Price controls can do more harm than good Editorial 3rd Sep’19 Livemint

Headline : Price controls can do more harm than good Editorial 3rd Sep’19 Livemint

Details :

Logic behind pricing of pharmaceutical products:

  • Many healthcare products such as pharmaceutical drugs require years of research and millions of dollars to develop.
  • Even after that, there is always the risk of a new medicine failing to pass human trials.
  • As an incentive for research and risks, such firms are granted patents for their formulations that let them charge high “monopoly” prices if and when they are launched.
  • The actual cost of making drugs, however, is typically only a tiny fraction of the retail price. So, once the initials costs have been recovered over the span of some years, these tend to yield bumper profits.

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Government caps life-saving drugs:

  • In case of life-saving drugs, a government would be justified in capping their prices in the public interest.
  • Ensuring the cheap availability of old but essential drugs is easily done without any adverse consequences for public health.
  • So long as their cost of production is lower than the price caps—which is usually the case—companies would keep selling them.

Proposed government price control on a new list of hygiene products:

  • The government is considering bringing essential products such as sanitary napkins and hand wash agents under its price control regime.

Correct objective but wrong method:

  • The objective is to make such products affordable to people at large, so that basic hygiene standards are upheld and nobody’s health suffers.
  • This is a noble cause, but the method that has been suggested to achieve the aim is not appropriate.

Companies should be able to price their products:

  • If the role of pricing products is taken away from companies in markets with vastly differing dynamics, the results could be poor.

Market will ensure correct pricing of products:

  • For example, sanitary pads sell in varying grades of quality, offering women with varied budgets a range of options.
  • The market for these products is not short of competition.
  • The competition between companies to increase sales is enough to guarantee that no single brand can get away with charging too much.
  • When there is demand for cheaper variants, a new entrant would fulfil it, which would push existing brands to contain costs and reduce prices.

Price caps lead to products going out of market:

  • A price cap imposed on a product can make it unremunerative for its manufacturers to sell, leaving them with no choice but to pull out of the market.
  • Seen in the case of coronary stents:
    • An example of this is visible in the Indian market for coronary stents used in heart surgeries.
    • Some makers of specialized and other premium stents have withdrawn their stents from Indian market in response to a state-ordered price ceiling.
    • Selling these at lower rates, they say, does not make commercial sense for them.
    • As a result, according to various surgeons, patients in need of superior stents are forced to make do with cheaper alternatives that risk exposing them to health complications.

Government intervention will discourage innovation:

  • In contrast to the market determination of prices, an arbitrary maximum retail price set by the government would distort the market by turning innovative products (that use expensive input materials) unprofitable.
  • If choice of premium products is not available, it would spell a net welfare loss for Indians.

Government can intervene by subsidizing customers:

  • As for the poor cannot afford even the cheapest available sanitary pads unaffordable, the government could intervene in other ways.
  • For example, it could use public funds to subsidize low-cost napkins for mass distribution.

Conclusion:

  • In general, it is best to rely on market forces to have people’s needs met.
  • The government’s heart may be in the right place, but price caps in open markets are likely to do more harm than good.

Importance:

GS Paper III: EconomySection : Editorial Analysis

Appointment of CDS will fill a void in India’s defence system Editorial 16th Aug’19 IndianExpress

Headline : Appointment of CDS will fill a void in India’s defence system Editorial 16th Aug’19 IndianExpress

Details :

PM announcing the creation of CDS:

  • One of the most significant announcements made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Independence Day in 2019 is the creation of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
  • The CDS is expected to be a four-star military officer, who would act as the single point adviser to the government on military matters.
  • The CDS would also coordinate amongst the three services and bridge the differences.
  • The appointment of the CDS will make the armed forces more effective. 
  • The CDS should be one with a good understanding of the global security environment and functioning of the three services. 

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Significance of having a CDS:

  • Modern military battles cannot be fought by each service fighting independently. 
  • The present Indian Armed Forces are colonial constructs and were configured primarily to serve the interest of their colonial masters during the great wars. 
  • The restructuring of armed forces, therefore, is required necessarily as the future wars are going to be short intense affairs where all organs of the state are likely to be employed simultaneously. 
  • Such a scenario would require unity of command, which is feasible only when the country has a unified command structure led by the CDS. 
  • Office of CDS has been a long pending demand of the defence forces. It was also recommended by both the Kargil Review Committee led by K Subrahmanyam in 1999, as well as the Committee of Experts set up by Ministry of Defence under the chairmanship of General D B Shekatkar. 

Earlier efforts at creating a CDS:

  • The Kargil Review Committee had recommended a CDS as well as a Vice Chief of Defence Staff (VCDS).
  • A group of ministers headed by the then Deputy Prime Minister examined it and recommended CDS with a tri-service joint planning staff. 
  • Accordingly, the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff (HQIDS) was created in 2001. 

They failed as bureaucrats created hurdles:

  • Despite the importance of the office of CDS, political insecurities and bureaucratic stranglehold over the Ministry of Defence have prevented it from coming into effect.
  • In 2001, the bureaucrats succeeded in stalling the appointment of the CDS by creating the perception that it would be far easier for a CDS to stage a coup. 
  • Consequently, an anomalous situation was created wherein the HDQIDS has been functioning without a head for the past 18 years.
  • Ineffective office of Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) was created:
  • The VCDS was reconfigured to create the office of the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC).
  • The absence of the CDS has limited the ability of CISC to mediate between the three services.
  • More significantly, being lower in rank, he could not find acceptance as the sole adviser to the government in a rigidly hierarchical organisation like the military.

