31 July 2014

Employment rises 34% to 12.7 crore in 8 years to 2013

 The number of employed people in the country grew by 34.35 per cent to 12.77 crore in eight years to 2013, according to the sixth economic census.

Employment in urban parts increased by 37.46 per cent to 6.14 crore in 2013, whereas in rural areas the growth was 31.59 per cent to 6.62 crore compared to 2005.

The proportion of women in total workforce rose to 25.56 per cent in 2013 from about 20 per cent in 2005. In urban areas, the proportion of female workers was 19.8 per cent and 30.9 per cent in rural areas.

Maharashtra has the maximum number of employees at 1.43 crore, followed by Uttar Pradesh at 1.37 crore, West Bengal at 1.15 crore, Tamil Nadu 1.08 crore and Gujarat at 90.63 lakh.

Among union territories, Delhi has the maximum number of employees at 29.84 lakh followed by Chandigarh at 2.38 lakh and Puducherry at 2.17 lakh in 2013.

The country's population was over 121 crore in 2011, according to 2011 census.

The economic census does not include employment in agriculture, public administration, defence and compulsory social security services activities.

When asked about employment scenario, National Statistical Commission Chairman Pronab Sen said, "The growth in employment at 34 per cent in eight years period is a good rate. That means that it had grown at an annual rate of over 4 per cent when the population is growing at 2 per cent."

Census officials noting down details.

The number of establishments or firms increased by 41.73 per cent to 5.84 crore in 2013 over 2005 level. The number of firms grew by 45.57 during eight years to 2.34 crore in urban areas. Such firms grew by 39.28 per cent to 3.5 crore in rural areas during the period.

Intervention, evasion, destabilisation

If Libya, Syria and Iraq are coming undone and Ukraine has been gravely destabilised, it is the result of interventionsby big powers that claim to be international law enforcers when, in reality, they are lawbreakers

Big powers over the years have targeted specific regimes by arming rebel groups with lethal weapons, thereby destabilising some states and contributing to the rise of dangerous extremists and terrorists. The destabilisation of Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Libya, among other states, is a result of such continuing geopolitical games.
It is the local people who get killed, maimed and uprooted by the interventions of major powers and their regional proxies. Yet those who play such games assume a moral posture to rationalise their interventionist policies and evade responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Indeed, they paint their interference in the affairs of other sovereign states as aimed at fighting the “bad” guys.
Cold War echo

Take the blame game over the downing of Flight MH 17, which was shot down by a surface-to-air missile (SAM), allegedly fired by eastern Ukraine’s Russian-speaking separatists, a number of whom have clearly been trained and armed by Russia. Russia’s aid to the separatists and Washington’s security assistance to the government in Kiev, including providing vital intelligence and sending American military advisers to Ukraine, is redolent of the pattern that prevailed during the Cold War, when the two opposing blocs waged proxy battles in countries elsewhere.
Today, with the Ukrainian military shelling rebel-held cities and Russia massing heavy weapons and troops along the frontier, the crisis threatens to escalate to a direct U.S.-Russia confrontation, especially if Moscow directly intervenes in eastern Ukraine in response to the worsening humanitarian crisis there. The United Nations says the fighting in eastern Ukraine has uprooted more than 230,000 residents. Over 27,000 of them have taken sanctuary in Russia.
After the MH 17 crash, U.S. President Barack Obama was quick to hold Russia and its President, Vladimir Putin, guilty in the global court of opinion over the downing and to spotlight Russian aid to the separatists. Through sanctions and diplomacy, Mr. Obama has steadily ratcheted up pressure on Mr. Putin to stop assisting the rebels. Yet, Mr. Obama has had no compunction in gravely destabilising Syria through continuing covert aid to “moderate” militants there. The aid is being channelled through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the jihad-bankrolling oil sheikhdoms.
Regime-change strategy

Mr. Obama set out on the mission of regime change in Syria by seizing the opportunity that opened up in 2011, when popular protests broke out in some cities against President Bashar al-Assad’s autocratic rule. The detention and torture of a group of schoolchildren, who had been caught scribbling anti-government graffiti in the city of Deraa, led to protests and demands for political reforms and a series of events that rapidly triggered an armed insurrection with external assistance.
From bases in Turkey and Jordan, the rebels — with the clandestine assistance of the U.S., Britain and France — established a Free Syrian Army, launching attacks on government forces. Washington and its allies simultaneously mounted an intense information war demonising Mr. Assad and encouraging officers and soldiers to desert the Syrian military and join the Free Syrian Army.
It is clear three years later that their regime-change strategy has backfired: Not only has it failed to oust Mr. Assad, it has turned Syria into a failed state and led to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — a brutal, medieval organisation seeking to establish a caliphate across the Middle East and beyond. With radical jihadists now dominating the scene, the Free Syrian Army has become a marginal force, despite the CIA continuing to train and arm its members in Jordan.
Had Mr. Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande not embarked on this strategy — which helped instil the spirit of jihad against the Assad regime and opened the gates to petrodollar-financed weapons to Syrian jihadists — would murderous Islamists be in control of much of northern Syria today? It was this control that served as the staging ground for the rapid advance of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant into Iraq. This group now is in a position to potentially use water as a weapon through its control of the upstream areas along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in Syria and Iraq, including important dams.
By inadvertently turning Syria into another Afghanistan — and a threat to regional and international security — the interveners failed to heed the lessons from the CIA’s funnelling of arms to the Afghan mujahideen (or self-proclaimed “holy warriors” of Islam) in the 1980s. The funnelling of arms — partly financed by Saudi Arabia and some other oil sheikhdoms — was a multibillion-dollar operation against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan that gave rise to al-Qaeda and monsters like Osama bin Laden and Mullah Mohammad Omar, chief of the Taliban who remains holed up in Pakistan. It ranked as the largest covert operation in the CIA’s history.
Now, consider a different case where a regime-change strategy spearheaded by the U.S., Britain and France succeeded — Libya. The ouster of Col. Muammar Qadhafi’s government through U.S.-led aerial bombardment in 2011, however, ended up fomenting endless conflict, bloodletting and chaos in Libya.
The virtual crumbling of the Libyan state, more ominously, has had major international implications — from the cross-border leakage of shoulder-fired SAMs from the Qadhafi-built arsenal, including to Syrian jihadists, to the flow of other Libyan weapons to al-Qaeda-linked groups in the arid lands near the Sahara desert known as the Sahel region. Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremists have also tapped the Libyan arms bazaar.
The weapons that Qatar and, on a smaller scale, the United Arab Emirates shipped to Libyan rebels with U.S. approval, including machine guns, automatic rifles and ammunition, have not only destabilised Libya but also undermined security in Mali, Niger and Chad. These weapons had been handed out like candy to foment the uprising against Qadhafi.
There cannot be better proof of how the toppling of Qadhafi has boomeranged than the fact that the U.S., whose ambassador was killed in a 2012 militant attack in Benghazi, the supposed capital of the Libyan “revolution,” has now shut its embassy in Tripoli, citing increasing lawlessness. The predawn evacuation of its entire embassy staff to Tunisia, with U.S. warplanes providing air cover, represented a public admission of defeat.
The plain truth is that it is easier for outside forces to topple or undermine a regime than to build stability and security in the targeted country. With neighbourhoods becoming battlefields, Iraq, Syria and Libya are coming undone. Another disintegrating state is Afghanistan, where Mr. Obama is seeking to end the longest war in American history.
Marginalisation of U.N.

