Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] The seriousness of the problem of unemployment in Indiaop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Addressing Unemployment


Indian economy is slowing. This is largely a result of weakening demand, mostly in rural areas. Slowing demand has contributed to the declining availability of jobs, where jobless growth is already a problem.

The seriousness of the problem

  1. Employment-unemployment surveys of National Sample Survey Office (NSSO): latest Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) tells us the following total number of workers in the economy was 472.5 million in 2011-12, which fell to 457 million in 2017-18. The absolute number of workers declined by 15.5 million over six years.
    1. this is the first time in the history of employment measurement by the NSSO that the total number of workers declined in absolute terms.
  2. 16-million decline in the number of workers reported by the Labour Bureau’s Annual Employment Surveys of the fourth and fifth rounds

Reasons for unemployment

  1. fall in the number of workers in agriculture and a sharp fall in the absolute number of female workers
    1. Roughly 37 million workers left agriculture in the last six years.
    2. At the same time, 25 million women workers were out of the workforce.
  2. crisis in agriculture in the last six years has only accelerated the process
  3. The trend of declining women workers has absolutely no parallel in any developing or developed country of similar per capita income. In most East Asian countries, the period of rapid growth was also accompanied by a rising number of women workers.


  1. Number of people aged 25-64 years increased by around 47 million during the six-year period
  2. The economy should have created at least 83 million jobs between 2012 and 2018 to accommodate those who have entered the labour force and those forced out of agriculture. But it witnessed a decline in the number of workers by 15.5 million


Stagnant wages and jobless growth are not just indicators of a weakening economy, but also a recipe for political instability and a crisis in the countryside. The government should acknowledge the extent of the problem and then try to address it.

Government Budgets

[op-ed snap] Borrow abroad and profitop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Government Debt and its composition

Mains level : Public debt and related issues


The government is planning to issue 10 year bonds denominated in foreign currency.

Why it is a good idea

  1. Such borrowing would be cheaper because dollar or yen interest rates are lower than rupee interest rates.
  2. Our debt to GDP ratio is not very high, the exchange rate is stable, and foreign exchange reserves are high. So foreign borrowing, if its long term, is not a problem.
  3. If foreign bond issuance was accompanied by a move towards greater capital account convertibility then it may be worth pursuing.
  4. A country pays a country premium for borrowing in dollars; currently, the US 10-year bond is trading at 2%. A complex set of factors determine the country’s premium, but the magnitude of reserves and foreign currency debt are important attributes. India has less debt denominated in foreign currency, close to 5%. Thus, we should be able to borrow at a somewhat lower premium than 150 bp, possibly 130bp.
  5. Indian inflation has moved structurally downward over the last three years.
  6. It will also help to significantly lower the real repo rate to respectable levels. 

Problems with these bonds

  1. Usually, the lower dollar interest rate is offset in the long run by higher principal repayments as the rupee depreciates against the dollar.
  2. Loss of sovereignty and may lead to currency depreciation

No country has grown at “trend” rates with a real repo rate of around 3.4%, not even 2.4% or 2%. Issuing bonds now is an idea whose time has come.

Corporate Social Responsibility: Issues & Development

[op-ed snap] A case against punishing non-compliance of CSR guidelinesop-ed snap


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Understand CSR regulations and Companies Act, 2013

Mains level : CSR


To mandate that private firms donate a part of their revenues to charitable causes is to profoundly misunderstand both the social responsibility of corporations and the meaning of the word donation.

Arguments against punishing non-compliance

  1. The fundamental social responsibility of corporates is to generate wealth for shareholders in a law-abiding, ethical and sustainable way. 
  2. They generate surpluses for society, provide consumers with goods and services that they need, create employment, purpose and dignity among workers, and strengthen the nation. 
  3. A profitable, well-run corporation does more for India and its people than any charity could possibly do.
  4. Government, through taxation, has the duty of providing public goods like education, public health, safety, and environmental protection. The government should not indulge in wasteful expenditures through loss-making airlines, wrong subsidies, etc.,
  5. Philanthropy is a private matter—it is up to the individual to decide whether, how much and who to give to. The government can encourage this—through tax deductions, public acclamation, and moral suasion, but should not intervene.


