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Admin 2020-02-11

11 Feb 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

1) On The battle in Beijing: Raja Mandala


  • CONTEXT: Coronavirus poses a challenge to China’s place in global affairs, its political leadership.
  • Last week’s death of the doctor, Li Wenliang, who had warned about the impending catastrophe back in December but was charged by the police for “spreading rumours”, has seen an outpouring of emotion in China.

  • PRESSURE ON THE CPC: The scale and impact of the current crisis in China triggered by the spread of the new coronavirus has raised questions about its political implications. 
  • If the epidemic turns into a pandemic, as some analysts bet, China’s all-powerful leader Xi Jinping will come under considerable political pressure.
  • Others speculate that the backlash against the govt’s mishandling of the crisis could turn into a systemic threat against the dominance of the CPC
  • Sceptics, however, dismiss such speculation as merely reflecting the perennial hope among Beijing’s harshest critics who can’t wait to see a China without the CCP. 
  • Realists point to the massive mobilisation of state power by President Xi in limiting the spread of the virus. 
  • Xi and the CCP have invoked the metaphor of “people’s war” from its revolutionary history to cope with the massive challenge.
  • China deployed thousands of doctors and health workers in the Hubei province and building massive hospitals for treating the infected.
  • This has drawn much respect, grudging or otherwise, from the international community.

 

  • FAILURE TO GUAGE THE IMPACT: To be sure, there were major failures in the initial faltering response to the crisis. 
  • The attempts at the lower levels to cover-up or underplay the crisis and the inadequate appreciation at the higher levels of the potential consequences are common to all large bureaucracies. 
  • The party-state in China is not an exception.

 

  • ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCE OF HEALTH CRISIS: But China’s real challenge, however, might lie in addressing the uncertain economic consequences of the health crisis. 
  • Nearly two decades after the SARS epidemic - which broke out of China in 2002 and killed 774 people worldwide - China is now a much larger economy and its interdependence with the world has only deepened. 
  • This in turn lends a strong international dimension to China’s crisis.
  • Optimists hope that a sharp drop in economic activity in the current quarter will be followed by a steep uptick in growth in the next when the virus is contained and normalcy returns. 
  • Pessimists, however, suggest that the economic disruption - in terms of the impact on internal and external trade and the breakdown of the global supply chains - could have lasting effects. 
  • Some suspect that the disruption could reinforce the slowdown driven by a number of other internal and external factors including the trade war with the US.
  • Some in the West hope that a prolonged economic crisis might turn the people against the CCP. For now though, Beijing is channeling the resentment against the West. 

 

  • EVACUATION OF CITIZENS: Beijing has criticised the advisories from various countries against travel to China and the cancellation of flights as over-reaction. 
  • It has also been lukewarm to efforts of various countries to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan and Hubei.
  • Delhi has managed to convince Beijing to let India airlift its students from Wuhan.
  • Pakistan has declared that it will not evacuate its students as a gesture of political solidarity with China in a time of crisis. 
  • Many of India’s other South Asian neighbours are torn between the reluctance to offend Chinese sentiment and the mounting domestic pressures to bring students back.
  • But the logic of balancing between Delhi and Beijing has prevented most of the smaller neighbours from requesting Indian assistance. 
  • Maldives has been the only exception.
  • Beyond South Asia, many countries in East and Southeast Asia have been hesitant to be seen as rushing to cut themselves from China. 
  • Deep economic interdependence and massive flows of Chinese tourists led to much dithering among the East Asian countries in their early responses to the crisis.

 

  • INDIA'S RESPONSE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has thanked President Xi for letting the government get the students out of Wuhan and has also offered assistance in combating the spread of coronavirus. 
  • It is not clear what kind of assistance that Delhi has in mind and the nature of Beijing’s response. 
  • While being critical of the US travel restrictions against China, Beijing has certainly been open to cooperation with the US in dealing with the crisis.
  • Beyond its offer of assistance, Delhi can learn much from Beijing’s handling of the crisis. 

