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UPSC Online Editorial Analysis

Editorial – 1

Title of the editorial: Can the right to work be made real in India?

Written by: Reetika Khera (AssociateProfessorof Economics atIIT-Delhi) & Amit Basole (Head, Centre forSustainableEmployment, AzimPremjiUniversity,Bengaluru)

Topic in syllabus: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth,
development and employment. (GS-3)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about how work can be made a right & the role of state in it.



  • “Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act” is an Indian labour law and social security measure that aims to guarantee the ‘right to work’.
  • It aims to enhance livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.


  • As economies around the world struggle to recover from the double whammy of a pandemic and a lockdown, unemployment is soaring. In India, the land of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the promise of jobs and the politics of unemployment have a long history. Can a citizen demand work as a right, and is it the state’s responsibility to provide employment?

What is the legal status of the right to work internationally and in India?

  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to work in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
  • In India, we don’t have a constitutional right to work. But what we do have is MGNREGA.
  • Under MGNREGA, a person can hold the state accountable for not fulfilling the right by demanding an unemployment allowance. But if the law is amended or withdrawn, the right vanishes.

Is the right to work relevant in the free market economy?

  • The term ‘right to work’ is often used in the context of unemployment or lack of availability of work. But there is also another sense of it, which is the right to earn my livelihood without any obstruction.
  • We have seen in the past few decades is that the path of development not only does not create adequate employment opportunities, it also actively dispossesses or displaces people from their means
    of livelihood.
  • Therefore, it is more important to imagine the right to work in a creative way and make it legally enforceable.

Why there is need to focus on per capita income with labour intensive methods of production?

  • We rarely discuss per capita GDP growth; most discussion centres on overall growth even though from
    the vantage point of people’s welfare, the former matters more.
  • For a labour ­abundant country like India, how much policy sense it makes to encourage capital ­intensive methods of production.
  • It made sense in the countries in which these techniques of production evolved since they were labour scarce. But more and more automation in a country like India is likely to lead to jobless growth.

What are examples of such method being implemented? & lesson for India:

  • The example of Thailand, which has a universal basic healthcare system that is labour-intensive. It solves two problems at the same time: it builds social infrastructure, and creates jobs.
  • It is incumbent on the state to provide basic services such as health, education and housing, and in providing them, employment is generated.
  • We are nowhere near countries that are comparable in GDP per capita, such as Vietnam, and countries that spend much more on public goods as a percentage of their GDP. We should do that. That will create jobs.

How exactly do we make the right to work, work?

  • One approach is Decentralised Urban Employment and Training.
  • Urban local bodies can issue job vouchers to certified public institutions such as schools and universities for pre­approved tasks.
  • These institutions can only use the vouchers to hire labour for pre­defined tasks — e.g. painting school buildings, repairing broken furniture, and so on. A whole range of skills can be accommodated.
  • In MGNREGA, the asset creation part is often under­emphasised, and it would be good to bring both these things together through an urban employment guarantee.
  • The idea here, like with MGNREGA, is to create new employment opportunities so that those
    who are unemployed may be gainfully employed and earn a dignified living. This dignity is supposed to
    come from work conditions, such as being paid a fair wage and having regulated work hours.

Is the right to work the same as an employment guarantee?

  • If private economic activity cannot generate an adequate number of decent livelihoods, or if it displaces livelihoods, then responsibility of state comes into question.
  • So we’re talking not only about the state generating its own work — for public goods, education, healthcare, administration, etc.
  • To be sure, for all these things which the state is supposed to do, it should generate its own employment. But at the same time, it’s also supposed to safeguard people’s employment.
  • Therefore, we should not reduce right to work to an employment guarantee.

How & why Indian state should support poor labour & provide legal protection?

  • India is a labour surplus economy. In the capital­ labour bargaining process, labour is structurally weak in India, which means it is incumbent on the state to provide that support to labour.
  • Protective labour laws exist/existed in India, they apply to a minuscule sliver of the labour force, say, people in permanent government jobs. For the rest, there is very little legal protection, very poor awareness of the protections that exist, and weak implementation.
  • Given the constraints in state capacity when it comes to enforcing labour laws, tightening the labour market is a great way to ensure that workers are treated well.
  • That is how a good employment guarantee programme would function as far as the rights ‘in work’ are concerned. If the state steps in and significantly reduces the surplus labour, particularly in the casual market, it automatically creates the conditions for better treatment of workers.

From a philosophical perspective, as human beings, isn’t a demand for the right to work setting the bar too low? Why we shouldn’t demand right to leisure rather than right to work?

  • A poster from the World War II period says ‘eight hours of work, eight hours of leisure, and eight hours of rest’.
  • If you guarantee a good eight hours of work, then automatically you are guaranteed that the rest is for you to enjoy your life, or the fruits of your labour.
  • There is this 19th century book by Paul Lafargue called The Right tobe Lazy. The right to work essentially plays into capitalism and the work ethic — the right to work is the right to be exploited by capital. And that is a perfectly fair point of view.
  • If you are really looking at the future of humanity, then one cannot take a narrow perspective. Work should be fulfilling, work should be creative, and work has to be put in its place, which is hopefully a very small place.

Editorial – 2

Title of the editorial: Media regulation that is quite over the top

Written by: SashiKumar (Chairman, Asian College of Journalism and Asiaville Interactive digital portal)

Topic in syllabus: Polity – Fundamental rights (GS-2)

Analysis about: This editorial shows concerns behind bringing digital media & OTT platform under the I&B Ministry.


