9 PM Daily Brief – July 21st,2020

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9 PM for Main examination

GS-2

  1. Importance of new Arabian business for India
  2. More than a crisis, a chance to rebuild health care
  3. Privatization of Indian Railways

GS-3

  1. Agriculture – State intervention vs Liberalization
  2. Community canteens 2.0

9 PM for Preliminary examination

FACTLy


1.Importance of new Arabian business for India

Source: The Indian Express

Syllabus: GS-2 Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Context: Analyzing the costs of neglecting the new possibilities for wide-ranging Arabian business are far higher than a lost railway contract in Iran for India.

Background:

  • India’s extra-special relationship with Iran: It rests on a number of claims:
    • Historical connections
    • Civilizational bonds
    • Energy supplies
    • Regional security.
  • With Arabian Peninsula:
    • All above factors are of far greater import in India’s engagement.
    • Outweighing relationship with Iran:
      • Millions of Indian immigrants in the Arab nations
      • Massive hard currency remittances from them
      • The density of commercial engagement with the Arab Gulf.
    • In recent years, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have extended invaluable support in countering terrorism and blocked attempts to condemn India in the Muslim world
  • Curious inversion in India’s intellectual imagination:
    • Latest anxiety: Delhi lost a railway contract in Iran.

Large countries with major foreign investments and projects win some and lose some. That is part of doing business in other countries. Then there is no escaping the political risk associated with foreign projects.

Dealing of India with Iran:

  • Sanctions imposed by the US have crippled the Iranian economy:
    • It also targets third countries that do business with certain Iranian entities.
    • India gained exemption from sanctions: For its participation in the Chabahar port project in Iran but they don’t apply to some of the partners suggested by Iran in the railway project.
    • Iran would like India to break the US sanctions regime: A prudent Delhi is resisting that temptation and would rather lose the railway contract than get into the raging crossfire between the US and Iran.
  • India’s Iran policy as a continuous purity test for Delhi’s “strategic autonomy”:
    • Some foreign policy experts expect Delhi to conduct its relationship with Iran without a reference to either a cost-benefit calculus or Iran’s troubled relationship with others with whom India has important partnerships.
  • On Iran’s covert nuclear programme:
    • As the US mounted pressure on Iran to come clean 15 years ago, there was a strong view in Delhi that India should cast its lot with Tehran.
    • View of pragmatics: They pointed to one of the preconditions for the India-US nuclear deal — Delhi’s strong commitment to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
    • Confrontation of backing Iran in its nuclear confrontation with NPT:It would mean killing support in the US Congress for the historic civil nuclear initiative signed by India in July 2005.
    • Delhi’s voted against Iran in the IAEA: The pragmatists were vindicated when Iran concluded a nuclear deal of its own with the US and major powers a decade later.
  • Importance of Iran for India’s foreign policy:
    • Iran is one of the the most important nations of the world based on:
      • Geographic and demographic size
      • The geopolitical location next door
      • Natural resources
      • The extraordinary talents of its people
    • Most of those fabulous assets have been, unfortunately, neutralized by Iran’s prolonged confrontation with the US.

For both internal and external reasons, Iran will remain a difficult place to do business. Delhi must advance ties with it within the confines of that unfortunate but real constraint.

Opportunity for India in Arab:

  • The Arab world has had its doors open for political, economic and technological cooperation with India.
  • Three moderate Arab nations — Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — are confronting radical forces in the region and are valuable partners for India in countering forces of destabilization.
  • Scale of Beijing’s economic advances in the Arab world:The talk of a spectacular deal between China and Iran is just talk for now but there is real Chinese economic action in the Arab world as the region embraces China’s Belt and Road Initiative. China’s Digital Silk Road too is gaining ground in the Arab world.
  • India is no minor economic force in the Arab world: It is having had a much longer engagement with the region than China. Instead of defining an unrealistic competition with Beijing, Delhi must up its own commercial game in the Arab world. One of the new possibilities for India lies in the domain of new technologies.

Way Forward

  • The UAE launched the first home-grown Arab space mission from a Japanese rocket. The UAE’s space programme is only a reflection of the emerging sentiment among the Gulf Arabs to reduce the over-dependence on oil, promote alternative energy sources, invest in higher education, and develop technology hubs.
  • This provides a solid basis for elevating India’s economic partnership with the Arab world to the next level.

2.More than a crisis, a chance to rebuild health care

Source: The Hindu

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

Context: The Director-General of World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged the success of Mumbai’s densely populated Dharavi slum in containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Background:

  • Current foci of the pandemic: Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Bengaluru are among India’s major metropolitan agglomerations.
  • This points to both the speed and the scale of the epidemic moving within densely populated areas.
  • Dharavi case success: Sustained municipal efforts and community participation.

