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GS-1


A job crisis, in figures:

A job crisis, in figures:

Context

Multiple data sets confirm sluggish pace of employment creation. Paucity of data can no longer be an excuse for the lack of debate.

Paucity (Insufficient) of Data

Much of the debate on employment performance over the last few years has been mired in ambiguity due to the absence of high-frequency employment statistics

Taskforce put in place by the Govt.

The government has put in place a taskforce to revamp India’s employment data architecture, but new employment numbers are unlikely to come out anytime soon.

A few statistics which underscore the severity of India’s job crisis

  1. Labour Bureau’s Annual Household Employment survey:

First, data from the Labour Bureau’s Annual Household Employment survey (not to be confused with the Bureau’s quarterly employment surveys which are based only on enterprises employing 10 or more workers in select sectors) shows a decline in total employment from 480.4 million (2013-14) to 467.6 million (2015-16)

  • Wholesale and Retail Sector show significant increase:

The only sector to have witnessed a significant increase in employment was wholesale and retail trade where employment increased from 43.7 million to 48.1 million

  • Manufacturing Sector slows down

In the manufacturing sector ( both organised and unorganised) employment declined from 51.4 million to 48.1 million over the same time period

  1. The Annual Survey of Industries (ASI)
  • Second, we examine data from the Annual Survey of Industries (ASI), an enterprise survey which covers only the organised manufacturing sector.
  • Empolyment Increased

Here, we find employment to have increased from 12.94 million to 13.25 million between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

  • Contractual Jobs in majority

What is particularly noteworthy here is that of the paltry 3.15 lakh jobs created over this period, 85.02 per cent were contractual jobs.

Generating Alternate Employment Series with NAS data using GVA

  • Given that there is no ASI data beyond 2014-15, we attempt to generate an alternate employment series for this sector using data from the National Accounts Statistics (NAS). Although the NAS does not report employment data, we use the reported Gross Value Added (GVA) data to generate employment estimates.
  • Methodology
  • We construct estimates of the employment elasticity of GVA for each of the industry groups reported in the NAS.
  • These elasticity estimates capture the responsiveness of employment to changes in GVA. Using the changes in GVA reported in the NAS and our elasticity estimates, we compute changes in employment.
  • The employment series we create in our study corresponds to the PCMS and serves as a proxy for employment in the organised manufacturing sector.

Fact

It is important to clarify here that due to the revision in India’s NAS, the manufacturing sector, earlier divided into the organised and unorganised sectors is now divided into the private corporate manufacturing sector (PCMS) and the household sector. While there are methodological differences, the two new groups loosely replace the earlier classification.

Results: the pace of job creation is far from adequate

  • Our calculations suggest that between 2014-15 and 2015-16, employment in the PCMS increased by approximately four lakh
  • In the following time period (2015-16 to 2016-17), a little over three lakh jobs were created in this sector
  • Given that this is the organised sector where the “good productive” jobs lie, the pace of job creation is far from adequate
  • It is important to note that while the methodology used in our study gives us an estimate of employment, it tells us nothing about the quality of jobs created
  • However, given the rapid rise in the share of contract workers in the organised manufacturing sector over the last two decades, it would not be unreasonable to assume that a large number of these jobs were in fact contractual jobs.
  1. NSSO’s recently-released report, “Unincorporated Non-Agricultural Enterprises

Third, we examine the NSSO’s recently-released report, “Unincorporated Non-Agricultural Enterprises” (73rd round), which provides data on unregistered/unorganised firms in the non-agricultural sector (excluding construction) for the year 2015-16.

The previous such survey was conducted in 2010-11.

Workers engaged in unorganised manufacturing enterprises increased Comparing data from these two rounds, we find that the total number of workers engaged in unorganised manufacturing enterprises increased from 34.88 million to 36.04 million between 2010-11 and 2015-16

Household Enterprise

Importantly, it was household enterprise (which operate without any hired worker) that accounted for much of this increase (1.82 million)

Non-Household Workers declined

On the other hand, the total number of workers engaged in non-household establishments (which employ at least one hired labourer) declined by 0.67 million.