 

  • CONCLUSION: Given the constraints on state capacity in India and the nature of its political system, India is especially vulnerable to pandemics of the kind China has managed - the SARS during 2002-03 and the coronavirus now. 
  • Delhi must explore all potential cooperative engagement with Beijing as well as its other international partners on pandemics - an important but under-addressed challenge for national, regional and international security.

 

2) On the welcome Reservation


  • CONTEXT: The Constitution of India provides for positive discrimination. The CAA extends this principle to persecuted minorities in the Subcontinent.

 

  • CITIZENSHIP ACT 1955: A proviso has been added to section 2 (1)(b) of Citizenship Act 1955, modifying the definition of illegal migrants: 
  • It specifies that the persons belonging to Hindu, Sikh, Buddist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, who entered India on or before 31.12.2014, were not to be treated as illegal migrants, if exempted by the central government. 
  • Section 6 of the Citizenship Act 1955 otherwise provides for citizenship by naturalisation of a category of persons as per the provisions of the 3rd schedule of the Act. 
  • Section 6 (b) has been added in the Citizenship Act for grant of citizenship to such persons on fulfillment of certain conditions and restrictions as prescribed.

 

  • REASONS FOR AMENDMENT:

  • The purpose of enacting CAA is to give citizenship by naturalisation to the persons of such communities, who faced persecution.
  • It has to be kept in mind that these communities are minority communities in three neighbouring Islamic countries. 
  • The persons of above minority communities, now living in India, were made to flee from these countries due to fundamentalism, intolerance and torture on the ground of religion.
  • Blasphemy laws in these countries are so rigid that the onus of proving innocence lies on the accused and not the complainant. 
  • A student can lodge a complaint with the police that his teacher committed blasphemy by not properly interpreting the religious scriptures or showing the religious scriptures in bad light. 
  • It is not a secret that in many such cases, in these neighbouring countries, people have lost their lives at the hands of violent crowds. 
  • The punishment for blasphemy is death. The terror in the minds of minority communities — of being implicated in false cases of blasphemy has come to light in many instances. 
  • The USA and other European countries have been using strong-arm tactics against harassment of Christian communities in these countries, especially in Pakistan.
  • They have ensured that members of the Christian community who face blasphemy get proper legal help. 
  • However, the fear is so much that Pakistani lawyers appearing on behalf of such accused have faced threats to life. 
  • Minority communities have been decimated in these countries either by killing them or by converting them forcibly to Islam.

 

  • LONG PENDING DEMAND: The problem of granting citizenship to those who had taken shelter in India was pending for long. 
  • Almost all political parties at different times had expressed their concern for these communities and advocated for granting citizenship to them. 
  • However, since the advent of coalition governments in India, no political party in power had the courage to bring such a law, lest it affect their vote bank. 
  • After this law was passed recently by the Parliament, those very political parties, who in the past had been advocating for citizenship started opposing it in the name of secularism.

 

  • ARTICLE-15: The word secular has not been defined in the Constitution of India. 
  • Article 15 is the first article in the Constitution which mandates that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen on ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. 
  • The mandate given to states is in respect of citizens — that the citizens of this country cannot be subjected to any disability or discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste or place of birth. 
  • The Constitution has not mandated that non-citizens also cannot be discriminated against on the grounds of religion, race or caste. 

 

  • REASONS FOR DISCRIMINATION OF NON-CITIZENS: A State can have reasons to discriminate among non-citizens. These reasons may be various and one may be the security of the State. 
  • India has been facing terrorism from across the border for decades. This terrorism in India is primarily sponsored terrorism by the neighbouring state
  • Some terrorist organisations based in Pakistan have proclaimed their goal of establishing an Islamic fundamental order in India. 
  • This goal is openly pronounced in the meetings of terrorist organisations. The sole motive of these terrorist organisations is to establish Islam’s rule in India and to crush all other religions and communities and subjugate them. 
  • Afghanistan is fighting a bitter battle against terrorists who have the support of Pakistan. Terrorist organisations in Bangladesh also get support from Pakistan. 
  • This is good enough reason for the Indian State to deny naturalisation of illegal migrants/infiltrators belonging to the majority religion of these neighbouring countries.

