The HINDU Notes – 02nd October 2019 - VISION

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Wednesday, October 02, 2019

The HINDU Notes – 02nd October 2019

📰 No curbs thrust on Kashmiris: Centre

100% landlines working, says S-G

•Fifty-six days into a lockdown that began on August 5 in Jammu and Kashmir, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta claimed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday that “no restrictions” had been thrust on the Kashmiris and “100% landlines are working”.

•At one point when one of the judges on the Bench, Justice B.R. Gavai, asked Mr. Mehta about the state of mobile phone connectivity in the State, the top law officer indicated that mobile phones were a relatively recent phenomenon in Jammu and Kashmir.

•“Are there mobile lines working in J&K?” Justice Gavai asked.

•“Mobile lines were there in the rest of the country from 1995, but it started in J&K only in 2005... If mobiles start, WhatsApp messages will come from across the border,” Mr. Mehta replied.

•Senior lawyer Vrinda Grover, for journalist Anuradha Bhasin, pressed the Bench, led by Justice N.V. Ramana, to focus on the question of why the lockdown was continuing, now for the 56th day.

•Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora submitted that “people who come from far-flung districts of Jammu and Kashmir are not able to access medical care in Srinagar... Health schemes, including the Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana, is linked to the Internet.” But Mr. Mehta said all these claims about the inability to access health care were “absolutely wrong”. He submitted, “They are being said for something else, which I don’t want to say now.”

•The Solicitor General, who has filed an affidavit in Ms. Bhasin’s petition, said over 16 lakh people have had access to outpatient services in government hospitals in J&K since August 5.

•There have been over 15,000 major surgeries and 65,000 minor surgeries. The government even had the statistics on the number of dental visits, which was over 95000 after August 5.

•But Ms. Arora was not convinced by the figures. For one, she reasoned, they were not shared with the petitioner for independent verification.

•Secondly, there was nothing to compare these statistics of the government with. “What were the numbers before August 5? We don't know,” she said.

•This was the first hearing held by the Justice Ramana Bench, which also comprises Justice R. Subhash Reddy, on the several petitions filed from across the spectrum against the lockdown and lack of access to basic facilities.

•In an affidavit, the J&K government justified the ‘temporary restrictions’ and claimed they had prevented loss of life.

•In a separate affidavit, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs fully endorsed the J&K affidavit and said the Centre is “committed to making every endeavour to ensure that the region returns to a state of normalcy as expeditiously as possible, consistent with the requirements of national security and maintenance of peace and order.”

•On September 30, another three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi suddenly decided to shift the petitions to this “Kashmir Bench.” The CJI cited paucity of time due to the marathon Ayodhya appeals hearings.

📰 Verdict diluting SC/ST anti-atrocities law recalled

SC’s 2018 judgment sparked protests

•Correcting an error of judgment, the Supreme Court on Tuesday recalled its March 20, 2018 verdict, which bent the written law to protect persons accused of committing atrocities against the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

•On March 20, a judgment by Justice A.K. Goel (now retired) diluted the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, to grant anticipatory bail to accused persons and directed that the police conduct a preliminary enquiry into whether a complaint under the law is “frivolous or motivated” before registering a case.

•Both conditions were not part of the original legislation. Justice Goel had reasoned that members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes use the 1989 law to lodge false complaints, leading to the arrest of innocent persons.

•The March 20 judgment triggered widespread protests and compelled the government to amend the Act to negate the effect of the ruling. It also filed a review petition against the verdict.

•In its judgment on the review petition, a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, M.R. Shah and B.R. Gavai said human failing and not caste is the reason for the filing of false criminal complaints. The court condemned its earlier judgment, saying it was against “basic human dignity” to treat all SC/ST community members as “a liar or crook”.

•Caste of a person cannot be a cause for lodging a false report, Justice Mishra, who wrote the verdict, observed.

•Members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, due to backwardness, cannot even muster the courage to lodge an FIR, much less, a false one, the judgment noted.

•This is a nation where “we have not been able to provide the modern methods of scavenging to Harijans due to lack of resources and proper planning and apathy”, Justice Mishra wrote.

