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      Question and Answer

       Q. 210. What are the disadvantages of Farm loan waiver in context of Indian agriculture? What can be done to alleviate the pangs of farmers?
      The government says it wants to double farm income by 2022 through the transformation of Indian agriculture. However, the political discourse continues to focus perversely on farm loan waivers.

      Even though agriculture contributes about 15% to India’s gross domestic product, a majority of the population directly or indirectly depends on the sector for livelihood.

      Farm loan waiver
      It might make political sense in the short run—farmers are a sizeable and powerful vote base—but, as experience shows, it is unlikely to help the agriculture sector in the long run. In fact, loan waivers can lead to several adverse consequences.
      • For example, Arundhati Bhattacharya, the head of the country’s largest lender, the State Bank of India (SBI), was bang on when she recently said that loan waivers affect credit discipline.
      • Agriculture is a bit of an issue. That is because of moral hazard that was created in 2008 when there was a write-off of large agriculture loans.
      • Former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan had also flagged the issue, as repeated loan waivers affect credit pricing and disrupt the credit market.
      1. Evidence from the 2008 farm loan waiver—implemented by the United Progressive Alliance government—shows that it can have unintended consequences. As World Bank have shown in its study that, bank lending moved away from districts with greater exposure to the loan waiver. Such outcomes can affect agricultural output in the medium to long run as banks may get more selective in extending credit.
      2. A study conducted by Harvard Business School showed that agricultural credit extended by government-owned banks goes up in an election year, while defaults also increase during election time. This again highlights that political intervention distorts the credit market. In fact, in the case of repeated waivers, it makes sense for borrowers to default strategically in anticipation of a waiver. But this can become a self-fulfilling cycle with long-term consequences—defaults would warrant loan waivers, and waivers will lead to more defaults.
      3. It was also argued that farmers were not able to invest because of debt overhang. However, the study did not find any improvement in investment and noted that there is no evidence of greater investment, consumption or positive labour market outcomes in areas where debt relief led to a significant reduction of household debt. It is not surprising that, in the case of India, government efforts to stimulate the real economy through debt relief were largely in vain given that the bailout also led lenders to reallocate credit away from districts with high program exposure.
      Way Forward
      To be sure, the agriculture sector needs government support but loan waivers are not the solution. On the contrary, expenditure on loan waivers will eventually leave less fiscal space for public expenditure in agriculture. India needs massive investment in areas such as irrigation, water conservation, better storage facilities, market connectivity and agricultural research. The problems in Indian agriculture are structural. They need long-term solutions. Loan waivers will only end up complicating the problem.
       Q. 209. Moving towards a larger formal economy
      Opps! Answer can be viewed on 31/03/2107.
       Q. 208. Why the Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill 2016 must find champions in the Centre and states?
      Ans. On March 10, Shashi Tharoor, MP, introduced the Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill 2016 (ADE Bill) in the Lok Sabha.
      As a Private Member’s Bill, however, this will not be enacted unless the government takes ownership of this Bill.
      There are at least three reasons why it should do so:
      • The Bill’s symmetric protection,
      • its experiential understanding of discrimination as a lived reality, and
      • its proportionate regulation of the private sector.
      Bill’s symmetry
      • That discrimination is rife in India is not in doubt.
      • Women, Dalits, religious and sexual minorities, people from the North East, hijras, disabled persons and the elderly are especially at the receiving end. Almost everyone in our country has faced, or is likely to face, some form of discrimination.
      • On the other hand, we have all also been perpetrators, sometimes consciously, but often unconsciously- by benefitting from unearned privileges that tend to accompany our dominant group status, sincerely believing in our merit, and in our innocence.
      • Recognising this universality in the experience and perpetration of discrimination, the ADE Bill seeks to symmetrically protect majorities as well as minorities (with exceptions for affirmative action and aggravated discrimination), and does so comprehensively, along multiple grounds of discrimination.
      • It is true that members of minority groups primarily suffer from discrimination. But, given our multiple identities, no one person is a member of the dominant group in all respects. Also, patriarchy will not end unless women as well as men are liberated from gender roles.
      • Furthermore, asymmetric laws are hard to pass and harder to enforce. Communal Violence Bill: it only protected minority groups; the perpetrators were assumed to belong to majority groups.
      • Under the symmetric ADE Bill, anyone could potentially be a victim, and anyone, whether from a majority or minority group, could be a discriminator. Whatever may be the truth of that allegation, here is one Bill that is genuinely universalist in its aspiration.
      Indian context
      • ADE Bill understands discrimination as it is experienced by its victims, and is sensitive both to the evolving nature of this social phenomenon and its particular character in the Indian context. Of course, the Bill prohibits overt prejudice or stereotyping as direct discrimination. But it also recognises that sometimes, one can discriminate indirectly by doing something that disproportionately impacts a group (say, a minimum height requirement that is unnecessary for satisfactorily performing a given job, and disproportionately excludes women since they tend to be shorter than men).
      • It treats harassment, bullying, segregation, boycott, violence and victimisation as the various guises that discrimination can take. By focussing on the experience of the victim, rather than the intention of the discriminator, the Bill understands that power is self-aggrandising and dynamic, with the ability to adopt ever subtler forms, and even deny its own existence in order to perpetuate itself.
      Prohibiting discrimination in public as well as private sectors
      • In prohibiting discrimination in public as well as private sectors (especially employers, landlords, retailers and service-providers), the ADE Bill recognises that decades of affirmative action in the public sector, while necessary, is insufficient to tackle discrimination.
      • It also imposes diversification duties, while ensuring that private businesses can discharge their social obligations with minimal regulatory burdens. Marking a break from past laws that criminalised discrimination, the focus of the ADE Bill is to create a civil liability to protect and compensate the victim, rather than to punish the discriminator.
      • Criminalisation — which requires a very high burden of proof — probably contributed to the under-enforcement of existing laws. The “lighter touch” approach of the ADE Bill is complemented by a dedicated, efficient and independent enforcement mechanism. It therefore strikes a proportionate balance between competing demands.
      As it seeks to realise B.R. Ambedkar’s vision of an India free from discrimination, the ADE Bill also honours a less-celebrated (and increasingly rare) dimension of his democratic politics: A principled pragmatism that preferred an imperfect solution accepted (albeit grudgingly) by many, to a perfect one championed by the few.
       Q. 207. What is Biotech-KISAN?
      Ans. Biotech-KISAN is a new programme that empowers farmers, especially women farmers. Cash crops and horticulture can be a major source of income but the vagaries of climate, disease and market often prevent this. Farmers are eager to use scientific tools that can mitigate these factors.
      The Scheme is for farmers, developed by and with farmers, it empowers women, impacts locally, connects globally, is Pan-India, has a hub-and spoke model and stimulates entrepreneurship and innovation in farmers.

