UPSC Current Affairs: Household Consumption Expenditure Survey, Carbon Fiber, Antimicrobial Resistance

GS Paper 1

Household Consumption Expenditure Survey

  • News: Data from Household Consumption Expenditure Survey has been  recently released.
  • Household Consumption Expenditure Survey:
      • The Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES) was conducted by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, during August 2022 to July 2023.
      • The household consumption expenditure survey aims to estimate the Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure (MPCE) and its distribution, focusing on rural and urban sectors, states, union territories, and various socio-economic groups.
      • Household Consumption Expenditure surveys are held in a gap of five years.
  • Methodology:
      • The latest survey covered 2.62 lakh households – 1.55 lakh in rural areas and 1.07 lakh in urban areas.
      • The consumption basket was divided into three categories: food items, consumables and service items, and durable goods.
  • Key Findings of Survey:
    • Increase in Average Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure (MPCE):
        • Urban Households: MPCE in urban households rose by 33.5% since 2011-12 to reach ₹3,510.
        • Rural Households: Rural India’s MPCE increased by 40.42% over the same period to reach ₹2,008.
  • Trends in Per Capita Consumption Expenditure:
        • The gap between rural and urban household spending narrowed to 71.2% in 2022-23 from 83.9% in 2011-12.
        • Rural consumption expenditure rose by 164% to Rs 3,773 per month, outpacing urban spending’s 146% increase to Rs 6,459.
  • Widening Gap Between Rich And Poor:
        • The bottom 5% of India’s rural population, ranked by MPCE, has an average MPCE of Rs 1,441, while it is Rs 2,087 in urban areas.
        • The top 5% of India’s rural and urban population, ranked by MPCE, has an average MPCE of Rs 10,581 and Rs 20,846, respectively.
        • Disparity Comparison: MPCE of top 5% of rural population is 7.65 times more than its bottom 5%, the MPCE of top 5% of urban population has an MPCE of over 10 times its bottom 5%.
  • Decline in Food Expenditure Patterns:
        • In 2022-23, food accounted for 46% of rural expenditure (Rs 1,750) and 39% of urban expenditure (Rs 2,530), compared to 52.90% and 42.62% in 2011-12.
        • This shift has implications for the consumer price index-based inflation.

Engel Curve hypothesis

Engel Curve Hypothesis: Trends align with the Engel Curve hypothesis, indicating that as incomes rise, households spend less proportionally on food, preferring “superior” items over “inferior” ones.

Changing Food Consumption Patterns Reflected in HCES

Shift Away from Cereals and Pulses: Reduced share of cereals and pulses in both rural and urban areas.

Rise in Milk Consumption: Increased spending on milk surpasses expenditure on cereals and pulses combined.

Preference for Fruits and Vegetables: Expenditure on fruits and vegetables exceeds spending on foodgrains for the first time.

Growing Demand for Protein: More spending on eggs, fish, and meat indicates a shift towards protein-rich foods.

Rise in Processed Foods and Beverages: Increased expenditure on processed foods, beverages, and purchased cooked meals.

Reasons for Decline in Food Share:

      • Both urban and rural consumers show a decrease in the share of food items in their consumption basket.
      • Proliferation of “development for modernity” ideology contributes to a shift towards a consumerist culture.
      • Media campaigns and affluent lifestyles of higher-income groups promote non-traditional consumption patterns.
      • Urbanization plays a significant role in narrowing the urban-rural consumption divide, alongside increased income levels.
  • Non-Food Expenditure Trends:
      • Both rural (54%) and urban (61%) non-food spending increased, driven by conveyance, consumer services, and durable goods.
      • Expenditure on cereals, pulses, and vegetables moderated during the period.
  • Impact of Government Schemes:
      • Imputed cost of government-provided food grains and free items marginally affects rural and urban consumption expenditures.
      • Bottom 5% of rural population spends Rs 1,441, slightly higher than Rs 1,373 without the imputed value.
      • Urban expenditure rises from Rs 2,001 to Rs 2,087 with the inclusion of free items.
  • Comparison among states
      • The MPCE is the highest in Sikkim for both rural (₹7,731) and urban areas (₹12,105).
      • It is the lowest in Chhattisgarh, where it was ₹2,466 for rural households and ₹4,483 for urban household members.
  • Importance of Survey:
      • Understanding Household Consumption: HCES provides insights into what Indian households consume and in what quantities, aiding in policymaking.
      • Basis for Demand Estimation: It serves as a crucial data source for estimating the demand for various foods and making future projections.
      • Informed Policymaking: HCES data enables policymakers to make more informed decisions regarding food production and distribution strategies.
      • The difference between Rural and Urban MPCE has narrowed substantially over the years implying the success of government policies in improving Rural incomes.
      • The poorest Rural households have been able to spend at a much closer level to their Urban Counterparts, implying that government’s policy initiatives for enhancing Rural incomes have worked to an extent.
  • Promoting Production of High-Demand Foods:
      • Focus on Growing Sectors: Rising consumption of milk, fish, poultry products, and fruits and vegetables suggests a need to prioritize their production over cereals and sugar.
  • Market-led Growth:
      • Sectors like fruits and vegetables, livestock, and fisheries have experienced market-led growth, outpacing cereals and non-horticultural crops.
  • Absence of MSP Coverage:
      • Limited Benefits for Horticulture Farmers: Dairy, poultry, and horticulture crops are not covered under MSP, with farmers less vocal about legalizing MSP due to assured market demand for their produce.
  • Role in Economic Indicator Review: The data will play a key role in reviewing critical economic indicators, including the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), poverty levels, and the Consumer Price Inflation (CPI).
  • Social Welfare Programs: MPCE numbers do not include imputed values of items received free through programs like PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana.
  • Limitations of the Survey:

