What Have State Legislatures Been Up To Last Year?

First off, have you heard of PRS Legislative?

PRS tracks the functioning of the Indian Parliament and works with MPs from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha across political parties and MLAs from various states. PRS provides a comprehensive and credible resource base to access Parliament-specific data, background information on Parliamentary and governance processes and analysis of key legislative and policy issues.

https://www.prsindia.org/aboutus/what-we-do

If you are a student of the social sciences in India (and who isn’t), this is a wonderful resource. It was started in the year 2005, and has provided stellar service to students of India for a very long time. See this, for example, if you are starting out in the study of public finances, or pretty much anything from this page.


But today’s post is about a specific report published by PRS recently: the Annual Review of State Laws 2020.

The Constitution of India provides for a legislature in each State and entrusts it with the responsibility to make laws for the state. They make laws related to subjects in the State List and the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution. These include subjects such as agriculture, health, education, and police. At present, there are 30 state legislatures in the country, including in the two union territories of Delhi and Puducherry.
State legislatures also determine the allocation of resources through their budgetary process. They collectively spend about 70% more than the centre. This implies that much of what affects citizens on a regular basis is decided at the level of the state. For a detailed discussion on the budgets of all states, please see our annual State of State Finances report.
This report focuses on the legislative work performed by states in the calendar year 2020. It is based on data compiled from state legislature websites and state gazettes. It covers 19 state legislatures, including the union territory of Delhi, which together account for 90% of the population of the country.

https://prsindia.org/policy/analytical-reports/annual-review-of-state-laws-2020

Tucked away under these paragraphs is a short one that will bring a wry smile to any Indian researcher’s face. It speaks about how information (and data) from India’s state legislature’s is hard to obtain. That, trust me, is putting it mildly.

Consider this:

The crowds that throng Mantralaya in Mumbai bear testimony to the fact that, apart from opacity in rules and processes which inhibit the common citizen getting her work done, there is still a lack of access to the right information and to the right persons in government who can and ought to meet the expectations of the common woman/man. The Maharashtra government website is woefully inadequate when it comes to informing the citizen about the procedures she should follow to get a particular work done. The website is focused more on putting forth not-so-useful information on departmental activities rather than on the steps needed to secure a particular benefit or license. Government departments need to focus on online processes for securing permissions, with human
interface being kept to a minimum.

https://puneinternationalcentre.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Progressive-Maharashtra-Policy-Roadmap-2019-24-1.pdf


Please read the whole thing, pp 26-37 in this document, to get a sense of what needs to be done for a state like Maharashtra. Leave aside the question of the other states in the country!


But when a person who has definitely not left aside the question of the legislatures of the other states in the country takes note of the PRS’ annual review of state laws, it certainly behooves us to pay close and careful attention.

To return to PRS, the annual review has not been done in the best of times. After all, 2020 saw the first wave of the pandemic, though, in principle, meetings can also be virtual. As a benchmark, the Parliament met for 33 days in 2020. Pre-2020, these 19 states met for an average of 29 days a year. In 2020, they met for an average of 18 days. Before the pandemic, 29 days in a year? Had it not been for this report, I would have expected the number to be much higher.

https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/reforms-and-public-expenditures-lets-not-forget-to-scrutinise-states-7351650/

… and Bibek Debroy’s take on the report is not encouraging. Not, I hasten to add, a criticism of the report itself. Rather a criticism of the subject of the report: the state legislature and the job they’ve done this past year.

Source: https://prsindia.org/policy/analytical-reports/annual-review-of-state-laws-2020

Read the whole report, please, but this chart is perhaps the most instructive:

Source: https://prsindia.org/policy/analytical-reports/annual-review-of-state-laws-2020

3 out of every four bills that have been passed in state legislative assemblies were passed not more than one day after they were introduced. That, if you ask me, is too little debate.


There is a lot more at the link, of course – please do read the whole report. And if you’re looking for additional reading, this speech by Bibek Debroy would be a good place to start.

