- Mock Questions for Mains
- Organic Farming (जैविक कृषि)
- Tomato inflation
- Pulses Inflation
Mock Questions for Mains
In the previous articles I’ve done the summary of Agriculture input, R&D and output related reforms suggested by Economic Survey and NITI3YR. Now let’s take care of some misc. topics of agriculture, with answer writing practice:
Answer following in 200 words each:
- In context of economic priorities vs environmental commitments, examine critically the utility of large scale adoption of organic farming in India.
- With special reference to tomatoes, enumerate the causes and remedies for inflation in perishables food articles.
- Discuss the underlying reasons behind the persistent inflation in the pulse prices in India and suggest remedies.
To gain maximum mileage from this, first write answer in A4 sized blank papers with 1″ margins and then proceed further.
Organic Farming (जैविक कृषि)
- Definition: Organic farming is a farming system with minimal or no use of chemicals fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides etc. and with a maximum input of organic manures, bio-control agents and healthy cropping systems such as mixed cropping, inter-cropping and crop rotation.
- Origin: In the ancient time, agriculture was practiced without the use of artificial chemicals or inputs. But during the mid-19th century, to achieve food security and gain export competitiveness, governments across the world begun to encourage their farmers to use chemical inputs and hybrid varieties. However, this kind of agricultural practice did great harm to soil health, water quality, ecological balance and human health. Thus, organic farming came into existence in the 20th century to use environment & health friendly practices by avoiding the use of artificial chemicals. (86 words)
Observe the ‘origin’ type introduction- It’s quite verbose and lengthy (86 words). I could have written in half the amount:
While ancient civilization practiced agriculture without use of chemicals, but modern nations opted for chemical intensive farming to achieve food security at the cost of ecological balance. Organic farming aims to undo this damage by avoiding artificial fertilizers, pesticides and other harmful cropping practices” (44 words)
Organic farming is not a regular topic unlike NPA, GST or financial inclusion. So, there is always a danger in the exam hall that you might not be able to recollect sufficient body points to fill 200 words. Then what will you do? Obviously the verbose bol-bachchan like this. Yes, UPSC rule says “Content is more important than length.” But observe that i’ve taken care to ensure that even the verbose origin is not looking ‘deliberated attempt’ to fill the space.
Benefits of Organic Farming?
- Farmers don’t have to depend on costly chemical inputs. Thus their profitability increases. [मंहेगी रासायनिक आगत]
- Organic farming restores, maintains and enhances the ecological balance.
- Chemical-free and pesticide-free therefore environmentally sustainable and nutrition wise, more valuable than chemical farming. [स्व्यास्थ्यकर पोषक तत्व है]
- Hence demand for such food is growing among educated elite class within and outside India. They’re willing to pay premium price for organic food.
- Since organic farming requires more labour input than conventional farming. Therefore, USA, Canada and others can’t pursue it due to population constrains and mechanized farming. So, India has export advantage in organic farming. This can greatly help in our goal of 2x farmer income by 2022.
Challenges in organic farming?
- Shelf life, color and texture of organically grown fruits/vegetables are less attractive than chemically grown hybrid / GMO varieties. So, unless ordinary consumers are made aware of their benefits they may not buy.
- Difficult to produce off-season crops using organic farming.
- Yield is lower than conventional mechanical farming, so if entire India became “100% organic farming” like Sikkim did, then it could lead to food insecurity and inflation problem! Because, yield is low so farmer would expect more price per unit quantity, then middle-class can’t afford.
Organic farming’s theoretical aspects I’ve copied from NCERTs only. It proves these textbooks are relevant not only for objective exams but also for descriptive exams.
(Not part of the question but for revision )
- Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY): every organic farmer is given Rs. 20,000 per acre for buying seeds till transporting produce to the market.
- 2016: Sikkim declared itself 100% organic farming state. Such branding and positioning will help in international export.
Indeed the organic farming has significant utility in achieving sustainable development and environmental protection but for a country as populous as India, it can supplement but not substitute commercial chemical based farming, because of government’s commitment towards food security and inflation control.
Question was “Critically examine large scale adoption feasibility” so our conclusion should be ‘finding type’ – whether we should do it yes or no? So the finding is “no”. Moving to the next question:
With special reference to tomatoes, enumerate the causes and remedies for inflation in perishables food articles. (200 words)
Introduction in all 3 ways:
- Definition: Though you can define tomato by its botanical family but irrelevant for general studies paper. If it was optional subject paper, then story is different. Similarly, “inflation is the general rise in the price of goods and services over a period of time…” that too doesn’t look very good because we are not asked about overall inflation but specifically tomato inflation.
- Origin: With green revolution, we became self-reliant in cereal production and with MSP and PDS system we were able to contain their inflation as well. But perishable fruits and vegetables have remained our Achilles’ heel.
- Data: Seasonal spikes in perishable food articles is a recurring nightmare for middle class families of India, especially in June-August 2017, when the prices of tomatoes increased by nine-times in some places! The underlying causes and remedies are as following:
Body#1: Tomato Yield has declined because:
- Global Warming: Tomato requires relatively cooler temperature at nights (~14-19 degrees) hence due to global warming and scourging summers, the yield has declined. April-May: heat wave destroyed nascent flowers of tomatoes .
- Pests: Maharashtra and Southern Indian farmers have been growing tomatoes since last 3 decades. Due to overuse of general pesticides whiteflies, red mites, gram pod borers and other pests have gained immunity. Consequently, crop-loss has increased.
