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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 6 July 2020


NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


 

Topic : Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies. Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

1. Regardless of substantial progress in reducing Infant Mortality rate (IMR) in India, the set goals seem difficult to achieve. Discuss the contributing factors for the high IMR in India and suggest corrective measures.  (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu 

Why the question:

The article of The Hindu talks about The infant mortality rate (IMR) in Madhya Pradesh, recording the country’s worst rate for years now, surged by a single point over the previous year to 48 in 2018, stymying an improving annual trend for at least six years, according to the Office of the Registrar General India.

Key Demand of the question:

Explain the contributing factors that have led to high IMR and discuss measures to address the same.

Directive:

Discuss – This is an all-encompassing directive – you have to debate on paper by going through the details of the issues concerned by examining each one of them. You have to give reasons for both for and against arguments.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly discuss what you understand by IMR and present some key data defining the nuances of the question context.

Body:

Infant mortality rate (IMR) is the number of deaths per 1,000 live births of children under one year of age. The rate for a given region is the number of children dying under one year of age, divided by the number of live births during the year, multiplied by 1,000.

India’s average IMR has dropped by one point to 32. The country’s average stands at 36 deaths for rural and 23 for urban areas.

Discuss the contributing factors for such a high IMR despite range of efforts taken by the government in this direction.

Early neo-natal deaths, premature deliveries, birth associated infections, high levels of malnutrition etc.

Suggest measures to address such an alarming issue.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction:

Infant Mortality refers to the death of young children under the age of 1 year. This death toll is measured by the infant mortality rate (IMR), which is the number of deaths of children under one year of age per 1000 live births.

India is one of the fastest economies in the world, its achievements in space technology surprised the world but when it is still one of the countries where new-borns die every day. In 2017, UNICEF estimated 8,02,000 babies had died in India.

Body:

IMR situation in India:

  • According to the Office of the Registrar General India, the country’s average infant mortality rate (IMR) in 2019 stands at 36 deaths for rural and 23 for urban areas. The country’s average rate has dropped single-point to 32 from 33 (2018).
  • The IMR for boys in the State stood at 51, while for girls it was 46 in 2018, according to the Sample Registration System bulletin issued by the office.
  • The IMR in Madhya Pradesh, recording the country’s worst rate for years now, surged by a single point over the previous year to 48 in 2018, stymying an improving annual trend for at least six years.
  • In rural Madhya Pradesh, 52 children below one died per 1,000 live births (Infant mortality rate) and 36 in urban area.
  • Assam pulled down the next highest rate of 44 a year before to 41 (2018).
  • Odisha by one count to 40 and Kerala by three points to seven, the lowest among the bigger States.
  • Even the but the rate climbed to 43 in Uttar Pradesh, making it the second highest.

Factors contributing to the prevalence of high IMR in India:

  • Abysmal Doctor to Patient Ratio:
    • There is problem of understaffing in India. As recommended against 4 beds there must be 1 nurse in the Infant Care Unit, in JK Lon hospital the ratio was 1 nurse per 13 beds.
  • Availability of Life-saving Equipments:
    • We have low availability of life-saving equipment like ventilators, life support systems, radiant warmers, blood-pressure monitoring systems, etc. in major hospitals and primary/community/district health centres,
    • For instance, In JK Lon hospital in Rajasthan, out of around 520 life-saving equipment meant for neonatal critical care, almost 60% (320) were dysfunctional.
  • Age of the mother:
    • At the time of birth, age of mother plays an important role. For example, there exists an inverse relationship between the age of mothers and the incidence of anaemia in children. There are evidences related to the fact that the children of younger mothers are more anaemic.
  • Premature birth due to birth spacing:
    • A major concern is birth spacing as in most cases two children were born within one-one and a half years against the advised gap of around three years. This may result in premature deliveries of low birth weight babies.
    • Premature births counts for over 80% of newborn deaths.
  • Lack of institutional delivery leads to complications:
    • According to the National Family Health Survey-4, only 78.9% births in India happen in a facility.
    • This means 21.1% or about 54 lakh births in a year still happen outside of a facility where hygiene levels can be low, sometimes without the help of a trained health worker.
    • Apart from the obvious infection risks in a non-institutional birth, vaccine compliance too is usually worse in these cases.
  • Lack of immunization:
    • According to the Health Ministry, the vaccination cover in India after several rounds of Intensified Mission Indradhanush (MI) and the original MI, now stands at 87%. This means over 33 lakh children continue to miss out on some or all vaccinations every year.
  • Shortage of properly trained health workers and midwives:
    • Also the large reproductive population of 2.6 crore remains bereft of care during the critical phases of pregnancy
    • The absence of steps to propagate basic healthy practices relating to breast feeding and immunisation.
  • Poor female literacy:
    • Female literacy rates are less leading to less awareness regarding nutrition needed.
    • According to a UNICEF factsheet on child mortality in India, “… Children born to mothers with at least 8 years of schooling have 32% lesser chances of dying in neonatal period and 52% lesser chances in the post-neonatal period, as compared to the illiterate mothers.”
    • It also notes that infant and under-five mortality rates are highest among mothers under age 20. The rates are lowest among children born to mothers between the ages of 20-24, remain low up to 25-34, and increase again after that age.
  • Prevalence of Socio-economic ills:
    • Prevalence of child marriages, caste system, social aparthied, anaemia among young women and a lack of focus on adolescent sanitation, all of which impact child death rates.
    • Babies born to the poorest families are 40 per cent more likely to die than those who are born to the least poor
  • Poor sexual health practices:
    • With the substantial unmet need of contraception nearly a quarter of married adolescents (15–19 years) and low contraception use by them in general, girls in this age band are at a high risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, HIV and unintended and unplanned pregnancies. All these impact the mortality rate.
  • India’s Per capita spending on health:
    • Per capita spending on health in the Budget in India is Rs.458 (Rs.61,398 crore/ 134 crore, which is the population).
    • The USA spends $10,224 per capita on healthcare per year (2017 data).
    • A comparison between two large democracies is telling the U.S.’s health expenditure is 18% of GDP, while India’s is still under 1.2%.

