The HINDU Notes – 03rd May 2019 - VISION

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Friday, May 03, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 03rd May 2019

πŸ“° Don’t give in to polarisation

In Sri Lanka, the challenge is to turn national mourning into a call for coexistence and democracy

•As reports about those behind the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka emerge, many questions remain about the motives of the extremists. The full picture of the formation of this extremist force and the objectives behind their heinous crimes may take time. However, they have succeeded in creating a spectacle of death, mayhem and fear.

•I focus here on the historical backdrop and the broader consequences of these attacks. In the months ahead, the climate of fear is going to drastically shape the workings of the state, the political character of future regimes and relations between communities.

•The political leadership in the country has descended into a blame game with this being an election year. The progressive forces committed to a plural and democratic society have a historical challenge before them, as Sri Lanka is on the verge of falling into the abyss of polarisation.

Historical turn

•The Easter attacks have implanted horrendous images in the minds of Sri Lankans. The fallout can tear apart the body politic of Sri Lanka with political shifts similar to the U.S. after September 11, 2001 and the July 1983 pogrom in Sri Lanka.

•The “war on terror” in the U.S. after 2001 led to the draconian USA PATRIOT Act, the detention and surveillance of Muslims and the institution of Homeland Security, undermining the democratic and liberal structures within the U.S. With many other countries sucked into the “war on terror” coupled with the Bush regime’s military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, great social and political turmoil was created in West and South Asia, and fuelled extremist Islamist forces.

•In Sri Lanka, the “war on terror” manoeuvred an internationalised peace process between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), by pushing for a deal between a so-called “failed state” and a “terrorist organisation”. Eventually, as the peace process failed with heightened international engagement, Sri Lanka’s version of a brutal “war on terror” cataclysmically ended the civil war with tens of thousands of lives lost in May 2009.

•On the other hand, the armed conflict itself escalated following the government-orchestrated July 1983 pogroms where over 2,000 Tamil civilians were massacred. That pogrom over-determined the political economy of the country with an ethnic conflict over the next two and a half decades. Indeed, the Easter massacre leading to hundreds of casualties is loaded with dangers of religious forces entering the mix of a country historically fraught with ethno-nationalist tensions and conflicts.

Polarised politics

•Some actors are drawing parallels between the perpetrators of the Easter attacks and the LTTE. However, the similarities are limited to the LTTE’s use of suicide bombings and targeting of civilians. The LTTE had a clear agenda of creating a separate state and worked to build a base within the Tamil community through a combination of separatist nationalist mobilisations, totalitarian control and ruthless elimination of dissent.

•The extremist Muslim youth behind the Easter attacks are a fringe group and their nihilist politics without a social base is one of divisiveness and isolation. They have drawn as much on globally circulating contemporary technologies of terror as on the alienation of Muslim youth with rising global Islamophobia, but their politics are eschewed by the Muslim communities in Sri Lanka.

•In this context, even though the attacks were mainly against Christian churches, the fallout may take unpredictable forms. Thus far, the Christian communities’ response has been restrained. However, chauvinist Sinhala Buddhist forces see these attacks as targeting state sovereignty and feel vindicated in their distrust of Muslims. Their anti-Muslim campaigns have greatly influenced the Sinhala population’s prejudices against Muslims over the last decade; the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime stoked anti-Muslim violence and the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government hardly addressed its continuation.

•Even as reports of the perpetrators behind these harrowing attacks unfold, many international and national actors are projecting narratives to suit their geopolitical and power seeking agendas. The number of international actors now providing assistance to confront “terrorism” does not bode well given the disastrous history of internationalised engagement in Sri Lanka.

