Editorial Notes

Editorial Notes 16th September 2016

Universal Basic Income; Dalits in India; GST Council; Role of Social Media; B.R. Ambedkar’s views
By By IT's Editorial Notes Team
September 16, 2016


Social Issues

  • Universal basic income: an idea whose time has come?
  • What upper castes owe


  • GST Council is fighting against time

Defence & Security Issues

  • Social media will shape the future of news

Supplementary Thoughts

  • B.R. Ambedkar’s views


Social Issues

GS (M) Paper-1 Topic: “Social empowerment”


GS (M) Paper-2 Topics: “Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections”


GS (M) Paper-3 Topics: “Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.”

Universal basic income: an idea whose time has come?

What is UBI?

  • The basic idea of a UBI is that everybody should be given a basic minimum income as an entitlement and not as compensation for work.

In most advanced countries, social security systems are in place, but caveats apply and many are excluded. The UBI would be completely unconditional.


Views on UBI:

  • Those on the left feel that the introduction of a UBI would help to partly offset the rapid rise in inequality observed in recent years.
  • Those on the right feel that if a safety net has to be in place, the UBI would be the simplest and most effective.

Why we need UBI?

As robots take over more and more of the tasks hitherto performed by human beings, robotized production systems will be capable of producing goods of mass consumption on an almost unlimited scale. On the other hand, human workers no longer required or paid to do most jobs would lack the purchasing power to buy these goods of mass consumption.

  • If mass consumers lack the purchasing power to buy the goods produced for mass consumption, whether for reasons of income inequality or work obsolescence, then the markets for mass consumer goods will collapse.

The only way out of this impasse of chronic under-consumption is to revisit the link between income and work, hence UBI.

Why US need UBI?

Experts have argued that the present American welfare system is a disaster. Federal and state welfare programmes together spend around $1 billion annually, yet 16% of the population remains below the US poverty line.

  • One of the experts has proposed replacing all the existing programmes with an unconditional Basic Income Guarantee of $10,000 per year for every American over 21 years. He argues this would be cheaper, less paternalistic, less intrusive, and entail less bureaucracy and rent-seeking.

How is the global response to the idea of UBI?

  • Recently, the Swiss electorate voted against the idea of a UBI, but Canada, Finland and the Netherlands are now reportedly considering a referendum on the issue.

Is UBI appropriate for India?


  1. Administrative and technical viability:

According to several official studies and surveys, most recently the Shanta Kumar committee report, nearly half the subsidized food grains distributed through the targeted public distribution system (TPDS) for BPL families do not reach the intended beneficiaries. In this scenario,

  • UBI would completely do away with targeting and all the challenges that come with it.
  • It would be simpler, easier to administer, prone to less discretion, hence less rent-seeking, and have zero misdirection since everyone would be an eligible beneficiary.
  • Leakages would also be minimized if UBI is administered using the JAM (Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar and mobile connectivity) trinity, the IT-enabled technological innovation.

Why JAM trinity is useful here?

  • According to reports, Aadhaar has pretty much covered the entire population and the Jan Dhan Yojana extends to about one billion people. It is already being used for some direct benefit transfers, such as subsidies for cooking gas, and about half the bank accounts have already been linked to Aadhaar.

Once the entire JAM package is complete, administering direct UBI transfers will become much simpler and more transparent.

  1. Fiscal affordability

Various experts claim affordability of UBI along with fiscal prudence. Although they propound different methodology to set the rate of UBI, they all share the common views that UBI would be fiscally quite affordable without any additional taxation.

  1. Political feasibility

Political feasibility of UBI is indeed a tough call, particularly since their financing schemes involve elimination of existing benefits to some powerful interest groups.

[Ref: LiveMint]


GS (M) Paper-1 Topic: “Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India”

What upper castes owe

Present situations of Dalits in India:


  • Education and employment through reservation was a major source of upward mobility for Dalits till the early 1990s. But privatisation — both of education and employment avenues — has chipped away at the sources of Dalit empowerment.
  • For the majority of Dalits, regular salaried jobs remain the predominant source of livelihood as only a few can be successful entrepreneurs.
  • In 2012, only 23% of Scheduled Caste rural workers owned land.
  • About 14% SCs in rural areas and 32% SCs in urban areas owned petty enterprises/businesses.
  • About 53% of SCs in rural areas and 23% in urban areas depended on upper castes for wage labour.
  • The land reforms have practically bypassed the Dalits, so have the policies that encouraged the growth of enterprises.
  • The present government’s initiative to encourage Dalit enterprise through loans is welcome, but help is likely to reach only a few.
  • The share of the public sector in jobs was 20% in 2012. In other words, there is no reservation in 80% of employment avenues in the country.
  • In 1995, private institutions took in 7% of students who opted for higher education. In 2014, their share had gone up to 30%. This works to the detriment of Dalits in accessing education.
  • Selective discrimination has blocked the entry of Dalits in private jobs. This explains the high unemployment rate of the SCs: 7 .3% compared to 5.6 for STs, 5.3 for OBCs and 4.8 for upper castes in 2011.

Experiences of South Africa:

  • South Africa adopted a similar policy for Blacks, which benefited only a few people of the community. But South Africa learned its lessons fast. It adopted the Malaysian model of economic empowerment.

Malaysian model of economic empowerment:

  • The Malaysian government increases the share of the poor in the capital of domestic and foreign companies, and thereby, assures regular flow of income to them. The share of the Malay community in companies increased from seven % in 1970 to about 20 % in 2000 as a result of this policy.


