Relevance: GS Paper III (Ecology and Environment)
Theme of the article
Practical interventions exist to tackle the issue of stubble burning.
Air pollution is a worry especially in north India. Stubble burning is said to be a key factor behind the formation of a dense cover of smog in this part of India though its contribution is less than 20%.
Are only farmers to blame?
Farmers are held responsible for the crisis but what is at fault are the flawed and short-sighted policies of the Central and State governments.
Has the policy of wheat-paddy crop rotation been beneficial?
- In the 1960s, wheat-paddy crop rotation was encouraged in Punjab and Haryana to make India self-sufficient in foodgrain production.
- Large public investments in irrigation and adoption of high yielding varieties under the Green Revolution helped achieve the goal and make the nation food secure.
- However, the negative externalities in terms of land degradation, adverse soil health due to overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, and plummeting water tables have surfaced.
- The share of paddy (rice) in the gross cropped area in Punjab and Haryana has considerably increased. However, the increase has undisputedly been at the cost of the area under maize, cotton, oilseeds and sugarcane.
- The policy of minimum support price for crops, in tandem with their assured procurement and input subsidy, have left farmers with no option but to follow this rotation.
- Besides, Punjab enacted a water conservation law in 2009 which mandates paddy sowing within a notified period . As a result, farmers who are pressed for time to sow wheat and maintain crop yield find stubble burning to be an easy and low-cost solution.
How to tackle stubble burning?
- One possibility to curtail the practice is to ensure that the government encourages crop diversification towards less water-intensive crops by extending price incentives and better marketing facilities.
- The policy of a ‘price deficiency system’ — as initiated in Haryana and Madhya Pradesh — should be adopted to strengthen the production and marketing of alternative crops.
- Another option is to replicate the Telangana model of providing farmers an investment support of ₹8,000 per acre each year and withdraw price-based support.
- Increasing pressure by the government on farmers to purchase the ‘happy seeder’ to abate stubble burning adds to the cost incurred by farmers. Even if the machine is available at a subsidised rate of nearly ₹1 lakh, it would remain idle the whole year and become a liability in terms of maintenance. It is not a viable option for small and marginal farmers.
- If the state provides an app-based support system, to rent out tractors and farm implements and earn additional income — there are examples of this in Nigeria and also in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar — it would be akin to the ‘Uberisation of agriculture’. It would avoid stubble burning and at the same time make farming more mechanised, cost effective and a source of employment.
- Another far-sighted approach could be in effective use of paddy straw. Unlike wheat residue, which is used as fodder, paddy straw is non-palatable to animals as it has high silica content.
- Farmers, who have already been sensitised to refrain from burning residue, should be given options such as biomass generation.
- The government should use geospatial techniques to identify areas where stubble burning is severe and encourage installation of biomass plants at such locations. This will not only reduce transportation costs for the firm or village entrepreneurs but also help the government achieve its target of generating 227GW based on renewable energy sources by 2022.
- Farmers can also be incentivised to sell the residual for additional income. The residual has uses, such as in paper, cardboard and packing material making and also hydroseeding (defiberised rice straw can be used in hydroseeding for erosion control).
Incidents of stubble burning cannot be averted by imposing fines, or giving notice or giving farmers capital subsidy. Instead, the issue requires long-term vision and strategic policy interventions.
Relevance : GS Paper II (International Relations)
[900 words reduced to 200]
- India’s relations with Gulf countries have considerably improved:
- growing volumes of energy imports
- substantive investments from the Gulf
- there are 7 million Indian migrant workers in the region
- Gulf is among India’s top trading partners.
- high-level engagement between has blossomed
- growing security cooperation, especially on counter-terrorism
- Increasing defence cooperation.
- The roadblocks:
- India’s too strong focus on the bilateral relations
- Delhi is paying too little attention to the growing weight of the Gulf in regional affairs
- Significance of Gulf nations
- Saudi Arabia has played a critical role in shaping the world energy markets
- The UAE has become a small but important cosmopolitan centre.
- construction of a moderate Arab centre envisaged by UAE is very much in India’s interest
- growing impact of the Gulf countries in the Indian Ocean region.
- recent success of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in brokering peace between Ethiopia and
- shaping the geopolitics of their neighbouring regions.
- eager to collaborate with India on development and strategic infrastructure
- taking greater responsibility for managing the regional order
- India needs an integrated regional strategy to secure its ever-rising stakes in the Middle East and the Western Indian Ocean.
Relevance: GS Paper II (International Relations)
Improvements in India-Gulf relations
- India’s relations with the key Gulf countries have never been as good as they are today.
- The deepening energy interdependence is marked by growing volumes of energy imports into India and the prospect of substantive investments from the Gulf into the Indian hydrocarbon sector.
- The number of Indian migrant workers in the region stands at more than 7 million.
- The Gulf is among India’s top trading partners.
- A high-level engagement between India and the Gulf has blossomed in recent years.
- The expansion of the political engagement has been matched by the growing security cooperation, especially on counter-terrorism.
- India and its Gulf partners are also taking tentative steps towards defence cooperation.
The roadblocks in India-Gulf relations
- India’s relations with the Gulf have been constrained by too strong a focus on the bilateral.
- Delhi is paying too little attention to the growing weight of the Gulf in regional affairs and the strategic possibilities that it opens up for India.
Significance of Gulf nations
- As the nation with one of the world’s largest petroleum reserves, Riyadh has played a critical role in shaping the world energy markets since the 1970s.As the home to Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia has a unique place in the Islamic world.
- The UAE has turned into a strategic actor of consequence in the Middle East and beyond. It is also a major player in the global logistics market. It is now striving to emerge as a centre of art, higher education and technological innovation. As the home to multiple nationalities from around the world, the UAE has become a small but important cosmopolitan centre.
- If Delhi looks beyond the bilateral, it will find two very important axes of potential partnerships in the Middle East. One is the idea of a “moderate Arab centre”. The idea of a moderate Arab centre resonates deeply with India’s natural ethos and its traditional empathy for modernising forces in the Arab world. Helping the construction of a moderate Arab centre envisaged by Abu Dhabi is very much in India’s interest.
- There has been growing impact of the Gulf countries in the Indian Ocean region. Nowhere is this more evident than the Horn of Africa.
- The recent success of the UAE and Saudi Arabia in brokering peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea who had been locked in a prolonged conflict underlines the positive role of the Gulf in Africa..
- The Gulf countries today are bringing a combination of financial resources and political will to shape the geopolitics of their neighbouring regions.
- Some of the Gulf countries like the UAE are eager to collaborate with India on development assistance and the construction of strategic infrastructure in the Indian Ocean littoral.
- The Gulf states have relied in the past on the Anglo-Americans for their security. As America and Britain gaze at their own navel, the Gulf states are taking greater responsibility for managing the regional order.
Way forward for India
If India continues to be disinterested, they are bound to look for other partners. The conditions under which India could afford to take a purely bilateral approach to the Gulf nations are beginning to disappear. India needs an integrated regional strategy to secure its ever-rising stakes in the Middle East and the Western Indian Ocean.
*For those (highlighted in RED) who attempted exam after the time was up, result has not been taken into consideration.