Society and women related issues:
Into priesthood: on training Dalits to become priests(The Hindu Opinion)
- Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), the independent trust which manages the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple at Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, had taken a unique decision to train Dalit and tribal youth in the procedures of performing temple rituals and practices.
- It is in this context we need to understand whether training Dalits to become priests would really break down caste hierarchy or create another layer of stratification
A Reformative and revolutionary Step:
- According to many, this is indeed a step towards smudging social boundaries
- According to many progressive Hindus, the programme represents an inclusive, perhaps disruptive, social engineering that could bring marginalised communities, previously barred from entering temples for fear of “impurity”, into the mainstream.
Does this really break caste hierarchy?
- According to the critics, this mode of training and appointing Dalits as priests would not change the basic structure of Hinduism or the doctrine of temple rituals
- It is an unintentional creation of another social layer or a “sanskritised class of purity”
- It further signifies that a Dalit gives up his cultural and religious past to embrace the Brahmin way of life.
- This reinforces the superiority of the Brahmin and further entrenches the lower castes in their religious, ritual, social lowness.
Supreme Court Judgement:
- The Supreme Court in 2015 held that caste and birth should not determine induction of priests in temples.
- Rather, domain knowledge, traditional codes of practice and the Constitution’s guarantee of equality before law should be applied.
Haryana Chief Minister, who had expressed anguish and concern over recent incidents of rape, had said that provisions of “harsher punishment for rape” were required in the state.
What has happened?
- The Haryana government has given its nod to a proposal to bring in a legislation that would have a provision awarding death penalty to those guilty of raping girls aged 12 years or less.
- It has also been decided to make the existing criminal laws related to sexual offences more stringent.
- The government has decided to amend legal provisions like section 376A (Intercourse by a man with his wife during separation), 376D (rape by one or more persons constituting a group), 354 (Assault or criminal force against woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 354 D (2) (stalking) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
What are the provisions approved?
- In case of rape or gang rape of a girl upto 12 years of age, there will be a punishment of death or rigorous imprisonment of not less than 14 years which may extend to imprisonment for life that is for remainder period of person’s natural life
376D A of the IPC
In case a girl upto 12 years of age is raped by one or more persons constituting a group, each of those persons shall be deemed to have committed the offence of rape and will be punished with death or rigorous imprisonment for a term which will not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life along with a fine
354 of the IPC
The punishment under section 354 of the IPC will not be less than two years (earlier not less than one year) but may extend upto seven years (earlier upto five years) and shall also liable to fine.
354D (2) of IPC
Whoever commits the offence or stalking will be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment for not less than three years, but which may extend to seven years (earlier up to five years)
Going grey: on Pakistan and the FATF watch list(The Hindu Editorial)
- The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that monitors countries on action taken against terror-financing and money-laundering has decided to place Pakistan back on its watch list, or “greylist”, from June, 2018.
Why the decision has been taken?
- The decision is both appropriate and overdue.
- The decision comes at the time of Pakistan’s blatant violation of its obligations to crack down on groups banned by the Security Council 1267 sanctions committee that monitors groups affiliated to the Taliban such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Haqqani network.
- Their leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar continue to hold public rallies and freely garner support and donations.
- In the process, both the LeT and JeM, which continue to praise and claim credit for terror attacks in India, have grown their bases in Pakistan, with fortress-like headquarters in Muridke and Bahawalpur.
- By doing this, successive Pakistani governments have jeopardised ties with India, and shown disregard for the outcry against terrorism worldwide.
- If greylisting comes as part of a concerted campaign to hold Pakistan accountable, and pressure is ratcheted up with financial strictures on its banks and businesses and targeted sanctions imposed against specific law enforcement and intelligence officials, it may bear fruit.
- Maldives has declined an invitation to join the MILAN series of multilateral exercises hosted by Indian in March at Andaman and Nicobar.
- The Indo- Pacific Maritime Dialogue recently organized by Indian Navy and the National Maritime Foundation jointly.
- MILAN is a congregation of littoral navies conducted biennially by Indian Navy under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar Command.
- It began in 1995 with participation of four countries.
- MILAN is scheduled to be held from March 6-11.
- This year 23 countries have been invited of which 16 have confirmed so far.
- Chief of Defence Staff of Sri Lanka Navy Adm R.C. Wijegunaratna that their leaders had assured India that Sri Lanka would not enter into any military alliances for the security of Hambabtota. It will be done by Sri Lanka armed forces and Navy.
- In December last year, Chinese companies took over Hambantota port on long term lease, raising concerns in India.
- Maldives Ambassador to India Ahmed Mohamed issued a statement that the country’s is unable to participate due to the state of emergency in Maldives.
- The Maldives and India enjoy a long history of excellent defence and military cooperation.
