- The tragic death of scores of children recently at the BRD Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur has reopened the discussion on India’s weak state capacity.
- In the last 70 years, the Indian state has clearly failed at delivering quality education and public health to its citizens.
- This raises a couple of troubling questions:
1) Why have democratic institutions not been able to generate sufficient pressure upon successive governments to deliver better health and education services?
2) Why has high economic growth in the last quarter-century not created an improvement in government provision of services?
The work of Monica Das Gupta
- Democratic institutions in India have negatively affected the provision of public health because—as Das Gupta writes—“electorates typically prefer public funds to be used to provide private goods (such as medical care), rather than public goods (such as sanitary measures to protect the health of the population as a whole).”
- The non-democratic regimes of East Asia were more successful in delivering quality public health services.
- Gupta blames “elite capture” which helps divert public funds meant for primary healthcare towards provision of tertiary medical services.
- It should be noted that there is not much evidence to link higher economic growth to better institutions. The causality is better established in the other direction.
- However, there is some evidence that higher economic growth may actually lead to degradation in governance quality.
- The key here is the distinction between “thick accountability” and “thin accountability.”
- For an organization, thin accountability is based on measures of objective performance and is judicable.
- On the other hand, thick accountability comprises justification of organizational actions to internal culture and external stakeholders.
- Setting the curriculum for schools is, therefore, something states with a weak capacity will be able to deliver much better than ensuring teaching standards.
- In healthcare, similarly, tertiary healthcare service is easier than making doctors deliver in primary healthcare centres.
- Both weak electoral demand and weak state capacity are reinforcing the same consequence, which, in healthcare for instance, is prioritization of tertiary medical services over primary healthcare.
- The Global Commission on the Future of Work, established on Monday, has a critical role in addressing the decent jobs deficit that affects the lives of roughly three billion working people.
International Labour Organisation (ILO)
- The body, which includes two representatives from India, is to present a report at the 2019 commemoration of the centenary of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
- Recent dialogues will be building on over 100 states on the implications for individuals and societies from the changing dynamics of work, production processes and rapid technological transformation.
- The ILO’s ongoing assessment of major trends in different segments of the employment scenario points to the challenges that lie ahead and the adaptations required to advance its broader mission to promote social justice.
- The far-reaching alterations witnessed in the means of production and access to mobile information and communication technologies have created a flexible overall work environment.
- These applications permit relative independence from the rigid office settings and make room for people to function with autonomy and even achieve a better work-life balance.
- With an increasingly competitive economic climate, these same developments consistently entail more intense activity and longer hours.
- There is acceleration which is in the demand for industrial robots, at an annual rate of 9% since 2011, making the upgradation of human skills imperative upon corporations and governments alike.
- In the manufacturing sector, where two-thirds of them are concentrated, the robot density one machine deployed per 1,000 employees, in 2015. The number was at 14 in the advanced world and two in developing countries.
- Harnessing the opportunities from these new technologies and mitigating the human costs from this unfolding transformation is a function of recognizing the rights and responsibilities of individuals and employers.
- In 2016, less than half of all women in the working age bracket were engaged in the labour market, compared to over 75% among men.
- Worse, this situation is projected to persist over the next 15 years. Similarly, declining ratios of the population in the working age are expected to exacerbate the challenge of care for the elderly.
- Persistently high levels of unemployment since the global financial crisis perhaps encapsulate most of these concerns.
- The growth in international migration by as much as 50% since 1990 and the rise of xenophobia in many parts of the world illustrate the dangers from the lopsided trajectory of the current phase of globalization.
Factors affecting these challenges
- The first is the continued exclusion of about 50% of the global labour force from the formal sector of employment, with all-round insecurity.
- The other is the absence of meaningful social protection coverage for the majority of the world population.
- Only 27% has recourse to comprehensive minimum support. Given this backdrop, the 2019 centenary must necessarily be more than an occasion for ceremony and symbolism.
- New Delhi wonder if Washington has the political will to carry through the promised pressure on Pakistan to stop hosting terror sanctuaries on its soil.
What’s there for India in the bag?
- For Delhi, it is about seizing the opportunity opened up by Trump’s new policy to raise India’s profile in Afghanistan.
- New Delhi welcomed “President Trump’s determination to enhance efforts to overcome the challenges facing Afghanistan and confronting issues of safe havens and other forms of cross-border support enjoyed by terrorists.
