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21st February – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. Gearing up to fight the next big viral outbreak
  2. What distinguishes welfare measures from freebies?
  3. Inclusive growth: India’s Neighborhood first policy


Why in news?

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Health Security Index finds that no country is adequately prepared.


  • It assesses 195 countries across six categories — prevention, early detection, rapid response, health system quality, standards, and the risk environment.
  • India has been ranked 57th on the list
  • No Country is adequately prepared for an outbreak
  • The influenza A (H1N1) outbreaks since 2009 in Rajasthan,

Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and other States have acutely underscored the need for better detection, awareness of symptoms and quarantining

4-point health agenda

Health expenditure

  • The best defence of all is to invest more, and more efficiently, in health and education to prepare populations and strengthen health services.
  • Health expenditure by the government in India is less than 1.5% of Gross Domestic Product, which is low for a middle ­income country.
  • Thailand is ranked sixth in the Health Security Index — the highest ranking for an Asian country — says a great deal about the country’s track record in disease
  • prevention, early detection, and rapid response linked to investments in its public health system
  • The influenza A (H1N1) outbreaks since 2009 in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and other States have acutely underscored the need for better detection, awareness of symptoms and quarantining

Kerala as role model  to invest in education, health

  • Kerala’s experience in 2018 with the deadly Nipah virus showed the value of investing in education and health over the long term.
  • The availability of equipment for quick diagnosis, measures to prevent diseases from spreading, and public information campaigns all helped to keep the mortality rate from the Nipah virus relatively low.

Environmental degradation and pathogens

  • The recent outbreak in China, with the SARS­CoV­2 having believed to have emanated in a market where wild animals were sold — highlights the biodiversity link
  • The interaction between particulate matter from pollution and viral respiratory tract infections, especially in the young and the elderly, as well as the malnourished has been increasing
  • More outbreaks are likely in the future; the best response is better preparedness


Welfare policies should be based on fiscal prudence and prevalent Socio-economic context. There is an overwhelming consensus that a slew of welfare policies were used by AAP government in Delhi to win the Assembly elections.

So, what is Good and Bad Welfare spending?

Two types of spending on welfare policies is generally done by the governments:

  1. Spending on education and health, which is the fundamental obligation of the government to provide for its citizens
  2. Offering water and electricity for free and at subsidised rates.

Both these expenditures on ‘Basic needs’, are what governments are supposed to do. It would not be right to call these schemes or MGNREGA for that matter as ‘freebies’. Governments exist in first place to provide these services

Good and bad welfare spending is context specific. Giving cycles for girls in remote areas to reach schools is good spending according to people of that area. This might not be considered so by other populace.

Why Governments spend in these areas?

Providing such services only addresses the problem that is rather prevalent: Deficit in Governance. In a country like India, provisioning the services via private sector would not be possible.

A part of the function of the government is that for things that we cannot individually organise, we entrust elected representatives to do for us. Public goods/services — sewage, drinking water, water, electricity, public transport — are one set of things; education and health are what we call ‘merit goods’. And they are the kinds of things where the market mechanism is not a satisfactory mechanism to deliver these things. And this is not just an Indian thing, world over, this is a well-understood principle.

How should the governments spend and within what limits?

It depends on the fiscal space Governments have. Policies and schemes are to be designed within this space. While the distinction between welfare and non-welfare is blurred, as long as the spending is sustainable and expenditure gives desirable outcomes, the spending is good.

Further, spending on subsidies and transfers apart from distribution of resources, leads to more disposable income in the hands of people. This drives demand side, which is much needed in the present scenario of slowdown.

What still needs to be done?

  • Introduction of nutritious superfoods (such as eggs in midday meals and Integrated Child Development Services), much greater attention to children under six.
  • Health-related interventions — like Mohalla clinics — need to be scaled up.
  • More attention to better sewage, drinking water supply, and, most importantly, the twin issue of public transport and pollution. There is so much that can be done even without increasing budgets — for example, existing buses running on time, feeder buses to metro stations
  • Higher parking (and other) fees for those who use cars to discourage them from polluting the city further.
  • Instead of CCTVs, better street lighting could be an option


Why in news?

India has promoted regional cooperation in South Asia in a spirit of generosity, without insisting on reciprocity.  Recent Visit of Mahinda Rajapaksa has shown the close relationships again


  • There is a growing convergence against terrorism amongst the nations
  • There are much better prospects today for tri-lateral cooperation between India, Japan and Sri Lanka in the development of the East Container Terminal at Colombo port and the proposed joint development of the Trincomalee oil storage tanks
  • The agreement to restart the tri-lateral DOSTI naval exercise as also the tri-lateral NSA-level dialogue between India, Maldives and Sri Lanka lay the ghost of the Yameen era to rest

NDA’s 2nd term and change in Direction of foreign policy

  • India and Nepal jointly inaugurated South Asia’s first cross-border petroleum products pipeline from Motihari in India to Amlekhgunj in Nepal.
  • It was completed well ahead of schedule, giving the lie to the notion that India’s project delivery is tardy.
  • India is also prioritising the rebuilding of houses in Gorkha and Nuwakot districts, with “Build Back Better” as the guiding principle in keeping with Modi’s clarion call for a Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).
  • relations with Bangladesh under Modi and Sheikh Hasina have evolved into a model partnership, consolidated by high-level exchanges, mutual trust and enhanced cooperation on security matters
  • The India-Bhutan friendship runs deep, with growing cooperation in the vital hydro-power sector providing it a fresh impetus
  • The introduction of the RuPay card in Bhutan and elsewhere in the neighbourhood will further cement economic and people-to-people ties.
  • India’s neighbourhood policy is predicated on his “sabka saath, sabka vikas” vision for inclusive growth, development and prosperity


  • SAARC’s future hangs in thread as Pakistan’s recalcitrance to act on terrorism has been a deal breaker
  • Connectivity with Afghanistan has been hampered due to lack of Pakistan’s cordial support
  • Air freight corridor cannot be sustainable in long term and also it will be unable to achieve the full potential of Indo- afghan trade potentials
  • Chabahar port might fall prey to US-Iran escalations
  • Regular meetings need to happen, if this group has to become a driver in global economic setup


  • India’s focus on BIMSTEC and its Act East Policy have served to highlight India’s key role in promoting cooperative growth and development in several parts of South Asia.
  • In a world increasingly characterised by a “my country first” approach, India has endeavoured to harness the impulse for regional cooperation in a spirit of generosity, without insisting on reciprocity, to realise Modi’s motto of Security And Growth For All In The Region (SAGAR).
March 2024