Friday, April 17, 2015


What is net neutrality and why it is important
Internet is built around the idea of openness. It allows people to connect and exchange information freely, if the information or service is not illegal. Much of this is because of the idea of net neutrality.

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is an idea derived from how telephone lines have worked since the beginning of the 20th century. In case of a telephone line, you can dial any number and connect to it. It does not matter if you are calling from operator A to operator B. It doesn't matter if you are calling a restaurant or a drug dealer. The operators neither block the access to a number nor deliberately delay connection to a particular number, unless forced by the law. Most of the countries have rules that ask telecom operators to provide an unfiltered and unrestricted phone service.
When the internet started to take off in 1980s and 1990s, there were no specific rules that asked that internet service providers (ISPs) should follow the same principle. But, mostly because telecom operators were also ISPs, they adhered to the same principle. This principle is known as net neutrality. An ISP does not control the traffic that passes its servers. When a web user connects to a website or web service, he or she gets the same speed. Data rate for Youtube videos and Facebook photos is theoretically same. Users can access any legal website or web service without any interference from an ISP.
Some countries have rules that enforce net neutrality but most don't. Instead, the principle is followed because that is how it has always been. It is more of a norm than a law.

How did net neutrality shape the internet?
Net neutrality has shaped the internet in two fundamental ways.
One, web users are free to connect to whatever website or service they want. ISPs do not bother with what kind of content is flowing from their servers. This has allowed the internet to grow into a truly global network and has allowed people to freely express themselves. For example, you can criticize your ISP on a blog post and the ISP will not restrict access to that post for its other subscribers even though the post may harm its business.

But more importantly, net neutrality has enabled a level playing field on the internet. To start a website, you don't need lot of money or connections. Just host your website and you are good to go. If your service is good, it will find favour with web users. Unlike the cable TV where you have to forge alliances with cable connection providers to make sure that your channel reaches viewers, on internet you don't have to talk to ISPs to put your website online.
This has led to creation Google, Facebook, Twitter and countless other services. All of these services had very humble beginnings. They started as a basic websites with modest resources. But they succeeded because net neutrality allowed web users to access these websites in an easy and unhindered way.

What will happen if there is no net neutrality?
If there is no net neutrality, ISPs will have the power (and inclination) to shape internet traffic so that they can derive extra benefit from it. For example, several ISPs believe that they should be allowed to charge companies for services like YouTube and Netflix because these services consume more bandwidth compared to a normal website. Basically, these ISPs want a share in the money that YouTube or Netflix make.
Without net neutrality, the internet as we know it will not exist. Instead of free access, there could be "package plans" for consumers. For example, if you pay Rs 500, you will only be able to access websites based in India. To access international websites, you may have to pay a more. Or maybe there can be different connection speed for different type of content, depending on how much you are paying for the service and what "add-on package" you have bought.

Lack of net neutrality, will also spell doom for innovation on the web. It is possible that ISPs will charge web companies to enable faster access to their websites. Those who don't pay may see that their websites will open slowly. This means bigger companies like Google will be able to pay more to make access to Youtube or Google+ faster for web users but a startup that wants to create a different and better video hosting site may not be able to do that.

Instead of an open and free internet, without net neutrality we are likely to get a web that has silos in it and to enter each silo, you will have to pay some "tax" to ISPs.

What is the state of net neutrality in India?

Legally, the concept of net neutrality doesn't exist in India. Sunil Abraham, director of Centre for internet and Society in Bangalore, says that Trai, which regulates the telecom industry, has tried to come up with some rules regarding net neutrality several times. For example it invited comments on the concept of net neutrality from industry bodies and stakeholders in 2006. But no formal rules have been formed to uphold and enforce net neutrality.
However, despite lack of formal rules, ISPs in India mostly adhere to the principal of net neutrality. There have been some incidents where Indian ISPs have ignored net neutrality but these are few and far between.

