- Front Page / NATIONAL
- Pardon, the gender wage gap is showing
- Too hot to handle – alarming rise in forest fires this year
- SC criticises poor implementation of SC/ST Act
- Indian Express
- Live Mint
Front Page / NATIONAL
 Pardon, the gender wage gap is showing
ILO finds women form 60% of lowest paid wage labour, but only 15% of highest wage-earners
What has happened?
International Labor Organisation (ILO) has released the Global Wage Report 2016-17
What is gender wage disparity or gap?
In simple terms, term refers to the unequal pay distribution between men and women for doing similar kinds of work.
Findings of the report
- Stats: Gender wage gap in India exceeds 30 per cent
|Country||Gender Wage Gap|
|South Korea||37 (Only major economy that fared worse than India)|
- In India, women formed 60 per cent of the lowest paid wage labour, but only 15 per cent of the highest wage-earners meaning not only were women paid less, there were fewer women in highly paid occupations.
- Share of women among wage earners is lowest in South Asia: The share of women among wage earners was among the lowest in South Asia. Compared to a global average of 40 per cent, and an Asia-Pacific average of 38 per cent, in South Asia (whose dominant economy is India), only 20 per cent of wage earners were women
- High income inequality: In India, the top 1 per cent earned 33 times what the bottom 10 per cent did.
- The top 10 per cent also earned 43 per cent of all wages
- Since 2006, average wages rose by 60 per cent in India, while they more than doubled in China
Reasons for the wage gap
- Educational choices of women: Report states that the women’s educational choices produced occupational segregation.
For instance, since the majority of those who studied nursing were women, “this profession is over-represented among women”. At the same time, care work is undervalued because it may be seen as a natural female attribute rather than a skill to be acquired. Thus, a higher representation of women in sectors where their work is undervalued results in a gender pay gap.
Report states that strong labour market institutions and policies such as collective bargaining and minimum wages lowered the pay gap.
Citing OECD studies, the report observed that
- The gender pay gap is smallest (8 per cent) in the group of countries where the collective bargaining rate is at least 80 per cent, and widest in countries with weak collective bargaining and no or very low minimum wages.
What are labor market institutions?
Labor market institutions are usually thought of as policy interventions or collective organizations that interfere with wage and employment determination.
Examples include labor unions, legislation on minimum wages and employment protection, unemployment insurance and active labor market policies.
What is collective bargaining?
Negotiation of wages and other conditions of employment by an organized body of employees
 Too hot to handle – alarming rise in forest fires this year
Article is about a report by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, headed by Rajya Sabha MP RenukaChoudhary, submitted on December 16
The committee was formed after a series of devastating forest fires in 2016, including the prolonged one that charred 4,000 hectares of forest land across 13 districts of Uttarakhand.
Focus of the report
The report primarily focuses on the prevention and containing of fires in the Himalayan forests spread across Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir
Findings of the report
Increase in number of fires: There has been an increase in the number of forest fires across India
- Fires in 2015: 15,937
- Fires in 2016: 24,817
State-wise contribution: The three central States of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh contribute a third of the forest fires. Madhya Pradesh has seen a nearly ten-fold increase, from just 294 in 2015 to more than 2,600 in 2016.
Vacancies of forest staff
A large number of posts of front line forest staff were lying vacant, while, fire-fighting equipment is rudimentary in many cases.
Rising cases of forest fires in Himachal & Uttarakhand
In Himachal and Uttarakhand, over 17,502 acres have been ravaged this year due to forest fires — a rise of over 171 per cent.
- Reason: Accumulated Chir pine needles, which are inflammable due to their high-resin content are believed to be a “prominent factor in occurring and spreading of forest fires”.
Recommendation of the Committee
- Sweeping machines: Committee has recommended the procurement of sweeping machines to clear roadsides of Chir pine needles
- Incentives: Large-scale incentives and programmes (including under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) to collect pines for use as fuel, and other incineration
- Broad–leaf plants: Report has suggested replacing Pine forests with “broad-leaf” plants while Uttarakhand government has suggested thinning of pine reserve forest areas to “reduce the biological load”
- National policy:The committee has suggested a national policy on managing forest fires
 SC criticises poor implementation of SC/ST Act
Asks National Legal Services Authority to frame schemes for spreading legal awareness and free consultations.
