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Indian Express Editorial Analysis


1. Don’t blame it on wokeness

Topic: GS2 – Social Justice – Health

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains as this article provides insights into the prevalence of mental health issues in India and globally, shedding light on a significant social issue.


  • The 2015-16 National Mental Health Survey of India uncovered a concerning statistic: one out of every 20 Indians was found to be struggling with depression, indicating a prevalence rate of over five percent.
  • However, given the societal stigma surrounding mental illness, disparities in access to mental health treatments, and the sheer number of undiagnosed cases, it is plausible to assume that the actual figures were higher than recorded.
  • Considering the lack of significant improvements in mental health infrastructure and awareness, it’s likely that the situation has worsened by 2024.

Global Rise in Mental Health Issues:

  • Depression and related mental health disorders are not unique to India; they are part of a global trend.
  • While various factors contribute to this epidemic, a new study suggests that social awareness might play a significant role, particularly among the so-called “woke” individuals.

Impact of Social Awareness on Mental Health:

  • The article delves into how awareness of social issues influences mental well-being.
  • It argues that exposure to various life events, diverse perspectives, and awareness of privilege shape individuals’ worldviews and emotional responses.
  • The article highlights the importance of education in fostering empathy and critical thinking, challenging the notion that social awareness directly causes depression.

Interplay of Political Awareness and Mental Health:

  • While some studies suggest that political awareness contributes to depression, the author argues that it’s not awareness per se but rather the realization of societal injustices and power imbalances that can lead to despair.
  • The complexity of socioeconomic disparities, intertwined with issues of race, gender, and sexuality, exacerbates mental health challenges, especially in countries like India.


  • The article concludes by emphasizing the importance of acknowledging the human dimension in discussions about mental health.
  • It argues that while political awareness can contribute to distress, it’s ultimately the inability to effect change in the face of social injustices that leads to feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • Thus, the need for a more nuanced understanding of mental health issues and their intersection with broader societal issues remains paramount.
What are the Government initiatives on mental health?


  • National Mental Health Policy (2014): It calls for a more accessible and holistic treatment of mental illnesses and advocates for the decriminalisation of attempted suicide.
  • Mental-Healthcare Act, 2017: It discourages the long-term institutionalization of patients and reaffirms the right of people to live independently and within communities.
  • National Mental Health Programme (NMHP): It was re-strategize as the District Mental-Health Programme (DMHP) to decentralize mental care.
  • Ayushman Bharat:The government has released operational guidelines on mental, neurological and substance use disorders at health and wellness centers (HWC).
  • National Tele-Mental Health Programme (NTMHP): It aims to use digital technology to address growing mental-health challenges and improve access to quality mental-health counseling and care services in the country.


Practice Question:  Discuss the prevalence of depression in India as revealed by the 2015-16 National Mental Health Survey, highlighting the potential factors contributing to this epidemic. (150 words/10 m)

2. The devil is in the footnote

Topic: GS3 – Indian Economy – Inclusive growth

This topic is relevant for both Prelims and Mains in the context of knowing facts about the discussion surrounding income distribution, methodology in economic research, and the implications for policy.


  • Estimating the distribution of income poses significant challenges, especially in countries lacking official income surveys.
  • The footnote from the recent paper by the World Inequality Lab (WIL) acknowledges the limitations of their methodology, highlighting the absence of simultaneous observations of both income and wealth for the same individuals.
  • This inherent limitation underscores the tentative nature of their results and emphasizes the need for robust data collection methods.

Importance of Reliable Data:

  • The absence of comprehensive income distribution surveys in India has been a long-standing issue, despite recommendations from experts.
  • The lack of such surveys hampers accurate assessments of income distribution, particularly concerning marginalized populations such as the billionaire elite, who often remain unaccounted for in traditional surveys.

Role of Piketty and the World Inequality Lab:

  • Piketty and his colleagues at the World Inequality Lab have made significant contributions to the study of income inequality, popularizing indices such as the share of income held by the top X percent of the population.
  • However, their methodology has faced scrutiny, particularly regarding the merging of tax and non-survey data with survey data to estimate income distribution.

Concerns about Methodological Assumptions:

  • Critics have raised concerns about the validity of assumptions made by Piketty and the WIL in estimating income distribution.
  • The upward revisions of income share estimates, as documented in the case of India, raise questions about the reliability of their findings.
  • Such substantial revisions over relatively short periods call into question the robustness of the underlying methodology.

Criticisms and Alternative Perspectives:

  • Various scholars have criticized Piketty’s methodology, citing errors, opaque methodological choices, and cherry-picking of sources.
  • Additionally, alternative studies suggest differing trends in income inequality, challenging Piketty’s conclusions.

Implications for Policy:

  • Policy recommendations based on questionable statistical estimates risk misallocation of resources.
  • Calls for super taxes on billionaires and multimillionaires, while appealing to populist sentiments, should be grounded in accurate data and careful analysis to avoid unintended consequences.

Need for Critical Analysis:

  • The uncritical acceptance of conclusions based on flawed data highlights the importance of rigorous analysis and scrutiny in academic and policy circles.
  • It is essential to question assumptions, examine methodologies, and prioritize accuracy in data-driven research to ensure informed policy decisions and meaningful social discourse.


About World Inequality Lab
  • The World Inequality Lab (WIL) is a research center at the Paris School of Economics.
  • The WIL aims to promote research on global inequality dynamics.
  • It works in close coordination with a large international network of researchers (over one hundred researchers covering nearly seventy countries) contributing to the database.
  • Key Takeaways from the Working Paper Published by the WIL
  • The working paper by four economics researchers – Nitin Kumar Bharti, Lucas Chancel, Thomas Piketty, and Anmol Somanchi – has created time series data on income and wealth inequality in India.
  • Naming the paper, the “Billionaire Raj”, the authors claimed that the country was now more unequal than even the British Raj.
  • As per the report, in the year 2022-23, top 1% income and wealth shares were at their highest ever historical levels in India: 22.6% and 40.1%.
  • India’s top 1% income share is among the very highest in the world, higher than even South Africa, Brazil, and the US, the paper said.
  • The wealth share of the top 1% was lesser in India than in two of these countries: South Africa and Brazil.
  • The paper also highlights the levels of disparity among different income groups.
  • According to the paper, the top 1% holds an average of Rs 5.4 crore in wealth, 40 times the average Indian.
  • However, the bottom 50% and the middle 40% hold Rs 1.7 lakh (0.1 times national average) and Rs 9.6 lakh (0.7 times national average) respectively.
  • At the very top of the distribution, the wealthiest 10,000 individuals out of 92 million Indian adults own an average of Rs 2,260 crore in wealth, 16,763 times the average Indian.
Practice Question:  What are the methodological challenges highlighted in the recent paper by the World Inequality Lab regarding the estimation of income distribution in India? Discuss the potential implications of these challenges for the reliability of the findings and their impact on policy decisions. (250 words/15 m)

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