Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

What is Gati Shakti Master Plan?

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gati Shakti Master Plan

Mains level : Infrastructure development

In his I-day speech, the PM has announced a ₹100 lakh crore “Gati Shakti” infrastructure plan.

What is Gati Shakti Master Plan?

  • The PM has pegged the project as a source of employment opportunities for the youth in the future.
  • The plan will make a foundation for holistic infrastructure and give an integrated pathway to our economy.
  • More details and the launch date of the project are awaited.

What are the focus areas of the project?

  • The Gati Shakti plan will help raise the global profile of local manufacturers and help them compete with their counterparts worldwide.
  • It also raises possibilities of new future economic zones.
  • The PM also said that India needs to increase both manufacturing and exports.

Why need such a plan?

  • The push for infrastructure is in line with the government’s efforts to step up capital expenditure in infrastructure to promote economic growth.
  • Infrastructure development has the ability to create a multiplier effect with every rupee invested, yielding much higher returns.

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Back2Basics:

National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP)

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Quality of Life for Elderly Index

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Quality of Life for Elderly Index

Mains level : Old age security

Quality of Life for Elderly Index was released by the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM).

Quality of Life for Elderly Index

The Index has been created by the Institute for Competitiveness at the request of EAC-PM and it sheds light on an issue often not mentioned- problems faced by the elderly.

  • The report identifies the regional patterns of ageing across the Indian States and assesses the overall ageing situation in India.
  • The report presents a deeper insight into how well India is doing to support the well-being of its ageing population.
  • The Index framework includes four pillars:
  1. Financial Well-being
  2. Social Well-being
  3. Health System and
  4. Income Security
  • It has eight sub-pillars: Economic Empowerment, Educational Attainment & Employment, Social Status, Physical Security, Basic Health, Psychological Wellbeing, Social Security and Enabling Environment.

Features of the index

  • This index broadens the way we understand the needs and opportunities of the elderly population in India.
  • It goes far beyond the adequacy of pensions and other forms of income support, which, though critical, often narrows policy thinking and debate about the needs of this age group.
  • The index highlights that the best way to improve the lives of the current and future generations of older people is by investing in health, education and employment for young people today.

Why need such an index?

  • India is often portrayed as a young society, with a consequent demographic dividend.
  • But, as with every country that goes through a fast process of demographic transition, India also has greying cum aging problem.
  • Without a proper diagnostic tool to understand the implications of its ageing population, planning for the elderly can become a challenge for policymakers.

Key Highlights from the Report:

  • The Health System pillar observes the highest national average, 66.97 at an all-India level, followed by 62.34 in Social Well-being.
  • Financial Well-being observes a score of 44.7, which is lowered by the low performance of 21 States across the Education Attainment & Employment pillar, which showcases scope for improvement
  • States have performed particularly worse in the Income Security pillar because over half of the States have a score below the national average, i.e., 33.03 in Income Security, which is the lowest across all pillars.

Performance of the states

  • Among all the states, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh are top-scoring regions in the aged states and relatively aged states categories.
  • Rajasthan has a score of 54.61 in the aged states category while Himachal Pradesh has a score of 61.04 in relatively aged states.
  • Mizoram has a score of 59.79 among northeastern states while Chandigarh scored 63.78 among the Union Territories.
  • Jammu and Kashmir scored the lowest 46.16 among Union Territories.
  • Arunachal Pradesh, among the northeastern states, scored the lowest score with 46.16.
  • In the aged states and relatively aged states categories, Telangana and Gujarat scored the lowest with 38.19 and 49.00, respectively.

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Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

PM-CARES Fund

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PM-CARES fund.

Mains level : Paper 3- Concerns over PM-CARES fund.

Context

In the midst of all of this, our Prime Minister announced the creation of the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM-CARES), which—if the intention is to allow funds to move fast and circumvent bureaucratic hurdles—is a great initiative.

