[op-ed snap] A solution in search of a problem


  1. In seven decades, the nation has failed to answer the question that who are the backward class of citizens
  2. This failure is at the core of demands by several rich, powerful and dominant castes to be included as backward classes (BCs) to obtain the benefits of reservations

The new NCBC:

  1. On April 10, Lok Sabha passed the 123rd amendment to the Constitution which will, when it becomes law, bring into being a ‘constitutional’ National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC)
  2. The current NCBC was created under an Act of Parliament in 1993
  3. The new insertion into the Constitution (Article 338B) is identical to the Articles 338 and 338A that respectively created the national commission for SCs and another for STs
  4. The amendment also brings about changes to Articles 342 and 366

The Amendment:

  1. 123rd amendment amounts to that the Union government has in one stroke brought BCs in league with the SC/STs as victims of discrimination, exclusion and violence
  2. It not only is illogical and lacks historical justification, but is fraught with several challenges to the way India runs its welfare system

New NCBC is a solution in search of the problem:

  1. The new NCBC is bound to create more problems than it is capable of solving
  2. One, on the task of identifying backward classes, the new entity will not even be expected to do the job. Hereafter Parliament will determine who is a BC for the ‘Central’ List
  3. Two, since it has no responsibility to define backwardness, it cannot address the current challenge of well-off castes’ demands to be included as BCs

Delinking Article 340:

  1. Article 340 deals with the need to, inter alia, identify those “socially and educationally backward classes”, understand the conditions of their backwardness, and make recommendations to remove the difficulties they face
  2. The Article stipulates appointment of a commission to give effect to its provisions
  3. This was the context for the appointment of two commissions (one headed by Kaka Kalelkar in the 1950s and the other by B.P. Mandal in the 1970s)
  4. Even the 1993 NCBC Act was based on this article
  5. The 123rd amendment delinks the whole folio of backward classes from Article 340 and brings it closer to provisions related to SC/STs

Shortcoming of the current NCBC:

  1. The main shortcoming of the current NCBC, according to the Union government, is that it has no power “to hear the grievances” of the BCs
  2. The SC commission has become the gold standard for those demanding the new NCBC
  3. If the new body is as incompetent as its role model, the nation will be spared of a lot of avoidable problems
  4. The government initially proposed to set up the “National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes” which is — in nomenclature, at least — closer to Article 340
  5. By retaining the old generic name of NCBC and delinking the body from its soul (Article 340), the government set the stage for the whole scheme of special protections under the Constitution to crumble

Article 340:

  1. The article reflects the Constituent Assembly’s understanding on the matter which is relevant even today: there are classes, not castes, which suffer from social and educational backwardness, and the state has the burden of allocating adequate funds to ameliorate their conditions
  2. It stretches one’s credulity to accept that the article stipulates quotas and representation be extended to BCs

New untouchables?

  1. Though Article 338B keeps the socially and educationally backward classes as its subject matter, in practice the proposed system will treat the developmental issues related to BCs on a par with caste discrimination and untouchability suffered by SCs and even by STs
  2. The new NCBC will hear grievances, inquire into complaints, summon officials given its powers as a civil court, issue directions and have the right to be consulted by both Union and the States on policy matters related to BCs
  3. One is right to assume that BCs do face discrimination and exclusion and they deserve state support
  4. The whole business of inquiries into complaints, safeguards, recording evidence, etc. will result in the need to enact laws similar to the ones in existence for the protection of SC/STs
  5. Consider a possibility: in case of an atrocity against SCs, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes intervenes as a guardian of their rights
  6. It is not rare that in most atrocities SCs are pitted against Sudras (be they upper or lower)
  7. It is irrelevant whether it is an atrocity or a group clash, once an incident flares up two ‘constitutional’ national commissions will clash, each defending its wards


Important for prelims and mains. Mains 2016 had a question on constitutional provisions for tribals. Similarly, note these provisions for BCs. Important for prelims too.

