The HINDU Notes – 12th February 2019 - VISION

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 12th February 2019


📰 Rajasthan to scrap education criterion

For contesting panchayat and civic polls; Bills passed in Assembly in this regard

•The Rajasthan Assembly on Monday passed two Bills which seek to end the minimum education criterion for panchayat and civic poll candidates.

•The House passed by voice vote the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Rajasthan Municipality (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

•The previous Vasundhara Raje-led government had introduced education criterion in 2015 which required a candidate to pass Class X for contesting zila parishad, panchayat samiti and municipal elections.

•For contesting elections for sarpanch of a panchayat in scheduled and non-scheduled areas, it was mandatory to pass Class V and VIII, respectively.

•Replying to the debate on the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Amendment Bill, 2019, Panchayati Raj Minister Sachin Pilot said that the present government is committed for development of every section of the society.

‘Against Constitution’

•“Sarpanches awarded by President, Vice President were declared ineligible due to the provisions in the previous Act. The Act was against the basics of the Constitution. Society cannot be divided on the basis of education,” Mr. Pilot said.

•He said that education criterion should first be introduced for contesting Assembly and parliamentary elections.

•Local Self Government Minister Shanti Kumar Dhariwal presented the Rajasthan Municipality (Amendment) Bill, 2019.

•In reply to the debate on the Bill, Mr. Dhariwal said the Congress in its election manifesto had promised to scrap education criterion for contesting municipality elections.

📰 60% children adopted in India between 2015 and 2018 are girls

60% children adopted in India between 2015 and 2018 are girls
Data from the Ministry of Women and Child Development shows that of the 11,649 children adopted, 6,962 were girls and 4,687 were boys

•India may have a skewed gender ratio, but the female child happens to be the first choice when it comes to adoption. The number of female children placed for in-country adoptions and inter-country adoptions between 2015 and 2018 are relatively higher than male children.

•During this period, about 11,649 children were put up for in-country adoptions; of them 6,962 were girls and 4,687 were boys. Of the 3,011 children that were placed for in-country adoption in 2015-16, as many as 1,855 were female children. In the year 2016-17, as many as 3,210 children were placed under in-country adoptions and of them 1,915 were females. The figures for 2017-18 and 2018-19 (till December 2018) were 3,276 and 2,152, of which the numbers of girl children were 1943 and 1249 respectively.





•All the figures put together, female children comprise almost 60% of all in-country adoptions. When it came to inter-country adoptions, the number of female children was even higher: 69%. Of the 2,310 children placed under adoption between the same period, 1,594 were females.

•The data was tabled by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in the Lok Sabha on February 8, in response to a question by members Tej Pratap Sigh Yadav, L.R. Shivarame Gowda and Anju Bala.

•Prajakta Kulkarni, a member of the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), said there was little doubt that more girls were being adopted and it reflected that gender bias and the attitude of people against the girl child are changing across the country. Ms. Kulkarni, who represents the NGO-run Specialised Adoption Agency in the CARA steering committee, said the whole issue of more girls getting adopted needs to be looked into with research.

More girls for adoption?

•Sindhu Naik, member, Adoption Scrutiny Committee, State Council of Child Welfare (Karnataka), said that one has to also look whether more girls were coming for adoption. Ms. Naik said that the urban middle class people were preferring female children because they are concerned and aware of the situation of the girl child. The situation may not be the same for villages and small towns, she said.

📰 Everyone is afraid of data

There needs to be robust infrastructure for official statistics so that governments do not suppress inconvenient truths

•Over the past two weeks, headlines have focussed on declining employment between 2011-12 and 2016-17; loss of jobs under the National Democratic Alliance government, particularly post-demonetisation; and the government’s refusal to release a report using the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) documenting this decline, leading to resignations of two members of the National Statistical Commission. In a pre-election, politically charged environment, it makes for eye-catching headlines.

Five trends

•Let us step back from this episode and recall similar controversies over official data in the past. Past experiences tell us five things.

•First, suppression of results seems to be a problem common to all political parties. Census 2011 data on religious distribution of the population was not released until 2015. It is widely believed that these data were ready before the 2014 election, but the United Progressive Alliance government was worried about inciting passions around differential population growth between Hindus and Muslims and chose not to release the tables. Similarly, the UNICEF conducted the Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC) 2013-14 on behalf of the Ministry of Women and Child Development but the report was held up by the new government, allegedly due to the fear that it showed Gujarat in poor light. Sometimes these concerns lead to lack of investment in data collection itself, as is the case with the National Sample Survey, or the NSS’s Employment-Unemployment surveys (not conducted since 2011-12), forcing public policy to rely on non-comparable statistics from other sources such as the data from the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). These episodes are likely to recur, and hence, we need a more comprehensive strategy for dealing with them.

