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LIST OF NEWSPAPERS COVERED - iipa.org.in 8-15, 2016.… · Web viewlist of newspapers covered....

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No plans for quota to economically weak in general category: Government

Ramdas Athawale had said the reservation limit should be raised to 75 per cent from existing around 50 per cent, giving the additional 25 per cent quota to economically weak people of general castes.

NEW DELHI: The government is not considering any proposal to provide reservation for general category people belonging to economically weaker sections, the Lok Sabha was informed today.

"At present, there is no proposal under consideration to provide reservation for economically weaker sections among general category people," Minister of State for Social Justice Krishan Pal Gurjar said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

The minister's reply assumes significance as earlier his colleague in the same ministry -- Ramdas Athawale -- had pitched for reservation to the poor belonging to general category.

Ramdas Athawale had said the reservation limit should be raised to 75 per cent from existing around 50 per cent, giving the additional 25 per cent quota to economically weak people of general castes.

However, the change should be made without tinkering with the current reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs, the RPI(A) chief had said.

At present, according to the Constitution, 15 per cent seats are reserved for SCs, 7.5 per cent for STs and 27 per cent for OBCs in central government-funded higher education institutions, jobs and even in elections.



Change for the better- Demonetization is one of the most audacious projects ever

Swapan Dasgupta

Many countries, particularly in Europe, have a facility to enable short-term visitors to reclaim the tax they have paid for their shopping. To avail of this facility, visitors are given a stamped form by the retail establishment where they have made the purchase which they submit to the customs at the airport before departing. The tax (minus a service charge) is then either collected in cash or deposited into their credit card. Apart from the long queues in airports such as Heathrow, this is an efficient and relatively hassle-free system of buying duty-free goods. The system also operates on trust and the understanding is that goods once taken out of the country won't be re-imported.

Many years ago, a long-term Indian resident of the United Kingdom explained to me a very simple way of subverting the system. A resident, who is not entitled to the tax-free facility, catches hold of a tourist, usually a relative. He then makes his purchase and secures a tax-free form. The goods are dutifully packed into the tourist's bag and taken to the customs counter which, in one or two Heathrow terminals, is located before the check-in counters. The customs officer checks the goods and stamps the form. If the refund is to a credit card and the queues are long, even the perfunctory examination is dispensed with. The tourist then hands over the goods to the resident who says a grateful goodbye and departs. The tourist then checks in his bags and departs, minus the dutiable goods, which remain in the country.

I don't know the estimated quantum of this fiddle or whether it makes economic sense for a cash-strapped UK government to hire more officers to police the system better. However, when I explained this fiddle to a native Briton some years later, he was aghast. It is not merely that he was surprised at how easy it was to cheat the system for, admittedly, modest gains. What struck me more is that he had never even contemplated breaking the law and exposing himself to a cheating charge.

This is a very small example of a cheating exercise. Many Indians can no doubt cite better examples of equally simple ploys that have resulted in the exchequer being short-changed by vastly larger sums of money. But the idea is not to identify potential loopholes in a system that can be exploited by those out to make a dishonest buck. What is far more significant in my view is that there is a very large body of Indians, who seem quite incapable of playing with a straight bat. Their instinctive response to any situation is to look for ways to beat the system. In the more evolved countries, accountants and lawyers are obliged by strict professional standards to keep within the law and advise their clients accordingly. In India, alas, the reputation of many professionals has been built on the strength of their ability to subvert the system. The accountant whose 'contacts' in the local income tax or excise departments is formidable and the lawyer whose main skill is to 'fix' the judicial system are much sought after and have a lucrative practice. This week, the tax authorities in Delhi raided a legal firm that was overflowing with the much-sought-after new currency. Yet, most of the eminent lawyers I spoke to had either never heard of the partners of the firm or were clueless about their practice.

In India, a premium is attached to the fixers. Had the amount of creative time used in trying to discover innovative ways to beat the system been used for something more worthwhile, our country would perhaps not have been perceived as merely 'emerging'.

The reasons for this unfortunate celebration of deviousness goes back to the days of the East India Company. On paper, and before 1833, the Company had a notional 'monopoly' of trade in the territories under its control. However, this was effortlessly subverted by the private trade carried out by its own functionaries with, naturally, the assistance of Indians. The corruption and venality the Company's officials injected into society outlived its dissolution and the direct rule of the Crown. The corruption game received a big boost during World War II when Indian contractors made an absolute killing and took full advantage of a beleaguered administration. After Independence, the shortage economy and ham-handed government attempts at over-regulation coupled with the punitive rates of income tax, particularly during the high noon of Indira Gandhi's socialism, exacerbated the trends. By the time the liberalization process began, dishonesty had become a part of the Indian way.

Lord Curzon's provocative assertion at the Calcutta University convocation of 1905 that "truth took a high place in the moral codes of the West before it had been similarly honoured in the East" may have been excessively flattering to the Occident but it wasn't devoid of all connection with the Indian reality.

Ideally, the rationalization of personal taxes and the greater space given to private enterprise should have brought in a large measure of correction. Alas, the mindset decay had infected the body. Take the real estate sector as an example. Over the years, the rates of capital gain tax have been made extremely competitive but the practice of taking at least half the proceeds in cash has persisted. A few months ago, when I offered my credit card for a modest Rs 2,000 purchase of a light fitting in Delhi's Khan Market, the shopkeeper retorted sarcastically: "So you are interested in building roads?"

It could be argued that tales of government profligacy and corruption have lessened the average citizens' desire to be completely transparent in their financial dealings, except when, like the salaried classes, they have no choice in the matter. However, the urge to see less government - a legitimate conservative and even libertarian impulse - is offset by a political culture that demands a greater official role in infrastructure spending and social welfare. There is a striking mismatch between the expectation from government and private moral codes. This mismatch has come to the fore in the carefully orchestrated outrage over demonetization.

Whether demonetization has succeeded in lessening the quantum of the cash economy (which also includes a black economy crafted on dishonesty and evasion) will be known soon. However, the suggestion that just because a project is daunting and just because it runs counter to a nasty national habit it shouldn't be attempted at all is spurious. There are times in history when it becomes necessary to force change, even in a democracy, by wielding a stick.

Yes, it is true that some of the efficacy of demonetization has been blunted by the same innovative powers of evasion that have characterized India. Some bank managers have betrayed public trust and ended up as partners in the elaborate game of laundering black money. Some Jan Dhan Yojana accounts, aimed at bringing modern banking to the poorest, have been misused. And some political parties have provided covering fire to those who want to defeat the main purpose of demonetization.

Yet, given the sheer magnitude of the project, this is one of the most audacious projects ever undertaken by a political leadership. Reining in black money, enlarging the tax net and working towards a digital future are worthwhile economic objectives. Far more lofty is the bid to make India a more honest place and force all Indians to think straight. That is the real challenge.


Retain CCTV footage from Nov 8-Dec 30: RBI to banks

Banks have been asked to preserve the CCTV recordings of operations at bank branches and currency chests post demonetization

Demonetisaton: India's banking penetration improves, but cash is still kingPM Modi wants $400 bn Amazon-like market place for all govt purchasesCooperative Bank employees planning to protest against RBIRBI tightens deposit monitoring, but announces measures to lessen painSupply adequate cash or face agitation, bank union warns RBI

The Reserve Bank of India on Tuesday asked banks to retain their CCTV recordings of branch operations and currency chests between November 8 and December 30, to deal with any unlawful activities.

"The banks are advised to preserve CCTV recordings of operations at bank branches and currency chests for the period from November 8 to December 30, 2016, until further instructions," the RBI said in a statement here.

It said this was necessary "to facilitate coordinated and effective action by the enforcement agencies in dealing with matters relating to illegal accumulation of new currency notes".

The apex bank had earlier issued a notification on October 27, prior to demonetisation, asking the banks to cover the banking hall/area and counters under CCTV surveillance and record to facilitate identification of people abetting circulation of counterfeit notes.

The government has kept December 30, as the last date to deposit the demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.


Demonetisation: Arun Jaitley gives e-payments a boost, makes petrol to railways services cheaper

A month after it revoked the legal tender character of specified series of banknotes — all of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations — and in view of the resultant persistent pain to people at large and undermining of economic activities, the government on...

