Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 8th January 2022

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1.  Sustainable farming creates new livelihood sources

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 3: Indian Economy
Sub Theme:  Integrated farming system | UPSC

sustainable natural farming system adopted in southern Rajasthan’s Banswara district, which has created new livelihood sources and brought food security to indigenous tribal communities, has impressed the Chief Minister’s Economic Transformation Advisory Council. The model is being considered for replication elsewhere in the State

Sustainable growth or sustainability of agriculture sector has been of interest. Indian agriculture has, however, been considered sustainable before chemicalization of agriculture and farmers produced organize food. The agriculture system was based on integration of soil and related ecological systems. An agricultural system that can overcome a stress, defined as a discontinuity in the situation to which it is subject, can be referred to as sustainable. In context of Rajasthan failure of rains can be cited as an example. The FAO referred to sustainable agriculture as successful management of resources for agriculture to satisfy changing human needs while maintaining or enhancing the quality of environment and conserving natural resources.

As per Dr. Swaminathan food security is “Livelihood security at the level of each household and all members within and involves insuring both physical and economic access to balanced diet, safe drinking water, environmental sanitation, primary education and basic health care”.

India is ranked at 71st position in the Global Food Security (GFS) Index 2021 of 113 countries. Earlier, India was ranked 101st position in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2021. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2020 report states that the prevalence of undernourishment in the total population in India declined from 21.7 % in 2004-06 to 14 % in 2017-19.

The  goal  of  attaining  social  equity  and  inclusive  growth  can’t  be  achieved  without  providing livelihood and nutritional security to the most vulnerable sections of the Indian population which consist of mostly scheduled tribes and scheduled caste. Ensuring equity, good quality of life and its sustainability and economic empowerment of the weaker section is an important policy goal of our development  plans. About 8.2 % of the country’s population is constituted of tribals which makes India the second largest concentration of tribal communities in the world . Southern Rajasthan region is one of the tribal dominated  having more than  70 % tribal  population. The socio-economic  condition of  the tribal farmers does not allow them to adopt any new production technology there by poor livelihood. The majority of the tribal farmers are marginal and small farmers.

Integrated  farming  system  approach  is  a  multi-disciplinary  holistic  approach  to  solve  the problems  of  small  and  marginal  tribal  farmers.  The  declining  trend  of  per  capita  land availability poses  a  serious  challenge to  the sustainability  and profitability  of tribal  farming community under such conditions. It is appropriate to integrate land based enterprises viz., crop production, dairy, horticultural crops, poultry and fisheries within the farm with the objective of generating adequate income and  employment for these small and marginal tribal farmers and thereby improving livelihood and nutritional security. The traditional monoculture production system adopted by these tribal farmers has been explorative and the natural resources like soil and  water  were  subjected  to  immense  pressure  beyond  carrying  capacity.  As  a  result sustainability of agriculture production system and the farming system is in crisis. This suggest an urgent need of integrated farming system development where the various components of the farming system may be integrated to improve productivity and profitability as well as resource conservation along with maintenance of the environment.

INTEGRATED  FARMING  SYSTEM  COMPONENTS

Seed Replacement Rate in Crop Production

Cereal-cereal crop rotation was the prevalent cropping system followed by the tribal farmers for their subsistence. Maize-wheat was the major cropping system in the region. The productivity of  these  crops  was  very  low  due  to  use  of  food  grains  as  seed,  very  high  seed  rate, indiscriminate  fertilizers  use,  improper  crop  geometry,  weed  and  poor  water  management. During  the  participatory  research  programme  farmers  were  trained  with  recent  production technology and provided  with improved  variety seeds  as critical  input. Seed replacement  in maize, wheat, barley, gram, rice and soybean increased the productivity ranging from 22.5 % to 43.2 % over local existing varieties of these crops. In low lying areas rice recorded highest gross returns while gram cultivation found more profitable instead of wheat with maximum gross return.

Community-managed seed system, which has facilitated diversification of crops.

