28 May 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
GOVERNANCE
1. Parties out of purview of RTI Act, says EC
HEALTH
1. Women’s health crucial to combat stunting: study
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. India protests Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan order
2. Irish pay tribute to Savita after verdict
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Blockchain being used in banking, contracts
2. CAs excluded from fair valuation of start-ups
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
ECONOMY
1. Water management reforms
HEALTH
1. The implementation of Ayushman Bharat requires a strong reform agenda
GOVERNANCE
1. Civil Service Reforms: proposal for allocating services and cadres
F. Prelims Fact
G. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Parties out of purview of RTI Act, says EC

 

  • Political parties are out of the purview of the Right to Information Act, the Election Commission has said in an order, which is contrary to the directive of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to bring six national parties under the law.
  • The order came on the appeal of an RTI applicant seeking to know the donations collected by the six national parties which were brought under the ambit of the law by the CIC in June 2013.
  • The First Appellate Authority in the Election Commission, K.F. Wilfred, the Senior Principal Secretary, wrote in the order that he agreed with the view taken by the CPIO.

Background

  • Six of the seven parties — the BJP, the Congress, the BSP, the NCP, the CPI and the CPI(M) — for which information was sought were brought under the RTI Act by a full Bench of the CIC on June 3, 2013.
  • The order has not been challenged in the higher courts but the political parties have refused to entertain the RTI applications directed at them. Several activists have approached the Supreme Court on the grounds of non-compliance of the CIC order and the matter is pending.
  • When it comes to the RTI Act, the Central Information Commission is the only appellate authority which may declare a body as public authority if it is convinced that the organisation fits into the criteria for being under the Right to Information Act.

Category: HEALTH

1. Women’s health crucial to combat stunting: study

 

A first-of-its-kind study across all 640 districts of the country, highlights the impact of women’s health on stunting of children.

  • According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) study, analysing data from the National Family Health Survey (NHFS)- IV, parameters related to women, including education and age at marriage, account for 50% of the difference between districts with high and low levels of stunting among children below the age of five.
  • Across the country, in 239 districts more than 40% of the children are stunted, while 202 districts record between 30% and 40 % of stunting. Only 29 districts have levels between 10% and 20%, most of them in South India, the study reports.

South does better

  • India accounts for approximately a third of the world’s stunted children at 63 million. While levels have improved in the country from 48% in 2006 to 38.4% in 2016, there are wide variations among different districts ranging between 12.4% and 65.1%.
  • The populous northern States account for more than 80% of stunted children at 52.6 million. In comparison, all of the Southern States together have 8.1 million stunted children and the north-eastern and island States account for nearly 2.4 million. Within the States, however, the levels vary with regions in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka recording high prevalence.
  • The research highlights the need for targeted policy intervention to combat stunting, with a focus on addressing critical determinants in individual districts.
  • Women related parameters are great drivers and these have to be focussed upon. This will involve interventions through the course of a girl’s life such as her education, nutrition, marriage as well as when she is a mother.

Four parameters

  • The four crucial parameters in women that together contribute to a 44% reduction in stunting among children are levels of body mass index accounting for 19% of the difference between districts; education accounting for 12% of the difference; age at marriage contributing a 7% reduction and ante-natal care adding 6%.
  • Among other important factors highlighted by the study are adequate diet for children (9%), household assets (7%) and open defecation (7%).

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. India protests Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan order

 

  • India summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner to protest Islamabad’s order to integrate the region of Gilgit-Baltistan into the federal structure of the country.
  • An official press release from the External Affairs Ministry said the region belonged to India and that Pakistan’s action had no legal support.
  • It was clearly conveyed that the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir which also includes the so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ areas is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947. Any action to alter the status of any part of the territory under forcible and illegal occupation of Pakistan has no legal basis whatsoever, and is completely unacceptable.

