Keeping the devious politicisation of the landmark farm laws by the Opposition aside, the moot question is: Will the path-breaking farm laws ushered in by the Narendra Modi government help farmers? The answer is a resounding ‘yes’!
How has public procurement fared under the Modi government? There has been a solid increase of 59.2% in the procurement of paddy in 2019, when compared to the numbers of 2013-14. The procurement of wheat from farmers by the Modi government for rabi 2020 also touched an all-time high of 382 lakh metric tonnes (LMT). During the same period, 119 lakh MT paddy was also procured by government agencies through 13,606 purchase centres. Meanwhile, all over India, 42 lakh farmers were paid over Rs 73,500 crore towards minimum support price (MSP) for wheat alone in the current rabi season.
This year, Madhya Pradesh became the largest contributor to the central pool with 129 LMT of wheat, surpassing Punjab, which procured 127 LMT. Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan also made significant contributions to the national procurement of wheat. The heartening thing to note here is that there was also an increase in procurement from the eastern and northeastern regions this year. In the kharif season this year, procurement from these regions has been to the tune of 89.5 LMT, benefitting more than 18 lakh farmers.
Given the hue and cry over MSP, it is only apt to ask: what has been the track record of the Modi government on MSP? Without an iota of doubt, it has been exemplary. MSP is a form of market intervention by the Central government to insure agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices. It is a price fixed by the Government of India to protect the farmers against excessive fall in prices during bumper production years. The MSP is usually announced at the beginning of the sowing season for certain crops on the basis of the recommendations made by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP).
Coming back to the Modi government’s track record, the numbers speak for themselves. MSP payment to farmers for paddy rose by 2.4 times to Rs 4.95 lakh crore between 2014 and 2019 under the Modi government, as against only Rs 2.06 lakh crore under the previous Congress-led regime between 2009-2014. MSP to farmers for wheat increased by 1.77 times during 2014-2019, to Rs 2.97 lakh crore, as compared to Rs 1.68 lakh crore in the 2009-2014 period. Meanwhile, MSP payment for pulses surged by a whopping 75 times under the Modi government, to reach Rs 49,000 crores, as compared to a measly Rs 645 crore under an inept Congress-led UPA-2. The payment to farmers for oilseeds and copra also surged 10 times under the Modi government, to Rs 25,000 crore, during the last five years, in comparison to the MSP payment of just Rs 2,460 crore under the UPA government in 2009 to 2014.
In July 2018, in a landmark decision, the Modi government announced MSP at 1.5 times the cost of production for 14 kharif crops. The cost considered by CACP is as per the A2+FL formula, which includes expenses on farm inputs, including seeds, fertilisers, fuel and irrigation and, of course, the imputed value of family labour (FL).
The total value of all agricultural output was around Rs 40 lakh crore in FY20, while the total value of MSP operations was around Rs 2.5 lakh crore, corroborating the argument by Shanta Kumar that, if only 6.25% of the agri produce is MSP-driven, why is there such a hue and cry about MSP? Clearly, the entire MSP controversy is a needless one and a manufactured controversy by an electorally debilitated opposition that is running out of issues to fret and fume about. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has categorically assured farmers that his government will continue with the MSP. Hence, any apprehensions on this front are not required.
Now, has the Modi government been fair to farmers in Punjab? The straight answer to that is also a loud and clear “yes”. Punjab’s agriculture department’s records show that 22.91 lakh hectares were under paddy cultivation in 2019-20, 25.94 lakh hectares in 2018-19 and 25.19 lakh hectares in 2017-18. The average yield of paddy in Punjab was recorded at 6,635 kg (6.6 tonnes) per hectare in 2019-20, 6,532 kg (6.5 tonnes) in 2018-19 and 6,516 kg (6.5 tonnes) in 2017-18. What should be the total production of paddy in Punjab in this period, as per above data? As per yield and “cultivation area”, the total production should be 152 lakh tonnes (15.2 million tonnes) in 2019-20, 169.44 LTs (16.9 million tonnes) in 2018-19 and 164.14 LTs (16.4 million tonnes) in 2017-18. Thus, in all three years, government agencies purchased more paddy than Punjab’s total production, as per the average yield. In 2019-20, 11.82 lakh tonnes (1.2 million tonnes) more was sold in Punjab’s mandis than produced in the state. In 2018-19, the figure stood around 1.02 lakh tonnes and in 2017-18, it was nearly 15.42 lakh tonnes (1.5 million tonnes).