[op-ed snap] The appeasement of none


  1. Communal politics, which ironically passes for secularism in this country, has been the bane of Indian politics
  2. It can be traced back to the British policy of ‘divide and rule’, the result of which was Partition
  3. The Constitution was a repudiation of these ideas and the politics that perpetuated them
  4. It rejected the suggestions for a separate electorate for the minorities and the proportional representation system

Trends in current times:

  1. The recent PIL filed by a Jammu-based advocate alleges that rights of religious and linguistic minorities in the State are being “siphoned off illegally and arbitrarily”

Defining minority:

  1. Articles 29 and 30 of the Constitution guarantee certain rights to minorities for protection of their culture, script, and languages
  2. The Constitution has not defined or identified religious and linguistic minorities
  3. The question of who will determine which group is a minority was settled only in TMA Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka
  4. Here it was held that the unit for the purpose of determining the definition of minority would be the State, not the whole of India

Minorities Commission:

  1. The Minorities Commission was set in 1978 to ensure that minorities are able to enjoy the safeguards provided for them in the Constitution and various Central and State laws
  2. National Commission for Minorities Act was passed in 1992 to give a statutory backing to the Commission
  3. According to Section 1 (ii) of the Act, it extends to the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir
  4. As per Section 2 (iii), ‘minority’ means a community notified as such by the Central government
  5. Using this power, the Central government through a gazette notification notified Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Zoroastrians (Parsis) as ‘minorities’ for the purpose of this Act
  6. Jains were declared as a minority later

Who is a minority?

  1. According to the 2011 Census, out of 28 States and seven Union Territories, Hindus are a religious minority in seven States (Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab) and in one UT (Lakshadweep)
  2. In J&K, Hindus have been at the receiving end of majoritarian wrath, and the constitutional guarantee of liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship is being violated there
  3. The status of West Pakistan refugees, who had migrated there at the time of Partition, is also relevant
  4. Reports suggest that there are about 2.5 lakh Hindus. They are not recognised as state subjects and are denied the most basic human rights
  5. In Punjab, Hindus are only 38.4% of the population, but they have not been notified as a minority in the Punjab State Commission for Minorities Act, 2012

Furthering vote-bank politics:

  1. The SC in Bal Patil v. Union of India had said the National and State Minorities Commissions should direct their activities to maintain the unity and integrity of India by gradually eliminating the minority and majority classes
  2. The Minority Commission should act in a manner so as to prevent generating feelings of aversion towards multiculturalism in various sections of India
  3. But rejecting all this, for vote-bank politics, the then United Progressive Alliance government declared Jains as a minority community in 2014, just before the elections


We need to move beyond this minority-majority binary. The governments should be committed to the philosophy of ‘Antyodaya’, i.e. working for the benefit of the last person in the queue. They should not look at citizens through the prism of caste, religion, language, or sect. There should be equal opportunities for all and the appeasement of none. Carefully note the constitutional aspects and various cases in this issue. This gives an objective and unbiased tone to your answers on such issues.

Only Parliament can allow additions to OBC list

  1. The Lok Sabha cleared The Constitution 102nd Amendment Bill
  2. Provisions: It grants constitutional status to the Backward Classes Commission, now called the National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes
  3. Any addition to the Central list of communities under the Other Backward Classes will have to be cleared through Parliament
  4. Benefits: It would ensure the rights of the Other Backward Classes, and give the National Commission for Backward Classes the constitutional safeguards enjoyed by the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Tribes


Very important for pre and mains both- Creation of a new constitutional body.

[op-ed snap] Minority Report

The politician’s debate over who is in minority:

  1. Manmohan Singh, as Prime Minister, had said that minorities have the first claim to national resources
  2. Najma Heptullah, former Minority Affairs minister, in her very first statement had refused to even accept Muslims as a “minority”

Government’s stand:

  1. Last year, the Modi government asserted in the SC that a secular government cannot set up minority universities
  2. The National Minority Commission is now headless and has just one out of the eight stipulated members
  3. The National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions has been similarly headless for the last three years or so

Change in policy:

  1. The Modi government has now asserted in the apex court that Hindus are a minority in the state of Jammu and Kashmir
  2. Both the Centre and the state government have agreed to resolve this issue together

Indian constitution:

  1. The expression “minorities” has been employed at only four places in the Indian Constitution
  2. The headnote of Article 29 uses “minorities”
  3. Then the expression “minorities or minority” has been employed in the headnote of Article 30 and in clauses (1) and (2) of Article 30
  4. Interestingly, no definition of the term is given in the constitution

Court and minority:

  1. Some years ago, the Allahabad High Court held that Muslims are not minority in Uttar Pradesh as there is “no threat to their extinction”
  2. It said there is no minority in India
  3. The SC has consistently maintained that minorities are to be defined on the basis of “numerical inferiority”
  4. Since the constitution talks of both religious as well as linguistic minorities, courts have held that minorities are to be defined at the level of the state, as states were carved out on a linguistic basis
  5. Thus, Hindus are certainly minority in J&K and no one should deny them this status
  6. The current case is unnecessary as the law is well settled
  7. The SC, in the D.A.V. College case did hold Hindus as a minority in Punjab
  8. Hindus also have minority status in several Northeastern states

International law:

  1. Under International law, minorities are groups that possess distinct and stable ethnic, religious and linguistic characteristics
  2. The crucial point is that these characteristics differ from the rest of the population, and that these groups wish to preserve their distinctive identity even if this identity does not conform to the norms and the values of the majority
  3. Thus, a minority is a group that is numerically smaller in relation to the rest of the population
  4. It is non-dominant to the extent that its values are either inadequately or not represented in the public sphere or in the constitution of societal norms
  5. It has characteristics which differ from the majority group and more importantly, it wishes to preserve these characteristics
  6. Thus, numerical inferiority or powerlessness is the test to determine minority status

Way forward:

  1. Since the linguistic basis of state creation is no longer valid after the creation of Telangana, the apex court may re-examine this issue in the context of religious minorities
  2. One approach can be to define religious minorities nationally and linguistic minorities on the basis of the state
  3. But a better approach would be to accept the dissenting opinion of Justice Ruma Pal in the TMA Pai case under which minority status should be determined in relation to the source and territorial application of the particular legislation against which protection is claimed
  4. If it is a parliamentary law, minorities must be defined nationally
  5. On the other hand, if it is state law, minorities may be defined on the basis of numerical inferiority in the state


The op-ed is on who is a minority and how it can be determined. A good read for Mains answer.

U.K. begins consultation on caste discrimination

  1. News: The British government published details of a public consultation on whether caste should be introduced as an aspect of race in anti-discrimination legislation
  2. It said that there is “no place” for any form of prejudice and discrimination based on a person’s origins
  3. Also, it wanted to be careful not to create or entrench any notion of caste consciousness or caste-based practices into British society, which may prove counterproductive or divisive
  4. This consultation is about how to ensure that there are appropriate and proportionate legal protection against unlawful discrimination because of a person’s origins with due consideration given to how such protections would be implemented in practice


Very much needed step in Indian context too. Can be quoted as an example in a mains answer, especially in ethics.

[op-ed snap] Protection whose time has come


  1. Shashi Tharoor, MP, introduced the Anti-Discrimination and Equality Bill 2016 (ADE Bill) in the Lok Sabha
  2. As a Private Member’s Bill, however, this will not be enacted unless the government takes ownership of this Bill

Reasons for accepting this bill:

  1. There are at least three reasons why it should do so:
  • The Bill’s symmetric protection,
  • Its experiential understanding of discrimination as a lived reality,
  • Its proportionate regulation of the private sector


  1. Discrimination is rife in India is not in doubt
  2. Women, Dalits, religious and sexual minorities, people from the North East, hijras, disabled persons and the elderly are especially at the receiving end
  3. Almost everyone in our country has faced, or is likely to face, some form of discrimination
  4. On the other hand, we have all also been perpetrators, sometimes consciously, but often unconsciously — by benefitting from unearned privileges that tend to accompany our dominant group status, sincerely believing in our merit, and in our innocence
  5. Recognising this universality in the experience and perpetration of discrimination, the ADE Bill seeks to symmetrically protect majorities as well as minorities (with exceptions for affirmative action and aggravated discrimination), and does so comprehensively, along multiple grounds of discrimination
  6. It is true that members of minority groups primarily suffer from discrimination
  7. But, given our multiple identities, no one person is a member of the dominant group in all respects
  8. Also, patriarchy will not end unless women as well as men are liberated from gender roles

A symmetric Bill:

  1. Under the symmetric ADE Bill, anyone could potentially be a victim, and anyone, whether from a majority or minority group, could be a discriminator
  2. The right wing has long complained that the left wing is selective about the victims it seeks to protect
  3. Whatever may be the truth of that allegation, here is one Bill that is genuinely universalist in its aspiration

Indirect discrimination:

