The art of China’s legalpolitik

Paper: II

For Mains: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Context of News:

  • As the worldwide death toll from Covid-19 pandemic mounts by the weekend it had crossed 33,000, an important argument is unfolding about China’s responsibility for wreaking the havoc. Lawyers and activists have begun to sue China in US courts demanding compensation. Politicians are not far behind.

U.S., China Accuse Each Other Of Mishandling COVID-19 Outbreak:

  • In Washington D.C., China hawks are using the coronavirus pandemic to argue that the U.S. needs a tough economic and geopolitical stance against China. President Trump is echoing those views.
  • Initially, the Trump administration praised China for its response to the virus. But then more recently, President Trump has criticized the government in Beijing, saying they suppressed initial reports of the virus.
  • American lawyer Larry Klayman has filed a $20 trillion lawsuit against China for the creation and the release of the novel corona virus that has infected more than 334,000 people globally. The lawsuit also claims that the COVID-19 is an extremely dangerous disease because it has an extremely aggressive nature and was designed to mutate from person to person, spreading quickly.
  • Chinese government is biting the drum around the world for not naming Chinese virus or Wuhan virus.
  • Beijing, which was so eager to get the UNSC to discuss the situation in Jammu and Kashmir since last August, has simply blocked all suggestions for a discussion on the corona crisis in recent days.

International Law on Infectious Diseases and State Responsibility:

  • None of the treaties addressing the international spread of infectious diseases dating back to the nineteenth century have rules requiring payment of compensation for damage in other countries associated with violations of treaty rules. The leading contemporary treaty, the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR), has no provisions on this issue.
  • Customary international law on state responsibility holds that a state violating international law has “an obligation to make full reparation for the injury caused by the internationally wrong act.” This customary rule has played no discernable role in disease outbreaks over the long history of international health cooperation.

China’s Legal Responsibility:

  • China’s failures began at the local level, they quickly spread throughout China’s government, all the way up to Xi Jinping. He is now being pilloried by Chinese netizens for his failures of action and inaction. The most prominent critic, Xi has been criticised  for his mishandling of the corona virus.
  • China violated international law on infectious diseases and, under international legal principles of state responsibility, has an obligation to make full reparation for the harm done through, among other things; compensation that could amount to trillions of dollars is the one way forward.
  • Whether China violated international law on infectious diseases proves a complicated question, especially in light of the behavior of states during this period and the specific actions of the World Health Organization (WHO). The case for Chinese liability for COVID-19’s consequences seems less about international law than how the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China has shaped the politics of this pandemic.

Way Forward:

    • No one expects that China will fulfill its obligations, or take steps required by the law of state responsibility. So, how might the United States and other nations vindicate their rights? The legal consequences of an internationally wrongful act are subject to the procedures of the Charter of the United Nations. Chapter XIV of the charter recognizes that states may bring disputes before the International Court of Justice or other international tribunals.
    • Injured states are not without remedy. Barring any prospect for effective litigation, states could resort to self-help. The law of state responsibility permits injured states to take lawful countermeasures against China by suspending their own compliance with obligations owed to China as a means of inducing Beijing to fulfill its responsibilities and debt
    • Is this virus is a deliberate act of China to intentionally create a global pandemic, but its malfeasance is certainly the cause of it. An epidemiological model at the University of Southampton found that had China acted responsibly just one, two, or three weeks more quickly, the number affected by the virus would have been cut by 66 percent, 86 percent, and 95 percent, respectively. By its failure to adhere to its legal commitments to the International Health Regulations, the Chinese Communist Party has let loose a global contagion, with mounting material consequences.

Walking home: Who they are, why they are leaving

Paper: II

For Mains: Welfare Schemes for Vulnerable Sections of the population by the Centre and States and the Performance of these Schemes; Mechanisms, Laws, Institutions and Bodies constituted for the Protection and Betterment of these Vulnerable Sections.

Context of News:

  • Accessing the situation after lockdown, government has made payments to unorganised sector workers since they bear the brunt of the severe lockdown measures to arrest the spread of Covid-19 disease, but it remains to be seen how these money is reaching and by what time?

