பெருந்தொற்றுக் காலத்தில் பெருநிறுவனங்களின் சமூகப் பொறுப்புணர்வுச் செயல்பாடுகளுக்கு ‘ஊபர்’ நிறுவனம் ஒரு முன்னுதாரணத்தை வழங்கியிருக்கிறது. வாடகை ஊர்திகள், உணவு விநியோகம், விரைவு அஞ்சல் என்று பல்வேறு வணிகங்களில் உலகளவில் விரிந்து, பரந்து வளர்ந்துவரும் அமெரிக்க நிறுவனமான ‘ஊபர்’, யுனெஸ்கோவுடன் இணைந்து இந்தியாவின் கரோனா தடுப்பூசி இயக்கத்துக்கு ஒரு முக்கியமான பங்களிப்பை அளிக்கவுள்ளது. தமிழ்நாட்டில் நடத்தப்பட்டுவரும் இலவசத் தடுப்பூசி முகாம்களுக்கு ஆசிரியர்களைப் பாதுகாப்பாகக் கொண்டுசேர்க்கும் வகையில் சென்னை, கோயம்புத்தூர், திருச்சிராப்பள்ளி ஆகிய நகரங்களில் இலவசப் பயணத் திட்டங்களை இந்நிறுவனம் செயல்படுத்தவுள்ளது. 25,000 ஆசிரியர்கள் தடுப்பூசி முகாம்களுக்குச் செல்லவும் திரும்பவும் என இரண்டு தவணைகளுக்கும் சேர்த்து மொத்தம் ஒரு லட்சம் பயணச் சேவைகளை இலவசமாக அளிக்க ‘ஊபர்’ திட்டமிட்டுள்ளது.
பெருந்தொற்றின் பாதிப்புகள் உயிரிழப்புகளோடும் பொருளாதாரப் பாதிப்புகளோடும் மட்டும் முடிந்துவிடவில்லை. கல்வித் துறையில் பெருந்தொற்று ஏற்படுத்தியிருக்கும் பாதிப்பு உயர்கல்வி, வேலைவாய்ப்பு என அடுத்து வரும் ஆண்டுகளிலும் பின்விளைவுகளுக்கு இட்டுச்செல்லும் அபாயங்களை உள்ளடக்கியுள்ளது. இந்தியாவில் மட்டும் கடந்த கல்வியாண்டில் ஏறக்குறைய 15 லட்சம் பள்ளிகள் மூடப்பட்டிருந்தன. பள்ளி மற்றும் கல்லூரிகள் மூடப்பட்டதன் காரணமாக சுமார் 32 கோடி மாணவர்கள் பாதிப்புக்குள்ளாகியிருக்கிறார்கள். இந்நிலையில், பெருந்தொற்றின் வேகம் குறைந்ததும் உடனடியாகப் பள்ளி, கல்லூரிகள் இயங்க வேண்டியது அவசியம். அதற்கு முன்பாக ஆசிரியர்கள், மாணவர்கள் அனைவருக்கும் தடுப்பூசி செலுத்தப்பட வேண்டியதும் முக்கியம். 18 வயதுக்கு உட்பட்டவர்களுக்குத் தடுப்பூசி போடுவதற்கு இன்னும் கால அளவு நிர்ணயிக்கப்படவில்லை என்பதால், மாணவர்களில் பெரும்பகுதி அந்த வரம்புக்குள் வரவில்லை. ஆனால், முன்களப் பணியாளர்களாக அறிவிக்கப்பட்டிருக்கும் ஆசிரியர்கள் அனைவருக்கும் தடுப்பூசி போடப்பட வேண்டியது தவிர்க்கவியலாதது. பொதுப் போக்குவரத்தில் நோய்ப் பரவலுக்கான வாய்ப்புண்டு என்று அச்சம் நிலவுகின்ற நிலையில், ஆசிரியர்கள் தங்களது வீட்டிலிருந்து அருகில் இருக்கும் தடுப்பூசி மையங்களுக்குப் பாதுகாப்புடன் சென்று திரும்புவதற்கான ‘ஊபர்’ நிறுவனத்தின் இலவசப் பயணத் திட்டம் கவனத்தை ஈர்த்திருப்பதில் வியப்பில்லை. ஆசிரியர்களின் மொத்த எண்ணிக்கையுடன் ஒப்பிடும்போது இத்திட்டத்தால் பயனடைபவர்களின் விகிதம் குறைவாக இருக்கலாம். ஆனால், தடுப்பூசி போடுவதில் ஆசிரியர்களுக்கு அளிக்கப்பட வேண்டிய முக்கியத்துவத்தை இது பிரதிநிதித்துவப்படுத்துகிறது.--Source: hindutamil.in
இந்த ஒரு தருணத்துக்காகவும் வெற்றிக்காகவும்தான் இத்தனை காலமும் லயோனல் மெஸ்ஸி காத்திருந்தார். இந்த முறை இல்லாவிட்டால் இனி எப்போதுமே இல்லை என்பதால் வாழ்நாள் குறையுடனும், தீராக் களங்கத்துடனும் கால்பந்தாட்ட மைதானத்திலிருந்து அவர் விடைபெற்றிருக்கக் கூடும். ரியோ டி ஜெனீரோவில் நடந்த "கோபா அமெரிக்கா' கால்பந்தாட்டப் போட்டியில் நடப்பு சாம்பியனான பிரேஸிலை 1-0 என்ற கோல் கணக்கில் வீழ்த்தி அந்தக் கோப்பையை ஆர்ஜென்டீனா வென்றது ஒருவகையில் வரலாற்று வெற்றி என்றுதான் கூற வேண்டும்.
