Editorial Simplified: Draconian Move | GS – II

Relevance: GS Paper II (Polity and Governance)


Why has this issue cropped up?

Journalists have been hauled up in the past for writing allegedly objectionable articles. But the arrest of R.R. Gopal, Editor of the Tamil magazine Nakkheeran, Chennai, on a trumped-up charge under a rarely used section of the Indian Penal Code is an extraordinary instance of abuse of power.


Section 124

  • The Tamil Nadu Governor’s office had complained to the police, seeking to book Mr. Gopal under Section 124 of the IPC, citing some articles published in the magazine.
  • This section, seldom used even in colonial times, applies to assaulting high constitutional functionaries such as the President and the Governor with “an intent to compel or restrain the use of any lawful power”.
  • It is quite clear that this section was never intended to cover writing articles but rather cases where these functionaries are prevented from exercising their power though criminal force, attempts to overawe, or wrongful restraint.
  • Whether the articles in question were in bad taste is the subject for a separate debate. The point is that, however offensive or derogatory, they did not attract Section 124.

Conclusion

By citing them to seek registration of a Section 124 case against the magazine’s Editor, journalists and employees, the Governor’s office has only turned the spotlight on itself unnecessarily. He would do himself a favour by withdrawing the complaint; it is unlikely the Tamil Nadu police will take such a decision on its own.


 

Editorial Simplified: Salvaging A Strategic Partnership | GS – II

Relevance: GS Paper II (International Relations)


Why has this issue cropped up?

At their meeting in Goa at the India-Russia annual summit, in October 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi quoted a Russian proverb to Russian President Vladimir Putin: “An old friend is better than two new ones.” It was a reassurance that India’s growing proximity to the U.S. would not affect India-Russia relations. As Mr. Putin came calling two years on in October 2018, the shadow of America again loomed over the summit, in New Delhi.


The S-400 issue and the assertion of autonomy

  • The question that dominated the meet was whether or not the deal for the Russian air defence missile system, the S-400, would go through.
  • The U.S. has been publicly warning for months that this purchase could attract provisions under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which authorises the U.S. government to impose sanctions on entities for “significant” defence transactions with Russia.
  • The India-U.S. 2+2 meeting (of Foreign and Defence Ministers) in September did not resolve this issue.
  • The contract for the S-400 was signed at the Delhi summit in a low-key manner. Neither leader mentioned it in his press statement and it was not signed in their presence.
  • Mr Modi did not mention defence cooperation in his press statement, though it has been the centrepiece of India-Russia relations over decades.
  • There was no mention also of other defence projects under discussion.
  • Though understated, it was a clear assertion of autonomy of Indian decision-making on Russia.

Outlook on neighbourhood

  • There is a general perception that Indian and Russian perspectives today differ on key issues in India’s neighbourhood — Pakistan, Afghanistan and China — and on India’s strategic linkages with the U.S., including on the Indo-Pacific.
  • On Pakistan, one might note the nuance that the Joint Statement mentions cross-border terrorism, which some earlier Joint Statements did not.
  • On Afghanistan, India expressed support for the “Moscow format”, in which Russia involves regional countries and major powers in an effort to draw the Taliban into negotiations with the Afghan leadership. The U.S. has boycotted this initiative, but has initiated its own dialogue with the Taliban.

Business despite sanctions

  • There are obvious opportunities for cooperation between Russia, which is natural resources-rich, and India, which is resource-hungry.
  • The economic engagement of major European countries with Russia has actually grown in 2017 and 2018, despite the sanctions. European and American corporate lawyers with expertise on sanctions have enabled this. Indian business needs to tap into this expertise.

Conclusion

Given the political dynamics in the U.S. today, a systemic solution to this problem is not evident. However, it has to be on the India-U.S. dialogue agenda. The India-U.S. strategic partnership is based on a strong mutuality of interests, but it was not intended to have the exclusivity of an alliance. India should not have to choose between one strategic partnership and another. The India-Russia dialogue should not get inextricably entangled in the India-U.S. dialogue.


 

Editorial Simplified: Unjoined Dots of a Scheme | GS – II

Relevance: GS Paper II (Polity & Governance)


Why has this issue cropped up?

