1. Push the policy needle forward on migrant support
Amidst the scattered experimentation now, the Centre must offer strategic policy guidance for inter-State coordination
Only two years ago, in the wake of a nationwide lockdown, India was left shocked by the plight of migrant workers walking hundreds of kilometres, facing hunger, exhaustion and violence, to get to the safety of their home villages. The dire circumstances of the migrants tugged at our collective heartstrings. They became the focus of large-scale relief efforts by governments and civil society alike. The Government ramped up the One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) project, announced the Affordable Rental Housing Complexes (ARHC) scheme, set up the e-Shram portal and began to draft a migration policy. These initiatives generated hope that the migrant crisis of 2020 would be a turning point, setting India firmly on a policy path by offering adequate citizenship and the accompanying social, economic and political rights to internal migrants.
Still a tale of distress
Two years on, migrant distress has disappeared from our television screens but continues to be a lived reality. Repeated surveys have found that the incomes of migrant households continue to be lower than pre-pandemic levels, even after returning to cities. Migrants are finding less work and their children eating less. The post-1991 poverty alleviation of almost 300 million Indians, driven by migration out of farm work, is being undone. Despite this, a cohesive migration policy guidance remains elusive. Instead, disconnected policy initiatives and technocratic fixes chase specific agendas while nativism re-asserts itself through domicile quotas and reservations. The agenda of migrant inclusion has been pushed to the periphery of our collective consciousness.
This is not something India can afford to precipitate. Today, a third of the nation’s workforce is mobile. Migrants fuel critical sectors such as manufacturing, construction, hospitality, logistics and commercial agriculture. Despite clear economic and humanitarian reasoning to bring migrants back into the policy discourse, the current policy scenario is at best fragmented and at worst waning. To course correct, we must recognise the entrenched structural constraints slowing the migration policy momentum and take strategic steps to push the policy needle forward.
A politicised phenomenon
First, we must recognise that migration is a highly politicised phenomenon in India. States are highly influenced by the political economy of migration. ‘Destination States’ experience a tension between economic needs, which require migrant labour, and political needs, which promote nativist policies that impose domicile restrictions on employment and social security. On the flip side, the ‘sending States’ are highly motivated to serve their “own people” because they vote in their source villages. This fragmented policy response to internal migration follows from State-specific calculations on what political dividends might be reaped (or lost) by investing fiscal and administrative resources towards migrants. Moreover, development policy in India has bet big on rural development as an antidote to migration. This widespread ‘sedentary bias’ continues to influence policy even though migration is an important pathway for impoverished marginalised rural households to find economic security (and social emancipation).
Second, migrants are a perennially fuzzy category in policy discourse, located inside two larger categories that have long troubled policymakers: the unorganised worker and the urban poor. Even the e-Shram portal, which has made impressive progress in registering unorganised workers, has been unable to accurately distinguish and target migrants. Policy interventions in major urban destinations continue to conflate the urban poor with low-income migrants. Hence, slum development continues as the primary medium for alleviating migrant concerns, while in reality, most migrants live on worksites that are entirely out of the policy gaze. There seems to be an implicit assumption in the policy circles: if we cannot solve the problems of informality, how can we help migrants? Further, it is assumed that migrants will be automatically catered to with the formalisation of the economy, the labour market, the housing market, finance and so on. This pushes the timeline for addressing the migrant issue far out. It is no longer an urgent priority.
Gaps in the data
Third, migration policy discourse is seemingly paralysed by the now well-acknowledged failure of official datasets to capture the actual scale and the frequency of internal migration in India. Data systems designed to periodically record only one spatial location have posed great challenges to welfare delivery for up to 500 million people who are part of multi-locational migrant households. The novel coronavirus pandemic has placed a sharp focus on problems such as educating and vaccinating those children who accompany their migrant parents, or ensuring that migrant women avail maternity benefits at multiple locations.