Listing incentives for cashless payments, Jaitley said those paying by card or other digital means for petrol and diesel at PSU retailers’ outlets would be rewarded with 0.75% discount on purchases. (ANI)

A month after it revoked the legal tender character of specified series of banknotes — all of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations — and in view of the resultant persistent pain to people at large and undermining of economic activities, the government on Thursday sought to hasten the shift to a less-cash economy, by unveiling several incentives for digital transactions. Pay digitally and one would get discounts on purchase of fuel, railway services as also for payment of highway tolls and insurance premiums. Also, settlement services rendered by banks for any single transaction up to Rs 2,000 will be exempt from tax if the payment is done via credit card, debit card or other payment card service.

Announcing these steps, finance minister Arun Jaitley said: “Dealing with cash has its own economic costs, which is why the government is promoting payments by credit cards, debit cards and e-wallets.” Earlier in the day, as the logjam in Parliament over demonetisation continued for the 16th day, President Pranab Mukherjee exhorted the members of both Houses to refrain from disruptive behaviour, which is “totally unacceptable in the Parliamentary system”. “For God’s sake, do your job,” he told them.

Listing incentives for cashless payments, Jaitley said those paying by card or other digital means for petrol and diesel at PSU retailers’ outlets would be rewarded with 0.75% discount on purchases. Post-demonetisation, digital payments at petrol pumps have risen to 40% of transactions from 20% earlier, he said. “The incentive scheme has the potential of shifting at least 30% more customer to digital means, which will further reduce the cash requirement of nearly R2 lakh crore per year at the petrol pumps,” Jaitley said. The daily requirement of cash at fuel outlets has already declined by R360 crore per day. About 4.5 crore people purchase fuel at petrol pumps, amounting to R1,800 crore a day.

Nearly 80 lakh commuters using suburban railway networks could now avail 0.5% discount on monthly/seasonal tickets purchased through non-cash means such as debit/credit cards or online payment. This incentive would be rolled out in the Mumbai suburban network on January 1, and extended to other places thereafter. The railways would also give a 5% discount to passengers e-paying for services like catering, accommodation, etc. The national transporter would also give R10 lakh accident insurance cover for free to all passengers travelling on tickets bought online. Currently, 58% of railways ticket bookings are done online by passengers.

Besides the railways, public sector general insurance companies would give up to 10% discount/credit on premiums if a new policy is purchased from customer portals of state-run general insurers.

Such incentive would be 8% on e-purchase of policies from PSU life insurers.

Similarly, users would get a 10% discount at toll plazas on national highways for using RFID card/Fast Tags for making payments till March 31, 2017. All these incentives would be provided by either the government or PSUs and no end-date has been announced. Most of these benefits would be available immediately while some would take effect after a few days or weeks, Jaitley said.

The waiver of service tax on banks’ settlement services for card payments up to Rs 2,000 a time will encourage merchants — who bear the cost of the 15% service tax on the fees charged by banks — to accept payments via cards, analysts said.

To expand digital payment infrastructure in rural areas, the Nabard would extend financial support to eligible banks for deployment of two point of sale devices each in 1 lakh villages with populations of less than 10,000.

These PoS machines are intended to be deployed at primary cooperative societies/milk societies/agricultural input dealers. This would benefit nearly 75 crore people in rural areas, the minister said.

Rural regional banks and cooperative banks have been asked to issue RuPay kisan cards to 4.32 crore kisan credit card holders to enable them to make digital transactions at PoS machines/micro ATMs/ATMs to reduce dependence on cash.

Jaitley said central government departments and PSUs would ensure that transactions fee/merchant discount rate charges associated with payment through digital means were not passed on to the consumers and all such expenses would be borne by them.

State governments are also being advised to take similar steps.

Public sector banks were advised that merchants not be charged more than Rs 100 per month as rental for PoS terminals/micro ATMs/mobile PoS. PSBs have already issued nearly 6.5 lakh machines to merchants.


New Rs 2,000 notes to be phased out within 5 years: Gurumurthy

RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy, who is among those who are regularly consulted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi since demonetisation, has said the new Rs 2,000 notes will be phased out within the next five years. 

Gurumurthy, who is addressing meetings in the city in support of the note ban, said in a TV interview that the government is “committed” to moving towards smaller-denomination notes, and high-denomination notes would be done away over a period of time.

Gurumurthy’s observation has come in the wake of reports of seizure of more than Rs 70 crore of new Rs 2,000 notes in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Delhi since November 10 when they were released. 

Since then, Modi has been under attack from the Opposition leaders for introducing the Rs 2,000 notes.

Gurumurthy, who is a chartered accountant, is said to have been asked by the prime minister to help BJP ministers and others to counter the Congress leaders. 

This was after former prime minister Manmohan Singh spoke on the adverse impact of demonetisation in the Rajya Sabha. Singh described demonetisation, which is being hailed as a “masterstroke” by Modi , as an “organised loot and legalised plunder” and “monumental mismanagement”. Gurumurthy said the Rs 2,000 notes were “only a bridge” as the government had to bring it in place of the old 

Rs 1,000 notes. 

I-T dept recovers Rs 1.56 cr from bank 

In one of the biggest seizures in Rajasthan so far, the Income Tax department has seized cash and jewellery worth Rs 2.02 crore from a cooperative bank, DHNS reports from Jaipur. 

Of the seized amount of Rs 1.56 crore, Rs 1.38 crore was in new Rs 2,000 notes. On Sunday, I-T officials had raided the offices of St Wilfred College and the residence of Keshav Badaya, secretary of St Wilfred Education Society and chairman of the Integral Urban Co-operative Bank. Later, on Monday, it seized unaccounted-for gold jewellery worth Rs 45 lakh from two lockers of the Sodala branch of the bank, which it raided the day before. 

“After recovering the unaccounted-for Rs 1.56 crore notes, we found that Rs 1.38 crore was in new currency. The notes were numbered in a serialised manner, which indicates that they were obtained from another bank,” an I-T official said. 

Discounts on digital purchase 

Customers buying petrol and diesel from PSU outlets using credit and debit cards will get a rebate of 0.75% from the intervening night of Monday and Tuesday, DHNS reports from New Delhi. 

This is part of several incentives announced by the government last week to encourage the use of digital payments. 

“As a part of these initiatives, to promote cashless transactions, the Government of India has announced to incentivise petrol/diesel customers transacting at PSU petrol pumps by way of 0.75% discount when a customer uses debit/credit cards, mobile wallets and prepaid loyalty cards,” India’s largest oil retailer IOC said in a statement. 

‘Continue stir against note ban’ 

Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati asked her party leaders to build up agitation against the note ban issue, and be in the forefront in opposing the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, DHNS reports from Lucknow. 

In a meeting of BSP office bearers in Delhi last week, Mayawati, however, told her leaders that they should not be seen siding with the Samajwadi Party (SP) over demonetisation. She also asked her partymen to make every effort to isolate the SP.Since Uttar Pradesh is going to polls early next year, Mayawati does not want to let go of the currency crisis to corner the BJP.

HINDU, DEC 10, 2016

Cash need not be king

The government has declared an incentive package to encourage non-cash payments for fuel, new insurance policies from public sector firms, train tickets and highway toll, among other things. For credit and debit card transactions up to Rs.2,000, the Reserve Bank of India has relaxed its stringent two-factor authentication requirement, and service tax stands waived. Taken together, these moves to encourage cashless payments are significant not just because they can alleviate the cash crunch following the demonetisation of high-value notes. They could spur a change in spending habits in an economy where cash has served as the basis of around 95 per cent of all transactions. From those between traders and farmers to settling a restaurant bill, the use of cash creates a window to escape the tax net. Shopkeepers routinely ask buyers if they would like a bill or not, and those who opt for the latter to save some rupees are often left with little recourse if the goods prove to be substandard. By contrast, cashless payments can be captured electronically through the settlement mechanisms, bringing more revenue to the government and ensuring consumer rights. Given India’s abysmal tax base, this nudge to cashless payments could be a game-changer, with the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax.