The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) has now been launched. As the focus shifts from policy guidelines to implementation, sceptics may wonder if this time will be truly different.


Lesson from past experience

  • India has wide experience with running large health insurance programmes like the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) and state-specific insurance schemes.
  • The one key lesson from these previous avatars was that even though the public sector has failed to provide quality healthcare, public funding for the private sector will be no panacea.

Way forward

A functioning health insurance system must ensure that patients neither under-treated nor over-treated nor over-charged. Ensuring this requires adaptive price setting, third-party monitoring, strict regulation, and, quality improvements in public sector hospitals. All of which requires massive investments in state capacity.

  • PRICING:
    • Prices need to fulfill the dual function of ensuring “neither too much, nor too little”. But costs for the same procedure are likely to differ across hospitals because of quality, location and capacity. Therefore, a single price can never ensure that both constraints are effectively met.
    • Price a service too low and the hospital will either choose not to enroll in the scheme or will deny services. Price too high and the hospital makes additional profits, or worse, provides additional services that patients don’t need.
    • The fact that a stent will be reimbursed at Rs 40,000 but a heart bypass at Rs 1.2 lakh immediately highlights the problem. Even if administrators can perfectly determine what operation the patient received, there is nothing stopping a hospital from choosing the operation that grants higher profits. Why stop at a stent if the bypass nets additional profits?
    • To get the prices right, they have to be frequently negotiated and updated based on the data. This is a job for specialised teams of hundreds in each state.
  • THIRD-PARTY MONITORING :
    • Given the pricing dilemma, hospitals will almost certainly under-treat and over-charge.
    • Grievance redress and call centres, as envisaged in PMJAY, may prove useful but only if they can immediately influence the outcome for the patient. This problem requires an ecosystem of mediators and facilitators that will serve as a link between the scheme, third party insurers and the hospital.
    • The proposed “Ayushman Mitras” are a step in the right direction, but will require both the authority and ability to guide patients through hospital care, occasionally in opposition to the hospitals’ own objectives. That the Mitras will be hired by the private hospitals themselves in several states sets up a direct conflict of interest and undermines their potential to be vigilant observers.
  • REGULATION AND INSURANCE FRAUD:
    • PMJAY will require creating a strong regulatory framework for fraud control.
    • India’s current regulatory environment is worryingly weak. All 17 insurance ombudsman offices in India are currently vacant with a backlog of 9,000 complaints.
    • The current regulatory framework has no established procedure for settlement of claims, redress of consumer behaviour against the rejection of claims or even penalties for rejecting claims in violation of existing regulations. This, in turn, creates incentives for regular violation of norms by insurance companies.
    • The success of PMJAY is now intrinsically tied not only to the functioning of the health department, but also the criminal justice and court systems. The implementation of a stronger legislative framework for regulation and insurance fraud is urgently needed.
  • IMPROVING GOVERNMENT HOSPITALS:
    • There is no getting around the critical need to strengthen government hospitals. In the long run, well-functioning public hospitals will provide a much-needed backstop against predatory practices, denial of service and overcharging in the private sector.
    • Especially in districts where competition is limited, public hospitals will limit the monopoly power of the private sector, flush with the new money from the scheme. Making sure that the scheme’s resources can be used in government as well as private hospitals to improve quality is crucial.
  • SKILLED WORK FORCE :
    • The only way to ensure that these conditions for implementation success are met is through massive investments in a skilled workforce.
    • A scheme as complex as this requires people. Since the expertise currently does not exist (at least at this scale), PMJAY will have to both allow for this massive workforce and develop the necessary institutions to train an enormous number of professionals.

Conclusion

It would be a huge mistake to think that we can deliver care by devolving responsibilities to the private sector without improving state functioning. We can’t. In fact, with a scheme like PMJAY, our state capacity now needs to go far beyond the health sector to complex regulation, industry practices, the police and the courts. This is a challenge for the entire country. And this is the metric against which the PMJAY should be monitored and the government should be held accountable for.


 

Value Added Article: Drafted in a Vacuum | Category – Development and Welfare | Source – Frontline

Relevance: GS Paper II (Development and Welfare)

Source:

Frontline


Why has this issue cropped up?

