[Editorial Analysis] Rash U-turns, half-baked Plans

Mains Paper 2: Governance

Prelims level: ICDS

Mains level: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating

Context

• As the country inches towards parliamentary elections, a deep confusion pervades the realm of social policy.

• The 2015-16 Union Budget gave dramatic expression to this indifference, with deep cuts in allocations for many social programmes.

• But the cuts went further, and the axe fell particularly heavily on children, with initial cuts of around 36 per cent and 50 per cent for midday meals and the Integrated Child Development Services respectively.

• Maternity entitlements, a legal right of all Indian women (except those already covered in the formal sector) under the National Food Security Act 2013, were ignored for years and are brazenly violated to this day.

Improving social security measures

• The rights of workers employed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act have also been undermined.

• The central government’s contribution to social security pensions for the elderly has been frozen at a measly Rs 200 per month.
• With the partial exception of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, there have been no major initiatives in the social sector in the last five years.

• Most of the government’s efforts have gone into promoting Aadhaar and saving money rather than protecting people’s entitlements.

• Suddenly, it has rediscovered that millions of poor people in India desperately need public support for their survival and wellbeing.

• As a starter, the government announced a grand health insurance scheme, Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, which claims to cover up to Rs 5 lakh of health expenditure every year for 10 crore families.

• The finance minister recently announced a mega scheme for contributory pensions in the informal sector. The budget for non-contributory pensions for widows and the elderly was quietly reduced by more than Rs 600 crore.

• The finance minister did allocate big money (Rs 75,000 crore) for the new scheme of direct cash transfers to farmers. The poor in India do need income support and this is one way of going about it.

But is this the best way?

• Many well-off farmers (or business owners who also happen to have a little land) will take advantage of the scheme while many vulnerable groups, starting with landless labourers, are left out.

• The idea, according to statements from Rahul Gandhi and P Chidambaram, is that if you earn less than the minimum income, the government will pay the difference.

• This makes no sense.

• For one thing, it is wholly impractical how is the government supposed to estimate this income gap, household-wise?

• For another, give up working, since the government is supposed to fill the gap anyway.

Conclusion

• Meanwhile, no major political party has proposed bold initiatives in the fields of health and education universal quality education Poverty, economic and social inequalities.

• It is good both the government and the Opposition are sparing a thought for the poor danger of breeding half-baked plans and expensive stunts.

• What India needs is a well-thought out effort to consolidate the foundations of a lasting social security system.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) Which of the following economic reforms would help in curtailing ‘unnatural inflation’, which arises due to supply side constraints?

1. GST act

2. Model APMC act

3. FDI in multibrand retail

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 2 and 3 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: D

Mains Questions:

Q.1) How is the government supposed to estimate this income gap, household-wise?

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