Team 11(which is a cluster of 11 committees) at the state level that comprises top officials and report on a daily basis to the chief minister on the corona situation. The daily review meeting has kept the state machinery on its toes.
  • Ministers in charge of Health and Medical Education are also present at these meetings.
  • This committee tasked with managing different aspects like –

Health and Medical

  1. ICCC set up in every district– Integrated COVID Command and Control Centre (ICCC), This is the nerve centre of pandemic management in the district which helps in-
  • Sending testing teams to different areas as per plan.
  • Ensuring surveillance and contact tracing.
  • Sending positive patients to different Covid hospitals or placing them under home isolation.
  1. Integrated data management portal– UP government launched an integrated Covid-19 portal (upcovid19tracks.in), set up a digital mechanism that can help the state government combat the pandemic while controlling community transmission of the virus.
  • It provides us with the ability to crunch and analyse data on a daily basis.
  • Also cajole the districts lagging behind to improve their performance.
  • Provide test results to citizens.
  • Informs citizens about the nearest COVID-19 test centres where they can get themselves tested free of cost.
  1. Widespread use of the drug, Ivermectin – The Uttar Pradesh government has issued a government order for not only use of Ivermectin drug to treat COVID-19 patients but also as prevention too.
  • The state government provides free medicines to all patients.
  • The combination of ivermectin and doxycyclin to successfully treat over three lakh home-isolated patients with mild symptoms so far.
  1. Target testing- The strategy of testing of selected groups helped assess the level of infection in the general population and identify and isolate super-spreaders.
  • For example- Before festive season, the administration tested mehndi artists, sweet shop workers, jewelers, those working at places of worship, roadside cracker vendors and were able to isolate more than 12,500 infected persons.

Way forward-

Heavy testing, strategic containment, new innovative ideas and management ideas and Government relied measures helped Uttar Pradesh to keep the positivity rate below 5 per cent throughout the pandemic.

  • Continuous monitoring of patients in home quarantine has been an extremely helpful step.
  • A combination of government policies and technology-based solutions has been put in place to ensure the safety and well-being of people along with the smooth functioning of the state.

State of the Education Report for India: Vocational Education First

Source: Click Here

GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

News: UNESCO has released the 2020 State of the Education Report for India: Vocational Education First.


  • The second edition of the State of Education Report focuses on technical and vocational education and training(TVET).

Key Takeaways: The report outlines a set of ten recommendations that should be adopted to help achieve the stated vision for TVET in the country.

  • Place learners and their aspirations at the centre of vocational education and training programmes
  • Create an appropriate ecosystem for teachers, trainers and assessors
  • Focus on upskilling, re-skilling and lifelong learning
  • Ensure inclusive access to TVET for women, differently abled and disadvantaged learners
  • Massively expand the digitalization of vocational education and training
  • Support local communities to generate livelihoods by engaging in the preservation of tangible and intangible cultural heritage
  • Align better with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • Deploy innovative models of financing TVET
  • Expand evidence-based research for better planning and monitoring
  • Establish a robust coordinating mechanism for inter-ministerial cooperation.

Additional Facts:

  • TVET: It refers to aspects of the educational process involving in addition to general education, the study of technologies and related sciences and the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge relating to occupants in various sectors of economic and social life.
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): It is a specialized agency of the United Nations(UN) based in Paris,France.India has been a member of the UNESCO since its inception in 1946.

Why green revolution states should shift from MSP crops to high value crops and Non-farm activities?

Source: The Hindu

GS-3: Issues related to transport and marketing of agricultural produce, Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies

Context: Green Revolution states are required to shift their focus from MSP crops to high-value crops and Non-farm activities due to the consequences

Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh were early adopters and major beneficiaries of Green Revolution technology and enabled India in becoming a nation close to self-sufficiency in food in just 15 years.

How green revolution states benefitted by the MSP system?

Due to the following factors, share of rice and wheat in the total cropped area rose from 48% in Punjab and 29% in Haryana in the early 1970s to 84% and 60%, respectively in recent years;

  • Firstly, farmers were insulated against any price and market risk due to the Government procurement of marketed surplus of paddy (rice) and wheat at MSP.
  • Secondly, best resources were allocated for technological advancement for rice and wheat crops by public sector agriculture research and development for technological advantage.
  • Third, free power, and fertilizer subsidy together with MSP resulted in higher income per unit area from wheat and paddy cultivation.

Above factors made the cultivation of Paddy and Wheat beneficial in terms of productivity, income, price, Land-labour ratio and yield risk and ease of cultivation among all the field crops (cereals, pulses, oilseeds).

Then, why green revolution states must shift to Non-farm activities?

Since Mid-1980s, many reports and policy documents started suggesting following serious consequences of continuation of rice-wheat crop system in general and paddy cultivation in particular;

  • On the demand side, Per capita intake of rice and wheat is declining in India and consumers’ preference is shifting towards other foods. For ex; average spending by urban consumers is more on beverage and spices than on all cereals.
  • On the supply side, rice production is rising at the rate of 14% per year in Madhya Pradesh, 10% in Jharkhand and 7% in Bihar.
  • On the government procurement side, Rice and wheat procurement in the country has more than doubled after 2006-07 and buffer stocks have expanded to an all-time high, with fewer options available to dispose of such large stocks. It is putting heavy burden on the government exchequer.
  • On the farmer’s side, More than 50 Years of MSP system has affected the entrepreneurial skills of farmers required to sell the produce in demand-supply based market system.
  • On the resources side, paddy cultivation and availability of free power for pumping out groundwater for irrigation, has resulted in drastic decline of water table in 84% observation wells in Punjab and 75% in Haryana. At this pace, both these states might run out of groundwater in few years. Stubble burning is also a consequence of this system.
  • At present, most of the farm work in green revolution states is being undertaken by migrant labour as younger generation is not willing to do manual work and looking for better paying salaried jobs in non-farm occupations.

