1. DIAGNOSING WHAT AILS MEDICAL EDUCATION-
GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
(i) The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 aims to provide “universal access to quality education” and bridge the “gap between the current state of learning outcomes and what is required.
(ii) It aims to do so through undertaking major reforms that bring the highest quality, equity and integrity into the system, from early childhood care and education through higher education”.
(iii) It suggests that where it differs from previous policies is that in addition to the issues of access and equity, the present policy lays an emphasis(focus) on quality and holistic learning.
(iv) The outcome sought in higher education is “more than the creation of greater opportunities for individual employment.
(v) It represents the key to more vibrant, socially engaged, cooperative communities and a happier, cohesive, cultured, productive, innovative, progressive, and prosperous nation”.
(vi) In a brief paragraph on medical education, it states that the aim is to train health care professionals “primarily required for working in primary care and secondary hospitals.”
On Private Entities
(i) Successive governments have been faced with the quandary(puzzle) of how to quickly expand educational opportunities while simultaneously addressing the issues of quality and equity.
(ii) In the field of health care, there is a continuing shortage of health-care personnel. The infrastructure required for high-quality modern medical education is expensive.
(iii) Faced with public demand for high-quality medical care on the one hand and severe constraints on public resources on the other, private entities have been permitted to establish medical educational institutions to supplement government efforts.
(iv) Though they are supposed to be not-for-profit, taking advantage of the poor regulatory apparatus and the ability to both tweak and create rules, these private entities, with very few exceptions, completely commercialised education.
(v) None of the three stated objectives of medical education has been achieved by the private sector — that is, providing health-care personnel in all parts of the country, ensuring quality and improving equity.
(vi) The overwhelming majority of private medical colleges provide poor quality education at extremely high costs.
Complicit In Violations
(i) Faced with this situation, the public has approached the polity, the executive and the courts to ensure equity, if not quality.
(ii) The results have been patchy(poor). On and off, there have been attempts to regulate fees, sometimes by governments and sometimes by courts.
(iii) Faced with the fundamental contradiction that all governments have been complicit(involved) in violations of their own policies to ensure quality as well as equity, these efforts have not been fruitful.
(iv) The executive, primarily the Medical Council of India, has proven unequal to the task of ensuring that private institutions comply with regulations.
(v) When the courts are approached, which issues are seen as important depends on the Bench.
(vi) Some judges wish to ensure quality and equity; others give importance to points of law on the rights of private parties, federalism and such issues.
(vii) Board of governors replaced the Medical Council of India, as an interim before the National Medical Commission became operative.
(viii) It was in this situation that the board of governors introduced the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (Undergraduate), or NEET-UG, as a single all-India gateway for admission to medical colleges.
(ix) It is well known, though not easy to prove, that entrance examinations being held by almost all private colleges were a farce(sham), and seats were being sold to the highest bidder.
(x) Challenged in courts, after an initial setback, the NEET scheme has been upheld.
Neet Has Worsened Equity
(i) NEET may have improved the quality of candidates admitted to private institutions to some extent, but it seems to have further worsened equity.
(ii) Under any scheme of admission, the number of students from government schools who are able to get admission to a medical college is very low.
(iii) With NEET, the number has become lower. The high fees of private medical colleges have always been an impossible hurdle for students from government schools, whatever the method used for admission.
(iv) Allowing government medical colleges to admit students based on marks in Standard XII and using NEET scores for admission to private colleges will be more equitable right now.
(v) The basic cause of inequity in admission to higher educational institutions is the absence of a high quality school system accessible to all.
(vi) In medical education, the situation is made far worse by the rent seeking and profiteering of the majority of private medical colleges.
(i) The fundamental problem in achieving quality, equity and integrity in education, the stated objectives of the new NEP, is confusion on the part of successive governments between policy-making for human resource development and economic policy.
(ii) On the one hand, the Ministry of Human Resources Development repeatedly says that quality and equity are the cornerstones of good education.
(iii) On the other, the economic policies consider education a consumer good which can be sold to the highest bidder.
(iv) No amount of tweaking the methods of admission can address this contradiction.
