1.AIDS-free by 2030, India included (The Hindu)
2.Farm Loan waivers (The Hindu and Indian Express)
3. India Bangladesh relations (The Hindu and Indian Express)
4.Black money and Demonetisation (The Hindu)
1.AIDS-free by 2030, India included (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the steps needed to end AIDS in India. (GS paper III)
- Health care is not mere a social responsibility of a state but also an important facilitator for economic growth. In order to tap rich demographic dividends, a health workforce is required.
- HIV/AIDS is one of the notorious heath hazard in India. Moreover, a considerable HIV population lives in India. Government is making efforts in this regard via National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) and providing increased funding.
AIDS programme in India
- The National AIDS Control Programme (NACP), launched in 1992, is being implemented as a comprehensive programme for prevention and control of HIV/AIDS in India.
- NACP I was implemented with an objective of slowing down the spread of HIV infections so as to reduce morbidity, mortality and impact of AIDS in the country. National AIDS Control Board (NACB) was constituted and an autonomous National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) was set up to implement the project.
- The first phase focused on awareness generation, setting up surveillance system for monitoring HIV epidemic, measures to ensure access to safe blood and preventive services for high risk group populations.
- The second National AIDS Control Project (NACP II) was launched with World Bank credit support. The policy and strategic shift was reflected in the two key objectives of NACP II:
- to reduce the spread of HIV infection in India.
- to increase India’s capacity to respond to HIV/AIDS on a long-term basis.
- Third phase of the national programme (NACPIII) was launched in July 2007 with the goal of Halting and Reversing the Epidemic by the end of project period.
- NACP IV will integrate with other national programmes and align with overall 12th Five Year Plan goals of inclusive growth and development. Having initiated the process of reversal in several high prevalent areas with continued emphasis on prevention, the next phase of NACP will focus on accelerating the reversal process and ensure integration of the programme response.
- In July 2000, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution, calling for “urgent and exceptional actions” to mitigate the threats posed by HIV/AIDS.
- Due to the passing of UNSC resolution, unprecedented levels of international funding has been provided for the elimination of disease.
- Though increased funding made a considerable impact on reduction of AIDS but there has been a stagnating and even declining trend of HIV/AIDS international financial assistance in recent years. Moreover, in light of the continuous economic boom in countries such as India and China, international funding agencies now argue that these countries should be donors instead of recipients of international HIV/AIDS-specific grants and loans.
Renewed domestic response
- In the light of decreased international funding, most of the countries are prioritising the integration of HIV/AIDS programmes into existing health-related systems.
- An integration of HIV/AIDS interventions and primary health-care systems has taken place in India from 2010 onwards. For instance, six components of the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP)-III merged with the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in 2010. These included
- Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTC);
- prevention of parent-to-child transmission (PPTCT);
- blood safety;
- sexually transmitted infections (STI) services;
- condom programming;
- antiretroviral treatment (ART).
- The continued integration of HIV/AIDS responses under the umbrella health system is ongoing in the NACP-IV.
- Moreover, India pledged to follow targets to fast track the pace of progress towards ending HIV/AIDS as a public health threat in the next five years, and ending the epidemic by 2030. Indian HIV/AIDS programmes have progressively become less dependent on foreign assistance and now Govt. is providing more than 65% of assistance under NCAP IV.
In Indian context, health care has never been a priority. Despite rapid economic development over the past two decades, public expenditure on health care in India as a proportion of GDP is among the world’s lowest. Health expenditure in India was merely 1.3% in 2015-16, while countries such as Norway, Canada, and Japan allocated over 9% of GDP to health.
- Moreover, India’s health-care expenditure is also comparatively less than other BRICS countries. The highest expenditure is by Brazil composing of 4.7% of its GDP.
- However, recently announced National Health Policy 2017 is a well founded step for increased funding for health Sector. It provides for 2.5%of GDP expenditure for health sector.
- A huge stigma is attached with the detection of AIDS in the Indian society. It is not perceived as a mere health concern, rather people diagnosed with HIV are ostracized from the society. Hence, more sensitive approach coupled with increased sensitization of society is required.
- If the goal of ending HIV/AIDS in India by 2030 is to become reality, there not only has to be an increase in budgetary allocation to public health care but also a more concentrated effort to increase AIDS awareness. Evidence suggests that many people suffering from HIV/AIDS in Asia lack the awareness that they test positive for HIV/AIDS.
