Polity & Governance
- On the right track
- Internet addiction’s a public health issue
- Expanding the Idea of India
- Three states hold the key
- Helicopters loaded with money
Polity & Governance
GS (M) Paper-2 Topic: “Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.”
On the right track
In a move that could impact India’s gender landscape positively, Kochi Metro Rail Limited recently decided to employ transgenders in its customer care, crowd management and housekeeping sections.
Key concerns associated with transgenders:
- Historically, transgenders in India have found it extremely difficult to get jobs in the mainstream owing to reasons ranging from social taboos and customs, to strong prejudices dominating family and work spaces.
- This forces them to seek out careers in illegal circuits, triggering a vicious cycle of exploitation and abuse.
- Even though several NGOs operate among people of the third gender, there are hardly any official programmes to support, educate and train transgenders who want to enter the mainstream job market.
- Often, private companies say draconian laws such as Section 377 of the IPC make it difficult for them to offer jobs to people belonging to the LGBT community.
What Section 377 of the IPC says?
- Section 377 of the IPC is related to unnatural offences. It says “whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
- According to the transgender census 2011, India has nearly 5 lakh transgender people — the real number is likely to be six to seven times that — and nearly half of them are illiterate.
Steps taken by State governments:
- Recently, some State governments introduced schemes for transgenders. For instance, in 2014, Tamil Nadu allowed transgenders to join its home guard department. Odisha and Kerala give transgenders benefits such as pension, housing and food.
According to the author,
- By keeping Section 377 of the IPC aside, corporates should initiate to provide skills development to the LGBT community. This will help the transgender community enhance its morale and unshackle itself from the myriad illegal ways its members are forced to earn their daily bread. That’ll be the best form of corporate social responsibility (CSR) that India Inc can offer.
GS (M) Paper-2 Topic: “Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.”
Internet addiction’s a public health issue
The telecom and IT minister recently announced that India will soon have half-a-billion internet users.
- As a result of easy access to WiFi, intuitive user-experience through touch screens, and availability of affordable mobile and tablet devices, internet usage is poised for a dramatic rise in the coming years.
- Although India’s mobile data consumption is just one-tenth of that in the US and other advanced countries, India is witnessing challenges due to the overuse of internet, especially among youth and children.
Internet addiction -Its impacts:
- Studies have revealed that constant internet use results in reduced creativity, reduced ability to remember, and significantly hurts long-term memory.
- Another study shows that internet users get increasingly impatient.
- The psychological impact due to constant use of internet and mobile phones has been researched for many years. The anxiety among those who use their phones for email and social networking activities is known. For instance, ‘always connected’ people are nervous when the battery runs low. ‘Online anytime’ people get stressed in a no-internet zone.
- According to a study, the addiction problem in India is real and at least 24.6% of adolescents have problematic internet use or internet addiction disorder (IAD). A report by the Indian Council for Medical Research says that 12% of individuals using internet in the country suffer from this problem.
Internet addiction world over:
Internet addiction is a growing problem world over.
- Japan, known for its early adoption of technology, was among the first to recognise the challenge of IAD.
- It is estimated that over 5 lakh children in the 12 to 18 years age-group are victims of screen addiction.
- High school students spend over six hours during weekdays and, in many cases, skip school to be online.
- South Korea, another technologically advanced country, considers internet addiction a public health crisis.
Japan’s Internet Fasting Camps:
- Japan’s education ministry has started internet fasting camps where the affected children are asked to spend time on physical activities. The intention is to help them get away from the online/virtual world and encourage them to have real communication with other children and adults — basically, teaching them the importance of human relationships.
- The Japanese government claims that the fasting camps have been successful because they motivated children to spend much less time online.
South Korea’s ‘I Will’ centres:
- ‘I Will’ centres have been set up in Seoul. These are intervention institutions for internet and smartphone addicts among children and youth below the age of 24.
- They are provided counselling, preventive education, and alternative activities.
India’s internet de-addiction centre:
- India’s premier mental health institute, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) has set up an internet de-addiction centre for healthy use of technology. A similar centre has been set up in a few cities.
But considering that millions of Indians are either already or likely to be affected with IAD, India need many more such centres across the country.