Making CDS effective:

  • Access to highest levels: For the CDS to be effective, he must have direct access to the defence minister and through him to the prime minister.
  • Non-rotational appointments: The post of CDS should not be a rotational appointment; the government must select one after interviewing top officials of the three services.
  • Also, to begin with, all defence land and capital budget must be put under the CDS and appointments in inter-service organisations must be made essential for further promotions. 
  • The government may take inspiration from the US Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act and push the three services.

Challenges:

  • Despite the PM’s announcement, it is not going to be a smooth affair. 
  • Bureaucratic resistance: The bureaucrats afraid of losing their salience will create bottlenecks. 
  • Services resistance: On top of that, individual services, afraid of losing their turf, are bound to resist the CDS’s involvement in their affairs. 

It should be followed by Integrated Theatre Commands

  • The mere creation of the office is not enough. 
  • This will need to be augmented by restructuring of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and creating integrated theatre commands. 

Conclusion:

  • After the reorganisation of MoD and establishment of theatre commands, they should directly be responsible to the defence minister through the CDS for all combat operations. 
  • Each service chief should majorly be responsible for equipping, organising and training of the forces. 
  • The creation of the CDS will need to be followed up with further reforms to reconfigure the armed forces to meet India’s aspirations to be a global power.

Importance:

GS Paper III: Defence & Security

Section : Defence & Security

Technology: Indian space industry, SSLV, NSIL, Antrix, Indian space industry, Commercial Space Industry, ISRO and Private Sector

Headline : ISRO’s new commercial arm gets first booking for launch

Details :

In News

  • NEWSPACE INDIA Limited (NSIL), the newly created second commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation, recently got its first contract.
  • A private US space services provider, Spaceflight, has booked ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), which is yet to be tested, for launching a spacecraft.
  • Spaceflight has had nine launches in the past with ISRO involving over 100 spacecraft on the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

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About: SSLV

  • ISRO’s Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) was originally scheduled to have its first development flight in July, 2019 but the flight has been pushed to the end of the year.
  • It is suited for launching multiple microsatellites at a time and supports multiple orbital drop-offs.
  • The SSLV can carry satellites weighing up to 500 kg to low earth orbit while the PSLV can launch satellites weighing in the range of 1,000 kg.
  • It is the smallest vehicle at 110-tonne mass at ISRO and takes only 72 hours to integrate, unlike the 70 days taken now for a launch vehicle.
  • Further, only six people will be required to do the job, instead of 60 people. This leads to the entire job being done in a very short time.
  • The cost of the vehicle is only around Rs 30 crore which is one tenth of a PSLV.
  • About 15 to 20 SSLVs would be required every year to meet the national demand alone.

About: NSIL

  • NSIL was incorporated in March 2019 under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS).
  • The aim of NSIL is to use research and development carried out by ISRO over the years for commercial purposes through Indian industry partners.
  • It will mass produce and manufacture the SSLV and the more powerful PSLV with the private sector in India through technology transfers.
  • It will be involved in marketing spin-off technologies and products/services, both in India and abroad, and in any other subject which the government deems fit.
  • It will deal with capacity building of local industry for space manufacturing.

About: Antrix

  • Antrix is the first commercial arm of ISRO incorporated in 1992.
  • It is under the administrative control of Department of Space (DOS). 
  • It promotes and commercially markets the products and services emanating from the Indian Space Programme. 
  • The current business activities of Antrix include:
    • Provisioning of communication satellite transponders to various users
    • Providing launch services for customer satellites
    • Marketing of data from Indian and foreign remote sensing satellites
    • Building and marketing of satellites as well as satellite sub-systems
    • Establishing ground infrastructure for space applications
    • Mission support services for satellites

Indian space industry

  • The Indian space programme is one of the world’s fastest growing programmes.
  • Ever since India sent a spacecraft to Mars in 2014, India has India has become one of the top-ranking space-faring nations which include the US, Europe, Russia, China and Japan.
  • The space sector in India can broadly be categorized into upstream and downstream industries.
  • Upstream industries include manufacturing of satellites, their parts and subsystems, and launch vehicles.
  • Downstream industries include satellite-based services, such as satellite TV, communications, imagery etc.
  • India is moving towards increasing its capacity and capabilities of using space technology not only for societal applications but also to support commercial space activities and pursue diplomatic and security objectives.

Indian Private sector participation

  • India has a large Small-Medium-Enterprises (SMEs) base that caters within the traditional space agency-driven model.
  • However, there is a stark gap in the capacity builtup in the private industry where the industry is mostly involved as tier-2/3 based vendors
  • Presently there is no single industry vendor who has the capacity to deliver end-to-end systems.
  • This creates bottleneck effects in the possible expansion of industry to the global supply chain, especially from an export perspective.
  • ISRO’s opportunities for smaller players in the space sector are very restricted compared to larger national space programs, stifling the growth of private enterprise in the process.

