11 March 2024 : Indian Express Editorial Analysis

Indian Express Editorial Analysis


1. A dialogue among healers

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Issues arising out of their design & implementation

GS2- Social Justice – Health
This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the integration of modern and traditional medicine which is a critical aspect of healthcare policy, impacting access to healthcare, patient choice, and overall health outcomes.
  • Modern medicine practitioners are increasingly urged to embrace a more open approach to working with traditional or alternative medical systems, aiming for integrated medicine for the benefit of patients.
  • This concept is promising but entails practical challenges that need careful examination.
  • Three scenarios—competitive, coexistent, and cooperative depict potential relationships between modern medicine and traditional systems.

Competitive Model: Rivalry and Name-calling:

  • In a competitive model, modern medicine and traditional systems engage in rivalry.
  • Professional associations and practitioners may resort to name-calling and litigation.
  • Each system vies for patient loyalty by emphasizing its strengths and the weaknesses of others, potentially driven by factors like nationalism or commercialism.
  • This scenario reflects a “warfare” mentality, where winning patients becomes the primary objective.

Coexistence Model: Acknowledging Boundaries:

  • The coexistence model acknowledges the legitimacy of both systems and establishes clear boundaries to prevent encroachment.
  • Patients are given the autonomy to choose between modern or traditional treatments.
  • Practitioners respect each other’s domains, and treatments may be co-located without mutual referral.
  • This approach promotes a “live and let live” ethos, prioritizing patient choice and peaceful cohabitation of medical systems.

Cooperation Model: Ideal Integrative Medicine:

  • In the cooperation model, modern and traditional systems collaborate as a unified team to provide optimal patient care.
  • Practitioners recognize the strengths of each system and work together synergistically.
  • This approach enhances preventive and promotive aspects of medicine, moving beyond the medicine-focused paradigm.
  • However, achieving true cooperation requires overcoming significant challenges.

Challenges to Integration:
Several challenges hinder the seamless integration of modern and traditional medicine:

  • Trust Deficit: Past experiences of patients switching between treatments with varying outcomes contribute to a trust deficit between systems. Claims of cure without adequate evidence exacerbate this issue.
  • Technical Heterogeneity: Traditional systems encompass diverse practices, each requiring separate consideration and decision-making. Integrating them effectively into modern medicine protocols poses technical challenges.
  • Operational Obstacles: Implementing a team-based approach necessitates understanding and acknowledging each other’s strengths and limitations. However, lack of knowledge and trust among practitioners complicates this cooperation.
  • Regulatory Framework: Establishing regulations to govern collaboration, accountability, and quality control is paramount. Weak enforcement and accountability mechanisms hinder effective integration, necessitating a robust regulatory framework.

Moving Forward:
Addressing these challenges requires a multifaceted approach:

  • Evidence-based Practice: Generating robust evidence for traditional treatments is crucial to bridge the trust gap and validate their efficacy. Weed out ineffective treatments to develop composite treatment guidelines based on the best evidence from both systems.
  • Education and Training: Consider integrating aspects of traditional medicine into modern medical education to foster understanding and collaboration. However, logistical challenges and curriculum constraints must be addressed.
  • Regulatory Oversight: Develop a comprehensive regulatory framework governing collaboration, communication, and accountability between different medical modalities. Ensure adherence to quality standards and patient safety.


  • The pursuit of integrated medicine holds promise for enhancing patient care but necessitates overcoming substantial challenges.
  • By fostering mutual respect, evidence-based practice, and robust regulatory oversight, the healthcare community can navigate towards a more harmonious and effective integration of modern and traditional medical systems.
What are traditional medicines?
  • Traditional medicine, as defined by the WHO, is the sum total of the knowledge, skills, and practices based on the theories, beliefs, and experiences indigenous to different cultures.
  • These skills are used in the maintenance of health as well as in the prevention, diagnosis, improvement, or treatment of physical and mental illness.
  • Some traditional medicine systems are supported by huge volumes of literature and records of the theoretical concepts and practical skills.
  • Others pass down these skills from generation to generation through verbal teaching.
  • The most widely used traditional medicine systems today include those of China, India, and Africa.

India & Traditional medicine

  • India has been known to be rich repository of medicinal plants.
  • The forest in India is the principal repository of large number of medicinal and aromatic plants.
  • About 8,000 herbal remedies have been codified in AYUSH systems in INDIA.
  • Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Folk (tribal) medicines are the major systems of indigenous medicines.

What are the opportunities in AYUSH sector in India?

