In blockchain voting, leave out the general election
ECI - idea of further digitisingthe electoral infrastructure of India.
Online conference: ECI - Tamil Nadu e-Governance Agency - IIT Madras
Blockchain technology - remote elections
Blockchain: is a distributed ledger of information which is replicated across various nodes on a “peer-to-peer” network for the purpose of ensuring integrity and verifiability of data stored on the ledger.
Arguments in favour of remote voting are plenty.
Beneficial for migrants.
Key issues, security concerns
Senior Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena: electors have to physicallyreach a designated venue
Biometricattributes of electors
Digitisation and interconnectivity introduce additional points of failureexternal to the processes which exist in the present day.
Blockchain solutions rely heavily on the properimplementation of cryptographic protocols.
Attacker can clone the biometric attributes
Blockingtraffic from the system
Naturally, the more levers that are involved in the operation of a system, the more prone it would become to possible malfunction.
Are we obsessed with techno-solutionism?
NSO’s survey of ‘Household Social Consumption on Education in India’ - July 2017-June 2018 - highlights the poor state of computer and Internet access in several States.
Broadband policy of 2004 - digital chasm (खाई/दरार)
Pandemic – lockdown – huge loss for students
Internet access exceeding 50% for urban and rural households
Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala: 50% plus
Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand: 40% plus
UP, TN, Andhra and Karnataka: 20% minus
In rural Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and West Bengal: net connectivity is 5% to 10%
Reliabilityproblems and powerdeficits
PM Modi - Independence Day address - all villages would be connected with optical fibre cable in 1,000 days.
States have not shown the alacrity to make a big leap either.
Mapping the needs of each district based on the NSO data will help identify areas where children do need equipment and connectivity.
A necessary pause
COVID-19 vaccine - unrealistic expectations
AstraZeneca - AZD1222 - Phase-3 trials - voluntarily putting the multi-national trial on hold
Political dividends - U.S. President Trump
ICMR - Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin -August 15
Russia - Sputnik V’s Phase-3 testing
AstraZeneca and eight companies developing vaccines signed a pledge that they would not approach regulatory authorities, such as the U.S. FDA, until they had safety and efficacy data from a Phase-3 trial.
The twisted trajectory of Bt cotton
Cotton has been woven and used in India for thousands of years.
Cotton fabric from around 3,000 BCE - Mohenjo-daro
5,000BCE - Mehrgarh, Pakistan
Indian cotton fabrics dominated the world trade during the succeeding millennia and were exported to many places, including Greece, Rome, Persia, Egypt, Assyria and parts of Asia.
Much of the cotton cultivated until the 20thcentury was of the indigenous ‘desi’ variety, Gossypium arboreum.
From the 1990s, hybrid varieties of G. hirsutum were promoted.
These hybrids cannot resist a variety of local pests and require more fertilizers and pesticides.
moth pests (Lepidopteran) such as the Pink Bollworm (PBW) - sap-sucking (Hemipteran) pests such as aphids and mealy bugs.
Btcotton was introduced in India in 2002
Genetically modified (GM) cotton, the plant containing the pesticide gene from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), has been grown in India for about twenty years.
Bt was a panacea for dwindling yields and pesticide expenses.
K.R. Kranthi and Glenn Davis Stone - Nature Plants
Kranthi and Stone’s review examines data over 20 years, studying each State separately and correcting for illegal Bt cotton planting.
Bt acreage was only 3.4% of the total cotton area in 2003, not sufficient to credit it for the 61% increase in yield in 2003-2004.
With only 15.7% Bt cotton coverage by 2005, yield increases were over 90% over 2002 levels.
Gujarat’s surge in cotton yields was 138% in 2003, even as Bt cotton was used only for 5% of land under cotton.
Similar findings are seen in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan, where yield increase is incongruous with the spread of Bt cotton.
The rise in cotton yields can be explained by improvements in irrigation, for instance in Gujarat, and a dramatic growth across the country in the use of fertilizers.
By 2018, farmers were spending an average of $23.58 per hectare on insecticide — 37% more than the pre-Bt levels.
A technologythat works in the lab may fail in fields since real-world success hinges on multiple factors, such as different kinds of pests and local soil and irrigation conditions.
India’s global rank for cotton production is 36 despite heavy fertilizer use, irrigation, chemicals and Bt cotton usage.
The cost of ignoring ‘desi’ varieties for decades has been high for India.
These varieties resist many pests and don’t present the problems faced with hybrids.
Rethinking the defence doctrine
Failure of the warning-intelligence system
Policy and militarycustomers failed to take the warning seriously
China has no interest in launching a major conventional invasion, but this is not just a typical probe either.
Rather, its quick land grab looks increasingly permanent, like an attempt to change the border without triggering war.
This fait accompli leaves India with two awful choices: either start a war by launching its own reprisal attack, or do nothing and accept a new status quo.
The military must be able to detect adversary action and react quickly, even pre-emptively, to stop attempted aggression from becoming a fait accompli.
In peacetime, local commanders must have the authority and gumption to take anticipatory action and go on the offensive or fill forward defensive positions.
The challenge for India is to learn the right lessons and be alert to similar tactics in other regions, like the Indian Ocean.
It must not rely on doctrines forged in wars half a century ago.
Redefining a farmer
Agriculture sector - Atmanirbhar Bharat
The post COVID-19responses in the sector range from investments in agri-infrastructure, logistics and capacity building to governance and administrativereforms.
The direct cash transfer scheme under PM-KISAN and the credit boost through PM Kisan Credit Cards have benefitted farmers both directly and indirectly.
The ₹110 crore scam reported in the PM-KISAN scheme in Tamil Nadu recently is also a stark reminder of how even eligible beneficiaries can be cheated out of the scheme by colluding officials.
Laws governing land leasing operate at different levels across India.
The Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016 was introduced to formalise land leasing based on the recommendation of an expert panel appointed by NITI Aayog.
However, except a few States, a majority of State governments have not extended the scope of the Act to farmers.
The tenant farmer incurs the costs (including the rental payments) and faces the risks, while the owner receives the rent, subsidies and other support.
The lessees do not benefit from loan waivers, moratorium and institutional credit, and are forced to be at the mercy of moneylenders.
The distress is reflected in the fact that tenant farmers account for a majority of farmer suicides reported in the NCRB data.
The definition adopted in the 70th Round of NSSO seems to be appropriate.
Delinking of land as the defining criterion for a ‘farmer’ was done in the 70th round of Situation Assessment Survey (SAS) carried out by the NSSO, wherein agricultural households were defined as those receiving some value of produce from agricultural activities during the previous 365 days.
Further, a minimum cut off value of ₹3,000 for agricultural produce in the last 365 days was fixed as an additional requirement.
This was done to exclude households with insignificant shares of income obtained from agriculture. Similarly, the National Policy for Farmers, 2007 adopts a broad-based definition independent of ‘landownership’ as well as ‘valueof produce’.
This definition includes everyone engaged in agriculture and allied activities to eke out a livelihood, including persons engaged in shifting cultivation and collection of non-timber forest produce.
The definition delinks agriculture production from land per se, and not just ownership.
Access to land as a policy instrument in bringing about equitable growth of rural economies needs no further emphasis.
However, until the time ‘land to the tiller’ remains just wishful thinking, adopting a broader definition of a ‘farmer’ is a short-term solution to ensure inclusive and sustainable growth.