No green shoots of a revival in sight as yet

The latest GDP data show that there has been an undeniable decline in the growth rate over seven consecutive quarters.

  • The National Statistical Office (NSO) put out the third quarter gross domestic product (GDP) estimates, that is, for October-December 2020.
  • Domestic output grew at 4.7% at constant prices (that is, net of inflation), compared to the same period the previous year.
  • The third quarter GDP was marginally higher than the second quarter (July-September 2020) figure of 4.5% (as reported in the earlier data released), experts in the media were quick to infer that the economy is turning around.
  • The economic slowdown witnessed during the last six quarters has “bottomed out”; government spokespersons endorsed the view.
  • The first two quarters of the current year (2019-2020) upwards to 5.6% and 5.1%, from the earlier figures of 5% and 4.5%, respectively.

Constant revisions

  • Many statistical models and methods are used following standardised analytical procedures in line with the international guideline called the UN System of National Accounts (UNSNA).
  • As there are lags and unanticipated delays in obtaining the primary data, the GDP estimates undergo several revisions everywhere (except in China).
  • GDP estimates are revised five times in India over nearly three years. The initial two rounds, the advanced estimates, are prepared mainly using high-frequency proxy indicators (which probably contain more noise than information), followed by three rounds based on data obtained from various sectors.

More based on projections

  • Since 1999, quarterly GDP estimates are being prepared, as per the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s data dissemination standards. Their quality is subpar as the primary data needed quarterly are mostly lacking.
  • For example, nearly one-half of India’s GDP originates in the unorganised sector (including agriculture), whose output is not easily amenable to direct estimation every quarter, given the informal nature of production and employment. Hence, the estimates are obtained as ratios, proportions and projections of the annual GDP estimates.
  • The National Accounts Statistics (NAS)-Sources and Methods 2012, the official guide for national accounts estimation, states it as follows: “The production approach is used for compiling the QGDP estimates, in terms of gross value added (GVA) and is broadly based on the benchmark-indicator method.
  • In this method, for each of the industry-groups... a key indicator or a set of key indicators for which data in volume or quantity terms is available on a quarterly basis are used to extrapolate the value of output/value-added estimates of the previous year… In general terms, quarterly estimates of GDP are extrapolations of annual series of GDP. The estimates of GVA by industry are compiled by extrapolating value of output or value-added with relevant indicators.”
  • Quarterly estimates of the previous years along with the first and second quarterly estimates of 2019-20 released earlier have undergone revision in accordance with the revision policy of National Accounts.

Undeniable decline

  • There has been an undeniable decline in the GDP growth rate over seven consecutive quarters, from 7.1% in Q1 of 2018-2019 to 4.7% in Q3 of 2019-2020.Considering that physical indicators of production, such as the official index of infrastructure output, or monthly automotive sales, continue to show an unambiguous deceleration, the economic slowdown has apparently not bottomed-out as the government would like to believe.
  • The quarterly GDP deceleration comes over and above the annual GDP growth slowdown for four years now: from 8.3% in 2016-17 to 5% in 2019-20 (as per the second advance estimate). The actual GDP growth rate during much of the 2010s may have been lower than the official annual estimates by 2-2.5 percentage points.

Conclusion

  • India’s quarterly GDP estimates have limited primary information in them. Their revisions are largely extrapolations and projections of the annual figures.
  • Hence, one should be cautious in reading too much into the specific numbers. They are helpful to discern the broad trends in economic activity, which appear grave at the moment.
  • Economic growth continues to drift downwards, from a peak of 7.1% in the first quarter of 2018-19 to 4.7% in the third quarter of the current year. It probably suggests more pain ahead, as the green shoots of economic revival seem nowhere in sight.

Having an ear to Adivasi ground

Policy framers must recognise their wide diversity in order to address their different problems.

  • In November 2018, the Adivasis of Jhargram, West Bengal, were overtaken by an event while preparing for the Bandhna festival; seven adults of the KhariaSavar community died within a span of just two weeks. Their lifespan is approximately 26 years less than the average Indian’s life expectancy.
  • The cause of the deaths could not be medically verified. Other villagers were of the view that those who had passed away were suffering from tuberculosis  and excessive drinking.

Misplaced views

  • The views about the ‘underdevelopment’ of the Adivasis typically subscribes to this section of the population being the ‘takers/receivers’ of governmental benefits.
  • Mutual co-operation, decision making through discussion, peaceful co-habitation with others and with nature, age-old and time-tested practices of environmental protection, and other such high civic qualities observed by them could have added to the country’s “democratic curriculum”.
  • However, the politics of dominance, economics of immediate gain, and a social outlook of separateness have charted a very different path for the Adivasis.

