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Increasing Use of Fertilizers:LOOK AT CHEAPER & SAFER ALTERNATIVES,Dr. Vinod Mehta,2 August 2007 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights                           

New Delhi, 2 August 2007

Increasing Use of Fertilizers

LOOK AT CHEAPER & SAFER ALTERNATIVES

By Dr. Vinod Mehta

Fertilizers have played a significant role in raising the productivity of Indian agriculture.  It is common knowledge that the Green Revolution was based on a package of inputs that included fertilizer, water, high-yielding varieties of seeds etc. Today, fertilizers are gaining prominence as an important agricultural input in our quest for attaining consistent surplus in the agricultural sector. This is a common pattern in developed countries, where fertilizers are used to boost the agricultural output, especially grain production to feed growing population.

In the past over four-and-a-half decades, both the production and use of fertilizers in the country has been increasing by leaps and bounds. The available data shows that the production of nitrogenous fertilizers has increased from 80,000 tonnes in 1955-56 to 107 lakh tonnes in 2001-02.  Similarly, the consumption of fertilizers has increased from 66,000 tonnes in 1952-53 to 173 lakhs tonnes in 2001-02. 

Even though the production of fertilizers has gone up, we are still dependent upon imports for a significant portion of our needs. In 1970-71 imports of fertilizers stood at 629, 000 tonnes and in 2001-02 they stood at 2,398, 000 tonnes. The use of fertilizers has helped increase the grain input of the country to the extent that we are self-sufficient in its production. Besides, in times of natural calamities like drought, we are able to meet our food requirements from domestic sources only. All thanks to the use of fertilizers.

However, the negative aspect of the whole thing is that the subsidies which are being paid to the fertilizer industry are enormous.  India has no comparative advantage in the production of fertilizer. Therefore, to keep the fertilizer units viable the Government has been paying huge subsidies to this sector.  India's fertilizer subsidy bill has escalated from Rs. five billion in 1980-81, to over Rs. 60 billion by the mid-'90s, and further to Rs.162.50 billion as per the 2005-06 budget. India spends over 0.7 per cent of it’s GDP on fertilizer subsidies--almost twice the entire amount we spend on higher education.

Such an amount of subsidy is playing havoc with the State finances.  It is a sheer drain on the central funds.  All attempts made in the past have so far not been successful in curbing subsidies on fertilizers. What needs to be stressed is that we have gained self-sufficiency in grain production at a very high cost. And, this amount of subsidy is unsustainable. 

One of the factors for this subsidy is that the fertilizer units require a lot of LPG to run them.  Since we don’t have sufficient reserves of LPG, we are being forced to import LPG it at a very high cost.  Therefore, the important question before us is: if the country has no comparative advantage in the production of fertilizers, then why should it not close down the fertilizer units and meet its requirements from imports? It would be cheaper and this way we won’t be forced to pay a subsidy of over Rs 8,000 crores year after year.

The other important aspect is that India has large reserves of coal and perhaps natural gas.  Why cannot we develop a technology that uses coal energy to produce fertilizer and thus reduce production costs of fertilizers?

There is also an environmental aspect to the fertilizer industry.  Indiscriminate use of fertilizers by farmers is also making vast tracts of agricultural land useless. Though the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers is aware of the damage being caused to environment by the use of fertilizers not much has been done to improve the situation.

Along with the use of fertilizers has come the use of pesticides and insecticides. These are health hazards for those who eat the produce of agriculturists using fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides in a big way. Like diesel, which affects the health of the people by way of environmental pollution, the use of fertilizers, pesticides etc., too is directly affecting peoples’ health.

The Government is well aware of this hazard and is, therefore, encouraging research on bio-fertilizers. However, it is moving very slowly. If it wants it can play an important role by encouraging research on bio-fertilizers and reducing their dependence on imported fertilizers.

The other draw back from the use of fertilizers is that different types of fertilizers need to be combined in appropriate proportion with other fertilizers like Potash, which is not manufactured in India at the moment.

