Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – March 1, 2018

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Q.1) This year’s Budgets pro-agriculture intentions are palpable through increased outlays to the agricultural sector and initiation of various programmes. In this context discuss the challenges agriculture sector is facing today? Suggest some measures to improve the condition of agriculture sector.(GS-3)

Similar to the last two Budgets, this year’s pro-agriculture intentions are palpable through increased outlays to the agricultural sector and initiation of various programmes.

Agrarian distress and challenges:

There are some real challenges confronting three laudable Budget announcements.

Challenges

Raise the minimum support price (MSP)

  • The first is to raise the minimum support price (MSP) by at least 50% above the cost of production.
  • The MSP will also be extended to all crops for which estimates on cost of cultivation and a remunerative price are to be ascertained.
  • In the last few years, the government has been giving MSP above 50% based on cost A2+FL, which is to be continued as per this Budget.
  •   little attention has been paid towards altering the ongoing ‘high input cost and low output price’ regime.

Other challenges and concerns:

  • Indian agriculture is monsoon dependent.
  • In India post-harvest losses in food and food grains are around 40-50%.
  • Agricultural growth has been, on average, lower than that in non-agriculture, including industry.
  • The rate of decline of the population dependent on agriculture has been discouragingly low since employment outside of agriculture has not been growing fast enough.
  • The monopoly of traders over local agricultural markets bars farmers from selling directly to consumers.
  • Fiscal conservatism has adversely affected public investment in irrigation, drainage and flood control.
  • Liberalised imports of agricultural commodities including foodgrains and cotton have dampened domestic prices.

Measures:

  • The government must extend immediate help to farmers from rampant price volatility.
  •  The States can implement the ‘price deficiency payment scheme’ (difference between MSP and price received) as has been started in Haryana for some vegetables, and the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana in Madhya Pradesh for select oilseeds.
  •  These schemes can also encourage small holders, including tenants, who constitute at least 86% of farmers, to sell in the regulated markets.

Gramin Agricultural Markets:

  • The second measure is to develop and upgrade the existing 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets.
  • A corpus of Rs. 2,000 crore has been allocated in the name of the Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund for developing and upgrading marketing infrastructure.
  •  Under market reforms, it will also be important to link production centres with marketing through agri-value chains, which would require farmers to aggregate, form self-help groups, or farmer producer organisations.
  •  Small landholders in less developed States sell their produce mainly through village traders or government-run Primary Agricultural Credit Societies (for wheat and paddy at MSP) and often get exploited.
  • A hike in MSP should be supplemented with irrigation, and reduction in fertilizer cost.
  • Another interrelated initiative is the launching of ‘Operation Green’ with an outlay of Rs. 500 crore to address the challenge of price volatility of perishable commodities.

Increase institutional credit:

  • The third important step is to increase institutional credit from Rs. 10 lakh crore in 2017-18 to Rs. 11 lakh crore in 2018-19.
  • The share of agricultural credit in gross domestic product in agriculture and allied activities has increased from 10% in 1999-2000 to 41% in 2015-16.
  •  The actual flow has considerably exceeded the target.

Conclusion:

Rather than just increased budgetary outlays, farmers need plans that will rescue them from crop failure

Q.2)  The government has released a new draft Pesticide Management Bill 2017 to replace old legislation governing the plant chemical sector. In this context  discuss the relevance of new  draft Bill. (GS-3)

The Centre has released a new draft Pesticide Management Bill 2017 to replace an almost 50-year old legislation governing the plant chemicals sector.  

Significance:

  • The Bill defines a pesticide as any substance used to destroy or control pests in agricultural commodities or animal feeds.  Pesticides used for non-agricultural purposes, such as health care, are thus excluded from this definition.
  • Proposed as a step towards promoting safe use of pesticides, this Bill seeks to regulate the manufacture, inspection, testing and distribution of pesticide
  • The new draft Bill, 2017, puts in place detailed clauses for registration of new molecules, includes a broader category of offences and provision for paying compensation to farmers.
  • The Pesticides Management Bill, 2017, aims to replace the Insecticides Act, 1968.
  • It gives more power to state government to take action against on violators    .
  • Among the bill’s other stated objectives are ensuring availability of quality pesticides, minimizing the contamination of agricultural commodities by pesticide residue, and creating awareness among users regarding safe and judicious use of pesticides.
  • The draft comes in the wake of several pesticide-related deaths in recent months.
  • According to the bill, the maximum punishment for violation (such as sale of prohibited or spurious pesticides) is a penalty of up to Rs50 lakh and up to five years’ imprisonment. Earlier, the punishment was limited to Rs2,000 and up to three years’ imprisonment.
  • The bill has tightened the guidelines for registration and licensing of new molecules.
  • It allows provisional registration of new pesticides in India in case of “national exigency” for a period of two years
  • According to the draft, state governments have to report all cases of poisoning to the centre on a quarterly basis and states can also ban chemical pesticides for up to six months. Currently, states can ban a chemical for up to two months
  • The proposed bill provides for paying compensation to the affected farmers or users under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.

Q.3) Indian jails have often been dubbed as a university for grooming criminals due to pathetic and inhumane conditions.  In this context discuss the problem face by the prisoners. What is the status of conjugal rights for prisoners in India and significance of these rights?(GS-2)

Indian jails have often been dubbed as a university for grooming criminals due to pathetic and inhumane conditions. In the absence of a robust Whistleblower Protection Act and structural changes to address the issues of overcrowding and understaffing, India’s prisons will continue to be heaven for politically connected criminals and hell for socio-economically disadvantaged undertrials, some regular media uproars notwithstanding.

Problems face by the prisoners:

  • NHRC figures show that prisoners cut off from family and friends had a 50% more chance of committing suicide than those outside.
  • The average suicide rate in prisons is over 50% more than in normal conditions.
  • The inevitable outcome is sub-human living conditions, poor hygiene, and violent clashes between the inmates and jail authorities.
  • Besides, while 33% of the total requirement of prison officials still lies vacant, almost 36% of vacancy for supervising officers is still unfulfilled.
  • In the absence of adequate prison staff, overcrowding of prisons leads to rampant violence and other criminal activities inside the jails.

Present status of conjugal rights in India:

  • Currently, there are no laws in India that expressly allow conjugal visits to inmates.
  • However, in 2015, Punjab and Haryana High Court, while hearing a case, allowed conjugal visits and artificial insemination for inmates. The court had ruled that it will be the sole prerogative of the state to regulate a legally established procedure for the same.

Conjugal rights and its significance:

  • Conjugal visits is a modern-day concept adopted by countries like Canada, Germany, Russia, Spain, Belgium, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Denmark and, to some extent, the US. Brazil and Israel even allow same-sex conjugal visits.
  • A conjugal visit is a scheduled visit where an inmate is allowed to spend time with their legal spouse. The duration of the visit may stretch from several hours to several days wherein the meeting parties may engage sexually.
  • The idea is being slowly but progressively adopted by countries worldwide on the widely agreed grounds that conjugal visits are an important factor in preserving family bonds and reducing tendencies in prisoners to commit break prison rules and regulations.
  •  Conjugal visits also help an inmate to return to normal life after being released from prison.
  •   Conjugal visits help prisoners maintain relationship with families, reduce recidivism and motivate and an incentive to good prisoners.
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