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Daily Current Affairs 21.02.2022 (Tapping technology for multilingual learning, Withdraw new media guidelines: Editors Guild, The despotic nature of the PMLA, The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between India and the UAE, Do unemployment benefits delay work?)

Daily Current Affairs 21.02.2022 (Tapping technology for multilingual learning, Withdraw new media guidelines: Editors Guild, The despotic nature of the PMLA, The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between India and the UAE, Do unemployment benefits delay work?)

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1. Tapping technology for multilingual learning

As the theme of International Mother Language Day 2022, it has much relevance in reshaping Indian higher education

It is my conviction that expression in one’s mother tongue lies at the heart of an individual or community’s cultural identity. For centuries, India has been home to hundreds of languages and thousands of dialects, making its linguistic and cultural diversity the most unique in the world. In fact, our linguistic diversity is one of the cornerstones of our ancient civilisation. As I always emphasise, it is our mother tongue that lends expression to our vision and aspirations, our values and ideals, as also our creative and literary endeavours.

In a speech some years ago, the former UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, underscored the importance of mother tongue when he remarked that “the language we learn from our mothers [mother tongue] is the homeland of our innermost thoughts.” He aptly described each language to be “as valuable and distinct as every irreplaceable human life”.

Vanishing languages

While languages are among the key bridges that ensure cultural and civilisational continuity, globalisation and Westernisation have impacted not just the growth but also the survival of many of our dialects in this rich cultural and linguistic tapestry. Therefore, International Mother Language Day has special significance to the Indian context.

In November 1999, the UNESCO General Conference approved the declaration of February 21 as International Mother Language Day, in response to the declining state of many languages; it has been observed throughout the world since 2000. UNESCO has been striving to protect the cultural and linguistic diversity of member-states through such pro-active international measures. According to the UN agency, at least 43% of the estimated 6,000 languages spoken in the world are endangered — an alarming figure indeed!

This year’s subject

The theme of International Mother Language Day in 2022 — “Using Technology for Multilingual Learning: Challenges and Opportunities” — is one of special relevance to us. The underlying concept is to discuss the role of technology to further the cause of multilingual education. The central idea is to leverage technology to support and enrich the teaching-learning experience on a multi-lingual level. It also aims at achieving a qualitative, equitable and inclusive educational experience. Inevitably, the widespread use of technology would fast-track development. As the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, observed in her message, “Technology can provide new tools for protecting linguistic diversity. Such tools, for example, facilitating their spread and analysis, allow us to record and preserve languages which sometimes exist only in oral form.”

Multilingual education predicated on the increasing use of one’s mother tongue is a key component of inclusion in education. To underscore the importance of mother tongue in laying the foundation for one’s intellectual development, I have always likened it to eyesight and spectacles to other languages. Spectacles can function only if there is eyesight. When applied to Indian classrooms, a multi-lingual approach would also create new pathways of learning by addressing the emerging challenges on a regional and global scale. Seen in its entirety, this is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishwas”.

Globally, the role of technology came to the fore during the COVID-19 pandemic when school shutdowns forced educators and learners to adapt themselves to online education. Over weeks and months, this became the new normal across the world, though it did present a host of new challenges. These include the requisite skills employed in distance teaching, Internet access, and, importantly, adapting materials and content in diverse languages. While the central and State governments are taking active measures to promote digital learning, it becomes our responsibility to ensure that there is no digital divide.

Direction of the NEP

It would be pertinent to note that the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is a visionary document which encourages the use of mother tongue as the medium of instruction till at least Class five but preferably till Class eight and beyond. In drawing up a road map for the future, the NEP seeks to tailor the teaching and learning process and modify it by making it holistic, value-based and inclusive. The use of mother tongue in teaching is bound to create a positive impact on learning outcomes, as also the development of the cognitive faculties of students.

There is a pressing need to create and improve scientific and technical terminology in Indian languages. This would help transform the educational experience by making existing knowledge systems in a range of disciplines accessible to learners. It would be relevant to recall the words of the renowned physicist, Sir C.V. Raman, who observed with great clarity and vision that “we must teach science in our mother tongue. Otherwise, science will become a highbrow activity. It will not be an activity in which all people can participate.”

