Friday, December 14, 2018

Congress wrests power, BJP saves face

By Anaka Harish Ganesh

(Image Courtesy: Business Today)

Within 24 hours, three states in the Hindi heartland have changed their political colour from saffron to blue. Is this a vote against the BJP? Or is this a vote for the Congress? The BJP was clearly routed out in Chhattisgarh. But to interpret it either way in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan is too extreme. Voters didn’t award the Congress or put away the BJP as expected in Rajasthan and in Madhya Pradesh, the fight was so close that no one could predict who would form the government until the very end. 

In Rajasthan, the dissatisfaction with the Vasundhara Raje government was thick in the air and for the past 25 years, the state has never re-elected the incumbent. There was also a perception of Raje as arrogant and a visible strain in the relationship between her and Amit Shah. In addition to this, the ability to connect with farmers and the youth over farm distress, unemployment and the anger over SC/ST act dilution by the BJP favoured the Congress. A few months ago, one would’ve assumed that Rajasthan would be an easy win for the grand old party, had the part kept up its initial spirit in the state. It could have easily won 115 seats and also reduced the BJP to less than 40 seats instead of scraping through to the majority. The party managed to win only 101 seats with an ally.
The game changed in the eleventh hour when the infighting between Pilot and Gehlot was clearly palpable and Raje carefully played her cards while selecting candidates in a state where caste politics takes centre stage. What might have also helped increase the final tally of the BJP is the apparent affinity of voters towards Modi at the centre. Finally, the BJP managed to win 73 seats and garner a vote share that is just 0.5 per cent short of the Congress’. The people in Rajasthan want a change in the state leadership but they are far from ruling out the BJP as a possibility for 2019. So, while the Congress in Rajasthan can take a moment to celebrate, it shouldn’t make the mistake of taking it easy during the general elections, because the ultimate battle will take a different form altogether. Vasundhara Raje, on the other hand, should look back and learn from the innumerable mistakes she has made in the past five years and help the BJP construct a strong and sensible manifesto for the general elections.
In Madhya Pradesh, BJP managed to win 109 seats, just 5 seats short of the Congress and attain a vote share that is 0.1 per cent more than the Congress. Clearly, the voters are not happy with the BJP’s performance but the party continues to be the choice for more people. Under the BJP’s rule, the state festered with problems, like farmer distress, unemployment and corruption. Adding to this is the fact that the BJP had been in power for three terms. So, the work for the Congress had been done before it started its campaign for 2018. The party needed to stop the infighting which often leads to electoral defeat. This time around there was an initial difficulty in bringing together Digvijay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia, but Kamal Nath managed to pull the party together in the end. They also managed to tap into the dissent of the farmers by promising loan waivers and a cut in power bills by 50 per cent. The party adopted a new tactic to counter the Hindutva ideology of the BJP by projecting an image of ‘soft Hindutva’. Despite all this, the Congress couldn’t reach the majority mark.
Even though the Congress emerged as the single largest party, its failure to reach the majority mark and the BJP’s final tally should keep it on its toes for the upcoming election in 2019.
The BJP’s usual approach to elections by focusing on Hindutva, Ram Mandir and attacking the Congress has failed to have the effect it usually has. The saffron party needs to focus more on issues that affect people’s daily lives. Moreover, it has to understand that four years ago, it was on the offence but now it is on the defence. The party needs to adopt this stance and know that after a term in office, it has questions to answer for, and any hopes of getting itself re-elected will only come by proving itself worthy of the vote of the masses. The assembly election results are a warning from the people that the party at the centre today needs to walk the talk and change the aforementioned rhetoric. The Congress seems to have learnt something from its previous mistakes. It has sincerely attempted to create a connection with the masses this time. But the party needs to use this chance to prove itself and be aware that its performance will be closely monitored by the people. 

(Anaka is a Research Intern at CPPR working on the Indian General Elections. Views expressed by the author are her own and do not represent that of CPPR.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A tug of war for sugar farmers

By Anaka Harish Ganesh

Recently it was reported that Australia is taking legal action against India at the WTO for “far exceeding” the level of farmer assistance permitted under WTO rules in the sugar industry. They allege that this has caused a “significant downturn” in global prices and have hurt Australian producers. These subsidies and this issue are just the tip of the iceberg. Looking deeper, a domestic political battle for a significant constituency will reveal itself. Sugarcane farmers are an important constituency in UP, Maharashtra and Karnataka, but for now I will only analyse their effect on the upcoming elections in Maharashtra. 

Of the 542 sugar mills in India, 187 are in Maharashtra and of the total sugar production in the state, around 77% is confined to the regions of Marathwada and Paschim Maharashtra (the blue and green regions in the below image). The sugarcane farmers in these 2 regions are an important constituency as they an impact on 10-15 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, out of the total 48.

The first cooperative sugar factory of India was set up in Ahmednagar by veteran industrialist Padma Shri Vithal Vikhe Patil in 1951. Over the years the government set up more and more sugar cooperatives making it an integral part of the rural economy in these two regions.

