QUESTION : The pandemic is a colossal challenge but it may create fresh opportunities to bring India and Africa closer together”. Give a critical review on India-Africa relationship tackling all the challenges that are coming in between the holistic development of both the nations. 

Critical review on India-Africa relations. 
• India-Africa trade is on a decline.
o According to the Confederation of Indian Industry, in 2020-21, India’s exports to and imports from Africa stood, respectively, at $27.7 billion and $28.2 billion, a reduction of 4.4% and 25% over 2020.
• India’s investments in Africa too saw a decrease from $3.2 billion in 2019-20 to $2.9 billion in 2020-21.
• Total investments over 25 years, from April 1996 to March 2021, are now just $70.7 billion, which is about one-third of China’s investment in Africa.
• India’s top five markets today are South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Kenya and Togo.
• The countries from which India imports the most are South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Angola and Guinea.
• India’s top three exports to Africa are: 
o Mineral fuels and oils (processed petroleum products), 
o Pharmaceutical products and 
o Vehicles.
• The top two imports accounting for over 77% of our imports from Africa which consist of:
o Mineral fuels and Oils (essentially crude oil) and 
o Pearls, precious or semi-precious stones.
• The composition of the India-Africa trade has not changed much over the two decades.
• Africans have been deeply affected and remain ill-equipped during the Covid-19.
• A recent World Health Organization survey revealed that 41 African countries had fewer than 2,000 working ventilators among them.
• Experts suggest that the strength of community networks and the continuing relevance of extended family play an important supportive role. 
• Africa has some of the protocols in place, having recently suffered from Ebola, and managed it reasonably well. 
• The world caught up in coping with the novel coronavirus pandemic’s ill effects, flows of assistance and investment to Africa have decreased.
• According to the new study, Africa experienced a sharpened international competition, known as ‘the third scramble’, in the first two decades of the 21st century.
o A dozen nations from the Americas, Europe and Asia have striven to assist Africa in resolving the continent’s political and social challenges. 
o In turn, to benefit from Africa’s markets, minerals, hydrocarbons and oceanic resources, and thereby to expand their geopolitical influence.
• A mix of competition and contestation involving traditional and new players, especially the United States, the European Union (EU), China, Japan and India.
• Concern for India:
o While China has successfully used the pandemic to expand its footprint by increasing the outflow of its vaccines, unfortunately, India’s ‘vax diplomacy’ has suffered a setback. 
o This came in the wake of the following reasons: 
 The debilitating second wave of COVID-19 in the country, 
 The shortage of vaccine raw materials from the U.S. 
 Geopolitical tensions in Asia and
 The imperative to consolidate its position in the Indo-Pacific region.
o These reasons have compelled New Delhi to concentrate on its ties with the United Kingdom, the EU, and the Quad powers, particularly the U.S.
• Consequently, the attention normally paid to Africa lost out.
•  For mutual benefit, Africa and India should remain optimally engaged.
• India highlighted the following in the UN Security Council’s open debate on conflict and post-pandemic recovery in Africa: 
o The voice of Africa is not given its proper due.
o India’s role in peacekeeping in Africa, in lending support to African counter-terrorism operations, and contributing to African institutions through training and capacity-enhancing assistance.
o India’s aid for economic development in the African continent is set to continue.
• It is time to seize the opportunity and restore Africa to its primary position in India’s diplomacy and economic engagement.
• The third India-Africa Forum Summit was held in 2015. The fourth summit, pending since last year, should be held as soon as possible, even if in a virtual format.
• Fresh financial resources for grants and concessional loans to Africa must be allocated, as previous allocations stand almost fully exhausted.
o Without new commitments, India’s Africa policy would be like a car running on a near-empty fuel tank.
• The promotion of economic relations demands a higher priority. 
• Developing and deepening collaborations in health, space and digital technologies.
• To overcome the China challenge in Africa, increased cooperation between India and its international allies, rates priority.
• The India–Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) is the official platform for African-Indian relations.
• It is held triennially.
• India by consistently holding India- Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) in places like New Delhi (2008), Addis Ababa (2011) and New Delhi (2015) have already forged ties with the 54 African states through the African Union (AU).
