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Indian Express Editorial Analysis

19-April-2024

1. Clash of aspirations

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as the analysis delves into India’s economic growth patterns over different periods and its evolving geopolitical role.

 

Context:
  • India finds itself at an inflection point in the current century, marked by decades of economic growth rates surpassing those of the initial post-independence period.
  • This acceleration, coupled with dynamic geopolitical shifts, has thrust India into a newfound role as a potential economic and political counterweight to China.
  • There’s growing anticipation that India may emerge as a pivotal driver of the global economy over the next three decades.
Challenges to India’s Ambitions

Employment Dynamics and Demographic Dividend:

  • India’s demographic profile presents both opportunities and challenges.
  • With a median age of around 28 and a low dependency ratio, India possesses a demographic dividend, characterized by a large supply of young workers.
  • However, leveraging this dividend entails addressing the challenge of matching these workers with productive employment opportunities, compounded by the ongoing transition from agrarian to non-agrarian sectors.

Labour Market Matching and Economic Transformation:

  • The process of matching workers to jobs faces significant hurdles, including skill misalignment and geographical disparities between rural and urban employment opportunities.
  • The transformation of India’s economy exacerbates these challenges, necessitating skill adaptation and potentially costly migration.
  • Presently, the labour market appears to be struggling to effectively address these issues, as indicated by high unemployment rates, particularly among graduates and skilled workers.
Root Causes of Labour Market Dysfunction:

Firm Size and Productivity

  • The relatively small size and low productivity of Indian firms constrain their demand for labor, contributing to unemployment and underemployment.
  • This issue is compounded by a skill deficit, especially in the service sector, reflecting shortcomings in the education system.
  • The mismatch between the skills demanded by firms and those possessed by workers further exacerbates unemployment rates, particularly among educated individuals.

Clash of Aspirations:

  • A clash of aspirations emerges between entrepreneurs with limited growth ambitions and a burgeoning workforce with high educational attainment and lofty career expectations.
  • While some firms achieve significant scale and competitiveness, many remain small, potentially due to regulatory constraints or a lack of ambition.
  • Meanwhile, young workers, fueled by macroeconomic success narratives, aspire to meaningful employment opportunities beyond precarious gig work.
Path Forward: Addressing the Labour Market Crisis:

Incentivizing Export-Oriented Growth

  • A potential solution lies in incentivizing private manufacturing firms to scale up and engage in export-oriented activities.
  • Evidence suggests that exporting firms tend to be larger and more productive, offering opportunities for sustainable job creation and economic growth.
  • Encouraging an export-oriented entrepreneurial mindset could help alleviate the clash of aspirations between workers and entrepreneurs, thereby maximizing the potential of India’s demographic dividend.

Policy Imperatives:

  • Dealing with the unfolding labour market crisis demands urgent attention from policymakers.
  • Prioritizing initiatives to address skill mismatches, promote entrepreneurship, and foster export-oriented growth should feature prominently on the government’s agenda.
  • Failure to effectively harness India’s demographic dividend risks squandering its potential and exacerbating socio-economic disparities.

Conclusion:

  • While India stands at a critical juncture with immense potential, realizing its ambitions hinges on addressing systemic challenges in the labour market.
  • By fostering an environment conducive to entrepreneurship, skill development, and export-oriented growth, India can navigate the complexities of its demographic transition and emerge as a global economic powerhouse.
What are the Opportunities of Demographic Transition in India?

Enhanced labour Productivity:

  • The demographic transition can lead to a deceleration in population growth.
  • This can result in a higher availability of capital resources and infrastructure on a per capita basis, ultimately boosting labour productivity.
  • Reallocation of Resources:
  • Decreasing fertility rates enable the reallocation of resources towards education and skill development, which can lead to improved human capital and workforce productivity.
  • A declining TFR will lead to a situation where the number of children enrolling in schools is lower, as is already happening in states like Kerala.
  • This could improve educational outcomes without additional resources being spent by the state.
  • Increased Women Participation in Workforce:
  • A major factor responsible for the low participation of women in the workforce is their engagement in childcare at an age when they should be in the labour force.
  • With less time needed for childcare, one would expect more women to join the labour force in the coming decades.
  • The larger share of women in employment schemes like Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee (MGNREGA) indicates a trend towards greater female labour force participation.
  • Spatial Redistribution of labour:
  • Movement of labour from regions with surplus labour to regions with growing industries can create spatial balance in the labour market.
  • This would get an impetus with the modern sectors in the southern states, and Gujarat and Maharashtra, soliciting cheaper labour from the northern states.
  • This, over the years, must result in improved working conditions, elimination of wage discrimination for migrant workers and the mitigation of security concerns in the receiving states through institutional safeguards.

 

PYQ: In the context of any country, which one of the following would be considered as part of its social capital? (2019)

(a) The proportion of literates in the population

(b) The stock of its buildings, other infrastructure and machines

(c) The size of population in the working age group

(d) The level of mutual trust and harmony in the society

Ans: (d)

Practice Question:  India’s demographic dividend has long been hailed as a potential catalyst for economic growth and development. However, the country faces numerous challenges in harnessing this demographic advantage effectively. In light of this, discuss the key impediments to realizing India’s demographic dividend and propose policy measures to address them. (250 words/15 m)

 

2. India’s 4P model

Topic: GS2 – Governance – Government policies – Interventions for development in various sectors

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as the analysis delves into the role of political leadership and public financing in driving transformative initiatives like the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).

