The HINDU Notes – 20th June 2020 - VISION

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Saturday, June 20, 2020

The HINDU Notes – 20th June 2020





πŸ“° Now, China embraces Bangladesh in trade

Export tariff waived on most goods

•In a significant show of economic diplomacy in South Asia, China has announced tariff exemption for 97 per cent of exports from Bangladesh. And diplomatic sources of Bangladesh have described the Chinese move as a “major success” in Dhaka-Beijing relationship

•The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh announced on Friday that 97 percent of items covering fisheries and leather products would be exempted of Chinese tariffs.

•Beijing's decision came a month after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Xi Jinping discussed enhancing bilateral relation in the background of the economic hardship triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

•“As part of our economic diplomacy, Bangladesh had written to China to exempt our export items from tariffs. In response to this China’s State Council Tariff Commission has issued a notification recently. Bangladesh is among the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and that is why this decision was taken by China”, announced Mohammed Touhidul Islam, Senior Information Officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

•Friday’s announcement is expected to help Bangladesh cushion the economic impact of the pandemic and also emerge as a possible beneficiary alongside Vietnam and Chile of the U.S.-China trade war. Bangladesh imports around $ 15 billion in Chinese goods but its China-bound exports had been very low in comparison..

•“Bangladesh already receives tariff-exemption for 3,095 items under the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA). As a result of the latest announcement, a total of 8,256 goods from Bangladesh will be exempted of Chinese tariffs,” Mr. Islam said.

πŸ“° The gross abuse of the Manipur mandate

The politics in the State is a fine example of the law being made a subordinate function of power

•Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, a parallel crisis of democracy is unfolding in Manipur — one which also reflects on the state of Indian democracy in general, where the mandate of the people decided at periodic elections is increasingly being allowed to be twisted by turncoat-elected representatives to serve the end of their unique and grotesque power game. So endemic had defection become, that a law — the 10th Schedule — was introduced in 1985 by the 52nd amendment of the Constitution, but when the loopholes in the law were being exploited to make it irrelevant, it was toughened in 2003 by the 91st amendment of the Constitution. That a country’s leaders have to be restrained thus is itself a disgrace, but in recent times, it is no longer a question of dodging the law, but of overturning the very idea of the rule of law by those in power. The Manipur cases illustrate this very well.

Government formation

•In the March 2017 Assembly election, Manipur saw a hung verdict, with the Indian National Congress emerging as the single largest party with 28 seats in the 60-member House (now 59, after one disqualification). The Bharatiya Janata Party was second, with 21. For inadequately unexplained reasons, the State Governor, Najma Heptulla, decided the more stable post-poll alliance would be the one the BJP led, though the party needed the support of at least 10 non-BJP MLAs to be in a majority position, rather than the Congress which needed just three. The BJP did manage to forge an alliance that exceeded the majority mark, but at a cost which it is discovering is too dear only now. The ceiling on the Manipur cabinet set by the 10th Schedule is 12 including the Chief Minister. Of the remaining 11, seven had to be given away to the allies to secure their loyalty, (four to National People’s Party (NPP) and one each to the Naga People’s Front, the Lok Janshakti Party and the first Congress MLA to defect to the BJP), leaving only three cabinet berths for the BJP’s own legislators besides the Chief Minister. Luckily for the BJP, most of its veterans did not win the last election, and a great number of those who did were first timers, whose demands were not always seriously for ministerial berths.

Partisan politics

•Nearly three-and-a-half years down the line, after the initial euphoria of being part of a ruling formation has long died down, many BJP MLAs are now obviously concerned with the reduced prospect of re-election from their constituencies if they went to the polls as mere camp followers. Hence, the internal friction within the ruling party has been visible for the past few months. The tipping point was reached on June 17, when three of their MLAs decided to quit the party and Assembly membership to align with the Congress. The crisis now has the potential of spiralling out of control and more could join the deserters in the days ahead; but given the fact that the adjudication function of the law has been totally smothered, and instead its provisions are now being used with impunity to promote partisan politics, nothing can be said for certain. The resultant loss of esteem for the law in the eyes of the public is predicted to have very long term and grave social consequences in this sensitive, insurgency-torn border State.