  1. The Bill recognises that sometimes, one can discriminate indirectly by doing something that disproportionately impacts a group (say, a minimum height requirement that is unnecessary for satisfactorily performing a given job, and disproportionately excludes women since they tend to be shorter than men)
  2. It treats harassment, bullying, segregation, boycott, violence and victimisation as the various guises that discrimination can take
  3. By focussing on the experience of the victim, rather than the intention of the discriminator, the Bill understands that power is self-aggrandising and dynamic, with the ability to adopt ever subtler forms, and even deny its own existence in order to perpetuate itself

In private sector too:

  1. In prohibiting discrimination in public as well as private sectors (especially employers, landlords, retailers and service-providers), the ADE Bill recognises that decades of affirmative action in the public sector, while necessary, is insufficient to tackle discrimination
  2. It also imposes diversification duties, while ensuring that private businesses can discharge their social obligations with minimal regulatory burdens

What the bill intends to do?

  1. Marking a break from past laws that criminalised discrimination, the focus of the ADE Bill is to create a civil liability to protect and compensate the victim, rather than to punish the discriminator
  2. Criminalisation — which requires a very high burden of proof — probably contributed to the under-enforcement of existing laws
  3. The “lighter touch” approach of the ADE Bill is complemented by a dedicated, efficient and independent enforcement mechanism
  4. It therefore strikes a proportionate balance between competing demands


For all these reasons, the central  government should have the Bill sent to a parliamentary standing committee for wider public consultation and scrutiny  and prepare for its enactment. If it fails, a pioneering state government or two should take the lead in championing the idea instead. The op-ed is important for both Prelims and Mains.

Crack down against manual scavenging, urge civic workers

  1. Civic workers have urged the authorities to implement the Prohibition of Manual Scavenging and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 by immediately releasing a one-time cash assistance of ₹40,000 and rehabilitation support to over 2,600 manual scavengers in Tamil Nadu
  2. The workers had gathered for the ‘Stop Killing Us’ call of Safai Karmachari Andolan
  3. They alleged that they were still being engaged regularly to get into manholes and septic tanks despite the prohibition of manual scavenging and the 2014 Supreme Court order


Know about the salient provisions of the Act. Can be a prelims trivia or the issue as a whole can be asked in mains.

Q. ‘Rashtriya Garima Abhiyaan’ is a national campaign to [Prelims 2016]

(a) rehabilitate the homeless and destitute persons and provide them with suitable sources of livelihood
(b) release the sex workers from their practice and provide them with alternative sources of livelihood
(c) eradicate the practice of manual scavenging and rehabilitate the manual scavengers
(d) release the bonded labourers from their bondage and rehabilitate them

Answer: (c) It is the “National Campaign for Dignity and Eradication of Manual Scavenging”


The Prohibition of Manual Scavenging and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 intends to achieve its objectives to:-

i) Eliminate the insanitary latrines.

ii) Prohibit:-

a)         Employment as Manual Scavengers

b)         Hazardous manual cleaning of sewer and septic tanks.

iii) Survey of Manual Scavengers and their rehabilitation, within a time bound manner.

Main features of the Act are:-

(i) Definitions of manual scavengers and insanitary latrines widened to cover not only dry latrines but other insanitary latrines as well.

(ii) Offences under the Act are cognizable and non-bailable and attract stringent penalties.

(iii) Vigilance/Monitoring Committee at sub-Division, District, State and Central Govt. levels.

(iv) National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) would, inter alia, monitor implementation of the Act  and enquire into complaints regarding contravention of the provisions of the Act.

(v) Provision of construction of adequate number of sanitary community latrines in urban areas, within three years from the date of commencement of this Act to eliminate the practice of open defecation.

Srimushnam temple’s tradition of harmony revived

  1. In an age of rising religious intolerance, a festival tradition that celebrates unity and harmony in a coastal village near here offers a sense of reassurance and hope in the spirit of human solidarity
  2. Killai, the coastal village near Chidambaram in Cuddalore district, is home to over a century-old secular tradition, among Hindus and Muslims
  3. During the annual celebrations of Masi Maham, when the processional deity of Sri Bhoo Varaha Swamy temple, a Vaishnavite temple in Srimushnam, is taken out in a procession through local hamlets
  4. Marking one of the high points of the festival, the temple car, as it reaches Killai, halts in front of a Dargah built for saint Hazrath Syed Sha Rahmathulla Shuttari and Muslims offer prayers and donation to the deity
  5. The procession to Killai (which is about 60 km from Srimushnam) during the Masi Maham festival recently was resumed after a two-year break as the Sri Bhoo Varaha Swamy temple was undergoing a consecration


Cannot be asked in exam but can be quoted as an example of religious harmony (not only tolerance).

