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2nd July – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents

  1. The benefits and shortcomings of MGNREGS
  2. Striking a blow against Assam’s inclusive ethos
  3. Police reform and the crucial judicial actor
  4. Indian Impact: Huawei, ZTE claimed to be threats by U.S.

THE BENEFITS AND SHORTCOMINGS OF MGNREGS

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Introduction

Following the lockdown, India witnessed an exodus of jobless migrant workers from cities to rural areas with the workers turning to MGNREGS for earning their livelihood.

What role does MGNREGS play?

  • The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is meant to enhance the livelihood of the rural populace by guaranteeing at least 100 days of employment within 15 days of raising a demand, to every household wherein the adult members perform unskilled manual labour.
  • The covid-induced lockdown resulted in loss of livelihoods for millions of workers in cities and forced them to return home in rural areas.
  • With an allocation of ₹40,000 crore, as a part of the stimulus package to MGNREGS, the government hopes to increase employment generation in rural areas.

Demand for MGNREGS works

  • The scheme is often viewed as a means for employment in rural areas during the lean period of agricultural activity.
  • Therefore, demand for work generally peaks in May-June, before it declines during the main kharif cropping season.
  • Currently, the demand is even higher, since it is not just the landless agricultural labourers, but also migrants seeking work.
  • The demand for MGNREGS work jumped by 55% from 21.2 million workers in May 2019 to 32.9 million in May 2020.
  • The 116 districts, with the highest number of returnees, have witnessed 86% increase in demand under MGNREGS in May compared to 2019.

What are the concerns regarding the scheme?

  • Most states have implemented the scheme, till the time the funds were granted to them by Centre. The restricted supply of funds is one of the major pitfalls of the scheme.
  • Often the promise of 100-day employment phases out within 50-55 days, wages remain uncleared even after 15 days, and many get denied work.
  • MGNREGS wage of ₹202 per day is also 30-40% lower than average wage offered to unskilled workers.

How is the govt’s Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyaan (GKRA) any different?

  • The Centre launched the scheme to boost opportunities for migrants returning to villages.
  • It seeks to provide 125 days of guaranteed employment and focuses on 116 districts across six states, which received the highest number of returnees.
  • Unlike MGNREGS, it is a one-time scheme and is not available pan-India.
  • The move was criticized because MGNERGS has suffered budget cuts and has often lagged.
  • There also seems to be lack of clarity around scheme coverage.

-Source: Livemint


STRIKING A BLOW AGAINST ASSAM’S INCLUSIVE ETHOS

Focus: GS-I Indian Society, GS-II Social Justice

Introduction

  • The Assam government recently decided to promulgate a law to make the Assamese language compulsory in all schools, both public and private, including the Kendriya Vidyalayas, from Classes I to X.
  • The law will not be applicable in Barak Valley, Bodoland Council and other Sixth Schedule areas, where Bengali, Bodo and other indigenous languages will take precedence.

Data and Marginalisation

Statistical data have often been used as a tool to construct the linguistic hierarchy and homogenisation in a region marginalizes languages. (For e.g., census driven split of Hindi-Urdu – marginalised languages such as Magadhi, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Garhwali with their rich literary and linguistic traditions as mere dialects of the Hindi language.)

Assam’s case of marginalisation

  • Census data are often used to portray a ‘danger’ to the Assamese language — the ‘infiltration’ of Bengali-speaking communities is considered to be the primary reason.
  • The number of Assamese speakers as per the 2011 Census has decreased by more than 10% from 1971.
  • While considering the reduction in Assamese speaker, it has to be noted that most tribal communities speak Assamese but return their own respective languages as their mother tongues.

Impact on tribal languages

  • The imposition of Assamese has had adverse effects on tribal languages, especially on those which do not enjoy any constitutional protection.
  • Tribal languages are generally on a steady decline, e.g., Mising tribe, Deoris and Dibongiya have faced enormous decline in the rate of increase of speakers.
  • Other tribes such as the Sonowal-Kacharis and Tiwas have almost completely lost their languages.

Demand and opposition

  • Tribal communities since long have been demanding linguistic and territorial protection and attention from the State government.
  • Tribal communities have always resisted attempts of forced homogenisation.
  • Khasi along with other tribal communities started protesting after the Official Language Bill in 1960 was passed by Assam Government, which lead to the formation of Meghalaya.
  • The Bodo movement for autonomy also finds its roots in this bill.
  • Tribes have often highlighted that the ‘Assamese nationalism’ discourse was narrow and rarely included other communities.
  • Tribes such as the Misings, Deoris, Rabhas, etc. have still consistently supported the Assamese movement against the imposition of Bengali language or Hindi in Assam.

The CAA factor

  • The anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) movement could have been a point of departure in the ‘Assamese Nationalism’ discourse.
  • Demands were raised for protection of indigenous land, culture and languages during the course of the struggle.
  • Such fear and insecurity have an immanent tendency to straitjacket heterogeneous aspirations and scuttle the inclusive nature of the movement.

Conclusion

  • While the tribes acknowledge the threat that infiltration poses to local languages and culture, they are also wary of the Assamese hegemony and homogeneity.
  • This law will only increase the marginalisation of these communities, triggering social conflicts once again.
  • It is time for progressive sections in Assam to go beyond the politics of fear and assert the inclusive ethos of Assam.

