current-affairs-based-mains-drill-answers-8-march-2021

Q) India lacks specific legislation to address the problem of refugees, in spite of their increasing inflow. Discuss.

The UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee, 1951 defines refugee as A person who is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; fears persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.

The Constitution of India provides for single citizenship for the entire country. Since, international relations is a subject of the Union List, the laws relating to refugees are framed by the Union government. 

India’s Policy on Refugees 

  1. Non Refoulement- Though India is non signatory to the UN Refugee Convention, 1951, it follows the principle of non-refoulement whenever helpless asylum seekers have knocked on its doors.
  2. Internal Matter- India is a non signatory to The 1967 Protocol that requires the signatory nation to accord a minimum standard of hospitality and housing towards those it accepts as refugees and has always held that it is an internal matter for India. 
  3. The Foreigners Act, 1946 and the Registration of Foreigners Act, 1939 currently govern the entry and exit of all refugees, treating them as foreigners without due consideration of their special circumstances.
  4. Legal Provisions- India provides citizenship to many under special circumstances under some legal provisions like the NRC Assam, Citizenship Amendment Act, 1955 and 2019. 
  5. Role of judiciary- Refugees have been accorded constitutional protection by the judiciary in the National Human Rights Commission vs State of Arunachal Pradesh, 1996. The judiciary has also asserted that the fundamental rights of equality (Art 14) and life and personal liberty (Art 21) extend to the refugees too.

Concerns related to Indian Refugee Policy 

  1. India does not have a well defined asylum policy till now. 
  2. The Foreigners Act, 1946, fails to address the peculiar problems faced by refugees as a class.
  3. The Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 has often been criticised of excluding a certain community 
  4. Lack of a well defined law leads to certain human rights violations that globally deteriorate India’s image.
  5. It makes the task of tracking the total number of refugees difficult. 
  6. An ad hoc policy often leads to differential treatment of refugees on the basis of their nationalities. 

Way Forward 

  1. India must keep continuing work with other neighbouring countries to better manage the refugee influx and limit the strain on national resources.
  2. India can sign and ratify the global conventions on refugees. 
  3. A proper policy is needed to balance the necessity of ensuring human rights and the concerns regarding national security.
  4. Making sure the availability of basic supplies like food and water and basic facilities like shelter, education, medical care and means of living.

Above all, we need a system that enables the management of refugees with greater transparency and accountability, replacing one that offers arbitrary decision-making related to a vulnerable, victimised population. Though the national security interests remain at the forefront but as a rising power with global aspirations, and with a long tradition in dealing with refugees, India is duty-bound.

 

Q)  India and Bangladesh today enjoy what can be termed as one of the best periods of their relationship and deepening relationship  with  the country has  become  a  necessity  in  the  face  of  shifting  geo-economics. Discuss.

India and Bangladesh are completing 50 years of bilateral relations in the year 2021. India was one of the first countries to recognise Bangladesh and establish diplomatic relations immediately after its independence in December 1971. The Indian army fought side by side with the Bangladeshi freedom fighters in 1971 during the liberation war.

Significance of Bangladesh for India

  1. Enhancing connectivity - due to its strategic geopolitical location, Bangladesh acts as a gateway to South East Asia. It is a central component to various regional connectivity projects such as the Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal initiative. Bangladesh also plays a major role in the connectivity to the North eastern part of India.
  2. Trade partner - Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia and is an important destination for Indian exports.
  3. Security - India shares an extensive and porous border with Bangladesh. This has made the cool position between the two countries to shill for effective border management and tackling transnational crimes such as smuggling of arms narcotics fake Indian currencies and trafficking of women and children.
  4. Development of North eastern region- transit and transshipment to the North eastern region through Bangladesh helps increase the connectivity to the North eastern region and ensure peace, stability and economic development of the region. It has also helped in taming the insurgency problem in the North eastern states of India.

Irritants in India Bangladesh relations

  1. River water disputes- India and Bangladesh share about 54 transboundary rivers and Bangladesh lies downstream in the majority of these River streams. This has given rise to the concerns in Bangladesh over sharing of River waters interlinking of rivers on building of dams in India. For example the distal water River dispute.
  2. Trade imbalance- Bangladesh has often complained about the bilateral trade tilts towards India.
  3. China factor- in recent years The Chinese influence over Bangladesh has increased tremendously like enhancing the list of products for duty free access into its markets and providing massive loans for developmental projects.
  4. Issue in border management - loss of civilian lives at the border and smuggling of arms narcotics and fake currency has been a matter of concern.
  5. Citizenship Amendment Act 2019- the new citizenship law granting Indian citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from Bangladesh indirectly implied the poor treatment for religious minorities in Bangladesh and this brought negative publicity for Dhaka.

