Giving Human Rights Commissions more
teeth (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 2:Polity
Prelims level: Human Rights Commissions
Mains level:Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies
The purpose of the Act was to establish an institutional framework that
could effectively protect, promote and fulfil the fundamental rights
guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.
The Act created a National Human Rights Commission, and also, Human
Rights Commissions at the levels of the various States.
In 1993, the Indian Parliament enacted the Protection of Human Rights
There have been the usual critiques of the politicisation of autonomous
bodies, and selectiveness.
Even more than that, however, it has been alleged that for all intents
and purposes, the Human Rights Commissions are toothless: at the highest,
they play an advisory role, with the government left free to disobey or even
disregard their findings.
A pending case before the High Court of Madras has assumed great
A Full Bench of the High Court will be deciding upon whether
“recommendations” made by the Human Rights Commissions are binding upon
their respective State (or Central) governments, or whether the
The courts have invoked constitutional purpose to determine the powers
of various fourth branch institutions in cases of ambiguity.
It is therefore clear that in determining the powers of autonomous
bodies such as the Human Rights Commission, the role that fourth branch
institutions are expected to play in the constitutional scheme is
The Supreme Court held as much in the context of “opinions” rendered by
the Foreigners Tribunals, using very similar logic to say that these
“opinions” were binding.
The crucial role played by a Human Rights Commission — and the
requirement of state accountability in a democracy committed to a ‘culture
of justification’ — strongly indicates that the Commission’s recommendations
should be binding upon the state.
Mains Paper 2:National
Prelims level: Higher education institutions
Mains level:Role and performance of state universities in higher education
Out of about a thousand higher education institutions (HEIs) that are
authorised to award degrees in India.
About 400 are state public universities that produce over 90% of our
graduates (including those from the colleges affiliated to them) and
contribute to about one-third of the research publications from this
Their quality and performance is poor in most cases is accepted as a
It is evidenced by their poor performance in institutional rankings, the
poor employment status of their students, rather poor quality of their
publications, negligible presence in national-level policy/decision-making
Central government HEIs are valuable and should be supported in all
That they have hardly ever been short of funding and patronage has been
ensured by the Central government and its arms; national-level parties,
industries and businesses; and the national elite and the intelligentsia.
It is the existence of such an unwritten contract at the national level
that appears to be the key factor for the performance of these Central
Why state universities are failing behind?
However, a similar consensus and contract has never been built between
the State universities and State governments, State-level political parties
and organisations, industry and businesses; and the elite and the
intelligentsia. It is as though State-level players do not have much stake
in the stability and performance of the State university system.
One reason why State-level ...............................
In order to receive much more funding and support from the State system
then, State universities would have to commit to delivering lots more to the
State and its people where they are located.
They must come up with a new vision and programmes specifically
addressing the needs of the State, its industry, economy and society, and on
the basis of it make the State-level players commit to providing full
ownership and support to them.
In other words establish a contract between the State universities and
the State system similar to what seems to be existing between the Central
institutions and the Central government and other national-level
The initiative to start a larger dialogue on the future of our State
universities would have to be taken primarily by the academic community of
Competitive impropriety: On Ranjan
Gogoi’s Rajya Sabha nomination(The Hindu)
Mains Paper 2:Polity
Prelims level: Rajya Sabha nomination
Mains level:Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and
responsibilities of variousConstitutional Bodies
The President’s nomination of former Chief Justice of India, Ranjan
Gogoi, as a Rajya Sabha member so soon after his retirement will be seen as
a crass example of a regime rewarding a member of the judiciary for meeting
its expectations during his tenure.
It will be futile to argue that it is a well-deserved recognition for an
The gap of four months between his retirement and nomination, and the
fact that a series of decisions in his court were in seeming conformity with
the present government’s expectations militate against such a justification.
The second argument:
There have been instances of retired Chief Justices being nominated to
the Upper House or appointed Governors, does not cut ice either, as it is
nothing more than a dubious claim to the same level of impropriety.