In the long run, the indiscriminate use of urea without potash could damage the productivity of agricultural land. In this connection, the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers has set up an Expert committee to prepare the R&D road map for the fertilizer industry and also monitor its progress. But this needs to be taken up seriously.

Another important question that begs an answer is: do we really need to use fertilizers on such a large scale to increase our agricultural output?  Studies by many economists have shown that better use of irrigation water can achieve the same result and at a much lesser cost.  One of the economists has worked out that if the fertilizers subsidy budgeted for 1997-98 is used for sinking wells it could generate capacity to irrigate at least three million hectare of land. Besides, within less than three years the additional output due to increased irrigation would more than compensate the loss of output due to increased prices of fertilizer and consequent reduction in its use.  This is an important issue which needs to be discussed at all the levels.

In addition, India has vast human and cattle population. Can’t we find out a way to collect the human and cattle waste on a large scale and turn it into traditional manure. Some countries like China have not only mastered the use of scarce water in an economical way but they have also mastered the use of human and cattle waste as traditional manure to increase the productivity of agriculture.  Thus, on the one hand we have chemical fertilizer that is not economical for India to produce and on the other we have large quantities of human and cattle waste which can be a cheaper substitute for fertilizer.

Today, many countries are moving away from the excessive use of chemical fertilizers to the use of traditional manures, organic manure and bio-fertilizers to sustain the increase in agricultural productivity.  Researches on such types of manures have been strengthened so as to fight the threat posed to the general health of the people by the excessive use of fertilizers.  India also needs to strengthen its researches in this direction to protect the health of its population.---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

           

 

Competitive Economy:INDIAN CONSUMER FINALLY BENEFITS, by Dr Vinod Mehta, 26 July 2007 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 26 July 2007

Competitive Economy

INDIAN CONSUMER FINALLY BENEFITS

By Dr Vinod Mehta

Competition finally arrived and taken roots in India in the past decade-and-a-half.  The advent of low cost airlines, air fares war, railways-airlines competition to attract travellers, reduction in STD and ISD rates by telecom companies and the unwillingness of manufacturers to increase prices of products are some of the indicators that the consumer’s interest is in the forefront now. Truly a welcome change.  

We have come a long way since the erstwhile protectionist environment, under which the industrialists were forced to function. The heavy restrictions on imports on almost all kinds of goods and services and the licensing system for starting new capacities had ensured monopoly profits for the industrialists. This suited the industrialists as they didn’t have to make any special efforts to increase their sales. The buyers had very little option but to purchase only those goods which were available in the domestic market. The industrialists couldn’t ask for more-- low turnover but higher profits.

The thinking then was that the protectionist environment would not only ensure domestic industry growth but that scarce resources were invested in desirable areas of the economy as identified by the Planning Commission.  Further, it was believed that the profits earned by the industrialists would be ploughed back to update technological base. And that after a few years India would emerge not only as a relatively self-sufficient nation but as one of the efficient and competitive economies in the world. 

However, all these expectations were belied for past 40 years till the protectionist system was in command. It had three negative impacts for the domestic economy. One, the industrialists developed a vested interest in the protectionist policies. It ensured monopoly profits for them which couldn’t have been possible otherwise. As a corollary to this, the politicians joined hands with the industrialists to maintain status quo. It provided the politicians another source of earnings, by controlling and manipulating the licensing system.

Two, since the profits were assured the industrialists did not feel the need to cut production costs or to update the technological base. The market was assured of their products and they had little to do except manipulate it to their advantage.

Three, though the country needed to push up its export to earn foreign exchange, the industrialists did not find the need to look to the export market. They had already been assured that their produce would be sold in the domestic market at a much higher rate of return than what was available in the export market. This gave birth to a number of undesirable practices such as special incentives to exporters, etc.

Fortunately, a decade-and-a-half of economic reforms, after an initial opposition from industrialists and Left parties, has completely changed the scenario. The customers are now experiencing the benefits of competition. For instance take the case of the Indian Airlines. In the past it would raise airfares on the slightest pretext since it had monopolized domestic air routes.  The air traveler had no option. He had to accept it despite the hike being unfair. However, there are now over five airline companies in the domestic skies, where each is careful not to lose its clients by raising the airfare unnecessarily.

