Current Affairs - Polity & Governance
- As the economy struggles with the lockdown and thousands of firms and workers stare at an uncertain future, the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat made key changes in the application of labour laws.
- Labour is a concurrent subject under the Constitution of India, states can frame their own laws but need the approval of the Central government.
- These changes are being brought about to incentivise economic activity in the respective states.
- To provide employment to workers who have migrated back to the state and to protect the existing employment, some flexibility has to be given to business and industry.
- To bring about transparency in the administrative procedures and convert the challenges of a distressed economy into opportunities.
- To increase the revenue of states which have fallen due to closure of industrial units during Covid-19 lockdown.
Hire & Fire
- Establishments with up to 100 workers can hire according to needs.
- No registration for contractors with 50 labourers.
End of Inspector Raj
- No factory inspection for 3 months
- No inspection for firm with less than 50 workers
- Third-party inspection allowed.
Easier Licenses and Registration
- Registration and licenses to be issued in a day
- Renewal of a factory license once in 10 years
- startups need one time legislation; no renewal.
- Raised to 12 hours from 8 hours in factory
- Overtime of up to 72 hours permitted; flexibility in changing shifts
- Shops and establishments can operate from 6 am till midnight
Industry exempted from all labour laws barring the following:
- Building and Other Construction Workers' Act, 1996
- Workmen Compensation Act, 1923
- Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976
- A section of Payment of Wages Act to apply.
New industrial establishments exempted from all labour laws barring the following:
- Minimum Wages Act
- Industrial Safety Rules
- Employees' Compensation Act
- Ordinance to roll out benefits that will be available for 1,200 days
- 100% online approvals within 15 days.
- 33,000 hectares set aside; land to be allocated in 7 days.
- The relaxation of rigid and archaic labour laws by is expected to help restart economic activity, attract investments, and in the long create more jobs by ushering in labour market flexibility.
- Will allow more factories to operate without following safety and health norms and give a free hand to new companies to “keep labourers in service as per their convenience”.
- No labour inspection or govt intervention.
- No role of unions, leading to the smooth function of the industries.
- These new reforms will promote ease of doing business in the state and will promote competition among states for reforms.
- The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS) has opposed the slew of changes in the labour laws by these states.
- It has, however, attacked the relaxations as retrograde and warned of erosion of rights of workers.
- These changes to the labour laws are violation of the international labour law conventions and it will create a situation where there is no rule of law.
- Safety will be compromised as the provisions of the Factories Act will no longer be there.
- The new labour law changes are also seen as a bane for the workers desperately looking for a job to end their financial nightmare.
- Instead of providing protections to the most marginalised and vulnerable, as exposed by the covid crisis, and thus an opportunity to rectify the fractured economic system, these moves will further exacerbate the crisis for those who are worst affected by it.
- Theoretically, it is possible to generate more employment in a market with fewer labour regulations.
- However, as the experience of states that have relaxed labour laws in the past suggests, dismantling worker protection laws have failed to attract investments and increase employment, while not causing any increase in worker exploitation or deterioration of working conditions.
- There is already too much unused capacity. Firms are shaving off salaries up to 40% and making job cuts. The overall demand has fallen.
- According to the experts, instead of creating exploitative conditions for the workers, the government should have —partnered with the industry and allocated 3% or 5% of the GDP towards sharing the wage burden and ensuring the health of the labourers.
Indian Labour Laws
- Estimates vary but there are over 200 state laws and close to 50 central laws. And yet there is no set definition of “labour laws” in the country.
- Broadly speaking, they can be divided into four categories, shown in the image below.
- The main objectives of the Factories Act, for instance, are to ensure safety measures on factory premises, and promote health and welfare of workers.
- The Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, on the other hand, aims to regulate hours of work, payment, overtime, weekly day off with pay, other holidays with pay, annual leave, employment of children and young persons, and employment of women.
- The Minimum Wages Act covers more workers than any other labour legislation.
- The most contentious labour law, however, is the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 as it relates to terms of service such as layoff, retrenchment, and closure of industrial enterprises and strikes and lockouts.
Source: Indian Express
Criticism of Labour Laws
- Indian labour laws are often characterised as “inflexible”. In other words, it has been argued that thanks to the onerous legal requirements, firms (those employing more than 100 workers) dither from hiring new workers because firing them requires government approvals.
- Even the organised sector is increasingly employing workers without formal contracts. This, in turn, has constrained the growth of firms on the one hand and provided a raw deal to workers on the other.
- Further, there are too many laws, often unnecessarily complicated, and not effectively implemented. This has laid the foundation for corruption and rent-seeking.