•Second, the fear of having statistical reports misquoted is legitimate. We live in a world where appetite for news is incessant and the news cycle is very short. Statistics that don’t always lend themselves to rapid unpacking into sound bites and headlines are easily misinterpreted. When Census 2001 results on religion were released, in September 2004, a newspaper led with a story that although the Hindu growth rate between 1981-1991 and 1991-2001 had declined from 25.1% to 20.3%, that for Muslims had gone up from 34.5% to 36%. Media reports paid little attention to the actual report that highlighted that the 1991 Census was not conducted in Jammu and Kashmir and that after adjusting for it, growth rates for both Hindus and Muslims had declined. When the mistake was discovered, it was blamed on the then Registrar General and Census Commissioner, J.K. Banthia, a highly competent demographer. He was sent into bureaucratic exile while the news media moved on to a new story.

•Third, it is impossible to bottle up the genie once data are collected and reports prepared. In a world dominated by WikiLeaks, suppressing reports seem to create an even bigger problem, since it allows individuals with exclusive access to act as the interpreters for others. In the instance of the RSOC mentioned above, suppression of the report, coupled with leaked data encouraged speculation by The Economist (July 2015) that the data were being suppressed because Gujarat must have fared poorly on reducing malnutrition. It stated that Bihar had made much greater progress since the proportion of children who go hungry had been cut from 56% to 37% between 2005-6 and 2012-13, while the decline was much smaller in Gujarat, from 44.6% to 33.5%.

•Fourth, sometimes leaked results create speculation that is far worse than full disclosure would warrant. The Economist cherry-p-icked its comparisons. Nutritional status is measured by weight-for-age (underweight) and height-for-age (stunting). The final report showed that about 41.6% of children in Gujarat were stunted (had low height for their age), This is higher than the nationwide average of 38.7%. However, improvement in stunting in Gujarat between 2005-6 and 2013-14 was of similar and slightly higher magnitude as that for the nation as a whole: 10.1 versus 9.7 percentage points. Moreover, stunting decline in Gujarat was greater than that in Bihar, 10.1 percentage points as opposed to 6 percentage points. Usually statistics on underweight and stunting should provide a similar picture; when they do not, greater care is required in interpretation. This was not possible because only The Economist seemed to have access to the report and led the headlines.

The employment picture

•Fifth, statistics often deal with complicated reality and require thoughtful analysis instead of the bare bones reporting contained in typical government reports. The headline in Business Standard on February 3 based on the leaked PLFS report claims that more than half the population is out of labour force; however, the statistics they present show that the trend is dominated by women and the rural population. If the full report were available, I think it would be rural women who would drive the employment story. This is very much a continuation of the trend between 2004-5 and 2011-12 documented by the NSS, under a different government.

•Between 2004-5 and 2011-12, work participation rates for rural women of working ages (25-64) fell from 57% to 43%. However, much of this decline was in women working on family farms and in family businesses, from 42% to 27%; decline in wage work was much smaller, from 24% to 21%. If lower engagement of women with family-based activities such as farming, rearing livestock or engaging in petty businesses drives the decline in employment, we may need to look at declining farm sizes and increasing mechanisation as the drivers of this decline. One can blame the government for not creating more salaried jobs for women pushed out of farming and related activities, but it would be hard to blame it for eliminating jobs.

•If the full report and unit level data for the PLFS were available, it is possible that we will find a continuation of the trend that started in 2004-5. This is not to say that demonetisation may not have had a negative impact, particularly in urban India, where Business Standard reports that employment fell from 49.3% to 47.6%, but this is a much smaller decline. It is also important to note that the urban comparison between the NSS and the PLFS requires caution, particularly for unemployment figures. Whereas the NSS contains independent cross-sectional samples for each sub-round, the PLFS includes a panel component in urban areas where the same households are re-interviewed every quarter. Since it would be easier to find unemployed individuals than employed individuals for interview, attrition adjustment is necessary before drawing any conclusions. Without access to the full report, it is difficult to tell whether attrition adjustment was undertaken.

•So how do we get out of this vicious cycle where fear of misinterpretation leads to suppression of data, which in turn fuels speculation and suspicion and ultimately results in our inability to design and evaluate good policies? The only solution is to recognise that we need more openness about data coupled with deeper analysis, allowing us to draw informed and balanced conclusions. The onus for this squarely lies with the government. Simply placing basic reports in the public domain is not sufficient, particularly in a news cycle where many journalists are in a hurry to file their stories and cherry-pick results to create headlines.





Spread the net wider

•Understaffed and underfunded statistical services cannot possibly have sufficient domain expertise to undertake substantively informed analyses in all the areas for which statistical data are required. A better way of building a robust data infrastructure may be to ensure that each major data collection activity is augmented by an analytical component led by domain experts, recruited from diverse sources, including academia.

