1. Protest in LS as Bill envisages lifting biometrics of detainees
New Criminal Procedure Bill violates rights: MPs
The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022, that would allow the police and prison authorities to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples, including retina and iris scans, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday amid strong protests from Opposition members, who forced a vote on the issue and termed the Bill “unconstitutional”.
The Bill also seeks to apply these provisions to persons held under any preventive detention law. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be the repository of physical and biological samples, signature and handwriting data that can be preserved for at least 75 years.
Opposition members argued that the Bill was beyond the legislative competence of Parliament as it violated fundamental rights of citizens, including the right to privacy. BSP member Ritesh Pandey said the Bill proposes to collect samples even from protesters engaged in political protests.
The Bill could be introduced by Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’ only after a division of votes in which 120 members voted in favour of introducing it while 58 members voted against.
Criminal Procedure Code – CrPC
The administration of India was taken over after the rebellion of 1857 by the British crown and subsequently, the Criminal Procedure Code was enacted in the year 1861.
- The enactment of 1861 made the European natives immune from the jurisdiction of the criminal courts except for the high Court.
- The code was amended in the years 1872, 1882 and 1898 to ensure uniform application over British and Indian subjects.
- The legacy of British India continued until the present Code came into effect in the year 1973.
Arrest in CrPC
Arrest means the apprehension of a person by the authorities, thus depriving him of his liberty. In criminal law, it is an essential aspect so that the accused is made to face the process of law and also prevents him from absconding. Some important rights that a person who is being arrested has are:
- There can be no legal arrest if there is no information or reasonable suspicion that the person has been involved in a cognizable offence or commits offence(s), specified in Section 41.
- Section 46 of CrPC envisages modes of arrest i.e. submission to custody, touching the body physically or confining the body. In case the force is required to make an arrest, it should not be any more than is actually required.
- In the case of women, the body of the person is not to be touched unless the arresting person is also a female. A female can also not be arrested after sunset and before sunrise, except in exceptional circumstances with the prior permission of a Magistrate.
- The arrested person must be informed of the grounds of arrest as soon as he is arrested. By virtue of the judgement in D.K. Basu case and subsequent amendments in the CrPC, the arresting officer is to inform a friend, a relative or nominated person of the arrestee.
- Section 54 of the CrPC provides for a compulsory medical examination of the accused by a medical practitioner, in case of females, the examiner has to be female too.
- The arrestee is also entitled to be counselled and defended by a lawyer of his choice, in addition to being entitled to free legal aid.
What is Bail?
Bail means the temporary release of an accused; it is not only the essence of the criminal procedure but also a bulwark of individual liberty. Under CrPC the cases in which the accused is entitled to bail are referred to as bailable offences. On the other hand, non-bailable are those cases where the release on bail is to be decided by a competent court. The accused can be released on bail in these cases by the court after imposing some conditions. The Code also provides for an anticipatory bail in case any person is apprehending arrest, i.e. bail even before the person is arrested.
Trial under CrPC
For the purposes of trials, the cases under CrPC can be classified in into four categories:
- Sessions Case: These are cases where the punishment for the offences involved is death, life imprisonment or imprisonment for a period of more than seven years. In such cases, the trial is to be handled by a Sessions Court after the case has been forwarded by the magistrate or after the commission of the crime.
- Summons Case: These are cases where the punishment for the offence is less than two years and is triable by a magistrate. These are relatively less serious offences and the procedure involved is also simpler.
- Warrants Case: Cases other than summons cases are often referred to as warrants cases whereby the punishment prescribed is more than two years of imprisonment. The warrants cases can be further classified into:
- Cases established by a police report
- Cases established other than by a police report
- Summary Cases: Basically, summary trials are those kinds of trials where speedy justice has to be given, which means those cases which are to be disposed of speedily and the process of these cases is quite simplified.
2. A subregional grouping that must get back on course
BIMSTEC is in need of a framework to tackle the specific challenges confronting the Bay of Bengal region
As world attention remains focused on the war in Ukraine, leaders of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) will attend a summit meeting of the regional organisation. The meet, which is to be held in virtual mode, will be hosted by Sri Lanka, the current BIMSTEC chair.
Founded in 1997, the seven-member BIMSTEC, which includes the littoral states of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Thailand is a member too) and the land-locked states of Nepal and Bhutan, has identified 14 pillars for special focus. These are trade and investment, transport and communication, energy, tourism, technology, fisheries, agriculture, public health, poverty alleviation, counter terrorism and transnational crime, environment and disaster management, people-to-people contact, cultural cooperation and climate change. While each sector is important, the segmented approach has resulted in omnibus end summit communiqués full of aspirations rather than action. The upcoming summit is an opportunity for BIMSTEC leaders to go beyond generalised statements and take concrete steps to address critical challenges confronting the region.
