The News Editorial Analysis 28 September 2021 | Shikara Academy

The News Editorial Analysis 28 September 2021

Unique digital ID for citizen health & care facilities.

All citizens will get digital health ID: PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday launched the digital Ayushman Bharat Mission and said the initiative would bring about a revolutionary change in India’s health facilities, improve ease of living, and digitally protect the health records of people.He said in a virtual address that the mission would create a seamless online platform that would enable interoperability within the digital health ecosystem.

Referring to the Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) trinity, the prime minister said the digital infrastructure was taking everything from ‘Ration to Prashasan’ to the common Indian in a fast and transparent manner. “There is no such big connected infrastructure anywhere in the world,” Modi said.

The PM said the Ayushman Bharat–Digital Mission would connect the digital health solutions of hospitals across the country with each other and simplify hospital processes. Every citizen would be able to get a health ID and their health record would be digitally protected, Modi said. Experts, however, have raised privacy concerns around the digitisation of the health records of people, especially in absence of a data protection law or a data protection authority. Digital rights organisation Access Now has said in a letter to the health ministry: “The use of ‘unique identifiers’ imperils privacy, and enables the “mosaicing” or creation of a complete profile of users, which can be used to target them by commercial or state actors. This must not be permitted.”

Modi stressed that the initiative would play a very important role in eliminating the medical problems of the poor and the middle-class section of society.He acknowledged that diseases were one of the key reasons to push families into the vicious cycle of poverty. Modi said women in these families were the worst sufferers as they would always relegate their health issues to the background.

More than 20 million citizens have so far availed of the facility of free treatment under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, half of whom are women, according to the government. The PM acknowledged that diseases were one of the key reasons to push families into the vicious cycle of poverty. He said women in these families were the worst sufferers as they would always relegate their health issues to the background.

The Ayushman Bharat scheme was launched by the prime minister on September 23, 2018. So far, 23,000 hospitals have been empanelled under the scheme, 40 per cent of which are from the private sector. It was in the middle of the pandemic that the government had launched the national digital health mission. The unique digital health ID is part of this programme which seeks to give control over their health data and digital personal health records.

Private sector hospitals have termed the announcement a watershed moment, which would transform the way health care is delivered in the country. “The implications of this programme are far wider than what is being perceived today. It’s like a neural system for the entire ecosystem where the signals will flow up and down. That is what would bring inefficiency in the healthcare system,” said Ashutosh Raghuvanshi, managing director and CEO, Fortis Healthcare.

Health experts said the biggest advantage to users would be that they would not have to repeat certain investigations since there would be a unified format and standards in the digital system. The digital health mission would also ensure the flow of information to insurance providers.

“This programme will be a game-changer and provide timely and hassle-free medical care to people all over India. The only challenge we foresee is the ability and willingness to implement a digital ecosystem in all our health care services and to come out of our comfort zone of providing physical services,” said Shuchin Bajaj, founder and director, Ujala Cygnus Group of Hospitals.

India gets first herbicide-tolerant & nom-GM rice varieties; launch today

The varieties — Pusa Basmati 1979 and Pusa Basmati 1985 — contain a mutated acetolactate synthase (ALS) gene making it possible for farmers to spray Imazethapyr, a broad-spectrum herbicide, to control weeds.


The Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) has developed the country’s first-ever non-GM (genetically modified) herbicide-tolerant rice varieties that can be directly seeded and significantly save water and labour compared to conventional transplanting.

The varieties — Pusa Basmati 1979 and Pusa Basmati 1985 — contain a mutated acetolactate  synthase (ALS) gene making it possible for farmers to spray Imazethapyr, a broad-spectrum herbicide, to control weeds. This dispenses with the need to prepare nurseries where paddy seeds are first raised into young plants, before being uprooted and replanted 25-35 days later in the main field.


Need to think of ‘respectable jobs’ for landless and small farm households: NITI Aayog member.

Paddy transplantation is both labor- and water-intensive. The field where the seedlings are transplanted has to be “puddle” or tilled in standing water. For the first three weeks or so after transplanting, the plants are irrigated almost daily to maintain a water depth of 4-5 cm. Farmers continue giving water every two-three days even for the next four-five weeks when the crop is in tillering (stem development) stage.

“Water is a natural herbicide that takes care of weeds in the paddy crop’s early-growth period. The new varieties simply replace water with Imazethapyr and there’s no need for nursery, puddling, transplanting and flooding of fields. You can sow paddy directly, just like wheat,” said A K Singh, director of IARI.

