DAILY MAINS NEWSLETTER FOR UPSC | 19 MAR 2021 | RaghukulCS

Daily Mains Newsletter For UPSC
| RaghukulCS

19 MAR 2021

Index

Mains Value Addition

Mains Analysis

Topic No

Topic Name

Source

1

Aadhaar as a hurdle: On authentication failures and welfare delivery

 The Hindu

2

How Rajasthan can make its Right to Health promise work

Indian Express

3

Lateral Entry: A challenging administrative reform

Indian Express

Mains Value Addition

SC to hear plea against sale of electoral bonds

Syllabus – 

GS2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

Analysis: –

  • Chief Justice of India agreed with advocate Prashant Bhushan recently to urgently hear a plea by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms to stay the sale of a new set of electoral bonds on April 1, before the Assembly elections in crucial States such as West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.
  • Responding to an urgent mentioning made by Mr. Bhushan via videoconference, Chief Justice Bobde said the matter would require a detailed hearing.
  • Bhushan said the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the Election Commission had both said that the sale of electoral bonds had become an avenue for shell corporations and entities to park illicit money and even proceeds of bribes with political parties.
  • Bhushan said every time there is an election, the sale is opened. Every time this happens, we have moved the Supreme Court to stay it.
  • Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta informed the Chief Justice that Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal would be appearing in the case.

‘India has assured Sri Lanka of support’

Syllabus –

 GS2- India and its neighbourhood- relations

Analysis: –

  • India has assured Sri Lanka of its support at the UN Human Rights Council, Sri Lankan Foreign Secretary Jayanath Colombage has said, just days before member countries vote on a new resolution on the island nation’s rights record.
  • India’s Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the Sri Lanka Foreign Secretary’s statement.
  • Sources in the government told that no decision on the vote had been “conveyed” yet, while Mr. Colombage said Sri Lanka “greatly appreciates” India’s position, “being the superpower they are”.
  • The senior Foreign Ministry official’s remarks, made at a recent “digital dialogue” hosted by Sri Lanka’s Media Centre for National Development, a month-old initiative aimed at publicising the government’s efforts locally and internationally.
  • Human Rights Council sessions in Geneva usually invoke sharp responses from nationalist forces within Sri Lanka’s Sinhala Buddhist majority, who see the process as “targeting” their country and “interfering with its sovereignty”.

Justice Ramana outlines ways to reverse pendency

Syllabus – 

GS2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

Analysis: –

  • Supreme Court judge, Justice N.V. Ramana, has outlined a three-pronged approach, with special focus on alternative dispute resolution, to reverse the nearly 4 crore pendency in courts across the country.
  • Justice Ramana, who is next in line to be the Chief Justice of India as per the seniority norm, was speaking at the First Justice J.S. Verma Memorial ADR and Client Counselling Competition, organised by the Department of Law of the Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Management Studies (MAIMS) of IP University in association with National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
  • The senior SC judge said improving judicial infrastructure through use of e-platforms and setting up of more courts, settling disputes at pre-litigation stage through counselling, strengthening the existing Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism would go a long way in clearing the huge pendency of cases in courts.

Bihar Assembly passes Lokayukta Amendment Bill

Syllabus –

 GS2- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors

Analysis: –

  • The Bihar Assembly recently passed the Bihar Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that proposes to punish people filing false cases before the anti- corruption ombudsman body to prevent any waste of time or misuse of the institution.
  • Four other Bills passed by the Assembly during the day are the Bihar Municipality (Amendment) Bill, Bihar Taxation Disputes Resolution Bill, Bihar Civil Court Bill and Bihar Appropriation Excess Expenditure (1984-85) Bill.
  • The proposed legislation has been brought keeping in view the misuse of the Lokayukta institution in false cases.
  • Lokayukta carries out expeditious investigation and prosecution relating to allegations involving corruption against public servants of all grades.
  • It was proposed by the Lokayuktaitelf that there should be a provision for punishing people filing false cases before it.

