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Indian Express

18- December-2023

1. Assam Rifles plans op changes for deployment on LAC, if required

Topic: GS3 – Border Management This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of border security and security forces.
Context:
  • The Assam Rifles is planning critical operational changes so that it can be deployed for conventional roles along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in contingencies, while continuing to perform its traditional counter-insurgency duties in the Northeast and guarding the India-Myanmar border.
  • This issue was discussed along with other topics during the Assam Rifles Inspector General’s Conference held in Shillong last month.
  • There are plans to ensure availability of more than 70 per cent of Assam Rifles soldiers for deployment along the LAC in the next few months in case of an immediate requirement.

Growing focus on China:

  • The latest plans of Assam Rifles signals India’s growing focus towards China and securing the LAC.
  • Over the past three years — since India and China got into the ongoing military standoff along the LAC in eastern Ladakh in 2020 — the defence establishment has taken several measures to increase vigilance and strengthen deployment along the LAC.
  • Assam Rifles is usually deployed in counter-insurgency and border-guarding roles. The new move underlines growing focus on China.
  • AR’s plan to procure a range of weapons points to preparations for a conventional war-fighting role.
  • China has been expanding its influence and presence in neighbouring countries such as Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal, through its Belt and Road Initiative, economic aid, military assistance and diplomatic pressure.
  • The proximity of the Northeast with China and its role in India’s Act East Policy makes it strategically significant. It is a gateway for India’s engagement with Southeast Asia and the broader Indo-Pacific region.
 Why Assam Rifle:
  • Troops of Assam Rifles had participated in the 1962 war and fought the Chinese in Tawang, Subansiri, Siang, Dibang and Lohit of Arunachal Pradesh, close to the LAC, and won multiple gallantry awards.
  • During the Galwan valley clashes with Chinese troops in 2020, Assam Rifles troops were sent to support the Army along the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim.
Operational change plan:
  • These include reorienting two of its four strike corps for the mountains facing China in 2021 and freeing the Army from counter-insurgency roles in the Northeast — barring a mountain brigade based in Assam — to put a greater focus on China. A strike corps is primarily responsible for undertaking offensive cross-border action against the adversary.
  • Operational plans of all corps of the Army’s Eastern Command includes Assam Rifles for various offensive and defensive roles and every year soldiers of Assam Rifles practice with the Army in various exercises on different operational scenarios.
  • Over the next few months, there are also plans to make the force more technology intensive in keeping with this goal. As part of the process, the Assam Rifles is planning to procure a range of weapons, communication equipment and military vehicles.
  • Plan includes equipping its battalions with additional 81 mm mortars, medium grenade launchers, passive night vision goggles and handheld thermal imagers, aside from ammunition.
Conclusion: Expertise and ground level experience of Assam Rifle regarding North Eastern insurgency and Indo- Myanmar border management will add new dimension to LAC management.
More about Assam Rifle and Border Management
  • Assam Rifles has 46 battalions and a sanctioned strength of more than 65,000 troops. Of these, 20 battalions are involved in guarding the India-Myanmar border and 26 battalions are involved in counter-insurgency roles, including two in Jammu and Kashmir
Practice Question: Critically analyse the role of Assam Rifle and security forces in handling recent Manipur Violence. Suggest some points for effective management of insurgency in north eastern states. (250 words/15 m).