ON July 26, the Lok Sabha passed the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018.


Human trafficking

  • Human trafficking is a serious problem, with thousands of men, women and children being transported and exploited in their own countries and outside every year.
  • India ranks among the worst countries in terms of its prevalence.
  • About eight million people are living under various forms of modern slavery in India, according to the Global Slavery Index.
  • According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau data, in 2016 there were 8,132 reported cases of human trafficking in the country. About 15,379 people were trafficked, of whom 9,034 were below the age of 18.
  • Most of the rescued victims reported being trafficked for the purpose of forced labour, followed by the purpose of prostitution) and other forms of sexual exploitation.

The new Bill on trafficking

  • According to Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi, the new Bill is victim-centric and “will not spare anyone who has trafficked a girl for sex work”.
  • It includes rigorous punishment from a minimum of 10 years to life imprisonment and a fine not less than Rs.1 lakh.
  • As per the Bill, the victims are entitled to interim relief within 30 days to address physical and mental trauma and further appropriate relief within 60 days from the date of filing of the charge sheet.
  • A Rehabilitation Fund has been created for the physical, psychological and social well-being of the victim, which includes education, skill development, health care, psychological support, legal aid and safe accommodation.
  • The Bill creates dedicated institutional mechanisms at the district, State and Central levels that will be responsible for prevention, protection, investigation and rehabilitation work related to trafficking.
  • The National Investigation Agency will perform the tasks of the Anti-Trafficking Bureau at the national level under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Lacuna in the Bill

  • The Bill is being touted by the government as one that “addresses one of the most pervasive yet invisible crimes affecting the most vulnerable persons especially women and children”. But according to some activists, it does not do so.
  • Trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation is the most common form of human trafficking and yet the proposed Bill does not include “sexual exploitation” or the “prostitution of others” in its definition.
  • Unclear and ambiguous legal language in the Bill was another concern, as it could be misused.
  • The new Bill also came under flak from the United Nations for not being in line with international human rights laws.
  • Special Rapporteurs (SR) of the U.N. felt that the Bill’s focus on addressing trafficking from a criminal law perspective was not sufficiently complemented by a human-rights based and victim-centred approach, and this risked further harming already vulnerable individuals.
  • The Bill seems to promote ‘rescue raids’ by the police, and the institutionalisation of victims in the name of rehabilitation, rather than applying appropriate screening methods and standard operating procedures for the identification and referral of victims or potential victims of trafficking and social integration programs which are respectful of their rights.
  • The Bill also seems to conflate trafficking and smuggling of migrants by adding the aggravated circumstance of “encouraging or abetting any person to migrate illegally into India, or Indians to some other country”. This could lead to the criminalisation of all irregular migrants, including victims or potential victims of trafficking, who, because of a lack of safe, orderly and regular migration channels, are forced into the hands of smugglers or traffickers.
  • Provisions requiring the Central government to allocate a budget to the rehabilitation fund for victims of trafficking as well as to put in place accountability mechanisms and periodic revision of protection systems included in the previous drafts have not been retained in the current Bill.
  • The Bill conflated sex work with trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation, which was not in line with the Palermo Protocol.
  • Harmful impact of assuming all forced workers as trafficked victims would result in the “forced rescue” of adults earning a livelihood and incarcerated in sudhar grihas (shelter homes), be they domestic workers, bonded labourers, beggars, sex workers or surrogate mothers.
  • ‘Rescue raid’ model, whereby law enforcement swoops in and uses the police to “pick up” victims traumatises victims who have no clue why they are being rescued.
  • There is no compensation, monetary assistance or livelihood guarantee, which is what victims need most to rebuild their lives.
  • The Bill ignores the recommendations of a Supreme Court-appointed panel on prevention of trafficking and rehabilitation of sex workers who wish to leave sex work.

Conclusion

The criticism notwithstanding, there are people, such as the Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who have welcomed the Bill. More than 18 million people are estimated to have been trafficked for sexual exploitation within the country, and the main targets of this organised crime are minors and young girls in particular. Extreme levels of exploitation and menacing impunity remain a looming threat. The Trafficking Bill responds to this impending peril with a comprehensive and structured solution. We hope that this will become a robust, responsive and accountable institutional framework of prevention, protection and rehabilitation.