A nudge to move people away from cash, especially in the rural economy, first came in Yashwant Sinha’s 1998-99 Budget, with the issue of Kisan credit cards to farmers. Around 15 years later, RuPay cards were introduced with an eye on lowering payments to service providers such as Visa or Mastercard. By November this year, 29 crore such cards had been issued, 19 crore of them linked to Jan Dhan accounts. The Narendra Modi Cabinet approved a two-year action plan to encourage digital and card payments this February. If some of the proposed measures, such as rationalising the merchant discount rate on card transactions, had been implemented before the demonetisation announcement, perhaps the current pain due to a tight supply of cash could have been ameliorated somewhat. With new payments banks coming up, along with mobile wallets and banking applications, India’s transaction ecosystem could see a paradigm shift provided the government puts in place effective monitoring systems and ensures interoperability between these alternatives. An estimated Rs.18,000 crore is spent to maintain ATMs, and if even a quarter of ATM withdrawals are cut by the switch to cashless payments, banks could use the savings to reach the unbanked millions and still lower digital transaction costs.

STATESMAN, DC 13, 2016

Delhi govt to feed those 'starving due to demonetisation'

The Delhi government on Monday started langars (common kitchens) at 10 places across the capital to serve food to those who have "lost their livelihood due to demonetisation", a statement said.

"The government has decided to come forward to help those who are on verge of starvation due to demonetisation. So we have started serving food to the poor at 10 centres from today (Monday)," it said.

After inaugurating the common kitchen at Geeta Ghat here, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said the Aam Aadmi Party government will do everything in its power to save people from starvation.

"No matter if (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi makes such policies which lead people to the brink of death, the Delhi government will not let that happen. The Delhi government will do everything in its power to save people from starvation due to demonetisation," he said.

The other centres where these kitchens are opened include Yamuna Pushta, Dandi Park, Jama Masjid, Sarai Kale Khan, Nizamuddin Neela Gumbad, Sarai Pushta, Jhandewalan shelter I, Kotla Mubarakpur and Fatehpuri near Old Delhi Railway Station.

"These centres will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner not only for those living in the night shelters, but for all poor people living in the vicinity," the statement added.


A small step- Much more needs to be done to eliminate black money


Difficult times

Many have said that the recent move to devalue notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 to zero would soon eliminate black money and control corruption. Such an assumption is not just overly optimistic but is also ignorant. It is thoughtless. There are many major decisions that need to be thought through and implemented before we can achieve these aims. The devaluation drive is a small step, poorly thought through and implemented.

What are the principal causes of corruption and black money? The starting point of large-scale corruption was the climate of regulation and control that Indira Gandhi created during her rule. It resulted in a mindset among bureaucrats and the public that favoured the public sector while branding the private sector as bad. The supposition was that the government knew what is best for India and Indians. Profit was a dirty word and loss-making enterprises, especially the government-owned ones, were perfectly acceptable since they were providing service to citizens. The government could do no wrong and preference was for public ownership, control, procurement, distribution, decision-making and so on.

Since private operators were suspect, they had to be regulated tightly at every point. The result was a vast army of licensors, inspectors and tonnes of paper in which every aspect of what a private entity wanted to do would be recorded and questioned before being given partial approval. The government always had to have a say.

Not surprisingly, these holders of power - politicians and bureaucrats - would sell their knowledge of the workings of the government, and sanction applications that brought adequate rewards for them.

All bribes to government officials were in cash or in assets such as gold. They were black money and black wealth, unaccounted for formally and escaping taxation. Demolishing this massive edifice of corruption requires the transformation of governance that will ensure transparency, public consultation and strict punishments to wrongdoers. This government claims to have started the process that will result in the 'ease of doing business', but the effects are yet to be seen.

In India, the government owns much of the natural resources. As the economy grew, government servants (including politicians) who allowed the use of these resources by private entities could command more fees for giving permissions. Whether the resources were sold or leased, there was a substantial amount of illegal earning for those who gave the permissions for the government. The scandals (involving the distribution of coal, spectrum and the Commonwealth Games, for example) that came to light during the tenure of the last United Progressive Alliance government robbed the nation of crores. The thieves are yet to be caught and punished. Stopping the theft calls for a transformation in the process of disbursing natural resources.

The role of government in the economy - in building roads, ports, airports, buying aircraft and the like - increased manifold. Each transaction enabled agents to extract commissions for themselves and the government officials made the final decisions.

As external threats increased, India became a rising military power. But instead of making in India the arms and equipment needed, governments, over the years, imported them. This spawned a tribe of commissioning agents who collected fat fees, which they shared with the people authorized to sign the deals for the government (for example, the deals involving Bofors guns or the AgustaWestland helicopters).

These huge expenditures by government resulted in very large earnings for agents, bureaucrats and politicians. They were in unaccounted money paid in India or abroad. The hawala or facilitation business became large and efficient. The hawaladars were all over. It was a business based on trust. The illegal payments in rupees were converted by them into accounts overseas, unless the payments were made at the outset in foreign accounts.

The Indian government has to put pressure on foreign governments and banks to disclose the names of account holders and get their illegal earnings back to India. Instead, in past years, the government appears to have condoned reputable foreign banks entering this illegal business. The government must reduce foreign purchases of defence requirements and make them in India. This is a laborious process but it has begun. That will reduce this illegal commissioning business.

Anyone wanting to start a business or industry in India had to get a whole sheaf of permissions signed by different officials. If the project was big enough, senior politicians also joined the deal. There is the classic story about an importer who got the customs duty reduced for the day the ship carrying the materials he had ordered was to be unloaded in port. The next day the duty went back to the earlier high levels. Of course, the importer paid for this privilege. The government has such vast powers that flexibility to favour any party can benefit the party greatly and the latter is willing to share the benefit. Again, these bribes may be paid in India or abroad.

Land is limited in relation to population. Rapid urbanization has made land even more costly. Urban land, especially in metropolitan towns, is exceedingly valuable. Stamp duties on property transaction are high and both buyers and sellers try to save on this as much as they can. Investors avoid paying tax on the full value of property. Certain municipal rules also create the opportunity for corruption. For example, civic administrations (as in Mumbai) still retain on statute books legislation such as the Rent Control Act (going back to the Second World War). It puts ceilings on rents that are a small fraction of what the market is willing to pay. The municipality earns its revenue on the official low rent; officials, landlords and tenants benefit and create money that is not accounted for. These irrelevant restrictions must go, stamp duties must be reduced and taxes on full rents collected, enabling open competition.

All these earnings are unaccounted for - that is, they do not appear in any accounting records and taxes are not paid on them. There is a huge loss of revenue to governments at all levels. Illegal earnings are used to buy gold and jewellery. Many times, they are also stored in cash. High-value currency notes are of a great help. We must question the motivations of governments that introduce increasingly high-value currencies.

There is little distinction between black and white economies. The 'demonetization' demonstrates this as everyone, from agricultural market wholesalers to shining shopping mall owners, finds it difficult to manage without hoards of high- value currency notes. Black currency greases a good part of trade. Thousands of workers remain unpaid because the cash inflows have ceased. Many paid large amounts of advance wages in the withdrawn notes up to the limit till which banks would exchange them. Stopping these underground business activities is possible only if there is no black money generation by the means described earlier.

It is easy to make promises to eliminate corruption and black money. It is easier to criticize any actions taken to do so. But black money and corruption are now an integral part of the Indian economy. Rooting them out requires a comprehensive plan and the will to implement it.

The author is former director-general, National Council of Applied Economic Research



Industry’s child

Close to four years after the collapse of the garment factory in Dhaka’s Rana Plaza  --  the world’s worst disaster in terms of human exploitation  --  the latest report on child labour in South Asia portrays a grim scenario of Bangladesh on the 45th anniversary of its liberation. For the world at large, the message is inescapable  --  no lessons have been learnt by the Awami government since the catastrophe in April 2013. 

The issue is no less forbidding than the emergence of mortal fundamentalism of the ISIS variety under a purportedly secular dispensation. It thus comes about that the family of 15-year-old Iqbal claims that he boasts a full-time job, impervious to the reality that he dropped out of school to work for 13 hours a day... and supplement the family’s income. That arguably is the thread of child exploitation that binds Bangladesh to India. Iqbal personifies the malaise that is endemic in both countries, of a kind that has been highlighted in the latest report of the Overseas Development Institute. 

