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Monsoon Session of Parliament: What did the MPs ask the government?

Between the last time Parliament met in March 2020 and the ongoing Monsoon session (a period of nearly six months), the government issued 941 notifications across sectors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  It also announced a Rs 20 lakh crore economic package to improve the state of the economy and provide relief to those affected by the nationwide lockdown.  In addition, the government also proposed long-term policy changes during this period in sectors such as agriculture, economy, and education.

 

One of the key roles of a Member of Parliament (MP) is to hold the government accountable for its policies and actions.   Parliamentary questions are one of the key instruments MPs use to exercise this role.  Questions help MPs seek information from the government on matters of public importance and on the status of implementation of its policies and programmes.  

However, in view of the prevailing extraordinary situation due to COVID-19, both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha have suspended their Question Hour, which would have allowed MPs to seek oral responses from Ministers and ask follow-up questions.  However, unstarred questions are admitted, for which written answers are provided.

This post provides an overview of the government’s response to some of the key questions raised by MPs during the first five days (September 14, 2020, to September 18, 2020) of the session. 

Unstarred questions in the Monsoon session

A total of 1,950 unstarred questions have been asked in the first five days of the Monsoon session of the Parliament (1,150 questions in Lok Sabha and 800 questions in Rajya Sabha).  The Ministries in focus for the questions were: Health (154 questions), Agriculture (127 questions), Education (104 questions), Finance (96 questions), and Railways (80 questions).

Questions ranged from the impact of the lockdown to strategy for vaccine procurement, to the status of the programmes announced to alleviate COVID related issues.  Besides COVID-19, there were questions around India-China trade, locust attacks, and custodial deaths. 

On COVID-19 testing and vaccine strategy

Testing data and Health infrastructure: In response to a question, the government informed that India is conducting nearly 10-11 lakh tests every day and so far, a total of 6.05 crore samples have been tested for COVID-19.  Nearly 40% of the confirmed cases are persons between the age of 26-44

To improve health capacity, as of Sep 15, a total of 15,360 COVID treatment facilities have been created with:

  • 13,20,881 dedicated isolation bed (without oxygen support)
     
  • 2,32,516 oxygen supported isolation beds
     
  • 63,194 ICU beds (including 32,409 ventilator beds)

Vaccine development: The Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation has granted permission for conduct of clinical trials in the country to the following: (i) Bharat Biotech International Ltd. and Cadila Healthcare (these are in phase 1 and phase 2 of trials), and (ii) Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd (for vaccine developed by University of Oxford/AstraZeneca - this is in Phase 3, or advanced phase, of the trials).  

The government is also exploring the possibility of cooperation with Russia for advancing the COVID-19 vaccine in India.  

Health insurance: The Ministry noted that data on the number of healthcare workers who are infected by COVID-19 or who have lost lives during COVID duty is not maintained at the central level.  As per data from the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Insurance Package, a total of 155 medical staff, including 64 doctors, have died due to COVID-19.  The scheme provides an insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh (including loss of life) to healthcare providers, including community health workers, who may have come in direct contact of COVID-19 patients and who may be at risk of being impacted by this.  

Under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme, a total of 4.03 lakh hospitalisations have been registered (and authorised) towards the treatment of COVID-19.  Under Ayushman Bharat, the government provides health cover of five lakh rupees per family per year, for secondary and tertiary care to around 10.7 crore vulnerable families.

Impact on other health services: In light of COVID-19, that there has been a 19.4% drop in Hepatitis-B birth doses administered and a 31% drop in vaccination sessions held in health facilities and outreach sessions from April-June 2020 as compared to the same period last year.  Similarly, there has been a drop of 23.9% in institutional delivery in the April-June 2020 quarter as compared to the same period last year. 

Impact of COVID-19 on Indian economy

Trade:  Responding to a question on the impact of COVID on exports, the government provided the following data:

  • Overall exports declined by 25.4% during April-June 2020 (compared to the same period in 2019).   However, data for August 2020 shows a recovery in exports with the decline reducing to 12.7% (compared to August 2019). 
     
  • The export of goods from Special Economic Zones (SEZs) was Rs 81,481 crore in the April-June 2020, 37% lower than the corresponding period in 2019 (Rs 1,30,129 crore). 

India-China trade: Members also raised questions on the impact of COVID and the border issue with Ladakh on Indo-China trade.  The government held that it has taken steps to balance the trade with China by increasing exports and reducing import dependence. The trade deficit with China during April-June 2020 was USD 5.5 billion as compared to USD 13.1 billion during the same period last year.   

Table 1: Trade deficit with China (in billion dollars)

Year

2016-17

2017-18

2018-19

2019-20

April - June 2019

April - June 2020

Export

10.17

13.33

16.75

16.61

4.16

5.53

Import

61.28

76.38

70.31

65.26

17.26

11.01

Total Trade

71.45

89.71

87.07

81.87

21.42

16.55

Trade Deficit

-51.11

-63.04

-53.56

-48.64

-13.1

-5.48

Sources: Unstarred Question No. 647, Lok Sabha, answered on September 16, 2020; PRS.

With regard to the import of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (bulk drugs), bulk drugs account for nearly 63% of total pharmaceutical imports in India as per government data.  Of these, 68% of the bulk drugs imported by India in 2019-20 were from China.  

Civil aviation: The government informed that the revenue of Indian carriers was down by nearly 86% during April-June 2020, as compared to the same period last year.   

Table 2: Impact of COVID-19 on the civil aviation sector

Indicator

Previously

Now

% Change

Revenue related

April-June 2019

April-June 2020

 

Revenue of Indian carriers

Rs 25,517 crore

Rs 3,651 crore

-85.7%

Revenue of Air India

Rs 7,066 crore

Rs 1,531 crore

-78.3%

Revenue of Airport Operators

Rs 5,745 crore

Rs 894 crore

-84.4%

Employment related

March 31, 2020

July 31, 2020

 

Employment at airlines

74,887

69,589

-7.1%

Employment at airports

67,760

64,514

-4.8%

Employment at ground handling agencies

37,720

29,254

-22.4%

Employment at Cargo operators

9,555

8,538

-10.6%

Traffic related

March-July 2019

March-July 2020

 

Total domestic traffic

5,85,30,038

1,20,84,952

-79.4%

Total international traffic

93,45,469

11,55,590

-87.6%

Sources: Unstarred Question No. 872, Lok Sabha, answered on September 17, 2020; PRS.

Vande Bharat Mission:  The Vande Bharat Mission was launched on May 7, 2020 to facilitate the return of Indian nationals stranded in various countries.  As of September 10, 2020, a total of 13,74,237 Indians have returned to India and the total cost incurred for this effort was Rs 22.5 crore.  Of these, about 3 lakh people were working outside India.  The government stated that SWADES (Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support) initiative has been launched to conduct a skill mapping exercise of the returning citizens under the Vande Bharat Mission. 

Metro rail:  Due to the lockdown, metro services in different cities came to a halt. This has led to a loss of Rs 1,609 crore for the Delhi Metro.  The loss incurred due to the halting of the other metros was: Rs 170 crore for Bengaluru Metro, Rs 90 crore for Lucknow Metro, Rs 80 crore for Chennai Metro, and Rs 34 crore for Kochi Metro. 

On Shramik special trains and Vande Bharat Mission 

Railways revenue:  As of August 2020, the total revenue of Railways was Rs 41,844 crore, which is a decline of 42% over the corresponding period last year.  Of this, Rs 39,648 crore (95%) was freight revenue. During April to August 2020, the passenger traffic was 1.3% of the traffic in the corresponding period last year, and the freight traffic was 86.7% of the traffic seen in the corresponding period last year.  The total amount of refund made to passengers due to cancellation of trains booked till April 14, 2020 (for the journey period between March 22, 2020 and August 12, 2020) was Rs 3,371 crore.

Special trains:   Several members asked questions about the Shramik special trains, the number of migrant labourers who returned to their home states, and the loss of revenue to railways due to restrictions on travel and movement.  The government responded that 4,621 shramik special trains were run from May 1 to August 31, 2020, which transported 63 lakh passengers across the country. Based on the data provided by states, 97 persons passed away while travelling on Shramik special trains (as of September 9, 2020). A total fare of Rs 433 crore was collected from the state governments for running these special trains.   

The government also started other special trains (15 pairs of Rajdhani Express and special trains for examinations such as JEE and NEET).  The average occupancy in these trains (from May 12 to August 31, 2020) was around 82%

On Migrant labourers, relief measures and MGNREGS

total of 1.05 crore migrant workers have returned to their home state till now (maximum to Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar, West Bengal, and Rajasthan).  State-wise details are listed in the table below. 

Table 3: Number of migrant workers who have returned to home-state (as of September 14, 2020)

State

Workers who have returned to the state

Uttar Pradesh

32,49,638

Bihar

15,00,612

West Bengal

13,84,693

Rajasthan

13,08,130

Madhya Pradesh

7,53,581

Jharkhand

5,30,047

Punjab

5,15,642

Assam

4,26,441

Kerala

3,11,124

Maharashtra

1,82,990

Tamil Nadu

72,145

Sources: Unstarred Question No. 197, Lok Sabha, answered on September 14, 2020; PRS.

Responding to a question on whether free grains under the Aatma Nirbhar Scheme had reached the migrant workers, the government stated that no data on the number of migrants/stranded migrant persons across the country was available with the Department of Food Distribution and that the responsibility of identification of beneficiaries under this scheme was entrusted with states.  The government informed that states have indicated about 2.8 crore migrant worker beneficiaries.  As of August 31, 2020, food grains have been distributed to 2.67 crore of the identified beneficiaries for the months of June and July 2020. 