Policy in India often emerges from the ground up, taking decades to cement into national law and standard practice. We have seen this in education and food security. In migration too, despite the structural constraints outlined above, it is heartening to see many initiatives on the ground that have immense potential to influence strategic shifts in migration policy. For example, many States have initiated data projects that can track migrants and generate dynamic real-time data that aid welfare delivery. Maharashtra’s Migration Tracking System (MTS), which focuses on women and children has been successfully piloted in five districts. Chhattisgarh’s State Migrant Workers Policy is premised on registering migrant workers at source and tracking them through phone-based outreach systems.
In States, a heightened awareness about migrants’ issues is locating initiatives in departments other than labour, which has traditionally been the nodal department for migrant welfare. For example, Maharashtra’s MTS is located within the Women and Child Development Department. However, there is further need for multisectoral approaches underpinned by a strategic convergence across government departments and initiatives. Odisha’s Planning and Convergence Department, which offers an institutional mechanism for inter-departmental coordination, is one possible model.
The Centre has a lead role
In this scenario of well-meaning but scattered experimentation, migrants would be well served if the Centre played a proactive role by offering strategic policy guidance and a platform for inter-State coordination. State-level political economy constraints make the Centre’s role particularly crucial in addressing issues of inter-State migrant workers at ‘destination States’. The NITI Aayog’s Draft Policy on Migrant Workers is a positive step forward in articulating policy priorities and indicating suitable institutional frameworks, and deserves a speedy release.
At a time when economic recovery and inclusive growth are urgent policy goals, migration policy can hardly afford to gestate. Strategic initiatives to provide migrants safety nets regardless of location as well as bolster their ability to migrate safely and affordably must keep up the momentum towards migrant-supportive policy.
2. Tampering with the Constitution in Pakistan
The events of April 3 will go down as one of the most clever, devious and unconstitutional steps taken
Can an unconstitutional act be considered a ‘brilliant political move’, a ‘masterstroke’? That is how Prime Minister Imran Khan’s subversion of both politics and the Constitution in Parliament on April 3 is being seen by many in Pakistan. As a consequence of Mr. Khan’s action, the country has no National Assembly as of today and no federal Cabinet. Mr. Khan stays on as Prime Minister for another week. As Prime Minister, Mr. Khan asked the President of Pakistan to dismiss Parliament. As per the Constitution, a new caretaker Prime Minister and Cabinet need to be announced within the week, and elections must be held in 90 days. The dissolution of Parliament and the way it was done is being seen as ‘brilliant’, largely because it was not anticipated and also because of the manner in which the blow was delivered.
The events of April 3 will go down as one of the most interesting, clever, devious and blatantly unconstitutional (of which there have been many) steps taken in Pakistan’s political history. Here is a micro history of the events of the last few weeks which led to the constitutional and political crisis which Pakistan now faces.
The opposition’s plan
The combined opposition in and outside Parliament, constituting primarily of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN), former President Asif Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and Maulana Fazal-ur-Rahman’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), launched a movement some months ago to constitutionally oust Mr. Khan’s coalition government headed by his party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). This opposition created an umbrella grouping, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), in September 2020. It was clear that Mr. Khan’s governance model, particularly with regard to the economy, was failing. Since he came to power in August 2018, the Pakistani Rupee has lost 35% of its value against the U.S. Dollar, inflation has been running in double digits for many months, and only loans from some countries and the International Monetary Fund have kept the economy barely afloat. There has been huge discontent against the worsening economic situation and the PDM made this the cornerstone of its anti-government strategy.
However, the PDM dilly-dallied on how the political process to oust Mr. Khan should continue. The two main parties of the PDM — Mr. Sharif’s PMLN and Mr. Zardari’s PPP — often had different intentions, ranging from members of the PDM themselves resigning from Parliament to forcing Mr. Khan to resign. After many weeks of political sagacity and unity, the PDM eventually reached a stage where it was able to break Mr. Khan’s coalition government and create a majority in Parliament with the PTI’s former allies, to table and pass a no-confidence motion against Mr. Khan. The intention, had the PDM won, was to elect a new Prime Minister from the group and, given the imploding state of the economy, to hold new elections within a few months. In any case, the new government would have had 17 months before the Parliament’s five years would have come to an end. Mr. Khan was never going to give in so easily. As he said on many occasions, he would “fight till the last ball”.