Executive order

  • India’s response came against the backdrop of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s speech to the Joint Session of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council and Legislative Assembly. The executive order from Prime Minister Abbasi intends to begin legislative, judicial and administrative measures to integrate Gilgit-Baltistan with the rest of the federal structure of Pakistan. Mr Abbasi’s announcement has sparked several protests in the region.
  • The idea of granting provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan gained momentum since work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through the region, demanded greater coordination between local and central-level leaders.
  • India, which opposes the CPEC for reasons related to sovereignty, on Sunday reiterated its territorial claims over Gilgit-Baltistan, and said Mr. Abbasi’s order will be against the position of the Indian Parliament, which, in 1994, passed a resolution in support of India’s claims over the undivided Jammu and Kashmir.

2. Irish pay tribute to Savita after verdict

 

  • Irish people paid homage on Sunday to Savita Halappanavar, whose death inspired a historic vote to repeal Ireland’s strict abortion laws while the Catholic Church rued the outcome saying it showed indifference to its teachings.
  • The vote overturns a law which, for decades, has forced over 3,000 women to travel to Britain each year for terminations that they could not legally have in their own country.

Bill next week

  • Hundreds of people on Sunday continued to leave flowers and candles at a large mural in Dublin of Halappanavar, whose death in 2012 from a septic miscarriage after being refused a termination spurred lawmakers into action.
  • The campaign was defined by women publicly sharing their painful experiences of going abroad for procedures, a key reason why all but one of Ireland’s 40 constituencies voted “Yes”. The government of Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who campaigned to repeal the laws, will begin drafting legislation in the coming week to allow abortions with no restriction up to 12 weeks into a pregnancy by the end of the year.
  • The once all-powerful Catholic Church, which has seen its public influence collapse since the 1980s after a string of child sex abuse scandals, took a back seat throughout the referendum campaign.
  • Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin told parishioners that the church had to “renew its commitment to support life”.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. Blockchain being used in banking, contracts

A number of companies and banks are adopting blockchain technology to reduce documentation and increase operational efficiency.

  • Traditionally, trade finance involves complex documentation processes, high transaction costs, high settlement times and low authenticity rates with physical documents. As a result, a bank’s customer is straddled with delays, high costs and risks.
  • Blockchain technology allows all stages of transactions to be securely shared between network members, as opposed to each bank working independently, which is more expensive and increases the chance of error.
  • Cost reduction, risk mitigation, speed, traceability and security are among the multiple benefits the participants are seeing from the pilot.
  • Infosys created India Trade Connect, which is being used to run a pilot of a blockchain-based solution developed specifically to address the trade finance process requirements of banks.
  • Another area of business where the distributed ledger aspect of blockchain technology is appealing to Indian companies is in contracts.

Smaller countries

  • International blockchain companies looking to enter the Indian market, such as Indonesia-based Pundi X, say that the Union government could learn more about how best to regulate cryptocurrencies and blockchain from smaller countries that have adopted the technology.
  • Blockchain is a very new technology and what one will see is that the use cases will principally come from smaller countries that are more receptive to adopting new technologies, such as Estonia, Lithuania, and Sweden.

Land records

  • Blockchain technology can be used to digitise and authenticate currently complex records like land holdings. India, like many countries, has problems with land titles and ownership and this is where blockhain is developing.
  • The best use case is Sweden, which is putting all its land records on blockchain and it will quite quickly move towards doing land transfers and ownership verification using blockchain, which is a major issue in India currently.

2. CAs excluded from fair valuation of start-ups

 

  • The Income Tax Department has excluded chartered accountants (CAs) from assessing the fair valuation of start-ups. The department’s notification on Friday to this effect leaves the task exclusively to merchant banks.
  • Naveen Wadhwa, DGM, Taxmann.com, said the decision to exclude CAs from assessing the fair valuation brings it in line with another rule that allows only merchant bankers to calculate the value of unlisted shares issued to employees under the ESOP schemes. He said the decision was arbitrary and unfair not only to CAs but to companies too.
  • In the notification, the department provided tax exemption for investments that small start-ups receive from angel investors above their fair valuation. The step comes as a relief to start-ups that have been complaining about tax on investments raised from angel investors. Some of them have received notices from the department.
  • Start-ups approved by an inter-ministerial panel are exempted from tax levied on firms issuing shares to investors above their fair value, treating it as income from other sources. This exemption was earlier available to investments from registered venture capital funds and foreign investors.