• Rationale behind the initiative:
o Economically, Africa is very resource-rich and has moved from being an underdeveloped continent to having several fast-growing economies, and new democracies.
o The key shared interests in battling global terrorism, and piracy in the Indian Ocean.
o Politically, India’s ambition to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) makes it imperative that it engages with all 54 countries of the continent.
• Development so far:
o In the past three years alone, 25000 Africans have been trained or educated in India.
o Under the India Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, over 100 officials from sub-Saharan Africa receive training annually in India.
o The Pan Africa e-network, which now connects 48 African countries, is becoming the new highway of regional connectivity and human development. 
1. Robust Market for investment: Africa provide a number of opportunities for the Indian firms and investors to tap into a larger, unified, simplified and more robust African market. It is critical for India to view Africa not just as a destination for short-term returns but as a partner for medium and long-term economic growth.
2. Investment destination: Africa has high mineral rich reserves like oil, metals, non-metals etc. The Indian Multi National Enterprises (MNEs) should venture into various sectors of investments viz. telecommunications, energy, computer sciences, power and automobile, among others. The major destinations of such investments are Mauritius, Mozambique, Sudan, Egypt and South Africa.
3. Exports: Exports are the key to achieve the $5 trillion goal. India’s exports to the African countries is dominated by petroleum products. There are opportunities for India to export pharmaceutical products, computer services, automobile etc. In order to reap the benefits of African market, India needs to expand and diversify its export basket to include both primary and manufactured goods.
4. Resource rich region: Africa is known as the land of untapped potential. It has incredible natural resources like oil, gas, gold, iron ore, manganese, uranium, diamonds, etc. This would help in boosting India’s manufacturing sector and Make in India initiative.
5. Infrastructure opportunities: Africa also has countless opportunities for infrastructural development. For the fastest developing nation like India, which is eying an almost 9.0 percent growth rate, all this makes Africa a much desirable market for the growth of the Indian companies.
6. An opportunity for MSMEs: MSMEs’ contribution is critical to India’s sustainable growth. Large, medium and SMEs need more presence in Africa on a war footing basis strategising an aggressive marketing and business plans for additional revenue as part of their linear business growth overseas.
7. Medical Tourism: Affordable healthcare still remains a big challenge in Africa and thus remain the highest priority in every country in the continent.It open up medical tourism business opportunities for Indian healthcare stakeholders. 
While it can be argued that the Covid-19 crisis has had serious implications for India and the country has huge domestic obligations to deal with, partnering with Africa at this critical juncture in our shared reality will add immense value to the rich historicity of India-Africa solidarity.

QUESTION : A rural recovery is critical to the overall revival of India’s economy. Comment 

How Rural Economy Revives Indian Economy 
The rural economy continues to remain crucial for any strategy of economic revival. 
• As per the National Statistical Office (NSO) the Indian Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by 7.3%.  
o This was partly a result of a slowdown in economic activity since 2016-17 and partly result of a mishandling of the economic situation. 
• Indian economy suffered during first wave that is why any claim of recovery this year will be only statistical due to low base of last year rather than a real recovery. 
• Small and medium enterprises as well as the large unorganised sector have suffered severely during both the waves of pandemic. 
• Agriculture became an important contributor to the economic performance.  
o It showed the resilience of the rural economy. 
o Even though rural areas were the first point of refuge for a majority of migrants, agriculture was the only major sector which reported an increase in Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2020-21.  
o The average growth rate of agriculture GVA in the last five years, at 4.8%, is significantly higher than the GVA growth of the economy, at 3.6%, in the last five years. 
(1)Agriculture sector which is saviour of the economy is suffering from neglect and policy missteps by the Government.   
(2)The second wave affected rural areas in terms of health and livelihoods.   
o Economic distress in rural areas is also unreported and underestimated. 
o People have spent a large sum on private health care expenditure. 
o It has led to sharp rise in indebtedness from non-institutional sources. 
(3) Government has not increased the allocation for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) despite an increase in employment demand in NREGS. 
(4)Prices for dominant agricultural commodities in the domestic market are declining while consumer prices of essentials such as edible and pulses are contributing to rising inflation.  
o The latest estimates of April 2021 showing a decline in rural non-agricultural wages by 0.9% per annum. 