Commercial Space Industry

  • The value of the global space industry is estimated to be $350 billion and is likely to exceed $550 billion by 2025.
  • A revolution is also under way in the small satellite market. Globally, 17,000 small satellites are expected to be launched between now and 2030.
  • Despite ISRO’s impressive capabilities, India’s share is estimated at $7 billion (just 2% of the global market).
  • It covers broadband and Direct-to-Home television (accounting for two-thirds of the share), satellite imagery and navigation.

How ISRO can benefit commercially

Launch multiple satellites

  • Many private companies are developing satellites that they need for their operations, but most cannot afford to launch these independently.
  • So they need to take help of missions from agencies like Isro that have launch facilities.
  • ISRO’s ability to launch multiple satellites in a single mission has improved its standing significantly in the global market.

Cost

  • The need for launches is growing exponentially worldwide.
  • New companies are planning to launch entire commercial constellations [groups] of satellites, where a single company might need to launch between 24 to 648 satellites.
  • The cost factor, remains a significant aspect of India’s space program.
  • ISRO has a proven track record in launching small satellites with the success of the PSLV.
  • The development of the SSLV will give India a further boost in this segment. SSLV will offer an even more cost-effective option than the existing PSLV.

Frequency

  • Another thing that makes India an attractive proposition is the frequency of its launches and its ability to meet deadlines.
  • So far it has been able to meet the time requirements of all the customers

Heavy Satellites

  • India has been launching heavy satellites on its Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) but so far it has only been used for domestic satellites.
  • In recent months, there have been queries from foreign companies for launches on the GSLV.
  • If India can successfully start taking more heavy satellites to space, it could significantly improve its position in a market that’s worth billions of dollars.

Section : Science & Tech

Malaria: About National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME), National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme,

Headline : Malaria may get ‘dangerous’ tag, but there’s nothing to worry about

Details :

In News

  • Malaria may soon be re-categorised as a ‘dangerous disease’ like tuberculosis, plague, small pox or leprosy in the capital.
  • The re-categorisation is taking place not because the disease has acquired an epidemic proportion or a new dangerous strain has been found.
  • The intention is to improve the screening mechanism to eradicate the disease completely from the city.

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Incidence

  • Delhi reported just 201 cases of malaria in 2014, which rose to 359 in 2015, 454 in 2016 and 577 in 2017.
  • Last year, 473 cases were reported while the count at the onset of this monsoon was around 83.

Sources

  • Peri-domestic containers — vase, flower pots, bird pots, tins, tyres and water fountains — account for the largest chunk of the mosquito breeding sites (38%).
  • Domestic water storage containers — drums, buckets, jerry cans etc — come second at 33%.
  • Desert coolers, used in Delhi in large numbers, and overhead tanks come at the third and fourth spots, respectively.

Current mechanism

  • At present, the corporations only get the data related to the mosquito-borne diseases from 36 hospitals under the sentinel scheme.
  • As malaria is not considered risky, most cases do not get reported.
  • Doctors give medicines for four-five days, which cures the symptoms but traces of the parasite stay in the liver.
  • However, a full 14-day radical treatment has to be followed for its complete removal from the system.

Impact

  • Post this step, it will become obligatory for all medical practitioners, clinics and private hospitals to report and give information about all patients arriving at their facilities.
  • The obligatory reportage will improve mapping of malaria cases and discourage incomplete treatment, which leads to development of resistance against drugs

Mechanisms to deal with Malaria in the country

Background

  • In 1953, the Government of India launched the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) with a focus on indoor residual spraying of DDT. Within five years, the program helped to dramatically reduce the annual incidence of malaria.
  • Encouraged by this, a more ambitious National Malaria Eradication Programme (NMEP) was launched in 1958. This further reduced the number of malaria cases and eliminated deaths from the disease.
  • However, after 1967, resistance to insecticides and the parasite’s growing resistance to antimalarial drugs, led to a resurgence of the disease countrywide.

National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme

  • In 2003, malaria control was integrated with other vector borne diseases under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP).
  • It is concerned with prevention and control of vector borne diseases namely Malaria, Filariasis, Kala-azar, Dengue and Japanese Encephalitis (JE).

Common Strategy

  • The 5 diseases were brought under a common umbrella as they share common control strategies such as
    • Chemical controls (e.g. indoor residual spraying),
    • Environmental management,
    • Biological control (e.g. larvivorous fish), and
    • Personal protection strategies (e.g. insecticide treated bed-nets).

Implementation

  • The Directorate of NVBDCP is the nodal agency for programme implementation in respect of prevention and control of these vector borne diseases.
  • The Directorate provides technical assistance and support in terms of cash and commodity to the various states/UTs.
  • The programme implementation is the responsibility of the states/UTs.

National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME)

  • The National Framework for Malaria Elimination (NFME) in India 2016–2030 has been developed in close collaboration with officials from NVBDCP, experts from the Indian Council of Medical Research, WHO and representatives from civil society institutions, professional bodies and partners.
  • All states/UTs have been grouped into one of four categories. It will serve as a guide for states and UTs for planning malaria elimination.
  • Based on their malaria burden, specific objectives have been established for each of these categories and a mix of interventions will be implemented in each of them.
  • It will be implemented by the Directorate of National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP).

Goals

  • Eliminate malaria (zero indigenous cases) throughout the entire country by 2030.
  • Maintain malaria–free status in areas where malaria transmission has been interrupted and prevent re-introduction of malaria.

