- Assam has tension on Arunachal and Meghalaya border
- Trade unions push for rollback of labour codes
- More hospital births: NFHS-5
- Breaking the ice: On India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum (TPF)
- Global Nutrition Report on anaemia, childhood wasting
Assam has moved closer to resolving its decades-old boundary dispute with Meghalaya but tension has been brewing on its Arunachal Pradesh frontier.
GS-II: Polity and Governance (Inter-State Relations)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Assam’s border dispute with Arunachal
- About the Assam-Arunachal border tension
- About the Assam – Mizoram Border Dispute
- Other Boundary Issues in Northeast
Assam’s border dispute with Arunachal
- Assam Chief Minister disclosed that the state’s boundary dispute with Arunachal Pradesh was at 1,200 places.
- Arunachal Pradesh shares a 800-km boundary with Assam and was granted statehood by the State of Arunachal Pradesh Act, 1986 in 1987. Clashes were first reported in 1992 and since then, there have been several accusations of illegal encroachment from both sides, and intermittent clashes.
- Cases pertaining to Assam’s boundary dispute with Nagaland and Arunachal are pending in the Supreme Court.
- There was a clear delineation of the boundary when Uttarakhand and Jharkhand were created as states. However, when Mizoram, Arunachal, and Nagaland were created, it was left to certain situations and the ambiguity remained, leading to the disputes.
About the Assam-Arunachal border tension
- Miscreants allegedly fired at Assam Forest officials in November 2021 near the Arunachal Pradesh border.
- A few days prior to which a team of Assam Forest officials were detained by allegedly illegal settlers from Arunachal Pradesh in the forest. They were later rescued by the Assam police.
- The firing coincided with the visit of the members of the border committees of Assam and Meghalaya to various areas of difference along the inter-State boundary.
- There was a mixed response from the locals the committee members met. A majority in some villages wanted to be with Meghalaya while most in some other villages wanted to be with Assam.
About the Assam – Mizoram Border Dispute
- Mizoram borders Assam’s Barak Valley and the boundary between present-day Assam and Mizoram is 165 km long. Both states border Bangladesh.
- The boundary issue between present-day Assam and Mizoram dates back to the colonial era when inner lines were demarcated according to the administrative needs of British Raj.
- Assam became a constituent state of India in 1950 and lost much of its territory to new states that emerged from within its borders between the early 1960s and the early 1970s.
- Mizoram was granted statehood in 1987 by the State of Mizoram Act, 1986.
- The Assam-Mizoram dispute stems from a notification of 1875 that differentiated Lushai Hills (During colonial times, Mizoram was known as Lushai Hills) from the plains of Cachar, and another of 1933 that demarcates a boundary between Lushai Hills and Manipur.
- Mizoram believes the boundary should be demarcated on the basis of the 1875 notification, which is derived from the Bengal Eastern Frontier Regulation (BEFR) Act, 1873.
- According to an agreement between the governments of Assam and Mizoram, the status quo should be maintained in no man’s land in the border area.
- In the Northeast’s complex boundary equations, clashes between Assam and Mizoram residents are less frequent than they are between other neighbouring states of Assam, like with Nagaland.
Other Boundary Issues in Northeast
During British rule, Assam included present-day Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya besides Mizoram, which became separate states one by one.
- Assam-Nagaland: Nagaland shares a 500-km boundary with Assam and achieved statehood in December 1963 and was formed out of the Naga Hills district of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh (then North-East Frontier Agency). Violent clashes and armed conflicts, marked by killings, have occurred on the Assam-Nagaland border since 1965.
- Assam-Meghalaya: Meghalaya shares a 884-km boundary with Assam and came into existence as an autonomous state within the state of Assam in April 1970 comprising the United Khasi and Jaintia Hills and the Garo Hills districts. In 1972, it got statehood. As per Meghalaya government statements, today there are 12 areas of dispute between the two states.
-Source: The Hindu
Over a year since Parliament passed four labour codes, the Centre is still in the process of notifying the rules to implement the laws and has not set a date for the roll-out.
Trade unions, however, have planned to intensify their agitation this week against the codes in the wake of the government’s decision to repeal the three farm laws.
GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Government Policies), GS-III: Indian Economy (Human Resource)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Code on Wages Act, 2019
- Industrial Relations Code Bill 2020
- Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020
- Code on Social Security Bill, 2020
- Concerns regarding the implementation of the codes (labour law reforms)
- Concerns with the Code on Wages, 2019
- Concerns with the Code on Social Security Bill, 2020
Code on Wages Act, 2019
- The new wage code removes the multiplicity of wage definitions, which can significantly reduce litigation as well as compliance cost for employers.
