IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


12th May, 2020


The need for a second chamber

Evolution of Rajya Sabha:

- The Rajya Sabha came into being on April 3, 1952 and held its first session on May 13 the same year.

- The second chamber underwent severe prenatal scrutiny in the Constituent Assembly.

- The central legislature that came into being under the Government of India Act, 1919 was bicameral. It was with a Council of States comprising 60 members and a Legislative Assembly comprising 145 members.

- The membership and voting norms for the Council of States were so restrictive that only wealthy land owners, merchants and those with legislative experience could enter it. Women could neither vote nor seek membership.

- The Government of India Act, 1935 proposed an elaborate and improved version of the second chamber, but this never materialised.

-  The Constituent Assembly, which was formed in 1947, after adoption of the Constitution became the Provisional Parliament and made laws till 1952.

Bicameralism and federalism

- Bicameralism is a principle that requires the consent of two differently constituted chambers of Parliament for making or changing laws.

- This principle came into operation in 1787 with the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. Its appeal grew in strength from time to time.

- At present, 79 Parliaments of the world (41% of the total number) are bicameral.

- Modern federalism is entirely different given the complexity of geographical, regional, social and economic diversities marking the constituent units of a federation or a union.

-  The second chamber enables a second and reflective expression of representative opinion besides checking the propensity to yield to the impulse of sudden and violent passions.

- The U.S. Constitution-makers were influenced by the proposition of the renowned French philosopher Montesquieu who said, “The legislative body being composed of two parts, they check one another by the mutual privilege of rejecting”.

- Federalism and bicameralism are linked because the federal character of a nation comprising constituent units can be reflected in, and secured by, a bicameral legislature.

Constituent Assembly debates

Against 2nd chamber:

- Reflect of imperialism: A member of the Constituent Assembly, Mohd. Tahir, asserted that an Upper House was not essential and viewed it as a creation of imperialism.

- Clog in the wheel of Progress: Professor Shibban Lal Saksena warned that such a chamber would only prove to be a “clog in the wheel of progress” of the nation.

-  He was perhaps referring to the role of the House of Lords in the British Parliament whose powers to veto the expenditure proposed was removed, and its ability to obstruct the laws made by the House of Commons was later severely curtailed in the early 20th century.

- Against Parity of Powers: Lokanath Misra vehemently opposed parity of powers in law making for the Upper House.

Proponents of 2nd Chamber:

Element of sobriety and second thought: Proponents of the second chamber such as Naziruddin Ahmad felt that it would introduce an element of sobriety and second thought

- Voice to constituent units: It would lend voice to the constituent units in the legislative scheme of things.

- M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar argued that a second chamber would enable the genius of the people to have full play besides checking hasty legislation.

- Dignified Debates: N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar argued that “the most that we expect the Second Chamber to do is perhaps to hold dignified debates on important issues.

- Delay legislations: To delay legislations, which might be the outcome of passions of the moment until the passions have subsided.

James Madison, one of the authors of The Federalist, said about 165 years earlier in an essay: that the role of the Upper House is to be a deliberative bodybesides balancing the “fickleness and passion” of the elected House.

- House elected directly by the people is susceptible to passions of the moment and electoral considerations. Their imprint on legislation needs to be checked by the second chamber whose members are expected to be sober, wise and well-informed with domain knowledge.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-need-for-a-second-chamber/article31560028.ece

A welcome change: On ICMR's clearance on using convalescent plasma therapy


- With the ethics committee approval in hand on May 8, the ICMR cleared the last hurdle to conduct a multicentre phase-2 trial using convalescent plasma on COVID-19 patients with moderate illness.

- Its three feasibility studies in about 20 severely ill patients found the therapy to be safe and able to resolve illness or improve the clinical symptoms.

- The ICMR will instead study plasma safety and efficacy in a phase-2 trial with 452 patients.

-  The patients with moderate COVID-19 illness will be randomly assigned to receive either convalescent plasma (226 participants) or only standard of care (control group).

