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Current Affairs 08 January 2024

  1. Supreme Court Notice on Caste-Based Discrimination in Prisons
  2. Tripartite Peace Deal with ULFA’s Pro-talks Faction
  3. Upcoming National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP)
  4. Nomination of Justice BR Gavai as Chairman of SCLSC
  5. Subhas Chandra Bose
  6. Sohrai Painting


Context:

The Supreme Court (SC) of India recently issued notice to the Centre and 11 states on a public interest litigation (PIL) that alleged caste-based discrimination and segregation of prisoners in jails and sought a direction to repeal provisions that mandate such practices under the state prison manuals.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Instances of Caste-Based Discrimination in Prisons
  2. Laws Allowing Caste Discrimination Inside Indian Jails
  3. Way Forward

Instances of Caste-Based Discrimination in Prisons:

  • The PIL sheds light on cases from Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Tamil Nadu jails where dominant castes handle cooking tasks, while specific lower castes are relegated to menial jobs like sweeping and cleaning toilets.
  • Allegations suggest that the prison system perpetuates discriminatory practices, including labor division based on caste hierarchy and caste-based segregation of barracks.
  • Caste-based labor distribution is considered a vestige of colonial India, violating prisoners’ right to a life with dignity and deemed both humiliating and unhealthy.
  • The petition contends that various state prison manuals sanction caste-based discrimination and forced labor within the prison system.
Specific Instances Highlighted:
  • Rajasthan Prison Rules 1951: Assigns Mehtars to latrines and Brahmins to kitchens based on caste.
  • Palayamkottai Central Jail (Tamil Nadu): Highlights caste-based segregation of Thevars, Nadars, and Pallars into different sections.
  • West Bengal Jail Code: Directs menial tasks to prisoners from Mether or Hari caste, Chandal, and other castes.
  • 2003 Model Prison Manual Guidelines: Emphasizes guidelines for classification based on security, discipline, and institutionalized programs, arguing against classification based on socio-economic status, caste, or class.
Fundamental Rights and Call for Repeal:
  • The petition asserts that prisoners do not forfeit fundamental rights or equality, citing the Supreme Court’s Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration (1978) case.
  • Urges the repeal of discriminatory provisions in state prison manuals to safeguard prisoners’ fundamental rights and ensure equality within the prison system.

Supreme Court’s Observations on Caste Discrimination in Prisons:

  • A three-judge Bench, led by the Chief Justice of India, has identified that prison manuals in over 10 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Kerala, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu, endorse caste-based discrimination and forced labor.
  • The court considers caste-based discrimination, segregation, and the categorization of denotified tribes as “habitual offenders” within prisons as a “very important issue” requiring urgent attention.
  • Emphasizing the significance of promptly and comprehensively addressing the alleged discriminatory practices, the Supreme Court has issued notices and sought responses from the concerned States and the Union within four weeks regarding the petition.

Laws Allowing Caste Discrimination Inside Indian Jails:

Legacy of Colonial Policies:

  • India’s criminal justice system, stemming from colonial-era policies, prioritizes punishment over reformation, evident in the outdated ‘Prisons Act of 1894.’
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recognized the deficiencies and introduced the progressive ‘Model Prisons Act, 2023’ to address these gaps.
  • Effective implementation of this new act is anticipated to enhance prison conditions, administration, and protect prisoners’ human rights.

Prison Manuals:

  • State-level prison manuals, reflecting colonial and caste mentalities, mandate specific castes for tasks, perpetuating caste-based discrimination.
  • Manuals, like the one in West Bengal, secure the cooking monopoly for “savarna Hindus,” sustaining caste-based rules despite constitutional provisions against untouchability.

Prohibition of Manual Scavenging Act, 2013:

  • The Act, prohibiting manual scavenging, does not explicitly cover prisons, allowing existing manuals endorsing caste discrimination and manual scavenging to persist without violating the law.
  • Manual scavenging, involving manual cleaning of human excreta and waste, remains unaddressed in jails despite the Act’s provisions.

