03 April, 2021 - Daily Current Affairs Analysis & MCQs - The Daily News Simplified from The Hindu

  • Compass & QIP announcement
  • Millet-based products set to gain increasing acceptance (GS-I +II + III)
  • Disquiet over policy for rare diseases (Polity & Governance)
  • First farm-based solar power plant comes up in Rajasthan (Polity & Governance)
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    UPSC Current Affairs: Millet-based products set to gain increasing acceptance | Page – 14   

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Economy | GS Paper III – Indian Economy

    Sub Theme:  Promotion of Millets | Nutritional Security | Poverty and Social Welfare | UPSC  

    Millet is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals. It includes jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet), small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.

    Kodo millet originated in India. It is assumed that domestication of this millet took place about 3000 years ago. Kodo millet is well suited for tropical and sub-tropical regions. Kodo millet is said to possess the highest drought resistance among all minor millets and believed to give good yield with a growing period lasting 80–135 days.

    India, Nigeria and China are the largest producers of millets in the world, accounting for more than 55% of the global production.

    For many years, India was a major producer of millets.However, in recent years, millet production has increased dramatically in Africa. In India, pearl millet is the fourth-most widely cultivated food crop after rice, wheat and maize.

    The three major millet crops currently growing in India are jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet).

    Major producers include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.

    Need For Promotion of Millets

    • Sustainable agriculture
      • Millets are Photo-insensitive (do not require a specific photoperiod for flowering).
      • Millets are generally thermophilic (thriving at relatively higher temperatures) and xerophilic (can reproduce with limited water input).
        • Pearl millet can grow on poor sandy soils and is well suited for dry climates due to its ability to use moisture efficiently.
        • Small millets such as finger millet and Kodo millet can be grown in adverse climatic and soil conditions.
      • Millets are C4 carbon sequestrating crops contributing to the reduction of CO2 inthe atmosphere, besides being water efficient.
    • In contrast, paddy is a major contributor to climate change through methane emission (the green-house gas emanating from water-drenched rice fields). Wheat and maize also has high global warming potential.
    • Wheat being a thermally sensitive crop, with increasing temperatures, its production is liable to be adversely affected.
      • Millets are resistant to climatic stress, pests and diseases
    • Millets can be stored for a considerable amount of time under appropriate storage conditions, therefore making them “famine reserves”and this feature is of great relevance for India, as our agriculture suffers from the vagaries ofmonsoon.  
      • Millets are not water or input-intensive.It requires little irrigation and no fertilizers at all.
      • Millets have low carbon and water footprint (rice plant needs at least 3 times more water to grow in comparison to millets).
        • Since India, which supports more than 15% of the world’s population, but only has 4% of its water resources, promotion of millets could be helpful.
    • Nutritional Security
      • Higher levels of protein with more balanced amino acid profile.
      • Millets are high in dietary fibre.
      • B-complex vitamins including niacin, thiamine and riboflavin, the essential sulphur-containing amino acid methionine, lecithin, and some vitamin E
      • A powerhouse of nutrients including iron, folate, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, vitamins and antioxidants.
        • Ragi is known to have the highest calcium content among all the food grains.
        • Its high iron content can fight high prevalence of anaemia in India women of reproductive age and infants.
      • The seeds also contain phyto-nutrients, including phytic acid, which is believed to lower cholesterol, and phytate, which is associated with reducing risk of cancer.
    • Poverty and social welfare

    Different sources estimate poverty rates between 37 and 77% of thepopulation with rural areas having more poverty than cities.

    • Tendulkar Committee: 37% (more than 400 million people); rural 42% and urban 26%
    • Saxena Committee: 50% of Indian population BPL
    • Arjun Sengupta: 77% of Indian population BPL
    • World Bank: 42% of Indian population below international poverty line of $1.25/day inPurchasing Power Parity (PPP). 80% of Indian population lives below the $2/day line.
    • UNDP: 54% of the Indian population are poor following multidimensional poverty Index.

