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16 September, 2019

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GS-I :
Let the farmer choose.

GS-II: Let the farmer choose.


Zero Budget Natural Farming may have reached endorsement from the NITI Aayog, the finance minister’s budget speech and Prime Minister of India himself.

Zero Budget Natural Farming in India:

Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) is a set of farming methods, and also a grassroots peasant movement, which has spread to various states in India.

It has attained wide success in southern India, especially the southern Indian state of Karnataka where it first evolved. The movement in Karnataka state was born out of collaboration between Mr Subhash Palekar, who put together the ZBNF practices, and the state farmers association Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS).

Four wheels of ZBNF to be implemented in practically:

  • The “four wheels” of ZBNF are ‘Jiwamrita’, ‘Bijamrita’, ‘Mulching’ and ‘Waaphasa’, says Palekar, a Padma Shri awardee.
  • Jiwamrita is a fermented mixture of cow dung and urine (of desi breeds), jaggery, pulses flour, water and soil from the farm bund. This isn’t a fertiliser, but just a source of some 500 crore micro-organisms that can convert all the necessary “non-available” nutrients into “available” form.
  • Bijamrita is a mix of desi cow dung and urine, water, bund soil and lime that is used as a seed treatment solution prior to sowing.
  • Mulching, or covering the plants with a layer of dried straw or fallen leaves, is meant to conserve soil moisture and keep the temperature around the roots at 25-32 degrees Celsius, which allows the microorganisms to do their job.
  • Waaphasa, or providing water to maintain the required moisture-air balance, also achieves the same objective.
  • Palekar also advocates the use of special ‘Agniastra’, ‘Bramhastra’ and ‘Neemastra’ concoctions again based on desi cow urine and dung, plus pulp from leaves of neem, white datura, papaya, guava and pomegranates for controlling pest and disease attacks.

Issues that need to be addressed in ZBNF:

  • However, not all farmers are convinced about ZBNF.
  • The important concern is “what about the cost of labour for collection of dung and urine, apart from the other inputs used in preparation of Jiwamrita, Neemastra or Bramhastra”.
  • Keeping cows is also a cost that has to be accounted for. How many farmers can afford to keep desi cows that yield very little milk.
  • It is hard to explain it to fellow farmers and had to “face taunts” as there was no guidance and market for organic produce in rural areas.
  • It points out that if ZBNF is practiced in isolation, the crop grown would be vulnerable to attacks by insects and pests which may move there from fields where chemical pesticides are being sprayed.
  • It is where the government should step in and reduce dependence on middle men.


More encouraging is that the programme can have a positive effect on many of the sustainable development goals through improvements in soil, biodiversity, livelihoods, water, reduction in chemicals, climate resilience, health, women’s empowerment and nutrition. Many state governments, including Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka have openly supported ZBNF after studying its efficacy. Agricultural scientists in India have to rework their entire strategy so that farming is in consonance with nature. The dominant paradigm of chemical-based agriculture has failed and regenerative agriculture is the emerging new science.

Source: Indian Express

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The litmus test for free speech.

GS-II: The litmus test for free speech.


Freedom of speech and individual liberty are enshrined in Article 19(1)(a) and Art 21 of the Constitution. However these rights like all others are not absolute but subject to reasonable restrictions.

Freedom of speech:

Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression.

It is subject only to Article 19(2) which saves any law that imposes “reasonable restrictions” on the limited grounds of interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation etc.

Scope of Fundamental Rights expanded.

  • The jurisprudence of fundamental rights was expanded through several decisions in R C Cooper v. Union of India (1969), Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain (1975), Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India (1978), I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu (2007) and, in Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017).
  • Each of these decisions establishes that fundamental rights in the Constitution are not to be read as isolated silos but are to be read as if the content of each fundamental right animates the other.
  • They tell us that the entire chapter on fundamental rights has also to be read “synoptically”.

Article 21:Says that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law. This article protects the right of life and personal liberty not only from executive action but also from the legislative action.

This right extends to citizens as well as non-citizens.

