a) The map of rural deprivation

With the Union Budget to be presented on February 1, it is hoped that the Finance Minister will make a significantly higher allocation for investment in infrastructure. It is vital for addressing rural distress. The Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) informed us that ‘landlessness and dependence on manual casual labour for a livelihood are key deprivations facing rural families’, which make them far more vulnerable to impoverishment.

Based on indicators

The rural census, or SECC, mapped deprivation using seven indicators: ‘households with a kuchha house; without an adult member in working age; headed by a woman and without an adult male in working age; with a disabled member and without able-bodied adult; of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST); without literate adults over 25 years; and the landless engaged in manual labour. The more the number of parameters on which a household is deprived, the worse its extent of poverty. Nearly 30% have two deprivations, 13% have three. Only 0.01% suffer from all seven handicaps’. While 48.5% of all rural households suffer from at least one deprivation indicator, “landless households engaged in manual labour” are more vulnerable. Nearly 54 million households are in the landless-labourer category; assuming that each such household has five members, that makes 250 million of the nearly 850-900 million rural population. This number is almost certainly an underestimate, since 84% of all those who even hold agricultural land are small and marginal farmers. The intersection of any of the six other handicaps with “landless labour” makes it more acute. The SECC also said that ‘59% of households with kuchha houses are landless labourers; similarly, 55% of those with no literate adult above 25 years and 54% each of SC/ST households and female-headed households without adult male members are also landless households. At the same time, 47% households without an adult member of working age are landless labourers as are 45% of those with disabled members and no able-bodied adult members’.

Farmer distress

Along with landless families, small and marginal farmers are getting pauperised and more engaged in manual labour. The overall farm size, which has been dropping since the early 1970s, and down from the 2.25 hectares (ha) average to a 1.25 ha average in 2010, will continue to become even smaller. For these farmers, agricultural incomes are also likely to fall, hastening the exodus from agriculture. In fact, farmer distress has been growing, with the past year witnessing farmers protesting on the streets in several States. National Sample Survey (NSS) data show that there are two demographic groups which did reasonably well in labour market outcomes both in terms of job growth as well as wage growth between 2004-5 and 2011-12; these were the young who were getting educated at hitherto unheard of rates, and the older, poorly educated cohort of landless labour in agriculture, who saw construction work rise sharply. However, the question is: does the economy have the capacity to create non-agricultural jobs for both groups whose numbers will grow over the next decade until 2030? The young have been entering and remaining in education in unprecedented numbers for the last two decades. Hence, as a result, while the young joining the labour force has been just 2 million per annum between 2004-5 and 2015-16, from this point onwards, the numbers of the young will indeed grow significantly. However, the numbers of landless and small and marginal farmers looking for non-agricultural work is an immediate and top priority. Between 2004-5 and 2011-12, the number of cultivators in rural areas fell from 160 million to 141 million and the number of landless labour from 85 million to 69 million, both because they found non-agricultural work.

