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Examining urban local governance in India through the case of Bengaluru

Recently, the Karnataka legislature passed the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Bill, 2020.  BBMP is the municipal corporation of the Greater Bengaluru metropolitan area.  The BBMP Act, 2020 seeks to improve decentralisation, ensure public participation, and address certain administrative and structural concerns in Bengaluru.  In this blog, we discuss some common issues in urban local governance in India, in the context of Bengaluru’s municipal administration.

The Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 provided for the establishment of urban local bodies (ULBs) (including municipal corporations) as institutions of local self-government.  It also empowered state governments to devolve certain functions, authority, and power to collect revenue to these bodies, and made periodic elections for them compulsory. 

Urban governance is part of the state list under the Constitution.  Thus, the administrative framework and regulation of ULBs varies across states.  However, experts have highlighted that ULBs across India face similar challenges.  For instance, ULBs across the country lack autonomy in city management and several city-level functions are managed by parastatals (managed by and accountable to the state).  Several taxation powers have also not been devolved to these bodies, leading to stressed municipal finances.  These challenges have led to poor service delivery in cities and also created administrative and governance challenges at the municipal level.

BBMP was established under the Karnataka Municipal Corporation Act, 1976 (KMC Act).  The BBMP Act, 2020 replaces provisions of the KMC Act, 1976 in its application to Bengaluru.  It adds a new level of zonal committees to the existing three-tier municipal structure in the city, and also gives the Corporation some more taxation powers.  Certain common issues in urban local governance in India, with provisions related to them in the BBMP Act, 2020 are given below.

Functional overlap with parastatals for key functions

The Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 empowered states to devolve the responsibility of 18 functions including urban planning, regulation of land use, water supply, and slum upgradation to ULBs.  However, in most Indian cities including Bengaluru, a majority of these functions are carried out by parastatals.  For example, in Bengaluru, the Bengaluru Development Authority is responsible for land regulation and the Karnataka Slum Clearance Board is responsible for slum rehabilitation. 

The BBMP Act, 2020 provides the Corporation with the power and responsibility to prepare and implement schemes for the 18 functions provided for in the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992.  However, it does not provide clarity if new bodies at the municipal level will be created, or the existing parastatals will continue to perform these functions and if so, whether their accountability will shift from the state to the municipal corporation. 

This could create a two-fold challenge in administration.  First, if there are multiple agencies performing similar functions, it could lead to a functional overlap, ambiguity, and wastage of resources.  Second, and more importantly, the presence of parastatals that are managed by and accountable to the state government leads to an erosion of the ULB’s autonomy.  Several experts have highlighted that this lack of autonomy faced by municipal corporations in most Indian cities leads to a challenge in governance, effective service delivery, and development of urban areas.

An Expert Committee on Urban Infrastructure (2011) had recommended that activity mapping should be done for the 18 functions.  Under this, functions in the exclusive domain of municipalities and those which need to be shared with the state and the central government must be specified.  Experts have also recommended that the municipality should be responsible for providing civic amenities in its jurisdiction and if a parastatal exercises a civic function, it should be accountable to the municipality.

Stressed municipal finances

Indian ULBs are amongst the weakest in the world in terms of fiscal autonomy and have limited effective devolution of revenue.  They also have limited capacity to raise resources through their own sources of revenue such as property tax.  Municipal revenue in India accounts for only one percent of the GDP (2017-18).  This leads to a dependence on transfers by the state and central government.

ULBs in states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, and Haryana are in poor financial condition.  This has been attributed to limited powers to raise revenue and levy taxes, and problems in the management of existing resources.  For instance, the finances of Bihar’s ULBs were assessed to be poor because of: (i) delays in release of grants, (ii) inadequate devolution of funds, and (iii) delays in revision of tax rates and assessments of landholdings.

In comparison, Karnataka ranks high among Indian states in key indicators for fiscal capacity like collection of property taxes, grants from Central Finance Commissions, and state government transfers.  The BBMP Act, 2020 further increases the taxation powers of the Corporation, by allowing it to impose taxes on professions and entertainment.  

