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The Hindu Editorial Analysis | 17th June’20 | PDF Download

Rural India, the new viral flash point

  • The medical services in these urban areas Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai to cite the three major epicentres of the epidemic — have been overwhelmed.
  • 65% of the country’s population is rural.
  • Rural people have been relatively underexposed, with very few cases and deaths.
  • Thus, the large, vulnerable majority in rural India is yet to feel the heat of this epidemic.
  • Just as importations from other countries through air traffic set the stage for the urban blight, importations from urban to rural India will set the stage for the rural wave.
  • There has always been an urban-rural divide in India in health care and education, two vital indices of human development.
  • This deficiency has been very costly not only in terms of rural lives and livelihoods but also overall national wealth creation.
  • The rural wave is just beginning while the urban wave is about to peak.
  • We find that rural people are going about without masks or physical distancing, congregating in marketplaces and places of worship.
  • The most important step would be to educate rural people with all the tools at our disposal — print, radio, the electronic media, and messages through mobile phones.
  • We need to give them accurate information in simple language to make them clearly understand that their self-protection and the protection of their families are entirely in their hands.
  • Two behaviourial changes are critical — every man, woman and child must wear a cotton cloth mask when out of the home, and observe strict hand hygiene.
  • We need a systematic approach.
  • Blocking urban-rural importations.
  • Quarantining those who move from red zone to green.
  • Diagnosing and managing clinical COVID-19 syndrome with or without positive PCR test results.
  • Providing field hospitals exclusively for isolating and managing COVID-19 cases.
  • Protect and sustain existing hospitals and primary health centres.
  • Mildly and moderately symptomatic COVID-19 patients should be managed by home isolation, delivering essential and medical supplies at home, and home monitoring of oxygen saturation by readily available portable finger pulse oximeters.
  • Each such patient should be followed up daily by a designated medical professional, who should call over the phone and identify those who need hospitalisation for life-threatening pneumonia.
  • If we are caught napping at this crucial hour, it will be a monumental error for which we can never forgive ourselves.

Closed again

  • The Tamil Nadu government’s decision to impose a complete lockdown in Chennai and parts of neighbouring Chengalpattu, Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur for 12 days from June 19.
  • There is a rising apprehension that the coronavirus pandemic has spun out of control.
  • Mortality has also risen.
  • Nudged public into healthy behaviour.
  • The national experience with a lockdown makes it clear that it is a blunt weapon, useful only for a brief period, and to support a clear plan of action.
  • State has now promised ₹1,000 to ration card holders, and the disabled.
  • There is also a case to allow door delivery of all materials by e-commerce sites, barring in containment zones.
  • Tamil Nadu’s latest measure seems to have caught some sections of industry, such as the automotive sector that depends on a stable supply chain, by surprise.
  • The economy today is complex and a more transparent and consultative approach is necessary to plan for the future.

Of Gods and governments

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is unleashing a flurry of contractual disputes.
  • Due to the lockdowns, a large number of companies and individually owned enterprises find their contractual obligations impossible to meet or economically ruinous, especially in the aviation, automobile, construction, hospitality and entertainment, retail, and insurance sectors.
  • Consequently, they have refused the promised employment and suspended supplies of goods or services, triggering legal claims of compensation from the counterparties.
  • Many parties have invoked COVID-19 as force majeure (FM) — an event that is beyond the control of the parties and renders contractual performance impossible.
  • Acts of the government (such as lockdowns) and acts of god (such as floods, cyclones) are typically listed under a force majeure (FM) clause.
  • This provision reduces the scope of dispute between parties in case a FM event occurs.
  • Catch-all phrases:events including but not limited to the ones listed herein’.
  • How the courts and the regulators adjudicate contractual disputes will determine the distribution of losses among the disputants and, more importantly, the quantum of economic cost of the pandemic.
  • Clear and consistent judgments will discourage opportunistic behaviour and encourage pre-trial negotiations thereby avoiding unnecessary litigation and attendant social costs.
  • COVID-19 is not FM per se. It is the lockdowns, not the virus, that has made it impossible for the airlines, hotels and caterers to deliver as promised and contractors to complete projects on schedule.
  • A justifiable use of COVID-19-induced lockdown as FM or an event causing frustration of contract is subject to context and facts.
  • Thousands of prior bookings had to be cancelled due to ban of flights during the lockdown (a FM event in this case).
  • What is troublesome is that rather than refunding the cancelled tickets, airlines have sought to convert them into credit shells usable only for buying future tickets from the same carrier.
  • This is an opportunistic move.
  • The Supreme Court in Naihati Jute Mills Ltd v. Hyaliram Jagannath (1967) held that a contractual obligation becoming economically arduous is not a ground for absolving a party of its commitment.
  • Courts and regulators should encourage litigants to go for negotiations or mediation to settle disputes.
  • In most cases, a middle ground exists within the contract letter.
  • Business losses caused by epidemics and lockdowns tend to be numerous and highly correlated.
  • That is why standard insurance policies do not allow compensation for such losses.
  • Allowing a single claim will set a precedent for all, potentially bankrupting the insurance industry.