In fact, references to the late CJI Ranganath Mishra and Justice Baharul
Islam as valid precedents reflect quite poorly on the executive, and amount
to competitive impropriety.
There continues to be a perception that these were lapses in propriety.
Justice Mishra’s commission of inquiry absolved the Congress from any
organisational responsibility for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Justice Islam
exonerated a Congress Chief Minister of wrong-doing in a financial scandal
The party had helped Justice Islam move both ways between Parliament and
the judiciary. He quit the Upper House in 1972 to take office as a High
Court judge. In 1983, he quit as a Supreme Court judge to contest an
Cohesion between the judiciary and the legislature:
Mr. Gogoi’s appointment cannot be seen, as he has sought to project, as
a way of ensuring cohesion between the judiciary and the legislature. He no
longer represents the judiciary, and his contribution will be........................................
Also, he ought to have followed the example of his former colleagues who
had declared that they would not accept any post-retirement work from the
And one cannot forget that his tenure was clouded by an employee’s
complaint of sexual harassment, which acquired greater credibility after she
was reinstated following his exoneration by a committee of judges.
As for the government, making such an offer to a just-retired CJI is not
mere brazenness. It indicates an alarming intention to undermine judicial
authority so that the elected executive is seen as all-powerful.
In Upper House nomination, a fall for ‘aloofness’(The
Mains Paper 2:Polity
Prelims level: Rajya Sabha
Mains level:Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and
responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies
Within five months of his retirement as Chief Justice of India, Justice
Ranjan Gogoi has been nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the government.
Shortly before his retirement from the Supreme Court of India, he delivered
several important verdicts with far-reaching political consequences that
left the government pleased, including the Ayodhya judgment.
Before that, Justice Gogoi dismissed a review of the Rafale fighter
aircraft deal without substantially dealing with the grounds on which the
original judgment, negating an independent investigation, had been
The original judgment relied upon several pieces of false and misleading
information, conveyed to the Supreme Court by the government, in an unsigned
note and handed over in a sealed cover.
Key judgments handled:
During his tenure, Justice Gogoi also presided over and pushed through
the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, an exercise that has
excluded more than 19 lakh people from the final version of the citizenship
register, and which has been widely criticised on several grounds.
In short, the exercise presided over by
Allegations of sexual harassment against him give us a good insight into
this. A female staffer who was asked by him to work at his residence,
accused him in an affidavit of detail, of harassment soon after he became
the Chief Justice of India.
The action taken against her was astounding. Not only was she dismissed
from service in an ex-parte hearing on frivolous grounds, but her
brother-in-law, who was inducted to the Supreme Court staff under Justice
The 16-point code of conduct for judges or as it was called the
“Restatement of Values of Judicial Life” (adopted at a Chief Justices
Conference in May 1997) states: “6. A judge should practice a degree of
aloofness consistent with the dignity of his office”; 7. A judge shall not
hear and decide a matter in which a member of his family, a close relation
or a friend is concerned”.
Obviously this “aloofness”........................................................
Justice Gogoi and the government’s actions in the sexual harassment case
and the offer of a Rajya Sabha seat by the government, raise serious doubts
about the fairness of many critical judgments, including the ones mentioned
above that were under Justice Gogoi’s watch.
The precedent that he has set strikes a blow against the independence of
the judiciary. I hope that this shameful act will lead to public opprobrium
which will deter other judges from emulating such conduct.
Time for a powerful display of
Mains Paper 2:Health
Prelims level: COVID-19
Mains level:Pandemic preparedness situation in India
In a pandemic it is easy to apportion blame, but this is a moment for
the world to be standing together
As the COVID-19 pandemic fells country after country, many in India are
wondering if we are somehow different. Globally, it took roughly 45 days for
the first 100,000 cases. It is likely to take nine days for the next
100,000. The global death count is now doubling every nine days and stands
at 8,248, with 207,518 confirmed cases.
