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Current Affairs 17th June 2024 for UPSC Prelims Exam

Tarang Shakti- 2024

Context: The Indian Air Force (IAF) is set to conduct its first-ever multinational exercise named Tarang Shakti.

About Tarang Shakti- 2024

  • Host: Indian Air Force (IAF)
  • Event: First-ever multinational air exercise of India.
  • Venue: Jodhpur, Rajasthan
  • Participants: Ten countries, including the US, UK, Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the UAE.
  • Objective: Joint training, knowledge exchange, and enhancement of operational coordination.
  • Aim: To improve mutual understanding and compatibility among air forces, promoting regional stability and security.
  • Significance: It represents a unique opportunity for these nations to collaborate and enhance their tactical and operational capabilities.
  • Features: A variety of aircraft, including fighter jets, military transport aircraft, mid-air refuelers, and AWACS.
Other Combat Exercises Involving IAF
  • Exercise Garuda: Indo-French air combat training.
  • Exercise Cope India: Indo-US bilateral exercise.
  • Exercise Desert Knight: Indo-French joint air exercise.
  • Exercise Pitch Black: Multinational air combat exercise in Australia.
  • Exercise Red Flag: Multinational advanced aerial combat training exercise in U.S.
  • Exercise Orion: Multinational exercise hosted by the French government.

Under Kafala, workers are dispensable

Context: There is a need to humanise migrant workers and safeguard their rights, which would require dismantling the Kafala system.

Background

  • A fire in the Mangaf area of Al Ahmadi municipality, Kuwait, killed 49 migrant workers, mostly Indians.
  • Kuwait’s Interior Minister, Fahad Al-Yousuf Al-Sabah, blamed the fatalities on the greed of the employer and building owner, NBTC.
Facts
  • With 18 million international migrants residing primarily in the UAE, USA, and Saudi Arabia, India hosts the world’s largest number of international migrants.
  • India came in 13th as the destination country for immigrants, with 4.48 million.
  • Foreigners make up 70% of Kuwait’s 4.3 million population and a significant portion of the GCC states’ populations (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman).
  • The six GCC states house around 35 million migrant workers, accounting for 10% of all international migrants, with Indians being the largest group.
  • The Government of India launched a portal “Madad” that has enabled migrant workers from the country to file their grievances.

Challenges Associated

  • Labor Accommodation Issues: Migrants live in crowded, unsafe, and unhygienic accommodations.
    • During the COVID-19 pandemic, GCC states struggled to contain the virus in labour accommodations.
    • Kuwait implemented discriminatory lockdowns and deported tens of thousands of workers in April 2020.
    • Despite having housing standards, Kuwait focuses more on evicting ‘bachelors’ from family zones and relocating them to subpar spaces rather than ensuring decent housing.
  • Economic Disparities and Kafala System: Employers in government contracts must provide housing or an allowance (25% of wages for minimum wage earners or 15% for higher earners). The cost of decent living is around KD200 per person, not including rent.
    • The discrepancy between the cost of living and wages is a control factor in the Kafala system.
    • Migrant workers are dependent on employers for accommodation, food, and transportation.
    • Low wages prevent migrants from bringing their families, ensuring their perpetual vulnerability and limited socio-cultural space.
  • Challenges to Labor Organizing: GCC states do not permit labour organising or unionisation, preventing workers from challenging the status quo.
What is the Kafala System?
  • It is prevalent in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) as well as Jordan and Lebanon.
  • Under this system, the state grants local individuals or companies sponsorship permits to employ foreign labourers.
    • In Bahrain, however, a government agency acts as the worker’s sponsor rather than the employer.
  • It was initially created to provide cheap and abundant labour during periods of rapid economic growth, with proponents arguing that it benefits local businesses and drives development.
  • Responsibilities and Living Conditions: Sponsors are responsible for covering travel expenses and providing housing, often in dormitory-like accommodations or, for domestic workers, in the sponsor’s home.
    • Sometimes, sponsors use private recruitment agencies in the workers’ countries of origin to find labourers and facilitate their entry into the host country.
  • Legal and Protective Gaps: The system falls under the jurisdiction of interior ministries rather than labour ministries, leaving workers without protection under host country labour laws.
    • This vulnerability denies workers rights such as the ability to enter labour disputes or join unions.
    • Employment and residency visas are linked, with only sponsors able to renew or terminate them, giving private citizens control over workers’ legal statuses and creating a power imbalance ripe for exploitation.
  • Restrictions and Consequences: Workers usually need their sponsor’s permission to transfer jobs, end employment, or enter and exit the host country.
  • Leaving the workplace without permission results in the termination of the worker’s legal status and can lead to imprisonment or deportation, even if the worker is fleeing abuse.
  • Workers have limited recourse against exploitation, leading many experts to argue that the system facilitates modern slavery.

Conclusion

  • Better safety checks, higher living standards, and worker organisation could have potentially prevented the tragedy.
  • In the aftermath of incidents, Kuwaiti officials may promise stricter penalties but are likely to rely on policing rather than implementing systemic changes that empower workers to voice grievances.

Examples, Case Studies And Data

  • Global Gender Gap 2024 (GS 2): The global gender gap has closed to 68.5% in 2024, up slightly from 68.4% in 2023.
    • At this slow pace, achieving full parity will take 134 years, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
    • Top- Ranked: Iceland remains the top-ranked country with 5% of its gender gap closed.
      • It is the only economy to have closed over 90% of its gender gap.
    • India’s Position: India has slipped to 129th out of 146 countries, down from 127th in 2023. In 2022, India was ranked 135th.
    • India has closed 1% of its gender gap in 2024, indicating significant room for improvement.
    • Areas of Decline for India:
      • The slight regression is due to small declines in education and political empowerment.
      • Education Gaps: The literacy rate gap between men and women is 17.2 percentage points. India is ranked 124th in this indicator.
      • Political Empowerment: Women’s representation in Parliament remains low.
        • In the newly elected Lok Sabha, women make up 13.6% of the members (74 out of 543), down from 78 in 2019.
    • Economic Participation and Opportunity: India has shown slight improvement in economic participation and opportunity in recent years.
      • To match its 2012 score of 46%, India needs to improve by 6.2 percentage points.

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