19th November 2019
TOPIC: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. (Paper II)
Discuss the need for BRICS to focus on existing commitments.
The 11th summit of the BRICS grouping comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa was held in Brasilia.
- Pitted as a counterweight to G7, the combine of developed economies, BRICS represents the world’s top emerging economies and claims to serve as a bridge between the developed and developing world.
- It is difficult to identify new elements in the BRICS’s endeavour to strengthen and reform the multilateral system.
- The “urgent need” to reform the UN, the World Trade Organisation, the International Monetary Fund and other international organisations was stressed once again, even as little progress has occurred on this score.
- Interest in open and free trade was reiterated, despite growing protectionist tendencies.
- On expansion of the UN Security Council, BRICS exposed its disunity yet again by sticking to the formulation that refuses to go beyond China and Russia supporting the “aspiration” of Brazil, India and South Africa “to play a greater role in the UN”.
- Much to India’s satisfaction, the commitment of BRICS to counterterrorism seems to be getting strengthened.
- Its working group on countering terrorism has expanded its activities through five thematic subgroups that deal with terrorist financing, use of Internet for terrorist purposes, countering radicalization, issue of foreign terrorist fighters, and capacity building.
- If these exertions make India more secure, they will be most welcome.
Signs of Advancement:
- Where the BRICS show signs of advancing is in the economic domain.
- The New Development Bank, the grouping’s flagship achievement, has 44 projects with its lending touching $12.4 billion, in just five years.
- This is not a small gain, but the bank needs to grow as “a global development finance institution”.
- With a successful Contingent Reserve Arrangement in the bag, BRICS governments are set to establish a local currency Bond Fund.
- But the earlier proposal to launch a credit rating agency remains shelved due to internal differences.
- The BRICS Business Council held a substantive dialogue to foster cooperation in areas from infrastructure and energy to financial services, regional aviation and digital economy.
- A BRICS Women Business Alliance was created, both as a women empowerment measure and as a tool to bring “a distinctive perspective on issues of interest for the business community”.
- The stress on developing people to people interaction remains unchanged, with each chair-country drawing up a calendar of activities to strengthen links of culture, arts, sports, media and academic exchange.
The contribution of BRICS to project the perspectives of developing economies is laudable. Further, BRICS should ponder if in the short term it needs to focus on fulfilling existing commitments instead of taking on new ones.
19th November 2019
TOPIC: issues relating to Poverty and Hunger. (Paper II)
Discuss the improved health outcomes in Odisha.
Odisha is one of the Empowered Action Group States or eight socio-economically backward states of India. It has done remarkably well in health and nutrition outcomes over the past two decades.
Health outcomes of Odisha:
- Its infant mortality rate has significantly declined.
- Its under-five mortality rate almost halved in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 from NFHS-3.
- It has seen a steep decline in stunting in children under five. Anemia in children and pregnant women has also decreased since NFHS-3. Antenatal care and institutional deliveries have shown good improvement.
- Nutrition has a strong correlation to health and is integral to growth and development.
- Timely nutritional interventions of breastfeeding, age-appropriate complementary feeding, Vitamin A supplementation, and full immunization are effective in improving nutrition outcomes in children.
- A nutrition action plan based on convergence – with health, nutrition, and WASH programmes.
- Decentralising the procurement of supplementary nutrition under the Integrated Child Development Services programme. This has led to fair access to services under the ICDS by all beneficiaries.
- A rise in utilisation of services under the ICDS as compared to a decade ago.
- There has been a marked improvement in supplementary nutrition received by pregnant and lactating women in NFHS-4 compared to NFHS-3.
- Despite progress in child and maternal indicators, Odisha continues to be plagued by a high level of malnutrition.
- There is stark variability across districts in stunting ranging from as high as 47.5% in Subarnapur to a low of 15.3% in Cuttack.
- Wasting is high in 25 out of the 30 districts. Almost half of the under-five children from tribal communities in Odisha are underweight, and 46% are stunted.
- The infant mortality rate among tribals is the fourth highest in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
- Food given under the ICDS programme has shown a significant increase. Less of such food is given as children grow older.
- There is also a decline is children receiving timely complementary feeding. Less than 10% of children receive a minimum acceptable diet. This can be attributed to a lack of understanding and awareness about nutrition due to illiteracy.
Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups
- Another challenge for Odisha is in reaching out to remote and particularly vulnerable tribal groups.
- This could be the reason why tribal women and children are lagging behind the national average on nutrition and health indicators.
- It is essential to improve the implementation of schemes and ensure last-mile delivery of nutrition services.
- A part of the solution lies in setting up mini Anganwadi centres catering to far-flung tribal hamlets.
- Raising awareness through community campaigns on the need for good nutrition would help improve the utilisation of services by beneficiaries.
- The International Food Policy Research Institute called for inter-department engagements to accelerate the nutrition outcome in Odisha.
- There is a need to improve sanitation, women’s education and underlying poverty to tackle under nutrition.
- Underweight children should also be identified precisely so that the monitoring mechanism for improving service delivery can be strengthened.
- The National Nutrition Mission sets an example with its inter-ministerial convergence and real-time monitoring mechanism for tracking each beneficiary and tackling malnutrition.