  • The country has witnessed unprecedented growth in the production of AYUSH medicines, supplements and cosmetics.
  • This sector has seen exponential growth from more than $3 billion in 2014 to $18 billion in 2020 and is anticipated to reach $24 billion in 2023.
  • Presently, 7,000 AYUSH-based health and wellness centres are operational in India.
  • There are immense possibilities of investment and innovation in supply chain management, AYUSH-based diagnostic tools and tele-medicine.

What are the steps taken by India to Promote AYUSH?
New Ministry Formed
In 2014, the Union government established the Ministry of AYUSH, a separate ministry dedicated to traditional medicine and treatment.
National AYUSH Mission

  • Department of AYUSH, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had launched National AYUSH Mission (NAM) during 12th Plan.

The basic objective of NAM is to promote

  • AYUSH medical systems through cost effective AYUSH services, strengthening of educational systems,
  • facilitate the enforcement of quality control of Ayurveda, Siddha and Unani & Homoeopathy (ASU &H) drugs and
  • sustainable availability of ASU & H raw-materials.

Recent Steps

  • The new category ‘AYUSH Aahar’ introduced by the FSSAI in its regulations will help the producers of herbal nutritional supplements.
  • The AYUSH Export Promotion Council has been set up recently to encourage exports and help find foreign markets.
  • The government is going to create a network of AYUSH Parks to encourage research and provide a new direction to AYUSH manufacturing.
  • An incubation centre developed by the All-India Institute of Ayurveda was inaugurated by the Ministry of AYUSH.
  • This will encourage start-up culture in the field of traditional medicine.
PYQ: How is the government of India protecting traditional knowledge of medicine from patenting by pharmaceutical companies? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2019)
Practice Question:  Discuss the challenges and prospects of integrating modern allopathic medicine with traditional or alternative medical systems in India. Assess the potential benefits for healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.  (250 words/15 m)

2. Standing up for the voter

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Important aspects of governance: Transparency and accountability

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the Supreme Court’s decision on the Electoral Bond Scheme which highlights critical issues related to transparency, accountability, and integrity in electoral funding, which are essential aspects of governance and political processes.

  • The unanimous decision by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, authored by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, along with Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala, and Manoj Misra, marks a significant milestone in Indian democracy.
  • The verdict declares the Electoral Bond Scheme (EBS) introduced by the Finance Act, 2017, unconstitutional, highlighting the imperative for transparency in corporate election funding and upholding the principles enshrined in Articles 14 (right to equality) and 19(1)(a) (right to information).

Challenges of the Electoral Bond Scheme:

  • Under the EBS, the cap on donations to political parties was removed, enabling anonymous donations through promissory notes issued by recognized banks.
  • Additionally, corporate donors were relieved of the obligation to disclose donations in their balance sheets.
  • This lack of transparency exacerbated the asymmetry of information and facilitated the infiltration of significant funds into electoral politics, posing a threat to democratic principles.

Prospects of Disclosure and Judicial Review:

  • The verdict underscores the importance of disclosure in corporate election funding to uphold the rights of individual voters and promote equality of information and influence.
  • It challenges the presumption of constitutionality associated with legislative determinations, emphasizing that not every decision qualifies as a “financial” or “economic development” decision deserving relaxed constitutional judicial review.

Immediate Impact and Subsequent Proceedings:

  • With immediate effect, the issuance of electoral bonds is discontinued, and all relevant agencies, including political parties, the State Bank of India, the Reserve Bank of India, and the Election Commission of India, are directed to disclose information since the interim order passed on April 12, 2019.
  • Despite the court’s directives, the State Bank of India’s request for an extension of the disclosure deadline has raised concerns, leading to a contempt petition against it.

Judicial Analysis and Proportionality Test:

  • The decision delves into the doctrine of proportionality, emphasizing its role in constitutional judicial review to ensure the legitimacy and effectiveness of restrictions on fundamental rights.
  • The court scrutinizes the state’s objectives, means, and impact of restrictions, suggesting alternative measures such as setting up an electoral trust or capping corporate funding of elections.

Upholding Constitutional Rights:

  • The judgment highlights the conflict between donors’ right to privacy and voters’ right to equality of information and influence, necessitating a double proportionality test.
  • It rejects the notion of blanket non-disclosure, asserting that donor privacy cannot supersede the public’s right to information and influence in a democracy.

Historical Context and Judicial Duty:

  • Drawing from Chief Justice MC Chagla’s caution against the undue influence of “big business” in democracy, the verdict underscores the judiciary’s duty to safeguard democratic principles from improper or corrupt influences.
  • Critics are prompted to reflect on the judiciary’s role in upholding democratic values in the face of challenges posed by vested interests.