That is how epidemics work — they gather steam as infected individuals
go on to infect even more people. Confirmed cases in India, as of today
stand at 169, much lower than small countries such as Iceland (around 250).
Could this really be the case that we have fared better than everyone else?
Probably not. Testing in India remains abysmally low. Only about 10 in a
million people in India have been tested, compared to say nearly 120 in a
million in Thailand or 40 per million in Vietnam.
The stated explanation is that the limited number of test kits are being
conserved for when they are truly needed but when is the need greater than
right now? There are probably shortages even in being able to procure
adequate supplies given that many countries are seeking to buy the limited
Testing is the most important thing we could be doing right now. As the
Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr.Tedros Ghebreyesus,
said recently about the need for more testing, “You cannot fight a fire
We need to identify corona virus-infected patients in a timely manner in
order to increase our chances of preventing secondary infections. There is
no shame in saying that we have far more cases than what we have detected so
Even the United Kingdom, which
This all sounds doomsday-like. But we have known for decades now that of
all catastrophic events to befall humanity, between an asteroid hit and a
nuclear war, a disease pandemic has always been the highest on our list of
impact and probability.
There were some changes after the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
but not nearly enough. Pandemic preparedness always took a backseat to the
crisis of the moment.And in fairness, there is truly no amount of
preparation that can fully mitigate such an occurrence.
In a time of crisis, it is easy to blame government or China or someone
else. But this is really a time to stand together, keep an eye on our
neighbours, friends, families, co-workers and indeed anyone who has less
than we do.
That includes your household help, security guards, vendors and indeed
anyone who touches your life. It is a time to see how we show the best of
our human values while facing a crisis of a proportion none of us has ever
witnessed in our lifetime.
Things are about to get a lot worse. Let us hope that this brings out
the best in us, and not the worst. Whether we know this or not, these events
are just a dress rehearsal for the more challenging events such as climate
change that are likely to be with us this century. And if we take care of
each other, we will survive both these challenges with our humanity intact.
Epicentre shifts: On coronavirus spread
Mains Paper 2:Health
Prelims level: SARS-CoV-2
Mains level:Issues relating to development and management of Social
Sector/Services relating to Health
With 1,08,394 cases reported from outside mainland China as on March 17,
there are more people infected with the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in
other parts of the world than in mainland China (81,058).
Also, as on March 17, the number of deaths (4,279) in the rest of the
world is more than in mainland China (3,226).
On Monday, there was just one new laboratory-confirmed case and 12
deaths reported in Wuhan; outside Wuhan, no new case has been reported from
Hubei province for 12 consecutive days.
Even as Iran recorded 16,169 cases ....................................
The intersection of cross-national and cross-domain challenges demand
multilateral approaches. They require empowered international institutions
Underlying these must be a spirit of internationalism and solidarity, a
sense of belonging to a common humanity. But over the past decade and more,
the world has been moving in the reverse direction.
There has been an upsurge in narrow nationalism, an assertion of
parochial interests over pursuit of shared interests and a fostering of
competition among states rather than embracing collaboration.
COVID-19 has brought these deepening contradictions into very sharp
relief. This is a global challenge which recognises no political boundaries.
It is intimately linked to the whole pattern of large-scale and
high-density food production and distribution.
It is a health crisis but is also spawning an economic crisis through
disrupting global value chains and creating a simultaneous demand shock. It
is a classic cross-national and cross-domain challenge.
The current situation:
But interventions to deal with the COVID-19 crisis are so far almost
entirely at the national level, relying on quarantine and social distancing.
There is virtually no coordination at the international level.
We are also seeing a blame game erupt between China and the United
States which does not augur well for international cooperation and
While this is the present state of play, the long-term impact could
follow alternative pathways.
One, the more hopeful outcome would be for countries to finally realise
that there is no option but to move away from nationalistic urges and
embrace the logic of international cooperation through revived and
strengthened multilateral institutions and processes.
