February 2019
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[op-ed snap] Agriculture can alleviate employment woes


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & employment

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Need of focusing on the farming reforms for job growth and sustainable income opportunities for farmers



If only agriculture can be turned economically viable and ecologically sustainable, it can easily take away much of the pressure the country faces in creating additional employment.

Worsening Employment Situation in India

  • IN March 2018, an estimated 2.5 crore people, more than the population of Australia, applied for about 90,000 positions in the Indian Railways.
  • In 2015, over 23 lakh candidates, including 22 lakh engineers and 255 PhD holders, had applied for 368 posts of peon in the Uttar Pradesh state secretariat.
  • This is borne by the fact that India’s unemployment rate rose to a 45-year high during 2017-18.

Divergence in Economic Growth and Employment

  • India’s economy has been on a growth trajectory in the past four years – growing at an average exceeding 7 per cent per annum — the failure to provide jobs to millions of people is a clear-cut pointer that relying on a higher GDP is not the answer to creating more jobs.
  • A higher GDP does not translate into more employment opportunities.

Is migration from agriculture area to cities good?

  • Many economists term the migration from agriculture to be a welcome sign.
  • Going by the World Bank prescription,which was doled out back in 1996, India was directed to go for a population shift, translocating 40 crore people from rural to urban areas in the next 20 years, by 2015.
  • However, these 40 crore people being forced to migrate from the villages are ‘agricultural refugees’.
  • In the absence of alternative employment opportunities, these millions are swarming into the cities looking for menial jobs.
  • The general understanding is that those moving out of agriculture will be automatically absorbed by the manufacturing sector.
  • It was primarily for this consideration that the National Skill Development Policy aimed at reducing the population involved in agriculture from 52 per cent to 38 per cent by 2022.
  • But the reality is that during the period, agriculture saw an unprecedented rate of migration; manufacturing, too, slumped, causing a loss of 5.3 crore jobs.

The solution lies in agricultural reforms

  • Agriculture is the biggest employer, employing 52 per cent of the population as per the 2011 Census.
  • The resolution of the monumental employment crisis that India faces actually lies in the crop fields.
  • If only agriculture can be turned economically viable and ecologically sustainable, it can easily take away much of the pressure the country faces in creating additional employment.
  • it requires is a paradigm shift in economic thinking, which begins by first treating agriculture as an economic activity.
  • Making farm livelihoods economically sustainable should be the first step towards achieving the objective of ensuring gainful employment for marginalised communities.
  • Once agriculture becomes economically viable, it will reignite the rural-based industry, and in the process trigger a reverse migration.

Way Forward

  • Only agriculture has the ability to reboot the economy. The increased demand a refurbished agriculture will create will be phenomenal, leading to a spurt in industrial production.
Agricultural Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

[op-ed snap] Re-imagining Delhi


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions & basic structure

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Note important features of Delhi Exceptionalism and ways to resolve the long standing crisis.



The battle over the legislative and executive control of the National Capital Territory of Delhi remains unresolved.

Court’s Verdict

  • The split verdict by a two-judge bench comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan has, in essence, affirmed the power of the Union government (through the office of the lieutenant governor) over the elected state government on crucial matters.
  • The Centre remains the cadre-controlling authority in Delhi and the Delhi Anti Corruption Branch cannot investigate central government officers.
  • The two judges, however, differed on whether the state government can manage cadre below the rank of joint secretary and the matter will now be referred to a larger bench.

Factors responsible for the conflict

  • The State government  has been choosing spectacle and agitation over quiet and patient negotiation.
  • The Centre, through successive LGs and the home ministry, has tried to hobble a government with an impressive mandate using Delhi’s constitutional peculiarity.
  • It’s legally a Union Territory with an elected government whose powers are circumscribed.
  • Both the current Union and Delhi governments enjoy impressive mandates. Unfortunately, instead of using their opportunity to bring in a much-needed redefinition of the division of powers, they have passed the buck to the courts.
  • Delhi’s exceptionalism, the power imbalance in favour of the Centre, emerges from the needs of a national capital — the seat of government and power, the nerve centre of administration.

Approaching Solution

  • It is only through a mature politics that the root cause of the over-politicisation of governance.
  • The courts are limited by the letter of the law, by the contours of the distribution of powers laid down in the Constitution and previous judgments.
  • Delhi needs is a bold re-imagination of the skewed federal contract that currently determines its executive and legislative boundaries.
  • The tussle between the Centre and state, between the people and the law, can only be addressed through a new idea of statehood, one which recognises that sovereignty ultimately derives from the people.


A mature discussion between stakeholders that looks beyond short-term political gains holds the potential to resolve the embedded contradiction.

Delhi Full Statehood Issue

[op-ed snap]It’s a wage crisis


Mains Paper 3: Economic Development| Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing as such.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issue that government  should focus on wage issue along with jobs crisis.



The debate around unemployment has gained prominence as suggested that uneployment is highest in last 45 years.

Change in wage structure since Independence

  • Low or zero marginal productivity in farms, self-employment or subsistence wage employment — has been India’s labour market shock absorber since 1947.
  • This shock absorber no longer works because Indians born after 1991 expect a living wage (that meets aspirations) rather than a minimum wage (that keeps mind and body together).
  • These higher wage expectations can only be met by transitioning people to higher productivity sectors, geographies, and firms.

Issues with current debate reagrding lack of Jobs

  • Indian who wants a job has a job but they don’t get the wages they want or need because
    • They work in unviable sectors (48 per cent of our labour force on farms generates only 13 per cent of the GDP)
    • unviable firms (our 6.3 crore enterprises only translate to 19,500 companies with a paid-up capital greater than Rs 10 crore)
    • unviable entrepreneurship (50 per cent of our labour force is not self-employed but self-exploiting),
    • unviable geographies (2 lakh of our 6 lakh villages have less than 200 people).

Wage Comparison within country and with other economies

  • High wages need a complex ecosystem of high productivity firms and individuals: IT firms employ only 0.7 per cent of India’s labour force but produce 7 per cent of India’s GDP.
  • A waiter in Chicago with skills similar to a waiter in Jaipur makes 20 times higher wages because of the productivity of the customers eating at the restaurant,
  • India’s 20 million manufacturing SME’s have at least 25 times lower productivity than Germany’s 200,000 mittelstand (SMEs).
  • GDP of 114 million Maharashtrians is more than 204 million people in Uttar Pradesh because Maharashtra is more formalised, industrialised, financialised, urbanised and skilled.
  • the GDP of 1.2 billion Indians till 2019 was lower than 66 million Britons because socialism — capitalism without competition and bankruptcy — led to nutty economics after 1947.
  • in the 1980s that India’s public sector steel industry employed 10 times more people to produce half the steel of South Koreans.

Changes and reforms in employment and wage structures

  • Six million new registered enterprises after GST and 30 million new social security payers in three years.
  • New monetary policy committee and fiscal discipline have blunted inflation from 8.33 per cent in 2014 to 2.19 per cent.
  • Our new bankruptcy law has started recycling assets of Rs 14 lakh crore.
  • Digital payments have exploded from 0.1 million the month before demonetisation to 650 million last month.
  • Infrastructure spending has doubled in the last five years accompanied by qualitative improvements in air connectivity, ports, highways and railways.
  • India has more than a crore new individual tax filers since demonetisation with a 45 per cent increase in returns with incomes below Rs 10 lakh last year.

Way Forward

  • The impatience of our young is changing India and her politics. And thankfully, our democracy means that the Chinese communist party strategy articulated in the 1980s — fill their stomachs but empty their minds — will not work in India.
  • India’s youth don’t aspire to replace self-exploitation with the patronising pessimism of loan-write offs, subsidies or income without work.
  • They recognise that a hard day’s work in a formal job provides dignity, strength, identity and purpose in addition to living wages.






[op-ed snap]Towards an efficient transport infrastructure


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Various Infrastructure related schemes

Mains level: This newscard analyses initiative taken in improving Transport Infrastructure and overall impact of such initiative on growth.



The recent headway made in developing transport infrastructure will prove to be the biggest enabler for growth.

Growth in transport Infrastructure

  • At the highest ever pace of construction,  more than 35,000 km of national highways have been built in four and a half years.
  • World-class expressways such as the Eastern Peripheral Expressway and Western Peripheral Expressway or engineering marvels such as the Dhola Sadiya Bridge and Chenani Nashri Tunnel.
  • The Bharatmala Pariyojana is unique and unprecedented in terms of its size and design, as is the idea of developing ports as engines of growth under Sagarmala.
  • The development of 111 waterways for transport, FASTags, the promotion of alternative fuels such as ethanol, methanol, biofuels, and electricity, as well as innovative modes of travel such as seaplanes and aeroboats.

Implications of Transport Infrastructure Growth

  • An efficient transport infrastructure is the biggest enabler for growth.
  • Bharatmala and Sagarmala programmes y will improve both penetration and efficiency of transport movement on land and water, respectively.
  • They will help connect places of production with markets more efficiently, help reduce logistics costs, create jobs and promote regionally balanced socio-economic growth in the country.

Connectivity with the neighboring countries

  • Our road and sea transport networks are being developed for providing better, seamless and more efficient access not just within the country, but also to our neighbouring countries using an optimal mix of roads and waterways.
  • Afghanistan and beyond through Chabahar, or Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand through upcoming highways and waterways.

Priority areas in the development of transport infrastructure

  • Priority is also on improving the overall convenience and on-road experience of the road users.
  • This involves ensuring their safety, reducing congestion and pollution levels and providing roadside amenities.

Ensuring safety on road

  • Priority to rectifying accident black spots through engineering means,
  • Employing road safety features at the design stage for highways,
  • Conducting road safety audits, setting up driver training and post-trauma care centres as well as generating awareness.

 Addressing other concerns Such as Pollution and Traffic congestion accessibility to difficult areas

  • Ring roads, expressways and bypasses are being constructed around many big and small cities and towns to beat traffic congestion and reduce pollution.
  • Innovative solutions like seaplanes, ropeways, aeroboats and double-decker buses are being actively explored for adoption. These will bring down the traffic pressure and congestion on roads.
  • Seaplanes have already been tested, and trials are soon to be conducted on aeroboats.
  • A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed with Austrian ropeway company Doppelmayr for building ropeways through congested cities and hilly areas.
  • Promoting alternative fuels like ethanol, methanol, biofuels and electricity.
  • The concept of ‘waste to wealth’ is being employed for generating alternative fuels.
  • Giving priority to the greening of roads and FASTag-based electronic toll collection, which will prevent congestion at toll plazas and bring down pollution.

