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28th January 2021 – Editorials/Opinions Analyses


  1. Troubling trends
  2. Emphasizing self-reliance in science

Editorial: Troubling trends


  • The world economy is slowly recovering from the devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that is only partial solace. The recovery is uneven among countries, and within countries, but the emerging universal truth is that economic inequality is rising sharply in all countries.


  • GS Paper 3: Inequality and Associated issues

Mains Questions:

  1. The worsening inequality in income and opportunities impacts some sections disproportionately due to discrimination based on gender, caste and other factors. Discuss in context of recent Oxfam report. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Findings of the Oxfam report.
  • Other dimensions of inequality in India.
  • What are the consequences of these Inequalities?
  • Challenges compounding inequality in India
  • Way forward:

Findings of the Oxfam report:

  • The 1,000 richest people worldwide recovered their losses from the pandemic within nine months as opposed to the world’s poorest who might take a decade to limp back to their pre-pandemic standing.
  • Inequality was alarmingly high and destabilising social and political order in much of the world even before the pandemic struck. It is set to further aggravate, fear 295 economists from 79 countries, commissioned by Oxfam.
  • Inequality in India has risen to levels last seen when it was colonised. The additional wealth acquired by India’s 100 billionaires since March when the lockdown was imposed is enough to give every one of the 138 million poorest ₹94,045, according to the report.
  • An unskilled worker in India would take three years to earn what the country’s richest person earned in one second last year, the report calculates.
  • The worsening inequality in income and opportunities impacts some sections disproportionately due to discrimination based on gender, caste and other factors. The poorer people were worst affected by the disease itself.

Other dimensions of inequality in India:

  • Income Inequality: India’s top 10% of the population holds 74.3% of the total national wealth o India’s richest 1% of the population hold 42.5% of national wealth while the bottom 50%, the majority of the population, owns a mere 2.8%
  • Wealth Inequality: Wealth inequality in India is rising with the Gini wealth coefficient having risen to 83.2% in 2019 from 81.2% in 2008.
    • The wealth of the top 1% increased by 46% in 2018 while the bottom 50% saw wealth increase at just 3%.1
  • Social Inequality: In India, one of the most distinctive forms of social inequity come within the spheres of gender and caste, where, people coming from the marginalized sections of these social categories, are directly impacted in terms of their opportunities, access to livelihood, education and health facilities.
    • For example: In India, poor women and girls put in ₹19 trillion of unpaid care work every year. The unequal distribution of unpaid care work, effectively, allows men to participate in the labour market while limiting a woman’s capacity to do the same.
  • A new generation of inequalities is emerging, with divergence in enhanced capabilities. For instance, access to more advanced knowledge and technology are widening.
    • E.g. the proportion of the adult population with tertiary education is growing more than six times faster in very high human development countries than in low human development countries, and fixed broadband subscriptions are growing 15 times faster.

What are the consequences of these Inequalities?

  • Low social mobility and slower poverty reduction: Extreme inequality inhibits social mobility which means that children of poor parents will stay poor. It results in inequality in opportunities due to lack of proper education, training in skills, lack of connections and assets.
  • Social unrest, as high inequality is likely to undermine democracy, promote corruption and cronyism. The gap between rich and poor is helping to fuel authoritarianism.
  • Inequality and the climate crisis are interwoven. E.g.
    • Developing countries and poor communities have less capacity than their richer counterparts to adapt to climate change and severe weather events.
    • Also, High income inequality within countries can hinder the diffusion of new environmentally friendly technology. o Inequality can also influence the balance of power among those arguing for and against curbing carbon emissions.
  • Income and wealth inequalities are often translated into political inequality and power asymmetries among various groups (which may be defined by ethnicity, language, gender or caste etc.) potentially leading to even more inequalities and even lead to breakdowns in institutional functions, weakening the effectiveness of policies.

Challenges compounding inequality in India

  • Poverty: Despite lifting 271 million people out of poverty between 2005-15, India still remains home to 28 per cent of the world’s poor, as per the Human Development Report. Though severe poverty is less, vulnerability towards poverty is quite high.
  • Smaller Incomes: While unemployment is under control in India, smaller incomes have resulted in a higher dominance of working poor, lower share of skilled workforce and lack of old-age security.
  • Education: In terms of Education, inequality in India is more than that in the South Asian region and the world. Indian girls attend school for a shorter period than the regional average.

Way forward:

Moving towards Inclusive Growth The central idea of the inclusive growth includes sharing of fruits of socio-economic development with all sections of the society. As a result, moving towards inclusive growth directly ensures both equality and equity in the long term growth. Following steps can be taken to incorporate all dimensions of inclusive growth:

  • Policy reorientation:
    • Progressive taxation, in order to redistribute resources across society.
    • Social spending, on public services such as education, health and social protection. Evidence from more than 150 countries – shows that overall, investment in public services and social protection can tackle inequality.
  • Free up women’s time by easing the millions of unpaid hours they spend every day caring for their families and homes. Invest in public services including water, electricity and childcare that reduce the time needed to do this unpaid work.
  • Low- productivity workers should be incentivized to move to sectors that are more productive. Simultaneously, fundamental reforms need to be delivered to increase the productivity of these sectors. Thus, need for: o Robust labour protections
    • Institutional and policy support for collective bargaining, social safety nets and trade protectionism
  • Assessing and responding to inequalities in human development demands a revolution in metrics: o To fill the data gaps to measure the different inequalities (among groups, households etc.), new standards and practices for measuring inequality are needed.

Editorial: Emphasizing self-reliance in science


  • GS Paper 3: India’s Department of Science and Technology recently released a draft of the fifth Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy.


  • GS Paper 3: Achievements of Indians in S&T; Indigenization of technology & development of new technology.

