GS-3, Uncategorized

Good country index

In the ‘Good Country’ 2015 index, Sweden has been voted as the best country in the world when it comes to serving the interests of its people and contributing to the common good of humanity.

  • The index ranks a total of 163 countries taking 35 different UN and World Bank indices into account, including global contributions to science, culture, peace and security, climate change and health and equality.

Key facts:

  • The top ten best countries included Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the UK, Germany, Finland, Canada, France, Austria and New Zealand.
  • Libya was ranked as the least “good” country in the world.
  • India figured at 70th position overall, three places below China, with the best ranking (27th) in International peace and security and the worst (124th) in prosperity and equality category.
  • India stood at 37th position in health and wellbeing and 62nd in science and technology, it was ranked 119th in culture, 106th in climate and 100th in world order.

About the index:

The biannual index was founded by Simon Anholt, a British government adviser whose aim is “to find ways of encouraging countries to collaborate and co-operate a lot more, and compete a bit less”.

  • The Good Country Index is pretty simple: to measure what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away, relative to its size.
  • The index seeks to measure how countries contribute to the global good.
  • In 2014, Ireland had topped the first Good Country Index, outranking 130 other countries.
GS-3, Uncategorized

Skill India Mission

According to government estimates, more than 1.04 Crore youth have been trained under the Skill India Mission in the year 2015-16 which is 36.8% higher than the previous year’s recorded data.

Key facts:

  • In the current arrangement, 60% of the trainings are directly under Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship while 40% are across other Central Ministries.
  • Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), which was launched on July 15, 2015, alone has witnessed more than 20 lakh people, of which 40% are women candidates, being trained in their choice of skills.

About the National Skill Development Mission:

  • The National Skill Development Mission aims to provide a strong institutional framework at the Centre and States for implementation of skilling activities in the country.
  • The Mission will have a three-tiered, high powered decision making structure. At its apex, the Mission’s Governing Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, will provide overall guidance and policy direction.
  • The Steering Committee, chaired by Minister in Charge of Skill Development, will review the Mission’s activities in line with the direction set by the Governing Council. The Mission Directorate, with Secretary, Skill Development as Mission Director, will ensure implementation, coordination and convergence of skilling activities across Central Ministries/Departments and State Governments.
  • The Mission will also run select sub-missions in high priority areas.
  • The National Skill Development Agency (NSDA), the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and the Directorate of Training will function under the overall guidance of the Mission.
  • The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) provides a natural home for the Mission, organically linking all three decisions making levels and facilitating linkages to all Central Ministries/Departments and State Governments.
Editorials, GS-3, Uncategorized

The MGNREGA index

The Hindu

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005 (MGNREGA) aims at:

  • Enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage-employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
  • In the financial year 2015-16, Rs.42,084 crore was spent on MGNREGA.

 

Assessment of the implementation of the Act by the States between 2015 and 2016.

Performance indicators:

  • There are three performance indicators to rank the States:
    • Average days of employment per household
    • Percentage wages paid within the promised 15 days of enlisting to work
    • The work completion rate
  • Each indicator measures the implementation of MGNREGA in the State on an important output.
  • Collectively the three indicators capture the key aspects of MGNREGA implementation, namely, employment generation, wages paid in time, and assets created as promised.
  • MGNREGA guarantees 100 days of employment, the national average has always been below 50 days.
  • Comparing this value across States, Tripura was able to provide 95 days of employment on average.
  • Manipur and Goa were at the lower end, providing 16 and 18 days of employment, respectively.
  • MGNREGA requires that wages be paid within 15 days of closing the muster roll.
  • Last financial year, only 40 per cent of the wages were paid within the stipulated time of 15 days.
  • Manipur stood out in this case with 82 per cent of wages being paid within 15 days while
  • Meghalaya was only able to pay wages for 4 per cent of the people on time.
  • Work completion rate refers to the number of works completed compared to works started, in percentage terms.
  • Mizoram performed best in this case with a 92 per cent work completion rate.
  • Tripura, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh also had work completion rates of above 80 per cent.
  • Arunachal Pradesh was at the bottom at just 20 per cent work completion rate.

 

Performance score

  • The absolute values of each performance metric are scaled to a value between 0 and 10 by dividing with the highest value across States and multiplying it by 10.
  • The scores across all performance indicators to come up with the score out of 30.

 

Findings

  • It is interesting that two north-eastern States are at either extreme of the ranking:
  • Tripura on top with a score of 26.8 and Arunachal Pradesh at the bottom with a score of 7.1.
  • Mizoram was a close second with a score of 26.3. Chhattisgarh, Goa, Meghalaya and Punjab all ranked second from the bottom with a score of 12.7. Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand were two major States with a high ranking.
  • West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh were major States with a low score of 14.

