4 July 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis
1) Lessons for India: On Italian marines case-
- The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is an intergovernmental organization located in The Hague, Netherlands.
- It is not a court in the traditional sense, but provides services of arbitral tribunal to resolve disputes that arise out of international agreements between member states, international organizations or private parties.
- The cases span a range of legal issues involving territorial and maritime boundaries, sovereignty, human rights, international investment, and international and regional trade.
- The PCA is constituted through two separate multilateral conventions with a combined membership of 122 states. The organization is not a United Nations agency, but the PCA is an official United Nations Observer.
The long quest for justice for the two Kerala fishermen shot dead by Italian marines from about 20.5 nautical miles off India’s coast in February 2012 has ended in disappointment.
RULING BY THE TRIBUNAL:
- An international arbitration court has ruled that India does not have jurisdiction to try the marines, who, it held, were entitled to immunity(protection) as they were acting on behalf of a state.
- The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague admitted that both India and Italy had concurrent jurisdiction in the matter but concluded that the marines’ immunity precluded(prevented) India’s jurisdiction.
- In India’s favour, the PCA found that the Italian vessel had violated the right and freedom of navigation of the Indian fishing vessel under UNCLOS.
- It also ruled that the action, which caused loss of lives, property and harm, merited compensation.
- It asked the parties to consult each other on the compensation due to India as a result.
- Italy accused that India lead the Italian vessel into its territory and arrested the marines, thus violated its obligation to cooperate with measures to suppress piracy under Article 100 of UNCLOS.
- However, the PCA rejected the argument by Italy.
- This may mean that the arbitration court did not view the incident as one related to piracy at all.
- The incident had caused national outrage(anger) as the public saw these as wanton(deliberate) killings, inasmuch as the circumstances indicated no attempt by the fishing vessel at piracy.
- The fishing vessel was within the country’s Contiguous Zone and it was quite clear that the offence warranted arrest and prosecution under domestic law.
- With the piracy angle ruled out, a regular trial was in order.
- The Union government should have taken over the prosecution and ensured a quick trial.
- However, as legal tangles(issues) were being sorted out, and India was dealing with the diplomatic fallout(impact), the marines managed to obtain orders to leave the country.
- The Supreme Court ruled that only the Centre, and not Kerala, can prosecute(hold a charge) the marines.
- A bigger legal issue, which caused more delay, came later.
- The National Investigation Agency invoked(used) the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002.
- This caused a diplomatic furore(anger) as it provides for the death penalty.
- The EU threatened to impose trade sanctions.
- Ultimately, it took time for these charges to be dropped.
- The PCA’s award, which is final and has been accepted by India, is a huge setback for the expectation that the two marines would face a criminal trial in India.
- In the end, Italy succeeded in taking the matter out of India’s hands.
- It should now make good on its commitment to have the marines tried under its domestic laws.
- The Italian marines’ case meets with a disappointing end, as India loses right to trial.
- The takeaway for India should be the lessons, in the legal and diplomatic domains, that can be drawn from the experience.
2) Bend it like Italy: On flattening the COVID-19 curve-
GS 2- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health
Test positivity rate is the percentage of tests that are turning out to be positive for SARS-CoV-2. If the rate is too high, it indicates that only the sickest are being tested and a large section of the population could be missing out.
- Five months after WHO declared COVID-19 as a public health emergency and after few months called the disease a pandemic, its spread does not seem to be slowing down globally.
- Instead, infections and the death toll continue to rise alarmingly.
- With the addition of each million new cases taking fewer days than the previous one, the pandemic is truly accelerating(increasing).
- As if the summer heat has invigorated(energized) the virus, June alone accounted for 60% of all cases reported so far.
- The second half of June has been particularly bad with over 1,50,000 cases reported almost daily.
- On June 26, 0.19 million new cases were recorded, the highest reported on a single day since the outbreak in China; U.S. (2.7 million), Brazil (nearly 1.5 million) and India (0.6 million) have been driving the spike.
- On July 1, the U.S. witnessed the single largest spike of nearly 50,000 cases, which is more than the total number of cases reported by Singapore, South Korea and other countries.
- As on July 3, India has reported over 0.6 million cases and 18,662 deaths.
- The acceleration of fresh cases began in the first week of May and increased sharply in June.
- While Maharashtra has the most cases, infections in Tamil Nadu and Delhi have been steadily increasing.
- With over 92,000 cases, Delhi has surpassed China (nearly 85,000) while Mumbai (just over 82,000) and Chennai (64,689) are close behind.
- After months of low testing, Delhi increased the number done per day to close to 20,000 with a concomitant(accompanying) increase in cases to reach a peak of over 3,900 before falling by nearly 40% in the last few days.
- Though belated, Tamil Nadu began aggressively testing in hotspot areas in Chennai a fortnight ago.
- Moving from a smaller number of targeted tests to increased community testing about two weeks ago has led to the test positivity rate reducing from 35% to about 20% in certain areas in Chennai.
TESTING AND ISOLATING:
- A test positivity rate of about 20% is highly suggestive of community spread in these areas.
- Equally important is tracing and isolating contacts.
- Tamil Nadu, however, has the lowest case fatality rate of 1.3% compared with 4.4% in Maharashtra, 3.1% in Delhi, and 5.6% in Gujarat.
- It is important for every State to take a leaf out of Maharashtra’s book and test large numbers daily unmindful of the rise in fresh cases each day.