Helping students

Sir C.V. Raman’s observation has a prophetic ring of truth when we see it in the light of the fact that we have been able to create a large English-based education system which includes colleges that offer courses in medicine and multiple disciplines of engineering. This impressive system paradoxically excludes a vast majority of learners in our country from accessing higher education. Therefore, the need to build an effective multilingual education system across diverse streams and disciplines becomes all the more imperative. It is important to bear in mind that in a survey conducted by the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) in 2020 involving over 83,000 students, nearly 44% of students voted in favour of studying engineering in their mother tongue, highlighting a critical need in technical education.

In this context, the collaboration between the AICTE and IIT Madras to translate some courses on the central government’s e-learning platform, Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM) into eight regional languages such as Tamil, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam and Gujarati, is commendable. Such tech-led initiatives will serve to democratise higher education. At the same time, the decision of the AICTE to permit B. Tech programmes in 11 native languages, in tune with the NEP, is a historic move which would open the door for students to a wide range of opportunities; the languages are Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Malayalam, Bengali, Assamese, Punjabi and Odia.

Additionally, learning in (your) mother tongue is at the core of building a sense of self-esteem and identity. While I feel that one must accord equal respect to all languages, there is a tendency, which must be noted with regret, among some educators and parents to take a condescending view of education in Indian languages in preference to English language learning. As a result, children’s access to their mother tongue becomes restricted, leading to a sort of socio-cultural rootlessness, especially if corrective steps are not taken. We have to teach our children not to mistake competence in English to be a yardstick of intellectual superiority or as a prerequisite for achieving success in life.

Examples to emulate

Our policy-planners, educators, parents and opinion leaders must bear in mind that when it comes to education in mother tongue and local languages, we can take the cue from European countries as well as Asian powers such as Japan, China and Korea, among others.

According to the Language Census, whose findings were widely reported in 2018, India is home to 19,500 languages or dialects, of which 121 languages are spoken by 10,000 or more people in our country. It is our collective responsibility to revive and revitalise the 196 Indian languages which fall under the “endangered” category. Let us not forget that every single language constitutes a cultural crucible which stores the distilled knowledge and the wisdom of our collective consciousness — our values, traditions, stories, behaviour and norms, proverbs, sayings and idioms. Co-existing over centuries, borrowing from and nurturing each other, our languages are interwoven with our individual, local and national identity.

National Education Policy

  • In 1964, under the chairmanship of Prof. D.S. Kothari, the Union Government formed the Education Commission to study the ‘full educational setup and recommend improvements.’
  • The study covered all aspects of education: priorities, goals, structure, syllabus, methods of teaching, pay structure, language in education, research, class power, etc.
  • The then Education Minister of the Union, praised the study as the ‘Magna Carta of Teachers.
  • The Commission has recommended the ‘Three Language Formula’ as a way of social and national integration to resolve the problem of language in education.
  • The Central Advisory Board of Education had already recommended a different ‘Three Language Formula’ in 1956 and a simplified version of the same was recommended by the Conference of Chief Ministers in 1961.
  • The National Education Policy (1964) that followed the Kothari Commission Report made the ‘Three Language Formula’ a policy.
  • All learners would then study from Class I-IV in the mother tongue. The student would study two languages in Class V-VIII, a regional language and English / Hindi depending on the region. 
  • The non-Hindi States would make Hindi compulsory, and a Southern language was supposed to be provided by the Hindi States.
  • However, the implementation of these recommendations was not standardised across the country.

WHAT IS ‘THREE LANGUAGES FORMULA’?

The ‘three-language formula’ in India has its origins back in the year 1961.

The formula means that students inHindi-speaking states should learn a modern Indian language, apart from Hindi and English and, in non-Hindi-speaking states students should learn Hindi along with the regional language and English. 

First language:The First Language that students should study is the ‘Mother tongue’ or the regional language

Second language:In Hindi-speaking states, the second-language would be English or some other language belonging to Modern India. In Non- Hindi states, the second language will be English or Hindi.

Third language:In Hindi-speaking states, the third language would be English or some other language belonging to Modern India, but the one that is not chosen as the second language. In Non- Hindi states, the third language will be English or some other language belonging to Modern India, but the one which is not chosen as the second language.

