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Mains q/a 18-04-2018

Q1. What is aspirational District Programme? How will it cater to the needs of the specific needs of specific districts?

First, the programme shifts the focus away from output and draws attention to socio-economic outcomes. To provide an initial benchmark for the programme, the government has collected statistics on 49 indicators across five core dimensions: health and nutrition, education, financial inclusion, agriculture and water resources, skill development and basic infrastructure.

For example, NITI Aayog is working with Piramal Foundation to strengthen public systems particularly in health and education. Similarly, Tata Trusts, IDinsight, L&T, ITC and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are also playing key roles in the programme. These public-private partnerships will help boost implementation of the programme.

Fourth, the programme is a collaborative effort between government, various foundations and civil society. Through partnerships with several voluntary organisations, the programme benefits from different perspectives, technical skills and on-the-ground experience.

  • In addition to tailoring interventions to districts, the programme is novel in four important ways: shifting the focus to socio-economic outcomes, placing data at the core of policymaking, emphasising collaboration across various levels of government, and partnering with civil society.
  • It also tracks progress through real-time data collection. A critical aspect of the programme’s approach is its focus on district-specific strengths and the identification of low-hanging fruit. What are the areas that will yield immediate improvement in each district?

Not all dimensions are considered equal in the construction of the composite index for each district, acknowledging the specific nature of India’s development challenges. For example, health and nutrition and education are each given a 30% weightage in the index. These two areas account for 21 of the 49 indicators.

Second, through its large-scale efforts to collect, distill and disseminate data, the programme is grounded thoroughly in evidence. The NITI Aayog has created a dashboard to monitor real-time progress in the districts. The districts themselves have started entering data at the beginning of this month.

  • The ADP brings together all levels of government, from central and state officers driving operations, to the district collectors implementing innovative measures on the ground.

The Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP) is a radical departure from the country’s previous development strategies in its scale, scope and ownership. Implicit in the design of the programme is the fact that India’s economy cannot sustain growth without improving human development for all its citizens.

The availability of the latest district-level statistics in the public domain is not only enhancing transparency and accountability, but it is also ensuring that policy actions are backed by evidence. Till date, no other developing country has undertaken a data-driven programme of this massive scale to advance the holistic development of one-fifth of its population.

The local government is in a unique position to understand the complexities of the districts. They can experiment with different measures to enhance socio-economic development on the ground. Therefore, district collectors play a central role in improving outcomes, monitoring progress and decision-making in their respective aspirational districts. The state and central governments rank different districts to promote competition, augment technical capacity and share best practices with the districts.

The strong belief that underlies this strategy is that each district’s advantages and challenges are different. For instance, even within Jharkhand, the approach adopted in Sahebganj, where about 48% of deliveries are institutional, would differ from that in Purbi Singbhum that has nearly 82% of institutional deliveries.

Third, the ADP echoes the government’s belief that states and districts should have a greater voice in their development. It truly embodies India’s shift toward cooperative federalism. The local, state and central governments work together to design, implement and monitor measures to drive development in the districts.

  • This landmark programme recognises the disparities in development across states and districts. It focuses on transforming 115 districts across 28 states that have witnessed the least progress along certain development parameters. These 115 districts account for more than 20% of the country’s population and cover over 8,600 gram panchayats.

Q2. What is gram swaraj abhiyan.What are its salient features?

Rashtriya Gram Swaraj Abhiyan (RGSA) is a revamped version of Rajiv Gandhi Panchayat Shashaktikaran Abhiyan (RGPSA) and covers various projects to strengthen the Panchayati Raj system in the country. The scheme seeks to:

  • Enhance capacities and effectiveness of Panchayats and the Gram Sabhas;
  • Enable democratic decision-making and accountability in Panchayats and promote people’s participation;
  • Strengthen the institutional structure for knowledge creation and capacity building of Panchayats;
  • Promote devolution of powers and responsibilities to Panchayats according to the spirit of the Constitution and PESA Act;
  • Strengthen Gram Sabhas to function effectively as the basic forum of peoples participation, transparency and accountability within the Panchayat system;
  • Create and strengthen democratic local self-government in areas where Panchayats do not exist;
  • Strengthen the constitutionally mandated framework on which Panchayats are founded.

Currently, the scheme is proposed to be launched so that the Panchayati Raj Institutions develop governance capabilities to deliver on the sustainable development goals.

Q3. Agriculture export policies of INDIA can yield effective result only if coupled with the reforms done at the state level.


