Daily Current Affairs 26.05.2023 (All-in-one policy plan to spread insurance in India, Two more cheetah cubs die at Kuno Park; one unwell, Food grains, oilseed harvests will break records, says Centre, New committee to keep watch on cheetah project, Economics that looks at the lower half of the pyramid)

Daily Current Affairs 26.05.2023 (All-in-one policy plan to spread insurance in India, Two more cheetah cubs die at Kuno Park; one unwell, Food grains, oilseed harvests will break records, says Centre, New committee to keep watch on cheetah project, Economics that looks at the lower half of the pyramid)


1. All-in-one policy plan to spread insurance in India

IRDA is devising an affordable product covering health, life, property, accident risks to give citizens protection, expedite claim settlements by linking death registries onto one industry platform

If India’s insurance regulator’s plans fructify, households across the country could soon be able to get an affordable single policy that covers health, life, property and accident, get their claims settled within hours, and even secure value-added services at the time of buying a policy.

In an ambitious bid to expand the poor insurance penetration in the country, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) is devising a new affordable bundled product to give citizens protection against multiple risks, and seeking to expedite claim settlements by linking death registries onto a common industry platform.

These initiatives are part of a broader overhaul — including legislative amendments to attract more investments through differentiated licences for niche players similar to the banking sector — with an eye on making insurance “available, affordable and accessible” to all citizens with a “gram panchayat- to district- to State-level’ approach.

‘UPI-like moment’

The regulator believes these changes could double the number of jobs in the sector to 1.2 crore.

IRDA chief Debasish Panda said on Thursday that they are striving to create an “UPI-like moment” in insurance through a plan worked out with general and life insurance firms that he termed “Bima Trinity”.

2. Two more cheetah cubs die at Kuno Park; one unwell

Experts say it could be due to extreme heat, inadequate nourishment; one cub died on Tuesday; the remaining cub born to translocated Namibian cheetah is underweight and under observation

Two more cheetah cubs died and one is unwell at the Kuno National Park (KNP) in Madhya Pradesh. One cub died on Tuesday.

The extreme heat and the lack of adequate nutrition have likely contributed to the death of the two-month-old cubs, say experts associated with the cheetah reintroduction project. With this, only one cub of the litter of four born to the Namibian cheetah Jwala is now alive.

3 adult cheetahs dead

Three adult cheetahs died since 20 of the animals were relocated from Namibia and South Africa to the park, in an experiment at establishing a community of cheetahs.

On May 23, following the death of one of the cubs in the morning, a team of veterinarians observed that the remaining three were unwell.

“It was extremely hot, close to 46-47 degrees Celsius, and the cubs are entirely reliant on their mother for nutrition. The three ailing cubs were immediately taken from their mother and given palliative care. Unfortunately, two more died that evening itself,” J.S. Chauhan, Chief Wildlife Warden, Madhya Pradesh, told The Hindu. These two deaths were, however, made public only on Thursday.

“The third cub is now under observation. She is underweight and our plan is to take care of it for at least a month, till it reaches its expected weight. In the past two days, she recovered well, though still unwell,” Mr. Chauhan said.

After a month, wildlife officials will attempt reuniting the cub with its mother.

Cheetah cubs, in the wild, reportedly have a survival rate of 10% with roughly the same fraction making it to adulthood, a press release from the Environment Ministry noted on Wednesday.

‘Weakest of big cats’

Qamar Qureshi, scientist at the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, said India’s cheetah reintroduction plan was premised on having the animals establish a sustainable population under wild conditions.

“Cheetahs have a naturally high mortality and are the weakest of the big cats. We only intervene under extreme conditions and in this case, the animals were bonding and following their mother around. In nature, births and death are inevitable,” he told The Hindu. “So far, what we have observed isn’t too far out of the ordinary,” said Dr. Qureshi, who is involved with the cheetah programme.

Jwala, the adult female, was a “hand-reared” cheetah from Namibia and this was her first litter of cubs. “It’s also possible that she was inexperienced and unable to nourish all the cubs adequately. Add to that the extreme heat,” Mr. Chauhan added.

