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22nd July – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. The main planks in a counter-China policy
  2. Overcome the malaise of defection
  3. The COVID-19 fiscal response and India’s standing
  4. Why are re-purposed medicines expensive?

THE MAIN PLANKS IN A COUNTER-CHINA POLICY

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

The situation along the China-India border in Ladakh region is still tense. The disengagement process is proving difficult, and the latest meeting of the Corps Commanders has not resulted in any demonstrable progress regarding troop disengagement/de-escalation.

China’s objective

  • It appears that China is intent on managing the ground situation to its advantage, and bring about a realignment of the LAC.
  • If China does succeed, it could be for the first time that China has a foothold on the west side of the Kongka Pass.
  • What prompted China’s aggressive behaviour is unclear, but it had the effect of shredding the painstakingly devised Border Agreements of 1993, 1996, 2005 and 2013.
  • China has shaken off its image as a ‘status quo power’, is intent on dominating the geostrategic space in its neighbourhood and across Asia, before embarking on its ambition to displace the United States as the Global ‘Number one’.
  • China has been inclined for long to nibble at territories in the western, middle and eastern segments of the border.

Raise the divisions

  • India should not be taken in by Western propaganda about China’s territorial ambitions, for China is well aware that it cannot be certain whether it will emerge a victor from an all-out conflict with India.
  • India’s strategic thinkers and planners should implement the plans to set up the Mountain Strike Corps divisions, which had been inexplicably shelved.

Go on a diplomatic offensive

  • India must go back to the drawing board and consider what are the ‘subtler tools’ of power available to it.
  • It is important to maintain a strong military but it is even more important to know when or how to use it.

Options:

  1. One of the options is Diplomacy – which is an equally indispensable instrument of a nation’s power.
    • Exploiting the current widespread opposition to China, India must embark on a diplomatic offensive to create international opinion in its support regarding border violations.
    • A diplomatic offensive, involving different Ministries of the Central government, business leaders, persons of international standing, etc., can achieve a great deal in convincing international opinion that India is right and China is wrong, as also in conveying a message about India’s peaceful intentions vis-à-vis China’s expansionist ambitions.
  2. India should also revitalise cultivation of foreign leaders with a view to draw their specific attention to China’s aggressive policies and designs. (India’s relationship with NAM needs to be revitalised.)
    • India previously also had a programme of helping countries across Asia and Africa through a well-designed technical aid programme which possibly still exists, but may need to be upgraded.
    • Such programmes not only provide an enduring link between India and these countries but also help contrast India’s ‘untied aid’ with that of countries such as China whose aims are political and economic subjugation.

Way Forward

  • At this time, India must pay particular attention to relations with countries in its neighbourhood, such as Nepal and Bangladesh, and allies such as Iran and Vietnam, which seem to have frayed at the edges, with India being more intent on strengthening relations with the West, especially the U.S., and bodies such as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), or the informal strategic dialogue between the U.S., India, Japan, and Australia.
  • Smaller countries of Asia, which constantly face China’s aggressive interference in their internal affairs, have not received much support from India, and this needs India’s attention.
  • India’s true strength, over and above all this, is its unity in diversity – and China has not comprehended the innate value India attaches to reaching out to leaders of different religions, in particular the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, with no strings attached.
  • Simultaneously, India would do well to take pole position in propagating ‘Himalayan Buddhism’ which China has been seeking to subvert to achieve its ends.

-Source: The Hindu


OVERCOME THE MALAISE OF DEFECTION

Focus: GS-II Governance

Introduction

Supreme Court (SC) judgments say it is, as do the elaborate parliamentary debates preceding the anti-defection law enacted in 1985.

How are the Defectors taking Advantage of loopholes?

  1. First, if the ruling party wants to prolong itself in office with support from other parties’ legislators acting against their own parties, individual pliant speakers are available to never decide disqualification petitions against them for years.
  2. Second, is the engineered resignations of legislators in a ruling dispensation by a desperate Opposition promising them lucrative ministerships if they ensure that the Opposition comes to power. It helps that these “toppling” agents are entitled to at least six months of ministerial portfolios in the new government, even if they fail to get re-elected.
  3. Third, the office of the governor can also be misused, ready to interfere by giving directions to Speakers to have floor tests within 48/72 hours, only to assist the defectors to topple the government and preclude the speaker from discharging his 10th Schedule duties.
  4. Fourth, clear defectors, even after being subjected to ongoing disqualification hearings before the speaker, are advised by lawyers to file no-confidence motions against the speaker.