Creating Employment Opportunities

  • Development of transport infrastructure will also create huge employment opportunities in the country, improving the socioeconomic condition of people.
  • In the roads sector, training is being given in construction-related trades,
  • While under Sagarmala, training is being provided in job opportunities that can come up in the maritime sector, in the factories that are slated to be built in port areas, the service industry, fisheries, tourism and many more.
  • the total number of seafarers employed in Indian and foreign ships has grown by 35% this year.

Managing water resources and clean rivers

  • Implementation of  over 260 projects in the area of sewerage infrastructure, industrial pollution control, solid waste management and riverfront management.
  • what we need is to manage our water resources well using innovative ideas.


  • India’s growth story should no longer be impeded by a lack of efficient transport infrastructure, and the fruits of this growth should reach everyone in the remotest part of the country.


[op-ed snap] Stress points of democracy


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Important aspects of governance, transparency and accountability

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing much

Mains level: The newscard comprehensively explains instances of weakening of democratic values and institutions around the world and in India.



Steady undermining of institutional and knowledge structures  are posing a threat to the world and in India. In this election year in India, there is  need to keep a sharper eye on the weakening of institutions.

Examples Around the world

  • Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan are constantly projected as the faces of authoritarianism.
  • Many democratic leaders reveal a similar authoritarian streak, which adds to democracy’s woes.
  • International institutions such as the World Bank are facing the heat today for not conforming to the prescriptions of certain powerful members.
  • Brexit, and the Brexit debate, in the U.K. and Europe are enough examples of democracy going awry.
  • The U.S., which prides itself as a leading democracy is failing. Under President Donald Trump, arbitrary decision-making has replaced informed debate.
  • The decision of the U.S. to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, determination to build a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, even risking an extended shutdown of the U.S. government are someof indication of erosion of democracy.

Situation in India

In a pluralistic, multi-party federal system, disdain for democratic conventions and the violation of well-entrenched behavioural patterns are causing irreversible damage to the polity.

Instances of the decline of democratic convention

  • Centre-State relations are already under strain, and face the threat of still greater disruption.
  • There have been  unhealthy exchanges between the Prime Minister and some Chief Ministers which involve accusations such as fomenting riots and running extortion rackets.
  • Those in authority deem all information not acceptable to them as nothing but disinformation. Those opposed to the government, on the other hand, insist that the government suffers from a lack of probity.
  • The current  exchanges between the ruling dispensation and the Opposition over the purchase of Rafale aircraft are an example.
  • The Central government has effectively rejected a report by the well-regarded National Sample Survey Office — which showed that unemployment in 2017-18 was at a 45-year high — without giving any valid reason for doing so.
  • doubts are being raised about the validity of the government’s revised GDP estimates.
  • With regards to Reserve Bank of India (RBI), there has been perceived attempt to reduce its functional independence, to compel it to fall in line with the views of the government.
  • The Interim Budget announced on the eve of the 2019 general election clearly breaches certain long-settled conventions, by including many substantial measures that ordinarily would form part of a regular Budget.

Virtual Collapse of CBI

  • Touted as India’s premier investigation agency, its reputation has of late suffered a near mortal blow, mainly on account of internecine quarrels, as also external interference in its internal affairs.
  • Created out of the Delhi Special Police Establishment in 1963, the agency was earlier headed by persons with impeccable integrity and ability.
  • Over time, the quality of the CBI leadership and the tribe of proven investigators has witnessed a decline, which has impacted the image of the organisation.
  • The choice of Director, following the Vineet Narain case, by a committee headed by the Prime Minister, with the Chief Justice of India and the Leader of Opposition as the other members, has hardly helped the CBI maintain a reputation for independence.
  • The recent  drama between the Director and his No. 2, reflects the lack of institutional culture in the organisation.
  • Supervisory officers, who come and go, are most often not in a position to provide proper guidance to investigating officers.

Change in the work culture of CBI

  • Earlier the CBI used to carry out arrests of so-called accused persons only as a measure of last resort.
  • Iits investigating officers’ skills have declined, it is increasingly resorting to peremptory arrests, often on very slender evidence.
  • In many instances, the CBI has also been resorting to pressure tactics while questioning individuals,
  • CBI has even resorted to intimidatory tactics, taking recourse to a battery of investigators to question a witness, let alone an accused.
  • The recent incident where a battery of CBI personnel went to question the Kolkata Police Commissioner at his residence late in the evening, though he was only a witness, reflects the changing course of the CBI.


Across the world and in india, democracy is in obvious retreat, with authoritarian tendencies on the ascendant.This should be a matter of concern for one and all.



[op-ed snap] A single-party majority govt was the unique factor of the 16th Lok Sabha


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of working of 16th Lok Sabha.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the performance of 16th Lok Sabha, in a brief manner.


  • The 16th Lok Sabha, which adjourned on 13th Feb 2019, was notable for the fact that it saw a single party take majority in the House.


  • A single-party majority government was in office for the first time in 30 years—the key factor lending uniqueness to this Lok Sabha.
  • It came after a long line of coalitions between 1989 and 2014.
  • The 16th Lok Sabha saw a single party getting a majority with 282 seats and with the support of allies that number going up to more than 300.

In terms of performance, 16th Lok Sabha did not distinguish itself much

  • There were legislation like the goods and services tax (GST) Bill which were passed.
  • The high point of this Lok Sabha was the midnight session of Parliament to mark the coming into effect of GST.
  • There was also the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code and the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill that will be counted among major Bills passed by this Lok Sabha.
  • These will be seen as useful in terms of setting the economy on a sound track.
  • However, if one were to look at legislation passed in terms of the prime minister’s slogan of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” or inclusive development, the record of this Lok Sabha has been disappointing.
  • There have been too few laws passed that make an impact such as constitutional amendments or in terms of legislation on social issues.

Very few legislations for inclusive development

  • It is disappointment to thinking people that at the end of five years the government is not any closer to the dream of inclusive development.
  • However, two legislations—the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill or triple talaq Bill and the Bill to provide 10% reservation for economically weaker sections of society—could come into the above category of inclusive.
  • But experts would contend that these are rather controversial.
  • The former deals with a civil issue which is marriage and divorce and divorcing ones’s wife by uttering talaq thrice has been made a criminal offence.
  • In the case of the latter, reservations were brought in to remove social backwardness in society, or empowering those kept out of the power system.
  • With the 10% reservation for economically backward sections of society, the government has moved away from the fundamental precept for which reservations were conceived in the first place.

Trend of disruption of house continued

  • Another thing we saw in this Lok Sabha is the trend of disruptions that has continued from the past few Lok Sabha sessions.
  • In fact, it was seen to have become worse in the 16th Lok Sabha.
  • Some sessions of the current Lok Sabha were completely lost to disruptions.
  • Last year’s budget was passed without any discussion.
  • Usually the finance Bill is something on which there is debate and discussion. Members suggest or move amendments.
  • But last year, the budget was not subject to scrutiny.

No dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition

  • The responsibility of ensuring that the House runs and business is conducted rests on the ruling party.
  • Unfortunately, in this Lok Sabha, there was no dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition.
  • We have seen leaders in the past like Indira Gandhi, who had scant respect for the opposition, reach out to them to ensure the House runs smoothly.
  • There would be a dialogue with the opposition and, as a result, there would be cooperation on important legislation getting passed.
  • The opposition parties would be given time to speak.
  • The opposition, too, would do their research, and put the government on the mat.


  • In the current Lok Sabha, there is an impression of a complete breakdown of dialogue between the ruling party and the opposition.
  • There is an impression that the government does not want debate or discussion.
  • The ruling party has to be sensitive to the grievances of the opposition.


Adjournment: An adjournment suspends the work in a sitting for a specified time, which may be hours, days or weeks. In this case, the time of reassembly is specified. An adjournment only terminates a sitting and not a session of the House. The power of adjournment lies with the presiding officer of the House.

Adjournment Sine Die: Adjournment sine die means terminating a sitting of Parliament for an indefinite period. In other words, when the House is adjourned without naming a day for reassembly, it is called adjournment sine die. The power of adjournment sine die lies with the presiding officer of the House.

Prorogation: Prorogation means the termination of a session of the House by an order made by the President under article 85(2)(a) of the Constitution. Prorogation terminates both the sitting and session of the House. Usually, within a few days after the House is adjourned sine die by the presiding officer, the President issues a notification for the prorogation of the session. However, the President can also prorogue the House while in session.

Dissolution: A dissolution ends the very life of the existing House, and a new House is constituted after general elections are held.  Rajya Sabha, being a permanent House, is not subject to dissolution. Only the Lok Sabha is subject to dissolution.

Note: When the Lok Sabha is dissolved, all business including bills, motions, resolutions, notices, petitions and so on pending before it or its committees lapse.

Legislative Council in States: Issues & Way Forward

[op-ed snap] Exam and Peace


Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of Education system in India.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues with the education system in India, in a brief manner.


  • As the board examinations approach, the dialectic of “success” and “failure” will begin to haunt young learners and their anxiety-ridden parents.


  • The pattern of education we have normalised is inherently pathological.
  • The creation of a violent/hierarchical/schooled consciousness seems to be its latent function.
  • Even though an empathic look at the educational ideals of Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo and J Krishnamurti would suggest that there is no dearth of critical and creative thinking on liberating pedagogy.
  • However, we dislike experimentation and new possibilities, and make a superficial distinction between “pragmatism” and “idealism”.

Glorifying the success stories, stigma of “failure”

  • People have become used to the routinisation of the practice of glorifying the “success stories” of the “toppers”.
  • And at the same time, inviting the psychiatrists on television channels to reflect on the “suicide narratives” of those who could not bear the stigma of “failure”.

Meanwhile, everything would function as usual

  • the practice of “black education” would flourish in coaching centres,
  • the publishers of “guide books” would make a lot of money, and
  • school principals heavily burdened with the “ranking” of their schools would alert insecure parents of “problematic” children that in the age of inflated “cut off points” for admission in “branded” colleges, the future is bleak without 99 per cent marks in some subjects.

Why is it so?

There are three reasons:

  1. Here is a system that closes the mind of the young learner, and abhors the desirability of making meaningful choices relating to academic quest and vocation.
  • How are choices possible if schools have already hierarchised knowledge traditions i.e. Science or economics for the “intelligent” ones, and humanities for the “leftovers”.
  • Or does the child ever get the space to contemplate on her own inclinations and aptitudes at a time when peer pressure negates self-reflection and generates a crowd mentality.
  • Or when struggling parents have already decided that she has to pass through the most travelled “Aakash/Fitjee/IIT” highway, and all other paths are “risky” and “impractical”.