Analysis: Increasing employment in household enterprises worrisome

  • Household enterprises pay lower wages and have lower productivity as compared to non-household establishments
  • Thus, there are significant welfare gains to be made from transitioning from household to non-household enterprises establishments
  • The increasing employment in household enterprises is thus a disturbing phenomenon.

Factor responsible

Lack of alternative decent employment opportunities.

  1. Various administrative data sets: NCS

A noteworthy source in this context is the government’s recently launched National Career Services (NCS), which attempts to provide a nation-wide online platform for jobseekers and employers

As of March 2016, 36.25 million job seekers were registered on the NCS portal

By October 2017, this had increased to 39.92 million against a mere 7.73 lakh vacancies posted on the exchange

Analysis

  • An analysis of the NCS data is fraught with several challenges such as limited coverage and the fact that job seekers registered on the exchange are often already employed in low paying establishments and are in search of better paying jobs in the organised sectors of the economy.
  • Despite the caveats, these numbers reinforce the enormous gap between the pace of job creation and demand for productive jobs.

Conclusion

An examination of multiple datasets reaffirm the acuteness of India’s jobs crisis. It is time we stop citing the lack of reliable and timely data as an excuse for having a meaningful debate on job creation.

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Centre to give 500 to TB patients every month:

Centre to give 500 to TB patients every month:

Context

About 35 lakh identified tuberculosis patients across the country will soon get 500 every month from the Centre as social support.

Earlier Proposal

Earlier proposal was to provide this cash benefit only to tribal and BPL patients, all the 35 lakh identified patients would be covered now

Why

The cash benefit for social support that will cover loss of wages, travel and mainly nutrition

Guidance document

  • It pointed out that under-nutrition is an established risk factor for progression of latent TB infection to active TB.
  • According to the guidance document, under-nutrition is a serious co-morbidity in patients with active TB in India, and increases the risk of severe disease, death, drug toxicity, drug mal-absorption and relapse after cure.
  • Nutritional assessment, counselling and support are now considered integral aspects of care of TB patient
  • Therefore these elements need to be integrated into the overall management of patients with active TB in India
  • TB is inextricably linked to determinants of health such as malnutrition and low immunity due to social deprivation and marginalisation. Poor nutrition is increasing the risk by three-fold.

Take-home ration

The state governments should take it upon themselves and provide this. Rather than processed food, take home rations will be better.

Some states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu are already doing this

Early Detection

This will also help in early case detection and treatment compliance.

What the guidance document has

  • Guidelines on nutritional assessment, counselling and support
  • A simplified field chart for doctors and health workers to make patient-specific assessment of required nutrition
  • Recommendation that patients should also be screened for anaemia
  • Recommends extra care for management of severely undernourished patients
  • Severely undernourished patients should be hospitalised

Why is nutrition important?

  • Weights in TB patients are among the lowest in the world
  • 50% of adult men weigh below 43 kg
  • 50% of adult women weigh below 38 kg
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Human rights and Indian values: 

Human rights and Indian values: 

Context

Neither civilizational ethos nor the mere enshrining of constitutional morality is enough to deliver on basic rights

Hate crimes

Author begins by stating that the widely reported hate crimes committed in our country very recently, have been justified in the name of injuring the sensibilities of Hindus. They are, for all to see, unmistakably acts of hate committed against a member of a religious minority

Opinion of Vice President

On December 10, at an official ceremony at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu said two noteworthy things

  • He first affirmed India’s commitment to human rights emphasising the duty of governments to ensure them to individuals
  • Second, he observed that human rights existed in India not due to some constitutional morality but because of the DNA of Indian civilisation. To clarify what he meant he chanted from the Upanishad “Sarve Janaha Sukhino Bhavantu”, loosely translated as “May all be happy”

Author’s contention: Government’s role is fundamental

Author contends that the constitutional provisions are inadequate by themselves and the role of government is fundamental in advancing them. In fact, it is precisely because we cannot rely on civilisational values that may or may not be enshrined in the constitution to deliver us rights that we adopt democracy as the form of government

Civilizational values: Not sufficient

Author states that mere civilizational values are not sufficient in delivering us the rights. Followers of both Hinduism and Islam suffer from arrogance, claiming inclusivity of Hinduism and egalitarianism of Islam. History has shown them to have been neither inclusive nor egalitarian