Opportunity to act

  • Cases:
    • After nearly 100 days of the first 14-hour janata curfew, the Minister of Health highlighted how 49 districts out of the 733 in India accounted for 80% of the nearly eight lakh cases with eight States accounting for 90% of all the incident cases.
    • Numbers have moved steadily past the million mark and India is now third in global case standings.
  • Numbers at face value:
    • There are on average roughly 250 cases per district in about 700 districts
    • Many of these districts may be closer to having no cases.
    • Others may be at a significantly higher incidence.

The low numbers in a large number of districts present officials the opportunity of stemming the epidemic and preventing morbidity, mortality and economic distress in a significant way.

Need of Key steps at ground level:

  • To disaggregate the COVID-19 tracking mechanisms and the national level tables and graphs that are updated daily:
    • There should be 733 district-level versions where each one is updated and reported on a daily basis at the district level.
    • The accuracy and timeliness of district-level tracking should be ensured.
    • Retain their low incidence status:Such districts should be supported with all comprehensive testing kits and contact tracing know-how.
    • The earlier scheme of designating districts as green, yellow and red will be strengthened with this disaggregated reporting.
  • To encourage District Magistrates:
    • To use the full range of social support schemes available in support of the District Health Officer and team.
    • To be able to prevent anyone from facing situations of hunger or economic distress.
    • Addressing the epidemic: By better household nutrition and income outcomes.
  • Scaling up the testing capacity in the district:
    • By coopting science departments of college and university:Chemistry and zoology-allied departments such as microbiology and biochemistry can lend their laboratory services to carry out basic polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based tests.
    • This will require administrative imagination and collaboration from the ICMR, the Department of Biotechnology as well as the UGC.
    • Health as a reliable career opportunity: From the laboratory to the bedside and not using emerging talents in educational institutions in tier 2 and tier 3 towns in many districts in India would be a wasted opportunity both in terms of training and nurturing ambitions.
  • Testing:
    • It would be good to look at rapid innovations that have been surfacing within the past 12 weeks globally. Testing could become a self-administered process.
    • One has to look at recent insights into using saliva as the start point for testing rather than using a nasopharyngeal swab for sampling.
    • Increased testing stems the tide of morbidity and mortality:
      • Incidence rates have risen wherever testing has been constrained.
      • Epidemics are not to be treated as law and order situations with policing. Lockdowns can have multiple collateral damage at the community and economy levels.
    • Inspiring confidence among the population: By freely available, quality assured testing and even without lockdowns
  • Chance for biotech:
    • Without compromising the standards or rigor of evidence needed for regulatory and manufacturing approval: The emphasis should be to encourage innovators and entrepreneurs to bring out and scale up their products.
    • The world is increasingly looking at personalised diagnostics and therapeutics.
  • Expanding the network of monitoring exponentially and addressing morbidity earlier in its course:
    • If with a positive test report, COVID-19 positive individuals were able to:
      • Monitor their own oxygenation status at home
      • Along with basic fever management medicines and based on predetermined cutoffs
      • Able to seek and obtain care at oxygen equipped care facilities.
    • This requires two bold administrative leaps:
      • Ensure every positive diagnosis report is also delivered along with a pulse oximeter and phone number to call and report status on.
      • Ensure that there would be enough oxygen-equipped beds in every part of the country.
    • For roughly 3% to 5% of people who need more than oxygen support:
      • We need to ensure that our doctors, nurses, laboratory personnel and floor workers in hospitals are protected with PPE kits to safety at home and salaries on time.
      • Critical engagement from Indian biopharmaceutical and biotech companies should be encouraged to produce validated and affordable antiviral drugs and monoclonal antibodies.

Way Forward

  • COVID-19 is both a crisis and an opportunity for health-care reform as well as understanding the interplay of health outcomes with social and economic support interventions and limitations of law enforcement in managing epidemics.
  • Innovations in managing the COVID-19 pandemic can help India revolutionize care delivery and related outcomes

3.Privatization of Indian Railways

Source – The Hindu

Syllabus – GS 2 – Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

Context – The planned privatization of some services of the Indian Railways could impact maintenance, operations and welfare.

Selection of private parties – It is done using the tendering process and proposes two-stage competitive bidding.

These parties have to pay fixed haulage charges, energy charges based on actual consumption, and a share in gross revenue through the bidding process.

Issues Associated with privatization

  1. Fixing responsibility in accidents, derailments – The responsibility of the private investor ends with investment in the procurement and maintenance of coaches. While, train operation, safety and dealing with everyday problems rest with the Railways.
  • In case of an unfortunate event, the question would be how to fix responsibility when the coaches are owned by the investor but operated by the Railways and its staff.
  1. Fixing passenger fares– Full liberty is being given to the private party to unilaterally fix fares for these proposed trains that are on a par with air and air-conditioned bus fares. It will be beyond the common man’s reach. Fare concessions extended to several categories of people will not be made available by the private investor.
  2. Marginalizing the vulnerable sections– The private investor is not bound to follow reservation regulations in employment, in turn depriving employment opportunities for those who are on the margins of society.

