23 Oct 2018: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS1 Related
B. GS2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. HC for special court to try child prostitution racket
2. Lower judiciary vacancies unacceptable: SC
SOCIAL JUSTICE
1. It’s not #MeToo, but ‘WeToo’ in Odisha
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Rijiju turns up at last minute for security pact with China
C. GS3 Related
ECONOMY
1. Panel for adopting UN model on cross-border insolvency
ENVIRONMENT
1. Where Ganga meets the Bay of Pollution
INFRASTRUCTURE
1. ‘Centre not doing its bit for Polavaram project’
D. GS4 Related
E. Editorials
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Ripe for prison reform (Prison Reforms)
ECONOMY
1. Turf battle (RBI)
2. The value of a health scheme
F. Tidbits
1. ‘In urban U.P., 87% of waste from toilets goes to rivers, farmlands’
2. Experts’ group to cut school bag weight formed, court told
3. SC dismisses plea to lower marriageable age of men
G. Prelims Fact
1. Direct tax base widens sharply over 4 years, compliance rises
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions 

A. GS1 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

B. GS2 Related

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. HC for special court to try child prostitution racket

 

  • Suggesting constitution of a Special Court and a Special Investigation Team to go into the Yadadri child prostitution racket and cases of similar nature, the Hyderabad High Court on Monday sought a report from Telangana on the matter.
  • The bench had taken up a newspaper report as Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition on Yadadri child prostitution and inquired about the status of victims, police action and the government’s measures to check the heinous crime.
  • The bench directed the Advocate-General (AG) to explain in the report what preventive mechanisms the government had put in place to curb child prostitution and the steps taken to protect the victims.
  • It also wanted the AG to explain what plans the government had to change the social mindset of people over child prostitution. The proposed SIT should have a substantial number of women police officers, the bench said.

Related concept – Human Trafficking in India

  • Human Trafficking is the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purposes of forced labour or sexual exploitation.
  • According to the data of NCRB, the number of cases of human trafficking has increased over the years in India. The victims of human trafficking are put to sexual exploitation, begging, forced labour as servants etc.

Challenges

  • The lack of data about the victims, sometimes the victims being children or disabled, getting information about their family is difficult.
  • Lack of coordination among NGOs, police & other institutions involved in rescuing
  • The protest by people who are either involved in this business or those who have “purchased” the victim. Such protests can be violent sometimes.
  • Some political leaders & powerful people are also involved in human trafficking. Going against these powerful people creates hindrances.
  • Sometimes victims do not want to go with the NGOs & police because they do not trust them.
  • The issue of shelter-homes where proper food, education, recreation facilities should be available.
  • Issue of security & safety of the victims, specially children, women and disabled
  • After rescuing rehabilitation remain challenge as states capacity is not adequate and NGO are already over numbered with such people.

Suggestions

  • National registry for recording data of the cases of human trafficking.
  • Facilitating state-to-state transfers of the victims, as requested by the Bihar’s NGO to Maharashtra’s CWC.
  • Ensuring proper security, health & educational benefits to the victims in the shelter-homes.
  • Collaboration of civil societies, NGOs & government.
  • Proper rehabilitation policy of the government.

2. Lower judiciary vacancies unacceptable: SC

 

  • The Supreme Court on Monday took suo motu cognisance of over 5,000 vacancies in the lower judiciary across the country, saying the situation is “wholly unacceptable”. Over three crore cases lie pending in lower courts
  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi found that even the official statistics provided by various High Courts on the recruitment processes “under way” did not match. The Supreme Court said it wanted specific, updated information by October 31 from the High Courts.

Reasons for Judicial Delays at a glance

  • Large number of unfilled judicial vacancies
  • A long drawn judicial process: This is compounded by the fact that often witnesses are not willing to come forward. The process concerning criminal cases also takes time; this is exacerbated by the fact that it takes time for reports such as medical reports, forensic reports, etc. to be given. There are at times even strikes in Courts that delay the process.
  • Fast growing population
  • An increasing number of states and central laws
  • Mounting number of appeals

Category: SOCIAL JUSTICE

1. It’s not #MeToo, but ‘WeToo’ in Odisha

 

  • At a time when the #MeToo fire rages on with several women unmasking their harassers, a campaign is underway in Odisha’s migration-prone districts to sensitise migrant women workers about sexual exploitation.
  • Sexual exploitation of women migrant workers from Odisha is widely regarded to be pronounced.
  • Now, 300 women are undergoing an orientation programme in the State that seeks to empower them to raise their voices against any type of sexual exploitation and ensure the safety of accompanying vulnerable adolescent girls.
  • “If anything happens to women, they would suffer silently and come back. From discussions with migrant women workers, we came to know that every third woman has experienced some kind of harassment, including sexual assaults,” said Umi Daniel, head of Migration Information and Resource Centre, Aide et Action, South Asia, and a prominent expert on migration issues.

