November 2018
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[op-ed snap] Cure In Progress

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & 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: Global efforts for preventing fatalities due to TB and NCDs.


News

Context

  • Recently the UN General Assembly deliberated on how best to address a serious public health challenges posed by tuberculosis (TB) and non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Ground zero in battle against TB and NCDs

  1. The region accounts for 50 per cent of TB-associated mortality, with the disease being the region’s leading cause of death and lost productive years in the crucial 15-49 years old age group.
  2. TB/HIV co-infection is meanwhile responsible for 25 per cent of AIDS-related deaths.
  3. On NCDs, though, the region accounts for a bit over a quarter of the world’s population, it is home to around 29 per cent of NCD-related premature mortality.
  4. Every year, 8.9 million people in the region die of NCDs, accounting for 64 per cent of all deaths which were preventable.

Generating Political Momentum

  1. In recent years, each one of them has shown unprecedented political commitment to tackle TB, as expressed in the 2017 “Delhi Call for Action” and the 2018 “Statement of Action” to end TB by 2030.
  2. That commitment continues to be reflected in on-the-ground action.
  3. The Colombo Declaration of 2016 is committed to integrating NCD services at the primary level each country in the region.
  4. These include a range of ground-breaking initiatives, from nutrient labelling systems that enhance health literacy to promoting physical activity through the provision of outdoor gyms.

UN intervention: The game-changer

  1. The high-level meetings at the UN headquarters provided the region significant scope to consolidate these gains, accelerate progress, and promote game-changing innovations in each of these areas.
  2. The meetings provided the member states an open and global  platform to highlight the problem’s significance and present a detailed outline of how they are addressing it.
  3. It gave them an opportunity to underscore the dramatic increase high-burden countries have made in domestic funding.
  4. It also offered them a chance to emphasise that an increased allocation of resources from the global community could generate momentum in combating the disease.
  5. Much emphasis was placed on harnessing greater investment in research and development — particularly for developing low-cost, affordable diagnostics and drugs to treat the disease.

What brings in the UNGA Platform?

  1. The meeting provided member states the opportunity to highlight progress since the first high-level UNGA meeting was held in 2011
  2. The members reiterated their resolve as to reach the half-way mark in the quest to reduce premature deaths caused by NCDs, by a quarter by 2025.
  3. It gave them an opportunity to highlight the areas which require more spending and how governments can be better supported in implementing their country-specific plans.
  4. That includes emphasizing the significance of preventive measures that are among the most cost-effective (though underfunded) ways to deal with the problem.
Tuberculosis Elimination Strategy

[op-ed snap] Rural India’s ignored air pollution problem

Note4students

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

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The op-ed crucially highlights the often ignored impacts of deteriorating air quality on rural areas.


News

Context

  1. New Delhi’s status as national capital ensures that it will receive plenty of attention every year come winter.
  2. Rural India in the north of the country the heart of the problem does not receive equal attention.

Popular perception is Wrong

  1. India’s air pollution issue often comes off as a peculiarly urban problem.
  2. The WHO’s Air Pollution and Child Health: Prescribing Clean Air report released earlier this week contradicts the fact.
  3. The report notes that the main sources of air pollution may vary from urban to rural areas, but no area is safer from the peril of toxic air.
  4. This is much or more a rural issue as far the 1.1 million air pollution-related deaths in 2015, 75% were in rural India.

Entire north is under severe threat

  1. Every winter, the Indo-Gangetic plains, housing nearly a third of India’s population, are blanketed with a thick layer of ambient pollution.
  2. Stubble burning, brick kilns, coal-fired factories and wood-fires for heat all contribute.
  3. The problem is that of the 600-plus air quality monitoring stations the CPCB set up across the country, there are none in rural areas.

More Children are at Risk

  1. The report found India had almost 61,000 deaths of children under 5years due to ambient and household pollution.
  2. India’s 98% children are exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution.
  3. This exposes them to a number of long-term physical and mental developmental problems.
  4. This exposure is also connected with the country’s shifting epidemiological profile where non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular conditions and cancer are increasing.

