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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | 12th May’20 | PDF Download

The need for a second chamber

  • Consensus, not confusion A welcome change Target WTO Legal but not appropriate Equal freedom and forced labour The need for a second chamber
  • The Rajya Sabha came into being on April 3, 1952 and held its first session on May 13 the same year.
  • The second chamber underwent severe prenatal scrutiny in the Constituent Assembly.
  • Discussed at length between proponents and opponents.
  • The central legislature that came into being under the Government of India Act, 1919 was bicameral with a Council of States comprising 60 members and a Legislative Assembly comprising 145 members.
  • The membership and voting norms for the Council of States were restrictive.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 proposed an elaborate and improved version of the second chamber, but this never materialised.
  • The Constituent Assembly, which was formed in 1947, after adoption of the Constitution became the Provisional Parliament and made laws till 1952.

Bicameralism and federalism

  • This principle came into operation in 1787 with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. Its appeal grew in strength from time to time.
  • At present, 79 Parliaments of the world (41% of the total number) are bicameral.
  • Federalism has been in vogue since ancient times when some states got together to confer the power of law-making on a central authority.
  • In The Federalist, the famous essays written in 1787-88 by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to explain the U.S. Constitution, it was stated that the second chamber
  • Enables a second and reflective expression of representative opinion
  • Besides checking the propensity to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions
  • Montesquieu: “The legislative body being composed of two parts, they check one another by the mutual privilege of rejecting”.
  • Federalism and bicameralism are linked because the federal character of a nation comprising constituent units can be reflected in, and secured by, a bicameral legislature.

Constituent Assembly debates

  • Mohd. Tahir: Upper House was not essential and viewed it as a creation of imperialism.
  • Professor Shibban Lal Saksena: “clog in the wheel of progress”
  • Naziruddin Ahmad: it would introduce an element of sobriety and second thought besides lending voice to the constituent units in the legislative scheme of things.
  1. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar: would enable the genius of the people to have full play besides checking hasty legislation.
  2. Gopalaswami Ayyangar: “the most that we expect the Second Chamber to do is perhaps to hold dignified debates on important issues and to delay legislations which might be the outcome of passions of the moment until the passions have subsided and calm consideration could be bestowed on the measures which will be before the Legislature.”
  • Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the first Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, while replying to the felicitations on becoming the Chairman, said that Parliament is not only a legislative body but also a deliberative one which enables the members to debate major issues of public importance. He echoed what James Madison, one of the authors of The Federalist, said about 165 years earlier in an essay: that the role of the Upper House is to be a deliberative body besides balancing the “fickleness and passion” of the elected House.
  • So, what follows from the above discussion is that the House elected directly by the people is susceptible to passions of the moment and electoral considerations.
  • Their imprint on legislation needs to be checked by the second chamber whose members are expected to be sober, wise and wellinformed with domain knowledge.
  • To revise or delay legislation without proving a clog in the wheel of progress.
  • To represent the interests of the States as a federal chamber.
  • Be a deliberative body holding high-quality debates on important issues.

Consensus, not confusion

  • The Centre’s move to run 15 pairs of trains between New Delhi and major cities will serve as a trial for further relaxation of lockdown travel restrictions.
  • The new trains are a lifeline for stranded citizens, although the scheme has been designed as a limited air-conditioned service for higher fare paying travellers.
  • Thousands of migrant workers will continue to look for Shramik Special trains to get home.
  • The pass system is becoming dysfunctional.
  • Quarantine facilities have come under strain.
  • Cases of expatriates testing positive, as in Kerala, have added to their worries.
  •  Home Ministry’s Standard Operating Protocol for the relief train services merely orders passengers to adhere to health protocols prescribed by the destination State or Union Territory.
  • It is important for States to agree on a standard protocol on how to deal with travellers, whose numbers are bound to grow.

At the destination, unless medically warranted, passengers can self-quarantine at home.

