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PIONEER, SEP 5, 2017


Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said that a thoughtful practical work plan should be prepared to double the income of farmers. Besides, short term emergency schemes should be prepared for areas being affected by scanty rainfall and no rainfall at all.

Make proper arrangements for water storage assessing the water requirement for irrigation and drinking. All the measures should be taken at war footing to preserve the flowing water. Similarly, in the same context, the other departments linked with the agriculture like power, horticulture, irrigation and PHE etc must ensure necessary action before time. Chouhan issued these directives while chairing the Agriculture Cabinet Meeting held at Mantralaya on Monday.

Chouhan stated that interest should be developed among the farmers towards farmers’ conventions. Complete detail regarding preparations for doubling the income should be provided. Success story of farmers taking alternate crops with detail should be given in effective manner. Inform them about the use of soil health card. Outlets for sale of organic produces should be opened besides its certification. Along with paddy procurement, make concrete arrangements for registration under the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (Price Differnece Payment Scheme).

Chouhan issued instructions for establishing big units of food processing at panchayat level. He also told for encouraging shed net house farming on the occasion. He directed for making efforts to make the state first in wheat production per hectare by setting a target. Furthermore, he laid emphasis for focus on areas situated on the banks of river Narmada under the agro forestry expansion programme.

A unanimous decision was taken in the Agriculture Cabinet that custom hiring centres should be established under the Kisan Santan Udhyami yojana. Farmers’ conventions should be organised from September 30 to October 15.

Also a State-level workshop of scientists and officers taking part in the conventions should be organised. Information regarding intent and importance of conventions should be given to all the concerned. Moreover, farmers should be encouraged to sell straw in areas where farmers used to burn crops remainders. Custom processing centres should be opened at each block head quarters. These should be utilized for encouraging other entrepreneurs and their training. Moreover, training of beekeeping should be encouraged and in addition kisan bazaars should be established in 378 urban bodies. Consent in principle was given for new scheme for establishing custom hiring centres of primary food processing and price stabilisation.

Principal Secretary Rajesh Rajora gave presentation of agriculture department in the meeting.

Information was given on roadmap for doubling the farmers’ income and its implementation status during the last 18 months. He informed that Madhya Pradesh holds first position in organic certification process in the country under grams, soybean, total pulses crops, oil seeds crops, guava and tomatoes.

Organic cotton, soybean and wheat are being produced in the state. Productivity target fixed for millet, arhar, urad and moong has been achieved in the year 2016-17 itself in comparison to the target of 2022 for productivity of Kharif crops. Similarly, the productivity of rabi crops like barley and brown lentil has become more in the year 2016-17 keeping in view the productivity target of 2022.


TRIBUNE, SEP 5, 2017

Black money: the devil is in politics

Subir Roy

Black money can’t be fought without electoral reforms, which is missing. The couple of electoral reforms announced by the government are inadequate.

Late on November 8, Narendra Modi invited fellow Indians to join a mahayajna against corruption, black money, terrorism and fake notes, even as his government remained dedicated to empowering the poor. In the event, virtually all the banned currency notes came right into the banking system, belying the government’s hope that some of the cash would be nullified for good. 

Finding out what is black and what is white in these new bank deposits will be a herculean task for the income tax department and endless scope for harassment. As for fake currency, the RBI could detect only a minuscule Rs 41 crores. Terrorists, funding for it seems to follow its own path, remained undeterred. 

It is not just that demonetisation did not succeed in achieving its stated goals. It inflicted a heavy price, visible from the endless queues and deaths, hurting mostly those at the bottom of the pyramid. Many small units, dealing mostly in cash, insisted on paying wages in banned currency or simply closed down, taking away jobs and income. Owners, even if they wanted to, could not pay wages into workers’ bank accounts as few operated them. Migrant workers managed for a time and then went back home.

A measure of how the poor were hit can be had from the plight of microfinance institutions (MFIs) which are doing the country proud by successfully lending small amounts to poor women without securities. These women deal only in cash and couldn’t repay their monthly installments. Cut off from repayments, MFIs couldn’t make fresh disbursements. As portfolio growth was hit so were earnings, even as nonperforming assets piled up. Equitas, a leading MFI turned small finance bank, saw its consolidated profit after tax fall by a colossal 74 per cent year on year in the March quarter of financial 2017 and by 4.7 per cent for the whole year. 

The great unexpected was that the poor backed the move. They were willing to pay a price to be rid of the corruption that tormented them and ended up as black money in the hands of their tormentors. This was the second recent manifestation (the earlier was the victory of the Aam Admi Party in the Delhi elections) of the popular support for anyone who sought to strike a pose against corruption and black money.

The macro numbers have now come in, quantifying the cost. The worst hit was manufacturing while construction and mining, the deliverer of jobs, have also been badly hit. 

The monumental pity is that a little bit of planning could have avoided a lot of the disruption, hardship and cost.  

Demonetisation was gone through with little planning and consultation with experts. Why? Here we run into the realm of speculation. The most plausible explanation is that demonetisation was undertaken with two objectives in mind. The positive one was to strike at the roots of black money and tap into the resentment of the ordinary voter towards those who have all the money in the world but would not pay taxes. The realpolitik was in striking a crippling blow to the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party by immobilising their presumed stock of black money in the campaign for the UP assembly elections. 

What of the future? The desire to eliminate the stock of black money in currency notes may not have worked but attacking other assets like benami property and money spirited away abroad can produce results. Right now the prospects of increasing the direct tax base seem bright, as also the spread of the digital economy.   

Against these positives, a large question mark hangs over the commitment to fight the flow of black money (not the stock like hoarded currency and benami property) in the future. The roots of corruption and unaccounted income lie in the role of black money in the country’s politics, in the fighting and winning of elections. Unless electoral reform is earnestly pursued, legislators will continue to spend huge amounts of unaccounted money to get elected. They will then have two fundamental objectives– recoup the investment and build a fund for the next elections. Such people can hardly fight a systemic battle against black money. 

Unfortunately, as explained by Yogendra Yadav, the couple of electoral reforms announced by the government are not only inadequate but partly counterproductive. The budget lowered the level of cash donations to political parties from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000 but no overall ceiling was imposed for such donations. So a political party has to only declare a ten-fold rise in the number of such donations to continue with business as usual. Plus, there is no change in the rule of not having to disclose the source of cheque or digital donations up to Rs 20,000.

The change proposed in regulating corporate donations is worse. The idea of electoral bonds which are almost like bearer bonds has been introduced. A company can buy these bonds

with its declared cash but need not disclose its identity while passing them on to a political party. So the shareholders of a firm will not know which party the firm is donating to and the party which receives the donation through electoral bonds can pretend not to know where the bonds came from. If these reforms will the shape the future, then say goodbye to saying goodbye to black money.

 The writer is a senior journalist


Raghuram Rajan’s book out today: Sneak peek on what he writes about demonetisation, social media and moreRaghuram Rajan’s book -- I do what I do -- will be launched in Chennai on September 5. Read excerpts of what he writes on the Modi government’s demonetisation move and more.

A year after demitting office, RBI governor Raghuram Rajan has disclosed he did not favour the government’s move of scrapping high-value banknotes, saying that the short term economic costs would outweigh any longer term benefits from the move.

Rajan reveals this in his latest book – I do what I do – which will be launched in Chennai on Tuesday. The compilation of speeches he delivered on a wide range of issues as the RBI governor will be released in Delhi on September 7 and Mumbai on September 8.

Here’s what Rajan writes about demonetisation in the new book:

There is one issue, however, on which I have been asked many questions, which I have resolutely refused to answer until my period of silence is over, and that is the demonetisation that was announced in India in November 2016. The questions, which have reportedly also been asked by parliamentary committees, include when I knew about the possibility of demonetisation and what my view on it was. The press, quoting government sources, have variously reported that I was against it (in the early days of the demonetisation process) and that I was ‘on board’ (in the most recent reports).

My only public commentary on the issue of demonetisation was in response to a question in August 2014 at the Lalit Doshi Memorial Lecture. At that time, the matter had not been broached by the government. As the HT reported, “... Rajan said, ‘I am not quite sure if what you meant is demonetise the old notes and introduce new notes instead. In the past, demonetisation has been thought of as a way of getting black money out of circulation. Because people then have to come and say ‘how do I have this 10 crores in cash sitting in my safe and they have to explain where they got the money from. It is often cited as a solution. Unfortunately, my sense is, the clever find ways around it.’...”

