Thursday 31 October 2019

Offshore windfarms 'can provide more electricity than the world needs'

Supplies from turbines will prove to be the next great energy revolution, IEA predicts

Erecting wind turbines on the world’s best offshore sites could provide more than enough clean energy to meet global electricity demand, according to a report.

A detailed study of the world’s coastlines has found that offshore windfarms alone could provide more electricity than the world needs – even if they are only built in windy regions in shallow waters near the shore.

Analysis by the International Energy Agency (IEA) revealed that if windfarms were built across all useable sites which are no further than 60km (37 miles) off the coast, and where coastal waters are no deeper than 60 metres, they could generate 36,000 terawatt hours of renewable electricity a year. This would easily meeting the current global demand for electricity of 23,000 terawatt hours.

“Offshore wind currently provides just 0.3% of global power generation, but its potential is vast,” the IEA’s executive director, Fatih Birol, said.
 A sailing boat passes the Kentish Flats offshore windfarm. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA

The study predicts offshore wind generation will grow 15-fold to emerge as a $1tn (£780bn) industry in the next 20 years and will prove to be the next great energy revolution.

The IEA said earlier this week that global supplies of renewable electricity were growing faster than expected and could expand by 50% in the next five years, driven by a resurgence in solar energy. Offshore wind power would drive the world’s growth in clean power due to plummeting costs and new technological breakthroughs, including turbines close to the height of the Eiffel Tower and floating installations that can harness wind speeds further from the coast.

The next generation of floating turbines capable of operating further from the shore could generate enough energy to meet the world’s total electricity demand 11 times over in 2040, according to IEA estimates.

The report predicts that the EU’s offshore wind capacity will grow from almost 20 gigawatts today to nearly 130 gigawatts by 2040, and could reach 180 gigawatts with stronger climate commitments.

In China, the growth of offshore wind generation is likely to be even more rapid, the IEA said. Its offshore wind capacity is forecast to grow from 4 gigawatts to 110 gigawatts by 2040 or 170 gigawatts if it adopts tougher climate targets.

Birol said offshore wind would not only contribute to generating clean electricity, but could also offer a major opportunity in the production of hydrogen, which can be used instead of fossil fuel gas for heating and in heavy industry.

The process of making hydrogen from water uses huge amounts of electricity but abundant, cheap offshore wind power could help produce a low-cost, zero-carbon alternative to gas.

In the North Sea, energy companies are already planning to use the electricity generated by giant offshore windfarms to turn seawater into hydrogen on a floating “green hydrogen” project, backed by the UK government. The clean-burning gas could be pumped back to shore to heat millions of homes by the 2030s. The UK has committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The overlap between the UK’s declining oil and gas industry and the burgeoning offshore wind sector could offer major economic benefits for the UK, Birol said.

“Offshore wind provides a huge new business portfolio for major engineering firms and established oil and gas companies which have a strong offshore production experience,” he said. “Our analysis shows that 40% of the work in offshore wind construction and maintenance has synergies with oil and gas practises.”

(Source: The Guardian)

It took 10 minutes to convict 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. It took 70 years after his execution to exonerate him

In March 1944, deep in the Jim Crow South, police came for 14-year-old George Stinney Jr. His parents weren’t at home. His little sister was hiding in the family’s chicken coop behind the house in Alcolu, a segregated mill town in South Carolina, while officers handcuffed George and his older brother, Johnnie, and took them away.

Two young white girls had been found brutally murdered, beaten over the head with a railroad spike and dumped in a water-logged ditch. He and his little sister, who were black, were said to be last ones to see them alive. Authorities later released the older Stinney – and directed their attention toward George.

“[The police] were looking for someone to blame it on, so they used my brother as a scapegoat,” his sister Amie Ruffner told WLTX-TV earlier this year.

On June 16, 1944, he was executed, becoming the youngest person in modern times to be put to death. On Wednesday, 70 years later, he was exonerated.

Stinney’s case has tormented civil rights advocates for years.
George Stinney Jr was executed in 1944 for the murder of two white girls. (Reuters)

He was questioned in a small room, alone – without his parents, without an attorney. (Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark Supreme Court case guaranteeing the right to counsel, wouldn’t be decided until 1963.) Police claimed the boy confessed to killing Betty June Binnicker, 11, and Mary Emma Thames, 8, admitting he wanted to have sex with Betty. They rushed him to trial.

After a two-hour trial and a 10-minute jury deliberation, Stinney was convicted of murder on April 24 and sentenced to die by electrocution, according to a book by Mark R. Jones. At the time, 14 was the age of criminal responsibility. His lawyer, a local political figure, chose not to appeal.

Stinney’s initial trial, the evidence – or lack of it – and the speed with which he was convicted seemed to illustrate how a young black boy was railroaded by an all-white justice system. During the one-day trial, the defense called few or no witnesses. There was no written record of a confession. Today, most people who could testify are dead and most evidence is long gone.

New facts in the case prompted Circuit Judge Carmen Mullen to vacate his conviction on Wednesday – 70 years after Stinney’s execution.

“I can think of no greater injustice than the violation of one’s Constitutional rights which has been proven to me in this case,” Mullen wrote.

The case has haunted the town since it happened, but garnered new attention when historian George Frierson, a local school board member raised in Stinney’s hometown, started studying it some years ago. Since then, Stinney’s former cellmate issued a statement saying the boy denied the charges. “I didn’t, didn’t do it,’ ” Wilford Hunter said Stinney told him. “He said, ‘Why would they kill me for something I didn’t do?’ ”

In 2009, an attorney planned to file statements from Stinney’s family members, but waited because he heard a man in Tennessee, who was not related to Stinney, could offer an alibi for the youth. The man never came forward. It reportedly delayed the new trial, but didn’t stop it.

“South Carolina still recognizes George Stinney as a murderer,” defense attorney Matt Burgess told CNN earlier this year. “We felt that something needed to be done about that.”

New details started to emerge. Stinney’s family claimed his confession was coerced, and that he had an alibi that was never heard. That alibi was his sister, now Amie Ruffner, 77. She said she was with him at the alleged time of the crime, watching their family’s cow graze near some railroad tracks by their house when the two girls rode over on their bicycles.

“They said, ‘Could you tell us where we could find some maypops?’ ” Ruffner remembered them saying, according to WLTX-TV. “We said, ‘No,’ and they went on about their business.”

Stinney was accused of murdering the girls while they picked wildflowers.

