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SECURE SYNOPSIS: 27 AUGUST 2018


SECURE SYNOPSIS: 27 AUGUST 2018


NOTE: Please remember that following ‘answers’ are NOT ‘model answers’. They are NOT synopsis too if we go by definition of the term. What we are providing is content that both meets demand of the question and at the same time gives you extra points in the form of background information.


General Studies – 2


Topic–  Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

1) Pricing of medicines in the face of rising healthcare costs, has been an persistent issue of concern for the Indian government. Critically examine. (250 words)

epw

Timesofindia

Why this question

Healthcare is a critical sector for any society or economy but more so for India where the majority of population still does not have access to quality healthcare services and a prohibitive out-of-pocket expenditure on health and medicines stifles the development of millions of people. In this context it is imperative to discuss the reasons of failure of pricing of medicines.

Directive word

Critically examine- Here we have to probe deeper into the topic,  get into details, and find out the causes or implications if any. Based on our discussion we have to form a concluding opinion on the issue.

Key demand of the question.

The question wants us to discuss the reasons as to why Pricing of medicines has been an issue of concern for the Indian government. We have to bring forward the causes behind this and form a personal opinion on the overall issue accordingly.

Structure of the answer

Introduction- write a few lines about dismal public healthcare, India’s exorbitant private healthcare, high out-of-pocket expenditure and rising prices, as well as share of medicines in health care expenditure.

Body– mention that the government loosely regulates prices of all medicines in public interest. Prices of around 850 essential drugs are however capped by the government. The drug price regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) revises these prices annually based on the wholesale price index (WPI). For all other medicines, companies are allowed to raise prices by no more than 10% in a year. Discuss why drug pricing has been ineffective- e.g the domestic pharmaceuticals market, which is highly concentrated with the top 10 companies accounting for more than two-fifths of the total sales. In such a set-up, the market-based price ceiling mechanism proposed by the new DPCO is potentially susceptible to the phenomenon of regulatory capture. The price cap is a simple average of prices of all brands with more than 1% market share in a medicinal area. This is prone to overestimation if firms, especially the big ones, collude to raise the price of the regulated formulation in the period preceding the regulation; deficient supply chain management prevents the utilisation of low-cost generic drugs from picking up. The crumbling status of the already existing Jan Aushadhi Kendras due to procurement delays and errant supplies are rampant. Poor forecasts, archaic procurement systems, and small markets, among other things, can cause supply bottlenecks; at the same time, demand is constrained by the lack of clarity on the quality of generic drugs. With the key parts of the drug regulatory systems in the country being controlled by the states, there are no consistent standards for enforcement etc.

Conclusion– Based on your discussion, form a fair and a balanced conclusion on the given issue. Mention the Ayushman Bharat scheme and need to complement it with commensurate supply-side strategies, such as strengthening the public sector provisioning of essential healthcare etc.

Background:-

  • Healthcare system in India is characterised by a rapaciously expanding private sector and prohibitive out-of-pocket (OOP) health expenditures that hinder access to healthcare, particularly for the poor and the vulnerable.
  • More disconcerting in this scenario is the spiralling cost of therapeutics, which has emerged as a key driver of the increasing share of healthcare in household consumption expenditures over time.
  • Almost two-fifths of the overall healthcare costs and more than half of the total private OOP healthcare costs in India are for therapeutics.

Measures taken:-

  • Recent initiatives of the central government for (essential) drug price control, such as the new Drug (Price Control) Order (DPCO) of 2013 or the proposed expansion of the generic drugs scheme by increasing the number of Jan Aushadhi Kendras, are welcome moves
  • Even now, the government loosely regulates prices of all medicines in public interest. Prices of around 850 essential drugsare capped by the government.
  • The drug price regulator National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority(NPPA) revises these prices annually based on the wholesale price index (WPI). For all other medicines, companies are allowed to raise prices by no more than 10% in a year.

Pricing of medicine has been a persistent issue:-

  • Policy overtone in this aspect is historically preponderated by “price control,” which, as of now, could encompass even less than a quarter of the domestic pharmaceuticals market. Besides, experiences of drug price control have not been promising.
  • Supplies cut:-
    • When the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority issued a ceiling price of Re 0.29 per unit for Furosemide the prices were slashed down and the industry retaliated by cutting down supply of the drug.
  • Structure of pharma market:-
    • A major impediment to drug price control in India lies in the structure of the domestic pharmaceuticals market, which is highly concentrated with the top 10 companies accounting for more than two-fifths of the total sales.
    • In such a set-up, the market-based price ceiling mechanism proposed by the new DPCO is potentially susceptible to the phenomenon of regulatory capture as the price cap is a simple average of prices of all brands with more than 1% market share in a medicinal area.
    • This is prone to overestimation if firms, especially the big ones, collude to raise the price of the regulated formulation in the period preceding the regulation. 
  • Issues :-
    • Deficient supply chain management prevents the utilisation of low-cost generic drugs from picking up.
    • Media reports on the crumbling status of the already existing Jan Aushadhi Kendras due to procurement delays and errant supplies are rampant.
    • Poor forecasts, archaic procurement systems, and small markets, among other things, can cause supply bottlenecks
    • Demand is constrained by the lack of clarity on the quality of generic drugs.
    • With the key parts of the drug regulatory systems in the country being controlled by the states, there are no consistent standards for enforcement.
    • The pharmaceutical manufacturers estimate that 20% of all drugs sold in major city markets are substandard or counterfeit, while the government estimates that these account for almost 10% of the total pharmaceutical market in the country.