    Nutritional status is also poor in the country. According to NFHS-5:

    • More than half of the children and women are anaemic in 13 of the 22 States/UTs.
    • Increase in childhood stunting in 13 of the 22 States/UTs compared to the data of NFHS-4.
    • Prevalence of elevated blood pressure (hypertension) has increased.
    • Most States/UTsalsoseeanincrease in overweight/obesity prevalence among children and adults.

    Similar indicators find dramaticrates of malnutrition in India (around one fifth of the population), which are especiallystaggering for children (approximately 50% suffer from stunted growth) and women (morethan 35% have below normal body mass indexes).

    IndianCouncil for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has reconfirmed the power of agriculturalproductivity in reducing rural poverty: a 1% productivity increase reduces poverty by0.65%.

    There exist a valid linkages between millets, povertyreduction, malnutrition alleviation and rural development:

    • Millets are drought resistant and require few external inputs.
    • Highly nutritious
    • food and livelihood security to small and marginal farmers and inhabitants of rainfed areas, especially in remote tribal areas
    • dual-purpose crops providing both food& fodder
    • Health & Disease
      • reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes in adults.
      • They are gluten-freeand have a low glycemic index (a relative ranking of carbohydrate in foods according to how they affect blood glucose levels).This makes them easily digestible and non-allergenic foods.So they are beneficial for Diabetic patients, people having Cancer, Oxidative stress, obesity, Celiac diseases, Gastro-intestinal disorders, and also for patients with heart ailments.
      • The anaemia (iron deficiency), B-complex vitamin deficiency, pellagra (niacin deficiency) can be effectively tackled with intake of less expensive but nutritionally rich food grains like millets.
    • Culture:Millets have significant cultural value due to their long history on the Indian subcontinent. References to millets can be found in mythology,poetry, religious practices, ayurvedic recipes, and in numerous dishes. Millets are notonly food grains; they are still intricately interwoven in the socio-cultural fabric ofnumerous regions.
    • Economic Security
      • Millets can be grown on dry, low-fertile, mountainous, tribal and rain-fed areas.
      • Millets are good for the soil, have shorter cultivation cycles and require less cost-intensive cultivation.
      • Millets and thus can prove to be a sustainable income source for farmers.
      • They provides employment to many people due to the traditional methods of farming involved in their cultivation.
      • The export of millets add to the overall economic growth of the country and also helps boost the GDP of the nation.
      • Millet has a Short growing season of about 65 days which allows it to be a part of multiple cropping systems in both rain-fed and irrigated areas. Millets sequestrate carbon, thereby beneficial  for intercropping with other vital crops
    • International Relation

    India exported about 15.4% of the world’s Bajra to roughly 60 countries from 2013 to 2018.More than 40% of global millet consumption is held by African countriesmainlyNiger, Mali, Nigeria, Burkina, and Sudan, where food and nutritional security are the major challenges. India can become an effective exporter to develop better relation with these countries.

    Why is India slow in adopting millet-based products?

    The average annual growth of millet consumption in India from 1999 to 2016 was only 4.56 %.The highest rise in domestic millet consumption in India was noticed in the years 2002-2003, in which the growth rate reported was about 115.15%.Year by year, the growth rate of millet consumption is declining by the country to an extremely low growth rate of 8.33% in the years 2019-2020.

    For all millets there is a dramatic decrease in cultivated area.Dramatic also is the decrease in total production of small millets - 76%.

    • General perception is that the millets are increasingly seen as “poor person’s food”. Therefore, it is necessary to re-brand coarse cereals/millets as nutri-cereals and promote their production and consumption.
    • Historical policy neglect of these crops.
    • Lower or near absence of production support when compared to the support enjoyed by other crops
    • Near lack of reach of improved methods of production and technologies
    • Lack of appropriate post-harvest processing technologies for small millets except finger millet
    • Competition from other market friendly remunerative crops
    • Changes in preference patterns in consumption moving away from them (Sanskritization), mainly due to inclusion of only rice and wheat into the Public Distribution System (PDS)
    • Absence of public or private funded promotion of millets as a nutritious food category

    Efforts by government to promote millets:

