November 2019
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Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[oped of the day] The broken promise of decent and fair wages

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Wage Code

Mains level : Analysis of Wage Code Act and its rules


Context

The rules to the Labour Code on Wages Act 2019 were proposed.

Code on Wages

    • It is expected that the draft rules to the Act would be a game-changer for the workers in the informal sector.
    • Informal workers account for 93% of the total working population and contribute to over 60% of India’s GDP.
    • The law proposes to increase income capacity and the purchasing power of the informal workers.
    • Raptakos case – Supreme Court of India’s judgement in the ‘Raptakos’ case (1991) advocated the concept and the right of a living wage.

Limitations

    • Starvation wages continue – The proposed framework to determine wage will continue pushing ‘starvation wages’ in India.
    • Floor wage – this would mean that “starvation wages” which currently guarantees just ₹178 per day, will continue to exist.
    • Consumer Expenditure Survey shows the average family expenditure in rural areas to be ₹83 per day and in urban areas as ₹134. These figures show how workers will continue to live in exploitative and marginalised conditions.
    • Supreme Court judgement – This is despite ‘Need-Based Minimum Wage’ being a Supreme Court jurisprudence. 

Good case study

    • The governments of Delhi and Kerala have managed to achieve a living wage jurisprudence in recent years.
    • They have also set the highest living wage in India (₹14,842 a month in Delhi and ₹600 a day in Kerala).

Challenges with the new reform

    • Archaic – The concept and intention of floor wage in the draft rules reiterate archaic principles echoed by the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court.
    • Oversupply – labour market preys on the excess availability of workers for whom living a precarious life is their permanent mode of existence. 
    • A floor-level wage would only encourage and exacerbate this archaic practice and promote forced labour. 
    • Deduction of wages – Another concern with the law is the provision of an arbitrary deduction of wages based on performance, damage or loss, advances, etc.
    • Social inequalities – In India, employers, due to their higher social status, continue to exploit labour with impunity.
    • Inspection – the draft rules propose another ad-hoc and unclear mechanism called the “inspection scheme”.
    • No mechanism – the draft rules do not clarify the governance and institutional structure for the “labour inspection system” in the law.
    • The ambiguity of rules – in the absence of clarity in the draft rules, workers will not be able to demand even basic work rights in the fear of wage deductions and will continue to be oppressed and marginalised.

Conclusion

    • The International Labour Organisation’s Labour Inspection Convention of 1947 (Convention C081) has been ratified by India. It provides for a well-resourced and independent inspectorate that allows thorough inspections and free access to workplaces. 
    • The Labour Code on Wages Act 2019 and the draft rules have failed the lives and aspirations of over 50 crore informal workers in India.
    • Working people are a national asset; undermining their well-being should be considered the biggest anti-national act.

Back2Basics

Wage Code Bill

Proposed wage code bill: Significance & issues

Banking Sector Reforms

[op-ed snap] When a shadow bank is too indebted to failop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : FRDI Bill

Mains level : DHFL crisis; Resolution


Context

India is struggling to plug a hole in its shadow banking industry that gorged on lending to the real estate sector.

Failure of Financial Corporations

    • Insolvency – RBI is expected to refer to Dewan Housing Finance Corp. Ltd (DHFL) for insolvency proceedings that are hastily tailored for financial companies. 
    • IBC inadequate – India’s bankruptcy mechanism is missing vital components. 
    • FRDI not passed – The government withdrew the Financial Resolution and Deposit Insurance Bill. 
    • Depositors’ money – It happened after an outcry over a clause that would have let depositors’ money gets converted into equity in the event of a bank or credit company turning insolvent. 
    • Deposit insurance – Adequate deposit insurance is the solution. Centre has got back to it after the collapse of Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative Bank has caused so much distress.