Given that various stances have been attributed to me, including in Parliament, let me clarify. I was asked by the government in February 2016 for my views on demonetisation, which I gave orally. Although there might be long-term benefits, I felt the likely short-term economic costs would outweigh them, and felt there were potentially better alternatives to achieve the main goals. I made these views known in no uncertain terms. I was then asked to prepare a note, which the RBI put together and handed to the government. It outlined the potential costs and benefits of demonetisation, as well as alternatives that could achieve similar aims. If the government, on weighing the pros and cons, still decided to go ahead with demonetisation, the note outlined the preparation that would be needed, and the time that preparation would take. The RBI flagged what would happen if preparation was inadequate.

The government then set up a committee to consider the issues. The deputy governor in charge of currency attended these meetings. At no point during my term was the RBI asked to make a decision on demonetisation.

Rajan enjoyed a mass appeal not normally associated with a central banker, a media darling as much for his intellectual calibre as for his handsome looks. Yet, he was wary of social media, often the preferred platform for motivated search for controversy. One of Rajan’s oft-misquoted lines, ‘in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’, triggered a row, as social media plucked those words out of context. In the book, Rajan talks about social mediaand why the ‘one-eyed king’ controversy underlined the flippancy of the medium. Here are the excerpts:

Social media does take a life of its own. In its world of alternative truths, the reality can get grossly distorted. Occasionally, in a game resembling Chinese Whispers, each commentator opined on what they thought I had said, based on a previous commentator’s garbled version, without many bothering to find out what I actually said.

Speaking of being misunderstood, perhaps the greatest flak I got was for some comments I made at the end of a tiring day at the IMF meetings. I was being interviewed for MarketWatch by Greg Robb, whom I knew well. In the middle of a long interview, the question I was posed was:

MarketWatch: The Indian economy is the bright spot in the global economy. When other central bankers and finance ministers ask you for your secret sauce, what do you tell them?

My natural caution as a central banker as well as my concern that our recovery was work in progress suggested I should not boast. So here is what I said.

Rajan: Well, I think we’ve still to get to a place where we feel satisfied. We have this saying, ‘in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.’ We’re a little bit that way. We feel things are turning to the point where we could achieve what we believe is our medium-run growth potential. Because things are falling into place. Investment is starting to pick up strongly. We have a fair degree of macro-stability. Of course, not immune to every shock, but immune to a fair number of shocks. The current account deficit is around 1 per cent. The fiscal deficit has come down and continues to come down and the government is firm on a consolidation path. Inflation has come down from 11 per cent to less than 5 per cent now. And interest rates therefore can also come down. We have an inflation targeting framework in place. So a bunch of good things have happened. There are still some things to do. Of course, structural reforms are ongoing. The government is engaged in bringing out a new bankruptcy code. There is goods and services tax on the anvil. But there is a lot of exciting stuff which is already happening. For example, just last week, I was fortunate to inaugurate a platform which allows mobile-to-mobile transfers from any bank account to any other bank account in the country. It is a public platform, so anybody can participate. It is not owned by any one company, unlike Apple Pay or Android Pay or whatever. I think it is the first of its kind. So technological developments are happening and making for a more, hopefully, reasonable life for a lot of people. Let’s see how it goes.

On any fair read of my entire answer, one would conclude that I was optimistic about India, not downplaying what was going on, even while recognizing we had work to do. But social media went to town after plucking just the following words out of the answer: ‘We have this saying, “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” We’re a little bit that way.’ A couple of ministers, fed this quote, commented adversely on what I said. I was finally fed up of the perhaps motivated search for controversy. So I picked the National Institute of Bank Management Convocation on 20 April 2016 to say the following, cautioning on euphoria and ending by emphasizing once again the need for mutual respect and tolerance.

Rajan also forged a reputation of being an outspoken technocrat who articulated his views as effectively in private as he did in his public speeches. Did that make him an unconstrained critic of the government or its cheerleader? How did the media view him? Why did he feel a special responsibility towards the country’s youth? The risk manager par excellence opens up on what drove him in the new book. Here are the excerpts:

The Governor of the Reserve Bank is much more than just a regulator or a central banker. Since the RBI is both the lender of last resort, as well as the custodian of the country’s foreign exchange reserves, the Governor is the primary manager of macroeconomic risk in the country. If the Governor takes this role seriously, he (or she) has to warn when he fears the economy is in danger of going down the wrong path. As an apolitical technocrat, he can neither be a cheerleader for the government, nor can he be an unconstrained critic. This is a fine line to tread, and the Governor has to pick both the issues he speaks on, as well as the tone of his commentary, very carefully.

The mistake on all sides is to treat the RBI Governor as just another bureaucrat. If the Governor takes this mistaken view, he ends up being subservient to the central and state governments, and not offering an independent technocratic perspective that could keep the nation from straying into economic distress. The RBI Governor has to understand his role, and know it occasionally entails warning of macroeconomic risks from government actions or saying ‘No!’ firmly.

Every government tests what the RBI Governor will acquiesce to, and ideally, it will not push beyond a point, knowing that the RBI’s cautions are worth heeding. If the government takes the mistaken view that the RBI Governor is just another bureaucrat, it will be displeased when it sees the Governor deviating from the usually deferential behaviour of bureaucrats, and it will strive to cut him down to size. This does not serve the country either.

I was determined not to neglect my responsibilities as national risk manager, even while trying to explain to the government of the day why this was a necessary role. Where I had direct responsibility, this meant saying no in private occasionally, even while offering safer alternatives for what the government intended. Where I had indirect responsibility, this meant advising or counselling in private, and occasionally, when the issue merited a national debate, speaking in public. Of course, my past experience as Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund, where my job was to identify macroeconomic risks across a variety of countries, gave me a unique cross-country perspective, and heightened my sense of responsibility.

I also felt this responsibility from a different source. Because of the relentless press attention, I realized that many young people who were looking for a role model now saw the Governor of the Reserve Bank as one they wanted to learn from and imitate. I felt I had to display the highest professional integrity, over and above the obviously necessary personal integrity, if I were to discharge my responsibility to these youth.

While the Governor has to warn about risks where necessary, he is not an agent for the opposition. He continues to be an essential part of the country’s administration, and his objectives have to be the broader government objectives of sustainable growth and development. The danger in a country that is unused to legitimate words of caution, and a press that is accustomed to deference from bureaucrats, is that it may misinterpret this role. A new narrative may form around the Governor. He can come to be seen by the press and social media as a critic, and every speech or comment of his is then scrutinized for evidence that supports the narrative. Should the Governor disappear from public view and not speak for fear of misinterpretation, or should he take the risk in order to discharge his responsibilities? I chose the latter, in part because I thought it was extremely important that our country should steer a stable path when surrounded by so much global risk, and in part because I thought young people (including my own younger staff at the RBI) should realize that it is important to speak up when one’s responsibilities demand it. I did, however, meet regularly with the government to share my views and listen to its point of view, and always left feeling that there was mutual understanding.

Given my risk manager’s perspective, and given that we were recovering from the currency turmoil, in my first speech on the economy I tried to talk up what was going on in India. However, I also had to respect the dharma of the central banker, and not indulge in excessive hype. Indeed, this swing from excessive euphoria to excessive pessimism and back was the subject of my speech at Harvard Business School in October 2013.