Such is the United Nations’ marginalisation in international relations that it is becoming irrelevant to the raging conflicts. To make matters worse, the U.N. Security Council’s five permanent members, although tasked by the U.N. Charter to preserve international peace and security, have helped spark or fuel regional conflicts and aided the rise of insurgent groups through their interventionist and arms-transfer policies. These five powers — all nuclear-armed — account for more than 80 per cent of the world’s official exports of conventional weapons and most of the unofficial transfers. Chinese arms, for example, have proliferated to a number of guerrilla groups active in Africa and Asia, including insurgents in India’s northeast.
The only mechanism to enforce international law is the Security Council. Yet, its permanent members have repeatedly demonstrated that great powers use, not respect, international law. They have a long history of ignoring international rules when these conflict with their plans. In other words, the international law enforcers are the leading lawbreakers.
Mr. Obama, in toppling Qadhafi through the use of air power, and Mr. Putin, in annexing Crimea, paradoxically cited the same moral principle that has no force in international law — “responsibility to protect.” Indeed, the transition from the 20th to the 21st centuries heralded the open flouting of international law, as represented by the bombing of Serbia, the separation of Kosovo from Serbia, and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Against this background, it is scarcely a surprise that, despite the continuing rhetoric of a rules-based international order, the world is witnessing the triumph of brute force in the 21st century.
If the Security Council is to act more responsibly, its permanent members must look honestly at what they are doing to undermine international peace and security. This can happen only if the Council’s permanent membership is enlarged and the veto power abolished to make decision-making in that body truly democratic.

World's first malaria vaccine to hit markets soon

The world's first malaria vaccine will be available in the market by next year. 

Pharma company GSK has submitted a regulatory application to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for its malaria vaccine candidate, RTS,S. 

RTS,S will be exclusively for use against the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite, which is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). 

Around 90% of estimated deaths from malaria occur in SSA, and 77% of these are in children under the age of 5. 

Data from the phase III vaccine trial programme conducted at 13 African research centres in eight African countries (Burkina Faso, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Tanzania) including over 16,000 infants and young children have also been included to support the filing. 

Results from a large-scale Phase III trial showed that over 18 months of follow-up, children aged 5-17 months at first vaccination with RTS,S experienced 46% fewer cases of clinical malaria, compared to children immunized with a control vaccine. 

An average of 941 cases of clinical malaria were prevented over 18 months of follow-up for every 1,000 children vaccinated in this age group. 

Severe malaria cases were reduced by 36%; 21 cases of severe malaria were prevented over 18 months of follow-up for every 1,000 children vaccinated. 

Malaria hospitalizations were reduced by 42%. 

RTS,S aims to trigger the body's immune system to defend against the P falciparum malaria parasite when it first enters the human host's bloodstream and/or when the parasite infects liver cells. The vaccine is designed to prevent the parasite from infecting, maturing and multiplying in the liver, after which time the parasite would re-enter the bloodstream and infect red blood cells, leading to disease symptoms. In the phase III efficacy trial, RTS,S was administered in three doses, one month apart. 

Trials showed that the vaccine effectively protected young children and infants from clinical malaria up to 18 months after vaccination. 

GSK said "Over 18 months of follow-up, RTS,S was shown to almost halve the number of malaria cases in young children (aged 5-17 months at first vaccination) and to reduce by around a quarter the malaria cases in infants (aged 6-12 weeks at first vaccination)". 

GSK has vowed to sell the vaccine at cost price plus 5%, which it said would fund further research into tropical diseases. The new results are from a study of 15,000 babies and children in seven African countries. 

The submission will follow the Article 58 procedure, which allows the EMA to assess the quality, safety and efficacy of a candidate vaccine, or medicine, manufactured in a European Union (EU) member state, for a disease recognised by the World Health Organization as of major public health interest, but intended exclusively for use outside the EU. 

This assessment is done by the EMA in collaboration with the WHO, and requires products to meet the same standards as vaccines or medicines intended for use in the EU. 

The EMA submission is the first step in the regulatory process toward making the RTS,S vaccine candidate available as an addition to existing tools currently recommended for malaria prevention. To-date there is no licensed vaccine available for the prevention of malaria. 

If a positive opinion from the EMA is granted, the WHO has indicated a policy recommendation may be possible by end of 2015. 

A positive opinion from the EMA would also be the basis for marketing authorisation applications to National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) in SSA countries. 

Dr Sophie Biernaux, head of the Malaria Vaccine Franchise, GSK said "This is a key moment in GSK's 30-year journey to develop RTS,S and brings us a step closer to making available the world's first vaccine that can help protect children in Africa from malaria".

The real threat to WTO

Aside from war and migration, observed the Nobel prize winning economist, Thomas C. Schelling, “trade is what most of international relations are about. For that reason, trade policy is national security policy.”
One of the few economists to take any serious academic interest in national security issues, and known for his analysis of nuclear deterrence from a game theoretic perspective, Schelling made these observations in 1971 to a United States Congressional Commission on “National Security Considerations Affecting Trade Policy”.
While economists like to believe that trade policy is defined by rational calculus, the wielders of power and policy have always known that trade policy is integral to a nation’s strategic policy. The transatlantic powers created a post-war trading regime under the auspices of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) designed to serve their geoeconomic interests. This was sought to be democratised, though only partially, with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), creating not just a “rules-based” trading system but also a disciplinary mechanism to enforce those rules.
India correctly took the view that it had a “strategic stake” in such a multilateral rules-based system, and successive governments have worked hard with the West through the WTO. The current impasse in the WTO has in fact been created by the dilution of Western commitment to that regime, and not by developing-country intransigence, much less India’s.
In the current stand-off on India’s stance on its food security policy, Western powers are pretending as if they are the upholders of fair play and India the spoiler. The fact is that major trading powers have never shied away from being spoilers in multilateral trade talks whenever it has suited their national interest. It should be recalled that the US and EU have readily deployed non-economic weapons to threaten their trade partners whenever their economic interests have been threatened. When Japan emerged as a competitive global exporter, building a huge trade surplus vis-à-vis the transatlantic economies, the US deployed domestic laws, Special and Super 301, to get Japan to adopt “voluntary export restraints” (VERs). The EU “single market” was created in the early 1990s as a conscious response to Japan’s rise.
Hence, it would be churlish for the West to criticise the Indian government for giving primacy to domestic politics in external trade negotiations. The real threat to the WTO-based multilateral trading system has come in recent months from the US initiative to enter into WTO-plus plurilateral agreements, namely, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
While a plethora of such agreements around the worldhas virtually sidelined the WTO, the TPP/ TTIP challenge is the biggest threat so far to a rules-based development-oriented multilateralism. This assessment came through clearly at a recent conference on “Trade and Flag: Changing Balance of Power in the Multilateral Trading System”, organised by the Geoeconomics and Strategy Programme of the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS).
The TPP and the TTIP have been cooked up as a “geoeconomic” response to China’s emergence as a “mega-trader”, while being touted as defining a new “gold standard” for international trade. While Japan has reluctantly joined the TPP, most major emerging economies, especially the BRICS economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — remain outside TPP-TTIP.
It is against this larger “Great Game” in global trade that one must view India’s current stance. True, the shadow of domestic politics, and public concern about food inflation and food security, loom large over the Narendra Modi government’s stance, which is but a continuation of the view taken by the Manmohan Singh government.
However, it is also clear that this is not the only factor shaping Indian official thinking on trade policy. There seems to be an assessment that the transatlantic powers are digging their heels in on market access, trade liberalisation and weakening the WTO’s “rules-based” trading system. Perhaps India is not the target of their actions and China is. But India would suffer collateral damage and, so far, the US has not provided any assurance that India would not be a victim of the unintended consequences of a US-China trade war.
Differences over trade come against the background of several other differences that have dogged US-India relations during the tenure of President Barrack Obama. These issues ought to be ironed out when US Secretary of State John Kerry meets India’s new political leadership.
Regrettably, Kerry’s remarks on WTO and India, on the eve of his arrival in New Delhi, are not particularly helpful. He said on Tuesday, “India must decide where it fits in the global trading system. Its commitment to a rules-based trading order and its willingness to fulfil its obligation will be a key indication.” It could well be argued that the US too must come clean on its commitment to a “rules-based” system that is fair to developing economies.
The impasse in Geneva will get sorted out when Washington DC’s intentions behind TPP/ TTIP are better explained and the US wins the confidence of developing countries. The US must address Indian concerns that it may abandon the WTO and pursue a trade agenda inimical to India once it gets the trade facilitation deal through. For its part, India must reform its food security system and its agricultural economy as a whole, and ensure they are WTO-compatible. For now, however, the US and India must resist quarrelling on this issue and revive their relationship.
What can perhaps change the game and revive trust between India and the US is a revival of the larger strategic engagement between the two democracies that was initiated by US Presidents BillClinton and George Bush. Obama has not been able to retain that trust with India. Prime Minister Modi has made a new beginning. It remains to be seen whether Kerry is able to  win back New Delhi’s trust and affection, restoring balance to a wayward relationship.

