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Editorials/Opinions Analyses For UPSC 31 December 2021


  1. A chance to tap India’s high equity in Myanmar
  2. In NFHS report card, the good, the sober, the future


A chance to tap India’s high equity in Myanmar


The short visit to Myanmar (December 22-23) by India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had a clearly-etched mandate: to deepen cooperation with an important neighbour. His mission succeeded to a large extent, but challenges remain.


GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbourhood, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India–Myanmar relations
  2. The current political scenario in Myanmar
  3. India’s position and bilateral concerns
  4. Reasons behind India’s position

India–Myanmar relations

  • India–Myanmar relations date to antiquity and cultural exchanges included Buddhism and the Burmese script, which was based on the Indian Grantha script. In particular, Theravada Buddhism has tremendously influenced Burmese society and culture for millennia, with around 90% of Burma’s population continuing to follow the religion.
  • The 1,600 km (990 mi) India–Myanmar border separates the Indian states of Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India from Kachin State, Sagaing Region and Chin State in Myanmar/Burma.
  • In addition to the long land border, India and Myanmar also share a maritime border along India’s Andaman Islands.
  • India established diplomatic relations after Myanmar’s independence from Britain in 1948.
  • For many years, Indo-Burmese relations were strong due to:
    • Myanmar previously having been a province of India,
    • cultural links,
    • flourishing commerce,
    • common interests in regional affairs and
    • the presence of a significant Indian community in Myanmar.
  • India is Burma’s 4th largest trading partner after Thailand, China and Singapore, and second largest export market after Thailand, absorbing 25 percent of its total exports.
  • India is also the seventh most important source of Burma’s imports.

The current political scenario in Myanmar

  • Since the military coup on February 1, 2021, the international community has stayed divided on how to address the derailment of Myanmar’s transition to democracy.
  • For a decade, the country’s system based on power-sharing between the military and elected representatives ran well enough.
  • An overwhelming electoral victory of the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in November 2020, unnerved the military leadership.
  • The Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military) moved faster, seizing power in violation of the Constitution and putting down the Opposition with an iron hand.

Global Concerns of Myanmar’s Military coup

  • Global dismay was evident in the western sanctions, but others such as Russia saw the opportunity to strengthen ties with the new rulers.
  • China took urgent steps to stabilise and expand cooperation with the military regime.
  • The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) first showed creativity through its ‘Five-Point Consensus’ formula, but later its unity stood damaged once Myanmar’s top leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing refused to cooperate.

India’s position and bilateral concerns

  • India’s position, as conveyed to Myanmar, is similar to and supportive of ASEAN:
    • release of political prisoners;
    • resolution of issues through dialogue;
    • cessation of “all violence”; and
    • full cooperation with ASEAN.
  • In recent years, India has assisted Myanmar through capacity-building programmes for strengthening the transition to democracy. This assistance remains available, but it is not an offer of mediation by India in the military-NLD conflict. This burden will have to be borne by ASEAN.
  • India’s principal concerns pertaining to border security and stability in its neighbourhood were clearly conveyed, especially the noticeable escalation of activities of anti-India insurgent groups.
  • The second issue — the outcome of Myanmar’s instability — is that of refugees. Several thousands of Myanmar people have sought shelter in Mizoram. This will only be reversed by a political settlement in Myanmar, through dialogue.
  • Economic cooperation has always been a major agenda item in all bilateral discussions with Myanmar. Central to this is India’s long-delayed commitment to “expeditious implementation” of mega initiatives such as the Trilateral Highway and Kaladan projects.

Reasons behind India’s position

  • Indian government sees the military exercising real power in the country. This was particularly significant because of the stakes India has in the region in port building, oil exploration, fighting insurgency, etc.
  • Many insurgent groups from the Northeast have set up base in Myanmar. Myanmar has let India reach out and carry out raids against Indian insurgent groups across the border which India has to continue and also, India is now selling Myanmar quite a bit of military hardware.”
  • India has a large stake is in Sittwe in the Rakhine province where India has built a large, deep seaport. The location of the port will play a major role in connecting the Northeast region to the sea,
  • India has also initiated numerous infrastructure and development projects with Myanmar. India sees these infrastructure projects as the “gateway to the East” and ASEAN countries.
  • India wants to resolve the issue of Rohingya refugees that fled to Bangladesh and some still live in India for which constant support of the regime in power will be needed.
  • Of late, the image of Ms. Suu Kyi as a democratic icon and Nobel peace laureate has been damaged because of her failure in stopping the Army’s pogrom against Rohingya and to top it she defended the Army’s action.

-Source: The Hindu

In NFHS report card, the good, the sober, the future


The health system in India has been facing unprecedented stress during the COVID-19 pandemic which includes the looming Omicron threat now on the horizon. Against this backdrop, the recently released fifth edition of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 brings some positive news.


GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Health, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5)?
  2. How often is the NFHS conducted?
  3. Highlights of the comparison between NFHS-5 and NFHS-4
  4. Taking note of the encouraging news
  5. Understanding the Discriminatory social norms
  6. Way Forward

What is National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5)?