-Source: The Hindu


POLICE REFORM AND THE CRUCIAL JUDICIAL ACTOR

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

‘Custodial death’ of a father and son in Sathankulam town in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district has led to protests.

Judiciary as beacon

  • Judiciary is seen as the source of hope and action when fatal violence by state actors comes into the picture, and Courts in India have often passed various directions to try and ameliorate the problem of police violence.
  • The Supreme Court through cases such as Joginder Kumar v. State of UP and K. Basu v. State of West Bengal in the 1990s, had passed guidelines to try and secure two rights in the context of any state action — a right to life and a right to know.
  • The Court sought to curb the power of arrest, as well as ensure that an accused person is made aware of all critical information regarding her arrest and also convey this to friends and family immediately in the event of being taken in custody.

Issues with implementation

  • The issue is, it took a decade to give statutory backing to these judicial guidelines, which are now a part of the law.
  • In Prakash Singh v. Union of India (2006) case, the Court pushed through new legislation for governing police forces to be passed by States across India.
  • A key component of the new legislation was a robust setup for accountability that contemplated a grievance redress mechanism.
  • The issue of police reform ranks high in the scheme of things for governments, as several States remain in contempt of the Supreme Court’s judgment.

Another step taken by Judiciary to reduce violence

  • Judicial concern with police violence is also witnessed in a different manner — judicial support for “scientific” investigations.
  • The support and fascination for techniques such as narcoanalysis, ensuring video recording of investigations, passing orders for installing closed-circuit television cameras inside police stations, all comes from a place of grudging acceptance by courts about how often police employ physicality to obtain evidence.

Systemic failures

The approach taken by the Judiciary of simply passing directions and guidelines has not been effective.

The gap between the highest court and the lowly police officer in India has been demonstrated through studies which show how despite criminal laws being struck down as unconstitutional, they continue to be enforced in various parts of the country by local police.

Why do we need Police Reform in India?

  1. The basic working principle of policing is still colonial in India which is a repressive force. An independent country needs a democratic police system that is service oriented that instils faith among its citizen.
  2. Politicization of Police system due to the interference of political leaders and party workers has lead to loss of its autonomy and degraded its respect among citizen.
  3. The poor quality of investigation which leads to a lower conviction
  4. The advancement in technology which has opened new dimensions of crime which can not be tackled by the current system
  5. To prevent the highhandedness of police in the form of extra-judicial killings. Recently NHRC noted that 206 cases of encounters occurred in the last 12 months
  6. To improve the Police to Population ratio
  7. To improve people’s trust in policing system
  8. To improve rotten criminal justice system
  9. Both pre and post-independence, a number of committees and commissions have been appointed to give recommendation for Police reform.

Way forward

  • Rather than expend energies in only passing more guidelines, constitutional courts must seriously contend with the concrete cases that come their way and expose how hard it is for a common man to get justice against police violence, either through compensation claims or prosecutions.
  • It is time to consider sanctions at a larger scale and impose monetary penalties at the district level, to drive home the message that the erring actions of one officer must be seen as a failure of the force itself.
  • SC could strike an inspired move by reorienting their guidelines to try and change the practices of magistrates, over whom they exercise powers of superintendence, as opposed to other non-judicial actors.

-Source: The Hindu


INDIAN IMPACT: HUAWEI, ZTE CLAIMED TO BE THREATS BY U.S.

Focus: GS-II International Relations

Why in news?

  • The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formally designated Chinese telecom vendors Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE Corporation, all their parent and subsidiaries, as well as affiliate firms, as “national security threats” to the United States of America.
  • The move is expected to put additional pressure on Huawei and ZTE, which have been accused of being close to the Chinese government and spying for them by sharing data of US citizens.

Why has the US banned Huawei and ZTE?

  • The US government has been accusing Huawei and ZTE of working in ways that were contrary to “national security or foreign policy interests.”
  • Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services, according to FCC.

Why is the ban on Huawei and ZTE important?

  • Huawei is the world’s largest maker of telecom equipment and the second largest maker of mobile phone parts.
  • On the other hand, ZTE, another Chinese vendor, has tied up with several big corporations to manufacture their patented equipment in China at very low costs.
  • A ban on both Huawei and ZTE could mean an increase of up to 30 per cent in cost of telecom equipment across the board, especially when countries all over the world are gearing up to launch 5G services.

Does the Huawei ban impact India?

  • The US FCC’s decision to classify Huawei and ZTE as “national security threats” could put pressure on friendly allies, such as India, to take similar, if not the same action.
  • With the reserve price for 8,300 MHz spectrum, including the 5G band kept unchanged low-cost equipment from Huawei or ZTE could have provided some relief to domestic telcos in India.
  • The Chinese vendor was a major equipment supplier to companies like Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel during the initial roll-out of the 4G services in India.
  • Huawei has made inroads into nearly 25 per cent of the total telecom equipment market in India.

Change in India’s Stance

  • Following a skirmish at Galwan Valley in Ladakh there have been reports that 4G network expansion tenders floated by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) would be reworked to bar global vendors such as Huawei and ZTE from participating.
  • So far, private telecom operators have neither been officially told nor unofficially nudged to discontinue using Chinese telecom equipment.
  • One of the most important implications, they said, could be the loss of their cost arbitrage, as barring Huawei and ZTE from even bidding in the 5G auctions could mean equipment as much as 30 per cent costlier.

-Source: Indian Express

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