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[op-ed snap] Why isolation of indigenous groups is crucial today

Note4students

Mains Paper 1: Indian Society | Salient features of Indian Society, Diversity of India.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics knowledge of indigenous groups.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the need for the isolation of the indigenous groups, in a brief manner.


Context

  • The remote, coral-fringed North Sentinel Island made headlines last year, after an American Christian missionary’s covert expedition to convert its residents—the world’s last known pre-Neolithic tribal group—ended in his death.
  • The episode has cast a spotlight on the threats faced by the world’s remote indigenous groups.

Sentinelese tribe: most isolated tribe

  • The Sentinelese people targeted by the slain evangelist John Allen Chau are probably the most isolated of the world’s remaining remote tribes.
  • These people are keen to stay that way.
  • They shoot arrows to warn off anyone who approaches their island, and attack those, like Chau, who ignore their warnings.
  • However, this has not always been like this. When Europeans first made contact with the Sentinelese, the British naval commander Maurice Vidal Portman described them in 1899 as “painfully timid.
  • Tribes like the Sentinelese have learned to associate outsiders with the ghastly violence and deadly diseases brought by European colonization.

Effect of British colonialism on indigenous tribes

  • British colonial excesses whittled down the aboriginal population of the Andaman Islands, which includes North Sentinel Island, from more than two dozen tribes 150 years ago to just four today.
  • The tribes that escaped genocide at the hands of the colonizers did so largely by fleeing to the most inaccessible parts of jungles.

No Contact policy

  • After the decimation of indigenous peoples under colonial rule, the countries where isolated tribes remain—including Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, India, and Peru—have pursued a “no contact” policy.
  • This policy is anchored in laws that protect indigenous people’s rights to ancestral lands and to live in seclusion, and reinforced by an international convention obligating governments to protect these communities’ lands, identities, penal customs, and ways of life.

Is there a need to reverse the no contact policy?

  • It is illegal for outsiders to enter India’s tribal reserves.
  • But the threat to the Sentinelese people and to all isolated tribes is far from neutralized, as some have taken Chau’s death as an opportunity to argue that we should reverse the policies protecting isolated tribes.
  • The reasons for some could be of good intentions such as to provide access to modern technology, education, and health care but for others it is not.
  • For example, Brazil’s new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has threatened to repeal constitutional safeguards for aboriginal lands in order to expand developers’ access to the Amazon rainforest.

Why the need for isolation?

  • The first waves of European colonization caused a calamitous depopulation of indigenous societies through violence and the introduction of infectious diseases, like smallpox and measles, to which the natives had no immunity.
  • In Brazil, three-quarters of the indigenous societies that opened up to the outside world have become extinct, with the rest suffering catastrophic population declines.
  • Over the last five centuries, Brazil’s total indigenous population has plummeted from up to 5 million to fewer than 900,000 people, with the introduction of constitutional protections for indigenous territories in the late 1980s aimed at arresting the decline.
  • In the Andaman chain, of the four tribes that survive, the two that were forcibly assimilated by the British have become dependent on government aid and are close to vanishing.
  • Indigenous communities’ combined share of the world population is now at just 4.5%.

Will the isolation help increase their population?

  • Leaving secluded tribes alone is no guarantee that they will survive.
  • These highly inbred groups are already seeing their numbers dwindle, and face the spectre of dying out completely.
  • But they will probably die faster if we suddenly contact them.

Consequences of Extinction of these isolated tribes

  • These tribes might be isolated, but their demise will have serious consequences.
  • With their reverence for and understanding of nature, such groups serve as the world’s environmental sentinels, safeguarding 80% of global diversity and playing a critical role in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
  • When the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami struck, more than a quarter-million people died across 14 countries, but the two isolated Andaman tribes, which rely on traditional warning systems, suffered no known casualties.
  • However, the indigenous societies have been pitted against loggers, miners, crop planters and other interlopers.
  • In the last 12 years alone, according to satellite data, Brazil’s Amazon Basin has lost forest cover equivalent in size to the entire Democratic Republic of Congo.

Conclusion

  • Indigenous people are an essential element of cultural diversity and ecological harmony.
  • They are also a biological treasure for scientists seeking to reconstruct evolutionary and migratory histories.
  • The least the world can do is to let them live in peace in the ancestral lands that they have honoured and preserved for centuries.
Tribal Development

[op-ed snap] It’s time for the Collegium system to go

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Constitution| Separation of powers between various organs dispute redressal mechanisms and institutions. Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basics knowledge of the collegium system.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the issues with the Collegium system wrt recent decision of SC in the appointment of judges, in a brief manner.