According to the author,
- India needs a strong framework for tackling IAD. This is a good opportunity for the telecom, human resources, health and AYUSH ministries to join hands and come up with suitable actions before the problem becomes an enormous issue.
- The ministry of health and family welfare should consider creating a pan-India initiative similar to the National Addictions Management Service (NAMS) created by the Singapore government. Under NAMS all types of addictions are brought under a single umbrella.
- We need a multi-pronged awareness campaign directed at different age groups.
- The Government should embark on an awareness drive aimed at educating the public on the main symptoms of internet addiction.
- The AYUSH ministry could consider providing intervention programmes for people who are already found to be addicted to the internet.
- The HRD ministry should consider mandatory training for school and college staff, who in turn can educate students on responsible use of the internet. The main focus should be on improving children’s cognitive skills and thereby nurturing creativity.
- Schools can play a supportive role by educating parents about symptoms and possible actions.
- The telecom ministry should ask internet providers to run regular campaigns educating people about internet addiction.
GS (M) Paper-2 Topic: “Indian Constitution– historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure”
Expanding the Idea of India
The scope of Fundamental Rights under Part III of the Constitution has seen significant expansion through judicial pronouncements; the right to free legal services to the poor, right to speedy trial and right to live in a clean and healthy environment are just a few examples.
As a result, an imbalance has been created between the current set of Fundamental Rights and Fundamental Duties.
- Here, author suggests a list of a few additional Fundamental Duties in two sections: (i) Additional duties and (ii) Duties for a better society.
- According to the author, these suggested duties could help in balancing out the rights of its citizens and further make them more responsible towards the country’s development.
Duty to vote:
- Article 326 of the Constitution read with Section 62 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 confers the right to vote. However, quite often the question arises as to whether that right also implies an obligation.
- The voter turnout during the last general election amounted only to about 67 per cent. This voter apathy should be taken seriously and an attempt should be made to make voting a citizenship obligation.
- The state can take several steps to ensure that this duty to vote is made operational and effective. One method through which this may be achieved is by developing a system of incentives for voters and conversely disadvantages for those who abstain from performing their duty to vote. A very large section of people can be motivated to vote this way.
Duty to pay taxes:
- The tax gap (the revenue that a government is expected to receive as against the revenue it actually collects) continues to increase every year. The greatest indicator of this is the fact that the size of India’s shadow economy as a share of the GDP reached 24.3 per cent in the year 2012.
- Research has found that tax evasion is a direct result of lack of trust among the people, in general, and the government, in particular. Citizens must believe that their taxes are bound to be used for public good.
- The incorporation of the right to pay taxes as part of Fundamental Duties in the Constitution will shift the onus onto the taxpayer to pay taxes rather than the tax department to collect them.
Duty to help accident victims:
- Every 60 minutes, 16 persons die in traffic accidents in India.
- According to the Law Commission of India, at least 50 per cent of fatalities can be prevented if road accident victims receive medical attention within the critical first hour after the accident.
- The Karnataka government’s decision to frame a ‘Good Samaritan law’ is a step in the right direction.
- With the increase in the number of accidents, it has become pertinent for India to recognise this duty as one owed by its citizens towards each other.
Duty to keep the premises clean:
- The most effective mechanism to tackle uncleanliness is to sensitise people about this duty. Therefore, it is imperative that a Fundamental Duty to this effect be added to the Constitution.
Duties for a better society:
Duty to prevent civil wrongs:
- It is not enough that a citizen refrains from committing wrong; he has a duty to see that fellow citizens do not indulge in the commission of wrongs.
Duty to raise voice against injustice:
- Today people seem to have stopped reacting to atrocities; they neither report crimes nor volunteer to testify in a court.
- The duties of a victim or a witness can be classified into two main categories, viz. duty to report a crime and duty to testify in court.
- The state must also on its part work to ensure that the fight to bring the offender to book does not become a Kafkaesque nightmare for the victim or witness.
Duty to protect whistle-blowers:
- With the coming into force of the Right to Information Act, 2005, every citizen has become a “potential whistle-blower”. While the state has a great deal of responsibility in providing for their protection through appropriate legislative instruments, the responsibility to protect torchbearers of transparency vests on each one of us.
