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Daily Current Affairs

11-May -2024- Top News of the Day

1. Election Commission Refutes Allegations of Voter Turnout Manipulation Amid Transparency Concerns

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Explained; Page: 16)

Topic: GS2 – Polity – Constitutional Bodies

 

Context:
  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) recently refuted allegations by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge regarding a perceived delay in releasing final voter turnout figures, dismissing claims of potential manipulation.
  • Kharge’s letter questioned the increase in turnout figures between the close of polling and the release of final data, prompting scrutiny into the process and transparency of voter turnout reporting.
Analysis of News:

 

Initial Turnout Figures and Subsequent Updates:

  • The discrepancy between initial and final voter turnout figures for the first two phases of polling raised concerns.
  • Initial estimates provided by the ECI indicated turnout percentages around 60-65%, which were subsequently revised upwards by several percentage points upon the release of final data.
  • The delay in finalizing turnout figures, coupled with discrepancies between initial and final counts, led to questions regarding the integrity of the electoral process.

Explanation by the Election Commission:

  • The ECI defended the delay in releasing final turnout figures, citing the need for thorough verification and collation of data from polling stations, especially those in remote areas.
  • The process involves returning officers scrutinizing documents, completing data entry, and publishing the data on the Voter Turnout app.
  • Furthermore, final turnout figures are not confirmed until postal ballots are counted on the day of the official counting, contributing to the delay in releasing official data.

Role of Form 17C and Transparency Concerns:

  • Form 17C, issued to polling agents at the close of polling, contains crucial data on voter turnout and forms the basis of any potential legal challenges to election results.
  • While the ECI maintains that candidates receive Form 17C and can verify the results on counting day, activists advocate for greater transparency by making this data publicly available.
  • However, the ECI asserts that it is not legally obligated to publish aggregate voter turnout data and highlights the existing statutory requirement of providing Form 17C to candidates.

Demands for Transparency and Legal Compliance:

  • Despite the ECI’s assertions regarding the legal obligations and transparency measures in place, demands for greater transparency persist among activists and stakeholders.
  • The availability of Form 17C to candidates does not necessarily ensure widespread access to crucial turnout data, leading to calls for broader dissemination of this information to enhance accountability and public trust in the electoral process.

Conclusion:

  • The controversy surrounding voter turnout figures underscores the delicate balance between transparency, legal compliance, and public trust in the electoral process.
  • While the ECI’s procedures adhere to existing statutory requirements, calls for greater transparency through the public release of Form 17C data reflect broader concerns regarding electoral integrity and accountability.
  • Addressing these concerns will be crucial for upholding the credibility of India’s democratic institutions.

 

What is the Election Commission of India?

 

About:

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
  • It was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950 (celebrated as National Voters’ Day). The secretariat of the commission is in New Delhi.
  • The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
  • It is not concerned with the elections to panchayats and municipalities in the states. For this, the Constitution of India provides for a separate State Election Commission.

Constitutional Provisions:

  • Part XV (Article 324-329): It deals with elections and establishes a commission for these matters.
  • Article 324: Superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in an Election Commission.
  • Article 325: No person to be ineligible for inclusion in, or to claim to be included in a special, electoral roll-on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex.
  • Article 326: Elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assemblies of States to be based on adult suffrage.
  • Article 327: Power of Parliament to make provision with respect to elections to Legislatures.
  • Article 328: Power of Legislature of a State to make provision with respect to elections to such Legislature.
  • Article 329: Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters.

Structure of ECI:

  • Originally the commission had only one election commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it was made a multi-member body.
  • The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and such number of other election commissioners, if any, as the President may from time-to-time fix.
  • Presently, it consists of the CEC and two Election Commissioners (ECs).
  • At the state level, the election commission is helped by the Chief Electoral Officer.

Appointment & Tenure of Commissioners:

  • The President appoints CEC and Election Commissioners as per the CEC and Other ECs (Appointment, Conditions of Service and Term of Office) Act, 2023.
  • They have a fixed tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • The salary and conditions of service of the CEC and ECs will be equivalent to that of the Cabinet Secretary.
  • Under the 1991 Act, it was equivalent to the salary of a Supreme Court Judge.

