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Here is the list of some important case studies from February 2021 that can be quoted/used in UPSC CSE Mains answers/essays.
Being Tethered To Bars During A Pandemic
Relevance: Impact of the pandemic, prison reforms, human rights etc.
Prisoners in India:
- The total number of prisoners in India stood at around 4.2 lakh.
- According to the 2nd ARC Report on Public Order, this number of 4.2 lakh prisoners is lower as compared to other countries such as the USA and China both in terms of absolute number as well as the percentage of the entire population.
Condition of Indian Prisoners during Pandemic:
- By the very nature of their situation, the physical limits of their confinement, they are obliged to stay in poorly ventilated and overcrowded cells.
- Being holed up in that condition almost seems to form part of the punishment.
- A jail and a dungeon are almost interchangeable terms.
Classical case Injustice:
- The violation of the basic human rights of Under Trial Prisoners in such large numbers is made further unbearable by overcrowding, poor living conditions, inadequate healthcare facilities, and torture by other rowdy prisoners.
- This is injustice caused to the families of the ‘under-trial prisoners’ “languishing in prisons for long years particularly their children who are denied a normal childhood, proper education, and are exploited by cruel sections of the society in a various way especially the girl children and many of whom are forced to take to the path of crime”.
- So, while the plight- to use a cliché- of all prisoners is by definition bad, in terms of exposure to disease, it is 10 times worse for ‘under-trial prisoners’, for the majority of them are and are likely to be found to be innocent.
- Theirs is a case of innocence in jail and in jeopardy- the jeopardy of a potentially fatal infection contracted while in detention.
- The virus gives cause for an immediate review of all prisoners’ vulnerability to the epidemic, starting with that of ‘under-trial prisoners’ who are suffering two privations:
- One, being immobilized, most probably unjustly, and
- Two, being tethered to the risk of infection.
Read more on Prison reforms- click here
The blank pages in India’s online learning experience
Relevance: Education and related issues
What's the issue?
- COVID-19 has affected all sectors. Nonetheless, there are areas India must be extra frightened about.
- One among them is schooling, particularly schooling of the woman youngster.
- Around 300 million kids throughout all age teams are reported to be out of college in India now (the quantity is of the interval when all colleges have been closed).
- And as and when colleges lastly reopen within the nation, the variety of kids returning to class needs to be intently scrutinized.
- The schooling sector faces the challenges of supply, particularly of pedagogical processes, classroom evaluation frameworks, college students’ assist, and teacher-student engagement.
Challenges in education due to pandemic:
- Delivery of education especially of pedagogical processes, classroom assessment frameworks, students’ support and teacher-student engagement.
- Poor access to digital data.
- The children were overburdened with household/farm work
- Girl students, in particular, were apprehensive of being given away in marriage.
- Students, parents and teachers were unprepared for the pedagogic shift.
- School closures have had a significant impact on the vulnerable and underprivileged sections.
- Postponement of examinations and the curtailment of the prescribed syllabi.
Impact of school/colleges closures:
- Boys became inattentive to studies while girls were more involved in household chores with lesser opportunities.
- Children have also forgotten what they learnt earlier.
- Disruption of a range of activities such as the mid-day meal scheme, the school health programme and pre-metric scholarships to girl children.
- Providing free e-learning platforms-
- Diksha portal: an app by the National Council of Educational Research
- e-learning content aligned to the curriculum, and e-Pathshala, and Training for Classes 1 to 12 in multiple languages.
- SWAYAM portal: aimed at school (Classes 1 to 12) and higher education
- 1,900 complete courses including teaching videos, computer weekly assignments, examinations and credit transfers,
- SWAYAM Prabha: telecasting of educational programmes
- 32 devoted direct to home channels.
- Diksha portal: an app by the National Council of Educational Research
However, such initiatives have failed to take into account existing divides- spatial, digital, gender and class
Case Study: The case of Rajasthan:
- In Rajasthan, the schooling of women's kids remains to be a problem.
