[op-ed snap] In China’s court

Mains Paper 2 : India & Its Neighborhood - Relations |

CONTEXT

Protests in Hong Kong have evolved over nearly three months.

Background of the protests

  1. The movement evolved from a movement against a proposed law that would allow people accused of certain crimes to be extradited to the Chinese mainland — to a wider expression of public anger at the Chinese state’s curbs on democracy and the city’s special status within the People’s Republic.
  2. China has been labeling the pro-democracy protestors as anarchists, radicals or terrorists.
  3. These protests have been compared to the 1989 demonstrations in mainland China, which culminated in the Tiananmen Square massacre. 
  4. The movement now threatens to bring economic activity in the global financial hub to a standstill.
  5. Despite China’s accession to the original demand of scrapping of the extradition law, the protests continue.

China – Hong Kong relationship

  1.  In 1997, it was decided that China would be “one country, two systems”, and Hong Kong would continue to enjoy its autonomy.
  2. That promise has been eroded by refusing to allow direct elections for the chief executive’s post.

Way ahead

  1. There is a need for the Chinese state to adapt to its promise it made to Hong Kong.

A country with superpower ambitions, negotiating massive international investments through the Belt and Road Initiative, cannot be seen incapable of delivering on the promise of federalism and autonomy.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-China

[op-ed snap] Writing out a clean Bill on health

Mains Paper 2 : Health & Education |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Analysis of NMC bill


CONTEXT

The last few days witnessed so many concerns being raised over a few clauses of the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill. 

Concerns

There are five primary concerns:

  1. National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test /National Exit Test
  2. Empowering of community health providers for limited practice
  3. Regulating fees for only 50% seats in private colleges
  4. Reducing the number of elected representatives in the Commission
  5. Overriding powers of the Centre.

Examinations

  1. For the past few years, a separate NEET is being conducted for undergraduate and postgraduate courses. In addition there are different examinations for AIIMS and JIPMER.
  2. This Act consolidates multiple exams at the undergraduate level with a single NEET and avoids multiple counselling processes.
  3. NEXT is the final year MBBS examination across India, an entrance test to the postgraduate level, and a licentiate exam before doctors can practise.
  4. It aims to reduce disparities in the skill sets of doctors graduating from different institutions. 
  5. Thus it implemented a ‘One-Nation-One-Exam’ in medical education.

Limited licence

  1. Though 70% of India’s population resides in rural areas, the ratio of doctors in urban and rural areas is 3.8:1. 27,000 doctors serve about 650,000 villages of the country.
  2. A recent study by the WHO shows that nearly 80% of allopathic doctors in rural areas are without medical qualification.
  3. NMC Act attempts to address this gap by effectively utilising modern medicine professionals, other than doctors in enabling primary and preventive health care. Evidence from China, Thailand and the United Kingdom shows such integration results in better health outcomes. Chhattisgarh and Assam have also experimented with community health workers. 

Fee structure

  1. Private medical colleges are capitation fee-driven and resort to a discretionary management quota and often have charges of corruption levelled against them.
  2. The Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 has no provision for fee regulation. 
  3. Until now, ‘not-for-profit’ organisations were permitted to set up medical colleges, involving enormous investments and a negotiation of cumbersome procedures.
  4. NMC Act removes the discretionary quota by using a transparent fee structure. It empowers the NMC to frame guidelines for determination of not only fees but all other charges in 50% of seats in private colleges to support poor and meritorious students.
  5. The Act also provides for rating of colleges. Reducing entry barriers for setting up medical colleges, along with their rating, is expected to benefit students.

Representation in the NMC

  1. The current electoral process of appointing regulators is saddled with compromises and attracts professionals who may not be best suited for the task at hand.
  2. Act provides for a transparent search and selection process with a mix of elected and nominated representatives, both in the search committee and the commission itself.
  3. The government added members from State medical councils and universities.
  4. Government should be able to give directions so that NMC regulations align with its policy.

Other features

  1. The Act establishes the Diplomate of National Board’s equivalence to NMC-recognised degrees.
  2. It also promotes medical pluralism.
  3. There is a paradigm shift in the regulatory philosophy from an input-based, entry barrier for education providers without corresponding benefits, to becoming outcome-focused. 
  4. Both the number of doctors and their skill sets are expected to improve. 
  5. Autonomy to boards and segregation of their functions will avoid a conflict of interest and reduce rent-seeking opportunities. 
  6. ‘Quacks’ are liable to face imprisonment or be fined or both.

