The HINDU Notes – 02nd May 2019 - VISION

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Thursday, May 02, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 02nd May 2019

📰 UN designates JeM chief Masood Azhar as global terrorist

Reasons for the decision however do not mention the Pulwama attack

•Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar was listed as a designated terrorist by the UN Security Council 1267 Committee on Wednesday. Significantly, the reasons for listing did not mention the Pulwama attack of February 14, for which the JeM had claimed responsibility, and which found mention in the latest (February 27) listing request for Azhar.

•Nevertheless, the listing is a victory for India in a decade-old diplomatic battle waged primarily by it and supported by its friends at the UNSC, as it would mean a travel ban, arms embargo and asset freeze on Azhar.

•The P-3 or group of three permanent UNSC members, the U.S., the U.K. and France, had co-sponsored a listing request at the Committee on February 27, weeks after the Pulwama attack that killed over 40 security personnel. That request, which The Hindu has access to, reads, “…JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Pulwama”.

•However, China placed a hold on the request — which normally lasts for three months — on March 13. This was the fourth such attempt to designate Azhar, over a decade, that had gone awry.

•At the end of March, the U.S. circulated a draft resolution (to sanction Azhar) among the UNSC members, i.e., outside the 1267 Committee, presumably to pressure China into either supporting the listing or having to take a stand in open proceedings and risk being seen as supporting terror.

•Earlier this week, China had said “some progress” had been made and indicated it was willing to change its decade-long position.

•The Hindu had learnt of an April 23 meeting to list Azhar at the U.N. which kicked off a silence period (when objections can be raised). The period ended on May 1 and following no objections from China this time, it went through.

Reasons for listing

•The reasons for designating Azhar as a terrorist as per Wednesday’s listing included his support for the JeM since its founding, being associated with the al-Qaeda by recruiting for them and “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing, or perpetrating of acts or activities or supplying, selling or transferring arms and related material”. It also pointed to his role in recruiting fighters in Afghanistan. The JeM itself was sanctioned by the 1267 Committee in 2001.

U.N. decision in line with our position: MEA

•Welcoming the decision, India called it a “step in the right direction”, which demonstrated the international community’s resolve to fight against terrorism and “its enablers”.

•“This is in accordance with India’s position and in line with the information that India has shared with the members of the Sanctions Committee regarding terrorist activities of Masood Azhar and the JeM. India will continue with its efforts through international forums to ensure that terrorist organisations and their leaders who cause harm to our citizens are brought to justice” said Raveesh Kumar, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson.

•Sources in the government called Pakistan's statement on the dropping of Pulwama references as "mischievous", and an attempt to "The objective has been the designation of "salvage something out of this huge diplomatic setback for them by diverting the narrative."

•"Pulwama happened to be the latest act of terror but the designation was not based on a specific incident but on the basis of evidence shared with members of the 1267 Sanctions Committee linking Masood Azhar to terrorism," the sources said.

•A western diplomat said the listing was a result of diplomacy by many partners and took concerns from all countries on board. According to the diplomat, the U.S. was key to pushing it through, aided by the U.K. and France, while Indonesia played an important role as the Chairperson of the UN Security Council.

•The French government was the first to issue an official reaction to the listing, calling it the “successful realisation” of its efforts of several years.

•Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Permanent Representative at the UN, said the listing was a significant outcome for India. “This is, for us, a significant outcome because we have been at it for several years. The first effort that we have made in this regard was in 2009. More recently, we have been persistent, diligent and in a subterranean manner, making all our efforts towards this goal. Today, that goal stands achieved.”

•Asked why the Pulwama reference was dropped, Mr. Akbaruddin said: “That is a settled issue following the Security Council statement of February 21.” The Security Council had condemned the Pulwama attack and asked all states, without naming any, to cooperate with India and combat threats to international peace.

📰 There is a need for immediate remedial steps to deliver justice to victim, says Dushyant Dave

“Supreme Court must heed its own judgments in the CJI sexual harassment hearings; It should also be fair to the judge concerned, and restore public confidence”

•Four centuries ago, Chief Justice Sir Edward Coke during King James I’s reign demolished the theory that “the king can do no wrong”. He held that the “king should be under god and the law”. Thus was established the supremacy of the law or the rule of law.

•Yet, the Supreme Court of India appears to think that it is above the law as an institution on its administrative side. It is acting clearly as if the judges and not the law is supreme. The ‘in-house procedure’ committee of three honourable and distinguished judges is proceeding post-haste to complete its task. In the process, it is negating everything that the Supreme Court has stood for on its judicial side. Irrespective of the report it submits, the conduct of the in-house inquiry by the committee raises extremely disturbing and far reaching questions.

‘Constitutional mandate’

•The Supreme Court has consistently prided itself as “a court which stands as a ‘sentinel of the qui vive’ over the rights of the people of this country”. In the celebrated Indra Sawhney vs. Union of India in 1992, a Constitution Bench of nine judges held: “therefore, judges who are entrusted with the task of fostering an advance social policy in terms of the constitutional mandates cannot afford to sit in ivory towers keeping Olympian silence unnoticed and uncaring of the storms and stresses that affect the Society”.

