IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


16th May, 2020


The pandemic and the challenge of behaviour change

- Corona crisis is far from over, but governments everywhere appear to have either relaxed lockdown parameters or will do so soon.

- The curve may have been flattened, but there will be a greater risk now of being infected.

Needed behavioural changes:

- The drastic changes in behaviour being called for can indeed be brought about.

- The science of social marketing uses known marketing principles and behaviour change theory to influence people’s behaviour for the benefit of both the target audience and of society.

- Public health, safety and environmental concerns are some of the areas where social marketing can have huge impact.

Health Belief Model (HBM):

- It suggests that a person’s health-related behaviours ultimately stem from the desire to avoid illness.

- The two most important constructs of the model are:

Perceived benefits — the effectiveness of actions available to reduce the threat of the disease,

Perceived barriers — the obstacles to performing a recommended health action.

- The model also recognizes the importance of “cues to action” or triggers, which set into motion the process of adopting the desired behaviours.

- The HBM presumes that knowledge or education alone is grossly insufficient to change a person’s behaviour. Cigarette sales, for example did not decline significantly for years despite the ills of smoking having been widely publicised.

The Indian example

- People were asked to stay indoors but, at 5 p.m., to also applaud health-care workers and others who are a part of the pandemic battle.

- The blend of fear, patriotism and gratitude extolled by the Prime Minister appeared to have been just the right buttons to push and people did stay indoors.

- Fear, patriotism and gratitude, even if they were effective as “initiating” cues to action, were insufficient to sustain behaviour change  as seen by people coming on the roads and needed to be periodically rekindled.

- The Prime Minister later called upon citizens to switch off lights at 9 p.m. for 9 minutes on a chosen day and light lamps to go “from darkness to hope”.

- As is well known, the number 9 and lighting lamps are powerful positive symbols in India.

- In Singapore, the government, perhaps taking a cue, supported an event, “Sing Together Singapore”.

- People at home were encouraged to sing as well and wave a torchlight as gratitude for frontline and migrant workers.

Social Marketing

- Benefits directly applicable:The social marketing message would present the benefits as applying direct to the individual, not just indirectly to society at large.

- Less costly and less efforts: Messaging about barriers should not make the change appear too difficult to engage in or make the cost of adopting the behaviours appear too high.

Example of social messaging:

- In the 1970s, Bangladesh undertook an ambitious family planning campaign keeping in mind the country’s limited resources.

- Research showed that while the women were able to readily see the benefits, the men, who were the decision makers at home, could not.

- The campaign became successful after social marketers decided to empower women by making female contraceptives available through women rural medical practitioners who made house calls.

Gauging receptivity

- Many were not quite convinced of the threat posed by asymptomatic others merely because they were close by. The perceived direct benefits of social distancing were thus moderate at best.

- Telling someone to stand away is also difficult because it could be considered rude.

Way Forward

- Hygiene instructors often ask an audience to colour their hands and then show the imprints they leave everywhere to demonstrate how germs can spread. Would a social marketing campaign that paints a picture of the virus “jumping” onto you if you are close to an infected person work?

- The recommendation to hand wash often or use an alcohol-based hand rub was unrealistic for too many people even though they saw the merit in it.

- The two options have been presented as equivalent, but from a behavioural change point of view they are not.

- Even those who had fairly easy access to soap and washing facilities found it rather inconvenient to interrupt whatever they were doing to frequently head to a hand wash station.

- If alcohol-based hand rubs were available within arm’s reach, people had no need to interrupt their work and drying their hands was not a problem since they would swiftly dry on their own.

- This suggests high payoffs from a decision by governments to focus on increasing the supply of hand rubs and absorbing or highly subsidising the costs of making hand rub bottles readily available to supplement hand washing with soap and water.

- Shame is a powerful disincentive to undesirable behaviour. Villages were made open defecation free through the use of Community-led Total Sanitation, a technique that liberally and successfully uses “naming and shaming” to achieve its goals.

-  It is not hard to visualise messaging that shows bystanders strongly disapproving of those who do not comply with the COVID-19 recommendations.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/the-pandemic-and-the-challenge-of-behaviour-change/article31598000.ece


NEET is not student-friendly, merit-promoting

Supreme Court on NEET:

- NEET was initially struck down as unconstitutional in Christian Medical College, Vellore (2013) by a 2:1 majority.

- In 2016, not only was a review of this judgment allowed but the dissenting judge of the 2013 judgment made NEET compulsory even prior to a full hearing by the constitution Bench.

Issues with NEET

- NEET is an assault on the autonomy of universities and higher education institutions, particularly private, unaided ones.

- It is ironical that while in all other areas including industrial relations, the government is talking about deregulation, in the case of education, over-centralisation is becoming a harsh and painful reality.

- Similarly in the name of NEET or the state’s power to “regulate”, the rights of unaided private institutions and minority institutions cannot be violated as regulation cannot annihilate minority character.

