The Hindu Editorial Summary for UPSC/ IAS Exam


QUESTION : Human trafficking remains a big challenge before India and detail the government’s steps taken in this direction to deal with human trafficking?

  • Anti-trafficking Law in India
The draft Trafficking in Persons (Prevention, Care and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2021 seems to be lacking in nuance, even if well intentioned to stamp out exploitative trafficking. 
• Trafficking is a pernicious offence, one that societies and governments must have zero tolerance for, and yet, handling the offence of trafficking needs precision, not a sledgehammer. 
• The Bill, which will shortly be introduced in Parliament, aims at preventing and countering trafficking in persons, particularly women and children, to provide for care, protection and rehabilitation to the victims, while respecting their rights, and creating a supportive legal, economic and social environment for them. 
• This is the Bill’s second iteration, the first being passed in the Lok Sabha, in 2018, but then meandered into nothingness as it was never introduced in the Upper House. 
• Notably, the Bill has expanded the area under coverage to include offences taking place, not only within India but also outside of the country. 
• It envisages the setting up of anti-trafficking committees at the State and national levels to implement the provisions, when passed. 
• In the days the Bill was up in the public domain for comments, civil society activists and legal experts have criticised various provisions, submitting that an overzealous approach would blur the nuances and an understanding of the contributing factors, including vicious poverty, debt, lack of opportunity, and development schemes missing their mark.
• Vociferous opposition has arisen over the key aspect of handing over investigation in trafficking crimes to the NIA both by those who believe that it would burden the already stretched unit further, and those arguing that this move would be an attack on federalism, by removing local enforcement agencies out of the picture. 
• Another key criticism of the Bill has been its broad definitions of victims, smacking of refusal to consider consensual sexual activity for commerce. This would only land up criminalising sex work and victimisation of the exploited. 
• Bringing pornography into the definition of sexual exploitation would not allow even for any adult consumption of non-exploitative, consensual material. Reporting of offences has been made mandatory with penalties for non-reporting, but those with an understanding of the tortuous processes, point to the fact that victims often do not want a complaint to be recorded. 
• The mention of the death penalty for various forms of aggravated trafficking offences needs to be flagged too. 
• It extends to all citizens inside as well as outside India, 
o Persons on any ship or aircraft registered in India wherever it may be or carrying Indian citizens wherever they may be, 
o A foreign national or a stateless person who has his or her residence in India at the time of commission of offence under this Act, and
 The law will apply to every offence of trafficking in persons with cross-border implications.
• Victims Covered :
o It extends beyond the protection of women and children as victims to now include transgenders as well as any person who may be a victim of trafficking.
o It also does away with the provision that a victim necessarily needs to be transported from one place to another to be defined as a victim.
• Defines ‘Exploitation’:
o The exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation including pornography, any act of physical exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or forced removal of organs, illegal clinical drug trials or illegal bio-medical research.
• Government Officers as Offenders:
o Offenders will also include defence personnel and government servants, doctors and paramedical staff or anyone in a position of authority.
• Penalty :
o A minimum of seven years which can go up to an imprisonment of 10 years and a fine of Rs 5 lakh in most cases of child trafficking.
o In case of the trafficking of more than one child, the penalty is now life imprisonment.
• Investigation Agency:
o The National Investigation Agency (NIA) shall act as the national investigating and coordinating agency responsible for prevention and combating of trafficking in persons.
• Significance:
o The transgender community, and any other person, has been included which will automatically bring under its scope activity such as organ harvesting.
o Also, cases such as forced labour, in which people lured with jobs end up in other countries where their passports and documentation is taken away and they are made to work, will also be covered by this new law.
• Article 23 (1) in the constitution of India prohibits trafficking in human beings and forced labour.
• The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (ITPA) penalizes trafficking for commercial sexual exploitation.
• India also prohibits bonded and forced labour through the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 1976, Child Labour (Prohibition and Abolition) Act 1986, and Juvenile Justice Act.
• Sections 366(A) and 372 of the Indian Penal Code, prohibits kidnapping and selling minors into prostitution respectively. 
• Apart from this, the Factories Act, 1948 guaranteed the protection of rights of workers.
• Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children in 2000 as a part of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is responsible for implementing the protocol. It offers practical help to states with drafting laws, creating comprehensive national anti-trafficking strategies, and assisting with resources to implement them.
• Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air. It entered into force on 28th January 2004. This also supplements the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime. The Protocol is aimed at the protection of rights of migrants and the reduction of the power and influence of organized criminal groups that abuse migrants.
• Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) is a non-binding declaration that establishes the right of every human to live with dignity and prohibits slavery.
• Blue Heart Campaign: The Blue Heart Campaign is an international anti-trafficking program started by the UNODC.
• Sustainable Development Goals: Various SDGs aim to end trafficking by targeting its roots and means viz. Goal 5 (Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls), Goal 8 (Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all) and Goal 16 (Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels).
• Anti Trafficking Cell (ATC): It was set up in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in 2006 to act as a focal point for communicating various decisions and follow up on action taken by the State Governments to combat the crime of Human Trafficking. 
• Women help desks were established in 10,000 police stations across the country.
• MHA under a Comprehensive Scheme Strengthening law enforcement response in India against Trafficking in Persons through Training and Capacity Building, has released fund for establishment of Anti Human Trafficking Units for 270 districts of the country.
o Strengthening the capacity building: To enhance the capacity building of law enforcement agencies and generate awareness among them.
• Judicial Colloquium: In order to train and sensitize the trial court judicial officers, Judicial Colloquium on human trafficking are held at the High court level.
o The aim is to sensitise the judicial officers about the various issues concerning human trafficking and to ensure speedy court process.
o So far, eleven Judicial Colloquiums have been held at Chandigarh, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Odisha.
• Official complicity in trafficking remains a concern: The success rate in convictions in human trafficking cases is very poor and the acquittal rate for traffickers in India remains high at 73 per cent.
• Although law enforcement increased victim identifications, they identified disproportionately few victims compared with the scope of the problem, with some organisations estimating eight million trafficking victims in India.
• The police in India continued to file trafficking cases under the Juvenile Justice Act and other sections of the IPC, which criminalised many forms of forced labour.
o However, these provisions were unevenly enforced and some of their prescribed penalties were not sufficiently stringent, allowing for only fines or short prison sentences. This might be addressed by the Draft Bill.
• Three Indian states reported a third of all trafficking cases, but that was most likely due to “more sophisticated reporting in those states and territories rather than larger trafficking problems”. Better reporting mechanisms required.
• Efforts to audit government-run or -funded shelters remained inadequate and significant shortcomings in protections for victims, especially children, remain unaddressed.
• Many victims waited years to receive central-government mandated compensation and often state and district legal offices did not proactively request the compensation or assist victims in filing applications.
• Some foreign trafficking victims remained in state-run shelters for years due to lengthy or non-existent repatriation processes.
• Encourage state and territory compliance with the Supreme Court’s recommendation to audit all government-run and -funded shelter homes.
• Cease penalisation of trafficking victims.
• De-link provision of the 2016 bonded labour scheme’s overall victim compensation from conviction of the trafficker.
• Cease detention of adult trafficking victims in government-run and government-funded shelters.
• Amend the definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the IPC to include labour trafficking and ensure that force, fraud or coercion are not required to prove a child sex trafficking crime.
• Increase oversight of and protections for workers in the informal sector, including home-based workers.
• Lift bans on female migration through agreements with destination countries that protect Indian workers from human trafficking.
• Update and implement a national action plan to combat trafficking.
• Provide anti-trafficking training for diplomatic personnel.
• Continue to disseminate and implement standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral, and train officials on their use.
• Given the heightened vulnerabilities to trafficking due to Covid-19, governments need to work right from seeking “appropriate” compensation for victims to vigorous investigations of all cases of trafficking, including bonded labour, as well as strictly deal with “official complicity”.