Related Concept – #MeToo movement

  • The Me Too movement (or #MeToo movement), with many local and international alternatives, is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault.
  • #MeToo spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace.
  • It followed soon after the sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
  • Tarana Burke, an American social activist and community organizer, began using the phrase “Me Too” as early as 2006, and the phrase was later popularized by American actress Alyssa Milano, on Twitter in 2017.
  • Milano encouraged victims of sexual harassment to tweet about it and “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.
  • This was met with success that included but was not limited to high-profile posts from several American celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Jennifer Lawrence, and Uma Thurman.

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Rijiju turns up at last minute for security pact with China

 

  • There was intense drama at North Block on Monday when Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju was called at the last minute to participate in the formal signing of an internal security agreement with China by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Zhao Kezhi, Chinese Minister of Public Security.
  • Rijiju is an MP from Arunachal Pradesh, which China considers a disputed territory.

Arunachal Pradesh – India and China

  • In 1951, China became India‘s neighbour not owing to geography but by annexing Tibet. In recent years China has created conflict zone across the Himalayas especially in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Arunachal Pradesh is internationally recognized as a state belongs to India. It is influenced by Tibetan, Burmese and Bhutanese culture.
  • China lays its claim on Arunachal Pradesh (AP) on the basis of its cultural similarity with Tibet. It has gone to the extent of citing of birth of 6th Dalai Lama in Tawang District (AP) in 17th century. The irony is that China openly covets AP as a cultural extension to Tibet, thus is a part of China.
  • China‘s claim on Arunachal Pradesh can‘t be driven by insecurity of India‘s rise in Asia rather it can be treated as a classic attempt of incremental annexation.
  • Since 2000, China has been claiming AP (earlier only Tawang) in its entirety and is motivated by its desire to put a stop on Tibetan nationalism which it believes is fueled by support from India.
  • Arunachal Pradesh is also strategically located at the confluence of the international borders of India, China, Myanmar and Bhutan.
  • This extension of territorial claims and increasing aggressions in Arunachal Pradesh, East and South- China sea Islands, indicates a concerted strategy of widening of China‘s sphere of influence and control.

C. GS3 Related

Category: ECONOMY

1. Panel for adopting UN model on cross-border insolvency

 

  • The Insolvency Law Committee (ILC), tasked with suggesting amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code of India, has recommended that India adopt the United Nations’ model to handle cross-border insolvency cases.
  • “The ILC has recommended the adoption of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law of Cross Border Insolvency, 1997, as it provides for a comprehensive framework to deal with cross-border insolvency issues,” the government said in a statement. “The committee has also recommended a few carve-outs to ensure that there is no inconsistency between the domestic insolvency framework and the proposed cross border insolvency framework.”
  • The UNCITRAL Model Law has been adopted in 44 countries and, therefore, forms part of international best practices in dealing with cross border insolvency issues, the government said.

UNCITRAL

  • UNCITRAL was established by the UN General Assembly in 1966 to promote the progressive harmonisation and unification of international trade law.
  • It is the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law.
  • It also aims to modernize and harmonize rules on international business.
  • The Commission comprises 60 member States elected by the United Nations General Assembly for a term of six years. Membership is structured to ensure representation of the world’s various geographic regions and its principal economic and legal systems.
  • India is a founding member of UNCITRAL.
  • India is only one of eight countries which have been a member of UNCITRAL since its inception.

Category: ENVIRONMENT

1. Where Ganga meets the Bay of Pollution

Context

  • An exponential increase in the number of pilgrims coming to the Ganga Sagar Mela, which takes place at the Sagar Island every year during Makar Sankranti, has been responsible for the worsening water pollution, prompting scientists to raise serious concerns about the likely outbreak of several diseases.
  • “A health survey was conducted with the local people… it found that diseases like cholera, dysentery, and skin disease were predominant in the post-Ganga Sagar Mela period,” observed a paper titled ‘Pollution and its consequences at Ganga Sagar mass bathing in India’, published recently in the journal Environment, Development and Sustainability .
  • Researchers also pointed out that making the Ganga Sagar Mela pollution-free should be seen in the context of the Clean Ganga Mission and that the pollution wrought by the mela added to the pollutants which the river brings from upstream.
  • Sagar is the biggest island of the Sunderbans archipelago, with a population of about 2.12 lakh people. Several studies have shown that the island is at the frontline of climate change, facing serious erosion on its east and west sides due to rising sea level and tidal surges.

Ganga Sagar Mela

  • It is held every year in the month of January-February, on the Ganga Sagar Island, at the mouth of the river Hooghly in Bengal.
  • It is attended by thousands of pilgrims every year. A dip in the water at this place, during Gangasagar Mela, is considered to be extremely sacred.
  • On the day of Makar Sankranti (January 14), when the sun makes a transition to Capricorn from Sagittarius, it is said that the bath becomes a holy source of salvation.

