Society related issues:
The jallikattu challenge(The Hindu Opinion)
What must the Supreme Court do when a community’s right to cultural freedom comes into conflict with values of animal welfare?
Tamil Nadu’s Amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (PCA Act)
- The amendment discharges the practice of Jallikattu, which it defines with a sloppy lack of precision as “an event involving bulls conducted with a view to follow tradition and culture”, from the various rigours of the PCA Act.
- The petitioners, including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, argue that the amending law violates a slew of fundamental rights.
Animal Rights in India
- Part III of the Constitution, which lists the various fundamental rights, provides to persons different manners of guarantees, including in Article 14 a right to equality, and in Article 21 a right to life. However, do not explicitly recognise animals as persons.
- Indeed, until now, the liberties contained in Part III have largely been understood as promises made to human beings, and, in appropriate cases, to associations of human beings, such as corporations, partnerships and other similar entities.
- As a result, when a movement for animal welfare in India was initially launched, it stemmed not through an argument predicated on rights, but through an effort founded on qualities of decency, on a belief that to inflict unnecessary pain on animals was morally unconscionable.
- Since the Constitution imposed no binding obligation on the state to protect animal welfare, it was left to campaigners to beseech Parliament into enacting a proper law for the purpose.
- In 1960 the Union government brought into force the PCA Act, which criminalised several different types of actions resulting in cruelty to animals.
- These include exceptions like the performance of experiments on animals aimed purportedly at advancing discovery of drugs and a wide and general concession for “killing any animal in a manner required by the religion of any community”
- The bull-taming spectacle Jallikattu, which is traditionally held during the Pongal period in southern States, violated many of the provisions of the PCA Act.
- Given that the subject of preventing animal cruelty falls in the concurrent list of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution, State governments possess an equal authority to determine what actions constitute cruelty to animals within their respective territories.
- It was on the basis of this power that the Tamil Nadu government legitimised Jallikattu, by amending the PCA Act, and by exempting the practice entirely from the statute’s demands.
Defending the Statute:
The State can put forward two arguments:
- the amendment serves to preserve native varieties of bulls
- The exemption in favour of Jallikattu furthers the Tamil people’s right to conserve their culture.
Court can do one of two things:
- The Court can hold that animals also possess a right to live with dignity, and, therefore, enjoy a right to life under Article 21.
- Or, it could hold that this right under Article 21 includes within its ambit a larger freedom to live in a society free of animal cruelty.
Rethinking trafficking(The Hindu Opinion)
- Last India protested against the release of a report, ‘Global estimates of modern slavery: forced labour and forced marriage’, a collaborative effort of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Walk Free Foundation, and the International Organisation for Migration.
Highlight of the report:
- The report estimated that there were 40.3 million “modern slaves” worldwide in 2016, with 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriages.
- It did not name countries, but the writing on the wall was clear as 17,000 interviews had been conducted in India, and 61.78% of the “modern slaves” were in Asia and the Pacific.
- The report forms the baseline for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 8.7 (eradicates forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and end child labour by 2025).
- Indian government is set to introduce the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2016, which exemplifies neoabolitionism.
- India has a complex patchwork of anti-trafficking laws, ranging from the Indian Penal Code and the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), 1986, to social welfare legislation on contract and bonded labour, and inter-state migrant work.
- In India, a combination of penal, labour and contract laws are used to impose obligations for better working conditions.
Definition of trafficking:
- The current definition of trafficking in Section 370 of the IPC is not limited to sex work.
- It pursues the classic raid-rescue-rehabilitation model, with stringent penalties for trafficking, including life imprisonment for its aggravated forms, reversals of burden of proof, and provisions for stripping traffickers of their assets.
What should India do?
- There should be a multi-faceted legal and economic strategy
- Robost implementation of labour laws
- Universal social protection floor
- Self organization of workers
- Improved labour inspection, including in the informal economy
- Corporate accountability for decent work conditions.
- Need for systemic reforms to counter distress migration
- End caste-based discrimination
- Enforce the rural employment guarantee legislation
- Avoid the indiscriminate rescue of voluntary sex workers
- Protect migrants’ mobility and rights.
Expanding horizons(The Hindu Opinion)
India’s ‘Look West’ Policy is evolving rapidly
- Trade and economic ties are becoming central to the India-UAE relationship.
- A landmark pact awarding a consortium of Indian oil companies a 10% stake in offshore oil concession will be the first Indian investment in the UAE’s upstream oil sector, transforming a traditional buyer-seller relationship into a long-term investor relationship with stakes in each other’s strategic sectors.
- A MoU aimed at institutionalising the collaborative administration of contractual employment of Indian workers has also been signed.
- There has also been growing convergence between the two countries on tackling terrorism.
India and Oman:
- China’s expanding footprint in the Indian Ocean Region has alerted India to the possibility of strengthening security ties with littoral states.
- India is likely to step up its military presence in Oman.
- Naval cooperation has already been gaining momentum with Muscat giving berthing rights to Indian naval vessels to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
- India and Oman have not only made military cooperation more expansive during P.M. Modi’s visit but also made an attempt to take the relationship to other domains: by enhancing cooperation in the field of health, tourism and peaceful uses of outer space.
- India’s engagement with West Asia should now focus on delivering on its commitments and strengthening its presence as an economic and security partner.
- This will be crucial as traditional powers such as the U.S. and Russia are jostling militarily, even as America’s stakes in the region decline by the day.
- India has been still stuck in the age-old debates of Israel-Arab rivalry, West Asia has moved on.
- Growing rivalry between the Sunni Arabs and Shia Iran has been reshaping old relationships and India will have to be more pragmatic in its approach towards the region
Recently, the External Affairs Ministry stated that India and Oman have agreed to isolate the sponsors of international terrorism.
