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Type: op-ed snap


[op-ed snap] Shooting in the dark

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Note4Students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Shinkensan Technology

Mains level: Shortcomings of Bullet Train project.


News

Context

  • This article appears in the background of recent launch of high speed bullet train project between Mumbai-Ahmedabad.

Why the project is not big bang reform for all but a big bang bullet for few?

Shinkansen Technology

  1. Japan introduced its high-speed Shinkansen line between Tokyo and Osaka in 1964 with top speed of 210 km/hr which has now reached 350 km/hr.
  2. Ten more countries have also developed high speed train networks like France, Germany, Italy, Spain, South Korea, Turkey and with China having the biggest network of high speed trains.
  3. But none of them are using Shinkensen technology, so is shinkensen technology the best? No technical evaluation comparing other available systems seems to have been done

Transfer of Technology

  1. Shinkensen technology was offered to China by Japan, but the deal stuck on the issue of transfer of technology.
  2. The government has been mentioning about how raw materials, labourers, services for the project will be sourced from India but there has been no mention of transfer of technology.
  3. The issue is how Indian engineering going to leap forward if there will be no transfer of technology? And if there was no technology evaluation also, was there any validity report? Yes, it was there but the officialdom has refused to share the report even in response to RTI applications.

Viability

  1. Taiwan installed Shinkensen technology through BOT( Build Operate Transfer) Model of investment in 1990s with investment of $ 14.3 B which became operational in 2007 but by 2014 the rail operator was bankrupt with cumulative losses of $1.5 billion.
  2. The BOT model was not even floated as a trial balloon for the very good reason that no private company would have bid for the project — the failure of the much less capital-intensive Metro project (BOT).
  3. UPA government had earlier rejected the Bullet Train project as being completely unviable. That’s probably because projections show that the Mumbai-Ahmedabad train service will need to carry nearly one lakh passengers a day to keep fares at a reasonable level. The current traffic is only about 18,000 per day, which means that either fares will have to be raised well above air fares, or that the system will have to be subsidised in perpetuity.

Interest free Loan

  1. The Japanese are giving a 50-year loan of Rs 88,000 crore at .10  interest rate , but the interest rate on 10-year Japanese government bonds is 0.04 per cent and other interest rates can even be negative.  So no question of Japanese benovalence arises.
  2. The difference in interest rates between India and Japan (our 10-year government bonds yield 6.5 per cent), has another, serious and long-term implication. According to a financial analyst, if we consider average Indian inflation at three per cent, and Japanese at zero per cent, the rupee will depreciate three per cent every year vis-a-vis the Japanese yen. So over 50 years, the sum to be repaid will not be Rs 88,000 crore but could be well over twice that amount.

Make travel faster?

  1. According to Bibek Debroy,only five per cent of Indians use our present super-fast trains because they find the extra fares beyond them.
  2. In short, bullet trains are going to make travel faster for five per cent of the population, which already has the option of air travel.

The Cost Analysis

  1. The Bullet Train project is going to cost Rs 1,10,000 crore; in last year’s rail budget, the total outlay for the entire Indian railway system was Rs 1,21,000 crore and it will serve a small percentage of people travelling between two cities; the Indian railway system, with over 13,000 trains running every day, carries more than eight billion passengers per year plus 1,000 million tonnes of freight over the whole country. The cost for the two, as the figures show, is virtually the same.

So, the bullet train project does not seem to be a complete success in future.


Back2basics

Shinkensan Technology

  1. Shinkansen literally means new trunk line that refers to the high-speed rail line network in Japan.
  2. Shinkansen uses a range of advanced technology which helps the trains attain high speed without compromising on safety and comfort.
  3. Shinkansen routes are strictly off-limits to any other kind of traffic, unlike conventional rail lines which are built without road crossings.
  4. These high-speed train network uses tunnels and viaducts to go through and over obstacles rather than around them.
  5. Shinkansen trains are electric multiple units, offering fast acceleration, deceleration and reduced damage to the track because of lighter vehicles.

 

Goods and Services Tax (GST) Finance and Banking

[op-ed snap] Tax trauma — On GST Network

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of GST

Mains level: GST -Challenges


News

Context

  • Glitches in the GST regime are increasing the anxiety among Indian businesses

What are the issues?

