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NCW Knew of Manipur Parading, Rape Case But Didn't Respond; Three Jobs Claims of Sarkari Economists Which Fail Smell Test
Details of Vyapam II emerge, no non-basmati rice exports, 44% MLAs face criminal cases, foreign students reject Indian cities, bail is the rule for exceptional harassers, DiCaprio talks up Kerala fish
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Snapshot of the day
July 21, 2023
Newslaundry reports that almost 40 days ago, two Manipuri women and a Manipur tribal association overseas had sent the National Commission of Women a complaint about the May 4 incident in which three Kuki women were assaulted by a mob. The complainants had spoken to the survivors and emailed NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma. They received no response or acknowledgement. The FIR also languished and arrests happened only after the video of the outrage went viral.
Manipur legislators, including those from the BJP, have detailed at least four more incidents since the violence broke out in which Kuki women were raped or killed. While Parliament is in uproar, the Supreme Court has taken suo motu cognizance of the gross rights violation. Addressing both the Union and the state, it said: “If the government does not act, we will.” But local action is quicker: the house of Huirem Herodas Meitei, the main accused in the May 4 incident, has been burned down by the women of his village.
India Today NE reports that another video has emerged, showing Mairembam Romesh Mangang, a security guard of Kumbi BJP MLA Shanti Kumar alias Sanisam Premchandra Singh, carrying a sundered head in one hand a machete in the other. The claim is that he allegedly murdered the young man, an amateur footballer named David Thiek.
Forward player CK Vineeth says that footballers from Manipur who are on the national team have lost their homes in the violence and their families have sought refuge with friends. The national media is not talking about it.
As of July 15, 2023, Internetshutdowns.in, a tracker operated by the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC), has recorded 25 shutdowns in Manipur, of which 18 occurred this year. The first was on March 5, 2023, two days after the All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) conducted a protest march against the inclusion of Meitei in the Scheduled Tribe list.
On Thursday, the government banned exports of non-basmati white rice to maintain domestic supply and keep retail prices in check in the festive season. There will be no change in the export policy for parboiled non-basmati and basmati rice, which forms the bulk of exports. Non-basmati white rice constitutes about 25% of rice exported from the country.
The UP government will implement the Mukhyamantri Khet Suraksha Yojana to protect crops from stray cattle. The problem dates back to the first term of the Yogi government, when the state closed abattoirs to protect cows and deny a livelihood to mainly Muslim workers and entrepreneurs in the meat and hide industries, which were once worth Rs 15,000 crore. Abandoned cattle past their useful life began to damage crops and attack people. It has been a local issue in every election since then, and Yogi Adityanath wants to end it before the challenge of 2024.
German Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck, who is visiting India, urged it to respect Western sanctions and the G7 cap on Russian oil for the sake of Europe, and invited a sharp retort from Denis Alipov, Russia’s Ambassador to India. He said that he should restrict himself to bilateral relations and anyway, Germany had no independent stand on Ukraine because it follows the US line.
The social capital of nature enthusiast Leonardo DiCaprio has rubbed off on a new species of fish identified in Kerala, the Pathala Eel Loach (Pangio pathala), a subterranean species discovered in a well. “The wild is all around us and sometimes all it takes to discover a new species is going about a normal day. This was the case for Abraham, a local stage director living in Kerala who discovered a new species of fish while taking a shower,” the Oscar-winning actor posted.
And the Opposition seems to have bowled a semantic googly to the BJP:
In MP, more details of Vyapam II emerge
More details are forthcoming about Vyapam II ― allegations of widespread rigging in exams for the post of patwari conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Employees Selection Board. The first reports were published a week ago, when protests by unemployed, educated youth forced Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to freeze the process.
At the time, a suspiciously large number of toppers ― seven out of 10 ― were revealed to be alumni of a college owned by Bhind’s BJP MLA, Sanjeev Kumar Kushwaha. Now, it turns out that at least 30 candidates falsely declared themselves as differently-abled to get the benefit of a quota and at least 217 applicants violated age norms.