Hindi imposition

  • The Dr.K.Kasturirangan Committee Draft Report of 2019 made a subtle change in the ‘Three Language Formula.’
  • It made Hindi mandatory in non- Hindi speaking States. (Later the Hindi mandatory rule was withdrawn after Southern States raised objection)
  • The Draft Report removed the necessity to study a Southern language for the Hindi speaking States.
  • Instead, it inserted the term ‘modern Indian language.’ Modern Indian Languages are the ones listed under the VIII Schedule of the Constitution of India.
  • Thus a student in a Hindi speaking area could study Hindi as First language, Second language and English.

How Constitution of India deals with language?

  • Currently, the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution contains 22 official languages– Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Bodo, Santhali, Maithili and Dogri.
  • Article 346 of the Indian Constitution recognizes ‘Hindi’ in ‘Devanagari’ script as the official language of Union government India.
  • However, the Constitution did not declare Hindi as the National language, it rather accorded Hindi the status of ‘official language’ along with English.

Article 350A:

  • Article 350A of the Constitution deals with the facilities for instruction in mother tongue at the primary stage.
  • It shall be the endeavour of every State and of every local authority within the State to provide adequate facilities for instruction in the ‘mother-tongue’ at the primary stage of education to children belonging to linguistic minority groups; and the President may issue such directions to any State as he considers necessary or proper for securing the provision of such facilities.

Article 351:

• Article 351 provides a directive for development of the Hindi language. • It shall be the duty of the Union to promote the spread of the Hindi language, to develop it so that it may serve as a medium of expression for all the elements of the composite culture of India and to secure its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of India specified in the Eighth Schedule, and by drawing, wherever necessary or desirable, for its vocabulary, primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other languages. 

2. Withdraw new media guidelines: Editors Guild

‘Rules made without consultations’

The Editors Guild of India (EGI) on Sunday sought withdrawal of the newly released Central Media Accreditation Guidelines.

Expressing concern over the new guidelines issued by the Press Information Bureau (PIB), the Guild said: “It is clear that these vague, arbitrary and draconian clauses have been included with an intent to restrict any critical and investigative reporting of government affairs. There are other provisions as well that are restrictive,” it said.

The EGI said in the case of freelance journalists, the requirements pertaining to the number of bylines had been made unreasonably high. “The guidelines have been introduced without any prior consultation with journalists’ bodies, media or organisation. The Guild, therefore, demands a withdrawal of these guidelines and urges PIB to undertake meaningful consultation with all the stakeholders,” it said.

The PIB lays down the rules for giving accreditation to journalists for accessing and reporting from the headquarters of the government of India.

The Guild said the guidelines contained various new provisions under which accreditation could be revoked if the journalist was charged with a serious cognisable offence, or if the journalist acted in a manner which was prejudicial to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of State, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

“It is bizarre that merely being charged has been mentioned as a ground for cancellation. The other grounds for cancellations are manifestly vague and subjective. Worst still, journalists concerned have not been given an opportunity to be heard. Most surprisingly, ‘defamation’ has been included as a ground for cancellation,” said the EGI statement.

New Central Media Accreditation Guidelines

The Government has issued a slew of rules for the media under a new policy on accreditation for journalists. 

  • The Central Media Accreditation Guidelines-2022 have outlined the conditions for withdrawal of accreditation if a journalist acts in a manner prejudicial to the country’s 
    • Security
    • sovereignty and integrity
    • friendly relations with foreign states
    • Public order 
    • or is charged with a serious cognisable offence.
  •  Most of the provisions are drawn from Article 19(2) of the Constitution which prescribes the restrictions to free speech. 

How is this different from the past? 

  • The previous policy, issued in 2013, had stated, under general terms of accreditation, that accreditation “shall be withdrawn as soon as the conditions on which it was given cease to exist. Accreditation is also liable to be withdrawn/suspended if it is found to have been misused”.
  • With the new policy and laying down the conditions for withdrawal of accreditation, they serve more as censorship rules rather than guidelines
  • Previous guidelines were more general in nature and did mention that accreditation would be withdrawn if found to be misused. 
  • In the new guidelines, there are 10 provisions under which accreditation to a journalist can be withdrawn. 