- An expert committee, under chairmanship of former chief secretary K Abraham, appointed by Kerala government to review Covid-19 nationwide lockdown has suggested a phased relaxation of the lockdown to contain COVID-19 for areas outside the seven hotspot districts in the state from April 15, 2020.
- The committee has also come up with health-related and non-health-related objectives for the withdrawal strategy and steps for management of hotspots and vulnerable population.
- According to the committee, the phased withdrawal is sustainable only if there is a steady recovery and decline in the number of cases leading to initial flattening of the infection curve and then gradual tapering of the curve to zero infection cases.
Lockdown relaxation to be provided in 3 phases-
- For qualifying for Phase 1 relaxation, there has to be not more than one new case in the district for the entire week prior to the date of review on April 14, 2020.
- No increase more than 10% of the number of persons under home surveillance in the district
- No hotspots of COVID-19 anywhere in the district as identified by the Health Department are the other criteria fixed.
Restrictions & Relaxations
- No outdoor travelling without face masks, occupancy of government vehicles should be restricted to two persons per vehicle excluding the driver, vehicles carrying frontline care workers or other public servants should not exceed the seating capacity of the vehicle.
- Only one person per house will be allowed to go out at a time for a specific purpose and for not more than 3 hours at a time.
- Any person above age of 65 years with history of co-morbidity or undergoing any treatment for cancer or major ailments will not be permitted to go out.
- A district will qualify for Phase II relaxation at the time of second review only if there is no more than one new case for the entire fortnight prior to the date of review.
- Not more than a 5% increase in the number of persons under home surveillance from the date of the previous review and no infection hotspots are the additional criteria.
Restrictions & Relaxations
- Autos and Taxis may be allowed but restricted to one and three passengers, respectively.
- Travelling by bus for short distance within a city or town may be permitted but with one person per seat.
- Activities under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, 2005 (NREGA) to be allowed with protocols like use of masks and sanitisers.
- All Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) shall be allowed to reopen.
Source: The Hindu
- A district will qualify for Phase III relaxation only if there is no new case of infection in that district for the fortnight prior to the date of review.
- In addition, a decrease of more than 5% of the number of persons under home surveillance in the district from the date of the previous review and no hotspots anywhere in the district are needed.
Restrictions & Relaxations
- Inter-district bus transport may be allowed with two-third capacity with maintaining social distancing protocols.
- Domestic flights for doctors, health workers, patients etc.
- International trips and travelling from other parts of India should not be allowed till full relaxation of the lockdown.
- For educational sector, universities, schools and colleges shall be instructed to open for examination holding purpose.
- Religious congregations in and outside worship places, weddings, political meetings or conferences or cultural gatherings shall continue to be prohibited during this phase.
- As a part of Government’s continued efforts to contain spread of COVID 19, the Union Cabinet on 6th April, 2020, decided to cut in the salaries of all Members of Parliament and not to operate Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) for two years (2020-21 and 2021-22).
- These funds will be used to strengthen Government’s efforts in managing the challenges and adverse impact of COVID19 in the country
- The Cabinet approved an ordinance to amend the Salaries, Allowances and Pension of Members of Parliament Act, 1954.
- It will cut the salaries of Members of Parliament (MPs) by 30%, effective from 1st April 2020.
- The consolidated amount of MPLAD Funds for 2 years – Rs 7,900 crores – will go to Consolidated Fund of India.
- The amendment will only cut MPs’ salaries, not allowances or the pensions of ex-MPs.
About MPLAD Scheme
- Launched during the Narasimha Rao Government in 1993, the objective is to enable the Members of Parliament (MP) to suggest and get executed developmental works of capital nature based on locally felt needs with emphasis on creation of durable assets.
- The Ministry of Rural Development initially administered the scheme. Since October 1994, it has been transferred to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI).
- The MPs were entitled to recommend works to the tune of Rs. 1 crore annually between 1994-95 and 1997-98, after which the annual entitlement was enhanced to Rs. 2 crore.
- The UPA government in 2011-12 raised the annual entitlement to Rs 5 crore per MP.
- In the case of Lok Sabha, the scheme is implemented in the districts falling within the constituency of the concerned
- In the case of Rajya Sabha, the MP can suggest works in one or more districts within the State from which he is elected.
- As far as the nominated MPs are concerned, they can suggest works anywhere in India.
- It recommend MPs to suggest works costing at least 15 percent of their MPLADS entitlement for the year for areas inhabited by Scheduled Caste population and 7.5 per cent for areas inhabited by ST population.