  1. GST Network, is struggling to keep pace with the millions of invoices and returns being filed electronically by businesses across the country.
  2. It is clear that the network had not been fully tested for chinks before July
  3. Implication of these stumbles for 85 lakh taxpayers now registered for GST.
  4. For Exporters, because of delayed timelines for filing GST returns, no refunds can be expected before mid-November on input taxes paid in advance and the integrated GST levied on goods they imported.
    • ₹65,000 crore of working capital will get blocked, cramping their ability to ramp up capacity and raw material procurement in time for festive season orders from around the world.
  5. A ministerial group formed by the GST Council to resolve the GSTN’s glitches gave an assurance that 80% of the problems would be fixed by the end of October.
  6. Several revisions in deadlines, tax and cess rates, rules, clarifications and tweaks later, the GST regime is turning out to be neither simple nor friendly for taxpayers.

Back2basics

Goods and Services Tax (GST)

 

Medical Education Governance in India Governance

[op-ed snap] Heal thyself

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Medical Council of India (MCI)

Mains level: MCI- problems; National Medical Commission Bill of 2016- provisions, challenges etc


News

Context

  1. Medical education scams continue unabated under the MCI’s stewardship. But merely replacing it is not the solution

  2. The regulator of medical education is itself in need of regulation

Medical Council of India (MCI)-Issues

  1. Volume of litigation that the MCI faces suggest that the regulator is neither in command nor perceived to be so
  2. It has imposed a uniform benchmark for admissions at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels
    • But different syllabi and diverse languages in different states tilt the level playing field.
  3. While the MCI is standardising entrance tests, it is failing to assure uniform, quality education for entrants who qualify.
  4. As an implication, the promise that India holds as a destination for medical tourism and education stands compromised.

National Medical Commission Bill of 2016

  • It proposes to trifurcate the functions of the MCI to reducer corruption, may prove to be superficial

Why?

  1. It would eventually leave the monopoly in accreditation intact, and opaqueness would remain a problem
  2. Intersection of private enterprise and medical education and practice is laden with incentives for corruption.
  3. Marketing of pharmaceuticals and equipment exert unhealthy influences
  4. Inspection of teaching hospitals is a scandal, with doctors and even patients being “rented” for the day.
  5. The scarcity of seats and their marked-up price tag is also a reason for corruption

Way forward

  1. Merely replacing the MCI will not suffice. Its successor must be armed with rules-based transparency to prevent rent-seeking.
  2. Examination reform could have followed

Back2basics

National Medical Commission Bill, 2016 

Salient Provisions

The bill seeks to address the following:

  1. Ensure adequate supply of high quality medical professionals at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
  2. Encourage medical professionals to incorporate the latest medical research in their work and to contribute to such research.
  3. Provide for objective periodic assessments of medical institutions.
  4. Facilitate the maintenance of a medical register for India and enforce high ethical standards in all aspects of medical services.
  5. Ensure that the medical institutes are flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of a transforming nation.

Medical advisory council

The bill seeks to constitute a Medical Advisory Council which will undertake the following functions:

  1. The Council shall serve as the primary platform through which the states would put forward their views and concerns before the National Medical Commission (NMC) and shall help shape the overall agenda in the field of medical education & training.
  2. The Council shall advise the NMC on the measures to determine, maintain and coordinate the minimum standards in the discipline of medical education, training and research.
  3. The Council shall advise the NMC on measures to enhance equitable access to medical education
Foreign Policy Watch: India-Afghanistan India & Neighbours

[op-ed] Solving the Afghanistan riddle

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Note4Students

Mains Paper2: International Relations

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Not much

Mains level: The article talks about US recent Afghan policy, important aspects of Indo-Afghan relations nad whether India-Pakistan relations are responsible for present situation in Afghanistan or not.


News

Context

  1. Recent announcement of US Afghan Policy. The policy envisages  more pressure on Pakistan, no early U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, robust military action on counterterrorism and a greater role for India. 
  2. The US has never been so critical of Pakistan publically.
  3. The issue today is how the U.S. strategy differs from the past in terms of addressing concerns regarding Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan, particularly in view of a shift in Pakistan’s strategic priority towards China.
  4. Present Situation in Afghanistan continues to be fragile, though Taliban has made some gains but at the same it is not a cohesive movement and has several divisions in it.
  5. Also, since 1747, Afghanistan’s territorial borders have remain unchanged unlike those of Pakistan and Central Asian Republics.