Will the concept of net neutrality survive?
Net neutrality is sort of gentlemen's agreement. It has survived so far because few people realized the potential of internet when it took off around 30 years ago. But now when the internet is an integral part of the society and incredibly important, ISPs across the world are trying to get the power to shape and control the traffic. But there are ways to keep net neutrality alive.
Consumers should demand that ISPs continue their hands-off approach from the internet traffic. If consumers see a violation of net neutrality, they ought to take a proactive approach and register their displeasure with the ISP. They should also reward ISPs that uphold the net neutrality.
At the same time, as Abraham says, Trai needs to come out with a set of clear and precise rules that protect the net neutrality. "We have started seeing ISPs trying to take control of the traffic that flows from their servers but Trai can regulate them. It can keep the internet open and consumer-friendly by forming rules that protect net neutrality. These are early days so it is easy to do. If ISPs manage to change the system, it may become too late," he says.
Why is Net Neutrality important for businesses?

Net Neutrality is crucial for small business owners, startups and entrepreneurs, who rely on the open Internet to launch their businesses, create a market, advertise their products and services, and distribute products to customers. We need the open Internet to foster job growth, competition and innovation.
Net Neutrality lowers the barriers of entry for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses by ensuring the Web is a fair and level playing field. It’s because of Net Neutrality that small businesses and entrepreneurs have been able to thrive on the Internet. They use the Internet to reach new customers and showcase their goods, applications and services.
No company should be able to interfere with this open marketplace. ISPs are by definition the gatekeepers to the Internet, and without Net Neutrality, they would seize every possible opportunity to profit from that gatekeeper control.
Without Net Neutrality, the next Google would never get off the ground.
 Why is Net Neutrality important for communities of color?
The open Internet allows communities of color to tell their own stories and to organize for racial and social justice.
The mainstream media have failed to allow people of color to speak for themselves. And thanks to economic inequality and runaway media consolidation, people of color own just a handful of broadcast stations. The lack of diverse ownership is a primary reason why the media have gotten away with portraying communities of color stereotypically.
The open Internet gives marginalized voices opportunities to be heard. But without Net Neutrality, ISPs could block unpopular speech and prevent dissident voices from speaking freely online. Without Net Neutrality, people of color would lose a vital platform.
And without Net Neutrality, millions of small businesses owned by people of color wouldn't be able to compete against larger corporations online, which would further deepen the economic inequality in our nation’s most vulnerable communities.
Nuts and Bolts:
What’s net neutrality?

It is the principle that all traffic on the Internet must be treated equally by Internet service providers. Those advocating Net neutrality believe all bits of data are equal, and, therefore, should not be discriminated on the basis of content, site or user. This has largely been the default mode since Internet started.

Why has there been so much of noise about net neutrality in recent months?
First, India’s top telecom company Bharti Airtel, towards the end of last year, decided to charge subscribers extra for use of apps such as Skype and Viber. These apps compete with the voice and messaging services of telecom providers, and are even cheaper. There was uproar, after which Airtel stayed its decision, saying it would wait for regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) Consultation Paper on Regulatory Framework for Over-the-top (OTT) services.
Then, Facebook brought to India, a pre-selected bouquet of Web sites offered free to subscribers of Reliance Communications. There was not much controversy then.
The buzz became really big after TRAI put out a 118-page consultation paper asking the public for its opinion on 20 questions, most of them about how the Internet can be regulated. Views were also sought on net neutrality.
By evening of Tuesday, over 4.2 lakh mails had been sent in support of net neutrality through the Web site. Political parties such as the Congress, political leaders such as Arvind Kejriwal and celebrities such as Shah Rukh Khan joined the bandwagon, as has the comedy group All India Bakchod through a video. All of them argue why the Internet should not be touched. TRAI will be open to taking comments till April 24, and counter comments by May 8. In between all this, Airtel last week launched Airtel Zero, which is a free offering of a slew of apps that sign up with the telecom provider. On Tuesday, Flipkart pulled out of the platform after initially agreeing to be on it, saying it was committed to Net neutrality.

Who benefits from net neutrality? How?

