1.ON PLAYING NATIONAL ANTHEM (THE HINDU)

2.ON H-1B VISA RULES (THE HINDU AND THE BUSINESS STANDARD)

3.THE MAP OF RURAL DEPRIVATION (THE HINDU AND LIVE MINT)

 

1.On playing National Anthem (The Hindu)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that Supreme Court decided to make playing of the national anthem before a film optional. (GS paper III and IV)

Overview

  • The Supreme Court recently modified its November 30, 2016 interim order and made it optional for cinema halls to play the 52-second national anthem before every show. Laying down a judicial rule that the anthem must be played on certain occasions in specific places, in the absence of any statutory provision to this effect, was unnecessary and opened the court to charges of over-reach.

Assessment

  • A Bench, led by Chief Justice of India, clarified that it is not mandatory to play the anthem before screenings. The court left the choice of whether to play the anthem or not to the discretion of individual cinema hall owners. However, if the anthem was played, patrons were bound to stand up in respect. The court clarified that the exception granted to the disabled persons “shall remain in force on all occasions.”
  • On November 30, 2016, a Supreme Court Bench had directed that “all cinema halls in India shall play the National Anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the National Anthem.”
  • The court had justified that the playing of the anthem cinema halls is to be conceived as an opportunity for the public to express their “love for the motherland.” The Bench had observed that said the protocol of showing respect and honour to the anthem was rooted in “our national identity, national integrity and constitutional patriotism.”
  • However, in response to this order and in a dramatic turnaround, the Centre told the Supreme Court to take back its order making it compulsory for cinema halls to play the National Anthem before screening a film and compelling patrons to stand up and show respect.
  • With the Centre saying this directive could be placed on hold, and that it would set up an inter-ministerial committee to recommend regulations for the presentation of the national anthem, the court has said it is not mandatory to play it in cinema halls.
  • The panel will also suggest changes in the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, or in the Orders relating to the anthem issued from time to time. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, one of the three judges on the Bench, had at an earlier hearing doubted the wisdom of asking patrons of cinema to visibly demonstrate their patriotism each time they entered a theatre to watch a film, remarking that there was no need for an Indian to “wear his patriotism on his sleeve”.
  • The court’s order also had some unintended, but not unforeseen, consequences. The audience began looking for signs of ‘disrespect’ and there were reports of vigilantism, with people beaten up or harangued for not standing up.
  • Even those who contend that “constitutional patriotism” and the demonstration of respect for the national anthem require the framing of such mandatory measures cannot explain why cinema houses should be singled out or why such rules shouldn’t apply to other halls or enclosures where meetings and performances take place.

Way ahead

  • In a mature democracy, there is really no need for any special emphasis, much less any judicial direction, on the occasion and manner in which citizens ought to display and demonstrate their patriotism. If rules are needed for the purpose, it is for Parliament to prescribe them by law.
  • Citizens should be presumed to have a natural respect for symbols of national honour, and should not have to be made unwilling participants in a coercive project.

Ques-“Supreme Court does right to make playing of the national anthem before a film optional”. Do you agree or not? State your reasoning.

 

2.On H-1B visa rules (The Hindu and The Business Standard) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue that the US administration rejects deportation plan. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • The United States’ H-1B visa has for decades been a source of nail-biting tension in India. The latest case in point was a scare that President Donald Trump’s administration was toying with the idea of new regulations that would restrict extension of the visa by those awaiting a green card.

What is H1B Visa?

  • The H1B visa is an employment-based, non-immigrant visa for temporary workers. For this visa, an employer must offer a job in the US and apply for your H1B visa petition with the US Immigration Department. This approved petition is a work permit which allows you to obtain a visa stamp and work in the U.S. for that employer.

Assessment

  • There are various reasons why such regulations may not take off, and the most important apart from technical reasons has been that the contentious history of the H-1B visa should have given pause to alarmist claims between 500,000 and 750,000 Indians in the U.S. would have to “self-deport”.
  • The majority of the 65,000 H-1B regular-cap visas and 20,000 H-1B advanced-degree visas made available each year are scooped up by Indian nationals, many assimilated into the backbone of the U.S. tech industry.
  • However due to “Buy American, Hire American” initiative, there could have been deportation of 7, 50,000 Indians, most of whom were working as techies.
  • As recently as 2017, four bills were tabled in the U.S. Congress mooting new proposals to clamp down on H-1B visas, though none came to fruition. The last salvo was Mr. Trump’s executive order in April, which was accompanied by much fist-banging but ultimately only called for modest changes, mainly a multi-agency study on what reforms are required.
  • The US recently said it was not considering any change in H1B visa rules that would force half the Indian workforce in the country to leave. The clarification came in the wake of media reports of a proposed tweak in the laws, which triggered strong opposition from Indians, advocacy groups and a section of US lawmakers.
  • The H-1B visa stem from a fundamental reality that the visa itself is designed to be a non-immigrant entry ticket into the U.S. economy, but over time it has metamorphosed into a virtual pathway to permanent residency and citizenship, particularly in the case of Indian nationals.
  • The most important reason for this is that most of these “speciality occupation” workers primarily experts in fields such as IT, finance, accounting, and STEM subjects fill a real void in the U.S. labour force.
  • It is not only Indian tech firms whose employees get awarded H-1B visas, but it is to a great extent a visa that Silicon Valley giants such as Microsoft, Intel, Amazon, Facebook and Qualcomm rely on for their staffing needs. Thus, there is a self-limiting dimension to any reform that purports to slash H-1B allocations, so that no President or lawmaker would want to be seen as causing economic pain to the companies on whose coat-tails the U.S.’s reputation as a global tech leader rides.

