ISRO to launch PSLV-C56 carrying Singapore’s new imaging satellite
The launch vehicle is configured in its core-alone mode, similar to that of C55; it will launch DS-SAR, a 360 kg satellite into a near-equatorial orbit; the Synthetic Aperture Radar payload in the satellite will provide all-weather day and night coverage
The Indian Space Research Organisation on Monday announced that the PSLV-C56 carrying Singapore’s DS-SAR satellite will be launched on July 30 from Sriharikota.
The PSLV-C56 carrying DS-SAR satellite will be launched along with six other satellites. According to ISRO, the PSLV-C56 is configured in its core-alone mode, similar to that of C55. It would launch DS-SAR, a 360 kg satellite into a near-equatorial orbit at 5 degrees inclination and 535 km altitude. It added that the satellite is developed under a partnership between DSTA (representing the Government of Singapore) and ST Engineering. It will be used to support the satellite imagery requirements of various agencies within the Government of Singapore.
DS-SAR carries a Synthetic Aperture Radar payload developed by Israel Aerospace Industries. This allows the DS-SAR to provide for all-weather day and night coverage and is capable of imaging at 1m resolution at full polarimetry.
The other satellites are VELOX-AM, a 23 kg technology demonstration microsatellite; Atmospheric Coupling and Dynamics Explorer (ARCADE), an experimental satellite; SCOOB-II, a 3U nanosatellite flying a technology demonstrator payload; NuLIoN by NuSpace, an advanced 3U nanosatellite enabling seamless IoT connectivity in both urban and remote locations; Galassia-2, a 3U nanosatellite, which will be orbiting at low earth orbit; and the ORB-12 STRIDER, which is a satellite developed under an International collaboration.
Facts about the News
- The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that the launch of the PSLV-C56 carrying Singapore’s DS-SAR satellite.
- The PSLV-C56 carrying DS-SAR satellite along with six co-passengers will be launched from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota
About the Launch
- The launch of DS-SAR, a 360 kg satellite is into a Near-equatorial Orbit (NEO) at 5 degrees inclination and 535 km altitude.
- Once deployed and operational, it will be used to support the satellite imagery requirements of various agencies within the Government of Singapore.
- DS-SAR carries a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) payload developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
– This allows the DS-SAR to provide for all-weather day and night coverage.
- Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is the space agency of India.
- ISRO is a major constituent of the Department of Space (DOS), Government of India.
– The department executes the Indian Space Programme primarily through various Centres or units within ISRO.
- ISRO was previously the Indian National Committee for Space Research (INCOSPAR), set up by the Government of India in 1962.
– It was envisioned by Dr. Vikram Sarabhai.
- ISRO was formed on August 15, 1969 and superseded INCOSPAR with an expanded role to harness space technology.
- DOS was set up and ISRO was brought under DOS in 1972.
- ISRO has developed satellite launch vehicles, PSLV and GSLV, to place the satellites in the required orbits.
- Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) is the third generation launch vehicle of India.
- It is the first Indian launch vehicle to be equipped with liquid stages.
- After its first successful launch in October 1994, PSLV emerged as a reliable and versatile workhorse launch vehicle of India.
- The vehicle has launched numerous Indian and foreign customer satellites.
- Besides, the vehicle successfully launched two spacecraft “Chandrayaan-1 in 2008 and Mars Orbiter Spacecraft in 2013″that later travelled to Moon and Mars respectively.
- Chandrayaan-1 and MOM were feathers in the hat of PSLV.
- The launch of PSLV-C48 marked the 50th Launch of PSLV.
- The PSLV is capable of placing multiple payloads into orbit.