Way Forward 

  1. Both the countries can adopt a basin wide approach in formulating a new framework for the sharing of River waters.
  2. Allowing work permits to resolve the migration issue in a manner that does not adversely affect the society and economy of both countries.
  3. India should expect the implementation of projects including India Bangladesh friendship pipeline, Maitree Super Thermal Project, etc. to highlight the highest priority India attaches to Bangladesh under India’s Neighbourhood  First Policy.
  4. Addressing the issues of non tariff barriers and trade facilitation including port restrictions, procedural bottlenecks, etc. for reducing the trade imbalance.
  5. Effective implementation of the ongoing coordinated border management plan.

Bangladesh is an important component of India’s Neighbourhood First Policy, hence development of bilateral relations with the country remains a priority for India in the view of a safe and secure neighbourhood. 

 

Q) As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, a well-functioning personal health data infrastructure can play a key role in public health management. In this context, critically examine the National Digital Health Mission. 

On the occasion of the 74th Independence Day, the Prime Minister of India launched the National Digital Health Mission (NDHM). It is a complete digital health ecosystem. It is implemented by the National Health Authority under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The Mission is expected to bring efficiency and transparency in healthcare services in the country.

Key Features of the Mission 

  1. Under the mission, every Indian citizen will now have a unique health ID and digitised health records with identifiers for doctors and health facilities.
  2. The digital platform will be launched with four key features — health ID, personal health records, Digi Doctor and health facility registry. 
  3. It will later be extended to include e pharmacy and telemedicine services.
  4. The core building blocks of the mission viz. the health ID, Digi Doctor and Health Facility Registry are to be owned, operated and maintained by the Government of India.
  5. The private sector will also be given an opportunity to integrate in the mission and create their own products. However, the core activities and verification will be done by the government. 
  6.  The health ID card which will be issued to every Indian will contain all the records related to the health of the individual, including Prescriptions, treatment, diagnostic reports and discharge summaries.
  7. The citizens will be able to give their doctors and health providers one-time access to this data during visits to the hospital for consultation.
  8. The Health ID will be voluntary and applicable across states, hospitals, diagnostic laboratories and pharmacies.
  9. There will be a National Health ID that will store the medical data of every citizen. 
  10. Every Health ID will be linked to a health data consent manager that will be used to seek the patient’s consent to allow for seamless flow of health information from the Personal Health Records module.

How will the Mission affect the Health Sector in India 

  1. It will liberate the citizens from the challenges of finding the right doctors, seeking appointment, payment of consultation fee, making several rounds of hospitals for prescription sheets, etc. 
  2. It will empower people to make an informed decision to avail the best possible healthcare.
  3. It will be a step towards the achievement of Universal Health Coverage in India. 
  4. It will help improve the reach and efficiency of National Health Programmes like Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, immunization, etc.
  5. This will greatly facilitate tele-medicine, e-pharmacy, and collection, consolidation and interoperability of health data.

However, for the Mission to achieve its desired objectives certain challenges  need to be mitigated:

  1. The Challenges related to data security and privacy are immense especially when India does not have a specific legislation catering to the issue of data protection. 
  2. A similar law in the UK called the National Health Service failed and hence India needs to be careful and learn from the mistakes. 
  3. Minimizing the urban-rural as well as rich- poor digital divide so that the mission does not just be for the urban rich who are well equipped with technology. 
  4. Minimizing the existing infrastructural gaps in the healthcare sector like availability of doctors and other medical personnel. 

The National Digital Health Mission is a holistic, voluntary healthcare programme that will effectively reduce the existing gap between various stakeholders in the healthcare sector such as doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers, pharmacies, insurance companies, and citizens by bringing them together and connecting them in an integrated digital health infrastructure.

 

Q) Long due reforms with a view to strengthening, not just tinkering with, the steel-frame would call for bold decisions to be taken against some populist and established trends. In this context, critically evaluate the current condition of the Indian bureaucracy. Also give measures to reform it.

The bureaucracy in India is a crucial pillar of the Indian democratic state, which has been responsible for administering India even before it was independent. Also known as the civil services, it has been a crucial binding force in the Indian Union of States. 