Way Forward

  1. One, we should abolish all artificial distinctions which, under the 10th Schedule, which now legitimises defections if you are able to induce two-thirds to join you. The 10th Schedule should be replaced with a simple provision itemising all activities, culled from established SC cases, both inside the House and outside it, which will automatically disqualify you and force you to be re-elected in case of anti-party activities.
  2. Two, no one who resigns or is disqualified under this new listing, should be allowed to be a minister or corporation post holder, for six months or a year even after re-election. A parliamentary standing committee had once observed: “There is possibility for defection – as the defectors can be accommodated in the Council of Ministers through the other route i.e., by offering a seat in Rajya Sabha/Upper House in the States. Stringent law, which debars defectors who later become Members of the Rajya Sabha to get the post of Ministership, is required.”
  3. Three, we should start electing speakers, by all or majority of parties unanimously selecting an appropriate person before each general election as presiding officer – because, the moral and political authority of such a person will be larger.
  4. Four, the governor should be constitutionally and explicitly barred from anything but a ceremonial role in the legislature to prevent meddling in the running of the House and the government.

-Source: Hindustan Times


THE COVID-19 FISCAL RESPONSE AND INDIA’S STANDING

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Introduction

  • Before the announcement of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package, India lagged significantly behind comparable developing countries that are similar in GDP per capita, state capacity, and structure of the labour force.
  • For example, the total Atmanirbhar package is billed at 10% of GDP, but others have estimated that the new fiscal outlay, including the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, of March, the direct fiscal aspects of Atmanirbhar Bharat, and the latest extension of free rations under the Public Distribution System, is around 1.7% of GDP.
  • Most other demand-side measures involve the frontloading, consolidation, or rerouting of existing funds.

On cash transfers

  • The World Bank reports that, on average, cash transfers amount to 30% of monthly GDP per capita, reaching 46% for lower-middle-income countries.
  • Countries have also significantly expanded coverage of their cash transfer programmes from pre-COVID-19 levels.
  • India could take these actions of other countries into account in decisions about expanding existing transfer programmes or even creating new ones.

Enhance NREGA

  • Of the World Bank’s list of measures taken across 173 countries, half were cash-based. Most of the rest related to food assistance (23%) or waiver/postponement of financial obligations (25%).
  • Only 2% related to public works, a clear indication of the popularity of cash transfers over public works for income support, perhaps in part due to concerns over physical distancing.
  • India has been a leader in employment guarantee policies with its flagship MGNREGA programme. This is the right time to expand entitlements in this programme as well as introduce an urban version of the programme, as many have called for.

Steps in the developing world

  • Developing countries are resorting to drastic means to finance COVID-19 responses – for e.g., central banks in many emerging economies are experimenting with purchases of public and private bonds in the secondary market (quantitative easing) or directly purchasing government bonds on the primary market (monetising the deficit).
  • In India- Debate continues over whether the Indian government should invoke the “escape cause” in the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act, to enable the central bank to directly finance the deficit.
  • In India, one reason for the subdued fiscal response and the resort to monetary measures is likely a concern with the debt-to-GDP ratio, which is higher than for most countries in our set.
  • Additional fiscal outlay — in the form of cash and in-kind transfers and expanded public works schemes — would save lives and jobs today and might prevent a protracted slowdown. Not spending more now, therefore, might only worsen the debt-to-GDP ratio if growth remains depressed.

-Source: The Hindu


WHY ARE RE-PURPOSED MEDICINES EXPENSIVE?

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

  • Clinical trials with re-purposed antivirals and biologicals have been approved in different geographical settings and these medicines are believed to have some potential in shortening the recovery time in COVID-19 patients.
  • Recently, the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) issued approval to manufacture and market Favipiravir tablets for ‘restricted emergency use’, manufacture and market injectable formulations of Remdesivir and market injectable formulations of Itolizumab.

Pricing of medicines, and Protocol

  • A five-day treatment course with Remdesivir would work out to around Rs. 30 thousand per patient and a course of treatment with Favipiravir costs more than Rs. 12 thousand per patient, and treatment with Itolizumab costs around Rs. 32 thousand per patient.
  • The updated clinical management protocol of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW) lists Remdesivir as a potential medicine for investigational therapy in moderate COVID-19 infections without underlying contra-indications. The protocol does not mention Favipiravir, which nevertheless finds a place in the WHO Clinical Management Protocol. Itolizumab figures neither in the MHFW nor in the WHO protocol.
  • Hence, the current pricing shows that these crucial medicines are NOT made available at affordable prices to patients.
  • When companies attempt to recover the fixed costs or sunk costs that went into the investment and development of the medicine, the final price becomes unreasonable.
  • This is distressing for the patient, especially when the therapeutic results or clinical benefits have not been fully established.

Various laws

  • Some countries are resorting to enabling legislation and procedural modifications of existing regulations to address affordability of anti-COVID-19 medicines.
  • Indian patent laws too are armed with sufficient powers to ensure reasonable pricing for pharmaceutical products – enabling grant of compulsory licensing in circumstances of national emergency or extreme urgency.
  • Many innovator companies, perhaps to escape or avoid any coercive move or legal action by governments, agree upon voluntary licences with generic companies.

Conclusion

  • The burden of a global pandemic will have to be borne by governments and pharmaceutical companies alike.
  • Unprecedented public health crises call for situation-specific decisions from pharmaceutical companies and profit maximisation should take a back seat.

-Source: The Hindu

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