Objectives

  • Eliminate malaria from all 26 low (Category 1) and moderate (Category 2) transmission states/union territories (UTs) by 2022.
  • Reduce the incidence of malaria to less than 1 case per 1000 population per year in all states and UTs and their districts by 2024.
  • Interrupt indigenous transmission of malaria throughout the entire country, including all high transmission states and union territories (UTs) (Category 3) by 2027.
  • Prevent the re-establishment of local transmission of malaria in areas where it has been eliminated and maintain national malaria-free status by 2030 and beyond.

Section : Science & Tech

While the frequency of forest fire appears to have increased in the country, India’s approach towards forest fire management has significant gaps. Elucidate. (10 marks)

 

Approach:

  • Introduce with increased frequency of forest fires in India
  • Bring out the various gaps in forest fire management (NIDM report identified the gaps)
  • Conclude appropriately
Model Answer :

India, which saw a 46% increase in the number of forest fires in the last 16 years (2003-17), witnessed a 125% spike (from 15,937 to 35,888) in such fires in just two years (2015 to 2017). According to Forest Survey Report of India, 64.29 per cent of the Recorded Forest Area is prone to fires. As the number of incidents showed a rising trend, the Intensification of Forest Management Scheme was revised and replaced as Forest Fire Prevention & Management Scheme in 2017. However, there remain significant gaps.

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Key gaps in forest fire management (as per NIDM):

  • Lack of appropriate policy and planning to tackle forest fire: Existing forest policy and other documents, including plans etc. lack clear guidelines for forest fire management.
  • Lack of proper institutional mechanism: There is no institutional mechanism with sole responsibility of fire management, even in higher fire prone regions. The forest department looks after forest fire management.
  • Emphasis on response only: Focus is on response, while little importance is given to mitigation, preparedness, human resource development, awareness etc.
  • Lack of scientific approach to collect fire data and document it for forest fire management: At State level, there is not much effort to collect and document forest fire data and use it in research and planning. Only the Forest Survey of India has recently started compiling forest fire data.
  • Lack of funding: There is no provision for separate budget for forest fire management at State level in general. Forest protection fund is used.
  • Not many initiatives to involve local community in forest fire management: There is a need to involve community by providing them some initiatives to protect forest from fires.
  • Poor response to HRD and other capacity building initiatives: Forest departments in most of the cases are not trained and lack complete knowledge about forest fire and its behavior. The forest department training institutes are also not well equipped.
  • Lack of proper contingency plans and rehearsals/drills for fire suppression
  • Poor early warning system: Forest departments still use the traditional methods to detect fires and disseminate information at field levels. There is an urgent need to revitalize the system using modern techniques and train the field staff to use them more effectively.
  • Lack of preventive and preparedness measures to ensure better response:Preparedness activities like clearing fire lines, removing the fuel (dead wood, leaves etc.), recruiting forest fire watchers, rehearsal and drill practices etc. are essential.
  • Lack of coordination between various agencies: Coordination of forest departments with other agencies, whose support may be very important in forest fire management, is very poor.

Forest fires are today a leading cause of forest degradation in India while also leading to loss of lives and livelihoods. There is a need for a comprehensive national policy and guidelines for forest fire prevention and management, with focus on institutions and capacity, community engagement, technology, and data learning from national and international best practices.

Subjects : Disaster Management

Health: National Deworming Day, National Deworming  Initiative, Significance of Deworming Programme

Headline : Telangana government stalls deworming drive for children

Details :

The News:

  • The deworming drive aimed at distribution of Albendazole tablets to around 6.68 lakh children in both some districts of Telangana as part of the National Deworming Programme (NDP) could not be held as per schedule.
  • The drive has been put off after two batches of the anti-worm tablets supplied to both the districts were found to be ‘Not of Standard Quality’ (NSQ).

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In Focus: National Deworming  Initiative

Background:

  • According to World Health Organization, 241 million children between the ages of 1 and 14 years are at risk of parasitic intestinal worms in India, also known as Soil-Transmitted Helminths (STH).
  • More than 1.5 billion people, or 24% of the world’s population, are infected with soil-transmitted helminth infections worldwide.
  • As per WHO, 64% of the Indian population less than 14 years are at risk of STH infections.

About STH:

  • Helminths (worms) which are transmitted through soil contaminated with faecal matter are called soil-transmitted helminths (Intestinal parasitic worms).
  • Roundworm, whipworm and hookworms are worms that infect people.

STH transmission:

  • They are transmitted by eggs present in human faeces which in turn contaminate soil in areas where sanitation is poor.

Effects of STH infections:

  • STH infections can lead to anemia, malnutrition, impaired mental and physical & cognitive development, and reduced school participation.