Ten years 25 miles later

Last Sunday, the Nasa Mars rover, Opportunity, broke the record for off-Earth driving, previously held by the moon rover, Lunokhod 2, which was launched by the former USSR in 1973. Not only has Opportunity driven 25 miles, it has heralded long-term robotic presence on the surface of another planet.
While life continued on Earth, on July 27, unknown to most outside the mission team, Opportunity completed a spectacular drive on Mars, surpassing 25 miles, and in the process became the vehicle to drive the longest distance outside Earth. Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004, with the objective of surviving 90 days and driving one kilometre. Ten years and 40 km later, Opportunity is still trooping forward on Mars, continuing its mission to explore an unknown world, to feast its eyes on landscapes that no human has seen before and to leave its wheel tracks where no vehicle has driven before. Opportunity shows some signs of ageing, but for the most part, it is functional. In fact, its solar arrays are clean and the energy generated by the arrays is comparable to the first year of the mission.
Opportunity landed at Eagle Crater, but it has driven far beyond to Endeavour Crater. It is trying to track down the signs of clay minerals in the western rim of Endeavour Crater seen from orbit by CRISM, a spectrometer on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Clay minerals help scientists figure out questions related to water and to the hospitality of past environments for life on Mars.
The longest road trip that I have been on was two days long, when I drove from Washington DC to Florida. But Opportunity has been on the road for 10 years, exposed to the sun, winds, dust and radiation. It has been witness to the change in seasons, the regional dust storms on Mars that obliterate the sun and the freezing temperatures of five Martian winters. And of course, as it drove, Opportunity has seen the wonderful vistas of Mars — from Martian sunsets to iron meteorites, from cirrus clouds to the spectacular world of Martian rocks — that have been viewed for the first time through its microscopic imager. Throughout the roadtrip, Opportunity has had no physical repairs. It has never had the luxury of swapping some old parts for new, no new lubrication for the wheels, no new battery or motherboard for the onboard computer.
In the broader scheme of things, courtesy five orbiters, four rovers and one lander, we have covered significant ground in Mars exploration over the last 18 years — since the Mars Global Surveyor landed on that planetin 1996. We have confirmed the presence of ice at the Martian poles and evidence of liquid water in the past. Spirit and Opportunity, together with Curiosity, have set the stage for the next rover mission, Mars 2020, which will likely have the capability of looking for biological evidence related to life and a mechanism to generate oxygen on Mars. We have made huge strides in obtaining geologic, chemical, mineralogic and atmospheric data from Mars, which have greatly helped scientists understand the geologic and atmospheric evolution of that planet. Mars has transitioned from a distant object to an accessible planet that is inundating us with new data every day from two rovers and four orbiters.
Behind Opportunity lies a team that has developed and operated the vehicle. The team has battled incredible odds to operate a vehicle about 200 million km away. From landing on Mars to driving across it, it has been a journey into an unknown parameter space from an engineering standpoint, which calls for customisation, iterative learning and reworking. A strategic mistake in preparing for the long term or an oversight in planning a single observation on Mars has the potential to cause irreversible damage to the rover. For more than 3,735 sols (or Martian days), the team has commandeered activities that have balanced the requirements of science, the adventurism of trying something new and the conservativeness of not taking irrational risks.

30 July 2014

Going beyond the ceremonial with NEPAL

Given Nepal’s scepticism over renewed engagement with India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Himalayan nation should focus on the doables