Strange classification of academic disciplines

  • Moreover, we have promoted a strange classification of academic disciplines.
  • It is impossible for one to opt for, say, Physics, History and Music.
  • It is taken for granted that if you have interest in literature, you cannot be equally inclined towards statistics.
  • In other words, we decide the fate of our children so early.
  • It is not surprisingly then, schooling prepares the ground for an alienated existence.

2. Here is a system obsessed with the quantification of knowledge and evaluation.

  • With the burden of information, examinations as ceremonies of power, and a reckless process of measuring even one’s “happiness” and “moral quotient”, schools have robbed the practice of education of the ecstasy of social awakening, scientific reasoning and poetic imagination.

Children as “exam warriors”

  • A careful look at weekly tests, classroom transactions and summer projects would suggest that the system asks a young child to become as an “exam-warrior”.
  • It is devoid of joy and humour, and creative play and aesthetic celebration.
  • While the “successful warriors” join the IITs and colleges like LSR, Presidency and Stephen’s, those who are not so lucky would be compelled to realise that it is painful to be young, wounded and stigmatised.
  • There is no peace in this system, even if schools hire counsellors, invite motivational speakers, and ask children to read self-help books in their “relaxed” times.

3. “Success” is equated with a purely instrumental orientation to life

  • “Success” is equated with a purely instrumental orientation to life, and the virtues of the doctrine of the “survival of the fittest” are celebrated with all sorts of media simulations.
  • Education becomes merely a “performance”, a packaged good for sale.
  • A teacher becomes merely a “subject expert” or a “skill-provider”.
  • There is no sunset that Jidu Krishnamurti wanted children to look at; and there is no union of the “physical, vital, mental and psychic” that Sri Aurobindo imagined.
  • What prevails is only a standardised scale of measurement intoxicated with the urge to eliminate innumerable young minds and throw them into the dustbin of a “meritocratic” universe.
  • And our exam-centric education sanctifies it.


  • As adults, teachers and policy-makers have betrayed the children of this nation.
  • It is time to rectify the Education system of India so that the country can reap the full potential of its demographic dividend.
Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

[op-ed snap] Every drop matters


Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of regulatory framework related to blood in India.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues in the regulatory framework of blood donation in India and why it must be reformed to ensure access to safe and sufficient blood, in a brief manner.


  • The regulatory framework in India must be reformed to ensure access to safe and sufficient blood


  • A ready supply of safe blood in sufficient quantities is a vital component of modern health care.
  • In 2015-16, India was 1.1 million units short of its blood requirements.
  • Here too, there were considerable regional disparities, with 81 districts in the country not having a blood bank at all.
  • In 2016, a hospital in Chhattisgarh turned away a woman in dire need of blood as it was unavailable.
  • She died on the way to the nearest blood bank which was several hours away.
  • Yet, in April 2017, it was reported that blood banks in India had in the last five years discarded a total of 2.8 million units of expired, unused blood (more than 6 lakh litres).


Vigil after collection

  • To prevent transfusion-transmitted infections (TTIs), collected blood needs to be safe as well.
  • Due to practical constraints, tests are only conducted post-collection.
  • Thus blood donor selection relies on donors filling in health questionnaires truthfully.
  • The collected blood is tested for certain TTIs such as HIV and if the blood tests positive, it has to be discarded.
  • However, these tests are not fool-proof as there is a window period after a person first becomes infected with a virus during which the infection may not be detectable.
  • This makes it crucial to minimise the risk in the first instance of collection.

Professional donors

  • Collecting healthy blood will also result in less blood being discarded later.
  • Blood that is donated voluntarily and without remuneration is considered to be the safest.
  • Unfortunately, professional donors (who accept remuneration) and replacement donation (which is not voluntary) are both common in India.
  • In the case of professional donors there is a higher chance of there being TTIs in their blood, as these donors may not provide full disclosure.

Replacement donation

  • In the case of replacement donation, relatives of patients in need of blood are asked by hospitals to arrange for the same expeditiously.
  • This blood is not used for the patient herself, but is intended as a replacement for the blood that is actually used.
  • In this way, hospitals shift the burden of maintaining their blood bank stock to the patient and her family.
  • Here again, there could be a higher chance of TTI’s because replacement donors, being under pressure, may be less truthful about diseases.

Scattered laws, policies and guidelines

  • The regulatory framework which governs the blood transfusion infrastructure in India is scattered across different laws, policies, guidelines and authorities.
  • Blood is considered to be a ‘drug’ under the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, 1940.
  • Therefore, just like any other manufacturer or storer of drugs, blood banks need to be licensed by the Drug Controller-General of India (DCGI).
  • For this, they need to meet a series of requirements with respect to the collection, storage, processing and distribution of blood, as specified under the Drugs & Cosmetics Rules, 1945.
  • Blood banks are inspected by drug inspectors who are expected to check not only the premises and equipment but also various quality and medical aspects such as processing and testing facilities.
  • Their findings lead to the issuance, suspension or cancellation of a licence.

Blood Transfusion Councils

  • In 1996, the Supreme Court directed the government to establish the National Blood Transfusion Council (NBTC) and State Blood Transfusion Councils (SBTCs).
  • The NBTC functions as the apex policy-formulating and expert body for blood transfusion services and includes representation from blood banks.
  • However, it lacks statutory backing (unlike the DCGI), and as such, the standards and requirements recommended by it are only in the form of guidelines.
  • This gives rise to a peculiar situation — the expert blood transfusion body can only issue non-binding guidelines, whereas the general pharmaceutical regulator has the power to license blood banks.
  • This regulatory dissonance exacerbates the serious issues on the ground and results in poor coordination and monitoring.

Poor policies and regulations of Drug Controller-General of India

  • The present scenario under the DCGI is far from desirable, especially given how regulating blood involves distinct considerations when compared to most commercial drugs.
  • It is especially incongruous given the existence of expert bodies such as the NBTC and National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO), which are more naturally suited for this role.
  • The DCGI does not include any experts in the field of blood transfusion, and drug inspectors do not undergo any special training for inspecting blood banks.

Towards a solution

  • In order to ensure the involvement of technical experts who can complement the DCGI, the rules should be amended to involve the NBTC and SBTCs in the licensing process.
  • Given the wide range of responsibilities the DCGI has to handle, its licensing role with respect to blood banks can even be delegated to the NBTC under the rules.
  • This would go a long way towards ensuring that the regulatory scheme is up to date and accommodates medical and technological advances.

Way Forward

  • Despite a 2017 amendment to the rules which enabled transfer of blood between blood banks, the overall system is still not sufficiently integrated.
  • A collaborative regulator can take the lead more effectively in facilitating coordination, planning and management.
  • This may reduce the regional disparities in blood supply as well as ensure that the quality of blood does not vary between private, corporate, international, hospital-based, non-governmental organisations and government blood banks.
  • The aim of the National Blood Policy formulated by the government back in 2002 was to “ensure easily accessible and adequate supply of safe and quality blood”.
  • To achieve this goal, India should look to reforming its regulatory approach at the earliest.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

[op-ed snap] Next wave of reforms needed to achieve the objectives of Ujjwala


Mains Paper 2: Governance| Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY).

Mains level: The news-card analyses the success story of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY), in a brief manner.


  • The astounding success of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in distributing deposit-free LPG cylinder connections to women is the result of the political will and a well-meaning execution machinery.


  • It is rare to find a scheme that has so successfully involved stakeholders down to the level of panchayats and had a perfect programme governance.
  • It is learnt that the minister of petroleum and natural gas, the secretaries in the ministries and the chairpersons and managing directors of oil marketing companies personally supervised the work.
  • They visited at least one district to understand the issues on the ground coming in the way and provided solutions.

Success of the scheme

  • The scheme took the household coverage from about 56% to about 81% in just three years.
  • That was unimaginable a few years ago when, even for an urban consumer, getting a cylinder was a wait in frustration.
  • Almost everyone in the beneficiary segment and the industry is complementing the doers most deservedly.
  • Despite being a social scheme, the delivery was cost-effective with numbers indicating about ₹1,600 spend per beneficiary.
  • The Ujjwala scheme was possible only because of the robust foundation created by the subsidy payment scheme, direct benefits transfer (DBT), which was another significant achievement of the government.
  • The government plans to cover more women with additional budgetary provisions made in the interim budget of 2019.

Objective of PMUY

  • The objective of the scheme was to make the rural households climb the energy ladder and stop using agro-waste as fuel at homes.
  • The argument was that women face a health hazard, spend time of the day collecting agro-waste fuel, and are unduly held responsible for collecting fuel when men arguably are earning bread.

Challenges: necessity for the next wave of reforms

  • However, the excellent delivery of the Ujjwala scheme is inadequate to achieve the objectives. The next wave of reforms is necessary.
  • Agro-waste usage cannot be done away with yet because of unaffordability and often non-availability of refill, though cylinders are already at home.
  • The subsidy against that refill is credited to their bank accounts with no delay.
  • However, many newly enrolled consumers do not have the capacity to make upfront payment for the refill.
  • Many micro issues lead to the consumers not updating their phone numbers and a vast majority of them, in turn, cannot order a refill with ease.
  • Delivering low volumes, especially in sparsely populated, hilly and far flung areas, is not feasible and costly.
  • Also, strengthening supply chain in new areas will take time.

Efficiency of the private sector will make PMUY sustainable

  • The public sector has the strength to make these social schemes succeed.
  • The efficiency of the private sector will make it sustainable.
  • The size of the sector and the growth it promises makes it imperative to assess the possibility of courageously unbundling, decentralizing, and democratizing activities.
  • The scope is in the whole value chain from sourcing infrastructure to storage and transportation, and from bottling to distribution.

Issues and possible Solutions

  • Aggregation of demand from low-demand areas using technology, servicing them by vehicles that also carry other goods, and using private sector services may be a solution.
  • Tech-enabled, Aadhaar-based micro-financing may help bridge the finance gap for refill purchase.
  • The possibility of avoiding full payment, as subsidy follows immediately, can be explored in case of digital payments as the payer’s credentials are established while paying.
  • Refill bookings need to become easy and quicker by making the interface simpler, including possibly by voice.
  • Start-ups and tech companies have a potential to demonstrate their prowess here.