Again, like the Indian Airlines, the car manufacturers enjoyed full monopoly in the domestic market. The two companies would raise the prices whenever they liked. And, got away with it simply because there was no competition.  But now with the arrival of more companies in the domestic market, the car manufacturers are in no position to raise the prices at random. They realize that any unrealistic increase in prices would lead to a cut in their sales and that business could shift to their competitors.   

Many more examples could be cited where competition is forcing manufacturers to constantly monitor their production cost, improve their product and control the final price. It might be noticed that prices of manufactured durable consumer goods like refrigerators, TVs, washing machines etc. are not rising as fast as the prices of other products.  The answer is simple: the Indian consumer has become a king. He has a ide choice of similar goods at competitive prices which were earlier denied.   

However, competition has remained limited to the durable consumer goods and/or services. In areas where there is no competition, monopoly profits exist. Most of the essential goods such as sugar, edible oil, pulses etc. fall in this category.  The mills producing these essential commodities are not willing to update their technological base, which dates back to World War II.  Besides, it’s well-known that these sugar mills enjoy the patronage of some politicians. Therefore, the sugar mill owners are enjoying not only monopoly profits but also being able to dump sugar of indifferent quality on the consumers.

Further, no efforts have been made to augment the supply of essential goods like the edible oil. It continues to rise in spite of the fact that its import is now relatively much easier.  Regrettably, while import has a sobering effect on the price level, edible oils are relatively higher as per international standards. Thus, there is a need to make essential goods competitive in the domestic market.

But this will be possible only if the supply of these products is increased substantially so that there is a surplus in the country at any point of time.  Of course, the approach for creating a competitive market in the essential goods has to be different from that of manufactured goods.

Most of the essential goods are agricultural-based and that farmer cooperatives may be more useful, especially in marketing. The idea being that not only should the farmer get a reasonable price for his produce but that the consumer too should benefit by way of lower prices. Experience of other countries in this area needs to be critically studied and adopted as per Indian conditions. 

The Indian consumer will truly be a king in the essential commodities market only if goods are available at competitive prices like in the case of durable consumers industry. In the West one seldom hears of any shortage of essential commodities or any abnormal increase in prices, which by and large rise rather slowly. And, it is for this reason that the rate of inflation is below two per cent in most of the developed countries, year after year.

Therefore, it is in India's interest to take the logic of competitive economy to the agricultural sector. Essential goods too would become freely available with a wider choice like the durable consumer goods. Only then would the Indian consumer be able to feel like a king, like the American or the Japanese does in his respective markets. ---INFA.

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

 

Appreciating Rupee:NO NEED TO PANIC, by Dr. Vinod Mehta, 19 July 2007 Print E-mail

 

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 19 July 2007

Appreciating Rupee

NO NEED TO PANIC

By Dr. Vinod Mehta

The appreciation of the rupee vis-à-vis the US dollar (the same as the depreciation of the US dollar vis-à-vis the rupee) is causing concern among the exporters especially the software companies as they expect a fall in their export earnings because the US dollar would now fetch less rupees.  Clearly, this is a part of the ongoing economic dynamics wherein the fiscal fundamentals are strong, foreign investors are quite upbeat about the Indian economy and are thus willing to pour in more money.  Reportedly, in the first fortnight of this month foreign funds pumped US $ 4.1 billion into India, more than double the $ 2 billion they had pumped in November 2006.

 

One side effect of this is that the rupee is being increasingly accepted as a “hard currency” in many countries even though the Reserve Bank of India has not yet declared it as fully convertible. However, the people believe that the rupee could make good asset! Recall, 10 years ago, when a depreciating rupee had made the Indian importers jittery, I had then written in my column that there was no need to panic. 