Construction employment

The real net domestic product of the construction sector had only increased at the annual rate of 3.94% between 1970-71 and 1993-94. From 1993-94 to 2004-05 and 2004-05 to 2011-12, the growth rate in the construction sector output accelerated to 7.92% and 11.5%, respectively. Consequently, the share of the construction sector in rural output increased from 3.5% in 1970-71 to 10.5% in 2011-12. Employment in the construction sector increased 13 times during the past four decades, which led to its share in rural employment rising from 1.4% in 1972-73 to 10.7% in 2011-12. This sector absorbed 74% of the new jobs created in non-farm sectors in rural areas between 2004-05 and 2011-12. These trends indicate that rural areas witnessed a construction boom after 2004-05. Further, growth in employment in the construction sector was higher than output growth during both periods under consideration. One reason for the much higher growth in the number of rural workers in construction over the manufacturing or services sectors is that there are fewer skill and educational requirements in construction. Construction employment grew at a remarkable rate from 1999-2000 onwards. While it employed only 17 million in that year, the number jumped to 26 million by 2004-5. However, what happened after that was totally unprecedented. It grew to 51 million by 2011-12, which is a doubling in seven years or a tripling in 12 years from the turn of the millennium. This was possible because of the sustained growth in investment in infrastructure, especially over the 11th Five Year Plan period (2007-12) of $100 billion per annum, two-thirds of which was public, and the remainder private. In addition, there was a real boom in real estate, residential and commercial, throughout the country. However, private investment is now much lower than earlier. Construction is the main activity absorbing poorly educated rural labour in the rural and urban areas. These workers are characterised, as noted above, by very low levels of education. It is estimated from NSS and Labour Bureau data that the absolute number of those in construction who were illiterate was 11 million in 2004-5, but which rose to 19 million in 2011-12. Construction jobs were growing so fast between 2004-5 and 2011-2 that the share of construction in total jobs for 15 to 29 year olds in the workforce doubled from 7.5% to 14%. Since then construction job growth has slowed, such that the share of construction in total youth employment fell to 13.3%. Construction jobs are growing more slowly since 2011-12, as public investment has fallen. And with the rising non-performing assets of banks, private investment has fallen as well. The result: fewer workers have been leaving agriculture since 2011-12. From the 5 million leaving agriculture per annum between 2004-5 to 2011-12, the number is down to just over 1 million per annum between 2011-12 to 2015-16. This is hurting landless labour and small and marginal farmers the most, since their households had benefited the most from the tightening of the labour market that had ensued in rural and urban areas because of rising construction jobs. Rural demand in particular has risen, raising consumer demand for simple manufactured goods, especially in the unorganised manufacturing sector, raising employment in those sectors especially in rural areas. The Union government has sustained rural development expenditure for the last two years, especially for rural roads, under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and rural housing under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban). The Surface Transport Ministry has also attempted to sustain public investment in infrastructure to generate construction jobs for growing surplus rural labour. The Budget for 2018-19 should sustain this public investment effort. The announcement that the government plans to borrow an additional ₹50,000 crore in this financial year, is welcome. Hopefully, the intention here is to raise public investment, especially for infrastructure investment.

b) On H-1B visa rules: Visa heartache

The United States’ H-1B visa has for decades been a source of nail-biting tension in India. The latest case in point was a scare that President Donald Trump’s administration was toying with the idea of new regulations that would restrict extension of the visa by those awaiting a green card. Leaving aside technical reasons why such regulations may not take off, the contentious history of the H-1B visa should have given pause to alarmist claims between 500,000 and 750,000 Indians in the U.S. would have to “self-deport”. The majority of the 65,000 H-1B regular-cap visas and 20,000 H-1B advanced-degree visas made available each year are scooped up by Indian nationals, many assimilated into the backbone of the U.S. tech industry. Nevertheless, given the number of times that protectionist rhetoric has identified this visa category as a soft target, and the relatively high frequency of spikes in political pressure to protect American jobs, one would expect a more nuanced reaction than unbridled panic. In the past, even during the Obama administration, the bipartisan Comprehensive Immigration Reform plan called for the tightening of qualifying conditions for the H-1B visa. As recently as 2017, four bills were tabled in the U.S. Congress mooting new proposals to clamp down on H-1B visas. None came to fruition. The last salvo was Mr. Trump’s executive order in April, which was accompanied by much fist-banging but ultimately only called for modest changes, mainly a multi-agency study on what reforms are required. The apparently endless cycles of heartache over the H-1B visa stem from a fundamental reality: that the visa itself is designed to be a non-immigrant entry ticket into the U.S. economy, but over time it has metamorphosed into a virtual pathway to permanent residency and citizenship, particularly in the case of Indian nationals. The most important reason for this is that most of these “speciality occupation” workers — primarily experts in fields such as IT, finance, accounting, and STEM subjects — fill a real void in the U.S. labour force. It is not only Indian tech firms whose employees get awarded H-1B visas, but it is to a great extent a visa that Silicon Valley giants such as Microsoft, Intel, Amazon, Facebook and Qualcomm rely on for their staffing needs. Thus, there is a self-limiting dimension to any reform that purports to slash H-1B allocations, so that no President or lawmaker would want to be seen as causing economic pain to the companies on whose coat-tails the U.S.’s reputation as a global tech leader rides. Indian policymakers, who appear to be aware of this subtle truth, should focus their efforts on quiet back-channel lobbying, and eschew knee-jerk reactions every time the “Buy American, Hire American” rhetoric echoes in Washington.


