TABLE OF CONTENTS
A. GS1 Related INDIAN SOCIETY 1. Facebook in race to curb fake news B. GS2 Related POLITY AND GOVERNANCE 1. Allied with PDP to safeguard J&K’s special status: Omar 2. NBW against 12 Hashimpura convicts 3. ‘Do you view undertrial prisoners as humans?’ 4. Shocked SC terms state of forensic labs as ‘utter chaos’ INTERNATIONAL ISSUES 1. India, Pak. commit to Kartarpur corridor 2. EU, U.K. reach draft deal on post-Brexit relationship C. GS3 Related ECONOMY 1. Rupee strengthens to 71 with softer oil, fund flows D. GS4 Related 1. Not consulted on changes in RTI Act: CIC E. Editorials SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 1. Aligning the triad (INS Arihant) HEALTH 1. Get the model right (Health Expenditure) F. Tidbits 1. Blank slate G. Prelims Fact H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions
A. GS1 Related
- Popular social media platform Facebook is set to deploy independent fact-checkers in a bid to curb the spread of fake news and misinformation ahead of the Assembly election in Rajasthan. The emphasis would be on stopping impugned reports from going viral.
- Dedicated teams were focussing on defence against election interference, protection of the community against abuse and ensuring more control on information, said Shivnath Thukral, Facebook’s public policy director for India and South Asia, who was here to review the preparations as the State is set to go to the polls.
- “Through the improved artificial intelligence machines, thousands of pages, groups, and accounts involved in coordinated inauthentic behaviour have already been removed,” Mr. Thukral said. Facebook’s policy was to “reduce, remove and inform.”
Fake news – Role of stakeholders
- The government must take the initiative to make all sections of the population aware of the realities of this information war and evolve a consensus to fight this war. It must also take strict action
- News being spread using chat bots and other automated pieces of software should automatically be selected for special screening. Ordinary consumers of news can play a big role by, first, waking up to the reality that all they read on WhatsApp and Twitter is not the gospel truth, and then, by refusing to pass on what they cannot independently verify with other sources.
- Websites that mimic well-known, credible media outlets in their name should be exposed with the vigour with which jokes are shared on social media.
- An ombudsman deals with the credibility of news sources, it gains the privilege to ensure facts are reported
- Government should have independent agency to verify the data being circulated in social and other media. The agency should be tasked with presenting real facts and figures.
- Government should have mechanism for immediately issuing of notice against sites/people/agencies involved in spreading fake news.
- There should be a provision of effective balances and check of filtering fake posts before it getting viral.
- Social media websites should be made accountable of such activities so that it becomes their responsibility to have better controlling restricting the spread of fake news.
- Government should take active measures for promoting awareness among people about fake news and their consequences.
- Government should enlist penal provisions to perpetrators of fake news if it causes violence or deaths.
- Government should make mandatory for Print and Electronic media to have internal mechanism for verifying incidents, facts and figures.
- Public should verify the accuracy and of reliability of any news or data either from government or any independent agency specifically involved in such task.
- Public should not blindly trust any sensitive news and should not forward it to others.
- Public should inform concerned department about any fake post as soon as they come across. They should act as active vigilant for maintaining peace and harmony in the society.
- NGO’s and other civil society groups can play important role in spreading awareness about the ill effects of fake news.
B. GS2 Related
- The National Conference (NC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Congress on Thursday launched a scathing attack on Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik for dissolving the Assembly and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav for his remarks alleging Pakistani support to the alliance.
- NC vice-president Omar Abdullah justified his “temporary grand alliance with the PDP and the Congress to safeguard the special status of J&K in the Supreme Court.”
- At a press conference here, he questioned Mr. Malik’s rejection of the move on grounds of “different political ideologies” and asked why the same principle was not applied when the PDP joined hands the BJP in 2015.