Mains Questions:

  1. The draft science policy is a rambling document, but it contains nuggets of scientific vision and information. 15 Marks

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Historical aspect of science policy
  • The Vision of Draft 2020 policy
  • Novel Ideas of the Policy
  • Way Forward
  • Conclusion

Historical aspect of science policy

  • On March 4, 1958, under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, for the first time in the history of independent India, Parliament passed a resolution on science policy.
  • The resolution stated: “Science… has provided new tools of thought and has extended man’s mental horizon. It has thus influenced even the basic values of life, and given to civilization a new vitality and a new dynamism.”
  • The resolution said the aim of the scientific policy was, among other things, to “encourage individual initiative for the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge, and for the discovery of new knowledge, in an atmosphere of academic freedom.”
  • In effect, this resolution proved to be a springboard for the development of the country’s scientific infrastructure. Since that resolution, successive governments issued policy statements with varying emphasis on chosen objectives and goals, often echoing the existing national and global imperatives and the ruling dispensation’s ideology.

The Vision of Draft 2020 policy

The Science, Technology and Innovation Policy will be guided by the following broad vision:

  • To achieve technological self-reliance and position India among the top three scientific superpowers in the decade to come.
  • To attract, nurture, strengthen and retain critical human capital through a ‘people centric’ science, technology and innovation (STI) ecosystem.
  • To double the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) researchers, Gross Domestic Expenditure on R&D (GERD) and private sector contribution to the GERD every 5 years.
  • To build individual and institutional excellence in STI with the aspiration to achieve the highest level of global recognitions and awards in the coming decade.
  • To capture the aspirations of a new, future-ready India, by ensuring active participation, shared responsibility and equitable ownership of all stakeholders; transforming the national STI landscape maintaining the delicate balance between fortifying India’s indigenous capacity and nurturing meaningful global interconnectedness.
  • To capture the aspirations of a new, future-ready India, by ensuring active participation, shared responsibility and equitable ownership of all stakeholders; transforming the national STI landscape maintaining the delicate balance between fortifying India’s indigenous capacity and nurturing meaningful global interconnectedness.

Novel Ideas of the Policy

  • Open Science Framework & Inclusiveness: Open Science fosters more equitable participation in science through increased access to research output, greater transparency and accountability in research.
    • Apart from this, it would ensure better resource utilisation through minimal restrictions and a constant exchange of knowledge between the producers and users of knowledge.
    • This framework will be largely community-driven and supported with necessary institutional mechanisms and operational modalities.
  • One Nation, One Subscription & Democratization: The STIP envisions free access to all journals, Indian and foreign, for every Indian against a centrally-negotiated payment mechanism.
    • In the present mechanisms, consumers of knowledge such as line departments, innovators, industry, the society at large, etc., do not have access to these research journals.
    • Hence, the policy seeks to democratise science by providing access to scholarly knowledge to not just researchers but also to every individual in the country.
  • Science & Gender Parity: India has valued women’s participation in science and education from ancient times.
    • Some of the earliest women scientists, including Leelavati, Gargi, and Khana, made significant contributions to mathematics, natural science, and astronomy.
    • Over the last six years, women’s participation in S&T has doubled in India; however, women’s overall participation in R&D continues to be only about 16%.
    • Therefore, the policy has envisaged gender parity by addressing career breaks for women by considering academic age rather than biological/physical age.
    • Apart from this, it proposes an inclusive culture that’ll be facilitated through the equal opportunity candidates from rural-remote areas, marginalised communities, differently-abled, Divyangjans, irrespective of their socio-economic backgrounds.
  • Traditional Knowledge & Carving Own Niche: The policy envisages establishing an institutional architecture to integrate Traditional Knowledge Systems (TKS) and grassroots innovation into the overall education, research and innovation system.
    • This focus on indigenous know-how may help India shine globally, standing on its merit and unique technologies based on timeless ancient wisdom curated/enhanced by modern science and technology.
  • Collaboration & Ease of Doing Research: The proposed Science Technology Innovation Observatory will have an important governance role in the collaboration networks.
    • The policy proposes creating a National STI Observatory that will act as a central repository for all kinds of data related to and generated from the STI ecosystem.
    • Further, an STI Development Bank will be set up to facilitate a corpus fund for investing in direct long term investments in select strategic areas.

Way Forward

  • Right set of policies to achieve the right mix of traditional and modern S&T knowledge for the rural India, by fine-tuning the technology policies and implementation methods to optimize our existing technology strengths as well as create new core strengths in critical and enabling technologies.
  • Need for a fundamental shift in thinking to create a conducive ecosystem with increased government participation.
  • Faculty from the premier institutes of sciences could be freed from routine administrative duties to devote more time for research.
  • Encouraging curiosity, and fostering scientific thinking by making systemic changes at the school level to ensure learning is more experience based, and less classroom oriented.
  • There is a need to create a flexible environment that allows and incentivizes collaboration between industry and academia.
  • According to Economic Survey-2018, there is a need for greater State Government spending by upto 3% of GDP, and appropriate level of public and private collaboration for effective innovation partnerships among companies and with academia.
  • Funding of crèche facility at workplace: Making crèche facilities mandatory at workplaces employing a certain number of women were much needed. Therefore, these facilities should be funded by the institutes to ensure the crèche remain sustainable, affordable for all and provided employment opportunities to more women.
  • Safe travel: Safe travel is particularly necessary for encouraging women to join research institutes located in suburban towns. Prioritising young families for on-campus housing by revamping the current seniority-based system and workplace transport facility in cities could aid the safety of women.


Our future will be marked by scientific and technological progress, which can only be achieved when women and girls are creators, owners, and leaders of science, technology and innovation. Bridging the gender gap in STEM is vital to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and for creating infrastructure, services and solutions that work for all people.

February 2024