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24 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Introduction: The article focuses upon the severe water scarcity problems in India and urgent need to price this precious natural resource.

Topics:Agriculture, Paper-III

  • India is a water scarce country with 18% of world’s population and only 4% of the world’s renewable water resources.
  • In the last two years we have witnessed the two consecutive droughts.
  • An approach towards sustainable water regime:
  • Water pricing is the only long-term, sustainable solution to promote efficient and equitable use of this precious natural resource. But moving towards an elaborate water pricing regime is easier said than done.
  • There are three basic challenges associated with this:
    1. The first challenge will be to make a case for water pricing at a time when the most vulnerable to water shortage are already reeling under severe economic hardship.
      • But without a price on water usage, it is they who will suffer the worst consequences of a drought.
      • A 2015 study by the International Monetary Fund concluded that water subsidies provided through public utilities amounted to 0.6% of global gross domestic product in 2012 and are “also inequitable, disproportionately benefiting upper-income groups”.
      • Inefficient agricultural usage of water and exports of water-intensive crops make India a large virtual exporter of water—not a proud performance for a water-stressed country. Especially not when the domestic scarcity of water has not been priced into the exports.
      • A counter-argument will be that water pricing may erode India’s export advantage. But this argument ignores how the status quo continues to erode the competitiveness of farmers living in water-deficient parts of India—also some of the same regions where the incidence of farmer suicides is high.
    2. The second challenge to introducing water pricing is the entrenched political economy in different parts of India.
      • The severe water crisis in Latur was in stark contrast to flourishing fields of sugarcane, a water-guzzling crop, sustained with the patronage of politicians in the state of Maharashtra. Then the public procurement policies also promote cultivation of water-intensive crops, sometimes in those very states where the usage is most inefficient.
    3. The third challenge is the inherent design problems associated with water pricing. This is because the government does exercise control over the sources of water as it does over other natural resources
      • It is important to target irrigation water for pricing purposes because it alone comprises—according to ministry of water resources data—more than 78% of the total water usage in India.
      • Also, irrigation consumption is an area where the scope for increase in efficiency is very high.
    Moving Towards a Water Pricing Regime
  • The pricing Methodology:
    • Sixty-one per cent of the irrigation uses surface water which will require metering and appropriate pricing. Groundwater has to be priced through proxies—electricity or diesel—used by farmers to pump the water.
    • The strategy for pricing should be such that the cost of migration from one method of irrigation to another—or from electricity to diesel—offsets the difference in cost between the two.
    • An important part of this effort will also involve the separation of electric feeders for agricultural and non-agricultural purposes—already a focus of the government under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana.
  • Several countries including rich ones such as Singapore and poor ones such as Burkina Faso have, within their own constraints, benefited from tying paani to paisa. India needs to do the same.

Question: India is a water scarce country. Water pricing is the only long-term, sustainable solution to promote efficient and equitable use of this precious natural resource. Discuss. Suggested Approach:

Suggested Approach:

  1. In the introduction, highlight the level of scarcity and the need of water.
  2. Then discuss about the need for pricing water, its benefits and challenges.
  3. Give other solutions such as bringing awareness among general public etc.

Link: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/3TO6p9MTaxiPtioFxWe4eJ/Moving-towards-a-water-pricing-regime.html

Hindi Version:Read In Hindi

Source: Livemint Editorial

24 May 2016 K2_CATEGORY IAS Blog

Introduction: The article discusses the social sector related policies of the new government and its impact in the last two years.