•“Untouchability though intended to be abolished, has not vanished in the last 70 years. We are still experimenting with ‘tryst with destiny’… condition is worse in the villages, remote areas where the fruits of development have not percolated down. Can he [Dalit] shake hand with a person of higher class on equal footing?” the court said.

📰 Humans pollute more than volcanoes: study

CO2 emissions are 100 times greater

•Human activity churns out up to 100 times more planet-warming carbon each year as all the volcanoes on Earth, says a decade-long study released Tuesday.

•The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), a 500-strong international team of scientists, released a series of papers outlining how carbon is stored, emitted and reabsorbed by natural and manmade processes.

•They found that manmade carbon dioxide emissions drastically outstrip the contribution of volcanoes — which belch out gas and are often fingered as a major climate change contributor — to current warming rates.

•The findings were published in the journal Elements.

•Manmade emissions in 2018 alone topped 37 gigatonnes.

•Celina Suarez, associate professor of geology at the University of Arkansas, said modern manmade emissions were the “same magnitude” as past carbon shocks that precipitated mass extinction.

•“We are on the same level of carbon catastrophe which is a bit sobering,” she said.

•By comparison, the CO2 released annually by volcanoes hovers around 0.3 and 0.4 gigatonnes — roughly 100 times less than manmade emissions.

📰 Huge iceberg breaks off Antarctica

•A more than 1,500 iceberg recently broke off Antarctica, but the event is part of a normal cycle and is not related to climate change, scientists say.

•The iceberg, dubbed D28, broke away from the Amery ice shelf between September 24 and 25, according to observations from European and American satellites.

•It is about 210 metres thick and contains 315 billion tonnes of ice, American glaciologist Helen Amanda Fricker said.

•The figures are huge, but iceberg production is part of the normal cycle of ice shelves, which are an extension of the ice cap, she said. “Ice shelves have to lose mass because they gain mass. They want to stay the same size,” said Ms. Fricker, a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California.

•The gain in mass comes from snow falling on the continent and glaciers that move slowly toward the shore. The east of Antarctica — where D28 broke off — is different from the west of the continent and Greenland, which are rapidly warming due to climate change.

📰 SC defers hearing on pleas challenging J&K bifurcation

Act effective from October 31; Centre, J&K govt. given till Nov. 14 to file counters

•A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday did not intervene in the implementation of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, from October 31.

•The Act reorganises Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories — Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. A fresh delimitation process will follow.

•The five-judge Bench, led by Justice N.V. Ramana, wound up the hearing shortly after realising that the Central and State governments had not filed any response to the series of petitions challenging the dilution of Article 370, withdrawing the special rights and privileges of the Kashmiri people, and the reorganisation of the State.

Deadline missed

•Both the Centre and the State government were issued notices by the court on the main petition filed by advocate M.L. Sharma on August 28. Yet Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, for the Centre, on Tuesday, sought more time to file the replies. And Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for Jammu & Kashmir, followed suit.

•The Bench promptly agreed to the requests. It gave them four weeks to file counter-affidavits and scheduled the next date of hearing for November 14 — a fortnight after the Act is implemented.

•“A realistic time limit,” Mr. Mehta reacted.

•Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, for some of the petitioners, tried to convince the court in vain that a deferment of the hearing to a date after the implementation of the Act would effectively leave the petitions infructuous.

•“In the previous hearing, this court had ordered the government to exchange the pleadings. But now the government is still asking for time. The Act comes into existence from October 31, and this case would be rendered infructuous,” he said.

•Again, though the cases were referred to the Constitution Bench on August 28, the Chief Justice of India had set up the Bench only last week.

•The petitioners argued that once the delimitation process starts, the effect would be irreversible.

Petitioners ignored

•“It is better we wait for them [the Centre and the State] to file their counter-affidavits,” Justice Ramana replied.

•The other judges on the Bench were also of the same opinion. Justice S.K. Kaul advised the petitioners: “First let us ensure the pleadings are completed.”

•“But we object to the government’s request for more time...,” Mr. Ramachandran insisted.

•“How can we hear without their counters?” Justice B.R. Gavai addressed Mr. Ramachandran as Justice Surya Kant, the fifth judge on the Bench, remained silent.

•The Bench said that even if the Act came into existence, the court could “turn the clock back” if a judgment is later made in favour of the petitioners.