This article gives way an array of several human rights which are called Implied Fundamental Rights. They are:

Right to Speedy Trial

Right to Travel Abroad Right to Dignity

Right to Privacy

Right to Clean Environment

Right to Livelihood

Right to marriage

Right against torture

Right against Bondage

Right to legal aid Right to Food.

Right to life does not include Right to Die or Right to get killed i.e. mercy killing.

Implications for free speech:

Under Section 69, the government can intercept personal information under any of the following conditions: when it is necessary in the interest of Indian sovereignty or integrity; security of the state; friendly relations with foreign states; public order; and for preventing incitement to the commission of any cognisable offence related to these. While the first four feature in Article 19(2) of the Constitution, the last, namely preventing incitement to commission of cognisable offences, is not an enumerated restriction. A restriction in the form of authorised surveillance would not be justified unless it is in order to maintain public order, a reasonable restriction under Article 19(2).


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Vulture culture: How the bird was saved from extinction

GS-III: Vulture culture: How the bird was saved from extinction.


In the late 1990s when the population of the vultures in the country had begun to decline sharply, one White backed Vulture was rescued from Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan where vultures were dying at an alarming rate.

Saving Asia’s Vultures from Extinction Project for Asian Vultures:

The captive-bred birds will be released into the wild by 2016 under the project would. The project has been planned following the devastation in the populations due to vetting of drugs named Diclofenac on cattle.

The three species of vultures that are critically endangered that has declined by more than 97 percent since 1990s are:

• Oriental white-backed (Gyps bengalensis)

• Long-billed (Gyps indicus)

• Slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris)

In 2006, Diclofenac was banned from being used to vet and farmers. This decision was taken following its effect on the vultures. In 2004 it was established after the study on the sick birds in the wild that the decrease of the population of vultures is caused due to the anti-inflammatory drug being used to reduce swelling in injured or diseased animals.The study suggested that the vultures who were feeding on the carcasses of the animals vetted with Diclofenac were dying due to acute kidney failure or lost their ability to reproduce.

Indian Vulture Crisis

  • India is most favourable region for Vultures: Hindus do not eat cows, which they consider sacred, and when a cow dies, it is left to be fed on by vultures. India has a high species diversity and hence vultures get lot of food.
  • Nine species of vulture can be found living in India. But today, most are in danger of extinction due to a veterinary drug called diclofenac (vultures do not have a particular enzyme to break down diclofenac).


  • Diclofenac is a common anti-inflammatory drug administered to livestock and is used to treat the symptoms of inflammation, fevers and/or pain associated with disease or wounds.
  • Diclofenac leads to renal failure in vultures damaging their excretory system [direct inhibition of uric acid secretion in vultures].
  • Gyps species were the most affected by diclofenac.
  • The population of the White-rumped vulture (Gyps bengalensis) fell 99.7% between 1993 and 2002.
  • The populations of the Indian vulture (Gyps indicus) and the slender-billed vulture (Gyps tenuirostris) fell 97.4%.

Consequences of Depopulation of Vultures

  • Vultures previously played an important role in public sanitation in India and their disappearance has resulted in an explosion of rats and wild dogs and the spread of diseases resulting in an estimated costs of up to ?1700 billion (US$25 billion) (as of 2015).
  • The carcasses formerly eaten by vultures rot in village fields leading to contaminated drinking water.
  • These newly abundant scavengers are not as efficient as vultures. A vulture’s metabolism is a true “dead-end” for pathogens, but dogs and rats become carriers of the pathogens.
  • The mammals also carry diseases from rotting carcasses such as rabies, anthrax, plague etc. and are indirectly responsible for thousands of human deaths.


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GS-III : Economic Issues Terminology
Why India’s growth figures are off the mark.

GS-III: Why India’s growth figures are off the mark.


During the global financial crisis it was said that the experts were behind the curve. The IMF and financial sector experts continued to predict till October 2008 that the global economy would grow rather than shrink.

