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Labour shortage: 4.5 lakh homes may miss handover deadline in 2020

The seven markets most affected are National Capital Region (NCR), Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Bengaluru, Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai.

Tarun Nangia

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If COVID-19 had not struck India, the top seven real estate markets in India were to see the delivery of nearly 4.66 lakh units by end of 2020. Launched after 2013, many of the projects were in the final leg of completion. With almost zero construction activity in last few months due to the lockdown, the completion deadlines for almost all these projects has got extended.

The seven markets most affected are National Capital Region (NCR), Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Bengaluru, Pune, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai.

 Most state Real Estate Regulatory Authorities (RERA) have already given a 6-month extension to developers on previously committed timelines. However, homebuyers’ wait could run into several additional months for well-funded projects, and as much as 2 years for others. 2021 was to see completion of nearly 4.12 lakh units across the top 7 cities – 12% lower than in 2020. Most of these projects will probably also get delayed.

NCR, MMR & Bengaluru had completion of more than 1 lakh units each lined up in entire 2020 – then COVID-19 struck. Pune had 68,800 units lined up for completion, Kolkata 33,850 units & Hyderabad nearly 30,500 units; Chennai had least pending delivery at approx. 24,650 units. With most state RERAs giving developers a 6-month extension on deadlines, homebuyers’ wait gets longer. 2021 was to see completion of nearly 4.12 lakh units across top 7 cities. In 2020 & 2021 combined, NCR has the maximum units to be delivered at approx. 2.40 lakh. Unless labour shortage is addressed immediately, project deliveries will stutter going forward

“Homebuyers will have to adjust to new realities. As many as 4.66 lakh units were slated to be delivered in 2020 and another 4.12 lakh in 2021. Maximum completions (in both years) were to happen in NCR (approx. 2.40 lakh units). This region is set to witness more project delays over and above the backlog of over 2 lakh units already delayed in the region from before,” said Anuj Puri, Chairman of ANAROCK property consultants.

“The Government must intervene to address multiple challenges including labour shortage in top cities. Even if developers have the financial strength, it will still take a while for most of them to resume construction because lakhs of labourers have left cities and migrated back to their villages. Moreover, many of the top cities are still grappling with the virus.”

Projected Completions in 2020 and 2021

 Prior to COVID-19, the top 7 cities were to see completion of over 8.78 lakh units in 2020 and 2021 combined. Of this total expected supply, nearly 4.66 lakh units were to be added in 2020 and the remaining 4.12 lakh units in 2021.

 NCR was to see maximum completions in both years, of about 2.40 lakh units. Of this, 1.01 lakh units were to come up in 2020 and another 1.39 lakh units in 2021. MMR is second with nearly 2.10 lakh units expected to be delivered in two years, 1.07 lakh units in 2020 and nearly 1.03 lakh units in 2021. Bengaluru was expected to see delivery of nearly 1.51 lakh units in 2020 and 2021. This year the city was likely to see delivery of 1.01 lakh units while in the next year it was just half at nearly 50,000 units. Pune was to see completion of nearly 1.36 lakh units in both years, 69,000 in 2020 and 67,000 in 2021. Kolkata was next with nearly 59,000 units meant to be delivered in two years, 33,900 units in 2020 and nearly 25,100 units in 2021. Hyderabad was to see completion of more than 45,200 units in both years, 30,500 units in 2020 and another 14,700 units in 2021. Chennai had the least completions in both years, about 37,000 units. Of this, 24,650 units were to complete in 2020 while another 12,520 units in 2021.

Tarun Nangia is the host and producer of Policy & Politics.

Opinion

Unveiling 103rd Parliamentary Standing Committee interim report on functioning of virtual courts

Technology is an intimate adjunct to the rule of law. Technology giving rise to a changeover, rather than simply automating conventional processes. Process improvement through mechanisation is a primitive first step. Technology in the judicial system needs to unfurl its true potential; today, blockchain artificial intelligence, algorithms and the technology of command have the capacity for calling attention to a fundamental transformation of the judicial process, dispute containment, ensuring only those conflicts requiring judicial resolution enter the court system.