MGNREGS: On whether the migrant labourers have been provided jobs under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the government said that there is no provision to register a job cardholder categorized as a migrant labourer in the card in the scheme.  It stated that a total of 86.82 lakh new job cards have been issued this year so far, against a total of 64.96 lakh cards issued during the same period last year.  The employment provided under the scheme was nearly 100% higher for the months of June and July 2020, as compared to the corresponding months in 2019.  The total demand (from April 2020 to September 12, 2020) for employment under the scheme was 22.5 crore persons, a 39% increase from 16.2 crore persons for 2019-20 (during the same period).  

EPF withdrawal: In March 2020, as part of the relief package, the government increased the withdrawal limit from the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) accounts.  In areas declared to be affected by an epidemic or pandemic, members are permitted to withdraw three months’ salary or 75% of the amount lying in the member’s PF account, whichever is lesser. The government stated that a total of Rs 39,403 crore has been withdrawn from EPF from March 25, 2020 to August 31, 2020.  The withdrawal was highest in the states of Maharashtra (Rs 7,838 crore), Karnataka (Rs 5,744 crore), and Tamil Nadu (Rs 4,985 crore).   

Other questions

Locust attack: Several members sought to know whether the locust attacks caused damage to crops and whether the government has provided any compensation to the affected farmers.   The Ministry of Agriculture responded that the locust incursions were reported in the 10 states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh.  The Rajasthan government has reported crop damage of 33% or more in nearly 3,400-hectare area.  Haryana has reported below 33% crop damage in 6,166-hectare area.  No damage was reported in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, and Bihar.  On compensation, the government stated that pest attack has been notified as a natural disaster and states could provide relief under the State Disaster Response Fund.   However, no state government has reported any data yet on the distribution of relief to affected farmers. 

Functioning of virtual courts: The Ministry of Law and Justice informed that 11,93,046 hearings were done by video conferencing between March 24, 2020 and July 15, 2020 by district and subordinate courts across India.  Further, it stated that to handle challenges related to COVID-19, the government has allocated nearly Rs 30 crore for providing video conferencing equipment and facilitating help desk counters for e-filing in various court complexes

Custodial deaths: The government informed that a total of 1,697 persons died under police/ judicial custody, and a total of 112 cases were registered as encounter deaths (from April 2019 to March 2020).  State-wise details are noted below in Table 4 for select states (they comprise 75% of the total custodial and encounter deaths in 2019-20).  On whether the government is considering a legislation to prevent the torture of individuals by police and public officials, the Ministry of Home Affairs informed that police and public order are state subjects and there is no proposal to bring a legislation in this regard

Table 4: Custodial deaths and Encounter deaths across select states (April 2019-March 2020)

State

Custodial deaths

Encounter deaths

Uttar Pradesh

403

26

Madhya Pradesh

157

3

West Bengal

122

1

Bihar

110

5

Punjab

99

1

Maharashtra

94

3

Rajasthan

84

2

Haryana

77

1

Tamil Nadu

69

3

Chhattisgarh

59

39

Sources: Unstarred Question No. 292, Lok Sabha, answered on September 15, 2020; PRS

Cost of GST compensation

Later this week, the GST Council will meet to discuss the issue of GST compensation to states.  The central government is required to compensate states for any loss of revenue they incur due to GST.  The Centre must pay this compensation on a bi-monthly basis, but over the past one year these payments have been delayed by several months due to lack of funds.  The COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown have amplified the issue manifold, with both centre and states facing a revenue shortfall, limiting the ability of the Centre to meet states’ compensation needs.

Why is the Centre required to compensate states for GST?

With GST implementation in 2017, the principle of indirect taxation for many goods and services changed from origin-based to destination-based.  This means that the ability to tax goods and services and raise revenue shifted from origin states (where the good or service is produced) to destination states (where it is consumed).  This change posed a risk of revenue uncertainty for some states.  This concern of states was addressed through constitutional amendments, requiring Parliament to make a law to provide for compensation to states for five years to avoid any revenue loss due to GST.

For this purpose, the GST (Compensation to States) Act was enacted in 2017 on the recommendation of the GST Council.  The Act guarantees all states an annual growth rate of 14% in their GST revenue during the period July 2017-June 2022.   If a state’s GST revenue grows slower than 14%, such ‘loss of revenue’ will be taken care of by the Centre by providing GST compensation grants to the state.  To provide these grants, the Centre levies a GST compensation cess on certain luxury and sin goods such as cigarettes and tobacco products, pan masala, caffeinated beverages, coal, and certain passenger vehicles.  The Act requires the Centre to credit this cess revenue into a separate Compensation Fund and all compensation grants to states are required to be paid out of the money available in this Fund.

How much compensation is provided to states?

For 2018-19, Centre gave Rs 81,141 crore to states as GST compensation.  However, for the year 2019-20, the compensation requirement of states nearly doubled to Rs 1.65 lakh crore.  A huge increase in requirement implies that states’ GST revenue grew at a slower rate during 2019-20.   This can be attributed to the economic slowdown seen last year, which resulted in a nominal GDP growth of 7.2%.   This was significantly lower than the 12% GDP growth forecast in the 2019-20 union budget (Figure 1).

Figure 1:  GDP growth rate (2017-21)

 image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:  Union Budget Documents; MOSPI; PRS.

In 2019-20, the gross GST revenue (Centre+states) increased by just 4% over the previous year.  Despite this, due to the compensation guarantee, all states could achieve the growth rate of 14% in their GST revenue – much higher than the overall growth in GST revenue.  However, there was a delay in payment of compensation from Centre.   More than Rs 64,000 crore of the compensation requirement of states for 2019-20 was met in the financial year 2020-21.

What led to a delay in payment of compensation to states?

In 2019-20, the delay in payment was observed due to insufficient funds with Centre for providing compensation to states.  These funds are raised by levying a compensation cess on the sale of certain goods, some of which were affected by the economic slowdown.  For instance, in 2019-20, sales of passenger vehicles declined by almost 18% and coal offtake from domestic coal companies reduced by nearly 5%, over the previous year.  As a result, cess collections registered a growth of just 0.4% in 2019-20 (Figure 2), against the 104% increase seen in the compensation requirement of states.  This resulted in a shortfall of funds of nearly Rs 70,000 crore.

Figure 2:  Cess collections insufficient for providing compensation

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note:  In 2017-18, GST was implemented for only nine months.  Compensation amount shown may not match with the amount released in that financial year because of delay in releases.

Sources:  Union Budget Documents; Ministry of Finance; GST Council; Lok Sabha Questions; PRS.

How can compensation be paid to states if cess collections are insufficient?

The shortfall in collections for 2019-20 was met through: (i) surplus cess collections from previous years, (ii) partial cess collections of 2020-21, and (iii) a transfer of Rs 33,412 crore of unsettled GST funds from the Centre to the Compensation Fund.   These unsettled funds are GST collections, generated in 2017-18 from inter-state and foreign trade, that have not yet been settled between centre and states.

In the 2020-21 budget, the Centre has estimated a 10% growth in nominal GDP.  However, due to the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown, the actual growth in 2020-21 is likely to be much lower.  In such a scenario, states’ GST revenue would also be much lower than expected, thus leading to a higher compensation requirement.  However, the ability of Centre to pay compensation depends on the cess collections, which are also getting impacted this year.  For instance, cess collections during the period Apr-Jun 2020 have been 41% lower in comparison to the same period last year.  Moreover, of the Rs 14,482 crore collections made during this period, Rs 8,680 crore has been likely used up for paying compensation for 2019-20.

Note that under the GST (Compensation to States) Act, 2017, Centre can provide compensation to states only through the money available in the Compensation Fund.   The Union Finance Minister, in her budget speech in February 2020, clarified that transfers to the Fund would be limited only to collections of the GST compensation cess.  Despite a shortfall of money in the Compensation Fund, the Centre is constitutionally obligated to meet states’ compensation requirement for a period of five years.

Various measures have been suggested to address the issue of shortfall in the Fund, either by reducing the compensation payable to states (which would require Parliament to amend the Act following GST Council’s recommendation) or by supplementing the funds available with Centre for providing compensation to states.   The Act allows the GST Council to recommend other funding mechanisms/ amounts for credit into the Compensation Fund.  For example, one of the measures proposed for meeting the shortfall involves Centre using market borrowings to pay compensation to states, with the idea that these borrowings will be repaid with the help of future cess collections.  To enable this, the GST Council may recommend to Centre that the compensation cess be levied for a period beyond five years, i.e. post June 2022.

Impact on states post 2022

In 2019-20, except for a few north-eastern states, most states saw their compensation requirements increase multifold by 2-3 times, over the previous year’s figures.  Table 1 shows the compensation requirement of states for the years 2018-19 and 2019-20.  Six states (Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu) accounted for 52% of the total requirement of compensation for 2019-20.  Further, in some states such as Punjab and Delhi, compensation grants form a significant share of the overall revenue receipts (20% and 16% resepctively).  

Note that states have been guaranteed compensation only for a period of five years.  After June 2022, states dependent on compensation will observe a revenue gap due to a cut in these grants coming from Centre.  States have roughly two years to bridge this gap with other tax and non-tax sources to avoid a potential loss of revenue, and a consequent fall in the size of their state budget, which could adversely affect the economy.  To what extent will such concerns be alleviated remains to be seen based on the course of action decided by the GST Council.