According to author,

  • Political parties should make caste and equity their prime agenda. They can do so by appealing to the provision of equality in the Constitution and also by recalling our traditions of equity.
  • Political parties that wish to have equity on their agenda must, therefore, follow the tradition that fought against the caste system and untouchability. They may incorporate the ideas of some thinkers of the counter-discourse who were against caste.
  • Attributing atrocities to anti-social elements will also not help since that will take the focus away from the religious and social roots of violence.
  • Political parties will have to counter the anti-equity discourse that is behind violence against Dalits.
  • India could learn from the experiences of Malaysia and South Africa. Public land and the cultivable wasteland could be distributed to Dalits for horticulture and livestock rearing.
  • Reservation is a necessary remedy for discrimination against Dalits today. But it does not remedy “past” exclusion from rights to property and education.
  • Compensation is the appropriate remedy for the latter form of discrimination. Dalits have been excluded from property and education since the codification of the Manusmriti.
  • As the enrichment of the upper castes came at the cost of impoverishment of Dalits, there is a moral and legal ground for compensation. This is a long overdue social debt that upper castes owe to the untouchables.
  • Access to education, agricultural land and capital would help improve the condition of Dalits.
[Ref: Indian Express]



GS (M) Paper-3 Topics: “Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.”

GST Council is fighting against time


The goods and services tax (GST) council has been notified recently under the GST Bill. It will be another important step towards cooperative federalism.

As GST is transforming the tax structure in the country, the GST council will have many issues to confront.


In what ways GST council is the important step towards cooperative federalism?

  • Earlier, states had no role in deciding central taxes, but now, under GST, the council will decide on the central GST rate and the state GST rate.
  • It will have the important responsibility of not only protecting the state taxes but also protecting the central taxes as states will get 42% from the divisible central taxes pool as per the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission.
  • The voting pattern of the council is also such that the states will play a major role with a two-third share, and though the central government with a one-third share has veto power; decisions will be taken by a three-fourth majority.

Challenges ahead for GST council:

Tax rates:

  • Determining the tax rates will be one of the biggest issues facing the council as it will have to strike a balance between protecting its tax revenues while arriving at a rate that does not hurt the common man.

Dual administration:

  • Besides the rates, dual administration or dual control will be one of the most contentious issues.
  • No industry will prefer that two tax authorities have jurisdiction over them. For big companies and industries, it may not be a problem as they are already dealing with many tax authorities. But this may not be the case for small traders.


  • The Central Board of Excise and Customs does not want to give up control and that is not acceptable.


  • More than 300 items are exempt under excise laws, while around 99-100 items are exempt under value-added tax laws. There is a need to synchronize the lists.

Cesses and surcharges:

  • The central government gets around Rs1.5 trillion from cesses and surcharges, but this revenue is not distributed to the states as it is not part of the divisible pool.
  • States have always preferred doing away with all such cesses and surcharges.

Decisions not binding:

  • The decisions of the GST council is not binding on any state and every state remains autonomous. However, states that disagree with the GST council and choose to follow their own path will be the ultimate loser. In such cases, the chairman and the vice-chairman will play an important role to convince a state and address their concerns.


Sorting out all the issues will be important to finalize the legislation—the central GST law, the state GST law and the integrated GST law. The GST council has very little time to arrive at a consensus on all these issues.

[Ref: LiveMint]


Defence & Security Issues

GS (M) Paper-3 Topics: Role of media and social networking sites

Social media will shape the future of news


In democracies, the media occupies a unique space, sanctified by law, tradition and public expectation to function as both watchdog and guardian of the state’s citizens.

Apart from traditional media, the role of social media as gatekeeper of news is growing. 


Survey reports:

According to a survey carried out in 26 countries in Europe, Asia, North America and South America—released earlier this year,

  • More than half of online users use Facebook and other social media sites such as Twitter as their news sources; the former dominates with 44%.
  • This trend is particularly strong in developing countries.
  • The reliance on Facebook for news is highest among 18- to 24-year-olds. That indicates the paradigm shift will gather momentum in the future.

According to another study report,

  • Mobile traffic and access via social media sites—they always have a direct relationship—for both new and traditional media portals is rising swiftly.
  • With Facebook’s user base in the country now a little below 200 million and the number of smartphone users a little over—both set to grow rapidly—this trend is likely to accelerate.

Author’s views on the role of Social media:

  • In a case happened earlier this year, Republicans in the US raised allegations that news curators at Facebook manipulated its “trending topics” to exclude right-wing news stories. Facebook denied the allegations and argued that there are no human curators but an algorithm works behind this. According to the author, an algorithm is simply a code written by people who bring their own biases to the table.
  • It would be foolish to impute malicious intent to their missteps. They are large corporations and their global ambitions cannot afford to alienate any part of its user-base by following a political agenda.
  • As they increasingly come to dominate the flow of information of public interest, hard questions will—and should—be asked.
[Ref: LiveMint]


Supplementary Thoughts

B.R. Ambedkar’s views


On equity:

Ambedkar was clear about the traditions that support equity and those that do not. In his view, in ancient times, Buddha represented the former strand, while Vedic Brahmanism represented the latter line of thought.

On caste system:

Scholars tells us that the word Hindu, which originally meant people living beyond Sindu river, became an “ism” in the 19th century — with different shades of meaning. According to Ambedkar this meant “neo or reformed Brahmanism” that embraced the caste system.

On plights of Dalits:

Ambedkar believed that Dalits would be unable to secure justice in a village society where they were a minority and dependent on upper caste people. Attempts by Dalits to secure equal rights were sure to be countered with ruthless violence and economic boycott.

Ambedkar, therefore, suggested separate settlement of Dalits where they would be economically independent vis-a-vis the upper castes.

[Ref: Indian Express]


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