Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – February 4, 2019

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Q.1) What is land degradation? Discuss the causes and impact of land degradation.

Answer:

Land degradation refers to the temporary or permanent decline in the productive capacity of the land.

Causes:

  1. Deforestation: The removal of trees and other vegetation for firewood, commercial logging or to clear land for farming and settlements is a key factor for land degradation.
  2. Overgrazing: Overgrazing is the grazing of natural pastures at stocking intensifies above the livestock carrying capacity. It leads directly to decreases in the quantity and quality of the vegetation cover and consequent exposure to water and wind erosion.
  3. Extension of cultivation onto fragile or marginal lands: Population increase and poverty has led to the widespread use of fragile lands such as sloping lands, areas of shallow or sandy soils, or with laterite crusts, etc. for cultivation which result in consequent degradation of land in the area.
  4. Improper crop rotations: As a result of population growth, land shortage and economic pressures, farmers in some areas have adopted cereal-based, intensive crop rotations, based particularly on rice and wheat, in place of the more balanced cereal-legume rotations which has led to consequent soil fertility decline.
  5. Unbalanced fertilizer use: Excessive use of fertilizers have resulted in nutrient imbalance in soil and land degradation.
  6. Over pumping of groundwater: The excessive abstraction of water in excess of natural recharge by rainfall and river seepage has led to decline in water table and contributed to increased soil salinity and consequent soil and land degradation.

Impact:

  1. Impact on local/regional climate: Land degradation significantly affect climate due to land surface changes that impact temperature and rainfall. For example: studies show deforestation in Central America has negatively impacted rainfall in adjoining regions.
  2. Impact on Biodiversity: Land degradation results in genetic erosion of vegetation, destroys habitats of animal and plant species and reduces crop species
  3. Land degradation cause increased pollution and sedimentation in water bodies, clogging waterways and causing declines in fish and other species
  4. Impact on food security and relation with poverty: Land degradation decrease agricultural productivity and has significant impact on food security, rural incomes, and rural livelihoods.
  5. Climate Change: Land Degradation contributes to climate change through two main processes: production of greenhouse gases (by reducing carbon storage capacity of plants and soils and accelerating carbon emissions) and direct contributions of dust to the atmosphere.

 

Q.2) “Direct cash transfer to farmers is unlikely to solve the crisis in agriculture.” Critically Discuss.

Answer:

Benefits of direct cash transfer:

  1. The provision of direct income support to farmers will enable them to purchase the inputs needed for a technological upgrading of farm operation
  2. More transparent:A direct transfer of cash to support farmers would circumvent multiple layers of bureaucracy, the scope for leakages prevalent in other policy instruments such as subsidies.
  3. Optimising inputs: direct income transfer will enable farmers to use the market to decide their production and help in optimising the use of inputs. Direct cash transfer will also not affect crop choices- For example: growing sugarcane in water-scarce Maharashtra
  4. Does not affect banking ecosystem: Direct cash transfers would not impact the banking ecosystem for example: defaults by farmers and banks by advancing lower volumes of fresh credit
  5. Help negate money lender issue to an extent:With direct income transfer farmers can buy and use the necessary inputs in time without adhering to the terms dictated by the moneylenders and traders. This will also help reduce the total cost of cultivation and also stop exploitation of farmers by money lenders
  6. Raising Living Standards of farmer’s: According to proponents of direct income support to farmers advocate that it would help raise their living standards, reduce poverty and mitigate farm distress.

Challenges:

  1. The sum assured amounts to less than one-fifth of an average household’s income
  2. Cash transfers do not address the structural issues in Indian agriculture which have led to agrarian crisis. It does not resolves nay structural issue plaguing Indian agriculture; such as faulty and ad hoc export-import policy, lack of infrastructure, issues with agricultural market, drop in agricultural prices etc.
  3. Except for the Kalia scheme, most other direct cash transfer schemes are regressive with amount of transfer proportional to the land owned. Further, schemes like Rayatu bandhu completely excludes the landless labourers who form a major portion of the agricultural workforce in India
  4. Identification of beneficiaries is a major challenge. In the absence of proper tenancy records, direct cash transfer will also benefit the absentee landlords
  5. Loan waivers have already put a strain on state exchequers. The income transfer scheme will further strain the fiscal capacity of states.

Way ahead:

  1. market reforms like implementing model APMC Act, Essential Commodity Act, etc., are required to achieve the objective of doubling farmers’ income by 2022
  2. it should double the amount given by reducing some food and fertilizer subsidies
  3. It is important to take steps to protect agricultural production from the effects of climate change and ensure sustainable agriculture.
  4. It is required to make adequate investments catering to the changing requirements of the modern agriculture, especially agri research and development.
  5. It is necessary that the newer variety of seeds and HYV seeds are affordable and accessible for the farmers.
  6. Farmers need to have assured access to and control over rightful basic resources like land, water, bio-resources, credit and insurance, technology and knowledge management, and markets.
  7. Government must incentivise farmers to diversify their incomes through allied activities (livestock, fisheries, and agro-forestry) to enhance livelihood opportunities.
  8. Measures should be taken to address price volatility of agricultural produce. It is important to effectively implement ‘price deficiency payment scheme’
  9. Export-import policies must be made pro-farmer so that they are able to get the full benefits of higher prices abroad. Farmers should be protected from any sudden collapse in world prices by an appropriate adjustment in duties.

 

Q.3) Recently announced  ‘Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan’ scheme in the Union budget would provide the much needed support to unorganised sector workers. Critically examine.

Answer:

Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan scheme provides social security at old age for unorganised sector

  1. benefit unorganised sector workers who have a monthly income up to ₹15,000
  2. provide them a monthly pension of ₹3,000 from the age of 60
  3. Workers will contribute an amount ranging from ₹55 to ₹100 each month, depending on their age, at the time of joining the scheme, while the government will deposit a matching contribution

Benefits:

  1. Half of India’s GDP comes from the 42 crore workers in the unorganised sector
  2. at least 10 crore labourers and workers in the unorganised sector will avail the benefit of the scheme
  3. It covers a wide range of workers in the unorganised sector including the domestic workers

 

Q.4) The Directive Principles may not be legally enforceable in the court of justice but they are politically and morally enforceable in the court of people. Comment.

Answer:

DPSPs denote the ideals that the State should keep in mind while formulating policies and enacting laws. They are non-justiciable in nature. Therefore, the government cannot be compelled to implement them.

Though they are not legally enforceable, they are important because:

Importance of DPSP:

  1. Directives have great value because they lay down that the goal of Indian polity is ‘economic democracy’ as distinguished from ‘political democracy’.
  2. They remind governments of the basic principles of the new social and economic order, which the Constitution aims at building.
  3. They have helped the courts in exercising their power of judicial review, that is, the power to determine the constitutional validity of a law.
  4. They facilitate stability and continuity in domestic and foreign policies in political, economic and social spheres in spite of the changes of the party in power.
  5. They are supplementary to the fundamental rights of the citizens. They are intended to fill  in the vacuum in Part III by providing for social and economic rights.
  6. Their implementation creates a favourable atmosphere for the full and proper enjoyment of the fundamental rights by the citizens. Political democracy, without economic democracy, has no meaning.
  7. They enable the opposition to exercise influence and control over the operations of the government. The Opposition can blame the ruling party on the ground that its activities are opposed to the Directives.

As Dr B R Ambedkar said, a government which rests on popular vote can hardly ignore the Directive Principles while shaping its policy. If any government ignores them, it will certainly have to answer for that before the electorate at the election time.

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