IASToppers Editorial Notes 27th July 2016
Editorial Notes

Editorial Notes 27th July 2016

Aadhaar; NGOs; War Histories; Urban Water; SASEC programme
By By IT's Editorial Notes Team
July 27, 2016

Contents

Polity & Governance

  • Aadhaar: Will it improve your health?
  • Targeting NGOs
  • The fear of history

Environment & Ecology

  • India will have to get its act together on urban water

International Relations

  • 800 million reasons to work together

Supplementary Thoughts

  • Aadhaar
  • Quote

 

Polity & Governance

GS (M) Paper-2 Topics:
“Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.”
 
“Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.”

 

Aadhaar: Will it improve your health?

Introduction:

The editorial is all about Aadhaar scheme, its performance, its prospects in health sector, hurdles it facing, etc.

Performance of Aadhaar scheme:IASToppers Editorial Notes 27th July 2016 2

  • Aadhaar scheme has already enrolled almost a billion members, having covered almost 50% of the population just a year ago. By the end of this year, the tally will stand close to 100% of all residents in India.
  • For India, Aadhaar now also serves as the financial address for its residents.
  • Armed with this system, India has been able to revolutionize its financial systems, rethink the nature of its welfare state, cutting back on benefits in-kind and market-distorting subsidies, and turning to direct cash transfers paid into the Jan Dhan accounts of the neediest.

What are the prospects of the role of Aadhaar in health sector?

  • Aadhaar can accelerate the process of “interoperability” in healthcare.
  • Aadhaar has the potential to improve health outcomes, reduce medical errors, and save you both time and money. That improves health, productivity and satisfaction. At a system level, it can save precious funds.
  • Aadhaar is taking hold as leaders discover its possible applications. One simple example is an initiative in Krishna district in Andhra Pradesh, where doctors and nurses are tracked for absenteeism using biometric markers. This has improved attendance and access by patients.
  • Primary care centres are now starting to use Aadhaar for linking individuals and their medical records. For example, in the villages of Rajasthan, under a recent public-private partnership, over 40,000 service centres provide electronic payment of utilities and other services. Many of these villages lack water and sanitation, yet monetary transactions are electronic and just a click away.

What is the meaning of ‘interoperability’ in healthcare?

  • Interoperability is the seamless exchange of data across the patient care continuum, not just between the internal systems of the provider network, but also an outside laboratory and pharmacy, and their connection with the insurance company’s claims department.
  • When systems are interoperable, patients and their families and doctors can access patient information. This translates into no longer having to lug stacks of charts, lab and x-ray results, and other documentation from doctor to doctor.
  • That saves time and money and more importantly appropriate care more quickly.
  • In the US, interoperability has the potential to lower health costs by $30 billion annually. Currently, there is $36 billion in addressable waste within the US healthcare system of which 97% is attributed to lack of interoperability.

What are the hurdles in effective implementation of the Aadhaar?

  • International experience suggests caution about the use of Aadhaar-enabled tracking systems. Doctors and nurses may manipulate tracking systems.
  • Consumers may evade premiums, not seeing coverage as a good investment, just as has occurred in nearby Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines. More may be needed such as high-quality services, and subsidies of premiums for the near poor and informal sectors, and education for accessing entitled services.
  • Building a “demand side” with no access to quality services will not work. For example, while Rajasthan villages have electronic service centres, the primary care centre down the road often still has no drugs or the doctor is absent.
  • It may be argued that Aadhaar is necessary for big sectoral reforms, but it is certainly not sufficient. It can be a building block for the medium term. The supply side asks, however, remain.

Suggestions to improve the performance of Aadhaar:

  • The central government must play a key role in setting data standards and regulations, and perhaps incentivizing the development of the network for health.
  • At the same time, it will need to protect data regarding patient privacy and confidentiality of records.