•Another development after the BJP assumed power was that seven more Congress MLAs defected to the ruling side, bringing up the total number of Congress defectors to eight. They were also obviously hoping for some official position to share the spoils of power, but nothing has been forthcoming for them. Hence, other than the first defector who was absorbed as a cabinet minister, the latter seven continued to sit in the Opposition benches but voted all along with the ruling. Petitions for the disqualification of the eight were left unheeded by the Speaker for more than three years, but on the intervention of the Supreme Court of India, the first defector was disqualified on March 28 this year. When the seven other defectors remained unpenalised, the Congress moved the Manipur High Court. The High Court took the cue from the earlier Supreme Court ruling to direct the Speaker to dispose of the case at the soonest but after the election to the State’s lone Rajya Sabha seat that was scheduled yesterday. Till this was done, the High Court placed a ban on the seven MLAs from entering the Assembly.

Jumping ship

•The BJP, however, has more to worry now. It is also beginning to lose its partners. The biggest of these is the NPP, which has four MLAs in the Assembly. The party walked out of the BJP-led alliance and pledged support to the Opposition Congress on June 17. Along with them, one MLA of the Trinamool Congress and an independent MLA also jumped ship and joined the Congress camp. Almost at the same time, in a curious turn of events, four of the seven Congress defectors also decided to return to the Congress camp. If they remained not disqualified and if they were allowed to vote, it had become a foregone conclusion that the BJP would lose the Rajya Sabha seat. But yesterday, in the morning, the Speaker has heard and disposed of the case of the three defectors still in the BJP camp although there is a High Court directive that the hearing should not be before the Rajya Sabha election, and exonerated them so they could vote. However, the names of the other four were missing from the list of voters.

•Even if the BJP, with the help of the Speaker’s controversial rulings, wins the Rajya Sabha seat, the trouble for the coalition can hardly be said to be over. One, it is extremely likely that intervention would come from the High Court on the election and selective disposal of the disqualification cases as well as the Speaker’s tribunal overruling the High Court directive. Two, the Opposition is now demanding a no-confidence motion against the government. It remains to be seen where this will lead to, or if those with the reins of power will allow a non-partisan decision of the Assembly. At this moment though, it does seem the law has become what those in power want it to be.





•There can be no dispute there is danger in the law being made a subordinate function of power. This cannot have been better explained than in Robert Bolt’s 1960 classic, A Man for All Seasons . When presented with an opportunity to arrest his opponent and tormentor, Thomas More refused to give a go-ahead, saying the man has not broken any law. When his young assistant, William Roper, challenged him whether he would give the Devil the benefit of the law, he said he would. And when Roper differed to say he would cut every law in England to get at the Devil, More’s famous retort was: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? …. Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!” The Manipur BJP seems to be wrestling to fight its own original demon now.

πŸ“° Why regulated crop cultivation holds promise

Telangana’s bold move to dictate what crops should be sown where will be a win-win for both farmers and the government

•For the first time in the history of Indian agriculture, Telangana will dictate the cultivation of crops by telling farmers what to sow in which district in a particular season, keeping in view the farmers’ interests as well as ecological system. The crops suggested for each district will not be the same forever, rather would keep changing to market and weather conditions from season to season.

•The proposed regulation, which will be implemented from this kharif season, also says that farmers not following the specified cropping pattern will be denied the benefits of Rythu Bandhu under which farmers get investment support of ₹5,000 per acre every year. Will the proposed regulation of the State government help farmers get better prices by eliminating a glut in the market? What will be the other implications of this new plan?

Plausible benefits

•Farmers, generally, decide on the crop based on the availability of seeds and other technology, irrigation, market situation, etc. Of late, farmers have been influenced to cultivate and boost the production of the same crop on the premise of pre-existing demand and prices. But this leads to increased supply of a crop outpacing the demand, which not only leads to sudden drop in market prices but even forces farmers to dump the harvested produce on roads and in rivers. To end the recurring problem of plenty, the proposed regulated cropping plan is definitely a promising recipe.