Many Congress leaders took on significant roles in these cooperatives which gave them access to a big chunk of voters. But after Sharad Pawar broke away from the Congress to form the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), he took most of the cooperatives with him. Currently, two-thirds of the cooperatives are controlled by the NCP, a fifth by the Congress, and the remaining by BJP and Shiv Sena.

Each cooperative factory has a network of sugarcane farmers and till the mid-1990’s no other cooperative was allowed to buy sugarcane from farmers belonging to other cooperatives. One side of the story claims that the farmers were compelled to vote for the leaders who were controlling their cooperatives for the fear of their sugarcane not being bought, if these leaders were not elected. The wiser side of the story claims that the leaders’ contribution to the region’s development helped them win elections. Nevertheless, over time the cooperatives influence on its network of farmers is waning perhaps because of alternative opportunities available to them.

The rise of BJP and Shiv Sena in Paschim Maharashtra and Marathwada in 2014

The first possible dent in the unanimous control NCP and Congress had on the sugarcane farmers in Paschim Maharashtra was the emergence of Raju Shetti of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS). He is known to have a remarkable connection with the sugarcane farmers owing to his clear and fervent representation of their concerns. In 2009 he managed to win a Lok Sabha seat from Hatkanangale.

During the 2014 elections, understanding the need for a voice that connects with the sugarcane farmers, the BJP and Shiv Sena formed an alliance with SSS. Following which, the NDA managed to up its tally from 2 to 6, out of a possible 10 seats in the region. Of course, a lot of other factors like the Modi wave, and an overall perception of ‘corruption’ in the UPA government helped the alliance. Apart from the NDA’s victory in the region, it is also important to note that even though the Congress lost all its seats here, the NCP won 4, in a region that is known to be its stronghold.

In 2017 however, Raju Shetti severed ties with the NDA, and the SSS joined the UPA over dissatisfaction with the Narendra Modi government on its handling of farmer issues. Probably anticipating the exit of Shetti, in 2016 the BJP lead government in the state had already placed Sadabhau Khot of the Swabhimani Paksha (SWP), another party representing the sugarcane farmers, in a strategic position. They made him the Minister of State for Agriculture and Horticulture and Marketing.

The second region, Marathwada, is traditionally a Congress stronghold. In the general election of 2014 there was no real change in the seat share between the parties. The only change being that the NCP lost its solitary seat and the BJP gained an additional. But in the state assembly elections of 2014 there was a significant shift towards the BJP and Shiv Sena and a significant shift away from the Congress and NCP. The farmers in the region had suffered a lot due to drought while the UPA government was in power. So, an irrigation scam worth Rs 70,000 crore to 1 lakh crore severely affected the Congress and NCP.

BJP’s attempts to dismantle the connection between farmers and the NCP and Congress

After coming to power in 2014, the Fadnavis government has taken noteworthy changes in Cooperatives and APMC’S. Firstly, the Maharashtra Cooperatives Societies Act was amended to facilitate the appointment of independent experts to the boards of all cooperatives, including sugar cooperatives. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis also barred directors on boards of cooperative banks from contesting elections for two terms if their bank has seen financial irregularities and administrative mismanagement. Next was a set of changes to the APMC Act to subvert the monopoly that traders have over farmers in the state. Although these changes are officially aimed at reducing corruption and improving the lives of farmers, the political undertones aimed at weakening the Congress and NCP’s control over the farmers cannot be disregarded.

While the BJP can benefit from these changes in the long term, the NCP and Congress have established their power in the cooperatives over decades. Hence, their control cannot be toppled overnight and the BJP might not immediately benefit from the above-mentioned changes.

The worrying scenario of the sugar industry

Currently, the mismatch between demand and supply of sugarcane is a cause for concern for the BJP government. In Maharashtra the area under sugarcane cultivation has increased by 25 per cent this season. Last season, glut in sugarcane production domestically and internationally caused the prices to slide, this led to mounting arrears to sugarcane farmers. But the BJP announced a Rs. 7000 crore package for the sugar sector, which is said to have helped the farmers.

In June this year, only 71 out of 187 mills had cleared all their arears from last season, which lead to the government sending notices to 96 mills. By September however dues had fallen from Rs. 1768 crores to Rs. 437 crores.

Despite last year’s set back, farmers continue to grow sugarcane because of its assured returns to growers. It is the only crop where mills are compelled to purchase the crops at state mandated fair and remunerative price.

The expected production in India of sugar this season is between 30 to 35 million tonnes while domestic consumption is only 25 million tonnes. Exports are not a viable option as international prices are lower than domestic prices. Hence, this year’s arrears can be higher than that of last years. How will the government tackle this? With elections inching closer they will probably just resort to a large package like last year or issue loan waivers or both.

