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Editorial Analysis

24th October 2020 Editorial analysis

(The Hindu+ The Indian express)

> Explained: What determines onion prices – In back-to-back moves aimed at controlling onion prices, the government has relaxed import norms and now reintroduced stock limits. Why have prices been rising, and how far can these moves check the rise?

Mains (GS-III : Agriculture- transport and marketing of agricultural produce, issues of buffer stocks)


  • Parliament had amended the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to exclude onions — besides potatoes, edible oils, oilseed and pulses — from the list of essential commodities, thus freeing them from stock limits. Since then the government has acted twice towards controlling onion prices; it relaxed import norms on Wednesday, followed by Friday’s reintroduction of the stock limit.

Why have onion prices been rising?

  • Massive losses to kharif onions caused by heavy rainfall in north Karnataka.
  • This crop was meant to arrive after September and was expected to feed the markets until the arrival of the kharif crop from Maharashtra towards the end of October.
  • The rabi crop has the least moisture content, making it amenable to storage. Farmers, especially in Maharashtra, store it in on-field structures called kanda chawls to protect it from moisture and light. This crop feeds the markets till the next one arrives.
  • Farmers in Maharashtra alone had marketable onions. But even Maharashtra farmers, in fact, have suffered more than their usual storage losses — 50-60% as against 30-40% normally.
  • Farmers say the rain has not only damaged the almost market-ready crop but also taken a toll on the nurseries where farmers were raising saplings for the late kharif and rabi crops.
  • Agriculture officers say, the shelf life of the onion is lower this year due to overuse of urea by farmers.

How has the government reacted to this?

  • The Centre applied the first brakes on rising prices by export ban.
  • Stock limits have been a potent weapon for controlling prices. But even after the export ban, prices continued to rise due to a supply-demand mismatch.
  • This was followed by the relaxation of import norms, to allow easy shipping in from Iran, Turkey and other onion-producing nations.
  • The government reintroduced the stock limit. Wholesale traders are now allowed to stock up to 25 tonnes of onion, and retail traders up to 2 tonnes.

Will imports help bring prices down?

  • The imports can see prices move downward in the short term.
  • Most say the real price correction can happen only when the new crop hits the market. That will be only post-November.

What are the prospects for the next crop?

  • Farmers generate their own seeds by allowing a portion of the crop to flower and then produce seeds.
  • This season, they skipped this step and sold their entire crop in view of the good prices being offered.
  • Non-availability of good seeds has caused concerns and the available seeds are being sold at a premium.

> India’s UN journey, from outlier to the high table – As a non-permanent UNSC member now, it needs to uphold the Charter principles in the backdrop of a turbulent world

Mains (GS-II : Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests)


  • The 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations (UN) is an opportunity
    to look at the major trends, patterns and future challenges as far as India is concerned in terms of safeguarding its interests and promoting common good.
  • Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru once observed in his address to the UN General Assembly on December 20, 1956, “Of course, even if the United Nations did not do anything wonderful, the mere fact of the United Nations itself has been of great significance to the world….”

Phases of India in the UN:

  • In the first phase until the end of the Cold War in 1989, India had learnt the ropes of exploring and enhancing its diplomatic influence as a moderating force in easing armed conflicts in Asia and Africa by disentangling them from the superpower rivalry.
  • In parallel, the Indian leadership learned the hard way that the UN could not be relied upon to impartially resolve vital security disputes such as Jammu and Kashmir.
  • India strove to utilise the UN only to focus on common causes such as anti-colonialism, antiracism, nuclear disarmament, environment conservation and equitable economic development.
  • India, in a clever way, seemed to claim the moral high ground by proposing, in 1988, a bold, but obviously impractical, three-phase plan to eliminate nuclear weapons from the surface of earth.
  • A loss of face for India in the 1962 border war against China meant a definitive redesign of the country’s diplomatic style to privilege bilateral contacts over the third party role by the UN.

How India emerged strongly in the UN?

