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2nd March – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. A plural legacy more vital than ever
  2. Whither Tribunal Independence?
  3. Viral Economies
  4. A Big, Bad Deal

A PLURAL LEGACY MORE VITAL THAN EVER

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

To ensure good health by 2023, focus on agriculture, sanitation, women education:

Why in news?

President Donald Trump applauded India’s achievements in his February 24. These achievements ranged from religious freedom to reducing poverty to becoming an emerging giant economy. 

Facts about Poverty reduction:

The World Bank’s estimates of extreme poverty — measured as $1.9/per capita/per day at purchasing power parity of 2011 — show a secular decline in India from 45.9 per cent to 13.4 per cent between 1993 and 2015 (See figure: Poverty headcount ratio in India).

Poverty Count State India National Family Health Survey

 Source: National Family Health Survey (2015-16)

Future path of poverty reduction:

  • If the overall growth process continues as has been the case since, say, 2000 onwards, India may succeed in eliminating extreme poverty by 2030, if not earlier.
  • Also, given the overflowing stock of food grains with the government, and a National Food Security Act (NFSA) that subsidises grains to the tune of more than 90 per cent of its cost to 67 per cent of the population, there is no reason to believe that India can also not attain the goal of zero hunger before 2030.

Challenge of health:

  • The real challenge for India, however, is to achieve the third goal of good health and well-being by 2030. India’s performance in this regard, so far, has not been satisfactory.
  • In 2015-16, almost 38.4 per cent of India’s children under the age of five years were stunted, 35.8 per cent were underweight and 21 per cent suffered from wasting (low weight for height), as per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS 2015-16).
  • The situation in some states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh is even worse
  • No wonder, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranks India at 102 out of 117 countries in terms of the severity of hunger in 2019.

How can India overcome this colossal challenge of malnutrition?

  • The National Nutrition Strategy, 2017, aims to reduce the prevalence of underweight children (0-3 years) by three percentage points every year by 2022 from NFHS 2015-16 estimates.
  • This is an ambitious target given the decadal decline in underweight children from 42.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 35.8 per cent in 2015-16 amounts to less than 1 per cent decline per year.
  • Similar targets have been set by the National Nutrition Mission (renamed as POSHAN Abhiyaan), 2017, to reduce stunting, undernutrition, anemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and low birth weight by 2 per cent, 2 per cent, 3 per cent and 2 per cent per annum respectively.

Four key areas, if India has to make a significant dent on malnutrition by 2030  

First and foremost, is the mother’s education. It is one of the most important factors that has a positive multiplier effect on child care and access to healthcare facilities. It also increases awareness about nutrient-rich diet, personal hygiene, etc. This can also help contain the family size in poor, malnourished families. Thus, a high priority to female literacy, in a mission mode through liberal scholarships for the girl child, would go a long way towards tackling this problem.

Second is the access to improved sanitation and safe drinking water. From that angle, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Jal Jeevan Mission would have positive outcomes in the coming years.

Third, there is a need to shift dietary patterns from cereal dominance to the consumption of nutritious foods such as livestock products, fruits and vegetables, pulses, etc. But they are generally costly and their consumption increases only by higher incomes and better education. Diverting a part of the food subsidy on wheat and rice to more nutritious foods can help.

Finally, India must adopt new agricultural technologies of bio-fortifying cereals, such as zinc-rich rice, wheat, iron-rich pearl millet, and so on.
 

Conclusion:

  • Global experience shows that with the right public policies focusing on agriculture, improved sanitation, and women’s education, one can have much better health and well-being for its citizens, especially children.
  • In China, it was agriculture and economic growth that significantly reduced the rates of stunting and wasting among the population and lifted millions of people out of hunger, poverty and malnutrition.
  • According to FAO, Brazil and Ethiopia have transformed their food systems: They have targeted their investments in agricultural R&D and social protection programmes to reduce hunger in the country.
  • Despite India’s improvement in child nutrition rates since 2005-06, it is way behind the progress experienced by China and many other countries.
  • According to the Global Nutrition Report, 2016, at the present rates of decline, India will achieve the current stunting rates of China by 2055. India can certainly do better, but only if it focuses on this issue.