India-Afghanistan ties

  1. On January 4, 1950, India signed a Treaty of Friendship with Afghanistan which also permitted opening of consulates in each other’s country. 
  2. Afghanistan signed its first strategic partnership agreement with India in 2011.
  3. India’s assistance to Afghanistan amounts to $2 billion and it covers  broad spectrum of areas like  political, security, trade and economic cooperation and capacity development.
  4. India has always wanted a democratic, stable and strong Afghanistan able to decide its own future and it supports its quest for reconciliation.
  5. Various surveys show that the Afghan people ranked Indian assistance as the most suitable because of the positive role India played in the development programme of Afghanistan and they appreciate that India has never interfered in their internal affairs.
  6. India can assist Afghanistan in training and supplying them much-needed spare parts.

Making situation better in Afghanistan

  1. Asia is a region of energy and it needs to be exploited for the benefit of Afghanistan and surrounding areas.TAPI( Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India) pipeline is an example.
  2. SAARC and SCO should encourage regional economic cooperation and completion of Cahbahar will help Afghanistan in trade with other countries.

It is essential to take action against terrorism and insurgency and treating Taliban’s Quetta Shura and the Haqqani network as one.

  1. Efforts relating to counter narcotics needs to be redoubled because Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opium accounting for 90% of the world’s supply.
  2. Regional powers must work closely without interfering internally for a stable Afghanistan. India needs to coordinate with Russia and Iran.

India-Pakistan relations and its impact on Afghanistan

  1. Unfair attempts have been made to link the Afghan issue with India-Pakistan relations. There is no connection.
  2. Pakistan-Afghanistan relations since 1947 have always been thorny and replete with problems except during the brief Taliban era. 
  3. India and Afghanistan have never exploited their friendly bilateral relations to harm Pakistan. This is clear from-
  • In both the 1965 and 1971 wars, Afghanistan was non-committal and did not support India.
  • On the Kashmir issue, Afghanistan has not publicly supported India.
  • India has not entered the debate on the Durand Line.
  1. Neither India nor India-Pakistan relations were responsible for the situation which prevailed in Afghanistan following the departure of the Soviet troops.
  2. The U.S. operation to kill Osama bin Laden and the recourse to drone attacks in Afghanistan were due to the situation prevailing there, which had nothing to do with India or India-Pakistan relations.
  3. When in 2010 Pakistan shifted over 100,000 of its security forces from its eastern border to its western border with Afghanistan, India did not exploit the situation.

[op-ed snap] The missing jobs

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana

Mains level: Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana – Objectives, challenges and Way forward


News

Context

  • Out of a total 30.67 lakh candidates who had been trained, under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), less than a tenth — 9 lakh candidates — had received placement offers.

What could be the possible reasons?

  1. Jobs are not simply a function of the country’s workforce acquiring formal skills making them employable.
  2. More fundamental to job creation is a vibrant economy, in which investment and consumption fuel demand for labour, skilled and unskilled. 
  3. Today’s crisis is not one of employability, but of investment and economic activity leading to shrinking job opportunities

Way forward?

  1. The government’s focus should be on providing decent education.
  2. That would mean ensuring minimum standards in schools, colleges, polytechnics and industrial training institutes (ITI).
    • NGO Pratham’s Annual State of Education Report for 2016 reveals that just over 43 per cent of class VIII students in rural government schools can solve three-digit by one-digit division problems and only 45 per cent are able to read simple sentences in English.
  3. The government must concentrate on basic education, labour reforms and improving the ease of doing business.

 Back2basics

 Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Japan India Beyond its Neighbours

[op-ed snap] A time of strategic partnerships

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: India-Japan 2+2 Dialogue

Mains level: India- Japan relations


News

Context

  • The India-Japan “Special Strategic and Global Partnership” has reached new heights.

Why such a partnership?

  • The rise of China and questions about America’s commitment in Asia are the main reasons behind deepening security-cum-economic relationship.

The India-Japan synergy

  1. Japan is investing heavily in strengthening its critical infrastructure to enhance its economic and potential defence capabilities.
  2. The two countries have begun working on a joint infrastructure development and connectivity drive
    • It traverses the Indian Ocean, from Myanmar to Sri Lanka to Iran and encompasses the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor
  3. On defence matters, Japan and India have agreed to establish regular consultations in the “2+2” format of their defence and foreign ministries.
  4. Their navies exercise regularly together with the U.S. Navy.
  5. Negotiations on arms sales ,the ShinMaywa US-2i amphibious aircraft are on
  6. Japanese investment in strategically placed Andaman and Nicobar Islands will help New Delhi establish a major security sentinel in the eastern Indian Ocean.

How Strategic partnerships differs from Alliances?