An avoidable controversy over sample surveys
There was controversy recently over how sound data collection procedures in India are, especially when it comes to some of the important national level surveys. An article (by Shamika Ravi, Member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister), which was published in a leading national daily on July 7, 2023, cast doubts on the soundness of data collection procedures of some of the surveys such as the National Sample Survey (NSS), National Family Health Survey (NFHS) and Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS). The writer proceeded to suggest ‘a major sampling overhaul’ so that the survey estimates reflect the ground reality in the country. In support of her argument, the writer said that from 2011-12 till 2019-21, out of 11 surveys listed in her article, ‘every survey (except NFHS-4 of 2015-16) underestimates the proportion of the urban population or overestimates the rural population significantly’. Consequently, the estimates from these surveys ‘systematically underestimate the improvements across the country’.
The publication of this article led to articles countering her point of view.
It is important to re-emphasise the point that all the surveys listed do adopt scientific sample designs. This is widely acknowledged, even at the international level. However, there can be no denying the fact that there is always a scope for improvement of the sample designs. In fact, the sample designs of the NSS have undergone periodic revisions after due deliberations in the meetings of the NSS round-specific working groups, with final approval by the National Statistical Commission (and by the governing council of the National Sample Survey Office earlier). These committees and bodies have been chaired by or have had as their members some of the most eminent economists, statisticians and demographers that India has ever produced.
Bias in population estimation
On the issue of an underestimation of the proportion of the urban population or an overestimation of the proportion of rural population in surveys (as pointed out by the writer in her article on July 7), it is important to remember that the sample designs of the NSS or the PLFS are not aimed at estimating the number of households or population. Instead, they are meant primarily to estimate the major socio-economic indicators that relate to the subjects of interest. The estimates of the number of households or population are auxiliary information. Data users appropriately adjust the survey-based estimates separately for the rural and urban areas by using projected population figures based on the Census. Even if this sounds repetitive, it must be mentioned that the rates and ratios relating to the major survey characteristics for rural or urban areas based on the NSS, broadly reflect the ground realities. This fact has been acknowledged by the National Statistical Commission (Rangarajan, 2001).
Nevertheless, the fact of underestimation of population has been a perennial problem in the NSS. What is worrying is that the extent of underestimation, particularly for the urban areas, is quite significant for which remedial/corrective measures are necessary. In this context, it is worth mentioning that as against the estimated population, estimates of the number of households based on the NSS are in close agreement with the Census-based number of households. The corollary is that even if no adjustments are carried out, the average level of performance for rural and urban areas combined (based on these surveys) should be fairly reliable as far as household level indicators are concerned.
The allegation by the writer on samples based on these surveys not being representative in view of their use of outdated sampling frames also loses its relevance significantly because: first, these surveys primarily depend on the population census list of villages and towns/urban blocks (available once in 10 years only) for sampling purpose which, in any case, is complete in coverage. And second, for sampling of urban blocks, the NSS and PLFS use the latest list of Urban Frame Survey (UFS) blocks (i.e., the counterpart of the list of urban census enumeration blocks) covering all the towns of the country — this partially corrects the frame for urbanisation taking place subsequent to the census by way of State government notifications. On the issue of rural-urban classification of geographical areas, all these surveys treat census towns as part of the urban sampling frame.
Systematic bias in response rate
The writer rightly mentions that a refusal to part with the information is ‘never random’ and the response rate falls with the growth in the level of income of households. This is a problem also faced by similar surveys internationally. However, the survey methodology prescribes for substitution of such households by more or less similar households to the extent feasible. Here, of course, the possibility of relatively lower levels of income of the substituted households cannot be ruled out causing some downward bias in the overall estimates which are closely associated with the level of income. However, given that a majority of the welfare programmes of the government are targeted towards households in the lower income brackets, the said problem of non-response — with a very low non-response rate in these surveys — is not likely to have a serious impact on the overall household level indicators of interest, as estimated through these surveys.
Room for improvement
Sample design and the data quality are two different components of a survey. Both are important. When it comes to sample design, a lot of care is taken generally by adopting a scientific sample design in these surveys. However, on the issue of sampling frame, given the apprehension over inadequate representation of rich households, it may be worth exploring whether a list of such households can be developed by tapping alternative sources and covering a representative sample of them in conjunction with the traditional survey of the residual population.
