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HINDU, NOV 8, 2017
Discordant notes: a year after demonetisation
A year after demonetisation, its effects have still not been quantified
The National Democratic Alliance government is celebrating November 8, the anniversary of demonetisation, asAnti-Black Money Day. Cabinet Ministers will disperse to State capitals where they will elaborate on demonetisations numerous putative successes. The Prime Minister may be in Gujarat,which goes to polls next month. All day there is bound to be much speech-making. Evidence and analysis that tax officials have compiled is likely to be taken on board to add substance to political rhetoric. The bandobast details, released to the media in advance, suggest that the planning has been meticulous.
In the days after more than 80% of the cash in circulation was removed via demonetisation a year ago, chiefly in the quest to stifle the black economy, the discourse turned so extreme and divisive, the goals were sought to be shifted so fast, that getting a fix on demonetisation became tough. So the anniversary is a good occasion to revisit the question: has the note-ban proved to be an effective policy tool to attack the black economy and control corruption? The flow of information recently from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) makes some analysis possible.
A few good clues
Both former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and Deputy Governor R. Gandhi have, following their departures from thecentral bank,made a few things clear. One, the central banks recommendation to the government was that demonetisation would prove to be a weak weapon in the war on black money, and that superior policy alternatives were available for achieving the objective. Second, the government pressed ahead with demonetisation, overruling this expert advice.
It appears the government was in fact out of its depth on the subject. The results from its counting of the returned notes show that the RBI did have a point. With99% of the demonetised 500 and 1,000 notes back in the banking system, little of the stock of the black money in the country was evidently extinguished. Which means it was successfully converted into other forms, thereby delaying, if not altogether escaping, detection.
Now, the tax authorities say that they are on thetrail of the bank deposits made after November 8, 2016, and are investigating suspicious accounts.
The amounts under investigation so far, however, constitute a drop in the ocean. Yes, demonetisation delivered leads, but establishing criminal evasion and ensuring that the corrupt are punished is a monumental effort. Plus, the tax departments past record of proving evasion is unlikely to be giving offenders nightmares. The faulty system is skewed in their favour. Procedures are time-consuming; there are limitations of administrative and judicial capacity, handicaps the government seems to be grossly underestimating. It could well be years before any serious large-scale clean-up is accomplished, representing at best a promise of a deferred payback from demonetisation.
Another challenge is that of measurement. Although the chief goal of demonetisation was to place a check on black money, the central theme of the Prime Ministers policy agenda, the government has no official estimate of the size of the black economy. Unofficial estimates range from a third of the white economy to as much as the countrys GDP. Without an official estimate, it is impossible to meaningfully evaluate by how much demonetisation successfully down-sized the black economy, if at all.
The agenda itself is fraught with contradictions. For weeks now, the rules requiring purchase of gold and diamonds (for 2 lakh or less) to be linked to PAN (Permanent Account Number) are in suspension. Conversion of black money into gold and diamonds has gone on unencumbered. The window opened when the rules were taken down for a technical reason they had to be reworded. No one knows how long this window will remain open.
A year after demonetisation was announced, the questions seem to outnumber the answers. Electorally, voters may judge the policy in terms of intent rather than outcomes. Economists may quibble over the undue costs owing to the debilitating impact on the momentum of economic growth, even as damage to the vulnerable informal sectors remains unmeasured. The governments spokespersons may extol the shrinking cash economy and growing digitisation. But an assessment of demonetisation on Anti-Black Money Day can be complete only if its deliverables on the state of corruption and the corrupt are established.
Missing from the jumble of successes, data and analyses to be exhibited today will be conclusive proof of reduced corruption with evidence-backed answers to questions like: Are fewer bribes being paid and demanded than a year ago? Is corruption down? Are Indians evading less tax post-demonetisation? It would seem India is all set to celebrate what has probably not can possibly not actually be measured.
Puja Mehra is a Delhi-based journalist
HINDU, NOV 2, 2019
Demonetisation: the great reset, a year later
Demonetisation was a fundamental corrective to the economy much like liberalisation of the 1990s
Prime Minister Narendra Modis flagship economic agenda of demonetisation, that stunned the nation as a financial Pokhran, has been caught in the political crossfire between Mr. Modi and the Opposition from the word go. When millions (a word that was hyped by the media) were standing in queues before banks and there was hardship caused to diverse people, the Opposition thought that Mr. Modi had found himself in a tornado that would sweep him away. They began a massive campaign against demonetisation and Mr. Modi. With the media feeding the Opposition with news of near financial anarchy, and in turn the Opposition feeding the news hungry media by shutting down the winter session of Parliament, and the two together creating the ecosystem in which the Supreme Court justifiably said there could be riots, the opponents of Mr. Modi concluded that his end was very near.
The political angle
But facing the biggest challenge of his political life, Mr. Modi went to the people, telling them that the measure was directed at corruption and black money the terminology which the masses easily understood andasked them to bear with him for 50 days. Crores of Indians stunned the media, the Opposition and even the world by patiently standing in queues for days and giving him total support. They endorsed demonetisation by voting for the Bharatiya Janata Party, giving it unprecedented victories in local body elections in Chandigarh, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Odisha and even in the Assembly polls inUttar Pradesh,Uttarakhand,GoaandManipur. But the hostile political build-up turned the demonetisation debate into a street fight, with both the BJP and the Opposition appealing to the masses in the language they easily understood; the Opposition using hardship to incite peoples anger against demonetisation and the BJP appealing for their support terming it as a war on black money. The hardship versus black money focus reduced the discourse on demonetisation a multidimensional venture to just a single point; a war on black money, which won the BJP the peoples support.
Ceasing to be economic
The reductionism diminished the debate to a sole test of the quantum of demonetised notes returned to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). But the demonetisation project formed a much larger landscape. Its fundamental aims were many. It terminated the asset price-led, spurious jobless growth and averted a crisis in the making. The rise in the share of high denomination notes (HDNs, 1,000/500) in the total currency from 47% in 2004 to 78% (2004-10) fuelled unprecedented asset price rise gold, stock and land prices rose by 10 times in the six years over the previous five years (1999-2004). The high GDP growth (8.5%) in six years (2004-10) was largely led by private consumption powered by the financial and real estate sectors both driven by cash. The rise in private consumption (60%) in these six years over the previous five years was directly sourced in the rise of 69% in finance and real estate in that period. Thus, the high growth (8.5%) between 2004 and 2010 was fake, yielding only 2.7 million jobs as against 60 million jobs which the moderate growth of 5.4% between 1999 and 2004 had produced.
Here is an example of how the asset price-led growth had hurt real growth. Liases Foras indices of housing affordability and prices (both equal at 100 in January 2005) peaked in March 2014, with the index of price curving steeply to 529 and affordability slowing at 173. This huge affordability gap, of almost three times, was due to cash driving up land prices and secondary housing market that constituted two-thirds of housing buys. With a 95% shortage in affordable housing, this wide gap virtually killed real housing growth since 2011.
Demonetisation is an effort to reverse this dangerous trend. Had this intervention not taken place, by 2021, HDNs could have touched as high as 36-40 lakh crore, which would have dynamited the real economy through asset price inflation much like subprime lending did in the U.S. before the 2008 crisis.
Had the government aligned demonetisation with the Income Declaration Scheme, 2016, it would have fetched a minimum of 2-3 lakh crore as tax upfront. By unintelligently separating them, it is now chasing demonetisation depositors for tax. Yet, the black money agenda of demonetisation is no failure, though ill-executed. Black money of 45,000 crore has been uncovered and 2.9 lakh crore of cash deposits are under tax probe. Against this whopping 3.35 lakh crore, yields in previous disclosure schemes have been minuscule. Following demonetisation, there are 56 lakh more assessees, advance tax receipts have gone up by 42% and self-assessment tax risen by 34%. It has also led to an attack on benami assets. Even as intelligence agencies note a 50% drop in hawala-related calls post demonetisation, nearly 2.24 lakh shell companies that have been used for hawala have been uncovered; 35,000 have been found laundering 17,000 crore; one of them, 2,484 crore.
