Mains Q & A 28 December 2022
Q1. Exactly what is hunger? Examine the actions taken by the government to alleviate food insecurity in India. (250 words)
Paper & Topic: GS II Social Issues
Food poverty is typically defined as the inability to obtain or consume an adequate or sufficient amount of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so. A person must always have access to and the choice of a healthy diet because it might have a detrimental impact on their bodily and mental well-being.
The food insecurity problem in India:
A study by the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India found that nearly 6% of older individuals in India who were 45 years and older studied skipped meals or consumed smaller portions; 3% did not eat despite being hungry; and 3.8% went an entire day without eating due to a lack of food (LASI).
According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 5), chronic malnutrition now affects one in three children under the age of five, and acute undernourishment in this age group has increased worse since the start of the epidemic.
20.8% of children are wasted, a form of malnutrition in which youngsters are extremely thin for their height, and 9% of children under the age of five are stunted. The Global Nutrition Report provides these numbers.
This is far greater than in other poor countries, where 25% of children on average are stunted and 8.9% of children are wasted.
Up to 52% of the target demographic of females between the ages of 15 and 49 still struggle with anemia.
The following are government programmes to combat food insecurity in India:
Targeted Public Distribution System (TDPS).
Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY).
Mid Day Meal Program.
Integrated child development services.
The Kishori Shakti Yojana nutrition programme for teen girls.
Evaluation of the performance:
The National Food Security Act must address a number of important fundamental challenges in order to ensure food security. There are significant gaps in inclusion and exclusion errors. Women and girls are particularly disadvantaged.
The NFSA’s requirement to diversify the commodities provided through TPDS has not been met due to issues with the procurement procedure.
The PDS ensures that Indians will have enough calories to survive, but it does not ensure the variety of food choices necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Corruption has undermined every initiative. Not enough food grain is being delivered to the final consumer. More often than not, beneficiaries received less food than was specified in the contract. Frequently, the quality of food grains fell short of expectations. Food grains were sold on the black market by the godown’s authorities.
The Noon Meal Scheme involves a lot of frauds, as shown by the death of about 22 kids who ate a midday meal that was tainted on one occasion. In order to save food for subsequent sale on the black market, several institutions display false student enrollment records.
The nation has achieved food self-sufficiency, but new challenges have emerged due to declining biodiversity, climate change, land degradation, and slower agricultural expansion.
Food assistance programmes should be made available to seniors in order to improve the country’s poor nutritional and health conditions and lower healthcare expenses.
People who do not have access to food should be given special consideration because they are in poorer physical and nutritional shape than the ordinary senior.
It is important to appropriately provide ration cards to those in need of food in order to implement the “one nation, one ration card” concept and allow for nationwide access to the PDS.
India’s food security issue requires a system-based approach based on increasing stakeholder convergence, genuine decentralisation, and improved data systems to speed learning and course corrections.
Q2. Enumerate the most recent structural changes made to India’s telecom industry in order to address its issues. Is the automatic path for 100% of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the telecom industry a positive step? Comment. (250 words)
Paper & Topic: GS I Infrastructure
The government’s recently proposed telecom reforms herald a new era for the business and will spur investment in the heavily indebted sector. In addition to announcing a moratorium on AGR dues, the Centre also announced a number of financial easings, including sectoral liberalisation and procedural easing.
Recent structural changes made to address the issues facing the telecom sector:
Rationalization of Adjusted Gross Revenue: The definition of AGR will remove non-telecom revenue going forward.
Keep up with AGR payments: Telcos were required to pay Rs. 1.6 lakh crore under the previous definition of AGR, which was supported by the Telecom Department and upheld by the Supreme Court in 2019.
Due to this payment, the telecom industry is cash-strapped, which has resulted in revenue losses for firms like Vodafone and the creation of a duopoly (reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel).
A four-year freeze on all spectrum and AGR dues has been approved in an effort to revitalise the telecom industry.
The TSPs have the choice to use equity to pay the interest sum that results from the aforementioned deferral of payment.
BGs (Bank Guarantees) explained: Significant BG needs decrease (80%) compared to License Fee (LF) and other comparable Levies There are no demands for several BGs in various Licenced Service Areas (LSAs) across the nation. Rather, one BG will be sufficient.
Rationalization of interest rates/removal of penalties: Delayed payments of License Fee (LF)/Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC) will begin to accrue interest on October 1, 2021, at the rate of SBI’s MCLR plus 2% rather than MCLR plus 4%. The penalty and interest on penalty will also be eliminated.
Spectrum Duration: The tenure of the spectrum was raised from 20 to 30 years in subsequent auctions.
For spectrum purchased in upcoming auctions, surrender of the spectrum will be allowed after ten years.
For spectrum purchased in next spectrum auctions, there will be no Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC).
Encouraged: removal of the 0.5% additional SUC for spectrum sharing.
100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) through the automatic route is allowed in the telecom sector to promote investment.
Reforms in procedures:
Fixed auction schedule: Spectrum auctions will typically take place in the final quarter of each fiscal year.
Promoted ease of doing business the onerous license required under 1953 Customs Wireless equipment removal notification. in favour of self-declaration.
Changes to Know Your Customers (KYC): Self-KYC is allowed (app based). The E-KYC rate has been reduced to one rupee. It is not necessary to obtain new KYC when switching from prepaid to post-paid or vice versa.
The storage of data digitally will take the place of paper Customer Acquisition Forms (CAF). There won’t be a need for the roughly 300–400 crore paper CAFs that TSPs currently have stored in various warehouses. There won’t be a need for a CAF warehouse audit.
SACFA approval for telecom towers was made easier. The DOT will accept data from a portal that is self-declared. Other agencies’ portals (such those for civil aviation) will be connected to the DOT Portal.
Step in the right direction with FDI via the automatic route?
Up until this point, only 49% of FDI was permitted via the automatic system; anything above this required going through the government process.
It will boost India’s rankings on the innovation index and attract investment in the nation.
Customers will have the option to choose from differentiated experiences and sample innovations from around the world if there is healthy competition among operators and a stable environment.
Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) equity inflow into the struggling Indian telecommunications sector fell drastically by 99.8% to Rs 50 crore ($7 million) during the April-September 2020 quarter from Rs 14,899 crore ($2,178 million) in the same quarter the previous year.
To revitalise the industry, FDI inflows must increase after the pandemic. This action will help the telecom business receive more credit.
Foreign goliaths are now able to purchase telecom sector interests in Indian enterprises.
Indian telecom companies may struggle to compete with foreign firms that have access to substantial amounts of credit from diverse commercial sources.
Since telecommunications are a crucial component of national security, 100% FDI and foreign dominance pose a threat to security and the development of secure communication channels.
Since major corporations have the power to flout regulations and import Chinese equipment, equipment procurement needs to be closely regulated.
Despite the drawbacks, the government has stated that 100% FDI can revitalise the struggling telecom sector if the proper protections are in place.
Therefore, the government hopes to increase the spread and penetration of broadband and telecom connectivity in the nation with the reform measures. With the new set of reform measures, the government also hopes to increase the adoption of 4G, inject cash, and foster an atmosphere that will encourage investment in 5G networks.
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