Table 1:  GST compensation requirement of states for 2018-19 and 2019-20 (in Rs crore)

State

2018-19

2019-20

% increase in compensation requirement

Amount

As a % of revenue

Amount

As a % of revenue*

Andhra Pradesh

0

-

3,028

3%

-

Assam

455

1%

1,284

1%

182%

Bihar

2,798

2%

5,464

4%

95%

Chhattisgarh

2,592

4%

4,521

7%

74%

Delhi

5,185

12%

8,424

16%

62%

Goa

502

5%

1,093

9%

118%

Gujarat

7,227

5%

14,801

10%

105%

Haryana

3,916

6%

6,617

10%

69%

Himachal Pradesh

1,935

6%

2,477

8%

28%

Jammu and Kashmir

1,667

3%

3,281

5%

97%

Jharkhand

1,098

2%

2,219

4%

102%

Karnataka

12,465

8%

18,628

11%

49%

Kerala

3,532

4%

8,111

9%

130%

Madhya Pradesh

3,302

3%

6,538

4%

98%

Maharashtra

9,363

3%

19,233

7%

105%

Meghalaya

66

1%

157

2%

138%

Odisha

3,785

4%

5,122

5%

35%

Punjab

8,239

13%

12,187

20%

48%

Rajasthan

2,280

2%

6,710

5%

194%

Tamil Nadu

4,824

3%

12,305

7%

155%

Telangana

0

-

3,054

3%

-

Tripura

172

1%

293

3%

70%

Uttar Pradesh

0

-

9,123

3%

-

Uttarakhand

2,442

8%

3,375

11%

38%

West Bengal

2,615

2%

6,200

4%

137%

Note:   Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Sikkim did not require any compensation in 2018-19 and 2019-20.

*Revenue for the year 2019-20 does not takes into account those GST compensation grants which were payable to states in 2019-20 but were released by Centre in the year 2020-21. The percentage figures would be slightly lower if such grants are included in 2019-20 revenue.

Sources:  State Budget Documents; Ministry of Finance; Lok Sabha Questions; CAG; PRS.

National Education Policy : Recommendations and the current scenario

The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was released on July 30, 2020.  It will replace the National Policy on Education, 1986.  Key recommendations of the NEP include: (i) redesigning the structure of school curriculum to incorporate early childhood care and education, (ii) curtailing dropouts for ensuring universal access to education, (iii) increasing gross enrolment in higher education to 50% by 2035, and (iv) improving research in higher education institutes by setting up a Research Foundation.  In this blog, we examine the current status of education in the country in view of some of these recommendations made by the NEP.

Universal access to Education

The NEP states that the Right to Education Act, 2009 has been successful in achieving near universal enrolment in elementary education, however retaining children remains a challenge for the schooling system.  As of 2015-16, Gross Enrolment Ratio was 56.2% at senior secondary level as compared to 99.2% at primary level.  GER denotes enrolment as a percent of the population of corresponding age group.  Further, it noted that the decline in GER is higher for certain socio-economically disadvantaged groups, based on: (i) gender identities (female, transgender persons), (ii) socio-cultural identities (scheduled castes, scheduled tribes), (iii) geographical identities (students from small villages and small towns), (iv) socio-economic identities (migrant communities and low income households), and (v) disabilities.  In the table below, we detail the GER in school education across: (i) gender, and (ii) socio-cultural identities.  

Table 1: GER in school education for different gender and social groups (2015-16)

Level

Male

Female

SC

ST

All

Primary (I-V) 

97.9%

100.7%

110.9%

106.7%

99.2%

Upper Primary (VI-VIII) 

88.7%

97.6%

102.4%

96.7%

92.8%

Secondary (IX-X) 

79.2%

81%

85.3%

74.5%

80%

Senior Secondary (XI-XII) 

56%

56.4%

56.8%

43.1%

56.2%

Sources: Educational Statistics at Glance 2018, MHRD; PRS.

Data for all groups indicates decline in GER as we move from primary to senior secondary for all groups.  This decline is particularly high in case of Scheduled Tribes.  Further, we analyse the reason for dropping out from school education.  Data suggests that the most prominent reason for dropping out was: engagement in domestic activities (for girls) and engagement in economic activities (for boys). 

Table 2: Major reasons for dropping out (Class 1-12) for 2015-16

Reason for dropping out

Male

Female

Child not interested in studies 

23.8%

15.6%

Financial Constraints 

23.7%

15.2%

Engage in Domestic Activities 

4.8%

29.7%

Engage in Economic Activities 

31.0%

4.9%

School is far off 

0.5%

3.4%

Unable to cop-up with studies 

5.4%

4.6%

Completed desired level/ Class 

5.7%

6.5%

Marriage

 

13.9%

Other reasons

5.1%

6.2%

Note: Other reasons include: (i) timings of educational Institution not suitable, (ii) language/medium of Instruction used unfamiliar, (iii) inadequate number of teachers, (iv) quality of teachers not satisfactory, (v) unfriendly atmosphere at school. For girl students, other reasons also include: (i) non-availability of female teachers, (ii) non-availability of girl’s toilet.
Sources: Educational Statistics at Glance 2018, MHRD; PRS.

The NEP recommends strengthening of existing schemes and policies which are targeted for such socio-economically disadvantaged groups (for instance, schemes for free bicycles for girls or scholarships) to tackle dropouts.   Further, it recommends setting up special education zones in areas with significant proportion of such disadvantaged groups.  A gender inclusion fund should also be setup to assist female and transgender students in getting access to education. 

Increasing GER in Higher Education to 50% by 2035

The NEP aims to increase the GER in higher education to 50% by 2035.  As of 2018-19, the GER in higher education in the country stood at 26.3%.  Figure 2 shows the trend of GER in higher education over the last few years.  Note that the annual growth rate of GER in higher education in the last few years has been around 2%.    

Figure 1: GER in Higher Education (2014-15 to 2018-19)

image                                                                                                     

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: All India Survey on Higher Education, MHRD; PRS.

Table 3: Comparison of GER (higher education) with other countries

Country

GER (2017-18)

India 

25%

Brazil

51%

China

49%

Indonesia

36%

South Africa

22%

Pakistan

9%

Germany

70%

France 

66%

United Kingdom

60%

Sources: UNESCO; PRS.

The NEP recommends that for increasing GER, capacity of existing higher education institutes will have to be improved by restructuring and expanding existing institutes.  It recommends that all institutes should aim to be large multidisciplinary institutes (with enrolments in thousands), and there should be one such institution in or near every district by 2030.   Further, institutions should have the option to run open distance learning and online programmes to improve access to higher education.  

Foundational literacy and numeracy

The NEP states that a large proportion of the students currently enrolled in elementary school have not attained foundational literacy and numeracy (the ability to read and understand basic text, and carry out basic addition and subtraction).  It recommends that every child should attain foundational literacy and numeracy by grade three.  

Table 4 highlights the results of the National Achievement Survey 2017 on the learning levels of students at Grade 3 in language and mathematics.  The results of the survey suggest that only 57% students in Grade 3 are able to solve basic numeracy skills related to addition and subtraction.  

Table 4: NAS results on learning level of Grade-3 students

Learning level (Grade 3)

Percentage of students

Ability to read small texts with comprehension (Language)

68%

Ability to read printed scripts on classroom walls such as poems, posters (Language)

65%

Solving simple daily life addition and subtraction problems with 3 digits (Mathematics)

57%

Analyses and applies the appropriate number operation in a situation (Mathematics)

59%

Sources: National Achievement Survey (2017) dashboard, NCERT; PRS.

To achieve universal foundational literacy and numeracy, the Policy recommends setting up a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy under the MHRD.  All state governments must prepare implementation plans to achieve these goals by 2025.  A national repository of high-quality resources on foundational literacy and numeracy will be made available on government’s e-learning platform (DIKSHA).   Other measures to be taken in this regard include: (i) filling teacher vacancies at the earliest, (ii) ensuring a pupil to teacher ratio of 30:1 for effective teaching, and (iii) training teachers to impart foundational literacy and numeracy.

Effective governance of schools

The Policy states that establishing primary schools in every habitation across the country has helped increase access to education.  However, it has led to the development of schools with low number of students.  The small size of schools makes it operationally and economically challenging to deploy teachers and critical physical resources (such as library books, sports equipment).  

With respect to this observation, the distribution of schools by enrolment size can be seen in the table below.  Note that, as of September 2016, more than 55% of primary schools in the country had an enrolment below 60 students.   

Table 5: Distribution of schools by enrolment size

Strength (Grade)

Below 30

31-60

61-90

91-120

121-150

151-200

More than 200

Primary schools (Class 1-5)

28.0%

27.5%

16.0%

10.3%

6.3%

5.6%

6.4%

Upper primary schools (Class 6-8)

14.8%

27.9%

18.7%

15.0%

8.4%

7.2%

8.0%

Upper primary schools (Class 1-8)

5.7%

11.6%

13.0%

12.1%

10.4%

13.4%

33.8%

Sources: Flash Statistics on School Education 2016-17, UDISE; PRS.

While nearly 80% primary schools had a library, only 1.5% schools had a librarian (as of September 2016).  The availability of facilities is better in higher senior secondary schools as compared to primary or upper primary schools. 

Table 6: Distribution of schools with access to physical facilities

Facilities

Primary schools (Class 1-5)

Upper primary schools (Class 1-8)

Higher senior secondary
 schools (Class 1-12)

Library

79.8%

88.0%

94.4%

Librarian

1.5%

4.5%

34.4%

Playground

54.9%

65.5%

84.3%

Functional computer

4.4%

25.2%

46.0%

Internet connection

0.9%

4.2%

67.9%

Sources: Flash Statistics on School Education 2016-17, UDISE; PRS.

To overcome the challenges associated with development of small schools, the NEP recommends grouping schools together to form a school complex.  The school complex will consist of one secondary school and other schools, aanganwadis in a 5-10 km radius.  This will ensure: (i) adequate number of teachers for all subjects in a school complex, (ii) adequate infrastructural resources, and (iii) effective governance of schools.

Restructuring of Higher Education Institutes

The NEP notes that the higher education ecosystem in the country is severely fragmented.  The present complex nomenclature of higher education institutes (HEIs) in the country such as ‘deemed to be university’, ‘affiliating university’, ‘affiliating technical university', ‘unitary university’ shall be replaced simply by 'university'.

