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The Hindu Editorial

22-February-2024

1. Electoral season and restructuring the health system.

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health
Critical for UPSC: Manifesto analysis illuminates policy directions, reflecting healthcare reform priorities and governance approaches, crucial for aspirants’ understanding.
Context
  • The article highlights the importance of political party manifestos in the upcoming 2024 elections, focusing on healthcare reforms, contrasting approaches between various political parties.
  • The article advocates for comprehensive changes in India’s health system with a primary care emphasis.
 Manifestos and Political Priorities:
  • Manifestos crucial for reflecting political parties’ thinking and priorities, enabling accountability and shaping public discourse.
  • 2024 manifestos anticipated to include extravagant promises amidst electoral competitiveness.
Political Outlook on Health:
  • BJP and Congress manifestos in 2014 and 2019 shared commonalities
and differences in addressing health priorities.
  • Congress emphasized health as a public good and citizens’ right, while BJP viewed it as a commodity with public-private partnerships.
Progressive Measures by UPA and NDA:
  • UPA’s National Rural Health Mission aimed at rural healthcare delivery improvement, introducing pay-for-performance and social health insurance.
  • NDA continued policies, establishing the National Medical Commission, strengthening rural health infrastructure, and expanding social health insurance.
Incremental Changes and Global Comparisons:
  • Incremental changes in health policies over two decades lacked comprehensive reform of the health system architecture.
  • Global comparisons highlight quicker achievements in countries like Thailand and Turkey, emphasizing public delivery systems and infrastructure development.
Challenges in Indian Health System:
  • India faces challenges with weak primary and secondary health infrastructure, severe human resource shortages, and a focus on tertiary care.
  • Policy shifts towards tertiary centres despite the majority of health issues being manageable at primary and secondary levels.
Importance of Resilient Primary Healthcare:
  • Strengthening primary healthcare critical for integrating community surveillance, demographic data, and disease profiles for effective planning.
  • Successful reform processes require deliberate, planned strategies and strong local capacity for regulation and patient care.
Thailand’s Successful UHC Strategy:
  • Thailand’s Universal Health Coverage success resulted from years of strong HR policy, substantial budget allocation for provincial health infrastructure, and careful planning.
  • In contrast, India’s approach relies on purchasing services from a private sector facing supply shortages and operating on a fee-for-service model.
Challenges in Reforming Indian Health System:
  • Political leadership shift needed from a focus on high-end hospitals to comprehensive health system restructuring.
  • Reform involves changes in medical curriculum, equitable admission policies, banning dual practice, and building outcome-based health systems.
The Path Ahead:
  • Designing a system “fit for purpose” requires political will, decentralization, operational flexibilities, and accountability.
  • Challenges include understanding the current healthcare system, designing reform processes, and building implementation capacity at the district level.
Conclusion:
  • Manifestos must address systemic healthcare challenges, committing to comprehensive reforms for better health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs.
  • The question remains whether political parties can commit to such reform processes in their manifestos.
PYQ: In order to enhance the prospects of social development, sound and adequate health care policies are needed particularly in the fields of geriatric and maternal health care. Discuss. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2020)
Practice Question:  To what extent have past healthcare policies and reforms in India addressed the challenges in the health system? Analyze the impact and suggest potential areas for improvement. (150 words/10 m)

