- SC on support for migrant workers and ex gratia
- India toughens stand on EU COVID passport
- Cabinet approves viability gap funding for BharatNet
- SC on promotion of PwDs
The Supreme Court said that the government cannot “abdicate” its duties to feed migrant workers, especially during a pandemic, merely because they did not have ration cards.
The Supreme Court also pulled up the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for “failing to perform its duty” to recommend ex gratia assistance for families of those who lost their loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic.
GS-II: Social Justice (Welfare Schemes, Government Policies and Interventions)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About SC ruling on support to Migrant Workers
- About the National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW)
- SC on NDMA and compensation to COVID-19 victims
- National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)
About SC ruling on support to Migrant Workers
- The Supreme Court’s ruling said that there is a large number of such migrants who do not possess any card due to their poverty and lack of education and the State cannot abdicate its duty towards such persons, especially in the wake of the pandemic where large numbers of migrant workers are not able to get jobs which may satisfy their basic needs.
- The court set July 31 as the deadline for the Centre and the States to ensure their “bounden duty” that none among the estimated 38 crore migrant workers, who form one-fourth the country’s population, goes hungry during the pandemic.
- The States/Union Territories have to make extra efforts to reach migrant labourers so that no migrant labourer is denied two meals a day according to the SC.
- The Centre has to supply whatever additional quantity of food grains a State demanded.
- The SC also ordered all the States to fully implement the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) by July 31 which allows migrant labourers covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to access food at any fair price shop with his or her ration card in any part of the country.
- The Supreme Court’s ruling should result in the universalisation of rations to all migrant workers across India as long as the pandemic continues, as opposed to the government’s one-time relief measures.
- The court slammed the Labour Ministry for its “unpardonable apathy” in not completing the work of the National Database for Unorganised Workers (NDUW) portal to register and identify migrant workers and unorganised labourers to ensure their rights, welfare and food security.
About the National Database of Unorganised Workers (NDUW)
- The Ministry of Labour and Employment has said that the National Database of Unorganised Workers will maintain the database of the workers using their 12-digit Aadhaar number.
- The database will enroll all unorganized workers including migrant labourers.
- A database of all the workers will help the government in implementing social security schemes, providing jobs and giving other benefits to the unorganized labourers easily. It can also help in keeping a track of workers’ movement in situations like COVID-19.
- The database will also help the workers to share details about his/her skills and get suitable work.
- Workers will be encouraged to enroll on the website for the database and Common Service Centres can be used for this.
- This step has come after the problems faced by migrant labourers in COVID-19 pandemic. Large numbers of labourers were out of work and did not have proper amenities. Thousands of such labourers even walked on roads to reach their homes.
SC on NDMA and compensation to COVID-19 victims
- The SC gave the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) six weeks to frame the guidelines for fixing the ex gratia meant for the families of those who lost their loved ones to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The court, however, left it to the “wisdom” of the NDMA to fix the amount of ex gratia.
- The SC also held that the government could not excuse itself of its duty to pay ex gratia by saying that such payments would entail huge expenditure.
- The SC mentioned the Disaster Management Act of 2005 and said the term ‘minimum standards of relief’ mentioned in the provision included payment of ex gratia.
National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA)
- National Disaster Management Authority, abbreviated as NDMA, is an apex Body of Government of India, with a mandate to lay down policies for disaster management.
- NDMA was established through the Disaster Management Act enacted by the Government of India in 2005. Hence, NDMA is a Statutory body.
- NDMA is responsible for framing policies, laying down guidelines and best-practices for coordinating with the State Disaster Management Authorities (SDMAs) to ensure a holistic and distributed approach to disaster management.
- It is headed by the Prime Minister of India and can have up to nine other members. Since 2014, there have been four other members.
- The tenure of the members of the NDMA shall be five years.
- The phrase disaster management is to be understood to mean ‘a continuous and integrated process of planning, organising, coordinating and implementing measures, which are necessary or expedient for prevention of danger or threat of any disaster, mitigation or reduction of risk of any disaster or severity of its consequences, capacity building, preparedness to deal with any disaster, prompt response, assessing the severity or magnitude of effects of any disaster, evacuation, rescue, relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction’.
-Source: The Hindu
India took issue with the European Union’s plans to institute a “green pass” from July 1, with government sources warning that India will introduce a “reciprocal policy” only allowing ease of travel for those European countries that recognise Indian vaccines Covishield and Covaxin.
GS-II: International Relations (Important Foreign Policies and Agreements Affecting India’s Interest)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is a Vaccine Passport?
- Concerns Raised in Instituting Vaccine Passport
- How are countries viewing the concept of Vaccine Passport?
- Digital Green Certificates by EU
- Controversy of the European Union’s Digital Covid Certificate
What is a Vaccine Passport?
- Sometimes, vaccine tourism is confused with vaccine passport, which is a more regulated practice gaining currency around the world.
- A vaccine passport is an e-certificate that stores and records jabs and Covid-19 test status.