Measures needed:

  • Implementation of the schemes:
    • Paying attention to the mother’s health during pregnancy and ensuring she delivers in a hospital attended by trained doctors or midwives. India has programmes such as the Janani Suraksha Yojana for this, but must expand its reach in laggard States like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
    • It is also equally important to forge interlinkages and package different interventions at various levels like linking child survival to reproductive health, family planning, and maternal health
    • In addition to focusing attention to addressing disparities within States and among regions, there is an urgent need to bring health and child services under universal health coverage with a focus on special requirements of vulnerable and marginalised groups.
    • Universalisation of maternal health and child services, which includes special newborn care, skilled delivery, immunisation and management of diarrhoea, need to be effectively implemented if India is to achieve the high goals of reducing child deaths.
  • Healthy practices: More than 80 per cent of newborn deaths can be saved with:
    • Provide clean water, disinfectants
    • Breastfeeding within the first hour
    • Good nutrition
  • Infrastructure & Systemic Changes:
    • The system of care is available from the sight of delivery of child up to the first referral unit for which infrastructure is limited. This needs to be increased in both quantity and quality.
    • To lower neonatal deaths, India needs to strengthen mother and newborn health services, including home-based care by health workers, promoting breastfeeding, treating underweight babies, keeping the mother healthy, preventing early marriage and reducing malnutrition in adolescent girls.
    • Special newborn care units (SNCUs) have been established at district hospitals and sub-district hospitals with an annual delivery load more than 3,000 to provide care for sick newborns: that is, all type of neonatal care except assisted ventilation and major surgeries.
    • For instance, as in Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh) case, after the incident took place, the required system was built up to cater the needs of the people. Similarly, most of the babies in Kota died due to suffocation at birth; low birth-weight and infections were the other significant causes of death. These were highly-preventable reasons.
    • Also, systemic gaps like referring and transporting critically ill-child, safely to the nearest AIIMS, need to be timely plugged.
  • Political Will:
    • The availability of funds (from Centre) as well as its judicious use by the States is vital in effective implementation of the framed policies and overhauling of the required health infrastructure so as to prevent similar cases in the future. For this, not only resource availability, but the political will holds equal significance.
  • Integrated Approach:
    • Concerned ministries can collaborate with each other to ensure better coordination, convergence and holistic integration of different schemes, as done in POSHAN Abhiyan.
    • Pooling of funds from existing government schemes can address the associated challenges. For instance, funds allocated under Ayushman Bharat can be utilized in resolving the problem of infant death.
  • Research & Role of Apex Body:
    • To address the problem of unidentified causes, scientists, expert bodies, apex bodies like Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) need to work in tandem to identify the actual causes behind any outbreak in order to contain it.
    • Like the Gorakhpur case was timely resolved because the scientists there pinned down the AES prevalence to Japanese Encephalitis (JE) Virus which led to the consequent development of JE vaccine (which is covered under Mission Indradhanush) so as to inhibit its prevalence.
  • Private Player Participation:
    • The involvement of private players is not an urgent requirement but there sincere engagement and complementing role to the state can ease down the burden of the government. The role of the state in delivering health to its people cannot be overemphasised.

Conclusion:

The Central and State governments have introduced several innovations in the healthcare sector in recent times, in line with India’s relentless pursuit of reforms. Since a major innovation in universal healthcare, Ayushman Bharat, is being rolled out, it must be matched with a quantum leap in funding. Only if we invest more for the long-term health of the nation will there be a similar rise in GDP. To reach its target, the government should increase funding for health by 20-25% every year for the next five years or more.

 

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.

2. Critically analyse the violation of the non-discrimination clause of the disaster law with respect to Prison Under trials in India in the current scenario of COVID-19 Pandemic. (250 words)

Reference: Indian Express 

Why the question:

The article brings to us the dismal condition of prisons and a special case of the sufferings of the under trials in the Indian prisons.

Key Demand of the question:

One must present a critical analysis of the violation of the non-discrimination clause of the disaster law with respect to Prison Under trials in India in the current scenario of COVID-19 Pandemic.

Directive:

Critically analyze – When asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary. When ‘critically’ is suffixed or prefixed to a directive, one needs to look at the good and bad of the topic and give a fair judgment.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly define the context of the question.

Body:

Explain how the conditions of prisoners amidst the tough covid-19 situation are worsening.

Discuss the dimensions of Disaster management act that deal with provisions related.

 Explain how in violation of the non-discrimination clause of the disaster law, many under trials are constructed as “undeserving” and condemned to inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment.

Suggest what needs to be done to address such a situation.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction:

Undertrials account for nearly 70 per cent of India’s prison population. States including Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi have recorded Covid-19 cases in their prisons. However, several ailing or elderly undertrials are denied bail due to the gravity of their offence, as the contagion reportedly sweeps through several prisons.

Body:

Challenges faced by prisoners in times of pandemic:

  • Overcrowding:
    • Before the lockdown, the state’s jails were accommodating 50% over their capacity.
    • This is much higher than the national average occupancy in central prisons, which on an average house 13 prisoners against a capacity of 10.
    • The Maharashtra Prison Department’s report said the capacity in state jails is 23,547 while there were 35,239 prisoners before the lockdown. It warned against an outbreak in other prisons if they are not decongested.
    • A total of 1,341 prisons were functional in India as on 30th November, 2018. The total population of prisoners in India was 4.68 lakh against total sanctioned strength of 3.83 lakh.
  • Poor infrastructure:
    • These cramped and crowded jails — mostly British-era central prisons in Maharashtra — are a ticking time bomb for the spread of infectious diseases.
    • The barracks are very crowded, so are spaces of eating and cleaning.
  • Highest number of undertrials:
    • India’s under-trial population remains among the highest in the world and more than half of all undertrials were detained for less than six months in 2016.
  • Shortage of Prison Staff
    • The Prison Department has a perennial average vacancy of 30%-40%. This hinders implementation of Model Prison Manual and various jail reforms.
    • Physical production of an accused for a trial in a court remains far below the aspired 100% in several States, mainly because of unavailability of sufficient police guards for escort and transportation.
  • Unhygienic Food
    • The preparation of food in kitchens is “primitive and arduous”. The kitchens are congested and unhygienic and the diet has remained unchanged for years now.

The Supreme Court, with consideration of above challenges, ordered all states and Union Territories to set up high-level panels which would consider releasing all convicts who have been jailed for up to seven years on parole to decongest jails in an attempt to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. The bench suggested that undertrials awaiting trial for offences entailing maximum sentence of seven years also be extended a similar benefit. The undertrial review committee must meet every week, it said.

High Power Committees (HPC) were created in each state interpreted the SC’s orders as a direction for creating a classification on the basis of offence and sentence. These HPCs have not adopted a prisoner-centric approach even towards terminally ill, pregnant and lactating women, foreigners, the elderly or disabled, or the undertrials who are in prison for years. In Delhi, all foreigners, who are largely South Asians and Blacks, are excluded from the HPC’s classification as deserving of interim bail, irrespective of offence or sentence, even though Article 21 protects all persons. Nor are women treated as a class.

Recent incidents of an undertrial pregnant women who was coerced to undergo a premature delivery in the prison, and her baby died of injury from an unassisted delivery. This inhuman and cruel treatment has not been accounted for in our legal history.

