Social Justice : news and updates


  • India’s efforts to achieve SDGs

    Synopsis-  The idea for Sustainable development aims to maintain progressive development and at the same time retaining sustainability, catastrophe risk resilience, and community building at its heart. But, India’s efforts to achieve SDGs is commendable.

    Introduction
    • World Environment Day (WED) is celebrated on June 5, every year, to encourage awareness and environmental protection.
    • Also, one of the goals of the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development is to create a balance between sustainable development and environmental conservation.
    • The theme for WED 2021- Ecosystem Restoration
      • Focus on resetting nature –A global mission to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, from the top of mountains to the depth of the sea.
      • The theme for this year in India – Promotion of biofuels for a better environment’.
    • The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021 – 2030 was also launched 

    Also read: SDG India Index by NITI Aayog

    India’s efforts to achieve SDGs throughout the last seven years
    • Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban)
      • The movement focuses on achieving an open-defecation-free India, building solid waste management capacity and bringing about behavioural change.
      • By 2022, the mission is expected to have reduced GHG emissions 17.42 million tonnes of carbon
    • Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana
      • The mission is to ensure the objective basic infrastructure services relating to water supply and management, energy efficiency and increased green spaces have been part of the goal in 500 target cities.
      • By 2022, the mission is expected to have reduced GHG emissions by 48.52 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
    • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) 
      • The mission focused on new construction technologies that are innovative, environmentally friendly and disaster-resilient.
      • By 2022, the mission is expected to have reduced GHG emissions by 12 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
    • Smart Cities Mission
      • The mission is about the technological advancements of cities to improve governance, sustainability and disaster risk resilience.
      • The objective is to improve city administration, sustainability, and catastrophe risk resistance through technological improvements.
      • In urban areas, smart solutions are being adopted to increase energy efficiency and non-motorized transportation capacity.
      • By 2022, the mission is expected to have reduced GHG emissions by 4.93 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
    • Metro Neo, the mass rapid transit system for providing low-cost, energy-efficient and eco-friendly urban transport solutions for tier 2 and tier 3 cities.
      • The system is expected to mitigate around 21.58 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. GHG from 2015-2022.

    Read Also :-What is Net Zero Target?

    Technological democratization, sustainable infrastructure development, and behavioural change will help us preserve our environment, restore ecosystems and mitigate the risks posed by climate change in the coming decade. India’s efforts to achieve SDGs will aid India in mitigating Climate change.

    Source- The Indian Express

  • SDG India Index and India’s Sustainable development – Explained, pointwise
    Introduction

    Recently the NITI Aayog has released SDG India Index 2020-21. In that, India’s overall SDG score improved by 6 points — from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2020-21. Areas such as Industry, innovation and infrastructure showed a considerable decline in the current index. The report also points out socioeconomic and governance gaps in India.

    India’s progress in SDGs is crucial for the world as India is home to about 17% of the world population. With the advent of the global Pandemic, India might face a huge challenge in fulfilling its sustainable development goals.

    Sustainable Development Goals and SDG India Index
    • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in September 2015 as a part of the resolution, ‘Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. India is committed to achieving the 17 SDGs and the 169 associated targets. These comprehensively cover social, economic and environmental dimensions of development and focus on ending poverty and hunger in all its forms and dimensions.
    • At the Central level, NITI Aayog has been assigned the role of overseeing the implementation of SDGs in the country.
    • Under this mandate, the SDG India Index was launched in 2018 by NITI Aayog in collaboration with the United Nations.
    • The SDG India Index acts as a bridge between India’s SDG Progress and aligning India’s SDG with the global SDGs.
    About the SDG India Index
    • Aim: As the States, progress will determine India’s progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The index aims to instil competition among States to improve their performance across social indices.
    • Indicators Covered: The third edition of the index covered 16 SDG Goals on 115 quantitative indicators.
      • In 2018, around 13 SDG goals with 62 indicators were covered.
    • Scoring: A composite score for SDG Index is computed in the range of 0–100 for each State/UT based on its aggregate performance across 16 SDGs.
      • The higher the score of a State/UT, the closer it is towards achieving the 2030 national targets.
    • Classification: States/UTs are classified based on the SDG India Index Score as follows:
      • Aspirant: 0–49
      • Performer: 50–64
      • Front Runner: 65–99
      • Achiever: 100
    Key Findings of the SDG India Index 2020-21
    • India’s overall SDG score improved by 6 points — from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2020-21.
      • This is due to improvement in providing facilities including clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy among others.
    • Categories: Currently, there are no states in the aspirant and achiever category. Around 15 states/UTs are in the performer category and 22 states/UTs in the front runner category.

    SDG India Index 2020-21

    Source: The Hindu

    • States:
      • Kerala has topped the index with a score of 75.
      • It was followed by Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu with a score of 74.
    • UTs: Chandigarh maintained its top spot among the UTs with a score of 79, followed by Delhi (68).
    • Areas showed improvements in the index: Following categories of SDGs showed developments in many States and Union Territories,
      • Abolition of poverty and hunger
      • Steps related to the availability of affordable, clean energy. The campaign to improve the access of households to electricity and clean cooking fuel has been an important factor in this regard.
    • Areas showed a decline in the index: The Index also mentions the following areas as worse due to the lockdowns imposed by the governments.
      • Industry, innovation and infrastructure
    • Inter-state inequality: There was a stark difference between the southern- western States and the north-central and eastern States in their performance on the SDGs. This points to socioeconomic and governance gaps. This will result in federal challenges if left unaddressed
    Significance of SDG India Index
    • The index tracks the progress of all states and UTs on 115 indicators aligned with the National Indicator Framework (NIF) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
    • The SDG India Index will also help in highlighting the crucial gaps related to tracking SDGs.
    • Further, the index will aid India to develop its statistical systems at the National & State/UT levels. This shall lead to the index evolving and becoming more comprehensive over the coming years.
    Methodological changes and their impacts on SDG India Index 2020-21

    The Index has made the following methodological changes:

    • Change in indicators: The 2020-21 Index drops several economic indicators, like:
      • Gini Coefficient: This year the index dropped the well-recognized Gini coefficient.
      • The index did not use the growth rate for household expenses per capita among 40% of rural and urban populations (instead, only the percentage of the population in the lowest two wealth quintiles is used)
        • Impact: Dropping of these indicators means that the SDG score on inequality may have missed out on assessing the impact of the pandemic on wealth inequality.
    • Greater weightage to certain indicators: The index gives greater weightage to social equality indicators such as the representation of women and people from marginalized communities in legislatures and local governance institutions, and crimes against SC/ST communities
    • The increasing indicators might lead to confusion: The number of quantitative indicators used in the index is getting increased every year. In 2018, the index used 62 indicators. But this year index used 115 quantitative indicators.
    Challenges in achieving Sustainable development in India