How are they proposed to be implemented? 

  • As per the guidelines, the Government of India shall constitute a committee called the Central Media Accreditation Committee chaired by the Principal DG, Press Information Bureau (PIB), and comprising up to 25 members nominated by the Government to interpret the guidelines for withdrawal of accreditation. 

Why are these guidelines a matter of concern? 

  • In 2020, the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked India 142nd among 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2020. 
  • Though freedom of the press is not explicitly stated in the Constitution, the ambit of freedom of expression under Article 19 of the Constitution has been generally interpreted as having laid down the template for a free press in the country.
  • These new guidelines, point out experts, carry the threat of coming in the way of the functioning of a free media. 
  • A common tool used by powerful people trying to intimidate journalists or to block information from coming out is filing of defamation cases against journalists and media platforms. Now, defamation has been made one of the provisions that can lead to cancellation of accreditation.
  • Besides, they carry the risk of delegitimising reports, especially of an investigative nature. 
  • Any report critical of the Government could now be seen as prejudicial to the interests of the country and it will be left to the interpretation and discretion of the Central Media Accreditation Committee to read the guidelines and decide what is defamatory while denying accreditation to a journalist. 

How do journalists get accredited? 

  • A journalist with a minimum of five years as a full-time working journalist can apply for accreditation to the PIB, a process that is completed after a mandatory security check from the Ministry of Home Affairs. 
  • Any journalist working with a newspaper which has a daily circulation of 10,000; news agencies with at least 100 subscribers and digital news platforms with 10 lakh unique visitors can apply. 

How does Accreditation help?

  • Accreditation helps in access to government offices and to special events and functions organised by the Government of India. Some Ministries like Home and Defence and Finance allow access only to accredited journalists. 
  • In accredited journalist does not have to disclose who he or she intends to meet when entering offices of union ministries, as the accreditation card is “valid for entry into buildings under MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) security zone”.
  • Accreditation brings certain benefits for the journalist and his or her family, like being included in the Central Government Health Scheme, and some concessions on railway tickets.

Have there been attempts in the past to regulate the media? 

  • The most infamous move to control the press before the advent of private news channels was by former PM Rajiv Gandhi when he proposed the Defamation Bill in 1988. Under pressure from a unified media and several sections of the public, the Bill was withdrawn. 
  • Several attempts have been made by successive governments to keep the media in check by proposing guidelines more in the nature of censorship. 
  • As recently as 2018, the PIB, which functions under the I&B Ministry, had proposed a Fake News Guidelines under which accreditation could be cancelled if the journalist was seen as peddling content that was fake. 
  • This was seen as a move by the Government to counter other independent media outlets who had called out the Government and the political leadership for putting out fake content. The order was withdrawn under pressure. 
  • More recently the Government proposed a series of rules under the IT Act to check digital news content. 
  • State Governments like Kerala and Rajasthan had come out with their own versions of proposed rules which were withdrawn under pressure and criticism. 

3. The despotic nature of the PMLA

What are the origins of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act? How has it become a subject of controversy?

The draconian PMLA of 2002 has evolved as the Government’s “hatchet” law in recent years, considering the series of raids and arrests of politicians, their relatives, and activists, most of them who are critical of the ruling regime. The unease about the law has become so rife that a bunch of petitions filed by people across the country have questioned the almost blanket powers given to the ED through this law.

The Act was enacted in a 2002 response to India’s global commitment (including the Vienna Convention) to combat the menace of money laundering, stemming from the trade of drugs and narcotics and the organised crime that goes with it.

Lawyers argue that the PMLA is invoked against a political rival or a dissenter, because the “process is itself the punishment”. They point out that the ECIR, an equivalent of the FIR, is considered an “internal document” and not given to the accused. Which means that, pursuant to the registration of the ECIR, as the ED begins to summon accused persons and seeks details of all their financial transactions and that of their family members, the accused does not even know facts of the allegation against him/her.