- “That time, it was dubbed the coming-together of the North Pole and the South Pole… Today, you are telling the other parties that you cannot come together,” he said. “The differences among the PDP, the NC and the Congress over some important issues are smaller than those between the BJP and the PDP,” he said.
General analysis of Coalition Politics
- Coalition Politics is a time tested thing in Modern Democracy. The concept of Coalition Politics basically draws its roots from the times when warring states sometimes used to ally with each other in order to defeat of a common enemies, as in Vedic Civilization’s Dasharajnya war, Nizams & British coalition verses Marathas .
- In recent times in India got a taste of Coalition Politics at the state level when the Left front comprising of Communist Party of India (CPI), CPI (Marxist) and others formed the first ever Coalition Government in India at West Bengal with Mr. Jyoti Basu as the Chief Minister.
- At the national level the first ever coalition government was formed under the Prime Ministership of Late Shri Morarji Desai which existed from 24th March 1977 to 15th July 1979 headed by Janata Party
Pros of Coalition Politics
- The coalition government addresses the regional disparity more than the single party rule.
- Coalitions provide good government because their decisions are made in the interests of a majority of the people. A coalition government better reflects the popular opinion of the electorate within a country.
- Coalition government provides more continuity in administration. Amore consensual style of politics also allows for a more gradual and constructive shift of policy between administrations.
- Such government functions on principle of politics of consensus. Besides, states are given more powers, and the base of concept of federalism is strengthened.
- Government will be more consensus based: resulting policies will be broadly approved of for the benefit of the nation.
- Better representation of the electorate’s wishes. Better quality of policy: enhanced scrutiny and increased attention paid to each policy
- Increased continuity: election does not lead to dramatic overhaul which can produce fragmented rule
- Coalition governments have been effective in enhancing democratic legitimacy, representativeness, and national unity.
Cons of Coalition Politics
- Coalition government is actually less democratic as the balance of power is inevitably held by the small parties who can barter their support for concessions from the main groups within the coalition.
- Coalition government is less transparent, because a party has no real chance of forming a government alone, the manifestos they present to the public become irrelevant and often wildly unrealistic.
- Coalitions provide bad government because they are unable to take a long term view.
- In coalition governments, MLAs and MPs from all the parties are given portfolios/ministries and appointed as Ministers. These ministers are appointed on the recommendations of the parent party, without taking the qualification, character and criminal /clean record of the MLAs and MPs.
- A Delhi court on Thursday issued non-bailable warrants (NBW) against 12 retired police personnel of Uttar Pradesh after they failed to surrender before it to serve life imprisonment in the Hashimpura massacre case.
- The Delhi High Court had last month awarded life sentence to 16 retired police personnel in the case and directed them to surrender before the lower court on or before November 22.
- The Delhi High Court had reversed the trial court’s verdict and sentenced the 16 former Provincial Armed Constabulary personnel to life imprisonment in the 1987 massacre case. They were convicted for murder, kidnapping, criminal conspiracy and destruction of evidence under the Indian Penal Code.
- The trial court had acquitted them on the grounds that the prosecution had not been able to make an unbreakable chain of circumstances in the case.
Hashimpura massacre case
- The incident took place in the evening hours of May 22, 1987, when 42 to 45 elderly men and boys belonging to the Muslim community were rounded up by the PAC personnel, packed into a truck and taken away; 38 of them were later shot in cold blood and the bodies were thrown into the Gang nahar (canal) and Hindon river.
- After communal riots had taken over Meerut in April 1987, in a communally charged atmosphere; PAC was called in, but was withdrawn as the riots subsided.
- However, violence erupted again around 19 May, when 10 people were killed as arson escalated, thus the Army was called out to stage a flag march.
- Seven companies of CRPF reached the city during the day, while 30 companies of PAC were being rushed in and an indefinite curfew was declared.
- The following day, mobs burned down Gulmarg cinema hall, and as the death toll rose to 22, plus 75 injured, shoot-at-sight orders were issued on 20 May 1987.