DHFL resolution

    • We have a system that can preserve value for creditors who have lent the company ₹84,000 crores.
    • No legislation – There may not be a legislative apparatus in place. But India knows what needs to be done with collapsing financial institutions. 
    • G20 – The G20 financial stability recommendations were based on the premise that the market must address stress in the system. 
    • No overarching mechanism – We do not yet have an overarching body like the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which can identify and resolve financial stress expeditiously.
    • This job is divided among India’s central bank and other financial sector regulators. 
    • NCLAT – Such cases can now be referred to the National Company Law Tribunal for resolution. 
    • Courts – The courts could also back the claims of underinsured depositors. Supreme court upheld the standard hierarchy of claims in bankruptcy proceedings.

DHFL resolution

    • Its loan book looks largely healthy, especially its mortgage lending section. 
    • Buyers have shown interest in these assets and the insolvency process is expected to draw more. 
    • Bondholders and banks have their credit secured by underlying assets.

Challenges

    • Fraud – KPMG has flagged fraudulent transactions that could add up to about half the exposure banks have to DHFL. 
    • Writing off – If these charges are substantiated, banks may have to write off their loans to the mortgage lender. It would complicate any resolution plan involving a swap of debt for equity.
    • Possible attachment – DHFL is being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate on charges that could result in the attachment of its assets. This would make it tougher for resolution. 
    • If its insolvency resolution fails, India may have to subject its shadow banking industry to the same mechanism. 
    • Moody’s – Recently, the credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service has flagged stress among non-banking financial companies as a key risk to India’s growth outlook.

 

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Sri Lanka

[op-ed snap] Rule of Rajapaksasop-ed snap

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India - Sri Lanka


Context

Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s presidency has started. 

Rajapaksas

    • After Ranil Wickremesinghe stepped down as Prime Minister, the new president appointed Mahinda as the new prime minister of a caretaker government. 
    • Another brother, Chamal, has been appointed a minister in the government.
    • The government will hold forth until fresh parliamentary elections are held in 2020. The five-year term ends next August. 
    • Mahinda was barred from the presidential election because he had already held the office twice. He will run the country in close coordination with his brother. 

Constitution

    • The parliamentary configuration did not allow the new dispensation to do away with progressive amendments to the Constitution. 
    • They aimed to check the powers of the executive presidency, including the two-time bar. 
    • The Rajapaksas could clock back on these 2015 amendments when the opportunity arises.

State of polity

    • President Rajapaksa is confident of winning the 2020 parliamentary election. 
    • A divided opposition, engaged in a tug of war between Wickremesinghe and Sajith Premadasa, is unlikely to put up a fight to the Rajapaksa. 
    • Sri Lankan voters have seen that cohabitation, by which the president and prime minister are from different parties leads to paralysis of governance. 

India

    • India has communicated its desire for hastening national reconciliation in Sri Lanka. 
    • In the post-war years, the rulers oversaw an unprecedented militarisation of the Sinhala Buddhist majority community. 
    • Voters from the majority community have not forgotten that it was the Rajapaksas who crafted a victory over the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE). 
    • This powered Gotabaya’s majoritarian victory in these elections. 

Conclusion

National reconciliation requires statesmanship of a tall order. Gotabaya emerged as the newest majoritarian right-wing leader. We are not sure if he can pull it off.

Corruption Challenges – Lokpal, POCA, etc

Explained: Anti-defection law and its evolutionExplained



  • In the extraordinary political drama unfolding in Maharashtra, it remains unclear precisely till when is the new government established.
  • The gazette notification for the revocation of President’s Rule by President was issued at 5.47 am.

