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1.Indo-Afghan trade (The Hindu)

2.Working on the app-based model (The Hindu)

Indo-Afghan trade (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the recently inaugurated air freight corridor project between India and Afghanistan. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • Recently India and Afghanistan had inaugurated the air freight corridor project in order to work around the difficulties posed by Pakistan’s refusal to allow Afghan transit trade to India by road and rail. Bilateral economic exchanges between the two nations have been targeted to the value of $1 billion by 2020 and to about $10 billion by 2022.
  • The connectivity established through the Air Freight Corridor will provide Afghanistan, a landlocked country, greater access to markets in India, and will allow Afghan businessmen to leverage India’s economic growth and trade networks for its benefit. It would enable Afghan farmers quick and direct access to the Indian markets for their perishable produce.
  • However two months after the India-Afghanistan air corridor was inaugurated with great expectations, news that it has been hit by a shortage of cargo planes is a cause for concern.

The air freight corridor

  • The establishment of an India-Afghanistan air freight corridor this year was welcomed by all stakeholders at a meeting hosted by India of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process, a platform to encourage security, political, and economic cooperation among strife-torn Afghanistan and its neighbours.
  • The project was also envisaged to enable traders to export Afghan products to the vast Indian market by air with minimum costs while circumventing the obstacles faced in the land route, which was denied by Pakistan.
  • However weeks after the India-Afghanistan air corridor trade project was launched, the project has run into rough weather, with fruit exporters complaining that procedural delays, particularly a shortage of cargo planes, are causing them major losses. 

India and Afghan trades

  • The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was established in November 2011 to expand coordination between Afghanistan and its neighbours and regional partners in facing common threats, including counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics, poverty, and extremism.
  • Despite its commitment of $2 billion in development aid to Afghanistan, there are only few new infrastructure projects that the government has taken up in the past few years. The big ones, mostly planned a decade ago, have been complete, including the Zaranj Delaram highway (which connects to Iran), the Herat dam, the Doshi-Charikar power project, and the construction of Afghanistan’s parliament complex.
  • The steps has been taken for development of transit and transport through Chahbahar port in Iran involving India, Afghanistan and Iran, the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, and the CASA-1000 (Central Asia-South Asia power project). The TAT (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan) railway line and the Lapis Lazuli corridor were also assessed positively.
  • The Lapis Lazuli corridor connects Afghanistan with Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia to the Black Sea and ultimately through Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea and Europe.
  • Currently major exports from India to Afghanistan are man-made filaments, articles of apparels and clothing accessories, pharmaceutical products, cereals, man-made staple fibres, tobacco products, dairy and poultry products, coffee, tea, meat and spices.
  • Major imports from Afghanistan to India are fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts, raisins, vegetables, oil seeds, precious, semi-precious stones, etc.
  • India remains committed to assist Afghanistan in all possible ways in its political, security and economic transitions to ensure emergence of a sovereign, united, democratic, pluralistic, stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan.

Way ahead

  • Any initiative for regional diplomacy, particularly across India’s western border, managing and responding adequately to Pakistani intransigence is a crucial task for Indian diplomacy. Pakistan enables only a highly restricted transport of goods and services between Afghanistan and India through its territory.
  • A successful, organised Indo-Afghan trade, apart from benefiting both countries, would be a crucial incentive for greater socio-political stability in Afghanistan. Good governance, employment opportunities, national reconciliation, and generation of accounted wealth would receive a requisite fillip.
  • India’s dealings with both Afghanistan and Iran are not just about circumventing Pakistan. It also opens up important new connectivity and commerce avenues, as well as develops markets in Central Asia and through them to Russia and Europe.

Question– What are the potential benefits of air freight corridor between India and Afghanistan?

2.Working on the app-based model (The Hindu) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on issue of vulnerability of informal workers and need of regulation of technology and work for workers without security nets. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Recently the drivers running cabs for Ola and Uber have protested for better work conditions, the Delhi High Court sought a response from the two cab aggregators and also the Centre and Delhi governments on a petition moved by drivers’ union demanding “freedom from exploitation” and benefits under labour laws.
  • This is the first Indian public articulation of a question on the so-called gig economy that has been raised in courts worldwide. The union says drivers are under control and supervision amounting to employment, but neither do they enjoy flexible work nor receive benefits.

In India

  • Uber and Ola drivers are some of the first informal sector workers to be immersed in new-age tech. Their work is organised around data, timestamps and geo-references, making it traceable and trackable.
  • Algorithms that run platforms also systematise parts of work unlike in previous non-tech work. Work has readable history, incomes verified in bank statements, with regularity paid mostly without delays, without asking.
  • Unlike in America where the platform model originates, this form of work has more continuity with older forms of the informal sector than discontinuities. Platform drivers have experienced what organised work feels like not formal jobs, but work that is accounted for, seamless, and organised.
  • Rides come continuously. Payments come in regular intervals, partly in hand through cash, partly in banks, expanding savings from the near to the mid-term. Primary research by this writer finds drivers made more stable financial decisions because of this organisation of platforms.

Issue of driver’s rights

  • The petition, filed by Delhi Commercial Drivers’ Union said the drivers were “being subjected to exploitation everyday with respect to their pay and service conditions, and denied benefits under several labour laws as well as their fundamental rights by Uber and Ola.
  • Drivers plying cabs for these companies don’t even have the security of compensation in case of an accident or compensation to their kin in case of their death during the course of employment. They have demanded constitution of a committee to look into their service conditions and to ensure implementation of labour laws. The petition also sought action against “arbitrary and whimsical alteration in payment terms and service conditions of the drivers on daily basis without prior notice”.
  • Shrinking, negligible incentives have reduced their incomes. Some cannot repay car loans. Companies restrict drivers’ access to their work data. They also say that their earnings don’t always add up. Companies are unabashedly constraining the very offerings that got drivers to join their platforms in the first place.
  • Unlike those of in formal sector’s “jobs” with protected salaries, these drivers manage earnings to spend, save and resolve debt. Legal contracts that safeguard future income (preventing untimely dismissal) and future savings (provident funds) have not been available to them.
  • A countrywide skilling and job crisis leaves these informal, semi-skilled workers with limited work options driving, with low barriers of entry. Regulation should be responsive to drivers’ interests. Drivers can decide the quantity and duration of their work on platforms and this is valuable for them. Their terms of earning need regulations for transparency.

Way ahead

  • There is need to create precedence for the regulation of tech-based work for a large young population which needs work but is under skilled for the formal job market. The sheer number of drivers who join these platforms indicates the sizeable digital workforce being created. Identical platform ideas are being funded in different cities as separate entities, because investors find the digitisation of local services even at city level worthwhile.
  • It will be crucial to see whether the Delhi court judgment can create precedence for the regulation of technology and work for workers without security nets.

Question– Examine various security nets that are required for the workers in the technology-driven era?