A welcome change

  • With the ethics committee approval in hand on May 8, the ICMR cleared the last hurdle to conduct a multicentric phase-2 trial using convalescent plasma on COVID-19 patients with moderate illness.
  • ICMR will study plasma safety and efficacy in a phase-2 trial with 452 patients.
  1. The primary outcomes of the trial in 21 hospitals that will be studied include prevention of illness from progressing to a severe form, and avoidance of deaths from all causes at 28 days after plasma infusion.
  2. And key secondary outcomes will include resolution of symptoms, reduction in hospital stay and respiratory support.
  • Plasma will be collected from donors 28 days after they make a complete recovery from illness or are symptom-free and have more than the required level of antibodies against the novel coronavirus.
  • Convalescent plasma therapy, about a century old, has shown some benefit in treating measles, chickenpox and rabies.
  • Small studies have shown faster clearance of virus in the case of MERS and SARS if given early in the course of the disease but no randomised controlled studies have been carried out.
  • However, no benefit was seen in 2015 on some Ebola patients treated with convalescent plasma in Guinea.
  • Even in the absence of any effective treatment or a vaccine, the pandemic provides an opportunity to ascertain the clinical benefits of plasma therapy through randomised controlled trials.
  • The U.S. FDA and India have thus approved the use of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients only for trial purposes.
  • If the trial outcomes are overwhelmingly positive, the agency would be ethically obliged to recommend plasma therapy as a standard of care for COVID-19 patients.

Target WTO

  • Abolish the World Trade Organisation: it has come in a forceful article published last week in The New York Times by a US senator, Josh Hawley, from Missouri.
  • Hawley says the emergency triggered by the corona pandemic is not a mere health crisis. With millions of Americans unemployed, “it is also an economic crisis. And it has exposed a hard truth about the modern global economy: it weakens American workers and has empowered China’s rise.”
  • Hawley acknowledged that under WTO, “capital and goods moved across borders easier than before”; but added, “so did jobs”.
  • The internationalists embroiled America in one foreign war after another.
  • Trade and China are very important in this election.
  • Trump campaign whips up the theme of “Beijing Biden”
  • In replacing the WTO, Hawley says, “the United States must seek new arrangements and new rules, in concert with other free nations, to restore America’s economic sovereignty”.
  • This in turn involves, “building a new network of trusted friends and partners to resist Chinese economic imperialism”.
  • Delhi should pay close attention to Hawley’s theme on working with “trusted friends and parters” to restructure international trade.
  • Reuters reported from Washington that the Trump Administration is “turbocharging” an initiative to rearrange the global supply chains currently centred on China.
  • All major economies will be drawn into this conflict.

 Legal but not appropriate

  • Over the last few days, many States have made changes to their labour laws.
  • Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab have extended the maximum daily hours of work in a factory from eight/nine to 12, and allowed up to 72 hours a week in overtime.
  • The provision of paying overtime wages at twice the normal rate would apply for working beyond these limits.
  • Gujarat has made a similar change but the wages for overtime will be at the same rate (not double).
  • Uttarakhand has increased the daily limit to 11 hours with overtime limited to 18 hours a week.
  • Haryana has allowed work for 12 hours a day, and up to 60 hours a week, with overtime pay.
  • Madhya Pradesh has made similar changes.
  • These changes have been made through notifications issued by the State governments, and will be applicable for the next three months.
  • The Uttar Pradesh government has approved an ordinance that exempts establishments from all labour laws for three years with some exceptions (safety and security of workers, provisions related to employing women and children, payment of wages on time and above prescribed minimum wages, and no bonded labour).
  • The question is, was there sufficient consultation before all these changes were made?
  • As per the Constitution, legislature has the authority to make laws.
  • The Factories Act allows State governments to exempt factories from the provisions of the Act during public emergencies for a maximum period of three months.
  • A public emergency is defined as a grave emergency whereby the security of India or any part is threatened by war, external aggression or internal disturbance.
  • The Constitution also permits Central and State governments to make laws through the issuance of an ordinance when the legislature is not in session.
  • While the changes made are lawful, we need to see whether it is appropriate to make such far-reaching provisions without scrutiny by the legislature.
  • Usually, any change in an Act follows a rigorous process of public consultation, scrutiny by committees of Parliament, and debates in the House before being approved.
  • Several regulations have been formulated to tackle COVID19.
  • There have been over 4,300 notifications by the Central and State governments since the beginning of March.