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)

  • NMCG is a river cleaning project. It’s among the flagship initiatives of the government.
  • Mission Clean Ganga has a changed and comprehensive approach to champion the challenges posed to Ganga through four different sectors of wastewater management, solid waste management, industrial pollution and river front development.
  • The NMCG has been a registered society since 2012 and its role is largely to fund projects to implementing organisations. Its aim is to ensuring good water quality and environmentally sustainable development.
  • The Union Cabinet has recently approved changes allowing the National Mission for Clean Ganga to fine those responsible for polluting the river. Earlier this power was vested solely with the Central Pollution Control Board. The power to fine the polluters is derived from the Environment Protection Act.

The NMCG now has the status of an Authority and its key focus would be maintaining required ecological flows in the Ganga, abate pollution through planning, financing and execution of programmes including that of – 

  • Augmentation of Sewerage Infrastructure
  • Catchment Area Treatment
  • Protection of Floodplains
  • Creating Public Awareness

Category: INFRASTRUCTURE

1. ‘Centre not doing its bit for Polavaram project’

Context

  • Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu on Monday said the Centre had so far released Rs. 6,700 crore for the Polavaram project against the Rs. 9,877 crore spent by the State after it was declared a national project and claimed credit for taking it up in a full-fledged manner.
  • The CM said 59.63% of the project work had been completed and the progress achieved in the left and right main canals stood at 64.56% and 90% respectively.
  • About 32 lakh acres was provided micro-irrigation facility and the ultimate target was to take it to one crore acres.

National Project

  • The project will receive 90% of the grant from the centre for drinking and irrigation water components of the project.
  • Establishment and administrative costs, however, will be borne by the state government.

Criteria for selection as National Project

  • Where planning and early completion of the project is necessary in the interest of the country.
  • Inter-State projects which are dragging on due to non-resolution of Inter-State issues relating to sharing of costs, rehabilitation, aspects of power production etc.,
  • Intra-State projects with the additional potential of more than 2,00,000 hectare (ha) and with no dispute regarding sharing of water and where hydrology is established.

Polavaram Project

  • Polavaram irrigation project is a multipurpose irrigation project across Godavari river in West Godavari district with its reservoirs spreading across states of Chhattisgarh and Orissa as well.
  • It is a national project which implies that its implementation is monitored by the Central Water Commission. The project is slated to be complete by 2019.
  • The project endeavours to develop irrigation, drinking water facilities and hydropower to regions of East Godavari, Vishakhapatnam, Krishna and West Godavari districts of Andhra Pradesh.

Rationale behind this project

  • Andhra Pradesh has some of the most fertile districts in the country like East & West Godavari and also some severe drought -affected districts like Anantapur in Rayalaseema region.
  • The project seeks to transfer surplus waters from Godavari basin to Krishna river basin that is a water deficit. Thus, it seeks to address the challenges of flooding and droughts witnessed in the respective basins.
  • This would also prevent the unutilized waters to the tune of 3000 TMCs from the Godavari basin from draining into the Bay of Bengal.
  • It would facilitate irrigation in the water-scarce regions of Andhra Pradesh such as Rayalseema. This, in turn would reduce rain dependence of agriculture and help in addressing agrarian distress. The project is aligned with the ambitious target of ‘doubling farm incomes’.
  • Irrigation projects help in overcoming the challenges posed to farmers by the spatio-temporal variability of Indian monsoons. It also plays an instrumental role in improving farm yields.
  • The potential of the Godavari and its tributaries remain underutilized. As a result, Godavari basin witnesses frequent flooding (Andhra Pradesh has suffered 26% of flood damage in India during 1953-2011). The project will help reduce the economic, social and humanitarian costs incurred due to floods.

D. GS4 Related

Nothing here for today!!!

E. Editorials

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Ripe for prison reform (Prison Reforms)

Larger Background:

A Brief Historicity:

  • John Locke, the great English political theorist of seventeenth-century expressed that men were basically good but laws were still needed to keep down ‘the few desperate men in society’.
  • The aim of the society as expressed in its criminal law is to safeguard its own existence to maintain order and to make it possible for all citizens to lead a good life, free from molestation of others. The law enforcement agencies have been given the powers by the society to curtail the freedom of its citizens by taking them into custody in connection with their deviant conduct.
  • The contemporary prison administration in India is a legacy of the British Rule. Lord Macaulay, while presenting a note to the Legislative Council in India on December 21, 1835, for the first time, pointed out the terrible inhumane conditions prevalent in Indian prisons and he termed it as a shocking to humanity. He recommended that a committee be appointed to suggest measures to improve discipline in prisons. Consequently, on 2nd January, 1836, a Prison Discipline Committee was constituted by Lord William Bentinck for this purpose.
  • Sir John Lawrence, a renowned jurist, again examined the conditions of Indian prisons in 1864. Consequently, Second Commission of Enquiry to look into prison management and discipline was appointed by Lord Dalhousie.
  • It is important to note that in an effort to examine the conditions of prisons and prisoners in the country, the government had constituted several panels. The courts are have also passed several landmark judgments towards this including the historic judgement in Hussainara Khatoon vs State of Bihar case. Two most important committees on prison reforms are Justice Mulla Committee Report (1983) and Justice Krishna Iyer Committee on Women Prisoners Report (1987).