- In case there is insufficient tribal population in the area of Lok Sabha Member, they may recommend this amount for the creation of community assets in tribal areas outside of their constituency but within their State of election.
- The scheme can be converged in individual/stand-alone projects of other Central and State Government schemes provided such works of Central/State Governments Schemes are eligible under MPLADS.
Types of Recommended Work
- Key Priority Sectors: Drinking water facility, education, electricity facility, non-conventional energy resources, healthcare and sanitation, irrigation facilities, railways, roads, pathways and bridges, sports, agriculture and allied activities, self-help group development, urban development.
- Works Prohibited: construction of office and residential buildings for public and private agencies, land acquisition or paying compensation, naming assets after individuals, grants or loans to state/central relief fund, assets for individual benefits, works on lands belonging to religious groups, execution of works in unauthorized colonies.
- To implement their plans in an area, MPs have to recommend them to the District Authority of the respective Nodal District.
- The District Authorities then identify Implementing Agencies which execute the projects.
- The respective District Authority is supposed to oversee implementation, and has to submit monthly reports, audit reports, and work completion reports to the Nodal District Authority.
- All recommended eligible works should be sanctioned within 75 days from the date of receipt of the recommendation, after completing all formalities.
- The District Authority shall, however, inform MPs regarding rejection, if any, within 45 days from the date of receipt of recommendations, with reasons thereof.
Issues with MPLADS
- There have been cases of widespread corruption and misappropriation of funds. In a lot of cases, private contractors (which are not permitted) are engaged to implement the works.
- Also, there have been instances where expenditure has been incurred on works which are prohibited under the scheme.
Transparency and Accountability Issue
- Lack of transparency and accountability in the execution of this scheme has come in for adverse comment from a variety of institutions, including the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC), the Second Administrative Reforms Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor-General General of India.
- There are large amounts of unspent balances rising over the years, low utilisation of funds and an expenditure bias towards a particular sector.
- However, despite the severe indictment of this scheme from various quarters, there has been no visible effort by Parliament to stop the misuse of funds and to remove the anomalies.
- There are weaknesses in the process of sanction. The District Authorities tend to execute works without receiving any recommendations from MPs concerned or on the recommendation of the representatives of the MPs rather than the MPs themselves.
- Further, there are lapses on the monitoring and supervision front, with the District Authorities failing to inspect the required number of sanctioned works as well as in sending regular monitoring reports.
- There have been charges that the scheme goes against the spirit of the 73rd and the 74th Amendment, with MPs enjoying the privilege of an uninterrupted yearly flow of funds to do the work which local bodies are better placed to deliver.
- The constitutionality of the scheme has also been questioned, with the argument that the scheme erodes the notion of separation of powers, as the legislator directly becomes the executive.
- In 2002, the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution recommended immediate discontinuation of the MPLAD scheme on the ground that it was inconsistent with the spirit of federalism and distribution of powers between the centre and the state.
Suggestive Measures for Effective Implementation
- There needs to be a greater focus on regular monitoring by the District Authorities.
- Implementing agencies could involve the local community in the voluntary supervision of works.
- Since maintenance of public assets is where the system breaks down, arrangements can be made for the maintenance of assets or maintenance can be outsourced.
- In order to better assess the needs of the constituents, surveys can be conducted across the constituency. For this purpose, NGOs and local community can be involved.
- For the scheme to be more effective, an impact assessment study should be undertaken at the constituency level, on a yearly basis, to assess the benefits of the works implemented to the community at large.
- To tackle the issue of large unspent balances which have accumulated and are rising over the years, fund can be made lapsable. This way funds lying unused can be put to other uses.
- Thrust areas could be also modified so as to reflect the needs of the constituency, rather than taking a generic view.
- Recently, the Madhya Pradesh government invoked the National Security Act (NSA), 1980, against four persons accused of instigating residents of a locality to pelt stones and chase away health workers.
- Similarly, an order was passed by the Uttar Pradesh government to detain under any person under the NSA, who are found guilty of attacking police and other officials.
About National Security Act (NSA), 1980
- The NSA is an act that empowers the government to detain a person if the authorities are satisfied that he/she is a threat to national security or to prevent him/her from disrupting public order.
- The goal is to prevent the individual from committing a crime.
- The first preventive detention rule was passed by government of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru when it enacted the Preventive Detention Act of 1950.
- The NSA is a close iteration of the 1950 Act.
- After the Preventive Detention Act expired on December 31, 1969, the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, brought in the controversial Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) in 1971 giving similar powers to the government.
