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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 01 April 2023


Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 01 April 2023


Contents

  1. Employment, health, and ageing populations
  2. A Bold Digitization Initiative, the SMART PDS Scheme

Employment, Health, and Ageing Populations


Context

  • Senior citizen job portals like SACRED are increasingly common these days.
    • The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment created this portal.
    • Residents over the age of 60 can register and search for jobs and employment opportunities on the portal.
  • Today, it appears that both the public and private sectors have compassion for senior citizens.
    • Those who have accumulated a fair amount of experience and knowledge over the years may feel more confident as a result of this.

Relevance:

GS Paper-2: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions, and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

Mains question

What problems are there with India’s elderly population? Provide solutions for how to resolve these problems. (150 Words)


Age-Related Population Status:

  • Any society can benefit from having older members.
    • Aging is a natural process that comes with opportunities and difficulties.
    • India has 104 million older people (60 years and older), or 8.6% of the total population, according to the Census of 2011.
    • There are more females than males among elderly people (60+).
  • According to the Elderly in India 2021 report from the National Statistical Office (NSO), India’s elderly population (those 60 and older) is expected to reach 194 million in 2031, up from 138 million in 2021, a 41% increase over a ten-year period.
  • In 2031, there will be 93 million men and 101 million women, up from 67 million men and 71 million women in 2021, according to the report, which raises concerns about an ageing population and emphasises the need for India to prepare for a changing population structure.
    • In 2021, Kerala will have the highest percentage of senior citizens (16.5%), followed by Tamil Nadu (13.6%), Himachal Pradesh (13.1%), Punjab (12.6%), and Andhra Pradesh (12.4%).
    • With 7.7%, 8.1, and 8.2 percent, respectively, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Assam have the lowest percentages.
  • There was a stark difference between the elderly population’s decadal growth (population growth rate over a 10-year period) and the general population.
    • While elderly decadal growth is expected to increase from 35.5% in 2001–11 to 35.8% in 2011–21 to 40.5 in 202–31, general population growth is expected to decline from 17.7% to 12.4 to 8.4%, respectively.
  • The number of people over 60 per 100 people in comparison to people between the ages of 15 and 59 is known as the old-age dependency ratio.
    • The report noted a sharp rise in the old-age dependency ratio, which is expected to reach 15.7% and 20.1% in 2021 and 2031, respectively, up from 10.9 percent in 1961 and 14.2 percent in 2011.

Concerns:

  • Coverage by social security:
    • Only about 20% of the population in the country is covered by Social Security, compared to 25% by health insurance.
    • The level of social security coverage and access to health services for the elderly is relatively low, given the fact that we can be certain that our elderly population will grow significantly over the ensuing decades.
    • There are numerous programmes for the elderly, but they are superficial and lack the breadth and resources necessary to have any real impact.
  • Multiple morbidities
    • Research has also shown that older people struggle more than younger people with multi-morbidity (the simultaneous presence of two or more chronic conditions). This calls for an increase in geriatric care facilities and targeted interventions to lessen the burden of non-communicable diseases.
  • Problems brought on by the unemployment rate:
    • With India’s unemployment rate hovering around 8%, young people who are traditionally expected to work locally and care for their parents are increasingly moving abroad in search of employment.
  • On the other hand, a significant portion of the unemployed are being employed in the informal sector, though they are underpaid and in a highly precarious position.
    • These factors are forcing young people to leave their ageing parents behind and travel abroad.
  • Medical expenses:
    • The price of healthcare has increased.
  • Savings are being drained by rising insurance premiums and the cost of private healthcare.
    • According to the Economic Survey 2022–23, out-of-pocket expenses make up 48.2 percent of the total health budget, which is estimated to be $5.96 trillion or $4,470 per person and includes both public and private spending.
  • Fuel and Food Price Inflation:
    • The cost of food and fuel has increased as well, which is worrying for people who have little money to cover daily expenses.

Governmental Initiatives:

  • The National Policy on Older Persons (1999), the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act (2007 Act), and the National Policy for Senior Citizens (2011 Act) of the Government of India provide the framework within which to support the needs of seniors.
  • Elderly patients receive specialised care in primary healthcare settings through the National Programme for Health Care of Elderly and Health and Wellness Centers under the Ayushman Bharat programme.

Steps to Take:

  • We need high-level political engagement on this issue given the scenario of a rapidly growing elderly population in India (at a higher rate in some states), poor financial status of the elderly, and lack of financial support for schemes under implementation.
    • India needs to start making plans now to care for its rapidly growing elderly population.
      • Old age care, social services, and elder health all require investment.
    • As lifespans lengthen, it is crucial to reskill seniors and get past the idea that people are most productive when they are between the ages of 15 and 59; otherwise, a significant portion of the population will not contribute to economic growth.
    • If ageing issues are not addressed now with proactive and forward-looking policies and programmes at the national and state levels, with the involvement of corporations and civil society, it could result in a situation similar to the one we are currently facing with inadequate skills among the youth that should have been addressed with sincerity decades earlier.

