1. BORDER ON THE BOIL-
GS 3- Security challenges and their management in border areas
(i) With a series of ceasefire(temporary stoppage of fight) violations by the Pakistan Army that targeted civilians, and heavy artillery fire by the Indian Army, the LoC is once again on the boil.
(ii) Six civilians, four Indian Army personnel and a BSF jawan were killed in the firing from Pakistan across three sectors, and official Pakistani media said one Pakistani soldier and five civilians were killed by Indian cross-border shelling.
(i) The government accused Pakistan of firing as a way of providing cover for terrorists infiltrating into India before the winter snow closes the passes and underground routes.
(ii) It issued a démarche(political step) to Pakistan’s top diplomat in New Delhi on Saturday decrying(blaming) the “coordinated firing along the length of the LoC using heavy caliber weapons, including artillery and mortar, on Indian civilians”.
(iii) The temperature has been further raised by political words from the highest level.
(iv) Prime Minister Modi’s speech, as he stood atop a tank during a Deepavali visit to the Longewala post, warned of a “prachand jawab” (fierce reply) to Pakistan, and criticised China’s “expansionist mindset”.
(v) Hours later, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted that there should be “no doubt” of Pakistan’s ability and “national resolve” to defend its borders.
(vi) Pakistan’s assault at the LoC was followed by allegations against India on terror.
(vii) In a new diplomatic tactic, its Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi appeared at a press conference along with Pakistan’s military spokesperson, claiming to have a “dossier(file)” on Indian involvement in terror attacks inside Pakistan.
(viii) He also said that India primarily targeted China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure projects.
(ix) India termed the press conference a “futile(useless) anti-India propaganda exercise” and said the charges were fabricated(twisted).
(i) The present situation at the LoC cannot be normalised and must be taken seriously.
(ii) Army officials now say 2020 has seen the highest levels of firing since the 2003 India-Pakistan ceasefire agreement, with a record number of 4,052 ceasefire violations by Pakistan since January.
(iii) Pakistan’s intentions are to provoke India ahead of its two-year term at the UN Security Council from January 2021, as well as to rake(bring) up trouble before the Financial Action Task Force review in February.
(iv) By naming the CPEC, Pakistan also appears to want to further strain India-China relations that have undergone what Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla called their “worst crisis” since 1962, as a result of PLA aggression at the LAC in Ladakh and the stand-off.
(v) Studied with the escalation by Pakistan at this time, it should be evident(obvious) that India’s threat matrix includes the very real possibility of a two-front situation where the Army will be engaged at the LoC and the LAC simultaneously, along with a possible spike in terrorist activity in Jammu and Kashmir.
India’s threat matrix(calculation) now includes the possibility of a two-front situation.
2. A RECIPE TO TEAR DOWN TRADE UNIONS-
GS 2- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors
(i) Labour law ‘reform’ has been on the table since 1991 as every government’s favourite solution for economic growth.
(ii) Yet, there was no consensus between governments, political parties, workers and their trade unions, and employers, on what this meant.
(iii) Unlike other political formations, the BJP has been in unqualified agreement with employers that the existing labour laws needed to be replaced.
(iv) During its rule in 1998-2002, the BJP constituted the 2nd National Labour Commission and limited trade union representation in it.
(v) The consequent recommendations of the Commission were rejected by trade unions across the country.
(vi) This time too, the BJP-led Central government has actively excluded trade unions from pre-legislative consultations on drafting the new labour codes, repealing(ending) all existing labour laws and replacing them with four new labour codes.
(vii) It saw these through Parliament in the absence of the Opposition, whilst ignoring substantive recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
(viii) The BJP portrayed the now-repealed laws as serving only a small, exclusive section of working people, while claiming that what has now been legislated has a universal reach. This is just political chicanery(trickery).
(ix) What is common to all the four codes is that they dilute workers’ rights in favour of employers’ rights, and together undermine the very idea of workers’ right to association and collective action.
(i) Trade unions first emerged in the 19th century as self-managed organisation of workers in the face of extreme exploitation(difficulty).