Imazethapyr, effective against a range of broadleaf, grassy and sedge weeds, can’t be used on normal paddy, as the chemical does not distinguish between the crop and the invasive plants. The ALS gene in rice codes for an enzyme (protein) that synthesises amino acids for crop growth and development. The herbicide sprayed on normal rice plants binds itself to the ALS enzymes, inhibiting their production of amino acids.

The new basmati varieties contain an ALS gene whose DNA sequence has been altered using ethyl methanesulfonate, a chemical mutant. As a result, the ALS enzymes no longer have binding sites for Imazethapyr and amino acid synthesis isn’t inhibited. The plants can also now “tolerate” application of the herbicide, and hence it kills only the weeds.


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“This is herbicide-tolerance through mutation breeding, not GM. There isn’t any foreign gene here,” Singh pointed out.

Both Pusa Basmati 1979 and 1985 have been bred by crossing existing popular varieties — Pusa 1121 and Pusa 1509, respectively — with ‘Robin’. The latter is a mutant line derived from Nagina 22, an upland drought-tolerant rice variety. The mutant was identified for Imazethapyr-tolerance by S Robin, a rice breeder from Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore.

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Farmers in Punjab and Haryana are already adopting direct seeding of rice (DSR) in response to labour shortages and depleting water tables. This year alone, roughly 6 lakh of the total 44.3 lakh hectares area under paddy in the two states has come under DSR.

DSR cultivation is currently based on two herbicides, Pendimethalin (applied within 72 hours of sowing) and Bispyribac-sodium (after 18-20 days). As Singh pointed out, “These are costlier than Imazethapyr (Rs 1,500 versus Rs 300/acre). Imazethapyr, moreover, has a wider weed-control range and is safer, as the ALS gene isn’t present in humans and mammals. Even in the herbicide-tolerant rice, the chemical will target only the weeds.”Transplantation in paddy typically requires about 30 irrigations, each consuming some 5 hectare-cm of water (one hectare-cm equals 100,000 liters). Puddling alone takes up about 15 hectare-cm. In all, DSR is estimated to need 30 per cent less water, save Rs 3,000 per acre in transplantation labour charges, and also 10-15 days’ time due to no nursery preparation.

FM: Not just more, but bigger banks needed; future to be driven by digitized processes.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said India would need four or five more big banks like State Bank of India (SBI) to scale up banking and meet the changing requirements of the economy and industry.

While banks in many countries could not reach out to their clients during the pandemic, the level of digitization of Indian banks helped us to transfer money to small, medium and big account holders through DBT and digital mechanisms, she added.

Sitharaman underlined the importance of seamless and interconnected digital systems in creating a sustainable future for Indian banking industry. “Long-term future of Indian banking is going to be largely driven by digitized processes.”

The benefits of digitization notwithstanding, the Finance Minister observed that there are wide disparities as well in access to financial services. “There are parts of our country where brick-and-mortar banks are necessary,” she said.

The FM asked the IBA to improve access of banking in every district through a rationalised approach and optimal utilization of digital technologies. To achieve this, she advised the IBA to carry out digitized location-wise mapping of all bank branches for every district of the nation.

“Almost two-thirds of nearly 7.5 lakh panchayats have optical fibre connection, IBA should consider this and conduct an exercise and decide where banks should have a physical presence and where we are able to serve customers even without physical branch,” she said. IBA should take the initiative and complement the government’s efforts for financial inclusion and enhancing access to financial services, especially in unserved and under-served areas, Sitharaman added.

The FM reminded bankers of the need to adapt in line with fast changes in technology. “What we think is latest today will be outdated in a year or so, we have to thus acquire resources to constantly update ourselves.”

“Such nimbleness and agility are especially important in India being able to achieve the ambitious export targets we have set for ourselves,” she said.

The government has given an export target of $2 trillion by 2030, $1 trillion in merchandise exports and $1 trillion in service exports. “In an age of rapid change post the pandemic, there are going to be a lot of challenges in how we look at customers. These challenges cannot be addressed unless banks are going to be nimble, with sound understanding of various businesses and sectors,” the Finance Minister said.

Hence, the banking industry needs specialists to understand the unique business requirements of diverse sectors and the many businesses who are rapidly relocating to India, she said.

Sitharaman also spoke of the high potential for banking outreach in the eastern region.

