China, Russia worse on jobless rate in comparison to India

India is positioned 12th among 37 “major” Asian countries when it comes to unemployment among people above 15 years but it has a better record compared to China and Russia.

India has an estimated unemployment rate of 3.6% in 2017 and only Bhutan with 2.4% and Nepal with 3.2% have a better record when it comes to its neighbours. Bhutan is ranked seventh and Nepal is at ninth position.

This was disclosed by Minister of State for Labour Santhosh Kumar Gangwar in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. The statistics were based on the modelled estimates of International Labour Organisation in 2017 while the Ministry has said that the unemployment rate in 2015-16 was 3.7%, up from 3.4% in 2013-14.

Country

Unemployment Rate (%)

Rank

Cambodia/Qatar

0.3

1

Myanmar

0.8

2

Bhutan/Kuwait

2.4

7

Nepal

3.2

9

India

3.6

12

China/Sri Lanka

4.6

17

Russia

5.3

19

Pakistan

5.9

23

Afghanistan

8.5

26

Oman

16.9

32

Interestingly, several Gulf countries where Indians go to find jobs have worse unemployment rate compared to India. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a 3.8% unemployment rate while Saudi Arabia has 5.5%.

As per the list provided by the Ministry of Labour, Cambodia and Qatar with 0.3% has the lowest unemployment rate followed by Myanmar (0.8%) and Thailand (1%).

China, the communist behemoth in Asia, and another neighbour Sri Lanka have a joblessness rate of 4.6% and ranked lower at 17th while Vladmir Putin-led Russian Federation has an unemployment rate of 5.3%.

Pakistan is saddled with an unemployment rate of 5.9% while war-ravaged Afghanistan is grappling with a whopping 8.5% rate. The highest rate is recorded in Oman at 16.9% while strife-torn Yemen has 16%. Jordan, an otherwise prosperous country, has an unemployment rate of 14.9% while the The Islamic State-hit Iraq also has a very depressing number at 14.8%.

Gangwar said employment generation and improving employability has been the priority of the NDA government.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 28, 2017)

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2018: Will finally Air India go to private hands?

If domestic aviation market reaching a new high by flying 10 crore passengers this year, 2018 will have the big story in Air India when the government disinvest its stakes in the national carrier.

The Group of Ministers (GoM) under Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is burning the midnight oil to finalise the contours of the strategic disinvestment of the national carrier, which has amassed a loss of over Rs 50,000 crore.

The industry will be keenly watching the developments on Air India early next year and how much money the government would earn through divesting its stakes. There will be intensive bidding for the national carrier and the winner may end up marching ahead with a substantive slice of the market.

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It was just a week before the government decided on disinvesting Air India on June 28 that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the country’s aviation regulator, came up with a figure that lit up the industry’s mood. It said, for the first time in country’s aviation history, domestic carriers flew more than one crore passengers (in May) in a month.

This feat was repeated again in November at 1.05 crore and it led to breaching another landmark. This time, Indian carriers carried more than 10 crore fliers for the first time in a calender year.

Then came the rolling out of Regional Connectivity Scheme or UDAN to connect otherwise unconnected small towns by air. Fares were capped at Rs 2,500 crore for a one-hour-long flight as per the scheme and around 80 unused or under-used airports were connected.

If these presented the rosy picture for the sector, all was not easy for the carriers and their staff. Fliers were becoming more aggressive and staff were at the receiving end, airlines claimed while passengers faulted “uncouth” behaviour.

History was created when the government came out with a ‘no-fly list’ for the first time after repeated incidents of misbehaviour with airline staff. The slapping of an Air India airport manager by Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad triggered an avalanche of protests, leading to the government finalising the contours of putting erratic and violent fliers on the check.

However, such incidents did not deter the airlines from expanding their fleet. Market leader IndiGo announced its plans to 50 ATR turbo-prop planes, a deal that could run into USD 1.3 billion at list price, with an aim to tap the regional aviation market. SpiceJet, GoAir and Jet Airways are also expecting more planes in their fleet next year.

Next year could see better finances for the domestic airlines. Credit rating agency ICRA has recently said that domestic airlines are expected to reduce losses this fiscal ending March riding on healthy seat occupancy coupled by a moderation in capacity, rise in tourism demand and economic environment.

However, it has warned that inadequate aviation infrastructure, which has constrained the performance of airlines, remained a bottleneck. This would be one area where the government would have to work on.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 28, 2017)

Widows suffering social death: MP

India has one of the largest population of widows in the world and many of them suffer a “social death” with the passing away of their spouses.