Rs.10 crore limit

  • As per the conditions, the exemption is meant for small start-ups whose paid-up capital and share premium do not exceed Rs.10 crore after the share sale. The angel investor should have had Rs.25 lakh average income in the preceding three years or Rs.2 crore net worth at the end of the previous fiscal.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: ECONOMY

1. Water management reforms

 

  • On the cusp of the southwest monsoon, several arid States are hoping to revive their rivers and reservoirs with bountiful rain. One of them is Gujarat, which is roiled by the long-tail effect of a deficit monsoon between August and November last year.
  • The State government has embarked on a labour-intensive programme to desilt rivers and waterbodies ahead of the rains. Its predicament reflects the larger reality of drought in India, aggravated by heat waves and significant rain deficits in different regions.
  • This year’s fall in reservoir storage levels to below-average levels has affected farmers who depend on the Sardar Sarovar dam, and 27 other reservoirs including those in Madhya Pradesh.
  • A reinvigorated Congress in the opposition has turned the heat on the BJP government in Gujarat, which is hard put to defend itself against the charge that dam waters were depleted merely to fill the Sabarmati river for a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December, when he undertook a seaplane journey on the river.
  • Its response has been to roll out a campaign to deepen waterbodies on the one hand, and arrange religious events to propitiate the gods on the other. But it has had to prioritise drinking water needs over farming, and suspend irrigation supply from the dam on March 15.
  • This year, Delhi has been at loggerheads with Haryana over reduction of water released in the Yamuna, highlighting growing stresses over a vital resource. Urgent water management reforms must be undertaken to help citizens and avoid losses to the economy.
  • In a normal year, the pre-monsoon phase from March 1 brings some respite and India gets about 130 mm of precipitation before the rainy season begins. This year began with a sharp 50% deficit, but touched near-normal levels, though not in the northwestern region. The monsoon itself is highly variable.
  • This underscores the need for comprehensive reforms at the level of States, with the Centre helping to conserve hydrological resources. If Gujarat improves rural water storage structures and creates many small wetlands beyond the compulsions of politics, it can ensure long-term prosperity for thousands of villages in Saurashtra, Kutch and the northern region where pumps run dry with unfailing regularity.
  • Farmers will get relief from the monsoon vagaries that affect the Narmada, whose waters are apportioned among four States. There is also the challenge of reducing demand for farming, given that the Mihir Shah Committee estimated public irrigation efficiency to be a low 35%. Farmers need to be helped with the latest technologies to cut water use. The State government is thinking of going in for desalination. Decentralised water storage too will help cities like Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat and Vadodara when water supply from large dams and other sources dwindles. If climate change is going to influence monsoon vigour and availability in coming years, the time to take action is now.

Category: HEALTH

1. The implementation of Ayushman Bharat requires a strong reform agenda

 

  • The launch of Ayushman Bharat, a national health protection scheme (NHPS), in the last stretch of this government’s tenure comes as no surprise.
  • Social policies in the areas of education, health and the welfare of the disadvantaged or farmers almost always get announced before elections. No political party is an exception to this rule since such ‘feel good’ welfare policies are useful in conferring a sense of legitimacy and caring on the government seeking another term.
  • Despite these political motivations, those working in these neglected sectors welcome such policy announcements as the crisis is acute in these sectors.