Demonetisation means much more. The currency to GDP ratio is down from 13% to 9%, post-demonetisation. Household financial savings have risen and savings in currency form crashed. Interest rates are down, with the RBI cutting rates by 25 basis points, and banks by 96 basis points. According to a study, digital payments have accelerated by 93% between January and June 2017. Without demonetisation, it would have just grown by just 21% by a fourth of it. Demonetisation has forced the extra cash floating around into term and time deposits, which have risen by 17 lakh crore. A huge formalisation of the informal economy, which generates half the nations GDP and 128 million jobs or 10 times the jobs in the formal sector, is under way. Demonetisation is an effort to bring about a fundamental shift in the economy.
The future and a caveat
That GDP growth would slacken for a year is implicit. But it was not as bad as when Paul A. Volcker, as U.S. Fed chief, applied Milton Friedmans monetary theory and contracted bank credit, a kind of demonetisation for the U.S. That led to the U.S.s GDP, far from rising, turning minus 3% in 1982, though it later vaulted to 6% in 1983 and 8% in 1984. But despite the fact that demonetisation would slow the GDP, the government, under attack by economists and the Opposition alike, was in denial mode. Now, the RBI expects growth to improve in the second half of (calendar year) 2017. The rise of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) by 4.5% in August 2017 over August 2016 and 8 core sector IIP (this consists of eight core industries data) for September by 5.2% seem to signal high growth ahead, though the intervention of the goods and services tax may delay it for a while.
A caveat at the end. Demonetisation has robbed the informal sector of non-formal credit; the formal credit assured to them through the Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) formula has not been fulfilled as yet. MUDRA was premised on the assumption that banks cannot reach credit to the informal sector and need last-mile private credit intermediaries, which the RBI opposes. The government must convince the RBI on the need for MUDRA as conceived. Subject to this, demonetisation, in sum, is a fundamental corrective to the economy much like liberalisation was in 1990s. Sadly, this vital aspect is missing in the current discourse.
S. Gurumurthy, a chartered accountant, is visiting faculty at IIT Bombay, Distinguished Research Professor, Legal Anthropology, SASTRA University, and also Editor, Thuglak Tamil magazine
PIONEER, NOV 15, 2017
UP IAS ASSOCIATION TO COMMENCE FROM DECEMBER 14
The four-day-long IAS Week, the annual event organised by the UP IAS Association, will commence fromDecember 14. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will address the administrative conference on the second day of the week onDecember 15. The UP cadre IAS officers are members of the association. This will be the first occasion that the Chief Minister will address the conference after taking oath of office onMarch 19last. The IAS Week will conclude onDecember 17. OnDecember 15, after the administrative conference to be addressed by the Chief Minister, IAS officers will attend the lunch hosted by Yogi Adityanath at his official residence on Kalidas Marg. UP IAS Association will host a dinner for members of the association at MB Club on the same day. The annual general meeting of the association will be held onDecember 16. The week will conclude onDecember 17with the cricket match between the IAS XI and IPS XI. Earlier, during the previous Samajwadi Party regime, a cricket match was played between the Chief Minister XI and IAS XI. However, the match could not be organised in 2016 due to the UP Assembly elections. Then Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had set a record of sort by emerging as a man of the match for four consecutive years.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
TELEGRAPH, NOV 9, 2017
Spreading it out- Inequality and growth reconsidered
Thomas Piketty's unlikely bestseller -Capital in the TwentyFirst Century- generated renewed interest in inequality amongst both academic researchers and policy economists. Distributional issues have, of course, always been at the forefront of economic research, particularly amongst development economists. But, their typical concern has been with issues involving the incidence of poverty in developing countries rather than with inequality per se. But Piketty and others established conclusively that income (and wealth) distribution is a matter of serious concern even in the advanced economies - there is a wealth of evidence that the fruits of economic growth have been captured almost entirely by those at the top of the income ladder. Not surprisingly, rising inequality levels have created a lot of social unrest and political upheavals, Brexit and Donald Trump's victory being leading examples of the latter phenomenon.
An important consequence of the renewed interest in inequality has been the change in the mindset of international agencies which have in the past paid scant attention to distributional issues, focusing (and preaching) on policies that they believed would accelerate growth. Perhaps the best and most dramatic example of this is the International Monetary Fund, hitherto one of the bastions of rightwing economic orthodoxy. Several recent studies by IMF staff economists have re-examined the trade-offs between sustained growth and inequality levels. One study indicates that lower inequality may actually drive faster and more durable growth for a given level of redistribution. Moreover, redistribution appears generally benign in its impact on growth. There is very little evidence suggesting that countries which emphasize redistribution suffer from low rates of growth once other factors have been taken into account. These suggest that the combined direct and indirect effects of redistribution, are, on average, pro-growth.
Another IMF study published in itsFiscal Monitoris perhaps more striking. It concludes on the basis of an analysis of tax rates in the countries of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development that there is no strong relationship between the degree of progressivity of tax rates and economic growth. In fact, the study adds that if countries prefer to redistribute wealth and incomes, then "there may well be scope for increasing the progressivity of income taxation without significantly hurting growth". This must come as music to the ears of the sizeable number of people who feel that "right wing" governments are simply not doing enough to promote the interests of those at the bottom end of the income ladder.
The received doctrine in much of the neoclassical literature on growth and development has been that implementation of equality-inducing policies must also retard economic growth. This was, for instance, the central theme in Arthur Okun's influential book written in 1975. Much earlier, Nicholas Kaldor described a theoretical model with just two income classes - the rich and poor. Kaldor made the quite plausible assumption that the rich save a larger fraction of their gross income. This immediately implied that the higher the fraction of total income accruing to the rich, the greater would be the overall volume of savings and investible resources in the economy. To the extent that the availability of capital is the only constraint on growth, this may be one channel through which efforts to reduce inequality may slow down the growth process.
While there may be a grain of truth in the Kaldorian paradigm, it is rather nave to assume that the growth tap will be turned on as soon as capital is made available. In particular, the major constraint on growth may be an inadequacy of aggregate demand. Entrepreneurs may cut back on production and meet low levels of demand by drawing down inventories. A more equal distribution of incomes can generate additional demand precisely because low income earners spend virtually all their incomes. This may well be a principal cause of the recent slowdown in India and many other economies.
A more 'modern' or recent approach is to bring in the negative incentive effects of redistribution through higher tax rates. A first impression must be that any increase in income tax rates will reduce the marginal return of work. This tends to make work less rewarding and correspondingly leisure more attractive. However, there is a countervailing effect. The increase in tax rates also reduces incomes and reduces demand for all goods and services. Since leisure can be treated like other goods, this effect will make people demand less leisure - that is work more. So, there is no unambiguous effect of income on the incentive to work. Of course, what is crucial is the level of taxation. There is no doubt that the exorbitant marginal tax rates that we had at one time - over 90 per cent - must have left the top income earners either with no incentive to work or promoted large-scale tax evasion.
The report in the IMF'sFiscal Monitoralluded to earlier also has interesting policy implications for India. The IMF's analysis reveals that if governments intend to maximize revenue, then the optimal tax rate on higher incomes should be 44 per cent. While such a precise quantitative estimate must be taken with a pinch of salt - the optimal rate must surely depend on specific country circumstances such as the level of indirect taxes - it does suggest that the super-rich in India are getting off rather lightly with marginal tax rates in the mid-thirties. A common argument against raising income tax rates is that this may encourage a greater degree of tax evasion. However, increased computerization and streamlining of operations of the tax authorities has forced greater tax compliance. It is that much harder to evade taxes and so an increase in marginal tax rates of, say, 3-4 per cent is unlikely to result in more people evading taxes.