 

To quote: “After 27 months the rupee is again in turmoil vis-à-vis dollar and other hard currencies.  On 1st December, 1997 the value of rupee crashed to Rs 39.30 to a US dollar.  It may be recalled that in September 1995 the rupee was in turmoil when it touched a low of Rs. 35 against the US dollar in the foreign exchange market. In other words in past the 27 months the value of rupee vis-à-vis US dollar has depreciated from Rs 33.78 to Rs 39.30, i.e., by almost five and a half rupee. 

 

Since the introduction of the economic reforms in 1991 when the controlled exchange rate policy was done away with, the rupee has depreciated by almost Rs eight.  Not bad, given the political instability in the country.  Indeed it should not cause any concern since we have shifted to a market determined rate of rupee against all the hard currencies.  This depreciation (and sometimes appreciation) is part of the game and most of the time good for the economy.”

 

Moreover, from 1998 till 2003 the rupee was relatively stable vis-à-vis the US dollar and then rose steadily. But it is only in the past few weeks that the appreciating rupee began unsettling the applecart of many exporters. The rupee hit the intra-day high of $40.28 on 28 May while it finished at 39.85 a dollar on 13 May 13, 1998.  Last week it was Rs. 40.50 to a dollar.  In 2002, for every dollar worth of exports, an exporter got nearly Rs 49. But in December 2003, an exporter got Rs 45 for every dollar, which translated into a fall of approximately seven per cent.

 

The software companies are the hardest hit as their software exports are mainly for the US market.  To quote: “Indian software firms get 60 per cent of their revenues from the US and a one per cent  appreciation of the rupee against the dollar can impact earnings before interest and tax margins by between 30 and 50 basis points. Irrespective of the fact whether the company is big or small, all of them have been hit. The margins may be impacted by as much as 4 per cent.”

 

 

What is the remedy? One, devaluation, but this instrument to check appreciation of any currency is outdated. Two, the buying and selling of the dollar by the Central Bank to stabilize the exchange rate of the rupee, is effective only as a short term measure.  However, because of the hue and cry raised by the exporters the Government has come out with a Rs 1,400 crore relief package for the exporters. 

This includes interest subsidy to the tune of Rs.600 crore on bank loans and Rs.800 crore on duty drawback on inputs used in the manufacture of export goods and other measures.  The interest subsidy is meant only for small and medium sized exporters while the duty drawback measure will apply to all the exporters.  According to the exporters, though the relief package is not sufficient it would mitigate some of their problems

Paradoxically, when the rupee is depreciating the importers are a worried lot and when the rupee is appreciating the exporters are the worried lot.  This is because when the rupee is depreciating the importers have to pay more rupees to buy a dollar and thus imports become expensive while the exporters get more from a dollar. However, when the rupee is appreciating the importers have to pay less to buy a dollar while the exporters get less from a dollar.  For instance, India imports huge quantities of oil, so when the rupee is depreciating our oil import bill goes up and when the rupee is appreciating our oil import bill comes down.

If the exporters are fretting about the declining export earnings because of the appreciation of the rupee, many others are happy as the appreciating rupee brings down our import bill of a number of capital goods and commodities like oil, pulses, grain etc.  True, the appreciating rupee is only a temporary phenomenon which will stabilize at some level but we can use this opportunity to import capital goods to strengthen the capital base of our manufacturing sector.  The time is also appropriate to import and build inventories of critical raw materials.  We can also build our stocks of grain, pulses and edible oil to keep a check on inflation.

The ideal thing would be for the Reserve Bank of India to manage the exchange rate fluctuations within a certain band to be determined by it.  But more important, our business houses and industries must realize that as the economy gets stronger, the rupee will also get stronger in relative terms.  Therefore, businesses which are heavily oriented towards the US markets must factor in the appreciating rupee in their calculations and devise strategies to check the erosion in their export earnings.  Moreover, they also need to reduce their dependence on the US market and move towards the European market, Japan etc., and start earning in Euros and Yen.