The garment industry continues to flourish on the basis of child exploitation and an almost readymade clientele in the Western countries. Altogether, it is a tragedy at the personal level  --  Iqbal's case could be typical of the poorest and the young in Bangladesh. A survey of 2,700 slum households, carried out by ODI, revealed that on an average child labourers worked for 64 hours each week  --  many in supply chains connected to the world’s most popular brands. Nay more, 15 per cent of the children aged between six and 14 did not go to school and worked full-time. The inference must be that children are sent out to work even before they attain the age to go to school. The trend must be still more distressing than the dropout rate. At another remove, expectant mothers are made to work for the normally stipulated hours.

Bangladesh showcases a lethal cocktail of a medieval mindset and the compulsions of international trade. Two-thirds of the girls from slum areas are working full-time in the  $30 billion garments manufacturing industry, which is one of the world’s largest despite an extremely poor safety record. In the absence of regulations and government control, the managements don't regard the employment of children aged between 11 and 14 to be illegal. 

It is hard not to wonder whether the exploitation is institutionalised as most of the child workers don't carry identification cards that would verify their age. A more hideous form of trans-continental exploitation  --  the trade targets the markets in Europe and America  --  is hard to find. Rana Plaza is but the symptom of the sclerosis that has afflicted both the child and industry in Bangladesh.



7th Pay Commission inflates Uttar Pradesh salary bill by 12%

Govt's decision to benefit an estimated 16.52 lakh government employees, 10.50 lakh pensioners' families in UP

Virendra Singh Rawat 




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With the Uttar Pradesh (UP) government accepting the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission, the annual salary and pension bill of the state has inflated by over 12 per cent.

According to budgetary estimates, the annual salary, pension and the interest bill of UP was pegged at Rs 1,45,635 crore for 2016-17.

However, with the state cabinet meeting chaired by UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav here yesterday approving the 7th Pay Commission recommendations, the state coffers would get poorer by an additional Rs 18,000 crore.

The revised salary, pension, and interest bill would rise to Rs 1,63,635 crore, which is 12.35 per cent higher than the earlier projected figure for the financial year.

The consolidated bill of Rs 1,63,635 crore would account for over 60 percent of the state revenue expenditure of about Rs 2,71,354 crore (including Rs 18,000 crore of additional burden).

The government's decision would benefit an estimated 16.52 lakh government employees and 10.50 lakh pensioners' families in the state. It includes state employees, teachers and non-teaching staff of aided educational and technical training institutions, employees of local bodies, district panchayats, development authorities, public sector undertakings/corporations and autonomous institutions.

Earlier, the Akhilesh government had constituted the state pay committee headed by retired state bureaucrat G B Patnaik in light of the Centre deciding to implement the 7th Pay Commission recommendations retrospectively from January 1, 2016.

The Committee thoroughly studied the modalities of implementation and implications of pay hike in the context of UP and submitted its report to the government on December 7, 2016.

The committee had recommended providing hikes with retrospective effect from January 1, 2016, in the state. The government would settle arrears in the next two financial years.

The committee had recommended a minimum scale of Rs 18,000 to a maximum of Rs 2.24 lakh per month. The average salary hike is touted at 14-18 per cent.

Meanwhile, the additional burden of Rs 18,000 crore would include Rs 1,133 crore to be paid on account of 2 per cent increase in dearness allowance (DA) with effect from July 1, 2016.

With state polls due in early 2017, the ruling Samajwadi Party dispensation had acted hurriedly to announce the benefit with polls at the threshold.

During the tenure of previous chief minister Mayawati, the government in November 2008 had approved the recommendations of the state pay committee on the 6th Pay Commission for the 1.5 million state employees. Then, the new pay scales for the government employees and pensioners had also come into effect with retrospective effect from January 1, 2006.

TRIBUNE, DEC 9, 2016

7th pay panel report implementation to hurt fiscal health

The burgeoning non-plan expenditure of the state is expected to increase with the impending implementation of the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission early next year. The Harish Rawat-led Congress government cannot risk earning the wrath of government employees considering approaching Assembly elections in case it soft peddles the issue.

The committee headed by former bureaucrat Indu Kumar Pande is already half way through with the report and is likely to submit it by the end of next week. The financial health of the state is a cause for concern and the BJP and the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG) have repeatedly told the government to take suitable measures to rein in escalating non-plan expenditure.

The government has no funds to take up new projects. It faced problems trying to arrange funds for disbursing salaries to its employees in November and December. Further, once the pay commission recommendations are implemented, the state’s problems are expected to increase.

According to the Finance Department, Uttarakhand will need a budget of Rs 12,000 crore for making payments (salaries, allowances) to its government employees and pensioners, once the go-ahead is given to the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission report.

According to a CAG report, successive Uttarakhand governments have been freely borrowing from the market. The market borrowing has steadily increased since 2010-2011 when it was 14 per cent and in 2014-2015 it was 19.13 per cent. The government utilised on an average 25 per cent of the fresh borrowings for 2010-2011 to 2014-2015 for making repayments of matured market loans whereas on an average 74.96 per cent was applied for capital repayment.

The payment of matured market loans from fresh loans was against the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act (FRBMA) 2003, which the Uttarakhand government has been violating. Even this year, fresh loans were raised from the market to pay accrued interest on previous loans.

The state spends a major chunk of the non-plan expenditure on salaries and pensions of employees. The expenditure on pension payment was Rs 2,452 crore in 2014-2015 and this is expected to rise with the implementation of the pay commissions recommendations.



India’s cyclone preparedness is good. But the same can’t be said about other calamities

PG Dhar Chakrabarti 

Cyclone Vardah that lashed India’s east coast on December 12 with a wind speed of 120 km per hour has once again demonstrated that India’s cyclone preparedness has reached its mark. Three severe cyclones in a row - Phailin in Odisha (2013), Hudhud in Andhra Pradesh (2014), and now Vardah in Tamil Nadu - have proved conclusively that India has won the battle against the natural hazard that used to create havoc to the coastal area not so long ago.

The Indian Meteorological Department was able to track the movement of Vardah with precision and issue early warnings to the state governments and district administrations.

The Tamil Nadu government rose to the occasion to evacuate thousands of people to cyclone shelters and other safe places. The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh cancelled his official trip to the Gulf to supervise the response in Nellore and other places in his state.

The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) deployed its search and rescue team at vulnerable locations. Relief teams were ready with men and materials to provide food to the affected people. The highways and railways controlled the movement of traffic and emergency support teams were seen restoring power and water supplies and removing uprooted trees and signboards to minimise the time taken for restoration of essential services.

Earlier Vardah had crossed over the Malay Peninsula affecting coastal areas of Thailand, parts of Penang state of Malaysia and Western Sumatra of Indonesia. The devastations in these three countries were much more severe - 112 persons were dead, over 4 million affected and assets worth $45 million were lost. The storm blew over Andaman & Nicobar Islands, stranding tourists and confining locals but no significant damage was reported from the island.

While it may be too early to assess the damage and losses in India, early reports indicate that damages to life and economy are not significant.

The success of our cyclone preparedness raises the question why similar success has not been achieved in our preparedness for earthquake, flood, landslide or other natural disasters. The reasons are partly the nature of cyclone itself, which makes it possible to track its growth and movement for three to four days before it strikes, but it is mainly due to the series initiatives taken after the Orissa super cyclone of 1999. This included setting up Doppler radars, constructing cyclone shelters, regenerating mangroves, strengthening community based disaster preparedness, and more recently the World Bank assisted National Cyclone Risk Mitigation Programme that is currently under implementation.

Similar preparedness is not seen for other natural hazards. Early warning of earthquake is not possible at the current stage of scientific knowledge and understanding of this hazard. Early warning of landslide is coming up and it may take years before the system passes through the process of trial. We have a flood warning system that is still primitive.

The system is based mostly on rainfall and river discharge, but other causative factors like settlements pattern, encroachments, drainage system and maintenance of embankments etc. are hardly taken into account. An effective flood warning requires collaborative efforts of central, state and local governments that have been lacking.