(v) Only a resolute government, determined to ensure that economic policy facilitates quality and equity in education, can do it.
2. WHERE IS THE SENTINEL GUARDING OUR RIGHTS?
GS 2- Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability
(i) In 1995 the SC held, “Credibility in the functioning of the justice delivery system and the reasonable perception of the affected parties are relevant considerations to ensure the continuance of public confidence in the credibility and impartiality of the judiciary.
(ii) This is necessary not only for doing justice but also for ensuring that justice is seen to be done.”
(iii) In its own words, the Supreme Court has been assigned the role of a “sentinel(guardian) on the qui vive(alert)” as regards fundamental rights.
(iv) The right to get redress(solution) from the Court is itself a fundamental right, and the Court cannot abandon its own duty in this regard.
Exercise Of Power
(i) Since assumption of office by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar in 2017, the Court has increasingly come under the public gaze not for its role as the protector of the Constitution but for its repeated failures.
(ii) Successive Chief Justices have failed to stop the decline of the Court.
(iii) With the Court upholding the Chief Justice as ‘Master of the Roster’, in a debatable judgment in 2018, Chief Justices have used their powers to constitute Benches and allocate cases to such Benches in a highly selective manner.
(iv) This defeats the fundamental principle of the rule of law.
(v) There is no doubt that the Chief Justice must be the administrative head. But he must exercise his powers in a fair and just manner.
(vi) He must not constitute Benches and allocate cases to those Benches in a manner which tilts the balance in favour of the executive.
(vii) Decisions in some of the most important matters affecting the nation, the Constitution, democracy, and the people and their fundamental rights have been taken in favour of the executive.
E.g. Ayodhya case, the Rafale case, the Birla-Sahara case, and the order for a National Investigation Agency probe into the Hadiya case.
(viii) On the other hand, the Court refuses to decide on the challenge to electoral bonds, the removal of Article 370, and habeas corpus cases, among others.
(ix) These decisions have all come from Benches constituted by respective Chief Justices. The Supreme Court consists of a maximum of 34 judges although it generally functions with around 30.
(x) Yet, constitution of Benches and allocation of cases have left much to be desired in the last five years.
(xi) For instance, diverse Benches, all presided by Justice Arun Mishra (now retired), were assigned as many as eight cases of the Adani Group.
(i) The outcome of these cases is not the subject matter of this debate. The issue is, does justice appear to have been done?
(ii) Perhaps, the abject(miserable) failures of the Court were influenced by different but disturbing events involving these Chief Justices.
(iii) Former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul’s suicide note, which otherwise is an admissible piece of evidence, carried serious allegations(blame) against “two senior-most judges” of the SC.
(iv) Pul’s wife requested an inquiry, which Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and his colleagues stopped.
(v) Contrast this with the Supreme Court ordering an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, where no suicide note was found.
(vi) The same Court declined to order any inquiry into the demise of judge B.S. Loya, thereby failing to reassure the subordinate judiciary that it stands with it.
(vii) Later, the fact that Chief Justice Dipak Misra presided over the Constitution Bench hearing matters related to the medical college scam, despite the FIR naming unknown persons including constitutional functionaries of misconduct, perhaps weakened his authority.
(viii) Subsequently, many including retired judges have been chargesheeted in that case.
Functioning Of The Court
(i) Since the lockdown, the Supreme Court has been functioning in a truncated(shortened) manner. Despite repeated requests from the Bar, virtual hearings have not improved.
(ii) While the High Courts have been using better systems, the Supreme Court persists on using a system which does not allow all the judges to sit every day.
(iii) As a result, generally seven-eight Benches sit every day as against 13-15 which can be constituted by the master of the roster.
(iv) The Court, which in March stated that the migrant exodus was triggered by panic created by fake news, has been repeatedly adjourning the matter on the role of the media in publishing/ broadcasting false and vicious reports on the Nizamuddin Markaz vilifying(defaming) a section of Indians.
(v) Is the Court not the protector of minorities?
(vi) The working of the Court is far from satisfactory although the Court claims that sufficient number of matters are being heard.