According to the All India Survey on Higher Education 2018-19, India has 993 universities, 39,931 colleges, and 10,725 stand-alone institutions (technical institutes such as polytechnics or teacher training institutes).  

Table 7: Number of Universities in India according to different categories

Type of university

Number of universities

Central University

46

Central Open University

1

Institutes of National Importance

127

State Public University

371

Institution Under State Legislature Act

5

State Open University

14

State Private University

304

State Private Open University

1

Deemed University- Government

34

Deemed University- Government Aided

10

Deemed University- Private

80

Total

993

Sources: All India Survey on Higher Education 2018-19; PRS.

The NEP recommends that all HEIs should be restructured into three categories: (i) research universities focusing equally on research and teaching, (ii) teaching universities focusing primarily on teaching, and (iii) degree granting colleges primarily focused on undergraduate teaching.  All such institutions will gradually move towards full autonomy - academic, administrative, and financial.  

Setting up a National Research Foundation to boost research

The NEP states that investment on research and innovation in India, at only 0.69% of GDP, lags behind several other countries.   India’s expenditure on research and development (R&D) in the last few years can be seen in the figure below.   Note that the total investment on R&D in India as a proportion of GDP has been stagnant at around 0.7% of GDP.   In 2018-19, the total expenditure on R&D in India was Rs 1,23,848 crore.  Of this, Rs 72,732 crore (58%) of expenditure was by government, and the remaining (42%) was by private industry. 

Figure 2: R&D Expenditure in India (2011-12 to 2018-19) 

image     

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: S&T Indicators Table 2019-20, Ministry of Science and Technology, March 2020; PRS.

Figure 3: Comparison of R&D expenditure in India with other countries (2017)

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: S&T Indicators Table 2019-20, Ministry of Science and Technology, March 2020; PRS.

To boost research, the NEP recommends setting up an independent National Research Foundation (NRF) for funding and facilitating quality research in India.  The Foundation will act as a liaison between researchers and relevant branches of government as well as industry.  Specialised institutions which currently fund research, such as the Department of Science and Technology, and the Indian Council of Medical Research, will continue to fund independent projects.  The Foundation will collaborate with such agencies to avoid duplication.

Digital education

The NEP states that alternative modes of quality education should be developed when in-person education is not possible, as observed during the recent pandemic.  Several interventions must be taken to ensure inclusive digital education such as: (i) developing two-way audio and video interfaces for holding online classes, and (ii) use of other channels such as television, radio, mass media in multiple languages to ensure reach of digital content where digital infrastructure is lacking.

In this context, we analyse: (i) the availability of computer and internet across households in India, and (ii) ability to use computer or internet by persons in the age group of 5-14.  As of 2017-18, the access to internet and computer was relatively poor in rural areas.  Only 4.4% of rural households have access to a computer (excludes smartphones), and nearly 15% have access to internet facility.  Amongst urban households, 42% have access to internet. 

Table 8: Access to Computer and Internet across households (2017-18)

Access to ICT

Rural

Urban

Overall

Households having computer

4.4%

23.4%

10.7%

Households having internet facility

14.9%

42.0%

23.8%

Note: Computer includes desktop, laptop, notebook, tablet.  It does not include smartphone. 

Sources: Household Social Consumption on Education (2017-18), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, July 2020; PRS.

Table 9: Ability to use Computer and Internet across persons in the age group 5-14 (2017-18)

Ability to use ICT

Rural

Urban

Overall

Ability to use computer

5.1%

21.3%

9.1%

Ability to use internet

5.1%

19.7%

8.8%

Note: Ability to use computer means to be able to carry out any of the tasks such as: (i) copying or moving a file/folder, (ii) sending emails, (iii) transferring files between a computer and other devices, among others. Ability to use internet means to be able to use the internet browser for website navigation, using e-mail or social networking applications.

Sources: Household Social Consumption on Education (2017-18), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, July 2020; PRS.

Public spending on education to be increased to 6% of GDP

The recommendation of increasing public spending on Education to 6% of GDP was first made by the National Policy on Education 1968 and reiterated by the 1986 Policy.  NEP 2020 reaffirms the recommendation of increasing public spending on education to 6% of GDP.  In 2017-18, the public spending on education (includes spending by centre and states) was budgeted at 4.43% of GDP.  

Table 10: Public spending on Education (2013-2018)

Year

Public expenditure (Rs crore)

% of GDP

2013-14

4,30,879

3.84%

2014-15

5,06,849

4.07%

2015-16

5,77,793

4.20%

2016-17

6,64,265

4.32%

2017-18

7,56,945

4.43%

Sources: 312th Report, Standing Committee on Human Resource Development, March 2020; PRS.

Figure 4: Comparison of public spending on Education in India with other countries as % of GDP (2015)

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: Educational Statistics at Glance 2018, MHRD; PRS.

In the figure below, we look at the disparities within states in education spending.  In 2020-21, states in India have allocated 15.7% of their budgeted expenditure towards education.  States such as Delhi, Rajasthan, and Maharashtra have allocated more than 18% of their expenditure on Education for the year 2020-21.  On the other hand, Telangana (7.4%), Andhra Pradesh (12.1%) and Punjab (12.3%) lack in spending on education, as compared to the average of states. 

Figure 5: Budgeted allocation on Education (2020-21) by states in India

image

Note: AP is Andhra Pradesh, UP is Uttar Pradesh, HP is Himachal Pradesh and WB is West Bengal.
Sources: Analysis of various state budget documents; PRS.

For a detailed summary of the National Education Policy, see here

Migration in India and the impact of the lockdown on migrants

India has been in lockdown since March 25, 2020.  During this time, activities not contributing to the production and supply of essential goods and services were completely or partially suspended.  Passenger trains and flights were halted.  The lockdown has severely impacted migrants, several of whom lost their jobs due to shutting of industries and were stranded outside their native places wanting to get back.  Since then, the government has announced relief measures for migrants, and made arrangements for migrants to return to their native place.  The Supreme Court of India, recognising the problems faced by migrants stranded in different parts of the country, reviewed transportation and relief arrangements made by the government.  On June 9, the Court directed central and state governments to complete transportation of remaining stranded migrants and expand focus of relief measures to facilitate employment for returning migrants.  In this blog, we highlight some facts about migration in India, summarise key relief measures announced by the government and directives issued by the Supreme Court for the migrant population in relation to the lockdown.

Overview of Migration

Migration is the movement of people away from their usual place of residence, across either internal (within country) or international (across countries) borders.  The latest government data on migration comes from the 2011 Census.  As per the Census, India had 45.6 crore migrants in 2011 (38% of the population) compared to 31.5 crore migrants in 2001 (31% of the population).   Between 2001 and 2011, while population grew by 18%, the number of migrants increased by 45%.  In 2011, 99% of total migration was internal and immigrants (international migrants) comprised 1%.[1] 

Patterns of migration

Internal migrant flows can be classified on the basis of origin and destination.  One kind of classification is: i) rural-rural, ii) rural-urban, iii) urban-rural and iv) urban-urban.  As per the 2011 census, there were 21 crore rural-rural migrants which formed 54% of classifiable internal migration (the Census did not classify 5.3 crore people as originating from either rural or urban areas).  Rural-urban and urban-urban movement accounted for around 8 crore migrants each.   There were around 3 crore urban-rural migrants (7% of classifiable internal migration).

Another way to classify migration is: (i) intra-state, and (ii) inter-state.  In 2011, intra-state movement accounted for almost 88% of all internal migration (39.6 crore persons).1 

There is variation across states in terms of inter-state migration flows.  According to the 2011 Census, there were 5.4 crore inter-state migrants.  As of 2011, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were the largest source of inter-state migrants while Maharashtra and Delhi were the largest receiver states.  Around 83 lakh residents of Uttar Pradesh and 63 lakh residents of Bihar had moved either temporarily or permanently to other states.  Around 60 lakh people from across India had migrated to Maharashtra by 2011. 

Figure 1: Inter-state Migration (in lakh)

image 

Note: A net out-migrant state is one where more people migrate out of the state than those that migrate into the state.  Net in-migration is the excess of incoming migrants over out-going migrants.   

Sources: Census 2011; PRS.

Reasons for internal migration and size of migrant labour force

As of 2011, majority (70%) of intra-state migration was due to reasons of marriage and family with variation between male and female migrants.  While 83% of females moved for marriage and family, the corresponding figure for males was 39%.  Overall, 8% of people moved within a state for work (21% of male migrants and 2% of female migrants). 

Movement for work was higher among inter-state migrants- 50% of male and 5% of female inter-state migrants.  As per the Census, there were 4.5 crore migrant workers in 2011.  However, according to the Working Group Report on Migration, the Census underestimates the migrant worker population.   Female migration is recorded as movement due to family since that is the primary reason.  However, many women take up employment after migrating which is not reflected in the number of women moving for work-related reasons. [2]  

According to the Economic Survey, 2016-17, Census data also underestimates temporary migrant labour movement.  In 2007-08, the NSSO estimated the size of India’s migrant labour at seven crore (29% of the workforce).  The Economic Survey, 2016-17, estimated six crore inter-state labour migrants between 2001-2011.  The Economic Survey also estimated that in each year between 2011-2016, on average 90 lakh people travelled for work. 

Figure 2: Reasons for intra-state migration 

image

Sources: Census 2011; PRS.

Figure 3:Reasons for inter-state migration 

Sources: Census 2011; PRS.