Stinney’s family fled their home. His brother, Charles, who is now in his 80s, said in a statement they never came forward because they were terrified.

“George’s conviction and execution was something my family believed could happen to any of us in the family. Therefore, we made a decision for the safety of the family to leave it be,” Charles Stinney wrote in his sworn statement.

Aime Ruffner after testifying at a hearing to reopen the case for her brother George Stinney Jr. in Sumter, S.C. (Reuters)
Earlier this year, the case picked up speed. At a hearing in January, Stinney’s family demanded a new trial. Mullen heard testimony from Stinney’s brothers and sisters, a witness from the search party that discovered the bodies and experts who challenged Stinney’s confession. A child forensic psychiatrist testified this week that Stinney’s confession should have never been trusted.

“It is my professional opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the confession given by George Stinney Jr. on or about March 24, 1944, is best characterized as a coerced, compliant, false confession,” Amanda Sales told the court, according to NBC News. “It is not reliable.”

Still, some argued Stinney’s admission of guilt was clear.

At the time a law enforcement officer named H.S. Newman wrote in a handwritten statement: “I arrested a boy by the name of George Stinney. He then made a confession and told me where to find a piece of iron about 15 inches long. He said he put it in a ditch about six feet from the bicycle.” Few other documents from that time exist.

James Gamble, whose father was the sheriff at the time, told the Herald in 2003 he was in the back seat with Stinney when his father drove the boy to prison.

“There wasn’t ever any doubt about him being guilty,” he said. “He was real talkative about it. He said, ‘I’m real sorry. I didn’t want to kill them girls.’ “

Indeed, just 84 days after the girls’ deaths, Stinney was sent to the electric chair. Today, an appeal from a death sentence is all but automatic, and years, even decades, pass before an execution, which provides at least some time for new evidence to emerge.

Stinney was barely 5 feet tall and not yet 100 pounds. The electric chair’s straps were too big for his frail body. Newspapers at the time reported he had to sit on books to reach the headpiece. And when the switch was flipped, the convulsions knocked down the large mask, exposing his tearful face to the crowd.

Frierson and Stinney’s family maintained that they never wanted a pardon.

“There’s a difference: A pardon is forgiving someone for something they did,” Norma Robinson, George Stinney’s niece, told the Manning Times. “That wasn’t an option for my mother, my aunt or my uncle. We weren’t asking forgiveness.”

Instead, they sought what’s called a “writ of coram nobis.” It means, in essence, mistakes were made.

(Source: WP)

Japan's love of the hanky is nothing to be sneezed at

Japan excels at taking ideas from different cultures and tweaking them to fit the local lifestyle. In some cases, the Japanese version ends up outshining the original, and this is certainly the case with the handkerchief.

Handkerchiefs have largely disappeared from daily life in the West, where its use is mostly limited to an accessory, like a pocket square of a man’s jacket for a formal occasion, such as at a wedding. In Japan, however, the majority of the populace, from small children to the elderly, still carry a handkerchief on a regular basis.

Handkerchiefs serve multiple purposes: For drying your hands in public restrooms that don’t have driers or paper towels, for blotting sweat off your face in the humid summer months, or for resting on your lap while eating a boxed lunch. In a pinch, they can cover your head during a rain shower, or be used for wiping off a wet bicycle seat when the rain has stopped.

Most Japanese have a variety of handkerchiefs and take a clean one with them each day. Mothers typically remind their children not to forget their hankies on a daily basis, and some teachers even follow up when the students get to class.
The one thing Japanese never use a handkerchief for is blowing their noses. That’s where tissues come in handy. In fact, as anyone who has commuted to work on a Japanese train knows, blowing your nose in public is generally not the done thing; it is considered acceptable to adopt a persistent sniff, however.

Japan’s relationship with the handkerchief dates back to the start of the Meiji Era (1868-1912), when the country was warming up to Western culture and eager to embrace new ideas.

Exclusively handkerchiefs: The interior of Classics the Small Luxury in Roppongi, Tokyo | COURTESY OF BLOOMING NAKANISHI AND COMPANY
Tokyo-based firm Blooming Nakanishi and Company has a long tradition of producing quality handkerchiefs for the domestic market. The company was established in 1879 by Gihei Nakanishi in the Nihonbashi Ningyocho district, which was the heart of the city’s commercial center at the time. In 2003, the company opened a specialty boutique, Classics the Small Luxury, in the Roppongi Hills shopping complex and it is believed to be the world’s only brick-and-mortar store entirely dedicated to the handkerchief.

The firm’s current president, Hajime Nakanishi, is the great-great-grandson of founder Gihei and the fifth generation to lead the company. According to Nakanishi, a major reason that Japan embraced handkerchiefs so readily was due to the well-established custom of carrying tenugui, rectangular flat woven cotton cloths. Their use is thought to date back to the eight century.

“People used to carry tenugui when they dressed in kimono. When Western fashions became popular during the Meiji Era, it was a natural progression to carrying a handkerchief instead,” he explains.

According to Nakanishi, Japan is now the largest market for handkerchiefs in the world. So why has the humble hanky remained so popular in Japan over the decades?

“In Western culture, the image of the handkerchief was mostly for blowing noses, but nowadays people generally use tissues instead. However, in Japan, handkerchiefs have always been valued for other uses,” says Nakanishi. “Also, Japan has a culture of gift giving and they are very popular as reasonably-priced gifts, and they come in so many designs and colors.”

Fabric for Blooming Nakanishi handkerchiefs is screenprinted before being steamed and cut. | COURTESY OF BLOOMING NAKANISHI AND COMPANY
In a complete turnaround from the Meiji Era, international visitors are now purchasing Japan’s handkerchiefs. Around 10 percent of Blooming Nakanishi’s customers are from overseas, and items featuring quintessential Japanese designs and motifs are popular. Many people also take advantage of the opportunity to have their purchases customized in-store with embroidered monograms or motifs.

“When I was child, my mother asking , ‘Do you have a handkerchief?’ was part of my daily life,” says Asami Koshimizu, area manager for Classics the Small Luxury. “I wanted to work here because I thought it was great that we can give people the opportunity to personalize their own handkerchiefs … making an everyday item special, or creating something for that important person in your life.”