•There are social and political dangers in projecting hasty solutions either removed from or with limited understanding of problems. While security in the aftermath of the attacks is a real concern, a solution solely focussed on militarised policing and surveillance is worrying. For close to a decade, progressives have called for demilitarisation. However, the current state of Emergency with militarised check points and surveillance are further militarising the country. In weeks before the Easter attacks there was much discussion of repealing the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act enacted in 1979, which in no small measure was linked to torturing and alienating Tamil youth during the war and Sinhala youth during the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna insurrection. We are now looking into the black hole of a far severe legal and surveillance regime, with little discussion of its long-term impact on democratic freedoms.

Political ramifications

•In the panic and clamour for a security response, the ideological, economic and political ramifications of the current crisis are missed. Drawing on Islamophobic discourse, Muslims characterised as the “other” are called to explain and take responsibility for the Easter attacks. There are escalating demands to ban madrasas and Muslim women’s attire without extensively consulting the Muslim community. Furthermore, as with the previous riots that targeted Muslim businesses, scapegoating Muslims for future economic problems is a real fear.

•The fragile national economy is bound to decline with a major hit on the significant tourist industry. The July 1983 pogrom and the armed conflict brought tremendous disorder and isolated Sri Lanka at a time when its peers such as Malaysia and Thailand gained economically from major foreign investments. In these times of protectionism, an economic shock affecting international investment, capital flows and trade with Sri Lanka can lead to a national economic crisis.

•Even more dangerously, an authoritarian anti-terrorist leadership is now the kneejerk call for the upcoming presidential elections. Predictably, the Rajapaksa camp gaining ground over the last year capitalising on mounting economic problems, is seeking further political gain out of this disaster. They claim only a strongman leader can redeem the country. They are projecting their role in decimating the LTTE as the solution for the current crisis. However, the defeat of the LTTE was about taking on a totalitarian organisation with a pyramidal military structure, where the decapitation of the leadership led to its end.

•The challenge now beyond the immediate security concerns is mainly of social and political proportions. The attacks by extremist Islamist forces on the Christian churches can shift into conflicts that involve chauvinist Buddhist and for that matter Hindu reactionary forces. Hindutva in India, Buddhist extremism in Myanmar and the circulation of their ideologies and practices are imminent dangers for an already fraught Sri Lankan polity.

•The liberal and left forces in the country, and the Sinhala intelligentsia in particular, have to find the courage and discourse to take on the chauvinist anti-Muslim rhetorical barrage. A likely casualty of the Easter attacks is going to be the rights of Muslim youth and the broader freedoms of the citizenry. The challenge before the country is to turn national mourning and grief into a call for coexistence and democracy.

πŸ“° A global label: on designating Masood Azhar as global terrorist

With Masood Azhar listed as a terrorist, India must work to ensure the mandated sanctions

•Masood Azhar’s listing as a designated terrorist by the UN Security Council at long last closes an important chapter in India’s quest to bring the Jaish-e-Mohammad chief to justice. He eluded the designation for 20 years, despite his release in 1999 in exchange for hostages after the IC-814 hijack, and his leadership of the JeM as it carried out dozens of deadly attacks in India, including the Parliament attack of 2001, and more recent ones like the Pathankot airbase attack in 2016 and the Pulwama police convoy bombing this year. China’s opposition to the listing has long been a thorn in India’s side, given the toll Azhar and the JeM have exacted, and Beijing’s veto of the listing three times between 2009 and 2017 had driven a wedge in India-China relations. Despite the frustration over China’s last hold on a proposal moved by the U.S., the U.K., and France just weeks after Pulwama, the government has done well to approach Beijing with what the Ministry of External Affairs called “patience and persistence”. There is much disappointment, however, over the final listing released by the Security Council, with no mention of Mr. Azhar’s role in any of the attacks against India, or directing the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. A specific reference to Pulwama, which was in the original proposal, was also dropped, presumably to effect China’s change of mind on the issue. Pakistan’s claims of a victory in this are hardly credible; Masood Azhar is one of about twenty 1267-sanctioned terrorists who have Pakistani nationality, and more are based there, which is hardly a situation that gives it cause for pride. It is necessary to recognise that India’s efforts and those of its partners in the Security Council have been rewarded with a UNSC designation at its 1267 ISIL and Al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee. The focus must now move to ensuring its full implementation in Pakistan.

