Indian Express Explained 07/06/2020

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Explained: What is the ongoing sixth mass extinction?

News: According to researchers at National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America(PNAS), the ongoing sixth mass extinction may be one of the most serious environmental threats to the persistence of civilisation.


  • Mass extinction: It refers to a substantial increase in the degree of extinction or when the Earth loses more than three-quarters of its species in a geologically short period of time.
  • Earlier Extinctions: There have been five mass extinctions that have taken place in the last 450 million years.This have led to the destruction of 70%-95% of the species of plants, animals and microorganisms that existed earlier.
    • These extinctions were caused by catastrophic alterations to the environment such as: Massive volcanic eruptions, Depletion of oceanic oxygen, Collision with an asteroid among others.
  • Sixth Extinction: The sixth mass extinction which is ongoing is referred to as the Anthropocene extinction or Holocene extinction.
    • The research has claimed that this extinction is human-caused and is more immediate than climate destruction.The rate of extinction of species is also estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than natural background rates.

Ayushman Bharat Positively Impact Lives

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

Context:  Recently, Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) crossed one crore treatments.

Ayushman Bharat

  • It was launched in 2018 as recommended by the National Health Policy 2017, to achieve the vision of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The scheme covers both prevention and health promotion.
  • National Health Authority is the apex body responsible for implementing the scheme.

There are two flagship programs under Ayushman Bharat program: Health and Wellness Centre and Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY).

A) Health and Wellness Centre: These centers seek to provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services. They also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services.

B) Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY):It is the world’s largest health insurance/ assurance scheme fully financed by the government. Over 10.74 crore poor and vulnerable entitled families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries) are covered under the programmed.


  • PM-JAY provides cover of Rs. 5 lakhs per family per year, for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization across public and private empaneled hospitals in India. There are no restrictions on family size, age or gender.
  • It provides cashless access to health care services for the beneficiary at the point of service, that is, the hospital.

Achievements of Ayushman Bharat

  1. Free and cashless treatment: In India, the out-of-pocket (OOP) payments for healthcare is very high. Ayushman Bharat has successfully reduced OOP payments of millions of poor by providing free and cashless treatments at both public and designated private hospitals.
  2. Portability:A key design feature of PM-JAY is portability. This has ensured equal access to quality health services, especially amongst the poor and vulnerable migrant population.
  3. PM-JAY and Covid-19:
  • Testing and treatment for COVID-19 is free of cost under PM-JAY for the beneficiaries.
  • PMJAY has strengthened the network of hospitals and service capabilities to ensure continued service delivery to both Covid and non-COVID-19 patients. Since April 1, 2020, more than 1,385 hospitals have been empaneled.
  • The National Health Authority (NHA) manages the national COVID-19 helpline 1075 has played disseminated precaution advisories on Covid-19 to beneficiaries.
  • It has a facilitated more than 15,000 tele-consultations with doctors.
  • It is also working with the ICMR on data cleansing and is conducting call data analysis for determining urgent cases being sent to ICMR.
  • NHA is also supporting the government’s Arogya Setu mobile application.
  1. IT integration and data generation: PMJAY has helped in generating large volumes of data which may be used later for designing better and targeted health programs, effective medical management, optimizing cost and improving efficiency.

Conclusion: Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY) has an important role to play during the Covid-19 pandemic. Along with the government, there should be active participation from the private sector in ensuring adequate supply of health services, medicines and essentials.

Reviving MGNREGA

Source – Indian Express

Syllabus – GS 2 – Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes

Context – With crores of migrants returning back to their villages, need is to update and revive MGNREGA

1.MGNREGA – Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

  1. The mandate of the MGNREGA is to provide at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual labor.
  2. MGNREGA is bottom-up, people-centered, demand-driven, self-selecting and rights-based program.


  1. Social Protection– Social protection for the most vulnerable people living in rural India by guaranteeing wage employment opportunities.
  2. Livelihood security– Enhance livelihood security of the rural poor through generation of wage employment opportunities in works leading to creation of durable assets.
  3. Rejuvenate natural resource base of rural areas.
  4. Rural assets– Create a durable and productive rural asset base.
  5. Focus on local governments– Deepen democracy at the grassroots by strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI).

3.Suggested Steps to revive MGNREGA

  1. Increasing fund allocation– The allocation for FY21, which amounts to 0.47 per cent of the GDP (Rs 1 lac crore including pending liabilities for FY20) continues to be much lower than the World Bank recommendations of 1.7 per cent for the optimal functioning of the programme.
  2. Responsibilities of PRI– Local bodies can proactively reach out to returned and quarantined migrant workers and help those in need to get job cards. This also includes giving more autonomy to gram panchayats under the act.
  3. Provisions for WASH– At the worksite, adequate facilities such as soap, water, and masks for workers must be provided free of cost for hygiene. For reasons of health safety, MGNREGA tools should not be shared between workers.
  4. Timely wage distribution – Lack of financial inclusion of rural people and low density of bank branches in rural areas need urgent reforms so that early distribution of wages to workers can be ensured.
  5. Expanding definition– Definition of MGNREGA need to include skilled work taken up by city migrants to cater their demand of work. Care work done by vulnerable sections like women can also be included in the definition.

Way Forward –The demand driven work under the Act will increase cash in hands of people which will boost the consumption and hence private investment will go up. MGNREGA, thus, is one of the most effective tools to revitalize the economy and promote welfare of vulnerable sections in post-CORONA India.

Agricultural Reforms

Source – Indian Express

Syllabus – GS 3 – Transport and marketing of agricultural produce and issues and related constraints

Context – The relief measures for agriculture announced in Atmanirbhar package targets only the market issues not the structural challenges

  1. Marketing Issues in Agriculture Sector

APMC Act was enacted to ensure that farmers mandatorily sell their produce in market yard (mandi) through auction and they do not depend on informal channels to sell their produce. However, over time inefficiencies and monopoly of mandi’s created following issues:

Figure 1- Supply chain under APMC Act

  1. Current reforms

Recently many states have adopted the model APLM Act,2018 as lockdown forced farmers into distressed sale of their produce:

  1. Rajasthan has allowed farmers to sell their produce directly to traders.
  2. Chhattisgarh is rolling out a direct cash transfer of a maximum of Rs. 10,000 per acre subject
  1. Implication– All the stakeholders in the supply chain will have following benefits:

Figure 2 –Supply chain under Model APLM Act and Model Contract Farming Act

  1. Issue with new reforms– 85% small and marginal farmers – Most of the farmers in agriculture sector are small and marginal. Thus, they have no economies of scale, bargaining power and can’t afford high transportation cost which will force them to sale their produce to small traders in their local markets and villages.

Figure 3- Issues faced by small and marginal farmers

  1. Suggested reforms
    Agriculture sector is in dire need of Structural Reforms which are:
  • Credit Availability– Increasing reach of institutional credit and ensuring promotion of long-term loans so that investment in next crop cycle can be made by farmers.
  • Promoting e-NAM– Creation of an online national market with provision for interstate trading license and freedom to farmers to choose their buyers and vice-versa.
  • Rationalizing subsidies– The fiscal cost of subsidies, poor targeting, effect on supply-demand of farm produce and environmental cost demands rationalizing them so that market forces can govern the farm production.
  • Boost to Food Processing Industries – FPI act as link between industry and farmer which ensures better income for farm produce on one hand and better value addition by industries on other. This creates employment opportunities for disguised labor force of agriculture and increase exports.

Way forward – Agriculture sector need holistic reforms across its all segments which include crop production management, pricing, marketing and value addition to double farmers income and ensure food security.

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