Further, it may be worth examining the coverage of the UFS frame, given the extent of underestimation of the urban population. Setting up a methodological study unit to undertake other similar studies oriented towards improvement of the survey design may also be a step in the right direction.
The aspect of training of field personnel, field inspection, concurrent data validation and publicity measures may be strengthened to improve the quality of primary data, which is most crucial in any survey.
Finally, while there is always scope for the improvement of the survey results, criticising all large-scale official surveys on the ground/basis that they do not capture improvements adequately is akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
The allegation that many of India’s official nation-wide surveys are based on unsound data collection frameworks
ASEAN, a persistence with dialogue, on a trodden path
If Southeast Asia is the heart of the Indo-Pacific, the 56th Foreign Ministers Meeting (FMM) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the post-ministerial conferences and other related regional meetings, held in Jakarta, Indonesia in mid-July, 2023, are the best barometer to check on the region’s latest dynamics. An elaborate institutional architecture created by ASEAN has become an inclusive platform that draws nations from near and far, as also all major players (the United States, China, India, Japan and Russia) engaged in shaping the strategic contestation in a vast region stretching from east Africa to the South Pacific.
Vision and challenges
An in-depth study of various outcome documents, particularly the joint communiqué of the FMM, is indicative of ASEAN’s brave attempts to navigate through transformative changes in the present decade: the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic slowdown, the Ukraine war, climate change, and, above all, the Cold War-type confrontation between the United States and China. As the current chair, Indonesia has portrayed ASEAN as “the Epicentrum of Growth”. It is a well-chiselled vision with three inter-related dimensions: creating a political community that ensures regional peace and a just, democratic and harmonious environment; an economic community focused on achieving a well-integrated and connected regional economy within the global economic system; and a socio-cultural community to enhance the quality of life of ASEAN’s citizens as well as sustainable development of the region.
Addressing fellow Foreign Ministers on July 11, Retno Marsudi, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia and chair, argued that ASEAN’s ability to manage regional and global dynamics depended on two critical ingredients that promote its unity and centrality. First, it should maintain its credibility by adhering to the ASEAN Charter, and second, it should stay in the driver’s seat while navigating regional dynamics. Laudable as these goals are, they are becoming less achievable. ASEAN’s internal differences on issues such as Myanmar keep surfacing in public. Its desire to lead the region and shape its agenda stands jeopardised by the strained relationship between the U.S. and China.
China enjoys close political and economic relations with the ASEAN states, and at least three of them, i.e., Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, are its virtual dependencies. While the Philippines has become more assertive of late in its claims in the South China Sea, the central players, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, are all favourably disposed towards Beijing. This explains why none of them raises its voice against China’s delaying tactics in negotiating an enforceable code of conduct concerning the South China Sea. For many years, ASEAN and China have called for “an early conclusion of an effective and substantive” code of conduct; they did it this year too, but are content to leave the matter there. No indication of a timeline is given. It is hard to find a similar example of diplomatic doublespeak.
ASEAN also watches helplessly the acrimonious debate between the U.S. and Chinese governments, despite Washington’s recent attempts to revive constructive discussions through high-level visits. The Chinese argument is that the U.S. is solely responsible for poor relations because it steadily refuses to accept and accommodate itself to China’s ‘peaceful rise.’ The U.S., on the other hand, is no longer willing to turn a blind eye to Chinese aggressiveness and coercion in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. The latest manifestation of this thinking appeared in North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Vilinius summit communiqué which stated, “The People’s Republic of China’s stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security and values.”
Anxious over “the intensifying geopolitical tensions in the region,” ASEAN prefers to promote the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). Its four identified areas ( maritime cooperation, connectivity, UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and economic cooperation) make much sense to the region. Predictably though, despite ASEAN partners reaffirming support for the AOIP, its actual implementation remains a worry.