It is fair to claim that the recent debate on distributionversusgrowth shows that that the equality-growth trade-off is nonexistent. That is, there is little reason to believe that efforts to achieve a more equitable distribution of incomes must come at the expense of lower rates of growth. In fact, redistribution may even result in higher rates of growth. Of course, our concern with rising or even static but high levels of inequality should not be based purely on instrumental grounds. A better distribution of the national cake is a legitimate objective of development policy. But, it helps that instrumental reasons reinforce welfare-theoretic arguments in favour of a more equitable distribution of national incomes. This should surely ensure that there is less opposition to future efforts at redistribution.
The author is professor of Economics, Ashoka University
BUSINESS LINE, NOV 8, 2017
Its a major structural change
India is one of the few economies in the world which has been excessively cash-dominated. A cash-dominated economy has several features, the most obvious being that the percentage of cash currency in circulation in relation to GDP is very high. In India, it was between 12 and 12.5 per cent; 86 per cent of this currency was high denominational 500 and 1000.
The obvious consequence of this is a tendency and an encouragement to deal more in cash. Cash becomes the lubricant and the instrument of exchange. What did this excessive cash in the system create in the Indian economy? The size of the shadow economy became much larger over the decades.
Could anyone buy property in India and not pay partly in cash and partly in cheque? To do business, people maintained two sets of accounts. Sales across the counter were taking place without receipts.
This, in turn, would naturally lead to evasion of both direct and indirect taxes.
Of course, it would also lead to economic activity. But this informal economic activity would be outside the formal order. The net result has been that the size of the formal economy contracted and that of the shadow economy became much larger.
Cash also has social consequences. It leads to corruption. The instrument of bribery is always cash. Cash leads to expenditure on conspicuous items like gold and luxury items. Cash is also the instrument for fuelling crime, extortion. Terrorism thrives on cash. And, therefore, in the larger national and public interest as also for good economic reasons, the quantum of cash in the society and the economy has to be curbed.
Analysts and thinkers the world across have done research on what the cost of cash is and what the curse of cash can be. In this context, ever since the NDA government under Mr Narendra Modi assumed charge, we were very clear that the menace of black money is to be attacked. Look at the series of decisions we have taken so far.
In 2011, the Supreme Court had asked the Government to appoint a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by two retired judges. The then Government did not do so. We did it.
Immediately thereafter, we came up with a scheme that those who have illegal money and assets abroad must bring them back on payment of 60 per cent tax and penalty or they will be prosecuted. The Black Money Law for overseas assets was enacted and it provided for a 10-year punishment.
We then started entering into agreements with countries across the world through G20, the FATCA agreement with the US to improve international tax compliance through mutual assistance in tax matters, agreement with Switzerland so that we can get real-time information with regard to transactions done by Indians overseas and vice-versa. Three major international double tax avoidance treaties with Mauritius, Cyprus and Singapore have been rewritten.
We then brought in the Benami law which brings into its ambit businessmen and politicians alike and applies to shell companies through which money is laundered. We brought in the income disclosure scheme to disclose income which has escaped assessment. Finally, on November 8, 2016, the Government took the historic decision of demonetising the 500 and 1000 notes.
Objectives and achievements
There were three major objectives and some incidental achievements. The first, of course, was that the quantum of cash should be curbed. The situation now is that the amount of currency available in the market, particularly high denominational currency, has been squeezed by about 30 per cent. I hope it continues to be squeezed. The number of digital transactions people using cards, people using e-wallets, people using electronic modes of payments has multiplied.
The number of individuals paying tax and filing assessments has significantly increased.
An incidental advantage that we have seen is that freezing of funds of terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir and Chhattisgarh has taken place. The nature of protests there which depended on large economic resources has altered.
Some people confuse the fact that money in circulation came back into the banks. It had to. That was the objective of the demonetisation exercise. Cash currency is bearer money without the name of the owner.
A currency note is a bearer document. Its ownership is anonymous. The moment it gets deposited in the bank account, it gets identified with the owner. The onus is now on the owner to show that the acquisition of such a large amount of money was legitimate or otherwise. And under Operation Clean Money, we have been able to identify through data mining 1.8 million people who made deposits disproportionate to their known sources of income.
Therefore, the net effect of this whole exercise has been that a message has gone home loud and clear that it is neither fair nor in the larger national interest, but to the contrary, it is dangerous to deal excessively in large amounts of cash. You will be held accountable. And people have responded well. By nudging this process, we are gradually increasing the tax-base size. Our import transactions have started coming in the tax net.
Additionally, we have taken other measures. There are curbs on expenditure. You need to have your PAN card if you want to spend beyond a limit. Cash transactions beyond a particular limit are not permitted. The GST chain itself makes generation of cash quite difficult.
Towards a formal economy
At the end of the day, if India aspires to be a developed country, and we are today one of the fastest growing large countries in the world, we really need a large formal economy. Payment of taxes, dealing within the official structure is a part of patriotic duty.
The state needs resources for defence, development and uplift of the poor. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every citizen to cooperate with the Government. That is why I think this is one of the major structural changes that we gave a nudge to the Indian economy in this direction.
How does it impact GDP and growth? Obviously, a step like demonetisation brings a transient interruption in money supply. But in the Indian case, the process of remonetisation has been quick. Therefore, by April 2017, we had substantially completed the remonetisation exercise.
We were always conscious of the fact that when you execute a major structural change, for a transient period a quarter or two there would be some marginal impact on the GDP which our economy has the capacity to absorb. But in the medium and long term, bringing about a different culture of how India and Indians manage and spend their money, I believe it is a much larger gain.
Finally, I believe that this was one decision taken for a larger national benefit to try and introduce greater ethics into Indias public life. And therefore, it has been and will always be a move that will continue to be supported by the people of this country.
As told to Poornima Joshi
(This article was published on November 7, 2017)
BUSINESS LINE, NOV 13, 2017
Indian universities are a mess
If we were to undertake the unpopular task of identifying the areas where India is today possibly worse off than it was at the time of Independence, the stature of our universities would be a primary contender.
We could endlessly debate the appropriate criterion to decide the quality of a university but Indian universities do quite poorly in terms of most criteria. For those who like to use Nobel prizes (other than the peace prize) as an indicator, the last time someone working in an Indian university won a Nobel prize was CV Raman in 1930.
For those who prefer contemporary ranking systems, Indian universities typically come way down the list. And even if we were to occupy the intellectual high ground and go beyond mere rankings to focus on learning as a whole, we do not do much better.
There are institutions that attract bright young Indian minds and provide them some technical inputs, notably the IITs and the IIMs, but they often fall well short of being bastions of original thinking.
Long overdue exercise
It is against this backdrop that the comparative and international perspectives on the future of Indian universities that have been brought together in this volume,The Future of Indian Universities: Comparative and International Perspectives, edited by C Raj Kumar represent a long overdue exercise.
The apparently simple task of bringing together diverse opinions on Indian universities is often more difficult than it should be. The deep ideological divides that percolate all the way down to the prescribed textbooks make it more convenient for open discussions to be confined within the boundaries set by those you agree with.
The situation is further complicated when the nationalist credentials of individuals are challenged, as happened in the case of economist and former Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan. It does not also help that there are new lines being drawn, such as the one between the inclinations of faculty and those of academic administrators.
