12 May 2020: UPSC Exam Comprehensive News Analysis

12 May 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A. GS 1 Related
B. GS 2 Related
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Right to religion: SC explains reference to larger Bench
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
1. Nepal summons Indian envoy over border row
2. China warns of retaliation over new U.S. visa rule
C. GS 3 Related
DISASTER MANAGEMENT
1. Andhra Pradesh to send back 13,000 tonne styrene to South Korea
ECONOMY
1. Mandis linked to e-platform see 65% rise in count post-lockdown
2. Trade unions may knock at ILO’s door
D. GS 4 Related
E. Editorials
POLITY AND GOVERNANCE
1. Equal freedom and forced labour
2. Legal but not appropriate
3. The need for a second chamber
F. Prelims Facts
G. Tidbits
1. Karnataka sets up investment task force to attract MNCs
2. Modi asks States to prepare for ramping up economic activity
H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions
I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

Category: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

1. Nepal summons Indian envoy over border row

Context:

Nepal summoned the Indian envoy and handed a diplomatic note of protest over the construction of a link road that will reduce travelling time from India to the pilgrimage zone of Kailash Mansarovar in China’s Tibet.

Details:

  • Recently, the road link from Dharchula (Uttarakhand) to Lipulekh (China Border) was inaugurated by the Raksha Mantri.
  • Nepal has objected to the road as Lipulekh, through which the link passes, is considered by Nepal as part of its own territory.
  • Nepal disputes India’s claims over the Kalapani region located in the state of Uttarakhand and maintains that the region is part of its sovereign territory.

Note:

  • The Indian Ambassador to Nepal was met by the Foreign Minister of Nepal, who conveyed Nepal’s territorial claims over the Kalapani region.
  • The diplomatic note by Nepal was in line with the statement from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which recalled the bilateral treaties, and urged India from carrying out any further activities in the region.

This Issue has been covered in 8th May 2020 PIB Summary and Analysis. Click here to read.

2. China warns of retaliation over new U.S. visa rule

Context:

China has threatened to retaliate against a U.S. rule that tightens visa restrictions on Chinese journalists, in an escalating row after Beijing expelled more than a dozen American reporters.

Background:

  • Earlier, China expelled three Wall Street Journal reporters – two Americans and an Australian after the paper published an opinion column calling China the “real sick man of Asia”.
  • The U.S. issued a new rule limiting visas for Chinese reporters to a 90-day period, with the option for extension.

Details:

  • The Chinese foreign ministry has condemned the new rule as an escalation of suppression against Chinese media.
  • It is seen as discriminatory limitations, severely disrupting the Chinese media’s ability to report normally in the U.S., severely disrupting people-to-people relations between the two countries.
  • China has warned that it will take countermeasures in response to the U.S. decision.
  • China-U.S. strategic contention is growing. Tension between the world’s two biggest economies (the US and China) has reached fever pitch. Also, they have exchanged barbed comments on each other’s handling of the COVID-19 virus.

Category: ECONOMY

1. Mandis linked to e-platform see 65% rise in count post-lockdown

Context:

According to the Agriculture Ministry data, COVID-19 has given a boost to e-NAM, the national digital platform for agricultural trade, with the number of connected mandis, or wholesale markets, up 65% since the lockdown.

e-NAM:

  • The National Agricultural Market (e-NAM) is a pan-India electronic trading portal which networks the almost 7,000 existing mandis run by Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities, with a promise to promote real-time price discovery based on actual supply and demand.
  • It was launched in April 2016.

Read more about e-NAM.

Details:

  • e-NAM has provided a platform to trade, at a time when transport disruptions and social distancing requirements have made physical mandi trade more difficult.
  • Though e-NAM was launched in 2016, the progress was slow:
    • Especially, as many States did not amend their APMC Acts.
    • Most farmers were not part of the cooperatives that would help aggregate the bulk quantity of produce needed to interest online buyers.
    • Most mandis did not possess the infrastructure to make the most of the platform.
  • By January 2019, when the first inter-State trade took place, there were only 585 mandis connected to the platform, although the Agriculture Ministry promised to integrate 415 more mandis by March 2020. At the end of March 2020, however, the number of markets connected to e-NAM still remained stagnant at 585.
  • The Centre recognised the potential of e-NAM in overcoming some of the hurdles of the lockdown, and introduced some important new features:
    • A trading module allowing Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) to trade produce directly from their collection centres without bringing it to mandis.
    • A warehouse-based trading module.
    • A logistics module offering users trackable transport facilities through aggregators with access to 11 lakh trucks.
  • Recently, Agriculture Minister integrated 200 new mandis with the platform.