In Conclusion

The Congress and especially the NCP’s loosening control over sugar cooperatives and APMC’s can be worrying for them. But the changes having been implemented only recently may not severely affect their hold. The most significant critic of the Congress and NCP on behalf of the sugarcane farmers, Raju Shetti having jumped over to their side is a definite plus.

What we need to watch out for is the BJP’s marketing. If they manage to highlight the changes they made in the sugar cooperatives, APMCs and banks as an effort to improve farmers’ lives and reduce corruption, they can give the Congress and NCP a run for their money.

Overall, almost 5 months before the elections the BJP and the Congress-NCP alliance can put up a formidable fight for the much-coveted constituency in Maharashtra.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Awaiting MP assembly poll results: Will right alliances help INC out of exile?

By Piyush Prakash Yadav

Image courtesy - Election Tamasha
The Madhya Pradesh Assembly Poll results is set to define the mood of the voters in the upcoming 2019 General Elections. Madhya Pradesh is mainly a bipolar contest between INC and BJP, but in recent times a few regional parties have come up with major vote banks in the state. MP has 90.89% Hindu population and majority of the voters voted for BJP because of its Hindu identity. The state which has more than half of the population engaged in agriculture is still heckled by agrarian issues, crime against women, unemployment, corruption etc. These issues have a major implication on people’s minds and may cause them to vote for a change of government. Making this assembly election very important for both BJP and Congress.

BJP has been ruling the state since 2003, winning the last three elections. The Congress on the other hand has been in exile for 15 years and desperately wants to make a comeback. Wining this election will help Congress increase their tally of Lok Sabha seats from single digit to double digit. Whereas it is important for BJP to retain 26 out of the 270 lok sabha seats from this state. So, keeping in view the general elections of 2019 they cannot afford to lose these elections.

The 2013 assembly elections of Madhya Pradesh saw a vote share of 44.88% for the BJP and 36.38% for the INC. This gap in the vote share can be easily contributed by BSP in the current polls. BSP performed well in the previous election in the state, securing a vote share of 6.29%. BSP has a stronghold in the Gird, Bundelkhand and Baghelkhand regions. It holds 4 seats and was a runner up in a dozen others. A BSP-INC alliance can help both the parties throw out the BJP. But BSP made it tough for INC by opting out of an alliance.

In the current state elections, many new parties entered the battleground representing some classes and communities. One of which is Jai Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS) which has a strong presence in the Malwa region. Malwa region is the biggest and most important region of the state, having a strong presence of Scheduled Tribe voters. Majority in many constituencies can be lured by JAYS. Malwa region is also affected by many issues like agrarian issues and other events like Mandsaur incident. In order to claim victory in Madhya Pradesh, all the parties are focusing on this region. An INC-JAYS alliance would have helped INC to gain more seats in the region.

One of the major reasons for INC to lose votes is because they believe that they lack Hindu credentials which the party is focusing on now by applying soft Hindutva factor in their agenda. INC has ruled out of alliances with BSP and other parties because of seat sharing in the big leader areas. Their fear of losing presence in the region can become the ruling reason behind the loss of INC. These alliances could have paved the way for INC to achieve victory as they have the most number of big leaders in each area in the state. According to the Dainik Bhasker survey, approx. 55% of the population thinks that factionalism is the biggest challenge for Congress in order to win the election. INC’s soft Hindutva game may not after all become successful because of BJP’s hard Hindutva identity in the state.
(Views expressed by the author are personal and do not represent that of CPPR India)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Madhya Pradesh Assembly Polls 2018: BJP to maintain its winning streak

By Piyush Prakash Yadav

 Image courtesy - Times of India
"BJP’s strong vote bank in the urban constituency can help the party to retain their votes as the Modi factor maintains a great influence." 
Voters in Madhya Pradesh shall soon decide the political fate of the BJP and the Indian National Congress as the state goes to poll on November 28. This assembly poll will not only set the mood for 2019 but also help boost the winning party for the upcoming General Elections. It is quite vital for BJP to win the Madhya Pradesh assembly polls, as the party holds 26 out of 29 Lok Sabha constituencies. But, in order to win the general elections of 2019, BJP cannot afford to lose any seats in Madhya Pradesh, which has been one of its strongholds.

Even though Madhya Pradesh has been under BJP rule since 2003, with Shivraj Singh Chouhan leading the party since 2005, there seems to be no anti-incumbency factor. The BJP’s choice of the incumbent Shivraj Singh Chouhan as the Chief Ministerial candidate, over any other leader, is on account of the mass following this former school teacher has with vast sections of the populace. Although Congress has a couple of big leaders like Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kamal Nath and Digvijay Singh in the state, nobody enjoys the popularity that Shivraj Singh does. According to India Today’s political stock exchange, Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s popularity is intact at 48%, which is higher than anyone in the Congress, be it Scindia with 32%, Kamal Nath with 8% or Digvijay Singh at 2%.