This volume manages to brush aside most such divisions with the contributors cutting across ideologies, nationalities and roles within the working of universities. This commitment to comprehensiveness is not without its costs. The wide range of thinkers who contribute to this volume ensures the book cannot be expected to come up with a cohesive view of the way forward for Indian universities.
The contributions to this volume are too diverse to allow room for even broad agreement on the direction Indian universities should take. It is hardly a surprise that the only thing they agree on is that Indian universities are a mess.
And even here the causes for their disappointment are quite varied. The administrators of education lament the extent to which the best Indian universities lag behind the best in the world; others point to specific shortcomings, and yet others find fault with the very notions of a university that post-Independence India has adopted.
Variety of insights
The eclectic nature of the book does however allow us to tap into a variety of insights to create our own impression of the future of Indian universities. Among the more valuable of these insights is provided by Shiv Visvanathan, building on the distinction between liberatory and emancipative knowledge. He writes: Liberation is the overthrow of the oppressor where the oppressed in turn can turn oppressor... Emancipation seeks to examine the possibility of oppression. It realizes that any form of knowledge can turn dominant and seeks to build pluralist conditions against such a possibility (p 52).
This pluralism would also recognise that knowledge defeated at one point of time could be reinvented to suit another situation. The university then becomes the home of knowledge, including that which is continuously repaired and recycled. Such a university would have to be democracy driven rather than market driven.
This perception of a university undoubtedly makes a worthy ideal, but the question of how do we get there remains unanswered.
Other contributors to this volume set out with less ambitious targets. They come to terms, some of them quite enthusiastically, with the possibility that the market can be the fountainhead of the resources universities quite desperately need. This is particularly true of those who have set their eyes on climbing up the global rankings of universities.
For one, Kanti Bajpai believes that a major reason for the shambolic state of Indian universities is their alienation from the world (p 168). A seemingly obvious remedy is to increase the role and number of private universities.
But the ownership of universities does not in itself guarantee their quality. The experience of private educational institutions has not always been without blemish. There is sufficient evidence of the growth of private institutions resulting in what Barbara Harriss-White has referred to as the process of commodification and the supplanting of the public interest by private interests (p. 247).
We are thus left with the less than heartening conclusion that while it is now obvious that Indian universities are in a terrible state we still dont quite know what to do about it. But what is somewhat more reassuring is that the book provides a wide range of possible alternatives, and an apparent willingness to talk across the deep divides of Indian academia.
The reviewer is a professor at the School of Social Science, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru
The contributions to this volume are too diverse to allow room for even broad agreement on the direction Indian universities should take.
HINDU, NOV 13, 2017
New education policy draft by Dec.
Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar said in Ahmedabad on Sunday that the Kasturirangan Committee on the new education policy was expected to submit its first draft by the end of December.
Mr. Javadekar, however, did not offer a clear date as to when the policy expected for the past three years would be implemented, saying this would happen well in time to ensure quality education from 2020 to 2040.
In the leadership of Dr. Kasturirangan, an eight-member team was formed. Two days ago, they had a two-day meeting, which was their fifth meeting. They say they will give their first draft by December-end, Mr. Javadekar said.
To the next level
I can say with certainty that this new education policy will for the next 20 years take the country to the next level. It will offer a new vision of modern thought and growth in science, technology and human values. It will ensure that good human beings and good citizens are nurtured, the Minister said.
Stressing that the exercise was going through wide consultations, he said, It will ensure that the quality of education improves and research and innovation are facilitated. For this, a good policy is in the works. MPs and MLAs of all parties, educationists and teachers, those who run schools, parents and grandparents all have offered lakhs of suggestions. Their inputs are being considered for this policy. The draft will be discussed and promptly implemented.
Asked by when this would happen, the Minister said, The idea is to have an ideal policy effecting positive changes in education from 2020 to 2040. It will be implemented well in time for this.
Earlier, a committee had been set up under the leadership of the former Cabinet Secretary TSR Subramanian to prepare a draft, which was eventually submitted but accepted just as inputs for the policy.
The Kasturirangan Committee was set up after the submission of this draft.
ECONOMIC TIMES, NOV 13, 2017
Rajasthan may make Sanskrit compulsory in schools
AIPUR: Rajasthan education department may make Sanskrit a compulsory third language from Class IV to Class X in state board schools to ensure that students have access to "ancient wisdom regarding Bharat Varsha". The decision will be implemented in both government and private schools.
Currently, students have the option to choose their third language from Sanskrit Punjabi, Gujarati, Urdu, Sindhi and Bengali.
State education minister Vasudev Devnani said, "The department is chalking out feasibility of making the ancient language compulsory in schools. Soon a detailed proposal will be shared with chief minister Vasundhara Raje and HRD minister Prakash Javdekar." He added that the department will focus on developing a curriculum, structure and teaching pedagogy and make the subject more "job-oriented."
The decision will impact 13,983 secondary and senior secondary government schools and 20,744 upper primary schools. It will apply to 16,239 upper primary and 14,227 senior secondary private schools.
The department had recently announced 13,500 teaching positions that included recruitment of 5,000 Sanskrit teachers.
"It will make sure that every senior secondary school has at least one Sanskrit teacher. It will create an ecosystem for the creating scholars in Sanskrit," said Devnani.
When asked if CBSE schools will come under the ambit of compulsory Sanskrit education, the minister said that nothing has been confirmed as yet.
INDIAN EXPRESS, NOV 12, 2017
UGC: Deemed-to-be varsities must drop university fromnameThe move would affect institutions such as Manav Rachna University and Lingayas University in Haryana, Christs University and Jain University in Bengaluru and Symbiosis International University in Pune.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) has directed all 123 deemed-to-be universities to refrain from using the word university in their names, failing which the higher education regulator will take punitive action against the institution.
The directive has come in the wake of the Supreme Court suspending all B.Tech degrees granted between 2001 and 2005 through distance learning.
While hearing this case, the Supreme Court had observed that many deemed-to-be universities were calling themselves universities and directed the UGC to stop this.
The institutions are hereby directed to restrain from using the word university with its name, failing which necessary action would be initiated in accordance with the UGC (institutions deemed-to-be-universities) Regulations, 2016. Instead, the Institution may mention the word Deemed to be University within parenthesis, the UGC said in its directive issued on Friday.
The move would affect institutions such as Manav Rachna University and Lingayas University in Haryana, Christs University and Jain University in Bengaluru and Symbiosis International University in Pune.
These institutions will have to remove the word university from their names.
Interestingly, the circular carries a tacit acknowledgment that some deemed universities may not be at fault as the government, while notifying their deemed status, did so with the word university in their name.
Such deemed-to-be-universities can also apply for an alternative name with the HRD Ministry, UGC secretary P K Thakur said.
INDIAN EXPRESS, NOV 11, 2017
Cabinet clears national body to conduct entrance tests for highereducationThe Ministry expects that the examination fee paid by 40 lakh students should make NTA fully self-reliant and financially independent to meet all administrative and operational expenses.
Aspirants coming out after appearing for National Eligibilty cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to MBBS at one of the centre in Sector 15 of Chandigarh on on Sunday, May 05 2013. Express photo by Sumit Malhotra
The Union Cabinet on Friday approved the establishment of the National Testing Agency (NTA), an independent body dedicated to conducting entrance tests for higher education, on the lines of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the United States. The NTA will conduct entrance tests entrusted to it by any department or ministry. As a first step, it will take over all entrance examinations being organised by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), including UGCs National Eligibility Test (NET), Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) and NEET.
Sources said the Human Resource Development Ministry is aiming to set up NTA in the next eight months, either in IIT Kanpur or IIT Delhi. Currently, more than 40 lakh students appear for seven entrance tests CAT, JEE (Main), JEE (Advanced), GATE, CMAT, NEET, NET held by the CBSE, IITs, IIMs and AICTE every year.