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The concerns have begun to surface. The spokespeople of Bar showcased the flaws as to why the virtual courts cannot be scrutinised as a substantial stopgap for regular courts. The Committee opined three specific magnitudes scilicet access divide, connectivity divide, skill divide. A member of Committee retorted the assertion of digital divide, i.e. exclusion of advocates dwelling in rural areas. In Swapnil Tripathi v. Supreme Court of India 2018, live proceeding was permitted. The Committee persuades the judiciary to speculate solutions viz mobile videoconferencing to licence advocates. Becoming ignorant towards finances to improve the judicial system at lower levels, there is a need to make availability of finances because it is subordinate courts which form the basic structure the contact of the common man and justice occurrence traces equity unless the hierarchy is bound to crumble.

“Vision without execution is hallucination”
—Thomas Alva Edison

Introduction

COVID-19 descended without a warning, as many pandemics do as history tells us. Access to Justice cannot suffer a lockdown whatever be the circumstances; the criminal justice system can- not function without courts. The courtroom is a service liberating the witnesses meant to give testimony, Clients put out their confidence, Contracts get negotiated, Judges hang down their judgements, and Contracts result in legislation delineating statute. No doubt the British system of administration was superfluous but it has some gross deformities in context of adhering in In- dian Judicial System and has outnumbered repercussions.

Consider the most fertile and dangerous embodiment of disillusionment. Our minds can flip from defending the facts we know into a mode of tearing up the reality.

Taking cognizance of the same, on September 11, 2020, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice (Committee) after taking inputs from key stakeholders and best practices across the globe presented its interim report on “Functioning of Virtual Courts/Court Proceedings Through Video Conferencing” (Report) to the Hon’ble Chairman of Rajya Sabha.

How do we conceive of technology and what we can see as the role of technology in? It must be towards fortifying fundamental values of human dignity and equality; our court procedures are just too tardy, too expensive, and unintelligible to common citizens. Technology is an intimate adjunct to the rule of law. Technology giving rise to a changeover, rather than simply automating conventional processes. Process Improvement through mechanization is a primitive first step. Technology in the judicial system needs to unfurl its true potential, today blockchain artificial intelligence, algorithms and the technology of command today has the capacity for calling attention to a fundamental transformation of the judicial process, Dispute containment ensuring only those conflicts require judicial resolution, enter the court system. Dispute avoidance facilitates those processes which ensure that a dilemma does not reach the stage of an animosity. Disseminating knowledge about privileges and remedies available, so as to entrust citizens & Emphasising on virtual courts, and the future of technology. While Design structure stimulating technology is required to bolster the ambit of courts to implicate dispute avoidance and to endow dispute containment by the courts to mediation and foster dispute resolution. The UK civil justice council report proclaimed one’s incapable to do this would be a fluoride element in the law is asking when someone introduces fluoride into the water and stop to decay. So we’d be able to stop the decay of the system, and that would be a fluoride element in the law. Forthcoming justice that requires all information & data findings of the courts, as well as court proceedings themselves, should be understandable to non-lawyers. Paradoxically The Indian legal System rolled out virtual hearings by the dint of Article 142 of Indian Constitution on 6th April 2020 besides Turkey, Canada & Italy.

General Concern Surrounding Virtual Courts

The concerns have begun to surface. The spokespeople of Bar showcased the flaws as to why the virtual courts cannot be scrutinized as a substantial stopgap for regular courts. The Committee opined three specific magnitudes scilicet access divide, connectivity divide, skill divide. A member of Committee retorted the assertion of digital divide i.e. exclusion of advocates dwelling in rural areas. In Swapnil Tripathi v. Supreme Court of India 2018 live proceeding was permitted. The Committee persuades Judiciary to speculate solutions viz mobile videoconferencing to license advocates. Becoming ignorant towards finances to improve the judicial system at lower levels, there is a need to make availability of finances because it is subordinate courts which form the basic structure the contact of the common man and justice occurrence traces equity un- less the hierarchy is bound to crumble. If the efficient sub- ordinate judiciary is built, the amount of reducing the dependency on High Courts will reduce or limit their burden. The National Judicial Data Grid can be taken up for a 360-degree assessment of judicial officers not just in the terms of the cases they dispose but also how far the courts incorporate the ICT governance system. Clasping Technology becomes a major consideration as the majority of the advocates are not well versed. Specialized Course needs to be entertained to swap with digital platforms.

Poor Connectivity leading to glitches & crashing of systems. In the middle, both the ends have better connectivity that will facilitate better video conferencing. The need for good infrastructure is like the pre-requisite of a healthy body for a healthy mind. It is absolutely essential that there is an atmosphere conducive for good work and an individual needs to refurbish skills. Delay in justice delivery system or the judicial process is a very well-known problem in India, which is yet to overcome, it’s austere.