- In his speech Trump had demanded that Pakistan’s support to cross-border terror “will have to change” and “change immediately”.
- On Trump’s affirmation that India ought to do more, Delhi pointed to India’s significant past efforts to promote economic reconstruction in Afghanistan.
- It added that India “will continue these efforts, including in partnership with other countries”
Why should India be cautious?
- India’s positive response does not mean that Delhi is unaware of the enduring impulses in Washington to forgive Rawalpindi’s transgressions in Afghanistan.
- Whatever the US president might say, there are large sections of the US deep state that caution against a radical shift in US policy towards Pakistan.
- If the US has tolerated this for the last 17 years, Delhi has good reason to be cautious in its assessment of what the Trump Administration can compel the Pakistan Army to do today.
- In any case, what we heard is a mere speech. Turning the words of that speech into actions of the ground will not be easy.
- While skepticism is healthy, cynicism that ignores the changes taking place in the US regional policy is not.
- After all, Trump has said something about Pakistan in public that his predecessors were not willing to. If the previous administration acquiesced in Pakistan’s double dealing on terror, Trump has threatened Rawalpindi with consequences if it does not change its behaviour.
India’s role in Afghanistan
- It is equally important for Delhi to note the shift in Washington’s thinking on the Indian role in Afghanistan.
- When it came to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the Bush Administration drew a red line for India. It cautioned Delhi against too large a role in Afghanistan.
- The Obama Administration began with the proposition that the answer to Afghanistan might lie in promoting a resolution of Pakistan’s Kashmir dispute with India. It required intensive diplomacy from India to fend off these initiatives.
- India needs to appreciate the most important change in US Afghan policy.
- Despite all the talk of playing the China card against the US, Pakistan is acutely conscious of the dangers of being treated as a rogue state by the West.
- It’s thundering silence in response to the Trump speech, suggests that Rawalpindi has chosen to avoid, for now, a public argument with Washington.
- Rawalpindi will offer some cooperation in countering terror and make new promises to bring the Taliban to the table. It will urge US pressure on India to start talks on Kashmir.
What should India focus on?
- Delhi’s current emphasis must be on taking advantage of the Trump discontinuity in the American policy towards the Subcontinent. A positive Indian approach would involve three elements — economic, security and diplomatic.
- India must upgrade up its economic diplomacy in Afghanistan to bring immediate benefits to Kabul amidst the deteriorating conditions in the country.
- Delhi must step up security cooperation with Afghanistan, especially in the training of its police and armed forces and intelligence sharing.
- On the diplomatic front, India must counter the emerging argument that Trump’s new approach will intensify the “Indo-Pak rivalry” in Afghanistan and the old one that Kashmir holds the key to peace in Afghanistan.
- Delhi must remind the world of India’s commitment to regional cooperation with Afghanistan and Pakistan, in an atmosphere free of terrorism.
- Trump’s new Afghan strategy could be a potential game-changer for South Asia or a brief exception to the familiar pattern of US-Pak relations.
- While recognizing the potential shadow between Trump’s words and deeds, Delhi must bet on its own engagement that can impact future outcomes in Afghanistan.
Two cheers for the Supreme Court: (The Hindu, Editorial)summary & Understanding context of SC ruling on triple talaq: Divorce rate of Muslim women is thrice that of men:
Two cheers for the Supreme Court: (The Hindu, Editorial)summary & Understanding context of SC ruling on triple talaq: Divorce rate of Muslim women is thrice that of men:
- By a majority decision, instantaneous triple talaq is now invalid, a significant victory that is the result of many decades of struggle by the Muslim women’s movement for gender justice.
- That is something that must be welcomed. However, the value of a Supreme Court judgment lies not only in what it decides, but also in the possibilities and avenues that it opens for the future, for further progressive-oriented litigation.
- In that sense, the triple talaq verdict is a disappointment, because even the majority opinions proceeded along narrow pathways, and avoided addressing some crucial constitutional questions.
The 1937 Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act
- The 1937 Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act had codified all Muslim personal law, including the practice of triple talaq.
- This brought it within the bounds of the Constitution. It is so because because talaq-e-biddat allowed unchecked power to Muslim husbands to divorce their wives, without any scope for reconciliation, it was “arbitrary”, and failed the test of Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution. The practice, therefore, was unconstitutional.
- Under India’s constitutional jurisprudence, personal law that has been given a statutory form, such as the Hindu Marriage Act is subject to the Constitution.