Progress only due to democracy

It is clear that Indian civilisation has not had much success in ensuring the delivery of social & economic rights. If any progress has at all been made in the desired direction, it has been after the adoption of a democratic form of governance; an arrangement that is distinctly non-Indian in its origins

Collapsing social distance

Economic inequality has steadily risen and ecological stress is written all over the country cannot take away from the fact that there has been progress of a form that has collapsed social distance

  • The rise to the prime ministership of India of Mr. Narendra Modi is the best testament to this
  • There is social churning in India, with some of it having come through affirmative action and some of it through economic transformation in which the more recent liberalisation of the economy has had some role

New enemies

As India has managed to shed its centuries old practices, new forces have emerged,

  • We have begun to see an unimaginable rise of violence against women and Muslims
  • Hardening patriarchy and Hindu chauvinism are India’s unanticipated demons

State should intervene

The efficacy of constitutional provisions is entirely dependent on the government machinery entrusted to our elected representatives. An effective protection of individuals, in this case women and minorities, from acts of violence requires the power of the state to weigh in on their side. In too many cases of violence against women, Muslims and Dalits, the Indian state is distinguished by its absence

Response to historical wrongs

In a recent paper Canada-based economist Mukesh Eswaran demonstrated that it is possible to understand “9/11” and home-grown terrorism in Western Europe as a response to the historical wrongs inflicted on Muslim societies by Western powers, notably the invasion of Iraq

Lessons for India

Transferring Eswaran’s reasoning to the Indian context, one might argue that India should contain violence against its Muslims to ensure the safety of Hindus. But such crass instrumentalism would be unworthy of a great civilisation. We want to ensure the flourishing of all the peoples of India not out of self-preservation but because we want to be civilised

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GS-2


Investment facilitation, norms for small firms gain push at WTO talks

Investment facilitation, norms for small firms gain push at WTO talks

Context

Ongoing WTO’s Nairobi ministerial

News

  • Midway through the negotiations involving 164 World Trade Organisation (WTO) member nations being held here, India is holding its ground on issues such as food security as well as the centrality of development in the talks
  • However, a notable group of countries, including Pakistan and China, have demanded taking forward discussions on investment facilitation and proposed norms relating to small firm

India’s views

According to India, these are “new issues” and, therefore, should be considered only after resolving outstanding issues relating to food security that are part of the ongoing round of negotiations which began in Doha in 2001

China’s communication

In a communication to the WTO mainly at the request of China, 66 countries (including European Union members), both from the developing and the developed world, said: “We call for a dedicated minister-level meeting on investment facilitation at the (Buenos Aires) Ministerial Conference, led by a facilitator, for members to discuss this important topic. We also encourage all WTO members to actively participate in this dedicated session and to endorse the Draft Ministerial Decision on Investment Facilitation for Development.”

MSME

82 nations (including the EU members) called for a dedicated Minister-level meeting on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) at the Buenos Aires meeting for all members to discuss the “important” topic

  • Establishment of a work program: Meanwhile, in the other communication relating to MSMEs, the countries supporting the cause said they reaffirm their commitment to begin a multilateral discussion on the issue through the establishment of a Work Program in the WTO to address the obstacles faced by MSMEs in international trade
  • Recognition of burden faced by MSMEs while participating in international trade: They noted that costs related to foreign trade operations represent a significant burden for the participation of MSMEs in international trade, and acknowledged that MSMEs from developing countries and especially the least developed countries among them face additional obstacles when participating in international trade
  • These WTO member nations said they acknowledged that the participation of MSMEs in international trade has emerged as an important issue in the multilateral trading system and in the WTO agenda
  • They also recognised that MSMEs perform a significant role in the national economies of WTO members, as sources of job creation, innovation, entrepreneurship and economic growth