Context

  • The recent decision of the Collegium to inexplicably replace two high court chief justices selected for elevation has again raised concerns about the methods of working of the Collegium.
  • The process for the appointment of judges lies at the heart of an independent judiciary.
  • Over the years, this process has manifested itself in the questionable form of the Collegium of judges, which decides on appointments to both the SC and the high courts.

Background

  • In the inaugural session of the Supreme Court of India (SC), held 69 years ago, an independent judiciary that would be the third pillar in India’s constitutional framework was promised, counterbalancing the legislature and the executive.
  • In the Constituent Assembly debates that preceded the creation of the SC, Jawaharlal Nehru, speaking on higher judicial appointments, said that the judges selected should be of the “highest integrity” and be persons “who can stand up against the executive government and whoever might come in their way”.

Issues with the recent decision

  • The Collegium’s recent decision has once again shown that it is opaque. Moreover, it is not accountable to any other authority.
  • The Collegium’s recent decision to appoint Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Sanjiv Khanna, by retracting and superseding earlier selections of fine judges in their own right, is of concern.
  • Justice Maheshwari was earlier rejected by the Collegium in its December 2018 meeting.
  • Justice Khanna has been selected over his three senior colleagues, Justices Pradeep Nandrajog, Gita Mittal and S Ravindra Bhat.
  • The concerns raised by the experts is less about the seniority convention than about the lack of transparency.

The Seniority Convention

  • Many skirmishes took place between the judiciary and the executive in the early decades of the republic.
  • However, the first major appointments-related decision that turned this convention on its head was the executive’s move to anoint A N Ray, the fourth most senior judge of the SC at the time, as the Chief Justice of India.
  • This was the era before the Collegium came into being, and was an appointment that provoked much-heated debate.
  • The Second Judges’ case of 1993, which led to the formation of a collegium of high-ranking judges identifying persons for appointment to the SC and high courts, chose to re-state the seniority convention in appointments.
  • The decision clarified that “Unless there be any strong cogent reason to justify a departure, that order of [inter-se] seniority [amongst Judges of High Courts] must be maintained between them while making their appointment to the Supreme Court.”

Concerns over the Collegium system

  • Collegium system emphasizes excessively on seniority.
  • However, following the seniority convention offers a semblance of certainty and transparency, even though it takes away from selecting judges on other objective criteria such as merit and competence.
  • At times, the sanctity of Collegium’s own decisions no longer stands.
  • Its own previous decision to appoint other persons to the Supreme Court was reversed, without any explanation or justification.
  • Besides this, no one knows how judges are selected, and the appointments made reek of biases of self-selection and in-breeding.
  • Nepotism: Sons and nephews of previous judges or senior lawyers tend to be popular choices for judicial roles.
  • Lack of checks and balances: With its ad hoc informal consultations with other judges, which do not significantly investigate criteria such as work, standing, integrity and so on, the Collegium remains outside the sphere of legitimate checks and balances.

Why Collegium seems to be opaque?

  • The lack of a written manual for functioning,
  • the absence of selection criteria,
  • the arbitrary reversal of decisions already taken,
  • the selective publication of records of meetings.

National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC)

In the last few years, there was some agreement that the Collegium system of appointments had failed, and there is a need for a more transparent and accountable system.

The proposal for a National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) came about seeking to:

  • guarantee the independence of the system from inappropriate politicisation,
  • strengthen the quality of appointments,
  • enhance the fairness of the selection process,
  • promote diversity in the composition of the judiciary, and
  • rebuild public confidence in the system.

NJAC declared Unconstitutional, a missed opportunity

  • The SC in its majority decision declared the NJAC unconstitutional and missed an opportunity to introduce important reformatory changes in the functioning of the judiciary.
  • According to the experts, the supreme court could have read down the law, and reorganised the NJAC to ensure that the judiciary retained majority control in its decisions.
  • However, It did not amend the NJAC Act to have safeguards that would have made it constitutionally valid.
  • It also did not reform the Collegium in any way to address the various concerns voiced by one and all, including the Court itself.
  • Instead, to the disappointment of all those who hoped for a strong, independent and transparent judiciary, it reverted to the old Collegium-based appointments mechanism.