Objectives of Health Policiies

  • Health policies have two objectives: to enhance the health of the population and reduce the financial risk for those accessing treatment. Success in the first is measured by a reduction in the disease burden and subsequent increase in people’s longevity.
  • Reduced spending or getting impoverished when seeking health-care measures the second. Since the health scheme seeks to address both these critical health goals, it is an important step forward.
  • The scheme has two components: upgrading the 150,000 sub-centres (for a 5,000 population level) into wellness clinics that provide 12 sets of services; and providing health security to 40% of India’s population requiring hospitalisation for up to a sum assured of ₹5 lakh per year per family. If implemented as integral components of a strategy to improve the abysmal status of India’s health-care system, these initiatives can help achieve the goals of equity, efficiency and quality.

Key issues

  • An evidence-based strategy will need to address and resolve several key issues affecting the sector. The first is the massive shortages in the supply of services (human resources, hospitals and diagnostic centres in the private/public sector), made worse by grossly inequitable availability between and within States. For example, even a well-placed State such as Tamil Nadu has an over 30% shortage of medical and non-medical professionals in government facilities.
  • The health budget has neither increased nor is there any policy to strengthen the public/private sector in deficit areas. While the NHPS provides portability, one must not forget that it will take time for hospitals to be established in deficit areas. This in turn could cause patients to gravitate toward the southern States that have a comparatively better health infrastructure than the rest of India.
  • The issue is about the capacity of this infrastructure to take on the additional load of such insured patients from other States, growing medical tourism (foreign tourists/patients) as a policy being promoted by the government, and also domestic patients, both insured and uninsured. It is still unclear whether the implications of the national policy on the fragile health systems of States have been fully comprehended and how they propose to address them.

The price factor

  • Second, the strategy for negotiating/containing prices being charged for services needs to be spelt out. An experience in Hyderabad is instructive. A three-day stay in a hospital for a respiratory problem cost me ₹8 lakh.
  • In order to understand the extent of overbilling, I checked ‘Rajiv Aarogyasri’, the health insurance programme in Andhra Pradesh. The rates here were not only incomparable but also did not reflect market prices of common procedures or treatment protocols to be followed by hospitals.
  • The Aarogyasri scheme has only package rates, a procedure that all States have since followed as a model. Package rates are not a substitute for arriving at actuarial rating. In the absence of market intelligence, arbitrary pricing and unethical methods cannot be ruled out.
  • More importantly, there is no way the government or the payer has an idea of the shifts in the price of components within the package. This knowledge is essential to regulate/negotiate prices to contain costs. This also explains why there is no dent in the exorbitant health expenditures being faced in India despite government-sponsored schemes.
  • Finally, the absence of primary care. The wellness clinic component is a step towards bridging that lacuna, but with no funding, the commitment is hollow.
  • A pilot done in Tamil Nadu showed that within six months of upgrading primary health-care facilities (human resources, drugs and diagnostics), there was a rise in footfall, from 1% to 17%.
  • At the same time, it requires a minimum outlay of ₹1,500-₹2,000 crore to bridge the deficiencies.
  • In the northern States there are hardly any sub-centres and primary health centres are practically non-existent. It is estimated that ₹30,000 crore will have to be spent if this three-tier primary health-care system is to be brought to minimal health standards. The sum would rise further if there are to be mid-level providers (as in wellness clinics).

In an environment of scarce resources, prioritisation of critical initiatives is vital to realising health goals. The implementation of Ayushman Bharat will have to be contextualised and synchronised with a reform agenda that must include improved governance and an enforcement of regulations.

Category: GOVERNANCE

1. Civil Service Reforms: proposal for allocating services and cadres

The CSE for recruitments to the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and about 20 other services of the government is conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). It is conducted every year in two stages: a preliminary examination and then the main examination. The UPSC has been doing a commendable job by insulating recruitments from political patronage and selecting the best candidates through transparent procedures.

At present, successful candidates are allocated services based on their ranks in the CSE and their preferences. Candidates qualifying for the IAS and IPS are allocated cadres (States) based on their examination ranks and preferences.