Every Internet user. Think through how you would like to browse the Internet. Wouldn’t you like to access the Web without worrying about how differently videos will be charged compared to other forms of content? Wouldn’t you like to access the Web without the telecom service provider getting to serve some sites faster than others? If yes for both, you are pro-Net neutrality.
New ventures benefit too. In fact, one of the key reasons for start-ups to have come up in a big way in recent decades is the openness of the Internet. The Internet has reduced transaction costs and levelled the playing field.
A start-up can come up with an app today, and can immediately attract a global audience. The likes of Googles and Facebooks could have struggled to grow if the Internet had not been open.

Then, why do we need to think about regulating the Internet?
Essentially because the telecom companies do not like the way the apps are riding on their networks for free. The companies complain that voice-calling and messaging apps are cannibalising their business. On top of all this, it is they who have to invest billions in getting access to spectrum and build networks as also adhere to regulations.

So, absence of net neutrality will benefit telecom companies?
It could make them a gatekeeper to a valuable resource, a role that supporters of Net neutrality feel will be misused to create winners and losers. They could charge companies a premium for access to users.
It would not be a telecom companies versus internet players issue, as could be mistakenly perceived. For, the absence of Net neutrality could also benefit established Internet companies who are flush with money. They could nip challengers in the bud with vastly higher payoffs to telecom companies.

Is this an issue in India alone?

No. The Federal Communications Commission just recently voted for what is seen as strong Net neutrality rules. This is to ensure Internet service providers neither block, throttle traffic nor give access priority for money. Europe is trying to correct a 2013 proposal for Net neutrality, in which privileged access was allowed to ‘specialised services.’ This was vague and threatened Net neutrality. Chile last year banned zero-rated schemes, those where access to social media is given free to telecom subscribers.

