IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs – 14th September, 2016
TOPIC:General Studies 2
Important International institutions,agencies and fora
Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation
UNICEF Report- “Uprooted: The Growing Crisis for Refugee and Migrant Children”
The UNICEF report presents a sobering picture of the lives and situations of millions of children and families affected by violent conflict and other crises that make it seem safer to risk everything on a perilous journey than remain at home.
Closer at home, India still does not have a statutory law on refugee issues. Is it the time India should have clear guidelines to handle the refugees owing to current global refugee situation?
UNICEF Report reveals
Children accounted for nearly half of all refugees, with the number of child refugees having doubled in the decade.
About one in three children who live outside their country of birth is a refugee. The much smaller ratio of displacement for adults — less than one in 20 according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees — reveals the starkness of the situation.
28 million of the 50 million children who have migrated or been forcibly displaced across borders are said to have fled violence. There were 10 million child refugees and one million child asylum-seekers, whose status had not yet been determined. The remaining 17 million children displaced by conflict remained within their home countries’ borders.
45% of the children refugees came from just two countries: Syria and Afghanistan.
Increasingly, these children are traveling alone, with 100,000 unaccompanied minors applying for asylum in 78 countries in 2015, three times the number in 2014.
20 million children are migrants, driven from their homes by poverty and gang violence among other things.
This highlights the brutal impact of the war on a segment of society that had little to do with the conflict directly or otherwise and has become the most vulnerable.
However, the refugees find no peace even when their motto is to get it when they leave their home which is in conflict zone.
Refugee and migrant children face a host of risks including drowning during sea crossings, malnourishment, dehydration, kidnapping, rape and murder.
Education of such children suffers. Even if the refugee or migrant child gets access to school, they are most likely to encounter discrimination – including unfair treatment and bullying.
When they arrive in other countries they often face discriminations and xenophobia.
Trafficking in boys and girls, conscription by armed groups in conflict zones and exploitation in the sex trade threatens both immediate and long-term danger to whole generations.
Contrasting worlds: There has been dramatic rise in school enrolment under a global universal primary education drive and halved infant mortality rates under MDGs. This shows the diametrically opposite worlds of children and their development prospects when the world is looking towards achieving SDGs of eliminating poverty and hunger, promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies and access to justice.
The report points to six specific actions that will protect and help displaced, refugee and migrant children:
Protecting child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence.
Ending the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing a range of practical alternatives.
Keeping families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status.
Keeping all refugee and migrant children learning andgiving themaccess to health and other quality services.
Pressing for action on the underlying causes of large-scale movements of refugees and migrants.
Promoting measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization.
The recommendations of the UNICEF report are so comprehensive that anything short of swift and sweeping changes in global policy and practice are unlikely to yield tangible results.
India and its refugee policy status
India is not a part to 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention nor its 1967 Protocol. Hence, it is among the few liberal democracies to not have signed, supported or ratified the international convention that governs how nations should treat distressed people who are forced to leave their homes under harrowing conditions. India also does not have any domestic law or regional South Asian framework.
Borders in South Asia are extremely porous and any conflict can result in a mass movement of people. Any commitment by such law can have:
A strain on local infrastructure and resources of developing countries that are poorly equipped to deal with sudden spikes in population.
It can upset the demographic balance in South Asia.
India is already home to biggest refugee populations in South Asia which caters to their needs when situation arises. Also, it does not take UN money to look after them.
Refugee status in India
India is home to diverse groups of refugees, ranging from Buddhist Chakmas from the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, to Bhutanese from Nepal, Muslim Rohinygas from Myanmar and small populations from Somalia, Sudan and other sub Saharan African countries.
According to the UNHCR, there were 2,04,600 refugees, asylum seekers and “others of concern” in India in 2011. Majority were Tibetans and Sri Lankan Tamils.
Refugees come to India due to War (Bangladesh), Domestic conflicts (Tibet, Sri Lanka), Natural disasters (famine) and Environmental displacement and Human trafficking
Recently, government is planning to grant citizenship to Hindus and Sikhs who have sought refuge in the country from religious persecution in Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan.
Is it the time India has a refugee law?
The refugee issue is dealt on a combination of ad hoc executive policies and judicial pronouncements, thus lacking a formal structure.
In the absence of a specific law, the Foreigners Act of 1946 deals with the entry and exit of foreigners. However, it does not recognise refugees as a special category deserving of humanitarian protection.
The process of deciding who qualifies as a refugee is also unclearà The Indian government determines refugee status for asylum-seekers from neighbouring regions like Tibet and Sri Lanka but asylum-seekers from other regions have to approach the UNHCR office in New Delhi.
Such inconsistent approach and lack of uniformity gave basis to Asylum Bill, 2015.
Asylum Bill 2015
The Bill seeks to consolidate the various policies that apply to refugees in India and give India recognition for its long-standing commitment to refugee protection.
It codifies the rights and duties of refugees in India.
