Editorial Notes

Editorial Notes 25th November 2016

Problems faced by universities; Anti-nationalism and Indian universities; Cashless Economy; National e-Health Authority (NeHA).
By IT's Editorial Notes Team
November 25, 2016


GS (M) Paper-3: “Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.”
GS (M) Paper-2: “Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.”
GS (M) Paper-3: “Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.”


Moving from cash to cashless



Before demonetisation, the currency in circulation was Rs 17.54 lakh crore. With the currencies worth Rs 14.73 lakh crore demonetised, the currency in circulation fell to Rs 2.81 lakh crore immediately.

Government has already achieved 60 per cent of the liquidity it wanted to maintain in the market post demonetisation. It means the Union government wanted to reduce the currency in circulation from the pre-monetisation value of Rs 17.54 lakh crore to Rs 6.96 lakh crore.

Ready to adopt:

  • With the demonetisation move, there has been a drastic improvement in electronic transactions. For instance, the daily demand of 3,500 HDFC PoS machines from shops after demonetisation is equal to about a monthly demand from shops pre-demonetisation.
  • The number of Paytm transactions and its average value had grown 300 per cent and 200 per cent, respectively in the first week of post-demonetisation.
  • Thus, all forms of electronic transactions that including debit cards, credit cards, online money transfers and mobile wallets tripled after demonetisation.
  • Although this clearly indicates that people are ready to adopt the electronic transactions for which the infrastructure is already there.

Reasons for the poor growth:

The poor growth of cashless transactions may be attributed to three reasons.

  1. The lack of universal availability of digital transactions for small and large transactions.
  2. Substantial difference in the cost of services between establishments that accept electronic transactions and those that don’t.
  • Weekly expenditure on regular items would cost about Rs 3,629 and Rs 3,444 for Delhi and Mumbai, respectively when paid digitally.
  • However, the weekly expenditure on the same would cost about Rs 2,070 and Rs 2,093 for Delhi and Mumbai, respectively when in cash.
  1. Users of digital transactions have to pay switching charges on digital transactions.
  • These factors have been stopping people using digital transactions, in addition to the business-as-usual attitude of consumers in using cash over digital transactions.

Drawbacks of cashless transaction:

  • Trauma of debt: Higher spending through cashless transactions had a powerful link to debt-making, a survey showed. 95% respondents claimed to know someone who was in debt picked up through the usage of credit cards, and 32% admitted to facing the trauma of debt themselves.
  • A large number of them mentioned having taken the desperate measure of applying for a second credit card just to pay off the debt on the first one.
  • Digital fraud: The increase in electronic transactions increased the vulnerability to fraud. Crimes like credit card cloning, misuse of debit cards through impersonation, and site-cloning saw a steady increase.
  • Despite the steps taken by the RBI and banks to secure transactions, close to 94% said they believed that the security measures were not adequate.

Towards cashless economy:

  • To bring a substantial progress towards cashless economy, the first policy instrument control is that moderately high value non-recurrent transactions (say more than Rs 10,000) should be through cashless transactions.
  • The second policy instrument of incentives is that the smaller cashless transactions that is recurrent and generally of lower value may be given small time-bound incentive, in addition to bearing the cost of switching charges.
  • Both these instruments are aimed at removing cash in transactions that would bring much larger benefits to the economy.
  • This benefit also includes the reduction in the cost of printing and replacing currencies and coins. It was estimated that the cost of replacing old currency and printing new currency between 2016-17 and 2021-22 would cost about Rs 86,084 crore.
  • Once cashless transactions pick up and reach a substantial level, the incentives may be reduced or stopped.
  • The focus should shift towards encouraging cashless transactions with the framework of command and control and incentives on a war footing.
[Ref: Business standard]


GS (M) Paper-2: “Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.”


A change called NeHA



  • Decades after the ways in which we search, navigate, buy, communicate and entertain ourselves have radically changed, health-services in India remain largely unaffected by the power of the internet.
  • We archive doctor’s prescriptions, labs and X-ray results the same way we did decades ago. Polythene bags with scraps of paper, EKG strips, and scans are carefully stored in our homes and diligently carried from one doctor to the next, from one hospital to the other and this is the best-case scenario.
  • To date, the vast majority of Indians has no organised medical records, whether paper or electronic.

National e-Health Authority (NeHA)

The Government of India is now scheduled to launch the National e-Health Authority (NeHA).

  • A regulatory body, tasked with overseeing the digitisation of health information, NeHA holds great promise.
  • Our location, phone book, camera, voice, fingerprints, and even our habits and movements are all being tracked.
  • This is facilitated through so-called application programming interfaces or APIs that allow sets of databases or software to communicate with each other.


  • Healthcare APIs would allow the doctor’s iPad to talk to the chemist’s cash register, and lab tests to communicate with the hospital’s database.
  • With selected access to healthcare data, thousands of apps could be developed for patients, doctors, researchers, and policy makers
  • An app to remind mothers to vaccinate their children, push notifications to remind you to take your medication, or
  • An alert that you are traveling to an epidemic belt.
  • Scientists could search through hundreds of millions of records to find cures and validate current practices,
  • Policymakers would be able to conduct disease surveillance and formulate public health interventions, clinicians and patients would have timely access to their records.