•It also reminded itself: “When societal conditions and factual situations demand the judges to speak, they, without professing the tradition of judicial lockjaw, must speak out……”

•The court unhesitatingly spoke in Visakha against sexual harassment at workplaces and commanded that till the time Parliament enacted the law, its judgment laying down guidelines to prevent sexual harassment and to punish those guilty, must hold the field. Years later, parliament stepped in and enacted the ‘Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013’.

•Yet, the Supreme Court has singularly failed to apply that law to itself and prohibit sexual harassment in its own workplace. By excluding the employees and themselves from its purview, the victim’s complaint against Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi is therefore left at the whims of the judges. In the absence of a defined procedure for redressal, the judges have followed the in-house procedure in a stereotypical fashion.

•True, this procedure to inquire against a judge of the Supreme Court provides for constituting ‘a Committee consisting of three judges of the Supreme Court’ while in respect of the judges of the High Court and the Chief Justice of the High Court, the committee comprises ‘two Chief Justices of High Courts other than the High Court to which the judge belongs and one High Court judge’ or ‘a judge of the Supreme Court or two Chief Justices of other High Courts’ respectively.

•Fundamentally, the procedure to inquire into a complaint against a judge of the Supreme Court is defective and not free from prejudices and bias. The Supreme Court in Addl. District & Sessions Judge ‘X’ v. High Court of M.P. speaking through Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice Arun Mishra, when they justified the constitution of a committee excluding judges of the same court, stated: “….The exclusion of judges of the same court from the investigative process, was also well thought out. In certain situations it may be true, as pointed out by the learned counsel for the petitioner, that judges of the same court being colleagues of the judge concerned, would endeavour to exculpate him from his predicament. It is not as if the position could not be otherwise. Animosity amongst colleagues is not unknown. Reasons of competitiveness, jealousy and the like are known amongst colleague judges, especially from the same High Court...”

•While declining to go into the contention of the petitioner that inquiry by the two-judge committee constituted by the Chief Justice of the High Court cannot be expected to arrive at a fair conclusion, the Justices yet went ahead and responded for it being ‘just and proper’ and ‘for future reference’.

•“There can be no doubt, that an investigation, would lead to consequences. The judge concerned may be found remiss, or alternatively, he may be exculpated of the charges. Whilst in the former eventuality, the judge concerned against whom the findings are recorded, would be the obvious sufferer, in the latter eventuality, the adverse consequences would be against the complainant, for it would be assumed that she had levelled unfounded allegations. It is therefore imperative that the procedure adopted for the investigative process is absolutely fair for all concerned. The procedure should be such as would ensure, that it would be shorn of favouritism, prejudice or bias. Presence of any one of the above would vitiate the entire investigative process. Recording of statements of individuals, who are subservient to Respondent 3 Justice A, irrespective of whether the statements are recorded on behalf of the complainant or the judge concerned, would most definitely render the investigative process unsustainable in law. The influence of the judge concerned, over the witnesses to be produced, either by the complainant or by the judge concerned himself, will have to be removed. It will be for the complainant to raise a grievance of the nature referred to above.….. And whenever necessary, remedial steps will be taken”.

•Accordingly the Supreme Court held “that the Investigative Process under In-House Procedure must take into account the Rights of the Complainant, the judge concerned by adopting a fair procedure and safeguards, the integrity of the Institution”. In that judgment the Supreme Court ordered, “to make the process ‘fair and just’, it is imperative to divest the judge concerned (against whom allegations have been levelled), of his administrative and supervisory authority and control over witnesses”.

•Therefore the Supreme Court should have appointed a fiercely independent committee. All this is singularly forgotten by the committee presided by Hon’ble Justice Bobde. The victim’s statement to the press published widely in newspapers demonstrates that the committee’s constitution, its procedure and its functioning are far from being fair and just. The very constitution of the committee raises serious question marks even if it be under the declared procedure. The law declared as above makes this legal position abundantly clear. Justices should have been mindful of their own law.

•The Chief Justice, during the fateful hearing on April 20 proclaimed from a judicial dais his innocence, described the victim as a criminal and spoke of a conspiracy against himself and the judiciary. Equally relevant is that following the alleged incidents of sexual harassment on October 11, 2018, the victim has been visited with inhuman treatment beginning with a series of transfers within the court’s precincts from one desk to another, initiation of inquiry, suspension and ultimate dismissal in the most bizarre manner, followed by suspension of her husband and his brother and initiation of departmental enquiries against them, summoning of the victim and the husband by the SHO, Tilak Marg Police Station, registration of FIR on absurd charges, arrest of the victim and her husband and inhuman treatment including hand cuffing, are all serious pointers at a possible conspiracy by the officials of the Supreme Court Registry, the police and those in power to protect the Chief Justice.

•In such circumstances, the committee was expected to allow the victim to be represented by a lawyer irrespective of a procedure adopted by them. Lord Denning in Pett vs. Greyhound Racing Association Ltd. made a profound statement on the law as to the representation of a lawyer in a domestic enquiry, “….when a man’s reputation or livelihood is at stake, he not only has a right to speak by his own mouth, he also has a right to speak by counsel or solicitor…even a prisoner can have his friend”. He observed that “a domestic Tribunal is not at liberty to lay down an absolute Rule: “We will never allow a lawyer to appear for him”. The Tribunal must be ready in a proper case to allow it”.