Study finds a knowledge gap

  • A study conducted by the Asiatic Society and the Pratichi Institute among 1,000 households across West Bengal. The study found that there exists, both in the public and academic domains, a wide gap in knowledge about this selectively forgotten and pragmatically remembered population.
  • The public and academic domains, a wide gap in knowledge about this selectively forgotten and pragmatically remembered population. In West Bengal, there are 40 Adivasi groups notified by the government as Scheduled Tribes (STs), but most people use the terms Adivasi and Santal interchangeably. Santal in fact, is but one of the 40 notified tribes forming 47% of the total ST population.
  • This knowledge gap leads to democratic denial for the Adivasis. The imposed superiority of the outside world has resulted in the Adivasis considering themselves as inferior, primitive and even taking a fatalistic view of their subjugated life.
  • making them abandon some of their socially unifying customs and cultural practices - particularly democratic norms and human values that have evolved through a protracted journey of collective living and struggles for existence.
  • Adivasi are often reminded of their primitive roots and kept alienated. They are a source of cheap labour and live lives where they are half-fed with no opportunities to flourish and develop their human capabilities seems unalterable.

Furtherance 

  • Therefore, it is important to go beyond the administrative convention of bracketing Adivasis into a single category. Rather, policy framing requires mandatory recognition of their wide diversity so as to address the different problems faced by different groups — by community as well as by region.
  • It is also important to abide by the general constitutional rules which are often violated by the state. In other words, the very common instances of violations of the Forest Rights Act, the Right to Education Act, and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act — which affect them — have to be eliminated.
  • The possibility of fair implementation of public programmes, however, is contingent to an agentic involvement of the communities concerned. Instead of being considered to be mere passive recipients, Adivasis must be respected as active agents of change and involved in all spheres of policy, from planning to implementation.
  • It is imperative that the entire outlook on the Adivasi question is reversed. Instead of considering Adivasis to be a problem, the entire country can benefit a great deal by considering them as co-citizens and sharing their historically constructed cultural values which often manifest the best forms of democracy and uphold the notions of higher levels of justice, fairness, and equality — better than those prevalent in seemingly mainstream societies. By ensuring their right to live their own lives, the country can in fact guarantee itself a flourishing democracy.

 

As Delhi burned, institutions looked away

If not urgently addressed and mended, the cessation of a constitutional state will destroy social trust.

  • Muslim victims with bullet wounds lodged in their bodies or with many broken bones say they would rather die than go to a government hospital due to contempt and negligence.
  • Victims turn away officials filling death and property compensation forms because they suspect the officials are secretly filling forms of the National Population Register to disenfranchise them.
  • The national anthem has become an icon of the protests against the citizenship law.
  • Institutions like the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Minorities, and the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, each is mandated to step in during moments like this when vulnerable minorities suffer discrimination and violence at the hands of the executive. But all of them are missing in action as Delhi burns and writhes in torment.
  • The carnage which engulfed the narrow lanes of working-class settlements of Delhi for three days signals the disgraceful and comprehensive collapse of every institution of the Indian state without any exception.
  • If not urgently addressed and mended, this comprehensive cessation of a constitutional state will destroy hope, peace, social trust, development, the economy; and ultimately the possibilities of our becoming one day a country of kindness and justice.

Unequal nuclear treaty

  • The nuclear non-proliferation treaty, under which non-nuclear States agree not to receive or manufacture nuclear arms, came into force on March 5 when 43 countries deposited their instruments of ratification in Washington, London and Moscow.
  • There are about a dozen nations, including India, who could manufacture these weapons of destruction in a relatively short period, if they so desired.
  • But even they are more interested in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy than in fabrication of bombs and missiles.
  • India has for more than two decades been campaigning for nuclear disarmament and has played some part in gaining acceptance for the nuclear test-ban treaty. If despite this it has not signed the NPT, it is because the treaty is an unequal one, which leaves a permanent monopoly of nuclear weapons to five nations.
  • Further, the provision in the treaty for the inspection of nuclear installations of the signatory States does not apply to the five nuclear powers.

Over 40% govt. schools don’t have power, playgrounds

Parliamentary panel identifies critical infrastructure gaps.