A Bay of Bengal Maritime Dialogue (BOBMD) organised recently by the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and the Pathfinder Foundation brought together government officials, maritime experts, and representatives of prominent think tanks from Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia. Participants called for stepped up efforts in areas such as environmental protection; scientific research; curtailing illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, as well as the development of standard operating procedures that could govern interaction between fishing vessels of one country with maritime law enforcement agencies of another.
Rich marine ecosystem
Presentations made at the BOBMD highlighted the fact that the Bay of Bengal is home to a large network of beautiful yet fragile estuaries, mangrove forests of around 15,792 square kilometres, coral reefs of around 8,471 sq.km, sea grass meadows and mass nesting sites of sea turtles. The annual loss of mangrove areas is estimated at 0.4% to 1.7% and coral reefs at 0.7%. It is predicted that the sea level will increase 0.5 metres in the next 50 years. Moreover, there have been 13 cyclonic storms in the last five years. The Bay is an important source of natural resources for a coastal population of approximately 185 million people. The fishermen population alone is estimated to be around 3.7 million, with an annual fish catch of around six million tonnes, constituting 7% of the world’s catch and valued at around U.S.$4 billion. Around 4,15,000 fishing boats operate in the Bay and it is estimated that 33% of fish stocks are fished unsustainably (Source: presentation in February 2022 by E. Vivekanandan, senior consultant, ICAR-Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute). According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Bay of Bengal is one of IUU fishing hotspots in the Asia-Pacific.
The pressing challenges that confront the Bay of Bengal include the emergence of a dead zone with zero oxygen where no fish survive; leaching of plastic from rivers as well as the Indian Ocean; destruction of natural protection against floods such as mangroves; sea erosion; growing population pressure and industrial growth in the coastal areas and consequently, huge quantities of untreated waste flow. Security threats such as terrorism, piracy and tensions between countries caused by the arrests of fishermen who cross maritime boundaries are additional problems. It also needs to be kept in mind that the problem of fishermen crossing into the territorial waters of neighbouring countries affect India and Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and Myanmar (also Pakistan on the west coast).
Need for regional interaction
The blue economy potential of the Bay of Bengal is huge. There are many opportunities to develop maritime trade, shipping, aquaculture and tourism. However, tapping these opportunities requires coordinated and concerted action by governments, scientists and other experts. The BIMSTEC Summit must create a new regional mechanism for coordinated activities on maritime issues of a transboundary nature. This mechanism must initiate urgent measures to strengthen fisheries management, promote sustainable fishing methods, establish protected areas and develop frameworks to prevent and manage pollution, especially industrial and agricultural waste as well as oil spills. There is also a need for greater scientific research on the impact of climate change in general and on fisheries in particular. At present, there is limited cooperation between countries of the region in marine research. Most BIMSTEC countries have premier institutions and excellent scientists but their interaction with the West is far more than within the region. The use of modern technology and improved fishing practices can go a long way in restoring the health of the Bay.
This should be a priority area
Marine environmental protection must become a priority area for cooperation in the Bay of Bengal. Enforcement must be strengthened and information shared on best practices. Regional protocols need to be developed and guidelines and standards on pollution control established. Decision-making must be based on science and reliable data, information and tools.
There is a need for home-grown solutions based on capabilities of local institutions and for mutual learning through regional success stories. There is a need to create regional frameworks for data collection. Participatory approaches must be evolved for near-real-time stock assessment and the creation of an regional open fisheries data alliance. The Bay of Bengal Programme (BOBP), an inter-governmental organisation based in Chennai, is doing good work to promote sustainable fishing.
A Bay Of Bengal Large Marine Ecosystem (BOBLME) project is also being launched by the FAO with funding from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and others. The BIMSTEC summit must express full support for both BOBP and BOBLME. The summit must mandate officials to come up with measures to curtail unsustainable as well as IUU fishing. These could include setting up an international vessel tracking system and making it mandatory for vessels to be equipped with automatic identification system (AIS) trackers; establishing a regional fishing vessel registry system and publishing vessel licence lists to help identify illegal vessels; increasing monitoring, control and surveillance in IUU fishing hotspots; establishing regional guidelines on how to deter and prevent IUU practices; improving the implementation of joint regional patrols, and regional fishing moratoriums and outreach programmes targeted at fisherfolk. Laws and policies in littoral states must be harmonised and the humanitarian treatment of fishermen ensured during any encounter with maritime law enforcement agencies.