- On the night of 22 May 1987, 19 PAC personnel, under platoon commander Surinder Pal Singh, rounded up Muslims in the Hashimpur mohalla in Meerut. The old and the children were later separated and let go.
- They allegedly took about 40–45 of them, mostly day wage labourers and weavers, in a truck to the Upper Ganga canal in Murad Nagar, Ghaziabad district instead of taking them to the police station.
- Here some were shot, one by one, and thrown into the canal. A bullet also injured one of the PAC constables. After some were killed, the headlights of passing vehicles made PAC personnel flee the spot with those alive.
- Four of those shot escaped by pretending to be dead and then swimming away; one of them filed a first information report (FIR) at the Murad Nagar Police Station.
- The remaining men were taken in the truck to the Hindon River Canal near Makanpur village in Ghaziabad, shot and their bodies thrown into the canal. Here again, two of the people who were shot at, survived and lodged an FIR at the Link Road Police Station.
- The Supreme Court asked the government on Thursday whether it viewed undertrial prisoners and children who suffered primeval conditions in jails and observation homes as “human beings.”
- Undertrial prisoners accounted for 62% of India’s prison population, against the world average of 18-20%, the court said. The statistic raised questions about the humaneness of our system, it said.
- A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta said officials hardly went out of their offices to visit these prisons or observation homes. It took two Supreme Court judges — Justices U.U. Lalit and A.K. Goel (retired) — to visit the Faridabad jail and observation home to understand the full horror of the living conditions of the inmates.
- “Just go and have a look… Your officials do not know because they have never been to a jail or observation home. They do not step out. Taps are leaking, no whitewash, clogged sewage, toilets not working… The situation is very pathetic. That’s why two judges of the Supreme Court got very agitated when they saw…what is happening,” Justice Lokur addressed Additional Solicitor-General Aman Lekhi, for the Centre.
Who are Undertrials?
- Undertrial is a person who is in judicial custody or remand during investigation and denotes an unconvicted prisoner.
Reasons for increasing number of Undertrials
- Population-judge ratio is extremely low in India, which is only 12 judge per million of population (in USA its 1100 per million and in China 190 per million); this leads to huge pendency of cases with undertrials being incarcerated in jails without even a fair chance of trial.
- Investigation and trial process is often delayed by police and prosecution functionaries. A major reason for this delay is low ‘Police- Population’ ratio. Moreover, alleged corruption in police forces often lead to delays and unnecessary arrests.
- Inadequate Prosecution system: The Delhi High Court, in a March 2014 order observed, “One of the predominant causes for delay in disposal of criminal case is due to shortage of public prosecutors”.
- A large number of Undertrials are poor, illiterate, belonging to the marginalized communities. Given this, most undertrials require public defender and legal aid to secure bail. However, there is a dire crunch of legal representatives for the under trials.
- The Law Commission in its 268th report has highlighted the fact that the rich and the affluent get bail with ease. However, poverty becomes the reason for incarceration of many prisoners, as they are unable to afford bail bonds or provide sureties.
- A Ministry of Home Affairs document in the Supreme Court on Thursday shows that vacancies in the country’s forensic labs are alarmingly high even as cases pile up in trial courts and undertrial prisoners languish in jails.
- The forensic laboratories, at both the Central and State levels, are used to examine crucial evidence which could decide between life and death in many criminal cases. The role of the laboratories has expanded lately with the emergence of cybercrime and drug-related offences. They also play a major role in using medical evidence to crack sex crimes.
- However, responding to the report, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta described the situation in these labs as “utter chaos, utter chaos”.
- India and Pakistan exchanged letters on Thursday committing to build the required infrastructure for visa-free direct travel by Sikh pilgrims to Pakistan’s Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara allowing them to mark the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November 2019.
- The move was described by a Pakistani Minister as the “victory of peace lobbies” in both countries.