- Finally, NSA was promulgated on September 23, 1980, during the Indira Gandhi government.
- Article 22 (3) (b): It allows for preventive detention and restriction on personal liberty for reasons of state security and public order.
- Article 22(4): It states that no law providing for preventive detention shall authorise the detention of a person for a longer period than three months unless: An Advisory Board reports sufficient cause for extended detention.
- The 44th Amendment Act of 1978 reduced the period of detention without obtaining the opinion of an advisory board from three to two months.
- However, this provision has not yet been brought into force, hence, the original period of three months still continues.
Grounds for Preventive Detention of a Person
- Acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of India, the relations of India with foreign powers, or the security of India.
- Regulating the continued presence of any foreigner in India or with a view to making arrangements for his expulsion from India.
- Preventing them from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the State or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of public order or from acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community it is necessary so to do.
Time Period for Detention
- Under the Act, an individual can be detained without a charge for up to 12 months; the state government needs to be intimated that a person has been detained under the NSA.
- A person detained under the Act can be held for 10 days without being told the charges against them.
- The detained person can appeal before a high court advisory board but they are not allowed a lawyer during the trial.
Criticism of the Act
Denial of Basic Rights
- In the normal course, if a person is arrested, he or she is guaranteed certain basic rights.
- Additionally, Article 22(1) of the Constitution says an arrested person cannot be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his choice.
- But none of these rights are available to a person detained under the NSA.
- A person could be kept in the dark about the reasons for his arrest for up to five days and in exceptional circumstances not later than 10 days.
- Even when providing the grounds for arrest, the government can withhold information which it considers to be against public interest to disclose.
- The arrested person is also not entitled to the aid of any legal practitioner in any matter connected with the proceedings before an advisory board, which is constituted by the government for dealing with NSA cases.
No Recorded Figure
- The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which collects and analyses crime data in the country, does not include cases under the NSA in its data as no FIRs are registered.
- Hence, no figures are available for the exact number of detentions under the NSA.
- According to the experts, the governments sometimes use NSA as an extra-judicial power.
- India’s parliament and judiciary must revisit the NSA to close any loopholes that permit law enforcement to abuse constitutional and statutory rights.
- The Invest India Business Immunity Platform (BIP) is working 24X7 as a comprehensive resource to help businesses and investors get real-time updates on India’s active response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus).
- Launched on 21st March, 2020, the BIP is the active platform for business issue redressal, with a team of dedicated sector experts who respond to queries at the earliest.
- This dynamic and constantly updating platform keeps a regular track on developments with respect to the virus, provides latest information on various central and state government initiatives, gives access to special provisions, and answers and resolves queries through emails and on WhatsApp.
- BIP has launched ‘Joining the Dots’ campaign to procure essential healthcare supplies.
- It is also facilitating matchmaking to fill the demand-supply shortages of essential equipment to combat COVID-19.
About Invest India
- Invest India was formed in 2009 under Section 25 of the Companies Act 1956 for promotion of foreign investment with 49% equity of the then Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion(now renamed as Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry and 51% shareholding by FICCI. The current shareholding pattern of Invest India is 51 % of Industry Associations (i.e. 17% each of FICCI, CII & NASSCOM) and the remaining 49% of Central and 19 State Governments.
- As the national investment promotion and facilitation agency, it focuses on sector-specific investor targeting and development of new partnerships to enable sustainable investments in India.
- It facilitates and empowers all investors under the ‘Make in India’ initiative to establish, operate and expand their businesses in India.
Projects Being Handled by Invest India
- Proactive Investor Targeting: Invest India identifies target companies across focus sectors from target markets looking to initiate investment into India or further expansion in India.
- Handholding Support: Invest India creates vital differentiation and an invaluable service offering of guidance, handholding, problem solving and facilitation for investors.
- Bilateral CEO Forums: Invest India takes up the responsibility of acting as the nodal point for investment related issues/ recommendations and help action investment specific resolutions raised at the CEOs Forums.
- Country – Sector Outreach: Invest India proactively contributes to national and regional policy development by planning Country/Sector interactions.
- Strategic Investment Research Unit: It shapes India’s investment landscape and drives a step change in the quality and quantity of FDI.
- Harnessing Information & Communication Technology for FDI: Invest India scales up use of technology for investment targeting and facilitation.
- Working with State Investment Promotion Agencies: It plays a central role in ensuring that FDI is on the agenda of all State agencies, State Governments and stakeholders.
- Startups: The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade with the help of Invest India aims to empower Startups to grow through innovation and design through this initiative.
