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Current Affairs – 27 July 2021

Current Affairs (27th July 2021)

Assam-Mizoram border dispute

Context:

  • At the heart of the dispute over the 165-km Assam-Mizoram boundary are two border demarcations that go back to the days of British colonial rule, and disagreement over which demarcation to follow.

Background:

  • British tea plantations surfaced in the Cachar plains – the Barak Valley that now comprises the districts of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj — during the mid-19th century and their expansion led to problems with the Mizos whose home was the Lushai Hills.
  • In August 1875, the southern boundary of Cachar district was issued in the Assam Gazette – the Mizos say this was the fifth time the British had drawn the boundary between the Lushai Hills and the Cachar plains, and the only time when it was done in consultation with Mizo chiefs.
  • This also became the basis for the Inner Line Reserve Forest demarcation in the Gazette two years later.
  • But in 1933, the boundary between Lushai Hills and the then princely state of Manipur was demarcated – it said the Manipur boundary began from the trijunction of Lushai Hills, Cachar district of Assam and Manipur state.
  • The Mizos do not accept this demarcationand point to the 1875 boundary which was drawn in consultation with their chiefs.
  • In the decades after Independence, states and UTs were carved out of Assam – Nagaland (1963), Arunachal Pradesh (UT 1972, formerly NEFA), Meghalaya (UT 1972), Mizoram (UT 1972).
  • According to an agreement between Mizoram and Assam, status quo was to be maintained in the no man’s land in the border area.
  • But in February 2018, there was violence when students’ union MZP (Mizo Zirlai Pawl) built a wooden rest house for farmers on land that was claimed by Assam and which was demolished by Assam Police.
  • Last October, clashes erupted twice in a week over construction in Lailapur (Assam) on land claimed by Mizoram.

 

Periodic Labour Force Survey

Context:

  • Recently, the government released the latest annual report of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS).
  • The data was for the 12 months (or four quarters) between July 2019 and June 2020. It showed two surprising trends.
  • One, India’s unemployment rate (UER) had declined over this period. Two, the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) had increased.

Why are these results surprising?

  • Over the last one decade, two of the biggest worries for Indian policymakers have been the high levels of UER and the low levels of LFPR in the economy.
  • The LFPR is the proportion of Indians who seek to participate in the economy. In the recent past, India’s LFPR has been less than 40% — far below the global norm (around 60%) or even the norm in most Asian counterparts such as China (76%) and Indonesia (69%).
  • In other words, of every 100, only 40 come forward to seek work in India, while the comparable number elsewhere is around 60.
  • The UER is the percentage of people in the labour force who do not get employment. Again, in the last few years, India’s UER has hovered around 6% (or higher) — far more than the global or regional norm. In other words, of those 40 who chose to participate in the economy, at least 6% did not get any job.

Combination of low LFPR and high UER:

  • It means India is using a much smaller proportion of its population for productive purposes.
  • The state of the economy is such that it cannot provide jobs to this relatively smaller proportion of the labour force.
  • The results are surprising because they correspond to a period when India’s GDP growth rate decelerated sharply; it came down to 4.2% in 2019-20. After that, the Covid-induced lockdowns further ruined the growth and employment prospects.
  • The context of this result is also important. The first edition of PLFS — for the year 2017-18 — had created much controversy when it showed that India’s unemployment rate had touched a 45-year high. The government tried to run down those findings as it was facing a national election in 2019, but eventually accepted the data after the elections.

About PLFS:

  • The PLFS is an annual survey conducted by the National Statistical Office (NSO). It was started in 2017 and it essentially maps the state of employment.
  • In doing so, it collects data on variables such as the level of unemployment, the types of employment and their respective shares, the wages earned from different types of jobs, etc.
  • Earlier, this job was done by Employment-Unemployment Surveys, but these were conducted once every five years.

How does the PLFS calculate unemployment?

  • There are two ways, and they differ in terms of the reference period over which respondents have to recall whether they were working or not.
  • One is called the Usual Status (US). In this approach, the survey ascertains whether a person had been employed for enough days in the 365 days preceding the survey.
  • The second approach is called the Current Weekly Status (CWS). In this, the survey tries to figure out whether a person was adequately employed in the 7 days preceding the survey.
  • Typically, the NSO unemployment number most routinely quoted is the one based on Usual Status.
  • But this approach is not comparable with either the global norm (say the one followed by International Labour Organization) or the private sector practice (such as the surveys done by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy or CMIE). The CWS is closer to the global norm.
  • According to the CMIE, the monthly jobless rate for March 2020 was 8.75 per cent, which rose to 23.52 per cent in April 2020, then came down a little to 21.73 per cent in May and in June 2020, it was 10.18 per cent.
  • The report shows that in 2019-20, India’s Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) improved marginally and the unemployment rate went down, meaning improved employment chances.
    • This is quite surprising as since 2019-20 saw the Indian economy’s GDP grow by just a paltry 4.2 per cent.

Suggestions:

  • Typically, the NSO unemployment number most routinely quoted is the one based on Usual Status.
    • However, this approach is not comparable with either the global norm (for example, the one followed by International Labour Organization or ILO) or the private sector practice (like the surveys done by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy or CMIE).
  • It has been suggested that India should focus more on unemployment numbers derived from CWS.
    • The reason for this is that memory recall is much better in CWS.
    • Moreover, the nature of the Indian economy has changed.
      • The year-long reference period of Usual Status made more sense when the economy was predominantly agrarian but now more people are into jobs that do not follow a year-long schedule.
  • The CWS is closer to the global norm and is also more relevant because it is this approach that the NSO uses for understanding quarterly changes in unemployment.
    • If the unemployment rate and LFPR trends are compiled using the CWS approach, the emerging picture will be more in sync with either the data from CMIE or indeed all the other indicators of the broader.

 

Gatekeepers Model

Context:

  • Recently, the NIMHANS issued detailed guidelines to deal with mental health challenges of inmates and staff.

About:

  • In a bid to prevent suicides triggered by mental health issues in prisons across the country, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, has recommended the “Gatekeeper Model”.
  • NIMHANS is acting on the request of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Gatekeeper Model:

  • Gatekeepers:
    • Gatekeepers are existing people who are in close contact with the prisoners and can provide help for the prisoners.
    • They could be other convicted prisoners, prison staff who will be able to identify and support prisoners needing psychological help.
    • People having a psychological problem or at risk of suicide can access the gatekeeper, who can bridge the gap between them and the professional services. This is of particular benefit in at-risk suicidal prisoners.
  • Objective:
    • In this model, selected inmates, trained to identify prisoners at risk of suicide, would refer them to treatment or supportive services.
  • Case Study:
    • Referring to the Bangalore Prison Mental Health Study, the advisory pointed to the prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorder in about 80% of the prison population.

Buddy system:

  • The concept of a ‘Buddy System’ — social support through trained prisoners called “buddies” or “listeners” — was found to have a good impact on the well-being of suicidal prisoners.
  • Periodic telephone conversations with friends and family would also foster support

e-Mulakat:

    • It is a part of implementation of ePrisons initiatives which had several modules, including e-Mulakat.
    • It is an online platform enabling relatives/friends/ advocates of prisoners to book prior appointments for interviewing prisoners through the National Prisons Information Portal.
    • This was in addition to the video/voice call facility through mobile phones/telephone booths.
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