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9 PM for Main examination
- The impact of pandemic on elderly section
- India- Nepal Boundary Issues: Changing relations
- Criticism of digital health mission
- Food insecurity – SOFI
- Arun Jaitley: The builder of common ground
- Farmers need ‘options’ on futures trading
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1.The impact of pandemic on elderly section
Source– The Indian Express
Syllabus – GS 1 – Population and associated issues
Context – COVID-19 poses risk not only to the health of older adults but also of those who are without the health care resources and social structure that contribute to overall wellness.
Impact on the mental health of senior citizens
- Abuse and mistreatment– 88 percent of elderly people in India live with their children. The cases of elder abuse have increased during lockdown and interpersonal relationship was the main factor responsible for fast increasing incident of elder abuse in families.
- Loneliness and related mental issues –17 Million elderly people live without their extended family or made arrangement to live separately due to the virus have difficulty in accessing food, water and basic services which increases the risk of loneliness and anxiety.
Challenges for senior citizens
- Healthcare access – Measure like social distancingself-isolation and travel restrictions have a disproportionate effect, especially in matters relating to the healthcare access. Lack of access to healthcare services could aggravate physical disabilities, hinder the effective management of communicable diseases and lead to mental ill-health problems amongst the elderly.
- Technology and internet connectivity– In India, only 7 per cent of the older people have smartphones. The literacy rate among this segment is also low, further limiting access to technology and important information.
- Financial security– Older adults in the rural areas work as farm labour, daily wage earners and the lockdown has affected their family economy immensely.
- Social security– Many older people are not part of the any of the insurance schemes.
- Outpatient treatment [OPT] restriction-OPT of nearly all major non-communicable diseases has been severely affected due to the COVID-19. Older people seem to be missing out on treatment for illnesses. Medical check-ups have become infrequent.
- Vulnerability –The elderly is at a greatest risk against COVID-19, and those with pre-existing problems are all the most vulnerable of all.
Healthcare schemes like the Ayushman Bharat Yojana need to have special provisions for the elderly. Tele-health and mobile home-based health care check-ups should be conducted on daily or weekly basis to cater the needs of elder section. Direct subsidies to pensioners, especially in healthcare matters are essential to the right of a dignified life.
2.India- Nepal Boundary Issues: Changing relations
Source- The Hindu
Syllabus- GS 2- India and its neighbourhood- relations
Context- Reversing history selectively may seem tempting but it can open a Pandora ’s Box which have irretrievably negative consequences.
Unilateral actions taken by Nepal-
- Revised map- Nepal’s government had incorporated through constitutional amendment and released a new revised map expanding its territory from 35 square kilometres around the Kalapani springs to 400 square kilometres, claiming a large part of Indian Territory towards the east.
- Treaty of Sugauli, 1816-
- Actual Boundary- The boundary between the two countries in the western sector was the Kali River which was set by the Treaty of Sugauli. There was no map attached to the treaty.
- Mutual Agreement-Though, this boundary does not follow any geographical principle however it was the result of historical circumstances, mutual agreement and legal recognition.
- New claim-Now, Nepal is claiming that the main tributary of the Kalapani river rises east of the Lipu Lekh pass from the Limpiyadhura ridgeline. Hence, it should serve as the border.
Historical evidence in favour of India-
- Britishers Cartographic chicanery –
- When East India Company carried out detailed surveys of the region, they consistently showed the India- Nepal border heading due north of Kalapani springs to a few kilometres east of Lipu lekh Pass.
- At that time Nepal didn’t even raise for such a claim even when the company was in a generous mood, having received Nepali help in putting down the 1857 Indian war of Independence. This alignment never changed in subsequent years and was also reflected in Nepal’s official maps.
- PM of Nepal Kirti Nidhi Bisht- In 1969, PM of Nepal demanded that India’s military personnel manning 17 villages along the Nepal- Tibet border need to be withdrawn. The name of all the villages that were recorded in the National Panchayat statement didn’t have Lipu Lekh and Kalapani mentioned in it. This shows that if they were a part of Nepal’s territory then they would had mentioned it in their list.
- China’s acceptance- Since 1954, Chinese have accepted Lipu lekh Pass as being part of the Indian Territory. In the Nepal- China boundary agreement of 1960, the starting point of the boundary is clearly designated at a point just west of the Tinker pass.
Effect on India- Nepal Relations-
Borders which have been accepted by both sides for more than 100 years and which have also been reflected on their official maps, now unilaterally altered by one side coming up have following implications on their relation-
- Border tension- Itwould make national boundaries unstable and create avoidable controversies between countries.
- Human relations- It woulddestroy the unique people to people relations between India and Nepal. It will break the dense harmony that binds people of both the countries together.
India should do everything to nurture the invaluable asset it has in the goodwill of the people of Nepal. On the other hand, India should reject the Nepali state’s ill- conceived territorial claims for its protecting its own territorial integrity and sovereignty.
3.Criticism of digital health mission
Syllabus: GS-2- Health
Context: The Union government should focus on improving its public health systems instead of making a show of improving private healthcare.