- Accelerating Growth of New India’s Innovations (AGNIi): It aims to support the ongoing efforts to boost the innovation ecosystem in the country by connecting innovators across industry.
- India Investment Grid: It is an online platform to showcase investment opportunities in India to global investors. The platform is looked after by Invest India.
- On 24th March, 2020, Government announced a 21-day countrywide lockdown effective from midnight in order to contain the spread of Coronovirus-COVID-19.
- Those violating the lockdown orders can face legal action under the Epidemic Diseases Act (EDA), 1897, which lays down punishment as per Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860, for flouting such orders.
Epidemic Disease Act, 1897
- The Epidemic Diseases Act was enacted on February 4, 1897, to stop the spread of the bubonic plague outbreak in Bombay (now Mumbai).
- Using powers conferred by the Act, colonies authorities would search suspected plague cases in homes and among passengers, with forcible segregations, evacuations, and demolitions of infected places.
Provisions of the EDA Act
- The Act consists four sections, aims to provide for the better prevention of the spread of Dangerous Epidemic Diseases.
- It describes all the title and extent, the second part explains all the special powers given to the state government and centre to take special measures and regulations to contain the spread of disease.
- It has a special subsection 2A empowers the central government to take steps to prevent the spread of an epidemic, especially allowing the government to inspect any ship arriving or leaving any post and the power to detain any person intending to sail or arriving in the country.
- It provides penalties for disobeying any regulation or order made under the Act. These are according to Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant).
- This section deals with legal protection to implementing officers acting under the Act.
Section 188 of IPC
Under Section 188, there two offences:
According to the First Schedule of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973, both offences are cognizable, bailable, and can be tried by any magistrate.
Recent Implementation of EDA Act
- In 2018, the district collector of Gujarat’s Vadodara issued a notification under the Act declaring the Khedkarmsiya village in Waghodia taluka as cholera-affected after many people complained of symptoms of the disease.
- In 2015, to deal with malaria and dengue in Chandigarh, the Act was implemented and controlling officers were instructed to ensure the issuance of notices and challans of Rs 500 to offenders.
- In 2009, to tackle the swine flu outbreak in Pune, Section 2 powers were used to open screening centres in civic hospitals across the city, and swine flu was declared a notifiable disease.
Scope for Misuse
- While it helps contain epidemics, the Act can also be misused.
- In 1897, for instance, freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak was imprisoned for 18 months under this Act for his newspaper Kesari‘s anti-establishment coverage of the plague, according to The Indian Express newspaper.
Limitations of EDA Act
- There is no clear definition of whether an epidemic is “dangerous” on the basis of the magnitude of the problem, the severity of the problem, the age of the population affected or its potential to spread internationally.
- There is no explicit reference pertaining to the ethical aspects or human rights principles during a response to an epidemic.
- The Act is purely regulatory in nature and lacks a specific public health focus.
- It does not describe the duties of the government in preventing and controlling epidemic.
- The Act emphasises the power of the government, but is silent on the rights of citizens. It has no provisions that take the people’s interest into consideration.
- The Act is not in line with the contemporary scientific understanding of outbreak prevention and response, but only reflects the scientific and legal standards that prevailed at the time when it was framed.
- For example, the Act placestoo much emphasis on isolation or quarantine measures, but is silent on the other scientific methods of outbreak prevention and control, such as vaccination, surveillance and organised public health response.
Need of the Hour
- The Act was formulated about 123 years ago and thus has major limitations in this era of changing priorities in public health emergency management.
- The factors leading to the emergence and spread of communicable diseases have also changed over the years.
- Some of the factors that need to be addressed now are the increasing rates of international travel,more extensive use of air travel compared to sea travel, greater migration within states, increased urbanisation, man-made ecological changes, changing climatic conditions, breakdown of public health measures and biosafety lapses.
- The Epidemic Diseases Act needs modifications in the changing scenario. For example, it is too oriented towards travel by ship and silent on “air travel”, which was uncommon at that time.
- The epidemiological concepts used in relation to the prevention and control of epidemic diseases have also changed over time.
- The political scenario in the country and Centre-state relationships have changed.The Act, as such, is not sufficient to deal with the prevention and control of communicable disease in the current situation.
- There is a need to strengthen legal frameworks to prevent and control the entry, spread and existence of communicable diseases in India.
- There is a need for an integrated, comprehensive, actionable and relevant legal provision for the control of outbreaks in India that should be articulated in a rights-based, people-focused and public health-oriented manner.
