Gist of Editorials: For a Malnutrition-free India | GS – II


Relevance : GS Paper II


India continues to grapple with a high rate of undernutrition.

Stunting

  • Stunting impacts human capital, poverty and equity.
  • It leads to less potential in education and fewer professional opportunities.
  • India has unacceptably high levels of stunting of around 35%.
  • Stunting leads to slower economic growth.
  • Stunting also has lasting effects on future generations.
  • Decadal decline in stunting is only one percentage point a year.
  • Inter-State variabilities remain extremely high.
  • India has more stunted children in rural areas.

National Nutrition Strategy

  • Achieve a malnutrition-free India by 2022.
  • Reduce stunting prevalence by about three percentage points per year.
  • Achieve a one-third reduction in anaemia.

Way forward

  • Serious alignment among line ministries.
  • Convergence of nutrition programmes.
  • Stringent monitoring of the progress made.
  • Timely nutritional interventions of breastfeeding.
  • Full immunisation and Vitamin A supplementation.
  • Effective interventions for both mother and child.
  • Lessons from Chhattisgarh’s performance in reducing stunting.
  • Increase in household income.

Conclusion

Effective monitoring and implementation of programmes to address malnutrition are needed.


Gist of Editorials: A Fight for the Forest| GS – II


Relevance : GS Paper II


Why has this Issue Cropped Up?

Supreme Court stayed its order on the eviction of forest dwellers.

Impact of the Order

  • The stay offers only a temporary relief.
  • It provides an opportunity to protect both nature and social justice.

Issues with Eviction

  • Lack of studies that quantify the deforestation caused by marginalized communities.
  • Concerns about the rejection process, outdated forest maps, etc.
  • Large companies are not treated strictly despite several violations .

Way Forward

  • Conservation actions must be based on the same principles as social justice.
  • Restriction of human activities must not result in injustice to marginalized.
  • District administrations must protect forest dwellers from exploitation.
  • Forest diversion by the powerful should not remain unchecked.

Conclusion

Conservationists should stand up for the welfare of both wildlife and forest dwellers.


 

Gist of Editorials: Next Stage in the Great Game| GS – II


Relevance : GS Paper II (International relations)


Why has this Issue Cropped Up?

International talks with the Taliban leadership has gained momentum.

India’s Involvement in talks with Taliban

In 2017, India protested against being cut out of the talks with Taliban leaders. It then negotiated to join them.

Valid Concerns

  • The last round of talks appeared to be held on the Taliban’s terms.
  • Agreements on ceasefire have now been made the last priority.
  • These talks have ignored the democratically-led government in Kabul.
  • The talks continue without acknowledging a role for India.
  • Taliban continues to carry out terror attacks in Afghanistan even during talks.
  • The prospect of chaos and civil war after the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan.

Can History be Repeated in Afghanistan?

  • Taliban would now not be able to overrun and hold any Afghan city as it did before.
  • Given social media and the progress in education, Taliban will not be able to control Afghans now.
  • Taliban can’t harm Indian interests in the country, given the special place India enjoys, amongst Afghans..

Way Forward

  • Direct talks between India and the Taliban at this point would serve little purpose.
  • India must leverage its influence to ensure a post-reconciliation vision among various sections.
  • India is host to a sizeable population of Afghans and an outreach is important.
  • Both India and Pakistan have a shared responsibility in Afghanistan post-reconciliation.
  • India should not lose sight of the bigger picture — it’s longstanding relationship with the people of Afghanistan.

Conclusion

Lack of ambition for the India-Afghanistan relationship would be much more detrimental to India’s interest.


 

Editorial Simplified: Consensus in Foreign Policy |


Relevance :  GS Paper  II (International relations)


Theme of the Article

India needs a measure of political consensus on regional policies.


Disadvantage of  Absence of Consensus

If the political classes choose to turn every problem in the neighbourhood into a domestic contestation, Delhi’s adversaries will continue to gain ground in India’s neighbourhood.


Introduction

One of the interesting foreign policy ideas that Prime Minister Narendra Modi unveiled early in his tenure, was to enhance the role of states in India’s engagement with the world.


States Division

The NDA government created a “states division” in the Ministry of External Affairs to facilitate the international interactions of the state governments on a range of issues — from promoting trade and tourism to attracting foreign investments. It has also hosted visiting dignitaries in state capitals.


