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Current Affairs 22 December 2021 for UPSC Exam | Legacy IAS Academy

Contents

  1. India’s World Press Freedom Index rank: Centre Disagrees
  2. SC: Compassionate job not a vested right
  3. India’s Foreign Secretary to visit Myanmar outreach to military

India’s World Press Freedom Index rank: Centre Disagrees

Context:

The Centre with India’s low rank on the World Press Freedom Index prepared by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

The government claimed that the report was based on a small sample size and gave little or no importance to the “fundamentals of democracy”.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. World Press Freedom Index
  2. What the report said about India?
  3. Reservations held by India
  4. Why does India think that the Index is biased?

World Press Freedom Index

  • The World Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking of countries compiled and published by Reporters Without Borders since 2002.
  • It is based upon the organization’s own assessment of the countries’ press freedom records in the previous year.
  • It intends to reflect the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations, and netizens have in each country, and the efforts made by authorities to respect this freedom.
  • It is careful to note that the index only deals with press freedom and does not measure the quality of journalism in the countries it assesses, nor does it look at human rights violations in general.

India’s ranking

  • India is ranked at 142 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2021.
  • In the South Asian neighborhood, Nepal is at 106, Sri Lanka at 127, Myanmar (before the coup) at 140, Pakistan at 145 and Bangladesh at 152.
  • China is ranked 177, and is only above North Korea at 179 and Turkmenistan at 178.

What the report said about India?

  1. Targeting women: It has been highlighted that the “campaigns are particularly violent when the targets are women”.
  2. Criminal prosecutions: Often used to gag journalists critical of the authorities.
  3. Draconian laws: It termed various Indian laws such as – laws on ‘sedition,’ ‘state secrets’ and ‘national security’, draconian.
  4. Curb on freedom of expression: The report has also highlighted the throttling of freedom of expression on social media.
  5. Censorship on social media: It specifically mentioned that in India the “arbitrary nature of Twitter’s algorithms also resulted in brutal censorship”.

Reservations held by India

  • India along with many nations has reportedly disgusted the outcomes of this report. It stated that media in India enjoy absolute freedom.
  • The government does not subscribe to its views and country rankings and does not agree to the conclusions drawn by this organization for various reasons:
    • Non-transparent methodology
    • Very low sample size
    • Little or no weightage to fundamentals of democracy
    • Adoption of a methodology that is questionable and non-transparent
    • Lack of clear definition of press freedom, among others

Why does India think that the Index is biased?

  • The report is a subjective measure computed through the prism of western liberals.
  • It tends to default to a homogenous view of mass media which then facilitates comparison between countries.
  • There are no questions about media ownership or about their economic concentration in private hands.

-Source: The Hindu


SC: Compassionate job not a vested right

Context:

The Supreme Court has held in an order that compassionate employment is not a vested right.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Constitutional Provisions, Fundamental Rights)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is a compassionate job?
  2. What is the procedure for compassionate employment?
  3. Supreme Court’s observations

What is a compassionate job?

  • Compassionate Appointment is a social security scheme launched by the Government of India to grant appointment to a dependent family member on a compassionate basis when a government servant dies while in service or retires on medical grounds.
  • The Objective of the scheme is to provide immediate financial assistance to the family who is left in poverty and without any means to sustain their livelihood.

What is the procedure for compassionate employment?

  • The Welfare Officer in every Office/Department/Ministry shall meet the family of the government servant immediately after his death and assist them in getting a compassionate appointment.
    • First stage, the Applicant is called in person and asked to complete the required formalities.
    • Second Stage: A committee of 3 officers, 1 Chairman and 2 members of the rank of Director in the Ministry/Deputy Secretary considers the application for appointment on compassionate grounds in the light of instructions issued by the Department of Personnel and Training. If need be, the applicant is granted a personal hearing by the committee to understand better the facts of the case.
    • Last stage: The recommendation of the committee is to be placed before the competent authority for a decision. If the authority disagrees with the committee’s recommendation, then the case is referred to the next higher authority for a decision.
  • Also, the applicant i.e., the person appointed on compassionate grounds under the scheme should furnish an undertaking stating that she/he will maintain the other family members who were dependent on the income of the member of Armed forces/Government servant. The appointment of the applicant will be terminated if there is a failure to comply with the above condition.

Supreme Court’s observations

SC said that a compassionate employment scheme is not a matter of right but to help out the bereaved family overcome the financial crisis caused by the untimely death of a breadwinner while in service. So, while evaluating the claim for compassionate employment, authorities have the discretion to evaluate the financial condition of the family and decide accordingly.

-Source: The Hindu


India’s Foreign Secretary to visit Myanmar outreach to military

Context:

Indian Foreign Secretary is on a two-day visit to Myanmar and is scheduled to meet General Min Aung Hlaing, who toppled the elected government in February 2021 in a military coup.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbors, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Myanmar
  2. The story so far: Situation of chaos in Myanmar
  3. Form of government in Myanmar
  4. About India’s reaction to the Coup d’état
  5. About India’s outreach to Myanmar’s military-backed regime
  6. Reasons behind India’s moves

About Myanmar

Myanmar or Burma (officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar) is a country in Southeast Asia bordered by:

  • Bangladesh and India to its northwest,
  • China to its northeast,
  • Laos and Thailand to its east and southeast,
  • The Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal to its south and southwest.

Its capital city is Naypyidaw, and its largest city is Yangon (Rangoon).