The much discussed issue — the lack of high-level political engagement between India and Nepal — was back in focus with the three-day official visit of Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs Minister, to Kathmandu. Although the foreign minister’s visit to Nepal during this period every year is almost a calendar event, its most important part was the revival of the Joint Commission (JC) after 23 years, and preparation for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to the country in early August after 17 years. The visit also demonstrated India’s desire to re-energise India-Nepal relationship in line with the Modi government’s efforts to breathe new life into India’s neighbourhood policy. Besides, it conveyed to the people of Nepal the primacy that the new government attaches to Nepal in its foreign policy.
Although India and Nepal have shared cordial and friendly ties without much tensions, there was a perception in Kathmandu that New Delhi no longer took the Himalayan country seriously. According to many observers in Nepal, this was evident from the one-way, high-level political visits from the Nepalese side during the last decade, which mostly went unreciprocated from the Indian side. Therefore, with the revival of the JC and talk of Mr. Modi’s visit to Nepal, there is a lot of hope in Kathmandu about a possible upswing in bilateral relations.
Most important, Ms Swaraj’s visit took place during a critical phase of political transition in Nepal — when the country is struggling to generate a political consensus to conclude the protracted exercise of drafting a new constitution. The second Constituent Assembly (CA) has so far not been able to address contentious issues like the nature of political system and federalism, like the first CA.
Competing narratives
Against this backdrop, there are mixed reactions in Nepal about India’s role in the constitution writing process. One narrative holds that since India facilitated the peace process in November 2005, it has a moral responsibility to ensure the successful conclusion of the process; India should not keep aloof at this crucial juncture when the differences among various political actors on the two contentious issues of federalism and nature of governance are widening. Some civil society groups believe that India should reuse its influence (as it did in 2005), and act as a ‘negotiator’ to resolve the political deadlock, and take the process forward.
The second narrative is that India continues to interfere in the internal affairs of Nepal and supports the efforts of the status-quoist forces to override the progressive elements, and adopt an antediluvian constitution without a consensus, through a majority. This may lead to unnecessary chaos and confusion and decelerate the process of transition. The advocates of this view also allege that India is doubly guilty of not letting any third country help the Nepalese political forces overcome the present crisis.
Although the first narrative acknowledges India’s efforts in 2005, and wants India to play the role of an honest mediator, the advocates of such a point of view are in a clear minority in Nepal. The inertial view of India as an overpowering bully, conspiring to micro-manage Nepal’s internal politics with the ultimate aim of establishing an acquiescing government in Kathmandu, persists.
Ms Swaraj began her trip by chairing the third JC. She also met President Ram Baran Yadav, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and the Opposition leaders of Nepal. For the first time after 23 years, the high-level bilateral meeting covered a wide range of issues concerning both the countries. The JC discussed over six dozen bilateral issues and addressed most of them.
According to the joint statement, both the countries agreed to: update the Treaty of Peace and Friendship 1950; promote greater collaboration and cooperation in security related issues; cooperate in the agricultural sector and set up an agriculture university with Indian support; enhance bilateral trade and investment by relaxing the rules of origin requirements; simplify and streamline transit and customs related procedures; eliminate Technical Barriers to Trade and make Sanitary and Phyto Sanitary-related measures less stringent and lift quantitative restrictions on the export of Nepalese products to India; finalise the text of a Power Trade Agreement; work towards an early completion of the construction of the 132 kV Kataiya-Kusaha and 132 kV Raxaul-Parwanipur Transmission Line Projects; relax the requirement of Indian content for the road projects included in the $250 million LoC; and deepen cooperation in the tourism sector by connecting major tourist spots in Nepal and India.
During the meeting, India also agreed to construct an international cricket stadium at Pokhara; continue the Goitre Control programme; provide technical support for early operationalisation of the Bharat-Nepal Maitri Emergency and Trauma Centre, and increase scholarships for Nepalese students for higher studies in India.
Significantly, during her meeting with the Opposition leaders, Ms Swaraj gave the assurance that steps would be taken “to ensure continued discussions at the political level on bilateral issues, while underlining the need for building an atmosphere of trust between the two neighbours.” The Nepalese delegation reiterated its country’s support for India’s permanent membership in the United Nations Security Council and expressed similar views on major international issues affecting the developing countries, and the desire of the Nepalese leadership to work in close coordination with India in the international forum.
Given India’s poor record on the delivery front, there is scepticism in Kathmandu that, although the JC covered a wide gamut of issues, the outcome of the meeting is more ceremonial than real. Most of the pledges made by India in the joint statement are a reiteration of promises made by it over the years. Except for the construction of a stadium in Pokhara and the decision on deepening cooperation on tourism, nothing seems new in the statement.
Significantly, as per media reports, Nepalese officials made it clear during the talks that “there should be a political consensus in Nepal before a bilateral deal could be reached.” The negotiating parties also failed to set a timeline for completing the negotiations for Project Development Agreement and the Power Trade Agreement (PTA).
Trust deficit
Thus, despite the revival of the JC, trust deficit exists. And many issues agreed upon during the meeting would either be delayed, given the illusive consensus among the Nepalese political parties, or might not materialise at all. In fact, a meeting of the top three political parties on July 27 failed to take any decision over PTA, which was expected to be signed during Mr. Modi’s visit to Nepal. Given the lack of consensus among the Nepalese political parties on India’s role in the water and infrastructureprojects in Nepal, New Delhi may find it difficult to translate its promises in the joint statement into reality.
However, there were some positive developments on the Nepalese side. For the first time, perhaps, no controversial news has appeared in the Nepali media about an Indian leader’s visit (so far). There may, thus, be an appetite in Kathmandu to break fresh ground with India, although cynics in Nepal would caution that the anti-India lobby is reserving its venom for Mr. Modi’s visit.
It is important to ask whether India could have done better. The foreign minister could have picked up some doable issues to ensure the goodwill of the Nepalese people as well: for example, issues like declaring special trains for the Nepalese people from Delhi and Bangalore to the India-Nepal border; the exemption of Nepalese students and patients from paying in U.S. dollars during their treatment in Indian hospitals, and educational institutions; setting up India information centres in remote areas; setting up cold storage and grain storage in hill regions and marketing facilities for agro-based products; renovation of airport infrastructure in Nepal, especially the Terai region; vocational training institutes for women; easy transfer of remittance from India to Nepal through banking channels; joint research on the Himalayan eco-system and prevention of river pollution; and speeding up the completion of the Amlekhganj-Raxaul oil pipeline with Indian assistance.
Similarly, on tourism, we could have been more innovative, and proposed the linking of major tourist spots starting from those in northern India to Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet via Nepal — connecting Bodhgaya, Saranath, Kasi Bishwanath, Janakpur, Lumbini, Vindhyabasini & Mankamana in Pokhara, Pashupatinath and Muktinath.
One hopes some of these issues will figure during Mr. Modi’s upcoming visit to Nepal on 3-4 August. Focussing on the doables is a much better option.

Seeking a level playing field,controversy over csat

Does the new aptitude test introduced in the Civil Services prelims give a head start to English-speaking candidates and those from technical background?

Much has been made about India’s growing aspirational class, especially after it led the Bharatiya Janata Party to power at the Centre. Now it is a section of this aspirational class that is out on the streets, protesting against the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT), conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The protesters, who are civil services aspirants from rural areas, have found this compulsory paper discriminatory. They argue that the test does not offer a level-playing field to candidates who are not fluent in English.

Introduced in 2011, CSAT tests comprehension, interpersonal skills including communication skills, logical reasoning and analytical ability, decision-making and problem-solving, general mental ability, basic numeracy, data interpretation and data sufficiency besides English comprehension skills (of class X level). While the “English language comprehension skills of Class X level” is a big deal for candidates from regional language-medium schools and colleges, central to the debate is the technical nature of CSAT.

This paper replaced the objective type “optional subject’’ which, along with the test on General Studies (GS), constituted the Preliminary Examination (Prelims) for over three decades. The old Prelims module was formulated as per the recommendation of the Committee on Recruitment Policy and Selection Methods (the Kothari Committee), which gave its report in 1976.

The Preliminary Examination, as per the Kothari Committee, was to be a screening test to identify serious candidates and “broaden the base of recruitment’’ so as to rid the services of the “elitist’’ tag it had acquired since its pre-Independence incarnate as the Indian Civil Services.

Read: UPSC issue figures in Rajya Sabha

Advantage engineers?

Till 2011, candidates could choose their “optional subject’’ for the Prelims from 23 listed subjects for this paper of 300 marks. The GS paper carried 150 marks. Under the new scheme, GS and CSAT are of 200 marks each.

Candidates from the humanities stream maintain that engineering students — particularly those from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) — have a head start in CSAT because many of its components are part of their core training for four years.

This is somewhat borne out by what Ashish Tewari, professor of Aerospace Engineering at IIT Kanpur, wrote in an in-house publication on the issue of “Administrative Services as a Career Option for IITians’’ in 2000 when more and more products of the premier education system were taking the CSE. In some years, they constituted 40 per cent of those who cleared the exam; that too in the higher ranks.

In his article, Prof. Tewari said: “The Joint Entrance Examination [for IITs] endeavours to select 18-year-olds with superior analytical abilities … The JEE is tailored to provide challenging problems, most of which require some independent thought for solution in a timely manner … At the Institute, the Under Graduate curriculum aims to hone the problem solving abilities…’’

“This is what we are pitted against,” is the refrain of those opposed to CSAT, who argue that there is no gainsaying that the components are of Class X level as these skills are seldom imparted in government schools where the stress is on learning by rote. “Earlier, aptitude was tested for 15-20 marks in the GS paper but now, an entire paper carrying half the total marks of the Prelims is on aptitude. This takes many of us out of the race at the first stage itself,” is what they say.