Problem of Finding Common Ground : The Coalition Problem

  • The problem of finding common ground with state chief ministers on developing effective neighbourhood policies has not disappeared.
  • The decade-long UPA rule had seen some states wresting unprecedented control over foreign policy towards the neighbours.
  • In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee wrecked a carefully prepared visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh in 2011. It brought into stark relief Delhi’s inability to deliver on initiated agreements such as Teesta water sharing , Land Boundary Agreement, etc and exposed the profound domestic weakness of the government.
  • In Tamil Nadu, the imperative of keeping the Dravidian parties happy made it hard for Delhi to pursue a sensible policy towards Sri Lanka. The worst moment came in 2013. Under pressure from Congress leaders in Tamil Nadu, including senior figures like P Chidambaram, PM Singh cancelled plans to attend the Commonwealth Summit in Colombo.

The Change: The Majority Government

  • Modi won an absolute majority in the Lok Sabha in 2014 and has had a stronger say in shaping the ruling party’s policies.
  • This had an immediate positive effect on foreign policy, for example, in relations with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Modi overruled internal opposition in the BJP to the ratification of the land boundary agreement with Dhaka and ensured its early passage in Parliament
  • A majority in the Lok Sabha helped Modi to prevent the Sri Lanka policy becoming a hostage to Chennai politics.

Rival Politics not Always a Problem

  • Affiliation to rival parties has not always been a barrier for collaboration between the states and the Centre.
  • During his earlier tenure as the Congress Chief Minister of Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, worked with the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government at the Centre in launching sub-national diplomacy with the chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province.
  • Again, he has taken a responsible approach on the issue of Sikh pilgrimage to Pakistan.

Conclusion

Prospects for a sensible neighbourhood policy can’t rest solely on having single-party governments at the Centre and “responsible” CMs in the border states. India needs a measure of political consensus on regional policies.


 

Editorial Simplified: On the Learning Curve| GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II 


Theme of the Article

The systemic approach to transforming education outcomes in India is leading to success.


Adequately Staffed Education Departments

  • Among the lakhs of employees on the payrolls of State governments in India, the education department, unarguably, has the largest share of employees.
  • Besides frontline service providers (teachers), there are a number of other officials and administrators who form an important part of the educational set-up.

The Haryana Case Study : SAKSHAM

  • Education transformation programmes by States run the risk of falling flat, as they are often unaccompanied by a single transformation change road map that all key actors agree upon and work towards.
  • However, a successful example of implementing such a road map can be seen in Haryana, which has created a race among its administrative blocks to be declared as ‘Saksham’, i.e. have 80% or more students who are grade level competent.
  • If a block is found to be ‘Saksham’, the block officials are recognised by no less than the Chief Minister, and a large-scale ‘show and tell’ event is organised to honour them.
  • Further, when all blocks in a district are declared as ‘Saksham’, the entire district is also accorded ‘Saksham’ status.
  • More than 90 blocks out of a total of 119 in Haryana have been declared ‘Saksham’ and overall grade competence has been assessed at 80%, which is a giant leap in learning outcomes when compared to the overall grade competence of 40% in 2014.
  • Given these early successes, many other States are also embarking on such programmes.

The Lesson Learnt

  • The valuable lesson from all this is that inducing competition among administrative units helps invigorate key stakeholders to work in tandem in order to achieve intended outcomes.
  • Competition also makes abstract goals such as ‘learning outcomes’ more real by defining exact ‘actionable’ metrics on which improvement is desired.
  • Further, with encouragement from above, such campaigns lead to a shift in the mindset of a State’s education administrators, many of whom otherwise believe that high learning outcomes are almost unachievable.
  • Political commitment to improving the quality of education backed by strong review and monitoring mechanisms can spur meaningful activity in States.

The Efforts of NITI Aayog Towards Education

  • NITI Aayog has developed the State-level ‘School Education Quality Index’ (SEQI), which seeks to make improvements in learning outcomes a focal point of governance.
  • The NITI Aayog launched the Aspirational Districts programme in 2018. Here, 112 under-served districts across the country compete with each other in order to achieve targets in five crucial sectors; these include education, which has among a weightage of 30%.

Way Forward

  • Right incentive structures for stakeholders lead to administrative efficiency, which then improves the quality of service delivery.
  • States therefore need to induce competition and give a boost to put all key actors in education in the driver’s seat to improve their learning levels.

Conclusion

Improvement in learning outcomes is an immediate goal for India to fulfil its aspirations of playing a greater role in the global economy and a systemic transformation is the best solution that we have so far.


 

Editorial Simplified: Rhetoric of Human Rights


Relevance :  GS Paper  II (Human Rights)


Theme of the Article

Isolated innovations are not enough to stop cases of custodial torture.


Why has this Issue Cropped Up?

Recently,  in Bihar, two families received the bodies of their two sons from the police. They were victims of custodial torture.