Medical education needs continuous reforms in order to usher in improvements in health care. NMC Act is a serious attempt to meet the primary need of more medical professionals in the country.

Medical Education Governance in India

[op-ed snap] Biodiversity in the time of deluge

Mains Paper 3 : Disaster Management |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Floods - causes - impact


CONTEXT

Floods impact the poorest strata of society the most, causing a loss of lives, livelihood options, and assets. There is a need for assessment of floods from a ‘sustainable development’ perspective.

Causes for floods

  1. The root cause of such floods is the high precipitation levels.
  2. Anthropogenic factors like unscientific development and over-exploitation of nature aggravate the damages.
  3. The global climate has been changing in an unpredictable manner. As per an IPCC report, the Global Green House Gases emissions grew by 70% between 1970 and 2004. Global warming has critical effects on the hydrological cycle.
  4. In Kerala, a structural transformation and changing patterns of land use are affecting its environment. A loss in a wetland area will naturally impact the ability to handle floods.

Impact of floods

  1. The changing precipitation alters the hydrological systems, resulting in floods and droughts in different regions.
  2.  Floods wash away topsoil and substantial biodiversity of the area, resulting in a reduced river-water flow, death of earthworms and spread of viral and bacterial diseases among crops.

Way ahead

  1. Adequate precautions through dam management and timely public alerts.
  2. In construction, it is important to take appropriate decisions on the type and size of the structure, location, materials, and permissible damage it will cause to nature.
  3. We need to account for the damage done to natural ecosystems while estimating losses suffered due to natural disasters.
Disasters and Disaster Management – Sendai Framework, Floods, Cyclones, etc.

Explained: India’s Asymmetric Federalism

Mains Paper 2 : Federalism |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Assymetric Federalism

Mains level : Features of Indian Federalism



News

Background

  • The Union government has withdrawn the special status conferred on Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) under Article 370 of the Constitution.
  • It has also divided the State into two regions and declared them as Union Territories.
  • Thus, the government has made a significant alteration in the unique form of federalism that it has been practicing in respect of the sensitive border State.
  • Instead, it has put in place an alternative form of federalism in which the two new units will be administered by the Centre.

How is this debate concerned with federalism?

  • Nations are described as ‘federal’ or ‘unitary’, depending on the way in which governance is organised.
  • In a unitary set-up, the Centre has plenary powers of administration and legislation, with its constituent units having little autonomy.
  • In a federal arrangement, the constituent units are identified on the basis of region or ethnicity, and conferred varying forms of autonomy or some level of administrative and legislative powers.
  • As the current political status of J&K — as two UTs — is a form of demotion from the sort of autonomy it enjoyed, it becomes an issue concerning federalism.

Why is India called ‘quasi-federal’?

  • The Supreme Court has commented on the nature of the Indian Union in several judgments.
  • It has noted that the essence of a ‘federation’ is the existence of the Union of the States, and the distribution of powers between them.
  • In S.R. Bommai vs. Union of India, it notes the commonly invoked model of federalism is the United States, by which it is clear that it is a federation of States.
  • In India, Parliament has the power to admit new States, create new States, alter their boundaries and their names, and unite or divide the States.
  • Even though the States are sovereign in their prescribed legislative field, and their executive power is co-extensive with their legislative powers, it is clear that “the powers of the States are not coordinate with the Union”.
  • This is why the Constitution is often described as ‘quasi-federal’.

Demotion into a UT

  • In the latest exercise, the unprecedented act of converting a State into a UT has also been performed.
  • The concurrence of States is not needed for the formation and unmaking of States and UTs.
  • Further, the Supreme Court noted the existence of several provisions of the Constitution that allow the Centre to override the powers of the States.

Exercise of residuary powers

  • In legislation, there is a Concurrent List, unlike in the U.S., which outlines the powers of the federal government, and leaves any matter not mentioned in it as the legislative field for the States.
  • In India, the residuary powers of legislation, that is the power to make law in a field not specified in the Constitution, is vested in Parliament, whereas in the U.S., residuary powers are with the States.
  • Further, in fiscal matters, the power of the States to raise their own resources is limited, and there is a good deal of dependency on the Centre for financial assistance.

