Daily Current Affairs for UPSC IAS | 27th December 2021

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1.  Caring for Senior Citizens and Silver Economy

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 2: Social Issues
Sub Theme:  Caring for Senior Citizens and Silver Economy | UPSC

Challenges faced by Senior Citizens:

Economic Challenges:

Lack of Employment Opportunities: Increase in life expectancy but lower retirement age- Economically unproductive and lack income security.

Poor penetration of pension:

  • Both the Centre and States have pension schemes for the elders, but these provide but a pittance — as low as Rs 350 to Rs 400 a month in some States. Even this is not universal.
  • The Indian pension system has been ranked 40th on overall Global Pension Index out of 43 systems. (Global Pension Index)

Skilling Gap: Rapid advancements in technology has made skills of senior citizens redundant.

Healthcare Challenges:

Inadequate Healthcare Infrastructure: Higher focus on healthcare for Children and Women; No much emphasis on elderly population. For example, Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act 2007 mandates that States to ensure earmarked facilities for elders in every district hospital, headed by a doctor with experience in geriatric care. Yet, a status report filed by the Government in the Supreme Court of India in 2019 stated that 16 States and Union Territories (‘of 35’) did not have a single ward/bed dedicated to elders.

Higher burden of Communicable and Non-Communicable diseases which leads to frequent hospitalisation and higher out-of-pocket expenditure.

Poor Penetration of Healthcare Insurance: Despite Ayushman Bharat, the Government’s health insurance scheme for the deprived, and private health insurance, a NITI Aayog report indicates that 400 million Indians do not have any financial cover for health expenses

Social Challenges

  • Growth of Nuclear families has led to loss of support for the parents
  • Increased level of skilling and education among girls has made it difficult for families to take care of elderly
  • Higher burden on elderly women to look after the household chores.

Emotional Challenges

  • They are often widowed and often miss the companionship of their life-partner. They experience loneliness.
  • Retirement brings lack of identity which old age people often find difficult to adjust to.
  • Generation Gap between the elderly and the millennials often leads to conflict of values

Initiatives

National Policy on Senior Citizens, 2011: Promote the concept of „Ageing in Place‟ or ageing in own home, housing, income security and homecare services, old age pension and access to healthcare insurance schemes and other programmes and services to facilitate and sustain dignity in old age.

Indira Gandhi National Old Age Pension Scheme: Old age pension to cover all senior citizens living below the poverty line.

Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana: Central sector scheme to provide Physical Aids and Assisted-living Devices for Senior citizens belonging to BPL category.

SAGE ( SENIOR CARE AGEING GROWTH ENGINE) INITIATIVE): One stop portal to encourage the start-ups to develop products to take care of the elderly. Examples: Diagnostic kits, personalised wheel chair, Financial services for elderly etc.

Senior Citizens Welfare Fund: 

  • Set up under the Finance Act, 2015
  • unclaimed money lying under Small Savings Schemes, Employees Provident Fund, Public Provident Fund schemes etc. is transferred into Senior Citizens’ Welfare Fund.
  • Promotion of the welfare of senior citizens, in line with the National Policy on Older Persons

Separate Division under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment

Maintenance and welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007:

  • Obligation on the Children to take care of parents.
  • Parents can approach dedicated tribunals to claim maintenance from the children.

Strategies

  • Promote Silver Economy: System of production, distribution and consumption of goods and services aimed at utilising the purchasing potential of the ageing populations, as well as satisfying their consumption requirements and living essentials and healthcare needs. 

Benefits: 

  • Boost Investment and Consumption Expenditure, create more jobs and pursue higher GDP growth model.
  • Make life easier for senior citizens and enable them to productively contribute to economic growth.

