- The sanctions cloud over India-U.S. ties
- India’s need for a silicosis prevention policy
The sanctions cloud over India
The Chief of the Air Staff recently said that the delivery of the S-400 Triumf air defence systems from Russia is expected according to schedule.
In response, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State hoped that both the U.S. and India could resolve the “issue” of receiving the missile systems that could attract for India sanctions by the U.S.
GS-II: International Relations (Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)
Dimensions of the Article:
- About S-400 Triumf
- About India’s acquisition of S-400
- Shifting tides in defence trades
- Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, CAATSA
- India and CAATSA
About S-400 Triumf
- S-400 Triumf is one of the world’s most advanced surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems designed by Russia.
- The system is a large complex of radars, control systems and different types of missiles, with the capability to simultaneously track numerous incoming objects in a radius of a few hundred kilometres.
- It can employ appropriate missile systems to launch the counter attack and to neutralise the objects with the potential of ensuring a high success rate.
- It is the most dangerous operationally deployed modern long-range SAM (MLR SAM) in the world, considered much ahead of the US-developed Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD).
Issues with Acquisition of S-400
- The acquisition of S-400 by countries has taken centre stage in the American diplomacy regarding Russia.
- U.S. believes that S-400 could access sensitive U.S. military technologies in service with the potential buyers.
- Russia has also deployed at least two S-400 systems in Syria, which is of much concern to observers who fear the system could contribute to a global conflict breaking out in Syria.
- Among the countries under pressure from the U.S. to not buy this weapon are India and Turkey.
- NATO countries objected strongly to reports of Russia giving its systems to Iran and Syria.
About India’s acquisition of S-400
- Russia had offered its highly advanced Air Defence System to India, which agreed to purchase five of the S-400 Air Defence Systems.
- Before India, Russia had only sold this system to China even though Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Belarus were eyeing it as well.
- This is the first time that Russia is providing a different system to India, a departure from its tradition of supplying only attacking weapons.
- India needs high end weapons for very valid reasons. It is the only country in the world that is flanked by two nuclear armed neighbours– Pakistan and China and has fought wars with both of these countries.
- India maintains close military relations with both United States and Russia.
- But over the years, Russia has been the largest supplier of military weapons to India.
- In 2012-2016, Russia (68%), US (14%) and Israel (7.2%) were the major arms suppliers to India.
- India is the second largest market for Russia’s defence industry and Russia is the chief supplier of defence equipment to India.
About U.S. Objections
- United States has raised concerns of India purchasing S-400 system on two counts:
- The official count is that US has a legal position where any country that is taking systems or military equipment from their adversaries, the US expects to put sanctions on that country.
- The other count is that US is planning to put F 16 factories in India and sell drones to it.
Shifting tides in defence trades
- Over the last decade, India’s military purchase from Russia has steadily declined. India’s import of arms decreased by 33% between 2011-15 and 2016-20 and Russia was the most affected supplier, according to a report by the Stockholm-based defence think-tank SIPRI.
- On the other hand, over the past decade, government-to-government deals with the U.S. touched $20 billion and deals worth nearly $10 billion are under negotiation.
- The U.S. designated India as a Major Defence Partner in 2016. It later gave India Strategic Trade Authorisation-1 which allows access to critical technologies. Today, manufacturers in both countries are exploring ways to co-develop and co-produce military equipment.
- In recent years, though, there have been some big-ticket deals worth $15 billion including S400, Ka-226-T utility helicopters, BrahMos missiles and production of AK-203 assault rifles.
Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, CAATSA
- The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, CAATSA is a United States federal law that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.
- The CAATSA was passed when the U.S. sought to discourage trade in the defence and intelligence sectors of Russia, a country perceived to have interfered with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
- The Act empowers the US President to impose at least five of the 12 listed sanctions on persons engaged in a “significant transaction” with Russian defence and intelligence sectors.
- The State Department has notified 39 Russian entities including almost all major Russian defence manufacturing and export companies/entities.
- The Act also built in a safety valve in the form of a presidential waiver. This was written into the law after much persuasion and is interpreted as one crafted to accommodate countries like India. The “modified waiver authority” allows the President to waive sanctions in certain circumstances.
- There are a few more provisions including one that allows for sanctions waivers for 180 days, provided the administration certifies that the country in question is scaling back its ties with Russia.
India and CAATSA
- In 2018, India inked an agreement worth more than 5 billion $ with Russia to procure four S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile defence system, the most powerful missile defence system in the world ignoring the CAATSA act. The U.S. threatened India with sanctions over India’s decision to buy the S-400 missile defense system from Russia.
- Two oil companies ordered crude oil from Iran for November ignoring CAATSA. The United States threatened India with sanctions over India’s decision to buy oil from Iran.