Why is it said that India has asymmetric federalism?

  • The main forms of administrative units in India are the Centre and the States.
  • But there are other forms, too, all set up to address specific local, historical and geographical contexts.
  • Besides the Centre and the States, the country has Union Territories with a legislature, and Union Territories without a legislature.
  • Just as the Centre and the States do not have matching powers in all matters, there are some differences in the way some States and other constituent units of the Indian Union relate to the Centre.
  • This creates a notable asymmetry in the way Indian federalism works.

All federal units are not equal

  • When the Constitution came into force, the various States and other administrative units were divided into Parts A, B, C and D.
  • Part A States were the erstwhile provinces, while Part B consisted of erstwhile princely states and principalities. Part C areas were the erstwhile ‘Chief Commissioner’s Provinces’.
  • They became Union Territories, and some of them initially got legislatures and were later upgraded into States.
  • Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa belong to this category.

Even equals are distinct

  • Puducherry and Delhi have legislatures, while the other territories under the Centre do not have legislatures or a ministerial council to advise the administrator.
  • Even between Puducherry and Delhi, there is a notable difference. Puducherry has legislative powers on any matter mentioned in the State List or the Concurrent List, insofar as it applies to the Union Territory.
  • Delhi, which has the same field, has three further exceptions: police, land and public order are outside its purview.
  • However, Parliament has overriding powers over any law made by the Assembly in the Union Territories.
  • Puducherry has one more unique feature. Despite being a single administrative unit, the Union Territory is ‘non-contiguous’. That is, its territory is not limited to one extent of land.
  • Besides Puducherry and its adjoining areas, it has enclaves located within other States: Karaikal (within Tamil Nadu) Yanam (within Andhra Pradesh) and Mahe (within Kerala).

What is special status? How did it work in J&K?

  • The foremost example of asymmetry among Centre-State ties was in the way J&K related to India until August 6, 2019, the day the President declared that its special status ceased to be operative.
  • Under Article 370, the State was allowed to have its own Constitution, its own definition of ‘permanent residents’, the right to bar outsiders from holding property, and the privilege of not having any Indian law automatically applicable to its territory.
  • Indian laws had to be specifically permitted by its Assembly before it could operate there. It was allowed to have its own Penal and Criminal Procedure Codes.
  • The President was empowered to notify, from time to time, the provisions of the Constitution that could be extended to the State, with or without modifications.

Are there any other examples of decentralisation of power?

  • There is another significant tier of administration under the larger framework of asymmetric federalism.
  • The Sixth Schedule to the Constitution contains provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. These create autonomous districts and autonomous regions.
  • Any autonomous district with different Scheduled Tribes will be divided into autonomous regions. These will be administered by District Councils and Regional Councils.
  • These Councils can make laws with respect to allotment, occupation and use of land, management of forests other than reserve forests and water courses.
  • Besides they can regulate social customs, marriage and divorce and property issues.
  • In Assam, the Karbi-Anglong Autonomous Council, Dima Hasao Autonomous District Council and the Bodoland Territorial Council have been set up under the Sixth Schedule. Another six autonomous councils have been formed by Acts of the legislature.
  • Ladakh has two autonomous hill development councils (Leh and Kargil). The Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council is in West Bengal.
J&K – The issues around the state

Delimitation of Constituencies in J&K

Mains Paper 2 : Federalism |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Delimitation commission

Mains level : Mandate of the Delimitation commission



News

  • The Election Commission held internal discussions on the delimitation of constituencies ahead of elections to the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Resizing new constituencies

  • According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019, the number of seats in the Legislative Assembly of the UT of J&K would be increased from 107 to 114.
  • The total population would be divided over the 114 seats to get an average number of electors per constituency.
  • The Act also specifies that delimitation will be based on the 2011 census till 2026.