About PM CARES Fund

  • The Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) was created on 28 March 2020 following the COVID-19 pandemic in India. 
  • The fund will be used for combating, containment and relief efforts against the coronavirus outbreak and similar pandemic like situations in the future. 
  • The Prime Minister is the chairman of the trust. Members will include the defence, home and finance ministers.
  • The fund will also enable micro-donations. The minimum donation accepted for the PM CARES Fund is ₹10 (14¢ US).
  • The donations will be tax exempt and fall under corporate social responsibility.
  • The Prime Minister had said that the PMO had received many requests to help in the war against COVID-19.
  • Accordingly, the fund was set up and will be used for disaster management and research

The backdrop against which the fund was created

  • The battle is a struggle for so many people. The Prime Minister called for physical distancing and the shutdown.
  • But physical distancing is a luxury. Many people cannot do so, because they live in tiny homes, in close proximity to each other.
  • And then there are the migrant workers who are squeezed next to each other as they struggle to head home.
  • The announcement of the PM-CARES Fund will convince more people to give to the cause.
  • However, certain aspects make one to look at the PM-CARES fund with mixed emotions. Here is why:

1. The government has faced challenges on the execution side

  • The PM did a great job rallying the country together, but the pictures of migrants walking hundreds of miles to get to the safety of their homes are heart-wrenching.
  • Criticism in hindsight: Of course, such decisions had to be made quickly, and it is easy to criticise the government in hindsight.
  • Inaction could be more damaging: And sometimes there are limited alternatives when one is doing work on a war footing. Mistakes are bound to be made, and in many cases, inaction could be more damaging.
  • The PM also acknowledged and apologised for these hardships in his latest Mann Ki Baat address.

2. Non-profits working on relief and rehabilitation are already struggling

  • In this environment, nonprofits are already struggling on the funding side.
  • Many will shut down or go into hibernation over the next three months and their employees will join the daily wage earners as workers who suddenly do not have any income.

3. Based on media reports, PM-CARES has been set up as a trust

  • Legislation to ban CSR funding to trusts: Despite the fact that the government is currently pushing legislation that aims to ban Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funding to nonprofits set up as trusts or societies.
  • Poor governance of the trusts: One of the reasons given for doing so is the alleged poor governance structure of trusts and societies when compared to Section 8 companies.
  • Why then has the government set up PM-CARES as a trust aimed at targeting corporate CSR funds?

4. PM-CARES has made no announcements on governance, accountability, etc.

  • No questions asked: While many donors have stepped up to fund non-profits working on covid-19 relief measures, their amounts pale in comparison to how much PM-CARES raised in its first two days.
  • Moreover, donors have grilled nonprofits on how we will ensure proper delivery.
  • But no such questions are being asked of the PM-CARES Fund.
  • How will success be measured? What audited accounts will be given? This information has not been shared.
  • So far, the success with respect to funds raised for PM-CARES is a reflection of the confidence people have in our Prime Minister.
  • Problems are surfacing: However, problems are already surfacing, like reports of fake online accounts being set up to steal funds meant for PM-CARES.
  • Presumably, issues will be addressed over the next few days, because everything is moving so fast and decisions are being taken on a war footing.

5. Centralised funding could hurt localised solutions

  • Solution comes from decentralisation: The internet has taught us that ideas and solutions come from decentralised, empowered teams driven by big, hairy, audacious goals.
  • Involving people in finding solutions: There are so many smart people across our country—in governments, research institutions and academia, the private sector, nonprofits, and civil society.
  • Today, more than ever, we need to get them all involved in finding solutions. And doing so requires money.
  • If a lot of funding for covid-19 gets centralised, funds to other players could get curtailed and localised solutions will die.
  • Funding to innovative solutions: Here again, it is hoped that the funds collected will also be given to other groups who are coming up with innovative solutions.

6. The government needs to trust and work closely with the nonprofit sector

  • The central, as well as many state governments, are talking to individuals, nonprofits, and the private sector for help to handle this pandemic.
  • And they are relying on the generosity (and duty) of the citizens to come up with solutions because, as with all disasters, the state cannot handle this problem on its own.
  • At the same time, the stimulus packages offered to the private sector have been very little.
  • Nonprofits, most of whom are funded either by philanthropists or CSR, will, therefore, be squeezed for funding, as their donors pull back discretionary money.
  • And many nonprofit professionals are worried that they may not have a job soon.
  • So, on one hand, various governments rush to the private players for help, while at the same time some people in the government treat the nonprofit sector with suspicion.