Topics: Indian Society, Governance, inclusive growth, Paper- I, II, and III

  • In broad terms, two features distinguish social sector strategy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
    1. It endeavours to make the existing programs more efficient by cutting leakages.
    2. It gives priority to empowerment over entitlement.
  • Major Programmes by the government:
    1. Jan Dhan Programme for financial inclusion.
    2. Expanding the Aadhaar project to eliminate the ghost beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer.
    3. To empower rural households, the government has greatly accelerated the process of rural electrification and rural-road construction.
    4. In order to bring LPG cylinders to the households using solid biomass as cooking fuel, the government has launched Pradhan Mantri Ujjawal Yojana under which 5 crore BPL [below poverty line] households will be provided subsidized LPG cylinders over the next three years.
    5. In the Budget 2015-16, the government launched Atal Pension Scheme to provide a minimal insurance cover to workers in unorganized sector.
    6. The central government has introduced Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (insurance against accidental death) and Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana (insurance against death).
    7. The Budget 2016-17 announced three major initiatives related to health:
      • Insurance: Under the health insurance scheme, coverage for Rs. 1 lakh is provided against hospitalization expenditure. For senior citizens, there is additional coverage of Rs. 30,000.
      • Jan Aushadhi scheme: Under Jan Aushadhi programme, the government will open 3,000 stores nationwide to provide low-cost generic drugs.
      • Dialysis programme: With 2.2 lakh end stage renal disease patients added each year, the government has also announced a programme to provide dialysis services in all district hospitals.
    8. The government has introduced several measures towards improved implementation of MGNREGA:
      • It has given priority to low-hanging fruits such as water ponds and de-silting of water ponds in asset creation.
      • It has also taken a more liberal approach towards building of private assets such as houses, wells and toilets for the poor.
      • The government has improved the convergence between MGNREGA works and schemes such as skill development, Prime Minister’s Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Housing for All and Swachh Bharat Mission.
    9. In the area of higher education, regulations have been liberalized to give greater flexibility to women to complete their M. Phil and Ph.D. degrees.
    10. Furthermore, the government has committed to turning 10 private and 10 public institutions into world-class teaching and research institutions.
    11. The government has also launched the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). The mission is not only critical for a healthy India but is also essential to creating a modern India. Among other things, it proposes to make India open defecation free by 2 October 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
    Taking stock, two years on
  • Impact of some of the programmes:
    1. By May 2016, under Jan Dhan Yojana 21.74 crore accounts with Rs. 37,445 crore in deposits have been opened
    2. Benefits of Aadhaar linked subsidy distribution
      • An estimated 3.5 crore multiple or ghost beneficiaries have been eliminated from the LPG rolls. During 2014-15 alone, this resulted in savings of Rs. 14,672 crore.
      • In MGNREGA, similar weeding out of multiple or ghost beneficiaries resulted in a savings of Rs. 3,000 crore in 2015-16. This amount is a little below 10% of the total MGNREGA allocation.
      • In PDS, an estimated Rs. 10,000 crore has been saved by elimination of 1.6 crore fake ration cards using the Aadhaar instrumentality.
    3. During its two years in office, the government has brought electricity to 7,654 villages compared with 5,189 villages in the preceding three years. Likewise, total rural road length constructed has been 36,340 and 36,450 kilometres during 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively.
    4. By 9 May 2016, 9.4 Crore beneficiaries had enrolled under the Suraksha Bima Yojana and 3 crore under the Jeevan Jyoti scheme. Enrolment in Atal pension Yojana at 20 lakh was significantly lower.
    5. The government has made the reform of medical education in India a higher priority, assigning the task to a high-level committee.
      • There is much else being done via housing for all, Prime Minister’s Krishi Sinchai Yojana, livelihood mission and much else that touches people’s lives.
      • The distinguishing feature of the policies under the present government is that they promise to sustain high growth in the GDP, revenues and social spending and deliver social services more efficiently and effectively.

Question: Government’s social sector strategy has aimed to make existing programmes more efficient, and give priority to empowerment over entitlement. In the light of this statement critically analyse any two social sector programmes of government.

Suggested Approach:

  1. In the introduction highlight the need of social sector programmes and bring efficiency in them.
  2. Take any two programmes and write their positive and shortcomings.
  3. In conclusion, give some suggestion to improve these programmes.

Link: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/social-programs-under-2-years-rule-of-narendra-modi/article8633316.ece

Source: The Hindu