ASEAN reiterated its centrality, but it appears vulnerable when the grouping is unable to forge unity on a most sensitive issue, the Myanmar situation, which has led ASEAN to bar a member-state (Myanmar) from all its political-level discussions. In the run-up to the FMM, Thailand, defying ASEAN’s official policy, ran its own dialogue with the military government which permitted the Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to have a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, much to the discomfiture of Indonesia, the ASEAN chair. The split in ranks was acknowledged in the joint communiqué. This disunity could not be concealed by a routine reaffirmation of the Five-Point Consensus (5PC) forged in April 2021. Without unity, ASEAN centrality loses much of its credibility.
The significance of the ASEAN meetings to India is apparent when viewed in the context of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar preferring to represent India at the post-ministerial conference and other regional dialogues, instead of accompanying the Prime Minister on his visits to France and the United Arab Emirates earlier in July. He pointedly referred to the importance of a “strong and unified” ASEAN in the emerging dynamic of the Indo-Pacific, and highlighted the convergence between the AOIP and India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative. To build on the comprehensive strategic partnership between India and ASEAN, he suggested that the two sides work in “newer areas such as cyber, financial and maritime security domains.
Though it appeared that ASEAN did not make much progress, and no new ground was broken, its persistence with dialogue, internally and externally, prevents geopolitical temperatures from rising. The next ASEAN summit will be held in Jakarta in September 2023. Hopefully, this will bring greater clarity on the way to tackle challenges confronting the region.
Without unity, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ centrality loses much of its credibility.
Facts about the News
The Association of South East Asian Nations, abbreviated as ASEAN, was established on 8 August 1967 in Bangkok (Thailand).
- The establishment of the bloc was done with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration (Bangkok Declaration).
- The founding members of ASEAN included: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Current Member States of ASEAN are:
- Brunei (Brunei Darussalam)
- Cambodia (Kingdom of Cambodia)
- Indonesia (Republic of Indonesia)
- Laos (Lao People’s Democratic Republic)
- Myanmar (Burma/Myanmar)
- Philippines (Republic of the Philippines)
- Singapore (Republic of Singapore)
- Thailand (Kingdom of Thailand)
- Vietnam (Socialist Republic of Vietnam)
- The common objective was to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development and to promote peace and stability in the region.
- ASEAN Secretariat is located in Indonesia, Jakarta.
- The ASEAN Summit:
– The ASEAN Summit is the highest policy-making body in ASEAN comprising the Head of States or Government of ASEAN Member States.
– The First ASEAN Summit was held in Bali, Indonesia on 23-24 February 1976.
– The Summit is held twice every year.
India and the ASEAN
- India became ASEAN Dialogue Partner in 1996.
- At the 2nd ASEAN-India Summit in 2003, the Leaders signed the ASEAN-India Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation.
- The Framework Agreement laid a sound basis for the establishment of an ASEAN-India Free Trade Area (FTA).
- The ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement (AITIGA) entered into force on 1 January 2010.
- India’s search for economic space resulted in the ‘Look East Policy’.
- The Look East Policy has today matured into a dynamic and action oriented ‘Act East Policy’.
- PM at the 12th ASEAN India Summit and the 9th East Asia Summit held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, in November, 2014, formally enunciated the Act East Policy.
- The ASEAN-India Plans of Action (POA)for 2021-2025, was then adopted by the Foreign Ministers at the Post-Ministerial Conference in 2020.
- It comprises broad areas, namely political, security, economic, and socio-cultural cooperation.
- ASEAN is India’s 4th largest trading partner.
- India’s trade with ASEAN stands at around US$ 100 billion, which is approx. 11% of India’s overall trade.
- India also provides financial assistance to the ASEAN nations through various mechanisms like ASEAN-India Cooperation Fund and ASEAN-India Green Fund.
A big step in reducing the risk of disasters
The cost of these disasters is yet to be determined. However, it is clear that the world needs to do more to prevent the risk of losses from all disasters, whether they are weather-related, earthquakes, or biological like COVID-19. For too long, countries have spent billions responding to disasters rather than paying a little upfront to prevent or reduce their impact.
