Current Affairs for today-29th November 2019

GS Paper II, Paper III

India’s food basket must be enlarged (EDITORIAL)


With India’s ranking in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) out of 117 qualified countries, standing at 102, there is vast scope for improvement and development in the area of nutrition-rich feeding.

What does the author opine?

Hunger is defined by caloric deprivation; protein hunger; hidden hunger by a deficiency of micronutrients. Nearly 47 million or four out of 10 children in India do not meet their potential because of chronic undernutrition or stunting. It is well-known that this leads to diminished learning capacity, increased chronic diseases, low birth-weight infants from malnourished parents. The global nutrition report pegs 614 million women and more than half the women in India aged 15-49 as being anaemic.

Nutrition garden

  • Recently, the Ministry of Human Resources Development brought out school ‘nutrition garden’ guidelines encouraging eco-club students to identify fruits and vegetables best suited to topography, soil and climate.
  • These gardens, apart from giving students lifelong social, numerical and presentation skills, care for living organisms and teamwork, besides being used in the noon-meal scheme.
  • Students also learn to cultivate fruits and vegetables in their homes and this could address micronutrient deficiencies by incorporating various awareness schemes to the public to instil the urgency to reform their nuances of food consumption.

The author builds an important interdependence between Agricultural practices and Biodiversity …

Agrobiodiversity — relating to diversity of crops and varieties — is crucial in food security, nutrition and health and essential in agricultural landscapes.

  1. Out of 2,50,000 globally identified plant species, about 7,000 have historically been used in human diets.
  2. Today, only 30 crops form the basis of the world’s agriculture and just three species of maize, rice and wheat supply more than half the world’s daily calories.
  3. Genetic diversity of crops, livestock and their wild relatives, are fundamental to improve crop varieties and livestock breeds. We would not have thousands of crop varieties and animal breeds without the rich genetic pool. India is a centre of origin of rice, brinjal, citrus, banana, cucumber species.
  4. Across the world, 37 sites are designated as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), of which three are Indian — Kashmir (saffron), Koraput (traditional agriculture) and Kuttanad (below sea-level farming).
  5. In India, over 811 cultivated plants and 902 of their wild relatives have been documented.
  6. Our promising genetic resources include rice from Tamil Nadu (Konamani), Assam (Agni bora) and Kerala (Pokkali), Bhalia Wheat and mushroom (Guchhi) from Himachal Pradesh and rich farm animal native breeds — cattle (42), buffaloes (15), goat (34), sheep (43) and chicken (19).
  7. Agrobiodiversity helps nutrition-sensitive farming and bio-fortified foods.
    For instance, moringa (drumstick) has micro-nutrients and sweet potato is rich in Vitamin A.
    There are varieties of pearl millet and sorghum rich in iron and zinc.

Eyes on Development

The UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 (SDG 2) advocates for “Zero Hunger” and the Aichi Biodiversity Target focuses on countries conserving genetic diversity of plants, farm livestock and wild relatives. It emphasises that countries develop strategies and action plans to halt biodiversity loss and reduce direct pressure on biodiversity.

The Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law (CEBPOL), a policy advocacy unit of the National Biodiversity Authority, came out with recommendations to increase India’s agrobiodiversity in 2019. These include:

  1. A comprehensive policy on ‘ecological agriculture’ to enhance native pest and pollinator population providing ecosystem services for the agricultural landscape.
  2. It suggested promotion of the bio-village concept of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) for ecologically sensitive farming; conserving crop wild relatives of cereals, millets, oilseeds, fibres, forages, fruits and nuts, vegetables, spices etc. for crop genetic diversity healthier food; providing incentives for farmers cultivating native landrace varieties and those conserving indigenous breeds of livestock and poultry varieties.
  3. Encouraging community seed banks in each agro-climatic zone for the protection of the regional biotic properties, so the new generation farmers can put it in use.
  4. Preparing an agrobiodiversity index, documenting traditional practices through People’s Biodiversity Registers, identifying Biodiversity Heritage Sites under provisions of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
  5. Strengthening Biodiversity Management Committees to conserve agrobiodiversity and traditional knowledge.