  • The 1990s spelled the most difficult decade for India in the world body, as the years were marked by the sudden end of the Cold War, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the resultant emergence of the United States as the unrivalled power in world politics.
  • There was a change in India’s foreign policy which was reflected in voting patterns at the UN. To cite a few examples, India showed pragmatism in enabling the toughest terms on Iraq even after eviction from occupied Kuwait, or in reversing the hitherto stated position on Zionism as racism.
  • There was a change in India’s foreign policy which was reflected in voting patterns at the UN. To cite a few examples, India showed pragmatism in enabling the toughest terms on Iraq even after eviction from occupied Kuwait, or in reversing the hitherto stated position on Zionism as racism.
  • India’s diplomatic difficulties was exposed when it suffered a humiliating defeat in the hands of Japan in the 1996 contest for a non-permanent seat in the UNSC.
  • India resolutely stood against indefinite extension of the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1995, and it stoutly rejected the backdoor introduction for adoption of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996.
  • These two developments at the UN perhaps pushed India to surprise the world in 1998 with its Pokhran nuclear weapon tests.

How India’s position changed?

  • The 21st century opened new avenues for India to shine at the UN. The impressive economic performance in the first decade  helped a great deal in strengthening its profile.
  • This is only aided by its reliable and substantial troop contributions to several
    peacekeeping operations in African conflict theatres.
  • India has emerged as a responsible stakeholder in non-traditional security issue areas such as the spread of small and light weapons, the threat of non-state actors acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and the impact of climate change.
  • India has scaled up its contributions to development and humanitarian agencies.
  • India’s growing popularity is evident in the successful electoral contests for various prestigious slots in the UNSC, the Human Rights Council, the World Court, and functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council, at times defeating the nominees of China and the United
  • However, two major initiatives India has heavily invested in are stuck without much hope of
    a timely outcome.
    • The first relates to the draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
    • The second is Security Council expansion.

India & Security Council expansion:

  • The move has been stuck for more than 25 years because of a lack of unity among the regional formations.
  • It also includes stout opposition from some 30 middle powers such as Italy and Pakistan which fear losing out to regional rivals in the event of an addition of permanent seats, and the intrigues masterminded by one or two permanent members.
  • India enjoys by far the greatest support, the only realistic possibility seems to settle for a
    compromise, i.e. a new category of members elected for a longer duration than the present non-permanent members without veto power.

Factors which may affect India’s voting choices:

  • In an unlikely scenario of China succeeding in convening a formal meeting on Kashmir to please Pakistan, India may have to choose either to abstain in the vote since it is a party to the dispute or vote against any unfavourable proposal that might be tabled.
  • On the other hand, the growing proximity with the U.S. may prompt India not to stay neutral in order to counter balance China.

The way forward for India in the UN:

  • India’s future role will probably depend on its ability to weather the impact of the multiple crises it now faces on account of an unabated economic slowdown and a troubled relationship with China.
  • This is pertinent as India will soon begin its two-year term as a non-permanent UNSC member ( January 1, 2021). Its areas of priority will continue to be the upholding of Charter principles, mounting effective punitive measures against those who support, Finance and sponsor terrorists, besides striving for securing due say to the troop contributing countries in the management of peace operations.

> Taking on the Centre – States aggrieved by central farm laws are adopting both legislative and legal measures

Mains (GS-III : Agriculture- transport and marketing of agricultural produce, issues of buffer stocks)


  • Punjab’s efforts to enact State amendments to override the effects of the centres new agriculture law epitomise the difficulties in managing the conflict between liberalising the farm sector and protecting the small and marginal farmer from the agonies of the transition.
  • The issue also flags the consequences of not having a wide and informed debate before introducing far-reaching changes.