Other issues being put across by social analysts

  • If women had the freedom to come out of homes and indulge in recreation while gathering agro-waste, how can we ensure they find other avenues of recreation instead of being restricted to their homes as they are in some sections of society.
  • Also, the argument is that men benefit as much as women, as the indoor combustion of agro-waste is a health hazard for them as well.
  • In most households the economic benefits of subsidy are accruing to the earning members i.e. the men.


  • For success of any scheme, social reforms are necessary too.
  •  The DBT and PMUY are all set to be followed by reforms which will be far reaching in meeting the objectives.
  • The success of PMUY is already a benchmark, with many countries reaching out to India to help them replicate it.
Direct Benefits Transfers

[op-ed snap] The shape of the jobs crisis


Mains Paper 3: Economic Development| Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of India’s demographic dividend.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues of growing unemployment in India and why there’s a need for an industrial policy or employment strategy, in a brief manner.


  • India has no industrial policy or employment strategy to ride the wave of its demographic dividend

Job creation has slowed down

  • Job creation has slowed since 2011-12, the year of the last published National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) labour force survey.
  • Experts have used Labour Bureau annual survey (2015-16) data and Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd. (CMIE) data (post-2016), which has a sample size larger than the NSSO labour force surveys, to reach this conclusion.
  • Both surveys cover rural and urban, and organised and unorganised sector employment.
  • They capture both the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation/National Pension Scheme (organised) as well as such employment as might be generated by MUDRA loans or platform economy jobs.
  • The latter two job sources are precisely what the government claims were not being captured by jobs data available.
  • However, government claims on absence of ‘good’ data on jobs are simply untenable.

A jump now

  • The leaked NSSO 2017-18 data have shown that while the open unemployment rate (which does not measure disguised unemployment and informal poor quality jobs that abound in the economy) by the usual status never went over 2.6% between 1977-78 and 2011-12, it has now jumped to 6.1% in 2017-18.

More young people have become educated

  • This was expected as in the last 10-12 years, more young people have become educated.
  • The tertiary education enrolment rate (for those in the 18-23 age group) rose from 11% in 2006 to 26% in 2016.
  • The gross secondary (classes 9-10) enrolment rate for those in the 15-16 age group shot up from 58% in 2010 to 90% in 2016.
  • The expectation of such youth is for a urban, regular job in either industry or services, not in agriculture.
  • If they have the financial wherewithal to obtain education up to such levels, they can also “afford” to remain unemployed.
  • Poor people, who are also much more poorly educated, have a much lower capacity to withstand open unemployment, and hence have lower open unemployment rates.

Unemployed have stopped looking for work

  • What NSSO 2017-18 also shows is that as open unemployment rates increased, more and more people got disheartened and fell out of the labour force.
  • In other words, they stopped looking for work.
  • The result is that labour force participation rates (LFPR, i.e. those looking for work) for all ages, fell sharply from 43% in 2004-5 to 39.5% in 2011-12, to 36.9% in 2017-18 (a reflection mainly though not only of the falling female LFPR).

Growing numbers of youth who are NEETs

  • This shows up in the growing numbers of youth who are NEETs: not in education, employment or training.
  • They are a potential source of both our demographic dividend but also what is looking to be a mounting demographic disaster.

Across education categories

  • A sharp increase in the unemployment rate of the educated should have worried the government.
  • It is estimated that the unemployment rate rose over 2011-12 to 2016 from 0.6% to 2.4% for those with middle education (class 8);
  • 1.3% to 3.2% for those who had passed class 10;
  • 2% to 4.4% for those who had passed class 12;
  • 4.1% to 8.4% for graduates; and
  • 5.3% to 8.5% for post-graduates.
  • Even more worrying, for those with technical education, the unemployment rate rose for graduates from 6.9% to 11%, for post-graduates from 5.7% to 7.7%, and for the vocationally trained from 4.9% to 7.9%.

Structural retrogression for Indian Economy

  • For an economy at India’s stage of development, an increase of workers in agriculture (of 20 million that took place over 1999-2004) is a structural retrogression, in a direction opposite to the desired one.
  • Between 2004-5 and 2011-12, the number of workers in agriculture fell sharply, which is good, for the first time in India’s economic history.
  • Similarly, the number of youth (15-29 years) employed in agriculture fell from 86.8 million to 60.9 million (or at the rate of 3 million per annum) between 2004-5 and 2011-12.
  • However, after 2012, as non-agricultural job growth slowed, the number of youth in agriculture actually increased to 84.8 million till 2015-16 and even more since then (as the CMIE data would attest).
  • These youth were better educated than the earlier cohort, but were forced to be in agriculture.

Drop in manufacturing jobs

  • Manufacturing jobs fell in absolute terms, from 58.9 million in 2011-12 to 48.3 million in 2015-16, a whopping 10.6 million over a four-year period.
  • This is consistent with slowing growth in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP), which consists of manufacturing, mining, and electricity.
  • The IIP had sharply risen from 100 in 2004-5 to 172 by 2013-14 (in the 2004-5 series), but only rose from a base of 100 in 2011-12 in the later series to 107 in 2013-14, and to 125.3 in 2017-18.
  • This is also consistent with exports first falling after 2013, then barely recovering to levels still lower than 2013.
  • It is also consistent with investment-to-GDP ratio falling sharply since 2013, and still remaining well below 2013 levels.
  • This holds for both private and public investment.

“NEET”: A major concern

  • What is tragic is the growing number of educated youth (15-29 years) who are “NEET”.
  • This number (70 million in 2004-5) increased by 2 million per annum during 2004-5 and 2011-12, but grew by about 5 million per annum (2011-12 to 2015-16).
  • If that later trend continued it is estimated it would have increased to 115.6 million in 2017-18.
  • That is a 32 million increase in “NEETs” in our society over 2011-12 to 2017-18.

Way Forward

  • These youth (“NEET” and unemployed) together constitute the potential labour force, which can be utilised to realise the demographic dividend in India.
  • It is estimated that the number of new entrants into the labour force (currently at least 5 million per annum), and especially educated entrants into the labour force will go on increasing until 2030.
  • It will thereafter still increase, though at a decelerating pace.
  • By 2040 our demographic dividend — which comes but once in the lifetime of a nation — will be over.
  • China managed to reduce poverty sharply by designing an employment strategy (underpinned by an education and skills policy) aligned to its industrial strategy.
  • That is why it rode the wave of its demographic dividend.
  • It is time India should also devise and align its industrial policy and employment strategy to reap the benefits of its demographic dividend.
Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] A case for Commons sense


Mains Paper 3: Bio diversity and Environment| Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the importance of ‘Commons’.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the importance of ‘Commons’ and why there’s need to review how biodiversity and natural resources are governed, in a brief manner.


  • The 14th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was held at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, last November.

Agenda of 14th CBD

  • When the 196 countries met for the 14th CBD, a key question on top of the agenda was how to govern biological resources (or biodiversity) at different levels for the world’s sustainable future.
  • The meeting had come at a significant time as it was the CBD’s 25th year of implementation.
  • Countries had approximately 350 days to meet global biodiversity targets.
  • There was also the backdrop of a damning report that humans have mismanaged biodiversity so badly that we have lost 60% of resources (which can never be recouped).
  • Finally, there was growing concern on how the Convention’s objectives of conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits were being compromised, including by the parties themselves.

Protecting the ‘Commons’

  • For thousands of years, humans have considered natural resources and the environment as a global public good, with communities having diligently managed these resources using the principle of ‘Commons’.
  • In simple terms, these are a set of resources such as air, land, water and biodiversity that do not belong to one community or individual, but to humanity.
  • All developments we see in the establishment of civilisations across the world as well as agricultural development feeding the world today are a result of such ‘Commons’ being managed by communities for centuries.

Commons resource management principles are ignored in CBD

  • CBD is a multi-lateral environmental agreement that has provided legal certainty to countries through the principle of sovereign rights over biodiversity .
  • But it has also contributed to states now owning the resources, including their rights on use and management.
  • Today, states control and manage biodiversity with strict oversight of who can use what and how.
  • The intent of the CBD and having sovereign rights was to manage resources better.
  • But the results of such management have been questionable.
  • A key reason cited is that ‘Commons’ and common property resource management principles and approaches are ignored and compromised.

Why ‘Commons’ cannot be overlooked?

  • According to estimates, a third of the global population depends on ‘Commons’ for their survival.
  • 65% of global land area is under ‘Commons’, in different forms.
  • At least 293,061 million metric tonnes of carbon (MtC) are stored in the collective forestlands of indigenous peoples and local communities.
  • This is 33 times the global energy emissions in 2017.
  • The significance of ‘Commons’ in supporting pollination (the cost estimated to be worth $224 billion annually at global levels) cannot be overlooked.

Significance of ‘Commons’ in India

  • In India, the extent of ‘Common’ land ranges between 48.69 million and 84.2 million hectares, constituting 15-25% of its total geographical area.
  • ‘Common’-pool resources contribute $5 billion a year to the incomes of poor Indian households.
  • Around 77% of India’s livestock is kept in grazing-based or extensive systems and dependent on ‘Commons’ pool resources.
  • And 53% of India’s milk and 74% of its meat requirements are met from livestock kept in extensive ‘Common’ systems.

‘Commons’ have suffered continuous degradation

  • Despite their significance, ‘Commons’ in India have suffered continued decline and degradation.
  • National Sample Survey Office data show a 1.9% quinquennial rate of decline in the area of ‘Common’ lands.
  • Though microstudies show a much more rapid decline of 31-55% over 50 years, jeopardising the health of systemic drivers such as soil, moisture, nutrient, biomass and biodiversity.
  • This in turn aggravates food, fodder and water crises.
  • As of 2013, India’s annual cost of environmental degradation has been estimated to be ₹3.75 trillion per year, i.e. 5.7% of GDP according to the World Bank.

Why the concern?

  • ‘Commons’ becoming uncommon is a major socio-political, economic and environmental problem.
  • While the state can have oversight over resource management, keeping people away from using and managing ‘Commons’ is against effective governance of ‘Commons’.
  • The sovereign rights provided for, legally, under the CBD should not be misunderstood by the state as a handle to do away with ‘Commons’-based approaches to managing biodiversity, land, water and other resources.
  • Current discussions under the United Nations should focus on how and why ‘Commons’ have been negatively impacted by progressive pronouncements to save the earth and people.

Changing socio-political impact of migration on ‘Commons’

  • Another key concern is the changing socio-political impact of migration.
  • Gone are the days when we can consider ‘Commons’ as resources relevant only for rural communities.
  • ‘Commons’ are now a major provider of livelihood options for both urban and peri-urban populations.
  • The relevance of ‘Commons’ impacting urban dwellers cannot be overlooked with more urbanisation happening.