Conclusion:

  • Aadhaar’s benefits can clearly extend to our individual health, on to a healthier system for all.
  • The prime minister has remarked that India is becoming the fascination of the world—the potential of the Aadhaar-health connection is just one fascinating aspect that leaders are watching from around the world.
[Ref: LiveMint]

 

GS (M) Paper-2 Topics:
“Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.”
 
“Development processes and the development industry- the role of NGOs, SHGs, various groups and associations, donors, charities, institutional and other stakeholders”

 

Targeting NGOs

Introduction:

Two years after the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2013 was enacted by the UPA government, the Centre’s decision to operationalise a couple of provisions has set off alarm bells among a large section of the NGO sector.

Issue in detail:

  • Three notifications from the Department of Personnel dated June 20, 2016, and an official memo on June 24, laid down the procedures and timelines for filing returns of public servants.
  • The Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, 2013, included senior management personnel working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the definition of “public servants”.
  • The personnel’s spouse and dependent children too were required to furnish such details.
  • Act includes directors, managers, secretaries and other officers of societies, trusts and associations of persons that receive more than Rs 10 lakhs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) under its ambit.
  • It does the same in the case the organisations wholly or partly funded by the Central government if they receive an annual grant above a limit that may be fixed by it. (This has been set at Rs 1 crore.)
  • Earlier, Central government employees had been asked to file their assets and liabilities under the Lokpal Act. But what the June 20 notifications did was extend this to those working in NGOs and set the deadline for submissions of their returns to a designated authority by July 31.

Author’s views:

According to the author,

  • The provisions of the act stretch in a manner that not only intrude into the privacy of individuals, but also provides the leeway for officials to harass people.
  • Overregulation may not only stifle the voluntary sector but also force volunteers and donors to stay away.
  • Many trustees, directors and professional managers in NGOs, who could be philanthropists, experts and eminent persons from different walks of life, wouldn’t want their assets and liabilities loosely posted on government websites.

Conclusion:

The government must be ensured that the lokpal act does not end up smothering a vibrant civil society when it sets out to monitor and regulate NGOs that receive huge funds.

[Ref: Indian Express, The Hindu]

 

GS (M) Paper-2 Topic:
“Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.”

 

The fear of history

Introduction:

The Ministry of Defence has undertaken the writing of the official history of the Kargil War, which is to be completed by the end of the year.

In a break from the past, the ministry shortlisted historians not affiliated to its history division and chose noted scholar, Srinath Raghavan, to head the project.

Author’ suggestions regarding writing and publishing official war histories:

According to the author,

  • The government must come with a clear time-bound policy on writing and publishing official war histories.
  • A five-year limit for writing official histories, which can then be updated every 10 years, and publication within one year of the history being written can be established as policy.
  • The government now needs to take the writing of the official history of the Kargil War to its logical conclusion, and make the primary sources — documents, files, war diaries, oral histories, correspondences — available to all scholars.
  • This will need an updated policy on declassification of archival material, at par with other modern democracies. But, this warrants more than a change in policy, an attitudinal shift towards national security in the political executive.
  • Unless such a policy is established by an act of Parliament, India will remain bereft of serious works on subjects such as post-independence military.

Conclusion:

  • It is time to allow scholars access to documents that would enable them to analyse, debate and thereby, learn from our past. Only then can India engage in a well-informed dialogue on national security and military effectiveness.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

Environment & Ecology

GS (M) Paper-3 Topic: “Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment”

 

India will have to get its act together on urban water

Introduction:

India’s water crisis is even more serious than its energy crisis though this is not generally realised. For energy, alternative sources such as solar and wind energy are becoming more cost-effective. For water, the only major alternative available is desalination and it is far too expensive.

Here author gives an account of key concerns regarding water usage, its management, sewage treatment etc. especially in urban areas.  