- Officials of both countries will meet soon to discuss the logistics of the corridor and the point of border-crossing where the roads, which pilgrims will take on the Indian side from Dera Guru Nanak Dev in Gurdaspur district, will lead directly to the border and from the Pakistani side of the border directly to the Kartarpur Darbar Sahib Gurdwara, a senior official confirmed to The Hindu.
Brief history of Kartarpur Gurdwara
- The gurdwara in Kartarpur stands on the bank of the Ravi, about 120 km northeast of Lahore.
- It was here that Guru Nanak assembled a Sikh community and lived for 18 years until his death in 1539.
- The shrine is visible from the Indian side, as Pakistani authorities generally trim the elephant grass that would otherwise obstruct the view.
- Indian Sikhs gather in large numbers for darshan from the Indian side, and binoculars are installed at Gurdwara Dera Baba Nanak.
The significance of the Gurdwara
- The gurdwara was opened to pilgrims after repairs and restoration in 1999, and Sikh jathas have been visiting the shrine regularly ever since.
- There are no restrictions on visiting Gurdwara Kartarpur Sahib once a pilgrim has entered Pakistan on a valid visa.
- Sikh jathas from India travel to Pakistan on four occasions every year for Baisakhi, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan Dev, the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and the birthday of Guru Nanak Dev.
- These Indian pilgrims are given access to all gurdwaras in Pakistan.
- The British government’s Brexit process reached another milestone as the European Commission said that the U.K. and the EU had agreed at a negotiator level and in principle the draft political declaration on the future relationship between the two sides.
- While observers continue to pick apart the statement — which has been leaked to U.K. media — to assess whether the government’s ambitions set out by the U.K. have been enmeshed in it, the development marks a symbolic victory for Prime Minister Theresa May ahead of a summit on Sunday. In the summit, EU leaders are set to finalise details of both the exit process and outline of future relations.
- Unlike the withdrawal agreement, which would be binding, the political declaration is more of a statement of future ambitions of what a new relationship — including when it comes to the movement of people and goods and services — would entail.
European Union and Brexit
- European Union or EU is an experiment to transform the relations between nations based on functionalist ideology. It envisages to transform the relations between nations by enmeshing them in economic, social, cultural, political partnership. EU is currently a block of 28 countries and 19 countries have formed Eurozone.
- Formation of the European Union is an outcome of the Single European Act, 1991.
- Maastricht Treaty converted the EU into a monetary union.
- Lisbon Treaty strengthened political, foreign affairs and security integration of policies of countries of European Union
- Brexit is a term used to define the United Kingdom coming out of EU. Recently in a referendum conducted in the United Kingdom, UK voted by a narrow margin in favour of Brexit.
C. GS3 Related
- Softer crude oil prices, along with foreign fund inflows, helped the rupee post a gain of over 1% against the dollar on Thursday. The change raised hopes for the current account deficit to remain within the tolerance limit and for a further reduction in petrol and diesel prices.
- The rupee gained for the seventh straight session and appreciated by 1.07%, or 77 paise, against the dollar to close the day at 70.70 — its highest level in 12 weeks. The Indian currency has gained around 3% in the last three trading sessions and has appreciated over 5% now from its record low.
- Soumya Kanti Ghosh, group chief economic adviser, State Bank of India, said the recent decline in oil prices was likely to compress the current account deficit by $5 billion-$6 billion from the estimates of $78 billion this fiscal.
Related Concept – Balance of Payments (BoP)
- The balance of payment (BoP) records the transactions in goods, services, and assets between residents of a country with the rest of the world for a specified time period typically a year.
- It represents a summation of country’s current demand and supply of the claims on foreign currencies and of foreign claims on its currency.
- There are two main accounts in the BoP – the current account and the capital account.
- Current Account: The current account records exports and imports in goods, trade in services and transfer payments.
- Capital Account: The capital account records all international purchases and sales of assets such as money, stocks, bonds, etc. It includes foreign investments and loans.
