2 July 2020: The Indian Express Editorial Analysis
1) The grain mountain-
GS 2- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes
- Rice and wheat stocks in government granaries stood at 73.85 million tonnes (mt) as on April 1, 3.5 times the normative operational-cum-strategic reserve requirement for this date.
- Two months later, with the procurement of the new wheat crop, these inventories rose further to an all-time-high of over 97 mt.
- Against this background, and on top of the widespread distress unleashed by the COVID-19, there is a strong moral as well as economic case for offloading the excess grain lying with the Food Corporation of India.
PRADHAN MANTRI GARIB KALYAN ANNA YOJANA:
- That’s what is being done through the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY).
- Under the scheme, over 80 crore people were being provided 5 kg of free grain per month during April-June.
- It has now been extended for another five months till November. In all, it would amount to some 32 mt being given free of cost.
- Considering that this grain is going largely to poor or low-income households — and they are also the worst-affected by the current economic dislocations — the moral argument is self-evident.
- As regards economics, it is true that the FCI incurs an average cost of Rs 37.27 on procuring, bagging, transporting, handling, storing and distributing every kg of rice, and Rs 26.84 for wheat.
- To the extent any grain is issued free of cost, there is an obvious economic loss.
- But these “economic cost” calculations do not factor in the buffer “carrying cost”, which is basically the interest and storage charges payable on the excess stocks held by the FCI.
- This carrying cost is estimated at Rs 5.40 per kg during 2020-21.
- On 32 mt, it will work out to Rs 17,280 crore. The more the excess grain that is offloaded, the more will be the savings on this count.
- From the FCI’s and the government’s subsidy standpoint, the issue price of grain should ideally be as close as possible to the economic cost.
- But that’s impossible, given the sheer quantum of excess stocks.
- PMGKAY, if anything, has provided an avenue for liquidation of this surplus rice and wheat.
MAINTAINING OPTIMUM LEVEL:
- There is no doubt that the FCI’s grain mountain has been the single most important reason for no significant incidence of starvation or food riots during the ongoing COVID pandemic.
- But that does not still justify the magnitude of procurement — 39 mt of wheat and 50 mt-plus of rice from the 2019-20 crop — being undertaken by government agencies.
- The FCI’s problem of plenty will, indeed, remain even if the PMGKAY is extended beyond November.
- The existing regime of open-ended minimum support price-based procurement for paddy and wheat is financially and environmentally unsustainable.
- The government should maintain sufficient stocks of all essential foodstuffs — including pulses, edible oil, sugar, and milk powder — to deal with contingencies.
- But that doesn’t require even 60 mt in FCI godowns.
Extension of PMGKAY is welcome amid continuing economic distress. But FCI’s problem of plenty remains.
2) Horsemen of Apocalypse-
GS 3- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
- The notion that the pandemic has not been “bad” for the environment is widespread.
- In April daily carbon emissions were down by 17 per cent compared to last year.
- New data in June indicates that they are 5 per cent lower than at the same point in 2019, indicating a spurt.
- The drop in emissions in 2020 — projected to be about 8 per cent down on last year — will just put us on track to where we should be, if we are to reach the Paris agreement goal of limiting warming to 1.5 C.
- The threat of climate change, although raising its head again, has been constrained.
CYBERSPACE & CYBERATTACKS:
- Cyberspace has been a digital saviour during the corona crisis.
- Constancy of virtual communications enhanced through various services, new apps, expanded coverage has been key to enhanced virtual lives for millions by increase of the avenues for working from home, video chat connectivity and online delivery of goods.
- Companies that have deftly used cyberspace have prospered the most.
- Amazon towers over all others with a net capital gain of over $400 billion in 2020.
- However, there is a growing body of thought that “dark side” troubles are likely.
- A surge in cybercrime and cyber fraud is anticipated, if not there already.
- The logic being that cyberspace use has expanded without commensurate(in proportion) growth in security features.
- An article by Steven McBride in Forbes magazine in May predicted that the corona crisis practically guarantees that we will see the “largest cyberattack ever” in the next six months.
- Several others, too, are making dire(serious) projections of an impending “cyber Pearl Harbour”.
- Instances of accentuation(emphasis) of geopolitical tensions during the corona crisis are well-documented.
- The US-China relationship was already deteriorating(worsening), the blame game over the virus has exacerbated it.
- The brazen(bold) behaviour of China in matters relating to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, South China Sea and the India-China border has added to the inflammable state of geopolitics.
- That there is no recourse to those involved reflects on the poor state of global governance mechanisms.
- Rarely has the world seen such paucity(lacking) of international cooperation since World War II.
- The unraveling of the global infrastructure of institutions and partnerships that have been built since World War II is stark.
DECREASE IN GLOBAL TRUST:
- The paucity of global trust amongst states has plummeted(gone down) to its worst since World War II.
- The EU that touts an “ever closer union” has not been a pretty picture.
- When faced with corona crisis shortages, almost all EU states responded at the national level.
- Globally, at one time, more than 70 per cent of the world’s ports of entry — air, sea and land — restricted travel.
- According to a Global Trade Alert study, nearly 90 governments blocked the export of medical supplies while 29 restricted food exports.
- In many regions where co-operation was flourishing all of a sudden there are rivalries and hard feelings between people where there have been no borders at all.
- For example, the Nordic region.
- Norway opened its borders to the rest from the region bar Sweden, because of its infection rate.
- Lack of trust is also impacting diversified supply chains. The corona crisis is driving a shift from efficiency to self-sufficiency.
- Japan is paying companies to relocate factories from China.
- President Emmanuel Macron has pledged “full independence” for France in crucial medical supplies by year-end.