Income Improvement through Hybrid Vegetables Production

The commercial vegetable production is generally not followed by the tribal farmers due to lack of knowledge,  high risk and  marketing problems. During the NAIP  project hybrid vegetable cultivation were promoted along with crop production in the adopted region. This intervention alone has made major impact on livelihood of the farmers. Farmers fetched very high returns from Chilli var. Ujala followed by Okra var. Bhindi and green leaves of coriander. The facility of mobile refrigerator van has been made available to fetch good prices of vegetables in surrounding markets.

Nutritional Security through Nutri-garden

Rural tribal farmers are facing the malnutrition problems due to less diversified food habit and low intake of vegetables in their diet. Farmers generally grow maize round the year so they eat maize with locally available  vegetable i.e. Khatlo  (butter milk  +  green sag), okra etc. They rarely  purchased  vegetables  due  to  poor  economy.  Nutri-gardens  consisting  of  seasonal vegetable  crop’s  seeds were established  near by their  houses  for their  own  consumption to improve their nutrition.

Increasing Water Use Efficiency

The soils of the region are stony clay loam which having more conveyance losses of water through seepage. Farmers generally grow crops  near the source of water. Under the project, farmers were trained to  utilized water resources efficiently in their  fields.  For  this  purpose  farmers  were provided  3500  PVC  irrigation  pipes  on  share basis. This intervention brought 75 ha additional area under irrigation in the ten adopted villages. Farmers were using irrigated area mostly for growing vegetables and green fodder for livestock. This intervention also helped to improve their livelihood.

Mechanization of Farm

The  farmers of  the  region generally used  their  own traditional  farm  implements  such  as  deshi  plough, buckhar  etc.  which  took  lot  of  time  and  labour  in preparing the fields. To improve agronomic efficiency and reduction in drudgery in agriculture, farmers were provided improved farm implements on custom hiring basis  from  the  Rural  Technology  Centre.  The improved  farm implements  includes-  bullock drown MB plough, bund former,  bullock drawn seed cum fert-drill, serrated sickle, hand hoe,  hand rakes, tractor drawn  thresher, seed drill, mini seed grader, power operated reaper, feed block machine, improved seed storage bins etc. The farmers were using these implements to complete timely  field  operations.

Farmer’s Producer Company: A Step to Upgrade Livelihood of Tribal Farmers

Under  NAIP  project,  farmers  were  further  tied  up  with  the  market  by  providing  adequate facilities  and  roping in  a private  sector to  help  them to  get better  prices for  their  produce. Farmers were grouped into farmers business groups (FBGs) on the basis of self help principles and  ultimately  forming  farmer’s  producer marketing  company. The  producer  company will provide platform for the small and  marginal farmers to organize themselves as  a free market entity. They follow  the values and principles of co-operation. In the  adopted ten villages, 61 FBGs were formed with help of Access Development Services. These 61 FBGs were further federated into producer  company namely  “Jhambu Khand  Agro Producer  Company Limited (JKPCL)”  and  registered  under  company  Act,  1956.  The  company  has  stared  collective procurement  and  marketing  of  agricultural  inputs  like  seeds, fertilizers,  pesticides  etc.  The annual turn over of JKPCL was Rs. 28.5 lacs during the year 2010-11 and targeted one crore for the year 2011-12. Further, the concept of FBGs and Producer Company has developed a number of leaders in the form of Board of Director, President, Secretary and members associated with this endeavour. These trained personnel  can serve  as  technology  agent  and acting  as  bridge between Institutes like  KVK, State Agriculture  Department  and  other  private companies for knowledge  and skill  empowerment.  In this way  replication of  such  model can  set  to bring revolutionary positive change in the livelihood of under privileged people of the disadvantaged districts.

Creation of Sustainability Fund

This  is  a  participatory  research  programme  in  which  each  critical  inputs  such  as  seeds, fertilizers, implements, storage bins  etc. were provided to the farmers with 25 to 50 % share basis. The farmer’s share was deposited in the Bank account to create a Sustainability Fund for sustaining  the activities  after  completion  of  the  research  programme. Banswara  district  has collected more than Rs. 40.0 lacs as sustainability fund to keep alive the activities. The Rural Technology Centre has  been opened in  two clusters  of five  villages for  providing technical support to the farmers.