 

This ranking intends to give an overview to the policymakers of what works in each State and what doesn’t.

  • The reasons could vary across and within States.
  • Analysing the State-wise data, it was seen that Tripura was able to generate about 95 days of employment per household.
  • The reasons for the high employment days in Tripura need to be studied, so that they can be replicated in other similar States.
  • Similarly, a big State such as Andhra Pradesh was able to pay 80 per cent of the wages within the promised 15 days of enlisting to work, and Madhya Pradesh was able to achieve 82 per cent work completion rate.
  • The best practices in each of these high-performing States should be documented and shared with the other States, so that the performance of each State can go up.
  • For example, Andhra Pradesh is known for widespread computerisation of the processes which reduces corruption and ensures timely transfer of funds.

 

Conclusion:

  • The Centre seems committed to MGNREGA. About 2 per cent of the Union Budget or 0.3 per cent of the GDP is allocated to the scheme.
  • Ensuring that this amount reaches the people who opt to work, while creating durable rural assets, is important.
  • This mega scheme needs local fixes and innovations to become more efficient and effective.
  • This points out the aspects of implementation lacking in various States and gives an idea about where to look to make implementation successful.
  • The ranking also recognises States that are performing well, and can be used to allocate funds and resources in a targeted manner.
GS-3, Uncategorized

Gulf remittances fall 2.2%, offset by slide in oil imports

The Hindu

News:

  • Remittances from the Gulf nations to India declined for the first time in six years due to sliding oil prices, according to a Crisil report.
  • It fell by 2.2 per cent in 2015-16 but the slide had also resulted in a contraction of oil imports, which offset the drop.
  • “Falling oil prices have had a sweeping impact on the oil producing economies of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), severely denting their oil revenues and spending by both governments and households,” according to the report.
  • “This has had a negative impact on remittances from the region, which declined for the first time in six years, falling 2.2 per cent.”
  • More than half of India’s remittance income comes from the GCC.
  • Remittances to India from the GCC amounted to $35.9 billion in 2015-16 down from the $36.7 billion seen in the previous year.
  • However, the report points out that India’s imports from the GCC have fallen sharply, down 34.5 per cent in financial year 2015-16.
  • “This has helped alleviate some stress from lower remittance and export income,” according to Crisil.

Trade deficit

  • Trade deficit is an economic measure of a negative balance of trade in which a country’s imports exceeds its exports. A trade deficit represents an outflow of domestic currency to foreign markets.
  • “In fact, India’s trade deficit with the GCC has fallen a whopping $46 billion, or 77 per cent, in three years, to $14 billion because of rapidly declining imports.”
  • “So while the big news is that remittance incomes from GCC have dropped, what is less known is that, even at the current level (around $36 billion), remittances have been stickier and more than funded the goods trade deficit—leaving a surplus of $22 billion,” according to the report.
  • The fact that GCC remittances to India contracted only 2.2 per cent despite a 47 per cent slump in oil prices shows that these economies, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (the two largest remitters in the GCC), are less dependent on oil income.

Vulnerability

  • “India’s dependence on remittances and the resultant vulnerability is much lower than some of its Asian peers who receive similar proportions of remittances from GCC countries.”
  • Remittances make up 3.7 per cent of India’s GDP, compared with 28 per cent in Nepal, 9.7 per cent in Sri Lanka, and 6.5 per cent in Pakistan.
  • “If oil prices remain weak for an extended period, economic activity in GCC will come down sharply as the fiscal stress mounts,” according to the report.
  • “This can certainly impact GCC remittances to India.” While oil prices are expected to remain low for some time to come, they have likely bottomed out for now, according to Crisil.
GS-2, Social Issue, Uncategorized

Have we lost the dowry battle?

Livemint

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data shows a rising graph in the number of dowry cases registered:

  • 9,038 for 2012
  • 10,709 for 2013
  • 10,050 for 2014

Men’s rights activists will tell you this is proof of the law’s misuse. And even the Supreme Court has pointed out in 2014 that section 498A has “dubious pride of place amongst the provisions that are used as weapons rather than shield by disgruntled wives”.

What is the extent of that misuse?

  • It’s hard to say.
  • Sometimes a case is filed and it is completely cooked up—a crime which, under the Indian Penal Code, is punishable by up to six months in jail. At other times, the complaint may be genuine but there is an out-of-court settlement or mediation, leading to that complaint being withdrawn.