பிரேஸில், சிலி, ஆர்ஜென்டீனா ஆகிய மூன்று நாடுகளுக்கும் இடையே "கோபா அமெரிக்கா' கால்பந்தாட்டக் கோப்பையை யார் கைப்பற்றுவது என்பது கெளரவப் பிரச்னை. அதனால்தான் லயோனல் மெஸ்ஸி, கோப்பையை வெல்லாமல் இருப்பதை, தனக்கும் ஆர்ஜென்டீனாவுக்கும் தொடரும் தீராக் களங்கமாகவே கருதினார்.
ஆர்ஜென்டீனாவின் 15-ஆவது "கோபா அமெரிக்கா' கோப்பை வெற்றி இது. உருகுவேயைப் போலவே மிக அதிகமான வெற்றியை அடைந்த நாடாக இப்போது ஆர்ஜென்டீனாவும் வரலாறு படைத்திருக்கிறது. 1993-க்குப் பிறகு இறுதிச்சுற்று வரை வந்து ஆர்ஜென்டீனா கோப்பையை நழுவவிட்ட தருணங்கள் ஏராளம். 2004, 2007-ஆம் ஆண்டுகளில் பிரேஸிலிடமும், 2015, 2016-ஆம் ஆண்டுகளில் சிலி நாட்டு அணியிடமும் இறுதிச்சுற்றில் தோல்வியைத் தழுவி கோப்பையை நழுவவிட்டது ஆர்ஜென்டீனா. கடந்த ஆண்டு பிரேஸிலிடம் அடைந்த தோல்வியை இப்போது ஈடுகட்டியிருக்கிறது.
லயோனல் மெஸ்ஸிக்கும், கிரிக்கெட் வீரர் சச்சின் டெண்டுல்கருக்கும் ஓர் ஒற்றுமையை இந்த வெற்றியில் காண முடிகிறது. தனது ஆறாவது உலகக் கோப்பை கிரிக்கெட் போட்டியில்தான் இந்தியாவின் வெற்றியில் பங்கு கொள்கிறார் சச்சின் டெண்டுல்கர். 2011-இல் அந்த வெற்றி கிடைக்காமல் போயிருந்தால் உலகக் கோப்பை வெற்றியில் பங்குகொள்ள முடியாத களங்கத்துடன் அவர் ஓய்வு பெற்றிருப்பார். அதேபோல இப்போது 34 வயது லயோனல் மெஸ்ஸி, "கோபா அமெரிக்கா' கோப்பையை வென்றிருக்காவிட்டால் தீராக் களங்கத்துடன் அடுத்த ஆண்டு ஓய்வு பெற நேர்ந்திருக்கும்.
லயோனல் மெஸ்ஸியின் வெற்றிகள் ஏராளம் ஏராளம். இதுவரை அவர் பெற்றிருக்கும் 34 வெற்றிகளும் சாதாரணமானவை அல்ல. அவற்றில் சாம்பியன்ஸ் லீக் வெற்றி மட்டுமே நான்கு. ஆனாலும்கூட, தனது நாட்டுக்கு "கோபா அமெரிக்கா' கோப்பையை வென்றுதர முடியவில்லை என்கிற ஏக்கமும், குற்ற உணர்வும் அவரை துரத்திக்கொண்டே இருந்தன.
2019 ஜூலை 6 அன்று சாவ் பாவ்லோவில் நடந்த "கோபா அமெரிக்கா' போட்டியில், விளையாட்டு தொடங்கிய 37-ஆவது நிமிடத்தில் தவறான விளையாட்டுக்காக "ரெட் கார்டு' வழங்கப்பட்டு அவமானத்துடன் மைதானத்திலிருந்து வெளியேற்றப்பட்ட லயோனல் மெஸ்ஸிக்கும், இப்போது வென்றிருக்கும் "கோபா அமெரிக்கா' கோப்பைக்கும் இடையே ஏழு பந்தய இடைவெளி தூரம் அவர் பயணிக்க வேண்டி வந்தது. இப்போது மீண்டும் அதே பிரேஸிலில் அந்தக் களங்கத்தை அகற்றும் விதத்திலான வெற்றி என்பது மெஸ்ஸிக்கும் ஆர்ஜென்டீனாவுக்கும் ஒருவிதத்தில் பழிக்குப் பழி போராட்டம் என்றுதான் கூற வேண்டும்.