      Biotech-KISAN is:
      • For Farmers: The Biotech-KISAN is a Farmer centric scheme launched by of the Department of Biotechnology, where scientists will work in sync with farmers to understand problems and find solutions.
      • By Farmers: Developed in consultation with the farmers.  Soil, Water, Seed and Market are some key points that concern small and marginal farmers. Biotech-KISAN aims to link farmers, scientists and science institutions across the country in a network that identifies and helps solve their problems in a cooperative manner.
      • Empower women. The woman farmer is often neglected. It is important to empower the women farmer, help her meet her concerns for better seed, storage of seed and protection of the crops from disease and pest. The women farmer is also the prime caretaker of livestock and she is eager to combine traditional wisdom in handling the livestock and with current best practices, especially in the context of emerging livestock disease. The scheme includes the Mahila Biotech- KISAN fellowships, for training and education in farm practices, for women farmers.  The Scheme also aims to support the women farmers/ entrepreneur in their small enterprises, making her a grass root innovator.
      • Connects Globally. Biotech-KISAN will connect farmers to best global practices; training workshops will be held in India and other countries. Farmers and Scientists will partner across the globe.
      • Impacts Locally. The scheme is targeted towards the least educated marginalised farmer; Scientists will spend time on farms and link communication tools to soil, water seed and market. The aim is to understand individual problems of the smallholding farmers and provide ready solutions.
      • Across India. Biotech KISAN will connect farmers with science in the 15 agro-climatic zones of the country in a manner, which constantly links problems with available solutions.
      • Hubs and Spoke. In each of these 15 regions, a Farmer organisation will be the hub connected to different science labs, Krishi Vigyan Kendra and State Agriculture Universities co-located in the region. The hub will reach out to the farmers in the region and connect them to scientists and institutions.
      • Farmers as Innovators. The hub will have tinkering lab, communication cell and will run year-long training, awareness, workshops and which will act as education demonstration units to encourage grass root innovation in the young as well as women farmers.
      • Communicating Best Practises There will be a communication set-up to make radio and TV programmes for local stations, as well as daily connectivity through social media.
       Q. 206. To deal with China, India needs to return to strategic fundamentals
      India’s ties with China are seemingly becoming more complicated by the day. Despite the dialogue held recently at the strategic level, the continuing stalemate over both the proposal at the UN to designate JeM Chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist and India’s entry into the NSG are visibly deepening suspicions that may snowball into other areas where the two countries entertain misgivings about each other.

      Other critical issues are:
      • China’s Belt and Road Initiative,
      • China-Pakistan Economic Corridor CPEC, and
      • Possible changes in the BRICS format could cause more diplomatic frictions.
      Way forward
      • Clearly, the mechanisms in existence for the last two and half decades to deal with bilateral issues have outlived their usefulness.
      • The iterative approach and improved economic ties are not helping to build trust.
      • Instead, the step-by-step dispute-handling model generates more ‘friction-points’ fuelling domestic outrage and suspicion.
      • Consequently, the first-ever “strategic dialogue” ended nettling each other.
      Countering Indian tactical moves
      • By raising legally tenable points of seeking “solid-evidence” to prove Azhar’s direct links with al Qaeda, which are required to proscribe him under the UN 1267 regime. The Foreign Secretary’s fairly ambiguous answer, that “the burden of proof is not on India”, explained the elusive nature of the Azhar issue that the Chinese had carefully worked on.
      • Terming the NSG case as a “multilateral” issue and asserting that “Beijing alone” isn’t blocking India’s bid are again a typical Chinese way of fudging the issue.
      Both New Delhi and Beijing are deeply aware about the need to reset the terms of engagement. There is a need to move away from the current “disjointed approach” to pursuing a deeper strategic model of engagement in order to start the process of building trust. But the attempts of both countries to do so has faltered over differing perceptions and political signals on what ‘strategic dialogue’ actually implies.

      • Apparently, Indians comprehend the term “strategic” as enlarging the scope of consultation on the state of the global affairs, Afghanistan being the recent case.
      • The Chinese, on their part, take a philosophical approach to the word ‘strategic’; that is, to create conditions for sprouting shared values and trust; to achieve something of value rather than confining it to matters of contemporary convenience or as a means to find instant solutions to problems.
      • Strategic trust for them is relationship-building. Beijing was seen conveying emphatically: do not always use strategic forums for achieving tactical goals, because their great master Sun Tzu suggested “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”.
      Top-down waterfall approach
      The fact that India and China never tried to evolve a framework to guide their relationship ever since the 1954 Treaty of Panchsheel became redundant after 1962 remains a deficiency. A good example to emulate is the top-down waterfall approach, espoused by Russia and China to lower tensions between them which led to the desired windfall results in the last two decades. In fact, the old Indo-Soviet model was not a bad sustainable strategic tie, though the context in which it was framed was different.

      The problem is that India lacks Sinologists to read the Chinese mind. It hasn’t invested enough in developing a hard understanding of Chinese historical, political and economic system, as compared to the kind of efforts made to learn about the Western world. This leads us to understand China the way we want to understand it. We always want our signals to be perceived by the Chinese in the manner in which we want them to be perceived. In contrast, the Chinese claim their 2,000-year long experience of understanding the Indian mind, style of thinking and their moves. As a result, signals sent by the Chinese do not often come out clearly to us.
      Faulty Indian approach
      • For now, India’s mode of diplomacy requires a change. It should avoid giving ambiguous and conflicting signals to China which result in causing collateral damage to relations. For example, the play of shadowy games, especially the use of superfluous Cold-War era cards of Tibet and Taiwan, do not squarely match with China’s ability to pin down India either directly or indirectly.
      • A serious cost-benefit analysis is needed of a policy that is seemingly easy to exercise but deleterious and self-defeating in reality. For, every empty posturing by India is being countered by China by bleeding India through Pakistani terrorists.
      • In contrast, India’s reciprocal ability to inflict damage even in nearby Tibet, leave aside several thousand miles away in East Asia, remains untested.
      • The ground reality is that the wide power asymmetry, especially the widening imbalance in trade totalling USD 50 billion is creating an asymmetrical interdependence which is fraught with high risk.
      • Our over enthusiasm to embrace the US and a propensity to see everything through an anti-China lens may be compelling Beijing to work against India in the regional and global arena.
      • India need not see China as an object of disdain in perpetuity – a narrative often sold by the West.
      India and China have their own historical points of connections. They needn’t look for new symbolisms. In fact, minus the superficial rift, the ground is extremely fertile for a strong understanding to grow.