- Dithering(hesitation) on testing, tracing, isolating and treating will inevitably lead to uncontrolled spread and increased deaths, undermining efforts to contain the pandemic.
- After all, China, Italy, and Spain have demonstrated that it is possible to bend the curve through a comprehensive approach that is centred around testing.
India needs a comprehensive approach to the virus centred around wider testing.
3) Reset rural job policies, recognise women’s work-
- The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on women’s work.
- Official statistics do not capture women’s work adequately and accurately.
- Little attention has been paid to the consequences of the pandemic for women workers and to the design of specific policies and programmes to assist them.
- A survey by the Azim Premji University of 5,000 workers across 12 States was conducted.
- 52% were women workers — found that women workers were worse off than men during the lockdown.
- Among rural casual workers, for example, 71% of women lost their jobs after the lockdown; the figure was 59% for men.
- Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) also suggest that job losses in April 2020, as compared to April 2019, were larger for rural women than men.
CRISIS OF REGULAR EMPLOYMENT:
- Several data suggests that rural women face a crisis of regular employment.
- In other words, when women are not reported as workers, it is because of the lack of employment opportunities rather than it being on account of any “withdrawal” from the labour force.
- This crisis of regular employment will have intensified during the pandemic and the lockdown.
- A second feature of rural women’s work is that women from all sections of the peasantry, with some regional exceptions, participate in paid work outside the home.
- In thinking of the potential workforce, thus, we need to include women from almost all sections of rural households and not just women from rural labour or manual worker households.
- A third feature of our village-level findings is that younger and more educated women are often not seeking work because they aspire to skilled non-agricultural work.
- A fourth feature of rural India is that women’s wages are rarely equal to men’s wages, with a few exceptions.
- The gap between female and male wages is highest for non-agricultural tasks — the new and growing source of employment.
- Finally, an important feature of rural India pertains to the woman’s work day.
- Counting all forms of work — economic activity and care work or work in cooking, cleaning, child care, elderly care — a woman’s work day is exceedingly long and full of drudgery(exhaustion).
LOCKDOWN AND JOBS:
- How did the lockdown affect employment for rural women?
- A rapid rural survey conducted by FAS showed that in large parts of the country where rain-fed agriculture is prevalent(common), there was no agricultural activity during the lean months of March to May.
- In areas of irrigated agriculture, there were harvest operations (such as for rabi wheat in northern India) but these were largely mechanised.
- In other harvest operations, such as for vegetables, there was a growing tendency to use more family labour and less hired labour on account of fears of infection.
- Put together, while agricultural activity continued, employment available to women during the lockdown was limited.
- Employment and income in activities allied to agriculture, such as animal rearing, fisheries and floriculture were also adversely affected by the lockdown.
- Our village studies show that when households own animals, be it milch cattle or chickens or goats, women are inevitably(by default) part of the labour process.
- During the lockdown, the demand for milk fell by at least 25% (as hotels and restaurants closed), and this was reflected in either lower quantities sold or in lower prices or both.
- For women across the country, incomes from the sale of milk to dairy cooperatives shrank.
- Among fishers, men could not go to sea, and women could not process or sell fish and fish products.
- Non-agricultural jobs came to a sudden halt as construction sites, brick kilns, petty stores and eateries, local factories and other enterprises shut down completely.
- In recent years, women have accounted for more than one-half of workers in public works, but no employment was available through the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) till late in April.
- The first month of lockdown thus saw a total collapse of non-agricultural employment for women.
- In May, there was a big increase in demand for NREGS employment.
- One of the new sources of women’s employment in the last few decades has been government schemes, especially in the health and education sectors, where, for example, women work as Anganwadi workers or mid-day meal cooks.
- During the pandemic, Accredited Social Health Activists or ASHAs, 90% of whom are women, have become frontline health workers , although they are not recognised as “workers” or paid a regular wage.
EFFECT ON HEALTH AND NUTRITION:
- While the lockdown reduced employment in agriculture and allied activities and brought almost all non-agricultural employment to a standstill(halt), the burden of care work mounted.
- With all members of the family at home, and children out of school, the tasks of cooking, cleaning, child care and elderly care became more onerous.
- There is no doubt that managing household tasks and provisioning in a situation of reduced incomes and tightening budgets will have long-term effects on women’s physical and mental health.
- The already high levels of malnutrition among rural women is likely to be exacerbated(worsen) as households cope with reduced food intake.
A NEW ROAD MAP:
- As we emerge from the lockdown, it is very important to begin, first, by redrawing our picture of the rural labour market by including the contribution of women.
- Immediate or short-run provision of employment of women can be through an imaginative expansion of the NREGA.
- Medium- and longer-term plan needs to generate women-specific employment in skilled occupations and in businesses and new enterprises.
- In the proposed expansion of health infrastructure in the country, women, who already play a significant role in health care at the grass-root level, must be recognised as workers and paid a fair wage.
- In the expansion of rural infrastructure announced by the Finance Minister, specific attention must be paid to safe and easy transport for women from their homes to workplaces.
- As the lockdown is lifted, economic activity is growing but the young and old still remain at home.
- Further, as the COVID-19 infection spreads, given a higher likelihood of cases among men than women, the burden on women as earners and carers is likely to rise.
- We need immediate measures to reduce the drudgery(exhaustion) of care work.
- To illustrate, healthy meals for schoolchildren as well as the elderly and the sick can reduce the tasks of home cooking.
- It is time for women to be seen as equal partners in the task of transforming the rural economy.