[pib] Know about Nai Manzil scheme

  1. The Ministry of Minority Affairs has targeted to cover 70 thousand minority school drop outs under the Nai Manzil scheme during 2016-17
  2. For this the budget of Rs. 120 crore has been allocated
  3. The Nai Manzil scheme is an educational and livelihood initiative supported by the World Bank, which can be availed of by the school drop-outs belonging to six notified minority communities namely, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains including Muslim students studying in madarsas
  4. The scheme has been rolled from the current financial year i.e. during 2016-17 only


A Prelims tit bit.



When Mahars fought on home turf, and helped Britain win

  1. Event: On Jan 1, 1818, some 500 soldiers of the ‘untouchable’ Mahar community fought a great battle at Bhima-Koregaon village alongside the British against the superior forces of Peshwa Bajirao II
  2. This battle in the 3rd Anglo-Maratha War effectively ended Brahmin ‘Peshwai’ domination and signalled the end of the Maratha empire
  3. Many Dalit activists see the battle, in which their community members fought under the Union Jack, as the turning point in their struggle against oppression
  4. At present there is a memorial at Bhima-Koregaon
  5. History: Relations between the Peshwas, who were Brahmins, and the Mahars were strained after Bajirao I died in 1740
  6. They touched the nadir during the reign of Bajirao II, who insulted the Mahar community and rejected their offer to serve in his army
  7. This pushed them to the British side and they fought with extreme courage
  8. When the regiment crossed the shallow Bhima river and pursued the Peshwa’s army, those troops fled
  9. They had previously fought and served alongside the Peshwa’s forces in crucial battles, including the third battle of Panipat and at Kharda


An example of how divisions within society can make it weak towards external enemies.

[op-ed snap] Talking to children about untouchability

  1. Many urbanites think about caste only in the context of reservations or when we come across media reports of Dalits being attacked
  2. It may seem that caste hardly plays a role in modern society
  3. Research suggests that caste discrimination is far more commonplace than most educated urbanites would care to acknowledge
  4. A new survey called SARI (Social Attitudes Research for India) found that people’s attitudes towards their Dalit neighbours is sobering
  5. Among non-Dalit Hindus in Delhi, a third said that someone in their household practises untouchability
  6. In UP, half of adults said that someone practises it
  7. Even though women and men live in similar households, women are more likely to report untouchability in the household
  8. Women may be more likely to report untouchability because it is often practised in the context of food, utensils, and domestic help
  9. Women likely to report practising untouchability, and the fact that mothers are often the first and most influential teachers of their children, suggests that children’s first impressions of caste differences may be ingrained at a much younger age
  10. So this computer-using generation of youngsters becomes more educated than the previous generations
  11. It is time for parents, teachers, and even the government to start talking to children about ending these practices today
  12. Everyone needs to admit that untouchability is still a widespread problem, not only in rural India but also in urban India


Children should be made to understand that discrimination is hurtful, and to have kinder attitudes towards people from different groups. A study of primary school students in the United States found that white students who read about both the accomplishments of and the discrimination faced by black Americans later displayed less biased attitudes towards blacks than white children who had merely read about accomplishments.