What has happened?
Criticizing the government for its “indifferent attitude” towards the implementation of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,
- Directions to NALSA: The Supreme Court has directed the National Legal Services Authority to frame schemes for spreading legal awareness and free consultations to members of the SC/ST communities nationwide
Equality for all
Bench headed by CJI asked the authorities to discharge their duties to protect the SCs/STs to attain the constitutional goal of equality for all citizens.
Bench in a recent judgement had observed that
“The constitutional goal of equality for all the citizens can be achieved only when the rights of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes are protected. The abundant material on record proves that the authorities are guilty of not enforcing the provisions of the Act”
National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)
The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987,
- To monitor and evaluate implementation of legal aid programmes and to lay down policies and principles for making legal services available under the Act
Supreme Court Legal Services Committee has been constituted to administer and implement the legal services programme in so far as it relates to the Supreme Court of India.
State Legal Services Authority & HC Legal Services Committee: In every State, a State Legal Services Authority and in every High Court, a High Court Legal Services Committees have been constituted.
District Legal Services Authorities and Taluk Legal Services Committees have been constituted in 598 Districts and 2136 Taluks in order to give effect to the policies and directions of the NALSA and to provide free legal services to the people and conduct Lok Adalats in the State.
- The State Legal Services Authorities are chaired by a senior judge of the respective High Courts, The District Legal Services Authorities are chaired by the District Judges of the respective Districts
- The Taluka Legal Services Committees are chaired by the senior most Judicial officers at the Taluka Level
Read More: NALSA
 Finding the missing children
The issue of missing children of India, and in particular the rising problem of children becoming victims of trafficking frequently makes international headlines and there is rising global concern about trafficking.
Issue: Missing children in India
Statistics show that over 60,000 children go missing every year in the country.
- There are also concerns about the number of girl children who go missing, which, besides being particularly high, is often connected to human trafficking
In 2012, NGOBachpanBachaoAndolan, run by Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi, filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court on the issue of missing children
Result: Court ordered State and Central governments to periodically submit compliance reports in the court relating to the status of missing children in their respective States
Portals set up
- In the light of the above order, Ministry of Women and Child Development set up a website titled,trackthemissingchild.gov.in: This interactive website has information relating to missing children in each State. This includes information relating to police stations in every State and the number of children missing and traced in real time
- Another portal which was set up in June 2015 is http://khoyapaya.gov.in where information relating to missing children can be submitted
Author feels that greater awareness and specialised manpower are needed to ensure that these websites perform the functions that were envisioned for them
- Social media outreach: Images of missing children can be shared on social media in an attempt at increasing the chances of reaching the children and tracing them
Issue of missing children and human trafficking are closely related to each other. Children who are reported missing are often taken in by human trafficking networks for malafide purposes like slavery, beggary etc.
Between 2013 and 2014, at least 67,000 children in India went missing; 45 per cent were minors who were victims of trafficking for prostitution.
Causes of trafficking
In trafficking, several causes have been identified by the NCRB. Primary causes are
- forced marriage
- Child labour
- Procuration of minors as domestic help
- Sexual exploitation
- Other reasons
Grey area of “Other reasons”
A study by BachpanBachaoAndolan put the number of missing children as much as 10 times more than what is stated in their findings and research because the majority of trafficking victims are not included in missing cases nor is there any official record
- In the reasons identified by the NCRB for human trafficking, the most predominant cause was labelled as “other reasons”. Considering the critically large number of cases that fell under this category, this issue needs deeper study to find a targeted solution.