 

  • SECULARISM IN INDIA: Secularism in the Constitution is spread over its different articles. The word secular in the preamble was not present when the Constitution was framed. 
  • Indian secularism is based on equal respect for all religions of the citizens of India, that is the Indian concept of “Sarva Dharama Savabhav”. 
  • Based on this concept of secularism, an attempt was made in the 45th Amendment Bill of the Constitution to define secularism. This definition could not be adopted by Parliament because of inadequate support in Rajya Sabha. 
  • The definition read — the expression secular Republic meant that there was equal respect for all religions. 
  • Interestingly, the Congress party in opposition at that time opposed the adaptation of the definition introduced vide 45th Constitutional Amendment Bill 1993. 
  • This amendment proposed to insert a new Article 28(a) reading “the State shall have equal respect for all religions”.

 

  • SECULARISM INCOHERENT WITH LAWS: Despite the Indian State being a proclaimed secular state in view of the various articles of the Constitution, the central and state governments, right from independence, did not profess secularism even in making laws. 
  • What was needed was to separate religion from the civil rights of the citizens. 
  • The Constitution had mandated enacting a Uniform Civil Code which would have protected all the citizens, irrespective of their caste, creed and religion in respect of their civil rights. 
  • It would have left them free to profess any religious practices in respect of worship of God, provided the rituals did not interfere with the rights of other citizens.
  • However, the governments went on to regulate the practices associated with Hindu community and made significant changes in the Hindu personal laws. 
  • It is not that these changes were not required but similar changes were equally required to be made for all citizens of this country, irrespective of their religion. 
  • While the state took steps in respect of Hindus, it did not take similar steps of enacting progressive laws in respect of Muslims and Christians. 
  • Even when the courts tried to give such rights to followers of Muslim faith, the government at the Centre overturned the decision because it enjoyed majority in the legislature. 
  • The word secularism was present in the preamble when the Shah Bano ruling given by the Supreme Court was overturned by Parliament. 
  • The principle of secularism is there in the Constitution from the very beginning. Non-framing of the UCC by Parliament defeated the very concept of secularism. 

 

  • NEED OF UCC: The first step to be taken by the legislature towards secularism is enacting UCC.
  • The developments until now have exposed the sham secularism of the contemporary politicians, the governments and the legislature. 
  • Therefore, the State has, from the beginning, been accused of showing undue protection of even the most foul practices of minority religions and interference with the majority community at will. 
  • The propagators of secularism have been using the word only as a tool for vote mopping: Their real credentials have never been secular.

 

  • DIFFERENT TREATMENT OF UNEQUAL: Article 14 of the Constitution mandates the State equality before law for every person. 
  • Article 14 is not qualified by the word citizen, whereas Article 15 is qualified by the word citizen and mandates that the State shall not discriminate against any citizen only on the ground of religion, race, caste and sex. 
  • While interpreting Article 14 as early as in 1953 in Satish Chandra Vs. UOI (AIR 1953 SC 250), the SC stated that the guiding principle of Article 14 was that persons and things similarly circumstanced shall be treated alike. 
  • The provisions of Constitution do not forbid different treatment of unequal: The rule is that like should be treated as like and unlike should be treated differently. 
  • Uniform treatment of unequals is as bad as unequal treatment of equals (AIR 1989 SC 88).
  • As stated earlier, the position of minority communities in all the neighbouring countries and the position of Muslims in the same countries has never been equal and the minority communities there have consistently suffered at the hands of the majority community.