However, there are certain issues that have undermined the efficiency of bureaucracy in the process of governance of the Indian State. These include:

  1. Resistance to change- the bureaucrats  in India are often alleged to be status- quoist and resistant to changes as they are wedded to their privileges and prospects. For eg.- through the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments, Rural and urban local governments have been made institutions of self-government. However, the intended vision has not been achieved, due to the reluctance on the part of the civil servants to accept the changes in control and accountability as well as the altered roles and responsibilities.
  2. Red Tapism- it refers to the excessive regulation or rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundant and bureaucratic and hinders action or decision-making. The bureaucracy is criticized for this as they conform more to rules and less to the needs of the people.
  3. Political Interference- The politicians sometimes for the sake of fulfilling their populist demand, influence the functioning of civil servants. This hinders their services to the people and can lead to issues like corruption.
  4. Frequent Transfers- Officers are transferred too often. This denies them the opportunity to settle down into an official role. At times, a particular administrative location is used as a testing lab where officers keep arriving and leaving, with a deleterious impact their morale, leading to a reduction in efficiency and effectiveness.
  5. Too much of Generalist Approach- with the world changing rapidly, the needs of the people have changed while the civil servants still continue to work on the same generalist approach hindering the process of good governance. The new challenges need officers with a specialist approach to specific problems.
  6. Patrimonialism- it was defined by the World Bank in 1994 as monopoly of power + discretion – accountability – transparency. Bureaucracy in India currently faces this situation.

Reforms that are needed

  1. Flexibility for bureaucrats from a strict observance of rigid rules and regulations to make them more action oriented and directed towards good governance.
  2. Right sizing the bureaucracy- This enables ministry officials to carry out their responsibilities efficiently and to be held accountable for their performance. The reforms must look into role clarification, core governance issues to ensure optimum number of functionaries being available for effective service delivery without any spillage or leakage.
  3. According to the Fifth Pay Commission no premature transfer should be allowed and there should be a fix of a minimum tenure for each post.
  4. According to the Hota Committee on Civil Services Reforms, 2004 domain assignment should be introduced for civil servants to encourage acquisition of skills, professional excellence and career planning.
  5. Adoption of modern management techniques such as management by objectives in civil services.
  6. Creation of new work culture and encouraging creativity and innovation among bureaucrats.
  7. The civil services have to be representative in character and it needs to have a significant number from rural areas and disadvantaged backgrounds in order to achieve inclusive development. 
  8. Introduction of lateral entry in civil services. This will also motivate the existing officers to further improve their service delivery.
  9. A mechanism is needed to evaluate the performance of civil servants during their tenure on several parameters. The Hota Committee on Civil Services Reforms, 2004, recommended replacing the ACR (Annual Confidential Report) with a system of performance assessment with greater emphasis on objective assessment against agreed work plans.

Since independence there have been several committees and commissions that have been appointed for civil service reforms like- Administrative Reforms Commission, Kothari Committee, P.C. Hota Committee, etc. Recently in 2020, the government launched Mission Karmayogi (a national capacity building and performance evaluation programme for civil servants) to bring reforms in bureaucracy. Good governance and better administration of development is a sine qua non in present times and this makes the bureaucratic reforms a necessity in order to retain their effectiveness.

 

Q) India has been a major stakeholder in Afghanistan and peace in the region has always been crucial for her. Discuss.

Over the years India’s approach in dealing with Afghanistan has shifted focus from the narrow security centric approach to regional confidence building, development, governance and trade and investment failing to use Afghanistan’s resource potential to build its economic viability, sustainability and independence.

Significance of Afghanistan for India 

  1. Economic- according to a joint report of The Pentagon and US Geological Survey, Afghanistan has an untapped resource potential of about US $ 1 tn. This makes it an ideal ground for growth of Indian companies. 
  2. Security- A stable and secure Afghanistan is crucial for regional and domestic security and stability in India. If the country becomes a centre of radical ideology and violence again, it would be detrimental to India’s interests. In addition, there are concerns about drug trafficking through the Afghanistan route.
  3. Connectivity – Development of Afghanistan will help India to create a link connecting to Central Asia unfulfilled its own energy needs and trade interests in the long term.
  4. In partnership with Iran, it also allows for serving India’s maritime interests.
  5. Strategic- it remains important for India to maintain relations with Afghanistan to prevent Pakistan from gaining a strategic depth in the region and using it for anti India activities. 

