Mitras Analysis of News : 08-04-2017

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1.Rail Reforms : Rail Development Authority (The Hindu)

2.India-Pak-Saudi Arabia Triangle (Indian Express)

3.DEPRESSION an Invisible Burden (Down to earth)

4.India- China Dalai Lama dispute(Their old ways)  (Indian Express)

 

1.Rail Reforms : Rail Development Authority (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on setting up of Rail Development Authority. (GS paper III)

Overview 

  • RDA may change the landscape of Indian Railways as it will help the national carrier take decisions on pricing of services proportionate with costs, will protect consumer interests, suggest measures for enhancement of non-fare revenue, promote competition and encourage market development.
  • It will be an independent regulator to recommend passenger and freight fares and set service level benchmarks

A brief background

  • The need for a rail regulator has been emphasized since 2001 by various committees. The first recommendation for an independent rail regulator came in 2001 when an expert group suggested the formation of a regulatory authority to fix rail tariffs.
  • Later, several railway committees suggested a Railway Tariff Development Authority. The most recent recommendation for RDA came through the National Transport Development Policy Committee (NTDPC) in 2014 and Bibek Debroy’s Committee in 2015.

Rail Development Authority

  • Union Cabinet has approved a major policy reform in Railway sector. The RDA will be set up as an independent regulatory body.
  • The Authority will have a Chairman along with three members with a fixed term of five years and it can engage experts from relevant areas. The Chairman of the Authority can be from the private sector and will be selected by a committee chaired by the Cabinet Secretary

Functions of RDA

The body will undertake the following broad functions:

  • Tariff determination
  • Ensuring fair play and level playing field for stakeholder investment in Railways
  • Setting efficiency and performance standards
  • Dissemination of information
  • However, RDA will only be a recommendatory body and the final decisions on setting fares will be made by the Railway Ministry.

Challenges and prospects for RDA

  • The popular aspiration is for a modern system that offers high-quality travel with low risk of accidents, while industry wants smooth freight transfer. In this regard, an independent, empowered regulator could be the paradigm shift that is needed. 
  • Until now, reforms in Indian Railways like increase in train tariffs and reduction in the number of railway employees have been withheld due to political reasons. However, RDA will be able to sove this persistent issue.
  • RDA has to deal with the sticky challenge of raising revenue along with increasing traffic. Thus, it has to identify sectors that can support higher tariffs and also produce greater volumes of traffic. Such accurate interventions are critical if the trend of declining rates of growth in railway freight revenues and volumes is to be reversed.
  • The proposed Authority would have to ensure that the resources of the system are optimally utilised, overcoming existing inefficiencies that arise from the fact that policy, regulatory and management functions of the railways are intertwined.

Way ahead

  • Inducting faster, more comfortable trains on 500 km-plus inter-city routes would attract new traffic, and help operate cheaper passenger trains to interior areas, as part of the government’s social obligation.
  • Bibek Debroy committee found that private sector is discouraged from investing in railways more effectively due to a monopolistic framework. Hence, RDA have to come up with a system that de-risks private investment and creates a level playing field.
  • The experience of consumers in cities shows that use of information technology to deliver traditional services can lead to higher levels of efficiency and lower costs, besides adding jobs.
  • Moreover, we can take a lead from European Model of rail reforms which was undertaken in Europe during the 1990s. It separated infrastructure from operations. Moreover, sequential measures achieved sustainable results, rather than a package of changes introduced at once.

Question: Railways too far is considered as a lifeline of India, seeing the quantum freight and passenger traffic it carries. What important reform measures can be undertaken to reform the face of railways.

                                 

 2.India-Pak-Saudi Arabia Triangle (Indian Express) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the increasing affinity between Saudi and India at the cost of Pakistan. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • After years of considering Saudi Arabia as a major ally and economic benefactor, Pakistan may be on the verge of losing its erstwhile patron to arch-rival India.
  • For Pakistanis who see the world in binary terms as an eternal conflict between India and Pakistan, this was clearly a win for India.

Context

  • Saudi Arabia’s King had sought Pakistan’s ex-army chief’s appointment to the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT). However, it seemed the king didn’t even ask Islamabad before announcing the appointment.
  • Saudi has been bittered by by Pakistan’s refusal in 2015 to join the Saudi war in Yemen.