  • The Agriculture Minister, Radha Mohan Singh, recently tweeted about the government’s resolve to increase the value of the country’s agricultural exports to $100 billion by 2022-23. The Dalwai Committee Report on doubling farmers’ incomes also talked of a similar target. It said, “the aim should be to raise agricultural exports by a minimum of three times by 2022-23, to reach the target of $100 billion”. Interestingly, the draft Agricultural Export Policy, that has been put in the public domain by the Minister of Commerce, has a much more modest target — $60 billion by 2022-23.
  • When two Union ministries talk of vastly different goals for agri-exports, one wonders which ministry should one believe. One also wonders which ministry is actually responsible for attaining the concerned target. The different targets also reflect a disconnect within the government and show inter-ministerial coordination in poor light. In any case, it is worth noting that when the UPA held office, India’s agri-exports grew five times: From $8.7 billion in 2004-05 to $42.6 billion by 2013-14.
  • This was an unprecedented achievement in independent India’s history. Not only this, India’s net agri-export surplus (exports minus imports) increased from $3.7 billion in 2004-05 to about $27 billion in 2013-14; that was a more than a seven-fold increase.
  • However, in 2014-16, India’s agri-exports fell to $32 billion. They rose marginally to $33 billion in 2016-17 (see graph). The net trade surplus fell to $9.5 billion in 2015-16 and further to $7.8 billion in 2016-17. The April-February data for 2017-18 shows agri-exports at $34 billion; this is likely to go up to about $38 billion once we have figures for the entire financial year.
  • Thus, the real challenge for the Narendra Modi government is to first engineer recovery of agri-trade to the 2013-14 levels. Besides, the target of $60 billion by 2022-23 is less than a 50 per cent increase over a nine-year period — from 2013-14 to 2022-23. The target of $100 billion is surely bolder.
  • In a global economy that is highly price- and quality-sensitive, what should be the strategy to double or triple Indian agri-exports by 2022-23? The draft Agri-Exports Policy rightly identifies two steps: Identify commodities in which India holds a global comparative advantage and develop clusters in states to create value chains for these commodities. Research conducted at ICRIER can be of help if the government decides to take the first step enunciated in the draft policy.
  • Eleven commodities — marine products, rice, meat, spices, cotton, fresh fruits and vegetables, sugar, coffee, groundnut, oilmeals and cashews — comprised more than 80 per cent of the country’s agri-export basket in 2016-17. Our study of 10 years’ data pertaining to 70 per cent of India’s agricultural output (20 commodities), shows that most crops were globally price-competitive in most years.
  • However, since 2013-14, many of these commodities lost out on competitiveness, due to a fall in global prices. But it is not just price competitiveness that restricts our exports; the biggest hurdle comes from uncertain domestic marketing and trade policies.
  • The inherent “consumer bias” in these policies makes the trading environment unstable and unpredictable. Any rise in domestic prices almost immediately leads to the imposition of market restrictions. Exports are restricted through the use of minimum export prices and bans while the Essential Commodities Act is used to regulate private participation.
  • This harms India’s image of a reliable supplier of agri-products and ensures that the country does not get the best price for its exports. This consumer bias in policy must be redressed and a balance should be struck between meeting the needs of food-insecure consumers and income-insecure farmers.

The first change that is required pertains to mindsets.

Instead of suppressing market prices for farmers to support consumers, the government should protect them through targeted unconditional income transfers. Restricting markets and compensating farmers through higher MSPs based on the new formula (cost A2+FL+50 per cent) will be an inflationary and unsustainable solution to the woes of the country’s agriculturists. It is likely to hit agri-exports adversely, especially rice and cotton. The exports will become uncompetitive.

Second, policymakers should support agri-exports while ensuring environmental sustainability. While marine products, meat, oilmeals, groundnuts, cotton, spices, fruits and vegetables do not pose environmental problems, exports of rice must be properly assessed.

Cultivating one kg of rice in Punjab or Haryana needs about 5,000 litres of irrigation water. This is drawn from underground and has led to a drastic fall in the groundwater table by 70 to 110 cms/year.

Exporting large quantities of common rice from this region is akin to exporting billions of cubic meters of water. The best way to correct this would be to gradually phase-out power and irrigation subsidies, and replace them with a direct income support to farmers, while letting the prices of power and water reflect its true value.

Third, the government must develop efficient global value chains and liberalise land lease markets across all states. It should encourage contract farming on a medium- to long-term basis.

Exporters and processors must be encouraged to buy directly from farmer-producer organisations (FPOs), bypassing the inefficient APMCs. Major investments are needed at the back-end to create infrastructure for global and domestic value chains, ranging from produce aggregation to its sorting and grading, packaging, storing and linking the hinterlands to ports for export markets.

The private sector can be an effective player in creating such value chains, but it needs to be enabled by institutional reforms. These investments could have a multiplier effect on the rural economy.

Most of these reforms come under the jurisdiction of state governments. With the BJP holding office in more than 20 states, this is Modi’s moment to reform agri-markets in one go. If the government can usher in these changes, agri-exports will rise and so will farmers’ incomes. But whether they touch the $60 billion mark or the $100 billion target by 2022-23 will depend on how wide-ranging the reforms are and how efficient their implementation is.


Q4. What is a deontological theory?

Deontology (or Deontological Ethics) is an approach to Ethics that focuses on the rightness or wrongness of actions themselves, as opposed to the rightness or wrongness of the consequences of those actions (Consequentialism) or to the character and habits of the actor (Virtue Ethics).

  • Thus, to a Deontologist, whether a situation is good or bad depends on whether the action that brought it about was right or wrong. What makes a choice “right” is its conformity with a moral norm: Right takes priority over Good.
  • For example, if someone proposed to kill everyone currently living on land that could not support agriculture in order to bring about a world without starvation, a Deontologist would argue that this world without starvation was a bad state of affairs because of the way in which it was brought about.
  • A Consequentialist would (or could) argue that the final state of affairs justified the drastic action. A Virtue Ethicist would concern himself with neither, but would look at whether the perpetrator acted in accordance with worthy virtues.
  • Deontology may sometimes be consistent with Moral Absolutism (the belief that some actions are wrong no matter what consequences follow from them), but not necessarily. For instance, Immanuel Kant famously argued that it is always wrong to lie, even if a murderer is asking for the location of a potential victim. But others, such as W.D. Ross (1877 – 1971), hold that the consequences of an action such as lying may sometimes make lying the right thing to do (Moral Relativism).
  • It is sometimes described as “duty-based” or “obligation-based” ethics, because Deontologists believe that ethical rules bind people to their duty. The term “deontology” derives from the Greek “deon” meaning “obligation” or “duty”, and “logos” meaning “speaking” or “study”, and was first used in this way in 1930, in the book “Five Types of Ethical Theory” by C. D. Broad (1887 – 1971).

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