Experts have recommended that the central government and the respective state government should provide additional funds and facilitate additional funding mechanisms for ULBs to strengthen their finances.  The revenue of ULBs can be augmented through measures including assignment of greater powers of taxation to the ULBs by the state government, reforms in land and property-based taxes (such as the use of technology to cover more properties), and issuing of municipal bonds (debt instruments issued by ULBs to finance development projects). 

Powers of elected municipal officials

The executive power with state-appointed municipal Commissioners and elected municipal officers differs across states.  States like Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, and cities like Chennai and Hyderabad vest the executive power in the Commissioner.  In contrast, the executive power of the Corporation is exercised by a Mayor-in council (consisting of the Mayor and up to 10 elected members of the Corporation) in Kolkata and Madhya Pradesh.  This is unlike large metropolitan cities in other countries like New York and London, where elected Mayors are designated as executive heads.  Experts have noted that charging Commissioners with executive power diluted the role of the Mayor and violated the spirit of self-governance.

Under the BBMP Act, 2020, both the elected Mayor and the state-appointed Chief Commissioner exercise several executive functions.  The Mayor is responsible for approving contracts and preparing the budget estimate for the Corporation.  He is also required to discharge all functions assigned to him by the Corporation.  On the other hand, executive functions of the Chief Commissioner include: (i) selling or leasing properties owned by the Corporation, and (ii) regulating and issuing instructions regarding public streets. 

The Expert Committee on Urban Infrastructure (2011) has recommended that the Commissioner should act as a city manager and should be recruited through a transparent search-cum-selection process led by the Mayor.  A Model Municipal law, released by the Urban Development Ministry in 2003, provided that the executive power should be exercised by an Empowered Standing Committee consisting of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and seven elected councillors.  

Management of staff and human resources

Experts have noted that municipal administration in India suffers from staffing issues which leads to a failure in delivering basic urban services.  These include overstaffing of untrained manpower, shortage of qualified technical staff and managerial supervisors, and unwillingness to innovate in methods for service delivery. 

The BBMP Act, 2020 provides that the Corporation may make bye-laws for the due performance of duties by its employees.  However, it does not mention other aspects of human resource management such as recruitment and promotion.  A CAG report (2020) looking at the implementation of the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 in Karnataka has observed that the power to assess municipal staff requirements, recruiting such staff, and determining their pay, transfer and promotion vests with the state government.  This is in contrast with the recommendations of several experts who have suggested that municipalities should appoint their personnel to ensure accountability, adequate recruitment, and proper management of staff.

Other states including Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu also allow the state governments to regulate recruitment and staffing for ULBs.  In cities like Mumbai, and Coimbatore, and some states like Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, while the recruitment process is conducted by the respective municipal corporations, the final sanction for hiring staff lies with the state government.

Anti-Conversion Legislation: Comparison of the UP Ordinances with other state laws

This blog has been updated on Jan 19, 2021 to also cover the Madhya Pradesh Ordinance which was promulgated earlier in the month. The comparison table has also been revised accordingly.

On November 27, 2020, the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Ordinance, 2020 was promulgated by the state government. This was followed by the Madhya Pradesh (MP) government promulgating the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Ordinance, 2020, in January 2021. These Ordinances seek to regulate religious conversions and prohibit certain types of religious conversions (including through marriages). The MP Ordinance replaces the MP Dharma Swatantra Adhiniyam, 1968, which previously regulated religious conversions in the state. Few other states, including Haryana and Karnataka, are also planning to introduce a similar law.  This blog post looks at existing anti-conversion laws in the country and compares the latest UP and MP Ordinances with these laws.

Anti-conversion laws in India

The Constitution guarantees the freedom to profess, propagate, and practise religion, and allows all religious sections to manage their own affairs in matters of religion; subject to public order, morality, and health.  To date, there has been no central legislation restricting or regulating religious conversions. Further, in 2015, the Union Law Ministry stated that Parliament does not have the legislative competence to pass anti-conversion legislation. However, it is to be noted that, since 1954, on multiple occasions, Private Member Bills have been introduced in (but never approved by) the Parliament, to regulate religious conversions. 