      Embracing the reality
      Instead, India should seek to reconcile with China, though, of course, without compromising on its core interests. It is time to engage in a dialogue process not just for enhancing strategic trust but also to think more cunningly about how to benefit from China’s riches, by gaining access to Chinese credit and technology, and securing markets for Indian products. Of course, the Chinese also need to reformulate their thinking on the nature of India’s rise in the system.
      Realistically speaking, we should not find too ominous China’s rise and its assertion. Its rise is no different from the rise of other major powers like the US, USSR and even Great Britain in the past. It is possible that future rising powers, including India, might have to assert in a similar manner for achieving their strategic objectives. But for India to emerge as a global power of any reckoning, it has to start realizing that a narrow tactical pursuit devoid of strategic thinking will lead to nowhere.
      We need to reframe our terms of relationship with China; rethink our own posture; rescue ourselves from experiencing a delusion of grandeur and instead persevere to emerge as a confident and aspiring regional power.
       Q. 205. Harappa to Harsud: water management in India
      • Water wars in urban India is not new, they go back to Harappa.
      • Harsud was a town and municipality in Khandwa in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Although the town was more than 700 years old, it submerged under the waters of the Indira Sagar dam in July 2004. The town was relocated to Chhanera (New Harsud) after the old town was submerged in the waters of Indira Sagar Dam.
      Indus people
      • According to historian DD Kosambi, the Indus people managed water by damming the small branches of rivers.
      • Aryan people shattered this dam system which ruined the agriculture and eventually destroyed the Indus valley Civilization.
      • The Aryans replaced Indus agriculture with pastoral economy that involved mass killing of animals.
      • Things changed course with the spread of the philosophy of Ahimsa.
      • Buddha said, agriculture can support more number of people than pastoral economy and for that, stop mass killings.
      It's said that the king of Taxila asked Alexander: “To what purpose should we make war upon one another if the design of your coming into these parts be not to rob us of our water?”
      Vedic period
      • Vedic sacrifices went out of fashion.
      • Agriculture became the most important source of revenue.
      • The king requires revenue, and cultivating land to supply for needs of subject is king’s duty. King should build and look after the irrigation systems. This eventually resulted in demand for water.
      • In Arthashastra Kautilya declared: King should build and look after irrigation system.
      • Canals, dykes, roads and tanks were made from time to time. The Bhopal lake, created in the 11th century, was one of the largest artificial lakes of the time, spanning 65,000 hectares.
      • Iltutmish made several tanks in Delhi. The famous Hauz Khas tank was built by him.
      • The Khaljis are also known for building tanks.
      • Firuz Tughlaq was one of the greatest canal builders. He also introduced the water usage charge.
      • In the Mughal period, Akbar directed his governors to be energetic in the making of reservoirs, watercourses and wells.
      • In his account of a visit to Olala near Mangalore, Italian traveller Pietro Della Valle mentions: The state generously promotes and encourages water management at the village level.
      • For the building and maintenance of tanks, Emperor Krishna Dev Raya provided monetary Inam, called Dasabandam. Inam Kudimaramat was provided to maintain rivers, springs and channels.
      • Strong social and moral code of conduct was invoked to ensure maintenance of public works religiously.
      • Violation of the obligation of maintaining these structures would amount to killing of their fathers and cows.
      • Recurrent famines forced the British to appoint the first irrigation commission in 1901. British paid little attention to people's participation in water management. Instead they opted for big dams.
      • Arthur Thomas Cotton and John Pennycuick constructed irrigation canals and Mullaperiyar Dam respectively.
      After Independence
      • Big dam building was escalated after Independence.
      • Prime Minister Nehru declared these big multipurpose dams as “The temple of a free India”. We need dams to make our country self-reliant in food production and electricity.
      • But unlike in Indus valley, dams in their new avatar are different. Besides irrigation and flood control, they are meant to produce electricity as well. 
      • However, it comes at the cost of submerging lands and displacing a large number of people.
      Scarce resource
      • Lack of public participation, along with gradual withdrawal of the State, caused irreparable damage to local waterbodies, such as tanks and ponds.
      • Recurrent droughts in rural areas: It's estimated that 330 million people are affected by the recent droughts alone.
      • State manages the water and it has its own priorities, journalist P Sainath noted.
      • In drought-prone Marathwada, people have to pay between 45 paise to Rs1 for one litre of water.
      • Whereas beer manufacturing companies get three million litres of water per day at 4 paise per litre.
      Water scarcity is one of the main reasons for the mass migration of people from rural areas. These are the people who now live in irregular colonies of the cities. The saddest part is, water, which was once the free gift of nature is now forcing people to shift priorities in their lives.
       Q. 204. How linking agriculture with forestry can offer food security?
      Ans. The latest edition of the State of the World’s Forests (SOFO) report explores the relationship between agriculture and forestry for a food-secure future.
      • As part of commitment to the SDGs, countries are committed to end hunger by 2030 by ensuring sustainable food production.
      • Making agriculture sustainable is essential for future food production in the face of climate change.
      Food production and the role of forests
      While agriculture can feed the world’s population, it is responsible for deforestation globally.
      • The report says that forests support sustainable agriculture by stabilising soils and climate, regulating water flow, providing shade and shelter and providing a habitat for pollinators and natural predators of agricultural pests. When integrated judiciously into agricultural landscapes, trees can increase agricultural productivity.
      • Increasing crop productivity, if paired with direct forest protection measures, can increase both agricultural production and forest cover. But without direct forest protection, increasing crop productivity can put forests at greater risk by making it more profitable to clear land for crops.
      Ensuring food security
      Forests ensure the food security of millions of people worldwide, as they are important sources of food, energy and income.
      • The SOFO report shows that some countries have successfully increased agricultural productivity while also halting and reversing deforestation.
      • Deforestation was most prevalent in the temperate climatic domain until the late nineteenth century and is now greatest in the tropical climatic domain.
      • Temperate countries have been decimating their forests for centuries, but these days most of their primary forests are protected. The tropics, on the other hand, are losing an area of forest the size of Portugal every year.
      • In Brazil, since 2004, the country has reduced deforestation in the Amazon by 80 per cent while increasing soy production by 65 per cent and beef production by 21 per cent.
      • Commercial agriculture accounts for about 40 per cent of deforestation in the tropics and sub-tropics, local subsistence agriculture for 33 per cent, infrastructure for 10 per cent, urban expansion for 10 percent and mining for 7 per cent, the SOFO report adds.
      Combating climate change
      • As forests are “multifunctional”, they can combat climate change. The report says that reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks will be essential to fight climate change.
      • Deforestation contributes more than 10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions annually, but it only expands the world’s agricultural land by around one-tenth of a per cent a year. This means that protecting and restoring forests is critical for stopping climate change, but the big gains in improving food security will happen elsewhere.
      • SDGS and targets that refer explicitly to agriculture and forests
      1. SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
      2. SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
      3. SDG 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.
      Forests produce timber and non-timber products, conserve soil, recharge groundwater, purify air, provide habitat for biodiversity and benefit local communities.

      Improving food security
      The report presents case studies from seven countries—Chile, Costa Rica, The Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Tunisia and Viet Nam—that show how food security was ensured through an increase or maintenance of forest cover.
      • Six of these countries achieved a positive change in the period (1990-2015) in two food-security indicators—the prevalence of undernourishment and the number of undernourished people—as well as increase in the forest area.
      • Viet Nam’s success lies in the shift from state forestry to multi-stakeholder forestry involving the active participation of local communities. This includes a forest land allocation programme and forest protection contracts entered into with local households.
      • The system of Payments for Environmental Services, which provides farmers with incentives to plant trees and supports forest conservation, has been a positive trend. Forest cover has increased to nearly 54 per cent in 2015.
      • Net forest loss due to conversion has been halted. Previously, forests were regarded as “land banks” that could be converted as necessary to meet agricultural needs.
      • Soil erosion, a huge problem in Africa, is mainly caused by the exposure of the bare soil surface by inappropriate management practices such as cultivation, deforestation, overgrazing and drought. The Status of the World’s Soil Resources report has established that 40 per cent of Africa’s soils are severely degraded.
      In Tunisia, agricultural production has increased through intensification that makes better use of existing agricultural land through irrigation, fertilisation, mechanisation, improved seeds and better farming practices.
       Q. 203. The Human Genome Project (HGP)
      Ans. Human Genome Project, an international collaboration that successfully determined, stored, and rendered publicly available the sequences of almost all the genetic content of the chromosomes of the human organism, otherwise known as the human genome.
      The Human Genome Project (HGP), which operated from 1990 to 2003, provided researchers with basic information about the sequences of the three billion chemical base pairs that make up human genomic DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). The Human Genome Project was further intended to improve the technologies needed to interpret and analyse genomic sequences, to identify all the genes encoded in human DNA, and to address the ethical, legal, and social implications that might arise from defining the entire human genomic sequence.

