Daily Current affairs 9 August 2019UPSC - Daily Current Affair
Relevant articles from PIB:
GS Paper 2:
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key features of the National Medical Commission bill.
For Mains: MCI- issues, performance, concerns and need for superseding.
Context: The National Medical Commission Act 2019 has been passed by both Houses of Parliament is historic and path-breaking.
What is the NMC Bill?
The National Medical Commission Bill seeks to improve the medical education system in the country by ensuring availability of adequate and high-quality medical professionals, periodic assessment of medical institutions, adoption of the latest medical research by medical professionals and an effective grievance redressal mechanism.
The Bill has the following key features:
- The Bill proposes to set up a medical commission, both at the national and state level, within three years of the passage of the legislation.
- The Bill also has a provision for setting up a Medical Advisory Council by the Centre. The council will act as a channel through which the states/Union Territories can convey their views and concerns to the NMC.
- The legislation also talks of conducting a uniform National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to under-graduate medical education in all medical institutions regulated under the Bill.
- The Bill proposes to hold the National Exit Test for the students graduating from medical institutions to obtain the licence for the practice. The test will also allow students to take admission into post-graduate courses at medical institutions under this legislation.
- The Bill says that the NMC will have the authority to grant a limited licence to certain mid-level practitioners connected with the modern medical profession to practice medicine.
- The Bill aims to set up a National Medical Commission with 25 members.
- These members will be appointed by the central government on the recommendation of a committee.
- The members will include a chairperson, who must be a senior medical practitioner and academic with at least 20 years of experience, 10 ex officio members and 14 part-time members.
- The ex officio members will include the presidents of the undergraduate and postgraduate medical education boards, the director general of Indian Council of Medical Research, and a director of one of the AIIMS, among others.
- Part-time members, on the other hand, will include experts from the field of management, law, medical ethics, etc. and nominees of states and union territories.
Functions of NMC:
- The NMC will frame policies for regulating medical institutions and medical professionals, assessing the requirements of healthcare-related human resources and infrastructure, and ensuring compliance by the State Medical Councils of the regulations made under the Bill.
- Besides this, the NMC will frame guidelines for determination of fees for up to 50 per cent of the seats in private medical institutions and deemed universities which are regulated under the Bill.
Why doctors are so much against it?
- Section 32 of the bill authorises the government to allow non-medical degree holders to practice medicine as community health providers. This provision has been vehemently opposed by Indian Medical Association that says it will legalise quacks in the country.
- This will allow anyone with limited exposure to modern medical system to recommend medicines.
- Compared to the present 70 per cent figure of elected representatives in the Medical Council of India (MCI), only 20 per cent members of the NMC will be elected representatives.
- Unlike MCI, whose decisions were not binding on state medical councils, the NMC Bill allows the commission’s ethics board to exercise jurisdiction over state medical councils on compliance related to ethical issues.
- Also, while action can be taken against the MCI president only on the direction of a court, the NMC Bill enables the central government to remove the chairperson or any other member of the commission.
- National Exit Test (NEXT) has been conceptualised as a single test, which will act as a common final-year undergraduate medical exam and be used for granting medical licence as well as admission to postgraduate courses. It has been argued that a single exam is being accorded too much weightage, and it can have an adverse impact on the career of medical aspirants.
- The Bill allows the commission to “frame guidelines for determination of fees and all other charges in respect of fifty per cent of seats in private medical institutions and deemed to be universities”. This increases the number of seats for which private institutes will have the discretion to determine fees. At present, in such institutes, state governments decide fees for 85 per cent of the seats.
Positive aspects of the bill:
Unlike MCI, the members of NMC will have to declare their assets at the time of assuming office and when they leave. They will also have to submit a conflict of interest declaration.
Need of the hour:
If the government wanted to improve the health services in the rural areas then it should strengthen the existing paramedics. Nurses and midwives are trained for administering injections and similar functions and the government should try to tap this trained manpower. Primary care can be taken by these paramedics and only complex medical problems should be referred to a doctor with specialised knowledge. This kind of model has worked in other countries where doctors only treat complex problems.