The challenges that confront the Bay of Bengal region brook no more delay. BIMSTEC must arise, awake and act before it is too late. The summit must set in process regular meetings of officials, supported by scientists and experts, to tackle illegal and unsustainable fishing as well as prevent the further environmental degradation of the Bay of Bengal.
- In an effort to integrate the region, the grouping was formed in 1997, originally with Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and later included Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan.
- BIMSTEC, which now includes five countries from South Asia and two from ASEAN, is a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. It includes all the major countries of South Asia, except Maldives, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- BIMSTEC connects not only South and Southeast Asia, but also the ecologies of the Great Himalayas and the Bay of Bengal.
- For India, it is a natural platform to fulfil our key foreign policy priorities of ‘Neighborhood First’ and ‘Act East’.
- For New Delhi, one key reason for engagement is in the vast potential that is unlocked with stronger connectivity.
- Almost 300 million people, or roughly one-quarter of India’s population, live in the four coastal states adjacent to the Bay of Bengal (Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal).
- From the strategic perspective, the Bay of Bengal, a funnel to the Malacca straits, has emerged a key theatre for an increasingly assertive China in maintaining its access route to the Indian Ocean.
- As China mounts assertive activities in the Bay of Bengal region, with increased submarine movement and ship visits in the Indian Ocean, it is in India’s interest to consolidate its internal engagement among the BIMSTEC countries.
3. The phenomenon of coral bleaching
How important are coral reefs to the marine ecosystem? Can this process be reversed and the reefs rejuvenated?
Corals are marine invertebrates or animals not possessing a spine. They share a symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae called zooxanthellae.
Bleaching happens when corals experience stress in their environment due to changes in temperature, pollution or high levels of ocean acidity. Over the last couple of decades, climate change and increased global warming owing to rising carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases have made seas warmer than usual.
Coral reefs support over 25% of marine biodiversity. Also, coral reef systems generate $2.7 trillion in annual economic value through goods and service trade and tourism.
The story so far: The management authority of the world’s largest coral reef system, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, confirmed on March 25 that the reef is experiencing a mass coral bleaching event. This is the sixth time that the coral reef system is being hit by a widespread and damaging bleaching event and the fourth time in six years that such an event has occurred. The bleaching event coincides with a 10-day UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) scientific mission currently underway in Australia.
What are coral reefs?
Corals are marine invertebrates or animals not possessing a spine. Each coral is called a polyp and thousands of such polyps live together to form a colony, which grows when polyps multiply to make copies of themselves.
Corals are of two types — hard coral and soft coral. Hard corals, also called hermatypic or ‘reef building’ corals extract calcium carbonate (also found in limestone) from the seawater to build hard, white coral exoskeletons. Soft coral polyps, however, borrow their appearance from plants, attach themselves to such skeletons and older skeletons built by their ancestors. Soft corals also add their own skeletons to the hard structure over the years and these growing multiplying structures gradually form coral reefs. They are the largest living structures on the planet.
Corals share a symbiotic relationship with single-celled algae called zooxanthellae. The algae provides the coral with food and nutrients, which they make through photosynthesis, using the sun’s light. In turn, the corals give the algae a home and key nutrients. The zooxanthellae also give corals their bright colour.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system stretching across 2,300 km. It hosts 400 different types of coral, gives shelter to 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc.
What is coral bleaching?
Bleaching happens when corals experience stress in their environment due to changes in temperature, pollution or high levels of ocean acidity. Under stressed conditions, the zooxanthellae or food-producing algae living inside coral polyps start producing reactive oxygen species, which are not beneficial to the corals. So, the corals expel the colour-giving zooxanthellae from their polyps, which exposes their pale white exoskeleton, giving the corals a bleached appearance. This also ends the symbiotic relationship that helps the corals to survive and grow.
Bleached corals can survive depending on the levels of bleaching and the recovery of sea temperatures to normal levels. If heat-pollutions subside in time, over a few weeks, the zooxanthellae can come back to the corals and restart the partnership but severe bleaching and prolonged stress in the external environment can lead to coral death. Over the last couple of decades, climate change and increased global warming owing to rising carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases have made seas warmer than usual. Under all positive outlooks and projections in terms of cutting greenhouse gases, sea temperatures are predicted to increase by 1.5°C to 2°C by the time the century nears its end.