    There are few major challenges that hinder India from achieving SDGs. They are,

    1. Financing Sustainable Development Goals: A new study estimates that implementing SDGs in India by 2030 will cost around US$14.4 billion. According to the available statistics, India has only 5% of the required funding to implement SDGs. Further, India’s budgetary spending is also less in essential sectors. India spends around 1.5% on health and around 4% on education. This is far below the required levels to see improvement
    2. High growth and redistribution of wealth alone is not enough to achieve SDG. For example, According to the United Nations MDG 2014 report, despite high economic growth, in 2010, one-third of the world’s 1.2 billion extreme poor lived in India alone.
    3. Resource consumption and behavioural change: Achieving SDGs also require behavioural change among individual. For example, using water effectively, reducing food wastage and sharing the remaining food with others, etc.
    4. Increasing population: The United Nations estimates that India’s population will reach 1.7 billion by 2050. In that case, the country is likely to face a widening ecological deficit even if its current per-capita levels of resource consumption remain the same.
    5. Pandemic induced impacts: Many research studies have pointed out that India’s progress in essential sectors was reduced during the pandemic. For example, Oxfam International released a report that highlighted increasing inequalities in India during the time of the Covid pandemic.
    Suggestions to improve SDG India index and India’s performance towards SDGs
    1. Changes required in the Index: The index has to include the well known necessary indicators such as GINI coefficient, etc.
      • Simplification of the Index: Instead of counting too many indicators, India can try recognition of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is simple and can demand reforms in governance and create more accountability. 
    2. Infusing behavioural change and reducing resource consumption: This is one of the important intervention the government need to do. Like Swachh Bharat Mission, India needs to launch mission mode programs to infuse behavioural change among the population. This will reduce the ecological exploitation of resources.
    3. Increasing adequate budgetary spending: The government has to increase the spending on health and education to an adequate level.
    Conclusion

    Indian states need to improve their performance in the SDG India index by addressing persistent issues such as increased inequality, reducing poverty and hunger, improving the environment, etc. Similarly, NITI Aayog also has to make certain changes for transforming the index simple and reliable. If this is done, then Indian States/UTs will improve not only in SDG India Index but on the global parameters also.

  • Issues with NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index 2020-21

    Synopsis: Although India has a better score in the latest SDG India Index 2020-21, some procedural changes in the methodology have resulted in an inadequate measurement of economic inequality. 

    Introduction 

    NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index 2020- 21 was released recently. India has improved its overall SDG score from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2021. This is being credited to the efforts put in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to clean energy, urban development and health.

    Major findings of the NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index 2020-21

    • Areas showed improvements in the index: Following categories of SDGs showed developments in many States and Union Territories,
      • Abolition of poverty and hunger
      • Steps related to the availability of affordable, clean energy. The campaign to improve the access of households to electricity and clean cooking fuel has been an important factor in this regard.
    • Areas showed a decline in the index: The Index also mentions the following areas as worse due to the lockdowns imposed by the governments.
      • Industry, innovation and infrastructure
    • Inter-state inequality: There was a stark difference between the southern- western States and the north-central and eastern States in their performance on the SDGs. This points to socioeconomic and governance gaps. This will result in federal challenges if left unaddressed. 

    Read Also :-What is social impact assessment (SIA)?

    Methodological changes and their impacts on SDG India Index 2020-21

    The Index has made the following methodological changes:

    • Change in indicators: The 2020-21 Index drops several economic indicators, like:
      • Gini Coefficient: This year the index dropped the well-recognized Gini coefficient.
      • The index did not use the growth rate for household expenses per capita among 40% of rural and urban populations (instead, only the percentage of the population in the lowest two wealth quintiles is used)
        • Impact: Dropping of these indicators means that the SDG score on inequality may have missed out on assessing the impact of the pandemic on wealth inequality.
    • Greater weightage to certain indicators: The index gives greater weightage to social equality indicators such as the representation of women and people from marginalized communities in legislatures and local governance institutions, and crimes against SC/ST communities

     Read Also:NITI Aayog’s “Governing Council” reconstituted

    Conclusion 

    The second wave of the pandemic had similar outcomes on livelihoods and jobs. A better score for India to achieve SDGs will bring some optimism. However, governments must work on addressing persistent issues such as increased inequality and economic gloom.

    Source: click here

  • NITI Aayog releases “SDG India Index 2020-21”

    What is the News?

    NITI Aayog has released the SDG India Index 2020-21. It is the 3rd edition of SDG India Index.

    Key Findings of the SDG India Index 2020-21:
    • India’s overall SDG score improved by 6 points — from 60 in 2019 to 66 in 2020-21.
      • This is due to improvement in providing facilities including clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy among others.
    • Categories: Currently, there are no states in the aspirant and achiever category. Around 15 states/UTs are in the performer category and 22 states/UTs in the front runner category.
    • States:
      • Kerala has topped the index with a score of 75.
      • It was followed by Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu with a score of 74.
      • Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam were the worst-performing states in the SDG India index.
    • UTs: Chandigarh maintained its top spot among the UTs with a score of 79, followed by Delhi (68).
    • Top Gainers: Mizoram, Haryana and Uttarakhand are the top gainers in 2020-21 in terms of improvement in score from 2019.
    About SDG India Index:
    • The SDG India Index was launched in 2018 by NITI Aayog. It was developed in collaboration with the United Nations.
    • Aim: As the States, progress will determine India’s progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The index aims to instil competition among States to improve their performance across social indices.
    • Indicators Covered: The third edition of the index covered 16 SDG Goals on 115 quantitative indicators.
      • In 2018, around 13 SDG goals with 62 indicators were covered.
    How are states ranked & classified?
    • Scoring: A composite score for SDG Index is computed in the range of 0–100 for each State/UT based on its aggregate performance across 16 SDGs.
      • The higher the score of a State/UT, the closer it is towards achieving the 2030 national targets.
    • Classification: States/UTs are classified based on the SDG India Index Score as follows:
      • Aspirant: 0–49
      • Performer: 50–64
      • Front Runner: 65–99
      • Achiever: 100
    Significance of the index:
    • The index tracks the progress of all states and UTs on 115 indicators aligned with the National Indicator Framework (NIF) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
    • It evaluates the progress of states and Union Territories(UTs) on various parameters including health, education, gender, economic growth, institutions, climate change and environment.
    • The index helps in identifying crucial gaps related to tracking the SDGs and the need for India to develop its statistical systems.

    Source: Indian Express

  • The Case of Caste-Based Violence against Women

    Synopsis:

    The Supreme Court convicted the accused of rape under Section 376 of IPC (Indian Penal Code) in the recent Patan Jamal Vali v. State of Andhra Pradesh case. However, the conviction under the Prevention of Atrocities Act (PoA) was set aside. It shows insensitivity towards the recognition of caste-based violence against women in India.

    Background:
    • In Patan Jamal Vali v. State of Andhra Pradesh case, the trial court and the High Court had sentenced the accused to life imprisonment. He was found guilty of rape under Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under Section 3(2)(v) of the PoA Act.
      • Both of them viewed a connection between the caste, gender, and disability of the woman as she was a 22-year-old blind Dalit woman.
    • However, the Supreme Court diverted from this view. It found the accused guilty of rape under section 376 but not under Section 3(2)(v) of the PoA Act.
    About SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 or PoA Act:

    • It was enacted to protect the marginalized communities against discrimination and atrocities.
    • It was amended in 2015 to specifically recognise more atrocities against Dalit and Adivasi women including sexual assault, Devadasi dedication, etc.
    • Section 3(2)(v) imposes a punishment of life imprisonment on a non-SC/ST person who has committed an offense under IPC on SC/ST person. However,
      • The offense should have a minimum punishment of 10 years and 
      • It should be committed against the victim on the ground that such a person is from an SC/ST community.
    • The section was amended in 2015, to change the phrase “on the ground that such a person is a member of SC/ST” to “knowing that such person is a member of SC/ST”.
    Analyzing the judgment:

    Positive Aspect:

    • It recognised the intersectional discrimination faced by women on the grounds of sex, caste, and disability. This recognition would help the judges to take into account the multiple marginalities that the victim faced. 
      • Intersectional discrimination arises when the identity of a woman intersects with her caste, religion, disability, and sexual orientation. Due to this, she may face violence and discrimination on two or more grounds.
    • The court also laid down directions to train judges, the police, and prosecutors to be sensitized in such cases.
    Negative Aspect:
    • It set aside the conviction under the PoA Act like many other previous judgments of the Supreme Court.
      • In Asharfi v. State of Uttar Pradesh (2017), the court held that the evidence and materials on record did not show that the appellant had committed rape on the ground that the victim was a member of an SC community.
      • In Khuman Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh (2019), the court affirmed the fact that the victim was a member of an SC community. However, there was no evidence to show that the offense was committed only on that ground and hence the conviction was set aside.
    • The court in the current case stated that there was no evidence to establish whether it was caste, gender, or disability that led to the commission of the offence. Hence, it acquitted the accused under the PoA Act.
    Why was Conviction under the PoA Act desired?
    • First, the repeated setting aside of convictions under the PoA Act strengthens the allegations that the law is misused by marginalised sections.
    • Second, the high acquittal rate motivates the dominant communities for continuing atrocities on the SC/ST community. As seen in the recent Hathras rape case, 2020.