Our success in cyclone preparedness surely offers a lesson for improving our preparedness for earthquake, flood and landslides: if we make concerted efforts involving scientists, policy makers, practitioners and communities and invest resources for risk mitigation and disaster preparedness we can certainly replicate the success despite the constraints, difficulties and challenges.

PG Dhar Chakrabarti is former secretary, National Disaster Management Authority and Executive Director, National Institute of Disaster Management

The views are personal



Outstation students in varsities may soon need to have local guardian

Neelam Pandey 

Outstation students coming to study at a university may soon need to register a local guardian with the institute as part of their admission process.

Human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar has backed the need to have a local guardian for students that join a university from far-off places. He has added his suggestion to the recommendations made by the Roopanwal judicial commission, which probed into the suicide of University of Hyderabad PhD scholar Rohith Vemula.

“In my college days there used to be a local guardian system for students coming from outside. I think that was a very good system and we must bring it back,” Javadekar told HT.

A call on whether having a guardian would be made a mandatory part of the admission process will be taken later. The minister, however, didn’t elaborate on what would happen to students who don’t have a local guardian.

“There are a number of students who come from far-flung areas and don’t have guardians. So, how will you assign a guardian for them? A better thing would be to assign senior tutors to a group of students, which is done in Cambridge. Also, online counselling should be done as students prefer it since it is not face-to-face,” a former V-C said on the condition of anonymity.

The ministry has also decided to introduce induction programmes for new students as they come from various sections of society and may need to acclimatise themselves to the college atmosphere.

“In central or other universities people come from rural areas and they need a robust programme to feel at ease. There are other measures such as mentoring by the students which can be adopted. We are adding new suggestions to the recommendations made by the commission. We want all universities to come out with a system so that we will see no more suicides on campuses,” the minister said.

The Roopanwal panel also suggested the appointment of approachable academic counsellors, and the establishment of a grievance redressal cell for socially unprivileged students.

When asked about making the judicial commission’s report public, the minister said the government has six months to submit a report in Parliament.


For primary education, NCERT’s efforts need State support

The reasons for low educational standards are many: people’s migration in search of livelihood, lack of good facilities in schools, lack of good teachers, and, of course, poverty

The National Council of Educational Research and Training’s (NCERT’s) proposed survey to evaluate students of class 1 to 8 on the basis of some criteria is an effort to streamline education policy throughout the country with reference to certain parameters. Earlier the council had done a similar survey for classes 3, 5, 8 and 10 for government schools. What the present survey seeks to do is to lay down the minimum that each student must learn at each level. Another thing to note in the NCERT’s proposed assessment of learning is that while the level of class 1 is too elementary, at least partly, the standard goes up sharply in class 6. So the NCERT is likely to find a certain level of uniformity in classes 1 and 2, while differences across schools, regions and families will show up sharply for classes 5 and 6. On the basis of the survey the government could consider incorporating in the Right to Education Act some basic learning outcomes that would have to be attained within certain timeframes.

The step on the part of the NCERT will constantly help to assess the gap between what is required and where things stand as regards education at primary level. But in this the hobbling factor is the absence of academic and social infrastructure that’s conducive to learning. One only has to look at the ASERs (Annual Status of Education Reports) for the past 10 years to know about the fragile learning levels, especially in reading and arithmetic. What’s even more alarming is that the standards are deteriorating over the years. This is despite the fact that enrolment is going up at different levels and the dropout rate is declining. In fact the dropout rate at primary level is below 5% now, though it goes up sharply at secondary level. The reasons for low educational standards are many: People’s migration in search of livelihood, lack of good facilities in schools, lack of good teachers, and, of course, poverty, which appears as the overarching factor. According to media reports, the ministry of human resource development says there is a deficit of 850,000 teachers at primary and upper-primary levels. The number goes up if one leaves out temporary teachers in government schools. Moreover, regular teachers have to perform duties during elections, socio-economic surveys, Aadhar card registration, VIP visits, etc. The Right to Education Act stipulates 30 students for a teacher in each school but this ratio seldom holds in rural and semi-urban areas.

The NCERT’s enlightened approach will come a cropper if it does not get adequate support from the state governments. State expenditure on school education must be raised and because on that depends the success of many other government schemes and policies.


UGC say in principal fresh term

Basant Kumar Mohanty

New Delhi, Dec. 8: The University Grants Commission has found a toehold in the process for reappointing principals of colleges affiliated to central universities, prompting cries of "maximum government" from academics.

On November 29, the 40-odd central universities were told that no college principal could be reappointed for a second term without an "external review" by a panel that includes the regulator's nominee(s) apart from the university's. Earlier, the UGC had no say in the process.

"This (the new rule) will allow direct government interference in the reappointment of principals. This is unreasonable," said Nandita Narain, president of the Federation of Central Universities Teachers Associations.

College principals had no fixed tenures before the Narendra Modi government came to power - they continued in their post till they retired from the service, said S.K. Garg, principal of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College, Delhi University.

The Modi government fixed principals' tenures at five years, with the possibility of reappointment, and has now brought the reappointment process under its sway.

The curbs on the reappointment of principals is the latest in an unending cannonade of regulatory diktats to the central universities.

The critics say the serial directives from the Union human resource development ministry and the UGC, the higher education regulator, have since March stripped the institutions of most of their academic, administrative and financial freedoms. (See chart)

"Everything is directed from the top, whether it's appointments, promotions or syllabus-making," said Aditya Narain Mishra, who teaches political science at a Delhi University college.

Mishra parodied Modi's campaign slogan of "minimum government, maximum governance", saying: "For universities now, it's a regime of maximum government and minimum governance."

Ministry spokesperson Ghanshyam Goel did not answer a call and an email from this newspaper. Commission secretary Jaspal Sandhu did not take calls.

On March 3, the University Grants Commission had asked the central universities to send the agendas of their executive council meetings two weeks in advance for "proper scrutiny" by the ministry and the regulator.

This, it said, would allow "observations of the regulator as well as the ministry (to be) put on record".

As a central university's highest decision maker, "its executive council can discuss and decide matters ranging from appointments to course content and expansion".

The March 3 directive added that any university ordinance relating to service or financial matters must be referred to the regulator for approval.

So far, the universities could by themselves create some non-teaching posts and decide on service extensions or incentives for employees.

Narain said the Delhi University Teachers Association, which too she heads, had opposed the directive.

Officials said the ministry was also monitoring the appointments of teachers and other staff whose grade pay was above Rs 8,700 a month.

They said the central universities had been asked in October to inform the ministry before putting out any job advertisement.

Mishra said the government was now "trying to control academic matters" too: he cited the regulator's December 1 directive for the award of academic credits to students who participate in the government campaign for a "cashless economy".

Last year, the regulator had forced all the central universities to launch the "choice-based credit system" that mandated them to follow near-uniform syllabuses prepared by the University Grants Commission. The universities had the elbowroom to deviate from the syllabus by 30 per cent, a concession Mishra dismissed as a joke.


BEd school proposal

Basant Kumar Mohanty

New Delhi, Dec. 13: The National Council for Educational Research and Training has decided to set up BEd institutions in 24 unrepresented states, including Bengal.

Over 1 lakh or nearly 16 per cent of teaching posts at the secondary level are vacant in the country. In Bengal, around six per cent posts are vacant.

The NCERT has Regional Institutes of Education in Odisha, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Each offers around 300 seats in integrated BSc-BEd, BA-BEd and standalone BEd programmes.

Candidates with BEd qualification are eligible to teach in secondary schools.

The executive council of the NCERT has taken the decision to open the institutes in all the uncovered states.

If all the states get one such institute each, nearly 7,000 additional teacher training seats will be available every year. At present, several universities and institutions approved by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) offer BEd courses.

NCERT director Hrushikesh Senapaty has written to the governments in all the uncovered states, asking them to provide 50 acres in an urban centre, preferably in the state capitals.

Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra had earlier sent proposals to set up the institutes. Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh recently responded positively to the NCERT letter. No other state has replied yet.

"The proposal is to have one institute in every state. The aspiring students need not go out of the state to pursue BEd in a Regional Institute of Education," Senapaty told The Telegraph.

Once the NCERT gets the response from the states, it will send the replies to the HRD ministry for examination. Each institute will involve an investment of around Rs 400 crore. The NCERT admits students through an entrance test.