Way forward:-

  • Successful licensing mechanisms, including medicine patent pool or tiered pricing models, which maximise public health benefits are reliable alternatives .
  • Trade margin rationalisation (TMR):
    • It is imperative to focus on TMR as it imposes a cap on the margins across the value chain, rather than capping price of devices.
    • Imposing TMR involves imposing a cap on upstream margins across the entire value chain, rather than imposing caps on prices of products downstream. This would certainly be a game-changer if implemented in the right way, and at the right time.
  • For the long term, the government can look at a strategy of building competency in health technology assessment (HTA), where a robust medical technology assessment programme is developed after taking into consideration evidence of safety, efficacy, patient-reported outcomes and cost-effectiveness.
  • Centralised drug procurement has been effectively used in states like Tamil Nadu to bring down costs. Rest of the states can emulate that.
  • Drug firms must be incentivised to innovate and invest in research and development. India needs to increase  GDP being spent by the government on healthcare.

Conclusion:-

  • It has been empirically proven that free or low-cost healthcare provisioning by the state remains the best way to enhance the health and well-being of households, provided infrastructural bottlenecks are addressed, and low-cost medicines and diagnostics made available to all.

General Studies – 3


TopicIndian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

2) Discuss the steps taken by the RBI in recent years to clean up the balance sheets of commercial banks. (250 words)

epw

economictimes

Economictimes

Why this question

India’s NPA problem is huge and has been gradually resolving but the pace has not been upto the mark. In this context RBI has been at the forefront and has taken several measures in recent years to resolve the problem of NPAs. Thus it is important to discuss these steps and inform ourselves about them.

Directive word

Discuss- This is an all-encompassing directive which mandates us to write in detail about the key demand of the question. We also have to discuss about the related and important aspects of the question in order to bring out a complete picture of the issue in hand.

Key demand of the question.

The question wants us to write in detail about all the measures taken by the RBI to resolve the problem of rising NPAs in Indian banking system.

Structure of the answer

Introduction– write a few lines about india’s NPA problem its status etc.

Body– Discuss the measures taken by the RBI in recent years. E.g insisting on a more vigorous asset quality review and providing a realistic picture of NPAs and provisioning ratios for the existing stock of restructured loans that are showing signs of stress. In order to prevent banks from liberally restructuring loans, the RBI cautioned that units not found viable would henceforth be treated as substandard assets for the purpose of provisioning;  scheme for sustainable structuring of stressed assets,” (S4A); Taking cognisance of the continuous increase in bad debts, the RBI further initiated stringent measures in February 2018, as per which the lenders should identify incipient stress in loan accounts and classify the stress accounts into three categories of special mention accounts (SMA), depending upon the default of payments and report the data to the RBI under CRILC. The resolution plan thereof would entail downgrading or upgrading of the loan accounts without loss of time. The loan classification and reclassification would be an ongoing exercise. according to which a portion of the stressed assets could be converted into equity of the company; scrapped numerous loan restructuring programmes prevalent among banks to restructure defaulted loans(CDR, SDR, S4A, JLF schemes) and made resolution of defaults time bound with the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code becoming the main tool to deal with defaulters etc.

Conclusion- Based on your discussion, form a fair and a balanced conclusion on the given issue- e.g in view of the stringent measures imposed during the last two years and to maintain the stipulated CRAR norms, care should also be taken to ensure that there is no erosion of capital for any eventual decline in profits. If the repayments are not forthcoming as per the terms and conditions, and the assisted units are not found to be viable, steps need to be taken for fast recovery; need for a relook and review the database on NPAs of commercial banks etc.

 

Background:-

  • The Financial Stability Report, 2017, released by the RBI, states that India’s gross NPAs stands at 9.6%.

Steps taken by RBI:-

  • The RBI has taken important steps to clean up the balance sheets of commercial banks during 2015–16, insisting on a more vigorous asset quality review and providing a realistic picture of NPAs and provisioning ratios for the existing stock of restructured loans that are showing signs of stress.
  • In order to prevent banks from liberally restructuring loans, the RBI cautioned that units not found viable would henceforth be treated as substandard assets for the purpose of provisioning, culminating in the 15% norm prescribed for substandard assets.
  • Scheme for sustainable structuring of stressed assets:-
    • A portion of the stressed assets could be converted into equity of the company. 
    • The implication of this measure is that, with a high stake in equity, the returns thereof are expected to offset the bad debts that could have been incurred otherwise.
    • While this could improve the leverage ratios of the companies in the short run, and may be beneficial to both the bank and the company, the viability of the company could be at stake if the bank decides to withdraw the capital at a later date.
  • Taking cognisance of the continuous increase in bad debts, the RBI further initiated stringent measures in 2018, as per which the lenders should identify incipient stress in loan accounts and classify the stress accounts into three categories of special mention accounts (SMA), depending upon the default of payments and report the data to the RBI under CRILC.
    • The resolution plan thereof would entail downgrading or upgrading of the loan accounts without loss of time.
    • The loan classification and reclassification would be an ongoing exercise. This will have a drastic effect on the provisioning ratio and the profitability of the banks would get further eroded, unless continuous vigilance and monitoring of these accounts is ensured 
  • RBI scrapped numerous loan restructuring programmes prevalent among banks to restructure defaulted loans(CDR, SDR, S4A, JLF schemes) and made resolution of defaults time bound with the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code becoming the main tool to deal with defaulters etc.
    • Lenders will now have to work out a resolution plan for defaults within 180 days, failing which the account would be referred to the bankruptcycourts
  • Central bank has also toughened the reporting of defaults to the central repository by making it monthly from quarterly. All borrower entities in default with an exposure of more than Rs. 5 crores have to be reported on weekly basis.