Non-discrimination law of Disaster Management Act, 2005 (DMA) and undertrials:

  • Section 61 of DMA is operative and it says, “while providing compensation and relief to the victims of disaster, there shall be no discrimination on the ground of sex, caste, community, descent or religion”.
  • Prisons are “affected areas”, and relief and compensation to prisoners is a statutory obligation.
  • The HPC classification needs urgent review to ensure there is no discrimination as per the DMA.
  • Women, children, senior citizens, gender and sexual minorities, Dalits, religious minorities and the disabled must be treated as custodial minorities.
  • Strangely, the government’s COVID policy that specifically identifies senior citizens, the co-morbid, pregnant, lactating women as high-risk populations is silent on prison inmates.
  • In violation of the non-discrimination clause of the disaster law, many undertrials are constructed as “undeserving” and condemned to inhuman, cruel and degrading treatment.

Way forward:

  • The Supreme Court appointed Justice Amitava Roy (retd.) Committee has given recommendations to reform prisons.
  • The Court appointed the Committee in 2018 to examine the various problems plaguing prisons, from overcrowding to lack of legal advice to convicts to issues of remission and parole.
  • Speedy trial: Speedy trial remains one of the best ways to remedy the unwarranted phenomenon of overcrowding.
  • Lawyer to prisoner ratio: There should be at least one lawyer for every 30 prisoners, which is not the case at present.
  • Special courts: Special fast-track courts should be set up to deal exclusively with petty offences which have been pending for more than five years. Further, accused persons who are charged with petty offences and those granted bail, but who are unable to arrange surety should be released on a Personal Recognizance (PR) Bond.
  • Unified prison management system: There should be a unified prison management system that has records of all inmates so they don’t have to run from pillar to post for copies of documents like court orders. The project has been recommended by NALSA as well. Also, this project has worked well in Delhi’s Tihar jail.
  • Avoid adjournment: An adjournment should not be granted in cases where witnesses are present and the concept of plea bargaining, in which accused admits guilt for a lesser sentence, should be promoted.
  • Accommodative Transition: Every new prisoner should be allowed a free phone call a day to his family members to see him through his first week in jail.
  • Legal aid: Providing effective legal aid to prisoners and taking steps to provide vocational skills and education to prisoners.
  • Use of ICT: Use of video-conferencing for trial.
  • Alternatives: The courts may be asked to use their “discretionary powers” and award sentences like “fine and admonition” if possible instead of sending the offenders to jails.
  • Post-release financial security for prisoners: Wages that are paid to prisoners who are serving sentences should be increased and should be on par with global benchmarks. So that when they come out, they have some better finances.
  • Skill development of the prisoners: The major role prisons should play is of reformation and making sure that, once out, inmates are properly integrated into society. That is possible when more skill development programs are introduced in the jails to enhance their chances of earning.

Conclusion:

India is the champion of human rights causes all across the world, but the dismal condition of Indian prison reflects the paradox that exists in the Indian criminal justice system. So prison reforms need to see the light of the day, but it must be accompanied by the judicial system reforms and police reforms, as trio forms the pillars of the criminal justice system.

 

Topic : Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures. Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology.

3. “The COVID-19 crisis has brought out the nation’s strengths, resilience and innovative spirit nowhere more evident than in education”, Comment. (250 words)

Reference: indian express 

Why the question:

The author explains in what way Covid crisis has showcased the resilience and innovation of the education system.

Key Demand of the question:

Directive:

Comment– here we have to express our knowledge and understanding of the issue and form an overall opinion thereupon.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Explain the effect of pandemic, it leading to lockdown and effects thereafter.

Body:

Discuss the general impact of COVID-19 on the education system of the country.

Explain that the focus on the girl child’s education, modernisation of the educational infrastructure, and improvements in the field of teacher training are some of the notable measures of the government in the realm of education.

Discuss the policies and initiatives of the government in this direction.

Conclusion:

Conclude with a positive note that the COVID has exposed our education system to newer reaches and have aided us to innovate the current system in a more progressive way.

Introduction:

The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered educational institutions across the globe. Closure of schools, colleges and universities, shutdown of routine life of students and teachers, disruptions in education and the education ministry remaining incommunicado, have created an unprecedented situation and thrown many unexpected challenges to administrators, educators, teachers, parents and students.

Body:

Impacts on education due to COVID-19 pandemic:

  • school and university closures will not only have a short-term impact on the continuity of learning for more than 285 million young learners in India but also engender far-reaching economic and societal consequences.
  • The pandemic has significantly disrupted the higher education sector as well, which is a critical determinant of a country’s economic future.
  • A large number of Indian students—second only to China—enroll in universities abroad, especially in countries worst affected by the pandemic, the US, UK, Australia and China.
  • Many such students have now been barred from leaving these countries. If the situation persists, in the long run, a decline in the demand for international higher education is expected.
  • The bigger concern, however, on everybody’s mind is the effect of the disease on the employment rate. Recent graduates in India are fearing withdrawal of job offers from corporates because of the current situation.
  • The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s estimates on unemployment shot up from 8.4% in mid-March to 23% in early April and the urban unemployment rate to 30.9%.

Measures taken for education earlier:

  • The Government has laid much emphasis on education, especially school education.
  • Schemes to construct more than 400 new Ekalavya Model Residential Schools for tribal children by 2022 are a case in point.
  • Make in India, Digital India, Skill India and the Aatmanirbhar Bharat project are other endeavours to make the country self-reliant.
  • With the strong foundation in education laid over the last few years, the nation has been able to cope with the challenges and even turn some problems into advantages.
  • The focus on the girl child’s education, modernisation of the educational infrastructure, and improvements in the field of teacher training are some of the notable measures of the government in the realm of education.

Steps taken by Government during the pandemic for sustainable flow of education:

The approach to education during the pandemic has relied on short-term and strategic initiatives.

  • Portals and Apps:
    • The government has initiated the YUKTI web portal, the Aarogya Setu app has been made available for free and the National Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Mission aims to boost literacy.
    • The National Curriculum and Pedagogical Framework and the Bharat Padhe online campaign are bringing knowledge to the grass roots.
    • The previous experience and administrative skills helped the HRD ministry turn a potential disaster into a productive time for 3.3 million students, and others.
    • The Prime Minister’s e-Vidya scheme synergises and strengthens several distance-education projects — digital, online, and mass media.
    • Benefitting 25-crore school children, it focuses on developing permanent assets for quality education for generations to come.
    • A dedicated channel for every class will ensure easy, customised lessons and study material. Importantly, it focuses on equity in education.
    • This endeavour also individualises the teaching-learning experience to a considerable extent.
  • Divyang students:
    • This scheme provides bespoke materials under the Digitally Accessible Information System (DAISY). Webinars, podcasts, and online classes enrich the learning experience.
    • It can be said with some confidence that the losses caused by the pandemic have been minimised, if not eliminated completely, at least as far as the education sector is concerned.
  • Mental Health:
    • In line with its comprehensive approach, the government has tried to address the equally important issue of psychological health with Manodarpan, a programme that covers both parents and students at a time when unprecedented challenges and stress have raised mental health issues.
    • Continuously monitored, running along clear guidelines developed by experts, and available round the clock, Manodarpan is a true welfare measure of a government that is responsive to its people.
  • University Social Responsibility (USR):
    • Under this scheme, free online open educational resources in English, Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Russian, and Spanish have been developed for those interested in learning the basics of these languages.
    • EnglishPro, a free mobile app, is ready for launch to help those around the SSC/Class X level in improving their English pronunciation in the Bharatiya way.
    • Stepping beyond academics, the English and Foreign Languages University created the University Social Responsibility Endowment Fund.
  • Online examinations:
    • EFLU is perhaps the first Central University to have completed end-semester examinations online and to have declared their results as well.