We are at the midpoint of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which is the global road map for reducing disaster risks and losses. While progresshas been made, we are not where we need to be. However, with a renewed sense of urgency and a people-centred approach, we can significantly reduce disaster losses by 2030.
One good news is that countries are finally coming around to the value of disaster risk reduction, which India has elevated as a priority for G20 through its presidency of the group. Specifically, India has established the first G20 Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group.
Countries that make up the G20 hold around 85% of the global GDP and about two-thirds of the world population. And as human vulnerability to disasters is strongly linked to economic decisions, the G20 is in a unique position to chart a new path of disaster risk-informed decision-making. This means not only considering the potential impact of economic decisions on disaster risks, but also leveraging economic tools to reduce existing risks and prevent new ones. This type of foresight is critical if countries wish to protect their people and grow their economies in the face of increasing and inter-connected risks.
That is why we welcome the priorities identified by the G20 Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group, which form the basis for the Communiqué being negotiated in Chennai. These are in direct support of the calls to action of the May 2023 Political Declaration of the UN General Assembly on the midterm review of the Sendai Framework. Of particular note are those around enhancing early warning systems, resilient infrastructure, and financing for disaster risk reduction.
Early warning systems
Expanding disaster early warning and early action systems is a top priority. Inclusive and multi-hazard early warning systems are among the most effective means of reducing disaster deaths and economic losses. During Cyclone Biparjoy, effective systems for end-to-end early warning and action helped achieve zero deaths from the event in India. Preparedness of the power sector helped reduce the disruption time in power supply in the aftermath of the cyclone.
The promise of disruptive technologies can help many countries leapfrog into a regime where they can use global capacity for forecasting to meet local needs. To that end, we are working to realise the goal of the UN Secretary General’s Early Warnings for All Initiative, which seeks to create universal coverage for everyone by the end of 2027.
Enhancing the resilience of infrastructure to withstand climate and disaster risks is another global priority. From New Zealand, which saw the flooding of Auckland airport, to the U.S., where a pharmaceutical plant was destroyed by a tornado, every country can benefit from assessing and enhancing the resilience of its critical infrastructure.
Infrastructure has a long life cycle, and if built well, can lock-in resilience as opposed to risk. That same infrastructure also becomes the lifeline of recovery during a crisis. Hence, infrastructure, whether economic or social, is ultimately about people and it must lead to sustainable development outcomes for them.
That is why India launched with the UN in 2019 the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, to spur policy development and capacity support for disaster resilient infrastructure, especially in developing countries. We are currently collaborating to create a global methodology for conducting infrastructure resilience reviews and stress testing, based on the Principles for Resilient Infrastructure.
Failure to adopt an integrated perspective to understand risks to infrastructure, and its impact on development, has the potential to multiply losses, which disproportionately impact the poor, who subsequently take the longest time to recover.
Finally, developing a new approach to financing disaster risk reduction is needed to transform risk reduction plans into concrete actions. This effort must be led by finance and economy ministries in collaboration with the private sector because the current funding deficit for disaster risk reduction is too large for governments to manage alone, and many of the risks generated are by the private sector.
G20 nations like Indonesia and India have used risk metrics to allocate resources at the sub-national and local levels for disaster risk reduction. These need to be studied and scaled.
Building on these areas of work, scaling up ecosystem-based approaches and enhancing national and local response capacities will be the responsibility of the next G20 presidents. To that end, we are delighted to hear that Brazil, which will assume the Presidency of the G20 in December, has committed to continuing the working group and building on what India has started.
The G20 must build on what India has started to prevent disasters.
Facts about the News
Risk of disasters
Disasters around the world are claiming more and more lives. The consequences of climate change are already showing effects throughout the world.
Increased disaster phenomenas?
- Ten days ago, three continents were gripped by heat waves.
- Massive forest fires have ravaged parts of Greece and Canada.
- Two weeks ago, the river Yamuna breached the highest flood level, recorded 45 years ago, and inundated parts of Delhi.
- India has elevated the value of disaster risk reduction, as a priority for G20 through its presidency of the group.