3. Food grains, oilseed harvests will break records, says Centre

Minister says sugar cane production is also likely to hit record levels; estimates reached from crop feedback provided by the States

The Centre is estimating a record production of paddy, wheat, maize, soybean, rapeseed, mustard and sugar cane, according to the “third advance estimates of production of major crops” released by the Union Agriculture Ministry here on Thursday.

Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Narendra Singh Tomar, releasing the estimates, said the country will achieve foodgrain production of 3,305.34 lakh tonnes (lt) in the current agricultural year. He credited farmers, ability of researchers and farmer friendly policies of the Centre for the growth. The assessment of production of different crops is done based on the feedback from States.

Among foodgrains, the Centre expects cultivation of 1,355.42 lt of rice, 1,127.43 lt of wheat, 111.66 lt of bajra, 547.48 lt of coarse cereals and 359.13 lt of maize.

In 2021-22, the production of rice was 1294.71 lt and of wheat was 1077.42 lt. The total foodgrain production is likely to be higher by 149.18 lt as against the 2021-22 harvest. The increase in rice could be 60.71 lt and in wheat, it will be 50.01 lt.

The Centre expects production of 275.04 lt of pulses. The production of moong is estimated at 37.40 lt which is higher by 5.74 lt when compared to the previous year’s production.

“The production of soybean and rapeseed and mustard is estimated at 149.76 lt and 124.94 lt, respectively, which is higher by 19.89 lt and 5.31 lt, respectively, than the production in 2021-22. Total oil seeds production in the country during 2022-23 is estimated at a record 409.96 lt which is higher by 30.33 lt than the previous year’s oilseeds production,” the Union Agriculture Ministry said in a release.

Total production of sugar cane is also likely to hit record levels of 4,942.28 lt. “The production of sugar cane is higher by 548.03 lt than the previous year’s production,” the Centre said.

Cotton production

The production of cotton is estimated at 343.47 lakh bales (of 170 kg each) and production of jute and mesta is at 94.94 lakh bales (180 kg).

The target set by the government for rice and wheat production is 1,305 lt and 1,120 lt, respectively. For pulses, the target is 295.20 lt and for oilseeds, the target is 413.45 lt.

4. New committee to keep watch on cheetah project

Following the death of three cheetah cubs this week, the Centre on Thursday appointed a new steering committee, comprising national and international experts, to oversee the implementation of Project Cheetah.

The cubs were born to a translocated Namibian cheetah at the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh in March 2023.

The 11-member Cheetah Project Steering Committee will be led by Rajesh Gopal, secretary-general, Global Tiger Forum and formerly of the India Forest Service and closely associated with Project Tiger.

Field visits

The committee’s mandate is to monitor the progress of the cheetah reintroduction programme and advise the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department and the National Tiger Conservation Authority; to decide on opening up the cheetah habitat for eco-tourism and, suggest regulations in this regard, and to suggest ways to involve the local community in the project activities.

The committee will be in force for two years and will convene at least one meeting every month, besides conducting field visits to the Kuno National Park.

The members include scientists from the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun; some experts from the NTCA; and the Madhya Pradesh Forest Department.

Also on the committee are international experts, including Adrian Tordiffe, veterinary wildlife specialist, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Laurie Marker, Cheetah Conservation Fund, Namibia; Andrew John Fraser, Farm Olievenbosch, South Africa; and Vincent van dan Merwe, manager, Cheetah Metapopulation Project, The Metapopulation Initiative, South Africa.

Several of the international experts have been involved in the cheetah translocation project from Namibia and South Africa.

5. Economics that looks at the lower half of the pyramid

 “It’s the economy, stupid,” Bill Clinton said in the 1990s. “While politicians and political analysts are focused on communal polarisation and caste cleavages, a deeper divide amongst classes is silently reconfiguring the Indian electorate,” says the psephologist, Yogendra Yadav. The numbers of Indians left behind by the growth of the economy now exceeds 50%, with reservations in employment for “economically weaker” sections of Indian citizens regardless of caste and religion now necessary. Most Indians, whatever their religion or caste, have a felt need for a new paradigm of economics.

