Q.1) World Bank recently released Human Capital Index (HCI) as a part of World Development Report (WDR) 2019. What are the key observation for India and discuss the reasons why India has objection over the Index.
Answer: World Bank’s report on Human Capital Index (HCI) placed India at the 115th position among 157 countries. The objective of the index is to show how low education and health outcomes – or human capital – impact productivity, growth and prosperity.
Observations for India:
- India’s combined public expenditure on health and education at 4.71% of the GDP is nearly half of that of East Asian countries or Latin America.
- According to the latest Family and Health Survey, as many as 38% of the country’s children aged 5 or less are stunted.
- Another World Bank study calculates that malnutrition costs India between 2 and 3 percentage points of GDP each year. This translates into billions of dollars of lost economic growth and into millions of people not able to escape poverty and deprivations.
- HCI results are in line with the findings of the latest ASER report , according to which 25% of youth in rural areas aged 14-18 cannot read fluently a simple text in their own native language and nearly 60% cannot make a simple division.
- HCI does not take into account GDP per capita. This would have brought India higher up in the ranking.
- The data used for assessing the quality of education is questionable as comparing test scores across countries is quite a difficult thing to do.
- Quality of education figures are the result of test scores taken in only two states of Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
- Index does not take into account recent initiatives like Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan or the Swachh Bharat Mission and even Aadhaar, when calculating the index.
Q.2) According to the recently released report titled ‘Strengthening Forest Fire Management in India’, about 70 per cent of the forests area in India experiences forest fires and cause economic loss of at least Rs. 1,100 crore every year. Explain the reasons for forest fire in India and the ways to mitigate its rise and impact.
Answer: Reasons for forest fires in India:
- In India’s seasonally dry forests, most forest fires are characterized by low-intensity surface fires. Intense fires involve complex dynamics of the monsoon rains, weather during the winter and early part of the dry season, and fuel accumulation.
- Although India’s forests are densely populated and most fires occur within a few kilometers of the nearest road or settlement, each year there is a long tail of fires in more remote and inaccessible areas, where response is slower and the potential for fires to grow beyond control is greater.
- Weather, fuels, and topography may influence fire potential and behavior.
- Roughly 92-103 million people live in areas of forest cover, and many depend on forests for their livelihoods. Unwanted forest fires may also occur due to human negligence.
- Shifting societal and cultural practices also play a role, as with the use of fire in traditional shifting cultivation (jhum).
- Only half of the forest officers surveyed in 11 states said that all the fire lines in their area were being cleared as required per the forest working plans; two thirds said controlled burning was not being regularly performed.
- Forest fire suppression in India mainly involves dryland firefighting. The principle of effective suppression is having a competent, well-trained, and adequately equipped workforce on the ground, ready to respond and take immediate action.
- Post-fire management is not being treated as part of the FFPM process and is probably the weakest link.
Ways to mitigate:
- At the national level, a cohesive first-order policy or action plan can set forth the guiding principles and framework for FFPM, beginning with a clear statement of goals and priorities.
- Even with the advent of new remote sensing technologies, ground-based detection will continue to be essential. Construction of watchtowers and crew stations and for frontline officers and seasonal firewatchers to spot fires is needed, as most of the areas surveyed reported shortfalls and field officers reported frequent delays in making payments to seasonal firewatchers.
- Fire alert systems developed by FSI and the states should be strengthened. Digitization of management boundaries by the state forest departments should be completed so that FSI can more accurately determine which fires to report and to whom.
- There is a need to support forest fire management through improved data, research to fill critical knowledge gaps, and regular knowledge exchange.
- It is essential to work with communities and give them a voice in the decision-making process.
Q.3) To fulfil its objective of doubling farm incomes by 2022, the government needs to hike R&D spend and facilitate private investments. Examine.
Answer: Need to hike R&D Spend and facilitate private investments:
- According to the Economic Survey 2017-18, the total R&D expenditure in India as percentage of GDP has been stagnant at 0.6 to 0.7 per cent in the last two decades — much lower than the US (2.8 per cent), China (2.1 per cent), South Korea (4.3 per cent) and Israel (4.2 per cent).
- Research expenditure on agriculture acquires special significance given the millions of Indians dependent on this sector.
- Country expects around 1.63 billion people to be fed by 2050; with ever shrinking cultivable land due to rising urbanisation, research in agriculture is need of the hour.
- In spite of a large agri research network, the system failed to respond to the biggest problems of Indian agriculture, be it cost effectiveness, productivity, water scarcity, market making, food processing etc.
- When it comes to actual spending, Agriculture Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) data reveal that India currently spends 0.30 per cent of agriculture GDP on agricultural research, which is just half the share invested by China (0.62 per cent).
- Profits are vital for the private sector and if governments can’t create a conducive environment for it, private investments will not pick up.
- The spending on agri R&D would lead to sustainable development with comparatively more equal distribution of resources.
Q.4) Discuss the reasons for prevalence of TB disease in India. Given the issues with TB control in India, how far is India’s ambitious target to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025 feasible?
Answer: India continues to have the highest number of tuberculosis (TB) cases in the world as per the Global TB Report 2017 released by World Health Organization (WHO).
Reasons for prevalence of TB:
- Rising cases of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) in India.
- Poor diagnosis of TB.
- Challenges due to increasing HIV-TB double burden.
- Over reliance on over the counter drugs for medication is strengthening drug resistance.
- Underreporting and underdiagnosis of TB cases continue to be a challenge.
- Unregulated private sector and weak health systems.
- TB care and prevention investment remains low.
Is the 2025 target feasible:
No, challenges remain – as discussed above
Yes, progress so far
- In 2016 RNTCP has expanded TB care services and made landmark changes in the strategy of diagnosis and treatment of TB.
- A new drug Bedaquiline was introduced for treatment of MDR-TB at 6 identified sites.
- Single window delivery of HIV-TB services was expanded at all Anti-retroviral Treatment (ART) centres in the country.
- ICT enabled treatment adherence support system (99 DOTS) was also extended for HIV-TB patients.
- E-NIKSHAY development and field testing began in Gujarat and Maharashtra.