 

About: National Deworming Day

  • It is a single fixed-day approach to treating intestinal worm infections in all children aged 1- 19 years, and is held on 10 February and 10 August each year.
    • Note: This year the NDD was being conducted on 8th February and mop up day on the 14th February.
  • National Deworming Day program initiative is implemented with an objective to reduce the prevalence of Soil Transmitted Helminths (STH) or parasitic intestinal worms so that they are no longer a public health problem.
  • The programme was first launched in 2015 and was implemented in 11 States/UTs across all Government and Government-aided schools and Anganwadi centres targeting children aged 1 to 19 years.
  • After conducting five rounds of National Deworming Day since 2015, the program has been scaled up throughout the country.
  • Albendazole tablets given: The NDD program is a cost-effective program at scale that continues to reach crores of children and adolescents with deworming benefits through a safe medicine Albendazole.
  • Objective:
    • To deworm all preschool and school-age children (enrolled and non-enrolled) between theages of 1-19 years through the platform of schools and Anganwadi Centers in order to improve their overall health, nutritional status, access to education and quality of life.
  • Awareness:
    • To increase programme outreach to private schools and maximize deworming benefits for large number of children various awareness activities (media mix) are involved under the programme.
    • Campaigns are conducted to spread awareness about importance and benefits of dewarming, as well as prevention strategies related to improved behaviors and practices for hygiene and sanitation.
  • Reaching out to Private Schools and Out-of-School children:
    • In addition to including government and government-aided schools and anganwadis, all states makes special efforts to reach out-of-school children, who are most vulnerable to worm infections.
    • Private schools across the country, since they have high enrolment of children, have also enthusiastically joined the program, so that children in these schools, too, get deworming treatment and contribute to overall reduction in worm prevalence in communities.

 

Significance of Deworming Programme:

  • reduce absenteeism in schools;
  • improve health, nutritional, and learning outcomes; and
  • increase the likelihood of higher-wage jobs later in life.

 

Way ahead:

  • Apart from being dewormed, maintaining healthy and hygienic practices will help children and communities remain safe from worm infections.
  • The MoHFW envisions an open-defecation-free India which holds the capacity to reduce the overall worm burden in a community.
Section : Social Issues

IPCC Report: Climate Change and Land

Headline : Food supply is at dire risk: UN

Details :

In News

  • IPCC has released a new report on Climate Change and Land. It is the second in the series of three special reports that the IPCC is preparing during the current Sixth Assessment Report cycle.
  • This is the first IPCC report in which a majority of the authors (53%) are from developing countries.

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News Summary

  • The IPCC has released the summary of its report “Climate Change and Land: An IPCC Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems” to the policymakers.
  • It is an assessment of how land systems are contributing to global warming, and are in turn being impacted by the resultant climate change.
  • The report looks at the role of land-based activities such as agriculture, forestry, cattle-rearing and urbanisation in causing global warming, and also the manner in which they are impacted by climate change.

Report Findings

Land – a critical resource

  • Land provides the principal basis for human livelihoods and well-being including the supply of food, freshwater and multiple other ecosystem services, as well as biodiversity.
  • Human use directly affects more than 70% of the global, ice-free land surface (high confidence). Land also plays an important role in the climate system.
  • Land is both a source and a sink of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and plays a key role in the exchange of energy, water and aerosols between the land surface and atmosphere.

Impact

  • The report says the global food production system could account for 16 to 27 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • If outside the “farm gate” activities such as transportation, energy and food processing industries are included, emissions from global activities that put the food on our table could account for as high as 37 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions.
  • If emissions associated with pre- and post-production activities in the global food system are included, the emissions are estimated to be 21 to 37 per cent of total net anthropogenic (man-made) GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions.

Desertification and land degradation

  • When land is degraded, it becomes less productive, restricting what can be grown and reducing the soil’s ability to absorb carbon.
  • This exacerbates climate change, while climate change in turn exacerbates land degradation in many different ways.
  • In a future with more intensive rainfall the risk of soil erosion on croplands increases.
  • Sustainable land management is a way to protect communities from the detrimental impacts of this soil erosion and landslides. However there are limits to what can be done, so in other cases degradation might be irreversible

Food security

  • The report highlights that climate change is affecting all four pillars of food security: availability (yield and production), access (prices and ability to obtain food), utilization (nutrition and cooking), and stability (disruptions to availability).
  • Food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through yield declines – especially in the tropics – increased prices, reduced nutrient quality, and supply chain disruptions,”
  • The effects are different in different countries, but there will be more drastic impacts on low-income countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean

 

Measures needed for improvement:

  • Food wastage: The report records that about one third of food produced is lost or wasted. Measures such as reduction in food wastage can avoid a part of these emissions without jeopardising food security.
  • Risk management: Risk management can enhance communities’ resilience to extreme events, which has an impact on food systems. This can be the result of dietary changes or ensuring a variety of crops to prevent further land degradation and increase resilience to extreme or varying weather.
  • Reducing inequities: Reducing inequalities, improving incomes, and ensuring equitable access to food so that some regions (where land cannot provide adequate food) are not disadvantaged, are other ways to adapt to the negative effects of climate change.
  • Sustainability: An overall focus on sustainability coupled with early action offers the best chances to tackle climate change. This would entail sustainable agricultural practices, low population growth and improved nutrition.
  • Bioenergy management: Bioenergy needs to be carefully managed to avoid risks to food security, biodiversity and land degradation. Desirable outcomes will depend on locally appropriate policies and governance systems.

 

Steps beyond land management

  • The report shows that better land management can contribute to tackling climate change, but is not the only solution.
  • Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors is essential if global warming is to be kept to well below 2ºC, if not 1.5o
  • Policies that are outside the land and energy domains, such as on transport and environment, can also make a critical difference to tackling climate change. Acting early is more cost-effective as it avoids losses.