  1. Unlike alliances, it do not demand commitments to a partner’s disputes with other countries.
    • Eg: New Delhi does not take a strong position on Japan’s territorial disputes with China and Russia
  2. In Strategic partnership, both retain the flexibility to continue political engagement and economic cooperation with their common adversary.
  3. They avoid “entrapment”, or being dragged into a partner’s disputes and potentially into conflict
  4. Collaborative approach to strategic policies over a range of economic and military activities.
    • India and Japan, for instance, are not only moving forward on economic and defence cooperation but are also cooperating on other issues such as civil nuclear energy and Security Council reform.
  5. The aim of major strategic partnerships is to
    • Strengthen defences against marginal conflict
    • Convey a determination to stand up to a strategic adversary
    • Generate a persuasive environment that discourages potential intimidation

[op-ed snap] India needs to push for a new deal

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: TRIPS-Plus

Mains level: The article deals with an important topic. IPR and patent rights are very debatable issues between developing and developed worlds.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about issue of IP rights and patent system

Historical aspect of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS)

  1. The Agreement on TRIPS embodied an international regulatory regime for the first time, in 1995
  2. It represented a major compromise for most developing countries
  3. But it was only the starting point for many other nations, which have since then promoted excessive protection of private investor interests through bilateral trade agreements
  4. And this was done often at the expense of wider public interests

How are the IPR and Patent rules changing the global corporate landscape?

  1. While patent protection is getting stronger in all sectors in a large number of countries, the conditions for its grant are becoming greatly relaxed
  2. Not only do such patenting requirements allow companies to claim patents more broadly but also patents can be claimed on all possible inventions (and discoveries)
  3. A large number of countries have already foregone many degrees of policy freedom by signing up to ‘TRIPS-Plus’ standards of protection

What is TRIPS-Plus?

  1. TRIPs Plus are higher level of protection norms demanded by the developed countries that are not prescribed by the WTO’s TRIPs regime
  2. Although they are named as ‘TRIPS-Plus,’ they are not formally related to TRIPs
  3. Rather, the term is used to indicate that these requirements go beyond the minimum standards imposed by TRIPs
  4. Many developing countries who are members of FTAs are under pressure to enact these tougher conditions in their patent laws.
  5. The developing countries have concerns over the higher level of protection demanded by the developed world
  6. They fear that once such levels of protection are given multilaterally, it will reduce competition and may led to price rise of medicines, affecting health security in poor countries.

Fate of pharmaceutical and software sectors in India

  1. For India, the fate of its pharmaceutical and software sectors depends on the balance, and guaranteeing fair and unfettered competition
  2. It will be critical to ensure that we do not lose more ground to global companies abroad and at home(due to our patent and IPR rules)
  3. In the pharmaceutical sector, the analysis that ranges 20 years (from 1996) shows that profits of domestic companies are in sharp decline since the late 2000s

What India needs right now?

  1. Supporting IP standards that simply follow a ‘winner takes all’ ideology without emphasis on technological advancement and competitive markets will be a regrettable mistake
  2. What India needs right now is a clear and tough stance on intellectual property both in domestic policy and at the multilateral level
  3. Support for innovation has to be accompanied with instruments that guard against the misuse of market power, coercive bargaining and aggressive merger and acquisition strategies if local firms should survive and flourish

[op-ed snap] Business Of Cleanliness

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Swachh Bharat Mission

Mains level: Examine India’s waste management crisis and suggest solutions


News

Context

  1. The Swachh Bharat Mission plans to achieve safe sanitation for all by 2019
  2. There is also a well-defined process, for the different phases of the mission, across the sanitation value chain — build, use, maintain and treat (BUMT)
  3. So a national policy is in place; cities, state governments must operationalise it.

Waste Management problem

  1. Nationally, we generate 7 million tonnes of fecal waste every day but there no systems in place to safely dispose this waste
  2. It bears disease-carrying bacteria and pathogens posing a serious threat to safe and healthy living.
  3. The truck operators can be monitored through GPS tracking process in order to ensure that they dump the waste at treatment plants/pre-determined sites.

Solution – Fecal sludge management system (FSM)

  1. It involves collecting, transporting and treating fecal sludge and septage from pit latrines, septic tanks or other onsite sanitation systems.
  2. This waste is then treated at septage treatment plants.
  3. The FSM ecosystem requires its stakeholders to collaborate closely.
    1. Citizens need to be aware about the importance of a regular schedule for desludging septic tanks.
    2. They must also be ready to pay part of the cost of running FS treatment plants through service charges.
  4. Sanitation workers are key to an effective FSM system. But with no proper disposal system or safety regulations in place, they face serious health hazards.