- The primary issue in Indian healthcare is availability of doctors. Bulk of 78,000-odd doctors that pass out of medical colleges seem to find greater attraction in metros, not remote locations where trained, qualified and specialist clinicians are most needed.
- The second challenge involves addressing the issue of standardisation and high quality with uniformity across the country. While the bill seeks to address some of these issues, there remain unanswered questions on the design, definition and the transparent execution of the bill and some of its provisions.
- The fact that elected members to NMC itself and to its three principal bodies – committees on syllabus and curriculum, accreditation and medical ethics – can be inefficient, if not bad, there is still no guarantee that nominated persons will be any better.
India has a doctor-population ratio of 1:1456 as compared with the WHO standards of 1:1000. In addition, there is a huge skew in the distribution of doctors working in the Urban and Rural areas with the urban to rural doctor density ratio being 3.8:1. Consequently, most of our rural and poor population is denied good quality care leaving them in the clutches of quacks. It is worth noting that at present 57.3% of personnel currently practicing allopathic medicine does not have a medical qualification.
Mains Question: India has suffered from the problem of inappropriately trained doctors of varying quality since a very long time. Discuss in what way the newly passed National Medical Commission Act, 2019 can address the issues associated with the regulating medical education and practice.
GS Paper 3:
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: FAME- India scheme- features, significance and potential.
Context: The Department of Heavy Industry has approved the sanction of 5595 electric buses to 64 Cities, State Government Entities, State Transport Undertakings (STUs) for intra-city and intercity operation under FAME India scheme phase II in order to give a further push to clean mobility in public transportation.
What are the salient features of FAME 2 scheme?
Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles, or FAME 2 scheme aims to boost electric mobility and increase the number of electric vehicles in commercial fleets.
Target: The outlay of ₹10,000 crore has been made for three years till 2022 for FAME 2 scheme.
The government will offer the incentives for electric buses, three-wheelers and four-wheelers to be used for commercial purposes.
Plug-in hybrid vehicles and those with a sizeable lithium-ion battery and electric motor will also be included in the scheme and fiscal support offered depending on the size of the battery.
How will FAME 2 scheme help improve charging infrastructure?
- The centre will invest in setting up charging stations, with the active participation of public sector units and private players.
- It has also been proposed to provide one slow-charging unit for every electric bus and one fast-charging station for 10 electric buses.
- Projects for charging infrastructure will include those needed to extend electrification for running vehicles such as pantograph charging and flash charging.
- FAME 2 will also encourage interlinking of renewable energy sources with charging infrastructure.
FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. Main thrust of FAME is to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies. FAME focuses on 4 areas i.e. Technology development, Demand Creation, Pilot Projects and Charging Infrastructure.
- India needs auto industry’s active participation to ease electric mobility transition. The auto and battery industries could collaborate to enhance customer awareness, promote domestic manufacturing, promote new business models, conduct R&D for EVs and components, consider new business models to promote EVs.
- Government should focus on a phased manufacturing plan to promote EVs, provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for phased manufacturing of EVs and batteries. Different government departments can consider a bouquet of potential policies, such as congestion pricing, ZEV credits, low emission/exclusion zones, parking policies, etc. to drive adoption of EVs.
Relevant articles from various news sources:
GS Paper 2:
Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate.
Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
What to study?
For Prelims: CITES- key facts.
For Mains: Why India has proposed to remove rosewood from the CITES list? Need and implications of this move.
Context: India has submitted proposals regarding changes to the listing of various wildlife species in the CITESsecretariat meeting, scheduled later this month in Geneva, Switzerland.
- The proposals submitted are regarding changes in the listing of the smooth-coated otter, small-clawed otter, Indian star tortoise, Tokay gecko, wedgefish and Indian rosewood.
- The country seeks to boost the protection of all the five animal species as they are facing a high risk of international trade.
About Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES):
- It is an International agreement to regulate worldwide commercial trade in wild animal and plant species.
- It restricts trade in items made from such plants and animals, such as food, clothing, medicine, and souvenirs.
- It was signed on March 3, 1973 (Hence world wildlife day is celebrated on march 3).
- It is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
- Secretariat — Geneva (Switzerland).
- CITES is legally binding on state parties to the convention, which are obliged to adopt their own domestic legislation to implement its goals.
It classifies plants and animals according to three categories, or appendices, based on how threatened. They are.
- Appendix I: It lists species that are in danger of extinction. It prohibits commercial trade of these plants and animals except in extraordinary situations for scientific or educational reasons.
- Appendix II species: They are those that are not threatened with extinction but that might suffer a serious decline in number if trade is not restricted. Their trade is regulated by permit.
- Appendix III species: They are protected in at least one country that is a CITES member states and that has petitioned others for help in controlling international trade in that species.
Sources: down to earth.
GS Paper 3:
Issues related to direct and indirect farm subsidies and minimum support prices; Public Distribution System objectives, functioning, limitations, revamping; issues of buffer stocks and food security; Technology missions; economics of animal-rearing.
What to study?
For Prelims: Key features and significance of the project.
For Mains: Significance of the scheme, solar power potential of India, challenges therein and legislative measures needed.
Context: The Centre’s new Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (PM-Kusum)scheme is not a “silver bullet” to overcome challenges of irrigation supply, subsidy burden on discoms and farmer distress, according to a report from Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-profit.
Concerns and challenges (findings of the report):
- The scheme might result in over-exploitation of groundwater, according to CSE.
- It may also not help reduce discoms’ subsidy burden because the installation of pumps is not mandatorily tied to decrease in subsidised agricultural power supply.
- The subsidised solar pumps are being installed without accompanying cuts in agricultural supply or a reduction in subsidy. The result may, therefore, be an increase in total subsidy burden on states.
- While, the solarisation of agricultural feeders and on-grid solar pumps are economically superior to off-grid pumps, as excess electricity can be injected into the grid, they do not specify measures to limit water use.
- The scheme of installing solar plants on farm land will benefit only the wealthy farmers, as it requires large investment or the ability to lease land for 25 years.
The CSE report recommends:
- Solar pump schemes should accompany explicit and strict measures of monitoring and control to manage groundwater extraction. Funds for solar pump schemes should be extended only to states willing to take such measures.
- Solarisation of feeders may be the most economical solution, but needs to be accompanied by gradual increase in agricultural tariffs and limits on hours of power supply.
- On-grid pumps are an alternative for water-scarce regions with high farmer distress, but adequate and one-way power flow (as opposed to net meter) is necessary to limit water withdrawal.
- Off-grid pumps should be considered only in exceptional cases, for unelectrified regions with relatively high water-table, and utilisation should be increased through a mini-grid model in which excess electricity can be used in households or for other economic uses.
- Clear targets must be set to provide solar pumps to small and marginal farmers. Providing access to financing is a crucial support needed by this segment.
- Efficient discom operations should be ensured by regulatory mandates for regular reporting on installations, operations, evacuation, billing and payment to farmers.
About KUSUM scheme:
What is it? It is a ₹1.4 lakh-crore scheme for promoting decentralised solar power production of up to 28,250 MW to help farmers.
Benefits: It would provide extra income to farmers, by giving them an option to sell additional power to the grid through solar power projects set up on their barren lands. It would help in de-dieselising the sector as also the DISCOMS.
Components of the scheme: The components of the scheme include building 10,000 MW solar plants on barren lands and providing sops to DISCOMS to purchase the electricity produced, ‘solarising’ existing pumps of 7250 MW as well as government tube wells with a capacity of 8250 MW and distributing 17.5 lakh solar pumps. The 60% subsidy on the solar pumps provided to farmers will be shared between the Centre and the States while 30% would be provided through bank loans. The balance cost has to be borne by the farmers.