- Civil Society Organisations and NGOs should be roped for a concerted effort. These organisations can join hands to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS at the local/State and national levels. They cam focus on offering direct care to people suffering from HIV/AIDS, general awareness campaigns and the care of children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS-related scenarios.
- Moreover, certain levels of AIDS exceptionalism should be maintained in order to prioritize its eradication
Question: HIV/AIDS is not mere a health care exclusion but a social exclusion. Discuss, also elaborate strategy required to address this concern.
2.Farm loan Waivers (The Hindu, Indian Express)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of recent farm loan waiver and its implications. (GS paper II)
- Farm loan waivers in India has been used repeatedly to mitigate the agrarian crisis. However, the problems in the farm sector still persists.
- Various studies have been pointed towards the fact that loan waivers just relieve the pain for a temporary period rather than curing the problem. Hence, more strategic decisions are needed to be taken in this regard.
- Recently, Uttar Pradesh government waived the loans of about 94 lakh small and marginal farmers in the state. On the same lines, Madras High Court also directed the Tamil Nadu government to extend its loan benefit, originally meant for small and marginal farmers, to all farmers in the state.
- Officials have even been hindered from trying to recover loans where repayments have slipped.
Implications of the decision
- It is a self evident fact that the agrarian distress in different parts of the country calls for urgent and immediate relief to farmers. But governments have been resorting to measures such as loan waivers without paying serious attention to the underlying crisis they seek to mitigate.
- The loan waivers create a ripple effect in the entire country and it may lead to going back to the 20th century formula of loan waivers that could have a cascading effect and open a Pandora’s Box of loan waiver demands. Political parties would also be more inclined to make such grand promises ahead of future polls. This is a slippery slope with multiple unintended outcomes likely in the years to come.
- Moreover, a similar decision by Madras High Court has clearly reached into the the domain of the executive. The risk is that this overreach could be cited in other courts to seek similar loan waivers. It may also be called as an action of Judicial Overreach.
- In fact, writing off loans as a blanket policy, without scrutiny and restructuring attempts creates a moral hazard for borrowers, who will have no incentive to stick to credit discipline.
- However, the problem does not stop here. Frequent write-offs will stimulate banks to invest in alternatives such as the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund instead of reaching out to individual farmers to meet their agricultural lending targets. (money has to be put in RIDF when banks fail to meet Priority lending targets)
Can these decisions involve a solution?
- A number of studies have pointed to the real problems that the loan waiver will not address: Most farmers do not earn enough from agriculture to meet even their essential consumption expenditures, leave alone those on education, healthcare, marriage and other social obligations for which they are often forced to borrow from private moneylenders.
- Moreover, this is a worrying trend for a country that wants to double agricultural incomes by 2022 as it would trigger a countrywide clamour for similar debt relief packages.
- Investments in the agriculture sector could also be hampered by such a decision. Government has made a call to double farm incomes by 2022 but all this now stands to be subsumed by the focus on loan waiver that makes for short-term populism, as opposed to investments that help boost productivity and incomes in the long term.
- A large chunk of farm losses can be attributed to the damages. Hence, government should transform and employ the modern technological service such as satellite imagery, GPS devices, drones etc. to assess farmers’ damages and settle insurance claims speedily.
- In fact, loan waivers can only yield a temporary relief and liquidity to farmers. But that liquidity is better provided through an efficient crop insurance system. In this respect, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana is a good start.
Question: Farm loan waivers not only pose an economic hazard but also pose a moral hazard among disciplined borrowers. What alternate strategy should be adopted by government in this regard?
3.India Bangladesh relations (The Hindu and Indian Express)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the scheduled visit of Bangladesh PM to India. (GS paper II)
- India and Bangladesh are natural partners with a shared history, shared geography and a shared culture. Though considerable advances have been made between two countries to solve the long pending disputes, however still a considerable leap forward is required.
- Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India is expected to be an opportunity to reap the potential of relations between two countries.
- Bangladesh with a population of nearly 170 million, is the eighth largest in the world. Even more important, it is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and has been called the “miracle in the east”. Moreover, Bangladesh is also a cornerstone for India’s act East policy. Hence, India shares a special relationship with Bangladesh.
- Both the countries share a comprehensive view of issues affecting them as well as the South Asian region. For example, both India and Bangladesh have adopted a common stance on tackling terrorism.
- It has been seven years since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came to Delhi. After such a long time both the countries have shared opportunity to further explore the relation for mutual benefit of both the countries.
