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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | 4th June’20 | PDF Download

MSP for Coarse

  • Revised minimum support prices for kharif crops.
  • Preference towards coarse cereals like bajra, ragi, maize and jowar.
  • Bajra, ragi, maize and jowar have earned hikes per quintal of Rs 150, 145, 90 and 70 respectively against just Rs 53 for paddy.
  • Paddy is water guzzling.
  • Massive groundwater exploitation and diversion of river water for irrigation is proving unsustainable.
  • Large parts of India are facing desertification.
  • Coarse cereals are also highly nutritious.
  • A transition to short duration millets with less water requirement and tolerance to arid climates is long overdue.
  • Pulses and oilseeds have also received handsome MSP increases, which will favour crop diversification.
  • Various subsidies, including MSPs, have been blamed for spurt of paddy cultivation in water-stressed regions.
  • So the tweaking of MSPs to disincentivise paddy without the political will to completely replace market distorting sops with income support schemes for farmers represents some rationalisation, even if it falls short of course correction.
  • Punjab and Haryana were traditional millet growing regions before the Green Revolution and subsidies helped rice and wheat displace them.
  • A return to millets, maize, pulses and oilseeds would truly be nature’s call in today’s environmentally stressed circumstances.
  • But state governments need more convincing.
  • Besides rejecting the modest paddy MSP hike, Punjab has said it would rather forego Centre’s fiscal deficit enhancement offer in lieu of power sector reforms than withdraw free power to farmers.

Time to discontinue free power for farmers

  • Free power supply scheme for farmers.
  • It is a major vote-catching policy measure.
  • Centre has prescribed that the free power supply scheme should be replaced with the direct benefits transfer (DBT) as a condition to allow States to increase their borrowing limit.
  • Deadline for implementation: By December this year, the DBT should be introduced at least in one district of a State and from the next financial year, a full roll-out should be made.
  • Predictably, Tamil Nadu, which was the first State to introduce free power in September 1984, is strongly resisting the Centre’s stipulation.
  • In the last 15 years, Maharashtra has been the only State that scrapped the scheme within a year of introducing it.
  • The power subsidy bills in the four southern States and Punjab are at least ₹33,000 crore.
  • Widespread wastage of water and electricity.
  • India is the largest user of groundwater at 251 billion cubic meters, exceeding the combined withdrawal by China and the U.S., as pointed out by Bharat Ramaswami of the Indian Statistical Institute last year.
  • Karnataka is a classic example, The number of irrigation pumpsets, which was around 17 lakh 12 years ago, is now around 30 lakh.
  • Absence of meters for these connections or segregation of feeders or metering of distribution transformers, accurate measurement of consumption becomes tricky.

Argument for free power

  • When farmers dependent on supplies through canals get water almost free of cost, it is but fair that those not covered by canal irrigation should be given free electricity.

Seven to eleven

  • Trump: G7 is outdated.
  • Group of 7: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  • Russia joined the group, which then became known as the G8, in 1998 but was suspended in 2014 after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

  • Trump would like to expand it to a G-11, by adding India, Russia, South Korea and Australia.
  • Russia said President Putin would attend “if treated as an equal”.
  • Earlier there was a G-8+5: China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa were invited.
  • S.-China tensions, particularly over coronavirus issues, clearly played a part in Mr. Trump’s decision to leave Chinese President Xi Jinping off his summit guest list.
  • The proposed G-11 grouping would recognise India’s place amongst the world’s richest nations, and acknowledge its global voice.
  • As host, Mr. Trump can invite any country as a G-7 special invitee, but changing its composition will require the approval of the other members.
  • Already, there are some concerns over Russia, which could derail the entire G-11 plan.
  • It is unclear when the summit will actually be held, given the November polls in the U.S., although Trump has indicated that he could hold it close to the UN General Assembly session in September.
  • In France, last year, the grouping was unable to issue a joint communiqué due to these differences — a first in its 45-year-old history.

India’s Parliament is missing in action

  • Several countries have held sessions either with physical distancing (fewer MPs attend with agreement across parties) or video conferencing or a combination of the two.
  • India’s Parliament, which prides itself as the apex representative body of the world’s largest democracy, is a notable absentee from this list.
  • Parliament has a central role in our system of governance.
  • First and foremost, it is the institution that checks and challenges the government of the day.
  • R. Ambedkar explained why the drafting committee had preferred a parliamentary form over the presidential system of governance.
    • The reasoning was that while the presidential system provides a higher level of stability, the parliamentary system is better at holding the government to account on a daily basis through questions, motions and debates.
  • Over the decades, our Parliament has evolved procedures of accountability including hearings of committees.
  • The fact that Parliament and its committees have not met for over two months indicates the absence of scrutiny of government actions.
  • National laws are made by Parliament.
  • The current steps by the central government are being taken under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, which was not designed to handle epidemics.
  • The reasoning is that the central government had no choice as there was no other law that provide it with powers to impose a lockdown across the country, which was needed to arrest the spread of the disease.
  • This is what many other countries have done — an Act with suitable checks and an expiry date, which could be renewed by Parliament, if required.
  • The Constitution requires all expenditure by the government to be approved by Parliament.
  • The government has announced a series of measures to address the economic crisis sparked by the health crisis and the lockdown.
  • These have not been subject to parliamentary scrutiny or approval.
  • MPs have a duty to shape policy and guide the government in national interest.
  • Parliament is the forum where issues should be discussed and a plan of action agreed upon.
  • President may summon Parliament “to meet at such time and place as he thinks fit”.
  • The question boils down to how our parliamentarians view themselves.
  • In today’s extraordinary circumstances, Parliament should meet sooner, perhaps within a couple of weeks.

