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Indian Express

18-September-2023

The Indian Express, CSE candidates can stay informed about current events and developments in India and around the world.

1) Indo-African Collaboration to deal with Food and Nutritional Security

Context:

  • India’s masterstroke with inclusion of the African Union in G20, acknowledges the significance and potential of Africa as a vital partner in global development and stability.
  • This article will discuss the different ways through which both India and Africa can fight food and nutritional security in the face of climate change.

G-21 statistics:

  • The new G21 will now comprise of 84 per cent of the world’s population, up from about 66 percent earlier.
  • India and Africa, constituting 36 percent of the global population, unfortunately, are home to nearly 69.4 per cent (503 million) of the world’s undernourished people in 2020-22.
  • These regions together account for 67.0 percent and 75.8 per cent of the world’s children under five afflicted with the malnutrition problems of stunting and wasting.

How can both the countries steer the world towards food and nutritional security in the face of climate change?

1.    Keeping international borders open for agricultural trade is the need of the hour

  • In the last three years, India exported 85 million tonnes of cereals to the world, contributing to global food security.
  • Against this backdrop, India’s recent restrictions on exports of rice and wheat will not go very well with G21 as it hurts the African countries the most.

2.    Role of developed countries and institutions

  • Developed countries must commit to providing $100 billion for the loss and damage caused by climate change.
  • This commitment will pave the way for large-scale climate mitigation and adaptation efforts in developing economies.
  • Role of World Bank: Subsequently, the World Bank could play a catalytic role in mobilizing funds even from the private sector to address the global challenges of poverty reduction, ensuring food and nutritional security and combating climate change through adaptation and mitigation policies.
  • In addition to contributions from developed nations, private capital investments are essential to complement the current sources of financing.

3.    Innovations in the field of agriculture

  • With Africa’s inclusion in G20, the challenges posed by rapid population growth, persistent poverty, and widespread undernourishment become more serious.
  • Initiating a comparative analysis between India and Africa could foster South-South learning and collaboration in the pursuit of sustainable agriculture and food systems.
  • Addressing the abnormally high nutritional insecurity in the two regions requires agriculture policies to be more nutrition-sensitive.
  • Scaling up bio-fortification of staple crops, an innovative and cost-effective technique, can ensure availability of nutritious diets in areas affected by chronic malnutrition in India and Africa.
  • The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), with its Harvest-Plus programme, and the Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) have developed new varieties of nutrient-rich staple food crops which include iron and zinc bio-fortified pearl millet, zinc biofortified rice and wheat, and iron bio-fortified beans.
  • Such innovations can be implemented on a large-scale in Indian states and African countries to reduce malnutrition on war footing if the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of eliminating hunger and malnutrition have to be achieved by 2030.

4.    Giving importance to women’s health and education

  • Empirical analysis at ICRIER using the latest unit level NFHS (2019-21) data (with a sample of 205,641 children under five), highlighted that mothers’ education, particularly higher education (12 or more years), and mothers with normal BMI index have a strong association with reducing undernutrition among children.
  • Between 2005-06 and 2019-21, India has reduced its percentage of underweight women (with BMI index x <18.5 kg/m2) from 35.5 per cent to 18.7 per cent.
  • At the same time 25.9 percent women obtain higher education today compared to 12 percent 15 years ago.
  • Educated women are more informed about nutrition and health care, tend to delay marriage, and have fewer children and healthier babies.
  • State governments need to promote schooling and higher education through liberal scholarship for girls.
  • This can dramatically reduce dropout rates among women in secondary and higher education.
  • Investment in women’s higher education is necessary to ensure a significant increase in the female labour force participation and fostering long term economic growth.
  • These findings need to be shared widely with African nations for cross-learnings in Global South collaboration.
  1. Investment in Sanitation initiatives
    • WASH stands for water, sanitation and hygiene.
    • Investments in these initiatives could bring about a multiplier effect on nutritional outcomes.
    • India, under the aegis of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, has significantly increased the coverage of households with improved sanitation facilities from 48.5 percent to 70 percent between 2015-16 and 2019-21.
    • The scheme which aimed to eliminate open defecation and eradicate manual scavenging has multiplier effects.
    • This could be another area of learning between India and Africa to tackle the high levels of malnutrition.

Way Forward

  • India’s G20 presidency will be remembered as a catalyst in reshaping the mindset of developed nations and integrating the aspirations of the Global South, particularly Africa, into the mainstream.
  • India and Africa need to collaborate effectively to deal with their food and nutrition security in the face of climate change.

2) Bill to downgrade Election Commission’s status:

Context:

What does the bill say?

  • The Bill proposes to revise the salary, allowance, and service conditions of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the two Election Commissioners, to bring it at par with those of a Cabinet Secretary.
  • Until now, Election Commissioners were at par with Supreme Court judges in this regard, under the Election Commission Act, of 1991. However, the Bill’s passage will result in the 1991 Act’s repeal.
  • Additionally, the Bill proposes to exclude the Chief Justice of India (CJI) from the three-member committee that recommends the names of the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and the Election Commissioners (ECs) to the President.
  • Currently, the committee consists of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and the CJI. The Bill suggests that the committee should comprise only the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.

How could this move be problematic?

  • This move seeks to bring Election Commissioners under the ambit of the bureaucracy, which in turn could stifle their authority and independence.
  • The EC’s primary task is that of superintendence, direction, and control of elections, as laid down under Article 324.
  • However, this control of elections is likely to shift if the Election Commissioner, who will now be equivalent to the rank of a Cabinet Secretary tries to discipline a Union Minister for electoral violations.

Government Stand

  • The government has justified this move by saying that it will ensure more transparency and accountability in the appointment process of the ECI, which is responsible for conducting free and fair elections in the country.
  • The government also claimed that this will reduce the scope of judicial interference in the functioning of the ECI and that it will bring India in line with other democracies where the judiciary has no role in selecting the election commissioners.

Criticism

  • Many experts and opposition parties have criticized the Bill as an attempt to undermine the independence and autonomy of the ECI, which is a constitutional body. They have argued that removing the CJI from the selection panel will make the ECI more vulnerable to political influence and manipulation and that it will erode public trust in the institution.
  • They have also pointed out that the judiciary has played a crucial role in upholding the integrity and impartiality of the ECI, and that there is no need to change a system that has worked well for decades.

About Election Commission

  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) is a constitutional body that is responsible for conducting free and fair elections in the world’s largest democracy.
  • It has the power to supervise, direct and control the entire process of elections, from the announcement of dates to the declaration of results.
  • It has the authority to register political parties, allot symbols, monitor campaign expenditures, enforce the model code of conduct, and resolve disputes related to elections.

Why does the independence of the Election Commission need to be ensured?

  • The independence of the ECI is crucial for ensuring the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process, and thereby strengthening the democratic system in India.
  • The ECI’s autonomy enables it to act impartially and effectively, without being influenced by any external pressure or interference from the government, political parties, or other vested interests.
  • The ECI’s independence also ensures that the voters’ rights are protected and that they can exercise their franchise freely and fearlessly.

Way Forward:

  • The independence of the ECI is vital for preserving the integrity and sanctity of elections in India.
  • Preserving the autonomy of the Election Commission is not only crucial for maintaining the integrity of elections but also for upholding the very foundation of democracy.
  • An independent Election Commission ensures that the democratic process remains transparent, fair, and trustworthy, empowering citizens to actively participate in shaping the nation’s future through free and unbiased elections.

 

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