Significance of the scheme: Expected positive outcomes of the scheme include promotion of decentralised solar power production, reduction of transmission losses as well as providing support to the financial health of DISCOMs by reducing the subsidy burden to the agriculture sector. The scheme would also promote energy efficiency and water conservation and provide water security to farmers.
The proposed scheme provides for:
- Setting up of grid-connected renewable power plants each of 500KW to 2 MW in the rural area.
- Installation of standalone off-grid solar water pumps to fulfil irrigation needs of farmers not connected to grid.
- Solarization of existing grid-connected agriculture pumps to make farmers independent of grid supply and also sell surplus solar power generated to Discom and get extra income.
Sources: Down to earth.
Facts for prelims:
Context: The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, presented Bharat Ratna Awards to Shri Nanaji Deshmukh (posthumously), Dr Bhupendra Kumar Hazarika (posthumously) and Shri Pranab Mukherjee.
- Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian award of the Republic of India. The provision of Bharat Ratna was introduced in 1954.
- Eligibility: Any person without distinction of race, occupation, position or sex is eligible for these awards.
- There is no written provision that Bharat Ratna should be awarded to Indian citizens only.
- It is awarded in recognition of exceptional service/performance of the highest order in any field of human endeavour.
- The award was originally limited to achievements in the arts, literature, science and public services but the government expanded the criteria to include “any field of human endeavour” in December 2011.
- In terms of Article 18 (1) of the Constitution, the award cannot be used as a prefix or suffix to the recipient’s name. However, should an award winner consider it necessary, he/she may use the expression in their biodata/letterhead/visiting card etc. to indicate that he/she is a recipient of the award.
The e-version of Rozgar Samachar has been launched recently by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
It has been launched with a view to make aspirants aware of job opportunities in government sector including public sector enterprises. It will also provide information and guidance about admission and career opportunities in various streams through career-oriented articles by experts.
Background: Rozgar Samachar is the corresponding version of Employment News (English). Employment News is the flagship weekly job journal from Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.
Women Transforming India Awards:
Context: NITI Aayog to launch the Fourth Edition of Women Transforming India Awards.
The Women Transforming India (WTI) Awards is being organized in collaboration with the United Nations to recognize women entrepreneurs from across India.
This year’s theme is ‘Women and Entrepreneurship’, in continuation of the theme for WTI Awards 2018.
The Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) is a Government of India initiative by NITI Aayog to promote and support aspiring as well as established women entrepreneurs in India, assist and handhold them in their journey from starting to scaling up and expanding their ventures. It has more than 5,000 women entrepreneurs registered on the platform, more than 30 partners and, has committed funding of more than US$10mn for these startups.
Summaries of important Editorials:
History of Bank Nationalisation in India
Context: Nationalisation of banks in 1969 was a watershed moment in the history of Indian banking. From July 19 that year, 14 private banks were nationalised; another six private banks were nationalised in 1980.
Why Nationalisation of banks was necessary?
Large share of non- institutional sources: At the time of Independence, India’s rural financial system was marked by the domination of landlords, traders and moneylenders.
Unmet needs: From the 1950s, there were sporadic efforts to expand the reach of the institutional sector, particularly in the rural areas. Despite these measures, the predominantly private banking system failed to meet the credit needs of the rural areas.
India’s banking policy after 1969:
- It followed a multi-agency approach towards expanding the geographical spread and functional reach of the formal banking system. As a part of a new branch licensing policy, banks were told that for every branch they opened in a metropolitan or port area, four new branches had to be opened in unbanked rural areas. As a result, the number of rural bank branches increased from 1,833 (in 1969) to 35,206 (in 1991).
- The concept of priority-sector lending was introduced. All banks had to compulsorily set aside 40% of their net bank credit for agriculture, micro and small enterprises, housing, education and “weaker” sections.
- A differential interest rate scheme was introduced in 1974. Here, loans were provided at a low interest rate to the weakest among the weakest sections of the society.