The successful candidates of the IAS, IFS, IPS and Central Services Group A undergo a 15-week foundation course in the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (training academy) in Mussoorie. The course focusses on promoting interservice camaraderie, cooperation, and capacity building of the officer-trainees.

A radical proposal

  • The government has recently mooted a radical proposal for allocating services and cadres based on the combined marks obtained in the CSE and the foundation course.
  • In other words, candidates who have cleared the CSE will have to wait till the foundation course is over to know which service and cadre they are likely to get. The government has said that this is a suggestion under consideration and that no final decision has been taken yet.

There are good reasons to believe that the new proposal is legally unsound, administratively unfeasible and has not been thought through properly.

  • First, Articles 315 to 323 of the Constitution deal with Public Service Commissions of the Union and the States. Article 320(1) says: “It shall be the duty of the Union and the State Public Service Commission to conduct examinations for appointments to the services of the Union and the services of the State respectively.”
  • Thus, the duty of conducting the CSE is vested only in the UPSC. If the marks secured in the foundation course in the training academy are included for allocation for services, it would make the training academy an extended wing of the UPSC, which it is not. Therefore the new proposal violates Article 320(1).
  • Second, the Chairperson and members of the UPSC are constitutional functionaries. Article 316 provides for security of their tenure and unchangeable conditions of service and Article 319 bars them from holding further office on ceasing to be members.
  • These constitutional safeguards enable them to function independently without fear or favour. On the other hand, the Director of the training academy that conducts the foundation course is a career civil servant on deputation, and she can be summarily transferred. The faculty members of the training academy are either career civil servants on deputation or academicians.
  • Neither do they enjoy the constitutional protection that the UPSC members enjoy nor is there any bar on their holding further posts. This means that the Director and faculty members will not be able to withstand pressure from politicians, senior bureaucrats and others to give more marks to favoured candidates.
  • They will actively try to please the powers-that-be in order to advance their own career prospects. There is also the grave risk of corruption in the form of ‘marks for money’ in the training academy. Politicisation and communalisation of the services are likely to take place from the beginning.
  • Third, the training academy has facilities to handle not more than 400 candidates for the foundation course. If this limit is exceeded, the foundation course will have to be conducted in other training academies situated in other cities.
  • With only about 12 faculty members in the training academy in Mussoorie, the trainer-trainee ratio for the foundation course is very high, and it will be impossible to do the kind of rigorous and objective evaluation.

F. Prelims Fact

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. Consider the following statements about UNEP:
  1. UN Environment (or UNEP) is leading global environmental authority that sets global environmental agenda.
  2. It is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya.

Select the correct answer using the codes given:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 2. Consider the following statements:
  1. Ayushman Bharat is National Health Protection Scheme, which will be providing coverage for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
  2. Ayushman Bharat – National Health Protection Mission will subsume the on-going centrally sponsored schemes – Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) and the Senior Citizen Health Insurance Scheme (SCHIS).

Select the correct answer using the codes given:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 3. Consider the following statements:
  1. Ayushman Bharat – National Health Protection Mission will have a defined benefit cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year.
  2. Ayushman Bharat – National Health Protection Mission will be an entitlement based scheme with entitlement decided on the basis of deprivation criteria in the SECC database.

Select the incorrect answer using the codes given:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer
Question 4. Consider the following statements:
  1. Generally, investments in stocks or bonds or fixed deposits or real estates are considered as traditional investments.
  2. In India, Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) are private funds which are otherwise not coming under the jurisdiction of any regulatory agency in India.

Select the correct answer using the codes given:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. None of the above

See

Answer

H. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

General Studies III

  1. The monsoon in India being highly variable, there is a need for urgent water management reforms that have to be undertaken to help citizens and avoid losses to the economy. Discuss.

General Studies II

  1. To what extent can the Ayushman Bharath Programme enhance the health of the population and at the same time reduce the out of pocket expenditure for the common man? Critically analyse.
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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