•In Port of Bombay Vs Dilip Kumar Nadkarni, the Supreme Court justified representation by a lawyer declaring, “Now examine the approach of the Chairman. While he directed two of his law officers to conduct the enquiry as prosecutor, he simultaneously proceeds to deny such legal representation to the delinquent employee, when he declined the permission to the 1st respondent to appear through a legal practitioner. Does this disclose a fair attitude or fair play in action? Can one imagine how the scales were weighted and thereby tilted in favour of the prosecuting officer...”

Procedural safeguards

•Pertinently in Nandlal Bajaj vs State of Punjab, the SC held that “the history of personal liberty is largely the history of procedural safeguards” and held: “Fundamental Right in Article 21 carries with it the inherent right to legal assistance”.

•The committee consisted of three of the most respected jurists and judges with vast knowledge and experience in law. Could the victim have got a fair chance before the committee without being represented by a lawyer? She asked for it and the committee declined it.

•One aspect must be remembered: the status of women in this country is still not equal to that of men. As a result more often than not sexual harassment victims suffer more than the perpetrators. The committee should have been mindful of realities prevailing in the society. The victim has every reason to demand greater fairness from the committee. Sadly, the committee failed to respond. The victim made the complaint at the end of the road, when she and her family were pushed to the wall. She could have forgotten the incidents of October 11, but successive and continuous acts of oppression against her and her family which are nothing short of sexual harassment compelled her to make the complaint on April 19.

•Can she be doubted for this? Let me remind the nation what the Supreme Court itself speaking through Justice Nariman in Assam Sanmilita Mahasangha v. Union of India, to which Justice Ranjan Gogoi was party, has held, “Given the contentions raised specifically with regard to pleas under Articles 21 and 29, of a whole class of people, namely, the tribal and non-tribal citizens of Assam and given the fact that agitations on this score are ongoing, we do not feel that petitions of this kind can be dismissed at the threshold on the ground of delay/laches. Indeed, if we were to do so, we would be guilty of shirking our constitutional duty to protect the lives of our own citizens and their culture. In fact, the time has come to have a relook at the doctrine of laches altogether when it comes to violations of Articles 21 and 29”.

•Sceptics must remember right to life includes right to reputation, right to life without fear, right to employment, right to fair treatment and of course right to dignity. Its expansion by the Supreme Court is historical. Let us hope the committee and the justices of the Supreme Court rethink the whole issue and take remedial steps so as to deliver justice to the victim, while being fair to the judge concerned, and restore public confidence and faith.

📰 Power shift: on tussle between Puducherry Lt. Governor and Chief Minister

Inspired by the ruling on Delhi, the Madras HC bats in favour of elected regime in Puducherry

•The Madras High Court verdict that the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry should not interfere in the day-to-day administration of the Union Territory is a serious setback to the incumbent Administrator, Kiran Bedi. She has been locked in a prolonged dispute over the extent of her powers with Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy, who says she has been disregarding the elected regime and seeking to run the Union Territory on her own. The court has laid down that “the decision taken by the Council of Ministers and the Chief Minister is binding on the Secretaries and other officials.” Inspired by the Supreme Court’s appeal to constitutional morality and trust among high dignitaries, the High Court has also reminded the Centre and the Administrator that they should be true to the concept of democratic principles, lest the constitutional scheme based on democracy and republicanism be defeated. The judgment is based mainly on the principles that were laid down in last year’s Constitution Bench decision on the conflict between the elected regime in the National Capital Territory (NCT) and its Lt.Governor. The five-judge Bench had ruled that the L-G has to either act on the ‘aid and advice’ of the Council of Ministers, or refer to the President for a decision any matter on which there is a difference with the Ministry, but has no independent decision-making powers. The High Court also says the Administrator is bound by the ‘aid and advice’ clause in matters over which the Assembly is competent to enact laws. The L-G’s power to refer any matter to the President to resolve differences should not mean “every matter”, the court has cautioned.

•Justice R. Mahadevan, who delivered the Madras High Court judgment, is conscious of the difference in status between Delhi and Puducherry. The Puducherry legislature is the creation of a parliamentary law, based on an enabling provision in Article 239A of the Constitution, whereas the NCT legislature has been created by the Constitution itself under Article 239AA. The Supreme Court had described the NCT as sui generis. At the same time, the NCT Assembly is limited in the extent of its legislative powers, as it is barred from dealing with the subjects of public order, police and land. However, looking at the Business Rules as well as other statutory provisions on Puducherry, the judge has sought to give greater credence to the concept of a representative government. He has set aside two clarifications issued by the Centre in 2017 to the effect that the L-G enjoys more power than the Governor of a State and can act without aid and advice. In view of the Constitution Bench judgment on Delhi, he has differed with another Madras High Court decision of 2018 in which the LG’s power to act irrespective of the Cabinet’s advice was upheld. In the event that the latest judgment is taken up on appeal, a key question may be how far the decision of the five-judge Bench on the limits of the Delhi L-G’s powers would indeed apply to Puducherry.