Etc: Links for 15th November, 2019

  1. Bibek Debroy about Abhijit Banerjee’s father. This was fascinating!
    ..
    ..
    “There were people who didn’t have an exceptional publication record. They were simply superb teachers.Dipak Banerjee was one of them. Except for a paper on utility he wrote while he was at LSE (London School of Economics), he rarely published. He was an exceptional teacher who produced exceptional students. Bhaskar Dutta, Subhashis Gangopadhyay, Dilip Mukherjee and Debraj Ray should be familiar names. They (all Dipak Banerjee’s students) edited a collection of essays in his honour in 1990. Mihir Rakshit primarily taught us macroeconomics and Dipak Banerjee primarily taught us microeconomics. Mihir babu’s teaching was precise. He never deviated from the topic. Dipak babu’s teaching was also precise, but he deviated from the topic and told us “stories”, especially at tutorials. In the course of these stories, we learnt he had two sons. He wasn’t worried about his younger son, who was “street smart”. But he worried about his elder son, who wasn’t that street smart. We learnt this elder son was called Jhima and that he had a middle name of Vinayak because he was born in Mumbai and because his mother (Nirmala Banerjee) was a Maharashtrian.”
    ..
    ..
  2. A short article about the “perils” of Amazon Prime
    ..
    ..
    “”Because of multiple Prime orders, Amazon has had to think more about packaging. Recognizing some customers’ “wrap rage,” they are using more bubble envelopes. Aware that the excessive space occupied by smaller inexpensive items increases transport costs, they’ve been developing algorithms that match box size to contents to avoid “over-boxing.” And they want manufacturers to know that online packaging needs to be compact rather than attractive.”
    ..
    ..
  3. “We therefore predicted that reactivating previously unsolved problems could help people solve them. In the evening, we presented 57 participants with puzzles, each arbitrarily associated with a different sound. While participants slept overnight, half of the sounds associated with the puzzles they had not solved were surreptitiously presented. The next morning, participants solved 31.7% of cued puzzles, compared with 20.5% of uncued puzzles (a 55% improvement).”
    ..
    ..
    Fascinating is an understatement – Alex Tabarrok on being productive while sleeping.
    ..
    ..
  4. “For me, sleep is the #1 important factor for my cognitive productivity. I typically get between 6½–7¼ hours per night. Much less, and I feel my brain turning to goo when I try to do anything cognitively demanding. I track my sleep with a fitness tracker so I can anticipate when I should expect a “bad day” and plan accordingly.”
    ..
    ..
    On the importance of sleep, and holidays. Please look up Jensen’s inequality as well.
    ..
    ..
  5. “…music streaming subscriptions are typically far cheaper in emerging markets than they are in the US and Europe, but hardware built to play that music – often from the very same companies running the music services – is significantly more expensive.”
    ..
    ..
    I pay 179 INR per month for Spotify – for six family members. INR 189 per month for YouTube Premium – for six family members.

India: Links for 24th June, 2019

  1. “Was the earlier system, based largely on ASI (Annual Survey of Industries) for manufacturing (registered and unregistered), perfect? No, it wasn’t. Is the MCA-based system perfect? No, it isn’t. Despite problems with MCA, is the MCA-based system superior to the ASI-based one? The consensus (I didn’t use the word unanimity) among experts seems to be that it is.”
    ..
    ..
    Bibek Debroy’s article discusses Arvind Subramanian’s paper. That excerpt above is probably the best way of thinking about it – and as I’ve said before and will say again: if thinking about GDP measurement doesn’t give you a headache, you aren’t doing it right. By the way, two of the twitter threads this past Saturday were about the same issue: worth reading, in my opinion.
    ..
    ..
  2. “In manufacturing, the increase in informalisation is due to two reasons, according to a 2018 study by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations: first, because of dispersal of production from larger to smaller units; and second, because of the creation of an informal workforce subject to fewer regulations, the fact that employing contract (or informal) workers reduces the bargaining power of the regular or formal worker, suppressing wages overall.”
    ..
    ..
    Indiaspend reviews the state of employment in the country, and finds that there is far too much informalization – but also that this is increasing  over time. In this regard, the best book, by far, to read is Bhagwati and Panagariya’s “Tryst with Destiny”.
    ..
    ..
  3. “Indian macro policy has been operating under an implicit 2-4-6-8 framework, which are the targets for the sustainable current account deficit, the desired level of retail inflation, the consolidated fiscal deficit target embedded in law and the aspirational rate of economic growth. There is a need to take a fresh look at this macro policy playbook for two reasons. First, the individual targets have been decided at different points of time by different parts of the economic policy ecosystem rather than emerging from a common analytical project. Two, there are reasons to doubt its internal coherence given that India has rarely been able to meet all four targets simultaneously over the past decade.”
    ..
    ..
    The always excellent Niranjan Rajadhakshya comes up with a useful framework to keep a tab on India’s macro levers: 2-4-6-8 is a very useful mnemonic. The rest of the paper speaks about whether this framework makes sense!
    ..
    ..
  4. “This crisis has systemic written all over it because the market can no longer distinguish financiers that are illiquid from those that are insolvent.”
    ..
    ..
    I’m calling it: there’s a major crash just waiting to happen in the Indian equity (not just equity) markets, no matter what is done. Speaking of what is to be done, the five suggestions here make a lot of sense. Andy Mukherjee doing what he does best.
    ..
    ..
  5. “India’s firm size distribution is excessively small, even compared to other developing countries. Also, complementarily, the number of really large firms are also excessively small. We have a “small is bad” problem. What is driving the small-ness? Is labour regulations responsible for discouraging businesses from “placing too many workers under one roof”? Is there anything else driving or contributing significantly to this trend?”
    ..
    ..
    Bhagwati and Panagariya once again. Also, urbanization matters! Artificial dispersion of industries or people (same thing) tends to not work. Gulzar Natarajan on what needs to be done to increase productivity in India.