- Certainly minorities do not have right to “mal-administer” their institutions yet due to admission mal-practices practised by the few institutions, denial of Article 30 rights and Article 19(g) rights of private unaided institutions is absolutely wrong.

Students disadvantaged

- Tamil Nadu has been opposing NEET.

- With NEET and similar other national tests such as the Joint Entrance Examination and Common Law Admission Test, coaching institutes are prospering;

- Since most of them are in cities, poorer students from a rural background and who have studied in the vernacular medium face a disadvantage.

- There is also large-scale variation in the syllabus and standards of the Central Board of Secondary Education and State boards.

- NEET does not give a student a right to select an institution of his choice.

- Third, the NEET paper was leaked twice in the last four years; therefore, there is not much confidence in NEET’s fairness and transparency.

- Finally, there is the issue of wrong translation. In the 2018 NEET, as many as 49 questions had errors in Tamil translation leading to a Madras High Court order to award four marks for each of the 49 wrongly translated questions, or 196 marks to all 1.07 lakh candidates of Tamil Nadu.

- The Supreme Court overruled this order as the High Court had arbitrarily ordered giving grace marks to everyone without examining whether the student even attempted such a question.

Element of class

-  Meritocracy requires competition and equality of opportunity.

- The administrators of NEET and judges do believe that the multidimensional construct of merit can be adequately, if not accurately, measured?

- When NEET and other such admission tests do not meet this fundamental criteria, competition cannot be termed as fair and just, and the equality of opportunity becomes illusionary.

- Common admission tests cannot measure abilities that are essential for learning such as imagination, curiosity and motivation.

- Empirical research in the United States on standardised common tests has found that these tests are biased against the poorer and underprivileged sections of population, women and minorities.

- Thus there is an element of class in NEET that the Indian judiciary has so far overlooked.

Differential treatment

- Minority rights are not the violation of the equality provision in Article 14 as the Constitution does permit classification.

- In fact substantive equality as opposed to formal equality, mandates differential treatment.

Court observation on Article 30:

- An article of faith

- A sacred obligation

- An absolute right

- Basic structure

- Thus, minority rights were held as unamendable and inalienable.

- The Court’s opinion in Kerala Education Bill, on minority rights, was the observation that the key words in Article 30 are ‘of their own choice.

- Holding ‘choice’ to be the dominant word, then Chief Justice Das said that ‘the content of the article is as wide as the choice of the particular minority can make it’.

- If a minority institution wants additional qualifications over and above the NEET score, denial of such additional and superior qualifications undermines its choice.

- Centralised counseling due to which several minority institutions and private medical colleges are unable to fill their seats is indeed an ‘intolerable encroachment’.

- Moreover, every vacant seat is the national loss. COVID-19 has only demonstrated India’s extremely poor doctor-population ratio.

In T.M.A Pai foundation case, Court had held that admission by the management can be by a common entrance test held by “itself or by the State/University”.

- Moreover, it is important that here universities and state were treated on a par and an admission test by the university was considered as good as a test conducted by the State.

- What an 11-judge Bench really emphasised was that an admission process must be fair and transparent rather than just one test for all institutions.

- The Supreme Court has consistently held that Article 30 is not so absolute as to be above the law and regulations made in the true interests of efficiency of instruction, discipline, health, sanitation, morality and public order could be imposed.

About Article 30:

- Article 30 (1) promises to all linguistic and religious minorities the ‘right to establish’ and the ‘right to administer’ educational institutions of their own choice.

- The right is provided by this clause on two types of minorities, namely, religious and linguistic minorities.

- The right vested in the above minorities is to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice. 

- It gives choice to the minority community to establish such educational institutions as it will serve both purposes, that is, the purpose of protecting their religion, language or culture, and also the purpose of giving through general education to their children in their own language.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/neet-is-not-student-friendly-merit-promoting/article31597998.ece



New law for contract farming


- Announced plans to enact a central law to permit barrier-free inter-State trade of farm commodities and ensure a legal framework to facilitate contract farming.

- Plans to invest Rs. 1.5 lakh crores to build farm-gate infrastructure and support logistics needs for fish workers, livestock farmers, vegetable growers, beekeepers and related activities.

- Will deregulate the sale of six types of agricultural produce, including cereals, edible oils, oilseeds, pulses, onions and potatoes, by amending the Essential Commodities Act, 1955.

- Stock limits will not be imposed on these commodities except in case of national calamity or famine or an extraordinary surge in prices.

- These stock limits would not apply to processors and exporters.

- Earlier, the Centre has been attempting to reform agricultural marketing through a model Act which it encourages States to adopt.

- Centre will now intends to enact a central law to allow farmers to sell produce at attractive prices beyond the current mandi system, facilitating barrier-free inter-State trade and e-trading.

- Though agriculture is a state budget, but, inter-state trade falls in central list.

- Plan a underway to bring in a facilitative legal framework to oversee contract farming, which would provide farmers with assured sale prices and quantities even before the crop is sown and also allow private players to invest in inputs and technology in the agricultural sector.

