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21st August – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. China-Russia ties as a major determinant
  2. Privatisation via graded autonomy
  3. Regulating India’s online pharmacy

CHINA-RUSSIA TIES AS A MAJOR DETERMINANT

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Introduction to the key triangle

  • The triangular relationship between America, China and Russia has, for the most part, shaped global politics since 1950.
  • India is not a part of this triangle; yet they represent our three most consequential relationships.
  • Hence, a proper appraisal of the Sino-Russian relationship will be critical to our foreign policy calculus.
  • For three decades the Americans had occupied the favoured position in terms of its relations with the other two.
  • China seems to have assumed that position.
  • Second, the disintegration of the Soviet Union essentially negated the Russian threat in Chinese eyes.
  • Both these trends will likely continue despite the recent tensions in Sino-U.S. relations.

Columns of the China – Russia partnership

  • The three pillars on which the Sino-Russian partnership currently rests are a peaceful boundary, expanding trade and a shared distrust of American intentions.
  • Western sanctions have tended to push the Russians closer to China.
  • Falling oil prices and fears of new sanctions on Russian gas supplies (Nord Stream 2) are demolishing the core of Russian exports to Europe, thus compelling them to depend to an even greater degree on the Chinese.
  • After the western sanctions, China-Russia trade has more than doubled to $108 billion and China has surpassed Germany as the principal supplier of industrial plant and technology.
  • Coordinated action in multilateral forums, increasingly sophisticated joint military exercises, and including activities with third countries such as Iran, reinforce western beliefs about it morphing into an alliance.

China’s rise, Russia’s unease

  • Mr. Xi’s talk of “rejuvenation of the Chinese Nation” has raised fears about Chinese revanchism.
  • Add to this the Russian concerns over Chinese migration in the Russian Far East, and it would not be improper to surmise that policymakers in Moscow must be concerned about the possibility of China becoming a threat Russia’s territorial integrity.

Advantage China in trade

  • As for the economic pillar, while Russia presently enjoys a nominal trade surplus, going beyond gross trade to value-added trade, China has a clear advantage going forward.
  • Most of its exports to Russia are now at a higher technology level while the share of labour-intensive goods has declined.
  • At the other end of the spectrum, Russian exports have continued to focus on raw materials, especially oil and gas.
  • Despite Chinese promises, the investment relationship remains subdued except where it has suited China’s core energy interests.
  • Russia remains wary about allowing any dominating role for China in oil and gas.
  • As for their shared dislike of Washington, each still hopes to repair ties and, therefore, neither trusts the other fully with respect to the third leg of the strategic triangle.

Conclusion

  • The new reality of Sino-Russian relations is thus one where substantial expansion of bilateral cooperation is accompanied by growing asymmetry and China’s pre-eminence.
  • Moscow is in real danger of permanently becoming the ‘junior partner’.
  • India and Russia have a shared belief that some form of multipolarity is better than any sort of Sino-U.S. condominium. Therefore, India-Russia relationship deserves more attention from both sides.

-Source: The Hindu


PRIVATISATION VIA GRADED AUTONOMY

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Introduction

  • The Indian Cabinet approved the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, and among the provisions that led to concerns – is the phasing out of the system of affiliated colleges and the grant of greater autonomy in academic, administrative and financial matters to premium colleges, and essentially, to the top ranked universities of the country.
  • This measure has drawn on the long-standing anxieties about the perils of politico-bureaucratic interference in the internal functioning of universities, and concerns about the substantial burden on universities which have to regulate admissions, set curricula and conduct examinations for a large number of undergraduate colleges.

Perils of autonomy

  • Concerns have long existed about over-centralisation, namely, the constraints imposed on the potential for premium affiliated colleges to innovate and evolve.
  • Even while solutions to apprehensions about over-centralisation were being discussed by stakeholders, these came to be used by successive governments to build a case for the model of graded autonomy. This model has adverse ramifications for accessibility, equity and quality for the higher education sector.