- According to NSO''s report “Household Social Consumption: Education in India” 2017-18, approx 20% of girls in the age group 15-16 were out of school against the national average of 13.5.
- Regardless of pioneering initiatives in schooling such as the Lok Jumbish and Shiksha Karmi tasks, Rajasthan continues to flounder in systemic issues of education that relate to high quality, fairness, and gender.
- The reasons for the inability of students to access online education have been:
- lack of gadgets,
- poor or no Web connectivity, and
- in addition women’s preoccupation with family exercise.
- A realistic assessment of those students who have returned to schools after ‘digital learning’ at home.
- Education planning must be context and content-specific, gender-responsive and inclusion of all.
- Initiatives to make online education accessible and affordable to the children of underprivileged sections.
- Removal of barriers in pre-matric scholarships.
Read more on Covid induced online learning and it's challenges- click here.
Also, read Pratham Foundation's Annual State of Education Report (ASER) for a deeper understanding of digital divide in education.
Mains Question (GS I- 2020)
How have digital initiatives in India contributed to the functioning of the education system in the country? Elaborate your answer. (Answer in 250 words, 15 marks)
An Estimate Of WASH Across Healthcare Facilities In India
Relevance: Healthcare and related issues.
WASH in India:
- The status of WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) in healthcare facilities is an important issue in development.
- As per an estimate, improving WASH across the pubic healthcare facilities in India and maintaining this for a year would cost $354 million (Rs 2567,00,00,000 approximately) in capital costs and $289 million (Rs 2095,00,00,000 approximately) in recurrent expenses.
- Further, the most costly interventions were providing clean water, linen reprocessing, and sanitation while the least expensive were hand hygiene, medical device reprocessing, and environmental surface cleaning.
- A 2019 joint global baseline report by WHO and UNICEF had pointed out that globally, one in four healthcare facilities lacked basic water servicing and one in five had no sanitation service and 42% had no hygiene facilities at point of care.
Impact of Inadequate WASH:
- A WHO document on WASH in healthcare facilities points out that 8,27,000 people in low- and middle-income countries die as a result of inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene each year.
- Also, the death of 2,97,000 children under five years can be prevented each year if better WASH could be provided.
- On a positive note, a 2012 WHO report had calculated that for every dollar invested in sanitation, there was $5.50 to be gained in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.
Significance of WASH:
- It is noteworthy that ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation to all is one of the 2030 sustainable development goals of the WHO.
- Antimicrobial resistance
- In the fight against the spread of antimicrobial resistance too, the importance of the prevention of infections cannot be overemphasized.
- The intersection between WASH, infection prevention and control, and antimicrobial resistance is unique in that it offers policymakers an opportunity to address multiple overlapping problems through interventions on WASH in healthcare facilities.
Polity and Governance
Right of Reputation vs Right to Dignity
Relevance: Fundamental rights, Rights issues, the role of judiciary, women related issues etc.
Why in News?
- Recently, a Delhi court has rejected a criminal defamation case filed by a former Union Minister against a journalist over her tweets accusing him of sexual harassment.
- Akbar had sued Ramani around two years ago after she, apart from at least 20 other women, went public with allegations of sexual assault against the journalist-turned-politician as part of the #MeToo movement in India.
Court's Observations on the case:
- Acquitting journalist Priya Ramani in a criminal defamation case filed against her by former Union minister M.J. Akbar, the court asserted that “the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right of life and dignity of a woman”.
- The Court took into consideration of the systematic abuse at the workplace due to the lack of a mechanism to redress the grievance of sexual harassment at the time of the incident of sexual harassment against the accused journalist took place.
- It was prior to the issuance of the Vishaka Guidelines by the Supreme Court and enactment of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
- The court observed that “a woman cannot be punished for raising voice against the sex abuse on the pretext of criminal complaint of defamation as the right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of the right of life and dignity of woman as guaranteed in Indian Constitution under Article 21 and right of equality before the law and equal protection of the law as guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution”.
- The court also said a woman has “a right to put her grievance at any platform of her choice and even after decades”.