  • Early civilisations in Myanmar included the Tibeto-Burman-speaking Pyu city-states in Upper Burma and the Mon kingdoms in Lower Burma.
  • Following the establishment of the Pagan Kingdom in the 1050s, the Burmese language, culture, and Theravada Buddhism slowly became dominant in the country.
  • The British East India Company seized control of the administration of Myanmar after three Anglo-Burmese Wars in the 19th century, and the country became a British colony.
  • After a brief Japanese occupation, Myanmar was reconquered by the Allies and granted independence in 1948.
  • Unlike most other former British colonies, it did not become a member of the Commonwealth.
  • Following a coup d’état in 1962, it became a military dictatorship under the Burma Socialist Programme Party.

The story so far: Situation of chaos in Myanmar

  • For most of its independent years, the country has been engrossed in rampant ethnic strife and its myriad ethnic groups have been involved in one of the world’s longest-running ongoing civil wars.
  • During this time, the United Nations and several other organisations have reported consistent and systematic human rights violations in the country.
  • In 2011, the military junta was officially dissolved following a 2010 general election, and a nominally civilian government was installed.
  • This, along with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and political prisoners, had improved the country’s human rights record and foreign relations and has led to the easing of trade and other economic sanctions.
  • There is, however, continuing criticism of the government’s treatment of ethnic minorities, its response to the ethnic insurgency, and religious clashes.
  • In the 2015 election, Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a majority in both houses – however, the Burmese military remained a powerful force in politics.

Form of government in Myanmar

  • In 1948, Burma achieved independence from Britain, and became a democracy based on the parliamentary system. A bicameral parliament was formed, consisting of a Chamber of Deputies and a Chamber of Nationalities.
  • The military succeeded in its coup d’état of 1962 and established a nominally socialist military government that sought to follow the “Burmese Way to Socialism”.
  • Myanmar’s army-drafted constitution was overwhelmingly approved in 2008, and the Multi-party elections in 2010 ended 5 decades of military rule in Myanmar.
  • The 2015 elections in Myanmar were the first openly contested elections held in Myanmar since 1990 – and this resulted in a resounding victory of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy raising hope for a successful political transition from a closely held military rule to a free democratic system.
  • Now, Myanmar operates de jure as a unitary assembly-independent republic under its 2008 constitution.
  • The president is the head of state and de jure head of government, and oversees the Cabinet of Myanmar.
  • The Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Defense Forces has the right to appoint 25% of the members in all legislative assembly which means that legislations cannot obtain super-majority without support from the Military. This prevents the democratically elected members from amending the 2008 Constitution of Myanmar.
  • Burma’s judicial system is limited. British-era laws and legal systems remain much intact, but there is no guarantee of a fair public trial.
  • In Burma, the judiciary is NOT independent of the executive branch.

About India’s reaction to the Coup d’état

  • India’s reaction is likely to be starkly different to India’s strong public criticism of the Junta’s actions in 1989-90.
  • One important reason for the change is that India’s security relationship with the Myanmar military has become extremely close, and it would be difficult to “burn bridges” with them given their assistance in securing the North East frontiers from insurgent groups.
  • Another reason for the change is Ms. Suu Kyi herself, whose image as a democracy icon and Nobel peace laureate has been damaged by her time in office, where she failed to push back the military, and even defended the army’s pogrom against Rohingyas in Rakhine State in 2015.
  • Officials also say a harsh reaction from India, on the lines of that from the United States which has threatened action against those responsible for the “coup” unless they revoke the military’s takeover, would only benefit China.
  • Apart from strategic concerns, India has cultivated several infrastructure and development projects with Myanmar, which it sees as the “gateway to the East” and ASEAN countries.
  • India still hopes to help resolve the issue of Rohingya refugees that fled to Bangladesh, while some still live in India, and will want to continue to engage the Myanmar government on that.
  • The choice between India’s democratic ideals, that it has expressed in Nepal and Maldives recently, and ‘Realpolitik’ (realpolitik is a system of politics or principles based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations), to keep its hold in Myanmar and avoid ceding space to China, will be the challenge ahead.

About India’s outreach to Myanmar’s military-backed regime

  • The Foreign Secretary’s December 2021 visit is being seen as an outreach to Myanmar’s military-backed regime after the military coup in Myanmar and a tacit acknowledgement of the coup in Myanmar.
  • The visit also underscores the balancing act that India is trying to maintain on upholding democratic values in the neighbourhood and also maintaining a working relationship with the military-backed regime in Myanmar.
  • While India has expressed strong apprehensions over the developments in Myanmar and the sentencing of former State Councillor and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to four years imprisonment, it has also avoided moves to antagonize the current regime in Myanmar.
  • Recently, India had abstained from endorsing a resolution that sought to prevent arms supplies to the Myanmar military and also appointed a new Ambassador to Myanmar as a sign to show that India has not “derecognised” the Myanmar government despite the coup.

Reasons behind India’s moves

  • India is expected to speak to the Tatmadaw (military) about India’s growing security concerns over insurgent groups based along the 1,600-km India-Myanmar border which have carried out attacks in recent months. Militants allegedly take refuge across the border after carrying out attacks in India.
  • India believes that it is necessary to engage with the new regime to strengthen and deepen democracy in Myanmar.
  • The visit is also an attempt to counter China’s influence in Myanmar, which could grow as the regime gets more isolated.
  • The stand being taken by India is in line with ASEAN policy on Myanmar which has been constant engagement with the military regime while pushing for democracy in the country. Hence this stand will help align India’s stand with that of ASEAN and this augurs well for India’s relationship with this critical regional grouping.

-Source: The Hindu

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