Blooming Nakanishi’s policy has always been to seek out the best sources for materials and skilled artisans around Japan. Most of the designs are screen printed in Yokohama, which has a long history in the art. The colors are printed one by one, moving from light to dark, and then are steamed to set and seal the colors. Once the fabric is dried, it is ironed and cut. Around 90 percent of the company’s items have hems that are rolled and sewn by hand in a fishing village in Aomori Prefecture, providing a luxurious finish. The Aomori location was selected due to the high level of sewing skills of the locals, honed by a culture of mending fishing nets.

For some of its most elegant designs, the company uses exquisite and intricate hand embroidered lace from China, known as Swatow lace. Nakanishi says the art was originally taught to locals in Swatow (aka Shantou) by visiting Italian monks, but now it is mostly only elderly women who can still perform the level of artistry required.

Nakanishi is proud of the part that his firm is playing in preserving the culture of an item that originally came to Japan from the West. With the upswing in the number of overseas visitors to Japan, as well as growing interest in environmentally friendly items for everyday life, his firm is working on further expanding its appeal to the overseas market.

For the last word on handkerchiefs, Nakanishi quotes his father, the fourth president of the firm: “A man should carry three handkerchiefs — one for wiping hands, one for when eating and one you can offer for drying someone’s tears.”

(Source: JT)

Wednesday 30 October 2019

JK Rowling urges students not to volunteer at orphanages

Author highlights evidence suggesting that ‘orphanage tourism’ drives families apart and makes children vulnerable to abuse

JK Rowling has called on students around the world not to volunteer at orphanages, pointing to emerging evidence that “orphanage tourism” drives family separation and child trafficking.

Speaking at the One Young World summit in London, the global forum for young leaders, the Harry Potter author and founder and president of children’s charity Lumos, said orphanages do “irreparable harm” and “perpetuate the abuse” of children and communities.

“Despite the best of intentions, the sad truth is that visiting and volunteering in orphanages drives an industry that separates children from their families and puts them at risk of neglect and abuse,” she said.

“Institutionalism is one of the worst things you can do to children in the world. It has huge effects on their normal development, it renders children vulnerable to abuse and trafficking, and it massively impacts their life chances. And these dire statistics apply even to what we would see as well-run orphanages … The effect on children is universally poor.”

Rowling was launching a three-year global campaign to challenge attitudes toward orphanage tourism and volunteering, #HelpingNotHelping. The campaign is backed by recently revised travel advice from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office warning of the potential harm of orphanage tourism and volunteering.

Huge numbers of volunteers, tourists and backpackers visit residential children’s institutions every year, creating a multimillion-dollar tourism industry that leaves children at risk of all forms of abuse, according to Lumos.

Children in institutions are 500 times more likely to take their own lives, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record and 10 times more likely to be involved in prostitution, the charity claims.

A campaign launched on Thursday by Lumos and YouGov suggests volunteers are largely unaware of the potential harm their visits can do. An estimated two-thirds of UK students believe volunteering at an orphanage overseas would enhance their CV or career prospects, and one in five have either visited or volunteered at an orphanage overseas – or know someone who has, the charity said.

The vast majority of students are also unaware that 80% of the 8 million children currently living in orphanages worldwide have at least one living parent, Lumos’ research found.

“Most children in orphanages are not even ‘orphans’ – they are placed there due to reasons such as poverty, disability, or to receive an education, and many have a family who could care for them, given the right support,” said Alex Christopoulos, deputy CEO of Lumos.

“It is a tragedy that the vast sums of international funding and support that these orphanages receive could be used to help keep families together.”

Ruth Wacuka, a One Young World ambassador from Kenya, was placed in a Nairobi orphanage with her three siblings while she was a young child, despite having two living parents. Her parents were told that she would be fed and educated, yet schooling was rare and she said she often went hungry – even as thousands of tourists visited the orphanage each year.

“The orphanage was next to a giraffe sanctuary, so you can imagine how many visitors we would get,” she told the audience at the four-day summit.

“They would come to the sanctuary to take photos of the giraffes and then come to the orphanage to take pictures of me. But children are not tourist attractions. They are not animals. They have lives and destinies.”

Evidence to be published in the coming months by Lumos will show that children worldwide are increasingly being trafficked into institutions to attract donations and volunteers, said Chloe Setter, Lumos’ senior adviser on anti-trafficking.

“Many orphanages, in particular unregistered orphanages, are run like a business and it’s not a coincidence that they’re often located in tourist areas,” said Setter.

“What we see on the ground is families, and their children, being targeted by ‘child-finders’ who are sometimes paying them or otherwise encouraging them to give their child up to the orphanage for a ‘better life’, with education being one of the main reasons, usually because of poverty.”

In its official advice on volunteering with children, the FCO highlights how orphanage volunteers and visitors may “unknowingly contribute towards child exploitation” and put themselves at risk of “accusations of improper behaviour”. It also notes that a “regular turnover of volunteers without relevant training and experience can be harmful to children’s development and emotional wellbeing.”

The #HelpingNotHelping campaign is calling on schools, colleges and universities for support, as most students who have previously visited orphanages did so through educational organisations, Lumos said.

Rowling said students hoping to travel overseas for their gap year, or to volunteer abroad, should investigate the institutions with which they were hoping to work.

“My message to young people today is: yes, volunteer – but plan carefully and thoughtfully. Your time and energy are precious: use them wisely and they will help change the world. Do not volunteer in orphanages. Instead, look at what drives children into institutions and dedicate your time to projects that tackle poverty or support communities with vital services.”

(Source: The Guardian)

People 'more likely to feel pain on humid days'

People with long-term health problems such as arthritis are more likely to feel pain on humid days, a study has suggested.

Folklore suggests the cold makes pain worse - but there is actually little research into the weather's effects.

And this University of Manchester study of 2,500 people, which collected data via smartphones, found symptoms were actually worse on warmer, damper days.

Researchers hope the findings will steer future research into why that is.

Hearing someone say their knee is playing up because of the weather is pretty common - usually because of the cold, Some say they can even predict the weather based on how their joints feel.

But carrying out scientific research into how different types of weather affect pain has been difficult. Previous studies have been small, or short-term.

In this research, called Cloudy with a Chance of Pain, scientists recruited 2,500 people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine and neuropathic pain from across the UK.

They recorded pain symptoms each day, for between one and 15 months, while their phones recorded the weather where they were.

Damp and windy days with low pressure increased the chances of experiencing more pain than normal by about 20%.

So if someone's chances of a painful day with average weather were five in 100, they would increase to six in 100 on a damp and windy day.

Cold, damp days also made pain worse.

But there was no association with temperature alone, or rainfall.