      • Manipulation of Data: The survey report has been released after 2011-12. In between, a survey was done in 2017-18 but its report was not released by the government due to data quality issues.
              • This also gives rise to the possibility of manipulation of data collection and the way it is officially presented.
  • Income Inequality:
      • HCES shows a rise in consumption across all segments, leading officials to assert a decline in poverty with less than 5% of the population deemed poor.
      • While a leaked 2017-18 report indicated a decrease in consumption, contrasting with the current narrative of declining poverty levels.
      • Also, despite income increases, the slower rise in consumption among the poor suggests income gains mainly benefited higher income groups.
  • Revised Survey Methodology:
      • HCES 2022-23 employs four distinct questionnaires for food, consumables, services, and durable goods, along with a separate questionnaire for household characteristics.
      • Unlike previous surveys with a single visit, the current survey involves multiple visits for data collection, leading to methodological changes.
      • Therefore, the results of the current HCES cannot be strictly comparable with the 2011-12 CES or the earlier CES.
  • Misleading Poverty Decline Claim:
      • NITI Aayog’s assertion of poverty reduction to below 5% based on HCES 2022-23 data is questionable due to significant differences between the surveys.
      • With no established poverty line by NITI Aayog and silence on poverty estimation in the HCES factsheet, accurate comparisons and conclusions about poverty reduction cannot be drawn.

Read also: AMR & Priority Pathogens | UPSC

GS Paper 3

Nitrogen-fixing Bacteria

News: A new study finds that UCYN-A, a species of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria, may be evolving organelle-like characteristics.

  • Types of Nitrogen-Fixing Bacteria:
      • Symbiotic or Mutualistic: Reside in root nodules of certain plants, particularly legumes like peas. Examples include Rhizobium and various Azospirillum species.
      • Free-Living: Found in soil or aquatic environments, not requiring a host. Examples include Cyanobacteria like Anabaena and Nostoc, as well as genera such as Azotobacter, Beijerinckia, and Clostridium.
  • Significance:
  • Essential Role in Nitrogen Cycle: Nitrogen-fixing bacteria convert atmospheric nitrogen into usable compounds like ammonia, vital for proteins and nucleic acids.
  • They contribute over 90% of all nitrogen fixation, crucial for sustaining life on Earth.

Carbon Fibre

News: India plans to make carbon fibre in response to EU carbon tax.

Carbon fiber: It is a material consisting of thin, strong crystalline filaments of carbon, essentially carbon atoms bonded together in long chains.

  • Properties:
      • The fibers are extremely stiff, strong, and light, and are used in many processes to create excellent structural materials. Carbon fiber offers a variety of benefits including:
      • High stiffness and stiffness-to-weight ratio
      • High tensile strength and strength-to-weight ratio
      • High-temperature tolerance with special resins
      • Low thermal expansion
      • High chemical resistance
  • Applications:
      • Various applications, including fighter planes’ noses, civilian airplanes, drone frames, car chassis, and fire-resistant building material, necessitate its use.
      • Recognized for its high strength and lightweight properties, it is a crucial material in technical textiles.