The theme at the Global Solutions Summit in Berlin on May 15 and 16 this year, was a new paradigm for the economy. Its backdrop was the rising tensions in the east between the United States and China, and the war in the west between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia. Military wars are being couched as wars between democracy and autocracy. The G-7, representing 15% of the world’s citizens, who are ostensibly on the side of democracy, are autocratically and undemocratically twisting the arms of other governments (representing 85% of the people) to take their side. The think tanks of the G-20 and other countries at the summit called attention to global problems of climate change, increasing economic inequalities within and among countries, and the effects of the financial and trade sanctions imposed by the most powerful nation, which are affecting the other 85% most of all.

Changes, political and economic

Divisions among the economic “haves” and “have nots” are shaking up politics around the world, and forces on both the left and right of the political spectrum have gained strength in all countries. The extreme left wants revolutionary change in both economic and social power structures. The extreme right, fearing instability with threats from the left, wants to protect established social and economic systems. Economic liberals in the middle are muddled. They fear a concentration of political power, but allow a concentration of wealth.

Economies were reformed towards “socialism” in the last century, after the global depression, to rebalance incomes and wealth. Many European countries adopted a socialist model while maintaining their cultural traditions. Further east, communism brought about a revolutionary reform of economic and social power structures. In the West, the U.S. introduced social security, increased taxes to raise resources for the government, and introduced laws enabling labour unions within enterprises.

The tide turned in the 1980s, stirred by an economic ideology of free markets, and spurred by the policies of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Thereafter, the objectives of reforms imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on countries whenever they needed economic assistance required undoing of socialist reforms made earlier. Any government that tried to strengthen the social safety net was declared as socialist and anti-reform.

Governance of all countries, whether its leaders are democratic or autocratic, must be for the benefit of common citizens — not to benefit financial investors. Ease of living of the poorest citizens and reduction of precarity in their lives must be the principal measures of good governance; not ease of doing business and reduction of risks of financial investors.

Subsidies ‘bad’, incentives ‘good’

The new concept of reforms, following Reagan’s dictum that “government is not the solution…, it is the problem”, required governments to down-size their budgets and reduce taxes to make more room for capital markets. “Subsidies” for the poor became bad, while “incentives” for investors were good. The private sector, with its focus on the bottom line, can be more economically efficient than the public sector. However, the private sector is not expected to subsidise the cost of its services. Therefore, economic reforms favouring the private sector have increased economic precarity even in rich countries.

Financial capitalisation spread around the world with the globalisation of economies from the 1980s, with finance flowing freely across national borders. An elite class of global citizens and multinationals emerged, who were comfortable everywhere but did not seem to belong anywhere. Resident in many countries, they avoided paying taxes in any. Tax rates raced to the bottom to attract their investments. Reacting to these trends, both Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left demanded that global corporations contribute to the well-being of common citizens — Mr. Trump by bringing jobs back for Americans, Mr. Sanders by increasing taxes and expanding social security. Mr. Biden, in the middle, is struggling to pass economic reforms through a divided Congress.

“Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” are universal essentials of democracy. With “Justice” for righting historical social wrongs (particularly casteism), they are also objectives of India’s Constitution. Free market capitalism is founded on the principle of liberty in the economy, with rights for everyone to use their properties as they will.

Free market economies grow with competition among individuals, firms, and nations too, all desirous of more wealth and power than others. Free market economy models do not have much place for “socialist” values of equality and fraternity. Property rights trump human rights in capitalism. Therefore, free market capitalism and liberal human democracy find it difficult to co-exist in any country.

GDP as measure of progress

The size of the GDP, a quantitative aggregate of all economic activity, whether it improves or harms people and the planet, became the overall measure of progress in the 20th century. Twentieth century economics is founded on a model of an economy as a system of materials and energy in general equilibrium. In this model, supply and demand are balanced by prices set by an invisible hand. It presumes there are no powerful monopolies that set the rules of the game. In an economists’ mathematised model, politics interferes with good economics. Its mathematics has no place for human aspirations for social equality and political forces fighting for justice.

The model of economic growth that has guided national and international policies since the 1990s will not create healthy democracies. Economics needs urgent reform to guide progress towards universal social, and ecological well-being. All Indian political parties must concentrate on the economy for the sake of the people. Indian economists too must rethink the paradigm of economics and concentrate on the requirements of the lower 50% of the pyramid, and not trust wealth to trickle down on its own.

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