Unorganised workers have been hit hard

Paper: II

For Mains: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation.

Context of News:

  • At least six top corporate leaders are said to have recommended to Prime Minister that the government should make payments to unorganised sector workers since they bear the brunt of the severe lockdown measures to arrest the spread of Covid-19 disease.
  • With several parts of the country under lockdown, it is difficult at this juncture to gauge the extent of the economic fallout from the corona virus. It is likely that the disruptions in economic activity will continue well into the upcoming financial year.

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.

Why Unorganised workers will be Most Affected due To Covid-19:

  • As the unorganized sector suffers from cycles of excessive seasonality of employment, majority of the unorganized workers does not have stable durable avenues of employment. Even those who appear to be visibly employed are not gainfully and substantially employed, indicating the existence of disguised unemployment.
  • The workplace is scattered and fragmented. There is no formal employer – employee relationship
  • In rural areas, the unorganized labour force is highly stratified on caste and community considerations. In urban areas while such considerations are much less, it cannot be said that it is altogether absent as the bulk of the unorganized workers in urban areas are basically migrant workers from rural areas.
  • Workers in the unorganized sector are usually subject to indebtedness and bondage as their meager income cannot meet with their livelihood needs.
  • The unorganized workers are subject to exploitation significantly by the rest of the society. They receive poor working conditions especially wages much below that in the formal sector, even for closely comparable jobs, ie, where labour productivity are no different. The work status is of inferior quality of work and inferior terms of employment, both remuneration and employment.
  • Primitive production technologies and feudal production relations are rampant in the unorganized sector, and they do not permit or encourage the workmen to imbibe and assimilate higher technologies and better production relations. Large scale ignorance and illiteracy and limited exposure to the outside world are also responsible for such poor absorption.

Problems  with Laws /Schemes related to Unorganised Sector:

  • The Payment of Gratuity Act (1972), the Building and Construction Workers Act (1996) etc. reveal the attention given to the organized workers to attain different kinds of social security and welfare benefits. Though it has been argued that the above Acts are directly and indirectly applicable to the workers in the unorganized sector also, their contribution is very negligible to the unorganized workers.
  • Inspite of the fact that not much has been done in providing social security cover to the rural poor and the unorganized labour force, the country has made some beginning in that direction. Both the central and state governments have formulated certain specific schemes to support unorganized workers which fail in meeting with the real needs and requirements of the unorganized sector labour force.
  • Looking at the recent Unorganized Sectors’ Social Security Act (2008) , one really wonders if there is any provision for an unorganized worker in this Act other than some guidelines about the available social security schemes in the country. How can it be called an Act unless it has the legal binding and provisions of rights to work and entitlements under it?

Way Forward:

  • If India is forced into a lockdown for too long, the economic costs will be very large and the recovery will crucially depend on whether the pilot-light of the economy is kept lit through this period. This critically requires income transfers to vulnerable households and SMEs. India cannot complain that it does not have the fiscal space or the infrastructure to provide it.
  • 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.
  • As demand collapses, firms’ cash inflows will fall, impairing their ability to service their loans, pay their employees, suppliers. Thus some sort of regulatory forbearance, relaxation of classification norms of loans as NPA, a moratorium on interest payments, and a sort of a bridge loan to help the more vulnerable businesses will be required. The funding of such measures should be borne jointly by the Centre and the states even as they continue to implement measures to limit the spread of the virus, and mobilise and strengthen capacity to treat the infected.

India and world amid calibrated rise of China in UN system

Paper: II

For Prelims:  About WHO.

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

Context of News:

  • As the rise of the corona virus epidemic around the world has increased, a new confrontation has emerged between USA and China over biased work of WHO.The WHO leadership, especially its Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has been accused of serving China’s interests rather than preparing the world against the spread of the virus.

World Health Organization:

  • World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ specialized agency for Health was founded in 1948.
  1. Its headquarters are situated in Geneva, Switzerland.
  2. There are 194 Member States, 150 country offices, six regional offices.
  3. It is an inter-governmental organization and works in collaboration with its member states usually through the Ministries of Health.
  4. The WHO provides leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, articulating evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries and monitoring and assessing health trends.
  • Objectives:
  • To act as the directing and coordinating authority on international health work.
  • To establish and maintain effective collaboration with the United Nations, specialized agencies, governmental health administrations, professional groups and such other organizations as may be deemed appropriate.
  • To provide assistance to the Governments, upon request, in strengthening health services.
  • To promote cooperation among scientific and professional groups which contribute to the advancement of health.