•But this is easier said than done. Pakistan’s actions against others on the 1267 list have been far from effective, and in many cases obstructionist. Hafiz Saeed, the 26/11 mastermind and Lashkar-e-Toiba chief, roams free, addresses rallies, and runs a political party and several NGOs without any government restrictions. LeT’s operations commander Zaki Ur Rahman Lakhvi was granted bail some years ago despite the UNSC sanctions mandating that funds and assets to the sanctioned individuals must be frozen. It will take constant focus from New Delhi, and a push from the global community, to ensure that Masood Azhar is not just starved of funds, arms and ammunition as mandated, but that he is prosecuted in Pakistan for the acts of terror he is responsible for. Azhar and his JeM must lose all capacity to carry out attacks, particularly across the border. Global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force will also be watching Pakistan’s next moves closely, ahead of a decision, that could come as early as in June, on whether to “blacklist” Pakistan or keep it on the “greylist”. Both financial and political pressure should be maintained on Islamabad to bring the hard-fought designation of Masood Azhar to its logical conclusion.

πŸ“° Lost lives: on Gadchiroli naxal attack

India must meet the Maoist challenge in a holistic manner

•The death of 15 security personnel in a landmine attack in Gadchiroli on Wednesday is another grim reminder of the Indian state’s continued failure to crush naxalism. Less than a month ago, a legislator and some security personnel lost their lives in a similar attack in the neighbouring State of Chhattisgarh ahead of polling. That this attack should occur despite the deployment of 30 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force — a company comprises 135 personnel — and 13 companies of the State Reserve Police Force as well as 5,500 personnel of the local police in Gadchiroli and neighbouring Chandrapur district shows not only the audacity of the perpetrators but also the unpreparedness of the security forces. A Quick Response Team was going down the road to Dadpur in Kurkheda where extremists had set fire to three dozen vehicles of a road construction company earlier in the day when the explosion blasted the team to smithereens. The ease with which the extremists were able to torch so many vehicles is alarming, and the manner in which the response team blithely drove into an ambush is a shocking example of poor planning. The naxals set the bait and the security forces blindly took it. In the process, standard operating procedures, including letting a road-opening team lead the way, seem to have been ignored. Yet, the authorities still remain in a state of denial.

•It is no coincidence either that the perpetrators chose the Maharashtra Foundation Day, after the polling in the district, to send this violent message. That the naxals should be able to control the narrative, remain on top of the intelligence, stay nimble and several steps ahead of the security planners should be a matter of deep concern. It is some comfort that the polling percentages in both Gadchiroli and neighbouring Chandrapur have risen, compared to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, from 70.04% to 71.98% and from 63.29% to 64.65%, respectively. But the path of the voter to the polling booth in the naxal-dominated districts is still paved with disincentives. And, the security forces deployed in the region have not been able to instil in them a greater level of confidence. On top of everything else, most of the police personnel who perished in this latest attack seem to have been local citizens. What effect could this have on the larger process of weaning away the populace from the naxalites? Reality beckons. Even in the prevailing circumstances of a hostile external environment, India cannot afford to take the challenges of internal security lightly.

πŸ“° Cyclone Fani: Odisha evacuates over 11 lakh

Extremely severe Fani to hit coast with 180 km wind speed

•With the extremely severe cyclonic storm Fani expected to cross the Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, south of Puri town, on Friday morning, the State government on Thursday evacuated over 11 lakh people from low-lying areas in 15 districts.

•Heavy rainfall had started at many places in the coastal districts by Thursday evening under the influence of the storm. Fani is expected to make landfall between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and continue to rage up to noon, officials said. The cyclone will hit the coast with a maximum sustained wind speed of 170-180 kmph, gusting to 200 kmph. Storm surge of about 1.5 metre height may flood low-lying areas.