The Government of India has constituted an All India Committee on Jail Reforms under the chairmanship of Mr Justice A. N. Mulla in 1980 the committee submitted their report in 1983. This committee examined all aspects of prison administration and made suitable recommendation respecting various issues involved.

A total of 658 recommendations made by this committee on various issues on prison management were circulated to all States and UTs for its implementation, because the responsibility of managing the prisons is that of the State Governments as ‘Prisons’ is a ‘State’ subject under the List II—State List of the Seventh Schedule (Entry 4) of the Constitution of India.

PRISONS AND PRISON LAWS IN INDIA:

Prison is a State subject under List-II of the Seventh Schedule in the Constitution. The management and administration of Prisons falls exclusively in the domain of the State Governments, and is governed by the Prisons Act, 1894 and the Prison Manuals of the respective State Governments. Thus, States have the primary role, responsibility and power to change the current prison laws, rules and regulations. Important statutes which have a bearing on the regulation and management of prisons in the country are:

(i) The Indian Penal Code, 1860.
(ii) The Prisons Act, 1894.
(iii) The Prisoners Act, 1900.
(iv) The Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920.
(v) Constitution of India, 1950
(vi) The Transfer of Prisoners Act, 1950.
(vii) The Representation of People Act, 1951.
(viii) The Prisoners (Attendance in Courts) Act, 1955.
(ix) The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958.
(x) The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
(xi) The Mental Health Act, 1987.
(xii) The Juvenile Justice (Care & Protection) Act, 2000.
(xiii) The Repatriation of Prisoners Act, 2003.
(xiv) Model Prison Manual (2016).

Further, it is important to note that, despite the relatively low number of persons in prisons as compared to many other countries in the world, there are some very serious problems in prisons across India.

These are as follows:
Overcrowding, prolonged detention of undertrials, unsatisfactory living conditions, staff shortage and poor training, corruption and extortion, inadequate social reintegration programmes, poor spending on healthcare and welfare, lack of legal aid and even inhuman approach of prison staff among others.

On some occasions, such as the blinding of prisoners in Bhagalpur, the stark human rights situation also attracted great attention.

The murder of a woman life convict in the Byculla women’s prison in Mumbai in June 2017 has brought the focus back on custodial violence, especially the vulnerability of inmates to authoritarian behaviour.

Mulla Committee: (All India Committee on Jail Reforms 1980-83)- The basic objective of the Committee was to review the laws, rules and regulations keeping in view the overall objective of protecting society and rehabilitating offenders. It recommended a total ban on the heinous practice of clubbing together juvenile offenders with hardened criminals in prisons.

In 1980 the Government of India set-up a Committee on Jail Reforms under the Chairmanship of Justice A. N. Mulla. The Mulla Committee submitted its report in 1983. Some of the prominent recommendations of the Mulla committee are:  

  • Improving prison condition by making available proper food, clothing, sanitation;
  • The prison staff to be properly trained and organized into different cadres.
  • Setting up an All India Service called the Indian Prisons & Correctional Service.
  • After-care, rehabilitation and probation to be an integral part of prison service.  
  • The press and public to be allowed inside prisons and allied correctional institutions periodically, so that the public may have first-hand information about the conditions of prisons and be willing to co-operate in rehabilitation work.  
  • Undertrials in jails to be reduced to bare minimum and they be kept away from convicts.
  • Undertrials constitute a sizable portion of prison population. Their number to be reduced by speedy trial and liberalization of bail provisions.  
  • The Government may make an effort to provide adequate financial resources.

Krishna Iyer Committee:

  • It was constituted in 1987 for women prisoners.
  • It has recommended induction of more women in the police force in view of their special role in tackling women and child offenders

It is important to note that although various bodies have studied the problems of prisons in India and laws are made for improving jail conditions, it is a fact that many problems plague our prisons. In many cases, prisoners come out of jails as hardened criminals more than as reformed wrong doers willing to join the mainstream social processes. The emphasis on correctional aspect needs to be strengthened through counselling programmes by experts. The mindset of the prison staff must change. The management of prisons must be marked by discipline and due regard to the human rights of prisoners. Prison reform is not just about prison buildings, but what goes on inside them that needs to be changed. The focus must be on the human rights of prisoners besides improving their amenities.

Editorial Analysis

  • The honourable Supreme Court, late last month, formed a committee on prison reforms. This committee would be headed by former Supreme Court judge, Justice Amitava Roy, it is to look into the entire gamut of reforms to the prison system.
  • However, it is important to note that this is not the first time that such a body is being set up, examples being the Justice A.N. Mulla committee and the Justice Krishna Iyer committee on women prisoners (both in the 1980s).
  • Further, while marginal reforms have taken place, these have not been enough to ensure that prison conditions are in tune with human rights norms.

