The Hindu Editorial Analysis 2nd July 2019

The Hindu Editorial Analysis 2nd July 2019

OpEd 1 :- Lessons from Bhutan

Context :-
  • Bhutan’s teachers, doctors and other medical staff will earn more than civil servants of corresponding grades, if a policy recently announced by the country’s government is implemented. The new salary scales will benefit about 13,000 teachers and doctors.
  • No other country has accorded teachers and doctors such pride of place in its government service, both in terms of remuneration and symbolism. Remarkably, the proposal was announced by Bhutan’s Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, himself a qualified doctor — which suggests that professional experience informs the policy.
Analysis of Initiative :- 

  • The commission’s strategy to achieve desired national outcomes through education opens with the notation, “making teaching a profession of choice”.
  • The proposal then is evidently at the core of a larger governmental strategy to achieve the country’s human developmental objectives.
  • The decision also comes in the wake of high levels of teacher attrition, especially the best.
  • Intuiting the correlation, as Bhutan has, between attracting the best talent to a profession and the renumeration it potentially offers is easy.
  •  An independent study led by the economist, Peter Dolton, has demonstrated a distinct correlation between student outcomes in a country, as measured by PISA scores, and the status that its teachers enjoy.
  • The initiative’s latest report, Global Teacher Status Index 2018, based on its own surveys across 35 countries, goes on to make a strong case for high wages to improve teacher status.
The fiscal implications :-

  • Bhutan already spends about 7.5% of its GDP on education. The fiscal implications of the new salary structure are unclear now.
  • For instance, the Minister concerned in Tamil Nadu, one of India’s better performing States on educational indices, turned down demands of striking teachers for better pension explaining that wages, pensions, administrative costs and interest repayments already amounted to 71% of the State’s expenditure. He asserted it leaves little for other developmental programmes.
Can India afford a similar policy?
  • India currently spends about 3% of its GDP on education, accounting for about 10% of the Centre’s and States’ budgetary expenses.
  • The NITI Aayog in its report last year recommended that India raise this to 6% of GDP by 2022.
  • Paying teachers (and doctors) significantly higher salaries may seem like a tall order, but the Central and State governments could consider rationalising both teacher recruitment and allocation of funds to existing programmes.
  • Some programmes may have outlived their purpose, while others could be pared down or better directed.
  • In fact, improving accountability in the system could free up huge savings.
A mechanism to fix shortcomings
  • A World Bank study found that teacher absenteeism in India was nearly 24%, which costs the country about $1.5 billion annually.
  • Absenteeism could be the result of many factors, including teachers taking up a second job or farming to boost incomes, providing parental or nursing care in the absence of support systems, or lacking motivation.
  • The incentive of an enviable income which is girded with unsparing accountability could mitigate many ills that plague the system, free fiscal space and help meet important national developmental objectives.
  • Case study of Delhi – Piloting a policy of such consequence may also be easier in a smaller State, say Delhi.
  • Education is a key focus area for the Delhi government; the State invests 26% of its annual budget in the sector (much more than the national average).
  • The administration has also worked on improving teacher motivation as a strategy for better educational outcomes.
  • The base has been set. The political leadership in the State, which is unafraid of the bold and big in the social sector, could build on this.
  • Moreover, since the State is highly urban and well-connected, it would be easier to enforce accountability measures, which must underpin so heavy an expenditure.
  • Ultimately, no investment that enables an educated, healthy, responsible and happy community can be deemed too high by any society.
  • The short-term GDP-minded would do well to consider these words in OECD’s ‘Education at a Glance 2018’ report: “The quality of education can be a strong predictor of a country’s economic prosperity.
  • Shortfalls in academic achievement are extremely costly, as governments must then find ways to compensate for them, and ensure the social and economic welfare of all.
  •  Governments intent on improving the quality of education they offer must step out of incrementalism in policy-making.
  • Improving teacher status by offering top notch salaries to attract the best to the profession could be that revolutionary policy-step forward, which Bhutan has shown a willingness to take.

