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Current Affairs – 19 May 2021

Current Affairs (19th May 2021)

LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL

CONTEXT:

  • As per a decision taken up at the recent Cabinet meeting, the West Bengal government will set up a Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad).

Legislative Councils, and their importance:

  • India has a bicameral system e., two Houses of Parliament.
  • At the state level, the equivalent of the Lok Sabha is the Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly); that of the Rajya Sabha is the Vidhan Parishad (Legislative Council).
  • According to the Article 169, Parliament may by law create or abolish the second chamber in a state if the Legislative Assembly of that state passes a resolution to that effect by a special majority (a majority of the total membership of the assembly).
  • As per article 171 clause (1), the total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall not exceed one third of the total number of the members in the legislative Assembly of that state and the total number of members in the legislative council of a state shall in no case be less than 40.
  • Six States having a Legislative Council: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Karnataka.
  • In 2020, Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed the resolution for abolition of the Legislative Council. This resolution is yet to be cleared by the Parliament of India to finally abolish the council.
  • In 2019, the Jammu & Kashmir Legislative Council was abolished through the J&K Reorganisation Bill, 2019, which reduced the State of J&K to the Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.
  • The legislative power of the Councils is limited. Unlike Rajya Sabha which has substantial powers to shape non-financial legislation, Legislative Councils lack a constitutional mandate to do so.
  • Assemblies can override suggestions/amendments made to legislation by the Council.
  • Again, unlike Rajya Sabha MPs, MLCs cannot vote in elections for the President and Vice President. The Vice President is the Rajya Sabha Chairperson while a member from the Council itself is chosen as the Council Chairperson.
  • Legislative Council can delay legislation, also it is considered a burden on the state budget.
  • It can also be used to park leaders who have not been able to win an election.

 

Long work hours to more deaths

Context:

  • Long working hours led to 7.45 lakh deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000, according to the latest estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) published in Environment International.

About:

  • The number of people working long hours is increasing and this trend puts even more people at risk of work-related disability and early death.
  • While the figures are for 2016, the analysis comes as the Covid-19 pandemic shines a spotlight on managing working hours.
  • The pandemic is accelerating developments that could feed the trend towards increased working time.
  • The number of people working long hours is increasing and this trend puts even more people at risk of work-related disability and early death.
  • In a first global analysis of the loss of life and health associated with working long hours, WHO and ILO estimate that in 2016, 98 lakh people died from stroke and 3.47 lakh from heart disease because of having worked at least 55 hours a week.
  • Between 2000 and 2016, the number of deaths from heart disease due to working long hours increased by 42%, and from stroke by 19%.
  • This work-related disease burden is particularly significant in men (72% of deaths occurred among males), people living in the Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions, and middle-aged or older workers.
  • Most of the deaths recorded were among people dying aged 60-79 years, who had worked for 55 hours or more per week between the ages of 45 and 74 years.
  • With working long hours now known to be responsible for about one-third of the total estimated work-related burden of disease, it is established as the risk factor with the largest occupational disease burden.
  • The study concludes that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.
  • Covid-19 has significantly changed the way many people work. Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work.
  • In addition, many businesses have scaled back or shut down operations to save money, and people who are still on the payroll end up working longer hours.
  • Two systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the latest evidence were conducted for this study.
  • Data from 37 studies on ischemic heart disease covering more than 7.68 lakh participants, and 22 studies on stroke covering more than 8.39 lakh participants were synthesized.
  • The study covered global, regional, and national levels, and was based on data from more than 2,300 surveys collected in 154 countries from 1970-2018.

 

India, Israel, and Palestine

Context:

  • Recently, India’s permanent representative to the United Nations, T S Tirumurti, made a carefully crafted statement at the UN Security Council “open debate” on the escalating Israel-Palestine violence, striving to maintain balance between India’s historic ties with Palestine and its blossoming relations with Israel.

About:

  • The statement, the first India has made on the issue, appears to implicitly hold Israel responsible for triggering the current cycle of violence by locating its beginnings in East Jerusalem rather than from Gaza.
  • The request that both sides refrain from “attempts to unilaterally change the existing status quo including in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhoods” seems to be a message to Israel about its settler policy.
  • The statement was also emphatic that “the historic status quo at the holy places of Jerusalem including the Haramlal Sharif/Temple Mount must be respected”.
  • The site, administered by Jordan, is revered in both Islam and Judaism. Jewish worshippers are not allowed inside but have often tried to enter forcibly.
  • India’s policy on the longest running conflict in the world has gone from being unequivocally pro-Palestine for the first four decades, to a tense balancing act with its three-decade-old friendly ties with Israel. In recent years, India’s position has also been perceived as pro-Israel.

From Nehru to Rao

  • In 1953, consulate in Mumbai was established mainly for issuing visas to the Indian Jewish community, and to Christian pilgrims. This too shut down in 1982, when India expelled the Consul General for criticising India’s foreign policy in a newspaper interview. It was permitted to reopen only six years later.
  • In 1948, India was the only non-Arab-state among 13 countries that voted against the UN partition plan of Palestine in the General Assembly that led to the creation of Israel.
  • The opening of an Indian embassy in Tel Aviv in January 1992 marked an end to four decades of giving Israel the cold shoulder.

Changes after 2014

  • India-Israel relationship continued to grow, mostly through defence deals, and in sectors such as science and technology and agriculture. But India never acknowledged the relationship fully.
  • After 2014, the new phase came with an abstention by India at the UN Human Rights Council on a resolution welcoming a report by the HRC High Commissioner.

East Jerusalem

  • Pranab Mukherjee, who in 2015 became the first Indian President to visit Israel, with a first stop at Ramallah, had also reiterated India’s position on the city as the capital of an independent Palestine.
  • In February 2018, Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel. His itinerary did not include Ramallah. The word then was that India had “de-hyphenated” the Israel-Palestine relationship, and would deal with each separately.
  • Meanwhile, India continues to improve ties with Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and feels vindicated by the decision of some Arab states to improve ties with Israel.

Balancing act

  • In fact, the de-hypenhation is a careful balancing act, with India shifting from one side to another as the situation demands.
  • For instance, even as it abstained at UNESCO in December 2017, India voted in favour of a resolution in the General Assembly opposing the Trump administration’s recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.
  • At the UNHRC’s 46th session in Geneva earlier in 2021, India voted against Israel in three resolutions – one on the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people, a second on Israeli settlement policy, and a third on the human rights situation in the Golan Heights.
  • It abstained on a fourth, which asked for an UNHRC report on the human right situation in Palestine, including East Jerusalem.
  • In February, the International Criminal Court claimed jurisdiction to investigate human rights abuses in Palestinian territory including West Bank and Gaza and named both Israeli security forces and Hamas as perpetrators.
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted India, which does not recognise the ICC, to take a stand against it on the issue, and was surprised when it was not forthcoming.
  • That is because India’s own balancing act is a constant work of progress. The latest statement is no different. Though it was not pro Palestine, it hardly pleased Israel.
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