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UPSC Online Editorial Analysis


Title: India’s no to RCEP could still be a no

Written by: Biswajit Dhar (Professor, Centre forEconomic Studies and Planning, School ofSocial Sciences, Jawaharlal NehruUniversity, New Delhi)

Topic in the syllabus: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. (GS-2)

Analysis about: These articles talks about the circumstances under which New Delhi had distanced itself from the RCEP negotiations have not improved yet.

(As we have comprehensively covered RCEP, we will just cover the additional points)

Basics: What TPP?

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), also called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, was a proposed trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States signed on 4 February 2016.
  • After the US president Donald Trump withdrew the US signature from TPP in January 2017, the agreement could not be ratified as required and did not enter into force.
  • The remaining countries negotiated a new trade agreement called Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which incorporates most of the provisions of the TPP and which entered into force on 30 December 2018.
  • The original TPP contained measures to lower both non-tariff and tariff barriers to trade, and establish an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism.

Objectives of RCEP:

  • Progressively eliminating tariff and non­tariff barriers on substantially all trade in goods.
  • Achieving “high level of tariff liberalization, through building upon the existing liberalization levels between RCEP participating countries and through tariff elimination on a high percentage of both tariff lines and trade value”.
  • To conclude a comprehensive and high quality agreement that would “substantially eliminate restrictions and/or discriminatory measures”.
  • RCEP negotiations on a framework for investment “to cover the four pillars of promotion, protection, facilitation and liberalization”.

Comparison of RCEP with the TPP:

  • There have always been doubts whether the TPP was promoting “free trade” or a highly discriminatory “managed trade”.
  • Because the TPP included several regulatory issues including the controversial labour and environmental standards and issues such as “anti­corruption”, all of which could raise regulatory barriers and severely impede trade flows.
  • RCEP includes traditional market access issues, following the template provided by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
  • RCEP also includes issues that are currently being discussed by several groups of WTO members as a part of their agenda to “reform the multilateral trading system.
  • These issues are electronic commerce, investment facilitation, which seems to be the first step towards a multilateral agreement on investment and creating an enabling environment
    for the participation of small and medium enterprises in global trade.
  • While India has been opposed to the inclusion of all these issues in the WTO, the formation of RCEP could provide serious momentum to the discussions in Geneva, especially after the Organization convenes under its new Director General.

Contradiction of RCEP with the issues of India:

  • While India has been opposed to the inclusion of all these issues in the WTO, the formation of RCEP could provide serious momentum to the discussions in Geneva, especially after the Organization convenes under its new Director General.
  • Movement of natural persons, an area in which India had had considerable interest, is considerably
  • RCEP members have allowed relatively limited market access only to individuals in managerial positions or those having high levels of skills.
  • The areas of investment and electronic commerce, in both of which India had expressed its reservations on the template adopted during RCEP negotiations, the outcomes are varied.
  • The rules on dispute settlement procedures are yet to be written in.

Have the circumstances under which India had distanced itself from the RCEP negotiations become any better for it to join the agreement in the near future?

  • The answer seems to be unambiguously in the negative on two counts.
  • During the RCEP negotiations, India had raised a number of concerns, two of which have become even more significant over the past several months, namely,
    • The levels of market access it was expected to provide, especially the deep cuts in tariffs on imports from China.
    • Provisions relating to the investment chapter.
  • India’s initiative for its economic turnaround, the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, is primarily focused on strengthening domestic value chains, while RCEP, like any other FTA is solely focused on promoting regional value chains.


Title: The ‘Time Use Survey’ as an opportunity lost

Written by: Indira Hirway (Director and Professor of Economics, Center for Development Alternatives, Ahmedabad)

Topic in the syllabus: Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth,
development and employment. (GS-3) | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. (GS-2)

Analysis about: These articles talks about how the gaps in Indian version’s time use survey data will impact Sustainable Development Goal 5.4 and the ILO’s resolution on defining work.


What is Time use survey?

  • The Time Use Survey, or TUS, provides a framework for measuring time dispositions by the population on different activities.
  • Its primary objective is to measure participation of men and women in paid and unpaid activities.
  • TUS is an important source of information on the time spent in unpaid care­giving activities, volunteer work, unpaid domestic service producing activities of the household members.
  • It also provides information on time spent on learning, socializing, leisure activities, self-care activities, etc., by the household members.

List of sustainable development goals:


  • The all India Time Use Survey 2019 has just been published by the Government of India., As a survey that has covered the entire country for the first time, the National Statistical Office needs to be complimented for accomplishing the task.

How the data has been collected?