Advantages?

  1. The sludge is nutrient-rich. After treatment, it can be given to farmers for use as organic compost.
  2. It can even be treated and used for biogas, or to manufacture fuel pellets or ethanol.
  3. Once pathogens and bacteria are removed, the water can be used for irrigation, construction, by industry in cooling plants etc
  4. With appropriate training, sanitation workers can be empowered to own and run FSM businesses — much like the producer cooperatives of the agriculture sector.

 

Issues related to Economic growth

[op-ed snap] India’s economy: Dark clouds and Silver linings

Note4Students:

Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy growth and development; Investment Models

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: GDP, Current Account deficit, Capital Account Deficit, Functions of RBI

Mains level: What are the structural and cyclical reasons for declining growth rate and its impact on the economy. Also give solutions to reverse declining economic growth.


News:

Context

  1. Economic growth has declined for six quarters in a row.
  2. Inflation has more than doubled in the three months since June.
  3. The current account deficit (CAD) in the first quarter of the current fiscal year was at its highest level in four years as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP).
  4. Is it time to hit the panic button?

 

Some of the worries are overdone because-

  1. Inflation was expected jump back from an absurdly low level in June.
  2. The current account deficit is still being comfortably financed by strong capital flows.

 

  1. The increased CAD may be because of dominance of debt investments and spurt in electronics and gold imports.
  2. Decline in economic growth in the three months to June can be explained by inventory destocking by companies ahead of the launch of the goods and services tax (GST), so a cyclical bounce back is quite likely over the next two quarters.
  3. The government was facing a comfortable growth trajectory till now because-
  4. The collapse of global crude oil prices and it used it prudently to strengthen its finances rather than immediately pass the benefits to the consumers.
  5. Monetary tightening by the Reserve Bank of India also helped secure macroeconomic stability after nearly five years.
  6. That hard-earned stability does not seem to be at risk—despite the latest numbers on inflation and the current account deficit.

 

 So,  What is the more serious problem-

  • It is the Declining Economic Growth.
  • It may be due to two reasons- Structural or Cyclical.
  • But, at this point of time it is difficult to figure out how much of the decline can be attributed to structural reasons or the cyclical ones.
  • It is also because of the two consecutive exogenous shocks given to the economy—first demonetization and then the transition to GST.
  • Economic growth is expected to claw back once the effects of the above mentioned shocks abate, especially if there is no hysteresis.
  • An important structural element to the economic slowdown is that the Indian economy began started losing momentum well before the demonetization decision was announced in November.
  • In other words, we may expect pleasant surprises in the next two GDP’s.

What can be done to arrest this economic decline ?

  • The key to a sustainable recovery is the investment cycle.
  • The private sector is still struggling with excess leverage and the banks are struggling with bad debts
  • So, the macroeconomic strategy will thus have to delicately balance between the need to push public investment on the one hand and keep the fiscal deficit under check on the other.

Money for investment can come from

  • The extra taxes that the GST is expected to send into the treasury should hopefully create fiscal space for higher public investment.
  • The government should push ahead with a privatization programme that should be used as a way to switch assets—from airplanes to roads, for example.

Conclusion

India may see a small cyclical recovery in the months ahead. However, a sustainable recovery will depend on investment activity. Public investment will have to hold the fort till the private sector deleverages, banks are cleaned up and excess capacity is worked out of the system.

 

[op-ed snap] Reimagining the OBC quota

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: It is an important reform in reservation system of India.


News

Context

  1. The article talks sub-categorization of the Other Backward Classes (OBC)

Creation of committee

  1. Recently, the government has announced the creation of a committee to look into sub-categorisation of OBC
  2. This decision provides an opening to ensure social justice in an efficient manner

Some important Statistics 

  1. The National Sample Survey (NSS) data from 2011-12 show that about 19% of the sample claims to be Dalit, 9% Adivasi, and 44% OBC
  2. Among the population aged 25-49, less than 7% have a college degree
  3. By most estimates, less than 3% of the whole population is employed in government and public-sector jobs
  4. Since reservations cover only half the college seats and public-sector jobs, the mismatch is obvious
  5. A vast proportion of the population eligible for reservations must still compete for a tiny number of reserved and non-reserved category jobs
  6. It is not surprising that there is tremendous internal competition within groups

How to make reservation a significant difference in the lives of the marginalised groups?

