Daily Editorial Analysis for 16th March 2020

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From Plate to Plough: Growth and the farmer

Paper: III

For Prelims: Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).

For Mains: Major Crops – Cropping Patterns in various parts of the country, – Storage, Transport and Marketing of Agricultural Produce and Issues and Related Constraints; E-technology in the aid of farmers.

Context of News:

  • Dipping of country’s growth rates to its fragile situation is taking huge toll on agricultural sector as well in one form or other.
  • During the UPA period, from 2004-05 to 2013-14, it was believed that inclusive growth is not feasible unless agriculture grows at about 4 per cent per year while the overall economy grows at about 8 per cent annually. The reason was simple: More than half of the working force at that time was engaged in agriculture and much of their income was derived from agriculture. But many political heavyweights, even within the Congress, did not believe that agri-growth could reduce poverty fast enough.

Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY):

  • National Development Council (NDC) in 2007 resolved that a special Additional Central Assistance Scheme (RKVY) be launched. The NDC resolved that agricultural development strategies must be reoriented to meet the needs of farmers and called upon the Central and State governments to evolve a strategy to rejuvenate agriculture.
  • Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) gave more leverage to states to allocate resources within agriculture-related schemes. This, along with other infrastructure investments in rural areas had a beneficial impact on agri-growth.
  • Objectives:
  • To incentivize the states that increase their investment in Agriculture and allied sectors
  • To provide flexibility and autonomy to the States in planning and executing programmes for agriculture
  • To ensure the preparation of Agriculture Plans for the districts and states
  • To achieve the goal of reducing the yield gaps in important crops
  • To maximize returns to the farmers
  • To address the agriculture and allied sectors in an integrated manner

Recent Challenges of Indian Agriculture:

  • In December 2019, 13 states and Union Territories recorded excess/large excess rainfall. In January 2020, this rose to 22 states and Union Territories, Rainfall is excess when it is 20-59% higher than normal for the period, and large excess when it is over 60% higher than normal.
  • International prices of a basket of major food commodities with reference to a base period (2002-04 = 100) touched 182.5 points in January 2020, the highest since the 185.8 level of December 2014.This sharp surge in global food prices is reflected in trends in India as well. Annual consumer food price index (CFPI) inflation stood at just 2.99% in August 2019, before climbing to 5.11%, 7.89%, 10.01%, 14.19% and 13.63% in the succeeding five months.
  • Union cabinet made its flagship crop insurance schemes voluntary for farmers with existing crop loans or those willing to take new ones. The Centre increased premium subsidy to 90 per cent for states in the Northeast from existing sharing pattern of 50:50; and provisioning of at least 3 per cent of total allocation of the scheme for administrative expenses.
  • By the first week of February 2020 food grain stocks in government godowns were, at over 75 million tonnes (MT), the highest in any year for this time.

Importance of Agri-GDP growth:

  • Contribution to National Income:
  • The lessons drawn from the economic history of many advanced countries tell us that agricultural prosperity contributed considerably in fostering economic advancement. It is correctly observed that, the leading industrialized countries of today were once predominantly agricultural while the developing economies still have the dominance of agriculture and it largely contributes to the national income. In India, still 28% of national income comes from this sector.
  • Source of Food Supply:
  • Agriculture is the basic source of food supply of all the countries of the world; whether underdeveloped, developing or even developed. Due to heavy pressure of population in underdeveloped and developing countries and its rapid increase, the demand for food is increasing at a fast rate. If agriculture fails to meet the rising demand of food products, it is found to affect adversely the growth rate of the economy. Raising supply of food by agricultural sector has, therefore, great importance for economic growth of a country.
  • Reduce Inequality:
  • In a country which is predominantly agricultural and overpopulated, there is greater inequality of income between the rural and urban areas of the country. To reduce this inequality of income, it is necessary to accord higher priority to agriculture. The prosperity of agriculture would raise the income of the majority of the rural population and thus the disparity in income may be reduced to a certain extent.
  • Agri-GDP growth had a significant impact on poverty reduction. The rate of decline in poverty (head count ratio), about 0.8 per cent per year during 1993-94 to 2004-05, accelerated to 2.1 per cent per year, and for the first time, the absolute number of the poor declined by a whopping 138 million during 2004-05 to 2013-14.
  • Employment Opportunities for Rural People:
  • Agriculture provides employment opportunities for rural people on a large scale in underdeveloped and developing countries. It is an important source of livelihood. Generally, landless workers and marginal farmers are engaged in non-agricultural jobs like handicrafts, furniture, textiles, leather, metal work, processing industries, and in other service sectors. These rural units fulfill merely local demands.

Way Forward:

  • Info supply chain:The government should invest in a market information system for accurate and timely data of crop production, trade and prices. This will send right price signals from consumers to the supply chain, improve bargaining power and reduce business risk and response time. Research shows that information raises net income per hectare by more than 12%.
  • Export ban is Hurting Farmers: Export bans on agricultural commodities have impacted farmers’ incomes adversely. But the government of the day often ended up taking the consumer’s side, as that was considered pro-poor. This reduced the incentives for farmers, who then had to be compensated by increasing input subsidies.
  • Bumper crop challenges: Indian farmers, when they face with a problem of plenty. A bumper crop led to procurement prices plunging, pushing them deeper into the depths of despair.