Conclusion:

  • The user base remains at a nascent stage, with 1.66 crore farmers, 1.3 lakh traders and about 72 thousand commission agents registered on the platform. There are more than 13 crore farmers in India.
  • However, an encouraging sign is the more than 1,000 FPOs which are registered on the platform, providing access to their members.

2. Trade unions may knock at ILO’s door

Context:

Ten central trade unions said that they were considering lodging a complaint with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) against the anti-worker changes in the labour laws in some States.

Issue:

  • Several States across India are ignoring the welfare laws for workers in the name of boosting economic activity.
  • Trade Unions have opposed the unilateral withdrawal of labour laws that some States have implemented and others are considering.
  • Trade Unions see the recent blanket exemption given to establishments from the employer’s obligations under several labour laws for three years by the Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh governments as a retrograde and anti-worker move.
    • While the U.P. Government had brought an ordinance for this, the M.P. Government had reportedly said it would also do the same. The Gujarat Government was also reportedly working on a similar exemption.
  • Also, six state governments have increased the working hours from 8 to 12 hours.

Details:

  • Central trade unions consider these moves as an inhuman crime and brutality on the working people, besides being gross violation of the Right to Freedom of Association [ILO Convention 87], Rights to Collective Bargaining [ILO Convention 98] and also the internationally accepted norm of eight hour working day – espoused by core conventions of ILO.
  • The Trade Unions are considering lodging a complaint to the ILO on these misdeeds of the government for gross violation of labour standards.

Read more on this issue, covered under the Editorials Segment in the 9th May 2020 Comprehensive News Analysis.

E. Editorials

Category: POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

1. Equal freedom and forced labour

Context:

  • State governments are in the process of removing and altering labour laws.

Background:

Freedom movement:

  • Rights of labour were a predominant theme of the freedom struggle and the labour movements have contributed to the successful freedom struggle.
  • The 1931 Karachi Declaration and Bill of Rights, often considered a fore-runner to the Constitution, place labour rights on a par with ordinary civil rights such as the freedom of speech and expression. It noted that political freedom must also include real economic freedom for the people.

Constitutional history:

  • The normal understanding of the purpose of constitutions has been to limit state power, in order to preserve the freedom of the individual.
  • However, the Constituent Assembly of India in general, and B.R. Ambedkar in particular, argued against such a narrow understanding of freedom.
  • Given the role of private parties — individuals and corporations —over the economic and social life of a nation, B.R. Ambedkar argued that fundamental rights must also consider and eliminate the possibility of the more powerful having the power to impose arbitrary restraints on the less powerful in terms of economic life of the people.

Judicial stand:

  • In 1983, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court seeking its intervention to address the exploitation of migrant and contract labourers, who had been put to work in constructing the Asian Games Village in New Delhi.
  • The Supreme Court in the PUDR vs. Union of India case made some important observations:
    • SC noted that often, migrant and contract labourers, under the compulsion of economic circumstance, had no real choice but to accept any work that came their way, even if the remuneration offered was less than the minimum wage.
    • The Court held that the compulsion of economic circumstance compelling a person to provide labour or service was no less a form of forced labour than any other.
  • The Court held that the right against forced labour included the right to a minimum wage and insisted on a constitutional guarantee of minimum wages.

Consolidation of labour laws:

  • The Parliament is consolidating 29 existing labour laws into four codes dealing with wages, occupational safety and health, industrial relations and social security.

Details:

  • The author of the article argues that the steps being taken by the State governments in removing labour laws are unconstitutional.