Situation is worsen by Indoor Pollution

  1. In 2003, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) issued guidelines for ambient air quality monitoring.
  2. They differentiated between the types of pollution affecting urban and rural areas.
  3. When it comes to the latter, the guidelines focus entirely on indoor air pollution.
  4. The use of biomass fuels for indoor cooking, heating and light is a significant problem, true enough; the recent focus on this is appreciable.

Draft policy to mitigate

  1. The draft National Clean Air Programme put out earlier this year was an opportunity to plug the gaps.
  2. The programme aims to expand the monitoring network to include 50 rural areas with at least one monitoring station each.
  3. Though a start at best, at least 1,200 are needed to present an accurate spatial picture of rural air quality.
  4. However, the programme doesn’t envisage any cooperation and coordination across crucial ministries such as health, transport and energy.

Policies hasn’t delivered yet

  1. The government’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, aimed at shifting poor households from biomass to clean LPG had the right idea.
  2. But it hasn’t quite worked out that way in practice.
  3. LPG costs are a major deterrent to adoption and that even in households where LPG is used, fuel stacking—using biomass fuels alongside LPG is common.

Way Forward

  1. Empirical evidence from rural India shows that the transition of households to move towards cleaner energy with rising incomes often doesn’t hold true.
  2. This is impacted by various factors such as Educated females, family sizes etc.
  3. The first step in the comprehensive framework should be the data collection.
  4. The draft policy should be put to immediate effect with adequate budgetary provision.
Air Pollution

[op-ed snap] Support for lives on the move

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Social issues | Population & associated issues

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Factors affecting migration in India and the need of an internal migration policy


Context

Rising migration

  1. Internal migration can be driven by push and/or pull factors
  2. In India, over the recent decades, agrarian distress (a push factor) and an increase in better-paying jobs in urban areas (a pull factor) have been drivers of internal migration
  3. Data show that employment-seeking is the principal reason for migration in regions without conflict

Effects of migration

  1. Though migration is expected to enhance consumption and lift families out of absolute poverty at the origin, it is not free from distress
  2. Distress may be due to unemployment or underemployment in agriculture, natural calamities, and input/output market imperfections
  3. Despite these issues, internal migration has resulted in the increased well being of households, especially for people with higher skills, social connections and assets
  4. Migrants belonging to lower castes and tribes have also brought in enough income to improve the economic condition of their households in rural areas and lift them out of poverty
  5. Data show that a circular migrant’s earnings account for a higher proportion of household income among the lower castes and tribes
  6. This has helped to improve the creditworthiness of the family members left behind — they can now obtain loans more easily

Rise in the urban informal economy

  1. The modern formal urban sector has often not been able to absorb the large number of rural workers entering the urban labour market
  2. This has led to the growth of the ‘urban informal’ economy, which is marked by high poverty and vulnerabilities
  3. Most jobs in the urban informal sector pay poorly and involve self-employed workers who turn to petty production because of their inability to find wage labour
  4. Then there are various forms of discrimination which do not allow migrants to graduate to better-paying jobs
  5. Migrant workers earn only two-thirds of what is earned by non-migrant workers, according to 2014 data

Costs of migration

  1. Migrants have to incur a large cost of migration which includes the ‘search cost’ and the hazard of being cheated
  2. Often these costs escalate as they are outside the state-provided health care and education system
  3. This forces them to borrow from employers in order to meet these expenses
  4. And frequent borrowing forces them to sell assets towards repayment of their loans

New forms of discrimination

  1. Employment opportunities, the levels of income earned, and the working conditions in destination areas are determined by the migrant’s household’s social location in his or her village
  2. The division of the labour market by occupation, geography or industry (labour market segmentation), even within the urban informal labour market, confines migrants to the lower end
  3. Often, such segmentation reinforces differences in social identity, and new forms of discrimination emerge in these sites

Need for a National Migration Policy

  1. The need for a national policy towards internal migration is underscored by the fact that less than 20% of urban migrants had prearranged jobs and nearly two-thirds managed to find jobs within a week of their entry into the city
  2. In India, the bulk of policy interventions, which the migrants could also benefit from, are directed towards enhancing human development; some are aimed at providing financial services
  3. As government interventions are directed towards poverty reduction, there is a dearth of direct interventions targeted and focussed on regions
  4. Policies on this could be twofold. The first kind could aim at reducing distress-induced migration and the second in addressing conditions of work, terms of employment and access to basic necessities