  • The data collection was done for one day — normal or other day in a 24­hour time diary, beginning
    at 4 a.m. and till 4 a.m. the next day.
  • In India, where literacy is low, the time diary was filled in by interviewers in 30 minute time slots
    through face-to-face interviews.
  • The International Classification of Activities for Time Use Statistics of the United Nations Statistics Division, was used for classification of activities.

Why there is push for TUS globally?

  • The commitment to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030.
  • The path breaking Resolution of the 19th International Conference on Labour Statistics, on “Statistics of Work, Employment and Labour Underutilization — International Labour Organization 2013”.
  • Time use data are needed for implementing not only the SDG 5.4 on unpaid work, but also for implementing the SDG­1 to the SDG­10.
  • The ILO’s Resolution cannot be implemented without time use data. Several countries have initiated its implementation, and the ILO has also undertaken pilot studies in several countries.

What is the definition of work?

  • The ILO’s Resolution defines “work” as “any activity performed by persons of any sex and age to produce goods or provide services for use by others or own use”.
  • “Work” is divided into five categories:
    • Employment (production of goods and services for pay, profit or barter)
    • Own use production of goods and services by households
    • Unpaid trainee work
    • volunteer work
    • Other work

Issues in Indian TUS?

  • The Government of India is fully committed to the SDGs and has also indicated its inclination to
    implementing the second. TUS data are also required for understanding and monitoring major socioeconomic concerns of countries. both these developments have not been incorporated in this first time use survey.
  • SDG 5.4 — considered to be the most important SDG for measuring and valuing unpaid domestic services and unpaid care by women and men, and reducing unpaid work through public services and infrastructure — the Indian TUS data are not adequate.

Issues in Employment/Unemployment Surveys?

  • It tends to under­report informal workers, due to the nature of informal employment.
  • Women frequently view work as a part of household work and under­report it.
  • the EUS are not equipped to collect data on multiple jobs performed by people, the time spent
    on work.
  • The scattered nature of work, subsistence work, and work performed under simultaneous activities.

How should be the EUS?

  • The Expert Committee on the 62nd Round of the NSSO on EUS therefore recommended that a national TUS should follow an EUS.

What is the significance of TUS?

  • The TUS, which collects comprehensive information on all human activities, provides improved estimates of the workforce as well as shed light on important characteristics of the workforce.

How should be the TUS?

  • A TUS collects data only for one or two days per person in a week, while according to the ILO, “a person is a worker if she/he has spent at least one hour on work in the reference week”.
  • It is quite likely that the person reporting as a non-worker on one day may be working on
    other days, or one reporting work may not work for one hour totally in the week.
  • It is necessary, therefore, to draw the TUS sample (which is always smaller) from the same sampling framework that is used by the labour force survey (EUS), with some common units.
  • The TUS can complement the labour force survey (LFS) information. The independent TUS cannot provide estimates of the workforce/labour force.


  • In short, the Indian TUS has missed two important opportunities — of implementing the SDG 5.4
    and the ILO’s important resolution.


Title: Machine hole

Topic in the syllabus: Indian society, Social empowerment (GS-1)

Analysis about: These articles talks about what government should do for mechanisation of sewer cleaning.


  • In recent move, the union government has decided that Mechanised cleaning of sewers and septic tanks will be mandatory and the word “manhole” will be replaced with “machine-hole” in official usage, and a 24×7 national helpline will be set up to report violations.

Why is the plight of septic tank cleaners?

  • More than 375 workers died while cleaning septic and sewer tanks between 2015 and 2019, according to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment’s data.

Manual scavenging issue in India:

  • A number of independent surveys have talked about the continued reluctance on the part of state governments to admit that the practice prevails under their watch.
  • Unwilling to invest in technology and the rehabilitation of workers, municipalities live in denial instead of acting to end the practice.
  • A large body of reportage has shown that local bodies outsource sewer cleaning tasks to private contractors, many of them fly-by-night operators, who do not maintain proper rolls of sanitation workers.
  • In case after case of workers being asphyxiated to death, these contractors have denied any association with the deceased.
  • Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale admitted in the Lok Sabha in July last year “that there have been no reports from states of people being convicted for employing manual scavengers”.
  • The design of septic tanks in large parts of the country is not amenable to technological intervention and machines are too big to enter narrow by lanes, especially in dense urban areas.

The way forward:

  • A problem that is closely intertwined with social hierarchies requires more than technological or legal solutions.
  • The Social Justice Ministry has decided to directly provide funds to workers to purchase cleaning machines, instead of giving money to contractors or municipalities. This is a step in the right direction.
  • States need to accurately enumerate the workers engaged in cleaning toxic sludge.
  • Systems need to be put in place to prevent pilferage, ensure that the machines reach the right hands.
  • Policymakers and local-level officials to first acknowledge and then understand how and why manual scavenging continues to be embedded in the caste system.

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