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1.Rethinking open access in electricity (Live Mint)

2.Saving the new-borns (Live Mint)

3.Explained: Who was Sitara devi

 

1.Rethinking open access in electricity (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the remedy to revive the open access policy. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Recently, the Union ministry of power advised the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) to set up a committee to look into issues related to open access and brought out a consultation paper based on the committee’s findings.

Open access policy

  • Open access is one of the key measures to bring about competition in electricity, whereby large consumers have access to the transmission and distribution (T&D) network to obtain electricity from suppliers other than the local distribution company (discom).
  • Open access was expected to encourage investment by private players in electricity supply. Unfortunately, the success of open access has been very limited in spite of numerous attempts to facilitate it.
  • This initiative by the power ministry should be taken as an opportunity to examine the basics of open access and re-conceptualize it, if necessary.

Failure of open access

  • nstead of being an avenue to allow large consumers choice of supplier on a sustained basis, open access has become a way to allow such consumers to move back and forth between the discom and the market as and when they want.
  • Not only is this phenomenon unfair to discoms, it also does not allow competitive suppliers to develop a stable customer base, defeating the purpose of open access. The current approach to open access may relieve, to some extent, the burden of cross-subsidization that falls on large consumers, by allowing them access to the market to get lower prices when they can.
  • The high degree of cross-subsidization certainly needs to be addressed, but tariff rationalization is a political problem and, therefore, is best solved at the political level. Trying to bring about this change through open access is unlikely to succeed, as past experience shows.
  • The term “open access” itself is a misnomer for consumer choice, muddling the discussion. Open access to the T&D network is required by generators and suppliers, but not by consumers. Consumers need only to shop around for the best deal from competitive suppliers, and it should be the responsibility of the suppliers to obtain access so that the power can be transferred to consumers. Therefore, open access requests should only come from suppliers, not consumers.
  • This distinction may help resolve another issue. For effective competition, open access to the T&D network by suppliers can and should be of any duration—short, medium or long term—so that they can assemble the most efficient mix of resources to serve their customers.

Reforming open access

  • The first step in re-conceptualizing open access is to recognize that service to consumers exercising choice is a distinct service, and not an extension of regulated supply. Large consumers should not be able to treat the discom as a mothership to which they can return whenever market prices rise.
  • In addition, consumers exercising choice should be required to get all their electricity from the supplier of their choice, not just part of it, otherwise the discom has to handle all the variability of load, and that increases the discom’s planning burden and cost, and is unfair.
  • Open access for end-consumers should not be a short-term option. Discom tariffs are regulated and fixed for the entire year and thus represent an average over the year. Even an efficient discom will have tariffs that are above the prevailing market price at some times and below it at other times. If a very large consumer is able to cherry-pick the periods when it can get supply from the market, it would result in higher and higher costs for the discom.
  • These additional costs would have to be borne by non-open-access consumers, many of whom are small consumers. Furthermore, unlike other markets, because its tariff is regulated and fixed, the discom cannot compete with another supplier by making a counter-offer to retain a consumer.
  • In states in the US that have allowed choice of supplier, similar concerns have been raised about giving excessive flexibility to consumers to move back and forth between the market and discom service, because discoms find it difficult and expensive to hedge against the risks posed by these swings in load.
  • In those cases, restrictions have been placed on the time that has to elapse before a consumer can either leave a regulated service or return to it—usually 6-12 months. In India, because regulated tariffs are fixed for a year, similar time limits of 6-12 months should be placed to address the problem of frequent shifting. There should be no restrictions on switching between competitive suppliers.

Way ahead

  • It is time to move beyond efforts to increase the volume of open access transactions by tinkering with how various open access charges are calculated.
  • Instead, the initiative by the power ministry should be taken as an opportunity to re-conceptualize open access along the lines discussed here, so that its objectives are achieved.

Question–  What do you mean by the open access policy? How it is useful?

2.Saving the new-borns (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the strategy to reduce the NMR rates in India. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • NMR (death of a newborn within 28 days per 1,000 live births) is one of those metrics that just hasn’t improved adequately across India. According to World Bank statistics, we moved from 33 in 2010 to 28 in 2015. As a benchmark, the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) for NMR is 12 by 2030. If India continues on this slow trajectory, we will achieve the SDG only by 2040.