“CSAT is now forcing many an aspirant to take coaching for even the Prelims,” said a candidate who did not want to be named for fear of being victimised, adding, “even then we are at a disadvantage because our language skills are not so good compared to those who have had an English-medium education, and ‘think-and-speak English’ as you people put it.”

Former Union Minister Y.K. Alagh — who headed the Committee which recommended CSAT in 2001 which was later picked up by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission in 2008 — told The Hindu: “The teaching shop industry will be redundant in the new set-up once experience is there and if the CSAT is well implemented. The new system is very recent and not fully understood. The CSAT has not been fully implemented in the sense of questions which are rural-urban neutral. UPSC has to ensure that.’’

According to him, CSAT should be structured to test capabilities. “The English requirement is no longer that of an essay of the Macaulay type but working conversation knowledge of the type in a foreign language teaching programme. To say that in the 21st Century, a child who has no understanding of bazaari angrezi is an ideal candidate for the Civil Services is not just ridiculous but pernicious.”

While aspirants concede that a working knowledge of English is necessary, their contention is that the nature of questions asked in CSAT is difficult to comprehend with their limited English language skills. While all components — barring the questions on English comprehension — are available in Hindi as well, those from the Hindi-medium complain that technical terms are translated literally, making them difficult to comprehend. A case in point is “laptop” which is mentioned as godhsur in Hindi.

Festering since 2011, the protests over CSAT intensified this year, primarily because of hopes that the new government may be more inclined to overturn a decision of its predecessor. Also, the batch profile of the 88th Foundation Course at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), Mussoorie, shows a widening in the urban-rural divide, fuelling apprehensions among those already crying foul over CSAT.

In the 269-strong batch, 27.13 per cent had a rural background. In the 86th Foundation Course — for CSE 2010 — the rural background component was 29.3 per cent. While this drop is being attributed to CSAT, the profile of batches in the previous decade shows a significant drop in rural candidates even when the old Prelims format was in place. So, the reasons for this dip could lie elsewhere.

Not due to CSAT alone

Similarly, their use of data from UPSC annual reports to show a drop in the number of students taking the Mains examination in languages other than English as a result of language medium students failing because of CSAT does not stand scrutiny. There has been a downward trend over the past several years with English becoming the more preferred language for taking the examination.

If anything, CSE 2012 saw the number of students opting for Hindi in the Essay paper of the Mains go up to 1,956 from the earlier four year-low of 1,682 in 2011. The same trend cuts across Kannada, Tamil and Telugu; the three languages flagged by the protesters in one of their petitions.

With the admit cards now being issued for the Prelims and the government informing Parliament that it would not intervene to make UPSC stop the process, many aspirants are now working overtime to crack CSAT with the intention of going to court subsequently to at least seek a scaling of marks so that humanities students do not suffer. If nothing works, they may go for the jugular and seek the cancellation of UPSC’s notifications of CSE 2011, 2012 and 2013.

WTO brinkmanship

With grain silos spilling over, exports on the rise and an avowed market champion for prime minister, India’s threat to trash a global trade deal in the name of food security appears puzzling.
But government officials say Prime Minister Narendra Modi is prepared to brazen out global outrage to seize a historic chance to build a rural power base with his defence of farm subsidies and to banish memories of humiliating national food shortages.
Modi triumphed in a general election only two months ago, but polls are never far away in the world’s largest democracy and his Bharatiya Janata Party has its eyes already on new campaigns in the breadbowl states of Haryana and Maharashtra.
More than two-thirds of India’s 1.26 billion people live in rural areas and Modi’s party, traditionally stronger in cities, needs to secure more farmers’ votes to consolidate its power.
Party officials are confident New Delhi’s tough line at World Trade Organization talks in Geneva will accomplish that.
“A strong stance in Geneva sends a message to the farmers and poor people that unlike the (last government), Modi can take on the global powers to safeguard the interests of rural India,” said a party lawmaker, who declined to be named.
Modi’s government demanded a halt to a globally agreed timetable on new customs rules and said a permanent agreement on food stockpiling and subsidies must be in place at the same time, well ahead of a 2017 target agreed last December in Bali.
Critics say the brinkmanship threatens a deal that could add a trillion dollars to global wealth and create 21 million jobs.
With a key deadline on Thursday looking increasingly tricky, Modi risks alienating allies including the United States, whose top diplomat John Kerry is due in New Delhi on Wednesday for talks that will be held in the shadow of the dispute.
“We understand that a new government in office for fewer than 100 days is eager to evaluate any previous agreement and assure their electorate they are doing the right thing,” Diane Farrell, acting president of the U.S.-India Business Council told Reuters.
“At the same time, we have a high degree of hope that they will work with the WTO to find the appropriate accommodations  in order to sign on an agreement to the treaty,” she said.
If India goes through with its threatened veto, critics say it would cripple WTO talks, hasten trade negotiations elsewhere – something that India opposes – and swiftly trigger trade disputes challenging India’s stockpiling policy.
But the gambit is paying off at home, where the opposition, industry chambers and many economists have welcomed India asserting itself more on the international stage.
“Modi, like any good strong leader, is committed to ‘India first’, that was his campaign,” said Samir Saran of the Observer Research Foundation think-tank.
India rejects international criticismby saying that it is responsible for the well-being of a quarter of the world’s poor and that its subsidy burden is vastly overestimated.
Current WTO rules limit subsidies to farmers in developing countries to 10 percent of the total value of agricultural produce based on 1986-88 prices.
New Delhi trade officials say India wants the formula to be adjusted for inflation and fears that if the Bali trade facilitation deal is signed by July 31 as planned, questions of stockpiling and subsidies will end up on the back burner.
But India has not formally raised the inflation-adjustment idea since the Bali summit in December.
India provides subsidised fertiliser and seeds to farmers and buys wheat and rice from them at fixed prices to boost output, build stocks for welfare plans and meet any emergency.
The incentives, coupled with good rains in recent years, have sent output soaring and state warehouses are overflowing.
As of July 1, India had 21.2 million tonnes of rice and 39.8 million tonnes of wheat stockpiled, more than double the respective buffer norms.
Yet India is determined to hold on to these vast reserves, partly due to painful memories of dependence on U.S. food aid in the 1960s. Also, as recently as 2006, India’s surpluses vanished after two years of drought and it was forced to import grains, sending global food prices rocketing.
Monsoon rains are expected to be below average this year.
“India cannot afford to rely on imports of rice and wheat as no one produces (enough) to feed a county of India’s size,” said a senior farm ministry official. “Two successive droughts in India will scare the world market and prices will surge in an unimaginable way.”
Government experts say nearly half of about 60 million tonnes of grains set aside for distribution at subsidized prices is siphoned off by corrupt officials, raising the question why India would burn bridges to defend such an inefficient system.
Still, some experts say India’s best choice might be simply to try to improve it since a change to cash transfer subsidies recommended by many economists would take years in a country with few rural banks.
India’s nation-sized states are working to fix the system of warehouses and ration shops that dates back to the famines of the 1960s, emulating simple solutions adopted by states which have dramatically cut waste and improved delivery.
“The public distribution system (PDS) has been making slow but steady improvement,” Peter Kenmore, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Representative in India, told Reuters.
“It is slow, sure, too slow, but basically the PDS is straightening out,” he said, adding that FAO’s position is that India’s food subsidies do not distort global markets.