  1. The available public sector jobs cover around 3% population
  2. These will only offer opportunities to a minuscule fraction of individuals in reserved categories
  3. Hence, the only viable option is to reduce the size of the eligible population, possibly along the lines of sub-categorisation proposed by the government

How will Government know which castes are the most disadvantaged?

  1. At the moment, the only reputable nationwide data on caste comes from the 1931 colonial Census and some of the ad hoc surveys conducted for specific castes
  2. The Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) of 2011 was supposed to provide up-to-date comprehensive data
  3. In the SECC in 2015, it was found that about 4.6 million distinct caste names, including names of gotra, surname and phonetic variations were returned, making the results almost impossible to interpret
  4. For nearly 80 million individuals, caste data were believed to be erroneous
  5. Since then we have heard little about the quality of caste data in SECC and even less about its results
  6. Preparations for Census 2021 are ongoing
  7. There is still time to create an expert group to evaluate the methodology for collecting caste data and include it in the Census forms
  8. Losing this opportunity would leave us hanging for another 10 years without good data for undertaking sub-categorisation of OBC quota

How to address caste based inequalities?

  1. A two-pronged approach that focusses on eliminating discrimination and expanding the proportion of population among the disadvantaged groups could be a solution
    (1) Late Benefits
  2. The present policies focus on preferential admission to colleges and coveted institutions like IITs and IIMs
  3. But these benefits may come too late in the life of a Kurmi or Gujjar child
  4. Their disadvantage begins in early childhood and grows progressively at higher levels of education
  5. We know little about what goes on in schools to create these disadvantages but improving quality of education for all must be a first step in addressing caste-based inequalities
    (2) Benefits of reservations should be widely spread
  6. Use of the OBC quota must be limited to once in a person’s lifetime, allowing for a churn in the population benefitting from reservations
  7. Linking the Aadhaar card to use of benefits makes it possible that individuals use their caste certificates only once
  8. It will help in spreading the benefits of reservations over a wider population

The way forward

  1. The present move by the government to rethink OBC quota could potentially be used to ensure that we have better data on caste-based disadvantages for future discourse
  2. It also indicates a mood that wants to ensure that the benefits of reservation are widely spread
  3. Increased attempts at linking benefits to Aadhaar allow us with an option to ensure that reservation benefits are not captured by a few

[op-ed snap] High-speed rail and modernization of Indian Railways

Image result for bullet train

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3:Economy ] Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Advantages of  high-speed rail (HSR) project over Conventional rail system


News

Context

  1. Foundation stone was laid for the first high-speed rail (HSR) project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

Accidents in Indian Railways (IR)

  1. The number of accidents by rail is relatively low compared to road.
  2. However, it was reported that between 2011-12 and 2016-17, 50% of the accidents occurred due to derailments and 40% occurred due to collisions at level crossings and 10% due to other reasons.

Conventional rail system v/s High-speed rail (HSR)

Safety concerns

  1. Conventional rail system suffers from overloading of tracks and the maintenance staff do not even get 2-3 hours for the upkeep of rail infrastructure. 
    • The non-availability of time to maintain tracks has been resulting in derailments in IR
  2. In HSR, trains run between 06.00 hours and 23.30 hours and 00 hours to 05.00 hours is exclusively allotted to maintenance work.
  3. The HSR is constructed on an elevated corridor for the most part and leave no scope for collision.
  4. HSR is a two-line system with no crossings or minimal crossings between the lines. Hence the question of collision of trains coming in the opposite directions also does not arise.
  5. IR still uses a spatial signalling system which is prone to human error and reduces the throughput of the rail network as only one train in one direction can run in a block
  6. The in-cab signalling and automatic train stop systems which are employed in HSR are relatively insulated from human errors.
  7. IR has been manufacturing ICF coaches which has more chances of accidents compared to the German technology-based LHB coaches
  8. In HSR, train sets are used, which are much safer than LHB coaches.
  9. If conventional rail is given a perfect right of way by fencing and removing all the level crossings, rail lines should be aligned in straight line.
    • To achieve this, the entire anatomy of the rail network would have to be changed.
    • Upgrading tracks, signalling system or coaches of conventional rail to the level of HSR is a very tough job
  10. It costs about Rs1 trillion for constructing 500km of HSR system, averaging to Rs2 billion per kilometre.
    • Even Metro rail systems cost about Rs3-4 billion per kilometre.

[op-ed snap] Restructuring the Medical Council of India to eliminate corruption

Image result for National Medical Commission Bill of 2016.

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Medical Council of India (MCI)

Mains level: National Medical Commission Bill of 2016.