 

Context:
  • At the World Bank-IMF spring meetings in Washington DC, attention turned to a ministerial-level consultation aimed at following up on the 2023 Paris Pact for People and the Planet (4P).
  • This pact, focusing on poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability, resonates with a previous formulation of the 4Ps emerging from the Mahatma Gandhi International Sanitation Conference (MGISC) held in Delhi in 2018.
  • Co-hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the MGISC saw the declaration of India’s 4Ps as a formula for achieving developmental results on the ground: political leadership, public financing, partnerships, and people’s participation.

Political Leadership: The Catalyst for Change:

  • Political leadership, embodied by Prime Minister Modi, played a pivotal role in driving transformative change through initiatives like the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM).
  • It was Modi’s decisive leadership that propelled India to confront the challenge of open defecation head-on, restoring dignity and security to communities, particularly women and girls.
  • By setting ambitious goals and closely monitoring progress, Modi galvanized national efforts towards achieving a clean India.

Public Financing: Investment in Development:

  • The commitment of public financing to sanitation, as a high-level policy decision, underscored the recognition that investment in sanitation is integral to poverty reduction and enhancing quality of life.
  • With investments totaling $20 billion, the Indian government demonstrated its commitment to financing initiatives that contribute to sustainable development.
  • This commitment also resonated globally, inspiring other nations to prioritize sanitation as a national developmental priority.

Partnerships: Collaborative Endeavors:

  • Partnerships were instrumental in the success of the SBM, with collaborations extending across international bodies, NGOs, local administrations, and community organizations.
  • The SBM was not merely a government program but a collective effort involving diverse stakeholders united by a common goal.
  • The effectiveness of these partnerships was further amplified by the active involvement of Prime Minister Modi as a communicator-in-chief.

People’s Participation: Empowering Communities:

  • The hallmark of the SBM was its emphasis on people’s participation, empowering communities to take ownership of sanitation initiatives.
  • Rural communities across India embarked on mass movements to achieve open defecation-free status, with women and girls emerging as leaders in their own right.
  • This grassroots engagement not only ensured the success of the program but also laid the foundation for its sustainability.

Conclusion:

  • India’s 4Ps, forged through initiatives like the SBM, offer valuable lessons applicable to a range of developmental challenges.
  • As the world strives to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and address global challenges such as climate change and pandemics, the significance of political leadership, public financing, partnerships, and people’s participation, exemplified by Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, has never been more pertinent.
Achievements of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in promoting cleanliness and sanitation:

Sanitation coverage in India:

  • It surged from 39% in 2014 to 100% in 2019 under the Swachh Bharat Mission-Grameen (SBM-G).
  • SBM aimed to achieve Open Defecation Free (ODF) status by October 2019, with a subsequent goal to transition to ODF Plus by 2024-25.
  • ODF Status:
  • Currently, about 85% of villages have attained ODF Plus status.
  • Toilet Access:
  • According to the National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) Round 3, 95% of India’s rural population had toilet access, with 79% owning their facilities
  • This has helped reduce open defecation which leads to diseases.
  • Public toilets:
  • The mission has helped construct over 6 lakh community and public toilets across India.
  • Waste collection:
  • Several cities and towns have seen improvements in door-to-door waste collection, waste segregation, and scientific waste processing through biomethanation plants, material recovery facilities etc.
  • This is helping tackle India’s immense waste management challenge.
  • Behavioural Change and Awareness:
  • The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan emphasized behavioural change through mass awareness campaigns, encouraging citizens to adopt cleaner practices.
  • Swachh Bharat Mission has helped bring sanitation and cleanliness into public discourse like never before.
  • Competition for cleanliness:
  • Activities like Swachhta leagues and rankings of clean cities have created a positive competition between towns and cities to improve cleanliness systems and practices.
  • Surveys show rising public satisfaction with sanitation and cleanliness.
  • Waste management:
  • The mission has mobilized over Rs 20,000 crores for investment in solid and liquid waste management systems. This is strengthening urban infrastructure across India.
  •  Limitations of Swachh Bharat Mission:
  • Low Toilet Usage: Despite achieving 100% sanitation coverage by 2019, only 85% of rural Indians utilize safe and hygienic toilets, indicating a usage gap.
  • Quality and Infrastructure Issues: Problems such as malfunctioning facilities, unhygienic conditions, and structural defects like full pits or collapsing superstructures impede toilet usage.
  • Water Scarcity Impact: Limited water access, particularly in rural areas like Gujarat’s Dahod district, contributes to increased non-usage of toilets.
  • Behavioural and Social Norms: Cultural norms and behaviours influence toilet usage, with some households repurposing toilets for activities other than defecation.
  • Caste-Based Variances: Toilet access and usage exhibit variations across castes, with surprising trends showing higher non-usage rates among upper castes.
  • Challenges in Larger Households: Overcrowding and inadequate facilities pose challenges to toilet usage in larger households.
  • Issues in solid waste management: While toilet construction has been successful, scientific collection, segregation and disposal of growing waste volumes remain an issue due to resource and capacity constraints of urban local bodies.
  • Partial focus on plastic waste: The mission has focused mostly on toilet construction and solid waste. Effectively tackling and recycling plastic waste is still a gap area.
  • Centralized approach and targets: The focus has been on meeting toilet construction targets in a centralized, top-down manner. Decentralized, community-driven efforts have been fewer.

 

PYQ: ‘To ensure effective implementation of policies addressing water, sanitation and hygiene needs, the identification of beneficiary segments is to be synchronized with the anticipated outcomes’ Examine the statement in the context of the WASH scheme. (150 words/10m) (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2017)
Practice Question:  Discuss the significance of India’s 4Ps – political leadership, public financing, partnerships, and people’s participation – in driving transformative initiatives such as the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). How do these principles contribute to effective governance and sustainable development? Illustrate your answer with relevant examples. (250 words/15 m)

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