Over the years, several states have enacted ‘Freedom of Religion’ legislation to restrict religious conversions carried out by force, fraud, or inducements.  These are: (i) Odisha (1967), (ii) Madhya Pradesh (1968), (iii) Arunachal Pradesh (1978), (iv) Chhattisgarh (2000 and 2006), (v) Gujarat (2003), (vi) Himachal Pradesh (2006 and 2019), (vii) Jharkhand (2017), and (viii) Uttarakhand (2018). Additionally, the Himachal Pradesh (2019) and Uttarakhand legislations also declare a marriage to be void if it was done for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion, or vice-versa. Further, the states of Tamil Nadu (2002) and Rajasthan (2006 and 2008) had also passed similar legislation.  However, the Tamil Nadu legislation was repealed in 2006 (after protests by Christian minorities), while in case of Rajasthan, the bills did not receive the Governor’s and President’s assent respectively.  Please see Table 2 for a comparison of anti-conversion laws across the country.  

In November 2019, citing rising incidents of forced/fraudulent religious conversions, the Uttar Pradesh Law Commission recommended enacting a new law to regulate religious conversions. This led the state government to promulgate the recent Ordinance in 2020. Following UP, the MP government also decided to promulgate an Ordinance in January 2021 to regulate religious conversions. We discuss key features of these ordinances below. 

What do the UP and MP Ordinances do?

The MP and UP Ordinances define conversion as renouncing one’s existing religion and adopting another religion. However, both Ordinances exclude re-conversion to immediate previous religion (in UP), and parental religion (in MP) from this definition. Parental religion is the religion to which the individual’s father belonged to, at the time of the individual’s birth. These Ordinances prescribe the procedure for individuals seeking to undergo conversions (in the states of UP and MP) and declare all other forms of conversion (that violate the prescribed procedures) illegal.  

Procedure for conversion: Both the Ordinances require: (i) persons wishing to convert to a different religion, and (ii) persons supervising the conversion (religious convertors in UP, and religious priests or persons organising a conversion in MP) to submit an advance declaration of the proposed religious conversion to the District Magistrate (DM). In both states, the individuals seeking to undergo conversion are required to give advance notice of 60 days to the DM. However, in UP, the religious convertors are required to notify one month in advance, whereas in MP, the priests or organisers are also required to notify 60 days in advance. Upon receiving the declarations, the DMs in UP are further required to conduct a police enquiry into the intention, purpose, and cause of the proposed conversion. No such requirement exists in the MP Ordinance, although it mandates the DM’s sanction as a prerequisite for any court to take cognisance of an offence caused by violation of these procedures.

The UP Ordinance also lays down a post-conversion procedure. Post-conversion, within 60 days from the date of conversion, the converted individual is required to submit a declaration (with various personal details) to the DM. The DM will publicly exhibit a copy of the declaration (till the conversion is confirmed) and record any objections to the conversion.  The converted individual must then appear before the DM to establish his/her identity, within 21 days of sending the declaration, and confirm the contents of the declaration.  

Both the Ordinances also prescribe varying punishments for violation of any procedure prescribed by them, as specified in Table 2.

Prohibition on conversions: Both, the UP and MP Ordinances prohibit conversion of religion through means, such as: (i) force, misrepresentation, undue influence, and allurement, or (ii) fraud, or (iii) marriage.  They also prohibit a person from abetting, convincing, and conspiring to such conversions. Further, the Ordinances assign the burden of proof of the lawfulness of religious conversion to: (i) the persons causing or facilitating such conversions, in UP, and (ii) the person accused of causing unlawful conversion, in MP. 

Complaints against unlawful conversions: Both Ordinances allow for police complaints, against unlawful religious conversions, to be registered by: (i) the victim of such conversion, (ii) his/her parents or siblings, or (iii) any other person related to them by blood, and marriage or adoption. The MP Ordinance additionally permits persons related by guardianship or custodianship to also register a complaint, provided they take the leave of the court. Further, the MP Ordinance assigns the power to investigate such complaints to police officers of the rank of Sub-Inspector and above.