Decline by degrees

Decline by degrees

BY- UPINDER SINGH, Professor, Department of History, University of Delhi

Our universities are changing. Never has the pace of change been this fast, nor the protests this loud. On the rare occasion that the media take notice, the discussion usually focusses on whether or not due procedure has been followed. Given our authoritarian power structures, it is as important to ask whether adequate thought has gone into the initiation of the changes.
Teachers of the University of Delhi are especially familiar with changes; the recent spate began with the introduction of the semester system in undergraduate teaching in 2011. Although there are certain serious logistical issues involved, there is nothing inherently wrong with teaching in a semester mode. What is problematic is when the introduction of the system is done in a manner in which little attention is paid to the content of semester courses. Unfortunately, these courses were created by snipping the existing annual courses in half, sometimes badly. Why? There was no time to reflect on curricular or pedagogic issues.
An impact across India
More recently, we saw even more radical changes with the introduction of the four-year undergraduate programme (FYUP) in the University of Delhi. There is nothing inherently good or bad about a four-year BA programme. A great deal hinges on the quality of the courses that form the programme. Of course, questions can be asked about whether a single university in the country can move to a four-year system and the implications of an additional year’s education in a country where many students find it difficult to pay even the highly subsidised fees. Anyhow, the programme was introduced in 2013, again without adequate time to think seriously about curricular or pedagogic issues. And then, in the summer of 2014, it was just as suddenly withdrawn.
The University of Delhi is still reeling under the impact of all these changes, but what is now on the cards is something even more worrying; something that will affect not one but all Indian universities. A communiqué from the University Grants Commission (UGC) dated November 14, 2014, gives certain directives that were apparently discussed at a retreat of the vice chancellors of Central universities on September 12 and 13, 2014; these were subsequently approved by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The directives require that all universities follow a Choice Based Credit System (CBCS) from 2015 onwards. We are told that the aim is to provide choice to students within an institution as well as “seamless mobility across institutions” in India and abroad by adopting a “cafeteria approach”. These guidelines are apparently supposed to apply to all undergraduate and postgraduate level degree, diploma and certificate programmes being run by Central, State and deemed universities in India. Once again: such sweeping change, so little thought.
Affecting autonomy
There would have been no problem if the new system only involved giving students grades instead of marks. However, it gives an all-India scale of conversion of marks into grades which does not take into account the fact that there are radical differences between the “standard” in different colleges and universities. But even this is only a small part of a larger package that has very serious implications for the autonomy of universities and the quality of university education across the country.
All universities are to have a uniform structure of syllabi. There will be “core” courses, “compulsory foundation” courses, and “elective foundation courses” that “are value-based and are aimed at man-making education”. This seems to be the FYUP in a new three-year, all-India garb. In the new system, in at least half of the core courses, the assessment will be based on examinations in which external examiners will set and mark the papers. The new system will also have an impact on PhD programmes. Theses must be evaluated by external as well as internal examiners. In the University of Delhi, while undergraduate examination papers are currently marked by teachers from across the university, postgraduate assessment is done within the departments. In the History Department, we currently have three external examiners for PhD theses. The new diktat is set to change all this.
No say in courses
It gets worse. It is now clear that the new system also aims at introducing uniform syllabi across universities in the country. The website of the UGC displays model undergraduate syllabi for various subjects, from which only minimal deviation will be permitted. It does not specify where these syllabi have come from. The History syllabus on the UGC website happens to be the syllabus of the University of Delhi, with a mishmash of elements drawn from the old FYUP syllabus. This is the “chosen one” which will presumably be imposed on universities all over the country.
This is not in the least bit flattering. In normal times, the process of syllabus revision in our University has involved wide-ranging consultation and discussion among all the teachers involved. It takes time — sometimes too much — but it is worth it. For example, the MA History syllabus was revised a few years ago, and the History Department has recently initiated a revision of its BA syllabi, because teachers are convinced that these syllabi need to be changed and improved. Now it seems that we need not bother. Our old courses, with which we are dissatisfied, will continue and will be imposed not only on us, but on other universities in the country. In the best universities in the world, postgraduate courses represent cutting-edge approaches and research, and are tailored to the research expertise of its teachers. The uniqueness of the profiles of departments and universities rests, to a great extent, on this. But this will no longer be possible, will not be allowed, in our universities. We teachers will no longer have a role in designing the courses that we teach.
The changes that are envisaged in the new system are much more far-reaching in scope and scale than the recently jettisoned FYUP. But in both cases, we see an attempt to bring about radical change in a hasty manner without adequate thought about the rationale and logistics, and even less time devoted to what matters the most — the actual content of courses. Many universities have already fallen in line and have embraced the Choice Based Credit System, and others will no doubt follow suit. Instead of uniform excellence, the result will be uniform mediocrity and a lowering of the academic standards of our best institutions. Given the enormous logistical problems involved in introducing too much change too fast, it could also involve a break down of our university system.
European parallel
A few months ago, while in IIT Gandhinagar (Ahmedabad), I met a Portuguese professor. In the course of our conversation, he told me that ever since the initiation of the Bologna Process, academic standards had declined and teaching was becoming increasingly meaningless. He talked about the lack of recognition given to solid academic work, teachers scrambling to collect “points” for promotion, and random students walking in and out of his classes. I recognised with shock the very changes that successive governments have been trying to introduce in our own universities. The university as cafeteria came alive. Were we simply dealing with a case of copycat “reforms”? In that professor’s expression of demoralisation, I recognised the feeling of despair that many Indian university teachers who have served their institutions for many decades currently feel. Some of the talented younger teachers are moving to private universities, but this is not an option that many senior teachers, with strong ties of commitment to their institutions, would like to consider.
There is much that is wrong and rigid about our universities, much that needs to be improved, and it is very difficult to bring about meaningful change. So it is easy to present those who are initiating the recent changes as impatient visionaries trying to reform a decrepit system. And it is easy to dismiss the protesters as a group of disgruntled old fogeys who don’t want to keep pace with the times. A cynical view that has been doing the rounds for some time in university circles is that the so-called “reforms” are a part of a government strategy to destroy the Central universities so that private universities can flourish. One may not buy this argument, but there is just too much evidence to show that nobody in the higher echelons of power is thinking seriously about the quality of higher education. Otherwise, it should have been obvious that what is important is not the canteen (suitably Indianising the potent metaphor) but the food that it serves.
The fate of our universities is too important to be left to the whims of individual mandarins, ministers or vice chancellors. It is time that an Education Commission consisting of experienced and respected academics and educationists was set up to take stock of the state of our universities and to seriously deliberate on what needs to be done to improve the quality of education that they impart. But is anyone listening and does anyone care?

