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The Hindu Editorial

18-October-2023

1. Demolishing the frame from outside the Constitution

Topic: GS2 – Indian polity

Context:

  • Recent events in India, including the arrest of journalists and raids on news organizations under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, have raised concerns about freedom of speech and expression.

Chilling Effect:

  • Other trends that point to a conspicuous pattern of erosion of democracy and rule of law in India include the increasingly precarious position of religious minorities subjected to an unrelenting cycle of violence and demonisation
  • And other issues such as specific changes to political financing in the introduction of the opaque instrument of electoral bonds.
  • These developments have wider repercussions on democracy and the rule of law in India.

Media Response:

  • The media fraternity responded by writing a letter to the Chief Justice of India, D.Y. Chandrachud, urging judicial intervention in the matter.
  • This response reflects the hope that the judiciary, as guardians of the Constitution, would recognize the challenges posed to democratic principles.

Role of the Court:

  • The Supreme Court of India has the power to strike down laws and constitutional amendments that violate the basic structure of the Constitution, which includes the democratic process and fundamental rights.
  • The Court should go beyond legal textual obsessions to countenance the challenge posed to the Constitutions identity as a democratic, liberal, transformative document.
  • The Court has an obligation to ensure that the integrity of the democratic process is protected.
  • This protection cannot be ensured with a textual obsession in determining what subverts a constitution. It is immensely possible to retain the text of the constitution but diminish it from the outside.
  • To protect the democratic process, the Court should also consider the democratic conditions” under which decisions are made, which include freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association, and a gamut of rights that ensure that majoritarianism does not go berserk.

Conclusion:

  • The Supreme Court of India has the power and the responsibility to arrest the decline of democracy and rule of law in the country.
  • How the Court responds to this challenge may determine not only the fate of the people but also that of the Court.

Question: Examine the recent events related to freedom of speech and expression in India, and discuss their implications for democracy and the rule of law. What role can judiciary play in this regard?

2. Centralised procurement as a powerful health idea

Topic: GS3 – Health sector

Context:

  • The article explores the concept of centralized or pooled procurement for the healthcare sector, drawing parallels with a hypothetical fast-food chain competing with McDonald’s in India.

Centralized drug procurement:

  • Centralized drug procurement is a system where a single entity purchases drugs on behalf of multiple hospitals or healthcare organizations.
  • The author argues that centralized drug procurement is a simple yet powerful idea that has the potential to improve healthcare in India.

Benefits of Centralized Drug Procurement

  • Price efficiency:A centralized entity has more bargaining power and can negotiate better deals with pharmaceutical companies.
  • Quality control:A centralized entity can ensure that all drugs are of the same quality by having them tested independently.

Case Studies

  • National Cancer Grid:Centralized procurement saved ₹2 billion on 40 drugs.  This resulted in substantial cost savings, ranging from 23% to 99%.
  • Government procurement of male contraceptives:The government invites tenders from private manufacturers and then offers to buy from all those who are willing to match the lowest price. HLL Lifecare Ltd., a public sector unit with the highest manufacturing capacity in India, provides a benchmark price. This model ensures that the government is not forced to buy from private manufacturers at high prices.

Recommendations

  • The author recommends that the central government implement centralized procurement of drugs for all its schemes, such as the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS), the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (PMJAY), and the Employees’ State Insurance Scheme (ESI).
  • The author also recommends that hospitals team up to form buyers’ clubs to benefit from better bargaining power and pass on cost savings to patients.
  • This approach reduces reliance on drug regulators and aligns with standard practices in many developed nations.

Conclusion

  • Centralized drug procurement is a simple yet powerful idea that has the potential to improve healthcare in India by reducing costs, ensuring better deployment of funds, and ensuring availability of life-saving drugs.

Question: How can centralized procurement in healthcare, enhance cost efficiency and quality control? Discuss the challenges in implementing centralized procurement in government healthcare schemes and suggest measures to overcome them.

3. When tigers and jackals get the same protection

Topic: GS3 – species protection.

Listing of Species Under Wildlife Protection Act (Amendment) 2022:

  • The Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act, 2022, includes an extensive list of species in Schedule 1 and 2, which determine the level of protection and regulations applied to them.
  • Schedule 1 includes around 600 vertebrate species and hundreds of invertebrates, while Schedule 2 encompasses about 2,000 species, including 1,134 bird species.

Challenges in Conservation:

  • The primary issue with this listing is the lack of a clear connection between species endangerment and conservation in the Act.
  • The extensive list poses challenges in prioritizing resources for conservation efforts, as it offers the same level of protection to a wide range of species, including both endangered and common ones.

Unintended Consequences and Impact on People:

  • Listing common species can have unintended consequences, as exemplified by the presence of spotted deer (chital) in Schedule 1, which hinders their management in regions where they are invasive.
  • The Act restricts culling or removal of such species, despite their adverse effects on the environment.
  • Schedule 1 includes species that pose physical, mental, and economic harm to people, such as crocodiles, leopards, and elephants, but the Act promotes a ‘co-existence’ approach without considering the safety and livelihoods of affected communities.
  • Elevating wild pigs and nilgai to Schedule 1 may disrupt policies that allow limited culling of problematic animals, negatively impacting farmers and marginal cultivators.

Restrictions on Traditional Use and Research:

  • The Act takes a restrictive stance on hunting and traditional use of animals, even when such practices have been carried out for generations.
  • Regulations on use were initially imposed due to declining species populations, but there is a lack of consideration for regulated use when animals are abundant to support local livelihoods.
  • The Act’s extensive list may hamper research efforts, as the paperwork for obtaining permits becomes tedious and time-consuming.
  • Environmental NGOs and citizen science initiatives may face challenges in obtaining research permits or sharing data, affecting conservation efforts.

Balancing Conservation, People, and Research:

  • Addressing the three main issues – conservation, people’s concerns, and research – requires different levels of urgency and attention.
  • Prioritizing the safeguarding of communities whose lives are at stake is crucial, followed by tailored management actions based on species biology and context.
  • It calls for a balanced approach that considers the welfare of both people and wildlife in conservation efforts.

Conclusion:

  • The Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act, 2022 is a complex piece of legislation with far-reaching implications for conservation, people, and research. It is important to address the issues raised by ecologists in order to ensure that the Act is effective and fair.

Question: Critically examine the Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act, 2022, in light of the concerns raised by ecologists. Discuss the implications of the Act for conservation, people, and research.

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