Marriages involving religious conversion: As per the UP Ordinance, a marriage is liable to be declared null and void, if: (i) it was done for the sole purpose of unlawful conversion, or vice-versa, and (ii) the religious conversion was not done as per the procedure specified in the Ordinance. Similarly, the MP Ordinance declares a marriage null and void, if: (i) it was done with an intent to convert a person, and (ii) the conversion took place through any of the prohibited means specified under the Ordinance. Further, the MP Ordinance explicitly provides for punishment (as specified in Table 2) for the concealment of religion for the purpose of marriage. 

Right to inheritance and maintenance: The MP Ordinance additionally provides certain safeguards for women and children. It considers children born out of a marriage involving unlawful religious conversion as legitimate and provides for them to have the right to property of only the father (as per the law governing the inheritance of the father). Further, the Ordinance provides for maintenance to be given to: (i) a woman whose marriage is deemed unlawful under the Ordinance, and (ii) her children born out of such a marriage.

Punishment for unlawful conversions: Both the MP and UP Ordinances provide for punishment for causing or facilitating unlawful religious conversion, as specified in Table 1. Also, all offences under both Ordinances are cognisable and non-bailable. 

Additionally, under the UP Ordinance, the accused will be liable to pay compensation of up to five lakh rupees to the victim of conversion and repeat offences will attract double the punishment specified for the respective offence. However, under the MP Ordinance, each repeat offence will attract punishment of a fine, and imprisonment between five and 10 years. Further, it provides for the Session Court to try an accused person, at the same trial, for: (i) an offence under this Ordinance, and (ii) also for other offences he has been charged with, under the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973.

Table 1: Punishments prescribed under the UP and MP Ordinances for offences by individuals for causing/facilitating the conversion

Punishment

Uttar Pradesh

Madhya Pradesh

Mass conversion (conversion of two or more persons at the same time)

Term of imprisonment

3-10 years

5-10 years

Fine Amount 

Rs 50,000 or more

Rs 1,00,000 or more

Conversion of a minor, woman, or person belonging to SC or ST

Term of imprisonment

2-10 years

2-10 years

Fine Amount 

Rs 25,000 or more

Rs 50,000 or more

Any other conversion

Term of imprisonment

1-5 years

1-5 years 

Fine Amount 

Rs 15,000 or more 

Rs 25,000 or more

If any of the above three offences are committed by an organisation, under the UP Ordinance, the registration of the organisation is liable to be cancelled and grants or financial aid from the state government is liable to be discontinued. Under the MP Ordinance, only the registration of such organisations is liable to be cancelled.

 

MSP and Public Procurement

Minimum Support Price (MSP) is the assured price at which foodgrains are procured from farmers by the central and state governments and their agencies, for the central pool of foodgrains.  The central pool is used for providing foodgrains under the Public Distribution System (PDS) and other welfare schemes, and also kept as reserve in the form of buffer stock.  However, in the past few months, there have been demands to extend MSP to private trade as well and guarantee MSP to farmers on all kinds of trade.  This blogpost looks at the state of public procurement of foodgrains in India and the provision of MSP.

Is MSP applicable for all crops?

The central government notifies MSP for 23 crops every year before the Kharif and Rabi seasons based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, an attached office of the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare.   These crops include foodgrains such as cereals, coarse grains, and pulses.  However, public procurement is largely limited to a few foodgrains such as paddy (rice), wheat, and, to a limited extent, pulses (Figure 1).

Figure 1:  Percentage of crop production that was procured at MSP in 2019-20

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Sources:  Unstarred Question No. 331, Lok Sabha, September 15, 2020; PRS.

Since rice and wheat are the primary foodgrains distributed under PDS and stored for food security, their procurement level is considerably high.  However, the National Food Security Act, 2013 requires the central and state governments to progressively undertake necessary reforms in PDS.  One of the reforms requires them to diversify the commodities distributed under PDS over a period of time.

How does procurement vary across states?