One ought to surmise that for a law or a penal provision to play a role of deterrence the fallout of a criminal trial in the shape of its final verdict and an actual feat of punishment on the censured is equally crucial that of the gravity of the retribution all this has to be rendered before the public memory fades. Halt and technicality are inoperative in civil actions alone. The condition is not better in criminal justice. Many criminals are never apprehended in contrast to corruption, favouritism.

The most efficacious mechanism to battle docket explosion with the utmost accountability is to unravel commercial disputes of an international nature. Expanding virtual courts becomes the prerogative. Certain laws have to be amended to legalise Virtual Hearings. The peculiar taking of things towards judicial administration heads back to the primary importance of rendering justice between man and man via virtual courts to administer distributive justice as it redeems time. Evaluating evidence becomes necessary to decipher conflict between the opposition. The transformation of handling witnesses, adversaries recoups both litigants & Courts time, undue penny too as the concept of speedy trial falls within the ambit of Article-21 is an essential part of the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed and preserved under our Constitution Kartar Singh v. The State of Punjab. The common or mediocre ones that cannot even solicit the justice availed just because of financial deficit becomes a depreciating asset of their life toiling or haggling with the righteous intentions. Judiciary by the very nature does not have a majoritarian impulse. The attacks on the legal fraternity are out of the technology.

Key Recommendations

In furtherance to the various concerns received by the stake holders and the adverse prevailing situation owing to the on-going pandemic, the Committee also proposed certain recommendations in order to go on efficiently with the justice delivery system even after the pandemic and keep this avenue open for life long.

Some of the key recommendations included; (a) VCs should function in all the Courts even during non-pandemic time, with the consent of all par- ties for certain categories of cases like appeals etc. and final hearings where on- line virtual hearing would be sufficient. Transfer of certain cases from regular courts to VCs will reduce the pendency of cases. (b) A full-fledged VC should be piloted. This would enable the systems to be tested/ refined and further assist the judiciary in identify- ing the cases best suited to VCs. Petty cases should possibly be the first set of cases that may be disposed easily and quickly. (c) VCs may also be extended to cover arbitration hearings, conciliation and summary trials. If national and international arbitrations are allowed to be conducted through VCs, there will be hardly any requirement for real time travel to distant locations. (d) Further, VCs can be extended permanently to various appellate tribunals such as TDSAT, IPAB, NCLAT etc., located across the country which do not require personal appearances of the parties/ advocates. Permanent VCs can also be established for hearing matters relating to administrative and other tribunals at the time of final hearing.

The committee also took into consideration various infrastructural & training requirements that would be necessary to be taken up in order to be well equipped with the technology. The committee recommended the need for increasing broadband access across the populace by timely implementation of National Broadband Mission by The Ministry of Communications. Prevalence of tech brings concerns regarding the data safety and hence the committee also recommended that Ministry of Law and Justice and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology should address the data privacy and data security concerns while developing an indigenous new platform for India’s judicial system. The said system could leverage block chain technology to improve reliability of evidence and security of transactions and also case files. The report also based its focus on Improving the quality of courtroom technology to overcome the negative impact on advocacy. Further, a study of courtroom design should be commissioned and customized software/ hardware to facilitate VC should be developed.

All such recommendation would go defeated if proper training is not given to both judges as well as advocates. So, in order to be well versed and adopt this technology in long run, the committee also addressed the need of training and opined that Conducting training and awareness programmes in all court complexes across the country needs to be taken. Along with this, Introduction of a computer course as one of the subjects to train future lawyers on digital platforms should be considered by Bar Council of India, so that the upcoming lawyers can be well equipped with digital justice.

Conclusion

Though, the present Report is only an interim report made by the Committee to bring forth the issues being currently faced by the Indian judicial system. While we await the Committee’s conclusive recommendations as per its final report, it seems that the Re- port has taken a holistic approach towards facilitating VCs and at the same time brings substantial judicial reforms. We are sure of that fact that, the adaptability of technology will not only act as an asset to the justice delivery system but proper implementation of the same will also reduce judicial stress of overburdened courts as well as human wealth.

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Opinion

A jailbird’s right: Understanding India’s legal paradigm apropos of rights of the captured midst Covid-19

The Model Prison Manual, 2016 scrutinises the guidelines for governing the administration of prisoners; these guidelines are framed to maintain the conformity in rules and norms for the prisoners throughout the country.

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India also has an obligation towards rights of the prisoners as per the international laws and convention. In the 75th Session, 2038th meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Committee concluding observations were adopted by considering the Report of Maldova, adhered on 18th and 19th July 2002.

