In the pandemic, the disabled remain an invisible minority

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

According to a report by the National Centre for the Promotion of Employment for Disabled Persons (NCPEDP) — which includes results from a study of 1,067 people with disabilities (about 73% male, 27% female) — over 73% of those surveyed experienced serious difficulties due to the lockdown.

Challenges:

  • The pandemic has various implications for people with disabilities.

Medical needs:

  • People with disabilities have pre-existing medical conditions like MRSA [an infection], or have compromised spinal cords, which make them more susceptible to virus infection.
  • The inaccessibility to healthcare because of the lockdown imposes a great challenge on the differently-abled owing to their medical conditions.
  • There is lack of accessibility in the quarantine centres for the differently-abled people.

Negligence:

  • The challenges faced by the differently-abled people point to a larger problem of invisibilisation of the struggles of persons with disability. People with disability have no representation in Parliament; hence, nobody cares to ensure the policies made for the differently-abled are intersectional in nature.
  • Policies being framed seem to be oblivious to the needs of the specially-abled individuals.
  • The increasing insistence on online education seems to be ignorant of the special needs of children with visual disorders or hearing disorders. There seems to be a lack of inclusiveness of people with disabilities in online education.
  • Social distancing is not possible for those with disabilities. The concept of social distancing is redundant for differently-abled people who need assistance for their daily activities.

Class divide:

  • A large class divide has become increasingly visible in the lockdown.
  • Individuals with disability and their families are at a greater risk of poor health and quality of life outcomes because either their social status is affected by their disabilities or their disabilities are made worse by the inaccessibility that comes with social status.
  • Lower income levels have been consistently correlated with poor health and inferior quality of life.

Way forward:

  • The government needs to step in with enhanced support for this vulnerable class of people. This could involve enhanced assistance for the differently-abled. Medical needs of this section should receive special attention. Policies being framed during the pandemic need to take into consideration the special needs.

Long term policy changes:

  • There is a need for an interlinking of policymakers with disability as the focus. This could be done through the creation of Joint Secretary-level positions for disability affairs in the Health, Home and Information and Broadcasting Ministries.
  • These officers would connect the department and concerned ministries; ensuring disability is not overlooked during policy formulation.

SC to extend virtual court system amid COVID-19 fears

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

A committee of Supreme Court judges has decided to continue the virtual court system and not revert to the physical hearings, given the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Details:

  • The SC has been hearing urgent cases through video-conference. The court had named this mechanism the ‘virtual court system’.
  • The Supreme Court Advocates-on Record Association, the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Bar Council of India have been making representations to the SC calling for resumption of physical hearings at the earliest.
  • They have argued that a majority of the lawyers cannot effectively present their arguments at virtual hearings.

MSMEs wait for work as demand slumps post lockdown

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

Though many unit owners claimed that they had retained their staff in the hope of the demand to augment, they conceded that it would be difficult to do so beyond a few months if the situation persists. Prashant of “Press Metals Engineers”, a three-tier supplier to Maruti Suzuki, manufacturing air-conditioner parts, says that none of his workers got ration and financial aid from the government. He says he could not pay his workers for the month of April, but any government aid to them would have been a big help for him.

Concerns:

  • Despite the resumption of production in MSMEs, there is little business. Demand has slumped by large margins.
  • A large number of people employed in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises have lost their jobs due to slump in demand post lockdown.
  • Apart from the direct employees who have lost jobs, people indirectly dependent on the functioning of the MSMEs have also lost livelihood opportunities.
  • Given the increasing number of COVID cases and the surrounding uncertainty, it seems possible that it may take months before the ground situation improves. This could deal a severe financial blow to the MSMEs whose financial condition is already fragile.

Government efforts:

  • Despite the governmental efforts, there have been concerns raised about the “inadequate” efforts of the government for small businesses. Benefits, even if announced, have not reached many.

Way forward:

Government should support the MSMEs until the situation comes back to normal. The government can help create demand by allowing big companies to work and lift all restrictions.


India looks to deploy Naval Liaisons

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in News:

India looks to deploy naval liaisons at Madagascar, Abu Dhabi for information exchange

Background:

  • India joined the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) as Observer in March 2020.
  • The IOC is a regional forum in the Southwest Indian Ocean, comprising five nations — Comoros, France (Reunion), Madagascar, Mauritius and Seychelles. China and the European Union (EU) have been Observers in the IOC since 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Key Details:

  • India is looking to post Navy Liaison Officers at the Regional Maritime Information Fusion Centre (RMIFC) in Madagascar, functioning under the aegis of the IOC and also at the European maritime surveillance initiative in the Strait of Hormuz (EMASOH) for improved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).
  • The headquarters of the EMASOH is based at the French naval base in Abu Dhabi.

Significance:

  • The aim of the EMASOH is to monitor maritime activity and guarantee freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Given that a large volume of India’s trade happens through this region, this will benefit India.
  • This move will help improve the linkages of the Navy’s Information Fusion Centre for Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) in Gurugram with other IFCs and enable it to become the repository for all maritime data in the IOR.
  • The Indian Navy set up the IFC-IOR in December 2018 to track maritime movements in the region.