Read The Hindu Notes of 21st December 2018 for UPSC Civil Service Examination, State Civil Service Examination and other competitive Examination

The Hindu Notes for 21st December 2018
  • Topic Discussed: The Hindu Notes of 21st December 2018
  • Towards a genetic panopticon

    The DNA Bill will give the state untrammelled access to deeply personal and penetrating material

  • Parliament today serves less as a locus for debate and discussion and more as one for din and discord. But the pandemonium that appears to be the permanent state of affairs in both Houses scarcely seems to stop the government from passing laws, as we’ve seen this winter session. The government’s disdain for dissent, though, makes the potential introduction of the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018, for consideration by the Rajya Sabha an especially invidious proposition.
  • Problems with the draft Bill

  • The draft statute, approved by the Union Cabinet in July, not only disregards the serious ethical dilemmas that are attendant to the creation of a national DNA database, but also, contrary to established wisdom, virtually treats DNA as infallible, and as a solution to the many problems that ail the criminal justice system. What’s more, any infringement of civil liberties, caused by an almost indiscriminate collection of DNA, is seen as a legitimate trade-off made in the interests of ensuring superior justice delivery. But what the Bill fatally ignores is that the disproportionality of the DNA bank that it seeks to create, and the invasiveness of its purport and reach, imposes a Faustian bargain on the citizen.
  • The genes encoded in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which can be collected from blood, hair, skin cells and other such bodily substances, have undoubtedly proven to be an important tool in forensic science. Much like fingerprints, a person’s DNA profile is unique (except in the case of identical twins) and can, therefore, help in establishing the identity of, say, a suspect. That only a small amount of genetic material is needed to create such a profile makes the form of evidence especially appealing to criminal investigators. And to be sure, across the world, the use of DNA evidence has helped exonerate a number of innocent people from wrongful conviction, and has also helped find the guilty party in complex investigations.
  • It is to that end that we no doubt need a law to help regulate the manner and circumstances in which the state may be entitled to collect biological material from a person. The requirement for such a law is only accentuated by an amendment made to the Code of Criminal Procedure in 2005, which expressly authorises investigating officers of a crime to collect a DNA sample from an accused with the help of a medical practitioner. But for years, every iteration of a proposed Bill, aimed at regulating the use of DNA, has failed to provide a constitutionally sustainable model.
  • In its latest form, the draft law seeks to create a National DNA Data Bank, which will be maintained on the basis of various different categories, including a crime scene index, a suspects’ index and an offenders’ index, with a view to “facilitating identification of persons”. This attempt at identification may relate, among other things, to a criminal investigation, to a judicial proceeding of any kind, and even to civil cases such as “parental disputes”, “issues relating to pedigree”, and “issues relating to establishment of individual identity”. The proposed law, however, is not only decidedly vague on how it intends to maintain this DNA Bank, but it also conflates its objectives by allowing the collection of DNA evidence not only in aid of criminal investigations but also to aid the determination of civil disputes.
  • Moreover, while consent is not required before bodily substances are drawn from a person accused and arrested for an offence punishable with either death or imprisonment for a term exceeding seven years, in all other cases a person refusing to part with genetic material can be compelled to do so if a Magistrate has reasonable cause to believe that such evidence would help establish a person’s guilt. Therefore, there’s no end to the state’s power in coercing a person to part with her DNA.
  • Infringement of privacy

  • When, in August 2017, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) v. Union of India declared that the Constitution recognises a fundamental right to privacy, it also explicated the various facets of this right. Significantly, it ruled that any meaningful right to privacy would include protection over the physical body. As a result, even if, for the purposes of argument, we were to consider a mandatory collection of bodily substances from a person as consonant with the right against self-incrimination that the Constitution guarantees — although on a dubious rationale courts have tended to see the drawing of genetic material as non-testimonial — it would unquestionably impinge on a person’s right to privacy. Indeed, a 2012 report filed by a group of experts on privacy, led by Justice A.P. Shah, found explicitly that a person’s basic liberties stand violated by a compelled extraction of DNA from her body.
  • To be sure, that the right to privacy is infringed does not mean that the government cannot under any circumstances gather DNA evidence. What it does mean is that such collection ought to be made under a legislative regime guided by principles of necessity and proportionality. That is, the state must show that there exists a legitimate reason for extracting DNA evidence, and that the extent and scope of such extraction does not disproportionally contravene a person’s right to privacy.
  • The use of DNA evidence