- The Lead Bank scheme was introduced in 1969. Each district was assigned to one bank, where they acted as “pace-setters” in providing integrated banking facilities.
- The Regional Rural Banks (RRB) were established in 1975 to enlarge the supply of institutional credit to the rural areas.
- The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) was constituted in 1982 to regulate and supervise the functions of cooperative banks and RRBs.
- The outcomes of such a multi-agency approach were admirable. The share of institutional sources in the outstanding debt of rural households increased from just 16.9% in 1962 to 64% in 1992.
- India’s nationalisation led to an impressive growth of financial intermediation. The share of bank deposits to GDP rose from 13% in 1969 to 38% in 1991. The gross savings rate rose from 12.8% in 1969 to 21.7% in 1990. The share of advances to GDP rose from 10% in 1969 to 25% in 1991. The gross investment rate rose from 13.9% in 1969 to 24.1% in 1990.
- Nationalisation also demonstrated the utility of monetary policy in furthering redistributionist goals.
- It also showed that monetary policy, banks and interest rates can be effectively used to take banks to rural areas, backward regions and under-served sectors, furthering redistributionist goals in an economy.
Changes post 1991:
Narasimham Committee of 1991 recommended that monetary policy should be divorced from redistributionist goals. Instead, banks should be free to practise commercial modes of operation, with profitability as the primary goal.
- Taking the cue, the Reserve Bank of India allowed banks to open and close branches as they desired.
- Priority sector guidelines were diluted; banks were allowed to lend to activities that were remotely connected with agriculture or to big corporates in agri-business, yet classify them as agricultural loans.
- Interest rate regulations on priority sector advances were removed.
The outcomes were immediately visible.
- More than 900 rural bank branches closed down across the country.
- The rate of growth of agricultural credit fell sharply from around 7% per annum in the 1980s to about 2% per annum in the 1990s.
- This retreat of public banks wreaked havoc on the rural financial market.
- Between 1991 and 2002, the share of institutional sources in the total outstanding debt of rural households fell from 64% to 57.1%.
- The space vacated by institutional sources was promptly occupied by moneylenders and other non-institutional sources.
Changes post 2004:
- In 2004, a policy to double the flow of agricultural credit within three years was announced. Only public banks could make this happen.
- So, in 2005, the RBI quietly brought in a new branch authorisation policy. Permission for new branches began to be given only if the RBI was satisfied that the banks concerned had a plan to adequately serve underbanked areas and ensure actual credit flow to agriculture.
- By 2011, the RBI further tightened this procedure. It was mandated that at least 25% of new branches were to be compulsorily located in unbanked centres.
- As a result, the number of rural bank branches rose from 30,646 in 2005, to 33,967 in 2011 and 48,536 in 2015.
- The annual growth rate of real agricultural credit rose from about 2% in the 1990s to about 18% between 2001 and 2015.
- After 2005, public banks also played a central role in furthering the financial inclusion agendas of successive governments.
- Between 2010 and 2016, the key responsibility of opening no-frills accounts for the unbanked poor fell upon public banks.
Issues and challenges:
- Despite such a stellar track record, the macroeconomic policy framework of successive governments has hardly been supportive of a banking structure dominated by public banks. In times of slow growth, the excess liquidity in banks was seen as a substitute for counter-cyclical fiscal policy.
- Successive governments, scared of higher fiscal deficits, encouraged public banks to lend more for retail and personal loans, high-risk infrastructural sectors and vehicle loans.
- Here, banks funded by short-term deposit liabilities were taking on exposures that involved long-term risks, often not backed by due diligence.
- Unsurprisingly, many loans turned sour. Consequently, banks are in crisis with rising non-performing assets.
- The same fear of fiscal deficits is also scaring the government away from recapitalising banks.
Need of the hour:
The solution put forward is a perverse one: privatisation. The goose that lays golden eggs is being killed.
Sources: the Hindu.
Note: Some articles from today’s Hindu will be covered tomorrow.