Rajan was in the middle of a clean-up of massive bad loans at state-run banks when he demitted office in September, 2016. Through his tenure, Rajan warned against recklessly exuberant lending, and finally launched the Asset Quality Review to force banks to square their books. Critics blamed the move for a slowing of credit from public sector banks. In his new book, Rajan reveals the key people behind the first major exercise to clean up bank balance sheets and the challenges he faced. Here are the excerpts:

In the absence of a functioning bankruptcy code, the RBI put together a number of schemes to facilitate bank resolution of distress. We repeatedly re-examined the schemes to see how they could be tweaked to facilitate resolution. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few hard-charging and conscientious bankers, the general mood among the bankers was to continue to extend and pretend. They feared they would be held accountable for any concession they made, and constantly (and perhaps understandably) avoided taking decisions. In this environment, the idea of a bad bank, funded by the government, that would take the loans off their books, kept cropping up. I just saw this as shifting loans from one government pocket (the public sector banks) to another (the bad bank) and did not see how it would improve matters. Indeed, if the bad bank were in the public sector, the reluctance to act would merely be shifted to the bad bank. Why not instead infuse the capital that would be given to the bad bank directly into the public sector banks? Alternatively, if the bad bank were to be in the private sector, the reluctance of public sector banks to sell loans to the bad bank at a significant haircut would still prevail. Once again, it would solve nothing.

As we found banks reluctant to recognize problems, we decided not just to end forbearance but also to force them to clean up their balance sheets. The Asset Quality Review, initiated in 2015, was the first major exercise of this nature in India, ably led by Deputy Governor Mundra. I would especially highlight the role of two extremely polite and self-effacing but tough-as-nails ladies, Chief General Manager Parvathy Sundar and Executive Director Meena Hemchandra, who really energized their staff and assured them of their support at every turn. The young team they put together was tireless, and made me aware once again of what we are capable of if we put our minds to it.

Every situation of banking sector stress I have ever studied was fixed only by recognizing the problem, resolving the bad loans, and recapitalizing the banks. India was no exception, but once again there were a bunch of critics who claimed that cleaning up the bad loan problem was what led to the slowing of credit by the public sector banks. In a speech in June 2016 in Bengaluru, I made the case for the clean-up once again by asking these critics to actually look at data, which showed the slowdown started before the clean-up, probably as banks became aware of the magnitude of the problem.



7th Pay Commission report: Narendra Modi government to hike minimum salary from Rs 18,000 to Rs 21,000?Earlier, in a bonanza to 48 lakh central government employees, the Union Cabinet on June 28 had approved recommendations of 7th Central Pay Commission with 34 modifications.

7th Pay Commission report: It seems another good news is coming for government employees. Reportedly, Narendra Modigovernment is planning to raise the minimum salary of Central government employees. The government may hike the minimum salary to Rs 21,000, as per a report in OneIndia. As of now, the minimum salary of Central government employees is Rs 18,000. However, the demand is to hike the minimum pay to Rs 25,000, the One India report adds.

Earlier, in a bonanza to 48 lakh central government employees, the Union Cabinet on June 28 had approved recommendations of 7th Central Pay Commission with 34 modifications. The increased allowances came into effect from July 1, 2017 and were based on the recommendations of the Committee on Allowances (CoA).

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the modifications are based on suggestions made by the CoA in its report submitted to the Finance Minister on April 27, and the Empowered Committee of Secretaries set up to screen the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission.

The 7th Pay Commission suggested the abolition of 53 allowances. Of these, the government decided not to do away with 12 allowances.

Also, the Pay Commission had recommended the reduction in the HRA rates to 24 per cent for X, 16 per cent for Y and 8 per cent for Z category of cities.

PIONEER, SEP 1, 2017




The State Government on Thursday promoted two IAS officers of Jharkhand Cadre to Additional Chief Secretary ranks. Principal Secretary of Forest, Environment and Climate Change department Indu Shekhar Chaturvedi has been made Additional Chief Secretary of the department from the date of assuming charge.

Secondly, Principal Secretary of Water Resources Department Sukhdeo Singh has been promoted to the rank of Additional CS with effect from September 1, 2017. Singh will hold the charge of Additional CS Water Resources department till further orders. Both the IAS officers are of 1987 batch. The promotions came after two cadre posts of the Additional CS rank became vacant in the wake of former Additional CS Rural Development department of State government NN Sinha going on Central deputation and Director General of SKIPA Mridula Sinha retired from service on Thursday.  Jharkhand has four cadre posts and four ex-cadre posts of CS rank out of which one is vacant. 


Former home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi tipped to be next CAG

NEW DELHI: Senior IAS officer Rajiv Mehrishi, who retired as the Union home secretaryon Thursday, is likely to be appointed as the next Comptroller and Auditor General of India. He will take over from Shashi Kant Sharma who was appointed CAG in 2013 and was to demit office on turning 65 on September 25. 

The government also appointed Rajiv Kumar, a 1984 batch IAS office as secretary, department of financial services in the finance ministry. Kumar, who has previously worked with the expenditure department of the ministry as both joint secretary and additional secretary will take forward the government’s agenda on bank consolidation. 

Before being appointed as secretary financial services, Kumar was with Department of Personnel and Training.

Mehrishi was chosen as the home secretary by the NDA government just before he was to superannuate as the finance secretary. 

CAG chief gets a sixyear-term or till he turns 65, whichever is earlier. Mehrishi could be the CAG till August 2020, when he turns 65. Three new Deputy Comptrollers and Auditors General have also been appointed by the government in Ashwani Attri, Anita Pattanayak and Ranjan Kumar Ghose, officers of Indian Audit and Accounts Service. 

Sunil Arora, the retired 1980 batch IAS officer of the Rajasthan cadre and former I&B secretary, has been appointed as an Election Commissioner.

CBSE chairman Rajesh Kumar Chaturvedi has been replaced with Gujarat-cadre officer Anita Karwal who was serving as an additional secretary in the Ministry of HRD. Appointment of another IAS officer, Ali Raza Rizvi as CMD of National Mineral Development Corporation has been cancelled and IAS officer N Baijendra Kumar has been given this post now.


Home Ministry gives financial powers to joint secretaries

NEW DELHI: In an effort to speed-up projects, the Home Ministry has given financial powers to the joint secretaries who can now spend up to Rs 50 crore for executing works and purchasing land, an official said. Joint secretaries have also been allowed to make procurement through open or limited tender up to Rs 20 crore and procurement through negotiated or single tender or proprietary contract up to Rs 5 crore. This is for the first time that such financial powers have been given to joint secretaries to bring greater flexibility in operations, reduce delays and facilitate quick decision on matters involving financial expenditure, a home ministry official said. The decision has been taken by Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, who assumed charge on August 31. The joint secretaries can give expenditure sanction under infrastructure, civil, electrical works under approved schemes and projects up to Rs 50 crore. They can also approve purchase of land through state governments, municipal bodies and urban authorities up to Rs 50 crore. The joint secretaries can also give authorisation, expenditure sanction up to Rs 20 crore for purchase of operational vehicles of central armed police forces, Delhi Police and other security related organisations. These financial powers were earlier exercised at the level of Union home secretary, special secretary and additional secretary. There are around 20 joint secretaries in the home ministry handling different divisions, and the financial powers have been given to them for the first time.


TRIBUNE, SEP 6, 2017

Military & ‘unelected’ defence ministers

MG Devasahayam

The principle behind an elected representative controlling the military is that in a democracy, the people are sovereign and being controlled by their elected representatives means that the military is under sovereign control.

Much water has flown down the mighty Brahmaputra. Yet, it has not washed away the shame of the 1962 Sino-Indian war when, thanks to political and bureaucratic blundering, India suffered a humiliating defeat and the entire blame was put on the Army. Civil-military relationship was dismal then and continues to be so. Despite this over half-a-century old painful experience, no lessons have been learnt and politicians and bureaucrats are vague and unclear about even defining this relationship.  

Nevertheless, the armed forces have attempted a definition. In his treatise 'The Soldier and the State' (1998), the former Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat (retd), lays it down with a fair amount of clarity: "The modern military profession exists as part of the government insofar as the term 'government' includes the executive departments of the nation-state... Modern democracies, therefore, pay great attention to the supremacy of the political class over the military in governance, normally referred to as 'civilian control of the military'. This is clearly how it should be, since all ultimate power and decision-making should be wielded by the elected representatives of the people." Successive Chiefs of Army, Navy and Air Force have endorsed this definition.

Civilian control of the military is a doctrine in military and political science that places the ultimate responsibility for a country's strategic decision-making in the hands of the civilian political leadership, rather than professional military officers. A lack of civilian control over the military may result in a state within a state. The civilian control ideal is summarised as "the proper subordination of a competent, professional military to the ends of policy as determined by civilian authority."