📰 The smokescreen of an infiltrator-free India

The real aim of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is to segregate non-citizens on the basis of religion

•The BJP’s poll promise to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in a phased manner in other parts of the country is only a smokescreen to hide its real agenda of using the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill to segregate non-citizens on the basis of religion and subjecting only the Muslims among them to anti-immigration laws of the country.

•At present, Assam is the only State in the country to have an NRC, which was compiled way back in 1951. The process of updating the 1951 NRC in Assam has been on since 2015 under constant monitoring by the Supreme Court. The complete draft of the updated NRC in Assam published on July 30, 2018 excluded the names of over 40 lakh of the total 3.29 crore applicants. The Supreme Court has fixed July 31 for publication of the final NRC list after disposal of all claims and objections.

No definition of infiltrators

•The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill incorporates the BJP’s articulated ideological position vis-à-vis undocumented immigrants in respect of three countries — Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The ideological position of the ruling party is that undocumented immigrants belonging to Hindu and other religious minority groups in these three countries cannot be treated as “illegal migrants” in India and need to be granted citizenship, while the Muslims among them are “infiltrators” must be identified and driven out.

•The BJP introduced the Bill in Parliament in 2016 when the NRC was being updated in Assam. The objective of the Bill is very clear: to remove the “illegal migrant” tag on members of six religious groups — Hindus, Jains, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis — from these three countries and reduce the requirement of residency in India to six years to make them eligible to apply for Indian citizenship.

•However, in its manifesto for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the party has dropped Parsis from the list. “Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs and Christians escaping persecution from India’s neighbouring countries will be given citizenship in India,” the manifesto promises.

•Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have been harping on updating the NRC in their election rallies “to identify the infiltrators”, and on the Bill. This is an attempt to manufacture consent of the people on the definition of “infiltrator” according to the ideological lexicon of the saffron party.

The problem of cut-off date

•However, the NRC smokescreen has thickened as the BJP has not spelt out in its manifesto the cut-off date for the proposed NRC for the entire country. If the cut-off date is going to be different from that taken for updating the NRC in Assam, what will be the legal status of those included in the updated register in Assam in the rest of the country, and vice versa?

•The cut-off date for updating the NRC in Assam is March 24, 1971, which is also the cut-off date in the Assam Accord for implementation of the core clause, Clause 5, which calls for identification, deletion of names and expulsion of “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh, irrespective of their religion. The Accord facilitated acceptance of undocumented migrants from erstwhile East Pakistan who came until this cut-off date as Indian citizens, except in respect of the stream of people who came in 1966-71 and who are to remain disenfranchised for a period of 10 years from the date of their registration as foreigners.

•Updating the NRC in Assam on the basis of this core clause led to a broad political consensus in the State that the updated register will be a critical document for implementing this clause and addressing the apprehension of the Assamese and other ethnic communities in the State of losing their linguistic, cultural and ethnic identities due to unabated migration from Bangladesh.

•The BJP has been pushing the campaign in Assam that 1951 should have been the cut-off date in the Assam Accord for identification of “infiltrators” from erstwhile East Pakistan and present-day Bangladesh. Though it has not taken any official position on reviewing the Assam Accord for fear of antagonising the Assamese, it has been pushing the campaign in a desperate bid to make them accept religion as the basis in place of language, culture and ethnicity for construction of an Assamese identity.

•The Assam government recently informed the Supreme Court that it has submitted a ₹900 crore proposal to the Ministry of Home Affairs for sanctioning 1,000 Foreigners Tribunals to decide the cases of those to be excluded from the final NRC list. The State has a hundred Foreigners Tribunals at present.

A legal shield

•The BJP, however, needs the Bill to be first enacted as a legal shield for the large number of Bengali Hindus in Assam, in other northeastern States, and in West Bengal, who migrated from erstwhile East Bengal and after the creation of Bangladesh.

•The BJP pushed the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, notwithstanding widespread protests in the northeastern States and got it passed in the Lok Sabha. But it did not push it in the Rajya Sabha for lack of numbers.

•To prevent its poll arithmetic going haywire in the Northeast on account of apprehensions that the Bill would make the NRC infructuous and trigger an influx of more “illegal migrants” from Bangladesh, the BJP in its manifesto promises “to protect the linguistic, cultural and social identity of the people of Northeast.”

•Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah’s promises on the Bill cannot be discounted as mere poll rhetoric as the Ministry of Home Affairs on October 18, 2018 notified the Citizenship (Amendment) Rules, 2018 making it mandatory for a person applying for Indian citizenship to declare her or his religion. However, the smokescreen of an infiltrator-free India without explicitly defining an infiltrator will not be able hide the real threat posed to the country’s secular fabric. If the Bill is made into an Act, it poses the threat of abusing the NRC to divide people on religious lines. The country can ill afford such a divisive agenda.