Way forward:-

  • Commercial banks will have to perform a balancing act in the coming years with better management of credit risks, particularly in respect of restructured advances and provisions thereof, in view of the stringent measures imposed during the last two years.
  • In order to maintain the stipulated CRAR norms, care should also be taken to ensure that there is no erosion of capital for any eventual decline in profits.
  • If the repayments are not forthcoming as per the terms and conditions, and the assisted units are not found to be viable, steps need to be taken for fast recovery.
  • It is time to have a relook and review the database on NPAs of commercial banks, which could be more useful in the context of the developments taking place in the banking sector.
    • The basic statisticalreturns (BSR) information system can be tapped by the generation of tabulations needed for the purpose, suitably modifying the formats in data collection. 

Topic – Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth.

3) Tariff liberalisation policies and the liberal FDI policy regime, enveloped within a passive industrial policy framework, have resulted in India’s increased electronics import dependence. Critically analyze.(250 words)

epw

Reference

Why this question

Liberalization in India helped India becoming a leading IT services hub of the world. But its electronics manufacturing industry has not been able to even (substantially) reduce ,leave alone eliminate  import dependence. This is a serious economic and policy matter which needs to be probed in detail.

Directive word

Critically analyze-  Here we have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts, and present them as a whole in a summary.Based on our discussion we have to form a concluding opinion on the issue.

Key demand of the question.

The question wants us to dig deep into the issue and bring out how these factors-  tariff liberalisation policies , a liberal FDI policy regime, a passive industrial policy framework- have led to India’s increased electronics import dependence. We have to discuss each factor separately but present them all as contributing factors to- India’s increased electronics import dependence.

Structure of the answer

Introduction-write a few lines indicating the present status of the Electronic System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) sector in India and about the electronics imports in India. Mention the predicted growth in the sector and the need of the hour to seize that opportunity.

Body-

Discuss how each of the three factors have led to India’s increased electronics import dependence. E.g

  • Tariff liberalization policies- India joined the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Information Technology Agreement (ITA-1) in 1996, with the conviction that lowering duties on a range of ICT products under the ITA-1 would boost the competitiveness of India’s software exports, apart from increasing their market access. Compared to the 1993–98 period electronics sector witnessed significant net decline in total factor productivity growth (TFPG) between 1999 and 2004. This downward trend continued after trade liberalisation was intensified from 1997 onwards under the ITA-1 which was then exacerbated by the equally non-strategic tariff liberalisation carried out by India under its free-trade agreements (FTAs) with the ASEAN and Japan and South Korea, countries that were already deeply integrated into global value chains (GVCs) in the electronics sector.
  • FDI policies have provided limited incentive for large foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and electronics manufacturing service providers to invest in local production. Instead, they typically choose to only set up final assembly plants in India . A trade policy that promotes duty-free imports will clearly reduce the appeal of domestic production, particularly in a scenario where there is inadequate policy support for enhancing productivity at the firm and industry levels.
  • Discuss how the industrial policy framework failed to recognize the need to encourage technological innovation through government funding; protect domestic industries; enhance the productivity of the industry as well as labour, ensure significant value addition; integrate ourselves into global value chains etc.

Conclusion- sum up your discussion in a few lines and form a fair and a balanced conclusion on the above issue.

Background :-

  • Electronics industry is strategic for any country because of the wide applicability of these products and technologies across sectors, and their economy‐wide productivity enhancing impact.
  • At present, while India is considered a global super power in the IT services sector, the electronics industry is one of the top contributors to Indiaʹs merchandise imports.
  • In 2017, India’s net electronic imports increased 12% compared to a year ago. 

How tariff liberalization policies impacted electronics industry:-

  • Pre-liberalisation situation:-
    • The domestic electronics industry’s pre‐liberalisation development trajectory shows that there were inadequate government‐ directed efforts for creating technological capabilities and scale in domestic firms, and for developing synergies at the industry level.
  • As a result, the industry’s premature exposure to severe external competitive pressures with rapid trade liberalisation of the computer and telecommunications industries under the WTO’s ITA‐1 from 1997 became a major obstacle in its  subsequent development.
    • India did this with the conviction that lowering duties on a range of ICT products under the ITA-1 would boost the competitiveness of India’s software exports, apart from increasing their market access.
  • A significant part of the learning process required for technological catchup and potential for systemic synergies was further lost because direct imports took over and domestic manufacturing was avoided in the case of a large number of products in the absence of strategic industrial policy support.
  • The tariff liberalisation of the computer and telecommunications industries under the ITA‐1 was worsened by the tariff liberalisation under India’s FTAs with East and Southeast Asian countries, with the latter extending it to several non‐ITA‐1 products, including consumer electronics and home appliances as well as professional, medical and scientific instruments and their parts.   
  • After nearly two decades of trade liberalisation, the gap between country’s electronics demand and domestic production capacity has only been widening.