- The court went on to accept the contention that Akbar “is not a man of stellar reputation”, observing: “Despite how well respected some persons are in the society, they in their personal lives, could show extreme cruelty to the females.”
Right to Reputation:
- As per the SC, the right to reputation is an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Further, the existence of Section 499 (Criminal Defamation) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is not a restriction on the freedom of speech and expression because it ensures that the social interest is served by holding a reputation as a shared value of the public at large.
Right to Life (Article 21):
- No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
- It confers to every person the fundamental right to life and personal liberty.
Right to Live with Dignity:
- In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India 1978, the SC gave a new dimension to Article 21 and held that the right to live is not merely a physical right but includes within its ambit the right to live with human dignity.
- A woman has a right to put her grievance at any platform of her choice and even after decades.
Significance of the judgement:
- The court has now laid down a precedent for women to speak up against sexual harassment- irrespective of the time elapsed since the alleged incident or the platform on which the woman chooses to speak up.
Laws for Defamation:
Environment & Ecology
Footfalls in the flurry: tracking the elusive snow leopard in Himachal Pradesh
Relevance: Biodiversity, scientific conservation techniques, Himalayan flora and fauna, the role of local communities in conservation etc.
- Himachal Pradesh’s high-altitude hilly terrains could be harbouring as many as 73 snow leopards (Panthera uncia), says a recent study based on a scientific enumeration of the elusive animal.
About the Study:
- The first-ever such study on snow leopards, a top predator of the Indian Himalaya, was completed in January by the Himachal Pradesh Wildlife Department and the Mysore-based Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF).
- Snow leopards are one of the most endangered wildlife species. The study observed that local communities are the strongest allies in conservation.
- The wildlife wing of the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department commenced the snow leopard enumeration project in 2018, with techniques aligned to the protocols prescribed by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change under the Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI).
- This protocol is being used to estimate the snow leopard population in all the States where the species is found.
How was the study conducted?
- This project is the first systematic effort at a large regional scale that utilised a stratified sampling design to estimate the snow leopard population over an area of 26,112 sq. km.
- The entire snow leopard habitat of the State was first stratified into three categories- high, low or unknown snow leopard occurrence, based on questionnaire surveys of local communities residing in these areas. Camera trap surveys were then carried out in areas under each of the categories.
- Camera trapping surveys were conducted at 10 sites to representatively sample all the strata. Snow leopards were detected at all 10 sites, suggesting that the species is found across the entire snow leopard habitat in Himachal Pradesh.
- The population of the primary wild ungulate prey of snow leopards- blue sheep and ibex- for the entire snow leopard habitat was assessed by using the double observer survey technique.
- The snow leopard density was positively correlated with the wild prey density, indicating that higher wild prey densities corresponded to higher snow leopard densities.
- Spiti and Tabo recorded the highest densities of both snow leopards and their prey, while Chandra and Bharmour recorded the lowest densities of both snow leopards and their prey.
Habitat Areas of Snow leopard in Himachal:
- In Himachal Pradesh, the snow leopard’s habitat covers a greater part of the districts of Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur.
- Its potential habitat also extends into the upper regions of the districts of Shimla, Kullu, Chamba and Kangra.
- Most of these areas are remote, with the added challenge of limited accessibility during winter.
The study finds the involvement of local communities in snow leopard conservation to be crucial:
- The entire camera trapping exercise was led by a team of eight local youth of Kibber village in Spiti, who have been working on such surveys across the upper Spiti landscape since 2010.
- 45-year-old Tanzin Thinley, who hails from Kibber village and has been associated with the NCF, firmly believes that conservation of the snow leopard would be easy with the participation of local communities.
- Snow leopards at times attack the livestock of villagers, which causes a sense of animosity against them.
- They attack livestock when they don’t find wild prey. Over the past few years, NCF has tried to convince villagers to get their livestock insured.
- This has helped in a way that in case anyone has lost livestock to snow leopards, the sense of anguish against the animal is not there, eventually helping in its conservation.
- If snow leopards disappear then the number of blue sheep and ibex (snow leopard prey) will increase manifold, posing a threat to their crops.