News

Context

  1. The Medical Council of India (MCI) has been criticized for providing opaque accreditation to medical colleges and members have been accused of taking bribes
  2. NITI Aayog have proposed replacing the compromised MCI with a new National Medical Commission (NMC), outlined in National Medical Commission Bill of 2016. 

Structural differences between the proposed NMC and MCI

  1. The NMC would split the selection, advising, and actual accreditation process into three separate boards.
    • By dividing power, the hope is to create a system of checks and balances.
  2. All members of the accreditation board are supposed to be ex-officio members of the advisory board.
    • This defies the logic of good governance and prone to corruption
    • For this reason, we recommend removing all members of the accreditation board from the advisory board.
  3. The accreditation board is not given direct jurisdiction over the accreditation process
    • Rather, it is given authority over four sub-boards that look into the four core areas of accreditation: undergraduate, postgraduate (PG), registrar of medical professionals, and compliance.
  4. The compliance wing is supposed to hire a third party to check that colleges meet standards set by the other sub-boards.
    • This monopolistic nature of this service will produce unnecessary bureaucracy, stifle smooth accreditation
    • We recommend the creation of four regional medical councils which will lead to competition and an increase in the quality of accreditation services overall.
  5. The current MCI rules prohibit qualified MBBS doctors without a PG degree from performing procedures such as ultrasound and interpreting chest X-rays.
    • The NMC should revisit these rigid regulations to raise the effective availability of qualified doctors in India.

Problem of emigration of physicians

  1. India is the largest source of physicians in the US and the UK, and the second and third largest in Australia and Canada.
  2. This brain drain is expensive because many of them are trained in colleges subsidized by the government
  3. It is within the purview of the NMC Bill to recommend a policy to limit emigration of newly graduated doctors.
    • Thailand successfully adopted such a measure in 1972 which mandates three years of government work for all post-graduates
    • Kerala implemented compulsory rural service for all MBBS and PG doctors studying in government medical colleges as a part of Arogyakeralam, its version of the National Rural Health Mission.

[op-ed snap] A fairer test: Alternative to NEET must be sensitive to concerns of inequality and exclusion

Image result for BAN NEET protest

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Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: NEET- Pros, Cons and Way forward


News

Context

  1. The National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) failed to harmonise the qualifying exam, making it fair while rewarding the brightest.
  2. NEET is seen as elitist, favouring the rich, urban families.

What are the reasons to institute the NEET

  1. Extortionist policies of private medical colleges
    • Students are admitted  on their ability to pay rather than commitment to the profession
  2. Weakening standards of high school education
  3. Over 30 entrance tests for students to gain admission, making it highly iniquitous and stressful.

Why there has been huge protests against NEET?

  1. Wide variance in standards between the CBSE and the SSC
    • CBSE syllabus focuses on science and math and encourages thinking
    • State boards focus on the rote method of learning and liberal arts, worsened by the non-availability of science, english and math teachers in rural areas.
  2. The gap has widened further with most competitive exams based on CBSE
    • It implicitly denying students from rural areas and poor families access to professional education.
  3. NEET was based on a CBSE plus standard, compelling even the bright CBSE students to take recourse to expensive tutorials for cracking the exam
  4. Tamil Nadu has more government colleges and in recruiting students from rural and ensure availability of doctors at peripheral facilities.
  5. In pursuing “high standards”, it is apprehended that the IIT phenomenon may be getting repeated.
    • Under the highly competitive IIT system, the majority are in the US or multinational companies and a handful in rural areas or government. 

Four action points

  1. One, enforce an acceptable standard of school education, making entrance examinations unnecessary.
  2. Two, till that happens, the NEET must harmonise the test keeping in mind the syllabus of what is taught in state high schools and the CBSE in order to provide a level playing field to all aspirants.
  3. Revive the old system of pre medical course
    • Medical students can be taught for one or two years basic sciences and brought on par with the knowledge levels required for medical education.
  4. Given our commitment to cooperative federalism, allow states to have their own admission policies
    • But make an All India Licence Examination for registration with the MCI mandatory for those wanting to study or practise in other states or go abroad , alongside instituting the National Exit Examination.

 

[op-ed snap] A powerful move

Related image

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Note4students

Mains Paper 3:Economy ] Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways, etc.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Coal washing

Mains level: Problems and prospects of coal sector in India .


News

Context

  1. India is the third largest coal producer in the world. But it is also its third largest importer.
  2. The government has decided to offer 10 coal mines for auction

What impact it would make?

