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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | 20th July’19 | PDF Download

  • India’s dream of becoming a $5-trillion economy by 2024 is now in the open with a ‘blue sky’ vision envisaged in the Economic Survey this year. The document lays down a clear strategy to augment the growth of key sectors by shifting gears as the current economic conditions are smooth in terms of macroeconomic stability to expand growth. However, unless there are adequate investment reforms in primary sectors, steps taken to augment growth in other sectors would be futile.

Investment is the key

  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), insufficient investment in the agriculture sector in most developing countries over the past 30 years has resulted in low productivity and stagnant production.
  • In India, with a steadily decreasing share of 14.4% in Gross Value Added since 2015-16, the sector’s contribution to a $5-trillion economy would be around $1 trillion — assuming a positive annual growth rate hereafter.
  • Investment is the key to unlocking the potential of a developing economy. However, the myopic policy regime in the past several decades has resulted in sluggish investment growth in the farm sector. Therefore, strengthening the sector with an enabling investment package (both public and private) is critical.
  • First, the wave of investment should touch segments such as agro-processing, and exports, agri-startups and agri-tourism, where the potential for job creation and capacity utilisation is far less.
  • Integrating the existing tourism circuit with a relatively new area of agri-tourism (as a hub-and-spoke model), where glimpses of farm staff and farm operations are displayed to attract tourists, would help in boosting the investment cycle and generate in-situ employment.
  • Second, investment needs to be driven to strengthen both public and private extension advisory systems and the quality of agri-education and research through collaboration and convergence. It would also serve as a stage to demonstrate resource conservation and sustainable use through organic, natural and green methods, and also zero budget natural farming.
  • Third, given that India has the highest livestock population in the world, investment should be made to utilize this surplus by employing next-generation livestock technology with a strong emphasis not only on productivity enhancement but also on conservation of indigenous germplasm, disease surveillance, quality control, waste utilization and value addition. This would lead to a sustained increase in farm income and savings with an export-oriented growth model.
  • Fourth, investment in renewable energy generation (using small wind mill and solar pumps) on fallow farmland and in hilly terrain would help reduce the burden of debtridden electricity distribution companies and State governments, besides enabling energy security in rural areas.
  • Fifth, a farm business organization is another source of routing private investment to agriculture. Linking these organisations with commodity exchanges would provide agriculture commodities more space on international trading platforms and reduce the burden of markets in a glut season, with certain policy/procedural modifications.
  • Pivotal role for data
  • Finally, data is the key driver of modern agriculture which in turn can power artificial intelligence-led agriculture, e-markets, soil mapping and others. Currently, there are issues of enumeration, maintenance and accessibility to help maintain agri-data on various fronts. There also needs to be a centralized institutional mechanism to help maintain farm level-data available for real time (virtual) assessment, while also helping plug the loopholes in subsidy distribution, funding and unrealistic assumption in production estimation. This will help in effectively implementing and monitoring various schemes for a pragmatic food system.
  • It is widely accepted that resource conservation comes with behavioural change, which needs dedicated investment in behavioural farm research sets. Perhaps this would help find a way to leverage nudge policies/choice architecture for resource conservation, fertilizer use, irrigation and electricity consumption. Above all, there is a need to converge fragmented investments (public, private and foreign) to address the structural weaknesses in the agriculture sector, enunciated in the Economic Survey 2016-17.
  • Trickle-down effect
  • Though economic transition has seen significant growth contribution from services and industry, agriculture remains the most trusted sector in helping alleviate poverty, hunger and malnutrition and ensuring better income distribution.
  • An earlier experience of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations has shown that a 1% growth in agriculture is at least two to three times more effective in reducing poverty than similar growth in non-agricultural sectors.
  • Public investment in agriculture research and development in terms of percentage share in agri GVA stands at 0.37%, which is fairly low in comparison to between 3% and 5% in developed countries.
  • Also, in real terms, current investment can create an enabling environment to route private investment in R&D. Therefore, public investment in agriculture should see a commensurate rise with a healthy mix of education, research and extension encouraging ‘blue-sky thinking’ in all segments, while pushing for a targeted pruning of public expenditures on subsidies, kind transfers, loan waivers and populist measures.
  • Agriculture and its allied sectors are believed to be one of the most fertile grounds to help achieve the ambitious Sustainable Developmental Goals (SDGs).
  • However, with the current pace of agriculture growth, India requires ‘patient capital’, as financial returns to investment are unlikely to materialise in the initial years. An inclusive business model facilitating strong investor-farmer relations should be created, with a legal and institutional framework for governance. Expanding institutions is essential to accommodate the developmental impacts of foreign agricultural investment.
  • The Lok Sabha on Friday passed the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019 by voice vote. • The Bill expedites the process of appointment of Chairperson and members of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and provides for, among others, including the chairpersons of the National Commission for Backward Classes, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities as members of the NHRC.
  • In his reply in the House, Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai said the government was sensitive to the rights of humanity and was committed to strengthening the commission.
  • Promises transparency
  • “With this Bill, every section of society has now received representation. We are a government that stands for the human rights of victims not of terrorists and perpetrators of sexual crime. The amendment will ensure transparency in the appointment of chairman and members of the debate witnessed sharp exchanges betcommission and will help fill all the vacancies,” he said.
  • The ween the Opposition and Treasury benches.
  • Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, initiating the debate, said there were several gaps in the Bill, and asked the government to bring a fresh one. He said the Bill was “piecemeal and cosmetic”. • Mr. Tharoor alleged that human rights were being violated in the detention tribunals in Assam over the National Register of Citizens, and said that 57 people committed suicide after failing to produce citizenship documents.
  • BJP MP and former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satya Pal Singh alleged that human rights activists often targeted the police and government institutions and take foreign funding. “They never speak against terrorists, they will never speak against Naxals,” he said.
  • Mr. Singh’s comments that he believed Indians were descendants of great sages (rishis), and not monkeys, drew sharp criticism.
  • “My ancestors are not any rishis. And I was born out of Sudras … We are here because of the fight of social justice system,” DMK leader Kanimozhi said, and urged the House to uphold scientific temperament.

