The Hindu Editorial Notes or Summary
QUESTION: Discuss the significance of privatisation of railways and challenges involved.
Topic- BIG REFORM ON THE WRONG TRACK :
- Privatisation of Indian Railways
WHY IN NEWS ?
- Indian Railways has launched the process of opening up train operations to private entities on 109 origin destination(OD) pairs of routes using 151 modern trains.
- Several committees have gone into the expansion and the modernisation of Indian Railways.
- In 2015, the expert panel chaired by Bibek Debroy recommended that the way forward for the railways was “liberalisation and not privatisation” in order to allow entry of new operators “to encourage growth and improve services.”
- It also made it clear that a regulatory mechanism was a prerequisite to promote healthy competition and protect the interests of all stakeholders.
CURRENT SITUATION :
- The IRCTC was given pilot Tejas operations in the New Delhi-Lucknow, and Mumbai-Ahmedabad sectors.
- These were the first trains allowed to be run by a ‘non-Railway’ operator.
- The present move takes another step towards competing passenger train operations, bringing new-generation trains and attracting investments of an estimated ₹30,000 crore.
- According to Railway Board, the present invitation constitutes only a fraction of the total train operations – 5% of the 2,800 Mail and Express services operated by Indian Railways.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE MOVE :
- To introduce a new train travel experience for passengers, with better and more train services, who are used to travelling by aircraft and air-conditioned buses.
- Building capacity: In 2019-20, there was 13.3% travel demand in excess of supply during summer and festival seasons. Without an expansion, and with growth of road travel, the share of the Railways would steadily decline in coming years.
For Indian Railways:
- According to the World Bank, in 2018 India had 68,443 route kilometres of railways. It is among the four largest rail networks in the world, along with the United States, China, and Russia.
- Although every kilometre of track in India covers geographical area much less than Germany, Russia, China or Canada, indicating scope for expansion.
- According to the Economic Survey, a steady shift to other modes of travel for both categories(passenger and freight) was affecting economic growth by as much as 4.5% of GDP-equivalent.
- It was estimated that a one rupee push in the railway sector would have a forward linkage effect of increasing output in other sectors by ₹2.50.
- The panel also noted that passengers were willing to pay more, if they had guaranteed and better quality of travel and ease of access.
- The move to augment capacity virtually overnight through private capital in train operations pursues this line of reasoning.
Difference between private and public operation:
- Indian Railways meeting the social service obligation:
- To connect remote locations, and adopting the philosophy of cross-subsidy for passengers in low-cost trains through higher freight tariffs.
- In more recent years, it has focused on revenue generation through dynamic demand-based pricing.
- Focus on revenue: Private operators are not expected to shoulder the burden of universal service norms, and will focus on revenue.
- Even the first IRCTC-run trains have a higher cost of travel between Lucknow and Delhi than a Shatabdi train on the same route that almost matches it for speed.
OBJECTIVE OF THE INITIATIVE :
- To introduce modern technology rolling stock with reduced maintenance.
- Reduce transit time.
- Boost job creation.
- Provide enhanced safety.
- Provide world-class travel experience to passengers.
- Reduce demand supply deficit in the transportation sector.
- Improved Infrastructure – It will lead to better infrastructure which in turn would lead to improved amenities for travellers.
- Balancing Quality of Service with High Fares – The move would foster competition and hence lead to overall betterment in the quality of services.
- Lesser Accidents – Because private ownership is synonymous with better maintenance, supporters of privatisation feel that it will reduce the number of accidents, thus resulting in safe travel and higher monetary savings in the long run.
Coverage Limited to Lucrative Sectors:
- An advantage of Indian Railways being government- owned is that it provides nation-wide connectivity to bring regional development.
- This would not be possible with privatisation since routes which are less popular may be neglected, thus having a negative impact on connectivity.
- Given that a private enterprise runs on profit, thus it may be assumed that the easiest way of accruing profits in Indian Railways would be to hike fares.
Issue of Cross-Subsidisation:
- Indian Railways tend to cross-subsidise passenger fares through freight revenue.
- This translates to below cost pricing, which will make it difficult for private players to compete.
Conflict of Interest :
- Currently, the Ministry of Railways is effectively the policy maker, regulator and service provider.
- This, as the Bibek Debroy committee pointed out, is a clear conflict of interest and would undermine the fair competition between private and government railway operations and impede the efficient privatisation process of Indian Railways.
Social Welfare Concerns:
- As the Indian Railways plays a vital role in transportation of goods in the country, it provides a low cost of transportation of many final and intermediate goods.
- Thus, the privatization of the system motivated by profit making, will have an inflationary effect and thereby affect the common people.
WAY FORWARD :
- Privatisation will require a new institutional framework.
- Core Railways functions can be Corporatizied rather than privatized.
- It is important to modernize the railways, so measures must be taken to reimburse the social costs speedily so that resources of the railways are better allocated and facilities are upgraded from time to time.
QUESTION : Indian healthcare system is facing new types of challenges and Govt took various steps to over this . Critically analyse.
Topic- MORE THAN A CRISIS, A CHANCE TO REBUILD HEALTH CARE
- Rebuilding India’s Health Care System
WHY IN NEWS ?
- The spread in COVID cases in urban agglomerations like Mumbai, Delhi,Chennai and Bengaluru points to both the speed and the scale of the epidemic moving within densely populated areas as well as success in the way sustained municipal efforts and community participation can together blunt the spread of
- the virus. The case of Dharavi is an example.
OPPORTUNITY TO ACT :
- The Minister of Health highlighted how 49 districts out of the 733 in India accounted for 80% of the nearly eight lakh cases, with eight States accounting for 90% of all the incident cases.