Unorganised Workers in India:

  • The government recognise that the informal sector and workers contribute significantly. The NSC’s 2012 report pegs it at “about 50% of the national product” without revealing how it arrived at such a conclusion.
  • Size and contribution to GDP:
  • The Economic Survey of last year, says “almost 93%” of the total workforce is ‘informal’. But the Niti Aayog’s Strategy for New India at 75, released in November 2018, said: “by some estimates, India’s informal sector employs approximately 85% of all workers. so there is huge mismatch between numbers from different sources.
  • It then goes on to describe the problem: “It is increasingly realised that lack of reliable statistics on the size, distribution and economic contribution of the sector has been a major constraint in providing a realistic understanding of the significance of the Indian economy, leading to its neglect in development planning.

How world is fighting Covid-19?

  • India:
  • As the number of COVID-19 cases reached 1,251 across the country (101 recovered, 32 dead), India is set to ramp up testing in 10 identified “hotspots” where “unusual” transmission has been detected.
  • India relies on isolation, quarantine and wait and watch methodology in fight against covid-19.
  • France:
  • The French government has advised its citizens to abandon the customary “bise” greeting involving kissing each other on the cheek in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • Iran:
  • As the Middle East’s worst hit country, nearly 3,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Iran, including more than 20 lawmakers. The country’s parliament has been suspended indefinitely and MPs have been asked to cancel all public meetings.
  • Iran’s death toll is the third highest, after China and Italy, and medical supplies are running short. Exports of face masks are banned for three months, while Iran’s factories produce new supplies for local people.
  • United States:
  • California has declared a state of emergency after the first death in the state. The move follows Washington and Florida both declaring a state of emergency. The government is preventing entry to anyone who has visited China in the last 14 days and has expanded testing nationwide.
  • As of now, Trump administration is not nor going for lockdown, even though there is sharp rise in number of cases registered in USA.
  • South Korea:
  • South Korea has the most cases of any nation outside of China. Strict self-isolation requirements are in force throughout the country, with fines or a potential prison sentence awaiting anyone found violating the rules.
  • South Korea has adopted the methodology of aggressive testing and has been successful in containing the spread of virus.

Reasons for Reverse Migration:

  • Hunger Major Factor:
  • Poor implementation of meal programmes, low awareness, the standing rabi crop waiting to be harvested, and the fleeting possibility of transport, which brought migrants to the streets even in Kerala, where they had thus far accepted their confinement far from home.
  • Rumour and fake news:
  • Rumours like month or two long lockdown and uncertainty in policy has led to sudden explosion of migrants for going back home.
  • As a country, we have not succeeded in making people believe that the state is there for them, that it will have their back for as long as it takes that it is their right as citizens of India. The poor see and experience the state often through a lens of violence and control, as evidenced in the recent orders, and rarely through a prism of care.

Way Forward:

  • A two-pronged approach can be considered.
  1. Promise them that, if they want to, arrangements will be made to take them home but only if they came, registered and stayed in designated shelters  and calling them “temporary jails” is unhelpful. Given the understandable distrust of government, this has to be a credible promise either from the home minister or prime minister.
  2. To control transmission, we need to identify the migrants and their destination so that local governments can be informed. This can be collected from their Aadhaar cards at registration.Panchayats need to be prepared to combat the epidemic. Concurrently, to identify places receiving migrants, which are thus priority high-risk areas of COVID transmission, telecom firms can be asked to analyse VLR data from their base stations, especially before and after the lockdown, to identify areas showing a rise in subscribers, and if possible, their previous location.
  • Explaining the rationale behind the decision to step up testing in hotspots, the source said that by the 100 cases to one death surveillance ballpark, India’s current number of cases is less than half of what it should be. We may be missing out something. There is as of now no change in testing strategy, but we are pulling out all the stops in the door-to-door containment plan.
  • The policy response to deal with this public health crisis requires coordinated action at both Central and state levels. It should aim to limit the immediate economic fallout through some forms of targeted income support, especially for those in the more vulnerable segments of the informal economy, ensure continuity in supply chains for essential items, and easier financing conditions.