- However, uncodified personal law is exempted from constitutional scrutiny.
- The moment the state legislates on personal law practices, its actions can be tested under the Constitution, but if the state fails to act, then those very practices which, for all relevant purposes, are recognized and enforced by courts as law need not conform to the Constitution.
- This jarring position, which had first been advanced by the Bombay High Court in a 1952 decision called Narasu Appa Mali, and has never seriously been challenged after that, has the effect of creating islands of “personal law” free from constitutional norms of equality, non-discrimination, and liberty.
- In a separate opinion, this turned out to be the “swing vote.”
- It was mentioned that talaq-e-biddat found no mention in the Kuran, and was no part of Muslim personal law.
- This brings us back to the dissent. Not only did the dissenting opinion privilege community claims over individual constitutional rights, it also conflated the freedom of religion with personal law, thereby advancing a position where religion could become the arbiter of individuals’ civil status and civil rights.
Data from the Census of India, 2011
- The Data showed that while among all religious communities, the rate of divorce was significantly lower among men than among women; the disparity was particularly stark among Muslims.
- So while the “refined divorce rate”, or rate of divorce per 1,000 marriages, was 1.59 among Muslim men, among Muslim women, it was more than three and a half times higher — 5.63.
- There are no concrete data on the prevalence of this form of divorce, the impact of the judgment is, therefore, difficult to measure.
- Muslim couples can divorce in other ways too, including through the intervention of religious institutions such as the Qazi and Dar-ul-Qaza.
- Among Muslim women, the largest percentage of divorces take place in the age group 20-34 (43.9%), in which only 24% of the total Muslim female population lies.
- 9% of Muslim women divorcees are of age 19 and below, the most among all communities in this age group.
- As per Census 2011, the total number of divorcees in India was only 13.2 lakh, a severely underreported figure, according to activists.
- There were 9.09 lakh women divorcees (68% of the total divorcee population) and 4.52 lakh divorced men.
- Delicate mosses found on rocks and trees in cities around the world can now be used to measure the impact of atmospheric change and could prove a low-cost way to monitor urban pollution, as per Japanese scientists.
- The “bio-indicator” retorts to pollution or drought-stress by changing shape, density or disappearing, permitting scientists to calculate atmospheric alterations, said Yoshitaka Oishi, associate professor at Fukui Prefectural University.
- The used method is very cost effective and vital for getting information about atmospheric conditions.
What are Mosses?
- Mosses are a common plant in all cities so we can use this method in many countries.
- They have a big potential to be bio-indicators.
- Humid cities where moss thrives could benefit most from using bryophytes, a collective term for mosses, hornworts and liverworts – as bio-indicators, adding moss could be monitored in its natural environment or cultivated for analysis.
Effects of nitrogen pollution
- In a research paper published in the Landscape and Urban Planning journal explained the effect of nitrogen pollution, air quality and drought-stress on moss found over a 3km square (1.9 mile) area in Hachioji City in northwestern Tokyo.
- The study exhibited severe drought-stress tended to occur in areas with high levels of nitrogen pollution, which it said raised concerns over the impact on health and biodiversity.
- However, the scientists could not efficiently measure air purity which affects the number of moss types as pollution levels in the sample area were not high enough.
- If the air pollution is severe, the purity is also evaluated by moss; the change of the moss is very diverse according to the environmental problem.
- Bio-indicators such as mosses, which generally absorb water and nutrients from their immediate environments were often cheaper to use than other methods of environmental evaluation, and can also reflect changes to ecosystems.
- The national debate on GST is a case in point. GST has to be weighed upon a broader taxation policy perspective.
The question of taxation policy as a whole
- India’s tax-GDP ratio is 18 per cent which compares miserably when with developed countries (between 30 per cent and 40 per cent) as well as comparable economies such as Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa (between 23 per cent and 26 per cent).
- India, on the launch pad of development, has to attain a thrust by improving upon this figure to reach a target of 25 per cent.
- Of all the total taxes collected in India, almost two-thirds come from indirect taxes while taxes on income and profits contribute only a one-third share.
- In terms of healthy economic development as well as social policy objectives, such a low base of direct taxes and a high proportion of indirect taxes is the recipe for an adverse future. It is with this perspective on taxation policy, that we must assess GST.
Positives of GST regime
- Under reporting of turnover and evasion of taxes on goods and services is the first step towards evasion of taxes on profits and income.