  1. Allocate funds into activities that a government of a low-income democracy cannot.
  2. Faced with immense developmental challenges, our governments cannot easily justify allocations for world-class art galleries, museums, theatres, sports facilities, research institutions and so on.
  3. Individual philanthropy and CSR can support causes that democratic politics won’t allow the government to.

Problems with current CSR spending 

  1. The bulk of CSR spending is going into education, health, rural areas, environment and so on. Already the government is spending hundreds of lakhs of crores for the same purposes. 
  2. Corporate executives are unable to decide on the best social use of CSR funds because they are not equipped to do so.

Way ahead

  1. The right role and the right balance between corporate profits, government taxes, and individual charity promote social welfare.
  2. Do away with mandatory CSR, lower corporate taxes, and introduce tax deductions for certain activities that the government wishes to promote.

Census 2021 may skip caste countPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Census 2021

Mains level : Not Much

No recording of caste data

  • Census 2021 is unlikely to collect “caste wise” data as a similar exercise conducted in 2011 by another ministry threw up about 40 lakh caste names that were difficult to tabulate.
  • The Census data would be available by the year 2024-25 as the entire process would be conducted digitally and data crunching would be quicker, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
  • The 2011 caste data, collected as part of the Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), is yet to be released by the Centre.
  • As per the National Commission for Backward Classes, there are 2,479 entries in the Central list of the Other Backward Classes (OBC).
  • The Census would restrict itself to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes data.

What’s new in 2021 Census?

  • The Census 2021 will be conducted in 18 languages out of the 23 scheduled languages, while Census 2011 was in 16 of the 18 scheduled languages declared at that time.
  • It will be conducted in two phases: the houselisting phase with 34 parameters from April 2020 to September 2020 and the population enumeration phase with 28 parameters from February 9 2021 to February 28 2021.
  • The option of “Other” under the gender category, which roughly 5 lakh people marked in 2011, is now “Third Gender”.
  • In a first time move, the process will now also include an optional mobile application that the 30 lakh enumerators can download on their own personal devices for data entry.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

U.S. formally withdraws from INF arms treatyIOCR


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : INF Treaty

Mains level : Impact of US withdrawl from INF Treaty

  • The U.S. and Russia ripped up a Cold War-era missile pact in a move that raised the spectre of an arms race between the global superpowers.

INF Treaty

  • The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty limited the use of medium-range missiles, both conventional and nuclear.
  • Under the INF treaty, the US and formerly Soviet Union agreed not to develop, produce, possess or deploy any ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles that have a range between 500 and 5,500 km.
  • It exempted the air-launched and sea-based missile systems in the same range.
  • The INF treaty helped address the fears of an imminent nuclear war in Europe.
  • It also built some trust between Washington and Moscow and contributed to the end of the Cold War.

Loopholes in the treaty

  • It left the other nuclear weapon powers free to develop ground-based intermediate-range forces
  • In the age of nuclear superpowers, it did not seem to matter.
  • Since then, many countries have developed missiles in the range of 500 to 5,500 km, including India, Pakistan and North Korea.
  • Nearly 90 per cent of China’s vast missile armoury — estimated at around 2,000 rockets — is in the intermediate range and would be illegal if Beijing were to be a part of the INF treaty.

Row over a missile

  • Washington has for years accused Russia of developing a new type of missile, the 9M729, which it says violates the treaty — claims that NATO has backed up.
  • The missile has a range of about 1,500 kilometres according to NATO, though Moscow says it can only travel 480 kilometres.
  • Russia had failed to return to full and verified compliance through the destruction of its noncompliant missile system.
Right To Privacy

Giving voice sample to police does not violate privacy: Supreme CourtSC Judgements


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Article 20

Mains level : Debate over right to privacy

  • In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court has held that a judicial magistrate is empowered to order a person to give a sample of his voice for the purpose of investigation.

Right to privacy is not absolute

  • Directing a person to part with his voice sample to police is not a violation of his fundamental right to privacy.
  • The judgment authored by CJI said that the fundamental right to privacy cannot be construed as absolute and must bow down to compelling public interest.
  • Hence giving voice sample to an investigating agency was not a violation of the fundamental right against self-incrimination.
  • Originally, Article 20 (3) of the Constitution mandated that no person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

Not a self-incrimination

  • The Chief Justice compared a voice sample with other impressions like specimen handwriting, or impressions of his fingers, palm or foot collected by police during investigation.
  • The court ruled that giving voice sample by a person did not amount to furnishing of evidence against oneself.
  • A voice sample is given for the reason of comparison with other voices in order to see if they matched and were of the same person.
  • Hence voice sample by itself is not incriminating evidence.