The other more depressing consequence may be that nationalist trends
become more intense, countries begin to build walls around themselves and
even existing multilateralism is further weakened.
Institutions such as the United .................................
In this context, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks at the recent
The Economic Times Global Business Summit are to be welcomed.
While speaking of the COVID-19 crisis, he said, “Like today, the world
is facing a huge challenge in the form of Corona Virus.
Financial institutions have also considered it a big challenge for the
Today, we all have to face this challenge together. We have to be
victorious with the power of our resolution of ‘Collaborate to Create’.”
He went on to observe that while the world today is “inter-connected,
inter-related and also interdependent”, it has “not been able to come on a
single platform or frame a Global Agenda, a global goal of how to overcome
world poverty, how to end terrorism, how to handle Climate Change issues.”
Mr. Modi lauded his government’s policy of seeking friendship with all
countries as contrasted from the earlier policy of non-alignment.
He seemed to suggest that non-alignment was a defensive policy which
advocated “equal distance from every country”.
Now, he claimed, India was still “neutral” — presumably meaning
non-alignment — “but not on the basis of distance but on the basis of
He cited India’s friendship with Iran and Saudi Arabia, and with the
U.S. as well as Russia.
Elaborating on this, he added, “There was a time when people were
neutral by creating equal distance, but we are now neutral by creating equal
Today we are being friends and trying to walk together. This is the very
essence of India’s foreign policy and the economic policy of India today.”
Highlights of the India’s foreign policy:
Mr. Modi may wish to distinguish his foreign policy from that of his
predecessors, but what he describes as its “essence” is hardly
distinguishable from the basic principles of Indian foreign policy since
India’s non-alignment was ...........................................
The Prime Minister made no reference to the role of the U.N., the
premier multilateral institution, as a global platform for collaborative
There may have been irritation over remarks by the UN Secretary General
on India’s domestic affairs and the activism displayed by the UN
Commissioner for Human Rights on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act
This should not influence India’s long-standing commitment to the U.N.
as the only truly inclusive global platform enjoying international
legitimacy despite its failings.
If one has to look for a “single platform” where a Global Voice could be
created, as the Prime Minister suggested, surely a reformed and strengthened
U.N. should be on India’s agenda.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents India with an opportunity to revive
multilateralism, become a strong and credible champion of internationalism
and assume a leadership role in a world that is adrift.
The inspiration for this should come from reaffirming the well springs
of India’s foreign policy since its Independence rather than seeking to
The joyous birth of the Indian nation-state is co-terminus with the
horrors of Partition in 1947.
A natural consequence thereof was the influx of migrants due to the
two-nation theory employed by West and East Pakistan.
Many Indian states came to be affected by the process of immigration
which challenged the demographic dimensions of the states as influx did not
cease even after Partition.
Many minorities found themselves at the mercy of nations which followed
a state religion. At the time, the population of both Pakistan and
Bangladesh comprised several non-Muslims.
However, as opposed to India which is a secular nation, both Pakistan
and Bangladesh are Islamic states.
Being historically and geographically interlinked with both ancestral
and spiritual ties, it falls as nothing short of an obligation for the
Indian nation-state to provide refuge to non-muslim minorities who have been
persecuted for their “otherness” in these countries over the past six
Nature of obligation:
This obligation is constitutional in nature and its genesis can be found
in the Constituent Assembly debates.
During the debate that took place on Articles 5 and 6 on August 10,
1949, in the constituent assembly, B R Ambedkar, the chairman of the
drafting committee of the Constitution of
India, had expressed hardship in........................................
Other salient features of the Bill include the exemption granted to a
large part of the North East region from applicability of the proposed law
(except Manipur), cut-off dates for entry into India and a clause related to
Overseas Citizen of India.
The Bill is a manifestation of a constitutional promise made to those
who have suffered in the aftermath of Partition and its consequences.