Concerns raised & the features of bill introduced by Punjab (Amendments):

  • Punjab argues that the central Acts would cause “grave detriment and prejudice” to agricultural communities. The Bills cite an agriculture census of 2015-16 to argue that 86.2% of farmers own less than five acres — a majority of them less than two acres — and that with limited or no access to multiple markets, they would be handicapped while negotiating fair price contracts with private players.
  • Making efforts to buy farm produce at less than the MSP or harassing farmers have been sought to be made punishable offences, with a jail term of at least three years.
  • The Bills also seek to overturn the Centre’s move to remove the fee on trade and transactions that take place outside markets functioning under APMCs.

Issue of legal validity of amendments:

  • States can indeed amend central laws enacted under the Concurrent List, subject to the condition that provisions repugnant to the parliamentary Acts will have to get the President’s assent, without which they do not come into force.
  • The Punjab Bills note that agriculture is under the legislative domain on the States, as the subject falls under the State List in the Seventh Schedule.
  • The Centre has enacted its farm sector Bills by invoking Entry 33(b) in the Concurrent List, which concerns trade and commerce in, and production, supply and distribution of, “foodstuffs”.


  • In these circumstances, States aggrieved by the farm sector laws will either have to go the Punjab way.
  • Whatever the outcome, clear from the groundswell of opposition across the country is that a cavalier and centralised approach to issues that affect millions of farmers ill-serves a diverse country.

> Time has come for an Indo-Pacific Concord of regional democracies with a maritime security charter

Mains (GS-II : Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests)


  • Soviet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, many years ago, when he said, “Demonstrative actions by the fleet, in many cases, have made it possible to achieve political ends without resorting to armed action, by merely putting pressure… Thus, the navy has always been an instrument of policy and an important aid to diplomacy in peacetime.”
  • This unique attribute of navies enables their use in support of foreign policy objectives, to deliver messages of reassurance to friends and of deterrence or coercion to adversaries.

Threat from China:

  • Given the huge economic, military and technological asymmetry between China and India, and the active China-Pakistan nexus, the best that India can hope for is a stalemate on its northern and western fronts.
  • Attention has, therefore, been focused on the maritime domain, where it is believed that India may have some cards to play.
  • Given China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative and its predicted trajectory as an economic and military superpower, it is clear that no nation would like to burn its bridges with Beijing.
  • In order to rein in China’s hegemonic urges, there is need for affected nations to come together to show their solidarity and determination in a common cause.

Malabar exercise & QUAD:

  • China’s extreme concern about Malabar as well as the Quad arises from the suspicion that they are precursors to “containment” — America’s Cold War geopolitical strategy which eventually brought about the collapse of the USSR.
  • Quad is 16 years old now, and Malabar 28. Both have served a useful purpose, and a reappraisal of the roles and relationship of the Quad-Malabar concepts is, therefore, overdue. Since it is India which faces a “clear and present danger”, it should boldly take the initiative to do so.
  • Returning to the current context of Quad, there are muted expressions of satisfaction in New Delhi on two counts — the prospect of Australia belatedly joining the Quad and of India signing the BECA (Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement) with the US.

Reasons for India to be circumspect:

  • Australia’s past political ambivalence towards India, its trenchant criticism of our naval expansion and its vociferous condemnation of the 1998 nuclear tests.
  • Nor should one overlook Beijing’s recent influence on Australia’s foreign policy, which prompted its flip-flops over the sale of uranium to India as well as its peremptory withdrawal from the Quad in 2008.
  • The signing of BECA, last of the four “foundational agreements”, after more than two decades of negotiations, would eliminate a source of frustration in the Indo-US defence relationship and enhance interoperability between the respective militaries.
  • There is need to pay heed to valid concerns, regarding the possible compromise of information impinging on India’s security and whether these agreements will barter away the last vestiges of India’s strategic autonomy.

What should be done?