The procurement of foodgrains is largely concentrated in a few states.  Three states (Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Haryana) producing 46% of the wheat in the country account for 85% of its procurement (Figure 2).   For rice, six states (Punjab, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Haryana) with 40% of the production have 74% share in procurement (Figure 3).  The National Food Security Act, 2013 requires the central, state, and local governments to strive to progressively realise certain objectives for advancing food and nutritional security.  One of these objectives involves geographical diversification of the procurement operations.

Figure 2:   85% wheat procurement is from three states (2019-20)

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Sources:  Department of Food and Public Distribution; PRS.

Figure 3:   76% of the rice procured comes from six states (2019-20)

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Sources:  Department of Food and Public Distribution; PRS.

Is MSP mandatory for private trade as well in some states?

MSP is not mandatory for purchase of foodgrains by private traders or companies.  It acts as a reference price at which the government and its agencies procure certain foodgrains from farmers.

In September 2020, the central government enacted a new farm law which allows anyone with a PAN card to buy farmers’ produce in the ‘trade area’ outside the markets notified or run by the state Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs).  Buyers do not need to get a license from the state government or APMC, or pay any tax to them for such purchase in the ‘trade area’.  These changes in regulations raised concerns regarding the kind of protections available to farmers in the ‘trade area’ outside APMC markets, particularly in terms of the price discovery and payment.  In October 2020, Punjab passed a Bill in response to the central farm law to prohibit purchase of paddy and wheat below MSP.   Any person or company compelling or pressurising farmers to sell below MSP will be punished with a minimum of three-year imprisonment and a fine.  Note that 72% of the wheat and 92% of the rice produced in Punjab was purchased under public procurement in 2019-20.

Similarly, in November 2020, Rajasthan passed a Bill to declare those contract farming agreements as invalid where the purchase is done below MSP.   Any person or company compelling or pressurising farmers to enter into such an invalid contract will be punished with 3 to 7 years of imprisonment, or a fine of minimum five lakh rupees, or both.   Both these Bills have not been enacted yet as they are awaiting the Governors’ assent.

How has MSP affected the cropping pattern?

According to the central government’s procurement policy, the objective of public procurement is to ensure that farmers get remunerative prices for their produce and do not have to resort to distress sale.  If farmers get a better price in comparison to MSP, they are free to sell their produce in the open market.  The Economic Survey 2019-20 observed that the regular increase in MSP is seen by farmers as a signal to opt for crops which have an assured procurement system (for example, rice and wheat).  The Economic Survey also noted that this indicates market prices do not offer remunerative options for farmers, and MSP has, in effect, become the maximum price that the farmers are able to realise.

Thus, MSP incentivises farmers to grow crops which are procured by the government.  As wheat and rice are major food grains provided under the PDS, the focus of procurement is on these crops.  This skews the production of crops in favour of wheat and paddy (particularly in states where procurement levels are high), and does not offer an incentive for farmers to produce other items such as pulses.  Further, this puts pressure on the water table as these crops are water-intensive crops.

To encourage crop diversification and thereby reduce the consumption of water, some state governments are taking measures to incentivise farmers to shift away from paddy and wheat.  For example, Haryana has launched a scheme in 2020 to provide Rs 7,000 per acre to those farmers who will use more than 50% of their paddy area (as per the area sown in 2019-20) for other crops.  The farmers can grow maize, bajra, pulses, or cotton in such diversified area.  Further, the crop produce grown in such diversified area under the scheme will be procured by the state government at MSP.

Comparison of the 2020 central farm laws with the amendments proposed by states

A few weeks ago, in response to the initial protests by farmers against the new central farm laws, three state assemblies – Chhattisgarh, Punjab, and Rajasthan – passed Bills to address farmers’ concerns.  While these Bills await the respective Governors’ assent, protests against the central farm laws have gained momentum.  In this blog, we discuss the key amendments proposed by these states in response to the central farm laws.

What are the central farm laws and what do they seek to do?

In September 2020, Parliament enacted three laws: (i) the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, (ii) the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, and (iii) the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.  The laws collectively seek to: (i) facilitate barrier-free trade of farmers’ produce outside the markets notified under the various state Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) laws, (ii) define a framework for contract farming, and (iii) regulate the supply of certain food items, including cereals, pulses, potatoes, and onions, only under extraordinary circumstances such as war, famine, and extraordinary price rise.

