Altaf Hussain Haji
Hunger is a burning issue for every UN member country. This is the reason that commemorations of this year’s National Statistics Day in our country has been aligned to create awareness about hunger as per the UN target of Sustainable Development Goals. In India, Statics Day is celebrated every year on June 29 in remembrance of Prof PC Mahalanobis for his contribution in the field of economic, planning and statistics. The theme of this year Statistics Day, June 29, 2021, is ‘End Hunger, Achieve Food Security and Improved Nutrition’. Hunger and malnutrition badly affect the development and wellbeing of the States/UTs of the nation and the progress of the reduction of percentages of hunger at the national level is still off track. Jammu and Kashmir is also among one of the UTs where hunger exists as per the current report of SDG released by the government of India. There is also a long road ahead to reduce hunger and malnutrition by or before 2030 in Jammu and Kashmir.
Undernourishment, malnutrition and wasting are different ways of hunger found in every country in the world. Undernourishment occurs when people do not intake enough calories to meet minimum physiological needs. Malnutrition is caused when the peoples have an inadequate intake of protein, energy and micronutrients. The third way of hunger is wasting which usually the result of starvation or disease of acute malnutrition with substantial weight loss.
As we know that second goal of Sustainable Development with agenda Zero Hunger is one of the important goals out of 17 Sustainable Development Goals. It is to mention here that the United Nations (UN) General Assembly held on September 25, 2015, adopted the document titled “Transforming our World with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. The SDGs are a comprehensive list of global goals integrating social, economic and environmental dimensions of development. Zero Hunger is the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG2) with the aim to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. The SDG2 has 7 targets such as beneficiaries covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, children under five years who are underweight, children under five years who are stunted, pregnant women and adolescents aged 10- 19 years who are anaemic, the rice and wheat produced annually per unit area (Kg/Ha) and Gross Value Added (constant prices) in agriculture per worker (in lakhs/workers) to measure the availability of food, improvement in nutrition and promotion of sustainable agriculture respectively.
The composite index score of the UT Jammu and Kashmir in SDG-2 goal has improved by 8 points from 62 in 2019-20 to 70 in 2020-21 as per SDG report 2020-21 released by NITI Aayog. The UT Jammu and Kashmir among the Seven States and four UTs bagged a position in the category of Front Runners and said as the increase in overall score, the Jammu and Kashmir in Sustainable Development Goals will achieving Zero hunger in time.
Here are some indicators of Jammu and Kashmir in comparison at national level figure regarding the progress of End hunger by or before 2030 of the agenda of SDGs.
At the national level the percentage of beneficiaries covered during 2019-20 under the National Food Security Act, 2013 ((NFSA) is 99.51 percent and for UT Jammu and Kashmir, it is 97.02 percent achievement as the target fixed to achieve it 100 percent by 2030.
At the national level, the percentage of children under five years who are underweight is 33.4 percent and for UT Jammu and Kashmir, it is 13 percent as the target to reduce it 1.9 percent.
At the national level, the percentage of children under five years who are stunted is 34.7 percent and for UT Jammu and Kashmir, it is 15.5 as the target to reduce it 6 percent.
At the national level, the percentage of pregnant women aged 15-49 years who are anaemic is 50.4 percent and for UT Jammu and Kashmir, it is 38.1 as the target is to reduce it 25.2 percent.
At the national level, the percentage of adolescents aged 10-19 years who are anaemic is 28.4 percent and for UT Jammu and Kashmir, it is 15.8 as the target is to reduce it to 14.2 percent.
The rice and wheat produced annually per unit area (Kg/Ha) was found 2995.21 Kg/Ha at the national level and for UT Jammu and Kashmir it is 2339.65 Kg/Ha as the target is to achieve it 5322.08 Kg/Ha
The Gross Value Added (constant prices) in agriculture per worker (in Lakhs/worker) was calculated as 0.71 at the national level and for UT Jammu and Kashmir, it is 0.88 as the target is to achieve it 1.22.
The above indicators pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir showed that there is still a long road ahead to reduce hunger and malnutrition by or before 2030 in Jammu and Kashmir and it is too difficult to achieve or reduce targets due to disturbance and law and order situation, unique features and a strategic location. Further, the index score at the national level for end hunger is 47 while UT Jammu and Kashmir have 71 which seems that the situation is somehow better.
As UT Jammu and Kashmir have unique features and a strategic location, the speedy sustainable development of Jammu and Kashmir needs an integrated approach. The top priority of the government should be to create a secure environment by improving the law and order situation. State finance should also receive proper attention in order to ensure better fiscal management. A sound policy should be devised to exploit the potential in the sectors of strength. In a nutshell, sound policy and good governance can lead the UT of Jammu and Kashmir to a faster development path and is able to achieve the SDGs well in time. Further, there should be a sizable increase in the utilisation of funds for rural development schemes in the UT and the pace of implementation of programmes needs to be accelerated.