Many doubts have been cast on the legality of the Bill. However, the
Bill does conform to India’s constitutional spirit. Here’s how:
Parliament’s power to enact the Bill:
An examination of the text of Article 11 of the Indian Constitution
reveals that Parliament is empowered to make any law relating to the
acquisition or termination of citizenship and all other matters relating to
Further, it was the intent of the framers of the Constitution for
Parliament to have the power to include those who, at the time of the
Constitution coming into existence, were not included within the fold of the
It is therefore well within the rights of Parliament to enact this Bill
and it stands the test of procedural due process.
Presumption of Legality:
A basic rule of interpretation is always presumption in favour of the
constitutionality of a statute. The burden is upon him who attacks it to
show that there has been a clear transgression of constitutional principles.
The presumption may be rebutted in certain cases by showing that on the
fact of the statute, there is no classification and no difference peculiar
to any individual or class, and not applicable to any other individual or
class — and yet, the law hits only a particular individual or class.
It ought to be assumed that the legislature correctly understands and
appreciates the needs of its own people, that its law are directed to
problems made manifest by experience, and, that its discrimination is based
on adequate grounds.
Presumption of constitutionality:
In order to sustain the presumption of constitutionality, the court may
take into consideration matters of common knowledge, matters of report, the
history of the times, and such facts which may exist at the time of the
Thus, the legislation is free to recognise degrees of harm and may
confine its restriction to those cases where the need is deemed to be the
While good faith and knowledge ..................................
The Courts allow permissible classification, which includes selective
application of a law according to the exigencies where it is sanctioned.
The provisions of the Bill appear to have made a classification based on
the fact of minority communities being persecuted in the specified countries
on the basis of their religion and leaving their country without valid
By introducing this Bill the Indian state is enforcing a positive
discrimination which is necessary, expedient and legally and
Fight for the finite: On budgetary
allocation for health (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 2:Health
Prelims level: SARS-CoV-2
Mains level:Increasing budgetary allocation for health
It is an incontrovertible truth that material resources are finite.
Demand in most sectors will continue to exceed supply in times of a
With the number of SARS-CoV-2 positive cases on the rise, and the number
of deaths going up as well, the question is whether national and state
health systems will be able to cope with ever-rising demands — for testing
kits, for hospital beds, ventilators, why, even masks and hand sanitisers.
Highlights of the demand:
This extraordinary demand has traditional production and systems of
delivery choking and most often, unable to match supply to demand.
With India crossing 100 positive cases, it is impossible to ignore the
question about whether the health system is robust enough to meet this
emergency. What is known, however, does not inspire confidence.
For years, India’s health expenditure as a percentage of GDP has been
abysmal at about 1%.
As per the National Health Profile, 2019, collated by the Central Bureau
of Health Intelligence unit of the Directorate General of Health Services,
there has been no significant change in health-care expenditure since
The highest it has been in the decade is 1.28 % of the GDP, and hit the
nadir at 0.98 % in 2014-2015.
Per capita expenditure:
The report does record that per capita public expenditure on health in
nominal terms went up from ₹621 in 2009-10 to ₹1,112 in 2015-16.
Back to SAARC: On Modi's video
conference with leaders (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 2: International Relations
Prelims level: SAARC
Mains level:India and its neighbourhood relations
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to convene a video conference of
leaders of the eight-member SAARC on Sunday represents a much-needed
“out-of-the-box” thinking as the world faces the COVID-19 coronavirus
Pandemics do not recognise political borders, and in times of trouble,
reaching out to neighbouring countries is the most obvious course of action.
To that end, PM had a hour-long ...................................
Clearly, reviving the SAARC initiative, which countries in the region
including Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan have advised, will not be easy, given
poor ties between SAARC’s two largest members, India and Pakistan.
But it is significant that New Delhi seems to be willing to try to put
politics aside when dealing with the pandemic that confronts all.