Govt must look into scheme for those who lost jobs amid lock down: Report

Syllabus –

 GS2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

Analysis: –

  • The Delhi government should consider launching a scheme guaranteeing jobs at a fixed minimum daily wage to tackle the alarming surge in the city’s unemployment rate during the pandemic-induced lockdown.
  • The unemployment rate in Delhi rose from 11.1% in January-February 2020 to 28.5% in October-November, according to a Delhi government-commissioned survey.
  • It also found that women have been hit particularly hard in terms of job losses.
  • The survey, prepared jointly by the Delhi Directorate of Economics and Statistics and the Centre for Market Research and Social Development, also includes separate sections listing a series of recommendations and “potential policy responses” to address unemployment challenges.
  • Delhi government’s plan to implement the guaranteed jobs scheme to help those facing difficulty in finding work must be introduced immediately since majority of the respondents have shown their interest to get job under this scheme.
  • This will definitely benefit unemployed persons of Delhi who lost employment during Covid-19 pandemic,” the report states.

Mains Analysis

Aadhaar as a hurdle: On authentication failures and welfare delivery

Why in News: –

Inefficiencies in the Aadhaar project should not come in the way of welfare delivery.

Syllabus: 

GS-2:  Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability, e-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; citizens charters, transparency & accountability and institutional and other measures.
  • The Supreme Court on Wednesday termed the cancellation of around three crore ration cards by the Centre due to non-linking with Aadhaar card as “too serious”, and sought response from the Central government and all states on the issue.
  • A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said this matter should not be treated as adversarial as it is too serious a matter.

Conflict over SC Verdict:

  • The Supreme Court of India. On 23 September 2013 the Supreme Court issued an interim order saying that “no person should suffer for not getting Aadhaar”, adding that the government cannot deny a service to a resident who does not possess Aadhaar, as it is voluntary and not mandatory.
  • On 24 August 2017 the Indian Supreme Court delivered a landmark verdict affirming the right to privacy as a fundamental right, overruling previous judgments on the issue.
  • In December 9, 2019, the top court had sought responses from all the states over allegations of starvation deaths of people who were deprived of their ration supplies for not having valid Aadhaar cards.
  • Court Issue notice returnable in four weeks to the respondent States calling upon them to appraise steps they have taken for implementation of the grievance’s redressal mechanism contained in Sections 14, 15 and 16 of the National Food Security Act, 2013.

What is Aadhar?

  • Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identity number that can be obtained voluntarily by residents or passport holders of India, based on their biometric and demographic data.
  • The data is collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory authority established in January 2009 by the government of India, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology,
  • The provisions of the Aadhaar, (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016.
  • Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric ID system. World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer described Aadhaar as “the most sophisticated ID programme in the world”.
  • Considered a proof of residence and not a proof of citizenship, Aadhaar does not itself grant any rights to domicile in India.
  • In June 2017, the Home Ministry clarified that Aadhaar is not a valid identification document for Indians travelling to Nepal and Bhutan.

The unique identification scheme:

  • The unique identification scheme has been in existence for more than a decade and recent data has estimated that nearly 90% of India’s projected population has been assigned the Aadhaar number.
  • Following the Court’s judgment in 2018, upholding the Aadhaar programme as a reasonable restriction on individual privacy to fulfil welfare requirements and dignity a 4-1 majority Bench had also rejected a review petition in January 2021 —questions about the scheme’s validity for public purposes have been put to rest.
  • But that has not meant that concerns about the failures in the use of the identity verification project have been allayed.
  • These include inefficiencies in biometric authentication and updating, linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts, and the use of the Aadhaar payment bridge.
  • With benefits under the PDS, the NREGA and LPG subsidy, among other essentials, requiring individuals to have the Aadhaar number, inefficiencies and failures have led to inconvenience and suffering for the poor.

The Failures in authentication:

  • There are reports that show failures in authentication having led to delays in the disbursal of benefits and, in many cases, in their denial due to cancellation of legitimate beneficiary names.
  • The government had promised that exemption mechanisms that would allow for overriding such failures will help beneficiaries still avail subsidies and benefits despite system failures.
  • That has been the response by the government to the recent petition as well, but reports from States such as Jharkhand from 2017, for example, suggest that there have been starvation deaths because of the denial of benefits and subsidies.

