Head Line: She is the answer
1) Mains Paper I: Role of women and women’s organization.
- Countries globally, including India, have agreed to fulfil the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched by the UNDP in 2016 as “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity”.
- Among the 17 goals and 169 targets to be achieved by 2030, SDG 5 on gender equality is seen as a key goal, both in itself and for achieving other goals.
- SDG 5 holds substantial potential for promoting food security but also has serious limitations.
Role of women in food provisioning:
- Women play key roles in food provisioning as producers, home food managers, and consumers.
- As producers, they constitute a high and growing proportion of farmers.
- In India, 35 per cent of agricultural workers are women (NSSO 2011-12) and women farm operators grew from 12.8 per cent to 13.9 per cent between 2010-11 and 2015-16 (agricultural censuses), not counting women working on male-managed farms.
- Women also contribute to food systems through forests and fisheries.
- One in six persons globally depends on forests for supplementary food, green manure, fodder, firewood, etc.
- Women and girls are the main gatherers of forest products, especially food and firewood; the latter continues to be the primary cooking fuel in most of rural India, cooking energy is essential for food security.
- Similarly, seafood is globally the main source of protein for a billion people.
- Women constitute 46 per cent of workers in small-scale fisheries and 54 per cent in inland fisheries.
- Although marine products are harvested mainly by men, it is aquaculture — more in women’s domain — which is the fastest-growing, and predicted to provide over 50 per cent of fish consumed globally by 2020 (according to World Bank figures).
Challenges for women in food provisioning:
- Women’s productivity as producer depends crucially on access to land, which is highly gender unequal due to male bias in inheritance, government land transfers, and market access.
- Even in the southern states of Karnataka and Kerala, only 19-20 per cent of landowners are women.
- They also have poor access to credit, irrigation, inputs, technology and markets.
- Moreover, as agriculture gets feminised, the challenge of dealing with climate change, which is predicted to greatly lower food-crop yields, will increasing fall on women.
- But few of them have access to technical advances such as heat-resistant crops or water-conserving practices.
- And higher temperatures will increase their labour in food processing and preservation.
- A fall in household food will also affect females more than males due to unequal intra-household allocations, as evident in anthropometric and malnourishment measures, and female anaemia — 53 per cent of Indian women are anaemic as compared to 22 per cent men in the 15-49 age group.
- Besides, as family food managers, women’s autonomy in food allocation decisions is adversely affected by their limited asset ownership: Child survival, nutrition and health are found to be notably better if the mother also has assets.
- Over time, we must shift to cleaner fuels, given the ill-effects of kitchen smoke from unprocessed biofuels on human health, but in the short term women need more firewood through greater access to forests and commons.
The Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG 5) potentials:
- Against this backdrop, SDG 5 has both potential and limitations. The potential lies in its focus on women’s access to land and property, and natural resources.
- Secure land rights for women can improve both their productivity as farmers and family nutritional allocations.
- Women can obtain land via the family (especially inheritance), the market and the state.
- Target 5A only mentions inheritance laws, but since 86 per cent arable land in India is privately owned, gender equality in family land would improve tenure security for women farmers.
- Also, SDG 5 mentions financial services. Affordable credit would help women farmers invest in necessary inputs.
- Similarly, SDG 5 emphasises natural resources. Although it does not specify forests or fisheries, if policymakers so interpret it, it could enhance nutritional diversity, given women’s roles in forest food and fisheries.
- Moreover, Target 5.5 emphasises women’s participation in public life.
- Although it focuses on legislatures and village councils, this could be extended to community institutions managing forests and water.
The limitations of SDG 5 in delivering food security:
- However, the limitations of SDG 5 in delivering food security are also notable.
- Target 5A on inheritance is diluted by the clause “in accordance with national laws”, which provides a loophole to bypass the goal’s mandate.
- Also, social norms obstruct legal rights, such as “good sisters” foregoing their claims to parental property, or distant marriages reducing women’s ability to manage inherited land.
- Government policy cannot directly change norms, but SDG 5 is silent even on government land transfers to women, which policy can affect.
- And women farmers need inputs beyond the financial services mentioned in Target 5A.
- Similarly, the failure of SDG 5 to explicitly recognise access to forests and fisheries, or the challenges of climate change, restricts its potential.
Gender disregard in SDGs:
- In contrast, other SDGs which are central to food security disregard gender equality, such as SDG 14 (life below water) which covers marine ecosystems, and SDG 15 (life on land) which covers forests.
- Both goals emphasise conservation, ignoring fisheries and forests as food sources, and even missing links between gender equality and conservation itself.
Four ways to further the goal of food security under SDG 5:
- First, it can interpret women’s access to natural resources to specifically cover forests, fisheries, and irrigation.
- Second, it can connect with SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 2 (zero hunger) which recognise the need for women to access land, credit, knowledge and markets.
- Third, it can interpret goals which mention gender to include support for women farmers, as in SDG 13 on climate change.
- Fourth, it can engender SDGs which bear crucially on food security but at present disregard gender, viz. SDG 15 on forests and SDG 14 on marine resources.
- Finally, beyond SDGs, we need institutional innovations.
- Farming in groups could provide an unexplored pathway for enhancing food security and strengthening SDG 5.
Head Line: Quick fix for the farmer
2) Mains Paper II: Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices
- Thousands of farmers from different parts of India marched to Delhi on November 29-30 to register their protest against government’s perceived apathy and neglect of farmers’ demands.
What farmers are demanding?
They were basically demanding three things:
- One, debate in Parliament to discuss farm distress;
- two, one-time loan waiver;
- and three, raising minimum support prices (MSPs) to 50 per cent above comprehensive cost (Cost C2) of production, and making MSPs legally binding on private traders — that is, if any trader buys below MSP, he should be put in prison for, say, three years.