“The eastern region of this country has more than adequate CASA (current account savings account), but there are no takers for credit. You need to address this issue and see how you can lend in those regions, in states such as Bihar,” she said.

The Finance Minister said the UPI needs to be strengthened. “In the payment world today, Indian UPI has actually made a very big impression. A RuPay card which was not as glamorous as a foreign card is now accepted in so many different parts of the world, symbolic of India’s futuristic digital payment intentions.

“Fintech understands that UPI is its backbone, you have to give it its flesh and blood, you have to strengthen UPI,” she told bankers.

She stressed that the National Asset Reconstruction Company Ltd is not a badbank. “It is a formulation intended to clean up banks’ assets and dispose of NPAs in a speedy manner. Banks are now able to raise money from the market, hence the burden on govt. to recapitalize banks will be less, this is how we want banks to function – a lot more professional, with a changed mindset.”

Multiple rallies held by farmers and others across the State on day of Bharat Bandh.

Bharat Bandh Today highlights: Highways, rail tracks blocked.

Thousands left high and dry for 10 hours amid farmers’ protests

According to the SKM, people gathered at more than 500 locations in Punjab to express their support to the bandh.

The News Editorial Analysis 28 September 2021

Several trains were cancelled, highways and key roads blocked and many thousands stranded for hours on Monday as a nationwide 10-hour shutdown against the Centre’s three agri laws disrupted lives across parts of India, particularly in the north.

The 6 am to 4 pm Bharat Bandh, which saw demonstrations and rallies in many places, passed off relatively peacefully with no reports of injuries or serious clashes. The impact was felt the most around Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh, the centre of the farm protests, and also in large pockets of Kerala, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Odisha.

Protesters blocked highways and arterial roads and squatted on tracks in several places from morning as the shutdown called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of 40 farmer unions, got underway. The blockade was lifted at 4 pm.

The SKM claimed in a statement that its call for a shutdown had received an “unprecedented and historic” response from more than 23 states and not a single untoward incident was reported from anywhere.

Massive traffic snarls in Delhi’s border areas amid Bharat Bandh

“Reports have been pouring in about the overwhelmingly positive and resounding response to the Bharat Bandh call … to mark 10 months of peaceful protests with rightful demands from the ‘anna­daatas’ of the country,” it said.

The day marks one year since President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the three controversial laws and 10 months since thousands of farmers set up camp at Delhi’s border points to voice their protest. Looking ahead, Bhara­tiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said at an online discussion that a solution could only be reached through dialogue and not in the courts.

“I don’t know what is going to be the end of this protest but the movement has begun and the country’s youth, which often remained away from discussion on farming-related iss­ues, is also joining it,” he said.Tikait also issued a statement to say that the response had shown their protest is a “pan Indian” one. The agitation, he said, can end today if the Centre agrees to a rollback.”

Though life in large parts of India was unhindered by the shutdown, north India felt the pinch with about 25 trains being affected and massive jams that prevented the cross border movement of commuters as well as trucks carrying essentials.

The Delhi-NCR region, including the satellite towns of Gurgaon, Ghaziabad and Noida, where thousands cross the borders each day was particularly hit. Delhi itself was mostly unaffected, but there was chaos at its borders with traffic snarls that stretched through much of the day and commuters who couldn’t get to office, or college or even to that important doctor’s appointment.

Farmers blocked other roads leading into the national capital, including at Ghazipur in western Uttar Pradesh. Not far away in Sonipat in Haryana, some farmers squatted on tracks. In nearby Patiala in Punjab, too, members of the BKU-Ugrahan sat on the tracks to register their protest.

Punjab saw a complete shutdown in many places, including Moga where farmers blocked national highways. Farmer leaders from Punjab have, in many ways, spearheaded the year-long protest.

“#I Stand With Farmers & appeal the Union Govt. to repeal the three anti-farmer laws. Our farmers have been struggling for their rights since more than a year & it is high time that their voice is heard…,” Punjab’s new chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi said in a tweet.

According to the SKM, people gathered at more than 500 locations in Punjab to express their support to the bandh.

In neighbouring Haryana, highways in Sirsa, Fatehabad and Kurukshetra were blocked.

There were also reports of farmers squatting on rail tracks at a few places in the two states. “More than 20 locations are being blocked in Delhi, Ambala, and Firozepur divisions. About 25 trains are affected due to this,” a Northern Railway spokesperson said.

