The travails (गम) of the migrant worker have shown no signs of ending.
Late March, Centre infromed Supreme Court: arrangements had been made to provide temporaryshelterswithfood for migrant workers.
Reports: thousandscontinuetotravellongdistances, most of them byfoot, to escape distress conditions or to their families.
Finance Ministry’s relief measures have been insufficient in providing for their needs.
India has managed to avoid the high fatalities and infection rates.
The lockdown has helped, but it has come at a huge humanitarian and economic cost.
The question of whether to extend a lockdown amid an economic crisis is a moral dilemma that can be resolved only through practical steps that compensate the poor and the workers in the unorganised sector, and protect the old and the infirm.
Allowing migrant travel in a safe way bytrain that provides for the necessary physical distancing is the least that the government can do.
Pandemic and panic
Tamil Nadu government’s order intensifyingthelockdown.
Anxiety over access to essential goods, triggered panicbuying.
Such chaotic events are an invitation to disaster.
Tamil Nadu’s hard-wongains from quarantine of travellers, systematic screening and monitoring of individuals at higher risk, contact tracing and community surveillance face an unexpected challenge.
Average citizen can weather a lockdown reasonably well if food, medicines and other essentials are available.
Longer shutdowns willcreate other stresses, since no household maintenance work is possible and spares are not available.
But the crowding challenge during the lockdown is posed mainly by the use of personal vehicles.
Restricting this is feasible if governments can bring essential articles virtually to one’s doorstep or make them available within walking distance.
An expanded permit system for delivery agents not just from online platforms, but authorised local merchants could address this.
Periodiclockdowns may also become common.
At the edge of a new nuclear arms race
In mid-April, a report issued by the United States State Department on “Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments (Compliance Report)” raised concerns that China might be conducting nuclear tests with low yields at its Lop Nur test site, in violation of its Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) undertakings.
The U.S. report also claims that Russiahasconductednuclear weapons experiments that produced a nuclear yield and were inconsistent with ‘zero yield’ understanding underlying the CTBT, though it was uncertain about how many such experiments had been conducted.
Growing rivalry among major powers.
Demise of the CTBT that came into being in 1996 but has failed to enter into force even after a quarter century.
What does CTBT ban mean?
For decades, a ban on nuclear testing was seen as the necessary first step towards curbing the nuclear arms race but Cold War politics made it impossible.
A Partial Test Ban Treaty was concluded in 1963 banning underwater and atmospherictests but this only drove testing underground.
By the time the CTBT negotiations began in Geneva in 1994, global politics had changed.
The Cold War had ended and the nuclear arms race was over.
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR, had broken up and its principal testing site, Semipalatinsk, was in Kazakhstan (Russia still had access to Novaya Zemlya near the Arctic circle).
In 1991, Russia declared a unilateral moratorium on testing, followed by the S. in 1992.
By this time, the U.S. had conducted 1,054tests and Russia, 715.
Negotiations were often contentious.
France and China continued testing, claiming that they had conducted far fewer tests and needed to validate new designs since the CTBT did not imply an end to nuclear deterrence.
France and the S. even toyed with the idea of a CTBT that would permit testing at a low threshold, below 500 tonnes of TNT equivalent.
This was one-thirtieth of the “Little Boy”, the bomb the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 — its explosive yield was estimated to be the equivalent of 15,000tonnes of TNT.
Civil society and the non-nuclear weapon states reacted negatively to such an idea and it was dropped.
Some countries proposed that the best way to verify a comprehensive test ban would be to permanently shut down all test sites, an idea that was unwelcome to the nuclear weapon states.
Eventually, the U.S. came up with the idea of defining the “comprehensive test ban” as a “zero yield” test ban that would prohibit supercritical hydro-nuclear tests but not sub-critical hydrodynamic nuclear tests.
Once the United Kingdom and France came on board, the S. was able to prevail upon Russia and China to accept this understanding.
After all, this was the moment of the S.’s unipolar supremacy.
At home, the Clinton administration in the U.S. satisfied the hawks by announcing a science-based nuclear Stockpile Stewardship and Management Program, a generously funded project to keep the nuclear laboratories in business and the Pentagon happy.
Accordingly, the CTBT prohibits all parties from carrying out “any nuclear weapon test explosion or any other nuclear explosion”; these terms are neither defined nor elaborated.
Why it lacks authority
Another controversy arose regarding the entry-into-force provisions (Article 14) of the treaty.
After India’sproposals for anchoring the CTBT in a disarmament framework did not find acceptance, in June 1996, India announced its decision to withdraw from the negotiations.
Unhappy at this turn, the K., China and Pakistan took the lead in revising the entry-into-forceprovisions.
The new provisions listed44 countries by name whose ratification was necessary for the treaty to enter into force and included India.
Indiaprotested that this attempt at arm-twisting violated a country’s sovereign right to decide if it wanted to join a treaty but was ignored.
The CTBT was adopted by a majorityvote and opened for signature.
Of the 44 listed countries, to date only 36 have ratified the treaty. China, Egypt, Iran, Israel and the U.S. have signed but not ratified. China maintains that it will only ratify it after the S. does so but the Republican dominated Senate had rejected it in 1999.
