Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed
President of India has paid homage to Shri Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, former President of India on his birth anniversary at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
About Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed –
- Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (13 May 1905 – 11 February 1977) was an Indian lawyer and politician who served as the fifth President of India from 1974 to 1977.
- He was the 2nd President of India to die in office. [First being Dr. Zakir Husain who died on 3 May 1969, the first Indian President to die in office.]
- In 1925, he met Jawaharlal Nehru in England.
- He joined the Indian National Congress and actively participated in the Indian Freedom Movement.
- In 1942 he was arrested during the Quit India Movement and sentenced to 3.5 years’ imprisonment.
- He was a member of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee from 1936-74
- He was also a member of All India Congress Committee (AICC) from 1947 to 1974.
- He remained the Minister of Finance, Revenue and labour in 1948 Gopinath Bordoloi Ministry.
- He was chosen for the presidency by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1974, and on 20 August 1974, he became the second Muslim to be elected President of India.
- He is known to have issued the proclamation of emergency. He used his constitutional authority as head of state to allow him to rule by decree once the Emergency in India was proclaimed in 1975.
PM CARES (Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations) Fund Trust today decided to allocate Rs. 3100 Crore for fight against COVID-19.
Out of Rs 3100 crore, a sum of approximately Rs.2000 crore will be earmarked for the purchase of ventilators, Rs. 1000 crores will be used for care of migrant labourers and Rs.100 crores will be given to support vaccine development.
What is PM-CARES fund?
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, to provide relief to the affected, a public charitable trust under the name of ‘Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund’ (PM CARES Fund)’ has been set up.
How is it different from Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund?
- Since 1985 when Rajiv Gandhi was the PM, the management of the PMNRF fund was entrusted entirely with the Prime Minister. Since then, the PM has had the sole discretion of appointing a secretary to manage the fund. No separate office or staff is allocated for managing PMNRF. Under this fund, the criterion for disbursement of money and selection of beneficiaries is purely at the ‘discretion of the PM and in accordance with the PM’s directions.’
- PM CARES, however, now delegates that power of deliberation and decision making to three other ministers of the government. As chairman of the PM CARES trust, the Prime Minister still has the responsibility of sanctioning and approving his ministers’ recommendations; but unlike PMNRF, he is not the proverbial ‘judge, jury and executioner.’
Management of PM-CARES –
- The Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of the PM CARES fund and Minister of Defence, Minister of Home Affairs and Minister of Finance, Government of India are ex-officio Trustees of the Fund.
- The chairperson of the board of trustees shall have the power to nominate three trustees to the board who shall be eminent persons in the field of research, health, science, social work, law, public administration and philanthropy. Any person appointed a trustee shall act in a pro-bono capacity.
The fund aims to undertake and support relief or assistance of any kind relating to a public health emergency or any other kind of emergency, calamity or distress, either man-made or natural. It also aims to render financial assistance, provide grants of payments of money or take such other steps as may be deemed necessary by the Board of Trustees to the affected population.
- Donations to PM CARES fund would qualify for 80G benefits for 100 per cent exemption under the Income Tax Act, 1961. Donations to PM CARES fund will also qualify to be counted as corporate social responsibility expenditure under the Companies Act, 2013.
- PM CARES fund has also got exemption under the FCRA and a separate account for receiving foreign donations has been opened and it will be made operational soon. This will enable PM CARES Fund to accept donations and contributions from individuals and organisations based in foreign countries. This is consistent with respect to Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF). PMNRF has also received foreign contributions as a public trust since 2011.
Archaeological Survey of India
The Archaeological Survey of India got a new Director General with the appointment of IAS officer V Vidyavathi recently.
About Archaeological Survey of India –
- The Archaeological Survey of India, established in 1861 is an attached office under the Ministry of Culture dedicated to the protection, preservation and conservation of the national monuments.