Trials of Plasma Therapy:

- Convalescent plasma therapy has shown some benefit in treating measles, chickenpox and rabies.

- However, no benefit was seen in 2015 on some Ebola patients treated with convalescent plasma in Guinea.

- Only three small studies involving 21 COVID-19 patients have been carried out but not in trials where the participants were randomised with a control arm.

- Till date, there is a dearth of randomised controlled trials that clearly demonstrate the efficacy of convalescent plasma therapy for any infectious disease, including COVID-19.

- In the absence of any effective treatment or a vaccine, the pandemic provides an opportunity to ascertain the clinical benefits of plasma therapy through randomised controlled trials.

- The U.S. FDA and India have thus approved the use of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients only for trial purposes.

- ICMR had approved the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine without carrying out any trials.

- If the trial outcomes are overwhelmingly positive, the agency would be ethically obliged to recommend plasma therapy as a standard of care for COVID-19 patients.


About Convalescent plasma:

- It is blood derived from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 — on the assumption that their body contains antibodies it used to fight the virus.

- People who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies to the disease in their blood. Doctors call this convalescent plasma.

- Blood about 800 ml or so is collected from the donor through the regular withdrawal process, tested for other pathogens, and if safe, the plasma component is extracted and subsequently used for transfusion on to patients.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/a-welcome-change-on-icmrs-clearance-on-using-convalescent-plasma-therapy/article31560919.ece


Equal freedom and forced labour

About Fundamental rights:

- B.R. Ambedkar argued that fundamental rights must also “eliminate the possibility of the more powerful having the power to impose arbitrary restraints on the less powerful by withdrawing from the control he has over the economic life of the people” — or, more euphemistically, to tackle the “the dictatorship of the private employer”.

Labour rights

- B.R. Ambedkar had been instrumental in the passage of an eight-hour working day a few years before.

- Labour movements had been key to the successful freedom struggle.

- The 1931 Karachi Declaration and Bill of Rights expressly placed labour rights on a par with ordinary civil rights such as the freedom of speech and expression.

- In its Preamble, it declared that “political freedom must include... real economic freedom of the... millions”.

- These principles eventually found their way into the Indian Constitution in the form of “Directive Principles of State Policy”, while a few of them were retained as fundamental rights.

- Prominent among these was the right against forced labour, guaranteed by Article 23 of the Constitution.

Understanding Force and Freedom:

- A certain narrow understanding would have it that I am only “forced” to do something if there is a gun to my head or a knife at my throat. In all other circumstances, I remain “free”.

- This is a very impoverished understanding of freedom.

- It ignores the compulsion that is exerted by serious and enduring differences of power, compulsion that may not take a physical form, but instead, have a social or economic character.

- In such circumstances, people can be placed in positions where they have no genuine choices left.

Judicial stand

- In a landmark judgment, PUDR vs. Union of India, In 1983, the Court held that the right against forced labour included the right to a minimum wage.

- It noted that often, migrant and contract labourers had “no choice but to accept any work that came [their] way, even if the remuneration offered... is less than the minimum wage”.

- The Court held that “the compulsion of economic circumstance which leaves no choice of alternatives to a person in want and compels him to provide labour or service” was no less a form of forced labour.

Capital and Labor:

- A market economy is sustained by a set of laws — the laws of contract, of property, and so on. - This legal structure ensures that capital and labour do not face each other as equals across a mythical bargaining table.

- There is a structural inequality that enables capital to “make the rules” for the labor.

- This amounts to a form of “private government”, a situation in which there exists democracy in the political sphere, but unilateral term-setting in the context of the workplace.

- Of late, with the rise of the platform or gig economy, the rise of casualisation and precarious employment, and further fractures within the workforce, this inequality of power has only grown starker.

Purpose of Labor Laws:

- The purpose of labour laws has always been to mitigate this imbalance of power.

- Its aim has been to secure the “rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, in both the public and the private spheres.

- In some countries, the path chosen has been to give workers a stake in private governance, through strong trade union laws and mandatory seats for labour in the governing boards of firms (“co-determination”).