    • The year 2018 was declared as the National Year of Millets by India. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Council in 2018, approved India’s proposal to observe an International Year of Millets in 2023.
    • Intensive Millets Promotion(INSIMP): Launched in 2012 as a part of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, wherein Rs.300 crores has been allocated to advancing equipment and technology related to millet harvest and increasing productivity of inefficient areas.
    • Rainfed Area Development Programme: Developing and identifying new areas receiving adequate rainfall for millet farming as a part of the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana(RKVY).
    • In order to promote ‘millets’, India had on its part notified these climate resilient crops as “Nutri-Cereals” and allowed its inclusion in the Public Distribution System (PDS) for improving nutritional support.
    • Recognising millets’ anti-diabetic properties, the government’s notification called it a “powerhouse of nutrients” and identified several varieties of millets for promotion. The millets in the category of “Nutri-Cereals” include Sorghum (Jowar), Pearl Millet (Bajra), Finger Millet (Ragi), Foxtail Millet (Kangani/Kakun) and Buckwheat (Kuttu) among others.
    • Besides, the government had in July substantially hiked the minimum support price (MSP) of millets so that more and more farmers may opt for cultivation of these less water consuming crops.
    • Millets are being purchased at the support price and are also being included in the mid-day meal scheme and public distribution system, for encouraging its consumption.
    • The government also initiated the 'Integrated Cereals Development Programmes in Coarse Cereals' under Macro Management of Agriculture.
    • Millets are being promoted under the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) to help provide good nutrition to those who are unable to afford it.

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: Disquiet over policy for rare diseases - Analysis | Pg 10

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Social Issues | GS Paper II – Social Issues  

    Sub Theme: National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021| Key Features of Rare Diseases| UPSC    

    Context:

    • Caregivers to patients with ‘rare diseases’ and affiliated organisations are dissatisfied with the National Policy for Rare Diseases, 2021.
    • Though the document specifies increasing the government support for treating patients with a ‘rare disease’— from ₹15 lakh to ₹20 lakh — caregivers say this doesn’t reflect actual costs of treatment.

    What is a Rare Disease?

    WHO defines rare disease as often debilitating lifelong disease or disorder with a prevalence of 1 or less, per 1000 population. However, different countries have their own definitions to suit their specific requirements and in context of their own population, health care system and resources.

    In the US, rare diseases are defined as a disease or condition that affects fewer than 200,000 patients in the country (6.4 in 10,000 people).


    India, like many other developing countries, currently has no standard definition of rare diseases and data on prevalence. Since there is no epidemiological data, there are no figures on burden of rare diseases and morbidity and mortality associated with them.To overcome this, a hospital based National Registry for Rare Diseases has been initiated by ICMR by involving centers across the Country that are involved in diagnosis and management of Rare Diseases. This will yield much needed epidemiological data for rare diseases.

    So far only about 450 rare diseases have been recorded in India from tertiary care hospitals. The most common rare diseases include:

    • Haemophilia
    • Thalassemia
    • Sicklecell Anaemia
    • Primary Immuno Deficiency in children
    • auto-immune diseases
    • Lysosomal storage disorders such as Pompe disease, Hirschsprung disease, Gaucher’s disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Hemangiomas and
    • Certain forms of muscular dystrophies.

    Key Features of the Policy

    • A patient registry of rare diseases is to be constituted under ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research).
    • According to the policy, rare diseases include genetic diseases, rare cancers, infectious tropical diseases, and degenerative diseases.
    • Under the policy, there are three categories of rare diseases —
      • requiring one-time curative treatment - include osteopetrosis and immune deficiency disorders, among others.
      • diseases that require long-term treatment but where the cost is low, and
      • those needing long-term treatments with high cost.
    • As per the policy, the assistance of Rs 15 lakh will be provided to patients suffering from rare diseases that require a one-time curative treatment under the 'Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi Scheme'. The treatment will be limited to the beneficiaries of 'Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana'.
    • For diseases listed under Group 2, State Governments can consider supporting patients of such rare diseases that can be managed with special diets or hormonal supplements or other relatively low cost interventions.
    • Under the policy, certain medical institutes will be certified as Centre of Excellence for rare diseases. It includes AIIMS, New Delhi; Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Science, Lucknow; King Edward Medical Hospital, Mumbai and four others.
    • There are certain diseases such as Hurler Syndrome, Gaucher’s disease, Wolman disease for which the annual treatment expenses may vary from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore. For such diseases, a digital platform is to be set up to raise donations and corporatefunding.
    • It proposes an inter-ministerial consultative committee is to be set up at national level. The committee will be led by MoHFW.
    • It also aims to create Administrative Committee that will develop guidelines to determine which rare diseases to fund.