Impact of pushing through with CAATSA against India on U.S.
- Sanctions have the tremendous potential of pulling down the upward trajectory of the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and India, which now spans 50 sectors, especially in the field of defence.
- The U.S.’s apprehension is that bringing India under a sanctions regime could push New Delhi towards its traditional military hardware supplier, Russia.
- Till about a decade ago, an influential segment of the Indian political leadership and top bureaucracy remained wary of deeper engagement with the U.S. Sanctions can stir up the latent belief that Washington cannot be relied upon as a partner.
-Source: The Hindu
India’s need for a silicosis prevention policy
Long before COVID-19 hit, countless workers engaged in mines, construction and factories in India were silently dying of exposure to dust, utmost exploitation and apathy – and they continue to do so even today.
GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Health, Issues related to Poverty, Government Policies and Initiatives)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What is Silicosis?
- The Silicosis crisis in Rajasthan
- Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSHWC) Code Bill, 2020
- Dilutions of OSHWC codes
- Way forward
What is Silicosis?
- Silicosis is a progressive lung disease caused by inhalation of silica (Silica (SiO2/silicon dioxide) is a crystal-like mineral found in abundance in sand, rock, and quartz) over a long period of time.
- Silicosis is an incurable condition with its potential to cause permanent physical disability.
- Exposure to large amounts of free silica may not be noticed because silica is odourless, non-irritant and does not cause any immediate health effects, but long-term exposure is associated with pneumoconiosis, lung cancer, pulmonary tuberculosis, and other lung diseases.
- It is characterized by shortness of breath, cough, fever and bluish skin.
- It occurs most commonly in people working in the quarrying, manufacturing, and building construction industries. It is also reported from the population with non-occupational exposure to silica dust from industrial as well as nonindustrial sources.
The Silicosis crisis in Rajasthan
- One State — Rajasthan — with the top-most share of over 17% in value of mineral production in the country and a long history of civil society activism, was the first to notify silicosis as an ‘epidemic’ in 2015.
- In just two years, the State has officially certified and compensated over 25,000 patients of silicosis, of which 5,500 have already died of the disease.
- In the mining sector alone, none of the silicosis cases diagnosed has been notified by mine owners or reported by the examining doctors to the Directorate General of Mines Safety (DGMS), Ministry of Labour and Employment. But this is what they are legally required to do according to the now-effective Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSHWC) Code, 2020.
- The DGMS, the sole enforcement authority for health and safety in mines, can take action against mine owners only if it knows who they are, and in turn, whom they employ. But only 10%-20% of the over 33,100 mining leases and quarry licences in Rajasthan are DGMS-registered.
- Persistent attempts to establish the employer-worker relationship on record have drawn a blank, given that the mine-owning community is a major revenue contributor to the State.
Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSHWC) 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.
Dilutions of OSHWC codes
- Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions (OSHWC) Code, 2020 makes it mandatory for all employers to provide annual health checks free of cost “to such employees of such age or such class of employees of establishments or such class of establishments, as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government”. However, positive sections such as this are severely diluted from the earlier Mines Act provisions, which in turn, were simply never implemented.
- Another section of the OSHWC code gives powers to the DGMS to conduct health and occupational surveys in mines. However, this section places no obligation on the mine owner to provide any form of rehabilitation in terms of alternative employment in the mine, or payment of a disability allowance/lump sum compensation for a worker found medically unfit. A ‘medically unfit’ worker is thus expected to leave the job and fend for themselves or subsist on the compensation of ₹3 lakh provided in Rajasthan from the DMFT.
- Rajasthan could lead the way by establishing a robust system of preventive annual health checks as a real and regular feature of the silicosis prevention plan.
- The related State departments, in close dialogue with the DGMS, must urgently draw up detailed guidelines for district-wise health surveys. The State rules under the OSHWC Code must take care to ensure the health checks are provided to all workers in all establishments, irrespective of age.
- The State Advisory Board under the OSHWC code along with technical committees, must be quickly constituted, with workers and their representatives having a say in them.
- Local manufacturers must be incentivised to innovate and develop low-cost dust-suppressant and wet-drilling mechanisms that could either be subsidised or provided free of cost to the mine owners. Existing prototypes must be tested and scaled up.
- The District Mineral Foundation Trust (DMFT) funds to which mine owners contribute – are both underutilised and spent in an entirely ad hoc manner. A Centre for Science and Environment report shows Rajasthan had ₹3,514 crore under DMFTs in 2020 of which only approximately ₹750 crore was spent. Their haphazard allocation for non-mineworker-related expenditure must be replaced by a streamlined and accountable system for the direct benefit of mineworkers under clearly defined budget heads.
-Source: The Hindu