Seeds of Ant-Defection: The 1967 elections

  • The Tenth Schedule of the Constitution, inserted by The Constitution (52nd Amendment) Act, 1985, when Rajiv Gandhi’s government was in power.
  • The seeds were sown after the general elections in 1967.
  • The results of those elections were a mixed bag for the Congress. It formed the government at the Centre, but its strength in Lok Sabha fell from 361 to 283.
  • During the year it lost control of seven state governments as MLAs shifted their political allegiance.
  • In this backdrop, P Venkatasubbaiah, a MP in Lok Sabha proposed the setting up of a high-level committee to make recommendations to tackle the “problem of legislators changing their allegiance from one party to another”.
  • The proposal saw a spirited debate in Lok Sabha. Opposition members suggested renaming the proposal to “save Congress”, while the ruling party accused the opposition of inducing MLAs to defect.

The Y B Chavan panel

  • Despite the acrimony, the Lok Sabha agreed to the setting up of a committee to examine the problem of political defections. The then Home Minister, Y B Chavan, headed the committee.
  • The panel defined defection — and an exception for genuine defectors.
  • According to the committee, defection was the voluntary giving up of allegiance of a political party on whose symbol a legislator was elected, except when such action was the result of the decision of the party.
  • In its report, the committee noted “that the lure of office played a dominant part in decisions of legislators to defect”.
  • To combat this, the committee recommended a bar on defecting legislators from holding ministerial positions for a year — or until the time they got themselves re-elected.
  • It also suggested a smaller CoM both at the levels of the Centre and the states.
  • The committee was in favour of political parties working together to help evolve a code of conduct to effectively tackle disruptions.

Early attempts at a law

  • Following the report of the Y B Chavan committee, two separate legislative attempts, both unsuccessful, were made to find a solution to defections.
  • The first one was made by Indira’s Home Minister Uma Shankar Dikshit in 1973; the second, in 1978, by Shanti Bhushan, Minister for Law and Justice in the Janata Party government of Morarji Desai.
  • The third attempt — which was successful — was made in 1985, after the Congress won more than 400 seats in Lok Sabha in the aftermath of Indira’s assassination.

The Tenth Schedule

  • The Bill to amend the Constitution was introduced by Rajiv Gandhi’s Law Minister Ashoke Kumar Sen, the veteran barrister and politician who had also served in the Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • The statement of objects and reasons of the Bill said: “The evil of political defections has been a matter of national concern. If it is not combated, it is likely to undermine the very foundations of our democracy and the principles which sustain it.”
  • The amendment by which the Tenth Schedule was inserted in the Constitution, did three broad things.
  1. One, it made legislators liable to be penalised for their conduct both inside (voting against the whip of the party) and outside (making speeches, etc.) the legislature — the penalty being the loss of their seats in Parliament or the state legislatures.
  2. Two, it protected legislators from disqualification in cases where there was a split (with 1/3rd of members splitting) or merger (with 2/3rds of members merging) of a legislature party with another political party.
  3. Three, it made the Presiding Officer of the concerned legislature the sole arbiter of defection proceedings.

Criticism and passage

  • Opposition argued that the Bill would curtail the freedom of speech and expression of legislators.
  • The leftists expressed concern over the impact the amendment could have on the office of the Speaker.
  • The Bill was debated in Lok Sabha on January 30, the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and was passed by Rajya Sabha the following day.
  • Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi referred in Parliament to the Mahatma’s seven social sins, the first one being politics without principles.

The immediate challenges

  • No sooner was the law put in place than political parties started to stress-test its boundaries.
  • The issue of what constitutes a spilt in a political party rocked both the V P Singh and the Chandra Shekhar governments.
  • The role of the Presiding Officers also became increasingly politicised.
  • Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj Patil said in 1992: “The Speaker is not expected to dabble in keeping the political parties weak or strong or discipline the Parliamentarians for their party purposes.”

Judicial intervention

  • The intervention of the higher judiciary was sought to decide questions such as what kinds of conduct outside the legislature would fall in the category of defection, and what was the extent of the Speaker’s power in deciding defections.
  • The Supreme Court, while upholding the supremacy of the Speaker in defection proceedings, also held that the Speaker’s decisions were subject to judicial review.