Way Forward: Approaches for the future

  • There needs to be a review of current governance of biodiversity and natural resources.
  • After 18 years of action to reduce the rate of loss of biodiversity, it is very likely that the same 196 countries will meet in 2020 to apologise to the world for having failed to meet the objectives of the convention.
  • In addition to seeking more money, time and capacities to deal with biodiversity and natural resource management, we need to focus on three specific approaches:
  1. to re-introduce more strongly, the management and governance principles of ‘Commons’ approaches into decision-making and implementation of conservation, use and benefit sharing action;
  2. to use Joseph Schumpeter’s approach of creative destruction to put resource management in the hands of the people; and
  3. to re-look at Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Prize winning principles of dealing with ‘Commons’.


Convention on Biological Diversity

  • The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is a multilateral treaty.
  • The Convention has three main goals including: the conservation of biological diversity (or biodiversity); the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from genetic resources.
  • Its objective is to develop national strategies for the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.
  • The Convention was opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro on 5 June 1992 and entered into force on 29 December 1993.
  • CBD has two supplementary agreements – Cartagena Protocol and Nagoya Protocol.
Climate Change Negotiations – UNFCCC, COP, Other Conventions and Protocols

[op-ed snap] A dialogue, an opportunity


Mains Paper 2: International relations | Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the India-US trade relations.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues and concerns w.r.t India-US trade relations, in a brief manner.


  • The US commerce secretary will be visiting India this week amid the reports of trade tensions between the two countries.

Opportunity to step back from confrontation

  • The US might withdraw India’s trade benefits under the so-called Generalised System of Preferences that Delhi has enjoyed since the mid-1970s.
  • This week’s dialogue must be seen as an opportunity to step back from confrontation and take a more strategic approach to resolving the current differences over a large number of issues.
  • They include market access, reciprocity in tariffs, trade deficit, predictable investment rules and data localisation to mention a few.
  • Over the last two decades, Delhi and Washington have dealt with and resolved far more complex issues.

Issues and Concerns

  1. To recognise the value of the trade relationship between the two countries and its huge potential
  • There was a time, less than two decades ago, when “flat as a chapati” was the preferred label for US-India trade relations.
  • Since then, the annual two-way trade has grown rapidly to touch nearly $130 billion last year (including trade and services).
  • For India, the US is probably the most important trade partner today and will remain so for a long time.
  • For Washington, the size of the trade volume with India is quite low in comparison with its other key partners like Canada, Mexico, the European Union, Japan and China.
  • But the potential remains high as India emerges as the world’s third-largest economy.
  • It should, therefore, be the highest political priority for India and the US to turn this trade relationship into a deeper and more sustainable one.

2. Both countries need to be sensitive to the domestic political considerations

  • As India enters the election mode, this is perhaps the worst possible moment for the US to take actions like the withdrawal of GSP benefits.
  • The volume of Indian exports involved is quite small, but the political impact could be way out of proportion.
  • On its part, Delhi needs to pay greater attention to the profoundly altered environment in Washington on trade related issues.

“Free trade” to “fair trade”

  • Trump has begun to turn America, for long, the champion of “free trade”, into an advocate of “fair trade”.
  • Trump has convinced himself that the rest of the world has taken advantage of America’s open market.
  • He is now ready to bring the whole house down if the rest of the world does not address his grievances.
  • India must bet Trump’s concerns about trade outlast his stint as US president.

3. Turning the two “estranged democracies” into “indispensable strategic partners”

  • It is quite easy to forget the personal role of the Indian prime minister and the US president in turning the two “estranged democracies” into “indispensable strategic partners” in the 21st century.
  • In India, successive Prime Ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi chose to defy conventional political and bureaucratic wisdom to advance the country’s relationship with the US.
  • Washington has little reason to politically embarrass Prime Minister Modi — who has moved the security and political relationship beyond any one’s imagination — on trade issues just before a tough general election.
  • Delhi, on the other hand, should appreciate the great political value of a trade deal with India for Trump and the importance of having the White House on India’s side.

Never stop negotiating

  • Finally, the secret to successful engagement with the US involves two simple propositions — never stop negotiating and keep making deals small or big.
  • India often can’t close a negotiation because it’s opening bid tends to remain the final position.
  • Americans, on the other hand, are always open to splitting the difference, finding a compromise and moving on.

Way Forward

  • It was with the ability to give and take, while keeping the larger and long-term interests in mind, that India and the US were able to overcome the multiple problems in the nuclear and defence negotiations during the last two decades.
  • Continuous forward movement however slow and incremental is critical.
  • Unlike security issues, trade is not a zero-sum-game and should be more amenable to deal-making.
  • Given the return of geopolitical confrontation and the unfolding rearrangement of the global trading order, “doing nothing” is not an option for Delhi.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] All is still not well in court


Mains Paper 2: Constitution | Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of the issues in Judiciary.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues relating to the independence of the judiciary, transparency and accountability in the institution, in a brief manner.


  • A year ago, four judges of the Supreme Court of India called an unprecedented press conference and posed troubling questions relating to the independence of the judiciary, transparency and accountability in the institution and so on.

Recent issues in Judiciary

  1. The idea of the CJI as the “master of the roster”
  • The previous CJI was criticised by many for the manner in which cases were allocated to judges and for selectively choosing the benches that would hear cases of public importance.
  • In democratic countries around the world, notably in the UK, Canada and Australia, the allocation of work and the selection of benches is a consultative process, and necessarily involves a culture of trust.
  • Alternatively, there are clear and defined rules in this regard, as, for example, in the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice.
  • It is not acceptable for the chief justice to have unbridled power.
  • Even in high courts in India, where a chief justice may have official roles such as presiding over administrative meetings, at no point is the chief justice considered or made to believe that he/she is superior to other judges in the court.
  • Unfortunately, the trend of the CJI assuming the role of master of the roster, with unbridled and unrestricted power, continues even under the present CJI, which may have disturbing implications for the dispensation of justice in our country.
  • Urgent reforms in this regard are necessary.

2. How appointments to and transfers within the higher judiciary continue to be made

  • Every time a new cohort of judges is announced for selection, a new set of problems emerges.
  • Two incidents over the past month have been particularly distressing.
  • One relates to a recent proposal to transfer a sitting judge of the Delhi High Court, whose decisions have been attacked by those within or close to the present Union government.
  • Another case is the inexplicable reversal of a decision of the collegium to elevate two high court chief justices, both well-regarded as fine judges, to the Supreme Court.
  • Equally problematic is the overwhelming silence of the government.
  • On an earlier occasion, the same government had staunchly defended the seniority convention in judicial appointments.

Not enough attention is being paid to the judiciary as an institution

  • Ideally, in any democratic set-up, we need the best individuals running the judiciary.
  • One important criterion for selecting judges is merit.
  • But it has been seen, many brilliant judges are overlooked.
  • The appointments of judges on grounds other than merit can be self-perpetuating.
  • Many such appointees will become members of the the collegium and may make the same kinds of choices their seniors made.
  • Short-term decisions to appoint certain individuals affect the long-term condition of the judiciary.

3. Recent fascination of the Supreme Court for the “sealed cover”

  • The recent fascination of the Supreme Court for the “sealed cover” as a means of receiving information about cases, having used it in three highly-documented litigations in the past few months, is completely against the idea of open, transparent justice.
  • Unfortunately, our judiciary is not only opaque in its own workings but is also becoming partial to opacity in its public function, as an arbiter of public disputes.
  • Jurisprudence clearly shows that such secretive information should be resorted to only in exceptional cases.
  • But here, it is being asked for in an ad hoc manner without any clear or rational reason.

4. Post-retirement appointments.

  • Such appointments really compromise the independence of the judiciary.
  • They raise potential conflicts of interest, if not in reality, certainly in matters of perception.
  • Ideally, there should be a policy decision to introduce a cooling-off period after retirement before taking up new appointments.
  • Or such appointments should be made by a neutral body which is free from executive influence.
  • In any case, such offers of appointments should neither be made nor considered when a judge is still in office.

5. Appeal made to the Supreme Court by itself against the order of the Delhi High Court

  • The fifth issue is that of the appeal made to the Supreme Court by itself against the order of the Delhi High Court on the applicability of the Right to Information Act, 2005, to the judiciary.
  • The Delhi High Court judgment has been stayed, and the case has been languishing in the court for a decade now.
  • Closure on this account is more urgently needed than ever, especially in the context of issues of transparency in the judiciary.


  • The 2018 press conference gave a flicker of hope that maybe things will turn around soon.
  • However, the issues relating to the independence of the judiciary, transparency and lack of accountability in the institution still remain a pressing concern.
  • Urgent reforms are necessary in this regard.
Judiciary Institutional Issues

[op-ed snap] The state of the States


Mains Paper 3: Economic Development | Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of Sustainable Development Goals.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the recently released NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index: Baseline Report 2018, in a brief manner.


  • Recently NITI Aayog released the SDG India Index: Baseline Report 2018.


  • India was one among the 193 United Nations member states to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015.
  • It has been making sincere efforts to achieve these goals.

SDG India Index: Baseline Report 2018

  • The report is a useful comparative account of how well different States and Union Territories have performed so far in their efforts to achieve these goals.
  • However, it has not been possible to establish suitable indicators for three of the 17 goals, including climate action (SDG-13).
  • This is on account of either lack of identification of appropriate indicators or of the inability to compare different States.
  • On the whole, 62 indicators representing 14 goals have been identified based on their measurability across States over time.
  • A progress performance assessment has been made towards targets set by the Government of India, or the UN SDGs target for 2030, or the average of the three best-performing States.
  • For reasons of comparability, all these indicators are normalised.

States are categorised into four groups

  • Based on a scale of 0 to 100, the States are categorised into four groups: achievers, front runners, performers, and aspirants.
  • Achievers are those States which have already accomplished the set target.
  • Front runners are those States that are very close to realising them.
  • A majority of the States are categorised as performers and some lag behind as aspirants.

Arbitrariness in the exercise

  • Although classification sounds like an appropriate thing to do, there is arbitrariness in the exercise.
  • In a unitary range, those States with scores till the midpoint are categorised as aspirants and a cluster of States in a close range of progress are termed as performers.
  • A few States are designated as front runners.
  • The three front runner States — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Himachal Pradesh — assume values of 66, 69 and 69, respectively, as against a range of States with values between 50 and 64.
  • With the national score being 57, almost 17 States qualify as above or equal to the national score.
  • Plotted on a graph, there is a negatively skewed distribution of scores.
  • This needs to be recognised in classification; otherwise the arbitrariness with which the classification is made somewhat hints at a purposive designation of a few States in two extremes and a major share of them in between.

