9 PM Daily Brief – August 29th,2020

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GS-2

  1. Reservation – sub-categorisation
  2. National Digital Health Mission
  3. Coercive not cooperative federalism
  4. India Pakistan Relations
  5. New parameters for national well-being

GS-3

  1. GST Council – Issue of States’ compensation

9 PM for Preliminary examination

FACTLy


1.Reservation – sub-categorisation

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2- Polity

Context: A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that state governments can subclassify Scheduled Castes and Tribes to provide favoured treatment to the more deprived among them so that the real purpose of reservation can be achieved.

More about the ruling

  • The ruling contradicts a 2004 order of a five-judge bench that had ruled against states creating subcategories within the SC-ST categories. However, the final word has not been said yet as the case has now been referred to a seven-judge Constitution bench of the apex court.
  • “Reservation creates inequalities within the reserved castes itself” was a positive take away from Supreme Court’s reading.
  • The bench’s support for sub-classification in order for the government to adopt “a distributive justice method so that State largesse does not concentrate in few hands and equal justice to all is provided” is in accordance with the principle and spirit of reservation spelt out in the Constitution.

Issues with reservation creating inequalities within reserved castes

  • Evidence suggests that a few castes have been cornering most of the benefits extended by reservation to SCs, including in employment and admission to educational institutions.
  • Some groups have historically had a relative advantage of access to material resources, including land, cultural capital, and education, over other groups in the Scheduled Castes.
  • Reservation treating the scheduled castes as a homogenous community has widened these social and economic inequalities within the community.
  • The relatively dominant sections have gained at the expense of the weaker groups, causing bitterness among the weaker groups and forcing them to mobilise on the issue.

Way forward

  • Many state governments such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, and Punjab, have introduced sub categories within the SC reservation in an attempt to rectify the situation.
  • State intervention must be carefully thought through and protected from political-electoral pressures.
  • For instance, the Nitish Kumar government introduced the Mahadalit category and identified 18 of the state’s 22 Dalit communities for inclusion in 2007.
  • In 2008, two of the four relatively better-off SC groups, the Pasis and Dhobis, were included.
  • Political opportunism only serves to discredit an instrument that has gone a long way in addressing historical injustice and inequality and hence should be avoided.

2.National Digital Health Mission

Source: Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2- Health

Context: Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare, discusses the key highlights of the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM).

National Digital Health Mission:

  • Aim: It aims to liberates citizens from the challenges of finding the right doctors, payment of consultation fee, making several rounds of hospitals for prescription sheets.
  • It comprises of the following digital systems:
    • HealthID- A unique Aadhaar-like health ID will be given to every individual to access their medical records.
    • DigiDoctor– It will contain all the details of the doctors registered in the country including their professional experience and specialization details along with registration number.
    • Health Facility Registry (HFR)– It will include all the health facilities such as hospitals would be registered into the system with all details such as services offered, specialties, etc.
    • Personal Health Records (PHR)– It will store health records of individuals. This will enable people to manage the critical information about their health.
    • Electronic Medical Records (EMR)– It will include patient’s medical history, treatment records, etc.
    • e-Pharmacy– It will take orders online and deliver the medicines to the patients.
    • Telemedicine– It will provide medical care to the patients remotely including diagnosis and treatment with the help of telecommunications technology.

Key Highlights:

  • It is based on the principles of health for all, inclusivity, accessibility, affordability, education, empowerment, wellness, portability, privacy and security by design.
  • It is a voluntary scheme — HealthID is entirely voluntary for citizens. They can choose to generate their Health Account or ID using their Aadhaar card or digitally authenticable mobile number and by using their basic address-related details and email ID.
  • providing access to and sharing of personal health records is a prerogative of the HealthID holder. The information can be shared for a period ranging from one hour to unlimited duration. The consent can be withdrawn anytime.
  • It has been built within a universe of fundamental rights and pieces of legislation such as the Aadhaar Act and the IT Act 2008 as well as the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019.
  • It gets its strategic and technical foundation from the National Digital Health Blueprint.
  • The mission will encompass specialised systems and off-line modules that will be designed to reach out to the digitally unconnected marginalised, digitally illiterate, remote, hilly, and tribal populations.
  • the design of NDHM has been built on the principle of partnership with all key stakeholders — doctors, health service providers, technology solution providers and citizens.

3.Coercive not cooperative federalism

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS2: Issues and Challenges Pertaining to the Federal Structure

Context: Recently Finance minister During GST council meeting stated that the financial crisis facing the States is a result of an “act of God”.

