Current Affairs (24th February 2021)
India and Mauritius
- India and Mauritius have signed Comprehensive Economic Cooperation and Partnership Agreement (CECPA).
- They have signed a $100 million Defence Line of Credit agreement.
- This is the first trade Agreement signed by India with a country in Africa.
- The Agreement is a limited agreement, which will cover Trade in Goods, Rules of Origin, Trade in Services, Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT), Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, Dispute Settlement, Movement of Natural Persons, Telecom, Financial Services, Customs Procedures and Cooperation in other areas.
- Using the new framework under the CECPA, India and Mauritius would provide preferential access to a number of items like surgical equipment, medicine, and textile products that would cater to market requirements on both sides.
- It will provide a timely boost for the revival of our post-Covid economies and also enable Indian investors to use Mauritius as a launch-pad for business expansion into continental Africa helping the prospect of Mauritius emerging as a ‘hub of Africa’.
- The two countries also exchanged letters on provisions of a Dornier aircraft and a Dhruv advanced light helicopter.
Outlines of a migrant policy
- In the wake of the exodus of 10 million migrants (as per government estimates) from big cities during the Covid-19 lockdown, NITI Aayog, along with a working subgroup of officials and members of civil society, has prepared a draft national migrant labour policy.
A rights-based approach
- The draft describes two approaches to policy design:
- Focussed on cash transfers, special quotas, and reservations
- Enhances the agency and capability of the community and thereby remove aspects that come in the way of an individual’s own natural ability to thrive
- The policy rejects a handout approach, opting instead for a rights-based framework.
- It seeks “to remove restrictions on true agency and potential of the migrant workers”
- Its goal “should not be to provide temporary or permanent economic or social aids”, which is “a rather limited approach”.
- According to the draft, migration “should be acknowledged as an integral part of development”, and “government policies should not hinder but…seek to facilitate internal migration”.
- This compares with the approach taken in the Report of the Working Group on Migration, released in January 2017 by the then Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation.
- The report argued that the movement from agriculture to manufacturing and services was inherently linked to the success of migration in the country.
Issues with existing law
- The 2017 report argued that specific protection legislation for migrant workers was unnecessary.
- “Migrant workers should be integrated with all workers…as part of an overarching framework that covers regular and contractual work”.
- The report discussed the limitations of The Inter State Migrant Workers Act, 1979, which was designed to protect labourers from exploitation by contractors by safeguarding their right to non-discriminatory wages, travel and displacement allowances, and suitable working conditions.
- However, this law — which was modeled on a 1975 Odisha law — covered only labourers migrating through a contractor, and left out independent migrants.
- The 2017 report questioned this approach, given the size of the country’s unorganised sector. It called for a comprehensive law for these workers, which would form the legal basis for architecture of social protection.
- This was in line with the recommendations of a 2007 report by the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector under the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
- The NITI Aayog’s policy draft too, mentions that the Ministry of Labour and Employment should amend the 1979 Act for “effective utilisation to protect migrants”.
Governance nuts and bolts
- The NITI draft lays down institutional mechanisms to coordinate between Ministries, states, and local departments to implement programmes for migrants.
- It identifies the Ministry of Labour and Employment as the nodal Ministry for implementation of policies, and asks it to create a special unit to help converge the activities of other Ministries.
- This unit would manage migration resource centres in high migration zones, a national labour Helpline, links of worker households to government schemes, and inter-state migration management bodies.
- Migration focal points should be created in various Ministries. On the inter-state migration management bodies, labour departments of source and destination states along major migration corridors, should work together through the migrant worker cells.
- Labour officers from source states can be deputed to destinations – e.g., Bihar’s experiment to have a joint labour commissioner at Bihar Bhavan in New Delhi.
Ways to stem migration
- Even as it underlines the key role of migration in development, the draft recommends steps to stem migration; this is an important difference with the 2017 report.
- Source states must raise minimum wages to “bring major shift in local livelihood of tribals… (that) may result in stemming migration to some extent”.
- Absence of community building organisations (CBO) and administrative staff in the source states has hindered access to development programmes, pushing tribals towards migration.
- The “long term plan” for CBOs and panchayats should be to “alleviate distress migration policy initiatives” by aiming “for a more pro-poor development strategy in the sending areas…that can strengthen the livelihood base in these areas”.
- Alongside the long-term goal, policies should “promote the role of panchayats to aid migrant workers” and integrate urban and rural policies to improve the conditions of migration.