 

Value Added Article: S-400 Air Defence System | Category – Defence, Security, IR | Source – Indian Express

 

Relevance: GS Paper II, III (Defence, Security, IR)

Source:

Indian-Express-Chrome-IAS-1070877570-1538218641288


Introduction

The Russian government has confirmed that President Vladimir Putin will oversee the signing of the S-400 air defence system deal with India after his arrival. It is over $5-billion deal.


What is S-400?

  • A missile defence system is intended to act as a shield against incoming ballistic missiles.
  • The S-400 Triumf is the world’s most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range surface-to-air missile system, and is considered much more effective than the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence system developed by the US.
  • It is a mobile system that integrates a multifunction radar, autonomous detection and targeting systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, launchers, and a command and control centre.
  • It can be deployed within five minutes, and is capable of firing three types of missiles to create a layered defence.
  • It can engage all types of aerial targets including aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles, and ballistic and cruise missiles within a range of 400 km, at an altitude up to 30 km.
  • It can simultaneously track 100 airborne targets, including super fighters such as the US-built F-35, and engage six of them at the same time.
  • The S-400 was made operational in 2007, and is responsible for defending Moscow. It was deployed in Syria in 2015 to guard Russian and Syrian naval and air assets.

Why does India need S-400?

It is important for India to have the capability to thwart missile attacks from the two likeliest quarters, Pakistan and China.


How did the US come into the picture?

  • In August 2017, US signed into law the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), which specifically targets Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
  • Among other things, the Act seeks to punish Russia for its military intervention in Ukraine and its alleged meddling in the 2016 US Presidential elections, by taking aim at its oil and gas industry, defence and security sector, and financial institutions.
  • The Act empowers the US President to impose at least five of 12 listed sanction on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with the Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
  • US has notified 39 Russian entities, “significant transactions” with which could make third parties liable to sanctions. Almost all major Russian defence manufacturing and export companies/entities including the manufacturers of the S-400 system, are on the list.

So, how did India get around CAATSA?

  • Concerns about Russia apart, CAATSA also impacts the United States’ ties with India, and dents its image when it is trying to project India as a key partner in its Indo-Pacific strategy.
  • Secretary of Defence James Mattis had written to members of a Senate Committee, seeking “some relief from CAATSA” for countries like India.
  • Commander of the US Pacific Command had cited the “strategic opportunity” that India presented, and the chance “to trade in arms with India”.
  • Over the last decade, US defence deals with India have grown from near zero to worth $15 billion, including key Indian acquisitions such as C-17 Globemaster and C-130J transport aircraft, P-8(I) maritime reconnaissance aircraft, etc.
  • In July, the US communicated that it was ready to grant India (along with Indonesia and Vietnam) a waiver on the CAATSA sanctions. The waiver also conveyed the acceptance by the US that India could not be dictated on its strategic interests by a third country.

What is the state of the India-Russia defence cooperation now?

  • Stringent implementation of CAATSA would have impacted not just the S-400s, but also the procurement of Project 1135.6 frigates and Ka-226T helicopters, and joint ventures like Indo Russian Aviation Ltd, Multi-Role Transport Aircraft Ltd, and Brahmos Aerospace. It would have also affected purchase of spares, components, raw materials and other assistance.
  • The bulk of India’s military equipment is of Soviet/Russian origin — including the nuclear submarine INS Chakra, the supersonic Brahmos cruise missile, MiG and Sukhoi fighters, the Il transport aircraft, the T-72 and T-90 tanks, and the Vikramaditya aircraft carrier.

Present state of India-Russia relations

  • In recent years, however, the relationship has appeared to cool off somewhat. Having once rested on multiple pillars from people-to-people to space, it is now one whose principal pillar is defence.
  • Indio-Russian trade is at $10 bn, compared to Indo-US at $100 bn. Yet, India needs Russia for spare parts for its legacy defence equipment.
  • Also, Moscow gives New Delhi technologies that the US doesn’t yet want to share, including nuclear-powered submarines.
  • As India tries to balance its relations between an unpredictable US administration and an assertive China, it would like Russia on its side; Moscow as an ally in the UN Security Council is valuable. At the same time, Russia’s growing proximity with China, and its newfound relationship with Pakistan, makes Delhi uncomfortable.