- The declaration on battling terrorism came at the end of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Oman
- Both the countries acknowledged that there was an “inter-linkage” between the stability of the Gulf region and the Indian subcontinent.
- The two sides also emphasised the need to isolate the sponsors and supporters of terrorism and agreed that the international community should take urgent action against all such entities, which support terrorism and use it as an instrument of policy
Eight MoUs Signed:
- Agreement on legal and judicial cooperation in civil and commercial matters
- Agreement on mutual visa exemption of holders of diplomatic, special, service and official passports
- MoU on cooperation in the field of health
- MoU for cooperation on the peaceful uses of outer space
- MoU on cooperation between Foreign Service Institute, Indian Ministry of External Affairs and Oman Diplomatic Institute
- MoU on academic and scholarly cooperation between national Defence College, Sultanate of Oman and the Institute of Defence studies and Analyses
- MoU on the field of tourism cooperation between the two countries
- Annexure to the MoU on military cooperation
Strategic Oil Reserve
- Prime Minister Modi also informed Oman’s ruler about the strategic oil reserve that India plans to build and invited Oman to participate in the project.
- The Omani side briefed India about its own strategic oil reserve project in Ras Markaz near the port of Duqm.
Unending pain: On SBI’s Q3 loss(The Hindu Opinion)
- For the first time in almost 19 years, the State Bank of India reported a quarterly loss of ₹2,416 crore for the three months ended December, compared with a net profit of ₹2,610 crore in the year-earlier period.
- The loss was the result of both a massive increase in provisions to account for bad loans and a substantial amount of mark-to-market losses on its holding of government bonds.
- Provisions for non-performing assets (NPAs) more than doubled to about ₹17,760 crore, from about ₹7,200 crore in the third quarter of 2016-17.
- Private sector lenders have also been found guilty of pushing troubled assets under the carpet until the RBI called their bluff.
- According to a joint study by Assocham and Crisil, gross NPAs in the banking system are estimated to increase to ₹9.5 lakh crore by March 2018, from ₹8 lakh crore a year earlier.
- Recapitalization of public sector banks for reviving credit growth.
India records marginal increase in forest cover(The Hindu) Context:
According to the biennial India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017, India has recorded a marginal increase in forest cover.
Findings of the Survey:
- According to the Survey, India has about 7, 08,273 square kilometres of forest, which is 21.53% of the geographic area of the country (32, 87,569 sq. km).
- The category of ‘very dense forest’ saw a dramatic rise from 85,904 square kilometres to 98,158 square kilometres in 2017.
- However, the category of ‘moderately dense forest’ (40%-70%) saw a 7,056 square kilometre-decline from 2015.
- The survey has found that India’s bamboo bearing area rose by 1.73 million hectares (2011) to 15.69 million hectares (2017).
Note: Earlier this year, the government ceased to define bamboo as a tree to promote economic activity among tribals.
- 15 States and union territories have 33% of their geographical area under forests.
- Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala have topped the States that posted an increase in forest cover.
- Much of this increase can be attributed to plantation and conservation activities both within and outside the Recorded Forest areas as well as an improvement in interpretation of satellite data.
- However, in North-east India, forest cover has shown a decrease.
- In 2017, 65.34%, of the geographical area was under forest in the north-east- a 630 square kilometre decline from the 2015 survey.
About the Survey:
- The forest survey for the first time has mapped 633 districts
- It has relied on satellite mapping
Adapting better to climate change(The Hindu)
Various instances of failures of adaptation project highlight the need to address equity issues while considering and framing such projects.
What are adaptation projects?
The adaptation projects are efforts to help people live in a world where average global temperatures are rising
Failure of adaptation projects to address equity issues:
- A 2010 survey by James Ford and his colleagues of over 1,700 projects had concluded that adaptation projects were not helping the most vulnerable communities. The benefits were reaching those who had been assisted earlier.
- When several projects from the Global Adaptation Fund had been analysed, they were also found to fail to take into account unequal power structures.
- Study by Benjamin Sovocool and his colleagues:
- They had studied the power struggles among those competing for limited resources.
- For their study, they had developed a new framework involving four main themes to show that failures in adaptation projects fell under one or more of these categories.
- The first mode of failure is enclosure, which is when private agents acquire public assets or expand their authority over them.
- The second mode of failure is exclusion, which is associated with some stakeholders getting excluded or marginalised, thus limiting their access to decision-making processes.
- The third is encroachment, in which the adaptation actions undertaken during the project end up intervening in areas that are rich in biodiversity, thereby interfering with ecosystem services and often resulting in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions.
- The last is entrenchment, where the condition of those who are already disempowered or marginalised in the local social context, such as the poor, women or other minorities, worsens from the intervention.
- There are various examples of projects from both developing and advanced industrial countries that fail under these themes.
- Example: A desalination plant was constructed in Melbourne, Australia, by seizing valuable land from the Bunurong aboriginal community and turning it over to private actors
- An example of encroachment from Tanzania shows how marine protection areas that were set up to boost the resilience of coral reefs encroached on the lands of traditional fishing communities who then turned to energy-intensive farming which led to higher rates of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Politics and power struggles to control resources need to be acknowledged as being part and parcel of adaptation projects.
- Mechanisms to anticipate and deal with power struggles correctly should be incorporated in the adaptation projects well in advance.
- It should be accepted that elite networks will capture prized outcomes of projects, such as land, water or other resources and privileges. However, measures to prevent or mitigate their actions need to be identified.
Lessons for India:
In addition to vulnerabilities and costs, issues around equity, justice and social hierarchies must be equally considered while considering and designing climate change adaptation projects.