Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Current Affairs of 2nd November -2020

 

General Studies-3:

Land Reforms in India

  1. Land ceiling laws
  2. APEDA and Functions

General Studies-2

Bilateral, Regional, Global Groupings and agreements involving India

  1. India’s Foreign Policy
  2. Sichuan-Tibet Railway

 

1)Land ceiling laws:

Why in news?

  • India has taken a small step for farmers but a big leap for free market through the three farm laws.
  • To seek the support of the US agri-dollar, we have liberalised by opening the farm-gate for business, yet shackled farmers and their families under archaic land ceiling laws.
  • Can an agrarian free market be pillared on limited land, plagued by soil degradation and shrinking water resources?

About land ceiling laws?

  • In a socialist mood, India implemented land ceiling laws to uproot the zamindars and the landed elite.
  • An entire class of people was destroyed overnight and from its ashes grew a new rural elite.
  • As land ceiling laws differed from State to State, we saw a diversity of combinations and also unique systems of parity between irrigated multiple crop land owners versus grove land or un-irrigated land owners.
  • For example, land holdings in Barmer, Rajasthan and Patna are very different in size.
  • Policy-makers relied on production-based value to set these ceiling limits.
  • For most States, the ceiling ratio of dry land to irrigated land is 3:1.
  • Apart from the individual limits, there are family ceiling limits to curtail land ownership collectively.
    Present Situation
  • In 2020, we still follow the same system.
  • Of course, there have been minor adjustments in each State, but overall these laws hamper the growth of agriculture in rural India and confine farm families in a negative ownership trap.

Issues with land ceiling laws?

  • As with each generation, the average land holding of individuals reduces and farm incomes have dropped significantly, too, due to higher inputs costs and low sale price, making agriculture less viable each year.
  • The only alternative left for a progressive farmer is either to get out of farming or wait for the next generation, as contract farming has not been successful for most of his kind.
  • The result is that the Indian farm size is very small (86 per cent own under two hectares), and is decreasing further as the average size of operational holding has declined to 1.08 hectares in 2015-16 as compared to 1.15 hectares in 2010-11 as per the Agricultural Census 2015-16.
  • The Economic Survey of India understood this problem and twice recommended the Government to increase land ceiling limits.
  • But little has happened.
  • Recently, the Karnataka Government tried to increase the land ceiling limits but amid protests cancelled this step.
  • Due to the push for industrialising agriculture, from Punjab to Tamil Nadu, we have witnessed soil degradation leading to desertification, salination and top soil erosion.
  • With 30 per cent of India’s land degraded, the Narendra Modi Government stressed on soil health cards.
  • The deleterious effects paddy has had on water is alarming.
  • Noam Chomsky recently predicted that India and Pakistan may be on the brink of war over water resources.
  • We are already witnessing water wars in southern States and the “Laturisation” (Latur in Maharashtra was the epicentre of a water crisis caused by bad agricultural practices) will only increase unless we stop exploitative practices.
  • Soon, our eco-system and free market will collapse.

How do governments implement soil conservation programme?

  • Incentivise farmers for agro-ecological plantations and agro-forestry by relaxing land ceiling limits for them.
  • Separate provision for grove land or orchards.
  • Governments can ensure that plantations increase rapidly, without the use of chemicals and fertilisers.
  • Choose native varieties and non-water-guzzling trees for plantation or agro-forestry.
  • So, States must study the soil conservation programme of the US, which was implemented to reverse soil degradation in the mid-west or the Dust Bowl.
  • The Government paid farmers subsidies for soil conservation or allowing the land to be fallow.
  • Indian government can learn from U.S case and try to implement.

Benefits of policy change?

  • Both soil and water will be conserved and farmers’ incomes will be boosted while adding new products for the free market.
  • The return of organic matter and biodiversity will guarantee farmland productivity for the future too. Organic fruits get the top dollar.
  • The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) predicts that by 2030, India will be exporting $50 billion worth of organic produce, but the cherry would be additional carbon credits that farmers can earn.
  • This helps in meeting our climate targets sooner and also improve the air and water of our villages and cities.
  • Each hectare of organic land can store 80,000 litres of water. We need a Central policy to bolster this drive.

Conclusion:

  • By making an exception for the agro-ecological plantations, legislators can boost the organic market and also help heal the soil.
  • Additionally, farmers may take over wasteland or degraded lands, beyond the ceiling limits, and restore them into orchards or groves.
  • These zones or farms will be carbon sinks and produce more nutrition per acre, and as the farmers will care for these lands, the Government’s financial burden to restore wastelands will also lessen.

Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority- APEDA

  • The Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) was established by the Government of India under the Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority Act passed by the Parliament in December, 1985.
  • The Authority, with its headquarters at New Delhi, is headed by a Chairperson.
  • In order to reach out to the exporters in different parts of the Country, APEDA has set up 5 Regional offices at Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata & Guwahati
  • The Authority replaced the Processed Food Export Promotion Council (PFEPC).
  • APEDA has been entrusted with the responsibility of export promotion and development of 14 agricultural and processed food product groups listed in the Schedule to the APEDA Act. In addition to this, APEDA has been entrusted with the responsibility to monitor the import of sugar as well.

Functions of APEDA?