•Given the fast degrading ecological situation, depleting groundwater levels and declining soil fertility, a market-based agricultural diversification, which foresees a shift away from monoculture towards a variety of crops, will definitely increase farm incomes and profits. Besides, optimising crop production under heterogeneous agro-ecological conditions in rainfed areas and reducing vulnerability to market and climate variability, crop diversity is also associated with risk-coping strategies, facilitating adaptation to climate change and poverty reduction. Besides, it will ensure the availability of rural employment round the year, result in crop intensification, bring back the soil's nutrient profile and ensure environmental sustainability.

Achieving self-sufficiency

•Dispensing with mono-cropping offers a greater scope to focus on boosting the production of pulses and oilseeds in which the country is far from being secure. The NITI Aayog, in a 2017 report, ‘Doubling Farmers’ Income: Rationale, Strategy, Prospects and Action Plan’, reiterated that diversification towards such high-value crops (HYVs) has the potential to increase farmers’ income.

•India is the world’s largest producer of pulses accounting for about 35 per cent of the global area and 27 per cent of the global production, and fifth largest oilseed producer. However, it is also the world’s largest importer of pulses and vegetable oils. According to a report of the Commerce and Industry Ministry, about ₹8,035-crore worth of pulses and ₹69,023-crore worth of vegetable oils were imported during 2018-19.

•Although the Central and State governments have been taking efforts to boost the production of pulses and oilseeds through various programmes such as the Accelerated Pulses Production Programme, the National Food Security Mission (NFSM), and the National Mission on Oilseeds and Oilpalm, there has been no dramatic increase in area, production or yield. This is where Telangana’s bold move holds value for other States. If a similar initiative is taken in other parts of the country, lakhs of hectares dedicated to the paddy-wheat crop cycle can be shifted to the production of oilseeds and pulses. This would increase the country's self-sufficiency in these crops thereby saving huge amounts in import costs.

Promotes water management

•Rising temperature, changing monsoon patterns, and more frequent extreme climatic events continue to worsen the water crisis posing a threat to the country's food security. As the water crisis becomes acute and bears down on the country’s agrarian economy, it is desirable from the water utilisation point of view to break the monoculture pattern of cultivation by crop diversification.

•Given that water-guzzling crops such as paddy and sugarcane use up over half of the country’s total irrigation resources, incentivising cultivation of water-efficient crops under regulated agriculture thus becomes imperative. Also, the need to prioritise with less water consuming crops becomes important especially at a time when the tail-end farmers of almost all canal command areas continue to be deprived of water for irrigation due to the unrelenting practice of cultivating water-intensive crops by the head-reach farmers.

•This necessitates diversifying crop production replacing water-guzzling crops with climate resilient and water-efficient crops — for instance, millets or sorghum — which, according to a study, would lower the demand for irrigation water by about 3 to 21 per cent and reduce energy use by 2 to 12 per cent. Such a systematised crop planning, would not only result in the creation of additional area under irrigation, but would also provide a promising remedy to the persistent problem of inequitable access to water to the tail-end farmers.

•At a time when rising cost of cultivation, farm suicides, farm indebtedness and fast depleting groundwater table continue to haunt the country's farm sector, Telangana's bold move to dictate cultivation of crops is definitely a giant step worth emulating for other States. When regulated agriculture cultivation promises to provide better price for their produce by eliminating crop failure and glut, farmers will no longer be driven to cultivate risk-prone paddy and wheat, which usually command a high minimum support price. Consequently, neither will there be any excess production of wheat and paddy, nor will there be any excess piling and rotting of the procured foodgrains in FCI warehouses.

•Since regulated crop cultivation emphasises on producing only those grains that are in demand and have the potential for export, farmers stand to get a better price and income from farming and there would be no more excessive supply of the same crop which eventually results in fall in remunerative price.

•Unlike the large scale wheat-rice system, wherein small farmers are denied profits as they do not enjoy economies of scale, promotion of high-value crops under regulated agriculture cultivation promises them a reasonable price from their produce. Under the proposed market-driven cultivation, unlike the present situation, traders would be drawn towards farmers producing market based export-potential crops. A win-win for both the government and the farmers, this sure is a model worth for other States to emulate.