D. GS4 Related
- The Centre did not take the Central Information Commission into confidence on its proposed amendments to the Right To Information Act (RTI), said outgoing Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Radha Krishna Mathur, who retires on November 24, 2018.
- While the Commission as a whole has not taken any official stance, several of the Commissioners have made their views public, signalling a split within the body. M. Sridhar Acharyulu had written a letter to his fellows soon after the amendments were made public, warning that the proposal would weaken the Commission.
- The government had planned to introduce the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2018, in the Lok Sabha in July this year. But the Bill was not tabled following protests from civil society and the Opposition.
- The Bill proposes to give the Centre the power to decide the tenure and salaries of State and Central Information Commissioners. Critics have warned that the amendments undermine the independence and authority of the Commission.
Right to Information (RTI)
- In 1976, in the Raj Narain vs the State of UP, it was held by the Supreme Court that people cannot speak unless they know. Hence the Right to Information is embedded in Article 19.
- It was also said in the same case that the in the Indian democracy, people are the masters which give them the right to know about the functioning of the government. RTI Act provides machinery for exercising this fundamental right.
- As per the RTI Act 2005, every citizen has the right to receive a timely response from the government for any information that is sought by them with respect to the functioning of the government.
Under the RTI, every citizen is empowered to
- Seek information / ask questions to the government
- Request for copies of government documents
- Inspect government documents and works
- Request for samples of materials of any government work
The basic objectives of RTI
- Empowerment of the citizens
- Promotion of transparency and accountability in the functioning of the government
- Prevention and elimination of corruption
- Making the democracy work for the people in its real sense
An informed citizen is better equipped to have a better vigilance on the instruments of governance in order to make the government more accountable to the governed.
- RTI is a huge leap in keeping the citizens informed about the activities of the government.
- An RTI portal is created by the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions in order to facilitate the process of RTI. Besides access to information related to RTI, published disclosures by various public authorities under the state and the central governments, it acts as a gateway for obtaining information on the details of first Appellate Authorities, Principle Information Officers etc.
- Every Public authority is obligated to maintain a computerised version of all the records in a manner that could be accessed over a network at any place within the country by issuing it to the person on his/her demand.
- Various channels need to be frequently updated by the public authority so that the use of RTI Act to seek information can be kept to a bare minimum.
- A written or electronic request must be placed by a person seeking information under the RTI Act. No reason shall be sought from the person placing the request except the contact details in case the authorities would have to contact him/her.
- However, the authorities are not obligated to provide any such information that is received under confidence by a foreign government, cabinet papers, information forbidden to be shared by the court of law, information that could potentially hurt the sovereignty and integrity of India.
- The INS Arihant is India’s first nuclear ballistic missile submarine which completed its sea patrol earlier in the month of November, 2018.
- Experts believe that INS Arihant will contribute significantly to making India’s deterrence capability more robust.
- It is important to note that submarine-based nuclear capability is the most survivable leg of a nuclear triad, and its benefit must be seen especially in the light of the growing naval capabilities of India’s potential adversaries.
- In the light of this, experts are of the opinion that certain questions need to be addressed on the third leg of India’s nuclear triad, as well as major challenges for strategic stability in the southern Asian region.
- Experts point out that while it is true that India’s deterrence capability is a work in progress, there is nevertheless a need to carry out an objective assessment of what INS Arihant can and cannot do, and the implications thereof.
An Objective Assessment:
- For example, to begin with, experts point out that there is no clarity on whether the first deterrence patrol of INS Arihant had nuclear-tipped missiles on board. If not, the deterrence patrol would have been intended for political purposes devoid of any real deterrent utility. For example, without nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles on board an SSBN (ship submersible ballistic nuclear) such as INS Arihant, it might not be any more useful than an ordinary nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN).
- Secondly, experts point out that even if INS Arihant had nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles on board, it is not clear what ranges they would cover.