Mr. Khan went to the streets, held numerous rallies, kept taunting the opposition about its composition, and calling the three leaders of the PDM “crooks” and “convicts”. He rallied his followers. It became clear that he had entered electioneering mode. While the opposition gained strength inside Parliament, Mr. Khan alleged that there was a “foreign conspiracy” against Pakistan and his government and that the U.S. had decided to oust him. He showed a letter, said to have been written by a U.S. official, in which these threats were made. This later became a memo written by a Pakistani official in Washington, DC. Nevertheless, whether any such letter existed or not, Mr. Khan upped the ‘foreign conspiracy’ theory and this became part of his political narrative. He stated that the leaders of the opposition were part of this conspiracy and were, hence, traitors to the state and to the Constitution of Pakistan.
A stunning turn of events
This is exactly what was stated in order to subvert the proceedings on April 3 when Parliament gathered to pass its no-confidence motion. The Law Minister stood up and cited Article 5 from the Constitution (Loyalty to the State and Obedience to the Constitution) to state that the opposition’s no-confidence motion should be dismissed as it had conspired against the State of Pakistan. The Deputy Speaker read out a statement agreeing with the Law Minister’s submission, and the Parliament session was ended instantly. The opposition parties, which had gathered in Parliament to pass a no-confidence motion against the Prime Minister, which would have certainly passed, were left stunned by the way the Law Minister and the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly started and ended proceedings — all within a few minutes. Soon after the dismissal of the no-confidence motion, Prime Minister Khan went on television to inform the Pakistani electorate that he had asked the President of Pakistan to dissolve the National Assembly. Within minutes, the President, on the advice of the Prime Minister and according to the Constitution of Pakistan, did just that.
Numerous complications have emerged regarding the events of those few minutes. A question raised is whether the Deputy Speaker’s action — he ended the Parliament’s session without giving the Leader of the Opposition a chance to respond to the Law Minister — was legitimate. Given that all this happened within just a few minutes, it seems clear that the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and the President had pre-planned and coordinated the manner in which the events would unfold. Moreover, while the Supreme Court of Pakistan is set to debate and sort out the manner in which the events related to the Constitution took place, legal opinion and precedents state that the Supreme Court cannot intervene in the proceedings held in Parliament. This would imply, at first reading, that the Deputy Speaker’s ruling cannot be challenged by the Supreme Court, despite the fact that the Chief Justice of Pakistan has taken suo motu cognisance of the events of April 3 and constituted a Bench of the Supreme Court. Most lawyers have agreed that the Deputy Speaker’s move was unconstitutional, yet also consider Parliament sacrosanct. They argue that the Deputy Speaker’s ruling cannot be challenged.
Prime Minister Khan has repeatedly argued that since the opposition wanted him to resign and call elections, he has already done so and they should be grateful. While part of the opposition has got what it wanted, it knows it has been played. If elections are held under the fog of un-constitutionalism now, they will be as tainted as were the elections of 2018. At that time, there was much speculation that a particular state institution had ensured Mr. Khan’s selection. That institution is conspicuous by its absence from the public discourse at the moment and one waits for it to make its move.
3. The India-Australia trade agreement
What are the key sectors being opened up for business? How will disputes be resolved?
On April 2, India and Australia signed an Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA). The agreement is expected to increase trade between the two sides to $45-50 billion over five years.
Australia will get the opportunity to export a wide variety of agricultural produce and in turn will provide ‘preferential access’ to “all the labour-intensive sectors” of export items from India. They have also agreed to fast track approval for patented, generic and biosimilar medicines.
Under Article 13.5, both parties have agreed to hold consultations and make “every effort” to find a solution in case of disputes that may emerge in the course of trade in goods or services.
The story so far: On April 2, India and Australia signed an Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (ECTA). The landmark bilateral trade pact is the second trade agreement India has signed this year after inking a similar deal with the United Arab Emirates in February. The ECTA is expected to increase trade between the two sides to $45-50 billion over five years, from the current estimate of $27 billion, and create over 10 lakh additional job opportunities. Under this agreement, India will give 85% of Australia’s exports zero-duty access to its domestic market. India is expected to get zero-duty access to Australia for its goods over five years. The negotiations had begun over a decade ago in 2011, but were restarted in September 2021.