Opti Drop Platform

  • News: The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) in Bengaluru has developed OptiDrop Platform that makes it easier and cheaper to study single cells.
  • The research received backing from the Biotechnology Industry Research Council (BIRAC), the Department of Science and Technology (DST), and the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
  • Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP):
      • C-CAMP is an initiative of the Department of Biotechnology at the Indian Ministry of Science, Technology and Earth Sciences.
      • It was established in 2009 and is one of India’s premier biosciences research and innovation hub.
  • Opti Drop Platform:
      • It is an innovative microfluidic chip-based platform simplifies and lowers the expense of studying single cells.
      • Using a novel approach, it facilitates precise and cost-effective analysis of single cells enclosed in droplets.
      • Distinguished by live data visualization, reduced data footprint, and a ‘closed’ system design, the platform prevents external contamination.
  • Applications:
      • This advanced technology holds promise for applications in diagnostics, therapeutics, agriculture, and animal health.
      • It facilitates the examination of individual cell responses during drug screening, monitoring environmental factors like water contamination, identifying and sorting CAR-T cells for immuno-oncology treatments, selecting CRISPR-modified single cells, and isolating high-efficiency clones in single-cell genomics.

Large Value Fund (LVF) Scheme

  • News: The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has approved the acquisition of shares of MG Motor India Private Limited by IndoEdge India Fund – Large Value Fund (LVF) Scheme.
  • Large Value Fund (LVF): It is an Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) in which each investor (other than the manager, sponsor, employees or directors of the AIF or employees or directors of the manager) is an accredited investor and invests at least Rs 70 crore.
  • Alternative Investment Fund (AIF): An AIF is a privately pooled or collective investment fund incorporated in India for investment purposes.
  • SEBI categorizes AIFs into 3 types :
  • Category I AIF: This category of AIF invests in start-ups, early-stage ventures, social ventures, SMEs, or infrastructure or other sectors considered socially or economically beneficial by the government or regulators fall into this category. Examples:
      • Venture capital funds, SME Funds, Social Venture Funds etc.
  • Category II AIF: These are the AIFs that do not fall under categories I and III. They do not use leverage or debts other than to cover their day-to-day operational expenses. Example:
      • Private Equity Funds, Debt Funds, etc.
  • Category III AIF: These AIFs use complex trading strategies in their investment. It may use leverage or debt for investment in listed or unlisted derivatives. Some of the funds included in Category III are:
      • Private Investment in Public Equity Fund (PIPE), Hedge fund etc.

