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November 2019

Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

[oped of the day] The mother of non-issues


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Maternal health


Maternity benefits in India are a non-issue. The governments are clueless about their legal, financial and political aspects.

Existing structures

    • Maternity Benefits Act – Maternity benefits are generous for a small minority of Indian women employed in the formal sector and covered under the Maternity Benefit Act. 
    • NFSA – Under the National Food Security Act, 2013, all pregnant women (except those already receiving similar benefits under other laws) are entitled to maternity benefits of ₹6,000 per child.
    • Maternity benefits scheme – a maternity benefit scheme was rolled out in 2017: the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY). 
    • The majority left out – The vast majority of pregnant women, however, are left to their own devices.


    • Jaccha-Baccha Survey (JABS) was conducted in six states of north India — Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh. 
    • Unable to meet pregnancy needs – due to lack of knowledge or power, most of the sample households were unable to take care of the special needs of pregnancy, whether it was food, rest or health care. 
    • Food needs – Among women who had delivered a baby in the preceding six months, only 31% said that they had eaten more nutritious food than usual during their pregnancy. 
    • Less weight gain – Their average weight gain during pregnancy was just seven kg on average, compared with a norm of 13 kg to 18 kg for women with a low body-mass index. In Uttar Pradesh, 39% of the respondents had no clue whether they had gained weight during pregnancy, and 36% had gone through it without a health check-up.
    • HP presents a better picture – only in Himachal Pradesh, rural women are relatively well-off, well-educated and self-confident. The special needs of pregnancy received significant attention.

Need for maternity benefits

    • Reduce hardships – Maternity benefits could help to relieve these hardships and give babies a chance of good health. 
    • PMMVY: The modalities of the scheme violate the NFSA: benefits are restricted to the first living child, and to ₹5,000 per woman. The budget provision of ₹2,700 crores is a fraction of the ₹15,000 crores required for the full-fledged implementation of maternity benefits as per NFSA norms. The actual expenditure was barely ₹2,000 crore.

Performance of PMMVY

    • Less number covered
      • 80 lakh women received at least one instalment of PMMVY money between April 1, 2018, and July 31, 2019, and 50 lakh received all three instalments. 
      • Based on an estimated population of 134 crores and a birth rate of 20.2 per thousand, the annual number of births in India would be around 270 lakh. Of these, a little less than half would be first births.
      • These figures imply that in 2018-19 only around 22% of all pregnant women received any PMMVY money, and around 14% received the full benefits.
    • Ruined in steps
      • Reduced coverage – The coverage and benefits were reduced compared with NFSA norms. Had the benefits been higher and universal, the scheme would have been a hit.
      • Tedious procedure – The application process is tedious. From filling a long-form for each instalment, women have to submit a series of documents, including their ‘mother-and-child protection’ card, bank passbook, Aadhaar card and husband’s Aadhaar card. Essential details in different documents have to match, and the bank account needs to be linked with Aadhaar.
      • Technical limitations – There are frequent technical glitches in the online application and payment process. When an application is rejected or returned with queries, the applicant may or may not get to know about it.
    • Aadhaar
      • Rejected payments due to mismatch between a person’s Aadhaar card and bank account. 
      • More than 20% of the respondents mentioned that they had faced difficulties because the address on their Aadhaar card was that of their maika, not of their sasural.

Examples of T.N., Odisha

    • Some State governments have put in place effective maternity benefit schemes of their own. 
    • Tamil Nadu – Under the Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme, pregnant women in Tamil Nadu receive financial assistance of ₹18,000 per child for the first two births, including a nutrition kit. 
    • Odisha – Odisha’s Mamata scheme also covers two births with lower entitlements — ₹5,000 per child, as with the PMMVY. 
    • The JABS survey suggests that the Mamata scheme is working reasonably well: among women who had delivered in the last six months, 88% of those eligible for Mamata benefits had applied, and 75% had received at least one of the two instalments.

Citizenship and Related Issues

Back in debate: The Citizenship Amendment Bill


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Citizenship in India

Mains level : Demographic changes due to illegal migration in India

The government intends to introduce The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill in Parliament’s ongoing Winter Session.

What is the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill?