- Specifically, India has established the first G20 Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group.
- Countries that make up the G20 hold around 85% of the global GDP and about two-thirds of the world population.
- And as human vulnerability to disasters is strongly linked to economic decisions, the G20 is in a unique position to chart a new path of disaster risk-informed decision-making.
- This means not only considering the potential impact of economic decisions on disaster risks, but also leveraging economic tools to reduce existing risks and prevent new ones.
- That is why the priorities identified by the G20 Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group is a welcome step.
- These are in direct support of the calls to action of the May 2023 Political Declaration of the UN General Assembly.
G20 Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group
Recently, the third G20 Disaster Risk Reduction Working Group (DRR WG) meeting under India’s G20 Presidency also took place in Chennai.
- During the meeting it was highlighted that the impacts of climate change-related disasters are enormous and interconnected in nature and are already knocking on our doors.
Disaster Risk Reduction in G20
This is the first time a dedicated working group on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) has been constituted, signifying India’s commitment to addressing global challenges posed by disasters.
- This meeting will bring together G20 countries and their leadership, international organisations and knowledge partners.
- Priority Areas for the working group:
– Global Coverage of Early Warning Systems,
– Disaster and Climate Resilient Infrastructure,
– Financing Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction,
– Disaster Response System, and
– the Ecosystem-based Approach to DRR.
What is Disaster risk reduction?
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) aims to reduce the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones.
- The objective is to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risks and to contribute to strengthening resilience.
- Disaster risk reduction includes disciplines like disaster management, disaster mitigation and disaster preparedness, but DRR is also part of sustainable development.
Action Plan for DRR
- The Yokohama Strategy and Plan of Action for a Safer World (1994) was the first major international framework for disaster risk reduction.
– It recognized the interrelation between sustainable development and DRR.
- The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 (Sendai Framework) was the first major agreement of the post-2015 development agenda.
–It provides Member States with concrete actions to protect development gains from the risk of disaster.
- It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in 2015 following the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (WCDRR).
- The Sendai Framework is the successor instrument to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) 2005-2015: Building the Resilience of Nations and Communities to Disasters.
What does India’s first gig workers’ rights Bill stipulate?
What are the provisions of the Rajasthan Platform-Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill?
The story so far:
On July 24, the Rajasthan government passed the Rajasthan Platform Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill, 2023. It is the first legislation of its kind in India outlining welfare schemes for the State’s approximately three lakh gig workers.
What did the Bill propose?
The Bill applies to “aggregators” (digital intermediaries connecting buyers and sellers) and “primary employers” (individual or organisations engaging platform-based workers). The Bill proposes a Welfare Board comprising State officials, five representatives each from gig workers and aggregators, and two others from civil society. The Board will “set up a welfare fund, register platform-based gig workers, aggregators and primary employers… facilitate guarantee of social security to platform-based gig workers and to provide for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.” The Board will maintain a database of companies and workers and each worker will receive a unique ID which “shall be valid in perpetuity.”
In their recommendations to the government, labour unions previously objected to vague terminologies in the Bill that may offer loopholes to companies.
Where will the funds come from?
According to the Bill, the Board will create a “Social Security and Welfare Fund” comprising contributions made by individual workers, State government aids, other sources and a ‘welfare cess’ — a cut from each transaction — which the aggregator is required to pay. The rate of the welfare cess will not exceed 2% nor fall short of 1% of the value of “each transaction,” and aggregators are required to submit the amount within the first five days of a month. Unions objected to contributing to the fund, arguing that it should be sourced only from aggregator companies and State funds, owing to the fluctuating and inadequate nature of pay.
Are workers’ rights recognised?
Under existing labour laws, gig workers who are named ‘partners’ by platforms are not ‘employees’ because theirs is not a “fixed term of employment” — marked by providing exclusive service to one provider for a specified duration. The Code on Social Security, passed in 2020 and yet to be implemented, carried “restrictive criteria” about eligibility which are done away with in the Rajasthan Bill, says Chiara Furtado, a tech and labour researcher with the Centre for Internet and Society. The Bill states any person has the right to be registered the minute they join an app-based platform, regardless of the duration of work or how many providers they work for.