    Concludingly, we can say that the judgment was a missed opportunity for the court to use intersectionality to uphold the conviction under the PoA Act. Further, it should have at least referred the matter to a larger bench in order to attain clarity over the critical elements that determine conviction under PoA Act.

    Source: TheHindu

  • Government launches “CBID Program” on Rehabilitation of Divyangjan
    What is the News?

    The Union Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment has virtually launched a 6-month CBID (Community Based Inclusive Development) Program on rehabilitation of Divyangjan(Persons with Disabilities).

    About CBID (Community Based Inclusive Development) programme:
    • Firstly, the programme has been co-designed by the Rehabilitation Council of India and the University of Melbourne.
    • Secondly, the programme aims to create a pool of Grassroot rehabilitation workers at the community level. These workers will be trained for successfully discharging their duties.
    • Thirdly, after training, the workers can then work alongside the ASHA and Anganwadi workers. They can handle cross-disability issues and facilitate the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society. The workers will be called ‘Divyang Mitra’ i.e. friends of persons with disabilities.
    • Fourthly, Nodal Body: National Board of Examination in Rehabilitation under the Rehabilitation Council of India will conduct examinations. The board will also award certificates to pass-out candidates.
     About Rehabilitation Council of India(RCI):
    • RCI was initially set up as a registered society in 1986. In 1992, the Rehabilitation Council of India Act was enacted by Parliament, and it became a Statutory Body in 1993.
    • Mandate:
      • To develop, standardize and regulate training programmes/ courses at various levels in the field of Rehabilitation and Special Education.
      • To maintain the Central Rehabilitation Register for qualified Professionals/ Personnel and promote Research in Special Education.
      • It will also take punitive action against unqualified persons delivering services to persons with disability.

    Source: PIB

  • Expansion of Social Security Net is Need of the Hour
    Synopsis:

    The pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have hurt the poor on multiple fronts of healthcare, livelihood, and hunger. Both urban and rural regions are facing difficulties, however, miseries in rural regions were less due to wide coverage of social security net. This calls for expanding social security nets across the country.

    Background:
    • The April 2020 lockdown brought immense misery for the people of India. It’s been almost a year and masses have now learned to adapt to the new normal.
    • Nonetheless, the situation for the poor has been worse as they were hit on multiple fronts including healthcare, livelihood and hunger.
    Dismal State of Affairs:
    • The State of Working India report 2021 shows that nearly half of formal salaried workers moved into informal work between late 2019 and late 2020. Further, the poorest 20% of the households lost their entire income in April and May 2020.
    • Greater Hardships for Urban Regions: Hunger Watch (HW) Survey 2021 was conducted in 11 States in October 2020. It found that:
      • In October, 26% had no income in rural areas while 30% had no income in urban areas.
      • While 54% in urban areas had to borrow money for food, it was 16% lower for rural respondents. 
      • Urban respondents were 15 percentage points worse off compared to their rural counterparts across 13 key parameters.
    • Disproportionate impact on Vulnerable sections: As per HW survey, the situation is worse when data is observed in terms of caste, religion, and other special forms of vulnerability.
      • For instance, 60% of Muslims, 51% of Dalits, and 56% of single women-headed households went to bed without a meal at least once. 

    However, some form of relief was provided by social security nets during these turbulent times.

    Relief provided:
    • National Food Security Act: Under this, 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population are entitled to 5 kg of foodgrains each month at subsidised prices.
      • The government announced additional grains for the poor under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana.
      • Further, an additional entitlement of 5 kg of foodgrains per individual and 1 kg of pulses per household for free was available. Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) cardholders under the NFSA, were eligible for this benefit.
    • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA): It guarantees 100 days of work a year to every rural household with an aim to enhance the livelihood security of people.
      • There was a 47% increase in person-days of work under MGNREGA in 2020-21 in comparison to 2019-20. Further, a record 72 lakh households completed 100 days of work in one year.
    Reasons behind less distress for Rural areas:
    • First, employment guarantee schemes like MGNREGA are not available for urban regions.
    • Second, the coverage of rural regions is more under NFSA in comparison to urban areas i.e. 75% versus 50%.
    • Third, the availability of ration cards was higher in rural regions than urban areas. Around 56% of respondents had NFSA cards in rural regions while only 27% had them in urban areas.  
    Way Forward:
    • The Central government must immediately expand the coverage and quantity under the NFSA for at least one year.
    • It should increase MGNREGA entitlements to 200 days per household from the current 100 days commitment. 
      • States like Odisha and Himachal Pradesh have already added 50 days and increased it to 150 days in a year. 
    • A guaranteed urban employment programme on the lines of MGNREGA can provide protection to the urban poor.
    • Further, the government must offer a wage compensation of Rs. 7,000 per poor household for the next few months.

    In a nutshell, we need to expand the social security net in order to meet basic requirements of at least 33 crore poor households in India.

    Source: The Hindu

    India’s “New Covid-19 vaccine policy”

  • Puducherry becomes ‘Har Ghar Jal’ UT under “Jal Jeevan Mission”
    What is the News?

    Puducherry has become the ‘Har Ghar Jal’ Union Territory by ensuring that every rural home gets a household tap connection.

    Note: Puducherry has become the fourth state or UT after Goa, Telangana and Andaman and Nicobar Islands to provide assured tap water supply to every rural home under Jal Jeevan Mission(JJM).

    About Jal Jeevan Mission(JJM):
    • Jal Jeevan Mission(JJM) was launched by the Ministry of Jal Shakti in 2019.
    • Objective: The aim is to provide safe and adequate drinking water through individual household tap connections by 2024 to all households in rural India.
    • The goal of the mission: The goal is to have ‘Har Ghar Jal’- every house in the village is to be provided with a Functional tap connection.
    Fund Sharing Pattern under the mission:
    • The fund sharing pattern between Center and State under the mission is as follow:
      • 90:10 for Himalayan (Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh) and North-Eastern States
      • Total fund for UTs will be provided by Center.
      • 50:50 for the rest of the States.
     Key Features of the mission:
    • Firstly, the mission is a decentralized, demand-driven and community-managed programme. The Gram Panchayat will play a key role in planning and implementation.
    • Secondly, the mission includes extensive Information, Education and communication as a key component of the mission.
    • Thirdly, the mission will also implement source sustainability measures as mandatory elements. This includes measures such as recharge and reuse through greywater management, water conservation, rainwater harvesting.
    • Further, States will give priority to
      • Water quality-affected areas,
      • Villages in drought-prone and desert areas,
      • Scheduled caste/scheduled tribe majority villages,
      • Aspirational districts and Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana villages.