In addition, North Korea, India and Pakistan are the three who have not signed. All three have also undertaken tests after 1996; India and Pakistan in May 1998 and North Korea six times between 2006 and 2017.
The CTBT has therefore not entered into force and lacks legal authority.
Nevertheless, an international organisation to verify the CTBT was established in Vienna with a staff of about 230 persons and an annual budget of $130 million.
Ironically, the U.S. is the largest contributor with a share of $17 million.
The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) runs an elaborate verification system built around a network of over 325 seismic, radionuclide, infrasound and hydroacoustic (underwater) monitoring stations.
The CTBTO has refrained from backing the U.S.’s allegations.
Competition is back
The key change from the 1990s is that the U.S.’s unipolar moment is over and strategic competition among major powers is back.
The U.S. now identifies Russia and China as ‘rivals’.
The Trump administration has embarked on a 30-year modernisation plan with a price tag of $1.2 trillion.
Russia has responded by exploring hypersonic delivery systems and theatre systems while China has embarked on a modernisation programme to enhance the survivability of its arsenal which is considerably smaller.
In addition, both countries are also investing heavily in offensive cyber capabilities.
TheNew Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) limits U.S. and Russian arsenals but will expire in 2021 and U.S. President Donald Trump has already indicated that he does not plan to extend it.
Instead, the Trump administration would like to bringChina into some kind of nuclear arms control talks, something China has avoided by pointing to the fact that the U.S. and Russia still account for over 90% of global nuclear arsenals.
Protecting the poor from becoming poorer
COVID-19 and its control measures will affect the health, human capital and income of vulnerable populations in multiple ways over the short and long term.
The morbidity and mortalityrates are disproportionately higher in countries, and among people, at the lower end of the income distribution.
The Spanish flu in 1918 left about 50 to 100 million people dead worldwide.
Poor countries like India bore the brunt of the pandemic.
India lost 18 million lives, or 6% of the population, the highest anywhere.
In contrast, the U.S., where the flu might have originated, experienced 6,75,000deaths.
Economically vulnerable people have poor nutrition which lowers immunity; they live in crowded spaces making it easier for a disease to spread; and they have inadequate access to safe water, sanitation, and quality health care.
Epidemics continue to affectsurvivorslong after they are over.
A study on the long-term effects of the Spanish flu, “Is the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Over? Long-Term Effects of In Utero Influenza Exposure in the Post-1940 U.S. Population”, by Douglas Almond, reported that children born to infected mothers were 15% less likely to graduate from high school, the wages of men were 5%-9% lower because of infection, and the disabilityrate20% higher compared to birth cohorts not affected by the flu.
The Central government and several State governments have announced a range of important measures to address the economic hardship faced by vulnerable households.
More challenging is addressing the long-term health and economiceffects of COVID-19.
It will require extending current relief measures for a longer duration, to a few years.
To prevent human capital deprivation in the future, both long-andshort-termreliefmeasures will need to target specific populations like pregnant women and young children.
Do not lower guard against virus, urges PM
Mann Ki Baat: Acknowledging that India’s fight against the COVID-19 is people-driven, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked citizens to “remain careful and not lower their guard against the pandemic on the assumption that it will not affect them”.
Mr. Modi stressed on strictly following social distancing protocols, not spitting in the open, wearing masks or covering faces with gamchas [towel] while stepping out.
Though he didn’t give any indication about the government’s thinking with regard to the current lockdown, Mr. Modi did express the hope that “the world may be able to somewhat free itself from the virus by the time Id is celebrated”.
“Do gaj doori, bahut hain zaroori [Two metres distance is very essential],” the Prime Minister said while explaining the need to follow COVID-19 protocols.
Industries hobbled by curbs on mobility of men, material
Nationwide, 180 companies participated in the CII survey, which was conducted on April 23 and 24, a few days after the latest round of relaxations came into effect on April 20.
CII suggested that permits may be granted on a self-certification basis by State governments, at least in areas which are not hotspots of infection.
Only 15% of companies said that movement of raw materials and finished goods was taking place smoothly.
‘Executive best placed to deal with pandemic’
Amid the biggest health and humanitarian catastrophe in decades, Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde told The Hindu that the Executive, with its three 'Ms' of men, material and money, is better equipped than the judiciary and legislature to lead the battle against COVID-19.
Man jumps quarantine, infects six
A man who escaped quarantine and went to a barber for a haircut is believed to have caused at least six COVID-19 infections in a village in Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh.
Six men who went to the same barber tested positive for the virus.
In fresh spike, Andhra Pradesh records 81 cases
358 fresh cases in Mumbai, deaths rise by 12
Maharashtra breaches the 8,000 mark
230 new cases in Gujarat; 18 deaths in Ahmedabad
31 patients discharged after recovery
Australia cancels premier air exercise
Australia has informed India that its premier multilateral air combat training exercise — Pitch Black 2020— scheduled from July 27 to August 14 has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 situation, defence sources said.
The bilateral naval exercise ____________ early last year saw participation of the largest Australian contingent ever to India with over 1,000 personnel.