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Detailed News Articles: 19 June 2019

1. India to be most populous by 2027: UN

According to the recently released World Population Prospects 2019 report, India is expected to add 273 million people by 2050, which will be the largest national increase in the world.

Details:

  • India is set to overtake China as the most populous country by 2027 and will have almost 1.64 billion inhabitants by 2050, says the United Nations report.
  • It says that South Asia’s opportunity to reap the demographic dividend will peak by 2047.
  • While India may have the highest absolute increase in numbers, its rate of growth is slowing.
  • The rate of population growth is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where the fertility rate stand at 4.6 births per woman over a lifetime. The region is expected to double its population by mid-century.
  • Health economists claim that the major implications of population growth will be increase in young and older population that will face a lack of resources in future.

Demographic Dividend:

  • India is still among the countries where the working-age population (25-64 years) is growing faster than other groups, creating an opportunity for accelerated economic growth.
  • Globally, people aged above 65 are the fastest growing age group, putting pressure on social protection systems as the proportion of the working-age population shrinks.
  • By 2050, almost 50 countries are expected to have less than two working-age people to support every person above 65.
  • These low values underscore the potential impact of population ageing on the labour market and economic performance as well as the fiscal pressures that many countries will face in the coming decades as they seek to build and maintain public systems of health care, pensions and social protection for older persons

Issues:

  • The major implication for India, will be on the demographic dividend.
  • The country will have more young people as well as older people. T
  • he employment rates are going down in India and with more younger people, India wont’ be able to absorb them in workforce and won’t be able reap it the benefits of its demographic dividend.
  • There could be a rise in equality, and the country will have to work out a mechanism to tackle these problems.
  • A high population with no jobs may become a threat to the economy and the current challenges will become harder.

Measures taken to control population growth:

  • For curbing population growth, the union health ministry in 2017 launched mission Parivar Vikas to increase access to contraceptives and Family Planning services in 146 high fertility districts.
  • The current basket of choice has been expanded to include the new contraceptives viz. Injectable contraceptive, Centchroman and Progesterone Only Pills (POP).
  • Also, the sterilization compensation scheme has been enhanced in 11 high focus states (8 Empowered Action Group (EAG), Assam, Gujarat, Haryana).
  • The government has been looking for private sector to help in the cause.
  • Government has also been looking at the private sector, in the form of CSR for supporting its family planning program.

Way forward:

  • India needs to design solid strategies to generate sufficient employment opportunities to reap the benefits of the demographic dividend and prevent the growing population become a demograph8ic disaster.
  • Investment in health care sector must increase
  • Investing in a skilled health workforce can both draw dividend from the youth segment while meeting the health needs of the elderly.
  • There is a need for more investment in education and women empowerment as they are the key contributors both to slowing down population growth and accelerating development.

2. . E-com firms take up data localisation issues with Goyal

Context:

  • A meeting was held by the Commerce Minister Mr. Piyush Goyal in order to understand the concerns of E-commerce firms and take their suggestions towards building a robust data protection framework that will achieve the dual purpose of privacy and innovation; strengthen India’s position as a global tech leader with focus on trust and innovation.
  • The draft national e-commerce policy has proposed setting up a legal and technological framework for restrictions on cross-border data flow and also laid out conditions for businesses regarding collection or processing of sensitive data locally and storing it abroad.
  • The ministry is in the process of finalising a national e-commerce policy.

Details:

  • The meetings are expected to deliberate upon threats from large foreign competition, level playing field and impact of anti-competitive practices such as predatory pricing and other discriminatory practices.
  • E-commerce companies have voiced their concerns about the Reserve Bank of India’s data localisation norms.
  • Some of the companies also raised concerns about the draft e-commerce policy released by the government, especially provisions related to treatment of data.
  • Concerns have been raise that the provision that the government should have the sovereign right over all data at all times is unviable.
  • The other issue was the government’s demand for data from companies, where the companies argued that the data should be shared only for law and order and investigation situations.
  • The third data-related issue raised was that companies cannot share their data with their group companies.
  • The argument made was that if a start-up is acquired by a multinational company, then it becomes a part of that company. And that if the start-ups cannot share its data with the parent company, then there would apprehensions in buying Indian start-ups.

