Let’s talk about a supplemental income: (The Hindu, Editorial)
- There has been a lot of discussion on universal basic income (UBI) in both developed and developing countries
- The primary objective of UBI is to enable every citizen to have a certain minimum income.
- The term ‘universal’ is meant to connote that the minimum or basic income will be provided to everyone irrespective of whatever their current income is.
- The adoption of a universal basic income can impose a burden on the fisc which is well beyond the capabilities of most developing countries, including India.
- It is necessary to first decide whether income supplements should be ‘universal’ or limited to certain easily identifiable groups.
- Most calculations involving the provision of income to one and all are beyond the capabilities of the present Central government Budget unless the basic income is fixed at too low a level.
- It is extremely difficult to cut so-called implied subsidies or hidden subsidies in order to fund resources.
- There is a philosophical question, whether support to vulnerable sections should be in the form of goods and services or as cash.
- Cash gives the discretion to beneficiaries to spend it any way they like. But it is assumed they would be wise in their discretion.
- On the other hand, the provision of services or goods directly to beneficiaries may be directed to achieve certain objectives in terms of nutrition or health or education.
- In the provision of services, the concern is about leakages and quality of service.
- As far as India is concerned, there are a whole lot of services provided by the state, and it would be impossible to knock them off and substitute them with general income support.
Private power, public apathy: (The Hindu, Editorial)
- There is an urgent need to modify landmark labour laws to bring domestic work under the purview of state regulation.
- Domestic workers are among the most exploited sections of the Indian workforce.
- The NSSO data of 2004-05, for example, has recorded 47 lakh domestic workers in India; the majority of whom, i.e. 30 lakh, were women.
- As of today, a large number of these workers are inter-State migrant labourers from impoverished districts in West Bengal, Assam and Jharkhand.
- The employer-dominated, domestic work industry is characterised by low, stagnant wage rates.
- Wages are particularly low for Bengali and Adivasi workers.
- Many women slaving away at such low wage rates are subsequently compelled to seek employment in more than one house, and to make their teenage daughters pick up similar work.
- Irregular payment of wages by employers, extraction of more work than agreed upon at the start of employment, and the practice of arbitrarily reducing wages are rampant problems that breed overexploitation of domestic workers.
- Such vulnerability and over-exploitation cannot be ignored any further, especially with the continuous growth in the number of impoverished women and children entering the domestic services industry in the post-liberalisation era.
Skill, don’t detain: (The Hindu, Editorial)
- The Centre should reconsider its decision to scrap no-detention policy in primary schools.
- When the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act became law in 2010, it appeared to be a wall against the various ills that prevent continued schooling of all children up to the secondary level.
- The guarantee of uninterrupted schooling that the Act provides under sections 16 and 30(1) is founded on the no-detention policy until Class 8.
- This is a protection that should not be scraaped off with an intention to compensate for the overall failure to improve the school education system, beginning with the neglect of teacher education, bad recruitment policies, and confusion over what the goals of schooling are.
- The decision of the Union Cabinet to scrap the no-detention policy at the elementary level, and introduce detention of students who fail a designated test in Class 5 or 6, is fraught with the danger of going back to a regime of early dropouts.
- Rather than detaining a child early through a stigmatising test, a progressive system would open avenues for skills training after the elementary level for those who would prefer that over academic studies.
- Such a model has served industrial nations such as Germany for decades, raising the standard of living for all, while ensuring economic productivity.
- The Right To Education Act has a provision for continuous and comprehensive evaluation, which governments needs to develop scientifically.
- Raising the quality of classroom teaching, continuous monitoring of teacher attendance and introduction of free vocational and industrial skills training for all those with such an aptitude after elementary schooling should be the priority.
Fairness and dignity in livelihoods: (Live Mint, Editorial)
- The government must focus on policies that will generate more dignified and sustainable livelihoods than the Indian economy is producing at present.
- All surveys of small enterprises in India, who are the largest generators of employment, have revealed that the principal constraints on their growth are obtaining finance, problems of dealing with bureaucracy, and access to markets.