Voiceprint as evidence

  • The 87th Report of the Law Commission of India in 1980 describes a voice print as a “visual recording of voice”.
  • Voiceprints resemble fingerprints, in that each person has a distinctive voice with characteristic features dictated by vocal cavities and articulates.
GI(Geographical Indicator) Tags

[pib] Pashmina Products Receive BIS CertificationPIB


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Pashmina Wool

Mains level : BIS Certification

  • Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has published an Indian Standard for identification, marking and labelling of Pashmina products to certify its purity.


  • Pashmina is a fine type of cashmere wool. The textiles made from it were first woven in Kashmir.
  • The wool comes from a number of different breeds of the cashmere goat; such as the changthangi or Kashmir pashmina goat from the Changthang Plateau in Tibet and part of the Ladakh region and few parts of Himachal Pradesh.
  • Often shawls called shahmina are made from this material in Kashmir and Nepal; these shawls are hand spun and woven from the very fine cashmere fibre.
  • Traditional producers of pashmina wool are people known as the Changpa.


  • The certification will help curb the adulteration of Pashmina and also protect the interests of local artisans and nomads who are the producers of Pashmina raw material.
  • It will also assure the purity of Pashmina for customers.
  • It will ensure better prices for the goat herding community in Ladakh as well as for the local handloom artisans producing genuine Pashmina products.

About Pashmina goat

  • The Changthangi or Pashmina goat is a special breed of goat indigenous to the high altitude regions of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • They are raised for ultra-fine cashmere wool, known as Pashmina once woven. The Textiles are handspun and were first woven in Kashmir.
  • The Changthangi goat grows a thick warn undercoat which is the source of Kashmir Pashmina wool – the world’s finest cashmere measuring between 12-15 microns in fiber thickness.
  • These goats are generally domesticated and reared by nomadic communities called the Changpa in the Changthang region of Greater Ladakh.
  • The Changthangi goats have revitalized the economy of Changthang, Leh and Ladakh region.


Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)

  • The BIS is the national Standards Body of India working under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution.
  • It is established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 which came into effect on 23 December 1986.
  • The Minister in charge of the Ministry or Department having administrative control of the BIS is the ex-officio President of the BIS.
Judicial Pendency

Mediation and Out-of-Court settlementPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Read the attached story

Mains level : Out of court settlement mechanisms in India

  • The attempt at mediation and an amicable out-of-court settlement of a famous temple dispute has failed.

Legal basis of Mediation

  • Negotiation or mediation is an accepted part of the procedure to resolve disputes.
  • Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure asks judges to ensure that all avenues to resolve a dispute outside the court have been exhausted.
  • The section reads: Where it appears to the Court that there exist elements of a settlement which may be acceptable to the parties, the Court shall formulate the terms of settlement.
  • The Court may reformulate the terms of a possible settlement and refer the same for- (a) Arbitration (b) conciliation (c) judicial settlement including settlement through Lok Adalat or (d) mediation.
Skilling India – Skill India Mission,PMKVY, NSDC, etc.

[pib] SANKALP SchemePIB


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : SANKAL Scheme

Mains level : Various initiatives for skill education

  • Minister of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship has reviewed the World Bank loan assisted “Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Promotion (SANKALP) programme.

Why in news?

  • All 36 States/ UTs across country have submitted their consent for participation in SANKALP.
  • In addition to these State grants of Rs 10 lakh each also released to 117 aspirational districts under Aspirational Skilling Abhiyaan.


  • SANKALP is an outcome-oriented centrally sponsored programme of Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE) with a special focus on decentralized planning and quality improvement.
  • The project is implemented with the support of World Bank monetarily in line with the objectives of National Skills Development Mission (NSDM).
  • It focuses on the overall skilling ecosystem covering both Central & State agencies.
  • Under SANKALP four key result areas have been identified viz:
  1. Institutional Strengthening (at National, State & District level)
  2. Quality Assurance Quality Assurance of skill development programs
  3. Inclusion of marginalized population in skill development and
  4. Expanding Skills through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)
Oil and Gas Sector – HELP, Open Acreage Policy, etc.