More telling perhaps is another set of data, the one on dowry deaths: 8,233 in 2012; 8,083 in 2013; 8,455 in 2014.

That’s more than 23 women killed a day, one per hour, for dowry.

Why this isn’t a public emergency baffles me. Why this isn’t a leading social crusade with government and non-governmental organizations is inexplicable.

  • The Narendra Modi government has launched a slew of laudable social missions, from Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP).
  • And while BBBP’s desperately needed aim is to reverse the decline in child sex ratio, a pan-national programme such as this one could easily accommodate a strong anti-dowry message.
  • After all, it doesn’t take reams of academic research to understand the link between dowry and declining sex ratio.
  • A study by data journalism website IndiaSpend finds that states with the highest dowry deaths between 2005 and 2010 reported the greatest decrease in child sex ratio for the same period. For instance, in Uttar Pradesh, the state with the highest increase in dowry deaths (from 1,564 in 2005 to 2,217 in 2010), there was a corresponding decline in child sex ratio, from 916 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2001 to 899 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2011.
  • Simply put: The dowry market makes girls a bad investment .

Wedding gift:

  • Dowry, or to use its more acceptable euphemism, wedding ‘gift’, is now so ingrained in our cultural beliefs that, in Tamil Nadu, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam manifesto promises eight grams of gold for every wedding and there is not even a flutter of protest from either activists or opposition parties.
  • Some ads of different brands on the tv, shows that no marriage is complete without gold. Ads are not obligated to push social messaging. But the consumerist trend percolates down.
  • There are those who argue that a voluntary ‘gift’ of gold or a motorcycle or a flat or a fridge is not dowry but mummypapa’s thoughtful gesture to help a young couple get started in life.
  • This is an extremely grey line.
  • At what point does a ‘gift’ cease to be voluntary if it is dictated by either an outright demand, a not-so-subtle suggestion or even social pressure and ‘custom’?

Conclusion:

  • Nearly 60 years after the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961, we need to ask why there is more, not less dowry; why the big fat Indian wedding has got bigger and fatter.
  • But perhaps the real tragedy about dowry is not that it continues to blight our lives.
  • The real tragedy is that we no longer seem to believe that this is a fight worth having.
  • Perhaps there is an unspoken admission that this is a battle we have already lost.
Essay, GS-3, Uncategorized

A work in progress

The Hindu

GDP:

  • GDP since 1930’s has been used to measure the economic performance of a nation, and has been shaping the debate on the performance of countries for the past 80 years or so.
  • Today, almost every country maintains GDP statistics.
  • GDP? Click here

What are the relative merits and demerits of GDP and has it outgrown its utility?

  • GDP growth over time enables central banks and policymakers to evaluate whether the economy is in recession or inflation. In that sense it is still required.
  • GDP has held significance as a universal metric over the years. However, with rapid globalization and technology-oriented integration among countries, this metric has become outdated and does not accurately take into consideration other aspects like the wellbeing of the residents of a country.
  • The most significant weakness of GDP is its exclusion of voluntary market transactions. GDP as a measure of economic growth fails to account for productive non-market activities, like a mother taking care of her child, a homemaker doing household chores, a homeowner doing maintenance of his house, leisure (paid vacation, holidays, leave time), improvement in product quality, etc.
  • GDP also ignores important factors like environment, happiness, community, fairness and justice. To be fair, it was not intended to measure these. But these are important aspects of development.
  • Thus, there is a need for alternative measures which can take into consideration other key factors like hunger and malnutrition, safety parameters, literacy rate and tolerance.

It is where some of the recent approaches have tried to go beyond GDP and incorporate most of these factors into the measurement of the well-being within the society.

  • Some of these include GINI coefficient, HDI (Human Development Index), and GNH (Gross National Happiness).
  • GINI coefficient which was introduced in 1912 by Corrado Gini and adopted by World Bank, and measures the income inequality among a country’s citizens — but it fails to measure social benefits or interventions that reduce the gap or inequality between rich and poor.
  • GNH, which was introduced in the 1970s by the king of Bhutan similarly measures the happiness levels of the citizens in a country while it ignores other important elements like gender equality, quality education and good infrastructure.
  • HDI, devised and launched in 1990 by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq, is computed and published by the United Nations Development Programme and overcomes most of the shortcomings of the Gini coefficient and GNH.
  • After this, Millennium Development Goals and Sustainable Development Goals were also built along various dimensions based on the work done in understanding human development.
  • However, HDI, as a measure, falls short in its capture of the unequal distribution of wealth within the country and the level of infrastructural development.
  • Many prospects of a healthy society, such as environmental sustainability and personal rights, are not included in HDI.
  • It is not successful in tracking the apparent progress of countries, nor is it sufficiently factored into primary level parameters to indicate many important areas of policy.
  • These are some of the limitations of the approaches in finding a composite measure of well-being to date.