- With a greater convergence of direct and indirect tax departments and also due to the creation non-erasable automated electronic trails by GST, it will not be easy for the business class to default on direct taxes.
- With GST, there will be a tremendous pull and push to be a registered and tax compliant business unit rather than remain an unregistered seller due to the peculiar system of tax input credit.
Results are disappointing than promising
- Although it appears that India’s GST rate is broken down into four rates — 5, 12, 18, and 28 per cent.
- The reality shows that at least seven rates would be in operation. This will not only defy the basic winning point of GST “one nation one tax” but also increase the possibility of corruption and falsification due to a multiple-slab, loophole-prone tax system.
- Gold, which as a fully imported item creates nothing but current account deficits and acts as a frequent destination for black money, has been allotted only 3 per cent GST and diamonds, 0.25 per cent.
- Meanwhile, essentials like sanitary napkins and medicines are to attract 5, 12 or 18 per cent GST
- Certain items such as petroleum, electricity and taxes on liquor, which constitute a major chunk of states’ income, are kept away from the purview of the almighty GST.
- It should be noted that the taxes on refined petroleum products in the country constitute about 40 per cent (diesel) to 56 per cent (petrol) of their retail prices.
- In the last three years in particular, there has been a rise of 122 per cent in the indirect tax collection from the petroleum sector.
- The exclusion of the petroleum sector from GST is not only travesty of justice; it also indicates the intention of the government to cling to its reliance on indirect taxes as the key source of taxation rather than shifting to direct taxes.
- Overall, internet penetration in India is at merely 32.8 per cent, out of which only 15.4 per cent is the rural population. Due to lack of infrastructural preparedness, there could be a temporary obstruction in small and medium businesses.
- From a deeper exploration, it is clear that taxation, rather than just being an issue of ascertaining the exact liability of tax and its enforcement, is also a matter of discovery and voluntary disclosure.
- For various cultural as well as social-historical reasons, the tax psychology in India is of avoidance rather than compliance.
- GST uses a unique modified deterrent behavioural model, wherein it promotes tax compliance behaviour as a compulsion along with a self-profiting motive.
- The lack of demand from micro and small industries due to ambiguity on Goods and Services Tax (GST), prices of natural rubber are likely to decline in the coming months.
The dipping prices of rubber
- The price has dipped from Rs. 143 per kg in April this year to Rs. 129-130 per kg.
- This price drop may accentuate in the months of October and November, which is the peak production season.
- Imports still linger despite the low prices of domestic material, weakening the domestic demand and prices.
- Entering into a growing season with abundant local material available to the consuming industry, suitable policies need to be brought in to restrict imports during these high cropping months to improve prices and prevent melt down of this strategic industry.
- There are some input materials which have gone into the bracket of higher taxation, adversely affecting the grower and increasing the cost of production.
- Some examples are plastic shells for tapping, fungicides, sheet rollers and other processing equipment and this needs to be reviewed and corrected.
- The non-tyre industry, which comprises micro and very small business, has been adversely affected due to factors such as size, turnover and capacity to weather the implication of the new regulations.
- Most in the industry have very low turnover and are not registered under GST, which provides for exemption as unregistered producer.
- An unregistered producer has disadvantages in terms of claiming refund on taxes paid as well as dealing with buyers who will have to discharge the tax liability incurred for the grower.
- This has led to lack of demand from thousands of these small industries which are struggling to cope up with the new ways (GST) of doing business.
- Though GST recognises unregistered buyers, rubber buying and trading mandates licence as per the Rubber Act.
- The Cabinet approved ‘in-principle’ the constitution of an alternative mechanism, likely to be a ministerial group, that will oversee the proposals for mergers among banks.
- As of today, there are 20 public sector banks plus the State Bank of India (SBI).
- Adding SBI’s five subsidiaries and Bharatiya Mahila Bank had already been merged with the country’s largest bank.
- The Centre’s nudge towards consolidation among public sector banks assumes significance as most of them are grappling with huge levels of non-performing assets or NPAs, slow credit off take and resultant pressures on capital adequacy.
- It adds commercial strengths and prevents multiplicity of resources being spent in the same areas.
- It also improves the capacity of the banking system to absorb shocks that the market throws up.
- Stronger public sector banks will help meet the credit needs of a growing economy, absorb shocks and give them the capacity to raise resources without depending unduly on the state exchequer.