    Source: PIB

  • What is Social Murder and How to Ensure Accountability in Patrimonial state?

    Synopsis: The lack of political attention to social determinants and inequities that exacerbate the pandemic in India is a classic case of ‘Social Murder.

    What is Social Murder?
    • Friedrich Engels, used this phrase to describe the death of the worker population in England during the Industrial revolution era.
    • Lack of access to basic necessities of life along with poor working and living conditions for the workers resulted in ill health and early deaths. Engels calls this social murder.
    • It is the same as murder by an individual. The only difference is that death appears to be a “natural one”.
    • Similarly, according to the author, the inability to make the state accountable for the loss of lives in the Pandemic is social murder.
    • A classic case of social murder is the reverse migration of millions of inter-State migrant labor walking thousands of kilometers.
    What fosters the conditions for social murder?

    The state’s neglect of its responsibility towards its citizens will perpetuate conditions for social murder. For instance,

    • Holding elections in Bengal by the Election Commission of India,
    • The Uttarakhand Chief Minister justifying the Kumbh mela.
    • The inability of the State to Provide oxygen supply for Covid-19 Patients.
    • Prohibition on media to telecast Cremation grounds.
    What is the relation between Patrimonial state, accountability, Social murder?
    1. A patrimonial state according to Max Weber, is a state in which the ruler exercises a traditional form of authority in contrast to a rule-based authority.
    2. Here, the centralised rule is based on an ideology of religious majoritarianism as well as nationalism. It further gets legitimization by the election wins.
    3. The patrimonial State is benevolent towards its subjects. The author views India currently as a Patrimonial state.
    4. But, the fundamental problem in patrimonialism is ensuring accountability of the government.
      1. For instance, recently, the Swedish Prime Minister was subjected to questioning by a constitutional committee on COVID-19 handling.
      2. Whereas, in India, there is no mechanism for ensuring critical scrutiny on the government decisions that led to the current crisis.
    5. Also, there is no accountability mechanism when the state moves away from its benevolence posture. For instance, shifting the responsibility of procuring oxygen cylinders or arranging ambulances on citizens. Also, The Uttar Pradesh government charging people with First Information Reports (FIRs) for requesting oxygen.
    6. All these acts of the state that are undemocratic cannot be made accountable in a Patrimonial state as the Citizens are seen as a subject of the state.
    7. Further, the prejudice, preconceived opinions cultivated by the ruling class to hold power is sanctioning social murder by turning the citizen blind to social realities.

    Unless people become citizens and not subjects under patrimonial rule, the pandemic will pose a threat to Indian democracy as well.

    Source: The Hindu

  • Significance of Universal Social Welfare – Explained, Pointwise
    Introduction

    The Covid-19 pandemic struck India in 2020. It brutally impacted the lives of the Indian masses especially the marginalized community. Despite having multiple social welfare schemes, the country failed to provide adequate social welfare services to the marginalized during the pandemic. Thus, Universal Social Welfare is the need of the hour.

    This pandemic, along with the failure of services, led India into a series of crises; such as 1) mass inter and intra-migration, 2) food insecurity, and 3)failure of health infrastructure. At the end of the year, the impact started reducing and the economy started improving. However, after a brief respite, the 2nd Covid-19 wave struck India. This wave is impacting even the middle and upper-class citizens.

    The given situation has presented an opportunity to focus on Universal Social Welfare (USW). India should take prudent steps in this direction by overcoming the concerning impediments as USW would generate better results than the current scenario.

    About Universal Social Welfare/Social Security
    • According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Social Security is a comprehensive approach with an aim: 
      • To prevent deprivation, 
      • To give assurance to the individual of a basic minimum income for himself and his dependents, 
      • Also, to protect the individual from any uncertainty.
    • Social welfare systems provide assistance to individuals and families through programs; such as health care, food stamps, unemployment compensation, housing assistance, etc.
    • Giving such protection to every individual in the country is called Universal Social Welfare.
    Schemes and Initiatives for Social Welfare in India
    • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA): It guarantees 100 days of work a year to every rural household with an aim to enhance the livelihood security of people.
    • National Social Assistance Programme (NSAP): The program extends social assistance to poor households. It covers the aged, widows, disabled, and families where the breadwinner has passed away.
    • Integrated Child Development Services: It is a government program in India that provides food, preschool education, primary healthcare, cash transfers to families, etc. It covers children under 6 years of age and their mothers.
    • Ayushman Bharat – Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY): It provides insurance up to Rs 5 lakh per family per year for in-patient secondary and tertiary treatment. It covers over 100 million vulnerable families, which is about 500 million people.
    Need of Universal Social Welfare
    • Vulnerability of masses: The pandemic has enhanced the vulnerability of masses as:
      • It has pushed an estimated 75 million people into poverty.
      • The second wave has shown even money is not enough to access health care services. It has brought even the middle and upper-class citizens to their knees.
      • Thus, focus just on the lower section of society is not sufficient. Now, even the middle class is in the need of government assistance.
    • Poor performance of Social Welfare schemes: The country has over 500 direct benefit transfer schemes. However, many schemes weren’t able to get desired benefits during the pandemic.
      • The schemes are fractionalised across various departments and sub-schemes. This causes problems in every stage from data collection to last-mile delivery.
      • Further, Pandemic necessitates a program that can provide assistance at a very fast pace. It should be provided before people start suffering from starvation and hunger.
    • Better results: India’s Pulse Polio Universal Immunisation Program helped it to become polio-free in 2014. This shows the country has the potential to run universal programs and achieve better results.
    • Nature of Indian workforce: More than 90% of the workforce is in the unorganized sector thereby depriving them of job security, labour rights, and post-retirement provisions.
      • Further, with the advancement of big data, artificial intelligence, and other new technologies; experts fear greater job losses in the country.  
    • Avoiding Inclusion/Exclusion errors: Universal system will encompass every individual and household in the country thereby tackling the problem of inclusion/exclusion. 
      • For instance, PDS can be linked to a universal identification card such as the Aadhaar or voter card, in the absence of a ration card. 
      • This would allow anyone who is in need of food grains to access these schemes especially the migrant populations.
    • Improved Living Standard: Access to education, maternity benefits, disability benefits, etc. social benefits would ensure a better standard of living for the people.
    Challenges in adopting Universal Social Welfare
    • Financial Burden: Overall public expenditure on social protection (excluding public healthcare) is only approx. 1.5% of the GDP, lower than many middle-income countries across the world. However, huge sums of money would be required to universalize social welfare.
    • One Size Approach: Universal Social Welfare may be built on a unified approach that may deliver sub-optimum results. This would happen as political economy, labor markets, demographic attributes, and risk profiles vary by location.
    • Unequal Degree of Infrastructure across the country: The idea of USW requires each and every village to have decent electricity and optic fibre network for smooth dissemination of data. 
      • However, the Indian Telecom Services Performance Indicators April – June 2020 show only 750 million people have an internet connection out of 1.3 billion.
    • Leakages and Corruption in Governance: India has slipped to 86th position in Transparency International (TI)’s Corruption Perception Index 2020. A high degree of corruption may result in a higher cost for USW and the exclusion of genuine beneficiaries. 
    Suggestions to implement Universal Social Welfare
    • Firstly, the government should map the State and Central schemes in a consolidated manner. This would avoid duplication, inclusion, and exclusion errors in delivering welfare services.
      • For instance, Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) can become a Universal Social Welfare scheme. 
        • It already consolidates the public distribution system (PDS), the provision of gas cylinders, and wages for the MGNREGA.
      • Similarly, MGNREGA can be extended to urban areas which would reduce the plight of the urban poor.
      • Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) should be converted into a universal healthcare scheme i.e. available to all and at every level of healthcare.
    • Secondly, it must compute the costs of delivering universal social services. Post computation, there is a need for robust steps to arrange the requisite amount.
    • Thirdly, the country can learn from successful global models like Ireland’s Poor Law System.
      • The system was introduced in the 19th century to provide relief to the masses. It was financed by local property taxes. 
      • The system was built keeping in mind the future economic crisis and dignity of the masses.
      • It has now evolved into a four-fold apparatus. It promises social insurance, social assistance, universal schemes, and extra benefits/supplements.
    • Fourthly, there must be a focus on data digitization, data-driven decision-making, and collaboration across government departments. This would improve the implementation potential.
    • Fifthly, universal social protection architecture should give respect to decentralization. Under this, the higher-level government should allow local governments to design, plan and deliver a core basket of benefits within a nationally defined policy framework and budget.
    Conclusion