- Panchayats should maintain a database of migrant workers, issue identity cards and pass books, and provide “migration management and governance” through training, placement, and social-security benefit assurance.
The importance of data
- Both the 2017 report and the new draft stress the need for credible data.
- The draft calls for a central database to help employers “fill the gap between demand and supply” and ensure “maximum benefit of social welfare schemes”.
- It asks the Ministries and the Census office to be consistent with the definitions of migrants and subpopulations, capture seasonal and circular migrants, and incorporate migrant-specific variables in existing surveys.
- Both documents see limited merit in Census data that comes only once a decade. The 2017 report called on the Registrar General of India to release migration data no more than a year after the initial tabulation, and to include sub-district level, village level, and caste data.
- It also asked the National Sample Survey Office to include questions related to migration in the periodic labour force survey, and to carry out a separate survey on migration.
- Draft describes a lack of administrative capacity to handle issues of exploitation. State labour departments have little engagement with migration issues, and are in “halting human trafficking mode”.
- “The local administration, given the usual constraints of manpower, is not in a position to monitor… (This) has become the breeding ground for middlemen to thrive on the situation and entrap migrants.”
- The draft points to the legal support and registrations tracking potential exploitation in Nashik and certain blocks in Odisha; it also flags the poor supervision of migration trends by anti-trafficking units in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.
- Ministries of Panchayati Raj, Rural Development, and Housing and Urban Affairs to use Tribal Affairs migration data to help create migration resource centres in high migration zones.
- Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to focus on skill-building at these centres.
- The Ministry of Education should take measures under the Right to Education Act to mainstream migrant children’s education, to map migrant children, and to provide local-language teachers in migrant destinations.
- The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs should address issues of night shelters, short-stay homes, and seasonal accommodation for migrants in cities.
- The National Legal Services authority (NALSA) and Ministry of Labour should set up grievance handling cells and fast track legal responses for trafficking, minimum wage violations, and workplace abuses and accidents for migrant workers.
Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES):
- In Muzaffarpur, first AES (locally called chamkibukhar) case of the year has been suspected.
- Usually AES surfaces during summer in the flood-prone districts of north Bihar.
- It is a basket term used for referring to hospitals, children with clinical neurological manifestation that includes mental confusion, disorientation, convulsion, delirium, or coma.
- Meningitis caused by virus or bacteria, encephalitis (mostly Japanese encephalitis) caused by virus, encephalopathy, cerebral malaria, and scrub typhus caused by bacteria are collectively called acute encephalitis syndrome.
- The disease most commonly affects children and young adults.
- It can lead to considerable morbidity and mortality.
- It is considered a very complex disease.
- It can be caused by various agents including bacteria, fungi, virus and many other agents.
- Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) is the major cause of AES in India (ranging from 5%-35%).
- Nipah virus, Zikavirus are also found as causative agents for AES.
- In Puducherry, Congress-led govt. falls and CM submitted his resignation to Lieutenant-Governor (LG) as it became apparent that he had lost the confidence of the House.
- In this scenario, LG may recommend President’s Rule in the state as elections are just around the corner.
- Article 356 of the Constitution of India
- Role of President : to suspend state government and impose President’s rule of any state in the country if “he is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the state cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution”.
- Known as ‘State Emergency’ or ‘Constitutional Emergency’.
Parliamentary Approval and duration:
- A proclamation imposing President’s Rule must be approved by both the Houses of Parliament within two months from the date of its issue.
- However, if the proclamation of President’s rule is issued at a time when the Lok Sabha has been dissolved or the dissolution of the Lok Sabha takes place during the period of two months without approving the proclamation, then the proclamation survives until 30 days from the first sitting of the Lok Sabha after its reconstitution, provided the Rajya Sabha approves it in the mean time.
- The approval takes place through simple majority in either House.
- The President’s rule is initially valid for 6 months which can be extended for a maximum period of three years with the approval of the Parliament, every six months.
- No Council of Ministers
- State will fall under the direct control of the Union government
- Governor will continue to head the proceedings, representing the President of India.
- President can declare that the powers of the state legislature are to be exercised by the Parliament.
- He/she can take all other necessary steps including the suspension of the constitutional provisions relating to anybody or authority in the state.
- The constitutional position, status, powers and functions of the concerned state High Court remain same even during his/her rule.