Editorial 1 : Listen to the people, not the numbers
- Indian economy has an income problem, not a growth problem. Incomes are not growing sufficiently or sustainably for very large numbers of people. Even though overall GDP growth is good, there is increasing pressure for reservations of jobs for all “economically weaker” sections regardless of caste or religion.
Growth and employment:
- Economists on both sides, for the government and those against it, are debating whether the economy is creating enough jobs and are questioning the veracity of the government’s data. Those against the government also want to show that the problem of growth with insufficient jobs has been created by the policies of the present government and not the previous one.
Jobs that are not ‘good’
- The overall problem of incomes in India, according to economists, is that insufficient numbers have moved out of agriculture into manufacturing. This has been the historical pattern for sustainable growth in all countries, including the U.S. a hundred years ago, and China more recently.
- India’s policymakers thought they had found a shortcut in the 1990s, directly from agriculture to services, with the boost in the growth of exportable Information Technology services.
- But there is very little room in high end services to absorb the large numbers of young Indians in need of jobs. Moreover, these jobs require levels of education that people in rural areas do not have. Therefore, when they move out of agriculture, they need work that fits their present abilities, and puts them onto a ladder that they can climb. They need jobs where they can learn higher skills and earn more.
- Labour intensive manufacturing, services, and construction provide them the first step. The millions of Indians who have moved out of agriculture in the last three decades moved into such jobs.
- The problem is that the jobs they have, irrespective of the sector, are not “good” jobs: they do not pay enough, they are temporary or on short contracts, and they do not provide social security or assistance to develop further skills.
- Even in large, modern, manufacturing enterprises, workers are employed through contractors to provide employers with “flexibility” to reduce costs. Contract workers are paid much less than regular workers. They have insecure employment and are not assisted to develop higher skills.
The world at a turning point
- New ideas of economics are required to create a more environmentally sustainable and socially harmonious future. New concepts of work are required; also new designs of enterprises in which the work is done; as well as new evaluations of the social and economic relationships between participants in these enterprises. The drive for green, organic, and “local” to reduce carbon emissions and improve care of the environment will make small enterprises beautiful again.
- “Economies of scope” will determine the viability of enterprises rather than “economies of scale”. Denser, local, economic webs will develop, rather than long, global supply chains through which specialised products made on scale in different parts of the world are connecting producers with consumers in other distant parts.
The economic value in caregiving
- Attention will shift towards creating genuine “social” enterprises, rather than enterprises for creating economic efficiencies and surpluses which corporate enterprises are designed for.
- Those who provide care, and their work of caregiving, must be valued more than economists value them today. In the present paradigm of economic growth, caregivers, traditionally women, are plucked out of families — which are a natural social enterprise — to work in factories, offices, and retail, in enterprises designed to produce monetary economic value.
- When economists measure women’s participation in the labour force, they value only what women do in formal enterprises for money. They seem to assign no value to the “informal” work they do outside their homes to earn money, whether as domestic caregivers in others’ homes or on family farms.
- The prevalent paradigm of economic theory is distorting social organisations, which families are, to suit the requirements of corporations, which are formal economic organisations. Thus, the money measured economy (GDP) grows, while the care that humans can and should give each other reduces.
Measurements of economic growth and employment
- It must not be mired any longer in 20th century concepts of economic growth. They must be reformed to reflect forms of work and enterprises we want more of in the future. For this paradigm shift, the process of policymaking must begin with listening to those who have not been given much value in the present economic paradigm: to workers, smallholding farmers, small entrepreneurs, and women. Presently, their views are overruled by those who have power in the present paradigm: experts in economics, large financial institutions, and large business corporations.
- The lesson for policymakers is this: “Don’t count on historical statistics to guide good policy for the future: listen to the people and what matters to them.”
Editorial 2 : Unheeded advice
- Ongoing proceedings before the Supreme Court raise concerns about the conduct of some Governors. The key issue that has forced State governments to approach the court for redress is the perverse manner in which incumbents in Raj Bhavan have used the absence of a timeframe for granting assent to Bills to harass and frustrate elected regimes.
- When the court raised the question, “What was the Governor doing for three years?” with respect to the Tamil Nadu Governor, R.N. Ravi, it was underscoring the fact that he disposed of pending Bills only after the court’s observations about the delay in an earlier hearing.
- The Governor’s reluctance to act until an aggrieved government approached the court seems deliberate. The hearing was marked by some questions and answers about the implications of the Governor’s action in withholding his assent to 10 Bills, and the response of the State Assembly in passing the Bills for a second time.
- Preliminary observations by the court suggest that the scheme of Article 200 of the Constitution, which deals with the presentation of Bills passed by the legislature to the Governor for assent, will come under a good deal of scrutiny in this matter.
The larger issue:
- With the court noting that the Governor cannot refuse assent to the reenacted Bills, the present legislative impasse can be given a quick resolution if Mr. Ravi acts on the observation. However, the matter should not end there. The larger issue requires a clear enunciation of the law.
- The tenor of Constituent Assembly debates indicates that it intended to make the power of granting or withholding assent to Bills, or even returning them for reconsideration, exercisable solely on the advice of the Council of Ministers. However, in practice, many Governors have acted on their own, especially in reserving Bills for the President’s consideration.
- Supreme Court must now come up with an authoritative decision so that uncooperative Governors do not use such grey areas to their advantage. It must also be clarified whether ‘withholding assent’ is a final act of rejection of a Bill or it needs a follow up action in the form of returning the Bill with a message for reconsideration by the House, as stated in the first proviso to Article 200.
- It is a settled position in Indian law now that Governor, while declaring that s/he withholds assent to a bill, will have to disclose the reason for such refusal; being a high constitutional authority, s/he cannot act in an arbitrary manner.
- A constitution bench of the Supreme Court in Rameshwar Prasad and Ors. vs Union Of India and Anr held that if the grounds for refusal disclose mala fide or extraneous considerations or ultra vires, the Governor’s action of refusal could be struck down as unconstitutional.
|Article 200 of Indian Constitution states that “When a Bill has been passed by the Legislative Assembly of a State or, in the case of a State having a Legislative Council, has been passed by both Houses of the Legislature of the State, it shall be presented to the Governor and the Governor shall declare either that he assents to the Bill or that he withholds assent therefrom or that he reserves the Bill for the consideration of the President.”
- The proviso bars Governors from withholding assent to any Bill they had returned for reconsideration and has been adopted again by the legislature.
- The issue has also highlighted constitutional ambiguities on the role of Governors. The ‘aid and advice’ clause that is at the core of parliamentary democracy is somewhat undermined by clauses that allow Governors to give themselves discretion they were never meant to have. Such provisions need wholesome reconsideration.
- The refusal of assent by a ‘rubber stamp’ or nominal head is not followed in other democratic countries(eg USA, UK). In some cases, the Constitution provides a remedy so that a Bill passed by the legislature can become law despite the refusal of assent. In this context, Indian Parliament should examine the role of Governor and end this constitutional deadlock.