ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

COVID-19Subscribe to COVID-19

Making Digital Financial Inclusion a Reality

Technology has had a disruptive effect on the delivery of fi nancial services, and adoption of digital solutions could help accelerate fi nancial inclusion. This article creates a road map for digital fi nancial inclusion in India using the framework based on the eight high-level principles of G-20 nations. While evaluating the progress under each one of these principles, the article concludes with policy recommendations both on supply and demand sides to achieve the coveted digital fi nancial inclusion.

Unveiling the World of the Nomadic Tribes and Denotified Tribes: An Introduction

31 August 2021 marks the 69th year of the repeal of the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871. This act was the most draconian law passed by the British colonial state, under which millions of nomadic and semi-nomadic communities were declared criminals and put under continuous surveillance, making their lives impossible. 31 August is celebrated as Vimukta Jatis day in India by the de-notified tribal communities. After denotification in 1952, about 200 communities were included in Scheduled Tribe (ST), Scheduled Caste (SC) and Other Backward Caste lists because they come from diverse social backgrounds. While they mainly come from nomadic communities, these communities are not homogeneous. All nomadic tribes (NTs) are not de-notified tribes (DNTs), but all DNTs are NTs. Given the historically embedded diversities between the NTs and DNTs, it is difficult to treat them as a homogeneous social group or an analytical category (Renke 2008: 8–20). They are fluid categories which often cross boundaries from one social group to another.

COVID-19 and IPR Waiver

The Government of India is seeking an intellectual property rights waiver under Sections 1 (copyright and related rights), 4 (industrial designs), 5 (patents), and 7 (protection of undisclosed information) of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights. Seeking an IPR waiver is based on the presumption that it will allow more firms to manufacture vaccines and medicines, thereby enhancing their availability at a cheaper price. However, IPR waivers for COVID-19 vaccines and medicines are unlikely to make any difference. A more effective approach is to use compulsory licences, and reduce tariffs and non-tariff measures.

Data Soldiers

Researchers and academia seldom think about the foot soldiers who collect data by travelling to villages, blocks, or districts and interviewing households and communities.

Government and Labour: Return of Dialogue?

Worker’s organisations are crucial to the government’s planned labour policy measures.

On the Economics of E-pharmacies: Potential Issues for Anti-trust Analysis

This article investigates potential issues for anti-trust policy regarding e-pharmacies. These entities have gained prominence in many countries due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and seem to provide an alternative channel for consumers. However, the extent to which the promise of an added dimension of competition in the retailing of medicines is made possible by e-pharmacies needs deeper analysis. This article investigates the impact of operation of e-pharmacies along three dimensions: (i) on the offline drug retailers (ii) other e-pharmacies and (iii) consumers. The nature of ownership of e-pharmacies, particularly cross-ownership of e-pharmacies by the same owner, raises question of actual versus notional competition among online sellers. Bundling of diagnostic services with online medicine sales has potential anti-trust concerns, particularly for offline sellers. Most importantly, the lack of transparency with respect to online discounts are matters of concern for consumers, which is studied using a hedonic pricing model.

Labour ‘Invisibility’ during COVID-19 Times

As the migrant labour exodus unfolded with unrelenting grimness through the summer of 2020, there was frequent mention of how the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the “invisibility” of migrant labour to Indian planners and policymakers.

Literacy and Response to COVID-19

Demand for vaccination, as well as access to it, is uneven and sluggish across various parts of India. This article delves into the explanations for this variation from a demand perspective. We find a positive correlation between literacy and the first dose of vaccination. A similar trend is discernible for the demand for vaccines. Also, we find that higher literacy is associated with greater vaccine coverage among women. This nexus between literacy and health preparedness is further substantiated by our findings at the micro-level from an adult literacy evaluation study conducted in early 2021. About 80% of the literate women we surveyed were aware of the COVID-19 symptoms, compared to only 19% surveyed illiterate women. We found that literate women are more likely to wear masks properly and follow COVID-19 protocols and keep abreast with the news and information about COVID-19.

Fiscal Transfers in Pandemic Times

The Fifteenth Finance Commission has trodden carefully in dealing with the controversial terms of reference issued to it in the presidential order. The commission had the challenging task of dividing fiscal resources between the union and the states due to the serious uncertainty posed by the pandemic. In many ways, the recommendations of the commission marks continuity. Devolution of 41% in the divisible pool of taxes to the states, despite the nudging of the centre in the terms of reference to review it and the continuation of revenue deficit grants, are some examples. The phasing out of the revenue deficit grants to the states in the next five years is likely to pose challenges to the fiscally weak states. The conditionalities mandated for availing local body grants may deny the much-needed money for them as the states may not have the incentive to undertake the reforms unless the public pressure builds up. On the whole, the report of the commission is on expected lines; it does not disappoint but all the same, like the previous commissions, it is a work in progress.

Fiscal Consolidation and FRBM in the COVID-19 Context

The fiscal consolidation projections provided by the Fifteenth Finance Commission, including its alternative paths, have been rendered out of alignment because of the COVID-19’s deleterious economic impact.The commission has also recommended that the centre’s Fiscal Responsibility and Budget...

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