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6th March – Editorials/Opinions Analyses

Contents:

  1. An unrest, a slowdown and a health epidemic
  2. Read them the riot act
  3. Should the sedition law be scrapped?
  4. Disabled and Extremely Poor
  5. Explained: Meghalaya Violence

AN UNREST, A SLOWDOWN AND A HEALTH EPIDEMIC

Focus: GS-III Indian Economy

Why in news?

This article is written  by Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.

He listed following issues India is facing today

  • Trinity of social disharmony, economic slowdown and a global health epidemic.
  • Social unrest and economic ruin are self-inflicted while the health contagion of COVID-19 disease, caused by the novel coronavirus, is an external shock.
  • Communal tensions have been stoked and flames of religious intolerance fanned by unruly sections of our society, including the political class.
  • University campuses, public places and private homes are bearing the brunt of communal outbursts of violence, reminiscent of the dark periods in India’s history.
  • Institutions of law and order have abandoned their dharma to protect citizens.
  • Institutions of justice and the fourth pillar of democracy, the media, have also failed us.
  • India has slid rapidly from being a global showcase of a model of economic development through liberal democratic methods to a strife ridden majoritarian state in economic despair.

He listed following reasons for above issues

  • lack of new investment by the private sector.
  • Investors, industrialists and entrepreneurs are unwilling to undertake new projects and have lost their risk appetite.
  • Social harmony, the bedrock of economic development, is now under peril.
  • Lack of investment means lack of jobs and incomes, which, in turn, means lack of consumption and demand in the economy.
  • A lack of demand will only further suppress private investments.
  • This is the vicious cycle that our economy is stuck in.
  • Adding to these self-inflicted woes is the real threat of the COVID-19 epidemic

Dealing with COVID-19

  • economic impact of COVID-19 will be very big.
  • China’s economy may even contract for the first time since 1970’s cultural revolution
  • This is sure to impact India’s economic situation too
  • Millions of small and medium businesses in India that account for more than three-quarters of all formal employment are part of the global supply chain.
  • In such an integrated global economy, the COVID-19 crisis can further slow India’s GDP growth by half to one percentage point, other things being constant.
  • India’s economic growth was already tepid and this external health shock is bound to make things much worse.

Bringing in reforms

  • First, it should focus all energies and efforts on containing the COVID-19 threat and prepare adequately.
  • Two, it should withdraw or amend the Citizenship Act, end the toxic social climate and foster national unity.
  • Three, it should put together a detailed and meticulous fiscal stimulus plan to boost consumption demand and revive the economy.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi must convince the nation, not merely through words but by deeds, that he is cognisant of the dangers we face and reassure the nation that he can help us tide over this as smoothly as we can.
  • He must immediately provide details of the contingency plan for the threat of the COVID-19 scare.

Opportunities with India

  • Virus contagion and the slowing down of China can potentially open up an opportunity for India to unleash second -generation reforms to become a larger player in the global economy and vastly improve prosperity levels for hundreds of millions of Indians. 

READ THEM THE RIOT ACT

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

Delhi police did not responded well during riots and it allowed riots to become bigger.

Note: No details are required to read from this article.

Background:

In Criminal Justice System Law enforcement agency plays a critical role in securing the safety of society. The policing system has been designed as the primary enforcement agency that looks after the maintenance of Law and order in the country. A brief analysis of current scenario and prospects of Police Governance is covered by the article.

Why do we need Police Reform in India?

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The poor quality of investigation which leads to a lower conviction
  • The advancement in technology which has opened new dimensions of crime which can not be tackled by the current system
  • 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
  • To improve the Police to Population ratio
  • To improve people’s trust in policing system
  • To improve rotten criminal justice system

Both pre and post-independence, a number of committees and commissions have been appointed to give recommendation for Police reform.

