Uncategorized

Today’s important articles/news in various newspapers (15th October)

Dear aspirants, following are the links of various articles taken from various newspapers. Click the link to read further. To get notification, follow the blog. Thank you

1. Resisting resistance: on antibiotic misuse

India’s Case

  • India needs to strengthen and implement regulations on antibiotic misuse.
  • Even as antibiotics lose their efficacy against deadly infectious diseases worldwide, it seems to be business as usual for governments, private corporations and individuals who have the power to stall a post-antibiotic apocalypse.
  • In a recent investigation, it was found that the world’s largest veterinary drug-maker, Zoetis, was selling antibiotics as growth promoters to poultry farmers in India, even though it had stopped the practice in the U.S.
  • India is yet to regulate antibiotic-use in poultry, while the U.S. banned the use of antibiotics as growth-promoters in early 2017.
Antibiotics in livestock
  • There has been massive use of antibiotics in animal husbandry. The most abundant use of antimicrobials worldwide is in livestock; they are typically distributed in animal feed or water for purposes such as disease prevention and growth promotion.
  • Debates have arisen surrounding the extent of the impact of these antibiotics, particularly antimicrobial growth promoters, on human antibiotic resistance.
  • Which antibiotic use generates the most risk to humans, policies and regulations have been placed to limit any harmful effects, such as the potential of bacteria developing antibiotic resistance within livestock, and that bacteria transferring resistance genes to human pathogens.
  • On January 1, 2017, the FDA enacted legislation to require that all human medically important feed-grade antibiotics (many prior over-the-counter-drugs) become classified as Veterinary Feed Directive drugs (VFD). This action requires that farmers establish and work with veterinaries to receive a written VFD order.
  • The effect of this act places a requirement on an established veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). Through this relationship, farmers will receive an increased education in the form of advice and guidance from their veterinarian.
  • Although some sources assert that there remains a lack of knowledge on which antibiotic use generates the most risk to humans, policies and regulations have been placed to limit any harmful effects, such as the potential of bacteria developing antibiotic resistance within livestock, and that bacteria transferring resistance genes to human pathogens.
  • On January 1, 2017, the FDA enacted legislation to require that all human medically important feed-grade antibiotics (many prior over-the-counter-drugs) become classified as Veterinary Feed Directive drugs (VFD). This action requires that farmers establish and work with veterinaries to receive a written VFD order.
  • The effect of this act places a requirement on an established veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR). Through this relationship, farmers will receive an increased education in the form of advice and guidance from their veterinarian.
  • So, technically, the drug-maker was doing nothing illegal and complying with local regulations in both countries.
  • But such reasoning is self-defeating, because antibiotic-resistance does not respect political boundaries.
  • Of course, the country that stands to lose the most from antibiotic resistance is India, given that its burden of infectious disease is among the world’s highest.
  • According to a 2016 PLOS Medicine paper, 416 of every 100,000 Indians die of infectious diseases each year. This is more than twice the U.S.’s crude infectious-disease mortality-rate in the 1940s, when antibiotics were first used there. If these miracle drugs stop working, no one will be hit harder than India.
  • This is why the country’s progress towards a tighter regulatory regime must pick up pace.
  • Consider the three major sources of resistance: overuse of antibiotics by human beings; overuse in the veterinary sector; and environmental antibiotic contamination due to pharmaceutical and hospital discharge.
  • To tackle the first source, India classified important antibiotics under Schedule H1 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945, so that they couldn’t be sold without prescriptions.
  • Still, Schedule H1 drugs are freely available in pharmacies, with state drug-controllers unable to enforce the law widely. As far as veterinary use goes, India’s 2017 National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance did talk about restricting antibiotic use as growth promoters. Sadly, no progress has been made on this front yet, allowing companies to sell last-resort drugs to farmers over the counter.
  • The 2017 document also spoke about regulating antibiotics levels in discharge from pharmaceutical firms.
  • For instance, Hyderabad’s pharmaceutical industry has been pumping massive amounts of antibiotics into local lakes, rivers and sewers.
  • This has led to an explosion in resistance genes in these waterbodies. Still, India is yet to introduce standards for antibiotics in waste water, which means antibiotic discharge in sewage is not even being monitored regularly.
  • As the country takes its time to formulate regulations, the toll from antibiotic-misuse is growing at an alarming rate.
  • According to a 2013 estimate, around 58,000 newborns die in India each year due to sepsis from resistant bacteria. When these numbers mount, India will have no one to blame but itself.

