1.Skill, don’t detain (The Hindu)

2.Private power, public apathy (The Hindu) 

3.Let’s talk about a supplemental income (The Hindu)

 

1.Skill, don’t detain (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the recent decision by government to scrap ‘ No detention policy’. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • India’s elementary education system may be getting better at providing access to greater numbers of children, but there have been several instances of large scale failures in classes XI and these were seen as due to the lack of qualitative and quantitative assessments in earlier classes.
  • Despite resentment among the experts, the Centre’s move to scrap no-detention policy has been welcomed by many in the teaching community. The move will allow schools to detain students till Class 8 if they fail in the year-end exam.
  • An enabling provision will be made in the Right of Children for Free and Compulsory Education amendment bill which will allow states to detain students in class V and class VIII if they fail in the year-end exam. However, the students will have to be given a second chance to improve via an examination before detaining them. The bill will now be placed in Parliament for approval. The proposed amendment seeks to improve the learning levels of children. 

No detention policy 

  • The ‘no detention policy’, was introduced as a part of the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009, is one clause, according to that  no child admitted in a school will be held back in any class or expelled till the completion of elementary education covering Class 1-8.
  • With record dropouts at primary education levels, the no-detention policy under the RTE Act was to ensure that no child admitted in a school shall be held back in any class or expelled from school until the completion of elementary education.
  • However there have been plenty of arguments on both sides of this policy. One of the strongest points in favour is that detaining children at an elementary education level damages their self-esteem and brings social stigma attached to failing in a class. In addition, the fear of examinations hurts a child’s developmental plans and does long term damage. By introducing a no-detention policy, it has also been correctly argued that it helps keep children stay away from social evils, including juvenile crimes.
  • However, supporters of revoking the policy have argued that automatically promoting all students to the next class leaves very little incentive for students to learn and teachers to teach well. When students know that they won’t be retained for academic performance or low attendance, it builds very little motivation. It ends up hurting the learning interest of the other students who want to study further. Teachers lose interest as well and the overall quality of education imparted suffers.
  • There is significant merit to a no-detention policy at the primary school level and especially till class 5. Learning focused on building key foundational blocks, this can help children develop an interest in learning and encourage them to study further without fear of failure or assessments. Combined with the Mid-Day Meal scheme, this allows children to get nutritious food and also learn, thus increasing the probability of having them attend school.
  • However, what required are a pragmatic view of the problem and an avoidance of a one-size-fits-all solution. There appears to be an overemphasis on gross enrolments and dropouts. Both these are due to a variety of reasons, including socio-economic.
  • There is evidence available that there are significant gains of keeping children in school even artificially by promoting them through multiple classes, but lack of long-term learning outcomes and mass failures in higher classes are signs that all is certainly not well.

Way ahead

  • The decision to scrap the no-detention policy at the elementary level, and introduce detention of students who fail a designated test in Class 5 or 6, is fraught with the danger of going back to a regime of early dropouts.
  • Such a move will feed the pool of cheap child labour that has been the notorious record of the school education system, and facilitate the newly liberalised norms of allowing child labour under the guise of family enterprises.

Question– Do you think that No detention policy has served its purpose? What are the arguments against scrapping no detention policy?

 

2.Private power, public apathy (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue to modify landmark labour laws to bring domestic work under the purview of state regulation. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data of the post-liberalisation period has mapped a continuous increase in figure of domestic workers in India; the majority of whom are women. Most domestic workers are from the marginalized sections of society and a large number of them are migrant workers.
  • In the past, domestic work was closely enmeshed with feudal structures of labour extraction, such as begar. Typically, such work was unpaid, or was paid for at a nominal rate in kind. It was dominant, elite groups who extracted such work from predominantly ‘lower’ caste groups or labouring groups for domestic or household purposes. Female domestic workers usually come from India’s least-developed regions, such as Jharkhand, West Bengal, and Assam.

Recent scenario

  • In India recent incidents again brought to light to the widespread exploitation of domestic workers, and the huge antagonism between their interests and those of their employers.  It exposes the crisis nurtured by the Indian state’s unwillingness to ratify the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, and thereby, to modify landmark labour laws so as to bring domestic work under the purview of state regulation.
  • Typically, the employer-dominated, domestic work industry is characterised by low, stagnant wage rates. Wages are particularly low for Adivasis workers. Many women slaving away at such low wage rates are subsequently compelled to seek employment in more than one house, and to make their teenage daughters pick up similar work.
  • Importantly, the unwillingness of the state to regulate this work relation means that it is complicit in keeping intact the private power of regulation enjoyed by the employer. In turn, the private nature of regulation has allowed the employer to exercise quasi-magisterial powers over the domestic worker in India.
  • Such authoritarian power of the employer in the work relation bears close resemblance to penal work regimes of the early colonial period in which employers predefined the terms of contract and penalised attempts by the worker to leave or renegotiate the contract.  Typically, workers’ attempts to renegotiate their terms of work or to leave such employment are outbid by verbal, and often, physical assaults by employers.
  • Irregular payment of wages by employers, extraction of more work than agreed upon at the start of employment, and the practice of arbitrarily reducing wages are rampant problems that breed overexploitation of domestic workers.
  • As per the 2014 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report, Indian women do about 15 times more housework than Indian men.