 

About: IPCC

  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change.
  • It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988.
  • In the same year, the UN General Assembly endorsed the action by the WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC. It has 195 member states.
  • It intends to provide policymakers with regular scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and potential future risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Reports

  • IPCC assessments provide governments, at all levels, with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies. They are a key input into the international negotiations to tackle climate change.
  • IPCC reports are drafted and reviewed in several stages, thus guaranteeing objectivity and transparency.
Section : Environment & Ecology

How will India contribute to LIGO?

Headline : How will India contribute to LIGO?

Details :

Context:

  • LIGO India project is coming up in Maharashtra, near Aundha in Hingoli district.
  • This article explain about the LIGO projects across the world, their significance and India’s part in the global LIGO project.

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Background

  • In September 2015, LIGO’s US detectors made the first discovery of gravitational waves travelling outwards from a point 1.3 billion light years away from the earth.
  • At this point, two massive black holes with masses 29 and 36 times that of the sun had merged to give off gravitational wave disturbances. This discovery led to the confirmation of Einsteins’ prediction and launched a new way of studying the Universe.
    • Black holes are exotic objects that have immense gravitational pull and they trap even the fastest object in the world, which is light.
  • When objects with such an immense gravity merge, the disturbance is felt by the very fabric of space time and travels outward from the merger, Thus, gravitational waves have been described as “ripples in the fabric of space time”.

 

LIGO

  • LIGO stands for Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. It consists of a pair of huge interferometers, each having two arms which are 4 km long.
  • LIGO, unlike usual telescopes, does not “see” the incoming ripples in spacetime because gravitational waves are not a part of electromagnetic spectrum or light.
  • They are not light waves but a different phenomenon altogether — a stretching of spacetime due to immense gravity.

Detection of gravitational waves:

  • Remarkable precision is needed to detect a signal as faint as a gravitational wave, and the two LIGO detectors work as one unit to ensure this.
  • This requires weeding out noise very carefully, for when such a faint signal is being detected, even a slight human presence near the detector could derail the experiment by drowning out the signal.
  • A single LIGO detector cannot confidently detect this disturbance on its own and at least two detectors are needed. This is because the signal is so weak that even a random noise could give out a signal that can mislead one into thinking a genuine gravitational wave has been detected.
  • It is because two detectors detect the faint signal in coincidence that leads to the certainty of it being read as a genuine reading and not noise.

 

Other LIGO detectors

  • Following the 2015 detection, which later won the Physics Nobel (2017), the two LIGO detectors detected seven such binary black hole merger events before they were joined by the European Virgo detector in 2017. The two facilities have now detected 10 events.
  • The Japanese detector, KAGRA, or Kamioka Gravitational-wave Detector, is expected to join the international network soon.
  • In the meantime, in a collaboration with LIGO, a gravitational wave detector is being set up in India.
  • The LIGO India project is expected to join the international network in a first science run in 2025.

 

Sources of Gravitational Waves

  • Mergers of black holes or neutron stars, rapidly rotating neutron stars, supernova explosions and the remnants of the disturbance caused by the formation of the universe and the Big Bang, are the strongest sources.
  • There can be many other sources, but these are likely to be too weak to detect.

Significance of Gravitational Waves

  • The data collected by LIGO, may have far-reaching effects on many areas of physics including gravitation, relativity, astrophysics, cosmology, particle physics, and nuclear physics.
  • It has opened a completely new window with which scientists are starting to probe hitherto unexplored phenomena such as the formation of black holes, exploding neutron stars and witnessing the birth of the Universe.
  • It enriches multi-messenger astronomy complementing the conventional means of observing and studying the Universe with telescopes using light.
  • As more detectors would be in place, the study would also offer a new way to map out the universe, using gravitational-wave astronomy. Perhaps one day with highly accurate detection facilities, signatures of gravitational waves bouncing off celestial objects will help in detecting and mapping them.

 

LIGO India

  • LIGO India will come up in Maharashtra, near Aundha in Hingoli district. The observatory will cost 12.6 billion rupees (US$177 million) and is scheduled for completion in 2024.
  • Like the LIGO detectors, the one at LIGO India will also have two arms of 4 km length. But while there are similarities there will be differences too.
  • Being an ultra-high precision large-scale apparatus, LIGO India is expected to show a unique “temperament” determined by the local site characteristics.
  • The LIGO Laboratory — which is operated by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge — will provide the hardware for a complete LIGO interferometer in India, technical data on its design, as well as training and assistance with installation and commissioning for the supporting infrastructure.
  • India will provide the site, the vacuum system and other infrastructure required to house and operate the interferometer — as well as all labour, materials and supplies for installation.

Agencies involved

  • The LIGO-India project will be built by by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Science Foundation (NSF), USA, signed in 2016, along with several national and international research and academic institutions.

Significance of LIGO India

  • It will dramatically increase the sensitivity with which gravitational events will be detected.
  • It will allow accurate calculation of sizes of black holes.
  • Help to better understand the Universe’s rate of expansion.
  • Detection of gravitational waves: With the current number of detectors in the world, there is huge uncertainty in determining where in the sky the disturbance came from. Observations from a new detector in a far-off position will help locate the source of the gravitational waves five to ten times more accurately than current efforts allow.
  • Development of Astronomy: India is conventionally strong in theoretical astronomy. It will help Indian astronomers partner with the global community and bring new insights into this vibrant area.
  • Careers in Science: Presence of such a world-leading facility in India will inspire and attract generations of students to pursue challenging careers in science, technology and innovation.
Section : Science & Tech

International Organisations and Reports: Annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.

