Answers: Mains Marathon – UPSC Mains Current Affairs Questions – October 2

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Q1. Reforming the UN is an important agenda for United States. Do you agree? What is India’s stand on UN reforms? Discuss. GS 2

Reforming United Nations is an important agenda for United Nations now, under Trump Administration.

Trump Administration on UN reforms

  • Trump pledged that US would be partners to make the organization more effective for peace across the globe.
  • Reforming the UN is big on the Trump administration’s agenda and this reforms agenda is largely based on two principles: sovereignty and accountability.
  • Trump’s vision is anchored in his “America First” approach with national sovereignty as the main pillar of the internal system.
  • US is keen that management of UN becomes more accountable and transparent as it remains the largest contributor to UN budget, in-line with its position as the world’s largest economy. It pays 25% of the UN’s regular operating budget and over 28% of the separate peacekeeping budget.
  • The Trump administration has been critical of the UN’s over-reliance on the US and wants a more equitable sharing of burden.

However, some challenges are there.

Challenge  

  • UN is structured in such a way that decision-making process is distributed among a wide range of countries and constituencies with often competing and contradictory views and interests.
  • Russia and China, for example, did not attend the UN meeting on reforms.

India stand on UN reforms

  • India has suggested that UN reforms need to be “broad-based and all-encompassing” and the changes should not be restricted to its secretariat only.
  • India thinks that reforms cannot sidestep issues related to the governance of UN bodies.
  • But India has extended support to Trump’s efforts at UN reforms, saying it should include expansion of the world body’s permanent and non-permanent members to keep pace with the changed times.
  • India has been spearheading a move for reforms at the UN to make the world body more representative of the changing global realities while enhancing its credibility and effectiveness.
  • India remains one of the largest contributors to the UN peacekeeping operations.
  • New Delhi has been concerned about the post-Cold War international acceptance of the UN’s questionable “right to intervene” where it believed it to be necessary, allowing the UN to act with little debate.
  • UN peacekeepers were deployed to environments in which the belligerent parties were not entirely on board with the deployment, thus seriously threatening the safety of the troops under the UN flag. India has repeatedly underlined the dangers inherent in such a rapid transformation from traditional UN missions to these new operations.
  • Trump administration’s focus on “sovereignty” as the defining feature of UN reforms is welcomed by New Delhi.

Way forward

  • India continues to expand its diplomatic capital on finding a seat at the UN Security Council.
  • It will have to articulate new ways on how the UN can be made more effective and efficient.
  • There is a need to create a new balance between India’s pursuit of its narrow national interest and its responsibility as a rising power to maintain global peace and stability.

Q2. There needs a serious reform agenda for health financing. What is the problem with current system of health financing in India? Suggest measures to improve healthcare financing. GS 1

Problems with current system of health financing

  • The current “system” of health financing is largely out-of-pocket payments, with tax breaks provided for health insurance.
  • The National Sample Survey data shows that Indian households are increasingly relying on their own income and drawing down their savings to finance healthcare expenses. This holds true for both rural and urban households.
  • Data for health insurance coverage shows that while private health insurance is largely limited to the richer urban households.
  • In contrast, public insurance coverage is evenly distributed across all quintile groups of the population.
  • However, these public health insurance schemes have not been associated with lower health burden for the average household as measured by total real out-of-pocket health expenditure, catastrophic health expenditure or impoverishment caused by health expenses.

Suggestions

  • India must be open to experimentation with newer products of healthcare financing.
  • Medical savings accounts (MSAs) is one such product. Its healthcare outcomes are comparable to most developed countries, while its spending is significantly lower.
  • These are complemented by high deductible insurance (after a large amount has already been paid from the MSA) and a government fund to pay for those who cannot pay for themselves. Given India’s large population below and around the poverty line, it could do the same.
  • In healthcare, it is important that even if one gets the financing model right, the sector remains labour-intensive with lower productivity growth.

In healthcare, there are no offsetting productivity gains. As a result, either the price of healthcare delivery goes up or quality falls. This is a long-term problem which the private sector and the government will have to grapple with perennially.

Q3. The recent privacy judgment of a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court has observed that the right to reproductive choice of a woman is part of her fundamental right to privacy. In the light of this judgment, discuss the key  features of Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971. What are the loopholes in this Act? Suggest some measures. GS 2

Ans:

The recent privacy judgment of a nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court has observed that the right to reproductive choice of a woman is part of her fundamental right to privacy.

The Medical termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act of 1971, is an act that is intended to protect the interests of both the pregnant women, and the unborn foetus, when the situation arises for ensuring a regulated medical termination of pregnancy under certain circumstances.

Features:

  • The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971 does not allow abortion if the pregnancy has crossed 20 weeks.
  • Under the 1971 law, an exception to the 20-week cap can be made if a registered medical practitioner certifies to a court that the continued pregnancy is life-threatening for either the mother or the baby.
  • This was meant to be a safeguard against female foeticide.

Recent Example:

Chandigarh case:

  • The court had recently denied permission to a 10-year-old rape survivor from Chandigarh to abort her foetus. Shortly after the court’s denial, the girl gave birth. The apex court awarded Rs. 10 lakh compensation to the girl.
  • Senior advocate Indira Jaising who is intervening in the Supreme Court in the issue, had argued that the delay in offering urgent medical help to such abused women and children have led to untold suffering for them

However, in recent times, there have been calls for making an amendment to the legislation because of  various loopholes in old law:

  1. The limit of 20 weeks is regarded as an arbitrary on
  2. There has been a demand for incorporating a provision for allowing women to exercise their freedom of choice.
  3. The act does not take into concerns the plight of rape victims in a separate manner.
  4. The regulatory provisions are believed to be too strict.
  5. The detection of foetal abnormalities within 20 week is actually not possible, according to many scientists and doctors.
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