The Congress party in MP has several big leaders from each region, like Jyotiraditya Scindia from Gird or Gwalior region, Kamal Nath from Mahakaushal, Digvijay Singh and Kantilal Bhuria from Malwa region, Ajay Singh from Baghelkhand, Arun Yadav from Nimar region, Suresh Pachouri from Bhopal or Madhya region and Satyavrat Chaturvedi in Bundelkhand. The presence of these big leaders in one state has led to factionalism in the party. According to a Dainik Bhaskar survey, approximately 55% of the population think that factionalism is the biggest challenge for the Congress in the state.

The grand old party which ruled the state for 30 years after independence is now facing a political crisis. In the 2013 election, Congress won only 6 urban constituencies out of 30. The winning margin of the BJP candidate increased in the urban constituencies as their election agenda became more focused on urban voters. Their election manifesto for 2018 promises to create 5 million jobs in 5 years, 1000 cr budget for creating self-employment opportunity for the youth, and develop global skill parks in Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Gwalior. BJP hopes to ride high on popular sentiments based on these promises along with a Modi wave to retain their urban constituencies. They also hope that the Hindutva factor would also play a major role in attracting nearly 80 lakh new voters this time.

The electoral fortunes of the Congress had been dismal in the previous elections while the BJP was on a winning spree. In Bhopal, which is the home turf of CM Shivraj Singh, BJP holds 16 constituencies out of 19. BJP had won 14 seats by a margin of more than 10,000 votes. Nimar region is also critical for BJP in this election as they had performed very well in the previous election. Nimar has 23 constituencies out of which BJP holds 17 seats, of which 11 seats were won with a margin of more than 10,000 votes.

Although BJP is affected by many issues and movements inside the state, with good management during the elections they can succeed. BJP has many advantages in this election, one of which is CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s popularity among the masses. Factionalism and internal fights between the Congress leaders have gifted victory to BJP in previous elections and this is likely to repeat this year also. BJP’s strong vote bank in the urban constituency can help the party to retain their votes as the Modi factor maintains a great influence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been winning the hearts of the people in Madhya Pradesh with around 10 rallies and public meetings in every region of the state. Taking all this into consideration it is likely that the BJP will maintain its winning streak.

(Views expressed by the author are personal and do not represent that of CPPR India)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Introduction of Autonomous Vehicles in India

*Prepared by Vishal Vinod, intern at Centre for Public Policy Research

An autonomous vehicle is one that is capable of sensing its environment and navigating through the roads without any manual human input. The Society of Autonomous Engineers (SAE) has created a method to classify cars, whether automated or not, into six levels as given below.

In the first three levels, the driver monitors the driving environment. Level Zero cars have no automation, with only the ability to give warnings. In Level One, the driver and the system share control of the vehicle. For example, the ‘Adaptive Cruise Control’- where the steering is controlled by the driver and the speed is controlled by the system. Level Two cars have partial automation where the system is capable of taking full control of the vehicle, but the driver must monitor the car at all times and must be willing to intervene at any moment.

In the last three levels of the classification, the automated driving system is capable of monitoring the driving environment. Level Three has conditional automation where the driver can safely withdraw from most driving tasks. However, the driver will be given the notice to intervene when there is a dynamic driving task that the system cannot handle. Levels 4 and 5 are very similar with no need for human intervention. But all roadway and environmental conditions can be handled by the system in Level 5, unlike Level 4 vehicles.

What is the current status of these vehicles? 
Autonomous vehicles are in the testing stage in many countries. In some countries, testing is only allowed in less populated suburbs, while in other countries, testing on public roads is allowed. Fleet operators have to closely monitor the vehicles to ensure safety in all the countries. In the US, testing is carried out on public roads; recently an autonomous car operated by Uber crashed into a person causing death. This raised major concerns regarding the safety of autonomous cars and subsequently Uber withdrew their robo-taxis from California. Following this, Baidu had received permission in China to start testing in the less populated suburbs. It has also been confirmed that Baidu’s autonomous buses called Apalong will start operating in Japan in 2019. Along with this, there are teasers by Elon Musk that imply the release of Level 5 cars by Tesla. It is clear that this technology will be significant in the coming days and will soon be approved in many counties.

The possibility of Autonomous vehicles in India
Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister for Road Transport says, “We are not going to promote any technology or policy that will render people jobless”. According to him, India has a shortage of 2,200,000 drivers and to meet the current demand of drivers they will open 100 ‘Driver Training Institutes’ and hope to create 500,000 jobs for drivers in the next five years.

However, in contrast to what Gadkari has said, The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2017 has to a certain degree accepted the possibility of autonomous vehicles. As per a section in the bill, “In order to promote innovation and research and development in the fields of vehicular engineering, mechanically propelled vehicles and transportation in general, the Central Government may exempt certain types of mechanically propelled vehicles from the application of the provisions of this Act”.