SPI as complementary index

    • The next stage in the measurement of well-being went into creating what is termed as the Social Progress Index (SPI).
    • It goes beyond the traditional measure of GDP and has most parameters that are required to fulfil SDGs.

 

  • SPI is based on three fundamental pillars:

 

    • Basic needs for survival;
    • Access to the building blocks to improve living conditions
    • Access to opportunity to pursue goals and ambitions.

What is the difference between GDP and SPI?

  • SPI focuses on outcomes rather than inputs that are used in GDP.
  • For example, the quality of life and longevity are measured instead of spending on health care, and people’s experience of discrimination is looked at instead of focussing on whether there is a law against discrimination.
  • SPI also reframes the fundamentals about development by taking into consideration not just GDP but also inclusive, sustainable growth that will lead to a significant improvement in people’s lives.
  • SPI can best be described as a complementary index to GDP and can be used along with GDP to achieve social progress.

Measurement and present scores on the index:

  • If the world is considered as one country, it would score 61.00 on the SPI on a population-weighted basis.
  • India ranks 101 with a social progress score of 53.06 among 133 countries, according to SPI 2015.
  • One significant find is that all countries doing well in GDP/capita are not always the ones at the top of SPI. For example, New Zealand has GDP per capita almost half that of the top performing nations, according to GDP per capita figures, but performs better than most nations on SPI.
  • The U.S., which has significantly higher GDP than New Zealand, ranks lower than New Zealand on SPI.
  • Another example is Costa Rica which may be called a social progress superpower because it is on a par with some west European countries in spite of a much lower GDP per capita.
  • West Asian economies like Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia perform contrary to this pattern as they have high GDP per capita, but secure significantly inferior positions in SPI.

Conclusion:

  • SPI can bring substantial betterment in the policy discourse on development.
  • With the move to getting it introduced at a sub-national level, the index is expected to help development practitioners and other stakeholders in analysing well-being in a better manner.
  • Ideally, the development project should start with a bottom-up approach, from a grass-root level to city, then from district to State and, finally, to the national level. SPI, when introduced in India — a beta index will be launched in September — can this way lead to a better understanding of well-being and prosperity within the country.
Editorials, GS-3, Indian Economy, Uncategorized

Annual core sector growth at decade low as steel drags

The Hindu

India’s annual core sector growth slowed to a decade low of 2.7 per cent in 2015-16, slower than the 4.5 percent pace in the previous financial year, according to government statistics.

  • The growth was pulled down by steel and crude oil.
  • Both of these saw output contracting by 1.4 per cent.
  • Natural gas that dropped 4.2 per cent.

This contrasts with the data showing robust core sector growth in March, when the infrastructure sectors expanded 6.4 per cent, the fastest pace in 16 months.

  • Eight core industries which include crude oil, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity account for 38 per cent of India’s industrial output.
  • The index for industrial production (IIP) has grown at 2.7 per cent in the first 11 months of 2015-16, lower than the 2.8 per cent recorded in the previous year.
  • What is IIP?
    • The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is an index for India which details out the growth of various sectors in an economy such as mining, electricity and manufacturing.
    • The all India IIP is a composite indicator that measures the short-term changes in the volume of production of a basket of industrial products during a given period with respect to that in a chosen base period.
    • It is compiled and published monthly by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) six weeks after the reference month ends.
  • Forecast for industrial output growth in the month of March is two per cent, so the full year 2015-16 growth could be a shade lower than in 2014-15.
  • Overall, the financial year 2015-16 hasn’t been great, though there are a few green shoots of recovery visible in consumers’ discretionary demand (car sales) and certain infra sectors like coal, electricity and cement due to the government’s capex efforts.
  • The larger question is if those green shoots can broaden into other sectors and revive private investments.
  • Private capex, rural demand and external demand still remain weak

Base effect

  • What is a base effect?
    The Base effect relates to inflation in the corresponding period of the previous year, if the inflation rate was too low in the corresponding period of the previous year, even a smaller rise in the Price Index will arithmetically give a high rate of inflation now.
  • While oil and gas output has been shrinking for about four years now, it is the decline in steel output in the backdrop of plunging global prices that has hurt the most as it had been growing at an average of 7 per cent in the past four years.
  • The March and April infrastructure output numbers may seem a little exaggerated owing to the base effect, as the same months had clocked negative growth last year.
  • The big disappointment is steel that has been hit by the low global prices and competition from China.
  • The steel industry employs six million people directly and generates associated employment for more than 2.5 million.
GS-2, Social Issue, Uncategorized

Digital DBT aids rural job schemes

The Hindu

News

  • The government has electronically transferred more than Rs.61,000 crore in the last financial year through the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme.