Civilian control is often seen as a prerequisite feature of a stable liberal democracy. The use of the term in scholarly analyses is in the context of a democracy governed by elected representatives, though the subordination of the military to political control is not unique to only democracies. 

The role of the military in a democracy is an ever-relevant concern which was raised by Plato 2,500 years ago. The principle of political control of the armed forces as we know it today is rooted in the concept of a representative democracy. It refers to the supremacy of civilian institutions, based on popular sovereignty, over the defence and security policymaking apparatus, including the military leadership.

Democratic control should always be a two-way process between the armed forces and society. In a democracy, firm constitutional guarantees should protect the state, including the armed forces, from two types of potential dangers: politicians, who have military ambitions, and military with political ambitions.

There are a number of shared principles of how to establish the armed forces in a democratic society. They include indispensable prerequisites to organise and guarantee a proper civilian direction and control of the forces. These are essentially the existence of a clear legal and constitutional framework defining the basic relationship between the state and the armed forces and the role of parliament in legislating on defence and security matters. These also include the hierarchical responsibility of the military to the government through a civilian organ of public administration -- Ministry of Defence -- that is charged, as a general rule, with the direction and supervision of its activity.

The integration of the military into state and society also follows strict. Adhering to these principles, our military is under the control of the Government of India, Ministry of Defence. As the representative of the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, it is the Defence Minister who wields 'civilian supremacy over the military'. It is imperative, therefore, that the Defence Minister of the country should be an 'elected representative of the people' and not someone nominated by the party chief and voted by some party MLAs. 

This cardinal principle has been repeatedly violated by the Modi government. First it was Arun Jaitley, a defeated Lok Sabha candidate from the Amritsar constituency in Punjab, a state that contributes a large share to India's military. When the Modi government was sworn in, Arun Jaitley was made 'part-time' Defence Minister, though the BJP along with its NDA allies had more than 300 elected representatives in Parliament. Months later, Manohar Parikkar from Goa was brought in as 'full time' Defence Minister through the Rajya Sabha route, only to make his rapid return to the sunny beaches! And the ministry went back to Arun Jaitley as if there was no 'elected representative' in the stables of the BJP or the NDA.

As if to rub it in, for the fourth time now, we have an unelected Nirmala Sitharaman as the Defence Minister. While he brought in several 'super-performers' into his Cabinet as full-fledged ministers or ministers of state with independent charge, Prime Minister Modi could not find one elected representative to fill this sensitive position. Is there such dearth of talent?

The underlying principle behind an elected representative controlling the military is that in a democracy like ours, the people are sovereign and being controlled by their elected representatives means that the military is under sovereign control. This sovereignty cannot be usurped by the PM by making a person not elected by the people directly as the Defence Minister. This is particularly so because we know what kind of vested interests are obliged with Rajya Sabha tickets these days.

If this situation is accepted, tomorrow an arms merchant or lobbyist can be brought in through the Rajya Sabha and made Defence Minister who would exercise 'civilian control over military.' Can this be countenanced?

The writer is a former Army and IAS officer


PIONEER, SEP, 1, 2017




State Transport, Social Welfare, Minority Welfare Minister, Yashpal Arya, who is also the district in-charge of Pauri, has instructed concerned officers to conduct physical verification of the development work being initiated in the district to check the quality of works while also ensuring transparency.

The Minister stated this while presiding over a monitoring meeting of the development works being done under the district plan of 2017-18 on Friday.

Arya further said the State Government had released Rs 23 crore for the district plan 2017-18 in the first phase and asked the officers to distribute the released funds to different departments.

District Magistrate Pauri Sushil Kumar informed that while Rs 84 crore has been allotted to the district for the 2017-18 district plan Rs 23 crore has been received as the first installment. While Rs 11.50 crore had been distributed to different departments, Rs 2 crore has been utilised in the development works so far, he said. While PWD has been given Rs 3.3 crore against Rs 14 crore, Social Welfare, Horticulture and Animal Husbandry Departments have received Rs 10 lakh each. Besides, Agriculture Department has been given Rs 15 lakh the figures for sports and Sanskrit departments are Rs 13 lakh and Rs 25 lakh respectively. 

While the Social Welfare Department has been instructed to focus on Narinekaten and Kishore Naya, the Horticulture Department has taken up a plan to go for plantation over 80 hectare of land. During the meeting, the Power department has been instructed to construct 33kv power sub- station at Chakisain aside from electrifying 339 toks of the district. 

SSP Jagat Ram Joshi and CDO VijayaJogdande were among the officers  present at the meeting.



Expectations from the NITI Aayog

Ashwani Mahajan

Afew weeks ago, the Vice-chairman of NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog sent his resignation to Prime Minister, Narendra Modi saying he was not getting an extension of leave from his employer, Columbia University, where he had been serving as a professor. The Government has appointed Prof. Rajiv Kumar, an economist, in his place. In parallel, Dr. Vinod Paul, who is serving at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) was also nominated as member NITI Aayog. Media reports suggested that Arvind Panagariya has perhaps resigned due to ‘criticism’ from Swadeshi Jagran Manch and Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh, both organizations affiliated with RSS.

NITI Aayog came into existence in January 2015. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that a new system would replace the Planning Commission. While NITI Aayog was being constituted, the Prime Minister had said that while working as Chief Minister of Gujarat, he realised that states always had to approach Planning Commission with a begging bowl.

The Centre makes policies and programmes which states have to follow, whether they want them or not. Therefore there was a need to have cooperative federalism. A ‘One Size Fits All’ approach was no good; therefore programmes had to be tailor made for states. There was need to have a ‘Bottom to Top’ approach in place of a ‘Top to Bottom’ one. Therefore NITI Aayog was seen as an instrument of states’ empowerment. NITI Aayog was devoid of power to allocate funds, which Planning Commission possessed. NITI Aayog was considered not as a power centre, but as a ‘think tank’.

The natural expectation from NITI Aayog was that along with GDP growth it would focus on other challenges faced by the nation namely, poverty, unemployment, deprivation, inflation etc. Programmes would be chalked out to meet these challenges, after consulting the states, based on the principle of co-operative federalism. Since NITI Aayog was envisaged as a think tank, it was naturally expected that it would work with an open mind, and not under any pressure. Policies and programmes would be made according to the needs and conditions of the states.

However, NITI Aayog despite being equipped with huge workforce of statisticians, officers and experts, failed to make a solid policy document, even to make a start in this regard. It could not even make any headway on the long pending issue of finding a suitable definition of poverty.

Instead of finding solutions to the long standing challenges of poverty, unemployment and deprivation, NITI Aayog’s attention was mainly on issues which were connected with interests of the big corporates, including MNCs. Issues ranging from giving permission to GM crops to dismantling of price control mechanism for pharma prices (so that interests of Pharma companies are not hurt), attracted the attention of the NITI Aayog. It even hired international consultancy firms, to take forward this agenda.

The declared objectives and structure of NITI Aayog are really appreciable. As we understand, we have bid farewell to planning and the role of private sector has increased enormously. Therefore need was being felt that there should be a think-tank guiding the government, free from the responsibility of allocating resources. Even Ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had indicated the need for this shift from Planning Commission. However, the issue of utmost importance is about the choice of people to spearhead this task. After Arvind Pangariya’s resignation, government decided to appoint an Indian economist to lead the NITI Aayog. Minimum expectation from the vice chairman and members of NITI Aayog is that they would understand the problems of this country closely. Need of the hour is to have inclusive development and not just corporate-based GDP growth.

Inclusive development means development where farmers get remunerative prices for their produce, workers get due share in production, health and education are easily and appropriately available to the masses and incomes are more or less equally distributed. Our youth gets employment and farms get irrigation. A criterion of development is not development of big cities only; rural development gets equal attention. For this, minimum requirement is that people sitting in NITI Aayog should be sensitive to the problems of farmers, workers, the unemployed and deprived.

It would be appropriate to state that there are two schools of thought about development in the world. One is represented by the Prof. Jagdish Bhagwati-Arvind Panagariya combine and the other by Prof. Amartya Sen. First approach states that we should merely concentrate on GDP growth. If we have high rate of growth of GDP, its benefits would automatically accrue to the poor and deprived. According to this approach the only way to reach high rate of growth of GDP is globalisation and free trade.