- It links minimum wage across the country to the skills of the employee and the place of employment.
- It seeks to universalise the provisions of minimum wages and their timely payment to all employees irrespective of the sector and wage ceiling.
- It seeks to ensure Right to Sustenance for every worker and intends to increase the legislative protection of minimum wage.
- A National Floor Level Minimum Wage will be set by the Centre and will be revised every five years, while states will fix minimum wages for their regions, which cannot be lower than the floor wage.
- It subsumes the following four labour laws:
- Payment of Wages Act, 1936
- Minimum Wages Act, 1948
- Payment of Bonus Act, 1965
- Equal Remuneration Act, 1976
Industrial Relations Code Bill 2020
- The code, among its important provisions, makes it easier for companies to hire and fire workers.
- Companies employing upto 300 workers will not be required to frame rules of conduct for workmen employed in industrial establishments. Presently, it is compulsory for firms employing upto 100 workers.
- It proposes that workers in factories will have to give a notice at least 14 days in advance to employers if they want to go on strike.
- Presently, only workers in public utility services are required to give notices to hold strikes.
- Besides, every industrial establishment employing 20 or more workers will have one or more Grievance Redressal Committees for resolution of disputes arising out of employees’ grievances.
- The code also proposes setting up of a reskilling fund to help skill retrenched workers.
Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020
- It spells out duties of employers and employees, and envisages safety standards for different sectors, focusing on the health and working condition of workers, hours of work, leaves, etc.
- The code also recognises the right of contractual workers.
- The code provides employers the flexibility to employ workers on a fixed-term basis, on the basis of requirement and without restriction in any sector.
- More importantly, it also provides for statutory benefits like social security and wages to fixed-term employees at par with their permanent counterparts.
- It also mandates that no worker will be allowed to work in any establishment for more than 8 hours a day or more than 6 days in a week.
- In case of an overtime, an employee should be paid twice the rate of his/her wage. It will be applicable to even small establishments, which have upto 10 workers.
- The code also brings in gender equality and empowers the women workforce. Women will be entitled to be employed in all establishments for all types of work and, with consent can work before 6 am and beyond 7 pm subject to such conditions relating to safety, holidays and working hours.
- For the first time, the labour code also recognises the rights of transgenders. It makes it mandatory for industrial establishments to provide washrooms, bathing places and locker rooms for male, female and transgender employees.
Code on Social Security Bill, 2020
- This will replace nine social security laws, including Maternity Benefit Act, Employees’ Provident Fund Act, Employees’ Pension Scheme, Employees’ Compensation Act, among others.
- The code universalizes social security coverage to those working in the unorganised sector, such as migrant workers, gig workers and platform workers.
- For the first time, provisions of social security will also be extended to agricultural workers also.
- The code also reduces the time limit for receiving gratuity payment from the continuous service of five years to one year for all kinds of employees, including fixed-term employees, contract labour, daily and monthly wage workers.
Concerns regarding the implementation of the codes (labour law reforms)
- The Government announced its intentions of implementing the Codes from April 2021 even as State governments were completely unprepared with the rules. Further, the major political parties reallocated their energies to regional elections rather than the implementation of codes.
- The central government has deferred the possible date of implementation to October 2021, while the Supreme Court of India has exerted pressure on both the central and the State governments to implement a ‘one nation, one ration card’ (ONOR) scheme (which is essential alongside the implementation of the labour law reforms) and register all the unorganised workers under the National Database for Unorganized Workers (NDUW), which was to have been done by July 2021. Hence, Government agencies are rushing to comply with both the directives.
Concerns with the Code on Wages, 2019
- The Code on Wages, 2019 seeks to consolidate and simplify four pieces of legislation into a single code. However, while the previous four pieces of legislation had a total of 119 sections, the new Code has 69 sections.
- The central government will have the power to fix a “floor wage”. Once it is fixed, State governments cannot fix any minimum wage less than the “floor wage”. The concept should be for a binding minimum wage and not have dual wage rates — a binding floor wage and a non-binding minimum wage.
- Neither the Code nor the Rules (presently, draft Rules) prescribe the qualifications and experience required for appointment of competent authority.
Concerns with the Code on Social Security Bill, 2020
- For Organised sector only: The SS Code does not have free basic curative health care in its scope. Of the 8 existing central labour laws that the SS Code 2020 amalgamates, employees provident fund, employees state insurance (ESI), maternity benefit, gratuity are entirely for organised sector workers. – This has remained so even in the new scheme of things.