2. Helping the invisible hands of agriculture

  • In feminist economics, the feminization of agriculture refers to the measurable increase of women’s participation in the agricultural sector, particularly in the developing world.
  • The phenomenon started during the 1960s with increasing shares over time. In the 1990s, during liberalization, the phenomenon became more pronounced and negative effects appeared in the rural female population.
  • Afterwards, agricultural markets became gendered institutions, affecting men and women differently. In 2009 World Bank, FAO & IFAD found that over 80 per cent of rural smallholder farmers worldwide were women, this was caused by men migrating to find work in other sectors.
  • Out of all the women in the labor sector, the UN found 45-80% of them to be working in agriculture.
  • The term has also been applied to other phenomena, including increasing shares of women in the agricultural workforce, male outmigration from rural areas, decreasing women’s opportunities in agricultural productivity, and lower rural pay due to skill exclusions.
  • Activists have argued that the trend is dangerous and leads to food insecurity.
  • Women’s role in the agricultural sector increased during the 1960s and has continued to grow.
  • Women have been increasingly counted as heads of household, running their own farms without male assistance. These households are often poorer than their male counterparts.
  • Their plot sizes are usually smaller and have less access to other productive resources, like education, tools, and seeds, something termed “investment poverty”.
  • Women agricultural workers are also less likely to have social connections, like credit and market networks.
  • In the rural environments there are two types of crop orientations, subsistence and export. Female-headed households are more likely to be subsistence orientated, which are often poorer.
  • Export farmers are more likely to have substantial land endowments and to be male-headed.
  • After structural adjustments export farmers became more vulnerable to price shocks, and women within this category more so. Female-headed households also became more likely to change from high value export crops to subsistence.
  • October 15 is observed, respectively, as International Day of Rural Women by the United Nations, and National Women’s Farmer’s Day (Rashtriya Mahila Kisan Diwas) in India.
  • In 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare decided to take the lead in celebrating the event, duly recognising the multidimensional role of women at every stage in agriculture — from sowing to planting, drainage, irrigation, fertilizer, plant protection, harvesting, weeding, and storage.
  • This year, the Ministry has proposed deliberations to discuss the challenges that women farmers face in crop cultivation, animal husbandry, dairying and fisheries. The aim is to work towards an action plan using better access to credit, skill development and entrepreneurial opportunities.
  • Yet, paying lip service to them is not going to alleviate their drudgery and hardships in the fields.
  • According to Oxfam India, women are responsible for about 60-80% of food and 90% of dairy production, respectively. The work by women farmers, in crop cultivation, livestock management or at home, often goes unnoticed.
  • Attempts by the government to impart them training in poultry, apiculture and rural handicrafts is trivial given their large numbers.
  • In order to sustain women’s interest in farming and also their uplift, there must be a vision backed by an appropriate policy and doable action plans.
  • The Agriculture Census (2010-11) shows that out of an estimated 118.7 million cultivators, 30.3% were females.
  • Similarly, out of an estimated 144.3 million agricultural labourers, 42.6% were females.
  • In terms of ownership of operational holdings, the latest Agriculture Census (2015-16) is startling.
  • Out of a total 146 million operational holdings, the percentage share of female operational holders is 13.87% (20.25 million), a nearly one percentage increase over five years.
  • While the “feminisation of agriculture” is taking place at a fast pace, the government has yet to gear up to address the challenges that women farmers and labourers face.

Issue of land ownership

  • The biggest challenge is the powerlessness of women in terms of claiming ownership of the land they have been cultivating.
  • In Census 2015, almost 86% of women farmers are devoid of this property right in land perhaps on account of the patriarchal set up in our society.
  • Notably, a lack of ownership of land does not allow women farmers to approach banks for institutional loans as banks usually consider land as collateral.
  • Research worldwide shows that women with access to secure land, formal credit and access to market have greater propensity in making investments in improving harvest, increasing productivity, and improving household food security and nutrition.
  • Provision of credit without collateral under the micro-finance initiative of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development should be encouraged.
  • Better access to credit, technology, and provision of entrepreneurship abilities will further boost women’s confidence and help them gain recognition as farmers.
  • As of now, women farmers have hardly any representation in society and are nowhere discernible in farmers’ organisations or in occasional protests.
  • They are the invisible workers without which the agricultural economy is hard to grow.

Small holdings: Average size of farms

  • Second, land holdings have doubled over the years with the result that the average size of farms has shrunk.
  • Therefore, a majority of farmers fall under the small and marginal category, having less than 2 ha of land — a category that, undisputedly, includes women farmers.
  • A declining size of land holdings may act as a deterrent due to lower net returns earned and technology adoption.
  • The possibility of collective farming can be encouraged to make women self-reliant.
  • Training and skills imparted to women as has been done by some self-help groups and cooperative-based dairy activities (Saras in Rajasthan and Amul in Gujarat).
  • These can be explored further through farmer producer organisations.
  • Moreover, government flagship schemes such as the National Food Security Mission, Sub-mission on Seed and Planting Material and the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana must include women-centric strategies and dedicated expenditure.
Background on RKVY
  • Concerned by the slow growth in the Agriculture and allied sectors, the National Development Council (NDC), in its meeting held on 29th May, 2007 resolved that a special Additional Central Assistance Scheme (RKVY) be launched.
  • The NDC resolved that agricultural development strategies must be reoriented to meet the needs of farmers and called upon the Central and State governments to evolve a strategy to rejuvenate agriculture. The NDC reaffirmed its commitment to achieve 4 per cent annual growth in the agricultural sector during the 11th plan.
  • The Department of Agriculture, in compliance of the above resolution and in consultation with the Planning Commission, has prepared the guidelines for the RKVY scheme, to be known as National Agriculture Development Programme (RKVY).