- It’s important to save leopards so that a healthy ecosystem continues to prevail. The snow leopard’s presence is an indicator of good ecological health.
Significance of the Study:
- The study points out that the results provide a robust baseline for the wildlife wing to set up a long-term monitoring project to track the population of snow leopards and their wild prey species.
- The results reiterate, the study said, that local communities are the strongest allies in conservation if their concerns can be factored into conservation planning.
Time to reset our relationship with nature
Relevance: Climate change and its impact
- The fifth Environment Assembly was held on February 22-23, 2021 on the theme ‘Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
- The new 168-page report called ‘Making Peace with Nature’ was released during the assembly.
- It calls for strengthened action to protect and restore nature and nature-based solutions to achieve the sustainable development goals in its three social, economic and environmental dimensions.
Growing triple crisis:
- Climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution add up to three self-inflicted planetary emergencies that are closely interconnected and put the well-being of current and future generations at unacceptable risk.
- Climate change is increasing the chances of the Arctic Ocean being ice-free in summer, further disrupting ocean circulation and Arctic ecosystems.
- Climate change drives changes in wildfires and water stress and combines with biodiversity loss to degrade land and enhance drought in some regions.
- More than one million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species are increasingly at risk of extinction.
- Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable to climate change and are projected to decline to 10-30% of their former cover at 1.5°C of warming and to less than 1% at 2°C of warming, compromising food provision, tourism and coastal protection.
- Every year, nine million people die prematurely due to pollution.
- Up to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other industrial wastes enter the world’s waters annually.
- Climate change is increasing the chances of the Arctic Ocean being ice-free in summer, further disrupting ocean circulation and Arctic ecosystems.
- Widening inequalities:
- Human prosperity is strained by widening inequalities, whereby the burden of environmental decline weighs heaviest on the poor and vulnerable and looms even larger over today’s youth and future generation
- Inequity in economic growth has left 1.3 billion people poor. At the same time, the extraction of natural resources has multiplied three times creating a planetary emergency.
- Even though the causes and mechanisms of climate change, biodiversity loss, and land degradation are complex, these should be considered together.
- “They are reinforcing each other and driving further to the environment and our health”– That is the central message of the UNEP synthesis report.
Where do we stand on our targets?
Performance over SDGs-
- Current and projected changes in climate, biodiversity loss and pollution make achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) even more challenging.
- The current model of development degrades the Earth’s finite capacity to sustain human well-being.
Performance over other targets-
- Society is failing to meet most of its commitments to limit environmental damage.
- Society is not on course to achieve land degradation neutrality, Aichi Targets and targets of the Paris Agreement.
What can be done?
- The world can transform its relationship with nature and tackle them together for securing a sustainable future and preventing future pandemics.
- Three sustainable development goals- poverty alleviation, food, and water security, and good health for all – will also be reached by addressing the environmental crisis.
- Governments must scale up and accelerate action to meet the Paris Agreement goals and limit dangerous climate change.
- Economic and financial systems can and must be transformed to lead and power the shift toward sustainability.
- Report advocates for advancements in science and bold policymaking for a carbon-neutral world by 2050 while bending the curve on biodiversity loss and curbing pollution and waste.
- Moving to circular economic systems that reuse resources, reduce emissions and weed out the chemicals and toxins that are causing millions of premature deaths – all while creating jobs.
- By innovating and investing in those activities that protect both people and nature, it will be possible to reap success in the form of restored ecosystems and healthier lives, as well as a stable climate.
- The report highlights the importance of changing mindsets and values and finding political and technical solutions that measure up to the Earth’s environmental crises.
Working for a sustainable future:
- Natural capital can be included by governments to measure economic performance.
- Nations are advised to put a price on carbon and shift trillions of dollars in subsidies from fossil fuels, non-sustainable agriculture, and transportation towards low-carbon and nature-friendly solutions.
- There is a need for setting ambitious international targets for biodiversity, such as expanded and improved protected area networks.
- New variants of coronavirus have made the fight against COVID-19 challenging and the pandemic may soon turn endemic in many countries.