 

Editorial Simplified: No Sweeping Change | GS – II

Relevance: GS Paper II (Development and Welfare)


Why has this issue cropped up?

India’s Swachh Bharat Mission is receiving global praise for attempting to close the sanitation gap of nearly 60% of the rural population not having access to a toilet at home in 2014.


Origin of Swachh movement

  • The government invoked Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of a clean and healthy country when it launched the ambitious programme.
  • On the eve of Independence, Gandhi saw the lack of a “sense of national or social sanitation” as the root of all diseases among Indians.
  • The govt. announced a Swachh movement in 2014 to change that, and four years later the outcomes show that achieving social change is far from easy.

Hurdles in the way of Swachh Bharat

  • In some States, such as Rajasthan, MP and UP, the social change that the SBM hopes to achieve remains elusive, and traditionally oppressed communities continue to manually remove filth from dry latrines used by the upper castes.
  • The Centre asserts that urban toilet coverage is now 87% of the target, and nearly three-fourths of the wards in the country have door-to-door collection of municipal waste, but the lived experience of the city-dweller, especially in the bigger metros, is different.
  • Waste volumes continue to grow as economic growth spurs consumption.
  • The laws on municipal solid waste, protection of water sources and pollution control are just not being enforced.
  • The official machinery required to enforce legal provisions vigorously, and the infrastructure to manage waste scientifically are inadequate, making it unlikely that there will be significant public health outcomes flowing from high-profile cleaning campaigns.

Way forward

  • There is a need for a close audit of the outcomes.
  • Besides making sanitation a movement through the provision of well-designed toilets and behaviour change in rural India, the SBM should have a broader vision of what constitutes cleanliness.
  • Besides ending manual scavenging, the Swachh Bharat Mission must ensure that the manual cleaning of septic tanks, which is killing so many workers each year, is stopped and that funds for rehabilitation reach them.

Conclusion

Without full commitment to the above aspects of development, there is little chance of meaningfully achieving the Sustainable Development Goals on water and sanitation anytime soon.


 

Editorial Simplified: In Parliament’s Court | GS – II

Relevance: GS Paper II (Polity & Governance)


Why has this issue cropped up?

One had hoped that the judiciary would show the way forward with regard to preventing candidates facing criminal charges from contesting elections, but in a recent judgment, the Supreme Court has left it to Parliament to legislate on the subject.


Basis of such an expectation from judiciary

  • The expectation was not unreasonable, as some important changes in the electoral laws were made mandatory by the judiciary. For example,
  • making it mandatory for candidates to submit an affidavit with full disclosure of criminal cases, if any, and details of their asset and income.
  • providing an option to voters to exercise None of the Above (NOTA) in case they do not want to vote for any of the candidate contesting an election.

Stand of the Court

  • The court mentioned that it was not within its powers to disqualify politicians facing criminal cases from contesting election, but recommended that Parliament enact a strong law.
  • However, the court made it mandatory for political parties and candidates themselves to make public disclosure through print and electronic media.

Probable outcome of the court’s stand

  • There is serious doubt whether this judgment would in any way help in making our politics cleaner than before. The chances of Parliament acting fast on this issue are dim.
  • The reasons are simple and obvious. No political party is free of this problem. The use of muscle power along with money power is a weapon used by all political parties to maximise electoral gains.
  • In such a scenario, any move to ban candidates with a criminal record from contesting elections would mean political parties inflicting self-harm.

The extent of criminalisation of politics

  • Data indicate that 179 out of the 543 elected Members of Parliament in the present Lok Sabha have some kind of criminal case pending against them.
  • While it is true that some of these may be of a frivolous nature, it is also true that many of these cases concern allegations of their involvement in serious crimes.
  • In the case of over 100 MPs, the cases were of a very serious nature such as crimes against women and kidnapping.
  • There seems to be very little improvement in this regard in the last five years. In the previous Lok Sabha (2009), 163 had criminal cases pending against them, many of which were of a serious nature.
  • The profile of members of the Upper House is no better; of 228 members of the Rajya Sabha for whom data could be analysed, 20 have cases of serious crimes pending against them.