Explaining the markdown:

  • The economic growth rate (quarterly) has been sliding for the last ?ve quarters from 8% to 7% to 6.6% to 5.8% and now to 5%.
  • The Economic Survey in July talked of a growth rate of 7% for the current year.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), in its August policy statement, talked of a slowdown to 6.9%, from the 7% predicted in June and 7.2% predicted before that.
  • The Asian Development Bank cut its growth forecast from 7.2% to 7% in April 2019.
  • Similar is the case with the IMF which cut its forecast for the year from 7.3% to 7%.
  • They are not independent data gathering agencies and depend on o?cial data.
  • The investment rate has hovered at around 30% for the last several years because the capacity utilisation in the economy has been around 75%.
  • Unless this rises, fresh investment will mean even lower capacity utilisation and lower profitability since capital will be underutilised.
  • Data from the Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd. shows that investment proposals are at a 14­year low.
  • In the last year, the RBI has cut interest rates four times and by a total of more than 1% but the investment has not budged.

The source:

  • In simple terms, the reason is that the data for this sector is collected once in ?ve years( called reference years) since the sector has tens of millions of units for which data cannot be collected monthly, quarterly or even annually.
  • In between the reference years, the data is only projected on various assumptions.
  • Even for the annual estimates, basically data for the organised sector are used like in case of mining, banking, hotels and restaurants, and transport.
  • For construction, steel, glass, etc. are used which are also derived from the organised sector production.
  • Thus, the implicit assumption is that the organised sector can be a proxy for the unorganised sector.
  • The decline in the workforce, the rise in the demand for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, etc. Suggest that the unorganised sector has declined by at least 10%. If this is taken into account, the current rate of growth is much less than 5%.


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GS-III : Economic Issues Banking
RBI report on Loan Waivers impact

GS-III: RBI report on Loan Waivers impact


Recently the RBI shared the report of an Internal Working Group (IWG), which was set up in February to look at, among other things, the impact of farm loan waivers on state finances. Since 2014-15, many state governments have announced farm loan waivers.

Highlights of the report

  • The report has shown how farm loan waivers dented state finances and urged governments both central and state to avoid resorting to farm loan waivers.
  • This was done for a variety of reasons including relieving distressed farmers struggling with lower incomes in the wake of repeated droughts and demonetization.
  • Also crucial in this regard was the timing of elections and several observers of the economy including the RBI warned against the use of farm loan waivers.

Impact of Loan Waivers:

  • Chart 1 from the RBI report details the impact on state finances in successive years.
  • Typically, once announced, farm loans waivers are staggered over three to five years.
  • Between 2014-15 and 2018-19, the total farm loan waiver announced by different state governments was Rs 2.36 trillion. Of this, Rs 1.5 trillion has already been waived.
  • For perspective, the last big farm loan waiver was announced by the UPA government in 2008-09 and it was Rs 0.72 trillion. Of this, actual waivers were only Rs 0.53 trillion staggered between 2008-09 and 2011-12.
  • In other words, in the past five years, just a handful of states have already waived three-times the amount waived by the central government in 2008-09.

Impact on economic growth

  • In essence, a farm loan waiver by the government implies that the government settles the private debt that a farmer owes to a bank.
  • But doing so eats into the government’s resources, which, in turn, leads to one of following two things: either the concerned government’s fiscal deficit goes up or it has to cut down its expenditure.
  • A higher fiscal deficit, even if it is at the state level, implies that the amount of money available for lending to private businesses both big and small will be lower.
  • It also means the cost at which this money would be lent (or the interest rate) would be higher. If fresh credit is costly, there will be fewer new companies, and less job creation.
  • If the state government doesn’t want to borrow the money from the market and wants to stick to its fiscal deficit target, it will be forced to accommodate by cutting expenditure.

Overall impact

As such, farm loan waivers are not considered prudent because they hurt overall economic growth apart from ruining the credit culture in the economy since they incentivise defaulters and penalise those who pay back their loans.


  • The IWG recommends that GoI and state governments should undertake a holistic review of the agricultural policies and their implementation.
  • Both should evaluate the effectiveness of current subsidy policies with regard to agri inputs and credit in a manner which will improve the overall viability of agriculture in a sustainable manner.
  • It stated that loan waivers should be avoided.

Source: Indian Express

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