  • In its present draft, however, the Bill woefully falls short of meeting these tests. World over, the idea behind maintaining a DNA database is to help match and compare samples collected from a crime scene against a set of stored profiles, thereby helping in the identification of a potential suspect in a criminal investigation. India’s Bill, though, seeks to make the DNA Bank available for a slew of unconnected purposes, including permitting its use in civil cases. Consider the consequences: a person wrongfully accused of a crime, say, for speeding a vehicle over permissible limits, who might have been compelled to give her genetic material may well see this evidence being used against her in an altogether different proceeding of a purely civil nature. Given that in India, even illegally obtained evidence is admissible in a court of law, so long as the relevance and genuineness of such material can be established, the Bill’s failure to place sufficient checks on the use of DNA evidence collected in breach of the law makes the process altogether more frightening.
  • What’s more ominous is that the Bill potentially allows DNA evidence to be used for any other purpose that may be specified through subsequent regulations, thereby according to the state a potential power to create a “genetic panopticon,” to borrow the words of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. That this is a distinct possibility is clear from the range of privacy protections that are absent in the Bill. As Helen Wallace, Director, GeneWatch UK, wrote in these pages, the draft law does not restrict DNA profiling to the use of non-coding DNA, which would ensure that the evidence can only be used for the purposes of identification and not for determining personal characteristics, including medical conditions.
  • As a result, the state will effectively have at its disposal the ability to profile every one of its citizens. It’s been reported previously, for instance, that the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, whose director will occupy an ex officio place in the DNA Regulatory Board, already seeks information on a person’s caste during the collection of genetic material. One hardly needs to spell out the dangers inherent in gathering such data.
  • To enact the law in its present form, therefore, would only add a new, menacing weapon to the state’s rapidly expanding surveillance mechanism. We cannot allow the benefits of science and technology to be privileged over the grave risks in allowing the government untrammelled access to deeply personal and penetrating material.
  • Against the mandate for inclusion

    The Transgender Persons Bill will do more damage than good if passed without revision

  • The transgender community has once again been let down, as the Lok Sabha passed the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2018 in a hurry amid ongoing protests over the Rafale deal. The Bill, ostensibly aimed at protecting transgender persons’ rights, has been drafted hastily, with no real understanding of gender identity and expression. This was made amply clear in the original draft, with the offensive and unscientific definition of a transgender person as someone who is “neither wholly male nor wholly female”. After several submissions made by the transgender community and the recommendations of a parliamentary standing committee, the definition of transgender has been rectified and made inclusive of diverse gender identities.
  • However, all nuance of people’s self-identified gender expression is lost in the Bill. It proposes setting up a District Screening Committee comprising five people, including a medical officer and a psychiatrist, to certify a transgender person. This process is in direct violation of the Supreme Court’s directions in National Legal Services Authority v. Union of India (or NALSA), 2014 that affirmed the right to self-determination of gender as male, female or transgender without the mandate of any medical certificate or sex-reassignment surgery (SRS). In fact, NALSA had clearly directed that “any insistence for SRS for declaring one’s gender is immoral and illegal”.
  • A regressive Bill