When every line in the book is violated
Mains Paper 1:Society
Prelims level: Not much
Mains level:Impact of riot on education
After a violent riot, teachers of young children have a difficult time
deciding what to say in their classes when children ask awkward questions.
Some of these questions arise from the news that children have heard or
from the scenes they have seen on television.
In some cases, they ask about what they have seen with their own eyes.
There are also questions reflecting the children’s desire to verify
something their parents have told them.
It is not difficult to imagine the bewildering array of queries that the
recent communal riots in the nation’s capital have triggered in the minds of
How a teacher can address them is anyone’s guess.
Cities such as Mumbai and Delhi and many provincial towns of northern
India have considerable experience of living through violent riots.
Little effort has been made to study the response of children to such
occurrences and the dilemma that teachers face when classes resume after a
A violent riot is normally seen as a breakdown of law and order. That it
indeed is, implying a weakening of the state’s moral authority and people’s
trust in it.
Within a few days, the state re-establishes its authority and state
functionaries, such as the police and other officers, start to assume that
the damage done to their credibility has been restored.
Impact of riot on education:
In the context of education, however, the impact of a riot goes much
deeper. Although schools are the main provider of education, their routine
functioning is hardly an adequate measure of the state’s expectation from
As an institution of the state, a school —
Although the official curriculum now proudly claims to promote critical
thinking and foundational learning, these terms provide little scope for
responding to what is happening in one’s own neighbourhood or the country.
Like everything else in education, these wonderful sounding terms are
now used for promoting hollow formal routines.
The Delhi riots coincided with an official visit of the American
President, Donald Trump, to India, beginning February 24.
His wife, Melania Trump, was scheduled to witness how a government
school transacts a so-called ‘happiness’ curriculum.
It was terribly ironical that she was attending a ‘happiness’ class in
south Delhi while violence and fire raged in the north-eastern part of the
We can imagine the meaning of the happiness that curriculum designers
hope to impart through this innovation.
In their design, happiness is another form of cynicism, marking the
capacity to stay aloof and unaffected by the fate of fellow human beings.
Sanctity of education:
Textbooks, teachers and principals routinely tell children that India’s
religious diversity is a matter of pride.
What, then, accounts for so ..........................................
Kanshiram’s legacy of Dalit empowerment
left adrift (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 4:Ethics
Mains level:Human Values - lessons from the lives and teachings of great
leaders, reformers andadministrators
In republican India’s history, there is no politician who can match
Kanshiram’s life story. No one else could have carved a niche for the
Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and the
Minorities as much as he did.
He came on the Indian political scene without a resumé popping with
credentials of legacy, inheritance, wealth, title, surname or party.
Irrespective of all these barriers, he sculpted a solid, unremitting,
electrifying Bahujan movement in India.
He hailed from an agriculturist Chamar family, but being a Sikh had no
impact on caste exclusions of Dalits in the region.
Kanshiram, born on March 15, 1934, was aware of this, yet not to the
extent of grasping the nuances of such discrimination.
He had naively thought of Brahmins as being a poor and backward
community due to their low status in Jaat-dominant Punjab.
In his later life, there was one incident in his diverse working stints
that had an impact on him.
In 1957, he settled for a job as a ............................
There are several Bahujan organisations that work towards Dr. Ambedkar’s
dream of a non-caste India.
But the origins of this can be traced back to the BAMCEF, or the All
India Backward (SC, ST, and OBC) and Minority Communities Employees
Along with his colleagues, Kanshiram began one of the largest unions of
Through BAMCEF, he connected SC, ST, OBCs, and other minorities to fight
back against atrocities and discrimination.
With a structure in place, he was able to help create a strong sense of
accountability towards the community.
Thus, the widely popular initiative ‘Pay Back to Society’ was
inaugurated in 1973. As a part of BAMCEF there were simultaneous initiatives
such as the BAMCEF Datta Grahan, -Bhaichara, -Sahkarita.
