Indian Express Explained 06/06/2020

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1) An Expert Explained: Impact of Lockdown on women:- Globally, it is expected that in the Covid-19 pandemic, women are likely to be more vulnerable to losing their jobs compared to men. A research note from Citibank estimates that there are 220 million women employed in sectors that are potentially vulnerable to job cuts: of the 44 million workers in vulnerable sectors globally, 31 million women face potential job cuts, compared to 13 million men.

Impact of Lockdown on Women and Children

Fueled by mandatory stay-at-home rules, social distancing, economic uncertainties, and anxieties caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Domestic Violence has increased globally. The pandemic and the lockdown are trying times for every individual but for the already vulnerable group, the women and young children specifically girl children, are facing the worst of it all.

  • Impact on women: There has been a rise in instances of violence, sexual, physical and mental against women.
  • Data Analysis:
    • Total complaints- Rose from 116 in the first week of March to 257 in the final week of March.
    • Rape or attempt to rape- Rose sharply from 2 to 13.
    • Domestic violence- Increased from 30 to 69 over the same comparative period.
    • Police apathy towards women- Almost threefold increase as the police are busy enforcing the lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19.
    • Cases under Right to live with dignity (Article 21)- Rose to 77 from 35. Such cases could pertain to discrimination on the basis of gender, class, or caste or all three of them combined.
    • These cases might be a fragment of the actual number as many women will not be able to reach out due to various reasons.
  • Impact on Children: Young Children are facing the brunt of discord between parents, the discord has nothing to do with the economic class, education, etc, happens across the spectrum.
    • Coronavirus can scare children now, which could create emotional problems for months or even years to come.
    • Even if the lockdown gets over the schools and colleges will continue to remain shut for the next 2-3 months that’s why it is going to be very difficult to manage children and their energies.
  • Impact on students: Separation from playgroups and friends and their daily routine of playing is creating a lot of anxiety for children, they are losing their attachments
    • Children’s social life and learning have been affected and most of them are finding it difficult to stay away.
    • A lot of students from marginalised sections are finding it very difficult to cope with studies with no access to the internet. The problem of fees, examinations, and internet connectivity to attend the class.

Possible Reasons

When the economy takes a hit, its always the most vulnerable, the women and children are pushed back. The massive unemployment that will follow in the wake of the pandemic will target women much more than men, severely affecting their condition in society.

  • Anxiety and Insecurity: Most of the individuals are facing the problem of anxiety and insecurity over their future prospects.
    • Lack of peer circles, unwinding spaces and patriarchal mindset are the major reasons that make women the victim of men’s frustration.
  • Privacy: Women are not able to reach out because of restrictions on movement as well as a lack of privacy within homes.
    • NCW had set-up Crimes Against Women Cell in Police stations in collaboration with Delhi Police under the project “VIOLENCE FREE HOME- A WOMEN’S RIGHT”. But due to the lack of movement women are not being able to access this service.
  • Lack of counselors: Most women, suffering domestic violence, are increasingly finding themselves isolated and without necessary support such as counseling.
    • Women’s-rights NGOs are facing their own sets of challenges due to the lockdown. Unable to move beyond telephonic or web counselling, the organisations are struggling to be of further assistance to victims of abuse or at-risk women.
  • Sexual exploitation takes place when individuals are at their most vulnerable, and the lockdown has put many women in such a condition. Human rights of both children and women are being grossly violated amidst this lockdown.


  • A joint programme of the National Commission for Women (NCW), Delhi Police and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, (TISS) Mumbai.
  • The NCW is implementing the project with Delhi Police and TISS and is committed to work on the issue of violence against women.

The scope of this programme is:

  • Rebuilding violated women’s self-esteem, self-worth, and dignity.
  • Offering the violated woman immediate services, based on her needs, such as carrying out counselling, arranging for shelter or medical aid, providing information on laws and her rights, harnessing police support
  • Creating awareness in the community on the issue of violence against women

About the services:

  • Trained social workers/ counsellors in the Crime against Women Cell (CAW Cell) help women and children facing violence by providing them with emotional support, assisting them in negotiations to stop violence, linkages to livelihood opportunities and providing them with legal knowledge.
  • The processes are aimed towards achieving a violence-free life for the woman.

Way Forward

United Nations has called for urgent action, and for governments to “put women’s safety first as they respond to the pandemic.”

  • Prioritise Mental Health: Employers should start paying attention to not just the economic health of the employees but also their mental health and give some leverage to the employees, specifically the women employees who are more burdened with domestic work as the maids are on leave.
    • The Health ministries of both the center and state governments should also look into the issue of the psychological health of the population in these trying times and formulate policies to ensure access to online counselling.
  • Role of Media: Media has a big role to play here in starting a conversation about mental health which is a taboo subject to date in India.
  • Train more people to look into the issue of dealing with anxiety and stress. Identify training institutes to train volunteers who can assist women and children in distress under lockdown.

2)Social bubbles: Micro-communities that could contain spread of Covid-19

Last month, UK’s roadmap for exiting the lockdown stated that people could expand their household groups to include one other household in the same exclusive group, in order to allow those who are isolated some more social contact, “and to reduce the most harmful effects of the current social restrictions, while continuing to limit the risk of chains of transmission.” This method would also allow some families to return to work by sharing childcare responsibilities.

The idea is based on New Zealand’s model of household “bubbles”, an exclusive social group that is allowed to meet with each other amid the pandemic. The country followed this approach during the lockdown and allowed the expansion of the bubbles as transmission slowed and restrictions eased.