Comment of economist:

- These are big, bold steps in the right direction which will benefit both farmers and consumers.

- This is long overdue and should have been done in Modi’s first term, but certainly the government deserves compliments for converting a crisis into an opportunity.

- The reforms are in discussion for last 2 decades.

Essential Commodity Act:

- The Essential Commodities Act is an act of Parliament of India, which was established to ensure the delivery of certain commodities or products, the supply of which if obstructed owing to hoarding or black-marketing would affect the normal life of the people.

- This includes foodstuff, drugs, fuel (petroleum products) etc.

- The centre can include new commodities as and when the need arises and take them off the list once the situation improves.

- The State Governments are fully empowered under the Act to regulate production, distribution, supply and prices of the food items, which are declared as essential commodities in the respective States.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/new-law-for-contract-farming/article31598091.ece


Google India seeks time to reply to plea on UPI app


- Google India has sought three weeks time to submit its response to the Delhi High Court on a petition seeking to immediately suspend operations of its UPI app, Google Pay, till it complies with interoperability.

About UPI:

- It has been developed by National Payment Corporation of India.

- It is controlled by RBI and Indian Bank Association.

- It is based on authentication of two factors.

About Interoperability:

- Google Pay does not allow new users to use their existing UPI ID on its platform, which the consumer might have created through other UPI platforms or apps.

- UPI payment platforms need to give a choice to users to transact using their existing IDs.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-miscellaneous/tp-others/google-india-seeks-time-to-reply-to-plea-on-upi-app/article31598249.ece

Rs. 1 lakh crores farm infra fund to be financed by NABARD: FM

Government announcement:

- Rs. 1 lakh crores farm infrastructure fund as part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan stimulus package.

- It also included plans to strengthen infrastructure in food processing, fisheries, animal husbandry, horticulture, herbal cultivation and beekeeping with a total funding of Rs. 50,000 crores, including funds allocated earlier in the budget.

- The Rs. 1 lakh crores Agriculture Infrastructure Fund will be financed and managed by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

- Financing will be provided to primary agriculture cooperative societies, farmer producer organisations, agriculture entrepreneurs and start-ups to develop cold chain storage and other post-harvest management infrastructure at the farm gate and aggregation points.

- The National Medicinal Plants Board will spend Rs. 4,000 crores on herbal cultivation over 10 lakh hectares with a special focus on an 800-hectare corridor of medicinal plants on the banks of the Ganga.


- NABARD is a development bank focused mainly for the development of rural sector.

- It was established in 1982 under -National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Act, 1981 and is a statutory body.

- Kisan Credit Card Scheme: NABARD introduced it in 1998 in association with RBI to provide crop loans.

- Government holds complete 100% stake in NABARD and RBI has no stake.

National Medicinal Plant Board:

- The National Medicinal Plants Board (NMPB) has been established by Government of India to coordinate with all matters relating to Medicinal Plants and Support Policies and Programs for growth of trade, export, conservation and cultivation.

- The board is working under Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, and Siddha & Homeopathy (AYUSH).

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/rs-1-lakh-crore-farm-infra-fund-to-be-financed-by-nabard-fm/article31598028.ece


Centre borrows another $1 billion from World Bank for COVID-19 relief

Government steps:

- The Centre is taking another $1 billion loan from the World Bank to support its COVID-19 relief measures and financial assistance for the poorest and most vulnerable communities.

- The money will also be used for reforms in India’s social security net.

- The bank had already approved a $1 billion loan to support India’s health sector in April.

- An allocation of $750 million —more than Rs. 5,600 crores — will be made immediately to help fund the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.

- The second phase will provide $250 million — almost Rs. 1,900 crores — post July 2020, which will fund additional cash and in-kind benefits based on local needs through state governments.

World Bank:

- The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans and grants to the governments of poorer countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects.

- It comprises two institutions: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Development Association (IDA).

- It is group of five organsiation:

- International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD)

- International Development Association (IDA)

- International Finance Corporation (IFC)

- Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA)

- International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID)

- The World Bank was created at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, along with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-business/centre-borrows-another-1-billion-from-world-bank-for-covid-19-relief/article31597979.ece



Centre’s nod to defence test facilities

Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme (DTIS):

- Rs. 400 crores for creating state-of-the-art testing infrastructure for domestic defence and aerospace manufacturing sector.

- The Scheme would run for the duration of five years.

- It envisages to set up six to eight new test facilities in partnership with private industry. 

- This will facilitate indigenous defence production, consequently reduce imports of military equipment.

- The projects under the scheme will be provided with up to 75% government funding in the form of ‘Grant-in-Aid’.





Meghalaya village Quinine Nongladew latches on to its past in search for COVID-19 cure

- Quinine, its most primitive antimalarial avatar, has made a village in Meghalaya latch on to its past for a curative future.

- Quinine is extracted from the bark of cinchona.

- According to the Indian State of Forest Report 2019, Meghalaya has a forest cover of 76.32% of its geographical area. 

- Chinchona is native to the tropical Andean forests of western South America.