This seemingly utopian health information ecosystem is not without rather obvious challenges

  • The poor uptake of electronic records by doctors in India
  • The lack of inter-operability between systems and devices, and
  • The legitimate concern for privacy, security and
  • Safety of medical data are all formidable barriers.

Any health information architecture proposed by NeHA must therefore hardwire technical or legal solutions to these challenges.


  • First, to get doctors to adopt electronic medical records (EMRs), any proposed systems must be easy to use and affordable.
  • Careful attention must be paid to human-centered design and data minimisation (collecting only the data you need).
  • The very lack of entrenched legacy EMRs in India provides a unique greenfield to mandate an API-based ecosystem incorporating inter-operability and standardisation at inception.
  • But the easier the data flow between entities, the greater the potential for abuse. Inter-operability will need more than law and mandates.
  • Substantial intellectual rigour must be devoted to building safeguards to protect the most vulnerable — the patients.
  • The new law accompanying NeHA is expected to explicitly rest data ownership with the patients.

Way ahead:

  • Even with all the protective laws in place, such a system will take considerable time to populate. It needs to be seeded with large-scale initiatives to reach critical mass.
  • Large private hospital systems are well positioned to open up their digital platforms to API-based solutions.
  • Government schemes like the proposed National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) have the power to reach tens of millions.
  • Hardwiring an API-based architecture into the NHPS could tip the balance in favour of widespread adoption of health information systems. A common patient identifier would also be central to this architecture.
  • Whether the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) becomes the de facto identifier, or whether it serves as part of a two-step verification process, Aadhar deserves serious attention given its near-ubiquity.
  • NeHA and regulatory laws that define India’s health information landscape will have deep, long-lasting ramifications on healthcare delivery.
  • Giving primacy to the needs of patients and clinicians; adopting human-centered design; abandoning traditional institution-based EMRs in favour of an API-based eco-system; and passing privacy laws in sync with these new technologies, can usher in an era of unprecedented growth in the scope, quality and safety of Indian healthcare.
  • The necessary ingredients are all present: A digital health greenfield, robust telecom infrastructure, unique ID authentication, and a large talented pool of IT professionals. Utilising them may allow India to shape healthcare delivery globally.
[Ref: Indian Express]


GS (M) Paper-2: “Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources, issues relating to poverty and hunger.”


The decline of India’s universities is an attack on the young and nation


Problems faced by universities:

  • Many universities are performing poorly and do not have adequate opportunities to do research.
  • Those that are better in research and performance face delegitimisation for being ‘different’.
  • Governments invest very little in continuous upgradation of universities.
  • Governments use public universities for political and personal patronage. The posts available in various universities are filled with those who are close to the ruling dispensation. This has often led to a choice of candidate who has a patron as opposed to the one who has better teaching abilities.
  • Public universities are often held hostage by the bureaucracy in the form of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and other bodies.

Non-implementation of recommendations made by experts:

  • The Committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education (Yashpal Committee) made some good suggestions such as giving more autonomy to teachers and students, increasing funding, bringing state and central universities on a par with creative measures, bringing liberal arts into technology institutes and assisting more research in universities.
  • It also recommended that the UGC be replaced by a national higher education authority, since it was felt that it was beyond reform.
  • The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) suggested an independent regulatory authority for higher education which would ensure the autonomy and freedom for knowledge creation and dissemination and avoid conflict of interest.

Political activism and quality of universities:

  • The Supreme Court set up the controversial Lyngdoh Commission to curb student activism and elections in campuses. The belief that the rot in universities comes from student politics is mistaken.
  • Student activism is part of the national political activism as long as it is balanced with academics.
  • Leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, AB Vajpayee, SitaramYechury and ArunJaitley — to name a few — were honed by student activism.

Threat from neo-liberal ideas:

  • Now the most major assault on universities comes from a set of ideas — termed neo-liberal — that propose: Cuts in social and public spending on education; outsourcing research to non-teaching research institutes and think tanks while the universities’ focus is put on teaching.

Anti-nationalism and Indian universities:

  • Indian universities face an attempt at homogenisation that includes injecting ‘neo-nationalism’ into syllabi, as if the former was anti-national.
  • There is also a prevailing false consciousness that assumes social sciences is subversive and thus we hear arguments like: “Make JNU into IIT”.
  • Funding support for technology and not science, skills and management courses is a ploy to depoliticise, control critical thinking and dissent.
  • If this view prevails it will undo academia as a whole.

Suggestions to improve Indian universities:

  • Universities should be made accountable to the public. This accountability has to start from vice-chancellors, directors, principals of colleges and education bureaucrats to each layer of the academic system.
  • Universities must have autonomy with social responsibility.
  • They must expand to include the marginalised in terms of gender, caste and communities.
  • They need funding and support.
  • The VCs and principals should be agents of the university/college and not of the political regime.
  • There should be no externally dictated agendas on university functioning.
  • Higher education needs to be expanded, the Knowledge Commission had recommended a 100 new universities.
  • The private universities must come under public scrutiny with regard to standards.
  • Old reports on education should be looked at and the best suggestions should form a consensus by the political class and public as a whole and be implemented.


  • The decline of universities is an attack on the young people and the nation. There is a need to revitalise Indian universities.
  • Reconstructing the university to suit a particular brand of politics is a rejection of the centuries-old accumulated wisdom and plural heritages.
  • The rethinking on universities must be a collective responsibility.
[Ref: Hindustan Times]


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