- They must overcome these constraints and grow their enterprises before they hire more workers.
- While some economists and short-sighted businesspersons are taunting the government to get tough and change labour laws to make it easier for employers to fire their employees.
- This will not create more dignified and better paying livelihoods around the country, which should be the government’s goal.
- Hardline labour reformers insist employers need more flexibility or they will not employ more people.
- But opponents of this ideology concede the need for flexibility, but are adamant that workers must be treated fairly.
NITI Ayog’s report:
- A report to improve India’s employment data by NITI Aayog has a diagram of India’s industrial pyramid.
- A total of 69.5% of workers are employed by firms that employ fewer than five workers, and 21.2% by firms employing more than nine workers.
- But only 9.3% of workers are in firms with six to nine workers.
- Therefore, the crimp in the shape of the pyramid is when firms are very small, employing much less than 100 persons, where the industrial disputes act does not apply.
- A systems’ analysis reveals that to create conditions for sustainable growth of incomes and jobs, the government should focus on the creation of effective social security systems (including life-long learning and re-skilling systems) rather than wasting its political capital on making it easier for employers to fire workers.
- The Union government must focus on policies that will generate more dignified and sustainable livelihoods than the Indian economy is presently producing.
- While ensuring employers have the flexibility they need, Indian laws must ensure fair treatment of all workers must be more effective than they are.
- Constraints on the formation and growth of small enterprises must be reduced.
- Social security must be provided in various forms, by skilling and retraining, health insurance, pensions, and other means, to create the conditions required for more fairness with flexibility.
India’s villages: for want of a road: (Live Mint, Editorial)
- Roads of rural India today continue to be severely constrained when it comes to everyday travel and mobility.
- Around 40% of the villages in India lacked all-weather connectivity, constraining them when it came to mobility. This placed limits upon their economic well-being
The gradual shift:
- Using Census data, it found that in the 2001-11 period, annual inter-state migration stood at about 5-6.5 million.
- Since then, this number has jumped to around nine million according to the Survey’s analysis of railway passenger data.
- Importantly, this labour migration growth rate is accelerating. In the 1991-2001 decade, it stood at around 2.4%, nearly doubled to 4.5% in 2001-11 and has grown since.
- Such labour flows usually accompany structural transformation of the economy—“the release of surplus labour from relatively low-productive agricultural activities to sectors enjoying higher productivity.”
- Problems still remains, such as poor quality of construction and maintenance.
- Until December 2010, the quality of rural roads ranged from acceptable to extremely bad as per the World Bank.
- Poor planning in Indian governance—continues to be another obstacle.
India and neighbors
Pressure on Nepal over Doklam standoff: (The Hindu)
China has reached Nepal to discuss about the recent Standoff between India and China over Doklam
Nepal’s Prime minister’s visit to India
- The upcoming visit of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to Delhi is likely to highlight Nepal’s position on bilateral issues between India and China.
- The apparent pressure on Kathmandu has added to the atmospherics around the planning of Mr. Deuba’s New Delhi visit.
- The Nepalese Prime Minister’s visit will be preceded by a visit of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj who will visit Kathmandu to participate in the 15th meeting of foreign ministers of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation)
- Amidst the bilateral visits of India and Nepal, Kathmandu will on August 14 host Chinese Vice- Premier Wang Yang.
- The date for Prime Minister Deuba’s visit to India shall be announced immediately following the Independence Day celebrations in Delhi
Kerala bats for right to privacy: (The Hindu)
- Kerala Government had recently stated that technology in future could use the data collected through Aadhaar for surveillance
Right to Privacy absolute?
- The state has further asked to protect the fundamental right and safeguard its citizens from intrusions by the State.
- Kerala has insisted that even though ‘Right to privacy’ is not “absolute”. But it is a fundamental right nevertheless.
- The submission to a nine-judge Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, came before the lengthy arguments on the question of whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right
Misuse of Information
- In the constitutional reference before the Bench, the Pinarayi Vijayan government supported the case of petitioners that technology would progress so much that data collected through Aadhaar could be used for surveillance
- This came as a significant intervention as other State governments had mostly intervened to submit that privacy should be recognised as a statutory right and not a fundamental right.