So, do the farm laws dismantle the existing “APMC-Anaj Mandi” structure? No, they do not. Going forward, farmers will have the choice and freedom to sell their produce either at APMC designated wholesale mandis or in “Trade Areas”. There will be no taxes or levies of either state or central government on the trade conducted in these “Trade Areas”, thereby, reducing the cost of transaction in the entire food chain, from farm to fork. Hence, the whole narrative about “Trade Areas” being anti-farmer is false.
What has the Modi government done for uplifting the well-being of India’s farming community? The Modi government has been transferring cash directly to farmers, as is evident from the Rs 6,000 that is paid to over 14 crore farmers per year, under the PM Kisan scheme. Over Rs 94,000 crore have been paid via PM-KISAN since its inception two years ago, with over Rs 22,000 crore paid during the last six months of the pandemic alone.
What has the Modi government done for agrarian infrastructure? The Modi government, in August this year, launched a new Agriculture Infrastructure Fund worth Rs 1 lakh crores, which is meant for setting up storage and processing facilities which will help farmers get higher prices for their crops. In September this year, the government also launched the “Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana”, a flagship scheme for focused development of the fisheries sector in the country, with an estimated investment of Rs 20,050 crore over the next five years. In June this year, the Modi government announced a Rs 15,000 crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund with an interest subsidy scheme to promote investment by private players and MSMEs in dairy, meat processing and animal feed plants, which is a move expected to create 35 lakh jobs. These measures, along with the new farm laws, will boost productivity of the agrarian sector to areas beyond the growing of traditional crops like paddy or wheat.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in 2018, promised to double farmers’ income, while speaking at the inauguration of a Rs 300 crore chocolate plant by Amul in Anand, the milk capital of India. He said the cooperative movement has shown that an alternative to economic prosperity other than socialism and capitalism exists. This is precisely where the farm laws come in. The new farm legislation seeks to protect farmers, with the central government stepping in when needed, via MSP, crop subvention schemes and related measures. When the market price of a crop falls, the Modi government intervenes via the market intervention scheme and price support scheme (MIS-PSS). Similarly, the new farm laws encourage modernisation and freedom from exploitative practices by giving farmers the liberty to profit from their produce as they deem fit, and without being told when to sell, where to sell, or whom to sell to.
But, how will contract farming help? The farm laws also allow for contract farming, whereby farmers can enter into contracts, at a predetermined price, even before the crop has been harvested, with private companies, aggregators, food processors and exporters. This is an unprecedented reform as it allows farmers to lock in a good price for their harvest and insulates them from any post-harvest product-related or price volatility.
Who will pay for the insurance, cold storage, machinery and farm equipment, when farmers enter into contracts with private players? The farm laws clearly state that these will be paid for by the counterparty and not the farmer. This will be a big relief for small and marginal farmers who can access superior farm technology and become ‘agripreneurs’ without having to go out of their pockets. Also, there will be an able-bodied resolution mechanism, whereby any dispute between the farmers and counterparties will be resolved in a time bound manner by a Conciliatory Board (CB), formed under the aegis of the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM). The CB will have representatives from both sides. Moreover, the sale, lease or mortgage of farmers’ land is prohibited.
How will farmers negotiate with private entities which are supposedly equipped with more business acumen? In the Budget 2020, the Modi government announced the formation of 10,000 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), which are largely clusters of farmers who are brought together so that credit and other assistance can be extended to them. As a group, FPOs have demonstrated superior bargaining skills, when compared to standalone farmers operating as individuals. There are already about 5000 FPOs in India, of which, only a handful are private. More than 3900 FPOs are affiliated with NABARD or small farmers’ agri-business consortium (SFAC). Hence, allegations of the corporatisation and blanket privatisation of Indian agriculture are baseless. Moreover, the Modi government also plans to extend marketing support to states that implement the ‘one district, one product’ scheme with the help of FPOs.