- Taking the given numbers at face value, there are on average roughly 250 cases per district in about 700 districts; many of these districts may be closer to having no cases, while others may be at a significantly higher incidence and the low numbers in a large number of districts present officials.
KEY STEPS AT GROUND LEVEL :
- The first step towards this would be to disaggregate the COVID-19 tracking mechanisms and the national level tables and graphs that are updated daily.
- There should be 733 district-level versions, where each one is updated and reported on a daily basis, at the district level.
- The first output of such disaggregation will be to see, with great relief, the number of districts with extremely small or no incidence numbers. In order that they retain their low incidence status, such districts should be supported with all comprehensive testing kits and contact tracing know-how.
- The earlier scheme of designating districts as green, yellow and red will be strengthened with this disaggregated reporting.
- A significant step in this direction would be to encourage District Magistrates, to use the full range of social support schemes available in support of the District Health Officer and team, to be able to prevent anyone from facing situations of hunger or economic distress.
- The testing capacity in the district can be scaled up dramatically by co-opting the science departments of every college and university.
- Thus, chemistry and zoology-allied departments such as microbiology and biochemistry can lend their laboratory services to carry out basic polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based tests.
- This will require administrative imagination and collaboration from the Indian Council of Medical Research, the Department of Biotechnology as well as the University Grants Commission.
- Despite all the current uncertainty, one thing is certain — health care will be a reliable career opportunity (from the laboratory to the bedside, and all points in between and beyond).
A CHANCE FOR BIOTECHNOLOGY :
- The emphasis should also be to encourage innovators and entrepreneurs to bring out and scale up their products without making compromises on the standards or rigor of evidence needed for regulatory and manufacturing approval.
- India is the pharmacy to the world, and with a coordinated effort, the COVID-19 crisis can provide the Y2K equivalent for India’s biotech and biopharmaceutical enterprises
- If with a positive test report, COVID-19 positive individuals were able to monitor their own oxygenation status at home, along with basic fever management medicines, and based on predetermined cutoffs, were able to seek and obtain care at oxygen equipped care facilities.
- This requires two bold administrative leaps: ensure every positive diagnosis report is also delivered along with a pulse oximeter and phone number to call and report status on; and ensure that there would be enough oxygen-equipped beds in every nook and corner of the country.
- For the roughly 3% to 5% of people who will need more than oxygen support,we need to ensure that our doctors, nurses, laboratory personnel and floor workers in hospitals are protected with everything they deserve — personal protective equipment to safety at home, and salaries on time.
- In tandem, critical engagement from Indian biopharmaceutical and biotech companies should be encouraged to produce validated and affordable antiviral drugs and monoclonal antibodies.
INADEQUACIES IN INDIA’S HEALTH-CARE SYSTEM:
- Ailing Public health sector: meagre healthcare budget, overcrowding, long waiting time and the need for multiple visits for investigations and consultations frustrate patients on a daily basis.
- Paucity of Resources: Doctors work in extreme conditions ranging from overcrowded out-patient departments, inadequate staff, medicines and infrastructure.
- Expensive Private Medical Education: increasingly high cost of medical education in the private sector is forcing many students in India to look for cheaper destinations abroad.
- Countries such as China, Russia, Ukraine, Philippines and Nepal have become popular destinations for aspiring doctors as the cost can be less than half of what private institutes charge in India.
- Expensive medical studies are responsible for dearth of doctors in India as after acquiring studies from abroad they do not prefer to practice their profession in India because of the necessity to clear the exam conducted by the Medical Council of India.
- Overburdened Doctors: Owing to disproportionate Doctor Patient ratio, limited number of doctors, nurses and medical staff have to cater to a large number of patients.
DOCTOR-PATIENT RATIO :
- Studies and Survey reveal that in India, there is one government doctor for every 10,189 people (the World Health Organisation recommends a ratio of 1:1,000) implying a deficit of 6,00,000 doctors.
- The nurse:patient ratio is 1:483, implying a shortage of two million nurses.
- India today needs twice as many doctors as are available, three times as many nurses and four times as many paramedics.
DOCTOR’S PROTECTION ACT IN INDIA :
- At least 19 states — including West Bengal, the epicentre of the protests — have passed what is called the Protection Of Medicare Service Persons And Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention Of Violence And Damage To Property) Act, also known as the Medical Protection Act (MPA).
- Any damage or act of violence against Medicare professionals is an act punishable by law.
- Any damage to the property or the Institution of Medicare service is prohibited.
- Destruction of hospital beds, burning of ambulances, smashing medical stores is punishable by law
- Imprisonment to lawbreakers for a minimum period of 3 years and fine amount of INR 50,000 to be imposed if found guilty.
- Offenders of medical professionals/medical colleges can be cognizable or non cognizable crime depending upon the offences committed.
- Damage to any medical devices and equipment is a punishable offence and offenders are liable to pay twice the amount of the damaged equipment’s cost.
WAY FORWARD :
- Innovations in medical science can enable India to move far ahead in health-care delivery and related outcomes.
- The Indian Medical Association (IMA) should help arrive at a solution that can address the concerns of both doctors and patients by instituting better systems to counsel patients and remove unreasonable expectations about treatment outcomes.
- Structural Change: National Health Policy, which commits to raise public expenditure on health to 2.5% of GDP, must pay as much attention to scaling up infrastructure and the capabilities of government hospitals.
- Training and Standard operating procedure: Training resident doctors in effective communication and alternative methods of resolving conflicts and institutionalising standard operating procedure in medical establishments.
- Revamping medical education
- Optimum use of technology
- Universal health coverage: Access to healthcare in India is not equitable—the rich and the middle class would survive the COVID-19 or any other crisis but not the poor. As part of the SDGs, all countries have pledged to deliver universal health coverage (UHC) by 2030