The story so far: The draconian Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) of 2002 has evolved as the Government’s “hatchet” law in recent years, considering the series of raids and arrests of politicians, their relatives, and activists. The frequency and timings of these raids and arrests have raised suspicions of whether the PMLA and its agency, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), are the tip of the spear used to strike rival camps with political embarrassment. The unease about the law has become so rife that a bunch of petitions filed by people across the country have questioned the almost blanket powers given to the ED for search, seizure, investigation and attachment of assets considered to be the proceeds of crimes listed under the PMLA.

What is the PMLA?

The Act was enacted in a 2002 response to India’s global commitment (including the Vienna Convention) to combat the menace of money laundering. The statement of objects and reasons of the PMLA Bill of 1999 refers to various international conventions and instruments dealing primarily with money laundering related to crimes involving drugs and narcotics.

These include the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988; the Basle Statement of Principles, 1989; the Forty Recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, 1990; the Political Declaration and Global Program of Action adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1990; the Resolution passed at the UN Special Session on countering World Drug Problem Together, etc.

“PMLA was a comprehensive penal statute to counter the threat of money laundering, specifically stemming from trade in narcotics. Currently, the offences in the schedule of the Act are extremely overbroad, and in several cases, have absolutely no relation to either narcotics or organised crime,” senior advocate Kapil Sibal said.

What are some of the recent cases where people have been booked under the PMLA?

Ahead of the Punjab polls, the ED has arrested Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s nephew, Bhupinder Singh ‘Honey’, under money laundering charges in an illegal sand mining case. In 2021, the ED raided the residence and office premises of activist Harsh Mander, who has been a vocal critic of the Government. Former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh was arrested in a corruption and money laundering case in November 2021. The ED has also summoned Abhishek Banerjee, Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader and nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, for questioning in a money laundering case linked to an alleged coal pilferage scam.

What are the arguments raised in the Supreme Court?

Back-to-back hearings before a three-judge Bench led by Justice A. M. Khanwilkar has raised contesting points. That is, on one side, the gravity of the offence of money laundering. The court said the national economy is the ultimate victim of this crime. The offence affects every citizen. On the other side, senior advocates like Menaka Guruswamy have brought up convincing arguments to show the possibility of misuse of the law and subversion of constitutional guarantees. A Finance Ministry report, brought on record before the court, shows that the ED conducted 1,700 raids and launched special investigations in 1,569 cases between 2011 and 2020. However, it could secure conviction in only nine of these cases. Lawyers for the various petitioners argue that the PMLA is invoked in a case, say against a political rival or a dissenter, because the “process is itself the punishment”.

Senior advocate Amit Desai, for the petitioners, has argued that assets of genuine victims have been attached. The ED could just walk into anybody’s house. In all this, the fundamental purpose of the PMLA to investigate conversion of “illegitimate money into legitimate money” is lost. Petitioners point out that even the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) — an equivalent of the first information report (FIR) — is considered an “internal document” and not given to the accused. They have argued that the ED treats itself as an exception to principles and practices of criminal procedure law and chooses to register an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) on its “own whims and fancies”. The arguments in the court focussed on how, pursuant to the registration of the ECIR, the ED begins to summon accused persons and seeks details of all their financial transactions and that of their family members. The accused is called upon to make statements which are treated as admissible in evidence.

Throughout this whole procedure, the accused does not even know facts of the allegation against him, as the only document which contains the allegation is the ECIR, which is not supplied to the accused persons.

The court is also examining submissions that PMLA does not distinguish between an accused and a witness while summoning them.

They complain that the ED registers an ECIR immediately after an FIR is lodged. This is when the cause of action to commence an investigation under the PMLA can arise only if the commission of the alleged predicated offence has resulted in generation of “proceeds of crime” and such proceeds are “projected or claimed as untainted property”.

Petitioners have submitted that discretion exercised under the PMLA should be guided by rule of law. It must not be “arbitrary, vague and fanciful”.

4. The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between India and the UAE

What all is included in the latest Free Trade Agreement between the two countries?

After a fast tracked three month negotiation between India and UAE, both countries on February 18 signed an FTA pact, during a virtual summit.

The CEPA is a bilateral trade pact that will cover over a period of time 90% of India’s exports as well as services which is expected to boom by $15 billion in the coming five years. The deal also has strong anti-dumping measures and rules of origin clauses.