The Welfare Board is expected to formulate schemes “for social security,” listing only accidental insurance and health insurance, and “other benefits concerning health, accident and education as may be prescribed.” Unions have recommended that benefits available to gig workers be enumerated clearly in the Bill, expanding on the clause “other benefits.” Another responsibility of the Welfare Board, unions say, should be to assist workers in negotiating contracts by developing standard formats and principles for aggregators.
What about workers’ grievances?
Gig workers “have an opportunity to be heard for any grievances” with “entitlements, payments and benefits provided under the Act.” Per Section 15, a worker can file a petition physically before an officer or online through the web portal. The employer can object to the order within 90 days before an ‘Appellate Authority’. Several reports have documented ineffective and unresponsive redressal mechanisms. Urban Company workers are currently protesting the “arbitrary” blocking of their accounts and a lack of support.
Are aggregators held accountable?
An aggregator’s duties under the Bill include: depositing welfare cess on time, updating the database of gig workers, and documenting any variations in numbers within one month of such changes. If they fail to comply, they will be fined up to ₹5 lakh for the first offence and ₹50 lakh for further violations; primary employers will pay up to ₹10,000 for the first offence and ₹2 lakh for subsequent violations.
On July 24, the Rajasthan government passed the Rajasthan Platform Based Gig Workers (Registration and Welfare) Bill, 2023.
The Bill proposes a Welfare Board comprising State officials, five representatives each from gig workers and aggregators, and two others from civil society.
An aggregator’s duties under the Bill include: depositing welfare cess on time, updating the database of gig workers, and documenting any variations in numbers within one month of such changes.
Facts about the News
The Rajasthan Assembly Monday passed a Bill extending social security to gig workers.
- The Bill extends certain “rights” to gig workers, such as being registered with the state, having access to general and specific social security schemes.
Who is a Gig worker?
- Non-standard or gig work consists of income-earning activities outside of standard, long-term employer-employee relationships.
- Gig workers are independent contractors or freelancers who typically do short-term work for multiple clients.
- The work may be project-based, hourly or part-time, and can either be an ongoing contract or a temporary position.
About the Rajasthan Platform Based Gig Workers Act
– The Act applies to:
- Aggregators defined as digital intermediaries connecting buyers and sellers, and
- Primary employers, an individual or organisations engaging platform-based workers.
- Industries under consideration:
– An important component of the Rajasthan law is the setting up of a Platform Based Gig Workers Welfare Board.
– It will consists of the following:
- The bureaucrats,
- Representatives each from among gig workers and from aggregators.
- These representatives will be nominated by the state government,
- At least one-third of the nominated members should be women.
– Other major provisions of the Rajasthan Bill are that it seeks to register all gig workers and aggregators in the state.
- The state government will maintain a database of the gig workers and generate a unique ID for every one of them.
– Another important component is the “Platform Based Gig Workers Fund and Welfare Fee”.
- Under this, a social security and welfare fund will be established for gig workers.
- Apart from other sources, a fee will be levied on aggregators.
- The Rajasthan government has also introduced a provision for penalties.
– If any aggregator fails to pay the welfare fee within time, they will be penalised with an interest of 12 per cent per annum from the date on which such payment is due.
– If any other clauses of the Act are violated by the aggregators, the Bill empowers the state government to impose a fine.
- The fine is up to Rs 5 lakh for the first contravention and up to Rs 50 lakh for subsequent contraventions.
– The act also provides for setting up a Central Transaction Information and Management System (CTIMS).
- It will map payments generated on platforms, recording commission charged, GST deducted, payment made to the worker, and welfare cess contributed by companies, among others.
- Gig workers will have an opportunity to be heard for any grievances.
- Per Section 15, a worker can file a petition physically before an officer or online through the web portal.