Bail is the rule for exceptional harassers
While the Gujarat High Court had denied regular bail to Teesta Setalvad, the Delhi High Court had granted regular bail to outgoing Wrestling Federation of India head and BJP MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, who is accused of using his office to harass women wrestlers. The Delhi Police had put the ball in the court of the law, by neither opposing nor supporting bail. Former WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar and Singh had already been on interim bail for two days.
In nearby Haryana, Dera Sacha Sauda chief and rape convict Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh has walked out of the Sunaria Jail in Rohtak district on a 30-day parole. He is serving a 20-year sentence for raping two followers and murdering a journalist. He had secured 40-day parole in January and in October last year. The Akal Takht and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) have strongly opposed his parole.
SC does justice to cheetahs
The Supreme Court has asked the Union government why recent cheetah deaths are becoming a “prestige issue”. Justices BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Prashant Kumar Mishra took cognizance of the recent cheetah deaths that the project – which aims to introduce African cheetahs in India’s grasslands – has witnessed. “Two more deaths last week. Why is this becoming a prestige issue? Please take some positive steps,” Justice BR Gavai said.
Justice Gavai also asked why the animals were all in Kuno National Park, instead of being spread across reserves. In May, the Supreme Court had earlier asked the government to look at “alternate sites” in Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan. Justices Gavai and Sanjay Karol had remarked then that Kuno is “not sufficient to accommodate” the cheetahs and that there was “too much concentration of cheetahs at one place”. The court had also said that “party politics” should not matter ― the Congress is in power in Rajasthan.
Jalgaon masjid closed to worshippers on colonial-era claims
The Jumma Masjid in Jalgaon’s Erandol is a property registered under the Waqf Board. Even though the Archaeological Survey of India supported the mosque trust’s claims, the collector passed an unprecedented interim restraining order preventing namaz. The high court has stayed this order, which was based on claims by a local Hindu group that an idol of the Jain deity Lord Parasnath had been discovered in the Masjid in colonial times.
Indian cities forbidding for foreign students
In the latest Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Best Student Cities 2024 survey, which highlights the most student-friendly destinations for international students, no Indian city figured in the top 100, reports The New Indian Express. Mumbai fared the best 118. Delhi followed at 132, Bengaluru at 147 and Chennai at 154.
London continued to top the World University Rankings, with Tokyo, Seoul, Melbourne, Munich, Paris, Sydney, Berlin, Zurich and Boston also making it to the list of top student-friendly cities. No one wants the Vishwaguru for a teacher, it appears.
The Long Cable
Three claims of government economists about jobs put to the test
In this piece, I discuss three claims of government economists, basing my analysis on the government’s own National Survey Organization’s (NSO) data, the Labour Force Surveys.
First claim: there has been ‘jobful growth’!
It was claimed that there was a 58 million increase in jobs between calendar years 2019 and 2022, the highest in Indian history over three years. The same authors also claim, bizarrely, that employment growth from 2004-5 to 2011-12 (India’s highest ever GDP growth period) during the UPA years was very weak – just 13.3 million.
Such claims ignore that most of the 58 million ‘jobs’ claim rests upon the increase in ‘employment’ in agriculture during Covid. In 2019, there were 188 mn workers in agriculture; in mid-2020, reverse migration raised it by 45 million. For anyone believing that in 2021, the migration had reversed back to the cities and away from agriculture, the NSO data throws up a surprise: in 2021, 7 mn additional people were working in agriculture compared to 2020. Between 2004-5 and 2011-12, 37 million workers exited agriculture, a good development, as non-farm job growth rose sharply to 7.5 mn per annum.
However, as non-farm job growth had fallen post-2013 (to only 2.9 mn pa till 2019), the rate of exit from agriculture also fell. GDP growth fell sharply from 2016 for each quarter until Covid broke. India’s open unemployment rate in 2017-18 had risen to a 45-year high. And then the ill-planned national lockdown caused massive reverse migration.
Agriculture is labour surplus, and rising employment in it lowers productivity and real incomes among those dependent on agriculture. Worse, it is the opposite of the structural change sought ― a fall in the share of agriculture in GDP and a rise in non-farm employment.