India’s developmental projects in Afghanistan

  1. India has pledged more than  2 billion US dollars in Afghanistan uninvested in diverse areas including healthcare, education, infrastructure, social welfare add in the training of politicians, diplomats and police. India assisted Afghanistan in building their Parliament.
  2. India is the 5th largest donor to Afghanistan and the largest regional donor.
  3. India is implementing high visibility large scale projects in relatively stable areas and low visibility small developmental projects in relatively remote and insecure areas in order to increase its sectoral spread and geographic reach.

Challenges in India’s efforts

  1. Withdrawal of NATO led Security Assistance force personnel from Afghanistan has raised concerns about an unstable Afghanistan get again turning into a springboard for destabilisation and terrorism.
  2. Pakistan’s behind the scenes support for the Taliban in destabilising indias development efforts is aimed at neutralising India’s regional power expansion.
  3. Increasing gap between short term projects which heightened peoples expectations but with limited follow action or integrated plan in terms of job creation or building an industrial base is fueling despair and discontent among the local population.
  4. He shows in financing and capacity lead to delays in large scale infrastructure projects.
  5. Monitoring of these projects remains a challenge and an insecure and inaccessible district matters can be much worse.
  6. In the face of deteriorating security situation and insurgent influence or control of territory the sustainability of these projects is doubtful.
  7. Sometimes the aid delivered is not always in harmony with the needs of the community.

Way forward 

  1. India needs to shift from asset creation to programme delivery.
  2. There is a need for changing the long held policy of non engagement with Taliban for India to be a part of Afghan peace process.
  3. In the immediate and medium term, There is a need to establish small and medium sized enterprises to help revive the Afghan indigenous economic base.
  4. Further strengthening the bilateral relations with the government in Afghanistan.

Avoiding a security-centred role, India adopted a soft power approach, re establishing cultural and historical links between the two countries. India has always believed in secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan and has taken steps for the same and will continue to do so in the future. 

 

Q) A multi-stakeholder consensus, across sectors, regions and political affiliations needs to emerge to tackle this invisible yet urgent public health concern. In this context, critically examine the policy on rare diseases in India. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines a rare disease as an often debilitating lifelong disease or disorder with a prevalence of 1 or less per 1,000 population. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), it is one in 2,500 people or less. 

Policy in India 

Recently, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has published a national policy for the treatment of 450 ‘rare diseases’. As per the policy, out of all rare diseases in the world, less than five per cent have therapies available to treat them. In India, roughly 450 rare diseases have been recorded, of which the most common are Haemophilia, Thalassemia, Sickle-cell anemia, auto-immune diseases, Gaucher’s disease, and cystic fibrosis. Statistics show that India has close to ~50-100 mn people affected by rare diseases in a population above 1.3 bn people and almost 80% of these are children.

Key Features of the Policy:

  1. It provides for lowering the incidence of rare diseases based on an integrated preventive strategy.
  2. It aims to provide access to affordable health care to patients of rare diseases which are amenable to one-time treatment.
  3. Crowd funding for treatment of high-cost rare diseases: If the government cannot fully finance the treatment, donations from prospective individuals or corporate donors who are willing to support can be sought.
  4. For the purpose of the policy the term rare diseases is categorized into 3 groups: requiring one-time curative treatment, diseases that require long-term treatment but where the cost is low, and those needing long-term treatments with high cost.
  5. Financial support: A maximum of ₹15 lakh could be provided to each patient under the umbrella scheme of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi and the beneficiaries would not be limited to families below the poverty line.
  6. It aims to create a patient registry for diseases housed in Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

Remaining Concerns

  1. The lack of an Indian centralized clinical registry of rare disease patients results in some patients taking up to seven years to be diagnosed accurately.
  2. The socio economic burden of rare diseases is immensely high. 
  3. The draft in existence has mentioned that financial assistance will be provided for rare diseases that run up to Rs 15 lakh but only to those patients that have curative therapy and fall under Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi scheme of PMJDY.
  4. At the diagnosis and treatment level, the policy should address physician training, availability of affordable diagnosis, standard treatment protocols, and availability of drugs to reduce the rare disease burden.

The State has the duty to provide affordable, accessible and quality health care to all its citizens and the National Policy for Rare Diseases is a great step in this regard. However, there have been certain concerns regarding the policy such as cap on amount for treatment at Rs.15 lacs, crowdfunding which can create delays in treatment, lack of effective implementation guidelines for the Centre and the states, etc.

Although the proportion of rare diseases is much less than the other diseases, it does not reduce the importance of the life of a person affected by rare diseases. Thus national policy would remove this adverse distinction and would make government committed equally to all people.