•After landfall on Friday, Fani is very likely to continue to move north-northeastwards, weaken gradually and enter into West Bengal as a severe cyclonic storm with the wind speed of 90-100 kmph gusting to 115 kmph.

•According to Special Relief Commissioner Bishnupada Sethi, while the evacuation exercise continued on Thursday, the administration made people in coastal areas aware of the risks, through loudspeakers, sirens and messages.

•Flight operations from the Biju Patnaik International Airport in Bhubaneswar will remain suspended from Thursday night for the next 24 hours. Educational institutions in the coastal districts were closed till further orders.

•As many as 25 teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) along with State fire service personnel have been deployed in the coastal districts. Defence forces were on high alert to meet any eventuality.

•Around 10,000 villages spread over 14 districts such as Ganjam, Gajapati, Puri, Khurda, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Jagatsinghpur, Kendrapara, Jajpur, Keonjhar, Bhadrak, Balasore and Mayurbhanj are likely to be affected.

•The West Bengal government on Thursday advanced the summer holidays for State-run schools.

•Fani’s impact is likely to be felt in Purba and Paschim Medinipur, North and South 24 Parganas and Kolkata.

•The Kolkata Port Trust said shipping to the port will remain suspended.

πŸ“° ’Ransomware’ attack on websites of A.P., TS power utilities

Hackers may be in possession of data base of two crore power consumers

•A day ahead of the safety week observed by power utilities from May 1 to 7, the websites of two power distribution companies each of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were hacked which resulted in their computer-based applications coming to a standstill for over three days.

•It was on Tuesday evening that the websites were hacked of southern and northern power distribution companies of Telangana at Hyderabad and Warangal respectively and southern and eastern power distribution companies of Andhra Pradesh at Tirupati and Visakhapatnam respectively.

•All of them were maintained by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in Hyderabad, sources said. The chairman and managing director of transmission and generation corporations of Telangana D. Prabhakar Rao said the entire computerised data of power utilities was safe as it had a backup mechanism. Except payments made by the corporations by ATM mode, their routine functions remained unaffected.

•Meanwhile, TCS was on the job to restore functioning of the websites and recover the stolen data on Thursday evening. The officials of Southern Power Distribution Company lodged a complaint with Cyber Crime Police Station in Hyderabad that its website was frozen by culprits by Ransomware virus with the aim to pilfering data from the server.

•Sources added that the hackers were in possession of data base of two crore power consumers in the two States. A number of files were also damaged in the process. As the websites did not open, the online payments by power consumers were affected. However, the bill payments by consumers at Electricity Revenue Offices and Mee-Seva were unaffected.

•The officials prima facie suspect that the hackers of Air India and Andhra Bank websites in the past may have resorted to the act to access information about online payments to power utilities.

•They also suspected that the hackers might have targeted information about payments by distribution companies in Telangana and AP which are to the tune of ₹30,000 crore per annum. They did not rule out attempts by hackers to divert the funds. They tried to detect the originating point of hacking.

•It was said that the ethical hackers had warned about the vulnerability of the websites of power utilities to hacking with criminal intent. There was no damage to the websites of transmission and generation corporations of Telangana.

πŸ“° ISRO plans to land a rover on lunar south pole: Sivan

‘A place where nobody has gone’

•India’s second moon mission, Chandrayaan-2, will be historic for the scientific community as the country’s space agency, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), attempts to land a rover on the lunar South Pole, a region on the moon to which no one has gone till now, ISRO Chairman K.Sivan said.

•On Wednesday, ISRO said it had fixed a launch window between July 5 and July 16 to launch the moon mission on board a GSLV-MkIII, with an aim to land on the moon around September 6. If ISRO manages to successfully execute this, India will be the first country to land a rover on the moon’s South Pole.