As most of them are dependent on families and live in neglect and no proper legal framework available for ensuring their well being, DMK MP Tiruchi Siva is now moving a private resolution in Rajya Sabha seeking a legislation to ensure social security for destitute widows.

BBC

Siva, whose private member’s bill on transgenders prompted the government to bring one in Parliament, also wants the government to frame a policy that enables widows get financial assistance at par with current living standards.

As per 2011 Census, India houses 4.32 crore widows, which accounts for 7.37% of the total women population in the country and around 60% are in the 70-74 years age group.

The DMK MP’s private member’s resolution, which may now come up on January 5, points out that customs in Indian society are still engrained in age old practices where death of the husband is considered as a social taboo. This “affects every aspect of the life of the widow and many of them suffer a social death”, the resolution says.

“Widowhood in India is not an ideal social condition and remarriage of widows is a rare phenomenon as widows in India face problems on economic, social, legal and health fronts,” according to Siva.

One of the issues highlighted by the resolution is the denial of access to property by family members to widows. Citing a study by the National Commission for Women (NCW) in 2016 on the condition of widows in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal, it said 84% of widows had no access to any family property and 15% had no access because their children or other family members had taken away the property.

Siva also wants the government to conduct nation-wide study on the condition of widows and use the findings to take necessary steps for their welfare.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 26, 2017)

BPRD not adequately equipped, govt wants a rehaul

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Amid realisation that the country’s ace police think thank is “not adequately equipped” to meet future challenges, the government is now looking at overhauling the Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPRD).

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has now invited an Expression of Interest (EoI) for preparaing a detailed project report on restructuring the think tank from “reputed and expert” government institutions.

The move comes as the government feels that the efforts of 47-year-old BPRD are “yet to fully meet the huge expectations” and a need for re-structuring has been “strongly felt” in various quarters, a senior official said.

In May this year, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh himself had spoke about the need for restructuring the think tank to make it vibrant for police and prison services.

“In contemporary world, the expectations from police have grown manifold. Many spheres of human activities, hitherto unknown to police system, have now come into the fold of policing, due to global cyber village fast transforming our lives. As a result, the mandate of a premier research organisation, which the BPR&D is, needs to be revised and it has to incorporate all those areas which policing of future is expected to focus on,” the notice inviting EoI said.

It went on to note that the BPRD, with its present mandate and human resources, is “not adequately equipped to meet the future challenges” of policing and prison services. This “strongly calls” for a thorough overhauling of the existing machinery of research and development through the intervention of technology and human resource development.

Earlier this month, the BPRD had said it was planning to set up a research centre in a leading academic institute to promote knowledge creation and policy analyses in criminal justice system arena. It felt that research could be better conducted and more useful results can be obtained through such a centre.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 26, 2017)

2018: Will there be peace in Kashmir, Who will rein in cow-vigilantes?

What progress a government-appointed interlocutor will achieve in Kashmir, how will a law on triple talaq evolve, who will rein in cow-vigilantism and when will India get Vijay Mallya extradited?

Next year, all eyes will be glued to these issues as well as those of the fate of Rohingya migrants, fallout of Ayodhya hearing in Supreme Court and the twists and turns in Indo-Pak relations.

The security establishment will still also have its eyes set on naxal and north-east insurgency fronts too, though no spectacular attack took place this year leaving the forces upbeat.

While first half of 2016 went without any major incident, the unprecedented terror strike on Amarnath pilgrims in July will remain a black mark on the government, as it once again proved that the forces were still not on top of the terror machinery.

Government sought to put pressure by squeeze the separatists through a National Investigation Agency (NIA) probe into funds they allegedly received from Pakistan for triggering trouble in the valley besides offering several sops. But peace is yet to return to the Kashmir valley, as people are still taking to the streets, there is no let-up in militant strikes and more security personnel are losing life.

While acting tough on one front, government made a surprise announcement in September appointing former Intelligence Bureau chief Dineshwar Sharma, an old Kashmir hand, as an interlocutor to deal with the issue. With this, the government subtly changed its goal post from ‘no-talks’ to talks with all stakeholders, a euphemism for involving separatists in the process. However, Sharma’s outings in the valley have not earned much so far.

Task is also cut out for the government in reining in cow-vigilantism and right-wing groups using the bogey of love-jihad, a description used by Hinduvta elements to describe marriage between Muslim man and Hindu woman, to target minority communities. A Muslim labourer from Bengal was killed in Rajasthan with the accused claiming that he was preventing ‘love-jihad’.