Amidst this Pandemic COVID 19, the situation is so catastrophic and chaotic that WHO has declared this undetectable pandemic as public health emergency of International concern.

In the absence of any vaccine or medical treatment the only way to restrict the escalation of this disease is to follow and obey the social distancing norms. But proper implementation of social distancing norms is not plain sailing for any country.

 In the light of status quo among all these chaos and complications, one of the section which is worst affected and neglected are the Prisoners.

Condition of Prisoners and Prisons 

For Indian prisoners in the absence of proper demographic database of prisoners, slow operation and functioning of judiciary, poor infrastructure and overcrowding in prisons and due to various other reasons this unprecedented pandemic acted as a flawless tempest or ticking bomb. Therefore it’s imperative to scrutinize the rights available to prisoners who are locked inside the prisons. 

The problem of overcrowding in prisons is one of the major issues for the prisoners during this pandemic as social distancing seems completely missing in prisons. From the year 2008-2018, Indian prisons had an occupancy rate of 117%, which means there are 17% more prisoners than the capacity of prisons. As per the report of National Crime Record Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs (Prison Statistic 2008) the capacity of prisons to hold the inmates is 3,96,223 while the number prisoners who are locked inside the prisons are 4,66,804 in number which means that there are 70,581 more prisoners than the designated capacity. 

Judicial Outlook

 The first thing is to consider whether Right to proper healthcare facilities is part of Fundamental rights or not. In the judgement of Paschim Bangal Khet Mazdoor Samity & Others v. State of West Bengal & Others, Supreme Court of India clearly stated that right to proper healthcare facilities is an integral part of right to life which is mentioned in Article 21 of Indian Constitution. Now it is important to scrutinize whether Right to proper healthcare facilities which is an important part of Fundamental Rights is applicable to prisoners in the similar way as it’s applicable on an ordinary citizen.

 In the judgement of Charles Sobhraj v. The Superintendent, Central Jail, Tehar, New Delhi, The Supreme Court of India clearly mentioned that all the fundamental rights which are available for an ordinary citizen is available for a prisoner in the same way with slight diminution because the latter is in prison. It was also explicitly mentioned that the prisoners should be provided with proper healthcare facilities and failure to do the same would be considered to be a violation of fundamental rights and involve legal remedy.

 Legal Framework

 Apart from the Judicial Outlook, there are various other legal provisions available for the prisoners which include The Prison Act, 1894 and Model Prison Manual, 2016. 

Section 4 of The Prison Act, 1894 includes the provisions for sanitary and hygienic accommodation of prisoners inside the prisons. Section 7 of the act has the provisions for safe and proper custody of all the prisoners who are excess in number and are kept in temporary prisons. This section specifically has provisions to avoid overcrowding in the prisons during the outbreak of any epidemic or during other times as well.

 The Model Prison Manual, 2016 scrutinizes the guidelines for governing the administration of prisoners; these guidelines are framed to maintain the conformity in rules and norms for the prisoners throughout the country. The Manual also has a proper framework and guideline for the prisoners during the time of outbreak of any epidemic or infectious disease. It has various provisions like creation of isolated and segregated sheds, treatment of infected barracks and clothes etc. Chapter V includes guidelines for Management of prisons in custody, Chapter VI has provisions for the proper maintenance of all the prisoners, Chapter VII has guidelines for medical and healthcare facilities and many other important rules and guidelines for the proper management of prisoners.

 International Perspective

 India also has an obligation towards the Rights of the prisoners as per the International laws and Convention. In the 75th Session, 2038th meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Committee concluding observations were adopted by considering the Report of Moldova, adhered on 18th and 19th July, 2002. It specifically mentions that if there is violation of right to proper healthcare facilities during any pandemic and if state fails to take care of their prisoners during the outbreak of some contagious disease then, it would be considered as violation of Right to life mentioned in Article 6 and Right to Liberty mentioned in Article 9 of ICCPR, 1996 (International Convention on Civil and Political Rights). India is one of those countries who have signed as well as ratified the ICCPR. Therefore India has a legal obligation to take preventive measures to stop the spread and escalation of COVID-19 in prisons. 

Steps Taken by the Government 

The Government of India has also taken measures to protect prisoner’s right amid this pandemic. A suo moto cognizance has been taken by the Supreme Court of India for protecting the rights of prisoners considering the over-crowded condition of prisons. The Supreme Court had directed the government of all the States and Union Territories to grant Parole to the prisoners who charged for minor offences.