Worse still, most of this so-called increase in ‘jobs’ in agriculture since 2019 is in ‘unpaid family labour’, a form of self-employment where women, youth and children join other family members to appear ‘employed’. In ILO’s definition, followed by 92 other countries but not India, for no reason other than the NSO’s cussedness to not adopt definitions that ILO members, under India’s chairmanship in 2013 of the 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, had agreed upon. The Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, generating monthly data on employment since 2016, follows the ILO definition, and hence has shown consistent increases in unemployment, and reductions in labour force and workforce participation rates in India since 2016, while NSO shows the opposite, despite falling growth.
The second claim: real wages have increased recently!
Figure 1: Real Wages (in Rs. at 2011 price) by sector and type of employment, 2018-2022
Panel A: Agriculture & Allied
Panel B: Manufacturing
Panel C: Non-manufacturing
Panel D: Services
(Source: Authors’ estimation and plot using PLFS unit level data.)
The second claim also does not stand up to scrutiny when we examine, based on Periodic Labour Force Survey (NSO), the entire workforces’ wage or earnings data. The wage data for casual or regular workers or earnings data for self-employed – whether in agriculture, manufacturing, non-manufacturing (including construction, mining, utilities) industries and services demonstrates that wages and earnings have stagnated for the last five years (Fig 1). This finding needs to be read with the fact that the NSO’s Employment-Unemployment Round between 2004-5 and 2011-12 had shown a sustained rise in real wages. However, they stagnated in 2013-2017.
It is fairly easy to understand why real wages have either stagnated or fallen over the last five years. The period 2017-18 was the year following demonetization in late 2016, which had caused widespread damage to large parts of the economy, especially agricultural incomes as well as the entire unorganised sector.
Just as the economy emerged from demonetization, a poorly designed Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced in July 2017, which subsumed 17 other central and state taxes. It caused widespread disruption, again to the unorganised sector, and especially to MSMEs, which were even less prepared to make the transition. The economy went into a gradual slowdown, with GDP falling in every quarter continuously till the pandemic.
Joblessness had reached a 45-year high in 2017-18 and with the continuous slowdown, joblessness continued to increase. Ten million were unemployed in 2011-12; it rose to 30 million by 2018-19, before Covid broke.
The pandemic began with a lockdown announced at four hours’ notice for nearly 1.4 billion people, and brought the entire economy and transportation to a standstill. This pushed unemployment higher.
The third claim
Finally, the seniormost government economic adviser has claimed that because India’s population growth rate has fallen to 0.8% pa and the total fertility rate fell to 2 (below the replacement rate of 2.1) in 2021, India does not need to create 10 mn jobs a year. This claim assumes that those born today will start to work very shortly, which is obviously wrong. It takes them 15 years from birth to even complete eight years of education, and legally enter the labour market.
The claim also ignores three facts of critical significance to job creation. First, India needed to pull millions out of agriculture even before the catastrophic reverse migrations of 2020 and 2021, who were underemployed (>42% of workforce generating 15% of GDP). Because non-farm jobs were not growing fast enough to absorb the numbers looking for work, the number of workers in agriculture rose even in 2022 (PLFS) – which is what a government economist calls ‘jobful’ growth. The share of workers in agriculture fell from 60% in 2000 to 42% in 2019, and shot up to 45.6% in 2022.
The second group that need non-farm jobs are youth, who are getting better education since the beginning of this century and don’t want to work in agriculture, given continuing rural distress. Girls had achieved a gross enrolment rate of 80% in secondary education by 2015. They aspire to marry later than age 18, as a Nandi Foundation survey of teenagers had found (75% want to marry at 18-25 years). Yet, India has the lowest female labour force participation rate in the world, similar to that of Saudi Arabia.
Finally, the third group needing non-farm jobs are the openly unemployed. The current government inherited about 10 mn unemployed; that number grew to 30 mn, we estimate, by 2019. Thanks to poor economic management during Covid, and a K-shaped recovery, open unemployment grew to 38 million by 2022 (PLFS).
In sum, India needs at least 10-12 mn new jobs each year at least until 2030, after which the number of new entrants to the labour force could decline due to the slowing of population growth.