Rationale of the countries supporting investment facilitation

The countries supporting the issue of investment facilitation said

  • There were dynamic links between investment, trade and development in today’s global economy
  • There was a need for closer international cooperation at the global level to create a more transparent, efficient, and predictable environment for facilitating cross-border investment
  • They agreed that the right of members to regulate, in order to meet their policy objectives, shall be an integral part of the proposed multilateral framework on investment facilitation
  • They welcomed what they called a ‘Draft Ministerial Decision’ on Investment Facilitation for Development which wanted structured discussions with the aim of developing the proposed framework

Discussions shall address

These discussions shall seek to identify and develop the elements of a framework for facilitating foreign direct investments that would:

  • improve the transparency and predictability of investment measures
  • streamline and speed up administrative procedures and requirements
  • enhance international cooperation, information sharing, the exchange of best practices, and relations with relevant stakeholders, including dispute prevention

Facilitating greater developing and least-developed members’ participation in global investment flows will constitute a core objective of the framework

Discussions shall not address

These discussions shall not address

  • Market access
  • Investment protection, and
  • Investor-State Dispute Settlement
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Ministry clarifies tax norms for IT exports:

Ministry clarifies tax norms for IT exports:

Context

The Finance Ministry has clarified that apprehensions related to the negative effects of certain tax demands on the software industry were without basis

Clarification

Government issued the following statement

“It was reported in certain sections of the press that tax officials had raised tax demand in respect of export of IT/IT enabled services provided to clients abroad and that this had been done on the basis of place of supply rules in respect of these services which were apparently provided in India and therefore were liable to be taxed. Subsequently, the Commissioner (Appeals) had set aside the orders of the lower adjudicating authority where refund was disallowed and has also upheld the orders where refund had been granted. Thus, the apprehensions expressed in those sections of the press about the negative effects on the software industry are without basis”

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Centre issues bid guidelines  for procuring wind power:

Centre issues bid guidelines  for procuring wind power:

Context

The government on Tuesday issued guidelines for the procurement of wind power through a bidding process

What has been done?

The government has issued guidelines for the procurement of wind power through a bidding process, which included the standardisation of the process and a definition of the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders

Guidelines applicable to

The guidelines are applicable for procurement of wind power from grid-connected wind power projects (WPP) having-

  • individual size of 5 MW and above at one site with minimum bid capacity of 25 MW for intra-state projects; and
  • individual size of 50 MW and above at one site with minimum bid capacity of 50 MW for inter-state projects,

What do the guidelines include?

The guidelines include

  • Provisions for compensation in case of grid unavailability
  • Put out a payment security mechanism
  • Standardise the bidding process, and
  • Spell out the risk-sharing framework among stakeholders

Views of the ICRA

  • Payment security mechanism along with being favourable for developers will also improve the bankability of the PPA document
  • Measures on compensation for grid curtailment and termination payments, if implemented, is favourable for the wind power developers and improves the bankability of the PPA document
  • Most PPAs so far did not provide for a termination clause and termination payments to the developers in case the developer decided to terminate the PPA due to a default by the procurer
    • In this context, the provisions for termination liability, which, along with substitution rights as approved in bidding guidelines, are expected to provide greater protection to the developers and the lenders

Centre’s expectations

The guidelines are expected to encourage windy States to opt for the bidding process for the procurement of wind power

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‘Fix GST credit claims or face scrutiny’:

‘Fix GST credit claims or face scrutiny’:

Context

The Centre urged taxpayers to correct their TRAN-1 forms to avail transitional credit under GST by December 27, failing which the government would be forced to initiate audit proceedings in cases of high credit claims

What has finance ministry said?

  • Fin Ministry said that while t had received some claims for high transitional credit for which there were legitimate explanations, it had also noted that several claims were not authentic. This behaviour could erode the trust between tax authorities and the taxpayers

TRAN revision deadline

The ministry urged taxpayers who had claimed transitional credit erroneously to revise their TRAN-1 forms by December 27, 2017, and ensure that only correct and genuine credit was availed , “failing which the tax administration would be constrained to initiate audit and enforcement action against the identified units”

TRAN-1 form

Under GST, a tax payer could file the TRAN-1 form and avail input tax credit on the basis of the closing balance of the input tax credit declared in the last return under the pre-GST regime. This was to be done on a self-declaration basis

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India, Australia call for ‘open’ Asia­ Pacific zone:

India, Australia call for ‘open’ Asia­ Pacific zone:

Context

Continuing with the strategic bilateral discussion, Australia and India on Tuesday discussed the need to maintain the Asia-Pacific region as a “free” and “open” zone under the “2+2” dialogue model which includes the foreign and defence secretaries of both sides.