The problem of averaging

  • Further, when one reads into the performance on various SDGs, it is found that many States fall into the aspirant category, especially for SDG-5 (gender equality), SDG-9 (industry innovation and infrastructure) and SDG-11 (sustainable cities and communities).
  • These kinds of differences could well be emerging owing to a different number of indicators considered under different SDGs as well as their corresponding variability across the States.
  • This is evident in the variation of scores across different goals.
  • For instance, in case of goals 1 and 2, the range for the majority of the States is between 35 and 80.
  • For goals 3 and 6, the range is between 25 and 100.
  • Again, for goal 5, it ranges between 24 and 50.
  • Given these variations across different goals, merely averaging them not only compromises on robustness but also masks the disaggregated story to a large extent.

Difference between two states doesn’t give a clear picture

  • The difference in progress between the three front runner States is three points.
  • This is perhaps not similar to the distance between the performing States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, which too have a three-point difference.
  • Such comprehension of achievement is limited as regards to comparing States, let alone designating them into four categories.

Way Forward: What can be done?

  • Finally, the process of aggregation adopted to present the summary index of compliance with the targets being a simple average assumes that each of the goals as well as the corresponding set of indicators are equally important and can substitute for each other.
  • This also overlooks the aspect of inter-dependence of various goals, although it is upfront stated in the exercise.
  • To ensure minimum robustness of this measure, a geometric average would have served towards avoiding perfect substitutability of one goal with the other.
  • While this exercise serves as a report card of performance of States as regards compliance with the SDGs, its scientific adequacy is compromised with arbitrariness that presents a stereotypical pattern of performance rather than bringing out surprises.
  • The choice of indicators representing specific goals need not necessarily be guided by availability but also their explicit independence from one another.
  • This may help in making a uniform set of indicators for each of the goals with proper representation without duplication.


  • On the whole, this performance assessment may not be misleading, but it does not help us understand the relative significance of compliance in some goals that helps in compliance of the other.
  • Thus, performance assessment of SDGs while overlooking the strict interdependence of them may not be rewarding.
NITI Aayog’s Assessment

[op-ed snap] There’s a hole in the data


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of India’s data regime.

Mains level: The news-card analyses issues and challenges with India’s data regime, in a brief manner.


  • The credibility of India’s data systems is under serious threat with the recent controversy over the employment data of the National Sample Survey.


  • While the Census of India and the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) have a good reputation, when it comes to data related to the social sector (health, education, nutrition) the situation has been deficient on numerous counts.
  1. The information collected is not available in real time or even annually
  • The NSSO collects data through specific rounds (health expenditure, debt etc.) which don’t have a fixed cycle unlike the consumption expenditure surveys.
  • The Census collects data once in 10 years.
  • Budget allocations follow an annual cycle and policy pronouncements are not dovetailed to the years for which data is available.
  • This raises important questions about the basis on which policies and plans are made.

Case of malnutrition and learning levels

  • In the case of malnutrition, which is a problem needing urgent solutions, there was no independent data telling us what the trends are for a long time.
  • The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) report came out in 2017 after a gap of over 10 years (NFHS-3 was in 2006).
  • In the interim, major initiatives were planned for the eradication of malnutrition without any inkling of the situation on the ground or how it was changing.
  • Similarly, data on learning levels was not collected consistently by the government till 2017.
  • It is not known when the next round will be held or how long it will take for the data to be made available.

2. Inconsistencies in definitions and sampling frames

  • There are inconsistencies in definitions and sampling frames across data sources and across time in the same data source.
  • For instance, questions posed by the NSS for obtaining information on out-of-school children vary dramatically from those posed by the Census.
  • As a result, the two arrive at vastly different numbers.
  • Similarly, in the case of malnutrition data, there have been changes in the definitions used by NFHS across different rounds that make comparisons over time difficult.
  • Periodicity of data collection also varies across sources, furthering difficulty in validation.
  • Data validation plays an important part in improving the quality of data collected and ensuring authenticity, without which departments are basically shooting in the dark.

3. Data collected in these surveys is not geared towards policy or planning

  • The education rounds of NSS are part of the survey on social consumption, which in turn is for the purpose of making an assessment of the benefits derived by various sections of society from public expenditure incurred by the government.
  • It provides no information on how the education system is functioning.
  • As a result, several important indicators that would be of interest for planning or to the people, do not even figure in them.
  • For instance, the different categories of teachers or their salaries is a not a data point in any data-set on education.


(a) Data suffer from gaps in information

  • In the absence of regular large-scale survey data, what is available is the registry data collected by departments and ministries for monitoring of programmes.
  • Unfortunately, these too suffer from gaps in information and are rarely used for programmatic purposes.
  • At most, they are part of an accounting exercise.
  • For instance, school surveys by the MHRD collect information on broad indicators of infrastructure and teacher availability (only two categories, whereas multiple exist) and student enrolment (but not attendance) and distribution of incentives.
  • These take stock of the provisioning in schools, showcasing administrative efforts, but not functioning of the education system or real changes within it.

(b) Conflict of interest resulting from data being collected by people who are entrusted with ensuring outcomes

  • Thus, school data for District Information System for Education (DISE) is collected by school teachers, health workers fill in the information for Health Management Information System (HMIS), anganwadi workers provide nutrition data and so on.
  • This creates perverse incentives for them to hide the reality on the ground.
  • This came out starkly in a comparison (by N C Saxena) of monitoring data of ICDS, which showed severe malnutrition for the country at 0.4 per cent, whereas NFHS data for a comparable period showed it to be around 16 per cent.
  • Field studies show that anganwadi workers are often penalised by their superiors for reporting severe malnutrition.
  • Similarly, teachers fear losing their job if enrolment or attendance falls below a certain level.

(c) Data collection also suffers because it is not used in any meaningful manner

  • The anganwadi worker who fills numerous registers each month never receives any feedback on the data collected.
  • Cluster and Block Resource Persons in the education system routinely collect enormous amounts of information in multiple formats.
  • But no action is taken on it.
  • This lack of feedback acts as a huge disincentive to the data collectors reducing the quality of what they collect.
  • The shift to mobile reporting has not changed the situation on the ground as introduction of technology did not improve the feedback mechanism that continues to be a missing link.

Implications and Concerns

  • In effect, the state has failed to create capacities that can be devoted to developing and maintaining a timely, reliable and decentralised data regime.
  • This inadequacy pervades the system from top to bottom.
  • DISE has barely a handful of people manning the entire operation of developing and maintaining the official database for education.
  • At the sub-national level, they rely on data entry operators to collate and digitise data manually collected by teachers in complex formats.
  • There are no statisticians in the system and few inputs received from educationists.
  • Data in usable or useful form is unavailable at local levels, severely hampering ideas of transparency, accountability and decentralised planning.

Way Forward

  • The paucity and unreliability of government data has given rise to a plethora of non-government data sources in the social sectors, similar to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy for industry and employment data.
  • In education, the Annual Status of Education Report and the India Human Development Survey are commonly used.
  • While these sources have been useful in highlighting neglected issues, it raises the question of data neutrality.
  • A large country of India’s complexity and growth should strengthen its own data regime to ensure independence and neutrality.
  • It will go a long way in ensuring that the country’s policies and plans are on track.
NGOs vs. GoI: The Conflicts and Scrutinies

[op-ed snap] No zero-sum games on India-U.S. trade hostilities


Mains Paper 2: International relations| Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of India-US trade relations.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the India-US trade relation in recent times, in a brief manner.


  • There are alarm bells in India over a possible decision by the U.S. Trade Representative to withdraw the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) status.


  • Under this, India is able to export about 2,000 product lines to the U.S. under zero tariff.
  • Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) was first extended to India in 1976 as part of a global concession by the U.S. to help developing countries build their economies.
  • The revocation of the GSP will be a blow to Indian exporters, and the biggest in a series of measures taken by the Trump administration against India to reduce its trade deficit.

“Unequal tariffs” from India

  • President Donald Trump’s case on what he calls “unequal tariffs” from India rests on the trade relationship in favour of India.
  • Indian exports to the U.S. in 2017-18 stood at $47.9 billion, while imports were $26.7 billion.
  • The measures are in line with Mr. Trump’s campaign promises.

The case of Harley-Davidson motorcycles

  • On the matter of Harley-Davidson motorcycles, Trump spoke directly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on at least three occasions, demanding that India zero out tariffs to match U.S. rates on Indian motorcycles.

US action against Indian products

  • In March 2018, the U.S. began imposing tariffs on several Indian products.
  • In April, the USTR began a review of India’s GSP status, based on complaints of trade barriers from India it had received from the dairy industry and manufacturers of medical devices.
  • In November the U.S. withdrew GSP status on at least 50 Indian products.

Indian response

  • In retaliation, India proposed tariffs of about $235 million on 29 American goods, but has put off implementing these five times in the past year in the hope that a negotiated trade settlement will come through.
  • The latest deadline expires on March 1.
  • India has also attempted to address the trade deficit with purchase of American oil, energy and aircraft.

Present situation

  • There have been dozens of rounds of talks between officials over the past few months, but no breakthrough.
  • U.S. officials say the decision on data localisation for all companies operating in India, and the more recent tightening norms for FDI in e-commerce have aggravated the situation.

Way Forward

  • Both sides should work towards calling a halt to trade hostilities and speed up efforts for a comprehensive trade “package”, rather than try to match each concern product by product.
  • The U.S. must realise that India is heading into elections, and offer more flexibility in the next few months.
  • India must keep in mind that the larger, global picture is about U.S.-China trade issues, and if a trade deal with the U.S. is reached, India could be the biggest beneficiary of business deals lost by China.
  • The visit of U.S. Commerce Secretary to India this week will be watched not as much for substance, as for signals that New Delhi and Washington understand the urgency in breaking the deadlock.
Foreign Policy Watch: India-United States

[op-ed snap] The solution is universal


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of comparison of MGNREGA and PM-KISAN .

Mains level: The news-card analyses how strengthening the MGNREGA would be more prudent than a targeted cash transfer plan like PM-KISAN, in a brief manner.


  • According to several experts, strengthening the MGNREGA would be more prudent than a targeted cash transfer plan like PM-KISAN.