Background:

  • The Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime was built on the promise that if States faced revenue deficits after the GST’s introduction, the Centre would make good the loss in the first five years.
  • States sacrificed their constitutionally granted powers of taxation in the national interest.
  • During United Progressive Alliance era, many Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled States strongly pitched for a compensation mechanism to be a part of the Constitution itself.

Issues involved:

  • Falling revenue sources and centre’s attitude towards compensation: the economy has slowed down dramatically and the resources raised are insufficient.
    • Instead of exploring other viable options, the Centre is orchestrating a charade and raising questions about whether it is legally accountable to pay compensation.
    • The constitutional framework that ushered in the GST does not provide an escape clause for ‘Acts of God’.
  • Centre’s obligation:
    • As per the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Act 2017 and the Constitution 101st Amendment centre is bound to pay compensation to states.
    • In the seventh meeting of the GST Council, the Chairman observed that it was the constitutional commitment of the central government to provide cent per cent compensation
    • Paragraph 92 of the Standing Committee report shows that the Centre assured payment of compensation for a specified period, if there were such a loss.
  • Stressed finances of states: The Fourteenth Finance Commission allotted 42% of central government tax revenues to States. However, Accountability Initiative’s analysis of State Budgets shows that States received only 30%of central tax collections during the 2015-19 period.
  • Centre cornering benefits:
    • The Centre raised an estimated Rs. 3,69,111 crore revenue through cesses and surcharges in 2019-20 alone, which is not shared with states.
    • Cooperative federalism has been transformed into coercive federalism: When the GST compensation cess exceeded the amount that had to be paid to States, the Central government absorbed the surplus. Now, the economy has slowed down dramatically and the resources raised are insufficient.

Way forward:

  • Central government could raise resources by other means for compensation and this could then be recouped by continuing the cess beyond five years.
  • Increase borrowing: Centre can borrow as borrowing is more efficient and less expensive if it is undertaken by the Central government.
  • Provide relief through the Consolidated Fund of India: states are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns that were announced without consultation.

4.India Pakistan Relations

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2- International Relations

Context: A reflection on where tensions could possibly terminate between India and Pakistan may be in order. Cordial relations with Pakistan are worth striving for, even though they may seem remote in the present times.

In respect with Pakistan’s stance

  • Prime Minister Imran Khan led a march against Delhi’s Kashmir related steps, there were anti-India protests across Pakistan and also in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on the first anniversary of the formal removal by New Delhi of Kashmiri autonomy on August 5.
  • The Imran Khan government was asked to recognise the wastefulness of efforts to mobilise Pakistanis over Kashmir and was suggested that “this battle for Kashmir” would be better fought diplomatically in Washington, Moscow, London, Paris, at the UN, and in New Delhi by a Pakistani newspaper editor.
  • In July, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had assured Pakistan’s parliament of his country’s support for Islamabad’s Kashmir stand where-as Malaysia’s former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has restated his backing for that stand.
  • Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries have stated their refusal to back Pakistan in its disputes with New Delhi because of a stand connected to their strong economic relations with India has for the first time invited official criticism in Pakistan.
  • “Today Pakistanis… need Saudi to play a leading role on the Kashmir issue. If they will not play their role, then I will ask Prime Minister Imran Khan to go ahead with or without Saudi Arabia”, said Pakistan’s foreign minister.
  • He reacted to the unwillingness of the Saudi-dominated Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to convene a meeting on Kashmir, Palestine and Ayodhya.
  • Given the long history of Saudi-Pakistani relations, a remark like this suggests a high degree of frustration.

In respect with India’s stance

  • An excess of confidence and an unwillingness to think things through may be India’s vulnerabilities.
  • “Pakistan has lost three wars against India, whose armed forces will not need more than a week to 10 days to defeat the neighbouring country in case of another war”, said India’s current Prime Minister addressing a New Delhi rally of the National Cadet Corps.
  • According to prime minister  “Pakistan has waged a proxy war against India in Jammu and Kashmir for decades and killed thousands of people and security personnel, but previous governments did not give the armed forces the permission to launch operations across the border.”
  • He added that “Many speeches were given but when our armed forces sought permission to take action, they were refused but today the country carries out surgical strikes and airstrikes to teach terrorists a lesson in their own backyard.”
  • If they compare the economic, military, and human resources of India with those of Pakistan, most analysts would probably give India the clear advantage in any war.

How will India handle or “govern” a defeated Pakistan?