I absolutely disagree with the Union Minister’s view that technology would result in job losses. According to a study by Deloitte in the UK, technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed. Between 1992 and 2014, there was a 79 percent drop in weavers and knitters from 24,009 to 4,961, a 57 percent drop in typists, and a 50 percent drop in company secretaries. But on the other hand, there was a 580 percent increase in teaching and educational support assistants, 183 percent increase in welfare, housing, youth and community workers, and a 168 percent increase in care workers and home carers. Surprisingly, while in 1871 there was one hairdresser or barber for every 1,793 citizens of England and Wales, today there is one for every 287 people (The Guardian, 2015). So, to say that technology would result in job losses is meaningless as technology has proven that alternative jobs will always be created.

I hope in the light of these facts we can look past job losses being a major hindrance to the introduction of this technology in India. Another factor that is significant for a technology of this kind to be successfully introduced into the market is acceptance by the people. According to a survey conducted by KPMG, Indians are the most accepting towards autonomous vehicle technology. Thus there may not be much resistance from the people at large when the technology comes to India.

Moreover, the automobile market has also anticipated the arrival of autonomous vehicles in India. Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of Uber has positively said that autonomous vehicles will be in their network in India by next year. There are also a few start-up companies in India which are working on the self-driving technology. It is therefore evident that the market is already moving towards autonomous vehicles. 

When a revolutionary technology such as autonomous vehicles is expected to come into the market, policymakers must be smart enough to make regulations that ensure their smooth passage. Efficient policy making can be based on two principles. The first principle envisions autonomous vehicles as the primary mode of transportation in some areas, or as the “first mile, last mile” connectivity mode to and from railway stations, metro stations, bus stops etc. 

The second principle is based on the potential of autonomous vehicles to free people from the task of driving, road congestion, parking and other expenses such as purchasing a vehicle insurance etc. People will only accept this technology if they feel that they get more freedom as an incentive from it (The Economist, 2018). This could in turn encourage people to use public transport more often. I believe India, being one of the largest economies and the second most populous country in the world, should not be hostile to this upcoming technology, or there will be serious economic and environmental setbacks.

* Views expressed by the author is personal and does not represent that of CPPR

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Placemaking gives meaning to the space

*Prepared by Srinidhi Hariharan, intern at Centre for Public Policy Research

Placemaking is an approach to city planning where the citizens and the local community are involved in driving projects and events to bring the community together. It derives ideas from the local community and the neighbourhood in which the project takes place, so that the people living in the area are actively involved in the project.

Placemaking is about driving change in public spaces and involving people around a public space to understand and experience it through first hand exposure. It is a concept developed by William H Whyte and requires vision and group effort. 

An example of a placemaking project is one where the local community is involved in painting the surroundings to beautify public spaces, thereby providing a means to activate the public realm and encourage more people to come together and utilize the public space and express interest in improving their neighbourhood. Community based participation is the key to driving change and an effective way to promote people’s well-being and happiness.

Placemaking was the result of findings which showed that people have deep meanings and associations with the places they visit and gather on a regular basis thereby giving life to the concept of ‘place.’ For instance, when a person visits a garden for the first time, it might not be as appealing to him/ her compared to when he/ she visits it on a regular basis. There is no sense of attachment the first time a person visits a public space, as it is a ‘space’ of unfamiliarity.However, if the public space is well maintained and the person connects with it on the first visit, it is likely that they will continue to visit it on a regular basis. The public space has now become a public ‘place’ of deeper meaning for the person. Placemaking draws on this concept of ‘place’ to bring people closer to their public spaces.

Through placemaking, place attachment is formed which creates an emotional bond between the person and the place that they are attached to. Place attachment can varybetween people because it is reliant on unique personal experiences. However, when a person is attached to a place, it is likely that they will spread information about that particular public space, which will in turn increase the number of visitors and contribute towards the growth of the public space.

Many places which have been through urban degradation use placemaking to renew their cities and urban spaces.The Capitol Complex of Chandigarh which was built by Le Corbusier has acted as a very significant public space for the people of the city. The Urban Festival held in Chandigarh in 2018 was a sign of placemaking, albeit to a limited extent, as it was not completely organised by the community. During the Urban Festival 2018, the Capitol Complexwas well lit andheld many events initiated by the people of Chandigarh, thereby bringing them together. India needs more placemaking initiatives like this which will bring people together and also provide significance to the public space and its architecture.

The concept of placemaking is growing around the world as public spaces gain more recognition. Placemaking focuses on providing meaningful places to people where they feel comfortable and at ease. When the community involves itself in organising various events, theresult is a higher sense of pride and place attachment to the public space. As people continually utilize a space, the meaning and significance of the place increases, resulting in the creation of an emotional bond between the people and the public space. This is important if people want to make the most of their cities and the public spaces they provide. Placemaking has thus proven to engage and contribute towards activated places for the people.