Constitutional provisions:

  • The strong ideals and principles of the freedom movement eventually found their way into the Indian Constitution in the form of Directive Principles of State Policy and Fundamental Rights
    • Article 23 of the Indian Constitution provides for the right against forced labour.
    • The State shall endeavour to provide the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, within the limits of economic capacity as per Article 41.
    • Article 43 says workers should have the right to a living wage and “conditions of work ensuring a decent standard of life”.
    • The State shall take steps to promote their participation in management of industrial undertakings as per Article 43A.

Concept of “force” and “freedom”:

  • Forced labour may not be only due to physical force or threat of physical harm. This constitutes a very narrow understanding of forced labour of freedom per se.
  • Such an understanding ignores the compulsion that is exerted by differences of power, social or economic status. These forces are equally severe as physical force or threat of physical harm. In such circumstances, poor and vulnerable people driven by the need to earn a livelihood can be placed in positions where they have no genuine choices left.
  • K.T. Shah, a member of the Constituent Assembly, had famously written, “necessitous men are not free men”.

COVID-19 crisis:

  • Various State governments are in the process of removing labour laws (for a set period of time).
  • This would lead to a situation where the economic power exercised by capital will be left unchecked. This could lead to increase in hours of work, removal of minimum wages and reduction of wages.
  • The author argues that the steps being taken by various State governments in relaxing labour laws, under cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, are grossly unconstitutional.

Challenges:

Market Economy:

  • In a market economy, there is a marked inequality between capital and labour, more so in a country like India with pre-existing inequalities in the society.
  • The inequality results in a lower bargaining power for the labourer class and enables the factory owners to “make the rules” for the labourers. The author refers to this as a form of “private government”, wherein there is unilateral term-setting in the workplace.
  • The recent rise of the platform or gig economy has led to the rise of casualization and precarious employment which further limits labour unionism and deepens the inequality of power.
  • There have been rapid changes in the nature of work which are rendering old concepts of jobs and employments obsolete.

Labour laws:

  • Labour laws aim to mitigate the supposed imbalance of power between capital and labour.
  • In India, there have been a detailed set of laws, covering different aspects of the workplace. These are enforced by the State agencies.
  • India’s labour law structure has been criticised on multiple counts.
    • The labour bureaucracy as envisaged by the labour laws of India is prone to corruption.
    • The adjudicatory mechanisms are inefficient. The judiciary has not been able to ensure the protection of the rights of the labour class.
    • The labour laws predominantly cater to the formal workforce with very less provisions in place for the contract labour or informal employment which account for a majority of the workforce.

Way forward:

  • There is a need for a nuanced debate on the future of labour rights guided by B.R. Ambedkar’s insights, the constitutional guarantee against forced labour, and an understanding of force and freedom that takes into account differences in power.

2. Legal but not appropriate

Context:

  • In the light of the economic crisis brought out by the COVID-19 pandemic, many States have made changes to their labour laws.

Details:

  • States like Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have made changes to their labour laws.
  • The major changes include the increase in maximum daily hours of work, provisions for increase in allowable overtime, reduced compensation for overtime work and reduced regulations for industries with respect to labour laws.
  • The mode of changes made and the applicability period of the exemptions differ from state to state.
    • Most States have used the public emergency provision under the Factories Act and have issued corresponding notifications.
      • The Factories Act allows State governments to exempt factories from the provisions of the Act during public emergencies for a maximum period of three months. A public emergency is defined as a grave emergency whereby the security of India or any part is threatened by war, external aggression or internal disturbance. The states using this provision have interpreted the current situation as an emergency.
    • Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh state governments have issued ordinances to amend existing laws.
      • M.P. has suspended most provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1946 (except those related to retrenchment and layoffs) for 1,000 days for State undertakings.
      • The Uttar Pradesh government has approved an ordinance that exempts establishments from all labour laws for three years with some exceptions.

Legality of changes made:

  • An analysis of the process employed by the state governments to amend the concerned labour laws indicates that the changes made are legal.
    • The states have used provisions enlisted in already existing laws.
    • As per the Constitution, the legislature has the authority to make laws. Such laws could delegate powers to the government which are in the nature of detailing some requirements.
    • The Constitution permits Central and State governments to make laws through the issuance of an ordinance when the legislature is not in session. Such a law needs to be ratified by the legislature within six weeks of the beginning of the next session.