Many universities have embraced the Choice Based Credit System. Instead of uniform excellence, the result will be uniform mediocrity and a lowering of the academic standards of our best institutions.
The fate of our universities is too important to be left to the whims of mandarins, ministers or vice chancellors. An education commission must be set up to take stock of the state of our universities and their quality of education

In New Delhi, do as Beijing does

In New Delhi, do as Beijing does
By Michael P Walsh | 

Adopt more stringent fuel quality and emission standards — and push for the national automobile pollution and fuel authority
Approximately 20 years ago, in 1995, a process was started that held great promise for ameliorating the serious air pollution problem in Delhi. Under a provision of the Indian Constitution, environmental lawyer M.C. Mehta filed a public interest litigation with the Supreme Court, seeking relief from the serious health risks caused by motor vehicle pollution. The court responded with a series of orders between 1996 and 2001 that reduced the sulphur content of diesel and petrol, eliminated leaded petrol, required premixed lubricating oil and petrol to replace the loose supply of these fuels for two-stroke engines and ordered the retirement of commercial vehicles older than 15 years.
notably, the court ordered the conversion of all commercial passenger vehicles — buses, taxis and three-wheelers — to compressed natural gas (CNG). As a direct result of these measures, as the 21st century began, the air quality in Delhi actually began to improve.
And more progress was still to come. Under the leadership of the Supreme Court, the ministry of petroleum and natural gas appointed the R.A. Mashelkar Committee, which put in place a roadmap to steadily improve the quality of both petrol and diesel fuel and to require all new cars and trucks and buses to install pollution control equipment that would gradually lower the emissions. By 2010, all new vehicles sold in Delhi and 12 other cities were meeting the same pollution levels as similar vehicles were meeting in Europe in 2005. Petrol and diesel fuel in these cities had sulphur levels capped at 50 parts per million.
However, after the committee issued its report in 2003, other than the new vehicle and clean fuels standards, most of its other recommendations were ignored. For example, the 2003 Mashelkar Auto Fuel Policy Committee had recommended the establishment of a national automobile pollution and fuel authority responsible for all vehicle emissions and related fuel-quality issues. This authority was expected to be proactive in establishing future standards and regulations. But this recommendation is yet to be adopted.
At the same time, the marketplace for cars and light trucks was distorted by fuel pricing such that a switch from petrol to diesel was strongly encouraged. One could hardly imagine a more disastrous policy for public health, as diesel cars emit much higher levels of very small hazardous particles and at least three times as much NOx, some of which are directly hazardous and some that undergo transformations in the atmosphere to further exacerbate the problem of small particles, cause the formation of another hazardous pollutant, ozone, or photochemical smog. Diesel cars sold in the US and Japan are equipped with much more advanced pollution controls, such as particle filters, and are as clean as their petrol-fueled counterparts. But India stopped vehicle emissions and fuel-quality standards at the Euro IV equivalent.
As a result, the air quality in Delhi and across India has deteriorated badly, squandering the gains achieved in the past decade and a half. According to the World Health Organisation, Delhi may today be the most polluted city in the world. A major global health study concluded that air pollution caused primarily by small particles is the fifth leading mortality risk factor in India and caused an estimated 6,27,000 premature deaths in 2010. Further, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development recently estimated that air pollution is costing the Indian economy about $0.5 trillion each year.
India has shown leadership in the past in tackling its air pollution problems and must rise to the occasion again. It can look to the experience of cities like Los Angeles and Tokyo to see that even with high growth in vehicle population, pollution levels can come down.
But perhaps it would be better to look at its neighbour closer to home, Beijing, which has also been plagued by serious air pollution in recent years. Beijing has put in place an aggressive action plan with 22 specific measures directed at lowering motor vehicle emissions.
Officials have set up a lottery system to restrict the monthly sales of new vehicles in the city, adopted a schedule to require new vehicles to be as clean as anyplace in the world by 2016 or 2017, mandated annual checks of all vehicles on the road, restricted the types of vehicles allowed to be used in the heart of the city during the workday to only the cleanest and matched the lowest sulphur fuels as anywhere in the world. In addition, bus and rail transit systems will be expanded substantially, and will require one million older vehicles to be scrapped by 2017.
Urban access regulations are among the most widespread and successful approaches that cities can take to address their air pollution problems. They can take several different forms, such as congestion charges or low emission zones (LEZ), where only cleaner vehicles can enter, or by limiting the times different types of vehicles can enter. Over 250 cities in Europe have such schemes in place. To cite just one example of the impact, Berlin has seen a 58 per cent reduction in diesel particles classified as human carcinogens by the WHO. Further, the Berlin LEZ has also reduced NOx emissions by 20 per cent.
Another key element of the Beijing programme has been the prohibition of sales of diesel cars without particle filters. Steps in this direction have also recently spread to Europe, where the mayor of Paris has called for a ban on diesel cars from the city by 2020.