Conclusion 

Integrated farming system research is a multi-disciplinary holistic approach to solve the problems of small and marginal farmers. Small and marginal farmers are the core of the Indian agrarian rural economy constituting  80% of the total farming community but possessing only 36% of the total operational  land  holdings.  The  declining  trend  of  per  capita  land  availability  poses  a  serious challenge  to  the  sustainability  and  profitability  of  tribal  farmers.  Under  such  situations,  it  is appropriate to integrate land based enterprises, viz., dairy, crop production and horticulture  crops within the farm with the objective of generating adequate income and employment for these small and marginal tribal farmers and thereby improve and sustain their livelihood. Thus, diversification of  agriculture  through  vegetables,  oilseeds,  pulses  and inclusion  of livestock  proved economically viable intervention in tribal dominated areas of Southern  Rajasthan. It not  only enhanced income of household but also provide on and off farm employment opportunities for small and marginal farmers, thereby, reducing migration in the region.

                              

2.  SC permits NEET counselling under present OBC, EWS quota

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 3: Polity & Governance
Sub Theme: EWS Criterion | UPSC

The Central Government has told the Supreme Court in an affidavit that it has decided to accept the recommendation made by an expert committee to retain the limit of Rupees 8 lakhs gross annual income for Economically Weaker Section(EWS) reservations.

The Supreme Court had earlier expressed doubts regarding the reasonableness of Rs 8 lakhs income criteria for EWS, following which the Centre agreed to revisit the same after formulating an expert committee. The Centre also put on hold the NEET-PG counselling process in view of the case pending before the Supreme Court.

Doctrine of Reasonable Classification

Article 14 says that State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India. Equality before law as provided in the Article 14 of our constitution provides that no one is above the law of the land. Rule of the Law is an inference derived from Article 14 of the constitution. The article 14 aims to establish the “Equality of Status and Opportunity” as embodied in the Preamble of the Constitution.

However, Article 14 does not mean that all laws must be general in character or that the same laws should apply to all persons or that every law must have universal application. This is because all persons are not, by nature, attainment or circumstances in the same positions.

Thus, the State can treat different persons in differently if circumstances justify such treatment. Further, the identical treatment in unequal circumstances would amount to inequality.

Thus, there is a necessity of the “reasonable classification” for the society to progress. The Supreme Court has maintained that Article 14 permits reasonable classification of persons, objects, transactions by the State for the purpose of achieving specific ends that help in the development of the society. However, Article 14 forbids “class legislation”. Class legislation makes an improper discrimination by conferring particular privileges upon a class of persons.

However, some argue that the extensive use of device of “reasonable classification” by State and its approval by the Supreme Court has rendered the guarantee of ‘fair and equitable” treatment under Article 14 illusory. Here comes the role of “Test of reasonable classification”. The Test of Reasonable Classification says that the classification must be based upon intelligible differentia that distinguishes persons or things that are grouped from others that are left out of the group. This differentia must have a rational relation to the object of classification. There should be a relation between the differentiations to the object of the classification. If there are no such relations, the reasonable classification would fail.

For example denial of grant to a private college teaching law while giving grant to other private colleges teaching other subjects is not permissible. However, reduction of age from 58 years to 55 years is permissible.

Erstwhile criteria for EWS

As per the notification dated January 17, 2019 persons who are not covered under the scheme of reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs and whose family has a gross annual income below Rs 8 lakh are to be identified as EWSs for benefit of reservation.

Furthermore, persons whose family owns or possesses any of the following assets were to be excluded from being identified as EWS:

(a) five acres of agricultural land and above;

(b) a residential plot of 100 square yards and above in notified municipalities and 200 square yards and above in areas other than notified municipalities; and

(c) a residential flat of 1000 square feet and above

The word family included the candidate, his/her parents, under-18 siblings, spouse, and his/her under -18 children.

Income also had to include income from all sources i.e., salary, agriculture, business, profession etc. for the financial year prior to the year of application.