Data Localisation:

Why in News?

  • The RBI gave October 15 as the deadline for global financial technology companies to comply with its data localization norms in India and to store transaction data of Indian customers within India.
  • In a circular in April 2018, RBI had said that all system providers shall ensure that the entire data relating to payment systems operated by them are stored in a system only in India.

Background

Srikrishna Committee Report

  • Atleast one copy of personal data will need to be stored on servers located within India.
  • Transfers outside the country will need to be subject to safeguards.
  • Critical personal data will only be stored and processed in India.

Data Protection Bill 2018

  • The right to privacy is a fundamental right which necessitates protection of personal data as an essential facet of informational privacy.
  • Establishment of a Data Protection Authority to take steps to protect interests of individuals, prevent misuse of personal data and to lay down norms for cross-border transfer of personal data.
  • The Central Government shall notify categories of personal data as critical personal data that shall only be processed in a server or data centre located in India.

Draft National E-Commerce Policy Framework

  • Recommended data localisation and suggested a two-year sunset period for the industry to adjust before localization rules becomes mandatory.
  • Proposes incentives to encourage data localization and grant infrastructure status to data centres.

What Is Data Localisation?

  • Data localisation is the practice of storing data on any device that is physically present within the borders of the country where the data is generated. As of now, most of these data are stored, in a cloud, outside India.
  • Localisation mandates that companies collecting critical data about consumers must store and process them within the borders of the country.

Advantages of Data Localisation

  • Secures citizen’s data and provides data privacy and data sovereignty from foreign surveillance. Example – Facebook shared user data with Cambridge Analytica to influence voting.
  • Unfettered supervisory access to data will help Indian law enforcement ensure better monitoring.
  • Ensures National Security by providing ease of investigation to Indian Law Enforcement agencies as they currently need to rely on Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) to obtain access to data.
  • It will give local governments and regulators the jurisdiction to call for the data when required.
  • Data centre industries are expected to benefit due to the data localisation which will further create employment in India.
  • Greater accountability from firms like Google, Facebook etc. about the end use of data.
  • Minimises conflict of jurisdiction due to cross border data sharing and delay in justice delivery in case of data breach.

NOTE: Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) are agreements between governments that facilitate the exchange of information relevant to an investigation happening in at least one of those countries.India has signed Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with U.S. and 39 other countries.

Challenges of Data Localisation

  • Maintaining multiple local data centres may lead to significant investments in infrastructure and higher costs for global companies.
  • Infrastructure in India for efficient data collection and management is lacking.
  • Splinternet or ‘fractured internet’ where the domino effect of protectionist policy can lead to other countries following suit.
  • Even if the data is stored in the country, the encryption keys may still remain out of the reach of national agencies.
  • Forced data localisation can create inefficiencies for both businesses and consumers. It can also increase the cost and reduce the availability of data-dependent services.

International Practices

  • Many countries have implemented or are in the process of implementing data localisation laws, including — China, United States, Brazil, Indonesia and Russia.
  • Europe’s new data protection regime puts limits on cross-border data flows to countries that don’t have data protection laws.

Way Forward

  • There is need to have an integrated long-term strategy for policy creation for data localisation.
  • Adequate infrastructure and adequate attention need to be given to the interests of India’s Information Technology enabled Services (ITeS) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries, which are thriving on cross border data flow.

3. An idea whose time may not have come

Analysis:

What did the 2014 manifesto of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) say? 