However, for a large number of people the exchange rate variations do not have much of a meaning unless some of the items of their daily consumption like pulses happen to be imported. The common man is concerned more with the domestic inflation which affects his living standards and not the appreciation or depreciation of the rupee which is remotely connected to his living standard.  Fortunately, the domestic rate of inflation has come down which should make the consumer happy.

Plainly, there is no need to panic about the appreciation in the value of the rupee as it will not affect the common man to any significant extent.  In economic terms, it means automatic correction in the exchange rate with every player in the foreign exchange market adjusting his requirements accordingly.  The packages for exporters are unnecessary.  The businessmen must learn to live with the exchange rate fluctuations in this era of globalisation and stop looking for succour from the Government. ---- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scourge Of Child Labour:NEED TO RAISE JOBS, LITERACY LEVEL, by Dr. Vinod Mehta,12 July 2007 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 12 July 2007

Scourge Of Child Labour

NEED TO RAISE JOBS, LITERACY LEVEL

By Dr. Vinod Mehta

Most of the shops in the metropolitan cities are displaying the following notice in their show windows, “We do not sell products made by child labour.” Whether they really do so or not is very difficult to check but the very fact that they are displaying these signs shows that they are aware of the rights of child.

Child labour is a worldwide phenomenon but India has the largest number of child labourers in the world. Studies by various NGOs reveal shockingly high levels of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse among children working as domestic helpers. According to the National Sample Survey Organization, nearly 16.4 million Indian children aged 5-14 years are engaged in economic activities and domestic or non-remunerative work. The World Bank puts that figure at 44 million.

Many international agencies concerned with welfare of children have been asking India to eliminate child labour. The country has taken steps to tackle this problem but we have still to go a long way. It is acknowledged the world over that children should not be made to take up economic activity. But there is no answer to this problem.

The Second National Commission on Labour had gone into this problem in detail. It begins with the question as to what constitutes child labour. Does a child chasing goats or cows or a very young girl washing utensils, carrying a pot of water or minding her younger brother constitute child labour? Or do children rolling beedis, working in a glass factory, match-making or carpet weaving constitute child labour?

These issues have been debated for a very long time in this country. It is generally agreed that children helping in household work, family work or working as an apprentice to learn craft skills do not constitute child labour. But children working in factories, dhabas with a view to earning money are considered as child labour.

Regarding the statistical profile of child labour in the country while the 1991 census puts the number at 11.28 million, the 50th round of the National Sample Survey (NSS) conducted in 1993-94 estimated the child labour population at 13.5 million. There are about 74 million children who are neither enrolled in schools nor accounted for in the labour force and come under the category of “Nowhere Children”.

The National Commission on Labour further points out that the incidence of child labour is more rural than urban. More than 90.87 per cent of the working children are in the rural areas and are employed in agricultural and allied activities. Namely, cultivation, agricultural labour, livestock, forestry and fisheries account for 85 per cent of child labour.

In the urban informal sector (unorganized) child labour is found in small-scale cottage industries, in dhabas, restaurants, workshops, domestic service and on the streets. Children working in the manufacturing, servicing and repairs account for 8.7 per cent of the urban child labour force, out of this only 0.8 per cent works in factories. About 2 million children are engaged in employment, which is characterized as hazardous. In certain communities where social and caste factors are important bonded child labour is also present.

The National Commission also found that the incidence of child labour is high amongst SC and ST and agricultural labourers. As for the States, child labour is predominant in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and is mainly found in poor areas and among disadvantaged and marginalized groups of societies. There is no appreciable predominance of male or female children in the child labour population.  Male children constitute 54.28 per cent and females 45.18 per cent of the total child labour.

The Central Government has already banned the employment of children below the age of 14 in 13 hazardous occupations and 57 risky processes as per “Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act, 1986. The hazardous occupation cover automobile workshops and garages, slaughter houses, foundries, handling of the toxic or inflammable substances or explosives, handloom and power-loom industries, mines and collieries, plastic units and fibre glass factories. The risky processes cover beedi-making, carpet weaving, agarbati manufacturing, gem cutting and polishing, lock making, bangle making, brassware making and zari making. 