Although NTA has been envisioned as the countrys largest exam conducting body, it remains to be seen if the IIMs and IITs will be willing to hand over CAT and JEE (Advanced), respectively, to this body. All those decisions can be taken once the NTA is set up, said a senior HRD Ministry official.
The entrance examinations will be conducted in online mode at least twice a year, thereby giving adequate opportunity to candidates to bring out their best, stated the governments press statement released on Friday. NTA will be established as a Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 as an independent, autonomous, self-reliant and self-sustained premier testing organization, with flexibility to pay market salaries to the experts.
Several governments in the past have proposed and, subsequently, shelved the idea of establishing such an agency. The Programme of Action (1992) for implementation of the National Policy on Education (1986) advocated the setting up of a national testing body. Successive committees, such as the National Knowledge Commission (2006-2009) and the Ashok Misra Committee on review of JEE system (2015), recommended constituting an independent body for the conduct of the examinations.
The ministry expects that the examination fee paid by 40 lakh students should make NTA fully self-reliant and financially independent to meet all administrative and operational expenses. This body will be subjected to a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit. Initially, the government will provide a one-time grant of Rs 25 crore for NTA to start operation. It will have a board of governors and a director general, who will be an eminent educationist.
ECONOMIC TIMES, NOV 15, 2017
Election Commission bars Gujarat BJP from using 'Pappu' in electronic advertisement
The Election Commission has barred the ruling BJP in Gujarat from using the word "Pappu" in an electronic advertisement, which apparently targeted Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, calling it "derogatory".
"Pappu" is perceived as a social media slur coined to target Gandhi.
Confirming the development, sources in the BJP today said the script of the advertisement did not link the word to any individual.
According to BJP sources, the media committee under the Gujarat Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) objected to the word mentioned in the script of the advertisement which was submitted by the party for approval last month.
"Before making any election-related advertisement, we have to submit a script to the committee to get a certificate. However, they raised objection to the word 'Pappu', saying it is derogatory. They asked us to remove or replace it," a senior BJP leader said.
He said the party will replace the word and submit a new script for the EC's approval.
"Since there was no direct mention or linkage with any person while mentioning 'Pappu' in the entire script, we had appealed to the committee to reconsider their decision, but they rejected it. Now, we will change that word and submit a new script for approval," he said.
When contacted, Gujarat CEO BB Swain said he was not aware of any such development and can comment only after getting the details tomorrow.
HINDU, NOV 8, 2017
Straws in the Gujarat breeze
Can the Congress pitch its campaign strong enough to make up for organisational weaknesses?
More than three years after the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) stormed to power at the Centre with an unprecedented victory, it finds itself on the defensive, especially on the economic front. This defensiveness extends to the political front as well, evident in the Gujaratelectioncampaign where after 19 years of unbroken rule, the party is facing a serious challenge.
Three developments signal that political equations in the country may well be in a state of flux. First, the rejection of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) in recent university elections indicates a strong sense of discomfort with the BJPspoliticsamong the youth who gave the party solid support in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Second, the Election Commissions decision to de-hyphenate the Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat Assembly election notification which allowed the Central and State governments more time to frantically announce sops, including slashing rates of the goods and services tax (GST) on select items, loan waivers for farmers, and benefits for government employees. Third, Prime Minister Narendra Modis attempt to pass the blame for the disruptive introduction of the GST and its shambolic implementation on the Congress implies that something is really changing on the ground.
For the first time, he argued in favour of collective ownership of the GST after taking sole credit for its introduction in a midnight session of Parliament, saying that all State governments, including of the Congress, are responsible for the GST.
This has created opportune conditions for the Congress Party to come out of its self-imposed hibernation since 2014. It suddenly appears to be eager, even aggressive, in taking on the BJP on its home turf. This coincides with a rising discontent across the country over the economic slowdown and growing job losses. The double blunder of demonetisation and GST seems to have infused new life into Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhis floundering political career just weeks before his likely elevation as the party president.
TheGujaratelection, which was expected to be an easy win for the BJP, has unexpectedly developed into a possibly close and certainly engrossing contest.
For the past several years, the BJP has constantly harped on the Gujarat model of development claiming that it was a perfect formula for growth, and it could be extended to the rest of the country. But in the meantime, Rahul Gandhi and his party upped their game in Gujarat, seeking to puncture the mythology built around the Gujarat model with pointed attacks on the governments economic policies and the inadequate development in the Prime Ministers home State.
Against this backdrop, the Congress put the BJP on the back foot with its Gujarat campaign highlighting joblessness, decelerating economic growth and poor social infrastructure through the hashtag Vikas Gando Thayo Chhe (development has gone crazy).
Where is Vikas?
It has gone all out since then to broadcast and publicise the social media campaign captured by the image of an upturned state transport bus with its wheels off. While the Gujarat model proved extremely persuasive in 2014, three years later people seem to have a more sceptical take on it and what lies beneath it. Despite three decades of high growth rates, Gujarats performance on social indicators has not improved significantly; this has damaged its credibility.
For the first time in more than two decades, people are freely criticising the ruling dispensation, mocking the Gujarat model through jokes, caricatures, and parody. One witty message posted on Twitter sums up the popular take on the model: In a conversation, on seeing the railway tracks submerged in water, a person asks why Vikas is not visible. He gets the reply that as Vikas is sitting in the bullet train, he is invisible.
The growing number of humorists poking fun at official policies has struck a chord among people. It forced BJP president Amit Shah to urge the States youth not to fall prey to the Congresss anti-BJP propaganda on social media. Thanks to this campaign, the ruling party is facing its toughest fight in State, in sharp contrast to the 2012 Assembly elections, for instance, when Mr. Modi had made powerful use of social media in his campaign against the Congress.
Aside from the advantages of political humour, the Gujarat campaign underlines the effectiveness of a State-specific approach. Ensuring that the Gujarat election remains a State battle, the Congress has fashioned its campaign around governance, law and order and failed promises of the Gujarat model, and questioning the leadership of incumbent Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and his predecessor Anandiben Patel while targeting specific social constituencies. Finding itself on the defensive on issues like nationalism, terrorism and corruption, the Congress has shifted the discourse to development failures to preempt Hindu consolidation; it is cornering the government on the economic front and at the same time shunning cultural and emotional issues. The Congress is keen to shed its pro-minority image and deflect attention from Hindu-Muslim tension in order to prevent the BJP from diverting the simmering discontent towards the familiar territory of minority appeasement and the projection of Congress as a Muslim-centric party.
However, while drawing attention to the governments economic failures, the Congress has not offered any alternative model of growth. In his speech at the University of California, Berkeley in September, Mr. Gandhi said the Congress can steer a new development model in the future and that creating jobs in a democratic environment is vital for inclusive growth. But what this new model is has not been spelt out so far. A critique of economic failures is not enough; a party must shape it with a social and economic agenda of its own. Also, the weakness in the Congresss organisation remains glaring: it has no strong State leader and no organisation. The party has been rendered organisationally quite weak in Gujarat over the past two decades; it needs a dedicated cadre of grassroots workers and an organisation to fight the formidable RSS/BJP election machine, which it does not have, leave alone the capacity to micro-manage elections as this political machine can.
Map of disaffection
To harvest the collective discontent in the State, the Congress has reached out to disaffected groups, including the Patidars, by attempting to build a social coalition with like-minded civil society leaders in Gujarat against the BJP.
The new coalition is pivoted on socio-economic issues, and not identity politics. Thats the new strategic dimension of the campaign. Hampered by the lack of a strong local face, it revolves around bolstering the anti-BJP sentiment whipped up by the troika of young leaders: Alpesh Thakor, Jignesh Mewani and Hardik Patel. In theory, the support of OBCs, Dalits and Patels, represented by these three leaders, along with that of Adivasis, can give the Congress an edge over the BJP; in any event, their support has helped to create a public mood against the BJP.
