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22nd August – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. Differential impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown
  2. BIS’s draft standard for drinking water supply


Focus: GS-II Social Justice


According to Walter Scheidel, the Austrian economic historian, during times like a pandemic, the decline in inequality is a result of excess mortality that raises the price of labour.

The marginalised at risk

  • Focusing on the looser description of the pandemic as a leveller, preliminary data and early indirect evidence from several parts of the world indicate that the incidence of the disease is not class-neutral: poorer and economically vulnerable populations are more likely to contract the virus as well as to die from it.
  • To the extent, economic class and social identity (e.g. race, ethnicity or caste) overlap, this suggests that socially marginalised groups would be at higher risk of mortality due to COVID-19.
  • The risks extend beyond mortality as the economic consequences of the current pandemic are likely to be most concentrated among the low wage earners, and less educated workers, segments of the labour force where racial and ethnic minorities are over-represented.

The Indian shutdown

  • A key element of the pandemic control strategy everywhere has been to shut down economic and social activity, and to impose social distancing with varying degrees of strictness.
  • Using data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE)’s Consumer Pyramids Household Survey (CPHS) database – it is found that the proportion of employed upper castes dropped from 39% to 32% between December 2019 and April 2020, a fall of 7 percentage points. The corresponding fall for Scheduled Castes (SCs) was from 44% to 24%, i.e. a fall of 20 percentage points, almost three times as large.
  • For intermediate castes, Other Backward Classes and Scheduled Tribes (STs) the fall was from 42% to 34%, 40% to 26% and 48% to 33%.
  • Thus, the fall in employment for SCs and STs was far greater in magnitude than that for upper castes.

Education as factor

  • The global evidence suggests that job losses associated with COVID-19 are much more concentrated among individuals with low levels of education and those with vulnerable jobs with no tenure or security.
  • It is found that individuals with more secure jobs, i.e. not daily wagers, and those with more than 12 years of education, were much less likely to be unemployed in April 2020 than those with less than 12 years of education and with daily wage jobs, relative to their pre-pandemic employment status.
  • Thus, education did turn out to be a protective factor in the first wave of immediate post-lockdown job losses.

Educational Differences

  • Data from another nationally representative survey, the India Human Development Survey for 2011-12 (IHDS-II) show that 51% of SC households have adult women who have zero years of education, i.e. are illiterate, and 27% have an illiterate adult male member.
  • These proportions are in stark contrast to Upper Caste (UC) households, where the corresponding proportions are 11% and 24%, respectively.
  • Thus, in the face of current school closures, parents of SC children would be much less equipped to assist their children with any form of home learning, compared to parents of UC children.
  • This would be the case both because of educational differences among parents as well as due to other significant differences in material conditions living.

Issue of technology

  • The proportion of households with access to the Internet is 20% and 10% for UC and SC households, respectively.
  • Only 49% of SCs have bank savings, as compared to 62% of UC households.
  • Thus, differential access to information technology, as well as disparities in the ability to invest in technology will be critical in shaping access to online education, if the pandemic forces schools to close for a substantial period of time.

-Source: The Hindu


Focus: GS-II Environment and Ecology

Why in news?

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has prepared a draft standard for the supply system of piped drinking water and has invited comments from water utilities.


  • Labelled ‘Drinking water supply quality management system — requirements for piped drinking water supply service’, the draft has been prepared by the BIS’ Public Drinking Water Supply Services Sectional Committee.
  • It outlines the process of water supply, from raw water sources to household taps, and has been developed keeping in view the Centre’s Jal Jeevan Mission for providing safe and adequate drinking water to all rural households by 2024 through tap connections.
  • The standard holds importance as it is expected to make the process of piped water supply more uniform, especially in rural and underdeveloped areas of the country where the system runs on various government orders and circulars.

What does the draft say?

  • The draft outlines the requirements for a water supplier or a water utility on how they should establish, operate, maintain and improve their piped drinking water supply service.
  • The process begins with identification of a water source, which can either be groundwater or surface water sources such as rivers, streams or reservoirs. It doesn’t mention how water utilities should treat the water, but states that the process should be planned in such a manner that after treatment the drinking water should conform to the Indian Standard (IS) 10500 developed by the BIS.
  • The IS 10500 outlines the acceptable limit of various substances in drinking water, including heavy metals such as arsenic, and other parameters like the pH value of water, its turbidity, the total dissolved solids in it, and the colour and odour.
  • The draft standard also contains guidelines for top management of the water utility, in terms of accountability and customer focus, establishing a quality policy for their service, monitoring the quality of water released to people, and conducting a water audit.

What is the water supply process?

  • The supply system as outlined in the draft should begin with the identification of a raw water source.
  • Water should then be pumped into the treatment plant and treated to achieve the acceptable drinking standards.
  • After the water is released from the plant, there should be reservoirs in the distribution system for storage of this water, and disinfection facilities to get rid of contamination at any stage of distribution.
  • There are guidelines on water audit, which is a calculation of the amount of water put into distribution against the amount that is consumed.

Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS)

  • The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the national Standards Body of India working under the aegis of Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution, Government of India.
  • It is established by the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 – Hence it is Statutory Body.
  • The organisation was formerly the Indian Standards Institution (ISI). (The ISI was registered under the Societies Registration Act – Therefore ISI was NOT a Statutory Body.)
  • As a corporate body, BIS has 25 members drawn from Central or State Governments, industry, scientific and research institutions, and consumer organisations.
  • BIS also works as WTO-TBT (World Trade Organisation Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade) enquiry point for India.

Benefits of BIS

  1. Providing safe reliable quality goods.
  2. Minimizing health hazards to consumers.
  3. Promoting exports and imports substitute.
  4. Control over proliferation of varieties etc through standardization, certification and testing.

Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 2016

  • BIS Act allows multiple types of simplified conformity assessment schemes including self-declaration of conformity.
  • BIS act provides enabling provisions for making hallmarking of precious metal articles mandatory.
  • The Act enables the Central Government to appoint any authority/agency, in addition to the BIS, to verify the conformity of products and services with the established standard and issue certificate of conformity.
  • There is a provision for repair or recall, of the products (bearing Standard Mark) that do not conform to the relevant Indian Standard.
  • BIS (Hallmarking) Regulations, 2018 under the BIS act calls for Hallmarking of Gold, Silver jewellery and Gold, Silver artefacts.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024