ஆர்ஜென்டீனாவின் "கோபா அமெரிக்கா' கால்பந்தாட்ட கோப்பை வெற்றிக்குப் பின்னால் அந்த அணியின் கேப்டன் லயோனல் மெஸ்ஸி மட்டுமல்ல, அதன் பயிற்சியாளர் லயோனல் ஸ்கலோனியின் பங்கும் குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது. 2018 ஆகஸ்ட் மாதம் ஆர்ஜென்டீனா அணியின் பயிற்சியாளராக பொறுப்பேற்றுக்கொண்டார் ஸ்கலோனி. அவரது வழிகாட்டுதலுடன் ஆர்ஜென்டீனா பங்கு பெற்ற 34 பந்தயங்களில் 20 பந்தயங்களில் அணி வெற்றி அடைந்திருக்கிறது. நான்கே நான்கு தோல்விகள்தான். இப்போது "கோபா அமெரிக்கா' கோப்பையையும் கைப்பற்றி வரலாறு படைத்திருக்கிறது.
ஆர்ஜென்டீனா அணியில் அதிகம் பரபரப்பாகப் பேசப்படாத வீரர் ஏஞ்சல்-டி-மரியா. இதற்கு முன்னால் 2008 ஒலிம்பிக் பந்தயத்தில் ஆர்ஜென்டீனா தங்கப்பதக்கம் வென்றபோது இறுதி ஆட்டத்தில் இறுதி கோல் அடித்து வெற்றி தேடித்தந்த டி-மரியாதான் இந்த முறை "கோபா அமெரிக்கா' கோப்பையை வெல்வதற்கான கோலை அடித்திருக்கிறார்.
விங்கராகவும், அட்டாக்கராகவும், மிட் பீல்டராகவும் விளையாடும் திறன் பெற்ற டி-மரியா, இதுவரை 111 போட்டிகளில் 21 கோல்கள் அடித்து அணியின் வெற்றிக்கு உதவியிருக்கிறார்.
28 ஆண்டுகள் காத்திருந்து ஆர்ஜென்டீனா பெற்றிருக்கும் இந்த வரலாற்று வெற்றிக்காக அதன் கேப்டன் லயோனல் மெஸ்ஸிக்கு, இந்தப் போட்டியின் நட்சத்திரம் என்கிற பட்டமும், "கோல்டன் பூட்' விருதும் வழங்கப்படுகிறது. கடுமையான உள்காயம் காலில் ஏற்பட்டிருந்தும்கூட அதைப் பொருட்படுத்தாமல் அரையிறுதிச் சுற்றிலும், இறுதிச் சுற்றிலும் கேப்டன் மெஸ்ஸி விளையாடினார் என்கிற உண்மையை பயிற்சியாளர் லயோனல் ஸ்கலோனி தெரிவித்தபோது மெஸ்ஸி மீதான மரியாதை மேலும் அதிகரித்தது.
மரக்கணாவில் மறக்க முடியாத வரலாற்று வெற்றிக்குப் பிறகு விழியெல்லாம் ஆனந்தக் கண்ணீருடன் கோப்பையைக் கட்டியணைத்து முத்தமிட்டபோது லயோனல் மெஸ்ஸியின் நினைவில் நிழலாடி இருப்பார் டீகோ மாரடோனா. கடைசிவரை "கோபா அமெரிக்கா' வெற்றியை பார்க்க முடியாமல் மாரடோனா விடைபெற்ற 232-ஆவது நாளில் அந்தக் கோப்பையை வென்று உயர்த்திப் பிடித்தபோது, லயோனல் மெஸ்ஸியும் அணியினரும் "இதோ எங்கள் அஞ்சலி' என்று மாரடோனாவுக்கு அதை மனதார அர்ப்பணித்திருப்பார்கள்!
The Indian Constitution may face an unprecedented crisis in 2026 when there will be a dramatic change in the composition of the Lok Sabha. Since 1976, seats in the Lok Sabha have reflected the 1971 census and have not taken into account changes in the population. The primary reason for this has been unequal population growth among States. India’s most highly developed and prosperous States have been successful at family planning, while the poorer States continue to expand. The freeze was thus a chance to ensure that India’s most successful States are not punished politically for their success. Post 2026, when this compact ends, there will be a seismic shift in national power towards India’s poorest and most populated States, which is sure to generate much resentment among the States that will lose political and economic power and influence. This calls for a realignment in the balance between the democratic principle and the federal principle in the Indian Constitution.
The essence of the Union
As Article 1 of the Indian Constitution says, India is a Union of States. The choice of words is deliberate: it is the several States that, together, make up the Indian Union. Admittedly, unlike in other federations, there is no separate State citizenship or State Constitutions. However, one need only study the history that led up to the linguistic reorganisation of States in 1956, and to subsequent movements for Statehood afterwards, to understand that States are distinct associative communities, within the federal structure of the Indian Union. Indeed, in a polity as plural as ours – linguistically, culturally, and ethnically – it could not be any other way.
Big versus small States
Having established, thus, that States are important, self-contained units within the Indian constitutional scheme, we must turn to an inherent contradiction between the principles of democracy and federalism, when federal units are unequal in size, population and economics. This is easy to comprehend. In a democratic set up, all citizens are equal and are thus entitled to equal representation in governance. But this would imply that bigger States are likely to dominate the national conversation over smaller States. Small States fear that they would get a smaller share of the pie economically, a much reduced say in national issues, and be irrelevant in the political governance of the country.
In order to assuage this legitimate fear, federal democracies have incorporated into their governing structures various kinds of compromises to ensure a balance between democratic principles and federal ones.