Bumper crop production limit the scope of profit margin of farmers and in many cases it is found that their coast of production of crops and selling them to mandis is far far more higher than coast of input in production of the crops. So, along with policy mechanism, what is more important is analysis and working procedure at ground level, which is missing at this moment.

Electoral Reforms in India

Paper: II

For Mains: Appointment to various Constitutional Posts, Powers, Functions and Responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

Context of News:

Recent series of events, yet again highlighted the urgent need for electoral reforms in India:

  • The campaign for the Delhi Assembly elections was filled with hate speeches.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, the ruling Congress is battling defections.
  • Last year, in November, in Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis took oath as Chief Minister early morning one day only to be replaced within days by Uddhav Thackeray from the Opposition alliance, which consists of parties that are ideologically mismatched.
  • In Karnataka, defections from the Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress coalition to the BJP brought the government down.

What is electoral Reform?

  • Electoral reform is change in electoral systems to improve how public desires are expressed in election results. That can include reforms of:
  1. Transparency about the background of the candidates.
  2. Freeing the election processes from muscle and money power.
  3. Prohibiting the nexus between business and politics.
  4. Availing all the citizens, eligible to vote a comfortable, friendly and assured facilitation of vote casting.
  5. Upholding the secrecy of voters, which include Fair registration and recognition of the political parties and without any kind of influence.
  6. Non-partisan role of media.
  7. Applying the model code of conduct efficiently.
  8. Streamlining the preparation of electoral rolls, Expediting the election processes and Rationalising electoral processes.

Constitutional Mechanism of Electoral Reform:

  • Article 324-329 deals with elections and electoral reforms.
  • Article 324 deals with the Superintendence, direction, and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.
  • Article 325 states that no person to be ineligible for inclusion in or to claim to be included in a special, electoral roll on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.
  • Article 326 deals with the Elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States to be on the basis of adult suffrage.
  • Article 327 provides power to the Parliament to make provision with respect to elections to Legislatures.
  • Article 328 provides power to Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature.
  • Article 329 provides to create a bar on the court to make any interference by courts relating to electoral matters.

Reasons for Electoral Reform:

  • Money Power:
  • In every constituency, candidates have to spend crores of rupees for campaigning, publicity, etc. Most candidates far exceed the permissible limit of expenses.
  • Muscle Power:
  • In certain parts of the country, there are widespread reports of illegal and untoward incidents during polling such as the use of violence, intimidation, booth capturing, etc.
  • Criminalization of Politics and Politicization of Criminals:
  • Criminals enter into politics and ensure that money and muscle power wins them elections, so that the cases against them are not proceeded with. Political parties are also happy as long as they have winnable candidates. Political parties field criminals in elections for funds and in return provide them with political patronage and protection.
  • Misuse of Government Machinery:
  • There is a general opinion that the party in power uses government machinery such as using government vehicles for canvassing, advertisements at the cost of the exchequer, disbursements out of the discretionary funds at the disposal of the ministers, and other such means to improve the chances of their candidates winning.
  • Non-serious Independent candidates:
  • Serious candidates float non-serious candidates in elections to cut a good portion of the votes that would otherwise have gone to rival candidates.
  • Casteism:
  • There are cases of certain caste groups lending strong support to particular political parties. Thus, political parties make offers to win over different caste groups, and caste groups also try to pressurize parties to offer tickets for their members’ elections. Voting on caste lines is prevalent in the country and this is a serious blotch on democracy and equality. This also creates rifts in the country.
  • Communalism :
  • Communal polarization poses a serious threat to the Indian political ethos of pluralism, parliamentarianism, secularism and federalism.
  • Lack of Moral Values in Politics:
  • The political corruption in India has led to politics becoming a business. People enter the political arena for making money and retaining their money and power. There are very few leaders who enter politics to make a difference in the lives of their people. The Gandhian values of service and sacrifice are missing from the Indian political arena.

Way Forward:

  • Any person against whom charges have been framed by a court of law or offences punishable for two years or more should not be allowed to contest elections. Candidates charged with serious crimes like murder, rape, kidnapping and extortion should be banned from contesting elections. India’s politicians have resisted this saying that opponents regularly file false cases against them.
  • To stop candidates and parties seeking votes on the basis of caste, religion and to stop divisive campaigns, a candidate should be declared a winner only if he or she gets more than 50% plus one vote. When no candidate gets the required number of votes, there should be a run-off between the top two candidates.
  • Voters should have the option of not voting for any of the candidates and there should be law against use of excessive money in elections by candidates.
  • Despite the clamour for the state funding of elections, it is still not clear how much elections cost in India. Political parties do not come clean on their revenues and expenses, and until there is a clearer picture of how much they spend, it will be difficult to fix an amount. So political parties should give out verifiable accounts, which should be also available for public scrutiny.

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