How do the central farm laws change the agricultural regulatory framework?

Agricultural marketing in most states is regulated by the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs), set up under the state APMC Act.  The central farm laws seek to facilitate multiple channels of marketing outside the existing APMC markets.  Many of these existing markets face issues such as limited number of buyers restricting the entry of new players and undue deductions in the form of commission charges and market fees.  The central laws introduced a liberalised agricultural marketing system with the aim of increasing the availability of buyers for farmers’ produce.  More buyers would lead to competition in the agriculture market resulting in better prices for farmers.  

Why have states proposed amendments to the central farm laws?

The central farm laws allow anyone with a PAN card to buy farmers’ produce in the ‘trade area’ outside the markets notified or run by the APMCs.  Buyers do not need to get a license from the state government or APMC, or pay any tax to them for such purchase in the ‘trade area’.  These changes in regulations raised concerns regarding the kind of protections available to farmers in the ‘trade area’ outside APMC markets, particularly in terms of the price discovery and payment.  To address such concerns, the states of Chhattisgarh, Punjab, and Rajasthan, in varying forms, proposed amendments to the existing agricultural marketing laws.

The Punjab and Rajasthan assemblies passed Bills to amend the central Acts, in their application to these states.  The Chhattisgarh Assembly passed a Bill to amend its APMC Act in response to the central Acts.  These state Bills aim to prevent exploitation of farmers and ensure an optimum guarantee of fair market price for the agriculture produce.  Among other things, these state Bills enable state governments to levy market fee outside the physical premises of the state APMC markets, mandate MSP for certain types of agricultural trade, and enable state governments to regulate the production, supply, and distribution of essential commodities and impose stock limits under extraordinary circumstances.

Chhattisgarh

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 allows anyone with a PAN card to buy farmers’ produce in the trade area outside the markets notified or run by the APMCs.  Buyers do not need to get a license from the state government or APMC, or pay any tax to them for such purchase in the trade area.  The Chhattisgarh Assembly passed a Bill to amend its APMC Act to allow the state government to notify structures outside APMC markets, such as godowns, cold storages, and e-trading platforms, as deemed markets.  This implies that such deemed markets will be under the jurisdiction of the APMCs as per the central Act.  Thus, APMCs in Chhattisgarh can levy market fee on sale of farmers’ produce in such deemed markets (outside the APMC markets) and require the buyer to have a license.

Punjab and Rajasthan

The Punjab and Rajasthan Bills empower the respective state governments to levy a market fee (on private traders, and electronic trading platforms) for trade outside the state APMC markets.  Further, they mandate that in certain cases, agricultural produce should not be sold or purchased at a price below the Minimum Support Price (MSP).  For instance, in Punjab sale and purchase of wheat and paddy should not be below MSP.  The Bills also provide that they will override any other law currently in force.  Table 1 gives a comparison of the amendments proposed by states with the related provisions of the central farm laws. 

Table 1: Comparison of the central farm laws with amendments proposed by Punjab and Rajasthan

Provision

Central laws

State amendments

Market fee

  • The central Acts prohibit the state governments and APMCs from levying any market fee, cess, or any other charge on the trade of farmers’ produce outside the market yards notified or run by APMCs.
  • The state Bills empower the state government to levy a fee (on private traders and electronic trading platforms) for trade outside the markets established or notified under the respective state APMC Acts.  Such fees collected will be utilised for the welfare of small and marginal farmers in case of Punjab, and for running of the APMCs and welfare of farmers in case of Rajasthan.

Minimum Support Price (MSP) - fixed by the central government, based on the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices

  • The central Acts do not provide for the MSP.  They do provide for a contractual agreement for buyers and farmers to enter into prior to the production or rearing of any farm produce.  This agreement must specify a minimum guaranteed price that the buyer will pay to the farmer for the sale.  
  • The Punjab Bill provides that sale or purchase of wheat or paddy in state should be at prices equal to or above the MSP.
  • The Rajasthan Bill provides that the pre-determined prices for all crop under farming agreements should be at prices equal to or above the MSP.  