- The government said privacy encompassed the “personal intimacies of the home, family, marriage, motherhood, procreation, child rearing, feelings, love and passion, etc.
- A person’s thought process, fantasies, etc., would also necessarily come under his Right to Privacy”.
Invasion of technology
- Counsel V.P. Surendranath and Nishe Rajan Shonker, representing Kerala further stated that the intimate details of a person’s body, mind, thought process and fantasies must be treated as Right to Privacy — as part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty — under Article 21 of the Constitution
Nine High Courts oppose all-India judicial service: (The Hindu)
A recent Law and Justice Ministry document stated that Nine High Courts have opposed a proposal to have an all-India service for the lower judiciary.
Two back idea, while eight seek alterations in proposal
- Moreover, eight have sought changes in the proposed framework and only two have supported the idea.
- The document also says that most of the 24 High Courts wanted control over the subordinate judiciary.
- The Narendra Modi government had given a fresh push to the long-pending proposal to set up the new service to have a separate cadre for the lower judiciary in the country.
- The idea was first mooted in the 1960s.
- The document says the High Courts of Andhra Pradesh, Bombay, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Patna and Punjab and Haryana have not favored the idea of an All-India Judicial Service
- It further said only the High Courts of Sikkim and Tripura have concurred with the proposal.
- The Allahabad, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Orissa and Uttarakhand High Courts have suggested changes in the age at the induction level, qualifications, training and quota of vacancies to fill through the proposed service.
- Most of the High Courts want the administrative control over the subordinate judiciary to remain with the respective High Courts
- Seeking to overcome the divergence of views, the government had recently suggested to the Supreme Court various options, including a NEET-like examination, to recruit judges to the lower judiciary.
- There were vacancies of 4,452 judges in subordinate courts in the country.
Protect teachers in private colleges: SC: (The Hindu)
- Mr. Yadav, Filed a PIL plea to end ‘blackmail, harassment’ of over four lakh teachers in various private engineering colleges, recognised by the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE).
- Moved by the petition, the court ordered that the AICTE shall take a conscious decision of issues canvassed, and take such remedial action in consonance with law.
- Mr. Yadav, in a PIL plea, referred to the plight of over four lakh teachers in various private engineering colleges, recognised by the All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE).
- The court’s order was in response to Mr. Yadav’s fervent argument that the malpractices are hampering the technical education system of India
- The court, after a brief but thoughtful consideration, also ordered the AICTE to treat the petition as a representation.
- The petitioner argued that the present scenario of unemployable students coming out of private colleges is a direct result of unmotivated professors who are at the mercy of their managements
- Mr Yadav, alleged that Private engineering colleges are in the practice of confiscating the original degrees and certificates of the recruited staff, withholding the salaries of the faculty/staff for months with an intention to blackmail and harass the staff.
- Colleges do not maintain the required student-staff ratio during entire terms. Another malpractice is the appointment of fake faculty at the time inspections for affiliation,” Mr. Yadav argued.
- The plea urged for setting up of a directorate or panel to redress the grievances of staff working in private engineering colleges.
China’s RCEP push veils grand plan: (The Hindu)
- Technical level talks of the proposed FTA, officially known as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnerships (RCEP), held from July 18 to 28 at the Hyderabad International Convention Centre.
- 16 Asia-Pacific countries participated in 19th round of tariff negotiations held at Hyderabad.
- The RCEP is billed as an FTA between the 10-member ASEAN bloc and its six FTA partners — India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
- It would become the world’s biggest free trade pact. This is because the 16 nations account for a total GDP (Purchasing Power Parity, or PPP basis) of about $50 trillion (or about 40% of the global GDP) and house close to 3.5 billion people (about half the world’s population). India (GDP-PPP worth $9.5 trillion and population of 1.3 billion) and China (GDP-PPP of $23.2 trillion and population of 1.4 billion) together comprise the RCEP’s biggest component in terms of market size.
