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The Hindu Editorial

30-January-2024

1. Early nutrition impacts cognitive development.

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health UPSC candidates must grasp the significance of combatting early childhood stunting for holistic development and its implications on education and public health.
Context:
  • The article discusses the profound impact of early childhood stunting on both height and cognitive development, emphasizing its long-term consequences on educational achievements.
  • It presents insights from a recent study, addressing research challenges and proposing key strategies for improvement, especially in the context of India.
Importance of Addressing Early Childhood Stunting:
  • Impact on Height and Cognitive Development: Stunting not only affects a child’s height but also hampers cognitive development, posing long-term challenges.
  • Educational Implications: Early childhood stunting is recognized for its long-term impact on educational levels, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
Challenges in Research:
  • Focus on Cognitive-Achievement Tests: Existing research often focuses on cognitive-achievement test scores, which may not fully reflect inherent cognitive skills.
  • Complexity of Achievement Tests: Traditional achievement tests depend on both cognitive abilities and access to education, making their assessment complex and potentially misleading.
Recent Study’s Insights:
  • Sánchez et al. Study (2024): Examines the link between early under-nutrition and four key cognitive skills developed later in childhood, including working memory and inhibitory control.
  • Findings: Stunting at age 5 negatively relates to executive functions, and this impact remains strong even when accounting for household fixed effects.
Implications for India:
  • Connection to Educational Achievement: The study underscores the link between early nutrition and educational achievement, emphasizing its critical importance.
  • Empirical Studies in India: Womens height and educational attainment are predictors of child stunting in India, highlighting the need for interventions.
India’s Efforts to Address Stunting:
  • Poshan Abhiyaan and Integrated Child Development Services: Focus on reducing malnutrition, enhancing Anganwadi services, and ensuring holistic development and nutrition.
  • Sanitation Initiatives: Investments in clean water and sanitation infrastructure, including the Jal Jeevan Mission and Swachh Bharat Mission.
Key Strategies for Improvement:
  • Promoting Breastfeeding: Early breastfeeding, continued for two years, and appropriate complementary feeding starting at six months are essential.
  • Diversifying Diet: Implementing and scaling up community-based complementary feeding programs to introduce a variety of locally available, nutrient-rich foods.
  • Additional Anganwadi Worker: Adding extra staff to each Anganwadi center to improve preschool instructional time, enhance developmental outcomes, and create employment opportunities.
Conclusion:
  • In conclusion, addressing early childhood stunting is imperative for holistic child development and improved educational outcomes.
                           Combating Malnutrition in India
Prevalence: According to the National Family Health Survey 5 (NFHS-5), 32.1% of children under five in India were underweight, 19.3% were wasted, and 35.5% were stunted in 2019-20. While these numbers are concerning, they represent a slight improvement from previous surveys.  • Types of malnutrition:
  1. Underweight: Children with low weight for their height.
  2. Wasting: Acute malnutrition indicated by low weight for their height.
  3. Stunting: Chronic malnutrition resulting in low height for age.
• Causes: Poverty, inadequate dietary intake, poor sanitation, and lack of access to healthcare contribute to malnutrition. • Impacts: Malnutrition can lead to impaired physical and cognitive development, increased vulnerability to infections, and reduced productivity in later life. • Government initiatives: India has implemented various programs to address malnutrition, including the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, Poshan Abhiyaan, and Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana. • Challenges: Despite these efforts, challenges remain, such as ensuring program effectiveness, addressing regional disparities, and promoting behavioral change.
PYQ: What are the salient features of the National Food Security Act, 2013? How has the Food Security Bill helped in eliminating hunger and malnutrition in India? (250 words/15m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2021)
Practice Question: How can India’s initiatives like Poshan Abhiyaan and community-based feeding programs effectively combat early childhood stunting, ensuring better educational outcomes? Discuss (250 words/15 m)