  • Rural distress has hit unprecedented levels.
  • According to news reports, unemployment is the highest in 45 years.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)

  • To allay some misgivings of the distress, one of the announcements in the Budget speech was that vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land up to 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of ₹ 6,000 per year.
  • This cash transfer scheme has been called Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).
  • The Ministry of Agriculture has written to State governments to prepare a database of all eligible beneficiaries along with their Aadhaar numbers, and update land records “expeditiously”.
  • The letter further states that changes in land records after February 1, 2019 shall not be considered for this scheme.

Is PM-KISAN a reasonable solution?: Comparison with MGNREGA

  • Undoubtedly, farmers’ distress needs urgent attention but one need to analyse if the PM-KISAN is a reasonable solution.
  • Let us first compare some basic numbers with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
  1. MGNREGA earnings for a household is more than a year’s income support through PM-KISAN
  • For example, if two members of a household in Jharkhand work under MGNREGA (picture) for 30 days, they would earn ₹10,080 and a household of two in Haryana would earn ₹16,860 in 30 days.
  • Jharkhand has the lowest daily MGNREGA wage rate, and Haryana the highest.
  • Put simply, a month of MGNREGA earnings for a household is more than a year’s income support through PM-KISAN anywhere in the country.

2. MGNREGA is a universal programme

  • PM-KISAN is a targeted cash transfer programme and MGNREGA is a universal programme.
  • Any rural household willing to do manual work is eligible under the Act.
  • According to the 2011 Socio-Economic and Caste Census, around 40% of rural households are landless and depend on manual labour.
  • The landless can earn through the MGNREGA but are not eligible for the PM-KISAN scheme.
  • Notwithstanding the meagre amount, the PM-KISAN might be pitting the landless against a small farmer.

Other factors that strengthen the case for an existing universal programme

  • It is unclear how tenant farmers, those without titles, and women farmers would be within the ambit of the PM-KISAN scheme.
  • There is also substantial evidence to demonstrate that universal schemes are less prone to corruption than targeted schemes.
  • In targeted programmes, it is very common to have errors of exclusion, i.e., genuine beneficiaries get left out.
  • Such errors go unrecorded and people continue to be left out.
  • It is in some of these contexts that strengthening an existing universal programme such as the MGNREGA would have been a prudent move instead of introducing a hasty targeted cash transfer programme.

Lessons to be learned from the MGNREGA implementation

  • The Agriculture Ministry’s letter states that “funds will be electronically transferred to the beneficiary’s bank account by Government of India through State Notional Account on a pattern similar to MGNREGS”.
  • There are important lessons to be learned from the MGNREGA implementation.
  • The Centre has frequently tinkered with the wage payments system in the MGNREGA.
  • It’s creditable that timely generation of pay-orders have improved, but contrary to the Centre’s claims, less than a third of the payments were made on time.
  • And in contempt of the Supreme Court orders, the Centre alone has been causing a delay of more than 50 days in disbursing wages.

Field realities: hurried bureaucratic reorientation on the ground

  • Moreover, repeated changes in processes result in a hurried bureaucratic reorientation on the ground, and much chaos among workers and field functionaries alike.
  • Field functionaries are pushed to meet stiff targets.
  • Being short-staffed and inadequately trained, this results in many technical and unforeseen errors.

Aadhaar hastily implementation for the MGNREGA

  • A case in point is the rushed manner in which Aadhaar has been implemented for the MGNREGA.
  • Several MGNREGA payments have been rejected, diverted, or frozen as a consequence.
  • In the last four years alone, more than ₹1,300 crore of the MGNREGS wage payments have been rejected due to technical errors such as incorrect account numbers or faulty Aadhaar mapping.
  • There have been no clear national guidelines to rectify these.

MGNREGS payments getting diverted

  • There are numerous cases of MGNREGS payments getting diverted to Airtel wallets and ICICI bank accounts.
  • In a recently concluded survey on common service centres in Jharkhand for Aadhaar-based payments, it was found that 42% of the biometric authentications failed in the first attempt, compelling them to come later.
  • This continued harassment faced by people would have been a more humane question to address rather than brushing them aside as “teething problems” and build a new scheme on similar shaky platforms.


  • The success of the PM-KISAN is contingent on there being reliable digital land records and reliable rural banking infrastructure, which are both are questionable.
  • While ₹75,000 crore has been earmarked for this scheme, the MGNREGA continues to be pushed to a severe crisis.
  • The MGNREGA allocation for 2019-20 is ₹60,000 crore, lower than the revised budget of ₹61,084 crore in 2018-19.
  • In the last four years, on an average, around 20% of the Budget allocation has been unpaid pending payments from previous years.
  • Thus, subtracting the pending liabilities, in real terms, the Budget allocation has been lower than 2010-11.
  • Despite a letter to the Prime Minister by citizens and MPs in January 2019, (as of February 8) all MGNREGA funds have been exhausted.
  • While the country stares at an impending drought, workers languish in unemployment.

MGNREGA not a panacea for all

  • The MGNREGA is neither an income support programme nor just an asset creation programme.
  • It is a labour programme meant to strengthen participatory democracy through community works.
  • It is a legislative mechanism to strengthen the constitutional principle of the right to life.
  • That the MGNREGA works have demonstrably strong multiplier effects are yet another reason to improve its implementation.
  • Despite all this, the MGNREGA wage rates in 18 States have been kept lower than the States’ minimum agricultural wage rates.
  • This acts as a deterrent for the landless.
  • Yet, work demand has been 33% more than the employment provided this year — underscoring the desperation to work.

Way Forward

  • By routinely under-funding this Act, the present government continues to undermine the constitutional guarantee.
  • In an employment programme, adequacy of fund allocation and respectable wages are crucial, so meaningless claims of “highest ever allocation” and other dubious claims are unhealthy for democracy.
  • The Central government should focus on improving the existing universal infrastructure of the MGNREGA before plunging into a programme pretending to augment farmers’ income.

[op-ed snap] Technology, globalization and the good jobs challenge


Mains Paper 3: Economic Development| Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing as such.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issue that governments must realize that failure to generate good, middle-class jobs has very high social and political costs, in a brief manner.


  • Around the world today, the central challenge for achieving inclusive economic prosperity is the creation of sufficient numbers of “good jobs”.
  • Without productive and dependable employment for the vast majority of a country’s workforce, economic growth either remains elusive, or its benefits end up concentrated among a tiny minority.
  • The scarcity of good jobs also undermines trust in political elites, adding fuel to the authoritarian, nativist backlash affecting many countries today.

Definition of a good job

  • The definition of a good job depends on a country’s level of economic development.
  • It is typically a stable formal-sector position that comes with core labour protections such as safe working conditions, collective bargaining rights, and regulations against arbitrary dismissal.
  • It enables at least a middle-class lifestyle, by that country’s standards, with enough income for housing, food, transportation, education and other family expenses, as well as some saving.

Need to improve employment conditions

  • There is much that individual enterprises all over the world can do to improve employment conditions.
  • Large firms that treat their employees better—by providing them with higher pay, more autonomy and greater responsibility—often reap benefits in the form of lower turnover, better worker morale and higher productivity.
  • “Good jobs” strategies can be as profitable to firms as they are to workers.

Structural problem: low-skilled labour force

  • But the deeper problem is a structural one that goes beyond what firms can do on their own.
  • Developed and developing countries alike are suffering today from a growing mismatch between the structure of production and the structure of the labour force.
  • Production is becoming increasingly skill-intensive while the bulk of the labour force remains low-skilled.
  • This generates a gap between the types of jobs that are created and the types of workers the country has.

Manufacturing and services are becoming increasingly automated and digitized

  • Technology and globalization have conspired to widen that gap, with manufacturing and services becoming increasingly automated and digitized.
  • While new technologies could have benefited low-skilled workers in principle, in practice technological progress has been largely labour-replacing.
  • In addition, global trade and investment flows, and global value chains in particular, have homogenized production techniques around the world.
  • This has made it very difficult for poorer countries to compete in world markets without adopting skill- and capital-intensive techniques similar to those of the advanced economies.

Intensification of economic dualism

  • Every economy in the world today is divided between an advanced segment, typically globally integrated, employing a minority of the labour force, and a low-productivity segment that absorbs the bulk of the workforce, often at low wages and under poor conditions.
  • The shares of the two segments may differ: developed countries obviously have a greater preponderance of highly productive firms.
  • But, qualitatively, the picture looks quite similar in rich and poor countries—and produces the same patterns of inequality, exclusion and political polarization.

Strategies to reduce the mismatch

There are three ways to reduce the mismatch between the structure of productive sectors and that of the workforce.

  1. Investment in skills and training
  • The first strategy, and the one that receives the bulk of policy attention, is investment in skills and training.
  • If most workers acquire the skills and capabilities required by advanced technologies, dualism would eventually dissipate as high-productivity sectors expand at the expense of the rest.


  • Such human capital policies are important but even when they are successful, their effects will be felt in the future.
  • They do little to address labour-market realities at present.
  • It is simply not possible to transform the labour force overnight.
  • Besides, there is always the real risk that technology will advance faster than society’s ability to educate its labour-force entrants.

2. Convince successful firms to employ more unskilled workers

  • In countries where the skill gaps are not enormous, governments can nudge their successful firms to increase employment—either directly or through their local suppliers.
  • Governments in developed countries also have a role to play in affecting the nature of technological innovation.
  • Too often, they subsidize labour-replacing, capital-intensive technologies, rather than pushing innovation in socially more beneficial directions, to augment rather than replace less skilled workers.


  • Such policies are unlikely to make much difference to developing countries.
  • For them, the main obstacle will remain that existing technologies allow insufficient room for factor substitution: using less-skilled labour instead of skilled professionals or physical capital.
  • The demanding quality standards needed to supply global value chains cannot be easily met by replacing machines with manual labour.
  • This is why globally integrated production in even the most labour-abundant countries, such as India or Ethiopia, relies on relatively capital-intensive methods.
  • This leaves a broad range of developing economies—from middle-income countries such as Mexico and South Africa to low-income countries such as Ethiopia—in a conundrum.
  • The standard remedy of improving educational institutions does not yield near-term benefits, while the economy’s most advanced sectors are unable to absorb the excess supply of low-skilled workers.

3. Boosting an intermediate range of labour-intensive, low-skilled economic activities

  • Tourism and non-traditional agriculture are the prime examples of such labour-absorbing sectors.
  • Public employment (in construction and service delivery), long scorned by development experts, is another area that may require attention.
  • But government efforts can go much further.