Back2Basics

Delimitation Commission of India

  • The Delimitation commission or Boundary commission of India is a commission established by the Government of India under the provisions of the Delimitation Commission Act.
  • The main task of the commission is redrawing the boundaries of the various assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies based on a recent census.
  • The representation from each State is not changed during this exercise. However, the numbers of SC and ST seats in a state are changed in accordance with the census.
  • The present delimitation of constituencies has been done on the basis of 2001 census under the provisions of Delimitation Act, 2002.
  • The Commission is a independent body whose orders cannot be challenged in any court of law.
  • The orders are laid before the Lok Sabha and the respective State Legislative Assemblies. However, modifications are not permitted.
  • Delimitation commissions have been set up four times in the past — 1952, 1963, 1973 and 2002 — under Delimitation Commission Acts of 1952, 1962, 1972 and 2002.
  • The most recent delimitation commission was set up on 12 July 2002 after the 2001 census with Justice Kuldip Singh, a retired Judge of the Supreme Court as its Chairperson.
J&K – The issues around the state

‘Panchamirtham’ of Palani temple gets GI tag

Mains Paper 3 : Intellectual Property Rights |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the GI tag

Mains level : Significance of GI tagging



News

  • The famous Palani panchamirtham, given as ‘prasadam’ at the Murugan temple at Palani has been granted the Geographical Indication (GI) tag.
  • This is the first time a temple ‘prasadam’ from Tamil Nadu has been given the GI tag.

About the Panchamirtham

  • It is sweet in taste and one of the main offerings for Lord Dhandayuthapani Swamy, the presiding deity of Arulmigu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple, situated on Palani Hills.
  • The panchamirtham is a combination of five natural substances — banana, jaggery, cow ghee, honey and cardamom.
  • Dates and diamond sugar candies are added for flavour.
  • The panchamirtham is an ‘abhishega prasadam’ (food that is a religious offering), which is served in a semi-solid state.
  • Not even a single drop of water is added during the preparation of the panchamirtham.
  • This gives it its classic semi-solid consistency and taste. No preservatives or artificial ingredients are used.

What’s special with it?

  • The whole process of producing the panchamirtham is automated. It is doubly ensured that the hygienic aspects are maintained.
  • Devotees who visit the temple are offered the panchamirtham as a prasadam in the hill temple as well as in stalls run by temple administration at Adivaram.
  • It is believed that the panchamirtham cures diseases of devotees.

About the region

  • As per the GI application, the geographical area for production of panchamirtham is Palani town in Dindigul district, Tamil Nadu. It lies within latitude of 10.44 ° and longitude of 77.52 °.
  • According to the GI application filed, the Palani panchamirtham is prepared under the guidance given by the CFTRI (Central Food Technological Research Institute) Mysore, a government of India undertaking.

Back2Basics

Geographical Indications in India

  • A Geographical Indication is used on products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin.
  • Such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality.
  • This tag is valid for a period of 10 years following which it can be renewed.
  • Recently the Union Minister of Commerce and Industry has launched the logo and tagline for the Geographical Indications (GI) of India.
  • The first product to get a GI tag in India was the Darjeeling tea in 2004.
  • The Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act) is a sui generis Act for protection of GI in India.
  • India, as a member of the WTO enacted the Act to comply with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights
  • Geographical Indications protection is granted through the TRIPS Agreement.https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/panchamirtham-of-palani-temple-gets-gi-tag/article29089343.ece?homepage=true
GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

RBI issues final norms for regulatory sandbox

Mains Paper 3 : Indian Economy |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Regulatory Sandbox

Mains level : Need for regulatory sandbox


News

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued the final framework for regulatory sandbox in order to enable innovations in the financial technology.

Regulatory Sandbox

  • A regulatory sandbox usually refers to live testing of new products or services in a controlled/test regulatory environment for which regulators may permit certain regulatory relaxations for the limited purpose of the testing.
  • The objective of the sandbox is to foster responsible innovation in financial services, promote efficiency and bring benefit to consumers.
  • It provides a secure environment for fintech firms to experiment with products under supervision of a regulator.
  • It is an infrastructure that helps fintech players live test their products or solutions, before getting the necessary regulatory approvals for a mass launch, saving start-ups time and cost.
  • The concept of a regulatory sandbox or innovation hub for fintech firms was mooted by a committee headed by then RBI executive director Sudarshan Sen.
  • The panel submitted its report in Nov 2017 has called for a regulatory sandbox to help firms experiment with fintech solutions, where the consequences of failure can be contained and reasons for failure analysed.
  • If the product appears to have the potential to be successful, it might be authorised and brought to the broader market more quickly.

What are new RBI norms?

