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11 October, 2019

12 Min Read

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Paper Topics Subject
GS-II It is still an amber light for road light.
Techno-Politics: Focus on China’s facial recognition technologies. International Relations
GS-III Going down together Economic Issues
Assam tea estates violating labour laws Economic Issues
GS-II :
It is still an amber light for road light.

GS-II: It is still an amber light for road light.

News

The Motor Vehicles Amendment Bill , 2019 passed by the Lok Sabha on 23 July and Rajya Sabha on 31 July has 63 clauses with the aim of reducing road traffic fatalities and injuries in India.

‘MOTOR VEHICLES (AMENDMENT) BILL 2019’:

Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill 2019

The Bill has amended the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 to provide for road safety.

Salient features of the Act are:

Road safety: The bill has increased penalties for traffic violations and offences like juvenile driving, drunken driving, driving without licence, dangerous driving, over-speeding, overloading etc. Penalty to be increased by 10% every year.

Vehicle Fitness: The Bill has mandated automated fitness testing to reduce corruption for vehicles and introduced penalty for deliberate violation of safety/ environmental regulations.

Recall of vehicles: Defective vehicles will be compulsorily recalled. The manufacturer will either will reimburse for full cost or replace the defective vehicle.

Road Safety Board: A National Road Safety Board will be created to advise the central and state governments on all aspects of road safety and traffic management.

Protection of Good Samaritan: The bill defines ‘Good Samaritan’ is defined as a person who renders emergency medical or non-medical assistance to road accident victims. Guidelines have been incorporated to prevent their.

Cashless Treatment during Golden Hour : The time period of up to one hour following a traumatic injury, during which the likelihood of preventing death through prompt medical care is the highest.

Compulsory insurance: Motor Vehicle Accident Fund to be constituted to provide compulsory insurance cover to all road users in India.

All these are intended to reduce traffic crashes by at least 50%  by 2030.

Out of the many amendments proposed in the Act the increased penalties have been implemented in many states from September 1, 2019.

At the same time many states have decided to “dilute” the suggested increase in penalties.

Penalties as deterrents:

  • New penalties have been introduced for faulty registration details the concessionaire or the contractor who is responsible for a faulty road design or has not followed standards and for guardians of juvenile offenders to be penalised.
  • While there have to be penalties for offenders there does not seem to be nay correlation between stricter and higher penalties and a reduction in road traffic crashes in countries where road traffic deaths have reduced over the years.

Challenges:

  • Unfortunately, the states who are topping the list of accidents are avoiding the implementation.
  • “Chalta Hai” attitude prevails.
  • With a Fund already existing to provide compensation for hit and run accidents, the purpose of the new Accident Fund is unclear.
  • History of corruption may ripe up to the highest.
  • State governments will issue licenses to taxi aggregators as per central government guidelines. Currently, state governments determine guidelines for plying of taxis. There could be cases where state taxi guidelines are at variance with the central guidelines on aggregators.
  • While the penalties for contravening provisions of the proposed scheme on interim relief to accident victims are specified in the Bill, the offences that would warrant such penalties have not been specified. It may be argued that imposing penalties without knowing the nature of the offences is unreasonable.

Way Forward:

Therefore, if there is to be  a reduction in India in the growing health burden due to traffic crashes it requires establishing a system or institutional structure which enables the generation of new knowledge new road standards thereby ensuring safe highways and urban roads. Thus, we have a long way to go in ensuring sage road behaviour.

 

 

 

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GS-II : International Relations
Techno-Politics: Focus on China’s facial recognition technologies.

GS-II:  Techno-Politics: Focus on China’s facial recognition technologies.

Context

The new round of US sanctions against China have turned the light on surveillance technologies including facial recognition that gained much traction in recent years.

US sanctions on Chinese tech companies:

  • US announced measures against around two-dozen entities.
  • Some of them are leading companies in China’s artificial intelligence industry.
  • They manufacture surveillance cameras as well as work on facial recognition.
  • The rest are public security agencies in China.
  • These entities will no longer be able to access US technology products without a license.

New centers of tensions:

  • There is an additional dimension to the trade war human rights and the treatment of China’s Muslim minorities.
  • So far the US administration has been criticised for downplaying human rights considerations in America’s external relations. But, now, bringing human rights into the arguments on technology could mark a decisive moment in the unfolding conflict.

The misuse of technology by China – outside China

  • A growing facial recognition industry has also created the basis for China’s export of surveillance systems around the world.
  • According to a recent report of Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Chinese companies have exported surveillance technologies based on AI to 63 countries. 36 of these countries are participants in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
  • China’s exports come with soft loans and the promise of better law and order. When Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena visited Beijing, weeks after the Easter bombings, China reportedly offered to share surveillance technologies to strengthen Colombo’s war on terror.

