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UPSC Online Editorial Analysis


Title of the Editorial: Stepping out of the shadow of India’s malnutrition

Written by: Amartya Paul (Doctoral Scholar, Centrefor Development Studies,Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.) UpasakDas (Presidential Fellow in Economics ofPoverty Reduction, Global DevelopmentInstitute, University of Manchester.)

Topic in the syllabus: Issues relating to poverty and hunger. (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about Issue of malnutrition in India & suggests some solution.

Reports regarding severity of malnutrition in India: (Important for answers)

  • The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020” by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations and the 2020 Hunger report, “Better Nutrition, Better Tomorrow” by the Bread for the World Institute document staggering facts about Indian food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • The Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU) and the Prevalence of Moderate or Severe Food Insecurity (PMSFI), these two reports indicate India to be one of the most food insecure countries, with the highest rates of stunting and wasting among other South Asian countries.
  • The PoU measures the percentage of people who are consuming insufficient calories than their required minimum dietary energy requirement, while the PMSFI identifies the percentage of people who live in households that are severely or moderately food insecure.

Why is there a need to focus more on this Issue?

  • China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh & even Afghanistan these countries have done better than India on malnourishment.

Issues related to malnutrition in India:

  • Despite the National Food Security Act – 2013 ensuring every citizen “access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices”, two crucial elements that still got left out are the non-inclusion of
    nutritious food items such as pulses and exclusion of potential beneficiaries. (Pandemic cannot be the only reason)
  • The recently initiated “Hunger Watch” by the Right to Food Campaign presents a very grim situation, with close to one out of every three respondents reporting low food consumption and massive compromise on food quality.
  • The problem of malnutrition is likely to deepen in the coming years with rising unemployment and the deep economic slump.

What are the suggestions to improve the condition?

  • A major shift in policy has to encompass the immediate universalisation of the Public Distribution System which should definitely not be temporary in nature.
  • The distribution of quality food items is necessary.
  • Setting up of community kitchens will also help.
  • This year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the United Nations World Food Programme, which should bring some of the focus back on these pressing issues of undernourishment and hunger in India.
  • The need of the hour remains the right utilisation and expansion of existing programmes to ensure that we arrest at least some part of this burgeoning malnutrition in the country.


Title of the editorial: Tech tact: On India’s apps blocking spree

Topic in the syllabus: India and its neighbourhood- relations (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about why India must stick to a rules-based approach in regulating the Internet.


  • India’s decision on Tuesday to block another 43 Chinese mobile applications hardly comes as a surprise. Since June, following escalation of tensions with China at the border, India has blocked over 250 Chinese mobile apps, a bunch at a time, on the grounds that they have been engaging in activities “which are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order”.

China’s Ironical behaviour:

  • Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, has asked India to “correct its discriminatory approach and avoid causing further damage to bilateral cooperation”.
  • China crying discrimination is ironical — its version of the Internet is tightly controlled and heavily censored, and has been so for years.

What are the issues behind India’s approach?

  • This approach runs the risk of triggering an unconventional battle between the two countries in the larger technology realm, if not in the larger business space.
  • China, being an important player in the technology global supply chain, will be hard, if not impossible, to sideline.
  • There is a risk that moves such as blocking apps would be perceived adversely by global investors and Internet companies.

What should be the India’s approach?

  • India must stick to a rules-based approach in regulating the Internet.
  • There is a need to implement the long-pending data protection law.
  • It is also important to engage with the ecosystem and provide clarity on these issues as India has to win the technology battle as well.


Title of the Editorial: Plugging holes in the welfare net

Topic in the syllabus: Governance (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about why India must stick to a rules-based approach in regulating the Internet.


  • THE US CONGRESS acted expeditiously in late March to provide relief on account of the
    COVID-19 to poor and middle-class individuals and to stimulate the economy  by enacting a Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that sends $1,200 to
    each individual below the income threshold of $75,000.
  • The WashingtonPost reported, even in October, millions of households were yet to receive their stimulus payments.
  • What accounts for this and what is the lesson from this experience for India or other countries that are trying to build robust social safety nets?

What happened in the US?

  • The tax authorities who were charged with disbursing the funds had no way of knowing how to send the cheques.
  • For tax payers who received refunds in their bank accounts in 2018 and 2019, account information was available with the authorities.
  • But the poor — whose incomes were below the income threshold for filing or those who owed money to the government—had to cross several hurdles to get this money and the computer system did not make it easy for them to register their claim.
  • There are reports that clearing up the backlog of sending stimulus checks could take until January 2021 in some states. Such exclusion from safety nets is particularly large for racial and ethnic minorities.

What is about India? (Issues)

  • In contrast, 23 per cent of Indians living in Delhi-NCR received a payment of Rs 500 in their Jan Dhan accounts within three weeks of the lockdown being declared.
  • Farmers registered for PM-KISAN also received Rs 2,000 in their accounts immediately. However, while using prior registries allowed for quick disbursement of funds, it is not clear that the money reached the most vulnerable households.
  • For example, recipients of PM-KISAN were not amongst the poorest households, nor were these the households that were most affected by the COVID-related lockdown.
  • Only 21 per cent of farm households received transfers through PM-KISAN. However, 42 per cent of such households belonged to the wealthiest one-third of the sample, while another 28.5 per cent belonged to the middle third.
  • The PM-Kisan Yojana applies to landowners, thereby excluding agricultural labourers as well as the urban informal sector workers who were most affected by the lockdown.
  • Similarly, for the PMJDY payment, BPL and non-BPL households record similar receipt transfers.
  • According to a study nearly half of poor women are unlikely to receive PMJDY transfers.
  • These observations outline the twin challenges in designing social safety nets that reach the most vulnerable and can be activated effectively when disaster strikes.

The Issue of targeting true beneficiaries:

  • Unless a registry containing data about individuals and their bank accounts exists, money cannot be transferred expeditiously.
  • However, registries based on specific criteria (for example, identified BPL households) may not identify individuals most vulnerable to crises.
  • About 40 per cent of the poor in 2012 were pushed into poverty by special circumstances and would not have been classified as being poor based on their 2005 conditions.
  • Such exclusion errors can get magnified in the event of large-scale disasters when using pre-existing databases, since many people are likely to fall into poverty from an economy-wide negative shock, leading to coverage errors.

What is the necessity?

  • World bank emphasises the need for post-disaster revalidation of any existing social registration database so that more recent vulnerable population can be added to the database.
  • We cannot rely on registries based on individual characteristics to identify beneficiaries.
  • If there is a way for us to set up social registries that identify individuals, their place of residence, and their bank accounts, these linkages can be used to transfer funds to everyone living in the affected area quickly.
  • Aadhaar linkages of individuals and bank accounts already exist. If residential information in the Aadhaar database can be efficiently structured, this would allow for geographic targeting.

Issue of privacy in social registries & the way forward:

  • Any social registry that can serve as a potential beneficiary platform for safety nets inherently runs the risk of violating individual privacy.
  • To the extent that such social registries store only basic information such as location, instead of more sensitive identifiers such as poverty status, they are unlikely to violate privacy, while still serving the purpose of providing a list of potential beneficiaries in the event of a sudden shock.

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