'Pain forecast'
Prof Will Dixon, of the Centre for Epidemiology Versus Arthritis, at the University of Manchester, who led the study said: "Weather has been thought to affect symptoms in patients with arthritis since [ancient Greek physician] Hippocrates.

"Around three-quarters of people living with arthritis believe their pain is affected by the weather."

Prof Dixon said if other researchers could now "look at why humidity is related to pain, that opens the door to new treatments".

And it might be possible to develop a "pain forecast" that could allow people with chronic pain to plan activities.

About 10 million people in the UK have arthritis - and most of them are thought to experience life-altering pain every day.

Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research at Versus Arthritis, which funded the study, said: "It's been almost folklore that weather has an effect on arthritis - but that's all been people's 'lived experiences' rather than studies.

"This was an innovative way to do research and it's very important that we have been able to draw some conclusions."

(Source: BBC)

A mother explains why her son ‘doesn’t have to share’ and people have thoughts

Every parent has different life lessons to pass on to their children and, while you might think "sharing is caring" is a pretty universal one, think again. 

One mother started a big debate online after a post about her son sharing his toys at the playground went viral.

In a recent ChoosingBeggars subreddit, the mother, whose post was entitled "My child is not required to share with yours", writes how her son was approached by six boys on the playground demanding he shares his transformer Minecraft figure and truck. She wrote:

He was visibly overwhelmed and clutched them to his chest as the boys reached for them.

'You can tell him no Carson,' I said. 'Just say no. You don't have to say anything else.'

But as soon as the little boy said no, the boys went to tattle on him, evoking some dirty looks from other parents at the playground.

The mother stood by her decision to teach her son to refuse to share his toys, adding:

Here is the thing though: If I, an adult, walked into the park eating a sandwich, am I required to share my sandwich with strangers in the park? No!

Would any well-mannered adult, a stranger, reach out to help themselves to my sandwich, and get huggy if I pulled it away? No again.

She continued:

The goal is to teach our children how to function as adults. While I do know some adults who clearly never learned how to share as children, I know far more who don't know how to say no to people, or how to set boundaries, or how to practice self-care. Myself included.

Her post quickly went viral on Reddit, as other commenters chimed in on the interesting debate.

Dapper_Presentation2874 points6 months ago
I teach my kids to share with their friends and siblings. Strangers? Who's to say that kid won't run off with it?

atombomb194546 points6 months ago
This happened far to many times to me growing up.

chrisrico15 points6 months ago
Sharing is a choice, not an obligation. The moment it becomes compulsory you strip away all the good emotions that come with it.

Cub13645 points6 months ago
Honestly this woman honestly has a point you arent required to share things with random people

mommyof4not2577 points6 months ago
Other parents in my family are truly disturbed that I never forced sharing.

The only people my kids (5 and 2) are required to share with are each other and that's only communal things like the toy workbench or toy shop in their room.

Other than that my rule is whichever child has it last can play with it as long as they wish and if I hear a bunch of screaming or arguing over it, it goes up on the shelf for the rest of the day. And I've only had to do it a couple of times and it's no big deal.

mommyof4not236 points6 months ago
I think other parents think it's lazy, I'm really just trying to get them to develop enough social skills to function without me being 2 feet away coaching everyone on how to be a human.

FinancialRaise17 points6 months ago
Unpopular opinion, but I dont want to add to an echo chamber so heres another side to it. While its true that sharing is not necessary, learning to recognize if someone whats to share something of yours and being able to part with it for a while to see the other person happy is a useful skill. Not a required skill, but if we are talking real world, networking and making friends get people through a lot of doors, not playing alone.

(Source: Independent)

Zombie debts are hounding struggling Americans. Will you be next?

Tens of thousands of people have received demands to repay alleged overpayments of government benefits – often decades old – plunging them into a Kafkaesque struggle against a faceless bureaucrac

This is what happens when the government targets you for zombie debt collection.

You receive a letter from your state’s department of human services claiming that you were “overissued” $4,132 in food stamp and cash benefits in the 1980s. Enclosed is a copy of the original overpayment notice they say they sent you when you were still listening to Madonna and Bobby Brown.

You don’t remember ever seeing it before.

The letter informs you that, since you didn’t respond immediately three decades ago, your 90-day window to request a fair hearing and contest the overpayment has closed. You now have a debt, and it’s past due.
Dreama Richardson, 72, at her home in Steger, Illinois. Photograph: Laura McDermott

The state threatens to refer this debt to the United States Department of Treasury, which has the power to withhold your federal tax return, your earned income tax credit, a portion of your military retirement pay – even your social security disability check. You are barely making ends meet, so the financial loss might mean doing without meals, a utilities shutoff, or skimping on medication.

If they can’t get the money from you, they will withhold your adult children’s tax returns. You read this correctly: the federal government will take your children’s money to resolve a 30-year-old alleged public benefits overpayment.

You have few options if you want to avoid this: you can pay the whole balance immediately, set up a monthly payment plan, or request an administrative review. But the process is impossibly Kafkaesque: you have to send evidence that you don’t owe the debt, so you’ll need to find three-decade-old pay stubs and household expense receipts. And who can do that?

If you’re lucky, you’ll eventually argue your case in front of an administrative law judge. But she’ll work for the very agency that sent you the letter.

You have no right to free legal representation, so if you can’t find a legal aid or pro bono lawyer, you’re entirely on your own.

With quiet but devastating regularity, zombie debt notices are arriving at the homes of tens of thousands across the US – courtesy of the government and with the assistance of heavyweight tech companies. The Guardian can reveal that predatory policy changes, turbocharged by digital innovations, are producing a wave of aggressive debt collection that stretches back decades and targets the nation’s most vulnerable.

Last year, Team 3335 found out about government zombie debt first-hand. The family calls themselves “Team 3335” because that’s the address of the brick-faced single-family home in Steger, Illinois, that shelters three generations: 50-year-old Star Kaminski, her three children and the family’s matriarch, 72-year-old Dreama Richardson.

When Dreama began to need more help with day-to-day chores, she and her daughter bought this modest place together, not far away from the public middle school where Star works as a librarian. It’s a little crowded, but Star sees that as a gift, not a sacrifice. She likes her family near; they meet life’s joys and challenges together.

Before the letter came, they were doing pretty well.

Then, last September, the Illinois department of human services, or IDHS, sent Dreama a letter claiming she had been overpaid $2,500 in cash assistance and $1,632 in food stamp benefits over a period of 10 months – in 1988 and 1989.