Timing of the formation of this Committee:

  • Further, it is important to note that the formation of this committee comes at a time when controversy surrounds the Tamil Nadu government’s recommendation that the seven convicts in the assassination, in 1991, of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi be released.
  • The crux of the debate is that, incarceration in any form is uncivilised, especially when it is so long-drawn-out.
  • It is important to note that the objective of criminal punishment should be one of reform rather than wreaking vengeance on a perpetrator of crime.  

Popular Sentiment:

  • It is significant to note that those pleading for clemency in this case are outnumbered.
  • Experts believe that this is reflective of popular sentiment that a gruesome crime needs to be dealt with severely.
  • Further, this is also about the unresolved conflict in attitudes about incarceration — punishment or reform — which also explains the halfway jail reforms agenda seen in many countries.

Certain Questions which arise:

  • How does one render conditions within prisons that are less harsh and more humane?
  • Further, there are those who believe that if you keep improving prison conditions, there is likely to be an attendant impact on the incidence of crime. It is believed that this accounts for the reluctance of many criminal justice administrators to employ or enlarge non-prison alternatives such as community service.
  • The offshoot of all this is growing numbers of prisoners and the woeful incapacity of governments to build more and larger prisons.
  • These days, the question often asked by governments is, that during the days of extreme fiscal stress, why should state resources be diverted to a ‘negative exercise, whose benefits are dubious’?
  • This is why jail officials are often asked to ‘somehow manage’ with existing modest facilities.

An International Perspective:

  • The data on prison overcrowding are frightening.
  • Except in parts of Europe, where crime is still low or at acceptable levels, overcrowding is rampant.
  • In the U.S., for example, at any time, it is estimated, there are more than two million prisoners in state and federal prisons. In the U.K., the latest available data (July 2018) show a current prison population of approximately 92,500.
  • In India, in the year 2015, there were nearly 4.2 lakh inmates in 1,401 facilities, with an average occupancy rate of 114% in most. About 67% of total inmates were undertrials, a commentary on the speed and efficiency of India’s criminal justice system.
  • There is an obvious poverty of ideas in justice administration. While public officials and social workers are agreed upon the need to reduce overcrowding, there is hardly any convergence on how to go about this delicate exercise. There is also an obvious fear of backlash against any move to decriminalise what is now prohibited by statutes.

Concluding Remarks:

  • In conclusion, one must point out that there is a popular view that in order to reduce prison populations, proven non-violent offenders could be dealt with differently.
  • However, what is frustrating is that no consensus has been evolved across the world on this relatively uncomplicated issue.
  • Further, white collar crime has assumed monstrous proportions but there is no reason why we should continue to lock up offenders instead of merely depriving them of their illegal gains.
  • It is also important to point out that devising swift processes of attachment of properties and freezing of bank accounts are alternatives to a jail term.
  • However, there are legal impediments here, but these can be overcome by ensuring a certain fairness in the system, of the state taking over illegally acquired wealth.
  • Finally, another complaint against prisons is the brutality and venality of prison officials, again common across the world. A solution will be a point to ponder over for the Justice Roy Committee.
  • Finally, it is important to point out that improving prison conditions has no political leverage.
  • Just as humane prisons do not win votes, the bad ones do not lose votes for any political party.
  • As long as there are no stakes here for lawmakers, one can hardly hope for model prisons, where inmates are accommodated with due regard to their basic human needs and are handled with dignity.

Category: ECONOMY

1. Turf battle (RBI)

Larger Background

    • Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Friday said there is no case for having a regulator for payment systems outside the central bank.
    • The RBI had submitted a dissent note, against certain recommendations of the inter-ministerial committee for finalization of amendments to the Payment & Settlement Systems Act, 2007.
    • The draft Payment and Settlement System Bill, 2018 had made an important observation. It said that an independent payments regulatory board (PRB) needs to be established to regulate the payments sector aimed at fostering competition, consumer protection, systemic stability and resilience in the payments sector.
  • However, according to the RBI’s dissent note, the central bank believes that the PRB must remain with the central bank and headed by the RBI governor. The RBI and the government may nominate three members each to the board, with a casting vote for the governor.
  • Crucially, the RBI had cited the report of the Ratan Watal Committee on digital payments as recommending the establishment of the PRB within the overall structure of the RBI, arguing therefore that there is no need for any deviation.

A Note on the Ratan Watal Committee on digital payments:

  • This Committee on Digital Payments was constituted by the Ministry of Finance, Department of Economic Affairs under the Chairmanship of Shri. Ratan P. Watal, Principal Advisor, NITI Aayog and former Finance Secretary to the Government of India.
  • In its Report, the Committee had recommended a medium-term strategy for accelerating growth of Digital Payments in India with a regulatory regime which is conducive to bridging the Digital divide by promoting competition, open access & interoperability in payments.
  • The Report recommended inclusion of financially and socially excluded groups and assimilation of emerging technologies in the market, while safeguarding security of Digital Transactions and providing level playing to all stakeholders and new players who will enter this new transaction space.  
  • It had suggested inter-operability of the payments system between banks and non-banks, up-gradation of the digital payment infrastructure and institutions and a framework to reward innovations and for leading efforts in enabling digital payments.