For example, reports suggest that it had the 750 km range K-15 missiles on board, which is insufficient to reach key targets in, say, China or Pakistan unless it gets close to their waters, which would then make the Indian SSBN a target. While the K-4 missile (3,500 km range) currently under development would give the country’s sea deterrent the necessary range vis-à-vis its adversaries, INS Arihant would not be able to carry them on board. The Navy would require bigger SSBNs (S-4 and S-5) to carry the K-4 ballistic missiles. In other words, experts point out that deterring India’s adversaries using the naval leg of its nuclear forces is a work in progress at this point of time.
- Thirdly, if indeed the objective of India’s nuclear planners is to achieve seamless and continuous sea deterrence, then one SSBN with limited range is far from sufficient.
Experts point out that given the adversaries’ capabilities in tracking, monitoring and surveilling India’s SSBNs, it would need to invest in at least four more SSBN’s.
- It is important to note that maintaining a huge nuclear force and its ancillary systems, in particular, the naval leg, would eventually prove to be extremely expensive.
- Experts point out that one possible way to address the costs would be to reduce the reliance on the air and land legs of the nuclear triad.
- Further, given that India does not have ‘first strike’ or ‘launch on warning’ policies, it can adopt a relatively relaxed nuclear readiness posture.
- Also, India could, in the long run, invest in a survivable fleet of nuclear submarines armed with nuclear-tipped missies of various ranges, and decide to reduce its investment in the land and air legs of its nuclear deterrent, thereby reducing costs. As a consequence, while this might bring down costs without sacrificing the country’s deterrence requirements, inter-service claims might frustrate such plans.
- Moreover, the naval leg of the nuclear triad also poses significant command and control challenges.
A difficult challenge in maintaining an SSBN Fleet:
- In fact, communicating with SSBNs without being intercepted by the adversaries’ tracking systems while the submarines navigate deep and far-flung waters is among the most difficult challenges in maintaining an SSBN fleet.
- Experts believe that until such sophisticated communication systems are eventually put in place, India will have to do with shallower waters or focus on bastion control, which in some ways reduces the deterrence effect of SSBNs, as bastions would be closer to the ports.
An Impact on Strategic Stability: A Regional Outlook
- Experts point out that INS Arihant’s induction will also have implications for regional stability.
- For one, experts point out that the induction of INS Arihant is bound to make the maritime competition in the Indian Ocean region sharper, even though the lead in this direction was taken by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) a long time ago.
- Hence, the dominant driver of India’s SSBN plans appears to be China’s expanding inventory of nuclear submarines.
- Further, the PLAN’s Jin class submarine with the JL-2 missiles with a range of 7,400 km began its deterrent patrol several years ago.
- Experts also point out that Chinese nuclear-powered submarines (which are reportedly without nuclear weapons on board) have been frequenting the Indian Ocean on anti-piracy missions, creating unease for India. INS Arihant in that sense is a response to the Chinese naval build-up.
- Experts point out that Pakistan’s reaction to India’s response to China would be to speed up its submarine-building spree, with assistance from China.
- One should also add to this mix China’s mega infrastructure project, which is the Belt and Road Initiative, with its ambitious maritime objectives; and the revival of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, with India, U.S., Japan, and Australia.
- Experts believe that this sharpening of the maritime competition further engenders several regional ‘security dilemmas’ wherein what a state does to secure itself could end up making it more insecure. As a consequence, the net result of this would be heightened instability for the foreseeable future. However, once the three key players in this trilemma — China, India and Pakistan — manage to put in place the essential conditions for credible minimum deterrence, the effect of the instability could potentially decrease. But it’s a long road to such an outcome.
A Perspective on Confidence-Building Measures:
- What would further complicate the relations among the three key players in the region is the absence of nuclear confidence-building measures (CBMs) among them.
- While India and Pakistan have only rudimentary nuclear CBMs between them, India and China have none at all.