Way ahead

  • Such vulnerability and over-exploitation cannot be ignored any further, especially with the continuous growth in the number of impoverished women and children entering the domestic services industry in the post-liberalisation era.
  • The lack of redressal machinery for workers in this rapidly developing industry is compelling desperate workers to resort to violent forms of agitation. There is need to modify landmark labour laws to bring domestic work under the purview of state regulation.

Question– What are the problems associated with the categorisation of Domestic work? How it can be regulated?

 

3.Let’s talk about a supplemental income (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue of feasibility of the concept of a universal basic income. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Even after three decades of sustained economic growth and a proliferation of welfare schemes, roughly one in three Indians still live below the poverty line, according to the report on poverty estimates submitted by the Rangarajan committee.
  • The persistence of poverty and significant leakages in welfare schemes that aim to alleviate it has prompted many academics and policymakers to explore more efficient alternatives to India’s vulnerable welfare architecture. The Economic Survey 2016-17 proposed the idea of Universal Basic Income.
  • There is mixed evidence on its impact, the long-term effects of cash transfers are under-researched, and it would be challenging to implement, and the adoption of a universal basic income can impose a burden on the fiscal policy which is well beyond the capabilities of most developing countries, including India.

What is Universal Basic Income (UBI)

  • Universal Basic Income is a form of social security paid to individuals, not households, and it is paid to everyone. That’s how it becomes universal.
  • The primary objective is to enable every citizen to have a certain minimum income. The term ‘universal’ is meant to connote that the minimum or basic income will be provided to everyone irrespective of whatever their current income is. 

India and UBI

  • In discussing the applicability of the concept of basic income to India, three questions arise-

 

  • The first is what the level of minimum income is and how this is to be determined;
  • The second is whether it should be ‘universal’ or ‘restricted’ and
  • The third is about the financing mechanism for implementing such a scheme.
  • The introduction of UBI citing several reasons such as promoting social justice, reducing poverty and an unconditional cash transfer that lets the beneficiary decide how he/she uses the money and generating employment by promoting labour flexibility since it allows “individuals to have partial or calibrated engagements with the labour market without fear of losing benefits.”
  • According to the 2016-2017 economic survey, UBI amount would be greater than all current welfare programs of the government including the Public Distribution System, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, the Integrated Child Development Scheme, the Mid Day Meal scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, and the Swachh Bharat Mission.
  • UBI is universal and not targeted. In the Indian context, this makes sense because of the less-than-satisfactory experience with targeting welfare services. Apart from the standard arguments against targeting that it often excludes a lot of the deserving households from receiving subsidies, people often fall in and out of poverty and therefore it becomes difficult to ascertain who are rightfully entitled to receive such benefits.
  • The proposed universal basic income scheme is cash transfer in lieu of in-kind transfer. There are standard arguments in favour of cash transfers over in-kind transfers (food stamps or grains provided through the Public Distribution System) as they are supposed to be much less market-distorting than in-kind transfers.
  • UBI will be unconditional. Cash transfers are not tied to exhibiting certain behaviour, and the people are free to spend the cash as they want. An example of conditional in-kind transfer in India would be the mid-day meal scheme, where the meal, an in-kind transfer is conditional upon attending school.

Cash versus services

  • The main question arises is whether support to vulnerable sections should be in the form of goods and services or as cash? Cash gives the discretion to beneficiaries to spend it any way they like. But it is assumed they would be wise in their discretion.
  • On the other hand, the provision of services or goods directly to beneficiaries may be directed to achieve certain objectives in terms of nutrition or health or education. In the provision of services, the concern is about leakages and quality of service.
  • Some countries have adopted a middle path of conditional transfers, which means that transfers in the form of cash are subject to the condition that they are spent on meeting defined needs. However as far as India is concerned, there are a whole lot of services provided by the state, and it would be impossible to knock them off and substitute them with general income support. 

‘Universal’ or restricted 

  • It is necessary to decide whether income supplements should be ‘universal’ or limited to certain easily identifiable groups. Most calculations involving the provision of income to one and all are beyond the capabilities of the present Central government Budget unless the basic income is fixed at too low a level. It is extremely difficult to cut so-called implied subsidies or hidden subsidies in order to fund resources.
  • It is true that a universal scheme is easy to implement. Feasibility is the critical question. There is also the consideration of fairness. But strict targeting will run into complex problems of identification.

Minimum increase

  • The issue whether the scheme should be universal or restricted depends on the level of basic income that is proposed to be provided. If we were to treat the cut-off used to define poverty as the minimum income, then the total fiscal burden would be enormous. This apart, there is no consensus regarding what that cut-off should be. It is difficult to cover the entire population.
  • Even providing one person per household with this income will mean Rs.5lakhcrore per annum, which is 3.3% of GDP. Perhaps what is feasible is a scheme which limits the total expenditure to around 1.5 to 2% of GDP, thus we need to evolve a criterion which can restrict the total cost to this amount.

Way ahead 

  •  According to a research analyst “India’s size and diversity warns against adopting a one-size-fits-all cash policy that risks leaving India’s poor with cash in hand but nowhere to spend it.” The debate over universal basic incomes is likely to evolve further as the developing world wonders how it can pull people out of poverty while facing a resource crunch.
  • The concept of a basic income must be turned essentially into a supplemental income. Restricting the fiscal burden to 1.5 to 2% of GDP seems desirable and feasible. 

Question– Examine the feasibility regarding UBI in India. What appropriate changes are required in the present framework of UBI?