Has the Modi government strengthened MSP? Of course. The numbers speak for themselves. The Congress-led UPA, between 2009 and 2014, purchased a measly 1.52 lakh metric tonnes (LMT) of pulses at MSP, while the BJP-led NDA, between 2014 and 2019, purchased 76.85 LMT of pulses at MSP. For oilseeds, the numbers are 3.65 LMT under the UPA and 30.17 LMT under the Modi government. It needs to be mentioned here that while MSP is applicable to 23 crops (7 cereals, 6 pulses, 7 oilseeds and 4 commercial crops), in most states in India, over 50% of the MSP is cornered by just two crops, namely, paddy and wheat. MSP was started in the 1960s when India was a food-deficit nation. But today, India is a food-surplus economy, with agricultural production hitting a record high of 277.49 million tonnes, 284.83 million tonnes and 291.95 million tonnes in FY18, FY19 and FY20, respectively. Despite this, the Modi government has been provided hand-holding to the nation’s farmers as Narendra Modi has always cared for India’s annadata.
It also needs to be mentioned that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agrarian reforms have been far-reaching and inclusive. Over 6 crore farmers are taking the benefit of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), paying a meagre premium of just between 1.5% and 5%.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has famously said, “Mind is never a problem; mindset is”. Well, it is time for India’s hapless Opposition and pressure groups to wake up, smell the coffee and change their mindset, because the agri-reforms by the Modi government are pro-farmers and the farm laws are indeed India’s “Glasnost” moment, as these reforms will usher in greater transparency in India’s farm economy. For the Modi government, “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”, is not a mere slogan. The journey of the “Bharatiya Kisan” from being the “Annadata” to becoming the “Urjadata” is at the core of Modinomics in more ways than one.
The author is an economist, national spokesperson for the BJP and the bestselling author of ‘Truth & Dare: The Modi Dynamic’. The views expressed are personal.
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Unprecedented transformation of the HR industry
HR, as one of the most paper-intensive and technologically resistant industries, has undoubtedly undergone an unprecedented transformation. The HR industry has changed course and jumped on the technology bandwagon, from handing out pay slips and pink slips to building teams and organisations. HR and technology were once two words that were never used in the same sentence, but today they have integrated and taken the business world by storm.
HR has undoubtedly undergone an unprecedented transformation as one of the most paper-intensive and technologically resistant industries. The human resources industry has shifted its focus from issuing pay stubs and pink slips to forming teams and organisations. HR and technology were never used in the same sentence until recently, but they have now integrated and taken the business world by storm.
EVOLUTION OF THE HR FUNCTION
As the pandemic drove nations to lockdowns and businesses to disruption, HR was thrust to the frontline to facilitate this wave of changes. From handholding employees, as they took up remote work to embracing new technologies such as AI and automation themselves, the purview of HR widened overnight. The HR department made possible the overnight pivot to remote work, organisation-wide move to the cloud and years’ worth of digital transformation within months. As organisations’ appetite for technology grows, the demand for HR tech is building up simultaneously to catalyse change.
MASTERING REMOTE WORK MANAGEMENT
Today, an organisation’s workforce is dispersed across different geographies owing to remote work arrangements. To enable employees to carry out diverse tasks remotely, HR teams must provide them with facilitating tools and technologies. At the same time, they require the right tools and technologies to carry out HR tasks remotely. On top of that, HR teams need to maintain the organisation’s culture even when people can no longer see each other in person. Technologies such as cloud computing, unified communication tools, performance management software and video conferencing technologies help HR teams master remote work management.
BRAVING TALENT MARKET CHALLENGES
Remote work mandate meant for the talent market proliferation of job opportunities, wider talent pools and a shift to virtual hiring practices. This resulted in a surge in demand for video interviewing, virtual onboarding and AI-based technologies. In an ever-evolving talent market, a slew of challenges such as the war for talent and the ‘great resignation’ has erupted. As a result, organisations are increasingly investing in automation, AI and data analytics to optimise their hiring processes and enjoy time and cost savings. Additionally, such HR technologies enable recruiters to hire higher-quality candidates faster.