      How the Project began?
      The Human Genome Project was initiated in 1990 under the leadership of American geneticist Francis Collins, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The effort was soon joined by scientists from around the world.

      Science Behind the Human Genome Project
      Classical genetics is considered to have begun in the mid-1800s with the work of Gregor Mendel, who defined the basic laws of genetics.
      Mendel succeeded in explaining that, for any given gene, offspring inherit from each parent one form, or allele, of a gene. In addition, the allele that an offspring inherits from a parent for one gene is independent of the allele inherited from that parent for another gene.
      The field of molecular genetics emerged from the realization that DNA and RNA (ribonucleic acid) constitute the genetic material in all living things. In physical terms, a gene is a discrete stretch of nucleotides within a DNA molecule, with each nucleotide containing an A, G, T, or C base unit. It is the specific sequence of these bases that encodes the information contained in the gene and that is ultimately translated into a final product, a molecule of protein or in some cases a molecule of RNA.
      Using data from the Human Genome Project, scientists have estimated that the human genome contains anywhere from 20,000 to 25,000 genes.

      Advances Based On the Human Genome Project
      Advances in genetics and genomics continue to emerge. Two important advances include:
      • International HapMap Project and
      • Initiation of large-scale comparative genomics studies.
      • The International HapMap Project is a collaborative effort between Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Nigeria, and the United States in which the goal is to identify genetic similarities and differences between individuals representing four major human populations derived from the continents of Africa, Europe, and Asia.
      • Comparative genomics is the study of similarities and differences between different species.
      Impacts of The Human Genome Project
      • Impact on medicine
      • It has enabled the identification of a variety of genes that are associated with disease. This, in turn, has enabled more objective and accurate diagnoses.
      • The recognition that human genomes may influence everything from disease risk to physiological response to medications has led to the emergence of the concept of personalized medicine—the idea that knowledge of a patient’s entire genome sequence will give health care providers the ability to deliver the most appropriate and effective care for that patient.
      • Impact on law and the social sciences
      • The Human Genome Project affects fields beyond biomedical science in ways that are both tangible and profound. For example, human genomic sequence information has revolutionized the field of forensics, enabling positive identification of individuals from extremely tiny samples of biological substances, such as saliva on the seal of an envelope, a few hairs, or a spot of dried blood or semen. Indeed, spurred by high rates of recidivism (the tendency of a previously convicted criminal to return to prior criminal behaviour despite punishment or imprisonment), some governments have even instituted the policy of banking DNA samples from all convicted criminals in order to facilitate the identification of perpetrators of future crimes. While politically controversial, this policy has proved highly effective. By the same token, innocent men and women have been exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence, sometimes decades after wrongful convictions for crimes they did not commit.
      Comparative DNA sequence analyses of samples representing distinct modern populations of humans have revolutionized the field of anthropology. For example, by following DNA sequence variations present on mitochondrial DNA, which is maternally inherited, and on the Y chromosome, which is paternally inherited, molecular anthropologists have confirmed Africa as the cradle of the modern human species, Homo sapiens.

      HGP: Read and Write
      • The original HGP was a “read” in that it used chemicals and instruments to decipher the genome for the first time. 
      • Fast forward to 2016 and another project, called the Human Genome Project–write (HGP-write), now underway to synthesise a human genome from scratch. The start of a 10-year project is aimed at vastly improving the ability to chemically manufacture DNA, with one of the goals being to synthetically create an entire human genome.
      Plans for the project have already set off an ethical debate, because the ability to chemically fabricate the complete set of human chromosomes could theoretically allow the creation of babies without biological parents.
       Q. 202. Low, stagnating female labour-force participation in India
      Ans. In recent decades, India has enjoyed economic and demographic conditions that ordinarily would lead to rising female labour-force participation rates.
      • Economic growth has been high, averaging 6-7% in the 1990s and 2000s;
      • fertility has fallen substantially; and
      • female education has risen dramatically, albeit from a low level.
      In other regions, including Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa, similar trends have led to large increases in female participation. Yet National Sample Survey (NSS) data for India show that labour force participation rates of women aged 25-54 (including primary and subsidiary status) have stagnated at about 26-28% in urban areas, and fallen substantially from 57% to 44% in rural areas, between 1987 and 2011.
      This is an important issue for India’s economic development as India is now in the phase of “demographic dividend”, where the share of working-age people is particularly high, which can propel per capita growth rates through labour force participation, savings, and investment effects. But if women largely stay out of the labour force, this effect will be much weaker and India could run up labour shortages in key sectors of the economy.

      Feminization U hypothesis
      One possible explanation for this trend could be that India is behaving according to the feminization U hypothesis, where in the development process, female labour force participation first declines and then rises. The hypothesized mechanisms for the decline are a rising incompatibility of work and family duties as the workplace moves away from home, an income effect of the husband’s earnings, and a stigma against females working outside the home (generally, or in particular sectors). The rising portion then comes with a receding stigma, high potential earnings of females as their education improves further, as well as fertility decline, and better options to combine work and family duties.

      Demand and supply-side drivers of female labour participation
      • After the decline in female participation in rural areas is concentrated among married women aged 25-64, it can be seen that from 1987-2011, rising own education, incomes, and husband’s education could account for most of the decline in female labour force participation in rural areas.
      • Decline might be driven by increasing returns to home production, relative to market production. This might be particularly relevant if the domestic production is childcare. While the educated women that drop out indeed report being engaged in home production, the direction of causality is less clear. Maybe women drop out of the labour force for other reasons and then report a focus on domestic activities.
      • Rising household incomes and husband’s education, falling labour market attachment of highly educated women, as well as adverse development in district-level labour demand, contributed to declines in female participation, while fertility decline and rising own education worked in the opposite direction, to generate a net stagnation. More generally, rising education and incomes are allowing women to get out of menial and undesirable employment, while jobs deemed appropriate for more educated women (especially in healthcare, education and public service) have not grown commensurately with the rise in female education, leading to falling participation among more educated groups.
      • Also the lack of availability of agricultural and non-agricultural jobs in rural areas appears to be driving the declining participation in rural areas.
      • Structural change in India, which led to a rapidly shrinking agricultural sector in favour of a rapidly expanding service and construction sector, mainly contributed to the declining female labour force participation. The lack of a shift towards manufacturing and a persistently low female share in manufacturing ensured that the labour force as a whole did not become more female.
      • Labour supply factors do play a role in depressing female incomes. It is difficult for married women with some education and children to be employed, especially if they have an educated and well-earning spouse. But labour demand also matters. Particularly in rural areas, it appears that declining agricultural employment has left a gap in employment opportunities for women as non-agricultural jobs have not emerged at the required pace.
      Factors that need further investigation
      • On the other hand, the role of macro, trade and structural policies also needs to be investigated.
      • When comparing India with Bangladesh, one notices how an export-oriented, manufacturing-centred growth strategy has led to increasing female employment opportunities there.
      • China, of course, also pursued such a strategy much earlier with similar impact on female employment.
      • India’s growth strategy has focused on domestic demand and high-value service exports, which generate too few employment opportunities for women, particularly those with medium levels of education.
      • Lastly, policies will be needed to tackle the social stigma that appears to prevent particularly educated women from engaging in outside employment. Here public debates of this issue and its impact on women are clearly necessary.
       Q. 201. Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB)
      Ans. What is XDR-TB?
      XDR-TB, an abbreviation for extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB), is a form of TB which is resistant to at least four of the core anti-TB drugs.
      Multidrug-resistance (MDR-TB) and XDR-TB both take substantially longer to treat than ordinary (drug-susceptible) TB, and require the use of second-line anti-TB drugs, which are more expensive and have more side-effects than the first-line drugs used for drug-susceptible TB.

