A vocational training centre in New Delhi | Prashanth Vishwanathan/Bloomberg
A vocational training centre in New Delhi | Prashanth Vishwanathan | Bloomberg
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India’s Anti-Vocation Mindset

Chetan Bhagat | Novelist and screenwriter

The Times of India

Bhagat questions why Indians value graduates more than people with vocational skills. It is our mindset, he claims, that is India’s “biggest impediment to skill development”. Millions are pursuing graduate degrees every year. While they receive “stamps of approval” – of being educated – they often struggle to be employed. Bhagat suggests that rather than “judging careers like a caste system”, one should pursue education based on skills that are most in-demand.

PM Narendra Modi’s ‘The Skill India’ campaign was launched in 2015 with the aim to train 40 crore people in various skills by 2022. The multiple schemes under this effort include the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) and the Skill Loan scheme. There is a positive intention behind this initiative but in order for it to work it is key for Indians to change their mindsets, he concludes.

A political reinvention in a moment of crisis

Neera Chandhoke | Former professor of Political Science at Delhi University

The Hindu

Chandhoke writes that we are stuck between the BJP – who are bent on “bulldozing” legislation in Parliament – and the Opposition – which is unable to effectively critique the government and its policies. India is heading towards an economic crisis but BJP is instead focusing on “demolishing democratic rights and bringing minorities to heel”. The moment calls for invention and the Congress should take a cue from its past through five lessons. Firstly, its leaders were “moral exemplars”, visionaries who motivated by example. Secondly, Congress used to have a “robust organisation” which was both decentralised and democratic. Thirdly, diversity of opinions and dialogue was valued — it was democratic in its functioning.

Fourthly, it lost its skill to negotiate and accommodate competing demands when the party became “captive of the leader”, with power gained only through proximity to its leader. Finally, Congress lost its legitimacy after the freedom struggle when politics needed a new legitimacy. India’s democracy and Constitution are facing threats as the present regime disavows democracy while regional parties degenerate into one-person dictatorships. Congress needs to step in and reinvent itself as a democratic party. “It is our duty to remind the Congress that it owes the people of India”, she concludes.

Helpless in Unnao

Prakash Singh | Chairman, Indian Police Foundation

The Indian Express

Singh writes that state institutions have been “complicit in denying justice” to the victim of the Unnao rape case. Quoting a statement by the Justice Malimath Committee (2002-2003) he says the criminal justice system of the country is “slow, inefficient and ineffective, people are losing confidence in the system”. This committee made several recommendations for reform, but due to pressure from certain lobbies, they were never implemented.

The Unnao case reflects the “virtual collapse” of the system as the Supreme Court had to intervene in a rape case when the matter should have been resolved at the thana level. The sequence of events shows the local police was “hand-in-gloves” with the accused politician who they protected while harassing the victim and her family. Both senior officials in the home department and the CBI should take responsibility, as the case has been going on for two years. Despite the Supreme Court’s efforts to depoliticise the police, states still intervene. To implement the Supreme Court’s directions will also mean that it “insulate the police from external pressures” and the Centre should pass the witness protection law.

From Conquest to Consolidation

Ashok Malik | Distinguished fellow, Observer Research Foundation and former press secretary to the President of India.

Hindustan Times

Citing Alexander the Great, Malik – till recently the press advisor to the President of India – forwards the “Alexander dilemma” which asks, “at which stage do you switch from accumulation to using your surplus to create a new identity for that which has been accumulated, be it territory or capital?”

Similar to Alexander, the BJP-led government’s first phase of political domination which began in 2014 is now over. It had successfully established itself as the primary all-India party. Although the first government achieved a lot, it could have done more as aggressive campaigning often came in the way of governmental and parliamentary affairs. In its second phase (2019-2024), BJP can shift its focus from winning elections to “fostering an institutional culture of governance that has a distinctive and sustainable BJP/Modi stamp”.

Two conditions will be conducive to this. Firstly, the electoral calendar which grants it political room, as there is no major state election, with the exception of West Bengal, that is a threat to its power. Secondly, the infrastructual push from the first term will get a chance to mature which will give the government fiscal room. The government’s use of this fiscal and political room is complex, but it is essential that it develops clarity in its economic management to match its clarity in political management, especially in matters of trade, taxation and economy.

Gotta Grow, Grow Up, Go

Amitabh Kant | The writer is CEO, NITI Aayog

The Economic Times

Amitabh Kant discusses some of the measures which India needs to take to realise its dream of becoming a $5 trillion economy. He writes that India’s financial sector is heavily reliant on banks as a funding source. He recommends that “India needs to deepen the corporate bond markets to lessen the load on banks”. He also writes that innovative ideas such as asset monetisation need to be adopted to fund government capital expenditure.

In the agriculture sector, he writes that we need to remove outdated laws such as the Essential Commodities Act and the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act. Investments in the value chain are also required to boost exports and the domestic food processing industry.

He also recommends that it is important to revive demand in the automobile sector. For this, a special six-month program can be created for the sector with lower GST for automobiles and auto parts.

What investors really want?

Vikram S Mehta | The writer is chairperson and senior fellow, Brookings India

The Indian Express

Vikram S Mehta discusses the importance of perception in driving investment decisions. He writes that while all investment proposals are subject to empirical analysis, the decisions are often determined by the business leadership’s perception of “geopolitical, bureaucratic and regulatory risks”. He cites his personal experience at the helm of a company to prove his point. He writes that even though investors had a lesser understanding of China’s investment environment than India’s, on at least two occasions investment proposals for India were turned down in favour of China. This was because of the perception that India “was tangled in an undergrowth of red tape, bureaucratic encumbrance and regulatory uncertainty”.

He writes that Modi 1.0 broke the crony capitalist nexus between businessmen and politicians. However, now the government should move forward by giving assurances that it “does not regard every businessman as a tax dodger” or “bent on gaming the system”.

The case against mandatory corporate social responsibility

Nitin Pai | Co-founder and director of The Takshashila Institution, an independent centre for research and education in public policy

Mint

Nitin Pai makes a case against the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility. He argues that the fundamental social responsibility of a business is to create profits for its shareholders in a “law-abiding, ethical and sustainable way”. By doing just that, “they generate surpluses for society, provide consumers with goods and services that they need, create employment, infuse purpose and dignity among workers”. If companies do this, they are discharging their Corporate Social Responsibility, he argues.

He adds that businesses don’t necessarily need to focus on social welfare and public good as they pay taxes for that purpose. He also argues that shareholders and employees can give money to causes they like in their personal capacity.

If, however, corporates have to make CSR contributions, it should be in areas where “the government of a low-income democracy cannot,” he adds. This can include “allocations for world-class art galleries, museums, theatres, sports facilities, research institutions”.

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