  • The Bill seeks to amend The Citizenship Act, 1955 to make Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian illegal migrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, eligible for citizenship of India.
  • In other words, the Bill intends to make it easier for non-Muslim immigrants from India’s three Muslim-majority neighbours to become citizens of India.
  • Under The Citizenship Act, 1955, one of the requirements for citizenship by naturalization is that the applicant must have resided in India during the last 12 months, as well as for 11 of the previous 14 years.
  • The amendment relaxes the second requirement from 11 years to 6 years as a specific condition for applicants belonging to these six religions, and the aforementioned three countries.
  • Under The Citizenship Act, 1955, a person who is born in India, or has Indian parentage, or has resided in India over a specified period of time, is eligible for Indian citizenship.

Illegal migrants

  • Illegal migrants cannot become Indian citizens in accordance with the present laws.
  • Under the Act, an illegal migrant is a foreigner who: (i) enters the country without valid travel documents like a passport and visa, or (ii) enters with valid documents, but stays beyond the permitted time period.
  • Illegal migrants may be put in jail or deported under The Foreigners Act, 1946 and The Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920.

Non-Muslim migrants aren’t illegal!

  • However, in 2015 and 2016, the government exempted specified groups of illegal migrants from provisions of the 1946 and 1920 Acts.
  • They were Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who reached India on or before December 31, 2014.
  • This meant that these particular categories of illegal migrants would not be deported or jailed for being in India without valid documents.
  • The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was introduced in Parliament to amend The Citizenship Act, 1955, so that these people could be made eligible for citizenship of India.

What happened with the Bill?

  • The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on January 8, 2019.
  • With the 16th Lok Sabha nearing the end of its term, the government was racing against time to introduce it in Rajya Sabha.
  • However, massive protests against the Bill in the Northeast acted to restrain the government, and Rajya Sabha adjourned sine die on February 13, 2019, without the Bill being tabled.
  • According to Parliamentary procedures, all Bills that have been passed by Lok Sabha but not by Rajya Sabha lapse when the term of Lok Sabha ends.

What is the controversy around the Bill?

  • The fundamental criticism of the Bill has been that it specifically targets Muslims.
  • Critics argue that it is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to equality.
  • The government, however, maintains that the Bill aims to grant citizenship to minorities who have faced religious persecution in Muslim-majority foreign countries.
  • In the NE states, the prospect of citizenship for massive numbers of illegal Bangladeshi migrants has triggered deep anxieties, including fears of demographic change, loss of livelihood opportunities, and erosion of the indigenous culture.

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

Outreach of the Maternity schemes in India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PMMVY

Mains level : Maternity benefits in India

The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PMMVY) scheme has been able to reach less than a third of the eligible beneficiaries reveals RTI Act.


  • The PMMVY is targeted only at women delivering their first child.
  • A cash amount of ₹6,000 is transferred to the bank account of the beneficiary in three instalments upon meeting certain conditions.
  • These include early registration of pregnancy, having at least one ante-natal check-up and registration of childbirth.

Outreach of PMMVY

  • PMMVY is a vital programme to support lactating mothers and pregnant women by compensating them for loss of wages during their pregnancy
  • Almost 61% of beneficiaries registered under the between April 2018 and July 2019 (38.3 lakh out of the total 62.8 lakh enrolled) received the full amount of ₹6,000 promised under the scheme, according to an RTI reply.
  • However, the researchers assert that since the scheme failed to reach at least 49% of all mothers who would have delivered their first child (an estimated total of 123 lakh for 2017), the scheme was able to benefit only 31% of its intended beneficiaries.

Why such low outreach?

  • Several factors impeded proper implementation of the programme that aims to fight malnutrition among children.
  • These include an application form of about 23 pages, a slew of documents such as mother-child protection card, Aadhaar card, husband’s Aadhaar card and bank passbook aside from linking their bank accounts with Aadhaar.
  • The requirement to produce the husband’s Aadhaar card results in excluding women who may be living with men they are not married to, single mothers and those who may be staying at their natal home.
  • Women must also have the address of their marital home on their Aadhaar card, which often results in newlyweds being either left out or forced to go from door-to-door when pregnant and needing rest and care.

Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

SAANS Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SAANS

Mains level : Pneumonial deaths in India

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare has launched SAANS, a campaign aimed at reducing child mortality due to pneumonia, which contributes to around 15% deaths annually of children under the age of five.