RE-ENVISIONING EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE
As the resignation pile mounts up and the stack of resumes becomes less than a handful, HR teams across the globe are racking their brains in the quest for a cure-all. Technology allows HR teams to rethink their employee experience and reinforce their talent retention strategies. From improving the employee onboarding process to supporting greater work-life balance to elevating employee wellbeing, technology is helping HR to reshape the employee experience. Consequently, investments in tools and technologies such as intelligent chatbots, video conferencing, recommended learning and development, etc., that enhance employee experience are continuously rising.
CONTINUOUS RESKILLING AND UPSKILLING
The global pandemic ushered in a period of great reshuffling, which meant new technologies, tools, innovations and even new jobs. As many jobs, skills and practices become obsolete, HR leaders must upskill and reskill their workforce to take on new responsibilities and challenges. Technologies that enable faster learning paths, interactive and engaging journeys and performance tracking saw an uptick in demand. As digital transformation becomes a permanent fixture on CEO agendas, constant reskilling and upskilling are becoming a priority for HR leaders. As a result, giving rise to persistent demand for new learning and development technologies.
Technology is enabling organisations to inch closer to the future of work and evolve with it. The coming together of HR and technology can catalyse this wave of change. By making the most of this window of opportunity, HR can evolve from an auxiliary authority to an enabling force.
Yogita Tulsiani is the MD & Co-founder of iXceed Solutions, which is a global tech-recruiter provider.
THE BOYS SEASON 3 UNLEASHES UNSEEN LEVELS OF GORE AND PROFANITY
The 2010s are widely regarded as the Marvel decade. But, a more accurate way to describe them is as ‘the superhero decade’.
Amazon Prime Video series ‘The Boys’ is not just one of the best shows about superheroes but it also makes for a great case study in subversion of all the best-known tropes associated with the superhero genre. How many superhero shows out there are focused on exploring how toxic our obsession is with them? ‘The Boys’ does a great job of critiquing the superhero culture as perpetuated by Marvel and DC but never at the cost of entertainment. It is never preachy and always very entertaining and full of whacky ideas. ‘The Boys’ is based on the comic book series of the same name by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. In its third season, the series spills even more blood (yes, you read it right!), unleashing hitherto unseen levels of gore, profanity, nudity and sex. Don’t believe me? Consider a scene in the season premiere wherein a superhero shrinks down and climbs inside another person’s body part and mistakenly blows it to smithereens.
The 2010s are widely regarded as the Marvel decade. But, a more accurate way to describe them is as the superhero decade. Interestingly, nobody was so sure about the future of superhero films about 10 years back. Remember, the first leg of the Spider-Man and the X-Men series had ended in 2007 and 2009, respectively. The future looked uncertain for both the franchises. The second leg of the Superman series never really got going after the mixed-bad response to the 2006 film ‘Superman Returns’. What Christopher Nolan achieved with ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008) was seen more as a personal triumph of a director’s vision than a superhero genre breakthrough. It all changed with ‘Iron Man 2’ (2010) which catapulted the Nick Fury-led S.H.I.E.L.D to instant fame—two years after it was first introduced as part of ‘Iron Man’ (2008) during a post-credits scene. Following the release of ‘Iron Man 2,’ the Walt Disney Studios agreed to pay Paramount a whopping amount for the worldwide distribution rights to ‘Iron Man 3’ and ‘The Avengers.’ And the rest, as they say, is history.
Soon, Hollywood was raining superheroes. As Marvel was putting together The Avengers, DC Comics started planning their Justice League lineup. Before we knew it, Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ (2014) also came alive. The X-Men franchise too got a new lease of life with ‘X-Men: First Class’ (2011). Next year, ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ was released with a fresh cast and storyline. Subsequently, Zack Snyder delivered ‘Man of Steel’ (2013)—the first film of DC’s Superman reboot that was followed by the 2016 offering ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.’ In 2015, Marvel came out with ‘Ant-Man’ which was followed by ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ in 2018. In 2016, ‘Deadpool’ went on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film at the time. It was followed by ‘Deadpool 2’ (2018). Soon the battle for female superhero supremacy started as DC came out with the hugely successful ‘Wonder Woman’ in 2017 and Marvel responded with an even bigger success in the form of ‘Captain Marvel’ (2019). 2018 also witnessed another superhero film Venom based on a character that appeared in ‘Spider-Man 3’ (2007). All this proves why the 2010s are regarded as the superhero decade.