Conclusion:

  • Every effort should be made by the nation’s citizens to make life much easier for the elderly.
  • India cannot afford to let its elderly population disappear from the national consciousness.

A Bold Digitization Initiative, the SMART PDS Scheme


Context:

The Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the largest beneficiary-centric programme in the nation, will be modernised and digitalized as part of the ambitious Smart Public Distribution System (Smart PDS) initiative, which was started by the Indian government.

Relevance:

GS Paper-3: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization

Mains Question

What role does the SMART-PDS scheme play in ensuring that the most vulnerable members of society receive essential central welfare programmes? (250 Words)


Major highlights

  • The Department of Food and Public Distribution’s (DFPD) Smart PDS initiative aims to implement data-driven decision-making to address the lack of reliable and timely data.
  • The programme uses information obtained from the distribution of food grains to determine the beneficiaries’ consumption and travel habits.
  • This information can be used to deliver vital central welfare programmes to society’s most vulnerable groups as efficiently as possible.
  • The standardisation of PDS operations through the use of technology and integration with FCI, CWC, the transport supply chain of rail and road, the Ministry of Education, Women and Child Development, and UIDAI will also be made possible by the use of data analytics and other ICT tools and technologies.
  • The use of AI in conjunction with convergence and integration can truly change the game for both citizens and governments by bringing accountability to all programmes.

Significances:

  • Targeted delivery: One of the main advantages of the SMART-PDS programme is that it guarantees the targeted delivery of necessities to society’s most vulnerable groups. The programme identifies the most vulnerable households in each state and distributes resources accordingly by utilising data from various government schemes and programs, such as the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC).
  • Prevents theft and leakages: The SMART-PDS programme makes use of cutting-edge technology, including biometric authentication, digital ration cards, and electronic point of sale (ePoS) devices, to stop theft and leakages in the public distribution system. (PDS). This guarantees that only legitimate recipients receive the benefits and prevents food grain diversion or black marketing.
  • Increases transparency: The SMART-PDS plan encourages distribution system transparency by making information about resource distribution and food grain distribution available to the general public. Beneficiaries will find it simpler to access information about their rights as a result, and they will be able to hold government agencies responsible for any inconsistencies or delays in the provision of benefits.
  • Saves money and resources: The programme makes sure that supplies are distributed in accordance with actual needs, minimising the wastage of food grains and other resources. As a result, the government can better allocate its resources based on the actual needs of the beneficiaries, which also helps to reduce costs.
  • Improves accountability: The SMART-PDS programme improves accountability by giving recipients a place to air their complaints and grievances. The plan also enables monitoring and evaluation of the distribution system, which makes it simpler for authorities to identify and address any flaws.

What are the difficulties with Smart-PDS?

  • Technological obstacles: The technological obstacle is one of the main problems with the SMART-PDS system. The scheme heavily relies on technology, including electronic point of sale (ePoS) systems, digital ration cards, and biometric authentication. However, it might be difficult for many residents of rural and remote areas to access their entitlements because they are unfamiliar with these technologies.
  • Lack of awareness: The beneficiaries’ lack of awareness of the SMART-PDS programme presents another difficulty. Many beneficiaries might not be aware of their rights or how to use them, which could result in underuse of the programme.
  • Infrastructure issues: The SMART-PDS system needs a strong infrastructure to work properly. However, it may be difficult to implement the scheme effectively in many areas of India where there may not be adequate infrastructure, including internet connectivity, power supplies, and storage facilities.
  • Corruption and rent-seeking: These problems persist despite the use of cutting-edge technology in the SMART-PDS plan. Food grains may still be diverted or syphoned off by some officials and middlemen, particularly in regions with lax governance and oversight.

Ration Card for One Nation (ONORC):

  • In order to maintain the reforms implemented by the End-to-end Computerization of TPDS Operations scheme and address the main difficulties faced by planners, the Indian government introduced the Integrated Management of Public Distribution System (IM-PDS) scheme.
  • The implementation of the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC), a national portability programme that enables beneficiaries to access their food rations from any Fair Price Shop (FPS) in the nation, is one of the programme’s primary goals.
  • This programme has been successfully implemented in all 36 States and the District of Columbia, and it is reliably recording more than 3.5 crore portable transactions each month.
  • ONORC has so far tallied more than 100 crore portability transactions, including both inter-state and intra-state transactions, since its launch in August 2019 in just four states.

Conclusion:

  • The delivery of essential central welfare programmes to the most vulnerable segments of society has undergone a significant transformation thanks to the bold digitization initiative known as the SMART-PDS scheme.
  • The SMART PDS scheme’s scope clearly extends beyond ration distribution and will enable increased accountability for all government programmes.

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