* Views expressed by the author is personal and does not represent that of CPPR

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Skill Development and Job Creation

By Ispita Mishra*
The term ‘Youth’ as defined by the UNESCO – is “the period of transition from dependence to independence and awareness of our independence as members of a community”. India is a young nation with nearly 65 percent of its population under 35 years old[i]. However, this demographic dividend might prove to be dangerous, rather than a boon, as India lacks severely in employment, skills and opportunities.
Indian youth can contribute to higher economic growth; their potential must be aided by substantial policy orientation. The sustainable empowerment of youth can be ensured through the four pillars of education, skills and employment, temperamental change and government policy.
But the number of jobs created annually is inadequate to absorb this growing population of youth in the labour market. Currently, the youth unemployment rate (15-24 years) is 10.1 percent. 43 percent of India’s youth are not in employment, education or training[ii]. The labour market has a lot of informal employment (93 per cent) with just about eight per cent working in the formal sector. 
According to the Annual Report 2016-17, The National Youth Policy 2014 reiterates the commitment of the entire nation to the all-round development of the youth to enable them to realise their full potential and contribute productively to the nation building process. Several new schemes have been launched recently to encourage entrepreneurship among the youth. These include StartUp India, StandUp India, Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, Start Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme and Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan.
Skill India partnered with Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare to empower rural youth through scalable skilling and also empowered more than 35 lakh women. 3.16 lakh candidates were placed under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal VikasYojana(PMKVY 2016-20) in less than two years of its launch.
Despite these multiple efforts, India has formally trained just 4.69 percent of the total workforce (15-59 years of age) of about 487 million people in India.[iii] The government’s own data suggests that only about 80,000 people or less than five percent of the total trained candidates were able to secure a placement.
The ministry said it had certified 612,000 candidates who completed training under the PMKVY-2 and 52 per cent of them had been placed. PMKVY-2 aims to spend Rs12,000 crore on skill training 10 million youth between 2016 and 2020.However, the 52 per cent placement record including self-employment and entrepreneurship is way below the mandatory placement requirement of 70 per cent under PMKVY-2.[iv]
Challenges faced
First, industry interface is inadequate and is one of the major issues facing the vocational education and training system in India.[1] Research has also found that the National Skills Development Council has not been able to synchronise course curriculum with industry needs.[v]There is lack of motivated teachers and mentors of quality. 
There is an interfering and overpowering political and bureaucratic setup, outdated and rigid curriculum, non-uniformity in curricula, and limited laboratory based education, especially in basic sciences, which makes the youth disinterested.  Lack of interdisciplinary approach in imparting education makes them unable to use their knowledge practically. Neither the industry nor other stakeholders are consulted in designing the curriculum.
Second, the Indian labour market is not only creating inadequate jobs, but discriminates against recruiting females. Nearly one-third of females did not receive a job offer compared to 15 percent of males.[vi] Women constitute about 48 per cent of the total population but their participation in the labour force is just about 22 per cent.
Third, the challenges of funding, patents and creation of intellectual property remain.  The long process of registration of patents and lack of incentives for research and development is a reason why many start-ups prefer to be domiciled abroad.  Around 90 per cent of funding for start-ups comes from foreign venture capital. According to a recent study, over 94 per cent of new businesses fail during the first year of operation.
Fourth, there is no standardisation of certification of skills training. As there is lack of clarity of available programmes, the employers also lack trust in the integrity and quality of training.  Third party audits are missing and candidates are often not interested in the jobs they get. Moreover, the placement agencies are more focussed on maximising recruitment without adhering to quality standards.
Fifth, there is a major skew in favour of a handful of states when it comes to training candidates. The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship claims that the large gap in the number of those trained and those placed is due to “incomplete data” and that it is taking steps to rectify the matter.
Finally, there is no attention given to skills that will allow individuals to grow. There is no focus on creativity, interpersonal skills etc.
For India to have inclusive growth and fully utilise the potential of its demographic dividend, it must find effective ways of skilling its youth.Or else our huge population is in danger of turning out to be a burden rather than a boon.

* Ispita Mishra is Research Assistant at Centre for Public Policy Research. Views expressed by the author is personal and does not represent that of CPPR

[i]Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship
[iii]Report of the committee for rationalization & optimization of the functioning of the sector skill councils 2017
[v]Team Lease Services 2018
[vi]Soledad ArtizPrillman et al, 2017, “What Constrains Young Indian Women’s Participation? Evidence form a Survey of Vocational Trainees.

Thursday, April 05, 2018


By Mathews Raju*

India’s power sector is highly dependent on thermal and hydroelectric power plants. Thermal power plants mainly use fossil fuels like coal or oil leading to increased pollution and carbon emission. Hydroelectric plants tap energy from water reservoirs, which destroy the natural habitat.
The increasing carbon footprint and environmental degradation has paved the way for energy transition in the country. It is the transition towards a more inclusive, sustainable, affordable and secure energy system that provides solutions to energy related challenges, while creating value for business and society.