 Apart from it Segregation cell and Isolation wards are being created at many places inside the prisons, also to avoid overcrowding Interim Bail is also been provided to the undertrials in many states including Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh etc. In many states the government has also put various restrictions on the visitors and relatives who come to meet prisoners.

 States like Kerala conducted awareness drives regarding COVID 19, Social Distancing, preventive measures etc. These drives helped prisoners to know about the disease so they can adopt preventive measures against the spread of this disease. 

Conclusion

 This Deadly pandemic COVID-19 makes us realize the loopholes in the implementation of laws and the catastrophic conditions of not only the prisons but also the prisoners. The problem is not just limited to lack of proper legal framework but also in the proper implementation of existing laws and conventions. Thus there is an urgent need for a better legal framework, thoroughgoing surveillance and proper implementation of existing laws and policies for the prisoners, so that the ongoing situation can be healed and made better and we are well prepared for such pandemics in future.

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Opinion

UN Security Council on protecting people with disabilities in humanitarian emergencies and armed conflicts

The children with any kind of disability also face problems in attending schools, unlike other children present there. For example, in the case of armed groups’ attack on various communities in the Central African Republic in the year 2013 to be particular, it was documented that at least 96 of the disabled people were unable to escape when these attacks were made on their houses.

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The UN Security Council passed a resolution on 20th June, 2019 to provide protection to people suffering from any disability during armed conflicts and to ensure that they have proper access to humanitarian assistance. This was the first time the Security Council had dedicated an entire resolution to the people with disabilities who face various challenges in armed conflicts, Having said that the major goal was to provide them with a voice in decisions regarding humanitarian actions. It was an important action for the group which was often forgotten during humanitarian emergencies.

 Although the impact of this particular resolution depended on how well was it executed in reality but it again reinforced and uplifted the idea that there is an absolute responsibility to protect all innocent civilians during armed conflicts, the UN agrees with the fact that the effect of conflict on people with disabilities is considerably higher and they have to be protected from the impact of war. This move was welcomed by everyone which was followed by extensive advocacy from the disability groups as well. If we refer to the statistics given by the World Health Organization, it clearly points out that 15% of the World’s Population is disabled with some or the other form of disability.

Amongst all these approximately 9.7 million have been forcibly displaced as a result of armed conflict and persecution. In times of armed conflicts or situations of humanitarian emergencies there are some problematic issues that people with disabilities face which includes difficulty in getting access to basic humanitarian needs such as food, medical assistance and sanitation, often issues like abandonment from the family also arises.

The children with any kind of disability also face problems in attending schools unlike other children present there. For example in the case of the Armed Groups Attack on various communities in the Central African Republic in the year 2013 to be particular it was documented that at least 96 of the disabled people were unable to escape when these attacks were made on their houses; they were left abandoned and 11 of them were killed.

Having said that we again come to the conclusion that this resolution basically emphasized on the immediate need for the states to end impunity against the criminal acts committed on the innocent civilians especially the one’s who were disabled, to make sure that every civilian has an equal access to justice and all the available remedies as in Yemen, South Sudan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Greece people with disabilities have expressed their concern over difficulties they face in navigating the uneven terrain to get access to basic necessities like food and medical supplies. The Resolution recognizes the Security Council’s serious concern regarding the disproportionate impact of armed conflict on persons with disabilities and proposes actions to address the barriers faced by the world’s largest minority group. The resolution passed by the Security Council addresses many of the challenges that have been talked about above which includes preventing violence and abuse against all civilians including people with disabilities.

 Additionally the resolution passed also called for the member states to ensure meaningful participation of persons with disabilities and the organizations that represent them in decisions related to humanitarian actions, conflict prevention, reconstruction and peace building. The said resolution also urges it’s member states to comply with the said obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities where the Article 11 of the same convention states that “In accordance with their obligations under international law including International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, all necessary measures are required to be taken to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situation of risks, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters”.