[op-ed snap] Still frowning upon intermarriages

  1. Context: How common are the inter-caste, inter-religion marriages
  2. R. Ambedkar pointed out, the social ban on intermarriage is “the most fundamental idea on which the whole fabric of caste is built up”
  3. Survey: called SARI (Social Attitudes Research for India) investigated what people think about inter-caste and inter-religious marriage
  4. People from all backgrounds said that they would raise objections to their children’s inter-caste or inter-religion marriages
  5. Nearly 50% of the non-Scheduled Caste respondents in Delhi and 70% in UP said that they would oppose a child or close relative marrying a Dalit
  6. Inter-religious marriages: In Delhi, about 60% Hindus said they would oppose a child or relative marrying a Muslim
  7. A similar fraction of Muslims would oppose a child or relative marrying a Hindu
  8. In Uttar Pradesh, the opposition was even greater: about 75% of Hindus opposed marriages with Muslims, and about 70% of Muslims, opposed marriages with Hindus
  9. The SARI data suggest that the desire to stop other people from having inter-caste marriages is not as uncommon or distant as we might like to think
  10. When asked if there should be laws to stop marriages between upper castes and lower castes, 40% in Delhi and more than 60% in rural UP want such laws
  11. Laws against intermarriage had backers among the lower castes as well as the upper castes
  12. A higher fraction of women than men said they would support laws against inter-caste marriage
  13. The idea that laws should prohibit inter-caste marriages was not confined to older generations
  14. The only demographic factor that is strongly associated with support for laws against inter-caste marriage is education
  15. In Delhi, about 25% highly educated people said there should be a law against such marriages; in Uttar Pradesh, it is about 45%
  16. The finding that even many educated people think there should be laws against inter-caste marriage raises serious questions about our education system
  17. We need to think if education system is doing enough to reduce caste and religious prejudice
  18. It is telling that many of the youth passing out of the premier technical and medical institutions still depend on their parents to choose their spouses
  19. In a society that is so divided on caste lines, inter-caste or inter-religious marriages can make a person an outcast among his family and neighbours
  20. He may even be barred from family inheritance
  21. Even when families are not adamantly opposed to an inter-caste marriage, there is a strong belief that it is more convenient to settle down with a socially and culturally familiar person
  22. Legally: the government approves of these marriages
  23. Every year, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment makes available 500 monetary awards to inter-caste couples
  24. The government should be doing much more to promote inter-group marriage and to protect those who seek them


Lack of government support in the face of family disapproval may be one reason why the India Human Development Survey found that only 5% of marriages are inter-caste.

[op-ed snap] An equal music, a beautiful society

  1. Context: Manual scavenging, a task invariably assigned to Dalits (including men, women and children)
  2. Targeted for eradication since Gandhi came back to India a hundred years ago
  3. An Act of Parliament in 1993 officially banned the employment of manual scavengers and the construction of dry latrines
  4. And yet it continues today, perpetuating the most extreme forms of indignity and oppression, causing disease and death, reducing life expectancy, and making the occupation of thousands of Indian citizens a living hell
  5. Bezwada Wilson, Indian winner of the 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Award, has been campaigning to put an end to this abominable practice for close to thirty years
  6. Wilson questions how can India proceed when such an archaic form of caste discrimination, a kind of slavery and a form of torture, continues to exist and to ruin countless Dalit lives
  7. M. Krishna, another 2016 Ramon Magsaysay Award winner comes at caste from the direction of the arts, particularly Carnatic music
  8. He argues that what is now considered Carnatic classical music and Bharatanatyam were both originally the provenance of women, especially temple dancers and courtesans, and of non-Brahmin “holding communities” like the Isai Vellalars
  9. These groups were sidelined and their art forms taken over by socially dominant Brahmin practitioners and patrons
  10. They cleansed the music and dance of their vernacular, erotic, demotic and popular character, and reinvented them as classical, religious, refined and urbane
  11. The temple courtyard and the noisy village square gave way to the kutcheri and the sophisticated concert hall as performance spaces, which closed their doors to ordinary people
  12. Recently he has made joint appearances with the Jogappas, a transgender community of devotional folk performers, associated with the goddess Yellamma, unimaginable in the hallowed halls of classical music for the Carnatic orthodoxy
  13. From music to excreta, everything is segregated, violating the basic principle of equal citizenship


Untouchability may have been outlawed through Article 17 of the Indian Constitution, but that is only the most extreme way to keep human beings and fellow citizens apart. In fact, Indians of different castes even today seldom eat together, live together, inter-marry or in other ways participate in each other’s life-worlds across the invisible yet impenetrable barriers of caste


Untouchability (Offenses) Act (1955) provides penalties for preventing anyone from enjoying a wide variety of religious, occupational, and social rights on the grounds that he or she is from a Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe

[pib] What’s the funda of Progress Panchayat?

