Communal Violence and preservation of National Harmony
In the backdrop of India’s long history of communal violence, the country certainly needs a specific law with a strong focus on preventing clashes between the majority community and minorities and providing redressal mechanisms and compensation to the victims of such violence.
The present revised draft of the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill seeks to address some of the problems associated with communal violence in India, and put in place an institutional mechanism for redress.
Why is there a need for such a law?
Most of the communal clashes are engineered and sustained by chauvinist and anti-social elements in both the majority and minority communities and these clashes are different from ordinary law and order issues.
It is also observed that, there are institutional bias against minorities and oppressed sections. For instance the Godhra riots which not only witnessed mass killings of a minority community, but also safeguarded many from the majority community which was involved in the heinous act. Hence a special legislation that takes into account the specific character and circumstances of communal violence is therefore vital and unquestionable.
Contentious provisions of the Bill:
However, some of the provisions of the bill are too sweeping and general to address the real concerns that it intends to address. On these lines, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister has argued that many of the provisions are worded vaguely, open to wide subjective interpretation, and hence can be misused. The bill is viewed as an attempt to encroach upon the jurisdiction of the state governments’ (law and order is a State subject) as a result this would be a threat to the federal structure of India.
The bill also proposes to target ‘hate propaganda’. Thus, anyone who disseminates any information “that could reasonably be construed to demonstrate an intention to promote or incite hatred” could attract the penal provisions of this law.
In the absence of specific phrasing, there is scope for misuse by subordinate law enforcers.
What is actually required in preventing communal violence is ‘better policing and administrative precautions’ rather than just prosecuting people who indulge in propaganda with the intention to promote hatred.
While one cannot deny the fact that India needs special legislation to deal with communal violence, the current draft bill is unlikely to serve the purpose. The failure to eliminate the contentious provisions that are in any case too general and sweeping could endanger the passage of a potentially historic piece of legislation which in effect institutionalises a commitment on the part of government.
In this regard, it is better that the bill is redrafted to ensure a sharper focus on the specific issues of prevention of communal violence and provide proper redressal mechanism and a wider consultation among various stakeholders including the government, political parties, police and security agencies would not only uphold the democratic principles of our country but also help in preservation of national harmony.
Cabinet finally gives approval for formation of ‘Telangana state’
The Union Cabinet has finally approved a bill for the creation of a Telangana state with 10 districts, paving the way for the bifurcation of Andhra Pradesh to give birth to the country’s 29th state.
The Cabinet has broadly approved most of the recommendations made by the Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted to consider the contentious issues.
Some of the highlights of the bill are:
Telangana will have 10 districts and the rest of Andhra Pradesh will have 13 districts;
Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation area will remain the common capital for both states for a period not exceeding 10 years;
An expert committee will identify the alternative capital for Telangana within 45 days of the gazette notification; a joint public service commission will be in place for the two States;
Both States will have special status under Article 371-D of the Constitution for equitable opportunities. The Governor of Telangana will have a special responsibility for security of life, liberty and property of all those who reside in the common capital area.
Both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will get special economic packages for development of backward regions. All tax incentives will continue for the two states.
National-level institutions such as IITs and IIMs and an AIIMS will be set up in Andhra Pradesh to ensure that careers of students do not get affected. All educational facilities in Hyderabad will continue for another 10 years under existing system
Polavaram project will be declared a national project and will be financed and executed entirely by the Centre. There will be two separate boards for Krishna and Godavari rivers.
Polity related information (from Exam point of View):
Procedure for forming a ‘New State’ (taking Telangana as an example)
The constitutional framework for creating a new state might not have changed much since the days of the First State Reorganization Commission headed by Justice Fazal Ali, but logistical challenges and vote bank dynamics have certainly made the task more complex. Before Telangana sees the light of the day, there are a host of legal and administrative challenge.
The first step has to be taken by the Union Cabinet to approve the creation of India’s 29th state. The cabinet will form a Group of Ministers (GoM) to draft proposals detailing the bifurcation process which will be eventually drafted into a bill.
Under Article 3(e) of the Constitution of India, the draft bill will be sent by the President to the legislature of the concerned state to seek its approval within a time frame “specified in the reference or within such further period as the President may allow.
Since the state of Andhra Pradesh (AP) has a bicameral legislature, both the legislative assembly and the legislative council will express their views on this draft bill. However, all this is a mere formality since the President is not obliged to consider the views of the AP legislature
Each house has to pass the bill by a simple majority, which in Parliamentary parlance is defined as half the members of each of the houses ‘present and voting’.