 The resolution passed was a unanimous decision but some permanent members of the security council expressed their concern regarding creating new legal obligations under international law and exceeding the scope of the mandate of the council, Gennady V. Kuzmin of the Russian Federation stated that Russia “shares humanistic principles and tasks to alleviate the plight of persons with disabilities in conflict” but “firmly upholds our position that all social groups should be equally protected during armed conflict as stipulated by the international law. Specific needs of one category of population should not come at the cost of and with prejudice to another category.” The council, Kuzmin explained, “it should not invent any new international legal concepts that are allegedly aimed to fill ‘gaps’ in the protection regime established by the Geneva Conventions” and not “get too preoccupied with devising new categories of individuals who should need specific protection under the international humanitarian law.” Having said that, even Yao Shaojun of the People’s Republic of China cleared his stand that the issues related to the people with disabilities “should be dealt with in full observance of all Council resolutions on the protection of civilians” and that “the countries concerned must shoulder the primary responsibility of assisting such persons, with the United Nations and others playing a complementary role”.

 Now if we go through the Article 25 of the U.N Charter, it obligates the states to “accept and carry out” decisions taken by the Security Council but there is no clear understanding as to what type of language indicates that a provision in a security council is of a obligatory nature. If we carefully analyze the provision that was explained in context to the 1971 Nambia Advisory Opinion by the International Court of Justice it says that when a resolution is passed by the Security Council, before jumping down to the conclusion whether it has any binding effect or not, it’s language should be carefully looked into. Taking into account the provision of Article 25 the question whether they have been in fact exercised is to be determined in each case, having regard to the terms of the resolution to be interpreted, the discussions leading to it, the Charter provisions invoked and, in general, all circumstances that might assist in determining the legal consequences of the resolution of the Security Council. Well, as explained by John Bellinger, the former legal advisor of the United States Department of States there are three factors that indicate whether a resolution of the Security Council has a binding effect, these are:- 

Findings which state that there is a threat to International Peace and Security 

Statement which clears that the Security Council is acting under Chapter VII of the U.N Charter Use of the verb “decides” in any operative paragraphs has a binding effect

 Nonetheless this resolution did not fall under either of these categories. However Resolution 2475 could inform how the Security Council drafts future resolutions authorizing peacekeeping operations, which often fall under Chapter VII authority. 

Lastly it is to be said that the resolution passed by the Security Council is also the result of the extensive efforts that the civil societies and organizations representing disabled people had put in for a very long period of time. Nujeen Mustafa, a Syrian activist who suffers from cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair for her assistance, had put forth her journey as a refugee who flew from Syria to Germany; she indeed was the first woman with a disability to brief the Security Council. No matter how remote the goals of this resolution might sound, it is an extremely important and celebrated step and a landmark resolution for people with disabilities taken by the UN Security Council. It is a clear political commitment towards mainstreaming disability across all UN pillars, including peace and security. 

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Policy & Politics

If watershed moment, why farmers are not celebrating, asks Telangana minister

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Telangana’s Municipal Administration and Urban Development Minister KT Rama Rao on Monday differed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement that the passage of Farm Bills in Parliament is a ‘watershed moment’ for the agriculture sector.

“If the agriculture Bill is truly a watershed moment, why is no farmer celebrating and why has a minister of NDA’s ally party resigned?,” Rama Rao asked in reference to Modi’s comment.

After the Rajya Sabha passed farm bills on Sunday after which, the Prime Minister described itas a watershed moment.

A watershed moment in the history of Indian agriculture! Congratulations to our hardworking farmers on the passage of key bills in Parliament, which will ensure a complete transformation of the agriculture sector as well as empower crores of farmers,” Modi had tweeted.

Rama Rao, took to Twitter on Monday and said, “When the Telangana Legislature passed the ‘farmer friendly’ Revenue Bill last week, there was widespread jubilation and cheer among the farming community across the state.”

In another tweet, Rama Rao slammed the BJP MPs from Telangana for claiming that the Centre released a staggering Rs 7,000 crore to Telangana in the fight against Covid-19.

The TRS opposed the Farm Bills in Parliament saying they would do a ‘lot of injustice’ to the farm sector in the country. Telangana Chief Minister and TRS president K. Chandrasekhar Rao had said the Bills would benefit the corporates and adversely impact the farmers.

“For public consumption,it was stated in the Bills that farmers could sell their produce anywhere in the country. But in reality, the Bills would enable the traders to go anywhere in the country to buy the produce. The Bills would also help the corporate lobby to spread to all corners in the country and pave the way for the private traders,” the Chief Minister said.

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Opinion

Making Things Happen: Covid and Mumbai Municipal Corporation

Anil Swarup

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Greater emphasis was laid on testing. Arrangements were made to ensure that results of the tests were made available within twenty- four hours. Mumbai became the only city in the country where all test reports would come within this period without exception.

