- COVID-19 declared Pandemic by WHO, States to be asked to invoke Epidemic Disease Act
- Role of Lieutenant General and Elected Government is intertwined
- Supreme Court comes down on Sexual Harassment at workplace
- Forcible dispossession of a person’s property is a human rights violation
- Industry starts sneezing from impact of virus
- On a long quest to rediscover Mhatre’s frozen art
Focus: GS-III Disaster Management, Science and Technology, Prelims
Why in news?
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) on March 11 said that according to its assessment, COVID-19 “can be characterised as a PANDEMIC.”
- WHO has been assessing this outbreak round-the-clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.
- It has been decided that all States/Union Territories should be advised to invoke provisions of Section 2 of the Epidemic Disease Act, 1897 so that all advisories being issued from time to time by the Ministry/State/UTs are enforceable.
- A meeting of a high-level Group of Ministers was constituted to review, monitor and evaluate the preparedness and measures taken regarding the management of COVID-19 in India.
- Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.
- We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.
- And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time, WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases.
- WHO has called for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.
WHO on Containment of CORONAVIRUS by Countries
- If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission.
- Even those countries with community transmission or large clusters can turn the tide on this virus.
- Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled.
- The challenge for many countries who are now dealing with large clusters or community transmission is not whether they can do the same – it’s whether they will.
- Some countries are struggling with a lack of capacity, resources and resolve.
What is Endemic, Epidemic and Pandemic?
- Endemic: a disease that exists permanently in a particular region or population. Malaria is a constant worry in parts of Africa.
- Epidemic: An outbreak of disease that attacks many peoples at about the same time and may spread through one or several communities.
- Pandemic: When an epidemic spreads throughout the world.
- Sporadic: Refers to a disease that occurs infrequently and irregularly.
Epidemic Disease Act, 1897
- The Epidemic Diseases Act was passed in 1897 with the aim of better preventing the spread of “dangerous epidemic diseases”.
- It evolved to tackle the epidemic of bubonic plague that broke out in the then Bombay state at the time.
- The Governor General of colonial India conferred special powers upon the local authorities to implement the measures necessary for the control of epidemics.
- The Epidemic Diseases Act is one of the shortest Acts in India, comprising just four sections.
- The British-era Act ensures that all advisories issued by the Union health ministry and state governments from time to time are enforceable.
- The definition or description of a “dangerous epidemic disease” is not provided in the Act.
What is Section 2 of the 1897 Act?
- It gives the power to take special measures and prescribe regulations as to dangerous epidemic disease. Under the act, temporary provisions or regulations can be made to be observed by the public to tackle or prevent the outbreak of a disease.
- It may also give authorities the power to inspect “persons travelling by railway or otherwise, and the segregation, in hospital, temporary accommodation or otherwise, of persons suspected by the inspecting officer of being infected with any such disease”.
Public health legislation to combat communicable diseases in India
The country has many legal provisions which can be used to take public health measures to prevent and control an epidemic, including provisions of the-
- Indian Penal Code,
- The Livestock Importation Act, 1898,
- Indian Ports Act of 1908,
- Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1940, and
- Aircraft Rules of 1954 (15).
Bringing all the legal provisions for preventing outbreaks under a single legislation would be challenging, though it would be beneficial for effective implementation and monitoring.
Focus: GS-II Governance, Prelims
Why in news?
- The Madras High Court on 12th March 2020, said a government is “a trustee for the little man who should not have a perception that the running of the government is a gigantic conspiracy”.
- It held that the role of Puducherry’s Lieutenant Governor and that of an elected government in the Union Territory were intertwined as per law, and therefore they were expected to act in unison and not in division.
The views of the High Court on L-G and Government
- The high court held that the L-G could not interfere with its day-to-day functioning by fostering a “basically incorrect” opinion that the legislature of the Union Territory was on a par with that of a State.
- The view of the learned single judge suffers from a basic fallacy of drawing a parallel on the basis of expected notions of democracy and republicanism vis-a-vis the status of elected legislature of a Union Territory and that of a State.
- This cannot be done by a judicial pronouncement and has to be through a legislative process by the appropriate legislature.
- For the time being, there is no such law that may equate or put them at par
- In the Republic of India, a lieutenant governor is the constitutional head of five of the eight union territories.
- The lieutenant governor is appointed by the President of India for a term of five years, and holds office at the President’s pleasure.
