The Hindu Daily Editorial Discussion 21/2/19 By - Ashish Singh
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Page 8 Page 9 More symbolic than punitive A modern story of Ekalavya India's trade-related action will encourage informal The education system continues to exclude trade and propel Pakistan to look for markets beyond South Asia many people's histories, world views and cultures The employment test The labour force may have actually shrunk while the Modi government has been in office . The private sector in public health It can provide services and capital . The big fight Splurging in the time of debt Andhra Pradesh's government continues to launch populist schemes despite its poor financial situation For the AIADMK, the Assembly bypolls are more important than the Lok Sabha election . .With reservations It's not clear if the 103rd Amendment will protect the new quota for Gujjars in Rajasthan
More symbolic than punitive GS PAPER 2 Bilateral agreements involving India and/or affecting India's interests
India's decision to withdraw the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to Pakistan means that India will not treat Pakistan on an equal footing in trade as is expected of fellow members of the World Trade Organisation. The move comes after the attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir.
Just a dent It does not strictly fall under the 'beggar-thy-policy', often used in international trade through which one country tries to resolve its economic problems by means that worsen the economic problems of its neighbours or trade partners. The moot point therefore is the sensitivity of the impact of the MFN status on Pakistan in terms of its trade with India. It can only be a pressure tactic and do little unless stringent actions are taken to stop informal trade that has been going on between the two countries for long.
Besides China, India and Pakistan are the two largest economies in the South Asian region. Being dominant constituents of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, both countries have immense potential for intra-regional trade.
restrictions on import of specific items on grounds of health and religious beliefs; high tariff barriers or transportation costs, making it cost effective to smuggle goods in the country; imposition of non-tariff measures (NTMs)'; weaknesses in the 'rules of origin' resulting in 'trade routed through a third country; leakages in transit trade;
Traders carry out informal trade between Pakistan and India through the exchange of goods at the border as well as through the personal baggage scheme' through "green channel" facilities at international airports or railway stations. "Informal trade has also taken place through Afghanistan where goods are exported officially from India and later smuggled into Pakistan. Indian-made goods smuggled into Pakistan include cosmetics, liquor, stainless steel utensils, ayurvedic medicines, videotapes/CDs, confectionery/cashew nuts, tea, coffee, live animals and spices'.
Trade data From 2011-12 to 2017-18, India's formal trade with Pakistan increased from $1.94 billion to $2.41 billion. . of this, the share of exports stands at almost 80% and has been fairly stable over the years (Ministry of Commerce and Industry, India) In 2012-13, informal trade between India and Pakistan estimated in a study (ICRIER, N. Taneja and S. Bimal, 2016) - was $4.71 billion, which was double when compared to formal trade. India's informal export share to Pakistan was again much higher at $4 billion while its import share was low at $0.71 billion.
After the Pulwama attack, the follow-up measure to raise tariff duty on imports to 200% can again be trivial. So would be the NTMs, if increased, as India's imports from Pakistan are reasonably low at $0.488 billion. -Besides, imports from Pakistan grew at a lower rate (1.04%) compared to exports (1.32%) per annum from 2011-12 to 2017-18. Major exports from India that would hard hit would be cotton (not carded or combed) valued at $0.273 billion, p-Xylene ($0.082 billion), polypropylene ($0.063 billion) and single yarn ($0.088 billion) Pakistan's loss from major exports to India would be much lessfrom dates ($0.113 billion), portland cement ($0.078 billion), other petroleum oil ($0.055 billion) and light oils and preparations ($0.028 billion)
Thus Pakistan is an important export destination for India but not vice-a-Versa. This is despite the fact that Pakistan imposes a large number of NTMs (143) on Indian exports, the major ones being export related measures (25.2%); technical barriers to trade (24.5%) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (22.4%) These are 'concentrated on agriculture, plants, and food-related products and operate as bans that shut competitors out of its market. Pakistan's NTMs are blunt instruments; it is difficult to use them to provide targeted protection to the strategic industries.
. The sense is that Pakistan may not face an exacerbating situation with India withdrawing the MFN status and raising the import duty. Informal trade may proliferate, which might not be in India's interest and an appropriate strategy is required to bring it to a halt. Also, under the South Asia Free Trade Area Agreement (SAFTA) 2004, Pakistan's share in external trade is less than 10%, while India's share is more than 70% Such steps may propel Pakistan to look for new markets beyond SAFTA, corroborated by the recent meeting held with Saudi Arabia and growing prospects of trade through a third country, mainly via Dubai
The place of the teacher This has also led to a climate of suspicion about teachers in general, in schools, colleges and universities. Teachers are constantly under attack by systems which want to protect students (especially because students are nowadays seen as paying 'consumers'), by parents who decide what and how a teacher should teach, by a government which humiliates and uses teachers, and by private managements which see teachers as a necessary 'evil' to put up with. Our colleges and schools even today are places of feudal authority and oppressive labour conditions. In such a climate, for the first time in my life, I am beginning to ask whether it is worth teaching at all
Related to this issue is the continued lack of equal access to education. We have spent more money and effort keeping people out of the education system than trying to bring them in much of this is done through dubious concepts called intelligence and merit, operationalised by examinations. It is not a surprise then that our gross enrolment ratios for all levels of ation are quite low, because the aim of the system right from the beginning was to find ways to control who would enter the portals of education. This is a continuation of the Ekalavya complex, and it is possible because we have created a system in which the excluded find little representation of their lives, their world views and their articulations in what is taught.