Mumbai has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the recent past. Even before that, it appeared that the relentless march and the devastating consequences of COVID couldn’t be taken care of in the metropolis. It spread like wildfire during the last week of April 2020. The slums of Mumbai, especially Dharavi, Govandi and Deonar were impacted. On account of limited testing facilities and short supply of COVID beds in the city of Mumbai, there were a number of deaths. Some dead bodies were even found on the streets and road dividers. One of the biggest slums of Asia, Dharavi with a population of 8,00,000 was visibly out of control. There were only around 3700 Covid beds available in the city and approximately 1500 people were reporting positive every day.

 Social media was replete with videos depicting dead bodies on the road, more than one patient lying on many hospital beds, dead bodies kept on the hospital beds next to alive patient on the bed etc. Infected patients from slums of Mumbai were flocking hospitals gasping for breath and were dying within few hours of reaching the hospital. The death rate had gone beyond 8%. Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) had only 480 ICU beds, 80 Ambulances and 4 Hearse vehicles (for dead COVID patients). When the Central Government COVID Monitoring Team arrived at Mumbai on 5th May, 2020, it pointed out glaring deficiencies in Mumbai and how things were getting out of control. It added that Mumbai would explode leading to thousands of death in the near future. There was utter mismanagement and deficiency of resources in the fight against COVID in Mumbai. Even the media started raising the demand of handing over Mumbai to the army to combat COVID. Mumbai had become the hotspot in the country. There was panic all around and a sizeable number of citizens of Mumbai were fleeing to safer places. Sheer helplessness provided ready fodder or the national media as well. All this resulted in tremendous pressure on the state government. Left with not many options, the State Government shifted the incumbent Municipal Commissioner even before he had completed a year in this assignment. In his place an IAS officer, Iqbal Singh Chahal was asked to take over. 

Prior to this posting, Chahal was Principal Secretary, Urban Development, Government of Maharashtra. In this capacity he was functioning as the Nodal Officer for monitoring of COVID situation in 36 districts and 27 Municipal Corporations of Maharashtra since March 21, 2020. Hence, he had a fair idea about prevailing situation in the city of Mumbai. Early morning on the very next day of taking over charge on 8th of May, 2020, he walked into COVID ICU of a hospitals to take stock of the ground reality. It was followed by 4 km. long walk in the containment zones of Dharavi slums to understand actual situation prevailing in these slums of Mumbai.

 He was clear in his mind that there were only 4 pillars on which the foundation of COVID fight stood, viz. disciplined and focussed testing, large fleet of ambulances, immediate increase in the number of COVID hospital beds and substantial increase in the availability of trained para-medical and doctors in Mumbai. The focus had to be on testing, tracing, tracking, quarantine and treatment. Between 8th May 2020 and 1st August 2020, massive increase in health infrastructure was ensured under MCGM. Number of COVID beds were increased from 29,282 on 8th of May, 2020 to 88,953 by August, 2020. The total number of ICU beds were also increased from 480 to 1755 during the same period. Similarly, there was manifold increase in ventilator beds and ambulances.

 Greater emphasis was laid on testing. Arrangements were made to ensure that results of the tests were made available within twenty four hours. Mumbai became the only city in the country where all tests reports would come within this period without exception. More than 7.50 lacs of RTPCR tests which is the gold standard, were conducted in the city. This is one of the highest in the country. With more than ten-fold increase in the number of ambulances from 80 to 825, it was ensured that they were available on call. A huge pool of trained para-medicals and doctors was created in the city. This was achieved through hiring retired doctors from Defence Services as well as the State and Central Government. More than 100 doctors and nurses were sourced from Kerala on loan. Around 800 MBBS intern students were deployed to manage the Ward War Rooms. IAS Officers were drafted to oversee daily administration of major hospitals in Mumbai. Consequent to these efforts, recoveries have gone beyond 80% and the death rate that was initially 8% in the month of April came down to almost half within a month and finally down to 1.8 %. 

MCGM rose to the occasion in the fight against COVID. Through a wellplanned, path-breaking and effective initiatives, the Corporation, under inspired leadership of Iqbal Sigh Chahal, managed to take care of COVID related crisis substantially in Mumbai though the battle is still far from over. 

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Office. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

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Opinion

Footpath vendors, unemployed youth, small and medium entrepreneurs in deep crisis

Around 12 crore people have lost their jobs and means of livelihood. Waive loan, support the unemployed.

