Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas.
It is a statutory mechanism to coordinate and oversee diverse efforts to improve air quality in Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and UP.
The commission will be headed by a full time chairman who should have been an experienced bureaucrat.
Other members will span the relevant technical areas and representation from the states concerned.
The ordinance vests it with great power and its domain overlaps that of different state bodies.
As the coordinating body, the commission will be dependent on states for enforcement.
Clean air is a public good in and of itself.
If skilled workforce and new enterprises are reluctant to locate here on account of abysmal air quality, everyone loses economically.
Covid has chillingly underlined the extent to which environment degradation extracts an economic price too.
The nature of the republic | Ind Exp
French President Emmanuel Macron has paid tribute to Paty, calling him a “quiet hero” and said he was targeted because he “embodied the Republic”, taught pupils “to become citizens” and “fought for freedom and reason”.
The nature of the French Republic
Former French President Jacques Chirac (now deceased) during his tenure commissioned an expert enquiry into what precisely secularism in practice should be.
Bernard Stasi presented his report in December 2003, based on which a fresh secular law was passed by the French National Assembly in March 2004.
It brought up to date the law of 1905.
The new Act defined three essential principles:
Freedom of conscience (अंतःकरण)
Equality in law for spiritual and religious belief
Neutrality of political power
Religion and the individual
The state and the individual
The state and religion
In (b) the state views the individual as a citizen and not as a member of a religious group.
The implication of (c) is that religion and state function in two separate areas of human activity.
Donald Smith, University of Calgary, has compared the above relations as three sides of a triangle.
The French law attempted to implement these principles.
It had not abolished the wearing of either Jewish skull caps or Muslim headscarves.
All it ordained was that the students attending government schools or employees working in government offices must not display religious symbols of a conspicuous nature, which would include even a large cross.
There is no restriction on wearing any form of dress or display of any religious symbols in the country at large.
The state, however, has to maintain absolute neutrality between one religion and another.
The French insistence on the absolute separation of church and state goes back to 1905 — in December that year, a Republican law was passed by the country’s National Assembly.
Article 1 assures the liberty of conscience. It guaranteed the free exercise of religious beliefs. The only restrictions were decreed in the interest of public order.
Article 2 states that the Republic does not recognise either salaries paid or subsidies granted to any religious group.
The Stasi Report also emphasised secularism as a cornerstone of democracy.
As far as private employers of schools are concerned, the law is that the will of the institution would prevail and not any idiosyncrasy of the employee.
These provisions ensure not only the neutrality of political authority but also the freedom of conscience and belief as well as equality before the law.
The American constitution contains no reference to God.
India never had a centralised institution to regulate religion nor did it ever interfere in the running of the state.
France did not fully separate church and state until the passage of its 1905 law.
Today, secularism is a core concept in the French constitution, Article 1 of which formally states that France is a secular republic.
This, however, does not prevent the state from playing an active role in the appointment of Catholic diocesan bishops.
Thus, the French president is the only head of state who still appoints some Catholic bishops.
Former President Nicolas Sarkozy differed from this French constitutional tradition and saw France’s main religions as making positive contributions to society.
He visited the Pope in December 2007 and publicly acknowledged France’s Christian roots.
Pope Benedict XVI commented that it is important to become more aware of the irreplaceable role of religion for the formation of conscience and the contribution it can bring to the creation of a basic ethical consensus within society.
A law was passed on April 11, 2011, with strong support from political parties as well as from Sarkozy, which made it illegal to conceal one’s face in public spaces, affecting a few thousand women in France wearing the niqab and the burqa.
Scholar Olivier Roy has argued that the burkini bans and secularist policies of France provoked religious violence, to which Gilles Kepel responded that Britain has no such policies and suffered a greater number of attacks in 2017 than France.
The shifting trajectory of India’s foreign policy
The U.S. Defence Secretary, Mark Esper, stating that “India will be the most consequential partner for the US in the Indo-Pacific this Century”.
The U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, making an all-out attack on China and the threat it posed to democratic nations.
BECA - marked India’s entry as a full member into the select category of nations entitled to receive highly classified U.S. defence and intelligence information.
Built into the agreements are provisions for a two-way exchange of information and, while India prides itself on maintaining strategic autonomy, it would be evident with the signing of these agreements, that India’s claims of maintaining strategic autonomy will increasingly sound hollow.
The U.S. makes little secret of the fact that the primary push for getting India to sign the foundational agreements was the threat posed by China, and by appending its signature India has signed on to becoming part of the wider anti-China ‘coalition of the willing’.
India’s Foreign Minister, S. Jaishankar, in his latest book, argues that ‘because global fluidity is so pervasive, India must address this challenge by forging more contemporary ties on every major account’.
This may have triggered the current flurry of agreements, but it could equally push the nation into a quagmire.
China-India relations have never been easy.
This will now become increasingly problematic as India gravitates towards the U.S. sphere of influence.
India, again, will need to try and square the circle when it comes to its membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), considering its new relationship with the U.S.
Admittedly, India-Russia relations in recent years have not been as robust as in the pre-2014 period, but many of the edifices that sustained the relationship at optimum levels, including annual meetings between the Russian President and the Indian Prime Minister have remained.
A secure future for platform workers
The Code on Social Security Bill, 2020, for the first time in Indian law, attempted to define ‘platform work’ outside of the traditional employment category.
“Platform work means a work arrangement outside of a traditional employer-employee relationship in which organisations or individuals use an online platform to access other organisations or individuals to solve specific problems or to provide specific services or any such other activities which may be notified by the Central Government, in exchange for payment.”
A categorical clarification could ensure that social security measures are provided to workers without compromising the touted qualities of platform work: flexibility and a sense of ownership.
An ongoing global conversation on platform workers’ rights has been around the misclassification of platform workers as ‘independent contractors’.
Adjudications and emerging amendments to labour laws in Ontario and California have shown a move towards granting employee status to platform workers, thus guaranteeing minimum wage and welfare benefits.
This is the view propagated by international agencies in the EU, including the European Trade Union.
Entry into on-demand platform work like ride sharing and food delivery are dependent on existing access to vehicular assets.
The Code states the provision of basic welfare measures as a joint responsibility of the Central government, platform aggregators, and workers.
However, it does not state which stakeholder is responsible for delivering what quantum of welfare.
The role of platform workers amidst the pandemic has presented a strong case to attribute a more robust responsibility to platform aggregator companies and the State.
As argued by Aditi Surie, platform workers were responsible for delivery of essential services during the pandemic at great personal risk to themselves.
They have also been responsible for keeping platform companies afloat despite the pandemic-induced financial crisis.
A way forward for platform workers is through a socio-legal acknowledgement of the heterogeneity of work in the gig economy, and the ascription of joint accountability to the State and platform companies for the delivery of social services.
What Not To Do | ToI
A fresh wave of coronavirus infections in Europe is seeing a fresh wave of lockdowns.
India’s infection trajectory is looking comparatively comfortable, with October seeing a fall in daily Covid-19 numbers, and with the most recent good news of the active cases dropping below the 6 lakh mark for three consecutive days after nearly three months.
The lesson from Europe is how easily such hard fought gains can be squandered by the carelessness called “pandemic fatigue”, which can take the form of citizens discarding safe practices as well as governments going lax on regulating these practices plus testing.
For emulation India should instead look to countries like South Korea where citizens have kept masking up and government has kept a close eye on every spike, responding with pinpointed alacrity instead of general lockdowns.
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