Understand USA- China confrontation since Emergence of corona Virus:

  • In a bid to restore its reputation globally, China claims to have fundamentally contained the spread of corona virus in its hardest-hit areas and has pledged $20 million to help the World Health Organization to help improve public health systems in poor countries. Beijing is attempting to rebrand itself as the international leader in a global fight against a virus that likely originated in its own territory.
  • The race by medical workers to stop the deadly virus’s spread is playing out against a backdrop of big-power diplomatic rivalry between the United States and China, which are both seeking to use the calamity to stake out their claims to global influence.
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labeled the virus the “Wuhan virus”—angering  Chinese officials and others who say the label promotes xenophobia.
  • These charge against WHO leadership might have become a “tool of Chinese propaganda” shows how dramatically the relationship between Beijing and the world body has transformed in recent years.

Reasons for these Charges:

  • The basis for these charges of biased work by WHO are:
  1. WHO’s endorsement of the Chinese claim in mid-January that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus.
  2. Consistent support for Beijing’s handling of the crisis and criticism of other nations for imposing travel restrictions to and from China.
  3. Critics also believe the WHO lulled the world into complacence by delaying the decision on calling it a global emergency.

Reasons for changing closeness between China and WHO:

  • Some attribute the turnaround in the relationship between Beijing and WHO to China’s growing financial contributions.
  • Others suggest that China’s political support was crucial in the election of Tadros in 2017. Observers of the UN point to something more fundamental, a conscious and consequential Chinese effort to expand its clout in the multilateral system.
  • China, which was admitted to the UN system in the 1970s, was focused on finding its way in the 1980s, cautiously raised its profile in the 1990s, took on some political initiatives at the turn of the millennium and seized the leadership in the last few years.

Impact of Rise of China in UN Bodies on World and India:

  • Neither the West nor India has been prepared to deal with the impact of China’s rise on the UN system. The US and its allies bet that China will be a responsible stakeholder. China, of course, wants to set its own rules. Only the political innocents will be shocked by China’s natural ambition.
  • Problem for India:
  • India, which considered US dominance over the international institutions in the 1990s as a major threat, chose to align with China in promoting a “multipolar world”. Delhi convinced itself that despite differences over the boundary, Pakistan and other issues, there is huge room for cooperation with China.
  • Delhi discovered that Chinese global hegemony could be a lot more problematic than American primacy. After all, it is China that complicates India’s plans for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, protects Pakistan against international pressures on cross-border terrorism, and relentlessly pushes the UN Security Council to take up the Kashmir question.
  • China wants to be global leader: 
  • China wants to replace America as the dominant force in the UN. The US is now fighting back. Last month, Washington went all out to defeat the Chinese candidate for the leadership of an obscure UN agency called the World Intellectual Property Organisation.
  • As a nation battered by the Cultural Revolution, China used international cooperation and global institutions to rebuild itself in the last decades of the 20th century. Having developed its economy and advanced its scientific and technological base, China is now ready to reorder global governance and become a rule-maker.

Way Forward:

  • Whatever the merits of these arguments of WHO biases work towards Pro China, point to the new geopolitics of multilateralism, disprove the assumptions in both the West and India on China’s role in the UN, and underline Beijing’s success in the leveraging of international organisations for its national advantage.
  • Political ironies apart, if there is one lesson that India could learn from China’s experience with WHO and the UN, it is that multilateralism is not an end in itself for major powers. It is an important means to secure one’s national interest and shape the international environment.
  • Delhi needs to intensify the recalibration of India’s multilateralism, rewrite its diplomatic lexicon at the UN, and build new political coalitions that will simultaneously contribute to India’s internal modernisation and enhance its international influence. The corona crisis is a good moment to start writing a new script for India’s own health diplomacy.

 


Relevance of Bhagat Singh at Present Time

Paper: II

For Mains: Modern Indian History from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present- significant events, personalities, issues.

Context of News:

  • For the first time in the history of independent India, the martyrdom day (31 March) of Bhagat Singh, Raj guru and Sukhdev could not be observed in any meaningful way because of the state and self-imposed restrictions on public gatherings introduced as a precaution against the corona virus epidemic.

Relevance of Bhagat Singh:

  • Vision with Dedication:
  • Bhagat Singh evokes boundless approbation from people who already have a surfeit of heroes, for reasons that are far from simple. When most senior leaders of the country had only one immediate goal; the attainment of freedom, Bhagat Singh, hardly out of his teens, had the prescience to look beyond the immediate.
  • He was no ordinary revolutionary with a passion to die or kill for the cause of freedom. His vision was to establish a classless society and his short life was dedicated to the pursuit of this ideal.
  • Inclusive Society:
  • Bhagat Singh has left behind a significant intellectual legacy, which we need to engage with. Had he been alive and lived through independent India, he would have been disappointed with the way we built our new nation. For him Inquilab Zindabad was not merely an emotional war cry but was a lofty ideal to end class distinctions and which would give birth to a new state and a new social order.
  • One of his last messages from prison was, “The struggle in India would continue so long as a handful of exploiters go on exploiting the labour of the common people for their own ends. It matters little whether these exploiters are purely British capitalists, or British and Indians in alliance, or even purely Indian”.
  • The lesson left to humanity by Bhagat Singh’s short and sweet life is to never ignore the exploitation of the already poor by the wealthy, influential and the powerful.
  • Critic of Casteism and Communalism:
  • On the societal front and issues of caste and religious discriminations. Bhagat Singh had definitive views on both casteism and communalism in the 1920s. In his journalistic writings and court statements, he mocked the political leadership for its hypocrisy in dealing with these crucial issues, expressing surprise that we are still debating who should be allowed into a temple and who should have access to the Vedas. “A dog can sit in our lap”, he wrote, “can walk around freely in our kitchen while mere touch of a human being will lead to a religious outrage”.
  • Bhagat Singh categorically said that we need to be inclusive without emphasising on shuddhi or recitation of the kalma. According to him, religion should not matter at all, and if otherwise, then it was a social evil. Such an unequivocal position on caste and untouchability is rare to find, even amongst radical social reformers today.
  • He was blunt on the issue of communalism and saw communal amity as an important part of his political programme. However, unlike the Congress, he did not believe in the appeasement of religious faiths or in raising slogans such as Allah-o-Akbar, Sat Sri Akal and Bande Mataram as a means of demonstrating secular faith. On the contrary, he raised two slogans, Inquilab Zindabad and Hindustan Zindabad, hailing the revolution and the country. He thus stands out in bold relief as a modern national leader and thinker, emphasising the separation of religion from politics and state as true secularism.

Message to youth from Bhagat Singh:

  • Shaaheed Bhagat Singh is the role model for youth.Bhagat singh in the name of Balwant Singh wrote an article in 1925, which is still relevant after 87 years.  Youngsters need to imbibe the article.  To recognize their strength, he wrote
  • young age is the “basant” period of human life in which a person becomes intemperate.
  • Young age is uncontrollable like frantic elephant and strong as stormy rainfall.  It is wild like an earthquake, sweet like “Bharvi” sangeet, beautiful like dawn, cool like moon and temperate like hot afternoon of summer.
  • Youth age is like a bomb, ready for explosion. Bhagat Singh further said that young age is akin to loaded pistol in the pocket of a revolutionary, ready to be pumped into the enemy.
  • Youth age is like a sword, prepared to behead the enemy in the battle ground.  He said that young age between 16-25 years is very valuable, which cannot return back.  In these ten years, god packs the body with immense energy and courage.  It is unlikely that if a person does not have any major achievement in young age would have much to achieve in the rest of the life.
  • Realizing the strength of younger age, he said youthfulness is cool in appearance but it could be disastrous and terrible like earth quake.  While alerting, he said that in young age only two options are left, either ascent to the top of progress and growth or touch rock bottom in bad habits.
  • A youth could become a terrorist to scare entire world or could be a great warrior to save the nation.  Youth brings good luck to the nation. Youth is back bone of the nation.  Youthfulness is strong and firm like Bhakt Prahlad.  Youths have great heart, always ready for sacrifice.
  • Bhagat Singh said that youthfulness is a great creation of almighty.  The enthusiasm of a youth is strange, he is unconcerned, little careless but once decides no work is impossible.  Walking for many nights is an easy task; he could walk for miles and could elevate his society and the nation to a great height.  He could bow great empires.  He has sympathy towards depressed and oppressed section.  If you want blood donation, only a youth could help.
  • Bhagat Singh had called on the youth to wake up and struggle for the nation.  While indicating nation’s slavery he said wake up, open eyes, sun is rising from the east.  Now don’t sleep more and still if you want to sleep, rest in the lap of death and not in the lop of cowardliness.  Bhagat Singh’s call was to safeguard the nation, uprooting of corrupt system and eliminating inequality and suppression.

Way Forward:

  • Bhagat Singh early faith in violence and terrorism was qualitatively different from the contemporary terrorist violence and he transcended that, to eventually espouse a revolutionary vision to transform independent India into a secular, socialist and an egalitarian society.
  • Though he died at the young age of 24 years, he had a clear vision of an India which was not only politically free, but also free from poverty and social injustices. In one of his speeches, less than 2 months before his death, he stressed the need for a Socialist Revolution, through a political revolution.
  • Scientific temperament of Bhagat Singh is very relevant in today’s scenario. More than any other nationalist of his times, Bhagat Singh stressed the importance of being rational. He believed in ideological firmness and said, ‘Religion has no connection with the National Movement.’ Bold sentiments indeed, but very true. It is distressing to see that today Nationalism is being touted in the garb of religion and caste. This has resulted in fragmentation of society and in communal riots. Instead of insisting on religious instructions to our children, it would be better if we instruct them in the values of love and peaceful co existence.