Way Forward:

  • Adoption of Model Prison Manual:
    • States should embrace the progressive ‘Model Prison Manual of 2016,’ aligning with the Nelson Mandela Rules of 2015, to ensure dignity and non-discrimination for all prisoners.
  • Judicial Intervention:
    • Courts should contemplate active intervention to nullify discriminatory provisions, safeguarding fundamental rights, and fostering equality within the prison system.
  • Establishment of Monitoring Mechanisms:
    • Robust monitoring mechanisms must be instituted to oversee the implementation of reforms, ensuring accountability and creating a more equitable prison system.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) has recently entered into a significant tripartite peace deal with the Centre and the Assam government.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Major Provisions of Peace Pact with ULFA
  2. Additional Considerations to Enhance the Recent Peace Pact

Major Provisions of Peace Pact with ULFA:

Context and History:

  • Background: Assam faced cultural challenges due to historical migration, leading to the 1985 Assam Accord to address concerns about foreigners.
  • Origin of ULFA: Formed in 1979, ULFA sought an independent Assam through armed struggle, receiving support from external sources.

Protracted Peace Talks:

  • Negotiations commenced in 2011 between ULFA, the Indian government, and the Assam state government.
Recent Peace Pact:
  • Key Terms for ULFA:
    • Renounce violence, disband the organization, and participate in the democratic process.
    • Surrender weapons and camps.
  • Government Commitments:
    • Address ULFA’s concerns about Assamese identity, culture, and land rights.
    • ₹1.5 lakh crore investment for holistic development.
    • Principles applied in the 2023 delimitation exercise to guide future exercises.
  • Legislative Safeguards:
    • Restriction on non-indigenous communities’ representation in the Assam Assembly.
    • Seeking exemptions from specific sections of the Citizenship Act of 1955.

Additional Considerations to Enhance the Recent Peace Pact:

  • Transparent Implementation:
    • Establishing mechanisms for transparent implementation of the pact’s provisions and holding accountable those responsible for fulfilling commitments.
  • Engagement with Anti-Talks Faction:
    • Strategically engaging with the ULFA’s anti-talks faction to promote a unified resolution and wider acceptance of the peace pact.
  • Constitutional Alignment:
    • Ensuring that legislative changes align with constitutional principles, protecting the rights of all residents and preventing discrimination based on ethnicity or origin.
  • Regional Collaboration:
    • Collaboration with neighboring countries to prevent cross-border insurgencies and maintain regional stability.
  • Holistic Development Strategies:
    • Creating sustainable and detailed developmental strategies beyond immediate investments to foster holistic growth in the region.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

The Principal Scientific Advisor has announced that the government is set to present the National Deep Tech Startup Policy (NDTSP) to the Union Cabinet for approval in the upcoming weeks.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Deep Tech
  2. Background of Draft NDTSP Release
  3. Key Highlights in the Draft NDTSP
  4. State of India’s Deep Tech Startups
  5. Problems with Deep Technology

About Deep Tech:

  • Deep tech or deep technology refers to a class of startup businesses that develop new offerings based on tangible engineering innovation or scientific discoveries and advances.
  • Agriculture, life sciences, chemistry, aerospace, and green energy are among the typical industries in which such startups operate.
  • Deep technology sectors like artificial intelligence, advanced materials, blockchain, biotechnology, robots, drones, photonics, and quantum computing are advancing from early research to commercial applications at an ever-increasing rate.
Characteristics of Deep Tech:
  • Deep tech innovations are extremely radical and either create a new market or disrupt an already existing one. Deep tech innovations frequently transform people’s lives, economies, and societies.
  • Deep technology development takes far longer than shallow technology development, such as the creation of websites and mobile apps, to mature to the point where it is ready for the market. Artificial intelligence took a long time to develop, and it is still far from flawless.
  • Deep tech frequently needs a lot of early-stage funding for R&D, prototyping, hypothesis testing, and technology development.