  • Print media is regulated by press council of India.
  • T.V. news channels are regulated by News Broadcasting Association.
  • Films are regulated by Central board of film certification.
  • Content of the advertisement is regulated by Advertising standards council of India.


  • The government has brought online news and current affairs portals along with “films and audio ­visual programmes made available by online content providers” under the Ministry of Information.

Why did government do that?

  • The excuse given by the government for this annexation of the digital media by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is that the self-­regulation proposals given by the sector were not

Why is there a criticism of this move?

  • It is against freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
  • Freedom of the press and freedom of expression, are a fundamental right and a basic feature of
    the Constitution that no executive or legislature can tamper with or nullify.
  • Government seeks to divide and rule the press by creating an artificial distinction between the new-­age digital media (the stand­alone news portals which are already struggling to stay afloat) — which is the media of the future, the media of the millennial generation — and the older print and TV news media.
  • The fate of the digital media under the control of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting leaves
    little scope for hope, and dooms the sector for both the media practitioner and the media entrepreneur and for the start-ups that have been the new vibrant face of contemporary journalism.
  • It makes our democracy poorer.
  • The move is tantamount to nipping in the bud a promise of combative journalism.

Editorial – 3

Title of the editorial: The third package

Topic in syllabus: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth,
development and employment. (GS-3)

Analysis about: This editorial analyses the features of package announced for Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.

Introduction: Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unveiled the third instalment of the Atmanirbhar Bharat package aimed at addressing the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is in the Package?

Focus of the package:

  • Generating employment
  • Encouraging formalisation of the work force in urban areas,
  • Expanding the scope of distress employment provided in rural areas,
  • Easing the flow of credit to stressed parts of the economy,
  • Expanding the incentives offered to boost domestic manufacturing,
  • Kick-starting the real estate cycle.

Some good features of the package:

  • Providing incentives to EPFO-registered firms to hire more employees could lead to job creation and formalisation of the existing informal work force in urban areas.
  • The additional allocation of Rs 10,000 crore to the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Rozgar Yojana is good move as the demand for work under MGNREGA continues to remain well above last year.
  • The focus on the real estate sector is also a step in the right direction as it is one of the biggest non-farm avenues of employment.
  • Expanding the production-linked incentive scheme to cover 10 sectors could, over time, help create an efficient domestic manufacturing ecosystem.
  • Extending the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme till March is a good step.

Editorial – 4

Title of the editorial: The next economy

Written by: Pravakar Sahoo (professor, Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi.)

Topic in syllabus: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth,
development and employment. (GS-3)

Analysis about: This editorial talks about how India can become self-reliant, competitive if it cashes in on demographic dividend.


  • The Prime Minister pledged to make a self-reliant India or Atmanirbhar Bharat in May while announcing a comprehensive economic package to arrest the economic slowdown. Since then, the government has passed some key labour and farm reforms, among others. But much more is required to make India a self-reliant and competitive economy in the medium to long term.

What are current developmental issues in the economy?

  • The severe disruptions to the supply chain due to national and localised lockdowns led to supply side and demand side shrinking by 22.9 per cent and 23.9 per cent respectively in Q1, 2020-21.
  • It is estimated that India’s GDP will shrink in the range of 7 to 10 per cent, and will possibly reach the 2019-20 output level by the end of FY 2021.
  • The bigger medium-term problem is the slowdown of aggregate demand — private final consumption expenditure (PFCE), investment and exports. The largest component of GDP, PFCE, has not only declined as a share of GDP but also in terms of growth rates in recent years.
  • The investment slowdown is mostly due to a fall in household investment in the construction sector (almost 5 per cent of GDP), affecting not only major industries like steel, cement and power but also income, employment and demand.

What opportunity lies before India?

  • China is not the most favoured destination anymore for labour-intensive manufacturing due to a rise in wages, strict environmental regulations and an increase in the cost of production along with the uncertainties due to China’s friction with the US and other countries.
  • India offers the best opportunity in terms of a huge domestic market and factor endowments.

What Bharat needs to become a Atmanirbhar?

  • Atmanirbhar Bharat depends on improving the income and productivity of a majority of the labour force.
  • Incentivise the farming community to shift from grain-based farming to cash crops, horticulture and livestock products. The Chinese experience shows that reforms in agriculture in the late 1970s increased rural income, leading to demand for labour-intensive industrial goods, which was the start of China’s manufacturing success.
  • Shift the labour force from agriculture to manufacturing. India can only become self-reliant if it uses its best endowment — 900 million people in the working-age population with an average age of 27 — and appropriates its demographic dividend as China did.
  • We need to create a competitive labour-intensive manufacturing sector which will cater to both domestic demand and the export market.
  • We need Indian firms to be part of the global value chain by attracting multinational enterprises and foreign investors in labour-intensive manufacturing, which will facilitate R&D, branding, exports, etc.
  • There is a need to aggressively reduce both tariffs and non-tariff barriers on imports of inputs and intermediate products so that we create a competitive manufacturing sector for Make in India, and “Assembly in India”.
  • Rationalising punitive land acquisition clauses and rationalising labour laws, both at the Centre and state level is the necessity.


  • The COVID-triggered economic crisis should lead us to create a development model that leads to opportunities for the people at the bottom of the pyramid. A competitive and open economy can ensure Atmanirbhar Bharat.

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