      How do people get XDR-TB?
      People may get XDR-TB in one of two ways.
      • It may develop in a patient who is receiving treatment for active TB, when anti-TB drugs are misused or mismanaged, and is usually a sign of inadequate clinical care or drug management.
      • People can develop XDR-TB by becoming infected from a patient who is already ill with the condition. Patients with TB of the lungs can spread the disease by coughing, sneezing, or simply talking.
      How easily is XDR-TB spread?
      People in any one place together, and the presence of people with a higher risk of being infected (such as those with HIV/AIDS).

      How can a person avoid becoming infected with XDR-TB?
      • While patients with XDR-TB may be as infectious as those with ordinary TB, the chances of a TB infection being XDR-TB is lower due to the rarity of the condition.
      • Close contact with a patient with infectious TB is to be avoided especially in poorly ventilated spaces. The risk of becoming infected with TB is very low outdoors in the open air.
      How can a person who already has ordinary TB avoid getting XDR-TB?
      No doses should be missed and above all, treatment should be taken right through to the end.

      Can XDR-TB be cured or treated?
      XDR-TB patients can be cured, but with the current drugs available, the likelihood of success is much smaller than in patients with ordinary TB or even MDR-TB. Cure depends on the extent of the drug resistance, the severity of the disease and whether the patient’s immune system is compromised.

      How common is XDR-TB?
      XDR-TB is rare; however, 117 countries worldwide had reported at least one case by the end of 2015.

      How do countries prevent XDR-TB?
      National TB control programmes working with all health services can prevent XDR-TB by ensuring that all practitioners working with people with TB adhere to the International Standards for TB Care.
      These emphasize providing proper diagnosis and treatment to all TB patients, including those with drug-resistant TB; assuring regular, timely supplies of all anti-TB drugs; proper management of anti-TB drugs and providing support to patients to maximize adherence to prescribed regimens; caring for MDR/XDR-TB cases in services with proper ventilation, and minimizing contact with other patients, particularly those with HIV, especially in the early stages before treatment has had a chance to reduce the infectiousness.

      Can the TB vaccine, known as BCG, prevent XDR-TB?
      The BCG vaccine prevents severe forms of TB in children, such as TB meningitis, but is less effective in preventing pulmonary TB in adults. It is expected that the effectiveness of BCG against XDR-TB is similar as for ordinary TB.

      What are the symptoms TB or XDR-TB?
      Symptoms of XDR-TB are no different from ordinary TB: a cough with thick, cloudy mucus (or sputum), sometimes with blood, for more than 2 weeks; fever, chills, and night sweats; fatigue and muscle weakness; weight loss; and in some cases shortness of breath and chest pain.

      What is WHO doing to combat XDR-TB?
      • Firstly, WHO is ensuring that the health authorities responsible for TB care and control receive accurate information about XDR-TB. Latest information on XDR-TB, and related TB issues, are published on the WHO Global TB Programme website.
      • Secondly, WHO advises that good TB prevention, care and control prevents the emergence of drug resistance in the first place, and that the proper treatment of MDR-TB prevents the emergence of XDR-TB.
      • Thirdly, WHO is regularly updating its guidance to Ministries of Health on the management of drug-resistant TB patients and diagnostic policies.
       Q. 200. Explain in detail the Coral Reef System. How and why Coral Bleaching occurs? What can be done to mitigate Coral Bleaching?
      Coral Reef Systems
      Reef Properties
      1. Reefs are found in circumtropical shallow waters along the shores of islands and continents.
      2. Reefs live in nutrient poor waters.
      3. Reef substrate is composed of calcium carbonate from living and dead scleractinian corals.
      4. These corals have a symbiotic relationship with a single-celled algae known as zooxanthallae.

      1. Zooxanthallae live symbiotically within coral polyp tissue.
      2. They assist coral in nutrient production through photosynthetic activities.
      3. Corals receive coloration from the photosynthetic pigments of zooxanthallae.
      4. When stressed, zooxanthallae may be expelled from coral tissue.
      5. If all zooxanthallae are lost, the coral will die.

      Importance of Reefs
      1. Reef ecosystems have been compared to rain forests in terms of biodiversity and density of living organisms.
      2. Total area covered by coral reefs is approximately 240,000 square miles.
      3. Reefs influence the flow of water around them and have created and protect many islands surrounding them.
      4. Coral reefs support a booming tourist economy on the coasts they border.
      5. Reefs can provide a number of medicinal compounds.
      6. Reefs serve as atmospheric carbon dioxide sinks.
      7. Coral reefs act as historical climate recorders.

      Bleaching: Coral reef bleaching occurs when corals undergo great stress. The symbiotic algae, zooxanthallae, is expelled or its photosynthetic pigments harmed--thus the coral appears white. The corals may be weakened to the point of death. A number of environmental factors, both natural and anthropogenic, can cause bleaching. Global warming has been theorized to have caused massive global bleaching events over the past two decades. Monitoring and management may help us understand and reduce threats to corals.
      1. Results when coral is subjected to stress. 
      2. Lack of coloration is apparent because zooxanthallae populations decline or when photosynthetic pigments within the zooxanthallae decline.
      3. It is hypothesized that bleaching is an adaptive process in which corals can repopulate with different, possibly more resilient, types of zooxanthallae.

      Ecological Causes--One or a combination of stressors may induce coral bleaching.
      1. Temperature--Corals live within a relatively narrow temperature margin. a. A small positive anomaly of 1-2 degrees C for 5-10 weeks in the summer season will induce bleaching. A drop in temperature accompanying upwelling episodes (-3 to -5 degrees C from 5-10 days) will induce bleaching.
      2. Solar Irradiance--Both photosynthetically active radiation (PAR, 400-700nm) and ultraviolet radiation (UVR, 280-400 nm) have been implicated in bleaching. 
      3. Subaerial Exposure- exposure of reef flats to the atmosphere during low tides, El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) related sea level drops, or tectonic uplift can potentially induce bleaching.
      4. Sedimentation- Sedimentation due to logging, farming, mining, dredging, and other coastal activities blocks sunlight, reducing the photosynthetic ability of zooxanthallae. Relatively few instances have been linked to sedimentation alone.
      5. Fresh Water Dilution--Rapid dilution of reef waters from precipitation and run-off causes coral bleaching events. Such events are generally confined to 
      nearshore areas.
      6. Inorganic Nutrients-Ammonia and nitrate associated with agricultural run-off over fertilize the zooxanthallae and increase their densities by 2-3 times, known as eutrophication. The secondary effects of eutrophication such as lowering of coral resistance and greater susceptibility to disease may lead to bleaching events.
      7. Xenobiotics--High concentrations of chemical contaminants such as copper, oil, and herbicides can cause the loss of zooxanthallae. Since concentrations must be high to cause bleaching, such events are generally localized.
      8. Epizootics--These are the pathogens (diseases) that cause coral bleaching.