- The idea is modelled on the proof of vaccination that several countries required even before the pandemic.
- Function of Vaccine Passports:
- Will digitise vaccination records across countries.
- Supposed to function as proof that the holder has been vaccinated against Covid-19 and is, therefore, safe.
- The primary benefit will be to the tourism and the hospitality industries, which are both seen as being at the heart of Covid-19 spread and are the worst hit by the pandemic.
- The international air travel, which suffered massively because of the outbreak.
Concerns Raised in Instituting Vaccine Passport
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) is against the introduction of Covid-19 vaccination proofs as a requirement for international travel. There are still critical unknown facts regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission.
- The major difficulty in implementation will be the lack of uniformity across jurisdictions in requirement and issuance of proofs of vaccination.
- Preferential vaccination of travellers could result in inadequate supplies of vaccines for priority populations considered at high risk of severe Covid-19 disease.
- Introducing a requirement of vaccination as a condition for travel has the potential to hinder equitable global access to a limited vaccine supply and would be unlikely to maximize the benefits of vaccination for individual societies and overall global health.
- Experts argue that vaccine passports, in any form, might make travel inequitable. Adoption of these digital passports can perpetuate discrimination and inequality, increasing the divide between socioeconomic groups.
- Rich countries that have already bought millions of doses from pharmaceutical companies are ahead in the race. The poorer nations may have to wait for months, if not years, to start inoculations. This means that if vaccine passports become a norm, then these lower-income nations will lose out on the advantage. It will lead to exclusion of the younger generation who would be last in line to be vaccinated.
- These are mainly digital certificates that are accessed by a particular service provider to check for proof of vaccination, there is a possibility that they would be used by authorities to track the movement of their holders.
How are countries viewing the concept of Vaccine Passport?
- In the EU and across the world, the tourism industry has been severely impacted due to the spread of the disease. Many countries have, therefore, been contemplating digital certificates or passports that will be proof that a person has been vaccinated or has recovered from COVID-19.
- Israel became the first country to issue certificates called “vaccine passports” that will allow vaccinated individuals to use some facilities and attend events.
- Denmark also said that it was in the process of rolling out digital passports that would act as proof for those individuals who have been vaccinated.
- Even so, as early as May 2020, countries such as Chile had proposed “release certificates” meant for those who had recovered from COVID-19.
Digital Green Certificates by EU
- The European Union is creating a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate the safe and free movement of citizens within the European Union (EU) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A Digital Green Certificate is proof that a person has either been vaccinated against COVID-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from COVID-19.
- The key features of the certificate are that it will be in digital or paper format complete with a QR code and will be free of charge.
- The certificate can be issued by authorities, including hospitals, testing centres and health authorities.
- All EU citizens or third-country nationals who are legally staying in the EU will be able to use these digital certificates and thereby will be exempted from free movement restrictions.
Controversy of the European Union’s Digital Covid Certificate
- India’s External Affairs Minister indicated that he raised the issue of possible restrictions on Indian travellers in the EU if they don’t have one of four vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), that include the Europe made Astra Zeneca vaccine but not the Indian made Serum Institute of India’s (SII) Covishield or Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin.
- India has also conveyed EU Member States that India will institute a reciprocal policy for recognition of the EU Digital Covid Certificate.
- The African Union had also issued a letter of protest over the EU proposal saying that it promoted “inequality” for those from India and “lower-income” countries for whom the Covishield vaccine was the “backbone” of the international COVAX alliance programme.
- The EU had also explained that SII had not applied for the requisite permissions with the EMA, and had promised to consider its case as soon as it applied.
- The government’s stand is especially significant since while Covishield has received World Health Organization authorisation, Covaxin is yet to be cleared by the global health body.
-Source: The Hindu
The Union Cabinet approved a viability gap funding support of up to ₹19,041 crore for the implementation of the BharatNet project through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model in 16 States.
Prelims, GS-III: Industry and Infrastructure (Government Policies & Interventions)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About the BharatNet project
- What is the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)?
About the BharatNet project
- BharatNet is a flagship mission implemented by Bharat Broadband Network Ltd. (BBNL) – BharatNet Project is basically the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) that was launched in 2011 and got renamed as BharatNet project in 2015.
- The project is being executed by BSNL, RailTel, and Power Grid and is being funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) and has subsumed all the ongoing and proposed broadband network projects.
- The BharatNet Project aims to facilitate the delivery of e-governance, e-health, e-education, e-banking, Internet and other services to rural India.
- It aims to connect all of India’s households, specifically rural households through demand, affordable high-speed internet connectivity to fulfill the objectives of the Digital India programme in partnership with the states and the private sector.
- The Bharat Net project proposes broadband connectivity to households under village Panchayats and even to government institutions at the district level.
- It intends to cover all 2.5 lakh Gram Panchayats for the provision of E-governance, E-healthcare, E-Commerce, E-Education, and Public Interest Access services.
- The deadline for completion of the BharatNet Project had been extended till June 2021 from December 2020, and a notice had been issued to Tata Projects Ltd for failing to meet projected milestones.