Conclusion

It is hoped that PM-CARES will help various teams in the public and private sector work together, bridging our trust deficits, to fight the virus and reduce the pain inflicted on so many vulnerable people on various fronts—physical, mental, and financial.

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

SPG protection

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SPG

Mains level : Security issues associated with VIPs


  • The Union government is expected to take away the security cover by Special Protection Group (SPG) being provided at present to Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi.
  • They will, however, continue to get a Z+ security cover, where they will be provided commandos belonging to the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).

How are security levels decided?

  • The Union Home Ministry takes this call after evaluating the inputs from all the intelligence agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
  • However, since none of the intelligence agencies is accountable to any external statutory body, barring internal oversight by ministries of Home and Foreign Affairs, the issue of security cover is open to manipulation.

What are the various levels of protection?

  • There are largely six types of security covers: X, Y, Y plus, Z, Z plus and SPG.
  • While SPG is meant only for the PM and his immediate family, other categories can be provided to anyone about whom the Centre or state governments have inputs about facing a threat.
  • X category: This on an average entails just one gunman protecting the individual;
  • Y category: It has one gunman for mobile security and one (plus four on rotation) for static security; Y plus has two policemen on rotation for security and one (plus four on rotation) for residence security;
  • Z category: It has six gunmen for mobile security and two (plus eight) for residence security; Z plus has 10 security personnel for mobile security and two (plus eight) for residence security.
  • There are various kinds of covers within these levels as well.

Who are the SPG? Whom do they protect?

  • The SPG is an elite force, specifically raised for the protection of the country’s PM, former PMs and their immediate family.
  • The force is currently 3,000 strong. If the Gandhis lose the SPG cover, PM Modi will be the only one under the SPG’s protection.
  • The SPG is highly trained in physical efficiency, marksmanship, combat and proximate protection tactics and is assisted by all central and state agencies to ensure foolproof security.
  • SPG Special Agents assigned to the PM security detail wear black, Western-style formal business suits, with sunglasses, and carry a two-way encrypted communication earpiece, and concealed handguns.
  • The SPG also has special operations commandos who carry ultra-modern assault rifles and wear dark-visor sunglasses with inbuilt communication earpieces, bulletproof vests, gloves and elbow/knee pads.

When was SPG raised? What is its history?

  • The SPG was started in 1985 in the wake of the killing of PM Indira Gandhi in 1984.
  • When V P Singh came to power in 1989, his government withdrew SPG protection given to his predecessor Rajiv Gandhi.
  • But after Rajiv’s assassination in 1991, the SPG Act was amended to offer protection to all former PMs and their families for at least 10 years.
  • In 2003, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government again amended the SPG Act to bring the period of automatic protection down from 10 years to “a period of one year.
  • It is from the date on which the former PM ceased to hold office” and beyond one year based on the level of threat as decided by the government.
  • During the Vajpayee regime, the SPG cover of former PMs such as H D Deve Gowda, I K Gujaral and P V Narasimha Rao were withdrawn.

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Explained: The PM’s Economic Advisory Council — role and evolution

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : PMEAC

Mains level : Role and functions of the EAC


  • The government has reconstituted the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (PMEAC or EAC-PM).
  • Bibek Debroy, who was appointed Chairman of the Council in 2017, continues in his post.

PMEAC

  • The PMEAC was set up “with a view to provide a sounding board for inculcating awareness in government on the different point of view on key economic issues”.
  • Its functions included analysing any issue, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the PM and advising him thereon.
  • It aimed at addressing issues of macroeconomic importance and presenting views thereon to the Prime Minister”, either on its own or upon reference; and presenting to the PM from time to time reports on “macroeconomic developments and issues with implications for economic policy”.