📰 Beyond Khalistan

By focusing only on this issue, New Delhi risks alienating the Sikh diaspora

•India-Canada ties have deteriorated in recent years, especially given the view that the current Justin Trudeau administration is soft on individuals and organisations that support the demand for Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland. Members of Mr. Trudeau’s Cabinet, especially Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, have been accused of having links with Sikh separatists. When Mr. Sajjan visited India in April 2017, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh refused to meet him for this reason. Similarly, Mr. Trudeau received the cold shoulder during his India visit in February 2018. When Mr. Singh met Mr. Trudeau, their discussion was on the Khalistan issue, rather than on areas of mutual cooperation. Recently, Mr. Trudeau drew the ire of the Indian government when a report on terror threats avoided the words ‘Khalistani extremism’.

•There is no doubt that some overseas Sikhs support a separate Sikh homeland, and that there is not much appetite for the same in Punjab. However, it is important to not link criticism of India on human rights issues, such as the Sikh pogrom of 1984 and extrajudicial killings in the 1980s and 1990s, with Sikh separatism. The Indian media, the government and even politicians in Punjab need to realise that Sikhs based in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. may have different political views. Similarly, non-violent support for a cause cannot be labelled as a militant activity.

•If there is evidence of support for any violent activity, New Delhi and Canada must work together to tackle the problem. By focusing only on the Khalistan issue, New Delhi risks alienating the Sikh diaspora. India should instead reach out to the Sikh diaspora in a year when Sikhs and all other followers of Guru Nanak will be commemorating his 550th birth anniversary.

•Critics of the Canadian government must also bear in mind that like all relationships, this is a multi-layered one. While New Delhi may be uncomfortable with the Canadian government’s approach towards the activities of certain Sikh hard-liners, it is important to bear in mind that for the year 2017, Indian students received well over 25% (over 80,000) of the available study permits. In 2017, well over 40% of the 86,022 people who received invitations for permanent residency were Indians. During 2018, this rose by a staggering 13% to 41,000.

•It is important to handle ties with Canada with nuance. First, members of the Sikh diaspora and Sikh politicians who are vocal on human rights issues shouldn’t be labelled Khalistani sympathisers. Second, it should be remembered that the New Delhi-Ottawa relationship goes well beyond the Khalistan issue.

📰 In line with India’s position, says Ministry

‘Designation based on evidence shared with sanctions panel’

•The decision to designate Masood Azhar a global terrorist is in accordance with India’s position, the External Affairs Ministry said in New Delhi on Wednesday.

•“This is in accordance with India’s position and in line with the information that India has shared with the members of the Sanctions Committee regarding terrorist activities of Masood Azhar and the JeM. India will continue with its efforts through international forums to ensure that terrorist organisations and their leaders who cause harm to our citizens are brought to justice,” said Raveesh Kumar, Ministry spokesperson.

•Sources in the government called Pakistan’s statement on the dropping of Pulwama references “mischievous”. “Pulwama happened to be the latest act of terror but the designation was not based on a specific incident but on the basis of evidence shared with members of the 1267 Sanctions Committee linking Masood Azhar to terrorism,” the sources said. Sources said Azhar’s role in the past decade was “known to all”.

•A western diplomat said the listing was a result of diplomacy by many partners and took concerns from all countries on board. According to the diplomat, the U.S. was key to pushing it through, aided by the U.K. and France, while Indonesia played an important role as the Chairperson of the UN Security Council.

•The French government was the first to issue an official reaction to the listing, calling it the “successful realisation” of its efforts of several years.

•Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Permanent Representative at the UN, said the listing was a significant outcome for India. “This is, for us, a significant outcome because we have been at it for several years. The first effort that we have made in this regard was in 2009. More recently, we have been persistent, diligent and in a subterranean manner, making all our efforts towards this goal. Today, that goal stands achieved.” Asked why the Pulwama reference was dropped, he said: “That is a settled issue following the Security Council statement of February 21.” The Security Council had condemned the Pulwama attack and asked all states, without naming any, to cooperate with India and combat threats to international peace.

📰 U.S. Commission says religious freedom in India deteriorated in 2018

Tenzin Dorjee, Commission Chairperson presents dissenting view.

•The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan, independent federal government commission has said that there is an “overall deterioration of religious freedom conditions in 2018” in India, in its 2019 report released earlier this week. India continues to remain a Tier 2 country, according to the Commission, a list it has been unable to get off of since 2009.

•Tier 2 countries are those in which “violations engaged in or tolerated by the government during 2018 are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of the ‘systematic, ongoing, and egregious” CPC (Country of Particular Concern) standard.

•CPCs are designated by the State Department and the latest list, from November 2018, contains 10 countries (including Burma, China, Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia). In these countries the government has tolerated or engaged in “particularly severe religious freedom violations, meaning those are systematic, ongoing, and egregious.” Other Tier 2 countries for 2018 are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia and Turkey.

•The Commission says in several countries where it found religious freedom declining, it also found an increased securitisation and politicisation of religion. “ In countries like India, it is increasingly difficult to separate religion and politics, a tactic that is sometimes intentional by those who seek to discriminate against and restrict the rights of certain religious communities.”