When the Amazon Prime Video series ‘The Boys’ premiered in July 2019, it took superhero film enthusiasts by storm. For, it offered something rarely seen in the genre: superheroes, popular as celebrities, influential as politicians, and revered as Gods, abusing their powers instead of using them for good. The Boys follows the eponymous team of vigilantes as they try to expose the Seven, Vought International’s premier superhero team led by the egotistical and megalomaniacal Homelander (menacingly portrayed by Antony Starr; the character is considered to be analogous to DC›s Superman). The Seven, among others, also features Queen Maeve (essayed by Dominique McElligott with equal parts brain and brawn; the character is considered to be analogous to DC›s Wonder Woman). The Boys, on the other hand, are led by Billy Butcher (brilliantly played by the uber-cool Karl Urban), a former CIA operative who despises all individuals with superpowers.
Following the success of the first season of ‘The Boys,’ the second season proved to be bigger and grander at so many levels. Firstly, the stakes were much higher. We had a few new characters with some incredible superpowers. On one hand, we had the enigmatic Stormfront, gifted with the unique ability to manipulate electricity along with many other powers. Although she joined the Seven as its newest member, her real intentions as well as her actual origins remained unknown (she was later revealed to be the first supe in the world who was once closely associated with the Nazi Party). Then, there was a mysterious new character gifted with the power to get anyone’s head to explode at will (who is shockingly revealed to be none other than Congresswomen Victoria Neuman). The second season of ‘The Boys’ also presented Black Noir in a new light. A-Train and The Deep again had solid character arcs this season. The character of Vought CEO Stan Edgar (chillingly essayed by Giancarlo Esposito) also came to the fore. The various arcs involving Homelander, Billy Butcher, Queen Maeve, Starlight, Hughie, Frenchie, Mother’s Milk, and Kimiko also got explored well.
In the new season also, we are presented with a very interesting mix of the old and the new characters. After his wife Becca’s death, Butcher is more obsessed than ever with killing Homelander (an increasingly menacing and creepy-looking Antony Starr). When Queen Maeve tells him about a past supe known as ‘Soldier Boy,’ Butcher leads an investigation to uncover the truth about his mysterious death. Maeve also gives him a few vials of a new serum developed by Vought that gives normal people superpowers for 24 hours. Given his intense hatred for all things supe, will he be able to wield it in order to take the fight to expose Vought?
‘The Boys’ has thus far lived up to its promise of being an irreverent, unapologetically sharp-witted, and no-holds-barred flip on the superhero genre. The third season takes us to ever darker places and the end doesn’t seem nigh.
An elite force can do well without criminal elements
Ever since the government announced the Agnipath scheme, a lot of undisciplined protestors have taken to the streets. In a democratic country, anyone is well within their rights to protest against any action of the government. However, the outright hooliganism, destruction of public property and rioting by protestors are not just condemnable but also prove a serious lack of discipline in pressing for their cause. Potential candidates for recruitment into the elite defence service are expected to protest in a civilized manner. By burning down trains and resorting to violence, these protestors are making a case against themselves on how they are unfit to don the elite uniform. The hooliganism and anarchy on display in the streets are enough to debar these protestors from the candidature. An elite force ready to make the supreme sacrifice for the sake of the nation can do well without these criminal elements destroying public property.