 Equal freedom and forced labour

  • B.R. Ambedkar: fundamental rights must also “eliminate the possibility of the more powerful having the power to impose arbitrary restraints on the less powerful by withdrawing from the control he has over the economic life of the people” — or, more euphemistically, to tackle the “the dictatorship of the private employer”.
  • Labour movements had been key to the successful freedom struggle, and indeed, the 1931 Karachi Declaration and Bill of Rights — a fore-runner to the Constitution — expressly placed labour rights on a par with ordinary civil rights such as the freedom of speech and expression.
  • In its Preamble, it declared that “political freedom must include… real economic freedom of the… millions”.
  • How do we understand the concepts of “force” and “freedom”?
  • As K.T. Shah, another member of the Constituent Assembly, famously wrote, “necessitous men are not free men”.
  • Supreme Court in a landmark judgment, PUDR vs. Union of India, the Court held that the right against forced labour included the right to a minimum wage.
  • It noted that often, migrant and contract labourers had “no choice but to accept any work that came [their] way, even if the remuneration offered… is less than the minimum wage”.
  • Consequently, the Court held that “the compulsion of economic circumstance which leaves no choice of alternatives to a person in want and compels him to provide labour or service” was no less a form of forced labour than any other, and its remedy lay in a constitutional guarantee of the minimum wage.
  • “PRIVATE GOVERNMENT” is a situation in which there exists democracy in the political sphere, but unilateral termsetting in the context of the workplace.
  • What is very clear, however, is that the steps being taken by various State governments, ostensibly under cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, are grossly unconstitutional: various State governments are in the process of removing labour laws altogether (for a set period of time).
  • What this means, in practice, is that the economic power exercised by capital will be left unchecked.

 NEWS

  • Modi asks States to prepare for ramping up economic activity
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said at a video conference with Chief Ministers that the lockdown would continue in some form or the other even after May 17, but that the State governments should send in their plans for ramping up economic activity in green zones between May 15 and 17 for consideration by the Centre.
  • In a marathon meeting that lasted (with a half-an -hour break in between) for nearly six hours, and saw most Chief Ministers speak their mind, Mr. Modi said the imperative was to protect rural areas from the COVID-19 pandemic as these areas were largely untouched at the moment.
  • According to one Chief Minister who spoke to The Hindu, Mr. Modi indicated that a full exit from the lockdown was not possible in the current circumstances, especially since five Chief Ministers, including those of West Bengal, Telangana and Bihar, asked for an extension.
  • He said, “I am of the firm view that the measures needed in the first phase of lockdown were not needed during the second phase and similarly the measures needed in the third phase are not needed in the fourth.”
  • India adds 4,213 cases in highest single-day rise
  • The country on Monday registered its highest spike in COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours with an addition of 4,213 cases, taking the tally to 67,152.
  • SC sets up panel to look into J&K Internet curbs
  • The Jammu and Kashmir government’s orders do not reveal any reason for making mobile 4G Internet inaccessible across the Union Territory (UT), the Supreme Court said in an order on Monday.
  • Besides, the government orders snipping the Internet speed to 2G were meant to operate for only a limited time.
  • The top court appointed a special committee led by the _____________ to “immediately” determine the necessity of continuing the restrictions.
  • Govt. to give ₹5,000 each to 40,000 workers
  • The government on Monday said they will provide ₹5,000 to construction workers here again this month in the wake of the extended lockdown.
  • Nepal summons Indian envoy over border row
  • Nepal on Monday summoned the Indian envoy and handed a diplomatic note of protest over the construction of a link road that will reduce travelling time from India to the pilgrimage zone of Kailash Mansarovar in China’s Tibet.
  • Indian Ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra was met by Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, who conveyed Nepal’s territorial claims over the Kalapani region.
  • The diplomatic note was in line with the statement from Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which recalled the bilateral treaties, and urged India from carrying out any further activities in the region.
  • ‘India part of race to develop a vaccine’
  • There are nearly 30 “attempts” from India to develop vaccines, K .VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Union government, said at an online web conference on Friday.
  • There are over a 100 vaccines being developed worldwide and at least 30 attempts in India. These include efforts where India is participating in global attempts and partnerships among Indian academia and industry,” he said during the webinar organised by the Confederation for Indian Industry (CII) and the Technology Development Board of the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • Putin announces end to non-working period
  • President Vladimir Putin on Monday said Russia’s non-working period imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus will be lifted from Tuesday.
  • Europe emerges from curbs, but Asia fears a second wave
  • France, Spain, Germany reopen economies; Britain plots a path to normality
  • Gulf region has more than 100,000 cases
  • The number of coronavirus cases in the six Gulf Arab states surpassed 100,000 on Monday, with 557 deaths, according to Reuters calculations based on official figures.
  • Israel govt. swearing-in postponed by a day
  • The swearing-in of Israel’s new unity government has been postponed by one day to Thursday due to the upcoming visit of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, officials said. A Parliament spokesman said the joint administration of Premier Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz would be inaugurated on Thursday instead of Wednesday. AFP

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