However, there are challenges too:

  • India is far behind some developing countries where digital education is getting increased attention.
  • In countries where e-learning is popular, students have access to various online resources such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which help students, teachers and professionals upgrade their skills.
  • The major challenge in EDTech reforms at the national level is the seamless integration of technology in the present Indian education system, which is the most diverse and largest in the world with more than 15 lakh schools and 50,000 higher education institutions.
  • Further, it is also important to establish quality assurance mechanisms and quality benchmark for online learning developed and offered by India HEIs as well as e-learning platforms (growing rapidly).
  • Many e-learning players offer multiple courses on the same subjects with different levels of certifications, methodology and assessment parameters. So, the quality of courses may differ across different e-learning platforms.
  • Democratization of technology is now an important issue, comprising internet connectivity, telecom infrastructure, affordability of online system, availability of laptop/desktop, software, educational tools, online assessment tools, etc.
  • Since our education system has not trained our teachers and students to think creatively and manage in a crisis situation, and has underplayed the importance of e-learning, they are unprepared for the transition from the classroom to online.
  • Parents feels too pressed, having to support their children’s classes while working from home themselves.
  • The physical classroom does not only impart the syllabus. Children are also socialised, and there is an element of sport and play which is absent in virtual learning.
  • The matrix for socialisation is not replicated on an LCD screen.
  • Poor are disconnected and irrespective of background, some children cannot relate to the online classroom, and many more are losing out on midday meals.

Measures needed:

  • There should be ease of digital access and the ability of parents to support learning at home.
  • Online classes offered as live teaching can be sustained only with a mix of activities, worksheets and interactive sessions.
  • Teachers should have a structured plan which does not suffocate or burden them and also keep the students involved.
  • All institutions will have to chalk out an infrastructure plan which can be used in such a crisis.
  • Teachers need to be considerate about how children feel or what they are going through these days so an understanding should be developed

Going forward, the use of technology in teaching or recruitment will lead to a new era wherein the best of faculty will be available from across the globe to students.  Education quality will be gauged not just by the quality of faculty but will also have quality of IT infrastructure and familiarization of the faculty will digital teaching technologies as important parameters.

Conclusion:

To summarize, education must continue. Students should keep learning. The lockdown period should be productive. Educators should think creatively and introduce innovative ways of learning. In a country where access to the Internet and high-speed connectivity is a problem, and the digital divide is an issue, it is important to address the challenges. Those who are involved in education planning and administration should give a serious thought to reducing the digital divide in the country and popularize digital learning.

 

4. Do you agree that it’s high time to reset rural job policies in India and recognise women’s Work? Elaborate. (250 words)

Reference: The Hindu 

Why the question:

The question is based on the dimension of Social Justice and issues related to vulnerable sections.

Key Demand of the question:

The article must explain the urgent need to reset rural job policies in India and special attention required to recognize the work of women.

Directive:

Elaborate – Give a detailed account as to how and why it occurred, or what is the particular context. You must be defining key terms where ever appropriate, and substantiate with relevant associated facts.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Explain the Situation of rural Women workers before COVID-19 briefly.

Body:

Discuss the role of women in rural India and explain why often their contributions are ignored or ill recognized.

Discuss the impact of lockdown on rural women. They became mostly jobless as the employment availability is limited.

Highlight the existing rural policies with respect t employment and explain what changes are expected and how and why it becomes important for us to recognise the role of women.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on women’s work, but as official statistics do not capture women’s work adequately and accurately, little attention has been paid to the consequences of the pandemic for women workers and to the design of specific policies and programmes to assist them. As India emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown, the labour market policy needs to reverse the pandemic’s gender-differentiated impact.

Body:

Impact of women labour force due to Pandemic:

  • A survey by the Azim Premji University, of 5,000 workers across 12 States — of whom 52% were women workers — found that women workers were worse off than men during the lockdown.
  • Among rural casual workers, for example, 71% of women lost their jobs after the lockdown; the figure was 59% for men.
  • Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) also suggest that job losses in April 2020, as compared to April 2019, were larger for rural women than men.
  • Agricultural and allied sectors:
    • A rapid rural survey conducted by Foundation for Agrarian Studies(FAS) showed that in large parts of the country where rain-fed agriculture is prevalent, there was no agricultural activity during the lean months of March to May.
    • In other harvest operations, such as for vegetables, there was a growing tendency to use more family labor and less hired labor on account of fears of COVID-19 infection.
    • During the COVID-19 lockdown, the demand for milk fell by at least 25% (as hotels and restaurants closed), and this was reflected in either lower quantities sold or in lower prices or both.
    • Also for women across the country, incomes from the sale of milk to dairy cooperatives shrank.
    • Among fishing communities, men could not go to sea, and women could not process or sell fish and fish products.
  • Non-agricultural sectors:
    • Non-agricultural jobs have suddenly come to halt as construction sites, brick kilns, petty stores and eateries, local factories and other enterprises shut down completely.
    • In the last few years, women have accounted for more than one-half of workers in public works, but no employment was available through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) till late in April 2020.
    • The first month of lockdown thus saw a total collapse of non-agricultural employment for women. In May 2020 there was a big increase in demand for NREGS employment.
  • Government scheme workers:
    • The government schemes have been a major source of women’s employment in the last few decades, especially in the health and education sectors, where women work as Anganwadi workers or mid-day meal cooks.
    • During the COVID-19, Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHAs, 90% of whom are women, have become frontline health workers, although they are not recognised as “workers” or paid a regular wage.