2. Growth mania can be injurious to society.

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Inclusive Growth
UPSC candidates must grasp the economic challenges, rising inequality, and the need to balance growth with inclusive development for India’s future.
Context:
  • The article discusses unfulfilled economic predictions, particularly India’s aspirations for a $5 trillion economy.
  • It highlights rising income inequality, the impact on wage rates, societal implications, and the need to address inequality for democratic values.
 Introduction:
  • Media coverage at the World Economic Forum (WEF) relays optimistic statements about India’s economic potential, including a prediction of a $10 trillion economy.
Political Aspirations and Predictions:
  • Indian government aimed for a $5 trillion economy by 2024, but such goals remain unfulfilled.
  • State leaders, regardless of ideological differences, express aspirations for $1 trillion economies for their respective states.
Rising Income Inequality:
  • India witnesses a trend of growing income inequality since the 1980s, making it one of the world’s more unequal societies.
  • Recent economic growth, while unequalizing, appears to have minimal impact on the income levels of the poorest.
Impact on Wage Rates:
  • Rural wage rates, a key indicator, reveal a mild increase in real wage rates for agricultural labor but stagnation for non-agricultural and construction workers.
  • About 35% of India’s workforce sees no growth in real wages since 2014, despite overall economic growth.
Inequality’s Societal and Political Implications:
  • Unequal societies are prone to social pathologies, including violence, disease, and mental health disorders.
  • Inequality hinders collective action and trust between groups, affecting initiatives like total sanitation and environmental conservation.
Democracy and Equality of Opportunity:
  • India, as a democracy, faces challenges in addressing gross inequality of opportunity across its population.
  • Prioritizing economic growth without addressing inequality may widen the gap, undermining democratic principles.
Conclusion:
  • The reduction of inequality is crucial not only for overcoming challenges but also for upholding democratic values in India.
Inclusive Growth in India: Challenges and the Path Forward
Data:
  • Progress: India’s poverty rate has fallen from 55% in 1993 to 21% in 2019, showcasing significant progress in poverty reduction.
  • Inequalities: However, income inequality remains high, with the top 1% controlling a large share of wealth. Additionally, gender, caste, and regional disparities persist.
Challenges:
  • Job creation: Despite economic growth, quality job creation in the formal sector lags, impacting vulnerable groups.
  • Social exclusion: Discrimination based on caste, gender, and religion hinders equal opportunities for marginalized communities.
  • Rural-urban divide: Lack of infrastructure and development opportunities in rural areas contribute to migration and unequal access to resources.
  • Education and healthcare: Gaps in access to quality education and healthcare perpetuate inequalities and limit upward mobility.
Way Forward:
  • Invest in education and skill development: Equipping individuals with relevant skills is crucial for securing better jobs and livelihoods.
  • Promote inclusive social policies: Affirmative action programs and anti-discrimination measures can address social inequalities.
  • Focus on rural development: Improved infrastructure, access to markets, and rural entrepreneurship can boost incomes and opportunities in rural areas.
  • Strengthen social safety nets: Effective social protection programs can provide support to vulnerable populations and mitigate the impact of economic shocks.
  • Leverage technology: Digital access and e-governance can improve transparency, service delivery, and empower marginalized communities.
PYQ: Despite Consistent experience of High growth, India still goes with the lowest indicators of human development. Examine the issues that make balanced and inclusive development elusive. (150 words/10m ) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2019)
Practice Question:  How can India address rising income inequality while pursuing economic growth? Discuss the implications and strategies for inclusive development. (200 words/12.5 m)

3. Populism does not help public health.

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health
UPSC candidates need insights into preventive health, research needs, and the importance of separating healthcare decisions from short-term political goals.
Context:
  • The article addresses the significance of preventive health, challenges in political prioritization, and the need for research.
  • It emphasizes separating healthcare decision-making from short-term political goals for sustainable public health strategies.
Preventive Health Challenges:
  • Silent victories in preventing diseases like smallpox, polio, neonatal tetanus, and measles through improved sanitation and vaccines.
  • Political leaders tend to focus on tangible achievements like new hospitals and subsidised treatments, overshadowing preventive efforts.
Case of Dengue:
  • Immediate relief measures for diseases like dengue often prioritize short-term response over sustainable prevention.
  • Lack of attention to root causes, vector control, vaccine development, and public health infrastructure hinders long-term prevention.
  • Research in areas like vector control and vaccine development for diseases like dengue is crucial.
  • Climate change affects disease patterns, requiring adaptation in public health strategies.
Separation of Health Care from Political Processes:
  • Health care should be separated from political processes to ensure decisions are based on scientific evidence and long-term goals.
  • Public health policies should be driven by data and expertise, not electoral cycles.
Historical Insights and Nutrition Programs:
  • Insights from Joseph Bhore in 1946 emphasize the economic and human cost of neglecting preventive health measures.
  • Discrepancies between policy targets and prevalence in programs like POSHAN Abhiyan highlight gaps in public health efforts.
  • Profit-driven nature of the pharmaceutical industry sidelines public health efforts.
Challenges in Public Health Education:
  • Lack of specialized courses like public health engineering in India points to a gap in the multidisciplinary approach needed.
  • Public health requires expertise from various fields such as environmental science, sociology, urban planning, and economics.
Autonomy in Public Health Management:
  • Effective public health management needs autonomy, focusing on policy formulation, community health, and environmental health.
  • Suggests placing Health Ministries under the direct leadership of elected officials for a balance between autonomy and addressing immediate health concerns.
Holistic Approach in Democratic Systems:
  • It states that democracy isn’t harmful to public health, but management within democratic systems has shortcomings.
  • The article urges a separation of health-care decision-making from short-term political goals for sustainable health strategies.
 Conclusion:
  • In summary, the article highlights challenges in preventive health, the prioritization of immediate relief over long-term prevention, the need for research, and the importance of autonomy in public health management within democratic systems.
PYQ: Public health system has limitations in providing universal health coverage. Do you think that the private sector could help in bridging the gap? What other viable alternatives would you suggest? (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2015) (200 words/12.5m)
Practice Question:  How can India balance immediate health concerns with long-term preventive strategies? Discuss the importance of separating healthcare decisions from short-term political considerations. (250 words/15 m)

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