Examples:

  • Health Care sector: Higher focus on senior citizens will lead to (a) Improve health care infrastructure (b) creation of more jobs as doctors, nurses, pharmacists etc.
  • Financial Sector: Development of financial institutions to cater to Banking, insurance and pension. For example, dedicated MFIs to provide small value loans to senior citizens.
  • Hospitality, Travel and Tourism: Development of religious tourism circuits for the senior citizens would provide fillip to hospitality industry and benefit local economy.
  • IT Sector: Development of technological tools such as Home automation, Smart Watches, Telemedicine, Database Management ( Ayushman Digital Bharat Mission), Home delivery of medicines etc.
  • Promoting productive ageing:
      • Age of retirement should be increased from 60 to 65.
      • Finding suitable places where old age can contribute with their experience. These careers can be teaching in schools, acting as consultants in government departments and businesses.
      • create awareness in people in younger age groups about old-age planning, look after health and engage in Yoga etc to have a healthy old age life
  • Health Security
      •     Improve the coverage of Health insurance schemes.
      •     Enhanced Government’s expenditure on Healthcare
      •     National and regional institutes of ageing should be set up to promote geriatric healthcare.
  • Economic Security
    •  Extension of Pension to certain APL Families to be identified through Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC)
    •  Reskilling of Senior Citizens to enhance their employability
    •   Promote Entrepreneurship through PSL loans for Senior Citizens
  1.   Incentives to the private sector which specialise in silver economy through Tax exemptions.
  2.   Imposition of Separate Cess to spend for the welfare of Senior Citizens.
  3.   Separate ministry dedicated to the elderly.
  4.   Inculcate family values of caring for parents by redesigning School Curriculum.

2.  RBI’s Retail Direct Scheme

UPSC Syllabus: Prelims: Indian Economy
Sub Theme:  RBI’s Retail Direct Scheme | UPSC

The RBI has recently launched the “Retail Direct Scheme” as a one-stop solution to facilitate investment in Government Securities by individual investors. Earlier, the retail investors had to buy G-Secs indirectly through Banks, Stock exchanges etc. But now, retail investors can purchase G-Secs in the primary market directly from the RBI through the Retail direct platform.

What are Government Securities (G-Secs)?

Financial instruments issued by the Central or state Government to borrow money. Types:

Treasury Bills: Issued only by the Central Government with 3 different maturity periods- 91 days, 182 days and 364 days. Zero Coupon securities with no interest. Issued at discount and redeemed at face value.

Government bonds or dated securities: Issued by the Central Government with long term maturity period of more than 1 year.

State Development Loans (SDLs): Issued by the State Government with long term maturity period of more than 1 year.

Note: G-Secs carry practically no risk of default and, hence, are called risk-free gilt-edged instruments.

How are the G-Secs issued?

The G-Secs are issued through auctions conducted by RBI. Auctions are conducted on the electronic platform called the E-Kuber, the Core Banking Solution (CBS) platform of RBI. Scheduled Banks, Primary Dealers, Insurance companies etc. who maintain accounts with RBI, are members of this electronic platform. All members of E-Kuber can place their bids in the auction through this electronic platform.

Participation of Retail Investors in G-Secs Market

Presently, the Retail Investors cannot purchase G-secs in the primary market directly from the RBI. They can purchase G-Secs through aggregators/ Facilitators such as Banks, Primary dealers, Stock exchanges etc. For example, Retail investors can purchase G-Secs through the BSE Direct, NSE’s goBID, stock brokers etc.

The retail investors can also participate in the trading of G-Secs in the secondary market through the RBI’s Negotiated dealing system-Order matching (NDS-OM) and stock exchanges.

Details about Retail Direct Platform

Platform to enable retail investors to buy G-Secs directly from RBI. Individual Retail investors can open Gilt Securities Account – “Retail Direct Gilt (RDG)” Account with the RBI.

G-Secs which can be bought: T-Bills, Dated Secs, SDLs and Sovereign Gold Bonds.

Who can open RDG Account?: Retail investors having Bank account, PAN Card etc. fulfilling KYC norms. Non-Resident investors are also eligible.

Limits on Investment: RBI has imposed minimum and maximum investment limits for the retail investors. For example, minimum investment in the G-Secs should be Rs 10,000. The exact limits on minimum and maximum investments is not important from the perspective of UPSC exam.

Benefits for different Stakeholders 

Retail Investors: Risk-free Investment; Held in DEMAT form; Can be sold easily in secondary market to meet immediate cash requirements; can be used as collateral to borrow loans etc.