    India should provide social welfare services to every citizen as a responsible welfare state. This would be in line with the Directive Principles of State Policies and help in the attainment of the UN’s sustainable development goals by 2030.

  • Need of Special Insurance Cover for Police Personnel

    Synopsis:

    The second wave Covid-19 virus is producing greater challenges in front of frontline workers (including police personnel) than the first wave. Hence, the special insurance cover for police personnel of 50 lakh rupees must be revived and extended to all front-line workers.

    Background:
    • The second wave of Covid-19 induced the government to impose lockdown and curfews in some regions of the country.
    • After this, the hardships and challenges of frontline workers (including police personnel) got enhanced by a greater magnitude than the previous lockdown.
    Challenges Faced by Police in First Lockdown:
    • Enforcement of Lockdown protocols as it was a first of its kind event for the whole country.
    • Providing Migrant Labour with ration, transport, and inter-State passes.
    • Dealing with the rising number of cyber-fraud cases, particularly those relating to online purchases and phishing.
    • Implementing SC judgment in Re: Contagion of Covid-19 Virus in Prisons’ (2020) case. 
      • Under this, the court directed High Courts to decongest prisons in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. They were ordered to release convicts on parole and under-trial prisoners on temporary bail.
    How is the second wave more threatening?
    • In only 15 days, we are seeing a shortage of hospital beds, ICU beds, medical oxygen, and drugs.
    • The cremation grounds are reaching their full capacity due to the rising number of deaths. This is enhancing the degree of panic in society.

    In the second wave, people are demanding enhanced protection for police personnel.

    Why Insurance Cover for Police Personnel is required?
    • Enhanced Challenges: Apart from their regular duties, they need to:
      • Tackle the menace of people hoarding scarcely available medical products
      • Maintain public order in front of hospitals
      • Deal with Covid-19 status of criminals. If positive then police personnel need to quarantine him/her and later on produce before a magistrate post the negative report. 
    • Greater Risk: The second lockdown was imposed before all police personnel could be vaccinated, hence they are at higher risk. 
      • As per the Indian Police Foundation’s March 2021 tweet – 1,207 security men have died of COVID-19 and more than 2 lakh have been infected. The figure includes policemen of the State police and Central Armed Police Forces personnel.
    • Family Concern: They are working day and night in enforcing the Covid-19 lockdown which increases the probability of getting a Covid-19 infection. This enhances hardships for their families who might get infected by them.
    Way Forward:
    • Firstly, the scheme of special insurance cover of 50 lakh rupees needs revival, and it should be extended to all front-line workers (including the police).
      • It was notified for the medical fraternity last year for a limited period of three months. 
    • Secondly, the Civil Society (including media persons and social activists) must come forward to lend a helping hand for the vulnerable sections.

    Source: The Hindu

     

  • “NCSC” Launches Online Grievance Management Portal for Scheduled Castes
    What is the News?

    National Commission for Scheduled Castes(NCSC) launched an Online Grievance Management Portal for Scheduled Caste.

    About Online Grievance Management Portal:
    • The Online Grievance Management Portal will allow submission of complaints about atrocities against the Scheduled Castes. The portal also allows users to track the progress of their complaints.
    • The portal was developed in collaboration with the Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics(BISAG-N), a Centre of Excellence under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology(MeitY).

    About the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC).

    • National Commission for Scheduled Castes(NCSC) is a constitutional body. It was set up under Article 338 to safeguard the interests of the scheduled castes(SC) in India.
    Evolution of the NCSC:
    • Originally, Article 338 of the Constitution provided for the appointment of a Special Officer for Scheduled Castes(SCs) and Scheduled Tribes(STs). The special officer designated as the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
    • In 1978, the Government(through a Resolution) set up a non-statutory multi-member Commission for SCs and STs. The Office of Commissioner for SCs and STs also continued to exist.
    • In 1987, the Government (through another Resolution) modified the functions of the Commission and renamed it the National Commission for SCs and STs.
    • Later, the 65th Constitutional Amendment Act provided for the establishment of a high-level multi-member National Commission for SCs and STs. It replaced the single Special Officer for SCs and STs.
      • This constitutional body replaced the Commissioner for SCs and STs as well as the Commission set up under the Resolution of 1987.
    • Again, the 89th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2003 bifurcated the combined National Commission for SCs and STs into two separate bodies namely:
      • National Commission for Scheduled Castes (under Article 338) and
      • National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (under Article 338-A).
    Composition:
    • The National Commission for SCs consists of a chairperson, a vice-chairperson, and three other members.
    • They are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal. The President also determines their conditions of service and tenure of office.
    Functions of NCSC:
    • Firstly, to investigate and monitor all matters relating to the constitutional and other legal safeguards for the SCs and to evaluate their working;
    • Secondly, to inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the SCs;
    • Thirdly, to participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of the SCs and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union or a state;
    • Lastly, To present the report on working of those safeguards to the President, annually.

    Source: PIB

  • State of Human Rights in India -Explained, Pointwise
    Introduction

    The US State Department released the “2020 Human Rights Report” or the “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”.  It is a retrospective report that contains a country-wise discussion on the state of human rights. The 2020 Human Rights report severely criticised the state of Human Rights in India.

    Similarly, the report also mentions several human rights issues in India. This includes issues such as harassment and detention of journalists, government request for user data from internet companies, etc. In this article, we will analyze the situation of Human Rights in India.

    About the US “Human Rights Report 2020”

    It is an annual report and the 2020 report is its 45th edition. Each year the US State Department submits the report to the US Congress. The report is based on the rights listed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR).

    Key Findings of the report regarding India

    The 2020 report mentioned some improvement in the situation of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir. At the same time, the report also mentioned more than a dozen significant issues regarding Human Rights in India. These are,

    1. Prevalent of Unlawful and arbitrary killings;
    2. Restrictions on freedom of expression and the press. It includes using violence, threats of violence, or unjustified arrests or prosecutions against journalists;
    3. Restrictions on political participation
    4. Widespread corruption at all levels in the government;
    5. Low tolerance of violations of religious freedom
    6. Crimes involving violence and discrimination targeting members of minority groups including women based on religious affiliation or social status.
    7. Requests for Data from Social Media Companies: The government’s requests for user data from Internet companies increased dramatically. In 2019, the Government made 49,382 user data requests from Facebook, a 32% increase from 2018. Over the same period, Google requests increased by 69% while Twitter requests saw a 68% increase.
    What are Human Rights?

