A sketchy roadmap

Why in the News? Recently, the NITI Aayog released the Action Agenda for the government, a roadmap for reforming various sectors of the economy including agriculture. Background: >NITI Aayog’s Action Agenda forms a part of larger Vision Document which spans a seven year strategy and a 15 years vision till fiscal year 2031-32. >NITI Aayog’s Three Year Action Agenda document is a comprehensive framework for policy changes to be implemented in the short term in India. >The action agenda has replaced the five-year plans of the erstwhile Planning Commission. >It covers the different sectors of the economy—agriculture, industry and manufacturing. What are the challenges faced by Indian Agriculture? >Indian Agriculture is facing multi-dimensional challenges which are listed below: Ecological Challenges: >Climate change induced frequent drought(vidarbha, marathawara, west rajashthan, south west UP) and floods(Bihar, Assam, Odisha etc >Declining land fertility >declining ground water level(Punjab, Haryana >frequent pest attack(whitfly-cotton) Economic Challenges >declining farmer income >declining farm productivity >post harvest loss >huge debt Social Challenges: >rising farmer suicide >rising male migration towards urban area lead to feminization of agriculture >ineffective land reform >Unskilled and illiterate farming activities leading to growing crop not suitable to area or weather conditions etc. What are the objectives of NITI Aayog’s Action Plan? >Target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. >It will address the problems of increasing suicides & distress of the farmers >Schemes like PMKSY, E-NAM, digitalization of land-records are in the right direction in this regard. What are the reform measures suggested by Action Plan? >Increasing productivity of land and water >Reforming agri-markets on the lines of e-NAM >Reforming tenancy laws >Relief measures during natural disasters. >Shift to high value commodities: horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries. >The recommendations of some important committees constituted by the current government in the realm of agri-food are discussed below: >The High Level Committee (HLC) on Management of Foodgrains and Restructuring FCI (headed by Shanta Kumar, January 2015). >The Task Force on Agriculture headed by the Vice-Chairman of the NITI Aayog (May 2016). >The four volumes (out of 14) of the Committee on Doubling of Farmers’ Income (August 2017). What is the need to boost agriculture sector? >The government needs to improve the profitability of cultivation by “getting markets right”. >It needs to invest in water to fulfill its slogan of “har khet ko pani” and “more crop per drop”. >The government should be focus on Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of food and fertilisersubsidies to the accounts of targeted beneficiaries. >The government should ensure that the new Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) delivers compensation to farmers in time. >It should free up land lease markets. >Buying directly from farmers’ groups (FPOs). >Setting up logistics from grading, storage to movement, and linking them to organized retail (including e-retail), large processors and exporters. >An easier way to improve farmers’ profitability is to open up exports of all agro-products, without any restrictions, and allowing private trade to build global value chains, keeping the Essential Commodities Act in abeyance. .This would require a change from the current pro-consumer approach to one that is focused on farmers. Why it is not up to the Mark? >The policy of minimum support prices (MSP) has not improved profitability of cultivation in the last few years. >Farmers’ returns have done down in the case of most crops. >The situation is worse for producers of basic vegetables like potatoes, onions and tomatoes. >Prices of these crops during the harvest time plunged to about Rs 2 per kg in the last season while the consumers were still paying Rs 15 to Rs 20 per kg. >Attempts to reform the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) markets on the lines of the model act of 2003, and now through the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing Act, 2017, have not achieved much success. >The e-NAM scheme, which is supposed to create an all India market, in order to ensure better prices to farmers, has not succeeded in its endeavor so far. >Inter-mandi and inter-state transactions are very rare What can be learnt from other countries? >It is right time to accord higher priority to micro-irrigation (drip and sprinklers) to achieve the objective of “more crop per drop”. >Israel and the US could be good examples to follow: Israel has the highest proportion (99 per cent) of its irrigated area under micro-irrigation while the US has largest absolute area (15 m ha) under micro-irrigation >The third area for action should be DBT of food and fertilizer subsidies. >Investment in water resources and upgrading the market infrastructure. >To free up land lease markets for long periods. China allows land lease for 30 years so that corporate bodies can work with farmers, bringing in their best expertise, inputs and investments. Conclusion: There is need to encourage more research and development and cooperation between different departments to bring the Action Agenda reap demographic dividend. Judicial reforms are needed to increase the “Ease of Doing Business”. Though the action agenda sets hopes but to achieve these targets, the collaborative effort of all the stakeholders is to be brought.

Rape laws have changed but the temptation to shame and blame the victim remains

Why in the News? The article examines Punjab and Haryana High Court’s observations in an order in a rape case, characterizing the victim as a person with a “promiscuous attitude and a voyeuristic mind”. The observation by the High court seems disturbing and disappointing. What is the Matter about?> The case relates to a rape incident that took place in an institute of higher learning, leading to the conviction of the three accused by a lower court. The three had appealed for bail in the high court. >The bench used language about the young victim that feeds into the tendency of victim blaming and goes against all principles of natural justice. >The HC has said that “it was essential to balance the concerns of the victim, demands of the society and law and element of reformatory and rehabilitative justice”. >The observations have been surprising and disappointing. What is the judgment of High Court? >In the last few years, the courts have been in the vanguard of the fight against crimes against women. >It is thanks to the courts that India has today the Vishaka guidelines to deal with sexual harassment at the workplace.>There have been several judgments by the Supreme Court restating the principles of justice and pointing out that rape is not just a crime against an individual but against society. >The high court bench’s observations that the victim’s narrative, seek to suggest that the young woman enjoyed a certain comfort level with the offenders. >But that is precisely why the rape in this case is even more horrific, because it shows a betrayal of trust and faith that the woman had reposed in the offenders. >Rape is not about the sexuality of a woman, or about sexual intercourse; it is about non-consensual, forced sex, usually establishing a power asymmetry between the victim and the perpetrator. >Supreme Court has, in the past, refused to accept contextualization as grounds for mitigation of the offence. Conclusion: >If there is really a “nefarious world of youngsters” out there where, as the court notes in its judgment, there is no comprehension of relationships “based on respect and understanding”, it is all the more reason to offer greater protection of law to the victim. >The above cannot be a strong ground to sympathize with the perpetrators.

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