Suggested solutions

  1. Considering IRCTC as an alternative partner– Instead of a private entrepreneur, entrusting this task  to the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, a government undertaking which has gained experience in running the Tejas Express trains, will lead to ‘unity of command’ in maintenance, operation and passenger services under the single administration of the Railways and its undertaking.
  2. Hyderabad Metro Model– In the case of the metro railway services (Hyderabad, for example), an ideal PPP project, the private sector is solely responsible for daily maintenance, operation, passenger amenities and staff issues. The State government steps in when it comes to land, power, permissions, law and order, etc. Fare determination is in consultation with the government.

Way Forward – The Indian Railways is a strategic resource for the nation and provides a vital public good. Hence, it should not be judged solely on its profit-generating capability or market-based return on investment rather it needs to be considered as a social welfare organization.

4.Agriculture – State intervention vs Liberalization

Source – Indian Express

Syllabus – GS 3 – Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices

Context – While the reforms announced by the Modi government are not the right ones, Indian agriculture does need real reforms and better state intervention.

APMC Act

Pro-liberalization Pro-state intervention
· It does not allow the free market to function due to government intervention, thereby denying farmers the opportunity to determine the prices of crops in the marketplace. · Reaching out to farmers – Shanta Kumar observed in 2015, only 6 per cent of farmers get the Minimum Support Price (MSP) — 94 per cent already face the whims of the market. This is because of barriers to access for farmers as only 22 crops are procured under MSP.

 

· No substantial increase in MSP – The gradual increase of MSP is being eroded post-1991 reforms. Thus, denying farmers fair income.

 

· Global food crisis – India managed to weather the 2008 global food crisis only because it had enough food stocks as Indian agriculture was not linked to the international futures market. This was possible due to the procurement done through the APMC Act.

 

· Liberalization in Bihar – The APMC Act was revoked in 2006 with the same rationale that further deregulation will attract private investment in infrastructure. Not only has that not materialized, but the existing APMC market infrastructure was also dismantled.

 

 

 

Suggested Reform – Instead of further liberalization of agriculture, state intervention for better pricing, investments in water harvesting and an agro ecological transition could ensure a more resilient system to weather shocks like the current one.

Way Forward – To make India’s agriculture sustainable, the government could draw inspiration from the Andhra Pradesh Community Managed Farming model, which promotes agro-ecological principles with the use of locally-produced, ecologically-sustainable inputs focusing on soil health, instead of depending on chemical fertilizers.

5.Community canteens 2.0

Source- The Hindu

Syllabus: Gs-3- Food Security

Context: The Covid-19 pandemic and resultant food insecurity has highlighted the importance of community canteens

Recent Initiatives to deal with food insecurity during Covid-19 pandemic

  • PM Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana:Announced as a part of PM Garib Kalyan Yojana in March, 2020, five kilograms of Wheat or Rice is given to every member of the beneficiary poor family and one kilogram of Chana is given to each family.
  • One Nation One Ration Card (ONOR): It introduces nation-wide portability of ration card holders under NFSA, 2013 which will enable them to lift their entitled food grains from any Fair Price Shop in the country without the need to obtain a new ration card.

Issue with initiatives:

The initiatives fall short of reaching all sections of vulnerable population during Covid-19 pandemic. For example, most migrant workers rely on roadside vendors and dhabas for food. Without access to cooking arrangement or fuel, only subsidised grains are not a sufficient solution to ensure nourishment.

Benefits of community Canteens

There are various state-funded community kitchens addressing the problem of hunger and malnutrition across India. Example: Amma Unavagam (Tamil Nadu), Annapurna Rasoi (Rajasthan), Indira Canteens (Karnataka), Ahaar Centre (Odisha) etc.

  • Nutritional Security:With an initial social investment of ₹26,500 crore towards 60,000 canteens and about 8,200 kitchens, three nourishing meals a day could be served to the 30 million urban poor workers, primarily migrants.
  • Employment: Community canteens could also contribute to jobs, growth and sustainability. The 60,000 canteens, each serving about 500 beneficiaries on average, would generate more than 1.2 million jobs to serve 90 million meals a day.
  • Saving Fiscal Resources:If all urban migrant workers rely on community canteens instead of ONOR, it will help avoid the potential food subsidy outlay due to ONOR, leading to annual savings of about ₹4,500 crore after original investment towards community canteen pay backs in 6 years.

Way forward:

  • Central government should extend the initial capital support to establish community canteens. The implementation at the State level should be led by urban local bodies or municipal corporations, in collaboration with private entities as service providers.
  • The government should leverage community canteens to shift diets and agriculture production towards more sustainable and sustainably harvested food crops.
  • The canteens must incorporate low-cost yet nutritious and environmentally sustainable food items in plate.

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