  • Drafted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2016, the Bill was met with immediate protests from the transgender and intersex community as it has several provisions that take away from the rights accorded through NALSA while injecting disempowering and regressive clauses. The Bill does not provide for employment opportunities through reservations, disregarding the directions of the Court in NALSA “to treat them as socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and extend all kinds of reservation in cases of admission in educational institutions and for public appointments.”
  • To make matters worse, the Bill criminalises begging, thereby targeting transgender persons who rely on begging for sustenance. Such provisions disregard the lived realities of transgender persons for whom begging often is the last resort. In fact, provisions such as these could give immunity to the police to exert force on transgender persons and “rehabilitate” them in beggars’ homes or detention centres against their will. Such harsh measures of detaining marginalised individuals under the garb of rehabilitation have also been criticised by the Delhi High Court in Harsh Mander v. Union of India, 2018. The court declared provisions of the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 as unconstitutional on grounds that they violate Article 14 (equality before the law) and Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty), and affect the rights of persons who have no other means of sustenance apart from begging.
  • The Bill fails to extend protection to transgender persons who might be victims of sexual assault or rape, as the Indian Penal Code recognises rape in strict terms of men and women as perpetrator and victim, respectively. While the Bill makes “sexual abuse” punishable, with a disproportionate punishment of imprisonment only up to two years, it does not define the acts that constitute sexual offences. This makes it difficult for transgender persons to report such crimes and access justice. Moreover, the Bill does not grapple with the realisation of civil rights such as marriage, civil partnership, adoption and property rights, thereby continuing to deprive transgender persons of their fundamental rights and the constitutional guarantee provided by the Supreme Court in NALSA.
  • Transgender persons have faced prejudice, discrimination and disdain for years, and it is dehumanising to deny them their dignity, personhood and, above all, their basic human rights. The Bill in its present form continues to push them into obscurity, making a mockery of their lives and struggles by failing to secure for them their constitutional rights.
  • Still time to reconsider

  • The need of the hour is a robust Bill with strong anti-discrimination provisions that will remedy the historical injustices faced by the transgender community, which continues to fight for the most basic rights even today. The community has its hopes pinned on the Rajya Sabha. It is hoped that the Bill will be revised and brought in line with the NALSA judgment to ensure full realisation of transgender persons’ fundamental rights.
  • Long road home

    India and Pakistan should adopt a more humane approach to each other’s prisoners

  • The return to India of Hamid Nihal Ansari, an engineer from Mumbai who spent six years in a Pakistani prison, is cause for cheer on the otherwise bleak landscape of India-Pakistan relations. The plight of the young man, who had crossed over into Pakistan from Afghanistan in 2012 on a mission to save a woman he had befriended online and been arrested for espionage, had caught public attention in both countries. Subsequent investigations proved his innocence on all charges other than entering Pakistan illegally, but even so, the authorities there put him through a trial in a military court. In December 2015, the court sentenced him to three years in prison. All through his ordeal, Mr. Ansari’s parents kept alive the struggle to bring him back, without letting the emotional and financial costs deter them. To its credit, the Ministry of External Affairs applied sustained diplomatic pressure on Islamabad, first to demand information on Mr. Ansari’s whereabouts and then for a fair trial and consular access, which was never granted. The Government of Pakistan must also be commended for expediting Mr. Ansari’s release after he completed his sentence on December 15, although it had received another month from a Peshawar court to finish the formalities. Above all, credit goes to citizens’ groups in both countries that helped the family, particularly lawyers and human rights activists in Pakistan who worked pro bono to ensure Mr. Ansari’s release.
  • Given the downturn in bilateral relations, further complicated by the international case India is pursuing against Pakistan over the conviction of Kulbhushan Jadhav, and instances of prisoners like Sarabjit Singh dying in Pakistani jails, it is nothing short of a miracle that Mr. Ansari has returned home safe and sound. New Delhi would do well to acknowledge the Imran Khan government’s gesture in releasing him. Both India and Pakistan must dedicate themselves to freeing hundreds of other prisoners who remain in each other’s jails, many of whom have completed their sentences but await long processes of identification and repatriation. According to government figures, Pakistan holds 471 Indian prisoners while India holds 357 Pakistani prisoners, a large number of them fishermen who inadvertently trespassed into each other’s waters. The two countries must also revive the biannual meetings of the Joint Judicial Committee on Prisoners as agreed to a decade ago; the committee has not met since 2013. Its last recommendations, that women and children as well as prisoners with mental health issues be sent back to their countries on humanitarian grounds, are yet to be implemented. There is little to be gained by holding these prisoners hostage to bitter bilateral ties and prolonging the misery of their impoverished families. There needs to be a more humane approach.
  • Misusing NSA

    The Manipur government must revoke the vindictive detention order against a journalist