Addressing the problem
- Identifying reasons through specialised studies: The reasons behind children going missing need to be identified through specialised studies, unique to different States. This is because the reasons differ across the country. For example, in Madhya Pradesh, a key cause behind children being kidnapped is because they are used as domestic labour, which is not so in many other States
- The draft Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, which seeks to address loopholes in the legal system, impose stronger penal measures and address issues of rehabilitation should be passed on a urgent basis
- Sound rehabilitation measures need to be in place as well for the well-being and protection of rescued children who have been victims of violence
Read More: Missing children in India
 A brief history of the Aleppo battle
The battle for the city has brought Syria to a critical crossroads: how the world deals with Bashar al-Assad may well define the country’s future.
Give this article a go through once.
 Ending the Manipur blockade
The blockade of the national highways leading to the Manipur valley, called by the United Naga Council (UNC), has been in place since November 1. This has severely affected life in the State, with shortages and escalating costs of essential supplies such as fuel and food.
Issue: Manipur Blockade
Reason for the blockade
Creation of new districts by the OkramIbobi Singh government
- On December 9 it issued a gazette notification for the creation of seven new districts by bifurcating seven (of a total of nine) districts
- Alleged Rationale
- Electoral gains, as the state assembly elections are round the corner, is also being cited as a prime reason for this move. Government is trying to woo the Hill residents in their favor by carving out a Kuki-majority district
- Administrative ease and access to far flung areas
Who is against the move?
The United Naga Council is against the move alleging that areas with a Naga population have been divided and that the lack of consultation is a violation of commitments made by both the Centre and the State in various memoranda of understanding.
Impact of the Blockade
Blockade has severely affected life in the State, with shortages and escalating costs of essential supplies such as fuel and food, even as demonetisation has exacerbated problems
Author states that ideally there should be a dialogue that involves all major stakeholders, the State government, groups that support redistricting, the UNC and the Centre. But first, there should be zero tolerance towards all such blockades.
 India’s growth indicator slumps to 20-yr low
Data indicate that while demonetisation has triggered a slowdown, the full impact may be seen only in December.
As per Nomura’s data,
- Demonetisation has hit rural consumption demand harder than urban demand, services more than manufacturing, and exports more than imports
- The rural economy has been hurt much more than the urban economy due to the higher cash intensity of transactions in rural areas
- Services, which are more unorganised in nature, were hit more than manufacturing by the demonetisation (Service sectors such as trade, real estate, hotels and restaurants, construction and transport have a higher share of the unorganised sector)
- Demonetisation has hit export volumes a lot more than imports
Give the article a go-through once.
 Under siege, on edge
The current crisis in Manipur must trouble us all. Blockades embitter entire populations.
Manipur Blockade has already been covered.
Give this article a go-through once
 Smallness at the border
In World Bank’s doing business rankings, India doesn’t do as well on trading across borders as it does on other parameters.
In 2017, World Bank’s “Doing Business project ranks India 130th out of 190
Ranking based on
- Starting a business
- Dealing with construction permits
- Getting electricity
- Registering property
- Getting credit
- Protecting minority investors
- Paying taxes
- Trading across borders
- Enforcing contracts
- Resolving insolvency
- Labor: Not used for overall ranking calculation
What World Bank does?
The entire World Bank exercise is based on two cities, Delhi and Mumbai. Specifically, on trading across borders, there is an export side and an import side. For exports, a shipment has to go from a warehouse in India (Mumbai/Delhi) to the US. The representative item is electrical machinery and equipment. For imports, it is the reverse and the representative item is parts and accessories of motor vehicles, imported from the Republic of Korea. The respective ports are NhavaSheva and Mundra.
Documentation involved: There are a bunch of documents associated with exports/imports — bill of lading, invoice, packing list, customs declaration, terminal handling receipts, import general manifest, bill of entry, cargo release order, certificate of origin.
- Notice that had it not been for export incentives or preferential trade agreements, the documentation would have been simpler. Straightforward exports/imports require fewer documents.