  • Almost half the government schools in the country do not have electricity or playgrounds, according to a report submitted by the parliamentary panel on education.
  • In its report on the 2020-2021 demand for grants for school education submitted to the Rajya Sabha last week, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development (HRD) expressed concern that budgetary allocations saw a 27% cut from proposals made by the School Education Department.
  • Only 56% of schools have electricity, with the lowest rates in Manipur and Madhya Pradesh, where less than 20% have access to power.
  • Less than 57% of schools have playgrounds, including less than 30% of schools in Odisha and Jammu and Kashmir, according to the Unified District Information System for Education (UDISE) 2017-18 survey.
  • The panel recommended that the HRD Ministry collaborate with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to construct boundary walls, and work with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to provide solar and other energy sources so that schools have access to power.
All work and 
29 
no play 
Almost three 
out of four 
government 
schools in 
Odisha did 
not have a 
playground 
as of 2018. 
The map shows 
the percentage 
of government 
schools that 
had playgrounds 
as of 2018 
Rajasthan 
46.18 
% SCHOOLS 
27.11 
Bihar 34.8 
Odisha 
27.11 
„„„„.Tamil Nadu 
71.76
  • The parliamentary panel also slammed the government for its “dismal” rate of progress in building classrooms, labs and libraries to strengthen government higher secondary schools. Out of 2,613 sanctioned projects for 2019-20, only three had been completed in the first nine months of the financial year, said the panel, warning that such delays would alienate students from government schools.
  • In government higher secondary schools, not a single additional classroom had been built by December 31, 2019, although 1,021 had been sanctioned for the financial year 2019-20.
  • Only three laboratories had been built — one each for physics, chemistry and biology — despite sanctioned funds for 1,343 labs. Although 135 libraries and 74 art/craft/culture rooms had been sanctioned, none had been built with just three months left in the financial year.
  • Overall, for the core Samagra Shiksha Scheme, the department had only spent 71% of revised estimates by December 31, 2019.

 

 

Fellowship programme launched

  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Fellowship (MGNF) programme, was launched by the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB), with support from the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, government of India.
  • The first batch consisting of 74 students took part in an orientation ceremony at the IIMB on Sunday. The first cohort comprises 44% women candidates, the release stated.
  • Programme Director Arnab Mukherji, faculty from the Public Policy area at IIM Bangalore, in a release, said: “The MGNF programme helps the fellows to discover growth paths and associated skill development needs at the district level that can change the development journey in many parts of the country. At one level, it focuses on the district as the unit of economy activity and inverts the top-down process endemic to public policy. At another, it seeks to build bridges to enable go-to-market strategies and create value chains and skill growth pathways that start from the district and link to domestic and international markets.”

 

 

For women, by women police officers

  • The initiatives by the police include helping common citizens reclaim public spaces and filing complaints.
  • Maintaining law and order is their primary mandate, but the city police – led by women officers – have been taking up initiatives to help women citizens reclaim public spaces, be fearless about opening up and filing complaints, and also help women police personnel cope with menstruation and pregnancy while on duty.
  • The ‘walk free’ initiative launched jointly by the National Commission for Women and the city police. The messages contain a guide to ‘unapologetic walking’ and also awareness about various forms of sexual harassment.
  • In South division Bengaluru, DCP Rohini Katoch Sepat launched the ‘Aache banni’ programme by organizing friendly games for women with women police personnel. Ms. Sepat also launched the ‘Akka thayi’ programme for working women of the unorganized sector to redress their concerns.
  • Women police personnel have been asked to set up WhatsApp groups with working women to redress their grievances.
  • Sara Fathima, DCP, Traffic, North division, launched a workshop to educate traffic policewomen about menstruation and pregnancy while on duty.
  • The police station staff have been asked to organize a ‘shakti walk’ with girl students taking the lead.

 

 

Hansraj Bhardwaj, former Governor, passes away

He served in the post between 2009 and 2014.

  • Hansraj Bhardwaj, 82, former Governor of Karnataka and Union Law Minister, passed away in Delhi on Sunday. He was ailing for the past few days and breathed his last in a private hospital.
  • One of the longest serving Law Ministers of the country, Mr. Bhardwaj was Karnataka Governor between 2009 and 2014. A Congressman, he was among the long-term loyalists of the Nehru-Gandhi family.
  • The tenure of Mr. Bhardwaj as Governor here was stormy that saw confrontation with the then BJP government headed by B.S. Yediyurappa.