What can Delhi do? Quite a bit. First, it can look to the “Auto Fuel Vision and Policy, 2025” report by the Saumitra Chaudhuri Committee, submitted to the government over 10 months ago. This committee was charged with establishing a roadmap for fuel quality and vehicle emission standards through 2025 and concluded, among other things, that the country could switch to ultra-low sulphur fuels with a maximum of 10 PPM sulphur by 2020. With this fuel quality, each new diesel car, truck and bus in the country should be required to meet state-of- the-art emissions standards and be equipped with a wall-flow particulate filter. Just as Beijing is doing, Delhi should also enhance the Euro requirements by adding onboard refuelling vapour recovery and eliminating evaporative emissions. The annual inspection of in-use vehicles must be upgraded, beginning with buses and trucks and gradually expanding it to include all vehicles. It should also push for the creation of the national automobile pollution and fuel authority responsible for all vehicle emissions and related fuel quality issues.

Beyond that, following the lead of Beijing and many other cities, it can establish urban access regulations to restrict the use of the dirtiest vehicles in major parts of the city. Special restrictions on the sale and use of diesel cars can also be an important element of Delhi’s overall strategy.
If Delhi moves forward in close coordination with the national government, the problem can once again be turned around and the residents of Delhi can once again see gradual progress towards clean and healthy air quality.
The writer, a mechanical engineer, has spent his career working on motor vehicle pollution control issues at the local, national and international levels. He is the founding chairman of the board of directors of the International Council on Clean Transportation

Monday, April 13, 2015

Crop losses due to unseasonal rains to top Rs 100 cr

Unseasonal rains and hailstorms are likely to result in insurance claims to the tune of Rs 100 crore for crop losses, as per Agriculture Insurance Company (AIC).

Uttar Pradesh may top the list of states when it comes to crop insurance claims and AIC has exposure to only 13 districts in the Bundelkhand region and is staring at claims of Rs 25 crore from the state.
for 2014-15, the company has already settled Rs 5,167.58 crore in claims and underwritten Rs 2,750 crore in premium.

For AIC, Madhya Pradesh topped the chart in claim settlement during 2014-15 and the company had to pay Rs 2,000 crore in this state alone. It was followed by Tamil Nadu (Rs 800 crore), Andhra Pradesh (Rs 400 crore) and Uttar Pradesh (Rs 270 crore).

Largest private sector general insurer ICICI Lombard had an underwritten premium of around Rs 500 crore during 2014-15

Ground reality of agriculture in India

Ground reality of agriculture in India

The agriculture sector in Indian economy nowadays is struggling for existence. Problems of livelihood in rural India, particularly for the poor farmers, problems like backwardness, lack of basic amenities of health and education forced farmers to migrate from rural region to cities and towns. It does reflect the agricultural set back for Indian economy.