Importantly, the Government is doing its best to tackle and eliminate child labour. Under the National Child Labour Project (NCLP) started in 1987 special schools have been set up to provide non-formal and formal education, vocational training, stipend, health check up and supplementary nutrition to the children withdrawn from jobs. The Government was hopeful that through such measures it would be able to eliminate child labour by the end of 10th Plan, i.e., 2007. The Tenth Plan has ended but there is no word on it from the Government. 

However, looking at the size of the problem it is unlikely that Government laws and Government-supported projects will be able to eliminate child labour. It is for the society at large and the community at the local level to ensure that children are sent to schools and not to the labour market.

True, there are a number of reasons which forces parents to send their children to work as child labourers. The main reason is poverty which compels them to push their children to contribute to the family income. Secondly, the poor families are not educated enough to understand the implications of sending their small children to work.

Most of the researches have shown that a family which has crossed the threshold of the poverty line and where the women have become literate, those families are conscious enough not to send their children to join the labour market but to send them to schools.

Therefore, efforts should be made to generate more jobs and raise the literacy level of the poor families so that it obviates the need for the parents to push their child to the labour market and also sensitizes the family to send their child to school.

There is also an urgent need to educate the employers not to employ children in their factories or service centres. Since the wages paid to the child labour are much lower than the ones paid to the adult labour, employers would always find it economical to employ a child worker rather than an adult worker. Laws or no laws.

Clearly, we will have to make the employees conscious of the fact that a child’s place is in school and not in a factory or a farm as a labourer.  There should be a moral code of conduct among employers not to employ child workers. ----- INFA

(Copyright India News and Feature Alliance)

 

 

 

Looking for Better Pay Scales:TRICKY PROBLEM FOR GOVERNMENT, by Dr. Vinod Mehta, 5 July 2007 Print E-mail

Economic Highlights

New Delhi, 5 July 2007

Looking for Better Pay Scales

TRICKY PROBLEM FOR GOVERNMENT

By Dr. Vinod Mehta

The Sixth Pay Commission should be submitting its report in the next six to eight months.  The Government employees are eagerly awaiting the recommendations as they expect good pay scales. Some of the observations of the Commission have given rise to this expectation, especially the one which notes the widening gap in the emoluments of employees in the private sector and their counterparts in the government sector. A result of the 15 years of economic reforms. For instance, there is a very wide disparity in the emoluments of senior persons working in nationalized banks and those in the private banks. The result? Talented officers are leaving nationalized banks to join private banks. 

However, implementing higher pay scales may be a tricky job. Prior to setting up the Commission, the Government had consulted the State Governments on this issue. Almost all the State Governments have indicated that they are willing to accept the recommendations of the Commission for higher pay scales provided the Centre shares the burden of increased salaries. 

It may be noted that the Fifth Pay Commission had upset the budgets of many State Governments and till date the finances of many State Governments are in a very precarious situation. Recall, while the Centre had accepted the recommendations related to hiking the pay, it could not muster the political courage to downsize the bureaucracy. As a consequence, the bureaucracy remains bloated and the financial burden of the governments both at the Centre and the States goes on increasing every six months.

The Expenditure Reforms Commission too had made recommendations regarding the downsizing of the bureaucracy in a phased manner over a period of ten years yet little is visible on the ground.

One of the important recommendations of the Fifth Pay Commission was that the whole administration needed to be officer-oriented, and public servants needed to convert from mere controllers and regulators to catalysts, promoters and facilitators. To quote: “Their numbers need to be right sized and an officer orientation brought about. The Government itself needs to be restructured by closing down departments or amalgamating them, by transferring subjects and institutions to the State Governments and Panchayati Raj bodies, by converting departmental undertakings into public sector undertakings…”

At another place it says: “Simultaneously the government office needs to be reoriented.  There has to be de-layering in order to reduce levels and level-jumping in order to reduce delays.  Large unwieldy sections have to give way to small business-like desks, the vast army of ministerial staff may be casually replaced by Executive Assistants, with the group ‘D’ personnel being trained as multi-skilled functionaries.  Automation and computerization would be brought in wholesale so as to cut down paper work.”