A Common Story in India

  • That torture is ‘endemic’ across police stations in India is well known.
  • Last year there were 144 deaths in police custody.
  • About 40% of complaints received every year by the NHRC are against the police — mainly for custodial violence.

Factors Responsible for Custodial Deaths in India

  • Though forbidden by law, top police officials tolerate it, turn a blind eye to it, citing it as a ‘practical tool’, or go easy on the perpetrators.
  • Lower judiciary is frequently not vigilant in checking if arrested persons are secure in custody, have a lawyer assigned, or have the means to speak out.
  • Often, pliant doctors further weaken protections to those in custody by willingly minimising or not disclosing the nature of the harm or injuries they have sustained.
  • Oversight bodies like police complaints authorities and human rights commissions are comfortable with the slow pace of accountability from state actors and do no doggedly pursue outcomes.
  • The brazenness is strengthened when legal precedents towards torture prevention are not paid heed to.
  • South Asia is among the last regions where the political executive must grant permission before public servants can be prosecuted for acts done in the course of their work.
  • Courts have repeatedly said that torture is no part of policing and so there is no question of waiting for permission for prosecution. Yet, the executive is still asked, decisions are delayed, and trials cannot proceed.
  • According to judicial precedent, recovery of evidence made as a result of torture cannot be used in court, but without proactive lawyers and magistrates, these important details are overlooked in the early stages of the legal process. For victims of torture, this means a harder fight in courts.

Is Custodial Torture Helpful to Reduce Crime?

  • Besides being illegal and immoral, torture is not even a useful tool to stop crime.
  • Eliciting unreliable confessions — the bedrock of the use of torture — destroys the process of deciding through evidence-based means whether the accused is the real perpetrator or not.
  • Moreover, whenever it goes unpunished, torture actually supports more crime by creating a class of criminals within law enforcement.

Attempts to Restrain the use of Torture

There have been attempts to restrain the use of torture.

  • The Kerala Police Act puts the onus on all police officers to report any physical torture they know of.
  • Prisons in Telangana refuse to admit people brought into judicial custody if they appear injured; such persons are sent back to hospitals, forcing their injuries to be properly recorded.

Way forward

  • Isolated innovations are not enough to stop this horror that has embedded itself in the subculture of policing. A comprehensive solution would be to ensure that disincentives are put in place and that there is proper accountability.
  • India signed the UN Convention against Torture in 1997, but there has been no attempt to create a specific and comprehensive torture prevention law. Until we have such a law, custodial torture cannot be reduced.

Conclusion

For those who now plead on behalf of the police personnel and say “let the law take its course”, this is absolutely right. Let the effort to establish guilt or innocence be thorough and speedy.


 

Gist of Editorials: The Basics are Vital| GS – II


Relevance : GS Paper II


Theme of the Article

There is no alternative to strengthening primary health care.

Why has this Issue Cropped Up?

The National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 advocated allocating resources of up to two-thirds or more to primary care. 

Is India on the Path of Providing Primary Health Care?

  • The current expenditure outlay is less than half of  the estimated requirement.
  • The present rate of building health and wellness centres is inadequate.
  • NHM’s share in the health budget fell to 50% in 2019.
  • There is a shortage of PHCs and sub-health centres .
  • Numerous primary-level facilities lack basic facilities such as toilets.
  • There is a staggering shortage of medical and paramedical staff.

Significance of Primary Health Care

  • There is no alternative to strengthening primary health care.
  • It’s role shall also be critical in the success of the PMJAY insurance scheme.

Conclusion

Without Primary Health Care, the ninth dimension (‘Healthy India’) of “Vision 2030” will remain unfulfilled


 

Gist of Editorials: The Gulf as a Channel of Peace| GS – II


Relevance : GS Paper II (International Relations)

[1000 words summarized to 200]


Gulf countries can help defuse the tensions between India and Pakistan.

The Pakistan angle

  • In the past, shared religious identity of Gulf with Pakistan gave it a political edge over India in the region.
  • In recent years, India has begun to correct that imbalance which can cause Gulf countries to put some pressure on Pakistan.

India-Gulf link

  • The security of the Indian Subcontinent and the Gulf region have always been inter-linked.
  • During British era, the Raj offered security protection, a framework for commerce and some administrative support.
  • Independent India tended to underestimate the importance of the strategic intimacy with the Gulf.

Pakistan replaced India in Gulf

  • Pakistan became a member of CENTO which led to its cooperation with a number of countries in the Gulf region.
  • India steadily lost political ground to Pakistan in the 1970s.
  • Matters got worse in the 1980s as India remained silent on the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.
  • The 1990s saw Pakistan mobilise significant support to castigate India’s

The winds of change

  • The nuclear tests by India and Pakistan and the Kargil crisis in led to restructuring of South Asia’s relations with the Gulf.
  • During the Kargil War, Saudi Arabia encourage Pakistan to pull it’s army back.
  • That Jaswant Singh was the first Indian foreign minister to ever visit Saudi Arabia in late 2000.
  • The bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia kept on improving since then.

