IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 2nd August, 2016
General Studies 1
Population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues, urbanization, their problems and their remedies; Social empowerment
General Studies 2
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Issues relating to poverty and hunger.
The dynamic nature of poverty
The concept of poverty today, is different from what it was thirty years ago.
The left and right of politics is not necessarily always in conformity with the lived experiences of ordinary Indians
Left: They want to expand social welfare programmes for the poor by highlighting the growing inequalities between rich and poor.
Right: they want to alleviate the growing burden of welfare policies and introduce economic growth to improve the lives of poor.
Thus, it is needed that poverty be understood and tackled with tailor made approaches to align with the transition happening in society.
The anti-poverty policies are based on identifying poor through Below Poverty Line (BPL) Census.
These censuses conducted every 10 years
In 1993-94, more than 50% of the population fell in BPL category. Their identification was simply based on
Rural landless households in underdeveloped districts like Dangs and Bastar
They often belonged to SCs and STs
Even if the above identification strategies failed, there was 50% chance of being right in identifying poor.
However, in 21st century, when one in four rural Indians and one in six urban Indians are poor, there are more chances of identifying the poor wrongly.
Same household, different points of time. 2004-05 and 2011-12
If BPL cards handed out on basis of 2004-05 household’s average consumption expenditure, 25 out of 38 Indians would have been out of BPL list in 2011-12
If 62 Indians were not eligible for BPL cards in 2004-05, 9 became newly poor in 2011-12
Thus, In 2011-12, 66% of BPL card holders would have moved out of poverty line while 40% of poor would not have held a BPL card.
Poverty is very dynamic in nature
The fundamental assumptions need to be revisited as poor household may move out of poverty and non-poor may become poor over a period of time.
Poverty is not only because of birth in a poor family. But other factors of life also determine the existence of poverty. It includes occurrence of disease, disability and unemployment.
Approach to poverty
The goal has been to cover maximum through welfare programmes.
This has diluted the concentrated efforts needed to help poor overcome the poverty
Strange paradox: despite decline in poverty, there is a sharp increase in proportion of population receiving welfare benefits
Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the proportion of population deemed to be poor fell from 38% to 22%
But, there was an increase from 13% in 2004-05 to 33% in 2011-12 in the proportion of households which receive benefits from various welfare schemes like old age pension, widow pension, Janani Suraksha Yojana or scholarships etc.
There was an increase from 27% to 52% from 2004-05 to 2011-12 in households buying cereals from PDS, which intends to provide subsidized food grains to poor.
In MGNREGA, it provided employment to 17% of the households considering the past in which there was negligible participation in public works programme of government.
In toto, the proportion of household covered by all these schemes increased from 35% to 68% from 2004-05 to 2011-12
Despite expansion in coverage areas of welfare schemes, the incomes and subsidies from such welfare programmes account for relatively small proportion of overall household budget.
In 2004-05, the transfers and subsidies from the welfare schemes was of Rs. 3,129 per recipient household per year
In 2011-12, at constant terms, it increased to Rs. 6,017
Overall, this is Rs. 100 per person per month in 2011-12
However, the incomes also grew between 2004-05 and 2011-12.
The average proportion of the household income accruing from benefits grew only marginally from 11 per cent to 14 per cent for all the recipients.
Thus, the burden of welfare programmes on the exchequer may be huge, but the impact on household has been relatively less.
The welfare programmes have proliferated exponentially
In 2012, 131 schemes were in operation in one study district!
And more astonishingly, most of the beneficiaries were not aware of these schemes meant for them!!
Less than 2% of the household had registered their daughters in girl child protection schemes.
Assessment: more the schemes, much more the inefficiency and leakages.
Many schemes succumb to lack of funds as they would have been either politically motivated or not successful in garnering wide public acceptance.
The policy decision related to welfare schemes are not well thought with multiple outcomes and consequences.
RSBY covers hospital costs but not outpatient service. Not all are admitted to hospitals frequently.
However, patients delay their treatment until sever condition where hospitalisation is the last resort. They are reimbursed their hospitalisation expenses but at the cost of their health.
PDS covers only cereals
People consume only cereals and reduce their dietary diversity which is extremely essential for a healthy body
Need is: for the welfare schemes to address these concerns while genuinely taking care of what people require.
The restructuring of social safety net faces three challenges. However, these challenges have to addressed pragmatically and not bending towards any ideology.
Identifying the true beneficiary who needs assistance in context of rapid economic changes
Delivering the assistance efficiently without unintended consequences creeping in to distort the intended benefits
Meaningful assistance to cure the situation permanently and not merely a bandage on wound for temporary relief
What can be done?
Simple and limited goals.
They provide the opportunity to concentrate on a focused area and thereby achieving the realistically measured goals than superficial and larger-than-life expectations
To divide social safety policies into 3 categories
Access to appropriate work: provision of back-up manual work at below market wages to those who are able to work
Access to insurance: provision of insurance against catastrophic events such as health-care emergencies or crop failure that push people into poverty
Access to financial support: provision of cash support, say in the form of old age pension, to people who are no longer able to work.