The first mass bleaching event had occurred in 1998 when the El Niño weather pattern caused sea surfaces in the pacific ocean to heat up; this event caused 8% of the world’s coral to die. The second event took place in 2002. In the past decade, however, mass bleaching occurrences have become more closely spaced in time, with the longest and most damaging bleaching event taking place from 2014 to 2017. This started with reefs in Guam in the Western Pacific region getting affected, to then affecting the North, South-Pacific, and the Indian Ocean. Global temperature in 2017, was the third-highest to ever be recorded. In the 2014-17 event, more than three times as many reefs were exposed to bleaching-level heat stress as compared to 1998.
A 2021 study by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), which is supported by the United Nations, showed that 14% of the world’s coral on reefs had been lost between 2009 and 2018, with most of the loss attributed to coral bleaching.
Why does it matter?
Coral reefs support over 25% of marine biodiversity, including fish, turtles and lobsters; even as they only take up 1% of the seafloor. The marine life supported by reefs further fuels global fishing industries. Even giant clams and whales depend on the reefs to live. Besides, coral reef systems generate $2.7 trillion in annual economic value through goods and service trade and tourism. In Australia, the Barrier Reef, in pre-COVID times, generated $4.6 billion annually through tourism and employed over 60,000 people including divers and guides. Aside from adding economic value and being a support system for aquatic life, coral reefs also provide protection from storm waves.
Dead reefs can revive over time if there are enough fish species that can graze off the weeds that settle on dead corals, but it takes almost a decade for the reef to start setting up again. The reefs which were severely damaged in 1998 did recover over time.
What is the current condition of the Great Barrier Reef?
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its report this month, which warned that the life of the Great Barrier is in grave danger. The report said that if temperatures continue to rise, bleaching events may occur more often and a large proportion of the remaining reef cover in Australia could be lost.
Just a couple of weeks after this warning, the Barrier Reef Authority confirmed a mass bleaching phenomenon affecting all pockets of the reef system.
The Authority said that its a first that the current bleaching event has occurred during a La Niña weather pattern, when warm areas in the pacific ocean shift, giving more cloud cover, rain and creating cooler weather conditions over the reef. The Guardian quoted Dr. David Wachenfeld, the chief scientist of the reef managing authority, as saying, “The climate is changing and the planet and the reef is about 1.5 degrees centigrade warmer than it was 150 years ago. Because of that, the weather is changing. Unexpected events are now to be expected. Nothing surprises me anymore.” The Authority further stated that bleached reefs are affected at different levels from mild to severe, and while stressed, they are alive and could recover if temperatures moderate.
The 10-day UNESCO mission which is currently in Australia is supposed to assess how much the country’s administration is doing to pull the reef out of danger. Climate activists have said that it is important that the scientists are shown the extent of the coral bleaching to give a true picture of the reef’s condition, rather than just being shown the vividly coloured unaffected reef patches.
In July last year, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had managed to convince UNESCO to not list the Great Barrier Reef as being in danger, even as the Heritage agency had recommended such a listing earlier that year. In 2015, when UNESCO had threatened to downgrade the Barrier Reef’s World Heritage Listing, Australia created a “Reef 2050” plan, putting billions of dollars into protecting it.
4. Detecting microplastics in human blood
What kind of microplastics were found in human blood in a recent study? Can these particles travel through the body?
Microplastics are tiny bits of plastic found in the environment in various places — the oceans, the environment, and now as per recent studies in human blood as well.
In the study, blood from 22 healthy volunteers was collected and analysed for its plastic content. It found that 77% of tested people (17 of the 22 persons) carried various amounts of microplastics above the limit of quantification.
It is not yet clear if these microplastics can cross over from the blood stream to deposit in organs and cause diseases.
The story so far: Microplastics are, as the name suggests, tiny particles of plastics found in various places — the oceans, the environment, and now in human blood. A study by researchers from The Netherlands (Heather A. Leslie et al, Environment International, Published online 24 March) has examined blood samples of 22 persons, all anonymous donors and healthy adults, and found plastic particles in 17 of them. A report on this work, published in The Guardian conveys that about half of these were PET (polyethylene tertraphthalate) plastics, which is used to make food grade bottles. The size of the particles that the group looked for was as small as about 700 nanometres (equal to 0.0007 millimetres). This is really small and it remains to be seen if there is a danger of such particles crossing the blood cell walls and affecting the organs. Also, a larger study needs to be conducted to firm up the present findings.