  • Such intermediate activities, chiefly non-tradable services carried out by small and medium-size enterprises, will not be among the most productive, which is why they are rarely the focus of industrial or innovation policies.
  • But they may still provide significantly better jobs than the alternatives in the informal sector.

Way Forward

  • Government policy in developed and developing countries alike is too often preoccupied with boosting the most advanced technologies and promoting the most productive firms.
  • But failure to generate good, middle-class jobs has very high social and political costs.
  • Reducing those costs requires a different focus, geared specifically toward the kind of jobs that are aligned with an economy’s prevailing skill composition.
Issues related to Economic growth

[op-ed snap] Nobody speaks to the young


Mains Paper 2: Social Justice| Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing as such.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues and challenges of youth of our country, in a brief manner.


  • The youth of our country need a sense of purpose and political identity and not sops.


  • Sixty per cent of our country is under the age of 30. Yet, there is little substantive participation of our young in defining the direction of the nation.
  • The average age of our MPs at 56 years is more than double the median age of 25.
  • Statistics are not available for other groups who shape our politics — academics, activists, media — but a quick check of the top names in each area is indicative of similar under-representation of youth.


  • Talk to young people across the country and what stands out is their feeling of being talked at, pushed around, and dismissed.
  • Consequently, young people respond to rejection with rejection.
  • Ask 10 young people outside of the elite circuit about political developments in the country — most will struggle to respond.
  • Refer to political leaders from various fields and ask the youngsters to talk of their stand on some topical issues. They will shrug.
  • Name the top public intellectuals in the country and most may not even have heard of them.
  • It can be said that young people today are selfish. They are too distracted and lack commitment. But this is, at best, a partial truth.

Youth today is searching for recognition and sense of identity

  • The larger political class and process simply have not been able to establish relevance for young people.
  • Youth, today, are responding to the cues and incentives around them; and paying attention to those who are reaching out to them.
  • Young people are searching for recognition, for an identity in which they can take pride in.
  • Because there are no accessible pathways that can help them get recognised in constructive politics, they are choosing other options.
  • Association with a celebrity, styling themselves like him/her gives that sense of belonging.
  • To be “discovered” in many ways offers a better probability of escaping their circumstances than studying in a dusty college somewhere or working in a dead-end job.
  • Thuggery, bullying, majoritarianism offers a sense of power when as a whole there is a dispiriting lack of agency.

Young India cannot be ignored

  • We cannot ignore Young India if we care about our democracy.
  • Nor can we pick and choose what we want to prioritise — our politics has to be representative of their needs and aspirations.
  • We have to talk about the things that matter to them in a language that they understand.
  • This means prioritising the educational, employment and identity concerns of young people in our daily discourse and politics.


(a) Equal educational opportunity

  • Equal educational opportunity has become a purely rhetorical statement.
  • Seventy per cent of our higher education is in the private sector and, increasingly, even public universities are getting privatised with the onset of “self-financing” courses making a complete mockery of the role of education as a tool for socio-economic mobility.
  • Entire universities are completely notional: There are no classes, students study in coaching centers.
  • Three-year courses are taking up to five years to finish.
  • The examination system is a complete sham.
  • Students are paying exorbitant fees and graduates are saddled with debt without job prospects.
  • Yet our focus on these issues is episodic.
  • That too, when there is some immediate crisis, despite the fact that students are the most visible face of a progressing India.

(b) Employment

  • Similarly, our approach to employment is highly utilitarian.
  • Employment is not just about economics, it is also linked to one’s identity.
  • Yet there is very little conversation about how to imbue meaning and pride in the lives of those at the lowest end of the work chain.
  • We want those who work with us to demonstrate “work ethic” — reliability, punctuality, diligence — but it is unclear what exactly is gained for the young person in being all these three things?

Way Forward

  • If we want the vast majority of our young people to imbibe these virtues of collective living, then we need to create those avenues for them where these will be recognised and rewarded.
  • We have to acknowledge the essential role of young people in nation-building and create meaningful opportunities for them to engage with politics and governance.
  • This is important because young people suffer from additional barriers to entry because of their age and inexperience.
  • All of us have a desire for self-expression and to be part of something bigger than ourselves.
  • If those of us who have the power to shape platforms and narratives are unable to make our politics representative of the aspirations of the youth, they will simply look for meaning elsewhere.
Human Development Report by UNDP

[op-ed snap] Surveying India’s unemployment numbers


Mains Paper 3: Economic Development| Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge of India’s demographic dividend.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the India’s low labour participation rate and why it fell sharply after demonetisation, in a brief manner.


  • India’s labour participation rate which is very low by world standards, fell sharply after demonetisation.
  • The women were largely at the receiving end and bore the brunt


  • Monthly measurement of the unemployment rate is one of the requirements of the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • The SDDS was established in 1996 to help countries access the international capital markets by providing adequate economic and financial information publicly.
  • India was one of the early signatories of the SDDS.
  • India complies with many requirements of the SDDS, but it has taken an exception with respect to the measurement of unemployment.

Exception: Govt does not produce any measure of monthly unemployment rate

  • The Government of India does not produce any measure of monthly unemployment rate, nor does it have any plans to do so.
  • Official plans to measure unemployment at an annual and quarterly frequency is in a shambles.
  • This does not befit India’s claims to be the fastest growing economy and as the biggest beneficiary of a famed demographic dividend.

Centre for Monitoring India Economy (CMIE) Survey

  • The Centre for Monitoring India Economy (CMIE), a private enterprise, has demonstrated over the past three years that fast frequency measures of unemployment can be made and that seeking an exception on SDDS compliance is unnecessary.
  • The CMIE decided to fill India’s gap in generating fast frequency measures of household well-being in 2014.
  • In its household survey, called the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS), the sample size was 172,365 as compared to that of the official National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), which was 101,724.
  • In both surveys, the sample selection method has been broadly the same.

Advantage of CMIE survey over NSSO survey

  • The CPHS is comprehensive, surveying its entire sample every four months where each survey is a wave.
  • The CPHS is also a continuous survey, and so, for example, three waves are completed in a year.
  • The CMIE’s CPHS thus has a much larger sample and is conducted at a much higher frequency than the NSSO’s.
  • Further, the CPHS is conducted as face-to-face interviews necessarily using GPS-enabled smartphones or tablets.
  • Intense validation systems ensure high fidelity of data capture.
  • All validations are conducted in real-time while the teams are in the field.
  • The data capture machinery ensures delivery of high quality data in real time obviating the need for any further “cleaning”, post field operations.
  • Once the data is collected and validated in real-time, it is automatically deployed for estimations without any human intervention.
  • In 2016, the CMIE added questions regarding employment/unemployment to the CPHS.

Difference between the CPHS and the NSSO surveys

  • A difference between the CPHS and the NSSO surveys is the reference period of the employment status of a respondent.
  • While the NSSO tries to capture the status for an entire year and for a week, the CPHS captures the status as on the day of the survey.
  • This could be as one of four factors: employed; unemployed willing to work and actively looking for a job; unemployed willing to work but not actively looking for a job, and unemployed but neither willing nor looking for a job.
  • Since the recall period in the CPHS is of the day of the survey and the classification is elementary, the CPHS has been able to capture the status fairly accurately with no challenges of the respondent’s ability to recall or interpret the status.
  • In contrast, the NSSO’s system is quite complex.

Key findings

  • India’s labour participation rate is very low by world standards and even this low participation rate fell very sharply after demonetisation.
  • The average labour participation rate was 47% during January-October 2016.
  • The world average is about 66%.
  1. Labour participation rate fell after demonetisation
  • Immediately after demonetisation in November 2016, India’s labour participation rate fell to 45%;
  • 2% of the working age population, i.e. about 13 million, moved out of labour markets.
  • That is a lot of people who were willing to work who decided that they did not want to work anymore.

2. Unemployed gave up looking for jobs any further, unemployment rate fell

  • The data show that it was not the employed who lost jobs and decided to stop working.
  • The employed mostly retained their jobs.
  • But it was largely the unemployed who decided that the labour markets had been so badly vitiated after demonetisation that they gave up looking for jobs any further.
  • In short, they lost hope of finding jobs in the aftermath of demonetisation.
  • As more and more unemployed left the labour market, the unemployment rate fell.
  • This is because the unemployment rate is the ratio of the unemployed to the total labour force.
  • This fall gave misleading signals implying that the unemployment rate was falling in a positive sense.
  • In reality it was a reflection of an exodus of the unemployed from the labour markets — a fall in the labour participation rate.

3. India’s female labour participation rate is very low

  • Official statistics have always shown that India’s female labour participation rate is low and falling.
  • The CPHS shows that the situation with respect to women’s participation in the labour force is extremely poor.
  • The entire brunt of demonetisation was borne by women.
  • Their labour participation fell sharply while that of men did not.

Reason for the decline

  • Researchers have shown that this fall is because of rising household incomes that reduce the need for women to join the labour force;
  • increased enrolment in higher education by women which delays their entry into the labour force, and
  • cultural and security factors that keep women away from the labour market in India.
  • Further, it is evident that employers are also biased against hiring women.

4. The Goods and Services Tax shock

  • After the demonetisation jolt came the Goods and Services Tax shock of July 2017 that drove away small enterprises which could not compete in a tax-compliant environment out of business.
  • This caused a substantial loss of jobs.
  • Preliminary estimates suggest that employment shrunk by 11 million in 2018.
  • The brunt of this was again borne largely by women.
  • But men too were also impacted.

Labour participation rate declined

  • Male labour participation rate was 74.5% in 2016.
  • This dropped to 72.4% in 2017 and then to 71.7% in 2018.
  • In contrast, female labour participation was as low as 15.5% in 2016 which dropped to 11.9% in 2017 and then 11% in 2018.
  • Urban female labour participation rates fell faster than rural female participation.
  • In urban India it dropped from 15.2% in 2016 to 10.5% in 2018.
  • The corresponding values for rural women were 15.6% and 11.3%, respectively.
  • Although female labour participation is substantially much lower than male participation, the few women who venture to get employment find it much more difficult to find jobs than men.
  • The unemployment rate for men was 4.9% in 2018 and that for women in the same year was much higher — 14.9%.


  • This higher unemployment rate faced by women in spite of a very low participation rate indicates a bias against employing women.
  • Drawing women into the labour force by removing the impediments they face to at least bring their participation levels close to global standards is critically important for India to gain from the demographic dividend opportunity it has.
  • This window of opportunity is open only till 2030.
  • By not using a good data monitoring machinery, the Indian government is keeping both itself and the citizenry in the dark.
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