- It is a multidisciplinary organisation including exploration and excavation, chemical conservation, Horticultural operation, Museum, underwater archaeology, Pre-History Branch, Epigraphy, Publication etc.
- With the expansion of the Survey, the scope and sphere of the activities of all the branches increased rapidly. As on today, there are 3667 centrally protected monuments including 22 World Heritage Monuments/Sites.
- The present organisation is the successor of ‘The Asiatic Society of India’, which was founded in its current form in 1861 by Sir Alexander Cunningham with the help of the then Viceroy Canning.
Some state governments have recently decided to make significant changes in the application of labour laws. UP, the most populous state, has made the boldest changes as it summarily suspended the application of almost all labour laws in the state for the next three years.
Constitutional position –
The labour falls in the Concurrent List and there are many laws enacted by the Centre that a state cannot just brush aside.
What are labour laws?
Estimates vary but there are over 200 state laws and close to 50 central laws. And yet there is no set definition of “labour laws” in the country. Broadly speaking, they can be divided into four categories.
- The main objectives of the Factories Act, for instance, are to ensure safety measures on factory premises, and promote health and welfare of workers.
- The Shops and Commercial Establishments Act, on the other hand, aims to regulate hours of work, payment, overtime, weekly day off with pay, other holidays with pay, annual leave, employment of children and young persons, and employment of women.
- The Minimum Wages Act covers more workers than any other labour legislation.
- The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 relates to terms of service such as layoff, retrenchment, and closure of industrial enterprises and strikes and lockouts.
Criticism of Indian labour laws –
- Indian labour laws are often characterised as “inflexible”. In other words, it has been argued that thanks to the onerous legal requirements, firms (those employing more than 100 workers) dither from hiring new workers because firing them requires government approvals.
- Others have also pointed out that there are too many laws, often unnecessarily complicated, and not effectively implemented. This has laid the foundation for corruption and rent-seeking.
- If India had fewer and easier-to-follow labour laws, firms would be able to expand and contract depending on the market conditions, and the resulting formalisation — at present 90% of India’s workers are part of the informal economy — would help workers as they would get better salaries and social security benefits.
Recent labour law reforms –
- Uttar Pradesh has summarily suspended almost all labour laws including the Minimum Wages Act.
- Radhicka Kapoor of ICRIER characterised this as “creating an enabling environment for exploitation”. That’s because far from being a reform, which essentially means an improvement from the status quo, the removal of all labour laws will not only strip the labour of its basic rights but also drive down wages. For instance, what stops a firm from firing all existing employees and hiring them again at lower wages, she pointed out.
- Far from pushing for a greater formalisation of the workforce, this move will in one go turn the existing formal workers into informal workers as they would not get any social security.
- If all labour laws are removed, most employment will effectively turn informal and bring down the wage rate sharply. And there is no way for any worker to even seek grievance redressal, said Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary of AITUC.
Will it spur economic growth?
Theoretically, it is possible to generate more employment in a market with fewer labour regulations. However, as the experience of states that have relaxed labour laws in the past suggests, dismantling worker protection laws have failed to attract investments and increase employment, while not causing any increase in worker exploitation or deterioration of working conditions. There are concerns that employment will not grow because –
- There is already too much unused capacity. Firms are shaving off salaries up to 40% and making job cuts. The overall demand has fallen. Which firm will hire more employees right now.
- If the intention was to ensure more people have jobs, then states should not have increased the shift duration from 8 hours to 12 hours. They should have allowed two shifts of 8-hours each instead, she said, so that more people can get a job.
- This move and the resulting fall in wages will further depress the overall demand in the economy, thus hurting the recovery process.
What must be done?
- As most governments have done across the world — partner with the industry and allocate 3% or 5% of the GDP towards sharing the wage burden and ensure the health of the labourers.
- Moreover, beyond labour regulations, firms faces a lot of other hurdles like the shortage of skilled labour and the weak enforcement of contracts etc.