The false negatives:

  • Biometric authentication failures are but expected of a large scale and technology-intensive project such as the UID.
  • Despite being designed to store finger and iris scans of most users, doubts about the success rates of authentication and the generation of “false negatives” have always persisted, more so for labourers and tribal people.
  • Those engaged in manual and hard labour, for example, are susceptible to fingerprint changes over time. In practice, beneficiaries have tended to use Aadhaar cards as identity markers but there have been instances of people losing cards and being denied benefits.
  • Given the scale of the problem, the central and State governments would do well to allow alternative identification so that genuine beneficiaries are not denied due subsidies.

Way Forward: –

  • The question of fraud can still be addressed by the use of other verification cards and by decentralised disbursal of services at the panchayat level. But “Principal issue is cancellation of three crore ration cards and starvation death”.
  • Despite the validity of Aadhaar being challenged in the court, the central government has pushed citizens to link their Aadhaar numbers with a host of services, including mobile sim cards, bank accounts, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation, and a large number of welfare schemes.

Question: –

Enumerate the benefits of Aadhaar in social security programmes. Discuss the problems associated with the Aadhaar implementation.

How Rajasthan can make its Right to Health promise work

Why in News: –

Rajasthan has proposed doubling its budget, setting up medical and nursing colleges, establishing and upgrading primary health centres and substantially improving the delivery of services by expanding access to free medicines and diagnostics, besides adding 1,000 beds and establishing institutions of excellence for cardiology, virology, cancer and maternity and childcare.

Syllabus:

GS 2: Government interventions and policies. Issues related to Health
  • In 1947, post-colonial India set off with the ambition of building a modern state on the principles of equality where citizens, by virtue of their birth in the country, would be entitled to a life of dignity.
  • While the Constitution provided the rights to life, liberty, nutritional standards and maternity care, it did not explicitly state health as a fundamental right.
  • Access to good quality healthcare was, and continues to be, a privilege, enjoyed by those fulfilling conditions of wealth, location and social status.
  • This was so despite India being a signatory to the WHO’s Constitution of 1946 which envisaged the ideal of ensuring “the highest attainable standard of health as a fundamental right of every human being” by allocating the “maximum available resources”.
  • The discourse on health as a human right was amplified when the HIV/AIDS pandemic led to the creation of global civil society coalitions that pressured governments to make HIV treatment and sexual freedoms fundamental to human rights.

Challenges: –

  • In the last decade, the increasing cost of care and consequent impoverishment of those seeking medical treatment added momentum to the debate by demanding universal health coverage (UHC) to build societal resilience to the devastating impacts of ill health.
  • Since UHC is based on the principle of equality and non-denial of care on grounds of affordability, the two ideas of health as a human right and UHC converged to be translated into state policy for creating a “legal obligation to ensure access to timely, acceptable and affordable healthcare of appropriate quality as well as to providing the underlying determinants of health such as safe potable water…..” resulting in its inclusion in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) to be realised by 2030.
  • India has not been immune to these global developments. But given the compulsions of addressing multiple development challenges, “allocating the maximum available resources” for health has always been a major issue.

Low Public Health Spending:

  • Public health spending as a percentage of GDP has hovered around an average of 1 per cent against the global average of 8 per cent, constraining the building of a rights-based healthcare system.
  • In 2018, India’s public health spending as a percentage of total health expenditures was 26.95 per cent, against the global average of 59.54 per cent with just 20 countries spending less than India.
  • At 62.67 per cent out-of-pocket expenditure on health, such spending in India was the 13th highest in the world.
  • The figures in the budget documents show an absolute increase of 9.6 per cent in allocations for the Department of Health and Family Welfare (that includes NHM and Ayushman Bharat).
  • The intent to strengthen primary, secondary and tertiary service institutions is indeed welcome. But these additional activities have not been slotted in the NHM.
  • A 26.8 per cent increase for the Department of Health Research and 40 per cent increase for the AYUSH Ministry do not add up to much since each of them are only 3-4 per cent of the total health budget.
  • A Finance Commission grant of Rs 13,000-crore and Rs 35,000-crore for COVID-19 vaccination are one-time allocations and, therefore, do not strengthen the overall system.
  • The core health service and research ministries (H&FW and AYUSH) have together received only an 11 per cent increase.

