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Current Affairs for UPSC IAS Exam – 28 July 2021

Contents

  1. An Emigration Bill that does not go far enough
  2. No landless farmers in new database
  3. Nauka module to the International Space Station
  4. South Korea’s version of Iron Dome

An Emigration Bill that does not go far enough

Context:

In early June 2021, the Ministry of External Affairs invited public inputs to the Emigration Bill 2021

Relevance:

GS-II: Governance & Social Justice (Human Resource, Government Policies and Interventions, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of such policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indian Migrants travelling abroad
  2. Indian Diaspora report as of September 2019
  3. Significance of Indian workers in West Asia
  4. Why is a change in the Emigration Act, 1983 needed now?
  5. About the Emigration Act of 1983
  6. Highlights of the Emigration Bill, 2021
  7. Criticisms of the Emigration Bill, 2021

Indian Migrants travelling abroad

  • India has the highest number of international migrants in the world according a report released by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
  • In 2020, 18 million Indians were living abroad (highest), followed by Mexico 11 million, Russia 11 million, China 10 million, and Syria 8 million.
  • There are two types of international migration from India:
    1. Workers who are categorized as ‘unskilled’ or ‘semi-skilled’ and who migrate mostly to the Gulf countries.
    2. The semi-skilled workers, professionals, students who migrate to the advanced capitalist countries.

Indian Diaspora report as of September 2019

  • The count of the Indian diaspora has increased 10% from 15.9 million in 2015, making it the largest in the world, according to the UN’s International Migrant Stock 2019 released on September 2019.
  • It now comprises 6.4% of the total global migrant population.
  • In 1990, India was behind Russia and Afghanistan as a source of international migrants at 6.6 million with Russia sending 12.7 million abroad and Afghanistan 6.8 million.
  • In 2019, Russia fell to the fourth position behind Indian, Mexico and China with 10.5 million migrants.
  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was the top destination of Indian migrants followed by the US, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Oman, as per the data set compiled by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Division.

Significance of Indian workers in West Asia

  • Around 50% of them are unskilled and another 30% are semi-skilled.
  • Only a small minority of 20% of them are skilled and lucratively employed, but all these migrant workers together form the backbone of India’s ties with the region.
  • Their contribution of nearly 40% of the total foreign exchange remittances to India is critical to its economy. Their labour is vital for the GCC economy.
  • With no option of assimilation into their host countries, their link to the home country remains intact, unlike Indian immigrants to the West.

Why is a change in the Emigration Act, 1983 needed now?

  • For years, independent investigations into conditions of Indian migrant worker living abroad have underlined serious exploitative practices.
  • Large recruitment charges, Contract substitution, Retention of passports, Non-payment or underpayment of wages, Poor living conditions, Discrimination and other forms of ill-treatment are the various types of issues faced by Indian migrant workers (especially of the first category: ‘unskilled’ or ‘semi-skilled’).
  • Prevalence of Poor Working Conditions is very evident, especially for unskilled & semi-skilled labourers who don’t have proper guarantees or medical benefits.
  • Death of Migrant Workers – majority of migrant worker deaths in the Arab Gulf States/West Asia are attributed to heart attacks and respiratory failures, whose causes are unexplained and poorly understood.  

Other Challenges for Migrant Indians to settle abroad

  • High Cost of International Migration – lack of financial resources for most unskilled and semi-skilled people to take up travel.
  • Difficulty regarding Loans – as the Burden of Loans from institutional & non-institutional sources to cover cost of migration are crushing.
  • Loss rather than profit in earning abroad – due to the gap between the migration expenditure incurred and remittances made by international migrants makes life difficult. This also results in flow of capital outside India
  • Increased Debt for Migrant Families – because they end up being trapped in the vicious cycle of debts.

About the Emigration Act of 1983

  • The Emigration Act, 1983 was passed to regulate emigration of people from India, with the stated goal of reducing fraud or exploitation of Indian workers recruited to work overseas.
  • Labour migration is governed by the Emigration Act, 1983 which sets up a mechanism for hiring through government-certified recruiting agents – individuals or public or private agencies.
  • It outlines obligations for agents to conduct due diligence of prospective employers, sets up a cap on service fees, and establishes a government review of worker travel and employment documents (known as emigration clearances).
  • The Act imposed a requirement of obtaining emigration clearance (also called POE clearance) from the office of Protector of Emigrants (POE), Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs for people emigrating from India for work.
  • Emigration Act was enacted in 1983 in the specific context of large-scale emigration to the Gulf, falls short in addressing the wide geo-economic, geo-political and geo-strategic impact that emigration has today.