Background of Draft NDTSP Release:

  • Introduction of ‘Deep Tech’:
    • ‘Deep tech’ has become a prominent term in tech and startup circles, lacking a precise definition.
  • Recommendation by PM-STIAC:
    • In 2022, the PM’s Science, Technology, and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) recommended the creation of a National Consortium and a Working Group.
    • Purpose: Propose a comprehensive policy framework to strengthen the Indian deep tech startup ecosystem.
  • National Consortium Formation:
    • Chaired by the Principal Scientific Adviser, the National Consortium includes stakeholders from DPIIT, ISRO, DRDO, NITI Aayog, MeitY, and others.
  • Drafting Process:
    • Developed under the guidance of the National Consortium, the draft NDTSP has undergone an extensive multi-stakeholder consultative process.
Key Highlights in the Draft NDTSP:

Complementing Startup India Policies:

  • Complements and enhances existing Startup India policies, programs, and initiatives.
  • Focuses on fostering a conducive ecosystem for deep tech startups and addressing their unique challenges.

Policy Instruments and Changes:

  • Captures various new policy instruments and suggests necessary changes under the following themes:
    • Nurturing Research, Development & Innovation
    • Strengthening the Intellectual Property Regime
    • Facilitating Access to Funding
    • Enabling Shared Infrastructure and Resource Sharing
    • Creating Conducive Regulations, Standards, and Certifications
    • Attracting Human Resources & Initiating Capacity Building
    • Promoting Procurement & Adoption
    • Ensuring Policy & Program Interlinkages
    • Sustaining Deep Tech Startups

State of India’s Deep Tech Startups

  • At the end of 2021, India had more than 3,000 deep-tech start-ups that were exploring cutting-edge fields including artificial intelligence, machine learning (ML), the internet of things, big data, quantum computing, robotics, etc.
  • Deep-tech start-ups in India raised USD 2.7 billion in venture capital in 2021, and they now make up more than 12% of the nation’s overall startup ecosystem, according to NASSCOM.
  • India’s deep tech ecosystem has increased by 53% in the last ten years and is now comparable to that of established countries like the US, China, Israel, and Europe.
  • Deep-tech start-ups in India are primarily concentrated in Bengaluru (25-30%), followed by Mumbai (10–12%) and Delhi-NCR (15–20%).
  • Deep-tech start-ups are becoming more visible in a variety of industries, from sustainable energy and climate change to drone delivery and cold chain management.

Problems with Deep Technology

  • Obtaining money is one of the major problems for deep-tech firms. Only 20% of new businesses acquire funding.
  • Both domestic and government funding are underutilised for such enterprises.
  • Their main hurdles include access to people and markets, research advice, investors’ comprehension of deep technology, customer acquisition, and talent cost.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Supreme Court Justice BR Gavai has been nominated to serve as the Chairman of the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee (SCLSC).

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Supreme Court Legal Services Committee (SCLSC)
  2. Legal Services Authorities Act

Supreme Court Legal Services Committee (SCLSC):

Background:

  • The concept of a legal aid program was initially discussed in the 1950s.
  • In 1980, a national-level committee was formed under Justice PN Bhagwati’s chairmanship to monitor legal aid activities across India.

Legal Backing:

  • Constituted under Section 3A of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.

Aim:

  • Provide free and competent legal services to the weaker sections in cases falling under the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction.

Composition:

  • The Central Authority (National Legal Services Authority or NALSA) forms the committee.
  • It includes a sitting SC judge as the chairman and other members with prescribed experience and qualifications.
  • Appointment of the chairman, members, and Secretary is done by the Chief Justice of India (CJI).
  • The Committee can appoint officers and employees as per the Centre’s regulations, in consultation with the CJI.

Role of Centre:

  • Empowered by Section 27 of the 1987 Act to make rules, in consultation with the CJI, through notification, for the effective implementation of the Act.

Legal Services Authorities Act:

Aim:

  • Enacted in 1987 to establish a statutory foundation for legal aid programs.
  • Aims to provide free and competent legal services to eligible groups, including women, children, SC/ST and EWS categories, industrial workers, disabled persons, etc.

Constitution of NALSA (1995):

  • NALSA was constituted under the Act to monitor and evaluate legal aid program implementation.
  • It formulates policies, oversees a nationwide legal aid network, and disburses funds to State Legal Services Authorities (SLSA) and NGOs.
  • CJI serves as the patron-in-chief of NALSA.

