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Indian Express

9-November-2023

1) A matter of integrity

Context:

  • India celebrated its liberation from foreign rule on August 15, 1947, and set out on a path toward freedom and existence. The Indian Constitution then went into effect on January 26, 1950, which launched a democratic path based on values like equality, individual rights, the rule of law, and public involvement.
  • India is currently the largest democracy in the world, distinguished by a dynamic political environment, a multicultural population, and continuous efforts to tackle a range of socio-economic issues.

Role of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG):

  • In this democratic system, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) is essential. It preserves the division of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government and assures financial integrity, accountability, and openness in its operations.
  • CAG encourages sound governance practices, simplifies government operations, lowers inefficiencies, and upholds financial discipline through audit findings and suggestions.
  • The CAG’s function is becoming more and more important in advancing good governance and defending the rights of the people as India’s democracy develops.

Democracy and Citizen Engagement:

  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations now takes into account Abraham Lincoln’s definition of democracy as “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
  • The 17 objectives on this agenda are meant to enhance both the health of the earth and the well-being of humankind.
  • Every audit task includes assessing how well the sustainable development goals have been met.
  • In the 2017 UN Audit, the CAG of India focused on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a cross-cutting issue.

Citizen-Centric Approach:

  • The CAG highlights the need of centering government program implementation around Indian citizens in order to realize their objectives in the areas of economic, social, and environmental goals.
  • To achieve these objectives, it is necessary to evaluate readiness, plan, monitor, and suggest remedial measures.
  • In order to improve focus and effectiveness, citizen engagement is essential in identifying high-risk areas, possible mismanagement, and governance inefficiencies.

Leveraging Technology and Digital Solutions:

  • Technology and digital solutions, especially smartphone applications that gather suggestions from the public, can improve citizen involvement.
  • Understanding and appreciating audit findings is improved by digital reports that include interactive data visualization features.
  • It is anticipated that the rollout of 5G connectivity would revolutionize government and greatly facilitate citizen and stakeholder involvement.

Framework for Citizen Engagement:

  • An Audit Advisory Board, stakeholder meetings, seminars, beneficiary surveys, social audits, and the public release of audit findings are all part of the CAG’s framework for involving citizens at different phases of the audit process.
  • In particular, social audit is an effective technique for guaranteeing accountability and enabling citizen supervision.

Empowering Local Governance:

  • Local self-governance is part of India’s democratic system, which was established after the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments. With the authority to organize, decide, carry out, and perform devolved functions, local governments may guarantee openness and involvement from the bottom up.

Way Forward:

  • The sustainability of democracy depends on a balanced combination of public participation and accountability. Every citizen of India has an obligation to uphold and defend democratic values as the country moves closer to transparent administration.
  • A sophisticated democracy that works for the people, by the people, and for the people is fostered by the interaction between accountability, organizations like as the CAG, and informed and active public participation.

2) Questions over employment

Context:

  • India’s labor force participation rate has been steadily rising in recent years, largely due to the admission of women into the workforce, particularly in rural areas.
  • Overall, the percentage of persons who are either working or wanting to work has increased from 36.9% in 2017–18 to 42.4% in 2022–2023 (the participation rate).

Significant Increase in Female Participation in Rural Areas:

  • The female participation rate in rural India increased dramatically over the course of five years, rising from 18.2% in 2017–18 to 30.5% in 2022–2023—a stunning gain of more than 12 percentage points.
  • This means that throughout this time, about 56 million women will enter the rural labor sector.

Diverse State-Wise Impact:

  • Not only are high-income states like Gujarat and Karnataka showing an increase in female participation rates, but low-income states like Odisha and Rajasthan are also showing this trend.
  • This pattern is present in all educational levels. Even among the ignorant, the worker population ratio climbed dramatically, indicating a general tendency.

Challenges in the Labor Force Entry:

  • There are underlying problems, notwithstanding the seeming welcome growth in female engagement.
  • Historically, when women have taken time off to boost household incomes during hard financial times, female participation rates have increased. Similar patterns were noted in earlier times of rural unrest.

High Incidence of Self-Employment:

  • A sizeable fraction of recently graduated women work for themselves, either as “helpers in household enterprises” or as “own account enterprises.” This change draws attention to the lack of opportunities for salaried work, which raises questions regarding financial stability.

Income Stagnation:

  • Earnings for women in rural regions who work for themselves have increased, but the growth is not keeping up with inflation, suggesting that actual incomes have stagnated or perhaps decreased.

Limited Options and Low Wages in NREGA:

  • The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) data indicates a rise in women’s participation.
  • But earnings under NREGA are less than those available in the private labor market, suggesting that there aren’t many opportunities for higher-paying jobs.

Trends in Female Participation:

  • According to the data, the female labor force participation rate increased most sharply in 2019–20, 2022–2023 and 2020–21.
  • The non-agricultural sector saw a recession during this time, while the agricultural sector saw stable expansion.

Financial Distress and Factors Affecting Participation:

  • Part of the reason for the decline in non-farm income, especially in 2019–20, was the economy’s funding difficulty, which was made worse by problems like the NBFC crisis.
  • During the pandemic, reverse migration also played a role in financial hardship.
  • Wage growth stayed muted.

Changing Economic Indicators:

  • There are signs that the economic situation might become better. Funds are now moving through the NBFC channel more frequently, particularly in rural areas.
  • The success of smaller businesses also affects employment and income possibilities.

Conclusion:

  • The question at hand is whether these emerging trends such as easier access to financing, the expansion of smaller businesses, and salary increases will continue and how they will affect the future rate of female labor force participation.

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