The agency alleged that Dreama failed to report teenaged Star’s income from a part-time job at Taco Bell, which pushed the household’s income over the earning cap for public assistance, making them ineligible.

Every 10 years or so since then, Dreama lost a tax return to service the “debt”, but she hadn’t heard from IDHS since 2007. Now, the state was looking to recoup the final $1,323 they said the family owed.

The household had 60 days to pay up, or they would withhold a portion of Dreama’s social security check – her only source of income – until the alleged overpayment was satisfied.

There was, however, a problem: in 1988 and 1989, Star wasn’t living with her mom or contributing financially to her household.

The “overpayment” was miscalculated. It was never a legitimate debt.

In the private market, a zombie debt is a debt that is past its statute of limitations, not owed, paid in full, or otherwise contested, yet which has found its way into the hands of a collection agency intent on pursuing payment by any means necessary.

Those agencies are known to harass, threaten and trick consumers into paying out-of-date private debts, which they buy for pennies on the dollar. In 1977, the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act was passed to protect people against the aggressive tactics collection agencies use – calling at all hours, contacting employers, deception, publishing debtors’ names – and to require that creditors prove that a debt is actually owed.

Unfortunately for Team 3335, the “overpayment” they’re battling is government debt; they enjoy none of these protections. If private zombie debt is surprisingly easy to kill – asking a collection agency for proof the debt exists can often make it vanish forever – government zombie debt is just the opposite, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the most difficult times in people’s lives, over and over again.

When Dreama received the letter in September 2018, she almost agreed to pay. In her 70s, beginning to suffer from memory problems, and on a fixed income, the notice frightened and confused her. “I didn’t understand,” she told me. 

“They explained it to me, but I still didn’t understand. How do you argue with the government? How do you prove something from 30 years ago?”

Written in her spidery handwriting in the margins of the September 2018 invoice for $1,323.18 is a repayment plan suggested by an IDHS representative: “Due 15th of month,” it reads, “$25.00.”

Before she wrote her first check, one of Star’s daughters found a handful of articles written by Mark Brown for the Chicago Sun-Times describing other women in their 70s and 80s receiving notices about long-overdue public assistance overpayments. Star contacted a Chicago not-for-profit that agreed to provide the family free legal aid. With their support, Dreama filed an appeal against the 1989 household composition error that created the overpayment “debt”.

Dreama’s attorney submitted a number of documents supporting her case, including a signed affidavit from Star’s ex-husband attesting that she was not living with her mother when she was working for Taco Bell. The Illinois department of human services sent a casework manager to testify, but submitted no evidence.

The hearing officer found for the state.

Hearing officer Sheila King wrote in her decision that because Team 3335 filed their challenge more than 90 days after the “mailing of the first notice of the department’s action” back in 1989, “the Bureau of Hearings does not have jurisdiction”. She dismissed the appeal, allowing federal debt collection to move forward.

If Dreama paid for a vacation with a credit card and then refused to pay, the credit card company would have to sue in order to collect. They would have to serve her with a summons and provide proof that she had received it – they couldn’t just mail a notice and assume it found its way into her hands. She could demand proof that the debt actually existed and ask to see a record of any payments already made. In Illinois, the credit card company would have 10 years to file a lawsuit to collect the debt, one of the longest statutes of limitations in the country.

None of these protections applies to Dreama’s alleged public benefits overpayment. There is no proof she ever received the 1989 notice. The state offered no evidence that her “debt” was correctly calculated. They insist they can go on trying to collect it forever.

To Star, it feels less like lawful debt collection and more like intimidation. “You don’t have the means to defend yourself,” she said. “They’re big bullies.”

It is unclear if a legal mechanism for garnishing Dreama’s social security checks actually exists. But Team 3335 is still nervous. “We worry about how mom is going to do without her money,” says Star. “If she wasn’t living with me, I don’t know where she’d be. Without one of us, the whole deck of cards falls.”

“It’s robbery,” she says, “from our most vulnerable people – our seniors. And it’s just not right.”

Team 3335 is not alone. According to data obtained from the Illinois department of human services through an open records request, the agency sends out an average of 23,000 of these pre-offset notices every year.

Though the department denied in 2016 that there’s been any recent push to collect old debts, attempts to recoup are clearly increasing. In 2010, IDHS sent out 7,669 notices that they were referring overpayments to Treasury. In 2017, they sent 32,881.

Back in 1996, sweeping changes to the public assistance system shifted how the government views administrative error. Two new acts included provisions that redefined overpayments of any kind – whether due to agency mistakes, client error or fraudulent misrepresentation – as debt.

The acts expanded state agencies’ power to collect overpayments from future benefits, unemployment compensation and federal pay, pensions or income tax refunds. They also created new collection programs, including the Treasury Offset Program, or Top.

The process got a boost when, in the summer of 2008, the Farm Bill lifted the 10-year limit on collecting overpayments. That year, Top collected $3.3bn in federal non-tax debts, more than three and a half times the amount they collected a decade earlier.

And then, in December 2010, the Claims Resolution Act passed. This historic piece of legislation settled an unresolved court case in favor of 75,000 black farmers unjustly denied agricultural loans in the 1980s and 1990s. Ironically, tucked into its 801st section was a provision to increase the “collection of past-due, legally enforceable state debts”. It quietly expanded which debts could be referred to Treasury, from only those due to fraud to those resulting from unintentional errors.

At the same time, the Affordable Care Act of 2010 required states to consolidate and modernize their public assistance eligibility processes into streamlined, integrated digital systems.

The next year, in 2011, attempts by the Illinois department of human services to recoup overpayments rose by 475%. Over the next two years, collections soared. The addition of unemployment to the Top program in 2012 increased returns by $34.9m.

Then, in the same year, Illinois signed what would eventually be a $288m contract with the accounting and risk-management firm Deloitte to replace an older automated intake system with the Integrated Eligibility System (IES).

IES provides automated eligibility determinations for Medicaid, Snap and cash assistance. When the digital system processes claims, it searches various government and private data sources to verify income, household composition and other eligibility information, allowing the state to identify discrepancies that may be interpreted as overpayments. The state’s own auditors found in 2017 that IDHS “did not have appropriate controls” over IES: the system wasn’t following established policy, the agency couldn’t locate case files and other necessary documentation, 10-13% of eligibility redeterminations were overdue, and error-prone calculations were resulting in improper payments.