For example, when the Americans adopted their Constitution, they protected smaller States in four ways. First, national powers over the States were limited. Second, each State regardless of size had two seats in the Senate, giving smaller States an outsized role in national governance. Third, Presidents are elected by electoral votes, which means they must win States rather than the total national population. Fourth, and deplorably, the slave-owning States which did not confer citizenship on slaves were allowed to count the slaves for purposes of representation, with each slave being counted as three-fifths of a person.
This essential structure remains the bedrock of the American Constitution today, though the Americans have rid themselves of slavery (fortunately) and have dramatically increased the scope of federal intervention. This federal structure has led to the severing of causational links between the national vote and presidential elections. Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump won without winning the popular vote.
The current movement to remove the power of a minority to filibuster legislation is based on democratic principles seeking to mitigate the pathology of excessive federalism: indeed, the American structures of government go so far in the other direction, that they have been accused of essentially facilitating and entrenching minority rule through the Senate, which favours rural, sparsely populated States that are also predominantly white.
The Indian structure
Other federations (Switzerland and Belgium come to mind) have adopted other — less extreme — forms of reconciliation. However, India’s quasi-federal structure has always beensui generis. Our founders knew that India’s diversity made federalism inevitable, but, fearing fissiparous tendencies among States that had never been a single political unit, they also created a strong centre. While history has been chequered, the fears for Indian national unity simply on the basis of giving States greater powers have proven to be unfounded — and if at all, it has been the other way. The 1956 reorganisation of States on linguistic lines was a popular recognition of federal principles and yet did not result in separatist tendencies. Since then, new States within the Union have been created in response to the demands of people for greater autonomy.
In India, any clash between federal principles and democracy will inevitably also have linguistic, religious and cultural implications and may result in new forms of sub-regional chauvinism. Thus, there is an urgent need to reimagine our national compact — another freeze will only kick this thorny issue down the road and will continue to perpetuate an increasingly undemocratic set up.
Fine-tune these elements
We have the components of such a new balance that need to be fine-tuned to Indian realities. First, the powers of Statesvis-à-visthe Centre contained in the Lists and in the provisions dealing with altering boundaries of States must be increased to assuage the fear of smaller States that they will be dominated by bigger ones. There is no reason to believe that empowering our States would cause national disintegration. On the contrary, more localised decision-making is bound to increase national prosperity. Indeed, this was the entire goal of the creation of Panchayat governance through the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution, whose promise remains — unfortunately — unrealised.
Second, the role and composition of the Rajya Sabha, our House of States, must be expanded. This would allow smaller States a kind of brake over national majoritarian politics that adversely impact them.
Third, constitutional change and the change in financial redistribution between the States must require the consent of all or nearly all States (the fate of the Goods and Services Tax, or GST, serves as a salutary warning in this regard). Constitutional provisions dealing with language and religion must also be inviolate. If India is a joint venture between majority and minority shareholders, the minority must be protected by a comprehensive list of “consensus items” that require unanimity — or at least, a super-majority — and not simple majority.
Fourth, serious thought must be given to breaking up the biggest States into smaller units that will not by themselves dominate the national conversation.
The unity of India is, of course, the fundamental premise underlying this discussion; but this unity does not depend on an overbearing Centre for its survival. National bonds of affection and patriotism will not be severed by devolution of powers though they will be at least severely strained when one part of the country is empowered over another. Lampedusa’sIl Gattopardocontains the memorable quote, Everything must change for everything to remain the same. This includes the question of how we are to balance the competing claims of democracy and federalism, in the years to come.
Rahul Narayan is Advocate on Record, Supreme Court of India. Gautam Bhatia is a Delhi-based lawyer
It was the June of 2002 and the Information and Broadcasting Ministry office on the fifth and the sixth floors of Shastri Bhavan, New Delhi, was buzzing with activity. Cable operators referred to as “unsavoury characters” had taken over the conference room which was overflowing with pizza and soft drinks. Reporters could come and go and talk to officials; usually the Secretary and the Additional Secretary would come out to brief the reporters. There was a reason for this flurry of activity. TheCable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill, which had the potential of regulating the business of lakhs of cable operators, multi-system operators and broadcasters, was going to be debated in Parliament and it was the draft of the proposed Bill that was being discussed threadbare with stakeholders.
Then and now
The discussions spilled over months as reporters munched through the pizzas. The Ministry was careful to keep the stakeholders away from each other. Such was the unease between the stakeholders. It was evident to all of us that while Ministry officials were comfortable discussing the provision of the proposed Bill with broadcasters, cable operators were a different kettle of fish. So, while the broadcasters were invited at dusk, the cable operators held sway during the day. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, much like the present Government, was clueless about the number of cable operators; many had sizeable stakes in the real estate business in the country and carried the channels for a price which was at the centre of animosity between the broadcasters and the cable operators.
Eventually passed by Parliament in 2002, the Cable Television Networks Regulation (Amendment) Act was not a perfect Act, and would undergo many more amendments, but the changes were the outcome of intense discussions with all stakeholders. In the days to come, the Act would be criticised but the doors of the Ministry were always open for discussions. This is a marked departure from the manner in which the new Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, which has sought to put the brakes on free speech, is being pushed through.