No effort by political parties

While political parties raise concern about candidates with a tainted background contesting elections and getting elected, none of them come forward to set an example for others when it is time to act. There is hardly any difference between the national and regional parties in this regard.


The gravity of the issue

  • The issue is far more important and serious than the attention being paid to it by the policy makers.
  • While the Election Commission has limited powers to legislate on such laws, it is only Parliament which can legislate to bring about the desired change.
  • Public opinion too is not firm on this. For example, a survey found that opinion was divided when people were asked whether they would be willing to vote for a honest candidate who may not get their work done, or a tainted candidate who could get their work done.

 

Editorial Simplified: An Ongoing Quest for Equality | GS – II

Relevance: GS Paper II (Polity & Governance)


Why has this issue cropped up?

On September 28, the Supreme Court delivered a 4:1 verdict throwing open the doors of the Sabarimala temple to women of all ages.


The questions at stake

At stake were several thorny questions:

  • How deep must the judiciary’s inquiry go in deciding whether to intervene in matters of religion?
  • Should the court disturb ethical choices made by a community of believers?
  • How must the integrity behind these practices be judged?
  • Are religious exercises susceptible to conventional constitutional standards of justice and equality?

The scope of Article 26

The ban on entry of women was justified chiefly at two levels.

  • First, the temple, they argued, enjoyed denominational status under Article 26 of the Constitution, which allowed it to determine for itself the manner in which it managed its religious affairs.
  • Second, prohibiting women of menstruating age from entering Sabarimala, they contended, is supported by the temple’s long-honoured custom: since Lord Ayyappan is a “Naishtika Brahmachari”, allowing women aged between 10 and 50 years to enter the temple, it was claimed, would affect the deity’s “celibacy”.

Refutation of above arguments

The Court found no doctrinal or factual support for the temple’s claim for denominational status. The devotees of the Sabarimala temple, it found, were in no way distinct from the larger community of Hindu believers.


The dissent

Justice Malhotra ruled that the Sabarimala temple constitutes a separate religious denomination, and, therefore, the temple’s administrators were at liberty to make customary exceptions in matters of religious practice. This freedom, in her opinion, extended power to the temple to proscribe women from entering its precincts.


Essential practices doctrine

  • Ordinarily, in determining whether a purportedly religious command is constitutionally protected, the courts have sought to test whether such a belief is essential to that religion.
  • Here, for instance, the Court found that the practice of excluding women aged between 10 and 50 years from the Sabarimala temple is dispensable, in that the “nature” of the Hindu religion would not be “fundamentally altered” by allowing women to enter the temple.
  • Although an examination of this kind is strongly backed by precedent, Justice Malhotra was especially critical of the approach. In her belief, the power of judicial review ought not to accord to courts the authority to judge the rationality of a matter of faith. “The issue of what constitutes an essential religious practice,” she wrote, “is for the religious community to decide.”
  • Further, she noted that there may well be practices that are so pernicious and oppressive which might well demand the court’s interference. These, in her words, would include a “social evil, like Sati”.

The questions raised

The dissenting opinion begs a question. It leaves us wondering how far the right to freedom of religion can really extend. And to what extent a group’s collective liberty can trump an individual’s equal right to freedom of religion. Would, for example, denial to women of the right to serve as priests, or to be ordained as bishops, be considered oppressive?


The solution

  • It has been suggested that the court must look beyond the essential practices doctrine and examine claims by applying a principle of “anti-exclusion”. Or, in other words, “where a religious practice causes the exclusion of individuals in a manner which impairs their dignity or hampers their access to basic goods, the freedom of religion must give way to the over-arching values of a liberal Constitution.”
  • The Constitution must be seen as a document that seeks to bring about a transformed society. When a religious practice goes so far as to deny women equal status in society, when notions of purity and pollution are employed to perpetuate discrimination, the Constitution ought to mandate a shattering of the conventional divides between the private and the public.
  • The real test is to assess whether an exclusion founded on religious belief, essential or otherwise, encroaches on a person’s basic right to dignity. Or in other words, discrimination couched as plurality cannot be allowed to undermine the Constitution’s basic “quest for equality”.