Cornered by the Quad?(The Hindu Opinion)
- The four Quad countries, Australia, India, Japan and the U.S., pushing back the China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and are working to establish a joint regional infrastructure scheme as an alternative to the same
- As a pet project of Chinese President Xi Jinping, the BRI is aimed at situating Beijing at the core of the global economy by building global transport links across the world.
- China with its BRI is providing a new economic template to the world, and it is important for those powers which view Beijing’s approach as top-down, opaque and self serving to pro-actively provide credible alternatives.
- The scale and scope of the Chinese economic footprint can only be tackled if the Quad nations combine forces.
- Unlike the military option, this is a softer side of the “Quad” engagement and its members are already undertaking connectivity projects around the world.
- India and Japan, for example, are working on an ambitious Asia-Africa Growth Corridor linking Southeast Asia to Africa.
Pushing back BRI:
- The biggest concern about the BRI is that it is a means of Chinese economic hegemony and, in the process, it challenges the foundations of the existing liberal economic order.
- While underlining their support for the need for global and regional connectivity in principle, the Quad members have been pushing back.
- India’s opposition has been the strongest partly because the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which is a part of the BRI, passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. India was the only major power which did not attend the BRI summit hosted by China last May.
- Japan has laid down specific conditions for its participation in the BRI even as it is looking to use its official development assistance to promote a broader “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” including “high-quality infrastructure”.
- Australia has challenged the principles which frame the BRI.
- Beijing has already expressed its unhappiness at the emergence of the “Quad” and will see moves to counter the BRI as an attempt to shift the balance of power in the wider Indo-Pacific.
- China’s worries will only increase as the combined might of these four powers is quite formidable.
U.S. President Donald Trump has criticised Indian tariffs again, mentioning the import duty on Harley-Davidson motorbikes for the third time in a year.
- President Trump has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called him up personally to tell him about cutting the tariffs as he had desired.
- However, The External Affairs Ministry has refused to comment or confirm Mr. Trump’s remarks.
- Mr. Trump’s contention that Mr. Modi had given him the information was more surprising as it indicated that the PM may have informed Mr. Trump on February 8 of the tariff cut, though the Finance Ministry (Department of Revenue) notified it only on February 12 (Notification No. 26/2018-Customs), which amended the earlier rate of 100%.
- President Trump’s statement is a clear indication of continuing tensions on trade issues.
Vietnam will take up South China Sea-related issues during the March 2-4 visit by President Tran Dai Quang
- Vietnam Ambassador has said that South China Sea-related issues will be discussed with India as the situation in South China Sea is complicated
- China’s claims over most of the South China Sea is a major issue between the two countries, and Vietnam has been one of the more vocal countries in the 10-member ASEAN grouping to find a solution to China’s expansionist policy in the South China Sea
- The ambassador however has assured that his country remained committed to maintaining cordial ties with Beijing.
- The envoy has also clarified that Vietnam had not yet firmed up its position on the One Belt, One Road initiative of China
‘Korean investments will be protected’(The Hindu)
- Assuring Korean firms that their investments in India would be protected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called upon Korean companies to invest more in India.
Bilateral trade between India and Korea:
- Korea ranks 16th in terms of FDI equity inflows to India.
- The bilateral trade between India and Korea crossed $20 billion in the year 2017, for the first time in six years.
- More than 500 Korean companies, including Samsung, LG and Hyundai, have operations in India.
- India offers a lot of potential for the Korean investors with its huge market and enabling policy environment.
- The government would undertake further reforms after improvement in tax compliance standards.
- Investors are assured by the government that they would undertake further reforms after improvement in tax compliance standards.
Indian Constitution and Polity:
The 1947 singularity(The Hindu Opinion)
- In the debates on India’s contemporary history, the meaning and significance of 1947 and of the framing of the Constitution have always been contested.
- Did the Constitution mark a moment of discontinuity with the colonial past, and a desire to transform Indian political and social structures?
- Was it simply a transfer of political power and a change of rulers, leaving underlying institutional arrangements intact?
Constitution as an “incremental development” of what existed:
- Two-thirds of the Constitution replicates the 1935 Government of India Act.
- Key enablers of colonial executive dominance such as the ordinance-making power and Emergency powers are still carried over.
- The Constitution expressly endorsed existing colonial laws.
- The laws of sedition, blasphemy and criminal defamation, Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, and far-reaching Emergency powers are based on similar logic: the colonial imperative of reducing citizens to subjects and placing their liberties at the mercy of centralised and unaccountable power.
- Central to this argument is the issue of suffrage (the right to vote in political elections).
- It is argued that in the thirty years before Independence, there had been a slow and incremental development of representative institutions in India.
Constitution as a “revolutionary” in the true sense:
- It has also been argued that the imagination and implementation of universal suffrage was not in any sense a “continuation”, or simply an “incremental development” of what existed before.