What are the main features?
The ECTA is guided by a Preamble and is divided into multiple sections that will govern what is hoped to be the most expansive bilateral trade since the two countries established diplomatic ties before India attained independence.
It has a section on goods exports, and lays out clearly “Rules of Origin” that are aimed at creating anti-dumping measures. There are also sections that are aimed at providing remedies and mechanisms for resolving trade disputes. The Commerce Ministry underlined that this is the first trade deal signed by India that has a compulsory review mechanism after 15 years of implementation.
Will Australia get access to India’s agriculture market?
Under this agreement, Australia will get the opportunity to export certain varieties of agricultural produce like potatoes, lentils, and meat products with some caveats. However, bovine meat is not part of the agreement. Australia may also send machineries that are required for food processing under this agreement. In a historic first, India may open up to a wide-range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks including Australian beer. Australian wines costing over $5 may face lower import duties in the Indian market. A Joint Dialogue for Wine may be created with participation from industry players and government representatives to ensure cooperation and benefits for both countries.
The Indian side said Australia will provide ‘preferential access’ to “all the labour-intensive sectors” of export items from India such as gems and jewellery, textiles, leather, footwear, furniture, food, engineering products, medical devices and automobiles. India will also allow Australia to export raw materials under preferential terms like coal and mineral ores.
What does it say about the services sector?
The Government of India has said that Australia has “offered wide ranging commitments” in around 135 sub-sectors and Most Favoured Nation in 120 sub-sectors which cover key areas of the Indian services sector like IT, ITES, business services, health, education and audio-visual services. Indian chefs and yoga teachers will get specific entry quotas into Australia, while Indian students in Australia will be able to secure work visas for periods ranging from 18 months to four years on a ‘reciprocal’ basis. As per the rules framed under the pact, students completing a diploma Down Under will be considered for an 18-month work visa; and those completing their undergraduation may get two years and those with a Ph.D. may be considered for a four-year visa.
What about the pharmaceuticals sector?
India and Australia have agreed to enable fast track approval for patented, generic and biosimilar medicines. Therapeutic Goods Regulators of both sides will have a role to play in monitoring and ensuring smooth trade in pharma products between the two sides. Both sides have agreed to audits of imports that require sanitary and phytosanitary inspection as per the law of the land. The importing side will ensure that plants and plant products, animal products and other goods, and their packaging are inspected through recognised methodologies. If either party finds examples of non-compliance, remedial measures will be taken by both sides.
What is the dispute settlement mechanism in place?
Under Article 13.5, both parties have agreed to hold consultations — and make “every effort” to find a solution — in case of disputes that may emerge in the course of trade in goods or services. They have also recognised that in case they have to resort to international arbitration, they may opt for an organisation (i.e, World Trade Organization) where both are members. They may also use “good offices” and form panels with qualified members drawn from government and business to resolve the disputes.
The dispute resolution may range from 45 days to 15 months.
What are the rules of origin included in the agreement?
The rules of origin are based on the principle that they should be “wholly obtained or produced in the territory of one or both of the parties”. This section ensures that waste material will not be exported by either side unless they contribute to the production of any of the items listed in the ECTA.
4. The partial rollback of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act
What is the history of AFSPA in the Northeast? Why has the Home Ministry decided to reduce the number of ‘disturbed areas’ under the Act?
On March 31, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the reduction of “disturbed areas” under the AFSPA in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland with effect from April 1.
Section 3 of the AFSPA empowers State and UTs to declare an area “disturbed”. The Act is said to give unbridled power to the armed forces in “disturbed areas” to kill anyone acting in contravention of the law and to arrest anyone without a warrant.
The decision was triggered after the revival of the anti-AFSPA demand following the killing of 13 people in Nagaland’s Oting village on December 4, 2021, in a botched ambush by the armed forces.