FDI policies impact on electronics industry:-

  • Under successive governments liberal FDI regimes,there were nil or ineffective industrial policy measures in place linking foreign‐invested firms and
    the domestic supplier base to ensure positive spill‐over effects
    .
  • The deep and broad trade liberalisation, the liberal FDI regime, and the 
    absence of vertical industrial policies have together removed tariff‐hopping and other policy‐driven incentives for MNCs and domestic firms to undertake local production.
  • The government failed to provide incentive for large foreign original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and electronics manufacturing service providers to invest in local production. Instead, they typically choose to only set up final assembly plants in India .
  • There were also no policies linking foreign invested firms and the domestic supply base which could have let to vertical spillage effects and technological upgrading among domestic firms.

Passive industrial policy framework:-

  • The high tariffs for the hardware sector meant that there was some domestic production of hardware products including PCs, peripherals, and  components. This was aided by the general reduction in duty on components and liberal
    import of capital goods for component manufacture under the Components Policy of 1981
    .
    • Meanwhile, all segments of the domestic PC industry grew under high tariffs and 
      quantitative restrictions. 
  • The nature of incentives for software exports and the absence of vertical industrial policies led to a disconnect between subsequent boom in software export growth and the domestic IT hardware and telecommunication production trajectories.
  • The lack of a strategic policy thrust for developing strong and varied technological capabilities has meant that while India currently has a strong integrated circuit (IC) design base located within MNCs, Indian chip design engineers lack the
    breadth and depth in capabilities required for semiconductor fabrication,component 
    manufacturing, as well as in system design and systems manufacturing.
  • A trade policy that promotes duty‐free imports will clearly reduce incentives for domestic production in the absence of other policies that promote domestic production. 
  • Moreover, the fact that there was no industrial strategy guiding tariff liberalisation in any strategic manner led to many final products becoming duty‐free, while several components had to be imported paying tariffs.
  • Despite having the advantage of a large domestic market, this became an adverse factor influencing producers incentives even for domestic assembly, in the absence of a sufficiently developed domestic parts and components supply base.
  • Consequently, trade liberalisation has only seen India’s growing demand for electronics products leading to high import dependence. 
  • The underlying reason behind the erosion of electronics manufacturing capabilities 
    appears to be the absence of a visionary state with a long‐term industrial development strategy, which guides trade liberalisation and ensures focussed implementation of structural support policies that push firms to be productive and innovative as well as ensure backward linkages from foreign invested companies to the domestic supplier base, as it happened in South Korea, Taiwan, and more recently, in China
  • Inverted tax structure for electronic goods. Due to a limited base of local component suppliers, manufacturers are dependent on importing parts.
  • The positive custom duties on the componentsused in electronic products make it expensive for domestic manufacturers to compete with foreign competitors who can access the components at lower prices. 

Way forward:-

  • Trade and investment policies and other industrial policy measures for skill and 
    technological capability development have to be coordinated within a strategic industrial development vision to achieve sustainable development of any industry.
  • Along with vertical industrial policies for upgrading firm and industry level productivity and improved infrastructure, a calibrated approach towards trade and FDI policies is needed such that they do not negate incentives for value adding local production which is an imperative for enabling domestic firms to engage in global value chains in a sustainable  manner.
  • Government efforts to reinvigorate investments into the electronics industry and 
    the continuing desire to enter into new FTAs need to keep these policy lessons in mind.
  • Increase the country’s general competitiveness in the export marketinstead of pursuing sectoral policies. India’s share in the global electronics market was a minuscule 1.6% of the market in 2015 that is currently valued over $1.75 trillion.
  • Bring the duties on components down to the level of the product. Some parts might be used for multiple products that may have different duties, but it’s important to rule in favour of simple rules and apply the rate-cut regardless of use. 
  • Laws need to be liberal and predictable.
    • In the case of taxation, it is important to clearly establish the tax liabilities under different circumstances in full detail.
    • A possible experiment could be special economic zones like the Dubai International Financial Centre. Dubai’s normal civil and commercial laws do not apply in this area and a British chief justice ensures the practice of British common law.
  • Targeted initiatives launched by the governmenthave provided much needed impetus to local manufacturing but to make itself sustainable more support must be provided. 

Topic-Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

4) Analyze the reasons behind the differences in performance of some of  India’s large cities, with respect to transport related pollution.(250 words)

Reference

Why this question

Urban commuting has become one of the most energy- and pollution-intensive activities in India, contributing to increased greenhouse gas emissions. Transport sector is the third highest GHG contributor among all the sectors. On top of that, motorisation in India is happening at a breakneck speed. Thus it is important to understand why some cities have performed better while others fared poor in terms of air-quality standards, as is revealed by a recent CSE report.