  • SAANS stands for ‘Social Awareness and Action to Neutralise Pneumonia Successfully’.
  • It aims to mobilise people to protect children from pneumonia, and train health personnel and other stakeholders to provide prioritised treatment to control the disease.
  • Under the campaign, a child suffering from pneumonia can be treated with pre-referral dose of anti-biotic amoxicillin by ASHA workers.
  • Health and wellness centres can use pulse oximeter (device to monitor oxygen saturation) to identify low oxygen levels in the blood of a child, and if required, treat him by use of oxygen cylinders.

Pneumonia deaths in India

  • As per HMIS data, under-five mortality rate in the country is 37 per 1000 live births, of which 5.3 deaths are caused due to pneumonia.
  • The government aims to achieve a target of reducing pneumonia deaths among children to less than three per 1,000 live births by 2025.
  • The HMIS data for 2018-19 ranked Gujarat second in the number of child deaths due to pneumonia, after Madhya Pradesh.
  • The State ranked fifth in infant mortality due to pneumonia.

[pib] National Mission on Cultural Mapping (NMCM)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : National Mission on Cultural Mapping (NMCM)

Mains level : Plural diversity of India

The Minister of State of Culture and Tourism provided certain information regarding the NMCM in the Lok Sabha.

National Mission on Cultural Mapping

  • National Mission on Cultural Mapping (NMCM) has been set up by the Ministry of Culture in 2017.
  • Mission will compile data of artists, art forms & geo location with inputs from Central Ministries, State Governments & art/culture bodies.
  • Specially designed data capture form with technical collaboration of National E-Governance Division (NEGD)/Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY) has been formulated for data collection.
  • Data from art & culture Academies of the Ministry of Culture has been collected and will be entered into database after due correction.

Indian Navy Updates

[pib] Exercise Za’ir-Al-Bahr (Roar of the Sea)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the Exercise

Mains level : NA

Indian Navy has arrived at Doha for the inaugural edition of the Bilateral Maritime Exercise Za’ir-Al-Bahr (Roar of the Sea).

 Exercise Za’ir-Al-Bahr

  • The exercise is being conducted from 17 to 21 Nov 19 between the Indian Navy and Qatari Emiri Naval Forces.
  • Za’ir-Al-Bahr 2019 would strengthen cooperation and enhance interoperability between the two navies.
  • The Exercise will include a three-day Harbour Phase and Two days Sea Phase.
  • The activities during the harbour phase will include a seminar, professional interaction, official visits, sports fixtures along with social and cultural events.
  • The Sea Phase will include a Tactical Maritime Exercise involving the domains of Surface Action, Air Defence, Maritime Surveillance and Interdiction Operation and anti-terrorism.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

[op-ed snap] Towards a Colombo reset


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India - Sri Lanka ties


The election of the new president of Sri Lanka, Gotabaya Rajapaksa strengthened the narrative about Colombo’s “tilt” towards China and against India. The headline misrepresents the complex power play involving Beijing, Delhi and Colombo.

Power play

  • The Great Game in the Subcontinent is not limited to just India and China. 
  • There are considerable interests and influence of many other powers in the region, including the US, European Union, Japan and Russia. 
  • The exclusive focus on major power rivalry masks the agency of South Asian political elites and their capacity to manoeuvre among the major powers.


  • Although the Rajapaksas had blamed India for their defeat in the 2015 elections, they have sought to make up with Delhi in recent years. 
  • India has been engaging all the major political formations in Sri Lanka. 
  • The stage is ready for a reset in the bilateral relations between the two strong governments in Delhi and Colombo.


  • India is aware that China’s economic and strategic salience in the Subcontinent will continue to grow and is not tied to the regime leadership in its neighbourhood.
  • The outgoing coalition led by Sirisena and Wickremesinghe proves the irrelevance of labelling governments in Colombo as “pro-China” or “pro-India”.
  • It came to power criticising the Chinese projects in Sri Lanka as financially unsustainable. 
  • Two years into power, the coalition extended full backing to the Chinese projects. 
  • So-called “pro-India” regime offered China a 99-year lease on the Hambantota project. 
  • The government stalled key projects of interest to Delhi.