Two sides of technology:

  • It can be deployed to prevent terrorism or curb political protest.
  • Many technology companies already use facial recognition for commercial use. Some brands of smart phones and laptops now use facial recognition technology for logging you in.

Way ahead

The challenge in democracies is about defining appropriate norms for their use and finding a balance between multiple imperatives.

China’s expansive use of surveillance technologies and the US challenge to it mark the beginning a wider global debate on the use of facial recognition as a political, security and commercial tool.

 

 

 

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Going down together

GS-III: Going down together.

News

The world must heed the IMF warning that everyone loses in a trade war. The IMF has some words of advice for global leaders on how to resuscitate the faltering global economy.

Going down together:

  • IMF new Managing Director Kristalina Georgevia singled out India along with Brazil as witnessing a pronounced growth slowdown as global growth experiences a synchronized downswing.
  • The IMF expect growth to slowdown in nearly 90% of the world this year in contrast to two years ago when nearly 75% of the world witnessed accelerated growth.
  • In fact global growth is expected to hit its lowest rate since the beginning of the current decade.
  • In July the IMF cut its FY 2020 growth forecast for the Indian Economy by 30 basis points to 7%.
  • It would not be a surprise if given the further deterioration in growth since then, the IMF cuts its India forecast once again.
  • She made the right noises about how everyone loses in a trade war and how synchronised global policy action can help everyone.
  • What the IMF chief did not get into during her speech however was the failure of even the prolonged period of extremely loose monetary policy to sustain global growth.
  • Even worse this time around as the global economy slows interest rates are near or below zero in much of the developed world and corporations and governments are burdened with unsustainable amounts of debt.

Conclusion:

From an Indian point of view what is worth nothing is the IMF chief’s emphasis on the need for structural reforms to boost growth particularly in the emerging market economies. The government at the centre which came to power on the promise of delivering big-bang structural economic reforms will do well to heed such advice.

 

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GS-III : Economic Issues
Assam tea estates violating labour laws

GS-II: Assam tea estates violating labour laws.

News

A report by Oxfam a confederation of independent charitable organisations focussing on the alleviation of global poverty has flagged violation  of labour rights on the tea estates of Assam.

Key Findings

Extremely Low Wages:

  • Workers are paid in a ‘blend’ of cash and in-kind benefits and services. Cash payments are supplemented by the provision of food rations and free housing, healthcare and primary education, as required by the Plantations Labour Act (PLA), 1951.
  • Plantation owners describe wages in terms of the total value of both cash and in-kind benefits, claiming that this meets minimum wage levels.
  • India’s Minimum Wage Act of 1948 stipulates that in-kind benefits may not form part of the minimum wage calculation.
  • However, the Act is not compulsory and Assam (like West Bengal) has agreed an exception for tea companies.

Injustice for Women:

  • Women do the labour-intensive, low-paid task of plucking tea, while men get the better paid, more respected factory jobs.
  • They are excluded from decision making and from pay and working conditions negotiations, partly due to being under-represented in trade unions.

Main Reason: Inequality of Power

  • Supermarkets and tea brands in India retain more than half (58.2%) of the final consumer price of black processed tea sold in the country, with just 7.2% remaining for workers.
  • The relentless squeeze by supermarkets and brands on the share of the end consumer price for tea makes poverty and hardship for workers in Assam more likely.

Suggestions:

Enabling Living Wages: Closing the gap between current wages and living wages for tea workers could be supported in one of two ways:

Either by supermarkets increasing the end consumer price of tea, alongside making a commitment to pass this increase to workers rather than increasing their own margins.

Or alternatively, by maintaining current prices but redistributing some of the retailer and tea brand share of the end consumer price to workers.

For ending hardships:

  • Tea brands and supermarkets should work with trade unions, civil society, producers and the relevant government bodies to address the systemic challenges facing the industry and end the human suffering of the millions of workers who depend on tea for their livelihood.
  • There is a need to ensure that women workers have a voice in decision making and can work in decent conditions without discrimination.

Plantations Labour Act (PLA), 1951.

  • The PLA of 1951 provides for the welfare of plantation labour and regulates the working conditions on plantations.
  • The Government of India is planning to subsume the PLA in the Labour Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Bill, 2019.
  • This new Bill inter alia aims to provide fair wages to plantation workers by limiting the in-kind component of their pay and instead providing welfare facilities through the welfare schemes of the government.

 

 

 

 

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