1) Distress

Meaning: Extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.

Example: “to his distress he saw that she was trembling”

Synonyms: Anguish, Suffering

Antonyms: Happiness, Comfort

2) Impoverishment

Meaning: The process of becoming poor; loss of wealth.

Example: “fifteen years of political instability resulted in widespread impoverishment and famine”

3) Deprivation

Meaning: The damaging lack of material benefits considered to be basic necessities in a society.

Example: “low wages mean that 3.75 million people suffer serious deprivation”

Synonyms: Poverty, Privation

Antonyms: Wealth

4) Vulnerable

Meaning: Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.

Example: “we were in a vulnerable position”

Synonyms: Endangered, Unsafe

Antonyms: Resilient, Above

5) Underestimate

Meaning: Estimate (something) to be smaller or less important than it really is.

Example: “the government has grossly underestimated the extent of the problem”

Synonyms: Underrate, Miscalculate

Antonyms: Overestimate, Exaggerate

6) Hastening

Meaning: Cause (something, especially something undesirable) to happen sooner than it otherwise would.

Example: “this tragedy probably hastened himself own death from heart disease”

Synonyms: Accelerate, Quicken

Antonyms: Delay

7) Exodus

Meaning: A mass departure of people.

Example: “the annual exodus of sun-seeking Canadians to Florida”

Synonyms: Withdrawal, Evacuation

Antonyms: Arrival

8) Cohort

Meaning: A group of people with a common statistical characteristic.

Example: “the 1940–4 birth cohort of women”

Synonyms: Group, Section

9) Unprecedented

Meaning: Never done or known before.

Example: “the government took the unprecedented step of releasing confidential correspondence”

Synonyms: Unparallel, Unequal

Antonyms: Normal, Common

10) Accelerated

Meaning: Increase in rate, amount, or extent; (especially of a vehicle) begin to move more quickly.

Example: “inflation started to accelerate”

Synonyms: Increase, Rise

Antonyms: Decelerate, Drop

11) Boom

Meaning: Say in a loud, deep, resonant voice; the characteristic resonant cry of the bittern.

Example: “‘Stop right there,’ boomed the Headmaster”

Synonyms: Shout, Bellow

Antonyms: Whisper

12) Ensued

Meaning: Happen or occur afterwards or as a result.

Example: “the difficulties which ensued from their commitment to Cuba”

Synonyms: Result, Follow

13) Intention

Meaning: A thing intended; an aim or plan.

Example: “she was full of good intentions”

Synonyms: Purpose, Objective

Antonyms: Accidently

14) Nail-biting

Meaning: Causing great anxiety or tension.

Example: “a nail-biting final game”

15) Toying with

Meaning: To consider something or doing something, but not in a very serious way, and without making a decision.

Example: We’re toying with the idea of going to Peru next year.

Synonyms: Thinking, Contemplating

16) Contentious

Meaning: Causing or likely to cause an argument; controversial.

Example: “a contentious issue”

Synonyms: Dispute, Vexed

17) Alarmist

Meaning: Someone who exaggerates a danger and so causes needless worry or panic.

Example: “the problem is a fabrication by alarmists”

Synonyms: Scaremonger, Doom-monger

Antonyms: Optimist, Pollyanna

18) Scooped up

Meaning: To lift something or someone with your hands or arms in a quick movement.

Example: She scooped the children up and ran with them to safety.

Synonyms: Elevate, Raising

19) Assimilated

Meaning: Absorb and integrate (people, ideas, or culture) into a wider society or culture.