It is too early to say what electoral dividends this fascinating campaign will pay, but one thing is clear. It has unsettled and disrupted the official narrative about the much-hyped Gujarat model of development that paid rich dividends for Narendra Modi in the 2014 elections.
Zoya Hasan is Professor Emerita, Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
HINDU, NOV 11, 2017
A reality check on Gujarat
The Congress needs more than Hardik Patel, Jignesh Mevani and Alpesh Thakor to swing the election
Every Indianelectionneeds a star and a script, and ever since Prime Minister Narendra Modi started his journey as the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001, he has been the star and the scriptwriter in the Gujarat election stories of 2002, 2007 and 2012.
This time around,three young political activists Hardik Patel,Jignesh MevaniandAlpesh Thakor hope to rewrite the Gujarat 2017 story with the backing of the Congress. But starring in an election narrative is far easier that rewriting the climactic scene.
Their caste mobilisation Patidars with Mr. Patel, Dalits with Mr. Mevani and a segment of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) with Mr. Thakor has to crystalise into votes for the Congress, else they will end up as also-starred in theGujaratstory, which has revolved around the same old NaMo theme, with minor changes, for over a decade and a half. Its important to understand the three leaders, their conflicting caste constituencies and where they stand in these elections to assess their ability to shape the outcome.
A loose association
First, all three rose to fame championing the aspirations of their respective caste constituencies on specific issues: reservation for Patels, OBC consolidation and justice for Dalits. Their movements did not project the Congress as the party that could realise their aspirations.
While Mr. Thakor has joined the Congress, Mr. Patel and Mr. Mevani have only created an anti-BJP platform. Their message is that they are backing the Congress because they are challenging Mr. Modi, not necessarily because it is the solution.
In an election, especially one which is a clear two-party fight with the towering image of a Prime Minister on one side, its not enough to state a problem there needs to be a rallying leader who can promise a solution. Without that, it is difficult to channelise political mobilisation and discontent towards an electoral result.
Second, Mr. Thakor, as a Thakor Kshatriya OBC caste leader who has built his profile as the champion of a section of OBCs in central Gujarat, and Mr. Mevani, as the Dalit voice, only reiterate the Congresss existing caste constituencies and do not open a new social base for the party. For instance, Mr. Thakors father is a Congress leader in Ahmedabad district and the caste he represents has been predominantly with the party.
The former Congress Chief Minister Madhavsinh Solanki, father of the present State Congress President Bharatsinh Solanki, forged a winning caste alliance towards the end of the 1970s known as KHAM, that is, Kshatriya, Harijan (i.e. Dalit), Adivasi and Muslim. This was to take on the dominant Patel vote in the State which had gravitated away from the Congress, first towards the Janata movement and the late Chimanbhai Patel, and later towards the BJP. Eventually, the Patels became, and remain, the bedrock for the BJP.
Consistent with its caste constituency, the Congress has largely projected strong Kshatriya caste leaders such as Shankarsinh Vaghela, who migrated to the party after failing to sustain his breakaway from the BJP, and Bharatsinh Solanki at the helm of campaigns in the last two decades.
Till Mr. Modis arrival in Gujarat, the Congress retained fair parts of the KHAM alliance in central and north Gujarat and the BJP became formidable in Saurashtra, the bastion of the Patels. But when Mr. Modi, an OBC, became Chief Minister from the Patel-dominated party and brought a sharper Hindutva outreach, he broke the Congresss caste alliance in central and north Gujarat, without diluting the BJPs core vote base. The Patels continued to get large representation in the State cabinet, but the perception of the party had changed.
In Mr. Mevanis case, electorally the Dalits are seen to have been predominantly with the Congress. They make up about 7% of the States population. Unlike many other States, in Gujarat the population of Scheduled Tribes is much higher than that of the Scheduled Castes, and the Sangh Parivar outfits had successfully wooed large sections of the Scheduled Tribes in areas like Dangs in South Gujarat.
This is why it seems doubtful that Mr. Thakor and Mr. Mevani alone can make a remarkable difference for the Congress. Mr. Patels case is different and he is the one chipping away at the BJPs core Patel vote. But this is not the first time that Patel discontent or rebellion has hit Mr. Modi or the BJP.
Series of rebellions
The first time a full-blown political rebellion to hit Mr. Modi happened was in 2004. Having reiterated his position with a victory in the aftermath of the 2002 riots, the party was stunned when the Congress won 12 out of the 26 seats in the 2004 parliamentary polls. The rebellion against Mr. Modi was led by former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and had the backing of several senior BJP leaders from the Saurashtra and Kutch regions.
In fact, Mr. Modi had himself become Gujarat Chief Minister in 2001 due to infighting in the party and was appointed as a compromise candidate to keep the factions together. The rest, of course, is history but till he came, the BJP saw a series of Chief Ministers being toppled.
Patel rebellions have been part of every election story, but none has been strong enough to derail the Modi story. In the run-up to the 2007 elections, several Patel leaders, like Gordhan Zadaphia, Home Minister during the 2002 riots, had launched an open rebellion. Congress leaders even attended campaign meetings of BJP rebels.
The rebels had the blessings of Keshubhai Patel though he remained with the BJP. All that happened was that the BJPs numbers came down from 127 in 2002 to 117 in 2007.
In 2012, Keshubhai Patel himself quit the BJP to launch the Gujarat Parivartan Party. Again, a consolidation of Patels and a strong interrogation of Mr. Modis economic policies were seen. But Mr. Modi returned as Chief Minister with 116 seats and the rebels polled less than 4% of the vote.
This recap is by way of a reality check that neither discontent with Mr. Modi's economic policies nor a Patel rebellion is a new phenomenon in Gujarat. The trouble for the opposition has been that there is no clear candidate or opponent who can consolidate these rumblings into an electoral victory. Instead, such discontent has been used by Patel leaders to pressurise the BJP to get greater representation and sway within the party. It is not yet clinchingly clear that it will be any different in 2017.
Veeraraghav T.M. is a Bangalore-based journalist
STATESMAN, NOV 8, 2017
Russia is on course to jump its Doing Business rank from 120 to 20 in six years, as decreed by President Vladimir Putin. Can India pole-vault to 50 as coveted by Prime Minister Modi? There is a striking example of how a dramatic improvement in DB ranking can be achieved.
Following President Putins May 2012 decree ordering Russian bureaucrats to strive towards improving the countrys Doing Business ranking from 120th to 20th by 2018 ~ a hundred-step transition ~ Russia rose to the 51st place in 2015. It has been steadily improving ~ from 120 in 2012 to 112 in 2013, 92 in 2014, 62 in 2015, 51 in 2016, and 35 in 2017. Business and industry have for long demanded that Indias DB regime be simplified.
At its meeting with the Prime Minister in September 2015, India Inc. claimed that the complex regulatory system had made the country a tough place to do business in. Entrepreneurs abroad spoke in the same vein. From example, most of the 41 CEOs from top US corporations, who had assembled at New Yorks Waldorf Astoria Hotel, pleaded with Narendra Modi for quick action. During the launch of the Make in India initiative on 25 September 2014, the Prime Minister announced that the Government would strive for Indias DB rank to be within the top 50.
In terms of Doing Business, Indias leap from 130th in 2016 to 100th in 2017 suggests that the country will achieve the target set by Prime Minister Modi. The 15th annual Doing Business (DB) report crucially signifies an endorsement of Modi sarkars thrust on economic reforms. The World Banks DB 2018, like its 14 preceding annual editions, analysed the health of 190 economies based on detailed diagnostics, with quantitative indicators on a range of activities.