- In the maritime sphere, however, neither India-Pakistan nor India-China has any CBMs.
- Further, given the feverish maritime developments that are underway, the absence of CBMs could lead to miscalculations and accidents.
- This becomes even more pertinent in the case of Pakistan, which uses dual-use platforms for maritime nuclear power projection. In case of a bilateral naval standoff, the absence of dedicated conventional or nuclear platforms could potentially lead to misunderstandings and accidents.
- It is therefore important for India and Pakistan (as also India and China) to have an ‘incidents at sea’ agreement like the one between the U.S. and USSR in 1972, so as to avoid incidents at sea and avoid their escalation if they took place.
- In conclusion, India’s sea deterrent also throws up several key questions about the country’s nuclear command and control systems.
- Experts point out that unlike in the case of the air or land legs of the triad where civilian organisations have the custody of nuclear warheads, the naval leg will be essentially under military custody and control given that there would be no civilian presence on board an SSBN.
- In sum, while INS Arihant makes India’s nuclear deterrence more robust, it also changes deterrence stability in the southern Asian region as we know it.
- More so, it is important to remember that the country’s sea deterrent is still in its infancy, and its path hereon is riddled with challenges.
Note to Students:
This section points out a perspective that for state-sponsored insurance, governments should avoid insurance companies.
What’s in the news?
- As per World Bank data, in 2015, nearly 65% of health-care expenditure in India is “Out of Pocket” (OoP).
- Further, a report by the World Health Organisation has shown that around 3.2% of Indians would fall below the poverty line because of high OoP health expenditure.
- In light of this fact, experts have pointed out that a national health insurance scheme like the Ayushman Bharat is welcome.
- It is important to note that while the principle of insuring a vulnerable population is widely accepted, what is however a subject of debate is the model that the government has adopted — that of using insurance companies. High premiums are paid for these schemes.
- Also, ‘Ayushman Bharat’, for instance, has enhanced the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) of the United Progressive Alliance government, to cover around 11 crore families with a yearly coverage of Rs. 5 lakh.
- Experts estimate this will require Rs. 25,000 crore per year, when fully implemented.
- Similarly, the Central and State governments jointly paid Rs. 17,796 crore for crop insurance (2017-18) under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY).
Looking at a possible flawed model:
- It is important to note that insurance works on the principle of pooling the risk of policy holders. But another common sense idea must guide insurance decisions.
For example: If an individual, corporation or a government can bear a certain quantum of risk by themselves, it is not financially sensible to insure with an insurance company. This is because administrative overheads and profit margins of insurance companies are included in insurance premium costs.
- Experts point out that at least if the companies involved in the process are restricted to the public sector, government funds would only be going from one pocket to another. However, since we are at a phase when India is trying to promote more foreign direct investment and private sector participation in insurance, it is only fair to provide a level-playing field to public and private sector insurance companies.
- Having said this, recently in Jammu and Kashmir, when a compulsory health insurance scheme for employees was rolled out by the Central government tied to a private insurer, it raised eyebrows and was subsequently rolled back. Similarly, last year, insurance companies made a bumper profit of 85% to the tune of Rs. 15,029 crore on crop insurance premium under the PMFBY.
- Another pertinent issue is finding reinsurers for government insurance schemes, a problem that is being encountered by companies on the Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana because of high claims.
A Perspective on costs of insurance companies
- For a typical insurance company, costs include the following:
- designing insurance products to suit customer needs;
- actuarial input to assess and manage risk;
- advertising and marketing;
- empanelment (of approved service providers such as hospitals);
- administrative expenses to provide prior approval of claims;
- and processing, which includes functions such as fraud detection.
- However, of these, the first three are not applicable to programmes such as Ayushman Bharat which will be fully funded by the government as a blanket scheme.
- The government is also funding more than 80% of crop insurance.