Challenges faced by women labour force in India:

  • Crisis of regular employment:
    • When women are not reported as workers, it is because of the lack of employment opportunities rather than it being on account of any “withdrawal” from the labour force.
    • This crisis of regular employment will have intensified during the pandemic and the lockdown.
  • Nonfulfillment of particular criteria required for women:
    • Younger and more educated women are often not seeking work because they aspire to skilled non-agricultural work, whereas older women are more willing to engage in manual labour.
  • Unequal pay:
    • Women’s wages are rarely equal to men’s wages, with a few exceptions. The gender pay gap was 34 per cent in India, that is, women get 34 per cent less compared to men for performing the same job with same qualifications.
    • The gap between female and male wages is highest for non-agricultural tasks — the new and growing source of employment.
  • Exceedingly long woman’s workday:
    • Counting all forms of work — economic activity and care work or work in cooking, cleaning, child care, elderly care — a woman’s workday is exceedingly long and full of drudgery.
    • In the FAS time-use survey, the total hours worked by women (in economic activity and care) ranged upto a maximum of 91 hours (or 13 hours a day) in the peak season.
    • No woman puts in less than a 60-hour work-week.
  • Safety Issues:
    • Concerns about safety and Harassment at work site, both explicit and implicit.
  • Social norms:
    • Social norms about household work are against women’s mobility and participation in paid work. Childbirth and taking care of elderly parents or in-laws account for the subsequent points where women drop off the employment pipeline.
    • The cultural baggage about women working outside the home is so strong that in most traditional Indian families, quitting work is a necessary precondition to the wedding itself.
    • When increases in family incomes are there, due to the cultural factors, women leave the work to take care of the family and avoid the stigma of working outside.

Way forward:

  • Non-farm job creation for women:
    • There is a need to generate education-based jobs in rural areas in the industrial and services sectors
    • The state governments should make policies for the participation of rural women in permanent salaried jobs.
    • The governments should also generate awareness to espouse a positive attitude towards women among the public since it is one of the most important impediments in women’s participation in economic activities.
    • Local bodies, with aid from state governments, should open more crèches in towns and cities so that women with children can step out and work. The crèches will open employment opportunities for women.
  • Recognition of the contribution of women:
    • As we emerge from the lockdown, it is very important to begin, first, by redrawing our picture of the rural labor market by including the contribution of women.
  • Generate women-specific employment with proper conditions:
    • The immediate or short-run provision of employment of women can be through an expansion of the NREGS.
    • On the other hand, a medium and long term plan needs to generate women-specific employment in skilled occupations and in businesses and new enterprises.
    • In the proposed expansion of health infrastructure in the country, women, who already play a significant role in health care at the grass-root level, must be recognized as workers and paid a fair wage.
    • In the expansion of rural infrastructure announced by the Indian government recently specific attention must be paid to safe and easy transport for women from their homes to workplaces.
  • Reduce the drudgery of care work:
    • As the lockdown is lifted, economic activity is growing but the young and old women still remain at home.
    • Further, as the COVID-19 infection spreads, given a higher likelihood of cases among men than women, the burden on women as earners and carers is likely to rise.
    • There is a need for immediate measures to reduce the drudgery of care work. For example, healthy meals for schoolchildren as well as the elderly and the sick can reduce the tasks of home cooking.
  • Skilling the women:
    • Initiatives such as Skill India, Make in India, and new gender-based quotas from corporate boards to the police force can spur a positive change. But we need to invest in skill training and job support.
    • The private sector could also take active part in training women entrepreneurs. For example: Unilever’s Shakti program, which has trained more than 70,000 rural women in India as micro-entrepreneurs to sell personal-care products as a way of making its brands available in rural India
  • Equal pay:
    • The principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value that is protected by Indian law must be put to actual practice. Improved wage-transparency and gender neutral job evaluation is required to achieve this end.

Conclusion:

With more than 75% women not contributing to the economy, the nation is not only losing on the economic part but also the development of 50% of our population. The numeric consequences of reducing obstacles to women’s full economic participation far exceed the demographic advantages of having a larger pool of young workers. It is thus high time to talk of the gender dividend along with the demographic dividend.

 

Topic: Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

5. Analyse the prospects and scope of Non-renewable electricity generation in the Indian Power Sector. Also discuss the associated constraints. (250 words)

Reference: pib.gov.in 

Why the question:

The Article talks about the boost to be given to power sector under ANBN Scheme.

Key Demand of the question:

The question is straightforward and is about discussing the prospects and scope of Non-renewable electricity generation in the Indian Power Sector and associated concerns.

Directive:

AnalyzeWhen asked to analyse, you have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Explain key facts related to Non-renewable electricity generation in the Indian Power Sector.

Body:

The question is pretty much straightforward and there isn’t much to deliberate.

Discuss the scope and prospects of Non-renewable electricity generation in the Indian Power Sector.

Suggest solutions and policy measures to be taken in this direction.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward while emphasizing on the importance of it.

Introduction:

India has made huge strides to ensure full access to electricity, bringing power to more than 700 million people since 2000. Non-renewable energy is the conventional fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas, which are likely to deplete with time.

Coal accounts for around 70% of the country’s power generation. India’s thermal coal imports, rose 12.6% to nearly 200 million tons in 2019, as per government data reviewed by Reuters showed, reflecting the second straight year of growth in shipments of the fuel.

This, combined with the growth of coal-consuming industrial sectors like steel, is why the solid fuel source will continue to be integral to India’s economy in the next couple of decades. This is despite the government’s ambitious plans to increase the generation of renewable energy to 175GW by 2022.

Body:

cumulative_power

Prospects and scope of Non-renewable electricity generation in the Indian Power Sector:

Coal Usage: Status

  • Coal still provides half of India’s commercial primary energy and is the dominant fuel for power generation.
  • India is the world’s second largest importer of thermal coal, and has the potential to be an ongoing source of demand growth.
  • Coal India has ambitions to raise domestic coal production to 1 billion tons by 2025–26.
  • India has huge coal reserves, at least 84,396 million tonnes of proven recoverable reserves (at the end of 2003). This amounts to almost 8.6% of the world reserves and it may last for about230 years at the current Reserve to Production (R/P) ratio. In contrast, the world’s proven coal reserves are expected to last only for 192 years at the current R/P ratio

Coal_1

Coal_2

Oil Supply:

  • Oil accounts for about 36 % of India’s total energy consumption. India today is one of the top ten oil-guzzling nations in the world.
  • The majority of India’s roughly 5.4 billion barrels in oil reserves are located in the Bombay High, upper Assam, Cambay, Krishna-Godavari.

Natural Gas Supply:

  • Natural gas accounts for about 8.9 per cent of energy consumption in the country.
  • The current demand for natural gas is about 96 million cubic metres per day (mcmd) as against availability of 67 mcmd.
  • Natural gas reserves are estimated at 660 billion cubic meters.