Headline : India protests over UN chief’s report

Details :

In News:

  • The United Nation has recently released its Annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.
  • India is disappointed with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for including in the report situations in India that are neither armed conflicts nor a threat to international security.

 

About Annual report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict.

  • The present report covers the period from January to December 2018, was submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2427 (2018).

UN Resolution 2427In 2018, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution aimed at a framework for mainstreaming protection, rights, well-being and empowerment of children throughout the conflict cycle.

  • The report highlights global trends regarding the impact  of  armed  conflict  on  children  and  provides  information  on  violations committed as well as related protection concerns.
  • The present report also include a list of parties that, in violation of international law, engage in the recruitment and use of children, the killing and maiming of children, rape and other forms of sexual violence against children, attacks on schools and/or hospitals and attacks or threats of attacks against protected personnel,1and the abduction of children.

Highlights of the Report:

  • Violence against Children: More than 12,000 children were killed or maimed in around 20 conflict situations of 2018. Children continue to be used in combat, particularly in Somalia, Nigeria and Syria. They also continue to be abducted, to be used in hostilities or for sexual violence,
  • Sexual Violence against children: Some 933 cases of sexual violence against boys and girls were reported, but this is believed to be an under-estimate, due to lack of access, stigma and fear of reprisals.
  • Overall decrease in attacks on schools and hospitals: Attacks on schools and hospitals have decreased overall, but have intensified in some conflict situations, such as Afghanistan and Syria, which has seen the highest number of such attacks since the beginning of the conflict in the country.
  • Access to education: Mali provides the most serious example of children being deprived of access to education, and the military use of schools.
  • Detention and release of children involved in conflict: Rather than being seen as victims of recruitment, thousands of children around the world were detained for their actual or alleged association with armed groups in 2018 (in Syria and Iraq), the majority of children deprived of their liberty are under the age of five.
  • Increase in number of children benefiting from release and reintegration: The number of children benefiting from release and reintegration support, however, rose in 2018 to 13,600 (up from 12,000 in 2017).

Recommendations given:

  • All parties to conflict must refrain from directing attacks against civilians, including children, as peace remains the best protection for children affected by armed conflict.
  • Parties to conflict must protect children and put in place tangible measures to end and prevent these violations.
  • The nations to work with the UN to help relocate foreign children and women actually or allegedly affiliated with extremist groups, with the best interests of the child as the primary consideration.
  • Increased resources and funding to meet the growing needs, as more children are separated from armed groups.

 

About India in the report:

  • India was mentioned under a section of the report titled “Situations not on the agenda of the Security Council or other situations”.
  • The report mentions terrorist groups in Jammu & Kashmir and Maoist groups elsewhere that recruit child fighters, children killed in these areas, and sexual violence against them, although India is not in armed conflict.
    • According to the report, terrorist groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir and Maoists groups elsewhere have recruited children as fighters.
    • It also added that children continued to be killed or injured in operations by the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir and in areas of Maoist activity.
    • The report noted that there were reports of sexual violence against girls by security forces in Kashmir citing the Kathua rape case.

 

India’s Objections to the Report:

  • India has strongly expressed its disappointment over the report.
  • The section on “Situations on the agenda of the Security Council”, which conforms to its mandate, deals with countries like Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are in a civil war situation that overwhelms the nations. (This section also included Israel and Palestine territories.)
  • The inclusion of India and countries like Thailand and even Pakistan in an added section appears to be arbitrary because it places them on the same level as those countries covered by the Council mandate.
  • However, at the same time the report ignored countries in Central America, for example, where violence has led to an exodus of thousands of children escaping the brutalities.
  • Such attempt to expand mandate in a selective manner to certain situations only politicises and instrumentalises the agenda, obfuscating and diverting attention from the real threats to international peace and security.
Section : International Relation

Urbanisation key to driving growth engines Editorial 3rd Aug’19 FinancialExpress

Headline : Urbanisation key to driving growth engines Editorial 3rd Aug’19 FinancialExpress

Details :

Development and urbanisation:

  • Development and urbanisation are two sides of the same coin.
  • No society in recent history remained agrarian while adequately providing for its population.
  • Urbanisation aggregates human activity—aggregation leads to specialisation, specialisation to increased productivity. This enables greater availability of goods, delivery of services, increased wages, and job opportunities.
  • Urban areas are engines of growth in any modern economy.

Example of China:

  • China is a shining example of how urbanisation drives economic growth.
  • China rapidly urbanised from 26.4% in 1990 to 59.2% today, with the impact of dramatically improved quality of life and life expectancy.
  • This also has an effect on China’s specialised workforce and productivity improvements—making China a Top 2 economy with nominal GDP of $14.1 trillion.
  • In contrast, India is at $2.7 trillion, moving towards the target of $5 trillion by 2025.

 

 

India lagging the world in urbanisation:

  • The world, on average, is at 55.3% urbanisation, whereas India lags at 34% (see graphic).
  • India has been slow to urbanise because of the fixation on being a village-based society.