(5)Rising input cost and rising inflation further reduces the purchasing power of the rural economy.   
o Rise in input prices for diesel and increase in fertilizer prices have also added to the misery of farmers.   
 Issues related to rural areas in India are more complex than Singapore. The Gandhian vision of Poorna Swaraj becomes important in this context.
 According to the Gandhian idea of Poorna Swaraj, in order to become fully independent, people in India’s villages need to have economic and social freedom.
o Gandhi believed that the economy must serve human needs, rather than human beings becoming fodder for the GDP.
 The major principles of Gandhian economics that can be applied in the Indian economy:
o Enabling Gram Swaraj: According to Gandhi, the progress of human beings and local communities must be the means for economic growth.
• Further, the governments must be strengthened at the local level, in villages and cities.
o Concept of Trusteeship: The concept of trusteeship as enunciated by Gandhi, demands non-possession. It seeks individuals to dispossess their wealth and income beyond their requirements so that the economic welfare of the less capable is realized.
• According to him, wealth is good, but wealthy people must be only trustees of a community’s wealth and not its owners.
o Formation of Co-operatives: The alienation of owners from workers must be reduced with the creation of new models of cooperative capitalist enterprises, where the workers, not remote capitalists, or the state, are owners of the enterprises.
o Focus of Sarvodaya: The government must focus on the well-being of the poorest and weakest member of society.
The objectives composed by the government in the sixth five-year plan for rural development are:
• To improve productivity and wages of rural people
• To guarantee increased and quick employment possibilities
• To demolish unemployment and bring a notable decline in underemployment.
• To guarantee an increase in the standard of living of the underprivileged population.
• To provide the basic needs: elementary education, healthcare, clean drinking water, rural roads, etc. 
1. Education of the masses by establishing evening schools for adults.
2. Provisions for cheap medical aid through Ayurveda and Herbals – Naturopathy and Yogic Science should be promoted for affordable and accessible healthcare.
3. Construction of good roads and infrastructure is important to make roadways for economic growth.
4. Establishment and promotion of the Co-operative Credit Societies to promote Self Help Groups of that particular Local area.
5. Co-operative system should be promoted in Agro based Industries and the advantages of the government schemes should reach to the last section of the society.
6. Banks should not ridicule the crop Insurance scheme run by the central government. They should extend their best possible support in every way to our innocent farmers. 
• Proactive intervention to protect the rural population by speeding up vaccination. 
• Need of greater fiscal support in terms of direct income support. 
• Indirect support in the form of subsidies and protection from the rising inflation in input prices is the need of the hour.  
Hence, the urgent intervention in rural economy is not just necessary to support economic revival but also to prevent another humanitarian crisis. 
• Establishing Rural Enterprises:An important aspect of enterprise creation is funding support, which is critical to ensure the success of any enterprise, especially for a start-up.
• The possibility to make the Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) or Common Services Centers(CSC) a hub of all the technology solutions developed by different missions, should be explored.
• Agriculture graduates from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) system or state agricultural universities may be engaged in agri-related rural entrepreneurship. 
From the above it is evident that rural development is a must for the economic development of a country. Agricultural progress is essential to provide food for growing non-agricultural labour force, raw materials for industrial production and saving and tax revenue to support development of the rest of the economy, to earn foreign exchange and to provide a growing market for domestic manufactures. So supportive public policies and investments will be key to harnessing demand as an engine for transformative and equitable growth, and measures designed to ensure market participation by small-scale, family-farmers must be hard-wired into policies.

QUESTION : “The Universal Immunization Programme is taken as one of the largest public health programmes.” Critically analyse this given statement with respect to women Vaccination in India. 

Vaccination for Pregnant Women
There is need for urgent vaccination for pregnant Women to minimise the impact of the coronavirus infection among them.   
Why there is need to vaccinate mother-to-be?  
(1) India’s demographic dividend is largely dependent on its high birth rate. 
(2) According to a recent publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association, maternal mortality is several-fold higher in COVID-19 positive pregnant mothers than in non-COVID-19 infected pregnant women. 