Before Independence:

  • First Police Commission was set up in 1860, the recommendations of this Commission resulted in the enactment of the Police Act of 1861-a law that still governs police.
  •  Second Police Commission came out with a detailed report covering various aspects relating to the organization of police force, adequacy of training, strength, pay, investigating offences, etc. as we as review of  implementation of the Police Act of 1861

After Independence:

  • Gore Committee on Police Training in 1971
  • National Police Commission which, between 1977-1981, submitted 8 reports suggesting wide ranging reforms in the existing police set-up and also a Model Police Act.
  • Ribeiro Committee to review action taken to implement the recommendations of the NPC.
  • Padmanabhaiah Committee to examine the requirements of policing in the new millennium.
  • Malimath Committee on reforms of Criminal Justice Systemin India was set up in 2003.
Police Act Drafting Committee Committees after Independence For Police Act

Directions of the Supreme Court in Prakash Singh vs Union of India

  • Constitute a State Security Commission in every state that will lay down policy for police functioning, evaluate police performance, and ensure that state governments do not exercise unwarranted influence on the police.
  • Constitute a Police Establishment Board in every state that will decide postings, transfers and promotions for officers below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, and make recommendations to the state government for officers of higher ranks.
  • Constitute Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district levels to inquire into allegations of serious misconduct and abuse of power by police personnel.
  • Provide a minimum tenure of at least two years for the DGP and other key police officers (e.g., officers in charge of a police station and district) within the state forces, and the Chiefs of the central forces to protect them against arbitrary transfers and postings.
  • Ensure that the DGP of state police is appointed from amongst three senior-most officers who have been empanelled for the promotion by the Union Public Service Commission on the basis of length of service, good record and experience.
  • Separate the investigating police from the law and order police to ensure speedier investigation, better expertise and improved rapport with the people.
  • Constitute a National Security Commission to shortlist the candidates for appointment as Chiefs of the central armed police forces.

SHOULD THE SEDITION LAW BE SCRAPPED?

Focus: Governance

Why in news?

  • On March 2, a 43-year-old man was charged with sedition after he allegedly chanted pro-Pakistan slogans before the mini Vidhan Soudha at Kundapur in Karnataka’s Udupi district.
  • Last month, the police arrested a school principal and a parent in Bidar, Karnataka, for an allegedly seditious and inflammatory play against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).

Facts:

  • Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that 194 cases of sedition have been filed since the CAA was passed on December 11, 2019. More cases of sedition have been filed since December 11 than in the last three years put together, according to NCRB data.
  • The data also show that while the number of sedition cases filed has been going up every year (numbers for sedition cases started being recorded from 2014) in the last four years, only four cases actually resulted in conviction.

Sedition law is necessary ?

  • The point of the sedition law is essentially that of suppressing free speech and free thought, both of which are unpopular with the government.
  • In many of these cases, sanctions are also not given, but it is a useful tool in the hands of the local policemen who can first register a case.
  • It’s also a useful tool in the hands of a local leader or the head of some faction who wants to shut down a particular dissenter in the locality.
  • Most cases that are filed would not end in conviction if Section 124A, as read by the Supreme Court in Kedar Nath Singh (1962), is actually applied — often the speech complained about does not result in any actual incitement to violence whatsoever.
  • Sedition is an offence which existed in our Indian Penal Code (IPC) before we got Independence because the colonial master wished to penalise anybody who was trying to overthrow the state.
  • In the Bidar case, where a parent and the principal of a school were charged with sedition for staging a play critical of the CAA, it was misused — to bully and terrorise small children and a young woman.
  • The Supreme Court, in its interpretation of Section 124A, clearly says that it has to be against the state, not against the government.
  • So, sedition is a very specific and a very serious offence, and when it is used to silence and terrorise the ordinary citizen who is raising a grievance, it is terrorism by the state.

Why has it survived in the IPC for so long?

Historical background:

  • Sedition as a concept comes from Elizabethan England, where if you criticised the king and were fomenting a rebellion, it was a crime against the state.
  • When they ruled India, the British feared Wahhabi rebellion. They brought the [sedition] law in, and it was used against our freedom fighters as well.
  • We must remember that both Mahatma Gandhi and [Bal Gangadhar] Tilak were tried under this law and sentenced. 
  • Government didn’t remove it because every administrator has this thought that dissent is okay, but beyond a certain point it gets dangerous and an administration must have the means to control it. 
  • Previously policemen were much more independent.
  • But since Indian independence, the independence of the police has also been severely compromised.
  • So, any local leader can almost bully a policeman into registering a case.
  • It falls on the judiciary to protect Articles 19 and Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • Justice Kurian Joseph recently made some anguished remarks that the police is neither independent nor professional.
  • It’s true that the police have become totally politicised, but who is to stop this? Who is to guard us?
  • It is the judiciary that has been charged with this job and they can’t expect the ordinary citizen to always come to the court.
  • Our legal aid system is just not as robust as it should be. The problem is not with the section, but with its abuse.
  • The question is, why has the guardian of our Constitution, the judiciary, with all its powers, failed to put an end to it and reassure the citizen that the right under Article 19 right is protected by the judiciary?
  • So, any provision can be misused. If this law is removed, some other law will be misused. The judiciary really needs to start acting.