      Global Bleaching Events
      1. In 1987, severe bleaching of corals in Puerto Rico led researchers to investigate global patterns of bleaching. 
      2. The frequency and severity of bleaching events has increased dramatically since the 1970's.
      3. Nearly all of the world's major coral reef regions have experienced some degree of bleaching since the 1980's.
      4. The coral bleaching events of the 1980's and 90's have occurred over all geographic regions and depths. 

      Global Warming Debate
      1. Evidence-  Only 2 of the many stressors have possible global factors driving changes and extremes: temperature and solar irradiance.
      a. Increase in global temperatures and ENSO events change sea water temperatures. 
      b. Ozone depletion increases the amount of UVR reaching the earth's surface.
      c. The most severe bleaching events have coincided with high sea water temperatures.
      d. Bleaching has been reported during periods of low wind velocity, clear skies, calm seas, and low turbidity when conditions favour localized heating and high UVR penetration. 

      a. Coincidence of high temperatures and bleaching is merely circumstantial.
      b. Many unknown forces operate on these ecosystems.
      c. No long-term records of seawater temperatures.
      d. Mechanism of bleaching not fully understood.

      1. If a global warming trend increases sea temperatures, extirpation and extinction of coral species could exceed 95% on a regional level.
      2. Sea temperature rise would likely be accompanied by sea level rise. Sea level rise may reduce light levels to potentially lethal levels.

      How do we deal with coral bleaching?
      Long-term Monitoring
      1. coral surveys
      2. water testing for salinity, pH, depth, and temperature
      3. recording climate data 
      Regional Management: Management techniques should be designed to protect reefs from the many anthropogenic threats to reefs. Bleaching is only one threat to the health of coral reefs. Policies should manage the logging, mining, farming, dredging, and tourist activities that harm reefs. They should also incorporate educational programs to reduce direct human impacts to reefs.
       Q. 199. Gilgit-Baltistan to be declared a Province
      • Pakistan is planning to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region also known as the Northern Areas as its fifth Province, a move that may raise concerns in India as it borders the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
      • A committee headed by Advisor of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz had proposed giving the status of a Province to Gilgit-Baltistan.
      • Constitutional amendment would be made to change the status of the region, through which the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes.
      • India opposes the CPEC precisely because it passes through areas that it considers part of its territory.
      • Jammu and Kashmir has an international border with China in the north and east, and the Line of Control separates it from the Pakistani-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan in the west and northwest respectively. The state has special autonomy under Article 370 of the Constitution of India.
      • The entire State of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India in 1947.  A part of Jammu and Kashmir has been under illegal occupation of Pakistan.
      • At present, Pakistan has four provinces—Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
      • Gilgit-Baltistan is treated as a separate geographical entity by Pakistan.
      • Gilgit-Baltistan has a regional Assembly and an elected Chief Minister.
      • It is believed that China’s concerns about its unsettled status prompted the move, which could signal a historic shift in the country’s position on the future of the wider Kashmir region. India says Pakistan’s proposal on Gilgit-Baltistan entirely unacceptable.
      Such a step will not camouflage the illegality of Pakistan’s occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir and the gravely concerning and serious human rights violations there (in the Northern Areas), as well as denial of democracy to the people there.
       Q. 198. What is coalbed methane?
      Coalbed methane is a form of natural gas extracted from coal beds. The term refers to methane adsorbed into the solid matrix of the coal. It is called 'sweet gas' because of its lack of hydrogen sulphide. The presence of this gas is well known from its occurrence in underground coal mining, where it presents a serious safety risk. The methane is usually held in place by water pressure. Methane, CH4, is a naturally occurring gas; it is the major component (95 percent) of natural gas. It can be produced in a variety of ways. For example, methane is produced during the natural coalification process, when organic matter such as trees or vegetation is quickly buried and then heated. Methane can also be produced by farming and ranching activities or as a by-product of industrial processes. Methane is a greenhouse gas that remains in the atmosphere for up to 15 years, and it is also a relatively inexpensive, clean burning fuel.

      Where is coalbed methane found?
      Coalbed methane is associated with coal deposits, and is found in coal seams. In the past, the gas was the cause of numerous explosions in underground mines. More recently, the gas has been vented to the surface from underground mines. It is only during the last twenty-five years that it was realized that coalbed methane could be used as a resource. Various basins in the Rocky Mountains hold much of this country's coalbed methane resources.

      How is coalbed methane extracted from coal?
      When water is removed from a coal seam, it lowers the reservoir pressure. Methane that was held in place by water pressure tends to follow the water as it is pumped to the surface, where it is captured and transported through pipelines to storage facilities or shipped. This relatively inexpensive and straightforward procedure has made coalbed methane a useful, easily accessible form of energy.

      How does water extraction affect local aquifers?
      Local aquifers may or may not be affected, depending on the local geology, but there is usually some drawdown measured. Various agencies now monitor water in the affected areas to learn more about this process.

      What is the environmental cost of coalbed methane?
      Coalbed methane production results in changes to the land, to surface water, and to ground-water systems. These changes should be monitored and managed in order to reduce their impact. Environmental Impact Statements have been completed, and although they are being challenged, they remain a starting point. With care, it seems that the environmental costs of coalbed methane can be reduced.

      What is the environmental benefit of coalbed methane?
      Coalbed methane is produced domestically, reducing our need to import energy. Geologists are aware of the depositional environments that can produce coalbed methane, reducing the cost of extensive exploration. And most importantly, methane is a relatively clean-burning source of energy, much cleaner than coal. All of these factors combine to make coalbed methane a locally-produced, affordable source of energy.

      What is Underground Coal Gasification (UCG)?
      Coal is the major source of energy all over the world including India. However, it is not technically feasible or economically viable to mine all coal resources and this is where UCG (underground coal gasification) finds its usefulness. UCG has been practiced, though off and on, since the last 50 years by almost all major coal producing countries but it could never become the major energy source. Availability of large amount of cheap natural gas, the danger of contamination of underground water, non-availability of suitable drilling technology, and failure to administer proper control over gasification process are some of the reasons. However, with the efforts put in by many countries over the years, the technology of UCG has matured for commercial application. 

      In India the experience of UCG is minimal. However, many deeper coal seams and deeper lignite deposits not economical to mine by conventional mining techniques are good candidates for UCG. Large number of abandoned mines and some shallow coal deposits with difficult geo-mining conditions can use UCG gainfully. Cabinet has approved a policy framework for development of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) in coal and lignite bearing areas in the country.
       Q. 197. Explain the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI). Explain in detail, why UBI should or should not be adopted.
      The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) has been gaining ground globally. While Switzerland held a referendum on it last year (it was voted down), Finland introduced it earlier this year.