Constitution

The Constitution exists not only to disenable entrenched structures of discrimination and prejudice, but to empower those who traditionally have been deprived of an equal citizenship.


 

Value Added Article: Nutritional Status in India | Category – Poverty and Hunger | Source – Yojana

Relevance: GS Paper II (Development and Welfare)

Source:

Yojana Magazine - Chrome IAS


Introduction

India is home to over 40 million stunted and 17 million wasted children (under-five years). Although India has made sizeable economic and social gains over the last two decades, the challenge of maternal and child undernutrition remains a national public health concern and a policy priority for the current government.


Existing policy framework

  • The most prominent government nutrition interventions include the ICDS programme led by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD), and the NHRM led by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW). Both these prioritise the role of community level organisations –AWCs and AWWs under the ICDS and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) under the NHRM – for the delivery of nutrition interventions to the target groups of pregnant and lactating mothers, and infants.
  • These programmes are supplemented by the PDS, which is used to provide subsidised food grains to large sections of the country’s poor.
  • In addition, more than six states, including Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat, Karnataka, and most recently Jharkhand have also established state nutrition missions.
  • The National Nutrition Mission (NNM) has been set up with a three year budget of Rs.9046 crore commencing from 2017-18. It will be a central nodal agency that helps coordinate central and state government programmes and infuse them with additional funds/resources.

Recommendations

  • Strengthen and restructure ICDS, and leverage PDS: ICDS needs to be in mission mode, with a sanction of adequate financial resources (from the central government) and decision-making authority.
  • Extend coverage of food fortification of staples: Currently, fortification of staples is limited to the mandatory iodization of salt. The standards of the hot cooked meal should also be changed to using only fortified inputs.
  • Target multiple contributing factors, for example, WASH: The underlying drivers for India’s ‘hidden hunger’ challenges are complex and go beyond direct nutritional inputs.
  • Align agricultural policy with national nutritional objectives: Agriculture policy must be brought in tune with nutrition policy, with incentives provided for encouraging the production of nutrient-rich and local crops for self-consumption.
  • Boost private sector engagement in nutrition intervention: Private sector collaboration in the form of public-private partnerships (PPPs) has the potential to leverage the appropriate technology for scaling-up food fortification interventions and to develop and distribute nutrient-rich foods to improve maternal and infant nutrition.

Conclusion

A healthy population is a precondition for sustainable development, and India faces significant challenges in harnessing long-term dividends from its young population. India has made a promising commitment in the form of the National Nutrition Mission which will help us tackle the problem of malnutrition in children and mothers of the country. We need to ensure effective implementation of its strategy to achieve our nutrition goals.


 

Editorial Simplified: A Moral Journey| GS – II and IV

Relevance: GS Paper II, IV (Polity & Governance and Ethics)


Why has this issue cropped up?

The Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code that had criminalised adultery for 158 years.


The basis of Supreme Court’s verdict

  • Equality before the law does not only signify equal access to the law, but also equal exposure to the law. This is one of the principles followed by the Supreme Court.
  • Section 198(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure is also struck down. In both cases, the court has found that the woman was robbed of agency and reduced to a chattel.
  • Law which allows only men to have agency and the right to be aggrieved is unacceptable at a time when sexual relations are understood to be between equals.
  • One gender was granted ownership of the other, which was deemed to be too innocent to look after itself.

Constitutional morality

  • This reform is part of a process of change in constitutional morality, which has acquired an inexorable momentum.
  • The striking down of Section 377, which had decriminalised gay sex, may be the most celebrated legal reform, but the trail goes back to 2015, when the Supreme Court found a long-term live-in relationship to be indistinguishable from marriage, even for inheritance.
  • In recent times, the triple talaq ruling and the right to privacy have maintained the trend.
  • It would not be unreasonable now to look forward to the criminalisation of marital rape, which is the next milestone on a road being rapidly travelled.