📰 Time to raise the bar

The judiciary needs a mechanism to regulate post-retirement government appointments

•Justice A.K. Sikri, a well-regarded judge of the Supreme Court of India, found himself in the eye of a storm arising from accepting a post offered by the government, last year, while being a judge of the court. By later turning down the offer after the controversy erupted, he substantially redeemed the judiciary’s and his own honour. However, this is an issue that recurs frequently. Even titans in the legal field have had to face stinging rebuke from respected members of the fraternity for similar lapses.

The case of M.C. Chagla

•For example, take the case of the late Justice M.C. Chagla. Both he and the former Attorney General of India, M.C. Setalvad, were members of the First Law Commission. Speaking as members of the Law Commission they had categorically denounced the proclivity of judges accepting post-retirement jobs sponsored by governments and called for an end to it. Unfortunately, in his post-retirement assignments, Justice Chagla violated the very same principle he had supported.

•After retirement, he accepted a government appointment to serve as Indian Ambassador to the U.S. (1958-61) and later as Indian High Commissioner to the U.K (1962- 1963). Soon after this he was asked to be minister for education in Nehru’s cabinet, which he again accepted. He served as Education Minister (1963-66) and then as Minister for External Affairs (1966-67).

•All this incensed his good friend M.C. Setalvad no end. In his book, My Life: Law and Other Things, he did not mince words in commenting on this serious lapse. He observed: “The Law Commission had, after careful consideration, expressed the unanimous view that the practice of a judge looking forward to accepting employment under the government after retirement was undesirable as it could affect the independence of the judiciary... He was so keen to get into politics that soon after the report was signed by him he resigned his office to become India’s Ambassador to the United States. His action was characteristic of the self-seeking attitude of many of our leading men.”

•These harsh words are possibly unfair to a person of the calibre of Chagla. In none of the posts he held could he be accused of having acted as a sidekick to the government. On the other hand, by declaring in 1965 that the Aligarh Muslim University could not claim minority status conferred under Article 30(1) of the Constitution, he even earned the collective ire of his cabinet members. However, the shrill denunciations of the Law Commission on judges accepting post-retirement posts and Setalvad’s repeated calls to honour the principle merit acceptance even today.

•In a study, the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy pointed out that as many as 70 out of 100 Supreme Court retired judges have taken up assignments in the National Human Rights Commission of India, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, Armed Forces Tribunal, and the Law Commission of India, etc. In Rojer Mathew v. South Indian Bank Ltd. — which is currently going into the issue of tribunalisation of the judiciary and its challenges to the independence of the judiciary — senior counsel Arvind P. Datar, amicus, has observed: “The Tribunals should not be haven for retired persons and appointment process should not result in decisions being influenced if the Government itself is a litigant and appointment authority at the same time.” Mr. Datar has expressed the sentiments of many of us at the Bar.

Striking a balance

•At the same time, it is also true that the valuable experience and insights that competent and honest judges acquire during their period of service cannot be wasted after retirement. Unlike abroad, a judge of the higher judiciary in India retires at a comparatively young age and is capable of many more years of productive work. However, government-sponsored post-retirement appointments will continue to raise a cloud of suspicion over the judgments the best judges delivered while in service. Though cliched, it is true that in law justice must not only be done but also be seen to be done. Therefore, the viable option is to expeditiously establish, through a properly enacted statute, a commission made up of a majority, if not exclusively, of retired judges to make appointments of competent retired judges to tribunals and judicial bodies.

•It is true that judges cannot legislate. However, where a void is found in the legal framework that requires immediate attention, and legislative intervention is not likely to emerge immediately, the Supreme Court is empowered to provide an interim solution till legislation is passed to address the hiatus. This process the top court has followed, to cite an instance (there are others), in the Vishaka case, where it laid down guidelines to deal with sexual harassment in workplaces till a law was passed by Parliament. It is desirable the Supreme Court invokes that methodology now and puts in place a process to regulate post-retirement appointments for judges. Such a process must sufficiently insulate the judiciary from the charge of being a recipient of government largesse.

•In these times, the attacks on the fabric of independence of the judiciary will not be through engulfing flames but through small corrosive doses. Therefore, it is in the judiciary’s own interests to resolve this issue as expeditiously as it can.

📰 The state of the States

The SDG India Index overlooks the aspect of inter-dependence of Sustainable Development Goals

•India was one among the 193 United Nations member states to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September 2015. It has been making sincere efforts to achieve these goals. The SDG India Index: Baseline Report 2018, released to the public in December 2018 by NITI Aayog, is a useful comparative account of how well different States and Union Territories have performed so far in their efforts to achieve these goals.