Other steps to be taken

  1. Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition (BFN) Project envisions a food system through the lens of agrobiodiversity. Recently, the nutritional value of quinoa and acai has gained some public recognition, other vital plants are yet to be identified on the table.
  2. Explore the nutritional value, cultural significance and market success of the traditional plants for everyday diet supply.
  3. Break the chain of the homogenous diet and replace it with therapeutic diet aimed to promote foods that contribute to nutritional adequacy for healthy sustenance.

This is necessary to achieve sustainable development goals related to hunger, health, conservation of ecosystem etc.

  • To fare well in Global Indices: Agrobiodiversity Index is an innovative tool to calculate how well countries are conserving and using their agricultural biodiversity. The first Index Report includes a 10-country analysis offering practical recommendations to improve the use of agrobiodiversity in diets, markets and production.

Ignored issues

  • Loss of crop genetic resources due to adoption of new crop varieties without concern for conserving traditional varieties.
  • The pressure on the native soil to produce high yielding foreign crops that are definitively unsuitable to the soil conditions, area topography, etc.
  • Similarly, there are concerns on high output breeds for production of meat, milk and egg.

Why save biodiversity?

  • Agriculture, forestry and fisheries products, stable natural hydrological cycles, fertile soils, a balanced climate and numerous other vital ecosystem services depend upon the conservation of biological diversity.
  • Food production relies on biodiversity for a variety of food plants, pollination, pest control, nutrient provision, genetic diversity, and disease prevention and control.
  • Both medicinal plants and manufactured pharmaceuticals rely on biodiversity.


The consumption pattern and culinary diversity must be enlarged to increase India’s food basket to consume beyond rice, wheat and millets. For this, the conservation of indigenous crops, livestock and poultry breeds is required that can be enabled by mainstreaming biodiversity into agricultural policies, schemes, programmes and projects to achieve India’s food and nutrition security and minimize genetic erosion.

Developing a national level invasive alien (foreign) species policy is required to identify pathways, mapping, monitoring, managing, controlling and eradicating the invasive species and prioritizing problematic species based on risk assessment studies.

GS Paper II

Not as you say, but as you do (EDITORIAL)


The author picks in on the tremendous friendship factors of India with its neighbourhood nations that are also becoming a signboard for democracy with a massive public mandate like itself. Hence, opines that, the earlier trends of holding tough-talk with its counterpart leaders could be difficult though the Modi government is proactive in building at least a quasi-stable relationship to mark the “Neighborhood First” policy.

What does the author say?

India was swift enough to greet the newly sworn-in President of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa with an invitation to visit India that eventuates as his first trip abroad in office. This, in itself, is an example of how seriously India finds the need to pioneer in building relations with its immediate friends in the subcontinent.

In February 2018, the erstwhile External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj had made a similarly remarkable trip to Kathmandu to invite K.P Sharma Oli, two weeks even before he was sworn in as Prime Minister, while he made his first visit abroad in his tenure to India, two months later.

Similarly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also travelled to Bhutan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka at the beginning of his tenure.  His attendance to the swearing-in ceremony of Maldives President and he later inviting the regional leaders to his own ceremony this year was indeed a friendly gesture. However, given that the countries in the subcontinent that India engages with now have elected leaders with big political mandates, New Delhi has a new set of challenges to its policy.

Pillars to be strengthened

Though Sri Lankan President has accepted the invitation from India to tour India, it just forms a base for India-Sri Lanka ties. The other pillars of friendship will prove helpful only with timely action.

  1. Despite the strong desire for India and Sri Lanka to move ahead in their summitry, it becomes critical to shrug off the bitterness the two nations have for each other, including the Rajapaksa’s allegation of India’s conspiracy that lead to their electoral loss in 2015.
  2. The rapid sharing of intelligence between the two countries, especially since the Easter Sunday terror attacks is a timely add-on to the crisis. However, it must be remembered that though India reached out early to its northern neighbour, the two governments have never fully been able to recover from their rough counters during the Nepal trade blockade of 2015, and therefore, the history of ties remains an important factor.
  3. Another pillar of bilateral ties in the region rests on development projects and economic relations. This must go easy, as the task ahead is only the completion of the committed projects in the last few years, to show a breakthrough.
  4. A few projects in hand include:

    India’s interest in building infrastructure in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, including upgrading the Jaffna-Colombo rail track and other railway lines, providing electricity transmission lines for power imports from India, and rebuilding the Kankesanthurai port.

    The projects enlisted in the MoU signed between the former Sri Lankan government and India in New Delhi, 2017 on the development of Eastern Province must be finished.