The Agnipath scheme is an effective initiative by the government aimed at structural reforms in the armed forces. The defence budget of India has been increased by the Modi government from 2.53 lakh crores in 2014 to 5.25 lakh crores in 2022. Unlike the earlier wars that the Indian army fought and won, the warfare of the future will be primarily a contest of technological prowess. The Modi government has displayed proactiveness in procuring the best available technology to arm the country with an effective deterrent. In a security apparatus dominated by technology, youthful dynamic foot-soldiers well-versed with the latest technology and sheer muscle power are a requisite. A proper meritocratic system where the best talents are retained for a longer-term would ensure that the army gets the best of the best foot on the ground to protect our borders. The Agnipath scheme backed by the three service chiefs would ensure an enhanced youthful profile of the force and result in the reduction of average age from 32 to 26 years over a period of time. A youthful profile for the defence forces will lead to increased dynamism, competitiveness to be retained for the long haul and optimal utilization of the defence budget. The tech-heavy jawan of the future will require multiple skillsets to guard our borders and Agniveers would be ideal for this technological revolution. The world is moving into an era where drones and robotic technology will slowly replace manual interventions. The soldiers of the future need to be dynamic and adaptable to the changes in technology. Cyber warfare is emerging as a huge threat and India has been ramping up its cyber assets toward this end. While the earlier reforms in defence were necessitated by adverse situations or wars, the Modi government has proactively optimized defence without the need for external circumstances. It is notable that the past 75 years have seen 2 reorganisation exercises apart from a few administrative revamps in the wake of Kargil and Op Parakram. The two reorganisations were around the 1960s after the debacle of the 1962 war and following the KV Krishna Rao committee of 1975. The current average age of uniformed officers can be attributed to the recruiting spree following 1962 and the increase in retirement ages. The manpower-heavy recruitment of prior decades was justifiable.
With the Agnipath initiative, the Modi Government in a single stroke recruits dynamism and youthfulness into our armed forces while also calibrating the defence structure in line with new theatres of war. The misinformation regarding this move has fuelled a spate of protests across the country as if Agnipath isn’t in the interest of the country. Whether the vandalism on the streets is by candidates or are the vested interests trying to take advantage by creating a crisis situation, needs to be investigated. The Modi government with the Agnipath scheme has continued to live up to its reputation of biting the bullet on vital reforms. Whether it’s section 370 of J&K or GST or Defence reforms, the Modi government is making good use of its majority, which the Indian citizens handed to the BJP. India always needed a strong decision-maker and reformer and India has got one.
The author is BJP spokesperson, advisor to former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, and executive director of Maharashtra Village Social Transformation Foundation, a Section 8 Company of the Maharashtra government.
THE TRAGEDY OF SANJAY GANDHI
On the occasion of his 42nd death anniversary, we peep into the life of one of the most controversial political characters of our time.
Sanjay Gandhi was the second son of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who was widely believed to be the next heir to her mother’s chair, just like his mother had occupied her father Jawahar Lal Nehru’s chair after his death. There were unconfirmed stories floating around that Mrs Gandhi was grooming her younger son, Sanjay, who was keen to join politics, for the PM’s chair after her. Rajiv, the elder brother and a pilot with Indian Airlines, preferred to lead a quiet domestic life away from the limelight.
Sanjay started his career as Managing Director of a company called Maruti Motors Limited, founded by the Government of India to produce a people’s car in 1971. The 25-year-old Sanjay becoming the Managing Director of a newly formed motor company, having no prior experience to his credit, attracted several accusations of nepotism and corruption from the political class as well the general public. The 1971 victory of Bangladesh liberation that year silenced all the noise against corruption. Significantly, the company under Sanjay Gandhi produced no vehicle till 1975.
After the imposition of the emergency in the country on 26 June 1975, without having any elected official position, Sanjay Gandhi had become the de-facto power centre in the Prime Minister’s office as his mother Indira Gandhi’s adviser, usurping all the draconian powers of the Emergency, as basic fundamental rights of the citizens were suspended. It was rumoured that the government was run by Sanjay and his friends, called the ‘coterie’, who ran the PMO, from the PM’s house, instead of from the PMO authorized officials of bureaucracy. Sanjay declared a five-point programme, which included the abolition of dowry and family planning. Sanjay and his cronies were dreaded names who had terrorized the whole country.