Background: About Global Hunger Index:

  • The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional, and national levels.
  • The GHI is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the struggle against hunger, provide a way to compare levels of hunger between countries and regions, and call attention to those areas of the world where hunger levels are highest and where the need for additional efforts to eliminate hunger is greatest.
  • GHI is calculated each year to assess progress and setbacks in combating hunger. It scores on a 100-point GHI Severity Scale, where 0 is the best score (no hunger) and 100 is the chronic undernutrition.
  • Indicators for Calculating GHI Score:
  • UNDERNOURISHMENT: the share of the population that is undernourished (caloric intake is insufficient);
  • CHILD WASTING: the share of children under the age of five who are wasted (low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition);
  • CHILD STUNTING: the share of children under the age of five who are stunted (low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition); and
  • CHILD MORTALITY: the mortality rate of children under the age of five (reflection of the fatal mix of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments).
Hunger issue in India India Struggles to Eradicate hunger Global Hunger Index Report

In the recently released Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report-2019, India was ranked at 102nd position out of 117 countries.

The report is an annual publication that is jointly prepared by the Concern Worldwide (an Irish agency) and the Welt Hunger Hilfe (a German organization).

About POSHAN Abhiyaan:

  • POSHAN Abhiyaan (National Nutrition Mission) was launched in 2018 by the Prime Minister in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan.
  • It targets to reduce level of under-nutrition and other related problems by ensuring convergence of various nutrition related schemes
  • It also targets stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia (among young children, women and adolescent girls) and low birth rate.
  • It will monitor and review implementation of all such schemes and utilize existing structural arrangements of line ministries wherever available.
  • Its large component involves gradual scaling-up of interventions supported by on-going World Bank assisted Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Project (ISSNIP) to all districts in the country by 2022.
  • Its vision is to ensure attainment of malnutrition free India by 2022.

WHITHER TRIBUNAL INDEPENDENCE?

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

In November 2019, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in Rojer Mathew, declared the Tribunal, Appellate Tribunal and other Authorities (Qualification, Experience and other Conditions of Service of Members) Rules, 2017 as unconstitutional for being violative of principles of independency of the judiciary.

In the 2017 rules, as noted by the Court in Rojer Mathew, barring the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), the selection committee for all other tribunals was made up either entirely from personnel within or nominated by the Central government or comprised a majority of personnel from the Central government.

Mandate (Constitutional provisions) Regarding Tribunals

The provision for Tribunals was added by the 42nd Constitutional amendment act which added two new articles to the constitution.

Article 323-A : of the constitution which  empowers the parliament to provide for the establishment of administrative tribunals for adjudicating the disputes relating to recruitment and conditions of service of a person appointed to public service of centre, states, local bodies, public corporations and other public authority. Accordingly parliament has enacted Administrative Tribunals Act,1985 which authorizes parliament to establish Centre and state Administrative tribunals (CAT & SATs).

  1. Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT):
    1.  It was set up in 1985 with the principal bench at Delhi and additional benches in other states (It now has 17 benches, 15 operating at seats of HC’s and 2 in Lucknow and Jaipur.
    2. It has original jurisdiction in matters related to recruitment and service of public servants (All India services, central services etc).
    3. Its members have a status of High Court judges and are appointed by president.
    4. Appeals against the order of CAT  lie before the division of High Court after Supreme Court’s Chandra Kumar Judgement.
  2. State administrative tribunals
    1. Central government can establish state administrative tribunals on request of the state according to Administrative tribunals act of 1985
    2. SAT’s enjoy original jurisdiction in relation to the matters of state government employees.
    3. Chairman and members are appointed by President in consultation with the governor.