  • RBI will launch the sandbox for entities that meet the criteria of minimum net worth of ₹25 lakh as per their latest audited balance sheet.
  • The entity should either be a company incorporated and registered in the country or banks licensed to operate in India.
  • While money transfer services, digital know-your customer, financial inclusion and cybersecurity products are included, crypto currency, credit registry and credit information have been left out.
  • Meeting norms on customer privacy, data protection, security and access to payment data, the security of transactions, KYC, anti-money laundering will be mandatory.
RBI Notifications

Certification of seeds to be made mandatory to step up farm output

Mains Paper 3 : E-Technology In The Aid Of Farmers |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Need for certified quality seeds to farmers


News

Context

  • More than half of all seeds sold in India are not certified by any proper testing agency, and are often of poor quality.

Regulation of Seeds

  • The Centre now hopes to mandate uniform certification by pushing through a replacement to the Seeds Act, 1966, in the winter session of Parliament, and also by barcoding all seeds to ensure their traceability.
  • This could increase overall agricultural productivity by up to 25%.
  • The main aim of the new legislation, which is ready for submission to the Cabinet for approval, is to bring uniformity to the process of quality regulation.
  • The 1966 Act starts with these words: “An Act to provide for regulating the quality of certain seeds for sale…”
  • The new Bill removes the word “certain”, and aims to regulate the quality of all seeds sold in the country, as well as exported and imported seeds.

Why such move?

  • Currently, about 30% of seeds are what the farmer himself saves from his crop.
  • She/he may re-plant that or sells it locally. The remaining seeds which are bought and sold commercially, 45% come through the ICAR system and have gone through the mandated certification process.
  • The other 55% are sold by private companies, most of which are not certified, but rather what we call ‘truthful label seeds’.
  • That is, they are simply self-certified by the company.
  • Authorities want to remove this self-certified category with the new law and mandate certification through a proper lab process for all seeds.

Benefits of certification

  • With the bill passed, the companies will be held accountable for the quality of the seeds they sell, and the claims they make.
  • If a seed fails at the germination, flowering or seed-setting process, the company which sold it must be held liable and made to provide compensation.
  • The new Bill will also raise the stakes by increasing penalties for non-compliance.
  • Currently, the fine ranges from ₹500 to ₹5,000. We intend to raise that to [a maximum of] ₹5 lakh.

Barcode verification to boost transparency

  • The Centre also aims to roll out software to barcode seeds in order to ensure transparency and traceability.
  • The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has been collaborating with the Agriculture Ministry for this ₹5 crore project and the first prototype will be ready very soon.
  • The software system will be able to track seeds through the testing, certification and manufacturing process.
  • By connecting to a dealer licensing system, seeds will be tracked through the distribution process as well.
  • This will help weed out poor quality seeds sold by some fly-by-night operators.
Crop Insurance – PMFBY, etc.

[pib] ‘Shillong Declaration’ on e-Governance

Mains Paper 2 : E-Governance |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Shillong Declaration

Mains level : Key highlights of the declaration


News

About the Shillong Declaration

  • The ‘Shillong Declaration’ on e-Governance was recently adopted.
  • The declaration has outlined the future trajectory that would be taken in terms of e-governance with a focus on improving connectivity in Northeast.

The Conference resolved that Government of India and State Governments shall collaborate to:

  1. The central government and state governments would collaborate to improve the citizens’ experience with government services.
  2. In order to do so, they would promote the timely implementation of India Enterprise Architecture (IndEA).
  3. They would also implement a single sign-on for interoperability and integration among e-Government applications throughout the country.
  4. It also resolved to consolidate the plethora of successful state-level e-Governance projects and domain-based projects with a focus to replicate them as common application software with configurable features.
  5. The declaration also stressed the need to ensure improvement in ease of living and ease of doing business by making a big shift in the role of government from Service Provider to Service Enabler.
  6. It also stressed on the need to take steps to further improve connectivity in the Northeast.
  7. Issues and challenges of telecommunication connectivity at the grassroots and formulate and implement a comprehensive telecom development plan were also addressed in the declaration.
  8. It was also resolved to improve the quality of delivery of e-Services in the Northeast to fulfil the vision of improved citizen experience.
  9. It was also resolved to develop India as a global cloud hub and facilitate the development of Government applications and databases on Cloud by default.
  10. To adopt emerging technologies for finding e-Governance solutions and to promote the Digital India Projects with focus on Smart Cities and Smart Villages through Startups and Smart Entrepreneurship were also resolved in the declaration.
North-East India – Security and Developmental Issues