According to the data presented in Parliament

  • Rs.61,824.32 crore was transferred to 30.8 crore beneficiaries in 59 schemes.
  • Out of this, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) payments made up Rs.25,800 crore, or 42 per cent of total DBT schemes.

               Scheme                                           % Through DBT                Rupees transferred                                   

 

  1. MGNREGA payments                  85 per cent                                 Rs.25,800 crore
  2. PAHAL scheme                              35 per cent                                 Rs.21,400 crore
  3. Schemes under Department of Higher Education                  Rs.1,975 crore
  4. Schemes under Ministry of Minority Affairs                            Rs.1,134 crore
  5. Schemes under Ministry of Tribal Affairs                                  Rs.955 crore

3.34 crore duplicate, fake, or inactive consumers were blocked under the PAHAL and related schemes as of April 1, 2015.

The savings in LPG subsidy on account of this blocked customers, calculated at an average cash subsidy of Rs.150 taking the average cylinders used by a consumer at 6.5 comes to an estimated savings of Rs.3,300 crore in 2015-16.

GS-2, Indian Polity, Uncategorized

Most death row convicts first-time offenders

According to the recently released “Death Penalty India Report”, most death row inmates in India are poor, uneducated and first-time offenders.

What else the report says?

  • A total of 241 out of the 385 death row inmates in India are first-time offenders.
  • Around 60% of the prisoners did not complete secondary education and nearly 75% belonged to economically vulnerable sections.
  • Three-fourth of the prisoners sentenced to death belong to backward classes and religious minorities.
  • Overall, ‘murder simpliciter’ or accidental murder constitute most of the cases, followed by ‘rape with murder’.
  • Median duration of trials and High Court proceedings in cases involving sexual offences is the lowest as compared to other cases. State-wise analysis also shows that trails were fastest in cases of sexual offence.
  • Most prisoners who shared information didn’t have a lawyer during interrogation. Most of them claimed they had experienced custodial violence and were tortured in police custody.

Concerns:

  • According to the report, education levels affect the extent to which the death row prisoners are able to understand details of the case filed against them; lack of which results in alienation from the system. Alienation experienced by prisoners through lack of awareness of proceedings increased as cases rise in the appellate system.
  • Pendency of legal proceedings greater than five years is considered a grave violation of speedy justice by the Supreme Court. While the median duration of trial for the death row prisoners was around four years, trials went beyond five years for 127 prisoners. Though lengthy trials happen to be a concern in general, it has more significance in the case of death penalty.
  • Also, the seriousness of charge often forces the families to hire a private lawyer than rely on poor quality of free legal aid provided by the government. The report finds that while the high fee of private lawyers – opted by more than 60% of the prisoners during trial and high court – deepens the economic vulnerability of the already poor families, it doesn’t ensure access to competent legal representation. This makes it difficult for an accused to “navigate through the various stages of the legal process without sufficient socio-economic and political resources.”
Editorials, GS-2, Uncategorized

Bitter medicine for the Centre

The Hindu

The Supreme Court has set up a three-member committee headed by former Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha to perform the statutory functions of the Medical Council of India.

Issues which needs reform on urgent basis are:

  • Need to reduce the cost of medical education and increase access in different parts of the country.
  • Need to improve the doctor-to-population ratio, which is one for every 1,674 persons, as per the parliamentary panel report, against the WHO-recommended one to 1,000.
  • Need to remove bottlenecks to start medical colleges, such as conditions stipulating the possession of a vast extent of land and needlessly extensive infrastructure, and to considerably rectify the imbalance, especially in underserved States.
    • The primary criterion to set up a college should only be the availability of suitable facilities to impart quality medical education.
  • The development of health facilities has long been affected by a sharp asymmetry between undergraduate and postgraduate seats in medicine.
    • There are only about 25,000 PG seats, against a capacity of 55,000 graduate seats. The Lodha committee will review this gap.
  • National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test, some States
    • Will addresses issues such as the urban-rural divide and language barriers.

The single most important issue that the Lodha committee would have to address is corruption in medical education, in which the MCI is mired.

  • Appointing prominent persons from various fields to a restructured council would shine the light of transparency, and save it from reverting to its image as an “exclusive club” of socially disconnected doctors.