Oil-emanating tarballs on Mumbai’s beachesPriority 1


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Tarballs

Mains level : Ocean water pollution

  • Recently on Girgaum chowpatty a famous tourist spot in South Mumbai saw big, black oil-emanating balls lying on its sandy beach.

What are tarballs?

  • The tar balls are crude-oil forms from which petrol is extracted.
  • Tar balls are dark-coloured, sticky balls of oil that form when crude oil floats on the ocean surface.
  • They are formed by weathering of crude oil in marine environments.
  • They are transported from the open sea to the shores by sea currents and waves.
  • Tarballs are usually coin-sized and are found strewn on the beaches. However, over the years, they have become as big as basketballs and can weigh as high as 6-7 kgs.

Do tarballs indicate an oil spill?

  • Most of the times, the presence of several tarballs indicate an oil spill.
  • However, its annual occurrence on the west coast during the monsoon has led marine biologists and experts to demand an investigation in the matter.
  • Experts have urged authorities to take stricter vigil and check if ships are dumping burnt oil waste off the western coast of India.
  • Oil-well blowouts, accidental and deliberate release of bilge and ballast water from ships, river runoff, discharges through municipal sewage and industrial effluents” also leads to the formation of tarballs.

Are tarballs harmful?

  • Tarball pollution is a major concern to global marine ecosystem.
  • Tarballs that travel towards the coast can get stuck to the fishing nets installed in the sea, making it difficult for fishermen to clean.
  • In addition, it could affect marine life, especially filter feeders like clams and oysters.
  • Coming in contact with a small amount of the greasy oil is not harmful, but if an individual is sensitive to hydro-carbons found in crude oil, then the contact area should be washed with soap and water.

How are they disposed?

  • Microbes such as bacteria and fungi are known to be associated with tarballs.
  • They presumably play an important role in tarball degradation and some are potential human and animal pathogens.
Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

[pib] India to conduct 1st National Time Release Study (TRS)PIB


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : TRS

Mains level : Not Much

  • The Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance is conducting India’s first national Time Release Study (TRS) this week.

Time Release Study (TRS)

  • The TRS is an internationally recognized tool advocated by World Customs Organization to measure the efficiency and effectiveness of international trade flows.
  • This initiative for accountable governance will measure rule based and procedural bottlenecks (including physical touchpoints) in the clearance of goods, from the time of arrival until the physical release of cargo.
  • The national TRS has taken this a multi-dimensional methodology which measures the regulatory and logistics aspects of the cargo clearance process and establishes the average release time for goods.
  • The initiative is on ground lead by the Central Board of Indirect Tax and Customs.
  • The aim is to identify and address bottlenecks in the trade flow process and take the corresponding policy and operational measures required to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of border procedures.

Benefits of TRS

  • This initiative will help India maintain the upward trajectory on Ease of Doing Business, particularly on the Trading Across Borders indicator which measures the efficiency of the cross border trade ecosystem.
  • Last year India’s ranking on the indicator improved from 146 to 80.
  • Expected beneficiaries of this initiative will be export oriented industries and MSMEs, who will enjoy greater standardization of Indian processes with comparable international standards.
  • Based on the results of the TRS, government agencies associated with cross border trade will be able to diagnose existing and potential bottlenecks which act as barriers to the free flow of trade, and take remedial actions for reducing the cargo release time.
Irrigation In India – PMKSY, AIBP, Watershed Management, Neeranchan, etc.

Meghdoot mobile app to assist farmersPrelims Only


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Meghdoot app and its functions

Mains level : Read the attached story

Meghdoot App

  • The Ministries of Earth Sciences and Agriculture have launched a mobile application that will provide location, and crop and livestock-specific weather-based agro advisories to farmers in local languages.
  • It has been developed by experts from the India Meteorological Department and Indian Institute of Tropical meteorology and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.
  • To begin with, the service would be available for 150 districts in different parts of the country.
  • It will be extended to rest of the country in a phased manner over the next one year.

Utilities of the app

  • It will provide forecast relating to temperature, rainfall, humidity, and wind speed and direction, which play critical roles in agricultural operations and advisories to the farmers on how to take care of their crops and livestock.
  • The app would provide information in the form of images, maps and pictures to help the farmer to have a clearer picture of what is in store.
  • It has been integrated with WhatsApp and Facebook as well to help farmers share advisories among themselves. It will also be integrated with YouTube in future.