Both sides call for the need to maintain the region as a ‘free’ and ‘open’ zone.

The discussion was the first meeting of this level since the two sides participated in the quadrilateral discussion for a new strategic partnership targeting the Asia-Pacific region.

Freedom of navigation

The “2+2” dialogue was held between Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and their Australian counterparts Frances Adamson and Greg Moriarty

The dialogue indicated that the focus remains on freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, where China has been reclaiming land for infrastructure, boosting its maritime influence.

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Information at the court’s discretion: 

Information at the court’s discretion:

Context

The judiciary’s brazen disregard for the RTI has now got a stamp of approval from a high court

Backdrop

Resistance of the Indian Judiciary to RTI

The apex court summarily rejects RTI requests, and insists that applicants exclusively request information under its administrative rules (Supreme Court Rules) framed in 1966, and re-issued with minor changes in 2014.

Why the Non-engagement with the RTI?

To see why the High Court’s judgment strengthens a culture of opacity in the higher judiciary, we need to delve into the Supreme Court’s engagement, or rather persistent non-engagement with the RTI

The background story

RTI filed with the SC registry

In April 2010, a former schoolteacher, R.S. Misra, filed an RTI request with the Supreme Court Registry. He had earlier sent two letters to different Justices, essentially demanding redress in a case before the apex court that he had already lost. In an evident attempt at using RTI to fight a judicial battle already lost, he sought “action taken” reports on his letters

The Registry rejected the application

The Registry could have lawfully disposed of this RTI request by simply stating that no such information was available. Instead, the Registry rejected the application, and asked Mr. Misra to apply under the Supreme Court Rules

This response challenged before the CIC

Mr. Misra challenged this response before the then Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi

Registry clarifies its position

In May 2011, appearing before the Commission, the Additional Registrar of the Court, Smita Sharma objected only to the use of the RTI, and not to Mr. Misra’s request per se.

The Core Issue in the whole story

She maintained that the Supreme Court Rules alone governed access to the information he had sought. Claiming that the Rules were consistent with the RTI, she asked Mr. Gandhi to reinstate the primacy of Supreme Court Rules over the RTI, in line with previous Central Information Commission (CIC) rulings.

SC Rules undermined RTI in four key ways

However, as Mr. Gandhi noted in his decision, the Supreme Court Rules undermined the RTI in four key ways

Unlike the RTI Act, the Rules do not provide for:

  • A time frame for furnishing information;
  • An appeal mechanism, and penalties for delays or wrongful refusal of information.
  • The Rules also make disclosures to citizens contingent upon “good cause shown

Information at the discretion of the Registry

In sum, the Rules allowed the Registry to provide information at its unquestionable discretion, violating the text and spirit of the RTI.

A Landmark ruling of the CIC :

CIC directs the Registry to respond to applications within the RTI framework alone

Consequently, Mr. Gandhi held that the Supreme Court Rules are inconsistent with the RTI Act, and that the Registry must respond to applications within the RTI framework alone.

A ruse

This was a landmark ruling. As many applicants, which includes this writer, have found, the apex court’s insistence on its own Rules for providing information is a ruse.

The Author attempted to access the information

Between 2014 and 2016, I attempted to access documents related to a disposed public interest litigation, filing requests under the Supreme Court Rules and the RTI Act. The Registry rejected both requests.

Attempts failed

The Additional Registrar’s office told me quite transparently over the phone that it would simply not release the information.

An RTI vs Rules contest: Prolonging the battle

  • Returning to Mr. Misra’s case, faced with an adverse order from Mr. Gandhi, the Registry filed a writ petition before the Delhi High Court in 2011, prolonging the matter
  • In essence, the Registry turned Mr. Misra’s request into an RTI v. Rules contest, as it has done for others too.