Removal:

  • They can resign anytime or can also be removed before the expiry of their term.
  • The CEC can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a SC judge by Parliament, while ECs can only be removed on the recommendation of the CEC.

Limitations:

  • The Constitution has not prescribed the qualifications (legal, educational, administrative or judicial) of the members of the Election Commission.
  • The Constitution has not specified the term of the members of the Election Commission.
  • The Constitution has not debarred the retiring election commissioners from any further appointment by the government.

 

 

PYQ: Consider the following statements: (2017)

1) The Election Commission of India is a five-member body.

2) The Union Ministry of Home Affairs decides the election schedule for the conduct of both general elections and bye-elections.

3) Election Commission resolves the disputes relating to splits/mergers of recognised political parties.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 2 and 3 only

(d) 3 only

Ans: (d)

Practice Question:  What are the concerns raised regarding the release of voter turnout figures by the Election Commission of India (ECI) during recent elections, and how does transparency play a role in addressing these concerns? (250 words/15 m)

 

2. India's Industrial Output Slows in March, Reflecting Mixed Consumption Trends and Sectoral Challenges

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Economy; Page: 17)

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Issues relating to growth
Context:
  • The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) for March revealed a growth rate of 4.9%, a slight decrease from the previous month’s 5.6% but higher than the 1.9% growth recorded in the same period last year.
  • Despite this, mining output slowed to a 19-month low, indicating some challenges within the sector.
Analysis of News:

About Index of Industrial Production:

  • It is one of the Prime indicators of economic development for the measurement of trends in the behavior of Industrial Production over a period of time with reference to a chosen base year.
  • It indicates the relative change of physical production in the field of industries during a specified year as compared to the previous year.
  • It is computed and published by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) on a monthly basis.
  • Base Year:
    • The base year is always given a value of 100.
    • The current base year for the IIP series in India is 2011-12.
    • So, if the current IIP reads as 116, it means that there has been 16% growth compared to the base year.

Annual Growth in Factory Output:

  • For the full financial year 2023-24, factory output grew by 5.8%, a marginal increase from the previous year’s 5.2%.
  • This growth was primarily driven by an uptick in manufacturing and construction goods output.

Quarterly Industrial Output Trends:

  • In the January-March quarter, industrial output growth averaged 4.9%, compared to 6.2% in the previous quarter.
  • This slowdown may contribute to a deceleration in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth for Q4, which is expected to be released at the end of this month.

Factors Contributing to the Slowdown:

  • Economists attribute the slowdown in industrial output to a moderation in the government’s capital expenditure towards the end of the fiscal year.
  • Additionally, there was a mixed picture in consumption trends, with rural demand showing signs of improvement compared to urban demand.

Sector-wise Performance:

  • Manufacturing, accounting for a significant portion of the IIP, grew by 5.2% in March and 5.5% for the fiscal year 2023-24.
  • Mining output, on the other hand, slowed to a 19-month low in March. Electricity output witnessed growth, while capital goods production, an indicator of investment, grew by 6.1% in March but showed a slowdown for the fiscal year.

Consumption Trends:

  • Consumer durables output grew by 9.5% in March, while consumer non-durables output increased by 4.9%.
  • However, both segments recorded lower growth rates for the fiscal year, indicating persistent weaknesses in consumption demand.

Conclusion:

  • The analysis of industrial output data for March reflects a nuanced picture of the economy, with varying growth trends across sectors and consumption segments.
  • While certain sectors showed resilience, others experienced challenges, highlighting the need for continued monitoring and policy interventions to support overall economic growth.
Index of Eight Core Industries (ICI)
  •  ICI measures the collective and individual performance of production in selected eight core industries viz. Coal, Crude Oil, Natural Gas, Petroleum Refinery Products, Fertilizers, Steel, Cement and Electricity.
  • The objective of the ICI is to provide an advance indication of production performance of industries of ‘core’ nature before the release of IIP by the Central Statistics Office.
  • These industries are likely to impact general economic activities as well as industrial activities.
  • The Index is compiled and released by the Office of the Economic Adviser (OEA), Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP), Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India.

