28th MAY 2018
GS II- INTERNATIONAL
Q1. The denuclearization of the Korean peninsula will bring stability to the northeast Asian region and will also be beneficial for the United States of America. Discuss
- North Korea’s search for state security and regime survival is well known. Nuclear weapons, as in most other cases, were deemed the only reliable card to security. Since 2006, when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea conducted its first nuclear test, the process of nuclearisation saw sustained progress over a decade along with ballistic missile testing to demonstrate a path towards a credible deterrence capacity. But it was not until the July 2017 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test that Washington awoke to the reality of its own homeland being part of a deterrence equation with Pyongyang. The North Koreans shrewdly realised that only the possibility of a direct threat would stir the U.S. into serious talks.
- The DPRK, for its part, was actively encouraged by its great power benefactors to pursue such an opening. As direct neighbours of the DPRK, both Russia and China have a self-interest in stabilising the Korean peninsula and closing an unfinished chapter of the Cold War. South Korean domestic politics too is geared to tap this moment. In short, the regional context was conducive at all levels for a détente and bargaining process to ensue.
- Pyongyang would cease its quest for intercontinental nuclear weapons capability in lieu of a gradual normalisation of ties with the U.S. along with a lifting of multilateral economic sanctions. As a result, the DPRK would gain regime and national legitimacy, assurance of survival and an opportunity to economically transform itself. The U.S. could also claim success on several fronts. A deal would confine the DPRK to a regional nuclear power, which also enables Pyongyang to preserve a degree of autonomy from Beijing; it would stabilise the broader Northeast Asian setting and thereby increase the security of its two key allies, South Korea and Japan; and finally, it would eliminate a major potential flashpoint in China-U.S. relations.
- A shifting status quo that might produce new regional re-alignments or interdependent equations, it is likely that China and Russia would actively leverage peace on the peninsula to pursue their ambitious geoeconomic plans for the region. Koreans on both sides of the Demilitarised Zone would be spoilt for choice after living under the shadow of prolonged tension and conflict. Put plainly, in the image of an American hawk, successful U.S.-DPRK talks translate to the U.S. no longer being the top dog in Northeast Asia and being compelled to share power and influence with others and that will lead to a more multipolar world which is more stable in terms of international security.
GS II- SOCIAL-SCHEME
Q2. Lack of service and resources, infrastructure and pricing of services are the key issues that the national health protection scheme (NHPS) faces. Comment.
- Health policies have two objectives: to enhance the health of the population and reduce the financial risk for those accessing treatment. Success in the first is measured by a reduction in the disease burden and subsequent increase in people’s longevity. Reduced spending or getting impoverished when seeking health-care measures the second
- The national health protection scheme (NHPS) has two components: upgrading the 150,000 sub-centres (for a 5,000 population level) into wellness clinics that provide 12 sets of services; and providing health security to 40% of India’s population requiring hospitalisation for up to a sum assured of ?5 lakh per year per family. If implemented as integral components of a strategy to improve the abysmal status of India’s health-care system, these initiatives can help achieve the goals of equity, efficiency and quality.
- There are key issues affecting the scheme. The first is the massive shortages in the supply of services (human resources, hospitals and diagnostic centres in the private/public sector), made worse by grossly inequitable availability between and within States. For example, even a well-placed State such as Tamil Nadu has an over 30% shortage of medical and non-medical professionals in government facilities.
- A related question that arises is that while the NHPS will empower patients with a ?5 lakh voucher, where do they encash this? The health budget has neither increased nor is there any policy to strengthen the public/private sector in deficit areas. While the NHPS provides portability, one must not forget that it will take time for hospitals to be established in deficit areas. This in turn could cause patients to gravitate toward the southern States that have a comparatively better health infrastructure than the rest of India.
- The issue is about the capacity of this infrastructure to take on the additional load of such insured patients from other States, growing medical tourism (foreign tourists/patients) as a policy being promoted by the government, and also domestic patients, both insured and uninsured. It is still unclear whether the implications of the national policy on the fragile health systems of States have been fully comprehended and how they propose to address them.
- The strategy for negotiating/containing prices being charged for services needs to be spelt out. Package rates are not a substitute for arriving at actuarial rating. In the absence of market intelligence, arbitrary pricing and unethical methods cannot be ruled out.
- More importantly, there is no way the government or the payer has an idea of the shifts in the price of components within the package. This knowledge is essential to regulate/negotiate prices to contain costs. This also explains why there is no dent in the exorbitant health expenditures being faced in India despite government-sponsored schemes
- Finally, the absence of primary care. The wellness clinic component is a step towards bridging that lacuna, but with no funding, the commitment is hollow.