Problem of low NMR

  • An NMR of 28-30 implies that any hospital which has roughly 40-50 births per day will see 30-40 newborns die in a month. The larger, more overburdened public hospitals in the poorer states will see a much higher number. Hence, Gorakhpur and Farrukhabad are not anomalies; rather, they are quite close to the norm for large public hospitals.
  • Is this an unsolvable problem? Absolutely not. Sri Lanka, with an NMR of 5.4, tells us otherwise. Closer home, Kerala is already at 6 and Tamil Nadu at 14. Achieving the SDG by 2030, or even faster, will require five key interventions all related to the basic management of public health.

Reducing the NMR scale

  • Need for 2-3 emergency obstetric points (C-section points) in every district: We usually find only one-two operational C-section points in most districts. This implies longer travel times for women in labour, creating distress and overburdening facilities—which in turn cannot provide adequate care, thereby endangering the newborn. While research indicates that the C-section rate in India is now beyond the optimal range (greater than 10–15%), the situation in public institutions is quite the opposite. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the C-section rates in public institutions remain at 4.7% and 2.6%, respectively.
  • Quality special newborn care units (SNCUs): Conditions like asphyxia, prematurity or sepsis require specialized care. Two-three SNCUs should be fully functional per district. This means that three-four beds per 1,000 deliveries need to have critical equipment, including radiant warmers and phototherapy machines. Additionally, the critical nature of the newborns warrants round the clock care a minimum of four nurses. Additionally, SNCUs need to be integrated with newborn stabilization units at secondary facilities like community health centres through a strong referral system.
  • Addressing key clinical skill gaps: Global research like Johns Hopkins’ Lives Saved Tool indicates that seven basic clinical skills can prevent a majority of neonatal deaths. These include monitoring labour progress using partographs to detect complications. Unfortunately, many clinical staff lack these basic skills, or don’t practise them. For example, research indicates that the simple process of placing a pre-term child against the mother’s chest keeps the baby warm and facilitates weight gain through breastfeeding. However, this practice (kangaroo mother care) is still not widely practised. Similarly, clinical staff are diffident about practices like neonatal resuscitation that can tackle asphyxia.
  • Improving care of pregnant women: While many complications are detected during labour, many can be identified during pregnancy through tests, like those for blood pressure and haemoglobin. However, coverage of antenatal visits by front-line workers is alarmingly low: 51% according to the National Family Health Survey, 2015-16. Additionally, the quality of nurse and pregnant women interactions is often poor. Simple diagnostic procedures are not conducted, resulting in dismal rates of high-risk pregnancy identification. Availability of basic diagnostic equipment, an expansion of front-line worker capacity (using methods like supportive supervision) and their increased accountability towards coverage and quality of antenatal visits are key.
  • Data tracking and accountability: Data tracking would enable success. Currently, management information systems are only able to track around 20-40% of actual deaths. This is because staff are rarely held accountable for the data. Complex and multiple registers are also to blame. Field data collection processes need to be simplified. Wherever possible, technology like mobile apps should be used. Systemized data-driven reviews of key NMR-related measures, including still-birth rates, are necessary.

Way ahead

  • More often than not, it is not cutting-edge science that will save lives. Simple fixes, many of them administrative and managerial, don’t get addressed. Let us use this important perspective to fix the foundations of our health system.

Question– What are the causes of high NMR in India? How govt. should fight with this menace?

Explained: Who was Sitara devi (GS paper I)

Overview

  • Google on Wednesday marked the birth anniversary of Kathak exponent Sitara Devi with a colourful doodle.

Who was Sitara Devi

  • Her father, Sukhadev Maharaj — a Vaishnavite scholar who was a learned dancer and musician was known as the source of the Benaras gharana of Kathak. Well-versed in Natya Shastra, Sukhadev Maharaj taught Sitara Devi the concepts of tandavaandl asya.
  • Sitara Devi was hugely responsible for popularising the classical dance form.
  • “People were horrified hearing ghungroosounds from our house, because only tawaifs wore ghunguroos. But my father declared his daughters would not be confined to a life of dishwashing and housework.
  • People retorted, will they dance in mujras?…If I am no more, and if tomorrow, God forbid, Birju Maharaj is no more, it will be the end of Kathak. The End like they say in the films.
  • Sitara Devi passed away on 25 November, 2014.

Question– What was the contribution of Sitara devi in the revival of Indian culture?