In 1981, the Dalit ShoshitSamaj Sangharsh Samiti (DS-4) with 10 wings
(students, women, etc.) was established to experiment with socio-political
possibilities. Eventually the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was formally
established in 1984.
Kanshiram declared that he wanted the community to become givers rather
than receivers. For that to happen it required training and preparation.
Cadre camps and various events filled the gap.
Strengthening oppressed caste associations:
Instead of downplaying the importance of caste, Kanshiram opted to
strengthen oppressed caste associations which was one way to weaken the
structures that sustain caste.
Every ‘upper’ caste had an investment in caste, which is why it
transferred this into structures that catered to its needs. Kanshiram
invested in the cultures of caste and cultural methods of anti-casteism.
He understood well that artists and ....................................
Mr. Modi has also brought this dual effect into play in several diaspora
At each of them, he has spoken of initiatives taken by his government
for Indians, and also those for the diaspora, pitching to both audiences at
In Israel, for example, Mr. Modi spent much of his speech on talking
about his agricultural programmes, which was meant for domestic audiences
watching his speech on television.
And then announced the start of a direct Air India flight to Tel Aviv,
to big cheers from his live audience.
The government has also frequently blurred the line between Indian
expatriates and Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) in describing India’s
strength abroad. In March 2017, the Ministry of External Affairs raised the
issue of attacks on Indians strongly with the U.S. government, after three
incidents of suspected hate crimes.
Only one of the three was an Indian citizen, the rest were Americans of
Indian extraction. This is an important distinction from the past.
Transferability of Votes:
India has the world’s largest diaspora, about 17.5 million and receives
the highest remittance of $78.6 billion from Indians living abroad (Global
Migration Report 2020).
Members of the diaspora, often seen as more “successful” and therefore
more influential, can have a big impact on their relatives back home, and
this makes for a potent combination for any politician.
Mr. Modi’s joint rallies with former
In the upcoming U.S. election, it remains to be seen whether the Trump
outreaches at Houston and Ahmedabad bring in a haul of new Indian-American
voters, but the statistics are daunting.
In the 2016 election, 77% of Indian Americans voted for Hillary Clinton
while just 16% voted for Mr. Trump.
The second issue is that politically active members of the Indian
diaspora don’t necessarily support the Indian government’s actions.
And often, because they are of Indian origin, hold the government in New
Delhi to higher standards than they do others.
The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairperson for Asia, Ami Bera,
voiced his concerns quite plainly about Kashmir and the CAA during a visit
to India last month, for example, saying that the India that he “loved” was
“democratic and secular”.
The sponsor of the U.S. House resolution on Kashmir (HR745) Pramila
Jayapal; co-chair of U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s campaign
Ro Khanna; and former presidential contender Kamala Harris, have all been
openly critical of the government’s actions.
The conclusion for the government is that it cannot own only that part
of the diaspora that supports its decisions, and must celebrate the fact
that members of the Indian diaspora, from both sides of the political
divide, are successful and influential.
Interest and Interference:
The government must ensure that its focus on the diaspora doesn’t become
a factor in its bilateral relations.
While it is perfectly legitimate and laudable to ensure the safety and
well-being of Indian citizens in different parts of the world, as the Modi
government has done, it must tread more lightly on issues that concern
foreign citizens of Indian origin.
Addressing the Lok Sabha .............................................
Finally, the government must consider the impact that policies
conflating the PIOs with Indian citizens could have on the diaspora itself.
Most immigrant Indian communities have been marked by their ability to
assimilate into the countries they now live in.
It is necessary for New Delhi to look at the political choices of Indian
migrants abroad through a more realistic lens.
Much of that comes from a desire to be treated as equal citizens, not as
immigrants. A few also have bad memories of anti-immigrant sentiments in the
1960s and 1970s in Europe and the U.S., when they were targeted and accused
of “divided loyalties”.