Conclusion

  • As a democracy, it seems anomalous that we continue to have a judiciary whose essence is determined by a process that is evidently undemocratic.
  • There is an urgent need for the reforms in the existing selection process.
  • The Supreme Court too had referred to the need to introduce reforms while deciding the NJAC matter. However, there haven’t been any apparent sign of reform in the system.
  • There is a need to revisit the Collegium issue, either through a Presidential reference to the Supreme Court, or a constitutional amendment with appropriate changes in the original NJAC law.
Judicial Appointments Conundrum Post-NJAC Verdict

[op-ed snap]Learning little

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health,Education, Human Resources.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Basic knowledge about the findings of ASER.

Mains level: The news-card analyses the findings of ASER and what could be the way forward, in a brief manner.


Context

  • The latest ASER assessment of how children are faring in schools in rural areas indicates there has been no dramatic improvement in learning outcomes.
  • It has observed that the reading and arithmetic abilities in rural schools are shockingly dismal.

Findings of the Annual Status of Education Report

  • According to the Annual Status of Education Report, Rural (2018), the picture that has emerged is one of a moribund system of early schooling in many States, with no remarkable progress from the base year of 2008.
  • Except for a small section at the top of the class, the majority of students have been let down.
  • The survey for 2018 had a reach of 5.4 lakh students in 596 rural districts.
  • The administrators must be alerted by the fact that while 53.1% of students in Class 5 in rural government schools could in 2008 read a text meant for Class 2, the corresponding figure for 2018 stood at 44.2%.
  • For comparison, private schools scored 67.9% and 65.1% for the same test in those years.
  • Arithmetic ability showed a similar trend of under-performance, although there has been a slight uptick since 2016: an improvement of about 1.5 percentage points in government schools and 1.8 percentage points in private institutions, among Class 5 students.
  • Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala and Haryana did better on the arithmetic question with over 50% students clearing it, compared to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and even Karnataka, which scored below 20%.
  • A significant percentage of students were not even able to recognise letters appropriate for their class, highlighting a severe barrier to learning.

What needs to be done?

  • Setting up a Review mechanism:Now that the ASER measure is available for 10 years, the Centre should institute a review mechanism involving all States for both government and private institutions, covering elementary education and middle school.
  • A public consultation on activity-based learning outcomes, deficits in early childhood education, and innovations in better performing States can help.
  • At present, children start learning in a variety of environments: from poorly equipped anganwadi centres to private nurseries. Therefore, any policy framework should also consider this aspect

Right to Education Act

  • The enactment of the Right to Education Act was followed by a welcome rise in enrolment, which now touches 96% as per ASER data.
  • Empowering as it is, the law needs a supportive framework to cater to learners from different backgrounds who often cannot rely on parental support or coaching.
  • There is concern that curricular expectations on literacy and numeracy have become too ambitious, requiring reform.

Way Forward

  • The solutions may lie in multiple approaches.
  • The need is to look at innovation in schools and incentivising good outcomes.
Primary and Secondary Education – RTE, Education Policy, SEQI, RMSA, Committee Reports, etc.

Global Risks Report 2019

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: WEF Global Risk Reports

Mains level: Various threats to global order and stability


News

  • The latest edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report was recently released.

Prospects of Global Risks Report 2019

  1. The Global Risks Report 2019 is released ahead of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos.
  2. The report urges governments and organizations to address the impact of specific threats and make preparations to contain potential fallout should they occur.
  3. The report’s findings are based on the annual Global Risks Perception Survey, which asks the Forum’s network of business, government, civil society and thought leaders to gauge the risks facing our world.

What are the biggest risks?

  1. Although the lists are distinct, there are some common themes that connect the two.
  2. Concerns accounted for three of the top five risks by likelihood and four by impact.
  3. After 2018 saw unprecedented heatwaves, storms and floods across the globe, extreme weather events top the list of most likely risks and come third for impact.
  4. The results of climate inaction are becoming increasingly clear.
  5. A World Wildlife Fund report from last year highlighted the extent of the challenge we face – with loses in vertebrate species averaging 60% between 1970 and 2014.
  6. In terms of Societal Risk, water crises, defined as “a significant decline in the available quality and quantity of fresh water, resulting in harmful effects on human health and/or economic activity.

