IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 10th March 2018
SC allows Passive Euthanasia
Part of: Mains GS Paper II-
- In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court recently passed an order allowing passive euthanasia in the country.
- The apex court, recognising “living will” made by terminally-ill patients who are likely to go into a permanent vegetative state, laid down guidelines for the same.
- The guidelines include who would execute the will and how nod for passive euthanasia would be granted by the medical board.
The guidelines will be in force till legislation on the same is passed by Parliament.
- Justice Chandrachud today said, “Life and death are inseparable. Every moment our bodies undergo change… life is not disconnected from death. Dying is a part of the process of living.”
- Advance directives for terminally-ill patients could be issued and executed by the next friend or relatives of the person after which a medical board would consider it.
What is passive euthanasia?
Passive euthanasia, defined by the SC in Aruna Ramchandra Shanbaug vs Union Of India & Ors, 2011, entails withholding of medical treatment for continuance of life, e.g. withholding of antibiotics where without giving it a patient is likely to die.”
It lets a person decide in advance whether or not to be put on life support in case of terminal illness.
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TOPIC: General Studies 1:
- Social empowerment
- Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues.
Gender gap as biggest challenge to our demography
India’s demographic dividend, being a nation of young people, puts us at a great economic advantage over other ageing countries.
There exist challenges in reaping the benefits of this dividend. India’s woeful gender gap in the workplace makes us much poorer as a nation, economically and socially.
About 48.5 per cent of Indians are women, that’s nearly half of our population.
- The World Bank says that the share of Indian women above the age of 15 employed in our workforce is only 25 per cent. It was 34 per cent in 1991 and has been sliding steadily since.
In China, the number is 60 per cent.
- According to the ILO, India ranks 121 out of 131 countries in Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP), one of the worst in the world.
Any talk of a demographic dividend is meaningless when one half of the population is just not participating in the economy.
The reasons are many:
- India is a deeply feudal, parochial and sexist society.
Deep down, most Indians subscribe to the stereotype that a man’s place is in the workplace, the woman’s at home. For many Indian men, it is a matter of shame to see women in their families go out to work.
- There also exists a fear that financially independent women could challenge the men’s assumed superiority and dominance in the household.
- Women too have internalised this thought. More girls may be going to school, yet this ethos is so ingrained that education may be a necessary but not sufficient condition for taking up employment.
- Even in urban and educated households, it is documented that women’s participation in the workspace actually goes down with improvement in family incomes.
As families earn more, they feel it is no longer necessary for the woman to work, the man’s income is enough.
The above mentioned sub-optimal employment trends underscore the unequal status Indian women are accorded in households, particularly in rural and semi-urban India.
- The National Family and Health Survey reveals that more than half of Indian women do not even enjoy free mobility; they are not allowed to move out of their house unaccompanied by a male member.
- Even for women who are allowed to work, travelling to the workplace is a challenge. In many parts of India, there is either no public transport or the quality of it is so forbidding to women that going to work is not a feasible option.
- As agricultural prospects fade further, a large part of rural India keeps migrating to urban centres in search of work. This again puts women at a disadvantage; most often it is men who travel out with women left behind to tend to children and the elderly.
- Women with children face tremendous discouragement within their family setups to go out to work, further the absence of any childcare support infrastructure renders it impossible for mothers to continue full-time work.
- Safety in the workspace is another huge issue.
Our neighbors are doing better:
Our neighbours, other than Pakistan, seem to be doing much better on this front.
The FLFP for Bangladesh is 57 per cent and Sri Lanka 35 per cent.
Other than social factors, one reason could be the assimilation of women into the vibrant exporting sectors of these countries. The textile industry, in both these countries, employs millions of women.
Lesser opportunities for women:
India has a strong IT sector, which employs many educated women but lacks a large enough manufacturing export sector which can employ less skilled women, who are much larger in number.
This may be the most significant economic reason for India’s woeful female labour participation.
In the West, much of the recent discourse has revolved around a gender pay gap — women getting paid far less than men for similar job profiles.
In our country, while pay gaps do exist, the real challenge is to get more women gainfully employed.
Decades of conditioning is not easy to undo, particularly in a society as conservative and regressive as ours. Such a low female labour participation comes at a huge cost, even to our GDP.
The social consequences of a larger assimilation of women into our workspace is immense.
We need women, not just in our boardrooms but on our shop floors, in our factories and on our workstations.
India needs its own MeToo moment, of a different kind.
Connecting the dots:
- Women in India faces the dual challenge of lack of jobs as well as of suitable jobs. This is not only hurting our economy but society too. Discuss.
General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes.
General Studies 3:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
- Inclusive growth and issues arising from it
- Investment and Infrastructure
- Agrarian/Rural distress and Rural Development
Tackling agrarian distress: Analysing budgetary measures
This year’s budget is being termed pro-agriculture (increased outlays to the agricultural sector and initiation of various programmes).