  • There is need to create a broad-based “Indo-Pacific Concord”, of like-minded regional democracies, not as an “Asian NATO” but as an organisation with a maritime security charter, which has no offensive or provocative connotations.
  • Using the Quad and Malabar templates, a shore-based secretariat can be established in a central location like Port Blair, in the Andaman Islands, which would schedule and conduct periodic multinational naval exercises.
  • The exercises could be structured to hone the skills of participating navies in specialisations like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, countering non-traditional threats, undertaking search-and-rescue operations and establishing networked maritime domain awareness.
  • The Concord could also designate forces to uphold maritime security or “good order at sea”.
  • For India, which faces a massive Chinese military mobilisation on its borders, accompanied by blatant territorial claims, the time for ambivalence is over. While preparing to fight its own battles with determination, it is time for India to seek external balancing — best done via the maritime domain.


  • For India, which faces a massive Chinese military mobilisation on its borders, accompanied by blatant territorial claims, the time for ambivalence is over. While preparing to fight its own battles with determination, it is time for India to seek external balancing — best done via the maritime domain.

The leader of difficult time – G20 under Saudi Arabia’s presidency, is working towards more resilient world

Mains (GS-II : Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests)

What is G20?

  • The G20 (or Group of Twenty) is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union (EU).
  • Founded in 1999 with the aim to discuss policy pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability the G20 has expanded its agenda since 2008 and heads of government or heads of state, as well as finance ministers, foreign ministers and think tanks, have periodically conferred at summits ever since.
  • It seeks to address issues that go beyond the responsibilities of any one organization.
  • The members of the G20 are: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and the European Union. [Prelims PYQ]

What is the importance of Saudi Arabia for G20?

  • Saudi proved its mettle in dealing with socio-economic hurdles back home through its transformative Vision 2030.
  • Saudi ranked topped reformed & top improver among 190 countries by world bank’s Women, business & law report 2020.
  • It is the most Important country in the world for doing business, having implemented a record number of reforms.
  • The Presidency is working with G20 members on three essential pillars which are vital to the world’s progress:
    • Empowering people with a focus on youth and women, and tackling inequalities;
    •  safeguarding the planet by fostering collective efforts to protect our natural resources and putting sustainability at the heart of the agenda;
    • and, finally, shaping new frontiers by adopting long-term and bold strategies to share the benefits of innovation and technological advancement to build a resilient future for the world.
  • The Saudi G20 Presidency believes that everyone, especially women, should have the required access and tools to take advantages of the opportunities ahead of us. The Private Sector Alliance for the Empowerment and Progression of Women’s Economic Representation (EMPOWER), a forum constituted by G20, is developing an action plan to identify key focus areas and conduct global research to advocate for the advancement of women in leadership positions in the private sector.

> FPTC Act will put pressure on APMC markets to become competitive

Mains (GS-III : Agriculture- transport and marketing of agricultural produce, issues of buffer stocks)

The APMC act & some Issues:

  • The APMC Acts mandated that the sale/purchase of agricultural commodities is carried out in a specified market area, and, producer-sellers or traders pay the requisite market fee, user charges, levies and commissions for the commission agents (arhtiyas). These charges were levied irrespective of whether the sale took place inside APMC premises or outside it and the charges varied widely across states and commodities.
  • Over time, APMC markets have been turned from infrastructure services to a source of revenue generation. In several states, commission charges were increased without any improvement in the services. And to avoid any protests from farmers against these high charges, most of these were required to be paid by buyers like the FCI. This not only results in a heavy burden on the Centre but also increases the logistics cost for domestic produce and reduces trade competitiveness.
  • These drawbacks were recognised by experts and stakeholders and pressure started mounting for changes in market regulations.

Farmers’ Produce Trading and Commerce Act 2020 & its advantages:

  • The FPTC Act gives farmers the freedom to sell and buy farm produce at any place in the country — in APMC markets or outside the mandated area — to any trader, like the sale of milk.
  • The Act also allows transactions on electronic platforms to promote e-commerce in agriculture trade.
  • The effect of the FPTC Act on APMC mandis will depend on the treatment meted out to the mandis and the charges and levies therein.
  • The real threat in some states to APMC mandis and their business is from excessive and unjustified charges levied under the APMC acts.
  • The FPTC Act will only put pressure on APMC markets to become competitive.

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