•The report says conditions for minorities in India have deteriorated over the last decade, adding that a “multifaceted campaign by Hindu nationalist groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Sangh Parivar, and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) to alienate non-Hindus or lower-caste Hindus is a significant contributor to the rise of religious violence and persecution.” It calls out the role of Hindutva/Hindu extremist groups, India’s anti-conversion laws, cow-protection lynch mobs, concerns that millions from Assam will be incorrectly left out of the National Register of Citizens and a lack of transparency on denying international NGOs registration and political targeting of NGOs.

•The Commission found that despite the overall deteriorating conditions there were “positive developments”. In this context, it takes note of Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s observation from last December that communal attacks dropped by 12 % in 2018 from their 2017 levels, an 12% increase in the budget of the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the Supreme Court’s push for a 11-point plan to counter mob violence.

Chairman records dissenting view

•Tenzin Dorjee, Commission Chairperson dissented with the view that India’s religious freedoms continued to decline in 2018. “India is an open society with a robust democratic and judiciary system,” he writes in the report. “As I commented last year, overall, I believe religious harmony exists in India [sic],” Mr Dorjee says, describing his experience of having lived as a Tibetan refugee in India for over 30 years, where he “mostly witnessed the best of India and sometimes worst due to intractable religious conflicts.”

•A new Commission member, Anurima Bhargava, a Chicago-native of Indian origin, wrote that the Commission had not had the opportunity to officially visit India in over a decade and sought stronger engagement and a productive dialogue with India.

•The report says, that the governments who have been called out for their actions, “often decry ‘interference in internal affairs’ when they are rightfully admonished…”

📰 SC reserves verdict on changes to SC/ST law

Centre: they continue to face stigma

•The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved for judgment a batch of petitions challenging the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act of 2018 which nullified a controversial March 20 Supreme Court judgment diluting the stringent provisions of the Dalit protection law.

•A Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and U.U. Lalit heard arguments raised by the Centre that the amendments were necessary as the SCs and the STs continue to face the same social stigma, poverty and humiliation which they had been subjected to for centuries.

•The 2018 Act nullified the March 20 judgment which allowed anticipatory bail to those booked for committing atrocities against the SCs and the STs. The original 1989 Act bars anticipatory bail. The apex court verdict saw a huge backlash across the country. Several died in ensuing protests and crores worth of property was destroyed. The government reacted by filing a review petition and subsequently amended the 1989 Act back to its original form.

•Several petitions were filed last year challenging the amendments. The lead petitioner, advocate Prithvi Raj Chauhan, even called the amendments a “blunder” and a violation of the fundamental right to equality and personal liberty. The Supreme Court however had refused to stay the implementation of the amendments.

•The government had responded that there had been no decrease in the atrocities committed on the SCs/STs despite the laws meant to protect their civil rights.

•“The SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 is the least which the country owes to this section... who have been denied civil rights since generations,” the Centre argued.

📰 Odisha, Andhra Pradesh brace for ‘Fani’ landfall

Odisha, Andhra Pradesh brace for ‘Fani’ landfall
8 lakh people being evacuated

•Defence forces are on high alert, educational institutions ordered shut and over 8 lakh people in coastal districts are being evacuated as Odisha braces for cyclone ‘Fani’, the extremely severe cyclonic storm likely to make landfall near Puri on Friday, officials said.

•It is expected to cross the holy town of Puri in the afternoon of May 3, packing winds up to 175 kmph before landfall.

•‘Fani’ has also kept Andhra Pradesh officials on edge as it is expected to move close to Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts

Fishermen warned of high waves as ‘Fani’ nears coast

•In view of the severe cyclonic storm ‘Fani’ closing in on Odisha, the Ocean State Forecast Operations Centre in Hyderabad on Wednesday issued warnings of high waves to fishermen along Odisha, West Bengal and Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts of Andhra Pradesh, according to Balakrishnan Nair, Head, Ocean Information and Forecast Services Group (ISG).

•An upward trend in higher waves along the coastline has started registering at Visakhapatnam and Gopalpur.

•The nearshore waves are being measured using WAMAN (Wave Monitoring Along Near-shore) buoy network, with real-time communication of the data, deployed at Puducherry, Krishnapatnam, Visakhapatnam, Gopalpur and Digha, Dr. Nair said.

•“Higher waves are likely to be experienced along the north Andhra Pradesh coast, Odisha and West Bengal coasts with maximum waves being along the Odisha coast. At Visakhapatnam, maximum wave height of around 5.8 mts is likely during the early hours on May 2; at Gopalpur, around 8.7 mts, early afternoon of May 3 and at Digha around 5.4 mts, early morning of May 4. This is for locations where Wave Rider Buoys have been deployed,” he said.

Caution advised

•The system is likely to move northwestwards during the next 12 hours and recurve north-northeastwards and cross Odisha coast between Gopalpur and Chandbali, to the south of Puri around 3rd May afternoon with maximum sustained wind of speed 175-185 kmph gusting to 205 kmph.

•The observations and forecast model outputs are in good agreement in the open ocean and near-shore.

•This suggests maximum caution to be exercised by Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal coasts, he maintained.

•Meanwhile, during a video conference on the cyclone preparedness in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary L.V. Subrahmanyam told Union Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha that Collectors were alerted and special officers were deployed in all mandals in Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam districts.