(ii) They provided, and continue to provide, a collective voice to working people against employers’ exploitative, unfair and often illegal practices.
(iii) It is through trade unions that workers have been able to win better wages, fairer employment conditions, and safe and secure workplaces.
(iv) In India, workers won the legal right to form trade unions under the colonial rule in 1926, when the Trade Union Act (TUA) was adopted.
(v) The law provided a mechanism for the registration of trade unions, from which they derived their rights, and a framework governing their functioning.
(vi) The TUA also bound workers’ actions within a legal framework by providing for deregistration if a trade union “contravened(violated) any provisions of the Act”.
(i) The TUA gave workers the right, through their registered trade union, to take steps to press their claims, and where necessary, as in the case of a malevolent(malicious) employer, agitate for their claims and advance them before the government and the judiciary.
(ii) It also provided members (workers) and elected officers of a union a degree of immunity(protection), including against the law on criminal conspiracy.
(iii) Importantly, the law recognised that actions based on collective decisions by workers were legal and did not constitute criminal conspiracy.
(iv) The so-called “simplifying” of labour laws, repealing the TUA, the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946, and creating the Industrial Relations Code (IRC), has a very sinister(bad) outcome for workers’ right to association.
(v) The code enormously widens the grounds under which a trade union may be deregistered.
(vi) Under the TUA, deregistration was limited to the internal functioning of a union — in case a union violated the financial rules set down under the law or its own constitution.
(vii) The Standing Orders Act and the Industrial Disputes Act were concerned with conditions of employment and settlement of disputes respectively.
(viii) They had nothing to do with the internal functioning, and, therefore, with the existence of a trade union.
(i) Under the new IRC, a trade union can be deregistered for contravention(violation) of unspecified provisions of the code.
(ii) It simply says that deregistration would follow in case of “contravention by the Trade Union of the provisions of this Code”.
(iii) The possibility of deregistering a trade union in this unspecified manner shifts the balance completely in favour of employers, who continue to enjoy protection under the Companies Act.
(iv) This violates the principles of equality before the law and of natural justice.
(v) When a trade union is deregistered, it can no longer represent its members (the workers) before the dispute resolution machinery or in court.
(vi) And, the moment a trade union loses its registration, any collective decision taken by its members and elected officers can be treated as illegal.
(vii) For example, a decision for strike action would leave employers free to either dismiss striking workers or charge them huge penalties for their claimed losses.
(viii) It also means that the trade union’s members and elected officers lose their immunity from prosecution for criminal conspiracy for collective decisions and actions, which is exactly what the TUA protected them against.
(ix) The new code has cut and pasted from the TUA the provisions granting immunity against charges of conspiracy, but this is meaningless if the trade union itself is deregistered.
(x) The new code appears to be designed to deter(prevent) collective action by workers’ unions, and make them fearful of getting trapped in the cross hairs of the new, supposedly “simplified” code.
(i) With the threat of deregistration ever-present, workers and their unions will be pushed to create extra-legal formations like ‘struggle committees’ and ‘workers’ fronts, such as existed before the TUA, in order to advance their demands against unreasonable employers.
(ii) This would have two outcomes: first, it will push employment dispute resolution outside the legal framework, which, in turn, will lead to the second, even more damaging outcome, which is criminalising working class dissent, since workers’ agitations will have to take place through extra-legal formations.
(iii) The freewheeling provision for trade union deregistration in the IRC, apart from being an attack on a century-old universal right is, very importantly, also the withdrawal of an absolute right.
(iv) Once a trade union is deregistered or is effectively silenced by a constant and amorphous(shapeless) threat of deregistration, workers effectively lose their fundamental right to freedom of association.
(i) This has grave(serious) implications for the working class’s ability to defend its rights at a time when it is up against a capitalist class whose greed is insatiable(never ending), a vengeful(revengeful) government, and a capricious(unstable) judiciary.
(ii) Undermining trade unions, as the new code does, bodes(serves) ill for democratic rights in this country.