The Energy Triangle
The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked India 78th in the Energy Transition Index. This is a performance index, where 126 countries are ranked based on 18 indicators that come under three core dimensions – energy access and security, environmental sustainability, and contribution to economic growth and development. This is referred to as the Energy Triangle. Countries with the highest transition readiness scores lead in the ranking. Transition readiness involves availability of investment and capital, effective regulation and political commitment, stable institutions and governance, supportive infrastructure, human capital and ability of current energy system to accommodate change. Sweden topped the index, followed by Norway and Switzerland.

Key findings of the report:
·        Over the last five years, more than 80 per cent of countries improved their energy systems, but further effort is needed to resolve the world’s energy related challenges.
•  Countries can foster progress in three ways – by establishing favourable conditions for energy system stakeholders, by targeting improvement across all triangle dimensions, and by pursuing improvement levers with synergistic impact across the system.
      Countries follow different transition paths and need to develop country specific roadmaps. Comparative analysis among peers can highlight opportunities for improvement.
   Removal of fossil fuel subsidies and reduction of energy intensity showed synergistic impact on energy triangle.

India’s Performance
India is one of the largest consumers and emitters of greenhouse gases. Between 2013 and 2018, the country’s performance score improved by 5.6 per cent due to improved energy access, reduced subsidies and reduced import costs. India has the largest government mandated renewable energy programme, with a target of 175 GW renewable energy capacities by 2022. The country plans to shift to electric vehicles by 2030, and has cancelled the construction of nearly 14 GW of coal-fired power stations. However, there are no improvements in technical and commercial losses.
In the Energy Transition Index, India has scored 15 percentage points below average in economic development and growth, 9 percentage points in environmental sustainability and average points in security and access.
Subsidies for solar devices are making solar energy cheaper in India, but transitioning from traditional methods of energy conversion has caused huge job losses in the sector.

*Mathews Raju is Programme Intern with CPPR. Views expressed by the author is personal and does not reflect that of CPPR.

Are Indo–Canadian Relations Still Short of a Strategic Partnership?

by J Paul Zachariah*

When the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, planned his weeklong visit to India, the Canadian establishment would have never anticipated the hugely negative publicity it received in the Indian and Canadian media. Prime Minister Trudeau’s official visit, which began more like a family vacation, was, in fact, not even a shadow of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Canada in April 2015, when Stephen Harper was the Prime Minister.
If Prime Minister Modi’s Canadian visit resulted in Indo–Canadian relations maturing into an effective partnership, the one indelible takeaway message from Trudeau’s visit was ‘Khalistan’, apart from his ill-advised choice of traditional Indian wear. And this, unfortunately, would loom large over the whole visit leading to a series of events and non-events that compelled Canada’s ‘National Post’ to have this as their front-page headline – “Colourful, classy but snubbed”. One commentator on CNBC went as far as calling the visit a ‘slow moving train wreck’.
However, not all may be lost with this visit. A two-way trade deal amounting to C$1 billion was inked, with Indian companies pledging to invest C$250 million in Canada, particularly in the pharma and IT sectors. On the flip side, of the C$750 million coming to India, about C$480 million would be from Toronto’s Brookfield Asset Management to buy a 1.25 million-square-foot office space in Mumbai.
What then is the crux of India’s relations with Canada? How much does a US$2.4 trillion India need a US$1.6 trillion Canada, and vice-versa? Is there a real strategic dimension to the bilateral relations of these two nations, when compared to India’s recent strengthening of ‘strategic partnerships’ with countries like Israel, Japan, Australia and France?  

The Nature of Indo-Canadian Relations
Indo-Canadian relations, since India tested an atomic device in the 1970s, had been modest and never evoked much interest in either party, except for the Indian diaspora and bilateral trade.

Indian Diaspora
Canada has one of the largest concentrations of Indian diaspora. About 3.54 per cent of Canadians (1.6 million) have an Indian heritage. In 2016, remittances to India from Canada amounted to US$2.6 billion, as per a World Bank report. With over 100,000 Indian students studying in Canada, India is the second largest source of international students for their universities and colleges.

Trade & Industry
Statistics from government sources show that bilateral trade between India and Canada was worth US$6.13 billion in 2016–17, making India Canada’s largest trading partner in South Asia. With a value of over C$1.1 billion and accounting for over 27.5 per cent of Canada’s global pulse exports, pulses formed the largest part of Canada’s exports to India. Over 400 Canadian companies operate in India, while Canada plays host to more than 1000 India companies. Canadian and Indian newspapers report that Fairfax Holdings, owned by Prem Watsa, a prominent Indo-Canadian, has acquired a 51-per-cent stake in the Catholic Syrian Bank, a Kerala based private bank. The C$200 million in this deal is part of the C$750 million Canadian FDI into India that PM Justin Trudeau was talking about.

Nuclear Energy
Canada, under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, father of Justin Trudeau, had banned uranium exports to India after it conducted its first atomic test in the 1970s, where Canadian radioactive products were extensively used. It took a rather long time for the subsequent thaw in Indo–Canadian nuclear relations. Though a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) with Canada was signed in June 2010, the process dragged on, until Narendra Modi’s visit to Canada in 2015, when India’s Department of Atomic Energy signed a C$350 million contract with the Canadian company Cameco Corporation to purchase 3.2 million kilograms of uranium concentrate over the next five years. The first three shipments have already arrived in India. 