  1. There is no dearth of schemes and funds for development of Muslim and other Minority communities
  2. Progress Panchayat will proved to be an effective mission for this purpose
  3. Progress Panchayat would educate people of the area about the government’s efforts in social, educational, health and infrastructure sectors and in creating job opportunities
  4. Minority Schemes: “Seekho aur Kamao”, “Nai Manzil”, “Nai Raushni”, “Ustaad”, “Nai Udaan” are guarantee of empowerment of poor belonging to Minority communities
  5. Multi-purpose community centres “Sadbhav Mandap” will also be constructed on waqf land which will be utilized for marriage ceremonies, exhibitions and also relief centres during a calamity

Venkaiah and Parrikar slam ‘Mushkil’ deal

  1. Background: A deal between the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and the producers of the film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
  2. What: The deal involved a donation of Rs. five crore to the Army’s coffers to allow the film to be screened in Mumbai theatres
  3. Criticism: Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu termed it inappropriate
  4. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar observed it was a gesture not appreciated by the Army
  5. The issue had generated strong criticism, with the military charging it was being used for political mileage

We fail if intolerance grows: Chidambaram

  1. Source: Former FM P. Chidambaram delivering the inaugural address of an event organised by Observer Research Foundation and IIM-Calcutta
  2. Statements: The country’s growth potential could be affected if the increasing intolerance is not controlled
  3. You can not build a prosperous society unless that society is tolerant
  4. Various religious and caste groups must tolerate each other
  5. I still see a bright future as we still remain a vibrant democracy

Special courts in Gujarat to deal with atrocities against Dalits

  1. News: Gujarat Govt has set up 16 new courts at district level for speedy trial of cases registered under the Prevention of Atrocities against SCs and STs Act
  2. Background: The Gujarat Govt came under attack for atrocities on Dalits and other marginalised sections in the state, especially after the flogging of four Dalit men in July this year
  3. The setting up of designated courts was one of the demands made by Dalit leaders and activists during the recent agitation against the rising number of atrocities against the members of scheduled castes in the state

Maharashtra introduces Bill against caste panchayat

  1. News: Maharashtra govt presented the much-awaited bill against caste panchayats in the State
  2. Reason: In recent times, Maharashtra has witnessed an increasing number of incidents of social boycott and violence at the orders of caste panchayats
  3. Provisions: It prohibits social boycott of a person or group of persons including their family members
  4. Significance: Maharashtra will be the first State in the country to enact a law against social boycott of individuals or families by caste panchayats
  5. Maharashtra also took lead in formulating anti superstition law

Centre drafts Bill to decriminalise beggary

  1. Objective: To offer a life of dignity to the beggars, homeless and others who live in poverty or abandonment
  2. Background: Begging is currently a crime under the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959
  3. Under the Act, a person found begging can be sent to a shelter home or even jail without trial
  4. Proposal: The state govts will conduct surveys for the purpose of mapping areas and identifying persons in destitution
  5. The state govts will establish rehabilitation centre’s for the care, protection and vocational or skill development training for such people

Genetics throws light on genesis of caste system

  1. Religious diktat enforced more than a millennium ago can have repercussions in genetic make-up of modern-day Indians.
  2. It has found that the country’s billion inhabitants have a far more complex origin than previously imagined.
  3. However, in the complexities of genes lie the secret of one of the country’s most persistent practices: the caste system.
  4. During Gupta period, the social strictures against marriage between caste were enforced.
  5. The block lengths of ancestral genes pointed to the era when mixing of castes ended.
  6. This is the result of a study of numerous communities undertaken by researchers from the National Institute of BioMedical Genomics in WB.

Dalit activism is now a reality across campuses in India

Indian campuses are witnessing unusual caste flare-ups, highlighted by the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad.

  1. The Hindu examines how caste fault lines are muddying higher education.
  2. The government’s ill-crafted budget cuts and erratic decision-making are adding to the grievances of a generation.
  3. Dalit student politics is making its presence felt in many Indian universities.
  4. With the alleged suicide of a Dalit student at the University of Hyderabad, this movement is suddenly in the news.
  5. Reservations and discrimination are major issues for organisations.

Rohith Vemula could not do research as he was embroiled in probes

The final blow was delivered by Human Resource Development Ministry’s letters and reminders to the university.

  1. The research scholar who committed suicide on the University of Hyderabad (UoH) campus, was known as a bright doctoral student who had secured a CSIR-Junior Research Fellowship (JRF).
  2. The day, January 17, that he hanged himself using ASA’s banner, he was on the 14th day of a sleep-in strike against the authorities.
  3. Following his expulsion from the hostel after a series of incidents and probes which took place on campus dating back to June 2015.
  4. Mr. Vemula could neither pursue his research nor political activism because he had been tied down by 3 ongoing investigations.
  5. With Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya referring to the “assault” case on ABVP leader and “anti-national, casteist and extremist” activities on the campus, the matter had already taken a political turn.