The 2003 Amendment

  • The last step in the legislative journey of the anti-defection law came in 2003.
  • An Amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament by the government of PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee to address some of the issues with the law.
  • However, as events in the years and decades since have demonstrated, these amendments have had only limited impact.

Pranab Mukherjee Committee

  • A committee headed by Pranab Mukherjee examined the Bill.
  • The committee observed that the provision of split has been grossly misused to engineer multiple divisions in the party, as a result of which the evil of defection has not been checked in the right earnest.
  • Further it is also observed that the lure of office of profit plays dominant part in the political horse-trading resulting in spate of defections and counter defections
  • The one-third split provision which offered protection to defectors was deleted from the law on the committee’s recommendation.
  • The 2003 Amendment also incorporated the 1967 advice of the Y B Chavan committee in limiting the size of the Council of Ministers, and preventing defecting legislators from joining the Council of Ministers until their re-election.

The (ab)use of the law

  • The removal of the split provision prompted political parties to engineer wholesale defections (to merge) instead of smaller ‘retail’ ones.
  • Legislators started resigning from the membership of the House in order to escape disqualification from ministerial berths.
  • The ceiling on the size of the Council of Ministers meant an increase in the number of positions of parliamentary secretaries in states.
  • The Speakers started taking an active interest in political matters, helping build and break governments.

Prime focus: the Speaker

  • The anti-defection law does not specify a timeframe for Speakers to decide on defection proceedings.
  • When the politics demanded, Speakers were either quick to pass judgment on defection proceedings or delayed acting on them for years on end.
  • The events in the Karnataka Vidhan Sabha in the summer of this year showed that even after three decades, the anti-defection law has not been able to stop political defections.
President’s Rule

PM’s power to revoke President’s RulePriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Rule 12

Mains level : President’s Rule


To revoke President’s Rule, the government has used a special Section in the Union government’s Transaction of Business Rules, which allows for revocation of President’s Rule without Cabinet approval if the Prime Minister “deems it necessary”.

Rule 12

  • Rule 12 of the Government of India (Transaction of Business) Rules, 1961, allows the PM to depart from laid down norms at his discretion.
  • Titled “Departure from Rules”, Rule 12 says, the Prime Minister may, in case or classes of cases permit or condone a departure from these rules, to the extent he deems necessary.
  • The Cabinet can subsequently give post-facto approval for any decision taken under Rule 12.

Under what circumstances is Rule 12 used?

  • Rule 12 is usually not used to arrive at major decisions by the government.
  • However, it has been used in matters such as the withdrawal of an office memorandum or signing of MoUs in the past.
  • The last big decision taken through the invocation of Rule 12 was re-organisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into the UTs of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh on October 31.
  • The proclamations issued by the President that day, dividing various districts between the two Union Territories, were issued under Rule 12.
  • The Cabinet gave post-facto approval to the same on November 20.

So, what happened in the case of Maharashtra?

  • At 5.47 am on Saturday, the notification revoking President’s Rule was published in the government gazette.
  • This indicated that the notification was actually signed by the President at some point earlier than that time.
  • At 7.50 am, the new chief minister and deputy chief minister were sworn in.

Why it’s controversial?

  • The invocation of Rule 12 appears to indicate that even top leaders of the union cabinet were not aware of the impending move.
  • Many top ministers were, in fact, out of Delhi, and were not available for a Cabinet meeting.

Back2Basics

Explained: President’s Rule in Maharashtra

Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Bill on protecting mediapersonsStates in News

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Freedom of Press



  • President has given assent to a legislation passed by the Maharashtra Assembly in 2017 that makes violent attacks on mediapersons a non-bailable offence.
  • Maharashtra is the first State to pass such legislation.

Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions Act, 2017

  • The Maharashtra Media Persons and Media Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage or Loss to Property) Act, 2017, also has a provision of imprisonment and a fine of ₹50,000.
  • It was passed by the Assembly in 2017, but received the President’s assent in October after the Union Home Ministry scrutinized the legislation and consulted all concerned Ministries.
  • The MHA had returned the Bill to the Maharashtra government last year to seek clarification.
  • The Bill has a provision that any offence against a mediapersons will be investigated by a police officer above the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police.