Issues faced by migrant labour

Article 19(1)(e) of the Constitution, guarantees all Indian citizens the right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India, subject to reasonable restrictions in the interest of the general public or protection of any scheduled tribe.  However, people migrating for work face key challenges including: i) lack of social security and health benefits and poor implementation of minimum safety standards law, ii) lack of portability of state-provided benefits especially food provided through the public distribution system (PDS) and iii) lack of access to affordable housing and basic amenities in urban areas. 2    

Poor implementation of protections under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979 (ISMW Act) 

The ISMW Act provides certain protections for inter-state migrant workers.  Labour contractors recruiting migrants are required to: (i) be licensed, (ii) register migrant workers with the government authorities, and (iii) arrange for the worker to be issued a passbook recording their identity.  Guidelines regarding wages and protections (including accommodation, free medical facilities, protective clothing) to be provided by the contractor are also outlined in the law. 

In December 2011, a report by the Standing Committee on Labour observed that registration of workers under the ISMW Act was low and implementation of protections outlined in the Act was poor.   The report concluded that the Central government had not made any concrete and fruitful efforts to ensure that contractors and employers mandatorily register the workers employed with them enabling access to benefits under the Act.  

Lack of portability of benefits

Migrants registered to claim access to benefits at one location lose access upon migration to a different location.  This is especially true of access to entitlements under the PDS.  Ration card required to access benefits under the PDS is issued by state governments and is not portable across states.  This system excludes inter-state migrants from the PDS unless they surrender their card from the home state and get a new one from the host state.  

Lack of affordable housing and basic amenities in urban areas

The proportion of migrants in urban population is 47%.1  In 2015, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs identified migrants in urban areas as the largest population needing housing in cities.  There is inadequate supply of low-income ownership and rental housing options.  This leads to the spread of informal settlements and slums.  The Prime Minister Awaas Yojana (PMAY) is a central government scheme to help the economically weaker section and low-income group access housing.  Assistance under the scheme includes:  i) slum rehabilitation, ii) subsidised credit for home loans, iii) subsidies up to Rs 1.5 lakh to either construct a new house or enhance existing houses on their own and iv) increasing availability of affordable housing units in partnership with the private sector.  Since housing is a state subject, there is variation in approach of States towards affordable housing.2 

Steps taken by the government with regard to migrant labour during the lockdown

During the lockdown, several inter-state migrant workers tried to return to their home state. Due to the suspension public transport facilities, migrants started walking towards their home state on foot.  Subsequently, buses and Shramik special trains were permitted by the central government subject to coordination between states.[3],[4]  Between May 1 and June 3, more than 58 lakh migrants were transported through specially operated trains and 41 lakh were transported by road.  Measures taken by the government to aid migrants include-

Transport:  On March 28, the central government authorised states to use the State Disaster Response Fund to provide accommodation to traveling migrants.  States were advised to set up relief camps along highways with medical facilities to ensure people stay in these camps while the lockdown is in place.  

In an order issued on April 29, the Ministry of Home Affairs allowed states to co-ordinate individually to transport migrants using buses.  On May 1, the Indian Railways resumed passenger movement (for the first time since March 22) with Shramik Special trains to facilitate movement of migrants stranded outside their home state.  Between May 1 and June 3, Indian Railways operated 4,197 Shramik trains transporting more than 58 lakh migrants.  Top states from where Shramik trains originated are Gujarat and Maharashtra and states where the trains terminated are Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.[5]  Note that these trends largely correspond to the migration patterns seen in the 2011 census data.  

Food distribution:  On April 1, the Ministry of Health and Family Affairs directed state governments to operate relief camps for migrant workers with arrangements for food, sanitation and medical services.  On May 14, under the second tranche of the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan, the Finance Minister announced that free food grains would be provided to migrant workers who do not have a ration card for two months.  The measure is expected to benefit eight crore migrant workers and their families.   The Finance Minister also announced that One Nation One Ration card will be implemented by March 2021, to provide portable benefits under the PDS.  This will allow access to ration from any Fair Price Shop in India.  

Housing:  The Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan also launched a scheme for Affordable Rental Housing Complexes for Migrant Workers and Urban Poor to provide affordable rental housing units under PMAY.  The scheme proposes to use existing housing stock under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Housing Mission (JnNURM) as well as incentivise public and private agencies to construct new affordable units for rent.  Further, additional funds have been allocated for the credit linked subsidy scheme under PMAY for middle income group. 

Financial aid:  Some state governments (like BiharRajasthan and Madhya Pradesh) announced one-time cash transfers for returning migrant workers.  UP government announced the provision of maintenance allowance of Rs 1,000 for returning migrants who are required to quarantine. 

Directions by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court reviewed the situation of migrant labourers stranded in different parts of the country, noting inadequacies and lapses in government response to the situation.  

  • On May 26, the Court issued an order to the central and state governments to submit a response detailing all measures taken by the respective governments for migrant labourers.  
  • On May 28, the Court provided interim directions to the central and state/UT governments for ensuring relief to the migrant workers: i) no train or bus fare should be charged to migrant workers, ii) free food should be provided to stranded migrants by the concerned State/UT government and this information should be publicised, iii) States should simplify and speed-up the process of registration of migrants for transport and those registered should be provided transportation at the earliest and iv) the state receiving migrants should provide last-mile transport, health screening and other facilities free of cost. 
  • Reiterating their earlier directions, on June 5 (full order issued on June 9), the Supreme Court further directed the Central and state/UT governments to ensure: i) transportation of all stranded workers wanting to return to their native place is completed within 15 days, ii) identification of migrant workers is immediately completed and the process of migrant registration be decentralised to police stations and local authorities, iii) records of returning migrant labourers are kept including details about place of earlier employment and nature of their skills, and iv) counselling centres are set-up at the block level to provide information about central and state government schemes and other avenues of employment.  The Court also directed the state/UT governments to consider withdrawal of prosecution/complaints under Section 51 of Disaster Management Act filed against migrant labourers who allegedly violated lockdown orders. 

 

[1] Census, 2011, Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, Ministry of Home Affairs.

[2] Report of Working Group on Migration, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, January 2017, http://mohua.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/1566.pdf.

[3] Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-I (A), Ministry of Home Affairs, April 29, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/4233.IND_Movement_of_Persons_April_29.pdf

[4] Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-I (A), Ministry of Home Affairs, May 1, 2020, https://prsindia.org/files/covid19/notifications/IND_Special_Trains_May_1.jpeg

[5] “Indian Railways operationalizes 4197 “Shramik Special” trains till 3rd June, 2020 (0900hrs) across the country and transports more than 58 lacs passengers to their home states through “Shramik Special” trains since May 1”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Railways, June 3, 2020, https://pib.gov.in/PressReleseDetail.aspx?PRID=1629043

Definition of MSMEs

On June 1, 2020, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved a revision in the definition of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).[1]  In this blog, we discuss the change in the definition as approved by the Cabinet, and examine some of the common criteria used for classification of MSMEs.

Currently, MSMEs are defined under the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006.[2]  The Act classifies them as micro, small and medium enterprises based on: (i) investment in plant and machinery for enterprises engaged in manufacturing or production of goods, and (ii) investment in equipment for enterprises providing services.  As per the Cabinet approval, the investment limits will be revised upwards and annual turnover of the enterprise will be used as additional criteria for the classification of MSMEs (Table 1). 

Earlier attempts to amend the definition of MSMEs

The central government has sought to revise the definition of MSMEs in the Act on two earlier occasions.  The government introduced the MSME Development (Amendment) Bill, 2015 which proposed to increase the investment limits for manufacturing and services MSMEs.[3]  This Bill was withdrawn in July 2018 and another Bill was introduced.  The MSME Development (Amendment) Bill, 2018 proposed to: (i) use annual turnover as criteria instead of investment for classification of MSMEs, (ii) remove the distinction between manufacturing and services, and (iii) provide the central government with the power to revise the turnover limits, through a notification.[4]  The 2018 Bill lapsed with the dissolution of 16th Lok Sabha. 

Global trends in criteria for the classification of MSMEs

While India will now be using investment and annual turnover as the criteria to classify MSMEs, globally, the number of employees is the most widely used criteria for classifying MSMEs.  The Reserve Bank of India's Expert Committee on MSMEs (2019) cited a study by the International Finance Corporation in 2014 which analysed 267 definitions used by different institutions in 155 countries.[5],[6]  According to the study, countries used a combination of criteria to classify MSMEs.   92% of the definitions used the number of employees as one of the criteria.  Other frequently used criteria were: (i) turnover (49%), and (ii) value of assets (36%).  11% of the analysed definitions used alternative criteria such as: (i) loan size, (ii) years of experience, and (iii) initial investment. 

Evaluation of common criteria used to define MSMEs

InvestmentThe 2006 Act uses investment in plant, machinery, and equipment to classify MSMEs.  Some of the issues with the investment criteria include:

  • The investment criteria require physical verification and have associated cost overheads.[7]
  • The investment limits may need to be revised from time-to-time due to the impact of inflation.  The Standing Committee on Industry (2018) had observed that limits set under the Act in 2006 have become irrelevant due to the impact of inflation.7
  • Due to their informal and small scale of operations, firms often do not maintain proper books of accounts and hence find it difficult to get classified as MSMEs as per the current definition.5

  • The investment-based classification incentivises promoters to keep the investment size restricted to retain the benefits associated with the micro or small category.7

Turnover: The 2018 Bill sought to replace the investment criteria with annual turnover as the sole criteria for the classification of MSMEs.  The Standing Committee agreed with the proposal under the Bill to use annual turnover as the criteria instead of investment.7  It observed that this could overcome some of the shortcomings of classification based on investment.  While turnover based criteria will also require verification, the Committee noted that the GST Network (GSTN) data can act as a reliable source of information for this purpose.  However, it also observed that:7

  • With turnover as a criterion for classification, corporates may misuse the incentives meant for MSMEs.  For instance, there is a possibility that a multi-national company may produce a large quantity of products worth a high turnover and then market it through various subsidiaries registered as Micro or Small enterprise under GSTN. 

  • The turnover of some enterprises may fluctuate depending on their business, which may result in the change of classification of the enterprise during a year. 