•He said the impact of ‘Fani’ could be significant on 200 villages and precautionary measures were taken while the cyclone was being tracked by Doppler radars in Chennai, Visakhapatnam and Machilipatnam.

•The Odisha government on Wednesday took all possible measures to face ‘Fani’, which is likely to hit the State’s coast in Puri district on Friday evening.

•Stating that every life is precious, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who reviewed the cyclone preparedness at a high-level meeting at the State Secretariat, directed the administration to ensure 100% evacuation in the vulnerable areas.

•Mr. Patnaik also laid emphasis on early restoration of power, water supply and road communication in the affected areas.

📰 Second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2 to be launched in July

The moon landing is likely to be around September 6, 2019, nearly two months after the launch, ISRO said.

•India’s much-delayed second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2, has got yet another launch window. The mission is now set to be launched any time between July 5 and July 16 this year. The moon landing is likely to be around September 6, 2019, nearly two months after the launch, close to the lunar South Pole, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) said.

Global plans

•The lunar South Pole is believed to contain ice and other minerals, and international space expedition plans are hotting up with NASA planning to land astronauts there by 2024, while China reportedly plans to build a scientific research station on the lunar South Pole within the next decade.

•The launch of India’s second moon mission, which has been put off multiple times, was scheduled for launch between January 3 and February 16 this year but was again pushed to April. With various tests to be completed and in the final stages, ISRO has now finalised another launch window in July.

3 modules

•Chandrayaan-2 is a fully-indigenous mission that comprises three modules — an Orbiter, a Lander named ‘Vikram’, and a Rover named ‘Pragyan’ — and will be launched on board a GSLV-MkIII rocket. The GSLV-MkIII is a three-stage heavy lift launch vehicle that has been designed to carry four-tonne class satellites into Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO). The Chandrayaan-1 mission was launched on board a PSLV.

•The Chandrayaan-2 weighs around 3,290 kg, according to ISRO. It would orbit around the moon and carry out remote sensing of the moon. “The payloads will collect scientific information on lunar topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice,” says ISRO.

Integrated module

•The Orbiter and the Lander will be stacked together as an integrated module, while the Rover will be housed inside the Lander. According to ISRO, once the Orbiter reaches the 100 km lunar orbit, the Lander will separate from it and ISRO will carry out a controlled descent at a specific site and deploy the Rover.

•The six-wheeled Rover will “move around the landing site in semi-autonomous mode as decided by the ground commands. The instruments on the rover will observe the lunar surface and send back data, which will be useful for analysis of the lunar soil,” according to ISRO.

📰 The cost of antimicrobial resistance

India must brace for the economic shocks from uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance

•Even though antimicrobial resistance is acknowledged by policymakers as a major health crisis, few have considered its economic impact. Now, a report from the Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (IACG) puts the financial fall-out in perspective. Titled “No Time to Wait: Securing The Future From Drug Resistant Infections”, it says in about three decades from now uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance will cause global economic shocks on the scale of the 2008-09 financial crisis. With nearly 10 million people estimated to die annually from resistant infections by 2050, health-care costs and the cost of food production will spike, while income inequality will widen. In the worst-case scenario, the world will lose 3.8% of its annual GDP by 2050, while 24 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty by 2030. Nations must acknowledge this eventuality, the IACG says, and act to fight it. For high- and mid-income nations, the price of prevention, at $2 per head a year, is extremely affordable. For poorer countries, the price is higher but still modest compared to the costs of an antibiotic apocalypse.

•India first published almost nine years ago the broad contours of a plan to fight antimicrobial resistance. The difficulty has been in implementing it, given the twin challenges of antibiotic overuse and underuse. On the one hand, many Indians still die of diseases like sepsis and pneumonia because they don’t get the right drug at the right time. On the other hand, a poorly regulated pharmaceutical industry means that antibiotics are freely available to those who can afford them. The IACG report acknowledges these obstacles, and calls for efforts to overcome them. Some steps can be initiated right away, it says, such as phasing out critical human-use antibiotics in the animal husbandry sector, such as quinolones. But these steps cannot be driven by regulation alone. A multi-stakeholder approach, involving private industry, philanthropic groups and citizen activists is needed. Private pharmaceutical industries must take it upon themselves to distribute drugs in a responsible manner. Philanthropic charities must fund the development of new antibiotics, while citizen activists must drive awareness. These stakeholders must appreciate that the only way to postpone resistance is through improved hygiene and vaccinations. It is a formidable task as India still struggles with low immunisation rates and drinking water contamination. But it must consider the consequences of a failure. While the 2008-09 financial crisis caused global hardships, its effects began to wear off by 2011. Once crucial antibiotics are lost to humankind, they may be lost for decades.

📰 Fighting polio in Pakistan

Instead of insisting on the oral polio vaccine, using the inactivated polio vaccine along with other vaccines would help

•Last month, the polio eradication programme in Pakistan was in the news for all the wrong reasons. On April 22, a government hospital in Mashokhel in Peshawar district was set on fire after many children allegedly fell sick after being given the anti-polio vaccine. On April 23 and 24, in two separate incidents, two police officers guarding vaccinators were shot dead. On April 25, in Chaman, which borders Afghanistan, a polio worker was shot dead and her helper injured. Since December 2012, nearly 90 people have been killed in the country for working to eradicate polio. Due to recurrent threats to workers, the Pakistan government has now suspended the anti-polio drive.