Why need such law?

  • There are rampant instances of violence and attacks against mediapersons and damage or loss to the property of media institutions.
  • There is strong demand to prevent such violence against mediapersons or damage or loss to the property belonging to mediapersons or media institutions and check the recurrence of such incidents in the State.
  • In 2017, the MHA also issued an advisory to all States to ensure the “safety and security of journalists”.
  • The advisory was issued days after Bengaluru-based journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead near her home.
Mother and Child Health – Immunization Program, BPBB, PMJSY, PMMSY, etc.

Golden RicePriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Golden rice, Fortified rice

Mains level : Malnutrition elimination strategies



Bangladesh is set to becoming the first country to approve plantation of Golden Rice variety to counter Vitamin A deficiency.

Golden Rice

  • In the late 1990s, German scientists developed a genetically modified variety of rice called Golden Rice.
  • It is a variety of rice (Oryza sativa) produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice.
  • It differs from its parental strain by the addition of three beta-carotene biosynthesis genes.
  • The parental strain can naturally produce beta-carotene in its leaves, where it is involved in photosynthesis.

Why golden rice?

  • Golden Rice is intended to produce a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A.
  • It was claimed to be able to fight Vitamin A deficiency, which is the leading cause of blindness among children and can also lead to death due to infectious diseases such as measles.
  • Rice is naturally low in the pigment beta-carotene, which the body uses to make Vitamin A. Golden rice contains this, which is the reason for its golden colour.
  • The claim has sometimes been contested over the years, with a 2016 study from Washington University in St Louis reporting that the variety may fall short of what it is supposed to achieve.

Why in Bangladesh?

  • Advocates of the variety stress how it can help countries where Vitamin A deficiencies leave millions at high risk.
  • In Bangladesh, over 21 per cent of the children have vitamin A deficiency.
  • The Golden Rice that is being reviewed in Bangladesh is developed by the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.
  • According to the institute, this rice variety will not be more expensive than the conventional variety.
Tribes in News

Jing kieng jri (Living root bridges)Priority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Jing kieng jri (Living root bridges)

Mains level : Future botanical architecture projects in urban areas



  • A new research investigates the living root bridges structures and proposes to integrate them in modern architecture around the world, and potentially help make cities more environment-friendly.

Living root bridges

  • The jing kieng jri or living root bridges — aerial bridges built by weaving and manipulating the roots of the Indian rubber tree — have been serving as connectors for generations in Meghalaya.
  • Spanning between 15 and 250 feet and built over centuries, the living roots bridges, primarily a means to cross streams and rivers.

Making of a root bridge

  • A root bridge uses traditional tribal knowledge to train roots of the Indian rubber tree, found in abundance in the area, to grow laterally across a stream bed, resulting in a living bridge of roots.
  • These bridges can be redefined as ecosystems as the process begins with placing of young pliable aerial roots growing from Ficus elastica (India rubber) trees in hollowed out Areca catechu or native bamboo trunks.
  • These provide essential nutrition and protection from the weather, and also perform as aerial root guidance systems.
  • Over time, as the aerial roots increase in strength and thickness, the Areca catechu or native bamboo trunks are no longer required.

Why Ficus elastica ?

  • Ficus elastica is conducive to the growth of bridges because of its very nature.
  • There are three main properties: they are elastic, the roots easily combine and the plants grow in rough, rocky soils.

Architectural scope

  • Researchers from Germany investigated 77 bridges over three expeditions in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills of Meghalaya during 2015, 2016 and 2017.
  • The study suggests that the bridges can be considered a reference point for future botanical architecture projects in urban contexts.
  • The traditional techniques of the Khasi people can promote the further development of modern architecture.