According to the other approach, represented by Prof. Sen, while free trade and globalisation are inevitable, they lead to inequalities and poor are not able to fulfill their basic needs. Therefore, to overcome their problems, the poor must be provided with food security, employment guarantee, and health facilities etc.

If we look deeply, neither of these approaches is appropriate for a country like India. Both approaches have corporate interests in focus. Both do not talk of employment generation and talk about jobless growth. The poor are left in the lurch in the Bhagwati-Panagariya approach and at the government’s mercy in the Amartya Sen approach.

Away from these two approaches, there is the imperative of a third approach. An approach where small scale and cottage industries get attention keeping corporate interests at bay, where farmers get remunerative prices for their produce, where employment generation gets priority along with GDP growth. Everybody has a fair chance to be employed and earn a livelihood, so that he/she is not left to look at the government for fulfillment of basic needs, including food, shelter, education and health.

The writer is Associate Professor, PGDAV College, University of Delhi.


A decelerating economy- This year's growth rate may be the worst in the last four years

Bhaskar Dutta

Contentious decisions

Most independent observers have been expressing alarm about the deteriorating state of the economy in recent months. There is now official confirmation that these observations were not arrows shot in the dark. The ministry of finance has recently released the second volume of the Economic Survey. The survey admits that the economy is exhibiting distinct signs of a deceleration in real economic activity. It retains its earlier prediction of an overall growth rate between 6.75 and 7.25 per cent during the financial year, but candidly confesses that "outcomes closer to the upper end" were unlikely to materialize. So, reading between the lines, the economy is almost certain to grow at much less than 7 per cent during 2017-18.

To put this in perspective, this year's overall growth rate promises to be the worst in the last four years. At least one reason for this is the demonetization exercise last November which probably lopped off about one per cent from the overall growth rate. It is tempting to jump to the conclusion that demonetization - surely amongst the worst policy decisions in recent times - has been solely responsible for the rather dismal performance. I write 'tempting' because demonetization is, after all, a one-time event, and the economy will sooner or later recover from its effects. Unfortunately, there are reasons to believe that other factors, possibly arising due to structural causes and with long-term effects, have also played an important role in slowing down the economy.

Some clues about the nature of these effects come from the observation that the economy seems to have entered a relatively low-inflation regime. The survey attributes the low level of inflation to a structural change in the global oil market and transformation of domestic agriculture. The OPEC cartel has been trying hard to shore up crude oil prices by restricting output. However, its efforts have not succeeded since several non-OPEC countries have stepped up crude production. In addition, shale and other alternative sources have become increasingly popular. The result is that oil prices are at their lowest level since 2014. Policy reforms and good monsoons have also lowered agricultural prices.

The reductions in the price of crude oil and agricultural inputs are supply-side factors. These reduce the cost of production. To the extent that producers pass on some of the benefits of the lower cost of production, this will indeed dampen inflationary pressures on the economy. If this was the only reason for a low inflation regime, this should, in fact, be conducive to growth. At any rate, it is difficult to explain why this should result in slowing down real economic activity.

On the other hand, there are clear signs that the problem lies on the demand side of the economy. The credit offtake figures indicate that firms do not seem to want to borrow from banks. This is a sure sign that producer confidence in the future is low and hence they do not want to borrow in order to fund their expansion plans. State governments in particular are also hamstrung by a lack of resources, and, so, are not investing enough in infrastructure. This is clearly borne out by figures of aggregate investment. There was a time not so long ago when the ratio of aggregate investment to gross domestic product was not far short of 40 per cent. Today, the corresponding figure is less than 30 per cent. So Indian firms are not buying enough capital goods. The immediate effect is that the lower level of demand for its outputs has caused a slump in the capital goods industry. This also has an adverse impact on future growth rates. Unless firms build new factories, their productive capacity can constrain future output. Similarly, unless there is adequate investment in infrastructure, this sector may act as a bottleneck, preventing a high rate of growth.The Central and state governments need to play a leading role in reviving investment activity in the economy. Unfortunately, the sizeable loan waivers to distressed farmers have absorbed a large fraction of state governments' fiscal resources. The Central government seems to have taken a hit as far as dividend income is concerned, with the Reserve Bank of India in particular paying less than half the dividend that it paid the government last year - this amounts to a shortfall of almost Rs 35,000 crore. The lower growth rate will also mean that other public sector enterprise profits, too, will be below expectations. A similar story is likely as far as tax revenue from the private sector is concerned. These shortfalls may be covered if the government can hive off its holdings in some public sector enterprises. Whether disinvestment revenues fill the hole in the Central exchequer will depend largely on whether the government succeeds in its efforts to privatize Air India. But the prospect of any large scale revival of public investment looks pretty bleak unless this hole is filled.

This makes the role of the RBI particularly important. Unfortunately, the recent policies followed by the RBI have been quite disappointing. Perhaps the most important instrument of monetary policy possessed by the RBI is the repo rate. This is the rate at which commercial banks can borrow from the RBI. The lower the repo rate, the lower is the rate at which banks can lend to its customers. The Monetary Policy Committee of the RBI which decides on the repo rate met a few days ago and agreed to only a small decrease of 0.25 per cent in the repo rate. This decision has come as a big surprise to most economists - they expected the MPC to play a significantly more proactive role by effecting a much larger reduction in interest rates.

This would have increased credit offtake by reducing the cost of borrowing, and hence stimulate growth. However, the RBI has taken a very conservative stance. It justifies its decision by arguing that lower interest rates and greater liquidity would result in a significantly higher level of inflation. This argument does not hold much water at a time when the level of inflation is quite low and real economic activity has slowed down. Surely, the trade-off between stimulating growth and controlling inflation has to go in favour of the first option in times like these.

The RBI can also be faulted for its exchange rate policy. Foreign exchange inflows into India have increased, mainly because foreign investors have been investing in the stock market. The RBI has to 'neutralize' these inflows by buying up dollars and so create an artificial demand for foreign exchange. However, this involves an increase of domestic liquidity. Given its phobia about inflation, the RBI simply has not carried out the neutralization exercise fully. As a result, the real effective exchange rate of the rupee has been appreciating steadily. This has made Indian exports more expensive in foreign markets so that demand for Indian exports has gone down. This, too, has contributed towards slowing down the economy.

The author is professor of economics, Ashoka University

ASIAN AGE, SEP 1, 2017

Rajiv Kumar takes office as Niti Aayog's vice-chairman

New Delhi: Noted economist Rajiv Kumar todaytook over as the vice-chairman of government think tank Niti Aayog.

Kumar replaced Arvind Panagariya, an Indian-American economist who left the think tank on Thursday to return to academia.

Kumar was a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research (CPR). He holds a DPhil in economics from Oxford and a PhD from Lucknow University. Earlier, he had also served as Secretary General of industry association Ficci.

He was a member of the National Security Advisory Board between 2006 and 2008.

Kumar had also served as the chief economist of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) and held senior positions in the Asian Development Bank, the Indian Ministry of Industries, and the Ministry of Finance.



Board exam marks not to be spiked next year

The committee had favoured most of the recommendations made by the school examination boards at a meeting called by the HRD ministry in April. DH file photo

A committee comprising seven school examination boards, including CBSE, said that spiking of scores of students in the board exams must be stopped across the country from 2018.

The committee, which met recently, has also recommended bringing in uniformity in the setting of question papers of all boards in subjects like Science and Mathematics. This is done to bring in uniformity in the evaluation of students' performance in the Class X and XII board examination, official sources said.

"The panel has recommended for stopping the practice of spiking marks, not the entire moderation policy," a source added.

The inter-board working group, set up by the human resource development ministry to look into the issue of the spiking of board marks, comprised the heads of the secondary school examination boards of Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Manipur and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations as members.

The report of the committee, which also has suggestions for the CBSE to use only one set of question paper in the board examinations instead of the three already prepared till this year, is expected to be sent to the HRD ministry soon for scrutiny.

The meeting was presided over by R K Chaturvedi before he was removed from the post of CBSE chairman and shifted to the National Skill Development Agency on August 31. The appointments committee of the cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, replaced Chaturvedi with Gujarat-cadre IAS officer, Anita Karwal.