- Since the union territories of Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir and Puducherry have a measure of self-government with an elected legislature and council of ministers, the role of the lieutenant governor there is mostly a ceremonial one, akin to that of a state’s governor.
- In Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Ladakh however, the lieutenant governor holds more power, being both the head of state and head of government.
- The other three union territories—Chandigarh; Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu; and Lakshadweep—are governed by an administrator.
- Unlike the lieutenant governors of other territories, they are usually drawn from the Indian Administrative Service or Indian Police Service.
- Since 1985 the Governor of Punjab has also been the ex-officio Administrator of Chandigarh.
- A Union territory is a type of administrative division in the Republic of India.
- Unlike the states of India, which have their own governments, union territories are federal territories governed directly by the central Government of India.
More about Union Territories in India
- As of 2020 there are eight union territories.
- When the Constitution of India was adopted in 1949, there was only one Part D state: Andaman and Nicobar Islands.Three more, the Delhi, Chandigarh and Lakshadweep were formed by separating each territory from pre-existing states.
- Another two (Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu and Puducherry) were formed from acquired territories that formerly belonged to colonial powers (Portuguese India and French India).
Control over Union Territories
- The Parliament of India can pass a law to amend the constitution and provide a Legislature with elected Members and a Chief Minister for a union territory, as it has done for Delhi and Puducherry.
- In general, the President of India appoints an administrator or lieutenant governor for each UT.
- Due to existence of union territories, many critics have resolved India into a semi-federal nation, as the central and state governments each have their own domains and territories of legislation.
- Union territories of India have special rights and status due to their constitutional formation and development.
- The status of “union territory” may be assigned to an Indian sub-jurisdiction for reasons such as safeguarding the rights of indigenous cultures, averting political turmoil related to matters of governance, and so on.
- These union territories could be changed to states in the future for more efficient administrative control.
Details of some Union Territories
- Delhi, Puducherry and Jammu and Kashmir operate differently from the other six. They were given partial statehood and Delhi was redefined as the National Capital Territory of Delhi (NCT) and incorporated into a larger area known as the National Capital Region (NCR).
- Delhi, Puducherry and Jammu and Kashmir have an elected legislative assembly and an executive council of ministers with partially state-like function.
- In August 2019, the Parliament of India passed Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. The act contains provisions to reconstitute the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories, one to be eponymously called Jammu and Kashmir, and the other Ladakh on 31 October 2019.
- In November 2019, the Government of India introduced legislation to merge the union territories of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli into a single union territory to be known as Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu.
Revenue/Tax of the Union Territories
- The Constitution does not stipulate how tax revenue is to be devolved to the union territories, unlike for the states.
- The funds devolution to union territories by the union government have no criteria where all the revenue goes to the union government.
- Some union territories are provided more funds, while others are given less, in an arbitrary manner by the union government.
- As union territories are directly ruled by the union government, some union territories get more funds from the union government than entitled on per capita and backwardness basis when compared to states.
Focus: GS-II Social Justice
Why in news?
- Sexual harassment of women at workplace is an affront to their fundamental right to equality and a life with dignity, the Supreme Court has held in a judgment.
- Sexual harassment at the workplace is an affront to the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 and her right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as her right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
- Referring to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act of 2013, the Supreme Court said that its very purpose was to provide protection to working women.
“The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.”
- The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them
- No citizen shall, on grounds
only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be
subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard
- access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and palaces of public entertainment; or
- the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public
- Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children
- Nothing in this article or in clause ( 2 ) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes
“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
Thus Article 21 secures two rights:
- Right to life, and
- Right to personal liberty.
The Article prohibits the deprivation of the above rights except according to a procedure established by law. Article 21 corresponds to the Magna Carta of 1215, the Fifth Amendment to the American Constitution, Article 40(4) of the Constitution of Eire 1937, and Article XXXI of the Constitution of Japan, 1946.
Article 21 applies to natural persons. The right is available to every person, citizen or alien. Thus, even a foreigner can claim this right. It, however, does not entitle a foreigner the right to reside and settle in India, as mentioned in Article 19 (1) (e).
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act of 2013
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.
- This statute superseded the Vishaka Guidelines for Prevention Of Sexual Harassment (POSH) introduced by the Supreme Court (SC) of India.
- This Act was essentially derived from the Vishaka Guidelines. The Vishaka Guidelines were certain procedures to be followed in cases of workplace sexual abuse. These guidelines were formulated after the landmark case Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan.