- On 29th February, 2020, the US and Taliban signed an agreement for “Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”, which will enable the US and NATO to withdraw troops in the next 14 months and to facilitate intra-Afghan dialogue in Oslo (Norway) starting from 10th March, 2020.
- India attended the signing ceremony which was held in Doha, Qatar.
Key Elements of the Pact
- Troops Withdrawal: The US will draw down to 8,600 troops in 135 days and the NATO or coalition troop numbers will also be brought down, proportionately and simultaneously.
- Counter-terrorism Assurances: The main counter-terrorism commitment by the Taliban is that it will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaeda, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.
- Sanctions Removal: UN sanctions on Taliban leaders to be removed by three months (by May 29, 2020) and US sanctions by August 27, 2020.
- Prisoner Release: The US-Taliban pact says up to 5,000 imprisoned Taliban and up to 1,000 prisoners from “the other side” held by Taliban “will be released” by 10th March, 2020.
- Ceasefire: The agreement states that, ceasefire will be simply “an item on the agenda” when intra-Afghan talks start and indicates actual ceasefire will come with the “completion” of an Afghan political agreement.
Source: The Hindu
- There are still many issues remain to be worked out during intra-Afghan negotiations, including sharing power, disarming and reintegrating Taliban fighters into society, and determining the future of the country’s democratic institutions and constitution.
- The process could be complicated by a weak central government, afflicted by ethnic, sectarian, and tribal differences, which may descend into open conflict and might start the next round of civil war, hampering the peace deal.
- At the same time, experts say the Taliban is stronger now than at any point in the last eighteen years. It earns millions of dollars from opium poppy cultivation and the illegal drug trade. Some analysts are also worried that rank-and-file Taliban fighters might not abide by a peace deal.
Impact on Afghanistan
- The U.S. withdrawal will invariably weaken the Kabul government, altering the balance of power both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table.
- The Taliban have got what they wanted: Troops withdrawal, removal of sanctions, and release of prisoners. This has also strengthened Pakistan, Taliban’s benefactor, and the Pakistan Army and the ISI’s influence appears to be on the rise.
- Further, the social change brought about by two decades of US presence in Afghanistan — human rights, female emancipation, entertainment — could be in peril.
- The future for the people of Afghanistan is uncertain, and will depend on how Taliban honours its commitments and whether it goes back to the mediaeval practices of its 1996-2001 regime.
Impact on India
- The Taliban perceived India as a hostile country, as India had supported the anti-Taliban force Northern Alliance in the 1990s.
- India never gave diplomatic and official recognition to the Taliban when it was in power during 1996-2001.
- The peace deal holds strategic and geopolitical implications for the country, which has invested billions of dollars in Afghanistan.
- The decision to withdraw precipitously from Afghanistan is likely to have far-reaching consequences for India – an increase in Taliban’s influence in Afghanistan could negatively impact the security situation in the restive Kashmir valley.
- Further, the pact is silent on other terrorist groups — such as anti-India groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammed. Again, India, not being an US ally, is not covered under this pact.
- The deal also holds significance in terms of the strained relations with Pakistan which has interests in the region.
- With US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Pakistan will indeed become an important player. And India’s security in the region would be far more vulnerable than it is today.
- The withdrawal of US forces has the probability of the creation of vacuum in the region and possibility of filling the void by terrorists and extremists.
- US, along with other stakeholders in the region like India, Russia and Chinashould be prepared for a long-term diplomatic engagement with Afghanistan, which will involve simultaneously strengthening the country’s political mainstream and integrating the Taliban within it.
- The challenges ahead are formidable. There is hope, but skepticism runs deeper.
- Recently, the government announced to establish a Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA)by the first week of April, 2020.
About Central Consumer Protection Authority
- The authority is being constituted under Section 10(1) of The Consumer Protection Act,2019. The Act replaced The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, and seeks to widen its scope in addressing consumer concerns.
- The CCPAaims to protect the rights of the consumer by cracking down on unfair trade practices, and false and misleading advertisements that are detrimental to the interests of the public and consumers.
- The new Act recognizes offences such as providing false information regarding the quality or quantity of a good or service, and misleading advertisements.
- It also specifies action to be taken if goods and services are found “dangerous, hazardous or unsafe”.
Possible Structure of CCPA
- The proposed authority will be a lean body with a Chief Commissioner as head, and only two other commissioners as members — one of whom will deal with matters relating to goods while the other will look into cases relating to services.
- It will be headquartered in the National Capital Region of Delhi but the central government may set up regional offices in other parts of the country.