Threats from technology

  1. Cyber-attacks feature in both top 10s, at number five for likelihood and seven for impact, while data fraud is at number four for likelihood, reflecting an overall trend as technology shapes the risk landscape.
  2. The survey reflects how new instabilities are being caused by the deepening integration of digital technologies into every aspect of life.

Economic Risks

  1. The report warns of the macroeconomic risks we face as we head into 2019.
  2. The majority of respondents expect increasing risks this year, related to “economic confrontations between major powers” (91%) and “erosion of multilateral trading rules and agreements” (88%).
  3. Financial market volatility and slowing global growth through 2018 are highlighted by the authors – and indeed by the latest International Monetary Fund forecasts.
  4. As a result, the risk of an asset bubble in a major economy is 10th most likely.

How are they connected?

  1. These risks don’t exist in isolation, though.
  2. They’re interconnected and each has the potential to affect the others – as the following chart from the report explores.
  3. Consider for example biodiversity loss in the human food chain. This affects health and socioeconomic development, with implications for areas from productivity to regional security.

With Inputs from:World Economic Forum

Explained: Interim Budget

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Economy | Mobilization of resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Interim Budget

Mains level:  Difference between normal and interim budget


News

  • Union finance ministry is all set to discuss its interim budget ahead of the general elections.

Lets have a look over what is:

Interim Budget

  1. The budget for the year approved by Parliament gives the government spending rights only till the end of the financial year ending March 31.
  2. If for any reason the government is not able to present a full budget before the financial year ends, it will need parliamentary authority for incurring expenditure in the new fiscal year until a full Budget is presented.
  3. Through the interim Budget, Parliament passes a vote-on-account that allows the government to meet the expenses of the administration until the new Parliament considers and passes the Budget for the whole year.

Vote on Account

  1. Through the interim Budget, Parliament passes a vote-on-account that allows the government to meet the expenses of the administration until the new Parliament is elected.
  2. It is a grant in advance to enable the government to carry on until the voting of demands for grants and the passing of the Appropriation Bill and Finance Bill.
  3. This enables the government to fund its expenses for a short period of time or until a full-budget is passed.
  4. Normally, the Vote on Account is taken for two months only.
  5. The sum of the grant would be equivalent to one sixth of the estimated expenditure for the entire year under various demands for grants.
  6. As a convention, a vote-on-account is treated as a formal matter and passed by Lok Sabha without discussion.

How does the interim budget differ from a regular budget?

  1. In an interim Budget, the vote-on-account seeks parliament’s nod for incurring expenditure for part of a fiscal year.
  2. However, the estimates are presented for the entire year, as is the case with the regular Budget.
  3. The incoming government has full freedom to change the estimates completely when the final Budget is presented.

Can the government levy new taxes and propose new policies?

  1. Constitutionally, the government can make tax changes in the interim budget.
  2. However, the 12 interim budgets since Independence have respected the fact that the government is a custodian for a few months and have refrained from announcing big-ticket changes or new schemes.

Significance

  1. The government cannot present a full budget because in such a short session, there’s no time to debate proposals in Parliament.
  2. Expenditure for new schemes will have to form part of the new budget, which can be approved only after April 1.
  3. The newly formed government cannot be burdened by the previous government’s budgetary allocations.
  4. While these are the technicalities, many look upon the vote on account as election rhetoric.
  5. Many look at it as a window where the government highlights its achievements ahead of elections.
Government Budgets

[pib] UNNATI- Unispace Nanosatellite Assembly & Training Programme of ISRO

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: UNNATI Programme

Mains level: All missions of the ISRO are important from examination point of view


News

UNNATI Programme

  1. It is a capacity building programme on Nanosatellite development.
  2. It is an initiative by ISRO to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations conference on the exploration and peaceful uses of outer space (UNISPACE-50).
  3. The programme provides opportunities to the participating developing countries to strengthen in assembling, integrating and testing of Nanosatellite.
  4. UNNATI programme is planned to be conducted for 3 years by U.R. Rao Satellite Centre of ISRO in 3 batches and will target to benefit officials of 45 countries.