Penalties for compeling farmers to sell below MSP

  • Not prescribed.
  • In Punjab, if any buyer compels a farmer to sell wheat or paddy at a price below MSP, he will be penalised with an imprisonment term of at least three years and a fine.  
  • In Rajsthan, if a buyer compels a farmer to enter into a farming agreement below MSP, it will attract imprisonment between three and seven years, or a fine up to five lakh rupees, or both.

Delivery under farming agreements

  • The central Acts provide that the delivery of the produce can be: (i) taken by buyers at farm gate within the agreed time, or (ii) made by the farmer, in which case the buyer will be responsible for preparations for timely acceptance of the delivery. The buyer may inspect the quality of the produce as defined in the agreement.
  • In Rajasthan, if a buyer refuses to accept agricultural produce or take delivery of goods within a week from date of intimation by the farmer, he will attract imprisonment between three and seven years, or a fine of up to five lakh rupees, or both. 

Regulation of essential commodities

  • The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 empowers the central government to regulate the production, supply, distribution, storage, and trade of essential commodities, such as medicines, fertilisers, and foodstuff.  The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 empowers the central government to regulate the supply of certain food items, including cereals, pulses, potato, and onions, only under extraordinary circumstances such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity of grave nature.  
  • The state Bills provide that the respective state government will also have the powers to: (i) regulate the production, supply, and distribution of essential commodities, and (ii) impose stock limits under extraordinary circumstances.  Such circumstances may include: (i) famine, (ii) price rise, (iii) natural calamity, or (iv) any other situation.

Imposition of stock limit

  • The Rajasthan Bill amending the central Act empowers the state government to impose stock limits, under certain conditions, on any farm produce sold under a farming agreement.  These conditions are: (i) if there is a shortage of such farm produce in the state, or (ii) if there is a 25% increase in prices of such produce beyond the maximum price which was prevailing in the market (within two years before passing of such an order by the state government).

Dispute Resolution Mechanism for Farmers

  • The central Acts provide that at first, all disputes must be referred to a Conciliation Board for resolution.  If the dispute remains unresolved by the Board after 30 days, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) may be approached for resolution. 
  • Further, parties can appeal to an Appellate Authority (presided by collector or additional collector) against decisions of the SDM.  Both SDM and Appellate Authority will be required to dispose a dispute within 30 days from the receipt of application.
  • Instead of the dispute resolution mechanism specified under the central Acts, the Rajasthan Bill provides that disputes will be resolved by APMCs, as per the provisions of the state APMC Act.  

Power of civil courts

  • The central Acts prohibit civil courts from adjudicating over disputes under the Acts. 
  • The Punjab Bill allows farmers to approach civil courts or avail other remedies under existing laws, in addition to those available under the central Acts.
  • The Rajasthan Bill provides that the jurisdiction of civil courts over disputes will be as per the state APMC Act and rules under it.  Currently, the state APMC Act prohibits civil courts from adjudicating over disputes related to trade allowance and contract farming agreements under the Act.

Special provisions

  • -
  • The Bills provide that the state APMC Act will continue to apply in the respective states, as they did prior to enactment of the central Acts (i.e. June 4, 2020).  Further, all notices issued by the central government or any authority under the central Acts will be suspended.  No punitive action will be taken for any violation of the provisions of the central Acts. 

Note: A market committee provides facilities for and regulates the marketing of agricultural produce in a designated market area. 

Have the state amendments come into force?

The amendments proposed by states aim to address the concerns of farmers, but to a varying extent.  The Bills have not come into force yet as they await the Governors’ assent.   In addition, the Punjab and Rajasthan Bills also need the assent of the President, as they are inconsistent with the central Acts and seek to amend them.  Meanwhile, amidst the ongoing protests, many farmers’ organisations are in talks with the central government to seek redressal of their grievances and appropriate changes in the central farm laws.  It remains to be seen to what extent will such changes address the concerns of farmers.

 

A version of this article first appeared on Firstpost on December 5, 2020.

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.

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