Sanjay was sent to the best schools in India and abroad, but he didn’t enter a university. Instead, he decided to learn automotive engineering, spending three years at the Rolls-Royce automaker in England, as he was very much interested in sports cars. His other interest was in aircraft acrobatics, for which he had obtained his pilot’s license in 1976. He often used to take off from the Safdarjung flying club for his acrobatics practices. On the morning of 23 June 1980, Sanjay Gandhi took off for his acrobatic practice in a new Pitts S-2A aircraft from the Safdarjung airports’ flying club, accompanied by his instructor, Subhash Saxena.
Minutes later his plane crashed over Chanakyapuri while attempting a dangerous acrobatic maneuver, killing Sanjay and his instructor instantly. Their mutilated bodies were taken to RML Hospital for stitching before handing over to their respective families.
Sanjay was the first one of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s family to meet a violent death. Four years later, Sanjay’s mother was next to meet a violent death, on 31 October 1984, when she was killed by the bullets of her security guards after Operation Blue Star in June of the same year. About seven years later, Rajiv Gandhi, the last surviving member of Indira’s family and himself a former Prime Minister, was the last one to die a violent death, in a bomb attack by an LTTE woman while campaigning for elections for a Lok Sabha seat near Chennai on the night of 21 May 1991. Within a span of 11 years, all members of Mrs Indira Gandhi’s family were wiped out in violent deaths. Mrs Gandhi used to get advised by tantrics, astrologers and swamis, but no one had ever predicted that her whole family would be wiped out in such violent deaths in such a short period.
THE SECOND DECADE: THE ‘IFS’ AND ‘BUTS’ OF NUTRITION
One of the systematic reviews, which looks at 25 different research studies from different countries in the world, found that most adolescents have inadequate fruit and vegetable intake.
An ironical co-occurrence continues to persist in India, of under and over-nutrition. Globally, this is referred to as a double burden of malnutrition—the coexistence of under-nutrition along with obesity or the nutrition-related non-communicable disease. Few of the recent studies conducted among school-going adolescents from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh talk about the coexistence of the two, indicating poor eating habits and nutritional inadequacies that lead to obesity and diet-related diseases in later years.
The second decade of life is a period of rapid growth and development for adolescents’ bodies, minds and social relationships. This is also the life period during which the vast majority of boys and girls end their formal schooling, try to make a permanent or semi-permanent vocational selection and adjustment, and attempt to establish themselves as independent and self-reliant units in society, politically and socially as well as economically. Nurturing the second decade has been a longstanding appeal from the World Health Organization. But nothing comes without ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ when one talks about the adolescents of today. They are more independent and have their food choices as per their understanding and convenience. They tend to eat more meals away from home than the younger children. And last but not the least, they are heavily influenced by their peers. While there is little information about dietary patterns and current time trends in adolescents; the available data seem to show that the tendency in the adolescent population worldwide is to increase those dietary factors that are linked with obesity development. One of the systematic reviews, which looks at 25 different research studies from different countries in the world found that most adolescents have inadequate fruit and vegetable intake. One study from India estimated that 97% of girls had inadequate fruit intake and one out of 5 adolescent girls reported eating fast and convenience foods.
Lifestyle plays an important role in the overall development of adolescents. Triggered by a complex mix of marketing, social, and economic policies, nutrition transition in India is associated with a significant change in the lifestyle and dietary habits in urban India. The transition in dietary patterns among children is driven partly by demand (increased income and reduced time to prepare food) and partly by supply-side factors (increased production, promotion and marketing of processed foods and foods high in fat, salt and sugar). Proliferating multinational fast food companies have influenced both the rural and urban areas wherein traditional home-cooked meals are being replaced with easy-to-cook, ready-to-eat, and processed foods.
Nutrient requirements – including those for energy, protein, iron, calcium, and others – increase in adolescence to support adequate growth and development. Sound nutrition can play a role in the prevention of several chronic diseases, including obesity, coronary heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. The low intake of a healthy diet, particularly iron and calcium-rich foods among adolescent girls is a matter of huge concern. Iron deficiency can impair cognitive function and physical performance, and inadequate calcium intake may increase fracture risk during adolescence and the risk of developing osteoporosis in later life. The impact of nutritional status on the occurrence, morbidity and mortality patterns in infectious diseases like diarrhoea, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV has been well documented but not given enough recognition. Tuberculosis and undernutrition are both problems of considerable magnitude and importance worldwide.