Deadlines missed

•ISRO Chairman K. Sivan, in a short interview to The Hindu, said this was a region where nobody had gone before. “All the [ISRO] missions, whatever we have had till now [to the moon], have all landed near the moon’s equator. This is a place where nobody has gone,” he said.

•After missing multiple launch deadlines, Mr. Sivan said the new launch window was almost final and that ISRO would launch the mission in July.

•“When nobody has gone near that area, some new science might be there. Some new information, new science, we may get access to,” he said. ISRO will reveal further details of its plans and goals for the Chandrayaan-2 mission in June, he said.

•The South Pole of the moon has generated a lot of interest in the recent past, with countries aiming to reach the region in what could spark another race to the moon.

•China is reportedly aiming to construct a moon research station on the lunar south pole, while the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is working to send astronauts there by 2024.

•Asked about China’s reported proposal to build a research station there, he said, “What they [China] are going to do, we don’t know. The main reason [why India is going there] is nobody has gone [to] that side till now.”

•According to NASA, some regions of the lunar South Pole have permanently shadowed craters with some of the lowest temperatures in the Solar System, where water ice is stable. These craters are believed to have significant ice deposits, “untainted by the Sun’s radiation or geological processes.”

•Mr. Sivan said one of the goals of the Chandrayaan-2 mission would also be to find water on the moon.

πŸ“° Registration of all motor vehicles stopped

NIC blocks access for not integrating high security registration plate details with ‘Vahan’ database

•The issuing of certificate of registration (RC) for all classes of motor vehicles has been blocked from Thursday in the country for not integrating high security registration plate (HSRP) with the ‘Vahan’ database.

•The National Informatics Centre (NIC) blocked access to the Transport Mission Mode Project’s pan-India application ‘Vahan’ for vehicle registration on a directive of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Joint Transport Commissioner and Secretary, State Transport Authority, Rajeev Puthalath, told The Hindu.

•The action is based on decisions taken at a meeting chaired by the Joint Secretary, MVL, MoRTH, on April 4 in New Delhi on the integration of the registration plate with the ‘Vahan’ database.

•MoRTH communicated the minutes of the meeting to all State Transport Commissioners on April 18 through Under Secretary Dharkat R. Luikang.

•With this drastic step, RC cannot be issued for new motor vehicles in any State, except in Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. These three States are using their own software instead of ‘Vahan’ and, therefore, can issue RC to newly registered vehicles.

•April 1 was the date from when all classes of motor vehicles hitting the road and being registered had to be fitted with tamper-proof high security registration plate having many inbuilt security features.

•Automobile manufacturers had been entrusted by MoRTH with the task of issuing the “security licence plate, including the third registration mark”. At the local level, it is for the automobile dealer to place a mark of registration on such plates and affix them on all new vehicles.

•In Kerala, on an average, 3,000 new vehicles are registered daily at the 79 Regional Transport Offices and Sub-Regional Transport Offices . Even temporary permits cannot be issued as the NIC blocked the access to the ‘Vahan’ database.

•“The MVD personnel could not log on to the ‘Vahan’ database. It is the laxity on the part of automobile manufacturers and dealers in making available the HSRP. Only Maruti has come up with the registration plate. We will be issuing a directive not to register new vehicles without affixing the HSRP,” he said.

πŸ“° In-flight connectivity likely in next three months

However, domestic passengers may have to wait for another “7 to 9 months”.

•International airlines could start providing Internet onboard over Indian skies in the next three months becoming the first to do so, while domestic passengers may have to wait for another “7 to 9 months” to start sending WhatsApp texts, browsing Twitter, streaming movies and making phone calls.

•Over the past couple of months, the Department of Telecom has issued licences to BSNL, Airtel, Hughes Communications India Ltd and Tata Telenet for Internet and mobile services on flights. However, the installation of equipment and their certification means air travellers will have to wait for some more time to access these services. SpiceJet has already announced its plans to provide connectivity and Air India has invited tenders for the same. Vistara has also expressed its keenness.