Key facts:

  • India is the largest user of groundwater in the world with groundwater abstraction at 251 cubic km per year, which is more than double that of China’s.
  • About 80% of the addition to the net irrigated area in India since 1970 has come from groundwater.
  • While only a third or so of the population is urban, the share of urban GDP in the total is close to two-thirds. India’s urban population is projected to increase to 600 million and urban share of GDP to 75% by 2031.
  • Agriculture accounts for 80% of the total use of water in the country.
  • Only 62% of urban households have access to treated tap water and only a little over 50% are directly connected to a piped network.
  • The average connected household receives water for approximately two hours per day.
  • Only 33% of the urban population is covered by a piped sewer system, while close to 40% is dependent on septic tanks, and 13% still defecate in the open.
  • The capacity to treat sewage or wastewater is only 37% of the total need in the country, and the actual treatment is even less, only 30%.
  • The Central Pollution Control Board finds that 75% of the measurable pollution in our rivers is from municipal sewage and 25% from industrial effluents.
  • WHO data shows that half of India’s morbidity is water related, and there is ample evidence to show that water-borne diseases have been on the rise in the country.

Concerns:

Excessive use of groundwater:

  • India’s use of groundwater is much in excess of the actual recharge being carried out. Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Delhi fare the worst in this respect. A recent assessment by NASA showed a decline in the water table for these 4 states at an average rate of 4 cm per annum.
  • The Green Revolution accentuated the need to secure water for the high- yielding varieties of foodgrains. However, inadequate investments and poor planning and maintenance of the irrigation infrastructure meant that canal irrigation was much less effective than planned.
  • Farmers turned to groundwater with zeal and they could do this because groundwater extraction was unregulated.
  • Free or cheap electricity also meant that farmers turned to tubewells and electric pumps as preferred instruments for lifting water from underground.
  • Since water is not economically priced, it is used inefficiently through flood irrigation. For the same reason, water-intensive crops are grown in areas where water is highly scarce; for example, rice in Punjab and sugarcane in Maharashtra, thereby contributing further to the decline in water tables.

Planning:

  • Services like drinking water, sewerage and wastewater treatment, stormwater drains, and solid waste management are actually being managed in silos, in some cases by the urban local governments themselves though they are not sufficiently empowered and in other cases by parastatal institutions (metro boards) of state governments.
  • Even the national missions are encouraging a fragmented approach by separating solid waste management under Swacch Bharat from the rest under Amrut, and even worse, dispensing with the requirement of a city development plan in which all projects must be anchored. The result is that the state of water delivery in Indian cities is visibly highly deficient.

Stormwater drains:

  • Stormwater drains are inadequate and ill-maintained, and even natural drains which provide safe exit to stormwater including flood water are either encroached upon or are carrying sewage. Natural recharge zones are typically not taken into account in planning for urban expansion.

Sewage treatment:

  • Wastewater treatment has been a neglected area in India’s urban water planning, even though it is crucial to keep our rivers and groundwater clean and also to augment supplies by generating “used water” for gardening, flushing, etc.
  • The sewage treatment capacity is also sometimes redundantly utilised as in the case of Delhi where treated wastewater is discharged into drains and allowed to mix with untreated sewage flowing into the natural storm water drains, and the unholy mixture finally discharges into the river.
  • Surveys of groundwater also show high levels of microbiological contamination, clearly suggesting contamination from municipal sewage. The implications of polluted and unsafe water and poor sanitation are extremely serious for public health.

Government efforts:

  • The 12th Five Year Plan had called for a paradigm shift and proposed a comprehensive programme for the mapping of India’s aquifers as a prerequisite and a precursor to a National Ground Water Management Programme, and some pilot projects have been initiated.
  • Moreover, the government of India is currently working on a national water framework bill and also a model groundwater bill which addresses the challenges of equitable access and aquifer protection, moving away from the focus on the link between land ownership and control over groundwater and treating groundwater as a common pool resource to be exploited only for public good.