Directive word

Here we  have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts, and present them as a whole in a summary.

Key demand of the question.

The question wants us to dig deep into the issue and bring out the reasons behind difference in the performance of India’s large cities with respect to transport-related pollution. It wants us to discuss what are the factors behind the decrease in air quality standards in the face of  transport related pollution and how they lead to difference in performance of different cities.

Structure of the answer

Introduction– write a few lines about the role of transport sector in GHG emissions and air pollution in the form of release of NOx, SOx, CO2, CO, particulate matter etc.

Body-

  • Discuss the performance of various big cities as revealed by the CSE report. E.g Delhi is most polluted, Kolkata least polluted among the 4 largest metro cities and Bhopal being the least polluted.
  • Discuss the factors which decide the air pollution by transport sector and how they vary among different cities. E.g level of motorisation, travel demand based on population, share of different modes of transport (public transport, walking, cycling, and personal vehicles), average length of daily travel trips, and quality of vehicle technologies and fuels. Discuss what is lagging in each such city and what are the factors in favour of that city. Take the help of the article attached to the question to frame your answer.

ConclusionBased on your discussion, form a fair and a balanced conclusion on the given issue.

Background:-

  • Urban commuting has become one of the most energy- and pollution-intensive activities in India, contributing to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Differences in performance of India’s cities regarding transport related pollution:-

  • The parameters considered for understanding the differences across cities include
    • Level of motorization
    • Travel demand based on population
    • Share of different modes of transport (public transport, walking, cycling, and personal vehicles)
    • Average length of daily travel trips
    • Quality of vehicle technologies and fuels.
  • Emissions:-
    • Delhi ranks the worst in terms of overall toxic emissions, heat-trapping emission and energy consumption. 
    • This is despite the fact that most of its parameters are better than most other megacities, such as rate of trip generation, average trip length and public transport share.
    • The reasons are the highest vehicle stock and relatively higher population than other megacities.
    • Sheer effect of population, volume of travel and highest vehicle stock eclipses the benefits of having CNG, and better travel parameters than other cities, and thus Delhi comes out to be the worst in terms of total emissions per day.
    • Overall emissions may be lower in smaller cities such as Chandigarh and Lucknow due to lower volume of travel and vehicles, but may still have very unsustainable pattern of travel due to high per-trip emission due to high car usage.
  • Emissions per trip are high:-
    • Though  cities like chennai have lesser number of vehicles than Delhi, higher trip rate, trip lengths and decreasing share of public transport in urban commuting means their emissions per trip are high, and worse than Delhi.
    • It means, as population increases in these cities and they sprawl further, air pollution, carbon emissions and energy consumption will get far worse, leaving behind Delhi.
  • Among the 14 cities, Bhopal emits the lowest and guzzles fuel the least during urban commuting.  Hence, the city has the lowest particulate, CO2 and nitrogen oxide load from urban commute.
    • While lower population, much lesser vehicle numbers and vehicle miles travelled compared to the megacities work to its advantage, the city has taken early action to improve its public transport usage.
    • One of the biggest advantages of the city is a very high share of walking and cycling. It has also initiated a public bike-sharing programme.
  • Diverse public transport:-
    • When it comes to overall emissions and energy consumption, Kolkata ranks sixth among all the 14 cities but emerges the least energy-guzzling and GHG-emitting megacity.
    • It has the most diverse public transport systems for urban commuting, does better than even some metropolitan cities such as Pune and Ahmedabad. 
    • Kolkata also has the lowest vehicle stock among the megacities and second highest share of public transport. This proves that early investment in diverse and connected public transport and physical restraints can help.
    • Mumbai’s overall energy consumption and emissions are comparatively lower as its suburban rail, which has zero local emissions, meets 52 per cent of the travel demand.
    • Kolkata and Mumbai also have the lowest per-trip emission among 14 cities. This indicates a high modal share of public transport and non-motorised transport with low trip length.

Way forward:-

  • The CSE study recommends setting time-bound targets for improving modal share of public transport and linking funding strategies with reforms in public transport sector.
  • Besides implementing measures for discouraging personal vehicle usage through parking policy, low emissions zones approach, and congestion pricing, both metropolitan and megacities need to integrate urban mobility strategies with clean fuels and fuel-efficient vehicle technologies.

Topic – Salient features of the Representation of People’s Act.

5) The absence of legislation for curbing the practice or paid news requires urgent attention. Analyze.(250 words)

Financial express

Why this question

The question discusses the problem of paid news, the problems created by the absence of a specific legislation, the measures being contemplated by the government to curb this practice and the recommendations of committees regarding the same. Hence , this question is important for paper 2 of GS.

Key demand of the question

The question expects us to explain the problem of paid news, highlight the issues created by the absence of a legislation governing paid news, discuss the recommendations of LCI regarding paid news and the overall measures being contemplated by the government for tackling it and an examination of the same.

Directive word

Analyze – When asked to analyze, you  have to examine methodically the structure or nature of the topic by separating it into component parts and present them as a whole in a summary.