Cases of wild poliovirus type 1

•This is the worst time to take this decision. This year alone, eight paralysed children with wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) have been found in Pakistan. Environmental surveillance by testing sewage samples has shown 91 WPV1-positive samples, in the provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh. In the past week alone, 13 sewage samples were found to be positive for WPV1.

•This is a worrying sign. With suspended immunisation activities, WPV1 will spread fast and the number of polio cases could increase and cause an outbreak. If Pakistan cannot eliminate polio, the global eradication programme is sure to stall.

•When India eliminated WPV1 in January 2011, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), a public-private partnership led by national governments with five partners, did not ask if Pakistan would be able to follow suit; it simply assumed it would. This was unrealistic. In Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, oral polio vaccine (OPV) coverage of 98-99% was sustained with an average of 15 doses per child from 2003. There was full cooperation from the health workers and the public. The war on polio requires such intensity and coverage and it is unrealistic to expect this in Pakistan, where polio eradication is falsely depicted as a Western agenda with the sinister motive of reducing fertility.

•The GPEI has pinned all its hopes on the OPV and has excluded the alternate inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) to eradicate WPVs. The OPV is cheap and easy to give to children, but it has to be given to them again and again in pulse campaigns since its efficacy is poor. On the other hand, the IPV is highly efficacious and needs to be given just two-three times as part of routine immunisation.

Risk of polio outbreaks

•The OPV has another problem. If coverage declines (as is bound to happen in Pakistan), vaccine viruses will spread to children who are not vaccinated, back-mutate, de-attenuate and become virulent. Such viruses are called circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV). They can cause polio outbreaks. Thus Pakistan will soon be at risk of polio outbreaks by both WPV1 and cVDPV.

•It is to avoid the emergence of cVDPV that India strives to maintain high OPV coverage through routine immunisation, Mission Indradhanush and annual national pulse campaigns. In 2018, Papua New Guinea developed a cVDPV polio outbreak as OPV coverage fell to 60%. In 2017, as OPV coverage fell to 53%, Syria had an outbreak of cVDPV polio.

•There is yet another problem in Pakistan. With the OPV being identified as the weapon in the war on polio and with some in Pakistan believing that the aim of eradication is to reduce fertility, a vaccine is given only three or four times, not 15-20 times.

•Hope is not lost for polio eradication provided that the GPEI relents on its insistence on the OPV and uses the IPV along with other common vaccines. IPV-containing vaccines could be included in the routine immunisation programme and given without attracting the attention of militants. The false propaganda about polio vaccination in Pakistan will then lose its sting. While near-100% coverage with the OPV is necessary, 85-90% coverage with the IPV given in a routine schedule would be sufficient.

•If the GPEI insists on the OPV as the only weapon against polio, we have hit the end of the road in Pakistan. But the world cannot afford to lose this war on polio. India could show the way forward by giving the IPV in its universal immunisation programme (at least two doses and preferably three) and then discontinuing the infectious OPV altogether.

📰 Iraq remains top oil supplier to India

Contributes a fifth of India’s needs; imports from U.S. rise fourfold from 2017-18

•Iraq has, for the second year in a row, become India’s top crude oil supplier, meeting more than a fifth of the country’s oil needs in 2018-19 fiscal year.

•According to data sourced from the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics, Iraq sold 46.61 million tonnes (mt) of crude oil to India during April 2018 and March 2019, 2% more than 45.74 mt it had supplied in 2017-18 fiscal.

•India provisionally imported 207.3 mt of crude oil in 2018-19, down from 220.4 mt in the previous financial year.

Saudi dethroned

•Saudi Arabia has traditionally been India’s top oil source, but it was for the first time dethroned by Iraq in 2017-18 fiscal year. In 2018-19, Saudi exported 40.33 mt of crude oil, up from 36.16 mt of oil sold in the previous year.

•While India stopped importing crude oil from Iran following reimposition of economic sanctions this month by the U.S., the Persian Gulf nation was the third largest crude oil supplier to India. It sold 23.9 mt of crude in 2018-19, up from 22.59 mt in the previous year, according to the data.

•UAE topped Venezuela to become India’s fourth-largest crude supplier.

•It sold 17.49 mt of crude oil to India. In 2017-18, Venezuela had supplied 18.34 mt and UAE 14.29 mt. Nigeria was the next biggest supplier with 16.83 mt of exports in 2018-19, down from 18.11 mt in the previous year. Kuwait supplied 10.78 mt of oil and Mexico another 10.28 mt.

•The U.S., which began selling crude oil to India in 2017, is fast becoming a major source.

6.4 mt from U.S.

•Supplies from the U.S. jumped more than fourfold to 6.4 mt in the 2018-19 fiscal year. In 2017-18, the first year of imports from the U.S., the supplies were at 1.4 mt.

•Iran was India’s second biggest supplier of crude oil after Saudi Arabia till 2010-11, but western sanctions over its suspected nuclear programme relegated it to the seventh spot in subsequent years.

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