RBI survey finds 47% of banking agents ‘untraceable’

The success of the government’s thrust on financial inclusion, which largely hinges on the role played by business correspondents (BCs), is faced with a harsh reality check.
A recent survey conducted by the RBI College for Agriculture Banking and the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) reveals that not only were a substantive number of banking agents untraceable, but that even among those found to be working, a significant number have never conducted even a single transaction.
According to the survey, which tried to contact 2,358 agents across 15 large states in the period between September and November 2013, only 53 per cent could be reached and the remaining 47 per cent could not be reached.
Even among those who could be reached, 198 (16 per cent of that) agents have not done a single transaction till date. Experts say that there is more of an account opening exercise that is currently going on rather than the real task of focussing on financial inclusion.
While the government and the RBI claims that they have over 2.2 lakh banking agents, experts say that the survey suggests that the quality of the same is terrible.
“Our assessment is that the Ministry of Finance and the RBI have relied far too heavily on a target-driven approach to financial inclusion, whereby the RBI mandates that banks open a minimum number of accounts in poor and rural areas. This has led to ‘card rampages’, with banks aggressively opening accounts to meet their targets, but investing little in establishing high-quality agent networks that encourage account usage,” said Daniel Radcliffe, senior program officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is a member organisation of CGAP.
The survey also found out that the attrition rate of business correspondents is anywhere between 25 and 34 per cent per annum and that does raise a question mark on the sustainability of the existing model.
The agent activity is significantly lower in India relative to that in several African countries. While the median agent conducts only 9 transactions per day in India, those in Kenya do 62 and those in Tanzania and Uganda do 35 and 34 transactions, respectively.
In India the remuneration for the agents is also low and the median agent earns only $45 (Rs 2,700) per month, or $1.50 per day — well below the $5 break-even point seen in other markets. There are further issues in the same as the account opened through an agent takes 9 days for activation as compared to 3-5 minutes in East African markets.
The survey shows big loopholes in the existing network of agents of banking correspondents but in its exercise toextend banking services to remote areas the RBI recently permitted banks to appoint non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) as their business correspondents.
BCs are hired by banks to offer banking services in remote areas where they do not have branches and therefore the BCs act as agents of the parent bank. While RBI had allowed banks to use BCs to organise a network of customer service points in 2006, the number of banking agents grew to over 2.2 lakh till 2013. In a bid to further expand the scope of BCs, the Nachiket Mor committee had earlier this year suggested to include new entities as BCs.

For schools to be safe

On December 17, 2012, exactly a day after the Delhi gangrape case that shook the country, a three-year-old girl was taken to the toilet of  her play school in Delhi and raped by the owner-principal’s husband. She is not the only child violated in a space considered to be the safest space for children after their homes — the school. This ugly reality has come to light once again with a six-year-old being sexually abused in a school in Bangalore. Every report specified that it took place at an “elite school”, as if such incidents only take place among the poor and this was new. The reality is that child sexual abuse cuts across class, religion, education or ethnicity. It can happen anywhere, including within families. It is imperative that we recognise this and put checks and balances in place.
It is not as if sexual abuse in schools is a new phenomenon. If we look back at our own school days, there was likely a member of the staff who made us uncomfortable. Our discomfort was unaddressed then and this is the case even today, due to a conspiracy of silence around sexual violence and abuse. Abuse is reported even less in the case of schools because of the power relations between educational institutions and students, more so if the parents are poor and illiterate. So we must welcome that some parents are coming out to complain.
It is not easy for parents and children to find the courage to complain, given the cycle of violence they face. Many child survivors and their families are asked by landlords to vacate their homes. Instead of cooperating with children and helping them cope with the trauma, children are subtly pushed out of school. Changing schools is even harder. Traumatised by the abuse, most survivors fall behind in academics, making admission to another school difficult unless the principal is apprised of the circumstances and admission sought on sympathetic grounds, hoping confidentiality will be respected. The system of investigation and judicial process expects the child to recollect and repeat the sequence of events several times, leading to re-victimisation. Little surprise then that parents and child victims choose to keep quiet.
Despite new laws and stringent punishment, there is an increase in sexual crime and little deterrence. For instance, two years on, the December 17 case is still to be decided. We are told that the courts set up under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO) are “special courts”, while those under the criminal amendment act of 2012are “fast-track courts”. Are special courts not meant to be fast track?
Poor investigation by the police, lack of adequate victim and witness protection, intrusive and unreliable medical examination, lack of special public prosecutors, poor quality of legal aid and, most importantly, a lack of courts having exclusive charge of POCSO cases are important factors affecting prosecution and resulting in poor conviction rates. Justice becomes more difficult as children do not have the proper legal vocabulary to express their agony, more so if the child has a disability.
With increased reporting of such incidents and the fear of a loss of reputation, school managements shy away from either admitting or taking responsibility. In many ways, child sexual abuse in schools is custodial rape, and hence an aggravated offence. This is clearly recognised by the POCSO act, which has a clause for mandatory reporting, supposedly introduced to address the reluctance of institutions to take responsibility. There must be mandatory standard protective protocols, whose violation would lead to penal action, to make schools safe.
The Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) developed a set of guidelines for the prevention of child abuse last year. It lays down what schools must do to protect children from sexual abuse through protocols that need to be followed for the recruitment of staff, and details the capacity-building and child protection standards that need to be in place. Primary among them is the framing of a child protection policy applicable to all persons employed by the institution and even visitors. Most importantly, it calls for the setting up of a complaints mechanisms for children, parents and guardians, and appropriate training and orientation for them on the institution’s protection policy and mechanisms to complain.
Rule 31 of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Rules, 2007 requires that every school and other educational institutions abide by guidelines issued by the Centre and the states for the prevention of sexual abuse of children. The Delhi government framed its own rules in 2009, as have some others. On February 13, 2013, in HAQ: Centre for Child Rights vs Union of India, the Delhi High Court directed the state to frame guidelines for effective implementation of Rule 31. Accordingly, the guidelines developed by the DCPCR were placed before the court. One year later, in February, further direction had to be sought from the court to ensure the notification of these guidelines by the lieutenant governor, and their circulation among stakeholders. Yet, most schools in Delhi remain unaware of them.
It is also time that we stopped being squeamish about sex and recognised that if children have to protect themselves, they need age-appropriate information. This has to come from both home and school.