Research scholar hangs self after expulsion from Central University

Rohith Vemula hanged himself 12 days after he was expelled from his hostel along with four other researchers.

  1. A Dalit research scholar of the University of Hyderabad (UoH), allegedly hanged himself to death 15 days after he was expelled from his hostel along with four other researchers.
  2. The 5 Dalit students of Ambedkar Students Association (ASA) had been on a sleep-in strike in the open on the campus ever since their expulsion.
  3. In the 5-page suicide note recovered from the room Rohith had mentioned how he always “looked at the stars and dreamt of being a writer” and an established academic.
  4. As per the university orders, 5 students, including Vemula, were denied entry into the hostel and permission to gather together.
  5. Following a scuffle between two students organisations — ABVP and ASA.

Top IFS posts still out of bounds for SCs, STs

  1. Over a third of India’s prestigious foreign service officers are from backward communities.
  2. SC, ST and OBC officers accounted for fewer than one in five of those at the top of the service.
  3. This glass ceiling exists across India’s administrative services as SCs form fewer than 2% of secretaries and additional secretaries.

[op-ed snap] A new edifice for reservations

All societies face serious challenges on account of discrimination and institutionalised inequality.

Centuries of artificial division of society into hundreds of castes, the denial of education for all but a few “upper” castes, an unbreakable linkage between caste and occupation, institutionalized untouchability and absurd notions of “impurity”, the long-entrenched tradition of endogamous marriages within a sub-caste, and serious prejudice against mixed marriages are all that have made the Indian caste system the most heinous, oppressive and intractable form of discrimination and inequality by birth.

  1. Most of the benefits of reservations have gone only to a few, better educated, well-off elites among the communities eligible for reservations
  2. Real poor families among SCs, STs and OBCs are largely on the margins. The poor among Other Categories (OC) are resentful and frustrated, and tend to blame reservations for all their problems.
  3. With the Supreme Court ruling of 50 per cent ceiling on reservation quotas, no further reservation is possible. No child with ability and desire should ever be denied opportunities for higher education on account of poverty or birth
  4. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act is mostly a failure in enabling a real opportunity for all children.Guaranteed outcomes in schools and access to real quality school education to every child irrespective of birth and poverty are at the heart of a society promoting equity, opportunity and egalitarianism.
  5. It is time we address the challenge of reservations honestly, openly, fairly and innovatively. We cannot bury our heads in the sand forever like an ostrich.

BIMARU states – The abbreviation is still relevant

  1. The term BIMARU — an abbreviation for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — was coined by demographer Ashish Bose in 1980s.
  2. Based on a range of demographic indicators these States lagged significantly behind the southern States, and were contributing the most to India’s population explosion.
  3. As per 2011 census, although these states have made significant individual improvement but they still lag behind in indicators like Total Fertility Rate and Per Capita Income.

NSSO survey reveals 67.3% rural households use firewood for cooking

  1. In contrast, only 14% of urban households use firewood and the remaining rely of LPG.
  2. In North Indian States, cow-dung cake remained one of the major fuels for cooking for a third of rural households in UP and Punjab, a quarter in Haryana and a fifth in Bihar.
  3. Survey indicates that the use of firewood drops steadily with rising incomes in rural and urban areas, and LPG use is highest among the richest classes
  4. Data show 87% of ST households and 70% of SC households in rural India use firewood, compared with 57% of others.
  5. Over 25% of rural households still rely on kerosene for lighting.


Some facts:

  • Top LPG users among rural households: TN>Kerala>Punjab
  • Bottom LPG users among rural households: Chattisgarh<Jharkhand<Odisha
  • Top electricity users in rural areas: Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, TN, Kerala
  • Just 40% of rural UP households have electricity.

In search of freedom – Victims of human trafficking

  1. Human trafficking results in modern-day slavery such as sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced marriages and children in armed conflict.
  2. UN passed Palermo Protocol in 2000 to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in person, especially in women and children.
  3. Even though trafficking is prohibited in our constitution, but a comprehensive law was laid down in 2013, making trafficking a criminal offence.
  4. The victims of trafficking especially children need safe social and economic rehabilitation accompanied by counselling and vocational training.
  5. Rights-based education system should be introduced in school curriculum so that children are aware of the dangers of trafficking.

Questions (attempt in the comments section)


Critically analyse the effect of social media on functions and performance of government, governance and institutions in India.

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