Current Situation

  • In recent decades, a form of policy discourse has clearly developed in which the dominant opinion holds that the state cannot be expected to pay for the education of all.
  • Correspondingly, there has been a serious lack of development of educational infrastructure to meet the rapidly increasing demand for higher education.
  • In response to the widening gap between the demand and supply for education, successive governments have pushed through measures that have largely allowed for greater penetration of private capital in higher education, and its corollary, the persistent decline in per-capita government allocation of funds towards education.
  • Consequently, private colleges and universities have grown in number, and there has been a rapid expansion of the open and distance learning (ODL) education.

Recommendations

  • In line with these developments, recommendations of recent education commissions have promoted the already existing unequal structure of funding for higher education, and perpetuated the prevailing hierarchy in higher education along the lines of “centres of excellence” or metropolitan Central government-funded universities, provincial Central government-funded universities, regional universities and colleges funded by State governments, etc.
  • Rather than bringing lower-grade affiliated colleges at par with premium colleges, recent commissions and high-powered committees have taken to projecting the relatively equitable funding from the Central/State government, common syllabi and evaluation systems, standardised teacher recruitment rules, etc. as fetters.

Strengthening hierarchies

In its current form, NEP 2020 is a combination of enhanced centralising features and specific features of autonomy. The thrust towards deeper centralisation is indicative in the constitution of the government nominated umbrella institution, Higher Education Council of India (HECI); corporate-style Board of Governors with powers hitherto assigned to governing bodies of colleges and to other statutory bodies of HEIs; as well as the new apex body, the National Education Commission, that is responsible for “developing”, “implementing” and “evaluating” the “educational vision of the country”.

The issue of autonomy is the key to unravelling the inherent problem with NEP 2020 in matters of higher education.

-Source: The Hindu


REGULATING INDIA’S ONLINE PHARMACY

Focus: GS-II Governance

Reasons for increased activity in online pharma

  • While Covid-19 and the subsequent behavioural shift towards e-commerce may have catalysed growth for online pharmacies, the sector was already poised to grow seven-fold by 2023.
  • This was mainly on account of the challenges faced by physical pharmacies that gave their online counterparts a problem to solve.
  • Experts believe that e-pharmacies will be able to solve the problems that traditional pharmacies couldn’t.

How is the pharmacy market in India currently shaped?

Unlike the US, where the top three pharmaceutical distributors have a 90 per cent share in the market, India’s is a fragmented market with over 8 lakh pharmacies, giving online pharmacies an opportunity to capture their space without opposing large traditional retailers.

What are the rules governing the pharmacy sector?

  • The government had floated draft regulations for e-pharmacies but these guidelines never became a reality.
  • While the lack of proper rules governing the online pharmacy space has kept large investments at bay, it has allowed the existing players in the market to grow and overcome the challenges faced by traditional retailers, which account for almost 85% of the country’s total pharmaceutical sales.
  • For pharmacies overall, India’s drug regulations require retailers to get a licence to dispense medicines from the state in which they are being sold.

What do the draft e-pharmacy regulations propose?

  • Considering that e-pharmacies currently are not regulated, their operations are constantly met with opposition from brick and mortar chemists.
  • In the absence of clear regulations, online pharmacies currently operate as marketplaces and cater to patients as a platform for ordering medicines from sellers that adhere to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act and Rules of India.
  • Other regulations, like the Information Technology Act and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, also apply
  • Draft rules for e-pharmacies sought to define the online sale of medicines, what an e-prescription means and what type of licences online firms would need to get from regulators to operate.
  • The draft had proposed to allow e-pharmacies to get a central licence to operate from the country’s apex drug regulator, which could be used to allow it to operate across the country.
  • It also proposed to define e-pharmacies in a way that would allow them to distribute, sell and stock medicines.
  • The proposed regulations prevent them from selling habit-forming drugs like cough syrups specified in Schedule X of the Indian drug regulations.

-Source: Indian Express

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