    Criticism of the Policy

    Rare disease advocacy and support groups have called out the policy for several discrepancies including a lack of funding to support families and individuals with a rare disease. They have pointed out that the proposed allocation of financial support has been brought down to a maximum of Rs 15 lakh per case under an umbrella scheme - 'Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi' – for those who have a rare disease that falls in Group 1, and require one-time treatment. This is much lower than the initially proposed corpus fund of Rs 100 crore.

    The policy also passes the buck, and says that crowdfunding can be used to provide financial support. It identifies eight hospitals across India as ‘centres of excellence’ and leaves it up to them to set up crowdfunding initiatives for patients that require it, or for families to themselves look at crowdfunding options for treatment.

    The policy caps resources for different diseases. While treatment for one particular disease might amount to Rs 10 lakh, another disease may require Rs 1 crore to cover the cost of medications, which are only bound to increase over time.

    The new policy offers no support to patients awaiting treatment since the earlier National Policy for Treatment of Rare Diseases 2017 was kept in abeyance.

    The new policy has absolutely no consideration for Group 3 patients, who require lifelong treatment support

    The policy has been criticised for acting more like a set of guidelines to understand the disease, rather than specifying actions which must be taken by the government to offer support to those affected.

    Public health and hospitals being a State subject, the Central Government shall encourage and support the States in their endeavour towards screening and prevention of rare diseases. However, while screening has been emphasised as a preventive measure, there is no mention of how and when screening will take place, nor has it been stated how screening will be implemented.

    Case Study: What USA Does?

    In United States of America, development of drugs for rare disease is sought to be encouraged through the Orphan Drugs Act, which incentivises industry by way of market exclusivity, grants to researchers and tax incentives on expenditure incurred during evaluation of drugs for their therapeutic potentials.

     

     

    UPSC Current Affairs: First farm-based solar power plant comes up in Rajasthan | Page – 4

    UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Environment | Mains – GS Paper III – Environment, Economy   

    Sub Theme: Rajasthan | First farm-based solar power plant | KUSUM scheme | UPSC       

    Context: The first farm-based solar power plant under the Prime Minister’s Kisan Urja Suraksha Evum Utthan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) scheme has come up in Jaipur district’s Kotputli tehsil with a provision for production of 17 lakh units of electricity every year.

    • The 1 MW project has been established on 3.50 acres of farmland in Kotputli’s Bhaloji village.
    • The new plant is also the first of the 623 farm-based solar power projects selected by the Rajasthan Renewable Energy Corporation Limited (RRECL) for generating 722 MW capacity in the State under the scheme’s first phase.
    • The project has been commissioned following a 25-year contract signed between the RRECL and farmland owner Devkaran Yadav in September 2020. Developed at a cost of ₹3.70 crore, the plant is expected to generate an annual income of ₹50 lakh for Mr. Yadav, as the discom will be purchasing electricity at the rate of ₹3.40 per unit.
    • RRECL chairman Subodh Agarwal said here on Friday that the KUSUM scheme would ensure energy security for farmers, as they could generate revenue from their less productive or barren land. It would also help increase the clean green energy and generate employment in the rural areas, he said.

    Renewable energy target

    The Congress government in the State had adopted the solar energy and the wind and hybrid energy policies in December 2019 with the plans to develop a capacity of 38,000 MW renewable energy. The capacity to be developed under the KUSUM scheme will be of the order of 2,600 MW, for which the letters of award have been issued to 623 applicants.

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