At first step
Tibet is not a card
Terms of separation
On fixing India’s cultural spaces
At first step
Synoptic line: It throws light on issue The National Health Protection Mission.
(GS paper II)
- Universal health coverage is defined by the WHO as a state when “all people obtain the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them”. With its endorsement of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, India will have to constantly raise its ambition during the dozen years to the deadline.
- The government has recently launched the Ayushman Bharat -National Health Protection Mission (AB-NHPM), the scheme to provide health cover of ₹5 lakh per year to 10 crore poor and vulnerable families through the Ayushman Bharat-National Health Protection Mission has taken a step forward with the Union Cabinet approving the modalities of its implementation.
- Over a year, available before the term of the present government ends, urgent action is needed to roll out such an ambitious scheme. For a start, the apex council that will steer the programme and the governing board to operationalise it in partnership with the States need to be set up.
- The States, which have a statutory responsibility for provision of health care, have to act quickly and form dedicated agencies to run the scheme. Since the NHPM represents the foundation for a universal health coverage system that should eventually cover all Indians, it needs to be given a sound legal basis, ideally through a separate law.
- This could be on the lines of legislation governing the rights to food and information. Such legislation would strengthen entitlement to care, which is vital to the scheme’s success. It will also enable much-needed regulatory control over pricing of hospital-based treatments.
- The initial norms set for availing benefits under the NHPM, which subsumes earlier health assurance schemes, appear to make the inclusion of vulnerable groups such as senior citizens, women and children contingent on families meeting other criteria, except in the case of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe households.
- The government should take the bold step of including these groups universally; the financial risk can be borne by the taxpayer. This underscores the importance of raising not just core budgetary spending every year, but paying attention to social determinants of health. Affordable housing, planned urban development, pollution control and road safety are some aspects vital for reducing the public health burden.
- Unfortunately, governments are paying little attention to these issues, as the quality of life erodes even with steady economic growth. In some of its early assessments on the road to universal health coverage, NITI Aayog advocated a State-specific approach rather than a Grand National health system to expand access.
- But the NHPM has a national character, with States playing a crucial role in its implementation, and beneficiaries being able to port the service anywhere. It is a challenging task to make all this a reality, and the government will have to work hard to put it in place
Question – The National Health Protection Mission requires a bold, holistic approach. Critically analyse the scheme.
Tibet is not a card
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of India-Tibet-China issue.
(GS paper II)
- Recently the government’s bid to ease tensions with China has been met with some criticism, particularly over a leaked memo to officials telling them to stay away from events that commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s 1959 flight to India. This has led to the cancellation of several public events related to Tibet. Much of the criticism stems from the perception that the government is attempting to appease China by giving up its “Tibet card”.
- China’s aggression on the subject is the wrong pretext to nuance its Tibet policy, and as the government has said, where the Dalai Lama goes within India is a sovereign issue. However, the bigger error may be for the government to be using Tibetan refugees in India as a card in its relations with China.
Assessment of ties
- New Delhi and Beijing have deteriorated over the past few years for a number of reasons unconnected to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan population in India: border incursions, including the standoff at the part of Doklam claimed by Bhutan; India’s strategic shift in line with the U.S.’s Indo-Pacific pivot that targets China; China’s ‘deep-pocket’ inroads into South Asia; and differences on the international stage, including over the Nuclear Suppliers Group membership and terror designations to Masood Azhar.
- It would be simplistic to assume that these problems would go away if India were to make the Tibetan community and its leader less visible. Therefore, while it is a mistake to play every visit of the Dalai Lama or official meeting with the leader of the ‘Tibetan government-in-exile’, Lobsang Sangay, as a ‘challenge to China’, it is equally ridiculous to portray strictures on their activities as a ‘peace offering to Beijing’.
- Indian strategists have handed down the idea of a Tibet card for decades; it is time to revise this policy with a thorough evaluation of the ground, from New Delhi to Beijing and Lhasa to Dharamshala. For starters, the landscape of Tibet, now crisscrossed with railway lines, super-speed highways, tunnels and airports, has changed drastically in the past two decades.
- While many have written about the Beijing-Lhasa railway line, the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) now sees many more such engineering marvels and downtown Lhasa has all the trappings of a modern city. All of this has made Tibet more self-reliant, with more jobs for the next generation.