The story so far: On March 31, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced the reduction of “disturbed areas” under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Assam, Manipur and Nagaland with effect from April 1. The decision was based on the recommendations of a committee the Ministry had constituted on December 26, 2021, to study the possibility of withdrawing the AFSPA from areas in Nagaland in the wake of public anger against a botched ambush by an elite unit of the Army that led to the killing of 13 civilians at Oting in Mon district on December 4.
How did the AFSPA come about?
The British colonial government had on August 15, 1942, promulgated the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance to suppress the Quit India movement. It was the foundation for four ordinances, including one for the “Assam disturbed areas” invoked in 1947 to deal with Partition-induced internal security challenges. The Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Act, 1958, followed the Assam Disturbed Areas Act of 1955 to deal with the uprising in the Naga Hills and adjoining areas. The Act was replaced by the AFSPA for wider application. A similar Act specific to Jammu and Kashmir was enacted in 1990.
How is the AFSPA imposed?
Section 3 of the AFSPA empowers the Governor of a State and the administrator of a Union Territory (UT) to declare an area “disturbed” and issue an official notification in The Gazette of India to give the Centre the authority to deploy the “armed forces in aid of the civil power”. A government considers an area “disturbed” if it perceives a threat to “public peace and tranquility, by reason of differences or disputes between members of different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities.” The Act is said to give unbridled power to the armed forces and the Central Armed Police Forces deployed in “disturbed areas” to kill anyone acting in contravention of the law, arrest and search any premises without a warrant and protection from prosecution and legal suits without the Central government’s sanction. It says any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces can for the maintenance of public order “fire upon or otherwise use force” after giving such due warning as he may consider necessary. The situation is reviewed periodically for extension of the AFSPA. While the Assam and Manipur governments issue a notification in this regard, the Ministry of Home Affairs does it for Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, where it is applicable in Tirap, Changlang, Longding and areas falling under Namsai and Mahadevpur police stations bordering Assam. Once declared “disturbed”, a region has to maintain the status quo for a minimum of three months according to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976.
How is the AFSPA viewed?
The AFSPA has often been under the scanner for giving the armed forces personnel the “license to kill”. Rights groups have panned it as a tool of State abuse, oppression and discrimination while the United Nations has often pointed out it has no place in Indian democracy. Various State governments have over the years yielded to public demand and changed political scenarios to revoke the AFSPA. Punjab was the first to do so in 1997 followed by Tripura in 2015. In April 2018, Meghalaya withdrew the Act from a 20-km area along the 885-km boundary with Assam. Manipur had in 2004 withdrawn AFSPA from seven Assembly constituencies straddling the State capital Imphal following unrest over the custodial death of a woman deemed an extremist.
What triggered the recent decision?
Since assuming power in 2014, the Narendra Modi government has been claiming to have tamed extremism in the Northeast, unlike the past governments, with a series of peace deals, including the Framework Agreement with the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland. This, many pointed out, made the AFSPA redundant. But the trigger for the decision was the revival of the anti-AFSPA demand across the Northeast following the killing of 13 people in Nagaland’s Oting village on December 4, 2021, in a botched ambush by the armed forces.
In Assam, the AFSPA has been removed completely from 23 districts and partially from the Cachar district.
The Act has been revoked from 15 police station areas in six districts of Manipur but continues in 82 police stations in 16 districts.
In Nagaland, the AFSPA has been removed from areas under 15 police stations in seven districts but remains active in areas under 57 police stations in 13 districts.
The AFSPA continues in Mon, the district that put the focus back on the “draconian law”. This has not gone down well with the Naga Hoho, the apex body of various Naga tribes.
5. Caste hierarchies and migration patterns
How economic wealth and ownership of assets via caste networks influence international migration
This paper outlines how caste identities of migrants can influence migration patterns and the benefits attained through migration.
Through narratives from the wives of the migrants who have been left-behind, the paper shows how the relative economic affluence of backward castes in comparison to groups from Most Backward Castes and Scheduled Castes made the process of migration easier and also helped them gain jobs with better pay and benefits.
Overseas migration helped those engaged in caste-based occupations in their villages to shift to other job sectors and improve their economic positions. However, most of them are able to make ends meet only because women from these communities continue to work in caste-based occupations to support the financial needs of their families.