Challenges associated with Non-renewable energy sources:

  • High import costs:
    • Coal, oil and natural gas are the most important sources of primary energy in India. Inadequate domestic supplies of these hydrocarbons are forcing the country to increase its import bill. Rising fuel subsidies, rising CAD creates difficult conditions for economy.
    • India imports 80 percent of its oil needs and is the third largest oil consumer in the entire world. India’s energy consumption is expected to grow 4.5 percent every year for the next 25 years.
    • Recently due to high International Crude Oil Prices, Current Account Deficit (CAD) inflated because of higher cost of oil import, raising concerns about long term economic stability in India, highlighting importance of energy security. On account of rising CAD, Indian Rupee touched its lowest.
  • Policy Challenges:
    • Failure to attract international investment in domestic hydrocarbon exploration e.g. NELP failed to attract interest of large international energy corporations.
    • Major investments will have to be made to acquire hydrocarbon reserves abroad.
    • Coal mining in India suffers from delays due to regulatory and environmental clearances.
    • Indo-US nuclear helped fuel domestic power plants and give India access to critical technologies in strategic areas but deal did not lead to India setting up foreign-built reactors.
  • Infrastructure and skill related challenges:
    • Lack of skilled manpower and poorly developed infrastructure for developing conventional and unconventional energy is the need of hour.
    • India lacks transportation infrastructure for making energy accessible e.g. pipelines can be a useful way to boost the total supply of gas in the country. Gas will play a major role in Indian energy mix because it can be used effectively in several demand sectors.
  • Geo-strategic challenges:
    • India’s fragile energy security is under severe pressure from its rising dependence on imported oil, regulatory uncertainty, international monopolies and opaque natural gas pricing policies
    • India seeks to achieve its energy security through multiple partners e.g. Indo-USA nuclear deal, Oil import from Middle East etc. However, in recent times due to conflict among India’s energy partners e.g. USA and Iran; India had to reduce oil import from Iran.
    • In wake of its difficult geographic location in South-Asia, India faces strategic challenge to meet its energy needs.
    • China’s One Belt One Road initiative can give China definitive advantage if any conflict ensues between countries, by disturbing India’s access to energy. Failure to get onboard all interested parties in IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline and TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) gas pipeline for assured supply of natural gas.

However, non-renewable sources of energy is not the sustainable solution which India should focus on. India has committed to achieve 40 % of India’s power capacity to be based on non-fossil fuel sources, by 2030 under the nationally determined contributions.

Measures needed to switch to renewables:

  • Policy Measures
    • Government is facilitating developers by allowing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) of up to 100% through the automatic route.
    • Moreover, Inter State Transmission System (ISTS) charges and losses for inter-state sale of solar and wind power shall also be waived for renewable projects commissioned by December 2022.
    • The National Wind-Solar Hybrid Policy was issued in May 2018. The main objective of the policy is to provide a framework for promotion of large grid connected wind-solar PV hybrid system for optimal and efficient utilization of wind and solar resources, transmission infrastructure and land.
  • Solar energy
    • Programs such as PM-KUSUM, solar rooftop phase II, 12,000 MW CPSU scheme Phase II, have been introduced in the recent past to increase the share of solar energy usage.
    • Solar projects of aggregate capacity 4195 MW have been commissioned inside various solar parks. Total of 47 solar parks of aggregate capacity 26,694 MW has been approved in 21 States up to November, 2018.
  • Wind Energy
    • The country currently has the fourth highest wind installed capacity in the world with total installed capacity of 34.98 GW as on October, 2018 against a target of 60 GW by 2022.
    • Further, around 9.4 GW capacity is under implementation or have been tendered out.
    • The recent assessment conducted by National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) indicates a gross wind power potential of 302 GW in the country at 100 meter above ground level.
  • Small-Hydro power
    • A total capacity of 4.5 GW of grid connected small hydro power has been installed in the country as on October 2018 against a target of 5 GW small hydro power by 2022.
    • Further, 126 projects of capacity 0.73 GW are under various stages of implementation.
  • Off-grid Renewables
    • There is a need for implementing off grid and Decentralized renewables program for meeting energy demand for cooking, lighting, motive power, space heating, hot water generation among others.

Way forward:

  • Holistic approach:
    • India must stop looking energy sector from a disaggregated picture and encourages a siloed approach to energy governance.
    • A general equilibrium macro model is required that captures linkages (between fuel usage, electricity, mobility, industry, and agriculture, on the one hand, and, ecology on the other) and enables decision-makers to consider the systemic implications of changes in one or more of these variables.
  • Appropriate institutional structures of decision-making:
    • The current structure of multiple “energy” ministries (petroleum, coal, renewables, power, atomic) should be collapsed into one omnibus Ministry of Energy and Environment.
    • This will enable integrated decision making; it will also provide a platform for collaborative public-private and constructively “disruptive” innovation.
    • Besides, it will also bring sustainability to the fore of policy.
  • Legislation:
    • The government should use its newly derived mandate to legislate an “Energy and Environment Security” Act.
    • The purpose should be to engage the public in the larger debate on how to weaken if not break the current unhealthy nexus between economic growth, energy demand and environmental degradation.
    • It should be to elevate the objective of wreaking an energy “discontinuity” into a national priority.

Conclusion:

India’s energy policy currently focuses on bringing affordable electricity to all homes. India’s per-capita electricity consumption is only one-third of the world average, and millions of homes still lack an electricity connection. The environment is equally important while climate change mitigation is the primary concern. Despite growing coal consumption, India is on track to meet its Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement. India must speedup her efforts to shift towards renewable energy to meet her socio-economic goals in a sustainable manner.

 

Topic : Disaster and disaster management.

6. The northern states of the country like UP and Bihar and the NES being the most flood affected, require strong and healthy coordination at all levels for long term flood management. Do you agree? Elucidate. (250 words)

Reference: Live Mint 

Why the question:

Union Home Minister held a high level meeting to review preparedness of measures to deal with monsoon and flood situation in major flood prone river basins in the country.

Key Demand of the question:

Explain the need and importance of effective flood management strategy and planning for the northern and north-eastern states.

Directive:

Elucidate – Give a detailed account as to how and why it occurred, or what is the particular context. You must be defining key terms where ever appropriate, and substantiate with relevant associated facts.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Briefly highlight the need to review preparedness of the measures to flood control.

Body:

Start by stating that In the wake of upcoming monsoon, the major flood prone areas are vulnerable to sinking. Hence, the review and necessary arrangements would help.

Explain methods that need to be adopted.

Better coordination between agencies. Permanent system for forecasting of floods and

Rise in water levels in major catchment zones. Provision of permanent solutions to the

Perennial flood problems in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and North Eastern states.

Direction to Ministry of Jal Shakti and Central Water Commission (CWC) to review and assess data on real storage capacity of major dams etc.

Conclusion:

Conclude with way forward.

Introduction:

A total of 40-million-hectares area in India is prone to flood in which Ganga and Brahmaputra are main flood basins and Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are most flood-prone states, according to a Government of India report.

The Union Home Minister held a high-level meeting here on Friday to review preparedness with respect to dealing with flood situation in major flood-prone river basins in the country during the monsoon.