 

PYQ: Faster economic growth requires increased share of the manufacturing sector in GDP, particularly of MSMEs. Comment on the present policies of the Government in this regard. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2023)
Practice Question:  What are the key findings from India’s Index of Industrial Production (IIP) for March, and what factors contributed to the observed trends in industrial growth? (250 words/15 m)

3. Indian Parliament Considers CISF Takeover Amid Security Concerns

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Cover Page; Page: 01)

Topic: GS3 – Internal Security – Various Security forces & agencies and their mandate.
Context:
  • The Union Home Ministry’s move to potentially replace the Parliament Security Service with CISF personnel marks a significant development in the security apparatus of the Indian Parliament.
  • This analysis delves into the implications, challenges, and historical context surrounding this proposed overhaul.
  • Also this analysis underscores the complexity of the proposed security overhaul at Parliament and emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach that safeguards both security interests and parliamentary autonomy.
Analysis of News:

The Need for Change:

  • The catalyst for this proposed change stems from a security breach on December 13 last year, highlighting vulnerabilities within the existing security framework.
  • The thinning strength of the Parliament Security Service due to a lack of fresh recruitments exacerbates these concerns.

Proposed Overhaul: Key Elements:

  • The Ministry of Home Affairs’ directive outlines a Joint Survey Team to reassess security arrangements, potentially leading to the deployment of additional CISF personnel.
  • The scope of CISF involvement spans from managing access control to facilitating VIP movement and security during critical events like Presidential addresses and elections.

Potential Benefits and Concerns:

  • While the move aims to bolster security, concerns are raised regarding the unique nature of Parliament security.
  • The Parliament Security Service, deeply entrenched in the institution’s history since 1929, embodies a specialized skill set tailored to handle parliamentary affairs.
  • Critics argue that external security agencies lack the nuanced understanding required for Parliament’s unique security needs.

Historical Context: Evolution of Security:

  • The establishment of the Watch and Ward Committee in 1929 underscores the historical significance of Parliament security.
  • Formed after the Bhagat Singh incident, its evolution over the years highlights a commitment to safeguarding Parliament’s sanctity and independence.

Challenges Ahead:

  • The proposed overhaul faces resistance from former parliamentary officials and experts who stress the importance of maintaining Parliament’s autonomy in security matters.
  • Any alteration to the existing security framework must align with constitutional mandates and ensure the preservation of parliamentary sovereignty.

Conclusion:

  • As discussions unfold, striking a balance between enhancing security measures and preserving parliamentary autonomy emerges as a crucial imperative.
  • The decision-making process must prioritize Parliament’s unique security requirements while addressing gaps highlighted by recent security breaches.
About the Central Industrial Security Force
  • It was established after the recommendation of the Justice Mukherjee Commission.
  • It was set up by an Act of Parliament on March 10, 1969.
  • It is one of seven Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) under the Ministry of Home Affairs — the other six being the Border Security Force, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Sashastra Seema Bal, the Assam Rifles, the National Security Guard, and the Central Reserve Police Force.
  • It is headed by an Indian Police Service officer with the rank of Director-General.
  • Mandate:
  • Initially, its remit was restricted to protecting government-owned industries, but this was expanded to include joint-ventures and private undertakings in 2009.
  • It also provides consultancy services to the private sector.
  • The force is deployed in over 350 locations across the country, in diversified areas such as atomic energy and space installations, sea-ports, steel plants, coal fields, hydro-electric and thermal power plants, defence production units, fertiliser and chemical industries, RBI’s note-printing mints, heritage monuments such as the Taj Mahal.
  •  It has the largest percentage of women in its force, in comparison to all other CAPFs.
  •  Presently, CISF is also providing security to the protected persons classified as Z Plus, Z, X, Y.

 

Practice Question:  Describe the proposed changes to the security arrangements at the Indian Parliament, particularly considering the potential takeover by the CISF, and discuss the implications of such a move in terms of parliamentary security and governance. (250 words/15 m)

4. Green steel needs tiered incentives to become a reality in Asia: Russell

(Source – The Hindu, Section – Business, Page No. – 13)

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Infrastructure – Energy and Environment: Environmental pollution and degradation
Context

●  The news discusses the challenges and prospects of decarbonizing the steel sector in Asia, emphasizing the need for incentives to drive significant progress.