- There’s an ongoing demographic shift in Tibet, with Beijing populating areas with majority ‘Han’ Chinese workers, encouraging mixed marriages, and mainstreaming Chinese culture into the region. At the same time, the outflow of refugees from Tibet has been curtailed by the Chinese authorities over the last decade, mainly by convincing Nepal to close a popular route.
- As a result, the number of new arrivals from Tibet into Dharamshala is down to a trickle and the once bustling informal trade route between India and Tibet has also dried up. Bollywood DVDs, once easily available in Lhasa’s bustling markets, have been replaced by Chinese and Tibetan films. The new reality means that India’s population of the 100,000 or so registered Tibetan refugees are more cut off from developments in their homeland than ever before.
- New generations of Tibetans born in India are brought up as exiles, without a real sense of what Tibet may actually be like, should they ever return. As most live separately in about 40 settlements around India, they also have a tenuous link to the host country itself. The government’s attitude towards giving them citizenship has been stern, although it lost its case in the Delhi High Court (Namgyal Dolkar v. Government of India) and must give citizenship to all Tibetan refugees born between 1950 and 1987, the cut-off year. It will be equally important to devise a mechanism for those born after 1987, many now in their twenties, living in this limbo.
- The bigger question that looms over the community is that of its future leadership. During his lifetime, the Dalai Lama has been a unifying force, guiding the community through their struggle in a peaceful manner, while accepting an autonomous Tibet as a part of China.
- Of equal interest are possible talks between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government. Reports that the Dalai Lama’s special emissary, Samdhong Rinpoche, travelled to Yunnan last year have fuelled rumours that the Dalai Lama is preparing to re-enter talks with China, that were dropped in 2010. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has now secured his position for the foreseeable future, may well take a more proactive interest in the Tibet issue, which his father once discussed with the Dalai Lama.
- India holds the “Tibet card” is out of step with all the shifts on the ground, and the government needs a proactive policy that takes into account these new realities. There is an urgent need for community outreach, surveys and a referendum, if necessary, to map what the Tibetan community in India wants in its future. For those who want to make India a permanent home, especially those in the new generation, India must reconsider its citizenship laws.
Question – Explain why India for easing tensions with China should not use the Tibet card?
Terms of separation
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of ongoing religion struggle for Lingayats.
(GS paper I)
- The Centre seems averse to approving Karnataka government’s decision to treat Lingayats as a separate religion. The Lingayats evolved elaborate rituals to mark the distinctiveness of their dharma from the Brahminical, Jaina and folk faiths existing at that time.
- Composed by men and women from all “castes” (or occupational backgrounds), the extensive body of Vachana are in Kannada, not Sanskrit. They elevate labour to a spiritual ideal and emphasise the equal worth of different kinds of work. They reject temple worship and forbid animal sacrifice. The Lingayats are strict vegetarians. They have their own priests to officiate over ceremonies, their own cooks. They don’t cremate the dead, but bury them. These are but a few ways in which they have fashioned their distinct theology and ritual life.
- Lingayatism is a Shaivite religious tradition in India, initially known as Veerashaivas, since the 18th century adherents of this faith are known as Lingayats. The terms Lingayatism and Veerashaivism have been used synonymously, but Veerashaivism may refer to the broader Veerashaivas philosophy which predates Lingayatism, to the historical community now called Lingayats, and to a contemporary sub-tradition with Vedic influences.
- Meanwhile Lingayatism may refer to the whole Lingayat community, but also to a contemporary sub-tradition within this community which strives toward recognition as an independent religion.
- The scholar M.M. Kalburgi was assassinated in 2015, he was the one who wanted to establish the separateness of Lingayat dharma from Hinduism. Denying such a separation, other scholars like Chidananda Murthy have argued how the concept of shoonya (nothingness) and the idea of the body in Lingayat theology derive, respectively, from the Upanishads and from older discussions of yoga.
- But using the latter as evidence for viewing Lingayat dharma as a sub-component of Hinduism would be anachronistic as those texts came to be viewed as “Hindu” texts many centuries later. Further, the creative transformation of borrowed notions needs independent attention.
- Since its founding in the 12th century, Lingayat dharma spread across Karnataka and parts of Maharashtra and Telangana. Unfortunately, historical research on the efforts of the dozens of mathas in acquiring new converts to the Lingayat faith and, more generally, functioning as moral authorities in their regions has been scanty. The conversion of individuals into the Lingayat faith continues to happen in mathas, albeit with reduced frequency.