Canada’s Defence Exports
Canada has a rather strange and restrictive policy on the export and import of strategic and defence items mandated by their Export and Import Permits Act. This Act provides for an Export Control List (ECL), which includes military, dual use, and strategic goods and technology. Items on this list can only be sold to a country that is on the Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL), which presently has about 40 countries, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait and Colombia but not India. Despite this, not all exports are governed by the AFCCL. Government to government sale of items on the ECL is allowed to non- AFCCL nations with an export license from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 
Canadian defence exports saw an increase of 89 per cent under Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The incumbent Liberal government has not cancelled some seemingly controversial arms deals inked by the Conservatives, like the US$12 billion deal with Saudi Arabia. But some others have fallen through, like the recent US$235 million contract with the Philippines for the sale of 16 Bell helicopters. Just days after the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said she will not hesitate to stop the delivery of the aircraft to the Philippines if it were to be used against insurgents, the Philippine government cancelled the deal. On the one hand, Canada’s Liberal government behaves like an ‘international do-gooder’ on the pretext of upholding ‘human rights’ and ‘gender equality’, while on the other, they sell military equipment to countries like Saudi Arabia, which has used them in a violent crackdown on minority Shias in the eastern part of the country. Interestingly, the Liberal government of Canada had denied export permit of firearms (under category 2-1 of the ECL) to India in 2016, stating that India was not on the AFCCL. Dwelling on Canada’s ‘feminist foreign policy’ vis-a-vis its arms trade, Srdjan Vucetic, of the University of Ottawa, calls Canada ‘A Nation of Feminist Arms Dealers’ (Vucetic, 2017).

Are India and Canada Strategic Partners in Defence and Security?
Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Canada was intended to give a boost to India’s defence and security cooperation with Canada. During the visit, Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Harper paid a visit to the Kanishka Air India Memorial in a symbolic gesture of Indo–Canadian commitment towards fighting terrorism. The two governments claimed there had been, “a robust cooperation on counter terrorism issues particularly through the framework of the Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism.” India and Canada enjoy a strategic partnership, at least that is what the Canadian government claims. However, a closer look at the defence and strategic aspects reveals a slightly different picture.
India and Canada have not conducted any major joint military or naval exercises, except as part of multilateral exercises like the International Fleet Review or the RIMPAC. The closest to what could be called a bilateral joint exercise was when the HMCS Winnipeg of the Royal Canadian Navy made a port call at Mumbai in May 2017 and conducted joint exercises with the Indian stealth frigate the INS Teg. Considering Canada’s apprehensions on China’s ambitious ‘Polar Silk Road’ that makes the Arctic Ocean and Canada’s ‘Northwest Passage’ susceptible to Beijing’s hegemonic interference, it would be in its best interests to forge a strategic maritime relation with India.
In April 2017, when the Indian born Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan visited India, there was much talk particularly from Canada on how they wanted to bolster defence trade with India. The Canadian media reported that the value of Canada’s defence exports to India was C$5.4 million in 2015, as per a report by their government. But in 2016, the value of defence exports to India dropped to a mere C$654,320 or just 0.09 per cent of Canada’s total arms exports (excluding those to the US) of C$717 million. Canada has also not registered (till this was being written) for the India Defence Expo 2018 scheduled to be held from April 11–14 in Chennai, though it participated with much fanfare the last time.
With a pro-left Liberal government in power, it might not be easy for Indo–Canadian bilateral relations to develop into an effective strategic partnership in defence and security. However, Indian and Canadian businesses could develop stronger relations in some industries, where Canada offers world-class technology and services like aerospace, electronics, simulation and training, textiles, and satellite and space technologies. Already, India’s growing domestic airline industry, including the largest player (Spice Jet) and the newest player (Zoom Air) has started buying new aircraft from the Canadian company Bombardier.

Bridging Barriers
India and Canada are yet to finalise two very important agreements, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and Bilateral Investment Promotion and Partnership Agreement (BIPPA/FIPA). It is hoped that these agreements would create a healthy environment for business and investment through legally binding rights and obligations.
“Bridging the Barriers with Canada,” was how the personal web portal of Prime Minister Narendra Modi titled its statement on his visit to Canada in 2015. It seems even in 2017 that process is yet to be effectively reciprocated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government. 
“Let’s not forget there’s a race to get to India’s door. We’re competing against Japan, the French, the Australians, and this is an opportunity for Canada to demonstrate how we can contribute and make a true partnership.”
(Jaswinder Kaur, Director of the Canada–India Centre of Excellence in Ottawa, 2015)

*J Paul Zachariah is guest writer with CPPR.. Views expressed by the author is personal and does not reflect that of CPPR.

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