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and Priority Pathogens

  • What is antimicrobial resistance?
  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) or drug resistance, including antibiotic resistance, is a growing public health issue and needs urgent attention in countries around the world.
  • Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
  • How does antimicrobial resistance develop?
  • Natural variations in the genetic makeup of microbes cause resistance to develop against drugs over time as they reproduce.
  • For example, alterations in their DNA could mean antimicrobials are no longer able to reach the microbe cell, or make microbes capable of creating enzymes which destroy the antimicrobial.
  • Through natural selection these microbes with advantageous traits will proliferate over less-resistant strains, spreading the genetic advantage more widely.
  • Microbes like bacteria are also able to directly transfer genetic material to each other in various ways other than reproduction.
  • Although both of these ways of transferring genetic material occur naturally, poor use of antimicrobials, among other things, can speed up resistance developing and spreading.
  • For example, if an antibiotic course does not totally kill off an infection we leave behind the microbes best able to fight against the drug. These will then multiply and pass on their survival traits.
  • And the more we expose microbes to antimicrobials and/or other resistant microbes the more opportunities we create for resistance to develop and multiply.
  • What are antimicrobials?
  • Antimicrobials – including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics – are medicines used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals and plants.
  • Why is antimicrobial resistance a global concern?
  • The antimicrobial resistance threatens the ability of healthcare systems to treat common infections.
  • Antibiotics are becoming increasingly ineffective as drug-resistance spreads globally leading to more difficult to treat infections and death.
  • Rapid global spread of multi- and pan-resistant bacteria (also known as “superbugs”) cause infections that are not treatable with existing antimicrobial medicines such as antibiotics.
  • WHO has declared that AMR is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity in 2019 (Other 9 are: Air pollution and climate change, Non-communicable diseases, Global influenza pandemic, Fragile and vulnerable settings (drought, famine, conflict and population displacement), Ebola and other high-threat pathogens, Weak primary health care, Vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy — the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines, Dengue, and HIV).
  • What are the causes of AMR?
  • Overuse and misuse of antimicrobial medicines are major factors that have contributed to the development of drug-resistant microbes.
  • In many places, antibiotics are overused and misused in people and animals, and often given without professional oversight.
  • Examples of misuse include when they are taken by people with viral infections like colds and flu, and when they are given as growth promoters in animals or used to prevent diseases in healthy animals.
  • Another major reason for the development of drug resistance is the lack of access to timely and appropriate treatments for infections, especially in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC).
  • Other important contributing factors to AMR include:
      • inadequate infection control,
      • substandard/falsified medicines and
      • lack of access to affordable and appropriate diagnostics that give accurate and real-time results.
      • lack of clean water and sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for both humans and animals.
  • What are some of India-specific causes?
  • Some of the major factors which are contributing to the increasing incidences of anti-microbial resistance in India are:
  • Mass bathing during cultural events;
  • Excessive use of antibiotics in the livestock industry;
  • Insufficient hospital hygiene;
  • Misuse of antibiotics in humans and agriculture;
  • Irresponsible manufacturing of antibiotics including uncontrolled discharge of effluents by the pharmaceutical industry;
  • Lack of infrastructure and inadequate diagnostic facilities in our health-care sector is one of the major triggers of the irrational antibiotic use by doctors and the public.
  • What are priority pathogens?
  • The six leading pathogens for deaths associated with anti-microbial resistance include Escherichia coli (E. coli), followed by, Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), Klebsiella pneumoniae (K. pneumonia), Streptococcus pneumoniae (S. pneumonia), Acinetobacter baumannii (A. baumannii) and Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
  • Klebsiella pneumoniae are common intestinal bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections.
  • K. pneumoniae is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections such as pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and infections in newborns and intensive-care unit patients.
  • Drug-resistant Candida auris is one of the most common invasive fungal infections.
  • Steps taken to control anti-microbial resistance
  • Global Action Plan on AMR
  • Inter-country development agencies (WHO, FAO, and World Organisation for Animal Health) developed a Global Action Plan on AMR.
  • The global action plan outlines five strategic objectives for member states:
      • Improve awareness and understanding of AMR through effective communication, education and training
      • Strengthen the knowledge and evidence base through surveillance and research
      • Reduce the incidence of infection through effective sanitation, hygiene and infection prevention measures
      • Optimise the use of antimicrobial medicines in human and animal use
  • Ensure sustainable investment in countering AMR
  • India has developed its National Action Plan on AMR (NAP) in 2017.
  • It is based on the One Health approach, which means that human health, animal health and the environment sectors have equal responsibilities and strategic actions in combating AMR.
      • National Action Plan on Anti-Microbial Resistance (NAP-AMR)
  • A Core Working Group under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has drafted India’s own National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (NAP-AMR).
  • NAP-AMR is based on the One Health approach, which means that human health, animal health and the environment sectors have equal responsibilities and strategic actions in combating AMR.
  • The NAP-AMR outlines the priorities and interventions planned to be implemented over 2017 – 2021 to tackle the public health challenge of AMR in India.
  • The first 5 strategic priorities of NAP-AMR are aligned with the Global Action Plan on AMR (GAP-AMR).
  • India has a sixth priority that is India-specific dealing with strengthening India’s leadership on AMR – including international, national and sub-national collaborations on AMR.
      • Access, Watch and Reserve Category of Drugs: WHO
  • In an effort to curb antibiotic resistance, the World Health Organization (WHO) has divided the drugs into three categories — access, watch and reserve — specifying which are to be used for common ailments and which are to be kept for complicated diseases.
  • Access: Commonly used antibiotics will be under the ‘access’ category. 
  • Watch: The second line of antibiotics, slightly more potent, have been categorised under “watch”.
  • Reserve: Potent drugs to be used only as a “last resort” fall under the ‘reserve’ category.
  • Global Antimicrobial Resistance and Use Surveillance System (GLASS)
  • WHO launched the Global Antimicrobial Resistance and Use Surveillance System (GLASS) in 2015 to continue filling knowledge gaps and to inform strategies at all levels.
  • Red Line Campaign

Red Line Campaign

  • India’s Red Line campaign involves marking prescription-only antibiotics with a red line to curb their irrational use and create awareness on the dangers of taking antibiotics without being prescribed.
  • Chennai Declaration
  • The Chennai Declaration is a document, prepared by representatives of various stakeholders and eminent experts in India, to tackle the challenge of anti-microbial resistance from an Indian perspective.
  • India’s first National Antimicrobial Resistance Hub in Kolkata
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) inaugurated India’s first National Antimicrobial Resistance Hub in Kolkata.
  • It would be the hub for research on antibiotic resistance not only for the country but for the entire South Asia.
  • World Antimicrobial Awareness Week
  • World Antimicrobial Awareness Week is held every year from November 18-24 to spread awareness on this issue.
  • What are Superbugs?
  • It is a term used to describe strains of bacteria that are resistant to the majority of antibiotics commonly used today.
  • Indian Network for Fishery and Animal Antimicrobial Resistance (INFAAR)
  • The Indian Network for Fishery and Animal Antimicrobial Resistance (INFAAR) is a network of laboratories established under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), along with technical support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is dedicated to AMR surveillance in fisheries and livestock sectors.
  • Triclosan and antibiotic resistance
  • Triclosan, a compound used in more than 2,000 personal care products, and a common ingredient found in toothpastes and hand washes could be contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria, a study has found.
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