After passing muster in both houses of Parliament, the bill would go to Rashtrapati Bhavan for the President’s seal, specifying the date on which Telangana will be formed. This will be published in the respective gazettes of the Union government and the Andhra Pradesh government signifying the birth of Telangana
Four-step procedure Article 3 (Article 3 of Indian Constitution addresses the topic of ‘Formation of new States and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing States’) provides the following procedure:
Presidential reference is sent to State Assembly.
After presidential reference, a resolution is tabled and passed in Assembly.
Assembly has to pass a Bill creating the new State/States.
A separate Bill has to be ratified by Parliament.
Supreme Court sets aside Delhi HC verdict decriminalizing gay sex
In a major setback to gay rights activists, the Supreme Court has held that homosexuality or unnatural sex between two consenting adults under Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) is illegal and will continue to be an offence.
What does Section 377 say?
Whoever voluntarily has “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal commits an unnatural offence” and can be punished with up to life term.
The Delhi High Court in 2009 had ruled that Section 377 was against constitutional values and human dignity, which clearly violates the Human Right’s of an individual.
But the SC has argued that, the Delhi HC has relied extensively upon the judgements of other foreign countries which cannot be applied blindfolded for deciding the constitutionality of Indian law.
And since LGBT (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders) community constitute only a diminutive fraction of the population, the decision does not hold water. Now, it is upto the parliament to consider the desirability and propriety of deleting section 377 of IPC from the constitution or amend it.
Ruling regressive, say gay rights activists
The Naz Foundation has said that, the decision has let down the constitutional vision of an equal and inclusive society and violated the fundamental tenets of the Constitution.
The 2.5-million LGBT community is categorised as a high-risk group by the Department of AIDS Control, as prevalence of HIV infection among them is close to 7 % as against less than 1% in others. India has cut down HIV infections by 57% through its inclusive public health schemes. With this decision HIV infected among LGBT community may no longer access public health facilities without risking harassment or arrest.
The community would also face threats and intimidation or even blackmailing.
A retrograde decision:
The Supreme Court’s is viewed as ‘retrograde’ as it has brought back medieval prejudice and has also curtailed liberal values and human rights.
Through its path-breaking judgment in Naz Foundation, the Delhi High Court had amended Section 377 to decriminalise consensual sex among adults irrespective of gender. The Union government too was in favour of the High Court’s view, and had left it to the Supreme Court (SC) to decide on the penal provision.
The court has stepped in wherever the executive had failed and has not hesitated to read into the constitutionally enumerated fundamental rights to life and to equality an expansive set of human rights including the right to education, the right to work with dignity and the right of prisoners to humane treatment. That is all the more reason why it should not shy away from correcting a centuries-old law and an outdated mind-set that offend against basic rights and human dignity.
Changes in law have come about both by legislation and through the judiciary’s constitutional interpretation.
With this decision, the judicial route to bringing the law in line with fundamental human right has been closed. It is strange that a decision involving a major constitutional issue and the hard-won rights of large sections of the socially oppressed should have been decided by a two-member bench rather than by a larger Constitutional Bench.
It is Parliament’s prerogative to amend Section 377 in tune with the social circumstances, declared the court in a show of restraint that is uncharacteristic of its attitude in recent times. However, the legislative route to decriminalising gay sex would seem to be problematic in this election season because the issue may not be accorded priority and also because it may be difficult to forge a political agreement.
If harassment by law enforcement agencies drives sections of the LGBT community underground and makes them terrified of disclosing their orientation, it would have serious public health consequences as well, particularly in the fight against AIDS. Above all, it is a test of humane values, fairness and dignity in a society. It is important that institutions of the state acknowledge the importance of these values.
As India takes a step back, U.K. prepares to legalise gay marriage
The Indian Supreme Court has re-criminalized gay relationships based on a colonial law that the United Kingdom has long back done away with is an irony that has not gone unnoticed in the U.K., where a much-awaited government announcement promising a spring deadline for same- sex marriages has just been made.
India’s cyber security preparedness
In view of its growing cyber security concerns, India has decided to challenge the U.S. government’s control over the Internet and ensure that the trio of the U.S., Russia and China does not ignore India’s concerns while developing an international regime for Internet governance.
India will also push for storing all Internet data within the country, besides ensuring control and management of servers.
According to a note prepared by the Sub-Committee on International Cooperation on Cyber Security (under the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS)), the following were the concerns and issues discussed regarding cyber security challenges:
The control of Internet was in the hands of the U.S. government and the key levers relating to its management was dominated by its security agencies. Just mere location of root servers in India would not serve any purpose unless India was also allowed a role in their control and management. Also it should be insisted that data of all domain names originating from India should be stored in India. Similarly, all traffic originating/landing in India should be stored in India.