One of the recent reports of UNICEF in association with NITI Aayog revealed that over 50% of Indian adolescents (about 63 million girls and 81 million boys) in the age group of 10 to 19 years are either short, thin, overweight or obese. Another shocking statement was that over 80% of adolescents suffer from ‘hidden hunger’, i.e. the deficiency of one or more micronutrients such as iron, folate, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. Few of the most alarming findings are: Only 2 out of 5 adolescents take milk in their daily diet and 1 out of 5 adolescents take pulses and green leafy vegetables. Information on the economic returns of various types of investment in adolescent development is scarce. However, few countries have done a cost-benefit analysis for various interventions. For example, in the USA, it is estimated that for every kilogram less of weight at birth, an American child will achieve 15 per cent less in adult earnings over her/his lifetime. In settings with a high incidence of goitre, it is estimated that iodine deficiency disorders depress average intelligence by 13 IQ points.
It is important to understand and acknowledge that adolescence provides an opportunity to correct nutritional deficiencies that may have occurred in early life and enables catching up on the missed growth. Adoption of good dietary behaviours in adolescence goes a long way in building physiological resilience. Adolescent boys and girls can be motivated to adopt nutrition behaviours that improve their looks, school achievement and athletic performance. One of the unanswered research question is the extent to which the inclusion of adolescent boys in nutrition and healthy lifestyle programs will contribute to the improved nutrition and health of women during childbearing and for infants and young children in the critical early years of life. Addressing the double burden of malnutrition should also be seen as a stimulus for enabling policies and programs beyond health, especially regarding poverty and gender inequity.
The author has attained her PhD in Public Health Policy with a specific reference to policies of government of India vis-a-vis the popular, reproductive health and family welfare aspects.
India’s drone power on display at Paris event
Displaying India’s drone power, Made-in-India drones flew high at the four-day Vivatech 2022 conference, which was recently held in Paris, France. Among the 65 Indian startups that were selected to display their drones, BON V Aero and Against Gravity Solution drew maximum eyeballs at the recently-concluded conference.
Satyabrat Satyapathy, CEO, Bon V Aero said, “our entire approach is on building a mobility platform that can carry a higher payload. We had innovated a drone which can carry 200 kg of payload to 40 kilometres distance.”
“We had shown a live demonstration in Vivatech 2022, carrying 50 kg to 20 kilometres. We are building this platform to use in hilly areas. During any disaster, we are the ones who can reach in minutes in difficult terrain where replenishment is not happening because of no road connectivity or where replenishment takes one or two months. By this innovation we can conserve the time to you know a couple of days and two minutes even,” added Satyapathy.
He further added, “We are an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mandi, backed venture building state of art intelligent electric aircraft which can operate in Hilly Terrains as well as in urban/rural areas for carbon-free, speedy and economic cargo transportation.” Bon V Aero has developed a drone solution for Smart Aerial Cargo Transportation.
Gavakshit Verma, Promoter, Against Gravity Solution, said, “our company has developed two drones which can work in tunnels or mines where is no GPS connectivity. Our First Person View (FPV) drone can fly at the speed of 120 KM/Hour. This has two cameras and with the Virtually Reality (VR) headset you can view feel like a fighter pilot.”
“Second drone solution can be used in tunnels or mines without GPS. This drone is very successful in monitoring mines or tunnels. This can go to inside the tunnel or mines to one Kilometre and is very useful for mines, oil companies,” Verma further said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had kicked off India’s biggest Drone festival- Bharat Drone Mahotsav earlier this year, wherein he witnessed open-air drone demonstrations and interacted with startups in the drone sector. Talking about the potential of India to emerge as a hub of drones, PM Modi said, “At a time when we are celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mohatsav, it is my dream that everyone in India should have a smartphone in his or her hand, every farm should have a drone and every house should have prosperity.”
PM Modi further expressed, “The enthusiasm that is being seen in India regarding drone technology is amazing. This energy is visible and is a reflection of the quantum jump in the drone service and drone-based industry in India. It shows the potential of an emerging large sector of employment generation in India.”
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