(Prof Santosh Mehrotra is editor of Reviving Jobs: An Agenda for Growth, Penguin, 2020, soon to be out also in Hindi)
The FIR into the parading of three Kuki women by a mob 900-1,000 strong and the rape of one of them draws a sharp focus on the dubious role of the Manipur police, who were either mute witnesses or facilitators of the crime. And the unprecedented looting of police armouries? The buck dallies with single-engine Biren, then stops decisively at double-engine Amit Shah. Did their police allow the distribution of arms in a border state? Why? A recent report estimates that only a minuscule part of the loot has been ‘recovered’: “Warring groups still in possession of over 6 lakh bullets, 3,000 weapons.”
Prime Number: 44%
Nearly 44% of sitting MLAs across the country have criminal cases against them, while 28% have a history of serious crimes including murder, attempt to murder and crimes against women, says an Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR) report. Some 1,136, or 28%, face “serious criminal cases” ― murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, crimes against women, etc. At least 47 MLAs face cases related to murder under Section 302 of the IPC.
The Network18 group started as the TV18 production house on May 21, 1991 – the day Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Pooja Bhula traces the ownership and journey of Network18.
Opeds you don’t want to miss
India is witnessing fresh partitions and associated armed ethnic mobilisation in Northeast India, with support from states within the Union, writes Avinash Paliwal.
“In the last few weeks, there has been a concerted attempt by journalists close to the BJP to rewrite Gita Press’s relationship with Mahatma Gandhi,” writes Akshaya Mukul. “But like the larger attempt to rewrite Indian history, it is based on half-truths, obfuscations and pure mischief.”
The Opposition’s INDIA alliance begins a symbolic recovery of the idea of India and wrong-foots the BJP and its courtiers in the media, says Yogendra Yadav. It would be misleading to look at the phenomenon through the old lens of Opposition unity, because it’s about sparking the imagination and rekindling hope.
Narendar Pani writes on the big idea of INDIA. It is building another nationalist movement, and leaving the BJP to bust its head on the math.
Siraj Husain says that even the really well off are being affected by soaring food inflation.
There’s change in the air and it’s driven Modi into a frenetic election mode, says Prem Shankar Jha, because he is “aware that should the BJP lose, the ghosts of those who were killed in the Gujarat riots, and the faked encounters and the unexplained deaths that followed, will rise to torment him, possibly till the end of his life.”
Open-access publishing, driven by companies and initiatives in the Global North, has become a zero-sum game for India’s scientists, writes Karishma Kaushik.
In a rejoinder to social media warriors who accuse journalists of negativity, Meera Srinivasan says that their job is to provide reality checks. For flowery good morning messages, there’s WhatsApp.
There are few spaces more intense than an ICU. In conversation with Amit Varma, Nitin Arora discusses the evolution of intensive care, Covid, and why he speaks more Punjabi in Birmingham than in Amritsar.
From the opium wars to the opioid crisis ― Amitav Ghosh tells Siddharth Varadarajan how the poppy made and unmade the West and the East.
Over and out
Bipradas Mukhopadhyay’s 1904 Bangla cookbook recalls a time when cosmopolitan cuisine, brought home by the British empire and stewarded by the Bengali housewife, was defining bhadralok culture. The bhadramahila’s oeuvre was expected to span homely maccher jhol, the eclectic style called Mughlai, a spread of European dishes and desserts ― and even cheesecake minus the cheese, writes Priyadarshini Chatterjee.
In Haryana, a complex struggle for legacy and political power is unfolding within the family of the late Jat patriarch Chaudhary Devi Lal. O At least 10 members of the family, across four generations, find themselves embroiled in this battle. The Hindu visits the family’s once-formidable stronghold, where their once unshakeable influence is now in decline.
The Guardian profiles Ustad Noor Bakhsh, maestro of the benju, a Baloch instrument that he wields to sublime effect.
That’s it for today. We’ll be back with you on Monday, on a device near you. If The India Cable was forwarded to you by a friend (perhaps a common friend!) book your own copy by SUBSCRIBING HERE.