● Despite stakeholders’ efforts, achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 remains uncertain due to technological limitations and financial considerations.

 Introduction to Decarbonizing the Steel Sector

  • Steel production is a major contributor to global carbon emissions, accounting for approximately 8% of the world’s total.
  • Decarbonizing the steel sector is crucial for achieving net-zero emissions and addressing climate change concerns.
  • Efforts to decarbonize steel production in Asia face challenges, particularly in implementing incentives and adopting new technologies.

Current Efforts and Challenges

  • Stakeholders in the iron ore and steel industry are taking decarbonization seriously, investing time, effort, and capital into solutions.
  • However, achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 in Asia seems challenging with current available technology.
  • The absence of a premium for producing low-carbon steel in Asia and the lack of incentives hinder progress in decarbonization efforts.

Incentivizing Decarbonization

  • Decarbonization efforts are mostly voluntary, driven by pressure from shareholders, governments, and the public to mitigate climate change impacts.
  • However, without financial rewards, decarbonization costs affect companies’ bottom lines, discouraging significant progress.
  • Introducing incentives is crucial, starting from initial steps to more capital-intensive measures for achieving net-zero emissions.

Proposed Incentive Structure

  • A tiered system of incentives could be introduced, rewarding emission reductions at different stages of decarbonization.
  • For example, a steel mill reducing emissions by a third could earn a carbon credit or avoid paying a carbon tax.
  • Further reductions achieved through investment in new processes, such as using direct reduced iron (DRI) in electric arc furnaces (EAFs), could receive higher incentives.

Challenges and Solutions for Decarbonization

  • Initial steps involve maximising efficiency, increasing the use of recycled steel, and decarbonizing mining operations.
  • However, these efforts may only address a small portion of global steel emissions.
  • Advanced steps, such as using green hydrogen and renewable energy in steel production, require substantial investment and face shareholder scrutiny over costs.

Need for Regulatory Measures

  • Market forces alone may not provide sufficient incentives for decarbonization, necessitating regulatory interventions like carbon taxes or credits.
  • Coordination among top iron ore exporters and major steel-producing countries, including Australia, Brazil, China, and India, is essential for effective regulation.

Conclusion

  • Decarbonizing the steel sector is critical for achieving net-zero emissions, but challenges persist, particularly in incentivizing decarbonization efforts.
  • A tiered incentive system and regulatory measures like carbon taxes or credits are necessary to drive significant progress in reducing steel sector emissions.
  • Coordination among key stakeholders and countries is essential for implementing effective regulations and accelerating the transition to low-carbon steel production.

PYQ:

Q.1 Account for the change in the spatial pattern of the Iron and Steel industry in the world. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2014)

Q.2 Account for the present location of iron and steel industries away from the source of raw material, by giving examples. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2020)

Practice Question:  What are the challenges hindering the decarbonization of the steel sector in Asia, and how can incentives be introduced to facilitate progress towards net-zero emissions by 2050? (250 Words /15 marks)

5. Navigating Challenges: India-Maldives Bilateral Relations Under the Spotlight

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Cover Page; Page: 01)

Topic: GS2 – International Relations – Bilateral Relations
Context:
  • The recent meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Maldives Foreign Minister Moosa Zameer underscores the nuanced dynamics of India-Maldives bilateral relations.
  • Against the backdrop of a veiled reference to the pro-China tilt of the Maldives government led by President Mohamed Muizzu, Jaishankar emphasized the importance of mutual interests and reciprocal sensitivity in nurturing the ties between the two close and proximate neighbors.
Analysis of News:

Challenges and Expectations:

  • President Muizzu’s call for the withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the Maldives by May 10 has added strain to the bilateral relationship.
  • The meeting between Jaishankar and Zameer ahead of this deadline signifies the urgency of addressing contentious issues while reaffirming the commitment to bilateral cooperation.

Military Personnel Withdrawal and Its Implications:

  • The withdrawal of Indian military personnel from the Maldives, as demanded by President Muizzu, has been confirmed by the Ministry of External Affairs.
  • However, they have been replaced by competent Indian technical personnel to ensure the continued operation of Indian aviation platforms providing humanitarian and medical evacuation services.
  • This move reflects India’s commitment to supporting the Maldives in times of need while respecting its sovereignty.