- Ambiguity: For employees’ state insurance, the existing employee threshold has been withdrawn and now the central government can extend ESI benefits to any organisation irrespective of the number of workers employed therein. However, there are areas of ambiguity and overlapping too. The SS Code proposes that both the central and State governments will formulate schemes for unorganised workers.
- Need for registration: The legal framework as proposed in the Code and Rules, implies that the basic onus lies on informal workers registering as beneficiaries. Registration is a prerequisite for universal coverage. To avail social security, an informal worker must register herself on the specified online portal to be developed by the central government.
- Further complications due to existing norms: Similar provisions are already there in existing social security schemes run by State governments under the Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008. Still, a large number of informal workers are outside the ambit of any social security even after 13 years. The absence of definite and unambiguous provisions in the present code would further complicate achievement of universal registration.
- Lack of awareness: Also, experience shows that there is an awful lack of awareness among informal workers regarding social security schemes. Online registration places a further challenge as most informal workers lack digital literacy and connectivity (already demonstrated by a similar registration requirement for COVID-19 vaccines under CoWIN, the government app).
- Lack of Documents: Informal workers also find it difficult to furnish all documentary papers required as part of the registration process. Most informal workers are footloose casual workers (26% of all workers) and self-employed (46% of all). They move from one place to another in search of livelihoods. Furnishing proof of livelihood and income details in the absence of tangible employer-employee relations is very difficult.
- Lack of Provisions regarding cooperation: Further, as unorganised workers are spread across the length and breadth of India, inter-State arrangement and cooperation becomes imperative. The code does not provide for such eventualities.
- Lost Opportunity in Maternity benefit: Under the SS Code, the provision of maternity benefit has not been made universal. Maternity benefit is presently applicable for establishments employing 10 workers or more. The definition of ‘Establishment’ in the proposed code did not include the unorganised sector. Hence, women engaged in the unorganised sector would remain outside the purview of maternity benefit.
- Lost Opportunity in Employees Provident Fund: The SS Code maintains that the Employees’ Provident Fund Scheme will remain applicable, as before, to every establishment in which 20 or more employees are employed. Thus, for informal sector workers, access to employees’ provident fund remains unfulfilled too in the new code.
- Lost Opportunity in Payment of gratuity: Gratuity shall be payable to eligible employees by every shop or establishment in which 10 or more employees are employed, or were employed, on any day of the preceding 12 months. But although payment of gratuity was expanded in the new Code, it still remains inaccessible for a vast majority of informal workers.
-Source: The Hindu
A comparison of National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5) and NFHS-4 shows that Births in institutional facilities, such as a hospital, improved by nearly 8%.
GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Health, Government Policies and Interventions)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Highlights of the comparison between NFHS-5 and NFHS-4
- NFHS-4 vs NFHS-5 on Childcare and Nutrition
Highlights of the comparison between NFHS-5 and NFHS-4
- India has officially hit a total fertility rate (TFR) of 2.0 that indicates a decrease from the 2.2 in the NFHS-4. These findings bust the population-explosion myth and show that India must steer away from coercive measures of population control. (This is a significant feat for the country’s family-planning programme, which does not include coercive policies.)
- According to the United Nations Population Division, a TFR of about 2.1 children per woman is called replacement-level fertility. If replacement level fertility is sustained over a sufficiently long period, each generation will exactly replace itself. The urban TFR is 1.6 and the rural TFR is 2.1.
- An overall survey of the major differences between the NFHS-5 and NFHS-4 suggests that the use of contraceptives has improved from 53.5% to 66.7% in the latest NFHS-5 and institutional births increased from 78.9% to 88.6%.
NFHS-4 vs NFHS-5 on Childcare and Nutrition
- Births in institutional facilities, such as a hospital, improved by nearly 8 percentage points.
- Children who were either stunted or displayed signs of wasting only dropped by a maximum of 3 percentage points.
- The proportion of children (12-23 months) who were fully vaccinated improved from 62%-76% and children under 6 months who were exclusively breastfed also showed a sharp improvement from 54.9 to 63.7%.
- There were, however, mixed signals in nutrition. Though the gains in childhood nutrition were minimal, women and men (15-49) who had a below normal body mass index (BMI) each dropped roughly four percentage points.
- Those overweight (or had a higher BMI than ideal) increased by around 4 percentage points. Abnormal BMIs are linked to an increase in obesity and other non-communicable diseases (NCD).
Battle with Anemia
- India’s battle with anaemia also appears to have faltered. The proportion of anaemic children (5-59 months) increased from 58% to 67%.
