Polity & Governance
- Hunger solutions from the soil
- Still coming to grips with joblessness
Bilateral & International Relations
- Reimagining BRICS
Polity & Governance
GS (M) Paper-2: “Issues Relating to Poverty and Hunger”
GS (M) Paper-3: “Food Security”
GS (M) Paper-3: Environmental Issues
Hunger solutions from the soil
- With increase in Global population, estimated to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, meeting the demand for fibre and food is one of the major challenges of the new century—a fact that was highlighted on 16 October, World Food Day.
- India has 2.4% of the world’s arable land and more than 17% of the global population.
- According to the IPCC, reduction in the quality of soil, compounded by climate change, will lead to a worldwide decline in agricultural production, thereby threatening food security and stability of food prices.
Climate vs Agricultural production:
- The IPCC predicts a rise in global temperature of 1.1 – 6.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
- According to estimates, one degree rise in temperature results yields to decline by 5%, posing a serious threat to food security.
Food Security and climate change issues:
- There is need to understand the climate, soil and agricultural production continuum to address the issue of food security.
- Agricultural soils are among the largest reservoirs of carbon and hold the potential for extensive carbon sequestration but increased temperature can lead to the soils to enhance the carbon concentration, affecting in Growth and productivity of agricultural crops due to decreased in soil quality.
- Decreased soil quality, due to loss of soil organic matter, will affect essential soil properties, including nutrient availability, soil structure, water-holding capacity and erosion capacity.
- Healthy, living soil is the basis of food security and nutrition.
- Soil organisms account for a quarter of the planet’s biodiversity.
- Soil invertebrates perform vital functions which contribute to the nutritional content and help maintain soil structure, and health.
- Soils also perform the essential functional role of water storage and purification.
- Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food.
- The major share (over 97.5%) of human food needs originates on land while the rest (less than 2.5%) is supplemented by aquatic systems.
- In the last few decades, advances in agriculture technology have led to increased food production.
- India’s achievement in attaining food self-sufficiency in food production has been impressive, Net availability of food grains per capita has increased from 144.1kg per year during 1951 to 179.3kg per year during 2014,
- However, the expansion and intensification of agriculture, including crops, livestock and forest-based systems, has led to soil degradation and loss of biodiversity, and greatly affecting environmental and human health.
FAO and its strategies dealing climate change and food security:
- The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN that leads international efforts to defeat hunger, in its report released 2015 has documented seven major threats in the Indian context.
- Soil erosion both by water and air
- Salinization/alkalinity; acidity; organic carbon losses; nutrient imbalance
- Pollution/contamination by toxic substances; and soil sealing and capping
- High Priority in restoring degraded soils, sustainable management of land and water resources and the promotion of agricultural systems and agro-ecological practices, like organic farming, zero-tillage, crop rotations and conservation agriculture.
- Promotes the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices tailored to local contexts, enabling smallholder and marginal farmers to make considerable productivity and income gains, while increasing the resilience of their agricultural activities to extreme variable weather.
- FAO, in partnership with the GOI, has undertaken projects that work on crop productivity and water management. It worked in seven drought-prone districts of Andhra Pradesh on groundwater conservation for improved crop production.
- FAO is also collaborating with the Union ministries for agriculture and environment on a green agriculture project, focusing on eco-restoration of one million hectares of degraded land; self-replication through sustainable business models and conserving keystone species in project states—Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand.
- Strategies on agricultural production should focus on sustainable production, enhanced natural resource management, reduced soil emissions, and mitigating the risks of climate change.
- The Soil Health Card scheme of the government is a laudable effort that has reached out to approximately 30 million farmers to improve agricultural productivity and soil health.
GS (M) Paper-3: “Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.”
Still coming to grips with joblessness
- Long-term unemployment makes people live their lives in a way they do not wish to. And, therefore, developing employability skills and employing youth become crucial as widespread insecurity, radicalisation, crime and violence engulf the world.
- Several lakh job aspirants applying for a few hundreds of junior category posts. Such vacancies requiring primary/secondary school education, more often than not, attract job seekers including those with graduate and post-graduate degrees.
- Things are no better for job opportunities in organised sectors.
- Another huge challenge confronting India is amelioration of the plight of those in informal or unorganised sectors.
Across the globe:
- The economic dilemma of young people is a global phenomenon. But, in India which is feted as an ‘emerging economy’, problems of unemployment and underemployment might worsen in the coming years.
- Even an advanced degree can’t protect people from losing their jobs.
- A UNSECO report released recently underscores India will achieve universal primary education by 2050, universal lower secondary education in 2060 and universal upper secondary education in 2085.
- While 60 million children in India receive little or no formal education; the country has over 11.1 million out-of-school students in the lower secondary level, the highest in the world.
- Young people’s choices, capabilities and prospects have profound impacts not only on their own lives, but also on their societies. There are two critical components involved.
- Inadequate learning facilities
- Abysmal job creation.
- The ‘skills gap’ issue pertaining to the poor quality of learning in country’s education centres seems to lend credence to the fact that many of those places are ill-equipped to train those keen on a better career, for a better future for themselves and their families, but skill training alone would not solve the issue unless there is positive industrial growth leading to job creation.
According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report,
- Between 1991 and 2013, the size of the ‘working age’ population increased by 300 million, of which the Indian economy could provide work for only 140 million.
- By 2050, at least 280 million more people are expected to enter the job market in India.