Bilateral Cooperation and Development Partnership:

  • Despite political tensions, India remains a key development partner for the Maldives, offering assistance across various sectors, including infrastructure, healthcare, and disaster relief.
  • Both sides reiterated their commitment to ongoing capacity-building and training initiatives, highlighting the importance of shared activities in enhancing security and well-being.

Economic Cooperation and Export Quotas:

  • India’s approval of the highest-ever export quotas for essential commodities to the Maldives underscores its commitment to supporting human-centric development in the island nation.
  • This gesture reaffirms India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and signals its readiness to address the Maldives’ economic needs.

Future Directions and Regional Security:

  • The meeting between Jaishankar and Zameer provided an opportunity to discuss future directions in bilateral relations and regional security.
  • Against the backdrop of a volatile and uncertain global landscape, close partnerships with neighbors like the Maldives are deemed crucial for addressing common challenges and fostering stability in the region.

Conclusion:

  • The India-Maldives bilateral relationship faces both challenges and opportunities, with the recent meeting serving as a platform to navigate through contentious issues and reaffirm shared commitments.
  • Despite political differences, both countries recognize the importance of cooperation in addressing regional security concerns and promoting mutual prosperity.
  • Moving forward, continued dialogue and cooperation will be essential in nurturing a resilient and mutually beneficial partnership.
Maldives’ Significance for India:
  • Strategic Location: Located south of India, the Maldives holds immense strategic importance in the Indian Ocean, acting as a gateway to the Arabian Sea and beyond. This allows India to monitor maritime traffic and enhance regional security.
  • Cultural Link: India and Maldives share a deep cultural and historical connection dating back centuries. Until the first half of the 12th century, Buddhism was the principal religion in the Maldivian islands. There is an inscription of Vajrayana Buddhism, that had existed in the Maldives in ancient times.
  • Regional Stability: A stable and prosperous Maldives aligns with India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, promoting peace and security in the Indian Ocean region.
India’s Significance for Maldives:
  • Essential Supplies: India is a crucial supplier of everyday essentials, including rice, spices, fruits, vegetables, and medicines. India also aids in building Maldivian infrastructure by providing materials like cement and rock boulders.
  • Education: India serves as the primary education provider for Maldivian students who pursue higher education in Indian institutions, including scholarships for deserving students.
  • Disaster Assistance: India has been a consistent source of aid during crises, such as tsunamis and drinking water shortages. The provision of essential items and support during the Covid-19 pandemic showcases India’s role as a reliable partner.
  • Security Provider: India has a history of providing security assistance, intervening during a coup attempt in 1988 through Operation Cactus and conducting joint naval exercises for the protection of the Maldives. Joint Exercises include- “Ekuverin”, “Dosti” and “Ekatha”.
  • India’s Dominance in Maldives Tourism: Indian tourists have become the leading source market for the Maldives since the Covid-19 pandemic. In 2023, they accounted for a significant 11.2% of total tourist arrivals, amounting to 18.42 lakh visitors.

 

PYQ: Discuss the political developments in Maldives in the last two years. Should they be of any cause of concern to India? (200 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2013)
Practice Question:  Discuss the recent developments in India-Maldives bilateral relations and their implications for regional cooperation. (150 words/10 m)

6. Addressing Gaps in Cancer Screening: Challenges and Initiatives in Ayushman Bharat Scheme

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Cover Page; Page: 01)

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors
Context:
  • The Ayushman Bharat Scheme, in addition to providing a Rs 5-lakh insurance cover, aimed to upgrade primary health centers to Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centers (HWCs) to offer annual screening for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes, and certain cancers.
  • However, a report from NITI Aayog reveals significant gaps in cancer screening at these centers, highlighting challenges in implementation.
Analysis of News:

What is Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY?

  • PM-JAY is the world’s largest health insurance scheme fully financed by the government.
  • Launched in 2018, it offers a sum insured of Rs.5 lakh per family for secondary care and tertiary care.
  • Health Benefit Packages covers surgery, medical and day care treatments, cost of medicines and diagnostics.

