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A new chapter for the disabled – OPINION – The Hindu

  • The 2016 Act will give full effect to the UN Convention
  • The Supreme Court observed that “employment is a key factor in the empowerment and inclusion of people with disabilities” in its judgment in the Union of India v. National Federation of the Blind case (2013).
  • The verdict registered the “alarming reality” of disabled persons out of jobs, not because of their disabilities but due to social and physical barriers that prevent them from joining the workforce.
  • This is despite India ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007 and passing the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995
  • However, a new chapter has begun with the introduction of a new law by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on April 19, 2017.
  • Parliament repealed the 1995 Act and brought in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, the Preamble of which marks respect for inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one’s own choices, and independence of disabled persons, among other goals.
  • he 2016 Act is expected to give full effect to the United Nations Convention.
  • When the government brought the new Act to the notice of a three-judge Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra, the court responded with a 32-page judgment on April 25, highlighting that “immediacy of action is the warrant”.
  • The court gave State governments and Union Territories a 12-week deadline to comply with the provisions of the new law and file compliance reports in the court.
  • Notably, the Act emphasises the creation of special courts, and speedy trials and special public prosecutors for offences committed against disabled persons under the Act. The law also makes private companies equally liable for violating the Act.
  • “The 2016 Act is noticeably a sea change in perception and marches ahead with regard to (rights of) persons with disabilities and the role of the States, local authorities, educational institutions and companies.

India’s population story – OPINION – The Hindu

  • Even after fertility rates drop to replacement levels, the totalpopulation will still grow
  • Evidence from India’s last Census in 2011, confirmed by data from the recent National Family Health Survey 2017 (NFHS-4), shows that fertility in India is fast approaching replacement levels.
  • The NFHS-4 shows that in the past decade, the average number of children per family has come down from 2.7 to 2.2. With replacement fertility being 2.1 children per woman, this is good news for the land and the people.
  • Even after fertility rates drop to replacement levels, the total population will still grow, and is likely to reach 1.7 billion by 2050.
  • The thrust of this growth will come from the youth bulge, with 365 million (10-24 years old) already in, or soon to enter, their reproductive ages. Even if they have children only in numbers that replace themselves, the resultant growth due to such a large base of young people will drive the growth momentum for population. For India as a whole, 75% of population growth in the coming decade will be due to this momentum.
  • In States like Assam, Gujarat and Haryana, which are about to reach replacement levels, it would be more effective to adopt policies for delaying childbearing rather than limiting births.
  • Fertility reduction, where it still needs to take place, must come from increased availability and use of quality family planning services.
  • Demand-supply of working population
  • When States are clustered in terms of fertility levels, one foresees a predominantly youthful north and an ageing south.
  • Most of the current and future demographic potential is locked in the northern States and largely located in Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • n the south, there will be a dearth of young working people to keep up and expand the level of economic development. Investing in young people in the north to realise the demographic dividend will be a win-win situation for all India, north and south.
  • The National Health Policy 2017 emphasises quality of care and commitment to sustainable development, and positions improved access, education and empowerment as the basis for population stabilisation. It is now for States to align their own health and population policies to the national ones.

Learning to run twice as fast – OPINION – The Hindu

  • The challenge of the States in achieving a debt ceiling of 20% by 2023 threatens overall fiscal responsibility targets
  • It is no mean achievement that the daunting fiscal deficit target of 3.5% of GDP for the past year was met. Beyond the 3.2% fiscal deficit target for the current year, the government has accepted a 3% target thereafter.
  • ontinuing this trend in the future will enable the realisation of the preferred 60% debt-GDP ratio by 2023.
  • The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee report, now in the public domain, has preferred a debt to GDP ratio of 60% for the general government by 2023, comprising 40% for the Central government and 20% for the State governments.
  • Given the recent track record, there is a reasonable probability of the Central government achieving the 40% debt to GDP ratio.
  • The challenge of States achieving a debt ceiling of 20% by 2023 is undoubtedly Herculean for more reasons than one.
  • Drag factors for States
  • the Union government, which has larger domestic liabilities of 49.23% of GDP as compared to that of the States (21% of GDP), benefits more due to a negative interest rate-growth differential. The combined debt dynamics necessitate States to run successively lower primary and fiscal deficits just to maintain their combined debt to GDP ratio at the current level.
  • Till FY13, fiscal conduct of the States was exemplary, strictly adhering to and even outperforming the targets of the Fiscal Responsibility Legislations (FRLs). No doubt positive externalities facilitated this outcome. Consolidation of Central loans and debt waiver to States based on their fiscal performance effectively reduced their interest payments to about 0.9% of Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). Given the debt-restructuring scheme of the Twelfth Finance Commission (FC), Central relief packages and positive economic scenario, it is difficult to differentiate the fiscal correction due to improved management and fiscal discipline.
  • the role of exogenous factors in fiscal corrections of the States.
  • he Fourteenth FC enhanced the borrowing limits up to 0.5% of GSDP for the States. This was conditional on debt to GSDP ratio being less than or equal to 25% and/or interest payments being less than or equal to 10% of the revenue receipts in the preceding year.
  • the recent marked deterioration in fiscal health of the States.
  • The fact that only six States in FY17 were eligible for enhanced borrowing is indicative of States’ decaying fiscal prudence
  • The way forward
  • he most obvious one is the prudent use of powers defined in the Constitution of India under Clause (3) of Article 293. This makes it mandatory for a State to take the Central government’s consent for raising any loan if the former owes any outstanding liabilities to the latter.
  • Recently, the Union Cabinet has permitted State government entities to directly borrow from bilateral partners for vital infrastructure projects. Incentivising prudent fiscal management is a welcome initiative.
  • there must be symmetry between the cost of borrowing and the quality of financial governance