THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 25 May 2020 (The lockdown has highlighted stark inequalities(The Hindu))



The lockdown has highlighted stark inequalities (The Hindu)



Mains Paper 2:Governance
Prelims level: National Food Security Act
Mains level: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and theperformance of these schemes

Context:

  • The novel coronavirus is a global threat, but the pandemic has had an uneven impact across countries and within countries.
  • Historically, social inequality has ................................

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A disastrous decision:

  • Nobody is safe from the virus, but some classes are more protected than others. Class and wealth inequality means COVID-19 may pose greater risks to some as it poses a double threat to them.
  • In India, the lockdown favours the “balcony classes”, with no regard of its consequences for others.
  • Lockdown has exposed the precariousexistence of millions of migrants who operate the leversof the informal economy.
  • It has hit the workers in the informal economy as it has left them with no income, no food and no shelter.
  • The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that about 140 million people have lost jobs since the lockdown.

No substantive support from the government:

  • Worldwide, the defining images of India’s lockdown are the caravansof migrant workers walking hundreds of kilometres to reach their homes.
  • Bereftof substantive support from the government or their employers, they want to escape the city and get back to their villages and families.
  • The SaveLife Foundation, a non-profit organisation working to prevent road accidents, has recorded nearly 2,000 road crashes and 368 deaths from March 25, when the lockdown began, to May 16.

Ministry guidelines:

  • The Union Home Ministry had asked shops, industry and commercial establishments to pay wages to workers during the lockdown but it offered no financial support should this not happen.
  • Social activist Harsh Mander asked the Supreme Court to order the government to pay wages. As expected, the apex court refused to intervene.
  • However, the Court intervened and asked the government not to resort to any coerciveaction against private companies that have not paid their workers full wages during the lockdown in accordance with a g.............................................

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Pitting the onus on citizens:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in one of his national addresses, asked each citizen to help nine poor families during the lockdown. This puts the responsibility for containing the consequences of the pandemic/lockdown squarely on the citizens, instead of instituting a government-backed social support system.
  • While the call to compassion is unremarkable, it has two implications — it minimises the urgency of state intervention required to deal with the economic crisis and it passes on the responsibility to citizens with an emphasis on citizens’ duties as against citizens’ rights.

Trend in other countries:

  • Quite the reverse is happening in many other countries which have introduced huge relief packages.
  • It involves large amounts of government expenditure to provide money for workers’ wages for up to three months, giving money to companies, unemployment allowance or direct benefit transfers.
  • The Spanish government unveiled sweeping reforms that led to nationalisation of all private hospitals.
  • The U.K. extended a worker furlough programme that pays people idled by the pandemic till the end of October. This is similar to the Paycheck Protection Programme in the U.S.
  • Both seek to preserve jobs rather than resorting to mass lay-offs.

Need of the transfer of cash:

  • In India, transfer of cash in the past two months of lockdown could have mitigatedthe most heart-breaking migrant crisis since the Partition in 1947. This was the basic requirement of justice.
  • But the government failed to transfer money to the distressed people or to small businesses and commercial establishments.
  • Failure to do so has exposed .................................................

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Greater Privatisation:

  • Seen against the scale of distress, the government’s economic stimulus package is niggardlybased on minimal fiscal cost and minimum social spending.
  • Just about everything is included in the fiscal stimulus ranging from repaying tax refunds to loans. At this rate, even a good monsoon can be considered fiscal stimuli.
  • The immediate relief to the people is not more than 1% of the GDP. The stimulus package has been rightly dismissed by almost everyone outside the government as too little, too late.
  • Most shocking is the slewof controversial reforms announced by the Finance Minister in the last episode of her five-part serial on the government’s stimulus package.
  • Instead of addressing the migrant worker crisis, the government has embarked on greater privatisation and further opening the economy to foreign capital. It has thrown open coal, defence production, space travel, among other areas, to the private sector.
  • These contentious pieces of economic reforms wouldn’t be counted as rescue package anywhere; moreover, it is wrong and unethical to push them under lockdown without parliamentary oversight.

MNREGA:

  • The much-deridedMahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and National Food Security Act (NFSA) have come to the rescue of the people.
  • Ironically, both schemes are legacies of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government and both were hugely criticised by the BJP. MGNREGA was described as a “living monument” of Congress failure in .................................

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Conclusion:

  • In the meantime, generous cash transfers can provide economic security. However, for this to happen, we need a more humane government responsive to the basic needs of its people.

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General Studies Pre. Cum Mains Study Materials

Prelims Questions:

Q1. With reference to the biodegradable metal implants, consider the following statements:
1. Scientists at the International Advanced Research Centre for Powder Metallurgy and New Materials (ARCI), under the Department of Science & Technology (DST) has developed new generation Iron-Manganese based alloys for biodegradable metal implants for use in humans.
2. The newly developed Fe-Mn based alloys are suitable for biodegradable stent and orthopedic implant applications.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer:

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Mains Questions:
Q1.  What are the reasons ....................................................?


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