Also, efforts are needed for the development of infrastructure, generation of employment and alleviation of poverty in rural areas to bring about the desired socio-economic development of Jammu and Kashmir. There is also an urgent need to undertake an impact assessment study of the schemes implemented by the government on the socio-economic conditions of the people. Such a study would help in assessing the ground realities of the impact of various schemes on the social and economic conditions of people inhabiting these areas.
At the last, I want to mention here that by working on SDG2 last few years, the measures are taken such as promoting sustainable agriculture, supporting small-scale farmers and creating equal access to land, technology and markets in order as a fundamental rule to the eradication of hunger in Jammu and Kashmir, a number of initiatives have been taken by the Government of India and UT government to ensure food for all and has launched food security programmes owing to the National Food Security Act, 2013. The stress on sustainable agriculture may be observed from the fact that one of the missions under the National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) is the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA). In the end, as per the current report, UT Jammu and Kashmir have made significant progress in the area of food security despite having several challenges.
Altaf Hussain Haji, ISS, is Deputy Director General National Statistical Office, Shimla. He can be contacted at [email protected]
Rural mart inaugurated under NABARD scheme
Shopian, Sept 20: National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) has collaborated with National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) for extending the grant support to SHGs promoted by NRLM for setting up rural marts. These marts aim to promote and provide a platform for women’s self-help groups to market their handmade products.
The rural mart was inaugurated on 20 Sept 2022, at Shopian
Dr AK Sood, CGM NABARD J&K, SSP Shopian Tanushree, NRLM Reyaz Ahmad, and ADDC Shopian, Manzoor Hussain were present for the inauguration ceremony.
The mart will give numerous SHGs an opportunity to sell their homemade goods, including apparel, handloom and handicraft products, homemade food items, dry fruits, and more.
For a period of three years, NABARD has agreed to commit Rs 4.79 lakh as financial support for each rural market. NABARD will pay for the components, such as shop rent, salesman salaries, marketing costs, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Dr Sood, CGM NABARD, urged the female SHG members to use the mart as an opportunity for economic growth and to guarantee the continuity, quality, and quantity of local goods for both locals and tourists.
Additional Mission Director NRLM commended SHGs for taking such a unique initiative in the district.
“Rural mart to be run by female SHGs is the first step towards women empowerment in the district,” said Tanushree, SSP Shopian
Members of various SHGs from the district attended the event. Deputy General Manager NABARD Surinder Singh, District Development Manager NABARD Rouf Zargar, DPMs NRLM Uzma Mehraj and Irfan were also present on the occasion.
Wood shortage, high prices due to Russia-Ukraine war affect timber business in Kashmir
Srinagar: Every summer Altaf Ahmad 35, a small timber trader from north Kashmir Baramulla district used to be busy with his timber business, but this year instead of attending to customers at his unit, Altaf spends his day playing cricket in his village outskirts. The war in far-off lands has affected his business badly.
The prices of KD Wood mostly imported from Russia and Ukraine have soared many times, while the supply had dwindled.
“The Russia-Ukraine war has badly hit our timber business in Kashmir. This is the construction season here, we were expecting our business will double as there was lockdown from the past two seasons because of Covid19, but due to the war we are on the verge of complete breakdown this season too,” said Altaf Ahmad.
Altaf believes that their business is at a halt not only because of less supply of timber but also due to the less demand due to price rises as customers are reluctant to purchase at higher rates.
“There is the increase of 20% to 50% in the rates that has abruptly brought down the demand because customers are unable to purchase on such higher rates. We used to earn a good profit, but are presently on destruction mode where survival seems very much difficult,” said Altaf
Russia is one of the highest timber suppliers in the world and ranks as the seventh biggest exporter of forest products worldwide, which accounts for 22% of the global trade. And it clearly shows that the global market will continuously impact as long the Russia-Ukraine war continues. A country like China, which is in support of Russia in the conflict, has also been affected by limited trade sanctions as it depends on the import of timber, logs, and wood chips even for their domestic use.
Halted construction work
For Sajad, who was planning to complete the pending works of his newly built house and get married next year, the Russia- Ukraine conflict has brought a tsunami of hopelessness because the sudden surge in the timber rates has halted his plans of construction work and marriage back home, he feels it is unbearable to bear all the expenses in such a tough situation where other commodities all already in the surge.
“The sudden increase in timber rates halted all my construction works because, I was expected to purchase timber say for example for Rs 1 lakh, now it will cost me Rs 1.5 lakhs an increase of fifty thousand. Now, I am too confused about whether to do it or not,” said Sajad Ahmad from the Bemina area of Srinagar.
Showkat Ahmad another timber trader from North Kashmir says Ukraine timber was mostly used in Kashmir for the past couple of years as compared to Russian and German timber because Ukraine timber was available at cheaper rates. With a war going on in Ukraine the demand for German and Russia will arise, but it’s going very much costlier for customers.
“People prefer Ukraine timber because it’s easily affordable for them in contrast with German and Russian timber due to its low cost. The war in Ukraine has put everyone both (buyer and seller) in a catch22 situation because one doesn’t know what’s going to happen next,” says Showkat Ahmad who deals with the timber business for the past decade.