Beneficiaries:

  • It is an entitlement-based scheme that targets the beneficiaries as identified by latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data.
  • The National Health Authority (NHA) has provided flexibility to States/UTs to use non- Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) beneficiary family databases with similar socio-economic profiles for tagging against the leftover (unauthenticated) SECC families.

Funding:

  • The funding for the scheme is shared – 60:40 for all states and UTs with their own legislature, 90:10 in Northeast states and Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand and 100% Central funding for UTs without legislature.

Nodal Agency:

  • The National Health Authority (NHA) has been constituted as an autonomous entity under the Society Registration Act, 1860 for effective implementation of PM-JAY in alliance with state governments.
  • The State Health Agency (SHA) is the apex body of the State Government responsible for the implementation of AB PM-JAY in the State.

Scope of the Report:

  • The report, prepared by NITI Aayog’s Health and Family Welfare vertical, covered 93 HWCs across 37 districts in 13 states and one Union Territory.
  • It tracked the progress and functioning of the HWCs over a four-month period, aiming to evaluate the implementation of cancer screening initiatives.

Identified Challenges:

  • One of the primary challenges identified in the report is the “huge gap” in cancer screening at the HWCs.
  • Despite the ambitious goals of the Ayushman Bharat Scheme, the actual implementation of cancer screening programs has fallen short, attributed to low levels of awareness and capacity constraints.

Training and Screening Methods:

  • The report underscores the importance of training healthcare staff, including Auxiliary Nurse and Midwife (ANMs), Medical Officers, and Staff Nurses, in cancer screening methods.
  • While protocols for screening methods such as oral visual examination for oral cancer and visual inspection with acetic acid for cervical cancer exist, their implementation has been suboptimal.

Current Status of Screening Activities:

  • According to the report, screening for breast cancer relies on educating beneficiaries to undertake self-examination, while screening for cervical cancer is yet to be operationalized.
  • Screening for oral cancer is performed on a case-by-case basis, primarily based on visible symptoms or tobacco consumption habits.
  • Moreover, annual NCD screening, including for hypertension and diabetes, is largely absent at most facilities.

Infrastructure and Operational Guidelines:

  • While the report notes that infrastructure in the HWCs meets operational guidelines, with basic devices and medicines available free-of-cost, the gaps in cancer screening remain a significant concern.
  • The absence of regular NCD screening reflects a need for enhanced training and monitoring of healthcare staff to ensure effective implementation of preventive healthcare measures.

Government Initiatives and Future Directions:

  • The gaps in cancer screening underscore the importance of the government’s focus on prevention and early detection of cancer.
  • The ruling BJP’s manifesto emphasizes expanding health services to address conditions like breast cancer, cervical cancer, and anaemia, indicating a commitment to women’s health.
  • Additionally, the party has announced initiatives to eliminate cervical cancer, highlighting the importance of addressing gaps in cancer screening and prevention.

Conclusion:

  • The NITI Aayog report highlights the need for concerted efforts to address gaps in cancer screening at Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centers.
  • Effective training, increased awareness, and regular monitoring are essential to ensure the successful implementation of cancer screening programs and achieve the goals of preventive healthcare initiatives.
What is the Importance of NITI Aayog?
  • The 65 year-old Planning Commission had become a redundant organization. It was relevant in a command economy structure, but not any longer.
  • India is a diversified country and its states are in various phases of economic development along with their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • In this context, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to economic planning is obsolete. It cannot make India competitive in today’s global economy.
  • What are Its Key Objectives?
  • To foster cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the States on a continuous basis, recognizing that strong States make a strong nation.
  • To develop mechanisms to formulate credible plans at the village level and aggregate these progressively at higher levels of government.
  • To ensure, on areas that are specifically referred to it, that the interests of national security are incorporated in economic strategy and policy.
  • To pay special attention to the sections of our society that may be at risk of not benefitting adequately from economic progress.
  • To provide advice and encourage partnerships between key stakeholders and national and international like-minded Think Tanks, as well as educational and policy research institutions.
  • To create a knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support system through a collaborative community of national and international experts, practitioners and other partners.
  • To offer a platform for resolution of inter-sectoral and inter-departmental issues in order to accelerate the implementation of the development agenda.
  • To maintain a state-of-the-art Resource Centre, be a repository of research on good governance and best practices in sustainable and equitable development as well as help their dissemination to stake-holders.