  • APEDA has been actively engaged in the development of markets besides upgradation of infrastructure and quality to promote the export of agro products.
  • Agriculture Export Promotion Scheme of APEDA’ provides financial assistance to the registered exporters under sub-components of the Scheme – Market Development, Infrastructure Development, Quality Development and Transport Assistance.

 

2) India’s foreign policy:

Why in news?

  • The Third India-U.S. 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue between the Foreign and Defence Ministers of India and the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defence took place in Delhi on October 26-27.
  • U.S. Defence Secretary, Mark Esper, stating that “India will be the most consequential partner for the US in the Indo-Pacific this Century”.

Outcomes:

  • Signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geo-Spatial Cooperation, which marked India’s entry as a full member into the select category of nations entitled to receive highly classified U.S. defence and intelligence information.
  • Steps to expand bilateral cooperation, including ‘military to military cooperation, secure communication systems and information sharing, defence trade and industrial issues’, to a new level.
  • With the signing of BECA, India is now a signatory to all U.S.-related foundational military agreements.
  • India had signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA), in 2016, and the Communications, Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA), in 2018.
  • By appending its signature to BECA, India is in a position to specifically receive sensitive geo-spatial intelligence.

Concerns related to signing BECA

  • It must be recognised that the information comes with a ‘price tag’ which would not be inconsiderable.
  • With the signing of these agreements, that India’s claims of maintaining strategic autonomy will increasingly sound hollow.
  • The U.S. makes little secret of the fact that the primary push for getting India to sign the foundational agreements was the threat posed by China, and by appending its signature India has signed on to becoming part of the wider anti-China ‘coalition of the willing’.

How the Increasing India- US partnership will Impact India’s relations with China?

  • After having distanced itself from the Quad for years, on account of its security and military connotations and anti-China bias, India has more recently waived its objections, even as the Quad has become more anti-China in its orientation.
  • The invitation to Australia to participate in the Malabar Naval Exercises this year, to which the other two Quad members had already been invited, further confirms this impression.

What does it imply?

  • India has effectively moved away from its policy of neutrality
  • Agnostic attitude is better suited to the prevailing circumstances
  • Because global fluidity is so pervasive, India must address this challenge by forging more contemporary ties on every major account.
  • This may have triggered the current flurry of agreements, but it could equally push the nation into a quagmire

How the increasing India- US partnership impact India’s relations with China?

  • Too close an identification with the U.S. at this juncture may not, however, be in India’s interest.
  • China-India relations have never been easy.
  • Since 1988, India has pursued, despite occasional problems, a policy which put a premium on an avoidance of conflicts with China.
  • Even after Doklam in 2017, India saw virtue in the Wuhan and Mamallapuram discourses, to maintain better relations.
  • This will now become increasingly problematic as India gravitates towards the U.S. sphere of influence.
  • Even as the U.S. makes no secret of its intentions to contain and check Chinese ambitions, India’s willingness to sign foundational military agreements with the U.S., to obtain high grade intelligence and other sensitive information, would suggest that India has made its choice, which can only exacerbate already deteriorating China-India relations.

Why India needs to Shift its focus in South Asia

  • Several of India’s neighbours (Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh), normally perceived to be within India’s sphere of influence, currently seem to be out of step with India’s approach on many issues.
  • At the same time, both China and the U.S. separately, seem to be making inroads and enlarging their influence here.
  • The Maldives, for instance, has chosen to enter into a military pact with the U.S. to counter Chinese expansionism in the Indian Ocean region.

India and West Asia

  • Again, while India has been complacent about improved relations with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it needs to ensure, through deft diplomatic handling, that the latest UAE-Israel linkage does not adversely impact India’s interests in the region.
  • India must also not rest content with the kind of relations it has with Israel, as Tel Aviv has its own distinct agenda in West Asia.
  • India needs to devote greater attention to try and restore India-Iran ties which have definitely frayed in recent years.

Why focus on West Asia?

  • Meantime, India must decide on how best to try and play a role in Afghanistan without getting sucked into the Afghan’s hazardous issue.
  • India had subscribed to an anti-Taliban policy and was supportive of the Northern Alliance (prior to 2001).
  • The new policy that dictates India’s imperatives today, finds India not unwilling to meet the Taliban more than half way — partly, no doubt, since even countries such as the U.S. are not unwilling to enter into negotiations with it.
  • India must decide how a shift in policy at this time would serve India’s objectives in Afghanistan, considering the tremendous investment it has made in recent decades to shore up democracy in that country.

Concerns ahead

  • India, again, will need to try and square the circle when it comes to its membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), considering its new relationship with the U.S.
  • Reconciling its present fondness for the U.S., with its full membership of the SCO, which has China and Russia as its main protagonists — and was conceived as an anti-NATO entity — will test India’s diplomatic skills.

How the US- related foundational military agreements will impact India’s relations with Russia?

  • This will impact India Russia relations, which have been stable so far
  • It is difficult to see how this can be sustained, if India is seen increasingly going to US

 

3) Sichuan-Tibet Railway:

Why in news?

  • China is all set to begin the construction of the strategic Sichuan-Tibet Railway between Ya’an in southwest Sichuan province and Linzhi in Tibet, close to the Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh

About the project

The Sichuan-Tibet Railway is the second such project in Tibet after the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

It will go through the southeast of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, one of the world’s most geologically active areas

Linzhi, which is also known as Nyingchi, is located close to Arunachal Pradesh border.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet while India contests it.

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