Ten economies ranked at the top are: New Zealand, Singapore, Denmark, Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, United States, United Kingdom, Norway, Georgia and Sweden. According to DB 2018, India finds a place among the 10 top improvers, inter alia, on the strength of greater ease in the payment of taxes online, facility to combine PAN and TAN, reduction in the time required to complete Provident Fund and state insurance applications, possibility of submitting building plans in advance for a construction permit.
Indias current ranking on starting a business is 156th, against 155th in 2016, involving 29.8 days to deal with 11.5 procedures. New Zealand at No.1 takes just half a day to handle only one procedure. The issue of construction permits in Denmark ~ at top of the chart for this activity ~ takes 64 days for seven procedures. India takes 143.9 days for 30.1 procedures, and ranks 181st (183rd: DB 2017). For obtaining an electricity connection, India ranked 70th as per DB 2017, improved to 29th now, covering 45.9 days. New Zealand takes one day for two procedures. India is ranked 154th (138th, DB 2017); it takes 53 days for eight procedures.
As regards payment of taxes, Singapore, commanding the No.1 position, takes 49 hours per year; India ranks 119th (157th in DB 2017). It takes 214 hours per year. Likewise, Indias rank in the insolvency index is 103rd (136th, DB 2017), in contrast to Norway at No.1. The average duration of bankruptcy proceedings in India is around 4.3 years. For getting credit, India ranks 29th (42nd, DB 2017). Going by this parameter, New Zealand is No. 1. Indias rank in respect of enforcing contracts is 164th (178th as per DB 2017); South Korea is No.1. In India it takes 1,445 days on an average for the judicial process to be over, in stark contrast to Koreas 290 days for enforcing contracts. India needs to compel the departments concerned in the states and at the Centre to address the reason why the country continues to score low.
Enforcement of contracts is a key parameter since it has a multiplier effect on several other parameters for deciding the rank in terms of Doing Business. Specifically three other activities that can substantially improve our position include construction permits, registration of property, and cross-border trade. The quality of the countrys judicial process has led to the low ranking. Indias flattering rank for protecting minority investors is rooted in strong corporate laws. A concerted exercise to weed out unnecessary rules, vague regulations, and obsolete Acts is imperative. Human intervention must also be minimised.
Despite certain sporadic initiatives taken by central and state governments, there has been no tangible systemic reform to really ease the process of Doing Business on a sustained basis. The bureaucracy has routinely revelled in the licence-permit ethos, creating different layers of intervention, involving a huge cost on the exchequer, and making life difficult for entrepreneurs as well as aam aadmi.
The government took some baby-steps to make starting a business by the eliminating minimum capital requirement and the need to obtain a certificate. The e-government initiative MCA-21 in 2006 reduced registration time. The time to obtain the certificate of incorporation, now available online, has also been dropped. But the bureaucratic stranglehold came through the backdoor because an applicant is still required to await a copy of the certificate before starting operations. Federal India is large and complex. Local regulations and their enforcement differ from one place to another.
An analysis by a World Bank group, called Coordinated Assessment of State Implementation of Business Reforms, revealed that States occupied different levels of implementation of the 98-point action plan on ease of Doing Business. While Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh scored over 60 per cent, Odisha, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Haryana performed above 40 per cent but below 60 per cent. Delhi, Punjab, Kerala and Goa figured in the 20- 40 per cent range, and all others below 20 per cent. A Rajya Sabha sub-committee on ease of Doing Business concluded that the regulatory framework in India remained fragmented, and there was urgent need to bridge the gap between implementation on paper and on the ground.
It recommended that a simple online single-window approval mechanism coupled with self-assessment/declaration of having complied with the applicable regulations needed to be ensured. Instead of requiring two separate post-construction certificates ~ and often two separate inspections ~ only one single completion and occupancy certificate would simplify the process considerably. The countrys economic progress is linked to the ease of Doing Business. The government is anxious to break the mould and change the paradigm.
As The Economist has stated, Indias regulations for foreign investors are more attractive than in most of East Asia, but overzealous bureaucrats weave webs of red tape.
The Modi government has been trying to enforce the concept of minimum government, maximum governance by pruning the bureaucratic behemoth and applying a surgeons scalpel to rid the body of accumulated growth because of which accountability gets diffused.
A large state is not necessarily a strong state. The gigantic character of public entities makes them slow and clumsy.
(The writer is Senior Fellow, Asian Institute of Transport Development, and former CMD, Container Corporation of India)
BUSINESS LINE, NOV 13, 2017
Delhis toxic smog is a governance failure, spanning multiple agencies
Come winter, and the capital and other cities in the region are enveloped in a noxious smog that only gets worse each year. Galling statistics on pollution levels for a day as a whole the air quality index for Delhi is in the region of 470-500, whereas anything greater than 300 is considered hazardous and a reading below 50 considered good have triggered a blame-game between various governments (Centre, Delhi, Punjab and Haryana) and their agencies, even as various emergency steps have been announced in recent days, such as a ban on construction activity and on burning dirty fuels. The mess is the result of a perfect storm of factors such as the burning of paddy stubble in Punjab and Haryana, low temperatures, low wind speeds, and vehicular and industrial pollution. However, the solutions are not far to seek; it only entails government agencies rising above scoring petty brownie points and acting in concert.
To begin with, the Punjab government has not been able to abide by the National Green Tribunals order to implement a ban on burning paddy straw nearly 20 million tonnes of it. The farmers are not at fault they need to clear the land in quick time to prepare for the wheat crop, whereas the combine harvesters leave too tall a stubble of paddy straw for it to be manually removed, both expediently and cheaply. Incidentally, the residue of the basmati crop, which is generally manually harvested in regions around Amritsar because it fetches a better support price, is not burnt. The technological solution the super straw management system which, when attached to a mechanical harvester, shreds the waste to small bits so that it need not be burnt and can instead be put to better uses such as biomass and ethanol and electricity production has not worked out because of subsidy wrangles between the Centre and the States. Millions of citizens, including farmers, are paying a price for this short-sighted niggardliness.
That said, straw burning is a seasonal issue whereas vehicular pollution is arguably the rhinoceros in the room. The Delhi government was set to implement its odd-even scheme for the third time with effect from today, only to be stopped in its tracks by the NGT which has raised questions on its efficacy and wondered why two-wheelers should be excluded. Extending the scheme to two-wheelers can lead to a huge load on buses and metros, beyond their capacity, whereas a curb on cars can lead to pooling. The assertion that the two earlier attempts led to an increase in particulate matter is not convincing as the time-period was too small. The solution for large cities is to ramp up public transport (Delhis bus fleet has actually been falling, and it needs land for bus depots) and encourage a shift away from cheap industrial fuel to solar, clean thermal power and natural gas. But the fight for better air quality cannot be successful without citizens exercising lifestyle choices to that end.
ASIAN AGE, NOV 13, 2017
L-G must be apprised of govt decisions: SC
New Delhi:It appears prima facie that it should be the duty and obligation of the chief minister of Delhi and his council of ministers to communicate all the decisions to the lieutenant-governor, though every such decision might not warrant concurrence from the lieutenant-governor, the Supreme Court orally observed on Tuesday.
A five judge bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Kanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan made this tentative observation when senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the Kejriwal government, argued that the lieutenant-governor (L-G) had assumed overriding powers, though he is bound to function with the aid and advice of the council of ministers.
The CJI, quoting the Business Rules, said to the counsel, Prima facie it appears that once the government takes a decision, it is duty bound to communicate the decision to the L-G even though it might be a remote decision. This is the working situation envisaged by the Parliament, which has plenary powers as far as the Union Territory of Delhi is concerned. This cant be construed as interference. Every decision might not warrant concurrence, but the decision has to be communicated.