 

  • POSITIVE DISCRIMINATION:  The Indian statute book is full of instances of special legislation applying only to a particular class or group. 
  • Discrimination on the ground of caste and sex has often been approved by the Supreme Court if it is done as positive action by the legislature to protect the groups or to undo the historical injustice. 
  • Article 15 (I) mandates that there shall be no discrimination on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex and place of birth etc. 
  • Article 15(IV) mandates that the State has a right of making special provisions for advancing any socially or educationally backward classes. 
  • The State has been making laws preferring women over men or making special laws for securing protection for certain sections of the society on the ground of historical injustice done to such communities. 
  • The State has full authority to pass a law to undo injustice done to minority communities of neighbouring countries, who have sought refuge within its borders.

 

  • FEDERAL CHARACTER: The Indian Constitution meticulously lays down the power of the State and the Union. It creates a balance between the power of State and Union. 
  • While the Union normally cannot interfere with the powers granted to a State by the Constitution, the States also cannot refuse to administer the laws passed by the Union. 
  • The Constitution has given authority to the Centre to enforce its administrative directions against the States and to compel them to comply with them. 
  • This power is intended to ensure harmony between the Union and the State. The executive authority of the States have to be so exercised that it ensures compliance with Union laws and its administrative directions. 
  • The State exhibits a definite attitude of hostility against the central government when it obstructs the execution of Union Laws or services.
  • And, the central government — in order to maintain the integrity of the country, has been empowered to intervene. 
  • States have no option but to implement the laws passed by the Union.
  • The Indian Constitution does not envisage dual citizenship, one of the State and other of the Centre — there are no state citizenship laws. 
  • The power in respect of the laws for citizenship exclusively lies with the Union. The State has only one option: To approach the judiciary only if it feels that the law was not as per Constitutional provisions. 
  • Passing of a resolution by a state assembly is a meaningless exercise, only having a palliative effect.

 

  • CONCLUSION: The Constitution makers and the people of this country have opted for Parliamentary democracy, which works by the principle of majority rule. 
  • This implies the willingness of the minority for the time being to accept the decision of the majority. 
  • Normally the political parties have their own agenda and they go to the people with this agenda at the time of contesting elections. 
  • The political parties are divided on the issues of policies.
  •  In a country like India, there is an existence of a large body of voters who owe no allegiance to the vision of any party and they at the time of election decide, which political party would serve the national interest in the best way or whose policies should be considered best for the nation and best for the people.
  • Once the people have exercised their right, the minority is supposed to respect the majority opinion and wait for the next election and convince the people that the policies of the political party in power were not good for the country. 
  • The minority cannot take the law into its own hands nor can it undermine the will of the majority expressed through their representatives in the Parliament. 
  • If they do not want to wait for the next parliamentary election, they have the option of bringing a no-confidence motion against the present government. 
  • The battle for political parties is fought during the general elections or within the Parliament during debates and it is not fought on the streets, as the same leads to anarchy.

 