- The government did well to open up the Indian market for goods produced in Bangladesh, extend economic assistance to developmental projects, negotiate an agreement on sharing the waters of the Teesta river and wrap up a long-pending boundary settlement. Whereas Dhaka, in turn, offered substantive cooperation on counter-terrorism and embraced the opportunity to integrate the regional economies.
- Moreover, Bangladesh has witnessed a rather impressive degree of Indian investment in other areas where its economic development is concerned.
- In terms of diplomacy in the South Asian region, both countries have had identical views on how organisations such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) should be going forward in promoting cooperation among its member nations.
- Challenges in the relationship
- Indian government is worried about the increasing levels of cooperation between Bangladesh and China, particularly in the spheres of the economy and defence. Dhaka’s recent procurement of two submarines from Beijing, raises certain doubts regarding Bangladeshi allegiances.
- Bangladesh Prime Minister has therefore a particular need now to convince the Indian leadership that Dhaka’s links with Beijing are in no way an effort to turn away from its traditional links with Delhi.
- Regional political hindrances also complicates the situation as on the Indian side, West Bengal CM has been reluctant to endorse the Teesta waters agreement that has become the touchstone for India’s good faith in Bangladesh.
- Even many in Bangladesh are nervous that Dhaka might be drawing too close to India. They are especially concerned about the prospects for expanding defence cooperation between the two countries. People in Dhaka believe that Delhi is trying to limit or constrain the potential strategic partnership between China and Bangladesh.
Key take away from the visit
- A slew of agreements are expected to be signed by the two countries during the presence of the Bangladesh leader in Delhi. A critical aspect of the trip will certainly be a defence deal that will likely be initialled by the two Prime Ministers.
- There is an urgent need for a political reframing of the relationship. Delhi needs to acknowledge and address the opportunities in Bangladesh in a more sustained and purposeful manner.
- Dhaka must demonstrate greater self-assurance in engaging India for enlightened self-interest. In any event, the time is now for Delhi and Dhaka to get out of the “big-brother-small-neighbour” syndrome.
- Teesta water dispute is a subject that has continued to be the focus of discussions in Dhaka ever since the possibility of a deal was spoiled in 2011. Hence, a resolution on Teesta river is must in order to secure a long term prosperous relation.
Question: Bangladesh is more than a partner to India as it is most crucial pivot to India’s look east policy. How govt. should leverage its relation with Bangladesh?
4.Demonetisation and black money (The Hindu)
Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of black money, unearthed by demonetisation initiative as claimed by government.(GS paper III)
- The demonetisation decision has been applauded by many across the country, who have called it an “anti-corruption cleaning drive,” but low-income earners, tourists and those dependent on ordinary cash have been bearer at the brunt of the new policy.
- Government in the recent budget have presented the data, claiming to unearthed substantial black incomes, but the claim need to be verified because cash deposited does not automatically make it black and black cash is a tiny part of the black economy.
Issue involved with demonetisation
- According to The World Bank estimation, the size of shadow economy is around 25% of the total economy, with demonetisation drive there has been expectation of reduction or elimination of black money.
- The real issue was how the common man been affected by the drive. The current demonetisation has adversely affected the poor, wage labourers, small businesses, farmers and other minorities. Often these small income earners save cash for a rainy day. The incidence of bank accounts and bank transactions had been extremely low among these groups.
- These communities are not much engaged in the formal banking sector, rather they save their daily or weekly wages in cash, often in large denominations. It is these groups who have been hit the most by the demonetisation drive.
- India is majorly cash-based system; it would certainly benefit by some measure to curtail it. At 12% of GDP, India’s cash economy is nearly four times the size of that of Brazil and South Africa. By demonetising the Rs500 and Rs1000 notes, India could get rid of counterfeit currency and fake notes that allegedly entered the country through the Chinese and the Pakistani border.
- Some tax evaders will surely bring out their cash which have been stashed away. But this will be a trickle a minuscule percentage of the total. Officers have exerted pressure on taxpayers via email, SMS and summons. In spite of all this, apparently little black income has been declared.
- In brief, the data given by the Finance Minister in the Budget speech does not imply that demonetisation will help unearth substantial black incomes. but this is a bold, dramatic, unprecedented move in India against corruption and black money. This is very positive for the economy and makes us convinced that reforms will be pushed very deeply, immediate impact of this has been a significant increase in deposit growth.
Question: Is demonetisation a boon or a bane. Discuss. Could it have been more effective?