- RCEP aims to boost goods trade by eliminating most tariff and non-tariff barriers — a move that is expected to provide the region’s consumers greater choice of quality products at affordable rates.
- RCEP also seeks to liberalise investment norms and do away with services trade restrictions.
Future of RCEP in present context of India China relation
- A recent survey of Community social media platform ‘Local Circles’ on the Indian consumer’s perception about items imported from China observed the opinion of Indian consumers about Chinese products:
- 52% of participants were of the opinion that for the same product, the quality of a ‘Made in India’ version was superior to the one from China.
- 83% said they buy Chinese products as those items were the cheapest.
- On the issue of addressing ‘quality concerns’ about imported Chinese items, 98% said there should be better screening of such products before they enter the Indian market — including ensuring that only those imports meeting the Indian (BIS) standards are allowed.
- The poll assumes significance as it comes amid ongoing negotiations for a mega-regional Free Trade Agreement (FTA) – Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
- The RCEP ‘guiding principles and objectives’ state that the “negotiations on trade in goods, trade in services, investment and other areas will be conducted in parallel to ensure a comprehensive and balanced outcome.”
- China is using its influence as the global leader in goods exports, has been deploying quiet diplomacy to ensure consistent focus on attempts to obtain commitments on elimination of tariffs on most traded goods.
- China is keen on an agreement on a ‘high level’ of tariff liberalisation — eliminating duties on as much as 92% of traded products.
- India’s offer is to do away with duties on only 80% of the lines and that too, with a longer phase-out period for Chinese imports (ie, about 20 years, against 15 for other RCEP nations).
- Goods imports from China have been far outpacing India’s shipments to that country because India’s exports are mainly troubled by China’s non-tariff barriers.
- This has led to goods trade deficit with China widening from just $1.1 billion in 2003-04 to a whopping $52.7 billion in 2015-16, though easing slightly to $51.1 billion in 2016-17.
Importance of RCEP for China:
- The RCEP is just one element of China’s grander plans for global dominance. China wants to speed up the RCEP negotiation process and strive for an early agreement, so as to contribute to realising the greater common goal of building the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).
- The FTAAP spans 21 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation countries, including the U.S. and China, but does not cover India (though it has sought to be an APEC member).
- With the U.S. withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership — a mega-regional FTA not involving India and China — that similarly aimed to help establish the FTAAP, the path is clear for China to push ahead with this strategic initiative to its advantage through the RCEP.
Duty impact on India due to RCEP
- A highly ambitious level of tariff elimination without enough flexibility would affect India the most on the goods side.
- In the RCEP group (except Myanmar, Cambodia and Lao PDR), India has the highest average ‘Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff’ level at 13.5%.
- India is the only participant that has a high level of merchandise trade deficit.
- India’s trade deficit with RCEP countries is also more than half its global trade deficit.
- India’s trade deficit with China “is over three times its exports to China (in 2014), a situation not matched by any other RCEP member except Cambodia.
- considering India’s vulnerabilities and large bilateral trade deficits, India will need substantial flexibilities to deal with China. A longer phase out period with back loading of concessions, particularly on sensitive products, will be essential.
India’s Concern at RCEP Negotiation held at Hyderabad:
- The representatives from the Indian industry laid out their apprehensions before the industry bodies of other RCEP nations and the trade negotiators. that the proposed FTA could lead to a surge in inflow of low-priced goods, mainly from China.
- India Inc. feared that RCEP would result in their share in the domestic market contracting, and consequent downsizing/closure of operations, as well as job losses. This could lead to lower incomes and reduced consumer spending.
- Since India already has separate FTAs with the 10-member ASEAN bloc, Japan and Korea, India Inc. feels that on account of the RCEP, India may not gain much on the goods side with existing FTA partners.
- India is also negotiating separate FTAs with Australia and New Zealand. However, be it through a separate FTA or via RCEP, India’s gains on the goods segment from Australia and New Zealand will be limited as MFN tariff levels of those two countries are already low.
- China is the only RCEP country with which India neither has an FTA, nor is in talks for one. Therefore, Indian industry sees RCEP as an indirect FTA with China.