"These are all suggestions. The HRD ministry will decide the next course of action to persuade all the school examination boards to stop spiking students' scores from next year," a source said.

The committee had favoured most of the recommendations made by the school examination boards at a meeting called by the HRD ministry in April. This included a recommendation for framing a common curriculum in Science and Mathematics to bring parity in the evaluation of the papers.

HINDU, SEP 7, 2017Keep politics out of education

Prashanth Perumal J.

Colleges need to be freed fromthe control of the government

The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) has come under huge criticism after the death of 17-year-old student S. Anitha from Tamil Nadu, who failed to clear the examination. People against NEET argue that the exam imposes unreasonable demands on students from rural areas who follow a lighter syllabus. Its supporters, on the other hand, say that NEET is a welcome push to improve the quality of school education in the State. The Tamil Nadu government, they believe, will now make efforts to improve the quality of education. Interestingly, both sides agree that the government has a crucial role to play in education. It’s just that one group wants the Centre to be in charge, while others prefer the State government. This consensus among both sides is alarming because the root cause of the present crisis, which has distressed thousands of students in the State, lies in the politicisation of education.

Political football

As is evident to any keen observer, both the Centre and the State government have been more than willing to tweak college admission rules when it suits their political ambitions. The dumbing down of school education standards in Tamil Nadu under former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi was the most notable of the various populist moves to appease rural voters. The Centre’s behaviour has not been much different either. Its stance on NEET has fluctuated in tandem with its political equation with the ruling governments in Tamil Nadu. In fact, some may argue that the uncertainty created among students drew directly from the political games played around NEET. Such politicisation of education at various levels of government, however, is hardly surprising. Handing over the job of managing education to politicians will naturally bring political considerations into it. This will hold true regardless of whether it is the Centre or the State government that is in charge of education. So, pinning high hopes on either of them will only lead to disappointments in the future.

The only real solution in the long run is to keep politicians out of the business of education. Colleges need to be freed from the control of the government, which will naturally also free them from its populist diktats. They should be allowed to choose the tests, or other criteria, based on which they will admit students. Such a vibrant market for education, marked by free competition, will improve both the quality and the accessibility of education to the poor. Many, however, fear that in the absence of a central regulator, colleges will admit students without sufficient screening, which in turn calls for an all-India exam such as NEET. This is untrue. Colleges which have their reputation on the line will care more than the government about the quality of students they admit, which will reflect in their screening methods. Of course, colleges that employ questionable screening methods too will exist in such a market, but with commensurate reputation. On the other hand, the failure of government regulators such as the University Grants Commission to uphold education standards is already there for everyone to see.


Frame rules for appointment and service of the teachers as per RTE ACT,' CBSE

Prakash Kumar

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has asked its schools to frame the service rules for teachers and ensure that they are recruited as per the provisions of Right to Education (RTE) Act. File photo

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has asked its schools to frame the service rules for teachers and ensure that they are recruited as per the provisions of Right to Education (RTE) Act.

In a circular, the board has noted that the appointment of teachers with prescribed procedures and qualifications and service condition is not adhered to “by some CBSE affiliated schools” despite statutory provisions made for it under the RTE Act.

Many of these schools have also failed to take prescribed measures for professional development of the teachers. They have also not brought in a mechanism for redressal of the teacher's grievance, it underlined.

“A number of complaints have been received against affiliated schools claiming payment of partial salary, delay in disbursement of salary and allowances, promotion and non-availability of welfare measures for teachers, retaining the teachers after schools hours, engaging them in the non-education activities etc,” it said.

As a result, the teachers in such schools feel demotivated in pursuing their career in the teaching profession and taking interest in the classroom teaching, it underlined.

“This adversely affects the overall quality of education and learning outcomes. It is, therefore, reiterated that all CBSE affiliated schools shall frame the service rules and shall ensure the appointment of the teachers, their service conditions etc. as per the provisions of RTE Act 2009, respective State Act and CBSE affiliation bye-Law in its entirety,” the board sought.The RTE Rules, 2010, makes it mandatory for the schools to “appropriately” prescribe and notify the salary, allowances and service conditions of the teachers. The affiliation bye-laws of the CBSE also prescribes the same for the teachers of the affiliated schools.

“It has been noted that many of the private schools have managed to bypass the rules,” official sources said.

In view of such reports, the board asked all schools to “define and publish” the terms and conditions of service of the teachers. It also directed them to ensure that teachers get timely promotion and the benefit of Modified Assured Career Progression (MACP) scheme at par with teachers working in the similar grade in the central or state government schools.

Referring to the existing rules, the board said in its circular that all schools must ensure that the vacancy of a teacher does not exceed 10% of the total sanctioned strength of the teachers as required under Section 28 of the RTE Act.


New UGC policy: Research scholar could lose registration for plagiarism

Manash Pratim Gohain

NEW DELHI: Soon a research scholar could face cancellation of his or her registration if found to have plagiarised someone else's work and a faculty, if found guilty of the same, could be debarred from publishing any work, denied annual increments and disqualified from supervising any student or scholar.

As part of its effort to have zero tolerance towards plagiarism, the University Grants Commission has drafted a new policy to curb the menace. It says the authorities of higher education institution (HEI) can also take suo motu notice of an act of plagiarism and initiate proceedings. As per the draft policy, three types of penalties would be imposed on those found guilty of lifting someone else's work.

While in case of "Level 1 and 2" offence, the researchers would get a chance to revise their work, "Level 3" offence, which is "60% similarities" would result in cancellation of the researcher's registration. That's for plagiarism in non-core areas.

However, for plagiarism in core areas, there will be 'zero tolerance'.

As per the new policy, "The core work carried out by the student, faculty, staff and researcher shall be based on original ideas and shall be covered by Zero Tolerance Policy on Plagiarism. In case plagiarism is established in the core work claimed, then Plagiarism Disciplinary Authority (PDA) of the HEI shall impose maximum penalty."

Core work shall include abstract, summary, hypothesis, observations, results, conclusions and recommendations. The draft calls for setting up of PDA, Academic Misconduct Panel (AMP) and installation of software to detect plagiarism, among other reforms at universities and colleges across the country.

As per the new policy, if any member of the academic community has reason to suspect a case of plagiarism, he or she shall report it to the competent/ designated authority of the university. Upon receipt of such a complaint or allegation, the university authority shall refer the case to the AMP, which in turn shall submit a report to the PDA.

All students submitting thesis, dissertation, term papers, reports or any other such documents to the HEI shall submit an undertaking indicating that the document has been prepared by him or her and that the document is his/ her original work and free of any plagiarism.

Every faculty, researcher and MPhil/ PhD student should be provided access to plagiarism detection tools for checking the content of their scripts and the undertaking shall include the fact that the document has been duly checked through a plagiarism detection tool approved by the HEI.

It will also be mandatory for the HEIs to submit to INFLIBNET (Information and Library Network) soft copies of all M Phil., PhD dissertations and theses carried out in its various departments after the award of degrees for hosting in the digital repository under the "Shodh Ganga e-repository" programme.


PIONEER, SEP 7, 2017




The NITI Aayog on Wednesday constituted an Expert Task Force led by its Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar to boost employment in the country through increased exports.


The task force would propose an action plan to create well-paid, formal sector jobs and alleviate underemployment in both goods and services sectors, the planning body said in a statement. 


"Given the importance of exports in generating jobs, India needs to create an environment in which globally competitive exporters can emerge and flourish," the National Institution for Transforming India said.


It said the task force would also address the issue of low wages by boosting India's exports in key labour-intensive industries.


The other responsibilities of the task force include recommending sector-specific policy interventions, identifying key macroeconomic factors constraining exports and suggesting methods to address these constraints, and assessing the effectiveness of existing schemes to promote exports.


The task force would also address issues related to logistics, export credits and trade facilitation, recommend measures to enhance trade in services with high employment potential, and suggest ways to enhance the availability of reliable, timely and globally comparable data on trade, the NITI Aayog said.


"While the Indian workforce has high aspirations, a majority of the workers are still employed in low-productivity, low-wage jobs in small, micro and own-account enterprises. 


"An urgent and sustained expansion of the organised sector is essential to address India's unemployment and under-employment issue," it said.