Structure of the answer

Introduction – Explain what paid news is and discuss data highlighting that the menace, if left unchecked, will severely impact electoral process in the country.

Body

  • Discuss the stand taken by ECI in dealing with matters related to paid news. Highlight that the stand taken by ECI has been reversed by Delhi HC decision and the issues that it creates in the absence of a specific legislation
  • Discuss the recommendations of ECI regarding paid news and the steps taken by government for checking the menace
  • Analyze the effectiveness of those steps

Conclusion – Emphasize on the importance of tackling paid news and suggest way forward.

Background:-

  • According to the Press Council’s report, paid news is any news or analysis appearing in any media (print & electronic) for a price in cash or kind as consideration .It was a complex phenomenon that had acquired different forms over the last six decades.
  • The Election Commission of India (EC) has estimated (on the basis of its internal assessment) the market of paid news to be of as much as Rs.500 crore.

Why there is need for legislation on paid news :-

  • Efforts done so far have failed :-
    • According to the estimates of the Election Commission, around 40% of the election expenditure of political parties is earmarked towards publicity that includes media advertisements. However the biggest hurdle for election commission of India to tackle the problem is that, paid news is not an electoral offence.
    • In 2011, the Election Commission had disqualified Umlesh Yadav, the sitting MLA from Uttar Pradesh, under Section 10-A of the Representation of the People Act 1951 for a period of three years for failing to provide a “true and correct account” of her election expenses. This was a historic decision as no sitting MP or MLA before Ms Yadav was ever disqualified by the ECI on grounds of excessive expenditure. This was also the first verdict in the paid news but still paid news is a menace that is still widespread in India.
    • Following the name and shame policy, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has decided to upload the names of media houses and candidates on its website if they are found guilty of indulging in paid news.
  • Impacts elections adversely:-
    • Paid news plays a very vitiating role in the context of free and fair elections since electors attach greater values and trust news reports more compared to clearly specified advertisements.
    • The whole exercise involves use of unaccounted money and underreporting of election expenses in the accounts of election expenses of the candidate.
  • There is no blanket prohibition nor is there a provision exclusively dealing with political advertisement or paid news. Thus, legal position of Paid News is such that it cannot be eliminated 100% without very strong law as well as media being ethical.
  • Election commision’s view:-
    • The EC proposed amending the Representation of the People Act, 1951, (RPA) to include paid news in electoral offences with a minimum two-year jail term for publishing or abetting the publishing of paid news.
  • Law Commission of India on electoral reforms:-
    • It recommended that RPA should be amended to regulate paid news and political advertisements.
    • It stated that definitions of paying for news, receiving payment for news and political advertisement should be included in the section of the RPA which includes disqualification of a candidate convicted of the mentioned offences.
  • Regulators lack adequate powers:
    • The existing regulatory set-up dealing with paid news is inadequate
    • Voluntary self-regulatory industry bodies like the News Broadcasting Standards Authority and Broadcasting Content Complaints Council have been criticized.
    • Even punitive powers of statutory regulators like the PCI and Electronic Media Monitoring Centre (EMMC) are found to be inadequate. 
    • There is also a conflict of interest inherent with appointment of media-owners as members of the PCI or self-regulatory bodies.
  • Inaction by the government:
    • Governments failed to establish a strong mechanism to check the spread of paid news.  It accused the government of dithering on important policy initiatives, citing the lack of action on various recommendations of the PCI and Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • Existing penal provisions have not served as an effective deterrent for the practice of paid news and stricter penal provisions are needed.
    • There is lack of clarity regarding the jurisdiction of the designated authority to penalise offenders, given existence of multiple bodies like the MoIB, PCI, EMMC and ECI.
  • Distribution of government advertisements:
    • Various stakeholders alleged that the government uses advertisements to arm-twist media houses for favourable coverage.
    • The Directorate of Advertising and Visual Publicity existing policy on distribution of advertisements amongst various media houses is found to be unsatisfactory.
  • Adoption of international best practices:
    • MoIB and self-regulatory bodies have not conducted any study to evaluate the mechanism adopted by other countries to tackle the problem of paid news. 

Way forward:-

  • Financial accounts of the media houses should be subject to examination, especially the revenue source for a suspected paid news case. There should be mandatory disclosure of ‘private treaties’ and details of advertising revenue received by the media houses.
  • ECI should have the authority to take punitive action against electoral candidates in cases of paid news. 
  • Need for regulatory overhaul:
    • The parliamentary standing committee recommended establishment of either a single regulatory body for both print and electronic media or enhancing punitive powers of the PCI and setting-up a similar statutory body for the electronic media.  Such regulator(s) should have the power to take strong action against offenders and should not include media owners/interested parties as members
  • There should be a transparent and unbiased policy for distribution of advertisements by the central and state governments, with provisions for scrutiny. DAVP need to disclose details about disbursements of advertisements expenditure on its website.
  • International experience:-
  • The government can take note of the Justice Leveson Report on the press and existing regulatory structure in the UK, and progress with the report’s implementation while dealing with the issue of paid news.