2. How Indian states fare on logistics: What the Centre’s latest survey says

Topic: GS3 – Infrastructure This topic is relevant both in the context of Prelims and Mains in the context of declining logistic cost and aim to achieve developed country status.
Context:
  • The Logistics Ease Across Different States (LEADS) perception survey, released by the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, flags some challenges in logistics and states performance on a regional basis.
Significance of Logistics cost:
  • At a time when India is increasingly pitching itself as a possible alternative to China, greater competitiveness in logistics could help the country fend off the challenge from competitors such as Vietnam and Indonesia and improve overall manufacturing competence.
  • While the Centre has stepped up its spending on infrastructure, deep-seated problems in logistics continue to hurt Indian manufacturing and efforts to boost exports.
How are landlocked states doing?
  • Average scores across parameters such as quality of roads, terminal, cost of logistics and availability of skilled workforce have improved in landlocked states as compared to 2019.
  • However, official data shows that only five states namely Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Telangana continue to make up for 70 per cent of exports.
  • Over the years this has caused a widening gap in income and job generation between the landlocked states and coastal states.
  • Results on the quality of roads and terminals, the states like Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarhhave received low perception scores on these counts while user satisfaction in Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab improved.
  • Notably, the survey said that Jharkhand saw below-average scores across all indicators, encompassing infrastructure, services, and operating and regulatory categories.
How has the North-East Group performed?
  • The North Eastern states that have seen considerable social unrest during the last year contribute barely 2.8 per cent towards India’s GDP and require the maximum logistics-related upliftment.
  • The survey said that there has been a marked improvement in all parameters compared to the 2019 survey.
  • On Manipur, the survey said that user satisfaction levels for the state are generally lower than the average of the North-East Group for all indicators across pillars.
  • The data indicated relatively high stress in the ‘easy of entry’ category. While Assam performed better than average on most counts, the user performance assessment was also below the average of North-East Group in the case of Meghalaya.
Odisha, West Bengal lag among coastal states:
  • Indian coastal states including Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal account for 75 per cent of total exports from the country and have fared well in logistics historically.
  • Gujarat accounts for 33 per cent followed by Maharashtra with 16 per cent and Tamil Nadu with 9 per cent share.
  • However, the survey showed that Goa, Odisha and West Bengal continue to perform below the average among coastal states.
  • In the case of Odisha, the survey said that there has been an improvement in the overall perception of the state’s logistics ecosystem since 2019 but despite this, the indicator averages for this year have remained below the Coastal Group average.
Conclusion: Need to have logistic performance at par with international competitor so that manufacturing and export led growth will uplift India’s growth.
More about The Logistics Ease Across Different States (LEADS) perception survey
  • LEADS was conceived on the lines of Logistics Performance Index of World Bank in 2018 and has evolved over time. While the LPI relies entirely on perception-based surveys, LEADS incorporates both perception as well as objectivity thereby enhancing the robustness and comprehensiveness of this exercise.
  • The 5th edition of the LEADS annual exercise – LEADS 2023 report, provides insights into improvement of logistics performance at State/UT level. It highlights an enhanced overall stakeholder perception and impact of various reforms, across States and UTs. This report, signalling a positive shift in States’ performance across the key pillars – Logistics Infrastructure, Logistics Services and Operating and Regulatory Environment, empowers the State/UT Governments by providing region specific insights for informed decision making and comprehensive growth.
  • This report is based on a pan-India primary survey, conducted between May and July 2023, covering over 7,300 responses across 36 States/UTs. Additionally, over 750 stakeholder consultations, facilitated by National, Regional, and State Associations, significantly contributed to this comprehensive evaluation.
Practice Question: Logistic cost is critical in export led employment generation and growth in Indian economy. Explain. (150 words/10 m).

3. The agri terms of trade

Topic: GS3 – Indian Agriculture. By referencing the concepts of ToT, input costs, and market mechanisms, you can demonstrate your understanding of the specific issues and broader themes related to difficulties of Indian agriculture.
Context:
  • The Terms of Trade (ToT) for Indian agriculture, measuring commodity price movements, improved significantly post-2009, impacting the sector’s growth.
  • While farmers’ ToT stagnated, agricultural laborers experienced a temporary rise but faced declines after 2018.
  • Economic and policy factors contribute to these trends, revealing challenges in the agricultural economy.
  1. Terms of Trade (ToT) Improvement:
    • ToT for Indian agriculture, measuring the movement in farm commodity prices relative to non-farm goods and services, has significantly improved in the last decade and a half.
    • Calculated using implicit price deflators, the ToT is influenced by Gross Value Added (GVA) at current and constant prices.
  1. Historical Trends in ToT:
    • From 1973-74 to the mid-2000s, the ToT for agriculture was relatively low, reaching 85 levels.
    • A substantial recovery occurred from 2009-10 onwards, peaking at 130.2 in 2020-21 and slightly easing to 126.6 in 2022-23.
  1. Contribution to Agricultural Growth:
    • Improved ToT is credited with contributing to India’s agricultural growth rate, averaging7% per annum between 2005-06 and 2021-22.
    • Factors include the global agri-commodity price boom and policy interventions such as minimum support price (MSP) hikes.
  1. ToT Calculation Method:
    • ToT is calculated by dividing the implicit price deflator for agriculture GVA by that for non-agriculture GVA.
  1. Analysis of Farmers’ ToT:
    • Farmers’ ToT ratio increased significantly from 2004-05 to 2010-11 but has stagnated at 97-99 levels in recent years.
  1. Analysis of Agricultural Labourers’ ToT:
    • Agricultural labourers experienced a more substantial rise in ToT, reaching 134.4 in 2016-17, but declining to 119.5 in 2021-22.
  1. Political Economy Implications:
    • Accelerated economic growth created non-agricultural employment opportunities, impacting agricultural labourers positively.
    • Real wages for agricultural labourers rose, affecting farmers who faced higher production costs without a proportional increase in produce prices.
    • Despite subsidies and MSP procurement, the ToT for farmers stagnated, contributing to socio-economic challenges in agrarian communities.
  1. Recent Trends and Challenges:
    • The ToT for both farmers and agricultural labourers has faced stagnation or deterioration in recent years.
    • The decline in ToT for agricultural labourers after 2018-19 is reflected in rural wages, indicating challenges in the agricultural sector.
Conclusion:
    • The dynamic shift in India’s agricultural Terms of Trade has influenced both farmers and laborers.
    • While farmers faced stagnant ratios, laborers experienced a temporary rise, reflecting evolving economic challenges in the agricultural sector.
What is Terms of Trade (ToT)
Terms of Trade (ToT):
  • ToT measures the ratio of average prices received by a country for its exports to the average prices paid for its imports.
  • An improvement indicates a favorable trade position, as export prices rise relative to import prices.
  • ToT impacts a nation’s economic well-being and trade balance.
Significance of Terms of Trade (ToT):
  • Trade Balance Impact: ToT influences a nation’s trade balance by affecting export and import prices.
  • Economic Well-being: Favorable ToT contributes to economic growth and increased income, enhancing the nation’s well-being.
  • Resource Allocation: ToT influences resource allocation, impacting sectors with improved or deteriorating trade conditions.
  • Policy Considerations: Governments use ToT data for policy formulation, considering its implications on inflation, fiscal policies, and overall economic stability.
Practice Question: Critically analyze the recent trends in terms of trade for Indian agriculture, highlighting its implications for both farmers and agricultural labourers. Suggest concrete policy measures to address any persisting challenges. (250 words/15 m).