The CJI also noted that the L-G has power to call for information on any matter.
Justice Chandrachud said to the counsel, Some matters require prior orders from the L-G. Though the Business Rules provide for immediate approval from the L-G, the decision becomes enforceable the moment the government communicates its decision to the L-G.
Quoting Article 239 AA (4) of the constitution, the counsel said that if the L-G is the boss in terms of governance and decision-making process, the Parliament in its wisdom would not have provided for a council of ministers headed by a chief minister and who are answerable to the legislative Assembly. He said that this provision was intended to bring the principle of sovereignty in the government and the L-G could not set at naught this principle by his actions.
He said that disputes have arisen on the question whether Delhi government can act in relation to certain issues without the prior approval of the L-G. Several of the orders of Delhi government, such as increasing the salaries of DANICS officers, have been declared null and void by the L-G on the ground that the Delhi government has no power to increase the salaries of its staff. The issues raised here relate to the federal structure of the constitution under which the Centre and the states have plenary powers within their respective spheres. Arguments will continue on Wednesday.
INDIAN EXPRESS, NOV 11, 2017
Entry pay scale reduced, AIIMS faculty shoots letter todirectorMove despite 17 faculty members leaving AIIMS
Written byKaunain Sheriff M
The AIIMS faculty has written a letter to the director, complaining that their pay scale will be diluted as the Centre has reduced entry pay for various positions at the institute under the Seventh Central Pay Commission (CPC). This, despite 17 faculty members quitting AIIMS in the last three years including five in the last six months.
The faculty has pointed out that as per a recent order issued by the government, the entry pay for a professor would be Rs 58,500 now as compared to Rs 62,100 under the Sixth CPC; for additional professor it would be 52,300 as compared to Rs 55,500; for associate professor it would be Rs 49,200 as compared to Rs 51,800; and for assistant professor it would continue to be at Rs 38,000.
We have sought a meeting with the ministry regarding this decision. We have also written to the AIIMS director. The pay scales at AIIMS have been diluted. Under the Sixth CPC, the entry pay at IIT is less than at AIIMS. But if you apply the same pay scales under the Seventh CPC for AIIMS and IIT, it would devalue AIIMS faculty, a senior member of the AIIMS faculty told The Indian Express.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), on November 1, had issued a notification for pay revision for faculty of AIIMS, PGIMER, Chandigarh and JIPMER, Puducherry.
Interestingly, on October 27, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had issued a circular to Directors of all centrally funded technical institutes like IIMs and IITs about the revised pay scale. And on November 1, these same revised pay scales were recommended by the MoHFW for AIIMS. The AIIMS administration, on November 7, issued a circular to its faculty members to submit their form of option and undertaking to implement the revised pay scale.
It is for the first time that that they have linked revised pay scales of autonomous institutions under MHRD with those of autonomous institutions under the Health Ministry. We were not told why this decision was taken, an AIIMS faculty member said.
Earlier, a committee formed by the Health Ministry to recommend implementation of a revised pay scale, which included the AIIMS director, had highlighted the problems of unattractive pay at the institute as the reason behind the exits.
To counter the exits of professor-level faculty at AIIMS, the committee had recommended that 40 per cent of professors be made senior professors; and 10 per cent of senior professors be promoted as well. However, even with promotions, the faculty (will) be hit financially as entry level pay for each position has been reduced, the faculty said.
STATESMAN, NOV 4, 2017
Health of the nation
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 individuals access to healthcare services is linked to his/her social or caste background. Discrimination rooted in social, caste, or racial origins severely affects the peoples 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 governments 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 governments 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 countrys 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.
STATESMAN, NOV 12, 2017
The thoughtless person playing with penicillin treatment is morally responsible for the death of the man who succumbs to infection with the penicillin resistant organism.
-Sir Alexander Fleming, Nobel laureate
This is an age of complexities, contradictions, and challenges. Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) poses the most serious challenge to public health the world over. It is complex, multi-dimensional, and threatens the prevention and treatment of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. Louis Pasteur, who evolved the science of microbiology and was a key figure in the development of vaccines in the 1880s, suggested that humans had the power to make parasitic maladies disappear from the globe.
But all too often, his suggestion and our expectations get frustrated. Anti-microbials include all agents that act against microorganisms ~ bacteria (antibacterial / antibiotics), viruses (antiviral), fungi (antifungal) and protozoa (antiprotozoal). Antimicrobial drugs once seemed like a miraclous antidote in the fight against microbes that have killed hundreds of people and infected many more. We are now in danger of losing the efficacy of that weapon.
Old adversaries are returning back with vengeance and new infections are emerging. Despite the development of various vaccines and drugs, hundreds of people die of infectious diseases, notably tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS, dengue, cholera, and influenza. Even 40 years after the discoveries in molecular biology ~ DNA cloning, the sequencing of human genome, and human stem cell research ~ we still face the forbidding challenge of virulent, yet preventable, illnesses.
Dr. Keiji Fukuda, Assistant DirectorGeneral, WHO, warns: A postantibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can kill, far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very possibility for the 21st century. In 1945, after receiving the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the miracle cure ~ penicillin antibiotic ~ the Scottish scientist, Sir Alexander Fleming, raised the alarm regarding overuse of antibiotics.
In his acceptance speech he warned, The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily under-dose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug, make them resistant. In the wake of the discovery of penicillin, which was not used in a significant way until the early 1940s, many other potent antibiotics were discovered in the 1950s and Sixties.
In the last few decades, the indiscriminate and overzealous use gave rise to mutant pathogens that are rapidly eroding the effectiveness of the limited arsenal of life-saving anti-microbials. In April 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) published its first global report entitled Antimicrobial Resistance (Global Report on Surveillance) 2014 on the issue by focusing on the rate of AMR to microbes responsible for many common infections, including pneumonia, diarrhoea, urinary tract infections, gonorrhea and sepsis.
On the basis of data garnered from as many as 114 countries, the report stated, Situations are increasingly arising where bacteria that are resistant to most, or even all, available antibacterial drugs causing serious infections that were readily treatable until recently.
How the progress of modern medicines, which relied on the availability of effective anti-bacterial drugs, is at risk has been highlighted in the report. Common community-acquired infection such as pneumonia, which used to be readily treatable after the introduction of penicillin, may not respond to available or recommended drugs in many settings, putting the lives of patients at risk.
Common infections in neonatal and intensive care are increasingly becoming extremely difficult, sometimes impossible to treat. Patients receiving cancer treatment, organ transplants and other advanced therapies are particularly vulnerable to infection.
Anti-bacterial drugs, that are used to prevent post-operative surgical site infections have become less effective or ineffective. In the words of Dr. Margaret Char, WHO Director-General: The world is on the brink of losing these miracle cures.
In The Origin of Species, Charles Darwin claimed that there was a persistent struggle for existence in nature, and that only the fittest would survive. Like humans, micro-organisms are merely responding and fighting for their survival. Indeed, they are better adept at evolving the conditions around them because of their staggering numbers.
The evolution of resistant strains is a natural phenomenon and this is accelerated by the selective pressure exerted by widespread, indiscriminate and irrational uses of antibacterial drugs. Their self-defence strategies appear to be so strong that in 2011, scientists stumbled upon a 30,000-year-old bacteria under permafrost in Canadas Yukon province. It defied modern antibiotics, suggesting that genes that resist antibiotics have existed since ancient times.
A major problem associated with the use of anti-bacterial drugs is that resistant strains are able to propagate and spread where there is non-compliance with infection prevention and control measures. For example, when microbial drugs unleash a lethal attack on the bodys trillions of bacteria, some bacteria still survive.
The bacteria, that is sensitive to anti-microbial agents, can become resistant by acquiring DNA with genetic coding for resistance. Bacteria sensitive t