- In the context of this, the report cautions how ecosystem degradation heightens the risk of pathogens making the jump from animals to humans.
- It has strongly advocated for the importance of a ‘one health’ approach that considers human, animal, and planetary health together.
- A sustainable economy driven by renewable energy and nature-based solutions will create new jobs, cleaner infrastructure, and a resilient future.
- It is the bedrock of hope in the post-COVID-19 world.
(Read more on COVID-19 and Carbon Neutrality- click here)
Climate change: Social tipping points leading us away from indifference onto the path of progress
Relevance: Climate change adaptation and mitigation, important terms in relation to climate change
Context: The International Energy Agency reported that global CO2 emissions have returned to pre-pandemic levels, and then some.
The good news:
- The world appears to have finally woken up to the existential threat of global warming, and the drive to fix the problem is accelerating across the board.
- The planet’s biggest carbon polluters – China, US, EU – vow carbon neutrality by mid-century;
- solar and wind power continued to surge even as global GDP shrank five per cent last year;
- two-thirds of humanity see a “climate emergency”;
- a top-five automaker says it will only make zero-emission vehicles after 2035;
- major investors recoil from coal,
- fossil fuels companies shrivel in value.
- But in all sectors – energy, industry, geopolitics, finance, public opinion- a flurry of activity has experts wondering whether the world is, at long last, turning the corner on climate.
- The term for this sunny scenario is “social tipping point”, defined as a threshold leading irreversibly to a new state or paradigm, whether it be a shift to meat-free diets or – the ultimate goal – a global carbon-neutral economy.
- In sociology, a tipping point is a point in time when a group- or many group members-rapidly and dramatically changes its behaviour by widely adopting a previously rare practice.
The bad news:
- Net-zero promises notwithstanding- governments are nowhere close to the level of ambition needed to limit climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius and meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.”
- The 2015 treaty calls for capping global warming at “well below” 2 degrees Celcius compared to preindustrial levels, and the world is currently on track for double that.
Examples of Social Tipping Point:
- A decade ago, EVs barely registered in terms of market share, and a rapid phase-out of the internal combustion engine seemed chimerical. Today, the EV revolution is well underway and, by most accounts, unstoppable.
- Leading the charge is Norway, where electric vehicles accounted for 54% of new car sales last year – three-quarters if plug-in hybrids are included in the tally.
- The only other country in double digits is Iceland, and globally the EV market share in 2020 was less than five per cent.
- A global tipping point will come when EVs cost the same to manufacture as conventional cars.
- Rapid uptake is also helped by an about-face in consumer attitudes from wariness to wanting what others have, an example of “social contagion”.
- By itself, Norway will never move the dial on global carbon emissions. But its pathbreaking example – including a ban on new carbon polluting cars after 2025- has an outside influence and adds to gathering global momentum, Lenton and others say.
- Britain and California will only allow the sale of emissions-free vehicles from 2035, while China- already the largest EV market in the world- has said it will ban petrol- and diesel-fuelled cars from that date.
- The world's fourth-biggest carmaker announced it would only sell emissions-free vehicles starting in 2035.
- The soaring share value of EV pure player Tesla has recently made it's CEO Elon Musk the richest person in the world.
- To see it coming both from the government side and from major auto companies, really signals that change is coming. Sometimes a “critical minority” is enough to lock in a tipping point, which can occur before its broader impact is visible.
Slavery and fossil fuels
- Grassroots pressure on fund managers and their clients to unload fossil fuel stocks is a text-book example. Simulations show that if about nine per cent of investors divest, the rest will follow suit because they will be afraid of being left behind and losing money.
- The climate divestment movement, intertwined with social justice goals, can be compared to the drive to abolish slavery in the late 18th and early 19th century.
- Both involved deeply rooted economic systems that actively resisted change. In the case of chattel slavery, a long unchallenged system came unravelled quickly and was soon seen as morally indefensible.
- We will get to a point where it will seem as unthinkable to use fossil fuel energy as it is to have slaves.