It proposes the establishment by the government of an autonomous National Commission, which will assess and determine claims for asylum in India.
The bill if becomes law, it will help government to have a formal structure of asylum management which is crucial in current times.
Also, the State authorities and structures will be well prepared to respond to any future refugee crisis coming to India. Europe’s lack of preparedness has shown the degree of undesirable consequences that have cast upon both host country and refugees.
The Asylum Bill, 2015 has been introduced as a Private Member’s Bill in Lok Sabha.
Connecting the dots:
Critically examine if India should have a law for refugees and asylum seekers.
Recent UNICEF report presents a grim picture of condition of refugee children. What according to you should be measures taken by countries, irrespective of refugee laws, to protect the refugee children for a better future?
Indian Economy and issues relating to planning mobilization of resources, growth, development, and employment.
Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
General Studies 2
Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure, devolution of powers and finances up to local levels and challenges therein.
Diverging federal lines
There is a huge new divergence in the world economy, with both global and within-country dimensions. The distance between the extremes of the income distribution of the world as a whole has increased.
In increased divergencebetween the richest people in the world and the very poorest, despite the broad convergence of average incomes, higher inequality within countries appears to be spawning divergence between top and bottom incomes.
In the year 1960, the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of Maharashtra, then India’s richest state, was twice that of Bihar, the poorest. By the year 2014, the gulf between the richest state (now Kerala) and Bihar, still the poorest, had doubled.
The basic objective of federalism is unity in diversity, devolution in authority and decentralization in administration. The basic condition of federalism is plurality, its fundamental tendency is harmonization and its regulative principle is solidarity.
Inter-state disparities resulting from divergence may set up a struggle between centrifugal and centripetal forces. What factors shows the sharp relief in India’s inter-state income disparity?
Growing Inter-State Disparities
The per capita incomes of the 12 largest states of India have been diverging instead of converging, as would be predicted by the neoclassical models of economic growth.
India’s experience is at odds with those of states/provinces in the US and China, and the member states of the European Union. The incomes of constituent units in the US, China and EU have either converged or at least have not diverged.
In India too, the level of divergence, remained static between 1960 and 1990 and only began to increase after the economic liberalization of 1991.
The divergence in income distribution may not always imply greater national inequality. It, however, represent a concentration of income. Whereas, India’s inter-state disparity is not just confined to income levels. The states diverge on several others Economic, Social and Demographic indicators.
According to World Bank data, the three poorest states, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are also the three with the highest TFR in India (The total fertility rate (TFR)—or the average number of children a woman bears during her entire reproductive period). Hence the evolution of income distribution is absent in these poor states and are unable to participate in the broad convergence. The inter-state disparity based on a potent combination of incomes and fertility rates, however, carries immense economic, social, political and hence policy implications.
The most obvious policy implication is on patterns of labour migration. Since the states with higher TFR are also struggling to provide better livelihoods, they will be natural exporters of labour to more prosperous states. This can create a socialand political backlash against migrants in the recipient states.
There is an inevitable contestation over distribution of resources. As it is, the goods and services tax (GST) will centralize the setting of indirect tax rates, reducing the room for states to extract resources. Also, the opportunity to use tax policy to attract investment to the state will also reduce.
While GST is undoubtedly a net positive for the Indian economy, the interstate disparities may set the stage for some clashes in the GST council. The poorer and more populous states which are simultaneously net consumers will demand lower GST rates while the prosperous and net producing states will vie for higher rates.
Then there is the problem of redrawing the boundaries of Lok Sabha constituencies. The delimitation of constituencies has been postponed till the first census after 2026. A major reason behind the postponement was to avoid penalizing the states which do well on family planning effort. But this cannot be postponed till eternity.
According to 2011 census figures, one Lok Sabha member from Rajasthan represents, on an average, a million people more than their counterpart in Kerala. The next delimitation will necessarily boost the political capital of Rajasthan at the expense of Kerala.
The inter-state disparity in the milieu of increased fiscal devolution post the Fourteenth Finance Commission awards and the centralization of indirect taxation are going to produce a struggle between centrifugal and centripetal forces. To address these problems steps should be taken to reduce disparities.
We are now in a period of catch up: differences in productivity are not inherent, people can be trained and made employable or they can become entrepreneurs, health services can be improved and basic infrastructure such as roads and electrification can increase mobility and connectivity that increases access to markets.
With increasing female literacy and labour participation. Female literacy is the best antidote to rising TFR and female labour participation an effective way to boost per capita incomes of poorer states.
Policies focusing on providing livelihood opportunities in poor states shall be implemented specially to the remotest area.
The potential can only be realized if inter-state cooperation improves both the effectiveness of national macroeconomic policies, and how much it encourages greater balance and equity in the distribution of the fruits of growth.
Connecting the dots:
The inter-state disparity based on a potent combination of incomes and fertility rates, carries immense economic, social, political and hence policy implications. Discuss why there is inter- state disparity and how can it be addressed?