4. For new government in Chhattisgarh, recent spate of Maoist attacks poses a challenge

Topic: GS3 – Internal Security – Linkages between development & spread of extremism.
UPSC requires holistic understanding of issues related to Left Wing Extremism (LWE), development in tribal areas, and internal security which are connected to this issue in current affairs. You can expect a mains question from this topic about reasons for the rise of naxalism, government policies and way forward.
Context:
  • Chhattisgarh witnesses a surge in Naxal violence post-Assembly elections, with six deaths and injuries since November 17. Maoist incidents rise after hitting a low in 2022.
  • Union Home Minister aims to end Naxalism by 2024, but recent attacks prompt Chief Minister’s commitment to a robust anti-Naxal policy.
  • Security operations impact Maoist recruitment, but fresh instances reported, including the use of drones.
 Recent Incidents:
  • Since the state Assembly elections last month, Chhattisgarh has witnessed a surge in Naxal violence, resulting in six deaths and several injuries since November 17.
  • Notable incidents include the killing of CRPF sub-inspector Sudhakar Reddy and other security personnel in Bastar region.
Uptick in Maoist Violence:
  • In contrast to an all-time low in 2022, Maoist violence has increased this year, with 25 security personnel, 31 civilians, and 20 Maoists killed so far.
Political Commitments:
  • Union Home Minister expressed the goal of eliminating Naxalism before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
Response of New Chief Minister:
  • Chhattisgarh’s new Chief Minister, Vishnu Deo Sai, pledged a strong stance against Naxalism and expressed condolences after the recent attack, stating that the government would formulate a concrete policy to eliminate Naxalites.
Previous Government’s Strategy:
  • The previous Congress government in the state pursued a three-pronged strategy of “vishwas, vikas, aur suraksha” (trust, development, and protection) to address Naxalism, facing criticism for not being assertive enough.
Security Operations and Recruitment Trends:
  • The Chhattisgarh Police claim to have made significant inroads into Maoist strongholds, opening over 63 base camps in the last four years, impacting Maoist recruitment.
  • Reports suggest fresh Naxal recruitment in specific areas, including the use of drones for training, according to Maharashtra Police sources.
Rise of Naxalism in Chhattisgarh.
Reasons for Rise:
  • Historical factors: Land alienation, displacement due to development projects, exploitation of tribal resources.
  • Socio-economic issues: Poverty, lack of basic amenities, inadequate education and healthcare, unemployment.
  • Governance gaps: Inaccessible administration, corruption, weak state presence in remote areas.
  • Ideological appeal: Maoist ideology offering social justice and armed resistance against perceived state oppression.
  • Steps Taken by Government:
  • Security measures: Strengthening CRPF presence, establishing police camps, conducting anti-Naxal operations.
  • Development initiatives: Infrastructure development, improving access to education and healthcare, livelihood programs.
  • Surrender & Rehabilitation Policy: Encouraging Naxalites to surrender with financial and social support.
  • Focus on tribal welfare: Special schemes for tribal development, land rights recognition, cultural preservation efforts.
Way Forward:
  • Multi-pronged approach: Combining security measures with development initiatives and addressing root causes.
  • Strengthening good governance: Ensuring transparency, accessibility, and accountability in local administration.
  • Investing in tribal development: Culturally sensitive programs focusing on education, employment, and income generation.
  • Community engagement: Building trust with local communities, addressing their grievances, and promoting participation in development projects.
  • Dialogue and reconciliation: Exploring avenues for peaceful resolution of conflict through dialogue with Maoist leadership.
Practice Question: Despite recent successes, Naxal violence persists in parts of Chhattisgarh. Critically analyze the reasons behind this persistence and suggest concrete steps the state government can take to address it effectively. (150 words/10 m)

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