  • The Committee noted that there is a wide gap in turnover limits.  For instance, an enterprise with a turnover of Rs 6 crore and an enterprise with a turnover of Rs 75 crore (as proposed in 2018 Bill) would both be classified as a small enterprise, which seems incongruous. 

The Expert Committee (RBI) also recommended using annual turnover as the criteria for classification instead of investment.5  It observed that turnover based definition would be transparent, progressive, and easier to implement through the GSTN.  It also recommended that the power to change the definition of MSMEs should be delegated to the executive as it will help in responding to changing economic scenarios.

Number of employees: The Standing Committee had highlighted that in a labour-intensive country like India, appropriate focus is required on employment generation and MSME sector is the most suitable platform for this.7  It had recommended that the central government should assess the number of persons employed in the MSME sector and also consider employment as a criterion while classifying MSMEs.  However, the Expert Committee (RBI) stated that while the employment-based definition is an additional feature preferred in some countries, the definition would pose challenges in implementation.5  According to the Ministry of MSME, employment as a criterion has problems due to: (i) factors such as seasonality and informal nature of engagement, (ii) similar to investment criteria, this would also require physical verification and has associated cost overheads.7  

Number of MSMEs

According to the National Sample Survey (2015-16), there were around 6.34 crore MSMEs in the country.  The micro sector with 6.3 crore enterprises accounted for more than 99% of the total estimated number of MSMEs.  The small and medium sectors accounted for only 0.52% and 0.01% of the estimated number of enterprises, respectively.  Another dataset to understand the distribution of MSMEs is Udyog Aadhaar, a unique identity provided by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to MSME enterprises.[8]  Udyog Aadhaar registration is based on self-declaration by enterprises.  Between September 2015 and June 2020, 98.6 lakh enterprises have registered with UIDAI.  According to this dataset, micro, small, and medium enterprises comprise 87.7%, 11.8% and 0.5% of the MSME sector respectively.

Employment in the MSME sector

The MSME sector employed nearly 11.1 crore people in 2015-16.  The sector was the second largest employer after the agriculture sector.  The highest number of employed persons were engaged in trade activity (35%), followed by persons engaged in manufacturing (32%).

Implications of change in the definition of MSMEs

The change in the definition of MSMEs may result in many enterprises which are currently classified as Small enterprises be reclassified as Micro, and those classified as Medium enterprises be reclassified as Small.  Further, there may be many enterprises which are not currently classified as MSMEs, which may fall under the MSME classification as per the new definition.   Such enterprises will also now benefit from the schemes related to MSMEs.  The Ministry of MSME runs various schemes to provide for: (i) flow of credit to MSMEs, (ii) support for technology upgrade and modernisation, (iii) entrepreneurship and skill development, and (iv) cluster-wise measures to promote capacity-building and empowerment of MSME units.  For instance, under the Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises, a credit guarantee cover of up to 75% of the credit is provided to micro and small enterprises.[9]  Thus, the re-classification may require a significant increase in budgetary allocation for the MSME sector. 

Other announcements related to MSMEs in the aftermath of COVID-19 

MSME sector accounted for nearly 33.4% of the total manufacturing output in 2017-18.[10]  During the same year, its share in the country’s total exports was around 49%.  Between 2015 and 2017, the contribution of the sector in GDP has been around 30%.  Due to the national lockdown induced by COVID-19, businesses including MSMEs have been badly hit.  To provide immediate relief to the MSME sector, the government announced several measures in May 2020.[11]  These include: (i) collateral-free loans for MSMEs with up to Rs 25 crore outstanding and up to Rs 100 crore turnover, (ii) Rs 20,000 crore as subordinate debt for stressed MSMEs, and (iii) Rs 50,000 crore of capital infusion into MSMEs.  These measures have also been approved by the Union Cabinet.[12]    

For more details on the announcements made under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, see here

[1] “Cabinet approves Upward revision of MSME definition and modalities/ road map for implementing remaining two Packages for MSMEs (a)Rs 20000 crore package for Distressed MSMEs and (b) Rs 50,000 crore equity infusion through Fund of Funds”, Press Information Bureau, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, June 1, 2020.

[2] The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006, https://samadhaan.msme.gov.in/WriteReadData/DocumentFile/MSMED2006act.pdf.

[3] The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Amendment) Bill, 2015, https://www.prsindia.org/sites/default/files/bill_files/MSME_bill%2C_2015_0.pdf.

[5] Report of the Expert Committee on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, The Reserve Bank of India, July 2019, https://rbidocs.rbi.org.in/rdocs/PublicationReport/Pdfs/MSMES24062019465CF8CB30594AC29A7A010E8A2A034C.PDF.

[6] MSME Country Indicators 2014, International Finance Corporation, December 2014, https://www.smefinanceforum.org/sites/default/files/analysis%20note.pdf.

[7] 294th Report on Micro Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Amendment) Bill 2018, Standing Committee on Industry, Rajya Sabha, December 2018, https://rajyasabha.nic.in/rsnew/Committee_site/Committee_File/ReportFile/17/111/294_2019_3_15.pdf.

[8] Enterprises with Udyog Aadhaar Number, National Portal for Registration of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, https://udyogaadhaar.gov.in/UA/Reports/StateBasedReport_R3.aspx.

[9] Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme for Micro and Small Enterprises, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, http://www.dcmsme.gov.in/schemes/sccrguarn.htm.

[10] Annual Report 2018-19, Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, https://msme.gov.in/sites/default/files/Annualrprt.pdf.

[11] "Finance Minister announce measures for relief and credit support related to businesses, especially MSMEs to support Indian Economy’s fight against COVID-19", Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Finance, May 13, 2020.

[12] "Cabinet approves additional funding of up to Rupees three lakh crore through introduction of Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS)", Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Finance, May 20, 2020.

English translation unavailable for .

Central government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (May 23 - May 29, 2020)

As of May 29, 2020, there are 1,65,799 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India.  47,352 new cases have been registered in the last week (since May 22).  Out of the confirmed cases so far, 71,106 patients have been cured/discharged and 4,706 have died.  Most cases are in the state of Maharashtra (59,546) followed by the states of Tamil Nadu (19,372), Delhi (16,281) and Gujarat (15,562).  

With the spread of COVID-19, the central government initially undertook many measures to contain the spread of the pandemic, including restrictions on travel and movement through national lockdown.  With gradual resumption of activities, the central government has recently announced measures to ease restrictions on travel and movement.   Further, the government has continued to announce policy decisions to ease the financial stress caused by the pandemic, and to contain further spread of the pandemic.  In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the central government in this regard between May 23 and May 29, 2020.

Figure 1: Day wise number of COVID-19 cases in the country

image

Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; PRS.

Finance

RBI announces additional measures to ease financial stress caused by COVID-19

On May 22, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a statement with various development and regulatory policies to ease the financial stress caused by COVID-19.   These measures include: (i) improving liquidity in the market; (ii) support to exports and imports; and (iii) easing capital financing.  Subsequently, following measures have been notified by the RBI: 

  • In March 2020, the RBI had permitted all lending institutions to grant a moratorium of three months on payment of all term loans outstanding as of March 1, 2020.   This has been extended by another three months (till August 31, 2020).  Such deferment will not result in downgrade in asset classification.
     
  • For working capital such as cash credit or overdraft as well, lending institutions are permitted to allow a deferment of another three months on recovery of interest (till August 31, 2020). 
     
  • Currently, the exposure limit of a bank to a group of connected counterparties is 25% of the eligible capital base of the bank.  As a one-time measure to ease difficulty in raising funds, this limit has been relaxed to 30% of capital base of bank. 

Travel and Movement 

Domestic Air travel resumes; fare limits set by government

Domestic passenger air travel has been resumed in a phased manned (with one-third capacity of operations) from May 25, 2020 based on the announcement of the Ministry of Civil Aviation on May 21.  To ensure that airlines do not charge excessive fare and to ensure that journey is only for essential purposes, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued an order to limit the minimum and maximum fare that airlines can charge from the passenger.   The routes have been divided in seven sectors based on the approximate duration of the flight.  For routes with shortest duration (for example, Delhi to Chandigarh), the minimum and maximum fare will be Rs 2,000 and Rs 6,000, respectively.  For routes with the longest duration (for example, Delhi to Thiruvananthapuram), the minimum and maximum fare will be Rs 6,500 and Rs 18,600, respectively. 

Further, the Ministry announced that all operational routes under the Regional Connectivity (UDAN) Scheme with up to 500 km of length or operational routes in priority areas (North East region, hilly states or islands) are permitted to resume operations.  This is in addition to the one-third capacity of operations announced earlier. 

Health

Guidelines for international arrivals issued

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued guidelines for international arrivals.  All travellers are required to give an undertaking that they will undergo a 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine at their own cost (7 days in institutional quarantine followed by a 7-day isolation at home).  In emergency cases (such as pregnancy or death in the family), home quarantine will be permitted.  Use of Aarogya Setu app will be mandatory in such cases.  Only asymptomatic passengers will be allowed to board (flight/ship) after thermal screening.  On arrival, thermal screening will be carried out for all passengers.  The passengers found to be symptomatic will be isolated and taken to a medical facility. 

Movement of migrant labourers

Supreme Court gives an interim order regarding problems of migrant labourers

The Supreme Court of India took cognisance of the problems of migrant labourers who have been stranded in different parts of the country.  In its order, the Court observed that there are lapses being noticed in the process of registration, transportation and in providing food and shelter to the migrant workers.  In view of these difficulties, the Court issued the following interim directions:  

  • Free of cost food should be provided to the migrant workers who are stranded at different places in the country by the concerned state governments.  This information should be publicised and also notified to workers when they are waiting for their turn to board the train or bus.
     
  • The states should speed up the process of registration of migrant workers and provide help desk for registration.  Complete information regarding the modes of transport must be publicised to the workers.  
     