- The last three functions, i.e. empanelling service providers, pre-approving hospitalisation of patients and subsequently settling the claim, are commonly outsourced to third-party administrators (TPAs) even by insurance companies.
- It is important to note that no insurance company has the kind of financial resources the Centre and the States have.
- Thus, governments must consider bearing the risk by themselves — known as the “trust mode” — instead of using insurance companies as risk-bearers and intermediaries.
- Having said this, governments continue to pay hefty sums in premium to insurance companies.
- This phenomenon was researched in 2015 by Srikant Nagulapalli and Sudarsana Rao Rokkam of the Andhra Pradesh University.
Findings by an important study:
- Srikant Nagulapalli and Sudarsana Rao Rokkam of the Andhra Pradesh University were studying the Aarogyasri scheme introduced in undivided Andhra Pradesh by the late Congress Chief Minister, Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy (the forerunner of the RSBY). They showed that the bid by insurance companies on such health schemes included a 20% margin for administrative expense and profit.
- Further, by avoiding insurance companies and using TPAs instead, governments can save about 15%, or up to Rs. 6,000 crore per year.
- These savings will continue to rise due to rising premiums. Additionally, since premiums paid to insurance companies are transferred at the beginning of the year, there is an opportunity cost, which at current interest rates could amount to around Rs. 2,000 crore a year.
- The study also found the claim-to-premium ratio and customer satisfaction to be better in the trust mode than the insurance mode. It would also prevent exorbitant profits accruing to insurance companies in good cropping seasons as in 2017-18.
- In conclusion, experts point out that those who recommend the use of insurance companies allude that the government lacks the expertise to manage insurance.
- Further, while the “government has no business being in business” is the neoliberal mantra, insurance companies are a redundant layer in the government’s social security structure.
- It is important to note that the government has already taken an initiative to cut intermediaries through the JAM trinity (Jan Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile) and direct benefit transfers. It has also indicated that it wants to optimise fund utilisation through the recently introduced Public Finance Management System.
- Thus, shifting to the trust mode will be the next natural step in this path, not only saving taxpayer money but also benefiting farmers and the underprivileged instead of insurance companies.
1. Blank slate
- Also known as tabula rasa, this refers to the idea that the mind of any newborn child is equivalent to a blank slate that has nothing written over it.
- Thus, the proponents of the blank slate theory strongly believe that the behaviour of an adult human being is entirely the result of the various experiences to which she has been exposed over her lifetime.
- This is in contrast to the theory of biological determinism which states that human character is inherited at birth and cannot be influenced by the environment.
- The blank slate is an important idea in the controversial debate regarding whether it is nature or nurture that determines human nature.
G. Prelims Fact
Nothing here for today!!!
H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam
Question 1. Which of the followings is/are regarded as illegal behaviour?
Marriage within the same sex.
Freedom to not be identified as any gender.
Sexual intercourse with the person of any age.
Select the correct answer from the codes given below:
- 3 only
- 1 and 2 only
- 2 and 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3
Question 2. The Supreme Court in the judgement on homosexuality has overturned its judgement of
- National Legal Service Authority of India (NALSA) case, 2014
- Puttaswamy case, 2017
- Suresh Kumar Kaushal case, 2013
- Kasturilal case, 2009
Question 3. Consider the following statements regarding Nari Shakti Puraskar and choose the correct one:
- Nari Shakti Puraskar, the Highest Civilian Honour for Women in India.
- The Ministry of Women and Child Development announces this national level award for eminent women, organisations and institutions as well.
- 1 only
- 2 only
- Both 1 and 2 only
- Neither 1 nor 2
I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam
- An American national was killed allegedly by the Sentinelese tribe in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands after he illegally entered the protected zone recently. In this context, analyse the relevance of Tribal Panchasheel in the present context. (150 words)
What are the major challenges related to employment in India? Suggest some measures to overcome the challenge of jobless growth. (150 words)
Also, check previous Daily News Analysis
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