How to be smart,JNNURM

At A time when the contours of the new scheme for 100 smart cities are being decided, it is important to look at what went wrong with the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), launched in 2005 to improve infrastructure and governance in cities. With an overall investment of more than Rs 1 lakh crore, it covered both small towns and big cities. Amid all the criticism of the scheme, it is imperative to look at what went right and what didn’t.
One of the major drawbacks of the JNNURM was that it focused too much on big cities, directing fewer funds towards small and medium ones. In principle, it was meant to include all cities/ towns as per the 2001 Census. One of the things it did right was provide funds for class V and VI towns, which have populations of less than 10,000 people. Though their share in resources was dismal, it started a process that could have been taken forward in the future.
Another criticism was that access to JNNURM funds was linked to the achievement of mandatory reforms. Many feel this kind of incentivising did not work because a number of states and cities refused to comply. The Centre had no choice but to release funds after being given assurances on paper. However, many states did comply. As of January 2014, states like Himachal Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu had completed 19 out of the 23 reforms. Others like J&K, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal had completed 16. Bigger cities like Delhi did not perform as well and managed to complete only 15 reforms but still received the highest funding under the JNNURM.
The constant dependence of urban local bodies (ULBs) on state or parastatal agencies was another criticism. The JNNURM was supposed to encourage the role of ULBs in project preparation and implementation. However, in practice, the role of the ULB was reduced to that of quiet spectator in some cases and appointing agency in others. The funding pattern did encourage cost-sharing between the Centre, state and ULBs. However, in some cases, smaller towns were unable to contribute their share of the project cost.
Underutilisation of funds was another issue. Since the smaller ULBs are not financially independent, implementing reforms can be difficult, which leads to delays in the release of funds. Also, since a number of smaller ULBs lack capacity, the funds, even when released, were not enough to realise their potential or utilised optimally. This leads to a vicious cycle of poor performance stemming from poor capacity and lack of funds.
Whilethe JNNURM is likely to be discontinued, the new concept of “smart cities” doesn’t hit the nail on the head either. As enunciated in the Union budget speech, the development of satellite towns and modernisation of existing mid-sized cities seems to be the plan. But this lacks consideration for small towns — class III to VI — that have populations lower than 49,999 and which account for 29 per cent of the total urban population. Many of these towns may not be near big cities but may actually possess enormous growth potential. Consider this, between 2001 and 2011, the population living in class I (1,00,000 and above) and class II (50,000-99,999) towns has increased by 27 and 20 per cent respectively. Whereas the population in class III (20,000-49,999) and class IV (10,000-19,999) towns has increased by 40 and 41 per cent respectively. Further, the population in class V (5,000-9,999) and class VI towns (less than 5,000) has doubled. This increase in small-town populations needs to be backed with investment to sustain urbanisation as it will contribute majorly to economic clusters.
The investment allocation for the 100 smart cities project, Rs 7,060 crore, is 6 per cent of the total estimated investment of the JNNURM. As of March 2012, the JNNURM covered 1,274 small towns and 65 big cities. In terms of both investment and coverage, the JNNURM was a much larger scheme. It had a definitive structure that got lost in implementation. What is needed is capacity building at the local level. Until ULBs are empowered to carry out their functions properly, no new scheme can achieve its objectives. When a large number of our cities struggle with even the delivery of basic services, creating technologically advanced cities may not be attacking the root of the problem. What is required is the equitable distribution of funds and resources to small and medium cities instead of identifying a few smart cities.

So many regulators

Much has been written about the leanness of Narendra Modi’s cabinet, constituted on the mantra of “minimum government, maximum governance”. This shift may mean a shrinking government, but it also means a changing role for it. In several markets, government intervention is necessary to enhance market performance. Government intervention affecting industry structure and behaviour takes two forms: regulation and antitrust.
Regulatory agencies and antitrust authorities are only two of the several institutional players defining the competitive environment. Regulators define ex ante a set of permissible business conduct for operators by regulating entry conditions, licensing requirements, tariff standards, access, control over price, quantity and quality, etc. Antitrust enforcers, in contrast, check ex post that anti-competitive conduct as identified by competition law is not pursued.
This diarchy of economic regulation is meant to be complementary and ensure the structural and behavioural competitiveness of the Indian economy. However, sectoral regulators, taking advantage of their overlapping jurisdiction with the Competition Commission of India (CCI), the antitrust agency, have continuously tried to chip at its mandate. This has resulted in regulatory parallelism amongst sectoral regulators and the CCI.
For instance, in August 2012, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) introduced draft regulations to grant itself the power to regulate anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position and anti-competitive mergers (all in the CCI’s domain) in the electricity sector. Such efforts would virtually eliminate the CCI’s regulatory oversight, creating
a parallel and conflicting competition regime for the electricity sector. Further, the CERC’s exercise took place without any enabling legislation or legislative mandate, and was rooted using a residual clause under the CERC’s parent legislation, the Electricity Act, 2003. Interestingly, the CERC, which was created in 2003, only chose to legislate on this after the CCI had been made fully functional. The CERC has the mandate to promote competition in electricity markets by creating appropriate competitive and efficient market structures. However, it cannot usurp the jurisdiction of the CCI to ex-post regulate distortion of such competitive markets through such conduct.
The RBI has also attempted to curb the CCI’s regulatory jurisdiction. It has successfully lobbied the government to exempt mergers of failing banks from the purview of the CCI’s antitrust scrutiny, and wants compulsory mergers to be exempted from competition scrutiny. This is in spite of the fact that the Competition Act specifically mandates the CCI to consider “failing business” as a factor while evaluating mergers. Therefore, the exemption to failing banks is an exercise of regulatory redundancy. The RBI is the prudential regulator of banks, limiting their risk-taking, ensuring the safety of depositors’ funds and stability of the financial sector, while the CCI’s review of bank mergers is aimed at ensuring thatsuch mergers do not cause an appreciable adverse anti-competitive effect on the financial sector. The CCI is not a prudential regulator and the RBI is not a competition regulator, and both are required to complement each other.
The government intervened on behalf of the CCI to restrict such sectoral backlash and has proposed amendments to the Competition Act, which make it mandatory for sectoral regulators to refer to the CCI if the decision taken by such sectoral regulator raises any competition issue. However, such amendments have failed to see the light of day.
Defendants of anticompetitive complaints before the CCI have often taken advantage of such opportunistic behaviour to seek judicial intervention on the ground that the sectoral regulator and not the CCI has jurisdiction. The judiciary has also been less diligent in curbing such posturing and on numerous occasions, has stayed proceedings before the CCI on the pretext that such proceedings would allegedly impinge upon the regulatory jurisdiction of the applicable sectoral regulator. For example, the CCI has been stopped from investigating alleged anticompetitive practices of three state-owned oil marketing companies (OMCs) at the behest of the Delhi High Court, which has stayed multiple CCI proceedings against them.
In two separate actions before the CCI, the OMCs were charged with alleged acts of price collusion and denial of market access to private players. The CCI has the exclusive statutory mandate to investigate and regulate acts of cartelisation and price collusion; however, the OMCs approached the Delhi High Court and successfully stayed the proceedings on the pretext that the case fell under the jurisdiction of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB). Such efforts to oust the CCI’s jurisdiction have led to regulatory confusion and impeded its efforts to enhance competition.
The Supreme Court in Subrata Roy Sahara vs Union of India lamented the posturing antics of litigants aimed at forum shopping. It has stated that such antics result in cases “which ought to have been settled in no time at all, before the first court of incidence, [being] prolonged endlessly, for years and years, and from court to court, upto the highest court”. This message should not be lost on the high courts which, by admitting competition matters, contribute to prolonging a pattern of illegitimate claims that should be ideally settled by the CCI.
The new government needs to focus its reform agenda to address such regulatory duplicity to create a more enabling business environment for industry. A governance reform agenda built on the expectation that regulated markets will deliver growth requires such reforms to trickle down to the new-age independent sectoral regulators. Without eliminating regulatory chaos, delivering on the expectations of India’s polity will be difficult.