Example: “pop trends are assimilated into the mainstream with alarming speed”

Synonyms: Subsume, Incorporate

20) Spikes

Meaning: Stop the progress of (a plan or undertaking); put an end to.

Example: “he doubted they would spike the entire effort over this one negotiation”

Synonyms: Scupper, Scotch

21) Nuanced

Meaning: Characterized by subtle shades of meaning or expression.

Example: “Lowe’s work has gradually grown more nuanced”

22) Unbridled

Meaning: Uncontrolled; unconstrained.

Example: “a moment of unbridled ambition”

Synonyms: Unrestrained, Uncontrolled

Antonyms: Restrained

23) Comprehensive

Meaning: Of large content or scope; wide-ranging.

Example: “a comprehensive collection of photographs”

Synonyms: Inclusive, Complete

Antonyms: Partial, Selective

24) Tightening

Meaning: Make or become tight or tighter.

Example: “he tightened up the clips”

Synonyms: Secure, Harden

Antonyms: Loosen, Slacken

25) Mooting

Meaning: Raise (a question or topic) for discussion; suggest (an idea or possibility).

Example: “the scheme was first mooted last October”

Synonyms: Raise, Broach

26) Clamp down

Meaning: Suppress or prevent something in an oppressive or harsh manner.

Example: “the authorities have also clamped down on public demonstrations”

Synonyms: Suppress, Prevent

27) Fruition

Meaning: The realization or fulfillment of a plan or project.

Example: “the plans have come to fruition rather sooner than expected”

Synonyms: Fulfillment, Realization

Antonyms: Inception

28) Banging

Meaning: Strike or put down (something) forcefully and noisily.

Example: “he began to bang the table with his fist”

Synonyms: Hit, Hammer

29) Apparently

Meaning: As far as one knows or can see.

Example: “the child nodded, apparently content with the promise”

Synonyms: Seemingly, Evidently

30) Heartache

Meaning: Emotional anguish or grief, typically caused by the loss or absence of someone loved.

Example: “the familiar pang of heartache”

Synonyms: Anguish, Suffering

Antonyms: Happiness

31) Metamorphosed

Meaning: A complete change; change or cause to change completely in form or nature.

Example: “overnight, family houses metamorphose into bed and breakfast as 7,000 visitors roll into town”

Synonyms: Transform, Change

32) Coat-tails

Meaning: Each of the flaps formed by the back of a tailcoat; the long, divided pieces of cloth that hang down from the back of an old-fashioned, formal type of man’s jacket.

33) Reputation

Meaning: A widespread belief that someone or something has a particular characteristic.

Example: “his knowledge of his subject earned him a reputation as an expert”

Synonyms: Name, Character

34) Subtle

Meaning: (especially of a change or distinction) so delicate or precise as to be difficult to analyse or describe.

Example: “his language expresses rich and subtle meanings”

Synonyms: Fine, Nice

Antonyms: Crude

35) Back-channel

Meaning: A secondary or covert route for the passage of information.

Example: “we used him as a diplomatic backchannel”

36) Lobbying

Meaning: Seek to influence (a legislator) on an issue.

Example: “they insist on their right to lobby Congress”

Synonyms: Influence, Sway

37) Eschew

Meaning: Deliberately avoid using; abstain from.

Example: “he appealed to the crowd to eschew violence”

Synonyms: Renounce, Abandon

Antonyms: Indulge in

38) Knee-jerk

Meaning: A sudden involuntary reflex kick caused by a blow on the tendon just below the knee.

Synonyms: Habitual, Customary

39) Rhetoric

Meaning: Language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect, but which is often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content.

Example: “all we have from the Opposition is empty rhetoric”

Synonyms: Bombast, Verbosity

40) Echoes

Meaning: A close parallel to an idea, feeling, or event.

Example: “his love for her found an echo in her own feelings”

Synonyms: Replica, Remains

Other Important THE HINDU EDITORIALS for the month of December , 2017 :


Other Important THE HINDU EDITORIALS for the month of January , 2018 :