What India can do about China

  • India can’t expect its neighbours to shut down economic and commercial engagement with China.
  • There are questions about the terms of China’s assistance on projects, including those under the Belt and Road Initiative. 
  • India can only ask Sri Lanka not to take steps with Beijing that threaten India’s security. 
  • Both need a clear understanding of mutual red lines relating to national security and a political comfort level to discuss cases that fall within the orange zone. 
  • That should help prevent the recurrence of the controversy over Chinese submarines in Colombo port as in 2014.

Renewed friendship

  • Rajapaksas are reported as saying that China is a “trade partner” while India is a “close relative”. 
  • Other terms used to describe the new policy include “neutrality” and “non-alignment” between major powers.
  • The world rediscovers the geopolitical value of Sri Lanka at the heart of the Indo-Pacific.
  • It has huge opportunities to leverage its location for national benefit. 

Way ahead

  • Sri Lanka should avoid provoking India. 
  • India should be mindful of Colombo’s security concerns and find ways to develop long-term strategic cooperation with Sri Lanka.
  • India needs to invest some political capital in resolving problems such as the long-standing dispute over fisheries. 
  • India, either alone or in partnership with like-minded countries like Japan, should offer sustainable terms for infrastructure development. 
  • India also needs to contribute more to the development of Colombo’s defence and counter-terror capabilities.

Tamil question

  • India’s involvement in Sri Lanka’s civil war has been far more consequential than the China facto. 
  • Successive coalition governments in India struggled to balance the pulls and pressures from Chennai and Colombo. 
  • If the new government in Sri Lanka can advance reconciliation with the Tamil minority, it will be easier to strengthen ties. 
  • The Western powers have expressed deep concerns about the war crimes in the military campaign against the LTTE and the need to bring those responsible to book.

Way ahead

  • India should look beyond old formulae to try and encourage reconciliation within Lanka and across the Palk Strait with Tamil Nadu. 
  • With a strong government in Sri Lanka, it is time for India to think boldly about its relationship with Sri Lanka.

Hunger and Nutrition Issues – GHI, GNI, etc.

[op-ed snap] Odisha’s strides in nutrition


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Case study from Orissa


Odisha is one of the Empowered Action Group States or eight socio-economically backward states of India. It has done remarkably well in health and nutrition outcomes over the past two decades.


    • Its infant mortality rate has significantly declined. 
    • Its under-five mortality rate almost halved in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-4 from NFHS-3. 
    • It has seen a steep decline in stunting in children under five. 
    • Anaemia in children and pregnant women has also decreased since NFHS-3. 
    • Antenatal care and institutional deliveries have shown good improvement. 

Nutritional interventions

    • Nutrition has a strong correlation to health and is integral to growth and development. 
    • Timely nutritional interventions of breastfeeding, age-appropriate complementary feeding, Vitamin A supplementation, and full immunisation are effective in improving nutrition outcomes in children. 
    • A nutrition action plan based on convergence – with health, nutrition, and WASH programmes. 
    • Decentralising the procurement of supplementary nutrition under the Integrated Child Development Services programme. This has led to fair access to services under the ICDS by all beneficiaries.
    • A rise in utilisation of services under the ICDS as compared to a decade ago. 
    • Supplementary nutrition – There has been a marked improvement in supplementary nutrition received by pregnant and lactating women in NFHS-4 compared to NFHS-3.


    • Despite progress in child and maternal indicators, Odisha continues to be plagued by a high level of malnutrition. 
    • Stunting – There is stark variability across districts in stunting ranging from as high as 47.5% in Subarnapur to a low of 15.3% in Cuttack. 
    • Wasting is high in 25 out of the 30 districts. Almost half of the under-five children from tribal communities in Odisha are underweight, and 46% are stunted. 
    • The infant mortality rate among tribals is the fourth highest in Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.
    • Reduced supplementary food – food given under the ICDS programme has shown a significant increase. Less of such food is given as children grow older. 
    • Feeding – There is also a decline is children receiving timely complementary feeding. Less than 10% of children receive a minimum acceptable diet. This can be attributed to a lack of understanding and awareness about nutrition due to illiteracy.


    • Another challenge for Odisha is in reaching out to remote and particularly vulnerable tribal groups. 
    • This could be the reason why tribal women and children are lagging behind the national average on nutrition and health indicators. 

