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Indian Express

16- December-2023

1. On the farm, and beyond

Topic: GS3 – Agricultural Resources, Govt Policies and intervention This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for mains in the context of farm mechanization in Indian Agriculture sector.
Context:
  • The focus of the article is on India’s current situation with farm mechanisation, the difficulties that farmers face, recent government measures, and the possibility of more reforms to improve the agricultural sector’s sustainability, affordability, and efficiency.
 Mechanization as a Necessity for Indian Farmers
  • Mechanising agriculture is not just a need but also a choice in rural India.
  • As the primary workhorse, tractors are essential for reducing labour costs, making the most use of time, and raising crop yields.
  • The fact that tractors are a source of pride for rural households emphasises their significance.
  • India has surpassed both China and the US to become the world’s largest tractor market by volume.
Limited Tractor Ownership and Challenges
  • Tractors are used by most farmers, however only 4.6% of farmers actually own one.
  • Most of them, especially the smallholders, rent tractors or use human and animal power, which makes farming operations inefficient and delayed.
  • To improve agricultural mechanisation, smart policy actions are required in this context.
 Recent Government Initiatives and Challenges Ahead
  • Further reforms are required, even though the government has strongly supported agriculture with programmes like the Sub-Mission on Agricultural Mechanisation (SMAM).
  • Reducing the number of tests and requiring self-certification for new tractor models is a beneficial move that has been taken recently towards trust-based governance and accelerated deployment of innovative technologies.

Challenges in Emission Standards and Cost Implications

  • Notwithstanding, there are still obstacles to overcome, such as the imposition of Bharat Stage TREM V pollution regulations for tractors starting in April 2024.
  • Farmers will face a difficulty in striking a balance between price and efficiency as more environmentally friendly technology are introduced and mechanisation costs rise.
What is the Farm Machinery Industry?
  • Ploughing, planting, harvesting, and other farming operations require a variety of machinery, equipment, and tools, all of which are produced and supplied by the farm machinery industry sector.
  • The industry includes both large and small-scale farming equipment, and these machines are made to increase productivity and efficiency in farming activities.
  • Products from this industry include, among others, tillers, irrigation systems, combine harvesters, and tractors.
 Beyond Tractors: Diversifying Farm Mechanization
  • The article highlights the importance of focusing on the larger field of agricultural mechanisation rather than just tractors.
  • In contrast to the worldwide trend, wherein sales of farm machinery exceed those of tractors, the situation in India is distinct.
  • The development of specialised farm equipment for varying crops and landholding sizes is needed to increase the usefulness of tractors, with a focus on smallholders’ requirements.

Government’s Role in Industry Development and Sustainability Goals

  • The development of dependable and reasonably priced non-tractor farm equipment appropriate for regional conditions is thought to have been greatly aided by the Made in India campaign.
  • Important measures under SMAM include promoting investments, deterring the import of subpar gear, and guaranteeing the prompt disbursement of subsidies.
  • The industry’s growth depends on cooperation with global sustainability goals and the promotion of indigenous innovation.

Tractors Beyond Farming: Rural Employment Opportunities

  • Beyond its application in agriculture, tractors play a major role in non-agricultural industries including transportation and construction.
  • Tractors can be modified for various uses to create new employment opportunities and spur economic growth in rural areas.

Tractors’ Role in Sustainable Farming and Food Security

  • Tractor development in India is essential to the country’s sustainable farming future since it aims to increase output, lessen labor-intensive farming, and guarantee food security for everybody.
  • The article emphasises how crucial tractors are to India’s rise to prominence in the world food production system.
PYQ: What are the challenges and opportunities of the food processing sector in the country? How can the income of the farmers be substantially increased by encouraging food processing (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2020)
Practice Question: Discuss the significance of farm mechanization, with a specific focus on the role of tractors in India’s agricultural landscape. (150 words,10 marks)

2. PATIENCE AND VIGILANCE

Topic: GS2 – International Relations- India and its Neighbourhood This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for mains in the context of India’s neighbourhood relations.
Context:
  • The decision made by the Maldives government to not extend the 2019 agreement permitting India to carry out hydrographic studies in the Maldives’ territorial waters is the main topic of discussion in this article.
  • It is believed that domestic political factors, especially the recently elected government’s “India Out” position, played a role in this decision.
  • The impact of regional power dynamics on domestic politics of South Asian countries on their exterior orientation is examined in this article.
 Unfortunate Decision on Hydrographic Surveys:
  • The regrettable move by the Maldives administration to not extend the 2019 agreement permitting India to carry out hydrographic surveys in its territorial waters was made recently.
  • This action runs counter to the two countries’ previous history of collaboration on hydrographic studies in a number of regions, including Tanzania, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka.
  • More than diplomatic or economic factors, the choice seems to have its roots in internal politics.
Domestic Politics Shaping Foreign Policy:
  • Given that President Mohamed Muizzu ran his campaign on an “India Out” platform, it is believed that the Maldivian government’s choice reflects internal political forces.
  • The government’s anti-Indian position is highlighted by past acts like calling for the evacuation of Indian soldiers and attending a seminar hosted by China while avoiding a security conversation with India.
  • A consistent strategy is indicated by the withdrawal from the survey agreement, even in light of recent discussions between PM Modi and Muizzu.
South Asian Countries’ External Orientation:
  • One significant development in South Asian nations is the impact of internal politics on foreign direction.
  • China’s growing influence and India’s preeminent military and economic might in the area are two major elements influencing this.
  • For example, the Maldives and Sri Lanka deliberately use their physical proximity to pit powerful nations against one another.
  • Although this is standard procedure, it is unfortunate when long-term interests are sacrificed for immediate political advantage, as was the case in the Maldives.

India’s Strategic Position and Challenges:

  • Given its geographical advantages and historical proximity to the Maldives, India needs to exercise patience and caution.
  • The islands may eventually need Indian help because of the threats posed by rising sea levels.
  • However, India must negotiate the challenging environment created by China’s expanding influence; it cannot only rely on historical advantages.
  • India has to respect nationalist feelings while enforcing red lines on China’s influence in the Maldives.
  • Engagement and non-interference must be balanced.
What is the “India Out” Campaign?
  • The Maldivian “India Out” movement began as street demonstrations in the Maldives at some point last year.
  • Later, the hashtag became popular throughout social media sites.
  • It is more about dissatisfaction with the close ties between the Maldivian administration and India than it is with people-to-people conflict (the Indian diaspora).
 Way Forward:
  • With the geopolitical circumstances changing, New Delhi needs to play a more nuanced role and use diplomatic finesse.
  • India should set clear limits while dealing with the Maldives in light of China’s growing influence in the area.
  • It is crucial to have a tactful stance that stresses diplomatic involvement without coming across as meddling.
  • Gaining insight from the experiences of other emerging countries, India needs to handle the intricacies of regional geopolitics with caution.
PYQ: Discuss the political developments in the Maldives in the last two years. Should they be of any cause for concern to India? (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2013)
Practice Question: Examine the role of domestic politics, regional power dynamics, and China’s influence in shaping the strategic choices of small island nations in the Indian Ocean. (250 words) 15 marks

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