- Viral Diseases: Many farmers had opted for Swiss MNC seed company’s “TO-1057” variety, but it turned out to be very vulnerable to Tiranga virus (tospovirus), almost 99% of the standing crop damaged in some regions.
- Solution? Seed companies will have to come up with heat-tolerant and disease seed varieties in future. And given above profiteering and exploitation by international seed companies, it’s high time India’s Sarkaari scientists shift their focus from ‘cereal centric research‘ towards such perishables.
For descriptive exams, No need to memorize the specific seed or virus name. I’ve mentioned them in article only for information purpose.
Body#2: Area under cultivation declined because:
- After demonetization, cash based retail vegetable industry suffered, resulting into lower prices to farmers in the last season. So they shifted away from tomatoes towards sugarcane, maize, soya, cauliflower, even grapes. Hence area under cultivation declined for tomatoes.
- Further, farmer strike in Maharashtra, wherein they spoilt truckload of tomatoes to vent their grievances.
- Solution? APMC reforms, E-NAM, cold-storage infrastructure. which I’ve already covered in last article.
Body#3: Supply has declined because:
- Yield has declined. [already explain above]
- Area under cultivation has declined. [already explain above]
- Heavy rains and floods disrupted supply chains.
- As such tomato is a perishable commodity, there is shortage of cold storage infrastructure in India, and whatever facilities are available the big traders utilize them for storing and hoarding onions and potatoes, thus leaving less space for the tomatoes’ storage even during bumper crops.
- India exports tomatoes to Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Traders have to fulfil such preordered items before filling up local mandis. This further reduced supply in the domestic market, thereby driving the tomato prices.
The body was longer than 200 words but in the exam you won’t recollect all points so it’ll compressed down. Anyways, Question was “enumerate” the problems and remedies. So it’s a “discussion” type question. Therefore, conclusion should be “Summary”. (besides, what finding will you share here? that tomato prices have increased because of this this and this- but then it’ll become very lengthy summary!)
Tomatoes and other perishables are rich source of vitamins and nutrients. They’re part of large varieties of Indian and international cuisines. Therefore, Inflation in tomato prices is indeed a matter of concern both with regard to (1) nutritional security and (2) export competitiveness. Hence aforementioned factors need to be addressed on priority basis, to curb the tomato price rise.
^ Observe that I’ve avoided extreme phrases in conclusion such as “It’s a failure of Modi Government and this is the result of demonetization….” Because UPSC is conducting mains exam for recruiting civil servants, not theHindu columnists or opposition leaders.
Discuss the underlying reasons behind persistent inflation of pulses in India and suggest remedies.
As such pulses inflation is a one year old topic. In 2016, government had constituted a Committee under CEA Arvind Subramanian to study pulse inflation problem. But since UPSC didnot ask it that time, and UPSC has a habit of asking topics one-two years after they occurred, so you should prepare nonethless.
Let’s use the same template from tomato inflation!
With green revolution, we proved the doomsayers wrong about their forecast of food crisis in India. We became self-reliant in many crops. But pulses remained our Achilles’ heel because:
Body#1: Problems and Remedies
- Finest irrigated land used for cereal and cash crops because of MSP issues. Remedy?
- Government should consider ‘social cost’ while declaring MSP i.e. environmentally damaging and chemical intensive crops should have less MSP than pulses. OR
- Pulses farmer should be given additional Rs.10-15 per kilo pulses grown via DBT to appreciate and encourage their work.
- Since pulses make the soil nitrogen rich, it encourages weed growth- which competes for the nutrients thereby affecting yield.
- Pulses themselves protein rich, this encourages (1) pests attack and (2) When stored in open godowns, humid conditions lead to fungal growth. 25% of the produce is lost by this. Remedy?
- PPP funded new institutes required to procure, store and dispose pulses in a fast and professional manner, because FCI’s logistical capacity is insufficient for this.
- To solve problem 2+3 = we also need new Hybrid / GM varieties. but Indian sarkaari scientists’ research focus is always ‘cereal centric’, as i had pointed out in the previous article.
- Remove pulses from APMC list. Tweak Essential Commodities Act to prevent hoarding without harassing genuine traders.
Body#2: Significance of Pulses
(Although not asked in the question but given here for revision:)
- They reduce inequality among farmers, because even rainfed dryland farmers can fetch good prices against those with irrigated and fertile lands.
- Pulses are environmentally sustainable, since they use less water and less fertilizer, hence emit less greenhouse gases per kg than meat, Milk. They play an important role in nitrogen fixing in the soil.
- Important source of protein for the poor and vegetarian people.
- Considering above factors, even UNGA declared 2016 as international year of pulses!
Question asked you to “discuss”, the conclusion should be “Summary” type.
Indeed, surge in pulse prices is a matter of concern- esp. for the poor and vegetarian population of India. With our diverse agro-climatic zones and large base of farmers, we can become self-reliant in pulse production, provided that the aforementioned issues in cultivation, procurement and sale are addressed at earliest.
OR you can blow the pipudi (small flute) of SDG also! Because if all three questions are asked in the same paper, then so far I’ve not SDG’ed any conclusion, so it’ll not look clichéd.
SDG goals require all the nations to eliminate hunger & malnutrition; encourage sustainable agriculture and double small farmers’ income. Indeed, pulses are significant in achievement of all these targets provided that aforementioned issues are addressed on priority basis.
For more details on pulses inflation, watch my lecture on this link.
Due to lack of time, I’m not doing the hindi translation, besides these topics have general english terms so you should be able to handle it on your own.