  • Once it has a defeated Pakistan on its hands, India may regret its victory.
  • It is possible to imagine the forces of a victorious India abandoning, to no one’s peace of mind, a defeated Pakistan to its fate, something similar, possibly, to what the US under Trump appears to be doing in respect of Afghanistan.

Way forward

It is also possible, before any war to imagine negotiations that will lead to a resumption of trade, travel and normal relations, the renunciation of terrorism, and the restoration of the democratic rights of the people of Kashmir.

5.New parameters for national well-being

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus- GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

Context- Data helps; timely, disaggregated, multidimensional data helps immensely in ensuring collective well-being, physical, mental and social of all citizens.

Inclusion of following new parameters in decennial census:

For children

For women – The height and weight of a first-time pregnant woman and the number of women in the formal workforce who are on a par with men in terms of earning needs to be recorded on periodic basis.

Reasons for adopting these parameters

  1. Birth-weight – Tracking average birth-weights by district and sub-district on a regular basis is a fair proxy for food security, the status of women and the delivery of primary health care.
  2. Height- weight of children – It reflects the physical and cognitive nurture of human capital that the country can bank on for its future. Ensuring this marker is recorded for every child who enters school will also allow for a correlation with birth-weights at the district level — giving a better understanding of multi-dimensional property.
  3. School completion rates – India may not only bring down its maternal mortality ratios but also improve neonatal and under five mortality rates, through delayed marriages (comes with school completion) and exercising of reproductive choices by its empowered young women.

Steps to ensure better outcome for aforementioned parameters

  1. For school completion and better learning – Deworming, school toilets, sanitary pads and bicycles for girls are progressive policy steps in the right direction; adding remedial training and affirmative feedback for teachers will be transformative.
  2. Employment opportunities for women – Right economic stimuli, anticipating potential workplace disruptions, supporting reskilling and retraining, and decriminalising entrepreneurial failure will go a long way in eliminating work and livelihood-related anxieties making their way back home as domestic violence.

Way Forward

People are India’s greatest possession and will remain so for the conceivable future, provided they are in a state of well-being. An ill-educated, anxious population is a tinderbox, capable of self-harm as well as being kindling for malice-driven mobilisation. Addressing this requires a whole of life and whole of society approach, and measuring the outcomes that matter, regularly.

6.GST Council – Issue of States’ compensation

Source- Indian Express.

Syllabus- GS 3- Government Budgeting

Context- Tax collection has been severely impacted this year, due to COVID-19, differences of opinion have emerged between Centre and states at the 41st Goods and Service Tax [GST] Council meeting over compensation deficit.

Attorney General statement-

  • GST Compensation has to be paid for transition period – from July 2017 to June 2022. Revenue has to be protected.
  • Compensation gap cannot be bridged using the Consolidated Fund of India.
  • AG suggested that the compensation cess levy can be extended beyond 5 years, to meet the shortfall.

Options Given to States to make up for revenue shortfall amid COVID-19 pandemic

Option 1

  • To provide a special borrowing window to states, in consultation with the RBI, to provide Rs 97,000 crore at a “reasonable” interest rate and this money can then be repaid after 5 years by extending cess collection.
  • A 0.5 percent relaxation in the borrowing limit under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management [FRBM] Act would be provided.

Option 2

  • To meet the entire GST compensation gap of Rs 2.35 lakh crore this year itself after consulting with the RBI.
  • No Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act relaxation has been mentioned for this option.

Issues raised by the States-

  1. Enforcing a cut in compensation and bringing in a distinction between GST and Covid-related revenue loss is unconstitutional.
  2. The states’ FRBM limit should be raised by at least 1.5 percentage points if the entire Rs 2.35 lakh crore has to be borrowed.
  3. Borrowing by states will increase their debt servicing liability, and any other interpretation of the compensation-related Section 18 of The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act is unjustifiable.
  4. Financing of states are under severe strain, resulting in delays in salary payments and sharp cuts in capital expenditure outlays amid the pandemic- induced lockdowns and the need to spend on healthcare.

GST [Compensation to States] Act, 2017

  • States are guaranteed compensation for loss of revenue on account of implementation of GST for a transition period of five years (2017-22).
  • The compensation is calculated based on the difference between the states’ current GST revenue and the protected revenue after estimating an annualized 14% growth rate from the base year of 2015-16.

Way forward-

The current imbroglio is borne out of extreme shortfall in compensation cess collection due to the pandemic-shuttered economy in the wake of coronavirus pandemic. The GST Council has to decide how to meet the shortfall in such circumstances and not the central government.


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