- The India’s FTA strategy should be guided by the ‘Make In India’ initiative that aims to boost domestic manufacturing and job creation within India.
- Also, In return for greater market access in goods, India, with its large pool of skilled workers and professionals, might be trying to use the RCEP to gain on the services side, by securing commitments from the other nations to mutually ease norms on movement of such people across borders for short-term work.
Pollution and conservation
The Supreme Court barred manufacturers from using five specified chemicals ‘in any form whatsoever’ to prevent air pollution.
The apex court ban the use of antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead in the manufacture of firecrackers to prevent air pollution has turned the focus on what chemicals are used to produce spectacular visual effects and noise.
- A Supreme Court Bench of Justices Madan B. Lakur and Deepak Gupta had on July 31, in an order, directed that no firecrackers manufactured by the respondents shall contain the chemicals in any form, whatsoever.
- The court entrusted the Petroleum and Explosive Safety Organisation (PESO) with the responsibility of ensuring compliance particularly in Sivakasi.
- Over 90% of cracker production is done in Sivakasi
- The court also noted it appeared that no standards have been laid down by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) with regard to air pollution caused by the bursting of firecrackers.
Impact of using chemicals:
- The sound and light show is produced by chemicals such as sulphur, aluminium powder and charcoal (used as fuel), besides potassium nitrate and barium nitrate (as oxidizing agents).
- Aluminium powder, sulphur and potassium nitrate go into noise making crackers, while barium nitrate and strontium nitrate (red) emit light
- Aluminium powder is used in sparklers
- A combination of barium nitrate and strontium nitrate is varying proportions produces different colours.
- Potassium chlorate and potassium perchlorate are friction-sensitive and accident prone, if used in combination with sulphur.
A patchy green: (Indian Express, Editorial)
The Draft national energy policy still in the draft form and waiting for government’s approval
Loopholes in the policy:
- It does not define roles, responsibilities and accountabilities.
- It does not provide a timeline for delivery and there is no discussion on financing.
- Niti Aayog, should extend its mandate unilaterally and map each of its policy recommendations against existing institutions of governance, and where there are mismatches or misalignment, offer suggestions for plugging the institutional lacunae.
- It should demand “differentiated responsibility” from the international community in managing and mitigating the existential risk arising from this development.
- It must push its economy on to a low carbon growth trajectory.
- Access to clean technologies like carbon capture and sequestration, cellulosic biofuels and hydrogen fuel cells.
- A separate system need to be created to enable the development and distribution of cleaner fuels.
- The report suggests that the list of policy to dos’ should be monitored by a committee of secretaries chaired by the CEO of Niti Aayog.
- The process supervised by a steering committee chaired by the PM and comprising members of the cabinet.
India’s energy policy:
The government has emphasized the importance of pegging India’s energy policy on the following three essential varieties.
1.India’s per capita energy consumption may be a fraction of the per capital energy consumption of the developed world.
2.Its energy policy must, in consequence, focus on increasing the share of renewable in the energy basket and on greening fossil fuels.
3.It must leverage technology and innovation to render renewable affordable and accessible.
Challenges in implementation of policy:
- There is a clean energy thread running through these components.
- Managing energy consumption, energy efficiency, production and distribution of coal, electricity generation, transmission and distribution, supply of oil/gas, refining and distribution of oil and installation, generation and distribution of renewable.
- Currently, there is no institutional platform for mediating the complex of vested interests and stakeholders engaged with different aspects of the energy sector.
- There is a misalignment between the horizontally structured, vertically layered division of responsibilities between the central, state, and municipal governments.
India must fast-track the implementation of a green energy agenda. There should have institutional design that will clarify line of accountability and authority and balance the needs of development, politics and sustainability.
‘High oil taxes curbed consumption, investment’: (The Hindu)
NITI Aayog’s next Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar believes focus should be job creation, not claims of economic victory
- The Centre’s reliance on higher taxation of petroleum products to mop up revenue could be in for review.
- The government raises taxes on petroleum products on more than one occasion, principally to mop up resources for keeping its fiscal deficit targets.