Concerns:

Lack of consultation and scrutiny:

  • While the changes made are lawful, the lack of consultation and scrutiny by the legislature before making such far-reaching changes in labour law provisions is a concern.
  • Usually, any change in an Act must follow a rigorous process of public consultation, scrutiny by committees of Parliament, and debates in the House before being approved.
  • The legitimacy of state action in a parliamentary democracy comes from the fact that there is constant oversight and check by elected representatives.

Counter arguments:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an economic shock which, if not attended to, would severely impact the economy both in the short as well as long term. Given the severity of the crisis, there is a need for drastic measures to revive the economy.
  • Given the emergency, the government has to take quick action and change the response as the situation evolves. Given the urgency for changes, there has been no scope for a rigorous consultation process. However, since most of the changes have a three-month time limit, any extension would need to be approved by the legislature. Also, the issued ordinances will have to be ratified by the legislatures after they convene.
  • The exemptions would be applicable only for a specified period and are not permanent changes.
  • The exemptions are not complete and critical provisions like safety and security of workers, provisions related to employing women and children, payment of wages on time and above prescribed minimum wages, retrenchment and layoffs would still be regulated.

Additional information:

  • As some of the changes made by the state governments override certain provisions of some Central laws, the changes will require the assent of the President.

3. The need for a second chamber

Context:

  • The article authored by the Vice President of India analyzes the origin of the Rajya Sabha as the second house of the Indian legislature.

Background:

History of legislature in India:

  • The central legislature that came into being under the Government of India Act, 1919, was bicameral with a Council of States comprising 60 members and a Legislative Assembly comprising 145 members. The membership and voting norms for the Council of States were very restrictive.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 proposed an elaborate and improved version of the second chamber, but this never materialised.
  • The Constituent Assembly, which was formed in 1947, after adoption of the Constitution, became the Provisional Parliament and made laws till 1952.
  • The Rajya Sabha came into being in 1952.

Constituent Assembly debates:

  • The proposal for the Rajya Sabha as a second chamber was subjected to serious argumentation in the Constituent Assembly.

Arguments against Rajya Sabha:

  • Upper House was not essential and it was just a creation of imperialism in India.
  • The second house could stall the parliamentary process of law making and prove to be a “clog in the wheel of progress” of the nation.
  • There was opposition to parity of powers in law-making for the Upper House which had only indirectly elected members as against the lower house which had representatives directly elected by the people based on universal adult suffrage.

Arguments in favour of Rajya Sabha:

  • The second house would help check hasty legislation by allowing for a second thought on important issues.
  • It would lend voice to the constituent units in the legislative scheme of things.
  • It would allow intellectuals and experienced people to enter the legislature who would otherwise not be able to handle the hustle and bustle of direct elections.

Significance of Rajya Sabha:

Bicameralism:

  • Bicameralism is a principle that requires the consent of two differently constituted chambers of Parliament for making or changing laws.
  • The principle of bicameralism came into operation in 1787 with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution and its appeal has grown in strength over time. At present, 79 parliaments of the world (41% of the total number) are bicameral.

Checks parliamentary tyranny:

  • The second chamber enables a second and reflective expression of representative opinion besides helping impede any instances of parliamentary tyranny.
  • Parliament is not only a legislative body but also a deliberative one which enables the members to debate major issues of public importance and the second house has an important role as a deliberative body.
  • The lower house elected directly by the people is susceptible to passions of the moment and electoral considerations. The second chamber, whose members are expected to be sober, wise and well-informed with domain knowledge, can check parliamentary tyranny.

Federalism:

  • Federalism has been in vogue since ancient times when some states got together to confer the power of law-making on a central authority. But modern federalism is entirely different given the complexity of geographical, regional, social and economic diversities marking the constituent units of a federation or a union.
  • India has a huge degree of diversity with each unit having its own set of unique features.
  • The federal character of a nation comprising constituent units can be reflected in, and secured by a bicameral legislature.