About UNISPACE+50

  1. It is an event marking the 50th year of the first UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.
  2. It is an initiative of United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA).
  3. Three such conferences held earlier recognized the potential of space and laid the guidelines for human activities and international cooperation related to outer space. They were:
  • UNISPACE I, Vienna, 1968
  • UNISPACE II, Vienna, 1982 and
  • UNISPACE III, Vienna, 1999
ISRO Missions and Discoveries

Measles Rubella Vaccination: Understanding the question of parental consent

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: MR and its vaccines

Mains level: Hurdles in immunization programme


News

  • Delhi High Court put on hold the govt plan for a measles rubella vaccination campaign in schools across the capital, saying the decision did not have the consent of parents.
  • The court’s order introduced a dimension to vaccination — the question of consent — that had not been adequately dealt with earlier.

The MR vaccine

  1. The latest Global Measles and Rubella Update say India had 56,399 confirmed measles cases and 1,066 confirmed rubella cases in 2018.
  2. Measles is a serious and highly contagious disease that can cause debilitating or fatal complications, including encephalitis, severe diarrhoea and dehydration, pneumonia, ear infections and permanent vision loss.
  3. The disease is preventable through two doses of vaccine.
  4. Congenital Rubella Syndrome, or CRS, is an important cause of severe birth defects.
  5. A woman infected with the rubella virus early in pregnancy has a 90% chance of passing the virus to her foetus.
  6. This can cause the death of the foetus, or CRS.

Matter of Dignity

  • The petitioners settled principle that choice of an individual, even in cases of life-saving medical treatment, is an inextricable part of dignity which is ought to be protected.

Consent not essential

  1. The consent of parents is not sought during routine immunization programmes.
  2. Consent in routine immunization is implied because it is the parents or members of the family who bring the child to the hospital or healthcare centre.
  3. For such a public good and for a vaccine that is tried and tested, there is ample evidence on safety and efficacy and something which is already a part of the universal immunization programme.

Vaccination

  1. The MR vaccine was recently introduced in the universal immunization programme. It has to be administered to all children between ages 9 months and 15 years.
  2. It is also needed to vaccinate those who did not get it earlier, and before they reach the reproductive age group.
  3. For vaccinations and such public health programmes govt. have never taken consent.

Why in schools

  • Schools, rather than health centres or hospitals, were consciously chosen because nowhere else can such large numbers of children in the relevant age group be targeted.

Global best practice

  1. Parental consent should be obtained prior to vaccination.
  2. This is the standard practice around the world.
  3. The WHO recognizes oral, written, and implied consent for vaccination.
  4. Countries are encouraged to adopt procedures that ensure that parents have been informed and agreed to the vaccination.
  5. In several US states, it is compulsory to provide vaccination records before seeking admission into school, so that the child is not a danger to others.

Way Forward

  1. MR vaccine is safe and effective, in use for over 40 years across 150 countries.
  2. The vaccine being given in the MR campaign is produced in India and is WHO prequalified.
  3. The same vaccine is being given in the routine immunization programme of India and in neighbouring countries.
  4. Vaccination is always a voluntary process, and there should not involve compulsion.
  5. Vaccines should be administered after people are sensitized about the disease and vaccine.
Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

First human rights TV channel to ‘lend voice to the voiceless’

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: IOHR

Mains level: Bringing unnoticed HR violation reports to light


News

  • The world’s first television channel dedicated to human rights was launched in London with a promise to deliver hidden stories ignored by mainstream media.

Human Rights Channel

  • The International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) said its web-based channel would bring human rights issues to audiences in over 20 countries across Europe, Latin America and the Middle East.
  • Topics will include refugees, press freedom and the incarceration of journalists, extremism, women’s rights, LGBT+ issues and the plight of the world’s stateless people.
  • Programmes in the pipeline will look at China 30 years after the crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, the positive and negative impacts of technology on women, and the human rights implications of Brexit, Britain’s departure from the EU in March.
  • Broadcasts can be viewed via the netgem.tv interactive platform and will shortly be available via a mobile app.
  • Programming is in English, but IOHR eventually hopes to broadcast in other languages including Farsi, Turkish, Arabic and Russian.

About IOHR

  • The International Observatory of Human Rights was established in 2017 in London as an independent non-profit and non-governmental organisation.
  • The team is made up of human rights professionals, lawyers, researchers, award-winning journalists and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities.
  • IOHR utilizes its unique access and the expertise of its multilingual and dedicated staff to advocate for human rights worldwide.
  • It has created partnerships with local and international human rights groups.
Human Rights Issues