•In this effort, it has not been possible to establish suitable indicators for three of the 17 goals, including climate action (SDG-13). This is on account of either lack of identification of appropriate indicators or of the inability to compare different States. On the whole, 62 indicators representing 14 goals have been identified based on their measurability across States over time. A progress performance assessment has been made towards targets set by the Government of India, or the UN SDGs target for 2030, or the average of the three best-performing States. For reasons of comparability, all these indicators are normalised.

Four categories

•Based on a scale of 0 to 100, the States are categorised into four groups: achievers, front runners, performers, and aspirants. Achievers are those States which have already accomplished the set target. Front runners are those States that are very close to realising them. A majority of the States are categorised as performers and some lag behind as aspirants. Although classification sounds like an appropriate thing to do, there is arbitrariness in the exercise in the sense that in a unitary range, those States with scores till the midpoint are categorised as aspirants and a cluster of States in a close range of progress are termed as performers. A few States are designated as front runners. The three front runner States — Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Himachal Pradesh — assume values of 66, 69 and 69, respectively, as against a range of States with values between 50 and 64. With the national score being 57, almost 17 States qualify as above or equal to the national score. Plotted on a graph, there is a negatively skewed distribution of scores with a reasonable tail to the left, a fat presence in the middle, and a tapering to the right. This needs to be recognised in classification; otherwise the arbitrariness with which the classification is made somewhat hints at a purposive designation of a few States in two extremes and a major share of them in between.

The problem of averaging

•Further, when one reads into the performance on various SDGs, it is found that many States fall into the aspirant category, especially for SDG-5 (gender equality), SDG-9 (industry innovation and infrastructure) and SDG-11 (sustainable cities and communities). These kinds of differences could well be emerging owing to a different number of indicators considered under different SDGs as well as their corresponding variability across the States. This is evident in the variation of scores across different goals. For instance, in case of goals 1 and 2, the range for the majority of the States is between 35 and 80. For goals 3 and 6, the range is between 25 and 100. Again, for goal 5, it ranges between 24 and 50. Given these variations across different goals, merely averaging them not only compromises on robustness but also masks the disaggregated story to a large extent. Not only does the feature of the progress performance pattern need to be recognised in such classification but also the pathway of progress in development indicators, which has a character removed from linearity. Given that this is a measure of progress towards a target, the States near the target get a value closer to one compared to those which are away from the target assuming a lower value. These values are determined in relative terms in the sense that they represent the unitary position of the States within the available scale of gap between the minimum achieved and the target. Such positioning conveys a linear distance, which does not differentiate a given distance between two States which have performed well compared with another pair of States which are far from achieving the target.

•The difference in progress between the three front runner States is three points. This is perhaps not similar to the distance between the performing States of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, which too have a three-point difference. Such comprehension of achievement is limited as regards to comparing States, let alone designating them into four categories.

What can be done?

•Finally, the process of aggregation adopted to present the summary index of compliance with the targets being a simple average assumes that each of the goals as well as the corresponding set of indicators are equally important and can substitute for each other. This also overlooks the aspect of inter-dependence of various goals, although it is upfront stated in the exercise. To ensure minimum robustness of this measure, a geometric average would have served towards avoiding perfect substitutability of one goal with the other. It means achievement of progress in one goal cannot compensate for compromise in another. While this exercise serves as a report card of performance of States as regards compliance with the SDGs, its scientific adequacy is compromised with arbitrariness that presents a stereotypical pattern of performance rather than bringing out surprises.

•The choice of indicators representing specific goals need not necessarily be guided by availability but also their explicit independence from one another. This may help in making a uniform set of indicators for each of the goals with proper representation without duplication. On the whole, this performance assessment may not be misleading, but it does not help us understand the relative significance of compliance in some goals that helps in compliance of the other. Thus, performance assessment of SDGs while overlooking the strict interdependence of them may not be rewarding.

📰 Bill to counter exploitation by NRI spouses

•In a bid to counter growing incidents of exploitation of Indian women by NRI (Non Resident Indian) spouses, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Monday introduced a Bill in the Rajya Sabha.

•The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) stated that the Bill will create accountability and protect those who are trapped in fraudulent marriages and are abandoned by their spouses.

Register marriage

•According to the new Bill, a marriage between an NRI and an Indian citizen will have to be registered within 30 days from the date of marriage. Necessary legal provisions have been created in the criminal code and the Passports Act, 1967, to initiate action against erring NRI spouses.

•“The introduction of the Bill was necessitated by the Ministry of External Affairs due to numerous complaints received from Indian nationals, mostly women deserted or harassed by their Non-Resident Indian spouses,” declared a press release from the MEA.

•The Bill, which has been championed by the MEA, the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD), Ministry of Home Affairs (MoEA) and Ministry of Law and Justice (MoLJ) is aimed at prevent victimisation of Indian nationals in fraudulent marriages.

•It is expected that the Bill will serve as a deterrent for NRI spouses, who use marriages as a tool of exploitation.




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