It is absolute that agricultural sector is key to welfare of common men in the country as whole. It is loud and clear that more than half of country's total employment is through agricultural sector. Also in rural India at least 75% of the total population also depends upon agriculture or in agriculture related activities. Statically it has been revealed that percentage of agricultural inputs in the total GDP of the country decreased drastically.
In 1950-51 the share of agriculture in total GDP was 51.9% but in 2012-13 it came down as 13.7%. From various surveys and research, the above all outcome unveils the sour truth that the socio-economic equality in India are mere some words in Indian Constitution.
"EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all" ,"JUSTICE, social, economic and political" in the preamble of Indian Constitution has no role and importance in the context of today's Indian Economy.
Indeed in India agriculture is a vital weapon for weaker section in rural India to wipe out problems like poverty and economic inequality. As per a research many agrarian economists believe that agriculture is 200% effective in reducing poverty than any other economic means. The most important reason for slow down of Indian agricultural sector is decreasing level of public investment and lack of government's bold and effective policy.
When on the one hand Indian farmers in rural India demand the "Right of land" like "Right of education", "Right to information" and "Right to food", at the same time on the other hand our Union Government wants to implement the Land Acquisition Ordinance. As per many economists it is quite clear that boom in agricultural sector in less developed areas would lead to increase in overall agricultural growth as well as reduction of poverty and hunger in rural India.
Land Acquisition Ordinance by Modi-led government may be an issue for all the opposition parties for their political establishment, but the harsh reality on ground is that now the fate of agriculture sector is on stake. The Union Government including all the state governments are not able to understand the potential of India's agriculture sector that it is capable of at least 5 per cent growth constantly. With this within five years it will be an extra aid to GDP, which will not only automatically boost the Indian economy but also problems like the economic inequality, poverty and hunger would be wiped out. If the Union government can take some bold decisions instead of Land Ordinance, than only it can be possible.
The government's decision to provide more subsidies and less investment of public expenditure in agriculture is one of the worst reason of slowing down the agriculture sector. If the decision of providing 80 per cent subsidies and 20 per cent investment is reversed than the output from Indian agricultural sector must bounce back. If it is not possible than at least the government should provide 50 per cent subsidies and 50 per cent investment through public expenditure in agriculture will be like a blessing of almighty for poor farmers of our nation.
The constant increase in fertiliser subsidies to farmers especially in Punjab and Haryana is not a blessing but a curse. Because using more fertilizers in fields will destroy the quality of the soil and it may be impossible to grow any crop in the same field after 10-15 years. In short it hampers the environmental sustainability.
Every civilised and developed economy has it's capable states which only concentrate more on agricultural development without interfering into the freedom and right of citizens in any other aspects. Agricultural export provide a unique opportunity to developing country like India but the slow down in this sector results a set back for agricultural export.
As per the World Trade Organisation (WTO), in International trade, price support for agricultural product is key for a developing economy to touch the sky of glory in the field of economic development which has not been seen yet. There should be a better assessment of Indian farmers to both input and output, markets, technology and better infrastructure.
But here in India the government seems more busy in imposing the Land Acquisition Ordinance by hook or crook without feeling the reality on ground.

52%. Indians indulge in self-medication: survey

52% Indians indulge in self-medication

Over 52 per cent Indians indulge in self-medication, a practice bearing severe health risks and a trend that is increasing due to either time constraints or the perception of doing away with the doctors’ fees, as per a survey conducted by Lybrate, a doctor-patient end-to-end communication platform.

For the survey 20,000 respondents were reached out to in 10 cities across India and now, to take its fight to the people, the company has recently launched a nationwide campaign – Say No to Self Medication – to spread awareness about its ill effects. Un-prescribed medicines are known to make the body resistant to antibiotics besides causing heath problems.

In India, self medication undoubtedly is a big problem. People do not check with doctors before taking a pill in cases of minor health problems. They take medicines on their own, forgetting that this might have adverse effect on their health. Given the scenario, the launch of the campaign is a great initiative.