Importance of Saudi and gulf region for Pak.

  • Pakistan is hugely dependent on this region for the inward remittances. In 2015-16, overseas Pakistani workers remitted $20 billion. Out of this, $10 billion came from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while the US and the UK together accounted for only $5 billion.
  • Moreover, The United States under new regime is expected to become less friendly to Pakistan after cosying up to India and increasingly taking on China at the global level.

Changing relation Increasing cooperation between India and Saudi

  • India and Saudi Arabia base their relations on mutual interests, not on the basis of taking sides in a rivalry. Ties between India and the oil rich Gulf countries have been expanding due to economic interests as well as growing military and counter-terrorism cooperation
  • Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders have, however, been oblivious to these changes. Islamabad -the seat of civilian authority and Rawalpindi – the headquarters of Pakistan’s all-powerful army still prefer to see the world from the same lens that they have been using for the last six decades. Opposition to India and demands for settlement of the Kashmir dispute remain paramount in Pakistan’s foreign policy
  • This attitude has blinkered Pakistan’s vision, inflated its sense of self-importance and prevented the country’s leaders from understanding the subtle changes that have occurred in how most countries view both Pakistan and India.
  • Moreover, Riyadh never completely broke with India, maintaining mutually beneficial economic and political ties. The number of Indians working in a diverse array of fields in Saudi Arabia – both white and blue collar workers – rose from 34,500 in 1975 to 1.2 million in 1999 and 2.96 million in 2016. This comprised almost half of the 7.3 million Indians in the Gulf who together send USD $ 36 billion in 2015, 52 percent of the total remittances to India annually.
  • India’s economic growth, and its increasing demand for energy, made it a major buyer of Saudi Arabia’s principal export—Crude oil and petroleum products. Economic factors resulted in the first ever visit by a Saudi monarch to India in five decades in 2006, when Saudi King Abdullah stated that the two countries had deep historical ties and he looked upon India as his “second home.”
  • Now, India and Saudi Arabia have become economically more significant for one another with US $39.4 billion in bilateral trade in 2014-15. Whereas, Pakistan-Saudi trade by contrast stood at a meagre US $6.1 billion.
  • For India, Saudi Arabia is the main source of its oil imports, supplying one-fifth of India’s annual demand. For the Saudis, India is their fifth biggest customer after China, Japan, United States, and South Korea.

Way ahead

  • Even India is important for Iran and the UAE equally: Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve Limited (ISPRL) has an agreement with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) for topping up one of the two caverns at the Mangalore Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) facility. Hence, India should leverage the growing relation to strengthen its position to become a regional and responsible power.

Question: West Asia dynamics are changing in favour of India. How India should position itself in the changed scenario?

 

3.DEPRESSION an Invisible Burden (Down to earth)

Overview

  • On the occasion of the World Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) released some alarming statistics on mental health. It said that depression is the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide. Between 2005 and 2015, there has been an increase in the number of people affected by depression by more than 18 per cent.
  • In India, every 20th Indian is in the grip of depression. Union Minister of Health had assured more NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences) like institutes to be set up in the country.

What is depression?

  • Depression, a mental health disorder that affects the biological, social, and psychological functioning of an individual, is one of the most common disorders affecting the well-being of people across the globe. It is also one of the disorders that are commonly spoken about and, to an extent, relatively more understood colloquially than other mental health conditions.
 Symptoms:

  • Feeling low, social withdrawal, low self-worth, disturbed sleep, changes in appetite (eating too much or too little), fatigue, listlessness, poor concentration, irritability and short temper. If symptoms last for over two weeks, seek professional help.

World

  • Over 322 million (or 4.4%) suffer from depression.
  • It’s more common among women (5.1%) than men (3.6%).
  • Has seen 788,000 suicide deaths, accounting for nearly 1.5% of all deaths worldwide.

India

  • Over 58 million people (or 4.5%) people suffer from depression.
  • Suicide is the 10th most common cause of early death.

Mental problems are the fifth-highest non-communicable cause of disability after heart disease, infections, neonatal disorders and cancer.