      What is UBI?
      Universal Basic Income is a radical and compelling paradigm shift in thinking
      about both social justice and a productive economy. It could be to the twenty first century what civil and political rights were to the twentieth. It is premised on the idea that a just society needs to guarantee to each individual a minimum income which they can count on, and which provides the necessary material foundation for a life with access to basic goods and a life of dignity. A universal basic income is, like many rights, unconditional and universal: it requires that every person should have a right to a basic income to cover their needs, just by virtue of being citizens.
      On the face of it, an unconditional basic income for everyone seems a great idea. In the West, the UBI is being discussed as a solution to two problems:
      • Unemployment due to automation; and
      • Growing social unrest caused by extreme inequality and precarity.
      It is expected to solve the unemployment problem by decoupling subsistence from jobs, freeing human beings to realise their true potential, preferably through entrepreneurship. It would address the second by supplying monetary resources to access the necessities of life. This, in a nutshell, is the popular understanding of the UBI. The reality, however, is not so rosy.
      The UBI debate in India has been a narrow one — restricted, for the most part, to financial viability. Its advocates argue that it is a more efficient way of delivering welfare, while its opponents hold that the fiscal burden would be too much.
      The most eloquent advocates of UBI today are free-market enthusiasts — the same lot branded as neo-liberals for their advocacy of deregulation, privatisation, and cuts in welfare spending. Their guru, Milton Friedman, was an early advocate of basic income. Outside the academic realm, the biggest champion of UBI is the global tech sector. Silicon Valley billionaires such as Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla Motors, and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes have publicly backed the idea. Invariably, they all present the same conclusion: giving cash to the poor is better than traditional welfare.
      The biggest myth about the UBI, partly responsible for sections of the Left endorsing it, is that it is a redistributive policy that would reduce inequality. It is indeed possible to have a redistributive UBI. But it would need to fulfil two conditions:
      • It must be funded by taxing the wealthy; and
      • The existing entitlements to the poor must not be taken away.
      Such a UBI would actually be a socialist measure that would increase the bargaining power of the working classes by giving them an income cushion. But neither of these conditions is met by any of the UBI designs being promoted today, either globally or in India. The much-touted Finnish experiment is restricted to the unemployed. It does not cover all working individuals. And it only replaces the already existing basic unemployment allowance and labour market subsidy — it is not an add-on benefit.
      In India, too, the UBI is not an add-on. On the contrary, it is about giving in a different form (cash), and under one umbrella, what is already being given (in-kind and cash benefits) via different channels.
      Its objective remains the same: to eliminate the public distribution system (PDS) and with it, the food, fuel, and fertiliser subsidies. The same old arguments for replacing the PDS with cash transfers are now being trotted out in favour of the UBI. The addition of the word ‘universal’ signals greater ambition but alters neither the substance nor the motive.

      Economic Survey perspective
      Why Universalize?
      • The first striking fact is the sheer number of schemes and programs run by the government. The Budget for 2016-17 indicates that there are about 950 central sector and centrally sponsored sub-schemes in India accounting for about 5 percent of the GDP by budget allocation.
      • Misallocation: captures the fact that the poorest areas of the country often obtain a lower share of government resources when compared to their richer counterparts.
      UBI for a number of reasons
      • Social Justice: UBI is, first and foremost, a test of a just and non-exploitative society. From Tom Paine to John Rawls, nearly every theory of justice has argued that a society that fails to guarantee a decent minimum income to all citizens will fail the test of justice.
      • Poverty and vulnerability reduction: Poverty and vulnerability will be reduced in one fell swoop.
      • Agency: The poor in India have been treated as objects of government policy. UBI liberates citizens from paternalistic and clientelistic relationships with the state.
      • Choice: A UBI treats beneficiaries as agents and entrusts citizens with the responsibility of using welfare spending as they see best; this may not be the case with in-kind transfers.
      • Better targeting of poor as all individuals are targeted, exclusion error (poor being left out) is zero though inclusion error (rich gaining access to the scheme) is 60 percent.
      • Insurance against shocks This income floor will provide a safety net against health, income and other shocks.
      • Improvement in financial inclusion Payment – transfers will encourage greater usage of bank accounts, leading to higher profits for banking correspondents (BC) and an endogenous improvement in financial inclusion. Credit – increased income will release the constraints on access to credit for those with low income levels.
      • Psychological benefits A guaranteed income will reduce the pressures of finding a basic living on a daily basis.
      • Employment: UBI is an acknowledgement that society’s obligation to guarantee a minimum living standard is even more urgent in an era of uncertain employment generation.
      • Administrative Efficiency: In India in particular, the case for UBI has been enhanced because of the weakness of existing welfare schemes which are riddled with misallocation, leakages and exclusion of the poor. When the trinity of Jan-Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile (popularly referred to as JAM) is fully adopted the time would be ripe for a mode of delivery that is administratively more efficient.
      Case against UBI
      • Conspicuous spending Households, especially male members, may spend this additional income on wasteful activities.
      • Moral hazard (reduction in labour supply) A minimum guaranteed income might make people lazy and opt out of the labour market.
      • Gender disparity induced by cash Gender norms may regulate the sharing of UBI within a household – men are likely to exercise control over spending of the UBI. This may not always be the case with other in-kind transfers.
      • Implementation Given the current status of financial access among the poor, a UBI may put too much stress on the banking system.
      • Fiscal cost given political economy of exit Once introduced, it may become difficult for the government to wind up a UBI in case of failure.
      • Political economy of universality – ideas for self-exclusion Opposition may arise from the provision of the transfer to rich individuals as it might seem to trump the idea of equity and state welfare for the poor.
      • Exposure to market risks (cash vs. food) Unlike food subsidies that are not subject to fluctuating market prices, a cash transfer’s purchasing power may severely be curtailed by market fluctuations.
      In the final analysis, we need to answer a simple question: is the UBI about reducing inequality and poverty? If the answer is yes, then there are many things the state could do at a fraction of what the UBI would cost. But if a dispensation hostile to these tried and tested anti-poverty measures develops a sudden zeal to eliminate poverty through UBI, a measure of scepticism is in order.
       Q. 196. Why 'Car Control' Is Essential to Fight Pollution In Delhi?
      Ans. On 24 November, the apex court ordered a ban on the sale (not the use) of firecrackers in Delhi and NCR. The verdict, though, sounded tentative—the Court took more than a year to act on a petition by two toddlers demanding a ban on crackers before the Dussehra and Diwali season in 2015, in contrast to its proactive support for the odd-even policy despite its tenability being doubted.

      The Delhi government, for its part, also now seems to acknowledge the relative ineffectiveness of the odd-even car rationing policy, though keeping this option open if pollution threatens to choke the city again.

      Also announced were a slew of new measures such as:
      • deploying vacuum cleaners and sprinkling water to remove dust,
      • installing massive air purifiers and mist sprayers at key points,
      • operating chimney smoke-tappers to control emissions crematoriums and
      • introducing controlled burning at garbage dumps.
      Meanwhile, the union government is contemplating a "graded-response" system that could:
      • trigger automatic measures including odd-even,
      • closure of schools,
      • hike in parking fee,
      • halt construction, and so on, based on dip in air quality.
      Such interim and knee-jerk measures invariably underscore the lack of political will to pursue impactful measures or lasting solutions to the lingering crisis.
      • Further proof of the absence of political resolve is in the reluctance to implement even basic measures recommended by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), including the ban on diesel and petrol vehicles of a particular vintage.
      • Promises of augmenting public transport and last-mile connectivity have fallen flat as no tangible efforts have been made to increase the bus fleet, which operates on brink capacity as much as the Delhi Metro.
      Clearly, Delhi's vehicular population has outrun its road capacity and the continuing influx of new vehicles is a certain recipe for aggravating the pollution nightmare. That is apart from the unaccounted social cost on the nation from the cumulative loss in human-hours and fuel. Any comprehensive strategy to tackle pollution, hence, has to start by addressing this disorder through a decisive policy action.