Editorial Analysis:

  • The RBI observed that it would prefer the Payments Regulatory Board to function under the purview of the RBI Governor.
  • “There is no case of having a regulator for payment systems outside the RBI,” the note read.
  • In support of its stance, the RBI stated that the activities of payments banks come well within the purview of the traditional banking system, which the central bank oversees as the overarching financial regulator.
  • Thus, according to this logic, it might make better sense to have the RBI oversee the activities of payments banks as well instead of creating a brand new regulator for the growing industry.
  • The RBI, in essence, is pointing to the interconnection between the payments industry and the banking system to back the extension of its regulatory powers.

Concluding Remarks:

    • In conclusion, the RBI’s case makes good sense when seen from the perspective of the cost of regulatory compliance.
    • As stated above, there is definite overlapping between the current regulatory powers of the RBI and the proposed regulations for the payments industry.
    • Further, it is important to note that a unified regulator can thus help in lowering the compliance costs and enabling the seamless implementation of rules.
    • Also, there is the real risk that a brand new regulator may be unable to match the expertise of the RBI in carrying out necessary regulatory duties.
    • As a consequence of this, it makes better sense to have the RBI take charge of the rapidly growing payments industry which can ill-afford regulatory errors at this point.
  • The fact that the RBI has made public its dissent against the Union government’s idea, suggests that the central bank has serious problems with the dilution of its current powers over the financial sector.
    • However, the RBI’s demand for the centralisation of regulatory powers also brings with it the need for exercising a greater degree of responsibility.
  • One must note that when we are at a time where there are increasing risks to the stability of the domestic financial system, both the government and the RBI must look to work together to tackle these risks instead of battling over regulatory powers.

2. The value of a health scheme

Note to the Students:

The issue of Universal Health Coverage has been covered quite frequently over the past few issues of The Hindu. For students who are reading this topic for the first time, we have taken the liberty towards giving a broader context to the larger issue which needs to be understood.

Larger Background:

  • The poor condition of healthcare in the country is not a secret, especially in India’s villages where infrastructure is in a dilapidated state. Government hospitals often fail to provide necessary health services to the poor, with private hospitals being out of the reach of most people. The country’s growing population and lack of resources has made matters worse. According to the 2011 census, India’s population is over 1.2 Billion, make it the second most populous nation in the world after, China.
  • Many organizations, including the United Nations have estimated that by 2025, India would be the most populated nation in the world, surpassing China.
  • More than 32% of total deaths in India are due to heart-related ailments. According to the Global Burden of Disease study, India is ranked low in the Healthcare index; India stands at a rank of 154. This index is out of 194 countries. But despite this, the budget allotment on healthcare services is extremely low.
  • India spends less than 2% of her GDP on public healthcare. But now the Government is working on improving public healthcare services. The National Health Protection Mission or Ayushman Bharat Yojana, launched by the Government is the first major step in this direction. Ayushman Bharat Yojana is a program which aims to create a healthy, capable and content new India. It will also focus on the poor and weaker sections of the society. It aims to provide insurance of upto 5 lakh rupees to each family. The new scheme also intends to improve secondary and tertiary healthcare services for crores of Indians.

There are two flagship initiatives under Ayushman Bharat:

  1. The first is to create a network of health and wellness centres that will bring the healthcare system closer to the people. The centres will provide comprehensive healthcare, including treatment for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services. Besides this, they will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services; also Rs. 1200 crore have been allocated for this flagship programme.

The scheme will cover more than 10 crore poor families, which is approximately 50 crore persons. It will also setup wellness centres which will give poor people OPD facility near their homes.

  1. The second flagship programme under ‘Ayushman Bharat’ is the ‘National Health Protection Scheme’. The National Health Protection Scheme will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families. It will provide coverage up to 5 lakh rupees per family, per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
  • Universal health coverage is getting prioritised as a part of political reform with the launch of two pillars.

The pillars are the

  1. Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY): Ayushman Bharat (AB)
    Under this scheme, 1.5 lakh health sub-centres are being converted into health and wellness centres.  
  2. The National Health Protection Mission (NHPM)
    This aims to provide health cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family, per annum, reaching out to 500 million people.
  • It is important to note that the “best health care at the lowest possible cost” should be:
    1. inclusive
    2. make health-care providers accountable for cost and quality
    3. achieve a reduction in disease burden, and
    4. eliminate catastrophic health expenditures for the consumer.