Legal framework:

  • Groundwater use in India is currently governed by the framework of British common law sanctified by the Indian Easement Act of 1882.
  • This provides that a landowner has the absolute right to draw any amount of ground water from under the land owned by him.

Few suggestions:

The author suggests that:

  • It is not clear how the resulting increase in urban water demand will be met. However, releasing water from agriculture by improving efficiency in water use will certainly help.
  • Recycling wastewater is another potential source of augmenting water supply for urban areas. This requires that drinking water, sewerage and wastewater treatment, stormwater drains, and also solid waste management be planned and managed in an integrated manner.
[Ref: Indian Express]

 

International Relations

GS (M) Paper-2 Topic: “Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests”

 

800 million reasons to work together

Introduction:

Six of the South Asian region’s countries—Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka—have concluded that they have a better chance of lifting people out of poverty if they work together.

Economic scenario of South Asia:

  • South Asia is set to become the fastest growing region in Asia. Led by a booming India, the region is expected to expand at a blistering 7.3% next year.
  • However, a quarter of the world’s population lives in South Asia and more than 800 million of them are poor, living on less than $3.10 a day.

SASEC programme:Official_SASEC_logo

In 2001, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal formed the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme, which the Maldives and Sri Lanka joined in 2014.

  • Under SASEC programme, these countries have worked together to build power plants, highways, rail systems and fibre optic networks to expand and improve Internet access.
  • They are cooperating to promote regional prosperity by improving cross-border connectivity, boosting trade among member countries, and strengthening regional economic cooperation.
  • The Manila, Philippines-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) serves as the Secretariat for the SASEC member countries.

Reason for this cooperation:

  • SASEC comprises countries with varying market sizes and abilities of governments to promote business. When economies work together, they can cover any deficiencies by tapping into the strengths of their neighbours.

Performance of SASEC:

  • SASEC is playing a vital role in propelling South Asia’s economic growth in an uncertain regional and global economic climate.
  • In the past 15 years, SASEC countries have implemented 37 regional projects worth more than $6.75 billion in the energy, transport, trade facilitation, and information and communications technology (ICT) sectors.

Prospects of this cooperation:

  • Regional cooperation works, and if promoted even more enthusiastically could deliver huge gains to economies across Asia, including South Asia.
  • According to one study, closer cooperation between Asian economies could generate an additional $176 billion to $285 billion per year for the region.
  • According to another study, upgrading trading systems in South Asia to international standards would increase trade within the region by 75% and trade with the rest of the world by 22%.

Concerns:

  • Despite enormous efforts in linking its economies, South Asia remains one of the least integrated regions of the world.
  • It accounts for just 2% of world trade and 1.7% of foreign direct investment worldwide. Trade within the region makes up less than 6% of its total trade.
  • Compare that to its neighbouring region of East Asia, where more than half of all trade (55%) is within the region.

SASEC Operational Plan 2016-2025:

  • Representatives of the SASEC countries met in New Delhi in May, and will meet again in Colombo later this year to map out how best to take regional cooperation in South Asia to the next level.
  • At the meeting in New Delhi, they developed a 10-year plan, the SASEC Operational Plan 2016-2025.
  • The SASEC Operational Plan contains a long-list of projects that guides the program’s priorities across transport, trade facilitation, energy, and economic corridor development.

The plan could change the lives of hundreds of millions of people. For example, new transport links are routed through areas where poverty is highest.

Conclusion:

The leaders of SASEC countries recognize the importance of this new plan. They have 800 million urgent reasons to make it work.

[Ref: LiveMint]

 

Supplementary Thoughts

Aadhaar

Bill Gates once said this about the computer:

“Never before in history has innovation offered the promise of so much to so many in so short a time.”

There is no better place to find this promise than right here in India, and no better example than Aadhaar, the country’s unique identity system, an identity database over which an authentication platform has been built.

 

Quote

The famous scientist and peace advocate, Linus Pauling once said:

“The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of them”

 

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    thnks team.

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