But, closer scrutiny of the three major measures announced shows it may be less effective to tackle the agrarian distress.
There are some real challenges confronting them.
- Raising the minimum support price (MSP) by at least 50% above the cost of production.
- The MSP will also be extended to all crops for which estimates on cost of cultivation and a remunerative price are to be ascertained.
- Estimating the cost of production of commodities not covered under the scheme and their procurement procedures, if undertaken.
- The production cost, as calculated by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, is based on three different methods, termed as A2, A2+FL, and C2. -> A2 covers all paid-out expenses, including in cash and in kind, namely, cost on account of seeds, chemicals, hired labour, irrigation, fertilizers and fuel.
-> A2+FL covers actual paid cost and unpaid family labour.
-> C2 includes all actual expenses in cash and kind incurred in production and rent paid for leased land, imputed value of family labour plus interest paid.
In the last few years, the government has been giving MSP above 50% based on cost A2+FL, which is to be continued as per this Budget. But farmers, for many years, have been demanding that the raise in MSP be based on C2 instead.
- Also, little attention has been paid towards altering the ongoing ‘high input cost and low output price’ regime.
Thus, the government must extend immediate help to farmers from rampant price volatility.
The States can implement the ‘price deficiency payment scheme’ (difference between MSP and price received) as has been started in Haryana for some vegetables, and the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana in Madhya Pradesh for select oilseeds. These schemes can also encourage small holders, including tenants, who constitute at least 86% of farmers, to sell in the regulated markets.
- Developing and upgrading the existing 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets.
- A corpus of ₹2,000 crore has been allocated in the name of the Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund for developing and upgrading marketing infrastructure.
The challenge is to ascertain the priority of the respective States towards it and ways to accelerate its pace.
- Public-private partnership may help.
- Under market reforms, it will be important to link production centres with marketing through agri-value chains, which would require farmers to aggregate, form self-help groups, or farmer producer organisations.
- A hike in MSP should be supplemented with irrigation, and reduction in fertilizer cost.
- Also the launch of ‘Operation Green’ with an outlay of ₹500 crore to address the challenge of price volatility of perishable commodities requires State governments to bring various programmes under one roof, perhaps within the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Market Committee 2017, to help farmers.
Increasing institutional credit from ₹10 lakh crore in 2017-18 to ₹11 lakh crore in 2018-19.
The share of agricultural credit in gross domestic product in agriculture and allied activities has increased from 10% in 1999-2000 to 41% in 2015-16. The actual flow has considerably exceeded the target.
Therefore, targeting of the announced allocation to the poorer farmers and tenants in each State will go a long way in improving their purchasing power and augmenting investment, which is currently low.
Other issues: What more needs to be done?
- Close to 52% of net sown area (73.2 million hectares out of 141.4 million hectares) is still unirrigated and rainfed, in addition to the recurrence of floods and droughts due to climate change.
Despite its presence in the Economic Survey 2017-18, the subject has not received due attention in this Budget.
The plan is to take up 96 districts deprived of irrigation with an allocation of ₹2,600 crore under the Prime Minister Krishi Sinchayee Yojana — Har Khet ko Pani. The Centre will work with the State governments to enable farmers to install solar water pumps to irrigate fields.
- The Minor Irrigation Census 2013-14, published in 2017, warns of a tremendous increase in deep tube wells to more than 2.6 million in 2013-14, from 1.45 million in 2006-07, and the resultant decline in the ground water table.
It is ironic that the government aims to install more tube wells while being worried about depleting groundwater.
- A location-specific policy for irrigation with the identification of suitability of medium-major irrigation projects and/or minor or micro irrigation facilities is required to protect farmers from the adverse impacts of climate change.
- It must be supplemented with timely completion of pending canal irrigation projects, and strengthening of the National Agricultural Insurance Scheme by an increase in compensation and timely advice on weather.
- Technological interventions that update farmers about sowing and harvesting time and extension services can help prevent misfortunes.
Investment in agricultural research and development (Ag R&D):
India spends almost ₹6,500 crore on Ag R&D, which is not even 0.4 % of GDP from agriculture and allied activities.
This is a serious concern in view of the low annual rate of growth in agriculture in the last four years.
- More drought and pest-resistant crops are needed, along with better irrigation technology.
- Farmers also require interventions in the seed sector to raise production and diversify to alternate crops to induce higher growth.
Rather than providing compensation and increased budgetary outlays, the government should assure doable action plans that quickly rescue them from price or crop failure.
The long-term measures should be to accelerate investments in irrigation, infrastructure, improved extension services and institutions fully backed by a competitive marketing system.
Connecting the dots:
- Discuss the major budgetary decisions regarding agricultural sector and challenges in implementing them. Also discuss the need to focus on long term measures like investments in irrigation, infrastructure and improved extension services.
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