- The Lingayats were recorded as a caste within the Hindu religion for the first time in the 1881 census done in Mysore state. Their request to be classified as a separate religion instead was turned down at the time the Indian Constitution was being finalised. The rationale: How can Shaivite not be Hindu? Still, the idea that Lingayat dharma was a distinct religion stayed alive in scholarly and public discussions.
- Reflecting the changed nature of Lingayat mobilisation, the six-member Nagamohan Das committee, which was constituted three months ago, views Lingayats and those who believe in Basava’s philosophy as belonging to a separate religion. The latter criterion is an opening offered to Veerashaivas who are clubbed with Lingayats in official documents despite their theological differences with the latter. The state government has now asked the Centre to endorse the committee’s view that Lingayats form a separate religion.
- Termed “a dominant caste” in social science scholarship, the Lingayats are about 13% of the State’s population of nearly 6.5 crore. At present, 47 of the 224 MLAs are Lingayats. Electorally significant in about a hundred Assembly constituencies, the Lingayat community matters in elections.
- In 2011, the then government in Karnataka declared Basava Jayanthi as a State holiday. And, last year, the government mandated that a portrait of Basava adorn the walls of all government offices. Since the Lingayat support is decisive for the electoral fortunes in Karnataka, the party’s alarm about the Lingayats pulling away from Hinduism is real.
- A minority religion status does mean financial gain for the Lingayat mathas which run dozens of higher education institutions. But this factor cannot fully explain their struggle. The speeches, articles and interviews of Lingayat swamis bespeak a genuine concern about not letting the distinctive Basava philosophy be subsumed under “a sanatana Hindu dharma.”
- The present controversy asks the Lingayats to re-examine their relationship with their rich moral tradition.
Question – Who are ‘Lingayats’? And explain why the community is demanding separate religion status?
On fixing India’s cultural spaces
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of dismal state of Indian cultural spaces.
(GS paper I)
- According to some estimates India is home to 800-1,000 museums, a minor figure when even our former colonizers in Britain own more than twice that number, while our current rival, China, has proactively established 4,000. Italy has a museum for every 13,000 citizens; India has perhaps one for every 1.3 million.
- It is another matter that most would not complain about this shortfall given the dreary experience that a visit to our museums involves besides lines of restless schoolchildren compelled to tour dusty halls and look interested, we have a problem in the way we run institutions of art and culture.
- Some of it is bureaucracy the Union ministry of culture oversees a large number of museums, but there are many under other ministries, not to speak of dozens run by local authorities. Budgetary allocations are abysmal this year, the culture minister has Rs2,843 crore to disburse (about the same as the cost of an extravagant statue planned in Mumbai), of which museums will receive an even smaller slice after allocations to archives, the archaeological survey and other departments are made. In comparison, Italy earned €200 million (around Rs1, 600 crore) through sales of entry tickets alone.
- Ticketing is a complicated subject, as on the one hand is the argument that art and heritage must remain accessible Rs20, in a poor country, may already seem like a lot. But if there is no revenue of significance from tickets, and if funding from “above” is inadequate, we can at best watch and sigh as our cultural resources crumble into dust two years ago, it was discovered that 24 monuments had gone “missing” altogether.
- Occasionally, of course, there are bursts of energy, as when hundreds of crores were invested for the “state of the art” Bihar Museum, or after a generous allocation was made for the Indian Museum in Kolkata in 2014 where, ironically, millennia-old objects were damaged by inexpert handling only a year later. And then there are private museums, though how accessible these will be to modestly heeled audiences is uncertain.
- Smarter ticketing, and the superior quality this ensures, might actually increase the number of visitors. Surely museum passes could be priced at least at par with the average movie ticket, or will the piety associated with cheap entry survive as a smokescreen for our collective failure to do a better job.
- There have been voices to rescue India’s museums through public-private partnerships, though attempts at pulling these off have not succeeded. For example-one group in Bengaluru, which was to develop the iconic Venkatappa Art Gallery, backed by the city’s leading philanthropists, eventually pulled out two years ago after protests that their intention was to turn the decrepit institution into a “wine and cheese” place. The project fell through, while under leaky roofs with peeling plaster, a set of people certainly felt they had gained a moral victory, oblivious perhaps to a greater loss.
- In India, home to the most phenomenal of wonders, the question, given the state of our museums, is whether, in the first place, most of us would even consider walking in.
Question – India’s cultural spaces are in dismal states, explain the reasons and solutions for the same.