The NITI Aayog also recommended a shift towards more labour-intensive goods and services which are destined for exports. 



Central panel says states don’t need to hike NREG pay to match minimum wage

A report, prepared by a Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) committee states that wages under the rural employment guarantee scheme were last aligned to minimum wages in 2009, and that “there is no compelling reason to align MGNREGA and states minimum wages again”.

THE PANEL for revision of wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has recommended in its final report that there is no need to ensure parity with minimum wages paid by various states. The report, prepared by a Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) committee, was recently submitted to Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar. It states that wages under the rural employment guarantee scheme were last aligned to minimum wages in 2009, and that “there is no compelling reason to align MGNREGA and states minimum wages again”.

The panel had earlier found that MGNREGA wages were lower than the minimum agricultural wages paid in 17 states and Union Territories. On July 10, The Indian Express had reported that the panel estimated a requirement of an additional Rs 4,500 crore in its budget in case both are brought on par.

In 2014, a seven-member expert committee, headed by Professor Mahendra Dev, Vice-Chancellor of Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, had held that MGNREGA workers should be paid at least the minimum wages paid to agricultural workers in the states, if not more, to meet basic needs. The report, was accepted by MoRD but rejected by the Finance Ministry citing the fiscal burden involved.

A new panel, under Additional Secretary Nagesh Singh, was constituted on the finance ministry’s advice that the MoRD should set up another internal committee to study the “financial implications” of the Mahendra Dev panel report.

“Since 2009, when MGNREGA wages were aligned with the states’ minimum wages, there has been a divergence because several states have arbitrarily increased their minimum wages without following any scientific principles. There is no reason why the Centre should go by that,” said an official.

While the Union government had claimed that this year’s MGNREGA budget of Rs 48,000 crore is the highest ever, the wage revision this year was at a mere 2.7 percent, the lowest in the scheme’s ten-year legacy leading to a mere Rs 1-3 per day hike in several states.

The ministry panel has agreed to the second recommendation of the Mahendra Dev committee, that the Consumer Price Index for Rural (CPI-R), which reflects the present consumption pattern, should be the basis for annual revision of MGNREGA wage rates, and not CPI- Agricultural Labourers (CPI-AL), which is based on the consumption pattern of 1983. “This, however, would not amount to any significant difference to the individual wages,” said officials, adding that it would require only a Rs 624-crore increase in budget.

Activist Nikhil Dey, who was part of the Mahendra Dev panel, said that states decide on minimum wages based on multiple factors. “The idea that they have increased it to milk the Centre is misplaced as they are not benefiting from higher minimum wages in any way. Moreover, the Supreme Court has held that any payment below minimum wages amounts to forced labour,” he said.

Reetika Khera, a development economist teaching at IIT Delhi, said that merely linking the annual wage revision to CPI-R without first increasing the overall wages does little to increase the existing low wages. “MGNREGA wages have not increased in real terms, ie, after taking into account prices, because the indexation process is inadequate. For instance, in Jharkhand, wages increased by less than Rs 5 over the last two years,” she said.

The MGNREGA wages are far lower than minimum wages in states such as Karnataka, Punjab, West Bengal, Haryana, and Jharkhand. After the recent wage hike, the chief secretary of Jharkhand even wrote to the Centre against the growing divergence between the state’s minimum wage of Rs 224 per day, and MGNREGA wages of just Rs 168 per day.



Brics member states must find common ground to balance Western interestsEach member has a different relationship with the US or EU. Yet, it is important to articulate common positions in areas of convergence to balance the norms emerging from the West based solely on trans-Atlantic interests

Arun K Singh 

The just-concluded ninth Brics summit in Xiamen, China, had attracted more than the usual attention because of the preceding month-and-a-half tense standoff between India and China at Doklam, and the sixth nuclear test conducted by North Korea coinciding with its start.

Questions were also raised about continued relevance of Brics since two of its members (India and China) had serious differences, geopolitical rivalries and intensifying competition in the Indian Ocean, South Asia and Southeast Asia; two other members (India and Russia) were seen as somewhat drifting apart with India building closer relations with the United States and Europe, and Russia getting more linked to China and exploring new opportunities, including military, in Pakistan; and two (South Africa and Brazil) bedevilled by political and economic instability. This was a far cry from the beginning of this century when the concept was promoted as an investment marketing strategy by western financial firms, and taken forward by the five countries also as a check on post-1990 western unipolar dominance.

Despite its detractors, the summit and its outcomes showed that the Brics process remains relevant. The five countries--Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa--account for 42% of the world’s population, 23% of global GDP, 17% of international trade, and nearly 50% of growth in recent past.

Despite the shifts in relative global economic and political standing, especially with increase in China and India’s GDP since 2000, there is still a need to work for “a more just, equitable, fair, democratic and representative international political and economic order” as the Xiamen declaration reiterates. Multi-polarity is essential for India to exercise its “strategic autonomy”, a declared goal of India’s foreign policy.

Support was also expressed for “an open world economy” since both India and China grew in framework of global growth and rising exports, and both are concerned about the protectionist sentiments in the West, particularly US. Commitment was reiterated to work for “enhancement of the voice and representation of BRICS countries… in global economic governance”, including shares and voting rights in the World Bank and IMF, where progress has been made, but much remains to be done. A call was made to fully implement the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, threatened by the US disavowal, and importance of “green development and low carbon economy” recognised. Common positions were articulated inter alia on Syria and Afghanistan, the North Korean test “deplored” with call for “peaceful means and direct dialogue”.

Issues that these summits have deliberated on remain important in the global context. The first Bric summit (South Africa joined from 2011) was held in 2009, in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. Brics nations usually met and coordinated positions also in the framework of discussions in G20 (grouping of major world economies, set up at initiative of US and France in 2008, stimulated by the financial crisis) and the UN. The common positions they adopted on international trade and finance, global financial architecture and governance, quotas and voting shares in the World Bank and IMF, were important to balance Western perspectives and interests.

Starting with the 2013 summit in South Africa, the group expressed common positions on regional and global political issues, and began outreach to regional partners of the host country. African and Latin American countries, those from the Eurasian Economic Union and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and BIMSTEC were, in turn, invited to post-summit outreach. This time, China somewhat changed the pattern and broadened the outreach by inviting Thailand, Tajikistan, Egypt, Guinea, and Mexico, stretching across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The process, aside from developing an infrastructure of institutional and political links, has concrete outcomes such as operationalising the New Development Bank and Contingency Reserve Arrangement.

From India’s perspective, the summit declaration has strong language on terrorism and specifically names some Pakistan-based terrorist groups. Pakistan’s reaction, at such references from a meeting hosted in China, following the strong language used by US President Donald Trump on August 21, revealed its anxiety. The summit also provided an opportunity for a post-Doklam bilateral between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Both sides subsequently described the encounter as forward looking, aimed at strengthening mechanisms and interactions to try and prevent or manage better recurrence of such incidents.

Each of the five Brics nations now have a different relationship with the US and Europe. Russia is under sanctions, following developments in Ukraine and Crimea. With China, the West has deep economic, trade and financial integration, but differences related to South China Sea and Chinese trade and currency practices. India is developing closer relations, but has continued strong political and defence partnership with Russia, and a relationship marked by both cooperation and competition with China.

It is still important for countries with such different parameters in their relations with the major world powers, and difference in their relations with each other, to articulate common positions in areas of convergence to balance the norms emerging from the West based solely on trans-Atlantic interests. Strong groupings such as Nato, EU and Eurozone also have serious differences among members, but work to build on areas of common interest and challenge perception.

Arun K Singh is a former Indian Ambassador to the United States

The views expressed are personal



Multiple messages

The surprise, ever part of the Prime Minister’s script, came courtesy Mrs Nirmala Sitharaman being entrusted with the critical defence portfolio. And while there was no grand plan evident from Mr Narendra Modi’s third ministerial rejig, there were multiple messages: a couple decidedly positive, others moderate, a few rather surprising. As is customary with all governments, such exercises attempt a balance of administrative competence, political stature, electoral strategy, caste and regional considerations etc ~ the result being a mixed bag. Somewhat surprising was new-found ally JD (U) not making it to the ministerial council: that would appear to diminish the clout Nitish Kumar thought he had acquired when ditching his electoral allies. The faction war in the AIADMK probably took its toll, as did the electoral reversal suffered by the Akali Dal, and since the rest of the NDA has little to boast, the rerig turned out to be in-house affair of the BJP, which fuels speculation that another round of tinkering could be undertaken. It must be remembered that such exercises do not bring instant results, so neither praise nor criticism ought to be immediately offered.