Objectives of the programme:

  • To incentivize the states that increase their investment in Agriculture and allied sectors
  • To provide flexibility and autonomy to the States in planning and executing programmes for agriculture
  • To ensure the preparation of Agriculture Plans for the districts and states
  • To achieve the goal of reducing the yield gaps in important crops
  • To maximize returns to the farmers
  • To address the agriculture and allied sectors in an integrated manner

Basic features of RKVY

  • It is a State Plan scheme
  • The eligibility of a state for the RKVY is contingent upon the state maintaining or increasing the State Plan expenditure for Agricultural and Allied sectors
  • The base line expenditure is determined based on the average expenditure incurred by the State Government during the three years prior to the previous year.
  • The preparation of the district and State Agriculture Plans is mandatory
  • The scheme encourages convergence with other programmes such as NREGS.
  • The pattern of funding is 100% Central Government Grant.
  • If the state lowers its investment in the subsequent years, and goes out of the RKVY basket, then the balance resources for completing the projects already commenced would have to be committed by the states.
  • It is an incentive scheme, hence allocations are not automatic
  • It will integrate agriculture and allied sectors comprehensively
  • It will give high levels of flexibility to the states.
  • Projects with definite time-lines are highly encouraged

Gender-friendly machinery

  • Third, female cultivators and labourers generally perform labour-intensive tasks (hoeing, grass cutting, weeding, picking, cotton stick collection, looking after livestock).
  • In addition to working on the farm, they have household and familial responsibilities.
  • Despite more work (paid and unpaid) for longer hours when compared to male farmers, women farmers can neither make any claim on output nor ask for a higher wage rate.
  • An increased work burden with lower compensation is a key factor responsible for their marginalisation. It is important to have gender-friendly tools and machinery for various farm operations.
  • Most farm machinery is difficult for women to operate. Manufacturers should be incentivised to come up with better solutions. Farm machinery banks and custom hiring centres promoted by many State governments can be roped in to provide subsidised rental services to women farmers.
  • Last, when compared to men, women generally have less access to resources and modern inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) to make farming more productive.
  • The Food and Agriculture Organisation says that equalising access to productive resources for female and male farmers could increase agricultural output in developing countries by as much as 2.5% to 4%.
  • Krishi Vigyan Kendras in every district can be assigned an additional task to educate and train women farmers about innovative technology along with extension services.
Background: Krishi Vigyan Kendras
  • ICAR mooted the idea of establishing Krishi Vigyan Kendras (Agricultural Science Centres) as innovative institutions for imparting vocational training to the practicing farmers, school dropouts and field level extension functionaries.
  • The ICAR Standing Committee on Agricultural Education, in its meeting held in August, 1973, observed that since the establishment of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) was of national importance which would help in accelerating the agricultural production as also in improving the socio-economic conditions of the farming community, the assistance of all related institutions should be taken in implementing this scheme.
  • The ICAR, therefore, constituted a committee in 1973 headed by Dr. Mohan Singh Mehta of Seva Mandir, Udaipur (Rajasthan), for working out a detailed plan for implementing this scheme. The Committee submitted its report in 1974.
  • The first KVK, on a pilot basis, was established in 1974 at Puducherry (Pondicherry) under the administrative control of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore.
  • At present there are 669 KVKs, out of which 458 are under State Agricultural Universities (SAU) and Central Agricultural University (CAU), 55 under ICAR Institutes, 100 under NGOs, 35 under State Governments, and the remaining 21 under other educational institutions.

Mandate of KVK

  • The mandate of KVK is Technology Assessment and Demonstration for its Application and Capacity Development. To implement the mandate effectively, the following activities are envisaged for each KVK.
  • On-farm testing to assess the location specificity of agricultural technologies under various farming systems.
  • Frontline demonstrations to establish production potential of technologies on the farmers’ fields
  • Capacity development of farmers and extension personnel to update their knowledge and skills on modern agricultural technologies
  • To work as Knowledge and Resource Centre of agricultural technologies for supporting initiatives of public, private and voluntary sectors in improving the agricultural economy of the district.
  • Provide farm advisories using ICT and other media means on varied subjects of interest to farmers.
  • In addition, KVK would produce quality technological products (seed, planting material, bio-agents, livestock) and make it available to farmers, organize frontline extension activities, identify and document selected farm innovations and converge with ongoing schemes and programmes within the mandate of KVK.
  • As more women are getting into farming, the foremost task for their sustenance is to assign property rights in land.
  • Once women farmers are listed as primary earners and owners of land assets, acceptance will ensue and their activities will expand to acquiring loans, deciding the crops to be grown using appropriate technology and machines, and disposing of produce to village traders or in wholesale markets, thus elevating their place as real and visible farmers.