What are microplastics?
Microplastics are tiny bits of various types of plastic found in the environment. The name is used to differentiate them from “macroplastics” such as bottles and bags made of plastic. There is no universal agreement on the size that fits this bill — the U.S. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the European Chemical Agency define microplastic as less than 5mm in length. However, for the purposes of this study, since the authors were interested in measuring the quantities of plastic that can cross the membranes and diffuse into the body via the blood stream, the authors have an upper limit on the size of the particles as 0.0007 millimetre.
What were the plastics that the study looked for in the blood samples?
The study looked at the most commonly used plastic polymers. These were polyethylene tetraphthalate (PET), polyethylene (used in making plastic carry bags), polymers of styrene (used in food packaging), poly (methyl methylacrylate) and poly propylene. They found a presence of the first four types.
How was the study conducted?
In the study, blood from 22 adult healthy volunteers was collected anonymously, stored in vessels protected from contamination, and then analysed for its plastic content. The size of the bore in the needle served to filter out microplastics of a size greater than desired. This was compared against suitable blanks to rule out pre-existing plastic presence in the background.
What are the key results of this study?
The study found that 77% of tested people (17 of the 22 persons) carried various amounts of microplastics above the limit of quantification. In 50% of the samples, the researchers detected PET particles. In 36%, they found presence of polystyrene. 23% of polyethylene and 5% of poly(methyl methylacrylate) were also found. However, traces of poly propylene were not detected.
They found in each donor, on average, 1.6 microgram of plastic particles per milli litre of blood sample. They write in the paper that this can be interpreted as an estimate of what to expect in future studies. It is a helpful starting point for further development of analytical studies for human matrices research.
What is the significance of the study?
Making a human health risk assessment in relation to plastic particles is not easy, perhaps not even possible, due to the lack of data on exposure of people to plastics. In this sense, it is important to have studies like this one. The authors of the paper also remark that validated methods to detect the tiny (trace) amounts of extremely small-sized (less than 10 micrometre) plastic particles are lacking. Hence this study, which builds up a methods to check the same, is important. Owing to the small size of the participants, the study results cannot be taken as such to mould policy etc, but the power of this paper is in the method and in demonstrating that such a possibility of finding microplastics in the blood exists.
Does the presence of microplastics in blood have health impacts?
It is not yet clear if these microplastics can cross over from the blood stream to deposit in organs and cause diseases. The authors point out that the human placenta has shown to be permeable to tiny particles of polystyrene ( 50, 80 and 24 nanometre beads). Experiments on rats where its lungs were exposed to polystryrene spheres (20 nanometre) led to translocation of the nanoparticles to the placental and foetal tissue. Oral administration of microplastics in rats led to accumulation of these in the liver, kidney and gut.
Further studies have to be carried out to really assess the impact of plastics on humans.
5. The Startup India initiative
How lack of representation for marginalised groups as well as the heavy clustering of start-ups in certain regions have led to entrepreneurial disparities
Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal stated that the Startup India portal had more than 65,000 startups registered. Of these, 40 attained the ‘unicorn’ status in the last twelve months, bringing the total as of date to 90. He noted that India now ranked third among global startup eco-systems.
However, entrepreneurship continues to be “highly concentrated” in three megacities, namely, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi NCR. Such concentration can lead to increased economic inequality and hinder emergence of entrepreneurs from other regional clusters.
The Startup India Action Plan document has no mention of the words ‘caste’, ‘tribe’, ‘marginalised’, ‘indigenous’ or ‘social group’. This contradicts the initiative’s very notion of making entrepreneurship in India inclusive. The under-representation could be due to multiple factors such as caste-based economic exclusion, the urban and rural divide, lack of access to quality education and limited social networks.
Anish Tiwari, Colm O’Gorman and Teresa Hogan, ‘The good, the bad, and the ugly of ‘Startup India’ — a review of India’s entrepreneurship policy’ , Economic & Political Weekly (EPW), Vol (50), 2021.
A research paper from Dublin City University in Ireland, reviewing India’s entrepreneurial policy Startup India, affirmed its positive impact in reducing regional entrepreneurial disparities. However, it cited shortcomings in addressing the under-representation of women and marginalised caste groups in the national startup ecosystem. The paper was published in the Economic and Political Weekly in December 2021. Startup India was introduced in 2016 as a “clarion call to innovators, entrepreneurs, and thinkers of the nation to lead from the front in driving India’s sustainable growth and create large scale employment opportunities.”