Steps that can be taken

  1. There is a need to distinguish between policy interventions aimed at ‘migrants for survival’ and ‘migrants for employment’
  2. Continued dynamic interventions over long periods of time would yield better results compared to single-point static interventions, especially in the context of seasonal migrants
  3. Local bodies and NGOs which bring about structural changes in local regions need to be provided more space
  4. Interventions aimed at enhanced skill development would enable easier entry into the labour market
  5. We also need independent interventions aimed specifically at addressing the needs of individual and household migrants because household migration necessitates access to infrastructure such as housing, sanitation and health care more than individual migration does
  6. Government interventions related to employment can be supported by market-led interventions such as microfinance initiatives, which help in tackling seasonality of incomes

Way forward

  1. As remittances from migrants are increasingly becoming the lifeline of rural households, improved financial infrastructure to enable the smooth flow of remittances and their effective use requires more attention from India’s growing financial sector
  2. A national policy for internal migration is needed to improve earnings and enable an exit from poverty
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

Explained: Section 7 of RBI Act

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: Section 7 of the RBI Act, 1934

Mains level: Govt- RBI autonomy issues


News

Context

  1. Section 7 (1) of The RBI Act, 1934, became a contentious issue after the tension between the central bank and government turned into a public spat over the last few days.
  2. No government has so far invoked this section in the central bank’s 83-year history.

The widening rift

  1. Simmering differences between the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government – over issues of public sector bank regulation, resolution of distressed assets and the central bank’s reserves – have reached a high-point.
  2. Disagreements and differences between the central bank and the Centre are traditional and often seen as inevitable.
  3. But the latest tussle between the RBI and the union government is actually a series of smaller disputes .
  4. They go beyond the classic debate and spill into the more contentious realm of policy-making and regulation.

Reaching a Flash Point

  1. Amid these tensions the govt. has initiated steps towards invoking its powers under Section 7 of the RBI Act of 1934.
  2. It is a provision under which the government can give directions to the RBI to take certain actions “in the public interest”.
  3. This provision has been built into the law governing not just the RBI but also regulatory bodies in other sectors.
  4. Until now, however, the government has never exercised its powers under Section 7 of the RBI Act.

Section 7 of the RBI Act, 1934

  1. Under Section 7, “The Central Government may from time to time give such directions to the Bank as it may, after consultation with the Governor of the Bank, consider necessary in the public interest.
  2. Subject to any such directions, the general superintendence and direction of the affairs and business of the Bank shall be entrusted to a Central Board of Directors which may exercise all powers and do all acts and things which may be exercised or done by the Bank.
  3. Section 7 has two parts — consultation and then issuing a direction to the RBI for taking some action in public interest.

 For first time

  1. It is rumored that he government has started the first step towards invoking those powers under Section 7.
  2. It is to start consultations with the RBI Governor on issues such as easing the PCA framework, providing more credit to small units.
  3. Such moves have reportedly upset the central bank.

War of Words over Autonomy

  1. In a speech at a function, RBI Deputy Governor had warned that government.
  2. He said that the Govts. that do not respect central bank independence will sooner or later incur the wrath of financial markets, ignite economic fire, and come to rue the day they undermined an important regulatory institution.
  3. While RBI Governors had conflicts with the government earlier too, these had never reached the extent of initiating consultations under Section 7.

Arguments by the government

  1. The autonomy for the central bank, within the framework of the RBI Act, is an essential and accepted governance requirement.
  2. Governments in India have nurtured and respected this.
  3. Both the Government and the Central Bank, in their functioning, have to be guided by public interest and the requirements of the Indian economy.
  4. For the purpose, extensive consultations on several issues take place between the duos, time to time and this is equally true of all other regulators.