- The current Prime Minister announced the launch of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM),in which, a patient’s medical history records, including the treatment and tests that he / she took, would be digitally saved in a central database.
- Authorised doctors around the country would be able to access it.
- The use of information technology in healthcarewas promoted in National Health Policy 2017 and a special committee was set up in July 2018 to work on the blueprint.
- Countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and South Korea have their health data digitised for decades now. Healthcare is mostly in private hands and is generally accessed through insurance in the US.
Issues with Digitisation
- Human-computer interactions were responsible for 54.7 per cent of problems during laboratory testingand the remaining were caused by the computer alone in the US, according to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority.
- Digitisation also puts a burden on doctorsas they worked for 11.4 hours a day on an average; out of which they spent 5.9 hours on the electronic health record system according to a study of 142 general practitioners in Wisconsin.
- A review of NHS Digital in 2017 in UK found record keeping below expectation in the country. This was mainly due to use of obsolete technology and shortage of skills in areas such as cyber security, business analysis, clinical resources and software development and systems engineering.
Digitisation of health data in India
- The NDHB clearly states that “citizens need to undergo any diagnostic test only onceduring the course of an episode, despite taking treatment from different health service providers”.
- The NDHB says that the private player has the choice to register at this centralised facility. It is likely that many doctors and hospitals would avail this exemption.
- Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010 (CEA) fixes rates for various treatments and procedures and creates a problem for private health facilities that work for profits.
- CEA is important as the government now depends on public-private partnerships through health insurance schemes to deliver health.
CEA and the NDHM would be easier to implement, and people of India would be better equipped in dealing with the ever-increasing health burden that they face if the Union Government focuses on improving its public health systems.
4.Food insecurity – SOFI
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: GS-2- Demography
Context: The SOFI report and lockdown distress have reintroduced focus on India’s food insecurity.
- State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report show that India retains the suspicious discrepancy of being the country with the largest population of food insecure people.
- The prevalence of food insecurity increased by 3.8 percentage points in India between 2014 and 2019, by 2019, 6.2 crore more people were living with food insecurity than the number in 2014 according to a report which was released by several United Nations organisations.
Authoritative indicators of food insecurity
- The SOFI report presents the most authoritative evaluation of hunger and food insecurity in the world every year. Since 2017, SOFI presents two key measures of food insecurity:
- The conventional measure called the Prevalence of Undernourishment (PoU) and
- A new measure called the Prevalence of Moderate and Severe Food Insecurity (PMSFI).
- PoU is focused on estimating the proportion of population facing chronic deficiency of caloriesand the PMSFI is a more comprehensive measure of the lack of access to adequate and nutritious food.
- The Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) and the PMFSI have been widely adopted by countries across the world because of the solid conceptual foundations of this methodology and the ease of collection of data.
- The report provides three-year average estimates of the number of food insecure people for South Asia as a whole and for South Asia (excluding India). By taking a difference between the two, one can derive the estimates for India.
- The number of food insecure people grew from 42.65 crore in 2014-16 to 48.86 crore in 2017-19.While the PMSFI increased in India by 3.7 percentage points during this period, it fell by 0.5 percentage points in the rest of South Asia.
- The per capita dietary energy supply in India increased by 3.8% between 2011-13 and 2015-17.
- The consumption survey data that became available through a media leak showed that the average consumption expenditure (covering food and other expenses) fell by 3.7% between 2011-12 and 2017-18.
Causes of suffering
- The significant rise in food insecurity suggests overall economic distress during this period marked by a deepening agricultural crisis, falling investments across sectors and shrinking employment opportunities.
- It is widely believed that demonetisation and introduction of the Goods and Services Tax were two prime causes of economic distressduring this period as unemployment rates in the recent years have been higher than in the last four decades.
- Sudden loss of livelihoods, a vast majority of India’s poor are faced with increased food insecurity, hunger and starvation because of the on-going crisis due to Covid-19.
It is critical for India to conduct a national survey on food insecurity to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security of different sections of the population.
5.Arun Jaitley: The builder of common ground
Source: Indian Express
Syllabus: Gs2: Functions and Responsibilities of the Union and the States, Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure
Context: Cooperative federalism seen in action in the GST Council owes in large part to the contribution of Arun Jaitley.
Contribution of Arun Jaitley in reforms:
- Introduction of GST: It made all India one market, interstate barriers disappeared, multiple taxes were subsumed to become one, double taxation was eliminated, the cascading effect of taxes got mitigated.
- Built the mutual trust: the contributions made by the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers and its chairmen are well recognised during evolution of GST.
Significance of GST:
- GST subsumed 17 different taxes and 13 cesses.
- Seamless movement: It ensured that there were no more queues of trucks and no more state barriers.
- Eliminated cascading effect:In the pre-GST era, the total of VAT, excise, CST and their cascading effect led to 31 per cent as tax payable, on an average, for a consumer. For instance, entertainment tax — it was being levied at 35 per cent in some states while it was 110 per cent in others.