A Few Noteworthy Points:

  • The Ayushman Bharat Scheme will provide guaranteed access to treatment that is free at the point of delivery to about 40% of the population selected on the basis of censused socio-economic indicators.
  • Experts believe that this is the essential first step on the road to universal health coverage.
  • Ever since the Centre has announced that 10.74 crore families identified through the Socio-Economic Caste Census data will be given an annual Rs. 5 lakh cover under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (the insurance component of the scheme), the question of eligibility appears settled.
  • The allocation of just Rs. 2,000 crore during the current year to the PMJAY (Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana) cannot provide the promised cover to the large population sought to be included.
  • Unfortunately, not all States and Union Territories are in a position to raise their own share, and a few of the States have not even joined the scheme.
  • Thus, the challenge of funding remains.
  • Further, without adequate budgetary commitments, the implications of pooling the financial risk for such a large segment of the population of India through a) insurers or b) state-run trusts or societies make the outcomes uncertain.

Certain Points to Ponder:

  • Guaranteeing health-care access using private or public facilities presumes tight cost control.
  • However, in the case of the PMJAY, this is to be achieved using defined treatment packages for which rates are prescribed.
  • There are issues which need to be ironed out as well. For example, costs are a contested area between the care-providers and the Centre, and many for-profit hospitals see the government’s proposals as unviable.
  • Experts believe that the State governments should have been persuaded to regulate the hospital sector under the Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, which dates back to 2010.
  • Further, the law broadly provides for standardisation of facilities and reasonable rates for procedures. However, apprehensions of fraud have prompted Ayushman Bharat administrators to announce that some key treatments should be availed through public sector institutions. Unfortunately, public facilities have been neglected for long.
  • Also, it is essential to reduce the pressure on secondary and tertiary hospitals for expensive treatments by investing in preventive and primary care facilities.
  • It is in these sectors that the 150,000 health and wellness centres of the National Health Protection Mission can play a valuable role.
  • Finally, the first-order priority should be to draw up a road map for universal health coverage, through continuous upgradation of the public sector infrastructure.

Editorial Analysis:

  • On September 24, 2018, the government launched the ambitious government-funded healthcare scheme, the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY).
  • While some see its ambitious goals as its main strength, others are sceptical given the inadequate funding for the scheme, the weak infrastructure of primary health care centres, and the time required for the goals to be accomplished.
  • However, it is important to note that nobody disputes the imperative of an insurance scheme as vast as the PMJAY, since every year about 36 million families, or 14% of households, face a medical bill that is equal to the entire annual living expenses of one member of the family. This frequently pushes many families into penury.

A Closer Look at the Schemes: The RSBY and the PMJAY

  • It is important to take note of a precedent. For example, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), which was launched in 2008.
  • Although the PMJAY is much wider in its reach than the RSBY (it covers 50 crore beneficiaries with Rs. 3,500 crore of government spending and provides benefits up to Rs. 5 lakh per eligible family), the central framework is the same: universal health care and health rights.
  • The emerging discourse surrounding the PMJAY scheme resonates with those of RSBY. The focus continues to be on the top-down, deductive reasoning of the scheme, including issues such as allocation of funds for each illness, the types of care provided, financial considerations for empanelment of hospitals, types of illnesses covered, and transaction costs.
  • These considerations matter. However, there are important missing links.
  • A recent study of the RSBY in Karnataka conducted by an expert (Vani S. Kulkarni teaches sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, U.S.), yielded important insights that are pertinent here.
  • Given that RSBY was embedded within the framework of universal health care and health rights, it is appropriate to pay attention to the existence of health rights in a local set-up.
  • What was discovered was that the way beneficiaries of RSBY (Below Poverty Line households) perceived the scheme was not as a health right but in terms of the value it imparted, which was measured along multiple dimensions.
  • Households initially measured the value of the RSBY in terms of its material benefit and measurable impact. This included the financial ease it provided in taking care of illnesses, the expense and types of illnesses that the card covered, and the transaction costs it included, i.e. how easy it would be to use the card in terms of bureaucratic paperwork and formal procedures.
  • Further, households also valued the RSBY beyond its visible impact. They had little value for the RSBY because of many reasons.

These reasons are as under mentioned:

  1. Officials who distributed the RSBY smart card did not provide information on how to use the card.  
  2. Hospitals did not respect patients with the card, believing that they were availing medical care free of cost. Sometimes they did not honour the card either due to inaccuracy of fingerprints or lack of money on the card.
  3. Neighbours and family members did not discuss the utilisation of the card, making households perceive the card as just a showpiece: important to possess but not useful.
  4. Finally, the lack of involvement and endorsement by local leaders further diminished the value of the card for the households.

Finally, it is important to note that as the delivery of universal health care and health rights find yet another expression in India through the PMJAY scheme, it is crucial, now more than ever before to explore how citizens exercise their right to health and understand how it could be better practised.

The biggest challenges for the success of the PMJAY scheme are not just financial and infrastructural at the local level, but how its value is perceived by the community.