Notably, the key function of domain name system (DNS) management today is in the hands of the U.S. National Telecommunication and Information Administration and the Department of Commerce. Though after persistently putting pressure on companies, India has managed to get root servers installed in the country, it wants a say in management of these servers. India is also seeking a key role in policy making on Internet governance at the international level.
It was also important that management and control of the DNS should be supervised by a ‘Board’ consisting of technical experts nominated by governments and India should be represented on this Board. India should seek a larger determinate role for the GAC (Government Advisory Committee) in ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number) a U.S.-based non-profit organisation that coordinates global Internet systems in which India should be effectively represented.
India is also concerned about the proximity of the U.S., Russia and China while deciding on issue of Internet governance. There was a possibility that the U.S., Russia and China may work out an arrangement that met their concerns and this arrangement was thereafter forced upon other countries. So India needs to guard against this possibility and ensure that India’s concerns were also accommodated in whatever international regime for Internet governance that ultimately emerged. Notably, today India has the third largest Internet users in the world at over 15 crore, only after China (56 crore) and the U.S. (25 crore).
India has also decided to favour a pre-dominantly multilateral approach on issues related to Internet governance rather than multi-stakeholder approach which is mainly being advocated by the West.
According to India, the very term multi-stakeholder was something of a ‘misnomer’. A small unrepresentative group of certain individuals, supported by vested interests, appear to have arrogated themselves the right to present certain views in discussions relating to Internet governance. It was not clear as to who they represent and whether who they claimed to represent had in fact nominated them. These persons undermine the positions of the government and were really spokespersons of certain Western interests.
Cyber-attacks on the rise
According to the latest report of the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) under the Department of Electronics and Information Technology there has been a major increase in attacks on Indian websites in recent months, the most vulnerable being those of critical government organisations like banking and finance, oil and gas and emergency services.
The most targeted websites included those having ‘.in’ domain, which is mostly used by government ministries and departments, besides some major private organisations.
Defacing of a website is an act of cyber terrorism, particularly when the target belonged to critical government infrastructure. Hackers have targeted these important websites to reduce public confidence in the security of a system and its trustworthiness for use for sensitive purposes.
What do you understand by ‘cyber-terrorism’? Its impact on the economy of India?
Has India taken any steps to curtail the cyber threats?
Do you think cyber terrorism needs to be tackled on a larger scale (international fora)? How can this be done?
What do you think is the difference between NSA snooping and Cyber terrorism?
Need for change in India’s Diplomatic policy
The two instances below makes us rethink on the existing diplomatic policy of India:
The arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in the United States and the other regarding the arrest of sailors in July, 2013 (and released just recently).
In the later case, the two Indian sailors Sunil James and Vijayan were arrested by the Togo authorities. Reason- they had simply disembarked in Togo to report a pirate attack on their oil tanker. In an apparent instance of confusion, the Togo police charged them with the grave offence of aiding piracy. Criminal proceedings were initiated against both, and their families reliably informed that the trial would go on for an extended period of time. They were released after the Indian High Commissioner in neighbouring Ghana met the President of Togo to present their case.
Given that the health of Mr. James and Mr. Vijayan had deteriorated, this diplomatic intervention by Indian and Togolese officials came not a moment too soon. Meanwhile, Mr. James’s son, all of 11 months old, died of illness earlier this month. By securing his release, the Indian government has ensured that the sailor gets to attend his son’s funeral. But it needs mention that the plight of the jailed men was taken up in earnest only after the death of Mr. James’s son came to the attention of the media and public.
In this respect, a common thread runs through the arrests of Ms. Khobragade and the two sailors. Both cases indicate that Indian diplomacy has been too slow to respond to crises that were long in the making. Ms. Khobragade’s harsh treatment at the hands of U.S. authorities is a by-product of India’s inability to tackle a serious legal and humanitarian issue through diplomatic channels.
If there was a chance to negotiate a mutually accepted understanding of how U.S. visa rules and minimum wage laws would apply to domestic help employed by Indian diplomats in the country, India did not exercise it. Similarly, Mr. James and Mr. Vijayan were languishing in a Togo jail for six months before India took up their cases.
The zeal with which the Ministry of External Affairs has intervened in Ms. Khobragade’s case sits uncomfortably with its lax attempts to resolve the open-and-shut case involving the sailors.
India’s diplomatic establishment needs to formulate a policy that deals with the concerns of Indians abroad not just of diplomats but of sailors, businesspersons, fishermen and others.