OTT in focus
Of course, the Government can always turn back and say, ‘hey we gave you 100 days’. But here is the rub. The Government never put up for public discussion what it was seeking to amend and control. The November 2020 Executive order bringing Over-The-Top (OTT) platforms or video streaming service providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and others under the ambit of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, exposed the real intentions of the Government. But when the now former Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar commented that the Ministry officials had no fix on the number of OTT platforms and users in the country, his concern was legitimate. After all, this is a business and along with the entertainment industry, had reached Rs. 1.82 trillion in 2019 and has been projected to cross Rs. 2.4 trillion by 2022 (FICCI report on media and entertainment; https://bit.ly/36xaDTJ). In fact, digital media overtook filmed entertainment in 2019. And to throw in some more figures, there are around 550 million television and smartphone consumers in the country. The figures are expected to double by 2025.
There are over 200 million OTT subscribers. The major draw of OTT is this: the content being served to you when you want it. You are free to watch what you wish to at a time chosen by you on a platform you are comfortable with. Your smartphone doubles up as the screen as you navigate your ride on the metro.
This is in danger now with the IT rules having come into effect on February 25 (https://bit.ly/3riYdZn and https://bit.ly/3i8KEHF) with the Government giving digital publishers three months to comply (https://bit.ly/3B1qQ1E). The Digital News Publishers Association — a 13-member collective of some of the leading news media companies, the Press Trust of India and now the News Broadcasters Association, have moved courts petitioning them to intervene and stop the code which not only restricts free speech but also far exceeds the mandate of the IT Act in empowering the executive from controlling online content.
Incidentally, while amending the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867, to bring within its ambit digital news platforms two years ago, for good measure, the Ministry had put out the draft on its website (draft “Registration of Press and Periodicals Bill, 2019) inviting discussions (https://bit.ly/3AWRuZl). So, it is all the more surprising why the Ministry did not follow the same process while attempting to regulate OTT and digital news platforms. It could have got a fix on both.
Since the best of rules and guidelines are often enriched by best practices around the world, here is a brief list of some of these. The EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive, updated three years ago, encourages self-regulation and co-regulation among players, with specific focus on child safety and violence and hate speech. In the United Kingdom, programming on video-on-demand services, including TV and online film services, is regulated by Ofcom which not only provides editorial rules but also has specific provisions for protecting those under 18 and the prohibition of content inciting hatred. The United States, perhaps the most liberal of countries, expects Pay TV players to follow Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines — OTT content remains unregulated. So, from a light touch to content governing children, most countries have set up an enabling architecture for OTT platforms to grow. India, it appears, has not followed in their footsteps, instead, charting a regulatory framework which has been characterised by excessive government overreach.
Unease over free speech
More importantly, does the government of the day have the mandate to control and regulate digital news? And here the Government, many of whose Ministers had burnished their reputation as champions of free speech during the Emergency, has floundered. Much like the Constitution makers who had decided to retain some of the most draconian provisions of laws controlling freedom of expression, the present government too appears to have followed the same path and has expressed its uneasiness over free speech on numerous occasions. The plate of newly minted Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur is overflowing. For one, he can pose a question to himself: should the Government formulate a self-regulating code for digital media? Does that even make sense?
At the heart of content, both news and entertainment, is the freedom of expression — the life-giving force behind content. Finally, discussions and transparency indicate trust in the people by an elected government. There is little evidence of that in the framing of the IT guidelines. Now, we even have the Government’s draft on the proposed amendments to the Cinematograph Act of 1952 , seeking to control the Central Board of Film Certification’s power of certification!
The provisional estimates of annual national income (2020-21), released on May 31 by the National Statistical Office, did not have any surprises, but for one, that is, there is nothing encouraging in the numbers.
The agriculture sector continued its impressive growth performance, reiterating that it still remains as the vital sector of the economy, especially at times of crisis. The manufacturing sector continued its subdued growth performance, failing to emerge as the growth driver, with production interruptions due to localised lockdowns to be blamed. The contraction in trade (-18.2%), construction (-8.6%), mining (-8.5%) and manufacturing (-7.2%) is a matter of concern as these sectors account for the bulk of low-skilled jobs. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at Constant (2011-12) Prices in Q4 of 2020-21 is showing a growth of 1.6%, slightly better than expected, but for a period when the restrictions on mobility and economic activity witnessed reduction, this performance looks below par. Further, this growth, which is an improvement over the 0.5% rate of growth in the previous quarter, is a statistical artefact as it is not devoid of the base effect and seasonality which plagues quarterly estimates. The magnitude of contraction in the economy and the policy responses towards it raises an important issue, that is, the question of growth prospects for the next year.