Background:

About Sedition law:

The law was originally drafted by Thomas Macaulay. Since its introduction in 1870, meaning of the term, as well as its ambit, has changed significantly.

Sedition is a cognisable, non-compoundable, and non-bailable offence, under which sentencing can be between three years to imprisonment for life. The Indian Penal Code in Section 124A lays down the offence:

“Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine.”

Constitutionality:

In 1962, the Supreme Court, while curtailing the extent of its application, upheld its constitutionality. Then Chief Justice BP Sinha, in the Kedar Nath case, observed: “Every state, whatever its form of government, has to be armed with the power to punish those who by their conduct, jeopardise the safety and stability of the state, or disseminate such feelings disloyalty as have tendency to lead to the disruption of the state or to public disorder.”

But In a landmark judgment (Shreya Singhal v Union of India, 2015), the Supreme Court eventually struck down the restrictive provision of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

The Supreme Court minutely examined the content of Article 19(1)(a) and the extent of restriction that could fetter this invaluable right. It held that we have the echoes of the test of “clear and present danger” enunciated by the U.S. Supreme Court in our laws as well.

It was in this context that our Supreme Court held that Section 66A would not pass muster “as it has no element of any tendency to create public disorder which ought to be an essential ingredient of an offence that it creates.”

What is Right to Dissent?

The Supreme Court observed that “dissent is the safety valve of democracy”. Therefore, right to dissent and the right to not agree becomes very important aspect of any democratic institution.

Citizens’ have right to disagree with, denounce, and decry a situation or state of affairs that is unjust and oppressive. This pluralism of views and liberty to express any thought process within constitutional boundaries is one of the salient features of a democracy.

  • Recently, while hearing a petition on the ban of protest on the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, the SC held that Right to peaceful protest is the fundamental right guaranteed under the constitution. However, this particular right is also subject to reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, as well as public order.
  • A distinguishing feature of any democracy is the space offered for legitimate dissent, which cannot be trampled by any executive action. Thus, the Court recognises that legitimate dissent is a distinguishable feature of any democracy.
Mains Question:  Sedition law was in news recently. Do you think it is high time to scrap the IPC provisions related to sedition? Critically examine.

DISABLED AND EXTREMELY POOR

Focus: GS-II Governance

Why in news?

Using the two rounds of the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) data for 2005 and 2012, the analysis shows there is a link between disability, loss of employment and impoverishment in rural India.

Patterns of disability

  • The prevalence of disability was 9.70% in the rural population in 2012.
  • Of the disabled, more than half (51.3%) suffered from two-four disabilities.
  • Persistence was also largest in this range of disabilities (about 31% remained disabled between 2005 and 2012).
  • The share of those suffering from one disability was largest in the age group 31-50 years, followed by 51-60 years.
  • In the case of two-four disabilities, the largest share was found among those aged 31-50, 51-60, and then, among the older group, 61-70 years.
  • The share of those suffering from more than four disabilities rose from those aged 31-50 years old to 61-70 years and then declined

Patterns of Employment

  • Employment in rural areas is disaggregated into categories: no employment, or less than 240 hours in the previous year (i.e., before 2012); part-time employment, or more than 240 hours; and full-time employment (at least 250 days and at least 2,000 hours).
  • What is indeed striking is that among the disabled, the proportion of those not employed is just under half, and markedly lower in part-time and full-time employment.
  • Instead of using a poverty cut-off, the researchers used terciles of per capita expenditure (at constant prices).
  • The bottom tercile denotes extremely poor, the next middle class and the third affluent.
  • As non-disabled households are a huge fraction, it is not surprising that their shares are highest in each tercile.