Arokkiaraj, H, ‘International Migration and Caste Dynamics: Three villages in Tamil Nadu’, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol 57, Issue No. 9, February 26, 2022
Among the many studies on migration and its socio-economic effects, H. Arokkiaraj’s article ‘International Migration and Caste Dynamics: Three villages in Tamil Nadu’, draws attention to the inter-connections that exist between caste and international migration It denotes how caste hierarchies and privileges enable certain castes to access better jobs, higher pays and profitable remittances through channels of international migration. In this process, other castes are excluded from garnering better opportunities. Even though migration is undertaken to improve one’s living standards, Arokkiaraj mentions how caste identities of migrants can influence migration patterns and the benefits attained. Unlike the upper castes, who migrate voluntarily for professional reasons seeking enhanced incomes and better lifestyles, Arokkiaraj observes how for lower castes and Dalits, their dismal socio-economic conditions compel them to migrate for survival purposes. From field findings based on methods of mixed sampling and semi-structured interviews (132 samples) conducted in three village panchayats — Thamarakki South, Sakkanthi, and Kottakudi Keelpathi in Sivagangai district in Tamil Nadu — this paper examines the role of caste in international migration and the differential socio-economic impact of migration on caste groups.
The paper takes into consideration three social groups who belong to the above mentioned villages – the Kallars who are the Backward Castes (BC) and the dominant landowning caste, the Moopanars who belong to the category of Most Backward Castes (MBC) and work as agricultural labourers in the lands owned by the Kallars and the Paraiyars who are registered among the Scheduled Castes (SC), barred from working in the farms of the Kallars, and are engaged in manual scavenging. This paper delves into how migration affects the wives of the migrants (the left-behind wives) and describes the experiences and consequences of migration on different caste groups through insights gathered from the wives of the migrants from these villages.
Social capital, caste and migration
The field data on the relationship between caste and international migration provides information on how migrants from the BC and MBC communities were well equipped in terms of their ability to afford more money to meet their costs of migration.
When compared to the MBCs and SCs, migrants belonging to the BC community were able to manage their migration expenses through their personal savings, whereas migrants from the MBC and SC communities had to borrow money from friends, relatives or moneylenders to meet their migration costs. BC migrants were also better placed in sending higher remittances back home. In the information gathered through interviews of left-behind wives belonging to the Moopanar community, it was found that the remittances of their migrant husbands were not enough to meet their household requirements. They had to share the responsibility of meeting the financial expenses by working on the agricultural lands of the BC (Kallar) community.
The narratives of women from the Moopanar community also explains the relative economic affluence of the BCs (Kallars), as Kallars possess agricultural lands, livestock and higher remittances. The Moopanars and the Paraiyars in comparison are economically disadvantaged as both the husband and wife have to work hard and engage in economic activities to attain socio-economic status equal to that of the Kallars. On the contrary, owing to their higher economic capabilities, women belonging to the Kallar community do not need to engage in economic activities and are able to run their households with the remittances received. For women belonging to MBC and SC communities, migrant remittances alone do not guarantee economic affluence. The financial benefits of remittances are marginal or meagre to them, whereas field data suggest that the BC community was able to benefit from/achieve economic solvency through migrant remittances.
Narratives from left-behind wives belonging to MBC and SC communities also indicate how caste functions as a decisive factor in the pre-migration process and the post-migration effects. Their stories show how BC migrants through their high caste status, community connections and financial resources, were able to get better job offers. After gaining direct employment with high salaries overseas, they further enhance their socio-economic well-being. Such narratives show how caste-determined migration acts to the detriment of migrants belonging to the MBC and SC communities, resulting in discriminatory outcomes for them.
Among the left-behind wives of the three caste groups, BC women made better educational progress and higher ownership of livestock than MBC and SC women. While the left-behind wives of the BC community were homemakers, women of MBC and SC communities had to engage in agricultural labour, MGNREGA works and other caste-based occupations to make their ends meet. In terms of income earnings and less financial burdens, left-behind wives of BC community fared far better than those belonging to the MBC and SC communities.