- The Act defines sexual harassment at the work place and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.
- The Act also covers concepts of ‘quid pro quo harassment’ and ‘hostile work environment’ as forms of sexual harassment if it occurs in connection with an act or behaviour of sexual harassment.
- The definition of “aggrieved woman”, who will get protection under the Act is extremely wide to cover all women, irrespective of her age or employment status, whether in the organised or unorganised sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers and domestic workers as well.
Focus: GS-II Governance, Prelims
Why in news?
- The Supreme Court has reiterated that forcible dispossession of a person of his private property without due process of law is a human right violation.
- In a recent judgment by a Bench led by Justice S.K. Kaul, the court stressed, quoting from its judgments, that right to property is both a human right and a constitutional right — the latter under Article 300A of the Constitution.
- The verdict came on the acquisition of a few acres in Sikkim by the State’s Agriculture department in 1980 for building the Progeny Orchard Regional Centre.
Highlights of the Judgement
- The appellant could not have been forcibly dispossessed of her property without any legal sanction, and without following due process of law, and depriving her payment of just compensation.
- It is accepted in every jurisprudence and by different political thinkers that some amount of property right is an indispensable safeguard against tyranny and economic oppression of the government.
- Property itself is the seed bed which must be conserved if other constitutional values are to flourish.
Right to property in the Constitution of India
- The Constitution of India originally provided for the right to property under Articles 19 and 31.
- Article 19 guaranteed to all citizens the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property.
- Article 31 provided that “no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law.” It also provided that compensation would be paid to a person whose property has been taken for public purposes.
- The 44th Amendment of 1978 removed the right to property from the list of fundamental rights.
- A new provision, Article 300-A, was added to the constitution, which provided that “no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law”.
- Article 300A states that – No person shall be deprived of his property save by the authority of law.
- Therefore, the article protects an individual from interference by the State and dispossess a person of the property unless it is in accordance with the procedure established by law.
Focus: GS-III Indian Economy
Why in news?
- The Indian pesticide industry is heavily dependent on Chinese imports for raw materials, and could be heavily impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, according to an analysis prepared by the Agriculture Ministry.
- The Ministry estimates that domestic inventories may be sufficient for the kharif sowing season, but any further supply disruptions could hurt farmers.
- Industry insiders and analysts say that a good rabi or winter crop season and the possibility of a locust attack could deplete inventories sooner than expected, raising prices by about 15%.
- Out of the 15 pesticides, Acephate, Cartap, Buprofezin, Pretilachlor represent 80-90% trade from China whereas Imidacloprid, Azoxystrobinb, Imzathapyr, Acetamiprid represent 40-50% import from China.
- Few technical insecticides, which are manufactured in India, also involve the raw material, which is sourced from China.
Impact on India
- There is a major supply gap, as no container has come from China in the last two months. In fact, it started in early January 2020 when factories were shut for their New Year festival, and then, there was the coronavirus.
- Functioning of domestic pesticides industries may not be affected immediately by the disruption of supplies from China since the industry in India is having inventories for at least next six months.
- Hence, for the ongoing kharif season, there may not be any adverse effect on the availability of pesticides to the Indian farmers.
- Inventories are lower than usual for this season because of excellent rains extending the rabi season in parts of the country.
- The first quarter of the year accounts for 35% of revenue for Indian pesticide companies, so, if the raw material does not reach in time, there could be significant impact.
What are Karif and Rabi Crops?
- The agricultural crop year in India is from July to June.
- The Indian cropping season is classified into two main seasons-(i) Kharif and (ii) Rabi based on the monsoon.
- The kharif cropping season is from July –October during the south-west monsoon and the Rabi cropping season is from October-March (winter).
- The crops grown between March and June are summer crops. Pakistan and Bangladesh are two other countries that are using the term ‘kharif’ and ‘rabi’ to describe about their cropping patterns.
- The terms ‘kharif’ and ‘rabi’ originate from Arabic language where Kharif means autumn and Rabi means spring.
- The kharif crops include rice, maize, sorghum, pearl millet/bajra, finger millet/ragi (cereals), arhar (pulses), soyabean, groundnut (oilseeds), cotton etc.
- The rabi crops include wheat, barley, oats (cereals), chickpea/gram (pulses), linseed, mustard (oilseeds) etc.