Sadly, in the past 14 years not much has been done to implement these recommendations. The expectations among the government staff is that their salaries would be further raised without downsizing the bureaucracy.  But given the financial position of the Centre and the States, there will be no escape from downsizing the bureaucracy. 

How will the Government do it? One has to wait and watch. As a general observation one can say that the pay and allowances of Government staff should be linked to the ability of the Government to pay.  But the question is how do you define the ability of the Government to pay when the Government itself is paying huge amounts of hidden and open subsidies for political reasons? 

When the Government can neither cut down superfluous subsidies nor wasteful expenditure because of its archaic rules and regulations, how would one convince the Government staff that it cannot bear the burden of extra expenditure on account of enhanced pay and allowances?  Any way the actual recommendations will be known only after the report is submitted by the Commission.

The main task of the Pay Commission will be to recommended pay-scales for the Central Government staff and recommend an increase with a view to reducing the gap in the salaries in the Government and those in the private sector. At the same time, the Commission also owes it to the society that it can encourage people to go in for vocations which serve the interest of society at large.

Moreover, the Commission’s recommendations will also indicate what kind of personnel we need and the importance of the personnel to economy as a whole.  If one goes by the choice of the students taking up graduate courses, one will find that there are hardly any takers for science courses.  Gone is the time when taking up a science course was an honour.  Now young students prefer to take a course which fetch good salaries in the market like commerce, economics and management etc. Students are not taking up courses in science because the salaries are comparatively low and there is not much scope for career advancement.   

Think for a moment that if bright students are going for commerce, economics and management and such like courses, will we have people to do scientific research?  Who will do research on new molecules or develop new alloys? Who will look after our atomic energy and our space programme?  Scientists are the back-bone of any country whether it is the USA, Russia, Korea or Japan.  If we do not make scientific research attractive enough in terms of good salaries bright young students will go for courses like commerce, economics which may give them good salaries but will not be an asset to the nation. 

It is reported that the salaries of the scientists in Pakistan are higher than the salaries of the scientists in India. One would, therefore, like to draw attention of the Pay Commission to look into the salaries of the scientists engaged in research and make them more attractive so that young students choose research in science as a career over purely commercial careers.  Countries like the USA, Japan, Korea or even China are economic powers because the technology they have in their country is based on the scientific research of their scientists. 

It is always the endeavor of the bureaucrats that salaries of the Government employees whether that of scientists or any personnel engaged in research are below the salaries of the joint secretaries to the Government of India.  Why should a scientist earn less than a bureaucrat?  Will the Sixth Pay Commission be able to give different recommendations which gives prominence to scientists in every field of scientific research?

The second category of employees which requires the attention of the Pay Commission is that of school teachers.  School teachers in every country are given due respect by the society as they not only instill basic knowledge in the minds of the young students but also mould their character. These students then go on to become future scientists, bureaucrats, researchers and so on. There is a misconception that school teachers work only for a half day.  They also have to check the home work of each and every student and prepare the lessons for the next day, which they normally do at home. Thus, they are also working the whole time.

However, compared to the kind of work they do, the teachers salaries are less than that of a Section Officer in the Government of India. The average annual salary of a TGT and PGT is between Rs. one-and-a-half lakh to Rs. two-and-a-half lakh as against Rs.4.5 lakhs earned by a school teacher in Thailand, Malaysia or Turkey. Salaries of the college teachers are comparatively much better. They are two to three times more than those of the school teachers.  It is, therefore, not surprising that a large number of school teachers supplement their income by giving private tutions at the cost of teaching in schools.

Some time back the Supreme Court had questioned the very low pay-scales of school teachers.  But the Government has chosen to remain mum.  It would, therefore, be in the fitness of things that the Sixth Pay Commission recognizes the contribution of school teachers to society and looks into their pay-scales and recommends reasonable scales for them. ---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

 

 

 

 

 

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