      Revamping the Auto-Industrial Policy
      Right after Diwali, when the NCR was still shrouded in thick layer of smog, various reports quoted the surging sales that auto companies achieved during that festival season. This is the huge paradox that defines India's anti-pollution drive—the country celebrates its high-growth auto-industry, but has pondered little on the vehicular proliferation taking over its cramped urban spaces. The automobile sector is a huge employment generator but also has a responsible stake in the anti-pollution drive, which has to go beyond upgrading fuel quality norms. A national strategy against pollution entails a recalibrating of the auto-industrial policy by devising initiatives to keep the manufacturing lines active even while ensuring that the plethora of vehicular choices do not turn our cities into automobile jungles.

      (a) Defined lifetime and recycling policy
      It fundamentally entails the enforcement of a usage norm that restricts operational lifetime of all categories of vehicles to a particular period beyond which the vehicle should mandatorily be de-registered and sent to the junkyard. This policy could be a win-win situation for the auto-industry as well as for urban spaces, with a time-bound jettisoning of older vehicles keeping the manufacturing inventories active even as older and polluting vehicles are taken off the roads on a regular and systematic basis. The success of this policy, however, depends on effective implementation of these guidelines along with a whole lot of incentives for customers (to discard older vehicles) and the industry (reduced taxes to encourage balanced production).

      (b) Vehicle health assessment
      The shift towards a cleaner automotive environment is not just about upgrading engine- and fuel-quality norms but also about ensuring roadworthiness of vehicles within acceptable emissions standards. The existing fitness and pollution certification process lacks credibility and oversight, with little scope for attrition, while also allowing reuse of older vehicles after structural overhauls. The pivot of a new anti-pollution strategy should, hence, be a periodic vehicle assessment system that makes it mandatory for vehicles to be certified, during their lifetime, for environmental roadworthiness in order to be qualified for usage.

      World Practice
      Many European countries have ensured "safer and cleaner" roads through this method, prominent examples being the MOT system in United Kingdom and Contrôle Technique in France. These policies have particular relevance to the Indian cities where polluting vehicles need to be routinely taken off the roads, even during their lifetime, especially through constant revision of emission norms depending on changing conditions.

      Rationing purchase, not usage
      • The government should explore the feasibility of a rationing system by which families that already own a car should not be permitted to purchase a new four-wheeler.
      • The limited impact of the odd-even policy is proof that rationing of usage, that too for a limited period, may not make any significant difference to the pollution landscape.
      • The higher purchasing power of the city's residents and failure to improve public transport infrastructure could innately render this initiative ineffective.
      With dual issues of population and vehicular congestion turning into an insurmountable challenge, Delhi is now left with no option but to restrict the influx of new vehicles into the city. Though this suggestion might, at first glance, seem difficult to implement, the fact that the city's vehicular traffic has outgrown Delhi's public infrastructure necessitates resorting to such extremes so as to mitigate further chaos. Other cities could be forewarned from this condition in the national capital and be encouraged to explore effective pre-emptive actions to restrict the growth of vehicular population along with timely investment in public transport.
       Q. 195. Waste-to-energy plants
      Waste-to-energy plants could sustainably dispose of municipal solid waste, while generating electricity. Management of solid waste or garbage has three elements:
      • Segregation of biodegradable or wet waste from dry waste at source.
      • Once segregation is achieved, municipal governments can use wet waste to produce compost and biogas in biomethanation plants.
      • The dry waste, after removing recyclable elements, should go to waste-to-energy plants: This will reduce the volume of waste that remains to be sent to landfills.
      About waste-to-energy plants:
      A number of waste-to-energy plants are coming up in urban India using
      • Incineration
      • Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF)-based combustion or conversion technologies such as pyrolysis and gasification.
      There is a great deal of confusion about what the different technologies entail, and also apprehension about the potentially damaging impact of waste-to-energy plants on the environment in general, the quality of air in particular, and consequently, on public health. There are also questions about whether these plants are financially viable.
      Incineration-based waste-to-energy plants rely on mass burning of municipal solid waste, which involves complete combustion of miscellaneous waste materials into ash. The latter is also true of RDF combustion-based plants. Depending on what is being combusted (and this is a huge challenge to determine with municipal solid waste), the gases generated may contain dioxins and furans, which are toxic and can be lethal. These plants therefore need to put in place emission control filters of a very high standard to check the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

      Singapore uses incineration with due environmental precautions in managing its municipal solid waste after recycling 60 per cent of its waste (among the highest rates in the world). Japan and a number of European countries also rely on incineration, with due precaution, as they try to minimise the waste that needs to go to landfills. The United States had a long free run with incineration plants, but thanks to the environmental movement, there has been a significant tightening of regulations with respect to emissions since the 1970s. The abundance of land in the US led to greater recourse to landfills. But incineration plants are making a comeback and with these, so is the need for vigilance on emissions.

      The innovations in waste-to-energy technologies worldwide have been focusing on pyrolysis, gasification and plasma gasification, which can deliver cleaner emissions but are considerably more expensive. These technologies involve heating of solid waste at very high temperatures in an oxygen-controlled environment, such that the thermal reactions produce synthesis gas (or syngas) which has the advantage that it can be burned directly or transported through pipelines and/or tankers for use in electricity generation, refining, chemical and fertiliser industries. While syngas can be scrubbed and converted into a clean energy source, the technologies are expensive, compromising the commercial viability of plants based on conversion technologies.

      Pollution control boards set up by the government of India and state governments were expected to provide technical assistance and keep a check on the emissions/environmental footprints of waste-to-energy plants. Unfortunately, they have not kept pace with the rapidly evolving technology in the field of pollution control and were not able to check routine defaulters. Recognising the need for a more empowered body that could enforce adherence to environmental regulations, the National Green Tribunal was set up in 2010, as an independent judicial body under an act by the Parliament of India. As a judicial body in charge of supervisory jurisdiction over all environmental matters, NGT has, in many cases, prodded the pollution control authorities and catalysed action from State Pollution Control Boards/Municipalities, especially in waste management. It has been setting the rules of the game and putting the weight of legal compensation and enforcement behind its rulings. Hopefully, NGT will receive full support from the Central Pollution Control Board in its quest for scientific evaluations of the environmental impact of waste-to-energy plants.

      The level of subsidy required to make waste-to-energy plants financially viable presents another set of problems. These plants involve significant capital investment and the cost of energy produced is higher than from the grid, unless there are government subsidies. Considering their contribution to resource recovery and saving on the energy cost of transportation, which would otherwise be incurred to haul waste to a landfill, there is a good case for subsidising these plants.

      It is also important to emphasise that electricity generation from waste is not the most efficient way of generating electricity. It is a way of resource recovery from municipal solid waste and should be considered as a by-product of waste management. Enthusiasts sometimes speak of waste-to-energy as a solution to our energy problem — this is not correct. However, if implemented to global emission standards, it could be a pathway to scientific and sustainable disposal of municipal solid waste, given the scarcity of urban land in the country, while also generating some much needed electricity.