Understanding the transforming society
MGNREGA is excellent model for employment programmes in rural areas. It should be equally be well implemented in urban areas for promised 100days
Better framework for increasing number of crop and health insurance programme to prevent cost escalation
Better benefits and easier access to old age pension and disability schemes.
The need is to recognise the evolving and changing dynamics of the traditional policies in the growing economy so that poor have a requisite opportunity to bring themselves out of poverty and not consider it as part of life due to birth in such family.
India and its International relations, Foreign Policy
Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
What India has to do to become a ‘great power’
Can India become a “great power”?
India has the prerequisites of size, location, demography, economic potential and political standing to become a “great power”.
What India has to do is –
‘Build its capacity’ to forge these attributes (size, location, demography, economic potential and political standing) into demonstrable national strength.
Secure desired outcomes in multilateral forums and expand its international influence.
For this India has to first do the following:
Increase its diplomatic influence in multilateral negotiations to achieve desired outcomes
Strengthen its geopolitical games, bilateral equations and domestic politics
Use positive and negative tactics
It should know to concede somewhere to get something elsewhere
Learn from China lessons
Cooperation or compromise and not confrontation
Enabling domestic politics
India, under NDA government, has done quite well in this direction which is evident from its foreign policy initiatives with
our near and extended neighbourhood,
with major powers,
in campaigns for UN Security Council and
Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) membership
Let us deal with above conditions one by one:
India’s diplomatic influence in multilateral negotiations should increase, to achieve its below given desired outcomes –
30-year-old effort to secure a permanent seat on the UN Security Council
similar effort to seek admission to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)
quest to seek membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
The geopolitical games
The outcome in international negotiations is really determined by geopolitical games, bilateral equations and domestic politics, more than the “merits” of a case.
The strength of bilateral relationships underpins such negotiations. Every country, big or small, matters.
Therefore, India should focus more on mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation, which enhances the stake of both countries in the relationship.
This influences their attitude in multilateral forums on subjects of interest to each other. As in interpersonal relations, so in diplomacy: make a friend before you need him.
Use of positive and negative tactics
Another diplomatic tool is projecting to countries the advantages of a positive stance and the “costs” of a negative position.
A current example is the Saudi Arabian threat to sell $750 billion of U.S. assets if the latter enacts a law enabling victims of 9/11 to sue the Saudi government for its alleged involvement in the terrorist act. The U.S. Congress may pass the bill, but the President will probably veto it.
Awarding or withholding major contracts and facilitating or impeding investments are recognised negotiating tactics.
Countries leverage strategic import decisions — civilian and defence — to extract benefits from the exporting country.
For example, in the 1990s, when Boeing dominated its market, China placed a large order with Airbus — apparently reacting to U.S. criticism of its human rights record. Airbus thereafter consolidated its position in China.
Today, China is exploiting the Airbus-Boeing competition to extract technological know-how for designing and manufacturing its own civilian aircraft.
Therefore, India should enhance the internal flexibility to use such tactics.
Concede somewhere to get something elsewhere
For example, India’s Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) membership was vetoed by Italy in 2015. When this veto was lifted this year, some attributed it to a deal on the Italian marines awaiting trial in India for the killing of two fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012. Even if true, the national interest justifies such deals.
Similarly, every time our government signs a multilateral agreement, it faces charges of a “sell-out”.
Therefore, India should understand the truth that you must concede somewhere to get something elsewhere is as valid in international negotiations as in daily life.
Learn from the China lessons
Influence in multilateral forums is enhanced by bilateral and plurilateral alliancespromoting shared strategic, security or economic interests, which is evident in China’s policy.
India should learn to use certain specific negotiations: strategic alliances, tactical alignments, bilateral trade-offs and pressure at sensitive points combine to achieve the objective.
No country, however powerful, likes isolation in an international forum. Same goes with China.
China has a number of interests which need international support. Especially in expanding the footprint of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, developing its ambitious One Belt One Road project and a range of trade and investment issues are just some of them.
Therefore, India’s interest which intersects or runs parallel with those of China – such as in West Asia and Africa – can be achieved through international support.
Cooperation or compromise and not confrontation
India has to find the right trade-offs, ensuring that what we gain is commensurate with what we concede.
India should deal with cooperation or compromise and only in extreme provocation should use confrontation.
Enabling domestic politics
These stratagems for achieving external objectives are not original — they are simply Chanakya’s approaches of Sama, Dana, Bheda, Danda (alliances, compensation, divide and rule, and armaments). However, they need an enabling domestic environment.
We need effective nationwide public diplomacy to explain our foreign policy perspectives to government, legislative, corporate, media and civil society circles, so that major initiatives do not become hostage to party politics or narrow local interests.
Intra-governmental coordination has to ensure that domestic measures are synchronised with foreign policy objectives (and vice versa).
A mechanism to oversee implementation of inter-governmental agreements should include resolving inter-ministerial turf battles and conflicts of perspectives.
In the ultimate analysis, external ambitions can be achieved only if they fit into a coherent national strategy. India requires a major restructuring of mindsets and overhaul of practices to become a great power. The political spirit seems willing, but the bureaucratic flesh remains uncertain.
Connecting the dots:
Discuss what stratagems India should adopt to achieve its external objectives and finally become a great power?
Can India become a ‘great power’? Critically analyze.