Revised Criteria For Determining EWS Reservation

Using a set of indicators that minimized Type I (Minimizing the inclusion of the undeserving ones) and Type II errors (Minimizing the exclusion of deserving ones), the Committee arrived at the revised EWS criteria wherein:

  1. Only Those Families Whose Annual Income Is Upto Rs 8 Lakh Would Be Eligible To Get The Benefit Of EWS Reservation
  1. 1 Though Specific Number Of Rs 8 Lakhs Appears To Be Same As OBC Creamy Layer Cut-Off, Application Of The Cut-Off Is Very Different In EWS & OBC As Two Have Different Contexts.

The Supreme Court had prima facie observed that applying the income limit criteria(Rs 8 lakhs annual income) of OBC Creamy lawyer to EWS was unreasonable, as the latter had no concept of social and economic backwardness.

In this regard, the Committee opined:

  • EWS’s criteria related to the financial year prior to the year of application whereas the income criterion for creamy layer in OBC category was applicable to gross annual income for three consecutive years.
  • For deciding the OBC creamy layer, income from salaries, agriculture and traditional artisanal professions was excluded from the consideration whereas Rs 8 lakh criteria for EWS included that from all sources including the farming

Cut-Off Lower Than Rs 8 Lakhs On Family Income Would Be Unduly Restrictive & Lead To Errors Of Exclusion Of Deserving Eligible Persons The Committee in this regard referred to the definition of family for EWS and the fact of inclusion of agricultural income (that did not attract income tax) in the income criteria. Considering the current income tax reforms wherein effective income tax on individuals was zero for those with annual incomes up to Rs 5 lakhs, the Committee said that after taking advantage of the various provisions for deductions, savings, insurance etc the tax- payer may not need to pay any tax up to an annual income of Rs 7-8 lakhs.

The Committee also remarked that the application of EWS cut off of Rs 8 lakh to just an individual was in the ballpark of income tax requirements for zero tax liability.

  1. Irrespective Of Income, A Person Whose Family Has 5 Acres Of Agricultural Land & Above Shall Be Excluded From EWS

The Committee justified the exclusion of a person whose family has 5 acres of agricultural land from EWS in its report by stating there was variability and paucity of information on agricultural income since the same was exempted from Income Tax and was thus not ascertainable. It was further stated that ownership of farmland could be used as an exclusion criterion since the same was not captured by income tax or other authorities.

  1. Removing Residential Asset Criteria

In this regard, the Committee in its report said that the use of residential plot size and house floor area as an asset criterion for identification of EWS, was complex. It further said that although these criteria also applied to the rural general category, this was more pertinent for those in urban areas. In its report the Committee stated that it had looked into the question of whether the house or plot area thresholds in EWS criteria should factor in the difference in their values based on geographical distributions and recognised that it was not easy to specify a general residential area threshold for the entire country.

“Even if we replace the area thresholds in EWS criteria with residential house or plot values , still it would not solve the problem because it would then require lakhs of candidates every year to get the valuation done of their houses and plots from the notified authorities,” the Committee further said. It was also the Committee’s opinion that the correct economic condition of the candidate or his family may not be reflected if the residential house was only used for dwelling and not generating income and thus any EWS exclusion criteria based on owning a house may lead to unwanted exclusion of deserving candidates. “It is the income of the family which matters and determines the economic conditions of the family and that should be the basis for inclusion or that matter exclusion into EWS,” the Committee in its report stated. Residential criteria was also altogether omitted as it also posed serious complications and burden on EWS families without commensurate benefits. Opining that disturbing the existing system which is on-going since 2019 at the fag end would create more complications than expected both for the beneficiaries as well as for the authorities, the Committee recommended introducing the new criteria from next academic year/ admission cycle. Data Exchange And Information Technology To Be Used More Actively To Verify Income & Assets, Improve Targeting For EWS Reservations & Across Government Schemes; Three-Year Feedback Loop Cycle To Be Used For Monitoring Actual Outcomes Of The Criteria And Then Be Used To Adjust Them In Future For managing the process of review of EWS in future, the Committee opined that the traditional approach of ever more detailed multi-dimensional surveys or studies at a frequent interval alone might not be useful for the operation of the EWS reservations. Remarking that the same was expensive, complicated, and irregular the Committee opined that a better approach was to use a feedback loop to examine the actual outcomes from implementation of the criteria, every three years. Proposal was also given by the Committee to prefer an “Agile” approach over a “Waterfall” methodology.