- Women aged 15-49 who were anaemic increased from 53% to 57% and men of the same age increased from 29% to 31% between both editions of the NFHS.
-Source: The Hindu
India and the United States will re-launch the Trade Policy Forum (TPF), a premier forum to resolve trade and investment issues between the two countries, after four long years.
GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)
Dimensions of the Article:
- U.S.-India relations
- About India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum (TPF)
- Way forward
About India-U.S. Trade Policy Forum (TPF)
- The Trade Policy Forum (TPF) between the United States and India has decided to forge an agreement to facilitate U.S. market access from India, and reciprocate with similar access in the Indian market to many agriculture and animal products.
- India has sought restoration of the GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) benefits by the U.S.
- The Forum also agreed on the significance of negotiating a Social Security Totalization Agreement in the interest of workers from both sides. A Totalization Agreement is a convention between two countries preventing duplicate social security contributions for the same income.
- India and the U.S. also discussed engagement in various multilateral trade bodies including the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the G20 for achieving a shared vision of a transparent, rules-based global trading system among market economies and democracies. The Forum also decided to find mutually agreed solutions on outstanding WTO disputes between the two countries.
- The U.S. indicated an interest in supplying ethanol to India for its goal of 20% ethanol blending with petrol by 2025.
- The two sides decided to partner with allies in developing a secure pharmaceutical manufacturing base and de-risk global supply chains in such critical sectors like health.
- The Forum discussed ways in which legal, nursing and accountancy services can facilitate growth in trade and investment, and sought to work together on electronic payment services and the digital economy.
- Both countries recognise the importance of critical and emerging technologies like cyberspace, semiconductors, Artificial Intelligence, 5G, and future generation telecommunications technology.
- Both countries exchanged views on approaches to increase the utilization of renewable energy to achieve net-zero emissions, as agreed in the India – US Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership.
- A deal with the US will be beneficial for India, both strategically and economically.
- The first step towards a potential deal is for India to take the initiative and consider unilaterally removing its retaliatory tariffs. This will represent India as willing to be a constructive player in trade talks.
- From a strategic point of view, one of the ways that India can counter China is through deepening trade ties with partners who are committed to supporting India’s growth.
- It’s important that on the digital services tax, India accords with emerging global agreements that will accelerate trade.
- Even though removing the tariffs without a commitment from the US is a leap of faith, it ultimately will be beneficial for the bilateral trade relationship.
-Source: Hindustan Times
India has made no progress on anaemia and childhood wasting according to the 2021 Global Nutrition Report (GNR, 2021) released in November 2021.
GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to health, Issues related to Children, Government Policies and Initiatives)
Dimensions of the Article:
- Highlights of the Global Nutrition Report (GNR) 2021
- About India’s Progress in the GNR 2021
- Way Forwards suggested by the GNR 2021
Highlights of the Global Nutrition Report (GNR) 2021
- Only seven countries are on track to meet four of the six maternal, infant and young child nutrition targets by 2025, while no country is ‘on track’ to halt the rise in adult obesity or achieve a 30% relative reduction in salt/sodium intake.
- An estimated additional 155 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty globally, while people with diet-related chronic diseases experience worse Covid-19 outcomes.
- The previous decade has seen little progress in improving diets, and a quarter of all deaths among adults are attributable to poor diets.
- At the current rate of progress, the global nutrition targets will not be achieved by 2025 globally and in most countries worldwide.
- No region is on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals aimed at limiting health and environmental burdens related to diets and the food system.
About India’s Progress in the GNR 2021
- There has been a rise in anaemic Indian women since 2016 from 52.6% to 53% in 2020. Over half of Indian women in the age group 15-49 years are anaemic.
- India is also among 23 countries that have made no progress or are worsening on reducing ‘childhood wasting’.
- India is among 53 countries ‘on course’ to meet the target for stunting.
- The country is among 105 countries that are ‘on course’ to meet the target for ‘childhood overweight’.
- Over 17% of Indian children under 5 years of age are affected.
- Over 34% of children under 5 years of age are still affected
- India is meeting 7 of the 13 global nutrition targets which include sodium intake, raised blood pressure (both men and women), obesity (both men and women) and diabetes (both men and women).
Way Forwards suggested by the GNR 2021
- There needs to be a step-change in efforts and financial investments to end poor diets and malnutrition.
- Poor diets and malnutrition should be addressed holistically and sustainably to create a healthy future for all.
- Better data, greater accountability and systematic monitoring are key to identify the progress needed.
-Source: Down to Earth Magazine