Duty to support bona fide civil society movements:
- Citizens have a moral duty to organise themselves or support citizen groups so that the gaps in governance left by the executive can be filled and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution are made available to every citizen. Therefore, it is proposed that there must be an addition to Part IV-A of the Constitution to that effect.
Reinvigorating civic responsibility:
- In the modern context, it has become increasingly important to instil a reinvigorated sense of civic responsibility among Indian citizens. This can be achieved by adding new duties to the existing list of Fundamental Duties while also laying emphasis on the performance of the existing ones.
- The significance of Fundamental Duties is not diminished by the fact that there is no punishment prescribed for not following them. Fundamental Duties constitute the conscience of our Constitution; they should be treated as constitutional values that must be propagated by all citizens.
GS (M) Paper-1 Topic: “Population and associated issues”
Three states hold the key
The 10-year goals set out in the Population Policy 2000 were mostly neglected. In this regard, Shanta Kumar, Himachal Pradesh’s former chief minister, resurrected this long forgotten issue and even sought the prime minister’s intervention.
According to author, the problem does not need a political solution. It needs the dedicated attention of the chief ministers of three states — Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — in whose hands lie the attainment of a goal that 24 states have already realised: Reducing fertility rates to replacement level.
What is Total Fertility Rate (TFR)?
- Demographers agree that if women in child-bearing years produce an average of 2.1 children per head — so as to replace both parents — the population gets stabilised. This number is referred to as the total fertility rate (TFR).
- Both low and high TFR can pose problems.
- With Japanese and European couples opting for fewer children, TFR in Europe and Japan has fallen below 1.5; that raises fears of societies disappearing.
- India’s TFR is presently at 2.3 with huge variations between states.
Progress report of various states:
- Kerala and Tamil Nadu achieved the ideal TFR of 2.1 in 1989 and 1992.
- The good news is that since then, several big states — Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab and West Bengal — have brought down fertility rates to replacement levels.
- Three other states — Gujarat, Haryana and Assam — are poised to join them in a year.
- The TFR in some states like Goa and West Bengal has fallen to nearly European levels.
- Bihar, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (30 per cent of India’s population) are, however, responsible for pulling the country back.
- Their neighbours, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand (10 per cent of the country’s population) have also been tardy but they are moving towards the 2.1 TFR goal; for them the target looks attainable by 2020.
Concerns especially for Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan:
- The National Family Health Survey and the District Level Health Surveys show that most poor families if assured of two living children do not want more. But this is not the case in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan where poor parents consciously want more than two children.
- It is also ironical that the unmet need for contraception is also the highest in these states.
- Higher fertility levels, early marriages, repeated pregnancies and mothers giving birth in their 40s are exacerbating the problem.
- Contraception is not used by 50 per cent of those who need it the most.
Suggestions by the author:
The author suggests to accord highest primacy to population stabilisation in these three states.
According to the author,
- By tracking every married couple in underserved villages, a lot can be achieved.
- One strategy would be to give incentives to the local health volunteers who should be remunerated for every year’s delay in child birth after the age of 19 (the legal age for women to marry being 18), promoting a gap of three years between children and facilitating family planning methods.
- In addition, the health minister has recently announced that his ministry will focus on high TFR districts, mostly in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. While this is a good strategy, the engagement of the top leadership is indispensable.
- In India, the so-called “demographic dividend” is actually represented by disproportionately high number of young people in six high fertility states, many of whom are unemployable. Malnutrition and illiteracy also persist.
- Chief ministers can certainly encourage people towards an optimum family size and provide couples with the tools to space and limit the arrival of their children — but voluntarily. Such an approach — soft and easy-going as it may sound — has, by and large, succeeded.
“Key concept of Economics”
Helicopters loaded with money
- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was recently told by adviser Etsuro Honda that “now is the time to introduce helicopter money”, while special adviser Koichi Hamada said it should be restricted to a one-time event.
- Moreover, in Europe last month, 18 members of the European Parliament wrote to European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi calling for an examination of policies beyond quantitative easing.
What is ‘Helicopter Money’?
- Helicopter money is a reference to an idea made popular by the American economist Milton Friedman in 1969 and reinforced in contemporary times by former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke.