- Rather, it was revolutionary in the true sense of the word, a re-imagination of the social contract and the basic principles that underlay it.
- In at least four distinct ways, universal suffrage in independent India marked a decisive break from its colonial past.
- First, arithmetically: the franchise granted by the British regime in the 1919 and 1935 Government of India Acts was highly restricted, and at the highest (in 1935) no more than 10% of Indians could vote.
- Second, structurally: voting in British India took place under the regime of separate electorates, divided along class and economic lines.
- Third, the character of the electorate: voting entitlements were based on property and formal literacy-based qualifications, which reproduced existing social and economic hierarchies, and excluded the very people whose interests were most in need of “representation”.
- And fourth, voting was a gift of the colonial government, which could be granted or taken away at its will.
- Suffrage was a privilege accorded to a few Indians, and not a right that all Indians had to decide who would govern them.
- In early 2017, in a very significant judgment involving the executive’s ordinance-making powers, the Supreme Court expressly departed from colonial precedents on the subject, and placed important limits upon the scope of presidential ordinances.
- Thus, the court has an opportunity to affirm the words of one of its greatest civil rights judges, Justice Vivian Bose, who recognised the deeply transformative character of the Constitution.
Land Bill JPC hits a roadblock(The Hindu)
- A meeting of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Land Acquisition Bill was cancelled on Tuesday for lack of quorum as only six of the 31 members turned up.
- The Bill seeks to remove the consent clause for acquiring land for industrial corridors, public-private projects, rural infrastructure, affordable housing and defence.
- The six members who came for the meeting were Mr. O’Brien, B. Mahtab of the BJD and Chairman Ganesh Singh and three others from the BJP.
Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Bill:
- The JPC was set up in May 2015 after many political parties, even BJP allies, cane out against the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill, 2015.
No discrimination(The Hindu Opinion)
- Recently, Delhi high court has said that companies cannot deny health insurance to those suffering from genetic disorders.
- The verdict came on an insurance claim by one Jai Prakash Tayal against United India Insurance Company Limited. Tayal, who was suffering from hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, was suddenly denied his insurance claim on the ground that the said condition was genetic, and genetic diseases were not payable as per the policy.
- Most health insurance policies have a clause excluding “genetic disorders” as grounds for reimbursement, but the court said this blanket exemption covered several “speculatively genetic” conditions and gave “too much freedom and arbitrary power to the insurance companies to reject genuine claims”.
- It asked the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority to have a “re-look” at such exclusionary clauses and nudged lawmakers to amend the law, saying the right to health care was a fundamental right under Article 21 (life and liberty).
- “The exclusionary clause of ‘genetic disorders,’ in the insurance policy, is too broad, ambiguous and discriminatory — hence violative of Article 14 of the Constitution,” Justice Singh said.
- “In effect, it would mean that large swathes of population would be excluded from availing health insurance which could have a negative impact on the health of a country,” .
What is genetic disorder?
- A genetic disorder is a genetic problem caused by one or more abnormalities in the genome, especially a condition that is present from birth.
Health insurance in India suffers from lack of scale:
- Several studies have pointed out that health insurance in India suffers from lack of scale, covering only about 29% of the households surveyed under the National Family Health Survey-4, that too in a limited way.
- The health-care system also lacks regulation of costs.
- There is asymmetry of information, with the insured member unable to assess the real scope of the policy or negotiate the terms with the provider.
- India’s health insurance and hospital sectors closely follow the American pattern, and are in need of strong regulation.
- Necessary to define costs, curb frauds and empower patients.
- As the Delhi High Court has observed, exclusions cannot be unreasonable or based on a broad parameter such as genetic disposition or heritage.
- Insurance law has to be revisited to also ensure that there is a guaranteed renewal of policies, that age is no bar for entry, and pre-existing conditions are uniformly covered.
- Problems of exclusion will be eliminated if the payer-insurer is the state, the financing is done through public taxes, and coverage is universal.
- The short-term priority is to remove discriminatory clauses in policies and expand coverage to as many people as possible.
‘‘Rational tax system soon to boost EVs’(The Hindu)
- The government on Tuesday said it was trying to bring out an industry-friendly new National Automotive Policy as well as a rational system of taxation for promoting electric and hybrid vehicles.
Significance of this decision:
- The policy will help create a more ‘enabling’ environment for the sector besides providing stability that overseas investors seek.
What is electric vehicle?
- All electric vehicles run on electricity only. An electric vehicle uses one or more electric motors or traction motors for propulsion.
- An electric vehicle may be powered through a collector system by electricity from off-vehicle sources, or may be self-contained with a battery, solar panels or an electric generator to convert fuel to electricity.
- EVs include road and rail vehicles, surface and underwater vessels, and electric spacecraft.