3. Bonding with Africa, in partnership

  • At the FOCAC, a triennial assemblage of African and Chinese leaders, the 50-plus African leaders and their Chinese hosts charted big plans to build roads, power plants, and railways and much more in Africa.
  • Xi’s mega announcement should trigger celebrations not only in Africa, but also among heads of the emerging economies, especially those of other nations in the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (BRICS) grouping.
  • That is, if they reject the media-hyped argument that China, eyeing Africa’s natural resources, is seeking to ensnare the continent into another round of political serfdom through carefully laden “debt traps”.
  • In this narrative, the Chinese Goliath, inching towards global domination, must be stopped in its tracks, before it is too late.

India and China:A comparison

  • Like China, India also hosts its own triennial conclave with African leaders, which was last held in 2015. Though headline numbers show that in dollar throughput, it is distant from China, India’s contribution to Africa’s development is nonetheless significant.
  • If China and India are serious about the rise of Africa, the key is to co-link their development strategies on a continental scale.
  • The good news is that both countries seem to have done some spadework, in finding an imaginative coordinating mechanism that could benefit them, as well as Africa.
  • Ahead of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in July, when Mr. Xi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Rwanda almost at the same time, Chinese Foreign Ministry put out the message that New Delhi and Beijing should vigorously pursue the ‘China-India Plus One’ or ‘China-India Plus X’ model in engaging with Africa.
  • The mandarins in Beijing were referring to the mechanism yielded by the Wuhan informal summit in April between Mr. Xi and Mr. Modi, where it was decided that China and India would coordinate their approaches for engaging a third country or set of countries in South Asia and beyond. The Chinese also described Beijing and New Delhi as “like-minded partners” in Africa.

Emerging role of Russia in Africa

  • Meanwhile Russia has already launched an initiative to bond with Africa. South Africa, the host of the recent BRICS summit and co-chair of FOCAC in Beijing, will always remain the natural gateway for a vibrant emerging economy engagement with Africa.
  • But someone, preferably a post-Wuhan India, must pick up the threads and weave a potent emerging economy narrative for bonding with Africa, triggering a structural shift of global significance.

4. 2013 Justice Verma panel report wanted changes to sexual harassment law

  1. The WCD minister has recently announced its plan to set up a panel of judges to look into the legal and institutional framework to curb sexual harassment at workplaces following the #MeToo campaign on social media.
  2. However, as early as 2013, the Justice J.S. Verma Committee, in its report on gender laws which would have proven efficient to tackle issue.

Justice Verma Committee Recommendations

  1. The panel was formed in the aftermath Nirbhaya gangrape Case in 2012 and the ensuing nationwide protests, and submitted its report on January 23, 2013.
  2. At that time of the submission of the report, the SHWWA bill had already been pending in Upper house of Parliament.
  3. The Committee termed the Bill “unsatisfactory” and said it did not reflect the spirit of the Vishakha guidelines — framed by the Supreme Court in 1997 to curb sexual harassment at the workplace.
  4. The report noted that an ICC under the SHWWA would be “counter-productive” as dealing with such complaints in-house could discourage women from filing complaints.
  5. Instead, the committee proposed forming an employment tribunal to receive and adjudicate all complaints.
  6. To ensure speedy disposal of complaints, the Committee proposed that the tribunal should not function as a civil court but may choose its own procedure to deal with each complaint.
  7. The panel also said that the time-limit of three months to file a complaint should be done away with and a complainant should not be transferred without her consent.

Onus on employer

  1. The Committee said any unwelcome behaviour should be seen from the subjective perception of the complainant, thus broadening the scope of the definition of sexual harassment.
  2. The Verma panel said an employer could be held liable:
  • if he or she facilitated sexual harassment,
  • permitted an environment where sexual misconduct becomes widespread and systemic,
  • where the employer fails to disclose the company’s policy on sexual harassment and ways in which workers can file a complaint
  • if employer fails to forward a complaint to the tribunal.
  1. The company would also be liable to pay compensation to the complainant.

Encouraging Women to file complaints

  1. The panel also made several suggestions to encourage women to come forward and file complaints.
  2. For instance, it opposed penalizing women for false complaints and called it an abusive provision intended to nullify the objective of the law.

Thank you aspirants. To help us, Like and share us on your social media page and follow us!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s