Essentially, as per New Zealand’s model, a bubble is referred to as an individual’s household or the people that one lives with. Under Alert level 3, people are allowed to extend their bubbles slightly to include caregivers or children who might be in shared care. It also applies to people who are living alone or a couple who wants the company of another one or two people. “These people don’t need to live in the same household but must be local. Always keep your bubble exclusive and keep it small,” the government’s advisory says. In case a member of the bubble develops symptoms, the entire bubble quarantines itself, preventing further spread of the infection.

The study introduces three strategies, which include contact with similar people, strengthening contact in communities and repeatedly interacting with the same people in bubbles. The study says that these strategies rely less on confinement and allow strategic social contact while still flattening the curve.

With regards to social bubbles, the study says that to create them individuals must decide with whom they want to regularly interact and overtime, they should restrict interactions to just these people. “This reduces the number of contact partners rather than the number of interactions. This strategy of limiting contact to very few others with repeated interactions is in the spirit of a social contract with others, to create social bubbles, allowing only interactions within the same group delineated by common agreement,” the study says.

3)Explained: What’s behind the Ethiopia-Sudan border row?

Amid heightened tension along its border with Ethiopia, Sudan swore in a new defense minister. 

Roots of the Border Dispute :-

Sudan and Ethiopia share a common boundary that stretches over 1,600 kilometers (994 miles). The border was drawn following a series of treaties between Ethiopia and the colonial powers of Britain and Italy. However, to date, this boundary lacks clear demarcation lines.

Sudan’s al-Fashqa region which covers approximately 600 km, is a rich fertile land conducive for agriculture. For decades, Ethiopia has allowed its farmers to plant crops there.

Former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir largely turned a blind eye to his country’s territorial incursion. However, Sudan’s transitional authorities, who took over after popular protests which eventually led to the ousting of al-Bashir, have initiated talks with Ethiopia in a bid to have to Ethiopian farmers withdraw.

The border dispute could complicate Ethiopia’s plan to construct the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). On Wednesday, Sudan wrote to the UN Security Council calling on it to urge Ethiopia and Egypt, not to take unilateral action on the dam. Sudan had initially backed Ethiopia’s project but later refused to sign on an initial agreement which would have paved the way for Ethiopia to begin filling the dam.

4)Explained: Why an oil spill in Russia’s Arctic region has become a cause for worry

Russia declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, five days after a power plant fuel leak in its Arctic region caused 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil to escape into a local river, turning its surface crimson red. The Ambarnaya river, into which the oil has been discharged, is part of a network that flows into the environmentally sensitive Arctic Ocean.

How did the Leak Happen:- The thermoelectric power plant at Norilsk is built on permafrost, which has weakened over the years owing to climate change. This caused the pillars that supported the plant’s fuel tank to sink., leading to a loss of containment on May 29. Reports said that around 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil was released into the Ambarnaya river, which has since drifted 12 km on its surface.

Norilsk Nickel, the Russian mining giant that owns the plant, said it had reported the leak in a “timely and proper” way and that the pillars had held the tank in its place “for 30 years without difficulty”.

5) Explained: What is the Essential Commodities Act, and how will amending it help?

The Union Cabinet has approved an ordinance to amend The Essential Commodities Act, 1955, to deregulate commodities such as cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onion and potatoes.

Essential Commodities Act: What is the amendment?

Sources at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution said that the ordinance has introduced a new subsection (1A) in Section 3 of The Essential Commodities Act, 1955.

The amended law provides a mechanism for the “regulation” of agricultural foodstuffs, namely cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, potato, and supplies under extraordinary circumstances, which include extraordinary price rise, war, famine, and natural calamity of a severe nature.

What is the definition of an ‘essential commodity’?

There is no specific definition of essential commodities in The EC Act. Section 2(A) of the act states that an “essential commodity” means a commodity specified in the “Schedule” of this Act.

The Act gives powers to the central government to add or remove a commodity in the “Schedule.” The Centre, if it is satisfied that it is necessary to do so in public interest, can notify an item as essential, in consultation with state governments.

At present, the “Schedule” contains 9 commodities — drugs; fertilisers, whether inorganic, organic or mixed; foodstuffs, including edible oils; hank yarn made wholly from cotton; petroleum and petroleum products; raw jute and jute textiles; seeds of food-crops and seeds of fruits and vegetables, seeds of cattle fodder, jute seed, cotton seed; face masks; and hand sanitisers.

Under the amended EC Act, agri-food stuffs can only be regulated under extraordinary circumstances such as war, famine, extraordinary price rise, and natural calamity.

However, any action on imposing stock limits will be based on the price trigger.

Thus, in case of horticultural produce, a 100 per cent increase in the retail price of the commodity over the immediately preceding 12 months or the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower, will be the trigger for invoking the stock limit for such commodities…

For non-perishable agricultural foodstuffs, the price trigger will be a 50 per cent increase in the retail price of the commodity over the immediately preceding 12 months or the average retail price of the last five years, whichever is lower.

So, why was an amendment needed in The EC Act?

The EC Act was legislated at a time when the country was facing scarcity of foodstuffs due to persistent abysmal levels of foodgrain production. The country was dependent on imports and assistance (such as wheat import form US under PL-480) to feed the population.

In this scenario, to stop the hoarding and black marketing of foodstuffs, The Essential Commodities Act was enacted in 1955.

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