Constitution of State Legal Services Authorities (SLSA):

  • In every state, SLSAs were established to implement NALSA’s policies, provide free legal services, and conduct Lok Adalats.
  • Headed by the Chief Justice of the respective High Court, with the senior HC judge as the Executive Chairman.
  • HC Chief Justice acts as the patron-in-chief of the SLSA.

District Legal Services Authorities (DLSAs):

  • Constituted to implement Legal Services Programmes in the district.
  • Chaired by the District Judge and located in the District Courts Complex.

Taluka or Sub-Divisional Legal Services Committees:

  • Headed by a senior civil judge.
  • Organize legal awareness camps, provide free legal services, and facilitate legal document procedures.

-Source: The Hindu



Context:

Leaders like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose are “immortal” and do not need bestowing of a recognition through a judicial diktat, the Supreme Court said recently.

Relevance:

GS III: History

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Subhas Chandra Bose’s early life
  2. Bose’s Disagreements with Gandhi
  3. The rift within the Congress
  4. A dramatic escape
  5. The INA and World War II

Subhas Chandra Bose’s early life

Parents:
  • Born to an upper-class Bengali family in 1897 in Cuttack, Subhas Chandra Bose was the ninth child of Janakinath and Prabhavati Bose.
  • A well-known lawyer, Janakinath sent his sons to an English-medium school where Bengali was not taught, so that they could learn perfect English which he considered essential for assimilating into English society.
  • Prabhavati, on the other hand, was a devout Hindu and observed Bengali Hindu customs and pujas which all her children had to attend.
Education:
  • In 1909, Subhas Chandra Bose moved to Ravenshaw Collegiate School, where he completed his secondary education.
  • Here, he was taught Bengali and Sanskrit, as well as the Vedas and Upanishads.
  • While he continued his European education throughout his life, he became less drawn to Anglicized ways than his family members during his schooling, and according to historian Leonard Gordon, “began to make his own synthesis of the cultures of the West and India”.
  • Influenced by the teachings of Ramakrishna and his disciple Swami Vivekananda, as well as the themes of Bengali novelist Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in his novel Ananda Math, Gordon notes that Subhas found what he was looking for: “his Motherland’s freedom and revival”
  • After school, he entered the Presidency College in Calcutta in 1913, where he studied philosophy.

Earliest battle with British:

  • His earliest battle with British authority occurred while he was a student, against Professor of History E F Oaten, who had once in class spoken about England’s civilizing mission in India.
  • The students felt insulted by his remarks and their anger later boiled over after a run-in with the teacher, leading him to be beaten with sandals by Bose and his friends.
  • Expelled for his actions, he resumed his studies at the Scottish Church College in Calcutta.

Bose’s Disagreements with Gandhi

  • Afterwards, Bose went to Cambridge University to prepare for the Indian Civil Services (ICS) exam in 1920.
  • But later, determined to join the struggle for India’s freedom, he abandoned the project and resigned from the ICS to join the Mahatma Gandhi-led national movement.
  • After reaching Bombay, now Mumbai, in 1921, he obtained an audience with Gandhi to get a better understanding of his plan of action.
  • While he had great respect for the Mahatma, Bose left the meeting dissatisfied with the answers he received.
About the ideological divide between the two leaders:
  • Gandhi was willing to wait a long time for Independence, Bose wanted immediate action, if not immediate results.
  • Gandhi was anti-materialistic and hostile to modern technology, Bose saw technology and mass production as essential to survival and dignity.
  • Gandhi wanted a decentralized society and disliked the modern state; Bose wanted a strong central government and saw the modern state as the only solution to India’s problems.
  • And finally, Bose did not share Gandhi’s dedication to non-violence.
  • Despite tensions between the two, Bose was well aware of the significance of a leader like Gandhi.
  • Bose was the first to call him the “father of the nation” during an address from the Azad Hind Radio from Singapore in July 1944.