  • The 2014 manifesto of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) read: “The BJP will seek, through consultation with other parties, to evolve a method of holding Assembly and Lok Sabha elections simultaneously. Apart from reducing election expenses for both political parties and Government, this will ensure certain stability for State Governments.”
  • As a matter of fact, in an interview with a news channel in January 2018, the Prime Minister had rightly highlighted the demerits of the country being in constant election mode.
  • “One election finishes, the second starts,” he said. He argued that having simultaneous Parliament, Assembly, civic and Panchayat polls once every five years and completed within a month or so would save money, resources and manpower.
  • This, he pointed out, happened on account of a large section of the security forces, bureaucracy and political machinery having to be mobilised for up to 200 days a year on account of electioneering.
  • It is important to note that the BJP’s 2019 manifesto also mentions that simultaneous elections for Parliament, State Assemblies and local bodies to “ensure efficient utilisation of government resources and security forces and… effective policy planning”.
  • The manifesto also goes on to say that the party “will try to build consensus on this issue with all parties”.
  • It is in this spirit of reform and consensus building that the Prime Minister has revived this debate, calling an all-party meeting for discussions on June 19th, 2019.

Voices in support of the idea of simultaneous elections:

  • The re-elected Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik, has already welcomed the idea, saying, on June 15th, 2019 that frequent elections affect the development climate, and hence it is better to have simultaneous elections in the country.
  • The Law Commission had recommended simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha and the local bodies as far back as in 1999.
  • The BJP’s L.K. Advani also supported the idea back in 2010 in an eloquent blog post.
  • The matter was examined by a Parliamentary Standing Committee in December 2015, and was also referred to the Election Commission of India (EC). Both supported it in principle.

Potential Benefits of simultaneous elections:

  • Reducing Costs:
  • The concerns raised are indeed genuine, and the idea is worth debating.
  • Firstly, it is becoming more and more difficult to contest elections.
  • The 2019 general election was the most expensive on record; a whopping ₹60,000 crore was reportedly spent on the whole exercise.
  • Given that there is no cap on the expenditure incurred by political parties, they spend obscene amounts of money in every election.
  • It is argued that simultaneous elections would help reduce this cost.
  • Reducing Disruption to Civic Life:
  • Secondly, frequent elections hamper the normal functioning of the government and disrupt civic life.
  • This happens because the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) comes into operation as soon as the EC announces the election dates.
  • This means that the government cannot announce any new schemes during this period.
  • This results in what is often referred to as a policy paralysis.
  • The government cannot make any new appointments or transfer/ appoint officials.
  • The entire government manpower is involved in the conduct of elections.
  • Some experts also opine that elections are the time when communalism, casteism and corruption are at their peak.
  • Frequent elections mean that there is no respite from these evils at all.
  • This has directly resulted in the souring of the political discourse, something that was on full display during the 2019 general election.
  • Furthermore, from the point of view of Election Commission of India, simultaneous elections make perfect sense because the voters for all three tiers are the same, polling booths are the same and staff/security is the same — the suggestion of “one nation, one election” seems logical.

Some Obstacles in the Way of Simultaneous Elections:

  • There are some obstacles in the way. As a matter of fact, several important questions arise.
  • How will “one nation, one election” work in case of premature dissolution of the Lok Sabha, for instance, as happened in late 1990s when the House was dissolved long before its term of five years was over?
  • In such an eventuality, would we also dissolve all State Assemblies?
  • Similarly, what happens when one of the State Assemblies is dissolved? Will the entire country go to polls again? This sounds unworkable both in theory and in the practice of democracy.

Some nuanced perspectives:

  • As for the implementation of schemes of the government during the MCC period, only the new schemes are stopped as these could be tantamount to enticing/bribing voters on the eve of elections. All ongoing programmes are unhindered.
  • Even new announcements that are in urgent public interest can be made with the prior approval of the EC.
  • Additionally, experts point out that frequent elections are not so bad for accountability. They ensure that the politicians have to show their faces to voters regularly.
  • Furthermore, creation of work opportunities at the grass-root level is another big upside.
  • The most important consideration is undoubtedly the federal spirit, which, inter alia, requires that local and national issues are not mixed up.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Now, as the debate has been rekindled, wider deliberation on the need for a range of reforms must be considered.
  • Till the idea achieves political consensus, there are two alternative suggestions to deal with the problems that arise due to frequent elections.
  • Firstly, the problem of uncontrolled campaign expenditure can be remedied by introducing a cap on expenditure by political parties.
  • State funding of political parties based on their poll performance also is a suggestion worth considering.
  • Private and corporate fund collection may be banned.
  • Some experts have also suggested that the poll duration can be reduced from two-three months to about 33 to 35 days if more Central armed police forces can be provided.
  • The problems associated with a multi-phased election have been getting compounded, with more issues being added to the list with every election.
  • Next, violence, social media-related transgressions and issues related to the enforcement of the MCC which are unavoidable in a staggered election will vanish if the election is conducted in a single day. All that needs to be done is to raise more battalions. This will also help in job creation.
  • In conclusion, it is undeniable that simultaneous elections would be a far-reaching electoral reform.
  • However, if it is to be implemented, there needs to be a solid political consensus, and an agenda of comprehensive electoral reforms should supplement it.
  • The pros and cons need to be appropriately assessed and practical alternatives sincerely considered.
  • Lastly, it is good that the government continues to encourage a debate on the subject rather than forcibly pushing it through.

4. Preventing violence: on protection to doctors

Analysis:

  • The attack on a junior doctor on June 10th, 2019 over the death of a patient had sparked the agitation, which spread to other parts of the country when it appeared that the State government was reluctant to negotiate with the striking doctors.
  • Experts opine that now that Ms. Banerjee has reached out to young doctors and conceded that their demands are genuine, the government, in West Bengal and elsewhere, must focus on addressing the deficiencies afflicting the health-care system as a whole.
  • It is important to note that reprisal attacks on doctors by agitated relatives of patients who die during treatment are known to happen.
  • Such violence is invariably the result of systemic problems that adversely affect optimal attention to patients, such as infrastructural and manpower constraints.

Conditions under which doctors work:

  • It is apparent that doctors work in stressful environments, sometimes under political pressure with regard to admissions.

Steps taken to protect doctors:

  • Several States have enacted laws to protect doctors and other health-care personnel from violence.
  • Recently, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan wrote to State governments highlighting the need for stringent action against anyone who assaults doctors.
  • He also asked States that do not have a law to protect doctors against violence to enact one, and circulated a 2017 draft of a law that envisaged imprisonment besides recovery of compensation from perpetrators for loss or damage to property.
  • Having said this, an important question arises: Is such a law really effective?
  • Ironically, West Bengal, which is at the epicentre of a strike that involved nearly the entire medical fraternity across the country, has such a law too.
  • Like the law in most other States, the West Bengal Act provides for a three-year prison term and a fine, which could go up to ₹50,000, to anyone indulging in violence against any “medicare service person”, which covers doctors, nurses, medical and nursing students and paramedical staff.
  • The offence is cognisable and non-bailable.
  • It also provides for recovery of compensation for loss.
  • It is important to note that many other States have similar laws, with the one in Tamil Nadu providing for a prison term that could go up to 10 years.

Concluding Remarks:

  • It is clear that having this law did not prevent the incident that sparked the latest agitation.
  • There are no figures available on how many times the medical service person protection law has been invoked.
  • In any case, causing simple or grievous injuries to anyone is a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code. Lastly, treating the issue as a law and order problem is just one way.
  • The real solution may lie in improving health infrastructure, counselling patients about possible adverse treatment outcomes, and providing basic security in medical institutions.

5. Building confidence, BIT by BIT

Analysis:

  • Experts opine that as Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman gets ready to present the first budget of the 17th Lok Sabha, she faces enormous challenges.

A Look at some of these challenges:

  • Currently, the GDP growth rate is at a five-year low, domestic consumption is sinking, the business confidence index has plunged, and India has recorded its highest unemployment rate in the last 45 years.
  • To add to this list of woes is a claim made by Arvind Subramanian, India’s former Chief Economic Adviser, that India’s GDP has been overestimated.
  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) equity inflows to India in 2018-19 contracted by 1%, according to the government’s own data.
  • After an increase of 22% and 35% in 2014-15 and 2015-16, respectively, FDI equity inflows began tapering off since 2016-17 with the growth rate falling to 9% and then to 3% in 2017-18.