Make the polluter pay

Make the polluter pay

By Michael GreenstoneRohini PandeNicholas Ryan and Anant Sudarshan

London was once known as “the big smoke”. Osaka, Japan, was the “smoke capital.” Los Angeles was the “smog capital of the world”. And most recently, Beijing gained notice as a major pollution capital. While cities are hotbeds for vibrant culture, economic activity and growth, they too often become air pollution capitals during times of rapid development. Delhi, like many of India’s cities, is no different.
During their time of development, each of these major cities felt the pain of pollution: greater rates of sickness, lost work time and lost loved ones. Each chose to confront this pollution, resulting in measurably cleaner skies and healthier citizens. Now, India faces the same choice. While India’s policymakers will need to find the right balance between improvements in health and costs to industry, history shows that, with the right policies, it can improve its citizen’s health and continue to prosper.
The first step is for India to acknowledge that the heavy smog that too often blankets Delhi and other Indian cities is harming citizens’ health. In a recent study, we found high pollution cuts most Indian lives short by three years. Our study is just one of many linking pollution to health threats. In a study commissioned by the Central Pollution Control Board, scientists from India’s top cancer institutes tracked 11,000 schoolchildren in Delhi and other cities for three years. They found that particulate pollution had likely caused irreversible reduction in the children’s lung function. Now, doctors are telling patients to leave the city before their conditions worsen.
It doesn’t need to be this way. We’ve found that improved compliance with Indian air quality standards for airborne particulate matter would save 2.1 billion life-years for more than half of the population exposed to this deadly pollution. And those standards are weaker than what the World Health Organisation recommends. So, if the standards were stricter, it would be possible to save even more life-years.
There are many useful ideas India could consider that have been successful elsewhere in the world in reducing pollution without high costs. One way to improve compliance with current standards could be for India to increase its use of technology in monitoring air pollution emissions from industrial plants, and to make this data easily accessible to the public (for example, by putting it online). Intermittent sampling of industries, done once or twice a year, is not enough for regulators to get a clear picture of who is polluting the most.
Further, there are not enough monitoring stations for the public to learn about pollution in the air they breathe. As a point of comparison, Beijing has 35 monitoring stations, while Delhi has only 21, and too many Indian cities have even fewer. Increased ambient air monitoring would help researchers and State Pollution Control Boards to identify pollution hot spots and create more public pressure for compliance.
Installing a “polluter pays” system is another way countries have successfully reduced pollution. Currently, India’s flagship environmental laws are built on an outdated criminal system with draconian penalties, such as industry closure, which are costly and difficult to enforce. We do not want to close industry down; we want to clean it up. A greater reliance on civil rather than criminal penalties would provide polluters with an incentive to reduce pollution.
Using a market-based approach, like an emissions trading system, is another proven tool used by the United States, European Union and now China. Such an approach reduces pollution at the lowest possible cost, so as to encourage the economic growth that is vital for India’s future. This approach is flexible enough to work for many pollutants, and on many scales. In the city of Los Angeles, for example, trading systems and tighter fuel standards have played critical roles in cleaning up the air.
Beyond industry, traffic congestion, the burning of waste and other sources also emit pollution into the air. As such, it’s important to consider innovative reforms such as congestion pricing, improved public transit, and more stringent fuel standards. Reducing pollution will be less costly if reductions come from all sources.
We all breathe the same air. Air pollution harms us, whether we are poor or rich; whether we walk, pedal a bike, drive a car, or sit in the back seat to be driven. It seeks out even the most powerful, as is evidenced by the notorious asthmatic cough of Delhi’s own chief minister.
Yet, India does not have to tolerate this threat. Actions to improve monitoring, make polluters pay, and put a price on emissions can be implemented in cost-effective ways so that they are compatible with the economic growth that is vital for India’s future. Great countries and cities throughout history have never stalled by trying in earnest to cut air pollution.
What comes to mind when we think of London, Osaka, and Los Angeles today? Only that they are some of the richest, most vibrant cities in the world.
(Greenstone is Milton Friedman professor in economics and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. Pande is Mohammed Kamal professor of public policy and director of the Evidence for Policy Design initiative at Harvard University’s Centre for International Development. Ryan is assistant professor of economics at Yale University. Sudarshan is executive director of the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago’s India office)