And yet, in 2013, Top collected $46.4m in Snap and unemployment debt for the state of Illinois.

So how do the tens of thousands of people Illinois department of human services accuses of receiving overpayments every year respond? Some, like 75-year-old Tim Pegues, do everything in their power to pay, even if it means skipping meals to try to make good on a debt created by the government’s mistake.

Pegues went through a rough patch in the early 2000s after a relationship disintegrated. He ended up unhoused. By the time his eldest daughter found him in Indiana, he had walking pneumonia. Back in Chicago and in the hospital, a social worker helped him apply for cash assistance and food stamps, which stabilized his life. “I was doing good,” he told me in July 2019. “I got a chance to get back on my feet. I got a roof over my head. I’m being a man. That’s when I got the letter.”

Tim Pegues at home: ‘A lot of people don’t think $5 is a lot of money. But if you don’t have it, it’s like a million dollars.’ Photograph: Laura McDermott
We sat together on red couches in the basement of his small, cheerful house on the South Side of Chicago. Pegues was relaxing under a poster featuring Malcolm X, Dr Martin Luther King Jr and Nelson Mandela shooting pool. Despite a significant disability – due to a childhood injury, one of his legs is two and a half inches shorter than the other – Pegues worked for 30 years as a truck driver and raised four children.
On 28 March 2003, he received a letter from IDHS warning he owed the agency a $7,866 overpayment. They openly admitted that the overpayment was their error. “The agency inadvertently issued you cash benefits you were not eligible to received [sic],” the letter said. Nevertheless, it was Pegues’s responsibility to pay up. If he did not, they threatened to refer his debt to a private collection agency or withhold his tax return.
In a panic, Pegues called and set up a payment plan: $5 on the 25th of every month. At that rate, it would take him 131 years to clear the debt. Even this modest payment was a significant loss for him. “A lot of people don’t think $5 is a lot of money,” he said. “But if you don’t have it, it’s like a million dollars. It could be a meal: a can of pork and beans, a loaf of bread.”
He wrote the check every month for the next 16 years.
‘You’re just barely swimming, and they hand you a weight’
Tim Pegues
Then, he saw Mark Brown’s articles in the Chicago Sun-Times and came to the same conclusion as Star and her family: he wasn’t alone. “Come to find out that there’s maybe hundreds of thousands of people,” he said. “Sounds like somebody got their hand in the cookie jar.” An email from Brown to IDHS triggered a review of Pegues’s case at the agency, and a few days later, he received a letter from the Bureau of Collections thanking him for his $5 payment in March 2018 and informing him that it was too late to appeal against the overpayment decision.
“Your only recourse,” the letter read, underlining the point for emphasis, “is to provide us with documentation to substantiate that your claims are not past due and/or legally enforceable or present your case to the circuit court.”
The letter concluded with a line Pegues interpreted as a veiled threat: “We will continue to accept your monthly payments. However, the agency will not accept your $5.00 payments as an official payment plan.” He was asked to call the office to “establish a repayment plan which will fit your financial situation” in order to avoid “future involuntary withholds as well as other collection action by the department of human services”. He called a lawyer instead.
With the attorney’s support, Pegues decided to stop paying the overpayment bill. He wrote his last check in June 2019. “The debt is still here,” he told me a few weeks later. “This’ll be the first month I don’t give them a dime.” I asked him how it felt to not write the check. “Good,” he said. “But I’ve been worried if they try to take my house away from me. I’m taking a chance, gambling. There’s a possibility that I could lose everything. It would be a shame for something I didn’t do.”

Tim Pegues on the front porch of his home in Chicago. Photograph: Laura McDermott
This is what puzzles Pegues most – why is he being held responsible for paying back an overpayment that the state admits is their fault? “The thing that I find is funny is that they told me what I was getting,” he said. “I didn’t pick it.” He had to be recertified as eligible to continue receiving benefits every six months. Each time the agency evaluated his case, they continued granting him benefits. “They kept on re-evaluating me, but they kept sending me money. Then I got that letter that I owe them $7,500.”

“You’re just barely swimming, and they put more water on you. And then they hand you a weight. It’s devastating. I’m 75, about to be 76, and the fights I’ve had wore me down. I’m tired. They keep saying you’re in the golden years, but I ain’t found no gold.”

It’s hard for a reasonable person to see the point in a government agency harassing an elderly man for $5 a month. After the cost of billing and postage, appeals and case management, Illinois is losing money collecting from people like Pegues. That’s why state and federal governments are looking to new economies of scale offered by advances in predictive analytics.

Technology companies – including industry heavyweights such as IBM, Oracle and Lexis Nexis – promise to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to change the fraud detection paradigm. In general, safety net programs operate on a “pay and audit” system, releasing benefits and then ferreting out the ineligible or dishonest with frequent interviews and recertifications.

The new systems promise instead to predict fraud before payment occurs.

For example, Pondera Solutions, a company based in Fulton, California, says it can search massive public and private databases, comb through social media and use proprietary (and secret) predictive models to rank every single applicant to a government program “based on their risk for fraud”.

In Illinois, increases in government zombie debt recoupment follow technological shifts as well as policy changes. After the 2013 peak in collections, returns declined: Top collected $133.3m that year, but only $101.2m in 2017. But collections began to increase again in 2018, after IDHS rolled out a major technology enhancement to the Integrated Eligibility System in October 2017.

For applicants, the upgrade has been plagued with problems. Tens of thousands of families didn’t receive their Snap benefits during that holiday season. By June 2018, the system had a backlog of 15,000 nursing home residents waiting for Medicaid eligibility decisions.

While digital eligibility is a nightmare for public assistance applicants, it has been great at chasing down dormant debts.

Andrew Dorliae, 44, lives in north-west Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in a neighborhood full of window tinting shops and Mexican restaurants. On his door is a sign that reads: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”

Before starting a home tax preparation business, Dorliae, a Liberian immigrant, was employed by Whirlpool Corporation, working his way up from assembler on a production line making refrigerators to inspector first class. In 2017, he took a $5-an-hour pay cut, from $21.43 to $17.40, to secure a weekend shift – 5am to 5pm every Friday, Saturday and Sunday – that allowed him to be at home with his children at night and to go to school during the week.

But in early 2018, Whirlpool closed the weekend shift. The company offered him a five-day-a-week overnight shift instead: midnight to 7am, Monday through Friday. Dorliae told his employer of more than six years that there was no way he could fill this shift: his wife also worked overnights and his daughter had a health condition requiring night-time care.