Way ahead

  • However, the United States provided a huge relief to the Indians working in the US, as it said it is not considering any proposal that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the country. The current announcement provides an extension beyond the stipulated period of six years to all foreign workers, most of them Indians in the IT sector, working in several US companies under the H-1B visa norm.
  • Washington has clarified the allegations related to the US government taking strict measures to “deport” H1-B visa holder Indians – whose Green Card requests were pending – were false, and that there were provisions to retain employees even if the allegations were true.

Ques- Explain why the fears of Indians being deported from the U.S. over the H-1B visa may be alarmist?

 

3.The map of rural deprivation (The Hindu and Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of Agricultural distress and the standstill in construction sector. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Union Budget is going to be presented on February 1, it is hoped that the Finance Minister will make a significantly higher allocation for investment in infrastructure. However, it is vital for addressing rural distress as the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC) informed us that ‘landlessness and dependence on manual casual labour for a livelihood are key deprivations facing rural families’, which make them far more vulnerable to impoverishment.
  • The government had signalled that the Union budget for 2018-19 would include solutions for vexed problems such as rural distress, weak employment and revival of private investments.

Indicators

  • The rural census, or SECC, mapped deprivation using seven indicators-
  • ‘Households with a kuchha house;
  • Without an adult member in working age;
  • Headed by a woman and without an adult male in working age;
  • With a disabled member and without able-bodied adult;
  • Of scheduled castes/scheduled tribes (SC/ST);
  • Without literate adults over 25 years; and
  • The landless engaged in manual labour.
  • The more the number of parameters on which a household is deprived, the worse its extent of poverty. Nearly 30% have two deprivations, 13% have three. Only 0.01% suffers from all seven handicaps’.
  • Nearly 54 million households are in the landless-labourer category; this number is almost certainly an underestimate, since 84% of all those who even hold agricultural land are small and marginal farmers.

Distressed farmers

  • As the overall farm size, which has been dropping since the early 1970s, and down from the 2.25 hectares average to a 1.25 ha average in 2010, will continue to become even smaller, the landless families, small and marginal farmers are getting pauperised and more engaged in manual labour.
  • Farmer distress has been growing, with the past year witnessing farmers protesting on the streets in several States. National Sample Survey (NSS) data show that there are two demographic groups which did reasonably well in labour market outcomes both in terms of job growth as well as wage growth between 2004-5 and 2011-12; these were the young who were getting educated at hitherto unheard of rates, and the older, poorly educated cohort of landless labour in agriculture, who saw construction work rise sharply.

Employment in Construction Sector

  • Employment in the construction sector increased 13 times during the past four decades, which led to its share in rural employment rising from 1.4% in 1972-73 to 10.7% in 2011-12. This sector absorbed 74% of the new jobs created in non-farm sectors in rural areas between 2004-05 and 2011-12.
  • These trends indicate that rural areas witnessed a construction boom after 2004-05. Further, growth in employment in the construction sector was higher than output growth during both periods under consideration. One reason for the much higher growth in the number of rural workers in construction over the manufacturing or services sectors is that there are fewer skill and educational requirements in construction.
  • Construction employment grew at a remarkable rate from 1999-2000 onwards, it grew to 51 million by 2011-12, which is a doubling in seven years or a tripling in 12 years from the turn of the millennium. This is because of the sustained growth in investment in infrastructure, especially over the 11th Five Year Plan period (2007-12) of $100 billion per annum, two-thirds of which was public, and the remainder private. In addition, there was a real boom in real estate, residential and commercial, throughout the country.
  • Construction is the main activity absorbing poorly educated rural labour in the rural and urban areas. These workers are characterised, as noted above, by very low levels of education. It is estimated from NSS and Labour Bureau data that the absolute number of those in construction who were illiterate was 11 million in 2004-5, but which rose to 19 million in 2011-12.
  • Though the Union government has sustained rural development expenditure for the last two years, especially for rural roads, under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and rural housing under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban). The Surface Transport Ministry has also attempted to sustain public investment in infrastructure to generate construction jobs for growing surplus rural labour.

Way ahead

  • The Budget for 2018-19 should sustain the public investment effort, the discussions on key themes, including macroeconomic balances, agriculture and rural development, urban development, infrastructure and connectivity, employment, manufacturing, exports, health and education, could echo in the Union budget for 2018-19.

Ques- “India is going through the agricultural distress and the escape to construction jobs is grinding to a halt.” Analyse and also discuss what are challenges can be taken in Union Budget to tackle rural distress, job creation, investments?