- The authorised officer will direct the aggregator/primary employer to pay appropriate compensation if required.
ICMR argues for controlled human infection studies
New model for vaccine and treatment development promises to be efficient and cost-effective, it says; the technique involves exposing healthy volunteers to pathogens in a controlled environment
India has taken its first step to introduce controlled human infection studies (CHIS) that is used in many countries for vaccine and treatment development.
Riddled with ethical issues, CHIS has still now been a no-go area for India, but the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) Bioethics Unit is set to change this.
Outside India, this relatively new research model which involves intentionally exposing healthy volunteers to pathogens in a controlled environment, has been used to study malaria, typhoid, dengue, and so on.
The ICMR’s Bioethics Unit has introduced a consensus policy statement which is now open for comment and argues the case for bringing in CHIS. The document talks of the need, benefits, and challenges associated with CHIS.
“This paper is aimed at addressing a variety of ethical issues so that research can be conducted in India without compromising on ethical principles while ensuring the protection of human participants,” notes the ICMR.
The ICMR notes that India has so far stayed away from CHIS, because regardless of the potential scientific benefits, these studies are ethically sensitive and raise concerns about contentious research ethics — issues like deliberate harm, possible disproportionate payment and hence inducements, third-party risk, withdrawal from the study and research with vulnerable participants.
“Hence these studies need a streamlined ethics review process with additional ethical oversight and safeguards to protect the study participants,” it says.
The paper adds that the deterrents include technical, clinical, ethical and legal contentions, amid unique socio-cultural context.
India carries a high burden of morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases. They contribute about 30% of the disease burden in the country. Finding novel, efficient, and cost-effective alternatives to existing methods of research in these diseases and their prevention is imperative to reduce this burden.
CHIS is a relatively new research model that helps provide unique insights into disease pathogenesis and can accelerate the development of novel medical interventions, said the ICMR.
It further states that CHIS offers accelerated, cost-effective, and efficient outcomes using smaller sample sizes in comparison to large clinical trials. Its social value includes potential contributions to public health response to diseases of concern, healthcare decision-making, policies and economic benefits, improved pandemic preparedness, and community empowerment.
The ICMR has also cautioned that CHIS is a highly complex area and may require collaborations at different levels between researchers, institutions, organisations and/or between different countries. Collaborations should be encouraged to get the right expertise which may not be available with one centre/research team.
Controlled Human Infection Studies
India has taken its first step to introduce Controlled Human Infection Studies (CHIS), used in many countries for vaccine and treatment development.
- Riddled with ethical issues, CHIS has still now been a no-go area for India but is about to change.
What has happened?
- ICMR’s Bioethics Unit has introduced a consensus policy statement which is now open for comment and argues the case for bringing in CHIS.
- The document talks of the need, benefits, and challenges associated with CHIS.
- This paper is aimed at addressing a variety of ethical issues so that research can be conducted in India without compromising on ethical principles.
- ICMR notes that India has so far stayed away from CHIS, because regardless of the potential scientific benefits, these studies are ethically sensitive.
– Issues like deliberate harm, possible disproportionate payment and hence inducements, third-party risk, withdrawal from the study and research with vulnerable participants, persist in such studies.
Why the need?
- Controlled Human Infection Studies (CHIS) is a relatively new research model.
- In CHIS, healthy volunteers are intentionally exposed to pathogens in a controlled environment.
- This is done to promote understanding of the pathogenesis, transmission, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases in humans.
- Such studies may be conducted to gain insights into following:
– how pathogens infect human hosts and cause disease,
– to better understand immune responses to infection, or
– to evaluate the efficacy of vaccines and drugs designed to prevent and treat infectious diseases.
- India carries a high burden of morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases.
– They contribute about 30% of the disease burden in the country.
– Finding novel, efficient, and cost-effective alternatives to existing methods of research in these diseases and their prevention is imperative to reduce this burden.
- CHIS offers accelerated, cost-effective, and efficient outcomes using smaller sample sizes in comparison to large clinical trials.