Universalising Access To Healthcare:

  • COVID-19 times:
    First barrier is inadequate availability of services, particularly in rural areas, a severe shortage of human resources and the rising cost of care due to more intensive use of technologies alongside changing perceptions of quality.
  • So, while low public spending is seen as the root cause, a study of catastrophic health expenditures (10 to 25 per cent of household income) in 133 countries brought out two interesting insights with policy implications — one, the positive partial correlation between income inequality and catastrophic spending at all income levels and two, absence of evidence that the mere increase in health spending or channeling it through private insurance and non-profit institutions provided financial protection.
  • The COVID pandemic brought to the surface the inadequacies of the health system and the denial of basic care, where even basic public health functions like testing or contact tracing and behaviour change required the whole and exclusive attention of the district administration.
  • Coping with this one infection has not only meant denying care to non-COVID patients but also the inability to treat all as per protocol due to limited infrastructure in public and private sectors, provoking the Rajasthan government to expedite its intention to introduce the Rajasthan Model of Public Health (RMPH) in its budget for 2021-22, embedding in it a public health law making access to health a right.

What have been done and what to do?

  • The manifestos of the CPM and Congress in 2019, however, are the first instance of a clear political commitment towards promoting such a rights-based policy.
  • Rajasthan’s intention is laudable. But for achieving the goal of arresting catastrophic expenses, it would be essential to sequence investments over the next decade, starting with ensuring universal access to social determinants and primary healthcare services by focusing on malnutrition and filling gaps in accessing toilets, safe water and basic health services.
  • This would require an uncompromising attention to substantially and expeditiously improving the primary healthcare infrastructure in terms of buildings, human resources and technology.
  • If strict prioritisation is not maintained, much of the scarce resources can get diverted to providing expensive hospital treatment for the not-so-rich but more vocal people in urban areas, widening existing inequities and not reducing catastrophic expenditures.
  • The High-Level Expert Group on Universal Health Coverage had estimated that by 2020, India needs a 114 per cent increase in sub-centres and primary health centres, 179 per cent increase in community health centres and a 230 per cent increase in sub-district and district hospitals.
  • To get closer to this requires doubling of real allocations every year over a five-year period to reach something like 10 per cent of the budget. In the present budget, it declines to a mere 2.21 per cent.
  • If such public provisioning for universal health coverage seems too much of a dream, then effective low-cost rationalised service system options have to be designed.
  • Way Forward: –
    Insurance schemes only create the mirage of affordability of health services while adding to peoples’ expenses. Community and public services are indisputably the most cost-effective for any society.
    • The COVID pandemic has deepened poverty and set back the economy by a decade.
    • In such a desperate situation, the state is faced with a paradox of addressing the need for a rights-based policy.
    • This, however, requires doubling of resources that are unavailable, necessitating reviewing interventions so as to remove waste, promote efficiencies and a more rational use of the limited resources.
    • It is a bumpy road ahead but today, as never before, state intervention is required to ensure health security to all, as an anti-poverty measure, particularly aimed at the poor and marginalised.
    • Water and sanitation are meaningful for health, but not if it only inflates the allocation to “Health and Wellbeing” to create an illusion of responding to health imperatives.

    Question: –

    The compulsions of addressing multiple development challenges for health has always been a major issue in Indian healthcare.

    Lateral Entry: A challenging administrative reform

    Why in News: –

    Inefficiencies in the Aadhaar project should not come in the way of welfare delivery.

    Syllabus:

    GS 2: Government Policies & Interventions, Role of civil services.

    The present government, to its credit, has taken some steps on lateral entry. Eight professionals were recruited for joint secretary-level positions in various ministries.

    Some other positions at the joint secretary and director-level have been advertised. But this is unlikely to shake up the system which is the entire logic of lateral entry.

    What is Lateral Entry?

    • The term lateral entry relates to the appointment of specialists, mainly those from private sector, in government organisations.
    • Government is looking for outstanding individuals, with expertise in revenue, financial services, economic affairs, agriculture, cooperation and farmers’ welfare, road transport and highway, shipping, environment, forests and climate change, new and renewable energy, civil aviation and commerce.