A race we can't afford to lose:
- But that hard truth clashes with another: coal, oil and gas still account for nearly 85% of global energy supply, and are subsidised to the tune of half-a-trillion dollars every year, both for consumers and producers, according to the OECD.
- How that tension will be played out- and how quickly- remains to be seen, but there can be no doubt that fossil fuel companies are feeling the heat.
- The cyclical shock of Covid has brought forward a structural peak in emissions, which was going to happen anyway.
- Before the crisis, renewables had almost reached a tipping point and now, in future, all growth in demand for energy can be satisfied with renewable sources.
- Social tipping points have an evil twin in the climate system, where Earth system scientists have identified 15 temperature tripwires for irreversible and potentially catastrophic change.
- A world that has warmed two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels could push the melting of ice sheets atop Greenland and West Antarctic- with enough frozen water to lift oceans 13 metres- past a point of no return.
- Other tipping points could see the Amazon basin turn from tropical forest to savannah; billions of tonnes of carbon leech from Siberia's permafrost; the disappearance of the polar ice cap in summer.
- Taken together, these changes could punch a one-way ticket to what scientists call “hothouse Earth”, a profoundly inhospitable state the planet has not known for tens of millions of years.
- We have the foresight to change our course of action. In a very real sense, then, humanity is in a race it cannot afford to lose.
- Beyond morality, there comes a point in major social transitions when rejecting the status quo and adopting new norms becomes the most rational option economically.
- If we want to avoid the bad tipping points, we need to trigger the good or social tipping points.
- Ultimately, the separate strands of climate action must coalesce into a greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts whole. Synergy is needed for large-scale change to unfold.
Clean energy post COVID-19
Relevance: Clean/renewable energy, sustainable practices, rural clean energy infrastructure, local initiatives in clean energy etc.
- The report, titled Shaping a Sustainable Energy Future in Asia and the Pacific: A greener, more resilient and inclusive energy system, was released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
About the report:
- The report observes the healthy pace of renewable energy development in countries such as China and India, throughout 2020.
- The report notes that the Asia-Pacific region has been moving towards clean, efficient and low-carbon technologies.
Benefits of focusing on clean energy post-COVID-19:
- Renewable energy systems can help transform energy systems to help ensure resilience to future crises such as COVID-19.
- Evidence shows that renewable energy and energy efficiency projects create more jobs for the same investment in fossil fuel projects. Renewable energy presents opportunities for an inclusive recovery after the pandemic.
- Increasing expenditure on clean cooking and electricity access can help enhance economic activity in rural areas and support modern infrastructure that can make the communities more resilient and inclusive.
- Investing in low-carbon technologies can help achieve the ambitious climate pledges the world needs to fulfil to reach the Paris Agreement target of a 2-degree global warming limit.
Green growth strategy:
- A focus on renewable energy can help launch a ‘green recovery’ post-COVID-19 that simultaneously rebuilds our economies and puts us on track to meet global climate and sustainability goals.
- The energy sector offers multiple opportunities to align stimuli with clean industries of the future.
- The global community should not waste the opportunities this crisis presents.
- The world should work towards making modern energy available to all and decarbonising the energy system through a transition to sustainable energy.
- There is the need to phase out the use of coal from power generation portfolios and substitute it with renewables.
- This could be realized by ending fossil fuel subsidies and implementing carbon pricing.
(Read more about India's Energy Resources and what Role can Clean Energy play in the Holistic Development of India)
The Wettest Place on Earth sees a decreasing trend in rainfall
Relevance: Rainfall pattern and related factors, climate change impacts etc.
- An analysis of 119 years of rainfall measurements at different rain gauge stations across North East India, has revealed a decreasing trend in summer rainfall since 1973, including in rainy Meghalaya, reputed for hosting the world’s wettest place.
- Mawsynram and Cherrapunji, places that receive the highest rainfall in the region, have recorded a decrease in average rainfall in recent decades.
- Cherrapunji, earlier the wettest place on Earth, showed a larger decrease thus shifting the distinction to Mawsynram.