Thus, highly disabled are largely confined to extreme poverty. They face barriers to long-duration employment including discriminatory practices in hiring the disabled.


EXPLAINED: MEGHALAYA VIOLENCE

Focus: GS-I Indian Society, Prelims

Why in news?

  • Last week of February 2020, ethnic violence left three dead in Meghalaya.
  • A Khasi tribal was killed in a clash in a village near the Bangladesh border, followed by a stabbing spree by masked attackers in Shillong and attacks elsewhere, leading to the death of two non-tribal men, both Muslims.
  • The violence underlined the ethnic complexities of Meghalaya, with tensions coming back to the fore following the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Multi-ethnic Meghalaya

  • Meghalaya became a state in 1972, when it was carved out of Assam.
  • Before that, Shillong, now Meghalaya’s capital, used to be the capital of Assam. Sharing a 443-km border with Bangladesh, Meghalaya has seen decades of migration from areas that are now in Bangladesh, as well as from various Indian states via Assam.
  • Besides the indigenous groups, Meghalaya’s residents include Bengalis, Nepalis, Marwaris, Biharis and members of various other communities.

Meghalaya is a tribal majority state, and the indigenous Khasis, Jaintias and Garos are entitled to 80% reservation in government jobs. Groups such as the Khasi Students’ Union (KSU), established in 1978, have continuously expressed concerns that illegal migration from Bangladesh and growth of “outsiders” from other states would overwhelm the indigenous communities.

Khasi Tribe

  • The Khasi people, are an indigenous ethnic group of Meghalaya in north-eastern India, with a significant population in the bordering state of Assam, and in certain parts of Bangladesh.
  • Their language, Khasi, is categorised as the northernmost Austroasiatic language. Primarily an oral language, they had no script of their own, they used the Bengali script until the arrival of the Welsh missionaries.
  • Khasi are an ancient tribe said to be the “largest surviving matrilineal culture[s]” in the world. {Matrilineal society, also called matriliny, is a group adhering to a kinship system in which ancestral descent is traced through maternal instead of paternal lines.}

Jaintia Tribe

  • The Pnar, also known as Jaiñtia, are a sub-tribal group of the Khasi Tribe in Meghalaya, India.
  • The Pnar people are also matrilineal.
  • They speak the Pnar Language which belongs to the Austro-Asiatic language family and is very similar to the Khasi Language.
  • The Pnar people are natives of West Jaintia Hills and East Jaintia Hills District of Meghalaya, India.

Garo Tribe

  • The Garos are an indigenous Tibeto-Burman ethnic group from the Indian subcontinent
  • They are Notably found in the Indian states of Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, and neighboring areas of Bangladesh
  • They are the second-largest tribe in Meghalaya after the Khasi and comprise about a third of the local population.
  • The Garos are one of the few remaining matrilineal societies in the world.

The CAA context

The CAA, passed by Parliament in December, relaxes the norms for Hindus from Bangladesh (among six religious groups from three countries) for eligibility to apply for Indian citizenship. Long before that, the legislation was already facing protests in the Northeast, including Meghalaya. Eventually, the Centre decided the CAA will not apply in Sixth Schedule areas. The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution has special provisions for administration of certain areas in the Northeast, including almost the whole of Meghalaya.

Despite the large exemption, the concerns have persisted in Meghalaya, and demands for an Inner Line Permit (ILP) regime have gathered fresh momentum. If the ILP system is introduced, every Indian citizen from any other state would require a time-bound permit to visit Meghalaya.

The violence last week has an immediate context in the anti-CAA campaign and ILP demand. On February Last week 2020, a KSU team went to Ichamati village, near the Bangladesh border, to hold a meeting on these two issues. It was during this campaign that a clash took place between student activists and non-tribal villagers, leading to a Khasi man being killed.

This sparked violence in other parts of the state, with non-tribal persons targeted. In Shillong, at least 10 persons were stabbed by masked persons, leading to the death of a Muslim from Assam. Another Muslim (married to a Khasi woman) was killed in a village called Pyrken.

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