Its inception

  • PM Indira Gandhi, who had returned to power in 1980, faced formidable economic challenges.
  • The global oil shock and drought had led to a decline in the national income, and soaring prices.
  • In this situation, Finance Minister R Venkataraman stressed to the PM the need to arrest the slide and set the economy on the path to stability and growth.
  • Indira decided to rope in Prof Sukhamoy Chakravarty, a man who had taught alongside Amartya Sen and Manmohan Singh at the Delhi School of Economics, and who had, in the mid-1970s, headed the Policy Perspective Division in the Planning Commission.

Early years

  • In the initial years of its existence, the members of the Council included the famed economist K N Raj, besides C Rangarajan, who would later become the Governor of the RBI.
  • Vijay Kelkar was the first Secretary of the PMEAC during 1982-83.
  • Chakravarty who briefed the Prime Minister occasionally on the state of the economy, continued in the post after Rajiv Gandhi succeeded Indira in 1984.

First case of reference

  • Around 1986-87 the government had opened up the economy a little and allowed liberal foreign borrowings while spending to boost growth.
  • The Council made a presentation to the PM flagging emerging faultlines, and warning of an emerging fiscal imbalance.
  • Rajiv acknowledged the input, and announced that the government had decided to accept the report of a committee appointed in 1985 by then RBI Governor Manmohan Singh to review the working of the monetary system and Budget deficit.

The 1990s

  • Manmohan Singh himself headed the Council briefly when Chandra Shekhar was Prime Minister, before moving on to become Advisor to the PM in the months leading to the balance of payments crisis of 1991.
  • Bimal Jalan, who was finance secretary in the V P Singh government and, for a while in the Chandra Shekhar government as well, was moved to head the Council.
  • When P V Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister, and Manmohan Singh his Finance Minister, the Council held only a few meetings.

The Vajpayee years

  • Things changed after Vajpayee became PM for the second time in 1998.
  • The economy was again in trouble after the Asian crisis, and the PMEAC was expanded with the Prime Minister himself at its head.
  • A 12-member Council for Trade and Industry was also appointed. Vajpayee’s PMEAC had heavyweights such as I G Patel, the former RBI Governor; P N Dhar, a former Secretary in Indira’s PMO; and noted economists.
  • At a meeting of the Council in July 2002, Vajpayee unveiled an economic agenda for 8% growth — featuring plans to provide 10 million job opportunities annually, re-target subsidies and spending.
  • Through this period, the Finance Ministry remained dominant in economic policymaking.

The Manmohan years

  • After he became PM in 2004, Manmohan Singh, conscious that he could no longer afford to focus on multiple economic issues, got his former RBI colleague Rangarajan to head the PMEAC.
  • The EAC by this time was more compact, with fewer than a half-dozen members. The Council was seen as the advisory group best equipped to provide independent advice to the PM.
  • During the 2004-14 decade, the Council often brought out its own review of the economy, besides reports on a range of issues.
  • Singh’s Council was the most influential in the over three-decade history of the institution.
  • It drew its strength, most importantly, from the confidence and trust that the economist PM had in the head of the Council.

Revival in 2017

  • One of the early decisions that the new government under PM Modi took was to dismantle the Planning Commission.
  • However, the PMEAC was not restructured under the new government.
  • The Council was later reconstituted during first Modi government, with Debroy, then a member of the NITI Aayog, as chairman.
  • The revived PMEAC had economists Surjit Bhalla, Rathin Roy, and Ashima Goyal as members, and former finance secretary Ratan Watal as Secretary.

Prime Minister’s Office : Important Updates

Special Protection Group (SPG) Cover

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SPG

Mains level : Not Much


  • The government is likely to withdraw the Special Protection Group (SPG) from a former Prime Minister’s security detail.

Special Protection Group

  • The SPG was set up in 1985 after the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi, and Parliament passed the SPG Act in 1988 dedicating the group to protecting the Prime Ministers of India.
  • At the time, the Act did not include former Prime Ministers, and when V.P. Singh came to power in 1989 his government withdrew SPG protection to the outgoing PM Rajiv Gandhi.
  • After Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 the SPG Act was amended, offering SPG protection to all former Prime Ministers and their families for a period of at least 10 years.
  • The SPG cover would only be reduced on the basis of threat levels as defined in the SPG Act of 1988.
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