- Reduced burden on consumer: Cinema tax are now at 12 per cent or 18 per cent only. Most items of daily common use are in the zero to 5 per cent slab. Restaurants and construction services are at the 5 per cent slab now.
- Reduced tax rate: Most items have been brought in the 18 per cent, 12 per cent or even 5 per cent category.
- Reduced cost of housing:Construction of residential complexes is at 5 per cent and affordable housing is at 1 per cent.
- Enhanced stability:According to RBI, since the roll out of GST, the rate changes have brought down the GST incidence from 14 per cent to 11.6 per cent.
- Widened tax base:there are 1.2 crore GST assesses compared to 65 lakh at the time of introduction of the tax regime.
- Increasing revenue:In the next year 2018-19, despite concessions per month average revenue collection rose by 10 per cent to Rs 97,100 crore. In FY 2019-20, the revenue per month was Rs 1,02,000 crore.
- Ease in compliance:Accounting and billing software is provided free to the small taxpayers. Registrations are completely online and the refund process is also fully automated.
Few Sector specific GST reduction:
- Agricultural inputs such as fertilisers, machinery have seen a considerable reduction in rates.
- Exempted: Agricultural produce such as vegetables, fruits, flowers and food grains, dairy products, Minor forest produce, farm labour, renting and leasing of agricultural machinery, fumigation, pre-conditioning.
- Reduced tax rate: More than 35 items are now in the18 per cent slab.
- Items that have large employment creating activities rough diamond/precious stone sorting and polishing for example, have seen a GST reduction from 3 per cent to 0.25 per cent.
- Loss of revenue:The loss of revenue due to the reduction in rates, has been more than Rs one lakh crore annually.
- Reason for such loss:As per an RBI calculation, the weighted GST rate at present is 11.6 per cent. The revenue neutral rate determined at the time of GST introduction by its own committee was 15.3 per cent.
- Number of concessions: Taxation threshold for goods was increased to Rs 40 lakh. The composition limit was increased from Rs 75 lakh to Rs 1.5 crore.
- Issues of inversion:Manufactured goods in lower slabs have suffered due to inversion in the duty structure. This has led to a situation where imports are getting incentivised.
- Impact: affect competitiveness of economy particularly MSMEs.
- Delays in compensation:with COVID-19 lockdowns and consequential deferrals in tax payments, compensation payments to the states is a concern.
- Revenue generation and robust technological support are still a concern.
6.Farmers need ‘options’ on futures trading
Source: The HINDU
Syllabus: Gs3– Transport and Marketing of Agricultural Produce and Issues and Related Constraints
Context: Government should make extend the ‘options on goods’ to all farm commodities for better connectivity and agriculture growth.
- NCDEX contracts allow farmers to opt out of a futures deal to encourage Seamless movement to spot exchanges.
- Poor reach:Futures trading in agricultural commodities was always at a disadvantage when it came to reaching out to farmers.
- No option for farmers to go back: A farmer can sell the crop in advance at a known price on the exchange but if the price on the day of sale is higher, he cannot go back on the contract.
- An option gives the seller this right. But once it was allowed on the ‘futures price’, it became complicated for the farmer to comprehend.
NCDEX has launched three contracts which are same as the MSP (Minimum Support Price) with a small difference. NCDEX, a commodity futures exchange has a spot exchange, NCDEX e-Markets Ltd.
- Strong back-end logistics:includes transport, storage, grading, assaying and packing.
- Provide an end-to-end solution for the farmers.
- Farmer centric contracts: the contract specifications must be aligned to the farmers’ output and while NCDEX starts with 10 MT as the specification, should ideally be of a lower quantity to involve class participation.
- To enable trading: Trading terminals must be made available in all connected geographies for participation to increase.
Significance of “option on goods”:
- The farmer can sell at a known futures price and in case the spot price on the day of settlement is higher, he need not go with the trade.
- In this case, farmers can switch to the e-market platform and sell the product.
- It will benefit crops where MSP is ineffective.
- The options transaction will protect the farmer against the downside like the futures price.
- Reduce burden of subsidies on government.
- Compliment e-NAM and APMC reforms: Farmers will be empowered to sell across boundaries.
- Better market integration:allow for procurement across all States and not get restricted to those centres where the FCI operates.
- Commercialisation of agriculture: India can be a major exporter of farm products.
- Increase employment:Create jobs in rural India and curb migration.
- Integration of platforms:spot exchange and e-market should ideally connect the platforms for the farmer so that the optimal price is received.
- “Option” for all commodities:options can be made available across all commodities and geographies and have the potential to change the landscape of agricultural marketing.
- Free access:Corporates should have free access to buy these goods on the platforms of commodity exchanges which will cut down on intermediation costs.
- Investment and incentives: to set up warehouses and grading and assaying facilities.
- State governments and WDRA (Warehousing Development and Regulatory Authority) cooperation is required to create infrastructure for trading facilities.
- Mass educationis required by having trading facilities in the villages.
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