Body:

Factors causing floods:

Natural factors:

  • Topography:
    • The Ganga, Brahmaputra and its tributaries are trans-boundary rivers and among the mightiest rivers in Asia, is braided and unstable in most of its reach in North India except for a few places.
    • Topography of Ganga-Brahmaputra Basin region is one of the obvious reason behind North India and NES floods every year.
    • The vast amount of sediment comes from Tibet, where the river originates. That region is cold, arid and lacks plantation. Glaciers melt, soil erodes and all of it results in a highly sedimented river.
  • More than average rainfall:
    • India’s northern states have received above-average rainfall on account of sustained low-pressure conditions.
  • High Seismicity:
    • The earthquake-prone nature of the region, the river has not been able to acquire a stable character. Following the devastating earthquake of 1950, the level of the Brahmaputra rose by two metres in Dibrugarh area in eastern Assam.

Anthropogenic factors:

  • Uncontrolled urbanization:
    • Unregulated construction in Patna has been blamed for the situation the city has found itself in over the last few days.
    • The linear development which has been along major road networks, has completely ignored the varying and ecologically sensitive landscape.
    • Substantial portions of revenue lands in the State are wetlands and forests, which has resulted in a shortage of buildable land parcels.
    • This in turn is creating huge pressure on these ecologically fragile areas for conversion to government-supported infrastructure projects as well as private profit-making enterprises.
  • Poor planning:
    • The State Action Plans on Climate Change elucidate measures for disaster-risk reduction in the wake of an increasing frequency of heavy rainfall in turn leading to more flooding and landslides.
    • Though plans and laws such as Integrated Water Resources Management or Coastal Regulation Zone Notification hold key solutions to natural disasters that are linked to water management, most of them are not implemented or followed to the letter.
    • A lack of holistic and coordinated measures within planning departments has resulted in further problems
    • Roads, railway lines and housing colonies being laid and built without regard for natural water ways, but with formal planning permission.
  • Dilution of laws:
    • The need of the hour is for a review and revision of building bye-laws for urban and rural areas in accordance with bettering environmental sustainability.
  • Land use:
    • Injudicious use of land is responsible for making states more prone to floods and landslides.
    • However, other factors such as a change in land use patterns and climate change could have contributed to the situation on the ground.
  • Deforestation:
    • Unfettered development activity had increased the chances of landslides, a major cause of casualties during the floods.
  • Mismanagement of dams:
    • For dams to truly tame floods, experts say dam reservoirs need to be relatively empty before the onset of rain. This was not the case in many states.
    • Local officials have been blamed for exacerbating the situation by failing to gradually open the dams dotting the state’s complex river network, waiting instead until they were already full before unleashing the excess water.
    • More flooding was caused by emergency releases from dams that were full. Despite forecasts of more rain, there were no controlled releases.
    • World Bank analysis while preparing the National Hydrology Project (NHP) in 2015 showed that although weather forecasts are more accurate now, dam managers (especially bureaucrats) are reluctant to authorise advance controlled releases.
  • Climate change:
    • Climate change has had extreme impacts in India. Rise in average global temperatures have led to a worrying trend of no rain for long periods and then a sudden bout of excessive rainfall, causing extreme weather events, particularly floods.
    • Temperatures in the Himalayan region are projected to rise up to 2.6 degrees Celsius and also increase in intensity by 2-12 per cent by 2030s. This will result in increased flash floods events leading to large scale landslides and loss of agriculture area affecting food security.

Current Flood management programmes in India:

  • Flood Management Programme (FMP) during XII Plan for providing central assistance to States to the extent of Rs. 10,000 crore for taking up works related to river management, flood control, anti-erosion, drainage development, flood proofing works, restoration of damaged flood management works, anti-sea erosion and catchment area treatment.
  • Flood forecasting has been recognized as one of the most important, reliable and cost-effective non-structural measures for flood management. Recognizing the crucial role it can play, Central Water Commission, Ministry of Water Resources has set up a network of forecasting stations covering all important flood prone interstate rivers.
  • Flood Management and Border Areas Programme (FMBAP): The aim of the Scheme is to assist the State Governments to provide reasonable degree of protection against floods in critical areas by adopting optimum combination of structural and non-structural measures and enhancing capabilities of State/ Central Government officials in related fields.
  • Deploying relief and rescue operations like National Disaster Response Force, State Disaster Response Force and Seema Sashastra Bal to mitigate the disaster caused by floods.

Measures needed:

Structural measures:

  • Cleaning of drains and rivulets near the cities should be accorded top priority.
  • Construction of embankments, flood walls, ring bunds, flood control reservoirs should be scientifically carried on.
  • Construction of Embankments and Flood walls
  • River training and bank protection works
  • Anti-erosion and town protection works
  • Improvement of river channels and surface drainage and most importantly checking erosion of land on river banks are other measures that could help checking the spread of flood.
  • Raised Platform
  • Flood forecasting and warning
  • Flood zoning
  • Interlinking of rivers may be one option, whereby the excess water from the flood-prone eastern India can be diverted to the water-scarce regions. However, for that a thorough environmental impact assessment is needed.

Non-structural measures:

  • Jal Shakti ministry needs to boost water storage and attendant catchment area flood management works not just nationally but beyond the nation’s borders as well. Due to technological upgradation the meteorology experts have of late been predicting monsoon and other weather conditions with near perfection.
  • Efforts made by the Centre and the state governments to check deforestation should be intensified. The tree plantation drives at all levels are steps in the right direction.
  • Advance town planning and yearly preparations should be done to mitigate the effects of urban planning.
  • Flood control as a subject has no clear-cut legislative marking. As a subject it is not included in any of the legislative lists of the country that is the Union, the State or the Concurrent lists.
  • River-basin specific flood inundation modelling with climate change simulations is a necessary first step to understand the full impact of potential unprecedented flooding. This includes worst-case scenarios such as twice the maximum historical rainfall, as was recently done by a Department for International Development, U.K.-supported project for the Mahanadi in Chhattisgarh.
  • An “integrated basin management” system that should ideally bring in all the basin-sharing countries on board.
  • It is important to monitor the run-off and hydrological data in the upper catchment areas, particularly in Nepal and Tibet before the onset of the monsoon for which cooperation at the regional, national and international levels is required.
  • The local community to co-manage water resources with the government (by planning intermediate storage, drainage and emergency responses).
  • There must be massive awareness generation, to ensure that buildings are not extended into river floodplains, that road culverts let storm water through without hindrance, and that excess water is not blocked but allowed to saturate the soil strata so that it does not cause mudslides
  • Need to use the best-available information for decision-making. This means improved hydromet systems and weather forecasts, robust modelling of catchment water flows with simulations of different climate-related scenarios, international norms for safety factors and building codes.
  • Flood control can be made effective through an Integrated Dam Management System, which is totally computerised and automated, the only exception being lifting and lowering of shutters which has to be done manually.
  • Copenhagen in Denmark, which faces a similar problem of repeated flooding, has come up with active cloudburst responsive planning as a process to develop the city in line with climate change needs.