For better conditions of work

  • Many migrant workers said they worked as tailors in the cities, many as plumbers, some as cooks, and some as construction workers.
  • All of them can form cooperatives.
    • For example, if in a village in Bihar several tailors come together to form a cooperative society of tailoring, they could attract contracts from garment manufacturers in Bihar and also elsewhere.
  • There are many government agencies that have been mandated to help build cooperative societies. There are also cooperative banks to help such societies.
  • With large national institutions enabling such cooperative societies, groups of migrant workers can find institutional strength.
  • Form service cooperatives.
  • Give MGNREGA better shape so that MGNREGA funds can be used to enable women or artisans to market their products.
  • Successful unionisation of workers can protect them from exploitation.

In defence of MPLADS

  • Subhash Kashyap, in Our Parliament, has enumerated the multiple functions of Parliament.
  • It includes political and financial control, supervision of administration, elicitation and dissemination of information on the government of the day, grievance ventilation, national integration, legislative and constituent functions and furnishing leadership to the nation.
  • The functions are non-exhaustive and incremental.
  • The responsibility of an MP does not end with the supervision of administration and legislation.
  • He has to find solutions to the grievances of the electorate of his constituency and promote their developmental aspirations.
  • As Parliament is a multifunctional institution, an MP is a multifunctional representative.
  • His representative and grievance ventilation functions should not end with petitioning ministers and officials.
  • An MP knows the developmental and welfare issues of his constituency better than anyone else.
  • The Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) has enabled MPs to play a leadership role in the developmental process of his constituency and sort out its day-to-day problems.
  • The suspension of the MPLADS for 2020-21 and 2021-22 in the wake of the pandemic has done away with this vital role of MPs.
  • The government’s decision to suspend MPLADS funds for two years evoked mixed reactions.
  • The very nature of the scheme gives space for corruption.
    • The vital role of an MP in the MPLADS ends with selecting micro development projects for his constituency.
  • MPLADS has been an antidote to favouritism.
  • Of the MPLADS corpus, 15% has been earmarked for the development of Scheduled Castes and 7.5% for the Scheduled Tribes.
  • Around ₹20 lakh of the MPLADS fund per annum has been allotted for the welfare of differently abled people.
  • Suspension of the MPLADS undermines the developmental aspirations of these marginalised segments.
  • In Kerala there are handsome funds at the disposal of MLAs.
  • In 2012, Kerala announced the launching of the Legislative Assembly Constituency Asset Development Fund.
  • This aims at creating durable assets for which each MLA will be allocated ₹5 crore during a particular financial year for undertaking capital works in his/her constituency so as to improve infrastructural facilities.
  • The corpus has subsequently been enhanced to ₹6 crore per annum. The suspension of the MPLADS undermines the prestige of MPs vis-à-vis MLAs.