  • The detention of a journalist in Manipur under the stringent National Security Act for a social media post is a clear instance of misuse of power and a blatant violation of his rights as a citizen. It indicates a dangerous trend among those wielding power to invoke laws aimed at preserving public order and security in a casual or vindictive manner, with utter disregard for constitutional provisions that uphold individual liberty. It is immaterial how scathing the Facebook post of Kishorechand Wangkhem was in its criticism of the Manipur Chief Minister and his party. Calling the Chief Minister a “puppet” can in no way be a reason to arrest him, as was done by the police in Imphal in November, on the charge of sedition. A magistrate granted him bail, noting that Mr. Wangkhem’s remarks were no more than an expression of opinion against the public conduct of a public figure, albeit in “street language”. However, in a sign that the regime of Chief Minister N. Biren Singh could not tolerate the journalist being set free, he was arrested again a couple of days later and detained under the NSA, which provides for detention for a year without bail to prevent someone from “acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of the state” or for “the maintenance of public order”. The NSA can be used only against those advocating armed insurrection or violent disaffection. It is shocking that the statutory advisory board held there was “sufficient cause” for detention, when he posed no threat to public order or security. The State should revoke its vengeful detention order.
  • The Manipur government confirmed his imprisonment for a year as soon as the detention order was cleared by the advisory board. It is questionable whether a person can be detained under the NSA for one year at a go, as its provisions say the detention can only be for three months at a time and up to one year in total. This position has also been confirmed by the Supreme Court. The NSA advisory board consists of three members who are, or have been, or are qualified to be high court judges. It is not expected to approve detention orders in a routine or mechanical manner. At a time when the Law Commission is revisiting Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which deals with sedition, and there is a demand for its repeal, it is disturbing that State governments continue to use it. It is even more deplorable that on failing to make the sedition charge stick, a government puts away the same person under the NSA. This is a fit case for judicial review, and the protests and the outrage against the incarceration of Mr. Wangkhem ought to result in a stinging indictment of the State government’s action. This will inhibit any future move to throttle free expression by misusing the law.
  • Is the Congress on the comeback trail?

    Chhattisgarh has been the biggest boost to the Congress but U.P. and Bihar are the real tests

  • The recently concluded Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are testimony to the fact that Rahul Gandhi has successfully assumed the leadership role of the Congress. Notwithstanding the memes on Twitter and derision as a no-good “Pappu”, Mr. Gandhi addressed more rallies than either Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Bharatiya Janata Party chief Amit Shah did. He also did not shy away from making direct references to Mr. Modi, who continues to enjoy high popularity ratings. Nor was there any pretence that he would shy away from taking power and exercising it, should it come his way.
  • Acting with foresight

  • The biggest boost to Mr. Gandhi’s image was the landslide victory in Chhattisgarh. The modest victories in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan were also important. To be sure, each of these three States had its own script for electioneering. And in hindsight, Mr. Gandhi seems to have acted with some foresight.
  • In Chhattisgarh, many Congress leaders were killed by Maoists in Jiram Ghati in Bastar, just months before the Assembly elections of 2013. Former Congress Chief Minister Ajit Jogi was a constant spoiler for the party. Yet, the Congress won. Mr. Gandhi took the difficult decision of choosing a Chief Minister and finally picked Bhupesh Baghel, an important Other Backward Classes leader who steered the party after the Maoist attack and picked up important signals of anti-incumbency against Raman Singh. He also took the calculated risk of not entering into an alliance, which many felt would damage the party’s prospects in the State.
  • In Rajasthan, Mr. Gandhi placed his bets on a young Sachin Pilot, and sent him to the State as Congress chief two years back. The results of the byelections in Ajmer and Alwar were a bonus. This was a difficult State given the caste politics of the dominant Jats. The Congress’s decision to adopt a pro-Hindu image in order to forestall any critique of it being called a pro-Muslim party paid off. Besides, the Rajasthan Congress does not have any tall Jat or Rajput leader of its own. Ashok Gehlot is the party’s old hand from the socially disadvantaged Mali caste. The factional battles could be seen even in the process of ticket distribution, with Jat leader Rameshwar Dudi opposing Mr. Pilot. Mr. Gandhi played his political innings well, revealing his caste and gotra. The twitterati failed to get the better of him. People in the State were angry with the then Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. But the spoils of victory for the party were shared with others, including with Hanuman Beniwal of the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party, who won three seats.
  • Toughest of all victories