- The CCPA will have an Investigation Wing,headed by a Director General. District Collectors.
- The CCPA will have following powers to inquire or investigate into matters relating to violations of consumer rights or unfair trade practices suomotu, or on a complaint received, or on a direction from the central government.
Power to Recall the Goods
- Under Section 20 of the Consumer Protection Act, the proposed authority will have powers to recall goods or withdrawal of services that are “dangerous, hazardous or unsafe; pass an order for refund the prices of goods or services so recalled to purchasers of such goods or services; and discontinuation of practices which are unfair and prejudicial to consumer’s interest”.
Power to Issue Directions
- Section 21 of the new Act defines the powers given to the CCPA to crack down on false or misleading advertisements.
- If the CCPA is satisfied after investigation that any advertisement is false or misleading and is harmful to the interest of any consumer, the CCPA may issue directions to the trader, manufacturer, endorser, advertiser, or publisher to discontinue such an advertisement, or modify it in a manner specified by the authority, within a given time.
- Further, it can file complaints of violation of consumer rights or unfair trade practices before the Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at district, state and national level.
- It will issue safety notices to alert consumers against dangerous or hazardous or unsafe goods or services.
Power to Impose Penalties
- It may also impose a penalty up to Rs 10 lakh, with imprisonment up to two years, on the manufacturer or endorser of false and misleading advertisements.
- The penalty may go up to Rs 50 lakh, with imprisonment up to five years, for every subsequent offence committed by the same manufacturer or endorser.
- CCPA may ban the endorser of a false or misleading advertisement from making endorsement of any products or services in the future, for a period that may extend to one year. The ban may extend up to three years in every subsequent violation of the Act.
- For manufacture, selling, storage, distribution, or import of adulterated products, the penalties are:
- If injury is not caused to a consumer, fine up to Rs 1 lakh with imprisonment up to six months
- If injury is caused, fine up to Rs 3 lakh with imprisonment up to one year
- If grievous hurt is caused, fine up to Rs 5 lakh with imprisonment up to 7 years
- In case of death, fine of Rs 10 lakh or more with a minimum imprisonment of 7 years, extendable to imprisonment for life.
Power to Search and Seizure Power
- While conducting an investigation after preliminary inquiry, CCPA’s Investigation Wing will have the powers to enter any premise and search for any document or article, and to seize these.
- For search and seizure, the CCPA will have similar powers given under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- Protecting the interest of consumers is paramount for the government and the establishment of a central authority and initiating action as a class comes as an additional mode of relief which can be exercised along with individual consumers filing complaints to address their grievances.
- Recently, Tribal organizations in Meghalaya again started demanding the Inner Line Permit (ILP) system for restricting the entry of outsiders into the State. These demands have turned into violent protests across the state.
- The demand for Inner Line Permit in Meghalaya has been a demand for the last more than two decades and Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) has been leading it from the front.
- The Inner Line Permit is an official travel document that allows Indian citizens to stay in an area under the ILP system.
- The document is currently required by visitors to Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram.
- The ILP is issued by the concerned state government and can be availed through applying online or in person.
- The permits issued are mostly of different kinds, provided separately for tourists, tenants and for other purposes.
- The document states the dates of travel and specifies the particular areas in which the ILP holder can travel. It's illegal for the visitor to overstay the time granted in the permit.
Need for ILP
- To preservation of indigenous culture and tradition.
- To prevent illegal migrants and encroachment by outsiders.
- In 1873, under the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation Act, the British, in a bid to protect the Crown's (commercial) interests, framed regulations restricting the entry and regulating the stay of outsiders in designated areas. The Act was brought in to prevent "British subjects" (Indians) from trading within these regions.
- However, after partition in 1950, the Indian government replaced “British subjects” with “Citizen of India” and retained the ILP to protect the interests of the indigenous tribal communities of the Northeast.
Provision for Foreigners
An ILP is only valid for domestic tourists. For foreign tourists provisions include:
- Manipur: No permit is required. But have to register them.
- Mizoram: No permit is required. But need to register.
- Nagaland: No permit is required. However, they need to register.
- Arunachal Pradesh: Tourists need a Protected Area Permit (PAP) or Restricted Area Permit (RAP) from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
Should Meghalaya be brought under ILP?
- ILP means a lot to the tribals in Meghalaya given the pressure on their economy among others.
- The locals believe the migration of illegal immigrants to the state could be checked only through the ILP.
- Influx is perceived as dangerous because it could upset the fragile demographic balance of the tribals of Meghalaya.