In India joblessness is a central issue. As best described by Kaushik Basu who tweeted: “The erosion of jobs is like climate change. It happens slowly and so makes no news but its impact can be devastating.” Government initiatives to offset the crisis are not wholly convincing.
The HRD Ministry is yet to finalise the new education policy. Given the urgency of the situation, the process should have been expedited as the policy was last overhauled in 1992.
What’s to be done?
- The Centre has launched ambitious programmes like Make in India, Digital India and Skill India to help create jobs as also further a knowledge-based economy.
The following points, however, seem important.
- Unwavering commitment towards the programme and drawn up polices. It will help work things out. It’s primarily due to Singapore’s longest-serving Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s commitment that the country has just 2 per cent unemployment and holds the 3rd position in the global education league.
- Developing strategy for accountability-based project implementation. Experts and faculties from IITs and IIMs and other autonomous institutions to be roped in for time-bound audit of project implementation.
III. Youth involvement — Government may consider having ‘Children’s Parliament’ like the one in Bhutan. It doesn’t have a prime minister and parties. But the members will be able to submit the proceedings of their parliament to the speaker of the national assembly, the prime minister, the opposition leaders and other senior officials.
It would allow children the opportunity to voice their ideas, thoughts and feelings; so that their concerns and opinions can be listened to and included in our social and political landscape.
- If ‘Skill India’ is to turn into a significant initiative, there must be an ecosystem in place connecting learning institutions, teachers and trainers, industries and policy makers. And, each constituent with definitive role is likely to contribute in building synergy to push through the movement sustainably.
- V. On the innovation front, we can think of taking cue from other countries. For instance, professional training school for circus artists in Philadelphia, United States which is set to open in next year. Such an effort could help revive circus industry in India creating employment opportunities in entertainment industry at large.
- Apart from enhancing institutional capacity building framework, what is fundamental is strict monitoring of teacher & trainer training techniques, market driven skills training and retraining manual — all aimed at creating enabling environment with deep systemic challenges.
- For a democracy, prolonged youth unrest is the greater danger. There are reasons to worry as youth unrest is too stiff a wind to sail against for very long.
- Overcoming the aspirations of youth is one of the major challenges the country is faced with.
Bilateral & International Relations
GS (M) Paper-2: “Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests”
- The eighth BRICS summit came to an end recently in Goa, with India announcing that all five BRICS member states are united in acknowledging the global threat posed by terrorism, and that those who support terror are as much a threat to us than those who perpetrate acts of terror.
- BRICS leaders united in their “view to establish the BRICS Agriculture Research Platform, BRICS Railway Research Network, BRICS Sports Council, and various youth-centric fora” and agreeing “to fast track the setting up of a BRICS Rating Agency”.
- It was clear from the way India shaped the agenda of the Goa summit that Mr. Modi was working towards a different end game this time, looking beyond the immediate BRICS mandate.
Focus on terrorism:
- The Prime Minister’s focus, by and large, remained on the issue of terrorism, he used the BRICS platform to refer to the country without naming Pakistan as the “mothership of terrorism”, and forcefully argued that a “selective approach against terrorism” would be both futile and counterproductive.
- He made it plain to his BRICS partners that this is an issue on which India feels rather strongly and that “BRICS needs to work together and act decisively to combat this threat.”
This message was primarily aimed at China.
- Mr. Modi was not very successful in convincing the Chinese leadership to change Beijing’s stance on Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar, who was behind the Pathankot attack this year and the Parliament attack of 2001.
- China had recently put a technical hold once again at the United Nations and prevented Azhar from being designated a global terrorist, despite JeM being a UN-proscribed terror group.
- Recognising the limits of bilateral Sino-Indian engagement, India seems to have now decided to use the leverage of a multilateral platform to put China on notice.
India’s Changing Priorities:
- India used the summit to reach out to its neighbours by initiating the BRICS-BIMSTEC outreach.
- New Delhi has now decided to lead the regional economic cooperation efforts against the backdrop of Pakistan’s marginalisation in South Asia.
- The cancellation of the SAARC summit in Islamabad, with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan deciding to stay away like India, has galvanised New Delhi’s efforts to look at new ways to foster regional cooperation.
- India’s outreach to BIMSTEC during the BRICS summit is an important signal that New Delhi is serious about its role as a facilitator of economic cooperation in South Asia.
- Founded in 1997, the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) now includes Nepal and Bhutan apart from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand.
- Set up with the objective of enhancing technological and economic cooperation among South Asian and South-east Asian countries along the coast of the Bay of Bengal, it has been neglected so far by its members.
Bilateral ties with Russia:
- Finally, India used the Goa summit to re-galvanise its long-standing partnership with Russia, which was in danger of losing direction.
- Russia’s decision to hold military exercises with Pakistan did not go down well with India at a time when it was seeking to diplomatically isolate Pakistan after the Uri terror attacks, as Russia, for its part, has been concerned about India’s tilt towards the U.S.
- India signed three major deals worth billions of dollars with Russia: five S-400 Triumf air defence systems, four stealth frigates, and a joint venture to manufacture Kamov-226T utility helicopters in India.
- India has tried to reimagine the multilateral forum to serve its larger strategic ends, and made it clear that India’s foreign policy remains independent of, and not subservient to, the U.S.
- PM used the BRICS platform to position New Delhi’s priorities on to the agenda of the forum, how far he succeeds will determine Indian investment in BRICS in the future.