Push for distance education markers


New Delhi, Dec 12: The UGC has asked universities offering distance education to clearly mention the mode of learning on its certificates and degrees, in a move that is likely to deepen the bias against such courses.

Officially, the government and the higher education regulator are said to consider distance education to be on a par with conventional classroom learning. But instances of distance-mode candidates facing discrimination at job interviews and during promotions are not few or far between.

In a letter to vice-chancellors and directors of all universities and institutions, UGC secretary Jaspal Sandhu said the mode of delivery of a study programme should be reflected in all documents "in order to erase ambiguities between conventional mode degrees with that of ODL (open and distance learning) mode degrees".

"All institutions offering programme through ODL mode are essentially required to mention 'Mode of delivery: ODL/Distance' on all documents issued to students during or after the completion of programme," the letter said, citing a decision taken at the UGC's September 2 meeting.

Sandhu pointed out that some institutions offering distance courses had been issuing degrees, mark-sheets, diplomas and certificates to students without indicating the mode of delivery of the programme.

There are 14 dedicated open universities offering only distance courses. Nearly 150 conventional universities have started separate departments to offer distance courses.

No institution mentions "ODL" in its academic transcript. Distance-mode students are usually identified by the name of the university, so such candidates from a conventional university are difficult to pinpoint.

A UGC official said complaints had been received about conventional universities not mentioning the mode of education, leading to ambiguity.

Manoj Killedar, who teaches at Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University in Nashik, said: "Mentioning ODL in certificates will strengthen the undue bias against the distance mode and destroy distance education in the long run."

He said research findings had shown no difference in learning outcome between distance and classroom students, but the UGC move would needlessly strengthen the divide between the two.

Manoj Kulshrestha, a faculty of the Indira Gandhi National Open University, said distance students were awarded degrees only after they cleared exams having the same question paper as classroom students.

"If they clear the same exam and pass through the same rigor, there is no reason for creating a division between the two modes," he said.

The UGC directive will be followed only after the academic council of each institution approves it, he said.

Out of 35 million students enrolled for higher education, nearly five million are studying in distance mode. Distance education is cheap and allows students to study at their own pace without having to regularly attend an institution.


Delhi government to increase teachers’ salary by up to 90 per centGovernment has approved substantial hike in salaries of 17,000 guest teachers

Rs 34,100 every month against Rs 22,500.

The Delhi government today decided to increase salaries of about 15,000 guest teachers, who have cleared Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET), by up to 90 per cent. Announcing the government’s decision taken in the Cabinet meeting today, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that salaries of non-CTET teachers have also been increased by up to 44 per cent.

There is a total of about 17,000 guest teachers teaching students in government schools. Out of them, there are 2,000 non-CTET. “Government has approved substantial hike in salaries of 17,000 guest teachers. We have also approved eight causal leaves for those teachers who have cleared CTET. They will now get fixed salary every month,” Kejriwal said.

The Delhi Chief Minister said that government will send a file pertaining to the Cabinet decision to Lt Governor Najeeb Jung for his nod and if he approves, from next month, all guest teachers will get increased salaries.

At present, government pays all guest teachers on daily wages including CTET and non-CTET teachers. Assistant Primary teachers (CTET), who presently get Rs 700 remuneration per day and Rs 17,500 monthly, will receive Rs 33,200 while TGTs will now get Rs 33,120 which is Rs 20,000 currently.

Similarly, PGTs will receive salary of Rs 34,100 every month against Rs 22,500.

Assistant teachers, who are non-CTET, will get Rs 25,000 which is currently Rs 17,500 and TGT, who now receives Rs 20,000, will get Rs 26,500. “As per rules, fixed salaries can only be given to CTET teachers. However, government has also increased salaries of non-CTET teachers.

“We are giving two chances to these teachers to clear CTET and if they pass the exam, they will deserve fixed salaries,” Kejriwal told reporters here.

PIONEER, DEC 9, 2016


University Lok Adalat for serving and retired teachers of the colleges of the universities of the state is going to be organised by JHALSA.

The Lok Adalat is slated for December 10 in High Court of Jharkhand Ranchi.

Sources said JHALSA has asked all the five universities to send in their contingent of teachers to attend the ULA. Teachers would be having blue ribbon and red ribbon for those who are either retired or are in fragile health.

 Nilamber Pitamber University has geared up for this. Under the guidance of University VC AN Ojha, officials are giving final touches to cases of its teachers who will be taking part in this ULA.

Twelve retired teachers here would be getting their post-retirement benefits. Sources said these 12 are of the pre-litigation matter. Proctor of NPU BK Gupta said the university will send fifty plus teachers for the Lok Adalat where disbursement of cheques in respect of the arrears would take place. A large number of teachers will be getting their long pending arrears, said the proctor. JHALSA is also to release its scheme for legal services for eradication of female foeticide menace and saving the girl child.

Cause of senior citizens and acid attack victims will find concern of JHALSA in this ULA. Executive chairman JHALSA Justice DN Patel would be the first to address which will be followed by address of HRD Minister Neera Yadav.

Acting Chief Justice of High Court Justice PK Mohanty, two judges from the Supreme Court Justice R Banumathi and Justice Dipak Misra would also remain present on the occasion. 

HINDU, DEC 9, 2016

UGC: institutes can’t keep students’ original papers

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has brought out an elaborate sets of rules to put an end to “coercive and profiteering” practices by educational institutes regarding verification of certificates during admission, and remittance of fees and refunds.

Attested copies

As per the new rules notified by the UGC, no higher education institute can insist upon a student to submit the original academic, personal certificates and testimonials like marksheets, school leaving certificates and other such documents while submitting the admission form.

The institutes can physically verify the original documents at the time of admission and return those immediately, though they can keep attested copies, the new norms add.

The institutes can charge fee in advance only for the semester or year in which a student is to engage in academic activities.

“Collecting advance fee for the entire programme of study or for more than one semester or year in which a student is enrolled is strictly prohibited as it restricts the student from exercising other options of enrolment elsewhere,” the norms say.


If a student chooses to withdraw from the programme of study, the institute will have to follow a four-tier system for refund of fees remitted by the student. If the withdrawal notice is served 15 days before the formally-notified last date of admission, not more than 10 per cent of the aggregate fees as processing charges from the refundable amount can be deducted.

As per the new norms, as the day for admission nears or passes, when the notice of withdrawal of admission is served to the education institute, the amount that can be deducted from the refundable deposit will also increase. — PTI

TRIBUNE, DEC 8, 2016

Extension lecturers not to get revised pay

College principals directed to pay honorarium as per old instructions

Ravinder Saini

In a major setback to over 2,000 extension (guest) lecturers working in government colleges across the state, the Directorate, Higher Education, (DHE) has directed principals of the colleges to pay honorarium to the lecturers as per the old instructions which ensure Rs 250 per lecture with a maximum of Rs 18,000 per month.

The directives have come at a time when the lecturers have been eagerly waiting for implementation of the announcement made by Education Minister Ram Bilas Sharma around two months ago in view of the High Court’s order in this regard.

Sharma had promised the lecturers to fix their salary at Rs 25,000 per month.

While interacting with mediapersons in Badli town of the district on December 4, the minister had claimed to pay the fixed salary from the ongoing academic session to the lecturers.

“Since the issue of honorarium as per the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court is still pending with the Finance Department, hence extension lecturers be paid honorarium as per the instructions issued on June 5, 2013, and March 4, 2014, in this respect,” said the DHE in its communiqué sent to the college principals today.

These extension lectures are engaged as resource person to cope with the shortage of lecturers in the government colleges. Earlier, they were relieved in mid November every year for over one-and-half month and were called again in January up to April, but the Education Department did not relieve them this time and they are working in the colleges as usual.

“Honorarium of the extension lecturers is due for the past four months. We were hoping to get Rs 25,000 per month because the Education Minister had promised us the same, but new directives have dashed our hopes completely,” said an extension lecturer.

Another lecturer said: “The Education Department is doing injustice to us by not fixing our salary despite the court’s order.”



Health of the nation

Jaydev Jana

Good health stands at the centre of sustainable development. Good health is at the centre of well-being and is vital for everything else we hold dear.