Highlights of the Emigration Bill, 2021

  • The Bill envisages comprehensive emigration management, institutes regulatory mechanisms governing overseas employment of Indian nationals and establishes a framework for protection and promotion of welfare of emigrants.
  • The bill proposes a three-tier institutional framework:
    1. It launches a new emigration policy division in (MEA) which will be referred to as the Central Emigration Management Authority.
    2. It proposes a Bureau of Emigration Policy and Planning, and a Bureau of Emigration Administration shall handle day-to-day operational matters and oversee the welfare of emigrants.
    3. It proposes nodal agencies under a Chief Emigration Officer to ensure the welfare and protection of the emigrants.
  • It permits government authorities to punish workers by cancelling or suspending their passports and imposing fines up to Rs 50,000 for violating any of the Bill’s provisions. When enforced, it can be used as a tool to crackdown on workers who migrate through unregistered brokers or via irregular arrangements such as on tourist visas.
  • The proposed legislation will also maintain registration of human resources agencies, validity and renewal and cancellation of a certificate. Besides, authorities will be empowered to have certain powers of the civil court.

Criticisms of the Emigration Bill, 2021

  • This bill lacks a human rights framework which aims at securing the rights of migrants and their families. For example, the Philippines human rights framework explicitly recognizes the contributions of Filipino workers and provides the dignity and fundamental human rights and freedoms of the Filipino citizen.
  • The penal provisions under the law, criminalizes the choices migrant workers make either because they are unaware of the law, under the influence of their recruiters, or simply desperate to find a decent job.
  • Further, migrants in an irregular situation who fear that they could be fined or have their passports revoked, are also less likely to make complaints or pursue remedies for abuses faced.
  • Emigration Bill 2021 allows the manpower agencies to charge workers for service fees, and worse is that it allows agents to set their own limits. This is NOT in accordance with the International Standards.
    • According to International labour standards provided by International Labour Organization (ILO) recognizes that it is employers, not workers who should bear recruitment payments including the costs of their visas, air travel, medical exams, and service charges to recruiters. ILO and the
    • World Bank reports show that Indian workers pay exorbitant charges for their jobs and that poorer workers pay progressively larger fees. Worker-paid recruitment fees eat into their savings, force them to take high-interest loans, leave workers in situations of debt bondage — a form of forced labour.
  • This Bill does NOT adequately reflect the gender dimensions of labour migration. Women have limited agency in recruitment compared to their counterparts and are more likely to be employed in marginalised and informal sectors and/or isolated occupations in which labour, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse are common.

-Source: The Hindu


No landless farmers in new database

Context:

The Centre’s new National Farmers Database will only include land-owning farmers for now as it will be linked to digitised land records.

Relevance:

GS-III: Agriculture (Use of Technology to aid farmers and agriculture), GS-III: Science and Technology (Use of Developments in Science and Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About India’s National Farmers Database in creation
  2. Significance of the farmers’ database
  3. About AgriStack
  4. About the Ministry of Agriculture move with Microsoft
  5. Analysis of the Ministry’s move
  6. Criticisms of the AgriStack move

About India’s National Farmers Database in creation

  • A data policy is being prepared specifically for the agriculture sector in collaboration with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to create a digital ecosystem for the agricultural sector in India.
  • The Central government had proposed an Agristack initiative to create a digital database that focuses on farmers and the agricultural sector.
  • As part of the first step of this initiative, the government has initiated a farmers database that would serve as the core of the Agristack.
  • The Agriculture Minister has stated that the proposed National Farmers Database would be linked to the digital land record management system and would thus initially only include farmers who were legal owners of agricultural land.