As the global and business profile of India increases, it is only natural that more Indians find themselves in legal and diplomatic crosshairs around the world. Resolving their concerns effectively while deferring to the national laws of other states should be accorded a higher priority than has been in evidence.
Railway accidents in India is on the rise .Recently a three-tier air-conditioned coach of the Bangalore-Nanded Express was engulfed in flames near Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh), claiming 26 lives in the early hours of December 28.Preliminary investigation has revealed that, an electrical short circuit in the coach may be the reason behind the tragedy.
Fires in running trains are not new to the Indian Railways, but the unfortunate fact is that when it happens in the dead of night and that too in an enclosed air-conditioned coach, the chances of survival are bleak.
Similarly, in July 2012, 47 passengers were killed when a coach of the Tamil Nadu Express caught fire near Nellore, also in Andhra Pradesh. Derailments, collisions, fire and accidents at unmanned level crossings account for the bulk of railway calamities in India.
This calamity can be overcome by use of non-combustible and non-inflammable materials in railway coaches. On these lines, the Railway Ministry had decided to make the shift, and coach production units were asked to go in for fire-retardant material. But the major drawback over here is- it’s a slow process and only ‘new coaches’ could be made with them. The problem persists with the old coaches still in use.
Also a major drive to check passengers carrying stoves or inflammable materials was launched, and to a certain extent this was successful. Two other major sources of fire incidents relate to overheating wheels and electrical short circuit.
Now with advances in technology, it should be possible for the Indian Railways to detect such hazards in time to prevent a fire.
Smoke detectors and circuit breakers have become commonplace and can easily be installed in trains. Though fire extinguishers exist, it is seldom operational and it must be made sure that every railway station is equipped to fight fires.
Several inquiries and Commission reports have pointed to gaps in safety measures and suggested follow-up action. The ‘Kakodkar committee on safety’ in 2012 had pointed to an “implementation bug” and recommended a massive Rs.1 lakh crore programme over five years to ensure complete safety on the wheels. It had also suggested an allocation of Rs.20,000 crore a year, which can also be generated by means of a safety cess on passengers.
It is high time that more importance must be given to ‘safety’ of the passengers and funding the required measures. Preventive measure is anytime better than curative measures.
What are the reasons for frequent railway accidents? Suggest some measures to overcome the mishaps.
What are the steps taken by the govt. in this regard?
Committee’s appointed by the govt. in order to improve the working of railways (for example: karkodar committee etc.- their recommendations)
Should railways be privatized? Your views.
ROLE OF EMERGING ECONOMIES::
Middle-income countries key to future development
With Globalisation being the engine of emerging economies’(Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, Mexico, Colombia etc.) growth, trade has increased exponentially, but the performance of these economies has slowed down in the last couple of years (since 2011).
About 1,500 covert protectionist measures’ have been introduced by G20 members since 2008 and amid stagnant wages, high unemployment, and anaemic growth, support for globalisation has been on the decline in advanced economies.
Also there has been threat to sustainability across the globe – Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are now 46% higher than they were in 1990, and the International Energy Agency estimates that existing policies will result in long-term warming of between 3.6°C (38.5°F) and 5.3°C well into the zone where catastrophic climate tipping points could be triggered, potentially wiping out progress made on poverty reduction over the past 15 years.
Yet, decisive action(s) have not been taken to halt these trends due to frequent disagreements and concerns about competitiveness.
Efforts to formulate new international development targets to succeed the millennium development goals (MDGs) when they expire in 2015 are emerging as a key indicator of what the future holds.
Countries across the globe have agreed at 2013 U.N. general assembly that the post-2015 goals should be universal, targeting not only the 1 billion people living in absolute poverty, but all 7 billion of the world’s inhabitants.
But the reality is that, the new development agenda calls for important role of ‘middle-income’ countries, since they form the majority of the population and also they are much ‘less reliant’ on foreign assistance than they were when the MDGs were agreed upon. Of course, middle-income countries still face huge development challenges (with majority of poor people, illiteracy, health issues among others)
If global world is thinking of eliminating poverty by 2030 (the probable headline target of the post-2015 goals), limiting global warming to 2°C, or move to more sustainable and inclusive globalisation, then there is a strong urge for a new global partnership with middle-income countries fully on board.
Concept of ‘balance of power’ in the contemporary world.
What are MDGs? Achievement of India in this regard.
Bring out 3 major issues faced by the global world. What measures are taken to tackle these issues (by the developed and developing countries)? How successful have these measures been?
Difference between ‘growth’ and ‘development’?
Impact of globalisation on the developing countries (India in particular).
Do you think post-2015 goals should be ‘universal’? Your views and suggestions.