-  In other countries (such as India), the path has been to create a detailed set of laws, covering different aspects of the workplace, and depend upon State agencies for their enforcement.

The Indian situation (Weakness of Labor laws)

-  It is argued that Indian labor laws sets up a labour bureaucracy that is prone to corruption;

- The adjudicatory mechanisms are inefficient;

- The rights that labour laws grant are effectively submerged in a creaking judicial system, thus providing no real relief;

- The system creates an unconscionable tiered structure where a majority of the workforce, engaged in contract labour or informal employment, has very few rights, while those in formal employment have greater security, at least in theory;

- It was even pointed out that many prominent labour unions prefer to arrive at an accommodation with the management, rather than represent the interests of their constituents.

Need for Reform:

- These problems certainly call for a debate on the future of labour rights, especially in a world where the rapidly changing nature of work is already rendering old concepts of jobs and employments obsolete (courts around the world, for example, are struggling with how to classify platform workers such as Uber drivers).

- But this debate must be guided by B.R. Ambedkar’s insights that remain relevant even today, the Constitutional guarantee against forced labour, and the understanding of force and freedom that takes into account differences in power.

-  What is very clear, however, is that the steps being taken by various State governments, are grossly unconstitutional: various State governments are in the process of removing labour laws altogether (for a set period of time).

- What this means, in practice, is that the economic power exercised by capital will be left unchecked.

- B.R. Ambedkar pointed out that this would be nothing other than the freedom to “increase hours of work and reduce rates of wages”.

- Ironically, an increase in working hours and a removal of minimum wages are two proposals strongly under discussion.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/equal-freedom-and-forced-labour/article31560930.ece


Legal but not appropriate

Changes in labor laws:

- Over the last few days, many States have made changes to their labour laws. Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab have extended the maximum daily hours of work in a factory from eight/nine to 12, and allowed up to 72 hours a week in overtime.

- The provision of paying overtime wages at twice the normal rate would apply for working beyond these limits.

- Gujarat has made a similar change but the wages for overtime will be at the same rate (not double).

- Uttarakhand has increased the daily limit to 11 hours with overtime limited to 18 hours a week.

- Haryana has allowed work for 12 hours a day, and up to 60 hours a week, with overtime pay.

- Madhya Pradesh has made similar changes. It has also suspended most provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1946 (except those related to retrenchment and layoffs) for 1,000 days for State undertakings.

- The M.P. Industrial Employment Standing Orders Act will apply to establishments with more than 100 workmen (up from the existing threshold of 50), in line with the Central Act.

- The ordinance also enables the government to exempt establishments from the provision of another Act that provided for a labour welfare fund.

- The Uttar Pradesh government has approved an ordinance that exempts establishments from all labour laws for three years with some exceptions (safety and security of workers, provisions related to employing women and children, payment of wages on time and above prescribed minimum wages, and no bonded labour).

- As this will override provisions of some Central laws, it will require the assent of the President or, in effect, the assent of the Central government.

Lawful changes

-  For example, the Factories Act allows State governments to exempt factories from the provisions of the Act during public emergencies for a maximum period of three months.

- A public emergency is defined as a grave emergency whereby the security of India or any part is threatened by war, external aggression or internal disturbance.

- Most States have used this provision, presumably interpreting the current situation as an ‘internal disturbance’.

- The Constitution also permits Central and State governments to make laws through the issuance of an ordinance when the legislature is not in session. Such a law needs to be ratified by the legislature within six weeks of the beginning of the next session. M.P. and U.P. are using this procedure.


- Usually, any change in an Act follows a rigorous process of public consultation, scrutiny by committees of Parliament, and debates in the House before being approved.

- The changes described here have not gone through such a process.

- However, most of these have a three-month time limit, and any extension would need to be approved by the legislature.

Central approach:

- Interestingly, Parliament is consolidating 29 existing laws into four codes dealing with wages, occupational safety and health, industrial relations and social security.

- The first of these has been enacted, the Standing Committee on Labour has submitted the report on the next two, and is examining the last.