3) On T.N. Protected Special Agriculture Zone: Safeguarding the delta


  • By announcing that the Cauvery delta region, Tamil Nadu’s rice bowl comprising eight districts, will be declared as ‘Protected Special Agricultural Zone’ (PSAZ), State Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami has recognised farmer concerns about hydrocarbon exploration and accorded primacy to food security. 
  • In political messaging, he also sought to deflect the perception that the AIADMK government, after Jayalalithaa’s death, is subservient to the BJP-led central government and is complicit in allowing “anti-people” projects. 
  • His decision comes weeks after he protested the Centre’s unilateral amendment of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006, exempting prior environmental clearance and public consultations for oil and gas exploration. 
  • The delta, which produces 33 lakh tonnes of grains in 28 lakh acres, has seen multiple protests for a decade over methane, hydrocarbon, oil and natural gas projects, which required acquisition of fertile lands and well drilling - proposals which triggered fears of groundwater contamination. 
  • Neduvasal in Pudukottai and Kadiramangalam in Thanjavur have been the nerve centres of these resolute protests, led by agriculturists and backed by mainstream political parties. 
  • In July 2013, in response to sustained protests, then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa ordered suspension on coalbed methane exploration and production in Thanjavur and Tiruvarur and followed it up with a ban in 2015. 
  • But in 2017, the Centre signed contracts for hydrocarbon extraction from 31 areas of discovered small fields including from Neduvasal. Two years later it allowed Vedanta Limited to conduct tests for 274 hydrocarbon wells in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.
  • Mr. Palaniswami has rightly sensed that the farmers’ emotive and intense opposition can be ignored only at a political cost. Agricultural scientists such as M.S. Swaminathan have for long mooted such zones similar to special economic zones; Uttarakhand and Kerala have them. 
  • Tamil Nadu now has to enact legislation to protect a vast region, largely in the coastal area, from industries that would affect farming. The move for a protected agriculture zone in T.N. favours food security over energy greed.
  • In 2017, a government notification delineated 45 villages covering about 23,000 hectares in Cuddalore and Nagapattinam districts in the delta, as a Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment Region, with an eye on over ₹90,000 crore in investments. 
  • The proposed PSAZ raises a question mark on this ambitious scheme. The government may have to brave central pressure and litigation from companies which pumped in money for exploration. 
  • The latest decision may have implications for the State’s investment climate, what with the closure of the Sterlite Copper plant still fresh in memory. But the intent to prioritise farmer interests and food security is beyond reproach.
     

4) On Supreme Court judgment: Reservation as right


  • It is quite understandable that a recent Supreme Court judgment, that there is no fundamental right to claim reservation in promotions, has caused some political alarm. 
  • The received wisdom in affirmative action jurisprudence is that a series of Constitution amendments and judgments have created a sound legal framework for reservation in public employment, subject to the fulfilment of certain constitutional requirements. 
  • It has solidified into an entitlement for the backward classes, including the SCs and STs. However, the latest judgment is a reminder that affirmative action programmes allowed in the Constitution flow from “enabling provisions” and are not rights as such. This legal position is not new. 
  • Major judgments - these include those by Constitution Benches - note that Article 16(4), on reservation in posts, is enabling in nature. In other words, the state is not bound to provide reservations, but if it does so, it must be in favour of sections that are backward and inadequately represented in the services based on quantifiable data. 
  • Thus, the Court is not wrong in setting aside an Uttarakhand High Court order directing data collection on the adequacy or inadequacy of representation of SC/ST candidates in the State’s services. 
  • Its reasoning is that once there is a decision not to extend reservation — in this case, in promotions — to the section, the question whether its representation in the services is inadequate is irrelevant.
  • The root of the current issue lies in the then Congress government’s decision to give up SC/ST quotas in promotions in Uttarakhand. The present BJP regime also shares responsibility as it argued in the Court that there is neither a basic right to reservations nor a duty by the State government to provide it. 

  • The idea that reservation is not a right may be in consonance with the Constitution allowing it as an option, but a larger question looms: Is there no government obligation to continue with affirmative action if the social situation that keeps some sections backward and at the receiving end of discrimination persists? 
  • Reservation is no more seen by the Supreme Court as an exception to the equality rule; rather, it is a facet of equality. The terms “proportionate equality” and “substantive equality” have been used to show that the equality norm acquires completion only when the marginalised are given a legal leg-up. 
  • Some may even read into this an inescapable state obligation to extend reservation to those who need it, lest its absence render the entire system unequal. For instance, if no quotas are implemented and no study on backwardness and extent of representation is done, it may result in a perceptible imbalance in social representation in public services. 
  • Will the courts still say a direction cannot be given to gather data and provide quotas to those with inadequate representation? Ensuring adequate representation to disadvantaged sections is a state obligation.