A More Closer Look:

  • Experts point out that this contraction in FDI inflows comes at a time when global supply chains are shifting base as a result of the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China.
  • As a matter of fact, India has failed to attract firms exiting China.
  • Many of these supply chains have relocated to Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia.
  • India has not been the natural/first option for these firms for a host of reasons. These include:
  1. Poor infrastructure,
  2. Rigid land and labour laws,
  3. A deepening crisis in the banking sector and
  4. A lack of structural economic reforms.

Perspective on India terminating bilateral investment treaties (BITs):

  • As a matter of fact, the decline in the FDI growth rate, despite the well-advertised improvement in India’s ease of doing business rankings, interestingly, has coincided with India’s decision, in 2016, to unilaterally terminate bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with more than 60 countries. This is around 50% of the total unilateral termination of BITs globally from 2010 to 2018.
  • Critics have opined that unilateral termination of BITs on such a mass scale projects India as a country that does not respect international law.
  • India also adopted a new inward-looking Model BIT in 2016 that prioritises state interests over protection to foreign investment.
  • Experts point out that in the absence of empirical evidence, one cannot conclude that termination of BITs and adoption of a state-friendly Model BIT adversely impacted FDI inflows.
  • Nonetheless, since studies have shown that BITs positively impacted foreign investment inflows to India, an examination of the link between the two should be a high priority for the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Affairs. The Ministry of Finance and Corporate Affairs is also the nodal body dealing with BITs.
  • It is also important to note that the decision to terminate BITs and adopt a state-friendly Model BIT was a reaction to India being sued by several foreign investors before international arbitration tribunals.
  • The government concluded that these claims were an outcome of India’s badly designed BITs, signed in the 1990s and 2000s that were based on a laissez faire template.

Case of Bad regulation? An Insight:

  • It is true that India’s BITs gave extensive protection to foreign investment with scant regard for state’s interests — a characteristically neoliberal model. However, experts point out that this design flaw could have been corrected by India negotiating new balanced treaties and then replacing the existing ones with the new ones instead of terminating them unilaterally, which has created a vacuum.
  • Importantly, the design flaw was not the real reason for the increasing number of BIT claims.
  • As a matter of fact, critics opine that a large number arose either because the judiciary could not get its act together (an example being inordinate delays in deciding on the enforceability of arbitration awards) or because it ruled in certain cases without examining India’s BIT obligations such as en masse cancellation of the second generation telecom licences in 2012.
  • Likewise, experts point out that the executive — the Manmohan Singh government — got the income tax laws retrospectively amended in 2012 to overrule the Supreme Court’s judgment in favour of Vodafone and cancelled Devas Multimedia’s spectrum licences in 2011 without following due process, thus adversely impacting Mauritian and German investors.
  • These cases are examples of bad state regulation. Critics point out that they also reveal an absence of full knowledge of India’s obligations under BITs by different state entities.
  • Thus, experts suggest that the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Affairs should invest extensively in developing state capacity so that the Indian state starts internalising BITs and is not caught on the wrong foot before an international tribunal.
  • In correcting the pro-investor imbalance in India’s BITs, India went to the other extreme and created a pro-state imbalance as evident in the Model BIT.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Correcting this imbalance should be high on the reform agenda of the government.
  • As a matter of fact, ‘Progressive capitalism’ (channeling the power of the market to serve society, as explained by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz) provides the right template.
  • Further, Indian BITs should strike a balance between interests of foreign investors and those of the state.
  • Also, a certain degree of arrogance and misplaced self-belief that foreign investors would flock to India despite shocks and surprises in the regulatory environment should be put to rest.
  • In conclusion, continuity and transparency in domestic regulations and a commitment to a balanced BIT framework would help India project itself as a nation committed to the rule of law, both domestically and internationally, and thus shore up investor confidence.
  • As the 2019 World Investment Report confirms, since India is fast becoming a leading outward investor, balanced BITs would also help in protecting Indian investment abroad.