  • Fare should not be charged from migrant workers for travel by train or bus. The railway fare shall be shared by the states as per their arrangement.  The originating state of travel must provide water and meal during transportation.   In case of a train journey, Railways must provide water and meal during the journey. 
     
  • After the migrant workers reach their native place, the receiving state must provide health screening, transport and other facilities free of cost. 
     
  • Migrant workers found walking on highways or roads must be provided transportation to their destination and all facilities including food and water.

The Court directed the central and state governments to produce record of all necessary details such as the number of migrant workers, the plan to transport them to their destination, and the mechanism of registration. 

Other measures

PM CARES Fund included in the list of CSR eligible activities

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs notified the inclusion of PM CARES fund in the list of activities eligible for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) under the Companies Act, 2013.  Under the Act, companies with net worth, turnover or profits above a specified amount are required to spend 2% of their average net profits in the last three financial years towards CSR activities. This measure will come into effect retrospectively from March 28, 2020, when the fund was setup

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Central government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (May 11 – May 22, 2020)

As of May 22, 2020, there are 1,18,447 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India, which is 76% higher than the cases on May 11, 2020 (67,152). Out of total confirmed cases, there are 66,330 active cases, 48,354 patients have been cured/discharged and 3,583 have died (Figure 1). As the spread of COVID-19 has increased across India, the central government has continued to announce several policy decisions to contain the spread, and support citizens and businesses who are being affected by the pandemic.  In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the central government in this regard between May 11 and May 22, 2020.

Figure 1: Number of day wise COVID 19 cases as on May 22, 2020

 image

Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan

On May 12, the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, announced a special economic package of Rs 20 lakh crore (equivalent to 10% of India’s GDP) aimed towards making the country ready for the tough competition in the global supply chain and empowering the poor, labourers, migrants who have been adversely affected by COVID-19.   Following this announcement, the Finance Minister, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, in five press conferences, announced the detailed measures under the economic package.  The economic package includes earlier measures taken by the government to support the citizens and businesses of India.  A break-up of the package is presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Break-up of stimulus from Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan package

Item

Key Topics covered

Amount (in Rs crore)

Stimulus from earlier measures

 Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, Tax Concessions, and the Prime Minister's announcement for health sector

1,92,800

Part 1

Business including Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)

5,94,550

Part 2

Poor people including migrants and farmers.

3,10,000

Part 3

Agriculture and allied sectors.

1,50,000

Part 4 and Part 5

Part 4: Coal and mineral sectors, defence sector, civil Aviation, airports and aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO), power sector, social infrastructures, space, atomic energy.

Part 5: Government reforms and other provisions including public health and education, additional allocation to MGNREGS

48,100

Sub Total

 

1,295,400

RBI Measures (Actual)

Reduction in Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), Special Liquidity Facility (SLF) for mutual funds, Special refinance facilities for NABARD, SIDBI and NHB at policy repo rate

8,01,603

Grand Total

 

20,97,053

Note: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 in the table above represents the five press conferences conducted by the Finance Minister to announce the details of the economic package.

Source:   Presentation made by Union Finance & Corporate Affairs Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman under Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan to support Indian economy in fight against COVID-19, Ministry of Finance, May 13, 2020, PRS.

For more information on the details of the announcements made under Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan, please see here.

Finance

Following the Prime Minister’s and Finance Minister’s announcements, further announcements were also made. 

  • Cabinet approved the additional funding of Rs three lakh crore to eligible MSMEs and interested MUDRA borrowers under the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme.  The funding will be covered under 100% guarantee coverage by the National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Limited in the form of a Guaranteed Emergency Credit Line facility.
     
  • Cabinet also approved the special liquidity scheme for Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs)/Housing Finance Companies (HFCs).  The details of the scheme were shared by the Finance Minister in May 2020 under the Aatma Nirbhar Bharat Abhiyaan.
     
  • Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) revised the post-default curing period for credit rating agencies (CRAs) in their circular dated May 21, 2020.  Now, once the default is cured and payments are regularised, CRAs will upgrade the rating from default to non-investment grade after a period of 90 days based on the satisfactory performance by the company during the period.  As of now, after the entity corrects the default, the CRAs upgrade the rating from default to speculative grade in 90 days and from default to investment grade in 365 days.
     
  • On May 22, the Monetary Policy Committee of Reserve Bank of India (RBI), reduced the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) by 40 bps to 4% from 4.4%.  The marginal standing facility (MSF) and the bank rate have been reduced to 4.25% from 4.65%.  The reverse repo rate has been also reduced from 3.75% to 3.35%.
     
  • The Reserve bank of India (RBI) issued a statement with various development and regulatory policies.  The policies specify details on measures (i) to improve the functioning of market; (ii) to support exports and imports; (iii) to ease financial stress; (iv) for debt management.  The cash reserve ratio (CRR) of all banks will be reduced by 100 basis points to 3%, which will provide a liquidity support of Rs 1,37,000 crore across the banking system. The policy extends the moratorium on payment of instalments of all type of loans as on March 1, 2020 by another three months (up to August 2020).   This is applicable to loans from all commercial banks including Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs) and co-operative banks.   

Lockdown 4.0

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) passed an order extending the lockdown till May 31, 2020. This lockdown will have more relaxations compared to earlier lockdowns.

Zoning of areas

The new guidelines have authorised states/union territories (UTs) to define the red, green and orange zones based on the parameters prescribed by the Health Ministry.  The states/UTs can define a district, or a municipal corporation/ municipality or even smaller administrative units such as sub-divisions, etc. as a red or green or orange zone.

  • Red and Orange Zones: Within red and orange zones, the local authorities will identify containment and buffer zones based on the guidelines from the Health Ministry.  Buffer zones are areas adjacent to containment zones which have a high probability of cases.
     
  • Containment Zones: Movement of individuals will not be allowed in containment zones to ensure strict perimeter control except for medical emergencies and supply of essential goods and services.

The prohibition of certain activities or restrictions in various zones within a state will be at the discretion of the state/union territory as deemed necessary.

Prohibited Activities

Some activities will continue to remain prohibited throughout the country.  These include:

  • all international air travel of passengers, except for domestic medical services, domestic air ambulance and for security purposes or purposes as permitted by MHA;
     
  • metro rail services;
     
  • running of schools, colleges, educational and training/coaching institutions;
     
  • hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services, except for the running of canteens in bus depots, railway stations and airports;
     
  • places of large public gatherings such as cinemas, shopping malls, and gymnasiums entertainment parks;
     
  • social, political, cultural, and similar gatherings and other large congregations; and access to religious places/places of worship for the public. 

Online/ distance learning is encouraged and permitted; and, restaurants will be allowed to operate kitchens for home delivery of food items.

National Directives for COVID Management

The Ministry of Home Affairs issued the National Directives for COVID Management, which apply to public places and work places. As per these guidelines:

  • wearing of face covers is compulsory; 
     
  • spitting will be punishable with fine as may be prescribed in accordance with its laws, rules or regulations by the State/ UT local authority; 
     
  • social distancing is to be followed by all persons in public places and in transport;  
     
  • marriage related gathering has been limited to 50 guests;  
     
  • for funerals/ last rites, the maximum number of persons allowed is 20;  
     
  • consumption of liquor, paan, gutkha and tobacco etc., is not allowed in public places.  

Guidelines for workplaces include:

  • employers will encourage practice of work from home to the extent possible; 
     
  • staggering of work hours will be adopted in respect of all offices and other establishments.  
     
  • there will be provision for thermal scanning, hand wash and sanitizers at all entry and exit points and common areas;
     
  • all work places and other sensitive locations are to be sanitized regularly.  
     
  • social distancing will have to be ensured through adequate distance between workers, adequate gaps between shifts, staggering the lunch break of staff and so on.

Aarogya Setu

The District authorities will ensure installation of the Aarogya Setu application on compatible mobile phones of all individuals and will have to regularly update their health status on the app.

Aarogya Setu Data access and knowledge sharing protocol, 2020

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India issued a notification on the data access and knowledge sharing protocol, 2020 in reference to the Aarogya Setu mobile application.  The protocol will: (i) ensure secure collection of data by the mobile application, (ii) protect the personal data of individuals, and (iii) ensure efficient use and sharing of personal or non-personal data of the application users.  The protocol provides principles for: (i) collection and processing of response data, (ii) sharing of response data, (iii) obligations of entities with whom the data will be shared, and (iv) sharing of data for research purpose.  A sunset clause is applicable to the protocol subjecting it to a review after 6 months unless there is any extension of sunset clause in wake of the pandemic.

Travel and Movement

  • The Ministry of Railways announced to run Shramik special trains from all districts connected by railways in the country.  The ministry is awaiting details on migrants from each district to operationalise the trains.
     
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has written to Chief Secretaries of all states allowing them to arrange special buses to carry people from railway stations to their home.  This provision is applicable, with condition of maintaining proper social distancing norms, only at places where public or personal transport is not available.
     
  • On May 11, 2020, MHA passed an order permitting movement of individuals by trains.   Following the order, 15 pair of trains are being run   connecting New Delhi to Dibrugarh, Agartala, Howrah, Patna, Bilaspur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Madgaon, Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad and Jammu Tawi.
     
  • The Ministry of Railways in consultation with the MHA and the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, issued guidelines on partial restoration of train services (other than the Shramik trains) from June 1, 2020.  200 passenger trains with AC, Non-AC and general classes will be operationalised.   Booking for these trains commenced on May 21, 2020.  The guidelines contain detailed information on (i) booking of tickets and charting, (ii) quota permitted, (iii) catering, and (iv) linen and blankets.  All passengers will have to download and use the Aarogya Setu mobile application.
     