    According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights(OHCHR), these are the rights that exist to humans simply because we are human beings. Further, The OHCHR also mentions that Human Rights are not granted by any state. Instead, these are inherent to all of us, regardless of nationality, sex, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, language, or any other status.

    Human Rights range from the most fundamental – the right to life – to rights that make life worth living. Such as the rights to food, education, work, health, and liberty, etc.

    About International Human Rights Conventions and Bodies

    There are many prominent Human Rights conventions and International bodies. Few significant of them are,

    1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
      1. This includes 30 civil and political rights and freedoms. These 30 rights cover a wide gamut of Human rights including the social, economic and cultural rights to the individual.
      2. India took active participation during the formation of UDHR.
      3. UDHR is not a treaty. So, there is no legal obligation for signatory countries to follow the provisions of UDHR.
    2. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
      1. The ICCPR is a key international human rights treaty. The ICCPR also covers a wide range of civil and political rights.
      2. The countries ratifying the ICCPR have to take the necessary steps to protect and preserve basic human rights.
      3. The UN Human Rights Committee is tasked with monitoring the implementation of ICCPR
      4. The Covenant was adopted by the UNGA in 1966. It came into force in 1976.
      5. 173 countries including India have ratified the ICCPR.
    3. Other Convention on Human rights
      1. Apart from the above two, there are other few major Conventions. These include.
        • The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948)
        • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)
        •  The Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)
        • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006)
      2. India is a party to all the above-mentioned conventions.
    4. United Nation Human Rights Council(UNHRC)
      1. It is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system. Further,  It is made up of 47 United Nations Member States which are elected by the UN General Assembly.
      2. It conducts a Universal Periodic Review of all the UN members once in four years.
      3. The OHCHR is the secretariat of UNHRC.

    NOTE: The ICCPR, UDHR, and the  International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights together considered as the International Bill of Human Rights.

    About Human Rights in India
    1. Human Rights in the Constitution: India always respected Human Rights, this is reflected in the Constitution itself. The inclusion of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy are the enumeration of UDHR principles only.
    2. Protection of Human Rights Act 1993: This established the National Human Rights Commission in India. The commission is the watchdog of human rights in the country. It is an independent statutory body to look into the Human Rights issues and violation in India.
    Status of Human Rights in India and its violation

    The US Human Rights Report 2020 and the Freedom in the world report 2020 criticised Human Rights violation in India. But the credibility of these violations can be doubted. But India can observe the Human Rights violation internally from issues such as,

    1. Custodial Torture still exists in India. The recent Sathankulam case in Tamil Nadu is proof of custodial torture.
    2. Right to Work and Labour Rights are still not complete. The government is still taking measures to improve them. The recent labour codes are also a step in that direction only.
    3. Extrajudicial Killings like fake encounters, mob lynching, etc. have not stopped in India.
    4. Arbitrary Arrest and Detention are still common. Both the NHRC and SHRC both have failed to control them due to their lack of powers. This is seen as the criminalisation of government critics.
    5. Manual Scavenging is also prevalent in India. According to the 2011 Census, there are more than 26 Lakh insanitary latrines in the country. Even though the government enacted a law and NHRC given its recommendations, the practice still exists in India
    6. Violence and discrimination against Women, Children like rape, murder, sexual abuse are also prevalent in India.
    Suggestions to improve Human Rights in India
    1. Proper enforcement of Law: The government has enacted numerous laws, rules, and regulations to protect Human rights in India. But, the misuse of laws by law enforcing agencies is the root cause of human rights violations.
      So, the government has to change the provisions if they run contrary to human rights. The weakness of laws has to be tackled through either amendment or repeal if necessary.
    2. The government has to strengthen the NHRC and SHRC. The government has to make the decisions of NHRC enforceable. Further, the government has to review the Protection of Human Rights (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
    3. Enacting a National Action Plan on Human Rights(NAPHR)The Universal Periodic review of UNHRC mandated the enactment of the National Plan. India has to fast pace the task force and also have to properly follow the action plan after enactment.
    4. Adopting the Parent-Child approach when the government faces criticisms. The Madras High court advocated this approach in May 2020.

      Parent-Child approach: The state must act like it is the parent of all its citizens. Despite the insult (sedition or criminal defamation) by children (citizens), parents don’t discard their children quite easily. Like that State also accept the fact that public figures must face criticism.

      John F Kennedy once said that “The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened“. So the government has to understand that and ensure proper enforcement of Human Rights. After all, denying human rights is a challenge to humanity itself.

  • Data on participation of marginalised Communities in leading IITs

    What is the News?

    The Hindu Newspaper has published the data obtained through the RTI queries. Data provides info. on the representation of marginalized communities such as OBCs, SCs, and STs in the leading IITs of the country.

    About the data:

    • The RTI query data covers Ph.D. admissions made in the five-year period from 2015 to 2019. IITs covered are of Madras, Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, and Kharagpur.

    Key Findings of the data:

    • Selection of SCs and STs in PHDs: Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe applicants are half as likely to get selected for a Ph.D. program at leading IITs in the country as aspirants from the General Category (GC) are.
    • Acceptance Rate: The acceptance rate refers to the number of students selected for every 100 students who applied. The acceptance rate stood at 4% for students from General Category. It falls to 2.7% for OBC students and further down to just 2.16% for SCs and 2.2% for STs.

    Data given by Government in Parliament:

    According to the Ministry of Education’s data submitted to Parliament last year:

    The following data is based on the total admissions made by all IITs from 2015 to 2019:

    • Only 2.1% went to STs and 9.1% to SCs. The government’s reservation policy mandates the allocation of 7.5% seats for students from the STs and 15% from SCs.
    • Similarly, 23.2% of seats went to applicants from the OBCs against the 27% mandated by reservation.
    • The remaining 65.6% or roughly two-thirds of all the seats went to General Category(GC) applicants.

    Source: The Hindu

  • Government initiatives for welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC)

    Synopsis: Government has recently launched post-matric scholarship scheme for SCs, apart from many other steps taken for the welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC) in India. 

    Post-matric scholarship scheme 

    • Government has recently passed an outlay of Rs 59,000 crore for the post-matric scholarship scheme for students from Scheduled Caste groups.
    • Almost 60 percent of the cost of scheme will be borne by Central government and rest by the states.

    How this scheme promotes welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC)? 

    • More than four crore SC students would benefit from this allocation in the next five years.  
      • These students were facing challenges in pursuing higher education because of the financial constraints but this decision will provide them a sense of hope. 
    • The gross enrolment ratio of SC students in higher education will increase with the help of this scheme.  
      • Proper education will provide the next generation of Dalits paths for upward mobility, dignity and recognition in society. 

    Other Government initiatives for welfare of Scheduled Castes (SC) 

    Development of SC concentrated villages  

    • The Union government identified almost 27,000 such villages where a government programme will make sure the dedicated implementation of welfare schemes to improve infrastructure and reduce socio-economic gaps in 2019. 

    Political empowerment 

    • The current government has ensured meaningful representation for Dalits within the organisation and government. 
      • For example, the youngest woman MLA from Gujarat, Malti Maheshwari, and numerous other leaders, are now making themselves heard and are suitably voicing the concerns and aspirations of Dalits across the country.

    Promotion of entrepreneurship 

    • Schemes such as Stand-up India and MUDRAhave significantly benefited young people from the community in the last 6 years.  
    • Milind Kamble, the chairperson of Dalit Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DICCI),has been working with the government to create opportunities for entrepreneurship and self-employment for Dalit youth.  
      • “Be Job Givers and not Job Seekers” is a theme for the government.
      • Milind kamble has a team of more than 5,000 entrepreneurs from SC and ST groups. 
    • Several youngsters have benefitted from schemes like a venture capital fund for SCs and a credit enhancement guarantee plan. 
    • The youth who want to become entrepreneurs are being supported through a network of growth centres and aiding financial assistance architecture.