 

Practice Question:  Discuss the challenges and initiatives in cancer screening under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme. (150 words/10 m)

 

7. Decline in India's Agricultural Exports: Causes, Implications, and Policy Considerations

(Source: Indian Express; Section: Explained; Page: 12)

Topic: GS3 – Agriculture – Storage, transport and marketing of agricultural produce

 

Context:
  • India’s agricultural exports witnessed an 8.2% decline in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2024, primarily due to restrictions on various commodities.
  • This decline, juxtaposed with the surge in imports, reflects a complex dynamic in India’s agricultural trade landscape.
Analysis of News:

Trends in Agricultural Exports:

  • The total value of agricultural exports in 2023-24 stood at $48.82 billion, a drop from the record high of $53.15 billion in the previous fiscal year.
  • The decline in exports during the initial years of the Modi government was attributed to falling global agri-commodity prices, rendering Indian exports less competitive.

   Drivers of Export Decline:

  • The decline in exports was led by sugar and non-basmati rice, primarily due to domestic shortages and rising prices.
  • Restrictions on wheat and onion exports further exacerbated the decline. Despite this, certain commodities such as basmati rice and spices witnessed growth in exports.

Trends in Agricultural Imports:

  • While the overall agricultural imports declined by 7.9% in 2023-24, the import of pulses nearly doubled, reaching the highest levels since 2015-16.
  • Import of edible oils saw a significant reduction due to lower global prices.

Policy Implications:

  • The government’s approach to agricultural exports and imports has significant implications for producers and consumers.
  • Sudden bans or restrictions on exports can disrupt market dynamics and hurt producers.
  • Experts suggest a more predictable and rules-based policy, such as temporary tariffs instead of outright bans.

Future Outlook:

  • As the government transitions post-elections, there is a need for a rational export-import policy that balances the interests of producers and consumers.
  • Promoting crop diversification while addressing import dependency remains a key challenge for the agricultural sector.

Conclusion:

  • Addressing the challenges in agricultural exports requires a nuanced approach that considers both short-term exigencies and long-term sustainability goals.
What are the Government Schemes to Promote Agri-Export in India ?
  •  Operation Greens: Operation Greens is an initiative to stabilise the supply and prices of essential agricultural commodities, including fruits and vegetables. It aims to reduce price volatility, ensure farmers receive remunerative prices, and promote sustainable agri exports.
  •  Market Access Initiative (MAI): MAI is a program that supports export promotion activities, including participation in international trade fairs, capacity building, and market research. It helps Indian agricultural exporters explore new markets and gain market access.
  • Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters (SAMPADA): SAMPADA aims to modernise infrastructure for agro-processing clusters, which helps reduce post-harvest losses, increase the shelf life of agricultural products, and enhance the export competitiveness of Indian agri-products.
  • National Horticulture Mission (NHM): NHM focuses on promoting sustainable horticulture practices, including organic farming, precision farming, and water-use efficiency. It supports the production of high-value horticultural products for export.
  • E-NAM (National Agriculture Market): E-NAM is a pan-India electronic trading portal for agricultural commodities. It enables farmers to sell their produce directly to buyers, reducing intermediaries, ensuring fair prices, and enhancing sustainability.
  • APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority): APEDA is responsible for promoting the export of scheduled products and provides guidelines for sustainability, quality, and certification requirements for exporters.
  • Setting up of Agri Export Zones (AEZs): AEZs are established in different parts of the country to promote the export of specific agricultural commodities. These zones provide a conducive environment for sustainable agri exports through infrastructure development and technology adoption.
  • Promotion of Organic Farming: The government has initiated programs to promote organic farming, which contributes to environmental sustainability and increases the export potential of organic products.

 

PYQ: What are the main constraints in transport and marketing of agricultural produce in India? (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2020)
Practice Question:  Discuss the factors contributing to the decline in India’s agricultural exports in the fiscal year 2023-24 and analyze the policy implications of such trends. How can the government formulate a more sustainable export-import policy to balance the interests of producers and consumers in the agricultural sector? (250 words/15 m)

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