•“Any equipment that goes on the aircraft requires a lot of safety and certification. As most of the foreign airlines are already equipped with this service, they will be the first ones to adopt this, which will happen within the next three months,” said Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Hughes India, K. Krishna.

•Subsequently, domestic carriers will start providing this service, starting with their international routes to catch up with competitors.

•“Indian carriers on international routes will roll this out in the next three to seven months and, finally, domestic passengers will benefit in the next seven to nine months,” he said.

•The waiting period is also because airlines need to plan the grounding of their planes to carry out installation of equipment.

•“Aircraft need to be fitted with two particular types of unit, the SatCom unit that sits on top and some onboard transmission equipment installed in the aircraft. This is not something airlines can do overnight but will need to plan and take the aircraft out of service. Just planning and scheduling that work from an airline’s perspective also takes time,” explains SITA OnAir’s General Counsel, Oliver Drennan. SITA OnAir will be the satellite partner for BSNL.

•But, will connectivity come at a huge price for passengers? Mr. Krishna says while the pricing model could vary from one airline to another, a passenger could be set back by ₹200-300 assuming that all passengers on aircraft use the service.

•“Essentially, the model will work only if the cost of the service is included in the ticket because the cost of the equipment that is fitted onboard can’t be recovered if only a few passengers opt for it,” he argues.

•The other models include a free-of-charge service, a limited free session which can be topped-up, free access for premium passengers but a paid one for economy class travellers. Mr. Brennan says airlines may also get a sponsor who will pay for all or some of the operational expenses in return for advertisement.

•Industry experts say telecom service providers like Airtel and others may start providing monthly packages to consumers which will include a certain amount of in-flight usage. These companies may also collaborate with airlines to provide limited access to all passengers in exchange for advertisement.

•Along with onboard WiFi, airlines may also provide wireless in-flight entertainment which is pre-loaded on an aircraft and can be accessed by travellers on their personal device.

πŸ“° The gender ladder to socio-economic transformation

More than a ‘more jobs’ approach, addressing structural issues which keep women away from the workforce is a must

•India is in the middle of a historical election which is noteworthy in many respects, one of them being the unprecedented focus on women’s employment. The major national parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress, have reached out to women, and their respective manifestos talk of measures to create more livelihood opportunities in rural and urban areas, which include incentives to businesses for employing more women.

What data show

•Currently, the participation of women in the workforce in India is one of the lowest globally. The female labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India fell from 31.2% in 2011-2012 to 23.3% in 2017-2018. This decline has been sharper in rural areas, where the female LFPR fell by more than 11 percentage points in 2017-2018. Social scientists have long tried to explain this phenomenon, more so in the context of rising levels of education for women.

•The answers can be found in a complex set of factors including low social acceptability of women working outside the household, lack of access to safe and secure workspaces, widespread prevalence of poor and unequal wages, and a dearth of decent and suitable jobs. Most women in India are engaged in subsistence-level work in agriculture in rural areas, and in low-paying jobs such as domestic service and petty home-based manufacturing in urban areas. But with better education, women are refusing to do casual wage labour or work in family farms and enterprises.

Education and work

•A recent study observed a strong negative relationship between a woman’s education level and her participation in agricultural and non-agricultural wage work and in family farms. Essentially, women with moderately high levels of education do not want to do manual labour outside the household which would be perceived to be below their educational qualifications. The study also showed a preference among women for salaried jobs as their educational attainment increases; but such jobs remain extremely limited for women. It is estimated that among people (25 to 59 years) working as farmers, farm labourers and service workers, nearly a third are women, while the proportion of women among professionals, managers and clerical workers is only about 15% (NSSO, 2011-2012).