Government: Government has planned to borrow around Rs 12 lakh crores from the market for the present financial year–> Make it easier for the Government to mobilise household deposits for undertaking long-term investment.

Economy: Deepen the G-Secs Market–> Higher Investment rates–> Promote Economic Growth.

Way forward

Going forward, the Government must run awareness campaigns to educate the people on the benefits of the scheme. The Government must also attract retail investors through income tax deductions for these instruments.

 

3.  Challenges before Indian Judiciary

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 2- Polity & Governance
Sub Theme:  Challenges before Indian Judiciary | UPSC

Poor Judicial Infrastructure

Present Status: Judicial Infrastructure such as number of Court rooms, Separate Record rooms etc. has remained quite poor. Adoption of Digital infrastructure has remained lower.

Problems: Higher pendency of cases and Denial of justice.

Strategies: Set up National Judicial Infrastructure Authority of India (NJIAI)

Judicial Vacancies

Present Status: 25% Posts vacant at Subordinate courts; Low Judge Population ratio : 20 Judges per million

Strategies: Fill up the Judicial Vacancies at the subordinate courts

Judicial Pendency

Present Status: 4 crore 60 lakh cases are pending before Indian Courts.

Strategies:

  • Increase number of working days ( 190 working days for the Supreme Court, 232 working days for High Courts and 244 days for Subordinate courts)
  • Establishment of Indian Courts and Tribunal Services: Administration of the courts system, particularly backend functions and processes
  • Deployment of Technology: Technology can significantly improve the efficiency of courts. One major effort in this direction is the e-Courts Mission Mode Project that is being rolled out in phases by the Ministry of Law and Justice. This has allowed the creation of the National Judicial Data Grid (NJDG)

Need for Domain Expertise:

Present status: Rapid development of ICT has led to development of new age crimes such as money laundering through bitcoins, sale of illegal material on dark web.

Problems: Judges do not have technical expertise on these developments.

Way Forward: Legal curriculum needs to be updated. Legal knowledge needs to be supplemented with technical knowledge as well.

Absence of well-considered Legislation

Present Status: Parliament passes the Law without basic scrutiny of constitutionality of laws or without consulting the stakeholders.

Problems: Higher burden on the Courts; Unnecessary tussle between Executive and Judiciary.

Way forward: Prior consultation with the stakeholders; Enhanced scrutiny of bills by the Parliamentary Standing committees.

 

UPSC Current Affairs: A chance to tap India’s high equity in Myanmar | Page No. 06

UPSC Syllabus: Mains: GS Paper 2- International Relations

Sub Theme:  Indo-Myanmar Relations | UPSC

From the Article  

  • India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Myanmar recently.
  • He emphasized India’s interest in seeing Myanmar’s return to democracy at the earliest; release of detainees and prisoners; resolution of issues through dialogue; and complete cessation of all violence.
  • He reaffirmed India’s strong and consistent support to the ASEAN initiative and expressed hope that progress would be made in a pragmatic and constructive manner, based on the five point consensus.
  • Handed over one million doses of “Made in India” vaccines to the Myanmar Red Cross Society
ASEAN – Five Point consensus Formula

  • The ASEAN five-point consensus states that there shall be an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and all parties shall exercise utmost restraint; constructive dialogue among all parties concerned shall commence to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people.
  • Junta has refused to cooperate with this formula.

India’s approach towards Military coup 

  • India has followed a calibrated middle path position.
  • It is reflective of the regional realities.
  • It is different from the west’s approach of condemnation, threats and sanctions.
  • China which had close relations with the Su kyi government has tried to expand its cooperation with the Junta.
  • Myanmar has refused to cooperate with the ASEAN five point formula.
  • In such a background this visit is seen as significant.
  • India has assisted Myanmar through capacity-building programmes for strengthening the transition to democracy. However it is not an offer of mediation by India in the military-NLD conflict.
  • Myanmar has renewed the previous pledge that its nation’s territory would not be allowed to be used for any activities inimical to India
  • Foreign secretary was received by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (who is Chairman of the SAC and Prime Minister) which is departure from the past visits of foreign secretaries from India.
  • Such special gesture clearly shows that China is not the only Friend of Myanmar.