(3)  Maternal and neonatal complications increase with maternal obesity and diabetes in pregnancy which is common in India. However, pandemic has worsened the situation by increasing complications such as:   
o Pre-eclampsia, pre-term labour maternal infections.  
o Increased caesarean section rates.  
o Fetal growth restriction due to placental insufficiency and still births,   
o Neonatal infections and respiratory distress.   
(1)Vaccination should be taken up on a war footing. Women in the reproductive age group and the medical profession should be informed properly. Wherever possible, advise all women to postpone pregnancy till both partners are vaccinated and offer vaccination to all un-vaccinated pregnant women.  
(2)Dedicated and safe ultrasound scan centers for pregnant women and unvaccinated health-care workers should be quickly vaccinated. Pregnant women with fever should be considered to have COVID-19 unless proven otherwise.  
(3)Pregnant women should be vaccinated with inactivated vaccines. Pregnancy and the immediate postpartum period are pro-thrombotic states. It promotes the formation of blood clots in veins.
(4)Segregation is required to protect non-COVID-19 infected mothers. COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 pregnant women coming for delivery should be strictly segregated.   
• The United Kingdom and the United States have approved vaccination of all pregnant women with mRNA vaccines due to the benefits involved. Benefits of vaccines are:  
o Produce a good immune response.  
o Maternal antibodies cross the placenta and enter the fetus.  
o Antibodies give protection against maternal to the fetal transmission of the virus. 
o It sets an ambitious, overarching global vision and strategy for vaccines and immunization for the decade 2021–2030. 
o The IA2030 is based on learnings from Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP). It aims to address the unmet targets of the GVAP that were initially to be fulfilled as part of the global immunisation strategy of the ‘Decade of vaccines’ (2011–2020). 
• GVAP was developed to help realize the vision of the Decade of Vaccines, that all individuals and communities enjoy lives free from vaccine preventable diseases.
o It is based on a conceptual framework of seven strategic priorities, to ensure that immunization fully contributes to stronger primary health care and attainment universal health coverage.
o It is underpinned by four core principles: it puts people in the centre, is led by countries, implemented through broad partnerships, and driven by data. 
Why should pregnant and lactating women be vaccinated against COVID-19?
• “Vaccinating pregnant women against COVID-19 is extremely important. The second wave is worse than the primary wave. The impact is more in terms of the general numbers,” said Dr. Jaishree Gajaraj, senior consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, MGM Healthcare, Chennai, adding that supported observations by obstetricians in Chennai, roughly one in three pregnant women tested positive for COVID-19. “This may be a high number, and it’s important to try to do something to guard them because the disease burden in pregnancy is high,” she said.
• The Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI), during a statement last month, said protection should be extended to pregnant and lactating women. “The very real benefits of vaccinating pregnant and lactating women seem to far outweigh any theoretical and remote risks of vaccination,” it said.
• Pregnant women are a vulnerable population, said Dr. Gajaraj, adding, “There is a few quite immunological compromise in pregnant women. The disease might be severe, as we’ve noticed within the second wave.”
• For lactating women, FOGSI stated that there have been no known adverse effects on neonates who are breastfeeding. “In fact, there’s a passage of protective antibodies to the kid, which can be a beneficial effect.”
• According to the planet Health Organization, while pregnancy brings a better risk of severe COVID-19, at the present, little or no data is out there to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy.
 there’s no evidence that means vaccination would cause harm during pregnancy.
• To date, none of the clinical trials have included pregnant and lactating women for obvious reasons as no ethics board will give the nod. 
• Preliminary information from us, which has been vaccinating since last year, is that the immune reaction has been good in pregnant women, regardless of the sort of vaccines. 
• Antibodies were found within the duct and breastmilk that would give protection for the new-born. 
• Vaccination should be offered to pregnant women after providing adequate information and counseling.  
• Provide resources to healthcare professionals involved in their care.  
• Awareness regarding the availability and advantages of the vaccine for pregnant women should be publicised.  
• Enhance vaccination coverage of couples planning pregnancy and pregnant women on a priority basis. 
India needs a multidimensional approach including information, education, effective communication to enhance vaccination coverage and address vaccine hesitancy in mothers.

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