In March, he received notice from Whirlpool: he had been terminated. He applied for unemployment insurance benefits with Iowa workforce development (IWD) on 5 April, was found eligible, and received $490 each week in May. Then, Whirlpool challenged Dorliae’s initial unemployment eligibility, contesting their responsibility to pay a portion of his benefits. On 11 June, IWD conducted a fact-finding investigation that reversed the earlier eligibility decision, finding that Dorliae voluntarily left Whirlpool “without good cause attributable to the employer”.

In an instant, Dorliae was found ineligible for benefits he had already received.

In the end, Dorliae won his battle with Iowa workforce development and his “debt” was not referred to Treasury. “I appealed every decision they made,” he told me, gesturing towards an inch-high stack of correspondence sitting on the desk in his tiny home office, a meticulous record of his battle with the agency.

He firmly denies that he quit his job at Whirlpool. “They offered me a shift which I could not do,” he said. “I didn’t quit. My job let me down after all these years. You must survive until you get back on your feet. That’s what unemployment is for.”

Dorliae understands IWD’s need to investigate applicants and pursue those who might take advantage of the system. But he is puzzled why the burden of proof that they do not owe Iowa an overpayment debt should fall entirely on applicants, who have no right to free legal representation and must navigate a confusing appeal system alone.

“I applied for unemployment. You give it to me,” he explained. “Then, after the fact-finding, you tell me I owe. It doesn’t seem fair.” Giving back money you’ve already spent can be impossible for families with few financial reserves. Many low-income families plan their whole financial year around a tax refund. Losing it means not being able to fix the used car that gets you to work, no investment in education for the kids, not fixing the leaky roof or broken hot water heater. It is as if the agency is trying to take food back out of your children’s mouths, or, as Dorliae put it: “You owe what you have eaten.”

Reflecting on his experience, Dorliae said, “America is a good place. There is justice here.” But when I asked him if he would apply for unemployment again, he balked. “When they [investigate] you, you feel fear. It becomes very intimidating … I would be hesitant,” he said. “It is so demeaning.”

Despite Dorliae’s faith in the process, these are extraordinarily complex proceedings. His case was actually four cases occurring simultaneously. Dorliae had to keep track of each administrative law proceeding; meet deadlines for timely appeal; provide evidence of school schedules, commute times, medical conditions and communication with his employer; and attend near-constant telephone hearings. All for unemployment benefits totaling less than $3,000.

Dorliae is a paradigmatic tax professional: organized, detail-oriented, smart and confident in his ability to navigate mazes of legal and bureaucratic red tape. He did everything right, and he prevailed. But he is the exception and not the rule. 

Others I spoke to, like Kevin Christopherson of St Donatus, grew so frustrated and fearful that they just gave up.

Like Dorliae, Christopherson originally received unemployment benefits. An initial fact-finding confirmed his eligibility. 

Then his employer appealed and IWD reversed the eligibility decision. To Christopherson, launching another appeal seemed like an insurmountable hurdle. “It just seemed like they were all against me,” he told me in July 2019. “My mental state was really eating away at me. So I just forget about it.” Now he owes the state an “overpayment” of $2,275.

According to information gathered through an open records request, Iowa workforce development is currently using software provided by Lexis Nexis and Pondera to identify and pursue debts like Kevin Christopherson’s. For example, in late 2018, IWD ran the Pondera software to identify potential overpayments, and in October and November, sent out 20,000 “intent to offset” notices threatening to turn the debt over to Treasury for collection. Troublingly, in its contract with Iowa workforce development, Pondera characterizes “improper payments”, like Christopherson’s , as fraud.

The license for the Pondera software costs the Iowa workforce development $697,833.33 a year. Pondera also has claimed sizeable contracts in California, Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania, and reported in 2016 that it had doubled its revenues several years in a row.

Andrew Dorliae fought the system and won. But was it a fair fight? Think of Team 3335. Imagine Dreama without her daughter’s help. Even with Star and an attorney in her corner, the possibility of Dreama’s social security check being garnished still looms. And what about Tim, who fears that any day they could come for his home?

For poor and working-class families, the financial burden of government zombie debt is potentially life-shattering. “If we want to stop evictions, we need to start paying attention to debt recoupment,” Alex Kornya, litigation director and general counsel at Iowa Legal Aid, told me. “The types of debts that tend to be the cause of evictions – perhaps more often than private consumer debts – are government debts, because the government can do more to you. They can cut more deeply into the reserves that you have to have to be self-sufficient.”

Representatives from the Department of Treasury and Iowa workforce development insist that the decision to enforce delinquent debt collection is a statutory mandate. “Once an agency certifies a debt,” a spokesperson from the Department of Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service wrote in an 11 October email, “the Fiscal Service is required by law to collect it.” Nicholas Olivencia, legal council for Iowa workforce development, wrote that “IWD, as well as every state, is required under Federal law to participate and enforce the Treasury Offset Program”. The Illinois department of human services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Neither IDHS nor IWD has chosen to create policy that would allow forbearance or inform the public that the option exists
But agencies have more options than Olivencia suggests. The federal rules allow them to waive offset collection where it would cause economic distress. In fact, New Hampshire has done just this – in 2013, the state added a procedure to their administrative code so that individuals can request forbearance if a proposed tax refund offset will cause extreme financial hardship.

This option is open to all the states. “An individual may contact the agency if they believe the debt collection activity will cause financial hardship,” the Fiscal Service spokesperson wrote. “The agency may be able to compromise the debt or reduce the amount that can be offset.” But neither IDHS nor IWD has chosen to create policy that would allow forbearance or inform the public that the option exists. “[The agencies] made a conscious policy decision not to create a hardship waiver,” says Alex Kornya.

Perhaps it is hyperbolic to call the process of turning overpayments into debts extortion. And yet, the processes show disquieting parallels. As historian Joseph Bonica points out, the defining characteristic of extortion is the fear it produces, a terror so intense that victims feel compelled to give money “in exchange for emotional relief”. As he notes, this kind of rule by fear is simply despotism.

The fear that predatory debt collection produces is especially acute when the creditor is the government. It’s easy to feel like there is no remedy, no refuge, no neutral third party to whom you can appeal. That fear is amplified when your accuser is faceless and invisible, a few lines of computer code or a robot voice on the phone. Government zombie debt shifts responsibility for correcting systemic administrative incompetence on to the shoulders of our country’s most vulnerable people.