Business Kashmir visited various units in central and north Kashmir among them was Changa Timber Gallery, Sopore.
“I am into this business for the last one year but, I think this kind of situation will only benefit those dealers who have piles of stock available in the stores because they can increase rates on that stock which they have purchased at low rates earlier and a trader like me will go more into loss due to these unprecedented rates who’s new into this business and has very much less stock available at times,” says Aijaz Ahmad Changa, a 30-year-old BCom graduate.
Kashmiri Timber Traders mostly purchase timber from Gujarat and in Gujarat, they directly import the timber from Russia, Ukraine, and Germany. Business Kashmir contacted Singla Timbers Private Limited one of the oldest timber factories in Mithirhar, Gandhidham Gujarat who are in this business since 1946.
“The whole world is witnessing inflation it will remain for some time maybe for another year and there is also less supply of timber from the last few months because of that we are witnessing an increase in the rates of timber,” says Pulkit Singla director Singla Timbers.
“Kashmiri traders prefer Ukraine timber because of low price, but at the same time Ukraine timber also differs in quality in comparison to others.”
He says the lack of local wood production forces people to buy imported wood.
“India only imports 2% of the world produced timber. The local timber in India is not of that quality and one has gone through a long process before getting its access. The forests are like agricultural fields for countries like Russia and Ukraine, they cut the trees and do the plantation of it again and again but, in India, that thing is lacking. It’s also because of the weather,” he said.
Altaf and other timber traders in Kashmir are now waiting and praying for the end of the war in Ukraine so that their business will see that charm again.
“I only want the war in Ukraine to end, so that our miseries will also end,” concluded Altaf.
Omicron, economy and budget deficits
The World Health Organization on November 26, 2021, labelled variant B.1.1.529 a variant of great alarm, named Omicron, on the advice of WHO’s Technical Advisory on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE). Extensive evidence was presented to this advisory that Omicron has several mutations affecting its behaviour.
Research is coming up at different levels to get hold of different aspects of Omicron in a better way. There is much ambiguity about whether there is more transmission in Omicron as compared to other variants, including the Delta variant. South Africa has seen the number of people testing positive increasing as a result of this variant. Many epidemiologic studies are in progress that aims at knowing if the positive cases are rising because of Omicron or some other factors.
One of the biggest aims of economies is resource allocation involving a balance between our priorities and competing needs so as to get the most suitable economic action. Any fiscal policy demands a judicious attitude in pursuing the goal of resource allocation and distribution. Fiscal discipline should reduce fluctuations in income, output, and employment.
Whether it is omicron or anything else the fact is that all facets of the current pandemic have in one way or the other way affected economies of the world in general and underdeveloped in particular. It is very important to correct all economic and social odds.
Fiscal indiscipline is an important characteristic related to all shocks of all times and COVID19 is no exception. Fiscal indiscipline implies that our governments are not maintaining good fiscal positions that coincide with macroeconomic stability and economic growth that is all-inclusive and sustained. Borrowing in large numbers and amassing debt like anything are enemies of every economy. The dual actions are responsible for the creation of fiscal crunches. To achieve the target of Fiscal discipline it is necessary for governments to maintain fiscal positions that are consistent with macroeconomic stability and economic growth that is sustained by letter and spirit. In order to create and maintain fiscal etiquette, there should be an avoidance of debt accumulation and excessive borrowing.
One of the biggest aims of economies is resource allocation involving a balance between our priorities and competing needs so as to get the most suitable economic action. Any fiscal policy demands a judicious attitude in pursuing the goal of resource allocation and distribution. Fiscal discipline should reduce fluctuations in income, output, and employment. COVID19 and all its variants no doubt have generated fiscal indiscipline which is why all governments should be prudent to create ‘‘budgetary beanbags’’ to combat all shocks and disturbances and to deal with anticipated economic and fiscal burdens.
Economists surveyed by Reuters argue that economies should emphasize fiscal judiciousness as there is a declining trend in the Indian economy. Lead Economist at Emkay Global Financial Services, Madhavi Arora argues that Omicron and the allied bad repercussions have a short end and is in no way a long-lasting wave.
A fiscal deficit connotes a gap in a government’s income compared with its spending thereby meaning that there is a fiscal dearth in the government spending beyond its means. There is a dip in the fiscal deficit from 135.1% in the April-November period of the previous financial year to 46.2% in the current financial year. There is a need for fiscal consolidation and all the fiscal policies carried out by the government at all levels must aim at reducing their deficits and debt stock build-up.
In order to understand Omicron and its impact on the Indian economy and other emerging markets, planners need to Google and start thinking about consolidating their budget deficits post COVID19 years. They need to include a series of fiscal responsibility laws, fiscal guidelines, and fiscal assistance (dynamic organizations in particular).
The strategy and implementation policy, alongside economic (fiscal) and political commitment are necessary and sufficient conditions for the effective strengthening of fiscal discipline during shocks.
Dr Binish Qadri is an assistant professor at the Department of Economics, University of Kashmir. You can reach her at [email protected]
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