Significance of the farmers’ database

  • The availability of a database would serve an important role in the formulation of evidence-based policies for the agricultural sector.
  • Also, the government can make use of the database for targeted service delivery with higher efficiency and in a focussed and time-bound manner.
  • The database could be used to select beneficiaries of government schemes.
  • The availability of data will make it possible to implement digital technologies like Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, Internet of Things in the agricultural domain, thus opening up the sector to immense opportunities for improvement in productivity.

About AgriStack

  • AgriStack is a collection of technologies and digital databases that focuses on farmers and the agricultural sector.
  • AgriStack will create a unified platform for farmers to provide them end to end services across the agriculture food value chain.
  • It is in line with the Centre’s Digital India programme, aimed at providing a broader push to digitise data in India, from land titles to medical records.
  • Under the programme, each farmer will have a unique digital identification (farmers’ ID) that contains personal details, information about the land they farm, as well as production and financial details. Each ID will be linked to the individual’s digital national ID Aadhaar.

About the Ministry of Agriculture move with Microsoft

  • Recently, the Ministry of Agriculture has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Microsoft to run a pilot programme for 100 villages in 6 states.
  • The MoU requires Microsoft to create a ‘Unified Farmer Service Interface’ through its cloud computing services.
  • This comprises a major part of the ministry’s plan of creating ‘AgriStack’ (a collection of technology-based interventions in agriculture), on which everything else will be built.

Analysis of the Ministry’s move

  • At present, the majority of farmers across India are small and marginal farmers with limited access to advanced technologies or formal credit that can help improve output and fetch better prices – hence, use of advancements such as AgriStack would help in improving the financial constraints faced by farmers.
  • Among the new proposed digital farming technologies and services under the programme include sensors to monitor cattle, drones to analyse soil and apply pesticide, may significantly improve the farm yields and boost farmers’ incomes.
  • Problems such as inadequate access to credit and information, pest infestation, crop wastage, poor price discovery and yield forecasting can be sufficiently addressed by use of digital technology.
  • It will also fuel innovation and breed investment towards the agricultural sector and augment research towards more resilient crops.

Criticisms of the AgriStack move

  • The formation of ‘AgriStack’ will imply commercialisation of agriculture extension activities as they will shift into a digital and private sphere.
  • The MoUs provide for physical verification of the land data gathered digitally, but there is nothing on what will be the course of action if disputes arise, especially when historical evidence suggests that land disputes take years to settle.
  • It might end up being an exercise where private data processing entities may know more about a farmer’s land than the farmer himself and they would be able to exploit farmers’ data to whatever extent they wish to.
  • Several researchers have demonstrated the vulnerability of the Aadhaar database to breaches and leaks, while Aadhaar-based exclusion in welfare delivery has also been well documented in different contexts.
  • Also, making land records the basis for farmer databases would mean excluding tenant farmers, sharecroppers and agricultural labourers.

-Source: The Hindu


Nauka module to the International Space Station

Context:

Russia’s space agency Roscosmos will be attaching a module called Nauka, which will serve as the country’s main research facility on the space station.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Science and Technology (Space technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Nauka module
  2. About the International Space Station (ISS)
  3. Russia’s plan to withdraw from the ISS

About Nauka module

  • Pirs, a Russian module on the International Space Station (ISS) used as a docking port for spacecraft and as a door for cosmonauts to go out on spacewalks, was recently detached from the 22-year-old floating laboratory.
  • In its place, Nauka will serve as the country’s main research facility on the space station.
  • Nauka, was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is the biggest space laboratory Russia has launched to date.
  • The new module was sent into orbit using a Proton rocket — the most powerful in Russia’s space inventory.
  • On the ISS, Nauka will be attached to the critical Zvezda module, which provides all of the space station’s life support systems and serves as the structural and functional centre of the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) — the Russian part of the ISS.

About the International Space Station (ISS)

  • The International Space Station (ISS) is a modular space station (habitable artificial satellite) in low Earth orbit.
  • The ISS program is a multi-national collaborative project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
  • The ownership and use of the space station is established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.
  • The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which scientific experiments are conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and other fields.
  • It is the largest artificial object in space and the largest satellite in low Earth orbit, regularly visible to the naked eye from Earth’s surface.
  • The ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US.