Composition

  • The NHRC consists of:
  • A Chairperson, should be retired [Chief Justice of India] (through GoI mulling appointment of retired SC Judges as chairperson)
  • One member who is, or has been, a Judge of the Supreme Court of India
  • One member who is, or has been, the Chief Justice of a High Court
  • Two members to be appointed from among persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights
  • In addition, the Chairpersons of four National Commissions (Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Women and Minorities) serve as ex officio members.
  • The sitting Judge of the Supreme Court or sitting Chief Justice of any High Court can be appointed only after the consultation with the Chief Justice of Supreme Court.
  • The chairman of the NHRC is Justice H. L. Dattu
  • Amid protests by the Opposition parties, a Bill to amend the Right to Information (RTI) Act and give the Union government the power to set the service conditions and salaries of Information Commissioners was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Friday.
  • The Bill was eventually introduced after the Treasury benches won a vote with 224 MPs supporting it and nine opposing.
  • Though the Congress opposed the introduction of the Bill with senior leader Shashi Tharoor calling it an “RTI elimination Bill”, the party chose to walk out when Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi demanded a vote.

Power with Centre

  • The new Bill seeks to change the status of the Information Commissioners who are on a par with the Election Commissioners, and states that the term of office, salaries, allowances and other terms and conditions shall be “as prescribed by the Central government”. Currently, Section 13(5) of the Act provides that these are equivalent to that of the Chief Election Commissioner for the Chief Information Commissioner and to an Election Commissioner for an Information Commissioner.
  • “The functions being carried out by the Election Commission and the Central and State Information Commissions are totally different. The Election Commission of India is a constitutional body… On the other hand, the Central Information Commission and State Information Commissions are statutory bodies established under the Right to Information Act, 2005,” the Bill said.
  • Introducing the amendment, Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said the Bill is aimed at institutionalization and streamlining of the RTI Act. He said it strengthened the overall RTI structure, corrected anomalies and described it as an enabling legislation for administration purposes.
  • “Has it ever happened that the CIC has the status of a Supreme Court judge but the judgment can be appealed in a High Court,” asked the Minister as the Opposition protested.
  • Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said the draft law was a threat to the independence of the Central Information Commission while Mr. Tharoor said this Bill was actually an “RTI elimination Bill” removing two greater powers of institutional independence.
  • Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy sought that the Bill be referred to a parliamentary standing committee. He said only 26% Bills were referred to such panels in the last Lok Sabha.

 

 

 

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