F. Tidbits

1. ‘In urban U.P., 87% of waste from toilets goes to rivers, farmlands’

 

  • Study by Centre for Science and Environment says if more toilets and septic tanks are built without sewer systems, it will swamp the State
  • While urban Uttar Pradesh has 80% coverage of toilets, inefficient sanitation systems ensure that almost 87% of the excreta being generated by these toilets is being dumped in waterbodies or agricultural lands, according to a new analysis of 30 cities by the Centre for Science and Environment.
  • “With 2019 just round the corner, the number of toilets and onsite sanitation systems being built in the State are all set to increase exponentially — if not managed scientifically and sustainably, the amount of faecal sludge that these new toilets will generate will swamp the State,” said Suresh Rohilla, programme director of waste and wastewater management at the CSE.
  • The report, released on Monday, argues that building more toilets will only worsen the environmental, sanitation and manual scavenging situation, unless sewerage connections increase
  • Without a sewerage system, the effluent from the septic tank, along with greywater from the kitchen and bathroom flows out into stormwater drains and open drains or nullahs. The faecal sludge, on the other hand, has to be periodically emptied from the septic tank, either manually or mechanically using vacuum trucks or tankers. CSE’s analysis found that half of all emptying work in these cities is done manually, despite the legal prohibition of the employment of manual scavengers.

2. Experts’ group to cut school bag weight formed, court told

 

  • Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) informed the Madras High Court on Monday that an Experts’ Group has been constituted to formulate a draft policy on reducing the weight of school bags in proportion to the age and average weight of children.
  • Justice N. Kirubakaran was told that the Centre had decided to implement his May 29 judgement on the issue in letter and spirit.
  • The MHRD had issued an order on October 5 to formulate a policy on schoolbags on the lines of Children School Bags (Limitation on Weight) Bill of 2006, which never turned into a law. Disposing of a writ petition filed by advocate M. Purushothaman, the judge had directed the Centre to formulate a nationwide policy forthwith on the permitted weight of backpacks that could be carried by schoolchildren, observing that “neither are children weightlifters nor school bags load containers.”
  • A decision had also been taken to include representatives of the education departments of Maharashtra and Telangana as additional members of the group, since the two States already had a policy in place stipulating that the weight of a schoolbag should not exceed 10% of the weight of the student.
  • Government Orders issued in Maharashtra and Telangana were placed before the court for its perusal. The ASG said Maharashtra, while deciding the weight of the schoolbag, had considered the weight of books, geometry box, stationery, lunch box and even the water bottle.

3. SC dismisses plea to lower marriageable age of men

 

  • The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a PIL petition seeking a judicial order to lower the legal marriageable age of men from 21 to 18 years.
  • A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi imposed Rs. 25,000 costs on petitioner-lawyer Asok Pande, and said there was no public interest in his petition.
  • Pande argued that men could join the Army or vote at the age of 18, then why not marry.
  • “If any 18-year-old person approaches us with such kind of a petition, then we will give him the cost deposited by you [Mr. Pande],” Justice Gogoi observed orally.
  • The Bench said in such cases, the affected persons should come to court.
  • The petition challenged the provisions of the Child Marriage Restraint Act, the Special Marriage Act and the Hindu Marriage Act, which deal with the minimum marriageable age for men and alleged that they were violative of various fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
  • It contended that the provisions were “unreasonable, unjust and improper” and also violative of Article 15 which prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

G. Prelims Fact

1. Direct tax base widens sharply over 4 years, compliance rises

 

  • The direct tax base has significantly widened in the last few years, according to new back series data released by the government.
  • The data showed a growth of more than 80% in the number of returns filed in the last four financial years from 3.79 crore in financial year (FY) 2013-14 to 6.85 crore (these figures include revised returns) in FY 2017-18.
  • Further, the number of persons filing income tax returns also increased by about 65% during this period from 3.31 crore in FY 2013-14 to 5.44 crore in FY 2017-18.
  • “There may be four reasons for increase in the number of tax returns,” S.P. Singh, partner at Deloitte India said. “One, the effect of demonetisation, two, the increase in the use of information being collected digitally and being used by the tax department. Three, the movement towards digital assessment and decrease in the number of cases being picked up for scrutiny, and four, the ease of getting refund, majorly by small and medium taxpayers.
  • Further, the statement said that the overall number of taxpayers (including corporates, firms, and Hindu Undivided Families) declaring an income above Rs. 1 crore a year also saw a sharp growth over the three years under consideration.

H. Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims Exam

Question 1. India is member of which of the following ‘Export Control Regimes’?
  1. Wassenaar Arrangement
  2. Australia Group
  3. Nuclear Suppliers Group
  4. Missile Technology Control Regime

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

  1. 1, 2 and 4
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 2, 3 and 4
  4. 1 and 4 only

See

Answer
Question 2. World bank supported ‘SANKALP’ and ‘STRIVE’ schemes will work in which of the 
following sectors?
 
  1. Industrial Development
  2. Agriculture
  3. Skill Development
  4. Scientific Innovation

See

Answer
  

 

I. Practice Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

  1. It is important to ensure that the defamation law is no longer used as a tool for harassment. Examine. (Max 150 words)
  2. Political will is crucial to reform India’s criminal justice system. Analyse. (Max 150 words)

Also, check previous Daily News Analysis

 

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