Russia’s plan to withdraw from the ISS

  • As tensions simmer between Russia and a number of Western countries on the ground, the head of the Russian space agency has announced work has begun on a space station of its own.
  • Russian officials have indicated they could pull out of the ISS in 2025 as the station’s structure is ageing and also the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, says that its agreement with the international partners runs out in 2024.
  • Appearing to pre-empt the decision to exit – the head of Roscosmos posted a video showing that the first core module of the new Russian orbital station is in the works and it is aimed at being made ready for launch in 2025.
  • The Russian space module, being assembled by the Energia corporation, is set to cost at least $5bn.
  • The planned Russian space station would orbit at a higher latitude and thus be better able to view the polar regions, which would be useful for the opening up of the Northern Sea Route. Russia hopes to develop the route as Arctic sea ice melts.

-Source: Indian Express


South Korea’s version of Iron Dome

Context:

South Korea’s defence procurement agency announced that it had approved plans to develop an artillery interception system, similar to Israel’s Iron Dome.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-III: Science and Technology (Defence Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Iron Dome?
  2. How does it work?
  3. What are the limitations of the system?
  4. South Korea’s version of Israel’s Iron Dome

What is Iron Dome?

  • Iron Dome is a multi-mission system capable of intercepting rockets, artillery, mortars and Precision Guided Munitions like very short-range air defence (V-SHORAD) systems as well as aircraft, helicopters and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) over short ranges of up to 70 km.
  • It is an all-weather system and can engage multiple targets simultaneously and can be deployed over land and sea.
  • Iron Dome is jointly manufactured by Rafael Advanced Systems and has been in service with Israeli Air Force since 2011. Its development was prompted after a series of rocket attacks on Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas in the 2000s.
  • Rafael claims a success rate of over 90%, with more than 2,000 interceptions, however experts agree the success rate is over 80%.
  • It can protect deployed and manoeuvring forces, as well as the Forward Operating Base (FOB) and urban areas, against a wide range of indirect and aerial threats.

How does it work?

  • An Iron Dome battery consists of a battle management control unit, a detection and tracking radar and a firing unit of three vertical launchers, with 20 interceptor missiles each.
  • The interceptor missile uses a proximity fuse to detonate the target warhead in the air.
  • The Iron Dome is deployed in a layered defence along with David’s Sling and Arrow missile defence system which are designed for medium- and long-range threats.
  • One of the system’s important advantages is its ability to identify the anticipated point of impact of the threatening rocket, to calculate whether it will fall in a built-up area or not, and to decide on this basis whether or not to engage it. This prevents unnecessary interception of rockets that will fall in open areas and thus not cause damage.
  • The I-DOME is the mobile variant with all components on a single truck and C-DOME is the naval version for deployment on ships.

What are the limitations of the system?

  • The system has a ‘saturation point’. It is capable of engaging a certain (unpublished) number of targets at the same time, and no more.
  • Additional rockets fired in a crowded salvo could succeed in breaching defences and cause damage.
  • Several assessments suggest that Hamas is developing mitigating strategies including lowering the trajectories of the projectiles while also continuing to accumulate thousands of rockets with improved precision.
  • One of the possible limitations is the system’s inability to cope with very short-range threats as estimates put the Iron Dome’s minimum interception range at 5-7 kilometres.
  • According to a 2017 study, the system is built to intercept a certain of projectiles and can be overwhelmed by a more capable adversary.
  • Among the threats mentioned were mortars, whose range usually does not exceed several kilometres.

South Korea’s version of Israel’s Iron Dome

  • This new defence system will be designed and built specifically to thwart attacks by rockets and long-range missiles launched by North Korea
  • The Iron Dome is necessary for South Korea as North Korea deploys around 1,000 artillery pieces along the Military Demarcation Line that divides the Korean Peninsula. Following the armistice that brought a halt to the Korean War in 1953, both countries have built up massive military presence on both sides of the Military Demarcation Line, along the 38th parallel.
  • South Korea’s defence ministry said the country’s version of the Iron Dome would be very different from Israel’s and would also cost a lot more.
  • The most significant difference between the two systems in Israel and South Korea is that South Korea’s system will be designed to intercept long-range artillery pieces.
  • Israel’s system is fit for its geography, the desert and threats like rocket shooting by non-state actors. But South Korea has different geography, with mountain terrain with threats from traditional state actors.

-Source: Indian Express

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