- Changes in sea-surface temperature and land-use patterns contributed considerably to such a dip in rainfall, the researchers report.
- Rainfall study in northeast India had so far focused on only one or two cities for a shorter period.
- To broadly understand rainfall patterns in this region, scientists measured daily and continuous rainfall at 16 stations across seven states of north-east India between 1901 and 2019.
- The team found that most stations showed the largest decreasing trend in rainfall in summer and the lowest in winter with a clear reduction in rainfall at most stations since the late 1970s.
- The reduction in winter rainfall is statistically significant at North Lakhimpur, Pasighat, and Shillong.
- Population growth and human activities such as agriculture have caused deforestation and reduction in ice and snow in northeast India.
- This has increased water bodies and urban and built-up lands between 2001 and 2018.
- Such changes in land-use patterns, coupled with variations in temperature in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, remarkably contributed to a decreasing trend in rainfall, suggesting a link between human activities and climate change.
Farm exports defy overall trend in 2020, see 9.8 % growth
Relevance: Status of India's agriculture & allied export and import.
- According to the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, farm exports have registered 9.8% growth for the period of April-December 2020.
- Previously, the government of India launched the Remission of Duties or Taxes on Export Product (RoDTEP) scheme replacing Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) to further improve exports.
Data for April-December 2020:
- Overall merchandise exports registered 15.5% fall while Farm exports Registered a 9.8% growth.
- Overall merchandise exports include all the goods manufactured in India while Farm exports include only agricultural products.
- Commerce Ministry data shows the country’s export of all goods during April-December 2020 at $201.30 billion, down from the $238.27 billion for April-December 2019.
- In contrast, exports of agri-commodities have risen from $26.34 billion to $28.91 billion for this period.
- And with imports simultaneously contracting 5.5%, the agricultural trade surplus has widened from $9.57 billion in April-December 2019 to $13.07 billion in April-December 2020.
Reasons For Growth in Farm Exports:
Rising International Prices
- The increase in Agri exports largely courtesy favourable world prices.
- The United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization released its latest Food Price Index (FPI) for January. That number, at 113.3 points (base year: 2014-2016=100), was the highest since the 116.4 of July 2014. Between May 2020 and January 2021, the FPI has soared from a 48-month-low to a 78-month-high!
- Chinese stockpiling: Global prices have also been increased by Chinese stockpiling. It has stepped up imports of everything – from maize, wheat, soybean and barely to sugar and milk powder – to build strategic food reserves amid geopolitical tensions.
Normalisation of Demands
- Due to steady normalisation of demand with most countries unlocking their economies after May 2020 and, at the same time, restoration of supply chains post-Covid not keeping pace has made exports of many farm products from India competitive.
- That includes non-basmati rice, sugar, oilseed meals, cotton and even wheat and other cereals (mainly maize).
Agriculture Exempted from Lockdown
- Farmers harvested a bumper rabi crop during April-June, enabled by the government exempting agriculture-related activities from lockdown restrictions.
- The current export revival is equally a result of dry weather conditions in major producing countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Ukraine, Thailand and Vietnam.
- Russia (the world’s largest wheat exporter) and Argentina (No. 1 in soybean meal and No. 3 in maize) have even announced temporary suspension or taxes on grain shipments in response to high domestic food inflation.
- India, on the other hand, hasn’t faced serious weather issues; both 2019 and 2020 recorded surplus monsoon rainfall along with the timely onset of winter.
Significance of Rising Exports:
- Amid the farm protests, the Commerce Ministry data have two bright spots-
- The first is bumper crops, aided by good rains and extended winter.
- The second is global agri-commodity prices rising to a six-and-a-half-year high, making exports competitive and imports costlier. Both should help boost farm realisations and incomes.
- If it sustains, it can help increase crop prices when the next rabi harvest is due from March 2021. This may be politically useful in the context of farm unrest.
- It will help in achieving the USD 5-trillion economy goal by India.
- It will help achieve an ambitious target of doubling farmers' income by 2022.
(Also read about India's Agri-export policy- click here)