Laying claim to their kinship and culture and taking pride in their
success is one thing.
It would be a mistake to lay claim to their politics.
Mains Paper 1:Society
Prelims level:National Science Day
Mains level:Role of women and women's organization
India celebrates National Science Day on February 28 every year to mark
C.V. Raman’s discovery of the scattering of light.
For the last 33 years, on this day, research institutes and other
academic centres in the country have been holding public outreach programmes
or conducting meetings on select topics.
About the theme:
This year, the theme was Women in Science.
This is a timely and relevant theme, but it is also rather ironic given
that Raman himself did not warm up to the idea of women in science.
For some time, this prejudice meant that women candidates were refused
admission to the Indian Institute of Science in the 1930s, during Raman’s
tenure as director.
Despite his progressive political and philosophical convictions, Raman
was a traditionalist.
Like many others of the time, he imbibed the sexist views that were part
of society then. Among his three women students, only Anna Mani was able to
choose a scientific career, although she could not get a doctoral degree.
Sunanda Bai was not awarded a PhD, and committed suicide for unknown
Lalitha Doraiswamy left her studies and chose to marry Subramanyan
Chandrasekhar, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983.
Why did these talented women fail to get their due?
It would be interesting to contrast their journeys with the story of
Janaki Ammal. Ammal opted to pursue a Masters degree from the Michigan State
University in the U.S. and continued her scientific career
It is true that a resurgent inclusive nationalism propounded by Mahatma
Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru and others during the struggle
for Independence encouraged women, at least those who were part of the upper
social strata, to break the familial and cultural shackles and enter the
While cultural and social causes
Mains Paper 2:Polity
Prelims level:Article 21
Mains level:Fundamental right to privacy protection
The court deservedly reprimanded the Adityanath government for
“undemocratic functioning”, for violating the individual’s fundamental right
to privacy and the assurance of Article 21.
The Allahabad High Court had, suo motu, taken cognisance of the UP
government’s vindictive move to put up roadside posters naming and shaming
and giving photos and details of individuals accused of damaging public
Introducing the Uttar Pradesh Recovery of Damage to Public and Private
Property Ordinance 2020:
The UP government’s move is an attempt to intimidate and hound the
protester, that it is guilty of trying to undermine the presumption of
innocence until proven guilty by due process of law — a cardinal principle
of criminal jurisprudence.
Taking its cue from the apex court, the
The Supreme Court has shown a disturbing lack of urgency in habeas
corpus cases relating to Kashmir recently, and in matters of hate speech and
sedition, yet it remains the citizen’s best hope for protection of
individual liberties against state trespass and transgression.
It must be hoped that the larger bench which will hear the UP
government’s challenge of the Allahabad HC ruling in this week, will make
amends for the impression of delay and miscarriage of justice in the case so
Mains Paper 2:Polity
Prelims level:Essential Commodities Act
Mains level: Shortcomings of the Essential Commodities Act
The ECA was enacted in 1955 to give government the power to regulate the
production, supply anddistribution of a whole host of commodities it
declares ‘essential’ in order to make them available toconsumers at fair
The list of items under the Act include drugs, fertilisers, pulses and
edible oils, and petroleum andpetroleum products. The Centre can include new
commodities as and when the need arises, and takethem off the list once the
If the Centre finds that a certain commodity is in short supply and its
price is spiking, it can notifystock-holding limits on it for a specified
period. The States act on this notification to specify limits andtake steps
to ensure that these are adhered to.
A State can, however, choose not to impose any restrictions. But once it
does, traders have to immediately sell into the market any stocks held
beyond the mandated quantity.
Shortcomings of the Act:
However, the Act has created market distortions that have prevented the
efficient development ofagricultural markets.
Given that almost all crops are seasonal, ensuring round-the-clock
supply requires adequate buildup of stocks during the season. So, it may not
always be possible to differentiate between genuinestock build-up and
Also, there can be genuine shortages