Core of the Issue

  1. The government has only initiated consultations with RBI on different issues under Section 7 (1) and not invoked it.
  2. The govt has send written consultations to the RBI citing Section 7, without actually implementing it.
  3. These letters were to do with the Centre’s desire for the:
  • Power sector’s NPAs to be reclassified
  • Issue of RBI’s dividends to the Centre and
  • ’s desire for easing the PCA norms so as to increase lending to the MSME sector

Way Forward

  1. Last year, Former Governor Y V Reddy had noted that the government has powers to give directions.
  2. But, in giving directions also, unlike other statutes, consultation with the Governor is necessary in regard to the RBI before issuing the directions.
  3. Independence to the central bank is granted by the government with a specific purpose.
  4. Experience has also shown that trust and confidence will improve if the spending authority, viz., the government is separate from the money creating authority, that is, central bank or monetary authority.
NPA Crisis

[pib] India at 77 Rank in World Bank’s Doing Business Report, 2018

Note4Students

Mains Paper 3: Indian Economy | Issues relating growth and development.

The following things are important from UPSC perspective:

Prelims: Ease of Doing Business Report 2018

Mains level: Factors leading India to improve its ranking on Ease of Doing Business index and the problems that needs to be solved to further improve its performance.


News

Context

  • The World Bank released its latest Doing Business Report (DBR, 2019) in New Delhi.

India’s Performance

  1. India has recorded a jump of 23 positions against its rank of 100 in 2017.
  2. It is placed now at 77thrank among 190 countries with a leap of 23 ranks.
  3. The DBR ranks countries on the basis of Distance to Frontier (DTF), a score that shows the gap of an economy to the global best practice.
  4. This year, India’s DTF score improved to 67.23 from 60.76 in the previous year.
  5. As a result of continued efforts by the Government, India has improved its rank by 53 positions in last two years and 65positions in last four years.

Doing Business Assessment of India

  1. The Doing Business assessment provides objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement across 190 economies on ten parameters affecting a business through its life cycle.
  2. India has improved its rank in 6 out of 10 indicators and has moved closer to international best practices (Distance to Frontier score) on 7 out of the 10 indicators.
  3. Indicators where India improved its rank are as follows:
S. No. Indicator 2017 2018 Change
1 Construction Permits 181 52 +129
2 Trading Across Borders 146 80 +66
3 Starting a Business 156 137 +19
4 Getting Credit 29 22 +7
5 Getting Electricity 29 24 +5
6 Enforcing Contracts 164 163 +1
Overall rank 100 77 +23

Important features of India’s performance this year are:

  1. The World Bank has recognized India as one of the top improvers for the year.
  2. This is the second consecutive year for which India has been recognized as one of the top improvers.
  3. India is the first BRICS and South Asian country to be recognized as top improvers in consecutive years.
  4. India has recorded the highest improvement in two years by any large country since 2011 in the Doing business assessment by improving its rank by 53 positions.
  5. As a result of continued performance, India is now placed at first position among South Asian countries as against 6th in 2014.
Industrial Sector Updates – Industrial Policy, Ease of Doing Business, etc.

[pib] United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO)

Note4students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNWTO and its mandate

Mains level: Not Much


News

Context

  • The delegation Ministry of Tourism is attending the 109th session of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Executive Council in Manama, Bahrain.

Programme and Budget Committee of UNWTO

  1. India’s tourism minister chaired the ‘Programme and Budget Committee’ meeting of UNWTO.
  2. It highlighted the role of tourism in socio-economic development through job creation, enterprise and environment development and foreign exchange earnings.
  3. As the chair of the Committee, the Minister informed the session that for the first time, UNWTO had a surplus budget and most of the arrears due have been paid.
  4. India will be the chair of Programme and Budget Committee of UNWTO Executive Council till 2021.

Back2Basics

UN WTO

  1. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
  2. The UNWTO Executive Council represents the Organization’s governing body.
  3. Its task is to take all necessary measures in consultation with the Secretary-General, for implementation of its own decisions and recommendations of the Assembly and report thereupon to the Assembly.
  4. The Council meets at least twice a year.
  5. The council consists of 35 Full Members elected by the assembly in proportion of one member for every Five Full Members.
  6. The membership is in accordance with the Rules of Procedure laid down by the Assembly with a view to achieving fair and equitable geographical distribution.
Tourism Sector

[pib] 19thMeeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC)

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Everything about FSDC

Mains level: Mandate of the FSDC


News

Context

  • The 19th Meeting of the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) to review the current global and domestic economic situation and financial sector performance was held

Highlights of the Meet

  1. The Council discussed at length the issue of real interest rate, current liquidity situation, including segmental liquidity position in NBFCs and mutual fund space.
  2. The Council decided that the Regulators and the Government would keep a close watch on the developing situation and take all necessary measures.