Topic– Part of static series under the heading -”Jet Streams”

6) Explain Madden Julian oscillation? How do jet streams impact monsoons in India?(250 words)

NCERT Class XI – India : Physical environment Chapter 3

Key demand of the question

The first part of the question expects us to explain what Madden Julian oscillations are. In the second part, we need to examine how jet streams impact the onset, departure and nature of Indian monsoons. Discuss the impact of Subtropical jet stream and Easterly Jet Stream.

Structure of the answer

Introduction – Explain what jet streams are.

Body

  • Explain what Madden Julian oscillations are. Draw diagram as well.
  • Explain what subtropical westerly jet stream are and how is it related to the onset of monsoon in India
  • Explain what tropical easterly jet is. Mention that the formation of TEJ results in the reversal of upper air circulation patterns and leads to the quick onset of monsoons
  • Explain the role of Somali jet and what Somali jet in particular and temporary jet streams in general are

Madden Julian oscillation:-

  • The Madden-Julian Oscillation, or MJO for short, is characterised by an eastward spread of large regions of enhanced and suppressed tropical rainfall, which is mainly observed over the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
  • How does the MJO work?
    • An area of enhanced tropical rainfall is first apparent over the western Indian Oceans, which spreads eastwards into the warm waters of the tropical Pacific. This pattern of tropical rainfall tends to lose its identity as it moves over the cooler waters of the eastern Pacific, before reappearing at some point over the Indian Ocean again.

A wet phase of enhanced convection (rainfall) is followed by a dry phase, where thunderstorm activity is suppressed (no rainfall). Each cycle lasts approximately 30-60 days and there are 8 phases.

The MJO phases

  • Phase 1 – Enhanced convection (rainfall) develops over the western Indian Ocean.
  • Phase 2 and 3 – Enhanced convection (rainfall) moves slowly eastwards over Africa, the Indian Ocean and parts of the Indian subcontinent.  
  • Phase 4 and 5 – Enhanced convection (rainfall) has reached the Maritime Continent (Indonesia and West Pacific)
  • Phase 6, 7 and 8 – Enhanced rainfall moves further eastward over the western Pacific, eventually dying out in the central Pacific.
  • The next MJO cycle begins.

How does the MJO affect weather around the world?

  • There are a number of ways in which the MJO influences world weather:
    • The MJO creates favourable conditions for tropical cyclone activity, which makes the MJO important to monitor during the Atlantic hurricane
    • The enhanced rainfall phase of the MJO can also bring the onset of the Monsoonseasons around the globe. Conversely, the suppressed convection phase can delay the onset of the Monsoon season.
    • There is evidence that the MJO influences the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) It does not cause El Nino or La Nina, but it can contribute to the speed of development and intensity of El Nino and La Nina episodes. The MJO appears to be more active during neutral and weak ENSO years
    • There is also evidence to suggest that the MJO can influence the onset of a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW)

Jet streams:-

  • The jetstream is a river of wind that blows horizontally through the upper layers of the troposphere, generally from west to east, at an altitude of 20,000 – 50,000 feet (6,100 – 9,144 meters), or about 7 miles (11 kilometers) up. 
  • A jetstream develops where air masses of differing temperatures meet. For this reason, surface temperatures determine where the jet stream will form. The greater the difference in temperature, the faster the wind velocity inside the jet stream

Impact of Jet streams on Indian monsoons :-

  • In winter the sub-tropical westerly jet streams bring rain to the western part of India, especially Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab.In summer the sub-tropical easterly jet blows over Peninsular India approximately at 14ON and bring some rain and storm.
  • There are different jet streams and in respect of the climate and monsoons of India it is the Subtropical Jet Stream (STJ) and the countering easterly jet that are most important.
  • Subtropical jet stream:-
    • As the summertime approaches there is increased solar heating of the Indian subcontinent, this has a tendency to form a cyclonic monsoon cell situated between the Indian Ocean and southern Asia. This cell is blocked by the STJ which tends to blow to the south of the Himalayas, as long as the STJ is in this position the development of summer monsoons is inhibited.
    • During the summer months the STJ deflects northwards and crosses over the Himalayan Range. The altitude of the mountains initially disrupts the jet but once it has cleared the summits it is able to reform over central Asia. With the STJ out of the way the subcontinental monsoon cell develops very quickly indeed, often in a matter of a few days. Warmth and moisture are fed into the cell by a lower level tropical jet stream which brings with it air masses laden with moisture from the Indian Ocean.
    • As these air masses are forced upward by north India’s mountainous terrain the air is cooled and compressed, it easily reaches it’s saturation vapour point and the excess moisture is dissipated out in the form of monsoon rains.
    • The end of the monsoon season is brought about when the atmosphere over the Tibetan Plateau begins to cool, this enables the STJ to transition back across the Himalayas. This leads to the formation of a cyclonic winter monsoon cell typified by sinking air masses over India and relatively moisture free winds that blow seaward. This gives rise to relatively settled and dry weather over India during the winter months.
  • Easterly jet stream:-
    • As the westerly jet moves north, yet another jet stream sets in over the southern half of the Indian peninsula. This flows in the reverse direction from the east to west. It is called tropical easterly jet, and it exhibits periodic movements to the north and south of its mean location during the hundred-day monsoon season beginning with the first of June and ending around mid-September. 
    • This jet stream is oriented along the Kolkata-Bangalore axis in that direction
    • It controls the spread of the South West Monsoon. When it is strong, it opposes the spread of the South West monsoon and when it is weak, it allows the spread of South West monsoon.
  • Somali low Jet stream:-
    • The monsoon wind that is deflected to the north as it crosses the equator is further deflected to the east by the mountains of Africa. The progress of the southwest monsoon towards India is greatly aided by the onset of certain jet streams including the crucial Somali jet that transits Kenya, Somalia and Sahel and exits the African coast at low level and very fast.
    • The major part of this low level jet penetrates into East Africa during May and, subsequently, traverses the northern parts of the Arabian Sea before reaching India in June
    • When it is weak, it results in formation of a monsoonal break called the “lull” in the monsoon and when it is strong, the monsoon will also be strong.