In Himalayan staredown, the dilemmas for Delhi

  • While there are around 400 transgressions/faceoffs each year on an average along the LAC, the recent spate of territorial transgressions by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is unprecedented in its scope and manner.
  • Is all well between the two nuclear-armed adversaries?
  • Narendra Modi government is left with two basic choices: accept territorial loss as a fait accompli or force or negotiate a reversal to status quo ante, unless of course the PLA unilaterally withdraws.
  • China under its President, Xi Jinping, unequivocally seeks to demonstrate that it is the preponderant power in the region.

Explaining the aggression

  • New Delhi’s terse statements about Aksai Chin following the Jammu and Kashmir reorganisation in August last year had not gone down well with Beijing.
  • New Delhi has been carrying out the construction of infrastructural projects along the LAC — a long overdue activity — which is something that seems to have made China uneasy.

  • Long-term geopolitical world view China has for the region.
  • Over the years, Beijing has perhaps realised that India is not keen on toeing the Chinese line in the region.
  • Moreover, because limited fights or smaller land grabs may not provoke an all-out confrontation or nuclear use, the side with conventional superiority and more border infrastructure would likely carry the day.
  • Minor military expeditions are cost effective, less escalatory, and the message gets conveyed.
  • Put differently, growing conventional imbalance and domestic political calculations could prompt New Delhi to overlook minor territorial losses on the LAC, the manner in which Pakistan refused to acknowledge the 2016 surgical strikes carried out by India.
  • But let us be clear: the more New Delhi overlooks them, the more Beijing would be tempted to repeat them.
  • These considerations lie at the heart of India’s China dilemma.
  • There are several places along the several thousand kilometre long LAC where the PLA is militarily weak, the Indian Army has the upper hand, and, therefore, a tit-for-tat military campaign could be undertaken by New Delhi.
  • While China enjoys continental superiority over India, maritime domain is China’s weak spot, in particular Beijing’s commercial and energy interest to which the maritime space is crucial.
  • Would Beijing want to seriously damage the close to $100 billion trade with India with its military adventurism on the LAC?
  • The time has come to checkmate Beijing’s military aggression even as we maintain a robust economic relationship with our eastern neighbour.
  • It is also a reminder for us to get more serious about finalising a border agreement with China: the bigger the power differential between India and China, the more concessions Beijing would demand from New Delhi to settle the dispute.
  • There is little doubt that China is our neighbour and that we have to live next to the larger and more powerful China.
  • However, India should not accept Beijing’s attempts at land grabs, or military intimidation.
  • India: low case fatality rate, and the high recovery rate.
  • Case fatality rate — the number of deaths among the cases detected — has been dropping over the months, and is at 79% (as of 5 p.m. on June 3).
  • Experts have advanced several hypotheses, but without a precise understanding, health-care managers are just hoping the good run would continue.
  • Health Ministry: recovery rate is over 48%.

NEWS

  • Cabinet approves historic amendment to the Essential Commodities Act.
    • This is a visionary step towards transformation of agriculture and raising farmers’ income.
    • The amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, commodities like cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes have been removed from list of essential commodities.
    • The decision will ensure better price for farmers’ produce and also remove fears of private investors of excessive regulatory interference.
    • The amendment will give  freedom to produce, hold, move, distribute and supply and will lead to harnessing of economies of scale and attract investment into agriculture sector.
    • Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020. The ordinance will create an ecosystem where the farmers and traders will enjoy freedom of choice of sale and purchase of agri-produce.
    • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020. The ordinance will empower farmers for engaging with processors, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers and  exporters on a level playing field without any fear of exploitation.

  • Severe cyclonic storm Nisarga
    • Severe cyclonic storm Nisarga made a landfall at Alibaug in Raigad district of Maharashtra at around 1.15 this afternoon causing heavy rainfall in the state.
    • Thousands of people living in the low lying areas were shifted to safer places in wake of the storm.
    • The Cyclone has crossed Raigad district, and moved towards north Maharashtra.
    • In Gujarat, no major impact of Cyclone Nisarg has been witnessed so far.
  • Visa and travel
    • The Government announced relaxation in visa and travel restrictions to permit certain categories of foreign nationals to come to India amid Coronavirus induced lockdown.
    • The foreign nationals include businessmen, professionals, researchers, engineers related to health care and technical specialists.
    • PoK News
    • India has expressed grave concern that Buddhist symbols are being destroyed and the religious and cultural rights and freedoms are being trample with impunity in the Indian territories under illegal occupation of Pakistan.
    • External Affairs Ministry Spokesman Anurag Srivastava said, India has conveyed strong concern at these reports.
    • Egregious activities of this nature which display contempt for the ancient civilizational and cultural heritage are highly condemnable.
    • India has sought immediate access for its experts to the area in order to restore and preserve this invaluable archaeological heritage.

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