 

 

 

Gist of Editorials: Ensure A Minimum Income For All | GS – II


Relevance : GS Paper II (Development and Welfare)


Why has this issue cropped up?

The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) is gaining ground globally.

What is UBI ?

It requires the government to pay every citizen a fixed amount of money on a regular basis and without any conditionalities.

Why a UBI ?

Millions of people remain unemployed and are extremely poor.

Limited Version of UBI

Govt has unfolded a limited version of the UBI in the form of the PM-KISAN.

Where will  UBI Work ?

  • It is not a substitute for basic public services.
  • There is need to transfer money only to extremely poor such as landless labourers, agricultural workers and marginal farmers.

How the Above Groups  are at Disadvantage?

  • Institutional credits for these groups are very low.
  • They have to borrow from moneylenders at exorbitant interest rates.
  • Benefits of subsidised fertilizers and power do not reach
  • Automation of low-skill jobs and formalisation of the retail sector have redered them jobless.

How can UBI Help these Groups?

  • An income support can be a good supplement to their livelihoods.
  • This additional income can reduce the incidence of indebtedness.
  • Can improve nutrient intake and increase enrolment and school attendance.
  • Improved health and educational outcomes and hence a more productive workforce.
  • It will reduce income inequalities.
  • Increased demand due to increased income will promote economic activities in rural areas.

Can UBI Discourage Beneficiaries from Seeking Work?

The income support suggested above is not too large to discourage beneficiaries from seeking work.

Can UBI Replace Basic Services?

UBI will deliver the benefits only if it comes on top of public services such as health and education.

How to Make UBI Effective?

  • transfer the money into the bank accounts of women.
  • Budgetary allocation for basic services should be raised significantly.
  • Programmes such as MGNREGS should also stay.
  • It will have to be restricted to the poorest of poor households.
  • Aadhaar can be used to rule out duplications and perform updation.
  • The tax kitty can be expanded by reintroducing wealth tax.
  • The cost of UBI will have to be shared by States.

Conclusion

The income transfer scheme is costly but poverty is much higher.


 

Editorial Simplified: The Basics are Vital| GS – II


Relevance :  GS Paper II


Theme of the Article

Making hospitalisation affordable will spell relief, but there is no alternative to strengthening primary health care.


Why has this Issue Cropped Up?

In 2011, a high-level expert group on universal health coverage reckoned that nearly 70% of government health spending should go to primary health care. The National Health Policy (NHP) 2017 also advocated allocating resources of up to two-thirds or more to primary care.


Is India on the Path of Providing Primary health Care?

  • Going by the government’s own estimate, in 2017, it would cost ₹16 lakh to convert a sub-health centre into a health and wellness centre. The current expenditure outlay is less than half of this conservative estimate.
  • Building health and wellness centres at the given rate (15,000 per year) can fulfil not even half the proposed target of 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres till 2022. Picture of extremes
  • The overall situation with the NHM, India’s flagship programme in primary health care, continues to be dismal. The NHM’s share in the health budget fell from 73% in 2006 to 50% in 2019 in the absence of uniform and substantial increases in health spending by States.
  • Today, the condition of our primary health infrastructure is lamentable: there is a shortage of PHCs (22%) and sub-health centres (20%), while only 7% sub-health centres and 12% primary health centres meet Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) norms.
  • Further, numerous primary-level facilities need complete building reconstruction, as they operate out of rented apartments and thatched accommodations, and lack basic facilities such as toilets, drinking water and electricity.
  • There is a staggering shortage of medical and paramedical staff at all levels of care: 10,907 auxiliary nurse midwives and 3,673 doctors are needed at sub-health and primary health centres, while for community health centres the figure is 18,422 specialists.

Significance of Primary Health Care

  • While making hospitalisation affordable brings readily noticeable relief, there is no alternative to strengthening primary health care in the pursuit of an effective and efficient health system.
  • It’s role shall also be critical in the medium and long terms to ensure the success and sustainability of the PMJAY insurance scheme, as a weak primary health-care system will only increase the burden of hospitalisation.

Conclusion

Apart from an adequate emphasis on primary health care, there is a need to depart from the current trend of erratic and insufficient increases in health spending and make substantial and sustained investments in public health over the next decade. Without this, the ninth dimension (‘Healthy India’) of “Vision 2030” will remain unfulfilled.