- Prime Minister Modi has called for self reliance and being vocal for local in India.
- In the US, support for “Buy American” benchmarks for government health spending has growing bipartisan support.
- Countries are preparing for individually forging recoveries when the crisis passes.
- Secretary General Guterres prognosis was that these threats beyond borders are best addressed by multilateral bodies.
- UN system has been missing in action, except at the fringes.
- The last time thinking about the multilateral order was cemented was at a time when India did not independently partake(join) in the thought process.
- It resulted in our being confined to the category of “ruler takers” for 75 years and counting.
- Challenges that transcend borders are of cardinal importance to India’s well being.
- It is, therefore, time to conceptualise, in concrete terms, pathways to address them.
- This will need to include our envisaging the new order and India’s own role in it as well as who our partners in this venture are to be.
- Others are already working on their game plans. The here and now is important. So, too, is looking beyond the horizon.
- If we want to be “rule shapers” rather than being “rule takers”, then we need to start working in partnership at blueprints for change.
- It is never too early to plan for the future.
3) Ayurveda deserves better-
GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
- Baba Ramdev has done a disservice to Ayurveda.
- He puts out Coronil, a drug in the market that claims nothing short of being a “cure” for the worst public health crisis we have faced in a long time.
- Soon, it turns out that the drug had failed to meet both scientific protocols and regulatory requirements.
- This episode reinforced(strengthened) all the modern stereotypes(negativity) of traditional medicine that it is not reliable and serves no purpose.
- Specifically, it buttresses(emphasis) an old but ill-informed scepticism(doubt) about Ayurveda.
- Ayurveda is blamed for its unstructured concepts that are not believable it is not evidence-based.
AYURVEDA- A DIFFERENT WORLD:
- There are popular medicines that Ayurveda is today known for — Liv-52, Septilin, Hajmola (did you know this is a candy version of Kshtudhavardhak bati?).
- There is a world of the practising Ayurvedic doctor, the teachers in the scores of colleges and universities of Ayurveda and researchers in different institutes.
- These worlds are much bigger and deeper, beyond that of Patanjali, Dabur and Himalaya.
- That world is vibrant, has integrity and it is important that it be known, respected and valued.
- Thanks to meticulous(careful) research by historians and anthropologists, we know that Ayurveda functioned in a dynamic and proactive state for a very long time.
- “Tradition” is not the best way to describe it, because that makes it seem like a static wisdom of one time.
- In reality, the canonical Ayurvedic texts were complemented by hundreds of commentaries — adapting, modifying, even challenging principles by stating evidence to the contrary.
- Also, there were exchanges of knowledge between practitioners of the broad traditions of Unani, Ayurveda and Siddha, acknowledged until the colonial period, which brought in the hegemony of modern bio-medicine.
- Under the influence of colonialism, we tethered(chained) the institutions and the systems of Ayurvedic knowledge production to the margins of our learning and education.
- We closed many doors and windows of scientific practices within and around traditional medical systems.
- Contrary to popular opinion, there are thousands of Ayurvedic practitioners who are true to their education and confidently prescribe only Ayurvedic medicines.
- They have found ways, for instance, to complement surgery with support in recovery.
- They stay up to date with the latest investigations and molecules entering the market so that they can support their patients.
- They have both adapted to and adopted new knowledge, widening their horizons unhesitatingly, true to their tradition.
- Yet they have to face unhappy students, struggling with low self-esteem, under immense pressure to compromise their knowledge.
- Researchers like Ashok Vaidya have taken the responsibility of explaining the meaning of Ayurveda to modern scientific research.
- They have systematically, faithfully and often with very little recognition, done the difficult job of getting the languages of science and Ayurveda to speak to each other.
- They have learnt and used their methods, while also thinking carefully of credible translations between two languages, methods, and indeed world-views.
- From this, they have produced credible evidence that corroborates(supports) and complements modern medical research.
- Despite this hard work and brilliance, they struggle to publish in the mainstream and those that do, never make breaking news.
- With this enormous effort available, and given that the spirit of inquiry guides science, it could well have been expected that communication between science, these worlds of Ayurveda and the public would be fostered(developed).
- This would have been a great contribution to medical knowledge, for humanity as a whole.
- Sadly, though, with honourable exceptions, this has not been the case.
- So, it is Ayurvedic doctors, teachers and researchers who have made it their business to inquire, implement, investigate and innovate with these knowledge systems in communication with science.
- Without waiting for reciprocity, confidently carrying the double burden of understanding the Ayurvedic as well as modern scientific knowledge, they are possibly contributing more to the greater common good.
- The only sphere where Ayurveda seems to have succeeded is in the manufacturing sector.
- Not prepared to take marginalisation like the other actors in this play, the manufacturers have tried to win this game by taking innovation to another level.
- They have found that with the right kind of packaging, positioning and pricing, any Ayurvedic medicine can be transformed to an FMCG and be sold as well as, or even better, than products of modern pharmaceutical companies.
- This success comes with a price.
- Ayurvedic manufacturers have to enter the race to create new products, of “matching” the capacity of biomedicine to make new products; and of “matching” the capacity to mine the market for equally huge profits.
- The worlds of Ayurveda have long debated some of the fundamental flaws built into this apparent success.
- When two knowledge traditions have two completely different perspectives on body and disease, then why compete on the medicine and cure?
- And when parameters of treatment and expected outcomes are of different kinds, then how can the protocols of biomedicine be used for evaluating Ayurvedic medicines?
- Why can Ayurvedic manufacturing not focus on creating a different world of diagnosis, treatment and cure in keeping with its perspective, expanding the range of choices patients have?
- The commercial success of Ayurvedic manufacturers enables them to be the emblem of Ayurveda in the public imagination.