 -- Jeffrey D Sachs, American economist

Healthcare ought to be easily accessible to all sections of the populace. In life, nothing is more important than health. Poor public health conditions can deter investors and tourists. It has been established that states with lower literacy and poorer health levels have found it difficult to alleviate poverty.

In India, the poor are affected by debility, reduced earnings, increasing expenditure on health and eventual death. The rich suffer from repeated spells of morbidity and this is reflected in the high level of stunting and under-nutrition among children. Studies have revealed that an individual’s access to healthcare services is linked to his/her social or caste background. Discrimination rooted in social, caste, or racial origins severely affects the people’s health. Inequality in health condition is also the major challenge for national and sub-national public health policies. Life expectancy at birth, a basic measurement of health inequality, varied from 77.9 years in rural Kerala to 64.1 years in rural Assam during 2009-13. Similarly, the child mortality rate among mothers without education is more than 10 times the child mortality among mothers with the advantage of schooling.

While healthcare of all rapidly developing nations gets progressively better as GDP increases, it would seem that India is bucking the trend. Global experience shows that more public spending on health and education reinforces growth as well as development. Brazil and Thailand have achieved close to universal health coverage. The government’s share of healthcare in India as percentage of the total health expenditure that is incurred by the people is one of the lowest in the world. We spend just around 1.2 per cent of our GDP, while the total health expenditure is around at 4.2 per cent. Insufficient funding of public facilities, combined with faulty planning and inefficient management, have militated against expansion of the workforce to train and retain them, and this has affected service delivery, regulatory and management functions, as well as research and development. The draft National Health Policy (NHP) 2015 emphasised that unless the country spends 5-6 per cent of its GDP on health, with a major part of it from the government outlay (at least 2.5 per cent of GDP), basic healthcare could hardly be met.

India has followed commercial principles in healthcare by involving the private sector in a big way. Private health services have grown by default, without checks on cost and quality. There is no safety net for the poor in private establishments. The government’s policy on public health is the weakest link in the chain.

The steady deterioration of public health services is attributed to the increase in health insurance coverage, the mushroom growth of private hospitals and misuse of the financial provisions of government health welfare schemes. Data garnered in course of various surveys confirm that instead of providing basic healthcare, the common practice is to engage in unnecessary medical procedures, tests, hospitalisation and surgeries. The vulnerable and gullible are being cheated. The prevailing scenario has been described by the World Bank as ‘medical overuse’. The Jan Swasthya Abhijan has referred to the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) which offers BPL families a cashless yearly insurance of Rs 30,000 as one of the schemes which is also being misused by unscrupulous doctors.

Child mortality, expressed in terms of Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Under-5 Mortality Rate (U5MR), is a sensitive indicator of the country’s socio-economic development. The country continues to lose thousands of children below the age of 5 every day. Globally, India ranks fifth in terms of child mortality; but in terms of numbers the figure is a whopping 14 lakh which is the highest in the world. In a country, that is poised to grow at 7 per cent annually, more than half of the children die within 28 days of their birth, and of causes which are preventable. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are way ahead in preventing infant and maternity deaths. Even China with almost the same reproductive and child health indices as India has marched ahead. Every 10 minutes, a young woman dies during childbirth somewhere in India and 3 lakh children die the day they are born.

We need to make citizens aware of the fact that public health services, conceptually distinct from clinical services, play a key role in curbing exposure to diseases, for example through food safety and other health regulations, vector control, monitoring waste disposal and water systems, and health education to improve personal health habits. Sanitation is indeed the major cause of diseases and malnutrition. If more people understood these connections, they would be better able to protect themselves and their families.

Governments have long been focusing on tertiary hospital care, deviating from the earlier emphasis on primary health care, which must be improved, starting with sub-centres. The size and quality of the health workforce should also be upgraded. This can be achieved by closely linking healthcare delivery with medical education. According to World Bank data, Cuba produces the largest number of doctors per capita in the world (6.7 per 1000 against 2.5 per 1000 in the US and 0.7 per 1000 in India) and its health indices are better than that of the US, which spends the most on healthcare. It is unfortunate that in 69 years, post-independence India is short of 3 million doctors and 6 million nurses, and its paramedical training programme is virtually non-existent. 

It has been estimated that around 25 per cent of the drugs sold are spurious. Quality assurance of discounted drugs must be substantiated with adequate measures for spot checks and appropriate punishment. Otherwise, patients will slowly become skeptical about the quality. Moreover, regulatory systems need to be strengthened  --  from hospital accreditation to health education and from drug licensing to mandatory adoption of standard management guidelines for diagnosis and treatment of different diseases at each level of health care.

The lack of commitment at the highest levels and the absence of a work ethic have led to a widespread systemic crisis in healthcare. US academic Lant Pritchett had an appropriate explanation for why things go so shockingly awry in India, and why it is incapable in adopting policies and programmes and implement the same. He calls this the flailing state syndrome  --  “A nation state in which the head, that is elite institutions at the national (and in some states) level remain sound and functional, but that this head is no longer reliably connected via nerves and sinews to its own limbs”. As a result, nothing works here. Pritchett terms flailing as the inability to maintain sufficient control of the administrative apparatus to effectively deliver services through the government “in spite of democracy and strong capability at the state level”.

The writer is a retired IAS officer.


HINDU, DEC 10, 2016

Preserving books, treasuring legacy

Shivani Singh

Delhi Literary Heritage Fest commemorates 100 years of Hardayal municipal library

Pride and smiles on the faces of library workers welcomed visitors to the Delhi Literary Heritage Fest on Friday. The event was held to commemorate 100 years of the Hardayal Municipal Heritage Public Library in Chandni Chowk.

Panel discussion

The event commenced with a panel discussion on ‘Dil Aur Kitab,’ hosted by library member-secretary Shobha Vijender and moderated by Vartika Nanda.

Panelists, including Union Minister for Textiles Smriti Irani, poet Ashok Chakradhar, the Mayors of the three municipal corporations of Delhi, pondered over the dwindling importance of reading in this fast-paced era of technology. Ms. Irani announced a sum of Rs.5 lakh for the development of the library.

Workers applauded

The untiring efforts of library workers to sustain it for a century were also applauded.

Poetry recitals and shayari on bibliophilia and human bonds featured prominently throughout the discussion. While the panel encouraged the use of modern techniques for learning, it urged the audience to pick up a book to read and visit libraries.

Panelist Lavlin Thadani, who filmed a documentary on the library’s 100 years, emphasised on reading “actual books” rather than “books”.

“Don’t just read on your Kindle. Feel the touch of a real book in your hands and leave your impressions on it,” she said.

The discussion ended with a rock show by Indian Ocean.

Antiquarian books and manuscripts

A collection of carefully preserved antiquarian books and manuscripts in Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit and Urdu were on display for visitors, including the oldest English book in the library — a book by T.H. Efquier printed in 1634.

“This library’s story isn’t a hidden one… People know that this building and its people have faced their share of trials and tribulations,” said Rajendra Singh, the book preservator at the library for nearly 28 years.

He demonstrated at an exhibition stall the methods used to safeguard ancient books using chemical and natural substances. “The preservation work has been quite slow due to shortage of funds. I haven’t received my salary in over six months now,” he added.

Another stall illustrated the process of digitisation of books.


Non-government organisation Rekhta has been digitising the library’s collections for free. So far, 1,500 of 26,000 books have been digitised. The process may take up to three years.

(The writer is an intern with The Hindu)



Govt decides to print plastic currency note

Government today informed Parliament that a decision has been taken to print plastic currency notes and procurement of material has started.

"It has been decided to print banknotes based on plastic or polymer substrate. The process of procurement has been initiated," Minister of State for Finance Arjun Ram Meghwal said in a written reply in Lok Sabha to a query whether RBI proposes to print plastic currency notes in place of paper ones.

The Reserve Bank for long has been planning to launch plastic currency note after field trials. In February 2014, the government had informed Parliament that one billion plastic notes of Rs 10 denomination would be introduced in a field trial in five cities selected for their geographical and climatic diversity. The selected cities were Kochi, Mysore, Jaipur, Shimla and Bhubaneswar.

Plastic notes have an average life span of about five years and are difficult to imitate. Also, currency notes made of plastic are cleaner than paper ones. Such notes were first introduced in Australia to safeguard against counterfeiting.