The India-UAE economic relation at present is shaped by remittances. The remittances are expected to rise with full economic recovery of the UAE’s post-pandemic economy. The FTA will also help in increasing remittances as Indian investments in UAE will bring more Indian employees into the Gulf country.

The story so far: On February 18, 2022, India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) inked a trade pact, Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) during a virtual summit led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The agreement came after a fast tracked three month negotiation between the Indian and the UAE teams. India has been part of global trade organisations like the WTO but this latest trade pact is unique and has broader implications. 

What is the India-UAE CEPA about?

The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement is a bilateral trade pact that will cover over a period of time 90% of India’s exports said Commerce Secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyan introducing the scope of the deal. This will include leather, processed agriculture and dairy products, handicrafts, gems and jewellery, furniture, pharmaceuticals, food and beverages, engineering products and nearly the entire spectrum of items produced by the Indian economy. Apart from the goods sector, it will also include the services sector. Indian officials said that they expect the services sector to boom by $15 billion in the coming five years.

Commerce and Industries Minister Piyush Goyal said that the deal has strong anti-dumping measures integrated into it which will prevent any country from dumping its products into the Indian market by using the route of the UAE. He also said that the document has very strong rules of origin clauses that will disallow any country to export goods to India taking advantage of relaxed tariff on the Indian side. An official source mentioned that India wants 40% value addition into a product from a third country before it could be exported to India through UAE. 

How will the trade pact benefit India-UAE economic ties?

India-UAE economic ties are marked by the flow of remittances from the oil rich Gulf country to India. The country hosts at least 3 million Indians who work in diverse sectors of the economy of the Emirates and provides it with vital manpower support at all levels. According to a study, 82% of India’s total remittances originated from seven countries that included Gulf countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait. In 2019, India received $83 billion from the Gulf region. The figure was marginally affected in 2020 when large number of Indian workers returned home because of pandemic related economic distress. The India-UAE economic relation at present is shaped by the remittances that remain much greater than the $60 billion bilateral trade. The remittances are expected to rise with full economic recovery of the UAE’s post-pandemic economy. Commerce Secretary Mr. Subrahmanyam said the FTA will also increase remittances as Indian investments in UAE will bring Indian employees into the Gulf country.

Why did PM Modi refer to the western Quad?

The western Quad consisting of Israel, India, UAE and the United States has been a regional factor ever since it was convened last October which was followed by a ministerial meeting of the four countries. The western quad is marked by the diplomatic breakthroughs between Israel and the United Arab Emirates which recently hosted Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. It is understood that UAE as part of its post pandemic recovery plans is planning to revitalise its trade links with the region from the Mediterranean coast to Turkey on one hand and India and South Asia on the other. USA and the UAE are among the biggest trading partners of India, and Israel is among the top technology support providers for India. All four are connected by currents of security and trade. 

What will be the immediate outputs of the FTA? 

The FTA will allow goods from UAE, especially the famed dates of UAE to enter India. Most of the Indian exports similarly will benefit from the “zero tariff” that UAE is expected to grant. This move will allow increased visibility of Indian products in the UAE. The reduction in tariff for Indian jewellery and gems will allow it to enter the UAE in greater volume. 

How is the CEPA different from other such trade agreements India is negotiating with countries like Australia?

Most of the other agreements are expected to be “early harvest agreements” or interim agreements till both sides conclude the final agreement in a comprehensive manner. The India-UAE FTA however is comprehensive in nature, announced Piyush Goyal to highlight the vast scope of items that will come under it. Early harvest agreements are expected to include goods and products. But the CEPA will have a greater spread of both goods as well as services. 

When will the agreement come into effect?

Though the signing of the agreement took place on February 18, it is not likely to come into force immediately as the United Arab Emirates has not yet completed the necessary official procedures on its end.

This process will take 60 days at least and India has expressed hope that CEPA will be in the phase of implementation after May 1. 

India has completed the entire official requirements, Mr. Subrahmanyam has said.