Rising unemployment rate
Contextualising the current growth rates in terms of some other macroeconomic data would provide us a better perspective on growth recovery. First, the unemployment data released by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) which says, “In May 2021, India’s labour participation rate at 40 per cent was the same as it was in April 2021. But, the unemployment rate shot up to 11.9 per cent from 8 per cent in April. A stable labour participation rate combined with a higher unemployment rate implies a loss of jobs and a fall in the employment rate. The employment rate fell to 35.3 per cent in May 2021 from 36.8 per cent in April 2021. This is a very sharp fall for a single month... May 2021 was therefore a particularly stressful month on the jobs front”. According to CMIE, over 15 million jobs were lost in May 2021, higher than the 12.3 million in November 2016, the month of demonetisation. May 2021 was also the fourth consecutive month of a fall in employment. The more worrying fact is that the cumulative fall in employment since January 2021 is 25.3 million of which 22.7 million were in the first quarter of FY 2021-2022, that is, during April and May. This shows that the second wave of the pandemic has already dented economic activities, postponing recovery further. The job losses also bring out the high informality and vulnerability of labour in India as of the total jobs lost during April-May, 17.2 million were of daily wage earners.
Elementary textbook economics tells us that employment and aggregate demand in an economy are related via the channel of disposable incomes of workers. We also know that aggregate demand and output growth have a positive correlation. Hence, the prospects of growth revival in the next year look bleak at the moment and from this perspective, it is worrying that in just April and May 2021, India lost 25 million non-farm jobs.
Low business confidence
This gets reflected in the business confidence of Indian companies, which is the second important data point that needs to examined. Business confidence index (BCI), from the survey by the industry body FICCI, plummeted to 51.5 from 74.2 in the previous round. The survey also highlights the weak demand conditions in the economy. It says, “With household income being severely impacted and past savings being already drawn on during the first wave of infections, demand conditions can be expected to remain weak for longer.” Compounding this is the uncertainty arising out of the imposition of localised curbs due to the second wave of infections and a muddled vaccine policy in the country.
Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) also throws some light on the shape of things to come. PMI has slipped to a 10-month low indicating that the manufacturing sector is showing signs of strain with growth projections being revised lower. Both BCI and PMI slipping down indicates that the overall optimism towards 2021-22 is low, which could impact investments and cause further job losses.
Growth recovery depends on demand recovery. External demand looks robust as India’s exports touched $32 billion in May 2021, 67% higher than in May 2020 and 8% more than in May 2019. The combined increase in exports of April and May 2021 is over 12% indicating that global demand rebound is much faster than the domestic demand. Stimulus programmes and a sharp decline in COVID-19 infections seem to be aiding these economies. What needs to be addressed immediately is the crisis of low domestic demand.
Since last year, the policy responses have been to rely on credit easing, focusing more on supply side measures, with more and more guarantees by the government to improve flow of credit to important sectors. There has been less direct action by the government to support the vulnerable to alleviate their hardships. There were some sector-specific measures to alleviate distress in certain sectors, which were timely. However, this policy stance is unlikely to prop up growth for three reasons. First, the bulk of the policy measures, including the most recent, are supply side measures and not on the demand side. In times of financial anxiety, what is needed is direct state spending for a quick demand boost. Second, large parts of all the stimulus packages announced till now would work only in the medium term. These include policies related to the external sector, infrastructure and manufacturing sector. In fact, some of the policies towards agriculture, such as productivity enhancement through the introduction of new varieties, will only work over years. Third, the use of credit backstops as the main plank of policy has limits compared to any direct measure on the demand side as this could result in poor growth performance if private investments do not pick up. Further, the credit easing approach would take a longer time to multiply incomes as lending involves a lender’s discretion and borrower’s obligation. Interestingly, a tight-fisted fiscal policy approach comes at a time when conventional fiscal stimulus packages might not be enough as supply side issues arising out of episodic lockdowns need to be addressed simultaneously.
What is required now is a sharp revival in overall demand. Focusing on short-term magnified growth rates resting on low bases might be erroneous, as income levels matter more than growth rates at this juncture. Focusing on growth rates has its merits in the long term as achieving higher income levels require sustained growth for longer periods. Bangladesh seems to be doing this without much fanfare, but the quest for sustained higher growth has been elusive for India for the last five years.
M. Suresh Babu is Professor of Economics at IIT Madras. Views are personal
Not very long ago, family planning dominated health system allocations and priorities in India and resulted in much harassment for grassroots health workers and the rural folk. It turned into a target-chasing, at times compulsive, exercise. The corollary was the undermining of trust in the public health system, which would often lead to people avoiding contact with health facilities for routine health services.
Such trust is indispensable for large public health programmes to function optimally, particularly in cases like COVID-19 vaccination. But the primeval tendencies of the Indian public health system often antagonise such trust. These tendencies entail that a public health problem is seen merely as a function of input deficiencies, which can be overcome by pouring in more resources, manpower, and policies. The rich processes involved in translating these inputs into outcomes, which are deeply entwined with local contexts, are largely dismissed. They also result in benevolent objectives turning into ruthless targets which are to be met at all costs and reduce subtle activities like community sensitisation into simplistic information-education-communication exercises.
There is every reason to expect these primeval tendencies to kick in and play foul in the COVID-19 vaccination drive. There are signs of vaccine hesitancy in India. Crucial junctures like a pandemic provide a window for communities to express distrust of otherwise long-established interventions like vaccines. For the government, failing to act with finesse in such situations could produce spillovers into the post-pandemic period and affect normal routine immunisation. More importantly, a desperate and overbearing approach to ensuring vaccination, coupled with deficient trust among communities, can lead to avoidance of public health facilities by many, which could be disastrous.
