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Paper 4-GS-III, Topic: Infrastructure: Railways

Rail regulator gets green light

About the regulator:

  • The Centre decides to set up an independent rail regulator that will be responsible for recommending passenger fares, setting performance standards for rail operations and creating level playing policy for private sector participation.
  • The regulator is named Rail Development Authority (RDA).
  • It will be based in Delhi with an initial corpus of Rs. 50 crore and will be set up through an executive order later in April 2017.
  • The RDA will act within the parameters of the Railway Act, 1989 and only make recommendations to the Ministry and they will take a final call on passenger and freight fares.

What will change:

  • RDA will improve the services offered to passengers, provide comfort to investors in the rail sector and will enhance transparency and accountability.
  • The need for a regulator has been brought up by various committees, like mentioned below:
  • 1. The Dr. BibekDebroy Committee on Mobilisation of Resources for Major Railway Projects and Restructuring of Railway Ministry in 2015.
  • 2. The National Transport Development Policy Committee (NTDPC) in 2014 and Expert Group under the Chairmanship of Dr. Rakesh Mohan in 2001.
  • This is a commendable move as the Central government has been fixing the fares mostly based on political considerations.

Functions of RDA:

  • Its functions will be to recommend tariff “commensurate with costs,”
  • To frame principles for social service obligation.
  • To ensure a level playing field for stakeholders by suggesting policies for private investment.
  • It will also fix efficiency standards and resolve disputes related to future concession agreements.
  • It will collect, analyze and disseminate information and statistics concerning the rail sector.

Source: The Hindu

‘’Paper 3-GS-II, Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health

AIDS-free by 2030, India included

What you should know:

  • In July 2000, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted Resolution 1308, calling for urgent and exceptional actions to mitigate the threats posed by HIV/AIDS.
  • Actions referred to the need to provide exclusive responses and resources to mitigate the threat posed by HIV/AIDS.
  • The exceptional status of HIV/AIDS has brought about unprecedented levels of international funding allocated primarily in developing countries where responses to the disease have historically been non-existent.
  • Funding issues;
  • With financial assistance from international institutions and bilateral governments, HIV/AIDS responses intensified in many developing countries.
  • While the exceptional approach to HIV/AIDS was warranted in the earlier stages of responses at the national level, it has become increasingly ineffective over time.
  • There has been a decline in trend of HIV/AIDS international financial assistance in recent years.
  • Data show that most European donor governments have reduced their HIV/AIDS financial commitments since 2012.
  • International funding agencies now argue that countries like India and China should be donors instead of recipients of international HIV/AIDS-specific grants and loans.
  • Other health issues need attention as well,
  • The overdependence on international assistance, coupled with the overwhelming policy preference towards HIV/AIDS, has resulted in the marginalization of other pressing health threats such as malnutrition, and maternal and child health care.
  • An integration of HIV/AIDS interventions and primary health-care systems in India, six components of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP)-III merged with the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in 2010.
  • At the 2016 high-level meeting at the UN General Assembly, India pledged to follow targets and ending the epidemic by 2030.
  • To full-fill the commitment, the two-thirds of the budget for the NACP-IV is provided by the Government of India and comes from the domestic budget. Indian HIV/AIDS programmes have progressively become less dependent on foreign assistance.
  • But,Public expenditure on health care in India as a proportion of GDP is among the world’s lowest. India’s overall health budget has declined by 13%, i.e. from ₹35,780 crore in 2014-15 to ₹31,501 crore in 2015-16.
  • India has the third largest population which has HIV/AIDS in the world, 2.1 million at the end of 2013. Accounts for about 4 out of 10 people living with HIV/AIDS in the region.
  • To achieve goal of ending HIV/AIDS in India by 2030, there has to be an increase in budgetary allocation to public health care and more effort to increase AIDS awareness.

Source: The Hindu

‘’Paper 4-GS-III, Topic: Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies

BC Commission set to get constitutional status

About new bill:

  • The Union government introduced a new Bill in the Lok Sabha, the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill.

  • This will bring the body, which looks after the interests of Other Backward Classes, on a par with that of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes Commission, and give powers to Parliament to designate castes as OBCs.
  • The proposed commission will have a chairperson, vice-chairperson and three other members and will hear the grievances of socially and educationally backward classes, a function discharged so far by the Scheduled Castes commission.

Important to note:

  • At present, the functions of the commission are limited to examining the requests for inclusion of any class of citizens as a backward class.
  • Hear complaints of over-inclusion or under-inclusion of any backward class in the existing quota and advise the Central government.

The Bill states in its intent:

  • That in order to safeguard the interests of the socially and educationally backward classes more effectively, it is proposed to create a National Commission for Backward Classes,
  • with constitutional status at par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

Source: The Hindu