•The Bench made it clear that, if necessary, it would even direct the Centre to produce the relevant documents pertaining to its decision to scrap the special status of Jammu & Kashmir.

📰 Three challenges before Xi

Economy slows while political, geopolitical tensions rise

•While presiding over a grandiose military parade at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing on Tuesday marking the 70th anniversary of the Communist revolution, Chinese President Xi Jinping said there’s no force “able to shake our great motherland’s status”. The parade, and Mr. Xi’s speech underscored the Communist Party’s grip on the country and the leader’s status.

•The country has made great economic progress under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC), especially in the last 40 years after Deng Xiaoping opened up the economy. China is now the world’s second largest economy in dollar terms. If the size of the Chinese economy was $30.55 billion in 1952, it stood at $13.6 trillion in 2018. GDP per capita jumped from $54 in 1952 to $10,200 last year. China has almost eradicated urban poverty. According to the World Bank, some 850 million people were lifted from poverty since the economic reforms. Today’s China is an industrial powerhouse and a leader in advanced technologies, a far cry from the poor, broken and primarily agrarian economy which the communists took over in 1949.

•While Mr. Xi and his party are celebrating these achievements, his regime also faces transformational challenges today.

Economic slowdown

•With globalisation and free trade in crisis and the era of cheap labour in China over, the country’s exports-dependent economy has slowed down. In the second quarter of 2019, Chinese economy grew 6.2%, slowest in more than 27 years. After the 2008 economic crisis, Chinese planners have shifted their focus from exports to domestic consumption. Though the share of exports in GDP has come down since its peak in 2008 (36.04%), China is still very much dependent on global economy (the share remained almost 20% in 2016).

•The trade war with the U.S. has hurt China badly with its industrial growth rate falling to a 17-year low of 4.8% in July. The numbers suggest that China is experiencing one of the worst economic slowdowns since it was opened up.

Geopolitical tensions

•Deng Xiaoping once famously said, “hide your strength and bide your time”, which more or less defined China’s foreign policy doctrine for decades. While its focus was on the country’s economic development, China was also “peacefully” rising as a regional power in Asia. With China’s big power status, however, it can no longer hide. Take the case of the U.S., for example. U.S.-China ties have been normalised after President Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 visit to China. When China liberalised its economy, economic and trade ties with the U.S. deepened. But now, the U.S. and China are involved in a bitter tariff war which is hurting each other as well as the global economy. Tensions have also raised in the South China Sea region. President Donald Trump’s policy seeks to take on China, if not contain its rise. The cooperative competition between the two countries has entered into a phase of confrontational competition.

Political crises

•On Tuesday, a few hours after President Xi gave his emphatic speech in Beijing, a protester was shot in the chest in Hong Kong by the police. Hong Kong has been in turmoil for month. What began as a protest against an extradition Bill has morphed into a violent movement for political reforms and “liberation”. The Hong Kong protests are perhaps the greatest challenge Mr. Xi has faced since he became President. In Xinjiang, Beijing was accused of detaining one million Uighurs in “re-education camps”. China says these were de-radicalisation camps, but the detention has sparked a global outcry, with Mike Pompeo, the U.S. Secretary of State, calling the camps “the stain of the century”. Choosing the next Dalai Lama could be another major political challenge. China has insisted that the next Lama should come from Tibet so that Beijing can have some leverage on the “reincarnation”. The Communist Party would not like these political issues to snowball into a “counter-revolution”. But how Mr. Xi is going to address them may also have lasting impact on the party’s hold on China.

📰 What would Gandhi say about the Indian media?

He would be delighted to see the rise of regional and social media and would be appalled by the spread of fake news

•As we celebrate Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary, a thought experiment that could yield provocative insights would be to explore what Gandhi would say about different aspects of modern India. Since Gandhi was a journalist before he became a political revolutionary, I will conjecture how he would have responded to the state of the Indian media today.

Gandhi, the journalist

•Gandhi started as a journalist with the Vegetarian in England, before launching a weekly newspaper called Indian Opinion in South Africa. When he returned to India, he founded publications like Navajivan , Young India , and Harijan that became communication platforms for the freedom movement.