Conclusion:

  • As can be gleaned from the Constituent Assembly debates and the experiences of other Parliaments, the mandate of the Rajya Sabha is to revise or delay legislation without becoming a clog in the wheel of progress; to represent the interests of the States as a federal chamber; and be a deliberative body holding high-quality debates on important issues.

Additional information:

  • Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was the first Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

F. Prelims Facts

Nothing here for today!!!

G. Tidbits

1. Karnataka sets up investment task force to attract MNCs

What’s in News?

With India anticipating a shift of industries out of China in the post COVID-19 world, Karnataka has constituted a special investment promotion task force to attract investments from disenchanted multinational companies [MNCs].

Details:

  • The task force will identify sectors in which Karnataka can attract investments owing to relocation from other countries and will formulate special incentive packages and facilitation to attract investments.
  • It will also identify key infrastructure projects, including dedicated industrial townships, that need to be undertaken or expedited and will identify the measures to fast-track clearances to promote these investments.
  • It will also recommend brand-building measures for the State.

Note:

  • The Japanese Government is paying Japanese companies to shutter their manufacturing plants in China. American companies are also planning shutdown. So are other countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore.
  • With the countries planning to shut down their facilities in China, India is seen as an alternative manufacturing hub.

2. Modi asks States to prepare for ramping up economic activity

What’s in News?

The Prime Minister has said at a video conference with Chief Ministers that the lockdown would continue in some form or the other but the State governments should send in their plans for ramping up economic activity in green zones for consideration by the Centre.

  • The twofold challenge facing India is to reduce the transmission rate of the disease, and to increase public activity gradually.

Details:

  • The Punjab Chief Minister has pitched for an extension of the lockdown, but with a carefully crafted strategy backed by fiscal and economic empowerment of the States.
  • The states have demanded greater flexibility in micro-planning.
  • The Punjab Chief Minister demanded urgent financial assistance to States to meet at least 33% of their committed liabilities, along with revenue grants to the States for three months to meet shortfall in revenue and to fund expenditure on COVID-19.
  • The Rajasthan Chief Minister suggested launching an employment guarantee scheme for urban areas on the lines of the MGNREGA.
  • He also drew PM’s attention to the massive attack of locusts, starting from India-Pakistan border, in several districts of the State and sought the Centre’s assistance in dealing with the menace.
    • The locust attack, which had started in the Thar desert in May 2019, had extensively damaged crops and vegetation in as many as 12 districts.

H. UPSC Prelims Practice Questions

Q1. Consider the following statements:
  1. Article 23 of the Indian Constitution provides for the right against forced labour.
  2. Article 42 of the Indian Constitution that deals with ensuring just human conditions of work is legally enforceable by law.

Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. 1 and 2 only
  4. Neither 1 nor 2
See
Answer
Q2. Consider the following statements with respect to Rajya Sabha:
  1. It is a permanent body.
  2. Rajya Sabha came into being in 1952.
  3. Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was the first Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
  4. A no-confidence motion against the Union Government can be initiated only in the Rajya Sabha.

Which of the given statement/s is/are incorrect?

  1. 1 and 4 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 4 only
  4. 1 and 3 only
See
Answer
Q3. Which of the following pairs are correctly matched?
  1. Nathu la – Sikkim
  2. Lipulekh Pass – Himachal Pradesh
  3. Jelep la – Arunachal Pradesh

Options:

  1. 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 3 only
  4. 1 only
See
Answer
Q4. Consider the following statements with respect to “Kalapani region”:
  1. It is manned by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
  2. River Mahakali flows through the region.
  3. China has ongoing claims to the Kalapani territory.

Which of the given statement/s is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 1 and 2 only
  3. 2 and 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3
See
Answer

I. UPSC Mains Practice Questions

  1. In the light of several state governments altering labour laws, discuss the concerns associated with such a move. Also examine the rationale for such changes and the necessary safeguards in place. (15 marks, 250 words)
  2. Discuss the significance of the Rajya Sabha as a second house of the Indian Parliament. (10 marks, 150 words)

Read the previous CNA here.

12 May 2020 CNA:- Download PDF Here

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