Mental health care facilities in India

  • Mental health services in India are a neglected area which needs immediate attention from stakeholders like the government, policy makers, and civil society.
  • Most of the available government funded mental health resources are confined to urban settings, resulting in a greater treatment gap for rural areas. The treatment gap remains a hurdle in rural communities, and the burden increases as the numbers of mental health sufferers increase.
  • A substantial portion of the country around 69% resides in rural settings. Only 0.06% of the total health budget is dedicated to mental health services, and there is also a national average deficit of 77 % in the number of psychiatrists needed for the country.
  • Lower socio-economic resources and rates of literacy, and lack of awareness and access to treatment worsen the situation.
  • Despite the National and District Mental Health Programmes at the Centre and State Levels, services in the rural areas of India are constricted in terms of reach and quality.
  • However, government is now giving more focus to mental illness. The National Health Policy 2017 prioritises mental health services as a component of addressing non-communicable disease and decriminalises attempt to suicide and has a rights-based approach.

Way ahead 

  • In the wake of the rising number of people affected by depression, the World Health Organization has dedicated 2017 to dismantling the silence over depression. With the global theme of “Depression: Let’s Talk”, the WHO hopes to create a safe space for each and every individual to start talking about depression in order to end the stigma.
  • India is home to a pluralistic society characterized by a number of religions, ethnicities, and philosophical systems, all of which have shaped perspectives on mental illness. Economic and social factors also need to be consider to explain mental illness.
  • Research in Lancet ‘Psychiatry’ has shown that grassroots community mental health programmes can significantly reduce treatment gaps and suicides. Community intervention has shown multi-fold improvement in significant recovery from depression, and consequent reduction in the number of suicides. So there is need to give more attention to community

Question: WHO’s report on depression has presented disturbing facts regarding India. What can be the social remedies for curing depression?

 4.India- China Dalai Lama dispute(Their old ways) (Indian Express) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the controversy between India and China regarding Dalai Lama. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • China has lashed out at India for permitting the Dalai Lama to visit an important Buddhist monastery in a disputed Himalayan border province, warning that the Tibetan spiritual leader’s trip will “severely hurt” relations between the Asian neighbours

Present Issue

  • The Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since 1959, is on an eight-day visit to India’s north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, a region Beijing claims is part of Tibet – which it invaded in 1959 and has controlled ever since.
  • The Dalai Lama has visited the site of the sacred Buddhist pilgrimage centre Tawang – six times before, mostly recently in 2009 when Beijing also publicly objected.

The controversy over Tawang

  • India and China have a 4,000km border but the relatively dormant dispute over Tawang, ceded by Tibet to the British in 1914, has heated up over the past decade, with China stepping up its claims to the territory.
  • Tawang is situated in Arunachal Pradesh and is surrounded by Tibet in North and Bhutan in South West.
  • Tawang, is home to the world’s second largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery after the Potala Palace in Lhasa.
  • This area was merged with India in 1914 after Shimla agreement and subsequently Mc Mohan line was drawn which guides the India-China boundary in Arunachal.
  • China has repeatedly disputed this line and does not recognizes the area south of Mcmohan line as sovereign of India.
  • China and India appointed special representatives to discuss boundary question in 2003.
  • Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary Question was signed in 2005 on whose basis the boundary question have to be dealt.

China’s reservations against Dalai lama  

  • Dalai Lama is the spiritual head of the Buddhists in the Tibetan school of Buddhism.
  • Present Dalai Lama is the 14th Lama, original born Tenzin Gyatso.
  • Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 in the aftermath of failed uprising in Tibet against China. India provided asylum to Dalai Lama and hundreds of other Tibetans.
  • This move irked China and China considers Dalai Lama as a leader of secessionist movement in Tibet. China considers him to be involved in anti-China activities.
  • China is hostile towards India as well because India provided asylum Lama.

Way ahead

  • China feels that by disregarding its concerns and “adamantly” arranging the Dalai Lama’s visit to the disputed part of Sino-Indian border, India is “causing serious damage” to its interests as well as India-China relations. Thus, India should consider over all concerns which may impact Indian position.
  • Moreover, infuriated China can cause huge implications with regard to finalisation of CPEC corridor. The proposed corridor is being signed with Pakistan and it passes through POK territory.

Question: The dispute in Arunachal can bear costs in POK. What should be Indian response in this regard?

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