- Economists have used the term ‘helicopter money’ to refer to two very different policies.
- The first set of policies emphasizes the ‘permanent’ monetization of budget deficits.
- The second set of policies involves the central bank making direct transfers to the private sector financed with base money, without the direct involvement of fiscal authorities.
- The end aim of helicopter money is to boost consumer demand and spending, and increase inflation to optimum levels, thereby leading to economic recovery.
- It has emerged as a possible alternative to the widely followed Quantitative Easing (QE) methodology.
- It is also known by various other names which include Helicopter Drop, QE for the People, Strategic QE, Overt Money Financing, Green QE and Sovereign Money Creation.
How it works:
Helicopter money implies free and irreversible distribution of money to the end consumers.
- It can be achieved by literally transferring money to individuals’ accounts for free or by reducing taxes universally to all households enabling more disposable money in their hands.
When could it be used?
- Such measures are utilized when the economy is in slowdown or in recession and interest rates are hovering around zero or even turning negative.
What is Quantitative Easing (QE) methodology?
- Quantitative easing is essentially an asset swap, where the central banks introduce more money in the market by purchasing government bonds, as well as other assets like commercial bonds, mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and even exchange-traded funds (ETF).
How Helicopter Money Differs from QE?
- QE allows for eliminating limitations on available reserves in the financial sector, and reduces the cost of borrowing as more money is made available in the financial system. While Helicopter money has advantages, as money directly reaches the end consumers who would increase spending. The same can be achieved by reducing tax rates, where the end consumer gets the benefit of having more disposable money.
- QE is a temporary and reversible measure as the central banks will sell off the purchased assets once economic recovery is achieved. Helicopter money distribution is permanent and irreversible, as it increases the base money available in the hands of end consumers.
- However, impact of QE remains indirect and often not effective to expected levels as it takes time for the benefits to percolate down to different strata of economic systems and sectors.
Supporters of the Helicopter Money:
- Drafted in 1969 by Milton Friedman, the underlying principle of helicopter money is that the central banks can theoretically introduce newly printed money to increase the supply of money in the constrained markets. Japan and many rich economies in Europe are battling economic slowdown with near zero interest rates and low inflation. The borrowing costs in these economies are close to zero even for durations up to 30 years. Enthusiastic supporters of helicopter money perceive it to be a foolproof method of getting out of such economic slump.
- Citing the economic scenarios of Japan, the U.K., the U.S. and the European Union, few economists conclude that it is realistically feasible and desirable to implement helicopter money. It will “always stimulate aggregate nominal demand” and will be less risky compared to other alternatives measures.
- Deutsche Bank analysts cite that helicopter money was widely used in the past and was effective with positive result.
Challenges with Helicopter Money:
Political versus Regulatory:
- Coordination between stakeholders is one of the primary roadblocks for implementing helicopter money-based stimulus. While politicians may like to implement a cut in government spending for political gains, the central bank may find this short term cut in spending detrimental to the long term economic recovery it wants to achieve.
- Additionally, there is always a risk that if proved successful in slumping times, the political class may overdo it even during stable economic periods.
Spending versus Saving:
- Once the money reaches end consumers, they may decide to save instead of spending it.
Effects on Currency:
- Economists also fear that printing more money may lead to currency devaluation in the international markets, which would hamper economic recovery.
Where is the Real Problem in implementing the tool of Helicopter money?
- Helicopter money is being termed as “a technical solution to a political problem.” Irrespective of varying economic situations and theoretical solutions, the real problem persists around building a political consensus on whether and how to use helicopter money.
- While this option has been talked about in individual economies like Japan which have faced deflation and negative interest rates several times, the problem becomes gigantic in cases such as the European Union, where individual political interests hamper the implementation of the unified policies. If the European Central Bank was to implement helicopter money measures, it may need to change the fundamentals that formed the basis of EU creation.
While the concept of Helicopter money seems right in theory, there are challenges with implementation. Cases of combined economic zones, like the EU, complicate matters further. Historical instances around the periods of great recession (1930s) and around the world wars claim to have led to economic recovery for economies who implemented this methodology. With Japan being the best suited economy to try it in the present times, it will be interesting to observe how this concept plays out.[Ref: LiveMint, Investopedia]