OpEd 2 :- Case for free rides for Women ?

Introduction :-

Women may soon get to travel for free on buses and Metro trains in Delhi. This gender-based public transport fare subsidy programme, announced by the Aam Aadmi Party government. 

Proponents claim that the policy will protect and liberate women whereas Critics argue that it is financially unviable and unfair. 

Some of the examples of countries where Govt provides fare discounts for using public transport :-

Cities often provide public transport fare subsidies to all or some citizens to encourage them to use public transport, or for easing their travel cost burdens. 

  1. Singapore, for example, offers a discount to rail commuters who are willing to travel before the morning rush-hour. 
  2. Public transport is free for residents in Estonia. 
  3. Luxembourg, with a population of about 600,000, has made public transport free for those under the age of 20. Paris, with a population of over 2 million, has announced a comparable plan. 
  4. Hong Kong has implemented a public transport fare concession scheme for people aged 65 years or more. 
  5. Berlin offered women a 21% ticket discount for one day in March this year to highlight the gender wage gap. 
  6. In India, however, urban transport fare discounts are less common, although concessions for seniors, students, and other socioeconomic groups are available for government-operated flights and long-distance railway services.

How Fare Discounts would help ?

Fare discounts intend to make public transport truly public as some people are at a relative disadvantage in urban transportation markets due to their unique social, economic, and health circumstances. 

If we consider transportation as a fundamental social need and providing mobility for the transportation-disadvantaged as our collective responsibility, then any urban transport policy should include subsidies targeted at the disadvantaged. 

Specific supply-side investments or fare price discounts to help the disadvantaged travel, conduct activities and prosper are therefore justified. Public transport may even need to be free for some. 

In this context, let’s take the case of women :-

  • Women in India travel far less than men, and this has significant impacts on their education, employment, and enjoyment. 
  • A study in Delhi found that college girls, compared to boys, chose lower ranked colleges with safe and reliable transport access. 
  • Similarly, an estimated 60% of women workers in India choose to work from home or at a place which is less than a km from home, according to the 2011 Census. 
  • The remaining working women tend to rely excessively on public transport, according to a World Bank Study conducted in Delhi. 
  • An RTI application revealed that, in 2013, only 13% of Delhi driving licences were issued to women. 
These findings are suggestive of gender differences in travel choices and patterns.

What contributes to Gender Inequality in Transportation ?

  1. Wage discrimination
  2. Gender segregation in employment
  3. Household labour divisions 
Because men’s jobs are considered to be more valuable, they tend to own the household vehicles and commute privately. Compromises on education and jobs for travel purposes is one of the reasons for women earning less than men, leaving the workforce, and consequently being more cash-poor than men. 

What are the challenges ?

  • Personal motorised vehicle travel is highly subsidised globally, including in India. Believe it or not, driving is cheap. 
  • Car and motorised two-wheeler users are not required to pay for the full costs their travel choices inflict on society in the form of traffic congestion, environmental pollution, and distortions in urban form.
Way forward :-

  • Promotion of cleaner fuels and vehicle-sharing can reduce but not eliminate the costs. 
  • Indian cities must consider pricing interventions such as congestion charges, mileage-based road use charges, parking charges, and higher petrol taxes so that private driving costs better reflect full social costs. 
  • Such measures, in addition to discouraging driving, can help governments generate funds for expanding, improving, and operating relatively cleaner transportation alternatives such as public transport. 
  • Better public transport service is key to getting people out of cars, reducing air pollution, and making cities more liveable. 
  • It is possible that revenues from appropriately charging personal motorised travel will be sufficient to make travel by public transport cheap or free for the transportation-disadvantaged, without any additional public subsidy requirement.
How a subsidy will benefit women ?

  • A subsidy like this is most likely to benefit women who might consider taking up jobs for which they are better suited but are further away from home. 
  • Women can engage in a range of activities that promote their well being. 
  • Free public transport can therefore bring more women to public spaces, and, consequently, make those spaces safer for women.

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