A people who feel preyed upon by government will not trust government. Those burned by predatory government debt collection will hesitate to use public services again, even when they are eligible and need agency resources to stay safe and healthy. This is not a negligible revenue gain; it is a debt we are accruing against our greatest national wealth, our people. And it is fast compounding interest.

(Source: The Guardian)

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Kerala announces Labour Policy; minimum wage to be Rs 600 per day

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Kerala has announced its Draft Labour Policy.

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government of Kerala has announced its Draft Labour Policy. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in a statement on Thursday that the policy seeks to ensure the welfare and social security of workers along with the comprehensive development of Kerala’s economy and society.

Kerala is the state with the highest wage rates in India, owing primarily to workers in most sectors being organised into trade unions. Unlike most other states where minimum wage laws remain merely on paper, most workers in Kerala earn more than the minimum wage.

The State’s new labour policy seeks to raise minimum wages to Rs. 600 per day. Apart from ensuring minimum wages in all branches of work which fall under the Minimum Wages Act, at least a basic wage will be ensured in the branches of work which don’t fall under the Act. ‘Fair wages’ will be implemented in sectors where there are possibilities of ensuring higher remuneration. A revenue recovery system would be implemented in order to recover wage arrears, if any, from the employers.

Appropriate legislation will be brought in to regulate the work and pay conditions of teaching and non-teaching staff in un-aided educational institutions which currently do not benefit from the protection of labour laws.

Social Security
Kerala is the State in India with the most wide-ranging set of social security schemes for workers. The new labour policy aims to strengthen the various Workers’ Welfare Fund Boards in the State. The welfare schemes would be revamped in a manner such that administrative costs are reduced and benefits such as health and housing are ensured.
Pinarayi Vijayan with Agricultural Workers

Industrial Relations and Collective Bargaining
The work of Industrial Relations Committees would be extended to sectors such as agriculture, Information Technology and fish processing which do not have such committees currently.

A labour bank will be created for the protection and job security of domestic workers.

The Recognition of Trade Union Act (2010) will be strictly implemented in all sectors in order to strengthen collective bargaining and to make it transparent.

Unorganised Sector and Enforcement of Labour Laws
The labour policy aims to strengthen and reinvigorate the work of the Labour Department’s Enforcement section to improve the work and pay conditions of unorganised workers in shops and commercial establishments.

Labour-friendly enterprises will be identified on the basis of the evaluation of the Labour Intelligence Cell, which is to be newly established.

Women-friendly Workplaces
The policy says that steps would be taken to ensure gender equality and to create woman-friendly environment in workplaces. Maternity benefits and facilities for breastfeeding children in workplaces will be ensured. Maternity leave will be ensured with pay, as per the provisions of the Maternity Benefit Act.

Crèche facilities will be set up wherever possible, with the help of the Social Justice Department. A crèche cess will be introduced. Arrangements to ensure the periodic maintenance of crèche facilities will be made compulsory.

The policy says that the government will intervene to ensure overtime allowance, weekly off, break time, and arrangements for accommodation and transport for women workers, depending on the nature of the enterprises.

Toilets and rooms for workers to take rest will be made compulsory as per labour law.

Seating arrangements for workers will be made compulsory. This assumes significance especially because instances of workers not being allowed to sit during work had come to light in the recent years. The women workers of Kalyan Silks, a major chain of textile showrooms in Kerala, had gone on strike in 2014-15 to win the right to sit during working hours.

The policy says that the Kerala Industrial Establishments (National and Festival Holidays) Act will be amended to ensure that workers in all establishments get days off on four national holidays and on polling days for general elections.

Migrant Workers
Some of the most noteworthy provisions of the labour policy relate to the LDF government’s approach towards migrant workers in the State. Kerala had launched India’s first welfare scheme for migrant workers in 2010, and recently it had earned widespread praise for Awaz, the new health insurance scheme for migrant workers. The new labour policy seeks to extend these advances further.

Language-wise details of workers from other States who work in Kerala would be collected, and volunteers with knowledge of the respective languages will be deputed to communicate with the workers.

Facilitation centres will be set up in various parts of the State where workers from other States can access information about their rights, various welfare schemes, rail and road transport facilities, government services etc.

The Apna Ghar scheme to provide livable accommodation facilities for migrant workers from other States would be extended to all over Kerala.

Mobile app will be used to set up a facility to find unregistered workers and to get them to register for the Health Insurance Scheme.

Plantation Workers
Improving the living conditions of plantation workers in Kerala was one of the major promises of the LDF during its election campaign in 2016, especially in districts such as Wayanad with a high percentage of farmers and agricultural workers in the plantation sector.

The new labour policy promises to implement a scheme to improve the quality of garden hospitals and group hospitals for plantation workers, as well as the educational facilities for plantation workers’ children. Workers’ quarters in plantations will be renovated.

Comprehensive Health Insurance coverage will be ensured for plantation workers’ families.

A scheme will be implemented so that plantation workers who don’t have houses on their one can have their own houses. Those who don’t have land and housing will be provided with the same, and steps will be taken to improve wages and other benefits.

Traditional Industries
Workers in many traditional industries have been for long faced with the problem of not getting work throughout the year. The labour policy seeks to explore all possibilities of increasing the number of working days in such industries. The Labour Department will formulate schemes as necessary, with the cooperation of other departments.

A scheme will be formulated in association with the Industries Department, for the sustenance of traditional industries and for the renovation of industries which are in crisis.

The Income Support Scheme for workers in traditional industries will be revamped and implemented.

Traditional industries will be modernised suitably and productivity shall be improved in accordance with changes in technology and production processes.

Employees’ State Insurance
The Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) Scheme will be expanded. ESI Dispensaries and Hospitals will be renovated. New ESI dispensaries will be started in places where they don’t exist.

Steps will be taken to get ISO certification for the 9 ESI Hospitals in the State. ESI Hospitals in Feroke (Kozhikode district) and Thottada (Kannur district) would be upgraded to the status of Super Speciality Hospitals.

Skill Development
The Mid-Day Meal Scheme will be extended to all Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) in stages. Smart Class Room, Virtual Class Room and other new technologies will be used to raise ITIs to international standards.

Special skill development programmes will be implemented for women and those belonging to deprived communities.

Ensuring job security, decent remuneration and social security for workers in all sectors is the overarching objective that the LDF government has set for itself while announcing the Draft Labour Policy.

(Source: News Click)