    India’s plan to develop Trincomalee port and oil tank farms, and LNG terminals near Colombo.

    The pace of Indo-Japan agreement to develop the East Container Terminal at Colombo harbour, and other projects like the offer to operate the Mattala Airport, will be the determining factor to counter Chinese investments in its base.
  5. Each of these projects is an opportunity to showcase New Delhi’s delivery ability and Colombo’s desire to cooperate for the benefit of its less-developed areas.
  6. According to the report by the Observer Research Foundation with the collated data from Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh Bank and Nepal Rastra Bank, India majorly lags behind in its Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) figures in many regional nations.

    India’s FDI in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal was more than that by China in 2014-2015, the order was reversed by 2017-2018.

Chinese intervention

  • China has been rising as a clout figure in the Asian subcontinent by circumventing India on many verticals. However, Maldives ousted the pro-China regime a year ago and New Delhi managed to create a four-fold increase in its aid to Male since then, but no China project has been cancelled, despite the government announcing to do so.
  • While in Sri Lanka, though Mr. Gotabaya took receipt of the haste in which the leasing of Hambantota port that gave Beijing control over it and that it required renegotiations, little efforts have been made towards the reversal of the loan or the project.  
  • Nepal has rather stepped up its engagement with China after President Xi Jinping’s recent visit, with a number of road, rail, infrastructure projects and dry port access in the works.
  • Bangladesh, arguably India’s closest partner in the region, saw $3.6 billion in FDI from China last year, along with ‘Belt and Road promises’ of $50 billion.

With these numbers rocketing, New Delhi shall be put in a hot tub to steer the neighbors through its tough stance, as it once did, on investments from China, especially as the government itself seeks to attract the same into India.

Twist in the tale

The internal issues of the dilution of Article 370, the Citizenship Amendment Bill, the National Register for Citizenship and detention centres for illegal residents, cases of mob lynching are all being discussed intensely in capitals in the neighborhood, from Male to Dhaka and Naypyitaw, and will impact their conversations with New Delhi.

With India’s own minorities mistreated, the chance stand bleak for Sri Lanka to consider India’s words aimed at the former to bring “equality, justice, peace and dignity” to minorities in Sri Lanka.

Similarly, protests that India made in the past with the Maldives over political arrests or efforts pushing for elections in Afghanistan will hold less water in the future, given the Modi government’s failure to hold elections in Jammu and Kashmir and the prolonged incarceration of the Valley’s political leaders.

And, it will be hard for New Delhi to lecture Nepal on constitutional rights for Madhesis; Pakistan and Bangladesh on treatment of their Hindu and Sikh minorities; and Myanmar on Rohingya, when the government is not seen upholding those ideals itself.

Hence the author believes that New Delhi must practice what it preaches.

Tid Bits

What is YuWaah?

UNICEF has informed that they have launched ‘YuWaah’ Generation Unlimited in India on 1.11.2019. ‘YuWaah’ is a national youth skilling initiative to provide jobs to 300 million launched by UNICEF. It is a multi-stakeholder alliance which aims to facilitate youth to gain relevant skills for productive lives and the future of work.

Ministry: Minister of Women and Child Development

Target group: Adolescent girls and boys


  • YuWaah intends to create platforms to guide youth to market opportunities (career guidance, mentorship, internships, apprenticeships) and facilitate the integration of career guidance in school education.
  • Its key mission is to promote access to foundational, transferable and 21st-century skills for youth inside and outside formal education systems, which includes defining foundational skills, life skills and flexible learning and identifying and scaling impactful delivery models.
  • It brings young people together with the private sector, governments, international and local organisations.
  • To tackle the urgent challenge of investing in their learning and training so that they are prepared for the complex and fast-changing world of work and can be active and engaged citizens.
  • By 2030, the initiative has targeted to work with the private sector to build pathways for enabling economic opportunities for 50 million young men and 50 million young women by focusing on job matching and mass entrepreneurship.
  • It also aims to facilitate 200 million young people to gain relevant skills for productive lives and the future of work, through a focus on career counselling, skills required, quality internships and apprenticeships.
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About the Author

Manasa Sastry

Masters degree holder in Forensic Science. Currently, a UPSC Aspirant helping fellow learners to sort their daily current affairs preparation. Loves to learn and help others. Music, dance and art are just a few of my many hobbies.

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