The rift within the Congress

  • Over the next two decades, Bose devoted his life to the nationalist movement, gaining considerable political influence and becoming one of the most powerful leaders in the Congress party.
  • In 1938, he was elected Congress president in the Haripura session, where he tried to push for swaraj as a “National Demand” and opposed the idea of an Indian federation under British rule.
  • He stood for re-election in 1939 and defeated Dr Pattabhi Sitaramayya, the Gandhi-backed candidate.
  • Gandhi took this as a “personal defeat” and 12 of the 15 members of the Working Committee resigned from their roles. These included Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad.
  • Bose tried to set up another working committee, but after being unable to do so, was forced to resign and was replaced by Prasad.
  • Within a week, he proposed the creation of the “Forward Bloc” within the Congress Party, in order to bring the radical-left elements of the party together.
A dramatic escape
  • Bose was arrested in 1940 before he could launch a campaign to remove the monument dedicated to the victims of the Black Hole of Calcutta, an incident when a number of European soldiers died while imprisoned in 1756.
  • After going on a hunger strike, he was released from jail in December.
  • He soon began his escape from India, travelling by road, rail, air and foot in various disguises to avoid British surveillance.
  • He entered Soviet-controlled Kabul via the northwest of India and finally reached Nazi Germany, where he remained for two years.
  • He was provided assistance to defeat the British, and Bose was allowed to start the Azad Hind Radio and was provided with a few thousand Indian prisoners of war captured by Germany.
  • Bose soon turned his focus to South East Asia, specifically Singapore, a British stronghold that had been taken over by Japan.
  • However, leaving Europe at the peak of World War II was no easy task. In February 1943, he left Germany with his aide Abid Hasan in a submarine and travelled down the Atlantic Ocean, crossing the Cape of Good Hope in Africa before entering the Indian Ocean past Madagascar.
  • Here, Bose and Hasan were taken on a small rubber boat provided by the Japanese, before taking them to Sumatra and finally arriving in Tokyo by air, marking the end of a gruelling and dangerous 90-day journey.

The INA and World War II

  • The Indian National Army was formed in 1942, consisting of thousands of Indian prisoners of war captured by the Japanese, and supported by Japanese troops.
  • After his arrival in Singapore, Bose announced the formation of the provisional government of the Azad Hind in October 1943.
  • The headquarters of the provisional government was moved to Rangoon in January 1944, and after fighting at the Arakan Front, the INA crossed the Indo-Burma border and marched towards Imphal and Kohima in March.
  • The Chalo Delhi campaign ended at Imphal however, as the British and British Indian armies, along with American air support were able to defeat the Japanese forces and the INA and push them out of Kohima as well.
  • In April-May 1945, Bose, along with the INA soldiers as well as women he had recruited for the Rani of Jhansi regiment was forced to retreat on foot to Thailand, while facing incessant enemy fire.
  • After the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the war came to an end.
  • After the Japanese surrendered on August 16, Bose left South East Asia on a Japanese plane and headed toward China. The plane, however, crashed, leaving Bose badly burned, but still alive, according to historians.

-Source: Indian Express



Context:

Remote Bengal village began their New Year with workshop on ancient indigenous art i.e Sohrai Painting.

Relevance:

Facts for Prelims

About Sohrai Painting:

Indigenous Mural Art Form:

  • Sohrai Painting is an indigenous mural art form prevalent in India.
  • Originating from the Meso-chalcolithic period (9000-5000 BC), it has ancient roots.

Etymology:

  • The term ‘Sohrai’ is derived from ‘soro,’ meaning ‘to drive with a stick.’

Historical Significance:

  • Rock shelters, like the Isko rock shelter in Barkagaon, Hazaribagh, exhibit paintings similar to traditional Sohrai art from ancient times.

Themes and Creation:

  • Themes revolve around natural elements like forests, rivers, and animals.
  • Tribal (Adivasi) women create these paintings using natural substances such as charcoal, clay, or soil.
  • The earliest form appeared as cave paintings.

Geographical Practice:

  • Indigenous communities, particularly in Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, and West Bengal, practice Sohrai Painting.
  • Hazaribagh in Jharkhand holds a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for Sohrai art.

Community and Festivals:

  • Practiced by women from tribes like Kurmi, Santal, Munda, Oraon, Agaria, Ghatwal.
  • Known for vibrant colors, intricate patterns, and symbolic motifs.
  • The Sohrai festival, occurring annually, marks the harvest season and winter’s arrival.

-Source: The Hindu


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