Further, there are certain factors that make us particularly vulnerable to the peril of vaccine hesitancy during the pandemic. While routine immunisation is well-entrenched, COVID-19 vaccines are prone to suspicion as they are new and abrupt entrants. The unprecedented scale and speed of their roll-out, and the media reporting of adverse events that are often spurious, add to the suspicion. One of the biggest neutralisers of vaccine distrust are the visible improvements in disease prevention, and the equally visible damages when communities reject vaccines. These are unlikely to work substantially in the immediate term. The emergence of newer variants which predispose to vaccine failure and breakthrough infections can also endanger trust.
Such crises also provide opportunities for traditional and folk medical practitioners to reassert themselves by attempting to discredit modern medical principles. These practitioners constitute influential hubs within many communities that may make or break a public health programme. Further, certain factors could prompt our public health system to regress to an instinctive top-down approach driven by desperation, including an imminent third wave, an anticipated increase in vaccine supplies in the near term, and the pressure to vaccinate as many as possible in the shortest time. Vaccine hesitancy may not necessarily emanate from a distrust of science but from government motives which may be miscommunicated.
Apart from community involvement, contextualised action, and transparency, eloquence and responsibility in public communication, the government should rein in an instinct of regressing into ‘target mode’ even at the highest moment of desperation. This is necessary, though not sufficient, to safeguard public trust and prevent community alienation.
There is a need of active thinking on avenues to incentivise vaccination beyond pecuniary subsidies, particularly for the rural sections. This would include removing disincentives that accompany reduced physical access, overenthusiastic drives on certain days that result in subsequent shortages, etc. Given that more than 38 crore vaccine doses have already been administered, there is a case for disseminating success stories through locally appropriate media, while not cutting back on honest, solemn and tactful reportage on adverse events.
Positive messages and reinforcements for vaccination have to be aired from the several quarters that command respect and trust of the community. In this regard, there is a strong case for engaging with members of traditional and folk systems despite any potential resistance from them. Lastly, there is a strong case for effectively utilising the services of social science professionals. They may have a pivotal role in navigating the many nuances involved in community mobilisation that are often invisible to medical professionals and other technocrats.
Soham D. Bhaduri is a physician, health policy expert, and chief editor of ‘The Indian Practitioner’.
Recently, while hearing an application filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), the Supreme Court expressed shock that despite its declaration of Section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 as being unconstitutional six years ago (Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India), criminal cases are still being registered by the police under this Section. The PUCL said that 1,307 cases had been registered since 2015 across States and therefore the Court must issue guidelines against the registering of FIRs by the police under this head.
In 2015, the Supreme Court had declared Section 66A of the IT Act, which made online posting of information considered as “grossly offensive” a crime punishable by jail, as being violative of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and not saved under the ambit of reasonable restrictions defined in Article 19(2). It had also said that the expressions used in Section 66A were open-ended, undefined and therefore arbitrary.
In 1983, the Court had struck down Section 303 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which provided capital punishment for murder by a person serving a life term in another case, as being unconstitutional. InMithu v. State of Punjab,it heldthat the punishment was not based on rational principle as no judicial discretion was available to a life convict. In 2018 (Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India), the Court read down Section 377 of the IPC criminalising “unnatural sex” as being unconstitutional. Similarly, inJoseph Shine v. Union of India(2018), the Court held adultery as defined under Section 497 of the IPC as being manifestly arbitrary, discriminatory and violative of the dignity of a woman and therefore, unconstitutional.
Negligence by the police
Undoubtedly, the registration of FIRs by the police under these sections is illegal and violative of the Court’s directions. Though such cases may not always be registered intentionally, negligence by Station House Officers (SHOs) must be nipped in the bud. The supervisory police officers at the sub-divisional level must ensure that such sections, if invoked due to lack of knowledge at the police station level, are removed at the earliest. The Superintendents of Police must fix responsibility on the erring officer and take corrective action. Everyone responsible for the negligence should not only be answerable to the courts for contempt but also be liable for departmental action. If the SHOs and others don’t mend their ways despite reprimands, their annual confidential reports could be dented with adverse entries. Action can also be initiated under the new Section 166A of the IPC which provides punishment for up to two years for disobeying directions under the law.
The best way to avoid registration of offences under sections held unconstitutional is to educate police officers of all ranks about such provisions in basic training institutes. Second, as the Attorney General of India, K.K. Venugopal, had suggested, there could be a mention in brackets near the provision that the provision has been struck down, so that FIRs are not registered under those sections. Third, unconstitutional sections of the IPC can be disabled in the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS). Most States register FIRs in the CCTNS either on a real-time basis or in offline mode and synchronise this data with the State Data Centre as soon as connectivity is restored. In case police stations don’t have connectivity, the data (i.e., FIR in electronic format) are taken to the nearest police station that has connectivity and uploaded. The CCTNS came in handy when the Supreme Court directed the States in 2016 to upload FIRs on official websites within 24 to 72 hours of registration. In Chhattisgarh, we have disabled these Sections in the system. Other States could follow suit.
The police must ensure that no FIR is registered under unconstitutional sections and no one is harassed for the negligent actions of SHOs.