Vijay Darda

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Coronavirus has robbed crores of people of their means of livelihood. The small-time traders are facing prospects of starvation. Small and medium industries have downed their shutters. The need of the hour is to make them debt free and also open a new credit line at a lower rate, besides granting unemployment allowance to the unemployed till such time as they get work.

A youth took a loan to set up a small dhaba (eatery). He invested Rs. 10-12 lakh. The pandemic broke out. Restrictions were imposed and the business came to a standstill even before it started. Today, that man stands ruined!

 A barber bought a chair, a mirror and rented a tin shed to start his hair cutting salon. But for five months, not a single customer has turned up because there was a restriction on that business. He was devastated! The government may have schemes for the likes of him but who will tell him?

 A person set up a small industry. He employed seven to eight workers. Lockdown ensued and his industry sank. Last heard, he attempted suicide! 

How many corona-induced tales of woes should I tell? This pain is visible everywhere. People are puzzled over how to get out of this deep crisis? Around 12 crore people have lost their jobs and means of livelihood. How much capital do the footpath vendors have? It must be not more than Rs.2,000 to Rs.5,000! That too disappeared. They had to borrow to set up their business again. Uncertainty stares them in the face as they do not know when life will come back on track. They are faced with the problem of how to repay the loan or feed the family from whatever little they are earning. The government intends to give loans of up to Rs.10,000 to such vendors, but the condition is that they should certify where they were doing business. Where will these street vendors bring certificates from? is a million-dollar question.

 The government should trust them! The common man never lies. It is the rich and mighty who weave a web of lies and conspiracies to defraud banks from whom they take huge loans. Some bigwigs borrowed Rs.50,000 crore, some Rs.60,000 crore, some took Rs.1 lakh crore, some sought Rs.1.5 lakh crore and a few even borrowed Rs.2 lakh crore. These handfuls of industrialists have sunk a whopping Rs.15 lakh crore! Though debt-ridden, these industrialists continue to live in the lap of luxury. They are still flying aircraft. All this is happening under the nose of the government but no one is doing anything! A prominent industrialist colluded with the powers that be and grabbed five to six airports of the Maharashtra government.

 It has been more than 15 years, many chief ministers have come and gone but no one has made any effort to free these airports from his clutches. May I ask the government why is the law and the yardstick different when it comes to the poor and middle class?

 The government knows for sure that these poor and middleclass people need support, not loan. The unemployed should get an allowance of at least Rs. 5,000 per month till they get a job so that they can have two square meals a day. The government has huge stocks of food grains in the godowns. At times, these grains rot too. So why not distribute these food grain to these needy poor and middle-class people? S m a l l a n d m e d i u m businesses are all but closed. They carry a burden (debt) of Rs. 15 lakh crore from banks. They are not in a position to repay the loan. Their debt should be waived off and a new loan should be given at a rate of 6 per cent or less. And yes, interest should start after one year. By that time, these people will be in a working mode. The bills of small and medium industries that supply the material to the state and Central government should be paid within 30 days. If not paid on time, interest of 15 per cent should be given. If there is further delay in payment, interest up to 18 per cent should be paid and still further delays should attract interest up to 24 per cent. The Central and state governments should also pay the outstanding dues immediately.

 Let me tell the government that it is very important to save small and medium enterprises. This sector employs 11 crore people and contributes 30 per cent to the GDP. Do not ignore it. Keep it alive. This sector will build the nation. It is from this sector that Tatas and Narayana Murthys will emerge. If not the government, who will these people have expectations from? It is very important to understand the frustration among the youth and the pain of the farmers. People expect a lot from the government because it is their government.

 My demand for loan waiver and unemployment allowance may seem an exaggeration but it is possible. All that is need is a strong determination. Last year, the country’s Budget expenditure was around Rs. 30 lakh crore. Setting aside 10 to 12 per cent of the Budget for debt waiver and unemployment allowance is not an impossible task. A surcharge of Rs. 1 to Rs. per litre can be levied on petrol which alone will net the government a considerable amount. Then surcharge can also be levied on luxury items along with alcohol and cigarettes. Raising Rs.5-6 lakh crore is not a difficult task for the government.

 I don’t think that the government does not want to waive the debt. The problem is that the government accepts what the economists occupying plum posts in the government put forth. A miracle can happen if the government steps forward to waive off debt and grant the unemployment allowance. There is an old saying that where there is a will, there is a way! The government should have a strong proclivity to pull the poor and the needy out of the current crisis. Not only the US but many other countries too have taken such important steps to rescue the economy from the pandemic. If the governments of other countries can do this, why not ours? 

The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.

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