QUESTION :  Discuss how 1991 reforms energised the Indian economy ? As India grapples with a post-covid-19 economic crisis, there are lessons on what to reform and how . 

Indian Economy And Covid-19
COVID­19 has brought home to us the absence from the economy of certain crucial services.
• Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization were the major features of the reforms.
• It involved lessening of government control over the economy, allowing higher participation of the private sector in the Indian economy and opening up of the economy to international trade and capital flows.
• Enter into the field of ‘globalization’ and make the economy more market-oriented.
• Reduce the inflation rate and rectify imbalances in payment.
• Increase the growth rate of the economy and create enough foreign exchange reserves.
• Stabilize the economy and convert the economy into a market economy by the removal of unwanted restrictions.
• Allow the international flow of goods, capital, services, technology, human resources, etc. without too many restrictions.
• Enhance the participation of private players in all sectors of the economy. For this, the reserved sectors for the government were reduced to just 3. 
• Factors Facilitating the Growth:The gross tax collections are estimated to have touched ₹20.16 lakh crore (₹20.16 Trillion), up ₹1.2 lakh crore from the revised estimates detailed in the Union Budget a few months ago. 
o The Centre’s indirect tax collections have touched ₹10.71 lakh crore in 2020-21, even higher than the collections in 2019-20.
o Indicators like the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), tractor & two-wheeler sales, Goods and Services Tax collection, E-way bills, and rail freight traffic showed sustained growth in 2021.
o The exports figures have also seen a huge jump standing at 31 billion dollar
• Highest Week-on-Week Decline as per NIBRI: The Nomura India Business Resumption Index (NIBRI), is a weekly tracker of the pace of normalisation of economic activity. 
o The index reached 99 points in February, 2021 but slipped down to 90.5 in the month of April, registering its biggest week-on-week fall.
o The reason for this downfall is mainly the second wave of Covid-19.
• City-wise Impact: States like Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, and Chhattisgarh, which are witnessing the highest surge in COVID-19 cases, account for over 30% of India’s GDP. 
o Even partial lockdowns and curbs in these states will impact economic activity majorly and if the lockdowns are extended further due to uncontrolled infections, the damage will be even more extensive.
• Contraction in Industrial Output: The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) has witnessed the sharpest contraction in the month of February 2021 (since August 2020), at the rate of 3.6%. 
o The recent spike in Covid-19 cases has raised concerns over the economic recovery, especially with the imposition of harsher restrictions on activities now being a possibility.
o The restrictions currently being imposed such as night curfews and weekend lockdowns are economically less painful. However, if the situation worsens, harsher measures cannot be ruled out.
• Manufacturing and Other Sectors: While manufacturing may not be directly hit due to partial lockdowns, the impact on the contact services sectors like hospitality, travel, and tourism will have a multiplier effect, as these sectors have strong backward linkages with other sectors of the economy. 
(1) Impact on the balance of payment:
• As against the low foreign exchange reserves that India had in mid-1991, the post-reform era has witnessed India’s foreign exchange reserves growing to record levels.
• As against the frequent balance of payments crisis that India had witnessed in the pre-reform era, the three decades since 1991 has seen India witness no such balance of payments crisis.
(2) Impetus to the rate of economic growth:
• The economic reforms have aided in the high rate of growth of the Indian economy.
• Though there has been a lag between the economic reforms and the subsequent acceleration in the economic growth rate, the rate of growth of the Indian economy has been high after 2001.
(1) Foreign exchange reserve growth based on capital flow: 
• Despite impressive improvement in the foreign exchange reserves of India, a close analysis of it reveals that this increase is mainly attributable to financial inflows rather than export surpluses, as was expected from the reforms introduced.
• The balance of payments has been shored up by portfolio capital. Such capital can flow out just as easily, leaving reserves to deplete rapidly.
(2) Failure to increase competitiveness of Indian industries:
• The economic reforms which were based on the premise of reducing government control over the private sector have failed to increase the competitiveness of the Indian industries adequately.
• Indian goods continue to remain highly uncompetitive in the international market and this has resulted in a scenario where the attainment of the envisaged trade surplus status has remained a distant dream.
(3) Trend of economic growth:
• The Indian economy of late has been exhibiting a slowdown, dropping to less than pre-reform levels even before we were struck by the pandemic.
• Even considering the long-term growth trend, the economic acceleration after the reforms of 1991 was not the first time it happened and also, there have been higher degrees of economic acceleration in the early 1950s and the late 1970s.
(4) Absence of certain crucial services:
• COVID-19 has brought to light the absence from the economy of certain crucial services and the underlying assets that enable their production.
• The acute inadequacy of the Indian health system, sanitation, transportation, urban governance and the producer services, from power supply to waste management, needed to undertake economic activity, are all inadequately available.
• The economic reforms of 1991 failed to provide for these crucial services. 
• Sustaining Public Expenditure: In the short term, sustaining public expenditure is a key to reviving growth.
• Publicly provided infrastructure, private R&D and facilitating government machinery are crucial for a country’s export competitiveness. Appropriate measures are required in this direction.
• India should acknowledge the importance of ensuring adequate infrastructure to meet the needs of the general public and allocate sufficient funds towards it. This should be followed up by the effective management of the infrastructure to supply the stream of services expected by the citizens.
• Managing the Elevated Inflation Levels: India is at the risk of inflation, it is at an elevated level which is why the RBI has been conservative; it has projected the growth rate at 10.5% only. 
o India has to walk on a very fine line balancing the growth imperatives and inflation concerns.
o The RBI has also adopted a policy to support economic growth. It has increased the limit of ways and means advances to the states and has allowed them to borrow more amounts from the RBI.
• Role of Government Policies: The growth projection also depends upon policies adopted by the government, specially the fiscal policy and monetary policies.
• Investment-Centered Approach: The NSO has given the investment rate in the economy for FY 2020-21 at only 31% of GDP which is a very low rate of investment for any economy as large as India, therefore investment is the right way forward.
• Multi-stakeholders Approach: Today’s reforms also require much more discussion and consensus-building. The central government needs to work in tandem with state governments and consult different stakeholders impacted by reform decisions. 
We have learned the hard way that the value of an economy depends on the extent to which it serves our needs. The current crisis of lives and livelihood in India is the time to start building a valuable one.

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