Questionable decisions

Justice S. Muralidhar of the High Court stayed Mr. Gandhi’s decision immediately without addressing Section 23 of the RTI Act, which forbids courts from entertaining “any suit, application or other proceeding in respect of any order made under this Act”. The High Court did not justify how its writ jurisdiction applies to an appeal against a CIC order.

The Latest ruling

Six years on, this November, Justice Manmohan overturned Mr. Gandhi’s order. His judgment relies on four planks

  • Misra’s application went beyond the RTI
  • Supreme Court Rules are consistent with the RTI Act
  • The RTI Act cannot apply to the Supreme Court’s judicial functioning;
  • and Mr. Gandhi should not have deviated from previous CIC rulings.

Analysis of the Current Ruling

  • The first point is irrelevant, as the Registry could have disposed of the application under the RTI Act in 2010 itself.
  • The issue before the High Court was the Registry’s refusal to abide by the RTI Act.
  • The second and third points are in contradiction

If the RTI Act and Supreme Court Rules are mutually consistent, then why should the Registry privilege the latter?

  • Moreover, Justice Manmohan did not examine the obvious contradictions between the two. And if the RTI does not apply to judicial functioning, then it is inconsistent with the Supreme Court Rules, and must be declared ultra vires or an overreach
  • The final point is even more untenable. The CIC is not a court of record and Commissioners are not beholden to prior decisions.

The untouchable registry: The nub (the crux or central point of a matter) of the matter is that the Supreme Court Registry wants to provide information at its absolute discretion

Brazen disregard to RTI: Its brazen disregard for the RTI has now got a stamp of approval from a court of record.

Conclusion

The RTI has suffered another blow, not from the berated political class or the much maligned babus, but from the “gems of institutions” enjoined to protect the law.

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With EVMs, no room for malpractice, says EC

With EVMs, no room for malpractice, says EC

Context

The Election Commission on Tuesday said there was no room for any electoral malpractice during the first phase of the Assembly elections due to its robust security and administrative protocols for the handling of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPATs)

Elaborate framework in place to prevent misuse, procedural lapses

The Commission, in a statement, reassured the voters that “it would leave no stone unturned in preserving the purity, integrity and credibility of the elections and reinforcing the faith and trust of the people in the electoral democracy of our country.”

Gujarat Polls secured

The EC said it had put in place an elaborate framework of administrative system, security protocols and procedural checks and balances in Gujarat, which prevented any possible misuse of the machines or any procedural lapses in their use.

Transparency in implementing safeguards

The safeguards were being implemented transparently “with the active and documented involvement of political parties, candidates and their representatives at every stage.”

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Plea on ‘Vande Mataram’ dismissed

Plea on ‘Vande Mataram’ dismissed

Context

The Supreme Court has dismissed a plea to provide equal statutory protection to ‘Vande Mataram’ as the national anthem ‘Jana Gana Mana’

Bench says a court of law cannot direct legislature to make amends in legislation

A Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud dismissed the plea represented by senior advocate, saying that a court of law cannot direct the legislature to make amends in the legislation.

The special leave petition had challenged a Delhi High Court order dismissing a petition filed by Gautam Morarka that the song ‘Vande Mataram’ should get the same statutory recognition, respect and dignity as the national anthem.

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Special courts to try politicians:

Special courts to try politicians:

Context

The Centre informed the Supreme Court that it will set up at least 12 special courts to try exclusively criminal cases involving MPs and MLAs.

Backdrop

The affidavit was in response to a Supreme Court direction in November to the government to frame a Central scheme for setting up special courts across the country exclusively to try criminal cases involving “political persons”. The court is hearing a PIL petition filed by Supreme Court advocate Ashwini Upadhyay who has sought a lifetime ban on all convicted politicians.

Funds allocated

Centre has allotted ₹7.8 crore and framed a scheme to set up them, SC told

1,581 cases

The court on November 1 directed the Centre to place before it details of 1,581 cases involving MPs and MLAs, as declared by the politicians at the time of filing their nominations during the 2014 general elections.

Call for Central scheme

Countering the Centre’s argument that setting up such courts would depend on the availability of funds with the States, the apex court said “the problem can be resolved by having a Central scheme for setting up of courts exclusively to deal with criminal cases involving political persons on the lines of the fast track courts

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