 


Topic – Achievements of Indians in science & technology

7) Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest health challenges of 21st century. Examine why. Also discuss the threat posed in this regard by gut bacteria?(250 words)

The hindu

Why this question

The article discusses the findings of Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) that describes the role gut bacteria play in transmitting antimicrobial resistance. The topic of AMR is important and hence this research can help in preparing feeder points.

Key demand of the question

The question expects us to discuss the reasons why AMR is the most significant public health challenge of 21st century. Your view on this is expected as a part of the answer. In the next next part, we need to explain the research study and its implication

Directive word

Examine -When you are asked to examine, you have to probe deeper into the topic,  get into details, and find out the causes or implications if any .

Structure of the answer

Introduction – Explain AMR.

Body

  • Give reasons why AMR has become a big headache for researchers, doctors and administrators such as excessive use of medicines in poultry, lack of complete treatment in case of TB etc
  • Discuss the findings of the report and analyze how it leads to development of resistance.
  • Discuss the threat posed by AMR in general.

Conclusion – Discuss a way forward for dealing with this situation.

Background:-

  • According to WHO, Antimicrobial resistance is resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial drug that was originally effective for treatment of infections caused by it. It is not a country specific issue but a global concern that is jeopardizing global health security. In India the infectious disease burden is among the highest in the world.

Why is antibiotic resistance one of the biggest health challenges:-

  • Antimicrobial resistance will result in difficulty in controlling the diseases in the community and ineffective delivery of the health care services.
  • Neonates and the elderly both are more prone to infections and are vulnerable.
  • A very significant part of out-of-pocket expenditure on health care is on medicines. The ineffective drugs and/or second line expensive antibiotics is pushing the treatment costs higher.
  • WHO has published its first ever list of antibiotic-resistant ‘priority pathogens’ a catalogue of 12 families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health and most of these 12 superbugs have presence in India.
  • Antibiotic resistance is emerging as a threat to the successful treatment of infectious diseases, organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy and major surgeries.
  • Even when the process happens naturally, it is accelerated by the wrong use of antibiotics in humans and animals, and the effectiveness of these in the treatment of diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and gonorrhea has diminished.
    • Treating fatal diseases like sepsis, pneumonia and tuberculosis (TB) are becoming tough because microbes that cause these diseases are increasingly becoming resistant to fluoroquinolones.
  • Excessive use of medicines in poultry:-
    • Unregulated sale of the drugs for human or animal use accessed without prescriptionor diagnosis has led to unchecked consumption and misuse.
    • Of tested birds destined for meat consumption, 87% had the super germs based on a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
  • The mutated robust microbe strain can invade the body and cause diseases that are difficult to treat. Even mild infections require stronger dosage.
  • Annual healthcare cost due to antibiotic resistanceis estimated to be as high as $20 billion, with an additional productivity loss of up to $35 billion in the US.

 

Threat posed with respect to gut bacteria:-

  • Scientists found that friendly gut bacteria are a reservoir of drug resistance genes which, when transferred to disease-causing bacteria, may make them untreatable.

Way forward:-

  • Poultry:-
    • Ban the use of antibiotics for growth promotion and mass disease prevention. It should only be used to cure the sick animals based on prescription of veterinarians
    • There is a need to introduce a labelling system wherein poultry raised without use of antibiotics should be labelled through reliable certified schemes to facilitate consumer choice.
  • Rationalizing antibiotic use to limit antibiotic resistance in India.
  • Improving regulation of drug production and sale
  • Encouraging behavior change among doctors and patients are of immediate priority.
  • Regulation of the medical sector, particularly in the prescription of medicines.
  • Improved management of the health care delivery systems, both public and private, will minimize conditions favourable for the development of drug resistance.
  • Improved awareness of antimicrobial resistance through effective communication. WHO’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week is one such event.
  • Reducing the incidence of infection through effective infection prevention and control. As stated by WHO, making infection prevention and hand hygiene a national policy priority.
  • Discourage non-therapeutic use of antimicrobial agents in veterinary, agriculture and fishery practices as growth-promoting agents.
  • Promoting investments for antimicrobial resistance activities, research and innovations
  • Strengthening India’s commitment and collaborations on antimicrobial resistance at international, national and sub-national levels.
  • Regulate the release of antibiotic waste from pharmaceutical production facilities and monitoring antibiotic residues in wastewater.