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9 PM for Main examination
- Rajya Sabha (Council of States)
- Linkage and issues associated with Tribal, migrants and discrimination
- Labour Reforms amid COVID-19
9 PM for Preliminary examination
1. Rajya Sabha (Council of States)
Source: The Hindu
Syllabus: Separation of powers between various organs
Context: Emergence of debate about Rajya Sabha’s utility as second chamber
What is Bicameralism?
Bicameralism is a principle that requires the consent of two differently constituted chambers of Parliament for making or changing laws.
At present, 79 Parliaments of the world (41% of the total number) are bicameral.
About Rajya Sabha
- Origin – The Government of India Act, 1919 provided for the creation of a ‘Council of State’ as a second chamber of the then legislature with a restricted franchise.
- Current Composition – Article 80 of the Constitution lays down the maximum strength of Rajya Sabha as 250, out of which 12 members are nominated by the President and 238 are representatives of the States and of the two Union Territories.
- Allocation of Seats – The Fourth Schedule to the Constitution provides for allocation of seats to the States and Union Territories in Rajya Sabha. The allocation of seats is made on the basis of population of each State.
- Relation between the two Houses – Under article 75(3) of the Constitution, the Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha which means Rajya Sabha cannot make or unmake the Government. It can, however, exercise control over the Government and this function becomes quite prominent, particularly when the Government does not enjoy majority in Rajya Sabha.
Significance of Rajya Sabha
- Deliberation and debate – According to first Chairman of Rajya Sabha Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, it is a deliberative body holding high quality debates on important issues.
- Functions with respect to legislation – Constituent Assembly member, N Gopalswami Ayengar emphasized its function of revising and delaying legislation passed in haste by Lok Sabha.French philosopher Montesquieu said, “The legislative body being composed of two parts, they check one another by the mutual privilege of rejecting”.
- iii. Secures Federalism – Federalism and bicameralism are linked because the federal character of a nation comprising constituent units can be reflected in, and secured by, a bicameral legislature. Thus as a federal chamber, it represents interest of states in Parliament.
- Wider representation – It represents eminent people from different spheres who are nominated by President.
Arguments against Rajya Sabha
- Does not represent will of people – Lok Sabha that has representation from several regional parties more than adequately represents a federal country. Further Lok Sabha has directly elected representatives unlike Rajya Sabha where leaders are indirectly elected.
- Haven for losers – Rajya Sabha has become a haven for losers in elections, crony capitalists, compromised journalists and party fundraisers who takes indirect route via Rajya Sabha.
- iii. Losing decorum – Far from being deliberative, the Rajya Sabha appears to have descended into the same fickleness and passion as the Lok Sabha and has shown a disconcerting trend away from the decorum expected from it.
- Important functions vested with Lok Sabha – Rajya Sabha can’t hold government accountable like Lok Sabha does with collective responsibility principle. Also, Rajya Sabha has no power regarding money bill, which is passed solely by Lok Sabha.
Way Forward – Rajya Sabha has played a constructive and effective role in our polity. Its performance in the legislative field and in influencing the Government policies has been quite significant. Thus, urgent reforms are needed for its evolution in changing socio-political scenario of nation.
2.Linkage and issues associated with Tribal, migrants and discrimination
Syllabus: GS 2 – Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Context – The migrant workmen exodus due to COVID associated lockdown has highlighted the linkages and issues associated with Tribal, migrants and discrimination.
How many migrant workers India has?
According to tentative estimate of government, there are 10 crores migrant workers in India and many among them are not even documented and registered as workers.
Which law governs migrant workers?
Inter-State migrant workmen Act, 1979 is the only act which regulates them.
What is the relation between migrant workers and tribal?
According to National Sample Survey Office’s Migration Survey, highest number of migrant workers belong to tribal community.
Their pattern of migration is – short term, seasonal and circulatory.
Reasons of tribal migration in such large numbers:
- Poverty – 45.5 % of rural tribal population come under below poverty line. They are dependent on agriculture work and wage labor which makes them more vulnerable as both are seasonal.
- Displacement – The economic development based on utilization of land, water and forest often result in displacement of large groups of tribals from their native places.
- iii. Fault Lines in tribal areas – Since, most of the tribes belong to central India which has districts affected with Left Wing Extremism thus tribal people relocate for stable and peaceful environment.
- Better quality of living – Suburban and urban areas offer better quality of living for the migrants.
According to Ministry of Tribal Affairs, there is shortfall of 26% Primary Healthcare centers, 23% Community healthcare centers and 27% doctors in tribal areas.
Issues associated with migration:
- Bonded Labor – Contractors often hire groups of tribal workers and make advance payment to them. This makes them bonded laborers and thus result is exploitation.
- Inter-state migrant workmen act, 1979 – It only deal with those migrant workmen who are employed under contractor-based system and those who migrate on their own.
- Lack of basic social safety net – Many factors like lack of awareness, employer’s apathy, poor governance by State has made tribal workmen to live in hand to mouth circumstances.
They lack proper housing and services like water, schools, ration which makes them more vulnerable and susceptible to exploitation by employers.
- Xenophobia – Locals are afraid of migrant workers even when they are dependent on them for wage labor. According to Status of Policing in India Report, 2019 on an average 60% Police personnel held opinion that migrants are naturally prone to committing crime or are borne criminals.
Schemes for tribal welfare
- Van Dhan Yojana – It seeks to improve tribal incomes through value addition of tribal products (Minor forest produce) which is a major source of livelihood for tribals living in forest areas.