I. Cyber Security

  1. FSDC took note of the developments regarding strengthening of Cyber Security in Financial Sector.
  2. It included progress made towards setting up of a Computer Emergency Response Team in the Financial Sector (CERT-Fin) under a Statutory Framework.
  3. The Council also deliberated on the need for identifying and securing critical information infrastructure in financial sector.

II. Cryptocurrency

  1. The Council also deliberated on the issues and challenges of Crypto Assets/Currency and decided to devise an appropriate legal framework to ban use of private crypto-currencies in India.
  2. The panel encouraging the use of Distributed Ledger Technology, as announced in the Budget 2018-19.

III. Other discussions

  1. Other issues discussed include market developments and financial stability implications of the use of RegTech and SupTech (IT enabled regulatory process) by Financial Firms and Regulatory and Supervisory Authorities.
  2. It also discussed implementing the Recommendations of the Sumit Bose Committee Report on measures, such as, promoting appropriate disclosure regime for financial distribution costs.

Back2basics

Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC)

  1. FSDC is an apex-level body constituted by the Government of India to create a super regulatory body as mooted by the Raghuram Rajan Committee in 2008.
  2. Finally in 2010, the then Finance Minister of India, Pranab Mukherjee, decided to set up such an autonomous body dealing with macro prudential and financial regularities in the entire financial sector of India.
  3. An apex-level FSDC is not a statutory body. No funds are separately allocated to the council for undertaking its activities.

Composition

  1. Chairperson: The Union Finance Minister of India
  2. Members:
  • Governor Reserve Bank of India (RBl),
  • Finance Secretary and/ or Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA),
  • Secretary, Department of Financial Services (DFS),
  • Secretary, Ministry of Corporate Affairs,
  • Chief Economic Advisor, Ministry of Finance.
  1. Other members include chairman of SEBI, IRDA, PFRDA and IBBI

Responsibilities

  • Financial Stability
  • Financial Sector Development
  • Inter-Regulatory Coordination
  • Financial Literacy
  • Financial Inclusion
  • Macro prudential supervision of the economy including the functioning of large financial conglomerates
  • Coordinating India’s international interface with financial sector bodies like the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Financial Stability Board (FSB) and any such body as may be decided by the Finance Minister from time to time.

Karnataka launches SC/ST entrepreneurship scheme

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the Samruddhi Scheme

Mains level: Promoting entrepreneurship skills to socio-economically backward youths


News

Samruddhi Scheme

  1. The Karnataka social welfare department has officially launched ‘Samruddhi”, a programme that partners at least 30 private companies for skill development of youngsters from economically and socially backward sections.
  2. The K’taka government had data on the beneficiaries of similar grants in the past but there was no machinery to track the progress or utilization of these funds.
  3. The Samruddhi scheme follows the Unnati and Airavata schemes which also targeted socially marginalised communities and helped provide them skill development and alternate means of employment.

Particulars of the Scheme

  1. The minimum age limit for a SC/ST youth is 21 and one must have an SSLC (10th standard) certificate.
  2. Selected beneficiaries can choose from about 200 specific skill sets and be trained by the private company.
  3. They will be given a period of two months to show that they have the land or space for it, or have access to the same.
  4. Various grants of up to Rs 10 lakhs would be given to deserving youth after successful completion of training to open an outlet.
  5. This is a move away from traditional business loans as we saw a potential for misuse in the loans.
  6. These seed grants are secure and will directly reach the intended beneficiaries.

Bringing in more transparency

  1. The scheme aims to streamline grants given by the social welfare department to eligible beneficiaries and link them with industry to track the progress of such programmes.
  2. This brings in transparency to distribution of funds, and avoids misuse.
Skilling India – Skill India Mission,PMKVY, NSDC, etc.