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Editorials/Opinions Analyses For UPSC 10 November 2021

Contents

  1. There are shades of equality: Treatment of Minorities
  2. Caught in the crossfire: On Indian fisherman’s death

There are shades of equality: Treatment of Minorities

Context:

Recently, the Supreme Court issued notice on an appeal of the Kerala government against a High Court order directing it to award the scholarships by the proportion of minorities in the overall population of the State.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Minorities, Government Policies and Interventions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Kerala Government’s appeal
  2. Justification
  3. Affirmative Action and Reasonable Accommodation
  4. Role of the Judiciary in Equalising Access
  5. Way Forward

About the Kerala Government’s appeal

  • The Kerala government passed an executive order in 2015 prescribing that minority communities will be entitled to scholarships.Of the scholarships, 80% were distributed to Muslim students.
  • In Justine Pallivathukkal v. State of Kerala (2021), the Kerala High Court set aside this order holding that all minorities must be treated alike.
  • The government argued that its policy was based on the findings of the Sachar Committee report and the Kerala Padana report on the disadvantages faced by Muslims.
  • It pointed out that Muslims were far behind Christians, Dalits and Adivasis in college enrolment, just as they are in employment and land ownership.

Justification

  • The different kinds of backwardness of a community must be considered while awarding scholarship schemes.
  • Any other scheme defeats the purpose of offering scholarships to students from minority communities.
  • The High Court prohibited an allocation sensitive to social realities by adopting a form of blind equality approach.
  • It is important, therefore, that the Supreme Court corrects the error of the High Court.
  • The High Court’s reasoning suggests that access to the benefits of affirmative action must follow an approach which is blind to the relative backwardness of different communities.

Affirmative Action and Reasonable Accommodation

  • The practice of awarding differential scholarships to minority students is considered affirmative action.
  • Affirmative Action and Reasonable Accommodation is the concept of treating students at separate levels so that they might receive assistance in catching up to those ahead of them.
  • The goal is to make it easier for students from these areas to study and to minimise inequities between them.
  • As a result, allocating a bigger percentage of scholarships to Muslims is warranted.

Role of the Judiciary in Equalising Access

  • By adopting a blind equality approach, the High Court barred an allocation that was responsive to socioeconomic conditions.
  • The rationale of the High Court argues that access to affirmative action benefits must be based on a method that ignores the relative backwardness of various populations.
  • This is contrary to the constitutional and reasonable notion of equality, which must take into account social differences.
  • As the Supreme Court rightly noted in B. K. Pavitra v. Union of India (2019), “For equality to be truly effective or substantive, the principle must recognise existing inequalities in society to overcome them.”
  • It’s critical that the Supreme Court corrects the High Court’s mistakes. This case will have far-reaching implications for constitutional law.

Way Forward

  • The different kinds of backwardness of a community must be considered while awarding scholarship schemes.
  • Any other scheme defeats the purpose of offering scholarships to students from minority communities.
  • The caste system is a manifestation of graduated inequality, according to one of Ambedkar’s big ideas.
  • Even while identifying impoverished castes or groups, we must keep in mind the many types of inequality and hierarchy that exist among them.
  • Once the recipients of affirmative action measures have been identified, we must treat everyone equally, regardless of any inequities or hierarchies that exist between them.

-Source: The Hindu


Caught in the crossfire: On Indian fisherman’s death

Context:

An Indian fisherman was killed in firing by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA) off the Gujarat coast.

Relevance:

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

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Indian Fishermen in Pakistan’s prisons
  2. Issues between India’s Fishermen in Pakistani waters
  1. What is Sir Creek dispute?
  2. Consequences of being fishermen being arrested
  3. Steps taken to resolve this issue

Indian Fishermen in Pakistan’s prisons

  • Hundreds of Indian fishermen have been languishing in Pakistan’s prisons for years with no end in sight. According to the National Fishworkers Forum, there are 558 Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails, and 74 from Pakistan in Indian prisons.
  • In 2007, both countries formed a joint judicial committee comprising eight retired judges to facilitate the exchange of civilian prisoners. The mechanism has been defunct since 2013, and attempts to revive it in 2018 did not bear fruit.
  • There are frequent conflicts over fishing rights along the International Maritime Boundary Line between India-Pakistan.
  • Consular access to those in prison is difficult.

Issues between India’s Fishermen in Pakistani waters

  • As fishermen do not get ample fish on the Gujarat side, they have no option but to go farther and farther out into the sea. 
  • As they fish in mid-sea, they end up in waters controlled by Pakistan and are arrested by Pakistani authorities for illegally entering into their territory.
  • The problem is aggravated by the dispute over the Sir Creek in Kutch and the failure to officially determine the maritime boundary between the two nations.

What is Sir Creek dispute?

  • Sir Creek is a 96 km (60 mi) tidal estuary in uninhabited marshlands of Indus river delta on the border of India and Pakistan
  • The Creek opens up in the Arabian Sea and roughly divides the Kutch region of Gujarat from the Sindh Province of Pakistan
  • It was originally named Ban Ganga, but was later renamed after a British representative
  • Sir Creek dispute between India & Pakistan lies in the interpretation of the maritime boundary line between Kutch and Sindh
  • India claims that the boundary lies mid-channel according to international law and the Thalweg principle, while Pakistan claims that the boundary lies to the east of the creek
  • Thalweg Principle states that river boundaries between two Countries may be divided by the mid-channel if the water-body is navigable

Consequences of being fishermen being arrested

  • Most of these are fishermen are those who unknowingly crossed the invisible line in the water between the countries.
  • When fishermen are arrested, their boats are also confiscated. Even if they are released, their livelihoods are vulnerable till they get back possession of their boats from the other country.
  • When men are imprisoned in the other country, women bear the brunt of the load, while somehow holding their families together.
  • There are many examples across villages where the children of the arrested fishermen have lost their childhoods.
  • The families are barely aware of the status of jailed fishermen and left to fend for themselves until they return, which leads to emotional distress.
  • On average, these arrested men would have spent one-and-a-half years in prisons. It has become an issue of survival for these arrested persons.

What would happen to the jailed fishermen?

  • In more friendly or less antagonistic circumstances, they would have been released after a formal procedure to check that they were really fishermen and not spies
  • However, during the times of tension, the value of their lives lies at the mercy of the authorities. They often languish for years in detention centers even after completing their imprisonment.

Steps taken to resolve this issue

  • The Indian government has undertaken a census of fishermen, preparing a database of information on fishermen and their boats to be used for more effective monitoring of fishing activities. 
  • The Indian Coast Guard has also begun installing tracking devices in fishing boats operating in the waters that has the ability to send out alerts disaster or when the boat is apprehended by another country

Committee

  • To address this issue, in 2008, India and Pakistan had formed a judicial committee consisting of four retired judges from each country.
  • The committee used to visit prisons of the other country specifically to meet the prisoners, examine consular access, status of their health condition, and so on. 
  • It unanimously suggested release and repatriation of fishermen and a few women prisoners.
  • The governments of both countries praised their work but did not implement the recommendations.
  • The last meeting was held in October 2013. Five years later, there was a move to revive the panel. India nominated its four members but Pakistan did not.

-Source: The Hindu

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