  1. It will break the 41-year old domination of the state-owned Coal India Limited (CIL) over commercial mining
  2. It will improve supply of the fuel, and its quality

Current situation?

  1. Current regulation restricts commercial operations to CIL — and Singareni Collieries Limited
  2. It is the major reasons for the energy-strapped country not being able to tap the full potential of its coal reserves

Monopoly of CIL

  1. Competition Commission of India (CCI) said that monopoly exercised by CIL is “patently unfair”.
  2. It is found that CIL and its subsidiaries is “in contravention of the provisions of Section 4(2)(a)(i) of the Competition Act, 2002, for imposing unfair/discriminatory conditions in fuel supply agreements with power producers”

Indian Coal- Issues associated

  1. Indian coal has about 45 per cent ash, much higher than the 25-30 per cent ideally required for the efficient burning of the fuel in thermal power stations
  2. Geological factors are the primary reason for this lacuna
  3. CIL’s overwhelming dominance of commercial mining has made the outfit stingy in investing in technology
  4. Coal washing, for example — that increase the efficiency of coal. Less than 20 per cent of the coal produced by CIL undergoes coal washing.
  5. Thermal power plants also have to reckon with stones in the coal they procure, which adds to their production costs and contributes to the wear and tear of their equipment

 

 

Ministry of Science & Technology: Schemes, Policies & Missions Space Technology

[op-ed snap] India’s pharmaceutical research problem

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the IPRs and Patent Systems

Mains level: India is a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer. But still Indian Pharmaceutical Sector needs to grow more.


News

Context

  1. The article talks about issues which are halting the progress of Pharmaceutical Sector in India

Biggest Challenge

  1.  One of the biggest constraints to advancing scientific research is the lack of sufficient funding and inadequate allocations by the government
  2. At 0.83% of GDP, India is among the countries with the lowest investment in scientific research

An industry study of 2016 

  1. It examined the extent to which public investment, IPRs and drug pricing policies in 56 countries actively contribute to or detract from innovation in global life-sciences
  2. India ranked among the lowest (in the bottom five) due to weak IP protection, lack of data protection for biologics, low investment in R&D and price regulations
  3. All of these contribute to reduced revenue and therefore reduced future investment in biopharmaceuticals

Survey of biomedical investment attractiveness of countries

  1. India ranked No.19 in this 28-nation survey 
  2. Five metrics were used to determine these rankings
    (1) scientific capabilities and infrastructure
    (2) clinical research conditions and framework
    (3) regulatory system
    (4)  market access and financing
    (5) effective intellectual property protections
  3. India scored low on almost all metrics except for partial step-ups on scientific capabilities and infrastructure, and clinical research conditions and framework

 

Good Chance for India to become R&D Powerhouse

  1. Rising cardiovascular problems and other chronic diseases, make India a strong candidate to become a future powerhouse of R&D and manufacturing in pharmaceuticals
  2. In addition, clean water, rising incomes and better health infrastructure for the nation are contributing to an ageing population
  3. This population will cause a greater demand for different types of pharmaceutical drugs

Low R&D investment as a percentage of sales

  1. The R&D investment as a percentage of sales has been rising for several years and now stands at 6% for some Indian companies
  2. But it is still well short of the 20% typical of Western pharma companies
  3. Moreover, innovation in chronic diseases and rare diseases has not yet taken off

Issues with Indian Education System

  1. The education system is to blame as well, imparting theoretical knowledge with no emphasis on product development and application of theory
  2. This leads to the deterioration of the knack(capability) for problem-solving and innovation
  3. Those who manage to keep their enthusiasm alive for research have to deal with the lack of facilities or face delayed funding issues
  4. Educational and academic institutions should be encouraged to participate in research programmes with funding from both the government as well as the private sector

What we need?

  1. We need four pillars for strengthening the innovation environment in the biopharmaceutical industry
    (1) human resources
    (2) finances
    (3) infrastructure
    (4) legal and regulatory framework
  2. Each of these pillars needs a concerted focus and a long-term commitment from industry as well as the government
  3. The environment to support the development of these verticals could emerge through our various government-led initiatives such as Skill India, Make in India, Atal Innovation Mission, etc.

The Way Forward

  1. In order to support consistent innovation, investment has to increase substantially before any tangible outcomes can be envisioned
  2. A strong patent system and robust IPRs environment is required to encourage research and to enable foreign pharma companies to bring new products to the market
  3. Without the requisite investment and enabling policy environment, patients in India will continue to suffer due to lack of access to cutting-edge medicines and new diagnostics
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