Even after long negotiations with States, the Centre has found it difficult to relaunch domestic flights.
Several were cancelled.
Some states have expressed apprehension about a premature resumption of civil aviation.
Enabling scheduledtravel through national policy, whether by air or rail, could be seen as a reasonable effort only when State governments are fully prepared, and adopt a uniform code of practice.
Operationof daily flights, a couple of hundred scheduled trains from June 1 and the large number of promised Shramik Special trains for migrant workers.
It is essential, therefore, for States to adopt a coordinated approach on quarantineandtesting.
Travel choices, in the present phase, should be designed to discourage optional journeys.
There is no reason to think that the pandemic has begun to wane.
Relaxing travel must be preceded by focusedcontainmentmeasures and an agreed protocol for States.
Batting for free speech
Verdictof Justice Abdul Quddhose –
It quashed a series of defamationcomplaints filed since 2011-12.
First Principle: the State should not impulsivelyinvokeprovisionsin the CrPC to get its public prosecutor to file defamation complaints in response to every report that contains criticism.
The court deems such impulsiveactions as amounting to throttling democracy.
It advises the government to have a higher threshold for invoking defamation provisions.
It notes that each time a public servant feels defamedby a press report, it does not automatically give rise to a cause for asking the public prosecutor to initiate proceedings on her behalf.
The statutory distinction betweendefaming a public servant as a person andas the State itself being defamed has to be maintained.
Justice Quddhose goes on to fault the government for according sanction to the initiation of cases through the prosecutors without explaining how the State has been defamed.
Justice Quddhose cautions prosecutors against acting like a post office, noting that their role is to
scrutinise the material independently to see if the offence has been made out,
and if so, whether it relates to a public servant’s conduct in the course of discharging official functions or not before filing a complaint
A recent judgment by Justice G.R. Swaminathan enunciated what is known in the United States as the ‘Sullivan’ rule of ‘actual malice’.
While quashing a private complaint against a journalistand a newspaper, the judge said two of the exceptions to defamation given in Section 499 pertained to ‘public conduct of public servants’ and ‘conduct of any person on any public question’.
This implied that the legislatureitself believed that unless it is demonstrated that reporting on a public servant’s conduct or on a public question was vitiated by malice, the question of defamation does not arise and that even inaccuracies in reporting need not occasion a prosecution for defamation.
Battling a virus with masks
India has recorded 1,39,868 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Concerns over the impact on our health, and the health of our loved ones, continue to dominate our thoughts and headlines.
Fact: this disease is spread by respiratorydroplets and contact is now well understood.
While maskuse has been made a priority, there is insufficient information in the public domain about the role masks play in the containment of this disease, specifically about mask maintenance and mask etiquette.
The maximum transmission distance of the virus aerosol — particles generated in the air during breathing, talking, coughing and sneezing — is about 4 metres.
In a study conducted by the National Institute of Health, even after speaking, salivary particles were found to remain floating in the air for eight minutes.
These points furtheremphasise the importance of mask usage.
Annals of Internal Medicine did not find a difference in the effectiveness of blocking SARS-CoV-2 between cloth and surgical masks.
The Lancet: the presence of the virus on face masks found that the inner and outer layer of used masks contained the virus up to seven days.
A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reported higher contamination rates over the outer layer than the inner layer of the face mask, no doubt from the constant interaction between our hands and our masks, further reiterating the importance of hand hygiene.
Adopting best practices: It is crucial to washyourcloth mask every day with detergent in a washing machine set to at least 60°C.
If that is not possible, the cloth mask must be scrubbed by hand with soap for 30 seconds, while ensuring it soaks for at least 15 minutes before being rinsed in hot water.
It would be ideal, but not compulsory, to replace cloth masks after around 20 washes due to the reducing filtration capacity of cloth masks over time.
To obtain the best protection from your mask, ensure that it covers the mouth and nose and asmuch as possible, avoiding gaps between the face and the mask.
Avoid touching yourmaskonce you have worn it.
While removing your mask, do not touch the front of it; the mask must be untied from behind.
Before and after removing your mask, clean your hands with an alcohol-basedhandrub or washwith soap and water.
During use, if the mask becomes damp/ moist, change it immediately.
Mask use, mask etiquette, and mask maintenance can go a long way in our fight against COVID-19.
As responsible citizens we should help our government in this battle against the virus.
Moving beyond geopolitics
Convergence of technologies such as biotechnology, genetic engineering and information technology, will have a long-term impact on geopolitics.
Underlying most geopolitical issues are technology and data, which are interdependent.
National governments, policymakers, and healthcare researchers are using technology and data to plan and improve economic activities, social development, and treat deadly diseases more effectively than ever before.
Technology and data are now inherentlygeopolitical.
Proper data related to the COVID-19 outbreak were not shared in time, and that is why there is so much anger towards the World Health OrganizationandChina.
The nature of technology and data has placed tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon in a commanding position.