5. Do unemployment benefits delay work?

A study taken in the U.S to understand whether the benefits given during the pandemic put off people from availing steady employment

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) were two Government programs that were used to extend unemployment benefits in the United States as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of March 2020. The FPUC was used to increase the amount of benefits given to the unemployed while the PUA allowed more groups of people to be covered under the unemployment assistance.

A major criticism of unemployment benefits has been that they discourage the beneficiaries from looking for new work. Such concerns led 18 American states to withdraw the benefits offered under the PUA and FPUC in June 2021 itself, before the official expiry of these programs in September 2021.

The study by the authors showed that unemployment benefits offered to help people who lost their jobs during the pandemic may have delayed the transition from unemployment to employment.

Unemployment benefits are a key feature of the modern welfare state in the west. These benefits are seen as absolutely necessary to help people who loose their jobs during unforeseen crises such as the coronavirus pandemic that struck the world in 2020. The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) were two Government programs that were used to extend unemployment benefits in the United States as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of March 2020. The FPUC was used to increase the amount of benefits given to the unemployed while the PUA allowed more groups of people to be covered by unemployment assistance. The FPUC gave an additional help of $600 per week to the unemployed.

The debate around unemployment benefits

A major criticism of unemployment benefits in general, however, has been that they discourage the beneficiaries from looking for new work. After all, when a steady paycheck keeps coming home without any effort, one could suppose that the incentive for the unemployed to actively look for a new job would drop quite significantly. This not only causes an increase in the tax burden on the rest of society that must fund these benefits, but also adversely affects the overall economic output of society as the size of the economy’s working population shrinks. Such concerns led many American states to withdraw the benefits offered to the unemployed in the wake of the pandemic under the PUA and FPUC. Notably, the States that withdrew unemployment benefits offered under PUA and FPUC did so some months before the official expiry of these programs. The unemployment benefit programs were supposed to expire by September 2021, but 18 states decided to withdraw them by June 2021 itself.

Some economists, however, have contested the claim that unemployment benefits increase unemployment by discouraging people from looking for work. They cite various empirical studies to support their case. So, do unemployment benefits really make people more likely to stay unemployed?

“Did Pandemic Unemployment Benefits Reduce Employment? Evidence from Early State-Level Expirations in June 2021” by Harry Holzer, Glen Hubbard and Michael Strain studies this question in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic caused a sharp rise in the number of unemployed in the United States, pushing the nation’s unemployment rate to 14.8% in April 2020. This turned out to be the highest unemployment rate recorded since unemployment data in the U.S. began to be collected in 1948, and much higher than the unemployment rate of around 10% reached during the Great Recession.

According to the authors, a total of 26 States prematurely opted out of either the FPUC or the PUA before these programs were supposed to expire in September 2021. Out of these 26 States, 18 States opted out of both the FPUC and the PUA by June 2021. The study focuses particularly on these 18 States to gauge the effect of unemployment benefits on employment. It uses the Current Population Survey (CPS) data released jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The results

Overall, the authors estimate that the U.S. national unemployment rate would have been 0.3 percentage point lower than what it was in July and August of 2021 if all States had withdrawn unemployment benefits in June. They also estimate that the employment to population ratio would have been 0.1 to 0.2 percentage point higher. Further, they found that the pace at which unemployed people moved into employment rose by two-thirds when compared to an earlier period after these States terminated the two unemployment benefit programs. In particular, among the unemployed between the ages of 25 to 54, there was a 14 percentage point increase in movement from unemployment to employment. Finally, the authors also found that the quick transition from unemployment to employment did not happen in other States which did not end unemployment benefits until September 2021. All these results are not surprising since, as the authors note, the unemployment benefits offered to about 76% of eligible workers during the pandemic exceeded the wages these employees lost when they lost their jobs. It is natural then for most people receiving unemployment assistance to delay looking for new work.

So, to conclude the authors argue that the unemployment benefits offered to help people who lost their jobs during the pandemic may have delayed the transition from unemployment to employment. They also note that American households with greater confidence in their ability to meet their expenses may have been less affected by the withdrawal of the unemployment benefits. However, the early termination of unemployment programs led to a drop of 5% in the share of households that had confidence in their ability to meet their expenses, the authors note. So they caution that the overall effect of scrapping unemployment benefits on the welfare of households is not so straightforward.

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