- A pilot done in Tamil Nadu showed that within six months of upgrading primary health-care facilities (human resources, drugs and diagnostics), there was a rise in footfall, from 1% to 17%. At the same time, it requires a minimum outlay of ?1,500-?2,000 crore to bridge the deficiencies. In the northern States there are hardly any sub-centres and primary health centres are practically non-existent. It is estimated that ?30,000 crore will have to be spent if this three-tier primary health-care system is to be brought to minimal health standards. The sum would rise further if there are to be mid-level providers (as in wellness clinics).
- In an environment of scarce resources, prioritisation of critical initiatives is vital to realising health goals. The implementation of Ayushman Bharat will have to be contextualised and synchronised with a reform agenda that must include improved governance and an enforcement of regulations.
GS II- GOVERNANCE
Q3. The government has recently mooted a proposal for allocating services and cadres to civil servants based on the combined marks obtained in the CSE and the foundation course at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie. Discuss the various flaws and drawbacks of the proposal.
- At present, successful candidates are allocated services based on their ranks in the CSE and their preferences. Candidates qualifying for the IAS and IPS are allocated cadres (States) based on their examination ranks and preferences. The successful candidates of the IAS, IFS, IPS and Central Services Group A undergo a 15-week foundation course in the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (training academy) in Mussoorie. The course focusses on promoting interservice camaraderie, cooperation, and capacity building of the officer-trainees.
- Recently the government made a proposal according to which, candidates who have cleared the CSE will have to wait till the foundation course is over to know which service and cadre they are likely to get. There are good reasons to believe that the new proposal is administratively unfeasible.
- Articles 315 to 323 of the Constitution deal with Public Service Commissions of the Union and the States. Article 320(1) says: “It shall be the duty of the Union and the State Public Service Commission to conduct examinations for appointments to the services of the Union and the services of the State respectively.” Thus, the duty of conducting the CSE is vested only in the UPSC. If the marks secured in the foundation course in the training academy are included for allocation for services, it would make the training academy an extended wing of the UPSC, which it is not. Therefore the new proposal violates Article 320(1).
- The Chairperson and members of the UPSC are constitutional functionaries. Article 316 provides for security of their tenure and unchangeable conditions of service and Article 319 bars them from holding further office on ceasing to be members. These constitutional safeguards enable them to function independently without fear or favour. On the other hand, the Director of the training academy that conducts the foundation course is a career civil servant on deputation, and she can be summarily transferred. The faculty members of the training academy are either career civil servants on deputation or academicians. Neither do they enjoy the constitutional protection that the UPSC members enjoy nor is there any bar on their holding further posts. This means that the Director and faculty members will not be able to withstand pressure from politicians, senior bureaucrats and others to give more marks to favoured candidates. They will actively try to please the powers-that-be in order to advance their own career prospects. There is also the grave risk of corruption in the form of ‘marks for money’ in the training academy. Politicisation and communalisation of the services are likely to take place from the beginning.
- The training academy has facilities to handle not more than 400 candidates for the foundation course. If this limit is exceeded, the foundation course will have to be conducted in other training academies situated in other cities. With only about 12 faculty members in the training academy in Mussoorie, the trainer-trainee ratio for the foundation course is very high, and it will be impossible to do the kind of rigorous and objective evaluation that is required under the government’s new proposal. Needless to say, the evaluation of the trainees will be even less rigorous and objective when the foundation course is conducted in training academies situated elsewhere. It is well known that competition in the CSE is very intense. The difference of a few marks can decide whether a candidate will get the IAS or, say, the Indian Ordnance Factories Service. Therefore, the inclusion of the highly subjective foundation course marks can play havoc with the final rankings and with the allocation of services and cadres, and ruin countless careers.
- While about 600-1,000 candidates are selected every year for all the services put together, nearly 60-70% of the candidates qualifying for the IPS and Central Services Group A do not join the foundation course in Mussoorie as they prepare for the civil services (main) examination again to improve their prospects. Clearly, it is not possible to evaluate such candidates in the foundation course as contemplated in the new proposal. They cannot be compelled to attend the foundation course because that would amount to depriving them of their chance of taking the examination again. So, the new proposal is administratively unworkable.
- Nobody denies that the steel frame of the Indian civil services has turned somewhat rusty and needs reform. The real problems of the civil services are not with recruitment; they are with what happens after an officer joins the system. Even the best and the brightest can lose their bearings in a system that places a premium on loyalty, political connections and community/caste clout rather than on merit; in which indecision and inaction are seldom punished, while performers stand a greater chance of getting into trouble as they take more decisions; which pays lip service to honesty but is thoroughly rotten inside and expects officers to either shape up or ship out; in which performance appraisal is based more on the personal likes and dislikes of one’s superiors than on actual work done.The Government of India would do well to fix these systemic shortcomings rather than unsettle the settled method of recruitment.