•However, it is not the case that women are simply retreating from the world of work. On the contrary, time-use surveys have found that they devote a substantial amount of their time to work which is not considered as work, but an extension of their duties, and is largely unpaid. The incidence and drudgery of this unpaid labour is growing. This includes unpaid care work such as childcare, elderly care, and household work such as collecting water. The burden of these activities falls disproportionately on women, especially in the absence of adequately available or accessible public services. It also encompasses significant chunks of women’s contribution to agriculture, animal husbandry, and non-timber forest produce on which most of the household production and consumption is based.

•Any government which is serious about ensuring women’s economic empowerment and equal access to livelihoods must address the numerous challenges that exist along this highly gendered continuum of unpaid, underpaid and paid work. A two-pronged approach must entail facilitating women’s access to decent work by providing public services, eliminating discrimination in hiring, ensuring equal and decent wages, and improving women’s security in public spaces. It must also recognise, reduce, redistribute, and remunerate women’s unpaid work.

•An ActionAid document, which has compiled a people’s agenda through extensive discussions across States, provides critical recommendations to policymakers on issues of concern to Dalits, tribal people, Muslims and other marginalised communities with a focus on the needs of women. On the question of work, women’s demands include gender-responsive public services such as free and accessible public toilets, household water connections, safe and secure public transport, and adequate lighting and CCTV cameras to prevent violence against women in public spaces and to increase their mobility. Furthermore, they want fair and decent living wages and appropriate social security including maternity benefit, sickness benefit, provident fund, and pension.

•Women have also expressed the need for policies which ensure safe and dignified working and living conditions for migrant workers. For example, in cities, governments must set up migration facilitation and crisis centres (temporary shelter facility, helpline, legal aid, and medical and counselling facilities). They must also allocate social housing spaces for women workers, which include rental housing and hostels. They must ensure spaces for women shopkeepers and hawkers in all markets and vending zones.

Recognition as farmers

•In addition, women have strongly articulated the need to enumerate and remunerate the unpaid and underpaid work they undertake in sectors such as agriculture and fisheries. Their fundamental demand is that women must be recognised as farmers in accordance with the National Policy for Farmers; this should include cultivators, agricultural labourers, pastoralists, livestock rearers, forest workers, fish-workers, and salt pan workers. Thereafter, their equal rights and entitlements over land and access to inputs, credit, markets, and extension services must be ensured.

•Women also reiterate the need to recognise and redistribute their unpaid work in the household. For this, the government must collect sex-disaggregated household level data with suitable parameters. Unless policymakers correctly assess and address the structural issues which keep women from entering and staying in the workforce, promising more jobs — while a welcome step — is unlikely to lead to the socio-economic transformation India needs.

πŸ“° Robust plan in place to import oil: MEA

U.S. refuses to extend sanctions waiver to India on Iran oil import; OMCs stop placing orders from Iran

•India has a “robust plan” to import oil from other countries, the Ministry of External Affairs said, even as the deadline for the U.S. sanction waiver for oil imports from Iran expired on Thursday without an extension from the U.S.

•Last year, the U.S. re-imposed sanctions on Iran, prohibiting countries from importing oil from it, but waived these sanctions for eight countries, including India. That waiver has now expired and the U.S. announced last month that it would not be extending it.

•The U.S. refused to change its stance despite a last-minute call by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday.

•“Whatever decisions we take will be a combination of a number of factors [including] commercial negotiations and keeping our legitimate security interests and economic interests in mind,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

‘Responded accordingly’

•“We continue to engage with the U.S. on this matter. But a decision has been taken by them and accordingly we have responded.”

•“We have a robust plan in place to import oil from other countries,” Mr. Kumar added. “This is a decision that will be taken in a considered manner.” Indian oil companies, meanwhile, have stopped placing orders for Iranian oil.

•“The oil companies do not take a decision on this, that is taken by the government,” a spokesperson for the Indian Oil Corporation said. “The official position is what was stated by the MEA. But we have not placed any further orders with Iran.”

•Prior to the sanctions and the subsequent reduction in the quantity of oil imported from Iran, Iran accounted for about 10% of India’s oil requirements.

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