  • In Madhya Pradesh, the victory was by a narrow margin. This was the toughest of all victories. Shivraj Singh Chouhan was not an unpopular Chief Minister. By providing a slew of pro-poor welfare schemes, he governed for three terms. A tinge of Hindutva was on display when his government came up with a free pilgrimage scheme for senior citizens. The breaking point for the BJP was farmers’ anger and the Mandsaur firings in 2017. For farmers, there was produce, but they had nowhere to sell the produce. There was no price support, especially for maize and soybean. Mr. Gandhi was present with the Mandsaur farmers, protesting against the firing. There was a tough balancing act to be done in the State, as both backward and forward castes had their own grievances. The Congress could not afford to be seen siding with either. The near-victory was achieved without a chief ministerial face.
  • The Congress will be tested in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which hold the key for its real comeback, and where regional parties hold sway.
  • Rather than setting the terms of the game, the party is following the terms dictated by others

  • Obituaries of the Congress proffered since 2014 have been premature; claims of its return to glory and power are courageous. The party’s three-State win has ensured a somewhat respectable assessment of its future. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were no ordinary States. They have bipolar contests without the advantages of a multi-party competition. In erstwhile Madhya Pradesh, the BJP had strong roots dating back to the late 1960s. More recently, it had been in power for three consecutive terms in these States. The State governments were not exactly unpopular. Yet, the Congress won these States along with Rajasthan, factionalism notwithstanding. This is no mean achievement. But can this be seen as the ‘comeback’ of the party?
  • What does comeback mean?

  • If comeback refers to being a major contestant, then, at least in States where the competition is between the Congress and the BJP, the Congress has surely retained the position of a key challenger. So, let us ask a question: what would involve the Congress’s comeback? It would involve challenging the BJP in States where it is locked in a bipolar competition; emerging as the majority party in States where it was traditionally a major player; challenging the BJP nationally by playing a critical role in shaping a non-BJP political grouping; bringing sharpness to its social profile; and becoming the main architect in the discursive space of politics.
  • How does the Congress fare on these five criteria? It has indeed wrested Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh from the BJP. But in terms of vote share and seats won, the party has barely passed the test. It forced a tough competition for the BJP in Gujarat, but failed to retain its own strength in Karnataka. In Telangana, the strength that it enjoyed in 2004-2014 has greatly diminished. Against such a backdrop of a truncated geographic presence, the Congress finds itself severely constrained in leading an anti-BJP coalition. The party has been making some smart and desperate moves in this direction, but in a majority of States where its coalition partners matter, it has such a pathetic presence that it is unlikely to be accepted as the anchor of a non-BJP political configuration.
  • More importantly, the Congress seems unable to either forge a new social coalition or ensure a more evenly distributed electoral acceptance across different social sections. It is still not getting adequate support from SCs, STs, and economically deprived sections, so it cannot call itself the party of the marginalised. Neither is it able to win the confidence of the OBCs. It is also unable to retain its base among peasant proprietary castes. This means that it is miles away from enjoying robust social support. Above all, its comeback is halted by the fact that it has very little to replace the BJP with in terms of ideas. It is confused on the question of religion and the politics of religion, it does not have anything much to say by way of a policy discourse, and it has limited skills to capture the public imagination.
  • A very narrow chance

  • In the absence of a capacity to construct a social coalition and without a defined ideology, the Congress’s chance to make a comeback remains very narrow. Parties can be said to be making a comeback when they return to old glory or have the courage and skill to redefine themselves. For now, the Congress is far away from both these possibilities. Rather than setting the terms of the political game, the party is simply following the terms dictated by others.
  • The Congress has to have an agenda that is different from populism and imitation

  • If the Congress had received a convincing mandate in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, there would have been some justification for its grandstanding. If we add the NOTA votes to the BJP in Madhya Pradesh, the party would have won the State. The BJP’s vote share in the State was higher than the Congress’s. By scraping through in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, with a good victory in Chhattisgarh, and a humiliating setback in Telangana and Mizoram, the Congress can claim a pyrrhic victory this round, but there is no indication that it is on the comeback trail. After the 2013 Karnataka Assembly election win, the Congress’s fortunes went downhill. The BJP was on the ascent and it appeared that the very survival of the Congress was in jeopardy. The Congress lost State after State and most of the States went to the BJP.
  • The BJP is still strong