2. Workplaces must ensure fair treatment of women employees.

Topic: GS1 – Society – Social empowerment
GS2 – Social Justice – Vulnerable sections
Critical for UPSC: Highlights gender discrimination, legal judgments, and the imperative for workplace transformation, aligning with governance and societal challenges.
Context
  • The Supreme Court condemns unconstitutional rules penalizing women employees for marriage, citing gender discrimination. The case of Selina John highlights the court’s stand, emphasizing workplace transformation for gender equality and women’s empowerment.
 Supreme Court’s Gender Equality Stand:
  • The Supreme Court of India criticizes rules penalizing women employees for marriage, deeming them unconstitutional and a form of gender discrimination.
  • The court emphasizes that terminating employment based on marriage is a violation of human dignity, the right to non-discrimination, and fair treatment.
Case of Selina John:
  • Selina John, a former lieutenant in the Military Nursing Service, was discharged in 1988 for getting married, facing gender-biased employment rules.
  • The Supreme Court upholds Ms. John’s rights, directing the Union Government to compensate her with ₹60 lakh within eight weeks.
Patriarchal Employment Practices:
  • The court deems the dismissal of women employees for marriage as “wrong and illegal,” noting that such rules applied only to women nursing officers.
  • Women in the Army faced historical gender disparities; permanent commission granted post-2020 and 2021 judgments.
Challenges in Civilian Workforce:
  • Civilian workplaces exhibit gender biases, with women facing uncomfortable personal questions in job interviews related to marriage and motherhood.
  • Barriers to women’s education, employment, and opportunities hinder increased labor participation, reflected in the low 19.9% workforce representation in India.
Gender Disparities in Education:
  • Economic and sanitation issues lead many girls, especially from poor backgrounds, to drop out of school, hindering their educational and career prospects.
Global Gender Parity Concerns:
  • The UN’s Gender Snapshot 2023 highlights global gender disparities, indicating the need for corrective measures to prevent the next generation of women from disproportionate domestic duties.
  • Schemes for girls and women lack impact if constrained by restrictive social and cultural norms.
Call for Workplace Transformation:
  • The Supreme Court’s stance underscores the unconstitutionality of rules linking marriage and domestic involvement to employment entitlements.
  • Organizations urged to heed the court’s message, transforming workplaces into enablers of gender equality, breaking societal barriers.
Conclusion:
  • The Supreme Court’s condemnation of gender-discriminatory employment rules signals a crucial step towards workplace transformation.
  • Selina John’s case underscores the need for dismantling societal barriers, fostering gender equality, and empowering women in all spheres.
Barriers to women’s education, employment in India
Challenges:
  • Gender Stereotypes: Deeply ingrained societal norms often prioritize male education and relegate women to domestic roles, discouraging their academic pursuits.
  • Economic Barriers: Poverty forces families to prioritize the education of sons, leaving daughters behind due to limited resources. Costs of education, including tuition, transportation, and supplies, further hinder girls’ access.
  • Inadequate Infrastructure: Lack of proper schools, especially in rural areas, coupled with inadequate sanitation facilities, discourages girls’ attendance and completion of education.
  • Safety Concerns: Fear of harassment and lack of safe transportation limit girls’ mobility, restricting their access to educational institutions and workplaces.
  • Early Marriage: Prevalent practice of child marriage disrupts girls’ education and hinders their future career prospects.
  • Limited Skill Development: Lack of access to skill-based training programs restricts women’s employability and confines them to low-paying informal jobs.
Way Forward:
  • Promoting Gender Equality: Addressing societal biases through awareness campaigns and education initiatives that challenge traditional gender roles.
  • Empowering Families: Providing financial assistance and scholarships to encourage families to prioritize girls’ education.
  • Improving Infrastructure: Expanding access to quality schools, particularly in rural areas, with proper sanitation facilities to create a conducive learning environment for girls.
  • Ensuring Safety: Implementing stricter laws and stricter enforcement to ensure safe public spaces and transportation for women.
  • Combating Child Marriage: Enforcing stricter laws against child marriage and promoting awareness about its negative consequences.
  • Enhancing Skill Development: Providing accessible and affordable skill-based training programs for women to improve their employability and career opportunities.
By addressing these challenges and implementing effective solutions, India can create a more equitable environment where women have equal access to education and employment opportunities, contributing to their overall empowerment and societal progress.
PYQ: What are the continued challenges for women in India against time and space? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-1 2019)
Practice Question:  How do recent Supreme Court rulings on gender discrimination in employment impact the need for workplace transformation? Discuss with examples (150 words/10 m)

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