Differential access and outcomes
This paper brings to light the occupational shifts in the three caste groups caused by international migration.
BC migrants who were agricultural landholders worked in the sectors of construction and labour overseas and the MBC and SC migrants who were earlier engaged in caste-based occupations in the village, were able to shift to other job sectors and improve their economic positions through overseas migration.
Although international migration enabled those from the lower castes and the Dalit community to move to non-caste job sectors, their economic activities in their resident villages were still governed by caste.
While the men from MBC and SC communities shifted to non-caste job sectors via overseas migration, women from these communities continue to work in caste-based occupations to support the financial needs of their families. International migration proved more advantageous to the men and women of the BC community, with the existent socio-economic privileges adding to their advancements, whereas the same did not bring about any substantial change in the lives of the migrant families belonging to the MBC and SC communities.
This makes clear how in international migration, caste-based socio-economic privileges facilitated the access and advancement of one community (BC Kallars) while simultaneously prejudicing the economic prospects of the migrants of the MBC and SC communities. Such a disadvantaged outcome requires more academic attention and analysis.
6. ‘No need for laws to enforce duties on citizens’
Attorney-General says Supreme Court cannot issue mandamus to Parliament to make such laws
Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal on Monday said there was no need to enact specific laws to “enforce” fundamental duties on citizens.
Mr. Venugopal, in his capacity as a constitutional office, said the Supreme Court cannot issue mandamus to Parliament to make such laws.
A Bench led by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said the court had been very circumspect in entertaining a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by lawyer Durga Dutt to enforce the fundamental duties of citizens, including patriotism and unity of nation, through “comprehensive, well-defined laws”.
Mr. Venugopal took objection to the petitioner’s lack of research, saying had he cared to look, the Ministry of Law and Justice website would have shown him detailed accounts of the “tremendous work” done by the government to create awareness among the public of their fundamental duties.
Mr. Dutt had wanted to know what the government had done to comply with the Supreme Court’s direction in the Ranganath Mishra judgment of 2003 regarding the implementation of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee’s report on the “operationalisation of fundamental duties”. The committee’s work was a part of a report of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution. The report had urged the government to sensitise people to, and create general awareness of, their duties and the protection of minorities and freedom of religion.
The Supreme Court, on February 21, issued notice to the Centre and the States on this question.
“I object to this petition… The Department of Justice website shows the tremendous amount of work which has been done for the purpose of sensitising people, both citizens and the students, about Article 51A. The duties are part of the school curriculum… The President and the Prime Minister have addressed this aspect from time to time. A one-year awareness drive was launched,” Mr. Venugopal, who was called in to assist the court, submitted.
‘Govt. could file affidavit’
However, the court said the government could very well file an affidavit, based on which the Bench could deal with the petition.
Counsel appearing for the Solicitor-General’s office, representing the government, agreed to file the response in four weeks.
The court listed the case in July, after the summer vacations.
7. 99% of world’s population is breathing polluted air: WHO
Study covered 6,000 cities, other settlements in 117 nations
A full 99% of people on Earth breathe air containing too many pollutants, the World Health Organization said on Monday, blaming poor air quality for millions of deaths each year.
Fresh data from the UN health agency showed that every corner of the globe is dealing with air pollution, although the problem is much worse in poorer countries. “Almost 100% of the global population is still breathing air that exceeds the standards recommended by the World Health Organization,” the agency’s environment, climate change and health director Maria Neira told reporters. “This is a major public health issue.”
In its previous report four years ago, WHO had already found that over 90% of the global population was affected, but it has since tightened its limits, it said.
“The evidence base for the harm caused by air pollution has been growing rapidly and points to significant harm caused by even low levels of many air pollutants,” WHO said.
WHO’s study provides air quality data from more than 6,000 cities and other settlements across 117 countries — representing around 80 percent of urban settings.
In addition, Ms. Neira said WHO used satellite data and mathematical models to determine that air quality is falling short basically everywhere.
The poorest air quality was found in the eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia regions, and Africa, she said. The findings were alarming, it said, and highlighted the need for rapidly curbing fossil fuel use.
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