Calculation of costs by the WB
In the entire exercise, WB captures three types of costs
- Documentary compliance (non-custom type documentation)
- Border compliance (custom type documentation)
- Domestic transport (cost defined both as time taken and money spent)
Author states that India doesn’t do as well on trading across borders as it does on getting credit, getting electricity or protecting minority investors
Author points out that government has charted out 8-point strategy to improve its ranking but without any special focus on trading across borders
ICEGATE stands for the Indian Customs Electronic Commerce/Electronic Data interchange (EC/EDI) Gateway. ICEGATE is a portal that provides e-filing services to the trade and cargo carriers and other clients of Customs Department (collectively called Trading Partner). At present, about 24,000 users are registered with ICEGATE who are serving about 6.72 lakhs importers/exporters
Q: If ICEGATE delivers what it promises, why isn’t there a greater improvement in the 2017 rankings for trading across borders?
- Too many unorganised and unregistered players
- Registration, regulation and accreditation by too many agencies under too many statutes/orders
- Too many heads for levying charges
- Non-standardized formats for documents
 Using interoperability to become cashless
The recent monetary experiment has provided an opportunity to focus on India’s non-cash payment infrastructure.
Article puts forward the argument that proper digital infrastructure for enabling digital transactions needs to be put in place if benefits of the demonetization move is to be reaped in.
Interoperability of Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPI)
One such critical infrastructural necessity is the interoperability of prepaid payment instruments (PPI), popularly known as wallets.
PPI: These are methods that facilitate purchase of goods and services against the value stored on such instruments. The value stored on such instruments represents the value paid for by the holder, by cash, by debit to a bank account, or by credit card.
What is interoperability?
It is the ability of, say, a Paytm user to transact with a merchant/user that uses another wallet (say, Freecharge)
- ATM: The ATM provides the most visible example of interoperability in retail finance. You walk into the ATM of any bank and swipe a card issued by your bank and withdraw cash.
- PoS: The card/point-of-sale terminal ecosystem is another example of interoperability.
Interoperability is said to promote financial inclusion.
Prerequisites for implementing interoperability between PPIs
Borrowing from the experience of the card network/bank ecosystem, a set of common standards for settlement including
- A dispute settlement mechanism
- A “switch operator”
- A price mechanism (on the lines of interchange fees in the card system);
- A facilitative regulatory atmosphere (provided by the Competition Commission of India, Reserve Bank of India and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India)
RBI’s “Vision Statement on Payments & Settlement” for 2018 recognizes the need to promote interoperability as the basis for a seamless payment experience for users.
Lessons from Kenya and Tanzania
Kenya, very early on, adopted the mobile money revolutionthrough M-Pesa/Safaricom
- Collective action problem: But the very factors that led to the rapid expansion of the M-Pesa network have inhibited adoption of interoperability in Kenya. This is because operators face a classic collective action dilemma in the context of interoperability as they all stand to benefit. This benefit, however, comes at a near-term cost to each of them individually (as they have to share agents/merchant networks, among other things). The more seasoned a player is, therefore, the less the incentive to inter-operate
- Because M-Pesa dominated the market in Kenya, the incentive to “hold out” dominated and became an economic barrier to interoperability in Kenya
What is collective action problem?
The term “collective action problem” describes the situation in which multiple individuals would all benefit from a certain action, but has an associated cost making it implausible that any individual can or will undertake and solve it alone. The ideal solution is then to undertake this as a collective action, the cost of which is shared.
Lessons from Tanzania
- Lesson 1: Operators have the most incentive to opt into an interoperable framework when their market shares are comparable
- Lesson 2: Non-intervention by government: In Tanzania, interoperability was brought about with operators evolving bilateral standards for settlement rather than explicit government intervention.
Situation in India
- Comparable market shares: For India, the relative market shares of respective operators appear to be comparable
Survey:A recent AC Nielsen survey found
- Paytm to be the most popular mobile payment app at 39%
- Freecharge was the second-most popular at 26%
- MobiKwik was the third at 17%
Interoperability between PPIs is a critical catalyst in the road towards a less-cash economy
 Manipur’s old patterns of violence reignited
As the state prepares for assembly elections, its complex and contested social fabric has once again become a battleground.
Article is a brief commentary about the Manipur blockade, its causes and the resulting action taken by the Central government
Give it a go-through once