  • The Supreme Court’s decision to declare the Electoral Bond Scheme unconstitutional reaffirms its commitment to upholding democratic principles and ensuring transparency in electoral funding.
  • By addressing the challenges posed by opaque donation mechanisms, the judgment paves the way for greater accountability and integrity in India’s electoral process, thereby strengthening the foundations of democracy.

What are the Suggestions for Electoral Funding In India?
Regulation of Donations:

  • Some individuals or organisations, for instance, foreign citizens or companies, may be banned from making donations. There may also be donation limits, aimed at ensuring that a party is not captured by a few large donors — whether individuals, corporations, or civil society organisations.
  • Some jurisdictions rely on contribution limits for regulating the influence of money in politics. US federal law imposes different contribution limits on different types of donors. Some other countries, such as the UK, do not impose contribution limits, but instead, rely on expenditure limits.

Limits on Expenditure:

  • Expenditure limits safeguard politics from a financial arms race. They relieve parties from the pressure of competing for money even before they start to compete for votes.
  • Therefore, some jurisdictions impose an expenditure limit on political parties. For example, in the UK, political parties are not allowed to spend more than Euro 30,000 (about Rs 30 lakh) per seat.
  • In the US, the Supreme Court’s expansive interpretation of the First Amendment (freedom of expression) has come in the way of legislative attempts at imposing expenditure limits.

Providing Public Funding to Parties:

  • The most commonly used method is to set predetermined criteria. For instance, in Germany, parties receive public funds on the basis of their importance within the political system.
  • Generally, this is measured on the basis of the votes they received in past elections, membership fees, and the donations received from private sources. German “political party foundations” receive special state funding dedicated to their work as party-affiliated policy think tanks.
  • A relatively recent experiment in public funding is that of “democracy vouchers”, which is used in local elections in Seattle, US. The government distributes a certain number of vouchers — each of which is worth a certain amount to eligible voters.
  • Voters can use these vouchers to donate to the candidate of their choice. The voucher is publicly funded, but the decision to allocate the money is the individual voter’s. Put simply, voters get to “vote” with their money before they cast their ballot.

Disclosure Requirements:

  • Disclosure as regulation rests on an assumption that the information supply and public scrutiny may influence politicians’ decisions and the electorate’s votes. However, mandatory disclosure of donations to parties is not always desirable.
  • At times, donor anonymity serves a useful purpose of protecting donors. For instance, donors may face the fear of retribution or extortion by the parties in power. The threat of retaliation may, in turn, deter donors from donating money to parties of their liking.
  • Many jurisdictions have struggled with striking an appropriate balance between the two legitimate concerns — transparency and anonymity. This issue was addressed by the Supreme Court in its judgment.

The Chilean Experiment:

  • Under the Chilean system of “reserved contributions”, donors could transfer to the Chilean Electoral Service the money they wished to donate to parties, and the Electoral Service would then forward the sum to the party without revealing the donor’s identity.
  • If the complete anonymity system worked perfectly, the political party would not be able to ascertain the sum donated by any specific donor — and would find it extremely difficult to strike quid pro quo arrangements.
  • However, it would be in the interest of donors (who want government patronage) and parties (who need money) to informally coordinate in advance to ascertain the sums donated by those donors. Indeed, as various scandals revealed in 2014-15, Chilean politicians and donors had coordinated with each other to effectively erode the system of complete anonymity.

Balancing Transparency, Anonymity:

  • One of the most prominent responses is to balance legitimate public interests in transparency and anonymity. Many jurisdictions strike this balance by allowing anonymity for small donors, while requiring disclosures of large donations.
  • In the UK, a party needs to report donations received from a single source amounting to a total of more than Pounds 7,500 in a calendar year. The analogous limit in Germany is Euros 10,000.
  • The argument in favour of this approach is: small donors are likely to be the least influential in the government and most vulnerable to partisan victimisation, while large donors are more likely to strike quid pro quo arrangements with parties.

Establishing National Election Fund:

  • Another option would be to establish a National Election Fund to which all donors could contribute. The funds could be allocated to parties based on their electoral performance. This would eliminate the so-called concern about donors’ reprisals.
  • During the hearing, the apex court, however, flagged a new issue — the possibility of misuse of money received by political parties for activities like funding terror or violent protests, and asked the Centre whether it has any control on the end use.
PYQ: “The Right to Information Act is not all about citizens’ empowerment alone, it essentially redefines the concept of accountability.” Discuss.
(150 words, 10 Marks) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-4 2018)
Practice Question:  Discuss the implications of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Electoral Bond Scheme for India’s electoral process and governance. Analyze the constitutional principles underlying electoral funding transparency and the role of the judiciary in safeguarding democratic values.
(250 words/15 m)

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