Conclusion:

A better coordination between agencies and to have a permanent system for forecasting of floods and rise in water levels in major catchment zones/areas of the country is need of the hour. A complete overhaul of processes to hire technical expertise which allows access to necessary skills, and with a long-term vision of capacity building of local agencies, is the way forward.

 

Topic : Probity in Governance: Concept of public service; Philosophical basis of governance and probity; Information sharing and transparency in government, Right to Information, Codes of Ethics, Codes of Conduct, Citizen’s Charters, Work culture, Quality of service delivery, Utilization of public funds, challenges of corruption.

7. While discussing the reasons for the lack of efficient utilization of public funds, explain how efficient utilization of public funds is fundamental to a sustainable society. (250 words)

 Reference: Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude by Lexicon Publications

Why the question:

The question is premised on the theme of efficient utilization of public funds and its importance.

Key Demand of the question:

Explain in detail the reasons for the lack of efficient utilization of public funds; also explain how efficient utilization of public funds is fundamental to a sustainable society.

Directive:

Explain – Clarify the topic by giving a detailed account as to how and why it occurred, or what is the particular context. You must be defining key terms where ever appropriate, and substantiate with relevant associated facts.

Structure of the answer:

Introduction:

Discuss first what you understand by efficient utilization of public funds.

Body:

Briefly explain how efficient utilization of public funds is fundamental to a sustainable society.

Discuss the various reasons like corruption, red tapism and policy paralysis etc. explaining their role in impeding efficient utilization of public funds.

Give a few suitable examples elaborating your arguments.

Suggest some measures to overcome these challenges.

Conclusion:

Conclude with importance of it.

Introduction:

‘Public money ought to be touched with the most scrupulous conscientiousness of honour. It is not the produce of riches only, but of the hard earnings of labour and poverty.’ – Thomas Paine. Public servants are the trustees of the hard earned public funds, therefore it becomes their moral and legal responsibility for their effective utilization. Efficient utilisation of public funds is necessary for judicious use of financial resources to satisfy the needs of the present society in such a way that it doesn’t compromise the capability of societies of future generations to meet their own needs.

Body:

Four principles underpin trust in the public finances:

  • Transparency −accurate records that show where money is raised and spent.
  • Assurance − figures and processes are checked by independent experts.
  • Accountability −decision makers are clearly identified and subject to strict rules and review of performance and outcomes.
  • Objectivity − policies are based on accurate information and rigorous analysis

Effective utilization of funds for welfare services is one of the key tenets to ensure social and economic justice and meet developmental goals. However, as our former Prime Minister had remarked, “only 15 paisa for every rupee spent on public welfare actually reaches to the masses”, thereby highlighting the gravity of ineffective utilization of funds in our country.

Reasons for the lack of efficient utilization of public funds:

Administrative reasons:

  • Policy paralysis: Delays, inaction and inability to take policy decisions by the government or its various departments and agencies is one the main causes of inefficiency in public fund utilisation.
  • Bureaucratic attitude: Sometimes despotic attitude and obstructionist attitude of officials especially in higher echelons of bureaucracy acts as hindrance in carrying out developmental activities.
  • Red tapism: Due to over regulation and practice of requiring excessive paperwork and tedious procedures before official action hinders implementation of schemes and projects, thereby it affects process of effective public fund utilisation
  • Lack of autonomy of public watchdogs: Bodies like CAG, CVC which are advisory and recommendatory in nature, lack powers to take decisions itself as it is treated as an advisory body only it has no power to register criminal cases against government officials. This weakens the capability to check accountability for irregularities in public finance.
  • Non-Implementation of citizen charters: Many public institutions have still not adopted a citizen charter, a tool of good governance to deliver public services to citizens as rights in a time bound manner. Non-adoption of citizen charter is an impediment to efficient public fund utilisation.

Political reasons:

  • Poor political will: Like recently due to inefficiency and underutilisation of funds, the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) has been suspended for two financial years.
  • Populist politics: Irrational distribution of freebies and signing off loans for electoral popularity puts pressure on budgetary balance.
  • Criminalization of politics: Increasing number of politicians with criminal background and their links with anti-social elements leads to misutilization of public funds.
  • Vendetta politics: Sometimes political class indulges in acts of vendetta which erodes the cooperation and collective efforts required for development. For example, delay in allocation of developmental funds to opposition MLAs/MPs by Government in power.
  • Frequent ill intended protests and bandhs by any political faction increase the incurred costs due to delay in the public works undertaken.

Social Reasons:

  • Illiteracy: Failure of the education system to inculcate the moral values of honesty and integrity firmly in its people.
  • Inequality: Social and economic equality in Indian society foment greed among people to amass as much resources as possible when they get an opportunity.
  • Poor public participation: With a high level of illiteracy and ignorance about government policies and schemes, many citizens, especially poor could not demand their rightful financial liabilities from the Government.
  • Social apathy towards corruption: In India many people accept corruption as a norm due to which even the people with ill-gotten money enjoy the same status as the honest rich. This is unlike some societies like that of Japan where instances of social boycott of the corrupted people have been observed.
  • These cases of corruption are seen even in utilisation of public money at community level such as in Panchayats.
  • Lack of Institutional social accounting: The process of communicating the social and environmental effects of actions and inactions of public authorities to particular interest groups within society like in the MNREGA scheme is not institutionalised.

Efficient utilization of public funds is fundamental to a sustainable society:

  • It is vital to uphold the ‘social contract’. Citizens must be confident that they are protected by the law and that public institutions and servants will act in accordance with it.
  • Public institutions with operational independence from political control are more likely to be trusted to act in the public interest.
  • A well informed population is far more likely to be confident about investing for the future. This means both providing appropriate information in ways that are accessible and easy to understand, and educating citizens as well as inviting them to participate in decision making.
  • Effective public financial management requires that decision makers, citizens and other stakeholders, are able to ‘follow the money’ to see how taxes were raised, why decisions to spend it were made, how the money was actually spent and what was bought.
  • Where government plans and activities are measured against expected outputs and outcomes, citizens and other stakeholders will be able to judge the performance of government. This in turn provides the basis for feedback and continuous improvement mechanisms.
  • For the public to believe that public officials will do the right thing, a range of controls to promote integrity and ethical behaviour and to tackle fraud and corruption are required.
  • Most importantly, the public must believe that individuals will be held responsible for their actions, no matter who they are.
  • A climate for investment is created when investors believe a state is stable, well run and that political and fiscal risks will be managed effectively.

Conclusion:

It is important for citizens to trust that the government will act in their interest, if they are to invest their own private resources and so create economic activity and employment. Efficient utilisation of public funds requires a number of reforms for good governance such as decentralisation of power, plugging legislative loopholes, strengthening the public Institutions like CVC and RTI, enhancing administrative accountability and making society more democratic. These reforms could make society more sustainable in the long run.


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