Though it could put the onus on states saying law and order is a state subject, the central government would have to face flak if they do not manage to curb such incidents, especially in BJP-ruled states. Another contentious issue would be the formulation of a law on triple talaq following a Supreme Court making it illegal.

In early next year, officials also would have to burn midnight oil over dealing with Rohingyas, who have illegally crossed over to India following a purge in Myanmar. While the officialdom has taken a position that India cannot afford their presence, an adverse order from Supreme Court would have egg on its face.

Another question that would bother the security establishment would be the early conclusion of deal with NSCN(IM) on Naga issue.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald website on Dec 24, 2017)

‘Women in jails undergo emotional trauma more than men’

Women prisoners undergo emotional and psychological trauma more compared to their male counterparts but Indian jails still do not have enough psychologists or psychiatrists to help them, a “perturbed” Parliamentary panel has found.

This has prompted the Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women led by BJP MP Bijoya Chakravarty to recommend hiring of counsellors and other such staff to ensure “focussed intervention” to allay mental anxieties of women prisoners.

jail

According to ‘Prison Statistics India 2015’, the latest figures available so far, there are 347 women prisoners who are diagnosed with psychiatric ailments. There are 17,834 women prisoners across India.

There are just 18 psychiatrists or psychologists employed in jails across India while there are 224 probation/welfare officers. and 355 social workers. There are 1,886 medical staff dealing with other health issues.

The report ‘Women in Detention and Access to Justice’ tabled in Parliament on Friday said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has admitted to a shortage of women officials in management of prisons. It said lesser number of women personnel in jails have adverse impact on management of women prisoners, the MHA admitted.

“Women have to undergo emotional and psychological trauma which is more pronounced than that encountered by the male prisoners and there is an urgent need to cater to this concern,” it said.

The panel said women prisoners are more prone to suffering from anxiety due to incarceration, which “gets escalated when there is little or no social contact with their family members who give up due to social stigma”.

A focussed intervention by counsellors and psychiatrists is required, it said adding, “despite the awareness of such interventions, the committee are perturbed to find that most of the Jails in the country do not have psychologists/psychiatrist in them”.

Suggesting speedy filling up of vacancies in prisons, the panel highlighted the need for a focussed intervention by counsellors, psychiatrists and welfare officers to allay mental anxieties of women prisoners. This will also ensure a more gender sensitive prison management, the panel said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 24, 2017)

Riding into CBI trap on an Enfield!

Riding ‘Royal Enfield’ is a passion for many but demanding it as bribe can land one in trouble, as a couple of bureaucrats have found.

Information gathered by investigators about a public servant demanding the high-end motorcycle for approaching NBCC (India) Ltd Chairman and Managing Director Anoop Kumar Mittal for a sub-contract in a multi-crore project has led the top bureaucrat and others into a CBI web.

The CBI has registered a case against Mittal, public servant Pradeep Kumar Mishra, suspected middleman Rishab Agarwal, Capacite Structure Ltd Managing Director Sanjay Kulkarni and his employee Aakash Deep Chouhan. None could be reached for their version of the story.

Mittal, according to the FIR, had even assured Kulkarni that if his company did not get the sub-contract, he would ensure that none will get it.

All started with Kulkarni approaching Agarwal, who have “good contacts” with various public servants, for getting a sub-contract in the Rs 2,149.93 crore project for redeveloping the Pragati Maidan complex in Delhi awarded to Shapoorji Pallonji and Co.

Agarwal, in turn, got in touch with public servant Mishra, who is “very close” to senior officials in NBCC (India), a government blue chip company involved in real estate development and construction business.

Mishra then “assured” that he would get the job done using his “close contacts” and “personal influence” on Mittal. “In lieu of that Mishra demanded a new Royal Enfield as a part of the illegal gratification. Agarwal apprised Kulkarni about the demand, which he agreed to deliver,” the FIR said.

According to the CBI, Mittal, under the “influence” of Mishra “strongly directed” NBCC’s Executive Director Rakesh Gupta to settle the issue in Kulkarni’s favour. On December 15, a meeting was held between Kulkarni, NBCC functionaries and officials of Shapoorji Pallonji.

After this meeting, Mittal assured Kulkarni and Mishra that their request will be met. “Mittal further assured Mishra and Kulkarni that if the work was not given to Capacite Structures Ltd, he would ensure that it would not be given to anyone else,” the FIR said.

Mishra and Chauhan were arrested on Friday night. CBI carried out searches in Ghaziabad, Delhi and Mumbai. Residential and official premises of Mittal were not searched so far.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Dec 24, 2017)

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