At one time, these tech giants needed the support of governments everywhere.
But now, with their global reach, it is governments that are dependent on them. Access to data on a majority of the population makes these giants stronger when they enter the negotiatingroom with governments.
The current pandemic is a great example of how people across the globe have accepted the idea of their live locations being traced and shared with governments. In India, without much concern for the right to privacy, more than 90 million people have downloaded Aarogya Setu.
The pandemic has brought a change in perception on issues like privacy.
Tech giants are taking a leading role in geopolitics, at times playing on their own and sometimes as proxies of nation states to influence policymaking and national regulations.
The data need to be used towards the welfare of society.
Are we not doinginjustice to people by not sharing data in a timely fashion merely due to geopolitical reasons?
It is the right of every human being to benefit from the collective data to which he or she contributes.
Restrictions on the flow of data have increased significantly in the last 7-8years.
Across the world, dataprotectionlaws, requirementsofdatalocalisation, laws related to weakening of encryptionkeys and data retention requirements are by and large patchwork.
They focus on protection of personaldata and privacy and give little thought to the broader impact of data on mobility and social aspects.
Data protection frameworks such as the the General Data Protection Regulation of the EU and the CLOUDAct of the S. are aimed at putting users in control of their data.
But they have issues relating to datalocalisation and cross-borderflowofinformation.
Even the UN has not succeeded in bringing consensus in the preparation of a framework on the norms of behaviour in cyberspace.
With data flow set to become more important over time, we need government regulations and standard and inter-operableframeworks to govern issues and address risks emerging from these technological innovations.
The current concept of privacy and cross-borderflowof information may require significant change.
There is a dire need to impose obligations for data flow on countries and tech giants in the larger interest of mankind.
It is the right time for a Parliamentselectcommittee to look at the data protection framework.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath spoke about the problems of those who have to move out of the state to earn their livelihoods.
He announced that a “Migration Commission” will be established to help workers who have returned to the state amid the lockdown.
TheCommission will find ways to guarantee social security to workers, provide them jobs according to their skills.
The CM also criticised other states for not taking care of workers from UP during the lockdown.
More than 20 lakh migrants have reportedly returned to UP in the two months.
For sure, the salience of welfare schemes for migrants — insurance, legalsupport, unemploymentallowance — and the need for better employment avenues for them, cannot be overstated.
UP CM said: “Without our permission, our people cannot be taken by other states”.
Quite simply, what the chief minister has proposed is against the interests of the workers he is professing concern for. It also goes against a fundamental tenet of the Constitution: Clauses d and e of Article 19 guarantee citizens the right to move freely throughout the country.
The decision of workers to return to their worksites, or not, is best left to them.
A well-balanced stimulus package
Cognisant of its constraints andcompulsions, the government adopted a twin mantra for shaping its stimulus package, rolled out in five phases plus one earlier phase.
The first strand has been to first ensure that the human cost of the COVID-19 crisis is minimised, especially for those at the bottom of the pyramid.
The second has been to convert this crisis into an opportunity by implementing bold structural reforms, which have been pending for a while.
Shaped by these two priorities, the stimulus is a carefully crafted, well-balanced, yet bold package that will, in the coming days, achieve both objectives.
Present crisis has seriously impacted both the supply and demand side of the economy.
Measures announced for ramping up consumption demand directly included:
₹1.73 lakh crore for improving the incomes and welfare of the most vulnerable, including the 20 crore female Jan Dhan account holders who will receive monies directly into their bank accounts (announced in the first package)
₹50,000 crore additional incomes in the hands of those whose TDS and TCS were reduced by 25%
₹40,000 crore additional allocation for MNREGA which will provide jobs and succour to those returning to their villages from metros and cities.
₹30,000 crore for construction workers; ₹17,800 crore transferred to 12 crore farmers
₹13,000 crore transferred to States to finance the costs of running quarantine homes and shelters for migrant workers
On the supply side, the government’s response has been four-fold.
The first was to ensure that the nation’s food security as also farmers’ incomes were not impaired.
The government declared agriculture and all related activities as essential services immediately upon announcing the lockdown
This permitted the successful harvesting and efficient procurement of the critical Rabi crop. Procurement operations pumped in ₹78,000 crore as new purchasing power in the hands of the farmers.
The second was to prevent the pressing cash/liquidity crunch from converting to insolvencies and bankruptcies.
MSMEs were given an additional credit line of ₹3 trillion without any fresh collateral to further reinforce their access to credit.
MSMEs could also avail of new equity from the ₹50,000 crore fund of funds.
A whopping ₹90,000 crore credit package has been extended to state electricity utilities to enable them to clear their dues to private sector power producers.
With further liberalisation in the defence production sector, India will achieve higher self-reliance in this strategic sector and also emerge as an exporter.
Finally, in a measure that touches the lives and livelihoods of more than 50 lakh families, street vendors all over the country have been given a credit of ₹10,000 each for re-stocking.
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