 

 

Shivamogga varsity develops new paddy variety resistant to blast disease

‘Sahyadri Megha’ to be available for farmers from the coming kharif season

  • As part of its initiative to prevent decline in the area under paddy cultivation, the University of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences(UAHS), Shivamogga, has developed ‘Sahyadri Megha’, a new red variety of paddy that is resistant to blast disease and rich in nutrients.
  • The new variety has been approved by the State-level Seed Sub-Committee and it will be available for farmers from the coming kharif season.
  • The Jyothi variety, which was widely cultivated in the command areas of the Bhadra and the Tunga reservoirs and in semi-arid areas in Sorab, Shikaripur, Hanagal, and Sirsi taluks, had become vulnerable to blast disease and other infestations. There was a demand for a new paddy variety that is resistant to the infestations.
  • Another objective of developing the new variety was to cater to the strong demand for red rice, rich in fibre and protein, by health-savvy consumers in urban areas. The research work commenced in 2009, he said.
  • ‘Sahyadri Megha’ is developed under the hybridization breeding method by cross-breeding the best among the ‘Jyothi’ variety with that of ‘Akkalu’, a native disease-resistant and protein-rich paddy variety.
  • The results of the field trials conducted in Shivamogga, Chikkamagaluru, and Davangere districts have proved that the new variety has a high-level of resistance to blast disease.
  • Optimistic that the rice from the new variety can be sold for a premium by showcasing it as a protein-rich red rice, he said that the protein content in it is 12.48%, higher than the other red rice varieties grown. The yield per hectare from ‘Sahyadri Megha’ is around 65 quintals, substantially higher than other red paddy varieties.
  • Also, as the new variety can be harvested after 120 days of sowing, it is a medium-term paddy that can be grown when there is a delay in the onset of monsoon.
  • The aroma and taste of the rice from the new variety was also praised by farmers. The new variety will be notified under the Indian Seed Act 1966 shortly after which it will become part of the seed chain, he said.
  • It may be mentioned here that the area under paddy that was around 1.5 lakh hectares in Shivamogga district in 1990, has come down to around 1.05 lakh hectares now. Paddy growers are switching over to commercial crops like arecanut, ginger and rubber for lucrative returns.

 

 

Mason, centenarians, artists among Nari Shakti winners

President gives away award to women achievers

  • A mason, a centenarian athlete, Jharkhand’s ‘Lady Tarzan’ and a “mushroom mahila” were among the 15 women awarded the Nari Shakti Puraskar by President Ram Nath Kovind.
  • The government gives away the awards every year to recognise the service of women towards the cause of women’s empowerment and social welfare. The 2019 winners are from fields as diverse as agriculture, sports, handicrafts, afforestation and wildlife conservation, armed forces and education.
  • Bina Devi, 43, a mushroom grower, won the award for popularising mushroom production in five blocks and 105 neighbouring villages of Munger district, helping 1,500 women.

World’s fastest

  • Mann Kaur, 103, known as the “Miracle from Chandigarh”, started her athletic career at the age of 93. She won four golds at the World Masters Athletic Championship, Poland and set a record by becoming the world’s fastest centenarian at the American Masters Game, 2016.
  • Kalavati Devi, a 58-year-old mason, won the award for acting as the driving force towards reducing open defecation in Kanpur. She is responsible for building over 4,000 toilets in villages and has gone door to door to create awareness of the ills of open defecation.
  • Padala Bhudevi, 40, who has been working for the welfare of tribal women and widows, won the award for training 30 women in making mehendi cones and hair care products.
  • Arifa Jan, 33, was awarded for reviving the art of Numdha handicrafts and has trained more than 100 women in Kashmir.
  • Chami Murmu, 47, fondly known as the ‘Lady Tarzan’ of Jharkhand, has been involved in planting more than 25 lakh trees along with the Forest Department and by mobilising more than 3,000 women.
  • Nilza Wangmo, 40, is an entrepreneur running Alchi Kitchen Restaurant, the first one to serve traditional Ladakhi cuisines. She has trained 20 women from Ladakh who manage the restaurant and has represented Ladakhi recipes in 5-star hotels. Rashmi Urdhwardeshe, 60, has been the director of the Automotive Research Association of India. She has rich experience in the fields of automotive R&D, testing and homologation, framing of test standards and regulations.
  • Tashi and Nungshi Malik, 28, from Uttrakhand were the first women twins to scale Everest in 2013.
  • Kaushiki Chakraborty, 38, is a classical vocalist with more than 15 years of experience. Avani Chaturvedi, 26, Bhawanna Kanth, 27, and Mohana Singh Jitarwal 28, are the first women fighter pilots. Bhageerathi Amma, 105, and Karthyayini Amma, 98, have passed the Class IV literacy equivalent examinations.
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