  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS) is a large-scale, multi-round survey conducted in a representative sample of households throughout India.
  • The NFHS is a collaborative project of the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai, India; ORC Macro, Calverton, Maryland, USA and the East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA.
  • NFHS was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with supplementary support from United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), Government of India, designated IIPS as the nodal agency, responsible for providing coordination and technical guidance for the NFHS.

How often is the NFHS conducted?

  • National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has been conducted five times so far with the latest survey being the fifth NFHS.
  • NFHS-1 was conducted in 1992-93 – which collected extensive information on population, health, and nutrition, with an emphasis on women and young children.
  • The Second National Family Health Survey (NFHS-2) was conducted in 1998-99 in all 26 states of India with added features on the quality of health and family planning services, domestic violence, reproductive health, anemia, the nutrition of women, and the status of women.
  • The Third National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3) was carried out in 2005-2006 in 29 states of India funded by – USAID, DFID, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, UNFPA, and MOHFW, GOI.
  • The fourth National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) was conducted in 2015 under the stewardship of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the survey included all 6 Union territories at that time.

Highlights of the comparison between NFHS-5 and NFHS-4

  • India has officially hit a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.0 that indicates a decrease from the 2.2 in the NFHS-4. These findings bust the population-explosion myth and show that India must steer away from coercive measures of population control. (This is a significant feat for the country’s family-planning programme, which does not include coercive policies.)
  • According to the United Nations Population Division, a TFR of about 2.1 children per woman is called replacement-level fertility. If replacement level fertility is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself. The urban TFR is 1.6 and the rural TFR is 2.1.
  • An overall survey of the major differences between the NFHS-5 and NFHS-4 suggests that the use of contraceptives has improved from 53.5% to 66.7% in the latest NFHS-5 and institutional births increased from 78.9% to 88.6%.

NFHS-4 vs NFHS-5 on Childcare and Nutrition

  • Births in institutional facilities, such as a hospital, improved by nearly 8 percentage points.
  • Children who were either stunted or displayed signs of wasting only dropped by a maximum of 3 percentage points.
  • The proportion of children (12-23 months) who were fully vaccinated improved from 62%-76% and children under 6 months who were exclusively breastfed also showed a sharp improvement from 54.9 to 63.7%.
  • There were, however, mixed signals in nutrition. Though the gains in childhood nutrition were minimal, women and men (15-49) who had a below normal body mass index (BMI) each dropped roughly four percentage points.
  • Those overweight (or had a higher BMI than ideal) increased by around 4 percentage points. Abnormal BMIs are linked to an increase in obesity and other non-communicable diseases (NCD).
  • Battle with Anemia
  • India’s battle with anaemia also appears to have faltered. The proportion of anaemic children (5-59 months) increased from 58% to 67%.
  • Women aged 15-49 who were anaemic increased from 53% to 57% and men of the same age increased from 29% to 31% between both editions of the NFHS.

Taking note of the encouraging news

  • As mentioned in the comparison- The Total Fertility Rate — the average number of children born per woman — has declined from 2.2 to 2.0 on a national level – the main reasons for decline in fertility include:
    • Increase in adoption of modern family planning methods (from 47.8% in 2015-16 to 56.5% in 2019-21) and
    • a reduction in unmet need for family planning by 4% points over the same period
  • This indicates significant improvements in access to family planning related information and services.
  • Increased reach of the health system to more non-user couples with information about family planning (from 18% in 2015-16 to 24% in 2019-21).
  • Further, 62% of current users have received information about the side-effects of contraceptives — a crucial indicator of the improved quality of family planning services.
  • Significant improvements in female literacy, with 41% women having received 10 or more years of schooling (compared to 36% in 2015-16).
  • Maternal health services are steadily improving and there has also been an increase in institutional deliveries in public health facilities (52.1% to 61.9%), demonstrating an improvement in quality of services.

Understanding the Discriminatory social norms

  • One in three women continue to face violence from their spouse. Hence, there is a need to enhance the value of women and girls by working on transforming unequal power relations, structural inequalities and discriminatory norms, attitudes and behaviours.
  • Women’s participation in the economy continues to remain low (only 25.6% women engaged in paid work, a meagre increase of 0.8% point).
  • Women still bear a disproportionate burden of unpaid domestic and care work, hindering their ability to access gainful employment. This points to the need for engaging with men and boys, particularly in their formative years, to promote positive masculinities and gender-equal values.

Way Forward

  • The pace of progress between one NFHS and the next should be accelerated by devising targeted strategies based on specific indicators and regions that are currently lagging.
  • Convergence among multiple stakeholders is critical to bring about the desired change.
  • Together, we must challenge discriminatory social norms that drive gender-based violence and harmful practices, and empower women to exercise agency and autonomy in all spheres of life.
  • Women and girls having agency and bodily autonomy is not only the foundation for a better future; it is a fundamental human right.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023