NEWS

  • PM to CM
    • On the first day yesterday, the Prime Minister interacted with 21 States and Union Territories through video conferencing.
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has affirmed that the economy is returning on track of normalisation after two weeks of the first phase of nationwide unlock.
    • Mr Modi emphasized the need to focus on both life and livelihood, boosting health infrastructure, testing and tracing as well as increasing economic activity.
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will interact with Chief Ministers of 15 States and Union Territories through video conferencing on the second day today.
    • During his interaction, the Prime Minister observed that timely decisions taken to combat the pandemic have been effective in containing its spread in the country.
    • Mr Modi said, when India’s fight against COVID-19 will be analysed in the future, the time will be remembered for how the Centre and States worked together to fight the pandemic.
    • Mr Modi said even a single loss of life due to coronavirus is saddening and the nation should not lower its guard even during the unlock.
    • He urged every citizen to strictly follow all necessary precautions including wearing masks, maintaining Do Gaz ki Doori and washing hands regularly with soap.
    • He said health experts the worldover are praising the discipline shown by Indians, adding that the recovery rate in the country is now over 50 percent.
    • He also noted that India is amongst the nations with the least deaths due to coronavirus.
    • The Prime Minister noted that due to the efforts of the past few week, several green shoots in the economy are visible which are encouraging the country to forge ahead.
    • Mr Modi highlighted the increased sale of fertilizers, larger year on year sowing of Kharif Crops and digital payments in the retail sector as the benchmarks.
  • India-China
    • The Indian Army has said that it is firmly committed to protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
    • In a statement, the Army said, Indian and Chinese troops have disengaged at the Galwan area where they had earlier clashed on Monday night.
    • Seventeen Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty at the stand off location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high altitude terrain have succumbed to their injuries.
    • Earlier, during the de-escalation process, one officer and two soldiers were martyred, taking the total that were killed in action to 20.
    • Defence minister Rajnath Singh briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue.
  • Col Bikkumalla Santhosh Babu
    • In Telangana, people and leaders across the party lines paid tributes to martyed Army officer Col Bikkumalla Santhosh Babu, who made his supreme sacrifice for the country during a violent face-off with Chinese troops.
    • The officer hailed from Suryapet town close to Hyderabad.
    • The information about his martyrdom was conveyed to his wife Santhoshi who stays in Delhi and parents who reside in Suryapet.
    • According to Defence authorities, Colonel B Santosh Babu, Commanding Officer of the 16th battalion of Bihar Regiment was martyred in the stand-off with Chinese troops at Galwan Valley in Ladakh on Monday night.
    • The army officer is survived by his wife, a four-year-old son and a nine-year-old daughter.
    • The only son of retired bank manager, Upender and homemaker Manjula, he was due for transfer to Hyderabad in the next few months.
    • His grieving Mother, Manjula said they are shattered on losing their only son but also feel proud that he sacrificed his life for the country.
  • Violent face-off
    • India has said, on the late-evening and night of 15th June a violent face-off happened as a result of an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo there.
    • Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided, had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side.
    • In response to media queries on the situation in the western sector of the India-China border, the MEA Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, given its responsible approach to border management, India is very clear that all its activities are always within the Indian side of the LAC.
    • India and China have been discussing through military and diplomatic channels the de-escalation of the situation in the border area in Eastern Ladakh.
    • Defence Expert and Director, Society for Policy Studies  Commodore C Uday Bhaskar has termed the loss of lives of soldiers along the Line of Actual Control in the face off  with Chinese troops as a serious development.
    • Commodore Bhaskar said while efforts are being made to diffuse the tension, the Indian response must be comprehensive, calibrated and resolute.
    • The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed concern over reports of violence at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China. He urged both sides to exercise maximum restraint.
    • United States has said that it is closely monitoring the situation between Indian and Chinese forces along the Line of Actual Control.
    • COVID-19 recovery
    • The Union Government has said the COVID-19 recovery rate  has reached 52.46 per cent in the country and a total of one lakh 80 thousand 13 people affected by  Corona virus have been cured.
    • Yesterday, 10 thousand 215 people have recovered from this infection. Presently, the total number of active Corona cases in the country is one lakh 53 thousand 178.
    • Health and Family Welfare Ministry said 10 thousand 667 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the last 24 hours taking the total number of cases to three lakh 43 thousand 91 in the country.
    • During the last 24 hours, 380 deaths were registered taking the nationwide toll to nine thousand 900. With this, the case fatality rate reached 2.88 per cent in the country.
  • World Health Organization
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau have emphasised the need to strengthen multilateral institutions including the World Health Organization (WHO).
    • Prime Minister Modi yesterday spoke on phone with the Canadian Prime Minister.
    • During their telephonic conversation, the two leaders agreed to work together closely at various international fora, on health, social, economic and political issues.
    • The leaders d each other about the evolving situation related to the COVID-19 pandemic in India and Canada.
    • They also discussed the possibilities of international collaboration to address the health and economic crisis.

 

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