Leads to inequity:

  • Most planners still look to Gandhiji’s sentiments from 1947 on this topic—‘The future of India lies in its villages’.
  • Over the last 5 decades, complexity has increased, people’s economic needs and aspirations have grown, and it is impossible to supply adequate resources to India’s six lakh villages.
  • Keeping India’s population in villages while being unable to meet their economic needs has resulted in high inequity.

 

Rural areas with agriculture dependency can only see little progress:

  • Rural employment is mostly in agriculture. 42.7% of India’s workforce in 2016-17 was engaged in the agriculture sector, seeing only a 3.4% growth rate and contributing only 17.3% to the GDP.
  • Meanwhile, 57.3% of the workforce was engaged in industry and services, growing at 5.5% and 7.6%, respectively.
  • The income differential is very high, with the average wages of dependents on agriculture to industry to services being in the ratio 1:3:4 .
  • Left unaddressed, this large group of agricultural dependents will always be limited to a sub-aspirational existence—with increasing distress and perpetual dependence on subsidies from the government.

Leading to urban migration:

  • Lack of opportunities is also accelerating large-scale internal migration towards India’s few urban growth engines—such as Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Hyderabad, and others.
  • 2011 Census indicates 43,324 uninhabited villages, presumably abandoned due to migration.

But our current urban areas can mostly only accommodate contract labour:

  • Employment is unable to keep up with the inflow.
  • Due to high costs, it is uncompetitive to set up industries in cities.
  • Without industries to absorb the incoming rural population, they are mostly making low wages as contract labour.
  • They can’t keep up with living costs—resulting in a growing urban population with unfavourable living conditions.

 

Indian urbanisation skewed towards just a few cities and towns:

  • The 2011 census indicates there are 7,933 towns/cities housing 31.16% of the population, with an average population of 47,536.
  • Of these, 465 towns have a population over one lakh and 53 cities, over ten lakh.
  • This means the remaining 7,468 towns must have significantly lesser populations than the 47,536 average.
  • The upcoming 2021 census will inform us of the current situation.

Deficit infra in these urban areas:

  • Large cities are reeling under the strain of overpopulation, with problems like inadequate infrastructure and rocketing living costs.
  • Because of the policymakers’ focus on villages, cities aren’t allocated enough to develop infrastructure to handle their rapidly expanding populations.

 

Need a systemic plan for urban migration:

  • A compelling solution to this unstable situation is the systematic shift of people from rural to urban areas.
  • Census data must be used to suitably identify 4,000-5,000 smaller towns all over India and develop them to absorb the rural-to-urban shift sustainably.
  • GoI’s Smart Cities initiative has identified 100 cities so far, focusing on roads, solar, water, and control centres.

While expanding to 5,000 towns, certain critical aspects must be incorporated:

  1. Infrastructure and connectivity:
  • From the planning stage, it is essential to prioritise providing infrastructure like roads and airport access, internet connectivity, and other amenities.
  • Not only is state-of-the-art infrastructure crucial for quality of life, it also provides the logistical backbone for a productive industrial environment.
  • Moreover, commissioning large-scale infrastructure development will also boost the construction sector—another means of mass employment.
  • We need strategic investments from both the central and state governments in these towns for parallelised infrastructure development.
  1. Labour-intensive industry (LII) clusters:
  • Creating many LIIs in and around the 5,000 towns is the best way to provide gainful employment to the transitioning population.
  • By focusing on the right type of industries—garments, fabrication, electronics assembly, automobiles, so on—this move will also boost India’s export capabilities.
  • With focused skilling programs, LIIs will offer excellent income opportunities to the incoming population.
  • Even a lower wage than cities will go a long way towards quality of life, especially since living costs are lower in towns.
  • Women, who cannot afford to move long distance from home, can also now find employment near their villages and towns, commute and earn a living.
  • Governments, apart from focusing investment here, must also provide incentives for the private sector to create LIIs.
  1. New sustainable technologies:
  • While urbanisation improves delivery of services, it poses several challenges like congestion, restricted mobility, high waste production, and pollution.
  • India must invest in understanding state-of-the-art technologies and implement them.
  • The newly developed towns will have the advantage of getting sustainable infrastructure integrated from the planning stage itself, including:
    • Renewables like solar panels and wind turbines
    • Planned tree cover to offset urban spread
    • Water treatment facilities based on phytoremediation and other plant-based technologies
    • Integrated recycling
    • EV infrastructure
    • Public transportation with last-mile connectivity
  • Older cities will need careful planning to incorporate new technologies into unwieldy city plans.
  1. Planning for capacity:
  • Indian policymaking has a tiresome tradition of planning projects based on latest available data—usually outdated—like the previous census.
  • By the time projects are completed 5-10 years later, they are operationally overloaded.
  • Instead, it is necessary to plan projects for sewage treatment, airports, roads, water supply, and so on with at least a 20-30-year forecast with provisions for future expansion.
  • Again, China paves the way—many major airports have received the go-ahead to build a third runway and increase seating capacity by forecasting the demand to 2030.

 

Conclusion:

  • Rapid urbanisation is essential to sustain India’s impressive 10-year growth trajectory and meet PM Modi’s 2025 economic target of $5 trillion.
  • The proposed network of small towns and industry clusters can become India’s engine of growth and provide jobs at scale, thus improving overall economic prosperity.
  • Sustainable urbanisation can be the force multiplier to mobilise India’s potential.

 

Importance:

GS Paper III: Economy

Section : Editorial Analysis