    Way forward 

    • India should become extremely inclusive in its foundation, review its approach and focus on making the country a leading light in the new world order. 
    • Sustained economic empowerment, political representation and educational opportunities like the boost in the post-matric scholarship for SC students should be provided so that Dalits become an inseparable part of the New India story.
  • What are the issues in anti-conversion law?

    Synopsis: After UP, MP has also promulgated an ordinance related to anti-conversion laws. But UP’s anti-conversion law itself is fraught with many challenges.

    Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religious Ordinance, 2020:

    • Law prohibits conversion from one religion to another by “misrepresentation, force, fraud, undue influence, coercion, allurement or marriage”.
    • Marriage will be declared “shunya” (null and void) if the “sole intention” was to “change a girl’s religion”
    •  The persons forced the girl to change religious conversion may face jail term of up to 10 years if the girl is minor, a woman from the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe, if the person involved religious conversion on mass scale. For the rest of the cases, the jail term ranges from 1 to 5 years.
    • The law also provides for the way to conversion. The person willing to convert to other religion would have to give it in writing to the District Magistrate at least two months in advance.
    • The burden to proof would be on the person who caused the conversion or the person who facilitated it. If any violation is found under this provision, then she/he will face a jail term from 6 months to 3 year
    • If any person reconverts to his immediate previous religion, then it shall not be deemed to be a violation of the ordinance.

    Read more – What is the term ‘Love Jihad’ or ‘Romeo Jihad’? |ForumIAS Blog

    Rationale behind the enactment of anti-conversion laws: 

    • Firstly, the threats of forceful conversion: Force not solely embody physical force to convert a person belongs to one faith to a different one however additionally it includes mental force like the “threat of divine displeasure”. For example, assume if a missionary informs a person that only Christians are allowed entry into heaven – a core part of the faith – that could also be construed as “force”. 
      • The Orissa High Court in Yulitha Hyde v. the State of Orissacase upheld this interpretation of “force” (Physical and mental). 
    • Secondly, the problem of Inducement or allurement: Odisha’s anti-conversion law mentions allurement or inducement as an offering of any gift or gratification, either in cash or in-kind, and also includes a grant of any benefit, which is pecuniary or otherwise. In Rev. Stanislaus vs State of Madhya Pradesh (1977) case the court upheld this definition. 
    • Thirdly, Religious conversion is not a Fundamental Right: Supreme Court in Rev. Stanislaus vs State of Madhya Pradesh (1977) case held that the conversion isn’t a fundamental Right and so could be regulated by the state. Both Odisha and Madhya Pradesh laws were upheld. This act as the legal basis for other such laws created by other States. 
    • Fourthly, the aim of all anti-conversion laws enacted by various States are same, such as to constrain the ability of communities and individuals to convert from their own religion to another in the name of protecting those sectors of society—namely women, children, backward castes and untouchables etc. 
    Court’s judgement in Rev Stanislaus case: 

    ·         The freedom of religion enshrined in Article 25 is not guaranteed in respect of one religion only but covers all religions alike… What is freedom for one is freedom for the other in equal measure and there can, therefore, be no such thing as a fundamental right to convert any person to one’s own religion

    Issues with anti-conversion laws

    1. The Ordinance route taken by the government for promulgating this law is controversial as the law is not containing any specific urgency for this route.
      • For promulgating an ordinance, 3 conditions must be satisfied
        • State Legislature should not be in session;
        • circumstances should exist for promulgating an ordinance 
        • Circumstances must warrant immediate action.
      • However, disclosing the circumstances and urgency for the same is not mandatory.
    1. Police do not require a special law to prevent a fraudulent or coercive inter-faith marriage. It can do so under normal circumstances too as in the case of child marriages.
    2. Section 7 authorises the arrest of a person by a police office on receipt of the information that a religious conversion is taking place.
      1. Arrest doesn’t require a magistrate order or warrant.
      2. Information can be a false news as seen in some of the recent cases.
    3. In case, a person want to convert but not marry, she/he require to inform a DM 2 month in advance. Then DM requires the police to inquire the real purpose of conversion and file a report.
      1. It leaves the scope of heavy pressure on the person from all around i.e. police and right groups.
    4. Section 12 of the article puts the burden of proof that it is not through coercion or fraud, on the person causing conversion through marriage or by any other way.
    5. This law through all the above methods is encroaching upon the right to privacy and violates the right to life, liberty and dignity of the consenting adults.
    6. These laws promotes patriarchal mind-set, where an adult women is unable to make her own choice in the matters of religion or marriage.

    How to deal with the issues?

    • Firstly, the need for uniformity, Article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights mentions everyone has the right to freedom of religion including changing their faith. That is included in the State laws but there is a wide variation in the state laws such as prison terms, burden of proof, the procedure to get converted, etc. Since the conversion falls within the “State list”Central can frame a model law like Model law on contract farming etc. 
    • SecondlyState while enacting anti-conversion laws should also respect their Freedom to get convert and should not put any vague or ambiguous provisions for the person who wanted to convert of his own will. 
    • Thirdly, awareness to the people: People also need to be educated about the provisions and ways of Forceful conversions, Inducement or allurement, etc. 
    • Fourthly, disclosing circumstances leading to adopting the ordinance route should be made mandatory at both state level and central level.
    • Fifthly, according to the USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom), some observers note that “anti-conversion laws create a hostile, and on occasion violent, environment for religious minority communities since they do not require any evidences to support such accusations of wrongdoing.  
      • So, the anti-conversion laws also need to include a provision to mention the valid steps for conversion by minority community institutions. 

    Way forward: 

    Conversion in India is legal but not the conversion made using force/allurement/inducement to convert people. Various Court judgments have made conversion laws a legal one but not the laws which have whimsical/fanciful/arbitrary laws by State. So, there is a clear limit for the State to intervene in the religious conversion, this can be further demarcated by small but significant steps such as model law, enhancing awareness, etc. 

  • Cabinet Approves changes In Post-Matric Scholarship Scheme For Scheduled Caste Students

    Source: The Hindu

    News: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved changes to the post-matric scholarship scheme for students from the Scheduled Castes.

    Facts:

    • Changes are aimed to benefit more than 4 Crore SC students in the next 5 years so that they can successfully complete their higher education.
    • Post Matric Scholarship scheme For Scheduled Caste Students: The Scheme aims to provide financial assistance to the Scheduled Caste students studying at post matriculation or post-secondary stage to enable them to complete their education.
    • Eligibility: These scholarships are available for studies in India only and are awarded by the government of the State/Union Territory to which the applicant actually belongs i.e. permanently settled.
    • Funding: It is a Centrally Sponsored scheme with a funding pattern of 60-40 for the Centre and States.
      • This replaces the existing ”committed liability” system and brings greater involvement of the Central government in this scheme.
    • Income Ceiling: Scholarships will be paid to the students whose parents/guardians’ income from all sources does not exceed Rs. 2,50,000/- (Rupees two lakh fifty thousand only).
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    • Transparency: The scheme will be run on an online platform with cyber security measures that would assure transparency, accountability, efficiency, and timely delivery of the assistance without any delays.
    • Community Audit: The community audits of the scheme would be conducted to make sure the benefits were reaching the students.
  • Issue of “love jihad”: Right of “free consent” for Marriage

    Context: Many state governments have announced that they are considering enacting an appropriate law to stop marriages which they term as “love jihad”.