All the above-listed factors do not favour an increase in MSP, which is demanded every year by farmers.

How to shift to non-farm activities?

The government in these states must facilitate the private investment in a large number of area-specific enterprises tailored to State specificities by

  • Promotion of food processing in formal and informal sectors;
  • A big push to post-harvest value addition and modern value chains;
  • A network of agro- and agri-input industries;
  • Setting up high-tech agriculture;
  • A direct link of production and producers to consumers without involving intermediaries.

Besides agriculture-based industries, State needs large-scale private investments in modern industry, services, and commerce.

Thus, the demand of time is that these traditional Green Revolution States of Punjab and Haryana should focus on innovative development strategy in agriculture and non-agriculture to develop a better future for the farmers and aspiring youth of the state.

What are the negative impacts of farm laws on landless labourers and small tenant farmers?

Source: Indian Express

GS-3: Issues related to transport and marketing of agricultural produce, Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies

Context: Although issue of MSP system has been brought in limelight by protest of farmers, but very less attention has been paid to the impacts of farm bills on the landless and agricultural laborers.

Present data of landless laborers and tenant farmers

About 60 per cent of India’s population is engaged in agriculture and allied activities, of which Nearly 263 million are directly and rest are indirectly dependent on agriculture.

According to Census 2011;

  • There are 494.9 million (49.49 crore) landless individuals in villages, who are directly or indirectly dependent on cultivation for their livelihoods.
  • Around 1.2 crore or nearly 14 per cent of the farming community are tenant farmers or sharecroppers, who work in fields owned by others.
What are the provisions of farm laws in question?

Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services, 2020 will enable

  • Agri-business firms, retail supermarket chains to enter into prior agreements with small farmers for production, pricing and purchase of agricultural products.
  • Leasing of land from small farmers (possessing below 1.0 ha of land) and pooling of plots to turn them into large farms and cultivate them with modern machinery and technology.

The rational for the above provision was provided by NITI Aayog that since small farms are non-profitable it is necessary to opt for corporate farming.

How Farm laws will affect landless labourers and tenant farmers?

However, these provisions may lead to large-scale landlessness, unemployment and further impoverishment of rural India.

  • Landless labor ideally should find 170 days of employment per year in two crop cultivated areas. But with the entry of corporate and their modern technology and the use of heavy machinery, they are certain to lose employment with no option for rehabilitation.
  • As the corporate buyers will dominate the APMC mandis, Small tenant farmers will be able to get the price 30 per cent lower than the MSP outside mandis. With no bargaining power and transportation facilities for their produce, they will be forced to sell their produce at the lower price.
  • Situation of most of the landless laborers and small farmers is so bad that for their own consumption, majority of them are dependent upon subsidised grain provided through the PDS. Lesser procurement by government through FCI will soon result in denial of ration to many of them under the Food Security act.

Thus, not only farmers but all sections of society — farmers, agricultural labourers, small shopkeepers must raise their concerns against the farm bills.

India drops two ranks in Human Development Index

Source: Click Here

Syllabus: GS 3 – Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

News: United Nations Development Program(UNDP) has released the Human Development Index(HDI) 2020.


  • HDI: It measures the average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions of human development:
    • A long and healthy life- measured by Life expectancy at birth
    • Access to knowledge: measured by Mean years of schooling and Expected years of schooling
    • A decent standard of living- measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita (PPP US$).
  • Note: UNDP has introduced a new metric this year called Planetary Pressures-adjusted HDI (PHDI).PHDI reflects the impact caused by each country’s per-capita carbon emissions and its material footprint which measures the amount of fossil fuels, metals and other resources used to make the goods and services it consumes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Topped by: Norway has topped the index followed by Ireland, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Iceland.
  • India: India has dropped two ranks in the index standing at 131 out of 189 countries.India’s HDI value for 2019 is 0.645— which put the country in the medium human development category
  • BRICS: In the BRICS grouping, Russia was 52 in the human development index, Brazil 84, and China 85.
  • Neighboring Countries: Bhutan (129), Bangladesh (133), Nepal (142), and Pakistan(154).

Other Takeaways from the index:

  • Life expectancy of Indians at birth in 2019 was 69.7 years.This is worse than Bangladesh which has a life expectancy of 72.6 years.The life expectancy in Pakistan is 67.3 years.
  • India’s gross national income per capita fell to $6,681 in 2019 from $6,829 in 2018 on purchasing power parity (PPP) basis.
    • Purchasing power parity or PPP is a measurement of prices in different countries that uses the prices of specific goods to compare the absolute purchasing power of the countries’ currencies.
  • Solar capacity in India has increased from 2.6 gigawatts in March 2014 to 30 gigawatts in July 2019 achieving its target of 20 gigawatts four years ahead of schedule.In 2019, India ranked fifth for installed solar capacity.

For further reference:  UNDP’s HDI and Other Indices

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