(vii) The Bar and litigants feel otherwise. The constitution of Benches and allocation of matters even under the present dispensation continues to be subjective.
(viii) Senior judges are not assigned PIL matters and almost all matters raising important issues in respect of acts of commissions and omissions by the executive have been allocated to Benches constituted by the Chief Justice.
(i) The Court needs to re-address its role assigned under the Constitution.
(ii) The Supreme Court must reassert emphatically that it is truly the sentinel(guardian) on the qui vive(alert) as regards the fundamental rights of all citizens.
3. THE BENEFITS OF A CARBON TAX-
GS 3- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
(i) China, the largest carbon dioxide emitter, announced that it would balance out its carbon emissions with measures to offset them before 2060.
(ii) The spotlight is now on the U.S. and India, countries that rank second and third in emissions.
(iii) One way to cut effluents while earning revenues is to price the carbon content of domestic production and imports, be it energy or transport.
(iv) With the International Monetary Fund endorsing the European Union’s plan to impose carbon levies on imports, India can be among the first movers in the developing world in taxing and switching from carbon-intensive fuels (like coal), the main sources of climate change.
(i) Record heat waves in Delhi, floods in southwest China, and catastrophic forest fires in California this year are indicative of the existential danger from global warming.
(ii) India ranks fifth in the Global Climate Risk Index 2020.
(iii) Between 1998 and 2017, disaster-hit countries reported $2.9 trillion in direct economic losses, with 77% resulting from climate change, according to a United Nations report.
(iv) The U.S. faced the highest losses, followed by China, Japan, and India.
(v) Air pollution has fallen worldwide after the COVID-19 outbreak, including in India. But with resumption of polluting activities, emissions in India are set to rise sharply unless strong action is taken.
(vi) Carbon dioxide, the chief culprit in global warming, was 414 parts per million in August 2020 because of past accumulation. As one half comes from the three top carbon emitters, they need to drive de-carbonisation.
(i) India has committed to 40% of electricity capacity being from non-fossil fuels by 2030, and lowering the ratio of emissions to GDP by one-third from 2005 levels.
(ii) It is in the country’s interest to take stronger action before 2030, leading to no net carbon increase by 2050.
(iii) A smart approach is pricing carbon, building on the small steps taken thus far, such as plans by some 40 large companies to price carbon, government incentives for electric vehicles, and an environmental tax in the 2020-21 budget.
(iv) One way to price carbon is through emission trading, i.e., setting a maximum amount of allowable effluents from industries, and permitting those with low emissions to sell their extra space.
(v) Pilot projects on carbon trading in China have shown success. There is valuable experience in the EU, and some American states — for example, the regional greenhouse gas initiative in the U.S. northeast.
(vi) Another way is to put a carbon tax on economic activities — for example, on the use of fossil fuels like coal, as done in Canada and Sweden.
(vii) Canada imposed a carbon tax at $20 per tonne of CO2 emissions in 2019, eventually rising to $50 per tonne.
(viii) This is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by between 80 and 90 million tonnes by 2022.
(ix) The fiscal gains from pricing carbon can be sizeable. A carbon tax at $35 per tonne of CO2 emissions in India is estimated to be capable of generating some 2% of GDP through 2030.
(x) An internally recommended carbon price of $40 per metric tonne in China could generate 14% additional revenues.
Imposing A Carbon Tariff
(i) Big economies like India should also use their global monopsony, or the power of a large buyer in international trade, to impose a carbon tariff as envisaged(thought) by the EU.
(ii) Focusing on trade is vital because reducing the domestic carbon content of production alone would not avert(prevent) the harm if imports remain carbon-intensive.
(iii) Therefore, leading emitters should use their monopsony(market where there is only one buyer), diplomacy and financial capabilities to forge(develop) a climate coalition with partners.
(iv) India is among the nations that are hardest hit by climate impacts. There is growing public support for climate action, but we need solutions that are seen to be in India’s interest.
(v) A market-oriented approach to tax and trade carbon domestically and to induce similar action by others through international trade and diplomacy offers a way forward.