Replying to another question, Meghwal said it was informed by RBI in December 2015 that they have received some banknotes of Rs 1,000 without having security thread which were printed at Currency Note Press (CNP), Nashik, on paper supplied by Security Paper Mill (SPM), Hoshangabad.

An enquiry has been initiated by Security Printing and Minting Corporation (SPMCIL) and the units involved (SPM and CNP). "Major penalty chargesheet has been issued to the personnel concerned. Disciplinary proceedings have been initiated as per departmental rules," the minister said.

Meghwal further said action has been taken to strengthen quality procedure and online inspection system in manufacturing process and special training has been given to the persons concerned to avoid such types of mistakes in future.

"Additional inspections have been introduced to ensure defect-free production," he said.



Wrong note- The PM's poll vs Parliament

Politics and Play - Ramachandra Guha

This column focuses on society and politics, since I know those subjects somewhat better than economics. Besides, economists rarely agree with one another anyway. Of the three experts on the economy I count as friends, one is strongly against the obliteration of the existing 500 and 1000 rupee notes by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and has said so publicly. The second is strongly in favour of the move, and has said so publicly as well. As for the third, he refuses to take sides, saying merely (and wisely) that since the policy has never before been tried in a moderate-inflation, high-growth scenario, we can't say how it will turn out in the long run.

It may take several years before we know whether this abrupt withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes will be a boon to the Indian economy. Yet, in the mere month that it has been in operation, we can see that this demonetization has had a mostly negative impact on the institutional life of the republic. This is because the decision was the work of one man alone, with the prime minister's imprint being so strong that history may well come to know this policy as Namo's Demo.

Consider first, the consequences of Namo's Demo for the institution that Modi himself described as "the temple of democracy" shortly after being elected prime minister, namely the Indian Parliament. It has been claimed that had Parliament been taken into confidence beforehand, black marketeers would have been forewarned. For demonetization to have an impact it had to be sudden and unanticipated. Fair enough, but why didn't the prime minister take the opportunity to explain and defend the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in Parliament soon after it was announced? Since this was a move that directly affects every Indian, surely that was the least the prime minister owed the only institution that directly represents every Indian.

It is now close to a month since Namo's Demo hit the ground, hard but apparently not running. In this time, the prime minister has made a few brief appearances in Parliament, but declined to speak or participate in a debate. While refusing to engage with the Opposition in Parliament, he has made ad hominem remarks about them elsewhere, accusing MPs who oppose demonetization of being corrupt crooks themselves.

Some Opposition MP's complained that even as the prime minister was refusing to speak in Parliament, he found time to address the crowd in a rock concert in Mumbai. I myself think that his true contempt for Parliament was manifest far more in the 'poll' he conducted using the Narendra Modi App. Getting a high 'approval rating' from his followers for demonetization may have satisfied the prime minister's vanity. Yet it further undermined the role and credibility of Parliament. By refusing to engage with elected MPs, while seeking to build a direct link with his admirers, the prime minister wilfully defiled an institution that he had himself once compared to a shrine. Even if he now belatedly chooses to speak or engage in a debate in Parliament, the damage has been done.

The prime minister's supporters have blamed the Opposition for repeatedly disrupting Parliament and for making what they see as unreasonable demands (such as a debate under a voting clause). However, that the Opposition disrespects Parliament is no excuse for the prime minister do likewise. A degraded Parliament must be restored, not damaged further.

The second institution that Namo's Demo has further undermined is cabinet government. Unlike the president of the United States of America, the prime minister of India is merely first among equals. He is supposed to take decisions after consultation with his cabinet colleagues. Yet (like other of Modi's decisions in the past) this decision was undertaken unilaterally, with ministers merely asked to go along. Indeed, in a sign of how little the prime minister trusts his own cabinet, he apparently demanded that ministers leave their mobile phones outside, before entering the room where they were told of demonetization.

The prime minister's disregard of parliamentary procedure has been criticized inside and outside Parliament. But his contempt for government through consultation has been willingly, not to say cravenly, accepted by the cabinet itself. Senior cabinet ministers are content to be merely His Master's Voice. Indeed, they consider it an honour, falling over themselves to broadcast to the nation how grateful they are to serve under a prime minister destined to bring glory to India.

Representative in this regard is a piece published in a New Delhi newspaper by M. Venkaiah Naidu, the Union minister for urban development and for information and broadcasting. This began by claiming that Namo's Demo was part of "the grand 'cultural revolution' the PM is working on". According to Naidu, all that previous prime ministers had done was to create a "decadent culture" of "corruption, opportunism, nepotism, greed, repression (remember Emergency?), exploitation of power, sycophancy and self-seeking behaviour". (This "decadent culture" gave us a unified India, parliamentary democracy, constitutional safeguards for linguistic and religious pluralism, equality before the law for Dalits and women, the IITs and IIMs, the Green, White and IT Revolutions, the space programme, and much else - but let that pass). All this dirt and decadence was, Naidu assured us, now being washed aside by the "grand cultural revolution" that the current prime minister was ushering in, which "impinging on all walks of public and private life amounts to shaking up the system. It ranges from attending office on time, keeping working and living environments clean, accountability, transparency, technology adoption, innovation, etc." These new initiatives, claimed Venkaiah Naidu, "will soon transform India, erasing the legacy of the old decadent order and Modi will emerge as the tallest leader in post-Independence India".

The invocation of the Emergency was interesting, and perhaps also unfortunate. For one thing, between 1975 and 1977 people did attend office on time - and trains ran on time too. For another, one has to go back to 1975 to recall a cabinet minister speaking as sycophantically about his prime minister as Naidu now does of his. Nor is he alone. This regime has plenty of Devakanta Baruas.

To be sure, Modi's predecessor as prime minister, Manmohan Singh, also damaged the institution of Parliament, by refusing to contest for a Lok Sabha seat, and of cabinet government, by often taking instructions from someone who was not even a minister, namely Sonia Gandhi. Modi has further eroded trust in these institutions, albeit in very different ways.

A third institution whose reputation has suffered since Namo's Demo is the Reserve Bank of India. Unlike Parliament or the cabinet, the RBI previously enjoyed high credibility. Indeed, it was one of only two major public institutions in whose fairness and independence the Indian public had almost total trust - the other being the Election Commission of India.

The RBI's last governor, Raghuram Rajan, zealously guarded the Central bank's autonomy. When he was denied a second term, it was widely speculated that the government wanted someone more malleable. The manner in which Namo's Demo was conducted further strengthens this speculation. Rajan had himself publicly expressed reservations about hasty demonetization; had he been in office, he would surely have urged proper planning and more careful implementation.

One does not know whether Rajan's successor as RBI governor was consulted before Namo's Demo was decided upon. (The fact that the RBI has since taken so long to replace the currency taken out of circulation suggests that he was not.) What we do know is that he has stayed largely silent since, so much so that a full two weeks after the Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes were taken out of circulation, one respected business journal asked, "Has Anyone Seen India's Central Bank Governor?" Meanwhile, finance ministry officials have been issuing a series of different notifications about currency, day after day, those coming later cancelling those that came earlier, a further trespassing into the domain of the RBI.

I leave it to the economists to argue the merits of taking those high denomination notes abruptly out of circulation. As a student of Indian democracy, however, it seems evident that Namo's Demo is set to further harm our already imperfect and fragile institutions. Parliament has become even less of a theatre for reasoned debate than it has been in the past. The office of prime minister, excessively weakened by Manmohan Singh, has now become far too strong for its own good (and ours). There will not (as I shall never tire of repeating) be another Emergency, yet Modi is undeniably the most authoritarian prime minister since Indira Gandhi, akin to her in cultivating devotion and worship from even (or especially) his own cabinet ministers. Finally, the RBI, once justly admired for its autonomy and impartiality, has become a pawn in the hands of the ruling government.

Its institutional costs aside, Namo's Demo has also further contaminated our already polluted public discourse. The prime minister has led the way, by repeatedly suggesting that only crooks and criminals can be opposed to the withdrawal (without notice) of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes. This politics of insinuation and innuendo has been energetically taken forward by his cabinet ministers, and by his followers on social media, who, I can be sure, will meet my arguments in this co