Minister for Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal informed the Lok Sabha the other week that the entrepreneurial portal had more than 65,000 startups registered. Of which, 40 attained the ‘unicorn’ status in the last twelve months, bringing the total as of date to 90. He stated that India ranked third among global startup eco-systems.
Addressing regional entrepreneurial disparities
The evidence collated by authors of the research paper suggested that the networking, training and mentoring facilities provided by Startup India alongside entrepreneurship outreach campaigns in tier-2 and tier-3 cities, helped address regional entrepreneurial disparities in India. The program was aimed at scouting entrepreneurs from these cities and integrate them into the portal. It would then facilitate a network between venture capital funds, angel networks, banks, incubators, accelerators, universities, legal partners, consultants and research & development institutions.
The paper states the initiative helped redirect many State govts’ policymaking in favour of startups. Quoting from Startup India’s Report (2018), the researchers mention, only four States had dedicated startup policies prior to its launch. After its launch and as of December 2019, 23 States and two Union Territories had formulated a dedicated startup policy.
Heavy concentration in megacities
Despite the initiative, the researchers pointed out that entrepreneurship continued to be “highly concentrated” in three megacities, namely, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi NCR. The three cities accounted for 93% of all funding raised between 2014 and 2019. The paper pointed out that India’s venture capital industry is also clustered in and around these three cities.
The same notion was established by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its Pilot Survey on the Indian Startup Sector (2019). The research involving 1,246 participants stated nearly three-fourths of the participants were from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Delhi and Tamil Nadu.
Quoting from recent studies, the researchers stated that such concentration can lead to increased economic inequality and hinder emergence of entrepreneurs from industries other than those belonging to the clusters. The spurt of industries (in this case, startups) create employment opportunities, this furthers a demand for leisure and essential amenities among the populace. In turn, this furthers employment, economic activity and efficiency. However, this takes place at the expense of another area having previously failed to enable a suitable supportive ecosystem.
According to results computed by the researchers in the paper, 30% of all States and Union Territories in India have an equal or higher proportionate share in the Dept for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade’s (DPIIT) recognised start-up pool in relation to their share in the country population.
The researchers point out that the 40-page Startup India Action Plan document has no mention of the words ‘caste’, ‘tribe’, ‘marginalised’, ‘indigenous’ or ‘social group’.
According to them, this contradicts the initiative’s very notion of making entrepreneurship in India inclusive. The under-representation could be due to multiple factors, the paper states, such as caste-based economic exclusion, the urban and rural divide, lack of access to quality education and limited social networks. Additionally, the policy’s reliance on technology does not take into consideration India’s digital divide, especially with respect to urban and rural areas.
With reference to government data from 2013, the paper concluded that SC and ST share in ownership of agricultural establishments including farming, livestock, fishery and forestry were higher in comparison to non-agricultural establishments. They were based majorly in rural areas in comparison to urban areas. Most of them operated without any hired workers, indicating that a significant number of these enterprises were necessity-based undertakings not creating any significant job opportunities. According to economist Thorsten Beck, necessity-based or subsistence entrepreneurship refer to businesses that are run informally and through self-employment. A large number of these are set up owing to lack of employment opportunities in the formal sector. “The evidence thus suggests the need for targeted measures to promote technology-and innovation-driven entrepreneurship among SC and ST communities. However, the Startup India policy document in its present form does not address this issue,” the paper noted.
Women in the industry
In February, the Minister of State for Commerce & Industry Som Prakash, in response to a question on women entrepreneurship under Startup India, had informed that of 62,000 startups registered with the DPIIT, 46% of them had at least one woman director. RBI’s pilot survey had earlier stated that 5.9% of participating startups in its survey had a female founder in comparison to 55.5% of the opposite gender. The remaining 38.6% had both male and female co-founders.
Mr Som had also apprised the house of dedicated measures taken to spurt women entrepreneurship. 10% of the fund in the Fund of Funds operated by Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has been reserved for women-led startups. Further, all the alternate investment funds where the SIDBI takes equity have been mandated to contribute 20% in business which are women led, women influenced and women employment or women consumption centric. He also informed the house about capacity building programmes and the dedicated webpage for women on the portal. As per the established arrangement, the DPIIT allocates funds to SIDBI, which in turn invests the money in alternative investment firms (AIFs). The latter would then raise matching funds, and post fundraising, invest the money and disburse to startups, the paper informs. This is done to avoid any potential accusation of ‘favouritism’.