Branding the babu,changing role of Civil servant

Narendra Modi’s style of functioning as prime minister has evoked mixed responses. There is praise for and euphoria over several announcements — downsizing the council of ministers, setting targets for infrastructure development, rationalising departmental responsibilities and demanding that ministers find bilateral solutions to departmental entanglements, for instance. But there is also unease over some developments. The first is the fear of excessive centralism, which stems from the belief that centralisation kills democratic decision-making.
What is seldom understood is that all governments operate through the bureaucracy, which is an amalgam of individuals who constantly require policy-level direction, leadership and evaluation of outcomes. At one time, ministers and secretaries provided that direction. But as disproportionate influence began to be exercised by powerful political associates, accountability became increasingly diffused. Many departments faced major obstacles due to an absence of leadership. With the growing complexity of government, a clear message from the top was needed to remove logjams but, over the last few years, the top political executive simply did not intervene. The bureaucracy was often led by secretaries who always had one eye on post-retirement sinecures or a better posting. Either way, ministers were never held answerable for taking a one-sided view, even when this was publicised through leaks and interviews. Secretaries were generally loath to spoil their copy-books, and discouraged enthusiasm and originality lest it rock the boat. The result was inertia.
Perhaps for the very first time in decades, Prime Minister Modi’s interaction with the bureaucracy and the instructions he has given have signalled the need for transformation. No longer would proximity to the minister and other power centres provide insurance for the future. Status-quoist secretaries can no longer sit on the fence looking busy. They will have to display and encourage initiative because their own future will henceforth be decided by entirely new yardsticks. By pinning down the secretaries, Modi has extracted a commitment on the main concerns they have highlighted themselves. Of even greater significance is the fact that reaching political consensus is once again the minister’s responsibility — the alibis of groups of ministers and empowered committees having been ripped apart.
While the over-centralism concern can be met thus, not all reforms are easy to explain. For instance, what prompted the government to disallow any officer who had worked with a Central minister at any point over the last 10 years to join the personal staff of a new NDA minister? Since the 10-year period coincides with the UPA’s tenure, the purport of the order has left no doubt in most minds. Although itonly dittoed an old department of personnel and training order about the duration of postings with ministers, its reiteration, covering the precise period of UPA rule, has unwittingly made the loyalties of officers who worked directly for the previous regime suspect. The erstwhile personal staff have come to be seen as “Congressis” or “UPA-wallahs”. Concomitantly, the order has automatically converted the new incumbents in the ministerial offices into “BJP” or “NDA-wallahs”. This strikes at the root of the civil service rules, which draw their strength from the Constitution and eschew any politicisation of the service, espousing the need for a politically neutral bureaucracy. So instead of restoring and fortifying that much-needed objective, the 10-year embargo has created an artificial division within the civil service by branding some officers with a particular political dispensation. If officers deliberately choose to become politically aligned as a result of this, it would be an unhappy development.
Related to this is the question of equity: can a bureaucrat who has had a relatively short stint in the personal office of a minister, often after having been hand-picked from within the ministry to assist the minister, be equated with a bureaucrat who has tracked a minister from one ministry to another, advancing in influence with each new reshuffle? Everyone inside the bureaucracy knows who was up to what and the modus operandi employed. Painting both kinds of officers with one brush has been unfair to some. In the ultimate analysis, personal staff officers hardly contribute to making big policy or change the way government works. Upright former members of a minister’s personal office should not be discriminated against now when their names come up for Central deputation or key postings.
Just as the PM has constrained the ministers’ choice of personal staff, he must also disallow them from handpicking secretaries or even joint secretaries and additional secretaries — something that had become a regular phenomenon ever since coalition dharma ruined the bureaucracy. The centralisation of establishment systems would achieve what umpteen commissions and committees have been urging for decades but never succeeded in achieving. Simply put, political interference in the management of the senior bureaucracy still needs to be eliminated. How far the cabinet secretary is able to withstand individual pressure from ministers remains to be seen. Equally, how the PM exercises a check on civil servants who manipulate postings remains a question.
A word of caution is also needed, lest miracles are expected from the Modi dispensation. Only a fifth of the IAS and other services actually function in the ministries of the Central government. In our federal system, the PM’s writ will have limited impact on the functioning of state government bureaucracies through whom the bulk of government work is carried out. State government programmes and services are aligned to policies announced by chief ministers and draw nourishment from state budgets. When CMs demand honesty and hard work, the civil service responds. But when CMs are surrounded by influence-peddlers, officers look to benefit from proximity to suchelements. The PM can do little to change this unfortunate trend because officers are governed by the state cadre authority, which comes directly under the CM.
The PM’s style has drawn much enthusiasm from the Central government’s bureaucracy. But now the real test lies in being able to distinguish the achievers from the drones, and giving the former the freedom to deliver.

Provisional Results of Sixth Economic Census

  Dr. Pronab Sen, Chairman, National Statistical Commission and Dr. T.C.A. Anant, Chief Statistician of India and Secretary, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, here today jointly released the provisional results of Sixth Economic Census in New Delhi at a function attended by officers from Central Ministries/Departments and State and UT Governments.
 The Central Statistics Office (CSO) in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) conducted the Sixth Economic Census during January, 2013 to April, 2014 in collaboration with Directorates of Economics and Statistics in all the States and Union Territories.

        Economic Census provides detailed information on operational and economic variables, activity wise, of the establishments of the country including their distribution at all-India, State, district and village/ward levels for comprehensive analysis of the structure of the economy (micro, macro, regional levels) and for benchmark purposes. The database also serves as a sampling frame for drawing samples for socio economic surveys by Governments and research organizations.

        The first Economic Census was conducted in 1977 covering only non-agricultural establishments employing at least one hired worker on a fairly regular basis. The second and third Economic Censuses were conducted in 1980 and 1990 along with house listing operations of 1981 and 1991 Population Censuses respectively. These two Economic Censuses covered all agricultural and non-agricultural establishments excepting those engaged in crop production and plantation. The fourth and Fifth Economic Censuses were carried out in 1998 and 2005 respectively with the same coverage.

        The Sixth Economic Census had also the same coverage as that of Fifth Economic Census. However, establishments engaged in public administration, defence and compulsory social security activities have been excluded as data pertaining to them are available with the Government through administrative records and also due to the difficulties faced in collecting information from such establishments during the Fifth Economic Census. The Sixth Economic Census separately identified handicraft/handloom establishments for the first time. Further, enumeration blocks (EBs) of Population Census, 2011 have been used as the primary geographical units for collection of data. This would facilitate the linking of Census 2011 database with that of Sixth Economic Census at the lower geographical levels like EBs and wards.

      The provisional results are based on information compiled using Schedule 6B i.e., ‘Establishment Abstract’ of Sixth Economic Census. Provisional key results of Sixth Economic Census in the form of a statement and Charts are enclosed. All India Report containing provisional results of Sixth Economic Census is available in the MoSPI website: mospi.nic.in.

Provisional Results of Sixth Economic Census
[Excluding crop production, public administration, defence & compulsory social security services activities]

S. No.
Rural India
Urban India
a) Number of establishments (in 000)
b) Percentage share
a) Number of establishments (in 000)

     i) Outside household without fixed structure
     ii)  Handicraft/ Handloom
b) Percentage share in total establishments

     i) Outside household without fixed structure
     ii) Handicraft/ Handloom
Growth rate (%) in number of establishments over Fifth Economic Census (2005)*
a) Number of persons employed (in 000)
b) Percentage share
Percentage of hired workers in the total persons employed
Percentage of total female workers in the total persons employed
Growth rate (%) in total employment over Fifth Economic Census (2005)*
* The intervening period of fieldwork between Fifth and Sixth Economic Censuses differ from State/UT to State/UT.

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