Rationality and feasibility of farmers demands:
Accepting the first demand for a debate in the Parliament.
- Fulfilling this demand is easy and it would help in understanding the real causes of farm distress, and the policies which could best help to tackle it.
The second demand is of a one-time loan waiver.
- Although it is well known that loan waivers will not solve the problems of farmers, yet this demand is also likely to be met basically for votes.
- Already, from April 2017 to July 2018, several states (Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh) have announced loan waivers that together amount to Rs 1,82,802 crore (see graph 1).
- We expect that the remaining states are also likely to be added in this list during the run-up to parliamentary elections in April/May 2019.
- This may take the total loan waiver sum to more than Rs 4 lakh crore.
- Further, it may be noted that it is the better ones in the peasantry which will benefit the most from this move.
- The small and marginal farmers often depend more on the money lenders, where the interest rates range from 24 to 48 per cent.
- What is needed is financial inclusion of these small and marginal farmers in institutional credit at reasonable interest rates and not outright loan waivers.
- These loan waivers will hit public investments in agriculture adversely and may even worsen farm distress in due course. It is a vicious circle.
The third demand, of setting higher MSPs and making them legally binding, is the most strange.
- Although the government is claiming that they have fulfilled the Swaminathan formula by giving a 50 per cent margin over A2+FL, people in this business know that they have changed the reference cost from C2 to A2+FL, which is about 38 per cent lower.
- In any case, an MSP formula based on just cost, be it A2+FL or C2, ignoring its demand side, is patently inefficient.
- It will cost the nation heavily in due course.
- Even in the current situation, the market prices are way below the MSPs announced in this kharif season (see graph 2).
- These are prices in the districts with the highest arrivals in the largest producing states. Market prices are even lower in many other districts.
- For example, moong market prices are 53 per cent lower than the MSP in Raichur, Karnataka.
- Now, making it legally binding will turn out to be anti-farmer as private trade will exit for fear of being jailed, and market prices will collapse even further.
- And the government does not have the paraphernalia to procure, store, and distribute 23 commodities for which MSPs are announced.
- It is not that higher MSPs cannot be given, but then government should just focus on 2-3 commodities and be ready to hold massive stocks, way beyond its buffer stock norms, as is the case with wheat and rice today.
- All this will amount to large inefficiency in the system.
PM’s AASHA (Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan):
- PM’s AASHA tried to give support through three sub-schemes — the Price Support Scheme, Price Deficiency Payment (PDP) and Private Procurement & Stockist Scheme.
- However, none of the states has implemented the scheme.
- Even MP, which had piloted the PDP scheme in kharif-2017, has discontinued it.
What needs to be done:
- What all this indicates is that India needs large reforms in its agri-markets, from reforming APMC markets to abolishing the Essential Commodities Act and rolling back all export restrictions.
- Urgent necessary steps include:
- Encouraging contract farming,
- allowing private agri-markets in competition with APMC markets,
- capping commissions and fees to not more than 2 per cent for any commodity at any place in India,
- opening and expanding futures trading,
- negotiable warehouse receipt system,
- e-NAM with due system of assaying, grading, delivery and dispute settlement mechanisms
- Once this is done, major investments need to follow in improving the functioning of markets and building efficient value chains, especially of perishables.
- This can be done through the PPP mode, creating millions of jobs.
Head Line: Simply Put: Why aircraft carriers are needed
3) Mains Paper III: Security challenges and their management in border areas.
- Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba has made a strong case for a 2nd indigenous aircraft carrier.
- While govt considers it too expensive, the Chinese expansion in the Indian Ocean Region cannot be overlooked.
Indian aircraft carrier strength:
- India currently has only one aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, the erstwhile Russian Admiral Gorshkov and inducted into service in 2013.
- The country’s first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC-1) — to be formally named INS Vikrant — is being built in Cochin Shipyard.
- The 40,000-tonne warship has been delayed — the Ministry of Defence approved it in 2003, construction began in 2005, and it was supposed to be ready this year, but it is now expected to be out for sea trials only by 2020.
Need for carriers:
- The ability of a country to project military force away from its shores is largely dependent on the components used for force projection, key among which are aircraft carriers.
- The Indian Navy has reached a minimum essential requirement of two operational aircraft carriers to carry out its mandated tasks in the country’s Areas of Interest, and to meet its overall maritime security requirements.
- Given that one of the carriers is in refit or maintenance, the Maritime Capability Perspective Plan of the Navy envisages a force level of three aircraft carriers, to ensure development of a capability to operate two Carrier Battle Groups (CBGs) at any given time.
- CBGs are large task formations centred around a carrier, and provide unmatched flexibility, reach and sustainability.
- These are primary assets for the projection of power, and provide credible deterrence through visibility.
- Shore-based aircraft have limited reach in India’s vast maritime area of interest, and can provide limited air defence to the fleet only when operating close to the coast, a rarity in naval concepts of operations.
- In the maritime strike role too, shore-based aircraft have limited range with inherent time delays, considering the distance to targets at sea.
- The surety of support from a shore-based fighter is intrinsically linked to the unpredictable factor of weather.
- But the biggest concern for India is the aggressive effort by China to gain a foothold in the Indian Ocean Region.
- China currently operates two carriers, and is likely to have four by 2028 — with the eventual aim of 10 by 2050.
- This would be a quantum leap for the People’s Liberation Army Navy, which plans forays deep into the Indian Ocean Region by 2020.
Affordability vs requirement:
- It would appear that India simply cannot afford a third aircraft carrier even if it is desirable for power projection and in order to ensure maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region.
However, an aircraft carrier is a dynamic capability that can be deployed over the entire area of maritime interest for as long as four decades, and is, therefore, one of the most optimum utilisations of resources spent on such an acquisition.