  • Now, the Congress is making tall claims that it will win the 2019 election. It is doing this to hoodwink allies and attract funds for the big battle for the Lok Sabha. The UPA was in power in two-thirds of the States in 2014 and it failed to win even 60 seats. Now it is in power in five major States. In all of them, the BJP is still very strong. So where are the Congress numbers coming from?
  • With its new-found glory the Congress will try to stitch together a grand alliance but no party, be it the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Telugu Desam Party, the Trinamool Congress or the Rashtriya Janata Dal, is going to concede seats to the Congress. In a grand alliance, the leader of the pack will not have 200 seats to contest. This situation is different from 2004 and 2014, when the Congress led the pack.
  • Staying the course

  • This gives a big advantage to Narendra Modi. Had the Congress been able to retain Mizoram, improve its performance in Telangana, and win big in the other two States, one could have given the party credit for revival. In defeat too, the BJP looks robust. There is no sign that Mr. Modi’s charisma has ebbed. Rather, the BJP decided to stay the course and not compete with the Congress on populism. The reasons for the BJP’s setback are fiscal discipline; social reforms, including passage of a Bill to restore the original Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act; its stand on farm loan waivers; demonetisation; the Goods and Services Tax; fuel prices; and anti-incumbency in two States. In all these States, the BJP pushed for fiscal prudence against the Congress’s populism. For the Congress, this was the trial run for 2019. It will come up with bigger freebies in the next round. Nothing prevents the BJP from going more aggressive on populism. If that happens, the Congress will be in real trouble. Congress leaders played the Hindu card to the hilt, promising a better deal for cow protection. The BJP will have the satisfaction that it has forced the Congress to fight on its ideological plank. This was a survival strategy for the Congress but it does not mean a renewal.
  • The NDA is a coherent entity. Parties like the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Biju Janata Dal, YSR Congress, and Indian National Lok Dal are likely to go with the BJP. The BJP has expanded its base in the Northeast and the south. For a comeback, the Congress has to expand, strategise and present an agenda that is different from populism and imitation.
  • Whims of a digital boss

    The rise of app-based aggregators has been a boon for consumers but not necessarily for the workers

  • Recently, a video of a Zomato delivery agent caught eating the food he was supposed to deliver went viral. This led to criticism, especially from middle- and upper-class consumers who questioned the accountability and monitoring mechanisms of food delivery apps and websites, which are important features of the platform or the gig economy. However, the working conditions of app-based employees are hardly discussed. In this case, given the pressure to fulfil never-ending targets to avail of certain incentives, the worker might not have found time to rest between deliveries or to have his own meal.
  • The rise of app-based aggregators has been a boon for consumers to access at their doorstep and with the touch of a phone a range of services including cabs, food, and retail. It also purportedly creates decently paid employment opportunities for millions of literate people. But what is the nature of employment arrangements, contracts, quality of work, security, grievance redress mechanisms and accountability in such cases?
  • The first “person” that app-based workers — whom the companies ironically label “partners” — must report to is the app itself, which is effectively their digital boss. This “boss” gives instructions, sets targets and provides incentives such as boosts, bonuses, star ratings and badges for the workers. It also provides disincentives in the form of fines and penalties. This “gamification” system, seen in apps such as Uber, puts insurmountable pressure on the app-driven worker, who tends to overwork even at lower pay to earn higher scores. And even if the driver or delivery “partner” aspires to be a self-employed mini-entrepreneur, it is the app companies that decide what commission rates to deduct from their earnings and what monetary incentives to give. Even the fares, prices and surges, including the locations and frequency of duty requests, are not determined by these workers. Thus, we may meaningfully ask whether this is a model of self-employment or self-exploitation.
  • Further, cases of technical glitches in the app, or incorrect payment or deductions from their earnings are no less than a crisis for these workers, since getting justice from these apps or from tedious helplines and zonal offices that get hundreds of complaints each day is often not feasible. Most importantly, we must ask why, in cases of accidents, to which these delivery persons and drivers are highly prone given the rush they are in, shouldn’t there be accountability and compensation, as well as job security, provided by these companies. Finally, why shouldn’t these workers be allowed to organise and unionise to exercise their right to collective bargaining? It appears that app-based companies have realised that there is a simple strategy to avoid these outcomes — keep workers busy with their next duty and block their app IDs in case of any aberration.