A story of caste and learning . In the midst of this existential crisis, I watched a new Tamil movie called Sarvam Thaala Mayam. It is a movie which has been criticised for its avoidance of caste issues even though it is primarily about Carnatic music's relation with caste. tis primarily about Carnatie mauste While that may be true, here I am more interested in what it says about the nature of teaching and learning. It is a modern Ekalavya story in a Tamil mainstream idiom and, like Ekalavya's story, which is about caste and privilege, at its core it is about the processes of teaching and learning.
The story of Ekalavya is well known and has been used as a powerful metaphor to highlight problems of exclusion in education about how the privileged monopolise learning even though others may be far better. . This movie makes us ask: What would Ekalavya do today if Drona refuses to teach him?
However, the modern Ekalavya does not give up when Vembu lyer refuses to take him as his student. He persists and is finally taken as lyer's student because lyer sees Peter's passion and genuine commitment. Peter is like Ekalavya in his complete devotion to his guru, but due to a misunderstanding, the teacher banishes Peter for no fault of his. Their reconciliation is really the heart of the story, for it is not just a negotiation between people of different caste hierarchies but also between the hierarchy of teacher and student.
If Ariuna was the counterpart to Ekalavya in the original story, there is an equally powerful counterpart in this modern version. This is in the form of a fair-skinned, Tamil Brahmin NRI, who has been admitted to a PhD programme at Harvard University. He comes with more privilege than Arjuna! But Peter is unfazed. He takes on the traditionalists in their own game. In the climax of the movie, his strength is shown to lie in his own historical and cultural consciousness. Peter changes due to his encounter with his guru but he also changes the instrument and the classical music tradition which uses it.
Need for an inclusive system .What this movie reminds us is that the present-day education system is based on the qualities, attributes and desires of a dominant community. It is not inclusive, since it does not have space for truth, knowledge and the qualities of learning based on the diverse strengths of different cultures and histories like those of Peter. But Peter's struggle should remind teachers that teaching is a service, not a transaction. Our society is filled with countless such committed teachers, but they are all silenced by the powers that run education asa handmaiden for their personal and political ambitions.
Inflation at both the retail and wholesale levels has been falling for the last 4-5 consecutive months. Inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which captures retail inflation, and the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) has been falling in general for the last year or so. . The CPI, for example, was as high as 5.21% in December 2017, following which it fell quite steadily (except for a mid-year blip in 2018) till it reached 2.05% in January 2019, the lowest it has been in 19 months. The WPI has similarly seen an overall decline, but has been more volatile than the CPI
The main reason why inflation has been falling is the drop in global oil prices. After rising in the middle of 2018 to average $80 a barrel in October, the Indian basket of crude oil prices fell to $57 a barrel in December 2018. It was $59 in January 2019 Prices in February have been slightly higher than that, but the increase is not much.
What does this mean for the economy? The nature of the Indian economy is such that a change in oil prices has knock-on effects on almost every sector such as food, manufacturing, transport and infrastructure. Any sector that uses fuel or energy as an input is affected by global oil prices because India is still overwhelmingly dependent on imported oil to meet its needs. .When global oil prices fall, inflation falls across the board, most notably in energy-intensive sectors. . And within this, falling prices in each of these sectors have an impact on the other sectors dependent on them For example, falling inflation in the transport sector means that every sector that needs to transport goods will also benefit.
Another aspect of falling inflation is that the Reserve Bank of India has more leeway to go easy on interest rates, one of its key inflation targeting tools. In its last Monetary Policy Review, the central bank cut the benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points. Some experts feel there is scope for even more cuts. Politically, low and falling inflation is always to the benefit of the government. This is especially noteworthy in the run-up to the general election. In contrast, the CPI inflation averaged about 7.6% in the three months leading up to the 2014 elections.
What is the outlook ahead? The outlook on oil prices is a stable one. . The consensus is that crude oil prices will remain in the range of $55-65 a barrel for the next three to four quarters. Given how important this is for inflation in India, experts feel retail inflation will remain subdued at 2-3% and wholesale inflation at 3- 4% in the near future.
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