- The Code on Occupational Safety and Health does not specify the maximum hours of work but empowers the government to do so.

- The Standing Committee report states that the government agreed to incorporate a provision of maximum eight hours per day with overtime permitted for certain types of industry.

Way Forward:

- Given the emergency, the government has to take quick action and change the response as the situation evolves.

- However, that should not be a reason to exclude the processes of consultation with and scrutiny by elected representatives.

- The legitimacy of state action in a parliamentary democracy comes from the fact that there is constant oversight and check by elected representatives.

-  Parliament and State legislatures should find ways to meet and examine the measures taken by Central and State governments.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/legal-but-not-appropriate/article31561988.ece



Mandis linked to e-platform see 65% rise in count post-lockdown


- COVID-19 has given a boost to e-NAM, the national digital platform for agricultural trade, with the number of connected mandis, or wholesale markets, up 65% since the lockdown.

About E-NAM:

- The National Agricultural Market (e-NAM) is a pan-India electronic trading portal.

- It networks the almost 7,000 existing mandis run by Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.

- It promises to promote real-time price discovery based on actual supply and demand.

- Implementing Agency: Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (SFAC) is managing this portal with the technology provider, NFCL’s iKisan division.

- SFAC is a registered society of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers’ Welfare (DAC&FW) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare.


To promote uniformity in agriculture marketing by streamlining of procedures across the integrated markets.

Removing information asymmetry between buyers and sellers and promoting real time price discovery based on actual demand and supply.

Slow Progress:

- Many States did not amend their APMC Acts;

- Most farmers were not part of the cooperatives that would help aggregate the bulk quantity of produce needed to interest online buyers.

- Most mandis did not possess the infrastructure to make the most of the platform.

- By January 2019, when the first inter-State trade took place, there were only 585 mandis connected to the platform.

- The user base remains at a nascent stage, with 1.66 crores farmers, 1.3 lakh traders and 71,911 commission agents registered on the platform. 

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-business/mandis-linked-to-e-platform-see-65-rise-in-count-post-lockdown/article31561968.ece


Trade unions may knock at ILO’s door

Ten central trade unions said they were considering lodging a complaint with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) against the “anti-worker” changes in the labour laws in some States.


Opposition by Trade Union:

- It was a retrograde and anti-worker move.

- This move was the second phase of anti-worker policies after six State governments increased the working hours from eight to 12 hours.

- Gross violation of the Right to Freedom of Association [ILO Convention 87],

-  Violation of Rights to Collective Bargaining [ILO Convention 98]

-  Violation of internationally accepted norm of eight hour working day – espoused by core conventions of ILO.

About ILO (International Labor Organisation):

- The ILO was founded in 1919, in the wake of a destructive war, to pursue a vision based on the premise that universal, lasting peace can be established only if it is based on social justice.

- The ILO became the first specialized agency of the UN in 1946.

- The unique tripartite structure of the ILO gives an equal voice to workers, employers and governments to ensure that the views of the social partners are closely reflected in labour standards and in shaping policies and programmes.

- The main aims of the ILO are to promote rights at work, encourage decent employment opportunities, enhance social protection and strengthen dialogue on work-related issues.

- Its flagship reports:

Global Wage Report

World Employment and Social Outlook


Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/trade-unions-may-knock-at-ilos-door/article31562010.ece



A sweet treetop harvest for Vazhachal tribesmen


- It was bumper harvest time in Kerala’s Vazhachal forest during the lockdown, as tribesmen brought home record quantities of wild honey.

About Vazhachal forest:

- Vazhachal is a small rainforest-clad region in Kerala located near the Anamalai hills.

- It forms a contiguous stretch of forest extending almost 2400 sq. km. through Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary to the north and thereafter through Anamalai Tiger Reserve, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary and Eravikulam National Park.

- It is among the last wild habitats in Kerala where all manner of wildlife can still be observed despite not coming under the ambit of Protected Areas.

Reference: https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/a-sweet-treetop-harvest-for-vazhachal-tribesmen/article31562072.ece