6.  Doctors and patients deserve better

Analysis:

A Brief Look at the recent turn of events:

  • Junior doctors in a state-run hospital in Kolkata were attacked by the angry relatives of a patient who died there, junior doctors across West Bengal went on strike, outraged senior doctors paid lip service to their cause, medical associations went on a token strike, and there were calls for stricter laws and for increasing security for doctors.
  • Some experts opine that it was the usual narrative involving lumpen mobs, allegations of political instigation, unrealistic expectations from patients, overworked doctors, and calls for increased security, which included bizarre demands for bodyguards and even bouncers.

Important Questions that arise:

  • Will punitive action, new laws or increased security change this scenario?
  • Will we never see an incident like this if such measures are taken?
  • These are questions worth examining.

Examining the setting and the triggers of a potential flashpoint:

  • The setting in which a majority of such incidents have taken place offer some clues.
  • The most common scenario is that of a patient being brought to the casualty ward of a public hospital in a critical condition by family members or neighbours.
  • If the patient does not survive, there is the reality or perception that treatment was not administered to him or her in time. The tipping point is when the staff in hospitals display insensitivity when they are questioned about delays.
  • It is true that the emergency wards of India’s public hospitals are chaotic, disorganised and resemble conflict zones.
  • While there are several factors that contribute to this, the complete absence of the globally recognised protocol of ‘triage’ is a big reason.
  • Triage involves a rapid examination of a patient to determine whether he or she needs instant care, early care, or care that can wait.
  • Experts point out that the absence of this protocol means that emergency wards are often occupied by patients with all sorts of minor injuries.
  • Data reveals that in certain hospitals, more than 90% of patients frequenting the casualty ward over a two-year period had minor injuries which could have been easily treated in a smaller setting.
  • In India, when people go to the police with a complaint of an assault, they are advised to go to a government hospital even if they have very minor injuries, to record them to strengthen their legal case.
  • All these patients come to the casualty ward adding to the crowd and the burden of the hospital staff. Experts opine that if the staff have to treat only 10% of the load of critical patients, they would do a much better job and perhaps even save lives.
  • It is important to note that the huge workload in large teaching hospitals in cities, such as in Kolkata’s Nil Ratan Sarkar Medical College and Hospital, is also the result of the poor capacity of suburban and rural hospitals to handle sick patients. This uneven scenario is due to excessive centralisation of funds, staff and equipment.

A growing chasm:

  • Experts point out that there is also a dangerous argument that is being put forth in the aftermath of such attacks: that people’s expectations have increased.
  • As a matter of fact, it is hard to understand what this means in a system where the bar has been set very low. For example, are people who see huge delays, rickety ambulances and lack of equipment or malfunctioning equipment not supposed to respond? Isn’t it possible that common citizens who see swanky private hospitals delivering quick, organised care wonder why they get such a raw deal?
  • In other words, is the realisation that there is a more effective way of care, which the common man is being denied because of his or her inability to pay for it, the cause for anger which periodically explodes in a perverse manner?

The Psychology behind Attacks:

  • One reason why laws are unlikely to work is that patients and their families or friends do not come to a hospital with a plan to attack.
  • As a matter of fact, attacks are impulsive responses in an emotional moment.
  • What may work instead is softening the blow on families by examining how, where and who delivered the bad news to them.
  • If family members in moments of intense grief are now regularly donating organs to their near and dear ones, there must be something that we are doing right.
  • This is happening probably because the news is broken to them in a planned and organised manner by a trained transplant coordinator, usually in the sanitised setting of an intensive care unit of a large private hospital.

Concluding Remarks:

  • Experts opine that members of the medical profession, who have been trained in the method of science, can do better than imitate the impulsive, inappropriate responses of those who attack the first doctor in sight, as well as the political class.
  • As a matter of fact, several structural and policy changes in the way India’s hospital systems work can reduce, if not eliminate, the perception that there is negligence in caring for patients.
  • Medical associations need to take the lead in demanding policy change.

Thank you!

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