ILP and CAA Connection
- The Citizenship Act enables non-Muslim refugees (Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians) from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan who arrived in the country before December 31, 2014, to obtain Indian citizenship.
- Although the rest of mainland India is protesting the Act for being anti-Muslim, for the northeast, the worry is entirely different. If the Act is implemented without the ILP, then the beneficiaries under CAA will become Indian citizens and will be allowed to settle anywhere in the country.
- However, the implementation of ILP bars the refugees from settling in the states under the ILP system.
- Assam and Tripura have been up in arms against the Act because these states share the longest borders with Bangladesh and have been subjected to the highest influx of Bengali-speaking undocumented refugees since the partition.
- Further, the Northeast is home to 238 indigenous tribes that constitute 26 percent of the region’s population and the tribal leaders state that continued influx of Bengali-speaking refugees will threaten their identity.
- In a move that will pave the way for assembly elections in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), the Centre has begun the process of fresh delimitation of assembly seats as well as readjustment of boundaries of parliamentary constituencies.
- Based on a request from the Ministry of Legislative Affairs (MLA), Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) has nominated Election Commissioner Sushil Chandra as his representative in the proposed Delimitation Commission for J&K.
- Prior to 2019, the State of Jammu and Kashmir had a bicameral legislature with a Legislative Assembly (lower house) and a Legislative Council (upper house). The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, passed by the Parliament of India in August 2019, replaced this with a unicameral legislature while also reorganised the state into a union territory.
- Even though the population in Jammu has increased over the years, Kashmir continues to have a disproportionately larger share of Assembly constituencies. This has effectively meant that only a party strong in Kashmir Valley is able to lead the state government.
History of Delimitation in Jammu & Kashmir
Composition of the Commission
- According to Section 3 of the Delimitation Commission Act, 2002, the Delimitation Commission appointed by the Centre has to have three members:
- A serving or retired judge of the Supreme Court as the chairperson
- The Chief Election Commissioner or Election Commissioner nominated by the CEC
- The State Election Commissioner as ex-officio member
- The delimitation panel will determine the assembly constituencies into which the UT shall be divided; the extent of such constituencies and which of these shall be reserved for SCs/STs.
- It is also tasked with adjustment of boundaries and description of the extent of parliamentary constituencies in each UT.
Increase in Seat
- According to the Act, the number of seats in the Assembly of J&K would be increased from 107 to 114 after delimitation, on the basis of the 2011 Census.
- Notably, 24 of the total seats in J&K remain perennially vacant as they are allotted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
- The Lok Sabha will have five seats from the UT of J&K, while Ladakh will have one seat.
What is Delimitation?
- Delimitation literally means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province having a legislative body.
- The job of delimitation is assigned to a high power body. Such a body is known as Delimitation Commission or a Boundary Commission.
- To provide equal representation to equal segments of a population.
- It also aims at a fair division of geographical areas so that one political party doesn’t have an advantage over others in an election.
- Under Article 82 of the Constitution, the Parliament by law enacts a Delimitation Act after every census. After coming into force, the Central Government constitutes a Delimitation Commission, comprising of a retired Supreme Court judge, the Chief Election Commissioner and the respective State Election Commissioner.
Process of Delimitation
- The Commission is also tasked with identifying seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes; these are where their population is relatively large. All this is done on the basis of the latest Census and, in case of difference of opinion among members of the Commission, the opinion of the majority prevails.
- After hearing the public, it considers objections and suggestions and carries out changes, if any, in the draft proposal.
- The final order is published in the Gazette of India and the State Gazette and comes into force on a date specified by the President.
Delimitation Commissions Till Now
- So far, Delimitation Commissions have been constituted 4 times :
- in 1952 under the Delimitation Commission Act, 1952
- in 1963 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1962
- in 1973 under Delimitation Commission Act, 1972
- in 2002 under Delimitation Commission Act, 2002.
- There was no delimitation after the 1981 and 1991 Censuses.
- Delimiting electoral boundaries can have major consequences for the voters, political groups and communities of interest residing within these constituencies as well as for the representatives elected to serve these constituencies. Ultimately, the election outcome and the political composition of the legislature may be affected by the constituency boundaries.
- A failure to recognize the importance of the electoral boundary, delimitation process, and its impact can have serious ramifications: If stakeholders suspect that electoral boundaries have been unfairly manipulated – benefiting some groups at the expense of others – this will affect the credibility and the legitimacy of the election process and its outcome.
- To sum up, delimitation is an integral part of the drive to achieve effective representation and governance in a democracy. The fewer the constraints it operates within, the more it will be able to contribute to this objective.