R.K. Vij is a senior IPS officer in Chhattisgarh. Views are personal
Sport is replete with redemption stories. Teams wrestling with their pasts before swimming towards the light make for compelling plotlines. But for giant footballing countries, success following failure is more of a sequence and less of a narrative. This millennium, Germany and France have plumbed the depths before rising to become world champions. But Italy’s redemption story at Wembley on Sunday, a penalty shoot-out victory over England to secure only its second-ever European Championship, should not be seen through such a reductionist lens. The triumph represents the transformation of a proud, but dogmatic, footballing nation into a modern, forward-looking side, with the singular aim of coming out of one of its darkest chapters — of not qualifying for a World Cup (2018) for the first time since 1958. In the process, Roberto Mancini’s outfit also cleared the fog that had settled over international football. Built around the midfield abilities of Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Lorenzo Insigne, and the pace and drive of Federico Chiesa and Leonardo Spinazzola, Italy played with verve. Veteran defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci ensured it also displayed old-school nous. Together with the goal-keeping brilliance of Gianluigi Donnarumma — player of the tournament — theAzzurribeat No.1 ranked Belgium, No.6 Spain and No.4 England back-to-back to claim their first major trophy since the 2006 World Cup.
Italy, no doubt, had a generation of players schooled in progressive methods since their youth, but Mancini’s tactical acumen stood out. The 56-year-old’s handling of the loss of key personnel was smart, as was his role in shaping Italy’s response after England went a goal ahead and threatened to end its own trophy drought of 55 years. In contrast, Germany suffered under outgoing coach Joachim Low’s defunct ideas, while a complacent France blew a 3-1 lead against Switzerland and crashed out. Luis Enrique’s Spain, though, impressed, despite falling to Italy over penalties in the last four. Barcelona’s Pedri proved a gem and the 18-year-old midfielder was duly named the young player of the tournament. Cristiano Ronaldo won the Golden Boot (5 goals, 1 assist) but was far from the driving force he usually is for Portugal, the 2016 winner. Denmark, by reaching the semifinal despite the traumatic exit of Christian Eriksen, showcased its collective spirit. The only discordant notes in an otherwise excellent competition were English fans’ violent behaviour on the final day and the racist attacks on players who erred in the penalty shoot-out. But in the long run, Euro 2020 will be remembered for restoring Italian football, reinvigorating international football and proving mildly therapeutic to fans worldwide amidst an unending, exhausting pandemic.
Incentives and penalties form an integral component of the measures to control population growth, announced by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday. These steps are aimed at reducing U.P.’s total fertility rate (TFR), recorded as 2.7 by the National Family Health Survey-4 in 2016, a figure only lower than that of neighbouring Bihar (3.1 as of 2020 in NFHS-5). Aims in this direction — increasing the rate of modern contraceptive prevalence, male contraception, decreasing maternal mortality and infant mortality rates significantly by 2026 — are, on the face of it, in line with what was stressed at the Cairo International Conference on Population and Development in 1994. The Cairo Consensus called for a promotion of reproductive rights, empowering women, universal education, maternal and infant health to untangle the knotty issue of poverty and high fertility. But rather than taking steps in this direction, the Government seems to have taken the beaten path of a mixture of incentives and penalties to tackle what is a socio-economic issue as a demographic one. In a draft Uttar Pradesh Population (Control, Stabilisation and Welfare) Bill, 2021, the Government aims to incentivise one-child families and reward those with two children with perks in government schemes, rebates in taxes and loans, and cash awards if family planning is done among other sops. Disincentives for those with more than two children include denial of subsidies and welfare benefits, a bar on applying for government jobs and taking part in local elections. Assam, also led by the BJP, is mulling a similar policy.
The incentives/disincentives approach has been denounced in the past by the National Human Rights Commission after such measures were introduced by several States in the 1990s and 2000s, i.e., Haryana, undivided Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The Supreme Court, in 2003, upheld a Haryana government law barring persons with more than two children from contesting local body polls, but the legal grounding of the moves impinging upon the informed choice of the individual remained questionable. Empirical studies of coercive measures have shown their discrimination against marginalised people in particular and with no discernible effect on population control, while more substantive poverty reduction schemes and economic reforms have raised labour productivity and employment opportunities, allowed families to empower women, and reduced fertility rates as rational choices. India’s TFRs have been reducing substantially across most States, even in U.P. and Bihar with the highest TFRs. To hasten the drop to replacement levels of fertility, States should tackle the socio-economic issues confronting India’s largely youthful demography rather than seeking neo-Malthusian approaches on population control.
The Union Irrigation and Power Minister, Dr. K.L. Rao, told the Lok Sabha to-day [New Delhi, July 13] that the Government had invited a team of United Nations experts to advise on the feasibility of undertaking the 2,000 mile long grand feeder canal from Patna to Tamil Nadu linking the Ganga and the Cauvery. Replying to Mr. N.K. Sanghi, the Minister said the Government’s request had been registered with the U.N. and the expert team would commence its work in about three or four months’ time. After the team’s advice, the Government would make detailed investigations for determining the feasibility of the project. Preliminary studies, he said, indicated that monsoon water in the Ganga near Patna could be transferred to other areas in the country where there was great demand for additional irrigation, by a combination of pumped and gravity canals making use of natural water courses and existing or proposed reservoirs, whereever practicable.