Article 323-B  which empowers the parliament and the state legislatures to establish tribunals for adjudication of disputes related to following matters

  • Taxation
  • Foreign exchange, Imports and Exports
  • Industry and Labour
  • Land reforms
  • Ceiling on Urban Property
  • Elections to parliament and state legislature
  • Food stuffs
  • Rent and Tenancy Rights

Issues with tribunalisation:

  1. Appeal:  Administrative tribunals were originally set up to provide specialized justice delivery and to reduce the burden of caseloads on regular courts. However, appeals from tribunals have inevitably managed to enter the mainstream judicial system.
  2. High Pendency: Many tribunals also do not have adequate infrastructure to work smoothly and perform the functions originally envisioned leading to high pendency rates thus proving unfruitful to deliver quick justice.
  3. Appointments: Appointments to tribunals are usually under the control of the executive. Not only does the government identify and appoint the members of the tribunals, but it also determines and makes appropriate staffing hires. This is problematic because often there is a lack of understanding of the staffing requirements in tribunals.
  4. There is a lack of information available on the functioning of tribunals. Websites are routinely non-existent, unresponsive or not updated.
  5. Accessibility is low due to scant geographic availability therefore justice becomes expensive and difficult.
  6. Against the separation of powers: Tribunalisation is seen as encroachment of judicial branch by the government.

VIRAL ECONOMIES

Focus: GS-III Economic Development

Why in news?

The global economy appears headed for uncharted, troubled territory because of the second wave of the coronavirus that has now spread to countries as far apart as Nigeria and New Zealand

Financial impact of COVID

  • The virus has crippled global supply chains, hit air travel and convulsed markets as it appears all set to adversely impact the U.S. economy, the global economic engine.
  • This happened  when the Chinese economy is already in deep trouble due to the impact of the virus.
  • A slowdown or worse, recession, in the two global economic engines is bad news for the world economy, which may well tilt into recession. 

Situation in US

  • The U.S. markets experienced their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 fell by over 12%.
  • There is trouble ahead for the U.S. economy as companies ranging from Apple and Nvidia to Procter & Gamble and Adidas are in difficulty because of their large exposures to the Chinese market or their reliance on suppliers from China. This is a crisis unlike any other.

Situation in India

  • Indian companies are not major participants in the global supply chains originating in China and thus are facing  minimum impact.
  • Crude oil prices are slipping which is good news for the macro economy and inflation in India.

A BIG, BAD DEAL

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

The deal signed between the U.S. and the Taliban in Doha on 29th February 2020 sets the stage for America to wind down the longest war in its history.

The Afghan war is estimated to have cost $2-trillion, with more than 3,500 American and coalition soldiers killed. Afghanistan lost hundreds of thousands of people, both civilians and soldiers. After all these, the Taliban is at its strongest moment since the U.S. launched the war

Background about the U.S. – Taliban deal

  • The deal was signed in the Qatari capital Doha.
  •  India attended the landmark event of the long-sought peace deal as an “observer”.
  • The United States said it is committed to reducing the number of its troops to 8,600 from the current 13,000 within 135 days of signing the deal.
  • It also said it is working with allies to proportionally reduce the number of coalition forces in Afghanistan, if the Taliban were to adhere to its commitments.
  • A full withdrawal of all foreign forces would occur within 14 months of the deal getting signed if the Taliban holds up its end of the deal.
  • The agreement is expected to lead to a dialogue between the Taliban and the Kabul government that, if successful, could ultimately see an end to the grinding 18- year conflict.
  • For U.S President Donald Trump, the Doha deal represents a chance to make good on his promise to bring U.S. troops home.
  • The accord also comes amid a fragile political situation in Afghanistan.

Pitfalls of withdrawal

The fundamental issue with the U.S.’s Taliban engagement is that it deliberately excluded the Afghan government because the insurgents do not see the government as legitimate rulers.

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