Many non-NDA parties extended support to the bandh. These included the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Left parties and Swaraj India. The YSR Congress government in Andhra Pradesh had also announced support to the Bandh.

In West Bengal, life was largely unaffected but Left activists blocked roads and railway tracks in many places. Images from Kolkata showed protesters swarming a section of a railway track. Similar images came in from West Midnapore with Left Front supporters blocking the IIT Kharagpur-Hijri railway line.

The ruling Trinamool Congress stayed away but said it supported the demands of the SKM. Elsewhere in the region, vehicular movement was impacted and shops shut in several places in Jharkhand. In Bihar and Odisha, too, there was a mixed response.

In Kerala, where the strike was supported by the ruling LDF and the opposition Congress-led UDF, KSRTC bus services were off the road with almost all trade unions in the state taking part.

The New Outer Space Order

The need for an effective Outer Space treaty & its significance for India.

What’s the matter?

Recently Indian PM in Washington in opening new pathways for outer space cooperation with its Quad allies mainly the US has positioned India to engage more productively with a rapidly evolving domain.

The Future Cooperation for better Relation:

  • India & the US has decided to continue & expand their partnerships in new domains & many critical & emerging technology areas which will define innovation processes & the economic-security landscape of the next century.
  • The Tech-coop has always been an important part of India-US relations.
  • However, due to overhauling global economic-security structures by emerging tech, both nations have to widen the tech interface.
  • Both will have a critical role in facilitating tech cooperation in the advanced areas.
  • However, the commercial sector is the foremost thin to set the pace for progress within India & also cross-border collaboration with Quad corporate will be critical in implementing the ambitious tech agenda.
  • At this juncture, the tech progress for the last decades has produced the two most important domains.
  • Cyberspace drives modern life & occupies much of policy & political attention around the world.
  • The other is Outer Space whose emergence as a strategic domain is yet to deserve attention in the Indian policy-making arena.


The Outer-Space Cooperation:

  • Though the space activities began in mid 20thcentury, the intensity of its activities along with commercial & security implications has dramatically increased in recent decades.
  • It has become a lucrative business & military competition arena for the big powers.
  • Until recently, outer space is the sole preserve of states, but the entry of major private entities into space commerce has changed the dynamics & space became a critical factor shaping military balance on the ground.
  • For decades the US has dominated outer space in the commercial domain.
  • However, the emergence of China as a space power is reshaping astro-politics.
  • This dramatic expansion of Chinese space capabilities & its ambitious targets has created a urgent need for democratic nations to come together to secure their national interest & promote sustainable order.

India & Cooperation it needs:

  • For decades, the maritime domain has dominated the strategic cooperation between India & Quad members mainly the US.
  • The rise, fall & resurrection of the Quad is linked to the construction of new maritime geography because the rise of China has encouraged the Pacific & Indian ocean as a geopolitical continuum.
  • India has strengthened its maritime awareness to an extent through bilateral agreements & IFC-IOR.
  • However, at the Washington summit, outer space became a new arena for space cooperation
  • At the bilateral level, India & the US have agreed for space cooperation intensification, while Quad has set up a new working group on space-related issues.



The need for Outer Space Cooperation to India:

  • India has recognized two important trends that made outer space a new strategic interest:The centrality of emerging technologies in shaping the st century global order.
  • The urgency of writing new rules for the road to peace & stability in outer space.
  • India is deeply invested in the space arena because it has developed significantly its space capabilities over the years.
  • At the same time, the US has recognized the need for partners in defining space order.
  • At this juncture, both India & the US decided to finalize a Space Situational Awareness Memorandum of Understanding that helps in sharing data & services towards ensuring the long-term sustainability of outer space activities.
  • The SSA will place a very important role because space is integral to our lives & disruption of space-based infra will have serious consequences.


  • The Quad-based working group needs to identify new collaboration opportunities & share satellite data for peaceful purposes & responding to challenges in shared domains.
  • At the same time, Quad nations need to keep up their promise to consult on rules, norms, guidelines & principles for ensuring the sustainable use of outer space.
  • There is a urgent need for substantive national policy action in India due to the growing strategic salience of outer space.
  • India needs to push for more reforms like allowing private players in space activities.
  • It needs to continue & intensify the space security dialogue with its close partners like the US, Japan & France.


Concluding Remarks:

India urgently needs to reform its policies to cater to the growing challenges & opportunities in outer-space. At the same time as the commercial & military activity in outer space grows, the agreements like Outer Space treaty needs to be reinforced & renewed.



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