•Writing about the Satyagraha in South Africa, Gandhi highlighted the critical role of the media. He wrote: “I believe that a struggle which chiefly relies upon internal strength can be carried on without a newspaper, but it is also my experience that we could not perhaps have educated the local Indian community, nor kept Indians all over the world in touch with the course of events in South Africa in any other way, with the same ease and success as through Indian Opinion, which therefore was certainly a most useful and potent weapon in our struggle.”

•Believing strongly that journalism should be accessible and empowering, Gandhi was an ardent supporter of the regional media. He published Indian Opinion in four languages: English, Gujarati, Hindi, and Tamil. He also inspired other journalists to write in regional languages. On this front, he would have been happy to see that the regional media is flourishing in India today.

•Gandhi argued that “one of the objects of a newspaper is... to fearlessly expose popular defects”. Thus, a vital role of the media is to speak truth to power and ensure accountability and transparency. However, today, he would find a media that has mostly acquiesced in a Prime Minister taking no questions at press conferences and generally eats out of his hand. He would have been appalled, for instance, by how the mainstream media avoided asking hard questions on the economy during the 2019 general election. When the Modi government rejected the Periodic Labour Force Survey that showed record levels of unemployment, it was given a free pass. After the election, when it acknowledged that the data was indeed valid, there was no outrage from the media on such an important issue. So, is the Indian media cowed down by epithets such as “presstitute” and “anti-national”? Or is concentrated ownership of Indian media houses by businesses that are afraid of attracting the government’s wrath affecting the editorial line?

•The Modi government is already denying advertisements to some media houses. While Gandhi had no problems with big business (and garnered substantial support from them), he did decry a dependence on advertising.

•The Press Freedom Index, released by Reporters Without Borders in August 2019, ranked India 140 out of 180 countries. The report highlighted how criminal prosecution, especially sedition, is rampantly used to gag journalists. It also noted that “at least six Indian journalists were killed in connection with their work in 2018”. The recent death anniversary of Gauri Lankesh is a chilling reminder of the cost of standing up for truth in India. A strong critic of communal politics, who refused to sell ad space in her newspaper to protect its integrity, and wrote mostly in Kannada, Gauri was a journalist Gandhi would have been proud of.

•Gandhi was ready to face sedition charges for his journalism. In 1922, he pleaded guilty in order to expose the undemocratic nature of the sedition law, which he termed a “prince among the political sections... designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”. He would be astounded to see this British-era law being used against journalists and activists today too.

In the era of fake news

•Gandhi emphasised that publication of “false news is a crime against humanity... Young India will be stale when truth becomes stale.” He would have been shocked that doctored videos became the basis for demonising student leaders of Jawaharlal Nehru University. The infamous “tukde, tukde gang” label was propagated by TV anchors, who spun malicious and fictitious tales to whip up public frenzy.

•Further, Gandhi would have been disgusted by prime-time TV debates, which are sensationalist, jingoistic, partisan, exploitative of viewers, and prone to warmongering. Given that journalists can choose what information to share and what aspects to emphasise or downplay, they are in a privileged position to influence thinking, behaviour and attitudes. Gandhi would be saddened by the blatant misuse of this privilege.

•One development that would have thrilled Gandhi is the rise of social media platforms. He would see these as empowering technologies that allow citizens to share their ideas and mobilise politically. He would have welcomed how the Internet has allowed independent, non-mainstream journalistic voices to fight on valiantly.

•However, the prevalence of fake news on social media would have deeply upset him. Gandhi would find it unbelievable that WhatsApp messages can trigger mobs to lynch people. He would have condemned BJP President Amit Shah when he praised the fake news-spreading capacity of his party members. He would have been relieved that fact-checking sites have emerged to debunk fake news.

•Given Gandhi’s foray into Noakhali in 1947, he would have tried his best to communicate with our fellow citizens of Jammu and Kashmir and to lift the lid on what is actually happening there.

•Gandhi said, “Freedom of the press is a precious privilege that no country can forgo.” At another time he stated: “It is my certain conviction that no man loses his freedom except through his own weakness”. One can only hope that the media heeds his words and reclaims the strength and independence befitting the fourth pillar of our democracy.