It is unfair to Mrs Sitharaman, who has proved her competence in her previous assignment, that her elevation to South Block is being projected from a gender perspective, and confirms that “tokenism” is by default read into so much women-related action. True she has no “defence” experience ~ neither have many male predecessors ~ but she does have the intelligence and energy to tackle the job. Of equal importance to the superintendence of defence is that the PMO and National Security Adviser play major roles. There is a mountain of work pending in the MoD, it is in the interests of national security that Mrs Sitharman be wished success. The “elevation” of the three others to Cabinet status comes as no surprise, Piyush Goyal had done enough in his previous assignment to merit succeeding Suresh Prabhu in Rail Bhawan. The minorities would feel appeased by Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi getting a boost in rank, as by the induction of Alphons Kannanthanam as a minister of state. Additional responsibility for Nitin Gadkari was a reward, so too Smriti Irani getting charge of I & B. Much could be expected with Col RS Rathore now handling sport. Uma Bharati is out of favour.

The spin-doctors’ theory of the rejig being efficiency-oriented has not been entirely fleshed out. The much-hyped experience of Hardeep Puri, Alphons, RK Singh and Satya Pal Singh has not been “reflected” in the departments they have been allotted. The other “spin” that two women will now be part of the key Cabinet Committee on Security is negated by all nine new ministers being men. As for efficiency, surely agriculture could do with an injection of expertise. Farm lands are in trouble.

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Modi's rejig: Eye on polls, mind on governance

Nirmala Sitharaman has emerged as the biggest gainer from Sunday’s reshuffle of the Union council of ministers as she has not only been promoted to cabinet rank but also given the crucial Defence portfolio. In the process, the MP from Karnataka becomes the first woman to independently hold the ministry full time. Since Manohar Parrikar left to take over as chief minister of Goa in March this year, the ministry did not have a full-time minister, and Nirmala will fill this gap. The headline grabbing moment also means that there are two women – Sushma Swaraj being the other – on the key Cabinet Committee on Security now. Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to relieve Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of the additional charge of defence. This was long overdue, and the economic slowdown post-demonetisation made it necessary that Jaitley concentrated on addressing the economic woes confronting the country.

That the prime minister looked outside career politicians for his team was another highlight of the rejig. He has drafted in former career diplomat Hardeep Singh Puri, and K J Alphons, once widely known as Delhi’s ‘Demolition Man’, Satya Pal Singh, former Mumbai police commissioner, and former home secretary R K Singh. This shows that he badly needed people with administrative experience to be part of his team. Modi has shown the door to six ministers, elevated four ministers of state to cabinet ranks and hand-picked nine new faces in his third reshuffle. He made two major and some minor changes in the portfolio allocations. Besides Nirmala, Piyush Goyal, Dharmendra Pradhan and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi have been promoted, reportedly because of their efficiency. But by that logic, if Suresh Prabhu was shifted out of the railways because of a string of train accidents under his watch, how he could still be retained in the cabinet is a matter to ponder.

Among the nine new ministers, there are five from upper castes, one Jat (OBC) and a Dalit. Upgrading Naqvi, bringing in a Sikh (Puri) and a Christian (Alphons) may be an attempt on the part of Modi to project the BJP as an inclusive party which plans to extend its foothold in the East and the South, but not at the cost of jeopardising its hold in the Hindi heartland. However, after the third reshuffle in as many years, the Union ministry, which is now 76-member strong as against the constitutional ceiling of 82, still has six vacancies. This may mean that Modi has kept them open for allies like the Janata Dal (U), and the BJP’s oldest but disgruntled partner Shiv Sena, and perhaps even AIADMK, to be included at a later stage.


The making of a duopoly- Amit Shah is the undisputed number two in the ruling regime

Worm's Eye View-Manini Chatterjee

The much awaited reshuffle in the Narendra Modi government's council of ministers - billed to be the last before the 2019 general elections - has not been a blockbuster, except for the elevation of Nirmala Sitharaman as the new defence minister.

The real significance of the reshuffle, arguably, lies not in the changes it brought about in the government but the signal it sent out about the new power dynamics in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The manner in which the reshuffle was executed marked one more step in a process that has been gathering steam for some time now - the replacement of singular supremacy by a formidable duopoly.

Narendra Modi, without doubt, is still the foremost mass leader and principal vote catcher for the BJP. But for the party's rank and file today, Amit Shah is almost equally important - and certainly more fearsome - because it is he who seemingly decides their fortunes and can make or break them.

This was more than evident to anyone seeking a bit of information in the run-up to Sunday's reshuffle. The stock answer was "no one knows anything, no one but the two". In his occasional interviews after taking over as BJP president, Amit Shah used to frown at the media's use of the term "Modi-Shah duo" or "Modi-Shah combine". It may have been premature journalese then; it is now a standard expression uttered - or, rather, whispered - by members of the ruling regime.

Some may argue that duopoly is not new to the BJP and point to the reign of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani who, for a long time, were the indisputable Big Two. But those were different times and they were different men. The BJP was not the powerful machine it now is; nor did it enjoy the kind of complete political dominance it now does.

But whether it was circumstance or personality, the Vajpayee-Advani duo did not exercise anywhere near the control that Modi and Shah do. For one, there was a host of senior leaders who formed part of the "collective leadership" that the party took great pride in. On the organizational front, there were stalwarts such as Sunder Singh Bhandari and Kushabhau Thakre, Krishan Lal Sharma and Kidar Nath Sahni, and even the likes of J.P. Mathur and Pyarelal Khandelwal who were part of a collegial style of functioning.

While Vajpayee tended to be aloof from the nitty-gritty of party matters, Advani's organizational style was more avuncular than autocratic. Even his bitter ideological adversaries would concede that Advani had the rare gift of spotting and nurturing young talent. He groomed an entire generation of young men and women - Pramod Mahajan, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, K.N. Govindacharya, Ananth Kumar, Uma Bharati, and yes, Narendra Modi - who were to rise to top positions in government and party.

With the advent of Narendra Modi on the centre stage of the BJP in 2013, and following the spectacular victory of the party under his leadership in the summer of 2014, the era of collective leadership came to an abrupt end.

The few surviving elders in the party, including Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, were pensioned off to an old age home called "Margdarshak Mandal", their guidance never sought even once since.

And Modi's contemporaries were neither treated nor regarded as his peers anymore. Rajnath Singh is technically Number Two in the cabinet but is hardly the political heavyweight he was considered to be. Sushma Swaraj, once a shining star in the BJP firmament, is today known more for her quick Twitter response to distressed Indians overseas. And Arun Jaitley, who steadfastly backed Modi after the Gujarat riots and remained his friend in Delhi, has not acquired any extra clout - at least none that BJP members can see.

Amit Shah is the exception. He is the one man who has grown - or has been allowed to grow - to a much bigger stature than he enjoyed less than four years ago. The key reason - BJP insiders insist - is the absolute trust Modi reposes in Shah, a trust that has been honed over decades of working together in their home state of Gujarat.

According to party lore, Shah - who attended RSS shakhas as a young boy - first met Modi when he was a teenager. Modi, then an RSS pracharak 14 years his senior, must have seen the boy's potential and took him under his wing. The two of them are credited with decimating the Congress edifice in rural Gujarat and taking over the powerful Congress-controlled cooperatives after the BJP first came to power in the state in 1995.

Modi moved to the party headquarters in Delhi soon after, but he kept his links with Shah. Modi helped him get the ticket to fight a by-election from the Sarkhej constituency in Ahmedabad in 1997. Shah went on to win the seat in the next four elections. Modi became chief minister of Gujarat in 2001. After winning the 2002 elections, he made Shah a minister in his cabinet, giving him choice portfolios, including the coveted home ministry.

Critics within and outside the state BJP regarded Shah as Modi's hen