EPFO shows formal sector employment down 5.3%; Groundwater management is failing
Average Indian spends 7.3 hours a day on smartphone; Jaishankar upgrades China to “intense challenge” from “not normal”; SBI, HDFC & ICICI are “too big to fail” banks
A newsletter from The Wire & Galileo Ideas | Contributors: MK Venu, Seema Chishti, Siddharth Varadarajan, Sidharth Bhatia, Sushant Singh and Tanweer Alam | Editor: Pratik Kanjilal
Snapshot of the day
January 3, 2023
An average Indian spends around 7.3 hours per day on his smartphone, one of the highest in the world. The time spent is across online messaging, social media, YouTube streaming, OTT content and short form video. Most online users come from Tier-II cities and beyond. There is a new trend in content consumption where the time spent on user generated content is two times of platform generated content, according to a report by market intelligence firm Redseer Strategy Consultants. India has the second largest Internet user base in the world and is home to 780 million internet users, according to the report. As digital will continue to play a signiﬁcant role, India’s Internet gross merchandise value will grow to about $1 trillion by 2030, the report said.
In December 2022, the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) released its annual report for 2021-22. According to this, 46.34 million members contributed to the EPFO during 2021-22. The 46.34 million contributing members in 2021-22 were much lower than the 48.92 million contributing members seen in the pre-pandemic year of 2019-20. Evidently, formal sector employment measured through EPFO contributions had not recovered to its pre-pandemic levels till at least 2021-22. It had declined by 5.3%, writes Mahesh Vyas of CMIE. “The EPFO annual reports also reveal that the contributing establishments have declined from 660,204 in 2019-20 to 591,184 in 2021-22. The number of contributing establishments has shrunk by a massive 10.5% during these two years. The scars of the pandemic on employment have endured all claims of a V-shaped recovery as is evidenced even in the most touted official data.”
A combination of the Centre, States and CPSEs suggests that the public sector capex stood at 6% of GDP in FY22 (with provisional data of the Centre and States and FY22 revised estimates for CPSEs). This was slightly lower than 6.1% of GDP each in FY18 and FY19 but higher than 5.8% of GDP in FY21. The foundation of the trending ‘imminent capex revival’ narrative is strongly driven by a so-called spike in the Centre’s capex but is misleading after the government shifted a portion of its off book transactions with CPSEs into the fiscal accounts over the past 2-3 years.
On the last day of 2022, external affairs minister, S Jaishankar was in Cyprus where he continued with his pro forma line that India’s ties with China were “not normal” – though bilateral trade hitting record highs and joint military exercises in Russia would suggest otherwise. A day later, he was in Austria where he spoke of India facing “intense challenge” from China. New year, new formulation! In a television interview today, he alleged that China has not "observed agreements" that is why "we have a tense situation", as Beijing has tried to "unilaterally tried to change LAC". It is another matter that the government keeps on highlighting the differing perceptions of the LAC in its statements to justify Chinese ingress and the LAC has never been delineated by the two sides.
In a joint presser with Jaishankar, his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg said that an 'exploding' number of Indians 'illegally' moved to Austria via Serbia, and around 18,000 Indians sought asylum in Austria in 2022.
Retired diplomat Ranjit Rae writes that “stepping up cooperation all along the southern belt of the Himalayas would bring enormous benefits to the countries and peoples of the region, and also smoothen some of the political and geographical problems encountered from time to time. That this cooperation is critical is also underlined by the fact that China has taken an initiative to step up ties with other Himalayan States such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal, in a forum loosely termed as the Himalayan Quad.”
Rahul Gandhi has said China is trying to do to India what Russia has been demanding of Ukraine. In an interview with actor-turned-politician Kamal Hasaan, Gandhi said, “By doing what it has done to Ukraine, Russia has conveyed it would not accept that Ukrainians have a strong relationship with the West. Russia has basically told Ukraine that if it has a strong relationship with the West, its geography would be altered. That is the exact same principle that can be applied in India.” He added that “The Chinese are telling us to be careful...that they can alter our geography. Through their actions, they are telling us that they would enter Ladakh, enter Arunachal...I can see is them building a platform for that type of an approach”.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav yesterday wrote to Rahul Gandhi — who is leading the Bharat Jodo Yatra — to wish him success, as the pan-India programme entered Uttar Pradesh today. In the letter, Yadav — who last week said that he had not received an invite for the Yatra, in spite of the Congress saying otherwise — thanked Gandhi for the invitation. “Thank you for your invitation to ‘Bharat Jodo’ and congratulations on the success of the ‘Bharat Jodo’ mission,” said Yadav in the letter. Yadav, however, did not mention if he will join the Yatra or not. Former R&AW chief AS Dulat did join the Yatra today.
Between thinning shopper wallets and rising raw material costs, the year 2022 has been difficult for the fast-moving consumer goods sector. Successive price hikes initiated by companies to offset inflationary pressure on margins has come at a cost: demand slump. It has failed to recover with the country's rural population cutting back on spending. While oil prices have cooled off, the industry is still impacted by high prices of wheat and sugar. The makers of staples to soaps are amping up efforts to turn the year into a shopping bonanza with increase in offers and promotions across general trade, modern outlets and e-commerce platforms as input prices soften.
When it comes to consumer products like washing machines and refrigerators, there was subdued demand for the mass segment during the festival season of 2022. It was only the high demand for premium products that helped the consumer durables segment witness strong value growth, especially during the festival season in 2022, according to data sourced from market research ﬁrm GfK.
Food rights activist Jean Dreze writes that the sugar-coated termination of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana calls for an urgent expansion of alternative social security measures, as the drumbeat of free food rations hides a rollback of social security in India.
An adult abortion seeker doesn’t need a husband or partner’s permission to get an abortion, and can terminate a pregnancy up to 24 weeks. And yet, 67% of the abortions in India are unsafe. “Young women aged 15–19 were at the highest risk of dying from an abortion-related complication,” according to the United Nations Population Fund’s State of World Population Report 2022. Despite having such a progressive abortion law, why is there such a discord between the law and reality? The News Minute answers.
Newsclick looks at how 2022 witnessed some path-breaking judgments by the Supreme Court that have given women the right to make their own choices.
Three Indian-American Democrats have taken oath as Fort Bend County Judges in the United States. In a ceremony on Sunday, Juli A Mathew, KP George, and Surendran K Pattel were sworn in as Fort Bend County judges, along with other newly elected and re-elected officials. All three are Democrats.
A New Year's Eve party in Karnataka took a tragic turn when the host died of a heart attack after he accidentally shot dead a guest. BBC reports that Manjunath Olekar, 67, was preparing his gun to fire celebratory shots during the party at his home in Shivamogga on Saturday. But the gun misfired and a bullet hit Vinay U, 34, who was standing next to him. An investigation is underway.
Lata Mangeshkar is the only Indian who is in the Rolling Stone’s best singers list. The list includes the likes of Nat King Cole, Marvin Gaye, Amy Winehouse and Jung Kook, the singer of the Korean band BTS. But one name is missing – Celine Dion’s – her fans are up in arms. The magazine anticipated this and said that this was a list of singers, not voices.