    What are the recent cases?

    • A Muslim girl by birth converted to the Hindu religion and just after a month, she married a Hindu man according to Hindu rites and rituals.
    • The Allahabad court directed the girl to appear before a magistrate to record her statements.
    • The purpose was to check whether the girl converted with her consent or not.
    • In another matter, a Hindu girl by birth converted to Islam and married a Muslim. The High Court recorded her statement and after its subjective satisfaction that she, being a major, had acted of her own volition.

    What was the basis of observations?

    • Lily Thomas (2000) and Sarla Mudgal (1995): In both the cases, the issue was of Hindu married men committing bigamy to avail a second marriage, without dissolving the first just by converting from Hinduism to Islam.
    • Section 494 and second marriage: Both judgments concluded that the second marriage of a Hindu husband, after his conversion to Islam, would not be valid in view of Section 494 of the Indian Penal Code. The Court clarified that a marriage solemnised as a Hindu marriage cannot be terminated by one spouse converting to another religion.

    What are the arguments against such laws?

    • No legal basis: The concept of “love jihad” has no legal or constitutional basis, it has been concocted for the last few years.
    • Fundamental right: The right to marry a person of one’s choice is a guarantee under Article 21. At the same time, freedom of conscience, the practice and propagation of a religion of one’s choice, including not following any religion, are guaranteed under Article 25.
    • Avoid mixing of issues: Polygamy, polyandry, kidnapping, coercion, etc. are separate issues covered under existing provisions of the IPC.
    • Fundamental freedoms: The right to marry a person of one’s choice flows from the freedom of individuality, naturally available to any individual.
    • Supreme court views: The view of the Supreme Court (1965) that a marriage is not approved unless the essential ceremonies required for its solemnisation are proved to have been performed can only be read if one partner denies the marriage.
    • Marriage is the very foundation of civilised society: the observation that “marriage is the very foundation of civilised society” and without which no civilised society can exist have become obsolete given the recent judgments by larger benches of the Supreme Court.
    • Sub-judice: The legality of legislation like the Citizenship Amendment Act, which excludes only one religion from its purview, criminalisation of pronouncements of triple talaq and taking away the special status of Jammu & Kashmir are pending consideration in the Supreme Court.

    The Courts needs to examine if the individual concerned has exercised their right of “free consent”.

    Social Justice : news and updates

  • SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act: New developments and Evolution
    SC has delivered a judgment in a recent appeal filed by a person booked under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for allegedly abusing a Dalit woman in her house.

    SC judgment on SC/ST (PoA)act

    In this latest judgment related to the SC/ST Act, the Supreme Court has said:  

    • All types of intimidations or insults to persons belonging to Dalit or tribal communities will not be categorized as an offense under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
    • Only insults specifically intended to humiliate the victim for his caste should be tried under the SC/ST act.

    What was the case?

    • Judgment was delivered in response to the hearing of an appeal filed by a person, booked under the Act for allegedly abusing a Dalit woman in her house.
    • The court found that allegations against persons do not fulfill the basic ingredient under the Act that such humiliation should have happened in public view.
    • Since the incident occurred within four walls in the absence of the public, he can be tried under ordinary criminal law but not under the SC/ST act.

    Evolution of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989

    Constitutional Provisions

    Article 17 of the constitution abolished the practice of untouchability. In line with the constitutional provisions under article 17 and Articles 14, 15 , the untouchability (offenses) Act, 1955 was passed in parliament. In 1976, the act was renamed as protection of the civil rights act.

    But due to the ineffectiveness of previous acts, ‘Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989’ was enacted.

    SC/ST Act, 1989

    Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, also known as the SC/ST Act, was enacted to protect the marginalized communities against discrimination and atrocities.

    • The Act lists various offenses relating to various patterns or behaviors inflicting criminal offenses and breaking the self-respect and esteem of the scheduled castes and tribes community, which includes denial of economic, democratic, and social rights, discrimination, exploitation, and abuse of the legal process.
    • Under section 18 of the act, provision for anticipatory bail is not available to the offenders.
    • Any public servant, who deliberately neglects his duties under this act, is liable to punishment with imprisonment for up to 6 months.

    SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities (Amendment) Act, 2015

    Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015 was introduced to make the act more stringent with the following provisions:

    • It recognized more instances of “atrocities” as crimes against SCs and STs.
    • It provided for the establishment of exclusive special courts and special public prosecutors to try offenses under the PoA Act.
    • Act defined the term ‘wilful negligence’ in the context of public servants at all levels, starting from the registration of the complaint to dereliction of duty under this Act.
    • If the accused was acquainted with the victim or his family, the court will presume that the accused was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim unless proved otherwise.

    2018 SC judgment

    Supreme Court in its Kashinath Mahajan judgment, introduced the following safeguards to the accused under SC/ST act.

    Key guidelines

    • The bar on anticipatory bail under the Act need not prevent courts from granting advance bail if there is no merit in a complaint
    • “Preliminary enquiry” to be conducted in all cases before registration of FIRs.
    • The person can be arrested by an investigating officer, only if the “appointing authority” (in the case of a public servant) or the SP (in the case of others) approves such arrest. 

    2018 amendment to the Act

    In 2018, in response to this dilution of the act and public uproar against it, Parliament introduced Section 18A to overturn safeguards introduced by the Supreme Court.

    • Preliminary inquiry shall not be required for registration of a First Information Report against any person.
    • No approval is required before the arrest of the accused under this act.
    • It rules out any provision (Section 438 of the CrPC that deals with anticipatory bail) for anticipatory bail for the accused.

    Prathvi Raj Chauhan case, 2020

    In this case, the constitutional validity of section 18-A of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018 was challenged.

    • In this case, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India has upheld the Constitutional validity of section 18-A.
    • pre-arrest bail should be granted only in extraordinary situations where a denial of bail would mean a miscarriage of justice
    • Anticipatory bail can only be given in exceptional cases by Courts and not in every case.

    How effective has been SC/ST act?

    Following are some of the figures that raise questions over the effectiveness of the SC/ST PoA Act:

    • Increase in crimes: As per the NCRB report, 2019, Crimes against members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes communities increased by 7.3% and 26.5% respectively in 2019.
    • State-wise: Uttar Pradesh has the most number of cases of crime against SCs – 11,829 cases, which is 25.8% of the total such cases in the country followed by Rajasthan with 6,794 cases (14.8% of all cases), Bihar (14.2%), and Madhya Pradesh (11.5%).
    • Conviction rate: According to a status report on the implementation of the PoA Act, released by the National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ), over the decade prior to 2018, the average conviction rate under(Prevention of Atrocities) Act
       for cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis remained at 25.2% and 22.8% respectively.

    What more should be done?

    • Registration of Cases: Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) should be developed for filing and investigating cases so that there is no confusion or doubt among the investigators about the procedure to be followed.
    • Training and Capacity building of judges, lawyers, and policemen is required in these types of cases
    • Prosecution: Successful prosecution of genuine cases by the lawyers must be rewarded.
    • Research: There is a requirement for research into the types of punishment, as an alternative to imprisonment that can prevent future crimes by individuals or communities.

    Way forward

    As signified in the figures above, Laws alone cannot realize the vision of our constitution-makers to make India a country where everyone has equal rights, opportunities, and access to justice, it is only one of the steps required.

    It requires the educational and economic advancement of the backward communities like SCs and STs in India and educational reforms all over the country so that root cause of the discrimination can be dealt with.