Committee recommendations

The Committee summarized the recommendations as:

(i) The current gross annual family income limit for EWS of Rs. 8.00 lakh or less may be retained. In other words only those families who annual income is upto Rs 8 Lakh would be eligible to get the benefit of EWS reservation. The definition of ‘family’ and income would remain same as those in the OM dated 17th January 2019.

(ii) EWS may, however exclude, irrespective of income, a person whose family has 5 acres of agricultural land and above.

(iii) The residential asset criteria may altogether be removed.

Revised criteria from next year

The Committee has also opined that disturbing the existing system which is on-going since 2019 at the fag end would create more complications than expected both for the beneficiaries as well as for the authorities. In this regard the Committee has recommended introducing the new criteria from the next academic year.

“Under these circumstances, it is completely unadvisable and impractical to apply the new criteria (which are being recommended in this report) and change the goal post in the midst of the ongoing processes resulting in inevitable delay and avoidable complications. When the existing system is ongoing from 2019, no serious prejudice would be caused if it continues for this year as well. Changing the criteria midway is also bound to result in spate Of litigations In various courts across the country by the people/persons whose eligibility would change suddenly.

The Committee, therefore, after analysing the pros and cons on this issue and after giving serious consideration, recommends that the existing and on- going criteria in every on-going process where EWS reservation is available, be continued and the criteria recommended in this Report may be made applicable from next advertisement/admission cycle,” Committee had said the report in this regards

Based on the recommendations, the Central Government has agreed to accept the Committee’s recommendations including the recommendation of applying the new criteria prospectively.

It may be noted that resident doctors across the country had launched protests across the country recently against the delay in NEET-PG counselling. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case on January 6.

The Centre’s affidavit came in the case Neil Aurelio Nunes and others vs Union of India and others which has been filed through Dubey Law Associates and Dr. Charu Mathur Advocate-on-Record.

 

3.  NSO estimates FY22 GDP growth at 9.2%

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 2 – Indian Economy
Sub Theme:  GDP Estimation | UPSC

According to first advance estimates of National Statistical Office (NSO), India’s gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to grow 9.2% in the financial year 2021-22.

What is supporting the growth?

Growth in GDP is supported by an uptick in the farm sector output, mining sector output and manufacturing sector outputs.

What was the scenario in 2020-21?

In 2020-21, GDP had contracted to 7.3 percent, amid the covid-19 induced lockdown.

NSO vs RBI estimate

  • The NSO estimate is lower as compared to GDP forecast by RBI in December 2021 policy review. RBI had projected a GDP growth of 5 per cent.
  • The RBI has further estimated the growth of 6.6 per cent and 6 percent respectively in the third quarter (Oct-Dec 2021) and fourth quarter (Jan-Mar 2022).

NSO’s estimate

  • As per NSO data, absolute GDP and Gross Value Added (GVA) will recover and better the numbers as compared to 2019-20.
  • Government’s spending will remain buoyant. Investments have picked up and are likely to be more than the level in 2019-20.
  • Demand is expected to remain sluggish, at 55 per cent of the GDP, lower than the level in 2019-20.
  • Government final consumption expenditure is expected to be 7.6 per cent more than FY21 while 10.7 per cent more than FY20.
  • Investment activity has also increased and buoyant gross fixed capital formation (GFCF) is growing by 14.9 per cent in FY22, 2.6 per cent more than 2019-20.

Private final consumption expenditure (PFCE)

Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is still visible on private final consumption expenditure (PFCE). PFCE is likely to grow 6.8 per cent. It will be at Rs 80.80 lakh crore for FY22, lesser than pre-pandemic level of Rs 83.21 lakh crore.

Growth in different sectors

Agriculture is likely to grow at 3.9 per cent in FY22 as compared to 3.6 per cent growth in FY21. Manufacturing sector is growing by 12.5 per cent. Electricity generation is likely to grow 8.5 per cent as compared to 1.9 per cent last year. Services like trade, hotels and transport are estimated to grow at 11.9 per cent.

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