 India’s Myanmar Policy 

Non-interference in internal politics

  • Since 1990s India has supported democratisation of Myanmar, driven from within the country. This has allowed Delhi to engage with the military and the party in power, whether the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party or the pro-democracy National League for Democracy.

Engagement rather than criticising

  • India is cognisant of the geopolitical dimension of Myanmar’s democratisation. For Delhi, engaging rather than criticising is the most practical approach to finding a solution.

Balancing influence of China

  • There was inauguration of liaison office of the Embassy of India in Naypyidaw recently. This is significant as only a few countries have set up such office in Myanmar.
  • Interestingly, China was the first country to establish a liaison office in 2017.
  • Myanmar’s growing closeness with China and the recent proposal of China Myanmar Economic Corridor is a cause of concern for India amidst growing India-China tension.
  • India also has taken significant step towards establishing its embassy in Nay Pyi Taw. India has its embassy in Yangon, the former capital.

Strategic Infrastructure development

  • India has also proposed to build a petroleum refinery in Myanmar that would involve an investment of $6 billion. It shows India’s competitive dynamic with China.
  • Commitment has been made to operationalise of the crucial Sittwe port in Myanmar’s Rakhine state by March 2021.
  • The two sides are collaborating on the ongoing Indian-assisted infrastructure projects such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project. The project will link Kolkata to Sittwe in Myanmar and then from Myanmar’s Kaladan river to India’s north-east.

Border security and development

  • Both countries believe in mutual commitment not to allow respective territories to be used for activities inimical to each other. Both Delhi and Naypyidaw have been collaborating in the development of border areas with the understanding that it is the best guarantee to secure their borders. And this is an area where the fruits of bilateral cooperation are already evident on the ground.

Importance of Myanmar for India

  • Myanmar is key in linking South Asia to Southeast Asia. Myanmar is a member of both ASEAN as well as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) which bridges South and South-East Asia.
  • Myanmar stands at the confluence of India’s Neighbourhood First and Act East Policy and India-Myanmar partnership is at the heart of India’s vision to create a connected and cooperative neighbourhood.
  • Connectivity projects through Myanmar help India overcome its Chicken-neck dilemma (Siliguri Corridor). Myanmar is also necessary for the development of North-Eastern India.
  • Myanmar is a bridge to Southeast Asia and ASEAN and an essential factor in keeping the Northeastern states peaceful.
  • Myanmar is important for both Neighbourhood first and the Act east Policy. 

Military Coup in Myanmar 

Military coup in Myanmar has set off civil unrest and protests. India has criticised the violence, while following a policy of non-interference on the matter of the coup keeping in mind the strategic importance of Myanmar to India, which is – a bridge to Southeast Asia and ASEAN; important for security in North East; crucial for Neighbourhood first and the Act east Policy.

Implications on 

Border security – 

  • Refugees fleeing the military crackdown are entering Mizoram. This has led to disagreement between centre and Mizoram which supports refugees.
  • Centre’s instruction of sealing border with Myanmar has irked ethnically and culturally connected communities on both sides. Ex – Chin community.

Strategic concern – 

  • India cannot upset the Myanmar junta by providing refuge to the officials fleeing military crackdown.

Containing China –

  • Myanmar being crucial in containing China, India will have to take a calculated steps so as to not push Myanmar closer to China. 

Insurgency –

  • A number of ethnic armed organisations (EAOs,) that are active within Myanmar. Being opposed to Junta EAOs can lead to escalation in violence across the border.

Indian Investments – 

  • Instability would threaten India’s investments in Myanmar. Ex – Kaladan Project, Sittwe port, IMT trilateral Highway, Special economic zone in Rakhine. 

Opportunity 

 

  • The Myanmar army has enjoyed a relatively strong relationship with India. It played a key role in handling the insurgency and Hot Pursuits of India. Suu kyi led democratic government was more closer to China. China supported it on Rohingya crisis.
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