Way ahead

    • It is essential to improve the implementation of schemes and ensure last-mile delivery of nutrition services.
    • A part of the solution lies in setting up mini Anganwadi centres catering to far-flung tribal hamlets. 
    • Raising awareness through community campaigns on the need for good nutrition would help improve the utilisation of services by beneficiaries.
    • The International Food Policy Research Institute called for inter-department engagements to accelerate the nutrition outcome in Odisha. 
    • There is a need to improve sanitation, women’s education and underlying poverty to tackle undernutrition.
    • Underweight children should also be identified precisely so that the monitoring mechanism for improving service delivery can be strengthened. 
    • The National Nutrition Mission sets an example with its inter-ministerial convergence and real-time monitoring mechanism for tracking each beneficiary and tackling malnutrition.

Finance Commission – Issues related to devolution of resources

[oped of the day] Over to the states


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Role of states in the economic development story


In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index released last month, India ranked 63. It is a jump from its lowly rank of 142 in 2014. 

Challenges remain – with the states:

    • 15th FC ToR – When the government amended the terms of reference asking that allocations for defence and internal security be carved out upfront, states accused Centre’s highhandedness.
    • Land acquisition – government attempted to reform the land acquisition law by tweaking the balance in favour of investors many states objected to this. This happened despite the land being on the concurrent list in the Constitution.

Importance of states in India’s economic management

    • Early federalism – In the early years of our republic, the Centre dominated across all domains — political, economic and administrative — and states acquiesced to this unequal arrangement. 
    • Reaction to dominance – The reaction to central dominance came in the early 1980s when strong regional leaders started agitating against “the hegemony of the Centre”. Leaders like N T Rama Rao built their political careers on an “anti-Centre” platform.
    • Centre yielded – subsequently, the Centre yielded to the states largely in the political space. 
    • Economic policy spaceMuch of the economic policy control stayed with the Centre. It decided public investment and private investment through its industrial and import licensing policies. It left the states on the margins of economic management.

Economic reforms – change in relation: Three trends

    • The arrangement started to change with the onset of reforms from 1991.
    • Three trends have shifted the economic centre of gravity from the Centre to the states.

Trend # 1: Change in the content of the reform agenda

    • 1991 reforms – Centre could push through the reforms of the 1990s without even informing the states because they all pertained to subjects such as industrial licencing, import permits, exchange rate and the financial sector, which were entirely within its domain. 
    • Second-generation reforms – shift the emphasis from product to factor markets like land, labour and taxation, which often need the consent of states.
    • GST – it illustrates the increased clout of the states in driving reforms more than the GST negotiations. There was a clash of interests between the Centre and states, producer and consumer states, large and small states and coastal and inland states. The deal could not be finalised until the Centre guaranteed to fill the revenue gap of states according to an agreed formula.

Trend # 2: Fiscal federalism

    • Revenue – expenditure gap – estimates suggest that the Centre collects about 60% of the combined revenue, but gets to spend only about 40% of the combined expenditure. 
    • States collect 40% of the combined revenue but spend as much as 60% of the combined expenditure.
    • States autonomy – states now enjoy greater autonomy in determining their expenditure. Planning Commission is no more. The states get a larger quantum of central transfers and decide on how to spend that larger quantum.
    • Management of state financesThe RBI in its latest annual report on state finances raised several red flags
      • states’ increasing weakness in raising revenue
      • their unsustainable debt burden
      • the tendency to retrench capital expenditures in order to accommodate fiscal shocks such as farm loan waivers, power sector loans under UDAY and a host of income transfer schemes
    • Impact of state finances – As the RBI pointed out, the quality of expenditure at the state level has a multiplier effect on overall development outcomes.
    • Market response – The market will penalise the mismanagement of public finances. Even if it is the Centre or the states, for an unsustainable debt burden, market penalises.

Trend # 3: Economic federalism

    • Investments – There is states’ growing importance in economic federalism. They play a critical role in creating a conducive investment climate in the country. 
    • Ease of Doing Business – Much of the responsibility for improving the ease of doing business rests not with Delhi but with the states.


    • India’s prospects and aspiration for a $5 trillion economy depend on the Centre and the states working together.
    • If ever there was an opportune moment for a big push on cooperative federalism, it is now.