    What is the government’s reasoning for lateral entry?

    • “NITI Aayog, in its three-year Action Agenda, and the Sectoral Group of Secretaries (SGoS) on Governance in its report submitted in February 2017, recommended the induction of personnel at middle and senior management levels in the central government.”
    • Government has, from time to time, appointed some prominent persons for specific assignments in government, keeping in view their specialised knowledge and expertise in the domain area.
    • Lateral recruitment is aimed at achieving the twin objectives of bringing in fresh talent as well as augment the availability of manpower.

     Has the government so far made any ‘lateral entry’ appointments?

    • The new ad is for the second round of such recruitments. Earlier, the government had decided to appoint experts from outside the government to 10 positions of Joint Secretary in different Ministries/Departments and 40 positions at the level of Deputy Secretary/Director.
    • The ad for the Joint Secretary-level appointments, issued in early 2018, attracted 6,077 applications; after a selection process by the UPSC, nine individuals were recommended for appointment in nine different Ministries/Departments in 2019.

    Challenges: –

    • The terms on which the positions are advertised may dissuade the best from applying. In the permanent system, IAS officers get promoted to joint secretary level after 17 years of service and remain at that level for ten years.
    • The IAS and permanent system are strictly seniority-bound — nobody gets promoted ahead of time. That makes the average age of a joint secretary around 45.
    • Now, if similar experience requirements are used for lateral entry, it is unlikely that the best will join because in the private sector they rise to the top of their profession, in CXO positions, or tenured professorships, at that age.
    • The second challenge is whether the system is facilitating lateral entrants for success or is indifferent to the point of failure. There are many dimensions to this.
    • For a start, there are several joint secretaries in each ministry who handle different portfolios. If assigned to an unimportant portfolio, the chances of not making a mark are high.
    • A cursory look at the portfolios of the eight laterally-hired joint secretaries doesn’t suggest that they hold critical portfolios. One entrant has already quit.

    Why is lateral entry sometimes criticised?

    • Groups representing SCs, STs and OBCs have protested the fact that there is no reservation in these appointments.
    • It has been alleged that ruling government at the centre is opening back doors to bring its own people openly.

    Solutions: –

    • Their aspiration will be for a higher position. To attract the best talent from outside at the joint secretary level, entry requirements need to be relaxed so that persons of 35 years of age are eligible.
    • The logic extends to other ranks. IAS officers become secretaries to the government after 30 to 33 years of service, which means they are 55 or above.
    • The best talent from outside would only join at 50 or less. If one looks at lateral entry in an earlier generation, among economists, there was much greater flexibility.
    • There must also be clarity in what precisely is the mandate for the lateral entrant. There is a difference in bringing expertise and being part of the decision-making process.
    • For the former, the government doesn’t strictly need to hire “outsiders”. Expertise is widely available and used by almost every ministry — expert committees, consultations, think tank engagements, etc.
    • To be disrupters, lateral entrants need to be able to stamp their authority on decision making. For this to happen, there need to be more lateral entrants at all levels in ministries.
    • Anyone familiar with the functioning of government knows that there is a long chain in decision-making and a minority of one cannot override it.
    • Also, it requires an understanding of the system and an ability to work with the “permanent” establishment.
    • No training or orientation is provided for this. By the time networks are built, it is time to move on.

    Way Forward: –

    • On past evidence, the lateral entrants who made the biggest impact are those who served in the system for a length of time and at different levels.
    • The economists mentioned earlier joined as advisers at the joint secretary level before moving up the ladder to mainstream positions, learning to work with the permanent establishment in the process.
    • A recent lateral entrant like Parameswaran Iyer succeeded because he had served in the IAS early on.
    • Lateral entry, like competition in any sphere, is a good thing. But serious thinking is required on entry requirements, job assignments, number of personnel and training to make it a force for positive change. Some reform of the “permanent” system — particularly its seniority principle — may be a prerequisite.

    Question: –

    Discuss the merits and demerits of lateral entry in civil services.

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