  • On May 19, 2020, MHA issued a Standard operating Procedure (SOP) for movement of stranded workers by trains.   As per the SOP, the Ministry of Railways will permit the movement of stranded workers by trains in consultation with MHA.  The Ministry of Railways will finalise the schedules for trains including the stoppages and destinations and will communicated it to state/UTs.  On arrival at the destination, the travelling passengers will have to adhere to the health protocols as prescribed by the destination state/UT.  The inter-state movement of stranded persons by bus and vehicles will be allowed subject to mutual consent of the concerned States/UTs.  The intra-state movement of vehicles will be at the discretion of the states/UTs.
     
  • The MHA amended the order on Lockdown 4.0 to facilitate domestic air travel for stranded persons.  Following the amendment, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued the order for commencement of domestic air travel of passengers from May 25, 2020.  The passengers will have to show a self-declaration, using the Aarogya Setu mobile application, that they are free of COVID-19 symptoms and those with Red status will not be allowed to travel.  The order contains three annexures with (i) general instructions for commencement of domestic air travel, (ii) the detailed guidelines to be followed by air passengers, and (iii) specific operating guidelines for major stakeholders.

Health

  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued: (i) updated containment plan on COVID-19, and (ii) updated containment plan for large outbreaks of COVID 19.   These plans provide information on various scenarios of COVID-19 and strategies to control the spread of the disease including definitions, action plans and specific details on (i) identification of containment zones and buffer zones; (ii) perimeter control; (iii) support from various stakeholders such as testing laboratories and hospitals; (iv) pharamaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions; and (v) risk communication.

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

English translation unavailable for .

Changes in Agricultural Marketing laws across states

Since March, 2020, there has been a consistent rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in India.  As of May 18, 2020, there were 96,169 confirmed cases of the infectious disease, of which 3,029 persons died.  To contain the spread of COVID-19 in India, the central government imposed a nation-wide lockdown on March 24 till April 14, now extended till May 31.  To ensure continued supply of agriculture produce during the lockdown and control the spread of the disease, some states have amended their respective Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) laws.  This blog explains the manner in which agriculture marketing is regulated in India, steps taken by the centre for the agriculture sector during the COVID-19 crisis, and the recent amendments in the APMC laws that are being announced by various states. 

How is agriculture marketing regulated in India?

Agriculture falls under the State List of the Constitution.  Agriculture marketing in most states is regulated by APMCs established by state governments under the respective APMC Acts.  The APMCs provide infrastructure for marketing of agricultural produce, regulate sale of such produce and collect market fees from such sale, and regulate competition in agricultural marketing.  In 2017, the central government released the model Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2017 to provide states with a template to enact new legislation and bring comprehensive market reforms in the agriculture sector.  The 2017 model Act aims to allow free competition, promote transparency, unify fragmented markets and facilitate flow of commodities, and encourage operation of multiple marketing channels.  In November 2019, the 15th Finance Commission (Chair: Mr N. K. Singh) in its report provided that states which enact and implement all features of this Model Act will be eligible for certain financial incentives.

What steps were taken by the central government in light of COVID-19?

On April 2, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare launched new features of the electronic-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) platform to strengthen agriculture marketing by reducing the need of farmers to physically come to wholesale mandis for selling their harvested produce.  The e-NAM platform provides for contactless remote bidding and mobile-based any time payment for which traders do not need to either visit mandis or banks.  This helps in ensuring social distancing and safety in the APMC markets to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  

On April 4, 2020, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare issued an advisory to states for limiting the regulation under their APMC Acts.  The advisory called for facilitating direct marketing of agricultural produce, enabling direct purchase of the produce from farmers, farmer producer organisations, cooperatives by bulk buyers, big retailers, and processors. 

On May 15, 2020 the Union Finance Minister announced certain reforms for the agriculture sector of the country to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown.  Some of the major reforms include: (i) formulating a central law to ensure adequate choices to farmers to sell agricultural produce at attractive prices, barrier free inter-state trade, and framework for e-trading of agricultural produce, (ii) amending the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 to enable better price realisation for agricultural produce such as all cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions, and potatoes, and (iii) creating a facilitative legal framework for contract farming, to enable farmers to engage directly with processors, large retailers, and exporters.

Which states have made changes to agriculture marketing laws?

The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet has approved an ordinance, and Madhya PradeshGujarat, and Karnataka have promulgated ordinances, to relax regulatory aspects of their APMC laws.  These Ordinances are summarised below:

Madhya Pradesh 

On May 1, 2020, the Madhya Pradesh government promulgated the Madhya Pradesh Krishi Upaj Mandi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.  The Ordinance amends the Madhya Pradesh Krishi Upaj Mandi Act, 1972.  The 1972 Act regulates the establishment of an agricultural market and marketing of notified agricultural produce.  The following amendments have been made under the Ordinance:

  • Market yards:   The 1972 Act provides that in every market area, there should be a market yard, with one or more sub-market yards, for conducting all marketing activities such as assembling, grading, storage, sale, and purchase of the produce.  The Ordinance removes this provision and specifies that in the state, there may be: (i) a principal market yard and sub-market yard managed by the APMC, (ii) a private market yard managed by a person holding a license (granted by the Director of Agriculture Marketing), and (iii) electronic trading platforms (where trading of notified produce is done electronically through internet).  

  • Director of Agricultural Marketing: The Ordinance provides for the appointment of the Director of Agricultural Marketing by the state government.  The Director will be responsible for regulating: (i) trading and connected activities for the notified agricultural produce, (ii) private market yards, and (iii) electronic trading platforms.   He may also grant licenses for these activities.  

  • Market fee: The Ordinance also provides that market fee for trading under licenses granted by the Director of Agricultural Marketing will be levied as prescribed by the state government.

Gujarat

On May 6, 2020, the Gujarat government promulgated the Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.  The Ordinance amends the Gujarat Agricultural Produce Markets Act, 1963.  The amended Act is called the Gujarat Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 1963.  Key amendments made under the Ordinance are as follows:

  • Regulation of livestock market:   The Ordinance brings the regulation of marketing of livestock such as cow, buffalo, bullock, bull, and fish under the ambit of this Act. 

  • Unified market area:   The Ordinance provides that the state government may declare the whole state as one unified market area through a notification.  This can be done with the purpose of regulation of marketing of notified agricultural produce.

  • Unified single licence:  The Ordinance provides for the grant of a single unified trading license.  The license will be valid across the state in any market area.  Existing trade licenses must be converted into the single unified licenses within six months from the date of commencement of the Ordinance.  

  • Markets for conducting trading:  The Ordinance allows the state government to notify any place in the market area as the principal market yard, sub-market yard, market sub-yard, or farmer consumer market yard for the regulation of marketing of notified agricultural produce.  Certain places in the market area can also be declared a private market yard, a private market sub-yard, or a private farmer-consumer market yard.  The Ordinance adds that the notified agricultural produce may also be sold at other places to a licence holder, if especially permitted by a market committee.

  • Market sub-yards:   The Ordinance provides that a market area should have market-sub yards (warehouse, storage towers, cold storage enclosure buildings or such other structure or place or locality).  Further, it also provides that the owner of a warehouse, silo, cold storage or such other structure or place notified as market sub-yard, may collect a market fee on notified agricultural produce.  He may also collect user charge on de-notified agricultural produce transacted at the market sub-yard.  The rate of the fees should not exceed the rates notified by the state government.  However, no market fee shall be collected from farmers.

  • E-trading:  The Ordinance provides for the establishment and promotion of electronic trading (e-trading) platforms.  It provides that a license granted by the Director of Agricultural Marketing is necessary to establish an e-trading platform.   Further, it provides that applications on the e-trading platform shall be inter-operable with other e-platforms as per specifications and standards laid down by the Director.  This has been done to evolve a unified National Agricultural Market and integrate various e-platforms.

Karnataka

On May 16, the Karnataka government promulgated the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 The Ordinance amends the Karnataka Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation and Development) Act, 1966.  The 1966 Act regulates the buying and selling and the establishment of markets for agricultural produce throughout the state.  Key amendments made under the Ordinance are as follows:

  • Markets for agricultural produce:  The 1966 Act provides that no place except the market yard, market sub-yard, sub-market yard, private market yard, or farmer - consumer market yard shall be used for the trade of notified agricultural produce.  The Ordinance substitutes this to provide that the market committee shall regulate the marketing of notified agricultural produce in the market yards, market sub-yards and submarket yards.  Thus, the Act no longer bars any place for the trade of notified agricultural produce.

  • Penalty:  The 1966 Act provides that whoever uses any place for purchase or sale of notified agricultural produce can be punished with imprisonment of up to six months, or a fine of up to Rs 5,000, or both.  The Ordinance removes this penalty provision from the Act.

Uttar Pradesh

On May 6, the Uttar Pradesh Cabinet approved the Uttar Pradesh Krishi Utpadan Mandi (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 According to the state’s press release, the Uttar Pradesh government has decided to remove 46 fruits and vegetables from the ambit of the Uttar Pradesh Krishi Utpadan Mandi Act, 1964.   The 1964 Act provides for the regulation of sale and purchase of notified agricultural produce and for the establishment and control of agricultural markets in Uttar Pradesh.  

  • Certain fruits and vegetables exempted from the provisions of the Act:  These fruits and vegetables include mango, apple, carrot, banana, and ladies’ finger.  The proposed amendment aims to facilitate the purchase of these products directly from farmers from their farms.  Farmers will be allowed to sell these products at the APMC mandis as well, where they will not be charged the mandi fee.  Only the user charge will be levied as prescribed by the state government.   As per the state government, this will entail a loss of revenue of approximately Rs 125 crore per year to the APMCs.

  • License:   Specific licenses can be procured to carry on trade at places other than APMC markets.  This will encourage the treatment of warehouses, silos, and cold storages as mandis.  The owners or managers of such establishments can charge the user fee for managing the mandi.   Further, unified license can be used to trade at village level.