- Consequently, domestic prices of petrol declined by only Rs 10 per litre over the past 18 months, whle global oil prices have plummeted from $100 per barrel to $ 40.
- Fresh taxes levied on petroleum products helped prop up revenue, but ended-up restraining consumption as well as investment demand in the process.
- The fiscal bananza from the oil price decline caused ‘a degree of complacency’ in expenditure management.
The government should focus on maximum employment creation, which is critical to meet the ‘exploding aspirations of his young supporters’ and “will automatically yield a near double digit rate of GDP growth for the next decade and an average of 7-8% for the next three decades.
ATM expansion slows due to note ban: (The Hindu)
A combination of factor, including demonetization of high values notes, have led to commercial banks cutting down on the number of automated teller machines (ATMs), particularly those not located in branches(off-site ATMs), latest RBI data showed.
- According to Reserve Bank of India (RBI), there were 98,092 off-site ATMs in June 2017 against 99,989 in the same month last year.
- On site (located within a branch) ATMs rose to 110,385 from 101,346 in the same period.
According to bankers, cash crunch due to demonetization, was one of the factors that impacted ATM expansion.
- The number of ATMs added between June 2016 and June 2017 was a little more than 7,000 while in the comparable period of the previous year, banks had added almost 16,000 ATMs and more than 18,500 in the year before.
- The total number of ATMs in the country in June 2017 was 2, 08,477 as compared with 2,01,335 a year ago.
- Large retail-focused banks like ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank’s off-site ATM numbers show a declining trend over the past one year.
- The overall ATM number at June end was also lower than in the same month of the previous year.
- However, SBI’s ATM numbers saw a sharp increase as it merged five of its associate banks and Bharatiya Mahila Bank on April 1, 2017.
- The government’s push for digital transactions discouraging the use of cash is also having an impact, with banks going slow on ATM expansion, bankers pointed out.
- ATMs with low footfalls are being relocated. Some of these ATMs which were on-site, were installed following directions issued by the Finance Ministry during previous government regime.
- There is some amount of slowdown presently due to the availability of cash, which was s outcome of demoentisaton.
- NCR deploys almost 50% of the ATMs in the country.
Prelims Related News
- One of the frontline fighters of the Indian Air Force, the Jaguars, is still flying without autopilots, an essential flying aid, the Comptroller and Auditor-General has said.
- In a report presented in Parliament on July 28, the CAG said that the flying aid capability envisaged by the IAF for the Jaguar aircraft in 1997 remains largely unrealized even after 20 years.
- In 1997, the IAF had projected a requirement of 108 autopilots for 108 aircraft but only 35 autopilots were contracted in August 1999 due to “resource crunch” at a cost of Rs 37.42 crore which were delivered between 2006 and 2008.
- A repeat contract for 95 autopilots was concluded only by March 2014.
- Out of 35 autopilots procured earlier, only 18 could be integrated on the Jaguar aircraft as of March 2017.
- The integrated autopilots were also functioning sub-optimally due to malfunctioning of their vital component i.e Auto Pilot Electronic Unit(APEU)
- An autopilot is a system used to control the trajectory of an aircraft without constant ‘hands-on’ control by a human operator being required.
- It reduces the pilot’s workload, enhances safety of aircraft and cuts aircraft accidents.
- Presently, IAF has a fleet of 130 Jaguars IM/IS single-seat attack aircraft and 30 Jaguar IB two-seat trainers.
- Around 60 of these Jaguars will be modified to DARIN III standard by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the rest will remain at DARIN II standard until they are retired.
- Out of 35 autopilots procured earlier, only 18 could be integrated on the Jaguar aircraft as of March 2017.
- The integral autopilots were also functioning sub-optimally due to malfunctioning of their vital component i.e Auto Pilot Electronic Unit (APEU), the report highlighted
- In addition, 30 autopilots received through the repeat contract are yet to be integrated
- As on October 2016, the IAF had a holding of 117 Jaguars, but only 18 could be upgraded with autopilot capability
- These autopilots were working sub-optimally due to malfunctioning of their APEUs, the report added.