- Vanbhandu Kalyan Yojana – This aims to:
- Improving the quality of life in tribal areas
- Improving the quality of education
- Qualitative and sustainable employment for tribal families
- Bridging infrastructure gaps with focus on quality
- Protection of tribal culture and heritage
- Eklavya Model Residential Schools (EMRS) – The objective of EMRS is to provide quality middle and high level education to Scheduled Tribe (ST) students in remote areas, not only to enable them to avail of reservation in high and professional educational courses and as jobs in government but also to have access to the best opportunities in education at par with the non ST population.
WAY FORWARD – People centric and people led governance in 5th and 6th schedule areas by empowered local bodies and compassionate public servants is the panacea for tribal welfare.
3.Labour Reforms amid COVID-19
Syllabus: GS-2 Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
Context: Indian labour laws need serious reforms. Economists frequently argue that they have disastrous consequences on the economy. But the steps being taken by States, under the cover of COVID-19, of removing labour laws are raising certain questions on labour laws in India.
Issue of labour rights during freedom struggle:
- Labour movements had been key to the successful freedom struggle and the 1931 Karachi Declaration and Bill of Rights placed them on a par with ordinary civil rights such as the freedom of speech and expression.
Constitutional stand on Labour rights:
- These principles found their way into the Indian Constitution in the form of “Directive Principles of State Policy” and few of them are mentioned in fundamental rights. Prominent among these was the right against forced labour guaranteed by Article 23 of the Constitution.
Judicial stand on Labour rights
- PUDR VS Union of India case (1982):
- Background: The Supreme Court was called upon to address the exploitation of migrant and contract labourers who were working in construction of the Asian Games Village.
- Judgement: In a landmark judgment, the Court held that the right against forced labour included the right to a minimum wage.
- The Court held that “the compulsion of economic circumstance which leaves no choice of alternatives to a person in want and compels him to provide labour or service” was no less a form of forced labour than any other.
Problems with labour laws in India:
- Problems with labour laws structures:
- It sets up a labour bureaucracy that is prone to corruption, the adjudicatory mechanisms are inefficient and the rights that labour laws grant them are effectively submerged in a creaking judicial system.
- For the Employers:
- Costly Workforce: They make it costly to formally hire workers. So, employers use more capital or try to bypass the regulation in perverse ways like having contractors hire workers instead of directly employing them.
- Complex nature: Some laws created rigidities that had nothing to do with labour protection. They disincentivised industry investment in human capital.
- Create Rent-seeking economy: They create a political economy of rent-seeking and discourage the genuinely innovative entrepreneurs.
- For the labours:
- Push them in Unorganized sector: Employers ways of bypassing labour laws create a two-tiered labour system: a small group of unionized formal sector where they get protection through regulation and a large unorganized pool of labour which does not get these protections.
- Failed to provide bargaining power: The factories with hundred or more workers experienced more variability in employment than smaller firms. So, the idea that Indian labour’s bargaining power is an obstacle to India’s industrialization is not correct.
The ordinances by states to change labour laws has resulted into Four-fold assault on labour:
- Assault on constitutionalism:
- Contempt for democracy: It is seen by the bold use of ordinance to suspend such important provisions of the law.
- Problem for Federalism: By allowing the states to override central legislation, without justification.
- Contravention of ILO Conventions and its own Laws: Repealing many of these provisions will put India in contravention of ILO conventions and its own laws.
- These ordinances confirm the worst fears that the pandemic emergency will be used to amass arbitrary powers at a time when it is not even possible to protest.
- Systematic assault on little bargaining power of labour:
- Through these reforms, poverty will increase with lack of adequate social support.
- Lack of options: An artificially created mass army of reserve labour will have no option but to work on any terms.
- Ideological assault on Indian labour:
- The India’s inability to attract investments are often been linked to labour.
- The Indian labour’s capacity to supposedly block the onward growth of Indian capitalism reduces in comparison with the state and Indian capital’s capacity to inflict damage on the Indian economy.
- The cultivation of an authoritarianism:
- The changes that can be brought by the states like 12-hour working days, the decimation of grievance redressal suggests a deeper problem that might have nothing to do with economics.
How Markets work better for workers than regulations?
- Providing more jobs:
- Problem of demand and supply: Wages are low and workers are treated poorly because there are too many unskilled workers trying to get too few jobs.
- More options: More options are the only way to discipline badly-behaved employers.
- Laws against market forces misalign incentives and create corrupt inspectors and middlemen.
- Sharing of Surplus:
- Demand for labour services in India is highly responsive to wages.
- For Small firms: The cost of labour (wages+cost of compliance) is a large proportion of total costs, so the demand for labour is highly flexible.
- For larger firms: The demand is elastic because capital can be more easily substituted for labour. This coupled with a very large supply of poor and unskilled workers is the reason for workers’ low bargaining power.
- With deregulation and more companies in markets, there will be a larger surplus to split because the size of the pie likely to get bigger and create more jobs—to the benefit of workers.
- Increase Choices:
- The standard explanation for legislations is that workers are poor and illiterate, don’t have bargaining power, make bad choices and need protection.
- The Workers choose to work in awful conditions but still they are choosing their best option from given alternatives.
- The effort should be to increase the choice set, which cannot be done through legislation but only through more jobs and economic growth.
Need of the hour:
- Increasing state Capacity: Basic necessities like environmental protection, worker safety, basic rights require regulation. The government has to invest in the state capacity to do them right.
- Need Real Reforms: “Reform” should be used only when a particular action actually achieves a desired objective. Designing protection that can protect core interests of workers, respect their bargaining power and at the same time rescue distortions in capital allocation, is reform.
No country can develop that does not increase the share of labour in the country’s wealth and does not get the balance between capital and labour right. The concept of equal freedom from the Constitution must be the yardstick to measure the proposed legal changes to the labour laws in the shadow of COVID-19.
9 PM for Preliminary examination
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