- The three-phase implementation of the BharatNet project is as follows
- The first phase envisages providing one lakh gram panchayats with broadband connectivity by laying underground optic fibre cable (OFC) lines by Decmeber 2017.
- The second phase will provide connectivity to all 2,50,500 gram panchayats in the country using an optimal mix of underground fiber, fiber over power lines, radio and satellite media. This is a new element of the BharatNet strategy as the mode of connectivity by aerial OFC has several advantages, including lower cost, speedier implementation, easy maintenance and utilization of existing power line infrastructure. The last mile connectivity to citizens was proposed to be provided creating Wi-Fi hotspots in gram panchayats
- In the third phase from 2019 to 2023, state-of-the-art, future-proof network, including fiber between districts and blocks, with ring topology to provide redundancy would be created.
What is the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF)?
- The Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) was established with the primary objective of providing access to ‘Basic’ telecom services to people in the remote and rural areas at reasonable and affordable prices.
- Universal Service stands for universal, interdependent and intercommunicating, affording the opportunity for any subscriber to any exchange to communicate with any other subscriber of any other exchange.
- The USOF proposes to meet its social, economic, political and constitutional objectives which are as follows:
- To extend the telecommunication network.
- To stimulate the uptake of Internet and Communication Technologies (ICT) services.
- To bring the underserved and unserved areas of the country into the telecom spectrum and narrow down the access gap.
- To use the pooled USO levy for an equitable distribution through target subsidies.
- Subsequently, the scope was widened to provide subsidy support for enabling access to all types of telegraph services including mobile services, broadband connectivity, and creation of infrastructure like Optical Fiber Cable (OFC) in rural and remote areas.
- With access to affordable telecom services in remote and rural areas, the USOF is the right step towards stemming urban migration. This would ensure to generate employment opportunities in the rural areas which would help generate more income.
Who are the partners of USOF?
As per the Department of Telecommunications, there are 24 partners of USOF. It includes:
- Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited
- Tata Tele Services Limited
- Reliance Communications Limited
- Bharti Airtel Limited, etc.
-Source: The Hindu
The Supreme Court said that a disabled person can avail the benefit of reservation for promotion even if he or she was recruited in the regular category or developed the disability after gaining employment.
GS-II: Social Justice (Welfare Schemes, Government Policies and Interventions, Social Empowerment, Issues Relating to Development), GS-II: Polity and Governance, International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- About the SC’s recent Judgement on promotion of PwDs
- About the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
- United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
About the SC’s recent Judgement on promotion of PwDs
- The important thing is the employee should be a ‘person with disability’ (PwD) at the time of the promotion to avail of the disabled quota.
- The SC said that the Persons with Disabilities Act of 1995 [which has been replaced with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016] does not make a distinction between a person who may have entered service on account of disability and a person who may have acquired disability after having entered the service.
- Similarly, the same position would be with the person who may have entered service on a claim of a compassionate appointment. The mode of entry in service cannot be a ground to make out a case of discriminatory promotion.
- The court said the responsibility to provide equal opportunities to disabled persons does not end with giving them reservation at the time of recruitment.
- Legislative mandate provides for equal opportunity for career progression, including promotion. Thus, it would be negation of the legislative mandate if promotion is denied to PwD and such reservation is confined to the initial stage of induction in service.
About the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
- The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
- It fulfills the obligations to the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory.
Key Changes brought in the by the 2016 act
- Disability has been defined based on an evolving and dynamic concept.
- The types of disabilities have been increased from 7 to 21.
- The act added mental illness, autism, spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, speech and language disability, thalassemia, hemophilia, sickle cell disease, multiple disabilities including deaf blindness, acid attack victims and Parkinson’s disease which were largely ignored in earlier act.
- It increases the quantum of reservation for people suffering from disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and from 3% to 5% in higher education institutes.
- Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education (Government funded educational institutions as well as the government recognized institutions).
- Stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings in a prescribed time frame along with Accessible India Campaign.
- The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the State Commissioners will act as regulatory bodies and Grievance Redressal agencies, monitoring implementation of the Act.
- A separate National and State Fund be created to provide financial support to the persons with disabilities.
- The Government has been authorized to notify any other category of specified disability.
United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)
- The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international human rights treaty of the United Nations intended to protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities.
- Parties to the Convention are required to promote, protect, and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by persons with disabilities and ensure that persons with disabilities enjoy full equality under the law.
- The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly in 2006 and came into force in 2008.
- The convention seeks to engage member countries in developing and carrying out policies, laws and administrative measures for securing the rights recognized in the Convention and abolish laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination.
- It requires countries to identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers and ensure that persons with disabilities can access their environment, transportation, public facilities and services, and information and communications technologies.
- It asks member countries to recognize the right to an adequate standard of living and social protection which includes public housing, services and assistance for disability-related needs, as well as assistance with disability-related expenses in case of poverty.
-Source: The Hindu